Fall 2016 Curriculum Workshop

Downers Grove Grade School District 58’s teachers and administrators shared recent curriculum development and student progress updates with the Board of Education during the Board’s Curriculum Workshop on Monday, Oct. 24.

“I’m very proud of the tremendous progress that our teachers and administrators have accomplished over the past 12 months with regard to both curriculum committee work and the academic growth of our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli.

The Common Core Standards provided school districts with new curriculum goals. District 58’s curriculum committees, which comprise large groups of teachers and administrators, have since worked diligently to develop meaningful curriculum and identify strong resources that directly align with these new standards.

“Committees feel different this year. The work that’s coming out of them also feels different this year. I can feel a different level of excitement among teachers for the resources that are coming to us,” said Craig Young, Downers Grove Elementary Education Association (DGEEA) president and Kingsley fifth grade teacher, during the reception of visitors.

English Language Arts (ELA) Committee:

The District’s English-Language Arts (ELA) Committee reported making significant progress toward their goals this school year. The committee recently analyzed and selected the best ELA curriculum drivers and organization for each grade level, which will guide the ELA curriculum blueprint development.

“We analyzed different methods to organize our approach. We looked at some other school districts. We sent out a survey to staff to get their understandings of what they were looking for in terms of standards, topics, themes and resources,” said Robin Bruebach, Indian Trail principal and ELA Committee member. “We worked in grade-level clusters and had some cross-grade-level dialogues. We looked for what types of learning needs our students have and at what levels. We wanted to make sure we were being consistent through all our grade levels while meeting the needs of our teachers and students.”

Using this feedback, the committee decided that District 58 will organize elementary ELA curriculum by topic and middle school ELA curriculum by standard. While curriculum at all levels will align with the Common Core Standards, the committee believes this type of organization will best serve teachers and students.

The ELA Committee also began drafting the ELA blueprint template. They plan to model their future blueprint after District 58’s Math blueprint, which launched this fall and has received very positive feedback thus far. When complete, the blueprint will clearly organize ELA skills and lesson plans with aligned resources and a flexible timeline so teachers can adjust as needed.

“I feel very good about the direction we are going in, and I think teachers at that (ELA Committee) meeting in September felt that way as well,” said Sue Anderson, a Hillcrest third grade teacher and an ELA Committee member. “It was really great to get the survey results and to really see what the teachers were thinking.”

Anderson added that many teachers found the District’s existing Curriculum Web App to be challenging to navigate, so the committee will focus on making the ELA blueprint user-friendly. In the next week, the ELA Committee will interview several publishers to gain a better understanding of available publisher products to guide their ELA blueprint development.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Committee:

The District’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Committee reported that they are slowly introducing the state’s new Common Core-aligned Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to teachers to provide them with the necessary time and support needed to learn the new process the standards require. The committee will offer elementary-level NGSS professional development opportunities during the District’s upcoming Nov. 10 Teacher Inservice Day.

The STEM Committee also hosted the District Science Collaborative’s October meeting. This collaborative comprises educators from 1,000 Illinois schools who are working together to prepare for NGSS implementation.

“Creating effective curriculum that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards is a common challenge for all school districts, so the District Science Collaborative lets us work with other districts to solve it, rather than have each individual district tackle it on their own,” said Dr. Matt Rich, the District’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and a STEM Committee member.

“This has been a great group to join,” added Kelly DeMarco, Pierce Downer fifth grade teacher and STEM Committee member. “There currently does not exist a box science curriculum that directly aligns with NGSS, so all districts are in the same spot. Working with the collaborative, we will have an opportunity to co-write units of study with other school districts, and we’ll potentially be able to pilot these within our district.”

Fall Assessment Data:

The Curriculum Workshop also included a fall assessment data presentation. Notably, Dr. Rich shared that the District’s Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, assessment scores continue to show strong student achievement and growth. This fall, eight of nine grade levels achieved their highest median MAP scores ever in both Reading and Math.

Depending on the grade level, District 58 students achieved between the 65th and the 76th median percentile on the MAP Reading assessment and between the 63rd and the 73rd median percentile on the MAP Math assessment. These median percentiles mark a noticeable improvement from three years ago, when District 58 students’ median MAP percentiles ranged from the 61st-72nd in Reading and from the 56th-67th in Math.

In addition, Dr. Rich noted that District 58 students also exhibited higher than anticipated growth on the MAP assessment.

“Not only are District 58 students achieving very high scores on MAP, they are also exceeding their growth expectations,” Dr. Rich said. “It is challenging for a high-achieving district to also experience high-growth, but this is exactly what we’ve accomplished.”

The Board’s Curriculum Workshop also included a review of the District’s 2016-17 Strategic Goals Action Plan, School Improvement Plans, PARCC and Title 1/Title 2 Funding. The District’s Math Committee will present a progress update during the Board’s November regular business meeting. The Board concluded the meeting with an extended reception of visitors to encourage community engagement and two-way dialogues.

“I want to compliment Matt (Rich) and our administration and the Board,” said DGEEA President Young during the reception of visitors. “This looks and sounds and feels so much different than last October, a year ago. I just wanted to highlight the impact of really taking the input in from the teachers through the DGEEA, recognizing that we had valuable information and that our input was valued and really taking that and then running with it.”

District 58 Board of Education members include: John Cooper, president; Doug Purcell, vice president; Roberta Diehl; Christopher Heppner; Sallie Lupescu; John Miller; and Elizabeth Sigale, with Dr. Kari Cremascoli, superintendent; and Pam Osika, board secretary.