This is a blog from the Superintendent of Schools for the Deerfield, Illinois Public Schools, District 109 Our mission is: Provide an innovative educational experiences of the highest quality that engage, inspire and empower each student to excel and contribute in a changing world.
This is teacher, nurse, educational support staff (and administrator) appreciation week! We can never say thank you enough to our educators!! THANK YOU!
I’m sharing a quote I have held closely for many years and I’m sharing two notes I recently sent the DPS109 community.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.” Maya Angelou
Dear District 109 Families and Community Members,
At its last meeting, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 as Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. Please join the Board of Education and the District administration team in applauding our teachers and all of the educators and support staff throughout District 109 who work so hard each day. We have high-achieving, nationally recognized, innovative, warm and welcoming schools because amazing teachers engage, inspire and empower our students – your children, grandchildren, and the children of your friends and neighbors!
I encourage you to find a way to show your support to your favorite teacher, or any school staff member who makes a difference in the lives of the children in our community. Whether you write a heartfelt, handwritten note, have your child create a work of art, or just go out of your way to say a personal “Thank you,” you are giving a great gift. They deserve all the thanks that we can shower upon them!
“If we neglect our gifts and talents, they, like an unused muscle, will atrophy and waste away.” Stephen Covey
Dear District 109 Teachers and Staff,
The Board of Education recently approved our 2017 Strategic Plan. The planning process was both reflective and forward thinking, and very eye-opening to me. I realized how much we have accomplished in four short years. I also acknowledge and thank you for being open to change. I know that’s not easy. Your leaps of faith and constant hard work have allowed our students to thrive, and schools to achieve local, regional and national recognition. In the strategic planning process we should all be proud of the input and impact of that input. Your voices and your input helped shape the goals, objectives and plans. I look forward to working with you and for you to achieve our goals in the coming years.
On April 24, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. The community will celebrate you throughout the week. To show our thanks, the District administration and Board will provide a gift and special treat at some point during the week. They are small tokens of our boundless appreciation of you and your continual work to engage, inspire and empower our students, their parents, your colleagues, and our community.
So THANK YOU, from me personally, and from the Board of Education and District leaders, for allowing us to work with the best team of educators in the nation.
“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” – Winston Churchill
In the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109, we have decided to make a change to mathematics program delivery models starting in
the 2017-18 school year in the 6th grade. We are going to eliminate “regular math” and offer “accelerated math” for all.
We engaged in a comprehensive review of our own student performance (status, growth, standardized test results) data and decision making processes. We also consulted with our research analytics partners, the ECRA team, as well as board members, we are confident that the right steps moving forward involve changing the math delivery model in 6th grade. We also made this decision after speaking with district and building administrators and a comprehensive review of research and data.
This equitable math curriculum delivery model change is based upon a substantial body of educational research, two years of our student performance data analyzed by professional psychometricians, and our unified, ongoing desire to create and sustain the most effective and proven structures for student learning possible.
This decision is also supported by emerging themes of needed differentiation stemming from the input and analysis of the strategic plan information (from more than 1700 people’s input).
Strategic Planning Update: Board of Education President Nick Begley commended his fellow Board members and the administrators for a productive strategic planning meeting on Saturday, January 21. Dr. Lubelfeld reported that the District gathered input from more than 1,700 people as part of the process. He explained that the strategic planning process is an opportunity for stakeholders provide guidance to the Board to set the path of the District. The District 109 Board reviewed all the input and worked with ECRA in a half-day workshop to develop a draft plan that includes the mission, vision, portrait of a graduate, guiding principles, goals and objectives. The administrative team will meet on January 31 to review the objective statements as they begin to plan the action plans to meet the objectives and goals. At the February 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, the Board and administrative team will meet to bring together their work. The final plan will be presented to the Board for action at the March 20, 2017 meeting.
As district and building and community leaders,we feel it’s incumbent upon us to design instructional structures that meet the needs of all children and provide equitable educational opportunities for all students. The current delivery model is providing barriers to access for some students, denying them the best opportunity to successfully master grade level standards.
The fact that less than 27% of 6th grade students enrolled in regular math for the past two years met minimum standards is simply unacceptable. We are not assigning blame to any teachers, of course, yet we are also not willing to make excuses for these results or overlook these results.
In our local situation, we discovered that sixty two students were enrolled in regular math (over the past few years) yet they had similar historical achievement levels to 32 students in accelerated math. The 32 students in accelerated math grew at higher rates than the 62 students in regular math.
In considering changing the model of 6th grade math offerings, members of the administration have reviewed and studied an abundance of research related to tracking, ability grouping, and instruction. In addition, the partnership with ECRA Group has allowed us to review and analyze multiple points of local student performance data over the past few years in each “program.”
Sharing one of many videos about ability grouping – causing us to pause, think, and “unlearn” for children – ALL children!
Our 6th grade math model moving forward calls for four sections of accelerated math on each middle school team with TAP (our gifted ed and high achieving track) still remaining separate. We understand that this will be a change for our current sixth grade math teachers.
However, it is worth noting what will not change: 6th grade teachers will move from teaching 4 sections of 6th grade math to 4 sections of 6th grade math with the curriculum map standards (as the “floor” for all students, but the “ceiling” for none) remaining identical to what they are now. The expectation for differentiation is not new, it’s done every day in every K-5 classroom across the district, and it has been happening in our middle school classrooms as well for decades.
We believe children must be allowed to show competence and mastery of their grade level standards, and when they do, the teacher must allow them to move beyond in an effort to remove the limits on our students.
Finally, this entire change process directly relates to the PLC (professional learning communities) work in which we have been involved. There are four basic questions we all must continuously ask and reflect upon every day:
What do we expect our children to know and be able to do? (As mentioned before, with this change the answer will be the same: the 6th grade CCSS for mathematics will be the floor for all students and the ceiling for none).
How will we know if they learned it? (Again, largely nothing will change; we will continue to use MAP, PARCC, DCA, and ongoing daily formative assessment data to monitor our results)
How will we respond when some children do not learn? (Our answer to this question, based on all available data the past two years, is the “why” of this whole movement. This is something we’ve examined extensively and–having done so–determined we must now respond systemically; something must change to determine if we can get better results moving forward)
How will we respond when some students already know/can do? (We want to spend more time on answering this question next year with the acceleration for all model, in which we insist on 6th standards as floor for all, yet the ceiling for none. How can we individualize/personalize 6th grade math instruction to make sure the ceiling is limitless for kids)
Internally we shared some of the following background information and resource collection:
There has been a lot of discussion, thinking, review and reflection about the administration’s goal to reduce tracking at the sixth grade math level next year. Our aim is to raise expectations and remove limits to student growth by making all or just about all math (except TAP/gifted) accelerated. Our “acceleration for all” philosophy is driven by research, best practices, literature, experience, professional judgement, resources available to us, and the performance on the achievement test of children in the “regular” class for the past two years. One hypothesis for the poor performance is the ill effects of ability grouping/tracking as has been in place. In addition, the past few years offers us incredible gains and growth – never before seen or experienced in the district. Our student performance K-5 is impacting needed changes in models at grades 6-8.
Please see these videos for perspectives from experts on tracking and ability grouping:
This is a complex and multifaceted issue that tracking alone does not explain. We believe that raising expectations for all students in the current “regular track” will improve student performance.
Additional literature/research information on this well researched topic:
According to Mary Fletcher, there are many benefits to expect when instructional staff are conversant with and dedicated to differentiated instruction and detracking:
Differentiation allows more students to feel invested in the lesson, thereby decreasing behavioral problems. Students who previously opted to be viewed as “bad” rather than “stupid” will have their learning needs met and other talents explored, allowing them to drop the “bad” act and become instead a valuable member of the class.
Students who might have been considered less intelligent because they learn in a nontraditional way become invaluable contributors to the heterogeneous classroom.
Differentiated instruction encourages flexibility. Teachers thus become adept at adapting lessons to fulfill each student’s individual needs.
Detracking removes the limits that come with rigid thinking about how learning should and does occur. Fair does not always mean “the same.” For example, allowing a student who struggles with the physical act of writing to type his notes can benefit that student and the rest of the class. Not only does the student get access to the material, but the entire class has a reliable set of notes that can be used for those who were absent. This student now becomes an expert—and essential—note-taker who takes pride in his responsibility and sees himself as a member of the class.
Eliminate the Lowest Track First
There is little doubt that tracking does the most harm to students who are consigned to the lowest track. According to the National Research Council (NRC), low-track classes have an especially deleterious effect on learning, since such classes are “typically characterized by an exclusive focus on basic skills, low expectations, and the least qualified teachers” (Heubert & Hauser, 1999, p. 282).
The preponderance of research regarding low-track classes was so overwhelmingly negative that the NRC concluded that students should not be educated in low-track classes as they are currently designed (Heubert & Hauser, 1999). It makes sense, therefore, to begin by eliminating the classes that do the most harm to students.
Other changes need to happen as well. Mathematics teachers need to stop frequent, timed testing; replace grades with diagnostic feedback (Black et al. 2002; Boaler & Foster 2014); and deemphasize speed, so that the students who think slowly and deeply are not led to believe they are not capable (Boaler, 2014). Perhaps most significantly and most radically, schools should also remove fixed student groupings that transmit fixed mindset messages and replace them with flexible groupings that recognize that students have different strengths at different times (Boaler 2009; Boaler & Foster 2014).
“One of the marks of successful people is that they are action-oriented. One of the marks of average people is that they are talk-oriented.”
– Brian Tracy
From time to time I share “tweets” from superintendents and school leaders around the world on “ASuperDay” – a super day is designed to give school leaders the chance to tell the stories of what education is … using pictures, audio, video, and text superintendents share “real life” views of meetings, classroom visits, etc. The superintendent position is no longer lonely – or at least it should not be lonely – when we band together as a “PLN” (Personal/Professional learning network) and we take a few minutes to share what it is that we do and what it is that we share.
In the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 our motto is Engage, Inspire, Empower,
through venues like #ASuperDay on Twitter, we’re able to join so many others in so many places doing just that – engaging, inspiring and empowering.
The narrative of education is in the hands of the leaders … please take some time to check out #ASuperDay on Twitter – November 16, 2016
“Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama
Today, August 18, 2016, was the first official day back for DPS109 staff. As we have done for the past four years we gathered as a whole school family at Alan B. Shepard Middle School for the opening institute day. This year our themes are Joy and Innovation.
Earlier in the week I sent out a note to the entire community, I’m sharing excerpts of that letter below:
Dear District 109 Parents, Staff and Community Members,
On Thursday, we welcome our teachers and staff back to work with a full day inservice that includes a keynote speech by Rich Sheridan, author of Joy, Inc., as well as collaborative learning time to prepare all of us to welcome our students back to school on Monday, August 22. …Nearly 50 staff members attended a three-day intensive workshop led by a faculty member of the Buck Institute to bring project-based learning to our classrooms. In addition, teachers and staff set up classrooms, collaborated on curriculum, researched innovative methods, and mentored new teachers and staff, whom we welcomed to the District 109 family last week.
Both middle schools also have innovative and redesigned learning spaces; the art and music spaces have been completely transformed into areas that will inspire creativity, innovation, and future focused arts instruction.
Last year, the Department of Teaching & Learning awarded our second phase of innovation grants. Ten teachers across every building in the District won grants to have a classroom set of iPads, and two other teachers earned special grants for their exceptionally innovative projects. In addition, 100 teachers received individual iPads to begin exploring the potential of tablet technology to our already robust 1:1 transformative learning environments…
As part of my welcome remarks, I shared the following slide deck (I’ll also be sharing notes for clarity). The notes reflect my thinking and preparation and they are very close to the commentary I delivered in person at the assembly. As always, your comments are encouraged and welcomed!
Notes for slide 3: Our mission, our motto, our statements as to WHY we exist – Engage, Inspire, Empower our students, each other, and our community. You continue to do an amazing job of engaging, inspiring, empowering each and every day. I remain quite proud to serve you as the superintendent of schools!
Notes for slide 4: How do we engage, inspire and empower? One major way is through innovation. We innovate to increase student learning … We facilitate learning for our students as well as one another. Innovate means trying new and better ways of doing things. We started with Innovation grants three years ago and we keep on demonstrating new and better ways to inspire learning and to support a culture of excellence.
Notes for slide 5: One very public way we show innovation is through modern learning spaces. We have been designing and creating new and better learning spaces across the district for the past several years. With new lighting, better flooring, award winning classrooms and labs we demonstrate our commitment to excellent public education. We are proud to host visits from leaders all over the state and nation to our award winning middle school science labs. This year we cannot wait to open and unveil new middle school art and music spaces, PTO funded K-5 SMART labs, redesigned library spaces, student friendly furniture, and more. All of these physical changes are designed to support innovative learning and teaching practices. The spaces themselves do not reflect innovation though, it’s what you do with and in these spaces that truly creates new and better learning for ALL students. We provide the conditions for optimal learning and growing, the spaces provide opportunities for new and better experiences.
Notes for slide 6: We also innovate with new and better instructional tools and resources designed to support your work. With collaborative Google Apps for Education we have created opportunities for communication across boundaries of time and space. Other tools like the extensive suite of technology we offer support innovative learning and teaching practices. The tools themselves are not innovative; it’s what you do with these tools that creates new and better learning for our students. This year we’re proud to celebrate Innovation Grant Phase II with new and better ideas about how to leverage the power of technology. A focus area includes the 4Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. These new tools allow for innovative practices supporting the 4Cs.
Notes for slide 7: We also innovate in DPS109 with professional learning opportunities. I am so proud of the hashtag #engage109 on Twitter where any day or time I can look and see what is happening in the classrooms around the district. #Engage109 is known far and wide as a space where DPS109 staff share and learn and communicate. Often our hashtag is trending due to the activity. Twitter is a space where anyone can learn and access virtually anything at any time. In addition, this year’s early release Wednesday structure is designed to create new and better ways for teacher learning. Through sustained job embedded learning opportunities we will create conditions for innovation. We are also proud of the Deerfield University an often replicated example of innovative professional learning and teacher support. The DU offers a voluntary personalized, learning platform where we can learn and grow any time any place at any speed or any pace, our motto is You can DU it! Finally, the upcoming EdCamp North Shore 16 to be held at Kipling on October 29 reflects yet another way we innovate in the professional learning space. I hope the folks from Kipling will tweet out the link to sign up via the #engage109 hashtag today!
Notes for slide 8: I consider myself to be an innovative superintendent. I learn from you and I learn with you. I truly enjoy learning alongside you and joining in classroom practices like Shark Tank shown in the photo above. I look forward to every visit to the classrooms. I learn new and better ways of doing education from you. Thank you for continuing to invite me and welcome me into your classrooms. In addition, I innovate through partnerships and professional memberships in forward thinking organizations like BrightBytes, Discovery Education, and the American Association for School Administrators, the AASA. This summer a group of 50 superintendents from around the USA came to learn our story – they came to visit our new and better learning spaces. Because of your great work I get to show off and share our stories of innovation. In addition, I learn from them and their expertise and I share that here in Deerfield. You give me great pride and so much to share! Finally I innovate by experimenting with gizmos and gadgets that support new and better learning, I am eager to see the innovative results of the 2nd phase of the Innovation Grant process.
Notes for slide 9: I seek out innovation in my personal life too. For the past 11 years my family has gone to the same resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. We love the vacation and the kids look forward to it each year. This summer we innovated – we experienced tubing for the first time. While it may seem simple or even silly for me to share this personal example, I wanted to share how we took an awesome family experience, our annual trip to Wisconsin – perfectly fine for 11 years; and with an innovation, the tubing, our first time as a family doing so, we innovated our vacation! We tried something new and better and created a new learning experience.
Notes for slide 10: I highly value being a connected educator and leader, I learn from others, I share our stories of innovation, and I become a better leader through collaboration. Please continue to reach out to me and welcome me into your learning spaces. You can contact me, and I encourage you to do so, through any number of addresses and social networks. Welcome back to another fantastic school year! Please give a warm welcome to Dr. Jeff Zoul who will continue our program this morning. Thank you.
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
– John Wooden
For the past three years we have moved from the past to the present in support of the future! Guided by our Big 5, the Board, leadership team, teachers, staff, parents, community, and students have worked collaboratively to create engaging, inspiring, and empowering learning opportunities! The short slide show below depicts in graphics, images, and text a look at our last three years and a look into the next 100 years!
In May we’ll report our State of the District to the Board of Education and Community, we’ll also post here on the blog! Comments are always welcome.