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CPS Moving Forward With Longer School Day, But Union Balks

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Chicago Public Schools

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago Public School officials were moving forward with plans for a longer school day and year starting next year, but the Chicago Teachers Union balked at joining an advisory panel being formed to help implement the longer school day.

CPS officials said they plan to extend the school day by 90 minutes and the school year by two weeks starting with the 2012-2013 school year.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports

“National research and experts all point to the correlation between a longer day and year and improved student performance in the classroom,” CPS officials said in a news release.

CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard said that CPS students and teachers are at a disadvantage with one of the shortest school days in the nation and an additional 90 minutes a day will be a huge difference for learning.

He said the additional time would boost student achievement and better prepare them for careers and college.

Timothy Knowles, of the Urban Education Institute, said he agrees. He was appointed to CPS’s “Longer School Day Advisory Committee,” which consists of a group of current and former local elected officials and other education officials.

“I think it’s a fabulous move and we are saying we want to get you to college. You can’t get there without more time. Not only is this a smart move, I would say it’s a non-negotiable,” Knowles said.

He acknowledged that CPS must still work out details with the Chicago Teachers Union, which balked at joining the advisory committee and has expressed concerns about plans for a longer school day.

In a news release, CTU officials said President Karen Lewis said she would not accept an invitation to join the committee.

“As a National Board certified teacher with 23 years of classroom experience, she is interested in looking at a better, smarter school day for our students and not being a part of a publicity stunt designed to thwart real discussion,” CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in the release. “CPS has loaded its advisory council with charter school proponents, parochial school leaders, administration-connected clergy, politicians and union-busting advocacy groups. This news has nothing do with helping our children and everything to do with politicizing a real serious problem. Our children deserve better.”

Lewis has said the object is to work smarter, not work longer. She has said the system needs more teachers, teaching more subjects, not the same teachers just doing the same thing for longer hours.

Lewis also has said the way to raise test scores in Chicago is to hire more teachers to focus on reading, art and music, and to cut the time teachers spend preparing pupils for standardized tests.

CPS will begin training schools for the longer school day beginning next month.

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.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to lengthen the school day during his campaign and, earlier this year, lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn approved legislation that gave CPS new powers to extend its school day and year.

Emanuel says Chicago kids spend too little time in the classroom. But the mayor doesn’t quibble with teachers who say any extra time should be well spent.

“We weren’t having this discussion for the last 10 years. All the adults in the system, every adult, was talking about what was in it for them, not what was in it for the kids,” Emanuel said last week. “In the last six months, we’re finally having a discussion of what’s in it for the kids.”

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