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."

Even more amazing is that a local Barnes and Noble hosted a Common Core meeting for parents presented by North Palos School District recently that was open to anyone who wished to attend. Here too, question and answer segments followed the presentation, as was described below in the October Calendar of Events for that store location:

Common Core Presentation for Parents and Educators!
Special Event, Educator Event 
Have questions about Common Core? Want to learn more? Please join us for a Common Core Presentation! 
There will be a discussion followed by a Q&A session with a North Palos Representative.
Thursday October 17, 2013 6:30 PM 
Orland Park Place 
160 Orland Park Place, Orland Park, IL 60462, 708-226-9092
Special Instructions
Limited spots available! Please email ( or stop in to sign up today!

Bottom line: How is it that a top school district and a local bookstore can have comprehensive presentations on the Common Core Standards that include an entire segment on parent questions, and our own administration seeks to control discussion by using an "interactive" format? Why have our highly paid administrators never provided an opportunity for community questions with direct answers? Could it be they are afraid because they have no answers? By not providing any opportunities for open questions and answers, this is how it appears to the public.

In the words of one of our recent parents who posted a comment, "Something is very wrong here." Parents must continue to demand answers and accountability from the BOE and this administration. Stay vigilant. Our children are depending on all of us.

One-trick ponies need not waste our time.


Anonymous said...

Couple comments on previous posts that some students might start receiving before or after school math tutoring taught by teachers:

1. Didn't the BOE just revise the teacher policy
which prohibits teachers from tutoring students
for compensation? Will teachers be paid for
providing math tutoring before or after school?

2. The Learning for All plan calls for supports for
all students occurring in the classroom, not as
separate programs. In fact, Dr. Schneider has
referred to student support programs as "silos"
and non-effective. Interesting, then, that as
an attempt to remediate students with math,
the go-to program is tutoring, a "silo" program.
Could it be that supports were named a
derogatory term like "silos" to further the
Learning for All agenda, but that explicit
support is what some kids (not ALL kids)
actually need?

Anonymous said...

Good point. They will do anything to deny that their Learning for All plan is failing. Think about it, how can "all children be different, and have different, individual needs" AND it be OK to accelerate and teach them ALL in the SAME way? This is undoing decades of research and expertise in education. How can all children be the SAME, but be DIFFERENT at the same time? The whole premise is based on illogical thinking.

"Inclusion" in D181 means putting everyone in the same class, but without any of the recognized supports for teachers and students anymore. Because this is so lacking in D181 classrooms, children have to now stay after school, privately, to receive individualized attention. And again, this is only for the lowest students. Nothing other than simple acceleration or grade advancement is offered to the quick learners. What about the immature, quick learners? We have basically gone backwards 50 years when the only thing available for gifted kids was advancement to the next grades, regardless of the child's social and emotional (SELAS) needs.

If you had a child who struggled with reading or attention, do you REALLY think it is better to throw all of the children in a classroom with all of the gifted kids? Do you think the gifted children are capable of actually teaching their special education classmates effectively? With the finesse and experience of a specialist? Have you researched this topic? There is no evidence that this type of learning is better than previous methods. Yes, inclusion is wonderful, but not when it takes away from the special needs of children with disabilities! They are protected by law everywhere else, but now, not in Hinsdale.

Will the fast learners be considered "bullies" if they don't take time out of their own learning to coach the other children? Is this what the Varsity Football players do at Central? Coach the weaker players on the sidelines, instead of practicing to become better players themselves? I don't want another child, gifted or not, being given the responsibility and expectation to TEACH or facilitate my child's learning. Nor do I want a gifted child to slow down his/her pace to do so. Ridiculous. This is so insulting to special education specialists. Since we no longer have any gifted education specialists practicing, I can not speak for them. But perhaps the parents of students 5 years ago can attest to the success of both of those programs. Could we have improved teaching for the "regular ed" kids? Of course! But it shouldn't have been attempted through the destruction of the programs established for the children at the other ends of the spectrum, and those who fall in between. Last week's ISAT scores, and the last 2 year's MAP scores let all see that the scores of the special education and gifted children were better then. It allowed he classroom teacher to focus on a smaller group of children. Now, she is forced to deal with a broader, more varied group of children, and it clearly is not working. If I had a child with special needs, I would be very frightened about the direction this district is taking.

The common core has nothing to do with taking away specialists for our children, whether high or low achieving. It is silly to think that all children can all be taught in the same way. I wish I had stayed home the night of the Common Core math presentation. Why does the administration waste our time like that? And where was Dr. Schuster that night? Do they really think that parents can not see through their sham?

Anonymous said...

I do note that I twice invited the few posters who have decried attacks on the administration, who they call the "difference makers", to provide a factual counterpoint to the overwhelming demonstration that the administrations decisions are harming the children. I have yet to see these "hit and run" commentators provide their viewpoint on the facts presented in the blog. I welcome their return and their viewpoint. I believe the blog encourages comment and discussion and readers like myself would avidly read any such contrary view. I find it telling that not one of the tens of thousands of readers has been able to put together a factual explanation of the merits of the administrations approach to education.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you as one of the parents who attended this pony show, I was very disappointed by the format and the apparent lightheartedness of our administrators, who took it upon themselves to crack jokes and make light of what is a very serious topic, Common Core math. I was sitting at a table with other parents wondering why I bothered to show up to such a charade. Not one of my questions was answered. I learned nothing new. I don't know any more about the Common Core math standards than I did before I went to the meeting. Is this supposed to be good enough for us as parents and taxpayers?
I just read through the slides from District 103, which has higher test scores than we do. The detail of the slides blew me away. We have not seen one presentation like this since Schuster came into our district. Why this board continues to throw blind support to her I will never understand. Board members should know that at local private schools there are now extensive waiting lists because of parents transferring their children out of 181. I should know. I am one of them trying to get my kid out of harms way from this administration, not from the teachers who are trying to do what they can. Pretty sad to think what 181 was and what it has become.

Anonymous said...

Posting comments on this blog may be a safe forum for raising parent concerns, but to effect change, parents will need to also send letters directly to the board and step up at board meetings and publicly call for the board to hold the administration accountable. All of the concerns raised on this blog are so troubling that something needs to be done. It is incomprehensible that the board has refused to publicly discuss the issues parents are raising -- and by that I mean actually have a meaningful discussion where the 7 board members interact with each other and talk about what parents are saying. Why is the board unwilling to do this? Some parents, including myself, have said on parent surveys, that what is needed is a town hall meeting, where parents and community members can ask the board and Dr. Schuster questions and have answers given right there on the spot. At this point, after years of planning to implement common core and after the ALP/Learning for All transition year and four months into the second year, parents have a right to expect that when we ask a question it be answered, and not deflected or delayed. It's time for answers and accountability.

Anonymous said...

The administration has been so caught up in The Learning For All plan that they have not done the necessary preparation for Common Core. That's obvious from the comments parents have posted regarding the workshop. While other competitive districts in the Chicago land area have been busy preparing for the past several years, d181 administrators have been using The Learning For All as a quick fix, meaning that if the students are advanced a year ahead of Common Core in math and language arts, then there would be no need to address Common Core specifically. Common Core would be addressed by default.

But, let us not forget what Common Core actually means for the students. It means going deeper into math and language arts. For example, going deeper means a student answering a math problem and then having to explain why he/she got that answer. Going deeper into subjects means that students really have to know what they’re doing. It means covering concepts in depth, not glossing over concepts or skipping over concepts to make sure grade compacting stays on schedule (again, no fault of the teachers).

Learning For All is clearly falling apart. The Learning For All plan was the districts way to deal with Common Core. Since Learning For All is failing, how are our students going to be ready for Common Core? Once again, we are witnessing the fall out of Learning For All. All of the problems in this district can be traced straight back to this plan.

I agree with the parent that said we need to come forward with our concerns. But at this point, it's more than concerns and we're beyond wanting accountability. If this were the private sector, people would have lost jobs a long time ago. At the end of the day, the joke is on the parents because we are allowing this to happen.

Anonymous said...

It all goes back to the very first posts on this blog. The administrators are not qualified. So, rather than do the hard work necessary, what other top districts have done, they have rolled out a one of kind plan that by definition is not capable of being measured as 1) nobody else has done it and 2) the results are supposedly 5-7 years away. Schuster hired her friends and supporters rather than the best qualified to protect her turf and retirement. Now that the results are far worse than expected, they can't change course midstream because they lack the skills to do so and would rather attack the messengers. The vague responses and lack of opportunity for questioning is all a product of the lack of training and qualifications of the administrators.

The board won't do anything unless they are directly pressured because they have tied themselves to Schuster. So, I agree, people need to pressure board members directly with emails and personal contact.

Anonymous said...

At the board meetings, it is the same 6 parents that always show up and make public comments. Where are the rest of the parents? Where are the teachers? These 6 parents have been labeled "bullies," "hysterical," and "problems." Change can only happen if every parent and teacher on this blog starts going to every board meeting and making public comments. Change cannot happen with 6 parents alone.

Anonymous said...

The teachers don't want to risk their jobs, so, even though they are no longer acting in the best interest of their students, they are clearly under some sort of duress from the administration. How the administration can get away with this level of incompetence reflects very poorly on their bosses, the board of education and the county office of education. We parents are not experts, so we are relying on the state board of education to help us and our children. Why haven't they? Has anyone ever seen the number of people on the payroll there? It is surprising large for such a powerless group. Parents need to contact our local representative, Patty Bellock, and demand that funding for the Du Page county board of education immediately STOP. If this governmental agency isn't here for us in situations precisely like this, why are we paying their salaries? At this point, we need to start saving those extra tax dollars to send our children to tutors and private schools. This is an example of corruption and apathy in Illinois state government at its worst.

Anonymous said...

Did the whole Department of Learning work on this in "collaboration"? How much longer will the board allow our tax money to be wasted? Why won't they bring in new leadership and more qualified individuals and look out for the tax payers? It almost seems like there is a hidden agenda that we are not aware of which is unacceptable since we are all paying our share of taxes!!! Is this district truly looking to be inclusive or is it trying to make one size fit all and make everyone else who doesn't agree leave? Why would anyone want to move into an experimental district that shuts out the community at every step of the way?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous comment. It's a shock that any of us know how to function on a daily basis based on the Then and Now picture. Wonder how we pay our high taxes with our poor reading and writing skills. Also read Dr. Schuster's communication. Yes conferences were a blast. No thanks to Dr. Schuster to help figure out the mess our children find themselves in. Leave it to the teachers and the parents to figure it out. Why wouldn't families engage in this important process. It would be nice if the administration opened it's ears and stopped listening to a select few.