Survey Finds Most Parents Support Longer Chicago School Day

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A parent-advocacy group whose members have criticized Chicago Public Schools? efforts to offer financial incentives for a lengthened school day found that most respondents to its online survey support a longer day.

Raise Your Hand leaders said 68 percent of the 1,222 survey takers, made up of parents and teachers from 230 schools, said they favored a longer day. About 43 percent said they supported a longer school year.

But that support comes with a caveat: Most survey takers don?t want to extend the day from 5 hours and 8 minutes to the CPS' proposed 7.5 hours. Seventy-one percent said they would instead prefer 6.5 to 7-hour days.

?A longer day doesn?t mean any longer day,? Raise Your Hand co-founder Wendy Katten said. ?There?s a lot of concern out there about the quality of what will be covered by the extra hour or two hours.?

The group released the results of the survey and heard from parents at a forum it held tonight at Coonley Elementary School, 4046 N. Leavitt St. in the city's North Center neighborhood. As CPS prepares to implement an extended day across all schools next year, the non-profit is hoping its input will be considered.

Parents at the forum were split over the proposal for a longer day.

"If under-performing schools are the issue, then the district should do something to get changes at the under-performing schools," said Kate Brandt, whose daughter is in kindergarten at Bell School, which already has a 6.5-hour day with recess. "But don't make it mandatory for all schools because the families you most want to keep in CPS you'll be driving out."

Lengthening the day will prevent her daughter from taking after-school activities like tap dancing, Brandt said.

Another parent disagreed.

"For those schools that have 5 3/4 hour days, we would love to have what you have," said Ann McKenzie, parent of a sixth-grader at Blaine.

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