Rahm pirouettes around Longest School Day controversy announcing a change while changing almost nothing
Although the April 10, 2012 media event staged by the leaders of Chicago's Public Schools and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was billed as an announcement that was supposedly changing the push by the mayor regarding the longer school day, the event might have been billed as a ballet of "Much Ado About Nothing." Two weeks earlier, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education had voted to edict a longer school day in Chicago without providing any plan or funding to do it in a serious way that aided children. By April 9, a coalition of sixteen parent and community organizations had staged a demonstration outside Emanuel's fifth floor office at Chicago's City Hall demanding to meet with the mayor, and charging that what the parents wanted — and what would be best for children — would be a school day of 6.5 hours, not the 7.5 hours the Board had voted.
In response to the community's demands, the former ballet dancer ordered his security to keep out the parents who had criticized him — if necessary by force — and executed a deft pirouette, all motion, but almost no real movement. Under the "new" plan for the elementary schools, children would be in school for seven hours instead of seven and a half hours per day. High schools, which already had a school day roughly the same as other high schools in Illinois (a fact not mentioned during the campaign by Emanuel and his appointees at CPS) would see the day increase from seven to seven and a half hours per day. (The details of the plan distributed in writing by the mayor's media team is at the end of this article).
The choreography of the media event on April 10 followed the script Emanuel has been following at most school events since he began as mayor in May 2011. Reporters were invited to join the mayor and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard for some time in a classroom, then a large group representing the diversity of Chicago was assembled around the mayor's portable podium for the speeches to the press, followed by a limited number of questions from reporters.
On April 10, the group in "Rahm's Rainbow" was larger than usual, but with the same configuration. The three aldermen represented each of the city's major racial and ethnic voting blocs (Latasha Thomas, an African-American; Danny Solis, Latino; Matt O'Shea, for the white people). No one asked why the aldermen from the northwest side, where the event was taking place, were not invited. In addition to the aldermen and a handful of CPS officials, the staging included the principals of most (possibly all) of the 13 so-called "Pioneer" schools, along with some teachers from those (and at least one parent).
First to speak was Disney II principal Bogdana Chkoumbova, who has run the school since it was put into what was once the Irving Park Middle School. After welcoming everyone, Chkoumbova explained how the longer school day had been successful at Disney II, which is a magnet school.
Disney II third grade teacher Adrienne Garrison spoke the longest. She explained how she had chosen to teach at Disney II because she wanted more time with her students. She said that the longer day at Disney II had allowed her time to individualize student learning, which was how she wanted to teach. She discussed her commitment to teaching and the importance of the seven and a half hour school day in some detail in relation to her students.
Mayoral press aides distributed the complete press release from the event, outlining what the mayor said was going to happen. (Mayoral aides said that they did not have copies of Emanuel's prepared remarks, which differed in some points from the material distributed). The content of the press release follows:
"CHICAGO – Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Jean-Claude Brizard today announced that elementary schools will adopt a 7-hour day next year and high schools will adopt a 7 1/2-hour day as CPS moves from the shortest school day and year of any major city to a calendar aligned with national averages. This announcement comes after meetings and discussions with parents who expressed concerns and wanted to be more involved in setting the length of the day.
“'Knowledge is the key to the future in today’s world – you earn what you learn. By having the shortest school day and shortest school year of any major city, we shortchanged Chicago’s children,' said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 'By adopting a longer day and a longer year, we are working to shape the future of our children for the better and give them an education that matches up with their potential.'
"Beginning next fall, all elementary students will move to a 7 hour school day, and high school students will have a 7 1/2-hour school day, with a 75 minute early release one day a week. Earlier this year, CPS presented the SY 2012-2013 calendar, which includes 10 additional days of instruction, moving CPS from the shortest school year in the country to a 180 day year that is on par with the national average. With the Full School Day, a student entering kindergarten next year will receive nearly 2.5 additional years of instructional time by the time they graduate high school.
"Along with implementation of the Common Core State Standards, a more rigorous curriculum that will better prepare students for college and career, and the new instructional framework, which will fundamentally change and improve the quality of teaching, the additional instructional time provided by the Full Day and year will give both teachers and students a valuable tool to improve teaching and learning in every school across the district.
"The announcement was made at Disney II Magnet Elementary School, one of the schools that implemented the Full School Day last fall. Since launching the Full Day last September, students at Disney II have received an additional 185 hours of instructional time, with that time primarily focused on reading, math and science.
“'We’re grateful for the example our Pioneer and Charter Schools have set, and their experiences, along with the direct input from parents across the city, have helped us shape a better, fuller school day,' said CEO Jean Claude Brizard. 'The changes to the Full Day reflect hours spent listening to parents and taking action based on their input, and demonstrate our willingness to work as true partners with parents to make decisions that will boost student achievement across the district.'
Elementary Full School Day:
"Students will receive 52 additional minutes of instructional time each day.
Students will receive 6 hours of instruction and 45 minutes for recess and lunch.
Students will be in school for 7 hours each day, an increase of 75 minutes.
Teachers will be in school for 7 hours and 40 minutes, an increase of 85 minutes.
"High School Full School Day:
"Students will receive 46 additional instructional minutes four days a week.
Students will receive 6 hours and 8 minutes of instructional time four days a week. Students will be in school for 7 1/2 hours a day, an increase of 36 minutes four days a week.
One day per week the day will end 75 minutes early.
Teachers will be in school for 7 hours and 40 minutes, an increase of 39 minutes. The Full School Day will provide significant benefits to all students across the district, including:
"Elementary students will receive an additional 207 hours of instruction each year, and high school students will receive an additional 116 hours of instruction. Principals will no longer have to choose between reading, math or science because of limited time in the day.
"Additional time will create opportunity to add more intervention to ensure students who are falling behind in math and reading can get up to speed with their peers.
"Elementary students will have time for lunch and recess every day to relax, re-boot and return to the classroom ready to learn.
"The Full School Day was structured with an eye toward providing teachers with adequate professional development and prep time to support their practice. Benefits of the Full Day include:
"Elementary teachers will have almost two additional hours of prep time each week.
Elementary teachers will have self-directed prep time in the mornings, as well as additional prep time throughout the day to meet with parents informally, prepare for their lessons and supervise students who arrive at school early.
"Both elementary and high school teachers will receive an average of 75 minutes for professional development each week."