North Texas Students Learn in 4-Day School Weeks.

Texas school districts are adopting four-day school weeks in an effort to retain teachers, who are leaving the profession at alarming rates. While proponents of this new schedule have touted its benefits for educators and students, critics fear that it may actually harm kids and families, especially as schools still recover from the pandemic-induced learning loss.

Anna ISD recently announced its decision to follow the path of several other North Texas school districts by introducing a four-day schedule next school year. Although parents like Nash House have “mixed feelings” about this change, as kids may face increased academic difficulty, bullying, and fewer resources, working mothers and fathers also have expressed concerns about childcare and increased juvenile delinquency during the additional weekday at home.

While it may reduce the teacher shortage, some education advocates warn that the four-day schedule may lead to reduced student test scores, especially for younger ones. One researcher has found that the four-day schedule can reduce test scores by 4% in reading and 6% in math over a span of 15 years. Furthermore, some fear that vulnerable students may experience fewer resources, including vital mental health services and accommodations that they need to succeed.

In February 2021, former Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and former Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone argued that besides dividing up the required number of instruction hours, there are better ways to support educators than through a four-day school week. However, other stakeholders, such as Emily Morton, a research scientist at NWEA, point out that the four-day schedule may also have minor financial savings and reduced rates of bullying and fighting.

Senate Bill 2368 has recently passed the Texas Senate, banning four-day school weeks altogether. The bill, which was referred to the House Public Education Committee in late April 2021, would drastically change Texas districts that have made the switch to return to a five-day schedule.

While the shift towards a four-day school week may reduce the teacher shortage, its impact on the academic, social, and behavioral outcomes of students is still uncertain. Although some districts have seen benefits like reduced bullying and fighting, others cite concerns about vulnerable students having less access to resources. Additionally, some parents worry that the change may bring about increased juvenile delinquency or put additional burdens on working parents. Ultimately, the debate around whether a four-day school week is the best way to approach education in Texas will continue.

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