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.