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D181 Changes Course on ACE Program Transition Plan

Students will continue with the pullout program in elementary school, though they will not be bused to Monroe School each week.

It was another long night of District 181 board discussion Monday night at in .

District 181 administration presented a curriculum transition plan for the 2012-13 school year Monday night at a board of education meeting that rolled back some of the changes , including some the district planned to make to the ACE program.

Scrapped by the latest transition proposal is the plan to give Personal Learning Plans (PLP) to current third- and fourth-grade ACE students in their home classrooms next year and discontinue the program’s pullout nature.

If Monday’s plan is pursued, the elementary ACE program will remain a one-day-a-week pullout program in 2012-13, though students would stay in their home schools instead of being bused to , assistant superintendent for teaching and instruction Dr. Janet Stutz said.

The new transition plan maintains the district’s discontinuation of second-grade ACE identification. Stutz said PLPs would be available for to next year’s third-graders whose abilities seem to exceed standard curriculum.

The new plan, which Superintendent Dr. Renée Schuster said still needs additional time to be completed by the district's work groups made up of teachers and administrators, would leave the middle school ACE program as is for the coming school year.

Schuster said the administration has recommended scaling back changes to the ACE program during the transition because the district needs to determine more clearly the program’s future beyond 2012-13.

“In the meantime we’ve suggested leaving the program there for the students … until we make the decision on what exactly the new program is going to be,” Schuster said.

All current sixth- and seventh-grade ACE students will remain in the program, although the practice whereby elementary ACE students are automatically entered into the middle school program would be discontinued. 

To avoid “grandfathering,” fifth-grade ACE students, just like non-ACE elementary students, would have had to qualify for the middle school program based on the results of the InView test taken in the spring. ACE identification will also demand a teacher recommendation and the completion of a parent questionnaire. A potential middle school ACE student will then have to go through a Response to Intervention (RtI) process that looks back on their assessment history before they’re admitted.

Board member Yvonne Mayer has spoken against keeping middle school students in ACE permanently once they qualify since the gifted program discussion kicked up last year.

Mayer recommended that the administration reconsider allowing all current sixth- and seventh-grade ACE students to automatically remain in the program during the transition year without an opt-in option for students in the same grades that did not qualify for ACE but could potentially succeed in the program.

“I think it’s the right, fair, inclusive thing to do,” Mayer said of the opt-in.

Schuster admitted the work groups have not been looking at re-evaluating all of the current middle school ACE students for next year and instead are focused on the composition and necessity of the ACE program in the years after the transition. 

“We’re doing it from today going forward,” Schuster said. “We’re not going backwards.” 

Still included in the middle school transition plan is an elective Encore class that would teach ACE-like curriculum to students who might not qualify for ACE but want to take the class and show “passion, readiness, and willingness for advanced learning.”

Board member Marty Turek said he was disappointed with the rollbacks since April 9. He said the original transition plan was “bold and aggressive,” while the new plan does little to address the problems gifted consultant Dr. Tonya Moon had with the district’s programs.

“I have a hard time signing up for that as one vote of seven,” Turek said.

No specific date for a vote on any transition plan is set.

Math acceleration detailed

The district-wide acceleration of students in math so that most complete Algebra I by the time they finish eighth grade would begin next year.

In elementary math, curriculum will be compacted for third-grade students so that they get through third-grade and fourth-grade math in one year. The transition plan warns that students will progress at different paces.

“Over the course of the year, some students will complete third grade curriculum, and others will complete third- and fourth-grade curriculum,” Monday’s plan reads. “A differentiation specialist and resource teacher will support the third-grade instructional team to order to meet students’ needs.”

In middle school, the standard curriculum will be one year ahead of grade level: sixth-graders will use seventh-grade resources, seventh-graders will use eighth-grade resources, and eighth-graders will take algebra. Students who are one or two years accelerated will move up that ladder that many steps, to the point that algebra will be available to some seventh-graders and geometry will be available to some eighth graders.

Joe O'Donnell (Editor) April 24, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Seems the changes were a step toward what numerous parents have been asking for during public comment sessions at recent meetings—the "why rush it?" crew. Are those folks more comfortable with this transition?
Steve Woodward April 24, 2012 at 04:06 PM
There is a quite a bit of information in this dispatch, but let me see if I can help unbury the news. "Why rush it?" is code for "protect the status quo". Lost in all of this incessant debate about "the children" is the glaring reality that these flawed programs cost taxpayers about $1,000,000 a year, serve fewer than 10% of students, and poorly at that, and -- most importantly -- continue to exclude eligible students through faulty testing and/or deliberate manipulation of data. Does any local media agency have the courage to report this story as a scandal? That's precisely what it is.
Another D181 Parent April 24, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Woodward's comments not to mention that the taxpayers funded a $50,000 review of the gifted program from a team of experts whose findings are being completely ignored by D181 administrators.

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