Don’t be fooled by a four-day school week

September 20, 2018 — by Justin Guo

The four-day school week in Colorado 

District 27J, a suburban school district in Brighton, Colo., announced a switch to a four-day school week at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year due to budget problems. Now, with the weekend extended through Monday, the remaining school days are being lengthened by 40 minutes.

This is not a new notion. For the past decade, the idea of shortening the school week when districts are in financial trouble has become increasingly more common. According to the Education Commission of the States, approximately 560 districts in 25 states have at least one school that has adopted the four-day school week.

At first glance, having an extra day off seems great. But upon further investigation, maintaining the five-day school week actually presents more advantages for students and teachers alike.

Advocates for a four-day school week claim it saves money, facilitates teacher recruitment and increases test scores and graduation rates.

Yet results from a 2009-2011 study claim just the opposite; savings are minimal, teacher recruitment is not necessarily better and test scores and graduation rates have been shown to be just the same and sometimes worse than the districts that use a five-day school week.

In theory, a three-day weekend should serve as a break, giving students more time to study and teachers more time to prepare.

But here’s the downside: Teachers are pressured to teach the same amount of information in a shorter time frame. This could result in rushed lessons in attempts to stay on schedule. Consequently, students may struggle to understand the material and scores on AP tests, as just one example, would suffer.

Another major consideration is the effect of longer school days on students.

Seven- to eight-hour school days already feel taxing. By extending the school day by an additional 40 minutes, students and teachers may feel even more burned out and fatigued, resulting in disengaged classes and wasted time for teachers.

The five-day school week is also beneficial for families that may struggle to find affordable daycare options for the off day, or families that depend on five days of school-provided meals.

The biggest upside of the current five-day school week is that the consistent schedule prepares students for the workforce. It follows the general schedule of most jobs: five days of work followed by two days of rest.

Naturally, students develop habits based around this schedule and learn how to juggle deadlines, time with friends and extracurricular activities while still attending school five days a week.

The standard school schedule gives teachers more time to explain material and grade assignments, provides benefits for low-income families and helps students get used to the schedule of a real job in order to manage their time more effectively.

Don’t be fooled by the extra day of rest that the four-day school week offers: It’s more hurtful than helpful.