CPS, Viva Teachers Partner to Develop Guide to Integrate Recess into Full School Day 

Feedback from 600 CPS teachers via the Viva Project will help shape district’s recess proposal for the 2012/2013 school year


January 17, 2012


Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced they are co-writing a recess guide with teachers from the Viva Project that will assist principals in developing their own recess plans for next school year as recess, as part of the Full Day initiative, is implemented across all district elementary schools.  This guide will build upon the recess guide that was developed last year, and includes input from representatives from community organizations such as Healthy Schools Campaign, Raise Your Hand, and Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI). 


The VIVA Project is an independent organization that works to increase classroom teachers’ participation in education issues across the country.  Last December, the VIVA Project, in partnership with National Louis University, launched the VIVA Teachers’ Chicago Ideas Exchange, a project that solicited the feedback of nearly 600 CPS teachers in developing recommendations for the Full School Day. The ideas in the recess guide will be rooted in the recommendations set forth in VIVA’s collaborative report written by the members of the Idea Exchange.


“The Viva Project’s Teachers’ Chicago Ideas Exchange has turned out to be an incredible resource for us to ensure that teachers, who have a critical voice and perspective in this process, can help shape how to best utilize the Full School Day,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “Recess is a key part of the full day and studies show that having time for recess not only promotes lifelong habits of healthy living, but also increases the likelihood of a student’s success in the classroom.”


The VIVA Project teachers offered many suggestions for the Full School Day, including recommending that schools be given flexibility in shaping their school day, promoting creative scheduling strategies like double blocks, and presenting recommendations for time allotments by groups of grade levels, rather than separate allotments for each grade.


“I’m glad to see that some of our ideas for the school day are actually being implemented.  Teachers know first-hand what our students need, but oftentimes we are the last ones to be asked for input. The VIVA project changed that by allowing every teacher in the district to have a say. The professionals at Central Office have been incredibly responsive to our ideas, which is wonderful,” said Kori Milroy, teacher from Skinner West elementary school and co-writer of the resource guide.

The resource guide will include recommendations that will assist principals in addressing various issues that arise in scheduling recess such as; ensuring the safety of all students and making accommodations for students with disabilities.  This guide will be particularly helpful for those principals who did not previously have time to provide recess in the past.


Last year, CPS released a recess guide to assist elementary schools in developing a School Recess Plan. The guide, written in part by parents and with input from teachers and principals district-wide, provides a step-by-step process that school communities can use to consider and create recess options for their students.  The guide was developed as the product of the Recess Task Force which formed in 2009 to identify opportunities for offering recess in more CPS schools.  CPS has continued to seek guidance and feedback from those organizations that developed last year’s recess guide.


The Full School Day will help boost student achievement during a time when students across CPS are struggling. More than 123,000 students – one third of all children – are in underperforming schools throughout the District. In 2011, only 7.9 percent of all 11th graders tested college ready, while the high school graduation rate stands at 57 percent and achievement gaps for African American and Latino students remain in the high double digits.


With the move to a 7.5-hour day, students will receive the additional time they need in core subjects such as math, reading and science, get needed individual instruction to ensure they don’t fall behind, and have the opportunity for exposure to enrichment opportunities that were not formerly available. The District also intends to move to a calendar of 180 instructional days, an increase of 10 instructional days from the current CPS calendar, which will bring the number of school days in Chicago on par with national average.


Currently, 50 schools – including 13 traditional CPS schools and 37 charters – have implemented the Full School Day.  Thirty-nine of those schools – two traditional CPS schools and the charters – launched their Full School Day programs this week.  Altogether, more than 22,000 students in Chicago are now benefitting from a Full School Day. Each school has worked with their teachers, parents and communities to design a school day that meets the school’s unique needs.


Eleven traditional CPS schools began their Full School Day programs last fall as part of the District’s Pioneer Schools program. Among those schools, 71 percent of the 90 additional instructional minutes have been spent focusing on core subjects, while 29 percent have been spent on enrichment activities. The Pioneer schools have already provided their students with an additional 85 hours of instructional time, which is the equivalent of 17 more days of instructional time, primarily focused on the core subjects of reading, math and science.


More information on how schools are using the Full School Day can be found here.


The recess resource guide will be released and distributed to principals next week.


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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