Elgin Area School District U-46 has much to be proud of, Superintendent Jose Torres told an audience of district employees and community members.
He also gave a broad overview of the district's programs when he spoke at a luncheon Friday at Villa Olivia in Bartlett. The event wrapped up the fifth annual "Principal For a Day" event, during which businessmen, elected officials and others shadowed school principals in the morning.
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U-46's graduation rates are in the 80th percentile, and ACT scores in the 70th percentile among school districts eligible for the The Broad Prize for Urban Education, Torres said. The Broad Prize is aimed at large districts with students who are at least 40 percent low-income and 40-percent minorities.
The number of U-46 students who test for AP classes has doubled, from 731 in 2008 to 1,459 in 2012, Torres said.
Also, the district now has 72 teachers -- out of 2,311 teachers overall -- certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, he said. Twelve earned the certification this year.
Tefft Middle School was among 11 schools across the country profiled by Leading Success, he said. The website, an initiative of the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, explains the schools were selected "for their successful creation of positive, student-centered school cultures that value equity, collaboration and personalized learning."
Torres gave an detailed overview of the programs offered by U-46, which comprises more than 40,000 students in 11 communities.
He touted the district's 13 early learning programs for at-risk children, its gifted programs -- also available to bilingual students -- and its dual-language programs, now in 30 out of 40 elementary schools.
"My goal is to have Mandarin and some of the other languages that are really important," he said.
He also pointed to special needs programs for kids ages 3 to 21, which include services like home hospital instruction and transition to independent living, he said.
"In the past our society discarded these kids, and now they're part of our system," he said.
Despite the difficult economic times, U-46 remains committed to arts instruction, he said. For example, the district now has its first student mariachi band.
He also highlighted the various academies at its five high schools, which focus on specific areas with an eye toward college and career opportunities.
For example, students of the Broadcast, Education and Communication Networks Academy at South Elgin High School interned as a production crew for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpich League. Students from the Gifted and Talented Academy at Elgin High School will be partnering with Ohio State University's Stone Laboratory for a marine biology program in July at Lake Erie.
Also at the luncheon, U-46 board member Joyce Fountain thanked teachers and administrators after her 20 years on the board. Fountain is not seeking re-election in April.
Teaching is "divine work," and all teachers make a difference -- whether for the better or for the worse, she said.
"The only choice you have as a teacher in our district or any district anywhere, is what type of difference you will make in that child's life," she said, later adding, "Please, please, please, take care of my 40,000 babies."