Superintendent’s Column: District 54 looks to raise learning bar to meet new standards

There is a lot of discussion taking place across the country about the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and what needs to be done at the district and school levels to best prepare teachers and students for the changes that will need to occur. Illinois is one of 45 states that have adopted the Common Core Standards and is part of a 22-state consortium that is in the process of creating a new high-stakes state assessment. Beginning in the spring of 2015, all Illinois school districts will administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment for students in grades three through eight. This assessment will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) that the students currently take each spring.

The Common Core State Standards in language arts and mathematics are designed to prepare students to be college- and career-ready. They are built on the state learning standards that are currently in use and include additional benchmarks used in other top-performing countries. The new standards were developed to better prepare our students to succeed in a global economy and keep the United States internationally competitive.

The new standards outline what students are expected to know and be able to do at specific grade levels. They are designed to increase student achievement by focusing on essential concepts, knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary for students to succeed in the 21st century.

As students progress through curriculum that is based on the Common Core, they will develop higher-level skills in comprehension and analysis in literacy and mathematic concepts and thus will be better prepared to deal with new and challenging situations. Upper elementary and junior high students will be expected to apply higher order critical-thinking and problem solving skills to deal with real-world challenges and issues.

District 54 welcomes the new standards and has created a comprehensive plan to effectively address the significant changes that will occur over the next several years. Incorporating instructional changes necessitated by the transition to new standards and assessments into our daily teaching will further support our practice of continually raising the bar and increasing expectations for students and staff.

Two separate task forces, one in math and the other in language arts, are currently working on our district’s preparations for the changes coming with the implementation of the new standards and the PARCC assessment. Both task forces are in the process of dissecting the standards, examining the new assessment framework, realigning our current grade-level essential outcomes, identifying potential gaps in our curriculum and assessment practices, creating grade-level-specific instructional supports, and revamping District 54’s early childhood through eighth-grade scope and sequence to ensure alignment with the standards and the PARCC assessment.

Additionally, the Department of Student Learning will offer a variety of professional development sessions for staff during the summer and school year. Teams of teachers will work together to effectively plan lessons which incorporate the new expectations and skills into district instructional practices.

As with any new change, District 54 will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our staff and students are fully prepared to meet the curriculum, instruction and assessment requirements that result from the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessment.

Recently, I wrote an article about the goal-setting process our district has been going through this year. The higher bar that is being set with the change to the standards and the PARCC assessment has been a consideration as we worked through this process. Thank you for the feedback you gave us on the draft of the revised Mission, Vision, Commitments and Goals. The input from our community is greatly appreciated.

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