Panel Paper: Effects of Four-Day School Weeks on Achievement: Evidence from Oregon

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Marriott Balcony B - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Paul N. Thompson, Oregon State University

In the wake of the Great Recession, many school districts were left scrambling to find ways to increase revenues and minimize costs in the face of rising budget deficits. For some school districts, especially rural school districts, four-day school weeks (FDSW) have been championed as a way to reduce costs, ease financial pressures, and better accommodate student activities. Currently, twenty-one states allow FDSW (NCSL, 2017) and while proponents often focus on the financial ramifications of these policies, very little is known about the academic ramifications. In fact, only one previous study (Anderson and Walker, 2015) has examined the effects of FDSW on achievement and no previous studies have used student-level data to assess the heterogeneous effects of these policies on various student subgroups or the mechanisms underlying the impacts of these policies on student achievement.

In this study, I examine the effects of FDSW on the math and reading achievement across different racial, socioeconomic, and special education subgroups. I use a data set of over 600,000 3rd to 8th grade students in Oregon from 2007-2014 that includes the math and reading test scores for each student in each of these years, student demographics, indicators of participation in special education, ESL, etc., and school-level teacher characteristics. I also examine mechanisms underlying the achievement effects using student-level data on absences and disciplinary incidents, a teacher-level data set that includes teacher characteristics and demographics for over 52,000 teachers, and an original data set of school day start and end times. I conduct a difference-in-differences (DD) type analysis, exploiting variation in the timing of adoption of these FDSW and students’ exposure to these policies across schools, school districts, years, and grades to examine the effect of these policies on achievement. This strategy exploits plausibly exogenous variation in the years in which some school districts operated with a FDSW.

This study is the first to use student-level data to assess whether the shift to a FDSW impacts student achievement. Preliminary results suggest that that student achievement declines following the switch to a FDSW, as math test scores fall by around one-tenth of a standard deviation and fewer students are likely to meet proficiency targets. Of even greater importance, it is the first study to identify differential effects of these policies on various student subgroups. Effects that suggest that certain minority or at-risk populations of students are more affected by these policies than more privileged students are of greatest importance, as they provide insight into whether these policies possibly mitigate or exacerbate pre-existing achievement gaps in these school districts. Preliminary results suggest that these policies may be exacerbating pre-existing achievement gaps in these districts, as minority, low-income, and special education students are the most affected by these policies. Ongoing work examines the mechanisms for these negative effects, including changes in overall instructional time, earlier start times, and differences in how the day off is used across these FDSW districts.

Full Paper: