Disney school stirs imagination and intrigue
At a recent Local School Council (LSC) meeting for Walt Disney Magnet School , 4140 N. Marine Drive, funds were approved for additional lab computers for the popular animation program and a revolutionary new reading software for disabled learners was introduced.
These decisions, school officials hope, will help the school get even better. In the last six years, students meeting or exceeding standard test scores improved overall by 30 percent. Because of its academic achievements and diverse population -75 percent of the school’s 1,500 students are low-income and 80 percent are minority –Chicago Public School officials approached Principal Kathleen Hagstrom about building a new school modeling Disney last spring.
At the Nov. 29 meeting, the school council authorized $10,000, the first installment of a four-year plan for 40 new Dell computers for the elective animation program offered to 6th-8th graders.
Brad Fisher, the school’s technology specialist, said the current mismatch of computer brands and models makes the course difficult to teach.
“Right now, the lab looks too much like a garage sale for my taste,” Fisher said. He explained with the new computers, installed with Macromedia and Flash software, would help with video production and digital formats and allow students to animate without a mouse or monitor, using a special pen instead.
Hagstrom said the animation program offers older students a unique introduction into the professional world with its sophisticated software.
“For example, a group of seventh graders sees an open-heart surgery which is teleconferenced and they then come back to Disney and animate the heart. This is far more meaningful than doing a worksheet,” Hagstrom said.
The computers should be installed as soon as late December, Fisher said.
Disney also purchased the program “Reading A-Z ” to better serve its 150 disabled students. With this program, teachers cater lessons specifically to a student’s learning level with computer activities and page print-outs that can be colored, marked on and even forgotten at home, unlike expensive textbooks.
In addition to “Reading A-Z,” Disney’s reading specialist for 22 years, Pat Hastings, explained to the council that more teachers would begin to implement the technique direct instruction, an aggressive learning approach for struggling readers that focuses on stressing letter sounds.
“Direct instruction offers a scaffold instruction with reinforcing skill practice,” Hastings said. “It reflects the premise: Teach and they will learn. The most exciting part of [these approaches]-Children succeeding in reading!”
Hagstrom agrees that a variety of techniques are necessary to reflect the diverse needs of the students and improve test scores of their special-need students, which did not meet state expectations. The federal government also requires 55 percent of all student groups, including special-needs, to pass state standards, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.
“A myriad of tools are necessary in our approach to reading instruction as one size does not fit all,” Hagstom said. Students must “receive enrichment and acceleration that allows them to flourish.”
In response to the problems addressed at the meeting, including special-needs test scores and a call for more minority teachers, LSC chairman Emanuel Barr said, “Disney is a bright star in the system; we need to continue to discuss solutions to any problems and bring them all to the table.”
North Side Schools & Education
schools & education uptown walt disney magnet school