Driven by hopes of cutting transportation, heating and staff costs, more and more school systems are moving to a four-day school week. Small, rural school districts have been in the vanguard of this trend, but larger urban districts are also making the shift. Right now at least twenty US states have one or more school districts operating on a four-day week, including California, Arizona and Michigan.
Though shorter school weeks have been implemented from time to time in the US since the 1930s, and briefly became widespread during the “energy crisis” of the 1970s, definitive studies and reports on the impact of the shortened school week are few. This research brief is one of many that indicate that the change can often improve attendance and morale for both students and teachers.
Some proponents even tout improved academic performance; especially where cost savings might forestall teacher layoffs or larger class sizes. (Most evaluations indicate that there is no net effect on achievement, though some reports have shown reduced test scores.) Opponents raise concerns about how long, tiring days in the classroom will affect young children, and point to the burdens placed on working parents to find costly daycare.
What is the impact of the four-day week on tutors and tutoring? There may be some downsides the overall effect is likely to be positive.
Most encouraging is the fact that some districts instituting a four-day week are explicitly inviting students who need extra help to come to school on their “off day” for tutoring sessions. In some cases, schools are reinvesting the money they’re saving to create tutoring opportunities, such as hiring one-on-one tutors for academic underachievers.
Similarly, when the school system in Georgia’s Peach County moved to a four-day week, several community organizations (including Boys and Girls clubs and a church) began offering affordable tutoring on Mondays (their “off day”) for only $10 to $15.
Will students have less time and energy after school for tutoring on the days when they attend classes? Some tutors may need to shift their schedules to connect with learners on their off day or on weekends – possibly making for some intensely busy days for tutors. But most schools are pushing dismissal ahead by no more than an hour, while reducing lunch and recess times. So after-school tutoring opportunities might not be adversely impacted.
Tutors who connect with students online or “on demand” might benefit from an increase in business as learners move to fit tutoring into their new school-day schedules. For example, tutors who can support “digital learners” who want to learn anytime, anyplace, at their own pace, may take yet more business from traditional tutoring services due to the shorter school week.
The “bottom line” for tutors is that shortening the school week can potentially create new opportunities: first by opening up a “tutoring day” on Monday or Friday, and second through increased demand for services in areas where schools are hiring tutors. As always, those who can adapt their offerings to the changing needs of students and their families will be positioned to make the most of the situation.
Featured photo courtesy of Jean Valley.
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