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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
September 25, 2008
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University and DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 will collaborate to create a professional development school at the new DeKalb High School, NIU President John G. Peters announced today.
Scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, the new high school will stand on the foundation of a groundbreaking depth of teamwork that organizers believe will bring transformations to both institutions and earn national recognition.
A team of top administrators, teachers and NIU faculty and staff will spend the next three years developing a unique vision for world-class student achievement rooted in rigorous curriculum, superior preparation of pre-service teachers, excellence in professional learning and joint research and co-teaching by faculty from NIU and DeKalb High School.
The partnership enforces NIU’s state-leading commitment to P-20 (preschool through graduate school) goals of raising student achievement, improving teacher quality and creating seamless transitions across the educational system. DeKalb High School represents the third professional development school between NIU and District 428, beginning with Wright Elementary School in 2004 and continuing last month with Chesebro Elementary School.
Peters made the announcement during his annual State of the University Address.
“Everyone in our greater education community recognized the remarkable opportunity created earlier this year when the voters of District 428 generously approved construction of a new high school,” Peters said. “Together we will build a new place of best-practice learning that prepares DeKalb High School graduates for a changing world while NIU simultaneously evolves in the way we train teachers. This close collaboration puts our faculty along the front lines of high school classrooms and brings that current, first-hand knowledge into NIU classrooms.”
“NIU Outreach has established a quality educational partnership with DeKalb Community Unit School District 428,” said Dr. James Briscoe, superintendent of District 428. “The DeKalb School District is excited about the opportunity to extend our partnership with NIU to the high school. This program will have a positive impact on learning for our students and staff.”
Planning for the high school partnership began July 7 at an intensive three-day workshop held inside NIU’s Altgeld Hall.
More than three dozen participants, including faculty, staff and administrators from both institutions, built a framework for partnership, examined current academic and environmental conditions at the high school, plotted a five-year course, voiced big ideas and finally drafted a blueprint for collaboration during the next three years.
They also learned more about “Response to Intervention,” the three-tiered problem-solving model at the heart of the partnership: Tier 1 – the core curriculum – is what every student receives and is effective for about 80 percent of students. Tier 2 introduces additional group support and intervention, effective for about 15 percent of the other students; Tier 3 is generally for students who demonstrate pervasive learning challenges (including those with special needs) and features more-individualized support and intervention.
During the three days, stakeholders from both institutions expressed their hopes for a mutually beneficial and equal partnership that makes “RTI” problem-solving intrinsic. They want to develop an effective curriculum and instruction that is rigorous, relevant and responsive.
“We’re walking hand-in-hand in this,” Dr. Becky McCabe, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at DeKalb Community Unit School District 428, told the group. “We all think we know what’s best for kids. We need to know together what’s best for kids. When it’s all over, we can be very proud of what we’ve done for kids.”
Dr. Anne Kaplan, vice president for Administration and University Outreach at NIU, told workshop participants that “our new economy requires students to acquire globally competitive knowledge and skills. Our P-20 strategic plan calls for an assessment of what constitutes ‘readiness’ for higher education in this changing environment.”
Meanwhile, she said, the university depends on the economic, educational, social and cultural vitality of the region.
“We have a long and proud history of training teachers and sustaining educational partnerships,” Kaplan said. “Partnerships are hard work, whether they focus on raising student performance or improving the economy. NIU devotes resources to managing partnerships and coordinating participation from across the campus. In this case, we see development of an innovative DeKalb High School as a strategic part of our regional mission.”
The new 400,000-square-foot DeKalb High School will sit on 76 acres on Dresser Road west of Katz Park. Its capacity of 2,500 immediately solves the overcrowding problem at the current high school, where enrollment tops 1,700 in a school built for 1,430.
Students and teachers also will enjoy improved technology, including wireless capability throughout the building and projectors in every classroom. Insufficient wiring at the current building cannot support that level of technology. NIU’s pre-service teachers will have a “focused area” to take classes in the building; some DHS faculty will teach in NIU classrooms alongside professors who train teachers.
Yet new bricks and mortar only will enhance the outstanding teaching and learning already available at DeKalb High School, Principal Dr. Lindsey Hall said. The school’s strong academic offerings include eight advanced placement courses, a number that will increase to 10 next fall.
“Our teachers personalize the environment. Our students indicate that they feel welcome here. We have an inclusive environment that encourages individuality and diversity,” Hall said. “Students get a global experience here. We’ve got a diverse population that exposes students to a wide variety of students and adults who are from varying backgrounds, both culturally and racially. This creates an environment where there’s a sharing of beliefs and opinions and the opportunity to engage in discourse about academics.”
Hall expects the professional development school will make DeKalb High School “the place where you want to send your children.”
“Your child is going to get the best-possible education in a public school district that’s doing things right and is meeting the needs of all of its learners,” she said. “From our end, the opportunity to have more pre-service candidates in our building is always exciting. Being around college students who want to be teachers and who want to go into education is refreshing and invigorating and breathes life into all of us, whether you’re someone with three years of experience or you’re a veteran with 25 years.”
The Chesebro Elementary School professional development school, launched in August, maximizes student achievement in reading, literacy and mathematics through implementing best practices that transcend contemporary educational barriers such as language, race and socio-economic levels. About half of Chesebro’s diverse student population of 298 children is Latino.
NIU professors, pre-service teachers and experienced teaching staff will provide outstanding instruction using progressive strategies in both English and Spanish.
In 2011, Chesebro will explore a dual-language option for students of both languages. An instructional option will enroll English and Spanish speakers who will journey together from kindergarten through fifth-grade and receive instruction in both languages. It is expected that all of those students will become bilingual.
Planners have created a three-phase implementation. Year One (2008-09) has a focus on language and literacy in English and Spanish, including an afterschool program that offers Spanish as a foreign language. Year Two (2009-10) branches into math, bilingualism and lesson delivery, design and differentiation for diverse and English language learners.
Year Three (2010-11) adds the dual-language option.
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