Should Schools Adopt a Four-Day Schedule?

Hundreds of school districts are now giving students three-day weekends, but the schedule can come at a price.

If everybody works for the weekend, will everybody work harder for a longer weekend? I really don’t know, but I do know a new trend in education trend has been quietly growing.

In 2010, about 120 school districts were on a four-day school week. The following year, 300 school districts were operating on a four-day week. The idea is to add about an hour and a half to the school day Monday through Thursdays, with schools closed on Fridays, to help reduce costs related to transportation, staffing, energy and even serving school lunches. But is the monetary savings worth the potential cost in student learning?

According to the school districts participating in the four-day school week, there seems to be no loss or gain in student achievement. They claim students are more focused with less breaks in the school day and have the opportunity for more in depth learning due to fewer disruptions. Students have to opportunity to explore independent learning in areas of interest on their day off, and, with no school on Fridays, some high school students are using the time to take internships. In addition, the longer school day offsets the reduced number of days and in some cases has increased staff and student attendance. 

In my opinion, going to a four-day school is nothing more than a last-ditch desperate effort to save cash. The possible benefits to student learning have no basis in fact that I could locate and the benefits stated by the school districts who instituted the plan sounds a just a little fishy. Kids have enough trouble focusing for 50 minute intervals, let alone 65-minute periods. I don’t know of a single student who is disappointed that the period is over, no matter how interesting the lesson, upon hearing the bell ring.

Plus, the impact on younger students who fatigue more easily and may need child care on the fifth day doesn’t seem like a good plan for the child or the parents. Although some teenagers may use the time to explore personal interests or take internships, I wonder how many more would spend the extra time playing video games and watching reruns of "How I Met Your Mother."

If the school day is lengthened, when would there be time for sports or extra-curricular activities? Kids don’t have enough hours in the day as it is. If cross country practice or jazz band rehearsals start two hours later, when is there time to do homework? There isn’t. Not offering extra-curricular activities is another way schools are cutting costs as well, so fitting them in would probably not be an issue. A longer school day also limits the time teens have for part-time jobs.

No matter how the school district spins it, shortening the school day is a bad idea. It’s the first step toward scraping the idea of school altogether and installing robots in homes to teach Asimov-style, which would really save on transportation, teacher salary and school lunch costs.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there is little danger of this happening since the condensed schedules do not allow time to teach the writings of Isaac Asimov, or anyone else, although I’m pretty sure the idea has come up in more than one school board meeting. But students will still have to opportunity to explore classic literature on their own, which has about as much chance of happening as having robots in everyone’s homes to replace school.

linda November 03, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I agree that school is not "day care." HOWEVER, most of the real world (parents of these kids included,) work a 5-day week. In this economy, there is no choice but to work a 5-6 day week, and many families are now DUAL income families that didn't used to be, before the Recession. The school days/weeks need to coincide as much as possible with the childrens' schedules, so that average working families can commit to all their responsibilities, without upsetting the apple cart. Since our state is bankrupt, maybe we need to figure out another solution to this "cash strap" problem.
Brad Faxton November 03, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I dont care if it "runs" (total joke to think you are trying to spread your uber knowledge - always a stupid sales spin on 'angled' articles like this) in 30 places.
linda November 03, 2012 at 08:17 PM
In an effort to "reply" to my own comment, what I meant to say is that the "school days/weeks need to coincide as much as possible with the Parents' work schedules." Our family is a perfect example of this. With 4 kids, and being a stay at home mom for the past 17 years, I had to go back to work in 2011. I was forced to choose a job that coincides with my children's school schedule. (Fortunately, the Mon-Friday 8-5 is pretty normal in the Work World.) Just clarifying...
Donna M. November 03, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Brad, if you don't like Susan's columns don't read them.
Brad Faxton November 03, 2012 at 09:52 PM
If you don't like reading my criticism, you can just go get a fresca and cool off.
joy November 03, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I will take a picture of his salary report.. Legally.. It must be broken down.
joy November 03, 2012 at 10:38 PM
U can look any teachers up
Nancy Glasser November 03, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Susan's article contained some misspellings. But her points are valid and well-written. As a financial analyst, I predict that the cost savings are minimal. In fact, keeping the school buildings open longer and for more days allows the community to utilize the space for meetings, recitals, sports events, etc. realizing a true cost savings.
Adult Student November 04, 2012 at 12:23 AM
At the tutoring center at the local community college, I found beginning students as well as "adult students" (those over age 24) taking remedial classes. I believe it's not just a matter of a four-or-five day school weeks, but a matter of application. I saw many younger students at college slack off while their parents paid the bills.Those students who worked and went to school tended to apply themselves to schoolwork more thoroughly. I saw people in their 40s and 50s return to school because they couldn't read. I'm sorry for the rant, and apologize for any lack of grammar, or spelling errors. There are also people under 24 who really apply themselves and advance to a university, or to the possibility for a better job. Please note my bias as a 40-year-old student returning to school. I know this is off topic, but I thought it might be a perspective worth noting.
Craig Apelbaum November 04, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Terri November 04, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Because its not about the parents...it's about the kids.
Susan Schaefer November 04, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Joy, it breaks it down into contractual hours, not actual hours. Ask your friend how many additional hours per week he puts in over the hours dictated by his contract.
Vortex November 04, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Buce, you missed "I really don’t know, but I do know a new trend in education trend has been quietly growing." Huh? I don't know when, but at some point we're going to have to tell these so-called education "experts" to just shut up and teach. They keep coming up with these idiotic schemes to shuffle things around, so they'll be perceived as innovative -- phonetic spelling, fuzzy math, Common Core Standards.... this is all nonsense when your students are not increasing their knowledge or skills. We're supposed to be in awe of teachers as such noble professionals, all while footing the bill for hundreds of billions of dollars in failed experiments, while they treat children as so much grist through the mill. And constantly beg for more and more and more money. "Just wait a few years," they say, "we'll have much better results with this new system." And if not? What of the generation of kids who end up screwed out of their education? Oh well, they'll try something new later with the next batch.
joy November 04, 2012 at 01:56 AM
None.. I grade all his papers and handed him all my medical powerpoint presentations to get his masters.
Long Island Dave November 04, 2012 at 04:04 AM
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JR November 04, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Ugh. Teachers would have to work the same hours, if not more. Longer class time would really be a plus though...esp. for harder subjects.
JR November 04, 2012 at 05:33 AM
But, vacations are better in the summer since it begins snowing here early. Summer time is good for the family and kids go on club trips...etc. during that time. Air conditioning is very costly too... Can you imagine what the energy bill would have been this past hot summer if school was in session the whole time?
JR November 04, 2012 at 05:35 AM
I was a teacher and that amount is total fiction for most teachers, and I and most teachers have a master's degree!
james urban November 05, 2012 at 03:19 PM
for those that still believe the 30 year old POLITICAL BS its for the kids, YOU ARE WHATS WRONG WITH THIS STATE. i am so sick and tired of hearing that the education system is for the kids. Our education system is broke.
james urban November 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
none of the overpaid teachers would stand a chance in the real world and would not make anything close to the bloated salaries they get for 6 months worth of work. Masters degrees in liberal arts in the real world would get you a job at walmart working behind the cash register making minimum wage.
joy November 05, 2012 at 07:42 PM
James is my hero!
Terri November 05, 2012 at 08:19 PM
So...first it's the rant that teachers work 9 months for a years pay and get all kinds of worldly benefits plus every othe day off and it's ruined the schools...those greedy you know whats. Now someone proffers an idea that could help districts manage costs, and it's right back to those greedy you know whats. Really? James...you're no hero. Joy...you're no better. Maybe worse having facilitated someone's plagiarism.
Lennie Jarratt November 05, 2012 at 08:22 PM
A 4 day school week would make for an interesting discussion. In some of the school district that have done this lowered their costs while improving educational outcomes. http://educationmatters.us/2005/09/26/4-day-school-weeks/
joy November 05, 2012 at 09:03 PM
For the record.. I WAS a jr high teacher.. I am NOW a doctor ( past 14 years). My boyfriend IS a teacher making 120k a year locally. I gave him all his work to obtain his masters.. And correct his kids homework...
Terri November 05, 2012 at 11:02 PM
At least you admit to your collusion...
Terri November 05, 2012 at 11:05 PM
I agree. Unfortunately, any discussion here would digress to money grubbing, lazy teachers...it took a matter of minutes to go there when this article first went up.
joy November 06, 2012 at 01:26 AM
ABSOLUTELY!! Without me..he would not correct and hand back with straight up failing grades. He admits he is lazy and does not care, as do his co-workers. In their words "there is nothing more me can do..it is a race to nowhere". I would be doing society a disservice if I lied.
Mark Raymond Ganzer November 07, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I spoke with several workers from the Catepillar Corporation who work on a 4-day, 10-hour shift schedule. They were uniformly of the opinion that it was far more stressful and less productive. There is one change that, if we really cared about students learning, ought to be made: start the school day LATER, especially for high school students who are going through all sorts of hormonal changes and trend towards night owlness. Many students are physcially and mentall exhausted because of when they must awaken to begin to prepare for their school day (for which at Barrington Consolidated High School, classes start at 7:20 a.m.).
Quagmire November 13, 2012 at 10:37 AM
James is correct, "It's for the kids" has been a saying used for anyone trying to do something for a certain ulterior motive or reason to get people "off the trail" of what really is happening. My property value does not go up 4.5% a year, my pay has not gone up 4.5% a year. Why do I as a property tax payer have to pay more every year for this...??? Especially in an economy where one should be glad to even have their job yet alone keep crying for more when the well is dry.
joy November 13, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Very well said. Last year medicare cut reimbursement rates 3.2%. I took a NEGATIVE 3.2% raise!


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