A quarter of all Missouri public schools operate under a four day school week model. but not necessarily because they want to.
Public schools have long operated on the same schedule as the typical American work week: Monday through Friday. However, more schools across the nation for one reason or another are revising the calendar and shortening the week. This coming school year, 1 in 4 Missouri school districts will all follow the four day school week model.
For 13 years now, the state of Missouri has had a law allowing districts that choose to do so to follow the four day school week schedule. But before this year, it was typically only used in small rural school districts. Now that the national teacher shortage is leaving even the largest and often most enticing school districts shorthanded on staff, the majority of the smaller ones were left with no choice other than to adopt this shortened week model.
John Turner, an associate professor in the College of Education at Missouri State University discussed the growing need to switch to four day weeks in Missouri via NPR. He noted that the decision by many of the new districts to make the switch is because they simply can not compete with the wages larger school districts can offer the pool of applicants. So instead, they entice teachers by giving them an extra day off.
Turner believes that the reason the four day week can lure educators to smaller districts is because some teachers qualify a desire for work-lifestyle balances above compensation. And given the fact that plenty of reports convey how drastically burned out teachers are from the profession due to long work hours, stress, and more, it’s no wonder they are willing to give up more pay in favor of more time off. Without a doubt, Turner feels that this is what’s keeping some districts operating, although it may not be some schools’ first choice.
Now that more are joining the four day school week movement, what is known is that it’s attracting teachers, but how is it affecting academics? Quantitatively, Turner noted that it’s hard to measure student results in these cases. The state has made extreme changes to its standardized tests over the years. Similarly, the test wasn’t even administered because of COVID two years ago. However, while results may be hard to measure, he feels that the proof that it is keeping up with academic standards in other districts is in the fact that all of the districts that have shifted to this model over the last few years have voted for each and every year to stick with it, except for one.
Elsewhere in the United States, four day school weeks are popping up all over the place. Further depicting how beneficial these models have been, a high school in Colorado has touted success from the switch for more than four years. With more Colorado districts catching on, the state continues to record academic success through increased graduation rates.
But not every school that makes the change to four day school weeks conveys similar success. An Oregon State University study found that schools that went by the shortened schedule depicted students with lower grades compared to those that went to school all five days of the week. At the end of the day, now that 1 in 4 Missouri districts have made the switch, it is more obvious than ever that whether or not this change is benefiting everyone involved may be a moot point, as the decision tends to be made out of necessity, not necessarily choice.