April 11th, 2012

Advanced Learning Changes in Chicago’s District 181

Chicago’s school district 181 grapples with program changes, including changes to it’s offerings for advanced learners, and including offering Algebra to more 8th graders. Jane Michaels wrote about it in the Chicago Sun Times’ Clarendon Hill news: “District 181 gifted program changes come under fire”. Here’s an excerpt:

“I don’t know of any system that perfectly identifies kids, but it’s unfair to eliminate the program,” she said. “The curriculum is already done, and it’s well done.”

Board members Yvonne Mayer and Brendan Heneghan were also critical of the scope of changes proposed, including a plan for having more eighth-graders complete algebra I before heading to high school. Without proper preparation, some students could be set up to fail, Mayer said.

Board members Sarah Lewensohn, Glenn Yaeger, Russell Rhoads and Board President Michael Nelson said they favored some of the changes presented in an effort to move the district forward and as a response to an evaluation by a University of Virginia team headed by Tonya Moon, known for its expertise in differentiation of instruction, gifted education, assessment and mathematics instruction.

Superintendent Renee Schuster, who was peppered with questions for much of the evening, promised to incorporate feedback presented to the administration with revisions for the board’s next meeting April 23.

The board also agreed to hire a director of curriculum, assessment and instruction to assist with changes proposed to accelerate math instruction and in the gifted program. The person hired must have a strong background in differentiation, as well as statistical analysis and assessments to determine proper screening for the gifted program, Mayer said before agreeing to vote to authorize the position. The person hired could earn up to $158,000 annually, which includes the cost of benefits from a base salary of $130,000.

The complete article is here.

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