Front and center: Supt. Albert Roberts answers questions last Thursday at Lincoln School.TERRY DEAN/Staff

District 97 Supt. Albert Roberts met with parents at Lincoln Elementary School on Thursday, the second of his community chats — on in each of the elementary district’s 10 schools.

About 40 people showed up, sitting in the school’s media room/library to listen to the superintendent touch on a few subjects before opening it up to discussion. The parents, though, mostly asked questions about topics ranging from technology to standardized test scores.

Roberts also talked about his Respect Code that he implemented this year. He noted that each school is following the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports model, but said he wanted to create a set of core principles for respect that’s understood throughout the district.

“Respect is the foundation of a diverse society, and having a common message seemed to me to be worthwhile,” he said.

Concerning the achievement gap, Roberts talked about using data and targeted solutions for students in need, but also emphasized wanting to raise academic achievement for all kids. He spent some time talking about expectations, for both students and teachers, and finding creative ways to teach kids.

“What do you do with students when they’ve demonstrated that they have mastered the lesson? Do you put them on hold until the other kids catch up?” he asked. “Conversely, what do you do when students demonstrate that they haven’t still yet learned the mastery of that particular subject? What I hope doesn’t happen is that we just repeat the lesson. It’s kind of like a person trying to learn a foreign language. They don’t understand what was said to them, so you say it again but slowly. That’s usually not very effective. So, what alternative lessons do we have? What alternative ways do we have to reach kids?”

Roberts mentioned the flexible grouping model—also known as ability grouping—as one possible alternative, where students are grouped together based on their learning abilities. Sometimes that can occur in a separate class or in their regular class. Brooks Middle School piloted a flexible grouping program in the 2007-2008 school year, but some parents complained that their kids weren’t adjusting to being moved to different classes. Some also complained that the program was implemented without adequate prior notice. The program was dropped after a single year.

Other topics were addressed at the Lincoln chat. One parent asked how the district is addressing the achievement gap across the district. The talk lasted about an hour.

The superintendent was hit with questions dealing with very specific issues. One parent expressed concern about “grouped punishments” at the school, where some students are punished together for infractions. She noted that those groups have tended to be black students and said that aspect has even troubled her daughter who’s a Lincoln student. Roberts said he needed more information about that and would talk to the parent after the meeting.

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