Chicago school rations bathroom visits

A Chicago elementary school, facing closure for low test scores, is rationing bathroom visits, reports Anthony Cody in his Ed Week Teacher blog. Here’s the memo sent to teachers:

Dear Faculty,

Welcome back and Happy New Year! In order to maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time, we are implementing two new restroom policies.

1. Designated Restroom Times – Take your class to use the restroom only during your allotted time so that multiple groups of students are not competing to use the facilities. Also, the expectation is that the restroom break should last only five minutes. Before leaving for the restroom, clearly communicate the behavioral expectations and the time limit. Use your watch or stopwatch to time the students and praise them when they meet the behavior and time expectations. . . .

2. Restroom Passes – In addition to scheduled restroom breaks, students will be given restroom passes to use if they need to use the restroom outside of the scheduled time. Students will be given two restroom passes to use between now and the end of the quarter. They can choose to hold on to them and trade them in for a reward at the end of the quarter. 

. . . Have students fill in their names as soon as they receive them. Passes are invalid if names are crossed out for another name.

For the upper grades, students can use one teacher’s pass in another classroom, but they still only get the same number of passes per quarter.

Use a class roster to have student initial next to their name to indicate that they received the passes.

Have students fill in the “time out” and “time in” and then turn the pass in to the teacher when finished. This will help them practice the CCS of telling time with both digital and analog clocks.

This micromanagement shows “intense pressure to raise test scores,” writes Cody. He provides another memo with bulletin board guidelines.  

Bulletin Boards should reflect the academic rigor and the differentiated instruction of the Common Core State Standards that are taking place in the classroom and school.  Bulletin board work should . . . be attractive, stimulating learning stimuli — not mere decoration.  No worksheets are allowed and avoid commercial materials.  In addition, each bulletin board must have an “I Can” statement in student-friendly language, rubric, specific feedback, title, and a brief (2-3 sentences) description of the activity that took place to produce the work.  Classroom bulletin boards should have current work (nothing past 2 weeks).

One wonders: Why is there so much teacher turnover? (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

My very large high school locked most of the restrooms to prevent smoking. (Teachers had rebelled against restroom patrol duty.) I learned planning and self-control.

About Joanne


  1. Encouraging children to save and then trade in their bathroom passes is obviously discriminatory against special needs students, who because of their medical conditions likely need to use theirs.Chicago must not be running true full inclusion.

  2. Sounds almost like a prison…oh wait, I bet you can use the restroom more frequently in jail.

  3. Ann in L.A. says:

    Obviously the school is on the wrong track, what they really need is a laser-beam focus on integrating more group projects into the school day.

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    This will be great for the older elementary school girls who’ve gotten their periods! Now, they’ll be faced with either bleeding through their pads OR staying home sick when they have heavy days.

    Way to go Chicago! Great way to close the achievement gap between boys and girls! (By bringing the girls down…)

  5. Tar and feathers. It’s the only thing they’ll understand.

  6. Sometime between when I was in school and my brother (4 grades behind) got there, the middle school had started allowing locker access during certain passing periods and made the hallways in the building (shaped like an 8) one direction for walking. Meaning that students sometimes had to run in circles around the building to get to their locker because they weren’t allowed to go when it was convenient or adjacent to the classroom in the wrong direction.

    The middle school that I tutor at gives all students agendas to write in and requires that they color coordinate their folders (a blue folder and notebook for history, green for math, etc).

    It’s no wonder that the students get to college and can’t figure out how to keep up with a syllabus and expect email reminders before due dates and tests. As a parent, I try to teach autonomy when my kids are young and the stakes are low. I homeschool, but I’d be really frustrated to see schools pushing less autonomy at a time when I’m encouraging more independence.

    • Ann in L.A. says:

      Back in the 80’s my high school decided to command that certain classes used certain color folders. I don’t think any teacher cared, but the administration had to be seen to be in control. The standard response from the students was to use only black folders.

      Within 2 years, the principal was replaced.

  7. When I was in elementary school, in the ’60s, we had this type of management. 1 restroom break in the morning, 1 in the afternoon.

    We could, and did, ask for a pass. But that was rare. Planning and self control were the key.