A Message from Your Superintendent
As we plan for the future, we identify the challenges, threats and trends that District 57 is facing today and will likely face in the years to come. This includes the upcoming PARCC Assessment, buildings operating at capacity, financial uncertainty and new educational standards that could require more curriculum changes. These are some of the issues I have identified in this year’s Environmental Scan. Developing the scan is the first step in our strategic planning process. It helps us establish the District's goals and what it will take to achieve them. I presented the scan at the last School Board meeting, and I’d like to make you aware of some of the major issues:
· Our District is required to start giving the new PARCC Assessment on March 9. We’ve done our best to prepare students for the test, and we’ve addressed technology issues so we can administer it. But we still have concerns about the test, including the significant time required. Also, we feel the test might not accurately portray our students’ abilities and knowledge of Common Core curriculum. The sample questions are complicated, and the digital format could be challenging for young students. In 2010, 23 states, including Illinois, had signed on to administer PARCC. That number has dropped to 11. Illinois is still on board for this year, but I question the long-term viability of the test.
· District 57 enrollment continues to increase, and our buildings are operating very near capacity. We continue to monitor class size, but we are currently back to the staffing plan we had prior to the 2011 staffing cuts.
· The state has adopted new physical education standards. We are reviewing PE curriculum to determine if revisions are needed. In addition, the state has notified the District that 2015-2016 will be the last year for the PE waiver and we will need to respond to this, another unfunded mandate by ISBE.
· New national music and visual arts standards were published in 2014. If Illinois adopts these standards, we might need to make art and music curriculum changes by grade level.
· A state committee is reviewing current social studies standards and will make recommendations about possible changes. This could be the District’s next major curriculum overhaul.
· We feel there is a need for additional math and science instructional time at the middle school, but that requires a significant financial commitment. Due to uncertainties with general state aid and other funding sources, we will postpone this effort.
· The demand for personal learning devices and mobile classroom technology is increasing, with the explosion of technology-based curriculum. As we navigate through the rapid changes, we must consider online testing requirements, infrastructure updates and the need to replace our computer labs with mobile technology.
· Senate Bill 16 will affect the overall dollars received by the state for special education expense reimbursements and general state aid. It is currently stalled in Springfield but will be implemented in some form. The CPI for 2014 was at 0.8 percent, the second lowest in the past 50 years. Tax objections and unfunded mandates continue. These and other factors mean that District 57’s economic landscape is still fragile. Cost containment measures and efficiencies must be maintained.
These are some of the issues that will figure into the annual update of the District's Strategic Plan, which Administration will present to the Board in May. Click here to see the complete Environmental Scan, or go to the Board Documents section of the District website.
Dr. Elaine Aumiller, Superintendent of Schools