In our opinion, Monday's meeting presented examples of the worst the administration and board have to offer: 1) Drs. White and Schneider were unable to answer basic questions posed by Member Heneghan regarding what they had promised in January to present to the community by February 23 on the Learning for All Plan. We were deeply disturbed by Dr. White's lack of knowledge and Dr. Schneider's dismissive attitude when asked legitimate questions by Board Member Heneghan. 2) There was blatant disrespect shown by Board Member Glen Yaeger to his fellow board members -- first in attempting to shut down Ms. Garg when she referenced the Winter MAP data and then with his nasty sniping at Board Member Heneghan. 3) Apathy and a refusal to ask any meaningful questions were shown by Board Members Turek, Clarin and Vorobiev. 4) Board Member Nelson was absent -- again. We are not going to give you a blow by blow summary of the empty winds that coursed through Elm School's multi-purpose room on Monday night. You all need to listen for yourselves. Click to open Podcast of 2/23/15 BOE meeting.
We were so disgusted and disappointed in what transpired -- or rather didn't transpire -- during the meeting, that we almost decided to "fold our cards." But then we began receiving many comments from parents expressing anger, frustration and shock at the inconsistency that exists between the schools in how the Learning for ALL (some) plan is being implemented and the dismal 5th grade MAP scores that were added to Board Docs on Monday afternoon.
So rather than end this blog, we are going to share with you portions of the post we were planning to run, as well as several "Comments of the Day" that we want to highlight. These, as well as the 55+ comments our readers submitted to our last post, are exactly the kinds of comments the BOE needs to hear. We hope they light a fire in all of you to spread the word that you must make your voices heard, not just on this blog, but by writing letters to the BOE, writing letters to Dr. White, writing letters to your principals, writing letters to your teachers, attending and speaking out at Board meetings, and most importantly, voting on April 7 for Board members who will bring accountability, data driven decisions and REAL learning for ALL back to D181.
The following is a portion of the post we had planned would be our last, before all the readers' comments convinced us not to fold our cards:
A Wise Old Owl Knows When to Fold --
There is a an old saying in educational circles and it goes something like this: you have to teach the child in front of you; wanting or wishing total perfection from a human is a waste of time and energy. It is this tried and true message that has let us bloggers to this point, our last post (ALMOST).
After countless posts and time lost from our jobs and families, we have come to the conclusion that our time is better spent literally monitoring the progress and filling in the gaps for our own kids. D181 sure as heck isn't up to the task.
We say this with disgust and disappointment as our kids have gone through the limp-wristed pseudo RTI process for advanced instruction that was "established" several years ago under Schuster's reign. What resulted from hours of meetings with school principals, administrators and teachers? Zip. No instructional plan. No alternative, challenging curriculum. Nothing. We have heard similar stories from other parents who voiced concerns and have since faded away. We guess they saw the handwriting on the wall of ignorance before we did and decided not to waste anymore time fighting a losing battle.
Here is the reality: The gifted program was removed, and nothing was put in its place for 30-40% of D181 students.
And today, several years later, nothing has changed. In fact, from our perspective, it has only gotten worse because of the most recent tenets conveyed in the now two Learning For All (some) presentation, which includes heterogeneous classrooms, full inclusion, and no curriculum acceleration. Dr. White can now email fancily worded justifications about how classrooms are fluid and can adapt to any and every student, but we wise ones know differently. We parents who have older kids can attest to the education our kids received in years past. Newer district parents who are still starry eyed and believing that our teachers can create a Utopian learning environment for an average of 25 kids are in for a stark reality.
We only need to review the most recent Winter MAP scores for proof of our claims (Click to open district wide WINTER MAP scores, Click to open Individual School WINTER MAP scores.). Keep in mind that Dr. White and the Department of Learning sat on these scores until Board Member Garg requested them for the 2/23 meeting. Why? Because the scores, especially 5th grade, are woefully inadequate for a district of our means. Fifth grade is very troublesome; remember, these students were subjects in the math compacting experiment, which means their MAP scores should be through the roof because they were exposed to twice the content within a school year. Supposedly. Do their scores reflect this? No way. The scores are abysmal.
We have tried, along with a group of parents who have spoken out, to demand accountability. But we can't, and we won't, go it alone. We are dismayed and puzzled as to why so many other district parents complain privately about what's going on in classrooms, but will not take the time to attend board meetings, make public comments, or write letters to the BOE. We suspect these parents believe they have solved the deficiencies in their children's educations by providing tutoring several times per week. We hear Kumon has a thriving business, as do many other private tutors who have been employed for three years running and having to turn away parents due to their packed schedules.
Parents, you should know that tutoring might help your kids with some basic rudimentary skills, but the experiences and skill sets that should be focused on within the classroom day in and day out, especially with the Common Core standards, cannot be replicated by tutoring in preparation for your children to meet the demands of a Hinsdale Central curriculum and expectations. And remember: Hinsdale Central maintains and promotes ability grouping from the moment our kids set foot on campus. There are tracks (a dirty word in D181) of Honors and AP. Kids are singled out for sports and advanced opportunities in band, orchestra, theater, academic teams, etc. Central is not, nor will it ever be, a heterogeneous-based educational experience.
So, this brings us to a major concern about parents remaining silent while the district plods along at an underperforming pace. This seems to be acceptable as many parents have thrown in the towel. In essence, we are all paying high taxes and housing premiums for a very average to below average educational experience for out kids. And that we believe this is not the fault of our teachers, who we believe are trying to do the best they can with the extreme expectations they have been given by the administration. But, as it stands now, the teacher's union has yet to come forward to voice their concerns about the Learning for All (some) program. This is a powerful voice that has been silent. And we can only assume they are concerned about retaliation from the district administration. In our opinion, the six-ten teachers who routinely speak up for the administration are being used as pawns in the administration's chess game, knowing full well the BOE wouldn't dare not support whatever these teachers claim they want or need. This is how the game is played, folks. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of our kids.
And speaking of expense, now that Mr Jukes has been given the green light by all BOE members to conduct his "analysis" of digital needs within the district, we will bet our last chips that he will recommend a 1:1 learning platform. No doubt about it. An Ipad for every student is coming so they can use it in the classroom when children get bored or antsy with all those abilities, with typically one teacher and maybe an aide or MRC director. Remember, Central does NOT have a 1:1 platform, nor do they encourage bringing your own device. But hey, it's not like our kids are already using devices at home, right? Riiiiiigggghhhhtttt.
Perhaps one of our biggest reasons for ceasing (REMEMBER THIS WAS OUR PLAN) our posts is due to the leadership (or lack thereof) exhibited by Don White. We have known for years the current BOE majority is inept. We originally had high hopes for Dr. White, but the minute he promoted Kurt Schneider to oversee the entire Department of Learning, we lost faith in his ability to make decisions in the best interest of district children. In our opinion, Dr. White has bought into L4A with reckless abandon without carefully analyzing test results and student performance. And we will predict he will eventually suggest discontinuing MAP testing because it is showing growth, or little to no growth in D181.
We bloggers are voicing a vote of "no confidence" in Dr. White because he withheld winter MAP scores, and in our opinion attempted to fudge results with the fall scores by using the standard error or measurement to sugar coat results (Click to open 11/25/14 post that discussed his tactic). And he, in our opinion, is continuing to add administrators (Click to open agenda item for 2/23 meeting ORG CHART) and not eliminating Dawn Benaitis, who seemingly does not provide value to the Department of Learning. Instead, he is proposing to add an assessment director (that Benaitis was originally promoted to do) now, this late in the school year. And we know assessment directors are highly skilled and difficult to find, so good luck on that one.
That's as far as we got in drafting what was to be our last post, but then the flood of comments from our readers began. And the comments were powerful. They were masterful! They were so well written, thorough, thoughtful and on point that we realized that we need to continue to provide this forum -- at least for now -- for parents, teachers and community members to speak out. So, what follows next are just a few comments that we are highlighting as the "Comments of the Day." Please take the time to read all the others posted to the 2/22/15 Post and please keep them coming!
persisted in challenging this self-aggrandizing group think, arguing that there is no data and evidence that this approach will work in a high-performing district like d181. Would it make sense to combine the schools best and worst athletes into one group called "athletics for all" and expect that it would be better for all of them than the old "tiered system"? No! That would be obviously dumb. This is the same thing for math. Unsurprisingly, in these integrated classes, top students report sitting bored and unchallenged in the classroom, or being treated as support staff and being asked to help other students. Teachers admit that they feel pressure to spend most of their time with the low end of the class. Of course they do. That was obvious from the start. The problem is that this lower level of challenge for top students will predictably result in a lower level of achievement for the top students. Furthermore, the challenge of working with a broad range of students simultaneously will inevitably reduce the teacher’s efficiency and effectiveness in assisting students of all levels. Sadly, vigilant parents have pointed out these issues at BOE meetings consistently, but have continued to be ignored, scoffed at, and told that the administrators are highly trained education professionals who know what they are doing, that it is not right to question professionals, and that the parents just are not smart or educated enough to comprehend the benefits. Essentially their position is that only the administrators and BOE can truly appreciate the emperor’s new clothes. Now, there is finally going to be data. MAP results will finally provide the administration and BOE with an opportunity to take full credit for delivering on their long-promised grand achievement of “raising the floor to raise the ceiling.” This is a golden opportunity to validate the BOE decision to go with their gut feelings in the face of persistent, well-reasoned criticism from parents. Troublingly, the administration has now had MAP data for some time, but has gone silent, and requested a delay in making the results public. Clearly the data do not fit the narrative that has been fed to the community. Facing the reality of hard data, the administration is not admitting defeat; they are changing tactics. Now they plan to contend that the shift to the common core standards and new texts make it impossible to tell whether L4A has been beneficial. Instead of reinstating the more successful tiered approach, the administration has begun to actively distance themselves from the long-promised "raise the floor to raise the ceiling" results, replacing that promise with the claim that the long-awaited results and supporting data are now irrelevant and arguing that the district should persist with the L4A approach while continuing to refuse to provide any evidence that they are achieving results.