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River Forest D90 admins plan for higher quality full-day K instruction at Willard over Lincoln Elem.

River Forest District 90 administrators reported plans to violate their own student to teacher ratio formula in a way favoring instructional effectiveness at Willard Elementary over Lincoln Elementary. According to a report presented by Alison Hawley, Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, on Monday May 15th, 2023 parents of Willard Elementary kindergarten students can expect a student to teacher ratio of 12:1 during the Fall of 2023 while Lincoln families can expect a ratio or 18:1, unless enrollment at Lincoln increases. Lower student to teacher ratio is a key factor in high quality instruction.



Superintendent Condon described the district’s formula for student to teacher ratio and enrollment thresholds for hiring additional teachers at the May 15th 2023 school board meeting. “Kindergarten is uniquely capped at 20 students per classroom” he said, and described how the formula adds a teacher when student number per school goes from 40 to 41, two teachers to three, or three teachers to four when student number per school goes from 60 to 61.


Condon was asked by a board member Monday if “at both Lincoln and Willard they follow this formula” and his answer was “yes”; however, Condon left out he already authorized hiring a third kindergarten teacher at Willard when the number of students was 37 instead of 41, a decision that likely will create a more favorable teaching and learning environment.


Diane Wood has been Principal at Willard Elementary since 2014 when the school enrolled 297 students and used 111 full time equivalent teachers paid an average salary of $71,455. In 2022, Willard Elementary reached an achievement low point with 60.9% of third graders meeting or exceeding English language arts standards. This performance came using 119 teachers paid an average of $71,700, according to ISBE. At Lincoln in 2022, 67.2% of third graders met or exceeded ELA standards.


Both Elementary schools have seen declines since the district hired Alison Hawley as curriculum director in 2016 after an unplanned separation from Winnetka’s School District 36 in 2015.


The Tennessee Class Size Project is frequently cited as the most robust evidence of lasting educational benefit from lower student to teacher ratios, and “the study findings apply to poor and well to-do, farm and city, minority and majority children” according to Frederick Mosteller of Harvard University. Masteller’s analysis concluded there was “compelling evidence that smaller classes help, at least in early grades, and that the benefits derived from these smaller classes persist”.


The Illinois State Board of Education reports the 2022 state average of elementary school students per teacher at 17:1.


The River Forest District 90 board voted unanimously in favor of adopting a full day kindergarten schedule at their February 2023 meeting, just before board members Rich Moore and Barb Hickey stepped down at the end of their term and incumbent Calvin Davis was defeated.





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