Monday, November 24, 2014

#FutureReady Superintendents' Summit

On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, I was invited to participate in the US Department of Education's #FutureReady Summit as part of President Obama's "ConnectED to the Future" initiative.  It was an honor and a privilege to participate in the summit at the Whitehouse.  I learned a great deal from my fellow superintendents who were present, and I left excited by the vision and support from the US Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

Part of the day included remarks by President Obama, which included a ceremonial signing of the #FutureReady Pledge by more than 100 superintendents who were present (watch the President's remarks).  Below is the digital copy of the pledge that signed at the Whitehouse.

The President assigned all of the superintendents homework.  We are expected to take the seven concepts contained in the pledge and create a personal action plan.  My approach to this homework will be to engage students, families, and members of the community to create a shared vision of what it means to be #FutureReady for USD116 students, educators, families, and community.

During the next two to three months, I will be starting to gather information and engage with a variety of groups to get their ideas and input.  I will also be posting updates specifically related to educational technology and my #FutureReady vision for USD116.  I encourage you to join the discussion by emailing me, following me on Twitter (@dowendo), and following my blog.


Monday, November 17, 2014

CU One-to-One Mentoring

The CU One-to-One Mentoring Program is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2014.  For those of you who are not familiar with CU One-to-One, it is a school based mentoring program that pairs students with adult mentors who meet once a week for about an hour.  Most mentor pairs stay together until the student graduates from high school, and many remain in close contact much longer than that.

In the past 20 years, literally thousands of success stories have unfolded.  The rewards of building a meaningful friendship with a student are immeasurable.

On Thursday, November 13, 2014, the community celebrated the 20th Anniversary of CU One-to-One and its founder, Ms. Barbara Linder, who has lead the program since its inception, and has created a model of school based mentoring that knows no bounds.  Thank you Barbara!

If you would like more information... If you are interested in becoming a mentor... or if you would like to support the program or its scholarship fund... Please visit the program's website at:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Illinois School Report Cards

On October 31, 2014, the Illinois State Board of Education released the 2014 Illinois School Report Cards.  You can see the new layout and redesigned school information at

The new report cards have been unveiled at a time of great change regarding student assessment and school accountability.  States and districts are moving away from single test accountability measures that we have used for the past decade.  Schools are focused more and more on student growth rather than student attainment.  

As State Superintendent, Dr. Christopher Koch, stated in his weekly update:
The assessment scores released on Friday were the last ones using the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE). This school year we begin administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams. Scores from the tests administered this year will be used to set the baseline for the measures in years to come.
The new Illinois Report Card simplifies school data into a dashboard of key data points. The new layout stresses that it is reporting multiple metrics that indicate school success. Unfortunately, during this time of change in state assessments, the new report card is using old data, and not doing a very good job putting the data into context. For example, no where on the report card does it say that the cut scores on the ISAT (3rd - 8th Grade state assessment) were changed in 2013, so the scores for all schools look very different in 2012 and 2013. The state also changed the formulas for calculating graduation rates and chronic truants in 2012, but that information is not found on the new school report card.

I presented the attached presentation to the the Urbana School District Board of Education at their November 4, 2014 Study Session.  

The new report card has a great deal of potential; however, while the state assessments are being redesigned to align to the new Illinois State Standards, the data on the report cards will not be as valuable as talking to your teacher, your child, and the principal of your child’s school.  

Educators use and share much more data than is contained in the school report cards.  We do not wait for state test scores to begin planning and improving learning and opportunities for our students.  Our teachers use a variety of formative assessments to help them plan instruction and challenge students.  I encourage parents to work with your child and child's teachers to support learning and inquiry. Our mission is to ensure that all learners acquire knowledge, develop skills, and build character to achieve personal greatness and help create a better global society by providing innovative, comprehensive programs, respecting individual learning styles and cultural differences, and fostering caring and nurturing relationships, while engaging each student, every family, and the entire community.  That is what we will continue to do with your help, support, and engagement.  


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Winter Weather Closing Information

Winter is arriving in Illinois this week.  Forecasts are predicting very cold air and even... snow!  While the forecasts do not predict any weather that threatens to close schools, now is a good time to remind people about school how school closing information will be communicated.

In the event that we need to close schools for any reason, we have a variety of ways to communicate that information to our families and staff members.  If you are parent, guardian or staff member of USD116, you will receive a phone call and email alert as soon as the decision is made.  Please make sure that your phone and email information are correct in Skyward.  If you are a parent or guardian and do not have Skyward Family Access set up, you can do so at your child's school office - please bring a photo ID.

We will also use social media to announce school closings.  On Twitter, you can follow me, @dowendo, or the school district at @Urbana116.  School closings will also be posted on the USD116 Facebook page:  You can also check the school district website for information about school closings:

The school district also contacts all major news outlets, and you can check local news media websites.


Announcing the Superintendent's Blog

Welcome to my official Superintendent's Blog.  I plan to use this space to communicate with parents, families, students, teachers, and anyone else who is interested.  We are setting up this blog to automatically cross publish into the USD116 Website under "Recent Posts."  You can follow my blog directly at or just catch the updates on the district website at  Most of my posts will be strictly informational or public service announcements.  I welcome feedback and questions.