How District 300 is trying to help struggling students this year
Community Unit District 300 is hiring more social workers, substitute teachers, expanding trauma-informed teaching and providing additional supports to struggling students for the new school year beginning Tuesday.
The district is expanding its DREAM Academy -- for Dedicated Reinforcement, Engagement And Motivation -- into middle school, and starting a new AVID Excel program for English language learners.
Last year the DREAM Academy provided additional supports to roughly 100 students in first through fifth grades at Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville struggling with emotional traumas and behavioral issues. It is the first suburban district to adopt a trauma-informed teaching and intervention program for early grades.
"This year, we are expanding it to Carpentersville Middle School for sixth graders," Superintendent Fred Heid said. "Each year we will expand into a subsequent grade level."
The district has hired seven more full-time social workers -- for a total of 40 -- who will float throughout the schools working one-on-one with students and families and serving as liaisons between the district and outside agencies.
"We continue to enhance social-emotional learning ... the soft side of safety is really the mental health supports for students," Heid said. "We've been installing positive affirmation stickers on the mirrors in our restrooms over the last few days in elementary buildings to continue to support our students in a meaningful way and make them feel they are part of a bigger family."
AVID Excel is an extension of the existing program, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination and is an elective class preparing middle school and high school students for success in advanced/honors high school classes and college. AVID Excel is about helping students with English language deficiencies accelerate their learning.
"It targets our long-term English learners, students who have been in our district for over four years and have not been able to show proficiency in the English language," said Joshua Perdomo, director of English language learners and world language overseeing the AVID Excel program. "We are building their language capacity so they can be successful when they get to the high school level. We are the only school in Illinois and the only school in the Midwest that has AVID Excel."
This year, 91 sixth- and seventh-graders are enrolled in AVID Excel at Carpentersville Middle School, which has the largest English learners population in the district. The program will expand into eighth grade next school year.
In the coming months, District 300 will be hire 34 full-time substitute teachers for an estimated cost of $1.1 million. Two substitutes will be assigned to each elementary school. When not subbing, these teachers will provide classroom interventions for students needing extra help, Heid said.
"We are piloting this year ... to see how effective we are with minimizing disruptions," Heid said. "This will be a good way for aspiring educators to get a footprint in a district and work their way through. We hope that turns into a recruiting base for us. Securing a pool of highly qualified substitutes is going to benefit us in the long run."