Snow Days Are Okay, Says Harvard Study


Emma Payne / Wikimedia

Schools have already endured a wave of weather-related cancellations this winter. Now, to make up for lost instructional time, a few states are considering tagging on makeup days to the end of the semester. Some districts want to cancel spring break altogether.

They may not need to bother. As Emily Richmond notes in The Atlantic, new research from Harvard Public Policy Professor Joshua Goodman finds that makeup days may be unnecessary; based on statewide tests, closing schools barely affects achievement rates.

Schools shouldn't worry too much about weather-related closures, the study suggests, because the negative consequences of staying open often outweigh the benefits of staying open. Even when schools don't close, many concerned parents keep their kids at home. (One mother told The Atlantic, "I don't want to worry about them on the bus sliding around the road.") These kids end up falling behind.

Then of course there are the whimsical benefits that lay beyond the scope of the study. The Atlantic reports:

A father who grew up in Connecticut said the snow day had been a rite of passage in his own childhood and he was enjoying sharing the experience with his own kids–at least on a very limited basis.

The bottom line is that snow days are okay. The negative consequences of keeping schools open often outweigh the benefits of a day of class. Oh and, forget "makeup days." 

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  1. Did you post this just because I can’t get my car out of the parking lot?

    1. Shovelling 8 inches of snow isn’t so bad. The problem is where to put it on top of the 16 already on the ground.

      1. Throw it on your neighbour’s car.

        1. So you’re the one…

      2. Build a berm for your front yard shooting range.

  2. When the hell did “Spring Break” become a thing for primary and secondary education? That is simply ridiculous.

    1. In my district (before the PC brigade came around) it used to be “Easter Break”

      1. We never had such a thing. The concept simply breaks up the school year unnecessarily and disrupts learning. Kids get excited and distracted in to it, and have a hard time getting.back intto a groove afterward (according to tales I hear from relatives who are teachers).

        1. Teachers have become far less disciplinarian of late, may be why there’s such disorder these days. I don’t recall any such issues ever cropping up.

          Or it could be that the school was so bad that the kids who didn’t want to be there simply declined to show at whim, so an official break didn’t make a difference.

          Probably the latter. Those who would disrupt the environment were not there to distract the people who wanted to learn. But then the feds decided that no child could be held back or left behind, despite being a disruptive dipshit.

      2. Many people want to minimize thiir secular activities on Holy Week. I heard about this guy who went to the theater on Good Friday…it didn’t turn out well.

        1. Other than that, how was the play?

    2. Following the blizzard-riddled winter of ’96 (or ’98; they’ve both kind of melded together at this point), NJ, which because of a mandated 180 days per year of in-class instruction always made up days at the end of the year, began instituting a week-long spring break explicitly to have days they can take back in case snow days arose. Parents naturally forgot why “spring break” exists and began planning family trips to Disneyworld, China, and India for these breaks, and they get mighty ornery if any days are removed from them.

      Eventually, though, it must be done, and in the vein of typical educrat mismanagement they start with Wednesday.

  3. The part about forgetting makeup days doesn’t seem supported by anything in the article.

    1. I don’t get the pedagogical purpos of cosmetics days, either.

  4. Dude makes a lot of sense man.

    1. I can’t beleive that dude would say that!

  5. The educational model these days is all about quantity; quality is not a concern. All that matters is how many hours of class time, not how well they can think or what knowledge they acquire.

    1. After all “How can one judge a special snowflake”

      This country is doomed.

  6. I think this is all based on the federal requirement that kids attend school for 180 days out of the year. So yeah, actual academic achievement has nothing to do with it.

  7. Question: How many days off could the kids have without their test scores dropping? Probably many.

    But how could we possibly pay teachers any less? How could we ever ask them to pay some more towards their pension? Integral, I tell you. Integral.

  8. Did an intern write this.

    It’s fucking horrible.

    Where is the research that shows missing days due to weather doesn’t affect learning? The only thing the Atlantic article notes from the Harvard study is that even if schools don’t close, parents tend to keep them home anyways which puts them behind.

    Assistant professor Joshua Goodman of the Kennedy School of Government found keeping school open during a storm had a more negative effect than canceling classes, in part because parents often kept their kids home anyway, which meant they fell behind in their lessons.

    Where’s the meat? Where’s the taters?

  9. based on statewide tests, closing schools barely affects achievement rates

    That’s because achievement rates are more closely correlated to parent IQ than to anything that happens in school.

    But we can’t admit that, because GASP somebody might claim that poor people are stupid and GASP somebody might question whether more money for teachers might not accomplish anything.

  10. closing schools barely affects achievement rates.

    When were public schools ever about achievement?

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