Aug. 19, 2013
 Our Vision: Ignite Passion. Inspire Excellence. Imagine Possibilities.

MESSAGE ABOUT TEAM 21 and 21st century learning

From Karen Carlson

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning and Accountability


Dear District 41 families,

As most of you know, a new Team for Excellence called Team 21 was established this spring to focus on bringing effective, innovative instructional practices to the district. In addition, Team 21 replaced the Learning Leadership Team, took on the remaining Think Tank work and was directed to create a recommendation to the Board of Education on the possibility of adding instructional time to the day. Team 21 members met extensively over the summer to tackle this work and will continue to meet throughout the school year; this message is to let you know about its progress to date. I also want to give you a brief overview of professional development for our teachers.


21st century learning: At the end of the school year there was a lot of interest in how the implementation of the 21st century learning (Think Tank) recommendations for teacher specialization in grades 2-5 and multiage literacy/social studies classrooms at 4/5 would be monitored and evaluated. Team 21 has created an approach based on Fidelity (did we do what we said we'd do), Impact (what were the effects), and Satisfaction. It is creating a process for "as we go" problem solving and temperature checks, as well as a framework for longer-term evaluation. Because our long-range goals have not changed, the district already has some processes and instruments in place that Team 21 can use or adapt to measure student achievement and social-emotional learning, and stakeholder satisfaction. We are also developing tools that our teams can use to document and track how things are going over time. We still have some fine-tuning to do, but the basics of a systemic evaluation plan are in place.


PLC work: One of the most important elements of good teaching is the opportunity to collaborate effectively with other teachers; in District 41, we do that through our Professional Learning Communities. In recent years, we devised a schedule that allowed grade-level teams to collaborate daily; starting this year, we have allotted time before students arrive for all PLC work. Having a common daily PLC time for all allows us to establish a rotation for incorporating all of our professionals into these groups, whether they be specialists; special education teachers, ELL teachers, aides; psychologists, or art, music and PE teachers. All will be able to collaborate around the four PLC questions: What do all students need to learn? How will we know if they have learned it? What will we do if they don't? What will we do if they already know it?


Parent-teacher conferences: Teacher specialization in grades 2 - 5 means that parents will have two main teachers to conference with. Team 21 has created a parent-teacher conference approach that accommodates teacher specialization and multiage and is convenient for parents. Conferences in elementary will be 20 minutes for first grade; in grades 2 through 5, parents will have 10 minutes with their child's literacy/social studies teacher and with their child's math/STEAM teacher. Team 21 is exploring scheduling options that might allocate more of the available conference times to evenings and is looking into sign-up options that might be more convenient for parents.


Time in the day recommendation: Team 21 is expecting to have a draft recommendation for the 2014-2015 school year ready to bring to the Continuous Improvement Team by mid-September. Team 21 members recognize the far-reaching impact of any change to the time in the day, such as on busing, on our partner organizations and on family life. Its work on this recommendation is still in progress, but it has established a belief that more time alone will not move us forward, but more time used well may; any time added to the day must be done sensitively with the whole child in mind and recognizing that different children have different needs; and that we will never have "enough" time to do everything we want to, but we can use the time we have more effectively. Again, this recommendation would be for next year, not this year.


Professional development: District 41 places a lot of emphasis on professional development and our Professional Development Team meets regularly to plan learning opportunities and to review feedback from participants. Over the summer, many teachers in grades 2 through 5 took advantage of the additional optional time they were provided to work in teams as they prepared for the coming year. As always, teachers will participate in four full-day Institute Days the week before school starts; some of this time is all-staff sessions, some targets individual roles, and some is time for building staffs to work together. Elementary math/STEAM teachers have a full day focused on teaching math through the Common Core; elementary literacy/social studies teachers have a full day focused on the integrated literacy/social studies modules and planning WIN time. All elementary teachers will have a session on multiage instruction with experienced multiage teachers from Schaumburg District 54 who are familiar with District 41's work. Among the other topics that will be addressed are special education, social-emotional learning, technology, and our English Language Learning programs. Teachers will also have time to work in teams to fine-tune their implementation plans.


Summer is always a time of hard work, planning and collaboration as we get ready for the coming school year. This summer has been no different. We are ready for the new year, we are excited to see your children and we are looking forward to going further on the path of 21st century learning that our Vision, Mission and our Long-Range Plan lay out for us. 



Karen Carlson

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning and Accountability 

Please direct your questions or comments to District 41 Director of Communications and Grants Julie Worthen at We ask that you do not reply directly to this email because such replies cannot be answered. Thank you!