Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Four Day Weeks OR Extended Days: Where’s the Equity?

By Peter DeWitt — November 15, 2011 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Recently there was a story in Education Week entitled Push is On to Add Time to School Day, Year (Fleming). Some schools are adding time to their school day and school year. If done correctly, this will allow teachers the time to focus on great instructional tools like Project-Based Learning (PBL) and perhaps offer students the time to create service learning opportunities within the school district.

In the Washington Post, there was a story about schools that are researching the idea of a four day school week (Layton). Four day weeks are created by schools in order to cut costs (i.e. heat, energy, etc.). The positive side to a four day week is that it would provide high school students the opportunity to participate in internships where they can get real-life work experience.

Both ideas offer a great deal of flexibility in instructional practices. Unfortunately, there are many times when these ideas are not done in order to offer innovative practices to students. They are done in order to meet increased mandates, make budget cuts or increase test scores.

Doesn’t it seem that we are all moving in opposite directions?

Time and time again we hear from people who believe that schools are an institution that are too far behind society. I would venture to guess that there are many households, not just schools, that are struggling to keep up with the 24/7 media, cell phones for everyone including kids in second grade, quick fix society.

Unfortunately, those brick and mortar comments are said by people who expose their children to great experiences such as museums, the arts and sports. We know as educators, that there are many parents who do not know how, and do not have the means, to expose their children to such experiences.

How can schools be innovative and focus on 21st century skills when they can’t afford to buy computers, Smartboards, IPads and netbooks? Although 21st century skills means changing the way we all think and not just incorporating technology, many schools are ill-equipped to meet that demand. In the long run we have millions of students who lack exposure to quality experiences at home and school, and are their schools are forced to look into cutting the academic week down to four days as other schools increase their school day and school year.

Happy Medium
I love the idea of students being exposed to real-life experiences in the outside world. In my own school, we are on multiple acres of land where students go outside every day except on days when it is raining or below 20 degrees. Teachers bring their children outside so they can learn about nature through hands-on experiences. Students are truly exposed to some great examples of real-life experiences.

Unfortunately, I also understand that we are fortunate and not all students, teachers and staff have the luxury to bring their students outside every day. It would be wonderful if we were able to go to a four day week with a fifth day that focuses on outside experiences for younger children and internships for high school students. However, how will schools be able to monitor those experiences?

It’s not that schools always need to have control (although some would argue that point); it’s that schools are mandated to prove that students are learning. Teachers and administrators are being evaluated based on those mandates and giving up a day each week and trusting that all students are being exposed to great experiences is more of a risk than a reality for schools.

What’s Best for Kids?
Although both ideas have benefits for high school students, they have major drawbacks for elementary and younger middle school children. Elementary students do not have the luxury of working internships and parents will have a major issue with the lack of childcare.

The reality is that schools provide an education and child care to parents, so the four day school week idea will put a deeper wedge between parents and schools. You need not look any further than comments after a blog to see adults who add comments about how much teachers and administrators make and the lack of twelve month employment.

Educators who work in schools that only have four day weeks will be forced to hear comments about how disruptive the new schedule will be to the family unit. This will cause a rift between the school and home and will work against what so many parents and schools work hard toward, which is a home-school community.

Extended days can be very exhausting to students who are between the ages of five and eleven. Schools would have to make sure that they are incorporating breaks into the school day to allow for students to get up and move. The whole child initiative is not from the neck up, it’s the whole body.

In The End
The reality is that there will always be schools that can be innovative and offer students what they need to be successful in society. There will also be schools that lack the means necessary to prepare students for the 21st century, even though we are eleven years into it. These same students live in households that do not prepare them for the 21st century. With 21.6% of our students affected by poverty, providing 21st century skills takes a back seat to teaching students how to survive.

If we are forced to go through all of these cuts in order to change the institution to become more 21st century, we really just seem to be forced to once again prove that our society is caught between the “haves” and “have nots.”

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP