School District and Parents Clash Over Plan to Improve Schools

Thornton Township District 205 among those dealing with conflict over reform

Mar 23, 2011, 10:00 ET from Thornton Township District High Schools District 205

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill., March 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Thornton Township District High Schools District 205 is reaching out to feeder schools and promoting the benefits of a freshmen-focused curriculum in efforts to boost community support for a proposal to transform Thornridge High School into a freshmen academy.

On Monday, a group of District 205 parents who filed a lawsuit to block the Freshmen Center got a continuance in Cook County Circuit Court. Efforts to save Thornridge ignited last fall after District 205 won an $18 million School Improvement Grant to address low math and reading scores. Opposition, however, has centered on the Freshmen Academy.

District 205, like underfunded school districts nationwide, has wrestled with dissent over proposed enhancements while remaining committed to satisfying reform mandates from Washington.

"President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made it clear that the federal government will no longer fund the status quo in education," said District 205 Supt. J. Kamala Buckner. "The White House requires radical and dramatic changes, which is precisely what is needed to prepare our children to compete in a world still being defined by the global economy."

Thornridge is one of three high schools in a district that covers 13 south suburban communities including Harvey, Burnham, South Holland, Dixmoor, Phoenix, Robbins and Calumet City. Thornwood and Thornton Township High Schools would become upper-class academies.

Opponents allege the district was required to seek community input before submitting the grant proposals. Their lawsuit was initially dismissed, but they filed an appeal.

The grant will also pay for mentoring programs, development of leadership and study skills, smaller learning environments, math and reading resource rooms, and team teaching strategies to prepare students for college and careers. Currently, 43 percent of incoming freshmen read at a 5th grade level and more than 80 percent are not high school ready in both reading and math.

"Single-grade centers have been proven effective at raising confidence and performance to get freshmen students on track before joining the broader high school population," Dr. Buckner said. "Anything worthwhile comes with challenges. I hope parents and students apply the same passion to starting new traditions and achieving educational excellence they have shown through this process."

SOURCE Thornton Township District High Schools District 205