Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Height of Hypocrisy: Superintendent White Ditches Former Advocacy for Gifted/Advanced Learning for Full-Inclusion-One-Size-Fits-All-Schneider-Turek Pipe Dream

As we continue our quest for accountability and transparency, we thought we would conduct a bit of research on ISAT, MAP and Gifted (Oh, my, we actually said gifted) presentations that have been conducted in Dr. White's former district, Troy 30C in Plainfield. Our readers will be interested in learning that while in Troy 30C, Dr. White provided that BOE  extensive assessment reports. In fact, on the website he maintained, he stated:

"I provided the Board of Education two comprehensive achievement reports at the October 16, 2013 Board of Education meeting.  These reports provide information about how our students have achieved on the NWEA Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) and Illinois Standards Assessment Tests (ISATs) which were administered during the 2012-2013 school year.  These comprehensive reports can be viewed by clicking on the following links:"

This is significant because at the 11/7/14 Board meeting, he suggested that it was too time consuming for the D181 Department of Learning administrators to generate such performance data analysis reports. (See 11/13/14 Blog Post.)  At that same meeting, Dr. White also went on record as stating that he believes he should spend part of his time generating student assessment data analysis reports, along with running and managing our district of 4,000+ students, many teachers and staff. Since D181 does not have an administrator who is experienced in assessment, it will be up to Dr. White to develop reports on student progress. After all, Kurt Schneider, Assistant Superintendent of Everything Under the Sun, is far too busy with scheduling professional development for our teachers related to differentiation (for the bazillionth time), and promoting his pipe dream of one-size-fits-all-fully-inclusive-happy-happy-joy-joy-joyful-learning classrooms with the expense of his cadre of consultants. Ah, yes; such efforts take tremendous time and district resources in the name of taxpayer dollars. But, alas, such is a topic for another post. 
Keep in mind that one of the first reports Don White handed over to the BOE was the whopping 300 plus Power Point slideshow that contained convoluted messaging regarding MAP scores and student growth. (
Embedded within the report is the claim that MAP is just one data point, which is a meme White and Kurt Schneider constantly talk up to the board and to parents. Riiiiiiiiiiiight.   So the fact that only a few grades showed minimal growth and most showed stagnant or negative is nothing to be alarmed about? Apparently not within this administration. More importantly, White has taken it upon himself to allow a fudge factor of the Standard Error of Measurement when interpreting the MAP results ($file/D181_MAP_Standard_Error_%26_Standard_Deviation-2_10_6_14.pdf) which is NOT a common practice. Student growth should be reported for what it is, as is the case in the Troy report (2012-2013 NWEA MAP Assessment Report ). Seems like White is following in Schuster's footsteps of selective data interpretation. 
Along with the Troy MAP report, here is a link to a Troy 30C 5/23/14 Gifted report titled: Comprehensive Plans for Accelerated Programs of Education. (5/23/14 Troy 30C Report) You may be dazzled by the slogans and jargon used within the report. Below are a few key quotes (we have highlighted in red the ones we found most powerful):

  • Troy School District 30-C is committed to providing a range of educational programs that meet the different learning needs of all of our students. Children, who exhibit exceptionally strong intellectual abilities and/or the potential to perform significantly beyond the standard curriculum, require differentiated curriculum and instruction. (p.3)
  • The curriculum for accelerated students should be differentiated in content, process, and product. Accelerated programs within the Troy School District will provide a curriculum that capitalizes on the unique abilities, talents, interests and needs of identified students, whether it is in overall intelligence, specific academics, creativity or leadership. (p.3)
  • Troy 30-C Accelerated Program Goals 
    •   To provide appropriate complexity, pacing, curricular resources, and instruction commensurate with ability 
    •   To promote learning with and from intellectual peers 
    •   To foster social and emotional development unique among high ability learners (p. 4)
  • In order to achieve academic excellence, a one-size-fits-all/lock-step educational system is neither possible nor equitable. (p.4)
  • Academic readiness differences exist among our students. It is not fair to students or effective instructional practice to disregard this fact and treat all students’ educational needs in the same manner.  (p.4)
  • According to Joyce Van Tassel Baska (1997), "Excellence for all, if it means the same standards, same curriculum, same instructional emphases, becomes inequitable for all since it fails to recognize individual differences." This is echoed in the philosophy of the Northwest Evaluation Association (2004), developer of Measures of Academic Progress. "Historically, school districts have used a student's age (grade level) as the primary criterion for selecting instructional materials and lessons. We believe that a student's current achievement level should be the dominant consideration when grouping for instruction, selecting materials, and providing instruction." (p.4)
  • Therefore, if all students are to learn something new every day, high ability students need a school system that provides alternative curriculum as part of their academic experience. Accelerated programs in the Troy School District aim to allow exposure to challenging curriculum and instructional practices at an appropriate pace. (p.4)
  • Simply defined, acceleration is the established match between level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum and a student’s readiness and motivation. Acceleration respects individual differences and acknowledges the fact that some of these differences merit flexibility in educational programming. (p.4)
  • The impressive research base, feasible application to the school system, and its emphasis on excellence through talent development makes an accelerative approach defensible and practical for Troy 30-C. (pp.4-5) Terms such as bright, gifted, high ability, talented, exceptional, advanced, and students of promise are often times used interchangeably by researchers and practitioners when referring to the most able students in a school population. It is usually these students who are considered likely candidates for services or interventions that replace the standard core curriculum with more advanced curriculum in terms of content and/or thinking process (ex: curriculum compacting, subject-based acceleration.) This approach to educational programming is viewed as a best practice in a field of education called gifted education. (p.5)
  • Because there is academic diversity among all learners, including those identified as high ability, a differentiated core curriculum and multiple educational service options must be provided to best meet their educational needs. (p.7)
  • Accelerated Classes are defined as a curricular modification implemented by a faculty member that is intensive in nature. An out-of-level, rigorous alternative curriculum is primarily used. When compared to the core curriculum, the acceleration service significantly increases the curricular pacing and its complexity. Learners are typically identified for the accelerated service by meeting specified district criteria using standardized test scores, classroom performance, and teacher ratings. (p.7)
  • The philosophy of substituting core curriculum does not mean it is irrelevant for high ability students, but in its current form it is not sufficient to meet the needs of high ability students. In fact, many core curricular concepts are evident in the alternative curriculum. Although there is an emphasis on higher level thinking skills, the importance and maintenance of a strong foundation of basic skills and understanding is addressed. (p. 8)
After reviewing these reports we were speechless -- almost...How could Dr. White have prepared such detailed reports in his old district, but claim it is too time consuming to do in our district? How could Dr. White have implemented a different instructional model that is in direct contravention to the Learning for All Plan the D181 Learning Department seems determined to continue rolling out, doing away with accelerated and gifted programs that in Troy 30C, Dr. White considered to be "best practice?"

Friends, we invite you to take a look for yourselves and to draw your own conclusions. Such reports were generated in Plainfield, but when a board member asks Don White for basic reports and analysis, White stated it is too time consuming to do so. 
Plain and simple, why isn't what was good enough for Dr. White to do in Troy 30C, good enough for District 181? Why did he generate more data analysis and comprehensive reports there than what is presented in D181? Why was best practice in Troy 30C not best practice in D181?

You can't have it both ways. 
Remember: figures don't lie, but liars figure. It is time for the D181 BOE to demand some answers!

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