Snow Days Don't Impact Student Learning, Harvard Professor Finds

New findings from Harvard reveal that keeping schools open during a storm could be potentially more detrimental to learning than school closure.

Photo credit: Patch file photo.
Photo credit: Patch file photo.

Students in several communities across the Commonwealth are returning to the classroom Thursday, as many schools closed Wednesday due to this week's snow storm.

But parents and school officials who fear snow days might negatively affect student learning can rest a little easier, according to a new study by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Joshua Goodman

In the study, dubbed "Flaking Out: Snowfall, Disruptions of Instructional Time, and Student Achievement," Goodman reveals that snow days do not impact student learning and that keeping schools open during a storm could be potentially more detrimental to learning than school closure. 

The study's findings are "consistent with a model in which the central challenge of teaching is coordination with students," Goodman wrote, according to a recent article by Harvard Kennedy School. "With slack time in the schedule, the time lost to closure can be regained. Student absences, however, force teachers to expand time getting students on the same page as their classmates."

Goodman, also a former school teacher, began the study after the Massachusetts Department of Education looked into finding more about the impact of snow days on student achievement, according to the article. Goodman found that the take-away for school administrators might at first seem counterintuitive. 

"They need to consider the downside when deciding not to declare a snow days during a storm -- the fact that many kids will miss school regardless because of transportation issues or parental discretion," Goodman wrote in the study, according to Harvard Kennedy School. "And because those absences typically aren't made up in the school calendar, those kids can fall behind."

Do you agree with the study? Are you concerned that snow days might negatively impact your child's learning? Weigh in with comments below.


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