Latest News & Current Events

No evidence that snow closures affect school results

Almost as soon as the first winter snowflake falls, there are debates about whether schools should be kept open in heavy snow or shut their doors. With one of the worst winters on record – many parents are no doubt concerned about possible impacts on their children’s education.

But fear not - According to a study, carried out by Joshua Goodman, assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts, closing schools on occasional days because of bad weather does not damage learning.

Prof Goodman was asked by the Massachusetts education department to find out whether there really was any loss to learning from snow closures.

Looking at test results in the state between 2003-10, he found no evidence that pupil achievement had been affected when schools were occasionally shut.

In fact the study suggests there are academic arguments for them being closed. The worst disruption was caused when schools tried to stay open but many staff and pupils were missing.

Snowfall closed schools in Washington

Results not going downhill because of school closures

Prof Goodman, a former high school teacher himself, says schools can easily adapt to short-term closures, readjusting their plans for the rest of the term.

Such a clean break seemed to cause less disruption than trying to stay open, when many pupils might not be able to get into school. This creates a knock-on effect of pupils trying to catch up, he says. And this does seem to have a negative impact on achievement.

Prof Goodman says that arguments over a few days of snow closures can often become very "emotional" - and they overlook that many pupils miss a greater number of school days through other types of absenteeism, such as sickness or truancy. Such absenteeism by individuals does adversely affect their results, he says, more than an occasional planned closure by the whole school.

In short Prof Goodman says "Closures have no impact. Absences do."

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