Texas School Districts Switch to Four-Day Week

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Desks and chairs in empty classroom

Texas school districts are adopting a four-day week to improve teacher retention, but parents have concerns. 

By Eileen Griffin

The Harlandale Independent School District in San Antonio is considering joining more than 40 school districts across the state of Texas that have switched to a four-day school week, according to the San Antonio Report.

Public schools are considering the shortened workweek in order  to retain teachers. With 926 teacher positions in the district, Harlandale currently has 57 openings.

Parents Approve Trial Period

The Anna Independent School District, in a fast-growing area of North Texas, recently announced their intention to try out a four-day schedule for a three-year pilot period, beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, KHOU-TV reports.

The district said they conducted a survey which found that 72 percent of parents and 87 percent of staff approved of the plan. An additional 35 minutes will be added to each school day to compensate for the fifth day.

The Anna School District stated in their announcement that they expect improved student achievement with the adjusted schedule. The stated list of advantages includes more teacher preparation time and anticipated improved student attendance.

“School leadership expects the 4-day week to increase student achievement with more opportunities for intervention, and help with teacher retention and recruitment.”

The Denton Independent School District, in North Texas, is also considering the shortened school week, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Rural Popularity

The four-day school schedule is particularly popular with smaller, more rural schools.

Academy ISD, in Central Texas, will also switch to the four-day work week, KWTX reports. The district cites teacher recruitment and retention as the primary reason for the change.

“The main reason is to attract and retain the highest quality teachers in the Central Texas area,” states the district’s website FAQ. “The district currently has several grade levels that have more students than the state 22 to 1 recommended ratio. Secondary reasons include improving student and staff attendance rates, lowering discipline referrals, and increasing academic achievement.”

The district does not expect any reduction in taxpayer expenses despite the loss of a full day of operations.

“The potential of substantial financial savings to the district is not a consideration as funds will be redirected as available to increase student outcomes,” the FAQ states.

Additional Texas school districts are currently evaluating the four-day school week.

Pandemic Fallout: Missing Students

“As a teacher, I would love that,” Texas teacher Michele (whose last name is withheld at her request, to protect her from retaliation) told Heartland Daily News. “I think it will cause problems for parents. The U.S. is so behind in our education that cutting the school week will put us further behind.”

Nationwide, K-12 enrollment fell during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, and many of those students are not returning to the public schools. Michele said the justification for the four-day work week was teacher retention, but the need for more teachers may not exist.

“I think this push is to try to retain teachers but with 1.4 million students leaving public schools last year, there will be a drop in teachers needed,” Michele said.

Parents’ Concerns

Houston parent Jose Gutierrez told Heartland Daily News that a possible negative consequence could be more pressure on students if they extend each of the other four days.

“Too long of a school day, especially for those students with (extracurricular activities) like sports, bands, and jobs,” Gutierrez says. “You also have to take into account that children learn at different speeds.”

Changes to the school schedule could also impact revenue for schools making this adjustment. The state of Texas distributes money to local school districts based on the attendance of each student each day.

“It’s all about the funding,” Gutierrez says. “Each child represents a dollar figure for every day present. That’s why school districts don’t get rid of bad kids.”

Mindy Saunders, a mother of two young children in Dallas, favors the four-day school week.

“When my four-year-old enters kindergarten, if there is a four-day school week, I will be glad to have an extra day with her to do non-school related activities,” Saunders says. “We only get to have our children living in our home for eighteen short years and I want more time to make memories with them.”

Dallas mother Alyssa Ostler Fereday told Heartland Daily News her school district has not implemented the four-day school week yet, but it is being considered.

“I think the teachers want it, and it would only add a few minutes to our days, but working parents aren’t fans of course,” Fereday says. “I think it’s a lack of teachers wanting to work and budgets.”

Impact on Student Performance

The Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) reports generally positive reactions to the shorter school week from teachers, but some teachers express concerns about student performance when implementing the four-day school week.

“Several TCTA members in four-day districts said the shorter week has been a big boost to student and staff morale, but how it will impact student performance and other factors tied into school district accountability ratings is still an open question,” the TCTA’s newsletter reports.

Recent studies in Oregon and Oklahoma point to deficiencies in the academic performance of students attending school for four days instead of five. The state of Texas only requires that the school be open 75,600 minutes of the school year. This allows flexibility for districts to choose the four-day school week.

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