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​​​​​​​​​​From the Executive Director: The 4 Rs of Summer

Betheny Lyke, Ed.D. Director, Illinois Center for School Improvement

In the education world, summer is a time to cherish. It gives us valuable opportunities that we are just not​ afforded during the school year. For me, I always focus on the 4 Rs during these summer months: Review, Relax, Recharge, and Rebel.

First, it is important to re​view the successes and challenges of th​e past year. If we can't learn from the past, then we'll never accomplish anything.

Next, it is necessary to relax a little because we are no good without a chance to do so. I know our field is go, go, go, but we owe it to ourselves to slow down and take a breath.

Third, we should be able to recharge due to the relaxation and get ready to build on those successes and address the areas of challenge.

And finally, we should prepare to rebel against any barriers that keep our students from learning. This is the time to plan for the necessary changes to improve student learning.

I hope your summer is filled with opportunities for each of these important actions. In this month's newsletter, several districts were kind enough to share how they are spending the summer. Thanks to all who contributed.

And thanks for all you do on behalf of Illinois's students.


Betheny Lyke, Ed.D.


Pope County Community Unit School District 1

Lisa Reed, Curriculum Director, and Kara Carlton, Special Education Teacher​

Greetings from Pope County Community Unit School District 1. We are a small district located in Golconda, Illinois, on the banks of the Ohio River. Our district comprises two schools: an elementary/junior high and a high school.

At Pope County, we have been actively working on our school improvement plan since 2012.
This year, we had the privilege of working with the folks at Illinois CSI. Up until this point, our team had been working with very little direction. We watched the webinar on the Rising Star program and then just kind of ran with it. Area VI team members Cheryl Patterson-Menckowski and Kevin Junk helped us seek a clear direction. Through the co-interpretationSM and root-cause analysis, we were able to pinpoint some areas that we definitely need to pursue.

One of those areas was our need for a math curriculum. We are currently implementing a new math program districtwide. We are hoping that this change will provide the continuity that the district needs. Thanks to our contacts through Illinois CSI we will be receiving help with our professional development as we make the switch over to a new curriculum.

Another need that arose was to expand parent involvement. We are working as a team to collaboratively find new ideas to increase parent involvement. With the help of Illinois CSI, we were able to identify some ideas to try that were tailored to our district.

Each district has unique situations and challenges that they face, and Pope County is no exception. Our collaboration with Illinois CSI has helped us create a plan to address the specific needs of our school based on data that we collected about our district.


Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview School District 89

Barbara Dahly, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum

The members of the District 89 Leadership Team dedicated themselves to a summer focused on actions to support the district improvement plan developed in partnership with Illinois CSI. Worthy targets in English language arts, mathematics, and climate/culture set the stage to prepare for a productive 2016–17 school year.

Many of the actions supporting the district worthy targets were centered on summer professional development. In the 2016–17 school year, we have adopted the McGraw-Hill Wonders reading series, for which we are participating in professional development during Institute Days scheduled in August. This professional development will align with the district worthy target on supporting teachers in implementing the new textbook adoption.

Participation by administrators and teachers in the University of Illinois at Chicago Summer Institute "Engaging All Students in Meaningful Mathematics" focused on implementing the Common Core State Standards for Math using high-quality resources. Experienced facilitators offered engaging sessions on a wide range of topics that supported mathematics teaching and learning during the two-day institute aligned to the district worthy target of implementing the math curriculum with fidelity. Summer learning opportunities integrated the newly acquired resources of Lexia and Compass online learning for students in kindergarten through seventh grade that will support the use of data for student interventions, which supports both the math and English language arts worthy targets.

The District 89 Leadership Team is collaborating with OverAchieve Consulting, the Academy for Urban School Leadership, and Illinois CSI to develop a cohesive district plan supporting student outcomes. We held planning meetings this summer to prepare for August professional development for district administrators with support from all three partners. This professional development will prepare administrators to complete walkthroughs f​or adult practice measures, to use data analysis to plan instruction, and to align school plans with district improvement plans.

This summer the district took a deep dive into its worthy target actions, worked to align all partners focused on the district's goals and worthy targets, and communicated the district work to all stakeholders.

Superintendent Dr. David Negron addresses the Community Alliance on June 16.

As we enter the 2016–17 school year, we are well positioned to achieve our worthy target goals. We look forward to a great school year!

Brooklyn Unit School District 188

Kay Dimon, Site Coordinator for Cambridge Education

Brooklyn Lovejoy is devoting most of the summer to extending teacher and student learning. All students were invited to a summer learning camp, where they investigated butterflies (Grades 1 through 3) or the history of Brooklyn (Grades 4 through 6). Students used iPads and computers to investigate topics within the themes and to create multimedia presentations. Students attended the St. Louis History Museum and Library, the St. Louis Museum of Art, the Butterfly House, and the St. Louis Zoo and were able to interview some of Brooklyn's oldest citizens. The students also visited the Antioch Church in Brooklyn, one of the stops on the Underground Railroad, where they saw the actual hiding places used by the conductors on the underground escape routes. At the end of the four-week session, students will spend a morning sharing their research project with each other and their parents.

Teachers spent the first week of the summer with Dottie Luchtefeld from Illinois CSI and Cathy Shide, an independent math consultant. Curriculum mapping, common assessments, and discussions about standards-based grade reporting were the learning targets. Teachers are entering their first year of full implementation of Engage New York English Language Arts and Mathematics.

Five members of the Brooklyn Lovejoy staff attended the Directions Conference on June 14 and 15 in Collinsville. Three of our teachers attended the Project Lead The Way STEM Project Launch at the University of Illinois at Chicago. We will pilot the new STEM curriculum in the 2016–17 school year during the extended school day.

Teachers also will attend a one-day workshop at the St. Louis Museum of Art in August. Because our school does not have an art program or an art teacher, the classroom teachers in Grades K–4 have offered to integrate one hour of art and one hour of music into their weekly learning plans. The teachers will be able to collaborate with the education staff at the St. Louis Museum of Art to create monthly themes for art projects that connect to their reading and social studies lessons.

Planning for the upcoming school year is a work in progress. Superintendent Dr. Henrietta Young is planning for the first two days of teacher meetings and professional development. The staff is planning a celebration on the first day of student attendance to welcome students and parents to Lovejoy for another year of learning. We will be honoring Lowe's Foundation for their generous grant, which funded a new parking lot, landscaping for the front of our school, and a new floor in the library.

Summer Learning Camp Activities​

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Eldorado Community Unit School District 4

Cody Cusic, Curriculum Director

The district leadership team (DLT) of the Eldorado Community Unit School District 4 is excited to start the new school year with a plan in place to continue to implement new improvements in planning, curriculum, and professional development. During the next three years, we will be focusing on better aligning our curriculum and establishing stronger parent and community relationships.

"Collaboration among all of our buildings has been a major focus in our DLT meetings. It has really helped us look at things as a whole district instead of just by building," Superintendent Ryan Hobbs said.

Eldorado has just finished its first year working with Cheryl Patterson-Menckowski and Shlonda Horton from Illinois CSI. With their assistance throughout the past year, we have be able to dive deeper into issues that are facing our school district.

The conversations that we are having about curriculum and other relevant school improvement issues have been extremely beneficial for our district. Having all schools at the table talking about issues in their buildings and classrooms has allowed the DLT to make better decisions and recommend changes to the district's curriculum. We are now excited to see horizontal and vertical alignments being shaped in all grade levels.


Freeport School District 145

Michael Schiffman, Ed.D, Superintendent

During my time as a teacher and educational leader, I have seen many changes in the U.S. public school system, and I believe we are reaching a tipping point. Today, education is not only to have students learn what has already happened, it is to have students learn how to solve problems and find answers that will advance our world in the future. Through this belief, the way we provide education is completely different. Educators need to develop a different mind-set, seek out more talented individuals, and become more creative in their efforts to meet the needs of the 21st century learners.

Transforming ourselves and our organizations is never an easy task. Transformation requires a new way of thinking that is different from the model we are used to. Relying on what we have always done in education will produce only outcomes that are no longer relevant in the changing world.

In our district, we are discussing transformational change and pack (transformational) leadership as addressed in the book Leading Pack Performance: Lessons from the Wild Dogs of Africa: How to Create Pack Leadership and Produce Transformative Results. Authors Stephen Hacker and Marvin Washington share how the wild dogs of Africa are the most successful hunters in Africa and they do it using pack leadership. Pack leadership is the idea of everyone playing a role in the success of the school district. There are times when everyone is called upon to lead in a school building or district. The goal of the leadership group is to come together to accomplish the community goal. In pack leadership all members of the team feel a sense of commitment not only to the goal but also to the entire pack. Everyone in our district is an educator, because they all have the opportunity to influence our future.


Summer Reading List

1. The Benefits of Competency-Based Education (Blog)

To realize the potential of competency-based education (CBE), states, districts, and schools must get beyond labels and ensure core features are in place in every classroom, every day. AIR's Study of Competency-Based Education, funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation, finds that competency-based education may benefit students, but not all self-identified "CBE schools" consistently implement the core features of CBE. In Do CBE Schools Benefit Students? Six Core Features May Make the Difference, Wendy Surr shares insights from the study to help schools and districts better implement CBE.

2. High School Graduation Rates—and Gaps (Infographic Series)

High school graduation season has come and gone. But how much do we know about who is graduating? In our latest infographic series, Who's Graduating?, AIR's Xiaolei Wang uses data from the latest Condition of Education digest to show graduation rates—and graduation gaps—for all 50 states.

3. Growing Up in Foster Care (Blog Series)

Middle school is a tough time for all young people, but foster children face even tougher challenges as they navigate the choppy waters of adolescence without the anchors of a safe and stable home and school environment. When policymakers recognize and prioritize foster students' educational needs early in their lives, then challenges can be lessened and young people can be given opportunities to more successfully transition to high school.

In the second blog post in the series, Growing Up in Foster Care: Elementary and Middle School, Patricia Campie offers examples of how states and cities are providing educational support for students in foster care.



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