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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Charter schools spend more time in the classroom

Information in a recent column by CRAIN’S Chicago Business Greg Hinz should be repeated far and wide. In the 2009-2010 school year, which is already underway, Chicago Public School (CPS) students will be in school a total of 40 weeks, and out of those 40 weeks, CPS students will only receive a mere 19 full weeks (Monday through Friday) of teaching. Spending more than half of the school year outside the classroom is no way to grow the next generation of Chicagoans! In my opinion, it is an offensive contradiction to say that we care about education and then accept systems that allow so little time on task.

As Hinz highlighted, in a 2006 National Council on Teacher Quality study, CPS ranked last out of 26 big-city districts, with our school day three-quarters of an hour shorter than the national norm and the school year six days shorter. In addition, out of 868 Illinois districts Chicago is third from last in instructional days. This is not tolerable and there has to be a better way. Teachers want to educate students and those student need to depend on both the teachers and the system to cultivate their minds. The current CPS status quo does not give our children this opportunity and I know we can do better.

A solution to this problem is charter public schools. Right now, there are charter public schools in Chicago like West Side’s Alain Locke Charter Academy that offer year-round education. Year-round school may not be for everyone, but we owe it to our students to give them options and a chance for success. Charter public schools are not perfect but they offer freedom to create schools that meet the needs of students, families and communities. Charters spend an average of 45 more minutes of instruction a day than traditional CPS schools. Thanks to new legislation that raises the cap on charter schools in Illinois, we have an opportunity to have more charter schools and grow upon this unique educational freedom.

CPS CEO Ron Huberman says he is committed to a quality education for all students and I believe that he but he can’t reach this goal alone. Everyone who cares about education should take a close look at what we are offering our youth, including the amount of time committed to our children, and support making choices that put students needs first.

As self-governing entities, charter schools have the autonomy to make quick, effective changes to meet students’ specific needs, which helps improve student achievement, and offer a safe place to learn. We are good partners in education reform and the facts show that reform is sorely needed.

Sylvia Ewing,
INCS Interim Executive Director

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