Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We Almost Decided to "Fold," but Your Comments Stopped Us.

Since Monday night's BOE meeting (2/23/15), we have been contemplating ending this blog. 

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 --

(Source:  Wikipedia.)
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!

Anonymous said...
In my opinion, it is time to end Learning for All (L4A) Part 1 In the last two years, the d181 administration has replaced tiered student grouping for math with an integrated approach the call "Learning for all."  This approach was sold to the community based on the promise that it would deliver better result for students and came with a clever slogan, promising to "Raising the floor to raise the ceiling" of d181 achievement / test results. The administration squelched parent objections and won BOE approval by promising that L4A would improve math performance of students at all levels. Who could oppose that?  The reality is that L4A approach is untested in a district like d181, and it appears that the administration pushed this because it is a part of the social justice agenda that is a favorite of Dr. Schneider. Unfortunately, the BOE majority allowed blind faith in the administration to replace critical thinking skills and approved this nonsense.  Fortunately, there has been a small, but determined, band of highly educated parents who have
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.
Anonymous said...
In my opinion, it is time to end Learning for All (L4A) Part 2 While this manipulation is not lost on observant parents, the administration and the BOE majority apparently believe they are too committed to the L4A approach to be bothered by facts and evidence that do not confirm their narrative. Unfortunately, our children are paying the price for their failings. Unified in their unquestioning faith in the administration and in their denial of facts, evidence and reality, Turek, Yaeger, Clarin, Nelson, and Vorobiev continue to ignore persistent public comments, hollowly nodding like grinning, big-eyed bobble heads at the emotional pleadings of parents, while continuing to refuse to demand data or any evidence to support the administration’s claims as the dissatisfaction of parents continues to mount. The administration and BOE’s persistent refusal to act in the best interest of the district’s children puts the onus for action back on parents. How high of a price do the children of this district have to pay before a critical mass of parents take action? Please get informed, attend BOE meetings, and vote in the upcoming election. Tell d181 BOE members to start listening to parents, stop making excuses, and either demonstrate that they have achieved the promised results, or reinstate tiering in d181 to meet the needs of all students, and end the failed L4A initiative.
Anonymous said...
Attention Walker and Prospect parents: your fifth grade students performed amongst the worst in the district in math on the Winter MAP. Prospect: 61.9% of your fifth graders FAILED to make their growth targets. Walker: 54.8% of your fifth graders FAILED to make their growth targets. Walker parents - despite what your PTO president is telling you, your school is NOT doing great. Do not be fooled! Claredon Hills residents - please do not vote for McCurry or Turek. Your children deserve better. Hinsdale: your schools performed no better. Below is the percentage of 5th graders from each school who FAILED TO MAKE THEIR GROWTH TARGETS in the winter MAP: Elm: 55% failed to make growth Madison: 51.2% failed to make growth Monroe: 53.1% failed to make growth Lane: 62.3% failed to make growth Please remember: children who are bused to the middle school for math were included in these percentages. That means these numbers in actuality are far far worse because those students propped up the numbers. Make the right choice on April 7.
Anonymous said...
Oak 5th grade: 47.7% failed to make growth in math. Those numbers were propped higher for Oak because they have a higher percentage of students bused to the middle school. And they are still really bad!
Anonymous said...
To the parent who provided the Oak percentage - thank you. This means nearly half of the 5th graders did not meet their growth targets. Pretty bad when most of the class is being tutored and has been since the nightmare began in 3rd grade.


Anonymous said...

What ever you bloggers decide to do, the last thing you should do is end the blog. Perhaps after the election, if a new majority sits on the board, you can give them a chance just like you gave Dr. White a chance. But to fold now is feeding right into what the administration and board majority want parents to do: give up and capitulate. Don't fall for that. I for one am thankful that you have given parents a forum to be heard. At least you are listening, since everyone knows that the administration and board majority are not.

Anonymous said...

I echo comment number 1.

Also, our kids took the NWEA MAP test that is Common Core aligned! Therefore it is not purely procedural, it is also conceptual.
I found this testimonial from a superintendent on the NWEA MAP web site:

"Common Core MAP gave us a new set of results tied to the Common Core that we hadn’t had in the past. It allowed us to see where our instructional holes were. This was a very reliable way to be able to pinpoint exactly where standards were falling with our kids—and then make the plans necessary to make those gaps go away."

Anonymous said...

Spreading misinformation can do a lot of damage. To the poster who said that certain school's fifth grade scores were pushed higher due to their being bussed to the middle schools, I am wondering how you know that those students did well on MAP themselves? Do you have their scores or evidence that each one met their growth targets? Also I'd like to know how you know how many student from each school are being bussed to the middle school? How can you say a school's scores have been raised or lowered without this information? You should be careful what you post, because this, is real MISINFORMATION that has been spread to anger readers yet it is completely unfounded. Readers, be careful you don't believe all you read.

Anonymous said...

Thank you bloggers and posters. I have just begun attending BOE meetings and what I would like to know is how many of the teachers who are speaking out in support of this plan are actually teaching in the inclusive classrooms they are proposing to go to. One of the 4th grade teachers from a large elementary school is not teaching an inclusive class, her grade is ability grouped and hasn't moved much in months. I'm confused about why she keeps speaking out in support of the plan's inclusive classrooms when she and her students and their parents haven't actually experienced one. Are the CHMS teachers who are speaking in support of this plan teaching inclusive classes?

We've been told that our students will be moving to an inclusive classroom next year and in looking at all of the documents and presentations on Board Docs and hearing about the lowered cut scores for the middle school classes and the plan to eliminate reduce tiers in math and eliminate tiers altogether in language arts and social studies, it is clear that this is the primary goal of the Learning For All plan. If the teachers on the task force haven't actually experienced inclusive classes and if it is true that some teachers are expressing concerns about them, AND we know of no other like district who has implemented a plan such as this successfully, why on earth are we continuing with it?? I am very confused.

Anonymous said...

Ms. McCurry said a few weeks ago at a BOE meeting that the math fiasco 5th graders have endured has made them more "resilient".

I beg to differ. It has created long last education ramifications. Her little miss sunshine act is off putting.

My daughter is in 5th grade. She has failed to meet growth in math since third grade. Obviously she is not alone. She is in the majority.

I want to know why. No teacher or school has taken to time to explain why. So, I analyzed the 7 data points since third grade to figure it out. All 7 data points show stagnant growth - and all 7 data points are representative of performance for this grade district wide.

Well, geometry is an area she consistently scores poorly in. In third grade geometry was skipped to compact. In fourth grade geometry was skipped because the whole grade skipped the last 6 chapters in 5th grade math. Geometry has yet to be taught this year, and who knows if it will ever be taught.

These kids need a math club before or after school to fill in the holes. And they need it ASAP. This group is 400 students, you have harmed them, you need to fix it!

Also, the 6th grade materials they are using are horrible. There is not scope and sequence. It is just a bunch of sheets pulled from the internet and then a homemade test that doesn't correspond to the internet sheets. There is no textbook. No publisher created tests. It is not acceptable. The majority of the kids are scoring C's and E's on the unit tests, but the administration is hiding this fact. Fix this now!! This year has been far worse than third grade.

This is education malpractice. The first lawsuit cannot come fast enough.

Anonymous said...

7:31 am: The administration has published how many students are bused from each school. Look it up. It was disingenuous to lump those scores in with the rest. A large portion of those students are learning with a small teacher to student ratio with teachers who are trained in the materials. Facts are the facts.

Anonymous said...

7:31am: I agree with the other response. I would like to add that because we don't know what those scores are, those scores should of been separated out by the administration. I agree with the previous poster - it is not right to lump them together. They are experiencing a completely different educational experience.

And the take home is - with or without the bused scores - the scores stink!! So parents should be mad!

HMS Parent said...

7:31: 8:18 is correct that the administration has stated publicly how many kids are bussed from 5th grade elementary classes to the 2 middle schools. They go to middle school to take advanced or accelerated math, one or two years above grade level. Their MAP scores, however, are lumped in with all of the other 5th graders who took the math MAP test. The percentage of kids who have met their growth targets has not been disaggregated by the administration in the reports they posted online. I think its safe to conclude that 5th graders who are taking 6th or 7th grade math at the middle school should perform very well on the 5th grade Math MAP tests. But you are right, how do we actually know this? We would know, if the administration would actually break out the different students by group and provide the community with an analysis of that data. But they haven't and I for one am not going to hold my breath waiting for this analysis. What would be interesting is to see if any of these advanced/accelerated 5th graders are not performing well either. That would say a lot about math instruction at the middle school or how well students are being identified for advancement/acceleration. If that group of advanced/accelerated students are not meeting their growth targets, there is something even more seriously wrong than anyone has previously identified. Obviously, we now all know that Dawn Benaitis isn't up to the task of any data analysis, otherwise why would Dr. White be proposing that the BOE approve another administrative position for assessment? I finally listened to the 2/23 podcast and heard Mr. Heneghan point out how the BOE approved an assessment position years ago and that was the job given to Ms. Benaitis after she was promoted from being the Monroe principal. If she hasn't been able to do her job, why is she still collecting a $140,000+ paycheck with benefits? What has she done to "blind" Dr. White into believing that she should continue to work in our district? It is beyond absurd. Plus the bottom line is that all of these administrators are paid for with tax dollars. OUR tax dollars. It is time to stop such financial waste and mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

The current BOE majority approved every aspect of the Learning For All plan and, therefore, will never ask for data that shows that the plan isn't working because it makes them look bad. They will just keep throwing good money after bad hoping that things will eventually turnaround. None of them are big enough to admit that there are obvious problems. Instead they just keep bullying the other board members into keeping quiet. Its worked with all except Garg and Heneghan - the only BOE members who care enough to actually try to find out what is really going on in our classrooms.

Elementary Parent said...

I had a jolly good laugh this morning reading the Commentary in the Hinsdalean. I don't know if the bloggers are going to comment or not, but they should thank the paper for the free advertising of the blog. Also, as a parent who reads the blog and considers myself to be highly intelligent, anyone closely following the politics of the current campaigns, both at the high school district and in D181, know how to connect the dots. In this case, I really don't believe that the blog is claiming a conspiracy. They are just pointing out the obvious big picture that emerges when the dots are connected. I think that damage control is happening fast and furiously and it's kind of pathetic that a newspaper now claims "mistakes" were made. Not buying it, just like I (as a district parent) don't buy into the emperor's new clothes that the administration has been selling us for the last three years. Anyone running for the BOE who works for the district and claims to see the clothes should not be elected. End of story.

Anonymous said...

7:31, I agree with what you are saying in some regards - we cannot make blanket statements with assumptions that a handful of children are bringing up the test scores of the rest of the group. We have no way of knowing what those individual scores are, nor should we, as those numbers should be private student information. I think that is it not a fair representation to say that children have failed to meet growth targets therefore they are not growing. Because they didn't hit the target does not necessarily imply that they have experienced no growth at all. PErhaps a more accurate measure would be to look at students who made no growth or negative growth. Historically speaking, our district has not achieved growth target number in percentages over 60 or 70 for many, many years (if ever), including under the former tiered system. Kevin Russell put together a report that demonstrated this, where one could trace their particular grade level through the years. A chart like that would be helpful again. I think it is important to remember that statistics can be manipulated to say just about anything - on both sides of this issue - so perhaps the best measure a parent can go on is a child's day to day performance.

With respect to the comments about inclusive classrooms - our students are already in them and have been for years - it is the law. Science, social studies (with the exception of middles school ACE), foreign language, music, art, PE, etc… are all taught in an inclusive classroom setting. For the most part reading and writing are taught that way as well, in the elementary school. The only class that has been truly taught on an ability basis has been math, and even that has never been at all grade levels. Teachers have successfully differentiated in other subjects, including reading, over the years.

In the bigger picture of life, I don't think anyone can truly say that their children will not achieve success or will become failures based on what is happening in grammar school. No matter where one moves to, no school system will be perfect for every child. Parents who are not speaking out either in favor of or against the administration and Learning for All are not unconcerned, or blissfully ignorant. Maybe they just have a different perspective, or different issues to deal with within their families. Just because people are not screaming doesn't mean they agree with everything, and just because they are unhappy about certain aspects of D181 doesn't mean they are miserable with their child's overall education. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Welcome 7:31!

I appreciate your feelings. When I was a new reader, I was also concerned that what I was reading on this blog could not be true.

I have learned that there a lot more truth coming out of the blog and its commenters than there is from the administration.

You will also notice, over time, that the people who post on here are quite responsible, and will quick to challenge or clarify other posters who are shading the truth because the blog's credibility matters.

You will not frequently find this type of clarity or openness coming from the administration. Just keep reading and you will see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

To Commenter 9:39

Do you have children in D181 schools? Are you a SELAS activist? I ask these questions because your defensive stance leads me to believe you are not currently in the trenches with your kids in the "grammar" schools, a reference typically used by grandparents.
Here is what I do know for sure: you are incorrect when you say growth hasn't been high for "many, many years." From my recollection, The MAP test was first implemented in the 2006 school year. And even in the early stages of implementation it was clearly showing the strength of ability grouping and pull outs in math and LA.
The pull outs and tiers were working, and reading and math were ability grouped. D181 had ALL schools ranked in the top 25. Look it up. Only science, social studies and the arts did not involve pull outs. Get your facts straight.
If you are a taxpayer in this district, even if your kids have come and gone through 181, you should be concerned that nearly half or more of students in 5th grade (along with several other grades) are not hitting their growth targets. And this DOES mean they are not learning what they should be learning. You might not be aware of this, but our "grammar" schools are not providing an adequate instructional base at this time to allow our kids to achieve what OTHER 5th graders are nationally. Instead of trying to justify the lack of growth, you should be angry because once kids fall behind and don't hit their targets for a year or two, it's virtually impossible for them to catch up, especially with what is going on in this district.
My advice: school yourself up on real facts, data and test results before you play defense.
This isn't a game.

Anonymous said...

While it is true that it is the law to have inclusive classrooms, is the above poster implying that D181 was breaaking speciaal ed law prior to the arrival of Dr. Schneider and his Learning for All plan? Obviously, they weren't. Your implication that somehow 'the law" is demanding more from us than what we were giving previously is misleading.

And if data can be manipulated to say just about anything, why is it that no positive growth data has come out of this LFA program or the new math pilot books?

Finally, while many would not say that their child's success in life is determinbed by their elementary school teachers, I am surprised to hear how many DO credit teachers with having a huge impact in their lives. We value teachers and what they do for our society. Our children spend more of their waking hours at school than they do at home, so the time they spend there is significant. We give more of our property taxes to D181 than we do to any other part of the local government. So it is something that most people do take seriously. This is signficant because school administrator's earn their living and their pensions based on their work for the commmunity. If they are the ones determining how our children will be educated by our teachers, what they will learn , and how much our property taxes will be, they should have to prove that what they are doing is working. That is why real data should be demanded.

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of 2

I didn’t put a lot of stock in winter MAP scores. There has been a lot of debate on should the students even take that test. But even if you just have fallen off the turnip truck, you can look at the report under White’s report on board docs from the last board meeting and see there is something very wrong in 5th grade. I suspect that many parents probably got their child's scores and thought just a bad day, an anomaly, it’s just one point in time, etc. And probably many parents may have thought it was just their child who scored poorly. But when you look at the report and how poorly 5th grade did as a whole and broken out by school, you can’t deny the fact that there is something more going on than just a bad testing day. It’s very concerning especially when the other elementary math scores in all grades/schools were very strong.

Getting quintile data from NWEA is not good enough. I agree with 8:38 in that how do you know that you’re looking at the right students in the upper quintiles or any quintile for that matter? Each student should be put on a spread sheet listed under which math level they are currently taking, 5th grade, 6th grade (separated if there are certain classes that move at a faster clip than others), and then children bussed to middle school for 7th grade or 8th grade math. Then calculate the scores, look for changes, look for trends in a particular group. Also it needs to be done for last year, as well. Put the kids on a spread sheet in the groups they were assigned to in 4th grade (taking 5th grade math-secure emerging developing and calculate). Compare. There is so much that could be done with what we have and what we know. And then have a meeting with 5th grade families either by school or district wide and present the information.

Do we have identification issues? Do we have opt-in issues? Do we have systemic issues resulting from the compacting? Is there a hole/a particular skill, (or skills), that is universal. Do we have a curriculum issue with the 6th grade materials? Do we have an issue with the grade level students? Are the students who are bussed not meeting growth? The list is endless. And for White to leave it to the middle school teachers to figure this out is completely unbelievable. This is completely disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

9:39 Said
"We cannot make blanket statements with assumptions that a handful of children are bringing up the test scores of the rest of the group."

It is reasonable to infer that the top students who are taught at the middle school bring up the average. If the do not, the wouldn't be top students.

Furthermore, if it were not more favorable to show it that way, the administration would not have shown it that way. Why don't you send them a note asking them to break this down. We would all love to see that information.

9:39 said
"PErhaps a more accurate measure would be to look at students who made no growth or negative growth. "

I understand that it is not reasonable to expect 100%, but the facts are that the administration has promised that student results are going to improve with L4A. Clearly, they have not delivered on that.

I think it is reasonable to expect that when students spend 8 hours a day in school, they should have a reasonable level of growth. Setting the hurdle rate of expected learning at zero or negative is not adequate.

9:39 said
"In the bigger picture of life, I don't think anyone can truly say that their children will not achieve success or will become failures based on what is happening in grammar school."

Actually, the early years are the most critical in determining future success. Students are building fundamental skills that enable them to be successful later. A strong base of reading, writing and math skills are absolutely critical.

Anonymous said...

And for people to say that there is no meaning in the 5th grade data regarding Learning For All is outrageous. The 5th grade data means everything. This is the crux of the plan. The administration still wants to do exactly what they did to the now 5th graders and they want to implement it district wide for K-5 and the only difference they want now is to take out the compacting and put it at grade level and then differentiate from that point in one classroom. This model began to fail from its inception with the now 5th graders when they were in 3rd grade. It became very clear that one teacher couldn’t differentiate for the kids in one classroom. So they began their version of ability grouping based on exposure into the secure developing and emerging groups. It failed!!!! It didn’t work!!!!! And everybody knows it.

You can change the lingo but it is still the same plan at its core-all kids on the same level in the same classroom with one teacher to differentiate math to 25 plus kids. The 5th grade data points are important b/c they prove that Schneider’s plan will not work in the upper grades of elementary school.

AND for administrators to say that because the standards are changing that we can’t really get anything out of the data, THAT IS BS!!! Standards are standards are standards. That’s what they are....a baseline! This is about an instructional MODEL and one that is a failure and has been for 3 years!!!!! It has nothing to do with the Common Core or No Child Left Behind. This is about Kurt Schneider and his agenda to take inclusion and apply it to a greater population in a high achieving district. This is about fame for him and for everybody else in the administration to ride his coattails. AND our CHILDREN are his pawns.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Elementary Parent's comment at 9:15. The editor of The Hinsdalean is doing exactly what the majority of the BOE and our administration are vest at: denying responsibility and blaming everyone else except themselves. We don't need to rely on an editor to help us put 2 and 2 together. We are perfectly capable of connecting the dots.

If it simply was a mistake, why did the editor get so defensive? Especially since her last paragraph talks about her wise friend who says, "it's important to call people out." If the editor wants to write about fictional conspiracy theories in her weekly commmentaries, fine. But let's face the facts: her statement that "1/100 of a percent" of financial interest is a whole lot more than the 0% that every other candidate or resident contributes on a yearly basis. A full page ad is what? Almost $900? How many people in our commmunity have EVER placed a $900 ad in the local paper? Realtors place these types of ads on a weekly basis. I am not sure if she has actuallt checked her math, but spending potentially almost $50,000 a year on ads in 1 newspaper seems pretty significant to me. If $50,000/yr. is only 1/100 of a percent of The Hinsdalean's revenue, then I suggest the bloggers start selling advertising space!

If she really wanted to practice what she preached, she or Mrs. McCurry should have simply said, "I am sorry. I made a mistake. Please note the correction." They didn't. An entire commentary was dedicated to defending the error. It really seems hypocritical to become upset when people call YOU out. A falsehood is a lie. No one LIED when they said that Mike McCurry pays The Hinsdalean money for advertising space. But someone did lie, or make a mistake about the employment status that was printed in Mrs. McCurry's candidate profile. And as wise people know, it really is important to call out bad behavior.

Perhaps her next week's commentary could focus on her definition of what bad behavior consists of and how she can help the world adopt her own vision of morality and righteousness.

The Civility Police

Anonymous said...

Part 2 of 2 (duplicate post b/c I forgot to add 2/2)

And for people to say that there is no meaning in the 5th grade data regarding Learning For All is outrageous. The 5th grade data means everything. This is the crux of the plan. The administration still wants to do exactly what they did to the now 5th graders and they want to implement it district wide for K-5 and the only difference they want now is to take out the compacting and put it at grade level and then differentiate from that point in one classroom. This model began to fail from its inception with the now 5th graders when they were in 3rd grade. It became very clear that one teacher couldn’t differentiate for the kids in one classroom. So they began their version of ability grouping based on exposure into the secure developing and emerging groups. It failed!!!! It didn’t work!!!!! And everybody knows it.

You can change the lingo but it is still the same plan at its core-all kids on the same level in the same classroom with one teacher to differentiate math to 25 plus kids. The 5th grade data points are important b/c they prove that Schneider’s plan will not work in the upper grades of elementary school.

AND for administrators to say that because the standards are changing that we can’t really get anything out of the data, THAT IS BS!!! Standards are standards are standards. That’s what they are....a baseline! This is about an instructional MODEL and one that is a failure and has been for 3 years!!!!! It has nothing to do with the Common Core or No Child Left Behind. This is about Kurt Schneider and his agenda to take inclusion and apply it to a greater population in a high achieving district. This is about fame for him and for everybody else in the administration to ride his coattails. AND our CHILDREN are his pawns.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a parent and our children have been through D 181, graduated from HC and college and have jobs. Yes, I am that old. I follow this blog off and on as elections approach. I really appreciate it because the local papers give us a very filtered version of reality.

We have not had children in D181 since 2005. I complained at the time about staff turnover, too much homework, and the high taxes, but I thought our children received an excellent education and they did well at Central, college and now in the workforce.

Are things really as bad as this blog makes it seem? How did the district fall apart in just 10 years? Do the teachers at Hinsdale Central complain that the incoming freshman are so much dumber than the kids that used to enter?

We have a great gene pool, motivated students and parents, we spend tons of money per student; how can things be this bad?

I don't like educational fads ( we had to learn "new" math back in the 70s.) Is this hysteria all driven by common core? Are the kids really not learning or are the measurement systems out of kilter? Are the kids we send to Hinsdale Central and Fenwick, etc. able to take thrive in the academically challenging environment at the high school level?

I guess I would appreciate some balance and reason in the commentary.

Anonymous said...

We will not know the effects until the current fifth graders get to central. They are the first grade to go through the system with the changes (which are dictated by certain administrators not common core). But our rankings, test scores, parent feedback and classroom performance for this group tell an alarming story. It is not the same district you experienced.

Anonymous said...

My current ninth grader received a stellar education from d181. My current fifth grader is receiving a completely different educational experience. I don't need Central to tell me that my fifth grader is not being prepared for the rigors of Central. Just because D181 was top notch in the past does not mean that it is top notch now. Listen to a few BOE meetings and judge for yourself.

Gary Tietelbaum, EdD said...

And this via the Washington Post regarding PARCC - What real teachers are saying
I believe that refusing PARCC is the first step in taking down the Common Core boondoggle … and in saving our profession, which is being hijacked in numerous ways by those who know a lot about increasing profit, but who know nothing about teaching children.

Our children are not gaining from the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing; instead, I see corporations profiting immensely, along with politicians and various other individuals who have jumped on the Common Core train. The link between the Common Core standards, curriculum, and testing is inextricable…. Public education is the new cash cow; privatization is the end goal. We must begin to take down this profit machine by beginning with the data the corporations so dearly love. No data. No profit. I will not hand over Colorado’s children (and their data) to the corporations via federal mandates.

Gary Tietelbaum, EdD said...

Parents in Co opting out of PARCC - courtesy of - When Michelle Auerbach sends her daughter, Emma, to Boulder High School next week, one thing she won't be doing is taking the new PARCC tests. She won't be alone.

"Across the district, I've heard that there are 'opt out' movements at all of the local high schools," Auerbach said.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a new online standardized test given to students from third grade into high school. PARCC will be given in two rounds, one in March and the other towards the end of the school year.

Auerbach says her daughter is already taking the ACT, SAT, and AP exams totaling seven standardized tests before the end of the year and that total does not include the PARCC tests.

"It's an unfair burden to put on students who are already being tested in every possible way," Auerbach said.

She says the number of tests takes away too much class time.

"So, the kids who need that time in English classes, language arts classes where they're being helped and they're low performing, they're losing 10 to 15 days of instruction time which they need," Auerbach said.

The Boulder Valley School District did its own analysis of class time lost and shows that in grades 10 and 11, students will miss an average of 28 hours of instruction time because of all the standardized tests.

"Our goal is to administer the test and have it be the least disruptive as we can be on instructional time," Bruce Messinger, Boulder Valley School District superintendent, said.

As a district, Messinger also believes that students are tested too much. But, he also knows that the district's accreditation rating could be impacted if too many students refuse to take the PARCC tests.

"The U.S. Department of Education has made it really clear if we don't get to that 95 percent standard (of students taking the test), they may withhold federal funds from the state of Colorado," Messinger said.

He says Boulder Valley is preparing to have hundreds of high school students across the district 'opt out' of taking the test. Messinger is encouraging parents that if they don't like the testing system to communicate their concerns to legislators to have the laws and requirements changed for schools.

"I guess our hope would be is that we navigate through this next year or two and it'll be a little messy," Messinger said.

jay_wick said...

It has been several weeks since I have posted anything to this blog. That is largely because I have been busy with my campaign as well as the unprecedented election issues facing my neighbors who volunteer to serve Clarendon Hills and D86.

I still have been actively following D181 BOE meetings (usually in person) and for anyone that has not seen all the developments surrounding L4A it is worth stepping back a bit to understand "what has changed".

When Brendan Heneghan and former members of the BOE Mr. Rhodes, Ms. Meyers, and Ms. Lewensohn unanimously joined with Mr. Turek, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Yeager in moving forward with suggestions prompted by the now infamous report of third party consultants, the sense was only by their unanimity and shared desire to see the whole district achieve greater success would things be better for all students. I truly mean that -- as a parent of a child that has a congenital hearing problem I have nothing but praise for all the staff that have helped our child. I further know many parents that have been impressed with the knowledge and care that every member of the district has shown their children with special needs. There is no question such services can be maintained / improved with the right administrative priorities.

Sadly the lack of leadership exhibited by too many BOE members has not served to further the goal of "raising the performance of all". BOE members that have rubber stamped unclear administrative initiatives, been absent when important data should have been reviewed and allowed deception / incompetence to rule over transparency have set back the district considerably.

I still believe that a BOE with members who will not exhort the public to blindly go along with "experts", or who seek the cover of "closed session" to hide from the scrutiny of the public they serve or will not be in a hurry to get to their next elective office can help craft policies that will restore the kind of success that our district once took pride in.

There is little doubt that we have an abundance of talented teachers. Many of them have expressed confidence in the benefit of renewed efforts to strengthen the focus on primary classroom improvement. It is reasonable to assume that these efforts will result in measurable progress, but there must be a sense of shared purpose between the BOE, district level administration, and building staff. There must also be an honest admission of what consequences can be traced to the less than well-executed movement away from the previous district efforts to serve all learners. Without admitting to such failings, the shared buy-in needed to move forward will keep the district mired in camps that if not quite warring, are not yet willing to believe the promises that seem mostly hollow.

Concerned parents and even community members that have seen the administrative spending grow without subsequent increases in performance cannot be ignored. To do so will only invite more turnover and disruption.

I urge that all who want to see the BOE be more responsive should carefully consider the unique opportunity they face in the upcoming election. Please visit

Anonymous said...

10:54 "I guess I would appreciate some balance and reason in the commentary."

1. d181 is in the middle of the transition to Common Core. Common Core will eventually be a better curriculum, but the transition has been poorly executed. They need to move ahead, but execute better.

2. The L4A integrated classrooms are a destructive edu-fad. This was adopted because of the administrations interest in "Social Justice" and not in the best interest of our students. It was sold as a program to raise scores for all students, which did not fool may parents then, but did fool the BOE. Now that the same parents are asking for the administration to deliver on this promise, they just try to change the subject and refuse to undo the program. They have been shamefully dishonest about this.

3. The number 1 failure has been clear, honest communication with parents at a time when they are reworking the entire curriculum. They do this because they want control, but it may cost them their jobs.

For example, the fact that it was likely to expect MAP scores to be poor during the CC transition was not communicated effectively from the beginning.

Another example of this was the L4A program. The administration was not honest about their reasons for wanting this. Then they inflated expectations to sell the program. Now they make excuses for their failure to deliver results.

Any time your try to cut the parents out of decisions and are less than forthright in communicating reasons and rationale for changes, you are setting yourself up for trouble. When you behave this way and then the standardized test results are bad, well you have just put a gun to your own head (its just a metaphor folks).

Anonymous said...

I know that Mr. Turek is the favorite whipping boy on this blog, but honestly, it seems to me that at least with Mr. Turek it has always been clear and up front. Turek is completely unlike a box of chocolates. We know exactly what we are going to get. He is not a smart person and does not pretend to be. He finds Mr. Heneghan's questions and Ms. Garg's questions meaningless, because he can't comprehend the importance of them. To me, that is understandable, and not his fault.

Ms. Vorobiev on the other hand is intelligent. She understands precisely the point of these questions, sees what is happening, and simply chooses not to engage for the benefit of the parents and children. For me, this is much more troubling.

It is difficult to understand why she does not support the types of concerns and clarifications that Mr. Heneghan, Ms. Garg, and the parents, have consistently expressed.

Why does Ms. Vorobiev typically refrain from engaging the administration in establishing an expectation of clarity around the decisions made, the implementation of best practices, and measurement of results?

For me, this is much more troubling. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Hello to the former D181 parent whose kids have already gone through the public schools here. We specifically chose to bring our familly to Hinsdale because of the reputation of the schools. We eagerly accepted the high housing costs and steep property taxes because when we moved here 10 years ago because the schools were stable and highly ranked. Since quality schools are one of the the most significant factors in determining home values, we realized that we were paying a premium for the schools. We knew D181 had giffted programs, great special ed programs and consistently was in the top 20 rank for elementary scholls. Also, that D86 consistently was ranked in the top 5. We had also spoken to many people like you who loved Hinsdale and encouraged us to move here.

But about 5 years ago things started taking a turn for the worse. When our schools lost an affiliation with LADSE a special education cooperative, the special education department started deteriorating. An interim superintendent and his replacement floundered. The selection of our previous sperintendent,, Dr.Renee Schuster, brought not only cuts for special education, but the elimination of gifted programs. Now, teachers were suddenly swamped with a greater variety of students in thier classrooms and less specialist support. Administrators focused more on social justice than trying to update to the new common core standards. While other districts transitioned to new books and gave their teachers professional development on it, our district focused on eliminating specialists. Teachers were not given adequate training or materials to deal with the sudden, "innovative" changes that Dr. Schuster and her new right hand man, Dr. Kurt Schneider brought. Suddenly, "social justice" not "educational excellence" became the educational buzz word.
When parents pointed out that our children's state and national rankings, along with our propery values, have been sharply falling the last few years, administrators and some board members called us problem parents. Yet they still raised our taxes and approved almost every single expense submitted by the district. Unfortunately, most of these expenses were rarely for materials or curriculum that supported student or teacher needs. It was all about suppporting new, innovative social justice and inclusive theories. Theories that had no proof of being successful.

We are slowly realiziing that our kids won't get what was advertised to us by the realtor when we moved here. And now, when we check the school rankings, we see that our schools have dropped off the radar. To add insult to injury, even though next year, our middle schools will no longer believes in ability grouping, and Dr. White says he doesn't belive in data, our 8th graders will have to TEST IN to get into Hinsdale Central's honors or AP classes - just like they used to when your kids were in school. But my kids will not have gotten the support that your kids did. If Hinsdale Central also isn't going to be what it used to be by the time MY kids get there, WHY should I stay? More importantly, WHO would ever want to move here? People who can afford expensive houses are a bit more saavy and educated about making sure they buy homes in good school districts. Educated, professional people have the jobs that allow them to live in towns like Clarendon Hills, Burr Ridge and HInsdale. But educated people want their children to be educated well, too. They will pay high prices, but they expect professional treatment and results in return. They don't move to areas with overpriced, underperforming schools. So, yes, I would say that there has been a definite deterioration of the schools here. And when our children reach D86, it will also start to negatively affect the high school's quality.

Anonymous said...

i agree with 5:20. excellent point. jill comprehends what is going on, yet choses not to do anything about it. i would suggest that people start looking more closely at vorobiev's questions and the way she votes.

however, i have to say, even though it was clear that all of the boe members had differing opinions and levels of intelligence, they all voted the same way. this makes no sense. what are board members afraid of?

Anonymous said...

5:20 I am the guy whose kids have received the superior education I paid for. I completely agree with your post.

The question is: what do we do now?

My answer is: let's find the best people we can for the school board.

Quick aside, I served on the D 181 caucus years ago and was struck by the tremendous talent in this community.

We cannot and will not get the best possible school board by trashing potential candidates and
THEIR SPOUSES for an UNPAID position. If you don't want Marty Turek or Amy McCurry, fine, vote on election day. But the constant personal attacks and vitriol directed at people running for office certainly cannot help and likely discourages potential strong candidates.

Again, somebody please answer, how do we get out of this mess? We all will want to sell our homes some day and we need to reestablish D 181 as one of the top in the state. What is Butler doing? Why don't we do what they do? They have been kicking our cans for years now, with a very similar student base.

I love this blog and find it useful. But if we keep trashing candidates and staff, we will win the battle and lose the war.

Anonymous said...

Good point, 5:20. Good point.

Anonymous said...

Get ready for the propaganda machine at the next BOE meeting. The truth is that Schuster/Schneider and Benaitis have caused irreparable damage to this community in their desire to implement their educational social justice scheme. It seems as if Schneider and Benaitis are changing their tunes slightly in response to parent/teacher pressure and falling test scores. The questions remain, however, will the community ever be able to trust them again after what we've been through for 3 years and are they truly the most qualified people to hold their positions at at top-tier district like D181. I believe that the answer is "no" on both counts.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think that Dr. White has actually read the original Learning For All plan that Schneider created? Does he know how awful it was and how it is the reason that D181 has been in such disarray for the past 3 years? Has he listened to the old podcast discussions? I get that he wants to move forward - so does everyone - but he needs to have a clear picture of the qualifications and viewpoints of those he is surrounding himself with and relying on for expertise.

Anonymous said...

We fix this mess by going back to the old system and fixing the few problems that it contained. Those would be: eliminate permanent 2nd grade identification for ACE, ELA and Math and lack of flexibility for some students which will allow for more students to be placed in advanced classes. And re-evaluate if advanced students should skip 3rd grade and 7th completely or if they should compact or accelerate instead to prevent gaps. Done.

What we've done instead? As a district we have completely fallen behind on Common Core, Science, new math materials, we've spent a fortune on staff who have no curriculum and assessment experience. We've completely jerked our teaching staff around, and we've created significant learning gaps in our 5th grade class. Bravo D181. I don't believe it is possible to have made worse decisions than we have.

Anonymous said...

Here's the irony in all of this - the parents, not the highly paid "professionals" were right, on all counts, all along. And no one listened to them. Just think where we would be now as a district if we had never heard the phrase "Learning For All" and had listened to the parents and teachers who initially spoke out against all of this.

Anonymous said...

7:10, you are wrong. You have not experienced the unfairness and unprofessionalism that current parents and children have from this administration. Or perhaps you have seen it - you just don't care.

Perhaps you are like Turek - you don't quite understand what's happening, but you are threatened by it. But you clearly do not think that our children deserve the education that your children received because you are threatened by the truth. Perhaps you are part of the problem? One who is trying to preserve your position or your interest by keeping Amy McCurry and Turek in the race? She purposely waited until the last hour of the last day to run. She didn't bother to go through any of the caucus interviews or protocols, and then she lied that she was a stay at home mom instead of a paid employee directly under the supervision of Dr. Schneider. If she wants to be treated fairly, she needs to behave fairly as well. Why would you prefer that the facts stay hidden? The only vitriol I see comes from adults like you who think it's ok for schools to meet the needs of adults, not children.

When you or anyone else destroys the quality of our schools by not taking other people and their children's educations seriously, you are not helping anyone except yourself. You are not making our children stronger or more resilient! You are hurting them. And, you are hurting the teachers and principals who actually care about our children and their needs. The only thing that seems to bother you, is that your are afraid your own needs will no longer be met. Every one else on this blog cares about their children, their neighbors children, their community, and the truth. And they do it for free. But you, all you want is to preserve the status quo and continue to benefit from it. If you actually wanted to know what would solve the problems that exist, you would WANT qualified, fair, and intelligent board members who behave ethically. But you don't.

Obviously, honest people have not been scared off by the blog. Plus, your basic facts are off because 6 people are running for 4 spots. So, there isn't a shortage of people who want to run. There is, however, a shortage of logical, honest, ethical people in the administration and on the board. And that is personally offensive to me and probably every other person who reads this blog. If adults need to be trashed, as you say, or called out on their stupidity, I, and many others would be more than happy to do it. Unpaid.

Anonymous said...

7:01, this is 5:20

Often they have voted the same way, but in part, from the dialogue, it is clear that the five person majority is not willing to support the concerns raised by Heneghan and Garg, so voting "no" will serve no purpose. Also, sometimes the majority has gained support by just lying. You heard Yvonne Mayer say that is how Marty Turek got her to support L4A by promising that he would demand metrics and accountability for the L4A program, which he has not done. It was clear that it was true because she called him a liar in front of everyone and he said nothing, but just grinned at her. Obviously guilty.

Hi 7:10/ kids w/ superior education, this is 5:20

To fix the problems, you have to identify them.

There are a few problems here.

1. Any objective other than academic excellence for the students is unacceptable. As soon as Social Justice was introduced, there were going to be problems.

2. Honest transparent communication with the BOE and parents was discontinued in an effort by the administrators to gain power and control. The parents of d181 are the natural ally of the administration. However, by using these strong arm tactics, the administrators have made an enemy.

Only 2 BOE members seem to understand what it is that the parents are concerned about and work to actively represent the families of d181. Without a BOE majority that can comprehend the issues, understands the concerns of constituents, and who are willing to challenge anything if the reason for doing it is not, "It is in the best interest of the students." And also willing to challenge anything that is done without a clear rationale (i.e., L4A).

You are correct that the only way to get out of this mess is to have a BOE majority that is conscientious, has critical thinking skills and is willing to challenge anything that is proposed, and not in the best interest of the students, or makes claims that are not supported.

The reason that nothing has changed is that there is no mechanism for effective parent to parent communication. Therefore, the vast majority of parents do not realize what is happening. They have never been to a BOE meeting or listened to the podcast. Then when someone tells them what is happening, they, understandably, can not believe that it is true. That person probably has an axe to grind. It take a while before the realize that the parents who are, on average, the most unhappy are the most educated and knowledgeable parents. That is the biggest red flag.

Until a larger group of parents are willing to vote to take back the BOE and base all decisions on using evidence and reason to do what is best for the students, this will not get better.

I think that when the BOE members refuse to do their jobs, they deserve to be criticized. I do not expect them to agree with me, but I to expect them to ask the right questions and be critical thinkers. I have never mentioned a spouse. I believe that is almost always inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

We are parents of an elementary child and have three more children who will enter school within the next 6 years. We have been disappointed by the lack of communication from our school despite talking about a communication platform. Websites are outdated and there is little to no information that comes home. Forget homework-I have no idea when kids are assessed, evaluated, given benchmarking tests in school or even given standardized tests like the MAP. We receive no feedback from the teacher unless we ask and when we do it is a circus and we are treated as if we have taken too much time out of their day. When we question decisions about placement, ask why opportunities are unjustly doled out or preferential treatment is given based on teacher observations and not test scores, we receive negative feedback or criticism about our kid. Our second grade teacher showed up 20 minutes late to a meeting with a resource teacher. No explanation or apology. This after ignoring my communication for a meeting for 3 weeks. In my own professional life, I don't have the luxury of not communicating with my public. I dont have the luxury of ignoring challenging audiences or criticizing patrons for coming forward. If I am responsible for communicating to my audience, I dont think a lack of information would be acceptable. And yet at our child's school, I can't remember the last time the teacher prompted a dialogue between home and school. I can't recall seeing an udpated website. I can't remember the last positive feedback let alone constructive feedback I received that wasn't prompted and then given on the defensive. Perhaps teachers do work hard, give from their own pockets, and go above and beyond. But it isn't uniformly and I'm not asking them to pay for supplies or materials on their own. But I do expect them to communicate and give information. I do expect standards. And I dont like it when I'm told year after year that they will do better about communicating and nothing ever changes. That to me is failure.

Anonymous said...

7:46: This is exactly the kind of letter that you should send to the BOE and Dr. White. I think that the teachers are so overwhelmed right now with all of the different and ever changing initiatives that is may impact their ability to communicate with parents effectively or even in a timely manner (although I am not excusing them). I really believe the main issue is with the administrators in the Dept. of Learning who are not effective leaders. Good educational leadership within a building starts in the Central Office. Unfortunately, no one in the Dept. of Learning is qualified to do their jobs. It's no wonder there has been a trickle down effect down to the school buildings. If you are afraid of retaliation, then I encourage you to send it to Members Heneghan and Garg who have proven themselves to be board members of the highest integrity.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting tidbit: I recently was contacted by another parent whose child is similarly matched for math at our district elem school. This parent was given even LESS information than I was about the purpose of our child's math pull out and in fact, approached me for more information. Feeling put upon and because I dont like to discuss my child's academics with others, I simply suggested contacting the teacher. Sharing what little I felt comfortable, I said that I believe the pull out was for kids who had demonstrated an ability to learn more and go further than what was taught in the classroom. I also shared that this group would be doing grade level above math. I did not share how the group was determined-because I honestly don't know since my child was given more assessments than many based on what feedback we received from administration. A source of contention for me since my child's scores showed a strong ability for math but the school felt that the group he was in was based on teacher observation and thus, some children needed assessment but some just needed teacher buy in. Interesting. This parent was thrilled that their child had been accelerated but felt that they needed to work a lot harder at home to make sure their child was ready for all the tasks ahead. I asked why they felt they needed to work harder if the school had identified their child as "ahead" and "skilled". She said that her child came home saying that many of the kids in the pull out knew more than him and that he was getting lots of things wrong. She asked me who I use as a tutor. Since I don't have a tutor but my child benefits from an older sibling, I didn't have much to offer. I stated that perhaps she should express her questions to the teacher or staff at school. So there it is--while this may be heresy the truth is teachers are observing and parents are observing but no one is recognizing that children observe too. They also can self identify if they are challenged or unchallenged, in over their heads or not. And while many children need a gentle "push" from above especially with math it stands to reason, that some children will feel pressured when they don't need to be. This particular student I know not much about and since they are not my own child it doesn't matter. No child is an island. My kid is certainly not the strongest and others may be stronger. But here's the kicker--when you group kids based on various values without a common value that is objective you naturally have a mixed bag. How can flex grouping be based on many different characteristics but not common characteristics? I get that some kids may be better at some things than others or children vary in their strengths and weaknesses but are still capable of doing the same work BUT what about the fact that some kids approach math from a different learning level than others? And just because someone shows a quick study with numbers doesn't mean they are the same level as someone who perhaps has kept pace all along? We need criteria and guidelines for grouping and they shouldn't be based on a teacher's opinion of your child solely or because some parents are naughtier or nastier than others. I'm nasty-mean, demanding and outspoken. I'm also dedicated, committed, generous, kind and supportive of the school, teachers, and students too. My actions speak louder than my words and I donate, volunteer and chair many committees. Doing so doesn't justify rudeness or disrespect but I am neither. So objective data and criteria along with factual information should be the basis for all placement and that should be supported by teacher input and observation or negated by such BUT it shouldn't replace objective data.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, our terrible administration and some of the less effective teachers WANT to make us leave. If the blog folds, THEIR lives would be so much easier. If the noisy parents go away, the only people who win are the selfish bastards who refuse to do their jobs. They won't have to listen to parents anymore, yet they will continue to take our money. Every day they will snatch thier undeserved salary and look forward to the day when they don't even have to show up to work, and still get paid their pensions that we have funded.

Therefore, I won't make THEIR dreams come true by selling my house or putting my children in private schools. I won't even hire a tutor. If my perfectly normal children can't figure out what the school can't manage to teach them, and I can't figure it out at home, then that's THEIR problem. That's why I pay them. As long as I can think, speak, and type, I will demand accountability. If that offends people, then THEY can leave. If their kids don't go to school anymore, and they don't like hearing people complain, then they can put the for sale sign on their front lawns and leave. Good luck getting your asking price.

Anonymous said...

I would never encourage anyone to move to Hinsdale for the schools at this juncture. Most of my friends share the same academic goals for their kids as I do. They do not want to move to an area where a child's personality and a teacher's observation outweigh the evidence of MAP scores, test scores and class performance.
Our local principal thinks that the school community loves to complain, is entitled and asks for acceleration and advancement and focuses on MAP scores too much. A recent teacher rolled her eyes when asked for a meeting to discuss a drop in a child's math score. I witnessed both of these first hand. I think our principal tries to make as many people happy and meet the needs of as many as he can but in doing so, ignores the needs of a few and the feelings of a few who perhaps deserve more. I also think that for a school whose principal focuses on communication as a platform, there is little enforcement or monitoring and review of what and how that communication is executed. No websites are updated. Few teachers send newsletters or materials home. On a recent look, the school websites for the teachers were updated 4 to 6 months ago. One website still has the welcome message for first days of school. It is laughable. And yet, week after week, things come home-project due Friday, turn this sheet in tomorrow; one week to pick a book. My attention at school documents is immediate. Some will argue I only have two children so I have more time than a teacher who has 24 students. But I never signed up to be a teacher and my teacher did. In my job, I dont have the luxury of picking and choosing what rules to follow, what communication channels to employ. If I am supposed to meet the need of my audience by doing x, y, and z then I do that. Here in D 181, my school tiers and accelerates large groups and small groups and individual kids based on MAP scores and classroom participation. But some kids are skipped; some kids are placed IN a classroom; some get a pull out. And there is no cut off score. There is not guideline. There is no formula. I'm glad our principal does that. I'm grateful. But should I be grateful or should i be angered that what is done is inconsistent? Should I be grateful that he does it for some and not others? Should I be grateful that teacher input brings up some children at the exclusion of others? Have all children been evaluated? What of the child that doesn't know how to boast about their abilities?The rumor mill is that a child has to score off the charts high on the MAP if he/she is expected i to be accelerated BUT then again, when asked my principal denies this and doesn't give any formulas for this path. In fact the MAP isn't a huge deal. It is class performance. It is teacher buy in. No promises. No formula. It is a complex process looking at the whole student. Teacher observation. Teachers have to get behind your kid they say. One friend tells me that her KG teacher really made the difference. One friend says it was first grade. I wait for that teacher. We are in 4th grade. We were told one month that our child would get opportunities and the next month, the opportunity presented was not what was outlined the month before. My neighbor who has two children accelerated at said school home tutors her children with three D 181 tutors. I asked her how she got them and she says through word of mouth and friends. I asked her if that was a conflict of interest and she said not if they are not students at the same school. She says the tutors cover new topics, current topics and expose her kids to new topics. She has four children and she plans to tutor them all with D 181 professionals. This is an expensive habit that I cannot afford or feel is right. But I imagine this is why D 181 has good scores compared to less wealthy communities. We can't afford that. At that price, I might as well send them to private school or test for a Magnet high school in Chicago and move homes.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy the bloggers are not going to "fold." You are the one true light of transparency shining on D181.

Anonymous said...

The BOE majority and the administration can not get around that fact that they promised that L4A would improve d181 results, but in reality d181 schools have fallen in the Illinois State rankings since adding L4A and eliminating tiering.

They can make excuses, and continue to not reinstate tiering, but all the b.s. excuses will not improve the ranking nosedive since L4A began. We need to ask, "When are you going to improve over pre L4A rankings or get rid of the program?" Dr. Schneider will give a long double talk/edu-speak response, to which we need to say, "Interesting, so when are you going to improve over pre L4A rankings or get rid of the program?" Repeat until he answers the question.

I hope the BOE, Dr. Schneider and Dr. White intend to personally fund private tutors to undo the damage they are doing to d181 rankings with their little "Social Justice" experiment. They have succeeded in reducing the gap between rich and poor districts by trashing d181. Congratulations.

How much longer are parents going to let this go on? When will parents demand that they either exceed the pre L4A rankings or return to tiering? Will they just reelect these buffoons?

The administrators do not seem to understand that the only two subjects that really matter in elementary school are English and math. You can learn anything later if you are strong at those two things. They have successfully trashed student performance at math, declared victory, and are now moving on to English. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

We know the 5th Grade Math MAP growth is poor, but has anyone looked at the 6th graders performance since the BINDER was adopted (I think 3 years ago)? My Junior soared in the Glencoe Math with the old fashioned textbook from cover to cover.
"You never get the whole story when you jump around from chapter to chapter."

Anonymous said...

Why can't D 181 BOE ask for a Best Practices SPecial Committee to be assembled ? One that would be made up of teachers, parents and principals (please note: i think parents should be included) to examine how and why and when kids are accelerated across the district? Starting all the way in KG and continuing through 6th or 8th grade. This committee would first take a look at how differentiation was being delivered; next examine how schools were determining acceleration and how often and what criteria; and finally, assess what best practices were in place or needed to be in place to meet the needs of children? I think this would be a GREAT idea. Yes? It would validate the comments on this blog. It would address inequities or inconsistencies. It would shine a light on the fact that two kids with the same MAP score, same classroom performance levels and same objective data/similar data are receiving different models of differentiation. It would perhaps address a lot of the inequities.

Anonymous said...

So, kids who have never had instruction in "keyboarding" will be expected to write a timed essay on a computer during the PARCC exam.

What could go wrong?

The idiocy within public education truly knows no bounds.

Anonymous said...

6:58 While appreciate what you're saying, another committe is the last thing we need. What this district does need are qualified people running the curriculum and assessment departments. If we had people with half of a brain in charge, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Look what I just pulled off Amy McCurry's promotioinal website. She raves about her "well rounded perspective" and how excellent the schools are, yet she doesn't provide any data or evidence to support it. Nor does she mention that her husband is a realtor in D181, and that most of his $ comes from CONVINCING people that our schools are excellent. Do they not read Chicago Maganize's and the Chicago Tribune rankings that show the huge drop in scores the last 2 years, while other district's scores are going up? Do theyt not read the district's dropping average in MAP scores? When our district's average goes down, it means that other schools' averages are going up. This is reality. Has she not gone to board meetings, year after year, and heard all of the concerns? Clearly, its in a realtor's family's IMMEDIATE financial interest to deny that there are problems, but its in their LONG TERM interest to first admit that there are some problems. Of course, no one is saying that our schools are the worst in IL, but if we don't take an honest, clear look at the ways in which other districts are surpassing us, then we will NEVER get better. We need to address the real problems and fix them. Eventually, the truth about the data will come out. McCurry needs to shine some light on the problems, not cover them up! But obvioulsy, how can she shed light on realty when her boss (Dr. Kurt Schneider) is the one creating the problems! This is very unethical.

Perhaps their children's needs are being met, but I know many more people whose children's needs are not being met at all. For Amy to deny that many other people have consistently spoken about problems in D181 for the last 2 years at every meeting, yet she and 1 or 2 other parents and other paid employees are the only ones whom we have EVER heard praise from makes me wonder how she EVER could represent parents whose opinions differ with hers? People who have expressed concerns are professors, executives, business owners, doctors, elementary school teachers, and concerned citizens who do NOT benefit in any way from thier relationship with 181. She, however, is a paid employee and her husband earns commission by promoting the BELIEF that that our schools are excellent. This is really concerning and indicates a clear conflict of interest if she ever were to be on the board.

I copied this straight off her own website:

"As both a district employee and a parent of four D181 students, I’ve enjoyed a rich and multi-layered perspective of our district. While I’m privy to the large-scale planning and vision required to keep the district running, I’m also “in the trenches” as a parent, navigating the ins and outs of our schools on a daily basis. As a result, I’m very passionate about our number one priority: the quality education of our students.

In D181, we have excellent schools, engaged parents, highly educated and dedicated teachers and a strong vision for the implementation of curriculum. We are blessed to have the resources to support the education of all our learners. But with these resources comes great responsibility. We need to provide the assurance to our parents and to the entire community that each school building has what is needed to educate our children and enable them to thrive."

Maybe her kids are getting what THEY need becasue she is, as she says "privy" and "blessed" but mine are not. We arent' getting any special perks and we volunteer for FREE. I am sure she and her husband are nice people, and that he is a good realtor. And I am sorry to have to expose this information. But the truth needs to come out because Mrs. McCurry is not admitting it. She will be an inherently biased, unsuitable board member.

If we parents keep turning the other cheek while the district and the BOE keeps slapping our faces, we and our families willl continue to be the ones bleeding.

Anonymous said...

I don't get how she inclues a link to the DuPage County Election Commission website when its obvious that there is a conflict of interest:

"DuPage County Election Commission
The DuPage County Election Commission is an independent, bi-partisan government entity operating under state and federal election laws to promote accurate, efficient, accessible and secure elections in DuPage County. We serve the public through education and information about the election process, voter registration, election administration and leadership in improving election procedures. We maintain the highest professional standards to ensure the integrity of the election process."

Does the election board know that Amy McCurry is a paid employee of the district? By the way, I am starting to wonder if her huband is the one who brokered the deal to find D181 its new office space? Just a guess. It seems crazy that we had to rent space for our administration when CHMS is so new, and Monroe just had a huge addiltion. Isn't there space in the the Hinsdale library, the community house, or Hinisdale's Memorial buiding? What's that huge public works building next to the firestation, just north of the tracks. It could all be on the up and up, it seems that there was NO discussion about this in public at the board meeting, and then, all of sudden, it was approved. The public should have received more public notice about it so that we could have made suggestions. Honestly, if our kids and teachers have to sit in trailers on school parking lots, why can't our paid admnistrators?

Anonymous said...

There is nothing in the D181 BOE bylaws that prohibits an employee from seeking a board position. Nor is there anything that prohibits a realtor and/or spouse of a realtor from seeking office. It is up to the voters to decide if her employment creates a conflict of interest.

As far as moving the district offices to CHMS or Monroe, there is no room in either of those buildings to do so. As many posters like to say - get your facts straight.

Long Time Parent and Community Member said...

5:43 p.m.: Not only does Ms. McCurry have a conflict of interest, but Dr. White has specifically told at least two parents that if she is elected, she will have to resign because of the conflict. I believe that she would still have a conflict of interest because if she ever seeks employment elsewhere, she will need a reference from her last employer and she will therefore be beholden to Dr. Schneider. You are entitled to your own opinion, but it is my opinion, as well as that of many other parents and community members, that a conflict exists now and a conflict will continue to exist even if she resigns. No one ever said she couldn't run for office because her husband is a realtor. Where are you getting that from?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. McCurry holds a $13.75 per hour part time job with the district. I suppose a school crossing guard would have the same conflict of interest! You people make it seem like she is secretly running the entire district behind everyone's back.

Regarding employer references, please get out of the 1980s. In today's litigious world, ( especially in the education realm) references will only state the dates of employment and the job title. Nothing More.

Boys and girls, use your votes wisely with good conscience. I would encourage some of you to dispense with the wacky conspiracy theories regarding a part time employee.

Anonymous said...

1:13 - I couldn't disagree with you more.

Conflicts matter. Mr. Clarin's wife is a teacher in the district. He told the voters during election time that he would recuse himself from teacher's negotiations if elected. He then became the lead negotiators. Contract talks went peacefully, but we left a lot on the table. Moreover, Mr. Clarin is so pro teacher he won't consider any other view point other than that of a teacher.

The BOE is supposed to be a check and balance. There should be no conflict to prevent a member from representing the needs of the entire community. Everyone can vote for whom they choose. I choose not to vote for McCurry because there are other candidates that are more qualified with no conflicts. I do not want two BOE members with potential conflicts - it is not worth it. And like Mr. Clarin - we only have her word that she would resign if elected. Are you aware that she reports directly to Dr. Schneider and as a board member would vote on his contract and so much more. No thank you. But to each his own. That is what democracy is all about.

Anonymous said...

Conflicts do matter and I don't know about you, but when I'm hiring I absolutely try to get in touch with anyone and everyone who has previously worked with a candidate. Word of mouth is the best way to find good employees and to find new positions. Not to mention that D181 would be the most logical place for Ms McCurry to seek re-employment after her board term, if elected. Way too close for comfort and I agree wholeheartedly about Mr Clarin's involvement. He should never have been involved. He might as well have just written himself a check. Mr Clarin and Ms McCurry may be very nice people and have the best of intentions but it is just inappropriate. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Anonymous said...

2:26, don't necessarily disagree with you. Her potential conflict has been identified and voters are free to weigh in on election day.

I just don't think Mrs. McCurry and her husband deserve the pounding that they have received on this blog.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, our school crossing guards are much more qualified than Amy McCurry! Have you read her website? If you had actually read it, you would see that she refers to herself as "privy" to the ongoings in the district. "Privy". I have never heard our crossing guards saying malarky like that because they are actually working and doing something meaningful and important with their time - helping our children!. Being paid for a job that other parents did for FREE for years with FRN is nothing to brag about. Because she did such a terrible job of commmunicating with all of the other FRN reps, and refused to even address the complex issues that parents were bringing to her newly created position, Dr. Schneider decided to completely elminate the parent volunteer FRN postitions. This was a huge blow to transparency in our district and especially to the special education department. Just because she has a bit of a background in emotional disorders and special ed, and SHE knows how to ask for the services children may or may not need, it is terrible that she did not help promote other parent's rights and knowledge.

This was very unfair to all of the parents who may have full time, non education jobs, yet still need help. THOSE people are paying the taxes so their children can receive services, too. But by eliminating the process of identifying and addressing problems, FRN suddenly became meaningless. If they don't share resources, and parents aren't allowed to network, then is really isn't a Family Resource Network anymore. It just becomes another ineffective arm of the administration.

Instead of encouraging parents to communicate and work together equally, she suddently became the authoritarian task master that ran and controlled the meetings. The SELAS department is run the same way now by another consultant and paid teachers. Parent volunteers are asked to be seen and not heard. The superintendents Learning Committee seems to be following this path as well since there has been no reports of actual progress or work being done by this group. FRN has turned into yet another beacon of pride for the administration when it is actually a travesty.

The fact that she felt that only she, along with the other FRN paid rep, had a right to share ideas and information was extremely sad and i feel will be indicative of the way she will behave on the board. She is NOT a team player. She constantly threw other parents under the bus and shirked her responsibilites to the children of this district. If she put a $13/hr job over the value of getting more parents to become active, engaged members of the community, then I do not trust her to work with other important aspects of the district. If she refuses to see, or even admit, that others have the right to have a differing view from her own, i wouldn't want her on the board. The fact that she stubbornly refuses to admit that there are ways that our district can improve, and instead does everything she can to portray perfection in our town is scary. Sorry, but my idea of a good board member is NOT someone who placidly behaves like a Stepford Wife!

Ironically, in the paper, she refered to herself as an FRN REP from Walker school. She is not! She is a paid assistant to Dr. Scheider. And as far as your patronizing reference to us as "boys and girls" and "conspiracy theories" , I suggest you consider your own tone. If anyone is ever going to make a wise choice, they must be informed. People like you who do NOT know the facts should not vote. Ignorance is not an excuse. If Amy McCurry gets paid $13.00 an hour, our crossing guards should get paid $20/hr.! Those hardworking people stand out in the freezing cold and protect our children. Amy McCurry does not.