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CPS students lose homeroom, gain 36 more minutes of class time

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. FILE PHOTO. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. FILE PHOTO. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 24, 2012 9:53AM



Chicago Public Schools students would attend high school an extra 36 minutes a day and homeroom would be a thing of the past under district guidelines issued Thursday for moving those schools to a longer school day next year.

With 13 elementary schools already operating under the longer school day — a pilot program that led to a contentious legal battle with the Chicago Teachers Union — all of the district’s 675 elementary and high schools are scheduled to move to the 71/2-hour day with the 2012-2013 school year.

Under the new guidelines issued to help high schools prepare, 9th-12th-graders would see their class schedules reconfigured to allow an extra 46 minutes of direct instruction.

This would be accomplished by eliminating the age-old homeroom system, and adding a four-minute entry period for students at the start of the day, CPS officials are recommending.

“We have launched an intensive planning process to ensure all schools are ready to implement a more rigorous curriculum focused on college and career readiness when the full school day schedule begins next fall,” CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said.

CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin complained that the union was not notified earlier about the proposal.

“We will have to evaluate the entire proposal, including the homeroom issue, which was just presented to us today via the media,” Gadlin said.

The change would require teachers be onsite for an extra 39 minutes a day, providing an extra 32 minutes of instruction, CPS said.

CTU officials, who won their Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board case accusing CPS of illegal negotiations in its recruitment of schools for the pilot — ahead of the planned 2012-2013 rollout — and got CPS to agree to freeze the pilot in order to avoid a preliminary injunction being sought by the Illinois attorney general, said the new guidelines do not address necessary reform.

“It won’t matter how much longer a struggling student stays in a high school building if that school is under-resourced and under-staffed,” Gadlin charged. “Lengthening the high school day, without a thorough public safety plan for students or a commitment to additional funding and staff is not good education policy.”

Gadlin said the union is also concerned about teens who hold down jobs to help out at home.

“We don’t want teens choosing between staying in school longer or going to work to help support their families in these hard economic times. The Chicago Teachers Union looks forward to a productive and challenging dialogue with CPS,” Gadlin said.

Contract negotiations between the union and district are scheduled to start soon, and CTU is still pursuing before the IELRB its case of unfair labor negotiations against CPS surrounding the pilot — a charge CPS denies.

A new law allowed the district to unilaterally impose the longer day next year, and Brizard has said he wants all schools not only to move to the 71/2-hour day, but to add 10 extra days of instruction this 2012-2013 school year, when the district is expected again to face a multimillion-dollar deficit.

The 13-school pilot cost CPS some $1.8 million in lump sum payments to teachers and schools. And it recently offered to pay up to $6 million in payments to 43 charter schools and their teachers to join the pilot. Charters are not represented by CTU.

In releasing the high school guidelines Thursday — guidelines for elementaries were earlier issued as part of the pilot — CPS officials encouraged high schools to use the extra time to focus on college readiness in math and literacy, noting that only 7.9 percent of all 11th-graders in the district test college ready, that achievement gaps for its African-American and Latino students continue to widen, and that the graduation rate of CPS high school students remains a dismal 57.5 percent.

“Our students cannot afford to wait another day to access the high quality education they deserve,” Brizard said.



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