Four of the five Forest Park elementary school  principals spoke to the District 91 school board at its June 12 meeting about the transition to the new curriculum known as “Common Core.”  And the principals acknowledged the year was not easy.

“We spent a lot of time on Common Core,” said Forest Park Middle School Principal Karen Bukowski. “What we’re doing is right, but it’s going to take a lot of time.”

The board heard how the district failed to meet an academic goal of a majority of students hitting targets for academic growth. Student growth is measured by standardized testing at the beginning and end of the year. In reading, the district’s goal was 75 percent of students meeting or exceeding their growth targets. Only 69.39 percent did so, Supt. Lou Cavallo told the board. In math, only 62.29 percent met the growth targets, while the district had a goal of 80 percent.

Principals who presented data were Bill Milnamow of Betsy Ross, Jamie Stauber of Garfield,  Tiffany Brunson of Field-Stevenson and Bukowski of FPMS. Wendy Trotter of Grant-White retired this year and was not present. 

Cavallo said the material got more rigorous more quickly than teachers were expecting. 

“As math moved to the Common Core standards, it became increasingly harder,” he told the board. “In the middle of teachers learning new teaching strategies, it became very difficult.”

The tests, known as MAP, also got more difficult as they incorporated the Common Core learning goals, the board heard. The tests measure the academic growth of students, not their proficiency in a subject. Since incorporating the MAP tests, the district discovered there were a group of students who were highly-proficient, but weren’t challenged – and didn’t show academic growth.

As for math, district teachers have been participating in intensive staff development training from the West 40 Math Initiative, run by the regional education authority. A math specialist has been working with the primary schools, Garfield and Betsy Ross, to get teachers of first through third graders more comfortable with more rigorous math, said Garfield Principal Jamie Stauber. 

“There’s a new enthusiasm for math from students and teachers,” Stauber told the board. Brunson acknowledged some of her teachers at Field-Stevenson approached the math training “with trepidation.” 

Milnamow said the math department at Betsy Ross was working on getting students more involved in “personal goals.” He said the teachers were learning to teach with a process called “cognitively guided instruction” (CGI). CGI focuses more on the process of solving math equations than rote memorization.

At Field-Stevenson,  Brunson said teachers had asked for 70-minute blocks for reading and mathematics, which would be piloted next year. 

“They said they just didn’t have enough time in class to cover the material,” she said. 

Board member Mary Win Connor offered that students would have a hard time sitting through classes that long, but Brunson said different teaching activities break up the class time. Brunson also said the teachers had agreed to more closely track students with “individual data meetings.”

At Forest Park Middle School, Bukowski acknowledged the transition was tougher, but that most students were either in the meet-or-exceed category, or “on the bubble.” 

The board seemed sympathetic, acknowledging the tests got more difficult more quickly as the year progressed. Board members also pointed out the previous year’s math scores had experienced a bump from the low 60 percent range to around 75 percent, and this may have made an 80 percent goal unachievable.

“This year we are going to have to be realistic,” Cavallo said. “We did all the right things, but we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.” 

Foreign language test-program to begin at D91

After years of parent clamoring, Forest Park Elementary School District 91 will offer a single class of foreign language: Intermediate Spanish after school twice a week, Supt. Lou Cavallo told the board June 12. 

The class will be offered Tuesday and Thursday after school, Cavallo said. Tuition will be $120 per month. There was only enough interest to offer a single, intermediate level class, he said. Cavallo said the program was outsourced because it wasn’t cost effective to pay a foreign language teacher. The school day doesn’t have enough instructional time to offer languages during the school day, Cavallo added.

The program will be run by Forest Parker Claudia Medina, who specializes in Montessori foreign language curriculum and instruction. It will take place at Field-Stevenson.

Several board members complained the price was steep, and inquired about board scholarships. Cavallo said scholarships were problematic with a program not run by the district. 

Administrator salaries approved

The D91 school board approved the following administrator salaries for 2014-15:

Robert  Laudadio – Superintendent of Buildings & Grounds, $101,500

William  Milnamow – Principal, Betsy Ross Elementary School, $118,821

Jamie Stauder – Principal, Garfield Elementary School, $115,944

Tiffany Brunson – Principal, Field-Stevenson Elementary School, $119,025

Karen Bukowski – Principal, Forest Park Middle School, $123,815

Joseph Pisano – Assistant Principal, Forest Park Middle School, $66,950

Julie Hantson – Assistant Director of Special Education, $72,100

Michelle Gossett – Director of Special Education, $92,700

Edward Brophy – Assistant Superintendent of Operations/CSBO, $130,294

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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