Four-Day School Weeks in America: Everything You Need to Know

The four-day school week has been a topic of conversation in America lately. This is due to a recent uptake in school districts adopting the alternative four-day school week initiative.

With children returning to school for the new year, it’s time for these new schools to put their four-day week into action. In this article, we’ll discuss the most recent developments in four-day school weeks, which schools have implemented this, why this has come around, and what benefits there may be.

Recent Developments in the American Four-Day School Week

The recent chatter around four-day school weeks is due to a sizable increase in adoption. Hundreds of school districts across the country have recently chosen to implement this four-day school system due to concerns around recruitment.

Since then nearly 900 school districts across 26 states in America currently use the four-day school week academic schedule. This number has grown significantly since 2020 which then resided at 650 districts. In fact, over 50% of adults in the US are now in support of moving to a four-day week.

This change has seen a usual five-day school week (Monday to Friday) move to a four-day school week (Monday to Thursday). To compensate for the loss of a school day, 35 minutes have been added to the end of each day.

The National Teacher Shortage

The United States is currently experiencing a national teacher shortage. It appears as though the sudden surge in popularity of a four-day week is due to efforts to recruit and retain teaching staff. 

Currently, in America, there are estimated to be at least 55,000 vacant teaching positions and over 270,000 underqualified positions. 

There are numerous reasons for this shortage, some being:

  • Low pay: Teachers are paid significantly less than other occupations with similar levels of education and experience.
  • Long hours: Teachers often work long hours both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Stressful working conditions: Teachers often have to work in stressful conditions with both students and parents.
  • Lack of support: Teachers often feel unsupported by their schools and districts.

The change to a four-day school week hopes to improve the shortage making teaching a more desirable vocation.

History of the Four-Day School Week in America

While the four-day school week in America may feel relatively fresh, it has been around for just under a century. The four-day school week was first introduced back in 1936 but was not more widely implemented until much later in 1973.

The later adoption in the 1970s was due to gas prices souring, this led to schools looking at ways to reduce their fuel consumption. Initially a success, schools began returning to five-day school weeks amid concerns about learning and childcare.

The uptake rate of the four-day school week has increased steadily over more recent years. In 2000, only about 100 school districts in the United States had a four-day school week. By 2010, that number had grown to over 300 districts. And by 2020, there were over 800 districts with a four-day school week.

States that have implemented the Four-Day School Week

There are currently 26 states out of 50 that have implemented the four-day school week within their districts. 

Here is the current list:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

Search Interest Around the Four-Day School Week in the United States

The amount of searches is a good indication of how popular a topic is across time. This is no different from the four-day school week. As you can see even over the past two decades, the four-day school week is by no means a recent phenomenon. 

The interest four-day school weeks garnered was surpassed by the chatter in 2009.

Benefits of the Four-Day School Week

The four-day school week opens up several opportunities for both school districts and parents. While the practicalities of the change are still being reviewed, hundreds of school districts have already seen some success in implementing the four-day school week.

Here are some of the benefits of a four-day school week:

  • Cost savings: School districts will save money on transportation, food, and utilities by having students in for fewer days.
  • Improved teacher recruitment and retention: A four-day school week is a more desirable benefit for teachers who often cite they work long hours and are underpaid. 
  • Increased family flexibility: The suggested change offers increased flexibility for parent’s schedules making more time for extracurricular activities or vacations.
  • Improved student morale and attendance: Studies have shown that student attendance and morale are better on a four-day week than on a five-day school week.
  • Reduced stress: A four-day school week gives both teachers and students a break from school, which can help reduce stress levels.

A recent study by Emily Morton, a research scientist at the NWEA, found that Oklahoma high schools saw less bullying and fighting as a result of transitioning to a four-day school week. It was found that fighting declined by 0.76 incidents per 100 students and bullying dropped by 0.65 incidents per 100 students also.

Concerns About the Four-Day School Week

While there are many in support of a four-day school week, there are also some reservations about the subject.

Here are some of the concerns around the four-day school week:

  • Childcare challenges: The four-day school week leaves an extra day of childcare, for most working parents this means more money spent on daycare. However, this is less of a problem for teenagers as they don’t need supervision. 
  • Loss of education: While the actual time spent in school is only slightly decreased due to adding an extra 35 minutes onto the day, there are concerns about children learning less.
  • Consistency: It’s difficult as it is to entice a child to get ready for school after two days off, and with this rising to three creating a consistent routine could be more difficult.

Final Thoughts from UK vs. USA

Love it or hate it, the four-day school week in America appears to be here to stay. While there are some kinks to work out and practicality to consider, the four-day school week offers an interesting future for both students and teachers across America.

American Four-Day School Week FAQ:

How many schools in the US have four-day school weeks?

There are currently over 2,100 schools that have adopted the four-day school week. These 2,100 schools equate to nearly 900 school districts and 26 states.

How many school days are there in a year for four-day schools?

There are 148 days of school for schools that have adopted the four-day school week. Opposed to the 31 more of a five-day school week being 179. However, 35 minutes have been added to Monday-Thursday which makes the amount of time in school almost the same.

Why did schools in the US first bring four-day school weeks?

The four-day school week was first introduced back in 1936 but was not widely adopted until 1973. This change was due to the need to reduce operating costs and conserve energy.

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