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posted: 5/20/2014 3:06 PM

District 54 continues work toward goals

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By Andrew DuRoss

In September, in my first column as your District 54 superintendent, I shared with you the three goals that guide all of the work we do in District 54.

• Students who have attended District 54 schools for at least one year will be at grade level in reading and math upon entering third grade as measured by Measures of Academic Progress.

• Each school will close the achievement gap for all students in reading and math as measured by both district and state assessments.

• Each school will perform at or above the 90th percentile (top 10 percent nationally) in meeting individual student growth targets in reading and math as measured by Measures of Academic Progress.

Every action we take and every decision we make, from our teachers in the classroom to our elected school board members, we keep these goals in mind. We are constantly focused on helping all students reach their potential.

The significant academic achievement gains of our students are the result of all District 54 staff members working collaboratively to achieve the Board of Education's goals. Analysis of our spring MAP data results indicates that District 54 student growth continues to outpace national norms.

The goal for District 54 is to be in the top 10 percent nationally in terms of students meeting their growth targets in reading and math. District 54 students were in the top 5 percent in reading and top 4 percent in math. In addition, 21 of our schools were in the top 10 percent nationally for student growth in both reading and math, and eight schools were in the top 5 percent.

I also shared with you the 11 key projects that we implemented this school year to guide and support continuous improvement across the district. As our school year winds down, I want to share with you the progress we have made on these projects and our goals. The following project summaries provide evidence of the focused manner in which the district works to improve student learning outcomes and operational practices.

• Develop a shared understanding of the Mission, Vision, Commitments and Goals. A board committee revised District 54's Mission, Vision, Commitments and Goals last year. These revised documents were shared across the district last spring and served as key points of discussion during staff development sessions in August. District 54 distributed booklets, banners, lapel pins and other literature supporting the "Get to Grade, Close the Gap, Top 10%" focus that our system enacted this school year. Additionally, this focus was the foundation for the superintendent's monthly articles for the Daily Herald as the district continues to communicate its priorities with its stakeholders.

• Review and update the teacher appraisal process. A joint committee of SEA (teachers union) members and District 54 administrators will continue to meet in 2014-15 to discuss Illinois School Code mandates related to incorporating student growth into teacher appraisal.

• Implement, evaluate and refine the revised Common Core State Standards aligned literacy curriculum and Implement, evaluate and refine the revised Common Core State Standards aligned mathematics curriculum. The district provided a series of professional development opportunities for teacher teams to plan units of instruction using our refined, Common Core-aligned literacy and mathematics curriculum. District 54's Common Core Literacy Task Force and Common Core Math Task Force have discussed how to best implement the new curriculum. The Literacy Task Force developed "The Common Core Resource Guide for English/Language Arts" to further support teachers with daily lesson planning and design. The Math Task Force reviewed and recommended the adoption of the Go Math! curriculum. Staff training this spring and summer will include literacy and mathematics instruction planning, including an introduction to the Go Math! curriculum.

• Implement refined acceleration structures and practices. Every District 54 elementary school has implemented daily 30-minute literacy and 30-minute math acceleration periods. Each of our junior high schools and Lincoln Prairie School have established literacy and math acceleration classes for qualifying students. In addition, full-time gifted/enrichment coaches have provided substantive supports for students at each elementary school.

• Fully implement the Traits Writing curriculum. Staff training on Traits Writing was facilitated at all schools. The Literacy Task Force sessions provided an avenue for ongoing feedback and the development of support structures as staff implemented the Traits curriculum. District 54's Professional Development Symposium and other classes focused on Traits Writing will continue into next school year.

• Continue the implementation of the kindergarten through second grade Literacy Plan and Assessment Package. The district has continued to place a priority on providing strong initial instruction and intervention supports at the primary grade levels. The Primary MAP assessment is now used in all kindergarten through second-grade classrooms, along with fluency, writing and sight-word assessments, to focus instructional planning.

• Revise District 54's report card to reflect alignment with the Common Core State Standards. District 54's Standards-Based Report Card Committee met this fall to develop Common Core-aligned performance indicators for all grade levels and subject areas. Full implementation of the revised report cards will take place next school year.

• Initiate a Junior High Master Schedule project team. Junior high and instructional administrators have met monthly this year to discuss optimal scheduling formats. These discussions led to consistent implementation of 60-minute math periods, as well as literacy and math acceleration classes.

• Continue to research promising science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming opportunities that positively enhance our current offerings. District 54 developed a strong partnership with Northwestern University this year, which resulted in the opening of FUSE labs at all five District 54 junior high schools; Lincoln Prairie School; and Hoover, Nerge and Einstein elementary schools. STEM explorations classes were fully introduced at Hoover and Nerge and will be extended to Aldrin, Armstrong and Einstein next fall. All District 54 schools continue to support GEMS and Rocketry clubs. The district will host its second annual rocket launch May 19 and 20.

• Monitor the impact of yearly changes to the Illinois state assessment by aligning the results with the district's MAP trend data and making adjustments in curriculum and instructional practices to ensure our students are equipped to meet the college- and career-readiness standards. The district continues to monitor the realignment of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test and the implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments in 2015. District 54 has provided professional development on PARCC and the incorporation of high cognitive demand assessment strategies. District 54 continues to use a 90-day School Improvement Cycle, which includes each school analyzing its student data and presenting its school improvement plan to the district administrative team each fall. Follow-up meetings are held in the winter and spring to ensure schools are on track to meeting their goals.

You may have noticed that many of our project updates reference the upcoming school year. While the entire District 54 community can celebrate the successes that took place this past year, we are also looking ahead to the 2014-15 school year. While students are enjoying their summer break, our staff members will be training and planning to enhance instruction next year in order to ensure success for every student at every school.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call me at (847) 357-5036.

For a complete update on all of our 2013-14 projects, visit