Shortening the school week to four days has become an increasingly common trend over the last decade. More and more school districts across the U.S. are embracing the four-day school week.
Once a district has taken this step, it is unlikely to return – voluntarily at least – to a five-day week. Best available research indicates that approximately 560 districts in 25 states have one or more schools on a four-day schedule. More than half of these districts are located in four states—Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma and Oregon—where a significant portion of districts have opted into the four-day week. The number of districts moving to a four-day week has grown dramatically, from approximately 120 in 21 states to 560 in 25 states.
Chopping Friday (or Monday) off the school schedule seems like a drastic step, so why are so many districts taking it? First and foremost, it’s seen as a necessary cost-saving measure, although few districts expect a windfall. According to to the National Commission of State Legislatures (NCSL), on average, savings ranges from 0.4 percent to 2.5 percent of a district’s overall budget.
Most four-day week schools operate Monday through Thursday, with a few opting for Tuesday through Friday. School days are lengthened to deliver the same amount of instructional time over fewer days, as required by state law. Some schools may offer optional enrichment activities, tutoring, or schedule time for teacher development during the fifth day.
The four-day week is freeing up more time for our teachers to help them professionally, and that’s going to help our students. Students who wish to participate in after school sports and clubs may have fewer opportunities, especially if other schools in their district operate on different hours.
Proponents claim a four-day work week helps attract and retain quality teachers.
Teachers are in the building an hour longer than the students at the secondary level and 90 minutes more at the elementary level. The days may be longer, but they provide educators with more time for collaboration and planning, embedding professional development into the school schedule.
Looking forward to a three-day weekend each week leads to greater work-life balance for teachers, which leads to improved staff morale and a positive impact on what is taught in classrooms.
Compacting school into just four days a week leaves more time for kids to spend with family, friends and outside interests. Older students can spend time engaging in resumé-building public service or paid work. Teachers have more time to prepare lessons and collaborate during the day.
The benefits of going to a 4-day week for schooling is that it offers teachers and students an additional day for rest every week. More rest then equates to dealing with less stress over the course of a school year. Students feel less pressure because they have more time to study at their own pace at home, especially in the later grades.
Shifting to this schedule does have certain disadvantages, especially for working parents. For the parents of younger students, an additional full day of daycare may need to be scheduled every week instead of a partial day. This leads to added costs that some families, living paycheck to paycheck, may not be able to afford.
While kids and teachers relished the regular long weekends, parents did not. Those with younger kids worried about child care, and those with older children worried about the unstructured free time.
As four-day school weeks have proliferated, some experts are concerned that not enough is known about the impact on students and their families.
If four-day weeks begins to gain traction in more urban districts, experts fear low-income families could bear the brunt of a change that is otherwise quite popular with educators and others in the community. Shortened weeks present child care challenges and makes it more difficult for many students to get nutritious meals.
Kids said they enjoyed having more time for play, rest and even homework, while high schoolers tended to pick up extra shifts at their part-time jobs, or volunteer to boost their college prospects.
When it comes to academic outcomes, the jury is still out.
Opinions differ when it comes to measuring student achievement in the context of the four-day school week. Time and more research are needed to determine whether the change leads to positive or negative results.
Future of the Four-Day Week. There is not yet a complete picture of how four-day school weeks impact students and their families, but it is clear that more districts are adopting the schedule each year. While these districts are primarily smaller and rural, a few notable exceptions have raised questions about the possibility of more urban districts moving toward a four-day week.