QUINCY — When a Quincy Public Schools parent raised concerns about a new state sex education law and how it would impact curriculum at last month’s School Board meeting, Kim Dinkheller was quick to offer reassurance.
Fifteen new requirements apply to all classes teaching comprehensive personal health and safety and comprehensive sexual health education.
But Dinkheller, QPS Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, said school districts are not required to offer the comprehensive classes as long as they offer classes that focus on “critical health problems” outlined in an earlier state law.
“We’re meeting the requirements,” Dinkheller said. “The changes only apply to districts that are teaching a specific course. Quincy doesn’t teach that course.”
QPS students in eighth and 11th grades typically take a class focused on critical health problems.
“Some students looking to fill their schedule during the school year with electives and advanced placement choose to take health online in the summer,” Dinkheller said.
Other new laws and curriculum mandates include:
• Offering a unit of instruction within a course on media literacy beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
QPS does not yet have the updated guidance from the Illinois State of Education on what the unit must contain, but the district offers media literacy in many courses already in place.
“Talking about media literacy and ensuring a unit of study in computer courses is something we’re already doing,” Dinkheller said. “Media literacy is really about having an understanding of how to look at sources.”
• Incorporating a unit on Asian American history in elementary and high school curriculum, effective in the 2022-23 year. “We will look at some of the recommended topics and see are we already teaching it,” Dinkheller said.
• Adding e-cigarettes and vapor devices as a topic in health education in the current school year. QPS curriculum already covers the topic.
• Requiring 30 minutes of unstructured, student-centered playtime daily for K-5 students in the current school year.
QPS already offered 30 minutes for K-2 students and increased from 15 to 30 minutes for students in grades three through five.
“It’s time for students to take a brain break,” Dinkheller said. “It may look like outside recess. If it’s cold out, and they’re inside, twice during the day, 15 minutes each, students have unscheduled time to play.”
As originally proposed, the playtime bill covered K-8 students. As the bill progressed, it ended up covering K-5 students — an example, Dinkheller said, of how proposals change in the “how a bill becomes a law” process.
Initial wording of proposals sometimes can spur concerns among school districts and parents, but those often are addressed in the legislative process. Sometimes, too, there can be confusion over new mandates and what they mean to individual districts.
“The one thing that we always know is that we have local control over resources and how we adopt those through our district improvement committee,” Dinkheller said. “Very rarely does the state give you a resource that you have to use to implement something.”
Changes in state mandates and state laws may lead to changes in QPS curriculum and the addition of new classes.
“Each year brings courses to the district improvement team as course proposals,” Dinkheller said. “At the junior high and high school we typically see courses added. We get feedback from teachers, from counselors and look to see how can we expand curriculum to include elective areas students may be interested in.”
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