A four-day school week has been a growing trend in the past decade. There are many facts about a four-day school week to consider. Often, school districts choose a four-day school week to reduce expenses. Mainly operating Monday through Thursday, students endure longer days to compensate for the shorter school week.
Each state has different guidelines for schools that want to try this schedule. For example, schools in California that don’t meet academic performance standards are not permitted to use a four-day school week.
History of the Compressed Schedule Movement
The onset of the recession in 2006 posed a financial crisis for schools that relied on property taxes for funding. In an effort to help homeowners, the Idaho legislature reduced property taxes and put public school budgets in crisis. Some Idaho schools resorted to the shortened school week model to help balance the budget. Most reported that it didn’t do the trick.
Four-Day School Week Research
The National Conference of State Legislators reports that 560 school districts have gone to a four-day school week. Located in 25 different states, these districts have primarily moved to a Monday through Thursday schedule.
There is very little national research that has assessed the comprehensive impact of a compressed school week, but there are a few facts about a four-day school week to consider. Some schools report minor cost savings ranging from .4 to 2.5 percent. Similarly, statewide assessment data shows varying differences in the test scores of students who are on a shortened school week schedule.
Pros and Cons of a Four-Day School Week
Qualitative information about the four-day school week model indicates mixed reviews. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons:
- Families have more flexibility in scheduling appointments, leading to improved attendance.
- It’s easier to recruit teachers.
- Students have an additional day to rest and study.
- Some schools report less discipline problems.
- Teachers take less sick days.
- There is a small reduction in operating costs.
- A three-day weekend offers more options for scheduling extracurricular activities.
- Holiday schedules are impacted.
- Working parents must find child care or may have transportation concerns.
- Most schools are still open five days to accommodate maintenance and administrative needs.
- The savings is minimal.
Four-Day School Week Test Scores
You may be wondering how academic performance is impacted by a four-day school week. Colorado fourth-grade students on a four-day school week schedule outperformed their peers on a traditional schedule in math. There was no difference in reading scores. The state of Oregon reported an immediate decline in academic performance, but test scores leveled out within four years of implementing the new system.
States With a Four-Day School Week
Colorado is the front runner among states, with 98 school districts opting for a four-day school week, but this only represents 13 percent of Colorado students. Montana, Oregon and Oklahoma are the other states that have a large number of districts with a four-day schedule. As of 2018, the following lists show how the country has embraced this unique idea.
States with more than 20 percent of school districts on a four-day schedule:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
States that have between 2 and 19 percent of districts participating:
- North Dakota
States with less than 2 percent of districts participating:
States that have no districts participating:
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- Washington, D.C.
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- New Hampshire
- New York
- West Virginia
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.