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posted: 11/5/2013 5:30 AM

U-46 transformation task force to present recommendations in December

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Elgin Area School District U-46's Transformation Task Force is gearing up to make recommendations to the school board at its December board meeting about allowing increased time during a school day for student intervention and enrichment by teachers, and providing opportunities for more teacher collaboration.

The task force has spent numerous hours over the past 16 months working toward "a complete design of the student day that will maximize student learning," U-46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders told the school board Monday night.

Among the ideas being considered in early childhood education classrooms are having students' outdoor time being integrated with science activities; providing art, music and physical education instruction for all students; and providing support services during students' work time in the classroom rather than pulling them out of class to receive those services.

At the elementary level, officials are considering slotting daily time for individualized instruction for each student and having a consistent time each day for core curriculum instruction, as well as having specialized instructors such as certified librarians and technology instructors in each school promoting literacy. They also are considering integrating art, music, physical education and technology into all subject areas.

In middle school, students could start the school day earlier and have an extra period for intervention for struggling students or enrichment activities. Meanwhile in high school, students could be allowed to take a course in place of study halls where appropriate and spend less time eating lunch.

The task force report calls for creating smaller classroom groups for instruction, which could affect staffing levels at the early childhood level.

Teachers would work in teams at the elementary school level, and middle school students would be assigned to teams with a consistent group of teachers. High school students would be grouped based on academic interests or needs.

These are just some of the ideas being kicked around, and the task force will develop its final recommendations after getting feedback from community stakeholders, Sanders said.

Not all recommendations will come before the school board for review. Some will be made directly to the Elgin Teachers Association and the district administration, he said.

Per the agreement reached between the teacher's union and the school board, the task force is required to present recommendations only about student contact time to the school board.

The idea behind increasing student "contact time" with teachers and providing different structures for a school day is to promote more effective instruction, and teacher collaboration, Sanders said.

"We know teacher collaboration time is critically important," Sanders said, adding that teachers throughout the district have emphasized the need for meeting with their peers and sharing lessons.

The final plan may include recommendations affecting the school calendar and the district's budget.

The task force committee will gather input through focused discussion or surveys.

"We really do want to get feedback from the community," Sanders said.

Parents, teachers and community members can provide feedback on the district's website u-46.org.

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