Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The White/Schneider Puppet Show Hits the Road: And We're Pretty Sure Who is Pulling the Strings

It has become painfully obvious that D181 has become a district that promotes unfounded and ineffective theories and trends on the backs of our children and teachers. First, Learning for All and whatever that means. The Advanced Learning Plan morphed into Full Inclusion with little to no pullouts to address the varied needs and levels of learning. Now, differentiation is touted as the district's saviour, along with heterogeneous classrooms. There is research we have presented on this blog that shows each of these district mantras are ineffective and are selling our children short. For a district of our means and the preparedness of students, our test scores and student growth should be off the charts and far ahead of other affluent school districts. 
Instead, what do we have? Downward trends in many cases. Zero proof of the efficacy of the strategies that Kurt Schneider and now Don White have embraced and continue to promote with little justification. 
And now comes along their math mantra, as evidenced by a recent PTO meeting at Walker School back in November 2014. Take a look at the meeting minutes that were posted and are available online:

The following excerpt is from the 11/19/14 Monroe PTO Minutes:
"VI) Introduction to Dr. White and Dr. Schneider
  • We are seeing the shifts in the Math Curriculum
  • 75% to meet or exceed their RIT growth
  • Fall and January 2015 assessments, and May for Spring 2015
  • Goals are 85-90-95% of MAP Testing and Growth Benchmark Data
  • Students within the fourth quartile to be maintained or increase at the building level and each
    of the grade levels
  • Teachers are offering Flexible and Fluid Instructional Groups
  • Eight Mathematical Practices are being introduced via the Common Core
  • Teacher is a facilitator of learning in the classroom. Child participation is encouraged and
    necessary in every situation. It’s no longer a teacher’s narration of procedure, it is teaching
    with interaction in every opportunity.
  • Student Driven Mathematical Discussions not just doing Math the way we learned as kids but defining it and looking at the problem from different perspectives and utilizing words to explain
    Kids are asked to show how they got your answers.
  • Deeper Conceptual Understanding and Application within problem-solving context

    Dr. White spoke to Common Core
    Teaching Math has become Procedural & Conceptual
    It was heavy on procedural in the ‘old days’ when we were kids.
    We are shifting to get a balance of conceptual and procedural when it comes to math
  • Now in our Math, Johnny requires the conceptual underpinning of the answer, and this differs from the procedural
  • conceptual needs to be embedded at the primary level or otherwise there is remedial math in college.
  • Feels front-loaded and heavy because of the need to hit home on conceptual.
  • District 181 is working to find balance between Conceptual with Procedural.

    Dr. Schneider spoke to the Common Core - “We are looking at what students accomplish in a K-12 curriculum.’
  • Deeper - supporting, writing and reading - ask your child, “How Do You Know This?”
  • What’s the difference between increments of (5)? Make it more than just memorizing...
  • Metacognitive Levels of children and how to help them learn.
  • History is less about the facts, but why those things happened...
  • Set goals, know the struggles and the areas of progress: social, emotional and readiness to
    be challenged." 

Notice the focus is on the conceptual understanding of math before basic skills are mastered. Huh? Can this really be what these two administrators believe? Ahh, yes. With both of these "educators" promoting unfounded trends in math education (due to Common Core in their minds), we are reminded of a children's puppet show, where strings are pulled and movements are made to be in sync with rigid dialog to insight and engage an audience of children. 
While in front of a PTO, we can imagine the double talk while heads bobbed up and down in agreement. 
But who is the puppet and who is the master? Judging by the Walker meeting notes and witnessing other presentations by Kurt Schneider, we believe he is now pulling the strings of the administration and teachers. In our opinion this puppet act, much like those related to Learning for All and Differentiated-Full-Inclusion-Heterogeneous-Classrooms-Workshop-Model-Student-Graded-Writing-No-Ability-Groupings-Shama-Lama-Ding-Dong-Reading-Fundamentals-With-No-Leveled-Readers smacks of Schneider's quest to continue his crusade toward national stardom.
Readers, the very idea that teaching math concepts trumps a fundamental basic understanding of math skills is terrifying and should concern every parent. This is yet another unproven trend that has been foisted upon our kids. 

The following article, for example, addresses the need for basic math instruction instead of this new and unproven idea of conceptual understanding before basic skill mastery: 
Time to end this rag-tag puppet show and vote in board members who give a darn and will demand accountability (Burns, Czierwic, Giltner and Gray). 

We need a new master with a fresh set of strings.


Anonymous said...

This whole situation makes me sick. I heard that the first show of the three ring circus is happening at the board meeting on Monday when Schneider is supposed to give an overview of LFA to the board. I wonder if the administration is going to have the seminal document ready to post on board docs Saturday morning? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not holding my breadth. I challenge the doctors -- Schneider and White -- to act like the professionals their titles suggest they are -- and finish the document and post it on board docs and on the D181 website for the whole world to see. More likely, we won't see anything until late Monday afternoon, or not until the meeting, and then it will be a 4000 page power point of bubbles, squares, arrows, dots, phrases, buzz words and b----s--t!

Anonymous said...

I am quite disgusted with the new superintendent after reading this post and meeting minutes. Math education has become a shell game for our students. Flexible and fluid groupings will keep the parents from figuring out what is actually happening at the school. We don't want anyone to feel bad and we don't want anyone to get ahead. That will really help us become a lighthouse district. Pardon my sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the PTO has become an arm of the administration.

Anonymous said...

They are doing these experiments (co-teaching, fluid grouping(??)) and trying to loose their customers (us) with mumbo jumbo. They just completed the math pilot but according to the minutes were still trying to find a balance between C and P. Next they will start losing their true customers, the kids. Yes lets bore and frustrate kids, so that our district can truly compete with the many fine schools which happen to be private schools and yes who don't have to focus on C and P while trying to shake off inclusion by one or two individuals. News Flash: "Most parents don't care if we make the headlines - Illinois school district pioneer in Inclusive education". We just want our kids to get a solid education without having to worry about crazy agendas. The abuse of power in this district is disturbing. Administrators think they can do anything with our resources and children since no one wants to hold them accountable. It is painful to listen to the podcasts now since all you hear is Turek, and Clarin praising white and schneider. These people did the same for schuster and she was a disaster. Do they really think parents are that stupid, to have faith in their opinions. And more sickening is the adulation you hear from White for Schneider. An assistant superintendent who lives in the clouds, who retreated to the back of the room every time tough questions were asked or hid behind someone. Please get us someone who understands what it is like to be in the classroom with elementary school kids. Someone who isn't wrapped up in himself and his own ideology. Maybe we need a new superintendent from a comparable district since both these individuals are from districts that are not like ours. We seem to be spending more and more money on consultants and paying high salaries. Yes Clarin and Nelson, we want our kids to have the same solid education your kids had without the stress of hidden agendas. I know it's easy to criticize but that's all I have at this point based on what I hear and see happening at the school and in the district.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is inclusive as long as you agree with them. It is hypocritical to tout something and be exclusive to your ideas and agendas. Most of the board members sound exclusive as well as the administration. If you are a parent(s) or a teacher who doesn't agree, the message is you can leave. They are bullies themselves and talk about SELAS.

Definition of a hypocrite: a person who pretends to be what he is not

Cautiously hopeful said...

Last night the Walker School PTO hosted Dr. White and Dr. Schneider. Attendees included parents from CHMS and 181 Foundation President Matt Bousquette.

Dr. White gave an overview of some of the feedback he has received from his meetings with the various groups of teachers and parents. He talked about the changes in the global workforce and other drivers for the Common Core. He seems to have a clear understanding of how much frustration there remains in the district with regards to math and other important subject areas. He also acknowledged that the district is almost certainly behind the curve in comparison to peer communities in being ready for the challenges of PARCC.

Dr. Schneider gave a mostly helpful summary of why the district has moved away from fixed groupings. His background in Special Education is probably excellent preparation for the jargon of "inclusion / heterogeneous groupings / resource delivery".

In addition to the interested moms there were several dads present. One dad had experience teaching mathematics at Columbia University and took exception to the "educationalist mantra" that everything 'traditional' must be disposed of. Similarly former BOE member and Walker Parent Mark Monyak took exception to the idea that heterogeneity is truly 'the answer' when the very people advocating for such things are speaking from their positions of privilege at schools like Stanford, Harvard and similar elite institutions that themselves are growing increasingly selective. An interesting perspective, though he acknowledged this was not the forum for a debate and just hoped that other views would be considered.

Dr. White did eventually get a chance to talk a little bit about technology. He acknowledged the generous contributions of the various PTOs and stated those programs in progress would continue though no new purchases would be sought until after the technology plan is refined. A Prospect mom was especially concerned about the 1-to-1 initiative that her child is already participating in and Dr. White stated that it would continue as doing otherwise would be too disruptive to both the students and teachers.
Similarly Dr. Schneider answered questioned about the implementation of the newly chosen math programs -- those in process will continue and there won't be any district wide changes until the start of the 2015-16 school year.

All-in-all the meeting was encouraging. Parent questions about things like the lack of all day kindergarten other enrichment type programs were answered honestly.
Candidate Czerwiec was able to refresh folks memories of why and how wider access to foreign language was not adopted. BOE member and Walker parent Turek was present. Matt Bousquette tried again to explain the need for a more comprehensive approach to technology.

Most people came away with better understanding of how Dr. White is trying to move the district forward.

There were several things to feel positive about...

The Parents said...

Cautiously Optimistic: By several dads do you mean Candidate Czerwiec, Mr. Turek and Former Board member Monyek? Or were there other dads present? How many moms were there? What if anything did Mr. Turek contribute to the discussion? What exactly did you find encouraging about the discussion? Did White or Schneider or Turek address the parents concerns in a substantive way and say how these concerns have and/or will be addressed?

Anonymous said...

To Cautiously Optimistic: I agree with the the Blogger's question -- what exactly did you find to be cautiously optimistic about? I read your comment, and while I appreciate you telling us about the meeting, my take away was that all that happened was the administration and maybe Turek continuing their attempts to brainwash everyone into accepting what they say. Please give us more details about the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Here's another question: Have White/Schneider/Turek gone to speak at any other PTO meetings, or is this just a Walker specific puppet show intended to help bring out the Clarendon Hills vote for Smarty Marty?

Anonymous said...

Why is walker school the only school to get these personal visits? Are the other 8 schools not paying enough taxes and not important? Schneider and White have an agenda along with Mr. Turek. Why is the foundation so vested in this project? If only stanford, harvard and even google hired anyone or the first person who applied for a job or place in these select institutions. The interview process and application process weed out the best of the diverse group applying. Wake up to reality. This administration and Marty Turek are so focused on their own goals that they would like us to jump on the band wagon. We are tired of waiting for them to deliver. A lot of back door politics going on at Walker obviously with this administration.

Anonymous said...

I agree. First the presence at the PTO meeting and now another meeting with the foundation president in attendance and a board member. Walker is one of the smallest schools and seems to have supported the elimination of the gifted programs out of the elementary schools with support from marty turek and Kevin Russell and now they are the first ones to get more information. The middle schools are the last ones to get any attention. How is this inclusive? Are Don White and Kurt Schneider scared to host a meeting that involves a larger group of parents with diverse views and from different schools without a select invitation?

Anonymous said...

When will it be the "appropriate forum" to discuss inclusion and heterogenous classrooms? Stop "socializing" us and let us speak!!

jay_wick said...

I was at Walker last night. I found out about the meeting from the CHMS PTO. The announcement we got suggested the meeting was going to be more technology focused. It was why Matt Bousquette was there too. The Foundation is about as close to an unalloyed force for progress we have... (Though he also brought up important issue of how the parents at Oak are equally concerned with whipsaw changes in math and lack of clarity in how much staff development is a priority for curricular changes...)

I agree that there were more dads present than is sometimes the case at such meetings, that was probably due to the 7PM start time as much as anything else. The "conspiracy theory" tone of some really gets old...

The aforementioned Columbia University math dad seem (like many parents...) mostly pleased with his children's experience and he did express skepticism at the trend among those steeped in the language of education-ese to jump on the buzzword bandwagon. I suspect this is closest to the mainstream view of a majority of parents and community members -- most folks do not want their kids to be part of anything that is too trendy.

I do wish that more folks would try to see some of the positives -- I don't think our previous superintendent would have allowed so much regular conversation at this kind of gathering. There were no silly "write your question on an index card" drills or other efforts to keep people docile. Dr. White seems much more willing to listen and also not react defensively to feedback. That is a good thing.

I think Mr. Turek was probably there for the same reason other parents, myself included, came -- to support the efforts of the PTOs to work cooperatively with the teachers and administration. I have never doubted his desire to be an involved parent.

Unfortunately the current BOE has not been sufficiently diligent in exercising their duty of oversight. The performance of our district has markedly declined -- on portions of the state mandated tests there is no hiding the fact that we've dropped like a rock. Dr. Schneider included such a Keynote graph in his presentation. The same changes in "cut scores" have not seen our peer districts drop so significantly. There have been no substantive changes in the demographics of our students nor has there been excessive turnover of teachers. What there has been is a lack of consistency in district level leadership and some abrupt shifts in edicts that certainly have not been encouraging for our classroom teachers.

Of course the BOE members themselves have not directly denigrated the performance of the classroom teachers but they've presided over an disorganized approach to curricular change and been less than consistent in how they view important issues such as compensation. There has been a particularity negative, reactionary quality toward too many important decisions. One might even call the way in which math acceleration was first attempted and then retreated from a predictable failure of a BOE that still, with many years of experience, remains unsure how to really assess the effectiveness of district level staff and the directions that are proposed.

It is my goal to see this lack of attention that has been the hallmark of these past years turn around.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate Schneider coming forward and answering questions in public, I find it disturbing that all parents and board members in the district didn't have this opportunity. The entire BOE should have been allowed to see, yet again, how ill prepared and poorly conceived the math pilots, elimination of homogenous groupings and the "innovative" Learning for All plans were, and still are.

Parents have been waiting far too long for clear and specific guidelines, in writing, regarding all of these curricular issues. And when the BOE finally demanded a written document last month, Dr. Schneider continues to thumb his nose at them. He is being allowed yet another time extension? Our children are in the midst of his disorganized affair, and we want answers. We are being asked to wait who knows how much longer, until Schneider can "socialize" us at 3 more meerings?! What does that term mean? If he really wanted to inform EVERYONE about what his ideas actually are, he should be forced to present his ideas in writing BEFORE wasting any more parent time at meerings. Our time is valuable, too. If he truly wanted to educate us, he would have already given us thorough and clear materials to teach us. However, he is incapable of doing this. Why? Probably because he has no factual basis about how or why this LFA plan would ever work. All the scores over the last 3 years support its failure, yet our children's educations are continued to be wasted.

If only White had eliminated Schneider's position swiftly last year, our district could have finally stopped spinning its wheels trying to get out of the quicksand that our children are still sinking it. Enough is enough. Dr. White needs to stop this madness now. Schneider must be held accountable for what he started 3 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Dr. White is a smart man. I think we need to give him a chance and direct our frustration at the right people/positions/philosophy. Let's be fair; he is working with a team of curriculum leaders whose contracts were renewed by the BOE; I believe for three years, last spring. That's on them. The key is hoping that there is accountability for the work those "leaders" are doing. You don't reward those in curriculum positions if they aren't effectively making positive changes in student growth. Hopefully, administration does its due diligence and properly evaluates its team of leaders (including principals) to make sure they are all stepping up to the plate and doing their jobs (and doing them well). We need high standards and expectations at every position in this district. Top to bottom. I encourage this blog to give Dr. White a chance. I truly believe he is an intuitive, open-minded man who is really interested in what's best for this district. The reality is that this spring he will have a chance to make some of his own recommendations to the BOE to create change. Anything before now would have been premature. It takes time to save this sinking ship. I think we've got the right leader at the helm and we need to support him. If not, we run the risk of losing a good one.

Anonymous said...

"Socialize" means to attempt, once again, to convince parents and the BOE that this plan is a good one. Schneider needs more time this time because things are a mess and it takes time to come up with creative excuses. As the D181 newsletter says, the BOE will be reviewing the history and looking at the original research used by the advance learning task force. Remember the research that was written by Schneider's friends and co-workers and linked to him like a game of 7 degrees of separation? There was no data considered from a top university that presented a different point of view and none considered at all until parents protested. It was completely one-sided. What will be interesting to see is how many of the teachers (not social workers) who participated in the advanced learning task force would be willing to put their name on the plan today.

Anonymous said...

"History is less about the facts than why things happened"?! Really?? History should be mostly about the facts and the facts are then used to teach us why it happened and, hopefully, to learn from them. Just as in math, the facts must come first and are the most important aspect. When those are learned, then we can go deeper and apply them. Math and History without facts is useless in high school, college and the everyday world which is based on data, not just theories.

Anonymous said...

If Dr. White were truly as "smart" as you believe he is, he would have seen through the smoke and mirrors of Schneider's plan for inclusion the second he began his employment. Schneider's training is in special education, yet he was promoted by White to oversee the entire Dept of Learning. This is the person we are supposed to "give more time to" so his ridiculous plan can work? Are you kidding? You may be able to sacrifice the education for your children while waiting for more nonsense from this administration. I am not. We can't get to Oak Brook fast enough.