Late Starts in Wheaton Schools Give Teachers Time to Focus on Learning

Wheaton North principal said extra hour of free study time Wednesday morning was "surprisingly smooth."

Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South high school students had an extra hour to sleep, study or do nothing Wednesday morning, as District 200 teachers met for their first of 12 morning Professional Learning Community (PLC) sessions to streamline high school student assessments.

According to the District 200 website, a PLC is an "opportunity for teachers to meet to discuss best instructional practices in the classroom. No one teacher can meet the needs of all students; rather, we believe our collective and collaborative efforts have a much better chance of meeting the needs of all students."

With the extra hour of unstructured time for students, school administrators planned for a worst-case scenario, assigning about 25 adults to supervise the free study time for students who arrived early, Principal Jill Bullo said.

She estimated about 150-200 students were in the cafeteria for the study period before classes Wednesday morning.

"Surprisingly smooth," she said.

"We anticipated the worst case... and actually it was great. Kids who are in the cafeteria from 7:20 to 8:25 (a.m.)—that's a long time, but they did great."

Implementing Common Core Standards

In 2010, Illinois became one of 45 other states and the District of Columbia to adopt Common Core Standards for public education. Using the PLC meetings to determine common expectations in the Wheaton and Warrenville high schools, District 200 will begin to implement the new math standards in the fall of 2013 and English standards in the fall of 2014, according to the District 200 website.

Elementary and middle school teachers engage in PLC work with time allowed in regular school days.

The District 200 Board of Education approved Superintendent Dr. Brian Harris' in June, with goals including implementation of the Common Core standards, using the PLC process to ensure college- and career-readiness.

“We’re beginning to change the entire way we go about providing education to students,” said Principal Dave Claypool.

He said in structured PLC meetings, teachers will be able to compare agendas, learning targets and student assessments. He said the primary goal in the first meeting Wednesday was to talk about how teams of teachers will conduct themselves.

The PLC teams are organized by school subject, varying in size from a large group of English or math teachers to a small group of German teachers. Bullo said each group has one designated facilitator, and work this semester to establish group norms.

She said Wednesday, Wheaton North teachers went over current data and questions they'll be asking themselves throughout the year.

She said the five elements of the PLC process include:

  1. A focus on learning
  2. Collaborative culture
  3. Defining “power” standards for courses
  4. Measuring students' effectiveness
  5. Systematic response to student performance and achievement

Using what they've learned from their PLC, teachers will write assessments each semester to determine whether students are on pace with expectations for each class. “We check that along the way and assist students, so it’s faster and more relevant feedback on their performance,” Bullo said.

“We’re very excited about this process because, this year, it’s about getting the pieces in place. Next year it’ll be about looking at how students are performing and how teachers can learn from each other to perfect their craft.

“This year, our team is fluid and flexible because we see this as an evolving process—it could be messy, it could be neat—it just depends.”

Teachers will meet twice a month this semester, and once a month in the second semester of the 2012-13 school year. Claypool said meeting twice a month will allow teachers to figure their expectations of their team members.

He said most schools that use the PLC process successfully meet once a week.

"We’re happy to have 12, but we’re looking forward to having more down the road," he said.

Late start dates for this year are Sept. 19, Oct. 3, Oct. 17, Nov. 7, Nov. 28, Dec. 12, Jan. 30, Feb. 27, March 13, Apr. 10, May 1.

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Jill Lewaniak September 08, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I know the PLC is not popular amongst many parents. I guess it would be nice (for the student) if you lived close to the school(s) and/or had a car and could drive to your parking spot. But for students who need a bus service or need a parent to then drive them, it is not. Bus service remains at its regular time. Rotting in a commons area so early in the morning would not appeal to anyone. So the kids arrive and have to stay in the commons area and then are given little time to go to their lockers? Hopefully all the homework has already been done and not saved for the next morning. Thankfully, no disciplinary issues happened on this first PLC, or at least that is my understanding. But, there are disciplinary issues at our high schools, and commons rot could cause issues that would not happen if the kids were in their regular classroom at that time. And as an adult, trying to remember on a busy schedule which Wednesdays are "late arrival" is just nuts. I think staff could come up with other time periods to discuss these matters which does not affect the regular school periods, like after school. If an extra-curricular activity had to be delayed an hour, well, the affected kids would have the homework from the day to do in the commons area and the paid staff would have to remember which "every other Wednesday" they had a meeting versus every family in a CUSD 200 high school area. Not a fan of the PLC.
Sherry Nelson September 08, 2012 at 02:35 PM
This is a misuse of time during the school day that should be discontinued immediately. Students are in school far too few hours as it is. No matter how valuable the collaboration may be for teachers, it is a complete waste for thousands of students. Sherry Nelson
Louise September 09, 2012 at 12:27 AM
With Access period last year and the 12 late start Wednesdays this year, HS students at CUSD 200 schools have lost 3-4 weeks of academic time in each class. This is an abomination and no amount of collaborative time can improve learning outcomes to offset 3-4 less weeks of academic time. My very studious son said that no decent student would consider leaving homework for the morning it is due...so he and his friends played a board game during the first late start. Sleep would at least be something worth gaining but the students don't even get that. HS teachers don't have time after school to collaborate b/c the contract doesn't require it. Benefits are easy to give but hard to take away. How hard would it be to have each academic department meet once every 2 weeks after school? Rotate the days so as to maintain necessary supervision in extra-curricular activities (which is an extra-pay job.) I think clubs/sports could figure out how to manage this minor disruption, if it affected them at all. By the way, at South, 2400 students were dismissed from the cafeteria leading to chaos as the students entered the academic wings in one huge wave. I assume a better plan is being discussed for next time.


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