Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Obfuscation, Part 2. Or should we say, Remix of "The Emperor's New Clothes?"

Last night's D181 Board of Education meeting was a perfect example of OBFUSCATION. The following is a comment/summary we just received from a parent who listened to the live-feed of the meeting. As the writer points out, looks like the emperor still has no clothes! 

Please sound off if you have concerns. We would expect that you would. Write to White and push for answers to the questions posed below. We have highlighted some of the more provocative ones in RED.

Anonymous said:

I attempted to listen to the BOE meeting last night from home, but it was difficult due to the live feed being extremely faint and hard to hear. But these are my thoughts:

1. I heard a lot of big ideas and theories last night, but almost no analysis of data (funny since there was 328 pages of it). I almost thought it was Schuster, not White, running the meeting. The theme of the night was you cannot put too much importance on one data point. Then why do we take all these tests? And we now have 3 years of data since learning for all - and none of it is good. We need to stop discounting the data and start accepting the true state of affairs of this district.

2. Our administrators - including White - seem deeply invested in Inclusion. They seem more interested in this style of learning than the best interests of our children. Why is that? The data shows scores are declining, and it is expensive from a labor/teacher perspective. White admitted they don't have enough subs to pull it off. We also have a Senate bill looming that will blow our budget. At a certain point one must ask - why are we doing it??? White - do you remember that you had tiers in your prior district?

3. Our director of curriculum - Schneider - only contributed to the conversation by talking about SELAS.  What value is he adding to our district as the Assistant Superintendent in charge of all curriculum matters?

4. Despite the revelation at the last BOE meeting that we are not math compacting our third and fourth graders due to "a new era", the department of learning now says we are compacting. Funny, because my fourth grader started the year on 4.1 in the everyday math text book. And why isn't anyone talking about the fact that the Lane has an advanced fourth grade class that is compacting, and then a grade level class - but the other schools are all staying at the same pace? As Heneghan pointed out, no one has any idea what is really going on with math.

5. White said "studies show 85% of kids can have their needs met in the general ed classroom." Look at our data White - not "studies show" - Oak's fifth grade growth indicates otherwise. So does the epic failure with this year's fifth grade class. "Studies show" isn't good enough. One parent at the end challenged White to do better.

6. Last year the department of learning said repeatedly that they were pulling best practices from Oak and other schools that did well and applying them to other schools. Remember all that collaboration talk? Well it never happened. That was revealed last night. And evidently no one will hold Schneider or Benaitis accountable for that.

7. Marty patted admin on the back and proclaimed "everyone grew." Did you look at the data Marty?????

8. No one but a parent at the end brought up the actual dismal scores. It reminded me of the great Emperor has no clothes blog post from last year.

9. White did let it slip that 25% of our advanced learners didn't grow as much as they should have under Learning for All. So White - what are you going to do about it? Ball is in your court. 

10. When they were talking about the school improvement plans, they admitted that they never went back and looked to see if the goals from last year were met in these plans. When asked why that was, Benaitis answered that the plans were drafted mostly to go through the exercise itself. Why did no one on the BOE push her for an explanation of this ludicrous admission?

The future of our district under "White's Watch" is starting to look gloomy. Time for him to wake up and hire some new "tailors."


Anonymous said...

The for sale sign is going up in my yard this week. White is basically Schuster with pants and a tie. How could the BOE have hired him?

Anonymous said...

We need to go back to the search firm and demand a refund. They said at their focus group that they would redo the search if we are not satisfied.

Anonymous said...

Unlike Schuster, White has integrity and he works extremely hard. His big mistake is he has aligned with Schneider and Benaitis and they are leading him astray. Their big dreams seem to be contagious.

White - you can redeem yourself. Distance yourself from them and start working for the best interests of OUR children (not some theoretical ones in a study). Please study our demographics. We do not want big dreams, theory or "best practices" - we want nuts and bolts, tried and true. Look at our data, look at the solution to fifth grade. The answer is crystal clear. You can fix this. But you need to do it fast. Most parents have run out of patience. After all we have endured 3 years of this.

Anonymous said...

I want to think of something else clever to add but the person who posted this meeting summary has done such a good job that there really is nothing more to say. The only thing I can think of is that during the last board meeting Mr Heneghan asked the admin about compacting and one of them responded that there was no more compacting. Was it Walsh or Schneider? They went so far as to reference and discuss Appendix A and how it states not to compact before 7th grade. So last night to turn around and say they are indeed compacting? I know for a fact this is not the case. Why would they lie?

Anonymous said...

White is working hard? Hard at what? Supporting the dream of Schneider and his full inclusion research agenda? No way. If White had integrity he would have seen Schneider and Benaitis for the shams they represent. If White had integrity he would never subject our kids to this ridiculous learning plan. Integrity means more than just working hard to please the old dolts on the board.

jay_wick said...

Anonymous Poster(s?):

You may recall that the BOE gave contracts to administrators from the prior regime BEFORE they hired Dr. White.

It is not in the best interest of anyone to liquidate those contracts before the window of non-renewal.

Further the "money back guarantee" for the superintendent search is with the BOE that has the only legal authority to enter into those kind of contracts.

Constant calls for more heads on plates demeans the value of others efforts to work with the reality of the timelines that the district faces. I would suggest that putting more efforts into perhaps recognizing these facts might be prudent.

Right now there are efforts underway to assemble slates from the Caucus and various opposing factions; it would behoove those who truly care about the future of our schools to learn from the lesson of D86 and direct one's energy toward exposing potential "slash it all" lunatic candidates instead of calling for illogical shifts in personnel prematurely despite how satisfying it may feel to lash out...

Believe me there are plenty of parents / community members that lament the paucity of effort shown by too many members of the current elementary school BOE and efforts to find more dedicated volunteers to serve on this vitally important body are far wiser than mere venting...

Anonymous said...

If the accelerated program is good enough for the children of Troy (White's former district) then it's good enough for the children of 181. White clearly had influence over the programs that are described in the previous comment. He worked in Troy for 7 years. He's worked for 181 for like, 5 minutes and believes Schneider's inclusive program is "best practice." Yawn.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:36. I'm appalled that White actually talks the inclusive model up to our BOE but clearly doesn't believe in this philosphy. It was a total bust on the current 5th graders. It's quite clear, so why is White continuing to support Schneider's program when his former district didn't operate in this manner? I get that as a new boss he doesn't want to rock the boat and make too many changes his first year. But in this case, White has to step up!! This district has had enough of Schneider's one size fits all curriculum. We're done with him about like we're done with the lackadaisical attitude of the BOE majority!

Anonymous said...

I agree that we need to give Dr. White more time. He has MANY significant issues on his plate and I wouldn't want a super who just came in and implemented his own ideas without first getting to learn ours (however much I disagree with them)and our population. Frustrating as it is, these things take time to do well. That being said, Dr. White needs to realize that our children don't have unlimited time and each week counts. We've been dealing with this for 3 years which is a long time. The data shows that a good number of students are being missed due to this inclusive workshop model. This needs to stop as soon as it is feasible. The BOE meeting didn't provide the data analysis we all were waiting for but Dr. White has promised that it is coming. Personally, I would like to have seen a clear admission from Dr. White and the Board that the upper group of students (maybe the lower group, too?) has been missed to a large extent under the Learning For All plan. There are many parents who worked tirelessly to show that this was happening and they have been marginalized for 3 years. The admin. and BOE should learn from this. The BOE is responsible for holding the administration accountable for performance and learning and the majority did not for far too long. Our students paid a heavy price for their unwillingness to listen and learn when red flags were raised. We have no idea how our entire 5th grade will be impacted in the future.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:36 and 6:03. Can Dr. White please explain how he could implement a gifted, tiered program in his old district, but in D181 he rejects that philosophy and buys into Schneider's inclusive model? He needs to address this question publicly at the next board meeting.

Anonymous said...

Our student population is different from Troy and that was many parents concern when the board hired Dr. White. He is trying to do everything on the curriculum side to make up for the lack of expertise. It's hypocritical to pretend that we are the only district who has or had tiers. He only needs to look around us or at his own district obviously. If he cares about the students, he would put their needs first versus following in the footsteps of Dr. Schuster and trying to cover up poor results. These kids are young and need someone to look out for them unlike the staff and teachers who can speak up for themselves. What kind of role models are these people setting for our kids by not speaking up for what they believe in or not. The parents wouldn't be vocal if they trusted someone to look out for their kids versus the next research idea.

Anonymous said...

I just reviewed the D181 budget. It was enlightening to find out that we are spending $500,000 THIS YEAR on "updated textbooks"

Anonymous said...

Interesting-so the decision is already made. What if the pilot results are WORSE than our current math curriculum. Rushing isn't always the best answer especially since we haven't even taken the PARCC test yet. Most likely a better, more informed decision can be made after the PARCC-why not analize OTHER districts using AGILEMIND, INVESTIGATIONS etc...before blindly ordering the new books etc. Then we are STUCK with them. Where is the COMMON SENSE.

Anonymous said...

I have a question for fifth grade parents.

My daughter is in the advanced 6th grade math class that is supposedly following Glencoe 2. We were told last spring that our teachers had all the 6th grade materials and that they would teach it exactly how the middle school has been teaching it. We were told this was tried and true and we would not be test cases again.

I'm seeing something very different. We are hardly using the book. It is a bunch of random worksheets. Every day it is a new topic. No building of concepts at all. There is no rhyme or reason to what they are doing. It feels like 3rd grade math all over again. I'm getting really worried. My child has wasted two years with math experimentation - this cannot be another wasted year.

Fifth grade parents - please help me out and share your thoughts/experiences.

Anonymous said...

The middle school teachers realigned the Glencoe Course 2 with the Common Core, which means they are not going unit by unit as the book is published. Instead, the first unit, Numeration, covers a very large amount of concepts such as fractions, percents, exponents, decimal operations, etc. The middle school teachers supplied all 5th grade teachers with a binder of their course materials (worksheets, quizzes, games) that go in the order in which the course is taught. Very likely the book is used in school to learn concepts with the teachers, and the sheets are used for indep practice/HW.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much 6:19 for responding to me. I really appreciate your insight.

I just checked with my daughter and she said they don't really use Glencoe at school either - it is mostly worksheets at school too. I also checked with friends at 3 other school and they are getting the exact same sheets.

The teachers can and should supplement for CC. I just do not want an entirely homemade curriculum. That was a disaster in third grade.

Anonymous said...

What has been done to this year's 5th grade class is inexcusable. How are we going to know where the gaps are? Oak kids had no measureable growth last year (sorry Marty, look at the data) and Prospect had growth but has lower than district average RIT scores from their disastrous 3rd grade year and despite district provided tutoring. The district and BOE need to admit that the plan isn't working for many kids and come up with a solution to fix it. Quickly! The only way that will happen is If people speak up and ask questions to teachers, principals, the BOE and administration. Going to your teacher isn't enough. He/she had nothing to do with this mess. And, btw, what will happen to these 5th graders in middle school? Are Ruben Pena, Griffin Sonntag and the math teachers ready for these kids who don't know all that they should to move forward? Don't look for honest answers from Sonntag since he was part of the committee that implemented this awful plan.

Anonymous said...

Tutors in this community are going to make a mint as most parents will continue to think that the problem is with their children, not the district, and try to fix the "problem" and help their children on their own. It's a big cover-up. And some of the decision-makers involved are still making decisions for our kids.

Anonymous said...

So am I reading this correctly?

Growth Index for 5th grade from fall 13 to fall 14

Elm -3.7
Madison -2.6
Monroe -1.8
Oak -2.8
Prospect -0.8
The Lane +0.4
Walker -2.9

If I'm reading this correctly, this means that only one school grew slightly in 5th grade. Am I reading that Marty Turek said that everyone grew? Don't his kids go to Walker? Walker's 5th grade was 2nd worst in the district.

Anonymous said...

It is so difficult to sort through all of this information and data and I wish we didn't have to. It would be nice if we had knowledgeable people we could trust in the administration and Board of Education to do it for us.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I agree. We are paying our administrators handsomely, yet PARENTS are now saddled with the burden of researching data supported textbooks and teaching methods? And D181 still doesn't respond to us with any facts to refute that we are wrong. I, too, looked at the math pilot bibliography and thought I was looking at the last page of a middle school report. Very vague and flimsy references. The administration and math committee should have provided evidence that their theories and book choices were based on evidence that it would be better than what we had. We have not seen any information that L4A has worked anywhere else, and we still haven't seen ANY good research on Agile Minds, Big ideas, Investigations and enVision. Who selected those books, and how much of a kick back did they get for selecting them? I say this, because I see NO other reason for those particular books being chosen over what we had. And why weren't parents included in a meaningful way at all, to help choose the pilot? This goes against the board policy of how text books and materials should be selected. We attended meetings and were NEVER given data to support the pilot, nor were we given any opportunity to provide input. We feel robbed and abused, because you simply grabbed our tax dollars and spent it on ridiculous books and theories that are hurting our kids. Look at the scores. You are not only misusing our tax dollars, you are stealing our children's right to a quality education.

Dr. White and Dr. Schneider, you may not be accustomed to parents questioning you, but, nonetheless, we deserve a response. We have asked for, expect, and deserve data, and can see thorough the double speak that we heard at last Monday's board meeting. Mr. White, at the last board meeting, a board member asked you for a parent satisfaction survey. You claimed, "I wouldn't even know what a parent satisfaction survey would look like". This is absurd. We are not as uneducated and naive as you might have hoped. Our district, and almost every district in Illinois has taken the 5E, or 5 Essentials Survey, to gauge school climate and parent satisfaction. As an experienced Illinois superintendent, it would be ridiculous had you not heard of it! It is the only survey created by unbiased experts that has ever been given to parents in this district. Almost every district in our state takes it. Other districts take it very seriously because it has been proven to be an excellent indicator of teacher and parent satisfaction. That is how most districts find out what they need to work on or improve. Unlike our district, most make decisions based on valid data, not unproven "innovative" theories.

You should not pick and choose to only use the positive data that comes out of this district. Blue Ribbons mean nothing if scores are falling, children are confused, and parents are waiting for answers. If you continue to do so, you are missing yet another opportunity to correct our districts course. And, are eroding the trust that we have placed in you.

We will only respect you if you respect us and our children. Please stop ignoring us and our requests for data that we deserve. It should have been provided a long time ago. And by the way, please tell Schneider to stop reading canned descriptions of what SELAS is at board meetings. His hypocrisy has reached an absurd high. His stubborn refusal to provide parents with nationally recognized data to support the pilots or the L4A plan has reached megalomaniacal proportions.