Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breaking News: Two Communications from Dr. White.

In the interest of transparency, below we are publishing two communications that Superintendent White emailed to D181 parents this afternoon.  The first is a letter informing parents that the math pilot Investigations WILL BE DISCONTINUED.

The second communication informs parents that the Illinois State Report Cards, with the D181 ISAT district wide scores, will be available tomorrow.  Of concern in the latter communications is a clear attempt, in our opinion, to prepare the parents for bad news and try to minimize it as just one data point.  Let's not forget last year's dismal results which we reported on last year at 10/31/13 post and 11/2/13 post.

So stay tuned until tomorrow's release of the information.

Communication #1 from Dr. White on Math Pilots:

October 30, 2014
Dear D181 Families,
As shared in a memo to you on October 24, we are seeking a math resource that provides a strong foundation in fluency, conceptual understanding, procedural knowledge, and application, while also providing an instructional base that is grounded in the Eight Mathematical Practices. In addition, the chosen resource must provide tools for teachers to differentiate based on the needs of students, provide rigor in both instruction and homework, and allow teachers to follow our implementation of the Common Core standards. Since the start of the year, we have been piloting four different material sets to identify the best resource to meet those needs - Math in Focus (K-5), Investigations (K-5), Big Ideas (6-8) and Agile Mind (6-8).

It is important to remember that materials are one component of providing a challenging and engaging math education. We are guided first by the Common Core standards. The standards define what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level. As an individual district, we create the curriculum that describes what students need to learn to meet those standards. We then look at the delivery of instruction and the resources that serve as our tools.

During the October 27 Board meeting, we discussed the math pilot with our Board of Education members and heard from a number of parents during Public Comment. We appreciated the opportunity to discuss this important topic and listen to our community members. The Department of Learning led the conversation around what we have learned from the pilot so far and the next steps as we move forward. Below is a summary of our key decisions to date:
• The HMS staff, Math Committee and administration have determined that Agile Mind will not be a strong primary resource for our District at this time. The Board supported our plan to work with the HMS teachers in shifting from Agile Mind back to their previous resource (Glencoe or McDougal-Littell) for the remainder of the year. The teachers are already working to find a natural place to conclude in Agile Mind; that pilot will be finished for all HMS classes by the end of next week. The teachers will still have access to the Agile Mind resources as needed for supplemental instruction. During the November 4 Institute Day, the HMS staff will review the content that has and has not been covered to create a smooth transition for their students and ensure they meet their learning targets this school year. For HMS families with specific questions about your child’s instruction, please contact your child’s teacher or Mr. Peña.
• The pilot of Investigations at Elm and Madison has resulted in conflicting views. While some teachers and parents have expressed concern and a desire to stop the pilot of this resource, we have also heard positive feedback from teachers and parents. We therefore felt it was important to bring the teachers together as soon as possible to continue the conversation around their reflections on the materials. The Department of Learning thus met with teachers on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss Investigations. Based on their input and that of parents who have shared their views, we have determined that Investigations will not be a strong primary resource at this time. Like the HMS staff members who piloted Agile Mind, we will be working with the Madison and Elm School teachers in shifting back to their previous resource (Everyday Math with Common Core supplements) for the remainder of the year. The teachers will be working to find a natural place to conclude in Investigations; they will still have access to the Investigations resources as needed for supplemental instruction. During the November 4 Institute Day, the Madison and Elm staff will review the content that has and has not been covered to create a smooth transition for their students and ensure they, too, meet their learning targets this school year. For Madison and Elm School families with specific questions about your child’s instruction, please contact your child’s teacher or principal.
• We are planning to continue the pilots of Math in Focus (Monroe, Prospect, Oak) and Big Ideas (CHMS). We are also still planning to survey participating students, staff and parents at the conclusion of these resource pilots prior to making any material recommendations to the Board in January. It is important to note that continuing only these two pilots does not guarantee their selection. After reviewing the data that is available at the end of the pilot, it is possible our recommendation may be to choose one resource, both resources, or neither.
• We recognize a need for continued and increased communication around this topic and several of the key components in the Learning for All Plan.
o We need to more clearly outline the philosophy and vision that have guided our decisions.
o We need to create common, District-wide definitions for terms such as “differentiation” and
“flexible grouping” that are being used in our conversations.
o We need to explain the academic path for math instruction in the District in a way that is simplified
but specific.
o We need to identify the practices that should be consistent across schools and the areas in which
teachers should have latitude to make the decisions that they know as professionals will be best for
their students.
o We need to generate new ideas for increasing staff collaboration time.
o We need to continue professional development as staff work hard to implement new practices
aligned to the New Illinois State Standards.

Though we are discontinuing two of the four pilot materials, we are hearing very positive feedback from many teachers about the way their math instruction has already been transformed. Focusing on  Practices, embracing the balance of procedural and conceptual knowledge called for in the Common Core standards, and looking at math in a new way has been a challenging and exciting effort for our team of educators. We look forward to continued professional development in these areas.

Please watch for additional communication coming to you on these topics. While we don’t want to overwhelm families with too many messages, we believe increased outreach is needed over the coming weeks. We invite you to continue visiting our website for further information: www.d181.org > Learning > Math Pilot. Lastly, please be sure to refer to the body of the email that came with this message, alerting you to the October 31 release of State Report Card data from our students’ participation in the March 2014 ISAT and our participation in the Illinois 5Essentials Survey.

Thank you for your continued partnership.

Sincerely,

Don White, Ph.D.



Communication #2 from Dr. White on Illinois School Report Cards:

Dear District 181 Families and Staff,

A
ttached to this memo is an important update regarding the Math Pilot, including news on a change in materials at both the elementary and middle school level. You can find our recent memos and further information about this topic on our website: www.d181.org > Learning > Math Pilot.

In other news, we want to alert you to tomorrow’s public release of State Report Cards, which include the results from the March 2014 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). We will be posting our reports on the District website tomorrow: www.d181.org > Learning > Assessment > State Report Cards. You will be able to find our reports and the reports from all Illinois public schools online at www.illinoisreportcard.com. On that site and on our District website, you can also find the results from our teacher and middle school student participation in the 2014 Illinois 5Essentials Survey. Three of our schools (Elm, Madison, and Walker) had a high enough parent participation rate to generate a report on the parent data, as well. Though the state is not releasing that data as part of the Report Card, we have chosen to make that data available to the public on our website tomorrow, too (along with the teacher and student data): www.d181.org > Resources > IL 5Essentials Survey.

While the State Report Card is a helpful snapshot of a school and district, it is important to remember that we cannot look at one test score when assessing student achievement and growth. Rather, we must triangulate the data with other assessments, in-class work, and teacher feedback so that we have the complete story when considering how we can most effectively meet students’ academic needs. We must further consider students’ enjoyment and engagement in their educational experience. The school rankings released each year by some local media create comparisons based on select ISAT data, but they do not take into account these other critical factors.

For District 181, we include comprehensive data review as a critical component in the continuous improvement cycle. As we receive new information that can help guide our teaching, we also work to identify practices that are working well in our schools and share them across the District. We additionally hold ourselves accountable for areas needing improvement and identify practices that may not be working. That is the work our Department of Learning, School Leadership Teams, and teaching staff engage in throughout the year. 

It is important to note that the ISAT cut scores were raised from 2013 to 2014 to prepare students, staff, families and schools for the more rigorous Common Core standards. The assessment itself also included questions designed to better align to the new standards. We must therefore be cautious in drawing conclusions when making year-to-year comparisons in ISAT results. The new cut scores do not mean that our students know less than they did before or are less capable than they were in previous years. Instead, it means that the state expects a higher level of procedural and conceptual knowledge be demonstrated to meet and/or exceed grade level standards.

Lastly, we remind families that March 2014 was the last administration of the ISAT. During this 2014-15 school year, students in Grades 3-8 and high school students will take the PARCC assessment in English language arts and math. PARCC is aligned to the new standards and will be given online twice per year. It is designed to focus on growth over time in addition to achievement. After this school year, results of the PARCC exam will be represented independently from ISAT data on future Report Cards, with a brand new baseline for 2015. You can learn more about PARCC on our website: www.d181.org > Learning > Assessment.

No matter what changes are made to our state standards and assessment, our goal remains the same – to be a school district where all children experience success and grow in excellence.


Sincerely,
Don

The Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere: Part 2 -- D181 Needs a New Curriculum Map Maker

Now that we've spent the last couple of days posting stories about D181's endless journey down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, it is time to stop the laughter and giggles and get serious.

D181 is in trouble.

Our students and teachers have been led down a path that the administrators have argued is well intended, yet has resulted in poor student performance, chaos, inconsistency amongst schools, confusion, anger, anxiety, and self-esteem issues.  Although we believe the problems lie in multiple subject areas -- math, language arts, science -- the recent public outcry and administrative focus have been on the math curriculum.   So what did we actually "learn" at the October 27 Board Meeting about what the administration is going to do to address all of the math problems?  What did the Board of Education -- the public officials we elected to represent our interests -- discuss during the meeting?  What new information and specific plans did our new superintendent, Dr. White, and the Assistant Superintendent of Learning, Dr. Schneider, provide the community to assuage our concerns?

Everyone can go to the D181 website and listen to the podcast of the meeting.  In fact, we hope you all do, because ultimately, it is your responsibility to school yourselves up on issues that are impacting your children.  You can also all read the newspaper articles that provide short "factual" summaries of some of the hot topics that were discussed, such as the one that appears in this week's Hinsdalean titled "Math Pilot Concerns Relate Back to Learning for All Plan." So rather than summarize the 3 hour meeting in this post, we are just going to share some of our observations and conclusions and ask you to sound off.

1.  Were parents' math concerns proactively addressed by the administration? NO. Following one hour of impassioned public comments by no fewer than 17 parents, we would have expected Dr. White and Dr. Schneider to take at least a few minutes to directly address some of the questions asked. Instead, Dr. Schneider spent almost another hour during which he read from a prepared script and presented his skewed perspective of the district's curriculum history, followed by a 17 minute video highlighting yet another social justice expert's theories.   Dr. Schneider wrapped up his presentation with vague assurances that plans were in process to address the concerns. His scripted presentation did not provide any real specifics as to the future, other than stating that Agile Minds will be discontinued in the next week or so, a decision on whether or not to also discontinue Investigations would be delayed until further discussions with the teachers, and that more math materials were being ordered.

2.  The Blame Game: Dr. Schneider's script also included a laundry list of excuses and finger pointing (all away from him) to explain the reasons why there are so many curriculum issues.  He said more time is needed to implement all of the changes that were brought upon the district by Dr. Schuster, Dr. Moon's report (which he characterized as "insensitive"), the political "basket", Common Core and PARCC.  He also blamed administrative turnover and said none of the current Department of Learning administrators held their current positions when the Learning for All Plan was developed, never once acknowledging his "starring" role in its development, and the underlying social justice  theory that he introduced to D181. Dr. Schneider also said that everything had happened too fast and what is needed now is a slow down in the curriculum renewal cycle, clarification of the "vision," more professional development (that he said would require revisiting the idea of late start or early dismissal -- which the board previously rejected) and better mass communication to parents to explain all of the changes.

We were fascinated by Dr. Schneider's laundry list of  "to do's" and "requests for more time."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Emerald City? Heck, I Would Settle for Troy.



As we finalize Part 2 of our Post "Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere" (that we hope to post tomorrow), we have received the following comment by a "Concerned D181 Parent" asking us to publish as a free standing post.  The title of the comment caught our interest and we know you too will find the content compelling.

" Dear Bloggers:  I attended Monday's meeting and was so proud of the parents who spoke during public comment, bringing forward their concerns and questions.  I was, however, very disappointed in the lack of engagement I witnessed by the board majority and their willingness to accept the administration's excuses and requests for "more time" to fix the district's math mess, without any talk of holding any administrator accountable.  In particular I found Mr. Turek to be the weakest board president I have ever observed at a board meeting.  Please consider posting my comment as an individual post if you think it will be read by more of your readers.  I have been stewing ever since Monday night's meeting and have taken the time to jot down my own ideas.  I hope your readers agree with them.

In one of Don White's first emails to parents (http://www.d181.org/news/item/index.aspx?LinkId=1863&ModuleId=37) he states that he would like to see the district goal become the Emerald City. In a film context, this city is a mythical, magical, delightful place where its residents are happy and content. And while this may indeed be Don White's goal, the path to it is now convoluted and illusive. For within his first weeks as Superintendent, he promoted Kurt Schneider, whose background focuses entirely on Special Education, to head the Department of Learning. I have followed this blog, information posted on the D181 website and board docs, and in my opinion, it is clear that he is not qualified to hold this new position as his resume confirms he has limited to no experience in curriculum or assessment (Go to: Blogger's earlier post on Schneider, including his resume.). 

It is my opinion that the impact of this misguided decision is now being felt across the district as students have just completed about 20% of the school year, as one parent summarized at Monday's BOE meeting. Since Kurt Schneider took it upon himself to generate and explain (albeit with an occasional nervous laugh or mangiggle as he answered questions from board members) a list of 5 things that must happen in order for instruction to improve in the district, here is my own list of of 5 things that I believe must be done immediately to right the wrongs, if there is any hope for our childrens' education to improve: 
1. Since the superintendent's honeymoon has been cut short, he should now remove his sunglasses and put on a pair of bifocals so he can see up close the mess that is unfolding under his very eyes. Accountability begins at the top, and yes, this pathetic BOE troop has yet to hold any administrator accountable. But there is an election looming and the majority may flip in the community's favor so that Don White and his rag tags in the Department of Learning will be on the line to produce results. In order for this to happen, parents must step up to run for the board and immediately contact the Caucus. Time is running out, and we cannot allow Marty Turek to be re-elected or those who share his beliefs to be elected next year. Parents, please step up as there are four seats on the BOE open that must be filled with thoughtful, concerned parents who want to see the district improve.
2. By my count, approximately 80 people (parents, community members and administrators) showed up at Monday's meeting, and this was impressive and must continue. Our community cannot just sit back now and not be present at these meetings. If we have learned anything from the recent D86 events concerning the BOE and a potential strike, it takes a collective loud voice from the community to put pressure on the BOE to create change. And yes, many D181 parents spoke on Monday. But I believe parents will have to continue to speak up loudly and consistently if there is any hope for changes prior to the next election. 

3. If teachers continue to remain silent for fear of retaliation or dings on their evaluations, it will be up to parents to again voice concerns about this inclusive one-size-fits-all-social-justice-same-paced-limited-flexibly-grouped-sole-differentiated ideology. I believe Schneider was deceptive when he said teachers have not been told they couldn't use flexible groupings. Say what? Teachers were told 3 years ago that all classrooms were to become inclusive with no pullouts. Period. Ah, but wait. Some schools have bucked the trend and are ability grouping students this year. Yet another example of poor leadership on the part of Schneider and White, who appear to be comfortable with schools doing their own thing with no consistency among schools. 

4. Data must be produced and demanded by parents. Since Don White stated he reads all emails, parents should be writing to demand results. By now everyone knows that MAP results indicate some disturbing trends in 5th grade, as well as other grades. But where is the discussion from the administration or BOE? Turek's lack of leadership is alarming; remember, he sets the meeting agenda with White and could easily demand data and results but is failing to do so. The administration should produce a breakdown of results across schools, grades, quintiles, etc. This didn't happen under Schuster, and it looks like it won't under White unless parents put the hammer down and demand it. By the way, ISAT results and the state report cards are due to be published any day now.

Community Member's REMIX of "The Yellow Brick Road To Nowhere..."

Because we respect our readers' opinions on topics of concern, we appreciated receiving a Remix -- as we will call it -- of our Modern Tale, The Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere.  We agree that our use of the phrase  "Land of Educational Contentment" may not have been a completely accurate description of what existed before the tornado, but we were trying to simplify, simplify, simplify, so perhaps some of the simpletons who sit on the board of education would actually understand the "deeper" meanings of our post.  However, the Remix version is brilliant and and cannot be ignored.  So, we have published it below:



"I have some quibbles characterizing the "pre-tour guide era" as the "Land of Educational Contentment".

As I recall there were some folks that looked around "the bus" and saw that some seats were a little smaller and some seats were a little bigger. It made a lot of sense to most people because the "bus loading people" mostly did a good job sizing up students to seats. 

The problems was that some folks cried that the different sized seats made them feel bad. At about the same time other people noticed sometimes the "seat sizers" did not get things perfectly right, some kids close to cut off for a size sorta squeezed in and some kids did not. Maybe the "seat sizers" needed measuring sticks that were newer and better. Some people said the seat sizers did not know what they were doing. That was not right and some people sought to get Lady Justice to weigh in on that. Maybe if the bus driver was a little smarter that would not have been needed.

The bus driver was filled with panic. Seeing Lady Justice would be expensive and time consuming, to "fix" this problem the tour guide suggesting hiring their pal. The pal had lots of expertise telling folks about how terrible their buses were but not much else. The expert decided to light their hair on fire. It was a smelly mess. The bus driver and the "board of bus trustees" kind of pooped themselves. The smell grew worse. The people with children who cried about their seats joined the cacophony.

The people late at night decided maybe to take all the seats out of bus. Despite the objections of lots of people that is just what they did. 

The tour guide seized on a buzz word from the pal with the burning hair and decided to make the old seats new seats that were buzz word compliant. The new seats were magic. They were supposed to fit everyone.

Some parents said that is silly, there are no magic seats. Everyone should get a seat that fits them as best as possible.

The tour guide said people that did not like magic seats must be bad, they must want to lock some kids into yucky seats. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Modern Tale: The Yellow Brick Road To Nowhere.... (Part 1)


It is time for another modern fairy tale, or as some of you may conclude after reading it, a horror story, for this is not a story with a happy ending.  

There used to be a Land of Educational Contentment. Parents moved there because the schools and teachers were outstanding, children loved to go to school and were excited to learn something new every day. Suddenly one day, the sky darkened and a fast moving tornado swept through the town, leaving devastation in its wake. The tornado scooped up teachers and students and carried them to a far away land, dropping them from the sky onto a vast landscape of unknowns. 

When the teachers and students woke up from the storm, they found themselves in a field surrounded by a long, winding, yellow brick road, a road that the natives of this foreign land told them would lead to a magical place called the Emerald City, ruled by a Great Leader and 7 Trustees.  There they would find the crown jewel of all educational systems, much better than the one they’d left behind in the Land of Educational Contentment. The enthusiastic natives offered them a school bus, the Emerald City’s best bus driver, a tour guide and two assistants, and told them that if they used these expert navigators, they would not get lost. They were told that the journey to the Emerald City would take some time, but not to worry because the path was clear and their destination would be reached. Unbeknownst to them, deception lurked in the fields of promise of a better education.

The prospect of being in a foreign land was daunting, and with no way to get home, and no real choice but to blindly place their trust in the hands of strangers, the teachers and students boarded the bus.  The expert navigators followed:  the Bus Driver -- a lady, who seemed rather cowardly; the Tour Guide -- a soft spoken man who told the passengers that his primary goal was to make sure all of the children felt good about themselves during the long journey; the First Assistant -- a tall debonair gentleman; and the Second Assistant -- a striking lady who didn’t say much.   Once everyone was seated, the Bus Driver started the engine and headed down the yellow brick road.

Almost immediately, she came to a fork in the road.  The fork had two directional signs. One said “Main Street” and the other said “Road Less Traveled.” Dazed and confused by her choices, she turned to the Tour Guide and two assistants and asked for the Map to the Emerald City, but they told her they didn’t actually have a physical map.  The Tour Guide told her not to worry, however, reminding her that he had actually drawn the original Map, had driven down the yellow brick road before, knew exactly how to get to the Emerald City, and would tell her which directions to take. He then told her to turn onto the “Road Less Traveled” assuring her that it was the “best” way to get there.  The Bus Driver shrugged her shoulders, did as she was told and kept driving.

After a few days of driving on a very bumpy and winding road, the bus suddenly slowed to a stop. The teachers and students asked, “Are we there yet?” 

The Driver answered, “No. It is time for me to get off the bus. We are not at the Emerald City yet, but I don’t need to get there anymore, since I have just gotten a job driving a bus for a smaller city.  Then, with a big smile on her face, she waved good-bye and hopped off. 

The Tour Guide then told the passengers, “Don’t worry, the debonair First Assistant will now be your new driver.  Since I know the roads to the Emerald City like the back of my hand, I will give him directions and we will be there in no time.

Some of the teachers asked the Tour Guide, “Are you sure?  Has the First Assistant ever been a driver before?  Maybe you should call the Emerald City’s Great Leader and Trustees and make sure the new driver knows the path to take. 

But the Tour Guide said, “That is not necessary.  The Great Leader looks to me for guidance and if I say the First Assistant can drive this bus, then trust me, he can drive it and get us to the Emerald City.

The Tour Guide, also realizing that the passengers were getting restless after days of sitting idly on the moving bus, told them that for the next leg of the long journey, they would get a preview of what awaited them in the Emerald City.  As the bus drove on, he and the Second Assistant passed out samples of the curriculum, told the teachers to make the best of the trip and pretend that the bus was one big classroom. The Tour Guide confidently told them that the best thing about the Emerald City was that social justice awaited them there, everyone would learn the same things at the same pace and that all of the students would be better off under this equitable system.  So, in an effort to calm the students, the teachers passed out the materials and told the students to dig in.

Days, weeks and  months passed, with the school bus continuing down the yellow brick road, the journey taking far longer than the teachers and students ever imagined it would.  Whenever the New Driver got to another fork in the yellow brick road, he would consult with the Tour Guide and the Second Assistant about which way to go.  Without a physical Map, they spent many hours discussing their options.  Many times during the journey, the Tour Guide told the driver to go in a new direction.   When the students or teachers occasionally asked if the bus was lost, the Tour Guide reminded them that he didn’t need a paper Map and to be patient.   Every time the bus changed course, they were promised that the Emerald City was just around the next bend.

Yet the bus still didn't arrive at the Emerald City.  To make things worse, chaos broke out on the bus.  Some of the students were bored with the sample materials, others found them to be too difficult.  Some students grew emotionally distraught, while others became defiant and said they no longer liked going to school.   Trapped on the single bus, the teachers were not sure how to get control of the situation.  So one more time, they turned to the Driver and asked for his help. 

STAY TUNED FOR UPDATE OF THE 10/27 BOARD MEETING

We are getting many hits this morning from our readers, probably waiting for a post on last night's BOE meeting. We hope to post something by Wednesday night. Thank you for your patience.  In the meantime, here is a short preview of the post that will be titled:  "Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere....."

"It is time for a new fairy tale, or as some of you may conclude after reading it, a horror story.  

There used to be a land of educational contentment. Parents moved there because the schools and teachers were outstanding, children loved to go to school and were excited to learn something new every day. Suddenly one day, the sky darkened and a fast moving tornado swept through the town, leaving devastation in its wake. The tornado scooped up teachers and students and carried them to a far away land, dropping them from the sky onto a vast landscape of unknowns -- some good, some bad. There was treachery lurking amongst fields of promise of a better education.  

When the teachers and students woke up from the storm, they found themselves in a field surrounded by a yellow brick road, a road that the natives of this foreign land told them to follow until they would reach a place called the Emerald City -- where they would find an even better educational system than the one they left behind. What's more, the natives told them that to guide them down the yellow brick road, they would be led by the best navigators they had to offer. By using these expert navigators, they would not get lost..."

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.......

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Don't Treat Us Like We're Stupid, Dr. White. Math Pilot Presentation is the Latest Joke in the "Schneider Era."

Today we break our silence.

Dr. White's honeymoon is over.  What must now come to an end is the "Schneider Era." If Dr. White is unwilling or unable to realize this, then perhaps his marriage with District 181 should end in a swift divorce.  We urge Dr. White to read our concerns and act on them.



As our readers know, parents have been patiently waiting for the Department of Learning, now led by Assistant Superintendent Kurt Schneider, to present a report to the Board of Education on this Fall's roll out of the 4 math pilot programs -- Agile Minds, Big Ideas, Investigations and Math in Focus.

Almost immediately after the Math Pilots started, we began hearing serious concerns parents and teachers have, in particular with two of them -- Agile Minds (HMS) and Investigations (Madison and Elm).  Concerns included:

  • disappointment in the administration for not better advertising the board meeting last Spring at which the Math Committee told the BOE what pilots had been selected, 
  • lack of information to the parents of students participating in the pilots (some parents didn't even know until yesterday that their children were involved in a math pilot), 
  • lack of data analysis to support any of the math programs (not just the pilots), 
  • a lack of differentiated instruction within the "inclusive classrooms" using the pilots, 
  • poor performance by students in pilots who last year did not have math performance issues, 
  • technical issues with computer based Agile Minds
  • non-alignment with Common Core standards, 
  • insufficient teacher training, and the list goes on.  

Parents have repeatedly complained to teachers and administrators that the math needs of students are not being met, regardless of whether they are in the pilots or programs that continued from last year.  In addition, information was provided to the Board last month that indicated that the Learning for All Plan's math component of acceleration for all is no longer going to be the norm, yet no data analysis has been presented to the board members explaining the rationale behind this change (which the BOE did not even approve). The administration's response to the parents' concerns and unanswered board member questions was to promise that a full report on the Math Pilot program would be presented to the board during the October 27 board meeting.

Imagine then, the growing concerns parents had yesterday, especially those at HMS, when they received a letter from Superintendent White -- not Dr. Schneider -- attaching a "Math Pilot Memo" that informed them them that a decision will most likely be made at the 10/27 board meeting to immediately discontinue Agile Minds at HMS, and that a similar decision might be made in the future regarding Investigations.  No specific reasons were given for these proposed changes, nor was there any discussion on the possible negative impact on our students from these pilot(s) or the specific steps the administration will take to remediate the failure of the pilot(s).  Instead parents were just told that a "materials transition plan" will be developed in the next "week or so" and discussed at the 10/27 Board meeting.  (See copy of Dr. White's letter published at the end of this post, excludes the charts.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Letter to the Doings Online Edition: "District 86 Board Must Work to Regain Trust"

We read this Letter to the Editor this morning on the online Doings.  We couldn't agree more and commend the community member for speaking out during the 10/20/14 D86 board meeting.

http://hinsdale.suntimes.com/2014/10/22/letter-editor-6/

"Civil disobedience is defined as “the refusal to obey certain governmental laws or demands in order to influence legislation or policy, characterized by nonviolent methods.” Even at a small level,  it’s an act I take seriously. As a rule, I favor civil discussion over civil disobedience. I encountered an exception to that rule at the Oct. 20 Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting.
Board members were voting on a motion to delay a decision on the teachers’ contract. The argument supporting a delay was the need to share contract details with the public.  Throughout the contract negotiations, the board has either refused information requests (i.e.: the contingency plan) or mailed brochures with conflicting and misleading information. Given that record, I stood with a request: secure an unbiased company to supply that information.
I immediately realized I’d broken the rules. Richard Skoda banged the gavel repeatedly, loudly stating “Out of order. Sit down.” I had a choice to make: sit down and follow the rules or stay standing. I chose to stand. In this small act of civil disobedience, I wanted to make it clear that this board has lost its credibility and my trust. Based on audience comments/reactions at both October meetings, I am not alone. To regain our trust, the board must do something new and big. Approving the teachers’ contract is a great first step. An excellent second step: show your commitment to transparency and facts. Hire a firm that ensures the information taxpayers receive is accurate and unbiased.
Liz Sant
Hinsdale"


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

D86 Update: HHSTA Contract Approved After Way Too Much Drama

Last night the D86 BOE voted 4-3 to approve the new teachers' contract. This morning, a website called The D86 Report posted an update of the meeting. We are posting a link to this update because we couldn't agree more with The D86 Report's description of the circus that we witnessed last night. The only good news is that the contract was approved. Everything else about the meeting stinks.

http://thed86report.tumblr.com/post/100579159719/d86-report-d-is-for-drama
(be sure to click on the image.....)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dr. White Proactively Addresses Ebola and Entrovirus D-68 Concerns in Email to Parents and Community Members

The following is a letter Dr. White emailed parents this afternoon that pro-actively addresses concerns they might have about the possibility of  Ebola and Entrovirus D-68 in D181 schools. Thank you to Dr. White for sending this out. The onus, however, will remain on parents to actually keep their sick children home from school, in the event of any illness -- whether it is Entrovirus, Ebola or the common flu. Too often, parents send their children to school with a fever. That needs to stop. It is time to take the district's requests seriously and keep sick children at home.


October 17, 2014

Dear D181 Parents,

Schools are great places for learning and socializing. They are also places where common illnesses such as colds and influenza can spread quickly. As we move into the winter months, students will be inside much more, and opportunities for the spread of these illnesses will increase. There is little that any school can do to completely stop the spread of illnesses, but there are some common practices that can be followed to help mitigate them. District 181 requires students with influenza-like illness to remain at home until they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medication. The nurses submit absentee information to the DuPage County Health Department to assist in the data collection for influenza and illness trends. Please let the school know if your child has a temperature of 100º F or greater and a cough and/or sore throat in the absence of a known cause other than influenza.

Recent media reports have included concerns regarding the potential spread of Ebola and Entrovirus D68 (EV-D68). We have no reason to believe that anyone in our area has been diagnosed with Ebola or has been exposed to someone that was diagnosed with Ebola. District 181 has not received any information regarding the spread of EV-D68, but it is very likely that many people within our area have been diagnosed with this illness. According to the Center for Disease Control website (http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/ev-d68.html ), symptoms of EV-D68 include mild to severe respiratory illness which may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing. If your child or anyone in your family exhibits these symptoms, please contact your physician immediately and follow their guidance on when it is safe to allow your child to return to school.

Just like the potential spread of any illness, it is important that we work together to make sure all students, employees,and visitors to our schools remain safe and healthy. If you travel to a country or location where there is an Ebola outbreak or you have concerns that you may have been exposed to Ebola, please contact your physician immediately and follow his/her guidance regarding when to allow your child to return to school.

I ask that all parents stay in touch with your school nurse if you have concerns about your child’s health and that you follow the practice of not allowing your child to return to school until s/he is  healthy. In addition, I continue to ask that you contact your school nurse or your family doctor if you have any reason to believe that you or someone else has been exposed to any type of medical condition that could easily spread. By following some common sense practices and communicating with the proper medical professionals, we will all be safe and healthy throughout the coming winter
months.

It is always our goal to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. Your continued support in our efforts are greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Don White, Ph.D.

Superintendent