Monday, January 26, 2015

"Socialization" of Our Community, Part 1: Tonight's Presentation on the Learning for All Plan Shaping Up to be a Disappointment

As everyone should (but may not) know, Part 1 of the Department of Learning's attempt to "socialize" (Mr. Turek's words, not ours) the community on the Learning for All Plan takes place tonight at the BOE meeting.  The meeting will be held at Elm School immediately after an Ambassadors of Excellence Awards presentation at 6:45 a.m.  We hope that parents who attend the awards assembly will come in pairs and that at least one parent will stay to hear the Learning For All presentation.  Vigilance and attention are needed now more than ever, since it is our opinion that the presentation and questions (or lack thereof) by certain board members will be quite revealing into the current state of our children's curriculum model.

Board docs posted on Saturday morning (Click to open link).  The agenda includes a partial document called "The Learning for All Plan."  (Click to open the document.)  It is 32 pages long and we encourage every single parent in D181 to read it.  We did and were very disappointed its brevity, content and what it reveals about the continuing direction Dr. Schneider is leading the district.

The purpose of this post is not to summarize the report, since we don't want to do Mr. Turek's homework for him (in case he waits until today at work to read the report). We will wait to hear the formal administrative presentation tonight and listen to the spin we expect from certain board members.  Instead, the purpose of this post is to point out what appears to be missing from the report. We hope that more than two board members -- Heneghan and Garg -- express their dismay and concern with the content of the report. They should, but we doubt that they will. Our expectation (and we hope we are proven wrong) is that Mr. Turek and his minions (Yaeger, Clarin, Nelson and perhaps Vorobiev) will simply glorify and praise the report, doing the Happy Happy Joy dance at the expense (once again) of our children.

What is missing:

1.  Professional documents that cite to authority should actually cite to sources by name, author and page number.  They don't just slap a list of authorities at the end of the document. If our students did that in a school report (certainly by the time they get to high school) they would receive a poor, if not failing, grade.  So why didn't the administrators who wrote the report on board docs take the time to do this?  It was our understanding that the document presented tonight would include definitions on key terms used over the last few years in connection with the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan, terms which should reflect best practices, since Dr. Schneider and the other Dept. of Learning administrators have repeatedly stated that everything they have done to the curriculum model follows best practices.  In our opinion, the report should have cited a specific authority for each key term and concept the administration claims has or will be implemented in our district.  Even the quotes from sources they do copy into the report (see, for example, the quotes that appear on pp. 13 and 14 dealing with Collaboration Time) have no citations to which of the specific authorities listed at the end of the document they come from.  Such sloppiness should not be tolerated by the BOE.  The full board should direct Dr. Schneider to revise the report.

2.  The list of definitions in the report should have been fully "inclusive."  No pun intended, but since the words "inclusive" and "inclusion" have been used by the administration time and again over the last three years to describe parts of the ever-morphing Learning for All Plan, it was quite surprising that this word does not appear in the list and definitions of "Terms"(see pages 7-9).  Why were these terms excluded?

3.  Similarly, the word "heterogeneous" is not on the list.  That is another term that has been used over and over again by the Dept. of Learning over the last few years -- including in the first PowerPoint they presented to the board in December 2012 called "The Vision for Advanced Learning."  (See pp. 23-24 of the December 2012 Vision Powerpoint.)  Why is it missing?

4.  "Raise the floor to raise the ceiling" was the mantra Dr. Schneider used from the outset during his presentations on his vision of what the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan would achieve.  Yet this phrase is absent from the new document. Why?  We deserve an explanation.

5.  When details of the proposed plan were first presented by Dr. Schneider to the BOE on January 28, 2013, his bubble infested power point included slides outlining a seven year roll out of the new math, language arts and social studies programs that would accelerate math for all students, and result in ACE social studies and ELA being taught to all middle school students starting in 6th grade. (Click to open 1/28/13 PowerPoint presentation.)  The 7 year roll out is not referenced in the new document the Department of Learning is presenting to the BOE.   Why not?

6.  The report very briefly summarizes what has transpired over the last three years, but what is absent is a genuine recognition or discussion of the intensity of parent concerns with the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan as it rolled out.  Why this omission?

It will be interesting to listen to the BOE discussion of Part 1 of this report during tonight's meeting.  In fact, it will be interesting to see which board members asked any questions before tonight's meeting (which should be posted on Board Docs later today).  How much time will the BOE be given to discuss and ask questions?  Who will participate in a meaningful way in the discussion?  Will the administration dodge and dance around the tough questions the BOE should be asking tonight?

Stay tuned......


Anonymous said...

Completely agree with every point. Ridiculous that definitions to some of the most used (and controversial) phrases were not included in the presentation. I think it is shameful that after 3 years of this awful plan, we are still trying to explain it to our BOE and parents. The reason for this is that it was poorly, designed, implemented and communicated from the get go. And the poor implementation has just continued and gotten worse. At the 3 year point of its proposal, we should be looking at data and details regarding the success or lack therof of the changes made under the plan. Can't do that because there were so many changes made at one time that we can't discern what worked where and what didn't?? (See above re: poor design and implementation, why didn't anyone listen to the parents who warned repeatedly about this happening?) THEN STOP IT ALL AND WORK ON IMPLEMNENTING COMMON CORE STANDARDS AND ONE OR TWO ASPECTS OF THE PLAN! Then, and only then, should additional modifications be implemented. And, also, (duh moment) don't allow the removal of student programs and classes until there is a well-designed replacement for them so that there is not another 3 year gap in the district's ability to meet ALL student needs.

Anonymous said...

"Socialization"? Should be called "Socialistic" because that is exactly what it is. Everyone is the same, no one is more capable, more intelligent or needs anything "more" than average, All children are gifted at everything. Reality anyone?

Annoyed D181 Staffer said...

I work in the district, and there is some confusion in my building, because the administration puts limits on what kind of technology we should use. For example, we don't have enough computers to do online projects, yet the administration wants us to do more and more things online.

Teachers received new laptops last year that do not have CD/DVD drives. Since so much of our stuff is on CD/DVDs (software, movies, etc.), we don't know where to find online equivalents. If we can download the same software or movie, that's one thing. But what if there isn't? When we ask the administration about this, they just brush it off and are like, "Find something new." How are we, the staff, supposed to find new things while we're grading papers, making lesson plans, doing clubs, etc.?

Plus, the administration doesn't want to buy the appropriate textbooks/workbooks so we need to make copies of everything. However, the administration wants us to cut down on copying & printing. Where can we find online resources? A few of my colleagues found a Pearson website that goes with some of our textbooks, but they need online accounts to be created. When we asked the tech department for help creating them, they didn't even know about it. To add insult to injury, they got back to me saying that the district had this program for 5 years. SERIOUSLY? We had it for 5 years, and nobody knew about it? I realize that we had a bit of administrator turnover, but we've had enough people here that should have known about it. Plus, that's just one resource. How else does the administration expect us to cut down on printing & copying? Where are Schneider, Benaitis and Walsh in all of this? As good as the staff is at finding & using resources, we all could use some guidance on this from the administration.

Anonymous said...

Looks like ability groups/tiers are going to be eliminated at the middle schools. Now this is progress!
Shame on Done White, his administration, and the BOE for supporting this ridiculous Learning For All Plan.

Anonymous said...

Elimination of the tiers is really going to prepare our kids for Central where EVERY core class is performance/ability based! Oh that's right, everyone is the same so they'll be fine!

Anonymous said...

Last night - too much for words.

Enjoy inclusive "integrated" classrooms d181. Should not be a problem because it is best practices and all kiddoes are getting their needs met. Trust me. Data not necessary.

Anonymous said...

Schneider that was brilliant last night! Brilliant! Yes, let's group by Popsicle sticks! Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Yes Nelson and Clarin - your kids got great educations from this district. Things are different now! It is a different district. You told us to trust the experts about math compacting. Turns out the non educational experts - the parents - were right on that one, even though you disrespected them at every single board meeting. How can you be so sure the "experts" are right this time without data?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, district staffers, for sharing your perspective and experience. These examples and insights are invaluable to helping get this district - and our students - back on track. The more parents know about what is going on in the schools, the more they can push for meaningful reform.