Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Add 90 Minutes

In today's NYTimes, Thomas L. Friedman writes a love letter to Rahm Emmanuel, currently the mayor of Chicago:

Emanuel’s pride and joy is the new mandate that he and his schools chief, Jean-Claude Brizard, pushed through for next year to have the school day for Chicago’s 400,000 students extended by 90 minutes and the school year by about a week. The teachers’ union leadership has accepted that this will happen but wants more say on how to use the time — and more money. Parents are thrilled, but it will clearly require more talks with the union.

Of all stupid ideas, the idea that we can improve school by making kids spend more time there is one of the worst. Kids already spend too much time at school, much of it wasted. If "parents are thrilled", as Friedman claims, it can only be because it solves some of their day care problems.

I liked this comment, from "nina":

Hogwash! We have one of the worst public school systems in the country, hence, our children are woefully unprepared. Very many of our teachers here are unequipped to handle the very bright students as well as the really behind students. The really smart ones get bored; the ones who need real help get social promotions. It is just a mess. All of the teachers lack adequate supplies (so many schools don't send textbooks home it's a shame; even in classrooms, there are often not enough books for classwork) and many of their buildings are in need of repair. So many teachers are untrained in real-world pedagogy, so a longer day just gives students more time to suffer in the classroom. Many teachers don't do an adequate job with the time they already have, so the solution is NOT to give them even more time in the day.

... I spent so much time educating my own child during k-8 that I am tired (she may as well have been home-schooled)--parents should SUPPLEMENT the training kids get at school, not the other way around! The paltry few great teachers we do have still have to work miracles without proper resources.


  1. It's also interesting to me (which I'm sure Friedman didn't mention) that Rahm Emanuel announced this after having unilaterally CANCELLED the recent contract that the union and the school system had negotiated, which included a raise for teachers (whose pay has been frozen for a while and who are also having to pay more for their insurance out of pocket-effectively a pay cut. Not to mention accepting higher class sizes with fewer supports like teachers' aides). Can you think of any other job where you would be asked to put in an hour and a half more per day while taking a pay CUT??? And be expected to be grateful for it? Damn straight it will take some more negotiating with the unions. it should.

  2. No one ever stops to consider whether school might have negative effects on kids as well as positive effects.

  3. Suburban Chicken FarmerOctober 16, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    How about quality of life? There was a time when people chose teaching as a career because it afforded them time. Some used that time to actually have a home life with their own families. Some used that time to deepen their own knowledge through study, travel, and the arts.
    I don't want an underpaid, over-stressed, miserable shell of a person in charge of(and accountable for) my child nine hours a day.
    And dammit, we've got some parents who'll sign their kids up for anything as long as it's free and keeps the kids out of their hair.

  4. Coincidentally, I've been reading "Fed Up With Lunch," written by Chicago Public Schools speech pathologist Sarah Wu. She ate school lunch every day for a year and blogged about it. I highly recommend the book and the blog.

    In her book, Wu notes that the kids at her school do not get recess and have just 20 minutes to stand in line, purchase and eat lunch. Much of the lunch (usually the healthiest foods) goes uneaten because the kids don't have enough time. That 20 minutes is their only time during the school day to socialize. She also says Chicago Public Schools have the shortest school day in the U.S.

    So will lengthening the school day allow CPS kids to have recess and more time at lunch? My guess is no, but maybe I'll be surprised.

  5. Unless the school day was really short in the first place (which I doubt it was) it makes no sense to lengthen it. It will only make students too tired to take in anything the next day and reduce time for students to pursue their own interests or to study in a way that suits them. Also, if they want students to read more, giving less free time is not going to help one bit. Not even if they give the dreaded reading logs on top of that.

  6. No, it doesn't make sense to lengthen the school day AT ALL unless they are offering some electives after school such as pottery or horseback riding (ok, unlikely). But GIMME A BREAK. I am so not crying for the teachers here. Want to talk about working an extra hour and a half each day, not getting paid for it, and being expected to pay MORE each year in insurance? That's the real world, baby. And weekend work, too, that one does for absolutely free because the boss said so.

    Then dang straight you're grateful to keep your job. Look around.

  7. Happy Elf Mom, I'm on the teachers' side here (for once!) If employers all over the country are mistreating their employees by demanding more hours of work for no more pay, that should be stopped. It's no solution to tell some of the few remaining workers in the country with a union that they should suck it up and get mistreated just like everyone else.