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D300: No middle school schedule shift

Updated: December 15, 2012 6:33AM

ALGONQUIN — Nearly halfway into a new eight-period schedule at its three high schools, Community Unit School District 300 has decided not to make any changes to schedules at its middle schools.

That’s the unanimous recommendation of the district’s middle school collaborative council, middle school principals, teaching and learning team and superintendent’s cabinet, according to Assistant Superintendent for Middle School Teaching and Learning Kara Vicente.

“Our recommendation right now is to just maintain our current middle school structure. Quite honestly, there would be a significant financial impact if we started looking at making a major change,” Vicente said.

Vicente explained that recommendation to the Board of Education at its regular meeting Monday night.

More than 500 students, parents and teachers had packed out the professional development center, hallways and gymnasium during that meeting. It was the first regular meeting after teachers union Local Educators Association of District 300 had declared impasse in its contract negotiations with the district.

LEAD has named changes brought on by the eight-period high school day, as well as high class sizes, as issues in those negotiations.

District 300 began talking about restructuring its middle and high school schedules in 2011 for the first time since 1996 to reflect research on student learning and the new assessments and expectations of the Common Core Standards Illinois is adopting, it has said.

Vicente said Monday the district does have courses and course sequencing at the middle school level it needs to review. Its exploratory courses, for one, were laid out in 2006, and it needs to make sure those offerings still are aligned with the new standards, she said.

It also will have to adjust its math course sequence, as the Common Core Standards expect students to have “an algebra experience” by the time they finish middle school, the district has said. Currently, only 30 to 40 percent of middle school students are exposed to algebra.

But Vicente said changes to the middle school schedule likely would mean District 300 would have to hire more certified staff, and that would mean an additional cost to the district.

And, she said, “Our concern is we also have a high class size at the middle school level.”

“It is balancing where we would want to put those additional funds: Is the priority the schedule change, or is the priority looking at reducing class size? And we know that reducing class size is a priority not only for us at the district but also for our teachers.”

For now, District 300 will focus on that course and sequencing review, and it will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the middle school schedule, Vicente said. That doesn’t mean it can’t make a decision about a change when its resources support it, she said.

“All along, I’ve said we have a great schedule at the middle school level,” she said. “Yes, there are challenges that pretty much every middle school is facing, but the benefits outweigh the negatives currently.”

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