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posted: 4/2/2014 5:30 AM

Dist. 203 changing learning support, assistant positions

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Administrators in Naperville Unit District 203 are changing the way students receive extra help and enrichment in kindergarten, first and second grades.

Beginning next school year, students in the district's lower three grades will no longer be pulled out of the classroom to meet one-on-one with an assistant for early literacy intervention, reading help or advanced enrichment.

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Instead, assistants will come into the classroom to help individuals or small groups, or lead the class while the teacher reviews material with those who need extra instruction.

"We are blessed in this district with highly qualified teachers," said Kitty Ryan, assistant superintendent for elementary education. "We want them to be the person that's delivering key instruction to our students, and we want our students in the classroom while that's happening."

The change will end the use of the LEAP and K-LEAP programs, which Ryan said are 25-year-old models of early literacy intervention. It also will require the district to eliminate 31 full-time and 40 part-time assistant positions and replace those jobs with 48 full-time assistants to work in kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms.

"We really want them available in the classroom all day long," Ryan said about the full-time assistants who will be hired.

Assistants already working for the district will be given the first chance to seek the new positions.

"First we want to make sure those trained assistants who have been working so well with our kids certainly have those positions assigned to them," Ryan said.

In a written statement, the union that represents support professionals in District 203 said it approves of the new learning model and the change to the number of available positions.

"(Union members) will continue to provide educational support for the students and collaborate with the teachers and all the District 203 employees for the success of the students," said Cis Meyer, president of the Naperville Education Support Professionals Association.

Administrators will seek school board approval of the move to end the 31 full-time and 40 part-time positions during a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 7 in the administrative center, 203 W. Hillside Road. The change to the new support model does not need board approval.

While administrators have heard from some parents who are concerned about the end of the LEAP programs, Ryan said the new model will provide the same learning assistance, just in the setting of the classroom instead of a smaller, separate space. It also will allow teachers and assistants to evaluate more frequently which students need help and provide that support right in the classroom.

"Some parents are concerned because their kids have had a good experience with LEAP of they've benefited from enrichment and they say 'hey we want those programs for our children,'" Ryan said. "Our goal here is not to eliminate; our goal is to increase support for students through a much more flexible delivery model."

Programs for students who are pulled out of classes for special education or English Language Learners assistance will not change, and neither will the honors math or accelerated reading programs for elementary students older than second grade.

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