Broward County schools weigh expansion of 4-day weeks in high schools

Program has been successful at Pompano Beach, magnet school, since 1997
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Posted at 1:36 PM, Dec 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-26 13:42:58-05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Broward County's school district is considering expanding offering high school classes four days a week instead of the traditional five because of the success at Pompano Beach High School, though some research shows there is a downside to the program.

At its Dec. 19 meeting, the board discussed the idea, including looking at facts from staff.

On Fridays, students are involved in internships, volunteering, mentoring students at other schools, taking optional courses such as SAT preparation or participating in extracurricular activities, Principal Lisa Spencer told the South Florida SunSentinel.

Pompano Beach High, which has been using the system since 1997, is the only high school in Broward County to rank among the state's top 25 and the nation's top 300, according to U.S. News & World Report's list of best high schools. It is a consistent A-rated school.

"Whatever they're doing, whatever the magic sauce is, we need to go there and see what that is, because it's working and students want to go to Pompano Beach High School," Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff said at the meeting.

No mention was made of how the plan plans to proceed.

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A 2014 report by NBC affiliate WTVJ noted: "Pompano High School started the four-day week back in 1997, and even though at the time it seemed to defy laws of standard economic physics, the experiment appears to be working out. Students appreciate having the flexibility to volunteer or pursue other extracurricular activities on Friday."

Pompano Beach High is a district-wide magnet school.

Classes run from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with as much classroom instruction as the traditional manner.

However, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in August requiring the instructional school day to begin no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools in the state beginning in 2026.

And there are possible other drawbacks to the change.

Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach tried the approach in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The school was consistently D-rated and dropped the model in 2023. The school has become mainly C-rated.

Ely is not entirely a magnet school and draws from low-income families and academically struggling students.

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A national study in 2018 found an increase in crime.

"Our difference-in-difference estimates show that following policy adoption, agencies containing students on a four-day week experience a 20% increase in juvenile criminal offenses, where the strong effect is observed for property crime," Stefanie Fischer and Daniel Argyle wrote in Economics of Education Review.

In 2022, an Oregon State University study found that 11th graders on the shorter week performed worse on standardized math tests than other students.

The study noted as of the 2018-19 school year, 1,607 schools nationwide — 1.2% of all K-12 schools — had shifted to a four-day week.

These are statistics before the pandemic forced school districts to opt the online learning

A 2017 report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health found "an extensive review of literature and stakeholder engagement on these topic areas was mostly inconclusive or did to review any clear-cut evidence to identify effects of the four-day school week on student outcomes — academic performance, food insecurity or juvenile crime."

Broward County school district staff noted the following impact and implications: family/students, community and municipality, transportation, bell schedules and the collective bargaining agreement.

Some schools nationwide are going to the new system as a way to entice teachers to apply for positions.

School officials in a rural school district in Texas opted to do what neighboring districts were doing to fill openings.

The Chiles Academy, a charter school in Volusia County, went to the method this school year. The school serves pregnant and parenting students.

Some states have put in effect bans or restrictions on four-day schools.