As always, we welcome your comments and the time you take in writing them.
Mr. Wick's Comments:
The reason I doing so is two fold: firstly to remind people that try to dismiss the effectiveness of this medium that there is in fact quite a bit of interest in how our district is run, AND point out the fact that too often the relatively empty / quite meeting of the BOE do not mean that "all is well".
Yes, when the place is teaming with angry parents the "squeaky wheel" method of political decision making is often effective but sadly when the BOE does not articulate a clear vision and just stumbles along the same path of least resistance such directionless can be equated with the same unprincipled "leaders" that have placed Illinois dead last in categories like business climate or atop the list of most heinously mis-funded public employee pensions ...
Tonight was the legally important date for the district to make their first effort at a levy. The business manager laid out a mostly clear picture of the process (something that arguably is not necessary, as at this point in time all the BOE members have been through at least one full cycle of such budgetary information...). The BOE's titular head extended a very "Heckuva job, Brownie" type thanks and there was not a whole lot of dissent or questioning. That is troubling on several levels -- Firstly there are those that would like to see the whole of the budgeting process laid out on a "zero based budget". They would not be happy to just see everything rolled over from last year. Secondly there are those of us that recognize that under Illinois system of CAPPED PROPERTY TAX any budget that does not address the actual percentage increases for important categories like salaries (which constitute about 85% of the district's expenditures) have a high probability of seriously short-changing all the other important areas that the district funds should be spent on.
The sad fact is that there were NO other parents or community members that questioned anything! Honestly I would have been happier to see some honest-to-goodness tax slasher type out in the open rather than find out too late that they managed to sneak past those should have exposed such scoundrel in the vetting process.
Let me reiterate where I stand on a few things. I've talked to enough community members who understand taxes to be one of those things that you have to be savvy about it -- a valuable home will likely carry a hefty bill. Uncle Sam helps you out quite a bit by allowing those property taxes to reduce one's income tax liability to a considerable degree, but it still ain't a free ride. My elderly mom well knows this, as do my many retired neighbors that choose to remain in their homes and "age in place". I certainly know it too. Folks that are dishonest or hypocritical about such things will find me tearing their baseless arguments to shreds. That said, those of us who have devoted considerable time to truly understanding how taxes work in this state are often most acutely aware of when the public is NOT getting good value for their expenditures. When we've had the opportunity to convince government units to find cost savings we have done so vociferously. THAT remains a primary reason why I devote time to this!
I would also like to point that I so dislike the policy of "non-transparency" in terms of anonymous postings allowed by those that run this blog that I attempted to launch an effort to unmask this practice. Sadly there were more folks that argued for it and some even claim to be teachers in the district that fear reprisal; given the rather open witch hunts that our high school BOE has engaged in that is not an idle concern. I have said before that I have had my own "blogger IDs longer than this site has existed (I have suspended all content from my blogs...) and use that alias mostly as it provides some "plausible deniability" for my kids that would otherwise risk having my views confused with theirs as we share first & last legal name...
I have no doubt that I may often come across as overly sure of my own conclusions. I don't know to really respond to this other than show that in nearly every "controversial topic" that I have attacked the BOE for I have shown that there is legitimate disagreement among the whole of the eductional community. The honest researchers that analyze studies about anything like classroom size or pedagogical approached to reading or math generally go out of their way to present their data and allow other access to every aspect of the study. The best will come right out and say things like the data that disproved their hypothesis forced to reevaluate previous approaches or design more thorough test to understand the discrepancy. I try to show the same kind of approach, it is not just for sake of "balance" but because I really believe there is a great deal of uncertainty in what is truly "best" for any child. I similarly would expect our district staff to try to convey some of these "shades of grey" when they offer recommendations for the district.
Frustratingly certain members of our district staff have approached their role more like those who craft partisan poltical ads -- "if you side with my opponents you must be in favor of all things foul and nasty". That insults the real academic researchers that largely respect the difficulty in truly proscribing a narrow path for education. Certainly sometimes there are disagreements that cause folks to call out one side or another.
Among those involved in mathematics educations has been a long running debate between those that believe in the superiority of either more traditional methods or more progressive approaches. Numerous articles call this controversy "Math Wars"and it long predates the Common Core State Standards. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has been aware of these separate 'camps' since at least 1998 -- NCTM Principles and Standards The fact is any decent classroom teacher learns pretty quickly that some things just work better with some students than others. To have a grasp on some techniques that are decidedly "traditional" like clearly explaining how a particular mathematical operation can be quickly performed with pencil and paper is every bit as necessary as being able to use some progressive methods that involve the use of hands-on materials to allow students to self-generate useful patterns.
I also know that Illinois has required all teachers to complete specific coursework in special education before they can be licensed in ANY capacity Licensure Requirements |ISBE This is mostly a good thing and considered progressive, though I know of no serious "opponents" to such a thing. Further it is hard to argue with the shear number or quality of education schools that Illinois is home to -- the flagship University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign is very well regarded, as is the Illinois State at Bloomington-Normal, as well a Northern Illinois, SIU, NEIU, UIUC, Chicago State, Governor's State to say nothing of private schools like Northwestern, Loyola, DePaul, National Lewis, Roosevelt, St. Xavier, Franciscan, Dominican and others. Yes the Prairie State awards LOTS of advanced degrees in education but at we have seen time and time and time again certain schools are overrepresented in their ties to our beloved neighbor to the north. This myopia wears down the faith in our district staff and paints a picture of, if not outright dishonesty than perhaps at least of a sort of close-minded provincialism that is most unseemly.
If the BOE wants to build trust that we are right track they ought not ignore the feedback of those that are critical but instead reach out and see what can be learned from having a more inclusive vision of all available approaches to learning, professional development and especially responses to drops in tests results.
There is a growing realization among those that respond to Common Core from every conceivable political quarter that they share a common theme -- the lack of field testing and coherency may be the "hidden in plain sight" efforts to dumb down the whole of that nation: left, right or center there is little reason to deny this.
Perhaps a strong, principled BOE and like minded district staff would be working toward a response that exposes the silliness of the whole enterprise for a district like ours... Testing is A REQUIREMENT and dropping USEFUL tests like MAP that can help to focus the efforts on those who really need help while sticking with the mandated PARCC would be a grave error and play right into the worst fears of those that see the horrors of equal outcomes as the real goal of the most radical members of our staff. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_of_outcome"