School & District Management

4-Day School Weeks Are Gaining Support. What Do Educators Have to Say?

By Caitlyn Meisner — August 29, 2023 5 min read
Kindergarten students explore various activity centers in their classroom at Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 2017.
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Schools have operated on a five-day-a-week schedule almost since they began. But, in recent years, almost 900 districts have moved away from precedent and pursued an approach that they see as potentially cost-saving: Four-day school weeks. Many rural districts struggling to recruit teachers adopted this new schedule as a result of the Great Recession. The practice was then popularized in the pandemic as teachers reported high levels of burnout.

Studies have shown that parents and students are fans of the change largely because it provides a day to catch up on work, run errands, and spend time with family. This model of shorter weeks is also thought to attract and retain teachers better than the traditional model.

But, learning is where this model falls short. Comparisons of English language arts and math test scores show students on a four-day week schedule have lower scores than their counterparts attending school five days a week.

A recent Education Week piece on the topic drew dozens of comments on social media. Educators and parents weighed in on the benefits for students and the negative impact shorter school schedules could have on working families. Here’s a roundup of their thoughts.

Who will this benefit?

Educators said the transition to four-day weeks likely would benefit the adults more than the students. Many questioned the need to change if student learning has not been shown to improve.

“Do we really believe students will be doing homework and projects at home? Honestly, remote learning was the beginning of the end of public education. Politicians save on budgets by cutting education and increase the number of assessments, administrators are unwilling to implement discipline in school, teacher unions continue to alienate parents and communities, and teachers no longer need college degrees or participate in an education [program], just warm bodies in the room.”

Frank K.

“4 days is healthier for teachers, but not realistic for student achievement.”

Angela M.

“Wise move for schools that want to retain staff. Not so sure how good it is for students. 9- or 10-hour school days would be grueling on little ones. Perhaps designate Fridays as official ‘school days,’ but make them asynchronous learning days?”

Jennifer S.

“The social aspects of a shorter school week make so much sense, but I’ve never seen a study that shows that this works for learning. Independent learning isn’t a skill that we have without full development of our executive functioning skills.”

Sophie H.

“I think this is so dependent on where a school is located. I’ve seen rural schools that have four-day weeks do really well and others struggle. It cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Josh S.

The impact on parents

Many educators and parents mentioned the difficulties of adjusting to the four-day schedule, especially when most companies adhere to a five-day work week.

“Changing schedules to save costs puts more stressors on families trying to make schedules work and creates more opportunities for disconnection. And while it seems to have widespread support, it’s not paired with a quality move forward in how we ‘do school.’”

Cheryl A.

“If both parents work a five-day work week, what does that child do the day there is no school? Are they home alone, is it added child care, or is a parent home with them? There are many situations [and] parents are barely making ends meet now. Then we ask them to be home on Fridays or put the kid in child care? Or what about the teenager with a poor home life? They depend on being at school as the people there care about them. Often, we fund after-school programs to keep these kids here to ensure they stay out of trouble. A four-day school week might work for some places, but not all of them.”

Brandon C.

“Remember, teachers are the public’s free babysitters in the U.S.”

C.K.

“This must be extremely difficult for parents working outside the home. Later starts, with 5 days of school per week, and a balanced year seem like better options.”

Deb I.

Educators share their experiences

Several educators in the comments shared their own experiences with a four-day school week. Some cited positive experiences—such as more quality time with students—while others mentioned the difficulty of implementing the change.

“Quality over quantity. I’ve gotten more out of students in a 20 minute (half-day period) than a full 40-minute full day. I felt rejuvenated as a teacher when we taught in person for 4 days and Wednesday was remote. Honestly, I was really bummed to go back to 5 in person! It is what it is!”

Melynda M.

“I taught at a school that went to a 4-day week. As glamorous as it sounds, it is exhausting in reality. The day is stretched, and you have to compress so much more into each period. It’s one of those things that sounds good on paper, but is difficult to execute in the real world. For any other job, this would probably be great. But not for schools. Plus, the students have to start school a lot earlier and teenage brains (I teach high school) are not ready to go at 7:30 in the morning. It leads to exhaustion and resentment.”

Jacob W.

“I taught 12 years in a rural district that has been on the 4-day calendar for decades. My daughter was raised in the same district, K-12. I can attest to the effectiveness. Our kids met or exceeded state standards. My daughter had a strong education and is a highly successful adult and parent today. 4-day school weeks also save a lot of money in heating/cooling costs and are easier to work with activity schedules as we used Fridays for games/activities which often require travel time (resulting in pulling kids out of school less often). Finally, teachers have an extra day a week to do the work they normally end up doing after school/weekends, leading to less burnout. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Change is hard, but not always bad.”

Elizabeth N.

“I was in a 4-day-a-week district over a decade ago. I enjoyed it. It saved the district funds for caretaking and transportation. This could be a solution to a lot of challenges, but it will create challenges for others.”

Jacqueline M.

“During Covid teaching for one quarter, we actually had Wednesday to plan and tutor individuals. Supposedly, extra cleaning was occurring. It was time needed and spent well for teachers and students.”

Karen M.

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