Many children in Chicago Public Schools will go from having the shortest school days in the nation to some of the longest this fall, a move that some experts say is needed to help push the struggling system ahead in student achievement.
Other school districts are reporting improvement in achievement after extending the school day, and if President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan had their way, all of America's kids would be in school longer with shorter summer vacations.
But one researcher said the perception among policy makers and the public that U.S. students spend less time in school than their peers in other countries is not backed by fact.
“To paint a broad brush is misleading," said Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Education in Alexandria, Va. The center is an initiative with the National School Boards Association. "The vast majority of American students are required to go school for as many hours a year as students in most all other countries.”
Still, in Chicago, public school students have the shortest school day — 5 hours and 45 minutes — among the nation's 50 largest districts, according the National Council on Teacher Quality. The national average is 6.7 hours in school. Under Chicago Mayor Rahm Emnauel's plan, elementary schools will move to seven hours and most city high schools will extend their day to 7½ hours, although one day during the week would be shorter by 75 minutes.