Teacher shortage: Four-day school week incentive

Education

(NewsNation) — The weekend starts on Thursdays for about 800 school districts nationwide. A four-day school week is the latest draw to recruit teachers as some areas face major staffing shortages from the pandemic and burnout.

The change has become popular in Midwestern and Southern rural communities in states such as Texas, Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma. Some people are for it, yet others are concerned about child care and the possibility that it can be detrimental to students’ education.

Dr. Dan Robinson, an education psychologist and associate dean of research for the School of Education at the University of Texas Arlington, said the four-day school week is a desperate measure to get teachers back into the workforce.

“We’ve got a real serious problem nationally with teachers quitting, teachers leaving the profession and also a problem with attracting new college students to enter the teaching profession,” Robinson said. “I’m not sure that it’s going to solve any of those problems. You might keep a few more teachers in the field.”

But Robinson has a bigger issue with the policy: He believes the absence of education could cause learning delays. He said there is no empirical evidence that could support a four-day school week being effective.

“The thing they’re not really focusing on is the effects on student learning, and specifically the effects that this would have on the poorest of the children out there,” Robinson said.

He suggested that if schools shortened the week to just four days, then a solution would be to lengthen the school hours. But he argued that students might not have the mental bandwidth to handle the longer days. So in reality, longer school days would not be a proper solution.

Robinson compared shortening school weeks to when students have three months off in the summer and how when students return to school, they have to relearn information (or be reminded of information).

“We have natural evidence out there that when kids go to school for nine months and take three months off over the summer, there is a learning loss that occurs over the summer,” Robinson said. He questioned why parents and teachers would want something similar for students on a weekly basis.

Robinson said shortening school weeks to four days would only result in a learning loss. He even went as far as to call these measures “ridiculous.”

He believes that teachers and education officials aren’t keeping what’s best for the actual students in mind.

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