New assessment results show District 186 students close to national average (, 10/16/17)

There’s a new assessment model Springfield Public Schools are using to track your child’s progress. At Monday night’s District 186 School Board meeting, those results were revealed.

The new model is called the NWEA MAP Assessment. It’s new to District 186 this year and officials say they’re pleased with the results already.

MAP stands for Measures of Academic Progress, and it’s a reading and math benchmarking tool that is administered three times a year (September, January, April). Every student in District 186 will take the test, and the progress is monitored between each time they take it.

Students in District 186 were fairly close to the national average. For example, in 9th grade reading, the average score in District 186 was just over 216. That’s compared to the national average at just over 220. In 9th grade math, the district’s average was 223, and the national average was just over 230.

Superintendent Jennifer Gill said, “For our first administration, the students have never seen this assessment before. We were happy with our results and we know that this is our baseline, this is where we are at the beginning of the year based on end of the year standards.” District officials said this new assessment will help identify the needs of students, personalize their goals and provide an equitable education for all of them.

The MAP test consists of one reading test and one math test, both of which are not timed.
Results provide administrators, teachers, students and parents with various reports:
Student Progress Report (shows student progress from all past testing to compare growth)
Achievement and Growth Report (shows student growth based on national norms in comparison to other students taking the test)

Here are the results for each grade in both math and reading:

Math Summary (District 186 average, national norm):

Kindergarten: 136.0, 140.0
1st grade: 159.1, 162.4
2nd grade: 179.8, 176.9
3rd grade: 187.2, 190.4
4th grade: 197.9, 201.9
5th grade: 206.8, 211.4
6th grade: 211.6, 217.6
7th grade: 215.5, 222.6
8th grade: 220.7, 226.3
9th grade: 223.0, 230.3
10th grade: 228.5, 230.1
11th grade: 232.6, 233.3
12th grade: 236.0, no norm

Reading Summary (District 186 average, national norm):

Kindergarten 139.9, 141.0
1st grade: 158.5, 160.7
2nd grade: 172.4, 174.7
3rd grade: 184.6, 188.3
4th grade: 193.5, 198.2
5th grade: 201.3, 205.7
6th grade: 207.7, 211.0
7th grade: 210.8, 214.4
8th grade: 214.2, 217.2
9th grade: 216.1, 220.2
10th grade: 217.6, 220.4
11th grade: 221.7, 222.6
12th grade: 223.1, no norm

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Agenda announced for ISBE meeting October 18 via video conference (, 10/13/17)

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced the following schedule for its regular business meeting via video conference in Springfield and Chicago on October 18.

ISBE will host a public budget hearing in the Board Room in Springfield (100 N. First St.) immediately following the meeting (at approximately noon). Public participation in the budget hearing by teachers, parents, leaders, and advocates helps ISBE communicate the real needs of Illinois’ students to the General Assembly. ISBE will issue fiscal year 2019 budget recommendations on behalf of pre-K through 12th grade educational service providers statewide to the General Assembly in January.

View the packet for the meeting.

All State Board of Education meetings are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons planning to attend who need special accommodations should contact the Superintendent’s office no later than one day prior to the meeting. Contact the Superintendent’s office at the State Board of Education by phone at (217) 782-2221, TTY/TDD at (217) 782-1900, or fax at (217) 785-3972.

Chairman James Meeks may call for a break in the meeting as necessary in order for the Board to go into closed session.

This meeting will be audio cast on the internet at

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Yoga & “Mindfulness” Come To Springfield Public Schools (, 10/12/17)

yoga_picA new effort to get kids more active and in touch with their thoughts has come to Springfield’s public school district – in the form of yoga classes. It could also have implications for how students are disciplined in the future.

Within the last year, Ashley Krstulovich quit her desk job – she’s embarked on a personal and professional journey that’s all about mindfulness and movement. She’s a certified yoga instructor and has trained in what’s called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.” She also is registered with Mindful Schools. She recently started a yoga club at Washington Middle School on the north end of the city. The first day, there were about twenty kids spread out in the library, sitting on colorful new yoga mats which were donated through a fundraiser that got the after-school, elective option up and running.

Krstulovich led the kids through a deep breathing exercise. “And you know what? Constantly sucking in and holding your breath – you know what that makes you? Nervous, anxious, upset, scared – like an invisible tiger is chasing you, ” she tells the kids during the lesson.

Krstulovich teaches them how to breathe with their diaphragm. Some look surprised to see their bellies get bigger as they inhale. She also takes the kids through what’s called a “body scan” – where they lay down and focus on each part of their body and its sensations. There’s movement too of course – and they quickly cycle through a yoga routine.

Krstulovich also has the kids write about how they are feeling in a journal. It’s a lot packed in over the hour or so. Kids will continue to have the chance to meet after school on Mondays – Krstulovich has volunteered to hold class for the students weekly, as well as any teachers who want to join in.

It’s not a new concept. In Chicago Annie Warshaw is CEO and co-founder of Mission Propelle – an organization that works with schools to teach girls lessons that incorporate yoga. As they go through the routine, Warshaw says: “Girls yell out different mantras according to that pose … so for example when they’re in ‘warrior one’ they bring up their arms they kiss their muscles every single time and they yell – I am strong!” The effort is all about teaching females about empowerment starting at a young age.

Back in Springfield, Gail Neely is the social/emotional coach at Washington Middle School. It’s a new position that works with kids who need extra help in those areas. She’s a big fan of yoga herself and hopes it will make a difference with the students, and teach them: “A little bit of self-regulation, where ‘I know I’m getting angry, but I don’t have to act out on it – I can be angry and still be okay.'”

Principal Vincent Turner suggests yoga could potentially be used as part of the discipline process, more along the trend of restorative justice – where students are taught about conflict resolution instead of being put in detention or suspended. “It would definitely be a consideration, we’re moving forward with a lot of different approaches to restorative practices, if this would be something that we see has a benefit for students, we would definitely want to try,” says Turner.

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What’s behind ‘bad’ behavior?

Acting up and melting down result from Adverse Childhood Experiences
By Cinda Ackerman Klickna, IEA President

Educators are beginning to get answers to questions they have always asked: Am I doing something wrong? Why does a student react violently to a simple request? Why does another student retreat and sleep in class? And why, even after repeated disciplinary consequences, do some students continue with inappropriate behavior?

The answer is that it is not “why” but rather “what” that is causing the actions of some students. And, the “what” can be identified through the research known as ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences.

ACEs was first identified in 1998 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through a survey of over 17,000 people, asking about experiences they had faced up to the age of 18. The CDC discovered a stunning link between adult health issues (such as diabetes, heart conditions, depression, and cancer) and the adverse childhood experiences these adults had faced.

The adverse experiences identified include physical, sexual and verbal abuse, physical and emotional neglect, mental illness, death or incarceration of a family member, losing a parent to separation, divorce or another reason, and witnessing abuse of one’s mother.

Persistent exposure to ACEs causes a person to go into toxic stress, trauma which affects the brain. With the brain in toxic stress, a person is incapable of coping and reacts with a “flight, fight or freeze” response. A student facing this trauma cannot learn because the brain has shut down in reaction to the stress.

Dr. Sameer Vohra, SIU executive director of the Office of Population Science and Policy and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, knows this from his work with children. He explains, “Think of someone who encounters a bear in the woods. The body immediately knows to pump more oxygen so one can run. That is what happens to a child who is constantly put into situations that are extreme; the challenges cause toxic stress to enter.

The results from 20 years ago are now being looked at much more closely by both doctors and educators. Educators enacted punishments for bad behavior; doctors prescribed medicines for chronic health problems. Neither really delved into the underlying causes of the behavior or the health problems. Vohra says, “To truly understand a child’s health we must understand the factors affecting that health.”

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Springfield Public Schools Foundation to host pop-up book shop downtown (, 10/12/17)

45752_1434421799The Springfield Public Schools Foundation will host its first-ever Pop-Up Book Shop on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 8 AM to 4 PM. “One Eighty Six Books” will be conveniently located in the heart of the Old Capitol Farmers Market at 407 E. Adams in downtown Springfield.

Proceeds from the event will be used to supply books for school libraries and classrooms district-wide.

“We hope families will check out the new format of the event this year,” said Kate Dunne, Foundation Board Member and a co-chair of the event. “It is a unique opportunity to enjoy shopping downtown while supporting the students of District 186.”

There will be a wide variety of books available for purchase for both children and adults. Shoppers will also be able to fulfill specific book requests made by each District school.

The Pop-up Book Shop is just one of the new and exciting experiences that the Foundation is offering the community and its donors this school year. The Annual Dinner and Art Auction, is set for Saturday, February 24, 2018, in a new location at Horace Mann in Downtown Springfield. It will be the first event of its kind at the company’s headquarters.

Each year, the Springfield Public Schools Foundation funds a number of classroom education, classroom library, special project, extracurricular and special education grants for the teachers and students of District 186. Teachers must complete an application to be considered for funding.

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Superintendent Gill’s response to bomb threats recognized by IL State Supt. (, 10/11/17)

I’ve been celebrating many of the wonderful things I’ve been seeing at the start of the school year. This week I am also recognizing something positive — it’s just that the conditions that prompted the recognition are tough to talk about.

Every day educators and administrators in our schools are placed in unexpected situations that could affect lives forever. When external forces violate our schools, they not only rob our students of their opportunity to learn, they also rob them of their feelings of safety, security, and well-being. This is something many superintendents, principals, teachers, and staff did not anticipate being a part of their work and it has unfortunately become a part of our daily responsibility.

I want to recognize Springfield Public School District 186 for all they’ve gone through since school began this year. Someone has called in threats against schools on multiple occasions. Responding to these multiple threats, the district team has demonstrated tremendous leadership and preparation to protect students and adults. Superintendent Jennifer Gill is demonstrating remarkable grace and resolve to ensure everyone’s safety as the community deals with these threats. In each incident, families were immediately notified via automated calls and follow-up communications were continued throughout the ordeals each week. Students and staff were evacuated to safe sites where weather and technology needs were taken into consideration. The district continually provided a consistent message for students and offered follow-up support through social workers and psychologists.

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Retired Dist. 186 Educator To Speak On Lincoln And Education (, 10/9/17)

paulashotwell.jpegThis Thursday evening, the Lincoln Legacy Lectures take place on the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

Traditionally, these have featured Lincoln historians. But with the topic “Lincoln and Education”, one of the guest speakers is a retired educator.

Paula Shotwell taught for years in District 186. She also created a living history program for 5th graders.

“I’ll be able to give the experience of working with kids for over 30 years,” she said.

Shotwell points out Lincoln often resonates less with students from the Springfield area, despite the strong ties to the former president. She lays part of the blame on budget cuts that have reduced field trips where children can see the Lincoln story up close. Also, Shotwell said the focus on test taking limits the time available for such learning.

“If we’re going to have Lincoln in our curriculum, it really does take a village in terms of resources, both monetary and volunteers,” she said. “We need our historic sites and historic volunteers, our historians, our universities, our teachers, our educators, our school districts all to be working together and communicating and pulling their resources so that together we can give our kids the best education we know how.”

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