For over a decade, Missouri has allowed public school districts to hold 4-day school weeks. But policy makers and experts are questioning the benefits of the shorter week, which most parents say they don’t want.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released a report last week, which found 4-day school weeks (4DSWs) had no significant educational effects, positive or negative.
The finding is perhaps unsurprising since 4DSWs aren’t typically about students but used to boost teacher recruitment and retention.
“Every time I’ve talked to these school districts about this, it’s about our teacher shortage,” said Missouri’s Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “What I would still like to talk about is, how do we provide more instructional time for students? How are we finding interventions that are actually improving outcomes for students?”
Of Missouri’s 518 districts, nearly 170 currently use a 4-day model.
However, independent analysis of relevant research conducted by the Show-Me Institute reveals 4DSW outcomes – from academics to teacher retention – are more negative than neutral: Of the 16 studies on academic outcomes, 10 found worse outcomes when 4DSWs were implemented. The other six were neutral.
Similarly, two of four studies that considered the effects on school finances found the shorter week made them worse. The other two studies found no effect.
Even studies on teacher retention were mixed – one positive, one negative and one neutral.
But maybe parents prefer the shorter week? Not so, according Show-Me’s survey of Missouri parents of K-12 students.
The poll revealed 64% of parents prefer 5-day school weeks with only 24% preferring 4-day.
And nearly one-third of parents also said they wouldn’t be able to provide in-home childcare on the fifth day of a 4DSW.
Parents of private school students were the most opposed to 4DSWs (75%) and only half of parents (49%) currently in 4-day districts support the shorter week.
Additionally, most of those surveyed said families in districts that cut out a day should be able to transfer to another district or receive funding to attend a private school.
“The four-day school week seems to be growing in popularity among school boards and educational leaders,” observed James Shuls, director of research at Show-Me. “Yet, this policy decision is being made without strong research support.
“Moreover, it is a decision that undoubtedly has deleterious effects on some students. State policymakers should consider how they can provide educational options for students affected by these local education policy decisions.”