I. Four-Day School Weeks Are Expanding Rapidly in U.S.
Hundreds of thousands of US students are now attending school four days a week. The number of school districts on a four-day calendar has grown by more than 600% in the last 20 years, and the four-day trend shows no signs of slowing down. Texas, for example, is expected to experience a significant increase in four-day school weeks as more and more rural communities begin implementing the model.
Although four-day school weeks have proved extremely popular among local communities, the idea—generally—has been somewhat controversial.
The Oklahoma State Legislature acted to regulate four-day school weeks in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulations were not implemented until the 2022-23 school year.
Prior to the new regulations, 91 school districts in Oklahoma operated on a four-day calendar.
Today, there are zero.
II. What is a Four-day School?
In Oklahoma, a typical school calendar is 180 days a year, five days a week. Schools in Oklahoma are permitted to hold less than 180 days of class a year as long as they have at least 1,080 hours of school time. The 1,080 hours of school time, however, must be distributed over at least 165 days. If a school district would like to maintain the 1,080-hour requirement but meet less than 165 days a year, the district must obtain a calendar waiver from the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE).
Four-day schools extend instructional time four days a week and eliminate class on the fifth. By extending school each day, four-day schools maintain the 1,080 hours of required school time, but they cannot comply with the 165-day mandate. Generally, four-day schools meet 155 days or less per year. Thus, a 165-day requirement is a de facto prohibition of four-day schools.
Since the OSBE granted zero calendar waivers for the 2022-23 school year, there are currently no “four-day schools” operating in Oklahoma.
III. Dr. Emily Morton Discusses the Latest Research on Four-Day School Weeks
IV. Four-Day School Weeks: Summary of Known Effects
V. Oklahoma’s Current Policy Confusion on Four-Day School Weeks
In 2019, the Oklahoma Legislature passed SB 441, which required school boards seeking to keep or adopt a four-day school week calendar to obtain a waiver from the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE). To obtain a calendar waiver, applicants were required to maintain the 1,080 hours of yearly instruction time and satisfy additional standards set by the OSBE. Last May, seven Oklahoma school districts applied to the OSBE for a calendar waiver. Six of the seven applicants satisfied or exceeded the OSBE standards. However, the OSBE still denied all seven waiver requests.
The waiver denials prompted much confusion and frustration among Oklahomans. The situation has left many Oklahomans and school boards wondering if four-day school weeks are still obtainable, and if so, what the requirements are for obtaining one—since fulfilling the current OSBE requirements is insufficient. Today, there are zero school districts in Oklahoma operating on a four-day calendar.
VI. A Policy Solution
The research is clear: four-day school weeks are a legitimate option for many communities, especially rural communities. Of the 91 Oklahoma school districts previously operating on a four-day calendar, all were located in rural communities. The research demonstrates that four-day school weeks can offer several meaningful benefits for rural communities and have no statistically significant effects on the academic outcomes of students in rural schools (p<.05).
As an organization, POE values academic excellence and innovative approaches to education. We believe Oklahoma communities should be encouraged to be creative and should have the authority to make decisions that are best for their students, families, and community members. Four-day school calendars are a legitimate option for many rural communities, and those communities should be empowered to decide for themselves if a four-day school calendar is right for their families and students.
To reiterate, we are not advocating that four-day school calendars are the best choice for all schools. In light of the most current research, we argue that four-day school calendars are primarily a matter of local control. Schools with four-day calendars should be reasonably regulated for academic accountability, like all public schools. The debate is not four-day vs. five-day school weeks. The debate is whether local community members should have the authority to innovate and make decisions for themselves within a system of fair and reasonable accountability measures.
Please view House Bill 2415 for POE’s full policy solution.