Posts Tagged ‘longer school day’

BREAKING NEWS: Rahm backs off 7.5 hour day

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Mayor Emanuel announced today that the new longer school day will be 7 hours, not 7.5. Though not the 6.5 hours that many parents have been asking for, this is clearly a major victory for the newly-formed coalition, Chicago Parents for Quality Education (of which PURE is a member) which started a petition drive against the 7.5 hour day and held a press conference just yesterday to express parents’ opposition to the Mayor’s proposal, which started as a campaign slogan last spring.

Kudos to all the organizers, especially Wendy Kattan and Jonathan Goldman, who have pulled together an impressive, diverse collection of parent and community groups who have had their fill of the arrogant, unresponsive, irresponsible school board and administration. The group did their homework by preparing a position paper that soundly refuted the Mayor’s careless misstatements and outright lies about the effectiveness of lengthening the school day and the facts about school day length around the US. They rounded out their position with a strong argument about what a better school day should look like, and made it clear that parents are ready and willing to fight for that vision.

It’s a good day for Chicago parents and families, but the real work of bringing about that better school day is truly just beginning.

PSAT for 3-13-12: Support a QUALITY school day

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Parents across Chicago are ramping up their opposition to Mayor Emanuel’s 7.5 hour school day.

For example, a group of parents from Chicago’s 19th Ward, along with their alderman, Matt O’Shea, organized a community forum last Thursday which attracted over 350 people and was written up by most major news outlets, including a column by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Brown.

The group prepared their own power point presentation which apparently blew CPS’s typical dog-and-pony show out of the water by raising and then debunking most of CPS’s public statements about why the 7.5 hour day is necessary.

From the 19th Ward Parents’ presentation:

CPS sez: “The rationale behind moving CPS schools to a full school day is clear…our elementary school students are receiving 22% less instructional time than their peers across the country.” (J.C. Brizard email 2/10/12)

The TRUTH: Average U.S. school day is 6.64 hours for elementary schools. CPS school day is currently 5.75 = 14% difference.

CPS sez: “To be clear, we are not claiming – nor have we ever claimed – that 7.5 hours is the national average; rather, 90 minutes of additional instructional time in elementary schools gets Chicago on par with the national average in instructional minutes in elementary school during the year.” Schools On The Line call-in show. 6:45 to 8:00p.m. March 1st WBEZ 91.5FM with BOE member Jesse Ruiz .

The TRUTH: Assuming all schools that are on par with the national average length of day have a 45 minute lunch and recess period and 15 minutes of passing time, this would mean 5 hours and 30 minutes of instructional time, or 30 minutes more than the average CPS elementary school which currently has at least 5 hours of instructional time.

CPS sez: “With a high school graduation rate of only 57% and 7.9% of 11th graders testing college ready, our children cannot afford to wait another day to get the time they need to boost their achievement.”

The TRUTH: Citywide graduation rate, according to the District State Report Card, is 73.8%. 7.4% of high school students were “chronically truant” in 2010-11. 33 CPS high schools have at least 20% of the student body chronically truant. After lengthening their day, MA schools noted a statistically significant negative impact on attendance rates within first two years. (Bouhy, Gamse, Chekoway, Maree and Fox: Evaluation of MA ELT Initiative after 4 years)

CPS sez: “And while some schools are higher performing than others, there are NO schools in the district where more than 90% of 8th graders are meeting college readiness standards.”

The TRUTH: CPS Explore Tests show that 60 schools with 8th grade classes meet or exceed college readiness standards. ISATs: 80.4% of 8th graders currently meet or exceed.

So, for Public Schools Action Tuesday today, please show your support for a better – not necessarily 7.5 hour longer – school day by signing the “Say No to the proposed 7.5 hour day” petition here.

If you are a CPS parent, please also take a couple of minutes to fill out this survey.


Please be aware that the petition site,, piggybacks a petition for Michelle Rhee’s anti-public teacher group, Students First, onto the Chicago parents’  petition with the fraudulent come-on, “Good Teachers Deserve Decent Pay.” Don’t sign it or Michelle will automatically add you to her “membership” list and use your name to raise more funds for her hate group. Many groups around the country have asked to stop driving traffic to Rhee, but so far they have refused.

On a similar note, read more about another nasty interlude with the astroturf group Stand for Children’s resident creep here.

Parents expose CPS longer day baloney

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

I’m sharing, with permission, the report from a parent meeting at Mt. Greenwood school last week with CPS representatives pushing the 7.5 hour day. The notes indicate CPS’s position that there will be no extra money to implement the extended day. The parents also expose several CPS statements as pure baloney, including the CEO Chief of Staff’s claim that Mt. Greenwood students needed a 7.5 hour day to be able to go to college, and the Network Chief’s assertion that a 7.5 hour day is the norm across the US.

The parents’ group meets again tonight at Mt. Greenwood Library at 110th and Kedzie Avenue from 6 pm to 7:30 pm.


Parent Feedback Regarding CPS Meeting Held at Mt. Greenwood School
Jan. 25, 2012

At the January 25th meeting, parents felt patronized and insulted when Todd Connor, Chief of Staff to CEO J.C. Brizard, insisted that without a 7.5 hour school day our children would not attend college. Parents wondered how Todd could ignore Mt. Greenwood’s high ISAT scores.

Parent Michelle Bever challenged Todd’s assertion that other school districts have a 7.5 hour school day. “Come on, give us one – you can do that – give us a name.” He said, “New Trier.” Michelle promised she would check and found that New Trier Township does not mandate a 7.5 hour school day for any of its schools.

Dr. Karen Saffold, Chief of Elementary Schools, Rock Island Network, repeated the same talking point — that CPS only wanted to bring its school day up to the national average. A parent expressed surprise at her statement, and replied that no state has an average school day as long as 7.5 hours. The average school day in Illinois is 6.5 hours. Dr. Saffold had no reply to that.

Alex Fralin, Deputy Chief of Staff to the CEO, reiterated what Jennifer Cheathem, Chief Instructional Officer, had said at the November 30 community meeting; there is no money for the long day, long year initiative, and schools will have to rely on the “efficiency of their principals.” Parents felt this indicates CPS is throwing principals, teachers and parents under the bus.

Todd Connor went on to say that Mt. Greenwood “school is not performing as well as you think.” Mt. Greenwood needs the 7.5 hour day, he said, because the 8th graders didn’t score very well on the EXPLORE test.

According to database, Mt. Greenwood’s 6th grade ISAT Math score was 97, and Reading was 97.4 in 2010-11. That puts it ahead of schools like Palos South Middle School, Deer Path Middle School East in Lake Forest, and Maple School in Northbrook.

We did more research. We learned Todd should not use one score on one test for one grade to make this kind of decision. “I do know it is unwise policy to base major decisions solely on test scores. If I read you right, it was a one-time low score on one test in one grade that has led to this action by CPS,” wrote Monty Neill of Fair Test.

Next Julie Woestehoff, executive director of PURE, explained that the Explore test is a practice test to the PLAN test. The PLAN test is a practice test to the ACT. (CPS administers the Explore test to students in both 8th and 9th grades. It administers the PLAN in 10th grade and the ACT in 11th grade.)

Then we asked Diane Ravitch, noted Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education, what she thought of Todd’s reasoning for adding 105 minutes to the school day. On January 28 she replied in an email:

“I don’t know anything about Explore other than that it is a practice test for the real test.”
“All of this is nuts.”
“There is no evidence that longer school days produce better education, unless children are engaged in wonderful after school activities that give them a chance to sing, dance, inquire, play, and just be children.”

(Last October, the Sun Times found that for the top 10 suburban neighborhood elementary schools, the school day was one hour less than CPS’ proposed 7.5 hours. The school year was 5 days less a year than the 180 days CPS has put forward.)

At the end of the Mt. Greenwood School meeting, parents expressed frustration that CPS hadn’t offered solid answers to their questions. They decided to reach out to Jesse Sharkey v.p. of the Chicago Teachers Union. He will speak at Mt. Greenwood Library at 110th and Kedzie Avenue from 6 pm to 7:30 pm on Thursday, February 2.

Otherwise the January 25th meeting was a huge success. In two hours in the middle of the afternoon parents collected 500 signatures in favor of either no increase in the day or a maximum increase of 6.5 hours. Only 13 signatures were collected from parents who supported the 7.5 hour day.

Thank you,
19th Ward Parents

Negative study on longer school day

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

From PAA’s Leonie Haimson on NYC Public School Parents blog: 

Yet another negative study that finds that extended time made little difference in terms of achievement or teacher attitudes.

This one, from Abt Associates, examined the results of the much-touted Massachusetts expanded learning time initiative, which provides state funding to selected schools to increase their class time 25-30% over the district average.

So far the research is quite thin that this is the answer to low student achievement, despite the fact that the Gates folks (and their think tanks) continue to push it.

In a summary of the studies on extended time in “School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence”, noted researcher Gene Glass found that increases in the time allocated for schooling would be expensive and would not produce appreciable gains in academic achievement – especially as compared to smaller classes. Glass concluded:

”Within reason, the productivity of the schools is not a matter of the time allocated to them. Rather it is a matter of how they use the time they already have.”

Yet even when citing the Abt study, Elena Silva of Education Sector persists in claiming, “Research on the need for expanded learning opportunities for low-income kids is incontrovertible—without extra learning achievement gaps are sure to persist.”

Really? As yet another review of the literature on extended time concluded a few years ago:

“Research reveals a complicated relationship between time and learning and suggests that improving the quality of instructional time is at least as important as increasing the quantity of time in school.”

Indeed, the quality of classroom time, not quantity, is what counts most. Guess who wrote the above statement in 2007? Elena Silva of Education Sector.

90 school day minutes wasted on testing – I rest my case

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Take a look at this photo, from the Tribune’s story this morning about school days in state school districts being nearly as short as Chicago’s.

The time distribution for this school day in Rondout School in suburban Lake Forest provides 90 minutes — the longest period of any during the day — for “ITBS testing,”  10:15 to 11:45 am.

You can’t tell from the schedule if this is actual testing (perhaps pre-testing for the year, since this is a September schedule) or test prep, but in either case, “testing” is clearly the predominant subject in this and too many other schools.

I warned parents last week about CPS CEO Brizard’s intent to require that the proposed extra 90 school day minutes be spent on more math and reading (i.e. test prep) for schools on probation. I agree with Karen Lewis who said, “if we’re doing the same thing and only doing it longer, all we’re doing is torturing children.”

Meanwhile, apparently the “Longer School Day Committee” has yet to meet, which makes this rush to institute the extra minutes TODAY (insert Mayor Rahm’s 4.5-finger-fist-on-podium bang here) seem even more irresponsible.

Duncan provides another “HUH?” moment

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan has a knack for running from his own track record as Chicago Public Schools CEO and making some idiotic statements while he trying to score edu-political points.

Yesterday, while visiting our fair city, he came out in favor of Mayor Emanuel’s longer school day plan, saying that it has been a “badge of shame” for CPS. Then he made this claim, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

Extending the school day and year is “absolutely … something I wish we could have done’’ under his leadership, Duncan said. But, he said, during that time — from 2001 to early 2009 — “the system couldn’t afford it.’’

This statement was even dumber since it makes Mayor Rahm look bad, too. The mayor claimed that he couldn’t afford the teachers’ contractual 4% raise (something that never happened under Duncan) which may be allowable if there is a legitimate, severe budget shortfall.

But Duncan just provided more ammunition for the CTU’s claim that the additional funding that Rahm has found to pay for a longer school day is evidence that the budget crisis is bogus.

Klonsky on Lab School’s short school day/year

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

You don’t want to miss Mike Klonsky’s reportage on a facet of the longer school day/year debate that has so far escaped Chicago’s mainstream press: the fact that Mayor Emanuel’s children attend a school with the same hours in the school day and fewer days in the school year than Chicago’s.

So, is the Mayor giving his kids “the shaft” by choosing to send them to the elite University of Chicago Lab School???

Talk about a scandal.

Here’s what Mike learned just by picking up the phone:

What I found out was that Lab has a school day comparable to CPS. It’s school year is actually a week shorter than CPS’ and Lab kids and families enjoy longer vacations and spring and winter breaks together. Not only that, Lab dismisses kids an hour early two days a week so that teachers have time to meet, plan and collaborate. Not only that, but the Lab school day is packed with arts, music and phys ed, rather than Rahm’s favorite subject — test prep. Not only that, but Lab teachers have an hour for lunch. Wow!

Like Mike (and I always aspire to that standard) I think a longer day is a good idea as long as it’s filled with high-quality programs and the staff are compensated fairly for their work.

Here’s hoping that the Rahmfather will spend some time as a room father at Lab and find out at least some of the important things that may be missing in the schools he hopes to improve.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.