Dear District 86 Community,
 
During the past few weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion about the changes to our science program that we will be implementing next year. We have appreciated the conversations that have been had and comments that have been made because they reflect the strong commitment to education and passionate advocacy for students that are the hallmarks of this community.

As a reminder, the recommendation from the administration and chairs for the science department is to implement a vertically-aligned sequence of courses at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South that follows the ESS-integrated PCB sequence (ESS stands for Earth and Space Science; PCB stands for Physics, Chemistry and Biology). This sequence will be fully aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, and will have earth science serving as a common thread that is woven throughout it. It will also help advance the first strategy listed under Goal 1 (Student Growth and Achievement) of the district’s strategic plan, which is aimed at ensuring that “course and instructional units include common critical competencies, aligned assessments between the two high schools and multiple measures of success.” 

The recommendation was reached following the completion of hundreds of hours of work by highly trained and qualified educators who have decades of professional experience. It was based on months of research into nine different sequences that were thoroughly studied, assessed and evaluated using the following goals of the science program as a guide:

  • Align courses – fees, texts, objectives, semester exams and assessments
  • Increase student exposure to and interest in core sciences
  • Align courses with college and career opportunities
  • Create a strategic and coherent science program
  • Provide informed student choice in coursework junior and senior year
  • Increase SEL considerations for students and parents
 
It was influenced by feedback provided by science teachers, students and parents/guardians from both of our high schools. It was also decided upon based on the benefits for students, which include:

  • Giving them the opportunity to experience four core sciences (earth science, physics, chemistry, and biology) over a three-year period
  • Helping them prepare for Advanced Placement courses and electives
  • Challenging them with core courses that are designed to offer depth and rigor
  • Enhancing their understanding of science via courses that are aligned with a coherence in content and skills, and that build upon each other
  • Strengthening their understanding and use of key math concepts that are aligned with what they are learning in science
 
What has emerged from the conversations we referenced above is a clear difference of opinion among some members of the community regarding the direction we have chosen for the future of our program. While many people support the move to the PCB model, others believe we should keep the existing sequence, offer multiple options at both schools or hold off on making any changes until they can be studied in greater detail. The lack of consensus regarding the changes is not surprising. Frankly, very few decisions made by school districts receive universal support. However, what does surprise us is the intimation by some that the in-depth process we began during the 2018-19 school year that led to the decision was “rushed” and “lacked accountability and transparency.” What confuses us is the perception that the model is unfounded and untested despite its effective implementation at South, which has produced results that have rivaled or exceeded those at Central (there are five tabs of data in the spreadsheet that is found at this link). And, what truly disappoints us is the insinuation that we would suggest a change or make a decision that is not in the best interest of all District 86 students.
 
We recognize that people have misgivings about the changes, and respect that the concerns and opinions they have expressed are based on their desire to help our young adults succeed. That is a desire we share and have used as the singular focus and guiding principle for the work we have done to reach this decision. We also understand and fully accept the responsibility we have for ensuring that the changes will continue to help our students learn, grow, achieve and excel. More importantly, we greatly appreciate all of the time, effort and energy that the members of our staff have invested in this work, and completely and unequivocally support the implementation of the PCB model at both buildings.
 
Thank you to everyone who has weighed in on this matter. We will work with our science department and administration to keep the community updated on the implementation of the changes. In the meantime, you can access the frequently asked questions document we created regarding the changes, as well as the details about science sequencing that have been shared during recent board meetings and information sessions, by visiting http://bit.ly/2qyzJzO.
 
Sincerely, 

Nancy Pollak
Board President

Tammy Prentiss
Superintendent