Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Four-day or Five-day school week?

Would a four-day school week or a five-day school week be better?

It's a complicated question that gets more complicated when you add 'better for whom?'

Note that when schools reduce their school week by a day, they increase the time in-school for the other days. So, for example, if students spend about 6 hours actually in class each day for the five-day week, they would spend about 7 to 7.5 hours in class in class for the four-day week.

Let's consider the schools first. The reason this question even comes up is the universal problem of money for schools. Schools are reducing or looking at reducing school by one day each week to save money. Infrastructure costs for school buses and electricity would be reduced.

As for students, the benefits would be more time on each subject each day. Instead of 50 minutes on one subject each day, they could spend 80 minutes. Giving them more time to go in-depth with discussions or handling difficult topics. And they would have the fifth day each week to devote to study. The drawbacks for students could be that longer classes could be even more 'boring time'. If the student isn't engaged for 50 minutes, they certainly won't be any more engaged for 80 minutes.

Impact to Parents could be positive and negative. The 'day off' could give parents a day to take kids to the doctor or other appointments without pulling them out of school. But since most parents work, this might actually be a negative since they will need to find day-care on the fifth day for the younger students. On a side note, if schools can stagger the fifth day (no reason it has to be Friday) then day-care facilities could be a beneficiary.

Here is some good information about the challenges and successes in Minnesota:  Four Day School Week

According to one poll, 65% Oppose Four-Day School Week (Rasmussen Reports).

For my money, schools should not adopt 4-day weeks.  There is no data to show that longer school days help students with their education.  And the extra day will not be used for 'extra study time'.  Government needs to find the money to keep schools open five days each week.  I am willing, for example, to give up mail delivery for one day each week if this will give more money for the Federal government to give back more money to the states and local school districts.  There are no easy answers, but we must have the determination to keep education in the top 3 priorities.

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