Shifting to a Longer School Day

Chicago Public Schools are laying the groundwork for a big change. Currently, many schools in that district are testing a school day that is roughly 90 minutes longer than in the past. This fall, every Chicago Public School will officially transition to the longer, seven-and-a-half hour school day. Some of you may be pausing to re-read that last sentence, but you read it right. Of the nation’s ten largest cities, Chicago’s students currently have the shortest school day (five hours and forty-five minutes).

Many schools participating in the pilot program are enjoying some of the freedom extra instruction time is affording them. Beyond offering some basic guidelines on structuring the new, longer school day, the district is avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach in regards to how new instruction time is utilized. When it comes to specific scheduling choices, individual schools are making their own decisions. 30 of the pilot schools will even win $100,000 grants for developing the most innovative uses for the school day’s extra time.

While success of the longer day in pilot schools is creating many supporters, there are countless challenges that come along with such a sweeping change in such a large district. Dissenting voices worry that a seven-and-a-half hour school day is too long for young, elementary students. Some are concerned that already-squeezed extra-curricular programs will suffer due to later dismissal times. The district and teachers’ union continue to work towards an amicable solution to labor concerns. Despite these challenges, Chicago Public Schools is moving ahead with the change as they work towards their ultimate goal of better preparing students for college and careers.

How long is your school day? Do you think your district or school could benefit from a big scheduling change like the one Chicago is undergoing?