Why more school districts are holding class just 4 days a week


WASHINGTON — The openly school in Campo, Colorado, hasn’t required all its students to come to breeding on Fridays for nearly two decades. The 44-student district dropped a weekday to in addition attendance and better attract teachers to a town so deep in farm boondocks that the nearest grocery store is more than 20 miles away.

“I reckon the four-day week helped us, initially, in recruiting teachers,” the superintendent, Nikki Johnson, bruit about. “Now that so many districts are on four-day, that’s not much of an incentive.”

No citizen database tracks the number of public schools that cram instructional hours into four primes. But the schedule — long popular in rural Western communities — is becoming assorted common elsewhere as school leaders search for ways to both invite teachers and save money.

In Oklahoma, for instance, where teachers recently graded a walkout to demand more school funding, cash-strapped districts induce been using four-day weeks to cope with a teacher lack and state budget cuts. Last school year, 97 partitions of 513 ran on the compressed schedule, nearly twice as many as the previous year.

Penniless school weeks are generally popular among families, students and dons, and many school districts say the change saves money and makes it easier to levy teachers. But the research is inconclusive: Shorter school weeks save no greater than a little, according to education policy researchers. The impact on staffing hasn’t been adeptly studied, and results are mixed on whether cramming a week’s worth of erudition into four days helps or hurts students’ learning.

And the transforms aren’t universally popular. Critics say four-day weeks hurt sweat families who have to scramble to find child care and could restrain children from accessing free or low-cost meals five days a week. A brand-new study found that juvenile crime rates were exhilarated in parts of Colorado where schools didn’t meet on Fridays.

Calm, more than half of Colorado’s public school districts from permission from the state to compress their schedule. Most such departments are small and rural, but that’s changing. A suburban district near Denver and an urban division in Pueblo have recently grabbed headlines by announcing that they design to switch to four-day weeks in the fall.

Little is known about how urban parts will adapt to the new schedule. But rural districts that make the flog rarely go back, said Georgia Heyward, a research analyst for the Center on Reinventing Out of the closet Education at the University of Washington Bothell who has studied four-day school weeks in sylvan areas.

Once parents, students and teachers adjust to the new schedule, they cater to to like it — and the community adjusts around it. “Once a couple of the districts start to go to the four-day week, then there’s force, not only not to go back, but for neighboring districts to adopt the schedule as well,” Heyward bring to light.

In some districts, schools have been meeting four periods a week for decades. The schedule gained fresh popularity in the wake of the 2008 fiscal crisis, when districts responded to budget cuts by shedding a day.

Today day-school districts in parts of 22 states use a four-day week, according to the Governmental Conference of State Legislatures. For districts to do so, states need to enact legislation that budgets schools to count instructional time by the hour, rather than by the week. Federals west of the Mississippi are more likely to have schools on a four-day organize.

The state legislatures group estimates that close to 300 instil districts nationwide are using the shorter weeks, but Heyward puts the copy higher, at 470 districts or more. There are more than 13,500 U.S. credo districts.

In Colorado, more than twice as many districts be enduring state approval to hold a four-day week, compared with two decades ago. The run-of-the-mill district with state permission to create an alternate schedule for all its inculcates has fewer than 250 students, according to a Stateline analysis of splendour data.

To deliver the required number of instructional hours in four times, schools in the state typically add an hour and a half to each remaining day, according to Colorado’s latest news manual on four-day school weeks. Some districts only use the compressed list in the winter.

Chris Fiedler, the superintendent of Denver-area School District 27J, has mean that he first thought of dropping a school day while crunching budget add ups. The district recently announced that it will not hold classes on Mondays next year.

The ordinarily district can save up to 5 percent of its budget by dropping a school day, according to a 2011 give an account of from the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy research structure.

But the switch doesn’t put a dent in districts’ largest line item: mistress pay and benefits. And, the report found, while four-day weeks can save take on operational expenses, such as heating and cooling, in many cases parts don’t save as much as they could because they keep devotees open on the fifth day to host sporting events, tutoring programs, and guide professional development workshops.

District 27J could save up to $1 million a year with its new slate, said the district’s public information officer, Tracy Rudnick, in an email — that’s less than 1 percent of its budget. But the division has other reasons for making the switch. “Cost savings were at no time our number one goal. It is about retaining high-quality teachers and creating a fully, clear and concise schedule.”

The district is among the lowest-funded in the Denver arena, with the lowest teacher salaries, said Kathey Ruybal, president of the Brighton Tuition Association, the local teachers union. “We get a lot of new teachers here and there, but we keep an eye on to lose them to our neighbor districts.” School leaders hope three-day weekends could sway more teachers to stay.

The new schedule will make teachers’ abides easier in other ways, Ruybal said. They’ll have sundry time to plan lessons over the weekend and more time to cooperate during the school day. “We’re really hoping that it’s going to improve our train, improve our student achievement scores,” she said.

Surveys generally appear support for four-day weeks among parents and teachers, according to wards, states and education researchers who have asked adults about the dedicate. In rural communities, where students travel long distances for pastimes games, academic competitions and doctors appointments, it can be efficient to set aside a weekday for extracurricular and forebears activities, according to the Colorado four-day week information manual.

Some companies love the schedule, too. In the 1980s, one Colorado resort pushed the local opinion district to drop a day so teenagers would be able to work on Fridays, said Antonio Pares, a sharer at the Colorado-based Donnell-Kay Foundation, which focuses on improving public indoctrination in the state.

Dropping a school day can create new challenges for communities, however, and it’s not sunny whether students benefit. Since District 27J announced its plan to let go of Monday classes, parents have crowded information sessions with in doubts and flooded social media with comments.

“Worst idea till the end of time,” one mother commented on 27J’s Facebook post announcing the change. She said it wish be hard to get her three young children — one of whom has autism — to school at the new, earlier start circumstance, and she’s worried the longer days will leave them exhausted. Other facetiousmaters praised the new schedule.

So many parents expressed concerns about discovery child care on Mondays that 27J has announced a child care program that determination cost $30 for the day. Seven hundred children have pre-registered, Ruybal bring to light.

In most Colorado communities with four-day schools, however, “the result of baby-sitting seems to be a wash,” the state information manual says. That’s because with the larger school day, children get home closer to when their parents do. Stepfathers may find it no more difficult to find child care for a full day than for a few hours every afternoon, the directions says.

Some studies find that the compressed schedule has no purposes on test scores. Others find a positive effect. “We don’t really be sure how much academic outcomes are impacted,” Heyward said.

She said precincts may improve their outcomes after a schedule change because advisors have to rethink instruction. Teachers have more time to outline on the weekends and more time to lead students through hands-on endeavours during longer weekday class blocks.

In Oklahoma, the superintendent of catholic instruction, Joy Hofmeister, backed legislation that would have commanded districts to explain to the state why they need a four-day schedule sooner than adopting one. With advance notice, the state could better assistant districts plan for the change, for instance by making sure they even now complied with special education requirements, she told the Tulsa Fabulous at the time. The bill didn’t pass.

And in California, 2013 legislation voids a school’s authority to operate on a four-day schedule if test scores close up to meet targets. Washington and Minnesota have similar laws on the earmarks, Heyward said.

A shorter schedule might have a different virtually in urban districts than in rural ones. While most Pueblo schoolmams support the district’s decision to drop Friday classes, according to the schoolmams union, the Pueblo Education Association, some worry the change ascendancy harm their students from mostly low-income, Hispanic families.

Intention Robinson, a teacher at a middle school on the east side of the city, said his grinds live in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence. His school has state sufferance to meet for longer school days and a longer school year in a bid to benefit test scores and keep students safe. “We can work around it,” he implied of the district’s plan to switch to a four-day schedule. “We just worry about where our schoolboys are going on Fridays.”

Another concern is how to make sure students are fed on Fridays, asserted Suzanne Ethredge, the head of the Pueblo Education Association. Almost 4 out of 5 swots in the district qualify for free or subsidized school meals. Schools power continue to offer lunch services on Fridays, or community groups — such as a library that put up for sales lunch to children during the summer — might step in to make foolproof students are fed, she said. The district is still working out the details.

Some areas on a four-day schedule have found creative ways to occupy swats on the fifth day. Heyward said that she’s come across districts that refrain from high school students by setting up internships, providing extra coaching, or encouraging enrollment in community college classes.

This year the Campo Group District is using a Donnell-Kay Foundation grant to pilot “Fab Fridays,” a squarely day of optional art, music, dance, cooking and theater activities led by teachers and fellows of the community, such as the local Elvis impersonator and his wife, who taught commentators to line dance.

Teachers who work the extra day are getting stipends to neutralize them for their time, though superintendent Johnson said multitudinous of them would be happy to help without the extra money.

Fifth-day projects, like after-school activities, can offer students a rich set of learning tastes, Heyward said. The question is whether districts on a four-day schedule can give forth entangled with them. “These are all districts that are struggling financially, or they wouldn’t self-possessed consider moving to this schedule,” she said.

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