While large school districts in cities like Dallas and Houston are increasing teacher pay, some smaller school districts lacking the budget to retain teachers with pay increases are offering a four-day work week as an incentive.
Districts such as Mineral Wells and Chico, as reported by The Dallas Express, along with Devers, Athens, and Jasper, have all switched to a four-day school week after they found it hard to compete for teachers with neighboring districts that had made the switch.
“We started losing teachers to that four-day school week, regardless of what we paid,” noted Mineral Wells ISD Assistant Superintendent David Tarver. “That was a big eye-opener.”
For the benefit of teachers, working Monday through Thursday may lessen teacher burnout, and from the district’s perspective, it could decrease the operational budget, even if by a small margin.
“Anybody that had eyes or ears knew that this impending teacher shortage was coming, and our view was it was only going to get worse for the foreseeable future,” Chico ISD superintendent Randy Brawner told the Texas Tribune. “You can’t just go out and throw money at your problems. You have to think outside the box and think creatively.”
For students, however, there could be some drawbacks.
Parental and administrative concerns have arisen about moving to a four-day school week, as reported by The Dallas Express. Issues to be considered include childcare availability and students from less-than-ideal home environments, such as lower-income households with decreased access to food.
“I’m afraid that the poor groups out there would be more negatively affected,” said Dan Robinson, associate dean of research in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Arlington, speaking to the Texas Tribune.
Robinson noted that students who receive free or reduced lunch might belong to families that are “food insecure,” and school guarantees them two meals, Monday through Friday. Missing those meals on Friday could result in a child not eating well (or anything) for three days.
Another question commonly raised concerning the four-day school week is how the district will recover the time lost from the fifth day.
The State of Texas requires schools to operate for 75,600 minutes a year with little direction on how the minutes are spent. How those minutes are accounted for is up to the discretion of districts.
Some early adopters of the four-day model extended the school day, while others extended the school year. Some school districts, like Chico ISD, gave their special education population the option of a five-day week.
It is too soon to say how the four-day school week will affect test scores and student outcomes for Chico and Mineral Wells ISDs, since they adopted the four-day school week on May 17 and will implement it for the 2022-2023 school year.
In 2019, Chico ISD saw 80% of its students pass the STAAR test, faring better than DISD, whose overall passing rate for the STAAR was 73%. Mineral Wells had 69% of its students pass in 2019. The STAAR test was not administered in 2020 due to the declaration of a national emergency regarding COVID-19.