Wednesday, September 16, 2015

PARCC - ISBE Superintendent's Message with Comments

I wanted to share this email from Dr. Tony Smith, IL State Superintendent, which was sent on Friday, September 11, 2015.  I highlighted some important points, and I hope we all can appreciate that these sentiments are coming directly from Dr. Smith.  I also provided a few [editorial comments] to provide insight into my sentiments about the content of this email.  

I am very proud to work with such a talented group of educators who are focused on improving the quality of learning and helping each student strive for his or her personal greatness.

Dear Colleagues:

On Wednesday, September 16, the Illinois State Board of Education will release the initial, and still incomplete, statewide results from the PARCC test. I want you to get as much information as we can share as soon as possible.  We will continue to update and publish the data as we receive it.  As you are aware, this is the first year you are receiving PARCC results.  It is our collective challenge to explain to principals, teachers, parents, and community members what these scores mean for their schools, their classrooms, and their children. I want to offer a few thoughts to help frame these discussions.

First of all, while the numbers are not final, we know that the percent of students who demonstrate proficiency are likely lower than the percentage of students who were proficient on the previous test. Please let everyone in your communities know that we fully expect results to improve as teachers and students become more familiar with the higher standards. These initial results are simply a new baseline from which we can move forward. I do not want anyone to use these results to shame teachers or schools.  We need to celebrate the good work our teachers and schools are doing to teach the new content our children must have for success in the future.

Second, please help parents understand that the PARCC test is not an “additional” test but that it replaces an existing test with one that is better aligned to the new standards. As you know, Illinois is deeply committed to minimizing testing and reducing test prep that consumes precious learning time. With aligned assessments, curricula and standards, the best preparation for testing is good teaching and the need for multiple tests and test prep is dramatically reduced or entirely eliminated. [I want to emphasize one point - We, as a district and community, will not define the success of a student, teacher, or school on a single test.  We will also not waste valuable learning time on "test-prep." -DDO]

Third, I encourage you to help parents understand that the primary purpose of testing is to help parents and teachers support their children’s learning. Ideally individual student results would be available at the start of the school year so that teachers, parents, and students could use them to inform instruction. This year, we expect individual student results later in the fall.  In subsequent years we expect to have them much sooner. Either way, please help parents understand the primary purpose of this assessment is to help their children. [Dr. Smith is alternating between "testing" and "assessment" in this paragraph.  When discussing assessments (with each other and with parents), I believe it is important to differentiate between "formative" and "summative" assessments. Formative assessments, like the ones teachers use on a regular basis, are much better at informing instruction.  Until we see the reports and scores generated by PARCC, we will not be able to evaluate how well PARCC helps "inform instruction." -DDO]

Finally, please let your principals and teachers know that these results are only one of many factors that inform our accountability system. We will never use test scores in isolation to drive school interventions or personnel decisions. We all understand that no test can ever fully capture the inspiring skills and abilities of a great teacher or the extraordinary benefits and positive impact of a great school. Tests are simply one measure to help track our progress.  Along with other indicators, tests help give us a sense of where and how we are succeeding and where and how we must improve.

In the four months I’ve been in this role, I have had the pleasure of meeting many outstanding educators and students all across Illinois and I can say with absolute confidence that we have the talent, skills, and commitment to meet our highest aspirations. Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of our children. Thanks for doing society’s most important work. Thanks, above all, for caring.


Tony Smith, Ph.D.
State Superintendent of Education

[Very well said Dr. Smith - DDO]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Report to the Board - September 15, 2015

Superintendent’s Report to 
Urbana School District #116 
Board of Education
September 1, 2015

Board Meetings on YouTube
Remember that all Board Meetings are broadcast live on UPTV, Channel 6. They are also posted on the USD116 YouTube Channel within a few days of the meeting.

Board Meeting Topics for 2015-2016
Based on the discussion with the Board at their September 1, 2015 Study Session, we have developed a DRAFT of Board Meeting Topics and Agenda Items for the 2015-2016 School Year. The Study Topics and Administrative Reports are in no particular order and roughly grouped by month. We will spread out the topics in order to prevent one meeting from being excessively long and another excessively short. The attached calendar is a draft and subject to change.

Board Self Evaluation and Goal Setting
The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) recommends that the Board of Education conduct a Self Evaluation on a regular basis. The last time the USD116 BOE completed a Self Evaluation with IASB was in November, 2011. I am asking the Board to set aside time in the next two months to schedule a Self Evaluation with IASB. This process will be beneficial as the district administrative team begins working on revising the Strategic Plan. Lori Johnson will work on scheduling a time with IASB and the BOE to ensure full participation.

Lucia Maldonado, Latino/a Family and Community Liaison, received the Leadership Award from the CU Immigration Forum at their 2nd Annual Awards Celebration on Saturday, September 12.

Janice Mitchell, Family and Community Liaison, received the Winding Ivy Award for Educational Enrichment from the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Epsilon Epsilon Omega Chapter Pink Panache Scholarship Banquet on Friday, September 11.

Urbana Early Childhood School received an Award of Excellence for Inclusion of Children with Special Needs in ExceleRate Illinois. Congratulations to the entire staff at UECS! The award letter stated:
The Awards of Excellence are the highest level of our state’s quality rating and improvement system, and recognize research-based best practice in specific content areas. This Award of Excellence demonstrates your program’s successful implementation of high-quality, inclusive early learning services for children with special needs. Urbana Early Childhood School’s Award of Excellence for Inclusion of Children with Special Needs will remain in effect for up to three years, provided that your program retains its overall designation in the Gold Circle of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois during this time. Awardees will be honored at a reception during the Sharing A Vision Conference in Springfield on September 29, 2015, and we invite you and your team to celebrate your success with your colleagues and state agency officials.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 will be “Dr. Preston Williams Day” at Dr. Williams Elementary School. Dr. Williams will speak at a school assembly at 9AM.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Report to the Board - September 1, 2015

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
September 1, 2015
Board Meetings on YouTube
Remember that all Board Meetings are broadcast live on UPTV, Channel 6. They are also posted on the USD116 YouTube Channel within a few days of the meeting.

Six Day Enrollment
Dr. Ivory-Tatum, Deputy Superintendent reported that K-12 numbers are up by almost 100 students over last year, and that we are at our highest Six Day Enrollment numbers in more than a decade!

Preliminary Food Service Participation Numbers
This year marks the first year of the district’s participation in the Community Eligibility Program through the National School Lunch Program.  All of our families, regardless of income or previous eligibility are allowed to eat a full breakfast or full lunch at no charge (this does not include ala carte items).   As was reported to the BOE in the Spring of 2015, this program would only be financially beneficial to the district if there was an overall 3% increase in participation.  

We have received an initial report from Aramark that compares last year’s first week of school with this year’s first week of school.  We are happy to report that breakfast participation across the district has increased by 16.1% over last year, and lunch participation has increased by 8.7% over last year.  We will keep close track of participation and provide regular updates.

First Student Contract Negotiations
First Student and their drivers are in negotiation talks.  We are optimistic that an agreement will be reached that is agreeable to both sides; however, we are not involved in the process.  First Student will update us with any relevant information.  We have been assured that buses will be running their scheduled routes.  

If families have questions or concerns about First Student bus service, they should start by calling First Student at 217-344-4586.  Families can also call their child(ren)’s school with questions about schedules.

Website and Social Media
This is just a reminder that calendars of events are posted online on the district and building websites which can be accessed at:  UHS Athletic Schedules can be found at:

You can also stay up to the minute by following USD116 on social media:
Facebook: USD116
Twitter: @Urbana116
The Superintendent’s Report to the Board of Education is posted on the Superintendent’s Blog: