The Four-Day School Week Is NOT Innovative: My twitter fight with Jenna Bush Hager

During the typical morning chaos to get ready for work and school, the newscasters from The Today Show babble on and on in our family room television. Hoda or Al are background noise as kids frantically throw lunch boxes into backpacks and Steve finds his train tickets. Occasionally, we’ll stop and listen if we hear something interesting. 

Last week, I poked my head into the family room, because one of the newscasters, Jenna Bush Hager was talking about schools, my policy speciality. Hager, the daughter of the former president, profiled a superintendent in Ohio, who was rolling out a four day school week for students, because he said that his teachers were burned out. On Mondays, students will conduct “self-learning” at home, while teachers will use that time to prepare for the rest of the school week. 

Hager said that 850 schools across the country were doing this, and it was okay because districts had figured out how to get free lunches to the kids and helped parents with childcare. She said one sentence about learning lag during the pandemic. Mostly, Jenna and the other newscasters seemed to love the idea.

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11 thoughts on “The Four-Day School Week Is NOT Innovative: My twitter fight with Jenna Bush Hager

  1. Daytime TV is mostly for the elderly and they don’t worry about schools much beyond cost.

    They also care about their home value, which is what keeps them paying the property taxes to support the schools.


    1. That depends on the town. Elderly voters in our town are not happy about increases to support the schools. The schools aren’t as good as those in towns with wealthy retirees.


      1. That depends on the town. Elderly voters in our town are not happy about increases to support the schools.

        This is where we run into the tyranny of the Central Limit Theorem. There are always going to be a critical mass of people on the rising side of the IQ curve, who are incapable or uninterested in seeing the correlation between paying $600 less in taxes every year and taking a $50-100K hit to their home value when the schools go south.


      2. Well, I would take issue with the assumption that they are stupid. For one, the schools are not well run. The school committee has made bad decisions for a number of years. So it isn’t axiomatic in this town that more money for the school budget will translate into better schools. Many families in town choose to send their children to the good voc-tech schools, parochial and private schools in the immediate area.

        I think this is changing, because more educated middle class families are moving into town. Once enough parents from this group volunteer to run for the school committee, we may see healthy change. Sadly, though, improving the schools will force out many elderly people and many working families who will not be able to keep up with the increased property taxes. I’ve seen it happen in our last town. If your retirement income was set 20 years ago, it often isn’t enough to keep up with the cost of living.

        I think some of the long term commenters on 11d likely live in the area, so may know about the issues.


  2. Instead of moving to a a 4-day work week, school districts should make the job of teacher less stressful.


    1. How many states can you supposedly be fined, sued, or criminally charged for not teaching the right thing?


  3. “Instead of moving to a a 4-day work week, school districts should make the job of teacher less stressful.”

    What would that look like, as a real question?

    The principal they talked to subtitled his approach with “Teaching is a dying profession”.

    The four day week is a method of giving the teachers fewer days in which they are responsible for the students (and, potentially, less work, if they don’t really use the time for prep work, or if in the five day model, they did prep work out of school).

    An example I can think of, of the higher demands on caretaking, is a teacher who told me that they now have responsibility for their elementary school students during lunchtime. Not mixing kids in the cafeteria started as a pandemic intervention, but now it has stuck and teachers don’t have a lunch break. And, now, many specialists come to the classroom, rather than having the kids travel to the specialist and teachers have greater responsibility for break times (because of difficulty hiring paraprofessional staff).


    1. I think the stressfulness of the job varies a bit by what type of school it is. Schools in upper middle class suburbs have parents who dog the teachers. Schools in poor neighborhoods have more behavior problems. Some schools require teachers to give students/parents their home phone numbers (shoot me now . . .). Some schools do not give K-5 teachers a tested, validated curriculum for certain subjects (including, incrediably, sometimes reading and math) but rather requre teachers to invent curriculum on the fly. These are all problems that it is within the ability of administrations to remedy, if they want to.


    2. I think the reasons for the stress varies based on what kind of school it is and all the teachers I talk to are at schools in metropolitan areas in the east and west (no rural, no southern, . . . .). But, the impression I’m getting is more stress everywhere.

      I’m shocked about the home phone numbers — which I would see as an invasion of privacy and a potential risk; but, I do know schools that have requirements of how quickly emails must be returned (I think I heard within 24 hours). The electronic systems are stretching the day for teachers, too.

      I think teaching have an upside, for some, that they are usually the boss of their classroom — there’s no day to day manager. But, a downside is that they are ultimately responsible, alone, and in person. The growth of jobs that are at home (so no day to day manager, at least one that watches them, as of now) and have the flexibility of timing when you work and when you take on other responsibilities (especially for women with caretaking duties) is going to have an effect on desirability of teaching for those with other choices.


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