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Is It Time to Move to a Four-Day School Week?
posted by: Melissa | November 09, 2021, 04:25 PM   

The four-day school week first gained popularity after the recession of 2008, when schools were looking for ways to cut funds. In this model, students attend school for only four days, usually Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday, with the fifth day of the week being used for teacher planning. Because students go to school for fewer days, those school days tend to be longer than their five-day week counterparts. This model has been especially popular in rural areas, where one less day of the school week saves districts from bussing students long distances to the building. Teachers, who are always strapped for time and under stress, appreciate having a day to plan lessons, catch up on grading, and schedule appointments.

Proponents of the four-day week argue that it has benefits far beyond increased teacher satisfaction and cost savings. They believe a four-day week and additional planning time can be good academically, too. It’s been known for a long time that young students need more down-time and a four-day week allows them to have that. Older students have an extra day to pursue job shadowing, extracurricular activities, or tutoring. With all of these benefits, four-day weeks have proven to be popular with parents and educators alike.

The four-day school week might have remained obscure if it weren’t for the pandemic. As schools struggled to respond to COVID-19 and to educate students safely, many of them tried alternative scheduling models, such as having students spend less time in the building or alternate attendance days. Educators who might not have experienced a four-day week temporarily during that time and are now wondering if they should look at alternative schedules permanently.

An expansive new report from the Rand Corporation looks at the effects of districts moving to a four-day school week and may help inform schools and educators about the issue. The researchers compared data from four-day schools in several states to their five-day counterparts. They also surveyed educators in four-day school districts to glean educator perspectives on the schedule.

The report found that while educators, parents, and students all enjoyed the shorter week, it may not be a viable long-term option. Looking at short-term data, the researchers didn’t find any change in academic achievement between the two, however when they looked at student achievement in districts that had been participating in four-day weeks for longer periods of time, they noticed that students did worse in both ELA and Math. This came with questionable benefits. Elementary students got more sleep, but middle and high school students did not. Students did not seem to have greater emotional well-being, nor did they spend more time doing physical activities.

In short, while moving to a four-day week may be tempting, educators should examine options more carefully and wait for further research to cement the ideal school schedule.



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