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15 CPS schools to get longer days

August 24, 2010 8:40:22 PM PDT
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley unveiled plans Tuesday to extend the school day at 15 elementary schools.Chicago Public Schools expects to add 90 minutes to the average school day at the selected elementary schools using online courses.

CPS also expects to save money by using non-teachers to oversee the students.

The idea may sound like a good one to parents, but members of the teachers union are not thrilled about it quite yet.

The mandatory online program would add 90 minutes of online learning at the end of the school day in math and reading for first- through eighth-grade students.

Five schools will start in November. The other 10 will add the alternative learning opportunities program in 2011.

The cost is about $10 million, but much of the program is being paid for with federal economic stimulus money -- about $5.5 million.

A CPS spokesperson says it will keep students learning after school, strengthen math and reading skills for students at lower-performing schools and keep kids safe. It will also add jobs for 400 facilitators, not teachers. But the teachers union wants to make sure that lead teachers are assigned to supervise the program.

Starting in January, students at Walsh Elementary School in Pilsen will be made to stay after school. It's not punishment but rather a way to give them a better education, according to Mayor Daley.

"We've learned from other cities what they've done and this has been a proven, proven success," said Mayor Daley.

ALO will run at the end of the traditional school day from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. at five elementary schools starting November 1 and will be expanded to 10 more elementary schools January 3.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman says CPS students receive less learning time than children in other big cities and the extra 90 minutes will enhance their education.

"The district believes and our research shows that achievement increases when students spend more time on high quality learning tasks and our children need and deserve more instructional time," said Huberman.

The initiative is unpopular with the Chicago Teachers Union. President Karen Lewis says she is for students getting more time to learn, but sees this as a way for the district to de-professionalize teaching.

"If this is about continuing the educational day, then the educational day needs to be continued correctly, and that would be with highly qualified teachers to do this work," said Lewis.

Tim Knowles with the University of Chicago's Urban Educational Institute calls the pilot program good policy in tough economic times.

"More time is really important for poor children period. America has one of the shortest school days in the world," said Knowles.

Many parents are embracing the pilot program but also want professional educators to supplement the online lessons.

"I think there needs to be someone in front of them so if there's questions to be asked if there's thing children really don't understand, they need people who can answer those questions, teach them the different methods on how to do reading and math," said Wanda Hopkins, Parents United for Responsible Education.

Facilitators can be parents or college students and will go through background checks.

Students may opt out of ALO for medical or religious reasons.

Pending approval by the CBOE, ALO will start in November at these schools:

  • Leland, 5221 West Congress Pkwy.
  • Ryerson, 646 N. Lawndale Av.
  • Smyth, 1059 W. 13th St.
  • Chavez, 4747 S. Marshfield Av.
  • Burke, 5356 S. King Av.
  • These schools will be added in the second semester:

  • Walsh, 2015 S. Peoria St.
  • Clark, 1045 S. Monitor Av.
  • Gregory, 3715 W. Polk St.
  • Hay, 1018 N. Laramie Av.
  • Calhoun North, 2833 W. Adams St.
  • Lawndale, 3500 W. Douglas Blvd.
  • Woodson South, 4414 S. Evans Av.
  • Mount Vernon, 10540 S. Morgan St.
  • Fort Dearborn, 9025 S. Throop St.
  • Evers, 9811 Lowe Av.

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