Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Experimentation on Our Children Must Stop -- The Board of Education Must Halt The "Living Plan" of D181's "Own Design"

Guinea Pig.  Look in a thesaurus for its synonyms.  Lab rat, experimental subject, experimental animal, test animal, test subject, testee, victim

The last word in the chain sums it all up – guinea pigs are "victims," because we all know that things don't usually bode well for the lab rat, test animal, or whatever name you want to give the "subject" of an experiment. Why are animals usually used as "test subjects?" Because until scientists know with certainty that their experiment will be beneficial and not cause more harm than good to people, they prefer to run their experiments on animals. The lab animals that are unlucky enough to be experimented on in the first round of testing suffer the most harm - sometimes irreversible.  The "scientists" then try and learn from their initial mistakes, will "modify" or "tweak" the experiment and then conduct more tests on a new group of unlucky subjects.  

And so it goes, experiment, victim harmed, "tweak," experiment, victim harmed,  "tweak," until perhaps one day, after many rounds of experimentation, the scientists might achieve positive results. But then again, they might not and the experimentation is cancelled. Regardless of the outcome, the scientists will justify the harm they caused to the test animals as unintentional consequences of trying to achieve a greater  "good" for all.  But others in the scientific community would call such experiments "torture" of innocent victims and ask if they were worth the permanent damage caused to the unknowing, innocent subjects of the experimentation in round 1, round 2, round 3...?

Good questions, and questions we, as parents of the D181 students who have been turned into guinea pigs, lab rats, test animals, and yes, victims, must ask ourselves and demand answers to.

Last week, we posted for your review the comments published on “Dr. Schuster’s Blog” found on the D181 website.  We hope you have read them and reflected upon Dr. Schuster's admission that the Learning For All Plan is a product of "D181's own design."  It is a "living plan" that she expects "will be modified based on the data we receive throughout each year of its implementation." (Click to open Dr. Schuster's Blog.)

In other words, it is a new, untested and unproven plan that is subjecting our students to experimentation of an acceleration for all, educational model.  And just as guinea pigs or lab rats may fall victim to the initial "tests" that are run during a new experiment, so it seems D181 students who have been forced to participate in round 1 – the transition year – or round 2 – Year 1 – of the ALP/Learning for All Plan, are being harmed both academically, socially and emotionally. 

One brave set of parents of the “test victims” has come forward to publicly demand answers from the Board of Education and the D181 Administration to the questions of why our students have been turned into guinea pigs and what proof exists that this experimentation has succeeded elsewhere and is going to end in positive results for all students.  As they pointed out, the Math component of the Learning for All Plan is not required by the Common Core standards that are being implemented in over 40 states nationwide.  The Common Core standards do not require a full year of math acceleration beyond grade level math.  If they did, Dr. Schuster and her administrators would have plenty of data to share with the community or at least the names of high achieving school districts that are implementing a one year math acceleration model for all plan. 

Instead, as the series of comments on Dr. Schuster’s blog establishes, Dr. Schuster has been unable to name even one single high achieving district that has implemented this plan, and now, backed into a corner after months of evading the “data” questions asked by board members and community members, she has been left with no choice but to come clean and acknowledge that no data exists.

We have reviewed all of the ALP/Learning for All materials on the D181 website, Hinsdale public library and Board Docs that were made available to the board members and community members before the Board approved this plan.  No data exists for high achieving school districts.  Before the Board of Education voted to approve the ALP plan, Board Member Heneghan asked the administration to provide data on other high achieving school districts that had implemented this plan. No answers were given to his questions.  In all of the public summaries of the board meetings at which the ALP (Learning for All Plan) was discussed, no high achieving school districts were identified as having tried the accelerated model for all students. 

At no time did the D181 Administration tell the Board that the ALP plan had not been tried elsewhere.  A close review of materials presented to the Board establish that the Board was left with the impression – minus actual data – that this plan had been tried successfully elsewhere.  But now we know the truth.  The ALP/Learning for All Plan had not been implemented in any other high achieving school district and instead was a program of D181’s “own design.” 

Plain and simple, this means the ALP/Learning for All Plan is an experiment.  And that means that our children are being used as guinea pigs, test subjects, lab rats. Unless the experiment stops, parent observations already show that our children will become victims.

But rather than call the ALP/Learning for All Plan an experiment, Dr. Schuster calls it a “living plan.” It appears that the spin she has recently been putting on it during her presentations to the school board is that each year, as the student performance data comes in, the living plan will simply be modified. 

The “Transition Year” has ended, and D181 is now in Year 1 of the Learning for All Plan.  Some parents have begun to realize that their children are being academically harmed by this experimentation.  Some students are falling farther and farther behind and parents are resorting to hiring tutors to try and reverse the damage that has been caused by the “living plan.” Some students are starting to show social and emotional harm caused by being made to feel stupid when they cannot understand or keep up with the accelerated math curriculum.

Yet, despite all of these “observations,” the D181 Administration has failed to publicly address the parents’ concerns or present data to the school board that shows the current outcomes of this experimentation.  The Board has also remained publicly silent and not discussed the concerns raised by the parents of students that have been clearly harmed by the Learning for All Plan.  Instead, the Board has said at Board meetings that the Learning for All Plan may be modified depending on what future data shows. And so, it seems, based upon what the Board members have said, the experimentation will continue and not be stopped.  The cycle of experiment, victim harmed, "tweak", experiment, victim harmed, "tweak," will continue.

Well, we have had enough.  D181 parents cannot afford to let their children be treated as lab rats subjected to curricular experiments that are having negative effects.  D181 parents cannot afford to wait for the Administration to finally present performance data to the Board, only to have the programs modified at the whim of the very D181 administrators who “designed” the ongoing experiment.  D181 parents cannot allow the Board of Education to sit idly by and watch the damage being caused by the Learning for All Plan and when confronted by parents of the victims, try to silence them as was done by Board Member Yaeger at the October 7 Board meeting.

When will the School Board demand that performance data be presented to them for public review and discussion?  When will parents of the “guinea pigs” be able to see performance data in order to see how their children are performing in the acceleration model when compared to their peers?  When will the community be told what the experiment’s outcomes have been? 

It is time to put a stop to the experimentation until such time as the Administration can prove that the acceleration for all model will work.  It is time for the Administration to stop evading public discussion of this program and to stop pretending that data already exists that shows it will be successful in D181. 

Our children attend D181 schools for only nine short years.  Each year is critical to their development.  Our children are not test animals to be experimented on.  They are vulnerable human beings whose academic, social and emotional well-being must be protected.  Unlike guinea pigs, lab rats and other research animals, D181 students do have a voice – their own and those of their parents – to scream out in pain and insist that the torture and victimization end.  

The Board of Education needs to listen to the parents’ concerns, demand data from the Administration now and pull the plug on any program that is harming our children.  Until then, the Board should insist that the Administration allow parents to “opt their children out” of the acceleration experiment and participate only in grade level curricular instruction. It’s time the educators tasked with the job of nurturing and educating our children wake up and stop this madness.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with what you posted!! Thank you!!

Fourth Grade Parent said...

So you mean that the one year math acceleration my fourth grader is struggling with this year is not required by the Common Core Standards? This has not been made clear to me or other parents I know with 4th graders. We all thought that what is happening is part of the Common Core. If it isn't, and every other district is only doing grade level common core, what possible reason did the administration give the board to convince them to vote to do more than what is expected by the Common Core standards? This blog is right, why are our kids being used as guinea pigs? I've done some online research and Common Core itself is not fully supported. In fact, some states, such as Indiana, are thinking of reversing course and pulling out of Common Core. Can the Blog authors write something up about this?

Dismayed Elementary and Middle School Parents said...

Fourth Grade parent seems to be correct. Check out a website called "Hoosiers Against Common Core:"

This website rings alarm bells about potential harm Common Core is causing students. And Indiana is not the only state that is concerned. "Hoosiers" points to California as another state in which just this week, Republicans at their State Convention passed a resolution to terminate Common Core.

As the Indiana critics point out in their California post: "As we have said before, the Common Core’s days are numbered. The only question is how long will it take and how many children will be harmed before it ends up on the ash heap of history!"

If the Common Core standards are harming kids and other states are scaling back their implementation, what in god's name was the D181 Administration or School Board thinking when they decided to go even farther and implement an accelerated version of Common Core? Do any of them even understand the differences? Do any of them even care, or is their "experiment" simply an attempt by the administration to put themselves in the national spotlight? What is happening in D181? Can we please get off this merry-go-round of curriculum chaos?

Anonymous said...

It's not just the experiment's math acceleration for all plan that is hurting our kids. It is also the differentiation in one classroom of all students. No more pull outs or tiered programs. Nope, now every 6th grader is "gifted" and can take ACE social studies. Where's the data that shows how that's going this year? Next year, every single student will be required to take 6th grade ACE social studies. Has this year's curriculum been watered down? Is everyone getting the A in that course that everyone in the community knows has always been given to the ACE students? Is anyone bothering to monitor and collect data on this aspect of the Learning for All Plan? How about language arts in elementary school? Now that everyone is taught by the same teacher, how much direct instruction are students getting? How much time to students simply sit and do independent work, or read quietly to themselves, while the teacher circulates throughout the classroom and gives each student one or two minutes of her time? Is anyone on the board or in the administration asking these questions, collecting data, preparing to present any information to the board? What are they waiting for????

The Parents said...

Thank you for your suggestion on a post that addresses Common Core. We are working one and will post it soon. Stay tuned also for the next post in our series on D181 Administrators.

Leslie Gray said...

Hi bloggers. I am a Monroe parent of a first grader and fourth grader. I was wondering if you could let your readers know about a petition I created. The petition urges the D181 Board of Education and Administration to take the following actions prior to the start of the 2014-2015 academic school year:

1. Change our current class size guidelines to adhere the recommendations of the 2009 Class Size task force (as outlined in the petition); and

2. Allocate reading specialists and differentiation specialists to our D181 schools based on the student population of the school. The petition states that we, the D181 community, feel that it is unjust that each school currently is allocated one differentiation specialist and one reading specialist even though the student populations of our schools vary widely.

I have outlined in the petition the reasons why I think these additional supports are needed. If your readers support class size reductions, they can click on the bellow link and sign the petition. They can simply write their name in the correct field, and in the comment section indicate the school their children attend and what grades their children are in (or, if the reader is a teacher, indicate the school where he or she teaches). Also, your readers should feel free to add a comment of their own. The link to the petition is:

Please ask your readers to forward this link to other D181 parents and teachers and encourage them to sign the petition. My goal is to present this petition to the Board of Education at a November board meeting where projected enrollment for next year is slated as an agenda item.

Thank you for your support!


Leslie Gray

Anonymous said...

Angry Taxpayer said....

So now we have an admission from Frau Schuster that what she has pushed on the children of this entire district is an experiment with no track record elsewhere. Isn't this "educational malpractice" as she and the board majority threw around a year or two ago? Earth to President Turek: show some leadership and hold this woman accountable; a one-way ticket to Missouri is pretty cheap this time of year.

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to email BOE members without going through the Dr S filter on the D181 website?

Anonymous said...

Angry Taxpayer continues:

Actually, a one-way ticket to Arizona would be Schuster's preference as she now has her retirement home ready for full-time occupancy. Us taxpayers are paying her big bucks along with 30 vacation days, and for what? So she can bring this district down while she prepares to saunter off to the sun? Surely we can do better than this.

The Parents said...

To write directly to the individual board members, send emails to the following addresses. Board President Marty Turek:, Vice President Jill Vorobiev: jvorobiev@d181, Secretary Mridu Garg:, Member Gary Clarin:, Member Brendan Heneghan:, Member Michael Nelson:, Member Glen Yaeger:

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 1 (Split into 2 parts due to word limitation)

It seems pretty obvious that in order to fix the problems that have been created by the accelerated for all math component of the Learning for All Plan, grade level math instruction must be offered to any student who is struggling to perform. By struggling, I mean, any student who cannot do their homework, any student whose parents have had to hire a tutor in order for their children to try and keep up or try and get a high grade, any student who is barely maintaining the new proficiency standard set by Dr. Schuster -- 70% in the class, or any student who is manifesting negative self-esteem issues as a result of their frustration with math this year or who, worst yet, don't want to go to school anymore.

Everyone else -- either by choice, or because the student is actually academically and emotionally ready to be challenged with a one year acceleration model -- can remain in the accelerated math. That doesn't mean that the program will be successful for all of the students who remain, because simply getting a 70% does not really mean the student has a solid math foundation in the concepts being taught.

As a parent who has already had 3 children go to Hinsdale Central, I can state unequivocally that it is imperative that students enter high school with a solid math foundation. Maintaining a 70% in an accelerated math class is not going to give your child a solid math foundation. They will get to high school and the struggle will continue, except now, grades and GPA will matter.

Last year I met with the Hinsdale Central High School Math Department Chair and had a candid discussion with him about acceleration for all. He said that the high school is going to end up being the "bad guy" because students who don't have a solid algebra foundation may not be successful at the high school and may be encouraged to repeat algebra 1. What is that going to do to their self-esteem, after years of being told by D181 that all it takes is "raising the floor, to raise the ceiling" and if you challenge a student he/she will rise to the occasion and be successful.

I agree with the bloggers that it is time that data is presented to the board. I have heard, and recently wrote a letter to the board telling them that some parents of 4th graders are appalled at the grade "inflation" that is going on. The parents say that students take a "post test," receive their score/grade, but then are allowed to either make corrections in school or to take the test home and make corrections. Then their grade is bumped up.

I ask, which grade is a true reflection of what the students had learned at the point they were tested? I encouraged the board to make sure that when the administration presents the data on how the acceleration model is working, that it ask that only the FIRST post test scores be presented, not the inflated "corrected" test scores.

Let's hope the administration presents the true data to the board and not simply tries to paint a rosy picture that suggests that everyone is doing great.

Unless the administration and board are candid and willing to look at the real test data, and then discuss and quickly rectify any problems that exist, the children of D181 will suffer. I don't believe that anyone in the administration or on the school board wants this for even one child. They have an opportunity now to address the reality of the "Learning for All Plan."

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Continuation of last comment (due to word limit)

When I voted yes on this plan last Spring (when I was on the school board) I did so with a heavy heart because as I argued to the board, teachers had articulated concerns about what would happen both academically and emotionally to students who could not keep up. I voted yes, however, because it was clear that a majority of the board was going to approve the plan, and so I stated that by voting yes, I would hope that the administration would be held accountable as the program rolled out. President Turek (back then he was just a non-officer board member) came up to me after the meeting and thanked me for voting yes, told me he was "proud of me" for voting yes and promised me that he would definitely hold the administration accountable. I have recently reminded him of this pledge in an email I sent to the board. He has not acknowledged or responded to my email.

I do not feel "proud" of my yes vote. Now I regret it and apologize to anyone in the community whose child has been hurt by the roll out of the ALP/Learning for All Plan. As one of the other parents who posted a comment on this blog stated, "It is time to stop the madness." Let's fix the problems, figure out who is being hurt by this plan and implement immediate changes that will correct the problems and put our students back on track to be successful, happy students who LOVE to come to school. This may mean that the Learning for All Plan needs to be scrapped and a new program rolled out that finally fixes the problems that existed in the past -- Have math tiers, from grade level to advanced to accelerated, but properly identify students for each of those tiers. If a kid misses a "cut-off" or truly believes he/she can be successful in a higher-level tier, let them try. But maintain a high enough -- true, inflated- MINIMUM STANDARD that must be maintained by that student to ensure that they are exiting that class with a solid foundation of the math concepts taught, and are not "barely hanging on by a 70% string."

Properly identifying students has always been the issue, always been the challenge. But rather than tackle that problem, the administration decided that everyone should just be accelerated. Where is the data that shows that this is in fact BEST PRACTICES?

Parents have asked to see the data, I've asked to see the data, and Board Member Heneghan has asked to see the data. It hasn't been provided. Why is that?

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

I meant to say "uninflated" rather than "inflated" in the following sentence found in the second to last paragraph of my last comment:

"But maintain a high enough -- true, inflated- MINIMUM STANDARD that must be maintained by that student to ensure that they are exiting that class with a solid foundation of the math concepts taught, and are not "barely hanging on by a 70% string."

Anonymous said...

The following email went out to the staff at CHMS yesterday.  Ms Donohue brought the financial misconduct to the attention of Dr S in early summer.  Dr S has chosen to sweep this under the D181 rug.  Why? 

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank the CHMS community for their enthusiastic support of Donoroo over the past six years. The event has raised over $30,000.00 and has become part of the fabric of CHMS.

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Donoroo has come to an end. This summer, I became aware of the fact that some of the charities that were advertised as beneficiaries of Donoroo over the past three years had never been paid. I notified CHMS and district administration of the irregularities in the Donoroo account and that the event would not be held again.

I can tell you that after a long summer of fact-finding and heartache , all charities have finally received their donations from Donoroo.  

I cannot thank you all enough for your support of my family over the years.

Kathy Donohue, RN
School Nurse 
Clarendon Hills Middle School
630 887 4260 extension 1826

The Parents said...

The last post leads to the following question: Were CHMS parents notified about any of this by the D181 Administration?

Any CHMS parents who know the answer to the question, please let us know.


CHMS Parent said...

I didn't receive anything from the CHMS principal or anyone else in D181 telling me that future Donoroo fundraiser for charity would be cancelled. Why were CHMS staff told and not parents? Did I miss something? What "irregularities" happened? Where did the money go?