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Sycamore School District 427 embracing Rising Star program

SYCAMORE – Ryan Janisch has noticed how North Grove Elementary School is benefiting from the state-mandated Rising Star planning program.

School officials can find out if teachers want more feedback on their classroom instruction. A team of administrators and teachers can monitor students’ performance more closely. Teachers are concerned not just with their own students’ performance, but in those throughout the school, said Janisch, the principal at North Grove.

“Now it’s a much clearer focus on what our students are learning, what we want them to learn,” Janisch said.

It’s all part of Rising Star, an online planning tool that gives school districts a structure for improving, from the administrative level down to students in the classroom. Each school district in the state is required to develop its own improvement plan, and Rising Star gives districts a foundation to create its own road map for success, said Kristine Webster, Sycamore School District 427 director of curriculum.

“At first blush, it sounds like another state mandate, but there is a lot of flexibility and a lot of local control,” she said.

Under the program, Janisch said his school reviews indicators of success, or strategies that have helped other schools and school districts to improve, and considers the goals of his school’s team of staff, teachers and parents. 

One indicator of success for North Grove Elementary School is a strategic focus on the teacher development. Based on teacher assessments, Janisch said school officials know many of the teachers want more feedback on their classroom teaching. With this information, the teachers can receive more feedback on whether or not their instruction is reaching the students. 

Since the district teams typically have about 40 indicators they can review and school teams have close to 80, the teams only tackle four to six of the most important ones each year, Webster said. Some of the indicators are short-term goals, while others require a longer-term effort. Recent indicators the district has been targeting are integrating technology in the curriculum and presenting a unified vision of goals to the community, she said. 

Webster said the district is following a continuous improvement model and as such will be reviewing and meeting more indicators of success as they accomplish them. 

“Bottom line, it’s about doing good work for the kids,” she said.

Tim Carlson, principal at Sycamore High School, said the Rising Star program has forced his staff and faculty to become more aware of what everyone does on a daily basis. The curriculum is broken down and monitored across classes so
the staff and faculty can know where they can target any weaknesses. 

“It’s given us an option to really examine teaching practices and individual learning,” he said. 

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