4-day school week improves math scores, study reveals

4-day school week improves math scores, study reveals

(Ferre Dollar/CNN)



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BOZEMAN, Montana — Though it may sound counterintuitive, the best way to improve school test scores is to actually limit the number of days kids spend in school each week.

At least according to a new study published in the journal "Education Finance and Policy."

Researchers looked at 14 schools that made the switch from a traditional five-day week to four, adding several hours to each school day to meet basic instructional hour requirements. They tracked the progress or decline of math and reading test scores among students over the course of two years.

At the end of the two-year period, math scores had actually improved for fourth and fifth grade students. Reading scores stayed about the same. Researchers said the lack of a drop was a positive sign.

The rise in math scores came as a bit of a surprise to researchers, who were expecting to see a drop.

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"We thought that especially for the younger, elementary school kids, longer days on a shorter school week would hurt their academic performance because their attention spans are shorter," study co-author Mary Beth Walker of Georgia State University said in a release.

Walker noted the results of the study suggest that switching to a four-day week would not have a negative impact on students.

Many school districts across the country have already opted for a four-day schedule in an effort to cut transportation and overhead costs, particularly in rural areas.

Colorado has more than 30 percent of school districts operating under the four-day system. Schools in New Mexico and Wyoming also participate in the schedule, while school districts in Oregon, Missouri, Florida and Georgia are considering adopting it, according to the report.

"My own personal hypothesis is teachers like it so much — they were so enthusiastic about the four-day week — they did a better job," Walker said. "There's some evidence in other labor studies that four-day work weeks enhance productivity."

Walker also noted that since there are only four school days, parents may wait for Fridays when there is no school to schedule appointments and events that would normally pull kids out of the classroom.

"We also speculated that a four-day school week lowered absenteeism," she said.

Walker said the results of her study were only applicable in rural schools, and that more research would be done to identify the positive and negative effects a four-day school week might have on more urban schools.

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Jessica Ivins

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