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4-Day School Week Termed Ill-Suited to Large States

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The four-day school week isn't all it's cracked up to be, according to an analysis by the Michigan department of education.

Several Michigan school districts, in response to severe financial problems, have asked that they be allowed to experiment with the reduced school week, according to Rosarita Hume, a spokesman for the department.

But the state board of education and the legislature's education committees have opposed the idea, which would necessitate a change in the state law requiring 180 days and 900 hours of instruction each year.

Although the four-day week reportedly has been successful in small rural districts in Colorado and New Mexico, a report prepared by staff members in the Michigan department of education suggests that it would save very little money in a more heavily populated state.

If every district in Michigan adopted the abbreviated school week, the Michigan agency's researchers estimated, the savings would total only 0.4 percent of all instructional costs.

"When your major cost is labor, the teachers will still get paid, so the savings would be pretty small," Ms. Hume said.

State officials were also concerned about the educational effects of the four-day week. The plan "could have a substantial impact on increasing disparities between districts," the report warned.

And, Ms. Hume added, the department's research strongly suggests that "the frequency and length of instruction are very important in how well kids learn. Adding 10 minutes onto a class period just isn't the same as meeting five times a week."

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