|Meet Our Superintendent|
Special Announcements and Resources:
The summer months are a mixed blessing for educators, students and their families. The lazy, relaxed, warm days we anticipate during the winter can quickly become a time of boredom for children and a source of stress for families seeking a safe, reliable and affordable environment for students. Educators, meanwhile, use valuable instructional time when school begins in August reviewing material children have forgotten since spring.
Beginning this summer, the Peoria Public Schools will offer summer school to all students. The Monday- Thursday full-day program will include breakfast and lunch. Morning hours will focus on academic instruction and afternoon hours will be devoted to physical fitness and fine arts activities including soccer, dance, art, golf, tennis, field trips and guest speakers. Students must participate in the morning sessions to participate in the afternoon sessions. The summer school day will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.
Kindergarten through 2nd grade students can choose to enroll in morning reading instruction during June and morning math instruction during July or they can enroll in both sessions.
Third through 8th grade students will focus on science workshops and individualized online instruction during the morning hours. This program runs from June 5 through July 27.
In addition, an accelerated algebra I program will be offered to 20 students currently in 7th grade. These students will work on algebra I concepts with both personal and online instruction. This program will be limited to 20 students.
As in past summers, English Language Learners (ELL) students in grades 1 – 8 will gather at Glen Oak Community Learning Center. Locations for the other programs are still being finalized.
Taking advantage of the Summer School options can make a vast difference in a child’s academic progress during the school year. I encourage families to visit www.peoriapublicschools.org/summerschool for details and to register online.
Last week our students’ progress reports were sent home, signaling the halfway point of the third quarter. The third quarter will end on March 10 and Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Thursday evening, March 23 and Friday morning, March 24.
Each Peoria Public School building will be hosting an Organ and Tissue Donor Registration Drive during the March Parent-Teacher conference.
The Organ and Tissue Donor Registration Drive is chaired by Lindbergh Middle School special education teacher Christine Hickman and Mike Plunkett, former Peoria Public School principal and the recipient of a donor heart.
During Parent-Teacher conferences, each school will have 3-5 laptop or iPad stations available to register as an organ donor as well as volunteers to assist.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, over 119,000 men, women and children in the United States are currently on the national transplant list. Another person is added to the list every 10 minutes and 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant. Almost 2,000 on the organ donation waiting list are children under age 18 and almost 70,000 of those on the waiting list are ethnic minorities. One donor can provide up to eight lifesaving organs but only three in every 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation. Almost 82 percent of patients on the organ waiting list are in need of a kidney. Eleven percent need a liver transplant and 3.2 percent need a heart transplant.
While 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation, only 48 percent are actually registered as organ donors. Events such as Parent-Teacher conferences are an excellent opportunity to encourage people to register as tissue and organ donors.
Hickman has been personally touched by this issue through Plunkett, a family member who will need a kidney and a former student who died before receiving a donor kidney.
Peoria Public School families will be receiving more information each week about Organ and Tissue Donation. We welcome members of the public to stop at a Peoria Public School during Parent-Teacher Conference to take advantage of this opportunity to register.
Greater Peoria Works is a free online job-posting tool designed to connect students with internship and job shadowing opportunities. By participating in Greater Peoria Works, business can:
The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council offers seminars to introduce the program to employers on the fourth Tuesday of each month, 10 - 11 a.m., 101 SW Water St. Employers can bring mobile devices to walk through the program during the presentation.
The Peoria Public Schools and Richwoods High School are proud of the rich diversity of the students we serve. We endeavor to host events which introduce students to that diversity such as this morning’s event described in the Journal Star. We are proud that Richwoods High School students embraced this learning opportunity.
Next Wednesday, February 8 at 6 p.m., the Richwoods High School International Baccalaureate (IB) Diplommae students will host their annual International Night, another occasion to highlight our diversity.
Students throughout the Peoria Public Schools will be hosting events celebrating Black History Month. This year, Richwoods High School’s Black History Month event is being planned and coordinated by members of the school’s Minority Academic Advancement Project (MAAP).
The Peoria Public Schools facilities improvement plans will take another step forward after the February 6 Board of Education meeting. Our team is finalizing a five-year timeline and budget for improvements. Each of our 27 school will be impacted. Beginning in April 2017 and continuing through 2021, our physical facilities will receive much-needed improvement thanks to voters approving the County Facility Sales Tax in November.
The renovations will make a vast difference in the environmental quality our children and staff members spend their days. The largest expenditures will be for HVAC and roofing improvements. Improvements in energy-efficient lighting, building automation, windows and exterior doors are an investment which will reduce energy spending over the long term.
Much like we have been working on with limited funding in recent years, we will continue to ensure the safety of students and staff with security and technology upgrades. (http://tinyurl.com/jxgqq3t) At Von Steuben Middle School, a parent drop-off lane will keep children safer and relieve congestion.
Some improvements will be more visible than others. Our STEM- and healthcare-driven economy demand state-of-the-art science lab facilities and Manual Academy and Richwoods High School labs will each receive a $500,000 upgrade. Peoria High received new science labs just a couple of years ago.
Also, as Richwoods High School students and families can attest, the auditorium seats are well-past their prime after several decades of fall plays, spring musicals, student assemblies and annual talent shows. We plan to have new seats installed in time for the 2017 fall play.
Over the next five years, Peoria Public Schools facilities improvements will create hundreds of local construction jobs. On Monday, the Board of Education will finalize the projects and timelines that will be funded. We continue to be grateful to the voters of Peoria County for approving the school facilities sales tax in November and are committed to being wise and transparent stewards of taxpayer investment while creating the optimal learning environment for our children. As we get started on projects in a couple of months, we plan to work with the Chamber of Commerce to actively track the projects and monitor our expenses and job creation numbers. Check our website or the Chamber’s website for additional information in the next couple of months.
On Monday, I led Illinois Secretary of Education Susan Purvis, her colleague Sara Shaw, managing director of K-12 strategy, and State Senator Chuck Weaver on a tour of five Peoria Public Schools. The tour aimed to show some ways our District is meeting the diverse needs of our students.
Our first stop was Knoxville Center for Student Success (KCSS). As KCSS Principal Eric Thomas and I noted at KCSS’ December graduation ceremony, the school’s success illustrates that where education is concerned, one size does not fit all.
KCSS serves 128 high school students. These students face unusual and daunting life challenges, making success at their traditional high school elusive. Many are parents and have other family responsibilities and jobs. Some have fallen behind academically due to behavior issues, illness or family hardship. Some simply have been unable to negotiate the large class sizes and relative anonymity of the District’s larger high schools.
Through small class sizes, a nine-period school day, high teacher-student ratio and a combination of compassion, humor, discipline and tough love, KCSS staff give students a high level of personal attention and support to achieve graduation. The school has a no-cell-phone policy and conversation and behavior is carefully monitored. Fewer distractions allow students to earn missing credits at a rapid pace through traditional classroom and individual computer work.
This semester KCSS has extended its hours to help students earn high school credits. Previously, the school day ended at 2:30 p.m. Now, students can arrive as late as lunchtime and stay until 5:45 p.m. or can arrive at the customary 7:30 a.m. start and work through the longer school day. The three extra hours allow students with scheduling conflicts due to employment and childcare issues to work toward earning their high school diploma. This year eight KCSS students also are enrolled in Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) programs, enabling them to graduate from high school with employment skills they can use immediately.
Extended school hours are another example of the services KCSS staff provides its unique student population. At times, staff members have helped homeless students find emergency housing, clothing and food vouchers. Students can receive individual counseling, small-group counseling, anger management and parenting classes to help them overcome obstacles to graduation. Community organizations including the Tri-county Urban League, fraternities, sororities and churches, provide tutoring, life skills training, college readiness and employment services. In fact, Senator Weaver who accompanied this week’s tour is familiar with KCSS. Weaver and his wife, Laurie, have taught cooking classes to the school’s students.
KCSS is a prime example of how the Peoria Public Schools are providing a world-class education for every student.
In buildings throughout the Peoria Public Schools, hallway bulletin boards illustrate our focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL), the second pillar of the strategic plan. The bulletin boards show opposite approaches to problems and challenges: a fixed mindset approach and a growth mindset approach. Each day, children pass the boards comparing sayings like: “This is too hard.” vs. “This may take some time and effort.” and “I will never be as smart as ________________.” vs. “I’m going to figure out what he/she does and try it.”
The more optimistic and empowered statements demonstrate a growth mindset – a key component of developing healthy social emotional responses to life. The bulletin boards are just one way principals and staff members are developing a positive growth mindset culture within each school. Staff members have other creative ways to promote positive SEL in their schools and classrooms.
For example, Kellar Primary School interventionist Lisa Gifford and principal Ken Turner instituted a monthly school-wide read to target specific fixed-mindset behaviors in students and transform those to growth-mindset behaviors. Gifford chooses each month’s read-aloud book from a list of books that illustrate growth-mindset attributes including making mistakes, resilience, persistence and hard work. The picture books are chosen based on Kellar data showing that some behaviors such as bullying, disrespect and being off-task typically occur at predictable times of the year.
Some of the books used this year are Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.
When each month’s book is selected, Gifford provides teachers with a digital copy and resources. She also creates an interactive display of that month’s books in the school foyer, which students use as a pre- or post-reading activity. Each teacher develops classroom activities appropriate for their students based on the month’s book. On the day of the school-wide read, Mr. Turner introduces the book during morning announcements. By having all students in the school read the same book on the same day, followed by activities tailored to the book’s lesson helps the children internalize the positive message. Gifford reports that students enjoy viewing the different grade level projects and activities. Data is showing that promoting a growth mindset on a school-wide basis is helping decrease problematic behavior.
Another component of Social Emotional Learning, as defined by the Illinois State Board of Education SEL Learning Standards is: Using social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships. Thomas Jefferson Primary School teacher Jane Bielenberg, with help from a Peoria Public Schools Foundation classroom grant, has developed Buehler Buddies, a program to enable her first grade students to develop friendships with residents of Buehler Home, located next to the school. Once each month, Bielenberg’s students walk to Buehler to visit with residents. The children and older adults play games, read books together, make crafts and, for their holiday visit, sang carols. The visits have become a special occasion for students and Buehler Home residents.
Efforts like these throughout the Peoria Public Schools, focusing on Social Emotional Learning and developing a positive growth-mindset, are building healthy and emotionally resilient children.
High School course registration is beginning for the 2017-2018 school year! It’s valuable for all staff to understand what is being offered at the high school level so that conversations with students at any grade level can be meaningful in providing informed guidance about their future.
As a District, we continue to work to create programs for our students which will result in strong employment skills and well-paying jobs in the short term, plus continued opportunities for life-long learning and advancement in the long term.
We are particularly excited to add a two-year Law Enforcement program at Woodruff Career and Technical Center. The program consists of nine dual credit courses taught by Illinois Central College (ICC) adjunct faculty who also work in law enforcement. Beginning with the class of 2019, currently in their sophomore year, graduating students in the Law Enforcement program will need only six additional credit hours to receive their law enforcement certificate from ICC, and may then continue to work toward a transfer degree. Classes in the program introduce the criminal justice system, police operations and emergency medical responder.
The Law Enforcement Program joins the diverse offerings of career and technical programs at WCTC: barbering, hair braiding, cosmetology, construction, auto body, culinary arts, health occupations and emergency services (EMT/Fire Science).
Pathways To Your Future, the high school curriculum guide is now being distributed to rising 9th through 12th grade students. The guides enable counselors, students and families develop a high school course plan following one of 16 Career Clusters. Students have many tools provided by the Peoria Public Schools and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council to determine their interests and devise a plan to succeed. Using the internet-based Career Cruising career exploration and planning tool, students and parents complete an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) which includes high school coursework and out-of-classroom learning opportunities such as mentoring and job shadowing related to the student’s interests. Each student’s ILP is updated annually and parents can monitor their student’s progress through the Career Cruising Parent Portal.
Peoria Public School high school students and their families have several choices to get a step-ahead in earning college credits which can result in significant savings in college tuition. Students can earn college credit through Advanced Placement (AP) classes and through ICC Early College Credit (formerly dual credit) classes. The Early College Credit program allows Peoria Public School juniors and seniors to take classes at the ICC East Peoria or North campuses to both earn college credit and participate in an experience that increases the likelihood they will be successful when they attend college because they are already accustomed to the pace and expectations of college work.
Rising high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and their families, can learn more about these opportunities at next week’s Parent University on Thursday, January 19 at ICC North Campus starting at 5:00 p.m., and at the three high school curriculum fairs on January 24, 25 and 26. All students and their families are strongly encouraged to attend prior to registering for their 2017-2018 classes. Online course registration will conclude at the end of the month.
It is no secret that students are more enthused, engaged and motivated to succeed when they see relevance in what they are learning. I believe that when students and their families can clearly envision a path from high school coursework to an obtainable, sustainable and fulfilling future, our attendance and graduation rates rise along with the success of our greater community.
In April 2017, all Illinois students classified as 11th grade students in the second semester of the 2016-2017 school year will take the SAT or the DLM test. The SAT is now required by the state for a high school diploma. The DLM is a requirement for 11th grade students if it is part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
In previous years, students have been required to take the PARCC and/or ACT assessments to complete Illinois requirements for a high school diploma. Going forward, the SAT replaces the PARCC and ACT for grade 11 students. Peoria Public School teachers, counselors and interventionists are ensuring that current 2016-2017 juniors are aware of the change and are well-prepared to take the SAT.
The SAT and ACT are similar. Each test requires about the same amount of time to complete. Each has an optional essay portion. Both the SAT and ACT have a reading passage, but the ACT has a science section which measures critical-thinking skills rather than specific science knowledge. One math section of the SAT prohibits the use of calculators, while calculators are permitted on all ACT math questions. The SAT has been revised to align with the Illinois Learning Standards (ILS) and therefore should be more aligned to classroom instruction.
Our teachers are building SAT test prep exercises into their daily lesson plans. Teachers are incorporating more writing in courses, using variations of SAT essay prompts. Student writing is evaluated using the SAT Essay Scoring Rubric. Science teachers practice algebraic equations, graphs and charts, nonfiction text analysis, data analysis, anticipation guides, lab reports and compare/contrast problems. Social studies teachers are helping students master extended response, source-based writing, argumentative claims with supporting details, source content and connections, and graphic organizers. Mathematics teachers are doing problems of the day from College Board and that students are modeling their responses to meet the rigor of expectations.
After school and/or Saturday study tables will begin at each high school starting with the second semester. The study tables will give students the chance for targeted support. A Saturday practice exam will be offered courtesy of Kaplan Test Prep.
Students also can take advantage of free online sources are available to prepare including:
If your student is a classified as a senior by Peoria Public School standards at the end of the first semester, they will not be required to take the SAT test. If your child plans to attend a two- or four-year institution after high school they may be required to take either the ACT or the SAT as part of the school’s application process.
High school students and their parents with questions about the SAT/DLM can speak to their child’s counselor or school interventionist.
As Peoria Public School students and parents prepare for high school curriculum fairs in January, our high school counselors, teachers and administrators are undergoing a paradigm shift which may bring exciting changes to the futures of our students.
Recently high school staff members began working with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), a method developed by a Seattle-based non-profit which helps schools increase the number of students enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. Through students surveys, EOS identifies high school sophomores and juniors who are capable of AP/IB coursework but, for various reasons, do not enroll. By gathering in-depth data on individual students’ academic records, socioeconomic background, and extracurricular activities, and helping school personnel provide one-on-one guidance, EOS helps schools increase the number of students successfully completing AP/IB classes.
Why is this important? AP/IB classes give students the rigor and challenge they would find in college classes, making them far better prepared once they attend college. According to EOS, students who take AP/IB classes in high school are 30 to 40 percent more likely to graduate from college than students who do not. And while 76 percent of high school sophomores aspire to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, only 33 percent of 25-29 year-olds actually earn a college degree.
According to EOS representative Dr. Tracy Conrad, high school students are most often urged to enroll in AP/IB classes by parents and counselors based on grade point average and test scores. Statistically, students from white and Asian backgrounds whose parents are college graduates are far more likely to enroll in AP/IB classes while students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, students of color and students whose parents did not attend college are far less likely to attempt AP/IB classes, even if their test scores and grades qualify them to enroll.
Research shows that underrepresented students give a variety of reasons for avoiding AP/IB classes, but schools should look below the surface of those reasons. For example, a student who believes the classes are too much work may be afraid of failing or falling behind on outside family responsibilities. EOS asks students to identify a trusted adult – a teacher or school counselor – who can help the student examine possible fallacies in their reasons for avoiding AP/IB classes and help them choose appropriate AP/IB classes.
Enrolling underrepresented students in more challenging classes can produce long-term positive results, says Conrad. By giving students a chance to “play college” while in high school, we give them a distinct advantage when they enter college with realistic expectations of the work required at the post-secondary level.