What the Longer School Day in Chicago Really Means

Most of the people reading this blog are at least done with the K-12 education position of their lives. Yet, public education reform continues to affect their lives even after their high school graduation caps are thrown in the air. For example, how is the longer school day in Chicago going to work? Chicago has been in a tough situation academically with many lagging test scores around the city. The proposed and accepted resolution is a longer school day. Just how long? Students in Chicago Public Schools will now be within school walls for seven hours a day come this September. Chicago had one of the shortest school days in the country at five hours and 45 minutes. So, it's understandable that a correlation between low test scores and shorter school days would be found. Yet, is that enough to justify mandating a longer school day? An even better question will be how will that affect public schools in Chicago? The longer school day is really a quick fix that will disproportionately affect Chicago neighborhood schools. Those with resources will be able to uses that extra hour and 15 minutes efficiently. Yet, those schools aren't the ones that need to raise their test scores. What's the use of an extra hour to learn science if the textbooks are all out of date? To what use can an extra hour come to if there is no money to hire arts teachers to fill those spots? There hasn't even been mention of what is going to happen to the after school programs that run across this city in underprivileged schools. Will they still be able to run their activities? Will the kids be too tired to take advantage of the resources they provide? What problems will the students that choose to participate in the after school programs face from being out later in the streets? Many people are asking for at least a detailed plan as to how to use this extra time. It is a very reasonable expectation, but a standardized plan would mean standardizing the schools. That costs money. The city cannot mandate and extra 15 minutes of recess, if the school has no playground. They cannot mandate a focus on developing tech skills if they have no computer lab. So, kudos to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for beginning to tackle the education problem in Chicago. He had to start somewhere. Yet, school day lengths are only part of the problem. Schools, especially teachers, cannot be expected to just make due with the resources they have. They have been making due for a long time. They are not even asking for state of the art equipment just enough that their students are given a fighting chance to succeed. How can someone say no to that?


Check out my other posts on CTU and education:

The Problem with Charter Schools.

What the New CTU Contract Means for CPS Families.

CTU Strike: Money Issue.

How the Strike Will Affect Rahm's Reelection Chances.

CTU and City College Professors.

Why the Strike Happened.

Bilingual Education.

Rahm Emanuel CTU Commercial Analysis.


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  • I agree something needed to be done, but I hope the obvious isn't overlooked, because most of us are capable of doing two things or more at once. Don't let the parents off the hook!!! The past few months lots of stats have been quoted comparing the curriculum and length of the day between Chicago public schools and Parochial schools, even schools in Finland. And the common denominator in the better performing schools is never time spent in school or dollars spent per pupil, but the quality of the home life for the student. Is it quiet? No TV, video games, movies, music while doing homework? Is anyone checking to see that the homework is both complete and correct? Is a parent listening to their kids reading to them? Every day? Including the summer? Is the parent quizzing the child before tests? Requiring them to reach and do extra work? For far too long we've let parents shirk the responsibilities that go along with educating their children. I don't mind spending extra money, if its going to make a difference, but it will all be wasted effort if no one makes and keeps the parents accountable.

  • In reply to Jennifer:

    Thank you for mentioning this point. Yes, parental involvement is key to success, but how do you govern that? I guess theoretically it could be. Things like parental income, housing situations, etc. could be government regulated. I'm sure many families live in overcrowded conditions due to poor income, and that affects the children's education. Is the government going to raise the minimum wage and mandate that certain size families should have certain size affordable housing? Keeping the parents responsible would also mean more government workers that keep tabs on the parents. It's still resources no matter which way you put it whether they go to the school or parents. You can't expect a parent barely making ends meet to have the same type of parental involvement as a stay at home suburban parent. Are you then going to regulate who gets to have children? I'm not trying to say it can't be done, but it's going to take a lot more work than just mandating a longer school day.

  • are you kidding me? there is absolutely no basis to blame lack of education in cps on resources. what's your definition of an outdated book–the 1990s? how much has science changed since then and what's stopping the educator from checking out wikipedia, google, etc. etc.? a committed educator can easily compensate for older books.

  • In reply to forbes2000:

    Then what is the point of charter schools? They are heralded as a bastion of great resources, and that is why the children who go to them have higher success rates. If better resources aren't the solution, why bother with charter schools. Resources aren't just books. They are extra teachers, extra desks, extra classrooms, etc. I'm not saying teachers shouldn't be creative, but they also shouldn't be expected to constantly have to make up on their end for what the state/city fails to provide in basic necessities.

  • Science has indeed changed - remember planet Pluto?

    Yes, teachers can supplement with materials from the web, but I think the point the author is making is that CPS is relying on a quick fix solution when there are clearly other more important variables to consider, such as resources and student poverty.

    I am for the longer day, if only to get the kids recess and a lunch break for teachers. But I don't think the longer day is going to magically increase the test scores. There is a constellation of reforms that needs to be implemented simultaneously in order to create a real change. That constellation includes more time in school, and also smaller class sizes (substantially smaller in high need schools), more social services in school, and yes, better resources.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Thanks for the comment. I really think that a longer lunch period is one of the few benefits to come out of the longer school day. I also agree that many more things need to change before any effect can be made on not just CPS but the American public school system. I think adding social service providers in schools would be a fantastic step forward since many students come from broken homes and are dealing with a lot of emotional stress that affects their school work that they might not be able to talk about with their families.

  • The only reason for the Longest Day is so Rahm can say "he did it." Within the edupeneur, astro-turf reform, & range rover dem circles it will seem like "reform." It's just a doorknocker for the next campaign.

  • In reply to corruptionok:

    Politicians will do what they need to get re-elected. It's a quick fix that is seen as the end of low test scores in Chicago, but as I mentioned in the article many more resources are needed so that the change is not only big but sustainable.

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