Students will soon have to prove they’re ready for college, careers

Belleville District 201 leaders have some concerns about new legislation that will impose benchmarks for high schoolers to prove they’re ready for college and a career.

Superintendent Jeff Dosier thinks it would be difficult for some students to check all of the boxes that the Every Student Succeeds Act asks them to check. President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law last year, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Illinois Board of Education has released the first draft of its plan, to which school districts across the state are responding.

“I think it’s a good start and we just need to provide some feedback,” Dosier told the District 201 School Board during its Monday night meeting.

Dosier said the Illinois Board of Education needs an “in the trenches view” from District 201 about what its students are capable of. The state board is asking for comments from school districts as it reviews the 1,000-page law, the majority of which doesn’t take effect until 2017-18.

The District 201 board is most concerned about the “Illinois College and Career Ready Indicator Framework” section, which includes the following benchmarks:

▪  GPA of 2.8 out of 4.0

▪  Readiness college entrance score on the SAT

And two or more of the following:

▪  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 from the following:

▪  90 percent attendance

▪  25 hours of community service (or military service)

▪  Workplace learning experience

▪  Two or more organized co-curricular activities (including language and fine arts)

Director of Student Services Melissa Taylor said during the meeting she’s worried about special education students and whether these standards are appropriate for them.

“Are we once again setting that special education group up for failure?” Taylor said.

Dosier said a previous draft of the state board’s plan stated “or two or more of the following” instead of “and two or more of the following,” making the benchmarks less rigid. He suggested that the District 201 board recommend a change back to “or.”

“Research doesn’t necessarily indicate that all of the factors that are on this list are needed to prove that a student is college and career ready,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Every Student Succeeds Act does the following, among other things:

▪  Upholds protections for disadvantaged and high-need students.

▪  Requires that all students be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them for college and careers.

▪  Ensures that information is provided to educators, families, students and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.

▪  Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect change in lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.

The consequences for being identified as a low-performing school haven’t been spelled out yet, Taylor said.

The state board has drafted some boundaries for which schools would be named low-performing, though: the lowest 5 percent of the schools or schools with graduate rates below 67 percent. Taylor said there is also mention of a “consistently under-performing subgroup,” which she said could be troubling for special education students.

“That is sort of inherit with disabilities,” she said.

Taylor said when students are consistently doing well on tests, they’re moved out of the special education programs in the district.

“It’s hard for IEP (Individualized Education Program) teams to know what to do if there are harsh penalties,” she said.

New greenhouse?

District 201 is considering building a greenhouse on the Belleville West High School campus.

The estimated cost is between $50,000 and $70,000, Dosier said, and it would be paid for through grants. The project came before the school board Monday night, and it voted to accept bids not to exceed $70,000.

Dosier said bids for the project are expected to come in Tuesday morning.

New classes

The school board also voted to add two new advanced placement courses in the district. One is an AP environmental science class and the other is an AP social studies course.

“The new courses are things that we think make our curriculum a little bit stronger,” Dosier said.

New personnel

The board approved the hiring of the following teachers, assistants and workers Monday night:

▪  Phillip Constantine, full-time social studies teacher at Belleville West.

▪  Mark Brackman, part-time social studies teacher and teacher assistant at Belleville West.

▪  Jessica Mendiola, special education teacher at Belleville East.

▪  Carl Bauer, teacher assistant for the life skills program at Belleville East.

▪  Geri Lowe, teacher assistant at Belleville East.

▪  Christina Maxey, office occupations worker in the Belleville East counseling office.

New club

Students at Belleville West will get to start a new club called Helping Other People Excel, or H.O.P.E. for short.

Dosier said the club will integrate special education students with other students in social events. It was approved by the board Monday.

The District 201 School Board meets next at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at 920 North Illinois St. in Belleville.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes