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Should all schools adopt a 4-day week?

Some districts have opted for four-day school weeks. An analysis looked at the pros and cons of shortening the school week.
Should all schools adopt a 4-day week?
Posted at 2:50 PM, Sep 05, 2023

Most K-12 schools have long had five-day school weeks, but there is a growing push among some to reduce the number of days in the classroom. 

Under some proposals, that would result in longer days for students, teachers and staff. But the trade-off would, of course, mean a three-day weekend. 

A recent analysis from the research organization RAND Corporation found the benefits come with some trade-offs. 

RAND found among some of the smaller districts that have employed four-day weeks a greater satisfaction among parents. The organization also found that the added weekend day gave children more time with families. 

But the trade-off, according to RAND, was that test scores in math and English did not improve at the same rate as those attending schools with five-day weeks. 

“The teachers and parents and administrators that we talked to were quick to say, 'Year over year, we see our rank in the state the same or improving; we see our test scores improving,'” said RAND policy researcher Andrea Phillips. “And that was true. They were improving. It's just that their rate of improvement would have been higher if they had stayed at five days.”

SEE MORE: More businesses, even schools, moving to 4-day workweeks

Although the scientific results provide a mixed bag on whether schools should opt for a shorter week, one benefit RAND noted was some districts reported an easier time recruiting and retaining teachers. Warren County, Missouri, schools are in session Tuesday-Friday. Students there are in school 147 days a year. According to government data, the average school year for students in Missouri is 177 days, and it's 180 days for students nationally.

"We just could not keep up," Warren County, Missouri, superintendent Gregg Klinginsmith told RAND. "The most important thing in a classroom is the teacher, and we wanted to have the best teachers in front of our children. I wish we could use money to do that and pay people what they're worth. Unfortunately, we just don't have the money to do that. Our retention tool is time."

Discussions on reducing the school week come as some lawmakers have proposed shortening the work weeks for workers throughout the U.S. Earlier this year, Rep. Make Takano introduced the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act, which would require companies to begin paying overtime after employees complete 32 hours of work in a week. 

"The question of a shortened workweek is a productivity issue for employers and a quality-of-life issue for employees that branches into spheres beyond just work; healthcare, education, and childcare are all affected by the number of hours employees spend at work," Takato said. 

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