By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy School Board put its stamp of approval Wednesday on a new school-improvement plan for the district.
The plan developed by the district's administrative team sets three main goals for improving education in grades K-12:
º The district will align its math and literacy instruction to higher standards.
º The district will implement new "diagnostic assessments" to measure student growth from fall to winter and then from winter to spring. "So we will be looking at student growth more often," explained Carol Frericks, the district's secondary education director.
º The district will begin using online tools for math and reading "to close some of the gaps that we see in student performance skills," Frericks said.
School Board member Jeff Mays, chairman of the board's Curriculum Committee, said he's glad to see the district moving forward with the revamped school-improvement plan. Progress districtwide and at each school will be monitored using the new online Rising Star "continuous improvement plan" developed by the state.
Several building administrators spoke in support of the Rising Star system at Wednesday's meeting, saying it should help local educators keep better track of ongoing efforts to advance local schools.
"I think everybody wants us to grow," Mays said.
In other action at Wednesday's meeting -- held in the Dewey Elementary School gym -- the board approved a request to let six students from the Quincy High School yearbook staff attend the National High School Journalism Conference Nov. 13-16 in Boston.
Superintendent Steve Cobb said board approval of the field trip was needed because of a policy that requires board action if students will be traveling more than 200 miles and staying overnight.
However, Cobb also announced that the district plans to begin easing up on a general ban on field trips that was instituted in 2010 as a cost-saving move. Cobb said he will consider allowing field trips on a case-by-case basis but only if the trip has an educational component that complements the district's curriculum.
Board President Stephanie Erwin said she was pleased to see the district warming up to the idea of allowing more field trips. "We think those are enriching experiences," she said.
However, she and Cobb wanted the public to know that not all field trips will be automatically allowed. Ties to educational value will be a big consideration, and costs also will have to be weighed.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The Quincy School Board also:
º Recognized seven Quincy High School seniors who earned the National Career Readiness Certificate by scoring high last April on a series of WorkKeys tests used to measure workplace skills that employers believe are critical to job success. The students are Elizabeth Buckwalter, Chase Crossan, Matt Frankenhoff, Tom O'Conner, Chloe Rees, Spencer Roberts and Terra Scranton.
º Recognized the Quincy High School golf team for placing third in the state tournament.
º Learned that Quincy High School tennis coach Mike Terry has been named Illinois High School Association coach of the year. Terry's tennis teams have amassed 497 wins over the years.
º Learned the administration is still collecting information about student drug testing policies used in other Illinois school districts. The School Board is contemplating adopting a testing policy in Quincy. "We are getting good information from schools that are currently using this practice and learning from what they can tell us," board member Sheldon Bailey said.
º Heard a reminder that the public is being invited to a community education institute planned for 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 2 at Quincy High School and Baldwin Intermediate School. Parents, guardians, educators and members of the community are being invited to the institute to learn how they can help students be successful academically as the new "common core" state standards are implemented in the district.