Monday, February 24, 2014

We Are So Over the Moon (Report); What is the Status of D181 Two Years Later? (Part 2)

(taken from Wikipedia fat cow/moon images)

As we reflect on how D181 has traveled off course during the past several years, it’s important for us to recognize that we bloggers believe in equal access and opportunity for every educational possibility that exists within a school setting. We, through reviewing parent and community comments since the inception of this blog, realize that there are probably parents who are happy and relieved that the tiered services of the past are now a distant memory, despite the fact students while in the tiers across the district demonstrated solid gains on ISAT and MAP tests. For soon after Dr. Moon submitted her report to the D181 administration, Dr. Schuster took the first steps in eliminating tiered services and the ACE program for students who had been identified as gifted and talented, or what we now refer to as advanced learners. Subsequently, the Advanced Learning Plan was developed, which then morphed into Learning for All, despite the fact the initial goal was to better meet the needs of gifted and talented students. As many of our readers realize, D181 is in the throws of a massive, unfounded, non-researched ideology called Learning for All, which the administration claims was created as a result of Dr. Moon’s report.

Within the hallowed halls of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education are the offices of two professors whose area of focus is the field of Gifted and Talented Education. Yes, at the University of Virginia, the term Gifted is not considered a dirty word, despite the fact Dr. Tonya Moon believes this term should not be used as a label within educational settings, particularly those within impoverished school districts. You can read about Ms. Moon’s education and interests by clicking: . Moon’s focus is largely centered on the use of multiple measures and assessments within educational settings to identify children for gifted and talented programs.  Here is a sampling of her publications:

Standards Reform in High-Poverty Schools: Managing Conflict and Building Capacity  Tonya R. Moon 2004

A Primer on Research Ethics in the Field of Gifted Education

Tonya R. Moon, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400265, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4265, USA

Moon, T. R., Brighton, C. M., Jarvis, J. M., & Hall, C. J. (2007). State standardized testing programs: Their effects on teachers and students (RM07228). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.

Also at the University of Virginia is Dr. Holy Hertberg-Davis, who is a colleague of Moon’s. Ms Davis also consults for various school districts in the areas of gifted education and student performance. Her views on the field appear to differ from those of Moon in that her research promotes the notion that gifted students cannot be fully served within the regular classroom using differentiation as the main strategy. A recent article that appeared in Gifted Child Quarterly illustrates this fact:

Hertberg-Davis H. 2009. Myth 7: Differentiation in the Regular Classroom Is Equivalent to Gifted Programs and Is Sufficient: Classroom Teachers Have the Time, the Skill, and the Will to Differentiate Adequately. Gifted Child Quarterly 53: 251-253. (Click to open article.

We encourage our readers to read the Hertberg-Davis article which states in its conclusion: 

"For all these reasons—lack of sustained teacher training in the specific philosophy and methods of differentiation, underlying beliefs prevalent in our school culture that gifted students do fine without any adaptations to curriculum, lack of general education teacher training in the needs and nature of gifted students, and the difficulty of differentiating instruction without a great depth of content knowledge—it does not seem that we are yet at a place where differentiation within the regular classroom is a particularly effective method of challenging our most able learners."

Also of interest to our readers, the following text will offer a review of the most relevant aspects of the field of gifted:

Fundamentals of Gifted Education: Considering Multiple Perspectives (Click to open link to text.)

Within these readings, one will quickly discover that there are basically two major viewpoints concerning the appropriate educational approach that should be taken for gifted/advanced, high-ability students in today’s educational settings.

The first viewpoint, which our very own Kurt Schneider, Co-Assistant Superintendent for Learning, espouses to be a proponent of is the full inclusive strategy with the sole source of teaching through differentiation within a single classroom. He, along with certain college faculty (Moon, Tomlinson, Capper, Frattura, Friedman (newly minted D181 consultant effective June 2013 - click to open Friedman's contract)  believe all students can have their learning needs met by one teacher, maybe the use of a support aide (MRC director, a former gifted specialist (now differentiation specialist), and whoever else might be qualified to come into a classroom to lend support to 22 plus children.

Moreover, much of their descriptive research (compared to empirical research with data driven statistical results) centers on impoverished school districts and students of challenged socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, the use of labels for children is discouraged, and thus all children are collectively treated as a whole within a classroom. There are supposed to be no pullout services or special instruction provided within this framework. We believe this has been the goal of Schuster and Schneider since they began their employment with D181, and we now see the effects of their desire to become “pioneers” in the field of education by also foisting automatic grade-level acceleration into the brainchild of Learning for All.

The other viewpoint concerning gifted/advanced populations centers on the plain and simple fact that not all students should be accelerated. There is simply no research that indicates with certainty that acceleration for all is effective. Let’s take a look at a statement from the National Association for Gifted Children:

"Yet acceleration decisions should be made thoughtfully with the needs of the whole child in mind. In decision-making about the appropriateness of a particular form of acceleration and the extent of acceleration for a given child at a given time, educators and parents should consider the child’s intellectual and academic profile, socio-emotional and physical development, and preferences and dispositions of the child relative to the decision since acceleration may not always be the appropriate option for every gifted child." (Click to open NAGC Position Statement on Acceleration.)

If this respected organization does not believe all gifted children should be accelerated, how can all students in an entire grade, or an entire district be accelerated? The NAGC statement is profound because the decision to implement grade-level acceleration in math last year for all third graders, which is continuing this year in fourth grade, goes against the recommendation by this nationally respected organization that has been around for 35 years.

Did the D181 administration consider the “child’s intellectual and academic profile” prior to forcing him/her to learn an accelerated math curriculum? No.

Did the D181 administration make the mantra of acceleration for all decision “thoughtfully with the needs of the whole child in mind?” No.

In our opinion, and to use Dr. Moon words from her 2012 D181 report, D181 has obviously committed “educational malpractice.” And the majority of the Board of Education continues to blindly support our soon-to-be Ex-Superintendent and her hired Department of Learning foot soldiers: Schneider, Russell, Benaitis, Igoe.

Here’s what we have now as a result of Dr. Schuster and her administration’s zealous attempt to push their unproven, “pioneering” ideology: a taxpayer-supported public school district that no longer offers grade-level math for third and fourth graders. In addition, children are now heterogeneously grouped in reading and language arts, which test results show average performance (as evidenced by the most recent MAP scores).

Is this what you signed up for? Is this what a public school district should provide to its community?

So, what’s the next step in this now two-year “pioneering” process? Exit Dr. Moon and enter Reva Friedman:

Here is a sampling of her research, beginning with her most recent publication:

Friedman-Nimz, R. et al. (2006). Blending support and social action: the power of a gay-straight alliance and Prideworks conference. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 17 (4), pp. 258-264(refereed journal).

Friedman-Nimz, R. (2001) Creating a context: education against oppression. Advocating
for Gifted Gay and Lesbian Youth. 3(2), 1 - 2. (Invited lead article).

Friedman, R.C. & Lee, S.W. (1996). Differentiating instruction for high-achieving/gifted children in regular classrooms: A field test of three models. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 19(4), 405-436. (refereed journal)

Lee, S.W. & Friedman, R.C. (1994). Inclusion and gifted education: Addressing teacher preparation needs. National Association for Gifted Children Research Briefs, 9 (refereed publication).

Friedman, R.C., Lee, S.W., & Knowlton, H.E. (1994). Project Partnership: The Kansas Educational Inclusion Model: Final report. Kansas State Board of Education

Yes, yes. Dr. Friedman, whose all-inclusive social justice background perfectly aligns with our own Kurt Schneider, the abject behind-the-scenes orchestrator of Learning for All. Let it be known that Ms Friedman has actually worked with Schneider in their professional speaking engagements at conferences.  (Click to open brochure for 2013 Social Justice Institute. Page 7 shows both Friedman and Schneider as lead presenters.) We find it quite fascinating that while an RFP process was used to select Dr. Moon, no such process appears to have been followed in the hiring of Dr. Friedman.  Yet, according to D181's contract with Dr. Friedman (which was published on the 2/10/14 Board Docs in response to a request from Board Member Heneghan), she was hired in June 2013 at a rate of $1500/day plus expenses to provide her expertise in the area of “gifted” education to D181. Our question: why was Dr. Friedman hired? What has this administration provided for the needs of gifted students, let alone all of the students who need additional enrichment or support this year?  Answer: little to nothing.

So, there you have it. At Monday night’s BOE meeting, we predict the torch will be passed from Moon to Friedman. It’s obvious she will have limited ability to view this philosophy with objectivity, given her background and educational experiences.  And we can already hear the praise and accolades Turek, Nelson (from afar) and Clarin will toss out like fresh meat to a ravaged and suffering administration who has worked so hard for our students to achieve what mostly consist of average results. (More on that in a future post.)

So we must all brace ourselves. Monday’s BOE meeting, 7pm at Elm School, is sure to be one for the history books. And while the banter, dogma, and double talk spew out of the mouths of our administration, elected board officials, and our taxpayer-funded consultants, we should remember how we got here and where we are going. Does anyone really know?

  • Moon’s contract that was the catalyst for radical cultural change in D181: $56,000 over a two year period (including compensation for Monday’s on-site visit)*
  • Friedman’s contract to continue Learning for All: $1500/day plus expenses X 6 days (those that are listed in the contract, with more to come).
  • Family tutor: $60/hour X 2-3 days weekly to keep up with accelerated curriculum.
Remember this: Dr. Schuster clearly stated the Learning for All plan would not cost the district additional dollars. She was wrong. Unfortunately, it has cost tens of thousands of dollars in tutoring, coaching, and consultants.

Most importantly, it has cost our children dearly.

*Note:  Moon's original contract was for $42,793, however, she subsequently billed the district additional fees for services she considered outside of her contract. (Click to open Hinsdale Patch article regarding Moon's fees.


Anonymous said...

Ok, let me see if I have this right. We eliminated advanced math and reading but now taxi and bus students to the middle schools for double acceleration on the sly? How about these chauffeured pull outs! Way to go D181!

Anonymous said...

Many things are happening on the sly because this new system is not working for the majority of students. Over the past weeks some changes have occurred that I find very coincidental -1) 8th grader in ELA/Accelerated math (no complaints because had opportunity to take these classes) starts getting pulled out in another class for "differentiation". 2) Elementary child now starting vocab lessons and Word within a Word is now being tweaked. Just more examples that this whole program was not buttoned up at all and the kids and teachers are suffering. Teachers are scrambling to make it work and the children aren't learning what they should be because this is all "theory". We are being taken for a bunch of chumps! Some of these administrators and paid consultants saw the $ and opportunity here in D181. It's insulting that the public comments were moved to suit the fabulous consultants. No way should they be shielded from the practicallity of their recommendations.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, does anyone else see a pattern here. Schneider has his own agenda for social justice and brings in two consultants who seem to write a lot on gay/lesbian issues. I certainly don't have issues with someone's sexual orientation, but I would not expect to see it as a driving force in my child's educational programs. Is Schneider really trying to help our children or help his own personal cause? The only social injustice I can see here is one that has been thrown upon us for obviously personal reasons, not educational reasons that are in the best interest of our children. Are we hiring the best, most qualified individuals or those who fit the criteria most supported by Schneider?

Anonymous said...

Public comment after "guest presentations" is the way they've been doing things for a while. This isn't new for these consultants.

Patricia Orler said...

I don't read this blog, but this post was forwarded to me. I am disgusted and embarrassed to be part of a community that would post this graphic along with the anonymous blog. The authors have demonstrated an amazing lack of intelligence and an abundance of ignorance. I fail to see how the graphic and the anonymous comments "support the education of D181 students''. You state that you seek to avoid name calling, yet you post anonymous comments that are hateful and beyond insulting. You should be ashamed.
Patricia Orler

Anonymous said...

Just because the board has ignored the public comment policy in the past, doesn't make it right.

The Parents said...

Ms. Orler: Since you say you don't read the blog, then you haven't read our posts and comments of people explaining why we choose to remain anonymous. Not everyone has remained anonymous, and they've been attacked. Also, since you say you don't read the blog, then you haven't read the posts we have spent considerable time writing that address our concerns -- concerns that when brought forward by letter, public comment or in person meetings with most sitting board members and current administrators, have been ignored and discounted. We highly respect your intelligence and the insight and observations you've made publicly in the past regarding D181 issues. We would welcome your perspective on many of the concerns we, the bloggers, and parents (many who have publicly spoken out at board meetings) have raised.

Anonymous said...

It is widely known Ms Orler no longer has children in 181 and is now a L4all supporter. She is not living our nightmare. I suggest that if she finds this blog offensive, then she shouldn't read it.

Anonymous said...

With so many serious issues facing our district, someone chooses to be offended by a graphic?

Anonymous said...

The graphic is offensive??!!

I have looked at from different angles and all I see is a cow jumping over the moon.

Pat, do you see something else?

On a more serious note, while I congratulate Ms. Orler on writing under her own name, she can't possible be reading the same blog. While the mold posts got a little out of hand, the discussion of curriculum is not name calling at all. It is interesting and important.

I invite you Ms. Orlder to explain precisely why you are disgusted, beyond whatever images you discern in the cow that have so disturbed you. What is ignorant? Why is citing to actual documents offensive. Why are you afraid of debate and the free exchange of information?

Jens Glager

Anonymous said...

Its only a paper moon

Sailing over a cardboard sea.

(albeit a moldy cardboard sea)