Four-day school week raises achievement

When rural schools move to a four-day week, test scores go up, along with student and teacher attendance, reports a study by Georgia State and Montana State researchers. And schools save money on transportation and utility bills, notes Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

The study looked at fourth-grade scores in Colorado, where more than a third of districts — typically small, poor and rural — have moved to a longer day and a shorter week.

Overall, districts with a four-day week started out with lower average scores than schools on traditional schedules, but saw a significant increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on both reading and math tests after they switched to the four-day week. Specifically, the researchers found that the shortened week was associated with a 7 percentage point gain in math scores and a 3 percentage point gain in reading. In reading, the improvement took place the year after the schedule was switched; in math, the improvement took place during the year the schedule was switched. In both cases, the improvements seem to have stuck for multiple years after the shift.

The report suggests a number of potential explanations, including improved attendance, increased teacher job satisfaction, and better teaching methods. (The longer school day might allow for longer lessons, for instance.)

A four-day week creates child-care problems for parents, the researchers warned. It could give unsupervised children more time to get into trouble. Or it could make it easier for teens to hold part-time jobs, possibly decreasing the dropout rate.

Of course, what’s true in rural areas with long bus rides to school may not apply to urban and suburban schools.

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Comments

  1. It may work in Colorado but it didn’t work in at least one county in Georgia. Peach County Georgia just voted to switch back to a 5 day a week calendar. As far as I can tell from their test scores they didn’t improve during the 4 day school week. Scores: http://archives.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&CountyId=711&T=1&FY=2011
    Switch back to 5 day a week article: http://www.macon.com/2012/03/07/1935097/peach-boe-approves-return-to-five.html
    What is interesting is Georgia State helped do this study but they didn’t include Peach County GA in the data. Was it excluded because there wasn’t enough data on Peach Co. or because it might have skewed the results? Peach County did transition to save money but even that has had mixed results. What is more interesting is what is happening in Bibb County Georgia where yesterday the school board just approved the “Macon Miracle Plan” to improve the public schools. http://www.bibb.k12.ga.us/ has the link to the plan and other information.