New school report cards (Common Core)

Stephanie Stuart announced the new report cards (and “structure”) actively being both developed and implemented via the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE):

The article gives a little introduction and explains some things parents might expect. Stephanie also highlights several things like how the overall graduation rate has increased by about 5 points, how two schools made AYP and how the district is embracing these changes. Note, this is not about the new Common Core report cards teachers use to assess and evaluate students.


Common Core is a funny thing; I think there is a lot of good ideas and a lot of good potential, but I am also hearing that it is being rushed to implementation way too fast. I intend to write another post that delves into this a little more deeply. This post is about the school report card.

I was not able to find the Unit 4 report card on the ISBE website, yet. The state report card is available. Also, the Illinois Interactive Report Card (IIRC) website has been revamped and is MUCH BETTER! I encourage you to check it out – the Unit 4 report card gives you a lot of “fast facts” that are relevant and some (more to come?) offer relatively easy drilldowns for more information:

Here is a VIMEO of the new report card:

The Vimeo video makes  a point in regards to using the new report card to learn about the school climate and learning environment. I found that to be a very interesting idea, yet was quite disappointed when I tried to find it. After a bit of digging, I did eventually find a PDF listed under School Environment that shows the questions and responses to the 5Essentials survey, from both teachers and students. However, not all surveys are available for all schools (I did some spot checking, not a comprehensive search).

Overall, I am very much liking the new version of the Illinois Report Card website. Looking to dive into it a bit more.

What's wrong with this picture?

As a child (and even as an adult, truth be told), I rather enjoyed the “What’s wrong with this picture?” on the back of Highlights magazines. There is a picture with several humorous “impossibilities” or “extremely unlikely” nuances, for instance, a fish walking a dog. Or a car with a doughnut wheel. Or a fire hydrant spitting out grape juice.

When looking at the school district, there are several things that just seem wrong. Unfortunately, they are far more serious. Read the rest of this entry »

Busy busy busy

For the past couple of weeks, I have been stumbling upon various initiatives, groups and “works in progress”. A whole lot of good things going on. And it leaves my head spinning – who can possibly keep track of all this?

[Warning, the following is link-heavy]

In previous posts, I mentioned the ACCESS Initiative, CUSF, IIRC and StudentsFirst. Recently, I have come across some more.

Voices for Illinois Children: I forgot who mentioned this to me (maybe papaathome?). I really like what I read on the website so I subscribed to the RSS feed. They recently published “Great at 8“, and again, am really impressed by what these folks are putting out. The focus of this particular paper is to highlight how important it is to build a solid foundation for a child’s education future. This foundation is not merely the ability to take a standardized test well, but moreoever having the tools and skillsets trained from an early age to deal with many of life’s issues. I recently emailed several of the folks involved with this project, and the Director responded with a thoughtful summary of what Voices does; in particular, they raise awareness and encourage citizens to become involved by contacting all forms of elected officials and representatives in an effort to persuade them to lobby on behalf of our children. While I agree that this is probably one of the most direct forms of active participation we can take, some times it feels like a no-win situation, given our national tendency to dump (waste) money in pork-barrel projects, paying off a billion+ interest charges on our debt and a crazy Defense budget.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: This was a tricky one to include. Let me say that I am using this as a segue to two other somethings more local and currently in-use.

My wife and I caught this on TV a couple days ago. As some of the reviewers have stated, this show might be sliding down a slippery slope with their recent inability to connect to school systems and attract large crowds. But what I took away from this idea is very similar to messages I have heard from documentaries like “Food, Inc” – basically, we are feeding ourselves absolute CRAP! Worse, some of it is federally subsidized crap. So this got me looking around to see what Unit 4 is doing about food….

CATCH: (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) This is not new at all, but my questions led me to how Unit 4, and especially Carrie Busey, has embraced CATCH. Our family has learned about foods that fall into three buckets; “Go”, “Slow” and “Whoa”. When talking with the CATCH coordinator at Carrie Busey (Ms. Wendy Starwalt), I was impressed by her passion for the program, but also her realism and honesty as she admitted various challenges. For instance, the economy and lack of state funding is making it impossible to implement all the CATCH ideas fully. I also made contact with the District Food Coordinator (Ms. Mary Davis) – she will be getting back to me later as this is an extremely busy time for them, but she seems very upbeat and excited. Ms. Starwalt had a lot of good things to say about Ms. Davis and all she has done in our district; for example, “She has consistently changed us to whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegtables as much as possible”.

Ready. Set. Grow!: While this did not directly come from my Jamie Oliver search, it did catch my eye from a recent post about snacking (loving the RSS feed). This is very much in line with the “Great at 8” idea, focusing on early childhood development.

PTA Council (no website?): As I become more involved in the school system, as I read more blogs and whitepapers, as I talk with more parents, teachers and administrators, I cannot help but want to make a positive impact on our society, specifically upon our children. When talking recently with a PTA Council member whom I have seen at many Unit 4 functions, I was impressed by her dipiction of what the PTA Council does. Believe you me, the last thing I want is yet another meeting! But I am now exploring this as a possible way to invest my time and energy. I like how the PTA Council represents all the district PTAs, and how they play a big role in keeping the Board and the Administration accountable to various promises and issues.

In light of the the last election, I really did not like character assassinations that went on (the NG’s treatment of Lynn Stuckey and even the UC-IMC, which I respect and like, did some dirt-digging on Chalifoux). I do not like the highly political nature of how the Board turned out, and as much as I want to become involved, I have a hard seeing myself sitting in all those meetings. If anything, I would want to totally reform how the Board interacts with the community and the Administration, but I simply cannot carve the necessary time away from family right now. So my next option is two-fold; 1) maintain my contacts and keep badgering (*sly grin*) the members individually and as a group, 2) join the PTA Council.

In some ways, all that you read above is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other efforts, both at the individual level and at a larger, coordinated group level, going on in our school district that it is staggering. I chatted with the District’s Community Relations Coordinator (Ms. Lynn Peisker) about how it would be a full-time job simple to maintain an index of it all. She has been doing an excellent job of highlighting various schools, staff, students and programs, and I look forward to seeing how she continues to put a bright face on Unit 4.

PS – Also, I realize that I only use two wordpress “categories” for all my posts. I have thought about using many more and retrofitting past posts, but…. I simply have not done it yet. 🙂