Districts Moving to 4-Day Weeks Double Since 2009

Facing budget cuts, many districts have tried cutting costs by reducing the school week to four days.

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A small but growing number of school districts have shortened the school week, according to a Washington Post survey released last week.

The number of districts with four-day weeks has grown to 292, more than doubling the 120 districts estimated in 2009. There are about 15,000 public school districts across the country.

Districts make the cuts to save money on transportation and administrative costs, such as janitorial work, lunches, and electricity. The in-classroom time is made up by extending the other days of the week, but logistical problems can affect parents who work full-time jobs and have to find child care for younger students.

A September survey of Florida business owners found that 65 percent of entrepreneurs in the state opposed a theoretical move to a four-day week in the state. Some said that cutting a day off from school would cause logistical nightmares for parents; unsupervised students might cause problems; and the move could hurt education's lowest-paid employees: bus drivers and food service personnel.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spoken out against the trend. In a Twitter chat in August, he wrote that eliminating after school-programs and moving to four-day weeks are decisions that "hurt children" academically.

[Read more about four-day school weeks.]

Thorough research on student achievement is scarce, but proponents of the four-day week point to higher attendance rates because parents are able to schedule their children's doctor's appointments and other errands on days off from school.

A 2009 report by researchers at the University of Southern Maine found that moving to a four-day week has "either no impact or a positive impact on academic performance." But more research is necessary, according to Kathy Christie, chief of staff of the nonprofit Education Commission of the States, which provides information to policymakers to help them make decisions on education.

Last year, she told CNN that "there really is no strong research on how it affects student achievements."

Some districts with many struggling students have gone the other way. For instance, in July, some schools in Baltimore considered adding Saturday school to make a six-day school week. The superintendent of Memphis City Schools also submitted a proposal earlier this year that would require students in first through fifth grades to attend school six days a week.

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