Switching to a four-day school week
I recently read a NPR post about the Colorado School District Switching to a four-day school week to save money. This made me very concerned as many educational policy trends in the United States make their way to Canada.
In the 2018-2019 school year, Colorado’s School District 27J has dropped Mondays and now has school from Tuesdays to Fridays. Superintendent Chris Fiedler cited cost savings in transportation, teacher salaries, and utilities such as air conditioning and heating. This was a result of six failed attempts to raise money from the district. As a result of these cuts, the district will save $30 per student per day.
A Phoenix school board, Apache Junction Unified School District has also moved to the four-day week with classes going from Monday to Thursday saving about $33 per student per year. Here, parents can drop their children off at a city-run day care at a cost of $100 a month. Apparently, teachers in this district use to meet every Saturday to plan lessons for the week – now they meet Friday, without students.
For both districts, the most savings came from busing. Students had longer days. According to researchers at Georgia State University and Montana State University, students in four-day schools showed no negative academic impact and had higher math scores with little evidence of compromised academics. Research from these universities showed no evidence of an impact on shorter attention spans due to the pressures of a longer day.
In British Columbia, Boundary School District 51 switched all schools to a four-day school week during 2001-2002 to ensure schools would stay open and showed savings of more than $200,000 per year. They reported no change in academic performance and the need for student discipline dropped by 50 percent. Fort McMurray was also contemplating this strategy in order to save up to $1,000,000 per year.
Education Week’s Paul Hill cites that educators and parents should be weary of this trend as, contrary to some evidence, students may fall behind in overall learning in school. Students from low socio-economic backgrounds or from minority groups tend to have less resources at home, and stand to lose disproportionately to their more socioeconomically well off peers. This means overall lower student achievement, graduation levels, and college attendance, especially in small towns and rural areas. Also, the real net savings in costs does not add up. Paul Hill states that “governors and state superintendents of education need to make sure local communities look at real numbers and don’t jump blindly onto a bandwagon that they might never be able to get off”.
I say, beware of education cost cutting as it could result in cutting overall students’ education.
Yours to consider …