Parents = Partners Education Notes

from District 64 Superintendent Laurie Heinz

2016-17 School Year Comes to a Close

Dear District 64 Parents/Guardians:

It’s difficult to believe that we are already saying goodbye to our 486 eighth graders!

We are just so proud of the learning and growth each experienced during their nine years here in District 64. We feel strongly that they are future-ready learners and leaders and are well-prepared for the exciting opportunities that await in high school. We hope that as they proceed through high school, they will never forget the dedicated and caring teachers and staff in District 64 who helped them build a foundation for success. To our soon-to-be freshmen -- do us proud!

And to our eager fifth graders headed for middle school -- we know you will thrive in all that both Lincoln and Emerson have to offer you over the next three years. We encourage you to set the bar high for yourselves and to explore a variety of interests in academics, sports, arts, music, and in extracurricular activities. Don’t forget to make new friends as you meet students from other elementary schools who are your new classmates. The three years will go by very quickly and will be more rewarding than you realize!

What makes this year unique - three quick reflections
As we close our books (and Chromebooks) on the 2016-17 school year, I do want to share some of what impressed me during school visits this week -- my last “walk and talks” for the year were fun and inspiring.

First, I was pleased to see just how engaged our students have been in all areas of our curriculum this year. Whether they were collaborating to research hermit crabs in first grade or designing their own flexible learning spaces in middle school, students at all grade levels have been continually challenged throughout their school day. I see them becoming more adept each year at the 4 C's of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. The technology tools provided through our 1:1 learning environment are helping students become resourceful problem-solvers. Today's students will need such skills as they prepare for a world that continues to evolve so rapidly.

Secondly, students enjoyed their new science curriculum and rose to the increased rigor it presents. With its hands-on investigations and concepts pulled from both science and engineering, our curriculum ignited students’ imaginations to think in new ways about the world around them. The new curriculum is aligned with the essential Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and covers core ideas (what scientists and engineers know), science and engineering practices (what scientists and engineers do) as well as cross-cutting concepts (how scientists and engineers think). This comprehensive approach is bringing science alive for students and it is exciting to see.

And finally, our students are confident learners and are achieving. Parents in grades 2-8 just received student scores for the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. On MAP, the District tracks both status (how our students' average score compares to the average score of students in other schools) as well as growth (how our students' scores change from fall to spring). Although our District-wide report is still being finalized, I can say that District 64 students posted highly competitive status scores in reading, while growth also remains strong. In math, the District improved its MAP status score, while also achieving a high level of growth. Students’ success and high growth are a reflection of the District’s continued commitment to differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all learners that is an essential focus of our 2020 Vision Strategic Plan.

One last observation

The support of parents for our schools is nothing short of tremendous. A recent evaluation of our communications outreach concluded that Park Ridge-Niles residents are most likely to think about our schools using the words “community” and “family.” Your own participation throughout the year -- starting with our our annual back-to-school curriculum nights, parent-teacher conferences, school open houses, student performances, and family events -- speaks volumes about the strong support our students receive at home for their learning. Thank you for taking the time to turn out for these important opportunities to further foster home-school connections, and for all you did each day to send your child to school ready to learn.

As we swing into summer, it’s clear that 2016-17 has been another exciting year of teaching, learning and growth in District 64. Have a safe and happy summer -- we look forward to the return of students on Thursday, August 17 for the start of the 2017-18 school year!

For Your Children,

Dr. Laurie Heinz, Superintendent