I am also writing my comments here in the hopes that the Board Members see my thoughts here too.
I urge our voted and trusted BOE members-both newly elected and seasoned-to review, assess, question and challenge evaluation criteria for advancement and acceleration in our district. I call upon them to ask the second and third level questions--how will children be measured? how will objective data vs subjective data be weighted? How will you account for differences in flexible ability based grouping? If cut off scores and 2 standard deviations above a district mean are to be used in MAP scores, then ask and challenge how those "means" are calculated. Ask what is a representative sample of students-don't assume.
I want to know how flexible grouping is going to look under Math in Focus. If children are grouped for ability IN the classroom what will be done to meet the needs of those kids who are not accelerated but who are head and shoulders above their peers? How will you meet their needs? How will you validate their strengths while not demoralizing the rest of the students? how will you meet their unique learning styles while still validating their abilities?
There are too many variables that cannot be solved with a blanket three bulleted guideline like what is proposed on BOARD DOCS for subject acceleration.
RIght and left, injustice is happening. Our children talk to each other. They hear who is doing well and who is given opportunities that they themselves do not receive. Children know and understand flexible ability based grouping.
I am disappointed today. I am disappointed with yesterday too. I am worried that I will be disappointed with the future of my children in D 181. As a graduate of this community's elementary and secondary schools I can attest to the competition and responsibility that is present in our schools. We need to be responsible. We need to take action. And our BOE needs to DEMAND guidelines and challenge teachers and staff to identify step by step uniform standards among our schools. Children should be blindly evaluated and there shouldn't be an over emphasis on teacher input at the risk of ignoring factual data either. It should be a partnership. It is time for children's needs to be met. It is time for my child's needs to be met.
Whoever made the comment of the day - could you please tell us where to locate the 3 bullet points that you reference?
I completely agree that the Board needs to demand not only the answers to these questions, but PROOF that the administration's answer aretrue.
For too long their version of the truth has been accepted as fact, when it is not. Much of the information they feed parents, teachers and the BOE is fiction. This should no longer be tolerated. The administration has given the BOE no reason to trust them. Everything they say should be scrutinized and verified. If what they say is actually true, then admin should have no problem with this.
While looking at Board Docs, I was shocked to see the results of a school facilities survey that was given to staff months ago. I thought it odd that that each and every staff member at all of our schools were given the privilege of filling out a written survey and making comments on facilities issues, yet parents were not. Parents were only offered the opportunity to attend evening meetings after work, and even then, were not allowed to submit their own responses. Patron Insight Consultants that we paid $40,000 were told to edit our comments into a report. If you read their report, however, you will laugh. Why would we ever pay that much money for a rerport when there is hardly any DATA in it? The specific number of attendees is never mentioned. They say things like "groups as small as 4 and large as 10." ? They do not specify if parents of students or community members made certain comments, or if anyone else in the group agreed. Were all participants iin the group allowed to share a quote? Each staff member in our district was given this opportunity, however. The total amount of staff respondents was made into a pie chart. Percentages were caluculated. The parents of students and other taxpayers in the community obviously should have been offered this opportunity. Instead, we were offered a skewed "Spring 2015 Survey" months later in which questions were leading and extremely limited in response.
Here is an example of how biased the Staff Facility Survey was. 38 teaachers from The Lane Elementary were allowed to make comments about how terrible the teacher parking situation is for them. (Agreed) It is equally bad for parent volunteers and mothers trying to drop off lunch because ours is one of the only districts in IL without daily catering or food service. We agree. The parking situation is the worst in the district.
However, when it was time for staff to rate the safety of the car pool drop off, their perception of any problem disappearred. We all know that our staff and principal do an outstanding job of directing traffic and helping children out of our cars, but do they seriously think that the situation is ideal? It is the worst drop off lane in the district. Did anyone in the district bother to give a survey to the residents who live across the street from the drop off lane? Since their homes and driveways are less than 70 feet from where our children are dropped off, perhaps their feedback about how congested the area becomes should have been considered? The responses were totaled and could be given a percentage based on the total population of staff. Only 1 or 2 staff members mentioned that is was unsafe, yet over 35 mentioned how unsafe it was for them (adults) to park their cars on our streets. Considering that The Lane is one of the only schools in the district whose DROP OFF LANE IS AN ACTUAL STREET, with NO ADDITIONAL SPACE for parents to PULL OVER, I found the results more than biased. When there is snow blocking the shoulder, Elm St./Drop off lane becomes even more congested. On cold, rainy, or snowy days, the drop off lane curves around to Fuller and practically extends to York. Yet the teachers seem quite perturbed that they have to park 3 blocks from their place of work. Parents are criticized for dropping off children on one of the few narrow, neighboring streets that do not have constuction or road work on them.
Besides the fact that we were informed for the first time that our MRC had leaks and there has probably been mold there for years, the next biggest shocker was the section the staff compiled on School Security. There were about 2 paragrapsh of comments, but I couldn't read any of it because they were all blacked out. The security concerns that the adults supervising our kindergarteners and 1st graders would not be made known to their own parents, yet we are expected to continue to drop our children there, volunteer, and pay our property taxes....in spite of concerns.
No, our administration cannot be trusted. I hope each and every parent in D181 attends the D181 Facitlities Meetings next week at HMS. Bring 2 neighbor and don't forget to RSVP. Hopefully the event will be video taped, but I doubt it. The discussions will be Tuesday, May 19, and Tuesday, May 26. Yes, the day after Memorial Day so they can be guaranteed low turnout. This is the administration's favorite time of the year to roll out the fumes of upcoming, innovative changes. Just a short week later, all of us and our children will be out of their hair and we won't be able to reach them in their offices if we have any concerns. If you don't go to these meetings, next fall, when they present their own unique version of what "parents" wanted, don't be surprised when it sounds nothing like what you and your neighbors brought up.
Part 1: To the bloggers,
The following is part of an email I sent to the BOE and Dr, White this morning. It deals with documents I FOIA'd nearly two years ago that were finally produced to me this week. My letter raises various concerns regardibg information that was in the documents that relates to the development of the Advanced Learning/Learning for All plan. Please consider running this comment as a free standing post.
Dear Dr. White and BOE Members:
I am writing today in my capacity as a D181 taxpayer, former parent and former D181 BOE member. In October 2013, I filed a FOIA request with D181 seeking production of public records concerning a Social Justice Institute that seven D181 administrators attended in the the Summer 2013 and various categories of emails, including emails by and between Dr. Schneider and Drs. Frattura and Capper (who Dr. Schneider consulted with and who worked with the Advanced Learning Committee in the development of the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan). The district denied production of the documents, I filed a Request for Review with the Attorney General and last month the AG's office finally issued a determination. The determination ruled in my favor on production of the Social Justice institute materials but denied production of emails on the grounds that my request was overly broad. Following the determination, I filed a new FOIA request, limiting my request for emails to only those by and between Drs. Schneider, Frattura and Capper.
On Wednesday, after nearly two years, the emails were finally produced to me (although some have been withheld on alleged grounds that they are not "public records", an issue which I will most likely have to appeal to the AG's office). I have now had a chance to review the records that were produced. These public records raise some very concerning issues regarding the process that was followed in late 2012 and 2013 in the development of the Advanced Learning Plan/Learning for All Plan). These public records also raise some personnel issues. I am writing today to flag some of these issues for your consideration and to respectfully request that each one of you take the time to read through the documents that have been produced. You can access the documents that were produced at: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/d181foia/15-05-13+-+Mayer+FOIA+Response.pdf In addition to your reading these documents, I am requesting that you discuss the implication of the content of these emails and whether or not best practices and appropriate research actually formed the basis for the Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan.
To begin, I would remind all of you that I served on the BOE from 2009-2013 during the administration's development of the ALP/LFAP. I have continued to follow up on my appeal, despite the fact that I no longer serve on the board because Mr. Heneghan and I had serious reservations about the plan as it was developed and, through attendance at BOE meetings and and during conversations with community members, it seems as if many of the concerns I had at that time are coming to fruition. The plan originated following Dr. Moon's report in which she determined that services provided to gifted students in D181 were insufficient, bordering on educational malpractice AND, that for all learners, there was insufficient differentiated instruction. Dr. Moon further concluded that the identification methods that were used to place students into the gifted programs and advanced and accelerated tiers were inadequate and recommended fixing the system to allow properly identified students greater opportunities into these advanced programs under new, more appropriate (not necessarily lowered) guidelines. Following Dr. Moon's report, the district undertook development of a philosophy statement and a plan to implement Dr. Moon's recommendations.
Dr. Schneider was hired effective July 1, 2012 as Asst. Superintendent of PPS Services and having served on the BOE that hired him, I can state unequivocally that he was hired to run the Special Education Department. However, shortly after his arrival, he was also tasked with working on the Advanced Learning Committee that was developing the ALP/LFAP. In December 2012, the administration presented their "Vision of Advanced Learning" to the BOE. A lengthy power point was presented to the BOE in support of the proposed vision/plan and it referenced research the committee had reviewed and relied upon in formulating its vision/plan. Experts referenced in the power point included Elise Frattura and Colleen Capper, who at the time were described as colleagues of Dr. Schneider, experts in advanced learning. At all times, the administration insisted that its advanced learning vision and plans were based on best practices.
Because of the radical changes that the Learning Committee was proposing in December 2012 and early 2013 - changes that included implementing inclusive classrooms where all students would be accelerated in math, gifted programming would be eliminated and a "raise the floor to raise the ceiling" approach would be the norm -- as BOE members, both Brendan Heneghan and I asked many questions. These questions centered around best practices and asked for specific research that would support the Vision/ALP/LFAP that the administration was proposing. We asked for data from other school districts that would evidence that the educational model that was being proposed would be successful.
Our questions were not answered. Our requests for research and data to support the vision/plans were denied. Instead, we got push back from Dr. Schuster and an insistence that the committee had relied upon extensive best practice research to guide them in their work. When Mr. Heneghan and I began doing our own research, we concluded that Drs. Frattura and Cappper had a long standing professional relationship with Dr. Schneider, having worked with him at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and all were presenters at Social Justice Institutes that were offered during the summer at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. We read much of their research which seemed focused on Special Education/ELL/Low Income student populations, not on GIfted/Advanced Learner populations. After 7 administrators went to one of the Social Justice Institutes during the Summer of 2013, an institute at which Dr. Schneider, Dr. Capper and Dr. Frattura were presenting, Mr. Heneghan and I asked to see the materials from the conference. Our requests, both informal and formal (my FOIA) were denied.
Now, nearly two years later, the Social Justice Institute documents AND emails between Drs. Schneider, Frattura and Capper are finally being produced. I believe the emails finally answer many of the questions that Mr. Heneghan and I asked in 2012-2013 and establish the following:
2. In my opinion, best practices were NOT followed in the development of the ALP/LFAP. The NEEDS of Advanced/Gifted learners were not the focus of the Advanced Learning Committee, nor were best practices in meeting their needs followed. Instead, the Learning committee was "brought along" to buy into a Social Justice/Inclusive Classroom/Integrated Services Delivery Model that resulted in the creation and planned creation of heterogeneous classrooms, the elimination of the gifted programs, implementation of an accelerated for all math program (that as we now know failed miserably) and that has led the administration to not only eliminate accelerated for all math, but now, by eliminating full-time ability based tiers in math that would provide for significant and consistent above grade level exposure and faster pacing for students who need this challenge wants to slow the majority of advanced learners down all in an effort to continue to promote a one size fits all, Socially Just, inclusive, integrated service model.
3. Dr. Schneider WAS and continues to be the administrator who introduced the Social Justice/Inclusive Classroom/Integrated Services Delivery Model to D181. In my opinion there is no evidence that he or the experts he relied on brought any gifted/advanced learner expertise to D181; on the contrary, in my opinion there is evidence that the "best practices" he may have relied upon to support the ALP/LFAP were Special Education practices. In my opinion, there is no evidence that best practice research existed in 2012-2013 to support the inclusive service model he was proposing as it would impact GIFTED and Advanced Learners.
One of the emails that was produced dated 10/29/12 can be found at Page 34 of the documents published on the FOIA Log. This is an email from Dr. Schneider to Dr. Frattura, who was apparently going to Skype in to present research to the Advanced Learning Committee in the course of their developing the Advanced Learning vision/plan. Dr. Frattura apparently sent Dr. Schneider the power point she was going to present and he responded stating: "I went ahead and made changes. Please review them to make sure you agree. I'm assuming you will. That said, you audience is entirely about GIFTED/ADVANCED LEARNING. It's not at all about special education. So, your slides had a special education/deficit focus and I went through and changed them to match d181 and your audience."
The fact that Dr. Schneider changed Special Education slides to Gifted slides, in my opinion, is very troubling. While I am in no way challenging an inclusive philosophy as it relates to special education or other disenfranchised categories of students for whom it is developed, in the case of D181, the ALP/LFAP was developed in response to an audit of the gifted education program and the administration touted the plan it presented to the BOE as a research based philosophy for the gifted student profile. This email raises the question whether in fact there was ANY research that supported that. In my opinion, good researchers would never extrapolate across populations in the manner in which may have occurred when Dr. Frattura's slide were changed from a Special Education to Gifted focus.
A medicine found to combat one type of cancer would not be touted as the cure for all without research. Psychological practices to treat schizophrenia would not be blindly applied to all mental illnesses without research and support on these populations. It is a real travesty to realize that our gifted students may have been guinea pigs for the D181 administration. What a loss of learning!
Lane School Families,
I have always believed that we are put in certain places, experiences, situations and even positions for a reason. Whatever the reasons or circumstances surrounding them might be, I know that if we let them, these moments provide us with the opportunity to learn, grow and become better individuals. The past three years as principal here at The Lane have done just that for me. I have been pushed, challenged and molded into a more seasoned and well-rounded principal and individual.
I have dedicated the past three years to advocating for, supporting and loving your kids. In July of 2012, we started a journey together that has continuously enhanced and improved our school and the overall experience of staff, kids and families at The Lane. Developing relationships with our amazing staff, your kids and your families, as well as the work we have accomplished in the past three years, has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
With all that said, it is with extremely mixed emotions I share that this will be my final year as Principal at The Lane. I have poured both heart and soul into my responsibilities as your leader and will remain forever changed by the relationships created, storms weathered and most importantly the privilege of serving your kids. My decision to venture forth was not easily reached. However, after much thought and many prayers, I am excited and optimistic about the opportunity to continue my service to a profession I am extremely passionate about, as a Principal of another elementary school in the western suburbs of Chicago.
My cup runneth over when I think of how this community has so warmly embraced and supported me. I know you will embrace my successor with that same kindness and support as a new chapter is written in the story of The Lane!
With your support and the immense talents of the teachers and staff, I am confident that The Lane will continue to be known as “the best school in town.”
With Sincerest Gratitude,
Mr. Casey Godfrey
The Lane School
2011 United States Department of Education
Blue Ribbon School
Lane School Families were saddened today to get news that Principal, Casey Godfrey, has resigned. He was an advocate for appropriate instruction for his students. This is a huge loss to the entire community.
I agree. It will be hard to find someone like Mr. Godfrey, with experience and an open mind.
4. In my opinion, Dr. Schneider had a predetermined outcome in mind when he began his work on the Advanced Learning Committee and only when he was pushed by members of the committe to address non-inclusive practices as they relate to gifted students, did he reach out to Capper and Frattura for research he could include in the discussions, and it remains unclear whether any of them provided such research to the committee. See a 10/31/12 email that can be found at Page 41 of the documents published on the FOIA Log. In this email, Dr. Schneider states:
"Do either of you have any articles that present a "non-inclusive" approach from the gifted world? I'm facilitating this advanced learer committee and trying to bring them along, but they are wanting to see if there is any research out there that speaks to the opposite. I keep getting from some that advanced learers have to be w/their peer group - it supports them emotionally, meets them at their instructional level, that they need to see others like them, etc. I have to address this w/them and engage in the opposing view discussion otherwise I'll get killed.....HELP ;)"
The conclusion that can be drawn from this documentation is that the Advanced Learning Plan, as it was designed initially, voted upon by the BOE and as it continues to be relied upon and implemented, was based in large part on research and information that was not truly "best practices" as the term was used, but, instead, was based on research and a philosophy related to special education services espoused by a group of colleagues associated with Dr. Schneider. Further, emails show that it required research by the expert consultants to even find 1 study in support of the gifted populations. Subsequent emails that were produced from Capper and Fraturra show their responses to Dr. Schneider's request -- neither of the experts had research available to answer his inquiry and one suggested having her "TA" do research to find an article.
While I was on the BOE and during the presentations the Advanced Learning Committee gave the BOE and community as it presented its proposed plans, the administration stated that D181 should not be satisfied with being the best in the state, and that our goal should be national recognition. The reality is that the D181 communities (taxpayers) NEVER sought to have the district or any of its administrators in the limelight nationally as a goal. The goal is, was and always should be to just have good, research based education programs delivered to our kids. Kids' needs drive programming. Kids' needs should not be forced into a canned philosophy. In my opinion, it was a travesty that so many BOE members hid behind a battle cry of micro-management instead of doing their job of asking to see if what administrators were foisting on our children was in fact supported with a research base, particularly as complaints started rolling in.
In my opinion, our district, the Advanced Learning Task Force, our teachers and our students have been misled. I urge the Board to consider undertaking a review of the Advanced Learning Plan as it was approved to assess whether or not the recommendations and research it contains is truly best practices for not only advanced students but for ALL students in D181.
Please do not ignore the documentation. Please do not ignore the parents and former board members who for three years have raised concerns about best practices. It is time for the NEW BOE to revisit what has transpired and no longer ignore the harm that has befallen our students. It is time for the BOE to demand to see the DATA and BEST PRACTICE research on GIFTED/ADVANCED learning education (if it exists) that supports the original Advanced Learning/Learning for All Plan.
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