As we await the posting on Board Docs of the 9/9/13 Board Meeting Agenda, we wanted to take a moment to comment on some issues that arose this week.
1. OUTRAGEOUS COMMENTARY ATTACKS BOARD MEMBER HENEGHAN: We wouldn't ordinarily comment on opinions published by news agencies, but we couldn't ignore Editor Pam Lannom's outrageous Commentary in this week's Hinsdalean. The Commentary attacked Board Member Heneghan's conduct during the last board meeting (8/26/13) calling it "disrespectful and distasteful." Ms. Lannom goes on to state that she did not attend the meeting. Well perhaps she should have -- or at least listened to the podcast of the entire meeting. If she had, she should have realized that Mr. Heneghan was simply doing his job as an elected official, taking it seriously and calling out the administration and fellow board members as was required by the course the discussions took. She might also have realized that the disrespect and distasteful behavior was not Mr. Heneghan's but that of Superintendent Schuster and Board Members Turek and Yaeger.
-- Yes, Mr. Heneghan criticized the administration for allowing 7 administrators to go on a one week, all expense paid trip to an "institute" for training that could have been given internally, saving the district and D181 taxpayer's thousands of dollars. We say THANK YOU Mr. Heneghan for doing so because we agree with the concerns you raised.
-- Yes, Mr. Heneghan questioned Board President Turek's statement that he had known ahead of time about the 7 administrators attending the institute, and he rightfully criticized Dr. Schuster for not giving all of the board members the same information she gave Turek. Dr. Schuster violated an agreement that all board members are to receive the same information. We say THANK YOU Mr. Heneghan for voicing your concerns because by violating the board agreements, Dr. Schuster showed a lack of respect for a process that should be followed. Similarly, by not correcting this violation and giving all members the information that he alone had received, Mr. Turek showed a lack of respect towards his fellow board members.
-- Yes, Mr. Heneghan pushed back when Dr. Schuster refused to let him see the materials the 7 administrators had received at the institute. But the only disrespect shown was by Dr. Schuster and Mr. Yaeger when she accused Mr. Heneghan of asking her to break the law and by Mr. Yaeger when he snidely asked him if he was asking the board indemnify the district from any potential copyright violations. Neither Dr. Schuster or Mr. Yaeger showed Mr. Heneghan the respect he deserved as an educated lawyer who was trying to explain (correctly, we might add) that there were no copyright restrictions that would prevent the board from reviewing the requested documents. WE say THANK YOU Mr. Heneghan for sticking to your guns and insisting on seeing documents that Dr. Schuster refused to give you, for correcting her misunderstandings on copyright law and for putting Mr. Yaeger in his place.
-- Yes, Mr. Heneghan voiced his concerns about the written Goals Report prepared by Dr. Schuster that did not match the written goals summary submitted by Goals Subcommittee Parent Member Matt Bousquette. Anyone who has listened to the meeting podcast knows that Dr. Schuster and all board members, other than Mr. Heneghan and Ms. Garg, disrespected the only parent committee member by preventing him from participating in the board's discussion of the goals. We say THANK YOU Mr. Heneghan for pointing out that Dr. Schuster's written goals did not match what the subcommittee had agreed upon. This was not a matter of semantics, as the Hinsdalean opines. When he was finally allowed to speak during closing comment (after the vote), Mr. Bousquette made it quite clear that the subcommittee was a "sham" and that his only job was to rubber "stamp" the administration's "predetermined" goals.
e. The real question to be posed to the Hinsdalean is why it has put blinders on to what is really going on?
2. OVER-TESTING CONFIRMED?: This week middle school parents received an email from Dawn Benaitis, the new Director of Assessment. She wrote to inform them that the GATES MACGINITIE assessment, used to measure reading comprehension and help teachers guide instruction, was being discontinued due to security breaches that compromised the integrity of test results, since it had been discovered that the test questions and answers were available online. The letter went on to point out that "through other testing measures, teachers and administrators will have sufficient data to help guide instruction for students." Our problem with this letter is not that the test has been discontinued, since that clearly was a correct decision. Our problem is that the letter is vague as to what "other testing measures" Ms. Benaitis is referring to? Will new tests be added, beyond the ISAT, MAP, Inview that are currently used? If so, what are the new tests? Why didn't Ms. Benaitis provide this information to parents, who already feel D181 students are over tested? It appears this concern may be accurate if it turns out that no new tests will be added. If it turns out that the ISAT, MAP and Inview provide "sufficient data," then why was GATES MACGINITIE ever used? We hope the administration provides middle school parents with additional information, so that these important questions can be answered.
3. ISAT TEST RESULTS SENT HOME WITH "EXCUSES": Earlier this week individual ISAT reports were sent home for each student. Accompanying the results was a letter signed by Administrators Kevin Russell, Kurt Schneider, Christine Igoe and Dawn Benaitis. The letter explained that due to "new performance levels" or "cut scores" that "align ISAT with the more rigorous Common Core State Standards" fewer students achieved the "meet" or "exceeds" standards. The letter said that "these new expectations 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 and all schools will expect a higher level of knowledge and skills to be demonstrated by students to meet and exceed grade-level standards." It then stated that the District's Learning for All Plan (the ALP until its recent "renaming") will take the "entire District to a higher academic benchmark." The letter pointed out that district level ISAT results will be presented at the 9/9 Board meeting. What the letter failed to point out was that whereas last year 96% and 98% of the District's students "met or exceeded" the state standards in reading and math respectively, this year only 89% did in each subject. Eleven percent of the students who took the test, or nearly 600 in math and/or reading, scored "below" state standards. This "preliminary" information was available back on August 12 and posted in Dr. Schuster's board report on Board Docs (Click to open ISAT data provided in 8/12/13 Superintendent's Report.), yet was not included in the letter sent home to parents. The question to be asked is Why Not? Why can't the administration be transparent in correspondence sent home to parents and provide data that was already reported to the Board of Education? Why can't the administration tell the parents that there was a drastic decline in the number of students "meeting" the new state standards? The fact is that the new state standards are higher. Saying our students don't know less this year than last is no consolation to a parent whose child did not meet state standards. That parent has a right to know WHY their child didn't learn the material expected for them to meet their grade level standard. That parent has a right to know how the district plans to bring their child back up to the minimum grade level standard. That parent should request an RtI meeting in order to meet with the teachers and formulate a plan to bring their child back up to the minimum grade level standard. And that parent should ask how, if their child is not meeting the grade level standards expected by the State of Illinois, how can their child be accelerated one year beyond the Common Core standards as is planned with the acceleration model in the Learning for All/ALP Plan? Perhaps some of those questions will be answered at the 9/9 meeting when the final ISAT report is presented to the Board. We will have to wait and see what is posted on Board Docs and whether or not the report is truly transparent or filled with "spin."