Common Arguments for and Against the Four-Day School Week
The number of four-day school weeks (4dsw) in Missouri has risen considerably in the past few years: from 34 in the 2017–2018 school year to 152 in the 2022–2023 school year. Based on my own compilation of district calendars, there appears to be around 170 for the 2023–2024 school year—although those numbers are not final at this time.
While typically a 4dsw district is a small, rural district, that could be changing in Missouri. The Independence School District in Kansas City just began its first semester using a 4dsw this year. The district had over 13,000 students in 2021–2022, which is over 10,000 more students than the second-biggest 4dsw district, Warren County R-III. It will be interesting to see if more suburban and urban districts follow Independence’s example.
Along with James Shuls, I am currently working on a systematic literature review of the best evidence on the effects of the 4dsw. We’ll get into those findings at a later date. Here, I think it is important to discuss the most common arguments for and against the 4dsw. Specifically in this post, I will list the different arguments regarding how the 4dsw could impact academic achievement.
Pros: How This Could Bolster Academic Achievement
- With a longer weekend, students can recharge more and be more attentive in class—leading to instruction hours being more productive.
- Chronic absenteeism could decrease; as kids would have more built-in days to go on hunting trips, weekend getaways, or athletic events.
- Additionally in rural districts, less time would have to be taken off to help on the family farm.
- Fewer kids would be late to class for doctor’s appointments, driver’s tests, and other necessary errands as families could schedule it on the weekday that school is off.
- Teachers would have more opportunities to improve their lesson plans and collaborate with their colleagues.
- While there is ample time to discuss these things during school breaks, having built-in professional development days could lead to improvement for some teachers—generating higher academic achievement.
- Teacher retention could increase. With a longer weekend and more days to prepare for class, teachers may have greater job satisfaction.
- With greater job satisfaction, teachers could be more motivated and help boost students’
- Potentially cutting costs from transportation, energy, or food services on the fifth day could allow districts to divert more funds to instructional costs.
- Longer class times with a 4dsw means that teachers can more easily use different teaching methods like small-group discussions as opposed to mainly lectures—potentially leading to more active participation and academic growth.
- Fewer substitute teachers are needed, as teachers can schedule appointments or recover from sickness on off days.
Cons: How This Could Decrease Academic Achievement
- One fewer day per week means less structure and less time a student is thinking about school.
- A longer weekend means less repetitions per week of material, which may make it harder for it to “stick.”
- 50% of schools that use a 4dsw report being completely closed on the fifth day, while 30% offer some sort of remedial or enrichment activity on that day.
- We all saw what happened to students’ scores when they were not routinely in-person at school.
- It is harder to stay focused over the course of a longer day.
- Many claim that attention spans have shortened in society. If a 4dsw involves longer school days, there may be more hours where students are not paying attention.
- Many times, 4dsw have about 3-4 less hours in school per week—harming academic achievement.
- A day is relatively more important in a 4dsw schedule than a 5dsw schedule.
- Test schedules become more tightly packed together with one fewer day, along with more homework and longer days of school.
- This can serve to increase stress on students.
- Teacher retention could decrease. One fewer day of school, that is one fewer day to earn additional income from after- and before-school programs.
- Studies show a 4dsw could be linked to increased, as older students can have an unsupervised dayoff, leading to students focusing less on school or not being in school at all.
- Students with a tough home life may face struggles being home an extra day, increasing mental health issues.
- For students with little at-home support, less time in school is more harmful to them than others.
Research should be able to give us a better idea the average effect of the 4dsw on student achievement. Whether the overall effects are positive or negative, it seems clear that the 4dsw will not impact all students in the same way. These issues are important to consider when evaluating the 4dsw, and James and I are excited to present our findings in the near future.