Curriculum in District 30

From the Office of the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction

I am excited to welcome you and your children back to the start of the 2013-14 school year! It has been a busy summer.  With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), District 30 teachers and administrators have been actively participating in a thorough study of the new standards and also in revision and further development of its current Math and English/Language Arts programs. In light of this ongoing work, I am pleased to share with you some changes regarding curriculum, new programs, and assessment.

At the start of this school year, students in grades second through eighth will again be participating in the NWEA MAP assessment.  Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a series of tests that measure a student’s general knowledge in reading, language use, and mathematics.  The tests measure a student’s progress or growth in school.  Scores depend on two things:  how many questions are answered correctly and the difficulty of each question. Testing at these grade levels for students will begin this Monday, August 26th.

Also, spring ISAT scores have recently been shared with all school districts.  The student reports should be available and mailed home mid September. In January 2013, the Illinois State Board of Education raised the performance level cut scores of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) for math and English/Language Arts.  This change in performance levels does not mean that our students know less or are less capable than they were in previous years.  It is also not a reflection on teacher performance.  The ISAT is part of a state and federal accountability system.  The higher cut scores will provide administrators, teachers, and parents a picture of students’ progress toward college and career readiness. 

Our work on the development of new English/Language Arts curriculum continues to occur.  This school year all kindergarten through fifth grade students will be using Words Their Way, a developmental approach to teaching phonics, vocabulary, and spelling skills using hands on methods.  Weekly word sorts will provide opportunities for students to look for word patterns and develop depth and breadth of word knowledge.  Traditional spelling tests will no longer be used as children work at their own pace through the stages of word study and spelling.

All kindergarten through fifth grade students will continue to participate in Writers’ Workshop, an individualized approach to teaching process writing. This year students and staff will be using the new “Lucy Calkins Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing” materials.  These grade level specific units have been rewritten to emphasize the Common Core standards writing requirements and continue to be based on best practices in the teaching of writing.

In addition to new programs in English/Language Arts, all district students will be using new math materials this year. Math in Focus (K-5) and Big Ideas (middle school) are comprehensive math programs that support the new Common Core Mathematics Standards, which demand more rigor in the teaching of math.  Notable shifts from past programs include a focus on studying fewer topics in more depth, a focus on mastery rather than a spiral approach to curriculum, and the use of  “models to representations to abstractions” as an instructional approach.

Finally, all District 30 students will continue to participate in Second Step, a universal classroom-based program designed to increase students’ school success, decrease problem behaviors, and promote social-emotional competence and self-regulation.  Aligned to the Illinois Social Emotional Learning Standards, the Second Step program will impart the foundation students need to become skilled decision makers and to exhibit responsible behavior in personal, school, and community contexts.

I am looking forward to a wonderful year! Please do not hesitate to contact me should you ever have any questions.  I look forward to seeing you around the school district!

Warmest Regards,

Dr. Melissa E. Hirsch