Des Plaines District 62 revamping middle schools to boost math scores

 
 
Updated 1/24/2017 10:24 AM
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  • Changes are in store at Algonquin Middle School in Des Plaines, as well as Chippewa Middle School, after the Des Plaines Elementary District 62 school board backed a plan to hire new teachers and change instructional hours in an effort to boost poor math scores.

      Changes are in store at Algonquin Middle School in Des Plaines, as well as Chippewa Middle School, after the Des Plaines Elementary District 62 school board backed a plan to hire new teachers and change instructional hours in an effort to boost poor math scores. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, 2014

Des Plaines Elementary District 62 plans to reshape its middle schools by fall to boost poor math scores and ease students' transition from elementary grade levels.

The school board is backing a plan to add six full-time employees, double the time students work on math and reconfigure the daily class schedule. Implementing the plan could cost up to $523,500 next school year.

A special committee crafted the proposal after hearing feedback in a survey of community members, many of whom had concerns about low math scores and wanted to change the district's middle school model. Only about 28 percent of students met proficient standards in math in 2016 state tests. Forty-five percent were proficient in English and language arts the same year.

Under the plan, students at Algonquin and Chippewa middle schools would be taught three core subjects throughout the day, each for 78 minutes. The idea is to increase uninterrupted instructional time compared to the current schedule, which has 42-minute class periods, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Jan Rashid said.

The new schedule would also ease the transition from elementary school -- where children have one primary teacher -- because students will receive instruction from fewer teachers throughout the day, Rashid said.

Additionally, students would spend 35 minutes each week in a small group with an adviser who will teach a social-emotional learning curriculum. The weekly class will give instructors an opportunity for regular check-ins with students.

"I think by moving to the smaller teams, by moving to longer blocks of instructional time and fewer transitions, we're going to be able to accomplish our goals with this model," Rashid said.

District officials determined implementing the plan will require five more teachers and another social worker, which would cost an additional estimated $364,000 to $454,000 in salary and benefits the first year. The district would need to spend about $69,500 on materials and training.

Officials are studying the budget and each school to determine ways to shift funding to lower the overall spending increase, Superintendent Floyd Williams said. The school board would still need to approve the additional hiring.

"Every day, our business is for our students to leave here smarter than when they came in," Williams said. "We want to see that our students perform better tomorrow than they did today."

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