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U-46 poised to embrace theoretical learning plan

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 is prepared to spend $18.5 million on theoretical work over the next five years to change schooling.
  The proposal is from Learning Sciences International (LSI) with a cost breakdown of $4.4 million in 2021-2022, $4.5 million in 2022-2023, $4.9 million in 2023-2024, $2.7 million in 2024-2025 and $2 million in 2025-2026. It was presented at the April 12 Board of Education meeting with a vote expected on Monday, April 26.  
  The cost is planned to be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through federal bailout funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and American Recovery Act.  
  “In our post-COVID responses to learning, the goal is to align the entire system and achieve our highest priority – educating all students through high quality learning that empowers them to thrive in a global society,” the proposal states.
  Penny Sell, LSI’s executive director, said: “Our mission at LSI is really to transform core instruction to develop both agency and academics within students to allow them to break the cycle of generational poverty…. This is not a program, this is second order change.”
  Snell said everyone has to “align our thinking” under the “theory of action” work which will allow the district to predict student achievement, again at a cost of $18.5 million. She said: “We are strong believers in measurement theory.”
  “Your principals, your administrators, they’re making a lot of non-trivial decisions every day in their work, and the average classroom teacher is making 1,500 instructional moves throughout the day,” Snell said adding: “What we find… is sometimes those actions are not aligned in the same direction.”  
  Deana Senn, LSI’s senior director, said the $18.5 million includes professional development, job-embedded coaching and resources (academic teaming toolkits, student evidence tracker).  
  “It’s a multi-tiered approach across five years focusing heavily on leadership development, teacher empowerment with a strong focus on rigorous core instruction and metrics-based coaching so that we’re always using data to adjust and look for root-cause analysis of any concerns that we might see,” Snell said.  
  Superintendent Tony Sanders said the district spends between $25 million to $40 million on physical infrastructure, but claimed this is also “infrastructure.” It’s “a new direction for our school system,” and “essential to try and create a different system… in the wake of this pandemic,” Sanders said.
  “If (teachers) do not buy into it, then it’s not going to work,” Sanders said, adding U-46 will “strongly encourage them to do so.”
  Bruce Phelps, director of business services, said: “We have the ability to back out of the contract with no penalties with a 30-day notice.”

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