Assessing the Effect of School Days and Absences on Test Score Performance. CEP Discussion Paper No. 1302Report as inadecuate

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Centre for Economic Performance

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. In this regard, this paper jointly estimates the effect of absences and length of the school calendar on test score performance. Using administrative data from North Carolina public schools, we exploit a state policy that provides variation in the number of days prior to standardized testing and find substantial differences between these effects. Extending the school calendar by ten days increases math and reading test scores by only 0.8% and 0.2% of a standard deviation, respectively; a similar reduction in absences would lead to gains of 5.8% and 3% in math and reading. We perform a number of robustness checks including utilizing u data to instrument for absences, family-year fixed effects, separating 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. Four tables and one figure are appended.

Descriptors: Attendance Patterns, Scores, Public Schools, Standardized Tests, State Policy, Reading Tests, Mathematics Tests, Reading Achievement, Mathematics Achievement, Academic Ability, Low Achievement, Elementary School Students, School Schedules, Records (Forms), Databases, Statistical Analysis, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Racial Differences, Gender Differences, Age Differences, Regression (Statistics)

Centre for Economic Performance. London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK. Tel: +44-20-7955-7673; Fax: +44-20-7404-0612; e-mail:[at]; Web site:

Author: Aucejo, Esteban M.; Romano, Teresa Foy


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