D41 Think Tank Discussions Continue; More Meetings Expected
Officials from District 41 have said additional public meetings will be held to discuss and gather feedback regarding the Think Tank proposals for educational reforms.
Parents gathered Tuesday night to learn more about Glen Ellyn District 41’s plans to implement changes in the 2013-14 school year.
The meeting is one of several the district is planning to help educate parents and gather feedback. The district said it will hold more meetings in January.
The meeting, originally scheduled as one session to be held at the district’s office, was instead moved to Forest Glen Elementary School and split into two groups; one group for parents who had already attended a meeting held Nov. 26 and one for parents who had not attended any public meetings on the matter.
More than 100 parents attended the last school board meeting where the Think Tank presentation was made public for the first time.
A large group of parents gathered in the multi-purpose room to learn more about the Think Tank plans. A smaller group of parents gathered in the library to ask more questions of Superintendent Ann Riebock.
Riebock asked the group of parents in the library to share questions or concerns, so they could be answered during the meeting, which lasted about two hours.
Among the questions and issues raised at the start of the meeting were:
- What level of participation would teachers have; and could they comment honestly and share their experience without fear of retribution;
- What would a sample day look like;
- How would children be assessed and could they be moved to different sections or levels throughout the year;
- Who at the district gets to decide if the Think Tank plans are implemented and when might that take place;
- Is there a way to “cherry pick” the best ideas rather than most drastic and phase them in;
- Heterogeneous vs. homogenous groupings of students
During the meetingm a few of the items were discussed and more questions continued to come up.
Teachers were present during the meeting, some whom were involved in Think Tank—a group convened about 18 months ago. The focus of the group was to begin researching and planning how the district would address educating its students to meet the increased focus on 21st-century learning or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, which will be emphasized in common core standards.
The district is regularly meeting with teachers on site at schools to discuss Think Tank, Riebock said.
Many teachers are involved in the Think Tank process, but an uninvolved teacher who attended Tuesday's meeting said: “I have never felt a more open and available process as I have through this. We are learning along with the rest of the parents. I feel your anxiety. We’ve been told to keep calm and I have faith.”
The district hopes to have a plan in place to be presented to the board in the spring, Riebock said. Whether the Board of Education would take a formal action and vote on the changes or would only affirm the Think Tank decision remains to be seen, she said, adding the district would not want to move forward with something without board support.
A significant amount of time was spent Tuesday night discussing how students would be grouped, which seemed to clarify and confuse at the same time. Riebock said the goal for literacy, for example, would be to have heterogeneous groups of students. As it stands now, students across the learning spectrum are in classrooms together. Students on either end of the spectrum require different levels of assistance and those in the middle of the curve may not be getting as much attention either.
“The goal is you create a rich literacy environment with multiple opportunities for kids to grow and learn at their pace,” Riebock said.
As explained to parents, she said the groups will be mixed in ability, but within the same range and students will still be able to grow within the grouping.
“I've been so gratified by the time and effort parents and staff members are willing to put forth to understand the Think Tank concepts so they can make informed judgments, and by the time and effort Think Tank members (parents and staff) are willing to invest to share the depth and breadth of their work,” Riebock said in an e-mail to parents Wednesday. “I think we all know that our world is demanding much more of our students; we realize we need to do some things differently to prepare them, while at the same time protecting and nurturing them.”