Since Oakridge went to the four-day plan in 2009, Kordosky has become an expert and a cheerleader. He’s been invited to districts from Alaska to Florida to explain how it works.
And he’s faced his share of criticism. Once, on an MSNBC news show, another educator called him “stupid” for promoting it. NBC news anchor Brian Williams introduced a segment featuring Kordosky a year ago with a clearly doubtful outlook: “Makes you wonder how this could be better for our kids.”
But the naysayers haven’t deterred Kordosky.
Sitting in his office on a recent weekday, Kordosky ticked off a list of its benefits — higher test scores, less absenteeism, fewer discipline problems, more time for families to be together, even improved school building maintenance.
One thing is noticeably absent on that list: cost savings.
“That’s not why we did it,” Kordosky said. “We did it to improve student outcomes.”
Across the country, the number of districts turning to a four-day school week appears to be growing. No single entity is tracking how many districts are embracing the shorter week, but some national groups put the figure at 120.
But in Oregon alone, an informal list kept by the Oregon School Boards Association indicates about 64 districts with four-day weeks this year, up from just 48 three years ago. But even that list is not complete.
Districts east of the Cascades with small student populations but big geographic areas long have used the four-day school week as a way to keep a lid on transportation costs.
But a host of Western Oregon districts are also on the schedule. Besides Oakridge in Lane County, Mapleton, McKenzie and Marcola have moved to a four-day week.
In Linn County, Harrisburg School District is in its second year of the new schedule. Sweet Home is partway through its first year, as is Reedsport on the coast.
Among the larger school districts to give it a try is Coos Bay, with 3,000 students.
There, some community backlash has emerged against the schedule, according to The Coos Bay World newspaper, and the school board plans to revisit the schedule next month, deciding whether to keep it, tweak it or abandon it.
The four-day schedule is getting a mixed reaction in Harrisburg, where a slim majority of parents has embraced it, according to a survey posted on the school district’s website.
The problem, Kordosky says, is that few people understand what the schedule can do, and what it can’t.
It’s hours, not days
Oregon law requires students to be in school for a certain number of hours — not a certain number of days — each school year: 810 hours a year for the youngest students, 990 for the oldest.
To meet that requirement on a four-day week plan, districts must lengthen the school day, with students starting earlier and going home later than they would on a five-day schedule.
With longer class periods, teachers can be more effective and student engagement improves, Kordosky said.
Students miss fewer days of school, and so do teachers, Kordosky said. Doctor appointments or other personal needs can be scheduled for Fridays when there is no school. Athletes who often missed class on Fridays when they traveled for competitions no longer have to make up missed work.
Kodorsky credits the schedule with improving student test scores, particularly in the second year of implementation.
A review of the district’s annual report cards since 2009-10 shows mixed results. Seventh- and eighth-graders saw improved math and reading test scores the first year of the new schedule, but scores slipped lower the following two years.
High school students improved reading and writing scores the first two years, but their most recent test scores slipped. Math scores improved the second year, but fell in the third.