Friday, February 13, 2015

From Whence They Came: D181 Parents and Students Dealt a Bad Hand; Do We Fold or Play to Win?

As the saying goes, you can't win if you don't play the game. We bloggers have been reeling since last Monday's BOE meeting (2/9/15), from the antics and double talk we heard play out. The pendulum swung completely from the prior meeting's long winded, unscripted speeches that failed to adequately address what the 2013 BOE approved Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan actually meant, what the performance data has shown since Fall 2013, how the plan changed (without BOE approval) and on what grounds it was changed.  Monday's meeting was strikingly different in one respect.  The administrators chose brevity over verbosity, scripted (yes, we have been told that some of the presenters were reading prepared statements) words over free verse and yet, even this new approach could not save them from "stepping into it."  They showed their cards, and we do not like what they revealed.  

From the top down -- Superintendent to Assistant Superintendent to Directors of Learning to Teachers on the Math Committee -- we learned that the Learning For All Plan's Math component has now morphed into a plan to only meet the needs of "the greatest group of learners" and that the administration doesn't even have a plan ready that will address the needs of the "UNIQUE" students (a.k.a. gifted, advanced, high achievers). Yes, that's right folks. Dr. White was the first administrator to make this big reveal on Monday night, and his brief statement used a new label to describe students that the BOE voted in 2013 should no longer be "labeled" as gifted under the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan. But apparently the Department of Learning has gone totally rogue and plucked a new name to call these students -- UNIQUE.  

According to the online Webster's dictionary, UNIQUE is an adjective "used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else; very special or unusual; belonging or connected with only one particular thing, place or person."  (Source:

Despite 30% of our district having previously qualified for advanced and accelerated classes, the plan rolled out in a 1 page chart on Monday night does not address their needs. As the Department of Learning informed the BOE, it will have to come back to the board at a later date with plans for those students.  In our opinion, that is reprehensible and irresponsible, and shall we suggest a big fat case of EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE.  

But it is true, the plan that Dr. Schneider, Sean Walsh, Dawn Benaitis and a panel of teachers described does everything BUT meet the needs of nearly 1/3 of our student population. Worse yet, the newly morphed version of the Learning for All plan is setting up many of the average and below average students for failure when they reach middle school and are forced to jump from learning Common Core grade level math to be accelerated either one or two years.  Without any data driven explanation or really any explanation at all on how this will actually work or how they "know" that this plan is the right plan, the administration slapped a new math chart up on the overhead for the BOE to see and simply expected them to buy into it.  This included a CHMS middle school math teacher's suggestion that the new plan will enable higher achieving students to serve as mentors and assist struggling students who have lost their motivation by the time they get to middle school. More on the role of the UNIQUE students as this teacher proclaimed later in this post.
We are not going to describe more details of this travesty of a meeting, because frankly, our spelling it out for you isn't going to wake up the rest of the community to what the h--- is happening in D181.  Parents of all students need to take the time to educate themselves and the first step is to actually listen to Monday's meeting.  Ignorance is bliss, but there will be no bliss for our students if this plan is allowed to roll out.  So WAKE UP PARENTS!  Start listening to the meetings, better yet, start attending them.  Start speaking up along with the other brave parents who have done so.  Up until now, the majority of the BOE has ignored these parents who they assume are just a loud minority.  But we know better.  They are not a minority of students, and perhaps not even a minority of teachers -- but we will never know because the BOE and the administration don't want to take the time or make the effort to truly ask teachers and parents what they want or what is and isn't working with the current or proposed future plan.  Instead the onus is on all parents to make their concerns known and soon, before it's too late to stop the administration from betting that their "hand" is a winning one.  We can ill afford to let the administration "bet" it all on their current hand and have our children -- OUR CHILDREN -- lose and lose big time! 

Here's the link to the last meeting:
We hope you take the time to listen to it and share your concerns.  Speak up!  Write to Dr. White.  Write to the BOE.  Make public comments during the BOE meetings.  Attend the Learning Committee Meetings and make your presence known to the parents and teachers serving on that committee.  Your silence will not help.  It will only hurt your children. And this also goes to the D181 teachers.  We have a question we would like answered:  Are the 6 -10 teachers who routinely show up and are seated as a shield to protect the administration speaking on behalf of all district teachers?  If not, why are the union officers silent on these huge sweeping changes that will have a dramatic effect in all classrooms?  We are curious as to whether the vast majority of teachers and the union president are on board with the proposed Learning for All program and changes; we have heard rumblings of discontent that have been communicated to the administration, but these frustrations have yet to be stated at a BOE meeting.  We hope this will soon change for the sake of the children and parents.

In the meantime, we were curious about what the former districts of Don White and Kurt Schneider are looking like today. After all, both of these administrators were employees of these districts for several years. 
Are their former districts now in the throws of full inclusion? Do their former districts contain more information on the Common Core implementation? What types of assessments are being used? And now that we parents have been put on notice that D181 is officially a social justice churning, "unique" learner burning, Learning for Some district, we wanted to know if this same edu-speak was evident within the websites of Troy 30C in the cornfields of Plainfield and Stoughton School District in the Wisconsin cheese land. 

For answers to our questions, we began our brief review of Stoughton School District. Click on this link and take a look at the information listed under a sub-link for its Teaching and Learning Department. One slide, in particular, was of great interest. It is a link and diagram of what differentiation is and isn't, in essence. (Click to open differentiation slide.) We have copied it below:

Review the lists and recall that a CHMS teacher actually said on Monday night that the advanced students (now referred to as UNIQUE) can help assist and mentor students who are struggling in the class. This is specifically stated within the Stoughton list as something that should NOT be done in an inclusive classroom. The chart states that differentiation "is not using more capable students as tutors." Instead, the Department of Learning Administrators should be coaching and mentoring the teachers; how often this is accomplished is anyone's guess. And since Dr. White promoted Kurt Schneider to oversee the entire Department of Learning, we are wondering why a teacher would make such a bold statement that is contrary to the information that appears in Schneider's old Wisconsin district.  Hmmmm, you can draw your own conclusions here.

Even more telling, however, was a list of Resources we discovered in another sub-link of the Stoughton website.  The list was of "SUGGESTED RESOURCES RELATED TO INCLUSION AND INTEGRATED COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES" (click to open link). Many of the educational "experts" that Kurt Schneider consulted with in developing D181's Learning for All plan are listed:  Frattura, Capper and Kluth. Elsewhere on the website we found diagrams, wording and content that seem all too familiar. For example, Stoughton and D181 have completely different student populations, yet the similar edu-speak is apparent in both. Click on the following links to open up 2 presentations given by Schneider and Frattura  in Stoughton: Frattura presentatonSchneider presentation. The slides and content speak for themselves.  

Now, let's take a look at Troy 30C. We were struck by the level of detail provided concerning the Common Core, assessments that are used, gifted (yikes!) services, and more. But don't take our word for it.  Check it out yourself starting at Troy 30C's link for their department of learning which they call "Department for Educational Achievement." (Click to open link.) Within that web page is a sub link to Troy 30C's Curriculum Menu and within that menu are many additional highly detailed and comprehensive pages on all things pertaining to student learning. 

Our question: where is this level of detail on the D181 website? If it's fine for Troy, shouldn't it be fine for our district?   
But there's more.  Dr. White's old district has quite the comprehensive gifted program, including 6 belief statements on the type of instruction gifted/advanced/unique students should have.  

Take a look at Belief #3 in which "accelerated students should have structured opportunities to interact with peers of similar interests and abilities."  Isn't this the complete opposite of what Drs. White and Schneider are proposing for our district?
And if this isn't enough to make your blood boil, open up the following link to Troy 30C's "Comprehensive Plan for Accelerated Programs of Education:"
Page 4 of the report sets forth the rationale for these programs:
Since this report was issued by Troy 30C on May 23, 2014, there can be no doubt that it was in final revisions at the time Dr. White left his old district to begin his new job in D181 at the end of that month.  It is shocking that he has seemingly abandoned the educational systems and "practices" of his former district that many parents in our community would bet their last dollar to bring back to D181.

Here's the bottom line: last Monday's meeting was a game changer; the administration put their cards on the table (what they had available in the way of a brief, non-detailed report) and basically stated they were going to focus on the needs of "most learners" and figure out what to do with the "UNIQUE" or former advanced learners later. Why is this acceptable to Dr. White when as Troy's superintendent, he oversaw a gifted program with pullouts for instruction? How can he now switch gears and not deal a full deck to parents and students regarding gifted services and supportive programs for all? We can only speculate answers to these questions at this point. Gee, could there have been a truly competent Curriculum Director who was well versed in instructional practices so Dr. White did not need to immerse himself in best practices and terminology that he finds himself wading through now in D181? All we know is that is sure looks like the educational experience for many D181 students is nowhere near what it should or could be. We assume most teachers know what they are doing, yet they have not spoken publicly about their challenges and limitations with this program. If the philosophies that guide Troy and Stoughton are good enough, why are we taxpayers so frustrated?

Let's remember folks: data analysis to support Learning for All (Some) has not been forthcoming by this administration. Now we were told PARCC will be the new standard, all the while no one knows what the data analysis will result from it, if any. 
Folks, the hand we have been dealt is unacceptable.  There's no more time to hedge our bets that things will get better.  The educational experience for our children has now officially been compromised; this after three long years of transition plans, non-analysis of data, and falling test scores.  Our Superintendent, his administrators and the BOE have tipped their hands and it ain't pretty.  
In the world of gambling, the goal is to always walk away a winner.  Is this possible now?
We think you know the answer to that question.


Anonymous said...

Does the administration and Board of Education really think that the smart parents in our community are going to be snowed by an ever changing series of words and terminology? Gifted to advanced learner to learning for all plan to a plan that means nothing. Now unique learners? Where do they come up with this stuff? Are they randomly opening up a dictionary or thesaurus to find the next word to use?

Anonymous said...

The whole "unique" thing would be comical is the situation were not so dire. The administration looks like fools.

Bloggers: I urge you to write a post on Ms. McCurry. How on earth is it even legal for her to run for the BOE? She is a paid employee of the district and works for Dr. Schneider. Even if she resigns after the election, the conflict still exists. How can she vote on district issues with this conflict? How is the election commission even allowing this to happen? Surely this is illegal, and if it isn't it is immoral and unethical at the very least. Doesn't anyone else see a problem with this? It was bad enough when Mr. Clarin negotiated his wife's contract, but this takes it to a whole new level. I'm really outraged.

Anonymous said...

Plus, Ms. McCurry seems to take furious notes at BOE meetings. Why, may I ask, does she need to take notes if she's so well-versed in District matters? Perhaps she's not.

Anonymous said...

Dear administrators and BOE majority,

You all seem to be very confused but what sort of data is appropriate to be gathered, analyzed and presented. In a nutshell, what parents and teachers have a right to know and NEED to know in order to do their jobs is whether or not students are performing better under the tenets of the learning for all plan with its inclusive classrooms/compacting/acceleration for all than in the previous ability based tier system. And we would like to know this without the standard deviation fudging that Dr. White tried to use the last time he provided data. Give us the data used by NWEA in the way it was designed the presented.

It is not our job to tell you how to do this. This is why you are paid a lot of money. This is a significant and important part of your job and why you were hired. But, before you implement all of these crazy ideas, that significantly deviate from the tried and true, you need to have proof that our students will be better off after the fact. Don't have the data? Then don't make the changes until and if you do. Additionally, before you eliminate ANY middle school tiers, you should be able to prove that this is the best thing for ALL students, not just the "greater group". Using students because some teachers can't do their jobs is unacceptable and lowering the identification guidelines for ELA, ACE and advanced and accelerated math has proven to "water down the curriculum" as was described at Monday's meeting. Given this fact, why on earth would you expand these policies?

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with 9:15. Also no aggregating the data. It needs to be separated by school and grade. We all know our schools are grouping differently so let's compare the data.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that most parents are planning to fold. The few that know what is happening will make sure their kids learn math outside of school. The problem is that there just are not enough informed parents who seem to be willing to tackle this issue in a meaningful way. Maybe 20 parents at the last BOE meeting? As long as that is the case, nothing is really going to happen. Most parents would be concerned if they really understood the issue, but unfortunately, they are blissfully unaware.

In a few years when their little Johnny can't get a decent SAT or ACT score, the parents will wonder why and scratch their heads.

Anonymous said...

Well said 1:52. Parents have been asleep at the wheel while D181 has gone down the tubes. They figure with the dolts on the BOE and the inept administration, they are better off hiring tutors for Johnny rather than fighting for what should be a stellar education. Parents are propping up the district with massive amounts of tutoring. That seems to be the norm. School is now for social purposes because there is little to no rigor, even in advanced classes or what is left of ACE.
I say most parents have folded and the administration is counting on it to keep their padded salaries.

Anonymous said...

If our taxes ever went down as a result of these cost cutting measures to eliminate programs, that's one thing. But our taxes never go down. It makes no sense. D181 schools scores and reputation go down, our property values go down, but our taxes go up?
Also, D181 has yet to save any money from these program cuts because our administrators keep siphoning the money away for themselves and their own salaries.
If our schools, students, teachers, and property values are going to take a hit, our administration - the ones responsible for the poor decisions - need to take a hit too.

Anonymous said...

Parents should be outraged after reading the information on White and Schneider and their "beliefs." I didn't expect our new superintendent to be faking and bending to whatever Schneider and this soon to be dismissed board wants. So he used to support "gifted" education and now we have "unique" learners? The joke is on us.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of data, this is what I want: an update (with data) on how the current 5th graders are doing.

Lets look at the past 3 years for this group under the ever morphing L4A plan. First, there was forced compacting of math (or rather skipping of large chunks of material) for 2 years with all students being kept at the same pace. This resulted in a portion of the grade being bored to tears, and another 25% being offered free district tutoring after school because they were failing. Then, 75% of the grade skipped the last 6 months of 5th grade math and jumped to 6th grade math this year. To add insult to injury, they were taught using "materials" that were a "binder" consisting of random sheets pulled off the internet. The sheets are from all different sources, and are by no means cohesive. Then the tests are homemade. I believe the grade school teachers that are teaching the material were offered minimal to no training.

So, how are these students doing? We know that they had very low MAP growth in third grade. And last year only one school had positive growth in math for fourth graders. I can tell you from talking to parents at a variety of schools that they are not doing well. Far from it. So, its time to look to the data and own it. We also need to figure out how to make this group whole.

Mr. Nelson: after all this, you still want me to trust the "professionals"????? And how can we even consider compacting and/or keeping all kids in a one size fits all curriculum without first reflecting on this group?

Anonymous said...

8:20 I agree with you although one correction, the 25% offered on grade level tutoring wasn't because all students were failing. It was because teachers felt that the students were missing key elements of instruction that were affecting their ability to grasp the concepts being taught during the school day, and not having the extra support would have perpetuated further achievement gaps.

Anonymous said...

Yes. That year, teachers saw how terribly their students were scoring on tests month after month as a direct result of the poorly planned, experiment to accelerate the children 2 years in one year. Parents complained to teachers, principals and administrators about the terrible materials and large gaps teaching important math concepts. At least Dr. Russell attempted to rectify the situation by listening to parents. If it wasn't for this after school tutoring, the students at our school would not have shown any growth that year. However, we had to pay a great number of teachers $50 /hr to stay after ans teach these kids. Many other parent payed $80/hr of their own money because they had completely lost faith in the schools. Please realize, that not ALL of the kids were tutored. Only the bottom 20 - 30 % of children. These children were not able to keep up with the accelerated pace for math. Yet, Dr. Schneider continues to ignore the data and facts (even claiming that there was no data collected that year!) and insist that next year, he will accelerate ALL kids! Not just the top 60- 70% of students, 100%. Is he planning on extending the school day again and offering free tutoring for 25% of our sudents again - to continue to hide, and cover up the failure of his ridiculous one size fit all learning plan?

Anonymous said...

The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice that Dr. Schneider refers to this compacting debacle as "that sensitive group with math."

The Parents said...

10:58: We did notice that. What do you suppose he meant by that phrase? He should explain himself. Of course, he won't.

Anonymous said...

The administration will say that the above problems are the result of administrator turnover. Benaitis and Schneider had a heavy hand in all of this, so I think not.

My brother has a current fifth grader at Monroe. He told me that during the 3rd grade year a large group of parents met with their then principal Benaitis to complain about the compacting. She dismissed the concerns of the group and said "the data shows its working." (She never actually presented any data.) A few short months later she was promoted to the department of learning.

Administrative turnover is not the problem.

Anonymous said...


Not only was she promoted to the department of learning after that statement, she was promoted to become the assessment director! Yes, administrative turnover is not the problem.

HMS Parent said...

The problem has not just been the administration. It has been the following board members: Turek, Nelson, Yaeger, Clarin and Vorobiev. The community elected them expecting that they would look out for our children. They have not. They all have "seen the emperor's clothes." They all praised and praised and praised the "empress and her minions" and now are doing the same with the new emperor and his minions. The only way things are going to change is to vote in a new board majority that will demand accountability. It is the community's turn to demand accountability by voting out the court jester -- Turek -- and not voting in anyone who is simply going to be another "hand servant" -- McCurry. Vote for ANYONE but these two candidates and then perhaps there will be hope for our children.

Anonymous said...

He said that? That is so tellng of his character. Dr. Schneider thinks that he is the only person whose opinions and feelings matter! The man is a complete megalomaniac. He refuses to look at the facts and the actual experiences of our children. If he cannot put his own self centered wants ahead of our children's needs, then he must go. How dare he demand respect when he doesn't even respect the children whose educations he is hurting?

Anonymous said...

First of all, let me preface my comments by saying that everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. Expressing ones opinion in a constructive manner in which we can rely on the facts, not total misrepresentations of the truth, and not have to sink to a level of insult is the time when things can be accomplished. I feel the need to comment on one such misrepresentation of the truth that has been cited repeatedly since last Monday's BOE meeting. When the administration referenced that the Math progression plan would address the largest group of learners, lets talk about what that really means. It means that, with the incorporation of the CCSS, we can expect a more rigorous math curriculum. This will most certainly address the needs of some of our advanced learners as will the implementation of our new (hopefully) math materials if they are approved. We have heard from many of our teachers that these new math materials have allowed them to challenge all of their students, even their most advanced learners. There are obviously going to be some students that will be able to do more. Those students will be evaluated on an individual basis in order to best meet their needs. There are options available to those students whether it be pulling down upper grade level math materials into their classroom to support their needs or looking at moving them up a grade level if so necessary. The administration NEVER said they were not looking at the needs of these children or that they weren't included in the plan. First of all, they would not be foolish enough to omit the children whose parents have the loudest voice and that criticize them at every turn and second it would be premature for them to lay out a progression plan for these students when they haven't even experienced what the combination of CCSS and the new math curriculum will be able to provide to our advanced learners AND their needs will be met on an individual basis in order to adequately meet every child's needs.

The Parents said...

6:17: We will have to respectfully disagree with your comment. Dr. White specifically said that what was being presented to the BOE was a plan to address the needs of most learners and that the administration would have to come back at a later date to discuss the plans for the unique learners. We are not making that up. At no time during the presentation did the administration say any of the things you say in your comment. If they had, then perhaps we wouldn't be so critical. When you say "there are obviously going to be some students that will be able to do more. Those students will be evaluated on an individual basis in order to best meet their needs" and that options for them would include "pulling down upper grade level math materials into their classroom" or "moving them up a grade level if necessary" HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN? In fact the elementary plan that was rolled out ELIMINATES the possibility of accelerating any student. Here's our main beef -- after THREEE LONG years of our kids being treated as guinea pigs, we have had enough. We want a complete plan that is presented to the BOE and that is DATA driven. We are tired of having the administration present partial presentations. What have they been doing for the last 3 years? Where is the data analysis? If you, by chance, are an administrator in D181, where were you at the last 2 board meetings? Why didn't you speak up? Our kids cannot afford to waste any more time. We would hope you would understand at least THAT simple concept.

Elementary Parent said...

6:17: We agree with the bloggers. There has been no "misrepresentation of the truth" by them or any parent who has posted on this blog. Were you at Monday's meeting? Did the administration present a complete math plan - a road map on how it will meet the needs of ALL students - last Monday? No, it presented a piecemeal plan. Did it present math scope and sequence plans for each grade that will be applied consistently across the district? No it did not. And we all know that there is rampant inconsistency in the way math is being taught across the district. Each school is doing something different than others. Some are offering pull-outs. Some are not. (Although under next year's elementary plan, there won't even be pull-outs.) Did the plan explain how a teacher will be told at the beginning of each school year how her/his students performed the year before so that there is no lost time and each child's needs can be met right out of the starting gate? No, they did not. There was NO detail, NO data to explain how they came up with their new plan. Your comment sounds like you are an administrator. If you are, how can you possibly buy into this?

Anonymous said...

This district has really sunk to a new low. I questioned whether or not the administration actually read all of this stuff parents have written. Now that I know the administration does read, chew on know what your problem is? You can’t get positioned. Every time you open your mouthes, you lie. You all have lied so much, you don’t know where the truth ends and the lie begins. You make everything up as you go. And you’re embarrassing yourselves. That’s what happens when you try to cover things up. The ugly truth always makes itself known.

Bottom line, this district will never move forward until Schneider leaves. He and Schuster were the masterminds behind Learning For All and as long as you continue to throw that name around and have Schneider head up the curriculum department, this district will continue to decline in every way imaginable.

That you have resorted to conversing with parents on a blog shows what cowards you all are. I can’t even believe I’m typing this.......

Anonymous said...

Part 1: 6:17: I agree that constructive discussions are necessary to move forward from the mess that has been created over the last 3 years, and I have heard some of the things that you are saying, but there are many issues with these "solutions".

First, while the new materials may be better and more challenging than Everyday Math and Glencoe/McDougal Littel, and it is true that some advanced students may be more challenged in some ways, we have many both single and double accelerated students in this district. Thus the need for both the Advanced (1 year accelerated) and Accelerated (2 year accelerated) tiers in middle school and the large number of students (up to half in some schools) who were formerly accelerated in 3rd grade. Yes, some of these students will be more challenged by the new material but, as a parent pointed out at last Monday's meeting, there are over 400 Accelerated students in our middle schools and likely the same number or close to it at the elementary level given the same population - not to mention probably the same number of Advanced math students. These students will all need more than just Common Core and this plan does not consider their needs at either the elementary or middle school levels. There are far too many of them to be addressed on an individual basis through the RtI process. Further, if the new materials are that much more challenging for the Advanced students, what does this mean for the students who are working at or below grade level? It just makes sense that these students will struggle more. Having them all in the same inclusive classroom allows the fundamental problems of over-differentiation and not enough teacher attention to meet the needs all students, to remain.

Also, you mention that above grade level and below grade level material will be pulled as needed for students. This idea is actually hugely problematic in practice as it results in a potentially completely different curriculum for each group of students by classroom and school. And, who will keep track of who has learned what, when? Will there be some sort of a checklist passed from teacher to teacher? How will there be consistency and continuity from year to year for students in elementary school? How will students be accurately assessed for growth and compared if they've been exposed to different things? How will the 6th grade middle school teachers know who has learned what, when, and what they should teach their students and at what level? There will be gaps and repetition galore.

Yes, some parents are angry and critical but that is because, unlike what you say, the needs of accelerated students HAVE been made secondary through every decision made by our administration for 3 years. There have been MANY mistakes made during that time (for all students) and it is totally unacceptable. Anyone who would defend such failed decisions as the way that the elementary ACE and pull-out programs were eliminated without replacement, grade compacting and acceleration for all, the homemade curriculum presented to our now 5th graders in both 3rd grade and this year, the lowered identification standards and opt-in for the advanced middle school classes and poorly thought out math pilots, has not been paying attention. They would be inexcusable in any district, much less one with D181's resources.

Anonymous said...

Part 2: 6:17:

These decisions were all made without a review of the appropriate data and without needed support systems in place. Many students have been harmed or have had significantly lessened educational experiences because of these decisions. Why should we trust the decision makers in our administration when their track record clearly shows us that we should not? Are any of these policies and results defensible to you? The administration didn't need to come out and explicitly state that the needs of our most accelerated students would not be met, it was obvious from the presentation that very little thought had been given to them, no different from the decisions of the past 3 years. The assumption was just made that common core materials were enough, again, without any data, input from a large number of teachers or any from parents and students.

Finally, the $64,000 question remains: Why are all of these decisions being made? What is the ultimate goal (besides the obvious compliance with Common Core which everyone seems to be confusing with the Learning For All plan)? The goal, as has been stated on day 1, is ability inclusive classrooms which are, without a doubt, less challenging overall, on an every day basis, to accelerated students who would absolutely benefit more from full-time instruction at their level instead of lessons designed to meet the needs of all learners.

This, 6:17, is the real truth. And, just so you know, I personally would like to move on from these issues but, until I see some sign that the mistakes of the past are not going to be repeated again and again, I don't believe that I have a choice unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I thought the bloggers might like to see this in light of the apparent post made by an administrator

Anonymous said...

6:17 said, "it would be premature for them to lay out a progression plan for these students when they haven't even experienced what the combination of CCSS and the new math curriculum will be able to provide to our advanced learners AND their needs will be met on an individual basis in order to adequately meet every child's needs."

I appreciate your thoughtful tone. However, we know that "needs will be met on an individual basis" really means that, in substance, there aren't materials prepared for these students or teachers prepared to educate them.

Secondly, while I have no doubt that I can challenge almost any elementary student to think into eternity just by asking them questions about circles, and triangles, challenging them is not relevant. What is relevant is whether the materials prepare them to be more successful than the old materials. Convince me that d181 students will be more prepared when they finish middle school than they were under the old system.

Currently d181 is able to prepare accelerated students to be successful in Algebra II / Trigonometry as a high school freshman, and advanced students to be successful in Geometry as freshmen. If the administration can convince me that the group of students at those levels will be larger and more prepared than the groups that are currently going through the system, I will stop expressing my concerns.

Furthermore, you say that " it would be premature for them to lay out a progression plan for these students when they haven't even experienced what the combination of CCSS and the new math curriculum will be able to provide," But I say that it would be irresponsible for the administrators to tear up the old process, that was very successful in this district without having evidence and a high degree of confidence that the plan they are implementing is actually going to be better. Unfortunately, that is not the case or they would have explained all of that by now.

In reality, the administration has not made the case for this experiment at all, and is careful to dodge their accountability to "raise the floor and raise the ceiling" or the establishment of any standard that they could be accountable to. If their confidence is that low, why don't we go back to what was working well and stop the madness?

Please tell me why 6:17? It is clear that this curriculum change is creating a big risk for our children. What is the anticipated benefit? Why are we doing this?

Can anyone provide a cogent explanation without spin, psychobabble, and double talk?


Anonymous said...

All of the programs should be/should have been kept in place and unchanged until data proves conclusively that they are no longer needed for students. To take things away before we know how students will be impacted is what is premature, 6:17, as is coming up with a plan that does not address all student needs in a worst case scenario. This is exactly what the two part poster is referring to and what has happened time and time again.

This plan takes away tiers and pull-out services without knowing how many students will be negatively impacted by this decision and whether or not their needs will be met. Unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

What about a satisfaction survey for parents in the pilot material with the question of whether or not your children feel challenged on a daily basis. And then one for all of the teachers who are teaching inclusive classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Wow! 6:17, you sound like the same broken record that the administration has been playing for the last 3 years. And I say record instead of iTunes download or even CD because your theories are that out of date.

Your redundant repetition of the same nonsense the administration has been spewing for the last three years is old. We know you are lying because nothing you say has come to fruition regarding the way our children would individually have their needs met. We "loud" parents of the newly labeled "unique" children in our district used to be quiet and polite. No longer. It's been obvious that the Rti and ILP meetings of the last 3 years are based on fictional, non existent information. If it isn't, you would have already provided that information. There are absolutely NO guidelines or materials in place to describe what services or materials actually were, or are available to unique, or gifted learners since the reign of Schneider began 3 years ago. Yet we parents are blamed for being rude?

A friend of mine was led to believe by these same people that her child was receiving "enrichment " in language arts last year, yet when when my child's MAP and grades came home, and I asked what else was available, I was told by these same people that NO ONE in the grade was being offered additional enrichment. ? Are the administrators genuinely surprised that parents become loud and upset when they are continually lied to? If you had actual rules and standards, people wouldn't become upset when they realize that the weren't mistreated. But when you lie, and make up random/imaginary reasons for giving preferential treatment for some and not others, it starts becoming quite offensive. After voicing our concerns so long, it is obvious that 2 way communication between parents and the district is not possible. Since you can't seem to understand the questions we ask, even when they are rephrased multiple times by different parents, you force us to speak louder.

Parents stepped up at the last board meeting (and many before that) and described the same experience that my family has had the last 3 years here. Others write about it on this blog, so I am constantly reminded that my child is not the only one being ignored. And that I am not the only one that the administration lies to. It is just so tragic that when we moved here, a perfectly good system was in place, and Mr. Clarin's, Mr. Nelson's, Ms. Vorobiev's and Mr. Heneghan's children all benefitted from this system. But mine will not.

If this is how the professionals treat the loud parents of the "unique" learners, just imagine how they treat the meek, quiet parents of the "non-unique" (?) learner. 6:17, EVERY CHILD in d181 is unique. That is why they are NOT the same, and should not forced into a cookie cutter, Learning for All mold of learning! That is why they should not all be treated the same way by being forced to learn in the same way, and/or have other children teach their own peers.

Anonymous said...

You all talk about data driven decisions, yet you openly say that the implementation of CCSS will not be enough to challenge our most advanced students - what data do you have to support that? My only point here is that there is this terrible misconception that every administrator over the past several years has been totally wrong and everyone on this blog is right - how can that be? How many of you actually hold a degree in or have experience in the field of education? I get it, you want your kids to be challenged, however, how many of them have their education supplemented by tutoring outside of school? There are many parents in this district that are happy and whose children are doing great. There are also many wonderful teachers, support staff and administrators that have gone above and beyond for our kids but nobody wants to talk about that. In fact, this blog crucifies anyone that has a differing opinion and that is not right. I am all for accountability, however, I find it concerning that we have yet another administration that can't please all of you and that is being bogged down by ridiculous requests to please multiple people instead of focusing on what is best for our students. It is obvious that we can't go back to the old plan aka the gifted program. There were so many things wrong with that program as the professionals confirmed so I don't know how anyone can defend that and say that it worked?? I am a parent of a child that was in that program yet I can still see the obvious faults. There is so much negativity yet I haven't heard a logical solution aside from going back to what was broken in the first place?? Also, the fact that you bad mouth people on this blog that are running for the BOE because you don't feel that they are of the same opinion as you - that is really low. Would be allow our own children to behave this way? Don't we teach them to treat people the way we want to be treated? Again, let's talk about the facts and leave the drama and emotion out of it.

Anonymous said...

To the teachers who spoke at the last meeting about children being able to do the job of a trained, adult teacher: you are an embarrassment to your profession. I know this will come across as harsh, but you are an adult who needs a reality check. Children can not hold a candle to the other dedicated, professional teachers that my children have had the pleasure of working with in D181. You really owe your colleagues an apology, and the union should chastise you. The idea that a child Is just as, if not more qualified than an educated, trained, and experienced adult teacher is not only preposterous, but a violation to the other children's privacy. To suggest that our "unique" 10, 11, and 12 year old CHILDREN are better at teaching than hardworking teachers was quite insulting to all of your colleagues and to the taxpayers who spend their hard earned money paying them.

I am not sure why this administration thinks they are ruling a village of socialist supporters. But if parents have to speak even louder to get the message across that we don't believe in socialist educational policies, we will speak as loudly as necessary in order to get the message through to you. Your words were quite hurtful to other teachers and parents who are tired of the lies.

The Parents said...

10:41: You are correct. We do not believe grade level CCSS will be enough to challenge our most advanced learners. Grade level common core teaches exactly that -- GRADE level. There are students now who are 2 years accelerated in math and others will follow. It would be educational malpractice to hold them back. Further, it is not OUR job to justify our beliefs with DATA. It is the current administration's job to explain with data how the programs over the last 3 years have improved the performance of all of our students at all levels. They have failed to do so? Why? Because either they don't know how to analyze the data or they have and now don't want to tell the community the results. We do recognize the wonderful teachers in this district. If you'd bother to read this entire blog, from day 1, you would know that. We had hoped and still hope that somehow Dr. White would turn this runaway train around. He can still do so, but not if he continues to promote administrators who in our opinion have hurt all levels of students in D181. It is his responsibility to demand accountability and that starts with explaining to the community, both those who are unhappy with the curriculum changes and those who like them, whether or not they are working for the benefit of all students. He has not done so and so we are justifiably mad. Again, how many years have to pass before someone asks for concrete proof that the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan or next years Learning for Some (and hopefully down the road for the Unique) has improved student performance. Wasn't that one of the reasons touted for the changes 3 years ago? So where's the data that under the original plan the administration was supposed to collect, analyze and report to the BOE? Where is it? As for us not presenting a solution to the problem, we and other parents have repeatedly pointed out that there were problems with the old system and those problems started with the inadequate identification system in place for selecting students for the gifted programs and tiers. Rather than fix that one component as a starting point, the administration decided to scrap everything and replace it with a social justice system promoted by Dr. Schneider. He tried it in his old district in Wisconsin, which has a very different population (only 5% gifted, versus the 30% high achievers/gifted in D181) and now claims that is why he was hired - to bring his ideas here. I wonder what the BOE members would actually say if asked directly if this is what they were told by Dr. Schuster when he was hired. Why don't you ask the old and current board members who approved his hire? Finally, as for your comment that we are bad mouthing candidates for school board, if you mean Mr. Turek, we have provided a list of reasons (which will continue to grow) on why he should not be reelected. They are based on things he has said and done while in office. They are all fair game. This is an election season and we don't need to support him just because he is the board president. We have challenged others to post reasons why he should be reelected and we will issue that challenge again. But the reasons should be more than "He is a nice guy," "the BOE needs continuity." Nope, give us good solid reasons how he has worked to improve our children's education. Give us good solid reasons how he has promoted transparency and accountability. And back it up with facts, just as we have in our list of reasons why he shouldn't be reelected.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping that someone would attempt to respond to 9:28, but so far I hear crickets chirping.

Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

Anonymous said...

10:41, I don't think that anyone wants to go back to every aspect of the old gifted program. We all know that there were issues with identification and inflexibility. But, what most of us do say, is that there were many things about it that worked and, with a few easy, low cost modifications, it would have been even better. Instead what happened is that we became part of an unproven and unsupported experiment with educational social justice where administrators threw out everything related to that old program, even those things that were working well for many students. And the worst part is that they did it without anything in place - materials, replacement programs, extra staff, etc... - to support the children and teachers who would obviously be negatively impacted by these decisions. Even more importantly, they threw it out without a shred of proof or hard data that would lead anyone to believe that it would meet the needs of all students.

Yes, there may be students and parents who are happy with what is going on but I believe these are mainly parents of younger children and/or parents of students working at grade level and/or parents who aren't paying attention to the issues. The above and below grade level students are, in large part, not having their needs met as well as they should. We simply can't move on until that changes and no one thus far has been able to prove that it isn't true. The parents who have been loud are, frankly, the ones who are the most knowledgeable and have the most experience. And, as mentioned above, we are fully aware of what our students are missing in this district's attempt to get even the basic services right. It is time to move on so why can't these experts seem to get it right? Where are the increased scores or proof that the direction they are heading is working or has ever worked in a district such as ours?

The Parents said...

10:41: Due to the lateness of the hour last night, we did not include the following information in our last comment. Your last comment asked the extremely offensive question: "How many of you actually hold a degree in or have experience in the field of education?" In fact, to answer your question, we all hold degrees. We are all college educated and beyond -- just like most of the D181 teachers and probably 90% of the parents of D181 students. Also, for your information, some of us (and yes, there are multiple bloggers, not just multiple parents who comment) are educators -- past and present. Some of us are also parents of the very students that have been impacted by the curriculum changes over the last three years. Our kids include students across the entire spectrum -- grade level, advanced, accelerated, and yes, some have special needs. Do you know what they all have in common? They are each UNIQUE! They ALL deserve curriculum programs that will meet their individual needs, not just a one size, square in a round peg, program for everyone. We will continue to be loud and vocal until the "professionals" running this district prove to us with more than simple "words and edu-speak" how what they have been doing for the last three years has improved the performance of all students.

Middle School Parent Blog Follower said...

Thank you Parents for running this blog. While not everyone likes what they are reading, the reality is that this is the only forum in which we have all been able to speak our minds without fear of repercussion. The administration and BOE have refused requests to hold town hall meetings or offer public comment opportunities during board meetings that are more than a one sided exchange, so this blog is a refreshing opportunity for everyone to speak their minds. One of the comments yesterday attacked you for criticizing BOE candidates. I just about fell out of my chair laughing. Was that person kidding? Don't they realize that it is campaign season and one of the wonderful things the US offers everyone is freedom of speech and freedom to campaign for or against individuals running for political office. You keep doing what you are doing. Most of us appreciate it and certainly appreciate your candid list of reasons not to reelect Turek. Since most of us don't go to meetings or listen to the podcast, we are grateful that you are keeping this list. Of course Mr. Turek doesn't like it, nor do his supporters. Why would they? Perhaps if he had done a better job in the last four years the list would be one of reasons to reelect him. It's actually kind of pathetic that no one has posted any reasons why he should be reelected. That alone speaks volumes and if I needed any convincing not to vote for him, that did it.

Anonymous said...

Bravo 9:28. You have hit the nail on the head. Bloggers, that comment (which seems to have been posted by a teacher) should be a stand alone post. It really says it all in a very concise format.

Anonymous said...

10:41 "There is so much negativity yet I haven't heard a logical solution aside from going back to what was broken in the first place?"

This is a version of the question, "If you were in charge, what would you do?" I am sure many others have opinions, but here are mine.

What has been consistently unacceptable is really the process. The education-focused parents should be the natural allies and supports of an administration trying to improve, but the approach that has been taken has resulted in the opposite.

1. Share the data that is available openly to establish credibility.

2. Stop obfuscating facts. Admit to the mistakes that have been made so that we can focus on improvements. Denial prevents improvement.

3. Prepare a clear analysis of the options to move forward, with the pros and cons of each and a recommendation. Establish reasonable and measurable expectations around the program moving forward.

4. Listen to people. Consider the substance of people's words. Be open to the fact that it is possible that they may be right. Consider changes that are beneficial.

5. Continue to make decisions and move forward based on the facts and evidence not feelings. Feelings can be right, but if you have one, work to quantify it.

6. Monitor the program continually.Provide feedback to BOE, parents and teachers. Identify opportunities for improvement and implement solutions.

7. Move forward, but maintain the public dialogue. Creative discussion results in better results.

8. Accept that you will never please everyone, but that we are making the best decisions we can and sharing the reasons openly.

10:41, why would that be so bad? What are they hiding? What are they afraid of? The parents who are involved want to be presented with the facts and a plan they can rationally support, and that benefits all students. Complaining is not their preferred state, it is the state forced upon them by an administration that withholds information and refuses to be open and honest.

Please come back and engage in productive conversation about this topic. We need rational people to honestly discuss this to make progress.

Anonymous said...

I have two children who have gone through this district under the tiered program. It worked just fine before Janet Stutz got a hold of it and confused the identification and made it rigid. That's all that needed to be fixed. My third child is now in fifth grade and hasn't learned nearly what my other two did at this grade. This is both in math and language arts. Something is seriously wrong.

Anonymous said...

I say we parents should play to win. We have wasted too much time already on this L4A nonsense. I want to see proof it's working. When will the Winter MAP test scores be presented to the parents and board? The Department of Learning has had them for weeks, according to teachers. If they continue to hide the scores, they should be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We have a right to see how kids across the district are doing. My guess is the scores must be bad otherwise Schneider and his posse would have already presented the scores.

Anonymous said...

7:53, you said it well. And 9:16, you are spot on. No one denies that the old ace had problems. But for the last 10 years or so, no one in curriculum has been overseeing that program. Kevin Russell and Igoe didn't have gifted endorsements, nor does Walsh or Benaitis. Janet Stutz, the old curriculum coordinator, had a background in facilities management, not curriculum or assessment. So that program slid under the radar for a long time without any professional feedback from actual gifted specialists. Each school was forced to fend for themselves. The district can't ignore a problem for 10 years and then suddenly expect 1 or 2 consultants to fix the problem in 1 year with one $50,000 consultant who does 2 days of walk throughs! It would have been wiser to hire a part time person for a longer period of time to oversee this program and make sure it was implemented correctly. Or, just copy what Western Springs,Oak Brook, or even Troy do. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

More kids need to be supported, from an earlier age, in order for opt in to work. From kindergarten and 1st grade. By the way, many parents and kids have no interest in opting in, but the school still needs to move at a reasonable pace for them. We shouldn't force those parents and kids out of our district or to private schools just because no one wants to listen to them.

Opt in was a step in the right direction, but the administration needs to follow through. The huge mistake was to completely eliminate all continuous supervision and guidance of the gifted program. Simply renaming it and keeping bits and pieces of it here and there with no district support is insane. The classroom teachers have had even more dumped on their plate - Common Core and new books were enough. D181 needs to slow down and help all kids succeed. Not force or kids into a stressful, unsupported situation. I also admit that Dawn Benaitis made a very good point at the last meeting about many of the children being forced to accelerate won't be able to keep up. There are grade level, Common Core options! Middle school is hard enough. Don't make it unbearable.

Anonymous said...

Quick, honest question to 9:47: what endorsement(s) should Schneider, Walsh, & Benaitis have? You mentioned that Russell, Igoe, Walsh & Benaitis don't have gifted endorsements. A lot of people here have chastised Schneider for having only special ed experience, not general classroom experience. Should he have experience in all three areas (SpEd, regular & gifted)?

Also, what is "gifted"? Is it someone going faster, is it someone ahead? I'll use racing as an example. Let's say a "normal" person goes 100 miles/hour. Is a "gifted" person someone who goes 150 mph? Or is a gifted person someone who also goes 100 mph, but has a 10 mile head start? What do you call someone who goes 50 mph, but has a 10 mile head start, or someone who goes 150mph, but is 10 miles behind? AM I making this clear?

Just out of curiosity, how would you guys feel about having mixed grade level classrooms, at least at the middle school level? Instead of having a separate Algebra class for 7th graders and 8th graders, maybe having a single Algebra class with both 7th & 8th graders? That was how it was when I took Geometry my sophomore year in high school. Does it make feel a little stupid knowing that there are 8th graders taking the same class? A little. However, I also learned that I learn at my own pace, so as long as I put in the effort, why should I compare myself?

Anonymous said...

To the administrator who said they will continue to address the needs of students whose parents are LOUD (not because they really think there are any unique needs):

Do you know about the LOUD parents who started this whole mess? The parents who used the mis-identification to further their own cause instead of working with the administration and other parents to fix the problems and improve/revamp existing programs. Did they care about the other kids and the majority of the teachers who got dumped on with this "PLAN"? These parents got what they wanted and praise the administration for being experts. They created an extra Algebra 1 class on the fly two years ago to accelerate students and please whoever wanted their child to be on that track or whoever was probably mis-identified (Thanks Dr. Stutz and Dr. Schuster). That's great if those students did well but why would they not care about what happens to other kids. The under the table tactics has led us to this stage. I agree with a previous comment about who is keeping track of where each child is in a class? Yes the teachers are doing their best but I'm sorry it's unrealistic to expect one teacher to perform at this level of differentiation every day. Common core is harder and our children have to learn to read and write before they can provide you the "Why" for everything. Our children are not robots. Don't hold the kids who get it back and please let the kids who need more time work at a pace where they don't feel pressured. Have all of the other districts dropped there advanced learning, talent development programs in lieu of common core? What is going on in this district? And no it's not acceptable to continue with LFA after the complete mismanagement, lack of planning for the past three years and lack of communication. The district did not look out for all kids when they started down this path and they still aren't by pushing for inclusion. Special needs students can continue to be a part of the classroom as they always have regardless of ability grouping. They are an excuse for heterogeneous groupings.

Anonymous said...

10:32 a.m. -- I don't want to know your real identity but can you tell everyone if you are a parent (elementary or middle), a teacher or an administrator? Thanks.

New Reader said...

Hello. I am a first time reader of this blog. I have to admit that I heard about it a little more than one year ago, but decided not to read it since some of my friends told me it was a bunch of crap. Well, after hearing a group of parents talking about it over the weekend, parents I respect and who said the blog is telling it like it is, I decided to start reading it. All I can say is WOW. I've literally been reading now for 2 hours and haven't made a dent, but I can tell you this. You ARE telling it like it is. THANK YOU! Someone needs to say the stuff that people (bloggers, commenters) are posting. I just hope that the administration and BOE are reading this blog because they should care what people are saying -- in all forums. I'm going to tell all my contacts to start following your blog.

Anonymous said...

To 10:45: I wrote the comment at 10:32. I am a former student of district 181 (although from over a decade ago), I still live in the area, and have worked in various school districts in the area as support staff. May I ask why you would want to know?

Anonymous said...

10:59: I asked because I want to understand what perspective you are bringing to the discussion. Good to know that you were a former D181 student. Do you think you had a good experience? As for your idea about having mixed classrooms at least at the middle school, that is currently happening for some students who are bussed over from 5th grade elementary. I don't know if it is working for all of them (if there has been correct identification of all these students) since the administration hasn't provided any data to the BOE on whether they are all successful. Under the proposed new plan to roll out next fall, all elementary students will only be taught grade level. I am opposed to that.

Anonymous said...

11:07: I'm 10:32. I would say yes, I had a pretty good experience. I was probably an average student, though I probably could have worked harder. I went on to Hinsdale Central. Took Algebra 1, regular freshman English, and Spanish 2 my freshman year. I took honors Geometry my sophomore year. It wasn't really for me, so I went back to regular Algebra 2/Trig my junior year. I eventually went to college and got my bachelor's degree. I also took a few classes at College of DuPage. I find that I am more of a hands on, practical kind of learner rather than a lecture/group discussion, theoretical-based learner. Due to that, I feel I learned better at COD than my university. But hey, different strokes for different strokes.

If I may make a suggestion to all you parents out there: don't be afraid to let your kids go the vocational school / community college route. I've been reading this blog for a while now, and have seen a few parents who idolize Harvard and the other Ivy League schools. Vocational/community colleges may not be totally glamorous, but they might help your kids find out what they love to do, and make a career out of it. COD has a great art program, IT program, and other programs like that. COD definitely helped me discover what I love doing.

Anonymous said...

Part 1:
10:32, I would be happy to clarify. Thank you for asking. First of all, Dr. Schenider only has experience and education in high school Special Ed. Please check his resume (I would appreciate someone on the blog posting a link to it ). You can also consult Dr. Stutz' resume, and the resumes of the other administrators I referenced. When Dr. Schneider was hired to help run the special education department, he had no experience working with regular education, gifted, elementary or middle school students. So that was why many, many people were gravely concerned with the decision of Dr. White to place him in charge of the regular education curriculum learning department. At the very least, a 4 month student teaching stint in K - 8 would have shown Dr. White that when the "gifted" kids are allowed to accelerate at their own pace, or in a pull out program, that this significantly frees up the classroom teacher to allow for more in depth teaching to the students who need more repetition or perhaps a slower pace. People should not see it as taking away resources from all kids. They should look at it as allowing the classroom teacher to focus more of her time and energy on students whose abilities she has been trained to work with. If you have never worked in a regular classroom to see the huge variation of student skills within one room, and how challenging it is to differentiate for each and every child, you would have no idea how hard it is.
Classroom teachers in elementary school have the hardest jobs.

If a teacher, for example, is not specifically trained in mainstreaming special ed students into her class, or doesn't have a basic understanding of the differences between different types of learning disabilities, that teacher will never be able to accurately and effectively teach that child. That is why special education teachers are so important. They have to educate the regular ed teachers and make sure that IEPs are being interpreted correctly. Another thing that a regular ed. teacher may not realize is that it is perfectly possible for a child with an IEP to be included in both regular and gifted education. Just as importantly, it is vital to realize that sometimes, pull out may be a better choice. That is why a highly trained, special education administrator is extremely important. Especially since I would imagine that most law suits that school districts deal with are caused by districts ignoring the plethora of laws that protect these special ed students. As of now, our district has no one to supervise this very important part of the district, so I am concerned. And although Dr. Schneider has bits and pieces of the qualifications, besides the fact that he is too young and inexperienced in k-8 settings to be effective, more concerning is that he doesn't appear to be making an effort to help support children with special needs.

Now I am not saying that some gifted kids don't have special needs. That is why we need a REAL gifted education specialist to help identify all the children who would truly benefit from such a program. Any educated person knows that a person with Asberger's can have an IEP, but still needs enrichment, or the benefit of "gifted" classes. So that child may need gifted, regular, AND special ed services. As peope with backgrounds in learning theory and brain development know, the sooner you support a child and give him or her the help they need, the better off that child will be. This is often referred to as early intervention. Like with cancer, if you address it at stage 1, you will get better results than if you ignore it and only address it at stage 4. This is not to say that sometimes a person gets stage 4 and survives. Thank God it is possible, but it is easier to treat someone at stage 1. That is why early identification of student needs is so important.

Anonymous said...

Part 2

Please understand that you also cannot treat all students, or in my example, cancer patients, defensively. You can't give all healthy kids chemo in the hope that you will help prevent cancer! All kids aren't gifted and all kids don't have learning disabilities, but you still have to look for them. Ignoring red flags is ridiculous. To help students, we have to run reputable labs ever year or so, and make sure there aren't any red flags concerning health at home or at school. If a child is doing well, his labs (or standardized tests) are good, and parents are happy, then there is no need to medicate. But what seems to have happened in our district is that parents have begun to resent the children who have special needs. Whether those needs are extra support or acceleration should not matter. All that matters is that there is lots of evidence from scientists to support specialized treatment. And when the children at either end are cared for, the children in the middle receive more individualized support as well. The cooperative aspect of it is win-win for everyone.

I take it that you may be an administrator or someone who has some sort of influence in the school system. As such, I am surprised that you are not more aware about the highly specialized field of gifted education. This is a national and state recognized teaching specially that teachers earn masters and phd's in. There are gifted organizations and workshops at every major, and not so major school of education in the country. However, there is no such recognition for what our district now calls "differentiation soecialists". None. If one doesn't know what a gifted child is, then that person should quickly contact the Department of Education and find out. Just because you don't know what it is doesn't mean it isn't real. I have no idea what Quantum Physics are, but I don't deny its existence. I don't become resentful or angry when state colleges offer that major. So why do uninformed educators doubt the existence of something they are lacking knowledge of?

So while your questions are valid, please ask someone who is a real, current, gifted education specialist. Preferably, someone at a college of education. I am sure Dr. Tonya Moon would be happy to help you understand. Even though I am not one, as a teacher, I recognize and respect my colleagues who do specialize in that topic. I also recognize and respect special education, music, reading, and PE specialists. It's okay to admit when you don't know something, but just make sure to choose the right resources and people to help educate you if you need more facts.

Finally, I have no problem with mixed grade classrooms. Children's development is so varied, that ability grouping makes much more sense than grouping by age, or even popsicle sticks. Sure it would be better if you could break down same grade children into similar ability groups, but if no one is looking at the data, how can we ever do that? You can't just rely on subjective parent or teacher observations or feelings. And you can't send the kids back down to a lower level in the middle of the year if they fail. It's better to err on the side of caution and just bump the child up when everyone is certain that the child is ready. Or, provide extra support to that child so he can succeed. Don't set him up for failure because some parents doubt the abilities of children they know nothing about.

Now, I have to go back to my own work. We all like to volunteer for the good of the community, but this is getting ridiculous. We pay way too much in taxes to have to answer questions that I have a feeling our administrators already know the answers to.

Anonymous said...

It would be very helpful to me if 6:17, or anyone who supports what the BOE and the current administration are doing, can address the issues raised in the 9:28pm post.

I think that this post covers the most critical concerns of the majority of posters. Essentially, what is the rationale for what the district is doing? And, what is the source of confidence that the district can improve on the level of performance that students are achieving when they move on from d181 after 8th grade? And, if there is a high degree of confidence that improvement can be achieved, then why is everyone so evasive about metrics?

I continue to have the impression that the honest answer is that the administration has been too quick to scrap a process that was getting very good results overall, to jump on the bandwagon for the newest edu-fad, combined with so personal views about social justice. There does seem to be some research on this new approach, but not in a district like ours with so many advanced students where the downside risk of being an early adopter is very high.

Furthermore, it appears that the administration has worked to evade clearly responding to questions, and to obfuscate facts from parents with the active support of a BOE majority.

Is there any aspect of this assessment that is incorrect?

If this assessment is correct, then it would appear that there is nothing left to be discussed. In that case, I think that the BOE majority needs to be replaced, and the administrators need to be replaced with people who are more honest and analytical.

If that understanding is not correct, then we need to understand what is incorrect. If that understanding is correct, then it seems that there is really nothing left to discuss.

Can anyone articulate how this understanding is not correct? I would very much appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Those are some very good questions that need to be answered. I have only heard 2 board members ever ask questions like that to the administration, but NO ONE ever answers them. Parents and board members have been asking these questions for years, but the only answer we ever seem to get from Clarin, Nelson, and Turek is that since we aren't teachers, we wouldn't be able to understand the answers so that we should just trust them all.

Anonymous said...

Crickets, 12:12, crickets. Unfortunately but very typical of the non-answers we've been receiving for 3 years.

I'm just sayin' said...

I would like to see "The Parents" create a blog post what is essentially a summary of the current issues at d181, with a challenge to anyone to provide substantive rebuttal.

Essentially along the lines of what 9:28 and 12:12 attempted to do, but received no response.

The more clearly the issues are summarized, and presented, as very reasonable and rational questions and concerns, the more difficult it becomes for the administration and the BOE to avoid responding.

Additionally, it becomes easier for new parents to get up to speed on what is happening.

The Parents said...

4:36: In response to your request that we summarize the issues, sorry, but we won't. This blog has dedicated itself to discussing the issues and we have spent a lot of time doing so. Since we have limited time to write and lives to lead that have nothing to do with the blog, we won't now summarize what we've already written about. We hope and encourage you to read the blog. If there issues you don't think we have discussed, but would like us to consider writing about, please send us a comment identifying them.

One other point to make -- since this is election season, the people you should be asking to identify the current issues and how they would address them are each of the D181 candidates. We wouldn't want to suggest to them what is or isn't important. It is time for each of them to speak up so the voters can make informed decisions about who to vote for.

Anonymous said...

Dear The Parents,

Someone calls up posts like 12:12 and 9:38 that no one has been willing to respond to, it would be appropriate for Simon and Garfunkle's "The Sound of Silence" to be playing softly in the background.

Can you add that feature to the blog?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the blog that Turek is not qualified, but we should start looking at the actions (or non-actions) of other board members, too. I realize that he is the only one running for reelection, but I don't really see Ms. Vorobiev or Mr. Clarin doing anything to right this ship or to help Marty see the light. It is surprising that an attorney like Vorobiev isn't demanding more evidence to support the administration's claims that their experiments are worth the time, money, and effort that the schools are spending on them. And I doubt Mr. Clarin ran his own business this carelessly.

In my opinion, any jury would be able to see that Schneider and White are guilty of hiding evidence and that Dawn Benaitis is not properly analyzing the data that our children have spent an inordinate amount of time collecting. By not acknowledging this and immediately demanding the info, the Board is guilty of improperly spending our tax dollars on ineffective administrators and wasteful programs.

If you listen to old pod casts, read the shoddy reports on board docs, and listen to the multiple times that board members and parents have requested this information, it is so obvious that the administration of 181 is completely ignoring everyone. How respectful is that?

So far, only a few teachers have gotten up and claimed success - not all. It's not that I don't believe these teachers, it's just that their opinions don't have a shred of evidence to stand on! When a handful of district employees are the only ones who claim success, parents aren't happy, and scores do not support it, why should anyone believe them? Worse yet, their claims are all based on vague generalities and opinions. Even if one of those teachers was my own mother, WHY should I believe her if nothing she says is substantiated and my property taxes will be spend according to their recommendations? This is not my family's personal money - it is TAXPAYER money. The BOE and admin owe it to the public to PROVE IT. They aren't innocent until proven guilty. We don't have to prove anything! They do. They are the ones getting paid for naught.

Now the district wants to hire NEW math coaches? What evidence do they have that new Math Coaches will help? Our district hired expensive literacy coaches 2 years ago and it seems like none of the teachers even know who they are. More importantly, the reading and comprehension scores are dropping, not increasing, so why would we hire more coaches for any subject if they aren't working in any subject?

If these coaches have no accountability, which I am sure they don't, why not just spend the $ for more professional development on our classroom teachers? Why add another layer to this bureaucracy? And do it over the summer! Coaches are getting away with easy jobs of "supervising and helping", but what teacher will ever reach out an ever admit she needs help? None! They themselves have to be trained.

Also, why should a coach, someone who doesn't even have to grade any homework, get paid the same as a teacher who is being forced to teach and grade ALL subjects for all kids? If these coaches are not getting good results, and no one is able to identify exactly what it is they do, they should replaced by teachers aides. If the work they are doing is not WORTH $50/hr, they shouldn't be paid $50/hr + pension. They should be paid $15 -17 like teachers aides.

Dr. White, you best snap out of the brain fog that seems to have settled over the administration before you bleed our accounts dry. One of these days the board will eventually wake up, and they won't be happy.

Parent of Elementary and Middle School Children

Anonymous said...

I agree, it is time for BOE members other than Garg and Heneghan to demand some accountability. I get that there are different views on the role of a BOE but when you have an administration that is acknowledging several significant failures, well-spoken parents who are repeatedly sharing the same concerns, teachers who are saying that they don't agree, no data upon which to base continuing with this plan and, now, new requests for more coaches at considerable expense and eliminating teaching positions , the "balcony" approach just isn't appropriate any more. Dr. SChneider promised no expense to support this plan. He was wrong and the parents were right. Mr. Clarin, ask your wife to talk to some of the HMS teachers about what is going on, Ms. Vorobiev, follow up on your request for a report about what is going on at each school. Mr. Yaeger demand to know what this plan is going to cost taxpayers. Enough blind faith is enough and, at this point, that is all we are going on.