District 181 Board of Education approves Advanced Learning plan

by: Mike Ellis

BURR RIDGE -- The District 181 Board of Education unanimously passed the Advanced Learning Task Force plan earlier this evening at Elm Elementary School in Burr Ridge.

This plan, which was presented to the board on Jan. 28, will work to gradually accelerate education for all District 181 students.  Over the next half-decade, this proposal calls for changes to the language arts and mathematics curricula, and the ACE (Affective and Cognitive Enrichment) program, in an attempt to install a more rigorous curriculum and allow more students to access honors and AP courses at the high-school level.  The Task Force's goals include:

  • All graduating eighth graders will meet honors English criteria at District 86 by 2019.

  • All graduating eighth graders will place into at least high-school Geometry by 2019.

  • The current ACE Social Studies course will be the standard for all middle-school students by 2016-17.

“Our goal is to create a culture of learning,” Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services Dr. Kurt Schneider said at the Jan. 28 board meeting, “and when we improve the education of our advanced learners, we know we create a higher ceiling for everyone to accomplish more.”

Overall, the curriculum will become more rigorous, as all State of Illinois schools will replace the current Illinois State Standard with the Common Core in 2014-15. The Common Core will challenge students to think at higher levels than the state standard, placing greater emphasis on techniques such as analysis and synthesis.

The Task Force, which was led by Dr. Schneider, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Kevin Russell, and Pupil Personnel Services Administrator Christine Igoe, constructed its plan out of the recommendations from a report by Dr. Tonya Moon and her colleagues at the University of Virginia, who were contracted by the Board of Education to conduct a review of district programming.

Although the motion passed unanimously, board members Yvonne Mayer and Brendan Heneghan said they would have rather afforded parents and community members a public forum to present questions and concerns before voting on the plan.  Mayer's and Heneghan's concerns included the plan's ability to meet the needs of students currently performing below grade-level, as well as the needs of those currently identified as "advanced learners." 

Task Force leaders said the district will continue to employ Response to Intervention (RtI)—a process through which specialists intervene by assigning tasks of increasing intensity—to accommodate struggling learners, and that differentiation specialists will work to develop individualized learning plans to address the needs of advanced learners.

Mayer and Heneghan also said that while the Task Force followed Dr. Moon's report in some respects, they believe some of the recommendations were neglected.

Read more about the Advanced Learning plan in our next issue.

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