By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
The City Schools District 80 Board of Education learned about the educational focus for the upcoming school year during the first part of its annual retreat.
Current and some outgoing board members, as well as three of four potential board members — Cleo Holt, Jamie Nunnery and Brishanta Lee — heard from Dr. Dee Ann Schnautz, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment about the Fiscal Year 2013 Focus.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will be taught a fully implemented plan for balanced literacy and Illinois common core standards, Schnautz said.
“Balanced literacy is moving away from the hardback teacher’s book and instead of teaching to the story, teaching to help students understand,” she explained. She said each day, English and Language Arts lessons will feature 10 minutes of read aloud time, with teachers reading from literature at or above students’ reading level.
“We want them to hear and enjoy what quality reading is,” she said. She added that lessons will include a focus on the skill of the month, which could be questioning, summarizing or predicting or others. Students will then be placed into reading groups based on their reading level, and later will also have independent reading practice, working on their reading stamina.
She said next school year is the fifth year in a five-year plan to implement balanced literacy at the kindergarten through fifth grade levels.
Part of that process, she added, has been using district resources to purchase quality fiction and nonfiction stories to be the focus of the balanced literacy program.
Illinois common core standards are a plan for a student’s entire educational career focusing on college career readiness, Schnautz said.
She said students were having trouble with the transition from grade or middle school to high school, and colleges were finding students not ready for college when they arrived.
A consortium to organize a new educational system was held and now 47 states in the U.S. are in the process of implementing the common core standards. It is a requirement from the Illinois State Board of Education that students be educated based on these standards and goals, Schnautz said.
So far, common core standards have been set in English and language arts and mathematics, but standards for science and social studies are in the works as well, she said.
“It’s interesting to see what’s shifted,” she said. “There are fewer, cleaner, higher standards, and much more vigor. You’re not just covering the subject, you’re in-depth. It’s mastery of the subject.”
Today, the District 80 Board of Education will continue its annual retreat with its regular board meeting beginning at 8:15 a.m. at the District 80 office.