April 29, 2020

Dear Parents, 

Thank you for your input into Phase II of remote learning in our District. As we now know from Governor Pritzker's recent message, we will be in a remote learning environment until the end of the school year (Friday, June 5).  Our message from the beginning of this unforeseen educational shift has been "progress over perfection."  Our staff, students, and families have done a remarkable job navigating this pivot and demonstrating creativity and resolve.  We know we have provided positive remote learning experiences and are eager to continue to evolve as we learn more. The staff, student, and parent Remote Learning Phase II survey participation was very high and provided our schools with informative feedback.  We have identified the following key takeaways from the survey.

With the introduction of Phase II, we introduced required SEL check-ins a minimum of  three times per week through advisory and morning meetings. Teachers are increasingly sharing pre-recorded videos and are available at designated times throughout the day. Attending to the SEL needs of students and sustaining connections has been valued by all stakeholders. Survey data indicated that 78% of all students said the amount of connection was just right. Nonetheless, our elementary students are reporting a higher need for more interaction. In this environment, this is understandable given developmental needs, absence of normal social interaction/activities. Our elementary teachers will be focusing on this issue and addressing this in ways including more contact opportunities. We also encourage families to find avenues for students to safely engage in play and connect with one another. 

Clarity and Expectations
This was a strong area across the board. Most seemed to appreciate having designated structures to plan the day, provide instruction, connect with students, and define expectations of assigned student work. The data also validated teachers' observations that younger students may need additional time with their teacher and parents to preview the lesson and understand the assignments for a given day. 

Amount of Work
As a progressive school district we know that there is "no one size fits all" for teaching students. In our normal school environment, teachers differentiate instruction based on individual student needs. Sometimes a student will need some reinforcement, extension or simply more support. As one can imagine, this presents a unique challenge in a remote learning environment. Survey data shows a difference in expectations as parents indicate that there is not enough work compared to teachers and students who generally agree that the amount of work is about right.  

This difference in expectations is most evident at the middle school level with 42% of Washburne parents and 49% of Skokie parents reporting that the work was too little. 

We also know that while survey info indicates a desire for more work, we also know that many students are not completing the assigned work or taking advantage of the extension work provided. Teachers indicated that less than one third of students are completing 80-100% of the work assigned.  This is even more pronounced when looking at the extension activities available to students. 

In reviewing the survey data, we wanted to objectively look at the amount of time students are engaged. The amount of work prescribed by teachers aligns with the remote learning school day. Please see the following chart. As designed, the vast majority of Winnetka students are meeting or exceeding the recommended state guideline maximum. Please see the following  chart on student engagement time for detailed information. 

After reviewing data on time of student engagement with our teachers and school leaders, we are responding by partnering with parents in a variety of ways: 
  • Provide clear lines of communication to ensure that parents and students know if work is missing. We ask parents and students to communicate with teachers if there is too much or not enough work.
  • Ensure that students who need more work are completing all of the assignments. This includes core classes as well as the related arts and electives. 
  • Continue to provide clear communication and accessibility regarding work for core classes and related arts.
  • Provide additional work and challenge in lesson planning when deemed appropriate.
  • Continue to support students who need additional help or services.
Difficulty of Work and Quality of Work
Survey data indicated that the difficulty of work was well-calibrated according to students and teachers. Overall, 83% of students reported the work was "just right" while 8% reported that it was "too easy" and 9% reported that it was "too difficult." Parents reported relatively higher numbers in regard to the work being too easy. This was most evident at the middle school level with 30% of Skokie parents and 20% of Washburne parents reporting the work was too easy. 

Overall Well-Being
Given the circumstances that we are dealing with, it was positive to see that the vast majority of students, teachers, and parents are reporting that they and their families are doing "okay" or better. Nonetheless, we know that a significant number of members of our community (12% of students, 14% of parents, and 25% of teachers) are reporting that they are not doing well or really struggling. In response to the remote learning specifically, 95% of students and 89% of parents reported that the overall experience was (okay/neutral) or positive. Our school social workers have compiled some new resources for you , and you can access additional information on our Family Resources webpage , which we will continue to update.

Thank you again for your input and support as we evolve and refine our remote learning practices. We know that by working together, we will ensure the well being and continued education of our children. At the end of the week, we will be sending out a calendar for May outlining upcoming Grey Days and the final days of school in June. Tomorrow, the District will share a schedule for materials pick-up for families. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or reach out to your Principal. 


Barry Rodgers                                                                   Maureen Miller
Director of Innovation, Teaching and Learning          Director of Technology

The Winnetka Public Schools community empowers every student to flourish in 
an innovative, experiential environment. We support and challenge all learners 
to actively engage in continual growth and achievement to make 
a meaningful difference in the world.  

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