Chicago has been notorious in the education community for one thing: its short school day. Elementary school students spend only five hours and 45 minutes a day in class, the shortest of any major city, while high schoolers spend only seven. Now, that’s about to change.
City officials announced today that the elementary school day will be seven hours this fall, while the high school day will rise to seven and a half hours.
That’s something long sought by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who has faced obstacles in lengthening the city’s school day. First, he tried unsuccessfully to cajole individual schools into voluntarily adopting a longer day. Then, he proposed an even longer day for elementary school students.
But after meetings with parents upset by the plan, the city announced a calendar that includes these features.
- All elementary students will move to a seven 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. (In other words, they’ll have a normal school day four days a week, and get out early once a week.)
- The annual school day gains 10 additional days of instruction, moving Chicago from the shortest school year in the country to a 180-day year that is on par with the national average.
- A student entering kindergarten next year will receive nearly 2.5 additional years of instructional time by the time they graduate high school.
- Elementary school students will have a daily recess, which parents insisted upon.
Emanuel, who was elected last year to succeed Richard Daley, insisted throughout his campaign that the city needed a longer school day so Chicago children could compete on a global level.
“The time is not the goal. The time is an opportunity to be maximized,” he said at the announcement today. “That’s how you prepare for the future. That’s how you prepare kids that don’t get a do-over.”