About 60 school districts in Texas have already implemented four-day school weeks, frequently in an effort to reduce teacher turnover. At least 59 districts have made the switch. Some of these districts recently accepted the change, which will take effect in the 2023-24 school year.
At least seven additional districts have a hybrid schedule that includes four-day weeks for a portion of the year. The shift has been implemented in districts throughout the state, with the schedule proving especially popular in rural districts in the north and east of Texas.
Texas lawmakers passed legislation in 2015 that altered the timing of classroom instruction. Districts were no longer required to deliver 180 days of instruction, but rather a minimum of 75,600 minutes. By requiring minutes rather than days, districts gained more freedom in how they arranged classes.
Crosby ISD, located in Harris County just outside of Houston, just became the state’s largest district to implement a four-day week. The transition was approved by the district’s school board on February 27th, serving over 6,500 children. The new schedule will go into effect the next school year.
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“Our why is simple and straightforward,” Superintendent Paula Patterson said. “We want to find, recruit and retain the best teachers in the state in the classrooms for our students. This change immediately makes Crosby ISD a top destination for educators in Harris County.”
Statewide, districts have struggled with teacher retention, particularly since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to a KXAN study, a record number of instructors departed or resigned in the 2021-22 school year, with many claiming low compensation and growing workloads with little extra planning time.
Teacher retention was identified as a major benefit of the timetable adjustment by the district after the district made the changeover. The four-day week provided a “competitive edge in hiring high-quality teaching and staff,” according to Alto ISD, located south of Tyler.
“We believe that the implementation of a four-day instructional week may offer NWISD a road to retain and attract high-quality educators,” according to a presentation from New Waverly ISD, north of Houston.
A study of staff in La Vernia ISD, just east of San Antonio, found that 82% were interested in a four-day week, with one teacher indicating they would definitely use the Fridays off for marking and planning.
Recently, Matthew Gutiérrez, Ed.D., spoke out regarding the teacher shortage in Texas. The Tweet is shown below.
ISDs need additional funding as we face an unprecedented staffing crisis. The $3 Billion that would go towards vouchers would do so much to help Texas get teacher salaries to a level that would compete with other professions. Districts struggled to staff classrooms this year, and… pic.twitter.com/uwigWBSIlF
— Matthew Gutiérrez, Ed.D. (@DrMattGutierrez) March 3, 2023
All three districts approved scheduling modifications in February, with three-year pilot projects due to begin the following school year.
A Report By Teacher Vacancies
The Teacher Vacancies Task Force recently produced a report that emphasized the need to “show respect and value for teacher time.” According to the Texas Education Agency report, instructors are accountable for much more than just teaching, including finding and copying instructional materials, doing paperwork, and attending meetings and professional development.
TEA Commissioner Michael Morath, on the other hand, is not convinced. Morath told the state Senate Committee on Education on March 1 that the timetable change is “damaging for student achievement on balance” unless certain conditions are met.
Morath stated that districts would have to relocate “very, very carefully.” For example, any academic disruptions throughout the week, such as field trips, athletic contests, extracurricular activities, and other causes for pupils to be taken out of class, should be rescheduled for a non-class day.
To maximize instructional time, the “educational experience” on the four class days would have to be carefully planned. Teachers would receive “built-in contemplation time” and training or professional development time on the fifth day. “There is a subset of districts where those combinations of moves do not impair student achievement,” Morath explained.
“I still don’t have any research that demonstrates it boosts student accomplishment, but if all three conditions are true, it is not openly damaging to student achievement. Yet, if all of those circumstances are not met, the data is quite apparent. It has no effect on student achievement.”
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Several school districts believe that shortening the school week will increase attendance and, as a result, achievement. According to a presentation given by China Spring ISD, located just outside of Waco, attendance in the district is around 1.5 percentage points lower than before the outbreak. The district is currently exploring switching.
“If the four-day week improves student attendance to pre-COVID levels, it will raise funding by little more than $300,000,” according to the presentation. In Texas, school district funding is directly related to student attendance. “As students raise their attendance rates, their academic performance improves.”
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