|  Adjust font size: A A A   |  Español
Follow CPS: facebook icontwitter iconRSS
Skip navigation links
About CPS
Contact CPS
Parent Support Centers
School Support Center
FY15 Budget

District instruction strategy 

Parents and Guardians,


Our goal is to ensure that every student – regardless of what school they go to and what neighborhood they live in – graduates from high school prepared for college and career. In order to meet this goal, we must dramatically improve the quality of instruction in our classrooms by providing principals and teachers with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs well. Currently, the district is implementing a multi-pronged approach to instructional improvement across the district that focuses on supporting principals and teachers on transforming what we teach, how we teach, and time to teach.


Figure 1. District Instructional Strategy


Specifically, the district is implementing:


  • Common Core State Standards (CCSS) – these standards outline a higher bar for what our students need to know in order for them to succeed in college and career. The district will be implementing these standards across the next few years, fundamentally changing and improving "what" we teach in our classrooms.
  • Framework for Teaching – this framework outlines what good teaching looks like. Our teachers will have a clear understanding of what a good teacher looks like, where they stand compared to those standards, and how they can improve their skills. This will change "how" we teach in our classrooms.
  • Full School Day – in order to change "what" and "how" we teach, our schools need more time. Our kids receive 22% less time than peers in other large urban districts. We cannot change "what" and "how" we teach without providing them with at least the same amount of time as other districts receive.

This packet will help address common questions that we've received from parents and guardians regarding our instructional improvement strategy. If you have any unanswered questions, please feel free to reach out to your school or to our Family & Community Engagement Office.




Jean-Claude Brizard


The CPS Instructional Strategy Parent FAQs is available in the following languages:




Parent FAQs


Improving "what" we teach  

What are Common Core State Standards?
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) describe what students are expected to learn at every grade level in English/Language Arts and Mathematics in order to be prepared for success in college and career. Adopted by 45 states, including Illinois, the CCSS are designed to be relevant to the real world and help students succeed in a global economy. They were written and informed by educational experts, teachers, parents, as well as research on what skills, experiences, and mindsets students need to be ready for college and career.

Chicago Public Schools is beginning to transition to the CCSS in school year 2011-12 and will fully implement in school year 2014-15, when a new state assessment, aligned to the CCSS, will also be launched.

Why are we implementing these standards?
Our goal is to provide every student, in every community, with a quality education that prepares them for success beyond high school. The Common Core State Standards are internationally-benchmarked, rigorous standards for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade that define what students need to know at every grade level in order to be college- and career-ready. Our old Illinois standards were not well aligned between grades and didn't emphasize enough of the critical thinking skills students need to be successful. The strong emphasis on having students explain their answers, look for evidence, and make connections between texts and topics will better prepare students with the skills they need in the 21st century.

The standards will also provide consistency of expectations from school to school. All teachers will have clear end goals for what students should know and be able to do, with the flexibility to adjust their classroom roadmap to reach these goals, based on the needs of their students.

How do we implement these standards well?
CPS will gradually transition to fully implementing the Common Core by providing teachers with clear expectations for the types of learning experiences that students will need at each grade to be prepared for the next grade, over the course of the next three years. Teachers will also have access to a bank of resources to help them design lessons that challenge their students and keep them engaged. Ongoing professional development will also be provided by administrators and our regional Network leaders. We're working with teachers, administrators, local universities, and teacher organizations to develop professional development and resources to help teachers. Finally, collaboration time in a Full School Day will allow teachers the critical time to plan together and reflect on student progress, which they don't regularly have across all schools now.

A group of 60 "Early Adopters" pilot schools have also started implementing the standards this year. Throughout this school year, teachers and administrators participated in professional development and planning sessions to help them develop and teach Common Core aligned units of instruction. The plans they've designed will be made available for all teachers to access and learn from. Their successes and challenges have also informed the district of what it will take to make sure all schools can successfully implement next year.

Where can I find more information?
Parents can find more information about the district's implementation of the Common Core State Standards at www.cps.edu/commoncore; parents should email commoncore@cps.k12.il.us with any questions regarding the district's implementation plan. Parents should also visit the National PTA site to find parent-friendly Common Core State Standard guides for every grade.


Improving "how" we teach  

What is the Framework for Teaching?
The CPS Framework for Teaching is the district's new instructional framework, which has been adapted from the Danielson Framework for Teaching and approved by Charlotte Danielson. It provides a common definition for effective instruction for CPS classroom teachers across four domains:

  • Planning and Preparation
  • Classroom Environment
  • Instruction
  • Professional Responsibilities

The CPS Framework for Teaching will serve as the anchor for all professional development, coaching conversations, and teacher self-reflection.

Why are we implementing the CPS Framework for Teaching?
The CPS Framework for Teaching describes the complexity of teaching and emphasizes the importance of all aspects of teaching practice. It will give teachers and school administrators a common language to talk about teaching and provides a roadmap for increasing the level of excellence in teaching and learning.

Inherent in the Framework for Teaching is the "constructivist" approach to student learning. In many instances, parents should expect their children's schoolwork to become more student-driven, so that teachers guide students in creating their own understanding of the world around them, rather than simply being told facts during lessons. This type of learning will help students draw connections between different subjects, become better problem-solvers, and develop a deeper understanding of content.

Finally, the CPS Framework for Teaching is fully aligned with "what" students are learning, and the Framework for Teaching provides a tool for teachers to determine "how" their teaching will allow students to meet the expectations of the new learning standards.

How will we implement the CPS Framework for Teaching?
The CPS Framework for Teaching will be implemented in all schools, for all teachers, in the 2011-2012 school year. In fact, school administrators and teachers have already received an introduction to the tool and its implications for planning lessons next school year. Professional development on using the Framework to improve instruction will continue over the summer, throughout the next school year, and into the future.

Our new teacher evaluation system, REACH Students, incorporates the CPS Framework for Teaching so teachers will be evaluated, in part, on the planning, delivery, and reflection of classroom lessons. After school administrators observe lessons, they'll use the common language of the Framework to talk about lesson's strengths and areas for improvement.

Where can I find more information?
Parents can find more information about the CPS Framework for Teaching on the REACH Students website, cps.edu/Pages/reachstudents.aspx or by learning more about Charlotte Danielson's work.


Providing the "time" to teach  

What is the Full School Day?
The Full School Day is a district-wide effort to provide schools with more time during the school day and year. Beginning next fall,

  • All district elementary schools will move to 7-hour school day
  • All district high schools will move to a 7.5-hour school day (with one day a week when they will be dismissed 75 minutes early)

The Full School Day will eliminate the shortest school day among the nation's largest cities and bring Chicago on par with the national average for instructional time in both elementary and high schools.

How will this impact preschool and kindergarten?
Preschool and kindergarten students will also benefit from a Full School Day. The chart below outlines the student school day by program type.


Program Type



Full-day program

7 hour student day

7 hour student day

Half-day program

2 hour 40 min student day

2 hour 40 min student day

4-hour program


4 hour program

Third shift programs

2 hour 40 mins student day


When will schools start & end?
Each school will have a different start and end time for students. Parents should reach out to their school for their child(ren)'s specific start and end times. Typically,

  • Elementary schools will start between 7:45-8:45am and end between 2:45-3:45pm
  • High schools will start between 7:30-8:30am and end between 3:00-4:00pm

These times were selected to ensure students traveled to/from school while it was still light outside.

What will the Full Day look like?
The Full School Day will look different at every school. The exact day will largely depend on how the school, with input from parents, students, and staff, redesigned the schedule to meet the unique needs of their student body. Some schools added more time for world languages, arts education, and/or physical education while others restructured the time they had for literacy, mathematics, sciences, and/or social sciences.

Schools should have their Full School Day schedules completed. Parents can reach out to their schools if they are interested in seeing their child(ren)'s schedule.

How will the district ensure that the additional time is time well spent?
While time is critical, we recognize that it's how we use the additional time that will ultimately impact the success of all students. Additional time must be quality time. As noted above, combined with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the new Framework for Teaching, the Full Day provides both low and high performing schools with an invaluable tool to deliver a higher quality education and better prepare students for the future.

Additionally, to ensure that additional time is quality time, the district has set minimum guidelines for the number of minutes each student should receive in core subjects at each elementary grade level. These guidelines are based on the expertise and experience of district content experts, an analysis of guidelines adopted by other districts, as well as the time needed for educational models that have a proven impact on student achievement.



Grades 1-2

Grades 3-5

Grades 6-8


120 mins

120 mins

90 mins


60 mins

70 mins

80 mins


40 mins

50 mins

60 mins

Social Science

30 mins

30 mins

40 mins

Academic intervention

110 mins

90 mins

90 mins

Full Academic Offerings (i.e., Arts Education, World Languages, Library, Physical Education, Health & Wellness)

Social emotional learning & behavioral interventions


360 mins

360 mins

360 mins

Note: At the high school level, every school must continue to adhere to the minimum high school graduation requirements (06-0628-PO2).

Is recess included in the elementary school day?
Yes, recess will be a part of the school day for all elementary students. Recess will provide students with an opportunity to recharge during each school day, benefiting students not only physically and socially but also academically.

Will schools continue to offer afterschool programs?
Yes, students will continue to be able to participate in activities before and after school. Schools may offer different afterschool programs at different times as a result of the new school day. Parents should reach out to their schools to get a better understanding of the exact afterschool programs that will be offered next year.

How is the district ensuring student safety?
Student safety is always a priority for the district. The Safety & Security Department is working closely with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to ensure students are safe not only during the school day but also before and after the school day. The district is working with CPD to ensure police patrols, crossing guards, and Safe Passage workers will support schools' new start & end times.

Will students still receive busing services next year?
Yes, students who receive bus transportation will continue to receive transportation with the Full School Day although specific pick-up and drop-off times will likely be adjusted to accommodate the new school schedule.

How will the Full Day impact students taking CTA?
The district is working with the Chicago Transit Authority to make adjustments to ensure students who ride public transportation are able to get to and from school. Adjustments will include extending the hours of the Student Ridership programs, which provides students with reduced fares between 5:30am-8:30pm beginning in fall 2012, and altering express bus routes and schedules.

How will homework be impacted?
The district's Homework Policy is currently under review. Updated guidance on homework will be provided to schools, parents, and students prior to the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. In addition, schools will be encouraged to revisit their school-level guidelines on homework.


To view some of the documents provided on this page, you need Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this program, click download Adobe Acrobat Reader nowOpens in a new window iconand follow the instructions.

Related links
Provide feedback