Emanuel plan calls for longer school days, adds 10 days to CPS calendar

April 10, 2012 3:17:16 PM PDT
Bowing to pressure from parents and teachers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday his modified plan for a longer school day in Chicago Public Schools.

Instead of 7.5 hours for elementary schools, students would be in class for 7 hours. That is still a significant increase over the current 5 hours, 45 minutes of instruction time. The president of the teachers union said Tuesday's announcement is a step in the right direction but wants more from the mayor.

The bottom line on Tuesday's announcement: After the additional days scheduled for the 2012-13 school year, 1 hour and 15 minutes added to each day, will amount to eight weeks more instruction time next year in Chicago Public Schools as compared to this year.

The mayor sounded like a winner in his eleven-month-long effort to increase the amount of time Chicago public elementary school students spend in the classroom.

"We are gonna go from 170 days to 180 days...From 5 hours and 45 minutes to 7 hours," Emanuel said. "That comes to 40 additional days of instruction."

But the teachers' union president noted that Emanuel backed off his original plan to increase the school day to 7.5 hours.

"Today the Mayor moved his toe a half an inch from the starting line," said Karen Lewis, CTU Local 1 president. "He needs to do more. He needs to listen with both ears."

On Monday, parent organizations questioned whether a longer day in the current format used by the cash-strapped CPS would be an improvement.

"What's happening right now in our schools is not good enough. So doing more of the same is not going to change the outcome," said Lewis.

But CEO J.C. Brizard expects the longer school day will mean higher standardized test scores and more college-ready CPS students.

"It's about making sure that when kids are in high school they can get an ACT score that will prepare them for college or a career," said Brizard.

Before his news conference, the mayor toured a classroom at the Disney II Magnet School on the North Side. It has used extended classroom hours since 2008.

"We absolutely maximize our time with the students to maximize their academic, social and emotional growth," said teacher Adrienne Garrison.

"We're gonna raise the floor for everybody," said Mayor Emanuel. "We gotta make sure that everybody has a chance, just like the kids at Disney."

But the CTU's Lewis says CPS -- only five months from the fall semester -- still has not determined what it will teach during the additional 1 hour and 15 minutes a day.

"There's still no plan," Lewis said. "This was never a plan. This is a political slogan. We need to be extraordinarily clear about what that means. Nothing."

Under the changes, Chicago public high schools will have a 7.5-hour day and teachers would be given an additional 75 minutes a week to prepare their lessons.

The mayor is putting a lot on the line here. The extra instruction will have to show results, test-score-wise, in a relatively short period of time.