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: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unique)
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: http://podcast.d181.org/?p=359We 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 presentaton, Schneider 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:" https://www.troy30c.org/images/259/5-8%20AELA/Accelerated_Programs_Overview_5_23_14.pdf
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.