Friday, February 14, 2014

Toward a Better Tomorrow; Future Considerations for D181 and the Immediate Questions Moving Forward

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:
  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4.  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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Anonymous said...

I don't believe that the 4th grade math remediation is occurring solely because of acceleration. I believe that a bigger issue is the elimination of the tiers that had been based on homogeneous academic ability. What they should have done, instead of putting all academic ability levels in one classroom and expecting our teachers (or the admin.) to prepare 4 or 5 lesson plans per unit (just think about that for a minute), tests, etc... is keep the tiers but make them more flexible, using pre-tests or whatever, which would allow the students to move in or out of the tiers as needed, and let the teachers (or whoever) develop one or two lesson plans that will meet the needs of the students in their classes. The Learning for All Plan's idea to consolidate all academic ability levels in one classroom and expect a teacher to teach them all adequately makes no sense. It's completely inefficient and on its face obviously ineffective. Parents who are bothered by the fact that their child may not be in the "highest" level tier at a particular time need to get over this and relax. Not every child is going to excel at every subject all the time. It's better for everyone if a child is truly met at his or her academic ability level and challenged accordingly than to overextend our teachers and create a situation which, ultimately, results in less time with a certified teacher for all students. Ipads and worksheets required to differentiate to this level can never replace that. Reasonable differentiation is a good thing and good teachers have been doing it for years. Excessive differentiation within a classroom containing too many academic ability levels is a disaster and that is the foundation on which the Learning For All plan is based. All kids deserve to be appropriately challenged and all students deserve the same amount of attention. Not all students should be accelerated past their grade level or placed in the highest level math or language arts class.

Anonymous said...

Yes!!! Now, take that and go in front of the BOE and read it on Feb 24th!!

Anonymous said...

I have heard concerns that no one will want Dr. Schuster's position because of this blog and the huge issues facing this district (Learning for All disaster, HMS mold crisis, etc.). However, I do not agree in the least. Our district pays extremely well and the benefits are outstanding. Somebody really good will be up for the challenge. He or she would look like a "rock star" if they make the necessary changes we have been asking for and the district starts turning around. Just like Mr. Horne is looking good after the mess Ms. Benaitis left at Monroe. It's a great opportunity and could prove to be a huge career windfall for the right candidate.

Monroe and CHMS Parent

Anonymous said...

Re: Read it to the BOE

Unfortunately the host of this blog can never read anything to the BOE as that would be like Superman going into the phone booth and coming out as Clark Kent.

Well maybe the new less hostile tone will change that...

I think I may have seen this on the wall at one of the schools:

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.
Karl Augustus Menninger

Anonymous said...

The poster was urging the person who wrote the post to read it during public comments - not the bloggers

Anonymous said...

It strikes me that the people who go on this blog to bash it are the hostile ones - and they are the ones who run the risk of alienating a successor. We would all do well to respect each other's opinions and stop with the hate.

Anonymous said...

"Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking"

Quote in the elm school gym

Let's learn from the children. The infighting must stop. And do must the hate. Admitting our school has problem is okay. We need to come together and fix them. Stop with the hate and blog bashing.

The Parents said...

We will no longer publish comments by people whose sole intent is to "bash" or express hostility towards writers of this blog or people who submit comments on this blog -- whether or not they are anonymous. We will no longer publish comments whose sole purpose is to discuss the issue of anonymity. We will publish comments that address issues we raise on the blog, express opinions -- pro or against -- what we have raised for discussion on the blog and that suggest topics you would like us to address on the blog. If anyone submits a comment attacking this decision, we will not publish it. Stick to the D181 issues that impact our kids please. There are plenty of them out there.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Well said.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything in the first post, but I do question the effectiveness of the math pre-tests. Was this practice pushed by Dr. Moon, or is it an Everyday Math technique? It seems to me that focusing on instruction and a post test, in addition to the MAP results 3 times a year is more than enough. I see young kids being swamped with testing and it seems to be stressing them out. Being appropriately challenged is good, but stressed out kids do not learn well.

It would seem more important to focus on what the teachers just taught, and see how the kids perform independently right afterwards. Pre-testing is taking time away from review, or presentation of new materials.

Of course, if the parents and teachers are having a hard time figuring out where a child should be placed, and all agree that pre-tests are necessary, then fine. But in my child's experience, she was kept out of the highest math group for all of last year, and most if this year based SOLELY on the results of a pretest, even though she received grades over 96% every time she was taught the new concepts. Why? Her MAP and ISATS were great, too.

To me, this was a clear sign that flexibilty within the tiers was not occurring last year, and part of this year. It has gotten better, but only because I have been constantly checking. It seemed obvious to me that the teachers were not adequately prepared to differentiate in this ALP plan. I have shared this concern with the teachers, differentiation soecialist, and Prinicipal at our school, and they all agreed with me, so I am not sure why it is still being used for all kids. Perhaps the are placating me, but I am sure that my child was not the only one affected in this manner. Now she is finally on the high group and doing really well.

Also, I do not understand how free 4th grade tutoring could occur for certain selected children and not others. What standards did the schools use in selecting those students? Is this RTI, or not? Because if it is, what "RTI Tier" is this? The state is supposed to go through specific guidelines about what techniques and strategies they have used to support struggling learners, so parents need to know if this is considered a tier or not. What happens to the child if the after school tutoring does not work? How long does it take before the child is referred for a school evaluation by the special education team? Because we all know the earlier learning disabilities are caught, the better, so I am just concerned that the after school tutoring and forced acceleration might be masking some children's real problems. RTI is supposed to be used as a way to identify struggling learners, so parents need to be included in an honest discussion with the PPS person and principal of the school right away if tutoring doesn't seem to be working.

Elementary School Parent

Anonymous said...

I am glad we are moving on from the distractions and onto the the future.

The various folks who criticized the blog as the cause of the issues provide a pass to the BOE. Somehow, a blog is responsible for all the occurs in the community but Marc Monyak and Marty Turek are not. They are simple bystanders. Obviously, the primary cause of the issues are the managers of the district and they are public figures properly subject to praise and criticism. The suggestion that they are helpless pawns is silly.

let's look to the boe to provide leadership to provide leadership on selection of a new superintendent, union negotiations, pruning the less qualified staff members, and the curriculum.

jay_wick said...

To: ESP 

I formerly taught middle school / high school mathematics. I never recall any of my "Methods  of Mathematics Instruction" classes or professors advocating for the continual "pre-test" strategy that the district does seem to employ but maybe things are different  today or among the elementary school professors.

What I do recall was when the BOE decided that they would move forward with "acceleration for all" it was very late in the school year. I specially recall a question directed to the "director of curriculum" in that BOE meeting about the teachers having adequate preparation to accept this compression and the response was along the lines of "220, 221, whatever it takes, we'll git 'er done"...

I also find it more than a little curious that when one googles "differentiating mathematics instructions"  this is the first result from a well know educational publisher -- <a  href="  >          
Subject Specific Resources </a> and it advocates the "pre-test before every unit".  Is is possible that such a quick search was the extent of the research?

In fairness  trying to tease out specifc strategies of effective mathematics classroom instruction as opposed to broad studies of various approaches  is an  extremely challenging endeavor -- there simply orders of magnitude more studies that advocate for or against specific texts / publisher offered curriculum materials...

The bottomline is that unless / until someone on the BOE dares to step up and say that is not micro-managing  to get some evidence as to how / why pre-testing in the norm in the district it is unlikely that anyone will know if  this is being done for any educationally valid reason...

Leslie Gray said...

I am also extremely concerned with how we are grouping children for math in the fourth grade. Before each math unit, our children take a pretest. These tests measure a child's exposure to the concepts that they will be taught in the upcoming unit. They are judged not on their aptitude but on how much they know about a concept before they have been taught it. They are then divided into three groups: emerging, developing, and secure. Our children take these tests every few weeks and they take away an enormous amount of instruction time.  This method of grouping is deeply flawed. First, you can have a fast learner with a very high math MAP RIT score and a slow learner with an average to low math MAP RIT score both end up in emerging because they have never been exposed to a concept - most likely because they have not yet been taught it! This is not fair to either child and it is not differentiation. The slow learner will struggle and will need more time to grasp the concept, while the fast learner will grasp it immediately and grow frustrated because he will not be allowed to move on. Second, parents are prepping their children for the pretests to get them into the advanced groups.  If we are going to effectively differentiate, our students should be grouped according to aptitude. On the NWEA’s website, the company that administers the MAP test, they have a case study of a California school that differentiated students according to MAP RIT scores. That district experienced true differentiation and achieved remarkable results. Moreover, that district did not waist valuable class time with pretests.

Although it may not be socially just, the hard truth is that all of our students fall somewhere on a bell curve. Some will need remedial math, some will need grade level math, and some will need advanced math. Some students will need a gifted program. It is unconscionable that this public school system does not offer both grade level instruction and gifted instruction. The one size fits all model that this district has adopted is simply indefensible.

I plan to say this at the next board meeting during public comments. I encourage other parents to speak up. I am attaching my name to this post. Please refrain from attacking me. I am okay with different view points - we can always learn from each other - but I am not okay with personal attacks.

Leslie Gray 4th grade parent

Anonymous said...

Here’s some good news … The moribund public education is ripe for a public/private partnership … Charter schools was one approach but it is hardly a comprehensive approach to the US global competitiveness of how to productively motivate kids learning, fast.

We passed the hat among a close group of local (HMS+CHMS), like-minded individuals with Bruce Rauner-like thinking and were quickly able to raise commitments about equal to the amount spent on the HMS mold fiasco.

The plan is simple, take a capitalistic approach to providing public education, borrowing best practices from the successful, now well established, for-profit education firms like University of Phoenix and DeVry and apply them to our unsustainable public education system.

Our plan is to prepare a “bid spec” and pursue RFP’s directly from DeVry and University of Phoenix.

With many of our group coming from the financial community we already have ties to Apollo who owns University of Phoenix as well as their CEO, Leon Black. Our initiative represents an enormous economic opportunity for the for-profit-education segment and will be a lightning rod for elected officials of both parties.

Moreover, there is a well established lobby for the for-profit-education segment, both in DC and state capitals around the country.

Our objectives and economic interests are aligned. No doubt we will prevail.

We are the future.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts on pre-testing highlight one of the most problematic issues that face teachers in our district. I agree that pre-testing takes up a huge amount of time and energy, for both the teachers and students. And you're right, in a case where a student has been tutored or prepped at home, the pre-test score reflects exposure, not aptitude. Depending on the length and depth of that pre-exposure, the child who has had it may sail through a unit or at least sail through the first few days of it, only to stall when the material to which he has been exposed ends. At this point, you've placed the teacher in a tough spot (Do you move the child back?), the child with the pre-exposure will now struggle unnecessarily with material he may not truly be ready for and, in now trying to bring that child along, you're taking time and attention away from the kids who really should be learning at that higher level. I've never been able to figure out why any parent would want to do this to their child, other than to make themselves and their child "look good" and "feel good about themselves". The long term consequences of doing so are potentially harmful as they will not be able to continue this practice through high school and, at that point, you've set your child up for failure on so many levels. Not to mention that you create a situation where your child is bored and disruptive at school and/or doesn't think that they are capable of doing their school work without help.
All of that being said, when my oldest child was in elementary school, children were placed in math and language arts tiers based on primarily subjective input by the teachers. I'm sure that standardized test scores were also considered (and at some schools, this was all that was used), but the way it happened would vary from school to school, teacher to teacher and year to year. Additionally, over-eager parents would constantly ask their teachers to move their children to a higher group and, in some cases, teachers gave into that pressure when perhaps they shouldn't have. The pre-tests, with all of their faults, do give the teachers something quantifiable and defensible to use in determining the groupings and something to point to when questioned by parents. MAP scores alone aren't enough to determine groupings, there has to be teacher input. Not having a pre-test puts a teacher in the position of having to say things such as "Your child just isn't at the same level of ability as these other kids". Now, teachers have ways of saying these things in a nice way and do all day, but parents in this district can be relentless. They don't want to wait for their children to grow and develop on their own schedule and they can't stand the thought of their child being average at anything - even when they clearly are. Additionally, some schools allowed flexibility and movement between the groups while others did not. One test at the beginning of the school year and/or standardized test scores alone, doesn't allow for the child who has a learning spike in the middle of the year or is super motivated or the bright child who is a poor standardized test taker, to be placed appropriately. I don't have the answer to this issue, there are many layers to it and, depending on your child's situation and experience, you can find fault with any grouping process. However, it seems to me that whatever method of grouping is used, there must be a combination of both subjective and objective factors used to determine the groups and parents, except in situations that truly warrant review, need to trust that our teachers know their students and will place them appropriately. Flexibility between the groups and standardization between schools are absolute musts. In re: the pre-tests, I think our teachers are in the best position to tell us whether or not they are worth the time and effort.

Anonymous said...

In re: the tutors, they were provided after parents became concerned that their students, due to compacting and acceleration, did not learn basic math concepts that they should have learned. The parents requested testing that proved this fact and the district had no choice but to provide tutoring to fill in these gaps in learning. I don't believe the tutoring has anything to do with Rti and I don't know if these students would be considered "struggling learners" or just average kids who shouldn't have been accelerated or exposed to 2 years of math in one. All of the discussion on this issues can be found on BoardDocs and in the meeting podcasts.

Anonymous said...

If all of the students in after school tutoring have learning disabilities, that would mean that 25% of the 4th grade class is affected. That's just not the case. After school tutoring was offered based on analysis of DesCartes reports, ISAT, MAP, and teacher observation. Gaps in learning and similiar aptitude most likely comprise the student make-up in the after school tutoring program. And I wonder how many students new to the district are in this group? And maybe there are some RTI students-don't know.

Back when it was decided that students would be taught multiplication and division in one of the elementary schools, it was believed that only about 16 kids would need this instruction. In reality, it ended up being 2/3 of the grade at one school. I think it's similar to what's going on with tutoring. Does the entire district 4th grade need grade level instruction? Absolutely not! Do more kids need it than were offered? Yes, I think so. If grade level instruction were just offered in school, would we be having this conversation? NO!

Anonymous said...

I am not an expert so I admit I do not know the best way to group these kids, but I do know that the way we are doing it now is not working. My child scored in the 98 percentile on the math MAP, exceeded state standards on the ISAT, and aces the post tests - yet he is put in the lowest math group based on exposure. This does not make sense. And he is not alone - there are many other children like him. As a district, we need to figure out a better way to group these kids and keeps these groups more stable - switch them 3-4 times a year, versus every unit. It probably should be a combination of MAP scores, post tests, and teacher input. The pretests also take up too much class time. The fourth graders are supposed to be on unit 5.7, but the schools are at 5.2-5.4. This is a very big problem that must be addressed. It is happening at all the schools, and the teachers need to be given more flexibility on this issue.

Anonymous said...

How does oak brook group students?

Anonymous said...

A couple things to keep in mind: MANY children in this district score in the 90th %iles on MAP and exceeding state standards in ISATs is very common in this district because you are comparing against students from inner-city schools, etc... This is an extremely high performing district and lots of kids max out the tests at the high 90's. Those scores alone can't be used to differentiate or you would have huge numbers in the highest group. This was one of the arguments for the compacting and acceleration - the test scores indicate and so many parents thought their children could be accelerated and move faster, the idea being to create a math program to fit the needs of our student population and provide increased challenge for all students who need it. Many children also perform well on post-tests (or make minor mathematical errors) because they have concerned parents at home who help them study and do their homework (as they should). Not addressing this to any particular poster but what parents need to keep in mind is that there may be other kids with those same scores who are just capable of moving faster and doing more, who have a greater natural aptitude than even a really able math student. That is where teacher input becomes critical. No answer for the exposure through tutoring, hopefully the teacher is paying attention to what is happening. Small class sizes allow this to happen more easily and for each child's needs to be met, in most cases, more completely.

Anonymous said...

The schools also need to keep a certain pace up and get through the material. If this means more homework, homework over the weekend, then so be it. I have one child who just finished Chapter 7 (math) and the other just completed Chapter 4. Both are in a classroom grouped by ability.

Anonymous said...

The above string of comments, which seem mostly honest and thoughtful, really do highlight the untenable situation that the district seems to have allowed itself to be painted into -- I'm gonna review where things currently are.

To begin it seems clear that to understand this problem one must roll back the calendar three plus years to the "dawn" of this "smart math" vs "dumb math" activism. Those vocal parents campaigned for some alternative. The alternative promoted was "acceleration for all". The "regulating mechanism" for that acceleration was the constant "pre-test". Parents that take action to ensure their children do well on the pre-test and up in the most accelerated group have skewed the natural tendency of students to be distributed along a Gaussian / standard normal curve. The kids that are unable to keep up with the pace of instruction have required a rather large number of schools supplied tutors. There is also a backdrop of disharmony with this strategy with the math department at D86, folks opposed to the instructional materials and disatisfaction with measurements of the district on state mandated standardized tests.

I would suggest that given the mess that exists it is unlikely that any solution will leave everyone satisfied. In fact it rather likely that with the complexity of the problem any kind of short term "triage" is going to result people being made more aware of the problem and likely increased disatisfaction.

Btw I generally consider myself a pretty optimistic person.

It should be very interesting to see if Dr. Moon or Dr. Friedman will address any possible path forward...

Skeptical Parent

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comments above, and the move away from the mudslinging, and these comments all go back to the core issue on the new curriculum, and one that the administration, and Mr. Turek, refused to address at the time. Namely, what was the data and background on the curriculum that was being introduced. No system is perfect but the question was why this system, why now. It was clear that the curriculum was built off of political goals, you can see that in the conferences that the administrators went to that proclaimed "non negotiable" principles such as social justice. What was never disclosed was the academic and scholarly basis for the new curriculum.

Ultimately, Dr. Schuster and others admitted in writing that this was a brand new composite concept unsupported by any data or scholarship. She even put that up on her blog before the BOE made her take the blog down. (I know she said this on her blog as her words were recorded verbatim on this blog before the BOE had them removed from the deceased Schuster Blog).

So, this is not a case where we have adopted a system built on years of experience, years of data, and it needs to be tweaked. It is literally build off glib talking points proclaimed at conferences without any underlying intellectual rigor. It is impossible to fix as there is nothing to fix. If anyone can find anything in writing that indicates the intellectual source of this curriculum, I would love to see it. Then we could talk about tweaks.

I say this because the mold issue sidetracked this blog. The reason that Mr. Turek's plans came under such attack at the time was based on fact not emotion. He implemented a curriculum without any intellectual or data sources basis. That is the core issue. If you want to support this curriculum, tell us what is being supported. It is impossible. We need to start from scratch and have knowledgeable people step forward with a real plan, based on real data, and adapt it to our needs.

My own view is that the terms social justice are code words for a far left wing agenda advanced by Turek, Yaeger and Nelson. They move away from addressing children as individuals and towards a group think that it is inappropriate. However, even if you support "social justice" and other concepts they are being used here without intellectual foundation and need to be introduced in a coherent and data driven way. The new team can start fresh and look to actual educational experts.


D 181 Parent

Anonymous said...

I agree but we shouldn't be grouping students who excell in all areas in the same group as children who have been identified as needing free after school tutoring.

Anonymous said...

Why are some schools grouping based on ability and others by exposure?

Anonymous said...

I agreed that we need a fresh start with knowledgable people leading. Can this happen with the two men who presented at the TASH conference on the administrative team? Can they change course?

jay_wick said...

Re: Poltics of Public Education

I cannot call any of the BOE members close friends but I have talked to most of them at least enough to get some sense of their political leanings / motivations and anyone that has done the same would know that it is highly unlikely that Nelson, Yager, and Turek would be on the same side of any traditional political issues.

That said I recall specifically warning the BOE that there are distinct political underpinnings to Common Core and anyone that ignores those underpinnings will likely be burned by the pitfalls of those political traps.

I would urge anyone that has not yet made at least a cursory examination of opposing views of education to go to the local library or head to Amazon and start reading some foundational philosophies of education ASAP:

Paideia Program, a Great Books Approach to Education

Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

The Politics of Education: Culture, Power and Liberation

We Must Take Charge! Our Schools and Our Future

Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon

The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core

I would also urge folks to get up to speed on why even very thoughtful people that once advocated for stronger national standards are very, very dissatisfied with Common Core especially in regards to the implications for the most capable learners.

Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards | Diane Ravitch

Common Core State Standards | NAGC

What Will Common Core Mean for Mathematically Talented Students? | Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science

Only the Little People Oppose Common Core | CATO Institute

Who supports the Common Core and why? | HSLDA

Perhaps by starting with first principles there is some way forward out of this mess...

Anonymous said...

Common core and learning for all are not the same thing, learning for all is not required by common core.

Anonymous said...

Common Core DOES NOT require grade acceleration. Many parents have been under the assumption that Learning For All was a result of Common Core. That IS NOT the case. They are two VERY DIFFERENT issues.

Anonymous said...

If parents are going to research anything, it should be what Common Core is what it isn't. It is NOT grade acceleration. Common Core means to go deeper into a subject-learn it backwards, forwards, sideways, up and down. What our students have done is just the exact opposite. They have moved fast, hence the word acceleration, skipped concepts, and rushed through concepts. That is not Common Core.

Parents should also research grade acceleration and what types of students are the best candidates for it. Grade acceleration is NOT for ALL students.

jay_wick said...

I almost forgot -- the most damning condemnation of the "standards" adopted for Common Core Mathematics specifically calls out the committee for BOTH failing to set the bar high AND gross failures in laying our enough specificity of how the early grade compression can hope to be implemented:

The Common Core Math Standards: Are they a step forward?

...[T]he 2008 report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, Foundations for Success, called for fluency in addition and subtraction of whole numbers by the end of grade 3, and fluency in multiplication and division by the end of grade 5. This is also what California calls for, along with high achievers like Singapore and Korea. (Japan and Hong Kong finish with multiplication and division of whole numbers even earlier, by grade 4.) Yet the Common Core defers fluency in division to grade 6. Fractions are touted as the Common Core’s greatest strength, yet the Common Core pushes teaching division of fractions to grade 6 without ever expecting students to master working with a mix of fractions and decimals.
...It is not difficult to show that the Common Core standards are not on par with those of the highest-performing nations.

Here is what Professor R. James Milgram of Stanford, the only professional mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, wrote when he declined to sign off on the Common Core standards:

And here is what a non-American member of the Validation Committee wrote to the Council of Chief State School Officers when declining to validate the standards:

I cannot in all conscience, endorse statements 2 and 3 [(2) Appropriate in terms of their level of clarity and specificity; (3) Comparable to the expectations of other leading nations] The standards are, in my view, much more detailed, and, as Jim Milgram has pointed out, are in important respects less demanding, than the standards of the leading nations.

We also have it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Professor William McCallum, one of the three main writers of the Common Core mathematics standards, speaking at the annual conference of mathematics societies in 2010, said,

While acknowledging the concerns about front-loading demands in early grades, [McCallum] said that the overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [with] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.

Jonathan Goodman, a professor of mathematics at the Courant Institute at New York University, found exactly that: “The proposed Common Core standard is similar in earlier grades but has significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries.”
I believe the Common Core marks the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States.No state has any reason left to aspire for first-rate standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government. Moreover, there are organizations that have reasons to work for lower and less-demanding standards, specifically teachers unions and professional teacher organizations. While they may not admit it, they have a vested interest in lowering the accountability bar for their members.

The path I would call for our district to embark is a difficult one -- writing better standards. To do this I would propose teaming with other high performing peer districts as well as talented professionals from some of the many fine college and universities in our region. Our district could use the experience of frustration and confusion as an opportunity to reboot the efforts to get more students performing at a higher level but only if the BOE and district staff have the courage to recognize that the path we are on is clearly not the right one.

Can our district take the lead in really working on something that could be a model for other districts or muddle through with more failure?

jay_wick said...

I had do a lot of editing to get the relevant info into the previous post limit of 4096 characters.

The take away should be that Common Core Mathematics standard DO INVOLVE some compression compared to previous standard like PARCC BUT FOR THE MOST PART our district was already ahead of that curve BEFORE we started undoing the tiers...

I agree that when the move to torpedo ACE arose out of the confluence of parents angry about "dumb math" vs "smart math", lawsuits over biases and Dr. Moon's report. The "fix" of acceleration was both ill considered and poorly timed in relation to Common Core refocus.

There is a lot to be gained from explicitly re-thinking how the district could lay the groundwork for something that is far better than the disjointed Common Core standards AS WELL AS acknowledging that it is not just foolish to try to eliminate differences in achievement / pace of learning but far better to articulate clear assessments (which ought NOT be just multiple choice tests!) for mastery of objective content at each level / sub-level. That cannot be done "part-time" or while also trying to calm an angry mob, but it can be done with the right kind of organization and the right kind of leaders.

Common Core does not require knowing anything "forwards backwards and sideways". We can and should direct our BOE to call for our allegedly talent district staff to work with experts to develop a framework that all of us can take pride in doing something that might be valued.

Anonymous said...

When using the phrase forwards backwards and sideways, it's another way of saying to go deeper into a concept....not skim the surface, which is what our children have experienced.

Anonymous said...


Your previous post, quoting Professor Milgram from Stanford and Prof. McCallum, is fantastic! It is a perfect example of using data and research directly from the people on the national Common Core Commitee to help D181 develop a great program for our schools. Thank you so mch for sharing it on this blog! It is information that all parents is do teachers in our district need to know.

These professors' ideas are based on years and years of thorough, international research that can not be ignored. It is vital for the BOE, our district math committee, and our new superintendent to not only be aware of this data, but that they understand and implement it as soon as possible. We all understand that the Common Core is a state requirement, and can not be ignored, but Prof. Milgram's and McCalkum's suggestions can and should incorporated into our district in order to help turn our math program around. It can be done. THESE are the experts that our district should be consulting and working with, not the salespeople or consultants from textbook manufacturers.

Thanks for posting such valuable information.

Village Mom

jay_wick said...

I do agree with Village Mom that we should be using the best information from the best sources to develop a district-wide approach to not just meeting "standards" but really exceeding them. And let me be clear, I don't just mean having high numbers on the standardized tests but really having a sound framework that clearly says how our district will ensure mastery and deep understanding of content.

I posted a long list of links that include a fairly wide range of foundational materials for developing not just math curriculum but a true philosophy of education. I honestly do hope that many parents and community members that believe in the value of education do endeavor to tackle some of these issues. It is not "micromanaging" and it is clearly within the historical purview of a local BOE to adopt policies that are signficantly greater than "minumum standards". I would argue that districts like New Trier have consistently been in the vanguard of exceeding standards while too many folks locally are satisfied with good enough standards and pushing taxes down.

Anyone that reads any of the links I provided about the deficiencies of Common Core will understand how just accepting the mish-mash of ideas contained in Common Core is not in the best intersts of our district or our children. We can and should demand better.

The folks that think Common Core standards are "good enough" clearly do not have knowledge / experince with the low expectations that too many folks in this country have for education. Nations not just in Asia but even from the former Soviet Bloc understand that the future will not be kind to countries that dumb down the potential of their best and brightest.

I would urge folks to learn about the many objections to the Common Core, demand a higher standard and invest in the resources needed to ensure students live up to their full potential.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with you. A pre-test on material that a child has never seen before can not possibly predict how that child will perform when he is finally taught that material. It is impossible. It, in no way, can accurately reflect a child's potential aptitude.

The MAP Descartes report, which comes out 3x a year, already tells teachers exactly what math concepts each child does and does not know. We are paying for this report, so why is the district not giving professional development to teachers so they can learn how to use it effectively? Not only is time wasted giving the pre-tests, more time is wasted when teachers have to correct it. The math committee needs to learn how to use the MAP RIT scores and the Descartes reports to their full advantage.

Teacher input is nice, but it will never be as consistent and unbiased as a score. Every teacher in this district has differing ideas and backgrounds based on their training and level of professional development in math, but every child takes the same test and gets asked the same questions on the MAP.

Village Mom

Anonymous said...

Take a moment to read this article.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 1 - Just a few random comments connected to some of the other comments posted today.

1. Keep in mind that CCSS (Common Core State Standards) dictate what students are expected to know/be able to do by the end of certain grade levels. As such, they are indeed a floor - not a ceiling. They are also mutually exclusive from Learning For All as they address WHAT to teach - not HOW to teach it. In fact, they go so far as saying that teachers have great flexibility in deciding how to get students to meet the standards. These 2 things - CCSS and L4A are definitely not linked. CCSS can be taught in anyway educators decide to do so and L4A could be used with any curriculum - any standards. (By no means conclude I am a fan of L4A or CCSS - I am not).

2. Every student actually DOES NOT take the same MAP test. There are different tests given in grades 5 and up in our District (the 6+ version), although the same RIT score (for example 200) means the same proficiency no matter which test is used. The 6+ just goes higher.

In addition, NWEA has over 32,000 test questions it draws from - 3,000 for each test at any given time. The test self adjusts at every question based on whether the student gets a question right or wrong. As a result, students taking the test at the same time might get some of the same questions, but every test is unique - even though the resulting scores, if identical, represent the same level of proficiency.

3. The MAP Des Cartes (sub skills) scores provide an incredible amount of helpful instructional information for a teacher. We have been using this test for at least 7 years in this District. It is a shame the teachers haven't been given consistent training on how to use this information to best target a student's instruction in reading and math.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 2

4. While I agree pretests take time away from instruction and should NOT be the sole factor used in grouping students for instruction, it is important to remember that pretests also serve as a valuable baseline for the instruction that follows. If a student scores a 35% on the Unit pretest and scores an 80% on the post test, then some good instruction/learning has occurred. If a student scores a 35% on the Unit pretest and a 55% on the post test, then the teacher know that not only was his/her instruction not effective for this student, but that that student is not going to have the necessary foundation to move on to the next Unit (if they are related) or the same concept in the same Unit the next year. Then the issue arises what to do about that student. It will take some problem solving to figure that out looking at what the teacher knows about the student, the student's history, and what instructional growth other students in the class did or did not make, when figuring out what to do next. Where I work the students get 60 minutes per day of Core math instruction and an additional 30 minutes 4-5 days per week of math "supplemental" where deficits can be worked on without taking away from moving forward in the core curriculum and high performing students can be additionally challenged. This is only 1 model, I'm sure there are many others that could be developed given the needs our teachers/students are experiencing.

Of course, the more difficult question is what to do with the student who scores 90-100% on a pretest, suggesting they have already mastered 90-100% of what is about to be taught. Acceleration versus more in-depth work on the same topic? I believe this was something Dr. Moon looked at and could probably offer assistance with (since we really have no administrators with gifted curriculum backgrounds - although we do have several really good differentiation specialists that I know of, and maybe some that I don't, that could lend expertise if allowed to do so).

I t would also be incredibly helpful if some of this type of information could follow the student year to year so every teacher doesn't have to start from scratch. A document added to each grade level with MAP and AIMSweb scores each year, Reading and Math Unit tests (including pre and post if given) and teacher anecdotal comments about a student's strengths and weaknesses in the curriculum would be an invaluable resource

It is too bad that in the last 5 years this District has not had anyone leading curriculum review/development who actually has had experience AND training in the field BEFORE being hired as a Curriculum leader in this District. It would be particularly helpful if we could find such a person.

Anonymous said...

This is how Oakbrook groups students - they have a very transparent web site:

The front page of their web site also says that they just voted in favor of full day kindergarten.

jay_wick said...

Wow, it appears that Oak Brook D53 actually has THREE distinct levels of mathematics classes that are FIXED upon entry into fourth grade!

Math Placement Matrix Grade 4

With their very small class sizes it must be quite nice for teachers and students on each of the levels to actually be teamed in such groups.

I wonder what it would take for parents in our district to embrace such indivualized instruction and move past the foolishness that arose out of the past mistakes?

Anonymous said...

When I began working in this area as a tutor 3 years ago, I was surprised to see how subjective some of the children's report cards seemed. After reading these posts, now I understand why. I think your points about the teachers not knowing how to analyze the MAP test results were spot on.
But math is not the only problem in this district. I see that this is also true in relation to how the teachers interpret the Fountas and Pinnell reading testing in this district for language arts. Those "F and P" test materials provide so much valuable information for teachers, but many teachers in this district, including reading specialists, are not trained in how to analyze those tests. The materials parents bring me from those specials are chock full of errors in analysis, which lead to poor recommendations for their students. A variety of materials can be good, but not if so many teachers do not really know how to use all of them comfortably.

I realize that my job working with small groups, or one student at a time is much easier than being a classroom teacher to a room full of 22. No one expects a teacher to be able to provide the same level of information to parents that I can give them, but I can not help but wonder why the district buys those testing materials if they do not provide adequate teacher inservice in how to use them. Everyday Math itself is not an easy textbook to teach from, but if teachers, and even parents, were taught how to use it more effectivley, it would have a better success rate. The children really need to be taught these concepts with consistency in order for the program to work. One or two inservice days, of only 2-3 hrs. each in the beginning of the year is not enough for any program to be successful. It needs to be ongoing. If the schools are investing so much money in textbooks, teachers should know how to use them inside and out. Not keep switching them, or constantly adding more "tools" to their bags.

This is not limited to just d181. For the most part, the private school teachers have even less training. You really can't expect teachers to pick up a teacher's guide and know how to teach the materials effectively if they are not supervised and trained in how to do so. They do not do this in college teacher programs. Teaching teachers how to use the testing materials effectively is an investment that benefits schools and children. Unfortunately, teacher errors in interpreting test results, in both math and reading, usually lead to incorrect placement of students in classroom grouping which, in turn, is not conducive to optimal learning.

Your comments about the training and background of the directors of curriculum make so much sense as to why the language arts program is severely lacking too. When Dr. Schuster and Stutz(?) made the sweeping change to "balanced literacy" and phonics, I was stunned. When parents began bringing me those pamphlets last year, I couldn't believe it. The rest of the state has been using balanced literacy and phonics techniques forever. The "whole language" techniques fell out of favor in the early 1980's.

The importance of schools providing proper materials and having teachers that know how to use them can not be overemphasized. This simply can not be provided by parents, nor should parents be expected to. If a parent wants to come to me to advance or accelerate their child, fine. But that is not what I see children coming to me for. Parents are bringing me their children just so those kids can keep their heads above water, and it is really troubling.

Anonymous Elementary Tutor

jay_wick said...

Re: Beware of Univeristy of Chicago School Mathematics Project

You will find LOTS of folks that do not like UCSMP, most of them tend to prefer "drill and kill" type of alternatives.
I can say without equivocation that such folks are misguided at best and woefully out of step with realiity if not actually intent on rolling back progress at worst.

Everyday Mathematics has FAR MORE emphasis on developing skills of estimation, error prevention, and scale / magnitude problems than any other widely availble mathematics instructional materials. People need to appreciate that these are in fact the needed areas of emphasis -- it is undeniable that for everything from "life skills" type mathematical operations like making change, cooking or balancing one's accounts to "rocket science" or astrophysics type mathematical understanding it is far better to be able to estimate the scale of numbers, know when things are wholly out of whack and quickly rule out impausible answers. These are things that students steeped in "drill and kill" methodology are rarely capable of...

The funny thing is though, if you really asked me, I do think that dictating instructional approach does tend to get into an illegitimate overstepping of what may be micro-managing. Think about it -- if really well trained educators are hired by the district, and they are given adequate guidelines about what the children need to master, appropriate in-service training on the range of curricular materials and sufficient time to develop their own depth of knowledge of strategies that are most effective with a range of students it really ought not be up to BOE members or district wide staff to dictate whether teachers use buttons, coins, unit blocks or just well written story problems to get students to a high level of proficiency ...

Finally it is true that with many well educated parents in town that when BOE members or district staff reveal their own ignorance of these matters it is especially galling. Maybe if we were a bunch folks that sweated away making sure widgets were churned out of the local mill with "slot a aligned with tab b" we could sit quietly by and do what the high faluttin' experts say is best but it ought to be abundantly clear with parents like Ms. Quinones and others we cannot be snowed...

Anonymous said...

Now would be a good time to remind people that the department of learning contracts are up for renewal. The above thread shows that we have many complex issues facing this district and that we need true experts to guide us. I urge everyone to contact the BOE and tell them just that. Also tell your friends the same. This district has smart kids and wonderful teachers, principals, and staff. We also have great parents despite what some people want others to think. It is time to reverse course. We need true experts at the helm, and a climate of respect. We also need transparent, open and honest dialogue. Finally, we need the BOE to exhibit true leadership.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Elementary Tutor and Jill, for your insight. I appreciate all of the dialogue that has occurred over the last several days. Although it has painted a very troubing picture about what is going on in our district, it is showing how parents can come together and support one another's children's needs. It's too bad that our district administrators haven't been having these same conversations. What I take away from the posts is that parents want a curriculum that will meet the needs of every student. The current model (L4A-I like that!) is not working, has not been working, and has way more flawes than it does anything remotely postive. It would be nice to have Dr Moon's true opinion of the state of the curriculum, but with her and her team only spending one day in the district and visiting every school in that time, how can a comprehensive overview be given and how can it be accurate? Parents should send her an email. Her contact information can be found by googling her-full name Tonya Moon. Let her know the "State of the Union" before she gets here.

Thank you to the parent that posted Oak Brook's placement information. Standard, Intermediate, and Accelerated Math. What a concept!!!!!!! And I am impressed by that district's level of transparency.

Anonymous said...

Re: True leaders

True leaders would embrace the well reasoned advice offered from all concerned parties.
True leaders would arrange their schedules so that it is a priority for face-to-face collaboration with their peers and accountability to their constituents.
True leaders would hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.
True leaders would work to overcome any shortcomings in their depth of knowledge by doing their homework.
True leaders would acknowledge any personal mannerisms that might be off putting and work to minimize them instead relying on them to silence critics...

Our BOE has an enormous list of truly demanding tasks to accomplish and little time to recover from the mistakes they have made.

Anonymous said...

I will note that you would be hard pressed to find any BOE meeting, or discussion involving the senior administrators, that contains the type of detailed comments on this blog thread. That is what has been missing for years, thoughtful and transparent discussion, not perfection, which is impossible.

Torty Murek.

HMS Parent said...

Can you please post this link as a separate post?

Anonymous said...


The reason that there has not been this kind of discourse on the BOE is simple: The leadership of the BOE is utterly incompetent!

The fact is that ALL the BOE members are elected as equals and the only reason that there has been a practice of designating one member as "president" is to facilitate meetings being run by Robert's Rules. It is abundantly clear that the current president has done absolutely nothing to further discussions or legitimately review any agenda items prepared by district staff. The rest of the BOE should give some serious thought to dumping the current structure.

The newer members especially need to break free from the tyrannical hold that has been imposed on them. They need to start thinking and acting with members that have largely been in the minority if they hope to salvage any hope of credibility. They ought to stop acting in the expedient interests of the unethical and shamelessly political president and start acting in a manner that will help the community, their own children and even the good staff of the district!

Further the fact that one BOE member continues to embarrass the few hard-working members by his continued non-physical presence suggests that serious thought should be given to changing board policies to require resignation if the demands of work are so great that only telephonic "participation" is possible for some set number of meetings...

It would be quite interesting if the Goudie-cams were pointed at the current "president" and a little interview revealed just how incompetent his leadership has been. It would soon be apparent that this BOE member deserves further elected office about as much as Blago did...

We Need A Coup!

jay_wick said...

Re: We Need A Coup!

I could not agree more! The current BOE "leader" is a joke. Hopefully Mr. Goudie got all the goods via FOIA requests to show the dirty fingerprints of Marty's efforts to hide the complaints from the rest of the BOE. What a late Christmas present that would be!

Funny thing too is that even the boneheads that run the way too simplistic "C4CH" give "No Show Nelson" a thumbs down and their "pal" Marty a thumb to the side... (Is is possible that even "Ump" Carlsen wants to "throw the bum out"???)

Anonymous said...

Bravo Mr.Wick!

Anonymous said...

jay_wick said...

Re: Common Core suffers more criticism

The NYT link highlights more than a few problems that folks that once supported the standards now see as major errors --

NY State Education Commissioner John King: “we could have prioritized parent engagement, and helping parents understand what the Common Core is, and is not.”

[US Secretary of Education Arne]Duncan attributed some of the unrest nationally to “white suburban moms” who discovered that “all of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought.”

The content focus is drawing criticism from all quarters one of the criticisms of the Common Core, in New York and elsewhere, is that it can be too demanding for young grades. Diane Ravitch, an educational historian, has said that very little of what is taught to first graders about ancient civilizations will stick with them; Mr. Hirsch and other defenders of the Common Core say children in early grades need lessons in history, civics, science and literature to build vocabularies and thrive. ... All the pushback in New York is “not optimal” for the shift to higher standards, said Chester E. Finn Jr., a former assistant education secretary and now senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Anyone care to speculate if more than one or two of our BOE members will read this info?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Moon will be visiting this district on Feb. 24. She will be visiting all the schools in one day and she will not be meeting with parents. It is important for parents to email het now and share their experiences. Her contact information is

Anonymous said...

The Dr Moon's contact info should be presented in an independent post. She needs to hear the WHOLE story not just the L4A version.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Moon certainly needs to understand what exactly is and isn't happening. I would guess most of the focus will be on the math issues, but please if you have input on the language arts curriculum please comment. I'm troubled that there doesn't seem to be a consistent approach to teaching grammar, vocabulary, and writing. While possible, I don't expect the teachers to be scouring the internet for grammar, analogy, and vocabulary sheets their class.

jay_wick said...

Re: Contacting consultant hired by district

I would much rather just question the value of this consultant's "expert knowledge" for the situation our district now faces. In this link from the NYT it seems Dr. Moon is advocating for more precise measurements / test. That approach may have been needed when our district had a comprehensive system of specialized instruction but there were questions about bias in selecting children, however that system has been been dismantled and now all children are theoretically allowed to opt in to the most demanding classes.

Test More Often, Dr. Tanya Moon |NYT
A key to better tests is making sure that students from a variety of backgrounds are included in the test development process. Not taking cultural differences into consideration when devising an identification system results in the under-representation of particular student populations — minority students, low income students, English as a second language students — in gifted and talented programs. In the end, districts should not be labeling students as “gifted” but rather serving them by helping them reach their fullest potential.

Since the district seems to embrace "acceleration for all" perhaps different consultants should be brought in.

It might be wise to start here:
The Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA) is dedicated to the study and support of educational acceleration for academically talented students.

Frankly there is no shortage of professors that have studied the best approaches to acceleration. There lots of practitioners with practical experience:
For smart girls to flourish, they need more than just their intellect. Creativity, emotional intelligence, mentors, and allies each have a unique place in a bright girl’s life. Join creativity researcher and ASU counselor Dr. Robyn McKay for a special conversation about the milestones and danger zones that smart girls encounter. Find out what parents can do to uplift, support, defend, and applaud their gifted and talented daughters. Smart boys are often ignored, as they are already doing above average work. In the absence of appropriate learning opportunities, these boys find avenues for learning outside of school, most often, they retreat to their computers. Video games and exploring the Internet offer them far more ways to experience novelty and complexity. In this session, Dr. Cohn describes some of the problems gifted boys face in school and how we might improve schooling for them.

Ideally we could find an educational researcher / consultant that is not just expert in eliminating sources of bias in testing / identification but in actually fostering the kind of environment that 'acceleration for all' seems to attempt to address however I was unable to find anyone with such qualifications...

Dr. Friedman does appear to have experience in evaluation of gifted education as well as hands-on experience --

Friedman Bio

Gifted Children in Regular Classrooms: A Field Test of Three Gifted-Education Models

Anonymous said...


I thought your comment was excellent in that we should question the value of what this expert brings to the table. We could probably find experts to support any viewpoint. How much more time do we want to waste (and $) Why not use Oakbrook's system as a template? Many of their students funnel into Hinsdale Central. Has our administration looked at the number/percent of those students that end up in higher math classes/honors? - Seems like commonsense to me. We are paying for our children's education-we don't need to agree to all the "outside" expert's suggestions.

jay_wick said...

Re: "Oak Brook" style math

I don't know that is is possible for our district to really pattern things like Oak Brook -- they have just a single middle school and one very small k-5 facility. That makes coordination a whole heckuva lot less challenging than we have to deal with, funneling three or four k-5 schools into two much larger middle schools. Further the class sizes in D53 are signficantly smaller than what is current the "standard" in our district.

Beyond these differences I don't know all the details in D53 for things like "ehanced language arts" or if they make any efforts to create more demanding social studies classes as I believe is still the case with our middle schools, though it is an "opt in for all" system (which also means that especially talented students may "opt down" which might cause some to wonder if this is educationally appropriate...).

I have attended D53 BOE meetings and I know that the elected members there do not shy away from digging into the policies of the district at every meeting.

Sadly when we have a dysfunctional BOE with members more concerned about furthering their own access to competitive info to further their business interests or too busy to physically show up for meetings it is easy to understand why they choose to hide behind a manufactured policy of "non-micro-management" instead adequately legitimate concerns about the direction of the disrict.

jay_wick said...

More on Professor Friedman...

The study I linked to above cites "The Williams Model" as most effective of the three studied for non-differentiated classrooms. It is also know as the "Cognitive-Affective Model".

As such it is no surprise that this model lends itself particularly to things like social studies as in this sample unit from Australia -- The Williams Model The work of Frank Williams was mostly done in the 1980s and while it is theoretically applicable across all content areas I would argue, from the perspective of both a parent and a former classroom teacher, much of the current focus on standardized testing is incompatible with the kinds of assessments best suited to what is essentially a classical Socratic basis of inquiry.

Of course the Regional Education Lab has material that would support this view Differentiating Mathematics and Science Instruction |1999 See especially page 34 on problem based learning...

I would argue that the decision to forego any signficant teacher training due to budget and time constraints is perhaps the root cause of our district's current mess.

This article on teacher attitude / prepartion is instructive -- Cognition and Affect in Mathematics Problem Solving

Anonymous said...

Certainly D181 couldn't model themselves exactly as Oakbrook does, but many students thrived under the D181 older "tiered" math model. I think if the guidelines were more transparent, and the teachers/principles more willing to discuss placement issues, more parents would be satisfied. I could be wrong. Everyday math is not the most rigorous program out there, and if you have a child who enjoys math, they will want to do more than 10 problems a night for homework. Many kids are being held back by this program, especially if the district continues to eliminate the tiers.

Anonymous said...

Friedman was a presenter at Kurt Schneider's conference.

They appear to be sold out for 2014. Their agenda:

I looked at the profiles of the speakers. I don't see Social justice as being the guiding philosophy for education in our district. Shouldn't we wait for a new superintendent before signing on a new consultant? We seem to be spending money like water. I think the writing is on the wall. This plan is not working FOR ALL.

jay_wick said...

Re: Tiered models

The decision to eliminate tiers is largely incompatible with the desire to insulate the district from any legal liability for bias in selection / identification.

The satisfaction of community members to no longer carry the scrouge of having children in "dumb math" also seems to have been a key component in this decision, however as there are still students doubly accelerated I am unclear how these things are reconciled.

It is not hard to find articles about heterogenous classes -- Poltics of Detracking

You may wish to google additional work by that author, Carol Corbett Burris , she is a high school principal in in Rockville Centre NY. She is quite active in promoting heterogenous classrooms .

Anonymous said...

This has me wondering how many lawsuits were initiated because of scores/input for the ACE program (limited number of kids) versus the tiered math program that affects many more children.

jay_wick said...

I know of no lawsuits filed over the prior mathematics tiering.

I know of at least one lawsuit filed locally and then moved to Federal Court over the ACE program.

jay_wick said...

More evidence that our district has not taken adequate steps to prepare for the new standards --

Common Core Places New Demands on Even Veteran Teachers
In moving to the common core, Mr. Dupree said, some schools are also relying less on prepackaged textbooks and curricula, which can make the transition even more challenging for educators and curriculum writers.

That is also the case in the Autumn Creek Elementary School in the 5,500-student Yorkville district in Illinois. Ashley E. Badger, the gifted resource teacher there, said her team has been knee-deep in rewriting and aligning the school's curriculum to the common-core standards for the past three years.

What one sees over and over in reviewing articles about Common Core is that opposition comes from all quarters -- the most conservative of groups as well as those traditionally aligned with progressive forces are both highly dissatisfied with the lack of empirical data to support many of the changes that are being wraught by Common Core standards --
Union Joins Opposition to Common Core
Parents have the most at stake over the education of their children, and should have a seat at the table when it comes to establishing the content taught in local schools. This is precisely why groups from across the spectrum are fighting against the centralization that Common Core represents. It strips control from the people who have the most at stake in the education endeavor: parents and taxpayers.

“Adopting Common Core national standards and tests surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to distant national organizations and bureaucrats in Washington. It is the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to the student: local school leaders and parents”

I would urge all parents and community members to quickly get up to speed on the pitfalls of allowing our BOE to rubber stamp standard that very likely will not help our teachers ensure the greatest learning for all.

Common Core and the Pitfalls of High Stakes Testing
Many teachers say pressure to prepare students for more rigorous Common Core tests means the youngest children are now required to do work that is wildly age-inappropriate. Examples include reading passages and questions that until now would be assigned to much older students, as well as confusing, overly difficult math problems. The tests and test prep, say parents and teachers, are crushing morale and self-confidence, while generating hatred of school.

Are these warning signs ambiguous?
I think not.

The essence of Common Core, with it standards set by poorly informed committees largely detached from any experience of what works to help children in either formerly high performing areas OR deprived backgrounds, is deeply flawed.

If we must prepare our children to do acceptably well on these tests it is imperative that we have district leaders that can articulate concise statements on what our teachers must expect.

Our teachers need to be given adequate preparation to understand these expectations, appropriate provisions must be made so that they can do these things both prior to start of school and throughout the year.
Folks that really want all children to receive the kind of instruction that they deserve will support these efforts.

Anonymous said...

It's Final: State Board Shifts policy on eighth grade Algebra

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jay_wick said...

Re: California's Action regarding Common Core and Algebra

I have some reservations about the items that California's State BOE has agreed to.

While he decision of that state's authorities strike me as a compromise that could be acceptable to some, the broader issues about watered down standards and lack of coherency remain.

Further I again see the trend to talk about these standards in terms of "social justice" --It's Final: State Board Shifts policy on eighth grade Algebra
For minorities that had been denied access to a course leading to college, she said, the “social justice concerns are not insignificant.”
But at the same time, Williams and others acknowledged that 60 percent of the eighth grade minority students in Algebra I did not test proficient on the CST. Many were required to repeat the course; of those, only one in five ended up scoring proficient on the CST. And if they did get a passing grade in Algebra I, they then “hit a wall in Algebra II,” becoming discouraged or failing the course.

What thoughtful parent or community member would read that and not say "these are not issues that are relevant to students that were topping out scores prior to changes" as was the case in our district?

To be sure I am fully sympathetic to the plight of students stuck in low performing schools. As a former teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system I was fortunate to mostly work with well prepared students in some of the top CPS high schools, but I recall doing teacher preparation in schools that had ill prepared teachers and a deficit of resources. Merely changing the "goal posts" without providing for those deficiencies will not solve any issues of social justice.

If anything the report from California highlights the problems with making these decisions about standards in isolation --
Doug McRae, a retired testing specialist from Monterey and frequent critic of the state’s policies on testing and accountability, said that the Board should have insisted on clear language in the standards stressing acceleration to Algebra He also disputed Adams’ and Honig’s claim that the federal government, for accountability purposes under NCLB, will permit the state to offer only one set of standards with one test per grade. Massachusetts is designing a second test for those taking Algebra I in eighth grade that will meet federal government’s technical requirements, he said.
“What you test for is what you teach,” said McRae. If Algebra I isn’t tested in eighth grade, then districts will take the path of least resistance and not encourage students to take it.
Patricia Rucker says the State Board must delve into how districts decide who takes Algebra
Districts or perhaps individual math teachers in each school will ultimately decide who’s ready for Algebra I or another accelerated course in eighth grade.

It would behoove our district to unite in taking the lead in clearly articulating the expectations we have for all students and providing adequate planning to ensure these expectations are met.

Anonymous said...


I'm just confused how the social justice viewpoint is relevant to our district. Aren't most of our minorities in the highest classes/levels? Notice there is no mention about parenting etc. The thing that really bothers me is that there was a complete lack of honesty when this Learning For All Plan was proposed. Parents do have options if they didn't agree with the "track" their child was on.

jay_wick said...

Re: Trying to unravel the "social justice" angle...

I tend to agree that such a focus is not really relevant to our district.

I do know that there are a handful of low income students in our district, some of them live right up my street. For the most part I applaud the efforts of their parents to live here and give their kids a better shot at educational success than they would have in pretty much any other town.

I suspect that the kerfuffle that surrounded the Federal lawsuit over selection biases for gifted education may be the only remote linkage to such issues and even then it would be hard to argue that traditional civil rights issues were the main motivation for that lawsuit...

Looking more broadly it is quite common to find references to "social justice" in education related research these days. One need not try too hard to understand how being "buzzword compliant" increases the career options for district personnel. Neither need one be overly cynical to see ties to other kinds of government expansion being promoted as a "social justice issue". I hesitate to link to any such references but anyone that cares to use google will quickly see what other poorly implemented government expansion is linked to this term...

I would caution that the term has become a code word used by some to advance a libertine social agenda coupled with a collectivist economic agenda

Again I feel compelled to reiterate my belief, based on conversations with those on the BOE, that they personally come from broadly divergent politic backgrounds. I have no fear that any of them wish to advance any economic collectivism or libertine agenda, but their lack of attention to the direction of the district and over reliance on the "anti-micro-management mantra" of the superintendent has greatly contributed to the rudderlessness of the district.

This lack of attention is most clearly seen in the confusion that rules math acceleration.

Until a majority of the BOE recognizes the error of their inattention I cannot see any way to get things back on track.

I urge all community members to assist me in pointing out to the BOE members that we expect their inattention to be corrected.

Anonymous said...

Wic, I expect that you will be in front of the BOE on Monday night?