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updated: 2/25/2013 11:39 PM

Dist. 41 pushes forward with Think Tank initiative

Combined classes, teacher specializations set for next school year

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Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 officials on Monday announced their plans for a partial implementation of the controversial Think Tank initiative beginning next school year.

Principals from each of the district's four elementary schools presented recommendations to the school board for how the program would be put in place at each building.

Last November, a 66-member long range planning committee proposed a recommendation to combine second- and third-grade classes, and fourth- and fifth-grade classes throughout the district. They also suggested teachers specialize as either instructors in literacy/social studies or STEAM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Officials have said the plan was formulated in response to the new demands of 21st century teaching and learning, and the coming implementation of Common Core standards. But many parents have said the district is proposing too much too fast, and on Monday, many called on the board to delay the process.

Abraham Lincoln School Principal Linda Schweikhofer acknowledged many parents don't favor the district's plan, but she said there's a sense of urgency because student needs are growing and national standards have led to higher expectations.

"We know our students, their needs and the limitations of our current system, and we want something better," Schweikhofer said.

Under the district's proposed partial implementation plan for the 2013-14 school year, only Lincoln School would implement both teacher specialization and grade groupings in full for grades two through five.

Churchill School would only implement the plan for fourth and fifth grades.

At Forest Glen and Benjamin Franklin schools, only fourth and fifth grades would have both aspects of the plan, while second and third grades would only have teacher specialization. However, there are some exceptions that would maintain traditional grade levels.

The implementation plan varies from school to school because of varying teacher readiness levels, principals said.

Board member Sam Black questioned if some second- and third-grade students would later be put at a disadvantage when they got older and attended classes with students who were in grouped classrooms.

Churchill Principal Scott Klespitz said the Common Core curriculum would be uniform throughout the district.

"It's just a matter of how it's being delivered," Klespitz said. It's not a different curriculum."

Black also suggested the board wait to make a decision until better gauging the reactions of parents.

A community forum on the Think Tank proposal will be held March 9 at Hadley Junior High School, just before the board is expected to take a final vote March 11. Each school is also planning to hold meetings with parents over the course of the next two weeks.

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