School time is money — and learning

Time is money. To save money on salaries, Hawaiii announced “furlough Fridays” to cut the school year to 163 days. (Gov. Linda Lingle has proposed using teacher planning days to restore the missing days in 2010.)  Los Angeles hopes to save save $60 million by closing school for four days. Restoring the time will require a 12 percent cut in teachers’ pay, says Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Unfortunately, less school time means less learning, conclude Dave Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen in Education Next.  A number of researchers have found that  adding instructional time improves student learning, especially in math. Losing time lowers scores.

The effect of additional instructional days is quite similar to that of increasing teacher quality and reducing class size. The impact of grade retention is comparable, too, though that intervention is pertinent only for low-achieving students.

The problem goes back to money. Increasing teaching days from 175 to 200 days a year would cost close to $1,000 per student, according to a Minnesota study.

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