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Assessing the effect of school days and absences on test score performance

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  • Aucejo, Esteban M.
  • Romano, Teresa Foy

Abstract

While instructional time is viewed as crucial to learning, little is known about the effectiveness of reducing absences relative to increasing the number of school days. Using administrative data from North Carolina public schools, this paper jointly estimates the effect of absences and length of the school calendar on test score performance. We exploit a state policy that provides variation in the number of school days prior to standardized testing and find substantial differences between these two effects. Extending the school calendar by ten days increases math and reading test scores by only 1.7% and 0.8% of a standard deviation, respectively. A similar reduction in absences would lead to gains of 5.5% in math and 2.9% in reading. We perform a number of robustness checks including utilizing flu data to instrument for absences, family-year fixed effects, distinguishing between excused and unexcused absences, and controlling for a contemporaneous measure of student disengagement. Our results are robust to these alternative specifications. In addition, our findings indicate considerable heterogeneity across student ability, suggesting that targeting absenteeism among low performing students could aid in narrowing current gaps in performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Aucejo, Esteban M. & Romano, Teresa Foy, 2016. "Assessing the effect of school days and absences on test score performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 70-87.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:55:y:2016:i:c:p:70-87
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2016.08.007
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    3. Barrios Fernandez, Andrés & Bovini, Giulia, 2017. "It’s time to learn: understanding the differences in returns to instruction time," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86618, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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    9. Aucejo, Esteban & Romano, Teresa & Taylor, Eric, 2019. "Does evaluation distort teacher effort and decisions? Quasi-experimental evidence from a policy of retesting students," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 102689, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. Esteban Aucejo & Teresa Romano & Eric S. Taylor, 2019. "Does evaluation distort teacher effort and decisions? Quasi-experimental evidence from a policy of retesting students," CEP Discussion Papers dp1612, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Ager, Philipp & Eriksson, Katherine & Karger, Ezra & Nencka, Peter & Thomasson, Melissa A., 2020. "School Closures During the 1918 Flu Pandemic," CEPR Discussion Papers 15575, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    13. Cook, Philip J. & Dodge, Kenneth A. & Gifford, Elizabeth J. & Schulting, Amy B., 2017. "A new program to prevent primary school absenteeism: Results of a pilot study in five schools," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 262-270.
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    20. Figlio, David & Holden, Kristian L. & Ozek, Umut, 2018. "Do students benefit from longer school days? Regression discontinuity evidence from Florida's additional hour of literacy instruction," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 171-183.

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