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610 West University Avenue Champaign, Illinois 61820 Phone: (217) 351-3911 Fax: (217) 351-3919

Joe Williams, Principal Jane Stillman, Associate Principal Murial Bondurant, Assistant Principal Yalanda Graham, Assistant Principal Bryan Yacko, Assistant Principal John Woods, Administrator for Facilities & Program Management

August, 2011 Dear Parents/Guardians of Incoming Freshmen: Welcome to Central High School! We are thrilled to have you as part of our Central family. Transitions from one school to another always carry with them a sense of the unknown that some can find stressful. I hope this letter will ease your mind a bit and make sure you know we are here to help your child have a successful start to his/her high school years. We are aware that freshmen often have trouble realizing that their high school years are truly important to their future. Therefore, we have a number of structures in place to help them as they learn. Im highlighting below some of the structures that we want to make sure you are aware of, including freshman teaming, support staff, closed lunch/advisory, and standards based grading. Freshman Teams In middle school, your children were assigned to one of two core teams each year students on one team had all of the same math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies teachers. Two years ago, the high schools added teaming to the freshman level. We have three teams, and your child will typically have the same math, English, science, and social studies teachers as others on his/her team. One key difference at the high school level is that we are unable to make them pure teams because of the increased opportunities for students to choose different electives. This isnt bad; in fact, it helps students start feeling the differences between middle school and high school right away. If students are doing well, they probably wont realize very often they are on a team. Our team teachers meet twice per week as a group across the subjects (math, English, science, and social studies), and they meet three times per week as groups within their subject. On their cross-subject days (Tuesday and Thursday), they are able to have discussions to support students across their schedule. We are also able to include other subject teachers, as needed, if students are having particular difficulty across the board. This also will be a time when parents/guardians will be invited in to meet with teachers if the need arises. If you want to meet with your childs teachers, that is a perfect opportunity for you to do so. The easiest way to communicate with your childs teachers is through e-mail, but you may also leave a phone message or send a note to school with your child. Assistant Principals, Counselors, and other support staff This year, we are improving our supports of freshmen who are struggling in one or more areas: academics, attendance, and/or behavior. Each week, our freshman teams will also meet with an assistant principal and a counselor. When we determine that we need to offer more support to particular students, we may also bring in our social workers and/or truancy interventionist. As a group, we will keep close tabs on students grades, attendance, and behavior. It is much easier to assist students and their families when we are able to catch struggles early. We are intent on making sure we do everything we can to keep students on track so they dont fall behind. Closed Lunch and Advisory/Study Hall Last year we instituted closed lunch for freshmen, meaning they are not allowed to leave campus over their lunch period. We feel that closed lunch helps our freshmen stay focused on school and eliminates some of the distractions associated with leaving campus. This year, weve taken the additional step of splitting the freshman class into two groups for lunch: one half will have lunch first, and then will move to classrooms for advisory/study hall, while the other half will go to advisory/study hall first and then go to lunch.

Champaign Community Unit School District #4

Many days, the advisory/study hall will be a time for students to work on assignments, get organized with their planners, check their grades if they ask the supervising teacher, or get some extra assistance if a teacher is available and they get a pass from him/her ahead of time. On some days, students will be able to get extra support from counselors, administrators, and other support staff around various topics. It is important to help your child understand that this time should be used wisely; if you want your child to see a particular teacher, help him/her understand he/she should get a pass from that teacher ahead of time to make sure the teacher is available. The supervising teacher will not write passes for students to see other teachers. Grading Practices One of the biggest changes for Central this year is a freshman level grading system that we are piloting. A large group of teachers spent last year studying the research around formative assessment and standards-based grading. The traditional high school model of years past was basically a sink or swim model; either students succeeded or they didnt and we did very few things to help students understand their own progress in learning. This wasnt a teacher issue, but a structural and policy issue. In addition, the old system was very much about timing. If students didnt learn at the pace set by the district curriculum guide, then they likely received low to failing grades. This way of thinking didnt take into account how real learning takes place: we all learn at different rates and sometimes it takes more time or other experiences with the same material for that aha moment to come. Our revised grading system for freshmen seeks to reflect this understanding about learning, feedback and grading. Teachers use the district curriculum to determine learning targets for each unit of instruction. Many learning targets will overlap among units, so if a student doesnt quite get something the first time, he/she will have other chances to show understanding in future units that share the same learning targets. Teachers will share learning targets with students up front. This process will mean more than simply listing the targets on the board one day with the assumption students will remember them. The targets will become part of the talk of the classroom and will be revisited as the teaching and learning moves forward. Units of instruction will include short pre-assessments that do not become part of the students final grade. These assessments, which are formative assessments, will be based on the learning targets and will help a teacher decide what actual instruction needs to take place. We want to minimize the repetitive instruction that takes place in many courses at the beginning of the year while also become more aware of gaps in knowledge that must be taught before moving on. The feedback students receive on daily work and homework will be based on their progress toward those learning targets. This is called formative assessment: learning experiences will inform the teacher of individual students progress and should inform the individual students of their progress. Students will know ahead of time which learning targets will be measured by the work they are doing in class or on homework. The formative assessments wont be part of a students grade, but will be used to provide feedback to the student. While homework and classwork no longer translate to points in a gradebook, believing that they dont matter is a misconception. Students who say that homework doesnt count are not correct at all. Teachers and students must know where the learning has been successful and where it still needs to improve. Grades will come from what are called summative assessments. These may be quizzes, tests, lab activities, projects, or papers. Students will receive feedback on their learning to indicate that they show they arent developing skills needed to meet the learning target, show they are developing skills needed to meet the learning target but havent met yet, show they have met the learning target, or show they are exceeding the standards and are performing above the learning target. These measures on each learning target will be averaged to generate a traditional letter grade that will appear on report cards and transcripts. If students or parents arent satisfied with the measure of their learning on the summative assessments (quizzes, tests, labs, projects, etc.), then there are ways to improve. Within two weeks of a student receiving a grade on a summative assessment, he/she should meet with the teacher to develop a plan for reteaching, looking at the work he/she has done so far in the unit (a clear sign that homework does count!), and figure out what should be done to retake/reassess. This is like real life. We must show we want to improve; we must show how we have tried; then we need work to figure out how we will check that improvement.

Champaign Community Unit School District #4

As students continue to learn in other units, their grades may also improve because there is a future measure of their learning on the same learning targets taught in earlier units. This is the aha moment that didnt happen earlier and is a purposeful component of standards-based grading. As long as the aha moment happens at some point, then the learning actually happened. Newer achievement evidence on a learning target is given consideration over older evidence. Finally, we want students to know the value of hard work, integrity, and respect. To this end, while not a part of the academic grade, we will be reporting using a Citizenship/Employability/College-Readiness scale to describe the degree to which students consistently exhibit key behaviors and attitudes in the areas of attendance and punctuality; preparedness and organization; participation and engagement; teamwork and accountability to peers; respect for peers, staff, and self; hard work and perseverance; and leadership.

As you can tell, these are significant changes, but were confident they are positive changes. A standards-based grading policy wont make classwork easier and wont water down the curriculum. It will help our teachers know students and their learning progress in much more meaningful ways. It will help us be able to communicate with students and parents about individual progress and what students can do to improve in more meaningful ways, as well. Never before have we been so focused on making sure we are doing more and more to help freshmen succeed. This may be a time filled with anxiety for your children simply because of the transition, but we are here to help. Please keep in touch with us and we will do the same for you! Sincerely,

Joe Williams Principal

Champaign Community Unit School District #4