This study investigates the amount of time devoted to instruction in Chicago elementary schools on a day-to-day basis and across the school year. To begin, the report illustrates how insufficient and unbalanced allocations of instructional and non-instructional time make it unrealistic to achieve the 300 minutes of daily instruction mandated by the state. Instead, the school day typically delivers less than 240 minutes of total instruction each day. A second analysis illustrates losses in annual learning time as a result of disruptive start-up routines, special programs and events, holiday slow downs, test preparation periods, and a steep drop in academic work during the last six weeks of the school year. For teachers and students alike, the result is a paucity of sustained instructional time.
This study suggests that numerous policy changes at all levels of the system are necessary to change the management of schools, the structure and length of the school day, and the timing of key annual events. Key recommendations are changes in the school day and the work schedule of teachers, a greater focus on developing teachers' professional community as a response to management problems, and a rethinking of the timing and coordination of the state and district testing programs.