District 54 named District of Distinction for Targeted Assistance Program
District 54 has been recognized as a national District of Distinction for its Targeted Assistance Program (TAP), a 10-week program that supports English Learner students in developing their writing skills.
Districts of Distinction is a national annual recognition program created by District Administration Magazine to “honor school districts that are leading the way with new ideas that work,” notes the District Administration website. Click here to read District 54’s recognition on the District Administration website.
TAP was developed by the District 54 Department of Language and Culture after a review of assessment data from the spring of 2015 indicated that writing is the area of greatest need for English Learner students. The program was launched in the 2015-16 school year for second- through eighth-grade students. More than 1,200 District 54 students participated in TAP in 2016-17.
TAP is connected to science and social studies content and concentrates on independent writing, with a focus on expository writing in the early grades and opinion/argumentative writing in sixth through eighth grade. TAP meets meet after school twice a week for 10 weeks beginning in early October. Students focus on one particular topic at a time, such as weather.
“The students are very interested in learning and writing about these topics,” said Danette Meyer, assistant superintendent of language and culture for District 54. “The design allows students extended time for writing. They build their stamina throughout the program and by the end they are writing for 50 minutes at a time.”
TAP directly supports the district goal of getting every student to their grade level academically, and is aligned with the Traits Writing program and English Language proficiency standards. More than 100 teachers have been trained to deliver Targeted Assistance and provided with interactive flipcharts, lesson plans, videos, visuals and student reflection pages to support planning and instruction. The structure of the lessons and the training the district provided these TAP teachers has benefitted many classroom teachers, as TAP teachers share ideas during Professional Learning Community (PLC) planning meetings that can then be incorporated into classroom writing lessons.
Feedback from students and staff after the first year of TAP was overwhelmingly positive, with 97 percent of teachers stating that their students were much better – and more confident – writers than when they began the program. In 2015, a total of 570 District 54 students met the State of Illinois’ English proficiency criteria as measured by the ACCESS assessment; in 2016 this number jumped to 707 students – 24 percent of District 54’s English Learner students, compared with 15.9 percent of English Learner students statewide.
“We are honored to be recognized for our Targeted Assistance Writing Program, which is a success due to the efforts of many people,” Meyer said. “This includes the English Learner instructional coaches Kristine Belt, Nicole Lumpp and Nancy Hellstrom who have developed quality curricular resources for our English Learners; more than 100 District 54 EL and classroom teachers willing to extend their workday to teach the program; the support and planning of our building principals; and most importantly the students who stay after school to continue working to become better writers each day.”