School Snow Days, Absenteeism, and Student Achievement: A Comparative Study of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts

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Recent research on the effects of school cancellations because of snow or storms confirms what school authorities in Canada and the United States have understood for some time: missed school days have a detrimental effect upon student learning. Disrupted instructional time and student learning have been analyzed in Massachusetts and in policy studies conducted in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. One 2012 study in Massachusetts showed a strong relationship between student absences and achievement, but little or no impact attributable to inclement-weather school closures. Yet on balance, most research studies link school-day cancellations with declining student test scores. This research note assesses the impact of storm closings in Nova Scotia between the school years 2008-2009 and 2017-2018. There, the number of snow days is normally double that of Massachusetts and reported rates of student absenteeism are higher. This study assesses the ‘accumulative effect’ of missing whole school days, planned and unplanned, on student mathematics scores and high-school completion, and it proposes a some policy responses. Some consideration is given also to the profound impact of COVID-19 school disruptions and remote learning experiments on the changing policy landscapes in both Nova Scotia and Massachusetts.

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An education policy research paper addressing the high incidence of school day cancellations in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes and its impact upon student absenteeism and productivity in the workplace. Researched and written by Paul W. Bennett and published by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS). The report concludes with a set of policy reform recommendations.
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In the economics of education, no task has been more important or more difficult than identifying the relationship between school inputs and student performance. The literature on this topic has reached little resolution, largely owing to the endogeneity of school resources. In this paper I examine the effect of a vital but little studied component of the education production function: instructional time. To identify the impact of schooling on test scores I make use of the fact that variation in winter weather made non-trivial differences in the number of school days students received prior to taking the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) exams. I find evidence that students who took exams in years with heavy snowfall performed significantly worse than their peers in the same school who took MSPAP exams in other years. I also find that performance in a subject with relatively inflexible curricula (mathematics) and students in earlier grades were most affected by snow. Both of these findings are consistent with the interpretation that education inputs in the form of instructional days improve students’ test scores.
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