Why 90 Minutes? CPS Longer School Day Update

Written by: Lee Haas

The second gathering of the CPS Longer School Day Advisory committee was held last week. The main focus of the conversation centered on implementing a longer school day in the high schools. But a few other concerns that seem to keep popping up were addressed.

Why 90 Minutes?

One question that many seem to keep hearing is “why 90 minutes?” It seems a little long to some parents. And the Teachers’ Union is advocating for only 75 minutes. The rationale is this: Chicago currently spends the least amount of time in the classroom compared to every other large urban district. Adding 90 minutes per day brings us to the top of that field. However, just while we are struggling to get ourselves up from the bottom, many districts across the nation who are at the top range of “time in the classroom” are making plans to increase that time even further! So if we increase our time by only 75 minutes a day, within a couple of years, we will find that we are right back at the bottom of the heap. Plus, CPS believes that the 90 minute increase is what it will take to implement the new Common Core curriculum properly.

How will this be funded?

Another major concern that we are hearing is in regards to funding a longer school day. Adding in things such as teacher preparation periods, recess and longer lunches will require additional staffing at most schools. Is CPS office just going to mandate this change and leave the schools to scramble to come up with the funds to support a longer day? The answer is no. Part of what they are looking at this year with the schools participating in the “Pioneer Program” is just how much additional resources schools will require to implement the change.

Length of the High School day

The committee discussed the various factors that should be considered when determining adding length to the High School day – longer commutes for many students, extra-curricular activities and after-school jobs. All felt it was important to take these things into consideration. The general consensus among the committee was that the high school day could be lengthened by 30-45 minutes and that additional time could be squeezed throughout the day to find additional “time on task.” For example, the 45 minute lunch could be shortened. And schools could move to “block” scheduling to decrease the amount of time spent in “passing periods.” These were all merely suggestions by the committee. It remains to be seen how CPS regards our suggestions.

Here’s my soapbox moment:

I was somewhat heartened earlier this week by the news of the agreement between CPS office and the CTU to suspend efforts to draft additional schools into the Longer Day Pioneer Program. Both sides are selling this as a positive event and I believe (or sincerely hope) that it’s one step towards softening the contentious relationship between CPS and CTU. CPS office needs to work hard in order to “sell” the longer school day. They need to show that they are working in the best interest of the students by not just pushing forward an agenda, but by truly working to IMPROVE the school day. Likewise, although it’s the job of the CTU to protect the best interest of the teachers, they need to do so without jeopardizing the quality of our education system (or in our case, do so while IMPROVING it). In reality, for a longer school day to really make any sort of impact, it’s going to depend on how the staff and teachers at each school utilize the additional time. If the teachers, staff (and parents!) are resistant to this change, then they are probably not going to do the best job utilizing the additional time (professionalism aside, if their hearts just aren’t in it, it’s not going to be the best it can be). The communities and all parties involved need to get behind this effort in order for it to live up to expectations. So that’s my rally cry. I’m stepping off my soap box now.

Need Your Feedback!!

I would love to gather some feedback and opinions to take with me to the December committee meeting. Does your students attend one of the “Pioneer” schools who are testing out the longer day? How’s it going? What’s your opinion on adding 75 minutes as opposed to 90 minutes? Do you think the teachers/staff at your school will be supportive of the longer school day? Anyone thinking about high school yet??

Posted on November 04, 2011 at 8:46 PM