How the 4-day school week model can increase teacher retention and satisfaction

Districts across the country are looking for ways to combat the national teacher shortage. Research and evidence point to this idea as a distinct possibility for success.

The education experience in schools across the U.S. has been suffering. Teachers are quitting in record numbers. Students feel more unsafe than ever. Aggression among students has increased as a result of the pandemic.

Now, district leaders are taking steps to resolve these issues. When it comes to the teacher shortage crisis, one potential solution that’s been oft-discussed is the idea of a four-day work week for students and teachers. Some schools, like those in Twin Rivers School District in Missouri and Prairie View High School in Coloradohave already made the decision to implement it (in fact, more than 120 districts have been operating on a 4-day school week in Missouri since 2010). But is it an effective way to attract educators?

In a study conducted by Paul N. Thompson, assistant professor at Oregon State University, released last fall, researchers assessed the implementation of a four-day school week policy. Their findings suggest that such a policy may be beneficial for attracting teachers, but would likely have little impact on other important factors.

Districts may also find this strategy beneficial for their budget. While the study found that a four-day work week has minimal impact on overall savings, it may provide schools with greater flexibility. For example, the researchers suggest that districts can use the three-day weekend as a form of non-monetary compensation.

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Another dilemma to consider is the ability to maintain steady academic growth. On average, students who attend school four days a week lose nearly 85 hours at school per year. The impact that loss has on student academic achievement is relatively mixed, according to results. One study cites research explaining that a four-day work week is especially more detrimental for students from low-income households, while another finds no statistically significant effects on academic achievement.

Researchers have also explored whether this policy could increase student attendance. The results from one study show that students attending school four days a week missed fewer days than those who attended the full five-day week. However, there was no statistically significant difference between absence rates.

Despite the potential negative implications research has shown, some schools have been successful with this model. Prairie View High School in the 27J School District, for example, has had it in practice for four years. The school’s initial plan was to provide an incentive to attract more teachers. District superintendent Chris Fielder told Denver 7-ABC News that they’re able to continue employing teachers while spending much less than neighboring schools.

The bottom line: Districts that are battling with the negative effects of the pandemic should consider whether the four-day school week could help create competition and increase teacher retention and satisfaction. Teachers report spending that extra day off catching up on work and taking care of personal matters, such as doctor’s appointments. And both parents and students report high levels of satisfaction with this model.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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