Ward Room
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Kirk Joins in On Longer School Day Discussions

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard will meet Friday with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle about the 90 extra minutes that are being added to several schools' days.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard met Friday with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle about the 90 extra minutes that are being added to several school's days.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet joined Brizard, several other officials, parents and teachers at Skinner North Classical Elementary School, at 640 W. Scott St., to discuss the implementation and value of the longer school day.

Skinner North is one of 13 schools offering a longer school day this year.

"What's not going to work is some command and control approach about how we're going to change our schools across this country," said Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools. "What we need to do is lift up examples, like Skinner North, where there's ... 100 percent efficiency rating in mathematics and 100 percent reading proficiency... and ask, 'Why are they achieving at those high levels and how can we do more of that and less of the other?'"

Bennet’s reform efforts in Denver resulted in a 42 percent decline in the DPS dropout rate over five years and a 29 percent increase in college enrollment between 2006-2010, a release from Chicago Public Schools said.

The Colorado senator is a co-sponsor on S.1311, a bill known as the Improving Student Achievement and Engagement through Expanded Learning Act.  The bill would allow districts like CPS to use their federal 21st Century Learning Center funding for extended learning time rather than solely for after-school activities.

The bill is also co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Kirk said he'd like to use the lessons learned at Skinner and apply them elsewhere in the city and the state.

"[Skinner] is a selective [charter] school here. But we want to make sure that non-selective charter schools do well because that will really lift the entire city, to address exactly the problem we heard about from the parents here, of making sure Chicagoland's a better place to raise your kids so that we don't have that 20,000-per-year population loss that Chicago has been experiencing so far,"  said Kirk.

Increasing the time students face instruction has been a signature issue of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He'd helped push through the Illinois General Assembly a bill earlier this year allowing the change.

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