Superintendent's Corner

Avoca District 37 - April 11, 2022

In this important issue...

  • COVID Monitoring and Mitigation (Subs Needed)
  • Strategic Planning: Our Portrait, Our Mission, and Our Plan - Next Steps
  • Galileo Learning - Innovator's Challenge
  • Another Good Summer Learning Opportunity - Wilmette District 39
  • Student Voices & Talents: Amplify Avoca
  • Standardized Testing: Its Limitations, Value, and Importance

COVID Monitoring & Mitigation (Subs Needed)

Local COVID numbers are rising and approaching metrics where the CDC (adopted by IDPH) would encourage the consideration of greater mitigation in communities with rising rates. However, today the CDC monitoring site indicates that Cook County "Community Level" remains in the "Green" or "low" risk category as of April 7 and does not currently require such steps. (But transmission rates are "high.") Click here for this CDC site. And the combined Avoca zip codes are not yet suggesting a change in response.


Additionally, last week, there were 5 cases reported and currently there are 11, including 6 staff members. (If testing positive over a weekend, it is reported on the next week's dashboard.) These numbers are not indicating in-school spread, especially because in some cases we know spread occurred in an individual's household. However, we are in dire need of substitute teachers or we will be faced with an inability to run classes in-person.


Please remember

  • Keep students. home if they are symptomatic
  • Get tested if they might have been exposed to a positive case
  • Masking is supported, and
  • Contact with the nurse if you have any questions or are seeking any guidance.

Strategic Planning Nears a Conclusion

Thanks to the perseverance of our Strategic Planning Committee made up of students, parents, guardians, staff members, Board members, and community members, our new Mission Statement, Portrait of a Graduate, and Strategic Goals & Objectives are nearly finished.


Along the way, more than 100 people attended Town Hall meetings and participated in Focus Groups and hundreds upon hundreds of stakeholders responded to surveys that heavily influenced these important future forming documents for the District.


The Board of Education engaged in robust dialogue on April 7th about what has been accomplished so far and has sent back to the Strategic Planning Committee some final revisions for consideration. You can see what was presented to the Board of Education by clicking here.


The Strategic Planning Committee has one final meeting and the Board of Education should approve a new Portrait of a Graduate, Mission Statement, and Strategic Plan at its April 21 meeting. Over the summer, action plans will be built and communications plans readied for the start of the new year when the new Strategic Plan is officially launched.

Galileo Learning - Innovator's Challenge

Previously, I have noted how we have partnered with Galileo Learning for a summer-long STEM learning opportunity at Avoca West. Click here to see my previous post.


Additionally, in celebration of the upcoming World Creativity and Innovation Day (April 21), Camp Galileo wants to unlock the innovator in every kid with their Innovator's Challenge! Share your idea for an invention that can change the world, in a short video, and what materials you would use to make it. Entries due 4/18. Learn more at https://bit.ly/GalileoInnovator Together with their friend Emily Calandrelli, The Space Gal, Galileo will select two winners to receive a free week of Camp Galileo, a $150 Lego Gift Card, and a yearly Passport to over 350 Science Centers and Museums across the country! All who enter receive 15% off camp enrollment!

Summer Learning in Wilmette District 39

We are also again partnering with Wilmette District 39, providing transportation for students who want to attend that program, which runs daily from 8:20 to 11:30 from July 5 through July 29 at different sites in Wilmette District 39, depending on age.


Their offerings include:

  • Review & Reinforcement in Reading or Math (requiring teacher recommendation)
  • Running Club (for girls)
  • Just Fun & Games
  • Blast Off with Rockets (Grades 4 & 5)
  • Engineering & Design (Grades 6 & 7)


Please see the Registration Instructions by clicking here


And click here to actually register.

Amplify Avoca 4-11-2022

Standardized Testing: Limitations, Value, and Importance

Students at both schools are currently taking the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), the required statewide test that assesses students performance on the state learning standards in English-Language Arts and Math (with which our curricular are aligned). Standardized testing can be a controversial subject. As in all things, I encourage a balanced view.


Limitations

These tests assess a discrete set of skills in English & Language Arts and Math, doing so during a few select dates once per year. Additionally, the testing format is just one way to assess students' learning and for some not the best indicator of that learning. Nonetheless, these tests do test the academic skills they intend to test, and the IAR is an improvement over earlier generations of tests.


Value

As a summative assessment, IAR is most helpful for us to understand how we are doing as a school in continuing to support students' learning of the curriculum standards. For students, because of when the test results are returned, the assessment has only a marginal value. Teachers can derive some greater value from it, and we hope now that we expect to get the results earlier in the Fall, we will be able for our teachers to use this data to inform curriculum and instruction the following year in ELA and Math, and the scores can enhance teachers' ability to intervene with students to some degree. Finally, as leaders, we can use this data to identify trends over time to determine if we need to revisit curriculum, standards, or invest in professional development in specific areas.


Importance

Value and Importance are not identical. Unfortunately, politicians, some policy makers, and many seeking profit misuse standardized test data to assign value in ways that misuse data and can result in multiple types of harm. Some try to assign a value to teachers based on standardized test data, but there is little defensible research in the area of "value-added" models on a teacher level. Additionally, websites such as "GreatSchools" use test score data to rate schools in a way that actually exacerbates problems like segregation. Ultimately, test scores' importance should only lie in their ability to improve the lives of students over time based on the value they can bring - as mentioned above.


Everyone has an opinion whether the amount of time spent on testing is worth it, i.e. is that time worth the potential improvement in learning and student experience that can be gained. In the future we will investigate this question in light of our use of IAR and MAP testing so we can make sure we continue to maximize the opportunities for learning that we provide our students.