Monday, March 10, 2014

Letter to BOE providing Comparative Analysis of Dr. Moon's Reports: "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. "

Readers:  Last night, D181 parent  Jill Quinones sent a letter to the board addressing Dr. Moon's report and then submitted it to this blog as a comment.  The letter referenced a chart that provided a comparative analysis of recommendations and commendations Dr. Moon made in both her 2012 and follow-up 2014 report, and spotlights  what has and has not been implemented in D181.  We requested that Mrs. Quinones provide us with a link to the chart and asked her permission to publish her letter and the chart as a free standing post.  She has now provided us with both; the link that will open the chart is copied below followed by the letter .  We thank Mrs. Quinones for the time she spent over the weekend preparing the comparative chart.  It is clear that it must have taken her hours of review, reflection and analysis.  Her observations and conclusions shine a light on the weaknesses of the Learning for All Plan and the need for the Board to immediately address them.  Let us hope that the Board does not turn a blind eye to the substantive work done by Mrs. Quinones (and Mr. and Mrs. Alex), work that should have been done by the Department of Learning and presented to the Board for discussion some time ago.
Chart created by Jill Quinones:  Click to open chart.
Letter from Jill Quinones to the Board:  (Note:  For emphasis we have highlighted some of the text.
"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. 
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"


HMS Parent said...

Impressive and incredibly thorough chart Jill! Too bad the majority of the board members will either not bother to read it or process it or perhaps even understand it. Same with our Dept. of Learning. Please apply to serve on the Curriculum Committee, although you probably won't get picked, because it is unlikely they will fill a slot with someone who is will ing to be a hard worker and has superior intelligence.

Disgusted Parent said...

Have you read the Q&A's that were finally posted on board docs? The answers were an embarrassment -- once again. Every tactic to deflect or provide non-answers was used by Dr. Schuster. I'll only give one example since you should all read them and form your own opinions. I've copied the link at the end of this comment. Just cut and paste it. Example (and note that I've "paraphrased" Schuster's answers: Back in January, Heneghan asked for Dr. Schneider to present info on his "non-negotiatbles" theory. To date, NO such presentation has been given. Now Garg has asked for Schneider to present to the community. Answer: He'd love to! We'll get back to you with the date. Today's questions included Heneghan's again. Answer to him: Ms. Garg has asked for a presentation, she's going to get a presentation and so you'll get your info at that future, still unscheduled presentation. THANKS FOR NOTHING Dr. Schuster. Please do us all a favor and get your "lame duckness" out of here now. Don't wait until June 30. We need a superintendent working EVERY day, who is willing to give substantive answers to YOUR BOSS' questions. You are not able to or willing to, so please hit the road.


Anonymous said...

Impressive Jill! Well done.

I agree about the questions being deflected. Why do we take MAP tests if we are not going to analyze the data?! Are we REALLY not going to talk about the Moon report tonight? Shame on you Admin! And shame on you for hiding over a million dollars of HMS bills. Fire them all tonight!

Anonymous said...

Another Disgusted Parent-

Yes, I just read the questions and answers. Unbelievable. Also, with all that is happening the only questions came from Ms. Garg and Mr. Heneghan. They are the only ones representing D181. Many of the "answers" should not be considered answers. Please call them out.

Anonymous said...

BOE-The administration is treating you and D181 like complete idiots. Time to clean house. How much more deception are you going to allow?

Anonymous said...

Personnel is up on Board Docs but no mention of administration contracts. Looks like Clarin's wife is retiring in 2018.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

If the board did not vote last night on the contract renewals of the central administrators, then I believe under their contracts, they will AUTOMATICALLY RENEW on April 2. When I was on the board, I was given a copy of the contract template and I still have it. It states that the contract is between the board and the employee. It also has a provision that says the board "will" vote to extend, revise or non-renew by April 1. Failure to act by April 1 results in an automatic renewal of the existing contract under the same terms (which would, I believe, be the same salary). Let's hope the board did read this provision to mean that they did not have to vote to renew by April 1. The auto renewal provision, I believe, is intended as protection for the employee if the board is negligent and misses the April 1 deadline. They couldn't then come back and say, oops, it is June 15 and by the way, you are not getting renewed! The employee would be protected and respond, that he/she was renewed automatically. Since there is no board meeting before April 7, unless the 2 addendum that are not up yet (3 and 4) are the administrative contracts, then "I smell a rat!" Let's wait and see. I've already emailed Jean Duggan, Schuster's assistant and asked her to post all of the personnel consent agenda. I am also going to file a FOIA request this morning for all of the contracts.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Correction to last post: I meant to say "Let's hope the board did NOT read....."

Anonymous said...

Thank you Yvonne-

Great liberties have been taken by our Learning dept. administrators. I feel they have not been honest about this entire plan, and their contracts shouldn't be renewed. This would give our new Super more opportunity to correct things. It makes perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

After listening to the meeting-

I really feel bad for the kids-they are OVER tested. Not only are they pre-post tested to death, they now take the MAP three times a year, ISAT (soon to be PARCC) now Russel and Benatis what them to take another test. Enough! Maybe some kids want a fresh start when they enter highschool-some kids mature later, some decide they need to buckle down and work harder. I"m not sure tracking them from 3rd grade on and making all this data available is for the good of the student.

That being said-Isn't it obvious when a program/curriculum isn't working well. Where's the common sense these days.

jay_wick said...

Re: Contracts & Tests

I would be surprised if the BOE did not make some changes to the contracts of some / all of the staff -- they spent an extended period in executive session and I can only hope that with the expertise that many on the BOE should have in how to properly construct employment contracts and ensure for responsive staff I would not expect things to be on "auto-pilot". The responsibility for improvements in how the district provides support to teachers and students must come with a renewed sense of responsibility for district staff! That must mean changes to how they are evaluated / compensated / employed...

To transition to something that is worse than "auto-pilot" -- the testing does seem to be done with some hope that the flurry of numbers will somehow convince parents and community members that things are OK / moving in the right direction. The district leadership has a very bad habit of trying to see the "bright side" of numbers even if that means overstating reality / failing to assess things in a balanced way. Last night Mr. Heneghan had to remind staff that saying that "winter numbers for math growth are the best we've ever seen" must be taken in the context that this is only the second time those assessments have been given on the winter schedule AND that the growth for this group of kids is consistent with the sort of growth that they've shown in the fall testing. It is not fair to say these things are due to what is happening with these kids in school or because of increased efforts in tutoring -- the fall test was administered just weeks into school...

Testing does present a whole range of dilemmas -- most teachers, administrators and education researchers will agree that "too little is not going to give valid result, too much is going to steal valuable instructional time" and trying to be "Goldilocks" and get things "just right" is more art than science.

My "intutition" says that we need to cut back a bit on testing -- not so much that kids get anxious when faced with mandated tests, but given that the kids do have LOTS of interruptions to school already AND the depth and breadth of what the Common Core expects them to master is increasing their simply needs to be more time spent engaged in solid learning of content.

I do think that IF the right kinds of tools are used across the district (and the cooperation with other districts did come rather late in the evening...)there could be benefits that might free up some time used for testing. That presumes that the tools being considered do in fact allow more analytic information to both be easily input and generated about individual performance and trends of the cohorts / class levels. If the tools being considered do not live up to the hype that will face yet another "gap" in our "data dashboard" that has been a source of continuing problems for many years...

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical about more testing. Next year the new PARCC test will replace ISAT. The administration will have that to analyze. They also haven't used the MAP data to its fullest. I wish the Learning Dept. would have spent more time IMPROVING our curriculum instead of looking for more ways to analyze what isn't being taught!

They say...we can look at the data and make adjustments...I think we've seen how resistant the administration is to making adjustments.

jay_wick said...

Has the district leadership really been resistant to make adjustments or perhaps just more hesitant to admit...

...that maybe some of their ideas are not really working all that well and for a variety of personal reasons they'd rather make fixes outside the bright lights of public meetings.

I don't really know the answer.

I am reminded of a incident from the not too distant past in a setting that does have some similarities to the sorts of criticism that happen in our district:

Most of you probably know that Apple is one of the most closely watched consumer oriented companies on earth. Their history, of birth in a garage in Silicon Valley, near death at the hands of "professional managers" that tried in vain to mimic the success of Windows PCs, and triumphant return to dominance under the guidance of its phoenix-like founder Steve Jobs is the stuff of legends. One of their greatest product introductions was the colorful and easy to use iMac which perfectly coincided with the internet boom in 1998. Along with that colorful computer came a distinctive but hideously un-ergonomic mouse -- Apple's Hockey Puck Mouse Widely critized as one of Apple's worst design mistakes ever, they stuck with the product for two years. In those two years there was NO public acknowledgement that this was a really bad idea and very little sign that anything would change. Of course when Apple did overhaul their Mac offerings a shiny new mouse that was signficantly more advanced was also part of the of the change -- Apple Pro Mouse

While I don't mean to suggest that anyone in our district leadership is either as secretive or driven as Mr. Jobs, my point is that behind the the public "face saving" of failing to acknowledge things are not meeting expectaton may be hidden / frenzied efforts to try to come up with better solutions...

Or at least that is what I hope for!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schneider was lying last night when he said that math compacting was required to get ready for common core. If his statement really was true, then why are we the ONLY school district in Illinois with mandatory math compacting?

The administration also lied about the energy savings that would be obtained from a four day work week (a community member had to point this out).

The administration also lied by omission when they said the fourth grade map winter scores were the highest in history. This is only the second time we took winter map!! So it is the highest of two times (and not by much - and judging by the parent reaction this is largely due to private tutors).

We need a satisfaction question survey ASAP:

1. What grade is your child in?
2. How do you feel about math compacting?
3. Are your child's needs being meet under the learning for all plan?
4. Have you had to hire a tutor because of the learning for all plan?
5. How do you feel about all the pre and post tests and switching around of teachers?
6. Are you satisfied with the performance of the administration?
7. Are you satisfied with the performance of the BOE?
8. General comment section
9. Are you satisfied with the reading and writing program?
10. Are you satisfied with the science program?
11. Are you satisfied with the foreign language program?
12. Are you satisfied with half-day kindergarten?
13. Are you satisfied with class sizes?
14. Are you satisfied that this district does not offer grade level learning?
15. Overall, how satisfied are you.

Finally, Ms. Garg you are way more than just a mom. Thank you for trying last night and for all that you do. We appreciate your efforts.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 1: Last night's personnel consent agenda and addenda are now available for all to read on Board Docs. The board did not approve any contract renewals for the majority of the central administrators. The mysterious separate votes last night were actually votes to non-renew 2 lower level central administrators. So now the question that remains is whether or not the Board is going to call a special meeting to conduct a public vote on the contract renewals of the rest of the administrators, or whether they will allow the April 1 deadline to pass without a vote, at which point the default language of the contract kicks in and the contracts are automatically renewed.

Make no mistake, the contract language is clear that the Board must vote before April 1. Failure to do so will result in all of the administrator contracts being renewed for another 1 year, under the terms of the existing contracts. Should April 1 pass without board action, the contracts AUTOMATICALLY RENEW without a board vote and any attempt by the board to vote at a future meeting (for the sake of appearances) will simply be a sham.

Any employment lawyer knows that the first sentence in the contract provision calling for the board to vote on contract extensions is the one the board should follow and the second sentence addressing what to do if it fails to meet the deadline is simply a stop gap to prevent the board from negligently missing their April 1 deadline and then trying after that date to non-renew an employee.

Past practice of this board has been that they VOTE on contract renewals publicly via consent agendas. The consent agendas are then published for the community after the fact. For example, last year, 2013, the board DID VOTE publicly on the contract renewals. On March 18, 2013, the board approved one year contracts for the administrators as presented on a Consent Agenda the board VOTED on during the meeting. The March 18 meeting was a SPECIAL MEETING. The agenda for that meeting indicates that the only thing discussed first in closed session was personnel. Then the board reconvened in open session and voted on the personnel consent agenda. All of the administrators listed on the Consent Agenda were given one year contracts because the majority of the board voted to approve them.

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Part 2:

The following is the link to the March 18, 2013 Consent Agenda:$file/March%2018%2C%202013.pdf

Minutes of this meeting that describe the very detailed votes taken by the board, including the fact that one or more board members (including me -- as I was on the board at that time) voted NO on certain portions of the consent agenda, can be accessed at:$file/Sp.%20Brd.%20Mtg.%20Min._3_18_13.pdf

Let's hope the board does the right thing this year and calls a special meeting before April 1 to publicly vote on the administrator contracts and afford EACH BOARD MEMBER THE OPPORTUNITY TO CAST A VOTE. It should publicly vote on whether or not to approve one year contracts for the current administrators who were not "non-renewed" last night. To do otherwise would be a complete abrogation of their responsibilities and careless disregard of the contract language.

Policy 2:020(2) specifies that one of the duties and responsibilities of the board is: "Employing a Superintendent and other personnel, making employment decisions, and dismissing personnel." Contract renewals are "employment decisions" and "decisions" can only be VOTED on in PUBLIC by the board, and not reached by "default" if a deadline is ignored!

Community members have written to the board expressing concern over the contract renewals of one or more administrators. The community and taxpayers have the right to expect the Board to follow its policies and adhere to the contract language which is clear that "A decision on this contract’s extension, revision or nonrenewal will be made by the BOARD no later than April 1." (per the contract template) Again, the word "decision" is used AND a decision requires a PUBLIC vote where each board member is allowed to vote yes or no. It does not mean decision by "default."

BOE, the community is watching how you choose to handle this situation. Please do the right thing and be open and transparent.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

And this is another article about the soaring costs at HMS: