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  • The E3 Group

2023 River Forest D90 teacher survey results: low standards, disruptive classrooms, poor training

Roosevelt Middle School teachers strongly disagree with the statement “The school leadership team sets high standards for teaching and student learning” - Lincoln and Willard Elementary teachers echo similar sentiment.

E3 first reported a problem with teacher sentiment when a decline in all 19 measures of the states 5 Essentials Survey occurred from 2017 to 2019. That type of decline that was unique to River Forest. By 2023, fifteen of 19 measures remain below their 2017 level. The trend suggests teachers from all three schools are signaling they've had it with District 90 instructional leadership.

The 2023 survey indicates “Roosevelt School is partially organized for improvement”, pulled down by poor marks in the categories: Instructional Leadership (7%), and Innovation (3%). Survey responses on Instructional Leadership among Roosevelt teachers ranked the school in the 7th percentile statewide. The survey defines Innovation as "Teachers have a strong orientation toward improvement and a willingness to be a part of an active learning environment". Teacher-Parent trust has seen the largest decline since 2017 (-40%). Middle school teacher participation in the survey was 61.0% in 2023 compared to the state average of 75.6%.

Willard Elementary School was rated “organized for improvement”, also pulled down by the school’s lowest score in the category of Instructional Leadership, the 17th percentile statewide down from 39th percentile in 2022. Willard teachers see the largest problems with Classroom Disruptions (-41%) and Quality Professional Development (-41%) which coincides with the move away from teacher-explicit instruction in 2016. Willard Elementary teacher participation in the survey was 67.3% compared to the state average of 75.6%.

Lincoln Elementary teacher ratings of Instructional Leadership put that school in the 30% percentile for the state, up from the 18th percentile in 2022. Instructional Leadership (-31%) and Reflective Dialogue (-30%) have fallen the most at Lincoln since the district began implementing inquiry-based curricula. According to the 5 Essentials survey, good Reflective Dialogue is “Teachers frequently talk with each other about curriculum, instruction, and student learning”. Lincoln teacher participation in the survey was 70.7% compared to the state average of 75.6%.

A consistently favorable rating among teachers at all three River Forest schools is Socialization of New Teachers. Teacher-Parent Trust is a category that was exceptionally high (81-99th percentile) in 2017 among all schools and remains highest at Lincoln Elementary (85th) through 2023.

Teachers in Western Springs D101, a district considered by D90 as comparable and high performing, ranked their instructional leadership among the 45th-99th percentile for the state in the same 2023 5Essentials survey.

The trend for disapproval of instructional leadership corresponds with the district’s decline in math and reading proficiency and a widening racial achievement gap. The most notable change to instructional leadership came in 2016. Curriculum director Alison Hawley was hired to implement a new policy then board president Ralph Martire called “best practice” and necessary so the achievement level of rising Freshmen from District 90 “comports with” a de-tracked freshman year at OPRF High School.

Hawley’s hire came about one month after her resignation from Winnetka District 36 where the superintendent reported to parents a decline in student achievement was concealed from parents in Winnetka. Emails obtained by E3 suggest Hawley introduced the same reading, writing, and math curricula in River Forest that led to lower achievement in Winnetka, and now River Forest.

In a 2023 email obtained by E3, Superintendent Ed Condon was asked “will D90 be documenting curricula used over time for all grades and subjects?”, and his reply was “I intend to discuss and consider the matter with Dr. Hawley, as stated. Regrettably, I am not able to provide you with a definitive response at this time.”

District 90 Superintendent Ed Condon offered comment on 5Essential results telling E3 “the way the data is being presented on this chart is not defensible” because the survey separately solicits feedback from teachers, students and parents, and the table “only reflects data points from staff”. He added, “Each of our schools has items to celebrate from the 5 Essentials dataset and others in which improvement is merited. We are discussing these issues as an administrative team with the goal of continuous improvement across all areas.”

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