Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Final Word

It is time to say goodbye.

For the last three years, we have diligently followed district happenings and tried to create a forum for D181 issues to be discussed in a transparent fashion.  We have published 365 posts,  5545 comments and over 685,000 readers have accessed the blog.  We are grateful to all our followers for not only reading, but participating actively on the blog.

But it is now time for change. After attending or listening to the last few board and committee meetings/Podcasts, we have concluded that there is nothing more we can do to shine a light of transparency on the district dysfunction, curriculum nightmare, facilities bait and switch tactics, irresponsible administration and valiant attempts by a few board members to hold people accountable for the problems that exist in D181 and are causing detriment to students and taxpayers.  We can continue to cry foul until we are blue in the face, but it seems that nothing has really changed in D181 and the district has come full circle to where it was five years ago when the administration began dismantling a research based curriculum program and implementing a "socially just" (haha!) "Advanced Learning/Learning for All" programs.  And in the area of facilities, chaos and disorganization has been the rule of the day since the HMS mold infestation was discovered in January 2014.

In our opinion, D181 continues to be run by a top heavy, self-serving administration. Rather than look out for the best interests of all students and all taxpayers, the administrators look out for themselves with their end goal being internal or external promotion to the next, best administrative position, personal acclaim, outrageous and undeserved salaries  ultimately culminating in inflated pensions upon retirement.

As we contemplated what to say in our final post, we decided we would simply sign off with some thank you's and reminders of what we have witnessed during our blog "journey." Our journey is ending,  because all of our children have now graduated from D181. While we will continue as taxpayers and community members, we will no longer allow the dark clouds that hang over D181 to overshadow our daily lives.  We will be moving forward in the hope that our children's future high school and college days will be filled with sunshine.  Our excitement for our children's brighter future, however, is tempered with the knowledge that every year there will be thousands of students who will continue to be subjected to the whims of the D181 leadership.

We believe that it is the responsibility of  all current and future D181parents to not only closely monitor their children's educations, but to take all necessary steps to ensure that when their D181 journeys end, their children have not been irreparably harmed.  The onus now falls on current and future parents to assume the reigns of transparency in D181.  As taxpayers, we will speak with our votes.  Fiscally irresponsible decisions and tax referenda proposed by the Administration and BOE will be greeted with a celebratory NO vote by us at our local polling place or a vote to unseat board members who are not looking out for the taxpayers' best interests.

As we exit, we will first express our thanks to the following individuals:

1.  Our children.  Without them, the joy they bring to our lives and our obligation to ensure that they are provided the best public education available, there would be no need for this blog.

2.  All the blog writers and contributors.  Yes, we are thanking ourselves and everyone who has written posts or comments. Collectively, we have invested thousands of hours in gathering information (either through attendance at meetings, listening to podcasts, reading all documentation available on board docs, the D181 website, the FOIA log), investigating issues, fact checking, and listening and speaking to parents, teachers and administrators who have raised concerns.  Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our nation, and so we include in this list all contributors, even those who expressed negative comments about us.

3.  The D181 Teachers.  Over the more than 21 year span that we, the bloggers, have lived in D181, our children have benefited from many outstanding teachers. We have witnessed brand new teachers join the D181 teacher ranks, young teachers mature, older teachers grow wiser and retiring teachers end their careers after spending 30+ years dedicating themselves to the districts' children.  Almost without exception, these teachers have worked tirelessly to address our children's needs.  They have done their best in the face of curriculum initiatives that were not based in best practices and were unsupported by research.  Some teachers have bucked the system and refused to implement the inappropriate curriculum changes that the administration tried to force upon them.  Many have stood bravely together to call out inequities, unfairness, and alleged wrong-doings by administrators.  With even fewer exceptions, these teachers' focus has been on our children, rather than on self-promotion.

4.  Brave board members who have refused to stand down.  Over the last five years, the following board members (present and past) have turned on the spotlight of transparency when an issue was being buried, or was not receiving the full attention needed.  As a result they were often subjected to scorn and ridicule by fellow board members, D181 administrators and community members, rather than receiving gratitude for doing the right thing.  While we have not agreed with everything these individuals have said or done, today, we are thanking them without reservation.  They deserve all of our thanks because they have refused to be silenced when they have felt there were issues and wrongdoings that needed to be exposed and fully discussed.  So, thank you to Mridu Garg, Leslie Gray, Richard Giltner, Jennifer Burns, Brendan Heneghan, Yvonne Mayer and Ann Mueller.

In our opinion, it is important to remind our readers of some of the wrongs that we witnessed over the last five years.  It is critical that parents -- past, present and future -- not forget what has happened to D181.


1.  Student Performance continues to decline steadily.  D181 is no longer a district known for it's academic excellence.  Instead, it has become a laughing stock amongst other districts and fodder for bad jokes at cocktail parties.  We are not making this up.  Ask administrators and teachers in other districts.  Ask superintendents in other districts.  Ask people who work at the Regional Office of Education.  Ask parents who are active on the Hinsdale/Clarendon Hills social circuit. Many will not be afraid to tell you that they cannot believe the craziness that they have watched take over D181.

2.  Less than 6 years ago, D181 students were educated within a research based curriculum -- one that included gifted and advanced learning tiers AND inclusive classrooms for SPED students when ever possible.  Rather than fix the flawed identification process for placement into appropriate academic tiers --  with a goal of allowing entry for all students into the highest tier they could succeed in -- no attempt was made to fix the identification model.  Instead, over the last five years, the district spent over $60,000 in consultants whose reports and recommendations were not followed.  Instead, relying

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Comment of the Day: Is an Exiting Administrator "Gaming the System?"

As we approach publication of our final blog post tomorrow, we are publishing one last Comment of the Day that we just received from a D181 Staff Member.  The comment addresses Dr. Schneider's absence from D181. We couldn't agree more with the questions and concerns this brave D181 employee raises.

As always, SOUND OFF (but please do so by 12 Noon on 6/8/16).


D181 Staff Member said...
9:55: I am just now catching up on reading the blog. I am a D181 staff member, and like many other teachers in the District, am sad that the blog is going to end. So I am compelled to send you this information in response to your comment on Dr. Schneider. Here is the text from an email the D181 staff members received from Dr. White on May 23, 2016. It provides some information answers and raises more questions. I am a staff member who will not remain silent. After reading Dr. White's email, I was left feeling very empty and disappointed in an administrator who may be gaming the system. I will comment further after the text of the email:

"Dear Colleagues,

I know that many of you have inquired about Dr. Kurt Schneider's status. As you may know, he has been absent for several weeks. I am pleased to share that Dr. Schneider contacted us today and he is doing well and will return to D181 for a few days starting June 2nd. His last few days in D181 will be spent on transition work with Dr. Christina Sepiol. He is also planning to visit schools and meet with key stakeholders during this time.

On a related note, Dr. Sepiol began her work today in D181. I am confident you will enjoy working with her. She will become a great asset to D181.

Thank you.


What you should all know is that Dr. Schneider hasn't just been absent for several weeks. Several suggests 3 weeks and everyone on staff knows he never returned to D181 after Spring Break -- that was NINE weeks ago. Staff was led to believe that Dr. Schneider was out sick, so no one was going to suggest otherwise. I am glad for him personally if he has recovered from whatever ailed him that he can return to work, but I am not naive enough to be fooled by the verbiage in Dr. White's letter. Dr. White says Dr. Schneider is going to return for a FEW days starting June 2. What does FEW mean? Two, three, four or five days? It certainly doesn't mean more than that under any definition. My understanding is that Dr. Schneider resigned some time ago with an effective date of June 30, not June 5, 6 or 7. So is he being allowed to leave earlier than that now that Dr. Sepiol is here and on staff full time? If so, is he being paid through June 30? I certainly hope not and further hope he hasn't been allowed to game the system by using accrued vacation days. Past administrators who have left have worked right up to their final day. As a teacher, I know when administrators leave, if they have unused vacation days, they are cut a check. They are not allowed to spend their last few weeks on vacation. For me, that would be so wrong and I hope it is not something that Dr. White or any BOE member is endorsing. It sends a wrong message to all other D181 employees. Like I said in the beginning of this comment, I am left feeling very empty and disappointed in what I am seeing play out. This district is not a game, even if some administrators are treating it like one.

  • Saturday, June 4, 2016

    Response to a Comment Asking Us to Pass on the Reigns of this Blog

    Yesterday, the following paragraph was included in a comment one of our readers submitted:

    "On a different note, is there anyone willing to take the reigns for this blog? I realize maintaining this blog must be time consuming, but I really wish someone would take on the role. I would, but I'm busy enough as it is. Parents, if you're unwilling to reveal your identity, maybe you could set up a dead drop like they use in cop shows to pass on any relevant information?" (June 3, 2016 at 8:00 AM)

    We did not want to ignore this question and therefore are publishing our response as a free standing post.

    8:00 a.m.:  Thank you for asking if we are willing to pass on the reigns of this blog.  Our answer is that for the last three years, we, the bloggers, have poured our hearts and souls into bringing transparency to D181.  We chose to do so anonymously, because several of us (and our children) suffered retaliation when prior to creating the blog, we chose to pursue our D181 concerns as everyday parents who were fed up with what we were witnessing. Over the last three years, we did add multiple additional bloggers to our staff, all who agreed to keep their and our identities confidential. But, as we have said, as of next week, all of our children will be graduates of D181 and we feel it is time to end our blog.

    Our hope is that someone WILL assume the reigns of transparency, but they will have to create their own blog to do so. We encourage anyone who wants to assume the reigns of transparency in D181 to do so by creating a new blog site in the next few days and sending us your link. We will be happy to post it and prominently highlight it in the last post we will be publishing next week. While we will be ending the publication of all new posts and comments on the blog, we are not going to delete the blog page in the foreseeable future and its content will remain on the Internet. Those who read it will see the new blog link to go to --if one is created and submitted to us.

    Friday, June 3, 2016

    Comments of the Day: Time to End the Code of Silence

    We are publishing the following four comments we received today as our Comments of the Day.  They all discuss the issue of whether or not there is a Code of Silence in D181 and what our obligations as parents and community members are to deal with it.

    As always, SOUND OFF!


    Anonymous said...
    Please don't throw in the towel. We need you. Admittedly, D181 is probably worse off under Dr. White than even Dr. Schuster.

    White has allowed the curriculum mess to proliferate, promoted incompetent people, hired people who don't seem to have a clue or the inclination to do work necessary to fix the messes in our schools. The special education students we know are worse off than ever while they are pushed thru their various grades. Many of us know parents of special education students and have heard them tell stories of special education staff denying the existence of blatant issues that a lay person could easily see. We have watched as bullying by staff members has proliferated in some of our schools. It is covered up and denied while staff are moved to different grades and different schools. D181 still isn't challenging our advanced learners.

    The code of silence lives among D181 teachers, staff and administrators.

    Without this blog, most of the BOE and many district parents would be in the dark. 
    Anonymous said...
    There is a code of silence - but only we are to blame for that. How many parents have contacted the authorities to complain about this behavior? Not enough. 8:00 am needs to write an email to the board, file a FOIA, and contact the Attorney General. It is not enough to sit around and read for entertainment. If we allow the administration to continue to give our children's educational money to a revolving door of undeserving, impotent administrators, then why is anyone surprised when they get away with it? Not enough people have complained. Have you insisted for a response when you are ignored? Have you called the media to expose the problems? Have you publicly called out the offending administrators or board members when you are robbed blind? Treating these folks with kindness does NOT work. The golden rule does not apply to people without morals or a value system. It is better to be feared than loved. D181 knows this Machiavellian tenet. Do you? This administration is not using the same rulebook we are. What will you do about it?

    Like Dr. White's quote says at the end of his emails, if you "dream" instead of "act", then nothing will ever change. He and his followers are all counting on the fact that parents are busy with their jobs and lives and won't have the time,money, or energy to take action against them. They want you to be afraid. Will you let them intimidate and embarrass you when THEY are the ones who should be embarrassed? People reading this blog - stop dreaming that this blog is the "action". This blog is the well that provides us will all the information you need to take action. Use it. Take your buckets to this well and drink the water. Let the water give you the strength to ACT. Instead, of drinking for sustenance, most of us stare at their buckets of water with parched mouths. Stop complaining how thirsty you are and ACT. GO to the next board meeting. Send more emails. Call a lawyer. Run for the School Board.

    There are a lot of attorneys, CFO's and CEO's who live in this town who ironically, allow their K-8 school system to rob them blind. If we allow our board members to condone the silence and the wrongdoing, then we get what we deserve. Everyone hanging back on the sidelines, staring at the water, don't be surprised when your children do not get the same treatment that board members children's get. Or, the same treatment that parents with attorneys get. When no one dares to speak up against the corruption or silence, the whole group suffers. The parents who invest the time and the money to fight the corruption get what they want. The rest of us will not. It will not be easy, but anything worth fighting for is hard.

    I am thankful for this blog, but if you read the story above our posts, you must understand that NOTHING has changed. What is the point of a well if no one drinks from it? I do not blame the bloggers for hanging it up. They have done important, valuable public service for ALL our our children. They and certain board members like Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray have put their reputations on the line while other parents think showing up at a school fund raisers meets their public service requirements. Act. Don't dream. 
    Anonymous said...
    I agree 10:50. My children are long grown, but I served on the Caucus and went to a number of school board meetings in my day. I follow this blog and our local papers, but that is it. We get the schools we deserve. Many drink the Koolaid that Hinsdale schools are outstanding. This is driven by the still strong results of Hinsdale Central. When the current group of 4th through 8th graders start making their way through high school, it will be interesting to see how the scores hold up.

    I for one would like to see honest, fair reporting by the Hinsdalean and The Doings. The local press should be much more than cheerleaders for our town. Many people that are not aware of this blog will peruse the local paper once a week. The test results MUST be published and COMPARED to the results of 5, 10, and 15 years ago. Math and Reading scores must be published by school. I talk to former Monroe parents, and they are literally clueless about how far a once top school in the state has fallen. Parents of young children need to be INFORMED, they need to GET MAD, and they need to ACT!. My child is done, my child was an AP scholar at Hinsdale Central. My child got a great college degree and a REAL JOB!!!! My child worked her tail off starting in 2nd and 3rd grade. My child knew math facts in second grade and was required to learn 50 vocabulary words PER WEEK in 5th grade, plus all the countries and all the states. Learning is NOT a GROUP PROJECT. No one is going to take the ACT or SAT for your child. No one is going to take AP tests for your child. 

    Parents of young children, you have to wake up. Our district has fallen very far in a short period of time. Cleaning house in the administration is the first step. We need disruptors on the school board, not the "go along to get along" types that fall for every educational fad that comes down the pike. 

    This situation can be fixed. It starts when the parents of school aged children are informed and take the initiative to get their schools fixed. As a taxpayer, I will tell you we don't need more money or fancy new buildings. We need a solid curriculum that challenges all students. We need differentiated learning for our top students. We need much improved special education for a population of students. Please get informed and get involved.
    Ann Mueller said...
    Sadly, I have just reread the 5/27 blog post on the D181 curriculum mess. To think that the last five years' MAP scores have declined is just awful. Having been involved in the operations of D181 for the last 29 years and had two children successfully educated in D181, it is so upsetting to realize how D181 has slipped from being a high performing district that successfully serviced all students.

    I want to make a couple of observations. In a high performing district such as D181, it is crucial that there be knowledgable, experienced educational leadership that puts what is best for the students first. The superintendent MUST BE knowledgable and experienced in ALL ASPECTS of elementary education, not just management and technology, but finance and CURRICULUM, too. D181 has NOT experienced a superintendent of this caliber for 10 years. I won't go into all the details/specifics, but it is TRUE! The administrative personnel blunders that D181 has experienced the last 10 years demonstrate what happens in a district when the WRONG people, who may have degrees, but no knowledge and genuine experience, are in charge. D181 was actually blessed when so many of the "bad leaders" jumped ship and then the BOE demanded that Schneider and Benaitis be "coached out." The interim personnel that D181 has experienced, going all the way back to Dr. Sabatino and up to the present, didn't work out well in our high performing district either. At best, interims help a district "tread water" and, hopefully, the district will not regress until a qualified permanent replacement is found. We know what has happened the last ten years. 6/2, 9:30am's comments are 100% correct. Also, 6/3, 10:50am has it right, too. The D181 community must end its "code of silence!" The entire D181 community, both parents and empty nesters, is to blame for allowing this unsatisfactory performance to continue in D181. Action needs to be taken! Go to BOE meetings and speak, contact the BOE members, serve on the Hinsdale Village Caucus that recommends BOE candidates, run for the BOE, demand that a new superintendent be found. There are current BOE members who know the current administration is inadequate, but just don't want to go through another superintendent search!!! They don't want tobe bothered to put in the time and effort....shame on them!! Not doing their job is negatively impacting our children's education. The only thing I take exception to in 6/3 10:50am's statement is the impression given that BOE members Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray are the only BOE members who have put their reputations on the line and acted correctly. Their are other current BOE members who have worked enormously hard for our students, devoted their time and put their reputations on the line, too. A couple others not so much.

    Anyway, with new permanent SpEd and Curriculum Asst. Superintendents in place, hopefully, circumstance is D181 will greatly improve. However, dedicated, knowledgeable BOE members are needed and a knowledgable, experienced superintendent is mandatory. An engaged community that will take action is a must, too.

    Friday, May 27, 2016

    Curriculum Mess in D181 Has Come Full Circle

    As the end of another school year approaches, we have been deliberating how best to address the state of curriculum in D181.  Over the last three weeks, the D181 administration released the MAP scores, presented their interpretation and excuses for yet another year of declining individual student performance data and then, using brand new criteria/cut-off scores, released placement decisions for next year's 6th grade students into the middle school math, language arts and social studies tiers.  Between all of us bloggers, we have attended or listened to the podcasts of the last two board meetings and the May Learning Committee meeting, and we have concluded that D181 has come full circle in the curriculum mess that led to hiring Dr. Moon five years ago to do an assessment of the gifted programs.

    We have concluded that D181 is no better off, in fact we believe it is worse off, than it was in 2011 when the Department of Learning began leading the district down the socially just/learning for all pathway to nowhere.

    We are not going to rehash the minutiae of the last five plus years of D181's curriculum history, nor are we going to link every sentence to the podcast counters.  Instead, below are the links to the last three meetings.  We urge our reader to listen to the nearly 11 hours of meeting tapes (just as we have) and hear for yourselves the discussions (or lack thereof) that took place.  This blog post is simply going to  remind our readers of some of the issues that were addressed in those three meeting, describe our reaction and ask you to Sound Off.  (But remember to do so before June 9, when we will be signing off permanently.....)


    May 9, 2016 BOE Meeting:

    May 16, 2016 Learning Committee Meeting:

    May 23, 2016 Learning Committee Meeting:

    Long before the district hired or promoted the last five DOL administrators --- Stutz, Russell, Benaitis, Schneider and this year's 2 interims -- D181 had dedicated gifted and advanced learner programs both at the elementary and middle school levels.   GRC, and later ACE, were the names of the previous gifted programs.  In addition, starting in elementary school, there was math compacting and acceleration offered to the highest achieving math students and by the time they got to middle school, there were 3 levels of math (one or two years acceleration), 2 or 3 levels of language arts and 2 levels of social studies.  These programs required placement based upon students achieving certain cut-scores on either of or a combination of cognitive and achievement tests.   The cut scores were chosen by the DOL administration and seemed to change year after year, depending on who was running the department.  The problem with the past programs, however,  was that students who just missed the cut-offs were not really afforded an appeals process and were rarely added to a higher tier.  That is, unless they were grandfathered into the programs with scores they had received in second grade that placed them into GRC/ACE, even if those scores were well below the cut-offs needed for new students to place into the programs going into middle school.  Five years ago, in 2011, Dr. Moon was hired to evaluate  the gifted programs in D181.  Her conclusions included:  D181 was committing educational malpractice,  gifted students were only having their needs met on a part time basis , the identification process for placing students into the gifted or advanced tiers was flawed and needed to be changed to allow more students an opportunity to be successful, and district wide there was not appropriate differentiation taking place in the general classes.

    Following Dr. Moon's report, the district embarked on a "journey" (to use Dr. White's favorite phrase) under Dr. Schuster's leadership to develop a new philosophy of learning, which ultimately led to Dr. Schneider's and the DOL's creation and implementation of a socially just Advanced Learning Plan, which then morphed into the Learning for All Plan.  During the Learning for All years, "gifted" became a dirty word in D181 and was replaced with various iterations such as "advanced learner" or "unique learner."  The gifted programs were stripped down and a one size fits all/acceleration for all model replaced it.  All students were accelerated one full year in math, and a seven year plan was presented that once fully rolled out would have all students taking ACE social studies and ELA.  This seven year plan was pushed by the DOL despite concerns raised by some teachers that such a plan would lead to watering down of the curriculum or would simply be too difficult for the average or below average students.  Teachers were tasked with effectively differentiating all instructional levels within their classroom. In addition, under the plan, as the seven year roll out began, students could opt in to any of the upper level programs in the middle school regardless of their placement scores.

    Rather than work on fixing the broken identification process, the administration (in our opinion) simply opened the floodgates and let anyone in who wanted to try the upper level tiers.  For those of you who have followed the discussion on required student performance to stay in the upper level classes, you will remember that over the years, students went from having to maintain an 80% in the classes to only a 70% and then could actually stay in the class if parents insisted, regardless of the student performance.

    As we now know, the acceleration for all model didn't work.  The differentiation of all students within one classroom didn't work.  The dismantling of the gifted program didn't work, and the Learning for All Program didn't work.  Each year the new fangled socially just curriculum program rolled out culminated in a growing awareness that student performance was declining in most schools and over most grades.  Certain schools and grades did show good performance but the administration did not undertake a real analysis of what was working at those schools that should be implemented in the schools/grades where performance was tanking.

    Year after year for the last five years, the MAP scores have declined.  Year after year the BOE and the community have listened to a series of excuses from the administration as to why this might be.  From a change in achievement tests given statewide, to a change in norming standards on MAP, to growing pains from implementation of common core standards, to the challenge of implementing new math materials, there was always an excuse given.  Yet what was missing was any attempt to truly collect or analyze not only the test data but class work data,  to understand the performance decline and make the necessary adjustments.

    In the Spring of 2015, the new BOE members finally demanded change.  Even without the real analysis of why scores were going down, they recognized that the Learning for All program wasn't working and student performance was declining, especially in math. The BOE directed a reinstatement of math tiers. The administration pushed back and after nearly one year, the board directive hadn't been fully implemented.   This spring, teachers began speaking out about how the programs have either been watered down to make them easier for the average learners or if not watered down are too difficult for many students.  If one listens to the meetings, you will hear reports from teachers of students crying because they are so stressed out from the higher level work.  You will hear them say how materials have become so watered down due to the opt-ins, that the courses are no longer challenging the highest achievers.  And throughout all of this, one can look at the student performance data and see that has continued to decline.  The teachers are now seeking placement changes, especially in ACE social studies and ELA.  Listening to the teachers, it is clear they want a return of tiered programs so that students can be taught at their appropriate levels.

    But the problem with a return to tiered programs is that one must have an appropriate identification process to properly place students.  So has the identification process been fixed?  No it has not.

    Listening to the May 16 Learning Committee meeting, there was extensive discussion of how the DOL had to come up with new cut-offs this year.  Unlike last year when cut-offs were based on a combination of scores from the Inview test (a cognitive test) and MAP tests (achievement tests)  this year, Inview was eliminated, leaving only MAP scores.  In addition, for language arts and ACE social studies, students took a writing narrative assessment graded by the sixth grade ELA teachers.  Apparently there was confusion by the DOL administration as to what exactly the BOE was looking for in terms of placement of students into the math, language arts an social studies tiers.  But rather than go before the BOE to seek clarification, the DOL took it upon itself to simply start adjusting the cut-off's until it achieved class sizes that it thought would balance the interests of the BOE, administrators, and teachers.

    We are not going to detail the Learning Committee discussion, but suffice it to say that it is clear that rather than select cut-off scores based upon an analysis of student performance in the classes and the corresponding MAP and narrative writing sample scores achieved by successful students, the cut-offs were tweaked to fill seats.  There was no scientific analysis done of student performance to determine what the appropriate cut-off scores should be.  In fact, during the committee discussion, there was talk of possibly further manipulating the cut-offs to get to a desired number of students for each level.  But worse than this was the insistence by the DOL administration that it was very difficult for them to set the criteria without there being a philosophy of learning in the district on how to treat gifted students.

    SAY WHAT?  Did the DOL administration really say this?  Yes they did and to us this was a sign that everyone in the DOL has dropped the ball big time.  How could any administrator not know about the PHILOSOPHY of LEARNING that the BOE approved less than five years ago?  And IF the DOL  administrators really believe that there is no philosophy of learning, why the heck didn't they go before the BOE to ask before deciding on the placement criteria it thought would balance all interests?

    When we listened to this discussion we were horrified.  Not only hadn't the BOE been consulted about the methodology the DOL was using to set the placement criteria, but the teachers who were consulted and who had voiced their concerns, came to the meeting to express their  shock that the criteria had been changed from what they had been led to believe the cut-offs would be.

    But instead of the committee insisting that no placement decisions should be sent to parents until after the BOE could address the DOL administrator's questions,  and clarify what the philosophy of learning, philosophy of gifted, directives and intentions of the BOE actually are, the learning committee further "tweaked" the placement criteria to tighten the ACE social studies criteria to address the teacher's concerns, even though it would lead to much smaller ACE classes than the last couple of years.  What amazed us as we listened to the discussion was that it was almost as if the DOL administrators and certain committee members were prepared to manipulate the data to suit whatever the "flavor of the day" by the DOL administration or certain committee members decided that evening to sample.

    And two days later, placement letters were sent home to parents without first discussing any of this with the BOE at the May 23 meeting.

    So we waited to see whether or not there would be substantive discussion by the BOE on either the MAP data or the placement criteria at the May 23rd board meeting.  Both items were on the agenda.  But after cursory presentations on what had been discussed at the Learning Committee meeting, the BOE didn't have much of anything to say on either topic.

    WOW.  We were shocked.  And we remain shocked and concerned.   As we sit here writing this post, there is absolutely no way that the administration or BOE can say that the identification process it is using for next fall is appropriate, based on research, will ensure proper placement of students into their correct level, will not change next year when the DOL or someone on a committee wants to change it, and will not be subject to change up or down depending on the desired class size.

    Is this what Dr. Moon meant when she said D181 needed to fix the identification process? The district has now reinstated tiers that it was quick to eliminate under the Learning for All Plan. The DOL administrators are now once again using the phrase "gifted" students. The ACE program which five years ago was criticized for being too small and excluding students who just missed the cut-off, is now once again going to be very small and subject to tight, restrictive cut-offs.

    So like we said at the beginning, we have come full circle. Yes, now there is an appeals process, but it is subjective. So we anticipate that there will be claims of unfairness and claims that not all students who could succeed are getting the opportunities to try the higher level work. And at the end of the day, we won't be surprised if a future board or administration suggests hiring another consultant to assess the state of the tiered programs. And the identification process. And the cycle will start all over.  And nothing will have really changed, except that student performance will have steadily declined over the years.

    So sad.


    Wednesday, May 25, 2016

    Comment of the Day #2: Jay Wick's Summary of Last Night's Roundtable Discussion on HMS Next Steps.

    We have just received a comment from Jay Wick describing the Round Table discussion that took place at Prospect School last night on HMS Next Steps.  Thanks Jay Wick for sharing your observations.  If anyone else attended the Round Table discussion last night, we'd love to hear from you too!
    jay_wick said...
    There were parents and community members from throughout the district at the Tuesday night "roundtable" for "next steps". The consensus from all in attendance was if there is any hope of replacing the existing middle school the cost has to be MUCH LOWER, the need based on more quantifiable metrics, and a design that will not lend it self to an "arms race" of additional spending requests.

    Thoughtful community members who make their living in fields like higher education / research shared the fact that they routinely construct world class facilities with cost per sq ft far below the amount sought in the failed referendum. Whatever challenges there might be with the existing site and a lengthy construction schedule that arises from a desire to have students use the existing facility while its replacement is constructed around it must be factored into how accepting the broader electorate will be toward such choices; simply put the desire to retain the tradition / convenience / grandeur of the downtown Hinsdale site cannot also come with a perception that those families attending the district's other middle school will soon clamor for "matching upgrades". Taxpayers in our communities are exceedingly sensitive to the needs of all taxing bodies and the overall miserable fiscal mismanagement of Illinois, any effort to convince voters to back a voluntary increase in the amount of taxes extracted from them has to come with extraordinary levels of evidence that expenditures will be managed prudently.That has not happened thus far!

    It was frustrating to hear some community members who are either cluelessly unaware or simply refuse to acknowledge that even with the current state of the middle school in Hinsdale, their attendance area is still more desirable than any part of either the overall district or any neighboring areas -- one need only look to Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Downers Grove, or the portions of Burr Ridge outside of the district and see that home buyers in those areas are not running from those "schools of inferior design". For perhaps the sharpest contrast of how little some buyers care about school layout one need only look at the portions of Oak Brook served by Downers Grove schools, in particular there are multi-million homes being built and sold in the area that attends Belle Aire, a school that to this day lacks any sort of interior walls. The restrictions that such a layout imposes on learning are no doubt far more challenging than anything at a facility that has been extensively retrofitting multiple times, as has HMS, yet buyers still spend their money to live in Oak Brook. The "do this or your property values will suffer" argument is thus easily dismissed.

    What is true is that the district does need to come together. The current HMS forces unacceptable burdens on those who use it, the continuing financial resources that it drains from the district in elevated maintenance and portable rentals is a disgraceful waste that should not be tolerated. Some folks seem to believe that stacking up numbers higher and deeper than their opponents will lead to compromise, that however is nothing but a recipe for continued inaction. True compromise must acknowledge the legitimate concerns that sent the last proposal to the rubbish heap. The results of both the scientifically conducted phone survey and the less formal online survey clearly show a desire for NEW PROPOSAL. Start over.

    I was encouraged that parents from the HMS attendance area felt good about positive comments from parents in the CHMS attendance area, anyone who has been inside HMS readily acknowledges how inefficient it is. Hopefully some one with the desire to see a new school constructed can carefully benchmark how much time is wasted by students and teachers traversing the treacherous layout. Ideally that would be compared to the more compact CHMS. That sort of true cooperation is desperately needed to move the district forward.

    Comment of the Day: In the News!

    We have just received the following comment that we are posting as our Comment of the Day.  As the author states, we'd love to hear from you on the issues raised in the newspaper articles.  So SOUND OFF!


    Anonymous said...
    The following are 3 links to recent newspaper articles. Please consider posting them as a comment of the day. The first deals with an initiative at Yorkville School District 115 in which homework and non-assessment work will no longer be graded. This initiative is going to be delayed. What I found interesting about it is that the Yorkville's Director of Teaching and Learning is leaving there to become D181's new Assistant Superintendent of Learning. Is this going to be the "next, best learning initiative" that is tried on our kids? I for one hope not, but would love to hear other's opinions. So please read the articles dealing with this initiative: and

    The third article deals with a federal investigation that is now underway against the College of Dupage in connection with actions allegedly taken by the past president and board of trustees. Subpoenas served to college administrators seek information related to various areas including administrator expenses. Perhaps it is time someone investigated D181? Here is the article:

    Monday, May 23, 2016

    HMS "Next Steps" Survey Results Are Clear that the Administration, BOE and Facilities Committee Have Much Work To do Before Choosing A New Referendum Date

    As the school year winds down, we will be writing our final posts before signing off -- permanently. When the 2015-2016 school year ends, we -- the bloggers  -- will have officially graduated all of our children from D181 and have decided that now is the right time to end our blog.  Our hope is that current and future parents will continue to closely monitor what is happening in D181 and, if necessary, start their own blog that will continue to shine a light of transparency on the good and the bad in the district. We will elaborate further on June 9, when we will be publishing our final post, but today and later this week, we are going to publish 2 important posts.

    This first one addresses the HMS Referendum Next Steps Survey Results.  Later this week, the second post will address Curriculum Issues that were discussed at last week's Learning Committee Meeting and will be discussed at tonight's BOE meeting.

    At tonight's BOE meeting, the HMS "Next Steps" Survey results are on the agenda for discussion.  As you all may recall, following the failure of the HMS Referendum, the BOE tasked the administration with conducting a survey, the purpose of which was to determine why the referendum failed and whether or not the BOE should approve going to referendum in the future on the HMS building.

    We are not going to summarize the Survey Results that are going to be presented tonight to the BOE, since the administration and consulting firm it hired to conduct the Phone and Online Survey have done so.  The following links will take you to the reports and results and we encourage all of our readers to take the time to read ALL of the documents posted:

    1.  Link to the Board Docs Agenda item on the Next Steps Survey
    2.  Power Point Presentation for 5/23/16 BOE meeting
    3.  Director of Communications 5/23/16 Summary Memo on the Results
    4.  Patron Insights' Phone Survey Results -- Final Report
    5. Online Survey Results with Redacted Comments

    What we plan to do instead of summarizing the reports is to provide you with our take-aways (and of course, they are opinions which you may or may not agree with) and the next steps we hope the BOE will take, starting tonight.

    First, our take-aways:

    1.  It is clear that the main reason that the referendum failed was the exorbitant price tag.  It is also clear that in order for an HMS referendum to have any chance of succeeding, the price tag must be below $45 million.

    2.  Too many bells and whistles were included in the first referendum, but in our opinion, even if you strip out the auditorium and running track, that will not lower the price tag by $20 million, so other changes are needed to the "winning Cordogan design."

    3.  There is insufficient interest in rushing back to referendum in November 2016.  A majority of survey takers want the BOE to either take as much time as is needed to develop a design that the community will support or at a minimum wait until April 2017 at the earliest.  It will be interesting to see if the administration attempts to spin the responses to suggest that enough time exists between now and November to develop a design that the community can support and approve less than 6 months from now.  More importantly, it will be interesting to see if the BOE falls for this spin or immediately quashes any notion of going to referendum before April 2017.

    4.  Based upon the survey results that show that a new design is in order, Cordogan must be terminated as the Architect on an new HMS project.   Unfortunately, for Cordogan, they have already had multiple swings at bat to design a new HMS that would cost $45 million.  As past blog posts have reported, their original design came close to a projected cost of $45 million, but a last minute bait and switch escalated the price tag by 66% to $73 million.  While they generated several project modifications that lowered the $73 to $65 million, $60 and $55 million, it was clear from the presentations to the BOE that the architecture firm was not supportive of their "cheaper" versions.  How then could anyone trust them now to develop a cheaper design that the community will support?

    5.  We hope that all of you will take the 30 to 45 minutes it will take to read the COMMENTS submitted by the community members on the Online Survey:  Online Survey Results with Redacted Comments.  While the comments are consistent with the Survey results, we do want to take a moment to express our sadness and disappointment in community members who suggested that the only reason Clarendon Hills residents voted NO was because they didn't think they would benefit from the referendum.  There were many negative, personal comments against Clarendon Hills residents and we found them to be ignorant, hateful and destructive.  Thankfully, as the data shows, more than 50% of those who took the online survey actually live in the HMS feeder areas within D181 and the majority of the comments were from people who voted No AND gave very detailed and substantive reasons that have nothing to do with which side of town you live on to explain why the referendum failed.

    Now, we would like to list our hopes for the next steps the BOE should take, starting tonight:

    1.  Have a meaningful, substantive and constructive discussion tonight on the survey results.

    2.  Decide that it will NOT go to referendum in November 2016.

    3.  Terminate it's relationship with Cordogan Clark, the architecture firm.

    4.  Agree that it will not take any further steps on an HMS referendum until it has finalized and approved its Facilities Master Plan -- just like D86 did as a first step.

    5.  Set a timeline for finalizing and approving a Facilities Master Plan.

    6.  Prioritize capital projects that are in the Facilities Master Plan and IF HMS remains the priority, THEN and only THEN....

    7.  Set a timeline for deciding what the MAXIMUM dollar amount that should be spent on EITHER a new HMS OR a renovation of the existing HMS and conduct a formal RFP process to select a reputable architecture firm that must bid on the project as has been done with past successful D181 referenda.

    8.  Once the winning firm is selected, then work with that firm to design a new or renovated HMS that will be within the budgeted amount.

    9.  Go to referendum, but only after ensuring that a Committee of Community Members has been formed that will do the heavy labor needed to promote in a constructive, non-devisive manner the referendum question.

    In our opinion, the earliest this can happen is April 2017, but since the administration has proven itself incapable of meeting ANY deadlines -- whether budgetary, facilities or curriculum -- we doubt that an April 2017 referendum can be achieved.  Instead, we hope the BOE takes as much time as is necessary to set a budget, select an architect and design a reasonable and fiscally responsible new or renovated Hinsdale Middle School.

    We can't wait to listen to tonight's BOE meeting and see if ANYTHING AT ALL is decided on this important topic.

    Stay tuned and SOUND OFF!

    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    Are Nine Years of D181's MAP Student Growth Summary Reports Invalid? Are the Reports D181 has Relied Upon "MISLEADING" and do they "MISREPRESENT" the Growth Summary Data?

    We begin this post by copying from our last one a statement made by Dr. Larson at the May 9, 2016 BOE meeting.  As you may recall, BOE members expressed concern over the Growth Summary data for the Fall 2015 to Spring 2016 MAP data.

    In response, Dr. Larson stated that the results "misrepresent the total percentage of students who are meeting growth goals and there's a long explanation to it but I just happened to find it out by going through the data set and coming across a discrepancy and so when I contacted NWEA they said 'yeah that is a discrepancy' and they are actually looking into doing some revision work with their growth summary reports because there are people who are complaining about that -- it's misleading.  But again, I would need all the visuals to really explain it more thoroughly."  (5/9/2016 Meeting Podcast, Counter 2:10:21.)

    Over the last few days, as we awaited the posting on Board Docs of the Learning Committee agenda and related documents for its May 16, 2016 meeting, we decided to compile D181's MAP growth summary data for prior years.  With a little digging, we found the MAP Growth Summary Data for 2006-2016 on the D181 website and Board Docs.  Below is a chart we prepared from the Growth Summary data reports NWEA created for D181 beginning with 2006 - 2007 school year and from which former administrators created Board Reports and D181 schools developed their School Improvement Plans.

    The following chart*** shows (or so we have always been led to believe) the % of students who met their Growth Targets in Math and Reading since the 2006-2007 School Year.  Each of the NWEA Growth Summary Reports and Board Reports/Powerpoint (created by D181 Administrators) that we used to create this master chart have columns or spreadsheet charts that purport to show the % of students meeting their growth projection. Until Dr. Larson's declaration (at the May 9 BOE meeting) that the 2015-2016 NWEA Growth Summary Reports "MISREPRESENT" this information, no one (to our knowledge) in the D181 Administration (past or present) had EVER made such a suggestion.

    As we awaited Dr. Larson's explanation of the mysterious "DISCREPANCY" that she claimed would show how the reports NWEA created for D181 "MISREPRESENTED" the growth data, we were curious to see if past reports were different than the 2015-2016 reports published on Board Docs for the May 9 Board meeting.  The links to the sources are at the conclusion of this post, for anyone who wants to see the actual reports.  While we are not statisticians, in our lay opinion, we do not see that NWEA did anything substantially or significantly different in the 2016 Spring Reports showing Fall 2015 to Spring 2016 student growth from it's past reports.  (We understand that NWEA updated its NORMS in 2015, as it does every four or five years, but the format of the reports remained the same as in the past, other than adding a couple of new columns dealing with comparative data.)

    This is important because whatever explanation Dr. Larson gives regarding the mysterious DISCREPANCY, she had better explain whether the DISCREPANCY existed in the past NWEA reports, potentially invalidating the reported results since 2006 that D181 administrators have relied upon and represented to multiple BOE's.

    What follows is the chart we have created for each grade level, and in our lay opinion, it shows that student performance has declined dramatically over the years -- in particular in Math -- and this year is the worst year in the last five years for a majority of the schools, regardless of the grade level (as highlighted in RED).

    Grade 2 -- MATH  (Note:  Second Graders began taking MAP test in the Fall 2013.)
    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker        
    2013-2014           55.1        32.6           46.3            65.7         55.8         64.4             60.4           53.2
    2014-2015           64.4        73.2           63.1            40.3         55.6         74.3             69.2           80.6
    2015-2016           37           31              44               32            38            26                51              36

    Grade 2 -- READING (Note:  Second Graders began taking MAP test in the Fall 2013.)

    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2013-2014          39.8         58.7           37               22.9         46.5         40.7             45.3           36.2
    2014-2015          58.4         60.7           66.2            50.7         60            52.9             56.9           67.7  
    2015-2016          47            38              56               31            68            53                41              49

    Grade 3 -- MATH
    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2006-2007           49.1         61.7          27.7           48.6           34.6      59.4              62.7           51.7
    2007-2008           59.3         45.8          64.2           50.9           50         64.4              66.1           69.4
    2008-2009           52.7         61             41.8           50              53.8      58.1              54.2           55.6
    2009-2010           62.9         59             55.7           56.6           55.2      73.9              71.6           68.2
    2010-2011           56.3          68.2         51.2           55.3           50         61.8              52.1           60
    2011-2012           55.7          46.8         63.2           53.8           69.6      57.5              44.3           55
    2012-2013           47.5          60            49.4           40              80          33.8             38.6           48.8
    2013-2014           73.6          81.4         81.17         59.7           87          75                67.6           67.2
    2014-2015           65.8          72            78.2           61.3           90          50.9             56.1           60.4
    2015-2016           37             44             41             28              58          28                40              19

    Grade 3 -- READING

    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2006-2007           45.6         61.7         52.2            40.5         28.8         35.4             59              40
    2007-2008           52.3         41.7         50               60.4         58.3         45.8             59.7           51
    2008-2009           47.2         56.1         51.9            38.1         53.8          36               54.2           47.6
    2009-2010           55.6         66.7         47.1            56.2         58.6          56.5            60.6           45.5
    2010-2011           40.2         59.1          31              34.2         35.9          35.3            38.4            63
    2011-2012           51.8         44.7          64.7           43.1         58.7          45.9            41               65
    2012-2013           49.9         45.7          55.8           45            75.6          37.5            44.6            54.8
    2013-2014           58            58.6          65              43.5          63            62.5            59.7            54.8
    2014-2015           56.6         63.3          56.4           62.2          60            56.4            54.4            41.7         
    2015-2016           47            50             52              43             60            48               41               42

    Grade 4 -- MATH

    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2006-2007            45.6         56.3          63.3          36.7          51.9        41                25              52.3
    2007-2008            57.6         62.7          58.8          64             63.2        49.3             45.8           57.6
    2008-2009            51.1         64             45.3          55.9          57.1        40.5             50.8           50
    2009-2010            57.8         59.6          61.4          56.8          67.2        54.5             50              55.4
    2010-2011            50.3         36.6          59.2          57.1          54.4        44.3             34.4           62.5
    2011-2012            49.6         55.3          36.8          50              69.6       55.6             44              46.8
    2012-2013            53.8         45.7          55.4          54.3           51          63.6             48.4           53.1
    2013-2014            59.4         47.8          59.7          57.8           45.5        76.5             64.1          47.6
    2014-2015            59.7         44.4          68.3          43.5           65.1        72.7             50             77.2
    2015-2016            41            45             43             28              59           51                23             41

    Grade 4 -- READING

    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2006-2007           52            56.3         62.5            41.7         53.7         43.4             50              59.1
    2007-2008           57.2         50.9         50               53.9         60.3         51.6             63.8           71.7
    2008-2009           47.6         57.1         43.8            35.6         44.9         48.6             53.8           50
    2009-2010           58.2         67.4         57.8            47.1         56.3         61                50              73.4
    2010-2011           48.4         43.9         52               41            56.1         57.7             37.5           50
    2011-2012           57.6         61.7         56.3            51.3         55.6         59.7             52              74.5
    2012-2013           53.5         54.3         50               40             49           66.2             53.1           60.3 
    2013-2014           60.4         54.3         64.9            49.4          60.5        78.8             52.4           54.8
    2014-2015           59            54            61.9            51.6          62.8        60.6             60.3           63.2
    2015-2016           47            45            37               35             59           70                48              45

    Grade 5 -- MATH
    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2006-2007            57.6       52.5         52.2            48.7           71.7         54,8            55.6           68.9
    2007-2008            60          70.8         61.6            50.8           56.1         52.9            58.7           77.8
    2008-2009            57.7       62.3         54.7            53.2           52.2         50               54.5           80.3
    2009-2010            54.7       50            50               47.4           72            55.1            48.5           64.2
    2010-2011            57.8       54.2         50               60.7           64.6         55.7            61.7           58.8
    2011-2012            55.4       50            44.9            46.8           70.5         53.2            37.5           74.5
    2012-2013            55.4       59.6         59.1            52.6           68.8         50               48.1           55.1                        
    2013-2014            53.1       59.6         50.8            48.6           76.5         57.1            41.9           41.9
    2014-2015            55.8       57.7         46.9            58              68.2         48.8            55.1           69
    2015-2016            37          52            50               38              46            37               29              26      

    Grade 5 -- READING

    Year                  District     Elm       Madison      Monroe      Oak      Prospect     The Lane     Walker
    2006-2007            50.1       52.5         38.8            48.7          46.8          50.8            55.6           59
    2007-2008            54.9       64.6         48.6            49.2          40.4          66.7            50.8           64.4
    2008-2009            52.4       60.7         60               51.3          48.5          38.2            49.1           59
    2009-2010            55.4        61.5        57.4            45.6          59.2          40.3            52.9           79.2  
    2010-2011            55.7        64.6        44.2            58              58.1         58.2            60              52.2
    2011-2012            59.2        50           56.4            54.4           60.7         66.2            60.9           64.7
    2012-2013            53.5        51.9        55.7            59              57.4         49.3            48.1           53.1    
    2013-2014            59.5        53.8        57.1            55.7           74.5         64.5            58.1           54
    2014-2015            64.1        71.2        56.8            63              73.8         64.3            62.3           64.3
    2015-2016            51           54           52               44              54            56               47              47

    Grade 6 -- MATH (Note: Only targeted students at the middle schools took MAP in 08-09.)

    Year                  District     CHMS       HMS
    2006-2007          NA           NA             NA
    2007-2008          44.7         44.6            44.7
    2008-2009          62            60.5            63.6
    2009-2010          47.1         40.6            52.5
    2010-2011          51.3         47.9            54
    2011-2012          46.5         46.1            46.8
    2012-2013          48.4         48.8            48
    2013-2014          43.4         48.1            39.8
    2014-2015          50.3         50.5            50.2
    2015-2016          36            40               33 

    Grade 6 -- READING (Note: Only targeted students at the middle school took MAP in 08-09.)

    Year                  District     CHMS       HMS
    2006-2007          NA           NA            NA
    2007-2008          47.4          47.6          47.1
    2008-2009          56.7          56.4          56.9
    2009-2010          51.4          55.4          48.1
    2010-2011          52.2          46.6          56.7
    2011-2012          53.7          53             54.3
    2012-2013          56.2          52.7          59.1
    2013-2014          54.9          58.3          52.4
    2014-2015          59.3          59.3          59.4
    2015-2016          56             56             55

    Grade 7 -- MATH 
    (Note: Only targeted students at the middle school took MAP in 08-09.)
    Year                  District     CHMS       HMS
    2006-2007          NA           NA            NA
    2007-2008          44             43.2          45.3    
    2008-2009          52.4          48.9          61.1          
    2009-2010          57.6          57             58.1
    2010-2011          56.8          50.9          61.6
    2011-2012          48.1          51.6          45.5
    2012-2013          51.8          51.1          52.4
    2013-2014          51.6          48.5          54
    2014-2015          58.7          56.2          60.6
    2015-2016          45             52             37

    Grade 7 -- READING 
    (Note: Only targeted students at the middle school took MAP in 08-09.)
    Year                  District     CHMS       HMS
    2006-2007           NA           NA             NA
    2007-2008           54.3          53.7           55.2
    2008-2009           68.4          66.7           71
    2009-2010           55.3          56.3           54.5
    2010-2011           59.8          64.8           55.6
    2011-2012           52.4          54.3           51
    2012-2013           51.3          48.1           54
    2013-2014           55.5          58.6           53.1
    2014-2015           54.2          62.1           48.4
    2015-2016           50             48              51 

    Grade 8 -- MATH (Prior to Fall 2013, 8th graders did not take the MAP test.)

    Year                  District     CHMS       HMS             
    2013-2014           47.1          47.5           46.8
    2014-2015           52.5          52.5           52.4
    2015-2016           26             30              27

    Grade 8 -- READING (Prior to Fall 2013, 8th graders did not take the MAP test.)

    Year                  District     CHMS       HMS
    2013-2014           39.2          37.6           40.7
    2014-2015           46.2          53.7           40.6
    2015-2016           33             27              38

    Recall, as we explained our last post, in 2013 Dr. Russell insisted that NWEA expected that high

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Dismal MAP Test Growth Results -- Real or Not? Is the D181 Spin Machine Once Again Cranking Up to Avoid Accountability?

    By now the news is spreading like wildfire across D181. The Fall 2015 to Spring 2016 MAP test Student Growth results are ABYSMAL!

    On Monday, the D181 Administration posted the MAP test Student Growth summary results (District Wide and School by School) on Board Docs for the May 9, 2016 BOE meeting. The two reports can be accessed in their entirety at the following links:

    District wide Results:$file/2015-2016%20Fall-Spring%20Growth%20Summary%20Reports%20-%20District.pdf

    School by School Results:$file/2015-2016%20Fall-Spring%20Growth%20Summary%20Reports%20-%20Schools.pdf

    Rather than show you images of each page of the report, we have created our own Comparative Chart that highlights the Grade Level Growth for each school.

    We expect that you will have the same reaction to the results that we did -- one of shock and disappointment in how D181 has let our children down.

    We begin by reminding our readers that D181 students in Grades 2 through 8 took the MAP test last Fall and this Spring. Each time the students take the MAP test, they are given a projected growth target of how many RIT points their new score is projected to increase from their prior score by. Each student has a different growth target. The MAP Reports D181 ordered from NWEA (the Northwest Evaluation  Association) show the percentage of students that met their Projected Growth Target. We have highlighted in RED the lowest % growth target met in each grade in Math and Reading.

    Grade 2                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                37                                                         47
    Elm                                                              31                                                         38
    Madison                                                       44                                                         56
    Monroe                                                        32                                                         31
    Oak                                                              38                                                         68
    Prospect                                                       26                                                        53
    The Lane                                                      51                                                        41
    Walker                                                          36                                                        49

    Grade 3                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                 37                                                         47
    Elm                                                               44                                                         50
    Madison                                                        41                                                         52
    Monroe                                                         28                                                         43
    Oak                                                               58                                                         60
    Prospect                                                       28                                                         48
    The Lane                                                      40                                                         41
    Walker                                                          19                                                         32

    Grade 4                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                 41                                                          47
    Elm                                                               45                                                          45
    Madison                                                       43                                                           37
    Monroe                                                         28                                                          35
    Oak                                                              59                                                           59
    Prospect                                                       51                                                           70
    The Lane                                                      23                                                           48
    Walker                                                          41                                                           45

    Grade 5                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                  37                                                           51
    Elm                                                                52                                                           54
    Madison                                                         50                                                           52
    Monroe                                                          38                                                           44
    Oak                                                                46                                                           54
    Prospect                                                        37                                                           56
    The Lane                                                       29                                                           47
    Walker                                                           26                                                           47

    Grade 6                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                 36                                                            56
    CHMS                                                           40                                                            56
    HMS                                                              33                                                            55

    Grade 7                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                 45                                                            50
    CHMS                                                           52                                                            48
    HMS                                                              37                                                            51

    Grade 8                                   % Met Math Growth Target       % Met Reading Growth Target
    District Wide                                                 26                                                            33
    CHMS                                                           30                                                            27
    HMS                                                              27                                                           38

    In looking at these results, the question to be asked is "What percentage of students should be meeting their growth targets?"

    Let us recall that in 2013, there was much discussion at the Board table about this because NWEA (the testing company) had historically told school districts that 70% of students in high achieving school districts should be meeting their growth targets. At the June 10, 2013 board meeting, when the 2012-2013 MAP data was presented, Kevin Russell, former Director of Curriculum and Assessment, stated that despite this statement being included in the Fall 2012 MAP results letters that D181 parents received, NWEA now was taking the position that the new goal was that 50 to 60% of students would meet the target.  (See June 13, 2013 Blog Post.) For those of you with a good memory, in the months that followed, the BOE formed a committee to set growth goals, culminating in a goal that at least 55% of students should meet their growth targets. This goal has continued for each school as documented in the 2015-2016 School Improvement Plans presented at the November 9, 2015 BOE meeting.  (Click to open 2015-2016 School Improvement Plans.)

    With the watered down goal from 70% to 55%, parents have a right to expect that the schools at each grade level will meet this growth target. So, there is no question that  the percentage of D181 students who met their individualized growth targets for the 2015-2016 school year is unacceptably low.

    How many schools (7 elementary and 2 middle)  had 55% or more of the students meeting their math and reading targets?

    In 2nd grade, 0 in math and 1 in reading.
    In 3rd grade, 1 in math and 1 in reading.
    In 4th grade, 1 in math and 2 in reading.
    In 5th grade, 0 in math and 1 in reading.
    In 6th grade, 0 in math and 2 (of 2) in reading.
    In 7th grade, 0 in math and 0 in reading.
    In 8th grade, 0 in math and 0 in reading.

    But worse than only a few schools having 55% or more of the student meeting their growth targets, was the absurdly low percentile seen at some schools and the very clear discrepancy shown between schools. Two examples will show the discrepancy: While 58% of Oak's 3rd graders met their Math growth targets, only 19% of Walker's 3rd graders did. And while 68% of Oak's 2nd graders met their Reading growth targets, only 31% of Monroe's 3rd graders did.

    How can this be? Same district, same grade, yet shockingly different growth results. And those two examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Now, in all fairness to the administration, we have listened to the May 9, 2016 BOE meeting podcast, and during the meeting, when a couple of BOE members raised concerns about the results, Dr. Carol Larson, the Director of Assessment and Program Effectiveness, made the following statement:

    The results "misrepresent the total percentage of students who are meeting growth goals and there's a long explanation to it but I just happened to find it out by going through the data set and coming across a discrepancy and so when I contacted NWEA they said 'yeah that is a discrepancy' and they are actually looking into doing some revision work with their growth summary reports because there are people who are complaining about that -- it's misleading.  But again, I would need all the visuals to really explain it more thoroughly."  (5/9/2016 Meeting Podcast, Counter 2:10:21.)

    She explained that she is going to be presenting a more detailed report to the Learning Committee at the upcoming May 16 committee meeting (to be held at the Administration Center starting at 6 p.m.) (Click to open Board Docs Agenda for upcoming 5/16/16 Learning Committee Meeting.)

    Our reaction to Dr. Larson's statement is that it appears that the administration may once again be cranking up the old Spin Machine in an attempt to minimize the growth results and deflect attention away from the obvious questions -- the WHY questions -- that would explain how so few of our students are achieving appropriate growth after one year of learning.

    The following are questions that we hope are answered at the Learning Committee Meeting next Monday: