Hundreds of school districts have adopted four-day weeks and later start times in an effort to improve students’ mental health and combat teacher shortages, according to Axios.
Throughout the nation 850 school districts have moved to four-day weeks, closing school either Monday or Friday, an increase of 200 school systems since 2019, according to Axios. Though research shows cutting down on class time leads to learning loss, school districts are making the move to improve student’s mental health, cut spending and combat teacher shortages.
Starting later has given students more time to sleep, an improvement that aims to better mental health, The Associated Press reported.
“These mental health challenges are already going to happen and then, with the absence of sleep, are much worse,” Orfeu Buxton, director of the Sleep, Health & Society Collaboratory at Penn State University, told the AP. “The same with decision making, suicidal ideation, those kinds of things.”
Adopting four-day weeks has led to less burnout and given kids more time with their families, though students are showing “reductions in both math and English/language arts achievement” as well as lower on-time graduation rates, Axios reported. Rural school districts most commonly have been adopting the change in their schedules, though districts in Denver, Colorado, Phoenix, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas, are making the adaptation.
“What the research generally shows is that this is a net negative for student achievement, mostly in scho0ls that see a big drop in instructional time as a result,” Paul Thompson, a leading scholar in four-day school week policies, told Axios.
Currently, at least nine states are considering legislation that would mandate later school start times, the AP reported. California remains the lone state that mandates which time school districts are to begin their day as school systems in Philadelphia and Anchorage, Alaska, consider changing student report time.
“I think getting more sleep is definitely helping,” Elise Olmstead, a junior at Upper Darby High School in Pennsylvania, told the AP. “I would be more irritable throughout the day, especially later, because I have a lot of after-school things. I would just have a harder time getting through the day.”
As school districts make moves to cut down on time spent in the classroom, the nation’s students are suffering massive learning loss; in 2022, civics test scores saw their first ever drop in the subject area while just 13% of eighth graders’ tested proficiently in U.S. history. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, the country also saw its first ever decline in math scores.
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