With the district events that have transpired during this past week, we thought we would reiterate our mission and purpose in being volunteer bloggers in the hopes we have provided the D181 community with knowledge and facts related to the status of our district. While the dynamics of the posts and comments on this blog have been spirited and at times heated in the last week especially, we want to convey to our loyal readers that our purpose all along has been to educate and create an awareness of the many changes, some radical, that have been occurring in the district for more then two years. And while we are passionate about district educational issues, as are many of our readers and those who have posted comments, our interests in creating and maintaining this blog have been for the greater good; the greater good for our parents, teachers and children, which in turn impacts the overall well being of the community at large.
So, as we look to the future we are hopeful that a new leader, who has a proven track record of success as a superintendent in a comparable district, will take over the reigns and guide the D181 community to a better place. Yes, any potential superintendent candidate will probably conduct an Internet search on D181 and discover this blog. The candidates who have the experience and knowledge to make necessary changes that are research based, theoretically grounded and proven to be effective within elementary school settings, will be confident enough to rise to the many challenges this district now represents.
Though there are many parent and teacher concerns, some of which have been expressed on this blog, we thought we would take the opportunity to highlight those we believe to be among the most important:
- We have yet to see the effectiveness of the Learning for All plan presented with data and analysis. Why hasn’t there been a formal presentation of the results so parents know how well Learning for All is working across the district? How are all of the needs of children across the district, regardless of ability level, being met?
- We now know approximately 25% of fourth graders have been identified for remediation or tutoring twice weekly due to the math acceleration the administration has pushed. How can ¼ of fourth graders require remediation if Learning for All is supposed to reach every child every day in the classroom? What adjustments are being made to accommodate these students within the regular classroom?
- The Department of Learning administrators stated that with the assistance of the University of Chicago (the origin of Everyday Math) that consistency would be defined and carried among all grades and schools. Why are we parents hearing and seeing students from our home school working on different chapters, lessons, etc than their counterparts in other schools?
- Since the district withdrew from LADSE, what is the current status of Special Education within the district? How are the needs of special education students being met across the district? How are special education students performing on the ISAT?
- Enrichment materials for math and language arts were supposed to be implemented according to the Department of Learning. Our children have not been introduced to enrichment, despite the fact many students are complaining of boredom and lack of challenge within the regular classroom.
- How is the RtI (Response to Intervention) program meeting the needs of students across ability levels? We have heard from parents who have completed RtI meetings only to have little to no follow up of instructional programming by the administration.
These are just some of the concerns we believe to be most important. These concerns, along with others, need to be addressed by the administration and board of education prior to the hiring of a new superintendent and then acted upon afterward to improve the state of our district. The mid point of the school year has come and gone; the future of D181 looks much different today than it did at the start of the school year. We have questions and concerns. We need answers. And ultimately, we need a leader who knows how to pick up the shattered pieces and make the district whole again. Yes, we believe the district is now fragmented, veiled in secrecy, and under performing as a whole. Like it or not, these consequences are a direct result of what an administrator recently admitted as, “Trying something new in the district that has never been done before.” Well, well. We finally have an admission that the Learning for All Social Justice Plan is a massive, unfounded, non-researched based experiment that our children have been subjected to for more than two years.
Bottom line: In order to erase the trends of overall lower test scores (ISAT and MAP), math acceleration leading to remediation, stagnation of learning within heterogeneous classrooms, etc. the administration and BOE will have to work to be sure there are accountability measures in place; the district should be moving toward a better tomorrow. This is a great challenge, no doubt, given the concerns articulated on this blog and also through parent comments at BOE meetings, engagement sessions, etc.
This is our perspective. You may agree or disagree. In the end, we only want what’s best for our children. That’s been the goal all along. In addition to the topics listed above that we hope will be addressed very soon at future board meetings, in the coming weeks we plan to address the following topics:
- The February 24 visit and report to the Board by Dr. Moon and Dr. Friedman. Dr. Moon’s January 2012 report is now 2 years old. She is returning to review and observe all of the changes that have been implemented since her recommendations. We will address what those recommendations actually were, review the changes the administration has implemented instead and then raise questions and issues we hope Dr. Moon will answer and address during her visit and presentation. And who is Dr. Friedman, yet another consultant hired by the administration? What is her purpose?
- The D181 teachers. We fully support the teachers in D181. Over the last couple of years they have been put in a very difficult position. Sweeping changes in the areas of curriculum have been imposed on them, not just through Common Core requirements that all districts in Illinois and in many other states have had to implement; they have also had to handle the additional acceleration and all-inclusive model that the D181 administration has pursued. Teachers have expressed concerns regarding many of these changes in surveys conducted by the administration. They also expressed facilities and health concerns. Yet, until there was an actual crisis at HMS, their facilities and health concerns went unaddressed by the Board who, we believe, had not been made aware of them by the administration. What kind of crisis will it take for the Board to act now on the teachers’ curriculum concerns? Teachers in this district are outstanding, but they too are human and can only accomplish so much when faced with all of the changes they have had to manage during the past two years.
- Contract Negotiations. The current three-year teachers’ contract expires at the end of this school year. The teachers made many concessions in their last contract, driven in great part by the downturn in the national economy. With the economy in recovery mode, and in light of all of the increased challenges and demands that every teacher is now facing due to all of the changes brought forward by the administration, we expect the Board to acknowledge the value of all the D181 teachers during the contract negotiations. We can ill afford to face a teachers’ strike that might shut down all of the D181 schools and negatively impact instructional time in 2014-2015.
- Superintendent Search: We will closely monitor the progress made by the Board in conducting what we hope will be a comprehensive search for a superintendent to replace Dr. Schuster. None of the current Board members was in office during the last search. The Board will need to act quickly to hire a national search firm to guide them through this critical task.
We will continue blogging and keeping the parent and teacher community updated on D181 events and issues. We welcome relevant comments and feedback from all constituents district wide. In keeping with our goal of transparency by the administration and Board, we hope the future will bring some much needed “sunshine” on D181 and a better tomorrow.