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Teacher survey points way toward District 161 curriculum changes

In a survey this month, teachers in Flossmoor School District 161 gave mediocre grades to the classroom resources they receive and the existing curriculum in the schools.

The survey is likely to be the first step toward an overhaul of the curriculum in District 161. The district’s director of learning and instruction, Amabel Crawford, presented the survey findings at the Dec. 12 board of education meeting. Crawford joined District 161 over the summer.

Crawford said the survey was given to teachers in all five District 161 schools and was designed to provide a faculty perspective on the effectiveness of the current curriculum and resources.

Surveys were provided to two main groups of teachers – in English and language arts (ELA) and in mathematics. Teachers who do not specifically teach in those areas were asked to take surveys that are closest to their discipline. For example, teachers of foreign languages filled out ELA surveys.


Seventy-eight ELA teachers and 66 math teachers took the surveys. The survey was designed so that respondents are anonymous. Teachers had five possible responses – strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree and strongly agree. In this story, responses of strongly disagree and disagree have been combined.

Teachers were given a chance to agree or disagree with statements about conditions in the schools and effectiveness of the current curriculum.

In response to the statement “Appropriate texts are available to me,” 46 percent of teachers disagreed and another 37 percent were neutral, which Crawford said could be considered about the same as disagreeing.

Eighty-two percent of ELA teachers disagreed with the statement “My classroom library is sufficiently stocked with books and resources (supplied by District 161) for my students’ needs.”

In response to the statement “I am confident that the curriculum is preparing my students for the next grade level,” 48 percent of ELA teachers disagreed and 30 percent were neutral.

Fifty-two percent of teachers disagreed with the statement “Our units of study are appropriate at meeting the needs of my students.” Twenty-eight percent were neutral.

Responses from the math teachers were similar, with significant numbers indicating there are shortcomings with texts, resources and curriculum.

A majority of math teachers disagreed with the statement “Our current curriculum provides sufficient support to challenge my highest performing students.” The same was true for a statement regarding lower performing students.

A high percentage of both ELA and math teachers indicated that they bolster resources provided by the district with supplemental materials they seek out on their own.

Crawford said the survey was not developed to negate the good work that is being doing by teachers in District 161. She said teachers are working “incredibly hard.”

Still, she said, “There needs to be accountability.” 

Crawford recommended a series of steps as changes to the curriculum are formulated and implemented.

For English and language arts, she said, District 161 should:

  • Improve access to classroom library books and resources including novels and leveled texts.
  • Ensure a standard of access to reading books provided by the district across all schools.
  • Explore and test Achieve 3000 Literacy program at Parker Junior High School. The program is currently used at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

For mathematics, Crawford said the district should:

  • Adopt a district-wide math curriculum that is research based, aligned to standards and provides supports for students at all levels.
  • Utilize a curriculum to provide clarity, consistency and rigor.
  • Adopt a curriculum that has built-in assessments.

Crawford proposed the next steps to be taken for both the ELA and math curriculums.

For ELA, she suggested working with vendors to determine books needed at each grade level and developing a process for ordering and organizing books. The district needs to set expectations for sharing books and sending books home, she said.

For math, she said the district needs to form curriculum committees to begin looking at mathematics textbooks and programs to determine effectiveness.

Crawford also recommended that District 161 select two math programs that can be pilot initiatives in the spring. That way, the district can make a final decision on a math program that can be implemented in the fall of the 2017-18 school year.

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