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Teachers union: Pattern longer CPS day after Emanuel kids’ school

Under teachers’ plan all CPS elementary students would learn second language just like U. C. Lab School. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Under the teachers’ plan, all CPS elementary students would learn a second language, just like at the U. of C. Lab School. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 9, 2011 5:45PM



Using the elite private school where Mayor Rahm Emanuel now sends his kids as a starting point, Chicago Teachers Union officials have crafted a proposed schedule that adds 75 minutes to the typical public elementary school student’s day.

The union’s latest salvo in the battle over a longer school day uses as a comparison point the schedule of one third-grade classroom at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, union officials said Tuesday.

Just like at what U of C kids often call “the Lab School,’’ the CTU proposal offers a well-rounded curriculum featuring far more art, music, physical education and other extras than most CPS kids now get and even includes the study of a second language.

Ultimately, the proposed CTU schedule would provide an even longer school day than the Lab School , where a third-grader’s tuition is $21,876. And it does so without requiring Chicago Public School teachers to add any minutes to their work day.

However, the schedule is 15 minutes shorter per day for kids than the one proposed by Emanuel and Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard for next school year. And, it probably would require many schools to hire extra teachers to provide the kind of enrichment that the Lab School now offers.

“The University of Chicago Lab School has the reputation of being one of the best schools in the country, not just Chicago,’’ said Jackson Potter, chief of staff to CTU President Karen Lewis.

“And obviously, the mayor sends his children there. The president [Barack Obama] sent his children there. So it’s highly regarded by people who make education policy. That seems a good method for determining how this district should operate.’’

The proposed CTU schedule is just a “starting point’’ for discussion on the longer school day that CPS officials and Emanuel have said they intend to implement systemwide, starting next school year, after the current teachers contract expires June 30, Potter said.

In the meantime, Emanuel has urged schools to join a pilot project to add 90 minutes to their school day this school year. On Tuesday, Nash and Disney II Magnet became the sixth and seventh CPS elementary schools in which teachers approved waiving the current CTU contract to take on a longer school day.

Signing on to the pilot nets schools $150,000 if they start the longer day in September and $75,000 if they start it in January. Teachers get a two percent pay boost for the extra days worked out of the deal.

CPS officials contend the system’s current 5 hour and 45 minute day for kids is the shortest among the 10 largest cities in the country. Emanuel made extending the CPS school day and year a cornerstone of his mayoral campaign, saying kids had gotten “the shaft’’ for too long.

The union’s long-awaited proposal follows contentions by Lewis that she would not be publicly “bullied’’ into a slapdash longer school day this year. She has urged union members to reject waivers and let CTU union officials negotiate a longer day on their behalf next school year. Emanuel’s waiver drumbeat, Lewis has said, amounts to “a declaration of war’’ on the CTU.

The CTU’s proposal pads out the day for kids by moving teachers’ 45-minute lunch from the end of the day to the middle of the day, and having teachers start work at the same time as kids instead of a half-hour earlier. That mere tweak of the typical current elementary-school schedule adds 75 minutes to most student’s day without lengthening a teacher’s work day.

Other big changes include boosting the amount of art offered in a week from 30 to 90 minutes and the amount of music from 60 to 90 minutes a week to mimic that offered at the U of C Lab Schools.

Physical education minutes would more than double, from 60 minutes to 135 minutes a week, also following the Lab School template. CPS kids also would enjoy more time in science, the library and computer classes under the CTU proposal.

Their time for lunch and recess combined would more than double, but even at 225 minutes a week, it still would not reach the 300 minutes a week Lab kids now get.

All CPS elementary students would learn a second language, just like at the Lab School — a real plus in the world’s growing “global economy,’’ Potter said.

“We don’t want to just teach to the test. We want a very rich curriculum that provides a spread of different topics that students need to know about the world,’’ Potter said.

“U of C [Lab Schools] has a world-class educational environment,’’ Potter said. “We think this is a schedule that the best and brightest students are provided and all our students deserve the best and that’s what we want to provide for them.’’

Contacted Tuesday night, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said “We’re very pleased that the CTU joins us in calling for a longer day that includes enrichment programs for our students and adds more time for recess.’’ Carroll also encouraged Lewis to “rethink” her decision not to join a CPS longer-school-day advisory panel so “we can work hand in hand with the CTU to lengthen the day.”

The CTU description of the number of minutes one third-grade Lab School classroom devotes to non-core subjects — such as art, music and physical education — “sound about right,’’ said Kay Kirkpatrick, a spokeswoman for the U of C Lab Schools lower school, covering first through fourth grade.

However, Kirkpatrick described a Lab School day for kids as totalling 1,930 minutes a week, more than the 1,795 per week listed by the CTU. The source of the discrepancy was not immediately clear, but even the new Lab School figures amount to a shorter week than the 2,100-minute week for kids the CTU is proposing.

Also, Kirkpatrick cautioned that because the Lab School uses project-based learning, the number of minutes spent on reading, writing, math and social studies is up to each teacher and can vary from classroom to classroom and even from week to week within the same classroom.

Where his children attend school has been a sensitive subject for Emanuel, who cut off an interview with Channel 5 TV’s Mary Ann Ahern earlier this year when she asked him what school his kids would be attending. After the camera stopped rolling, the mayor “positioned himself inches away’’ from her head, raised his voice, pointed a finger at her, and “admonished’’ her for asking such a question, Ahern reported.

Lewis recently revealed that Emanuel jumped up out of his chair, pointed his finger at her, yelled and told her “F--- you, Lewis“ when she accused him of wanting a longer school day for “public safety” reasons, rather than educational ones.

Asked Tuesday whether he feels the need to apologize for reportedly hurling the “f-bomb’’ at the CTU president, Emanuel changed the subject.

“My view is, this is a distraction from the major issue, which is getting kids an education and time in class learning,’’ the mayor said.

Contributing: Fran Spielman



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