Shorter work weeks become the incentive as districts struggle to hire new teachers

Idaho currently has 81 school districts and charter schools that plan to adopt the 4-day model in the hopes of gaining a competitive edge.

Since the onset of COVID, district leaders have been forced to implement solutions with little time to plan and assess their schools’ situation, often resulting in dissatisfaction among their employees. In fact, job dissatisfaction among pre-K-12 teachers has increased by 34% since the pandemic began, topping out at 79% overall dissatisfaction, according to a recent American Federation of Teachers’ “Under Siege” survey.

Several teachers’ unions have also gone on strike, which either forced students to undergo remote learning or delay the first day of school entirely. Their objectives, most commonly, are better pay, more respect and safer working conditions.

But what are districts doing to help keep their employees happy and inevitably hire even more teachers? COVID relief funds have allowed many schools to provide one-time pay increases for their employees. Other schools have improved their mental health support staff. And most recently, several districts have decided to make the switch to a 4-day school week, which has several proven benefits, such as higher attendance and greater budgetary flexibility.

A 2021 RAND report explored the pros and cons of a 4-day model. The researchers found that students spent their fifth day participating in sports, clubs, working their jobs, and other activities. Most teachers reported using that time for school work and personal matters, such as doctor’s appointments and chores.

This incentive method could be a game-changer for school districts that are suffering from teacher vacancies. Idaho schools, for example, have 16 classroom teacher job openings that have been listed for at least two years, according to the state’s education job listings website.

Idaho’s Aberdeen School District and several others have adopted a 4-day school week hoping that it will bring in more qualified teachers. The district has reportedly filled four of its vacant teaching positions this school year, yet none of the new hires have proper teacher certification.

In total, 81 school districts and charter schools have planned to adopt a four-day week for the 2022-23 school year, according to data from the Idaho State Department of Education.

Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Florida are also considering transitioning. There are currently 300 teacher vacancies across the district, Fox 13 reported. Addison Davis, the district’s superintendent, has pondered the idea and thinks it will be good for competition.

“I know this is a really radical suggestion, potentially looking at a four-day week for the school year,” he said in a statement. “That is a way for us to become competitive—when you work four days, and then you have an extended weekend, or you have the fifth day to be engaged in professional learning.”

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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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