Four-day school week gaining popularity – say what?

Just when we have ended furlough Fridays, an Associated Press story reports that four-day school weeks are on the rise on the mainland.  Four-day school weeks have been in practice in rural areas for a while.  It makes sense given the unique landscape of rural communities.  However, in today’s challenging financial situation, four-day school weeks are helping some school districts save costs.  Peach County, 4,000 student district, is one of more than 120 school districts across the country implementing a four-day school week in response to tough financial times.  Interestingly, after implementing a four-day school week, the district reported higher test scores, attendance rates (for both students and teachers), and a more than 80 percent graduation rate.  How did they achieve such results?  Well, for starters, school days were longer and filled with activities and students had the opportunity to get tutoring after school.  For this district, it was a success. 

Other districts haven’t experienced such positive results.  For example, Marlow, Okla. (440-student district) piloted the four-day school week in the spring semester and determined that it did not serve its population well, even though it saved $25,000 in operation costs.  The district switched back to a five-day week.  The obvious criticisms surfaced:  students were required to move at a quicker pace, longer days were difficult for some students, parents struggled with child care/alternative activities on days off, etc.

Additional resources on the four-day school week are shared in the Curriculum Matters blog.  There, you’ll find a 2008 article that showcases various districts’ experience with this model and a research report published by the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine focused on the effects of the four-day school week model. 

Of course, our furlough Friday situation can’t be compared to the four-day school week model given the complex circumstances surrounding the way they were initiated… but, reading about this national trend certainly prompts thinking about the way a state/school district could implement such models to positively impact both bottom lines:  student achievement and budgets.