D86 moves ahead on academic equity

Hinsdale High School District 86 officials are advancing their effort to furnish students at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools the same course opportunities.

At the school board’s Oct. 29 meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Academics Chris Covino presented proposed changes to the schools’ programs of studies for the 2021-22 year to achieve that alignment.

They include the introduction of the Chemistry of Earth Systems course as an option for all students that was approved earlier this year and the elimination of the PE physical conditioning class at Central.

Covino told board members most of the recommended changes seek to provide equal access to all courses across the district.

“Almost all of the suggestions here are part of the continued alignment between the two buildings,” Covino told board members.

This is the second year that changes have been made to the schools’ programs of studies in an effort to align curricular offerings with a goal of eventually having a unified program for the entire district.

At the Sept. 10 committee of the whole meeting, Covino gave the board an overview of the work the learning leadership team is carrying out to address course alignment, a key component of “Goal One” of the district’s strategic plan, which calls for all students to be “engaged in a rigorous education resulting in college, career and life readiness.”

Alignment of grading and curriculum are central to that objective, Covino said, with a target of fall of 2024 to have a full set of commonly offered courses.

“One of the charges of (the learning leadership team) is to make sure that we have an equitable learning environment for all students in the district with equitable outcomes,” he said. “This means that we probably need to understand each of our buildings as containing the same program.”

Both the science and math programs have undergone alignment this year, and Covino stated the other academic departments would see similar reshaping.

“That’s going to be some difficult work and difficult conversations,” he remarked.

Alignment of course fees are also part of the project, many of which have been modified to reflect the ongoing shift from traditional textbooks to digital resources.

Board President Kevin Camden asked Covino if he was aware of any teachers who thought their concerns with course alignment were “being minimized or not heard.”

Covino responded that he was not. He also provided board members with a fall academic report on Oct. 29, delivering a prelude to the state’s annual school report card, which he said would indicate the impact of COVID-19 disruptions to last year’s academic calendar, such as canceled SAT testing.

“Designation (SAT) scores for both Central and South remain the same as last year because they are not being recalculated,” he said.

Covino noted that there was an increase in both the graduation rate and freshman-on-track rate at both campuses over the 2018-19 school year.

“The AP scores remain on par even in a very turbulent spring when tests changed with very little notice,” he said, noting College Board and National Merit honorees are also on the rise. “On a whole, it’s a very positive report.”

The draft program of studies for each school will be presented for to the board for final approval at its meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. They are available to view on Board Docs (Oct. 29 meeting) on the district’s website at https://www.hinsdale86.d86.org.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean