Sunday, September 28, 2014

Has Insanity Returned to D181?

As the blogger administrators, we have been following the comments posted by community members over the last two weeks regarding the math pilots, learning committee, the apparent dismantlement of the Learning for All Plan "acceleration for all" model and the "raise the floor to raise the ceiling" mantra that was previously preached by Dr. Schneider,  and his promotion to run the Department of Learning.

We will continue posting comments, but we are sufficiently concerned with the state of affairs in D181 that we feel compelled to publish, as a free standing post, the following comment we received this afternoon.  Please sound off if you agree or disagree with the content.  We are very troubled by the implications of this comment and fear that D181 has not "turned the corner" from the darkness that blanketed it under the Schuster/Schneider administration.......


"Insanity-doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

For 2 years the administration used an inclusive philosophy to compact/accelerate students a grade level ahead in math. It was a complete failure for our now 5th graders. Students were kept at the same pace-one grade level ahead. Beginning in 3rd grade (for our now 5th graders) every 3rd grader was taught 2 years of math in 1 calendar year. The term “taught” is used loosely b/c newsflash, most children are not capable of this in the first place, but I digress..... Teachers struggled to meet the needs of learners who were grade level and below. Teachers struggled to meet the needs of students who needed to move faster. Students in the middle didn’t get what they deserved because the teachers were pulled in too many different directions. Students suffered from a self-esteem standpoint. Parents were livid. The district ended up paying teachers to tutor students ON GRADE LEVEL after school so they could learn a grade level ahead during school.

5th grade across the district is now tiered with grade level math, and 2 classes of 6th grade math-one with bubble students just on the cusp of making the cut-off and one class moving at a faster pace. There are also students going to the middle school for math class. And guess what? It’s working. Everything about this works. The district, however, needs a policy to support double acceleration so that schools are applying it consistently across the board (but if the Admin has its way, it looks like this won’t be the case).

This brings us to the INSANITY part.....why is the district trying to implement Common Core with an inclusive philosophy? Common Core is just a set of standards. There is nothing that tells states/districts how to teach it. There is no mandate on how these standards are implemented. Common Core is controversial enough. Why implement it in inclusive classrooms? What in the past, having done this already in this district for 2 years where it failed, makes the Administration think that a teacher can differentiate to 20+ kids in a classroom of students with varying intellectual abilities in math? It doesn’t matter if you’re on grade level or a grade level ahead, an inclusive model will not be successful. Our current 5th grade is proof!

Parents spent 2 years fighting the BOE and Administration to end the now 5th grader’s compacting/accelerated/inclusive nightmare. And now the Administration wants to do it again with Common Core? White, what are you thinking? BOE, what are you thinking? Why are you letting Kurt Schneider once again drive this ship? What’s happening in 5th grade right now is working!! This class should be used as the model for implementing the new curriculum/standards. The Common Core pilot classrooms should have tiers so that teachers can learn how each group of students responds to the new materials.

Is this Administration insane? Insanity-doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. I think we can conclude that yes, indeed, they are.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the post. The inclusive classroom theory is one that gained favor in inner city, under performing schools where students were often "left behind". This has never been the case in D181. Flexibly grouped, ability based tiers where students are differentiated within their ability levels serves ALL students best. These types of tiers would almost virtually eliminate unit to unit classroom switching because, most, likely, teachers would be able to easily differentiate within the tiers and students would be of more homogenous ability levels. And, when we are done talking about math, perhaps we should begin to think about tiers in grades 3-5 for language arts as well and at the middle school for science.

Anonymous said...

The last two posts are spot on! Not only are our pilot classrooms fully inclusive, but they have also eliminated all advanced learning. Our advanced learners are confined to grade level materials and differentiation is limited to "going deeper." Which is confusing because the district web page describes learning for all as opening advanced learning to all students. Yet suddenly there is no advanced learning for anyone. Although the BOE sets the learning philosophy for the district, this profound change was made with no boe vote, no public notice and no data. What the heck is going on? We are told it is because we are in a new era. Yet common core has been around since 2010 and this district has repeatedly said we were ahead of the curve in implementing it. So what gives? Do we really want a district with no advanced learning? Do we want an administration that changes it's learning philosophy every few months with no accountability at all? Common core should be our minimum standards, but we should not dumb down this entire district to cater to them. Can we please exercise a little common sense! I agree - this is insanity!

Anonymous said...

How could Dr. White have allowed this illogical math pilot to exist? It flies in the face of educational research and goes against the basic priniples of learning theory. Dr. Schneider trying to somehow prove that all kids are the same because he is forcing them to be. Last year's atempt to force ALL of the 4th graders to compact/accelerate by doing 4th and 5th grade math in one year was a miserable failure. By December, 1/3 of all of the district's 4th graders had to stay after school for district paid tutoring. The schools that did not partiipate in the tutoring scored lower than the schools that did.

This year's pilot, however, instead of forcibly accelerating all children, seems to be forcing them all to go at a ridiculously slow pace with a "new" book of fuzzy math. Why didn't the Dept. of Learning their lesson that all kids aren't the same? Last year, their compacting pilot forced a large chunk of the children to fear math because it was too hard. So this time they figured it might be easier to just bore the bright ones? This disturbing theory makes no sense in either of its extremes. Again, D181's latest math pilot disregards the differences among the children who remain in the regular ed classrooms.

Tired of Social Experimentaion in 181

Anonymous said...

So the pilot has no high ability math groups, and wxtra repetiiton for the slower groups? The high group kids have to sit patiently while their eyes glaze over, so the teacher can teach whole class at a slower pace. And the kids who need more reinforcement in math, who would have been in a lower group, are being humiliated in fornt of the whole class. Nice.

This might work in college, when kids have already been sorted out into differnet colleges and classes according to ability, but it won't work in elementary school with teachers who have very little experience teaching CC math, and who get their math books switched up every couple years. Why cant the district just focus on getting the teachers ready for CC and keep the schools the way they were?

This is not fair to the teachers, who have been thrown into yet another pilot ill prepared. If the teacher's plan to differentiate is to have the quick learner partner up with the struggling learner and basicially do the assingment for him, this is wrong. The bright child is wasting her time, and the struggling child is missing a valuable opportunity to learn from the teacher. It make no sense to pay our teachers at 181 more than the high school teachers so other KIDS can teach the ones who struggle? Sorry, Kurt, but that is not real life, nor is it social justice. In colllege and high school, it's called cheating. In the work world, you get fired and find a job that you can do sucessfully and independently.

Anonymous said...

Echoes of Harrison Bergeron...

Anonymous said...

The Harrison Bergeron analogy is great and particularly appropriate since advanced students in the middle schools are required to read that story to learn all about the pitfalls of social engineering!

Disgusted Parent said...

The following is a comment I posted last week under 2014-2015 Community Concerns. I think it is relevant to this post as well so please republish it as a comment to your "Insanity post." I truly feel like D181 students have been "straight-jacketed" by Schneider who is trying to force them into his experimental mold. Please Dr. White, stop this madness!!!

Earlier comment:

I have just finished listening to the podcast of last night's BOE meeting and I can say that despite all of the flowery language used by Schneider, Benaitis, Walsh, and yes, even Dr. White during the math pilot presentation and discussion, all I came away with was reaffirmation that the curriculum department is being run by the wrong people who are all unqualified and inexperienced to be leading any kind of curriculum changes in any district, let alone one of D181's caliber.

Did Schneider really claim that we are living in a "new era" and that the common core standards have changed everything? YES, that is what he said as justification for moving away from all of the BS he forced down our throats over the last 2 years in the ALP/Learning for All Plan that HE, yes HE, brought to our district!

Is he out of his mind? The Common Core standards were not recently developed. They haven't "changed" in the last few years. Districts have been planning their implementation for more than 5 years! Vetting of the Common Core standards began by Dr. Stutz in D181 long before Schneider arrived on the scene and no one currently running the curriculum department can possibly claim that something "new" in the standards has suddenly made them realize that the Learning for All plan model of acceleration for all is no longer viable.

IT NEVER WAS!! Why can't these educational experts simply admit that their Learning For All Plan was hopelessly flawed from the outset, didn't work in years 1 and 2 and won't work in years 3 through 7? Why can't they admit that their use of our students as guinea pigs and lab rats didn't result in positive results in their curriculum experimentation of acceleration for all? Why can't they admit that they have finally realized that it is better to throw in the towel on this model and go back to grade level instruction with some forms of acceleration for students who might need it?? Why can't anyone in that godforsaken administration building ADMIT TO THEIR MISTAKES? Why won't Dr. White realize that until someone in the admin center OWNS UP and accepts responsibility for past mistakes, the parents whose kids have been repeatedly screwed over by all the curriculum experiments will NEVER trust the administration?

Is it because it would bring this district back full circle to the point this whole debate on tiers and appropriate placement of students began? Back to the real problem of finding and using appropriate identification tools? A problem that the curriculum department refused to tackle and instead tried to take the easy road by declaring all D181 students as gifted and ready for a full year of acceleration in the Common Core plus 1 model they called the Learning for All Plan?

Eliminating the acceleration for all model -- as was admitted to during last night's meeting -- but allowing acceleration for some students has led us right back to the beginning. Soon the chant from angry parents will start -- What is the identification method you are using? What is the objective criteria? What data do you have to support cut-offs or subjective placement decisions by teachers?

After three years of failed experiments which now Schneider claims is just a "new era" we find ourselves in, will anyone in the curriculum department be able to answer the never before answered identification questions?

I'm not going to hold my breath.

And by the way, if we are in a "new era" that requires us to stop the acceleration for all model, please tell me why Schneider is continuing to go out on the lecture circuit and preach about it?

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. White: I hope you are reading this blog and reading this letter. I am not going to sign my name because since things haven't really changed in D181 since Schuster left, I am scared that there may be retaliation against my kids if my identity if known.

Please fire Dr. Schneider and Ms. Benaitis.

It is the only thing that will save D181 from continuing down the path of darkness. Neither know curriculum or assessment analysis. Neither ever taught math. In fact, did Dr. Schneider ever teach elementary or middle school students?

Bloggers -- isn't enough, enough? You have stayed quiet for a while giving Dr. White a chance to get to work unfettered by public criticism. But how long can this go on? Things are not getting better, they are just being hidden under a smokescreen where parents haven't even been told that there have been significant changes to the L4A plan Schneider insisted would be nirvana. Did the BOE know these changes were taking place? Did they vote on these changes? How can the administration or board justify them? Where is the data and research that shows that anything should have been changed?

No more excuses. Fire them!

Anonymous said...

This MATH PILOT - is a missed opportunity for the kids who are going through it!!!! More parents need to go to Board Meetings to speak up and write to the BOE!!!! This is pure and simple Education Malpractice.
- I am extremely disappointed parent

Anonymous said...

Dr. White - if you do not distance yourself from Schneider and Benaitis - and do it fast - your time at D181 will be short. You are losing the support of the community. Instead of coming in and making our curriculum mess better, you have made it worse. And where is this transparency you claimed you would bring back????

Anonymous said...

Dr. White-

Our community wants a curriculum supported by data-Map and ISAT trends need to be considered among other things. We have been asking this for years and it should be presented in a timely fashion-not 5, 7, 8 months down the road. You need to demand more. Everything should be challenged. We are so tired of spin and delay.

A strong signal of your committment to this community would to open up the curriculum meetings to all that are interested. All attendees should be allowed to speak as long as they are repectful. If you want to truly know D181 concerns -this is a great oppportunity. Many parents are juggling so many things that attending BOE meetings, only to be pretty much ignored (as in the past) ends up last on the list. This was Dr. Shuster's plan-now make it your own.

Also-math curriculum gets a lot attention right now, but our Language Arts program needs to analzed as well. What specifically is being done to help reading comp, grammer, writing skills. I noticed a few great things last year in one grade, and not in another. One terrfic resource was used for 2 months then was pulled. Why aren't we discussing this? -"Best Educational practices...that isn't specific enough and won't cut it for long. This community will embrace you if you step up, challenge our current curriculum and ask the hard questions. Please. We need better leadership than we've had in the past.

jay_wick said...

It is my belief that too many folks in the broad education community see every "shift" as not just an opportunity for 'systemic /progressive change' but also as their own personal window to literally profit from the confusion that such shifts precipitate.

As a philosophical starting point it is incumbent upon the community to voice their concerns to the BOE and for there to be clear policies that the superintendent will follow.

Let me be perfectly clear: I have absolutely nothing against a retired educator or a someone like an adjunct professor supplementing their income with these sorts of activities but when a well compensated staff member who ought to be expected to be devoting 100% of their professional energy to the district that so generously supports them is enmeshed in networks that bring them personal profit / notoriety promotes their own agenda, an inherent conflict arises.

One need not look hard to find folks that are running seminars to help practitioners understand Common Core standards. There are even folks specifically targeting areas of special education from every level, administrative to things like speech language pathologists -- Seminar for aligning IEPs to Common Core Standards or
Integrating Common Core Standard for Speech Language Pathologists

I suspect there is some real value in most of these seminars and I have no issue with practitioners that take a reasonable amount of time attending them, districts that pay for them or the professionals that use these to supplement retirement income or part-time teaching / professorships.

The issue of allowing highly ranked, well paid district staff to devote time to such endeavors is troubling. Especially given the ire that is brewing among even some reasonably fair minded community members over things like the overall compensation, including generous pensions and benefits, it behooves our elementary school BOE to take action before any destructive elements turn these kinds of things into campaign issues...

Similarly any staff that falsely conflates true Federal laws, that have been place for many decades with no real changes, with the adoption of Common Core standards, will bring unwanted scorn and derision into the discussion. The simple fact is more than a few attorneys that make their living representing school boards live in our district and any one of them could very easily torpedo the nonsense that comes from over zealous promoters of radical change. What do Federal Laws require schools to do about inclusion? Again. let me emphasize, in talking with many teachers at our district schools, I have little doubt that there many professional that want to do the best for every child under their care. The fact is there is a wide range of experience / awareness of what is best in each situation and there will always be some subjectivity in who makes the final determination but we must have a district level administrator that can honestly promote policies founded in unbiased research and not just those that bring them personal gain.

Given this is now the season for the Caucus to be interviewing candidates for a properly vetted slate and there are folks independently circulating petitions for the spring elections it is my great fear that misinformation and confusion will lead to one or more radical "crypto-candidates" attempting to hijack our elementary schools BOE much as extremist ideologues are pressing D86 into a destructive strike. Any lack of clarity in the actions of the BOE or district staff must be avoided at all costs.

Anonymous said...

As a patent of a child who has been affected by Kurt Schneider's philosophies for the past 2 years, I can only conclude Dr White is attempted to please the board majority by continuing to support Schneider and Benaitis. What other explanation is there? One of the first decisions White made was to give Schneider even more responsibility. Seems like cow towing to the good old boy board majority to me. And then all if a sudden we stop acceleration? Are you kidding me? Who's running the show here? Looks like the board and White man crush on Schneider will contine.

Anonymous said...

Here is the scary thing folks - our BOE gave Benaitis and Schneider 3 year contracts last spring - even though MANY parents wrote and asked for them to be fired. There is an out that they can be terminated this spring, but if the BOE does not exercise that out we are stuck with them for 3 YEARS!!! And the old BOE will be voting not the new BOE. Way to look out for the best interests of our kids BOE - not!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and they gave them big fat raises too last spring. Makes you wonder who the BOE majority is really working for. Certainly not the taxpayers and students of this district.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Wick. Dr. Schneider's new social agendas have no place in our schools because they are simply trends. They haven't been tested by professinal researchers anywhere. Check the district's math pilot "Bibliography" which was provided to us only after the school year began. We must be wary of adopting trends that are not based on research.

For expample, look at the "open classroom " trend that heavily influenced the architecture of HMS. A large open space in the center of the school? An MRC without walls? It was uber innovative and cutting edge at the time. I am sure parents and the BOE at the time were thrilled to approve it. But did anyone ever ask other teachers who actually worked in those type of buildings how they liked it. How noisy it would be? Was there any proof that it boosted student scores? The style was never proven to be better than traditional building styles, yet we excitedly spent millions of dollars on a ridiculous, impractical design that hadn't been tested out for even 5 years anywhere else. Being a trend setter is fine for clothes, makeup, or something inconsequential that you can take off at the end of the day. But when months and YEARS of a child's education are concerned, trends are not as important that real data.

The common core does NOT support these trendy ideas of Learning for All and the elimination of tiering. Nor does the common core ask schools to suddenly turn into research institutions and to begin playing the role of philosopher, data collector, data analyst or curriculum writer. However, research does support more teacher training in math. It also says that the more time you spend teaching math (or any subject for that matter), the more the child will learn.

CC does not require new books. It only requires teachers to add some new teaching methods to supplement the books that D181 has. Our books are aligned to the common core. If anything, children need more time in school to learn language arts and math.

And I agree with the previous posters who call for the resignation or the firing of these administrators who dare to push these unproven trends on the BOE and our children. Not only are they not fulfulling their job responsibilities, they are wasting tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on books we never even needed or WANTED.

jay_wick said...

I have offered this before and I will say it again: to call for any employee to leave/ be terminated in a public forum is NOT a helpful stance. It diminishes the value of all the other info that lots of concerned community members contribute. It forces the most vocal and incompetent members of the BOE deeper into their mindless defense of indefensible positions and encourages all the wrong kinds of activists to sharpen their budget slashing agenda.


If folks have concerns about the performance or philosophical direction of staff there are channels that should be used to communicate those concerns.

When it comes to more broad concerns about curricular choices it is my hope that Dr. White can more effectively use the committee that is in place to help weigh in about those sorts of things. Unfortunately the manner in which that committee was constituted and the lack of access to the web casts that have become a hallmark of communication for our BOE meetings or timely /detailed minutes still leaves some questions about how effective this avenue will be.
In the not so distant past there was even LESS input about textbook selection and "pilots" probably happened completely under the radar. One need only look to places like Colorado where an overly activist / reactionary BOE is disrupting the educational process because of a wrong-headed confrontational approach.

It is paradoxical that as some parts of the operation of our schools have become more transparent and some community members both appreciate that and wish for even more collaboration with the staff, there are other community members ever more isolated and suspicious / down right hostile to the efforts to maintain/improve schools.

With our local high schools on the precipice of a strike that will only harm the reputation of the district, destroy home values, further demotivate teachers & students, deepen confusion about appropriate means of school funding AND LIKELY DO NOTHING TO LOWER TAXES IN EITHER THE SHORT OR LONG RUN I beseech folks to consider carefully the degree to which their own knowledge of the broader educational concerns can be deepened AND make every effort to help spread that knowledge to as many community members as amicably as possible.

Anonymous said...

Wick, I like you and all, but come on, proper channels? Please! Why don't you FOIA how many emails the BOE received from parents stating not to renew certain administrator contracts. These parents were ignored by BOE members. If parents want to call for the firing of administrators, they have every right. And they have justification for it, too.

jay_wick said...

We can disagree on how best to accomplish things, but it would be hard to argue that in the current environment folks that really care about maintaining / improving our local schools don't have a whole lot of allies and need to carefully choose their battles.

Anything that makes it easier for the less well informed "slashers" to point out any dysfunction / discontent in the district makes it harder to keep moving in a positive direction.

The appropriate window to end the contracts of ineffective administrators will come in the spring; dwelling on things now will not prove productive.

Btw, for info about the specific district level staff member that is the proximate focus of this discussion and their foray into offering their little road show in DuPage Co, please see the post under that topic.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered that if our community wasn't wasting so much of our tax dollars on so many unqualified and unwanted administrators in D181, and we weren't wasting so much money on unwanted and unwarranted pilots, studies, and committees, that we all would have more money and sympathy for D86?

Our overpaid, under qualified administrators and their unscrupulous educational decisions are tarnishing the reputation of worthy administrators and good teachers everywhere.

D181's recent failure to maintain he physical integrity of HMS has put a huge financial strain on our community, and we are all wondering where the money will come from to fix the dilapidated HMS. The money spent to fix HMS still comes from us, not insurance companies. It is not OK to raise taxes so we can cover the derrières of people who cannot do their jobs.

If certain people cannot do their jobs correctly, and are not willing to rectify their mistakes, (or even admit them!) why should they take our money? The least they could do is their jobs, but when they are too busy moonlighting, lying, and trying to justify their radical theories and mistakes, WHY should we pay them?

And how is this fair to the teachers, who are forced to implement their ridiculous ideas? Cut the fat and fire 2 of the 3 learning administrators. We now have a team of parent volunteers on the he SACC, and a new, capable superintendent. These administrators are being paid quite well and will continue to be paid by taxpayers long after they leave Hinsdale, yet It doesn't look like Schneider and Benaitis have any type of handle on their jobs.

If these people were really capable of doing their jobs, we wouldn't be paying the ROE for their math consultants! We are extremely top heavy for a district of this size and with our homogenous demographic. Money doesn't grow on trees, but somehow, our administrators do!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with everything in the previous comment, with one exception. I don't think we can call our superintendent capable quite yet. A capable leader wound never have promoted someone like Schneider, and he wouldn't agree to the continuation of the lecture series during the school year so Schneider can continue to speak to audiences about full inclusion and social justice. Dr White's decisions concern me.

jay_wick said...

No, I do not see any evidence of folks appreciating efforts at cost-savings in our district. (I would also point out that in terms of the situation in D86 only two members of the radical block are from areas served by D181 and the most vocal supporters of their nonsensical crusade are from areas not served by D181. It is my hope that this fact is not forgotten by those who perhaps need to focus attention for D86 candidates beyond the D181 borders...)

In the most glaring example of how little interest there is in "cost savings" in D181 I would point to the prior BOE for our elementary district. They were faced with renegotiating the contract at a time when the national economy was in much worse shape. The BOE asked for and got unprecedented "triple freeze" in raises of all kinds. That did not garner any particular "good will" among folks that mindlessly decry education spending nor did the various media outlets (or even the district itself) do a good job explaining how unusual such concessions were.
Similarly there were essentially NO opponents to the district expenditures for the complete retrofitting of HVAC and other energy saving measures done at CHMS in 2009-10 nor any particular interest in even the initial budget discussion that have already taken place this year.

It is almost certainly untrue that piloting curricular options has any monetary cost to the district -- the publishers are often happy to cover the costs of not just the course materials but also training for the teachers and even evaluation metrics. There is little reason to complain about well designed pilots that have legitimate control groups and are timed to have no negative consequences on things like new testing initiatives. Unfortunately given the disruptive situation many of our district students faced last year, and the lack of consistency that already existed after that, the decision to run these pilots was ill-conceived. To throw these variables into the mix during the same year that so many other changes are impacting the students, including the new PARCC assessments, forces one to question the wisdom of those who made these calls but beyond that there are no real criticism to be made for "cost".

I don't disagree that these things reflect poorly on recently promoted district staff and hopefully will be weighed at the appropriate time when the window for their contract renewal is open. Given the other departures from the district staff it is entirely reasonable that Dr. White brought in experienced administrators that he had confidence in; it would be prudent for him to reorganize staff after this initial transition year into a more efficient team that has no baggage from previous administrative regimes. This is a pattern that is widely know to others that have seen similar leadership transitions in all kinds of organizations.

My only concerns are that harping on matters that almost certainly are known to the BOE and district leadership diminish the value of the forum provided here, alienate those that would be allies in the effort to truly improve schools and gives "space" as well as information to the true enemies of education that are so blinded by a desire to shrink their own living expenses that they would destroy our schools with their extremist ideology.

Anonymous said...

Isn't interesting how we seldom hear the teachers opinions? It seems as if its always the parents responsibility to make our case to the administration and BOE.They have to implement all these crazy changes, and they are an important piece of the puzzel. Yet come time to renew contracts, they will want to be treated as true professionals but they've just gone along without any resistance or challenge.

jay_wick said...

I am not sure what to make of the last post -- the schools do belong to the community. The teachers work here, for us.

Yes, there is a collective bargaining agreement, it does afford them some specific avenues of recourse in regards to their work conditions, but for the most part the relationship they have with their building level administrators, who are required by law to evaluate their performance, and the district level administrators is not all that different than that of employees in other fields and their superiors -- if I disagree with my direct manager I usually feel OK letting them know. Only rarely would it be prudent to voice my concerns to the next level in the organization and the thought of going to top tier of management or heaven forbid the public at large would make it a real challenge to not feel like that was stepping way beyond the bounds of most disputes...

The fact is there are unfortunately an unusually vocal group of folks that feel all the various news stories about pensions and schools and who knows what else gives them some kind of window to reduce their cost of living by driving down the salaries of teachers.

Let me be 100% clear -- I do not want to pay one penny more in property taxes than is necessary. It is absolutely legitimate to be sure that our towns are price competitive on taxes with similar towns in Illinois. It is further wise to ask teachers to acknowledge that benefits packages from people in every kind of career are generally less generous than they once were.

That said there is NO evidence that folks are avoiding our communities because of some unique crushing tax burden. In fact except for portions of Oak Brook served by D53 one would be hard pressed to find ANY community in the region that has schools that are as well rated as ours AND tax rates any lower than ours.

I have direct experience with the sort of mindless "slash for the sake slashing" anti-tax zealots that are pushing D86 toward disaster and have designs on the same for our elementary district. These selfish twits may call themselves "patriots" or try to evoke ties to historic democratic action but it is undeniable that they clearly have no grasp of how to really work for political changes in the region or state, no conception of how to manage a workforce and worst of all, a passion for driving people apart with deceptive pleas to the lowest kinds of populist rhetoric.

There are LOTS of teachers involved in longer term plans for our elementary district. There are an abundance of teachers that appreciate the generous support of the community and go to great lengths to understand and improve everything about the classroom experience for all the kids in the district. Even the teachers that did agree to participate in the math pilot did no knowing there is / was dissatisfaction with other options and agreed to take on the extra work of the pilot with only the hope of better classroom / homework experience as their "reward". I cannot fault the classroom teachers for failure to adequately communicate that info to parents nor blame the classroom teachers for doing this while the PARCC tests loom. Those were district level decisions and lessons can be learned from those decisions.
The overall degree to which teachers in our district do behave with fully professional decorum is impressive. They can and do speak / act against things that they feel are not in the best interest of student learning and the majority of the time they get backing from their colleagues.

Believe me, having overly activist teachers that spend too much time publicly decrying any ineffective initiatives or railing against administrators that may promote untested ideas is not a direction that would be helpful for any of the students, staff or the broader community...

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the new math pilot this year cost $100,000?

Did you know the math committee, which consists of teachers and principals, are the ones spearheading and selecting books for the math pilot? Perhaps they are just rubber stamping the admin's mandates, but , regardless, members of the math committee are being paid an additional $50/hr to stay after school and "research " the new pilots.

However, have you ever SEEN any research or data in any type of a professional report from the Math Committee? Don't just look at the references that were only recently put on the website, quickly scan the sources for data. See what the National Math Advisory Panel recommends. None of our pilot books are specifically recommended, nor are any of our current books maligned. There are no hard facts that the old books are not CC, or that any attempts have been made for professional development for teachers with the current math book publishers. There is no documentation of the steps that the Math Committee went though, or why we even needed a new pilot. We never got any solid evidence last year at the May 2013 pilot presentation, either. That is why the BOE did not approve it.

This year, after realizing they probably needed data to support the selection of the pilot math books, the committee wizened up. The Math Committee (administrators, principals and teachers) decided to consult with the ROE and pay them $30,000 for help. But this year, they didn't bother to ask parents or the BOE for approval. It was basically slipped in and implemented without any accountability to anyone.

Teachers not speaking up is understandable because their livelihoods are at risk. But the fear of parents to speak up and ask for documentation and support is much more appalling. Clearly, the BOE shouldn't have allowed the pilot and any of the math committee expenditures without the required documentation. However, parents are not letting the board know that this is troublesome. Ultimately, we need to put pressure on the board and demand that they not approve such extravagant, questionable expenses.

Kudos should be given to the president of the PTO from Madison School for listening to her parent's concerns about the math pilot there. One or two people quietly complaining to the principal, or asking for accommodations to compensate for the poor pilot is not enough. This PTO president, conscientious about her responsibility to the children at her school and the parents who support her, arranged a math pilot meeting with Mrs. McMahon, Dawn Benaitis, and other administrators. FINALLY, parents' negative impressions and children's' frustrating experiences were brought out in the open. Problems were exposed. This was he only way that the math committee's sunny, positive interpretation of yet another bad pilot could be brought to light and addressed. The district discourages transparency because they do not want to be held accountable. But when $100,000 is being wasted, and a year, or even 1/2 a year of our children's math instruction is negatively affected, we deserve it.

If no one ever demands clarity and transparency, we will never get it. That is clearly the fault of parents and the BOE. The fact that administrators in D181 have gotten away with being secretive, wasteful, unable to produce professional, timely reports. This should not be allowed any longer. We want our schools to have all the money they NEED, and have EARNED, not to just take it because it is wanted.

Our Children Deserve Accountability

Anonymous said...

I'm speechless.

Thank you for that excellent post. If possible could you explain exactly where we could find the recommendations of the National Math Panel? It needs to be brought up if our current curriculum is on the list-because I'm starting to think we could be adopting a WORSE math curriculum-just to bring in something NEW.

Please note that the Adminstration seems in a RUSH to adopt a program. Why? Substantial discussions should be going on IN PUBLIC about these pilots before we come anywhere close to chosing-and remember our CURRENT curriculum is a choice. We don't have to change. Right now my middleschooler IS NOT receiving the same quality math curriculum in years past.

Please PTO presidents (especially CHMS and HMS) -follow Madison and call a meeting. Parents are in the dark.

Anonymous said...

Parents- do some researching on the web-type in "Problems with Investigations math" (Fuzzy math)

-By the 5th grade students have fallen rooughly 2 years behind other students under a more traditional program.

Agile mind being piloted at the middleschools is also "Fuzzy Math"

I wonder why the upper level math classes at CHMS/HMS are sticking with our old current curriclum -Because it ALIGNS with CENTAL HIGHSCHOOL-which is an excellent school!!

Anonymous said...

I agree that there is a sense of crazy urgency with adopting a new curriculum, a huge rush to make a quick decision.

ISATS were completely aligned to Common Core this year and maybe scores were not where parents would have liked them to have been at all of the district schools, but students in general did pretty well from what I've heard in speaking with building administrators/parents/teachers, considering the test included the CC material.

My point is that what we have right now is working. And maybe Everyday Math is not the greatest curriculum, it's not my favorite, but let's not choose a new curriculum just to say we did it. Choosing a new curriculum is not going to magically make our kids ace the PARCC. Make a decision to change the curriculum b/c it really is a better program.

If parents are not happy with what they are seeing from their kids who are currently in the pilot, then it is their resonsibility to communicate this to the teachers, principals, Admin, and BOE. If these parents feel it's not working, not going to work, then please don't sit idle. And the Administation and BOE have a responsibility to listen to the feedback and not ignore it or dismiss it. Don't dismiss parental feedback as the squeaky wheel or the naysaying parent.

Anonymous said...

Just looked at the topics for Monday's board meeting that are listed in the Hinsdalean. No mention of test scores or curriculum. Looks like the Superintendent's goals will be discussed. How about a few goals for Dr White that mandate for him to fix the math pilot mess, improve the language arts curriculum, and toss out the inclusive philosophy

Anonymous said...

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and The National Research Council all emphasize the importance of using scientific research in order to help children learn. D181 uses one NRC (2001) report in their bibliography. Ironically, that same piece of NRC research has this quote in it:

" Efforts to improve student's mathematics learning should be informed by scientific evidence and their effectiveness should be evaluated systematically. Such efforts should be coordinated, continual, and cumulative".

The ONLY source they recommend is the What Works Clearinghouse: .
Interestingly, this website contains NO data regarding Capper and Frattura ideas of Learning for All because the methods used in their research was not found to have met the stringent standards required by this research database. So how and WHY did we adopt it if there is no nationally recognized research that it works?

Our new middle school pilot books, Agile Minds and Big Ideas, have NO data on this website either.

Here are the WWC's specific guidelines and recommendations for schools to use when selecting books and programs for middle school. I copied this directly from their website and have pasted it here for you:

"Home > Inside the WWC
WWC Evidence Review Protocol for Middle School Math Interventions
Document Details

Version: 2.0
Released: Apr 2012
Table of Contents

Eligibility Criteria and Evidence Standards
Literature Search Methodology
Download Document
Version 2.0 - Apr 2012 (179 KB)
Version 1.1 - Jul 2009 (77 KB)
Version 1.0 - Oct 2006 (87 KB)
This What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) review focuses on mathematics interventions for middle school students in grades 6 through 8 designed to impact student achievement, including curriculum-based interventions, instructional techniques, and products designed to deliver content and monitor student progress. Systematic reviews of evidence in this topic area address the following questions:

Which interventions are effective in increasing the learning of mathematics content and skills among middle school students?
Are some interventions more effective for certain types of students, particularly students who are at risk of failure in mathematics?"


Anonymous said...

Additionally, the NCTM research brief, "Selecting the Right Curriculum",(2007) p.2 says this concerning he "gold standard" of the randomized control trial (Mosteller and Boruch 2002;NRC 2002):

"Using this standard, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) collects, screens, identifies, and evaluates studies of educational interventions, including mathematics curricula (currently reports are posted on elementary and middle school mathematics curricula). Readers are referred to for updated information from this government group. The rigor demanded for WWC endorsement is an important piece for judging effectiveness, other models for curricular evaluation- models that include attention to program theory and implementation as well as student outcomes- have been proposed by the National Research Council (Confrey 2006). "

Curiously, D181 has not presented us with any data from the only resource that the government recommends. Why? Does our district believe that their interpretation of Common Core really supersedes the "gold standard" of research? Did the folks from the ROE tell them this? If they did, is it in writing,or will they come to the next BOE meeting to tell us why they feel D181is more qualified than the database?

Many private companies are seizing the opportunity to scare scare school districts into believing that they HAVE to buy new books for students, but it is not true. We really need to exercise some caution before we jump on the bandwagon to buy the latest trends offered up by textbook manufacturers.

Feel free to check this info at Here is some more data from this website that also points out where we should be doing our research:

"The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), is a nationwide information network that acquires, catalogs, summarizes, and provides access to education information from all sources. The data base and ERIC document collections are housed in about 3,000 locations worldwide, including most major public and university library systems.

Other ED-Funded Clearinghouses

National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform

The National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform disseminates information on comprehensive school reform in educational institutions serving the K-12 population, including public schools, public school districts, state education agencies and private schools in the United States.

National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities

The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) acquires, manages, and disseminates information relating to educational facilities, to serve as a resource for the nation's school personnel and allied professionals who plan, design, construct and maintain educational facilities.

What Works Clearinghouse

The What Works Clearinghouse was established in 2002 by ED's Institute of Education Sciences to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central, independent, and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education. "

The internet has allowed me to find ALL of this information in less than a week's time. Why couldn't our math committee and administrators find it?

Final thought: this lack of attention to detail by our curriculum department, unfortunately, does not only apply to our math programs. Feel free to investigate the literacy programs that ERIC recommends and compare them to what D181 uses. Note that our recently selected Words Their Way was NOT found by ERIC to not be beneficial to student learning, but we bought it anyway. Look at the new Reading Fundamentals program, too. Let me know if you find any solid evidence to support it.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else see the article in The Hinsdalean that talked about upcoming SB 16. This state bill would pull millions from D181 and D86. Very scary!

Dr. White is quoted as saying that it would mean cutting $1.6 million from from D181 EVERY year.

This part of an attempt by Cook County to direct more state money to Chicago public schools at the expense of other state schools.

jay_wick said...

Hey, anonymous users, please at least try a distinctive signature OR SOMETHING to help differentiate yourselves. It is hard to keep things straight.

Anonymous user of ERIC @ 1:00PM: it is incorrect to say that any curricular materials are ever "recommended" by ERIC. The whole premise of ERIC is that is a giant database / cross referenced catalog. Its value is not in recommending something but merely allowing others to find research or simple citations for topics of interest to educators.

It is little less inaccurate to say that What Works Clearinghouse does that, but here's their actual language: "We review studies using our rigorous research standards to find the high quality research that provides evidence of effectiveness." In more commonly used terms - they are NOT recommending curricular material BUT INSTEAD evaluating studies to determine if those studies are designed / conducted in a way that could be said to validly show positive learning effects if any.

It is an important distinction.

There are lots of interventions that just don't have rigorous control groups, tightly controlled variables or any of the other hallmarks of valuable research.

One can reasonably conclude that some publishers just don't want to risk their materials being tested in such a way or that there just are not enough educational professors that really want to devote the resources to testing every available curricular option in such an arduous way.

It probably is not, however, fair to say that something that does not come with WWC "blessing" is not potentially valuable.

I would point you to the page of WWC that compares 39 interventions for mathematics and on that page one of the most positively rankings goes to University of Chicago School Mathematics Project 6–12 Curriculum with a +23. This is the "big brother" to Everyday Mathematics that also has a positive ranking -- +11. Way way down near the bottom is the cultishly loved Saxon Math for high school with a -15, even worse than CMP or Transition Math middle school offerings that at least merit a neutral "0" and below even Scott-Foresman Elementary Math.

The web site design requires to tick the box for mathematics -- What Works Clearinghouse Go verify this.

While I agree with your basic point that our district ought to have staff that are capable of using valid research to inform their decision making progress and explain thess choices in cogent arguments, I worry that your own misstatements about either ERIC or WWC carrying some special "seal of approval" makes such a line of reasoning easy for more academically oriented staff members to dismiss in their well known ways...

I completely agree that our district staff should ABSOLUTELY not be using Common Core or PARCC as an excuse to replace materials, but as I have said many many times the core problem that I have seen over and over in the district for many years now is a lack of any consistent philosophy. Are we really committed to excellence? Do we really have a range of appropriate offerings, in any delivery model, that suit the wide range of kids that our district has? Are we over committed to one-size-fits-all and duping ourselves into calling it "inclusive"? Have we really made any significant progress toward addressing deficiencies that were identified by highly paid third parties in the practicum and content knowledge of staff?

Apparently folks whose resumes showed them capable of asking these kinds of questions were systemically eliminated from the volunteers for the curriculum committee. More than a little disappointing...

We can only hope that the dedication of classroom teachers and the resiliency of students will allow a recovery should the district make it back to a path that is more appropriately rooted in sound educational practice and less the product of misguided theorists.

Anonymous said...

Board docs is posted for Monday's BOE meeting. It is going to be a study session starting at 6:30pm. It is unfortunate that the BOE meeting is at the same day and time as the contentious D86 BOE meeting.

The reports on board docs contain ISAT data and fall MAP data. I just attempted to review all of the data, but my eyes quickly glazed over. There is too much data (328 pages worth!), but in the end it all really says nothing at all. It is obvious that the report was intended to obfuscate the true state of affairs in the district.

Where is the science ISAT data? We did very poorly in that area last year. So, how did we do this year?

Cohort data is great, I am so glad that we are analyzing it - but it should be by school otherwise it is meaningless. We all know our schools are performing VERY differently. Remember, Oak ranked 15 last year, whereas Monroe ranked 109. Aggregating the data by district paints a very inaccurate picture. Also, we need to review quintile data by school. On the whole though, the highest quintile is showing the lowest growth. Inclusion is really working well for those advanced learners!!

The ISAT data and MAP data show that our schools are still performing very differently. Prospect, not Oak, is the new star. Madison, Waker, Elm, Monroe - not so much.

Oak's 5th grade class made about 80% growth in math as 3rd graders. This year they made about 20% growth. We need to analyze why this happened.

Growth in this year's 5th grade class for math was the lowest in the district across the grade. And remember, 1/4 of the students in that grade were tutored by the district after school last year, in addition to many parents who tutored their kids outside of school. Imagine what the scores would of been without the extra tutoring?? Schneider - looks like YOUR compacting experiment was a brilliant success. You were the one who foisted math compacting on us - you brought it to us from your former district. And wasn't Schneider the one who told us ALL last year (and the year before that) that acceleration has the biggest impact on student achievement? Maybe White or someone on the BOE should point out the obvious - that Schneider has egg on his face.

Where is the fall MAP data for our second graders?

Lane had relatively high projected growth compared to the other schools. Could this be because the Lane still has tiers on the QT, while everyone else is stuck in inclusive classrooms?

So many questions! I could come up with more, but I cannot bear to bring myself to look at the 328 page tome any longer.