District 181 narrowly OKs transitonal ACE program
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:12AM
BURR RIDGE — A transitional advanced learning program will be in place for fourth- and fifth-graders in District 181 for the next school year.
The program will be one-half day instead of a full day as it has been in the past and will include more collaboration between the advanced learning and regular classroom teachers and more of an effort to include all students in advanced learning.
In a 4-3 vote, the School Board approved the transitional plan presented by Superintendent Renee Schuster.
Board members Marty Turek and Yvonne Mayer both suggested suspending the ACE program for the coming school year, but the majority of the board felt some transitional program was warranted.
“It is my position that we listen to the educators who are telling us ‘I need one more year,’” said board member Sarah Lewensohn.
Voting for the transitional program were Glenn Yaeger, Brendan Heneghan, Michael Nelson and Lewensohn.
Voting against the program were Russell Rhoads, Turek and Mayer.
“I am struggling with this for a number of reasons,” Turek said. “The most overwhelming thing is that we spent a lot of money for a study. We knew the situation. It was indefensible. And that was with a full-day program. Now, we are going to a half-day program.”
Steps in the transitional program include:
The title and role of gifted specialists will transition to differentiation specialists.
Elementary ACE will include students in fourth and fifth grades who were previously identified. The program will take place in the home schools, be multi-age and be held for half days on Tuesdays under the direction of a differentiation specialist.
The curriculum will consist of former fifth-grade ACE units, such as robotics and Norse mythology.
ACE students will interact across schools through video conferencing, shared field trips and culminating events.
In addition to ACE, the differentiation specialists will work as a team to increase the district-wide use of manipulatives in mathematics, word study, and creative and critical thinking skills as part of the curriculum.
“Why keep the program if we are headed to differentiation?” Mayer asked. “I don’t think it is reasonable … We hired an expert (Tonya Moon) this time and we said ‘We won’t do what previous boards have done. We will implement what she says.’ And we are not doing it.”
Moon’s team from the University of Virginia earlier this year recommended that the ACE program be discontinued.
Walker School Principal Kevin Russell, who will be the district’s director of curriculum, assessment and instruction as of next week, said the high-performing students staying in their home schools and only spending one half day in the ACE program should benefit all students. He said with ACE now a half-day program, the differentiation specialist will be able to work with more children than just those in ACE, and having the high-performing students spending more time with other pupils should benefit those other students.
While some board members felt the program was being even more exclusive than before, Superintendent Schuster said the transitional effort will be more inclusive.
“We are in a community where students are very capable,” Schuster said.
A districtwide plan for advanced learning for 2013-14 is expected by December.