Most-Read of 2013: #9, the four-day school week

An Oregon superintendent explains why shifting to a four-day school week works well for students, teachers and families.
A teacher explaining a lesson

A teacher explaining a lesson cybarian77/flickr

Don Kordosky, writer of "The Four-Day School Week: Less IS More"

Don Kordosky, writer of "The Four-Day School Week: Less IS More" Don Kordosky

As soon as next year, Eatonville High School could be running on a four-day week

As soon as next year, Eatonville High School could be running on a four-day week Eatonville School District

Crosscut recently reported on the Eatonville School District's  consideration of a four-day school week, which is already being used by two rural school districts with fewer than 150 students in Eastern Washington. During this legislative session, Sen. Randi Becker R-Eatonville, proposed a bill that would allow 20 school districts of up to 2,200 students to use the four-day school week. Here, Don Kordosky, superintendent of Oregon's Oakridge School District, shares his personal experience and insights on making the switch.

When considering the switch from a five-day school week to a four-day school week, one need only recall that classic saying: “Less is more.”

As superintendent of Oakridge School District in Oregon, I learned this through personal experience when my schools made the switch. Initially, I was against the idea. How could a four-day week possibly be in the best interest of students? But after doing the research and seeing the benefits firsthand, I became a complete supporter.

The positives of the four-day week far outweigh the negatives, and the negatives can all be alleviated through well-thought-out strategies. The parents of our students, the staff, the school board, and the entire community of Oakridge reviewed the four-day week for an entire year prior to implementation. Since implementation I have become a four-day week advocate because of all the positive attributes including: better student academic performance, increased teacher vitality, increased student engagement, decreased student discipline problems, and an improvement to the overall culture of excellence for the district.

Most school districts originally begin a review of the four-day school week as a strategy to address financial shortfalls. (Mine did not.) By trimming one day off the week, a school can save in bus services, cafeteria, and facilities costs. This can be especially crucial during state budget shortfalls, where K-12 funding can be in danger of cuts, and even more so for rural school districts, which must run their schools on a minimal budget. But not all school districts go to a four-day week because of money, and certainly it is not the only way a school can benefit from the change.

The four-day week is not for all districts, and there are negative attributes that need to have alleviation strategies in place prior to implementation. Negative attributes include parent fears of not being able to find child care on Fridays, fatigue for students that have to attend school for longer days, and decreases in compensation for employees who lose hours.

An example of an alleviation strategy for the child care concern is the offering of Red Cross Childcare First Aid certification classes for high school students. These students then became available for parents who could not find relatives or other child care on Fridays. Another strategy is offering extra duty employment for bus drivers, cooks, and custodians, who all lose significant hours. In our district we made it a practice to offer all paid athletic supervision and activity duties to the employees who lost work time prior to other employees. Regardless of the negative consequence associated with the four-day week, there are strategies to alleviate the negative impact on students, families and staff.

Of note, many parents have found that eliminating the large number of half-days for students that plague five-day weeks — such as teacher work days, curriculum days, grading days, inservice days, etc. — has made finding childcare easier. With the four-day week, teachers can do their non-teaching activities on the day off, and therefore schools do not have to send children home at awkward and inconsistent times.

However, what I have found is that most common four-day school week objections are derived more from a fear of change (and a indeed a reasonable concern) rather than empirical study. When scrutinized, these objections are both addressed and debunked by the switch. To demonstrate that point, here are four reasons why the four-day school week is an improvement to the five-day week.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Dec 24, 2:03 p.m. Inappropriate

How are your math test scores in your district?

I can't imagine any of the countries who regularly are beating the socks off our kids in math skills would consider moving down to a 4 day school week.

A school week needs to be 5 days. Maybe even 6 days.

Posted Tue, Dec 24, 2:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Four days a week sounds absolutely fine to me...as long as actual teacher contact time with the students is 47 weeks in a year.

Bella

Posted Tue, Dec 24, 3:03 p.m. Inappropriate

I predict that shorter and shorter school weeks will go hand in hand with teacher layoffs and a shift to online education as great ways to sack public employees and enrich private sector players who produce online content. Home schoolers will love it, but only time will tell whether these trends will produce better educated and engaged citizens. My hunch is that they will not.

Here's a thoughtful article that explores these issues at the college level:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/20/130520fa_fact_heller

Mud Baby

Posted Wed, Dec 25, 3:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Moving to a 4 day work week for public K-12 is fine with me. Let's include all 24,000,000 government employees. 20% reduction in pay, benefits, etc. is an excellent idea. Brown bag lunches from home could replace all the school cafeteria workers as the piece indicates 4 day work week would reduce lunchroom, bus, and facilities costs. Merry Christmas!

animalal

Posted Thu, Dec 26, 8:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Don, as usual with educational policy and practice, your assertions lack quantitative metrics. For example, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITSB) is a well-validated, longitudinally consistent, measurement of student achievement. Do you have before and after comparisons of test scores between the four and five day school week? No, of course not! Teachers and the university faculty who train them just make these fads up and write articles like yours with all kinds of statements about how things have improved, with no metrics, no before and after measurements, no control groups for side by side comparison, in short, no application of the scientific method and therefore no proof.

gadfly

Posted Thu, Dec 26, 2:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Gadfly… good points.

Check out the Oregon School Report card =>
http://www.ode.state.or.us/data/reportcard/reports.aspx

Most of the testing results for the last three years do NOT support the superintendent's claims of improvement for Oakridge's schools. The middle school results are particularly disappointing. It appears that the Superintendent is good at public relations but not good at producing measurable academic improvement on tests used by the state to measure student learning.

With a high school enrollment of 140 students test results with wide swings from year to year would not be unexpected.

Gadfly's claim of no proof seems substantiated. Without proof this article seems like "cheer leading" for a fad.

66% of Oakridge's students are classified as economically disadvantaged which may explain why the percent of students exceeding standards lags behind state averages.

Posted Thu, Dec 26, 7:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Most read of 2013???
The original piece appeared 10 months before Jan 1, 2013 on FEBRUARY 16, 2012 with the following opening:

The four-day school week: why less really is more
A superintendent in Oregon explains the reasons why a shift to a four-day school week works well for students, teachers, and families. Start with better academic performance.

W. Edwards Deming wrote:
To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

Note there is hardly better academic performance at many grades in this school district.

From the 2012-2013 Oregon School Report card section for Oakridge Jr High.

Dear Parents and Community Members,
Oakridge Junior High recognizes the transition from primary school to secondary school is an exciting and challenging time for students. Increased expectations for academic outcomes are
supported by a dedicated staff. …….

In order to be promoted to OHS the students from OJH must pass 11.5 credits in language arts, math, social sciences and science. The school utilizes a proficiency based education system where students are only advanced if they can show that they have a solid (proficient) understanding of content standards. ……..
Thank you,
Principal | Dr. Donald L. Kordosky

REALLY??? "where students are only advanced if they can show that they have a solid (proficient) understanding of content standards." … Who believes this???

Check the Oregon Test results for this school =>
look at the data for school years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013

Here are the percents of students that did not meet standards
Reading 47.0% 43.4% {OR state average = 29% not meeting}
Math 59.0% 71.1% {OR state average = 37% standards}
Science 32.4% 55.8% {OR state average = 33%}

So are they retaining 40% of the students? I suspect all or nearly all are advanced to high school.

Perhaps Crosscut needs to do more fact checking when rerunning articles that are nearly two years old.

The opinions expressed by the author are highly misleading.

Posted Sun, Dec 29, 9:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Dan Wrote:
"66% of Oakridge's students are classified as economically disadvantaged which may explain why the percent of students exceeding standards lags behind state averages..."

Out of curiosity, have Oregon schools become resegregated much like the schools in Seattle and other Washington state metro areas?

Bella

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