January 2015

The Winnetka Wire
Monthly News from The Winnetka Public Schools
Superintendent's Message

Dear Community Members, Parents, and Staff:


There is no doubt that this is an interesting era in public education. I am hopeful that the pendulum will swing back toward center and bring a more balanced approach to improving equity and accountability for school systems. Illinois is currently struggling to find that balance.

For instance, there has been much chatter recently regarding the new state mandated PARCC standardized assessment. These tests, which are replacing the ISAT, will be administered in our District for the first time in March and again in May. As we learn more about the assessment, we grow wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.

Our administrative team has diligently worked to stay up-to-date on the PARCC assessment and is committed to sharing key information with our parents and staff. Below is a summary of key PARCC facts that have prompted many of our concerns:

Testing Time: 

The PARCC testing experience will take approximately 13-14 hours for students in grades 3-8. By contrast, the ISAT took no more than seven hours to administer.


Test Format: 

The test is computer-based and requires students to manage multiple screens, prompts, and tools while typing their responses in a timed situation. By contrast, STAR, a local assessment tool already in place, is taken online but requires a single response on a single screen. The difference in complexity is vast for students.

Instructional Impact:

1)  Because only one test unit will be administered per day, this means students will be taking the test over a two-week time period. This results in a number of interrupted instructional days for our children.
2)  Although we will not be teaching new content for the test, students will need to familiarize themselves with the new online testing experience and complexities. We estimate that this introduction to the test will take approximately two to three hours.
3)  The test will be completed in the computer labs. Most regularly scheduled classes will not take place in these learning spaces for approximately six weeks this spring.

Testing Stress: 

Every student will react to the test in a unique way. We anticipate that the length of the test, the excessive rigor, and the extended change to routine will be uncomfortable for some or many of our students.

Speed of Implementation: 

PARCC is being administered statewide after a one-year pilot, and closely on the heels of the Common Core State Standards implementation. Materials, including instructions for proctors, sample questions, and technical requirements, are still being revised. Since the preparation window is relatively short, test logistics have been the primary focus of the tech staff, the administrative team, and building principals since late fall.

We recognize the need for assessments and accountability. District 36 is committed to complying with State mandates, including the PARCC. However, we believe that this test continues the over-emphasis on standardized assessments as evaluation tools for students and schools. Our concerns are not unique. In 2010, 26 states committed to using PARCC. Today only 10 states, including Illinois, remain in the consortium.

It is important that we stay informed and understand the impact of reform on our students. We often share stories about District driven goals and initiatives. I believe it is equally important to shed light on State requirements that influence local decisions and ultimately our students' experiences.


Trisha Kocanda



PARRC Daytime & Evening Information Sessions


The best way to learn about PARCC is to take a practice test. Please plan to attend a parent education meeting and experience PARCC first hand. 

Meetings will be held at all five District schools from 1:00-2:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Please check your principal's newsletter for the exact location and information on how to RSVP. 

An evening session, for parents of students of all ages, will be held at Greeley School on Tuesday, February 3, 2015, from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Please RSVP by emailing Leslie Jenner or phoning 847-446-6060.


Similar information will be shared at all meetings. You will be able to access practice tests at any grade level at all sessions, so there is no need to attend more than one meeting even if you have children enrolled at multiple schools.


If you are not able to attend one of the meetings and would like to see the sample tests, click here.

Board Meeting Preview

The January Board Meeting will be held at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at Hubbard Woods School. The following presentations are scheduled:
  • Report on the Superintendent's Entry Plan
  • Amended FY2015 Budget
  • Preliminary 2015-2016 Student Enrollment/Staffing
  • Proposal for Phase One of the Social Emotional Learning Program
  • Mobile Learning Initiative Measures

District Budget

Developing and monitoring the District's budget is a year-round activity, incorporating an array of legal and regulatory mandates. Updates are presented monthly at open Board meetings. In order for the Board to thoughtfully consider community input, comments and feedback must be received before budget items are placed on the voting agenda. The agenda is posted 48 hours prior to Board meetings and the Board packet is typically available the day before meetings.


To facilitate timely feedback, Budget Calendar activities are included in the Winnetka Wire monthly. This month:
  • Amended FY 2015 Budget Presented.
  • Budget Calendar Reviewed.
  • Preliminary Staffing/Enrollment Plan Presented.
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In This Issue

Important Dates


Board Meeting
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
7:15 p.m. Hubbard Woods School


PARCC Informational Meetings
Daytime & Evening Options
Thursday January 29, 2015
1:00-2:00 p.m.
Parent education sessions will be held at ALL five District schools. Check building newsletters for locations and to RSVP.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
7:00-8:00 p.m.
Greeley School
This evening session will be of interest to parents of students of all ages and is open to all District parents. Please RSVP by emailing Leslie Jenner or phoning 847-446-6060.

Winnetka Public 
Schools Foundation
Carlson Event
January 29, 2015
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Presentations and conversations with District staff. Learn more about how the WPSF supports creativity and innovation in District 36. Click here for more information.

President's Day
Schools Closed
February 16, 2015

Conference Days
No Student Attendance
February 19-20, 2015

Spring Break
No Student Attendance
March 30-April 3, 2015


FAN Programs

The Internet's Own Boy
The Story of Aaron Swartz
Film Screening and Discussion
January 25, 2015
1:00 p.m.
New Trier Winnetka Campus

The Mask You Live In
An Exploration of American Masculinity
Film Screening and Commentary
February 9, 2015
7:00 p.m.
New Trier Winnetka Campus


Sustainability Update

The District's Green Team provides staff, students, and families with options for reducing waste and promoting a cleaner environment.

Two million plastic bottles are used every five minutes in the United States!  Most of these bottles end up in landfills or in our water, causing danger to animals and our environment.  

Let's do our part to reduce that number!

Please bring
reusable containers! 

The Winnetka Public Schools
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