Do pupils benefit from longer school days?

A study published in Economics of Education Review looks at the evidence from the extended school day (ESD) programme in Florida to determine whether pupils benefit from longer school days.

In 2012, Florida introduced the ESD programme, increasing the length of the school day by an hour in the lowest-performing elementary (primary) schools in order to provide additional reading lessons. The lessons had to be based on research, adapted for pupil ability, and include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Schools were selected using school-level reading accountability measures. For this study, David Figlio and colleagues looked at reading scores for all pupils in Florida between grades 3 and 10 (Years 4 and 11) using school administrative data from 2005–06 and 2012–13, and employed a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of lengthening the school day, looking at the different performance of schools either side of the cut-off point.

Results indicated that the additional one hour of reading lessons had a positive effect on pupils’ reading achievement. ESD schools showed an improvement of +0.05 standard deviations on reading test scores in the first year. The annual cost of the ESD programme was $300,000-$400,000 per school, or $800 per pupil.

Source: Do students benefit from longer school days? Regression discontinuity evidence from Florida’s additional hour of literacy instruction (December 2018), Economics of Education Review, Volume 67

More time in class benefits the best

Spending more time at school benefits the best-performing pupils disproportionately, according to a new study.

The researchers used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K). This included more than 20,000 children who entered 1,000 kindergarten (Year 1) programmes in schools across the US in 1998. Children were given maths and reading tests in the autumn and spring. Because there was essentially random variation in when these tests were delivered, there were variations in the amount of teaching time between the two tests. The researchers used this to analyse the progress made, but also the difference in progress among the different percentiles within the class.

They found that, on average, reading scores increase by 1.6 test score standard deviations (SD) during a standard 250 day school year. However, readers in the bottom 10% increased by only 0.9 test score SD, while those in the top 10% increased by 2.1 test score SD. A similar result was found for mathematics. The authors suggest that policy makers, practitioners, and analysts must consider the average and distributional impacts of educational inputs and interventions.

Source: What Differences a Day Can Make: Quantile Regression Estimates of the Distribution of Daily Learning Gains (2015), Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Effects of a four-day school week

Many districts in smaller, rural areas of the US have switched to four-day school weeks with lengthened school days, to ease financial pressure on districts. To examine the effects of these four-day weeks on achievement, researchers at Georgia State University and Montana State University compared the Colorado Student Assessment Program’s (CSAP) fourth grade (age 9/10) reading and fifth grade (age 10/11) maths scores one year before the schedule change to the following three years after the change. One-third of Colorado’s districts implement a four-day school week.

Results showed that after switching to the four-day week, the percentage of pupils scoring proficient or better in maths actually increased, while scores in reading were not affected. They also found that the shortened week lowered teacher and pupil absenteeism. Researchers noted that these results were for rural areas only, and that more research would need to be done to determine if urban areas could benefit from such a change.

Source: Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week (2015), Andrew Young School of Policy Studies/Georgia State University.

What research says about increased learning time

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia has conducted a systematic review of research on the effects of increased learning time on student achievement in US schools (Grades 2 to 10, equivalent to Key Stages 2 to 4). Increased learning time programmes offer students additional instruction beyond the regular school day in English, maths, and other subjects.

REL screened 7,000 studies and found 30 that met their inclusion criteria. Results were mixed and showed that achievement depended on types of students targeted, the setting, and the features of the programme implemented. Overall patterns noted were:

  • Increased learning time programmes improved academic motivation.
  • Gains were dependent upon type of instruction and instructor qualifications.
  • Increased learning time had a large positive effect on struggling students.

Source: What Does the Research Say About Increased Learning Time and Student Outcomes? U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

    What are the effects of increased learning time?

    The US Institute of Education Sciences has released a new report that examines the effects of increased learning time on pupils’ academic and non-academic outcomes. A meta-analysis was conducted on the topic in which over 7,000 studies were screened, but only 30 met the research team’s standards for rigorous research (including meeting evidence standards established by the What Works Clearinghouse). A review of those 30 studies found that increased learning time does not always produce positive results. However, some forms of teaching tailored to the needs of specific types of pupils were found to improve their circumstances. Specific findings included:

    • Increased learning time promoted pupil achievement in maths and literacy when it was led by a certified teacher using a traditional teaching style (ie, the teacher is responsible for the progression of activities and pupils follow directions to complete tasks).
    • Increased learning time improved literacy outcomes for pupils performing below standards.
    • Increased learning time improved the social-emotional skills of pupils with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

    Source: The Effects of Increased Learning Time on Student Academic and Nonacademic Outcomes: Findings from a Meta-Analytic Review (2014), Institute of Education Sciences.

    Are children getting enough good-quality sleep?

    A new research brief from Child Trends looks at the evidence on children’s sleep habits and their well-being and development. After reviewing data from various sources such as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Sleep Foundation, and several journal articles, Child Trends offers the following conclusions:

    1. Most children are getting adequate sleep. There is no consistent evidence that children or adolescents are getting less sleep now than in the past; in fact, adolescents and young adults report somewhat more hours of sleep now than they did a decade ago.
    2. Sleepiness can be a warning sign. There is good evidence that sleepiness, regardless of its origins, puts children and young people at risk of unintentional injuries and, for adolescents who are drivers, increases the likelihood of road accidents.
    3. The relationship between short sleep duration and being overweight is controversial. There is sufficient evidence for a number of researchers to recommend that we look seriously at improving sleep as a strategy for preventing obesity.
    4. Use of electronic media, particularly in the bedroom, can lead to poor-quality sleep. Children’s use of mobile phones, tablets, computers, and TV close to bedtime, and especially having such media in their bedroom, is associated with poor-quality sleep.
    5. Adolescents may benefit from later school start-times. Preliminary evidence shows that later start times are associated with improved attendance, discipline, alertness, mood, and health.

    Source: Five Things to Know about Children and Sleep (2014), Child Trends.