Today’s weather has schools closed throughout the DC area. This year’s high number of snow- and cold-related school closures along the East Coast has frustrated a lot of parents and teachers--who are particularly concerned about how districts are going to make up for the high number of closures, which has already exceeded the excess days many school systems built into their calendars this year. I spoke to one teacher recently whose school district has chosen to make up days by holding Saturday classes, and others frustrated that they may have to cancel planned (and paid for) spring break trips due to make-up days. My colleague Andy Rotherham and Matt Yglesias both have interesting things to say about snow days generally, but the thing that strikes me about this is how starkly it illustrates that we still think about the school year and school outcomes primarily in terms of seat time. Isolated snow days don’t seem to hurt student learning, and adding days back at the end of the school year doesn’t necessarily help student learning much either (particularly since the last part of the school year tends to be light on educational activities in many communities, particularly at the elementary level). But because state laws define a set number of days that students must attend school each year, districts have to make them up unless states decide to give a waiver. With the growth of technology enabled personalized learning, I wonder if districts, schools, and states can identify more creative ways to help accelerate learning and make up for the impacts of snow days during the regular year, rather than adding Saturdays, cutting into planned breaks, or extending the school year further into June.
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.