Four-day school week: What does the research say?

Articles like this from the Associated Press about districts reducing the number of school days in a week from five to four have been raising a lot of eyebrows . Some people applaud such innovative thinking to decrease cost while saving teachers’ jobs. Others are downright terrified about the negative effect it might have on students.

But what does the research say? Well, thankfully the Center for Public Education covered this very issue in our report Making time: What research says about re-organizing school schedules. When it came to four-day school weeks the report found:

Four-day school weeks were designed to help save overhead costs, but also appear to have educational and morale benefits for students and staff. Many rural districts have dropped one day from the weekly schedule by adding time to the other four days. While the move is almost always initiated to save on transportation and food service expenses, some are seeing unintended benefits in the form of higher test scores, decreased disciplinary problems, greater collaboration among teachers, and higher morale.

So going to a 4-day school week may not have the negative effect some may fear. Actually it can provide some benefits. Districts across the country trying to meet the needs of all their students with much less money have to determine if going to 4-day school week is best way to reduce costs while still improving student achievement.

It may not be the optimal solution, but some of the alternatives are laying off effective teachers, raising class sizes, or eliminating or cutting back on pre-k. All of these would quite likely have a negative impact on student achievement. On the other hand, the link between time and student achievement is not so clear. So for some districts, going to a 4-day school week may be the best solution to cutting costs while still improving student achievement. –Jim Hull

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