Thursday, November 28, 2013

We Give Thanks

This Thanksgiving Day, we want to take a moment to give thanks.  We begin by thanking all of the children in D181.  From the youngest to the oldest, they bring a constant joy to our lives as we share in their spirit and enthusiasm for all things. Next we thank all of the parents in D181 and their commitment to ensuring that our children are provided the best education.  That education would not be possible without the teachers, aides, principals and support staff in D181.  Each one of them is on the front lines every day, guiding our children on their path to adulthood.  Over the course of 9 years while in D181, nearly 1/3 of our children's lives are spent under their watch.  Those years will fly by, but the learning they are provided by these important individuals -- both academically, socially and emotionally -- will impact their entire lives.  We thank you for the love and care you have given our children and for advocating for what is best for them.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

D181 Administration Trots Out "Interactive" Dog and Pony Show on Common Core Math

Source of Photo: BARCROFT Media,
"A 'dog and pony show' as a term used in the modern sense has lost its original meaning altogether. It is frequently used to mean a lamely contrived visual presentation, photo opportunity, political speech, or sales pitch, mostly for promotional purposes."

After we bloggers began to receive comments regarding the D181 Common Core Math "Event" that was held at Elm School on November 20, we thought we would verify the format and context of what approximately 55 parents attended. By the administration's own description listed on the D181 website, this event was designed to be "interactive” thus, parents were placed into groups wherein they were assigned a Common Core Standard and then had to review a typical related lesson:

Common Core Math - November 20 Event
Posted October 30, 2013
On Wednesday, November 20, we invite all community members to attend an event in the Learning for All Family Education Series - Common Core: Math. District leaders will present an interactive session that includes an overview of the new Common Core State Standards for mathematics and their impact on teaching and learning. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. and takes place at Elm School. No pre-registration is required. For more information about the series, visit > Academics > Learning for All.

A couple of You Tube videos were played showing children supposedly working on Common Core math lessons. But what is striking to us is that no time was allocated for parents to ask questions about this topic or related topics to the administrators who were present: Kurt Schneider, Kevin Russell, Dawn Benaitis and Christine Igoe. These administrators basically served as facilitators, much in the same way as they envision our teachers as facilitators in the near future. They walked about, listened in on parent communication in small groups, and offered no presentation or structured information for parents. How disappointing for those who attended, as this seems to be the new norm from the administration in our district.

We thought the format of this meeting was suspect, just as in the Community Engagement Meetings the administration sought to control the messaging. Two-way discussion does not exist, nor is it encouraged. Is this typical of school districts, especially with the new demands of the Common Core? Answer: NO

Here is a recent Common Core parent presentation that was conducted by the
Curriculum and Instruction Department at top rated Lincolnshire-PrairieView District 103. Notice the slides are in depth and there is actually a final slide that encourages "Questions."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Machiavelli Would Be Proud: D181 BOE Majority and Administration Continue Deception of District Status to Community

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

As we pause for reflection in the aftermath of Monday’s BOE meeting that ran in excess of 4 hours, we are reminded of the Prince, Machiavelli, who would be elated at the apparent wistful joy of the majority of Board Members, Dr. Schuster and her administrative team, who by all accounts, have managed to deceive the public on the true status of the district on a grand scale.  (Click to open link to Podcast.) Their ability to spin a web of half-truths and deception would make Machiavelli blush in that he is historically known for being a master of deception himself. Taken from Webster’s:

Machiavellian |ˌmakēəˈvelēən; ˌmäk-|
1 cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, esp. in politics or in advancing one's career.
2 of or relating to Niccolò Machiavelli.

Yahoo Answers provides this description:

Someone described as "Machiavellian" uses manipulation and deceit to achieve his own gains. If a singer, for example, befriended another singer with the express intention of replacing him in his band, that would be Machiavellian behavior. Or: Politician A has a piece of legislation that needs support. He meets with Politician B and tells him, "If you vote for my bill, I give you my word I'll vote in favor of your next bill." So Politician B votes in favor of Politician A's bill, but then votes against Politician B's next bill. Basically, he's lying to further his own interests at the expense of others' interests.

It is through these definitions we bloggers see direct parallels to the practices of the administration and BOE majority who appear to be incapable or unwilling to hear the public outcries of concern and instead vote for their own self-interest. On top of this, you throw in Schuster’s skill as a spinmaster, which was on display Monday night even with the downward trending of ISAT and MAP scores glaring off the screen on full display for everyone to see. As parents spoke up at the meeting, their voices were squelched by the recurring mantra of: “You have to follow the learner” as it relates to the obvious overall decline in test scores across the district and how teachers will remedy this problem. As we have pointed out, numbers don’t lie and the test results are very telling as to the state of education currently in D181. Which leads us to several questions:

1.     Why is it that week after week we typically observe mainly two BOE members, Garg and Heneghan, consistently asking the most questions? How can the remaining board members sit back silently and not be engaged in the important discussions that take place, particularly when the education of our children is radically being affected? For example, with slide after slide of test results, there was a clear indication that students in the at-grade level quintiles were not demonstrating the need for accelerated programming, yet Schuster and her administrators indicated otherwise. Why do such comments go unchallenged? If it were not for the truth- seekers, Garg and Heneghan, there would be no challenge at all to the countless misstatements made during a board meeting.
2.     We have checked the teacher certification credentials needed to become a “Differentiation Specialist” and no specific credentials are required. None. This means a Teacher’s Aide or other paraprofessional could be classified as a Differentiation Specialist. Schuster is now on record of saying she will seek to add additional Differentiation Specialists at the December 9 meeting, believing the addition will help to balance teaching within the largest schools. If there is no formal education, certification, or license required to be a Differentiation Specialist, what is this adding to our children’s’ education?
3.     Where were the concrete strategies the district will use to improve student performance? We heard the double talk of generalities by Kevin Russell and Dawn Benaitis, but nothing concrete. Teacher collaboration is simply not enough to recover the losses in ISAT and MAP scores. Schuster and her administrators are fortunate in that many district parents have sought out the assistance of tutors to keep up with the now accelerated math curriculum, which, by the way, is not required for the Common Core Standards.
4.     It was discovered that The Lane School will now begin tutoring by paid teachers before and after school in order to remediate the skills 4th-grade students have not mastered. After testing was completed last week, it was determined students had not been taught the basic skills of the 4th-grade math curriculum, especially multiplication. First, why was this just communicated as recently as Monday, the same day as the BOE meeting to parents? And why is this type of testing and teacher tutoring seemingly only taking place at one school? Are there not other children who would benefit from such tutoring? The ISAT and MAP results sure indicate as such. We must ask ourselves, is it our goal as parents to accelerate our children to average because that is the new standard the administration has set for the accelerated math program?
5.     Board Member Gary Clarin gave his rendition on the events that took place surrounding the mishandled funds related to Donoroo donations. Given his explanation and his findings that clears everyone involved, it appears as though the issue is over and done with in the eyes of Schuster and the board. This, despite the fact, that employees of CHMS stepped forward and provided their description of the Donoroo funds in question to a local newspaper reporter, who then wrote up the complete story.  The board saw to it to squelch the story and sweep it under the rug, which is where it will remain as the Donoroo account was closed.

Yes, indeed.  We have elected board members who are clearly not engaged in facts, nor are they inquisitive enough to question the practices of our highly paid superintendent or her administrative foot soldiers. The days and weeks of the school year roll on; our children are subjects in a massive unfounded experiment, that being “Learning for All.” And now we are being asked to “Follow the Learner” all the while half-truths and distortions abound.

Were he alive today, Machiavelli would have met his match.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Kangaroo Court

This morning, former school board member Yvonne Mayer sent us a public comment and links to photos and a Request for Review she filed with the Board of Education.  She requested that we publish them as a free standing post.  As Concerned Parents, after listening to last night's board meeting and hearing the Kangaroo Court proceeding on the Policy 8:030 Complaint Ms. Mayer filed, we are very concerned about the message that the majority of the Board sent -- both by disregarding the protections Policy 8:030 is intended to provide persons while on school property, but also in their obvious condoning of the assault.  Are these really the sorts of individuals we want serving our community?  Ms. Mayer deserved more, and while the outcome won't change, we agree that she should be heard.  The following, therefore, is her public comment on the outcome of last night's meeting.

Ms. Mayer's Comment:

Last night the Board of Education voted 4 to 2 to uphold Dr.Schuster’s “Decision” on the Policy 8:030 complaint I filed against a former board member who assaulted me.  Members Heneghan and Garg voted no, stating that I should be allowed a hearing. 

Member Heneghan stated publicly that he had seen the water bottle hit me.  He also disclosed that between $8000 and $9000 was spent on the “investigation.”  

Board Members Nelson, Clarin, Turek and Vorobiev voted to uphold the “Decision.”  Ms. Vorobiev claimed that there were “inconsistencies” in the fact finding report and that Dr. Schuster was allowed to impose a written reprimand on the former board member.  She further stated that in the future, such claims should be filed in a timely manner.

I am disappointed, disgusted and deeply offended by the actions of the board majority last night.  They conducted the worst kind of Kangaroo Court.

A kangaroo court is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted". Merriam-Webster: Dictionary (online).

That is exactly what happened last night.

First, the majority of the Board denied me a hearing, where I could have publicly explained the reasons why Dr. Schuster’s “Decision” should be amended to impose the sanctions as specified in Policy 8:030.  Second, they ignored the evidence I submitted in the written Request for Review that I sent them almost one month ago.  (Click to open Request for Review.) Third, their actions proved that they condoned the assault.  Fourth, their decision undermined the intent and purpose of Policy 8:030.

Looking at the evidence, there are NO meaningful inconsistencies.  The fact finding report pointed out that  I and another board member said the bottle hit my arm.  The only “inconsistency” is that Mr. Heneghan recalled a different part of my arm, than the part I told the fact finder about.  The board has PHOTOS of my arm.  Now you can see them too.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. The Recurring Strategy of Smoke and Mirrors Continues

We have reviewed the massive presentation on Assessment posted on Board Docs (click to open report) that will occur at the next BOE meeting on Monday, November 18 at Elm School, 7pm.  We encourage our readers to do the same as there are some telling inferences we parents can make regarding the state of the education in D181 and how our children are being affected. Brace yourselves: there are 125 slides, but within the pretty pictures rest only a few key slides that give us an idea of the administration’s stance on their beliefs and status of the district.

Briefly, we will mention the most telling:

·      Did D181 actually adopt a platform of 1:1 computer/IPad use? Beginning  on page 8,  there is mention of 1:1, which is alarming to us because the results clearly do NOT support this platform. The test scores are lower, if not the lowest among the grades when 1:1 was apparently implemented.Wasn’t this a pilot that the BOE did not approve of furthering on a grand scale as demonstrated by the vote that took place in April 2013?

·      As evidenced by the trend lines on page 26, the trend line for subjects is clearly on a downward slide. No question about it. This graph is very telling, especially with Science taking an extreme nosedive. Why isn’t there a slide that states what the Dept. of Learning is going to DO about these trends? If they believe Learning for All is the answer, the children in our district are in serious trouble.

·      Another troubling piece of evidence is highlighted in the slides   starting at number 100 wherein the number of children who are at grade level and did not move upward are not mentioned in this report. These children are considered to be at grade level. This is a significant number of children. How can the administration and BOE review these significant numbers and believe it is acceptable practice to accelerate so many at grade level students?  Moreover, what programs will they be given to allow them to move into the “exceeds” category further down the road? Why isn’t this explained?

Bottom line:  It will be up to parents and certain board members publicly speaking out at this meeting, as was done at the last,  to question why the BOE is allowing D181 to move in a downward direction. There is now evidence, yes evidence with the MAP and ISAT scores, that the direction Dr. Schuster and her administrators have chosen appears to be having a negative impact on our children.

Talk about "data as a light” as is scripted within the slides. Indeed.

Postscript:  More data that needs to be carefully considered is the 4th Grade Math update Dr. Schuster gives in her report.  According to her report, "[t]he data shows that 90-95% of current fourth grade students are ready to progress to the concepts in fifth grade math based on multiple measures, including the Fall NWEA MAP, Everyday Math summative assessments, and classroom performance. The following table shows the data from the Everyday Math eSuites report on the percent of students mastering the objectives from the fourth grade unit Number and Operations." (Click to open Report)

What Dr. Schuster does not report on is what the actual standard for "mastering the objectives" was? Did it include only obtaining a 70% on the post tests?  Remember, last year, mastery required 80%, but this standard was lowered this year, without a meaningful explanation of why this was warranted.  Further, 4th grade parents have spoken out about students being allowed to correct their post test mistakes in order to get a higher score.  Which post test scores were used by the Department of Learning to assess a student's "mastery" of the material?  Finally, what matrix or formula did the Department of Learning use to evaluate and analyze the "multiple measures" and conclude that 90-95% of students are ready to progress to fifth grade math?  Let's hope one or more board members ask for this "data" and not just accept the Department of Learning's conclusions as fact.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Invitation to Sound Off

Since last week's Board of Education meeting, the D181 Administration has been quite busy.  Below we list the activities they have been involved in, many of which community members, parents, staff and Board members were invited to participate in, along with some other news worthy items.

We invite anyone who attended or was involved in these activities -- Administrators,  teachers and staff members, parents and community members -- to "Sound Off" on what you learned, how many people attended, which board members and administrators were present, compliments or criticisms and ideas to improve similar future activities.  

As always, your names are welcomed but not required.  It is important to gather the "facts" on what actually took place, as well as hear your opinions, since Dr. Schuster might summarize her own observations and impressions in the next Superintendent's report she will present at the November 18, 2013 Board meeting.

Please "Sound Off" on the following activities or news items:

1.  Dr. Schuster attended the 47th Annual Conference of an organization called the Suburban Schools Superintendents.  According to the SSS website (Click to open link), the conference was held between November 6 and 9 at "the Omni Royal Orleans in the beautiful and historic French Quarter of New Orleans, steps away from Jackson Square, antique shops, and the art galleries of Royal Street.  This elegant retreat is an ideal backdrop for relaxed conversations and the sharing of ideas." (Click here to open conference agenda.)

Meanwhile, back in D181:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Spin Cycle: A Postscript

We would like to make a few additional observations regarding the 11/4/13 Board Meeting:

Board Meeting Summary: The Administration’s summary of this meeting, briefly referenced by Ms. McGuiggan in last Friday’s “Newsletter,” bears no resemblance to the meeting we listened to.  It was more spin and more attempt to deflect away from the legitimate concerns raised by community members and minority board members alike.  (Also, notice how we used to receive Board Meeting Summaries on a weekly basis, rather than have a link to them buried within a much longer document.)

Administration States Learning for All will take 5-7 years to Implement:  During the discussion of the Learning for All Plan, the time frame for completion, 5-7 years was embedded within the presentation slides. Parents who made public comment referenced this in their remarks. How could this excessive span of time for implementation possibly be acceptable to the BOE?  Many children who are currently affected by this plan will be well into high school before the effectiveness of the changes can truly be measured. Is this acceptable? Is this fair to our children? Obviously, the answers are "no." Maybe Dr. Schuster and her administration are attempting to buy themselves some time with rolling out their plan and facing, what now seems to be, questionable results.

Dr. Schuster’s Blog: One complaint that we have raised is that the Administration doesn’t answer questions.  Now, apparently, neither will Dr. Schuster.  The Superintendent’s Report explained that Dr. Schuster’s Blog is being cancelled, “due to the time required to maintain this type of communication.”  What?  Only ONE, let us repeat ONE, community member EVER commented on her blog and she only posted two, that’s right, two posts (one being her “Welcome” post) in the couple of months her blog was up and running.  Doesn’t seem like much time was expended!  And of course, during the meeting when she usually reviews everything in her Report, she omitted any mention of this, as did Ms. McGuiggan in her “summary.”

Lunch and Learn:  Until Monday’s meeting, there had been no report on the success of Dr. Schuster’s first Lunch and Learn Session held in September.  Now we know why.  After Dr. Schuster told the Board about the upcoming second Lunch and Learn, one board member asked her how the first one had gone.  Her answer?  Cancelled due to a “stomach flu” that had gone around preventing people from attending.  Really?  Anyone out there who cancelled due to the stomach flu, please send us a comment.

There is always an excuse:  Board members and community members alike complained about the last minute additions to Board Docs that prevented them from reviewing materials prior to the board meeting.  Isn’t there a Thursday deadline (prior to the Monday meetings) for the administration posting Board Docs for the board members’ review?  Haven't parents and community members been told that in the interest of transparency, Board Docs are made available for everyone to see 48 hours before a board meeting? The Administration's excuse was that the Learning Department was gathering information right up until Monday on some issues – ISAT rankings, for example.  Well, our suggestion is that when they can't meet their deadline, they should table the discussion until the next meeting.  The Administration should give our elected officials time to read, process and thoughtfully consider all of the materials.  How hard would that be?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Spin Cycle: Scrubbing the Stains From D181 Double Speak

Now that we have recovered from the antics of last Monday’s BOE meeting, we are providing our readers with several areas of concern. It was difficult to select only a few. We encourage you to listen to the podcast on the D181 website so you can hear the meeting in its entirety. (Click to open podcasts link.) As you listen, keep in mind that Dr. Schuster and her administration felt it was necessary to give 90 minutes of meeting time to three outside presenters before hearing the voices of the 11 parents who stepped up and made public comments regarding the state of their children’s education.
Here are some concerns: 

·               As we predicted, Dr. Schuster and her administration did promote the ROE presenters as a diversionary tactic. However, the presenters appeared to be duped: their focus was on social justice and special education, not the D181 Learning for All Plan (LFA) specifically. Frankly, we were embarrassed for the ROE speakers, who obviously did not realize the quagmire they stepped into. Kurt Schneider (Assistant Superintendent for Whatever), attempted to lead these speakers in agreement with the strategy he has promoted through the LFA plan (listen to his questions and the comments made by Madeline Will starting at time 26:29 of the Podcast).  
While Schneider tried to steer Ms Will’s answers, at one point she stated she was not comfortable answering the questions he was raising, which we should be hearing from Schneider, who in our opinion also has no qualifications outside of special education to be making educational decisions about our children.

·                Parents were also able to hear that D181 is a “pioneer” in its quest for social justice, automatic math grade level acceleration on top of the Common Core requirements, and full inclusion for all within the backdrop of falling ISAT and MAP scores; meaning, no district, at no time, and no place, has undertaken these sweeping changes and practiced them with success. And yes, despite the fever pitch of Schuster’s “celebrations,” the fact is that even with three schools trending slightly upward, their rankings are still down from years past, while the remaining district schools are headed on a downward slide. The numbers don’t lie.  Is this what Schneider means when he says, “We will raise the floor to raise the ceiling?” 

                Even more concerning was the comment Schneider made regarding the district’s minority population, which he stated was 21%. According to the Illinois State Report Card for 2013, the minority population is actually 19%; this figure comprises different ethnic groups, people of color, etc.  

The performance by ethnic group is highlighted within the State Report Card. (Click to open interactive Report Card link.)


It’s obvious the highest achieving group is Asian, which is why Schneider’s public comment at last Monday’s meeting is so confusing (at time 1:12:50 on podcast) :  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Where in the World Was Dr. Moon?

We will be posting a recap of last night's Board Meeting as soon as we can recover from what we heard last night.  The meeting ran long, thanks to the fact that Mr. Turek was absent and Vice President Jill Vorobiev took the reigns of the meeting and allowed board members and community members alike, to ask questions, make comments and discuss (to some extent) the issues that were raised regarding the Learning for All Plan, School Rankings, School Improvement Plans and proposed major fundraiser to raise money for a new gym floor at CHMS.

Thank you Ms. Vorobiev for not shutting anyone down, not making "rat hole" statements and for listening.  Perhaps you can permanently switch roles with Mr. Turek and become the meeting facilitator for all future meetings.

And most importantly, thank you to all of the parents who attended the meeting and stood up and made a public comment about the Learning for All Plan and/or School Rankings (ISAT scores).  Your questions and comments were on point, appropriate and hopefully have opened the eyes of some of the board members.

While we prepare opinions and observations of what transpired last night, we suggest you all take the time to listen to the Podcast of last night's meeting, which is available on the District website.  Until then, we leave you with one burning question and invite anyone who attended or listened to last night's meeting to submit a comment on what you thought of the discussion.

Question for consideration:

Why didn't Dr. Moon or any of her University of Virginia colleagues participate in the "Conversation" about the Learning for All Plan that took up most of last night's meeting, and that instead included "guests" from the Regional Office of Education and a former Secretary of the Department of Education?  

We will come back to that question in our upcoming recap.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

More Smoke and Mirrors Set for D181 BOE Monday, 11/4 Meeting

If there were ever an opportunity to witness Dr. Schuster’s spin on a grand scale, residents of D181 will have the chance on Monday, 11/4 starting at 7pm at Madison School when Schuster’s outside special education “expert” presenters, including one with political affiliation, will provide the BOE and community with their thoughts on the philosophy of Learning for All. These three presenters, who are currently affiliated with the Regional Office of Education (ROE), will give their insight as to the benefits of inclusion while highlighting the mantra of Learning for All. We find the timing of this presentation curious as the ISAT results have just been released, and the majority of D181 schools have fallen, some drastically, in state rankings. In typical Board and administration fashion, they have structured this Committee of the Whole meeting to include these so-called special education experts in order to control the discussion and limit comments from concerned parents.  We hope parents recognize this continuing strategy and are able to see through the smoke as the spin begins.

Recap of the 10/28/13 Board Meeting -- Board "Majority" Unwilling to Adequately Address Questions and Information Requests

Over the last few  days, we've been busy keeping you updated on the release of the Illinois School Report cards and the declining rankings of almost all of our schools.  If you haven't yet read those posts, we encourage you to do so.  Now the agenda for Monday's meeting (11/4/13) is available on Board Docs. Tonight we will publish a post discussing the "dog and pony show" that awaits the community at this meeting.

In the meantime, we want to return to last week's meeting (10/28) and briefly recap some of the concerning issues that arose and questions that one or more Board members wanted to discuss, but were not allowed to.  As we listened once again to the Podcast of the meeting, a common theme stood out.  The Administration and Board are doing everything they can to avoid asking or answering relevant questions. In our opinion, whether the forum is a survey, board meeting, board member questions, parent and community member questions, Dr. Schuster's personal blog or FOIA requests, every effort is thwarted or publicly criticized by the "majority" of the Board, especially each time Dr. Schuster asks for the "majority" to weigh in.  When a person actually puts their name on their question -- again in whatever forum -- he/she is lambasted and publicly criticized by the Board.  It's no wonder parents don't want to be identified.

Denial of request to add "Satisfaction" questions to the Parent Survey

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How Far We Have Fallen: D181 On Downward Slide as Reality of ISAT Results and Learning for All Shock Community

Our last post published the Illinois State Report Card rankings of all 9 D181 schools as reported by the Chicago SunTimes.  These rankings are based upon the overall performance of schools on the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) that our students took last Spring.  We expressed our disappointment in the rankings, especially since the majority of our schools dropped in the rankings and we are still well behind the ranking of Butler, our neighboring district in Oak Brook and one of the districts that feeds into Hinsdale Central High School.

While we expressed concern, on Friday, Dr. Schuster chose to celebrate the results in the letter she sent to D181 Families and Staff.  Her letter lacked transparency, failed to report any actual data, and spun the harsh reality of the rankings into a celebration dance that we find downright shocking and offensive to our sensibilities. 

Rather than address or even acknowledge the drop in rankings of most of our schools, she spun the bad news as follows:

"D181 Schools Shine in 2013 ISAT Data Rankings
The 2013 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) results are in, and We are currently ranked #7 for all elementary school districts in the state based on the 2013 ISAT results. When compared to elementary school districts of 2,000 students or more, our ISAT results are the highest in the state! As you may have seen in our Chicago media, we did very well in the various methods of rankings that compare schools’ ISAT data. In the Chicago Sun-Times, six of our seven elementary schools were listed in the top 50 out of more than 3,000 ranked schools, and both CHMS and HMS were listed in the top 50 for middle schools. In the Chicago Tribune listing, three of our schools were listed in the top 50 (elementary and middle school combined). Additionally, the Chicago Tribunereported that Walker School was among the top ten schools in the state with the highest percentage of students who earned the highest scores in reading, math or science on the ISAT

ISAT Data Shows Areas to Celebrate, Improve
As our team of educators continues to review data from the 2013 ISAT, we will find many strengths and many reasons to celebrate. Additionally, we know there will be areas needing improvement. With the new cut scores and increased rigor due to the inclusion of 20% Common Core-based questions, all schools in Illinois anticipated a more challenging assessment. We welcomed that challenge, and we look forward to the opportunity to better identify those areas for improvement.
(11/1/13 Letter to Parents and Staff from Dr. Renee Schuster.)

We highlighted in red the 7 times in two short paragraphs that Dr. Schuster tried to paint a picture of how well our students did when compared to other districts.  We also highlighted in blue the 2 times that Dr. Schuster briefly notes that there may be areas for improvement that her administration will find as they analyze the data.  

After reading this letter, one parent sent an email to Dr. Schuster calling her out for the representations she made in her letter.  The parent's letter was then submitted as a comment to this blog. The parent said:

"I am horrified that you are celebrating these results. This administration has a habit of sugar coating hard truths and putting a spin on them. Since you refuse to tell the truth, I will."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.  We whole-heartedly agree with this parent's reaction and hope you do too, after we expose the hard truth that Dr. Schuster has refused to acknowledge or address.

The reality is that last Spring's ISAT data and our school's rankings show that D181 is on a downward slide.  There is no reason to celebrate at this time, and what needs to happen is an open, transparent, candid and harsh discussion led by our elected representatives -- the Board of Education -- to immediately identify and address exactly what needs to happen STARTING NOW to improve the performance of all of our students in D181.

Here are the facts that show just how far D181 schools have fallen:  

D181 has fallen from a district that used to have all SEVEN elementary schools ranked in the TOP 25 schools in the state, to a district that has only three in the top 25.

As parents who have had children in D181 in a span of over 15 years, we recalled that our schools USED to truly be BEACONS of EXCELLENCE.  That beacon shown brightest less than 10 years ago -- in 2004.  The title of an article in the December 15, 2004 SunTimes read as follows: