Thanks to all the parents, residents, educators and elected officials who attended Monday’s town hall meeting at Greater St. John Bible Church to discuss longer days for Chicago Public Schools elementary students.
The meeting’s purpose was to bring attention to the fact that CPS has not truly engaged local school councils, parents, community stakeholders and educators in both the decision-making and planning process concerning lengthening the school day.
Gov. Patrick Quinn recently signed into law Senate Bill 7, which effectively allows Mayor Rahm Emanuel to unilaterally extend both the school day and school year beginning in the 2012-13 school year. He must bargain with the Chicago Teachers Union about compensation for the additional time.
The mayor wants to lengthen the school day by 90 minutes for the current school year. To encourage schools to do this, he has CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard offering teachers willing to waive a portion of their contract a 2 percent bonus and schools $150,000 in Title I (No Child Left Behind) discretionary funds ($75,000 if the school extends the day in January).
But during this process local school councils and parents have been bypassed. CPS may also be ignoring a state law. At any school not on probation, the local school council must vote to amend the School Improvement Plan (SIPAA) to reflect the infusion of the additional Title I funds.
Parents must understand that lengthening the school day and year by itself may not yield the academic improvement or the “magic bullet” the mayor and CPS are promising. The National Center on Time and Learning research shows that adding time alone does not improve academic performance. How the additional time is used will determine if it is effective.
Brizard also believes the additional time will decrease the achievement gap between white and African-American students, but what is the specific plan to address the achievement gap?
Also, how will the additional time be allocated to students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP)? Those students will have to have their plans revised.
Town hall meeting attendees brought up numerous questions concerning safety, after-school programs and athletics.
They also questioned the motives of the mayor and Brizard. They both want to add 90 minutes to the school day for 2012-13 school year, but with a projected $700 million budget deficit for CPS in 2012-13, how will they pay for the extended time?