April 2016
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Superintendent's  Message: 
A Well Rounded Curriculum for All
One of my greatest concerns since becoming superintendent is our current practice of pulling elementary students in need of academic interventions from science and social studies lessons.  The majority of these students miss out on science and social studies instruction to receive needed reading interventions by our talented Reading Resource teachers.  This practice denies this group of students a well-rounded curriculum that includes science and social studies.  It narrows the curriculum and focuses too heavily on reading and math.  It restricts opportunities for kids to develop an interest in science or a love of social studies; important subjects that facilitate the acquisition of critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills; subjects that focus on creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, and an understanding of the world in which we live.   We can do better as a school district and we will do better starting next school year.

The advent of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 pushed public school districts across the country to focus too narrowly on reading and math to the detriment of all other subjects.  Federal sanctions and labeling schools "failures" if students didn't meet grade level expectations on standardized reading and math assessments was nothing more than federal fear mongering that helped create the environment that pushed science and social studies aside, not to mention other areas of instruction not considered "core" academic subjects.  The new U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., acknowledged as much when he recently stated, "I count myself among those who worry that the balance has shifted too much away from subjects outside of math and English..."  

Nobody is more frustrated with the narrowing of our curriculum than our teachers.  In discussing this issue, many of our teachers report seeing a rise in student engagement and enthusiasm in science as the result of our new science curriculum, STEMscopes.  They lament that some of their students being pulled out of class for interventions felt as if they were, at best, missing out on fun science activities and, at worst, somehow being punished.  I've personally received reports of parents refusing necessary intervention services as a result.  Students need these interventions, but they shouldn't have to forfeit the same well-rounded curriculum provided to their classmates.

Acknowledging that a well-rounded curriculum is essential to the success of all students, starting next school year our elementary schools will implement a new program, "TIDE," or Targeted, Intervention, Differentiation and Enrichment.  TIDE is a dedicated block of 30 minutes daily when students receiving academic intervention and enrichment will be pulled from their classrooms. Students that don't qualify for these services will remain in their classrooms where teachers will be giving differentiated instruction in reading and math based on their individual needs. Our grade level teacher teams will have the flexibility to develop programs that best meet the needs of their individual students.  Restructuring the language arts block to meet the needs of all general education students will allow all to receive science and social studies instruction with their peers.

Our teachers and I are looking forward to providing equal access to a full curriculum to all of our Palos 118 students next year.  Please contact Dr. Ron Cozza at 708-761-5803 if you would like additional information regarding TIDE.

Anthony M. Scarsella,
Superintendent of Schools
Illinois Science Assessment Update
All students in grades 5 and 8 will be taking the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) this spring. The ISA is a recently developed test designed to measure our students' understanding of the Illinois Learning Standards for science, incorporating the Next Generation Science Standards.  Unlike prior state assessments, the ISA consists of only one test per grade level (grades 5 and 8 only) estimating a total of 40 minutes for most students to complete. We will be selecting a date for District 118 students to take the test during the first two weeks of May. As with all initial assessments, results will simply be used to establish a baseline and to gain a better understanding of how we can better prepare our students for future success.  This year's results will not be used for placement in any District classes or programs.  More detailed information about testing days will be coming from your child's school in the next couple of weeks. 
enVision 2.0 Math Adoption - Grades K-5
After an exhaustive process which began back in the fall of 2014, the K-5 Math Committee has made the recommendation to adopt Scott Foresman's enVision 2.0 Math Program for the 2016-2017 school year. 
The process began with the evaluation of a dozen elementary math programs. The committee narrowed the scope down to two programs, enVision 2.0 and Go Math 2015, which are similar in design and fully aligned to the Illinois Learning Standards for mathematics.  A pilot program was run for the duration of the 2015-2016 school year using the selected programs in all grade levels, and data was collected throughout the process.
Last month, the committee analyzed a variety of data which included input from teachers, students, and parents, along with the analysis student assessment data.  Although both programs rated very high on our Instruction Materials Evaluation Tool, enVision 2.0 was the clear choice for the committee. 
For parents who seek more information on enVision 2.0, I have invited a representative to come and preview the program and answer questions.  The presentation will be held on Monday, May 9th at 6:30 pm. in the Little Theater at Palos South.  We hope to see you there. 
Palos East Excellence

Young Authors Contest Winners

2016 Spelling Bee Winners

Fifty East students earned the Presidential Academic Excellence Award. For more photos, visit the Recognition link.


The Board of Education honored Palos East's academic excellence at their monthly meeting April 19. Visit the Recognition link for the complete list of the Young Authors Contest, Spelling Bee, and Presidential Academic Excellence Award Winners.

Person You Should Know
Mr. Jack Hrymak
Palos West Teacher 
Jack Hrymak has been with Palos 118 since 1987, teaching 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades at West. He earned a B.S. from Northern Illinois University in elementary education, with a degree emphasis in earth sciences. He received his M.A. in curriculum and instruction from National Lewis University.

Mr. Hrymak has spearheaded Earth Day efforts at Palos West for two decades and is responsible for launching their recycling program. He credits being a product of the 1960's and 70's for his Earth Day beginnings. "I had teachers that really made an impact on me about keeping our planet clean," said Mr. Hrymak. 

"I was hoping to help students learn the importance of recycling.  Because we made some money recycling the aluminum, that effort evolved into Earth Day at West. We began to take the money we made recycling, and put it back 'into the earth' by planting trees on school grounds and cleaning up the litter, etc..." 

Mr. Hrymak's wife is also a school teacher and they have four children; three are currently attending state universities. 

In his spare time Mr. Hrymak enjoys observing weather and meteorology. He is a Severe Storm Spotter for the National Weather Service, and is an aviation enthusiast. As a life-long Cubs fan, Mr. Hrymak will root for the Sox, as long as they're not playing the Cubs.

Currently Reading: "All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum.

Parents of incoming kindergarteners and new students are encouraged to start the registration process as soon as possible.

Registration for returning students is open. Please complete the process before June 3, 2016. At the conclusion of the registration process, you can pay the 2016-17 fees on the WebStore. There is a $25 savings per student if all fees are paid in full by June 3, 2016. Returning registration must be completed for EACH STUDENT enrolled.

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