National Rural Education Association Official Podcast

S01E04 -- The Four Day School Week, Benefits and Disadvantages. An Interview with Dr. Jon Turner

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Rural Voice, Drs Pratt and Bigham interview Dr. Jon Turner, Assistant Professor of Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education at Missouri State University on his research regarding the four-day school week. In this episode, Dr. Turner discusses his research related to the benefits and disadvantages of the four-day school week and the various forms of implementation around the United States. Dr. Turner discusses the potential saving of the four-day school in terms of salary, gas, and utility expenses but cautions that many school systems refuse to lay off teachers or staff and therefore do not capitalize on the cost savings of reduced salary. Nevertheless, Dr. Turner suggests that the educational benefits to students are apparent and that many older teachers apply to work in such systems given the three-day weekend. Dr. Turner concludes by suggesting the need for equity of salaries of teachers within a geographic area would help attract talent to rural school systems when compared to urban or suburban salaries. For more information on Dr. Turner's research or research on the four day work week, please go to

Episode Transcription


Speaker 1: Welcome back to the Rural Voice, the national rural education association podcast. Happy to be here today, and I know that most of our country today is in primary election talks and reelection talks, and talking about all things rural here. Happy to be here with our co-host Dr. Jared Bigham and I guess our other co-host Dr. Chris Silver at the lovely campus the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the home of the National Rural Education association.


Speaker 1: I want to welcome our guest, Dr. Jon Turner from Missouri State, and we're going to talk about his research and talk a little bit about the four days school week that is so popular I guess you could say west of the Mississippi, correct? I think that's right. Dr. Turner, tell us a little about yourself, and thanks for being on our show.


Jon Turner: You bet. Good morning gentleman. I'm John Turner and I'm an assistant professor of educational leadership at Missouri State University, which is the largest college of education in the state of Missouri. Missouri State has more graduates teaching in Missouri schools than any other institution. It's located in Southwest Missouri in Springfield we also have satellite campuses several other places around the state. My background would be for the first 25 years of my career I was a rural education teacher in the public schools of Missouri, and then a school administrator, so I served Missouri's public schools, especially rural schools for the first 25 years of my career, and then six years ago I transitioned out of K-12 education and moved to Missouri State and I teach in the administrator preparation program to prepare people to become principals and superintendents. So that's my background.


Jared Bigham: Great. I'll tell you, this has been a fascinating topic for me for a long time going back to when we had the gas crisis I guess you would call it in the mid 2000s, early 2000s, and the price of diesel went up and so running bus routes and analyzing bus routes became a pretty important task that districts started to undertake and looking at ways we could save money, because you had some rural districts that just out of nowhere were having to double their transportation budget because of the price of fuel going up.


Jared Bigham: So I was tasked at that time by our superintendent to take a look at what a four day week might have a positive impact on our district and some ways we could save money if we went to a four day week, not only with fuel, but having buildings closed with no electricity and things like that. Other ways we could save money, but as I really started to research it, what I found was that districts might have started off with that premise in mind that we could save some money doing this, but then they started to see some benefits, some academic benefits, extra curricular benefits, and it transitioned to where districts eventually were going to a four day week not for the cost savings, but for some other ancillary benefits that they found there. That was my first introduction to it, so with that little bit of a preface, can you give us some more insight as to why some districts do four day week, and what seems to be the trend right now?


Jon Turner:

You know, the four day school week, although it seems like an oddity to us today, probably for our grandparents and our great grandparents generation it would not have seemed abnormal. Two of my four grandparents that were raised in rural Missouri attended one room school houses at districts that were four day school week back in the teens and 20s of the 20th century. The four day school week was very common to have a school Monday through Thursday, but as you mentioned, I think probably where it began to attract more attention in modern times was back during the era of oil embargo back in the 1970s and especially those school districts that had large geographic areas that were not running long bus routes, and of course heating fuel costs and things like that. You saw a number of school districts shift to the four day school week.


Jon Turner:

And then even here in the last few years you've had states that have had budgetary crisis, and the state has even mandated that school districts go to four day school weeks because of funding issues. I know that's happened here in the last few years in Hawaii and Utah where the state in order to deal with a budgetary crisis just forced schools to go to a four day school week and in those cases it was just for a temporary amount of time, but again historically it's not as unusual as it may seem to us today, and I think especially when I visit with those of you that are out in the east, it seems extremely unusual as we may have talked about already every state west of the Mississippi river allows the four day school week and we have four day school weeks at every state west of the Mississippi for a long time the only state that was the exception was Arkansas.


Jon Turner:

And this year, the very first school district in Arkansas which is in Kirby, which is in west central Arkansas, Kirby, Arkansas is the only Arkansas school district that has done it this year. I've been working here the last few weeks over with probably a dozen more Arkansas school that are looking into four day school weeks. We have it in every state west of the Mississippi, some people are surprised to know that some states, for example Colorado, a majority of the school districts in Colorado have four day school week schools. One thing that I did want to point out, and while it seems like whenever the four day school week gets attention we pay attention to the money issue, but our research that we've done here at Missouri state money rarely comes up in the discussion as the main reason that schools have shifted to the four day school week.


Jon Turner:

Maybe it's appropriate for me to just talk about some other research, a Paul Thompson another researcher out of Oregon State University, Paul's done some good work as far as trying to track how many four day school week districts there are in the United States, and it's a difficult thing to do, because in most states you don't even have to report the number of days the your school is in session. In most states now the state will require a certain amount of instructional hours, so when you contact the state agency to say how many four day school week districts do you have, they say we don't know, because they're just counting hours.


Jon Turner:

And by the way, that's the case here in Missouri now. The state of Missouri up until this year, you had to count the number of days, but this year, starting this year they just said 1,044 hours of instructional time, and that's all you have to have to count as an academic year and the state does not care how you do them, whether it be a four day week, a five day week or some type of hybrid calendar that would

change throughout the year. It is sort of hard to track the four day school weeks that Paul Thompson's research out at Oregon State, he's estimating about 1500 school districts in the United States are using the four day school week, and I think that's about right. It gets hard to track, but I think that's about right.


Jon Turner: Just this week, and we're talking in February of 2020 when we're recording this, just this week the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Educational Statistics just released new data on their estimate as far as shortened school week schools in the United States and they're estimating this is predominately in the Western mountain states, but they're looking in this research that's coming out from the U.S. Department of Education is saying for example in Wyoming, 19.5% of public schools are using a shortened school week. In Idaho 17.5%, Colorado 14.4% of schools. Again, that's another example of how this can be tricky, because Colorado 14.4% of schools are on the four day week, but if you look at school districts, we know that more than half of the school districts are on the four day school week so it's sort of tricky to track around, but again I just want to mention that money is not usually the main reason that people are transitioning to the four day school week, it's for other reasons that they're going to the four day school week.


Jared Bigham: When you say that money is not the main reason, is that the instigator that starts the conversation, or is there something else, because I know for us, when we were looking at it in some of the districts in Tennessee money was definitely what precipitated the conversation, then it got off into other paths that we could see some benefits. What starts those conversations in those schools out west?


Jon Turner: That is a key finding of our research is it's very state specific, and even I would say regions within a state specific. If you look at Oklahoma, which Oklahoma has seen very fast growth of the four day school week in Oklahoma it was driven about money, and some issues with the legislature and funding to the public schools in Oklahoma and a lot of the Oklahoma schools made the transitions specifically for money. But now come across the line in Missouri, and Missouri it may have started out being money. The longest four day school week district in Missouri is Lathrop, which is up in Northwest Missouri, up north of Kansas City. Lathrop is on their 10th year. They were the first school district that took the opportunity and back when Lathrop went to the four day school week in Missouri, they were, it was about general economics that we see at a lot of rural schools. Their student population was dropping and because of that and also some economic turmoil, the state of Missouri at that time school funding was slowing down.


Jon Turner: The legislature back in Missouri about 11 years ago said we don't have the revenue to push out more money to the schools, so we're just going to offer this as an option to schools to go to a four day school week, and if they can figure out how to make their budgets balance better, then go to it and God bless you. So Lathrop did it and a few schools did it there afterwards, but the first few years it was very slow and rolling out in Missouri. This again showed you how it can be so content specific or site specific. When Lathrop rolled it out they did cut for example non-certified teachers hourly compensation.


Jon Turner:

For example, custodians and cooks and secretaries may have gone from a 40 hour work week to a 32

hour work week, so they saved some money there. Obviously they're saving some money on

transportation, because the buses are typically running one day less a week and dealing with gas and

things like that, so they're saving some money there. Those first groups of schools in Missouri 10 years

ago and nine years ago, eight years ago they were saving some money because of the way that it was

rolling out, but this last group, and I will say the last 50 that have rolled out in the state of Missouri,

money is not part of the of the discussion directly, there's three main things I hear, and the biggest and

by far the most persuasive that we've seen in the state of Missouri is the challenge of recruiting and

retaining high quality teachers in rural school districts. I don't know really how it is in other states, but in

Missouri by the way the school is funded it's very difficult to ... The rural school districts just cannot

generate the revenue to keep competitive teaching salaries, so these rural schools of Missouri have

really struggled to attract and retain teachers. Once you go to the four day school week trust me the

number of applicants that you get for positions just skyrocket.


Jon Turner:

So that's the big one that we hear as far as these rural schools going to this four day school week in

order to attract and retain teachers, but we also have additional ones. Another one that is extremely

important to schools when they make the transition is as I'm sure you guys know many of the rural

teachers that we have in the country actually may not even live in the rural schools they teach in. They

may be living in suburban or more urban areas, and driving out to the schools to teach, so they may

have long drive times out to the schools, and that puts an additional challenge as far as collaboration

and professional development. When you go to the four day school week, then you've got built into the

calendar and extra couple of days, typically a month where you can focus all day on professional

development, that collaboration time and that's extremely possible with faculty.


Jon Turner:

I would say money savings as far as the list of things, I think it's probably going to be four or five on the

list of priorities at least within the state of Missouri.


Speaker 1:

So a couple questions, number one, I think you're looking at one of the things we were talking about is

teacher attraction as far as recruitment and retention of teachers, which you did hit on that. The other

part, are schools in Missouri using that extra day as professional development and training to support

those teachers, or are they not meeting on that fifth day? Has it become some kind of requirement or

how they're using it. Kind of talk about that.


Jon Turner:

Yeah, yeah, you bet. Missouri and in most other states that's typically the option of the school district

how they're going to utilize that fifth day. And in the state of Missouri most of the districts do two

professional development days a month. Typically by the way those are shortened days, while if they're

under regular teacher contract that's a school day they're probably arriving at school at seven or 7:30.

Those professional development days they may be not starting their professional development until

8:30 or something like that, giving teachers a little more time in the morning.


Jon Turner:

In most school districts in Missouri they're putting in two professional development days a month. For

example most in the state of Missouri, and this is really interesting too is that it's different state to state

what is the most popular day off. In the state of Missouri it's Monday is the popular day off. So most

school districts are off Monday, and so it might be the first and third Monday that they'll be doing

professional development. Again, it's the local school district option, and some school districts only do

one professional development day a month, but I don't know of any in the state of Missouri that do no

additional professional development. So that's part of the deal is that you're typically only teaching four

days a week, but you're still coming in at least once or twice a month for full days of professional

development and collaboration time things like that. But it is a local option. In most states the large

majority of school districts are doing additional professional development.


Jon Turner:

And in most cases, especially when schools transition here in the state of Missouri when they go from

the five day to the four day, most tell me that they're actually doubling the amount of professional

development time they have in an academic year with their staff.


Jared Bigham:

When I was looking at it, it seemed like you had to be really hard core if you're trying to do it to save

money on the power savings like making sure everything in the building's cut off, unplugged, you got the

thermostats turned down or turned up whatever the case may be, and that you're really trying to be

efficient about nothing being used basically on that day that you're off and so that was one of the

complaints that people saw that had done it to save money. It's like well yeah, you got some fuel

savings, but this projected energy savings we were going to have across buildings just wasn't there,

because you basically had to have somebody committed that day to go around and make sure that

everything was shut down, so it just didn't work out like a lot of districts thought it would.


Jon Turner:

Yeah, that's right. It almost never works out that way. And you think about here are the schools on a

four day week, and the fifth day you think it's going to be a quiet place, but that is not the case. The

schools there are still teachers up there even if it's not a professional development day preparing for the

classes coming up and there's ball practice going on and things like that. So especially that energy

savings, you won't see it, other than again the buses are typically going out one day less, and if you have

a large geographic size school district that can be a savings, but it's not going to be a significant savings

really when you look at the entire school district budget, unless you have a very large geographic school

district, and then you will save some money on diesel, but when I talk to superintendents, at least in the

Missouri context, you know at best they're saving one or 2%, and like you said, it's all in how you roll it



Jon Turner:

If you're really watching those thermostats and making sure lights are off and things like that, it may

happen, but just in the real world it doesn't happen that you're not saving money there. If you're going

to save money it's going to be because you're shortening for example your non certified staffs hours,

and almost no school districts do that.


Speaker 1:

So are there any groups in Missouri or anywhere else that are walking districts through this like a how to guide, a toolkit of how to do this? And how to successfully plan for the transition from five to four, or is Missouri state working on that as we speak?


Jon Turner:

Well, yeah we do it, and this was one of the examples of where you just sort of fall into something you don't know where your research is going to take you and then the next thing you know, you got another job. It's that back when I retired from the K-12 world six years ago and came to Missouri State, I think we had 12 four day school week districts in the state of Missouri. Again, it was just sort of a curiosity in Missouri, so we started doing some research with these first few districts that were doing it, and then we went from 12 to the next year we were at 17, and then at the next year we were up to 25, and then last year we were up to 33, and this year we're up to 61 four day school week districts, and we've already had an additional 24 vote to go to the four day school week next year.


Jon Turner:

So here with just a few years period, we've gone from a dozen in the state of Missouri, to next year we'll be probably over 90 and possibly up to 100 of our school districts being on the four day school week. So as part of that, we have developed a four day school week non formal collaborative, and by the way we have people that join our webinars, our conference calls from Arkansas, and from Kansas, and Texas, we've had some from Texas join in with us on the four day school week.


Jon Turner:

And so we hold monthly webinars that will discuss issues about the implementation of the four day school week, if there's things coming up in the legislature that would impact the four day school week, we discuss those things, we've also established a collaborative professional development program again in Missouri, most of the four day school weeks are off on Monday, so through our regional professional development center, which just happens to be located at Missouri state, we have a whole series of professional development sessions that we stream live, and so the four day school week districts can have their faculty join these live streamed webinars on Mondays and they'll cover a wider variety of topics from English language learners, to special education topics to blind and low vision all different curricular areas as far as different types of instruction. So we stream those live from the regional professional development center, which is all the agency for teaching, leading and learning at Missouri state.


Jon Turner:

But all of those things just sort of happened organically. Even the things as far as the map. That was one of the things when we first started this. Everybody would call me and say, "Do you have a map of the districts?" We maintained the map and it's just sort of grown informally. Let me give you an example of here, again I mentioned that Arkansas as far as [inaudible 00:20:59] west of the Mississippi, Arkansas for a long time was the only state that didn't allow it, and then like I said, Kirby, Arkansas is the first one to jump on board out of the state of Arkansas. So here just even in the last few months I'll get phone calls from school boards along the state line between Missouri and Arkansas and I'll go down and do presentations in workshops with those school districts and then when they finally make the decision that they'll transition, they often call me and say, "Can you set up some visits to four day school week districts?" And so we identify the four day school week districts along the Arkansas Missouri border and then they come across the state line and visit these schools and do implementation.


Jon Turner: But yes, there are, I think probably what we have in Missouri it seems to be the most organized, because like I said, we have people that join our group, even though we're primarily focused on Missouri we have four day school week districts from Arkansas, and Kansas, and Texas, Oklahoma, definitely Oklahoma. A lot from Oklahoma that join our conferences and webinars, and we do a newsletter also, I mean I got a phone call here about a month ago from school district in South Carolina that was wanting to explore the option, and so like I said, it's pretty informal, but it's really surprising how it has grown.


Jared Bigham: So do you see any districts that end up walking back their four day school week? I know there was a district in Georgia this past school year that was on a four day school week and the board almost arbitrarily went back to a five day week, and I know a lot of the community was upset about it, because it seemed to be working there in that community, so do you see people going back to five day week?


Jon Turner: In the state of Missouri, again this year, we have 61 four day school week districts, and just to give you some context, there's 518 school districts in the state of Missouri, and we currently have 61 four day school week districts, and in the history, and I think I mentioned earlier that it's been an option in the state of Missouri for 10 years, we've only had one school district that voted to go to the four day school week that voted to go back, and that was the Lexington school district, which is a suburban school district right outside of Kansas City, and they are the only one of the 62 in Missouri that have been re­molded to have gone back.


Jon Turner: But as you mentioned, let me jump across the state line into Oklahoma, and the numbers drew much faster in the state of Oklahoma, and just this year, the state of Oklahoma has been looking very carefully and closely at the four day school week. I know that the state board and the state board of education and the commissioner of education Oklahoma have just here within the last month or so have pushed out a recommendation to the legislature that will greatly curtail the number of four day school weeks allowed in Oklahoma. And if it passes through the legislature, and if it's signed by the governor in Oklahoma they're talking that it will reduce the numbers only about 25% or maybe even less the school districts that are currently four day school weeks in Oklahoma if the new rules get through Oklahoma with only about 25% would still be allowed to use it as an option.


Jon Turner: But as you mentioned, part of my claim to fame at least in the state of Missouri is that I've visited every one of the four day school week districts, and they are on every corner of the state from the Iola state line to Arkansas, to Mississippi river to the Kansas state line, they are everywhere. And last year I visited all of them except for one, but over 4,000 miles on the truck.


Jon Turner: And so when I sit down and interview superintendents and principals and one of the questions I ask them is od you think that there will ever be a time that you transition to go back to the five day week and I've never had one tell me that they think that's going to happen, and usually the response is if I suggested to go back to the five day week, I would probably be run out of town. So it's very popular

when it comes on board, or when it rolls out in a school district, and again, you just don't see schools going back, unless some kind of state agency forces them to do so.


Jared Bigham:

Let's talk about the academic side for just a minute, because I know again when I was doing my research and this is a little over a decade ago, districts by in large didn't seen any downturn in their academic achievement or academic growth. It pretty much stayed flat lined, so they could justify we're definitely not losing any ground, we may not can show that we're gaining ground through a four day week, but we're definitely not losing ground, so why not enjoy the benefits of the four day week while also maintaining the same academic achievement and growth. Of course that was a decade ago, and you're much more you're knee deep in it, so give us some of that perspective.


Jon Turner:

Well, and I agree with you. I don't think that has changed that much over the years, and the reason it gets a little tricky when you look at the research on how it's impacted academics is I'll go back and again refer to Paul Thompson's work out of Oregon State. He looked at the academic impact on the four day school week in Oregon when they were rolling it out in some districts and he found a negative academic impact, but in his article, he notes that when those four day school week districts in Oregon rolled it out, they did not maintain equal amount of instructional time. So when the school districts went from a five day week to a four day week students were losing instructional time. At least in his research, he's saying it's probably related to that, that there's less instructional time when they made the transition.


Jon Turner:

That's the outlier in most states when you transition to a four day school week. In most states when you transition to the four day day school week, you have to increase the number or hours in the day in order to maintain the same number of instructional hours. So in those cases, again that's most states, the transition to the four day school week, you have to keep the same amount of instructional time, that means they're probably extending their school day maybe 25 to 35 minutes in order to maintain, and I think you're right that overall the research on that says that it's pretty much a wash.


Jon Turner:

There is some really interesting research out there that says you'll see an academic bump, especially in years two, three, and four, but I think most of that is tied to really intensive professional development. Like I mentioned earlier, many school districts are doubling the amount of professional development collaboration time they have in a school year when they transition to the four day school week, so teachers are able to work together, really focus on curriculum issues, and instructional strategies, and things like that, that wouldn't have been there in the five day week, so you've got that, people are really focused on it, and one of the unexpected consequences that is humorous when you think about it, but I'll ask when I sit down and do my interview with superintendents that have rolled this out, and I'll ask them what are their unexpected consequences, they'll say you know, and I hear this all the time, one of the unexpected consequences is when we do that state mandated testing it takes longer, and when I first heard that I thought how does that happen?


Jon Turner:

And so you ask the followup question and they'd say the kids are so focused on doing well on the test, because we told them if our academic scores go down, we're going to go back to the five day. The

students are really invested in making sure that they fill in every little bubble that they need to, and they write in every little narrative that they have, because they're so strongly invested in this, and by the way their teachers like it a lot too, so they're probably being a lot more enthusiastic on that state testing than normal. I agree with you, I think overall I tell people it's a wash, if you maintain the instructional time, we do not see any districts that have had a negative academic output. And again, there is some research out there that says the first few years, you're going to see a bump, but again we think it's probably tied to that additional professional development and collaboration time.


Jared Bigham: What about the pushback on parents trying to find something to do with their kids on that fifth day? I know that came up in my research, and even as I was looking at some things this morning about it, it's how do you get babysitters or activities or things for your kids to do when you don't have school to be the built in babysitter, and a lot of times what I found was anecdotally they said we just work it out. It works itself out just like they find babysitters in summer and holidays that there's no set formula for it, because each communities different, but it just works itself out.


Jon Turner: Yeah, you know and in our research that we did with families, there are some cautionary notes in this. I don't want to make it all daisies and roses here, there are some cautionary notes here is that about 15% of parents report that they really struggle with childcare issues and I know from this podcast it's not going to come as a surprise that rural American struggles to find high quality childcare for families, and so we know that's part of the nature. It's very clear that about 15% of the families really struggle with that, but as you mentioned the most places seem to just figure it out, and the common theme that I hear at schools is when you start talking about it, everybody's concerned about childcare, but they're not concerned about childcare for their child, they're just generally concerned about childcare for other people's children.


Jon Turner: I hear this all the time is that schools are going to go to a four day week, they establish the school operated childcare option on that day if parents will bring their kids in they'll run a program there, but when they do that and go to the five day, you may have a few attend there at the beginning, but then by the time you get to Thanksgiving in the first year of the four day school week the kids stop showing up, even those that have struggled to find childcare, by the time they get to Thanksgiving, they figured it out, and so it's not become a problem again, again that's one of the things I hear I remember Shannon Snow who's a superintendent at Stockton, Missouri here she told me that she says, "Everybody's worried about childcare but it's not for their children, it's for other people's children." And she's not saying that to be mean or sarcastic, she's saying that but everybody's concerned about kids.


Jon Turner: And so we're trying to think of things, but when it actually plays out, it only is really impacting about 15% of the families that are saying that they're challenged, and let me go a step deeper to show you that there are some areas and those concern if you look at those parents of those 15% that are struggling with childcare, it's two different groups. It's parents that only have early childhood aged kids. So they're parents that only have either a kindergartner, first grader or second grader. You can sort of play the dynamics out there. If you got a middle school or high school kid alone with younger kids, you

may have built in childcare within the family, but if you only got kindergartners or first or second

graders, that makes it a little more difficult to find childcare.


Jon Turner:

And then the second group that struggles with it are parents that have special education students,

especially those that have behavioral disorders. While for example it may be relatively easy to find

childcare for a child, it's going to be much more difficult to find childcare for a child that has a behavioral

disorder. So again, there is some complexity in there and work out, but one other thing I'll mention on

that is many school districts in the state of Missouri of the 61 that we have, I only know of one district

that operates a school district operated childcare on the day off and that's Clinton County up at

Plattsburg, Missouri up in Northwest Missouri, they're the only one that I know of, but there are some

of the others that will partner with other agencies like if they're lucky enough to have a boys or a girls

club or a YMCA, some of them do them with area churches, and again they just negotiate something

that again for those families that really struggle that they'll try to work with partner and agencies to

establish some kind of childcare to watch kids.


Jon Turner:

But again, some of those things that people talk a lot about, focus on, but when it actually plays out,

people seem to find a way and it doesn't turn out to be as big a problem in most cases.


Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think for the most part if you were kind of looking at this as a superintendent in a rural district,

kind of give us the two reasons you would go to a four day week.


Jon Turner:

Well, there is no doubt that you will recruit and retain more teachers. One of the surprising things when

I sat down with superintendents, I'll ask them what was an unexpected consequence of doing this, and I

think most of the superintendents when they start to do this they think I'm going to get more young

teachers right out of college that will apply for positions that may not have done it before, but when I

ask them about unexpected consequences, they often tell me one of the unexpected consequences is

we were getting more applicants, but it wasn't beginning teachers, it was veteran teachers. People that

are in years 20 and 25 of their career that again many of these small rural school districts can't compete

as far as salary, but when you get to a maturity level and you're hearing that you only do a four day

week instead of a five day week, that's very attractive.


Jon Turner:

That's one thing that's an unexpected consequence is you'll attract and you'll retain teachers longer, and

many of the teachers that you'll attract will be veteran teachers, not beginning teachers that are just

coming into the field. So it really changes the whole perspective of that job market with rural schools

and that again it really you'll push up the applicants, but again you're going to keep them longer, and it's

highly motivational to teachers. So that's the primary thing, and then of course the second part is how

are you going to use that professional development? If you really are going to dive deep and really do

extensive collaboration work and professional development work and curriculum work and things like

that, it's a really wonderful opportunity to really dive deep on refining the profession of teaching.


Jon Turner:

And the third one would be, and it's not something we've talked about yet is that some of these school

districts are doing some really innovative things on the fifth day off. Things like job shadowing

opportunities that may be difficult to do in rural context, because you don't have a lot of businesses that

can partner with you locally, a lot of these school districts are doing on the fifth day they're taking their

high school kids to cities and allowing kids to do workforce development things at things like medical

centers and businesses and industries and things like that, so even at Missouri State we're collaborating

a whole series of college credit dual enrollment classes that we're streaming out live on Mondays again

most school districts are off on the day on Monday in Missouri and so Missouri State, we've created a

whole dual credit program where the classes are run just on Mondays.


Jon Turner:

And so the kids, while they're officially not in school they can either come into the school, or if they're

lucky enough to have internet access at home, they can join and take dual credit courses on that

Monday off too. Again, if you're doing it, that fifth day can be utilized for a lot of things that are really

difficult to pull off within the rural school context, and so it can be a really interesting and exciting time

as far as offering new things for kids.


Speaker 1:

So we'll go to our last question, I'll let Jared tee it up, but this is since you said a difficult situation, we'll

go to the last question on you're changing the world here, so go ahead.


Jared Bigham:

Yeah, I always call this my Harry Potter question, if you had Harry Potter's wand, and could do one thing

with it in rural education, whether it's around four day school week or anything else, what would you

use that one opportunity to change a dynamic in rural schools?


Speaker 1:

Without adding more-


Jared Bigham:

Yeah, no more waves of the wand. You just get one wave of the wand.


Jon Turner:

Well, and again I have to be careful on this, because I understand that I work for a state institution at

Missouri State University, that's the state institution that sets policies for the public schools in the state

of Missouri, but one of the things that again reflecting on my career, and you all will understand is that

at least the way it is done in Missouri, we do not have allocated as far as resources for our rural schools

that are comparable to the suburban and urban school districts. So for example, a rural school teacher

may make a salary that is 10 and $15,000 less per year than a suburban teacher that is 20 miles away

from the rural school. And so by traveling 20 miles, you can get a $15,000 pay increase. There is no way

that's sustainable long term in order to keep teachers, high quality teachers in rural areas, unless they

have the heart of Mother Teresa. You cannot just go through and take a vow of poverty to continue to

teach in rural schools, because that pull is always going to be going to the suburban areas.


Jon Turner:

So I guess that if I could wave the wand, I would say in Missouri we talk about equity, if a teacher's teaching in a rural school and 15 miles away they can go to a suburban school and make $15,000 pay raise, that's just constantly going to continue to be that way, and so I think that whole discussion of equity is something that has to be discussed as I mentioned earlier, many of our rural school teachers live in suburban areas, and they drive out to our rural districts to teach, they want to be there, they like to be there, but again they shouldn't have to take a vow of poverty in order to commit their careers to rural education.


Jon Turner:

If I can change one thing, I think that would probably be it, because I think that's obviously going to drive instruction too. If you're keeping and maintaining mature, highly qualified teachers, keeping them in rural areas, that's going to directly impact instruction that kids receive, and if you're constantly just a training ground for people right out of college that come and teach for you for a year or two, and then they move into the suburban areas, you're constantly dealing with faculty turnover and it's hard to establish long term change and improvement in schools if you're constantly having turnover. I think that's my Harry Potter wish.


Speaker 1:

You did well. Thank you for your time today Dr. Turner, and appreciate the work you're doing on a four day week in Missouri in supporting rural schools, and also supporting our rural association in Missouri as well.


Jon Turner:

Great. Let me just mention one thing. If the people want more information on it, they can visit, we have a website that's just up about the four day school week, it's www.fourdayweek, so and if you'll go to that, it has all of our research, research from other people in the four day week, and you can join our newsletter there, so if you're interested in that, visit and I also put out a lot of information on my Twitter feed, which is J-O-N, Turner, T-U-R, J-O-N, without an H, so J-O-N Turner E-D-D, and you can follow me on Twitter and we push out lots of stuff about four day week on there also.


Speaker 1:

Yes he does, I can attest to that as a follower. He does a good job. And we'll put that on their webpage as well, his website. Thank you for your time, enjoy your rest of your day, and keep up the good work.


Jon Turner:

Thank you.


Jared Bigham:



Speaker 4:

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast and website are those of Dr. Allen Pratt, Dr. Jared Bigham, and Dr. Christopher S. Silver. And do not represent the affiliated universities and/or any organization affiliated with the host. This podcast and any accompanying material, including our website

represent the opinions of Dr. Allen Pratt, Dr. Jared Bigham, and Dr. Christopher S. Silver and their guest to this show and website. The content here should not be taken as medical or professional advice, and should be used at your own risk. The content here is for informational purposes only, and should be understood as such. The Rural Voice Podcast or its host do not endorse, approve, recommend or certify any information product, process, service organization presented or mentioned in this podcast. And the information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement.

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