Chicago Public School officials announced plans to extend the shortest school day in the nation by an additional 90 minutes and two weeks to provide the critical instructional time needed to boost student achievement and ensure students graduate college and career-ready. National research and experts all point to the correlation between a longer day and year and improved student performance in the classroom. CPS will implement a strategy to extend the day and year for the 2012/2013 school year beginning this fall and will engage stakeholders to help build a plan to ensure a successful transition.
A school day short on instructional time has contributed to stagnant academic growth among CPS students. More than 150,000 CPS students are currently attending underperforming schools and only 57% of students are graduating from high schools. Only 31% of 8th graders were at or above the college readiness benchmarks in reading and only 20% were at or above these benchmarks for math in the 2011 EXPLORE assessment. CPS high school students also lag behind in college readiness. Only 7.9% of high school juniors met all four college readiness benchmarks on the state's recent PSAE tests and the average CPS ACT score is 17.2, which is well below the college ready benchmark of 20.
A key component of a CPS longer school day will include instruction that incorporates the new Common Core State Standards, which will become the academic standard across Chicago in the 2012/2013 school year. As a result, students will be provided with more time on task in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. Students will also benefit from enrichment opportunities, like art and music, which studies show help boost student achievement. Currently, CPS trails Illinois and other large urban districts in preparing students to meet Common Core benchmarks; in college readiness for reading, Chicago sits at 19%, compared to 46% for Illinois.
The additional 90-minutes in the day will also provide more time for teachers to work collaboratively in groups to meet individual student needs and share best practices in order to drive student achievement.
"Having the shortest school day in the nation puts teachers and students at a disadvantage and it's time that we provided both with the tools they need to drive student success in the classroom," said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. "A longer day will give our teachers the time they need to better prepare our students for college and career readiness and allow them to plan as a group in order to benefit all of their students."
A recent Illinois teacher survey found that 69% of teachers believe that they do not have sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all of their students. By extending the school day, CPS will empower principals and teachers to develop plans that uniquely address their students' needs.
The priorities outlined in a CPS longer day will include:
- Spend more time on core academic subjects including math, science and social studies.
- Provide opportunities for students to work on literacy skills in all subject areas.
- Broaden enrichment opportunities including physical education, art, music, and library time.
- Give students an adequate mid-day lunch and recess period so that they can recharge.
- Provide students with interventions and supports to help improve skills in math, science and core subjects.
- Additional time for teachers to collaborate in groups to develop strong learning environments for their schools.
CPS will be engaging key stakeholders to help determine how the additional minutes are used within the school day. CPS has begun a Longer School Day Advisory Committee, comprised of key stakeholders that will provide guidance about an extended day structure and the implementation strategy schools can adopt in transitioning toward a longer day. They will also work to highlight potential challenges schools may face and work to develop solutions.
Committee members will include: Brian Brady of Mikva Challenge, Dr. Byron Brazier of the Apolistic Church of God, Celine Coggins of Teach Plus, Sarah Cobb of Neighborhood Parents Network, Guillermo Gomez of The Healthy Schools Campaign, Timothy Knowles of the Urban Education Institute, Phyllis Lockett of New Schools for Chicago, Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's Church, Juan Soto of Pilsen Neighbors Community Council , Alderman Latasha Thomas, Robin Steans of Advance Illinois, Senator Kimberly Lightford, and a number of city agencies that would be impacted by the change to a longer a school day.
CPS will be looking carefully at best practices used by schools within Chicago as well as districts nationwide. CPS will also work with teachers and principals through focus groups begining this fall to gain feedback on how the school day should be structured and the impact of additional learning in core subject areas. Parent focus groups will also provide an opportunity for parents to voice their opinions on what types of instruction would benefit their children. CPS will begin training schools for longer school days starting as early as this September.
The district will require schools to use a portion of additional minutes on learning in core subject areas, which are critical for preparing students for college and the workplace. A 2005 Mass2020 study showed that students who attend Extended Learning Time schools saw impressive gains in math, reading, and science compared with their peers. Additionally, a higher proportion of teachers in those schools report that they are satisfied with the amount of time available for instruction. ("Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative 2010-11 Update. " Mass 2020)
"Studies show that whether we add time to reading, math and science classes or provide students with individual instruction in these areas, the more time students spend on task, the more they understand, learn and grow academically," Brizard said.
In addition, the CPS extended school day will have time built into it for teacher planning and collaboration. Studies show that through teacher collaboration, schools are able to build strong professional learning communities that support students across subject areas and improve academic growth.
Schools here in Chicago have already used additional instruction and increased teacher collaboration time to effectively improve student academic success and prepare students for college. At Chicago's Noble Network of Charter Schools, the day runs 105 minutes longer than a typical CPS school and, among CPS open-enrollment schools, Noble Schools ranked first and second in 2010 student ACT scores.
Similarly, Urban Prep Academy's Englewood campus seniors spent 72,000 more minutes in the classroom than their peers in traditional CPS schools. Every member of the Urban Prep first and second graduating classes has gained admission to a four-year college.
"We are looking at leaders both locally and nationally that will help us determine what works and how we can best spend these additional minutes to have the maximum benefit for our students. We know that we must add quality instructional time to the day in order to make an impact and move our students down the path toward college and career success," Brizard added.
As part of his continuing schedule of school visits, Brizard and Advisory Committee members will visit schools with longer school days to observe practices for implementing additional learning time and scheduling longer school day instruction. Brizard will also host webinars and online town halls to garner input and feedback from teachers and principals in the coming weeks and months.
Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation's third-largest school district.