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Four-Day School Week
February 2018


What does the research say about the impact of a four-day school week on district expenditures and student achievement?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Anderson, D. M., & Walker, M. B. (2015). Does shortening the school week impact student performance? Evidence from the four-day school week. Education Finance and Policy, 10(3), 314–349. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
This study uses school-level data from Colorado to investigate the relationship between the four-day week and academic performance among elementary school students. The results generally indicate a statistically significant impact on math scores for fifth-grade students, while reading scores were not affected. These findings suggest there is little evidence that moving to a four-day week compromises student academic achievement.

Donis-Keller, C., & Silvernail, D. L. (2009). Research brief: A review of the evidence on the four-day school week. Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Center for Education Policy. Retrieved from

From the Introduction:
This research brief provides a history of the reform and presents a synthesis of the research base, albeit limited, focused on the implementation and impact of moving to a four-day school week schedule. Also included is a discussion of the most commonly voiced concerns.

Griffith, M. (2011). What savings are produced by moving to a four-day school week? Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from

From the Introduction:
Due to the current economic downturn, policymakers have been looking for budgetary options that allow for reductions in expenditures without impacting student achievement. One cost-cutting policy that some states and districts have adopted is to keep instructional time the same but shorten the school week. A recent policy brief from ECS found that approximately 120 districts in 17 states have made the move to a four-day school week. But the question still exists—what cost savings, if any, are produced? This report shows what savings a district might realistically expect to realize when moving to a four-day week.

Hewitt, P. M., & Denny, G. S. (2011). The four-day school week: Impact on student academic performance. Rural Educator, 32(2), 23–31.

From the Abstract:
This study investigated how achievement test scores of schools with a four-day school week compared with schools with a traditional five-day school week. The study focused on student performance in Colorado where 62 school districts operated a four-day school week. The results of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) were utilized to examine student performance in reading, writing, and mathematics in grades 3 through 10. While the mean test scores for five-day week schools exceeded those of four-day week schools in 11 of the 12 test comparisons, the differences were slight, with only one area revealing a statistically significant difference. This study concludes that decisions to change to the four-day week should be for reasons other than student academic performance

Hill, P. T., & Heyward, G. (2015). The four-day school week in rural Idaho schools. Boise, ID: Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
This paper is based on interviews with over 20 Idaho district leaders implementing the four-day school week calendar. The findings indicate that none of the districts have seen any substantive cost-savings. Nor have these districts rigorously assessed the effects of the four-day week on student achievement. Just one had set out criteria for reviewing its impact and returning to a five-day week if necessary. This means that the educational consequences of the four-day week, at present, are virtually unknown, though Hill and Heyward note that their interviews and research suggest positive outcomes for families and communities. However, they recommend that districts take a more measured approach to this transition, with a greater emphasis on assessment and pull-out strategies as well as greater support and guidance from the state.

Long, C. (2016, January 14). Four-day school weeks more popular, but impact on students and educators unclear. NEA Today. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
The article discusses the impact of the four-day school week adopted by some school districts in the U.S. on student performance in 2015 and cost savings of the districts in 2011.

Memorandum from Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Department of Education, to The Honorable Mary Fallin: Analysis of expenditures of districts on a four-day school week. (March 1, 2017). Retrieved from

From the Introduction:
With this analysis, we sought to determine whether district average expenditures decreased after the move to a four-day week. To do so, we used expenditure data from three years prior to the change in the weekly schedule and from the time of the change to the present. We included four types of expenditures where savings might be predicted in a move to a reduced school week: utilities, food, transportation and support staff.

Of the 16 districts, we discovered that nine spent more money, on average, after the switch to a four-day week. Eight of these nine districts also saw a decrease in Weighted Average Daily Membership (WADM). It is possible that the increase in expenditures for those eight districts may have been attributed to the increase in student numbers.

The remaining seven districts spent less money, on average, after switching to the four-day school week. Four of the seven saw a decrease in WADM, which may be attributed to the decrease in student number. Three districts spent less money while their WADM increased. Further study is needed to determine the cause of these savings. This report does not clearly indicate that the savings were necessarily caused by the switch to a four-day week.

When we combined expenditures of all 16 districts, we found that, on average, school districts spent $4,523 more on utilities, $2,714 less on food, $1,971 less on transportation, and $8,542 more on support staff after switching to a four-day week than they spent before the change in school schedule.

In conclusion, after analyzing each district’s expenditures, we can find no conclusive evidence to support the theory that four-day school weeks save districts money.

Plucker, J. A., Cierniak, K., & Chamberlin, M. (2012). The four-day school week: Nine years later. Education Policy Brief, 10(6), 1–8. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
As Indiana schools continue to face budget cuts and explore ways to reduce expenditures, some may consider the four-day week as an option. In 2003, the Indiana Education Policy Center (now CEEP) released an Education Policy Brief, The Four Day School Week (Chamberlin & Plucker, 2003). In the current brief, the discussion of the four-day week continues, including advantages and disadvantages of the modified schedule, the steps a school might take to make the switch, and recommendations for districts considering the change. Examples of districts that have made the switch are also included. This brief intends to provide information and guidance for school districts and policymakers considering the possibility of a four-day school week. The brief also reviews previous research that says there is no strong evidence that the four-day week has either a positive or negative effect on student achievement.

Tharp, T. W., Matt, J., & O'Reilly, F. L. (2016). Is the four-day school week detrimental to student success? Journal of Education and Training Studies, 4(3), 126–132.

From the Abstract:
School districts across the United States are implementing four-day school weeks. This study looks at the relationship between student achievement in the four-day school week compared to student achievement in the five-day school week. This analysis focused on a common-criteria referenced test given to all students over a period of seven years in a single western state. The study provided conclusive evidence that students in the four-day week did not perform as well, over time, when compared to students in the traditional five-day week settings.


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Four-day school week OR Four-day week, Schedule, Research OR Impact OR Study OR Effect

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.