Four-Day School Weeks, Domestic Terrorism, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

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October 8, 2021

This week, we discuss the trade-offs of a shorter school week; why countering domestic terrorism may require a new U.S. intelligence strategy; data showing that Black motorists are more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor for excessive speeding; the big unanswered question of the Afghanistan war; how North Korea evades sanctions; and some techniques for talking to kids about COVID-19.

Students draw in class at Wilder Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, August 11, 2021, photo by Amira Karaoud/Reuters

Photo by Amira Karaoud/Reuters

Can Four Equal Five? Assessing the Four-Day School Week

A four-day school week is becoming more common, especially in rural parts of the western United States. Champions of this approach say that it saves schools money, improves student attendance, and helps recruit and retain teachers in rural districts.

To learn more about these potential benefits—and the drawbacks—of a four-day school week, RAND researchers examined data from dozens of districts in Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

The findings point to trade-offs. For example, students' test scores in districts with four-day school weeks improved more slowly than they would have if the schools had maintained five-day school weeks. On the other hand, parents and students expressed enthusiasm about the shorter school week, valuing the extra family time that a four-day schedule brings.

Insights such as these can help education leaders and other stakeholders weigh which outcomes matter the most when considering the shift to a shorter school week.

Trump supporters battle with police at the west entrance of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Trump supporters battle with police at the west entrance of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021

Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Countering Domestic Terrorism May Require a New Strategy

After two decades of focusing on the terrorist threat posed by global and homegrown jihadists, the United States is pivoting to address domestic violent extremism. The challenge, says RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, is to “isolate and contain violent extremists without turning them into political martyrs or half the country into enemies of the state.” Doing this may require focusing less on intelligence collection and more on investigating violent crimes and bringing perpetrators to justice.

A young man is pulled over for speeding, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Black Motorists Face More-Serious Speeding Charges than White Motorists

In 25 states, motorists accused of excessive speeding can face either a criminal misdemeanor or a traffic infraction. In a new study, RAND researchers examined nine years of data on speeding violations in one such state, Virginia. They found that Black motorists were more likely than White motorists to be charged with a misdemeanor instead of an infraction. Additionally, Black motorists were almost twice as likely to be convicted of the more serious charge.

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division board a U.S. Air Force C-17 at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30th, 2021, photo by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett, 82nd Airborne Public Affairs/U.S. Army

Paratroopers board a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, August 30, 2021

Photo by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett, 82nd Airborne Public Affairs/U.S. Army

Afghanistan: The Big Unanswered Question

The debate over the legacy of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is just beginning, and there are many questions to be answered. One in particular stands out to RAND political scientist Raphael Cohen: Does the United States still have the grit necessary to fight and win long wars? The answer is not immediately clear, but the stakes are. The sake of the international order and the fate of liberal democracy could depend on it, he says.

The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum in Pyongyang, North Korea, photo by narvikk/iStock

The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum in Pyongyang, North Korea

Photo by narvikk/iStock

How North Korea Evades Sanctions

The United Nations has imposed increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea over the years. But according to a new RAND report, Pyongyang has become adept at evading these sanctions, primarily using four techniques: hard currency generation, technology acquisition, smuggling, and money laundering. Avoiding sanctions has allowed North Korea to maintain its political regime and to fund its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.

Mother talking to her young daughter with bikes in the background, photo by Dishant_S/Getty Images

Photo by Dishant_S/Getty Images

Talking with Kids About the Pandemic: Techniques for Parents

Since COVID-19 hit, many children have struggled to cope with and understand the pandemic and its many restrictions. To help make sense of things, children need honest information from adults and an opportunity to talk about their own feelings. That's according to RAND Europe's Lucy Gilder and Emma Leenders. They outline some communication techniques that parents—who may be struggling with their own pandemic-related stress—can turn to for guidance.

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