A daily round-up of education news and views for the Prairie state. To add a recipient please click here
9th June 2021

A daily round-up of education news and views for the Prairie State.

To add a recipient please click

Northern Illinois districts relaxed about filling teacher vacancies
Results from a survey conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools said 77% of responding districts believed they had a teacher shortage problem. Downstate school district with rural schools are facing a more difficult situation, the survey found. Naperville School District 203 had 36 job openings posted and Indian Prairie School District 204 had 55 to fill “I am very hopeful we will be able to fill those jobs,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association. “The advantage in the northern part of the state is they have higher salaries...You do have that carrot, which is why you don’t see as much angst as in the other two-thirds of the state.” Legislation that has passed in the last couple of years should help, Griffin said. A law passed in 2019 pushes the minimum starting salary for teachers to $40,000 by the first day of school in 2023, she said, and an additional $350 million in evidence-based funding for schools was approved in the last legislative session.
Decutur Public Schools selects interim superintendent
Bobbi Williams has been chosen as the new interim superintendent for Decatur Public Schools. A 6-1 vote Tuesday night approved her appointment to the position. She has served as a teacher in the district since August 1984; prior to her latest appointment, she was the principal and director of a special program. She will replace Dr. Paul Fregeau when he leaves at the end of June to take leadership of the Fox C-6 School District in the St. Louis area. 
New Principal Hired At Hinsdale School
A new principal was hired Monday for Hinsdale's Madison Elementary School. On Monday, the school board approved a contract for Barbara Shanahan to replace Kim Rutan, who is leaving for a principal's position in Naperville School District 203. Ms Shanahan comes to District 181 after 19 years with Frankfort School District 157-C. For the last three years, she was the assistant principal of Grand Prairie Elementary School, according to a District 181 news release.
Effingham career academy pushes forward
The Effingham Regional Career Academy - a joint venture between 14 school districts, Lake Land College and private business groups - has faced a setback in its timeline, with the denial of its application for a $7.5m state grant. The money would have funded the construction of a new building near Lake Land College’s Kluthe Center for Higher Education and Technology. Nevertheless, the college plans to build the facility with funding from an alternative source. Planned to be operational for the 2023-2024 school year, it will be able to accommodate students from 14 high schools in the region, including every public high school in Effingham County, St. Anthony High School and schools throughout Fayette, Cumberland, Jasper, Shelby and Clay counties. The facility and programs will also accommodate “incumbent workers,” adults who may want to develop new skills within their industry or switch career paths.
Teacher placed on leave over gender identity comments must be reinstated, judge rules
Judge James E. Plowman Jr. has ruled that Tanner Cross must be allowed to return to his job at Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia. Plowman concluded that the district's decision to place Cross on administrative leave was "an unconstitutional action … which has silenced others from speaking publicly on the issue." Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, said he wouldn't address students by their preferred pronouns and names, and challenged the district's "Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students" policy on May 25 at a district board meeting. Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group defending Cross, comments: "Educators are just like everybody else — they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs."
New survey reveals continued existence of digital divide
While the country moves toward connecting more households to the internet than ever before, insufficient bandwidth remains a challenge for school districts and limits what tools students can use at home.  The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has surveyed 400 districts across the country, finding that basic internet access is less of an issue in distance learning than an inability to use bandwidth-intensive content, such as video conferencing and streaming. Ninety-four percent of districts faced challenges with video conferencing during remote learning. For 66% of those districts, the problems were caused by insufficient bandwidth. Respondents listed slow connections and multiple users as the top technical problems they faced. CoSN chief executive Keith Krueger said that part of the problem is that the federally recommended broadband thresholds for households don’t meet the needs of remote learning. Families may have plenty of bandwidth to stream or download content, he said, but not enough to upload. And most households have two or more students, compounding the problem.
Pandemic prompts some states to pass struggling 3rd graders
A number of U.S. states are revising policies stipulating that schools hold back struggling 3rd graders who don’t pass state standardized reading tests. Two states, Florida and Mississippi, decided this year that pupils who fail reading assessments won’t be held back. Lawmakers in a third state, Michigan, are debating the same policy. Proponents of letting students pass say states should focus resources on strengthening classroom instruction and literacy intervention efforts. “These kids are little. They’re eight-years-old and they’ve only been reading for two or three years,” said Franki Sibberson, a retired 3rd grade teacher and a former president of the National Council of Teachers on English. Sibberson said she understands the importance of assessments, but that focusing on one high-stakes test doesn’t provide teachers with a complete picture of a student’s progress. This emphasis on test scores makes it difficult to meet the child’s needs, she said. The U.S. Department of Education granted states flexibility on testing this spring, including altering the administration of tests and waiving accountability and school requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, known as ESSA. Although the waivers are in place, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran still encouraged students to take the assessments. “All sides say you want accountability,” Corcoran said during a March news conference. “We gotta go out there and get the measurement. When we get the measurement, then we can sit back, look at the data and make the decisions that are best for children.”

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