SUPERINTENDENT — 4-day school week is not the answer for students
Published 12:04 am Sunday, March 12, 2023
As school districts across Texas are planning the 2023-24 school year, many are deciding to switch from a traditional five-day week to four days.
These districts cite teacher retention, recruitment and overall cost savings as justification for making the change.
During the 2022 school year, 41 districts had four-day weeks, up from 14 districts in 2021.
It is alarming that so many districts have decided to move to a shorter school week despite the overwhelming data that shows the switch does not achieve cost savings more than 1-2 percent and it is not beneficial to student academic or social outcomes.
Unfortunately, the uptick in the four-day school week is not expected to slow any time soon.
In 2015, Texas Legislators passed a law that transitioned the public-school year from 180 days to 75,600 minutes. The change from days to minutes paved the way for the shortened school weeks now seen in many districts across Texas.
Teachers in the four-day school week districts will undoubtedly have a few advantages not available to their five-day-a-week peers. Unfortunately, these perks will not be advantageous enough to overcome the detriment to student achievement, opportunities, nutrition, and childcare.
In a 2001 Oregon study of four-day week student performance, the math and reading achievement data of 3rd-8th grade students from 2005 through 2019 were analyzed.
The data revealed a significant reduction in math and a marked reduction in reading proficiency in the schools that opted into the four-day week as compared to the five-day a week schools.
A 2022 multi-state study used NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing as a common measuring instrument to accurately determine the academic achievement of six million students over 12 years, 2008-2020.
The results of this comprehensive study indicate a slight reduction in academic performance in the first year followed by increasingly more substantial losses in reading and math each subsequent year.
Loss of opportunities
Teachers often introduce concepts in a classroom and then expand on the topic or curriculum with field trips, videos, learning activities, or projects. The one common thread among these learning-extension activities is time.
In the early 20thcentury, John Dewey, an American Educational Reformer, said that learning does not come from experience, but instead it comes from reflecting on the experiences.
This reflecting time occurs regularly within classrooms across Texas and will be greatly reduced in schools that transition to four days a week. Moreover, students who miss a day of instruction for an illness or appointment will miss a greater percentage at a four-day school when compared to a five-day school.
Student nutrition & childcare
Surprisingly, rural school districts are adopting the four-day option more frequently than urban schools. Rural schools typically have a higher percentage of low-income students.
It is common for students in poverty to miss meals on weekends or during the summer when they are not in school. For many of these students, a four-day school week means a day of missed meals regularly.
Families also bear the costs of added childcare in homes where both parents work. In some communities across Texas where four-day weeks are being introduced there may not be enough childcare providers to adequately care for the younger students.
Data from various studies show us that the four-day school week is not the best option for students; however, it is increasing in popularity so teachers will stay in classrooms.
The Texas Teacher Vacancy Task Force recently completed a year review and has provided recommendations to stop the mass exodus of teachers in Texas. Among their recommendations were increased pay, better working conditions and support with discipline.
None of the recommendations by the task force were associated with a four-day school week. Doing right by kids is essential to the future of Texas Public Education; longer days, even with fewer days a week, is not the answer to the teacher recruitment and retention shortages.
Dr. Brandon Enos is superintendent for Cushing Independent School District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.