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updated: 11/19/2013 12:23 PM

District 54's collaborative process 'a model' for other districts

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By Andrew D. DuRoss
Schaumburg School District 54 superintendent

Schaumburg School District 54's Board of Education recently convened a representative committee of key district stakeholders to identify priority steps to ensure students leave District 54 with a solid foundation for future success in high school, college and career settings. Specifically, this committee closely examined the district's current practices and reality in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment. These areas lie at the heart of our work with students and are central to ensuring our students demonstrate measurable levels of academic growth.

District 54 has long placed a focus on differentiating instruction to meet the needs of the children entrusted to us. The district's curriculum is driven by clearly-defined learning outcomes written for all subjects and grade levels. A variety of assessment tools are used to measure student proficiency levels, and assessment results are utilized to better enable teachers to know each child by name and need. Intervention and enrichment structures have been implemented in all of our schools to better enable teams of teachers to accelerate the learning of all students in our system. Our consistent pattern of academic success is truly the result of the collaborative processes at work in each of our schools. These processes see teams of teachers working in concert to deliver the district's rigorous curriculum in an engaging way for each student.

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This fall, District 54 teachers and students have been fully immersed in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Adopted as Illinois' State Learning Standards in 2010, the CCSS have raised the bar for expectations for our students and identify a clear set of competencies essential for college- and career-readiness. Our teachers played the lead role in examining and revising our district's curricular, instructional and assessment practices to ensure tight alignment with the CCSS. The result has been the development of a truly rigorous curriculum, anchored by assessment measures that require students to think critically and explain their reasoning for developing solutions to complex problems.

District 54 has also implemented structural changes to best provide supports to our students in attaining mastery of the Common Core State Standards. Each of our schools has established set times of day for literacy and math acceleration. Students needing additional time and support to master content and skills are provided this assistance in a small group setting during acceleration periods. Students who have demonstrated mastery of specific content and skills are provided powerful enrichment experiences during this time. District 54 has also added enrichment coaches at each of our elementary school sites as we continue to emphasize the need for all students to demonstrate significant levels of academic growth. At the junior high level, math classes have been lengthened to ensure our students are provided strong initial instruction that includes opportunities for small group, differentiated support for all learners.

In order to continue to support our teachers with implementing our curriculum effectively, a wide range of professional development experiences have been provided to staff across the district. Last May, the district facilitated intensive staff development sessions for all grade-level teams on the instructional shifts associated with delivering a curriculum truly aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Over the summer months, teachers from grade-level teams from all schools in the district came together for staff development sessions focused on planning for the successful rollout of our revised curriculum this fall. District, as well as building-based, staff development opportunities have been provided this fall to further support teachers with implementing this important work. Additionally, the district has invested in instructional coaching supports in the areas of literacy and math to ensure our teachers receive job-embedded professional development supports that directly connect to improving instructional practices in each of our classrooms.

This past September, District 54 was invited to present our ongoing work in curriculum, instruction and assessment related to full implementation of the Common Core State Standards to the Illinois State Board of Education. This presentation concluded with the president of the Illinois State Board of Education describing District 54 as a "model district for other school districts to look toward in the state of Illinois" related to our collaborative processes and tight focus on student learning.

Our work in refining our curriculum, instruction and assessment practices is never finished. However, our foundation in these areas is exceptionally strong. District 54's commitment to collaborative processes, tapping into the considerable talents of our teacher leaders, and supporting teachers with strong professional development have all been key elements of our work. Most importantly, District 54's staff is committed to the belief that ALL children can and will learn. This core belief continues to drive our district forward as we strive to ensure the success of each student entrusted to us.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 847-357-5036. For a full text copy of District 54's mission and goals and a video message explaining these documents, please visit http://sd54.org/board/mission.

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