The AP reported today that Caldwell Parish’s experiment with four-day weeks may not have been successful. The school switched to a four-day week just after 2007 test scores were released. Since then, the number of students scoring basic or above on three out of four state tests have dropped. However, this doesn’t show the whole picture. Superintendent John Sartin says that their “district peformance scores” have actually gone up from 92.8 in 2007 to 96 in 2009 (2010 numbers aren’t available yet). These scores add up not only the test averages, but attendance, dropout, and graduation rates. I’m not sure what that scale is out of, but it’s not based on 100 (I hope!) based on the Louisiana State DOE’s data. They say the parish had the 8th least growth of any in the state at a measly 1%.
Sartin thinks that the four-day weeks are “absolutely not” affecting performance, but logic dictates otherwise. The district has four-day weeks and as far as I can tell from their calendar, they have the same length of the school year as everyone else. It’s hard to tell the length of schooldays from their website, but Louisiana law requires a certain number of hours for students to be in class (called seat time). That means instead of having 180 days with about 7 hours of school, students go to school for about 144 days for almost 9 hours/day. Now let me give you a second for that to soak in. Do you remember when you were in school and the days felt like they were soooo long? Now imagine adding two hours onto that. In economic terms, we have the law of diminishing returns. The longer you’re in your seat at a time, the less effective each additional hour will be. Brains wear down. Kids get tired. Teachers get tired. As a teacher, I loved having time to nap after school before getting back to work on lesson plans and such. A longer day means a less effective use of your time. In a 9 hour day, you will learn more than in a 7 hour day, but if 35 hours is spread over 5 days, it’s going to be more effective than over 4. You might be saving money, but you’re not helping students.
I would like to see a different 4-day model. I want to see what happens when schools stick to 180 days, buts spread it out over 45 weeks instead of 36. There is lots of evidence that students lose a lot of knowledge over the summer with their brains not being as active. Perhaps if education were more evenly spread out throughout the year, learning would be more effective. I’d love to hear some responses to that idea. Am I a genius? A crackpot? What do you think?