Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shortening the School Week is a bad way to save money

Or, at the very least, it exposes how much of the school day is utterly wasted.
Some South Dakota Schools Cut Costs By Cutting a Day

By: Nick Carbone, Time magazine
It'll be a three-day weekend every weekend for many students across the Mount Rushmore state. As schools start to return to session in South Dakota, more than one-fourth of students in the state will only be in class from Monday through Thursday. Budget constraints have led the Irene-Wakonda school district, for one, to hack off a day from the school week. Larry Johnke, superintendant of the district in southeastern South Dakota, says the change will save his schools more than $50,000 per year. In order to make up for the missing day, the school will add 30 minutes to each of the other four days and shorten the daily lunch break.
So they add 30 minutes to each of four days and shorten the lunch break. That's explicitly stating that Friday is "worth" only about 2 hours.  In our school, there's a lot of assemblies and early dismissals for sports but I can't see the savings in this plan.  The long weekend is nice, but somehow you've got to have time in class.  I now note that weeks with holidays, like Veterans Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day rearrange the four days around the holiday so that lessens the hit a little -- total of 151 days of school.

Seat-time isn't the only thing that is important and no one can legitimately claim that increasing it will absolutely improve education, but I can't imagine making the argument that decreasing it will help either.
But other schools in the state show that kids haven't suffered with a shortened school week. The Deuel school district in eastern S.D. switched to a four-day week four years ago, saving more than $100,000 and leading to no slump in academic achievement. In fact, Deuel's superintendent Dean Christensen tells the Associated Press that their failure rate has declined because they've used the spare day for extra tutoring.
"Leading to no slump" seems a deliberate choice of words -- was there no improvement? Are they still as crappy as they were or as great as they were? If they can drop 15% of the time, were the faculty utilizing their time wisely in the first place?  Could they have gotten MORE done and made more improvements if they changed policies to encourage academics?  Using Friday for tutoring is a neat idea but seems a stop-gap. 3-day weekends do appeal, though.

Judging from the numbers, I'd guess there are about 25 teachers involved, so each probably gave up $1000 or so.  I hope the support staff didn't lose 20% of their hours in this.  Teachers are salaried employees and can withstand that hit, but paras and staff are hourly. That would be devastating to most of them. If these savings are entirely from the pay of the staff and paras, that's just crap.

This just in, and on the "let's make the day longer" side of the argument:

Chicago Public Schools plans to add 90 minutes to the school day and two weeks to the year.
Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard offered a 2 percent raise for elementary teachers, if the union agrees to longer K-8 school days in the coming school year. The union had agreed to accept a 2 percent raise.  This proposal amounts to a 28 percent pay cut, teachers complain. Chicago’s school day now runs from 9 am to 2:45 pm, one of the shortest in the country. Rahm Emanuel, the city’s new mayor, made extending the school day a campaign pledge.

Interesting how a longer day at the same amount gets called a "28% pay cut". Are all those teachers working an extra job in the morning? (That's assuming that the day will now start at 7:30.)


  1. 9:00 - 2:45?? Are you kidding me? Our school goes from 8:00-4:00. This morning I got to school at 7:00 and left at 5:30.

    What is interesting is that my first year, our bell schedule was 8:40-2:50. I can't remember when the day started lengthening, but I know its been 8:00-4:00 for quite awhile. Even with the longer day, I still don't feel there are enough hours in the day or enough days in the year to teach them everything they need to know to be successful at the next level.

  2. Maybe someday--and I say this as I feed my pet unicorn a treat--people will realize that education has much more to do with *culture* than it does with seat-time.