Shorter School Week Improves Performance
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to school.
And for as long as I remember it ran from Monday to Friday every week.
Sure, there was summer break and vacation days. On a rare occasion even a snow day. But those weren’t normal.
An interesting new study, though, did something out of the ordinary. They looked at how a 4 day school week could affect learning.
I can’t help but wonder. Where was this study a few decades ago, and why couldn’t it have happened at my school?
4 Day Heaven
The researchers looked at the effect of how a traditional 5 day school week would compare to a 4 day week. They did this using fourth-grade reading and fifth-grade math scores from the Colorado Student Assessment Program.
Contrary to what you might expect, they found that performance for the math scores increased for the students who participated in the 4 day week. However, the scores for reading didn’t show any.
You might wonder why reading scores also didn’t show improvement. And any good skeptic should. But there’s another small takeaway here.
The takeaway is that there was no change in performance. Going to school one less day in the week didn’t negatively affect their performance. For schools that might be looking to cut costs without affecting education performance, this is significant.
The study was published in July in the journal Education, Finance and Policy.
If the results surprise you a little bit, you wouldn’t be the only one.
Even the researchers didn’t see this coming. Mary Beth Walker – dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies had this to say about the results:
“What interested me about our results is they were completely opposite to what we anticipated.”
Indeed, they were expecting the results to have a negative effect for a number of reasons.
“We thought that especially for the younger, elementary school kids, longer days on a shorter school week would hurt their academic performance because their attention spans are shorter. Also, a longer weekend would give them more opportunity to forget what they had learned.”
The authors of the study weren’t sure what exactly caused the increase of performance. They speculated that it could be due to lower absenteeism from both students and teachers. Another theory was the longer days might give teachers the opportunity to try different instructional methods.
Walker also had another guess in mind. In a release to the press she stated:
“My own personal hypothesis is teachers liked it so much–they were so enthusiastic about the four-day week–they did a better job. There’s some evidence in other labor studies that four-day work weeks enhance productivity.”
At this point, though, these explanations are nothing but guesses. Further studies will also need to verify the increase in performance for the 4 day week.
Longer Days, Shorter Weeks
The kids in the study aren’t receiving less education. To meet standards, the schools are required to lengthen the school day to meet minimum instruction hours.
Some schools, though, are already using the 4 day week and have been for several years. It hasn’t been done for performance reasons, but for cutting transportation and overhead costs.
States that are using the the altnerate schedule include Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. In Colorado alone, almost one third of the school districts use the 4 day week.
For now, no studies have been done for city schools. For now, these results are only attributable to smaller and more rural school districts. However, this is one of the first studies that adds solid information to how the 4 day school week affect performance.