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Homeroom to become collaborative learning community in Geneva

GENEVA – Geneva High School administrators this week said they have been rethinking how to meet educational and emotional needs of their students. They were granted permission to create a professional learning community at the school.

In a presentation to the Geneva School District 304 board, high school Principal Thomas Rogers and Associate Principal Douglas Drexler said a professional learning community would bring teachers together every week at a designated time to collaborate and assess how their students were learning and how they could improve.

Officials have been studying this initiative for nearly 18 months and would be ready to implement it as soon as spring.

Officials studied 33 suburban Illinois high schools that have some form of a professional learning community. Research showed improvements in student test scores, fewer students failed courses and more students taking the Advanced Placement exams with higher scores among other benefits, officials said.

“We believe success for all students can be enhanced with this concept,” Rogers said. “We have been focusing on what it can do for teachers, how their teaching could be enhanced, which ultimately will equate to success for all students.”

Logistics are simple, Rogers said: Instead of the shortened first and second periods and a 15-minute homeroom on Thursdays, teachers would use that first 50-minute period from 7:35 to 8:25 a.m. every Thursday to collaborate and students would have personal learning choices.

The learning choices – suggested by students themselves – included a tutoring center, library or computer lab time, test preparation for AP exams and making up missed tests or quizzes in a testing center.

“One of my pet peeves is, if a student is out sick and misses a test or quiz, when they come back to school, they have to miss another period of that same class to take that test – most of the time in the hallways,” Rogers said.

“If we could create a test make-up center, they could go there during that 50-minute period of time, make up that test and not fall further behind in that class that they’ve already missed,” Rogers said. “The list goes on and on in ways we believe will benefit students.”

Educators also could use the increased time to address social-emotional issues with students, Drexler said. The list includes study habits, time management, goal-setting, transitioning to high school and college, bullying, Internet safety, suicide awareness and substance abuse.

“One of the main purposes of our existing homeroom program is to address social-emotional topics,” Drexler said. “These are all things we have tried – in some way, shape or form – to address with students. These are all heavy-hitting topics currently we are trying to address in a 15-minute homeroom.”

Borrowing a format from a famous advertisement, Rogers said, “Bottom line additional cost: None. Additional staff: None. Lost instructional time: None. Doing what is right for all of our students: Priceless.”

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