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Chicago to Lengthen School Day and Year

The 405,000-student Chicago school system, the nation's third-largest, announced today that it plans to extend the school day by 90 minutes and the school year by two weeks, starting in the 2012-13 school year.

In a press release announcing the decision, the district noted that it has the shortest school day in the nation. Chicago's elementary schools generally start at 9 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m. The school year is 170 days long. From the release:

"A key component of a CPS longer school day will include instruction that incorporates the new Common Core State Standards, which will become the academic standard across Chicago in the 2012/2013 school year. As a result, students will be provided with more time on task in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.

"Students will also benefit from enrichment opportunities, like art and music, which studies show help boost student achievement."

(My colleague Catherine Gewertz has been covering the common academic standards movement closely. Her blog posts give a good grounding on that topic.)

Jean-Claude Brizard, the chief executive officer of the district, said the extra time will also allow more time for teacher collaboration.

The release from the district does not mention an increase in teachers' pay for the extented time, and the Chicago Teachers Union has been cool to the notion of a longer school day. Instead, they have argued for a "better school day," spent doing less instructional time preparing for standardized tests, for example. From the union's statement:

"It is important for educators, parents and the community to define what a longer school day looks like, and for Chicago taxpayers to know how CPS intends to fund it," [union President Karen] Lewis said.

"Our students deserve a smarter school day—one that includes rigorous curriculum options that were stripped from our schools as cost-cutting measures years ago. Our communities also deserve modern, technologically sound neighborhood schools that stimulate learning and offer its employees a safe and decent work environment."

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