Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Redefining Ready - The Difference Between "Or" and "And"

At the October 18, 2016 USD116 Board Meeting, I presented information about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - formerly No Child Left Behind (NCLB), now Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  A major component of the legislation deals with redefining NCLB's rigid, test-based accountability system.  ESSA provides states the flexibility of creating an accountability system that uses multiple measures to define student and school success.  This is long overdue.

At a recent LUDA (Large Unit District Association) meeting, I saw a very compelling presentation about the research behind the National College and Career Readiness Indicators - published at www.redefiningready.org.  I will confess that the mission of Redefining Ready resonates with my personal belief that students, schools and communities are/should/can not be defined by a single test score.  For far too long, educators, parents, and policy makers have relied on a single test score to rank and label students, schools, and communities.

The Redefining Ready recommendations are well researched and compelling.  In short, "students are college ready if they meet either the academic indicators OR standardized testing benchmarks listed below:

Academic Indicators
GPA 2.8 out of 4.0 and one or more of the following academic indicators:
  • Advanced Placement Exam (3+)
  • Advanced Placement Course (A, B or C)
  • Dual Credit College English and/or Math (A, B or C)
  • College Developmental/Remedial English and/or Math (A, B or C)
  • Algebra II (A, B or C)
  • International Baccalaureate Exam (4+)
Standardized Testing Benchmarks (minimum score)
  • SAT Exam: Math (530) | Reading and Writing (480)
  • ACT Exam: English (18) | Reading (22) | Science (23) | Math (22)
  • College Readiness Placement Assessment (determined by post-secondary institution)" 

I was pleased to see the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopt a very similar definition for college ready; however, please note that there are subtle differences.  ISBE's proposed definition for College Readiness requires:

"GPA 2.8 out of 4.0 and Readiness college entrance score on the SAT 
AND two or more Academic Benchmarks Or Industry Credential: 
  • Industry Credential 
  • Dual Credit Career Pathway Course 
  • Advanced Placement Exam (3+) 
  • Advanced Placement Course (A, B or C) 
  • Dual Credit College English and/or Math (A, B or C) 
  • College Developmental/Remedial English and/or Math (A, B or C) 
  • Algebra II (A, B or C) 
  • International Baccalaureate Exam (4+) 

AND two or more Behavioral and Experiential Benchmarks 
  • 90% Attendance 
  • 25 hours of Community Service (or military service) 
  • Workplace Learning Experience 
  • Two or more organized Co-Curricular Activities (including language and fine arts)"

The difference between "AND" and "OR"

ISBE’s proposed accountability system will guarantee that fewer students will be labeled “ready for college” than our current single test system.  By changing the word "or" to "and" in their proposed accountability rules, ISBE is creating a host of new inequities and inequalities in how they label students.  I am all for setting high expectations for students; however, those expectations should be based on evidence.  There is no evidence that says a student has to have a high GPA, and an "entrance score on the SAT," and...  ISBE's system will reinforce the narrative that our schools and our students are failing.  This is not an accurate portrayal of our our students or or education system.  In the USA, we have more students graduating from high school than at any other time in history (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-high-school-graduation-rate-hits-new-record-high-0).

The research is clear that standardized test scores are not the best predictor of college success (http://www.redefiningready.org/research-college-ready/ or better yet, use Google Scholar and do your own research about this topic).  Our students really are more than a score.

There will be many school districts in Illinois that will not be able to have any student reach the ISBE “college ready” benchmark, because the district doesn’t offer AP, IB, or Dual Credit options.  Does that mean that the valedictorian of a school district that doesn't offer these advanced classes is not ready for college? That is ridiculous.  

I encourage all of you to read the Redefining Ready proposals for logical and evidence-based accountability solutions for ESSA.  I then encourage all of you to ask ISBE, why they changed the "or" to an "and."  


Report to the Board of Education - October 18, 2016

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
October 18, 2016

Academic Monogram
On Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 7PM in Oscar Adams Gym, Urbana High School will be recognizing sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have excelled academically.  It is a time we not only celebrate the success of our students, but students are also encouraged to invite teachers who made a difference in their educational careers.

Principal Appreciation Week
October 16-22, 2016 is Principal Appreciation Week in Illinois.  We want to extend a great deal of thanks and appreciation to all of the outstanding principals in USD116.  They work hard every day to ensure our students, families, and educators are engaged and learning together.  Thank you principals!

Parent Teacher Conference Reminder
Parent Teacher Conferences will be held on the evening of October 27 and morning of October 28.  Please contact your child’s school if you would like to meet with her/his teacher(s).

USD116 Facilities Planning Committee
The USD116 Facilities Planning Committee will begin meeting next week on Tuesday, October 25 at 6PM in the Board Room.  There will be two meeting per month except in December, when there will be just one meeting.  All meetings will be open to the public and a schedule will be posted soon.

Kudos and Celebrations:

Congratulations to Coach Wayne Mammen, who was presented the Lifetime Service Award by the Illinois Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.  Coach Mammen was the UHS Wrestling Coach from 1970-1990.  Under his guidance, UHS Wrestlers won the Regional Title nine times in a row from 1982-1990.  In 2013, the Board of Education named the UHS Wresting Room after Coach Mammen.  http://www.news-gazette.com/sports/prep-sports/wrestling/2016-10-15/ex-tiger-mammen-receiving-hall-call.html

Congratulations to UHS Junior, Saskia Bakker, who was named the 40 North ACE Student Award recipient.  This award is usually recieved by college students, but Saskia was chosen for, “striving to promote understanding and appreciation of the local arts community by creating the Undercut Collective, an organization with the mission to create shows that are accessible and comfortable environments for teens.”  http://40north.org/programs/ace-awards

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

School Safety and Clown Rumors

I sent the following email to all USD116 Families today in response to the internet rumors about scary clowns threatening children and schools.

Good Afternoon:

The Urbana School District 116 is aware of rumors on social media regarding non-specific threats and reported sightings of creepy clowns in the area. As always, the District works closely with local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and well-being of our school. We have been in close communication with Urbana Police about these rumors. At this time, no credible reports have been noted regarding threats to Urbana schools or students. The safety of our students is our top priority. Should you have any concerns, please feel free to contact me, your child’s principal, or Urbana Police.


Dr. Donald D. Owen


Buenas tardes:

El Distrito Escolar de Urbana 116 esta consiente de los rumores en los medios sociales relacionados a amenazas especificas y reportes de payasos en el área. Como siempre, el distrito esta trabajando en conjunto con la policía local para asegurar la seguridad de nuestra escuela. Hemos mantenido comunicación directa con la Policía de Urbana sobre estos rumores. En este momento, no se han notado reportes creíbles hacia estudiantes de Urbana o escuelas de nuestro distrito. La seguridad de nuestros estudiantes es nuestra máxima prioridad. Si usted tiene alguna preocupación por favor no dude en ponerse en contacto con el director de su escuela o la polcia de Urbana.


Dr. Donald D. Owen