Education, News

The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day School Week

The idea of having a four-day school has been around for several decades, and has been considered at least since the 1930s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But recently, there has been a move towards shorter weeks across the United States. While it was first a mostly Western-state phenomenon, the idea has spread to more states test as they test this new system. The reasons for this change, as well as the perceived effects on children, teachers and the overall quality of education, are being debated.

Teacher and students

What is a four-day school week?

A four day school week is exactly what it sounds like — a system in which children attend school for four instead of five days per week. The specific day they may not attend varies. Some schools do not have classes on Friday while others prefer to give the students Monday off. In exchange for the decrease in actual days, the length of the school days may be lengthened.

What are the pros of the four-day week?

When it comes to talking about the advantages of this system, the one that is mentioned first is savings. According to research, a school board will save money on operating costs. According to some statistics, school boards can see decreases in:

  • Transportation Costs: The reduction in school bus use and therefore, the amount of money paid to the drivers,
  • Utilities: There is an expected decrease in the cost of energy
  • Overtime Payment: Decreased money paid out for support employees, particularly substitutes

According to Education North West, savings in these area may vary substantially depending on the location of the school district and other things.

One other area that is debated is the impact the change in the length of the school day will have on children. Some schools believe it will result in an increase in academic performance, and some studies indicate that this is an area that does show improvement. Moreover, a four-day school week results in a decrease in disciplinary incidents, while increased attendance has also been noted in some districts.

What are the cons of a four-day week?

There have been several issues concerning a proposed four-day school week. Parents and other concerned individuals have stated the issues accordingly:

  • Decline in support for at-risk youth: One fewer day means less support for those with disabilities and other learning or community needs.
  • Lack of supervision: With both parents working, who is going to watch the children? This can also increases the cost of child care services for parents.
  • Decreased attendance
  • Lower test scores

The problem with coming solidly down on either side of the argument is the lack of conclusive research.

What does the research reveal?

Research does not clarify the overall situation. Three studies in Colorado comparing four and five day weeks provide inconclusive data. Some students showed no improvement in academic performance, others showed a slight gain for four day while another found five day school weeks had an academic advantage.

Nor can it be said from the available statistics that the actual amount of savings due to reduced school days is the same across the board. They seem to vary. As a result, it’s hard to make a comprehensive statement.

The final word

The experiment into four-day school weeks is exactly that – an experiment. Until more research of a longitudinal and nationwide nature is completed, it is not possible to say whether or not this is the system school boards should adopt permanently.

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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.