Texas school districts adopt a four-day week to attract teachers in post-pandemic world

by mcardinal

Lauren C. Moye, FISM News

Education trends continue to shift in a post-pandemic world. Nearly 60 Texas school districts have now switched to a four-day school week to prevent teacher turnover exacerbated by COVID-19.

Texas-based KXAN reported that 59 districts have either already made the switch to a four-day school week or are planning to implement the change for the 2023-24 school year.

“Our why is simple and straightforward,” Paula Patterson, superintendent of the school district serving Harris County, said to The Hill. “We want to find, recruit and retain the best teachers in the state in the classrooms for our students.”

Harris County approved the four-day schedule for the upcoming academic year on Feb. 27. While primarily rural counties have made the change to a shortened week, this school district serves 6,500 students.

While some have noted that teachers have been leaving their profession at an alarming rate, Texas saw a record number of retirements and resignations in 2021-22. The Texas Education Agency found that the Lone Star state lost over 42,000 teachers in that academic year. The average usually hovers around 35,000 retirements and resignations annually.

KXAN found that a desire for better work-life balance or increased compensation was the tipping point for many of these teachers, especially as their workload and safety concerns both increased during the pandemic.

Teacher turnover disrupts a child’s learning ability and sometimes results in a loss of experience that harms the overall school district’s performance rate. By making changes to address teacher concerns, the school districts hope to become more competitive for teachers.

There has also been a notable drop in student attendance since the pandemic which impacts school funding in the state. Some districts hope this will improve attendance rates while also improving financial resources.

An additional seven Lone Star school districts are following a hybrid schedule that will see a shortened school week for designated weeks of the upcoming year.

The changes are allowable in Texas, where the school year requirement is based on a minimum requirement of 75,600 minutes rather than 180 days.

While four-day school weeks existed in some parts of the country before COVID, the acceleration of districts who are adopting it shows the pandemic has permanently altered opinions about the traditional school system.

Homeschooling – where a child is disenrolled from the public schools rather than just doing virtual schooling at home – also rose during the pandemic by 30%. A previous FISM report found that those students the public school system lost while enacting pandemic policies aren’t necessarily returning to the traditional classroom now that the policies are mostly rescinded.