Chicago struggles with longer school day

Chicago had one of the shortest school days in the nation — five hours, 45 minutes — until fall of 2012, writes Sara Neufeld in The Atlantic. Mayor Rahm Emanuel added an extra hour and 15 minutes at elementary schools, an extra 30 minutes at high schools. (The school year is 10 days longer too.) However, extra time may not mean extra learning, writes Neufeld.

Chicago Public Schools’ deficit, caused largely by a crisis in pension funding, is estimated at $1 billion. CPS’ 400,000 students have more time to learn, but fewer teachers and support staff.  

“Funding is not there for a quality day, period, no matter the length,” said Wendy Katten, director of the advocacy group Raise Your Hand and mother of a fifth grader at Augustus H. Burley School.

The city initially hired hundreds of new teachers to help with the expanded schedule, since it could not afford to pay existing teachers to work longer hours. But now officials have eliminated more jobs than they created. At some schools, newly added art and music classes have been cut back, and the mandatory reintroduction of recess without funding for supervision has created a logistical nightmare.

In violence-ridden communities,”a later end to the regular academic day has left families worried about their kids getting home safely after dark if they stay to participate in after-school programs and sports.”

During his freshman and sophomore years, back when school let out at 2:31 p.m., Raul Arias played basketball and ran cross-country at the Marine Math and Science Academy. “I stopped last year as soon as the whole extended school day started,” said Arias, 17, a senior. He commutes an hour each way on public transportation to attend the military-themed magnet school instead of a subpar option in his neighborhood. “I have to worry more about myself going home than what I’ll actually be doing in school.”

In the 1970s, Chicago Public Schools cut short the school day to make sure students got home before dark, writes Neufeld.

The September 2012 teachers’ strike, “spurred partly by the fact that teachers were being asked to work more without a proportionate pay increase,” closed schools for seven days, writes Neufeld. A deal was struck: Elementary teachers work more hours, but get a longer break for lunch and planning. Students also get more time for lunch. 

Theodore Roosevelt High added five minutes to each class period to use the extra 30 minutes. It doesn’t help, says Tim Meegan, a board-certified social studies teacher. “There’s no way anyone can tell me kids are learning more because they’re in school longer.”


Second graders at Patrick Henry Elementary School follow along to an exercise video during indoor recess. (Armando L. Sanchez / Hechinger Report)

High-performing charters typically have a much longer school day and year, writes Matt Di Carlo. District schools that want to extend the day should consider that a little extra time may not be enough.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    The blurb under the first picture included in the Atlantic article reads:

    Second graders at Patrick Henry Elementary School follow along to an exercise video during indoor recess. Recess was made mandatory in Chicago elementary schools when the school day was lengthened in 2012.

    exercise videos while indoors do not sound like what I mean by the word “recess.”

  2. Any one of my 1-8 (no k) teachers (4 Normal School grads) would have been insulted if anyone suggested that they could not, or would not, include art/architectural history and music appreciation as part of the history curriculum. Many decades before computers, videos or the internet, they used books, magazines, records, film strips, music books (we sang patriotic and folk music) and such and we kids learned far more about those areas than did my kids (at school). Their music and art teachers were only interested in performing and never included that kind of content (and neither did their regular teachers, for the most part). In my opinion, regular teachers should be expected to teach that content.

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    If CPS is having a “pension crisis” then why does Rahm want to give millions to a private college to build a sports arena?

    I call BS on the “pension crisis”

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Because politicians like to build things, and voters generally approve, and because nobody likes to think about the fact that many, many promises about retirement money have been made that will be very difficult to keep–and especially because nobody wants to make the tough decisions about, “Can we really afford this. Is this really a good use of public money?”

      Most public pension funds do not have the money in them to make good on those promises. For years, legislators, mayors, governors, presidents have kicked the problem down the road. Some mayors are finding that they’re getting near the end of the road.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Possibly all is well financially with Detroit, too, then :-)

       

      Detroit is getting ready to build a new hockey arena and the funding will be “backed” by local property taxes. Clearly, Detroit has nothing better to do with the property tax money than a new hockey arena …

  4. John Johns says:

    I was struck by the absurdly precise “school let out at 2:31 p.m.”. That, along with increasing all classes, by adding 5 minutes to each one, does not point to “critical thinking” skills by the teachers/administrators.

    • PhillipMArlowe says:

      “I was struck by the absurdly precise “school let out at 2:31 p.m.”. That, along with increasing all classes, by adding 5 minutes to each one, does not point to “critical thinking” skills by the teachers/administrators. ”

      REWRITE:
      I was struck by the absurdly precise “school let out at 2:31 p.m.”. That, along with increasing all classes, by adding 5 minutes to each one, does not point to “critical thinking” skills by the administrators.