Despite President Barack Obama's call for students to spend more time in school, the recession seems to be forcing more districts to go in the opposite direction. Districts in about 17 states already have a four-day week, and similar proposals are being debated in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, and Washington, the Associated Press reports. In Broward County, Fla., for example, district officials are considering a four-day schedule for high schools.
Students are not losing instructional time. Instead, districts are eliminating one school day but adding hours to the other four days of the week in an attempt to lower costs. Yet, the national trend toward a shorter week leaves the impression that few, if any, states will heed the president's call and add more instructional time to the academic year. Obama recently said that a longer school year would improve educational outcomes and make the United States more competitive with leading Asian countries, where students spend more time in school.
Some studies, however, show that shortening the school week doesn't hurt student achievement. Some schools that have classes four days a week have even reported improvements in test scores, behavior, and teacher morale (researchers caution against drawing a causal relationship). Where there is real debate is on the savings for schools that make the switch out of financial necessity. In many cases, schools can't lower costs because they are required to have utilities running all week for community meetings and student events. U.S. News has more on districts struggling to keep costs down.