Chicago schools in desperate need of longer school days

By Editorial Board

Chicago Public Schools’ battle over a seven-and-a-half-hour school day rages on, and a group of 19th Ward parents and guardians are fighting back.

The group has asked the Chicago Board of Education to implement a survey of parents and guardians that would be handed out with their child’s report card asking them how many hours they think their child should spend at school.

Parents argue that an across-the-board extension of school days is not necessary for the area’s high-performing schools. It is natural for parents to desire to be involved in CPS initiatives, but in the end a longer school day could only mean better opportunities for Chicago’s students. CPS has one of the lowest instructional times in the nation with a meager five-and-a-half-hour school day. This means that “students receive 22 percent less instructional time than the national average,” according to the CPS Chief Instruction Office. To be fair, some parents are in favor of a longer school day, according to a poll from parent group Raise Your Hand.

But seven-and-a-half hours is thought to be too long, especially for elementary school children.

Ald. Matt O’ Shea (19th Ward) said the general consensus at a forum he hosted was for a six-and-a-half-hour school day. Because the national average is approximately 6.6 hours, many parents believe asking for an extra hour is too much. But according to CPS Chief Instruction Officer Jennifer Cheatham, “90 minutes of instruction” will be added to school days. This is an opportunity for students, so it would be a disservice to dismiss a longer school day altogether.

At the very least, CPS should be in line with the national average. The dismal statistics of high school graduation in Chicago should be enough to warrant a drastic change in policy: Only 57.5 percent of high school students graduate and 7.9 percent of high school juniors showed college readiness. So barely half of Chicago’s high school students are graduating. Must the situation become more dire before this is implemented?

At this point, a longer school day—six-and-a-half hours at the least—can be utilized and shaped into a valuable tool. Now it is up to teachers and parents to decide how productive they are during that time.