Last Day of School & Registration

This is just a quick post on the off chance that you have not seen this information yet.

Because we had to cancel school for snow earlier this year, we will be using one of our emergency days at the end of the year. The last day of school for kindergarten through 7th grade will be Thursday, June 14. That will be a full day of school.

Our 8th grade students will still graduate on Thursday, June 7. The date of the graduation ceremony will NOT be changed.

Registration has begun for the 2018-2019 school year. If you already have a child enrolled in Avoca, then by now you should have received an email from with the subject Avoca School District 37 Returning Student Registration for [your child’s name].

That email contains your child’s unique “snapcode,” which must be used to begin the registration process. New students should contact the school’s front office to begin the registration process. It really is important to register early, so we have the most accurate numbers when planning for next year. If you did not receive your email or have additional questions, please contact us at

2018-19 Kindergarten Pre-Registration is also underway now. Please contact the Avoca West office at 847-724-6800 to get started! If you know of other families in our school district who have a kindergarten aged child, but may not be aware that it is time to register, please ask them to reach out to us!

NT Township Tech & Innovation Expo Update

Last week I asked you to mark your calendars and save the date for the New Trier Township Innovation & Tech Expo on Saturday, April 28 at 8:30 a.m. This free symposium is aimed at the parents and teachers of New Trier Township students. Though this is a free event, the organizers highly recommend that you sign up and plan your schedule now. Click on this link to go to the New Trier Township Tech & Innovation Expo webpage to see a list of offerings and to sign up.

Be sure to scroll down the webpage to find important logistical information. The event will take place at New Trier High School’s Winnetka Campus at 385 Winnetka Ave. I look forward to seeing you there!


Innovation & Tech Expo, April 28

With spring break over and everyone back in school mode, I anticipate that the last two months of the school year are going to fly by! So before we get too far into April, please mark your calendar for the New Trier Township Innovation & Tech Expo scheduled for Saturday, April 28 from 8:30 a.m. until noon at New Trier High School’s Winnetka campus.

This event has been put together by the New Trier Township Instructional Professional Learning Community (basically technology leaders and educators from all of the New Trier Township public schools) for both parents and teachers allowing each to choose specific breakout sessions they find most appealing.

For the parents, the goal is to help them better manage and understand the technologies kids are using in and out of school. A preview of topics includes: Cyber Safety, Setting Limits on Technology, Social Media/Apps, How tech is used in school, Google Boot Camp for Parents, and Apple Workshop- Accessibility features on iDevices.

This event was very well received when it was offered three years ago, and I anticipate that this one will be just as popular. As soon as registration opens, we will make sure to put a notice and a link in the Avoca Weekly.

Thank you for participating in the 5Essentials!

Thank you to all of the parents who participated in the 5Essentials Survey. Due to your efforts we reached the threshold we needed at both schools and will be receiving parent reports along with our student and staff ones. We are looking forward to seeing what the data tells us, comparing it to previous years’ results and working to address our opportunities for improvement and celebrate our strengths!

Please complete the 5Essentials Survey!

The opinions of our students, parents and staff are very important to us, so please complete the 5Essentials Survey. According to UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago:

The survey gathers data related to five indicators that can predict important student outcomes. These five indicators that affect and predict school success are:

  •   Effective Leaders
  •   Collaborative Teachers
  •   Involved Families
  •   Supportive Environments
  •   Ambitious Instruction

The 5Essentials Survey window is open until January 31, 2018. Thank you for taking your time to give us your feedback!

Stanford research shows Avoca tops in the country for student growth!

Last month, the New York Times (NYT) published an article titled How Effective is Your School District? A New Measure Shows Where Students Learn Most. According to the article, this research out of Stanford, which included over 300 million tests analyzed and over 11,000 school districts nationwide, measured the growth of cohorts of students over five years from 3rd to 8th grade.

How did Avoca compare? According to this data, Avoca students average 6.6 years of growth in 5 years! And this coming from kids who were already over two years above grade level when the baseline 3rd grade data was collected!

According to the NY Times, this data puts Avoca in the 100th percentile! Now mathematically we know that the 100th percentile theoretically does not exist, but I am sure that the researchers carried the percentiles out to 99.9 (at least), and the NY Times just rounded to the nearest whole number. Look for a few spots in the article for boxes where you can type in the name of your school district (we are listed as Avoca, Ill., as in Illinois.) to visually see the growth in graphic form and to compare school districts.

This data is a testament to our students, their parents, the Avoca staff and the entire Avoca community for placing such high value on our school district and student learning!

5Essentials Parent Survey

(For convenience sake, if you just want to skip my blog and quickly get to the 5Essentials Parent Survey click here.)

A mentor of mine once told me, “if you don’t measure it, you don’t value it.” A bit of a twist on the saying often attributed to Deming, but it was in fact the word “value” that made his comment stick with me. Students’ academic data is obvious to measure from a school point of view, but at Avoca we take it beyond that. If you look at our Performance Indicator Report, you will see that we also value, and therefore track, Student Connectedness, Awards & Recognition, and Distinctive Impact.

The opinions of our students, parents and staff are also very important to us, which is why we administer the 5Essentials Survey at least every other year and are asking you to take it again this year. The survey is administered by UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago, which states:

The survey gathers data related to five indicators that can predict important student outcomes, including improved attendance and larger test score gains. These five indicators that affect and predict school success are:

  •    Effective Leaders
  •    Collaborative Teachers
  •    Involved Families
  •    Supportive Environments
  •    Ambitious Instruction

“Involved Families” has always been an Avoca strength, and we hope you will continue to be involved and participate in this survey! You can see the results of our schools’ previous administrations of this survey (as well as A LOT of other data) on the Illinois Interactive Report Card. Just type in the name of the district or schools in the search bar. The 5Essentials Survey window is open until January 31, 2018, but I encourage you take this survey now rather than putting it off until later. We thank you for taking your time to give us your feedback!


Avoca Schools Earn Technology Distinction

With so many important things happening and news to share about the Avoca School District this last month, I am a bit tardy in sharing this latest celebration. Last October, Avoca West Elementary School and Marie Murphy School were each recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for 2017-2019! This award was bestowed upon each school for their “continuous innovation in learning, teaching, and the school environment.”

Avoca has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Apple since we first launched our 1:1 laptop initiative in 2004. They have provided us with many excellent professional development opportunities, and we have presented and hosted site visits at local, national, and even international levels over the years. In just a few weeks Avoca’s technology leaders and some administrators will be meeting with Apple trainers at their Chicago headquarters to discuss Avoca’s new Technology Innovation Plan (linked here) and our Technology Innovation Implementation Plan (linked here).

An altruistic benefit of this relationship is that our Apple partners truly help us focus on facilitating our technology plan and vision, as opposed to just immersing us in an Apple environment. Having been out in front of technology implementation at the point of instruction for so long, the Avoca School District wants to make sure that we continue to explore new opportunities, enhance our current instructional practices, and prepare for and continue to support technology implementation.

Illinois State Report Card

Each year the State of Illinois shares schools’ and districts’ Illinois Report Cards as a way to help keep the community informed as to each school’s and district’s performance. Please click on this link to access the Illinois District Report Card for Avoca School District 37. That link will take you to the state’s “traditional” report card format. An interactive report card for all of the district’s in the state is accessible from this link. This is the site that’s more fun and easier to poke around in my opinion.

Both report cards share student and staff demographic data, and information regarding the district’s finances, as well as the academic results. Student performance on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the state’s mandated test for students in grades 3 through 8, is reported by grade level and by academic subject, either English Language Arts (ELA) or Mathematics.

I encourage you to visit these sites to see how Avoca is doing. The interactive site has a feature that lets you compare schools. Unfortunately, there is not an option for comparing districts. I say unfortunately, because Avoca School District 37 is one of the highest performing school districts in the entire state, and we compare exceptionally favorably with our New Trier Township peers! You should be proud to be a part of the Avoca community!

I, too, am very proud of the hard work that your students and teachers put in to be as successful as they are. I also must credit everyone else who makes Avoca function so well day in and day out. None of this happens in a vacuum. From the bus drivers who get our kids to school to the principals who greet them at the doors, Avoca is fortunate to have such hard working, caring professionals supporting us! Our parents are also a huge part of our success, and I thank you, too!

Now with all of my goings on about how impressed I am by our scores, I do need to point out that the PARCC test reflects one moment in time for our students. All of our eggs are not in that basket, but it is one that is most obvious to many people and the media. I should also point out that because of our size, small fluctuations in results both up and down should be expected, but it is the larger ones that we look at from a celebration and “opportunity for improvement” standpoint. If you have any questions about the information here, please reach out to your school principals, our Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator, Jennie Winters, or me.

Important Updates: Northfield Housing Development and Avoca Center

In my September 22 blog post below and linked here, I talked about the 34 Unit rental townhome development that is being proposed at 1725 Winnetka Road, which is on the west side of our school district.

In an earlier letter that I wrote to Northfield’s Plan and Zoning commission and the Northfield Village Board (linked here), I asked them to consider waiving a section of their current Village Code and awarding the Avoca School District impact fees due to the high density of this development. At the moment, that does not appear to be a legally feasible option that the Village can honor.

However, the Village could include a financial contribution to the school district as a condition of approving the variances sought by the developer. That request is included in the letter linked here and sent on October 24.  Community members have been given the opportunity to address the Plan and Zoning commission on Monday, November 6 at 7:00 pm in the Northfield Village Hall at 361 Happ Road, and we certainly plan to be there to appeal directly to the commission. We will certainly welcome any and all students from the development, but would appreciate some financial consideration from the developer.

Avoca Center Update:

The Avoca Board of Education invites you to attend the Avoca Center Community Update on Wednesday, November 8 at 7:00 pm at Marie Murphy School. See the invitation linked here. Our plan is to bring you up to speed, discuss some of our financial priorities, share some collaborative considerations and talk about potential options moving forward. There will be a visitor comments portion at the end of the presentation. We are very interested in receiving your feedback. We hope you can attend!