ELMHURST – The Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education approved various policy changes at its Sept. 25 meeting based on state mandates of a new accelerated placement policy and cursive instruction.
Accelerated placement involves the placement of a child in an educational setting with curriculum that is usually reserved for children who are older or in higher grades than the child, which could involve acceleration in a single subject, other grade-level acceleration or early entrance to kindergarten or first grade, according to materials provided with the Sept. 25 board packet.
The new policy follows Gov. Bruce Rauner's signage of the Accelerated Placement Act in August 2017. State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, had introduced the bill in February 2017.
School districts in Illinois are now mandated to have a policy allowing children identified as eligible for accelerated placement, and not solely children identified as gifted and talented, to be allowed to participate in the accelerated placement program, according to the act. Children are considered gifted and talented by scoring in the top 5 percent locally within an area of aptitude, according to state law.
Participation in the program must be open to all children who demonstrate high ability who may benefit from the advancement, the act states. The decision-making process must include multiple people, including the students' parents or guardians, according to the act.
Superintendent David Moyer said the district's current practices is "not that far removed" from the new policy, and the district may receive further clarification from the state.
"I do think that the intent is to be more inclusionary and to expand services to more students and provide equity of access for students to programs, and I think that that's consistent with the way we're trying to structure our current instructional practices," Moyer said.
He said the district has the REACH program, kindergarten plans, appeals processes, committees and multiple data points in place to allow students advancement opportunities. The REACH program currently applies to English/language arts and math, he said. District students are identified during second grade based on tests and teacher observation for services starting in third grade and are reconsidered for REACH in middle school, and there are multiple entry points and an appeals process in place, according to the district's website.
Moyer said he would like to continue to evaluate the REACH program to enhance students' opportunities in a comprehensive way throughout the district, and the district is looking at expanding summer school programming enrichment opportunities and other measures.
Associate Superintendent for Learning and Leadership Development Mary Henderson added that with the Eureka math curriculum, every unit has a pre-test, and students who demonstrate mastery with that test have enrichment opportunities instead of relearning that material.
"I don't want to minimize and make it sound like we're there yet and that we should be dismissive, but I also think we're making a lot of positive efforts consistent with what the intent of this is," Moyer said.
After discussing the changes at the meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the new policy.
The school board also adopted a revision to its curriculum content policy to incorporate a change in school code that requires public elementary schools to offer at least one unit of cursive instruction before completion of fifth grade starting in the 2018-19 school year.
The policy change, which the board adopted as part of the superintendent's consent agenda, is effective immediately, according to the board packet.
The change comes after the state of Illinois enacted an amendment to its school code following the legislature's decision to override Rauner's veto of the bill, which state Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, introduced in February 2017.
School board member John McDonough was absent from the meeting.