Just over two years into District 90’s Vision for Equity initiative its schools are already feeling the heat. Among many elements of the initiative, the District recently completed an overhaul of K-8 curriculum and instruction. The IL State Board of Education downgraded both Lincoln and Willard Elementary schools to ‘Commendable’ from their 2018 ‘Exemplary’ status. Besides their use in allocating State funding, these designations are used by popular websites like schooldigger.com and greatschools.org that rank and guide families shopping for neighborhoods to raise a family.
Sixteen of twenty two districts comparable to River Forest were without any downgrades in 2019. Eight of twenty two saw one or more schools upgraded. River Forest and Oak Park were two of just six districts in the comparable group of twenty two area districts that saw individual schools downgraded in 2019. River Forest with two of three schools downgraded.
There are four State assigned summative designations: Exemplary, Commendable, Underperforming and Lowest-Performing. These designations result from a weighted calculation including factors such as percentage of students proficient in English language arts and math, student growth in these areas, absenteeism and the state mandated climate survey. Academic growth and low absenteeism receive the greatest weight in the calculation of summative designations. The 2019 calculation of designations included a new factor, Science Proficiency with a modest 5% weight. This resulted in a corresponding 2.5% reduction in weight in the factors proficiency in English Language Arts and Math.
Some residents are pointing to the new curriculum and instruction as part of the explanation for the decline. The most recent Five Essentials Survey, a ‘climate’ survey of the district, showed teacher responses were at all-time lows and gave instructional leadership its worst-ever failing grade. However, results of the climate survey are given only 5% weight in calculating these summative designations. River Forest, District 90 has yet to provide the community with a detailed look at curriculum and instruction across grades and subjects before and after the initiative. Curriculum and instruction and returning to academic excellence could be central to efforts to develop and implement the District’s new five year strategic plan.
District 90 is hosting a Strategic Planning Community Feedback Session on Wednesday, December 11, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in the Roosevelt Multi-purpose Room. Interestingly, the previous five year plan made no mention of a complete overhaul of K-8 curriculum. This community feedback session will be the opportunity for concerned residents to offer input on returning District 90 schools to academic excellence.