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Experts Say Seven Fewer School Days Matter

Above: Teens head out after class at a San Diego County high school.

— School officials around California are faced with the prospect of cutting seven days of school next year as a result of the state's money problems. But how does that loss affect student learning?

Education experts say a lot.

California is one of 42 states where students come to class 180 days a year. Some experts say each day matters in today's world of standards-based instruction and accountability. That's why they and other school reformers are upset with the Governor's proposal to cut the school year.

Helen Mendell directs student teaching at the University of San Diego. She says cutting school days can mean students don't learn a new set of spelling and vocabulary words, or a new set of math skills.

She says research shows kids need more class time to move forward.

"We think that school should be longer, we should have more school days," Mendell said. "Our research shows the more the kids are in school, the greater the academic gains. We know when they're out of school over the summer, they slide back."

State education officials say local school districts will determine how to structure their calendar to accommodate for the lost days. In some cash-strapped states, districts have opted to have four-day school weeks. However, officials tack-on more instruction hours within those four days.

The need to scale back on school days because of budgetary reasons comes at the same time U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is financially rewarding districts for finding ways to lengthen the school day and school year.

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