A vast majority of Chicago Public School parents favor a longer class day for their children but disagree on how to spend the time, according to an exclusive FOX Chicago News survey conducted by pollster We Ask America.
While most parents and guardians said they’d like to see the extra time focused on academic core subjects, there was also sentiment for adding arts and exercise to the longer school day.
Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard have proposed adding 90 minutes to the typical school day and 10 days to the school year. Our survey asked whether families approved of the concept in general.
Of those questioned, 64 percent said they approved of a longer day for their children and 30 percent disapproved. Six percent were uncertain.
We next asked how families would like the extra time to be spent. Given four choices, 31 percent chose core subjects; 6 percent chose the arts; 9 percent said exercise; and 40 percent said all of the above. Seven percent said “none” and 8 percent declined to offer a preference.
Asked how they regard their own school, 36 percent said “high-performing;” another 35 percent said “average;” 9 percent said “low performing;” 8 percent were uncertain; and 12 percent declined to respond.
A relatively small group, 12 percent, said they thought their own school had already extended its hours. Among them, 69 percent said they approved and 27 percent disapproved.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has said the longer school day is coming in 2012 and it's not a question anymore.
"We're not even discussing that, we want to discuss what that looks like,” Lewis said.
Parents expressed their concerns about the longer school day when the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand hosted a meeting last week. Most parents clearly want more class time, but maybe not as much time as Brizard is asking for.
“What are kids going to do, are they going to have that much homework and that much less time to do it?” Raise Your Hand Coalition’s Jill Wohl said. “What happens with busing? What happens with Park District programs?”
“People are not exactly enthusiastic about going all the way to seven and a half hours,” Patricia O'Keefe said. “There was such an overwhelming agreement that we need to have a well-rounded school day for the students, we need recess, music, art.”
The very subjects we've been slashing for two decades to balance budgets and focus on the core disciplines turn out to be, in modern thinking, the keys to the core. Research shows musicians are more easily mathematicians and friends.
“It's the universal language. It’s a medium for expression, for self-expression for the children,” said music teacher at La Salle Language Academy Denise Knox.
Art is not just something to help kids relax between "real" classes.
“The creativity is very important in science, math and technology,” said Principal Elisabeth Heurtefeu of the LaSalle Language Academy. “Think about Bill Gates, you know. He was creative.”
The principal of La Salle Language Academy juggles her budget to ensure the well-rounded education she believes leads to high achievement.
“In the new jobs that are going to come down, in 2020 maybe, we need a lot of children who have imagination and are able to innovate. And I think art and music help with that,” Heurtefeu said.
“Every school should have art, but you need art teachers and music. You need music teachers,” O’Keefe said. “So the time is there, but it comes down to - will the funding be there to have the teachers to support that day?”
FOX Chicago asked Brizard if he has the budget for art and music teachers for the schools where they don't have it.
“It's about prioritization. We have a budget we have to work within, and we're going to make sure we do that. Yes on the arts. Yes on music. Yes on literacy. Yes on mathematics. Some kids need more math, more reading; I would argue every kid needs more math and reading even the ones who are performing at the top of the scale,” Brizard said.
“We're looking to reinvent the school day, not just tack on more programs at the end. We need to rethink what we do within the context of the school year and the school day. So the time is just a slice of the work. Curriculum is a big part of it, teacher training is a big part of it, principal training is a big part of it; we have to take a look at school reform and school redesign, in its totality.”
Pollster We Ask America conducted the automated telephone survey Wednesday evening, Oct. 5. A total of 1,408 Chicago Public School parents and guardians responded. The survey is accurate to within plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.