Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Community Member's REMIX of "The Yellow Brick Road To Nowhere..."

Because we respect our readers' opinions on topics of concern, we appreciated receiving a Remix -- as we will call it -- of our Modern Tale, The Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere.  We agree that our use of the phrase  "Land of Educational Contentment" may not have been a completely accurate description of what existed before the tornado, but we were trying to simplify, simplify, simplify, so perhaps some of the simpletons who sit on the board of education would actually understand the "deeper" meanings of our post.  However, the Remix version is brilliant and and cannot be ignored.  So, we have published it below:

"I have some quibbles characterizing the "pre-tour guide era" as the "Land of Educational Contentment".

As I recall there were some folks that looked around "the bus" and saw that some seats were a little smaller and some seats were a little bigger. It made a lot of sense to most people because the "bus loading people" mostly did a good job sizing up students to seats. 

The problems was that some folks cried that the different sized seats made them feel bad. At about the same time other people noticed sometimes the "seat sizers" did not get things perfectly right, some kids close to cut off for a size sorta squeezed in and some kids did not. Maybe the "seat sizers" needed measuring sticks that were newer and better. Some people said the seat sizers did not know what they were doing. That was not right and some people sought to get Lady Justice to weigh in on that. Maybe if the bus driver was a little smarter that would not have been needed.

The bus driver was filled with panic. Seeing Lady Justice would be expensive and time consuming, to "fix" this problem the tour guide suggesting hiring their pal. The pal had lots of expertise telling folks about how terrible their buses were but not much else. The expert decided to light their hair on fire. It was a smelly mess. The bus driver and the "board of bus trustees" kind of pooped themselves. The smell grew worse. The people with children who cried about their seats joined the cacophony.

The people late at night decided maybe to take all the seats out of bus. Despite the objections of lots of people that is just what they did. 

The tour guide seized on a buzz word from the pal with the burning hair and decided to make the old seats new seats that were buzz word compliant. The new seats were magic. They were supposed to fit everyone.

Some parents said that is silly, there are no magic seats. Everyone should get a seat that fits them as best as possible.

The tour guide said people that did not like magic seats must be bad, they must want to lock some kids into yucky seats. 

The bus driver got the burning hair expert back. Maybe the bus supervisors should learn more about Modern Bus Supervising and maybe some need deeper knowledge of bus stuff. But the expert did not want to stick around.
The not so silly parents responded with patience. But they saw that those seats were not magic at all. They saw that those seats were just terrible for some kids. Lots of parents decided to go buy their own safety belts so their kids would not be jostled too badly. Some of the folks in charge of sub-routes decided that seat belts were needed for their whole sub-section. This was not the tour guide wanted AT ALL. It made the tour guide FRANTIC. 

The frantic tour guide decided the reason the magic seats weren't working was that they did not comply with Magic Standards that many states had signed on to. To make the magic seats work, the tour guide got MORE magic seats, some from seat makers that specialized in making seats for kids that were stuck in really really terrible buses. Those magic seats did not work either. The parents that saw this wanted no more magic seats. They wanted the kind of seats that they had once upon a time. Seats that fit their kids. The tour guide hemmed and hawed and said the reason the magic seats were not working was because there had been too many bus drivers, switching bus drivers is BAD. You can't do that. I drove the bus for a little bit, you can't switch ME out!!!

And so the tour guide displayed their enormous stack of slides. Some with bubbles. Some with arrows. Some with bullets. Some with arrows and bubbles. Some with bubbles and arrows. Some with bullets and bubbles and arrows. Some with video. It was FASCINATING... Here is some more fascinating video Really long YouTube Video featuring folks with rural accents that do not seem smart at all and a subject about as irrelevant / controversial as I could find Cute? Horrifying? Depends on your perspective...

I suppose you could say that the tour guide is still hoping that folks will "take it on faith" that the magic seats really work. Some of the "bus trustees" have figured out that there is a real lack of consensus among honest educational experts regarding most any "variable". Some studies will show that nice big seats are perfectly fine and some will say big seats are not good at all. Some well respected "bus researchers" kind of throw-up their own hands and don't do studies themselves so much as summarize other studies. Sometimes they do it honestly and sometimes they let their biases cloud their conclusions. Some of the bus researchers pretty clearly did not themselves pay attention in their own classes in the "statistics of buses" and it is unfortunate that other researchers have to honestly point this out.

Some bus trustees are clearly tired / fed-up. They'd like the whole problem to go away. But there is not just one bus route. There are many. And the folks that live on one route don't want to find out that they are on "wrong one" and when the bus stops on the route cost so much one can't help but expect all the routes to be if not identical then at least very very good and quite similar. It takes a bus driver with some unique skills to know all the routes and keep everyone happy...

But some parents really see that the tour guide does not understand how kids really ride the bus. The tour guide has passion not for all kids, but for kids in crummy buses. The problem is crummy buses don't want or need a tour guide that has only talked the tour without walking the route. And it is kind of amazing that the bus trustees allow the tour guide to dabble in that through time consuming side trips instead of focusing on fixing the bus that they broke with magic seats.


Maybe in the spring the new bus driver, if he really is as wise as past suggests, can help the tour guide and their stylish pal make room for folks that really know the route, can share the map and work full time getting the bus back on track... Or maybe the not so silly parents will have to be a lot less polite.

The story teller with a memory."

(Anonymous, October 29, 2014 at 7:16 AM and 7:58 AM)


Anonymous said...


I think it's time for the not so silly parents to be a lot less polite.

Dr. White doesn't have much time left to turn the bus around...

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant!

It is time for some people to get off the bus - two in particular. They are not the right people to fill those seats in the bus. Enough is Enough.

White - step up and show leadership. Right now we have anarchy. Everyone is doing their own thing and it is a huge mess.

Anonymous said...

OMG - the video was priceless!! I almost peed in my pants. Way more entertaining than the one Schenider made us sit through on Monday night.

Speaking of the 20 minute video we saw on Monday night, the speaker - who was heralded as "an expert" and "best practices" - has ties to Schneider's social justice lecture group. Very self serving.

jay_wick said...

While the characterization above is mostly readable, I wish it was not needed. I would hope that the folks that have been elected to the BOE continue to press the administration to deliver a more coherent plan for helping to ally the fears of parents whose children have been whipsawed in the L4A debacle.

I too "have a memory" and I know that there have been "squeaky wheels" in our district for a long long time. Sometimes they were rightfully upset over problems with special education or foreign language(which remains a sore point for some, but apparently not enough) or facilities.
I am guessing some of the trustees feel like their own "niche" is what some call the "neglected middle" (and some continue to neglect their duty to even show up...). If trustees to truly want to be sure that all kids are well served even if they not in need of designated help because of IEPs or other specialized learning plans they should be a little more vocal about their "philosophical core". Believe me, from their "in front of the crowd" performance and "closed session" disclosures I still have no idea why some members have not resigned. I have been vocal about admonishing folks that want the heads of some served up on platters so too would I not feel the least bit like it would be wrong for folks that do not want the responsibility / accountability on their shoulders to simply step down. Those of us who have watched the BOE for a long while know there are good people that can be asked to serve. Some BOE members CLEARLY are reading up about how educational research works, how thin is the data for districts like ours and how much work it takes to really drive excellence in the face of mediocrity and simple minded platitudes.

Lots of parents have laid out solid rationale for how an over-emphasis on "one size fits all" really serves no one well. My sense is that many teachers and staff agree with this. It is, I suppose, a central support behind the theoretical basis of "differentiation for each student". The classroom reality however shows this is an impossible goal. The better students can only do so much to help their own classmates "get to middle" before they realize that they are not really doing much learning. We need to energize the whole district. There are LOTS of ways that can be done and done well by those who have a passion for it.

Nobody is going to say that carved-in-stone rules that segregate students into immutable groupings is ideal but neither should we blindly allow the society-changing idealists to dictate some structures that results in too many kids becoming disengaged.

The even greater danger is when elected official do not fulfill their obligation to evaluate the Superintendent and his supervision of the staff that directly reports to him. If that happens in ways that voters seize upon it will result in new trustees that very likely will enter with a strident view that they have a mandate to "clean house". We have been down that road before in this district. It is VERY VERY costly and would set things back back in an awful way for all students, teachers, and community members.

If instead the elected members of the BOE step up and prove they can demand the BEST that the Superintendent and his direct reports are capable of that will go A LONG WAY toward putting the district back on track.

If the BOE can also demonstrate that they KNOW what is the contract that was ratified just this past spring and get the teachers the support needed in a cost /time effective way it will do wonders to silence the critics.

And believe me, some of us would like nothing better than to see no need for pointing out wrong-headed policies. When our kids and those of neighbors are given appropriate instruction and teachers are treated fairly it makes things better for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Story Teller with the Memory. I don't think anybody can top that. I've never in my life seen such a mess and you did a fantastic job putting it in real terms that people can understand who may not be familiar with what has occurred over the past several years. This pilot madness that parents and students are dealing with now is just a glimpse of what has been going on for 3 years in this district. Things have not all of the sudden changed. Everything....curriculum, special ed services, etc. have been on a downward trajectory for the past several years. The mess we are in with the current pilot is of absolutely no surprise given the lack of expertise and leadership in the district right now, as well as over the past several years. And no, Schneider can’t blame it on Moon or Schuster. He has been the master mind from the word go. And White needs to get a clue about this man. Kurt Schneider is self serving and not looking out for the best interest of the students at all. He has his own agenda and nothing will get in his way. There's no leadership on the BOE, Turek barely opened his mouth. He's too busy plotting his re-election strategy. After all of those parents spoke on Monday night, White should never have allowed that LFA ridiculous slide presentation/video linked to Schneider's social justice agenda to be shown. He should've canned the whole thing and had a real conversation. He showed his lack of credibility and leadership. He showed that he his unwilling to take the reigns and do what needs to be done to get this district back on track.

And I want to know what kind of kick back this district is getting from Pearson?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the trustees should of listened to the not so silly parents last spring who called for certain people to be taken off the bus. Instead, they chose to give certain people on the bus big fat raises and three year contracts.

Anonymous said...

There is an article in the online Doings that we are implementing a new substitute teacher program because he have a huge sub shortage. We use about 40 subs a day. I'm glad that we are proactively looking into the situation, but lets also look into why we need so many subs. Most are due to IEP meetings, curriculum planning, professional development and collaboration.

We are trying so hard to make inclusion work. If only we had more prof development. If only we gave kids IEPs or RTis who do not succeed in a one size fits all model. If only we had better textbooks. It shouldn't be this much work!! It is time to walk away and get a divorce. What we are doing is inanity and it will never work no matter how hard we try. Go back to the old system, make it flexible, and improve identification.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I can't agree with the suggestion that people should stop being polite. I think people are confusing politeness with a lack of backbone. You can be firm in your opening and be polite as well. Being impolite and rude, in my opinion, will only alienate you and make the trustees and tour guide no longer listen to you.

Otherwise, I really like your "tales."

HMS Parent said...

9:52 AM -- I agree with you in theory, but your last sentence is flawed in that is assumes the trustees and tour guide ever listened to the community. Only 2 trustees have done so on a regular basis -- Garg and Heneghan. The rest are for the most part high fliers who won't ever come off the balcony in the sky to do anything of substance. Listen to the community? Hah! Ask tough questions? Hah! Demand accountability? Hah! As for the Tour Guide, he is on a one way trip to personal advancement. Can he please get on another bus to anywhere but here?

Anonymous said...

I was talking to some of the higher ups in a certain department because some of the teachers at HMS wanted to use online textbooks from Pearson or something that went with their physical books. This department had no idea about the online textbooks until about a week or two ago. The head of this department said that when they learned about the online textbooks, they found the district had this for five years, back in the Janet Stutz days. SERIOUSLY?!? We had this for 5 YEARS and no one, at the district level at least, knew we had it, got trained on it, etc.? In some ways, I can understand we've had a LOT of turnover at the district level and not everything could be shared. But our current administrators have been around for long enough so that they should have some clues about what's part of the curriculum and what's included with our curriculum.

The head of the department I talked to said that letting teachers use their own tools give the teachers flexibility in the classroom, but it's hard to keep track of who's using what. Due to that, it's hard for the administration & support personnel to help the teachers out when there are problems as they aren't trained on it.

On the other hand, if the district dictates which tools to use and how to use them, that severely limits teacher flexibility. As we know, there isn't a one size fits all tool.

What we really need is a Goldilocks approach: not too much, not too little, but just right. The curriculum and tools should be guided & consistent enough so people know how to deal with problems, but flexible enough to give teachers leeway as to teach their students the way they need to be taught.

I know some HMS teachers use the new Google Classroom features. I wonder how that is going. I'd like to know, also, how other districts have used things like iTunes U and iBooks Author to help teach curriculum. As more and more tools are computerized and online, I wonder how such tools would work in our district. If it went well in other districts, maybe District 181 could create its own textbooks, instead of paying outside companies for their books. And since the district would own the copyrights, we could save more money either to lower taxes or to put that money to other causes.

Anonymous said...

As a parent I wouldn't feel comfortable having the district create its own textbooks. I think that should be done by professionals with PhD's in curriculum development who do it on a full-time basis. I'm happy to pay for the best resources and I believe that they needed to be updated and supplemented in a timely manner. Supplements for our math resources have been available for years and the publishing companies called our administrative offices repeatedly offering them but their calls went unreturned. I've had enough of homemade curriculums, there are plenty of great ones out there already. It seems as creating "philosophies" and slide shows have taken the place of creating a well defined, well thought out, well designed curriculum with the materials to go with it. And our BOE has just sat back and watched it happen. They don't need to micro manage our administration but they should at least know enough about what is happening to ask intelligent questions now and again and hold them accountable for performance. Otherwise, what it their role? How much worse would things be if a group of dedicated parents hadn't worked so hard to learn about what was actually happening in D181 classrooms? When is the last time any of the BOE members have actually spoken to teachers about what is happening and how they feel about it? Wouldn't that be an important part of learning about what is going on? Especially with test scores dropping and parent dissatisfaction at an all time high? Teachers are sure taking the time to communicate to parents about what is going on.

Anonymous said...

Forwarded e-mails of BOE members responses to parent concerns have shown everyone in the community which of them actually knows what is going on and/cares about looking into issues. The difference in the responses of Garg and Heneghan and other BOE members (as well as non-responses from others)speak volumes in terms of engagement. Not saying that members need to respond to each and every e-mail but when a PTO president of one of our largest schools e-mails with significant concerns, more than a 2 line response repeating the party line is warranted.

Anonymous said...

It certainly is telling! It's hard to believe that Garg, and Hennegan where the only ones posting questions to be answered, especially with such an important topic as the Math Pilot.

I guess we continue to write, demand data, and voice what OUR district wants-flexible tiers, NO inclusive classrooms/workshop models etc! This is OUR district and we don't want it! Most of our teachers are very professional and well paid-I want the most bang for my tax buck. Is that so hard to understand? If we start having kids teaching kids, teachers relying mostly on on-line curriculums them come contract time there is going to be big issues. I would think the union would oppose alot of this "teacher as the conductor" , workshop model, etc. It undermines the teacher's education, connection with students, ....basically the need for the teacher.

Anonymous said...

What in the last 3-4 years that's happened would make anyone think that any of D181's administrators could write a textbook? That's beyond laughable.

Anonymous said...

Two of the parents at the meeting spoke about lowered entrance scores for admittance into the advanced and accelerated math classes in the middle schools. I have also heard about this being the case in the ELA and ACE classes. Wouldn't it make more sense to increase the difficulty of the classes that need it while keeping students with other students who are actually at the same ability level. Anyone who has had students participate in these advanced classes knows how difficult they are. Why would our administration assume that every student can be successful in them just because they say so. Have they changed the curriculum in those classes and are they moving more slowly to accommodate this new level of students. What do the teachers think about this new policy. I would think that this would make their jobs a lot more difficult. Again, "lowering the ceiling to raise the floor".

Anonymous said...

The teacher's union needs to privately ask teachers what they think about inclusion, ability grouping, opt-in, Investigations, and Agile Minds. When the union did this for math compacting, the answers teachers gave were very different from when the administration and BOE asked the same questions. It became clear that admin had been strong arming the teachers to parrot the answers they wanted. Now admin is claiming that heterogenous grouping in the classroom is a result of teacher choice. They also claim teachers like Investigations. Makes one wonder.......

Anonymous said...

2:36: You're right, the teacher's union should get involved with this. Teachers are the ones directly involved with implementing the curriculum, not the central administration.

However, I believe the support staff union should also get involved. How much do the aides have to do with the students with IEPs and 504 plans? How versed are they in the materials? Does the technology department know how to access and use the online materials, and create user accounts where appropriate? Can the technology infrastructure handle the increasing reliance of computerized/online learning? I've often heard from staff at HMS that there aren't nearly enough computers there for all the students.

Anonymous said...

Rumor is there was a big meeting at Madison today and Investigations will soon be gone