Parents = Partners Education Notes
from District 64 Superintendent Laurie Heinz
Headed for a great 2018!
Dear District 64 Parents/Guardians:
As we prepare to say goodbye to 2017 and ring in 2018, I find myself reflecting back on the great progress we have already made this school year. I believe that this year in particular has benefited from several unique enhancements to the educational environment for our students and schools.
Here are a few of the key improvements in place already in 2017-18:
Future ready, flexible learning spaces are being created -- We are very excited that our Learning Resource Centers are being transformed into more flexible learning spaces that include opportunities to use these large areas in several different set-ups. With space in our schools at a premium, by repurposing outdated, fixed computer labs and utilizing easily moveable tables and chairs, students can work individually, in small groups, and as a whole class to match the learning style needed. Lincoln, Field and Franklin were enhanced this summer, and other schools will be updated in coming years as funding becomes available -- often in partnership with the school PTO/As and our Elementary Learning Foundation.
We have adopted a new way of teaching reading, called the “Reading Workshop” model -- Last school year, District 64 launched an English Language Arts Review Committee to take a closer look at our instructional practices and resources for reading, writing, word study, and speaking/listening. After an extensive study, the Committee recommended a District-wide shift to the “Reading Workshop” model. In Reading Workshop, instruction begins with a mini lesson where teachers explicitly instruct students in an aspect of literacy, such as main idea or cause and effect. Students then practice these strategies and skills before applying them independently in books or other print materials. Because these texts are matched to students based on their individual levels and interests, the Reading Workshop provides for differentiated instruction and promotes student engagement. During Reading Workshop, teachers may confer with individual students or work with guided reading groups to help students learn and practice new strategies. The workshop model and new materials will help achieve the District's 2020 Vision Strategic Plan goal of providing a rigorous education for all students and an aligned, articulated curriculum.
Inquiry-based learning is expanding -- Inquiry-based learning is a different approach to instruction. Teachers design scenarios in which students must master the content and skills needed to solve a real-world problem. Students encounter authentic issues connected to the curriculum that promote rigorous thinking. This learning experience helps students become future-ready learners by acquiring and practicing the 4 C’s (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity). Our new science curriculum also is inquiry-based and aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. District 64 has set a goal of having two inquiry-based learning units in place at each grade level by 2020. A cohort of teachers from each school and District 64 Instructional Technology Coaches (ITC) participated in inquiry-based learning training, and teams are now working on unit design.
Social emotional learning goes District-wide -- Every child in District 64 will participate in social emotional learning lessons this year. Social emotional learning instruction includes a focus on self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making, and helps students develop skills that are critical to success today and in the future. Social emotional learning will also be the focus of my Superintendent Focus Group this year.
Hot lunch is now available for all students to enjoy -- After a year of discussion and planning, I am very pleased that all first through eighth grade families now have the opportunity to select a reasonably priced, quality daily hot lunch for their children this year. We know our families value this opportunity, and we are glad that our elementary school students can now enjoy hot lunch, too!
District 64 teachers earn National Board Certification -- National Board Certification is recognized as the “gold standard” for professional educators. This voluntary certification process is extremely rigorous; teachers must demonstrate distinguished practice in content knowledge, differentiation of instruction, use of data and assessments, reflection, and continuous learning. I am thrilled to congratulate five District 64 educators who have recently achieved this prestigious recognition:
Lindsey Harrington, Emerson Middle School
Meghan Keefer, K-5 ELA Curriculum Specialist
Tracie Thomas, K-5 Math Curriculum Specialist
Kat Walsh, Carpenter School & Franklin School
Katie Weis, Washington School
During this season of gratitude . .
I want to extend my special thanks to our school PTO/A’s and to our District-wide Elementary Learning Foundation (ELF). The support of parents and community members makes a world of difference in our schools, whether it be fundraising to expand playground equipment, organizing enrichment programs that add to our curriculum, or providing teacher grants to encourage innovation. Your efforts truly enrich the lives of students and staff, and create a culture of caring and involvement that makes District 64 so remarkable. Thank you for your tireless support and partnership.
And finally, I want to thank teachers and administrators for their dedication and hard work focused on building collaborative relationships and helping to ensure students reach their fullest potential. The newest example of this commitment is the Middle School Program Review Committee, which got underway this fall to ensure that our program is aligned to meet the distinct characteristics of young adolescent learners. Thank you for continuously seeking to enhance our students' experience - we can be very proud of our work together!
2018 will be an exciting year for District 64!
I wish our staff, students and all D64 families a safe and happy holiday season, and a restful Winter Recess. See you in 2018 when school resumes on Monday, January 8.
Dr. Laurie Heinz, Superintendent