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Some Rural Districts Say Four-Day Week Makes Schools Better

An increasing number of rural Missouri and Kansas school districts are moving to four-day weeks, and cost savings hasn't been the primary motivator.

A Kansas City Star story reported last week that many rural districts are making the switch because they say it's better for teachers, thus better for students. By better for teachers, they mean more time for training and lesson planning (teachers still go to work on Mondays), and educators are more refreshed and ready to work with students. Schools still must meet state minimums for instructional time.

"This is about making teachers better," said one superintendent quoted in the story. "Ever since the beginning of time, we've placed demands on teachers and then not given them time to do it. With new requirements for development and new technology, those demands are going to increase. Giving them this day is what teachers have been screaming for for years."

Although there seems to have been more momentum nationally around extended learning time, an increasing number of districts are interested in shorter weeks.

The story presents a strong rural angle on the four-day week debate. Some say the abbreviated schedule works better in rural areas where child care is less of an issue than in suburban or urban communities. The story implies that rural communities are less likely than large, urban ones to have parents who work outside their home, but the only evidence to support that is anecdotal.

How effective is the four-day week at boosting achievement? It's too early to say in these areas. Missouri officials are slated to see those test scores next year. And, if districts see a sharp decline in scores, state law mandates returning to five-day weeks.

Some research from other districts found the four-day week had numerous benefits for teachers and students, such as improved dropout rates, student attendance, and discipline referrals. But student achievement wasn't affected.

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