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Transparency and rigor under D90’s former curriculum director? Orrington Elem. families may want to know.

Alison Hawley, now going by Alison Schoeffmann, recently resigned from the position of Asst. Superintendent of Instruction in River Forest District 90 and was recently hired as Principal of Evanston’s K-8 Orrington Elementary.  So many reached out regarding this news that it made sense to share what has been shared by D65’s Superintendent, and to ask you a few questions.


The welcome letter from D65’s Superintendent to the Orrington community says “Similarly to me, Dr. Schoeffmann values transparency”.  First question - do you agree that Dr. Hawley demonstrated a value for transparency?


The letter continues saying, “It was important to both of us to proactively address criticism she faced in her previous roles from very small but vocal groups who opposed her beliefs in expanding access to rigorous learning opportunities…”  Second question – do you agree that rigorous learning expanded under her curricula choices and new instructional model? 


No examples of transparency, nor data describing trends in D90 student achievement, were offered in the letter.  The full version you can read here.


The letter spends some time defending job changes in the face of community criticism, Winnetka D36 and River Forest D90, and D65’s Superintendent says her contacts there “referenced her high levels of integrity, deep instructional knowledge, and unwavering ability to center students’ needs.”  Next question – would you expect any other answer in a welcome letter?


The last question may be more difficult.  If back then (2016+), you did not know what you do know now about changes to curricula, instructional practices, scheduling, grading, and more in D90, would you appreciate it if someone with experience reached out with a warning or help on how to pay close attention?


Being very clear and fair – she did the job she was hired to do at D90, and prior experience with faulty curricula made it more possible – Lucy Calkins Units of Study as an example. In a board meeting she described her job as “lowering the ceiling” on D90 students so they would more easily feed into a de-tracked freshmen year at OPRF High School, District 200.  More access is possible with lower standards.  It’s hard to believe, but it makes more sense when you consider the changes implemented at D90 were driven by the same board member that would later lead de-tracking freshmen year at the high school (D200). 


Where elevating social programs above curricula and instruction goes is uncertain for sure.  E3 asked the current D90 board if this recommendation from 2016 still guides decision making, and there is no answer yet with multiple attempts. 


Perhaps one thing we can learn from this is to ask more questions sooner, demand clear answers, and share these answers broadly.  It is a wonder if anyone in Orrington is asking the same things. 


PS – E3 has written about “the fundamental change to instructional philosophy” that took place in D90 – it and more can be found here.


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