How weekly late starts will help District 203 teacher collaboration
Late start times will become a weekly occurrence next year at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools after the school board granted a schedule change to allow for increased teacher collaboration.
The late starts, now held monthly, will become more frequent starting in the fall to give teachers an hour every Wednesday morning to work in groups called Professional Learning Communities to review test results and plan instruction improvements.
The change means classes will begin at 9 a.m. every Wednesday -- 75 minutes later than the usual 7:45 a.m. start the rest of the week.
While Naperville Unit District 203 school board member Donna Wandke initially said she was concerned about the loss of instructional time, she and her six colleagues on the panel were convinced by a presentation from administrators and teachers, and voted unanimously to approve the late starts.
"We believe the deliberate and focused use of collaboration time will pay dividends for our students over time," Naperville North Principal Stephanie Posey said.
When teachers meet in Professional Learning Communities, they will aim to answer four questions, Naperville Central Principal Bill Wiesbrook said:
• What are the essential standards we want students to learn?
• How will we know they've learned it?
• What will we do with students who aren't learning it?
• What will we do with students who've already learned it?
Teachers first will develop common quizzes and tests to give their students, then will come together to review their scores.
"It often leads to improved instruction," Wiesbrook said, "where the teacher with the better test results can share how they went about teaching their kids."
Some groups of teachers at both schools who offer instruction in the same courses have begun meeting this year to test this model of collaboration. In a couple of short videos shown to school board members, they praised the positive results.
Even Naperville North math teacher Tim Rinker, a "self-proclaimed curmudgeon," recorded a message saying the collaboration is working.
"We're becoming a community," he said about his colleagues who teach Algebra 1. "It's no longer 'my kids' or 'your kids.' Now all of the sudden, it's 'our kids.'"
School board President Terry Fielden said students themselves are excited about the additional late starts. He said the school board's two student ambassadors said the later start in the middle of the week will be like having a "second Sunday" to prepare for class, providing extra time to study and to sleep in.
Beginning next school year, high school Wednesdays will operate on one of two bell schedules.
The second Wednesday of each month will begin with a 30-minute special period for students to take surveys, undergo safety drills, watch student-prepared news programs or participate in social/emotional learning activities, administrators said. The first, third and fourth Wednesdays of the month will not have that 30-minute period. Teachers will spend the extra hour between 7:45 and 8:45 a.m. collaborating no matter the week.
Before deciding to start later every Wednesday, the district conducted a survey about school hours and the school calendar last fall. One question asked how strongly respondents would support the addition of more late start days each month.
The question drew a positive response, with 61 percent of parents and high school teachers and 91 percent of high school students saying they support or strongly support additional late starts.