We are an independent, solution-oriented think tank at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.Learn More.

The Impact of Instruction Time, School Calendar on Academic Performance

The time that students spend learning is considered essential to improving academic results, leading to numerous studies of interventions designed to increase instruction time. A new working paper from researchers at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and University of Liverpool  demonstrates, instead, the ill effects when schools reduce learning time.

In the 2017-18 school year, traditional public and charters schools in Spain’s Madrid region moved their standardized testing for 10th grade students earlier in the school year, meaning students had two fewer weeks of learning before these exams.

Using a difference-in-difference analysis, researchers found that the two-week reduction contributed to a significant decline in academic performance, particularly in the subjects of Spanish and English. The disruption had the most impact on higher performing students.

This paper provides evidence that a small change in instruction time can have substantial implications for students’ academic performance. It also adds to the existing literature on the possible effects of pandemic lockdown strategies, which may have reduced instruction times significantly around the world.

-By Gunjan Maheshwari