Four-Day School Weeks: Helpful or Harmful?

June 04, 2024

Nneka McGee

Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

Calendar that shows a four-day work week

It’s no secret that school districts face many challenges, including financial issues, chronic absenteeism, and the recruitment and retention of educators. One way to alleviate these challenges is the four-day school week. In Texas alone, at least 86 districts have adopted four-day school weeks, impacting more than 100,000 students. According to the Associated Press, more than 900 districts nationwide operate under four-day week schedules.

Instituting a four-day school week may solve some problems, but it’s also a huge change. District leaders and community stakeholders must carefully consider a few things before making the shift.

Hear the opinions of all stakeholders.

Although challenges may seem similar across districts, unique factors within each community could impact the decision to move forward with a four-day school week. Surveying stakeholders, such as teachers, administrators, staff and families, can help leaders gauge interest and viability beyond financial spreadsheets and attendance reports. Every district wants to implement major policies with significant support. Surveys should be short and straightforward but yield enough data for decision-making.

Consider the needs of the interconnected community your district serves.

Even if there is overwhelming support for a four-day school week initiative, issues within a district’s community may derail plans. Families may have to find daycare or other support options such as transportation, which could come at considerable cost. If districts decide to provide out-of-school time choices for families, the costs of operating programs could exceed the projected savings. Another consideration is the number of families facing food insecurities who need support during off days. During the planning stages, it is imperative to study the entire district as an interconnected unit with the community instead of as an isolated organization.

All district departments must collaborate and align.

Embarking on a four-day school week is no small task, and multiple departments within a school district should provide input on issues ranging from safety to payroll. For example, some district staff are hourly employees and rely on a 40-hour work schedule. Leaders must decide if hourly staff will work 10-hour days or work on school “off days.” Deciding on and implementing a four-day school week requires close collaboration among department heads, the superintendent and their cabinet members, and the school district’s board of trustees or similar governing body.

Ensure student instruction stays strong.

Ultimately, students must still receive adequate instruction even when the school week is shorter. A 2021 report from RAND Corporation revealed that students’ math and English/language arts test scores were lower when comparing four-day and five-day school week schedules. To ensure students have sufficient instructional time to meet state requirements or to maximize student outcomes, districts that adopt four-day school weeks lengthen school days. Planning extra tutoring or additional instructional time on scheduled off days could benefit students struggling academically.

School district leaders and governing bodies work tirelessly to meet the needs of students, educators and the community. Making the decision to transition from a five-day school week to a four-day school week requires concerted effort from multiple stakeholders. Considering community input, district operations and student achievement can help leaders determine if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Become a district leader equipped to make meaningful decisions with the education programs at American College of Education.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Nneka McGee
Nneka McGee, Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

Dr. Nneka J. McGee is an innovative educator, researcher and advocate dedicated to creating and promoting pathways that provide students access and opportunities to navigate a future driven by automation and artificial intelligence. Prior to earning her Ed.D. at American College of Education, Nneka obtained a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and a juris doctorate. As part of her doctoral studies, she researched the experiences of K-12 teachers implementing or planning to implement artificial intelligence in classroom learning environments. She is a sought-after speaker on artificial intelligence in education and has shared her work as a panelist or presenter at national, state, regional and local conferences. Nneka is a proud member of HAKing Innovation’s Board of Directors, a non-profit, social impact organization on a mission to create a community of technical talent by exposing students to STEM experiences. She also serves as an AI practitioner advisory board member for the Engage AI Institute and was selected as an EdSAFE AI Alliance Fellow.

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