The months of January and February typically include a harsh introduction to winter weather in the Midwest. Winter storms and bitterly cold temperatures sometimes result in early dismissals and school cancellations. Sometimes we have earlier inclement weather during the months of November and December so I thought it best to share this now.
When considering whether it is safe enough to conduct school during inclement weather, I typically consider a couple of factors:
• The amount of snowfall or ice and the impact of the storm on road conditions and the district's ability to safely transport students.
• Whether blowing and drifting snow is also predicted along with extremely cold temperatures.
We are fortunate that most of our students do not wait outside for a bus for longer than 10 minutes. Few students walk to and from school. The transportation department staff also takes additional steps on cold weather days including keeping spare buses and vehicles on stand-by in the event of a bus break down.
I recognize the hardship that school cancellations can create for parents. We will make every effort to conduct school whenever we can safely transport students and as long as our staff can also safely travel to and from school. Safety will always be the foremost factor in our decision making. If at all possible we will try to make a decision the night before to allow as much notice to parents as possible.
Part of life in the Midwest is dealing with challenging winter mornings, and I appreciate your support by reminding your children to dress appropriately for the conditions. This includes ensuring that children are wearing long pants, coats, gloves/mittens, and hats.
Thanks for your continued support for Unity Schools!
The annual Illinois School Report Cards released next week will have a new look as the State Board of Education rolls out an updated system for reporting school performance.
The state will assign each public school a rating that sums up its performance based on multiple indicators.
Rather than focus on the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations, the new formula for K-8 schools will now emphasize students’ academic gains in relation to those of other students across the state.
Student growth counts for one-half of a school’s rating at the elementary and middle school level.
Rae Clementz, director of assessment and accountability for the State Board of Education, said educators and school leaders have been asking for an accountability system that speaks to the effectiveness of instruction.
“They want a system that measures the impact of a school on student learning no matter where a student starts,” Clementz said.
The school report cards will continue to report the percentages of students meeting or exceeding expectations, or who fall into other categories.
“We still have standards that we want all students to meet, so proficiency is still included in the system. But growth, at least at the K-8 level, makes up the biggest slice of the pie,” Clementz said. “Growth is important because it does not correlate to income or other types of demographic factors. Every student can and does grow.”
For the 2018 report cards, the state board is using the framework of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind law when Congress in late 2015 reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Every Student Succeeds establishes a 15-year timeline for achieving four academic goals.
By 2032, at least 90 percent of third-grade students should be reading at or above grade level and 90 percent or more of fifth-grade students should meet or exceed expectations in math. At the high school level, 90 percent or more of ninth-grade students should be on track to graduate with their class and 90 percent or more of students should graduate from high school ready for college and career.
Similar to No Child Left Behind, the new accountability system tracks the progress of specific groups that make up the school’s enrollment, including white, black, Hispanic and Asian students as well as low-income students, English language learners and students with disabilities.
Under the new Illinois reporting system, each school will land in one of four categories ranging from exemplary to low performing based on a list of weighted measures. To receive an exemplary rating, a school must be in the top 10 percent of schools in the state. In addition, no student group at the school can perform below the level of the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state.
A school that’s not among the top 10 percent but has no bottom-performing student groups will receive a commendable designation.
Schools with one or more low-performing student groups will be deemed underperforming, unless they fall within the lowest-performing category reserved for the lowest five percent of schools. Underperforming does not matter where your overall score fell. You could be the highest scoring school in the state, but if one of your subgroups falls in that lowest 5 percent, the school designation will be underperforming.
For now, one-half of each high school’s rating will be based on the school’s graduation rate.
Graduation is the driver because the state does not have a growth measure at the high school level. It has not required assessment for high school other than in the junior year.
High School IndicatorsThe addition of the PSAT exam to the high school testing program next spring will allow the state to use student growth as a factor in the future. Ninth-grade students will take the PSAT 8/9 exam and 10th grade pupils will take the PSAT 10. The PSAT is aligned with the SAT exam that Illinois gives to high school juniors.
At both the elementary and high school level, proficiency in English Language Arts and math each will count for 10 percent of a school’s rating. The progress of English learners will count for another 5 percent.
Starting in the 2019-20 year, student performance on a state science test will be a factor and count for 5 percent of a school’s rating. Various measures of school quality and student success, including the results of a school climate survey, will collectively account for 25 percent of each school’s designation in the future.
Elementary/Middle School Indicators Chronic absenteeism will account for 20% of the school’s rating at the elementary level this year as the state focuses a spotlight on students who could become lost in statistics showing an overall high rate of attendance.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of all school days during the prior academic due to both excused and unexcused absences. This amounts to 18 days in a full school year.
One criticism is there will be students who are low-performing because they are chronically absent, and there are high-performing students who are lumped in the same category because their family took an extended vacation. In each case it counts against the district/school.
Ralph Grimm, chief education officer for the State Board of Education, said the new report card contains many new features that are designed to tell a more complete story about each school district and each school in our communities.
The report cards provide information about which schools and students need more resources and support to ensure educational success, he said.
“In addition, the new report card provides for the first time a designation that describes how each school is meeting the needs of all students,” Grimm said. “These designations are based on facts and measurable data that tell a more complete story about what is happening in each of our schools.”
(Excerpts from Chicago Tribune article)
I am pleased to announce that 4 students from Unity High School graduating class of 2018 have been recognized as Illinois State Scholars.The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the state agency committed to helping to make college accessible and affordable for Illinois families, confers this prestigious recognition to top Illinois high school students annually. This year, more than 20,000 outstanding honorees join the other top students who have been honored for their academic achievements since the designation was first introduced in 1958.
Illinois State Scholars represent approximately the top ten percent of high school seniors from 738 high schools across the state. Illinois State Scholars possess strong academic potential and are chosen based on a combination of exemplary ACT or SAT test scores and sixth semester class rank.
The following UHS students were named 2018-19 Illinois State Scholars: Georgia Graham, Amanda Schrader, Amber Shupe, and Cordin Tallcott.
On behalf of CUSD 4, I want to congratulate all of this year’s State Scholars for their exceptional work and wish them much success in their future endeavors.. Thank you also to the teachers, parents, coaches and other mentors who support our students, inspire them, and help them navigate a path to college. You make a tremendous difference not only in our students’ lives, but in improving economic prosperity and building a bright future for our state.
Below are the results from the required testing which was completed in November. None of the sample locations were at or above 5 ppb. (ug/l = microgram per liter which is approximately 1 ppb).
Superintendent of Schools