Today’s Chicago Tribunehas a story that offers some statistics on the length of the school day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel surely knows, but is unwilling to admit: there are plenty of high-scoring suburban districts where children receive the same amount of instruction as the Chicago Public Schools. In Glen Ellyn, for example, elementary students receive five hours and 15 minutes of schooling, only seven minutes more than Chicago. In Elmhurst, it’s five hours and 20 minutes.
Indeed, at a time when urban and suburban districts across the U.S. are lengthening their school days in an effort to improve tests scores and student learning, no studies conclusively link more instruction time with higher achievement.
Timothy Knowles, who directs the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago and serves on the city’s advisory committee to lengthen the school day, notes that some of Chicago’s elite private schools offer less class time to students than they’d get at CPS. The Chicago Latin School, Francis W. Parker School and Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School provide about as much instructional time each day as CPS but have shorter school years, Knowles said.
The difference, Knowles said, is that the vast majority of students at these top-tier schools have parental and community support that ensures they’re prepared for school the moment they step on campus.
Those statistics give credence to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis’s claim that the longer school days are more about “babysitting and warehousing” than education. These were the words that caused Emanuel to go all Joe Pesci, and shout “F--- you, Lewis!”
But Emanuel also said, “I can’t have kids on the street at 2:15.” Do you think they say that in Glen Ellyn? They don’t even have streets in Glen Ellyn. They have Lanes, Ways, Closes and Boulevards. I don’t think anyone worries about the Latin School kids roaming the streets of Lincoln Park at 2:15, either. My landlord went to Waller High back in the day, and did not consider Latin a tough school. “All the girls were easy,” he said, “and all the boys ran.”
Emanuel should be honest and say that CPS students need a longer school day because they come from poor backgrounds. They need more instruction to make up for the fact that they come from homes where no one has earned a college degree, and they need to be kept away from gangs with longer days and after-school programs. Even with another 90 minutes, Chicago’s test scores still won’t match Glen Ellyn, Elmhurst and Latin. Emanuel knows that, too. Why do you think he won’t send his kids there?
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