Instructional Council Keeps Dist. 46's Standards High
Byline: Marvin Edwards
Last week, a national report card on education gave the state of Illinois a C-minus on standards it uses to measure school performance.
The Council for Basic Education, a not-for-profit group based in Washington, D.C., asked experts from across the nation to determine the difficulty level of educational standards established by states.
Illinois is one of 48 states that has set expectations for students that are measured annually by statewide testing. The newly released ratings focused on fourth- and eighth-grade subjects because those are the grades President Clinton wants to measure in national exams.
While reports on state-level efforts may seem distant and irrelevant to the casual observer, national surveys indicate parents and other citizens indeed are concerned about the standards in their local schools. And in Illinois, all local school systems are required to adopt instructional programs tied to the state standards.
But before you get alarmed about Illinois' so-so rating, it is reassuring to know that while local school systems must consider state standards, they also have the authority to expand on them. In other words, thanks to the concept of local control of education, school systems can establish expectations, design programs and purchase materials that best meet the needs of their students.
In Elgin Area Unit District 46, that job has been handled effectively and efficiently for decades by a representative group called the U-46 Instructional Council. Because many parents and citizens may not be aware of its existence - not to mention its significant role in light of the recent national attention on standards - it is important to make them aware of this group.
Because the Instructional Council initiates, reviews and recommends instructional programs, curriculum and materials, the council has a critical function in influencing what is to be taught in District 46. As a result, it directly affects what students learn.
Such an undertaking requires the best and broadest thinking possible. The 28-member council includes 16 teachers representing all grade levels and program areas, six appointed by the Elgin Teachers Association and 10 elected by peers. Other members include three citizens, two central office instructional staff, six building-level administrators and the superintendent's top instructional assistant, who serves as council chair.
Recommendations developed by the council are submitted to the superintendent for presentation to the board of education for final action. These include teaching techniques, areas of instruction, textbook selection, curriculum guides, pupil evaluation, philosophy and educational goals of the district, research and experimental projects, programs for non-English speaking students, minority group studies and other significant educational matters. …