Education

Making the Case for Three-Day Weekends Every Weekend

By Sarah D. Sparks — March 05, 2012 2 min read

From guest blogger Jaclyn Zubrzycki

Lower transportation costs. Less money spent on facilities and overhead. Increased teacher and student attendance. And...higher test scores? New research suggests, perhaps counterintuitively, that the four-day school week not only doesn’t hurt student achievement, but seems to help.

The four-day school week has some appeal when budgets are tight, especially in rural districts where students and teachers may travel a long way to get to school. Schools in 17 states have four-day school weeks, which usually entail longer school days in order to meet instructional hour requirements. In Colorado, for instance, more than a third of districts use the shorter week. These are mainly small, poor, rural districts, serving about 3 percent of students in the state.

For “Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week,” Mary Beth Walker of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University compared 4th grade reading scores in 17 schools with compacted schedules and 5th grade math scores in 14 such schools with control groups designed to reflect the rural, usually low-income make-up of the schedule-switching schools. The researchers looked at math scores from 2001-2010 and reading scores from 2000-2010 from the Colorado Student Assessment Program.

Overall, districts with a four-day week started out with lower average scores than schools on traditional schedules, but saw a significant increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on both reading and math tests after they switched to the four-day week. Specifically, the researchers found that the shortened week was associated with a 7 percentage point gain in math scores and a 3 percentage point gain in reading. In reading, the improvement took place the year after the schedule was switched; in math, the improvement took place during the year the schedule was switched. In both cases, the improvements seem to have stuck for multiple years after the shift.

The report suggests a number of potential explanations, including improved attendance, increased teacher job satisfaction, and better teaching methods. (The longer school day might allow for longer lessons, for instance.) But this particular study doesn’t indicate which are actually at work here.

A four-day week presents some challenges, the researchers write, especially outside the rural context. Child-care needs for younger students would increase, and so might opportunities for teenage delinquency.The authors call for additional study into some of the implications of shorter weeks.

I was especially interested by the suggestion that the four-day week might lead to a decrease in the dropout rate and increase the potential for high school students to have part-time jobs. I’ve also heard the argument that a four-day work week would lessen schools’ environmental impact (think fewer commuters, less energy spent powering office buildings, etc.) and improved quality of life, though Utah’s experiment with the concept didn’t last too long.

What would a four-day school week look like in a more urban area? What are some benefits and challenges? Would a four-day week with longer days lead to an increase in your job satisfaction?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read