What are the Pros and Cons of 4-Day School Weeks?

The four-day school is a phenomenon that has been sweeping across the U.S. When I was a teacher, many moons ago, this was a fringe schooling schedule only practiced by rural school districts. Why did they switch to 4-day school weeks? It was a kneejerk response to dwindling education budgets and the belief that schools could save a ton of money by operating Monday through Thursday, which in theory would lower their operating expenses. So what are the pros and cons of 4-day school weeks? I am glad that you asked. In this article, we will examine this question in depth.

Pros of the 4-day School Week

Adds flexibility to teacher’s schedules. Teachers report that the flexibility of the 4-day work week helps them get more done. This added flexibility is why they are such staunch proponents of the 4-day school schedule.

Increases student attendance. Rural areas report that their student attendance has increased since switching to the 4-day school week. Since many of the families in these areas run farms, it gives families extra time to get work done during the week. As a result, students don’t have to miss school to help out.

School districts save money. In the 4-day school week schedule, the district adds 40 or so minutes to make up for the time lost on the traditional 5th day. Some school districts have reported saving over 1 million dollars on utilities, busing, and labor costs.

Easier to recruit employees. 4-day school weeks add flexibility to teachers’ schedules and as a result, makes their jobs more manageable in a myriad of ways. Because of this, school districts don’t have a hard time attracting qualified applicants.

Cons of the 4-Day School Week

A potential decline in academic performance for vulnerable groups. Research has shown that in this configuration, students who are low-income, minority, or special needs don’t fare too well academically. Well, at least initially. It takes about 4-years for schools to get these students back on track academically. This is a big con for me, as sacrificing the futures of our most vulnerable students is not worth the trivial benefits of 4-day school weeks.

Potential for juvenile crime to increase. In Colorado, juvenile crime increased by 73% whenever a school changed their school schedules from 5 to 4 days. These crimes occurred all during the week, not just on the weekdays when students were out of school.

It might help school districts save money. The Oklahoma Department of Education examined the economic effect of going to a four-day week across 16 school districts. What they discovered was unexpected. They found out that seven school districts saved money under the new configuration, but nine districts were actually spending more.

A 4-day school week is misleading. Many school districts think they will save tons of money by cutting operational costs on the fifth day, but they forget, they will still be open and running activities on those days off. Administrative staff are required to be on-site, sports teams may need to practice, professional development sessions may convene, etc. Also, since special populations fare poorly in this configuration, the costs of remediating them begin to take a bite out of the budget.

Do 4-day school weeks positively affect student outcomes?

As you can see, there are a lot of pros and cons to the 4-day school week, but in terms of its long-term effect on academic outcomes, the jury is still out. There have been several studies that reported the 4-day school week had positive effects on student’s math and reading scores. On the other hand, there have been studies that found no significant difference in overall academic achievement between four-day districts and five-day districts. Also, there have been studies that found that special populations do not thrive under this configuration. Because the four-day school week has only been around for a decade or so, we simply don’t have enough time, data, or research to make a definitive declaration.

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