Common Core Science Presentation Held Last Night (3/19/14)
Last night the D181 Administration hosted a Common Core Science Presentation at Elm School. Both during and after the presentation, we received comments related to it and the current science curriculum offerings in D181. This morning, we were asked to publish the "Science" comments in a free standing post. Here they are:
HEY -- I am sitting at Elm school now. Quite possibly one of the least dynamic speakers ever, flipping through literally grey background slides about the Next Generation Science Standards it is no wonder that evaluators see too much classroom time being spent on "rote" learning methods...
Jay, ask why we don't have science books yet and when they are planning on getting them? Is there a Science Committee too? I didn't bother going because I figured a new administrator would switch everything up anyway so I didn't bother going.
It's as if the administration and BOE( the majority) are just going through the motions to create the illusion that they value our imput, our concerns-yet their actions tell a different story. From the poorly constructed suveys, to the poor presentations, to the lack of probing, insightful questions from the majority of the BOE .It's all very telling. Sadly.
There were a pretty good complement of central office adminstrators, some principals, and teachers. Fewer than two dozen parents (wonder what certain members of the BOE would read into that...) and at least one BOE member that has been consistent in her clear desire to get more answers...
The problem is not just the not "non-dynamic" speakers that seem less than "laser focused" on improving science education, it is that the "next generation standards" themselves are filled with the kind of language that seems more designed to placate poltical constituencies than actually get more kids interested / excited / proficient in science -- look at this document: Next Generation Science Standards certainly fits with buzz word filled educationalese that some of our adminstrators seem so steeped in...
Why isn't our district already primed for really good science instruction? Is is realistic to expect that a district like ours MIGHT already have all the materials needed for hands-on science? Teachers skilled in methods of instruction that encourage inquiry and creative problem solving? Adminstrators that actively encourage a learning environent that encourages staff to work on delivering a top notch experience for all? I would argue strongly that some of those things were already in place prior to the district's foolish decisions to "degroup" learners.
Make no mistake, the current push for STEM Fact ought not come as a surprise to anyone. The NSTA has been "beating the drum" about a mismatch between our increasingly tech oriented world and instructional methods that are often indistinguishable from pre-Kennedy era "space race" science reforms. Has no one in our district been a champion for more modern methods & materials?
Honestly my expectations for this little presentation were not high, but when adminstrators act like the shifts to having kids read across subject areas and use mathematical skills to measure things are some kind of "major shift" I have a hard time not getting angry -- 35 years ago I myself recall have better science education! Mind you I went to a pretty run of the mill schools where "educational technology" included a black & white Zenith TV and phonographs that looked they could have been built by Thomas Edison himself!
Probably the most "enthusiastic" of the district's staff is sadly the one that has already announced they'll be leaving. Incredibly disheartening, and not much comfort in hearing even him say that they understand parents' concerns about only having their kids experince 5th grade (or any grade...) just once.
I also have to say I'm a little perplexed about even Mr. Bousquette's comments regarding the foundation -- am I alone in thinking a district like ours ought be funding the needs of the classrooms without help from a third party? Don't get me wrong, if there are costly "extras" that are way outside the range of "normal" educational expenses then the help of the foundation is a great resource, but if the district literally has not not "retooled" the materials for things like middle school "applied technology" in some time I have to ask why the heck not? I mean you would need to have been living under rock to not have some sense that everything from Lego Mindstorms to 3D printers have been part of the most technologically forward thinking schools for quite some time now...
It as though the more I look at things in our district the further behind the curve we appear to be in more areas. WHY IS THAT?
Exactly correct, Jay Wick. For your own sanity's sake, you probably don't want to start scrutinizing the language arts program anytime soon. Shocking how our district only turned to what last year, our administrators touted as the "new" balanced literacy, when other schools in much poorer districts have been teaching with balanced literacy techniques for over 15 years! HOW do our highly paid Department of Learning Administrators get away with this? Doesn't the Illinois State Board of Education monitor anything? Why isn't the ISBE out here monitoring why our board is allowing our administrators get away with such blatant incompetence?
You are not alone in wondering why The Foundation and PTO's are pumping in hundreds of thousands of dollars to D181, but our kids don't even have a a roof over their heads at HMS. Nor do they have science books or hot lunches in elementary schools. Why?? Oak Brook offers catered, organic lunches. Problems like this happen when there is not enough accurate communication between the community/donors and the administration. When no one listens to the teachers and parents complaining, and you only forge ahead with what's flashy and impressive rather than what's really important, a solid base of knowledge, problems occur.
When The Foundation and/or PTOs invested so much money in iPads, for example, they didn't take into consideration that teachers would be spending their professional development time on learning how to use iPads instead of figuring out how to compact 2 years of math into 1 without consulting the University of Chicago Everyday Math folks. Nor did we donors have any idea that no one from the district level would ever try to create some modicum of consistency throughout the schools.
Instead, a good superintendent should have insisted on teachers becoming experts in how to teach math, science, and language arts before lending shiny new toys to our 4th and 5th graders. Or that they would let a special ed administrator run around at conferences promoting a "social justice" agenda. 5th graders with atrocious spelling skills, not learning vocabulary words, or using the Write Source books? No problem! Pads can look up unknown words. Poor handwriting - so what, that's what keyboards are for! Too bad our high schools don't have iPads, though. And too bad our kids don't even have keyboarding skills before they leave 5th grade. Parents have been begging for more foreign language in elementary school, and especially Chinese. So why isn't the Foundation offering that? Instead, it is offered during our children's lunch time at expensive Language Stars rates. They should poll parents parents or, better yet, qualified experts on what the best things to invest in education are, not just allow themselves to be sold on the latest gadgets that sophisticated tech companies are hawking. And we certainly don't have to pay a fool from Virginia $50,000 to give us some clues.
Dumping so many gifts on our undeserving administration has allowed them to funnel cash reserves to their salaries instead of towards books and building maintenance. The Foundation should cut off all donations to administration until the BOE starts taking its obligations more seriously. Because we all give so freely, we have created a district that is spoiled and irresponsible in its responsibilities. The price of privilege doesn't JUST affect children.
I couldn't agree with the above comment more. Well said. And, in re: the Oak kids, they have a couple of things going for them: many super involved and informed parents who have been active in these BOE issues for years, great teachers and a knowledgeable principal who put off Ipads and other teacher distractions to focus on the basics and all of the curriculum changes. He was severely criticized a couple of years ago by some parents for "holding our kids back" but, in hindsight, he did the right thing. Oak kids aren't tutored any more than any other school's students and their third grade class last year was the largest in the district. I hope that the newly purchased Ipads don't prove to be a distraction now and take precious teacher training time away from the new math curriculum, science and implementation of the common core.