What is this Track E Business all about?

August 13, 2009 at 4:50 pm 34 comments

A reader suggest that I post something about the new Track E calendar that is being rolled out at a fair number of CPS schools this year.

A Track E school has the same number of days off as a regular CPS school, but the timing is different to reduce the long summer break.

The CPS web site lists the following as benefits of Track E.

  • Minimizes “learning loss” for kids who otherwise would be out of school an entire summer.
  • Allows teachers better time management to design more meaningful lesson plans in shorter bursts, which can contribute to enhanced instructional programming and improved student achievement.
  • Minimizes teacher burnout by providing for regular and better-spaced time off.
  • Provides children with a safe environment.
  • Regular scheduled time off allows for better student and staff attendance.

I can’t say I’d disagree with any of these reasons.  Not totally sure about the attendance thing.  From what I’ve read, the plan is supposed to be more effective in addressing problems at schools with low test scores, where kids are at risk due to socio-economic and neighborhood conditions, and where parents are as involved in making sure their kids are keeping up with their academics.  In these neighborhoods, schools that act in part as a community center have forged greater bonds with parents and have sometimes found more success with student achievement.

The calendar looks something like this:

Schools starts Aug 10 (4 weeks early)
– 2 weeks + 2 days off Sept 25 – Oct 12 (total new Fall break)
– 3 weeks off Dec 14 – Jan 1 (1 extra week for Winter break)
– 2 weeks + 1 day off March 26 – April 9 (1 extra week for Spring break)
– School ends June 18 (regular end date)

So….. summer break is down to 7-8 weeks (I can’t quite figure it out.  I’m missing a week somewhere.)  There are still all the random days off throughout the year as well (professional development, report card days, holidays.)

Boy, I know it has its benefits and in a city like Chicago where the schools are somehow under-serving many kids it sure makes sense to try it.  I just can’t stop thinking that it doesn’t make sense with our weather (we only get 3 short months of summer!) and the lack of air-conditioning in CPS schools.  Starting on August 10th? Torture on a 90 degree day.
It’s also a working parent’s nightmare.  Right now many parents hire a summer person (like a college student) to watch their kids during the summer months.  Who do you get to cover a 3 week Winter break?  Or a 2 week Fall break?  The logistics are nerve-wracking if you’re the parent who has to scramble to find a sitter.

On the plus side, as a person who is crowd-averse, I’d welcome some days off when the rest of the world is still in school.  It’s be nice to tour all the museums during that late Sept break.  Or take a trip to Disney or the Dells.

For now, many of the schools who are trying Track E are schools with very low test scores and/or in low income areas.   I did notice Prescott Elementary on the list (in a fast-gentrifying neighborhood.)  I’m curious to see how the parents there like the schedule or whether teachers feel it helps the kids academically.

Anyone with thoughts, information, or feedback, please feel free to comment!


Entry filed under: CPS, CPS Policy / Resources. Tags: .

Survey about volunteering in the classroom South Side United – getting parents together for change

34 Comments Add your own

  • 1. obsessed with this blog  |  August 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    call me old fashioned but I would be so bummed to not have a real full summer vacation for the kids – love that cps goes back after labor day and the whole childcare situation would be a mess. understand the pluses for some schools – or in California with the great weather I know they do it a lot but hope it never comes to my kids school!

  • 2. To cpsobssessed  |  August 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    As I told you in my earlier thread some high performing schools are track e. Earhart is an AMPS school and if you go to the rea website you will see Earhart’s 2009 test data which huberman boasted about at the news conference. 91% in math, 86% in reading with an overall composite of 88%. it is true that under new leadership for the past two years test scores dropped. Now they are back up–thelowest was a composite of 82%. Earhart should never have been a track e school. Huberman is f
    going full speed ahead. No telling which 60 schools will be track next. It could be your son’s school…

  • 3. track E vet  |  August 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Track E is not new. News flash to those who are new to paying attention to cps. Not all track e schools are low performers.
    We’re coming up on five years of life on track e and it is surprisingly good. The extra quiet weeks of vacation are great.
    Going back before the back to school mania hits the city is nice.
    It takes extra work for working parents but some find it much easier to get vacation time when no one else wants it.

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  August 14, 2009 at 1:16 am

    I wonder what is giving this sudden momentum then? The CPS site reports the number of schools is rapidly increasing:

    Last August the number of Track E schools rose from 18 to 41. The Board of Education in March added another 24 schools to the Track E roster and this month is being presented with a list of another 67 elementary schools seeking Track E status.

    Track E Vet, any idea why your principal chose to start this schedule before it was “trendy?”

  • 5. jusand  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:44 am

    from reading this, it doesnt seem like summer is all lost. kids get out the same time. most park dist programs end right before school starts so parents dont have to worry about what to do with their kids the last 4 weeks before school starts. i hope my child’s school decides to move to track e. the only problem is, if you have kids in different school, it would be a pain.

  • 6. Track E  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:52 am

    There are parents with kids in two different schools with two different tracks. It can be confusing to juggle two schedules. My issuse with Track E is either ALL schools should be Track E or none at all. I don’t believe at this time CPS is prepared to make all schools Track E because many of these schools DO NOT have air conditioning. I have been in my son’s school in September & June and it is HOT. I can’t imagine him being there in August. What would he learn and how can a teacher teach effectively.

    PS-Hey obssessed how come you did not post my other comment?

  • 7. cpsobsessed  |  August 14, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Jusand – I’m curious why you want your school to move to Track E? What do you see as the main benefits?

    Track E – sorry… when I start getting a lot of comments my brain freezes. I only see the most recent few on my main page. Thanks for the reminder!

  • 8. track E vet  |  August 14, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Hopefully track e is not going to become ” trendy”. Principals don’t choose to move to track e. Our school changed close to seven years ago.
    School staff and faculty vote to alter any school scheduling, not administrators. Schools seeking the change in status need to have this vote I think. Seems on this blog that you don’t see yourselves as CPS parents in the boat with every other parent in the city. Trends demanded by entitled parents can be really destructive to kids in CPS overall. A little solidarity with those ” low performing” school families might be in order to make real change in Chicago.

  • 9. cpsobsessed  |  August 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Here is what the CPS site says about the approval process. I would have to believe that a principal has the final word but would consult the teachers, staff, and parents. I can’t see that the teachers could vote on it and get it approved without principal approval. The just don’t have that level of control over a school.

    “An increasing number of CPS elementary schools in recent years have moved to Track E schedules. The petition for change originates at the local school level with the principal. Staff is consulted and the community is engaged in whether to seek the change.”

    Perhaps instead of “trendy” I should have said “gaining momentum.” The # went from 18 last year to 41 and now 67 schools are trying to be Track E. To me that qualifies as an upward trend. What is driving this growing interest, I wonder? Is CPS putting pressure on schools? I just don’t get where it’s coming from.

    As for solidarity, I would personally love to show solidarity for under-performing schools, but mental solidarity does nothing to make a real difference. I’ve thought about it a lot and given my time constraints have decided that I need to focus on my son’s school and other parents can focus on their children’s schools. It seems to be the best allocation of parent resources. But I’d love to hear any ideas about how to do that/how it would help/what can be done. I think that is the million dollar question in CPS and one that still stumps Arne Duncan (and will soon be stumping Ron Huberman.)

    I would love you to me more specific about trends that hurt CPS kids and also to hear HOW people can show solidarity with low=perf schools. If I could use this blog to get even a few people to do something that matters, I’d be thrilled. Most people don’t know WHAT to do. Share your thoughts and please don’t feel like you need to hold back. (Don’t think I have to worry about that though.;;) )

  • 10. jusand  |  August 16, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    oh i just like the way the breaks are laid out. we could plan getaways better since my dh has to plan his days off in advance~ like in nov of the prior year. school would start after the park dist day camps ends so it would work for us. besides, i like the idea that summer break is shorter.

  • 11. track E thoughts  |  August 16, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Drummond Elementary is on the Track E schedule, not sure how long it has had this schedule or why it was implemented. As more and more schools follow the schedule hopefully there will be various Park District programs to meet the needs of working parents. Or other daycare options available due to the high need.

    Just wish kids were out at the end of June with the way June weather has been for last couple years. Rather have kids out all of August.

    Drummond has a window A/C unit in each room. How many other Track E schools have this? Classrooms in old school buildings get EXTREMELY hot…possibly 5 to 10 degrees higher than the outside temp with 30+ kids in a room. Also many Chicago schools do not have recess.

    Like the breaks throughout the year, however would prefer school until end of June and not in August, lastly A/C window units a must especially when temps are in high 80’s or 90’s.

  • 12. To jusand  |  August 18, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Your child’s school must have air conditioning. I don’t think it is right for CPS to have schools on this Track without air conditioning. Some children with certain medical conditions such as asthma will have a hard time.

  • 13. CPS Montessori Mom  |  August 19, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I was looking at schools that have petitioned for air conditioning in the past. Pritzker parents went to a cps board meeting a few years back and requested ac when children were hospitalized for heat related conditions.
    Pritzker is not a track E school but September and June can be hot!

  • 14. track e supporter  |  August 26, 2009 at 11:57 am

    The facts are the facts — schools choose to go to track e because there is a) a perception of less staff burnout, which is great and b) better test scores by a significant amount. you get more days in before the ISAT.

    The move can be initiated by the principal, but it has to be approved by the majority of teachers for it to go into effect. Going the other way, I have a hard time believing that if the majority of teachers lobbied for Track E and the principal wasn’t supportive that the school wouldn’t go track e … i mean, if you have everyone on board, why not switch?

    I can see how if you have a high school student and a grade school student it would be annoying, but i don’t know why people are getting so worried about this … chicago is outdated in starting school after labor day.

  • 15. To track e supporter  |  August 26, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I am annoyed at the way my previous son’s principal handled it! There was no support from the LSC and no town hall meeting for the parents as requested by the LSC! She told parents at the Xmas assembly which was the last day for magnet/SE enrollment applications to be submitted. Also, there are many schools (who have been lucky because the temps have been cooler) that do not have air conditioning.

  • 16. To track e supporter  |  August 28, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Hey cpsonssessed you did not post my comment yet again! I give up on this site! You will say you overlooked this commet but I don’t believe you!0

  • 17. cpsobsessed  |  August 28, 2009 at 12:53 am

    DArgggh! How do I keep doing that? I try to approve them from my Blackberry and I think that is my downfall.
    Once I get a job an iphone will be in my future! That will solve all my problem!

  • 18. cpsobsessed  |  August 28, 2009 at 12:56 am

    That is really crummy about announcing it at the last minute like that. I mean that is a big change to spring on people! The principal for the LSC I am on isn’t interested in a Town Hall meeting either (although she does listen to community input on matters.) I swear I think they advised to prevent large groups of parents from congregating to question things (just my paranoid conspiracy theory.)

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  August 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Ok, God is sending me a message. My Blackberry died today. 🙂

  • 22. cps mom  |  August 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Dear Drummond Parent,
    Do you know if the school had to upgrade the electric line for air conditioners in every classroom. Also did you fundraise for the AC units or did cps provide funds for them.
    I am afraid our school might go track e and wanted some useful info as to how to get window units.

  • 23. Tkels  |  December 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I recently enrolled one of my children in a so called track E school. I myself personally do not like the idea to me it makes more room for a world full of dummies. If you really look at the whole idea. They are still out for summer break around the same time as everybody else not that big of a difference. Track E students are out of school much more time than regular school during the regular school day. since school started I think I counted the many times he has been out of school which I think it’s been a total of 20 something days which to me is rediculous which means they are learning nothing because half the time they are out for something stupid I sure wish he could go back to his old school but we longer stay in the area. Track E is full of it what a waist of our childrens minds.

  • 24. anonymous  |  December 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I think most people who have been watching CPS for any length of time realize ALL schools will go year round in the next few years. Track E will become the only track.

  • 25. anonymous  |  April 9, 2012 at 10:12 am


  • 26. anonymous  |  April 9, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Tomatoes is my current argument. Take that legal syste and society!

  • 27. MBL  |  May 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Track E Rocks – kids are learning better, breaks are during off seasons (cheaper vacations) – I love it. We aren’t an agrarian civilization any more and if we want our kids to compete – all year round it the best

  • 28. Cynthia Ramos  |  August 14, 2012 at 2:36 am

    I am really peeved and not prepared at all.I believe the children should have there summer,plus i think all schools should be on the same level. its not fair for some kids to go sooner and others later.It makes no difference in my opinion. I think it’s biased that it’s basically the poorer neighborhoods that get track E. Everyone sould be on the same Track.

  • 29. NBCT Vet  |  August 14, 2012 at 9:12 am

    re: Track E

    I agree that everyone should be on the same track. I can’t imagine the child care nightmare of having children on different tracks.

    In many ways Track E appeals to me, but I have not seen any empirical evidence from Chicago or elsewhere that it boosts student academic achievement. Still, I would welcome the more frequent breaks from school especially during intense and/or long, drawn out times of the year.

    Starting school later in the day, on the other hand, has shown to be a major contributor to student success, at least at the high school level. An added benefit of students starting late and ending late is that students are less likely to get in trouble unsupervised at 9am before school starts than they are after school at 3:30pm.

    My three main problems with Track E, two of them obviously solvable, are these:

    1) Air conditioning.
    I’m Track R but I start working with my students in middle August. The heat is oppressive even on a normal day. If it’s 80* outside our entire third floor is in the mid-90s. Not exactly conducive to learning. The temperature differential between starting in early August vs. early September is no small thing and many, many schools do not have air conditioning at all.

    2) Family & community supports.
    Chicag’s Parks & Rec programs and other affordable camp-like enrichment or daycare opportunities cannot handle a citywide Track E schedule. This is a major problem for the huge percentage of parents who can’t afford to take vacations even during the off-season.

    3) Home economics.
    About 40% of my students work one or more jobs to support their families during the school year, over the summer, or both. Summertime, not surprisingly, is when the largest proportion of my students are employed. They are not working for extra spending money or carry-around cash. They are working to help buy food and clothes, pay rent, cover basic bills, etc.

    In talking with my students they unanimously agree that shortening the summer by three weeks would have a devastating economic impact on their families. For a really large contingent of my students they feel that lost summer income simply cannot be made up in the middle of October or during the other mid-year breaks.

  • 30. Mary Beth LeMay  |  August 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

    All Valid concerns for the Track E; especially as far as the existing structure is in place -even more so; however if CPS invested in infrastructure for air-conditioning (somehow I don’t think it’s going to get cooler with global warming); students were able to work and go to school (I did for 3 years in highschool year round); and the park district adjusted their schedules to match Track E; well might be a have a different discussion. So I’ll concede – until those things are dealt with – perhaps we stay on the regular school track; but if we know its better for our kids and their academic learning – seems we should be moving in that direction. I guess we’ll have to see how the different schools adjust and perform over the years to get a good picture. Meanwhile – I still love it.

    Again I will restate Track E supporters benefits for food for thought:
    — schools choose to go to track e because there is a) a perception of less staff burnout, which is great and b) better test scores by a significant amount. you get more days in before the ISAT.

  • 31. NBCT Vet  |  August 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

    The economic loss of 3 weeks full time income on my students and their families is the biggest concern for me. I’m not sure there’s a good solution for replacing that income. They already work part time during the school year. I suppose they could try to add an additional 120-180 hours of work during the school year, but there are only so many hours in the day.

    If there is evidence that Track E actually benefits student learning (not necessarily just higher test scores) then CPS and the city really need to find a way to remove the major obstacles. Has anyone out there seen studies that show that a staggered school year improves student learning?

    The reduction in staff (and student) burnout is no small issue. Of all the teachers I’ve talked to on Track E they feel that’s a very big benefit of the year round schedule.

  • 32. SoxSideIrish4  |  August 14, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I heard that all schools will be on the same track probably in 2014 ~ like track e but not having the breaks track e has. They said that the school yr will look completely different. If any1 knows of this, plz share.

  • 33. anon mom  |  August 14, 2012 at 11:13 am

    SoxSideIrish–no-one knows that THIS year is going to look like, and school started yesterday. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Certainly if they are going to significantly increase the number of days (and that would be adding at least a full 3 weeks into the schedule) the upcoming teachers contract would have to permit this.

  • 34. Loren  |  January 27, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Would it be possible for me to obtain a list of what schools were Track E and what schools were Track A/R?


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