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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

4-day school weeks are spreading, but students learn less

More schools -- and not just in rural areas -- are adopting four-day weeks, reports AP's Heather Hollingsworth. Districts hope the change will save money, though savings are modest, and help with teacher recruitment.

How will students use an extra day off? Photo: Kampus Production/Pexels

In Independence, Missouri, where Monday is now a vacation day, Brandi Pruente leaves her 13-year-old in charge of two younger children while she teaches in a neighboring district with a five-day week.

Independence offers child care for $30 a day per child, but not in every school, and serves meals, but not at every school.

"Starting in October, struggling students will be able to attend school on Mondays for extra help," Hollingsworth writes. The district hopes those students will catch up, and that older students will be more likely to take community college classes.

Thirty percent of Missouri districts have moved to a four-day schedule with longer school days.

Parents will figure out the child care, says Superintendent Dale Herl. “You have to go back and look, you know, what do parents do during the summertime? What do they do over, you know, spring break or Christmas break?”

A four-day week is surprisingly popular with elementary parents, a RAND study found. Are more of them working at home?

However, student achievement suffers, conclude Christopher Doss, Andrea Phillips and Rebecca Kilburn. They looked at a outcomes in Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Third- through eighth-graders in four-day school week districts "fell behind a little every year" in English and math, they warn. "After eight years, the damage to student achievement will about equal that caused, according to some estimates, by the pandemic."

"That worries Karyn Lewis of the research organization NWEA, whose recent study found students are not making up all the academic ground they lost during the pandemic," Hollingsworth reports. “Now is not the time to do anything that threatens the amount of instruction kids are receiving,” she said.

In 27J, a large district near Denver, Superintendent Will Pierce said parents and teachers strongly support the four-day week, which was adopted in 2018. “Quality of life is what they’re reporting,” he said.

However, "test scores dipped slightly" in the district a recent study showed, and "home values also took a hit compared to those in neighboring districts."

Many districts increase the school day by only 30 minutes, which isn't enough to make up for the loss of an instructional day, says Paul Thompson, an Oregon State professor. Achievement declines.

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