Many Parents Think 7 ½-Hour School Day Too Long

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is turning his campaign for a longer school day up a notch, while some parents and teachers argue that A 7 ½-hour day is just too long.

So why is the mayor focused on that number?

Few dispute the Mayor’s claim that the current school day is too short, but there are those – teachers and even some parents – who feel his proposed 7 ½-hour day might be too long.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine spoke to the mayor about it, during a visit to a South Side school that made the grade in a big way, despite shorter hours.

“With the shortest school day and the shortest school year in the country, we are shortchanging the kids and the teachers from achieving what they need to achieve,” Emanuel said.

The mayor visited Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Englewood on Tuesday to make good on a promise to its principal.

“He said we’re gonna make it onto the … top 50 high schools. I said, well, if you do it I wanna come back and I wanna congratulate you and congratulate the students and the teachers for your accomplishment,” Emanuel said.

Lindblom, once a troubled school, made the biggest jump of any school in the state, all the way to number 43 – despite the current 5 hour 45 minute school day, much shorter than top 20 ranked schools in Highland Park, Naperville, Wilmette and Barrington.

With the mayor’s proposed 7 hour 30 minute day, Chicago would go from the shortest to the longest school day in the state.

“There’s nothing magical about 7 ½ hours, but there is a curse at 5 ½,” Emanuel said.

So why did he pick 7 ½ hours as his goal for CPS?

“The reason is that’s what Houston was doing and that’s what the bar was for all the major cities throughout the country,” Emanuel said.

Most Houston public schools have a 7 ½-hour day, though some turnaround schools there are in session for 8 ½ hours for four of the five schooldays a week.

A CPS advisory committee which met Tuesday night is wrestling with both the hours and the make-up of Chicago’s longer day.

One member of that committee, the parents’ group “Raise Your Hand,” surveyed its members.

“Parents are concerned about having time for outside school activities, family time, homework, things of that nature,” Raise Your Hand member Amy Smolensky said. “They think that a 7 ½ hour day is simply too long for a lot of children, particularly younger children.”

Pressed for why he’s pushing specifically for 7 ½ hours, Emanuel said, “The basis of that was when I looked at New York, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, all the other cities around the country, we were on the bottom.”

“And our kids have big dreams. They have big potential and I’m not gonna be the mayor that shortchanges them that, which is how this educational system is set up,” the mayor added.

Emanuel has dropped in unannounced at dozens of schools in recent weeks.

Convinced that fixing the schools is the key to economic success for the city, he’s clearly drawn a line in the sand. But the success of Lindblom – without any extra time – might show that time spent in class is only part of it.

It also might lead to a debate, not over whether our kids need more time in school, but how much more time.

More from Jay Levine
  • Kim Lutz

    Thank you for addressing the concerns of so many CPS families (like mine) that a 7 1/2 hour day is just too long. Chicago has seen success with the 6 1/2-hour days through the open campus model. Maybe that’s a good starting point for change.

    • Jess

      I went to school with 7.5 hour days. I came out top of my class and we had few people flunk out. You get more access to teachers and information. We were able to have access to labs, clubs and atheletics that allowed many of our students, including myself, gain scholarships into college or attend a vocational school during public school hours. They also had a school to work program if families thought that 16+ year old kids were better suited having jobs while going to school. For that, you did your core studies in the morning (math, science, english and geography) and then went to work after lunch. The child’s boss would fill out a “report card” of the child’s performance for the school.

    • Brony

      It’s all Obamas fault.

      • Phil

        No brony would say such a thing. You’re no brony! Fluttershy would never say such a thing!

    • Floyd

      Yes, it is too long. My children get up at 5:30 a.m. and off to school at 6:30 and return around 4:15 p.m. This is too much for them to handle. They come home and do their homework and eat and get to bed around 8:30. This gives them about four hours with us at home for them to do their needs and spend some time with us the parents. To me this is abuse to the highest caliber. The need only about four hours schooling at the max. It is time we addressed this torture to our children. It is dark when they go to school and almost dark when they come home. It is too much. I am in favor of campaigning against any politician that advocates longer hours. They torture our children and their families by depriving them of time at home.

      • Jess

        If spending that much time away from your children is a big deal, you can always home school. I don’t know why these people who complain about the school system just don’t form a home schooling group. They also have one of those where I live. Parents get together and share lesson plans, grade papers together, and do group activities with the kids so they get socialized. A friend of mine made art lessons for a home schooling group. My best friend’s cousins were home schooled and they did just as well or better than public school. Maybe I live with people who find solutions to their problems.

      • Ms bernardi

        My son takes a one hour train ride to school and arrives home at 6:00 pm. He chose to do this so he could get the best possible education. Stop babying your kids and let them take some responsibility for getting an excellent education. We overprotect our kids so that when they have to be independent at college they cannot figure out to manage since we always did everything for them….or defended them constantly with teachers who have expectations. You are lucky to have a mayor who is committed to improving your schools!

      • Seraphim0

        Four hours? Are you kidding? 7.5 is ideal. More access to information and tools to help them learn. Your kids need an hour to get ready for school in the morning? The only time I ever had to get up at 5:30 am was when I lived on a ranch and had to bike two miles to the bus stop, plus doing morning chores before heading out.

        Torture. Wow. Floyd, maybe you would have benefitted from a longer school day. With a bedtime at 8:30, and waking up at 5:30, your kids are actually sleeping an unhealthy amount. Best healthy sleep is between 6 and 8 hours. You’re forcing them to take 9. Maybe your kids would benefit if you gave them an extra hour of awake time.

  • Awms3

    I just watch this report and I couldn’t believe that CBS 2 news would be complicit in mis-informing their viewers. The Mayors goes to Linblom High school, which sits in the middle of one of the most under served neighborhoods: Englewood, to peddle his useless ideal of extending the school day two and half hours. The Mayor holds up and CBS reports Linblom as the model for how to turn around a school. The facts that were left out of this report are: Linblom is one of about sixteen CPS selective enrollment schools, they only take students that score in the 92 percentile one the selective enrollment test. Linblom became a selective enrollment school by CPS board firing the entire staff. making the student attend other school in the area and letting the school sit idle for a year. Which means Linblom dose not sever the student that live in the surrounding Englewood neighborhood.

    The Mayor needs to stop visiting charter schools and Selective enrollment schools, which are basically semi-private schools, that get to select which students will get to attend their school. The Mayor should start visiting actual CPS schools, schools that have had their best student moved to charter schools and receive their under performing student. These schools are the ones fighting the true battle to educate our students that are being left behind. This farce the Mayor and the CPS board is playing with are kids has nothing to do with education, But everything with breaking the union.

    Never before have I regret the way I voted. I reget voting for Rahm Emanual

    • amb

      5hr 45 min to 7hr 30 min is not extending the day by 2.5 hours

    • Abraham W Bolden Jr

      @Awms3 Clarification: Lindblom did not cease it’s selective enrollment status in year 2000. As an alumni of Lindblom and a staff member in the early 2000’s, Lindblom continued to accept freshmen until 2003. Lindblom never closed in 2006. Lindblom College Prep graduated its students who were enrolled at an alternative building until the renovation of the building infrastructure was completed. Lindblom Math and Science Academy opened its doors in September 2005. Both schools co-existed in the same building from 2005-2006. With the exception of years 2003 and 2004, Lindblom has accepted incoming freshmen. I’m still wondering why people believe Lindblom closed in 2006. This is not the case – Lindblom Math and Science Academy graduated its first class in 2009. Lindblom did not graduate any students in 2007 or 2008.

      • Abraham W Bolden Jr

        Lindblom did not cease its selective enrollment status in year 2000.

    • ewarren

      Lindblom is a selective enrollment school and has been since the 70’s , so get your facts straight, 70% of current Lindblom students are low income and some do live in the englewood community, Lindblom has everything to do with education , I am a proud lindblom graduate (81) as is my bother (77) and my daughter (2010), i was born and raised in Woodlawn as my daughter was , by the way the Lindblom class of 2010 had 96 graduates, that was the entire senior class, they all were accepted into 4 year colleges and universitites and received over 6 million dollars in grants and scholarships , its all about education there and always has been…

      • Awms3

        You are missing my point, I’m not saying lindblom is a bad school or that the students are not from low income families. If what you are saying is true, you have made my point. That would mean lindblom student were never averging in the low 50 range on the standize test, as stated in this report. And you are wrong, in the early 2000 lindlom stop being a selective enrollment school, around 2006 lindblom closeed it’s doors and re-open in 2007 as a selective enrollment school again. I know this because my daughter graduated 8th grad in 2009 (private school) and we visited all the selective enrollment school and lindblom had only been reopen for a year. My issue is not with the school or the student my issue is the mayor and the staff mis-leading the public in thinking that lindblom is a Urban prep type of school, where they take below average students and bring up scores. Iindblom doesn’t do that, they take the brightest children and educate them. Nothing wrong with that but don’t protray your as typical Cps school to further the mayors agenda

  • Jim

    7.5 hours would be good for our kids, but Unions will not go with it because it would be good for our kids.

    • Awms3

      extending the school day is not going to change the culture of learning in school.
      we have school with outdated text books, no text books. We have schools only teaching math and Reading so the kids a pass the test. What about the other subjects Science, Social studies, Writing. To have school reform the educational system has to be reformed. Issue like longer school days and no child left behind is only hurting our children not helping.

      • aw

        Teachers are not against longer school days. They are against having to work for free. The Mayor wants to extended the school day without paying the teachers. Teachers punch a clock, if they work 8 hrs they should get paid for 8 hrs not 5.5

      • Awms3

        Lee you are missing the point, I have nothing against Lindblom and its students. I have a problem with the mayor misrepresenting this school as turn around school. When this reports refers to Lindlom’s trouble school days, Lindblom was not a selective enrollment school at the time. Lindblom had started taking in average and below average students and became an under preforming school. To correct this situation CPS didn’t come with new teaching method or extended school days, They pushed those kids out to continue to be left behind. That is what offends me and what should offend you as being a Lindblom grad.

        You are right education does begin at home, but it is finished in our schools.
        Extended the school day dose not address the real problems we have in
        our standard schools, CVS, Finger, Dunbar, Hype Park or Earl elementary which
        is two block from Lindblom. This school has no books for the students, there are 36+ students to a class. what is extending the school day going to accomplish under these kinds of conditions. If the mayor was serious about education he would be meeting the needs of this school.

        Penn State class 93
        Plus my children attend one of the top 10 schools in the country.
        I pay for my children’s education, and others (with my taxes) and i should be getting my moneys worth. Every child should be able to get a quality education, no matter where they live, who their parents are or their financial situation

      • sarahk

        Bingo. It is not quantity it is quality…
        See my comment below…

      • lee

        Lord only knows why Awms3 comments are so negative about Lindblom. As a graduate of Lindblom from WAAAY back in the day, our standards have always been high. However, contrary to popular beliefs, the students that attended Lindblom there (or now) were not ‘special’ students in the sense that our parents were weathy or that we were above normal. My sister and iIcame from a lower middle class family (my father worked for Ford and my mother stayed at home), and we went to a regular grade school in the community. We took the Lindblom test because we had high reading scores ( which came from our mother sharing her love of reading with all of us). There was no special formula; we had a love of learning, and I was always a good test taker.
        Awms, a good education begins in the home. Your poor writing skills are indicative of the fact that you are not educated; you show this by not taking the time to edit the ideas that represent your point of view. Now, take those same poor skills, and think about how your children are becoming poor learners because you are a poor example. No matter how long the Mayor wants the school day to be, it is not going to get better unless education begins with the parent and the home. Instead of being critical of the person who is taking your responsibility out of your hands, take the control of your child’s upbringing back where it belongs- in your home. My parents did.

  • willie

    Everyone else works 8 hours or more. Plus given the fact teachers take off for long summer breaks and not to count the huge amount of holidays. Parents now can meet their kids after they get off work instead of children being home before they do.

    • Jessica

      Are you kidding me?

      My sister and her husband teach Elementary and high school, and even though they love the kids and the atmosphere, they regret their career choice. Why? Because even with their high level of education, they barely makes enough to get above the poverty line. Seriously! they can barely support themselver and their two kids. As for 8 hours, they work well above that! Between actual class timem grading, preparing curriculum, staff meetings, teacher in-service ,MANDATORY student activities like homecoming and student council, field trips, travel for the school,and preparing the classroom, I wouldn’t be surprised if its a 12+ hour day.

      As for summer vacations, teacher DON’T get paycheck for that. I know many teachers who end up getting a summer job just to make ends meet. This includes my sister and my brother-in-law. Its a sad state of affairs when we expect these people to enrich our kids education, yet we expect so much for such little pay.

    • Amanda

      Why do people like you still continue to believe that a teacher only works when the students are in the classroom? As a person who lives a block away from a school I can tell you that the parking lot is full of teacher cars until well past 5pm every day. My kids have to be to school by 8, which means most of those teachers had been there since 7. Last time I checked 7-5 is a 10 hour work day. There are often times more than one car in the lot on both Saturdays and Sundays, times when there are no school activities going on. My kids teachers work hard to teach my kids and it makes me sick when I see people posting about how easy their job is. If its so easy, then why are you not a substitute teacher?

    • Melissa

      I agree but disagree. Teachers do work more than their 5.5 hours while the students are there. Really are the teachers with them all 5.5 hours? Kids take recess and lunch, art/gym/music while the teacher works on grading papers ext. Another thing I am in Ohio, they post the teachers salaries. Don’t tell me a teacher is under paid!!

      • Evelyn

        Melissa, you are very misinformed. Yes, kids have electives and some have recess and that is when teachers grade. Now, extra time is spent on designing lessons, adapting curriculum, calling and emailing parents, teacher meetings, research etc. You break it down by what teachers really make based on the hours they put in (and own money spent on materials and rewards for students) and they make about $8.75 an hr. Yes, they have summer breaks, but they stay after the school year ends and arrive before the year begins and have meetings throughout the summer. I encourage anyone who doubts the work and pay of a teacher to spend a day or a week shadowing one.

  • Maureen

    Jay, it seems that the Mayor doesn’t have a solid reason why he wants to extend the day to 7.5 hours. Leads one to ask how well planned — or funded — is his longer-day initiative?

    An earlier poster wants CPS to pay attention to the struggling neighborhood schools. That seems sensible. (For more insight, see the excellent Catalyst reporting by Sarah Karp on Marshall’s turnaround,)

    Lindblom has proven it can raise scores by substituting tutoring for a boutique colloquia on Wednesdays, with more tutoring before and after school. The teachers seem to really make themselves available to the kids.

    What if Alan Mather’s straightforward approach is correct? What if CPS decided to build tutoring into the school week for neighborhood high schools?

    How reassuring it would be if CPS implemented a tutoring program that has already been shown to work! Granted, it was at a selective school, which has clear advantages. But the scope of Lindblom’s rise is encouraging. Let’s see if CPS can replicate this success at neighborhood schools.

  • Awms3

    I listen to this report again and it is really misleading to classify Linbolm as a turn around school. Linblom dumped all of their former students and now gets to hand pick only the top students in the city to attend Linblom. You can’t compare what linblom does to what a school like Urban Prep is doing

  • David

    If the parents do not want a longer day maybe they should get off of thier a$$ and tutor the kids. Education is not only the schools responsability parent have to help. Most other area’s have minnimum of 7 hour day’s so it appears that your children are bieng short changed on education.

  • efhershe

    The article says we have a 5 hour 45 minute school day. That’s incorrect.

    The contractual school day, and the school day we work at Lindblom, is 6 and half hours long — 32.5 hours a week.

    5 hours and 45 minutes only applies to ELEMENTARY Schools operating on a Closed Campus schedule. The reporter should get his facts straight!

  • Stephanie

    7 1/2 hours is nothing… In KC we are in school 8 hrs a day 5 days a week…Its like a job, you work 8 hrs why not go to school 8 hrs.. students & teachers were fine with this… I would be thanking the mayor for trying to give our childern more education. Parents need to stop their complaining…

    • Jessica

      Sorry, posted before I thought… Didn’t mean to troll!

    • Jessica

      Yeah! Boo to parents who want to spend more time with their children! BOOOOO!

      • Seraphim0

        Jessica, most parents work full time jobs in the average, modern family (with both parents working). So… if the kid gets home at the same time their parent does, where is the loss in time? Please explain that. Or are you so sheltered to think that one parent stays home all the time with the kids is the norm? The vast majority of families have two streams of income (and need it). Which means both parents work. They usually get home around 5pm for the average workday. So… PLEASE… how is this reducing parent-child time?

    • Troll Slayer

      Well said!!

  • hello

    Schools out in Indiana are in for at least 7 hrs. Some are starting as early as 7:00 A.M. and you don’t hear any complaints.

    Teachers are lucky if they even get 8 weeks off for the summer. CTU would have a fit if they got only 8 weeks off for the summer. You have to remember, they only get 5 vacation days and 5 personal days off for the entire year while the rest of us get up to 30 for the year. Also, some teachers do not get paid if they are on a 9 month or 11 month contract during the summer.

  • clara

    Everyone is talking a longer school day, but what everyone is failing to mention is the countless hours of planning and grading each teacher has to do at home. We also failed to mention that teachers offer tutoring and also partake in extracurricular activity. Longer days equal minimal extracurricular activity, student social skills, and sleeping hours.

    • Melissa

      They are paid for turoring and to be a coach or any other extracurrucular activies. That really can’t be an arguement.

      • Jessica

        They’re salary, which means they are paid the same regardless of what extracurriculars they perform.

      • Jessica

        Not always. My sister isn’t.

  • Kim

    My kids have been doing 7 hour days since they were in Pre-K.

    • Kim

      Plus one spends 6 hour s and the other 8.5 hours a week at gymnastics. Not to mention all the traveling on the weekends to compete. They have learned to be quite good at time management. A skill coveted by employers.

  • clathy

    What are these children going to do when they become adults and work 40 hours a week or more? Are they going to petition the company to let them work less hours for the same pay?

    • jildo

      Clathy, clearly you don’t have children, you don’t know what is developmentally appropriate for children and you haven’t considered what is best for children when making your comment. Are you really saying that 5 year olds need to sit at a desk for eight hours a day just because some adults do?

      School is not training kids for the stamina to make it through an eight hour day. It’s to promote lifelong learners who will contribute creatively and productively to a vital U.S. economy. Boring kids and turning them off to school completely by inuring them to boring 8 hour lesson plans will not do that.

      • Chicago Mama

        Are there really schools left in the CPS system that follow the 1950s model of teaching? My kids follow a 7.5-hour day that is anything but boring. They switch it up every 20-60 minutes, with time for social, creative and free-play pursuits.

  • The New Report Card |

    […] Many Parents Think 7 ½-Hour School Day Too Long CBS2: Mayor Rahm Emanuel is turning his campaign for a longer school day up a notch, while some parents and teachers argue that A 7 ½-hour day is just too long. […]

  • Kate Brandt

    Two critical points. First, there is nothing to suggest that going to a 7.5 hour day will improve test scores (which seems to be the only thing with which the Mayor is concerned). The research cited on CPS’s own website concludes that extending the school day “has yet to be fairly tested” using well-controlled studies, and that “based on the limited evidence available Extended Day or Extended Year has, at worst, no effect on achievement and, at best, a small relationship with achievement”. Massachusetts, which experimented with a longer day in just 19 schools, reports that “the wide range of results across [extended day] schools illustrates that expanding time is neither a silver bullet nor a panacea.” And the National Center for Time and Learning, an advocacy group to which CPS is paying an undisclosed amount of money, in its own study found that extended time made no difference in students’ math and language arts performance in five of seven grade levels it examined. Even in Chicago, charter schools with 7.5 hour or longer school days perform no better than the CPS average.

    Second, for every additional hour in school, something else has to give. Children need school-life balance just as much as adults need work-life balance, with time for family, friends and hobbies. The American Academy of Pediatrics says unstructured play is as critical to mental and physical development as formal education. Sleep is just as important, with inadequate sleep tied to lower academic performance and childhood obesity. Taking hours from our children and their families is a real cost that neither the Mayor nor CPS has expressed a willingness to consider.

    • sarahk

      The mayor has an agenda,
      unfortunately it is not what is best for the children…
      – HalfDayKindgergaten.Org

  • Jessy

    5 1/2 hour school days?? Seriously? Wow! I went to school from 7 – 3 and at times I felt like I needed more time to accomplish things. I’ve seen how many kids behave, act, spell, talk – they NEED more school!!

    I honestly think it would be more convenient to have a school day last like a typical work day. I work 10 1/2 hour days and I dread having kids because I wonder how I’m going to get them on the bus safely and get them home.

    Aside from my worries, I think kids need all the time they can get. They keep laying teachers off, closing schools and all sorts of things. CLass sizes are bigger. There is just not enough time to adequately dedicate to every student.

    Maybe they can throw in a class about budgeting a check book, the dangers of credit card misuse and debt, applying for college, writing a resume – you know .. things that will help them transition into a responsible adult

    • Sue

      In Utah it’s required to take a financial class to learn how to manage money an the problems of debt..

  • MattGMD

    One might consider it unwise to pattern much of anything regarding the field of education after any city in Texas.

  • E. Nicole

    Just one point of clarification. Charter schools do not get to select the students we educate. Charters are public. We take EVERY student without regard to academic level or disability.

    • claire

      Hmmm. . . is that why the family of 5 who left my CPS school for the neighborhod charter returned with the two of them that had IEPs to reenroll them because the charter school felt that their “needs” would be better served at the neighborhood school? Let’s be real here, I’ve really got nothing against charter schools, but lets cut the BS, they may take everyone, but they sure don’t keep those that might affect their scores. Here’s the real kicker, my neighborhood school has consistently posted better scores than the charter!

  • yes


  • yes

    Texas education is god awful thanks to perry.

  • sue

    The parents need to stop complaining. Here in Utah the kids go to 7 1/2 -8 hours of school a day, 5 days a week.

  • Ahsha

    I think they should do school year round 5-6 hours a day for 5 days a week nationwide. Thats how one of my friends had it and her school had high marks in grades. There were not very many students that skipped cause there only there for a few hours. not only that but it give the student a chance to do sports and maybe get a job.. and they would still have plenty of time for home work. I went to school more than 7.5hrs a day 5 days a week and I was in sports off and on and all in high school I had a job – I was always tired and couldn’t consentrate on my studies. I think that shorter days year round would really benefit the kids!

  • Tracy Baldwin

    Why do we have to go from the shortest school day in the state to the longest? I think it’s extreme, unnecessary and even harmful. My daughter’s CPS elementary school is at 6.5 hours. They have gym, art, music, language and recess. Why not look at the 6.5 hour model?

    In fact, there are 13 CPS elementary schools that have long had a 6.5 hour day, and these schools’ test scores outperform the CPS average by 20 percent overall and 143 percent at eighth grade. Another 12 schools went to a 6.5 hour day this year with little fanfare and virtually no additional cost to CPS.

    By contrast, Chicago charter schools with 7.5 hour or longer school days are equivalent to the CPS average. Even in the suburbs, the Sun-Times reports that the 10 top-performing elementary schools have a school day that averages just under 6.5 hours.

    Let’s look at what the data says instead of heated rhetoric. Research is inconclusive at best about the length of the day and improved test scores or graduation rates. What is more important is the quality of the day and factors like class size.

    Kids –especially younger kids—need time to be kids. A school doesn’t have to be a one stop shop—learning can, and should, take place outside of school in after-school activities, with families and on playgrounds. To lose this time would be a disservice to our children.

    We should look at what is working in CPS before rushing into yet another policy “solution” that doesn’t have a solid plan for implementation—and could cause even more problems.

  • Enough

    7.5 is not to long for a school day, infact, they should be going to school 6 days a week, to catch up to the rest of the world. You want to know why we don’t have the jobs anymore, because our schools are turning out idiots that can’t add without a calculator. Has anyone ever gone to a McDonalds when power has gone out? Watch them attempt to make change.

  • U.S. Aint Smart Enough For Low Hrs.

    the u.s. is low when it comes to having smarter students… y not let your kids learn more, my children go to school for 8.5 hrs twice a week and 7 three days a week… im okay with it, i miss them, but the idea is for them to gain knowledge. to grow to be stimulated by education, not to keep them close for the parents benefit… let them go to school

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