By IndyKids staff and Melina Cantagallo, age 14
As kids returned to school in fall of 2022, many teachers did not. As a result, school districts across the country have been left scrambling to try to find new ways to attract more teachers. Some are now considering adopting a four-day week to lure potential new educators in.
Four-day school weeks have already been adopted by over 1,600 schools across 24 states, according to a 2021 study published in Education, Finance and Policy. Switching to this schedule could not only attract teachers, but also reduce costs, as they don’t have to pay regular school staffers, electricity bills for that day or fuel costs for transportation. However, the savings are still not as significant as hoped. Bakersfield School District in Gainesville, Mo., for instance, reportedly saved 8% of their budget that would normally be spent on fuel costs. This fell far below the anticipated 20% savings, according to their superintendent, Amy Britt.
Still, many schools have reported positive results in terms of student and teacher satisfaction. “They feel more prepared for the week,” explained Britt to K-12 Dive. “That has had a huge impact on teaching and learning.” But what happens on the fifth day varies from school to school. Some districts offer enrichment activities like cooking classes; others use this day for internships and extracurricular activities. “We know that kids love it, and so do parents and teachers,” said Emily Morton, a researcher at NWEA who has studied four-day school weeks around the country, in an interview with The Hechinger Report. Unsurprisingly, a RAND survey published in 2021 found that 95% of kids said they want a four-day school week.
But how this restructuring might affect kids’ grades is the pressing issue. Four-day week schools try to make up for lost instructional hours by increasing the school day by about an hour; however, according to the RAND survey, this still results in students losing around 60 hours of teaching time per year. Studies have begun revealing that, on average, there is a negative correlation between four-day weeks and student performance. Researchers at NWEA analyzed the test scores of 12,000 students and found that the four-day week schedule was not good for academic achievement on average, with students struggling more in math and reading than those using the five-day week model.
The four-day week sounds appealing, we get it. But the possible negative academic consequences could be problematic. And what about vulnerable families? Those who rely on school for meals and child care? Time will tell if this model becomes more widely used. And if it does, we can only hope that our school districts handle it with care.