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Hawthorn Elementary South Is Named Among the Best Schools in the Nation By U.S. Department of Education

Hawthorn Elementary South has been named among the best schools in the nation through the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 National Blue Ribbon Award recognition. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. 

 “We are so proud that Elementary South is a recipient of this exceptional award,” said Dr. Peter Hannigan, Hawthorn District 73’s superintendent. “At Hawthorn, we truly believe that all children can learn at high levels. This honor is a testament to the hard work, commitment and engagement of the school’s teachers, staff, students and parents.” 

Located in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Hawthorn Elementary South is a kindergarten through fifth grade school serving approximately 700 students. The school celebrates the diversity of its students, who speak more than 30 different languages. It is known for providing masterful learning activities in which students explore and deeply engage with content in a joyful, exciting manner. Its top priority is to grow the whole child by combining robust academics with a full social emotional curriculum.  

The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels, or where significant progress has been made in raising student achievement. Elementary South received the honor in the Exemplary High Performing Schools category for achieving high performance among key subgroups and completing a rigorous application process that evaluated everything from social and emotional learning supports to professional development to quality classroom instruction.


Co-teaching Brings More Inclusion to the Classroom

The benefits of co-teaching can clearly be seen in the sixth grade language arts class taught by Ms. Corush and Ms. Byrne at Middle School South. While one is presenting, the other is moving about the room answering questions and checking in with students. As the students went through a lesson using their new Chromebooks, the teachers made sure that each student understood the directions and no one was left behind. At other times, the two were jointly teaching together, interacting with each other and the students within the curriculum while modeling and providing background knowledge.

“Co-teaching is a powerful tool and strategy,” said Ms. Corush. “With two of us teaching, one can focus on the curriculum while the other focuses on each individual student.”

Co-teaching is an all inclusive approach to teaching in which students, including those with special needs, are taught in the same classroom. There are more opportunities for specialized instruction, small group and one-to-one learning, and increased opportunities to differentiate to meet student needs.

“One of the benefits is that students are exposed to the teaching styles of both teachers. This approach increases the opportunity to differentiate for all students’ needs,” said Ms. Byrne. “The teachers bring their different styles and expertise together to meet all students’ needs.”


New Handbook of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Parents

As of September 1, 2016, Hawthorn’s curriculum websites have been updated to include our new units of instruction in Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies which are being implemented this year across the district. Our related arts and physical education teams are working on completing the same work this fall and those units will be updated as they are drafted. We continue to follow a curricular design framework that emphasizes Big Ideas and Conceptual Understandings in order to prepare our students for the future and “Embrace learning in an ever-changing world.” Illinois’ learning standards have been organized into this framework which has proven to improve learning for students. Hawthorn has a tradition of continuous improvement in the area of curriculum and instruction and will continue to revisit and enhance these units as time goes on.
New Handbook of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Parents
In an effort to provide our community and parents a more comprehensive view of Hawthorn’s curriculum and programming, the Curriculum Department has authored an electronic handbook. It can be downloaded through iTunes for free or a PDF can be downloaded to any device. In the handbook, parents can research anything related to Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. Parents and community members are encouraged to provide feedback or any additional questions to Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, as there will be revisions to this handbook on an annual basis.
Parent Curriculum Oversight Committee
There are a few spots open on our new Parent Curriculum Oversight Committee.  Please email Dr. Lisa Leali if you are interested in becoming a member. The group will meet three times per year on a schedule determined by the group at our first meeting. This group will be providing feedback and suggestions to the Curriculum Department as we continue to enhance our Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.
Curriculum Websites Updated
The Curriculum websites at have been updated this summer to reflect the most current information and resources that we have to support our parents and community. Please take a look!
For the last two years, Hawthorn staff and administrators have been working on ensuring alignment of our curriculum with the most current sets of standards in Illinois and create a new Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.

Personalized Learning

Personalized learning takes off in Hawthorn District 73 as shown in this brief video.

Inspire all students to embrace learning in an ever-changing world

The most powerful strategy school systems have to improve teacher effectiveness and increase student achievement is professional development. Over the past few years, several large-scale studies have provided compelling evidence on the critical components of effective professional development.

That’s why Hawthorn has increased its teacher learning time. Most recently it added early release days to its calendar. This allows teachers in the same grades across the district to meet and strategize on finding proven methods to help children learn.

It also ensures that teachers are on the same teaching page across the district when it comes to subjects they are teaching and tests they are giving students.

The most powerful strategy school systems have to improve teacher effectiveness and increase student achievement is professional development. Over the past few years, several large-scale studies have provided compelling evidence on the critical components of effective professional development. Key elements address collective responsibility, time and support, use of data, importance of collaboration, intensive classroom-based support, and access to external expertise (Hirsh, 2012).

In order to deliver rigorous and relevant learning for all students, our teachers are engaging in extensive job-embedded professional development. Teachers and administrators are meeting during planning time, during early release days and during teacher institute days to collectively engage in collective inquiry as it relates to lesson design and to develop common assessments across grade levels that will not only test students basic learning skills but also their knowledge of critical thinking, communication, evaluation, synthesizing, and collaboration.

“Our goal at Hawthorn School District 73 is to teach students how to use the information they obtain from their many research resources,” Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction.

No longer are students expected to memorize states and capitals. Instead it’s essential that students learn how this nation is organized, to make connections and differentiations between the United States and other countries, to compare and contrast cultures and political views, Dr. Leali said. As teachers develop tests, they will use a rubrics grading system that may include evaluating students on public speaking skills, teamwork, understanding of a subject matter, and how the information is applied to present day problems or situations.

Hawthorn’s redesign of assessments began under the old Illinois learning standards when educators nationally realized there was too much information packed into a single year and students weren’t being given a deep understanding of material. Following the new Illinois learning standards, learning is more about teaching fewer concepts and providing a deeper understanding of those concepts, Dr. Leali said.

As part of the district’s professional development cycle, teachers are now meeting during planning time, during early release days and during teacher institute days when students are not in class to develop common assessments across grade levels that will test students knowledge of these deeper thinking skills.

“Teams of teachers are developing assessments for each unit that will demonstrate students’ knowledge of the material. Yes, these tests will include multiple choice questions and true/false questions, but they are really being designed to also show how a child follows an experiment or understands how a novel they are reading applies to their own lives. One assessment like PARCC or MAP shouldn’t define a child’s overall academic achievements,” she said.

Dr. Leali added, “Most of our students attend Vernon Hills High School, which is ranked as one of the top 20 best high schools in the state. We know our students are excelling at higher-levels of learning. By staying on top of our state’s learning standards, we will ensure our students continue succeed in high school, college and in their future careers.”