The school year is already a quarter of the way through, and Hinckley-Big Rock District 429 has been making great strides in both the curricular and financial areas.
H-BR takes pride in its curriculum, which is designed and delivered to each and every student on a daily basis throughout the school year. The curriculum currently is aligned to the Illinois State Standards for Learning, however, as the district continues to move forward on challenging all students to reach an even higher level of learning, there has been an even greater emphasis placed on the National Standards.
The new Common Core Standards for learning that were developed are being infused into the H-BR K-12 curriculum. As a Performance Learning Community (PLC), the staff continues to monitor student progress in each curricular area. Moreover, districtwide Core Curricular Teams have been meeting on a regular basis to redesign each subject area in preparation for the new PEARC assessment that will be required by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
H-BR operates from the following three step process: 1. What is it that we want our students to know and be able to do? 2. How are we going to know if they are learning what we want them to learn? 3. What are we going to do if they are not learning?
The first step begins with clear measurable targets. The very first day the students arrive, they’re introduced to a clear challenge of where they will need to be by the end of May. It begins with the end in mind. The model is referred to “understanding by design” (UBD).
The second step revolves around assessment. The assessments are both standardized (ISAT, Scholastic, Explore, etc.) and local (teacher/school generated), but they clearly measure what the students have been taught. More importantly, it is critical that the H-BR staff understand how to interpret the results of the assessments through data analysis.
That leads to the third and final step, where the teachers will either reteach a concept, and/or redesign the question if results indicate that the students didn’t understand a particular standard. In some cases, students will have an opportunity to work individually to catch up, or work together in groups. In addition, the smaller class sizes help provide an even better opportunity for student learning. Ultimately, the students will learn the concept(s) before moving on.
In addition to all of the curriculum initiatives, every building principal in the H-BR district is performing under a new required performance evaluation model handed down from the state board of education.
Moreover, each and every teacher is going through the same process under the “Danielson Framework Model” required by ISBE. Outside training has been provided for the Danielson Model, and the staff is working collaboratively through the implementation.
The financial picture is looking brighter for District 429. A balanced budget is the goal, and based on the annual audit, this has become a reality. Like many school districts in our area and around the state, we continue to monitor the district’s equalized assessed valuation (EAV) to see if our tax base will decrease or increase based on current market values.
The trend in the past three years has indicated a decrease in local property values. This is particularly true for residential property as compared with farmland. Unlike some urban and lower-income school districts, H-BR depends on local taxpayers for the majority of its revenue.
General state aid received from Springfield accounts for a very small portion of the school budget. Furthermore, the state transportation reimbursement looks bleak at best. Moreover, we’re all anxiously waiting for the hammer to drop regarding the pension reform legislation that could be passed down by the Legislature.
Nevertheless, the H-BR Board of Education continues to be fiscally responsible regarding our local taxpayers’ dollars.
Reiterating the fact that H-BR is moving forward on challenging students on national learning standards as well as state standards, and the expectation for all students is to exceed the standards rather than just meet them as measured on the ISAT and PSAE.
We’re constantly striving to develop confident, adaptable, productive citizens who are life-long learners, by providing the most comprehensive education possible. The H-BR motto – One Purpose, One Vision, One District – is clear.
• Peter Pasteris is the superintendent of schools in Hinckley-Big Rock District 429.