Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do schools contact parents in case of an emergency at school?
  2. In what grades do students have to take state or national tests? How are these tests used?
  3. What is the policy for holding students back a grade?
  4. What is the purpose of summer school and when is it required? Is there a cost?
  5. Do classroom teachers use different kinds of teaching methods for different kinds of students?
  6. Does the district have a homework policy?
  7. How can I find out how my child is doing before grades come out?
  8. What is the Grade Point Average (GPA) required for a student to participate in athletics?
  9. Do classes like P.E. count the same as more difficult classes?
  10. What is the attendance policy of the School District? How many days can a student be absent without failing?
  11. How do you deal with bullying? With sexual harassment?
  12. What is the District's dress code policy? Is it the same for every school?
  13. What is the "social media" policy in the School District, with regard to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc.?
  14. What opportunities or committees are there for student and parent involvement in school policies? How do students and parents get notified of these opportunities?
  15. Do PTAs and PTOs still exist, and do they have any say in making policy (as opposed to fundraising)?
  16. If I have a concern, what is the "chain of command" for discussing it at my child's school? Where do I start? Is there a Parent Liaison I can go to first?
  17. What ages and/or grades require physical exams or shots? If I can't afford to get my child a required physical, does the School District offer any help?
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How do schools contact parents in case of an emergency at school?

When schools experience an emergency, their first priority is to take every step necessary to ensure children, and then staff, are safe.

Springfield Public Schools relies on an extensive safety manual and routine training. The manual walks each school through numerous steps, checklists, and procedures for maintaining safety. It also provides guidance regarding all forms of contact, ranging from parents to emergency response personnel.

In a dire emergency (a serious bus accident, for example) the school will try and contact parents immediately.

Other situations (a school lockdown resulting from a threatening situation outside, for example) might call for a simple letter sent home with each student apprising parents of what happened and what steps were taken. This also is likely to occur when the threat turned out to be false.

For the most part, the more serious the emergency, the sooner parents and guardians are notified and in a more direct manner. Principals are allowed to make judgment calls as to parental communication when less serious issues arise.

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In what grades do students have to take state or national tests? How are these tests used?

Students in Springfield Public Schools and throughout the state of Illinois take the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) every year between 3rd and 8th grades and the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) during their junior year in high school.

Students in all these grades are tested in reading and math. Grades 4, 7, and 11th grades are tested in math, reading, and science. The PSAE also incorporates the ACT college admissions test. Students also take the Explore and PLAN tests from 8th through 10th grade, in preparation for the ACT.

Some special education students may take a different standardized test. Also, students are tested in other ways with internal district assessments.

The state tests are used to determine school and district compliance with state and federal benchmarks mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Additionally, the data also is used by educators to pinpoint areas in which students need to improve. Finally, teachers use the data to assess and improve their own teaching.

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What is the policy for holding students back a grade?

The district discourages holding students back a grade. Research shows that it generally is not helpful for the student. It tends to be a measure of last resort.

However, there are requirements for moving from grade to grade and the district does have a retention policy.

A summary of the policy is, "If and when it becomes apparent during the school year that a student may not meet the criteria for promotion to the next grade, parent(s)/guardian(s) will be notified ... and a remediation plan developed. This remediation plan may include successful summer school attendance of at least 90 hours as indicated above. However, if a student has not met any one of the criteria for promotion, a Principal may recommend retention."

The full retention and grade-level advancement policy can be read here (perform a computer search of the document for "655.06".) That's the policy number of our retention rules.

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What is the purpose of summer school and when is it required? Is there a cost?

Summer school is ideal for catching up on lost credit in order to graduate on time or take a class or two to free up time for more class options during the regular school year.

There are fees associated with summer school at certain levels.

In addition, some students are offered summer school programs through special education services or at the local school level, typically reinforcing reading and math skills. Many of these programs are free.

To learn about summer school activities and fees, visit www.sps186.org/summerschool.

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Do classroom teachers use different kinds of teaching methods for different kinds of students?

Yes. It's called "differentiated instruction," which is one of the most important and discussed concepts in teaching today.

Teachers work very hard to tailor their instruction to meet the needs of each student. The district provides in-depth training to help teachers learn how to take advantage of various learning styles.

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Does the district have a homework policy?

The district does not have a unified homework policy. However, generally, students are given homework to provide practice for material taught in class or to apply such material in an extended fashion, such as homework required for a research paper.

Teachers are given flexibility to issue homework based on their lesson plans and subjects taught. Teachers also use homework to assess how well students understand material on their own.

Generally speaking, as students move into middle and high school, homework becomes more important and demanding in time and levels of concentration required to complete.

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How can I find out how my child is doing before grades come out?

Springfield Public Schools encourages parents and guardians to keep in close contact with their child's teacher. If you have certain expectations for your child, please let your teacher know early in the school year. This will help set the stage, should your child show signs of not meeting them.

Additionally, parents have the ability to access their student's grades online. Parents should contact their child's school to register for online access. All students receive a username and password to access their own cumulative folder of information. Parents who do sign up will have access to more personal information about their child than the child has access to.

For more information, please visit: www.sps186.org/parents.

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What is the Grade Point Average (GPA) required for a student to participate in athletics?

Students are required to maintain a baseline 2.0 GPA and a week-to-week 2.0 GPA.

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Do classes like P.E. count the same as more difficult classes?

At the high school level, various courses carry different "weights." Generally speaking, the more difficult and rigorous the class, the higher the weight, which means an A in a higher-weight class has a greater impact an a student's GPA than an A from a lower or less rigorous class. P.E. is not considered a rigorous class from an academic standpoint, so it does not carry as much weight as many other classes.

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What is the attendance policy of the School District? How many days can a student be absent without failing?

A student will be allowed ten (10) excused absences per school year without a doctor's note. After 10 days, all absences without a doctor's excuse are considered unexcused. Doctor's notes must state the student was unable to attend school and give exact times when the student was seen in the doctor's office. If a student has nine (9) days of unexcused absence, he or she is considered to be chronically truant by state law. Court action may be imposed.

A student can not directly fail a class due to absences. However, an increase in absences usually correlates to few homework assignments turned in, missed tests, lack of preparation for tests, etc. Many students fail classes simply because they missed so many assignments, tests, etc.

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How do you deal with bullying? With sexual harassment?

Both are serious offenses with steep consequences, ranging from suspension to expulsion and possibly even police charges being filed.

The district has disciplinary policy regarding such behaviors. (link)

Also, the district is currently developing a new bullying and harassment policy.

To learn more about disciplinary issues regarding bullying, harassment and other behaviors, visit the district's student handbook, available at www.sps186.org/about/policy.

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What is the District's dress code policy? Is it the same for every school?

The district generally follows one policy. However, several schools have adopted full uniforms (Capital College Preparatory Academy) or modified uniforms (Franklin, Grant, Jefferson and Washington middle schools, Graham Elementary School, Douglas Alternative School, Feitshans Elementary School, Harvard Park Elementary School.

Each of those schools requires certain combinations of colored clothing. Please consult their websites for specifics.

To learn more about dress code issues, visit the district's student handbook, available at www.sps186.org/about/policy or call your child's school.

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What is the "social media" policy in the School District, with regard to Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc.?

Social Media refers to a type of Internet site that encourages the frequent (and often brief) exchange of information between lots of people all at once (though, with various controls to limit access depending on what is being posted, uploaded, shared, etc.). Examples of social media include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube.

The Springfield School District currently does not allow use of Social Media in school and between teachers and students and parents.

However, we are revising our policy to allow for moderate use of Social Media as a classroom/education tool and also as a way to improve community engagement and communication.

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What opportunities or committees are there for student and parent involvement in school policies? How do students and parents get notified of these opportunities?

The School Board is the district's official policy-making body. However, a policy change can be recommended by anyone (students, staff, parents, grandparents, or citizens).

There are several committees that revisit certain policies from year to year, including the district's dress and disciplinary codes. Parents and students do belong to these committees. Membership tends to be by invitation and as a result of consultation between the superintendent and the board, with the intention of filling committees with diverse representation.

All District policies are available at esbpublic.sps18.org.

To learn more about the school board, visit www.sps186.org/about/boe.

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Do PTAs and PTOs still exist, and do they have any say in making policy [as opposed to fundraising]?

Yes. Nearly every school has a parent-teacher organization. The district prints a directory of PTO leaders every year. Click here to download it.

The purpose of a PTO is to provide fundraising and enrichment support to students and staff. PTOs traditionally are not involved in policy-making.

However, the district runs several advisory committees that include parents as members. The committees make recommendations to district leadership about policy improvements.

Also, the district's Family and Community Engagement (FACE) teams comprise parents and have more of a roll in support academics at the schools. To learn more about FACE, visit www.sps186.org/familyengagement.

Ultimately, District policy is voted on by the seven-member Springfield School Board. Link.

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If I have a concern, what is the "chain of command" for discussing it at my child's school? Where do I start? Is there a Parent Liaison I can go to first?

The best place to start generally should be with the person or people who the concern involves. If you are unable to resolve the concern at this level, the assistant principal or principal should be the next line of contact. Some schools also have parent educators and social workers who also may be helpful. At the high school level, your child's guidance dean also can be a good person to discuss concerns with, especially if they relate to academics.

If the concern relates to a special education matter, please consult your child's case manager and/or special education teacher.

Also for special education, the District has a parent mentor who can help provide advice to parents about special education issues. You can learn more about the parent mentor at www.sps186.org/parentmentor

If a concern can not be resolved at the school level, a parent should contact the department most closely associated with the concern. For example, the district math coordinator (525-3006), might be the next person to consult for a math issue the school couldn't resolve. Contact the special education department regarding unresolved special education matters. The Student Supports department would be for disciplinary or school-transfer issues. For a list of district administrators, visit www.sps186.org/administrators.

If the case is so serious that it could lead to law-enforcement action, a parent or guardian should contact the authorities.

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What ages and/or grades require physical exams or shots? If I can't afford to get my child a required physical, does the School District offer any help?

Please visit this link to learn about grade-level health requirements.

The district currently does not pay for physical exams, but sometimes programs are developed with community partners who may be willing to provide discounts or free services in certain quantities.

Your primary physician and local health clinics are great places to consult for free or sliding-scale services.

www.sps186.org/healthservices/?p=13895

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