08 July 2008

A Four Day School Week?

Originally posted on American Thinker.

In order to save money, a rural school district in Minnesota has opted for a four day school week, running Tuesday to Friday. Now comes the hard part.

KSTP TV reports that one hour will be added on to the school day and that the change will save the district $65,000. There are a few other benefits as well as some serious challenges, in my opinion as a teacher.

First, knocking off Mondays not only creates a four day school week, but also makes every weekend a long weekend. The question is what will students and teachers do with the extra time? Needless to say, the students will be more than willing to claim every Monday is a holiday -- thus no work will be necessary.

The district and teachers need to take the lead. Parents should be notified at the beginning of the year that certain kinds of homework will be increased, especially reading, writing, and basic math practice outside the classroom. It must be stressed that, regardless of location, learning goes on. The district should enact and enforce a "no late work" policy to guard against student complacency, and teachers must enforce it. Also, parents must not bow to pressure from a child who has failed due to recurring school "holidays".

Second, teachers and parents should encourage and provide opportunities for students to do something on Mondays. Teachers may opt to hold tutorials, workshops, group discussions, or intramural sports. The district should work to facilitate such activities. Parents should offer to car-pool students to such activities and to help teachers facilitate them. These kinds of things would do more than just keep students busy, they would help build community, especially if the idea spreads beyond places like rural Minnesota. None of these activities would necessarily require school transportation; there are modes of travel other than the school bus that students can use.

The four day school week is not necessarily a bad idea. Like so many other things, the methods used to pull it off will matter most. If the majority of students, parents, teachers, and administrators see this instead as a "three day weekend", it will fail miserably, and the $65,000 saved on fuel costs - and then some - will have to be funneled into remediation and alternate education efforts.

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