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The attributes of Walt Disney were typically displayed in movies and eventually, amusement parks that bore his name proudly and provided a mystical, magical place for children and adults to experience joy and happiness in a safe environment. But, hold the phone; there were certain characters that appeared to be positioned in the state of Disney’s alter ego; for example, Geppetto the controller and mastermind of Pinocchio, was perhaps one of the historical figures who exhibited an insatiable desire for control and manipulation. Hmmmm….do we know of any D181 administrators who possess such traits? We’ll leave that answer up to you.
After we began receiving comments from readers (which we have copied at the end of this post) concerning part 3 of the Learning for All (Some) and MAP reports that are posted on BoardDocs (Click to open the Seminal Document, click to open links to MAP reports), we thought we should take a look at what is included in this long-awaited, much referred to piece of, 'er, “research-based” document that is the supposed blueprint of what has been happening in our district for nearly three years. Our take-away? It is nothing but a verbose hodgepodge of gobbledygook gibberish. Sad, but true.
We are not going to summarize the contents of the "Seminal Document" for you. You need to read it for yourselves. But we are going to point out what it doesn't include BUT SHOULD:
- There is absolutely no performance data.
- There is no description, discussion or analysis of what components of the L4A plan have worked successfully over the last three years versus what components have not worked.
- There is no criticism of any of the components of the L4A plan that parents have been complaining about for the last three years.
- There is no candid discussion by teachers of their compliments or criticisms of the L4A program over the last three years.
- There is no mention of concerns by teachers that the At-Will Opt-In option has had a watering down effect at the Middle School, despite Dr. White having told community members who have met with him that teachers have specifically told him this.
- Despite Board Member Vorobiev's request that the report address how the L4A plan has actually been rolled out at each grade and in each school AND how the different approaches have impacted student performance, all the administration has provided are two simple charts that show that in fact the L4A plan has been applied inconsistently across the schools and different grades, but with no discussion about the impact on student performance.
So we ask ourselves, doesn't the administration care to address these questions? Wasn't it clear to the administration that the report was supposed to be more than a series of "best practices" references slapped together into a document? Now the Administration wants to change the name of the original Advanced Learning Plan aka Learning for All Plan aka Integrated Service Model Plan into the Advanced Learning "PROCESS"?
Even Board Member Nelson should be rolling his eyes at the document because not too long ago, he said (and we are paraphrasing now because quite frankly, we are sick and tired of going back and listening to the meeting tapes to find the exact counter where board members have taken a position on issues) that what needs to FINALLY be produced by the Administration is a ROAD MAP that has a defined starting point and defined ending point and that provides the direction on exactly how we will get from Point A to Point B. He made it clear that we cannot keep redrafting the road map and starting over and over and over.
More than three years ago, the BOE approved a Plan, NOT a Process. The past and now current administration whose common denominator is Dr. Schneider, have changed course so many times that our heads are spinning. Even now, they are absolutely unable to define what the plan was, how it changed and what it means now. Their ESCAPE HATCH is to call it a PROCESS.
Well guess what; our kids don't want a process. Our kids don't need a process. Our kids are in D181 for a grand total of 9 years and for many of them, 1/3 of their elementary and middle school educations have been WASTED serving as guinea pigs and lab rats.
How many times and how many different ways do we -- CONCERNED PARENTS -- have to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH? How many times do we have to point out that the plan, process, whatever you want to call it, is nothing more than a case of the Emperor's New Clothes, and unless and until performance data PROVES that the program is working successfully for ALL OF OUR CHILDREN, it must not continue?
In an obvious attempt to detract from the utter uselessness of the Seminal Document, Dr. White and company drop a data bomb on us. They have generated over 750 -- THAT'S RIGHT FOLKS -- SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY -- pages of charts and graphs (some from NWEA and some generated in-house) that purport to be the MAP assessment data. We cannot say enough about how DISGUSTED we are that they have done this for the BOE only 4 days before the meeting (assuming the board members received the materials on Thursday night) and for the community only 2 days before. HOW DARE THEY?
Is this the same Administration that cried like a baby at the last board meeting about how it needs to hire an Assessment Director? If so, who the heck generated all these charts and graphs? Clearly they weren't generated by Ms. Benaitis, since despite her being promoted into the Director of Assessment position two years ago, Dr. White told the BOE last month that he wants them to approve a NEW Director of Assessment. So who made these charts? Dr. White? If he did, then OH BOY; he has way too much free time on his hands! This is not his job to do, but if he is doing it, then perhaps he needs to OFFICIALLY consolidate the job of assessment director into the superintendency and save the taxpayers the $130,000+ we are currently paying Ms. Benaitis.
Now let's turn our attention to MAP.
Parents: if you are happy with approximately 50% of our kids meeting MAP Winter Growth Targets, don't bother showing up to the BOE meeting on Monday, March 9 at Elm School, 7pm.
Readers, here is a troubling reality: no matter how much district kids are tutored, virtually half of our students on average are just meeting their winter MAP growth target. Take a look at Dr. White's massively convoluted district wide MAP slide show to see for yourselves (and this doesn't even include the individual school reports):
Yes, it looks like the administration is trying to spin a picture of slightly higher performance in certain grades. But upon close inspection, even the charts and graphs that show higher performance are, in our opinion, suspect because why is is so difficult for the Administration to simply report to the BOE verbally or in narrative fashion what the NWEA results charts (that they receive after each testing cycle) show and mean? Why is our Administration, that claims to need a NEW assessment person, generating hundreds of additional homemade charts and graphs? To explain what exactly? There is, once again, NO NARRATIVE to go along with the multitude of data.
The community is left to figure it out for ourselves. And in our opinion, a close inspection of the data shows that on the whole, our performance is woefully inadequate for a district of our means and socio-economic status. So when Don White buries the following slide information near the end of his presentation that states:
"All but one grade level (5th grade) matched or exceeded the Winter 2014 RIT"
we should be very concerned because the scores as a whole are way below what they should be, and 5th grade was the first to be used as subjects in the Schneider social justice, math compacting experiment when these now 5th graders were in 3rd grade.
So, take a look. Where are the scores of these children today? Shockingly low. Abysmal. In a word: pitiful. And no one has yet to be held accountable. And yes, Dr. White: this has now occurred under your watch because you have bought into fully inclusive classrooms, limited or no pull outs, and the workshop model of instruction (kids teaching and tutoring other kids) as the structure that will be used going forward. And yes, Kurt Schneider: the dismal MAP results have your fingerprints all over them despite your claims you did not have a hand in creating and promoting Learning for All; in our opinion, you are directly responsible for overseeing and advising on math compacting (which was quietly eliminated); you had a hand in allowing opt-ins at the middle schools (which you are now quietly attempting to eliminate through a petition process) and other than MAP results, you have not been monitoring, evaluating, or implementing other types of assessments that can be used to determine if your brainchild aka Learning for All (Some) is having a positive effect. Once again, where is the accountability?
Ah, but wait a minute. Dr. White concludes his MAP presentation with a suggestion to allow greater flexible grouping within classrooms while increasing professional development as a way to improve MAP scores. Hasn't the district been doing this for nearly three years?
Folks, the writing is on the wall. Yes, there is an election coming in several weeks where we hope changes to the BOE will result in greater administrative accountability. But our kids can't afford to wait. Many have been waiting to learn in classrooms for nearly 3 years, others have struggled or simply given up. Now is the time to voice your concerns to the BOE members that have allowed the district to plod along at an underperforming pace. With the importance of the Learning for All and MAP results on Monday's agenda, it's a certainty that most, if not all BOE candidates will be in attendance. Even if you believe the current majority is hopeless, and they are, it is still imperative to speak up in person or through email.
All we know is that history can be a predictor of future behavior. That historical mythical figures, for example, still can have great relevance today. The fable of Pinocchio and his master Geppetto teaches us that despite these fictional personalities, their traits and tendencies live on. District parents are savvy and we see how deception and manipulation can have an impact on a school district, even one that once stood for high performance and high achievement. We must ask ourselves if our district is still considered high performing today, especially as other area districts are moving ahead of us even with the demands of the Common Core. What's the answer? We know what it is, and somewhere within the edu-speak of the 750+ pages of MAP data slides, and the convoluted gibberish of a 40+ page descriptive research paper (AHEM, the SEMINAL DOCUMENT) that is better suited for a graduate-level educational theory class, the true state of our district lies.
And it ain't pretty.
Hope to see you on Monday, March 9 at Elm School, 7 pm.
1. The presentations have not and will not include science even though we are in a renewal cycle for science materials.
2. The upcoming meeting may include a MAP data analysis, however, past presentations of data analysis have been flimsy at best. Dr White needs to be objective and not make excuses about the dismal results.
3. In addition, The proposed plan for math does not meet needs of all students.
4. The needs of advanced learners have been completely ignored.
5. Reading and ELA curriculum is lacking. Children's abilities to infer deeper meaning is lacking. Writing abilities are not at grade level for many. Basic grammar is not being taught well enough for children to know what a noun or a verb is.
6. The digital technology initiative has been approved without the adminstration's understanding of what our needs and goals are. In fact, it has been suggested by adminstration and D181 Foundation that the consultant Ian Jukes will help us define our goals and our curriculum through his recommendations for technology. Isn't that the job of our district administrators?
These are major issues that need to be addressed by this administration before anything is voted on. The LFA plan is not meeting the needs of all students.
We need parents at these meetings and parents writing to the BOE to demand that these issues be addressed.
We also need to elect the candidates that are going to hold this administration accountable for what they are proposing-Burns, Gray, and Czierwic.
And this new board needs to be seated prior to any voting as they will be the ones dealing with this in the future.
Take some time to Google Hattie research problems and see what hits you get. It's all right there for you to review.
Because I have a background and experience in education, I am not sure why people are bashing Dr. Hattie. I think that Mrs. Olsen made a great point. If you read his 2009 Work, "Visible Learning by John Hattie", you will see that it is the result of 15 years of research and synethesises of over 50,000 studies. It presents the largest ever collection of evidence based research into what actually works in schools to improve learning. Even if you don't like the results of all of the analyises, you can't throw out 15 years of work based on over 800 meta-analyses. We can't even get our district to clearly and concisely clarify the results of our most recent math pilots, yet decisions have been made about which books to purchase.
I read a summary of this work by Gerry Miller, and I suggest you do, too. It is available on the internet so look it up. The fact that Hattie is from New Zealand is indeed important. Important in that New Zealand ranks in the top 6 nations in reading , mathematics, and science and has a high proportion of excellent teachers who are always seeking to improve and constantly monitor their performances to make a difference to what they do. I have heard that Japan requires their teachers to be supervised for 5 years until they are ever allowed to take control of a classroom themselves. This is in great contrast to what happens in the United States. Private school teachers don't often have any teaching credentials and credentialled teachers can earn Masters and Phds, yet are never consistently supervised or given feedback about the way they teach. Rather, they are only graded on their thesis, the tests they take, and the classes they attend. One or 2 observations a year by a principal is not the same as consistent training, feedback, and improvent.
New Zealand's educational system ranks significantly better than the United States and definitely better than the below average results that Illinois constantly earns in comparison to all of our other states. It is important to study schools and countries that are more successful than we are. Hattie attributes this to the higher quality to the teaching methods, not resources, that those children receive.
His work is supported by Stanford's highly respected Dr. Carol Dweck. In fact she and Hattie disagree with Jo Boaler's ideas. This summary says,: "Carol Dweck does not advocate mixed ability, but, like John Hattie, warns of the dangers of setting on motivation and self -concept. In her research she has found that high achieving girls can suffer badly if they have a Fixed Mindset , due to the blow to their fragile self-esteem caused by suddently finding themselves sttuggling in a top set, whereas previously they have seen themselves as achieving well in relation to their peers."
Challenge is good, but if these children are not consistenly challenged at an appropriate level from a young age, waiting until high school or college to give these children challenging materials is a mistake.
Dr. Schneider needs to take this into consideration when he eliminates grade level learning next year and forces struggling children to suddenly be required to do work that is too hard for them. Now these unprepared children will be able to see that compared to their new peers, they can't keep up. This is a blow that many elementary school and middle school children cannot tolerate. Sure, some children may rise to the occasion, but others will committ suicide or turn to drugs by 9th grade. I am not sure why the district keeps blaming parents and what they call our children's "priveliged lives" for this. Dr. Schneider and LFA, not the other parents and I, eliminated grade level learning. I want my child in grade level. If some parents are in a huge rush to get their child out of middle school math by 5th grade, that's their problem, not my issue. It shouldn't be forced on all children. if they want to stress their children out, fine. But those vocal and perhaps misguided parents have no business forcing all of my children into accelerated math. Carol Dweck points to the importance of regularly promoting movement between sets, or else that studentss will quickly decide that they have been labelled and will not be motivated to improve their performance. So children who are not challenged enough, like "gifted" children, will suffer. And, children who simply cannot keep up with the rigor will lose motivation and give up when they see children wiz through and easily complete their work.
Dr. Hattie points out "What is needed is quality feedback and where that feedback has the greatest effect is when teachers receive more and better feedback about their teaching." In essence, stop testing the kids only, because if you really want kids to learn more, someone has to assess TEACHERS about how they are teaching and what kind of materials they are using. How are they motivating students? Are they explicitly teaching children how and what they need to to do in order to improve. If you study Hattie, look for his pie charts on how important teaching quality is to our children. It far surpasses the importance of contributions from the home, the school, or from the student himself. We need to spend less time on "resources" and "materials" as Mrs. McCurry advocates, and much more time on making sure that are teachers have the necessary skills, materials, and feedback to make sure their students know how to learn. Computers are not the answer - teachers are.
Not a Hater of Hattie
I have been trained in Hattie's Visible Learning in the District where I work. I have relied on it in the past. I am not, however, an expert statistician. When expert statisticians indicate there is something wrong with his statistical analysis, and Hattie himself confirms this, then I tend to rely less on the statistics. See https://ollieorange2.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/half-of-the-statistics-in-visible-learning-are-wrong-part-2/
My point in my earlier post was that even if Hattie's Influences (these are what are cited by D181 Dept of Learning in its presentation) are valid, the one at the top of D181's list (Collective Efficacy) is not even on Hattie's list - they made it up. They also did some pickin' and choosin' of which Influences to include and which ones not to depending, of course, on whether they supported their L4A vision.
The only thing worse than bad statistics is someone cherry picking bad statistics.
It is also interesting to me that in their last slide with Hattie's effect sizes, even if you ignore the Google comments that his statistics are wrong, he has acceleration with the third highest effect size, yet ability grouping for gifted students is near the bottom, not that it does not work but not as well apparently as acceleration. Since the old gifted program used ability grouping with acceleration, how does that fit into these data? What population are they referring to in these studies of acceleration and ability grouping? Are we still going back to high poverty schools and students unrelated to our own, again, making all of this irrelevant for our district?
At some point, we just have to stop collecting all of these pages of information and instead focus on how our students are actually performing. Give us the data from our teachers that they feel they can appropriately challenge each and every child in their inclusive classrooms; give us the data from the parents that show they are happy with our schools and the high taxes they pay to support them; give us the data from all of these assessments our children suffer through that show they are more then meeting standards, but they are exceeding standards as we expect in our community. After all these years of listening to all of this back and forth and constant changing, how much more do we have to take before common sense comes back into the picture.
I believe in supporting the professionals, but not blindly. Why does this seem so obvious but yet seems so hard for all these different highly-paid administrators to do?
How to invoke higher expectations seems critical, and this may require more in-school discussion of appropriate benchmarks across grades, and seeing evidence of performance before starting the year (Nuthall, 2005, shows half of all material taught in any class is already known by the students). So much of the early part of the year with a different teacher involves trial and error as teachers find out about proficiencies of students. As we have already seen, teacher-student relationships are crucial (d = 0.72) but they take time to develop. Hattie argues that the greatest single issue facing the further enhancement of students is the need for teachers to have a common perception of progress. When a student moves from one teacher to another, there is no guarantee that he or she will experience increasingly challenging tasks, have a teacher with similar (hopefully high) expectations of progress up the curricula, or work with a teacher who will grow the student from where he or she is, as opposed to where the teacher believes he or she should be at the start of the year.
To have high expectations and to share a common conception of progress requires teachers to be concerned about the nature of their relationships with their students, as the power of these is critical for learning to occur. Russell Bishop moves around classes in New Zealand, asking students “Does your teacher like you?” He found that most white students said yes, but many ethnic minority students said no. The powerful effect of this work is that, after seeing these results, the teachers are quick to change their practices.
Developing a warmer socio-emotional climate in the classroom, fostering effort and thus engagement for all students, requires teachers to enter the classroom with certain conceptions about progress, relationships and students. It requires them to believe that their role is that of a change agent – that all students can learn and progress, that achievement for all is changeable and not fixed, and that demonstrating to all students that they care about their learning is both powerful and effective.
You are not the first to notice the questionable methods that our current administration uses to support its experimental theories. I completley agree with you in that they make things up. To the trained eye, their reports bear a striking lack of support. It's truly a disgrace. Not only are their recommendations not best practices, their experimental theories are harmful. This is not only due to Dr. Schneiders lack of knowledge in curriculum, but in my opinion, is also tied to his lack of integrity.
Since the time of Dr. Stutz, the adminstration has been getting away with pretending that they knew what they are talking about. Dr. Schneider probably walked into a terrible situation to begin with. But the fact that he still doesn't look to real data and evidence to support what he is forcing our schools to buy into is taking D181 into an even worse position. Because the administration hasn't been held to high standards for years, the administration knows that no one on the BOE will ever make them. What is very frightening is that instead of delving deeper into their problems and attempting to solve them, they choose to extend themselves into new arenas of the unknown. For example, technology with Ian Jukes and questionable new math curricula which I believe you pointed out, are not recommmended by Ed Week at all.
I think that its safe to assume that you and I both agree that the research methods that D181 uses are lacking in integrity and data. They cite to many respectable sources and so many different theories, but few on the board ever bother to check them. If they ever did check sources , though, they would wonder why specific page numbers are never noted, or which specific parts of the author's beliefs they subscribe to. When the questionable theories come into play, no one generally points it out. And when someone does point out inconsistencies, the other board members usually become insensed at what they call disrespectful behavior. Interesting that the shoddy reports and work products that the administration produces week after week is never pointed out as being disrespectful to our community.
In the same document, Kurt Schneider and crew say that the Learning for All Plan is a process and it is also a collection of effective strategies. How can a plan be a process? How can a plan be a collection of strategies?
Another failing grade for Dr. White, Dr. Schneider, Dawn Benaitis, and Sean Walsh!
a plan cannot be a process. a plan that a governmental entity creates, supposedly for the benefit of our children, should noty constantly change - especially when it is supposed to be in writing. we were told we'd get a map. all we are getting is the finger.
Stop the Bus