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District 203 Board of Education to vote on changes to English Learner and middle school elective programs

Allison+Boutet%2C+Assistant+Superintendent+for+Administrative+Service%2C+explains+the+changes+to+Junior+High+Spanish+and+French+teachers+at+the+Dec.+4+Board+of+Education+meeting.+%28Photo+Credit%3A+District+203%29
Allison Boutet, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Service, explains the changes to Junior High Spanish and French teachers at the Dec. 4 Board of Education meeting. (Photo Credit: District 203)

School and district administrators recommended changes to multiple District 203 programs during the Naperville 203 Board of Education meeting on Dec. 4. The board will vote on a decision at their next meeting on Dec. 18.

The proposed plans include the expansion of the English Learner (EL) program to all junior high and high schools, introduction of new coding classes in junior high exploratories departments and the restriction of junior high Spanish and French (WCL) classes to only 8th grade.

“[The proposed EL expansion] is aligned to commitments within our Focus 203 strategic blueprint, specifically addressing student services supports,” Superintendent Dan Bridges said at the board meeting. “[The Exploratories and WCL department changes are also] in alignment with our strategic blueprint work in support of our junior high exploratory selections and College and Career readiness and pathways.”

In response to updated standards from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the District proposed mandatory computer science classes at the junior high level, which can either be taken in 6th grade, 7th grade or both.

“The shifts in programming aim to foster relevant and engaging learning experiences for our middle school students,” said Allison Boutet, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Service. “[We want] to foster relevant and engaging learning experiences for our middle school students.”

Students will use SchoolLinks to rank their preference in exploratory course offerings, including the new Computer Science for Innovators & Makers and Code Explorers courses. Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a current course offered to 6th graders will remain available for students to take during summer school.

The proposed courses will be taught by either learning commons staff or WCL teachers, depending on the building. Professional learning will be provided to WCL teachers set to teach programming courses, according to Boutet. The added courses come as sections of Spanish and French are set to decrease with the proposed restriction of WCL to only 8th grade at the junior high level.

“This proposed approach addresses the expressed desires of students and families for more exploratory choices, responds to the demand for additional Project Lead the Way coursework and still enables students to commence level two [WCL classes] in high school,” said Jayne Willard, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for District 203. “Shifting [WCL] isn’t just a logistical move, it’s an opportunity to reallocate resources where they’re needed most.”

Currently, students choose either exploratory, Spanish or French for both 7th and 8th grade, giving limited opportunities for students who wish to take both a foreign language and the career-focused courses offered in the exploratories department. According to Willard, the proposed change comes in response to student and parent requests for additional exploratory course offerings.

“We want to provide students with more opportunities to participate in relevant college and career exploratory options, while still allowing them the option to complete level one of Spanish or French before entering high school,” Willard said. “We are excited to share this future state of our junior  Exploratories and are confident that this plan only enhances students’ experiences.”

WCL teachers who don’t begin teaching the new programming courses will instead help with the proposed expansion to the EL program. Such teachers have already received the necessary certifications to teach English as a second language.

“By enhancing our EL program, we aim to provide targeted support that addresses [academic achievement] gaps and [ensures] equitable learning outcomes for all students,”  said Lisa Xagas, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services for District 203. “With the evolving demographics and increasing number of EL students, there is a pressing need to expand and enhance these services, ensuring equity and excellence in education for all students.”

Currently, EL is only offered at Ann Reid Preschool, all elementary schools, Jefferson Junior High and Naperville North High School. Students whose home school doesn’t offer EL can currently choose to attend Jefferson or North (depending on grade level), which serve as magnet schools for the program.

Under the new proposal, EL would be offered at every school in District 203, allowing students to attend their home school while still accessing EL services.

“Families should not have to choose between receiving support and a sense of belonging,” Xagas said at the board meeting. “This emotional and social integration is as important as academic success.”

Since 2013, the number of EL-eligible students has grown from 823 to 1460 in November 2023. However, the usage of these services isn’t equally distributed. While only 2% of eligible Elementary school students refuse the EL program, that number jumps to 30% at the junior high and high school levels.

According to family feedback presented at the board meeting, the refusal rate is largely due to location, with many parents wanting their children to stay closer to home, be with neighborhood friends and avoid long bus rides. The proposed EL changes would solve those concerns by offering EL at every student’s home school, as is the case at the elementary level.

“The significant increase underscores the need for expanding and  adapting our EL services,” Xagas said.

If approved at the Dec. 18 Board meeting, the changes would go into effect during the 2024-25 school year. The EL program expansion would continue to be phased in until the 2026-27 school year.

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About the Contributors
C.J. Getting
C.J. Getting, News Editor
C.J. is a junior entering his third year on Staff for the Central Times. He’s always loved writing news, and is excited to work as the News Editor this year. When he’s not writing for CT, C.J. can be found captaining the Debate Team or helping out SAC or JSA. He also desperately needs to detox from volunteering. After graduation, C.J. hopes to major in Political Science and spend too much money on Law School someday.
Nolan Shen
Nolan Shen, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Nolan is a senior, entering his third year on staff. He is excited to be heading the Arts and Entertainment section this year. When not writing for CT, he can be found playing with the Marching Redhawks Drumline, performing in the Naperville Youth Symphony, eating too much McDonald’s, and watching bad sci-fi movies. Next year, he plans on going to college to study political science and hopefully not flunk out.
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