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Four-Day School Week Is on the Rise, Story Says

The idea of a four-day school week is nothing new. It's long been embraced by some small, rural school districts. But a new Associated Press story suggests the practice is spreading amid budget pressures on school systems.

Featured is a 4,000-student rural district in Peach County, Ga., where school officials reportedly shifted last year to a four-day schedule to help fill a $1 million budget shortfall. What's intriguing is that both student attendance and standardized test scores have since improved. (Apparently, each school day is longer to make up for lost time.)

Across the country, more than 120 districts operate on a four-day week, the AP story says. (If only employers of education journalists would embrace this idea!)

Also, over the past couple of years, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Maine have changed state law so that districts can count their academic year by hour rather than days, so that a four-day week is possible, the story says.

Nevertheless, the story also identifies an Oklahoma district that plans to switch back to a five-day week, after school officials decided the approach wasn't working well for students or teachers.

For a more detailed exploration of a four-day school week, check out this 2008 analysis from the Council on State Governments.

Also, I came across a helpful research brief issued last year by the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine.

It notes that little research has been conducted on the impact of moving to a four-day school week on financial savings, student achievement, or other matters.

"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," the report says.

On the question of student achievement, the report says the shorter week does not appear to have a negative effect, but again cautions that much of the literature reviewed was not held to professional scrutiny. One of the most positive and ubiquitous findings from existing research, the report finds, is improved teacher and student attendance.

Finally, the University of Southern Maine's analysis cautions that the actual financial savings from cutting a day out of the school week doesn't always live up to expectations, particularly if personnel costs are not reduced. The savings generally are seen in such areas as transportation, food services, and energy costs.

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