A Brookings report by Paul T. Hill and Georgia Heyward examines the four-day school week in rural Idaho. According to the report, four-day weeks have been implemented in approximately 42 of Idaho’s 115 school districts, with a primary goal of cost savings (e.g., savings on transportation, heating, janitorial, and clerical costs). The revised schedule adds roughly 30 to 90 minutes to each day that students are in school, and then on the fifth day (usually Friday), the goal is to assign projects and encourage parent and community groups to organize study halls and enrichment activities.
The authors collected data by interviewing district and school leaders in Idaho communities that had moved to the four-day week. Key findings included:
- Though cost cutting was the original motivation for the four-day week, savings have been elusive in most localities. This is because so many costs are fixed (e.g., teacher and administrator salaries).
- Teachers reported difficulty restarting instruction and focusing children’s attention after a three-day weekend.
- Teachers in many places now consider the fifth day an amenity, and some superintendents reported that the four-day week made the locality more attractive to teacher candidates.
- Working parents found the longer hours in school more convenient as it meant that children’s days more nearly matched their own workdays. However, the fifth day presented new problems of child care and planning for positive uses of children’s time.
- No district that had adopted the four-day week had rigorously assessed the effects on student achievement. Several district leaders said student and teacher attendance had improved in the first year of the four-day week, but they had not assessed whether these results persisted over time.
The authors discuss the limits of their evidence, and note that the long-term effects for rural students’ education are unknown.