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More Schools Adopt Four-Day School Week

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To save money, more and more schools are going to a four-day week. But what does that mean for our kids -- and for us?


To close budget holes and prevent teacher layoffs, more schools are going to a four-day school week, reports the Wall Street Journal. The missed hours are normally made up by lengthening school days.

For working moms, this poses an obvious problem. Most work FIVE-day workweeks. Who will watch their kids on the fifth day? Schools save money, but parents LOSE money because they have to spend cash on childcare.

The concept of the four-day school week is not a new one. Until recently, though, it was mostly small, rural districts that had the shorter week. But now, due to increasing budget cuts, more and more districts are making this the rule, not the exception. Critics say shorter weeks will have a huge negative impact on students' learning. "There's no way a switch like that wouldn't negatively affect teaching and learning," says Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which is trying to stop the state from looking into the four-day-week option.

There is very little information on just how a shortened week will affect students. A 2009 report by the Idaho Department of Education said evidence was "inconclusive" as to whether student achievement was affected, and the Colorado Department of Education said the "jury is out on the question of student performance."

What do you think of the four-day school week?

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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
tennmom March 8, 2010, 12:45 PM

I do actually like the idea. My younger child will attend the same private university prep school as my older child next year. A portion of my tax dollars will go to support the public school system neither of my daughters will be attending.
I’ve not always been able to afford private school for my kids. How evil would I be children who have no option other than private school? I say: very evil. All children deserve a quality education.
That said, sometimes it is necessary for a school system to make budget cuts just to keep the schools open. After all, you can’t get blood out of a turnip.
My kids spend the equivalent of 1 day’s worth of classroom time doing homework (more so for my private school student) so I doubt children would suffer accademically if they were only in school 4 days a week.

Rachel March 8, 2010, 2:22 PM

I know it’s frustrating, but the government’s responsibility is to provide a free (tax-funded, anyway), public education. It’s education, not daycare. That people are able to work while their children are in school is a definite advantage, but it’s not the government’s responsibility to provide daycare so people can work.

Sara March 8, 2010, 2:53 PM

Repetition is so important. Adding 20 minutes onto a class daily doesn’t make it as effective as going an additional day.

I worry about what we’re doing to our kids.

Anonymous Jones March 8, 2010, 6:55 PM

A four day school week is better than losing staff or programs. Tim Callahan of the Georgia Association of Educators should know that. In ten years of researching the issue, I’ve never seen where a system has reported negative educational impacts. It helps the environment (buses nor school buildings are energy efficient); it provides more family time; and it helps schools by not having to reduce staff or programs.

michelle March 8, 2010, 7:38 PM

This is horrifying. I mean, maybe a 4-day week could work if we had a really good educational system, but guess what, we don’t. We’d just be taking our already bad schools and making them worse. And why do some people think the choice is only between going to a 4-day week or cutting staff/programs? RAISE TAXES. CUT PRISON FUNDING. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES. By the way, @Rachel, your comment is both brainless and heartless at the same time. I have never seen anyone actually advocate doing LESS to support middle class families and working parents, so we can destroy their children’s future even more thoroughly.

caroline March 9, 2010, 1:27 AM

Well- in California, one day of school per week is shortened to 180 minutes for teacher prep. It’s kinda sad that it only takes 180 minutes to be counted as a full school day.

Teachers get a full days’ pay and parents have to arrange for daycare for younger kids anyways. If schools can save money going to a full 4 days of class- it’d be better than having that wasted half day in there.

Holly March 9, 2010, 5:26 AM

i think this would not work on so many levels- childcare would be an issue for working parents. How could you find coverage for one day a week-unless you had a nanny or au pair?
I personally think the school day should be longer and more should be invested into schools and improving curriculum.

Anonymous March 9, 2010, 6:04 AM

As a former teacher less school is the last thing we need!!! We need to look toward the inovative schooling in Europe - 5 days (some 5 1/2) and the days are structured better - typically starting between 8:30/9am and ending around 4:30/5 with longer lunches, various activities and longer class periods. Way to make the next generation even more entitled and lazy by lowering the school week.

Rachel March 9, 2010, 1:25 PM

@Michelle, I think you missed my point (but thanks for the childish name calling). The point is that the government isn’t responsible for childcare, only education. The fact that parents would be inconvenienced should not be introduced into this debate because being a federally funded daycare is not the function of the government. If this is the only consideration, we need to find others that support going a full 5 days. I’m not saying I agree with cutting schooling to 4 days, I’m just saying that whether or not parents are inconvenienced is not/should not be a mitigating factor.

Anonymous March 9, 2010, 4:47 PM

As a teacher this bothers me. I would be forced to take my toddler to daycare at six thirty in the morning and pick him up at bedtime. I would hardly see him during the waking hours for those four days. Also, what would happen to my older son’s extra curricular activities like baseball and band? There would be no time for it. Sad really. And I can be honest and say that most students are alert in the morning but by after lunch, they are zoning out. I really couldn’t imagine a seven year old trying to stay focused on studies until four thirty or five in the afternoon. They would crash and burn. And don’t get me started on the obesity epidemic. Kids sitting in classrooms for that long of a day without exercise…. yikes.

michelle March 10, 2010, 8:34 AM

No, Rachel, I think I understood your point all too well and I stand by my comments. You think it is not the job of public schools to take working parents’ schedules into consideration. I say, yes it is, and in fact government should do more to offer working parents real solutions, instead of making them run harder and harder just to stay in place. That’s not only morally questionable but disastrous for the economy. The reason schools have 3-month summer vacations today is due to the economic needs of farmers in the 19th century. Today, the single best thing government can do to invest in economic growth (both today’s and tomorrow’s) is to help working parents continue to contribute, and their children succeed in school so they can contribute later on. I don’t think that whole “sink or swim” mentality does much for people who are already hardworking and motivated, which most parents are.

Rachel March 10, 2010, 12:24 PM

Michelle, I totally agree with the archaicness of the 3 month summer vacation and the historical implications that no longer hold water when most of us buy our carrots and chicken from the supermarket. I am absolutely not saying that public schools should completely disregard the scheduling needs of working parents - if they did, you’re correct, the economic ramnifications could be devastating. What I’m saying is that we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and absolutely exclude the possibility of a shorter school week solely because it would inconvenience working parents. Are there other viable, money-saving options? I would like to think so. But the government’s job is not to babysit, it’s to educate. What you’re proposing (more resources for working parents) will only make a very cash-strapped system even more cash-strapped. After care and extra care should be paid for and arranged privately - not by public funds.

Anonymous March 11, 2010, 4:55 AM

I have to disagree with rachel -in any other country that has a successful educational system pre-school and before/after care are subsidized by the government. In these countries the days are longer (and in some, longer weeks, 5 1/2 days), no summer breaks (there are different mini-breaks through the year). This provides a better education AND a better economy. The 2 really do go hand in hand. When working parents are worrying about child-care for an extra day off that becomes the priority over education and their work. If the government is saying to save money they are removing a day of school then they need to provide child-care AND an educational supplement.

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agree March 23, 2010, 11:05 AM

A shorter week will help not only for financial reasons but also the kids may do better with the change. Who decided on how many days a year would benefit a child? They are all different and and I think kids are suffering more from lack of home life than a little time from school. It’s better than doing away with many programs or closing schools altogether which is already happening.

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