Four-Day School Weeks
With strapped state budgets and alluring promises of significant reductions in overhead and transportation costs, the four-day school week has been an increasingly attractive option for legislators seeking to cut education costs. For small, remote school districts, instituting a four-day school week may provide a savings by reducing transportation, heating, and staff costs. Supporters of the shortened week also boast of improved morale and increased attendance (by both students and teachers), open Fridays for sporting events and doctor appointments, and more time to spend with loved ones. Opponents of the four-day school week cite problems with long, exhausting class days and finding day care for children whose parents work outside the home. Additionally, educational experts worry longer weekends could lead to a regression in learned concepts while also making it more difficult to offer elective classes. However, the jury is still out on many of these issues, as there is a lack of comprehensive studies.
According to data collected by NCSL :
-Twenty-one states currently have school districts (with public schools) operating on a four-day week.
-These states include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
-There are more than 120 school districts that host four-day school week programs.
-Usually, these programs are in small, rural districts.
-The policy was first implemented as early as the 1930s, and became more common during the energy crisis of the 1970s.
-Georgia, Oklahoma,Washington are the most recent states to adopt legislation allowing four-day school weeks.
More States Have the Policy than Use it
Some states have a law allowing four-day school weeks, but no public schools taking advantage of it. NCSL research indicates that these states include: Arkansas, Delaware, Pennslyvania, New Hampshire,Virginia and Washington. Pennsylvania has two school districts that are considering switching to a 4-day school week schedule for the 2012-2013 school year. Texas does have a private school in Kerrville, Texas that is operating a four-day school week schedule.
New Hampshire: H.105, would have allowed required instructional days to be measured in the equivalent hours. The bill failed.
Texas: House Bill 1326, would have allowed school districts to choose to operate a 4-day school week schedule. The bill failed.
Illinois: House Bill 4886, which would allow 4-day school weeks, is currently pending in the state senate. Similar legislation failed in 2009.
New Hampshire: Although it failed, House Bill 1469 would have allowed districts to have a certain number of instructional hours rather than 180 school days, in accord with the rules of the state department of education. The current law requires requests for less than 180 days of school to be submitted to the commissioner of education for approval.
Alabama: Senate Bill 328, which did not pass, would have supplanted a requirement for 180 instructional days with a requirement for 1,080 instructional hours.
California: Assembly Bill 691, enacted October 11, 2009, adds an additional school district to the eight that are already permitted to operate one or more schools on a 4-day school week.
Florida: Although it failed, Senate Bill 530 would have allowed districts to implement four-day school weeks.
Georgia: House Bill 193, signed by the Governor on May 4, 2009, allows for 180 school days "or the equivalent."
Indiana: Although it failed, Senate Bill 133 would have replaced a requirement for 180 school days with a rule specifying the required number of hours of instruction for each grade level.
Iowa: House File 26 did not pass in 2009, but would have replaced the required 180 instructional days with a requirement for 990 hours of instruction.
Maine: House Paper 80 would have allowed four-day school weeks, but died in 2009.
Missouri: Although it died in 2009, House Bill 242 would have allowed four-day school weeks.
North Carolina: House Bill 636, targeted at allowing extended hours rather than make-up days when schools are closed due to bad weather, allows schools to meet instructional time requirements based on hours rather than days.
Oklahoma: Signed by the Governor on April 27, 2009, House Bill 1864 allows a school to measure instructional time in hours instead of days, so the requirement can be met through fewer days of greater length.
Washington: House Bill 1292, which became law on May 18, 2009, allows school districts to seek waivers from the requirement of 180 school days in order to operate four-day weeks.
Research & Reports
Schools' New Math: the Four-Day Week (2010)
The Wall Street Journal
By Chris Herring
"Of the nearly 15,000-plus districts nationwide, more than 100 in at least 17 states currently use the four-day system, according to data culled from the Education Commission of the States. Dozens of other districts are contemplating making the change in the next year—a shift that is apt to create new challenges for working parents as well as thousands of school employees."
Four-Day School Week (2009)
By Molly Ryan
"As school districts nationwide struggle with funding cuts, the four-day school week has gained momentum as one way to save money… While the positives and negatives of the four-day week have been widely debated, research on the impacts of the schedule is extremely limited. Moreover, there is a decided lack of evidence how the schedule impacts student achievement."
Research Brief: A Review of the Evidence on the Four-Day School Week (2009)
Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation, University of Southern Maine
By Christine Donis-Keller and David L. Silvernail
"Despite over 35 years of implementation, few studies have documented the impact of the four-day school week. The impact of the four-day week is generally considered in four areas: (1) financial savings, (2) student achievement, (3) other student and teacher outcomes, and (4) stakeholder satisfaction. The most common means of identifying its success or failure are reports or evaluations conducted by districts themselves. As noted by many observers, the literature that exists on the four-day school week is mainly positive, but not often peer-reviewed or scientifically-based, and few summaries of this literature provide any critical analysis of the results."
Focus on the School Calendar: The Four-Day School Week (2008)
Southern Regional Education Board
By Gale F. Gaines
" Statutes in five SREB states (Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana and Virginia) permit schools or districts to implement a four-day school week. Currently, however, only Kentucky and Louisiana have some children attending school on this type of alternative schedule. "