District 211 Presents Updated Instructional Vision and Direction Plan

college and career readiness graphicIn 2011, Township High School District 211 created a plan and vision that would ensure all of its students are college and career ready when they graduate. Since implementing that plan and making significant progress with student learning, the District has revisited its instructional vision and direction, and has developed new categories to work toward student success.

The Instructional Vision and Direction plan was presented to the Board of Education at its meeting on Nov. 14. The plan outlines goals and ways of meeting college and career readiness goals for the future in five different areas: Critical Learning Standards (CLSs); Global Competitive Skills; Non-Stop Learning; Community and Collaboration; and Active Student Citizenship.

“The District’s Instructional Vision drives all that we do,” said Dan Cates, superintendent-elect in District 211. “Our calling is to make sure that every student from every community and background has the skills and opportunities to compete with anyone in the world. Our teachers, coaches, and administrators create these opportunities every day.”

Since the Instructional Vision was presented to the Board two years ago, individuals throughout the District have contributed to solidifying the District’s CLSs and increasing the rigor of instruction, infusing technology in the classroom and beyond, and creating more pathways for dual credit and career certifications.

“All this has occurred while responding to a growing number of students who commonly enter our doors with significant challenges in their own lives outside of school,” Cates said. “It is the care, support and high expectations of our staff that make all the difference.”

Cates said with the combined input of principals and their leadership teams, the updated instructional vision sets a strong course for the coming years. The District will continue to focus its work around the CLSs and helping students develop skills to be competitive in any workforce or college. Though these are many, they include skills such as collaboration and creative, critical problem-solving. Drawing largely upon technology, the District will look for any ways possible to help create non-stop learning opportunities and will continue the expansion of technology throughout District 211 schools and for the entire student-body.

“Our own collaboration – both in our PLTs and with our local communities – will be essential to continue our progress,” Cates said. “We recognize that professional development will be a critical foundation. Our past is bright and future will only continue to grow brighter if we build upon our current course.”

For more information and specifics about the Instructional Vision and Plan, please read the report in BoardDocs here.




District 211’s Progress Toward Meeting Academic Goals in 2012 – 2013

During the 2012-2013 academic year, District 211 established academic goals for its students that included yearly goals and targets to accelerate academic achievement in various categories. With a focus on student learning and growth, high school standards attainment, high school graduation rate, and college and career readiness, the District’s academic goals reflect changes in the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) accountability system.

Teachers had an opportunity to assess and refine the curriculum during 10 morning work sessions throughout the previous school year, and the Board of Education approved 12 similar sessions for the 2013-2014 academic year at its July 11 meeting. This will help ensure continued growth and work toward improving student success.

Since the first year of monitoring academic goals, there have been improvements in each of the targeted areas. The first academic goal is directed toward individual student improvement on both enrollment in accelerated coursework and growth within state assessments and the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS). During the 2012-2013 school year, 44 percent of students enrolled in accelerated coursework, including all honors and advanced placement coursework.

The freshman class of 2013 had 30 percent of its students enrolled in accelerated coursework and by senior year, 47 percent met that goal. The ISBE had set a target of 57.4 percent of students to increase their scores in the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT examinations. District 211 had 77.8 percent of students increase their score by more than half a point or achieved the maximum score of 6.0.

The second academic goal focused on students demonstrating attainment of knowledge and skills defined within local, state, and national high school standards. This is the first year that departments have used District benchmark assessments, which are administered in each course at the end of the learning process to determine whether students have made progress toward mastering critical learning standards. Teachers have already noticed many ways the benchmarks can be improved and used in the future, and will use future morning work sessions as a way to continue reaching goals and increasing the number of test items for assessment.

The third goal strives to have all students, regardless of income-level, race, or educational background, demonstrate on-time graduation from high school. In the Class of 2012, 93 percent of all students graduated within four years of entering high school, and 94 percent of all students graduated within five years of entering high school. ISBE standards indicate that high schools should have 90 percent of its students graduate in four years, and 95 percent within five years.

The final academic goal ensures that all students will demonstrate that they are college and career ready while in high school. District 211 focused on creating more opportunities for all students to be college and career ready. Roughly 50 percent of students in the Class of 2013 participated in at least one advanced placement course. In May 2012, 80 percent of students who completed an advanced placement exam scored a 3, 4, or 5, which makes them eligible for college credit.

Additionally, students have access to dual-credit courses in partnership with Harper College, and enrollment in these courses has increased 7 percent. The Class of 2013 had 72 percent of students meeting the English college readiness benchmark on the ACT exam, and 71 percent meeting the mathematics benchmark. The District plans to continue its efforts to increase student performance on high-stakes tests, which create opportunities after graduation.

Increased morning work sessions will allow time for professional learning teams to conduct work toward achieving each of the District’s academic goals. The continued efforts will help ensure future student success, as well as improvement for identifying patterns in student results, asking questions about assessments themselves, instruction, standards of curriculum, using results to guide instructional changes between morning work sessions, and reviewing the impact of adjustments on instruction and student performance.

To read the full report on progress toward meeting academic goals, please visit the District’s board docs website.




District 211 Board of Education Approves One-to-One Program Expansion

The program will now benefit up to 7,000 students

The program will now benefit up to 7,000 students.

After a successful implementation of the One-to-One pilot program during the first half of the 2012-2013 academic year, District 211 will expand the opportunity for an individual iPad device to more students in the coming year.

At its meeting on February 14, 2013, the Board of Education approved the expansion to provide up to 7,000 students with an iPad device for the upcoming school year. The use of iPads enhances student interaction and collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom.  Current teachers and students using the iPad devices have highlighted the ability for teachers to provide students with immediate feedback as a major benefit of the iPads in classrooms.

The One-to-One Program has increased collaboration between students and their peers, as well as with teachers.

The One-to-One Program has increased collaboration between students and their peers, as well as with teachers.

“Teachers are transforming their role as teachers and devising ways for students to create, produce, and demonstrate their own knowledge and content,” said Keith Sorensen, director of educational technology in District 211. “Throughout the pilot program, teachers report that the interest level and active engagement of students in the one-to-one classroom is notably high.”

The pilot program provided 1,500 students with the opportunity to use hand-held devices to enhance classroom interaction and collaboration with their teachers and peers. There were 37 teachers in the One-to-One Program, and the expansion will allow 60 additional teachers to transform their classrooms. So far, 85 teachers have applied to be involved for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Many teachers report that homework assignments are generally more creative using one-to-one technology.

Many teachers report that homework assignments are generally more creative using one-to-one technology.

The growth of the One-to-One Program is based on student and teacher feedback, survey results, and benefits they expressed in the program. Many students noted that they received more detailed feedback and quicker responses from their teachers overall. Using classroom portals, such as Schoology, students are able to communicate with their peers about homework and ask questions if they don’t quite understand a subject. Using Schoology as a classroom portal, these discussions can continue far after the student has left the classroom.

Teachers said using the One-to-One program has changed their classroom for the better, not only when it comes to assignments and homework, but also engaging students who historically were less interested in school. This includes students with learning challenges. Homework assignments were generally more creative using one-to-one technology, as well as more collaborative.

The use of iPads enhances student interaction and collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom.

The use of iPads enhances student interaction and collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom.

The National Staff Development Council reports school districts that implement new technology often encounters a dip in student academic performance throughout the first year. However, some District 211 teachers said students in the One-to-One Program had a higher proficiency score on the District’s Critical Learning Standards (CLS) in only four months compared to those in conventional classrooms. District CLS define what students should know and be able to demonstrate after the completion of their course.

Sorensen said reaching CLS and success with the program has revolved around continued reference of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), which focus on six different points of instructional improvement through technology, such as creativity and innovation, and communication and collaboration. One-to-one methodology is also combined with Education Success Measures from Project RED, a national study of education technology to focus on student achievement and financial implications. Employing these methods is helping teachers reframe their classrooms and increase student success.

Using classroom portals, such as Schoology, students are able to communicate with their peers about homework and ask questions if they don’t quite understand a subject.

Using classroom portals, such as Schoology, students are able to communicate with their peers about homework and ask questions if they don’t quite understand a subject.

“Given the positive outcomes of the current year’s pilot program and both the knowledge and experience gained throughout the year, expanding the program will provide more students with the opportunity to benefit from the learning experiences made possibly by the individual iPad devices,” Sorensen said.

For more information about the history of the One-to-One pilot program, please visit the D211 Post article here. Information about the National Educational Technology Standards can viewed on its website, as well as Project RED here.




The Benefits of District 211 Late Start Days

English teachers from Hoffman Estates High School work with their Professional Learning Team during the Dec. 4 Late Start Day.

Throughout the school year, there are several days where students get to sleep a little bit later before coming to school. While students are not in classes, their teachers take advantage of Late Start Days, which provide valuable time for collectively planning, assessing, and setting goals with their colleagues.

Late Start Days take place 10 times throughout the academic year. The purpose is to allow teachers structured time within the school day to work together on curriculum practices and student assessments. The most recent Late Start Day took place on Dec. 4.

“Teachers can share practices and things they are doing in the classroom,” said Russell Cumings, assistant principal at Hoffman Estates High School. “Like Institute Days, Late Start Days create a common curriculum across the District, and all District 211 students are expected to learn the same thing.”

Each Late Start Day work session is 90 minutes in length. Teachers are broken into groups called Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) by department. Looking at the District’s Critical Learning Standards, the groups set curricular goals for students. From there, they use formative assessments, such as daily quizzes and assignments, and summative assessments, larger tests and finals, to evaluate their students’ progress. Late Start Days allow teachers to go through those assessments and figure out what is working for students and what is not.

“The opportunity to thoroughly discuss practice, and I have been doing this a long time, is so rare,” said Heidi Davey, English teacher at Hoffman Estates High School. “During the first three quarters of my teaching career, we didn’t have the time to sit and talk about what we are doing in the classroom, and that dialogue has been so incredibly beneficial. Discussion helps us think about our practices in a different way, and I think that just having the time for those discussions is critical in becoming better at what we do.”

Heidi Davey (left) works with English colleagues during Late Start Day. Davey said the benefits of discussion help them think about teaching practices in a different way, and improve their teaching overall.

Davey said several groups are looking at testing results of their students. They have data from software called Mastery Manager that shows which test questions were most frequently missed, what students chose for answers, and what questions students had the most success with. Based on testing data, those assessments help teachers rework portions of tests and assignments, and look at what areas need to be taught again or taught in a different way.

“We take a look at the test questions and decide one of three things — if the question was written poorly, if our teaching style didn’t teach our students effectively, or what things need focus in the classroom,” said Jackie Dickens, social studies teacher at Hoffman Estates High School. “Sometimes I might struggle with something and another teacher might have a suggestion. That collaboration has been very beneficial, especially because this is my first year as a teacher.”

Elective departments that don’t fall into core curriculum, such as art, also have PLTs that function in different ways. Hoffman Estates High School Art Teacher Juan Medina said each art teacher is responsible for a different class. Their PLTs focus more on crafting formative and summative assessments while tying in context from other courses. He said they currently work closely with the English department.

“We are bringing a lot of reading, writing, and English into our classrooms,” Medina said. “We bring English context into art context by using it as a means to plan artwork. Students complete writing assignments where they need to make a claim, use evidence to support it, and have commentary to cap their art project after they have completed it. We are working very hard to make sure that what we’re doing is supporting other departments as well.”

Overall, teachers find Late Start Days as a benefit for students, as well as for their ability to effectively teach the curriculum, and most teachers consider that time invaluable.

“I can speak for Hoffman Estates High School and say we have a family of teachers here. It’s nice to see your family outside of 30 second conferences in the hallway while traveling from class A to class B, and it gets you to reconnect with your resources,” Medina said. “The day-to-day routine can trap you, and these brief pauses in the routine jostle us just enough to reevaluate and get a fresh perspective. It’s a good thing.”




District 211 Academic Goals (Part 2)

As District 211 looks to strengthen its District-wide curriculum, there has been a slight shift in the focus of academic goals for the next two years. The Board of Education approved those goals for the 2012-2014 academic years at its July 12 meeting.

The first goal is that students will demonstrate academic growth in high school. Instead of the District focusing solely on higher enrollment in more rigorous classes, teachers are looking at overall growth based on the individual student.

“What we want as far as growth is to have students try to progress to the next difficulty level of coursework,” said Samantha Dolen, assistant superintendent for student services. “Before growth was based on test scores across the board, but we’re looking at growth from a starting point of the individual student, whether or not they meet standards, master those standards and skills, and are ready for college when they earn their diploma.”

The next goal, which builds on academic growth, consists of students demonstrating attainment of knowledge and skills defined within local, state, and national high school standards. Proficiency will be assessed, standards will be monitored, and students should demonstrate attainment and retention of the critical learning standards and materials in each course in which they are enrolled.

Another academic goal focuses on graduating high school on time. Regardless of income-level, race, or educational background, students should meet requirements to earn a District 211 diploma within four years. This is based off state standards that high schools should have 90 percent of its students graduate in four years, and 95 percent in five years.  Historically, District 211’s four-year graduation rate has been above 93 percent.

The last goal is that students will demonstrate college and career readiness while in high school. Whether that is moving toward a four-year degree or enrolling in a technical program or trade school the District will measure career readiness by enrollment and completion rates for dual-credit courses. If students can earn college credit for completing dual-credit courses, it will provide an opportunity to master skills at a college level before high school graduation. The District will also look at whether students meet or exceed college-readiness benchmarks in English, mathematics, reading, and science as measured by the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT assessments.

For more information on the 2012-2014 academic goals, please visit board docs here.




District 211 Academic Goals (Part 1)

With an emphasis on college readiness and success after high school graduation, students in District 211 have been challenged to meet learning goals outlined for the 2011-2012 academic year.

There are four different academic goals in the District’s plan, including that students will meet critical learning standards outlined by the District, students will demonstrate academic growth, student enrollment in more rigorous courses will increase, and students will demonstrate college-readiness. The goals monitor two areas in academic progress, which were the attainment of identified outcomes and growth.

Attainment is an indication of a student’s performance on identified outcomes at a particular point in time, which is based on test scores ranging from his or her eighth grade year through junior and senior year. Growth is measured over time by looking at how much or how far a student or group of students progressed over a defined period of time from his or her previous performance.

Each student that graduates from District 211 should have the ability to pursue college or other career opportunities. By maintaining and improving knowledge and skills in mathematics and communication, students will have better educational and career focused opportunities post-graduation. Additionally, critical thinking skills, problem solving, communication and listening skills, and knowledge application are some of the skills sets the District is focusing on.

Throughout the past few years, each curricular department shifted a focus from what is being taught, to what is being learned by students. Each department outlined critical learning standards and a plan to develop a district-wide summative assessment for those standards. Departments will track students’ future scores and compare them to the 2011-2012 academic year to monitor growth and attainment assessment.

The second goal, which makes sure all students demonstrate academic growth, is based on test results used throughout the District. The Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS), includes the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT exams; the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test in reading, and the ACCESS (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State to State) test for students learning English, are taken at various times throughout a student’s academic career.

The third goal is to have higher student participation in rigorous courses, including Advanced Placement courses. The District found that the class of 2012 had a 2.3 percent increase from its graduating class enrolled in at least one AP course. Additionally, there is an emphasis on increased dual-credit opportunities.

The final goal, all students should demonstrate college readiness, is determined by the percentage of students meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Those minimum scores are evaluated by English and Mathematics. The minimum test score for English on the ACT is 18, with mathematics being 22. Seventy-one percent of students in the class of 2012 met the English benchmark and 60% met the benchmark in mathematics. Overall, student ACT test scores improved 10% from the PLAN test taken during their sophomore year in school.

The Board of Education approved the goals for the next two school years at its July 12, 2012 meeting. For more in-depth information on academic goals and results from the 2011-2012 academic year, please visit board docs.