Thursday, December 19, 2013

Every Deck Has Aces and Jokers: A Year-End Message From the Bloggers

(Taken from Wikipedia deck of cards images)
As the end of 2013 nears, we thought we would make one last post before the school district holiday break begins. We are looking forward to spending time with our families and will take a break from writing on this blog until the school year begins again in January. In the meantime, we thought we would restate why this blog exists and our mission in continuing our commitment to providing insight and information to the District 181 community.

Back in May of this year, we, as D181 parents and taxpayers, believed that only one side of the story was being told from the administration and board of education regarding the current state of the district. Communication from the district was sanitized; pieces of information waffled out on occasion in board meetings, and the rest was controlled through stringent settings that facilitated one-way directives from administrators to attendees. Such is still the case, months later. We became increasingly frustrated having participated in these formats and believed the public deserved to know the truth about how the sweeping district changes were impacting our children. Furthermore, we began to see how changes in teacher delivery and district ideology were negatively affecting our own children day after day, with seemingly no discussion or dialogue occurring at board meetings or other public settings.

Now, after 80 posts and (as of this writing) 57,600 plus hits, we would like to believe this blog has at least provided some insight as to the lack of transparency our leadership currently promotes and the BOE condones. This blog has been active since May 28, and we appreciate the comments community members have taken the time to post themselves. We would like to thank the community for your support and continued hits as they keep us motivated to continue what we believe is our civic duty to inform the public about the misguided and detrimental direction our district is currently moving toward. The events of this week regarding the math acceleration and how it will impact our children’s success at the high school is just one such example, with many more we could mention.

And so our work to inform will continue into 2014, as we roll into the second half of the school year. There is much to keep track of concerning the massive changes that are taking place within the classrooms around the district. And, unfortunately, we have little confidence these changes will have a positive effect on our children by the end of the school year. In fact, we expect the opposite will be true given the MAP and ISAT test results that show the downward slide of student performance. Here is a partial list of concerns and questions we will consider beginning in January:

  1. How is this “philosophical difference” Schuster has with the Hinsdale Central Math Chair going to impact our children when they get to high school? Since no board members besides Ms. Garg thought to ask Schuster follow up questions, when will we get a straight answer?
  2. When will a town-hall style meeting take place where Schuster actually answers questions from parents? The format should be open, not restricted, so Schuster can stand up and provide concrete answers to parent questions. It appears the superintendent is afraid to answer questions in this format; could it be she doesn’t have the answers?
  3. We are still waiting to see the curriculum that is available for students who have gone through the RtI process and who require enrichment. The administration said these students would receive greater challenge beyond what is being taught in the classroom – where is it?
  4. Now that the standard for fourth-grade math has been changed yet again, we would like to know who developed the 1-4 grading scale and why the 80%, then 70% standards were abandoned? What is the true percentage our students are meeting as a result of starting the school year on lesson 4.8 and now back peddling to earlier lessons? Why is this acceptable to the BOE?
  5. We are still waiting for homework to be differentiated based on ability. It appears all children who are in the same class are doing the same homework. Isn’t differentiated homework part of the “Advanced Learning Plan” or “Learning for All Plan?” How are students challenged if they are all given the same homework?
Bottom line: the pipe dream of a one-size-fits-all education for our children simply will not fly. Even if we had all ace administrators, this idea of full inclusion (which was tried and failed back in the late 1970s-early 1980s) would be incredibly difficult to pull off. The reality is we simply do not have enough aces in the deck. Not a chance. Our true aces are our teachers, who are on the front lines trying to differentiate instruction to 25 plus students all day, every day. An impossible task, especially with the class sizes our district maintains.

Yes, indeed. Besides our teachers, our other aces are staff members, principals, and students, who are trying to do their best with the albatross of the Learning for All plan planted squarely on their shoulders. Teachers have remained silent for fear of retaliation or negative consequences as their contracts are negotiated for next year. Principals are trying their best to manage stressed-out teachers and parent concerns, and many of our children are dealing with feelings of inadequacy or pure boredom.

Our district has aces, but we also, unfortunately, have too many jokers in positions of authority. At the top of the list is our seemingly half-time superintendent who believes the changes she has inflicted on the district are beneficial to students, despite the significant drop in school rankings since she began her reign in D181. She has also filled her administration with highly paid, loyal foot soldiers who use Schuster-Speak at every turn to justify their actions. We also have several board members who continue to support the administration, led by board president Turek (who continues to hedge his bets on the backs of our children), even though the administration has not yet shown positive results of the new district dogma and ideology. In any other local district, the school board would have forced the hand of the superintendent to show proven results, and when she could not, they would reshuffle and move on with new leadership.

As the song goes, “you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.” It is our belief that D181 is reaching a critical point; do we continue to hedge our bets as parents that things will get better, or do we insist on ending the game now before more damage is done? As far as we’re concerned, the BOE and community rolled the dice on Learning for All. The risk hasn’t paid off, and it’s clearly harming our children. Time to take all bets off the table.

See you back here early next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lyrics to The Gambler

Songwriters: SCHLITZ, DON
On a warm summer's evenin' on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin' out the window at the darkness
'Til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, "Son, I've made my life out of readin' people's faces,
And knowin' what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice."

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Now Ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause ev'ry hand's a winner and ev'ry hand's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."

So when he'd finished speakin', he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Happy Holidays, Bloggers! Thanks for bringing transparency and accountability back to District 181.