D41 elementary schools present Think Tank plans, parents question timeline
GLEN ELLYN — During Monday's District 41 Board of Education meeting, principals from the four district elementary schools presented what their schools plan to implement of the Think Tank proposals — ranging from teacher specialization and multiage classrooms for fourth and fifth grades at Churchill Elementary to full implementation at Lincoln. Many parents continued to express concerns over the implementation timeline and lack of a true pilot.
Churchill Elementary plans to implement multiage classrooms for literacy/social studies and teacher specialization for literacy/social students and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) at the fourth- and fifth-grade level.
Churchill is the only school that did not propose making any changes at the second- and third-grade level, but Principal Scott Klespitz pointed out that this is the proposal as it stands right now.
"I wish I was where Lincoln is, honestly, but we're not there yet," Klespitz said. "But we're working on seeing what we can do to get there."
Lincoln Elementary's proposal includes multiage classrooms for literacy/social studies and teacher specialization for literacy/social studies and STEAM/math for second through fifth grades — full implementation of the Think Tank proposals from the district's original presentation.
Forest Glen Elementary plans to implement teacher specialization for second grade based on staffing, full teacher specialization for third grade, and multiage classrooms and teacher specialization for fourth and fifth grades.
Finally, Ben Franklin Elementary's proposal includes teacher specialization for second graders, teacher specialization for two sections of third graders based on staffing, and multiage and teacher specialization for fourth and fifth graders.
Since proposals differ among all the schools, parents said they were worried about how the changes would be evaluated, something Board of Education member Sam Black also expressed.
"So when we went with the partial implementation, was there any discussion about doing a partial implementation at one school only, versus what we've come up with tonight, with different iterations in each school, so maybe we could have some meaningful data that comes from partial implementation?" Black asked.
According to the district presentation, staff still needs to identify what needs to be evaluated each year and the tools to complete that evaluation, such as checklists and surveys.
Evaluations would focus on three areas: fidelity, impact and satisfaction, the presentation reads.
Phase one of the implementation plan will include the "partial implementation" described by the elementary schools' proposals. By the 2014-15 school year, all four schools would be expected to implement multiage classrooms for second and third graders in literacy/social studies. In 2015-16, math classrooms will be multiage as well for second through fifth grades.
During Monday's meeting, Superintendent Ann Riebock addressed the difference between "partial implementation" and "pilot," saying what the district has done for programs in the past has really been more along the lines of partial implementation rather than a true pilot. These proposals will be done in a similar way.
"Pilots in the past have really been partial implementations," Riebock said. " ... We knew the data we would gather from those teachers participating would help guide us in the full implementation, but we were not doing it as a study to see whether or not we would even continue."
One of the main concerns parents have with what they have identified as a "rush" to implement is the lack of time for teacher training.
As the beginning of March approaches, there is limited time left in the school year for mandatory teacher training.
Paid planning and collaboration time will be offered during the summer, but that will be optional, Director of Communications and Grants Julie Worthen previously told the Glen Ellyn News.
Parents also expressed a desire to have the district evaluate parental support.
"Clearly, the message has been said by a lot of people that buy-in from both the teachers and community is important...we're here to plead to the board because you're representing us, you're voting on this on our behalf ... and we don't really think our voices have been taken into account," parent Stephanie Clark said.
Black also said looking at parental support was perhaps a step the district missed that staff should consider taking to make sure schools are doing what's best for the students.
Black said he planned to attend all four of the upcoming individual school meetings; however, three are scheduled for the same night, making it impossible for all board members to attend all four meetings.
Board President Erica Nelson said the board would discuss a way to have some members present at each meeting, in order to make sure all members' questions can be asked at each school.
Each elementary school will hold a parent session between now and March 8. The Board of Education also will host a community forum from 8:30 until 10 a.m. March 9 at the Hadley Junior High library. A board vote on the plans is expected March 11.
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