In June, Chicago’s mayor announced that, in an attempt to improve the quality of the education system, the city’s public schools will extend their hours. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, Chicago, with less than six hours per day, had the one of the shortest school days in the nation. The plan will increase the time to seven hours for elementary schools and seven and a half hours for high schools.
According to The New York Times, “The agreement allows for students to receive more instructional time by hiring more teachers for enrichment programs.” The president of the Chicago teachers’ union has recommended re-hiring tenured teachers to accomplish that goal. However, negotiations for compensation have not concluded yet, and a strike remains possible.
A senior analyst at The Center for Public Education in Virginia questions the validity of adding time to the school day to improve quality. While students in some Asian countries (China, Korea, Japan, and India) have a similar school day, they have more days in their school calendars. For example, The Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development used multiple sources to estimate the number of hours per year students in China attended school. According to the OECD, “The number of weeks of instruction in China is 35 compared to the U.S.’s 36 weeks. Some Chinese students attend school six days a week, so even though the U.S. has more instructional weeks, Chinese students could be attending school nearly 20 percent more days per year.”
While adding time is a step in the right direction, the QUALITY of the time is the key component to success. How can the aim of their inclusion of extra time be “enrichment” when 83% of the third graders in the city are not reading at grade level?