What does Middle School TAP Look Like?
Math - since 2017-18: Math, and the standards for math, are much more concrete than ELA. There are students ready to learn Algebra and students ready for Geometry. Our data and experience indicated that many more students than we were identifying could be successful in the advanced (TAP) pathway and all students could be successful in the accelerated pathway with the proper supports in place.
As such, we have two math pathways: accelerated and advanced. We have titled our math courses based on the content covered (pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, etc.).
We identify students for either a Geometry (advanced) Pathway or Algebra I (accelerated) Pathway based on ability and readiness for math. We use a combination of MAP, PARCC, and the Orleans-Hanna Algebra Readiness assessment to determine placement. The District stopped assessing all students with CogAT in 2017-18, and we will only use the Orleans-Hanna assessment when needed.
A student placed into the Advanced Pathway will take Pre-Algebra in 6th grade, Algebra in 7th grade, and Geometry in 8th grade. Students on this track will be ready for Algebra II in 9th grade. A student placed into the Accelerated Pathway will take Pre-Algebra in 6th grade, and be on a two year Algebra pathway in 7th and 8th grade. Students on this track will be ready for Geometry in 9th grade. The District will provide more students access to the math courses they are ready for and in which they are able to be successful. Over the spring and summer months we will will plan the specifics, such as teachers and scheduling.
Is TAP Math being eliminated?
The TAP Math curriculum is not being eliminated. It is simply now called the Advanced Pathway, which has the same curriculum, rigor, and track into high school as TAP. One change that took place last year was the creation of more inclusive criteria to provide access to greater number of students to this high level pathway.
How do we support our students?
Starting in 2019-2020, in addition to our special education services, each middle school will have two interventionists (aka Response to Intervention Specialists). At each middle school, there will be an ELA certified teacher and a Math certified teacher working as interventionists tasked with supporting students and also acting in a coaching capacity to support our content teachers. While coaching, these staff will co-plan, co-teach, model lessons, push into classrooms to support instruction, and work with small groups of students to provide enrichment and/or additional instruction. The current model provides us with only one interventionist per building. We are doubling this number for 2019-20.
ELA TAP (Seminar) in 2018-19: We proposed a Seminar for All approach for middle school ELA. This change is driven by the fact that we have many more students who can be successful in advanced educational programming. Our only legitimate option to address the actual needs of our students is to raise expectations across the ELA curriculum for all students. The District 109 student in the local 25th percentile, performs at the same level as the the national 75th percentile student. Our middle schools have one advanced, rigorous pathway for students in ELA in 6th grade this year (2018-19), which will move up to 7th grade for the 2019-20 school year and into 8th grade for the 2020-21 school year. Our data this year has yielded only positive results. Students were not "slowed down" by having multiple readiness levels in one class.
How about those students at a higher level - when will students at a higher level work with other students who work at their own level?
Everyday. Teachers already allow students enormous flexibility in book choice and group choice; this flexibility will continue to be ingrained in each and every classroom - and even increase.
Why did you make changes to the TAP program in 2017-18?
The current reality of student performance in District 109 is far different than it was when TAP was implemented nearly a decade ago. The program and educational changes implemented in 2017-18 allow us to best meet the needs and abilities of our student body, and take advantage of the outstanding skills of our teachers and staff. The students in our schools are working at significantly higher levels than peers throughout the rest of the state and nation. All of our data from local assessments, such as the MAP test and from state assessments such as PARCC, support this reality. Our teachers are differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all students, and raise their achievement.
On average, half of District 109 students at every grade level are at or above the 90th percentile as measured on nationally normed assessment measures in both math and English language arts (ELA). This means that more than half of our students at every grade level are in the top 10% of student performance on a national level, or, more than half of our students perform better than 90% of all students in the country. Furthermore, 75% of our students across all grades are, on average, in the top 25% of students nationally.
Currently, 10%-12% of students are in TAP programming (about 30-36 students across the District in each grade level). Yet, we have more than 150 students at each grade level working at or above the 90th percentile as a result of our educational improvements and increased differentiation over the past few years.
We have far more students who should have access to the services of TAP teachers or other advanced learning specialists, and the learning opportunities that they provide. In order to expand access, we must change the structure and function of our programs.
These changes will not remove advanced programming, but will expand access to advanced educational opportunities to more students.
If you expand access aren’t you watering down the program?
No. We expect the same high level of challenge and rigor, we just are implementing it with a greater number of students. This is a win-win situation. There is no data that shows including more students that are able and capable takes away from anyone else.
Students in the general education programs with near or same performance levels are growing at rates as fast if not higher than that of those in TAP. All of our students have been making monumental growth due to the changes in place since 2013.
Click here to view a presentation by Dr. Schwartz, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, to the Board of Education at the February 4th, 2019 Committee of the Whole meeting, which includes data demonstrating student growth in the new model.
Isn't TAP a gifted and talented program?
No. TAP is an advanced curriculum program for approximately 10-12% of students. A true gifted and talented program serves approximately 1-3% of students; the District does not have such a program in place.
So how is the District going to serve the 1-3% of truly gifted students?
Throughout this year (2018-19), the District has worked with outside experts in gifted education to answer this exact question. We have reviewed numerous models, including self-contained, multi-age programs, and full-grade acceleration.
We have also created Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) for these students beginning this year. ILPs take into account each student’s needs - both academic and social emotional.
How will the 1-3% of students be identified?
Last spring, we developed criteria for identifying gifted students. We will use a multiple-measures approach that may include academic assessments, WISC intelligence scales, CogAT, interviews with the child and their parents, and more. It is possible that this process will include student services departments at each school to identify the students and the best way to meet their needs.
It’s important to recognize the number of students in this group. If we identified a full 3% of 5th graders, about ten 5th graders across all four of our elementary schools would qualify.
The point of this initiative is to differentiate between high achieving students and those who are showing exceptional abilities, performing significantly above all other peers in the grade level.
I heard that the changes are being rolled up - can you explain that?
We are phasing in all changes to our TAP programming a year at a time so that students currently in TAP will continue with that program. This year, the elementary changes started in 3rd grade; middle school ELA changes will only impact 6th grade (however, we rolled up the changes we made in accelerated math in grade 6 in 2017-18 to grade 7 for the 18-19 school year). We want to make sure we provide support for these changes as we move along. Our intent is that over the next few years, we will have successfully transitioned all programming after a measured and thoughtful approach.
What changes were made to middle school world languages in 2018-19?
The middle schools no longer offers language in 6th grade; that time will be used in classes with curriculum to support-social emotional learning and transitions for students to middle school. Over the next few months, our student services department will plan all details of the new program and its implementation.
In 7th and 8th grade, the middle schools will continue to offer Spanish and French, and expand language opportunities for students by adding in Hebrew and Mandarin. The goal is to align District 109 programming with Deerfield High School. We will match the DHS offerings so as to not leave any students out of the opportunity to take the highest level class offered in any language in high school. However, there must be sufficient interest to run a class.
Were the changes voted on by the Board, and is further parent input allowed?
In general, program changes do not require Board approval. Since these particular changes required staffing changes, the Board was asked to take action. Parents and community members always are welcome to provide input. Through the strategic planning and program review processes, the District received an enormous amount of feedback from parents, staff, community members and students. These changes took that input into consideration.
Why did you recommend to eliminate elementary Spanish?
We recognize that early learning of languages is highly effective. However, the structure of our elementary programming did not support language learning. Please trust that the teachers of the program were wonderful!
Our elementary Spanish students receive instruction for 30 minutes only twice a week. This is substantially insufficient for any meaningful language instruction. An ideal program for language learning is a full immersion program where instruction is part in English and Spanish for the entire school day. For District 109 to implement a substantial early language learning program, we would need to commit to our students being instructed in Spanish in grades K-8 for at least 40 minutes a day, five days a week. Spanish would essentially be a core subject such as math, ELA, science, and social studies, and would require substantial reductions in other areas of our programming such as reductions to elementary specials such as art and music.
Expanding the elementary Spanish program was an option the administration considered. However, we felt that the necessary commitment needed to ensure all our students had an opportunity for true and meaningful language learning and bilingual opportunities was not the appropriate course at this time.
We fully support language learning and we believe that students beginning to learn a 2nd language in 7th grade still provides them the opportunity to achieve language fluency in the language of their choice by the end of high school.
What took the place of elementary Spanish?
The administration proposes that we hire a full-time teacher for each of the four elementary SmartLabs™. Students will attend the SmartLab for 60 minutes a week and do a variety of project based learning activities, as well as computer science/coding. In student engagement and other surveys, more than 80% of District 109 students requested more computer science education in their school day.
In addition, we also will take this opportunity to realign many of our elementary specials offerings. We will be adding an extra day of PE each week for all K-5 students. Currently, K-5 students attend PE only two days a week. Our students will get more exercise and physical education, and our District will be compliant with new state laws that require three days a week of PE.
We also will move the library to a more flexible schedule. Students will no longer have a 30 minute “library special.” Instead, each Library Information Specialist will have flexibility to work with grade levels on more extensive projects such as research projects that may require more than 30 minutes. The library will also be freed up for more classes to be in the space at the same time. Students all will continue to have regular time to check out books.