Friday, December 13, 2013

Channeling Vaudeville: Schuster’s Disturbing Statements Regarding “Philosophical Difference” With Hinsdale Central Math Department Chair, “Mid-Year Progress Report” and “2013 Contract Goal” Worthy of 3rd and Final Act

(Taken from Wikipedia) 
A promotional poster for the Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles (1894), 
showing dancers, clowns, trapeze artists and costumed dogs.
From Webster’s Vaudevillian: a light often comic theatrical piece frequently
 combining dialogue, dancing, and song. A type of entertainment that was popular
 in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and that had many 
different performers doing songs, dances, and comic acts.

As we bloggers listened to the last open BOE meeting for 2013, we were struck by the similarities between our school board, superintendent, and her administration, which for all intents and purposes resemble the construct of an old, Vaudevillian traveling team of players. We have seen all of these cast of characters demonstrate their stand-up skills at various stages while at board meetings, lunch and learn get-togethers, a common core math meeting, RtI meetings, community engagement, etc. There is definitely an aura of theatrics, which hearkens Vaudeville, as all of these meetings foster one-way communication from the board or administration to the audience. Even when parents offer suggestions at engagement meetings, such suggestions are never acknowledged or rarely acted upon (unless a petition drive is initiated that results in hundreds of signatures advocating for change).

So, as we see it, the staging of these events is purely for entertainment purposes on the part of the players. We parents see it, however, as a crusade for the players’ agenda without realizing the impact their ideology and decisions are having on our children who sit in classrooms throughout the district every day. No doubt about it, the key players continue to tap dance, spin, pontificate, and twirl in and around important issues facing our children (as was evidenced at the last board meeting), all the while our test scores dip down under the weight of an unfounded, non-researched totally inclusive one-size-fits-all ideology.

One of those key players is, of course, Dr. Schuster.

After we bloggers reviewed Dr. Schuster’s Mid-Year Progress Report listed on Boardocs and heard her comments at Monday’s board meeting, we felt compelled to inform our readers of the colorful, embellished language used to describe the state of learning and overall status of D181. After all, it is time for Schuster’s job performance evaluation, as was noted on the last board agenda on Nov 18, which means all four goals listed in her performance contract (click to open Schuster's Contract) should be scrutinized by the entire Board of Education to see if she actually performed up to these goals that are expected this year. Right? Wrong. If you look closely at these four contract goals, you’ll notice there is only one among them that is required this year:

"Complete the implementation [sic] a new program design for advanced learning (Indicator - Implementation of the Board approved program design for advanced learning by September 1, 2013." (See page 2, Goal D of Schuster's Contract.)

In our opinion, there is no way this goal is close to being met. If Schuster believes the “opt in” availability in middle school is a “program,” she is completely disconnected from reality. We believe children who qualify should have an opportunity to opt into higher-level classes; however, from our viewpoint, there is no program for advanced learners. Period. Many parents have posted comments related to the lack of rigor in classrooms across the district. Similar comments are also listed on the parent portion of the visioning survey that was highlighted in a blog post dated December 7. There is no curriculum, no instruction other than what all children receive in the classroom, and no enrichment strand that provides challenge to students with advanced capabilities.

This occurred, of course, as a result of the Learning For All Plan, but is in direct opposition with what will be expected at Hinsdale Central High School, where students are placed into various ability-grouped classes based upon testing and proven capability. D181 is moving in the opposite direction of what will be expected when our children reach Hinsdale Central. And no, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Clarin, outside tutoring is not the solution. How about a proven, researched-based educational plan that allows for instruction targeted at all levels of ability? This can simply not be achieved with the Learning for All Plan, and the MAP and ISAT downward trending test scores prove this to be the case.

For a dramatic presentation, readers should review Schuster’s 2013-2014 Mid-Year Progress report  (click to open Report). Yes, Schuster has a flair for embellishment, which is evident in the following statements:

"GOAL #1
The Board and District will collaboratively support improvement in student achievement and growth.

Action Plan
○ Implement the initial structural supports from the Learning for All Plan, including systematic teacher collaboration, ongoing professional development, creation of the District Leadership Team, refinement of the RtI process, and administration of the Common Core NWEA MAP assessment.
○ Implement the new English Language Arts curriculum.
○ Refine the math acceleration plan incorporating the 2012 K-5 Everyday Math Common Core Update.
○ Integrate the cornerstones of Affective Cognitive Enrichment (ACE) into inquiry-based social studies in Grade 6.
○ Collaborate with District 86 to monitor District 181 graduates’ longitudinal data.

A cornerstone of the Learning for All Plan’s Structural Supports component is teacher collaboration. The District has restructured time to allow for vertical / horizontal collaboration meetings as part of the 13 hours of paid professional development. In addition, elementary schedules have been adjusted to give teachers weekly common plan time. Middle school teachers continue to meet daily during one of their plan periods to collaborate. Finally, one staff meeting per month has been set aside for teachers to collaborate as grade level teams, interdisciplinary teams, or department teams.

Another key element of the Learning for All Plan’s Structural Supports component is ongoing professional development. The District continues to align professional development topics to the Learning for All Plan. Additionally, the District’s staff development committee is in the process of creating a long-range plan that includes the goal of ending the school year with events for next year planned and communicated. Literacy Coaches have been hired and are providing job-embedded professional development for staff.

The District Leadership Team, a Structural Support, comprised of approximately 80 staff representing a variety of roles, meets monthly. Focus areas have been relationship building, role clarification, the school improvement process, problem solving strategies, equity/data analysis, and coaching. The District Leadership Team brings the work back to the buildings to help ensure that all staff are aware of the information presented. Additionally, reports are included in the all-staff e-newsletter.

The RtI process, a cornerstone of the Learning for All Plan, has been refined to include the development of Individual Learning Plans for the most advanced students. Also, the P.E. staff is working to align their 4 additional intervening services to the RtI process used by the District. RtI process refinement will continue as the year progresses.

The District successfully migrated to the Common Core NWEA MAP assessment in Reading and Math. Students in Grades 2-8 were assessed in the fall and will continue to be assessed in the winter and spring. The data gathered from this assessment allows the District to measure achievement and growth. The fall results are posted in BoardDocs.

The District is in the first year of the new English Language Arts curriculum. All elementary classroom teachers and middle school teachers were provided with new curriculum and support materials at the beginning of the school year. In addition, all teachers were provided with a scope and sequence for each unit to ensure consistency between buildings. The District has partnered with Schoolwide, Inc. at the elementary level and the DuPage Regional Office of Education at the middle school level to deliver ongoing professional development. In addition to these outside partners, the District’s balanced literacy coaches are collaborating with teachers to improve instruction.

The District has refined the math acceleration plan and is utilizing Everyday Math at the elementary level. In order to begin the process of Common Core alignment, the District purchased and is using the 2012 K-5 Everyday Math Common Core supplemental materials. Teachers in Grades 3 and 4 were provided with scope and sequence documents to assist with math acceleration. The long-term goal is for all elementary students to complete sixth grade math and for middle school students to complete Algebra I. The District has also begun the curriculum renewal process for math. This is a three-year process that will examine (a) best practices, (b) the Common Core, (c), professional development, and (d) materials.

The integration of ACE into all social studies courses at the middle school has begun. All sixth grade students were given the opportunity to opt into ACE social studies, and the differentiation specialists at both schools have partnered with a fifth grade social studies teacher to enable more students to have this opportunity. The differentiation specialists will partner with a seventh grade teacher next year and then an eighth grade teacher the following year to complete the process. The goal is to have all middle school social studies classes mirror ACE social studies in three years, when the social studies curriculum is due for renewal.

District 181 has partnered with District 86 and all feeder districts to examine the possibility of forming a data consortium. To date, three meetings have taken place and another meeting is scheduled for December. If formed, the consortium hopes to (a) track longitudinal data with D86, (b) develop a student growth measure required by the Illinois State Board of Education, and (C) warehouse data in a more efficient manner."

Wow, where do we start? All we know is this interpretation of the state of the district does not match the reality of how our children are being educated at this point. Again, we do not blame teachers. The BOE and administration are running this stand-up show with little to show for it. Such statements like the “RtI process is being refined throughout the school year,” “the cornerstone of the Learning for All plan is teacher collaboration,” “new curriculum and supportive materials were provided at the start of the school year, “etc. All of these statements and more, can be refuted by the comments from parents and teachers on the recent survey. As evidenced by minimal to no growth on MAP assessments, such statements about the positive state of the district should be kept to a minimum.

Yes, in Dr. Schuster’s mind, the celebration continues. She’s definitely spinning, twirling, and dancing while promoting her memes and will be until her expiration date of June 30, 2015. The BOE could take this time to honestly evaluate her performance and determine if she is the right person to be in a position of authority. They can all come down to reality and realize the Schuster-Schneider-Russell-Benaitis-Igoe Shuffling Show is just passing through town, not really refined or focused on the end game, that being the best education possible for our children.

Which leads us to point out yet another piece of theatrics that was evident during the December 9 Board Meeting when Schuster danced around the issue of math acceleration at middle schools that was raised by Board Member Garg.  Mrs. Garg asked if Schuster had been in contact with the Math Department Chair at Hinsdale Central (go to December 9 Podcast after clicking on link to Podcasts, then fast forward to Time Counter 1.49.10 to listen from slightly before the beginning of the discussion). Schuster stated that she had not personally spoken with the Math Chair, rather that some "teachers" had and then elaborated that the D181 Department of Learning had spoken with the equivalent department at HCHS.  She further explained that based upon what she had learned, she and the Math Chair have a “philosophical difference.” When pressed by Mrs. Garg as to what the philosophical difference is, Schuster stated that SHE believes the middle school math teachers can teach Algebra I.  The implication, of course, is her conclusion that the Math Chair does not believe this.  How could she reach such a conclusion?

Schuster's response does not sound rationale, in our opinion, because many local high schools willingly allow middle school teachers to cover Algebra I classes. Could it be possible that the Hinsdale Central's Math Chair does not believe all students should be accelerated to complete Algebra I prior to high school? We bloggers believe this is the likely scenario. This then leads to the following important question: if the head of math at Hinsdale Central High School is not in agreement with the direction Schuster is taking District 181, what does this mean for our children? Perhaps it is time that the BOE invite the Math Chair to come to a D181 board meeting to answer any questions they might have on the impact the Learning for All math acceleration model will have on D181 students as they matriculate into high school.

We have no say in what the high school does, and if D181 is not collaborating with D86, we are in big trouble. Moreover, this admission by Schuster finally brings to light one important known fact: the D181 administration is more interested in philosophical dogma and what it can do for them, rather than what is in the best interest of our children.

Here’s a dose of reality: before Schuster began her reign as Superintendent, we had middle school teachers teaching Algebra I and Geometry, for that matter. Collaboration existed between the two districts, and the high school was supportive of the direction of D181. The only change that has occurred recently to warrant a “philosophical difference” is that Schuster and her administrators believe in the acceleration of all students to complete Algebra I. We have no doubt this is what the “philosophical difference” is Schuster alluded to on Monday.

In our opinion, she clearly misled the BOE and the community by saying the difference was because our middle school teachers are teaching Algebra I. Hogwash. They had been teaching Algebra well before Schuster arrived in Hinsdale and tapped her way into a rambling dialogue filled with, in our opinion, half-truths and deception. Once again, the BOE did not follow up with questions after this startling admission occurred. What a shame. Parents should be very concerned because in just a few years, the high school will be placing our children where they see fit. And since it appears the D86 administration does not support the current acceleration for all plan, we might be in for quite a shock.

Our expectations were actually exceeded regarding the song and dance that occurred during Dr. Schuster’s Mid-Year Progress report, which was limited and general. An important fact that should have been discussed at length: approximately 30% of teachers indicated they were not prepared for this academic year. This after having in-service training on Reading Fundamentals and balanced literacy coaching. How can this fact be swept under the rug?

It’s time we should observe the last and final act of the administrative players, especially with their multiple performances riddled with double talk, generalities, and grandstanding. We have seen this show numerous times before, with different administrators dancing, dipping and offering their own flair for comedic posturing, except it is anything but comical. The academic future for many district children is being compromised. The recent admission by Schuster proves it, the MAP and ISAT test scores prove it, and the teacher and parent comments that were buried in a survey prove it. Half of the school year is just about over, and our children only get this year in this particular grade. There are no do-overs. We should be outraged.

And just as the Vaudeville era came and went so, too, will Schuster and several of her administrators as they will take their final bows and leave D181 with a trail of destruction. Remember, all administrative contracts, with the exception of Schuster’s, are in place for just one year, which ends on June 30, 2014.  If the BOE would see through the song and dance presented at each board meeting, they would be holding these people accountable for their statements and actions. As it is though, the community is forced to sit through acts of juggling, dancing, and philosophical theatrics in virtually every board, parent and community meeting to date.

It’s time to close the curtain; this show needs to end for the sake of our children.


Anonymous said...

How can a school board made up of business professionals and lawyers accept what is being given to them. In the business world, results would be demanded with evidence of success, not simply statements of future success. For all of us who thought we would just get our children to the high school where things would be better, we now have to question whether that will be the case. If Dr. Schuster believes she has a philosophical disagreement with the high school math chair but does not feel that should be addressed and resolved before putting our children through her idea of success or progress, who does she think will pay the ultimate price? We all need to step up to the plate and make sure the administration and board hear our voices, or we will be paying for more than tutors for our children for a long time. I am afraid much of what is being pushed upon our children is going to create a lot of stressed out children who will face a huge hit to their self-esteem. If it has not happened to them now, it will definitely hit them when they begin high school. I ask the board and administration to please look at the data and to use some common sense when making future decisions about our children and the employees we pay so well. Is this really the legacy you wish to leave when your board term is over or you move on to another district?

Anonymous said...

1. Common core does not require students to be accelerated to complete Algebra 1 prior to high school;

2. The Hinsdale Central Department Math Chair does not think it is appropriate to accelerate ALL children so that they complete Algebra 1 prior to high school;

3. Our children performed very well in high school under D181's prior math program, as evidenced by Central's #4 ranking; and

4. Our children are failing under D181's current accelerated math program, as evidenced by declining MAP and ISAT scores.

That alone should be enough to oust Schuster and team. We need to start an online petition to get rid of them!!

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a fourth grader, I couldn't agree more with the previous comment. My child suffered through the entire math mess of last year, and continues to be frustrated this year. It's obvious our administration doesn't have a clue as to how to fix the mess they have created. How about the recent change to the math grading? Teachers will be assigning numbers from 1-4. Is this a joke? Is this how Hinsdale Central grades math tests and quizzes or do they assign percentages? Of course they do, and this new math grading is yet another example of Schuster and her minions running away from the 80%, then 70% our children are having difficulty meeting because of how the curriculum is being rolled out this year. How this this board can allow this continue is beyond me. But if parents don't complain, the board thinks everything is fine. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Anonymous said...

Remember former Superintendent Tennbush was fired for doing much less damage to the district than Schuster is currently inflicting. Just because her contract goes until 2015 doesn't mean she has to stick around until then. If the BOE would open their eyes, they would show her the door tomorrow. She already has a Missouri pension, retirement home and a fancy car to drive away in. I'd throw in a full tank too.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't look like Dr. Schuster took the time to read the feedback from the surveys from looking at her mid year report. Shocked to see the goals that are a part of her contract. Completely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

2 Parts. This article came from the Hinsdale Central Math Department. Parents should be asking the BOE what this philosophical difference is between Dr Schuster and the Math Department Chair.

Algebra: Not 'If' but 'When'
By NCTM President Linda M. Gojak
NCTM Summing Up, December 3, 2013

One of the questions I am frequently asked by teachers, parents, and reporters is, “When should students take algebra?”

Let’s assume that we’re talking about a college preparatory algebra 1 course. The content and instruction must be designed to develop both conceptual and procedural understanding. For students to be considered successful in first-year algebra, the expectation must be that reasoning and making sense will be priorities of both teaching and learning.

Algebra has often been referred to as a “gatekeeper” to higher learning—both in mathematics and in other fields. Research shows that students who complete a mathematics course beyond the level of algebra 2 are more than twice as likely to pursue and complete a postsecondary degree. Students who don’t do well in algebra compromise their career options, especially in STEM fields. The question is no longer if students should take algebra but rather when students should take algebra.

As recently as 20 years ago, most students took algebra in the ninth grade. Students who showed exceptional talent in mathematics might be offered the opportunity to take it in the eighth grade. In many schools today, algebra in the eighth grade is the norm, and students identified by some predetermined standard can complete the course in seventh grade. Algebra courses are even stratified as “honors” algebra and “regular” algebra at both of these grade levels. The variation in course names leads one to wonder about the level of rigor.

One reason for the push to offer algebra earlier is the poor showing of students in the United States among comparable industrialized countries on international assessments. The belief held by many is that giving students earlier opportunities to complete algebra and take more advanced mathematics courses at the high school level will solve this problem. However, the issue is more complex than simply offering students the opportunity to take algebra earlier.

Requirements for taking algebra in the middle grades should be clear and must not be compromised. Successful completion of a rigorous algebra course requires students to have prerequisite mathematical understandings and skills as well as a work ethic that includes the tenacity to stick with a problem or concept until it makes sense and the willingness to spend more time on assignments and class work. Furthermore, a key characteristic of students who are successful in algebra, no matter when they take it, is a level of maturity that includes a readiness to understand abstract mathematical definitions, to work with abstract models and representations, and to understand and make connections among mathematical structures—and this readiness should extend to making abstract generalizations.

Students and parents should be fully aware of course expectations, consequences for not meeting the expectations, alternatives to the study of rigorous algebra in the middle school, and options for future mathematics work. Moving a struggling student out of a middle school algebra course not only has social implications for the student, but also affects his or her self-efficacy, which is very important for success in future mathematics courses.

Anonymous said...

I recall an assignment from my undergraduate work in which we applied the Fry readability formula to Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind. I still remember my surprise to find out that this novel was determined to be at a sixth-grade reading level. I realize that this does not indicate that it is appropriate to assign Gone with the Wind to sixth graders. It has been a while since I completed that assignment, but I often think about it when the discussion about accelerating students in mathematics arises. Just because a student can read the sentences in Gone with the Wind doesn’t mean that she has the experience or maturity to deeply understand what she is reading. The same is true in mathematics. Just because a student can mimic steps shown by the teacher doesn’t ensure that he has the sophistication to deeply understand the mathematics.

So, when should students take algebra? Many students and parents interpret taking algebra in the seventh or eighth grade as an indication of a level of superior intelligence—a status symbol. My experience, both as a student and as a teacher, leads me to believe that we do more harm than good by placing students in a formal algebra course before they are ready, and few students are truly ready to understand the important concepts of algebra before eighth grade. Many students should wait until ninth grade.

That does not mean that the middle-grades mathematics experience can’t be rich or worthwhile—even beneficial and indispensable to students’ future success in mathematics. I have always believed that middle school should be a time for students to get “messy” with mathematics. Students enter the middle grades with enough mathematical knowledge to explore mathematics through experiences that they may never have in high school or college. Seeing the relevance of mathematics in real-world situations and future career options encourages students to take more mathematics rather than to wonder, “When are we ever going to use this?” Solving interesting problems with high cognitive demand offers students experiences to make mathematical connections, form generalizations, and develop mathematical strategies that lead to making sense of early algebra concepts. Working on projects that deepen the level of mathematical understanding and promote algebra applications has the potential to prepare students for the level of abstraction and symbolism that students need for success in rigorous algebra courses.

Although many individual factors enter into decision about when to offer algebra, explicitly identifying student qualifications that ensure success, teaching for reasoning and sense making at all levels, and striving to give all students a rich and meaningful experience no matter when they take algebra should be high priorities.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting letter from the HCHS math chair. It doesn't sound like someone who does not believe our middle school teachers are able to teach algebra, but someone who believes there should be careful thought and consideration given to whom takes accelerated math because of its importance for future learning and its effect on self-esteem if the child is not successful. Now, why can't we have administrators who care that much about our children and make decisions based upon what is best for children and not their own skewed ideas of where "all" children should be. I believe this brings into question the honesty of Dr. Schuster who claimed the disagreement between her and the department chair was about our teachers teaching algebra. I think it is clear from this letter that is not the issue. Dr. Schuster needs to stop with her imaginary conversations and have an honest, open dialog with the high school and the parents in D181. We will not know the real damage that is being done to our children until after Dr. Schuster leaves, which may be her plan. Unless everyone steps up and demands this idea of learning for all is anything more than empty words to build up a few administrators' egos and career paths, we are going to see a hopeless and unnecessary rate of failure from our students, especially by the time they reach the high school.

I find it ironic that Dr. Schneider, who comes from special education where the IEP rules the day, is promoting for the rest of our children the idea of everything being provided for our children all in one classroom. This would never be acceptable or legal for children in special education. Again, we are seeing time and time again where decisions are being made to benefit the administrator and not the teacher or student. Hopefully, more parents will speak out to stop this madness. I am disappointed more teachers are not speaking out. I assume it is because they are hoping for a good contract and don't want to speak out for fear it will affect the negotiations. I think the writing is on the wall that the teacher contract is not going to be a good one. Unfortunately, it will be too late for many children by the time the teachers realize this and the contract is settled and too many of our children have been harmed by this poorly thought out and implemented idea of instruction. If you sit back and say nothing, you have no right to complain about what you are getting. The only way to demand change is to speak out and be heard. Let's not look back and regret what we could have done but at least feel at peace that we did all we could.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much to the parent who took the time to post the letter from the HSHC Math Department. For those of us without high school students, this kind of feedback and information is invaluable in helping us confirm what we know in our gut to be true. The fact that the professionals agree is reassuring. Now, if we could get the majority of our BOE to actually look at this issue in depth and care enough to question the administration in a thoughtful and detailed manner, perhaps we could stop the collision course we are on. It would be nice to see members other than Ms. Garg and Mr. Heneghan actually prepare thoroughly for the meetings. Why doesn't anyone else have anything to say on these issues when the questions the community are asking are so obvious? You can agree or disagree with the administration's answers but at least be prepared enough and take these issues seriously enough to ask the questions. A big and time consuming job, yes, but as the people responsible for leading us down this path, they have an obligation to our students to do better. Parents in the community should not be more informed about these issues than the Board and there are many who are. I have yet to speak to one informed parent who agrees with the bulk of what the administration is doing.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, in case Marty "raise our taxes" Turek wasn't paying attention, according to Schuster herself, its not only the purported wackos, and fringe characters that he so easily dismisses, who have "philosophical differences" with the Learning for All plan, but the highly regarded educators at Illinois' number one non-magnet high school. Are they crazy also?

Anonymous said...

Then why are't any of these parents attending BOE meeting? It is really shocking how few parents care enough about their own, or anyone else's children to actually read up on the issues and make an informed presentation at a BOE meeting. If no parents even bother sending a simple letter, or get up in public to express their own dissatisfaction, then why do people expect he BOE to do anything? Parents should not assume that all board members and administrators are up to speed on current educational research, are knowledgable, or capable of making intelligent decisions without some input from parents. Monroe's ranking of 108, down from 75, clearly shows that. Consider that Illinois is one of the bottom scoring states in the country. So that leaves Monroe, one of the wealthiest schools in the country, as probably one of the worst performing "rich" schools in the country. Why? Our administration.

If half of the moms who signed up to help at holiday parties bothered to show up at one board meeting a year, perhaps our schools would be heading in a better direction. Dads, too. Some male board members are clearly part of a good old boys club who feel that women belong at home, not speaking up at meetings about the recent problems that they are seeing when their children do homework. What do parents think they will gain by keeping their complaints to themselves? Better cooperation from the teachers and school? Ha. The opposite it true. The less you hold the administration accountable, the worse the quality of our schools becomes.

Unfortunately, many uninformed people, whose only experience in elementary schools is having gone to one themselves 30 years ago, think that our schools are "great". This is because they have never bothered to look at successful schools anywhere else! Here's a little analogy: If you have only eaten at Burger King your whole life, how would you ever know that good restaurants, like Vie, for example, exist? You would probably think that ALL restaurants use frozen, processed foods and not ever know that organic meat is even available.

Look around. Get on the websites of other schools in the country and see what they they offer their children before you start extolling the superiority of D181. What is being offered on their menu's, and what ingredients are they using? Do they have full day kindergarten? Just because a few schools have blue ribbons, do you realize that many other schools, including those in Downers Grove and Elmhurst have blue ribbons, too. It isn't as prestigious as you think. As I tell my kids all the time, just because McDonalds has the best commercials and best toys in their happy meals doesn't mean that they have the best restaurant around. The same holds true for our schools. Don't believe all the hype coming out of D181's PR department. It is more flash that substance.

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

I personally spoke with the HCHS math department Chairman -- Kurt Vonnahme -- in February while I served on the D181 school board. We discussed the math acceleration model that was being proposed at that time by the D181 Administration and he expressed his concerns with this plan and the fact that he believes that some students who complete Algebra in 8th grade may need to repeat it in high school. He stated that he would be willing to discuss the acceleration proposal with the D181 administrators.

I documented our conversation in a letter that I sent to the rest of the D181 Board and Dr. Schuster (and copied the HCHS math chairman on it) and I implored Dr. Schuster to please have the D181 math teachers and D181 curriculum administrators meet with HIM before the board was asked to vote on the ALP Plan (now renamed Learning for All Plan). (NOTE: ANYONE in the community can file a Freedom of Information Act Request for a copy of my letter to the BOE and Dr. Schuster regarding my conversation with Mr. Vonnahme. It was sent to them in February 2013.)

Despite my letter to the Board, neither the majority or Dr. Schuster felt this was necessary. I am extremely disappointed that 9 months later, no D181 administrator has taken the time to meet with Mr. Vonnahme. It is such careless disregard of the expertise of the math chair of one of the highest ranked high schools in the state and nation that leads me to conclude that our administrators are too arrogant and ignorant to want to participate in an open, substantive and meaningful discussion with the high school math department on what regarding what Dr. Schuster is now labeling a "philosophical difference."

What are she, Kurt Schneider and Kevin Russell afraid of? If they really want to address the parent concerns, teacher concerns and HCHS math department's concerns about the math acceleration model FOR ALL that they are currently steam rolling through D181, they should invite the HCHS math department chair to the next Commmittee of the Whole Meeting in January to participate in an open dialogue. Acceleration might be appropriate for some students -- and probably for more students than were previously identified under the old "testing" cut-offs that Former Asst. Sup. of Curriculum and Instruction Janet Stutz was responsible for -- but that does not mean that this plan is good, right, academically or socially appropriate for all.

It's time for all seven board members to actually have a discussion about this during a public board meeting. WHY WON'T THEY???

Anonymous said...

I hope everyone is paying attention to what is happening at the high school. Now, there are hundreds of parents and teachers showing up after it is too late to make a difference. The same thing is going to happening in 181 if the parents and teachers just sit back and wait to see what happens. Now is the time to speak out and be heard, and it needs to be many. I don't care if you like what is happening in the district. Then you should show up and be heard. I would love to see parents stand up at a board meeting and tell us what it is about this plan they like, and if they are talking about actual results or only ideas.

The board and administration need to hear from parents and teachers now while there is still a chance to stop or slow down this so called "learning for all" plan. I am afraid if everyone waits much longer, it will take years to undo the damage that is being done to our children and school district.

I hope our teachers and parents will have a wonderful winter break. Then come back rested and ready to be heard.