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D-428 to revamp admission guidelines for advanced classes

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 10:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 10:22 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – Instead of eliminating advanced classes in District 428 middle schools, officials have decided to implement rigorous standards for students to earn their advanced class seats.

During the D-428 School Board meeting Tuesday, district administrators presented a plan to revamp advanced language arts and math classes at the middle school level that bases entrance into advanced middle school courses on students’ state standardized test scores, reading comprehension and math computation, as well as teacher recommendations.

“Basically, [before] it was we’re going to create advanced classes, and we’re going to take the top 70 students and we’re going to stick them in there whether they belong there or not,” Assistant Superintendent Doug Moeller said. “What we’re doing here is, we’re going to see what students actually qualify for advanced classes and then build a schedule around their needs.”

The presentation was a follow-up to one met with skepticism from board members at the April board meeting that called for advanced middle school classes being replaced with advanced students being taught in regular courses at different levels, a teaching philosophy known as differentiation.

Moeller said, instead, they decided to revamp advanced language arts and math classes at Huntley and Clinton Rosette Middle Schools as well as adding an advanced language arts course for sixth grade.

Currently, the district places about 35 students on each of the two teams at the middle schools in advanced classes based solely on scores from the Illinois Standard Achievement Test. The practice of filling seats in advanced classes does not make sense, Moeller said, using data from what those students go on to do in high school as proof.

Of the 124 students in the class of 2016 who are in advanced language arts while in eighth grade, only 48 percent went on to an advanced humanities course in high school. Furthermore, of those 124 students, almost 25 percent needed to take literacy, a remedial class, Moeller explained.

Moeller said he sees advanced courses being pared down to one section on one team under the new guidelines.

Board member Nina Fontana, who in April voiced opposition to getting rid of the classes, thanked staff for their approach to changing advanced classes for next school year.

“Thank you so very much for seeing what the problem was and attacking it,” Fontana said.

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