Kids Do Better With Four-Day School Weeks

Children Leaving School, Motion Blur.
Photo: 68/Ocean/Corbis

Science of Us has already made the case (twice) for the four-day workweek, as the research consistently links fewer hours on the job to improved health and productivity, among other happy consequences. Now, there’s some evidence that kids may benefit from a shorter week, too. According to a new paper published in the journal Education Finance and Policy, schools that switch to four-day weeks see improvements in the math scores of their fourth- and fifth-graders.  

Already, a surprising number of schools around the country operate on a four-day schedule, mostly as an effort to cut back on transportation or utility costs; take Colorado, for example, where 30 percent of the school districts in the state have four-day weeks. And yet, until now, it hasn’t been clear what impact a compressed week may have on student achievement, as the evidence has mostly been anecdotal. And so D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Mary Beth Walker of Georgia State University decided to address that by analyzing fourth- and fifth-graders’ reading and math scores from the Colorado Student Assessment Program. 

Over the course of the study, 14 schools happened to switch from five days to four, which made things extra-interesting. Two years after the change, Anderson and Walker found that math scores improved for the school’s fourth and fifth graders. (There was no significant difference in reading scores, though this, of course, means the scores didn’t drop, either.)

Walker admits that she went in to her research expecting to find the opposite — that the compressed weeks would negatively impact student test scores. The schools with the shorter weeks still kept the kids in class for the same number of hours as a traditional five-day week, which means some long hours in the classroom. “We thought that especially for the younger, elementary school kids, longer days on a shorter school week would hurt their academic performance, because their attention spans are shorter,” she said in the press release accompanying the study. But that’s not what their results show, adding to the current school-reform debate on the merits of longer school days.

There is, of course, the tiny problem of just who is going to watch these wild, school-free children on their extra day off. May we humbly suggest a solution: three-day weekends for everyone, please.

Kids Do Better With Four-Day School Weeks