Sunday, March 9, 2014

Important BOE Meeting on Monday, March 10 at 7:30; Show Up and Be Heard, Email the Board, or Forever Rue the Day

(Taken from Wikipedia Cat and Fiddle images.)

They say every cat has nine lives; that fairy tales and folkloric fantasies provide happy, positive endings to what would ordinarily be a lesson in futility and negative consequences. Hmmmmm….such references have led us bloggers back to a classic story that has stood the test of time, much like the sound educational practices of yesteryear that have been tried, tested, and still are the best platform and strategy to use when educating elementary school children.  Those of you who were educated with such practices years ago understand what we are speaking about, and we all know it works for the majority of school-age children.

So, with the issues that have dogged D181 for more than 2 years, we now see a chance for all parents, teachers and taxpayers to voice concerns at the upcoming 3/10/14 Monday BOE meeting, 7:30 at Elm School. Upon reviewing the information posted on BoardDocs (click to open meeting agenda), we believe the ball is now in the board’s court, to paraphrase what a community member told the board two weeks ago. Instead of voicing our own concerns about upcoming topics on the board agenda for Monday’s meeting, we plan to wait and see if the BOE members actually pick up the ball and engage in thoughtful discourse or let the ball drop.  

Will the board pick up the ball or drop it?  We will all have to wait and see.  In the meantime, we would like our loyal readers to read Dr. Moon's report and the other documents posted by the administration on BoardDocs, and consider contacting the board to voice your opinions on the following:

·      Are you satisfied with the final report from Dr. Moon? (Click to open Dr. Moon's follow-up report.) Why or why not, and what are the implications for Moon’s report on our district?
·      Do you believe Learning for All has benefited our district? Why/why not?
·      Do you believe in and trust the D181 administration?
·      What are your reactions to the math committee presentation? (Click to open math presentation.)

While we invite parents and community members to submit comments to this blog, we also believe it is imperative that parents and community members speak out at this stage: test scores are largely trending downward, facilities issues at HMS continue to plague the district, Dr. Moon’s brief report could have serious implications for our students and staff, and yet again, the math committee is reviewing options for a math program that has yet to be identified.

Speak up and speak out. At the very least, please send an email* to the BOE about these and other issues of concern.  

We can’t just sit on the sidelines, fiddling away, while hoping our issues will be addressed by someone else.

To think they will be is just a fantasy.

*You can send emails to the entire board (and Dr. Schuster): 
to individual board members:;;;;;; 


Anonymous said...

I urge everyone to review the sources dr moon cites. They are not exactly what she makes them out to be - quite the contrary.

Jill Quinones said...


I agree. Her cites are not exactly what she makes them out to be. Here is a letter I sent the BOE and Drs. Russell and Schneider this evening.

Part 1

Dear BOE, Dr. Schuster, Dr. Russell, and Dr. Schneider,

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with information I sat down this weekend and made a chart which I am attaching here for you. I started with the commendations (+), concerns (-), and recommendations (R) made by Dr. Moon in her first report, added in those identified in her recent follow up report, and then added a column looking from a parent's perspective (mine) what had and had not been done over the last 2 years. I loosely grouped her comments by topic and tried to line up where she made comments on the same points in both reports. I pretty much included her comments word for word, although I did compact here and there. The numbers in parentheses are the page numbers the comments came from so you can easily see from where I pulled them.

In adding my own perspective I also color coded green for accomplished, yellow for started but not finished, and red for not really started. If I missed some information that is out there and more is done in certain areas than I know of I would love to be corrected. That last column is my perspective from what I could discover on the District website.

What my visual really highlights, I believe, is that while the District did create a philosophy and structure in accordance with Dr. Moon's first Report recommendations, there is a significant amount that has either barely been started or not started at all necessary for successful education of our children. And many of these items that I see as yellow or red are those that most parents, and I dare say teachers, would have expected to be in place BEFORE actually trying to educate our children under the new structure.

Jill Quinones said...

Part 2

Most glaring to me is the lack of well-articulated specifics as to differentiation. Some of the most basic differentiation is driven by RTI. RTI plans were due to ISBE about 5 years ago. RTI plans require the use of research based interventions when children are struggling. Although State-required RTI only speaks to the struggling learner, it would be expected that a similar process would be in place for the higher achieving learner pursuant to the advanced learning philosophy. So why is it these specifics, if they are in place, cannot be communicated to parents? Dr. Moon is suggesting they are not really in place. What exactly is the District RTI protocol? Where do parents access it? Parents should not have to initiate their children receiving RTI interventions/differentiation. In addition, conclusions from Team meetings about interventions outside of the regular curriculum/differentiation should be communicated to parents from teachers as they happen. Certain benchmark scores (high and low) should trigger immediate consideration for research based interventions. Grade level teachers and differentiation specialists should also be meeting on a regular basis (5, 6, 7 weeks?) to look at benchmarks and classroom assessments to drive instruction and interventions. Classroom teachers should be looking at data on an even more frequent basis to drive this instruction. If such a protocol exists, it is not on the website nor has it ever been shared with parents. If such a protocol exists it does not seem that it was shared with Dr. Moon.

It is great that there is a structure and you feel it can be paraded in front of others at conferences as a success. Unfortunately, as Dr. Moon has now pointed out, again, what that structure says is happening and what specifically is happening day to day for students is random and not well articulated. I am not saying there aren't good things going on in the classrooms; I know that there are. But, as a parent who is also an educator I would expect from this District and for the tax dollars it receives from me better articulated, consistent programming and teachers who had been provided appropriate training and supports BEFORE being asked to implement a structure that has no data supporting it from use anywhere else. For example, Dr. Moon forewarned of "a myriad" of issues related to whole grade math acceleration that needed to be considered. Because this did not happen, and the District took a structure and ran with it, it is forced to trying random reactive interventions (like teacher-provided tutoring) when all students are not successful in the same accelerated curriculum. Teacher-provided tutoring using what? Where is the research base for that intervention? This is just one example.

I take no comfort in Dr. Moon's conclusion that 84% or parents approve of their student's education. Not only was that survey sent around at the beginning of the year before the effects of random programming changes were implemented, but the 84% is 84% of 316 parents who answered question 5 (not question 6 as Dr. Moon cites). 55 parents who responded to the survey did not even answer the question and 316 out of the close to probably 6,000 parents or 3,000 families who could have responded can hardly be interpreted as overwhelming approval.

I would urge the Board as you look at candidates for Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of Learning to find candidates with the strongest background in curriculum and instruction generally and data driven, differentiated curriculum and instruction specifically, so that all of the red and yellow can turn green in less than another two years. Our children need the Best Practices and other recommendations made by Dr. Moon - especially those from two years ago that remain undone - to be undertaken immediately.

Thank you,

Jill Quinones

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of 2

Dear Board Members,
My husband and I spent some time Saturday morning reviewing Dr. Moon’s follow-up report. We wanted to address one aspect of the report and then share some information that we have uncovered doing our own research that pertains to Learning For All.

Dr. Moon sited Thomas Jefferson Magnet School of Science and Technology located in Fairfax County VA, Fairfax County Public School District, as support for all students in D181 enrolling in 8th grade Algebra 1.

“The District moved to commit to having Algebra I as an 8th grade offering for all students. This decision was made as a result of extensive reading into the research literature. This decision does not come without its opponents as well as proponents. However, many of the top high schools in the country require that 8th graders complete Algebra I prior to admission (e.g., Thomas Jefferson Magnet School for Science and Technology, Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools, U.S. News & World Report, 2013, #4 ranking).”

Here is some information on the highly selective admissions process for Thomas Jefferson Magnet School for Science and Technology High School.

-Attendance is based on an admissions test which consists of a standardized mathematics and reasoning test along with two essay questions, prior academic achievement, recommendations and essays.
-Students must be enrolled in Algebra 1 or a higher math course in order to apply (as Dr Moon stated).
-Using a sliding scale, the math and reasoning test score is combined with the student's middle-school GPA to form an overall, objective ranking; the admissions office designates the top scorers as semifinalists, a group generally about three times as large as the planned freshman class. The semifinalists submit further information, including teacher recommendations, awards, previous experience in science, mathematics, and technology, and several personal statements. Two selection panels review this information, along with the student essays written during the admission test, and select the next year's freshman class.

Hinsdale Central is a very good high school, but Thomas Jefferson High School is in an entirely different league. This is an apples to oranges comparison and not relevant to this district.

In researching Thomas Jefferson Magnet School, we discovered information that indeed pertains to Learning For All about two school districts in similar socio-economical areas such as District 181. Fairfax County is ranked 3rd for median household income in the country. Montgomery County is ranked 11th.

The Fairfax County Public School’s curriculum used to look very similar to Learning For All. They cherry picked concepts/skimmed the surface/skipped concepts to accelerate, which created achievement gaps for students. So in order to close the gaps, they instituted a modified version of that curriculum, which was implemented in 2011-12 school year. This link is an audio/powerpoint explanation:
This is a link to the current curriculum:
Major issues with math acceleration have plagued the Fairfax County Public School system since at least 2008, but in order for students to be better prepared for higher level mathematics, the district has made changes to the curriculum that are in the best interest of its students.

Anonymous said...

Part 2 of 2

In addition to Fairfax County Public School System’s acceleration woe’s, Montgomery County Public School District, has also experienced a similar fate. In a Washington Post article (not a blog, not a community newspaper, but The Post) dated Nov 5, 2010, it was reported that Montgomery County Admits Kids Were Pushed Too Hard In Math. This district implemented a program very similar to Learning For All and it failed. We highly encourage you to read this article and the comments afterward.

We believe that we can speak for parents in that we stand corrected. Whole grade acceleration has been attempted in other school districts. Montgomery County Public Schools admitted failure. Both, Montgomery County and Fairfax County Public School districts, have made changes to their curriculum so that they are more aligned with the Common Core State Standards. They offer grade level math and acceleration tiers when students are identified as ready for those opportunities. D181 should be learning from these huge mistakes made by these school districts, not recreating them.

The article from the Washington Post was dated almost four years ago. District 181 is behind the eight ball. It has been almost two years and we are still trying to make Learning For All in its current form work, when we have known for a long time that it does not. We are still trying to do something that has been proven unsuccessful in other districts. We are continuing to beat our heads against a locked door thinking that this will make it open. Learn from other district’s mistakes. No program is going to be perfect, but Learning For All is a disaster. Please do what should have been done long ago. Put a stop to this program.

Amy and Dave Alex

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading Moon's report and it is a joke. As the parent of a fourth grader, I have had almost two years of frustration and disbelief in dealing with this L4A plan Moon is now distancing herself from. How nice. She gets paid nearly $60,000 and for what? So she can run around the district with Schneider to observe classes for 5 minutes and then write a short, crappy report? I can't believe this actually happened in our district!

The Parents said...

Mr. and Mrs. Alex: Your letter to the board was very powerful. Would you consider allowing us to run your letter as a free standing post? Or would you prefer if it remains in the comments section of this post?

Anonymous said...

To the Parents: You have our permission to run our letter as a free standing post. Let us caution readers that we are not advocating to adopt Montgomery County or Fairfax County's curriculum.
Amy and Dave Alex

The Parents said...

Jill: can you please send us a link to the chart you reference? And if so, do you give us permission to publish your letter to the board and chart as a freestanding post? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Amy. Dave, and Jill, thank you so much for your letters and research. Your letters are finally giving us parents the understanding as to why the program in the last two years has been such a failure.

If teachers and principals were to bring forth information like this to parents, they will be fired. We are so thankful to you for finally pointing these major problems out. I am disgusted that our schools do not have the same basic safety nets in place that almost every other school in the nation does! My friends and I have all wondered why D181 claims to have RTI in place, yet when we ask for it, they can not provide it. Going to those meetings is such a waste of time for both parents and teachers.

We all need to be at the board meeting tonight to demand answers from the Department of Learning Administrators tonight.

Jill Quinones said...

Dear Parents,

Yu have my permission to publish as a freestanding post. Here is a link to the chart: