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D41 Receiving Think Tank Recommendation Monday Night

The board will hear the final recommendation on the Think Tank initiative Monday night. A public forum is planned for March 9, prior to the board voting on the measure.

D41 Receiving Think Tank Recommendation Monday Night

After months of presentations, meetings and discussion surrounding the District 41 Think Tank proposal, the district’s board of education will hear the administration’s recommendation for the 21st Century Learning plan during its board meeting Monday night.

The district is recommending that the Think Tank proposal be implemented and piloted in schools across the district to varying degrees depending on readiness. Meanwhile some parents in the district remain concerned about the pace at which the district plans to implement the changes. 

Think Tank Goals

The district’s Think Tank group convened in the fall of 2011 with the goal of researching ways the district might better address 21stCentury Learning and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. Some district parents began to raise concerns about Think Tank last fall when public discussion began. 

The board of education will receive the district’s recommendation Monday night during it’s business meeting, but it isn’t expected to take any action until March 11, after a public forum District 41 announced will be held on March 9.

According to the district the Think Tank’s purpose was: “to create an opportunity for D41 educators to come together to ‘rethink the elementary school day’ in order to meet the needs of all learners, to provide a schedule for 21st century teaching and learning, to meet the demands of the rigor of the Common Core and to embed S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) at the elementary level.” 

Recommendations

Specific recommendations include the following:

Churchill School

Grade 4/5: multiage literacy/social studies with teacher specialization in STEAM/math and literacy/social studies

Forest Glen School

Grade 2: teacher specialization based on staffing

Grade 3: teacher specialization

Grade 4/5: multiage literacy/social studies with teacher specialization in STEAM/math and literacy/social studies

Abraham Lincoln School

Grade 2/3: multiage literacy/social studies with teacher specialization in STEAM/math and literacy/social studies

Grade 4/5: multiage literacy/social studies with teacher specialization in STEAM/math and literacy/social studies 

Benjamin Franklin School

Grade 2: teacher specialization

Grade 3: teacher specialization for 2 sections only due to current staffing pattern

Grade 4/5: multiage literacy/social studies with teacher specialization in STEAM/math and literacy/social studies

Parental Concerns

Parent Pam Kelleher is an elementary school teacher with a third grader in the district, along with two older children in sixth and 8th grade. She also tutors students in District 41.   

Kelleher became interested in Think Tank because she is a parent and teacher who will experience the changes, she said. While she thinks the concept is good and could have positive changes, she is concerned at the speed the district is moving forward.

In addition, she said that while the district is trying to communicate information to parents, the information has not been specific enough as to how her child’s day might play out.

“I think there is still so much to implement. It is a lot to do in such a short time,” she said. “If we want it to be a success it needs to go slowly and have the kinks worked out before full implementation.”

Her concern is that some buildings implement programs differently than others with varying degrees of follow through. And, that has been an ongoing issue with different programs.

“How can teachers be expected to provide good education when we change the expectations all the time. Staff needs solid training not a few SIP days and some time in the summer. The school board has the idea but the teachers have to make it happen. They should be a high priority in how it is done,” she said.

Bruce Currie, a teacher and a parent who has been outspoken about the Think Tank implementation over the last several months, said he is concerned that teachers in the district are not being listened to when it comes down to how quickly the Think Tank will be implemented and whether it should be implemented in 2/3 grades.

Teacher Survey

The district recently released the results of an elementary teacher survey taken among teachers in the district, who shared their thoughts on implementing 21st Century Learning programs.

Based on the results, Currie said: “Seventy percent of the teachers that this will most effect have said that they are not comfortable with the 2/3 students being combined. … To further drive this home, question 13 [on the survey] asks, ‘I believe that children in grades 2 and 3 will benefit by this structure.’ 35 percent of all teachers disagree or strongly disagree, 22 percent have no strong feeling and 42 percent agree or strongly agree. When you look at the 35 teachers in second and third grade that responded to the survey, 20 disagree or strongly disagree, 6 have no strong feeling and 9 agree or strongly agree. This means that 57 percent of second and third grade classroom teachers are not comfortable moving forward with strategic grouping of second and third grade.”

As the board of education hears the Think Tank recommendation, Currie said he hopes it will look at the survey of teachers, listen to the parents' concerns and vote to not implement this proposal. And, if that is not possible, he hopes they would delay the implementation until a small pilot program has been implemented and proven to show results.

“My biggest concern is that even if it were to be the best plan for educating our children, it needs more time before it is implemented,” he said. “There are 2.5 planning days left before the end of the school year, 73 percent of teachers feel that more work is needed before they can support these ideas and currently, 91 percent of our students are meeting or exceeding state standards. Our schools are working well! This plan to upset the apple cart is a problem looking for a solution.”

The District 41 Board of Education will hold its regular board meeting Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Hadley Junior High Library, 240 Hawthorne Blvd. The meeting will convene at 6:45, but the board will go into closed session immediately. 

The District 41 Board of Education will host a community forum on the Think Tank proposals on Saturday, March 9 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The forum will be held at the Hadley Junior High library, 240 Hawthorne Blvd. Each elementary school will hold a parent session between the dates of Feb. 25 and March 8.

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Read more about the Think Tank

District 41 Parents Petition Against Think Tank Initiative

D41 Think Tank Discussions Continue; More Meetings Expected

Parents Take Issue with 'When' Not 'If' Plans for District 41 Classroom Changes

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