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Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Public Schools officials today announced a pilot program – called the “Additional Learning Opportunities” (ALO) initiative – that starting in November will add 90 minutes of online reading and math learning time to the school day at five elementary schools. Ten schools will be added when the second semester begins in January.
“For many years I have argued that we must extend Chicago's school year and school day because we know that the more time a child spends learning, the more he or she retains and the better they do year after year,” Daley said at a news conference held at John A. Walsh Elementary School, 2015 S. Peoria St., which is one of the schools that will take part in the program starting in January.
The pilot program will be mandatory for all students in first through eighth grades at the five schools – a total of about 5,500 students. Students may opt out with parental permission for medical, family hardship or religious reasons.
Daley said ALO will focus on math and reading and will run at the end of the traditional school day, from 2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
During these 90 minutes, there will be 35 minutes of online math learning, 35 minutes of online reading learning and a 20-minute recess and snack break. Security and safe passage will be put in place for the program.
Each school will select a community organization to recruit, hire and manage a group of facilitators to monitor the students as they use the online math and reading curriculum.
At the end of the ALO program each day, students will still be able to participate in after-school programs.
“The additional daily learning time adds up to 255 hours a year. That’s a 25 percent increase in learning time. And our young people will learn in a safe environment and become better prepared for high school, college and the job market,” the Mayor said.
Daley pointed out that Chicago lags behind many other districts in classroom learning time. Compared to Houston, for example, CPS students receive 30 percent less learning time each year.
“ALO is focused on accelerating student achievement by increasing the amount of time students spend on learning activities,” said Ron Huberman, CPS Chief Executive Officer. “The District believes, and research shows, that achievement increases when students spend more time on high-quality learning tasks.”
The online curriculum is standards-based and will build on what is being taught during the traditional school day.
“The program is designed to allow each student to focus on specific problem areas at his or her own pace,” Huberman said.
Much of the ALO roll-out will be paid for with federal economic stimulus money – about $5.5 million.
The community organizations that will work with CPS at each school, many of which are already part of the Community Schools Initiative, have broad experience with the communities and schools and will hire parents, college students, and/or teachers to participate in the program.
A facilitator must have at least an associate’s degree, have some experience working with children and have knowledge of computers. They will have to meet the same criteria – including criminal background checks – as others who work in CPS schools or with CPS partners in school-based programs.
Pending approval by the Chicago Board of Education, ALO will start in November at these schools:
Leland, 5221 W. Congress Pkwy.
Ryerson, 646 N. Lawndale Av.
Smyth, 1059 W. 13th St.
Chavez, 4747 S. Marshfield Av.
Burke, 5356 S. King Dr.
These schools will be added in the second semester:
Walsh, 2015 S. Peoria St.
Clark, 1045 S. Monitor Av.
Gregory, 3715 W. Polk St.
Hay, 1018 N. Laramie Av.
Calhoun North, 2833 W. Adams St.
Lawndale, 3500 W. Douglas Blvd.
Woodson South, 4414 S. Evans Av.
Mount. Vernon, 10540 S. Morgan St.
Fort Dearborn, 9025 S. Throop St.
Evers, 9811 S. Lowe Av.
Daley said online curriculum can be administrated by non-teaching staff, allowing teachers to focus on what they do best – providing direct learning time to students.
In addition, online learning provides students with additional access to technology.
The Mayor pointed out that CPS has completely re-structured its Career and Technical Education programs into “college and career academies” that will better prepare students for the jobs of the future. The first 30 of 80 such academies open this fall.
“We are looking to the future, with a vision of learning and teaching in modern times. With the Additional Learning Opportunities pilot program, we are taking another step that will keep our schools’ progress going,” he said.
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