District 65 adopts new state standards
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:13AM
EVANSTON — The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education has approved a school improvement plan aimed at increasing teacher participation in the classroom while shifting curriculum.
The Illinois State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010, which are a set of new learning standards focused on teaching students the skills needed for success in college and in the workplace. District 65 board members approved the new standards Oct. 22.
All but five states — Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and Alaska — have signed onto the Common Core Standards, which are designed to make sure students in each state are learning the same material.
The new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers will test students on the new knowledge starting in the 2014-15 school year, replacing age-old ISAT testing, and schools across the state are preparing for those changes now.
Principals from Washington, Oakton and Chute schools filled trustees in on what they were doing to address the curriculum changes, which focus on a more student-centered learning classroom environment where teachers encourage students to engage students in deeper, more thought-provoking conversation.
Each school has made organizational changes and formed “instructional leadership teams,” or groups of teachers and administrators who meet regularly to work to align current curriculum and teaching methods with the Common Core Standards.
“Two years ago, we first started looking at developing a professional development community by helping teachers become more proactive in class,” said Churchill Daniels, Oakton Elementary School principal.
“We wanted to focus on what we could do to improve instruction and help teachers take more ownership in their ability to help students express their ideas verbally and initiate topics in class.”
One goal of the school improvement plan is to help students learn to express themselves better verbally by formulating what administrators call “purposeful talk,” which starts with careful formulation of questions asked in class by teachers.
Improved verbal expression is one lifelong skill intended to prep students for secondary education and the real world.
The instructional leadership teams at each school have been sharing ideas and plans on a Web-based workspace that allows them to log in and see one another’s progress.
Teachers and officials suggested specific ideas for increasing teacher effectiveness, such as videotaping classes for other teachers to watch and give feedback, doing class walk-throughs and developing checklists toward goals.
“As a teacher, you need to look at almost every word you say, and using Flip cams in class is a great way to reflect,” said Kate Ellison, Washington Elementary School principal.