Aug 21 2013

Should We Adopt a Four-Day School Week to Boost Professional Development?

One school district in Missouri is taking the plunge to invest in technology and teacher training.

While some education advocates are busy touting the benefits of year-round education in a campaign for more schooling, one school district is opting for less — but more efficient — schooling.

The Miami R-1 School District in Bates County, Mo., believes shifting to a four-day school week, with slightly longer school days, is the best way to go, reports the Kansas City Star.

Interestingly, the motive for the decision isn’t focused on students, but on teachers. While students will be in school for only four days a week, teachers will continue to report for duty five days a week. Mondays, however, will be used for professional development and technology training instead of teaching students.

“This is about making teachers better,” Superintendent Frank Dahman said Wednesday on opening day.

He is convinced that giving teachers those Mondays revs them up so they can do more with the new four than the old five.

“Ever since the beginning of time, we’ve placed demands on teachers and then not given them time to do it. With new requirements for development and new technology, those demands are going to increase. Giving them this day is what teachers have been screaming for years.

“Better-prepared teachers means better students, and that’s where the rubber meets the road.”

This desire for quality time with technology tools and training is something that teachers have voiced repeatedly. In fact, in a 2012 survey by Mansfield Public Schools in Massachusetts, 94 percent of the teachers surveyed said that their preferred delivery format for professional development is “hands-on participation.”

But with the push on increasing test scores, corresponding with students and parents through email and social media and creating lesson plans, the five-day school week leaves little time for such workshops or training sessions.

While it’s true that Miami R-1 is a small, rural school district, larger districts around the country should keep an eye on this experiment as it plays out. If we truly believe in the principles of student-driven and technology-assisted learning, then shifting to a four-day school week doesn’t have to be detrimental to the U.S. education system.

In the private sector, some entrepreneurs swear by the four-day workweek. And in the Netherlands, four-day workweeks are the norm. So would it be so bad for our students if we sent them to school for only four days a week?


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