Around the District

Around the District with Dr. Kelley

Confident and Persistent - Jan. 15, 2018

Confident and persistent achiever.  

Those are the words we use to describe the achievement we envision for every Oak Park District 97 student, without exception. It is one of the aspirational goals we have promised our students, families and community. (To read our full Vision97 4ALL plan, please visit  

During the community engagement sessions we held two years ago to co-create our district’s vision, many stakeholders–educators, parents and guardians, community members and students–contended that our students experience the district differently. Two examples they mentioned were inequities in student outcomes based on achievement data, and access to and participation in gifted classes.

So how does our school community turn these words–confident and persistent achiever–into a reality for every student? How do we give all students access to challenging, engaging instruction that reflects students’ prior knowledge, learning styles and cultural backgrounds?  

In the current selection of D97’s book club (@D97BookClub), author Zaretta L. Hammond addresses these topics. The first chapter of her book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students,” discusses inequities in student outcomes based on achievement data and the low performance of many poor students, English learners and students of color.

In that chapter, “Climbing Out of the Gap,” Hammond distinguishes between dependent learners and independent learners. She links achievement inequities to certain students’ tendencies to be “dependent learners” who do not get the support that fuels their cognitive growth.    

“They struggle because we don’t offer them sufficient opportunities in the classroom to develop the cognitive skills and habits of mind that would prepare them to take on more advanced academic tasks.” (Jackson, 2011; Boykin and Noguera, 2011)

What do you think? Given the evidence that our students experience D97 differently–that outcomes based on achievement data are unequal–we must ask ourselves: Are we providing opportunities for students to learn in powerful ways that facilitate their cognitive growth? Are we helping them to become independent learners who are beginning to master complex thinking?

Please join me as we address these questions and more at our community chat on Saturday, Jan. 20, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St. In addition to exploring Hammond’s “Climbing Out of the Gap” chapter, we will discuss how our district’s vision plan supports every student to be a confident and persistent achiever.

On hand for the chat will be Eboney Lofton, senior director of special services, and members of the Special Education Department. They will share our plans for using co-teaching as an inclusive model to help develop the cognitive skills and habits of mind of our students with disabilities.

I look forward to seeing you on Jan. 20. If you are unable to join us, please stay engaged via the D97 Book Club page on Twitter: I also invite you to participate by purchasing or borrowing a copy of Hammond’s book from your local bookstore or public library.

Dr. Carol Kelley