Curriculum, Instruction Initiatives Highlighted At District 86 Meeting


By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
sweditor@buglenewspapers.com
@JolietILNews

Summer school programming, assessments and district resources were among some of the new initiatives discussed during a presentation last week to the School District 86 Board of Inspectors.

Ankhe Bradley, assistant superintendent for curriculum, provided the board with an overview of curriculum and instruction initiatives. Aligning curriculum and instruction to meet standards is a top priority for the district, according to Bradley.

“Our work is around how we are developing and implementing curriculum aligned to the elementary learning standards,” she said. “We are focused on implementing those world-class instructional design and assessment standards in our curriculum, as well as the Spanish language arts standards.

“We are always analyzing student data to identify the best professional development for our district.”

With regard to summer school, the district saw a number of changes last year.

Tricia Nagel, director of teaching and learning, noted that a new initiative aimed at increasing attendance allowed the program to run on a full-day basis for six weeks.

“We’ve done that,” she said. “The numbers have gone up.”

School records show that attendance rose to nearly 92 percent across the nine schools that participated in the program.

“Obviously, engagement was there for [the schools] to have such a high attendance rate,” Nagel said.

This past year, a total of 1,096 students were enrolled in summer school. Of them, 81 children maintained grade-point averages at or below 2.0.

Nagel noted that children in the program saw an increase in reading and math skills this past summer, and said part of that success is attributed to the implementation of new resources.

The district used Star 360, which offers assessment tools to guide instruction for general education and English language students, and MyOn, which is a web-based library.

The district also discussed preliminary data from last year’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exams. In 2015, a state mandate required all Illinois schools to administer the test in grades 3-12.

Of that assessment, there were two exams taken in District 86 schools—a performance-based assessment around midterms and an end-of-year assessment.

“We’re seeing some cohort growth in mathematics and we’re seeing that we need additional support in our transition grades, so that will be third and sixth grade,” Bradley said. “We are continuing to put that additional focus, because our kids will be taking our test online.”

Bradley noted that local assessments through Star 360 have also changed in the last year.

“We’re seeing that positive growth in our grade levels 3-8, with our scale scores, as well as student growth percentiles,” she said. 

In 2016, the PARCC examination will only be required for grades 3-8. Bradley said the assessment will be administered once near the end of the school year.

At the high school level, schools will utilize the SAT and ACT as part of Prairie State Achievement Testing.

Nine states will be participating in the PARCC consortium this year, whereas a total of 11 were active in 2015.

Bradley said part of the change is a result of state decisions to employ different testing measures.

Board inspector Deborah Ziech tried to explain her reservations about teachers continuing to administer the PARCC exam in the district’s schools. 

“The more states that drop out, the more questions I would have… for the validity of the scores, because you don’t have a large enough sample to truly know if the test is actually reliable,” she said. “There are concerns with that. States, they have a choice; Illinois has a choice.”

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