Tight budgets have forced scores of school districts in Oklahoma to institute a four-day school week (“With state budget in crisis, many Oklahoma schools hold classes four days a week,” The Washington Post, May 27. Ninety-six of the 513 school districts in the state have eliminated Fridays or Mondays. That is four times as many as in 2013.
Although Oklahoma is in the news, it is not the only state resorting to this drastic measure. The trend is most pronounced in rural regions of the West, where long bus rides consume expensive fuel. The only bright side of the cuts is that a four-day school week appeals to many teachers in states paying below-average salaries.
Just what the effect is on student learning is unclear. I’ve seen no studies that allow definitive conclusions to be drawn. Intuitively, however, I suspect that disadvantaged students are likely to suffer the most. Their parents are not able to provide them with the kind of out-of-school enrichment that more affluent parents can. Yet it may turn out that motivation is higher when students have three-day weekends. That’s likely the case at the end of the school year when both teachers and students are exhausted.
If studies show a clear cause-and-effect relationship between a shorter school week and higher performance, I bet more districts will be open to the change. I don’t think seat-time counts as much as quality instruction.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check 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.