CPS CEO Jean Claude Brizard met with reporters from community newspapers at school district headquarters Thursday, a move to keep neighborhood press in the loop about CPS issues.
The forum came nearly two weeks after Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited Benjamin Mays Academy on Chicago’s South Side, on the first day of the longer school day schedule.
Mays is a “pioneer school”, a term used for schools that adopted the longer school day before the required system wide implementation goes into effect next school year.
The Chicago Citizen asked Brizard how Mays is responding to the longer school day.
“Every single pioneer school that I have visited, the process has been flawless,” Brizard said. “You expect hiccups when people are changing schedules… One, I found the kids to be extremely happy with what is going on. Second, the teachers were very happy and the principal was ecstatic.”
CPS is moving to a 7.5 hour day and 180 day year. According to CPS, students will go from having the shortest school day and year among the nation’s largest cities to leveling with the national average for instructional time in elementary and high school as well as length of the school year.
The school system also reports that its elementary students currently receive 22 percent less instructional time than the national average, while high school students receive 15 percent less.
CPS recently released parameters for elementary and high schools regarding the longer school day and its implementation for the 2012-2013 school year.
Elementary school students can expect 6.5 hours of instruction, 45 minutes for recess and lunch and 15 minutes for passing. High school students will receive 6 hours and 8 minutes of instruction, an increase of 46 minutes, a 46 minute lunch period and 36 minutes to get from one class to the other and building entry. Mandatory homeroom or “division” for high school students will be terminated.
“We are moving to a full school day to give children the time they need to focus on core subjects and ultimately provide students with the education they deserve,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Lengthening the school day gives our kids the time they need to excel in school and succeed in a global economy.”
According to CPS, the longer school day will enhance student achievement as students across the system are struggling. The district reports that more than 123,000 students-one third of all children- are in failing schools. In 2011, only 7.9 percent of all 11th graders tested college ready while the high school graduation rates stands at 57.5 percent and achievement gaps for Black and Latino students remain in the double digits, according to a CPS press release.
Brizard has drawn a conclusion from his time in Chicago.
“Every city has one metric by which it measures success,” the schools leader said. My assumption thus far in Chicago is that people care most about the neighborhood schools. It’s not about graduation rates, it’s not about reading and writing rates, although people care about that, but what they care most about is the ability to access a good school in their neighborhood.”
By Thelma Sardin