Monday, August 30, 2021

AV#236 - Colorado - #1 in schools on a 4-day week (and not proud of it)


Why we must have a study of the 4-day week in Colorado

Are we proud of this: to be #1 in the country in a practice without knowing its impact on students?

Two years ago the lead story in The Colorado Sun,* by one of the state’s most widely respected reporters, could have been a bombshell, if enough readers understood or worried about the implications. It began this way:

What has changed since then?

“Colorado now has more school districts on four-day weeks than any place in the nation—with little research on the benefits” 

Aug. 27, 2019 – Jennifer Brown


Money moved more than 100 districts to forge ahead with the largely untested strategy. Parents and teachers learned to love it, but nobody knows its impact on kids and learning.


   Colorado now leads the nation in the number of districts that have moved to four-day school weeks — 111 out of 178 districts in Colorado. Nationwide, about 600 districts have gone to four-day school. The vast majority are rural — and many of them poor — but also include Pueblo and Brighton, which with 19,000 students and 26 schools is the largest district in the country to hold classes four days instead of five. 

   Among education experts, the four-day week is seen as a phenomenon that’s taken off without much debate and ahead of any conclusive research. 

* (First of a 3-part investigation by Brown and other Sun reporters.)

Still true.        Still #1.

1. Colorado

2. Idaho

3. New Mexico

4. Oregon

5. Montana

Today 64% of our districts: 114 out of 178. And still NO research proving students benefit.                       **

"Nobody" IN OUR STATE "knows its impact," even as more districts go to this schedule. See the Oregon study, published  this summer (2-3); see the studies by other states (4-5).                                                           **

In Colorado, no debate—true? Any attempt to insist on research to gauge the impact?



Pages 2-3 – Findings from the Oregon study on the 4-day school week – published in Education Next, June 2021

Page 4-6 – Other states that have conducted studies and/or taken action around the 4-day week

Page 7 – Oklahoma leaders address shorter school week in context of education pre- and post-COVID 19

Page 8-14 – Why research on Colorado done years ago provides no solid evidence to support the 4-day week

Page 15 – Colorado: still “leading the nation”– number of districts, schools on 4-day week in six states

Pages 16-19 - Growth of 4-day week in Colorado (1980 – 2021) and current list of Colorado districts with 4-day week

Addenda A & B – A skeptical look at the one “positive” report on achievement in Colorado’s four-day schools

Addenda C, D, E – Co. districts with less than 150 school days. See other states. We can’t do better than this?

STUDY: The four-day school week in Oregon


Excerpts from “The Shrinking School Week”

Effects of a four-day schedule on student achievement

By Paul N. Thompson, Education Next, Summer 2021 - Data from 2004-2018

(Bold mine throughout AV #236)


I studied the academic performance of nearly 700,000 students in Oregon, where more than 100 schools in school districts facing budget shortfalls and attendance problems opted to cut instructional time instead of raising taxes or laying off teachers. My study looks at student test scores in reading and math over a 15-year period to see what happens when schools switch to a four-day week.

I find clear negative consequences for student learning when schools adopt four-day schedules. Although many schools start class earlier or end later during the four days they are in session, overall weekly time in school decreases by three to four hours. My analysis finds that, as a result of those reductions, math scores decrease by 6 percent of a standard deviation and reading scores decrease by 4 percent of a standard deviation.

Assessing Impact in Oregon

In this study, I examine the impact of four-day school weeks on academic achievement in math and reading. My analysis focuses on students in Oregon, where approximately one in 10 schools follow such a schedule…  I look at performance on annual statewide tests in Oregon for 690,804 students in grades 3 through 8, from 2004–05 to 2018–19.

Overall, students in four-day schools have lower standardized math and reading test scores compared to students in five-day schools. In math, about 61 percent of students at four-day schools pass annual tests compared to about 65 percent at five-day schools. In reading, about 68 percent of four-day students pass compared to about 71 percent at five-day schools.

There are some other key differences between four-day and five-day schools that could be contributing to the differences observed in achievement, however. Four-day schools have larger shares of low-income students, at 57 percent compared to 50 percent at five-day schools. White students make up 79 percent of enrollment at four-day schools and 65 percent of enrollment in five-day schools. Because they are predominately rural, four-day schools also have much smaller average student enrollments…

Impact on test scores. The clear differences between four-day and five-day schools suggest that simply comparing their achievement levels may not provide an accurate picture of the effect of the schedule change alone. To provide a better view, I look at how the achievement of students in specific districts changes when they shift from a five-day to a four-day week and compare those changes to contemporaneous trends in achievement of other districts that did not make the change.

Students earn lower math and reading scores on standardized tests after their schools switch to a four-day schedule. Overall, average math scores decrease by 5.9 percent of a standard deviation in math as a result of the switch to the four-day school week, while reading scores decrease by 4.2 percent of a standard deviation. That is nearly one-third the size of the impact of having a larger class size, and equal to losing 40 minutes of reading instruction and about an hour of math instruction each week….


In considering students by age group, I find that negative math achievement effects are most prominent in 7th and 8th grades. The negative reading achievement effects are more consistent across grades than math, but the largest negative impacts are also found in 8th grade….

I also track student test scores over time to better understand how switching to a four-day schedule affects achievement. There is a noticeable drop in test scores immediately after a school switches to a four-day schedule: in the year of implementation, math scores decline by 6.8 percent of a standard deviation and reading scores decline by 3.7 percent of a standard deviation.

After that initial dip, test-score performance tends to improve in subsequent years. This suggests that achievement losses ameliorate a few years after adoption of the four-day school week, but tells little of whether this is a feature of all four-day school week adoption (for example, students becoming more acclimated to the new school schedule) or driven by transitory four-day schools returning to the five-day schedule…. Four years after switching to a four-day week, students’ math scores fall by 8.8 percent of a standard deviation and reading scores fall 10.4 percent of a standard deviations compared to the year before adoption.

A Cautionary Tale

A four-day school week that reduces instructional time has a negative and statistically significant impact on student learning. Evidence from 15 years of test scores across Oregon show that student achievement drops when schools switch to a four-day schedule, and that those negative trends continue so long as five-day schedules are not restored. These detrimental achievement effects appear largely driven by reductions in weekly time in school, which decreases by three to four hours.




where (more recent) reports and studies on the impact of the four-day week have been published.


1.      New Mexico (2018) – 2018 data on student achievement


“Legislative Education Study Committee,” by Kevin Force and Abigail. Purpose: Explore learning time and the effects of a four-day school week. August 16, 2018. (11 pages) 

“… Colorado has the largest proportion of school districts with schools operating on a four-day week, at 98 school districts, or more than half those in the state…”

“Conclusion - Due to the general lack of empirical, verifiable evidence about the effects of the four-day school week, policy recommendations in this arena are problematic. However, states such as Colorado are experimenting more extensively with four-day school weeks, meaning more comprehensive and detailed data may be available in the near future.”


MY COMMENT: It seems reasonable that other states might expect Colorado, with the largest percentage of districts on the four-day school week, to conduct a study and offer useful data to others considering such a major change. Why is it that we have not taken this step?                                                                                                                 


2.      Idaho (2018)    



“4-Day School Week in Idaho,” Department of Education, State of Idaho. 2018. (Power point)

“There is a lack of evidence that the 4-Day school week helps or hurts student achievement.”


A news article, not a report, but a sign the press was paying attention (2015) 

“Four-day school test scores are inconclusive — but troubling,” Kevin Richert, Idaho Education News, Nov. 17, 2015.

“Advocates have no problem extolling the advantages of a four-day school week.

It saves districts a little money.

It improves student attendance.

It helps schools attract and keep teachers. It fosters teacher training and collaboration.

But when it comes to student performance, these same supporters choose their words cautiously.

They’ll say the switch hasn’t hurt student achievement.

It’s a tepid claim. The statistics call it into question.”


3.      Oklahoma (2017)


“Impact of a 4-Day School Week on Student Academic Performance, Food Insecurity, and Youth Crime,” Office of Partner Engagement Rapid Health Impact Assessment, Oklahoma State Department of Health, May 2017. (27 pages)


[Noted that in 2015-16] “an overwhelming 30 percent of Oklahoma schools received a ‘D’ or ‘F’ indicating below-average performance in which a substantial number of students are not meeting grade-level expectations. Given the status of reportable student outcomes in Oklahoma, the impact on academic performance is an important factor in the decision for a district to adopt a four-day school week.”

4.      Montana (2014)

“A comparison of student achievement in rural schools with four and five day weeks,” Timothy W. Tharp, University of Montana ScholarWorks at University of Montana, 2014. (71 pages)  (Achievement data from 2007-2013.)


READING: “During the testing in the spring of 2009 and every year thereafter, students achieving proficient or advanced status in four day a week schools did so at a lower rate than the rest of the state.” (p. 52)

 4-Day Week Schools versus Statewide Results (mostly 5-Day Week Schools)

Percent Proficient or Advanced 

READING (Table 8 – page 45) Reading Assessment for Grades 3-8 and 10


 Schools on a 4-Day Week

State of Montana – overall*


















MATH: “During the first year of implementation in 2006-2007, the students tested in four day a week schools outscored the rest of the state by a 70.5% to 64.2% margin. But every year after that, students in the state as a whole out-scored students in four day week schools by a growing margin each year. This percentage difference grew to over ten percent in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.” (p. 53) 

4-Day Week Schools versus Statewide Results (mostly 5-Day Week Schools) 

MATH (Table 9 – page 46) Math Assessment for Grades 3-8 and 10


 Schools on a 4-Day Week

State of Montana – overall*










SCIENCE: “…in 2011, the difference between test scores proficient and advanced from students in schools that had utilized the four day school week for more than five years was 3 percentage points lower than the statewide percentages of students proficient and advanced. In 2012, this discrepancy grew to 7.4% and in 2013 the difference grew to 9.3% with 52.6% of the students in schools with the four day week for over five years scoring at least proficient while students in the state of Montana had 61.9% scoring at least proficient.” (p. 54) 

4-Day Week Schools versus Statewide Results (mostly 5-Day Week Schools) 

SCIENCE (Table 10 – page 47) Science Assessment for Grades 4, 8, 10


 Schools on a 4-Day Week

State of Montana – overall*










*State of Montana – overall results - from Tables 2, 3, and 4 on pages 40-41.


that have taken steps to address concerns about the four-day school week.


by Georgia Heyward, Center for Reinventing Public Education, June 2018, 

Some states are implementing stricter standards of accountability. Over the past five years, we see a trend toward stricter accountability among some states, notably California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

* Goal of HB 1684 --  “to curb the use of four-day school weeks… a school year must be at least 165 days beginning in 2021 unless a district receives a waiver from the state Board of Education. To receive a waiver, schools must meet certain academic standards based on the most recent school report cards.”

• In 2017 the Oklahoma State Department of Education commissioned a study on spending in four-day districts and a research review about changes in academics, crime, and food insecurity. That same year, HB 1684* was passed, which required all districts considering a four-day week to submit a plan detailing the goals they hope to accomplish.

 • For the 2013-2014 school year, California passed Senate Bill 236, requiring four-day districts that don’t meet academic benchmarks to abandon the schedule. 

• In 2014 the Minnesota Department of Education ordered seven four-day districts to return to a five-day schedule after they didn’t make adequate academic progress. Starting in the 2018-2019 school year, the state will no longer accept applications for new four-day week districts.

* “…four-day scheduling started spreading so quickly across New Mexico that lawmakers have placed a moratorium on the practice until state leaders can study its impact on student performance and working-class families.”

“The four-day school week: Research behind the trend,” Oct. 20, 2019.

                      • In February 2018 New Mexico* announced that it would use a state funding bill to put a moratorium on the four-day school week. Other states have had accountability structures built in. In Washington state, HB 1292 requires that districts request a state waiver if they want to operate on a four-day week. The waivers are reviewed every three years and will be revoked if students aren’t making adequate progress. Utah has a similar policy in place.

A small number of districts reinstate a five-day week schedule. In the 1930s and again in the 1970s, states tried out the four-day school week on a provisional basis. South Dakota, Maine, and Washington all had districts that later abandoned the four-day week. [This report then presents] recent instances when districts attempted the four-day week but later reinstated a five-day schedule [in Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, and South Dakota]. 

In our 2015 interviews with rural superintendents, [they] said that the schedule fundamentally altered the community’s way of life, and that because of its popularity among teachers and families, it was difficult to return to a five-day schedule. However, there have been recent instances when districts do go back to five-day schooling, proving that it doesn’t have to be a permanent move if the schedule doesn’t deliver the benefits educators had hoped for.    




Oklahoma – Nov. 23, 2019 (pre-COVID)“No fact embarrasses Oklahomans more, or repels prospective businesses more, than the number of cash-strapped districts that have gone to four-day weeks.”  “Oklahoma’s schools - Five into four,” The Economist, Feb. 3, 2018.


From “State defines line it would draw for allowing 4-day school weeks,” by Jennifer Palmer, Oklahoma Watch, Nov. 23, 2019.


   In the past few years, school funding woes and a growing teacher shortage led many districts to adopt a shortened week while still meeting the mandated hours. 

   The trend has placed Oklahoma in a national spotlight, and drawn the ire of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who said in an op-ed article that “forcing the academic year into fewer, and longer, days with extended weekly gaps in instruction does not create an optimal learning environment for our students.”  

   Most states require 180 days but many also allow 1,080 hours, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Four-day school weeks have proliferated in a few states, particularly Colorado, where more than 60% of school districts now use a shortened week. 


Oklahoma – Jan. 28, 2021 (looking ahead to post-COVID)


From “Four-day week survives new law,” by Ray Carter, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Jan. 28, 2021.


   Board members also stressed that four-day school weeks are not sufficient in most cases and that Oklahoma lags far behind most other states when it comes to the length of its school year.

  “One hundred sixty-five is, frankly, a fairly low standard,” said board member Jennifer Monies. “When you look across the country, many other states go 180 days as their minimum.”

  She added that requiring 165 days of school “is not a hard ask.”

   “By anyone’s account, I think, assessing this, we need more time, more days, than fewer,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister..

   Because of that lack of consistent, quality instruction [last year due to COD-19], experts believe many students have fallen below grade level in learning since last spring. That fact was stressed by Monies, who noted “a lot of our students” will “very likely start” the 2021-2022 school year “significantly behind.”

   Monies said helping those students catch up will require districts to “really look at their calendar and say, ‘How can we find a way to make sure that students are in school in meaningful instruction for at least 165 days.’”

   Hofmeister also said schools that provide shorter school weeks composed of longer days will be less likely to benefit students who have fallen behind.

   “There comes a limit,” Hofmeister said, “and younger children can’t sit in a school all day long and expect to have big gains when there are big windows of time where they are out of school.”



Research on Colorado schools using 4-day week schedule: dated and of dubious value

The research often referenced about Colorado districts and schools on a 4-day schedule is neither recent (data gathered are from 2011, or earlier) nor reassuring.

The four studies of Colorado schools on a four-day schedule were published in 2011 (two reports), 2015, and 2016. NOTE: Student achievement and growth data in these reports are at least ten years old, and come from a state assessment we stopped using in 2014.  Study #1) CSAP results in 2000-2010; #2) CSAP results in 2008; and #4) CSAP results in 2010 and 2011 (proficiency and growth).

Based on my review, I do not see how anyone can make the case, in 2021, that we have evidence that the four-day school week is proving beneficial to student achievement in Colorado.


From “Four-Day School Week Overview,” by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver, CO, April 1, 2020.

What the Research Says

Education researchers have pointed out that little is known about the effects of a four-day week on student outcomes. While large-scale research studies have yet to be performed, some state-specific studies have been published. The results are mixed; one study of students in Colorado [STUDY #1] showing a statistically significant improvement [I QUESTION THIS, BELOW] in math scores among students on a four-day schedule, while a similar study found no significant differences in student performance.  [STUDY #2]


A recent study in Colorado revealed another potential negative consequence of four-day weeks: increased juvenile crime.  [STUDY #3] The authors estimate that shifting to a four-day schedule increases juvenile arrests for property crime—especially larceny— by 73 percent, but there was no change in drug-related or violent crimes. The increase in property crime was observed on all days of the week, not just spiking on the day when school is not in session.


Let’s take a closer look at these three studies. In my opinion, when it comes to gauging the impact of the four-day school week on student achievement, none of these are meaningful for us here in 2021.                                                                                                                                

[STUDY #1]  Published July 2015 – Data from 2000-2010, CSAP. (34 pages)

“Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week?” by D. Mark Anderson and Mary Beth Walker, Education Finance and PolicyJuly 1, 2015.

Numerous articles from around the country cite this study with its “reassurance” about the impact on learning. It has allowed others to say Colorado has a positive story to tell on its experience with the four-day week—even if this report only looked at 4th and 5th graders, well over 11 years ago. The report began:

From Abstract: “Our results generally indicate a positive relationship between the four-day week and performance in reading and mathematics. These findings suggest there is little evidence that moving to a four-day week compromises student academic achievement. This research has policy relevance to the current U.S. education system, where many school districts must cut costs.” 

It concluded:

“… we find a positive relationship between the four-day school week and the percentage of students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels on math and reading achievement tests. These positive effects, combined with robustness checks designed to address selection bias, suggest there is little evidence that switching to a four-day week harms student performance.” 


NOTE: Doesn’t compromise achievement. Little evidence it harms achievement. A ringing endorsement?


The more one examines this study, however, the less convincing it is that we can be sure of this “positive relationship.” Addendum A provides more reasons to object to this claim. Here are a few key concerns:


·        Data used for this research is from CSAP test scores from 2000-2010. Colorado stopped using CSAP as a way of measuring student performance back in 2014. (See Addendum B: CMAS scores, 2019)

·        No middle or high schools were included. As the report noted: “… this study looked only at fourth and fifth grades math and reading.” No data on the impact for students in K-3 or 6-12.

·        It compared results – in (only) 14 schools - for one grade (4) in one subject (reading), 2000-10.

·        It compared results – in (only) 15 schools - for one grade (5) in another subject (math), 2001-10.

·        There is no look at the long-term impact of the policy. (See page 5—Montana’s study, 2007-13.)

·        Its conclusion about a “positive relationship” between the four-day week and reading performance is dubious. I received help in asking a research and evaluation consultant to look at the study. She found support for the reading claims “a bit blurry.”

·        How solid is the conclusion about better math results, when it had to “drop five years of data”?

·        The final paragraph of the report admits to several limitations:

D60 working on details on switch to 4-day school week, beginning in August,” by Jon Pompia, The Pueblo Chieftain, 3/28/2018

  “Money savings and community support aside, board member Taylor Voss pressed [D 60’s Human Resources executive director of human resource] Eric DeCesaro for specifics on how the four-day week is “good for kids.”

  There is, Voss was told, limited research information available on the matter.

  “It’s kind of a non-factor as far as performance goes,” DeCesaro said of the four-day week. “Neither positive or negative.”

On what basis did DeCesaro assert this? Any evidence of this claim for “larger and more urban districts” like Pueblo 60 or District 27J?

Lastly, a key issue for consideration is whether our results generalize to larger and more urban districts. Our empirical results are limited to impacts for smaller and more rural districts—a wider adoption of the policy across more densely populated areas would be required to allow for understanding of the effects. A further caveat is that the policy has been adopted mostly in less affluent school districts. There has been some discussion that the four-day school week would not work as well in urban areas because of issues concerning the increased demand for child care, special needs students, and delinquency.”


Addendum B: My updated (2019 data) look at achievement results in 11 of the schools in that 2011 study.


[STUDY #2]  Published 2011. Data from 2008, CSAP. (9 pages)

“The Four-Day School Week: Impact on Student Academic Performance,” by Paul M. Hewitt and George S. Denny, University of Arkansas, 2011.


“Variables  -The independent variable was the district schedule, that is, a four or five day week. Outcome variables for each district were the total percent of students classified as proficient or higher on the criterion-referenced examination scores for 2008 at the elementary, middle grades, and high school levels for all subject areas as posted on the District and School Performance Reports from the Colorado Department of Education website (CDE, 2009).”


“Results - For the combined analysis the mean levels of overall achievement were not significantly different between four-day districts and the matched five-day districts at any of the three school levels (Table 1). At each level, the five-day districts had slightly higher test scores than the matched four-day districts, with the greatest difference for elementary level students. For the separate analysis by level and subject area, Writing scores were significantly higher for elementary students in five-day schools (60.44) than those in matched four-day schools (54.57). The other comparisons found no statistically significant differences, although 8 of the 9 tests found higher scores for the matched schools with a five-day school week.”


From Discussion 

This study focused on student academic performance in reading, writing, and mathematics at the elementary, middle and high school levels to investigate if a four-day school week affected student performance. The results revealed no statistically significant difference in overall student academic performance between students on a four-day week and students on a five-day week, with the exception of writing at the elementary school level. However, there were differences in performance that should be reviewed.

Although almost all the test score differences were not statistically significant, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, mean scores of students on the five-day week were slightly higher in 11 out of 12 areas than their counterparts on the four-day week. Standard deviations of mean test scores for five-day week students were also greater than their 4-day week counterparts in almost all areas, reflecting a greater variation in performance.”


From Conclusion

“The study examined the impact on student performance of a four-day week and five-day week schedule…. The question addressed by this study is; do students on the four-day week perform academically as well as students on the traditional five-day week? The evidence in this study was that the five-day schools did slightly better than the four-day schools, with 11 of 12 achievement results favoring five-day schools, and one statistically significant finding of higher elementary writing scores for five-day schools.”


MY ANALYSIS: As the NCSL summary put it (page 8, above), this 2011 study found “no significant differences.” And yet, where a difference was evident, it showed better results in the five-day schools. Nothing here shows that the four-day week is beneficial to student achievement.    


[STUDY #3]  Published 2016. No data on student achievement. (24 pages)

“Juvenile Crime and the Four-Day School Week,” Stefanie Fischer and Daniel Argyle, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, July 18, 2016.

From Abstract

“We leverage a unique policy, the adoption of the four-day school week across rural counties and years in Colorado, a school schedule that is becoming more common nationwide especially in rural areas, to examine the causal link between school and youth crime… Our difference-in-difference estimates indicate that switching all students in a county from a five-day week to a four-day week increases juvenile arrests for property crimes, in particular larceny, by about 73%.”


From Conclusion

“In this paper we show that the implementation of the four-day school week in rural areas leads to an increase in youth property crime, particularly larceny, while drug and violent crimes appear unaffected…. these results are informative in that they highlight the fact that policymakers should consider the unintended consequences before implementing such a schedule.”


MY ANALYSIS: While not addressing student achievement, the paper did reveal a significant problem: after switching to a four-day school week, rural communities in Colorado saw more youth crime.


[Like Study #3, one other look at Colorado’s four-day school week had a specific focus unrelated to academic achievement. “Adolescent Health Behaviors in Schools with 4- Versus 5-Day School Weeks,” Journal of School Health, August 18, 2020. Data collection funded by a contract from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.]

“Our study examined student health in 4 vs 5-day schools in Colorado, a state with one of the highest numbers of schools with a 4-day week.” 

From Conclusions: “Our study found mixed health outcomes associated with attending schools with shortened weeks. The findings may be related to longer school days and a non-contact day, but further research is needed.


The other study often referenced when examining our four-day school week was written by staff at the Colorado Department of Education – again, please note, ten years ago. Furthermore, as CDE reviews and determines whether to approve of district applications to shift to a four-day week,* its own report—even if it were more recent—does not bring the independent analysis that Colorado desperately needs.

(* See Four Day School Week Application Directions at:

“School districts operating a four-day school week (less than 160 scheduled days per school year) are required to submit a request (to CDE) for approval.

“CDE will review the additional materials for the use and prioritization of instructional time. The executive director of field services and the associate commissioner of school quality and support must recommend approval of the application before it is forwarded to the commissioner for consideration.”)


[STUDY #4] published 2011. Data from 2010 and 2011, CSAP.  (17 pages)

“A Comparison of Colorado School Districts Operating on Four-Day and Five-Day Calendars,” by Dianne L. Lefly, PhD, Director, CDE Research & Evaluation, & Jhon Penn, Executive Director of CDE Field Services, Colorado Department of Education, Nov. 2011.


From Abstract/Summary:

“This report compares the academic achievement and student growth of the four‐day districts to the academic achievement of five‐day districts of similar size.  Overall, the results indicate that both groups of districts perform similarly on the state assessments and that their students show very similar amounts of academic growth as reflected by the Colorado Growth Model.”

MY COMMENT: Perform similarly. How similar, in fact, when one studies the report? See growth.


Proficiency – Yes, similar.

Growth – Academic growth scores are similar in schools serving under 600 students; it is less evident for schools of 600 or more students. (Page 8 of the report.) “State average growth - always at 50th percentile.”

Schools with 600 - 1,200 students – Reading Growth Percentiles






























Schools with 1,201 – 6,000 students – Reading Growth Percentiles






























Add up the GROWTH GAP for students in schools of 600 or more: the total difference (-19 and +2) = -17.



Proficiency – Similar percentile proficient for elementary students (69%). But note the gap in the percent proficient for secondary school students. (Page 11 of the report.)






























Growth - Gains looked good in schools enrolling under 600 students. However, for the schools enrolling 600 or more students, growth was better in schools on a five-day schedule. (Page 13 of the report.) 

Schools with 600- 1,200 students – Math Growth Percentiles































Schools with 1,201 – 6,000 students – Math Growth Percentiles






























Add up the GROWTH GAP for students in schools of 600 or more: the total difference (-31 and +4) = -27.

MY ANALYSIS: In spite of the troubling data above (from pages 8 – 13), the final two paragraphs of the report stress “little difference” in achievement outcomes. And in closing, the report tosses out other reasons a rural district might choose a four-day school week. It even suggests “the research question” is a financial one. Why say that? When it has not resolved the primary research question it set out to explore.


     Overall, there appears to be little difference between four and five day weeks in terms of

status as reflected in percent proficient and advanced regardless of content area. There also

appears to be little clear difference in terms of median growth percentiles in either content area.  

   There are many other important variables to be considered beyond the achievement and

growth data.  One of the most prevalent reasons for school districts choosing the four‐day week

over the five‐day week is financial. The research question is whether districts actually save money by using this calendar. Primary savings as a result of being closed one day a week would likely be in transportation, custodial and utility services. Because these costs vary by district, the department may not be able to pull firm data without knowing local district variables.


Perhaps “little difference” is fair, as a generalization. Nevertheless, differences do exist, enough to make us insist that this is not a study we can point to, ten years later, and say there are no differences at all. Which seems to be the conclusion of many who cite this report.

This is clear: For districts that adopted the 4-day week, this study showed the impact to be detrimental for academic achievement in their larger schools. This should be another red flag for Colorado's School District 27J: over half of its schools enroll more than 600 students. 

Two final concerns - CDE’s “Four-Day School Week Information Manual


I find it troubling that CDE refers to this study—its own report— in its “Four-Day School Week Information Manual” ( The Manual waits until page 7 of its 8-page overview to address Student Performance – in all of three paragraphs. One paragraph restates the dubious conclusion made in this ten-year-old study that 4-day and 5-day week districts “performed similarly on the state assessments and that their students showed very similar amounts of academic growth.” I have shown why I do not believe this is completely true. Isn’t CDE guilty of putting in a plug for the four-day schedule, without sound evidence? And how strange is this: to see one district’s application (Dolores) for a four-day week quote CDE’s own report as a justification for the change.[1]                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Most disturbing of all, however, are the other two paragraphs.


The general feeling is that students do no worse on the four-day week than on the traditional schedule. If student performance is judged by satisfaction, then the results are very favorable.


Few districts have changed from five to four days with the expressed purpose of improving student achievement; it has not been a significant issue. 

(NOTE: The Dolores application for a four-day week quoted this final line as well!) 



I doubt anyone is proud to say that we lead the country in a practice we cannot defend. We have no evidence that it is good for student learning. If this “… has not been a significant issue,” isn’t it about time we make it one?

If you agree, let’s ask the Colorado Department of Education to commit to an independent study of this issue.

[1] Circular logic. If we quote you back to yourself, how can you deny our request!

In its application to CDE for the switch to a four-day school week, the Dolores School District quotes research for support of this change. The source of this research? CDE’s own 10-year-old report.

Q: Is there any research on student academic performance in schools that are five days versus schools that are four days?

A: The Colorado Department of Education provides this information:    

“The general feeling is that students do no worse on the four-day week than on the traditional schedule. If student performance is judged by satisfaction, then the results are very favorable. An academic comparison study of Colorado school districts operating four-day and five- day calendars was completed by Dianne L. Lefly, Ph.D., Director of CDE Research & Evaluation and Jhon Penn, Executive Director of CDE Field Services in 2011…”


COLORADO - We’re number one! Good news?


“Colorado leads the nation in four-day school weeks, but are they right for everyone?”

                                                     Headline of report by Russell Haythorn, Denver 7, Aug. 18, 2019


1.    2018 report

source – What Do We Actually Know about the Four-Day School Week?” Center for Reinventing Public Education, (published 2018)



# of districts on 4-day week

% of districts in state on 4-day week

Colorado (2018)

98 (out of 178 districts)


New Mexico (2018)

38 (out of 89 districts)


Idaho (2018)

44 (out of 115 districts)


Oregon (2013)

64 (out of 204 districts)


Oklahoma (2017)

96 (out of 544 districts)


Montana (2017)

62 (out of 440 districts)


*Data is from this school year.     **(CRPE reported 13%)


“Colorado has the largest proportion of public school districts with one or more schools on a four-day week…”                                                                                                                                                           “Four-Day School Week Overview,” National Conference of State Legislatures, April 1, 2020


2.     Still #1! More recent data. 374 schools. Almost 2/3 of our school districts.



# of districts 

on 4-day week

% of districts in state

on 4-day week

# of schools in state on 4-day week


114 / 178 districts




52    /   115



New Mexico[2]

37   /     89




80** /   197



(declined recently – was 156 in 2014)


84    /   496




83    /   509



*Number of schools from CDE, email, August 23, 2021.

**Some figures above – highlighted - come from the just published, “Are All Four-Day School Weeks Created Equal? A National Assessment of Four-Day School Week Policy Adoption and Implementation,” Thompson, Paul N., Gunter, Katherine, Schuna, Jr., John M., and Tomayko, Emily J. Education Finance and Policy, Aug. 11, 2021, Where I was able to gather more recent information/numbers from state departments of education, I have substituted those numbers.  

[1] Idaho – On four day week, 52 districts and 16 charter schools (2020-21).                                           

Summary (2007-2021) - › finance › shared › Li... - XLS1, Schools Planning a Four-Day School WeekSchools Planning a Four-Day School WeekSchools ... Blackfoot Charter School, 052C, Idaho Leadership Academy*.  115- Total number of districts:,from%20a%20parent%20or%20guardian.

[2] New Mexico – 37 out of 89 districts – source: New Mexico Department of Education, This state report also shows that 10 of its 41 charter schools operate on the four-day week.

[3] Oregon – Total of districts 197 – source: Oregon Department of Education.

[5] Oklahoma – 83/509 - Confirmed in email to me by Oklahoma State Department of Education, August 17, 2021. A news article from 2019 reports an even higher figure: 113 districts out of 525.

These are first 15 pages of AV#236.  Glad to send the full newsletter upon request. Includes pages 16-19 - Growth of 4-day week in Colorado (1980 – 2021), a list of Colorado districts with 4-day week, and Addenda.  (Make request to 

Many thanks to Ken Seeley for his invaluable help with this newsletter.