New study examines the impact of snow days on student performance

January 22, 2014 by Doug Gavel, Harvard University
“With slack time in the schedule, the time lost to [weather-related] closure can be regained,” says Joshua S. Goodman, assistant professor of public policy at HKS. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

School administrators may want to be even more aggressive in calling for weather-related closures. A new study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Joshua Goodman finds that snow days do not impact student learning. In fact, he finds, keeping schools open during a storm is more detrimental to learning than a closure.

The findings are "consistent with a model in which the central challenge of teaching is coordination of students," Goodman writes. "With slack time in the schedule, the time lost to closure can be regained. Student absences, however, force teachers to expend time getting students on the same page as their classmates."

Goodman, a former , began his study at the behest of the Massachusetts Department of Education, which wanted to know more about the impact of snow days on achievement. He examined reams of data in grades three through 10 from 2003 to 2010. One conclusion—that snow days are less detrimental to student performance than other absences—can be explained by the fact that districts typically plan for weather-related disruptions and tack on extra days in the schedule to compensate. They do not, however, typically schedule make-up days for other student absences.

The lesson for administrators might be considered somewhat counterintuitive. "They need to consider the downside when deciding not to declare a snow day during a storm—the fact that many kids will miss school regardless, either because of transportation issues or parental discretion. And because those absences typically aren't made up in the school calendar, those kids can fall behind."

Goodman, an assistant professor of public policy, teaches empirical methods and the economics of education. His research interests include labor and public economics, with a particular focus on education policy.

Explore further: Study gives Catholic schools poor marks

More information: Read the paper here: … /papers/snowdays.pdf

Related Stories

'Hip-hop' students unfairly targeted, study finds

January 10, 2014

Black and Latino "hip-hop" students are disproportionately punished in urban schools, finds a two-year study that sheds light on some of the unfair disciplinary practices newly targeted by the Obama administration.

Longer year won't improve Mexico's schools, study finds

April 24, 2013

( —As Mexico and other Latin American countries wrestle with improving the quality of education for primary school students, economists at the University of California, Riverside have found that extending the length ...

Recommended for you

Study sheds new light on ancient human-turkey relationship

January 17, 2018

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico. The study also suggests turkeys weren't only prized for their meat—with demand for the birds soaring with the Mayans ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2014
It is really very interesting. Well, I would assume that it would affect negatively. Even though students can be considered as adults, but it s difficult to resist going out on a nice snowy day. It is still lots of fund hanging out on a fresh air with lots of snow, unless it is not too cold outside. But the study shows that there is no impact, which is also very good I think. You know, those who want to study, they will under any weather conditions! Thanx for interesting observation
Alicia for Company

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.