Pro: Less instruction boosts performance and mental health
Having a three-day weekend every week could become the new reality for students.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a labor shortage, with CNBC stating that “some workers are feeling more empowered to prioritize their own well-being above their employer.” In April 2021, 4 million people quit their jobs in what is known as the great resignation because they believed that they could find higher pay, more accommodating hours and better working conditions elsewhere. In light of this, and wanting to catch up with other countries that mandate vacations for all workers, Democratic lawmakers in Congress endorsed a bill proposed by Rep. Mark Takano, on Dec. 7 that would implement a four-day workweek. If adults are getting a proposed four-day workweek, a similar schedule should be implemented for students as well, as it will aid mental health and performance.
The United States (U.S). in comparison to other countries has more instructional hours yet lower scores in reading, science and mathematics. A 2012 EducationWeek article states that the U.S. spends between 900 to 1,000 instructional hours each year in comparison to Finland’s 777, Japan’s 868 and South Korea’s 867 hours of instruction. However, despite the longer instructional time, according to a 2017 Pew Research study, the U.S. ranks 24th in science, 39th in math (which is nine spots below the average) and 24th in reading. So what is the U.S. doing wrong? A 2018 World Economic Forum article states that Finland spends less time on homework than any other student in the world, yet still rank within the top 15 countries in science, math and reading. Instead, they utilize the limited classroom time to focus on growing the students individually and academically, rather than waste time on busywork. By having a four-day workweek, schools are forced to condense the curriculum to necessary material and therefore help students become better prepared for their futures. Irvine Unified School District has already achieved a similar schedule last year, with Monday being a day to check in with teachers if students needed help. The previous schedule can be a reference for how our school week can be structured. Many students and staff found this to be a beneficial system to work on as it allowed both parties a buffer day to catch up on work and prepare for the upcoming week.
Students also experience just as much, if not more, stress than adults, and therefore should be given the same amount of rest. According to a 2014 American Psychological Association study, teen stress level averages top adults’ average by about 114 percent. The point for the push in American legislation was to promote workplace productivity by also encouraging mental and physical health. In doing so, why not extend the same practice meant to reduce stress in adults to the even more stressed teens? By having an extra day of rest in the week, students will be granted a more frequent break that allows them to rejuvenate instead of having their stress build up over a couple months before a two week break. This in turn will increase productivity and motivation to learn, especially when content is concise and purposeful, leading to even better academic performance and a holistic approach to working in and out of the classroom.
While some may say that having an extra day off will slow down learning in the classroom, having an extra day of rest allows students to come back to class ready to learn and more energized for the week. According to a 2016 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, children are often chronically absent from school due to health issues including mental health. In addition, a 2009 National Center for Education Statistics report found that students who attend school regularly have been seen to achieve higher levels than those who do not have regular attendance. Therefore, if given more time to work on their mental health, students will have better attendance, thus having better performance and academic achievements. Having the ability to physically and mentally recuperate will increase performance and quality of work, and therefore, a four-day workweek will likely encourage learning in the classroom.
Overall, having a four-day workweek will benefit students and adults alike, and should therefore be implemented. It forces the curriculum to focus on strong character and academic growth in students, as well as increase overall performance and well-being in students and staff by providing frequent breaks. In an age where mental health is being prioritized, this will be a much needed and appreciated change.
“I really like the idea of a four day work week/school week with that Monday being an online day, similar to last year. California law does require students to be in school 180 days, so for that Monday, I think we would need to have some type of online learning to ensure that we met the requirements of the state, but I do think giving students that additional day to get work done and to focus on projects and assignments that they have gives them more discretionary time on the weekend. I think the operating cost of school goes down when you are only open for four days and it might sound crazy, but running electricity and running water and power for school or for schools for the entire district is expensive. Reducing that cost would save tens of thousands of dollars a month that could be money spent in different ways to help improve education. So I like the idea of four days a week.”
Courtney Smith, social science teacher
Vy Nguyen is a senior and staff writer for El Vaquero. Nguyen is also a copy editor. This is her third year on staff.
Con: Condensing curriculums leads to inequity and exhaustion
In 1908, a New England cotton mill adopted the first five-day work week instead of the previous six-day week in history to accommodate its Jewish employees during Sabbath, according to an article by The Atlantic.
Since then, almost every United States employer has followed suit. On Dec. 7, the Congressional Prospective Caucus endorsed a bill by Rep. Mark Takano proposing a nationwide change from a five-day, 40 hour work week to a four-day, 32 hour work week. Following this proposed bill, the question of whether schools should adopt the four-day school week has risen. Schools should not adopt a four-day school week to maintain equity among students and avoid deterioration of academic performance.
Switching from a five-day school week to a four-day school week has proven to eliminate equity from campuses. According to a 2020 article by the National Conference of State Legislators, several school districts in Oregon already made the switch and were met with negative outcomes. Students from low income families, special needs students and those from minorities saw a decrease in academic performance following the loss of just one crucial school day. Students that needed the extra support for personal reasons were cut off, which was evident in their decreasing marks and test scores. To maintain equity and fairness among all students, no matter their family situation or other personal factors, schools must continue to uphold the current five-day school week.
Students already feel like their school day is too long, so the last change we should be implementing is longer instructional hours. Switching to a four-day school week would force districts to add another 1.5 hours to the already-long 7-8 hour days, according to a North Dakota State University study. While this addition seems insignificant, even a few extra hours in school impacts performance. According to an article by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, longer school days result in attention deficits and fatigue caused by mental exhaustion. This unproductivity leads to a dip in student performance, ultimately deeming the extra hours as “useless” and “ineffective.” Many Irvine Unified School District students and staff are already noticing effects in this school year’s extended schedule, so the only change we should be implementing is a shorter school day.
Some may claim that a four-day, in-person school week with an online or self-paced fifth school day would grant students time to catch up from the comfort of their homes while still reaping the benefits of in-class instruction. While this may seem like a good idea, 2020’s nationwide online-schooling has already highlighted the flaws of remote learning. According to a 2021 article by CBS13, one in every three students from California high schools failed a class last year. What caused these low marks? Loss of motivation. While somewhat beneficial for its flexibility, online-schooling and hybrid-schooling has proven to suck the joy from students and even encourage procrastination, academic dishonesty and disinterest, even from one online day rather than five. Students are tired from the pandemic and do not need a repeat of last year, especially when many are still catching up on their studies. For the sake of our grades and health, schools should stick to our current five-day, in-person school week.
Schools should not adopt a four-day school week to maintain equity among students, avoid lengthening an already long school day and stray away from 2020’s infamous remote learning model. Instead, schools should focus on promoting a more equitable, healthy academic environment.
“Depending on how it’s implemented and if the four days would have to be longer or not, I know some workplaces that do four days a week, and I’ve seen some studies in which they claim productivity has increased. But last semester, it was definitely very convenient in terms of not needing to commute. But it did make the loss of instructional time, which forced us to skip a few topics that were normally covered. So that was definitely a trade off. And in my experience, very few students used the online office hours time.”
Jeff Prugpichailers, math teacher
Maya Passananti is a senior and executive editor for El Vaquero. Passananti also leads the art team, is the viewpoint editor and a copy editor. This is her third year on staff.