THINK TANK MESSAGE FROM KAREN CARLSON
Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning and Accountability
Think Tank facilitator
For the last 18 months, the District 41 Think Tank has been exploring what we might do to promote 21st century learning. Why? So that our kids-who will find themselves facing increasing global competition for college and for jobs-will be successful in life.
We are now taking our ideas out on the road, so to speak, hoping to foster understanding and support. Equally important, we are gathering feedback for the group to consider as we continue our work. The Think Tank is a diverse group of 60 members; all along the way, we've had different opinions. We've explored those differences knowing that productive, candid conversation about them would strengthen our work. We have faith that the same thing will happen now as we reach out: we'll end up with a stronger plan.
So what will happen next? More information and feedback sessions will be scheduled for January (dates to be determined). I can't predict how the feedback will shape the proposals as they evolve. I do know that since the beginning, Think Tank members have welcomed other viewpoints, even when they called into question their long-held ideas.
I hope our parents, teachers and community members will continue to stay engaged and know that we want their feedback and respect their points of view. Below are some of the themes that are emerging from the feedback we're getting through parent sessions, meetings with staff, emails and phone calls:
- We are fine as we are. Our scores are good, our teachers are talented, our kids are fine. Don't mess with success.
- Slow down. Apart from the value of the ideas one way or another, the community needs more time to become familiar with the concepts and the rationale, and the schools need more time and training to prepare. Consider piloting first so that the concepts have a better chance to succeed.
- This is just what we need. We can't sit still but must continue to improve. The ideas make sense and have worked elsewhere.
- Don't wait...waiting will make change harder and more time will pass before our children benefit from the proposals.
- The ideas are wrong for our district. Most of the objections in this category are about grouping students differently, a fear that children will end up labeled as a certain type of learner or that children will not be able to handle additional transitions in their day.
- Concerns and questions about our at-risk learners, whether they are special education students, learning the English language or simply struggling either academically or socially.
- Parents want to hear what teachers think, and be assured that most of them support these ideas.
- STEAM sounds good. Strengthening our science program and using an integrated approach makes sense.
- Teacher specialization will benefit instruction for children.
- Don't overlook the "whole" child in a quest for academic achievement. The social-emotional connections a child forms at school are key to his or her success.
- The New Common Core (academic standards for learning) is a game-changer and we have to rise to its demands.
- How will children be placed in classes? How will that differ from today's process?
- Take it further. What about a totally ungraded system where children can really move at their own pace. The proposals do not go far enough to give able students the scope they need to really fly.
- We need all-day kindergarten for the future success of our children. Why not group K/1 as well?
- I need to learn more. I'm not sure how I feel until I get a better understanding of the Think Tank concepts.
Sometimes the feedback has been difficult to hear, but we know that all of it comes from the same place-the desire we all share to do the best for our kids.