Longer School Days For Chicago Public School Students

| January 25, 2012 | Comments (18)

There are quite a few reasons I am personally excited about CEO Jean-Claude Brizard being at the helm of the Chicago Public Schools. One is his team’s fresh approach to a very old problem. Two is he has spark. Three his spark infects his team, thereby passing on this frenzy of hope to all of us.

40 years ago I was a Chicago Public School student. Kindergarten was a half day program. My parents often fought about what I was/was not learning. By first grade, I had been transferred to a neighborhood parochial school where I stayed until middle school. My parents petitioned for years until I was placed on a CPS waiting list to become eligible for lottery. All of this for entry into a magnet school. Thankfully luck was on my side, with maybe a little stalking on my mother’s part. These efforts secured that my future would be carved in the luxury of the “magnet” schools until I went to college. Many of my neighbors were not so lucky. Their futures ended up with them involved in gangs, drugs and dead-end lifestyles.

Chicago has traditionally been a very special place for education. Yes, revolutionary discoveries have been made here in Chicago. We are home to historic movements, monumental achievements, and many of these are from former Chicago Public Schools students. Unfortunately, it has always been a gamble though, with far too many suffering in the backdrop.

When I began having my own children in the 1990’s, every sacrifice at my disposal was made to A) make sure my children were learning B) make sure my children were safe while they were learning. This was never easy.

On top of that struggle, my being a law enforcement agent, has given me overall access to views outside of my own household. Not only am I concerned about the safety of my own family, but that of others and how their choices may impact the safety of those I love. Being in front of offending young people who are vibrant, intelligent, and capable BUT grossly misguided, not engaged, repeat offenders and usually dropouts is a great argument for longer school days. Statistics show that most occurrences involving young people occur after school. Having this knowledge made my excitement about the longer school day huge. Longer school days means keeping kids safer during “High Risk” times. More time to learn. More time for teachers to communicate. More efforts. More recess. More time spent also means higher scores! It is really a winning situation.

Announced this past Monday, Chicago Public School children will have approximately 390 minute school days.  You can read about the changes HERE.

CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, in a discussion with area Chicago Moms, shared that being on this trajectory will improve literacy. The immediate goals are to give all Chicagoans access to quality schools. Better serving our students improves the community. Hopefully more students will  enroll in college as well.

CEO Brizard also spoke at length about the language acquisition program encouraging non-native English speakers to bring up their skills. Literacy, literacy, literacy! Who can argue with that.

Many area moms believe that their schools are up to the task already. That may be the case in some areas, but not in others. I applaud this new administration’s efforts to make CPS cohesive and functioning on a high scale across the board. Having Mayor Rahm Emanuel actively supporting change is also encouraging.

What are your most pressing concerns for the Chicago Public Schools? Do you support the longer school day? If not, why?

 

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About Dwana: Dwana authors a few blogs, is a full-time officer of the court and mom to two wonderful young men and two dogs. You can find her rants, advice for healthy living and Chicago tips at: "Healthier, Happier, You!", Chicagonista.com, TheChicagoMoms.com & ChicagonistaLIVE.com View author profile.

Comments (18)

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  1. We don’t live IN Chicago but we live in a district that has many of the same issues that some of the CPS do and I honeslty am turned off by the constant emphasis on literacy. I have a gifted 3rd grader who has gotten almost non science education yet (aside from his own private research/learning) and very littler history because despite him having read at above an 8th grade reading level since FIRST grade and having a comprehension rate better than I DO, he has 3 blocks of reading a day!?!?! I understand needing to help those who need help but honestly I think schools have become obsessed with getting good reading test schools and have eliminated too much other subject content because of it. I think kids who aren’t making the grade need to be held back instead of continuing to pass them and having to hold the whole rest of a class back to try and catch up a few. Those struggling to catch up are still acting out and getting in trouble and now those who are where they need to be are getting in trouble because they are constantly bored. I know this is a problem that starts way higher than a district or city level though. I do think that Brizard has some good ideas. But for the kids sake I really hope that the longer days do include more movement (recess) and fun learning (ie science experiments and projects etc)

  2. Dwana says:

    Lisa,

    Great point! I personally would love to pick your brain on more of your thoughts on this. If you feel inclined share them here or email me. CEO Brizard and Mayor Emanuel continue to seek our thoughts. My son is not enrolled in CPS either, but we all know it takes a village!

  3. tracey says:

    I was raised in the burbs and am living in the burbs which is a totally different situation than the CPS. If longer days really will mean that children in the families that can NOT be around to care for their kids will be receiving help with homework and attention and proper nutrition, then I am thrilled. I am also happy about the idea of more free time and recess. Kids NEED to be active and they aren’t. I do worry that this will only mean longer days. Not better attention, but longer days. Longer time under instruction. Longer time to be a model student. Longer time to perform. Longer time to be bullied. Longer time to be away from your home. Longer time to not be a KID.

    Again, I am in a different situation. In fact, I homeschool my kids so that they can have more free time, more family time, and more unstructured time to explore what they want to learn (today, my 6 year old read inside of a Kenmore vacuum box for an hour and now they’re playing Jenga together). So, for me, the idea of my children being away from home for 2/3 of their life (and let’s not forget homework and having to SLEEP) makes me truly Ill.

    But, if I were a working single mom who couldn’t be home for my kids when they got off of school, living in a situation where gangs and drugs are easily accessible, I would be singing a different tune. I guess my point is that I like OPTIONS. Is the longer day OPTIONAL? Can a family choose the 3 pm end time or do they HAVE to go for a full work day? Does the longer day eliminate the homework so that kids can actually be with their families at home?

    • Dwana says:

      Tracey, it appears CEO Brizard and administration are working toward cohesiveness across the board. While some schools are meeting, and I say “meeting” as opposed to exceeding, many schools are lagging far behind. This time change appears to be a concerted effort to give more time in many areas that are needed. It is not optional though from what I understood, areas according to grade have increase in instructional time.

      The breakdown http://cps.edu/Programs/DistrictInitiatives/FullDay/Pages/LongerDayDetails.aspx SEEMS so appropriate.

      I REALLY hope you’ll keep sharing what works and what doesn’t because you have an awesome perspective!

  4. Jill says:

    Hi Dwana. Just curious how this blog posts connects with your personal experience as a parent of a school-age child, as I know your child attends parochial school.

    In fact, I see the day at Francis Xavier Warde is 8am to 3pm in the primary grades, and is well rounded with music, art, physical education, Spanish, etc.

    The longer day at CPS would be 30 minutes longer than FXW, and come with no additional funding or resources to implement. CPS already ONLY allocates half of a music teacher OR half of an art teacher (that’s right, HALF of a teacher) to each school with under 750 students. CPS has been ignoring the daily PE requirement for years. Few schools offer the opportunity for second language acquisition. And most CPS kids don’t get a lick of recess.

    The focus of Rahm’s longer day is “40 minutes more math, 40 minutes more reading…the basics.” As if more of the same is a magic bullet to closing the racial (actually, socioeconomic) achievement gap.

    I respect that you send your child to private school not because of how many minutes of instruction there are, but because of the well rounded quality day your child experiences. In contrast, last year my child had to spend 15 days on standardized testing alone.

    As a Chicago Public School parent for the last eight years, I can tell you that as a whole, CPS is not prioritizing its resources to make a 5.75 (actually 6.5 in some schools already) hour day engaging and transformative. So it’s hard to get behind making a day for very young children that is almost as long as a adult’s work day — with less break time than an adult gets.

    It’s critical that sound policymaking involve the people directly affected.

    • Dwana says:

      Hi Jill,

      I am a CPS graduate. Additionally, I have two sons, and the older one went to a public school during his 4th grade. It was a horrible experience so I pulled him out.

      Your statement, in my opinion, is the best reasoning behind the longer school day: “The focus of Rahm’s longer day is “40 minutes more math, 40 minutes more reading…the basics.” As if more of the same is a magic bullet to closing the racial (actually, socioeconomic) achievement gap.”

      While the longer school day is only the tip of the magic bullet, I believe implementing more time for teachers to convene, more instruction is vital, because, keep in mind, private/parochial schools have lower student:teacher ratios. ALSO, I applaud the open conversation being held. Keep using your voice. Unfortunately, the same problems that affected CPS 40 years ago when I was enrolled are the same. Someone stepping in to do something drastic to promote change is really awesome. Keep me posted on your thoughts!

      • Jill says:

        Thanks for responding Dwana. Point of fact for you: there is no funding to power a longer day. This is an enormous concern for the quality of every single minute of the day that 405,000 public school children will have next year. There will be costs, and most schools are freaked about what essential services and supports will get cut in order to fund it.

        As someone in the trenches of Chicago Public Schools, and who also has access to stakeholders from time to time, I have to say, there is scant ‘open conversation’ going on, and if there’s conversation, there’s not enough listening going on. I’m not saying change is bad, or that some things aren’t improving in the city. But the longer day ‘advisory board’ was not open to many parent groups. And there’s no output of this board — no report, no recommend, no votes, no minutes, no open meetings act. CPS is telling one of the only parent groups on the committee, Raise Your Hand, that they are the only ones voicing concerns. I guess CPS is deaf in one ear on this, because about seven new groups with various concerns have sprung up in the last 2 months, which validates we’re not “the only ones.”

        Me, I welcome and promote open conversation. In fact, I’m impatient. I can’t wait to have me some open conversation!

        Raise Your Hand is about solutions: in 2010 RYH developed a campaign to bring recess to all schools and extend the day. RYH pointed out to the board of ed that this was indeed supported by the current contract. From RYH “Fit for Learning” campaign, 13 schools extended their day in fall 2011 — before the “pioneer” program, with $0 reward and minimal impact to school budgets. RYH developed a toolkit and provided training and technical assistance.

        So RYH worked closely with many schools, communities and organizing groups, and is in touch with what works, what doesn’t, and is willing to take a proactive approach to solving.

        Making the day longer with no dedicated resources will simply not work. This is not a class issue. It’s simple math.

        * * * *

        Just wondering: have you received the same kind of ping from CPS to promote parent and community engagement, and get people to run for LSCs that you got to promote the full day campaign?

        Perhaps you would consider blogging and tweeting about running for LSC? The deadline for applications to run for Local School Council is next Friday, March 8th.

        I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue.

        • Dwana says:

          Jill,

          Please email me with more information. And always feel free to pitch concerns and info here and on our FB page. Whatever concerns Chicago Moms has a place here, and thanks.

          Dwana (at) chicagonista (dot) com

  5. ron says:

    What no one seems to be beating the drum on is that the mayor’s own kids go to the private Lab School and actually attend for less time than CPS students do. If this time is so necessary and deemed to be what will make kids learn more, why doesn’t he send his kids to a school with these kind of hours? What a hypocrite he is. CPS teachers, get ready to babysit an extra 1 1/2 hours/day next year. And in all likelihood they aren’t going to want to pay squat for this extra time either. What a joke.

    • Dwana says:

      Ron,

      Change comes at huge sacrifice. Having had such a poor overall presence, I applaud any striking movements to pull CPS out of the present state it is in.

      Please stay engaged and be a part of the vision. We are here to bring a voice to CPS because they are really listening.

  6. Just Curious says:

    How is it the people who seem to be most enthusiastic about the longer day at CPS are people who do not actually have children at CPS? Most of the school board, CPS executives, the Mayor and you.

    I am a working mother and unless you can find a full-time job that ends at 3 or 4pm, the length of day does not make much of a difference. Most people do not work a 7.5 hour work day. My work day is still longer then the school day and I have to figure out after care next year just like this year. I would like to also say parents who work full-time, like all parents, send their kids to school for quality education not for free babysitting.

    I wonder how the longer schedule will effect revenue for after-care services like the YMCAs, Park District programs and other care-givers?

    • Dwana says:

      Just Curious,

      I applaud your perspective. I too am a working single mother. My children all had to attend the “Afterschool” programs which really was just extended instructional time. They could do homework, have access to their teachers and do their sports.

      As a single mom, I had to make huge sacrifices to enroll my children in private schools that I was really hoping I wouldn’t need to make. I am SO excited to be a part of what I thought was lacking back then. Also, I really hope you will stay a part of the conversation.

      Finally, being in law enforcement, knowing that high crime happens during the hours when students will no longer be available to be a part, I am most interested to see how this will impact crime against these age groups. I don’t think “babysitting” is descriptive as to what this new instructional time is about. Even when we hire babysitters, we want someone teaching, interacting and affecting positively.

      Lets keep this conversation going.

      Please continue to voice! For the love of our children!

  7. Natasha says:

    I feel that as a mom with a CPS student I have to weigh in here. And I’ll give some background facts. I am a SAHM, my husband works LOTS of hours, I have a three year old and one year old twins. Basically, I’m tired. And quite honestly I am still on the fence about the longer schools days moreso for my son, then ME being put out. I feel that he may be more tired, and more frustrated with another 90 minutes of time in school. Upon hearing that they would indeed be in school for an hour and a half longer, I turned to my mom friends in other states. I then found out that Chicago does have some of the lowest times of instruction in the nation. Doesn’t make me wonder why we don’t have such a strong public school system.

    As a parent, I feel that it is my responsibility to make sure that my child has the best. We’ll see how this goes for a year (and I know that I’ve been there before having school from 8 in the morning until 3:15 in the afternoon IN a Chicago Public School.)

    It’s easy for us as the parent to say how much of a sacrifice this is for us, but is it really that much of a sacrifice when the education of our children is at stake?

    I’m looking forward to more responses regarding this subject.

  8. Chicago public schools did something unusual when they were creating this policy–they asked the teachers’ opinion! 600 teachers worked with The VIVA Project to make recommendations about the longer school day. The teachers concluded that extra time in school is only valuable if it used wisely, so they created a policy report with 49 recommendations on how to better structure the school day.

    Listen to 3 VIVA Chicago teachers who were interviewed on WBEZ about their recommendations: http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-27/teachers-facing-longer-school-days-consider-best-use-additional-time-958.

    You can also find the full report written by the Chicago VIVA teachers here: http://vivateachers.org/2012/01/04/viva-chicago-project-time-teachers-and-tomorrows-schools.

    I think you will find it interesting that the report addresses a lot of your concerns. The teachers recommended more time and staffing for ancillary classes (art, music, PE) so that students have a well-rounded education. They also recommended that community organizations, like Communities in Schools, get involved before, during, and after the school day. Finally, teachers not only recommended that all schools have recess and have funding for a playground, but CPS also asked for their help to write a resource guide for principals as they plan to integrate recess into the full school day: http://www.cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/01_17_2012_PR1.aspx.

    Each school has a lot of flexibility with how it will structure its school day. Make sure that your school considers these teacher-written recommendations when deciding how to structure its extended school day.

  9. DRK says:

    Dwana,

    First, let me say that I fully respect your right to voice your opinion. However, I also fully agree with Just Curious who said “How is it the people who seem to be most enthusiastic about the longer day at CPS are people who do not actually have children at CPS? Most of the school board, CPS executives, the Mayor and you.”

    When I first started to read your article, I thought that you SURELY must have a child in the system to feel so passionate about the changes Brizard and Emmanuel are attempting to implement. However, I was disappointed to learn that you are buying into all the media BS they are feeding the general public. They have done nothing but vilify teachers and promote all their changes as being in the best interest of our students. In reality, these changes are being pushed along to further Rahm’s agenda; to make him look good for carrying out a campaign promise. They may have “asked” for teacher and parent input and feedback, but they didn’t listen to a word of it – at least not the opinions that did not serve to further their agenda. Teachers have been silenced in this process, despite the fact that we know most about what our students need academically. Parents concerns seem to have been ignored or dismissed. Decisions were made and the process set into motion long before they asked “us” what we thought, wanted, or needed.

    But back to your article. You say “while the longer school day is only the tip of the magic bullet, I believe implementing more time for teachers to convene, more instruction is vital, because, keep in mind, private/parochial schools have lower student:teacher ratios.” No matter what they SAY will happen next year regarding more teacher “prep” time during the day, the reality is that they are unwilling to provide any funds to support this. In order to make it work, we need more personnel to fill these voids – to make sure we have appropriate supervision to watch those kiddos at lunch and recess as well as to cover 5 60-minute prep periods each week for each class. We just had a meeting at our school today. Armed with our current numbers, the requirements from the board, and 60+ very highly qualified and educated adults, we were unable to find a way to make it work. The scheduling of it is simply mathematically impossible – there are too many minutes and not enough people. Instead, teachers will be giving up their planning time to cover other classes and recess, and we will be left with even less than we currently have. So what happens then? Do I take home even MORE work than I do now? I am already at school 1.5 hours before the kids get there and stay 1.5 hours after…….so now I’ll have to arrive at 6:30 and stay until 5 every day to get everything done since I’ll be losing much of my prep time? Do I just give up being able to spend time with my own children except on Saturday and Sunday? We already give SO MUCH of ourselves to this profession because we are passionate about it and because we do want what’s best for our students, but there has to be some limit.

    You say, “these efforts secured that my future would be carved in the luxury of the “magnet” schools until I went to college. Many of my neighbors were not so lucky. Their futures ended up with them involved in gangs, drugs and dead-end lifestyles.” This seems to imply that those who went to “non-magnet” public schools ending up in gangs or with dead-end lifestyles BECAUSE they went to “non-magnet” public schools. Schools DO NOT MAKE criminals. Schools DO NOT MAKE drug addicts. These results are due to many factors OUTSIDE of school control. To suggest that schools might be responsible for their poor life choices places the sole responsibility of raising children on the educational system. What about parents and families? What about the neighborhoods where these kids are living? What about what they are being exposed to at home, outside of school? Education starts FIRST in the home.

    You say “More time spent also means higher scores!” Really? Find me studies that can prove this. I guarantee I can find just as many, if not more, to DISprove this. Time does NOT simply equal higher test scores. Period.

    You say “CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, in a discussion with area Chicago Moms, shared that being on this trajectory will improve literacy. The immediate goals are to give all Chicagoans access to quality schools. Better serving our students improves the community. Hopefully more students will enroll in college as well. CEO Brizard also spoke at length about the language acquisition program encouraging non-native English speakers to bring up their skills. Literacy, literacy, literacy! Who can argue with that.” First, I’m really glad Brizard is out there talking to area Chicago Moms. But tell me – how many of those moms actually HAVE children enrolled in CPS? (I ask because you already mentioned you do not……) And of COURSE he will tout the excellence of “his” changes. Do you think he would tear down his own proposed changes? Do you really think he would point out the shortcomings and deficiencies? Of course not!!! He must drum up as much public support as he can get because the teachers, the ones actually WORKING with students and IN SCHOOLS EVERY DAY, know the flaws in his program, know the difficulties or impossibilities schools will face in the effort to implement these changes.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I feel the strain for time EVERY DAY. I am FOR a longer day (maybe not 7.5 hours, but longer than it currently is). But tacking more time onto the day, mandating the minutes we must allocate for each subject – these things will not magically improve student learning. We need highly qualified teachers in each classroom. We need strong curriculum AND the resources to support this curriculum. We need learning environments where students AND teachers feel safe, supported, and valued. These are the things that make a difference, and these are the things that are being ignored in this debate.

    I hope both sides continue to have these discussions and conversations, but I truly wish that those who publicly applaud this process and these changes become fully educated about everything that the Board is ACTUALLY trying to do.

  10. Dwana says:

    DRK,

    Thank you so much for being engaged in our youth, and for all of your sacrifice. I am sorry you were disappointed but I think being a product of CPS and having had one child attend briefly summoned up my passion for CPS problems. Additionally, all the other moms who are covering the new CPS agenda have younger children in CPS.

    There is no easy remedy for the failure of CPS. I am simply happy this administration is daring to implement something, anything, to get this system functioning.

    And to clarify my commentary about “magnet” schools, at the time, those schools removed us from the typical school-day because we had longer travel times to and from. We were on our way before the other children, and returning home long after they had all gone home. After school is, as it was 40 years ago, a high time for wild behavior. The new time means children will be coming home while more workplace people are moving about hopefully lessoning the chances of incidence. I don’t know if you saw that I am in law enforcement, so trust when I say I know schools do not MAKE criminals. Schools do however, educate criminals, sad-to-say, so there is a huge burden there. I personally would like to see some sort of programming that may assist these young people in turning their lives around. None of us in civil service have control of what goes on inside the homes, obviously, BUT we do have a responsibility to engage someone who may have a disadvantaged lifestyle. My other point there was that magnet schools had resources allocated that the other schools did not. From what I am hearing from this administration, they are trying to make a concerted effort to insure all schools are equal and compliant and receiving, as much as possible, the same resources, attention, and programming. I am all for that.

  11. melanie says:

    Dwana, I too take offense to parents who do not send their children to cps yet jump on the 7.5 hour day bandwagon. If you do not have children in cps you do not understand what is going on. Do NOT believe the garbage you are reading and hearing in the media. The parents who oppose the 7.5 hour day are not being fairly represented in the media and an overwhelming number of parents oppose the 7.5 hour day. Mayor Emmanuel would have everyone believe that this new “full day” will be well rounded with additional p.e. and enrichment classes, however he also stated there will be NO additional funding. Lets look at this from a bussing standpoint alone. Currently CPS schools have a staggered start and end times allowing schools to share busses. With the new 7.5 hour day every school will be on 8-3:30 schedule. Schools can no longer share busses. More busses cost more money, Right? Now lets look at the enrichment classes and additional p.e. Those would require additional staff and thus, more money right? How do you propose a plan of this magnitude without providing additional funding? This is ludicrous! CPS is also providing misinformation and even out right lies regarding the longer day. They say we need a longer day to catch up the national average. The average school day in the country is 6.6 hours! They say CPS students have 22% less instructional time than other districts but they have yet to provide the source of these numbers.

    I am not entirely opposed to a longer day but feel that 7.5 hours is extreme. Three of my children attend a neighborhood school that has a 5.75 hour day. They have art, music, drama, pe, AND recess. Our school meets annual yearly progress ans many exceed. We hves good test scores however we are over crowded. My third grade daughter had 43 students in her class this year. There are several other CPS schools that have a 6.5 hour day and have fine arts, music, world language, pe, and recess and they are actually testing better than the schools that have a 7.5 hour day. A quality day can be had in 6.5 hours!

    What about selective enrollment schools such as Northside Prep and Whitney Young that are true gems in the Chicago Public Schools system? Our selevtive enrollment schools are the schools who are doing it right. Why are we not modeling other schools after their programs. Why should they conform to failure?

    You also speak as if there was an open dialogue between cps and parents. CPS and Mayor Emmanuel are systematically ignoring and silencing parents that oppose the extremely long 7.5 hour day and the “turnaround” of their neighborhood schools. The parents of the 19th ward invited CPS to a meeting to discuss the longer day. CPS confirmed they would be there then did not show up. How disrespectful and insulting.

    If you want to join the sheep and believe all the propaganda and lies that Rahm and CPS are spewing feel free. However, if you do your own research and really look into what is going on you will see that Rahm and CPS are attempting to implement the most expensive and least effective way to address school reform. Mayor Emmanuel speaks as if 7.5 hours is the only way the children of Chicago will get a fair shake at a good education yet he sends his kids to a school that has a 5.5 hour day. Actions speak louder than words.

    • Dwana says:

      Melanie,

      As a product of CPS and, again, I pulled a child out of CPS, I know intimately “WHY” A- I don’t have a child in CPS B- Why I support this change.

      Again, it is a birthing process. I am SO surprised that the opposition is so vehement when CPS has suffered for over 40 years. Did you attend CPS? If you did then you know…

      I am not a sheep. Nor do I believe Rahm and CPS are liars. Additionally, as a criminal justice agent who sees CPS students every day, I KNOW the urgency of now. Our community, as a whole, is at risk. This implementation is a cohesive attempt to service all students, not just now, but in the future. I also believe it is safe to assume 19th Ward schools have access to more than some other less prominent, disenfranchised wards… what about those children who are behind the curve.

      I applaud continued discussion but name-calling and lack of true vision toward excellence when you are stuck simply looking at your own personal situation, or that of Mayor Emmanuel, will keep things stagnant and students, and the communities they live in, will continue to suffer.

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