This column was written by Dr. John Harper, superintendent of Plainfield School District 202, a large portion of which extends into Joliet:
It’s hard to believe, but we’re already about halfway through the first semester.
What’s not hard to believe, is that it has been a very busy start to the school year, most specifically because of the roll out of the new national Common Core State Standards for learning.
District 202 implemented the Common Core standards for math this fall. (English Language Arts comes next year.)
The national Common Core standards were created by a consortium of governors and education leaders nationwide. Forty-five states including Illinois have adopted the Common Core standards with the goal of helping better prepare students to compete in a global economy by increasing the rigor of what they learn, and teaching key information more deeply than has been done before.
We have purposely paid special attention to educating our families about the Common Core standards. The transition from our current learning expectations to the Common Core standards will continue to be a learning experience for everyone involved, and it is important that our families and community understand what is happening in our schools and classrooms.
To that end we held four Community Forums last spring and four more this fall. We applaud and thank the hundreds of parents who attended these forums. For those who could not make it out, we have posted the entire presentation on the front page of the District 202 web site.
The move to the Common Core standards is a monumental shift for public education. As you might expect, the “road to the Common Core” has had its share of bumps.
For example, we know that many of our teachers, particularly at the high school level have to create their own lesson plans and find resources aligned with the Common Core because the major textbook companies haven’t quite caught up with this transition.
As well, the Common Core exams, which will be given for the first time in spring 2015, must be taken online. So many school districts must make a significant investment in technology and professional development.
District 202 this year will spend about $1 million for new computers specifically to support the Common Core assessments. However, like many other educational initiatives, the Common Core does not come with any additional funding.
Still, District 202 has done a good job of adapting to the new learning expectations; finding money to provide resources and training; helping students and staff transition to a new way of teaching and learning; and educating our families about this new learning system.
The “road” to academic excellence isn’t always smooth or straight. Yet District 202’s greatest strength is the dedication that our staff members, students and families demonstrate every day to helping every child learn, grow and succeed, no matter what “bumps” may come up along the way.
Together, we will continue to prepare learners for the future.