District 181’s response to a major recommendation that came out of Dr. Tonya Moon’s 2011 evaluation of the gifted program is open for community feedback.
The district’s proposed Philosophy of Teaching and Learning has been placed on display online and physically at several spots throughout the community for public review and comment after a drafting committee put together the document over the last two months.
The District 181 Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to post the three-page statement, which will be on display until May 25. After the posting period, during which the community can give its two cents, the philosophy will come back to the board for discussion and an adoption vote.
According to a report sent from District 181 Superintendent Dr. Renée Schuster to board members, the philosophy statement posted is essentially the same one the board discussed at its April 9 meeting.
The statement begins by declaring that all students deserve high-quality curriculum and instruction while emphasizing differentiation within all classrooms, something Moon’s report said was lacking in District 181.
“All learning environments include students who vary greatly in their experiences, readiness, motivation, and learning profiles,” the philosophy statement reads. “These differences are assets to student learning and to developing productive, empathetic, and ethical citizens who can thrive in an ever-changing global society.”
Board President Michael Nelson said at the April 9 meeting that the philosophy statement's differentiation discussion is “a little bit of motherhood and apple pie” in that it sets lofty standards in an area Moon defined as a weakness.
“Where the rubber meets the road is how you do it, how you really get there,” Nelson said.
The statement does single out advanced learning. Those students “for whom the general education program may not consistently support the development of their academic performance,” whether that’s because of high performance or high potential, need “tasks, instructional activities, and assessments that develop more advanced understanding, knowledge, and/or skills within a discipline.”
Ways to do that, the statement says, include digging deeper into content, considering more ambiguous or abstract problems, and working more independently.
Schuster said at the April 9 meeting that the philosophy statement shifts the district’s attitude toward viewing curriculum as a growth mechanism for students.
“If you exhibit [an ability], it just is. But if you grow in that, it is something that develops,” she said.
Board member Yvonne Mayer didn’t seem convinced that the district’s philosophy statement reflected what Moon’s report recommended. She said she thought it directly addresses advanced learners, but does not do the same for the other levels of learners.
She likened it to a hologram.
“Whoever reads this can pull from it what they want,” Mayer said.
A writing committee made up of District 181 administrators and teachers drafted the statement over two meetings with Dr. Jessica Hockett, who the district hired to facilitate the process. Hockett also met with board members on Feb. 27 to get their input on what the philosophy statement should contain, and a community engagement meeting was held on March 20 that, according to the district, brought 100 members of the public to .
A related survey was also filled out by 123 District 181 staff members.
“The writing committee reviewed the feedback from the community and staff and then revised the draft philosophy statement,” Schuster’s report reads.
In addition to being posted here on the District 181 website, hard copies of the philosophy statement are located at the at 7 North Prospect Avenue, the at 20 East Maple Street, and the District Administration Center at 6010 S. Elm in Burr Ridge.
The district encourages residents to provide feedback by emailing comments to BOE@d181.org or filling out comment forms available at the above sites.