Switching to a shorter school week—with longer days—may actually give students an academic advantage, according to a recent study of rural Colorado elementary schools.
The study looked at 15 schools that had switched to a four-day school week sometime between 2000 and 2010 and compared test results before and after the policy change. The authors also compared those schools with similar schools that maintained the five-day week, controlling for such variables as poverty levels, population density, student-teacher ratio, and racial and ethnic demographics.
The results, published recently in the journal Education Finance and Policy, show thatafter changing to the four-day week.
“With the math-test scores, our results were very robust and statistically significantly positive,” Mark Anderson, an assistant professor of economics at Montana State University and a co-author of the study, said in a phone interview.
In reading, improvement in test scores was also correlated to a shorter week, but the data weren’t always statistically significant. The study also points to some anecdotal evidence that moving to a four-day week may help attendance rates. While the study only looked at 4th and 5th graders, Anderson says he would expect the results to generalize for other elementary students.
The findings do not, however, offer much insight into why having a shorter week which also means having longer individual school days in these districts might be leading to an uptick in math scores and steady results (or better) in reading. Among the possible explanations, said Anderson, are more continuity in lesson plans, more preparation time for teachers, and more time for students to do homework.
A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 2015 edition of Education Week as Four-Day School Week Linked to Gains in Math