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News Release

Contact: Russ Fletcher, DeKalb Community Unit School District 428
(815) 754-2283

October 6, 2009

Defining success: Survey of DHS students guides
planning of new school model, NIU partnership

DeKalb, Ill. — As bulldozers and cranes construct the new DeKalb High School building, a team of more than 60 faculty and staff from Northern Illinois University and DHS is planning a high school program that will result in world-class student achievement at both institutions.

DeKalb High School - District 428/NIU Partnership Schools

As part of this planning process, the design team consulted community members in February and students in May to create a picture of what DHS graduates will need to succeed in the 21st century. 

Of greatest importance to DHS students is an education that prepares them to “be of good character” while they strive for success.

“That our students view good character as an important attribute to success in global competition and the 21st century is a testament to the DHS student body,” said Doug Moeller, the high school’s new principal. “DHS students take pride in being role models for the DHS community and the greater DeKalb community as a whole.”

“As a district, we are thrilled by the support that we have received from DHS and NIU faculty and staff, as well as the community at large, for this partnership project,” said Kari Cremascoli, assistant superintendent for support services in DeKalb Community Unit School District 428. “We are committed to providing a world-class education to our students, and are excited about the mutual benefits that a professional development school can offer the students and faculty of both institutions.”

Scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, the new high school will bring transformations to both DHS and NIU and, the planners hope, earn national recognition.

District 428 expects students at the new DHS to demonstrate “globally competitive” academic achievement, an important ingredient in local economic and workforce development. Top-notch local schools also benefit NIU in many ways, such as providing a superior environment for training new teachers and improving NIU’s ability to attract first-rate faculty and staff.

In addition to raising the quality of DHS student achievement and NIU teacher preparation programs, the partners are planning joint research, co-teaching and excellence in professional learning for both DHS and NIU faculty.

A team of lead district administrators and teachers along with NIU faculty and staff is developing a unique vision based on student and community opinions, which were remarkably similar.

General agreement has emerged on a key factor: every student needs to be taught in the way that he or she learns best, so that all of them stay on track to graduate with globally competitive knowledge and skills. This will mean customizing instruction for individual students according to their needs with a goal of 80 percent or more achieving at proficient levels, compared to 50 percent currently.

Community input guides the work. Fifty local stakeholders representing DeKalb’s business, civic and educational communities came together Feb. 24, 2009, for an evening of brainstorming. The group was asked to list qualities they believe DeKalb High School graduates will need to succeed in the global marketplace.

Six-hundred and fifty-eight DHS students later reviewed the list to rank each quality as “most important,” “important” or “not important.” Most students regarded all 10 capabilities as “important” or “most important.”

  • Strong Academic Skills
  • Critical thinking and Problem-Solving
  • Scientific Literacy
  • Global Perspective/Multilingual Skills
  • Good Character
  • Community Engagement
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Creativity and Appreciation for the Arts
  • Technological Literacy
  • Lifelong Learning

“Students and community members are aware of the qualities necessary to succeed in our increasingly competitive world,” said Susan Callahan, NIU faculty member and co-chair of design team. “They understand that graduates need more than strong academic skills: They need the qualities and perspectives that will make them truly successful throughout their lives.”

Planning for the high school partnership began in July 2008 at an intensive three-day workshop held inside NIU’s Altgeld Hall. Since then, a design team and four subcommittees have met frequently to plan a rigorous curriculum, professional development for DHS teachers, joint research by DHS and NIU faculty, superior preparation of new teachers and communications to keep all the planners connected with each other and the community.

When it opens, DeKalb High School will represent the third professional development school created by the District 428-NIU partnership that began with Wright Elementary School in 2004 and was enhanced last fall with an additional partnership at Chesebro Elementary School.

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