While researching this story on San Diego Unified potentially cutting more days from the school year, I came across some interesting reading about California’s shortening school year and how it’s impacting kids’ education.

Firstly, this California Watch story from 2010 details how school districts across California shortened their school years in response to cuts in state education funding. Here’s a short extract:

Educators believe a shrinking school year, in combination with other budget cutbacks, could depress hard-won academic gains in recent years. To many, it is a dramatic illustration of how the state’s budget crisis has begun to erode not just the fringes, but also the core of public education in California.

“This is a major setback,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “We’re reducing opportunities for our students, which puts California students at a competitive disadvantage relative to other states.”

A little more than a decade ago, California increased the number of instructional days to 180, catching up with most other states. Two years ago, as the state’s economy deteriorated, the state gave districts permission to reduce the calendar to 175 days, but few exercised the option.

No longer. Facing crushing budget deficits, districts throughout the state will cut up to five days from the school calendar by granting teachers and other staff unpaid furlough days. Many also will eliminate dayswhen students are not in the classroom that teachers traditionally have used for class preparation, staff training or parent conferences.

The California Watch piece also contains this interesting graphic, which compares California’s school year to other countries around the world.

As far as the impact the shortening school year has on kids, check out this policy brief produced by The Education Trust last year. (A hat-tip to the organization’s Arun Ramanathan, who pointed me towards the paper.)

I interviewed Ramanathan for my story and he summarized the impact of a shorter school year pretty eloquently:

It’s a double-whammy for the poorest kids because summer school has already been cut and now they’ve cut the school year. This is going to hit our highest-need kids the hardest.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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