A Full School Day for All Students  

The parameters for fall 2012 will increase instructional time, boost student achievement

January 12, 2012

Chicago Public Schools today released parameters that both elementary and high schools will follow in adopting the full school day for the 2012-13 school year. The 7.5 hour day and 180 day year detailed in both the elementary and high school parameters will move CPS students from the shortest school day and year among the nation’s largest cities to getting it on par with the national average for instructional time in elementary and high school as well as length of the school year.


“We are moving to a full school day to give children the time they need to focus on core subjects and ultimately provide students with the education they deserve,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Lengthening the school day gives our kids the tools they need to excel in school and succeed in a global economy.”


Chicago currently ranks last in the amount of time students spend in the classroom. CPS elementary students receive 22 percent less instructional time than the national average, while CPS high school students receive 15 percent less. Studies show the more time students spend on core subjects like reading, math and science, the more they understand, learn and grow academically. The move to a 7.5-hour day will give students across the district the time they need to boost their academic achievement.


“Our students cannot afford to wait for the high-quality education they deserve. The system has failed their needs for far too long and the full school day will provide them with more time on core subjects to prepare for college and career,” said CEO Brizard. “The Full School Day can ensure that we can boost academic achievement in every classroom throughout the district.”


The full school day will help boost student achievement during a time when students across CPS are struggling. More than 123,000 students – one third of all children – are in underperforming schools throughout the District. In 2011, only 7.9 percent of all 11th graders tested college ready, while the high school graduation rate stands at 57.5 percent and achievement gaps for African American and Latino students remain in the high double digits.


With the move to a 7.5-hour day, students will receive the additional time they need in core subjects such as math, reading and science, get needed individual instruction to ensure they don’t fall behind, and have the opportunity for exposure to enrichment opportunities that were not formerly available. The District also intends to move to a calendar of 180 instructional days, an increase of 10 instructional days from the current CPS calendar, which will bring the number of school days in Chicago on par with other cities in the nation. The additional instructional time from the Full School Day and longer school year will make CPS the leader among the largest cities in instructional time provided to students.


In an analysis of the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative, participating schools who have redesigned their school day to add 300 more hours per year for all students have demonstrated improvement trends across all tested subjects. In 2010, all participating schools gained in proficiency at double the rate of the state in ELA and math, and gained at nearly five times the rate of the state in science across all grades. To review an analysis conducted by the National Center for Time and Learning on how more time in the classroom spent on instruction helps to boost student achievement, please click  here.


To ensure schools are fully supported and communities are thoughtfully engaged, the district launched a year-long planning process, organized to:


  • Support schools to redesign their school day with community input
  • Engage the community throughout the process
  • Lead the central office transition to the Full School Day


To aid the process, the district has engaged multiple stakeholders throughout the process, including:


  • Chiefs and network staff through trainings
  • Principals through webinars and network meetings
  • Teachers through their involvement in the VIVA online forum
  • Students through focus groups
  • Parents through community meetings led by networks, schools, and community organizations


Additionally, individual schools have been holding meetings with their own communities to provide input into how they will structure the Full School Day.


The parameters define a small set of district requirements for the school day, but also give schools significant flexibility in redesigning the school day to best meet the needs of their unique student body. This avoids a one-size-fits-all approach.


Elementary school parameters include:


  • Students will be in school for 7.5 hours, or 450 minutes, an increase of 105 minutes from the current closed campus schedule.
  • Each day they will receive 6.5 hours of instruction, 45 minutes for recess and lunch and 15 minutes for passing.
  • Teachers will be on-site for 7 hour and 40 minutes, an increase of 9.5 percent from their current work day.
  • On average teachers will provide 5.5 hours of instruction (an increase of 54 minutes), receive a 45-minute duty-free lunch and 60-minute prep period and supervise the passing period. They will also be required to be on-site for 10 minutes before and after school.


High school parameters include:


  • Students will be in school for 7.5 hours each day, an increase of 36 minutes.
  • They will receive 6 hours and 8 minutes of instruction, an increase of 46 minutes, a 46-minute lunch period and have 36 minutes for passing and entry. Mandatory home room will be eliminated.
  • Teachers will be on-site for 7 hours and 40 minutes, an increase of 9.5 percent from their current work day.
  • On average teachers will provide instruction for 4 hours and 36 minutes (276 minutes), an increase of 32 minutes.
  • Teachers will receive a 46-minute duty free lunch and 92 minutes of planning time (half of which will be principal-directed) and, supervise passing periods. They will also be required to be on-site for 10 minutes before and after school.


Schools will receive their budgets over the next few weeks, including funding that will help them transition to the full school day. 


While there are no minimum requirements for subject instruction, CPS has created recommendations to help elementary schools create an instructionally sound Full School Day. For example, 120 minutes of literacy instruction per day is recommended for students in grades 1-5; for students in grades 6-8, 90 minutes of literacy instruction is recommended. Similarly, the District is recommending minimum instructional time in math, science and social studies.


Elementary schools could choose to increase the amount of time beyond the minimum students spend on specific academic subjects based on a school-wide focus. For example, if a school is focused on increasing students’ conceptual understanding of math, they could increase instructional time on that subject.


Beyond the core subjects, the Full School Day will offer schools the opportunity to offer or increase enrichment for students though art, music and physical education; or implement other proven strategies – such as intervention or tutoring -- that optimize student learning.

Currently, 50 schools – including 13 traditional CPS schools and 37 charters – have implemented the Full School Day. Thirty-nine of those schools – two traditional CPS schools and the charters – launched their Full School Day programs this week. Altogether, more than 22,000 students in Chicago are now benefitting from a Full School Day. Each school has worked with their teachers, parents and communities to design a school day that meets the school’s unique needs.


Eleven traditional CPS schools began their Full School Day programs last fall as part of the District’s Pioneer Schools program. Among those schools, 71 percent of the 90 additional instructional minutes have been spent focusing on core subjects, while 29 percent have been spent on enrichment activities. The Pioneer schools have already provided their students with an additional 85 hours of instructional time, which is the equivalent of 17 more days of instructional time, primarily focused on the core subjects of reading, math and science. More information on how schools are using the Full School Day can be found here.


The District also incorporated the input of hundreds of teachers who were part of the VIVA project that looked at the Full School Day. The VIVA project teachers offered such suggestions as using alternative scheduling to get the most out of the Full School Day, altering the school year to maximize student learning and retention, ensuring that all CPS students get a well-rounded education and have time for free play, and empowering students with technology.


CPS this week also announced Innovation Grants for schools that identify pioneering uses for the additional time provided by the Full School Day. CPS will run an application process, open to all schools, and grants of $100,000 will be awarded to up to 30 schools. Winning schools will be present a clear and innovative vision for a redesigned school day. CPS is currently seeking funding from private foundations that have expressed interest in supporting this effort.


“Schools should give careful thought on how they can best implement the additional time that comes with the Full School Day,” Brizard said. “These parameters and recommendations can serve to guide them through the process of designing a schedule that best meets the needs of their students, and uses the time wisely to prepare them for college and career.”

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