*The following is excerpted from an online article posted by ScienceDaily.
A recent Oregon State University study analyzing the impact of a shorter school week for high schools found that 11th-grade students participating in a four-day week performed worse on standardized math tests than students who remained on five-day schedules.
The effect was amplified among students in non-rural schools and was limited to math; no significant gap appeared in reading achievement across different school-week schedules.
K-12 schools nationwide are increasingly moving to a four-day week as a way to provide non-monetary incentives for teachers, adjust for students’ extracurricular schedules, or to cut district costs.
Oregon has the fourth-highest number of schools on a four-day week in the country, with 137 schools across 80 districts opting for the shorter school week, or roughly 11% of the more than 1,200 K-12 schools in the state. The majority of these schools are in rural areas, particularly in Eastern Oregon.
Thompson’s previous research has looked at the effects of the four-day week on elementary and middle school students as well as districts as a whole, but this is the first time he has focused solely on high school students.
Using data on 341,390 high schoolers from 2005-2019, the current study found 11th-grade math achievement scores among four-day school week students to be slightly lower than the overall average. Furthermore, among only four-day students, those in non-rural areas performed slightly worse than those in rural areas.
In rural school districts that have moved to the four-day week, school days run a bit longer, from 7:45 or 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on the non-school weekday, schools are more likely to offer enrichment activities that help supplement lost instruction time.
Conversely, schools switching to a four-day week to save money don’t typically extend the school day or offer enrichment on the non-school day because that does not result in cost savings or reduce teacher stress, so there is no mechanism to make up for the lost instructional time.