Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2012-2013 Year in Review: How did the curriculum change process evolve?

How did the curriculum change process evolve?

To fully understand why Curriculum changes are taking place in D181, it is important to briefly review legislative and internal mandates that took place in the last few years.

In June 2010, the Illinois State Board of Education adopted a revised set of learning standards for K-12 education intended to better prepare Illinois students for college and beyond.  These new standards are called the Common Core State Standards and will replace the current Illinois standards previously developed in 1997.  (Note:  A future blog will address whether the Common Core Standards are really a good idea.)  The Administration began an internal gap analysis in order to evaluate whether or not the current math and language arts curricula being taught in D181 met the Common Core Standards or needed to be supplemented or changed.

At the same time, during the 2011-2012 School Year, the Administration and Board of Education undertook a review of the gifted program.  This program was originally designed to provide challenges for students whose unique academic and cognitive needs were not being met in the regular curriculum. Over time, however, this program was criticized because it cost almost $1 million per year to pay for the gifted teachers (one at each school) -- whose primary role was to provide services to students who were identified as gifted or very high achievers -- AND because the identification methods being used to select students for the programs were unfair and left students out who clearly should have been included.  If a student missed an arbitrary "cut-off" set by the administration, they were excluded, UNLESS they were lucky enough to be one of the "exceptions" to the rules.  (Such exceptions included students who did not score high enough to qualify for the middle school gifted program, but were grandfathered none-the-less because they'd qualified for the elementary gifted program in 3rd grade OR students who did not qualify with tests given by the district but somehow convinced the administration to let their kids into the program.)

As a result of years of criticism, the Administration agreed to review the program. Dr. Tonya Moon, an educator from the University of Virginia, was hired to come and observe not just the gifted classes, but all of the D181 programs first hand, along with a team of her colleagues.  After spending several days in the district observing classes, Moon's team prepared a report.  This report can be found on the D181 Website.  Moon concluded that there was insufficient differentiation across the board in D181, and that there was inadequate identification of students for admission into the gifted, advanced or accelerated math and language arts programs.  She advised that unless there was evidence to show that a student would not be successful in such programs, the opportunity for students to enroll in them should be created. Anything short of this was educational malpractice. She also recommended that the district create a Philosophy of Learning for all students.  She did not advise that there should not be any gifted programming, but that the door needed to be opened for more students into the advanced programs D181 offered.

In the Spring of 2012, the Administration presented, and the School Board approved, the District's Philosophy of Teaching and Learning.  It also approved "transition plans" for the 2012-2013 school year in the areas of the ACE gifted program, math and language arts.  This winter, the Administration presented, and the Board of Education approved, long term curriculum plans in the form of an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) that will be rolled out over the next four years, beginning this Fall.  Both the 2012-2013 transition plan and the ALP are intended to create curriculum that provide the differentiated learning opportunities that Moon and her team found sorely lacking in D181, meet the Common Core Standards and provide Advanced Learning opportunities.  The next few blog posts will address each curriculum area and point out the areas we are concerned about.


Anonymous said...

Needs clarication

The Parents said...

What would you like clarification on?