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Longer Day Starts Monday at 6 Chicago Schools

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the first day of school Tuesday praised STEM Magnet Academy for voting to extend its school day by 90 minutes beginning in January.

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Three Schools Agree to Longer School Days

Sept. 2, 2011: This Labor Day weekend is no holiday for the Chicago Teachers Union. Two schools are breaking from the existing contract, agreeing to a longer day beginning next week. A third school will join them in January.
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting his longer school day, in some classrooms anyway.

Starting Monday, students at Skinner North, STEM Magnet, Brown, Disney II, Nash and Fiske will be in class 90 minutes longer than other Chicago kids. Those six are among 13 schools that voted to add the extra instructional time to their day.

Three more schools will lengthen their day Oct. 17. Two others begin Oct. 31 and Nov. 14, respectively, while the last two start in January 2012.

The idea of a longer school has triggered a continued battle between the Chicago Teachers Union and Emanuel's school board.

The CTU even sued the board this month, claiming it coerced union-represented teachers into approving the longer day.

Emanuel and schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard maintain more time in the classroom will help students and put them on par with kids throughout the county. To help prove it, CPS launched a website last week with fact sheets for parents and a list of misconceptions such as, "The time will be used for test prep – or to warehouse kids."

But the CTU isn't so sure. The union said in a statement released Friday, "there is no strong evidence indicating the student achievement will rise if the school year is lengthened. CTU maintains it is the quality not the quantity of instruction that matters." 

In a "confidential school-by-school analysis," the union says it found that teachers at 115 schools "formally voted down the longer school day waiver ballot proposed by the school board." The teachers took the votes by "informal straw polls" or waiver votes, according to the union.

Others, they say, were forced into it. In one example, the vote was tied at Nash Elementary until "a school bus driver was asked to break a tie of 14 to 14 in favor of the extended day." 

Still, the principals at schools who voted in favor of the longer day say they're pleased with it.

"You don't have to bribe people to do something that they want to do," said STEM principal Maria McManus.

"I'm not upset with the union for doing their job, but they shouldn't be upset with me for doing mine," McManus said.

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