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Longer School Days: 49 Teacher Recommendations

 

Longer School DayChicago Public Schools has set the scene for our local debate on longer school days. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing his agenda to add 90 minutes to the school day across individual CPS schools, sparking passionate responses from teachers, union leaders, and community members.

 

In the smartest move yet from this campaign, CPS actually asked TEACHERS how to make the Extended School Day and other scheduling changes successful for both students and teachers. Specifically, they've enlisted VIVA Project, an online community of teachers trying to find a voice in education policy, to consult on the changes coming to CPS schools and districts.

 

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In December, the VIVA Project published their 49 teacher-created recommendations to make the Extended School Day add value, not just minutes, and actually solve problems schools face. While this is specific to CPS< there are lessons to be learned for any schools, districts or school systems considering longer school days.

 

Here is a quick list published in the VIVA Project's report "Time, Teachers, & Tomorrow's Schools."

 

Recommendation 1


Use Alternative Scheduling to Get the Most Out of an Extended School Day

Proposed solutions for all schools

 

1. Allow individual schools the autonomy to determine how to use time in the extended day to best serve their own students.

 

2. Adopt a block scheduling and parallel scheduling approach, particularly for core courses such as language arts and math.

 

3. Consider scheduling teachers to work a staggered shift.

 

4. Institutionalize a daily, 45- to 50-minute common planning time for teachers across each grade level.

 

Recommendation 2

 

Alter the School Year to Maximize Student Learning and Retention

Proposed solutions for all schools

 

5. Place all schools on a year-round (Track E) schedule.

 

6. Set intercessions (year-round school breaks) at the conclusion of each quarter rather than after the eighth week.

 

7. Use intercessions to provide remediation, enrichment and gifted programs.

 

8. Devote the professional development day at the end of each quarter to a collaborative review of student data.

 

9. Require students to attend school on holidays such as Pulaski Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day.

 

10. All high schools should offer a wide range of electives each semester, with a special focus on computer and business classes.

 

Recommendation 3

 

Ensure All CPS Students a Well-Rounded Education, Including Art, Music & Physical Education

Proposed solutions for elementary schools

 

11. A minimum of 20 percent of each elementary school week should be directed toward ancillary classes, including art, music, physical education and library or technology.

 

12. In schools where indoor space is a concern, PE teachers can assist classroom teachers in finding appropriate activities that can be done inside the school building.

 

13. Schools can implement additional PE classes using their current staff by having classroom teachers teach a portion of their own PE classes.

 

14. Increase staffing from one half-time art or music teacher (depending on enrollment) to two full-time positions—one for art and one for music.

 

15. Students should continue to receive library instruction on a weekly basis, and any “empty” library slots should be made available for classroom teachers to use on a flexible basis.

 

Proposed solutions for high schools

 

16. Start the school day with club and co-curricular activity meetings, particularly in low-income and under-performing schools.

 

17. Recruit community organizations to work both within the school day and before and after school.

 

18. Use extra time in school to focus on and serve all the needs of students, from their personal health to their academic needs.

 

19. Adopt a restorative justice model of discipline that addresses the root causes of student behavior while limiting the lost learning time.

 

20. Create a before-school health club, sponsored by community partnerships.

 

21. Offer elective courses focusing on personal health and wellness.

 

22. Institute Communities in Schools for low-income schools to coordinate enrichment and social supports in multiple classrooms and across disciplines.

 

23. Fully integrate the arts into the high school curriculum.

 

24. Encourage community partners to work in all classrooms for project-based learning.

 

Recommendation 4

 

Ensure All Children Have Time for Free Play in the School Day

Proposed solutions for all schools

 

25. Ensure all elementary school students have at least 20 minutes of recess daily.

 

26. Recruit parents, volunteers, teachers and others to ensure adequate playground supervision.

 

27. Take advantage of philanthropic resources to ensure all schools have the funds to build a playground by August 2012.

 

28. Use creative approaches to ensure students can have indoor recess on foul weather days.

 

Recommendation 5

 

Empower Students and Teachers with Technology

Proposed solutions for all schools

 

29. Require that students take at least one credit in technology during their freshman year of high school.

 

30. Open all computer labs to students at least 30 minutes before school, during lunch periods and for an hour after school.

 

31. Unblock YouTube and other educational sites at all CPS schools.

 

32. Offer electives in Web design, accounting, Photoshop, marketing, entrepreneurship and basic business.

 

33. Incorporate technology lessons into the longer school day to ensure all elementary students learn the technical skills they will need in high school.

 

34. Develop a CPS pilot program that provides digital tablets to every student and teacher in the pilot schools.

 

Proposed solutions for teachers

 

35. Use modern communication avenues such as e-mail, Twittter and Facebook to reach parents and students.

 

36. Replace IMPACT or train teachers to use it more effectively.

 

37. Equip all classrooms with a digital projector, up-to-date personal computer or laptop, and fast Internet connection or Wi-Fi.

 

38. Create one technology position for each 600 students in every school.

 

39. Offer technology-oriented professional development to teachers and integrate the use of these skills into the teacher evaluation rubric.

 

40. Develop a list of recommended online learning programs and encourage schools to use them.

 

Recommendation 6

 

Eliminate the Time Wasters

Proposed solutions

 

41. Commit to a program that lets students know by the end of 8th grade where they will attend high school in the fall.

 

42. Ensure every classroom has a teacher assigned, ready to teach, on the first day of school.

 

43. Adjust testing schedules so standardized tests are given in late spring and finals are given the last week of school.

 

44. Ensure teachers have common planning time each day.

 

45. Balance the need for assessments with instructional time.

 

46. Extend the latest date for educational field trips.

 

47. Stop interrupting instruction for visiting dignitaries or guests.

 

48. Develop transparent assessment plans that account for all time spent on assessment and preparation, especially high-stakes testing and prep.

 

49. Audit plans for the amount of instructional time devoted to testing.

 

What recommendations would you add to the list? Where do you stand in the longer school day debate?

 

You can find the full explanation of each recommendation in the VIVA Project's report Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow's Schools and learn more about how you can get involved at the VIVA Project website.