For the first time, the Glen Ellyn District 41 Board of Education discussed the Think Tank initiative, which as proposed, would bring classroom changes to students in second- through fifth-grade in the 2013-14 school year. The initiative was discussed at a board meeting held earlier this week.
Plans to implement the District 41 Think Tank initiative have come under fire from a large number of parents concerned that the district is moving too rapidly and not taking into account training time needed for teachers. Parents also have raised concerns about how students might be grouped for math and literacy.
A number of parents and teachers have spoken in favor of the initiative, but the parents who have raised concerns have been the most vocal.
A story in the Chicago Tribune said that during the meeting, at which about two hours were devoted to discussing Think Tank, one board member expressed concern that parents weren’t being open to the process and reportedly took offense to some comments she read on Facebook regarding the issue.
At the meeting, Terra Costa Howard said parents should be respectful and keep an open mind, according to the Tribune story. It was unclear if those comments were read on a Facebook group parents created to share concerns and information, or if the comments were found elsewhere on Facebook. No disrespectful comments were visible Wednesday on the Why 41? group page.
Parents at the meeting in turn called Howard disrespectful after she made a comment at the meeting stating parents should be more specific in their concerns and not just attend the meetings “with a pitchfork and torch,” according to the Tribune.
The district is hoping to bring the initiative to the board in the spring, seeking either formal approval with a vote or affirmation of the initiative. District Superintendent Ann Riebock has said the district would not want to move forward with something without board support.
The Think Tank was established about 18 months ago and is comprised mostly of teachers and some parents. 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. District 41 is also including arts in its program and calling it STEAM.
Last week, a number of parents attended a meeting Dec. 4 to share information on the Think Tank initiative. The meeting was broken into two groups: those who were aware of the Think Tank plans and those who had already attended a meeting. Those who had attended a prior meeting and who had questions met with Riebock. Questions asked at the session included:
- 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
In its board highlights e-mail to the school community Wednesday, District 41 said the Board of Education members asked for clarification on the scope of the change versus what occurs today in classrooms; the difference between tracking and the heterogeneous groups the Think Tank is proposing.
The district said board members noted that the Think Tank work was in response to its request to investigate ways to better prepare students for the 21st century. The board assured the public that it is listening to their viewpoints and want the public to be part of the process.
Learn more about the D41 Think Tank the district's Think Tank information page.
Read more about the Think Tank initiative:
- District 41 Parents Petition Against Think Tank Initiative
- D41 Think Tank Discussions Continue; More Meetings Expected
- Parents Take Issue with 'When' Not 'If' Plans for District 41 Classroom Changes