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 SchoolDigger.com 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.
19th Ward Parents