We, the bloggers,are amazed at the administration's distorted description of the elementary math discussion that took place at the May 18th board meeting. That board meeting was a first for us in many ways, but also a sad reminder that more change is needed in the D181 administration. To begin with, it was literally the first time in years that almost all board members initiated and actively participated in a discussion on a topic of great importance -- how math should be taught next fall at the elementary schools. The board members who initiated the discussion were very concerned about the administration's plan to eliminate flexible ability groups in math across grade levels at each elementary school. It was also the first time in years that a majority of the board (5 of the 6 members who were present) directed the administration to change course on the Learning for All instructional model -- and reinstate flexible ability groups in math across elementary grade levels, rather than continue the inclusive, heterogeneous integrated service model within each classroom.
Because we were so impressed with the new board's discussion and the positive direction the new BOE seems to be taking the district to ensure the best quality instruction for ALL of our children, we decided to give the administration first crack at reporting on the meeting in the weekly Board Summary prepared by the director of communication. Boy, what a mistake that was! In our opinion, the board summary that was emailed to parents on Friday afternoon completely distorted the discussion and undermined the BOE, excluding key points various board members made during the meeting and completely ignoring a disturbingly provocative statement the Assistant Superintendent of Learning made in response to the BOE's directive. You can click on the link above to read the summary for yourselves, but we want to state that we can only imagine that upon reading the Board Summary, the board members who actively participated in the math discussion must have felt like they had been slapped in the face by the administration.
The May 18 Board Summary is a perfect example of why parents, teachers and community members need to listen to the actual podcast in order to realize just how misleading the administration's summary of the elementary math discussion is. You can access the podcast at: http://podcast.d181.org/?p=382. The discussion begins at Counter 00:46:48 with Dr. White stating that the board requested the discussion. There was absolutely no administrative presentation for the new board on the proposed math plan for next fall to kick off the discussion. The fact that the administration had NOTHING to present to the new board was, in our opinion, passive aggressive push back and immediately foreshadowed the negativity the administration was about to direct at the board members who wanted to have a serious discussion on our students' math future.
Dr. White stated that he and other administrators were available to answer questions during the meeting and then turned the discussion over to the board. This was another first since typically the administration presents information and then answers board member questions. So Ms. Garg began the discussion by explaining that the administration last presented elementary math information to the board in February and April (Counter 00:47;10) and had explained that only 2-4 students per elementary school would be identified for accelerated math starting next fall. Garg stated that the board hadn't really had discussion yet on these plans, nor discussed how the administration was going to strive for consistency among schools.
We have listened to the podcast of the math discussion several times this week and, in our opinion, it can best be described in 3 points:
1. The majority of the board members expressed real concerns about the negative impact the proposed inclusive, integrated service model will have on our math students.
2. A majority of the BOE reached consensus to reinstate FLEXIBLE, ABILITY GROUPS in math across grade levels at each elementary school because this will best meet the needs of ALL students,
3. The administration and lone board member Marty Turek expressed their lack of support and, in our opinion, feigned ignorance on how to implement the board majority's directive.
When you read the administration's Board Summary of the discussion, you will note that a KEY word is only used twice in the description. That word is FLEXIBLE. The summary leaves the impression that what the board majority has directed is for creation of PERMANENT TRACKING of students in elementary math with absolutely no flexibility for teachers to move students in and out of ability groups during the school year. Dr. White and the administration are cited as expressing concern for PERMANENT ability groups. Dr. Schneider is cited as commenting on the negative effect of "creating what could essentially be a tracking system."
NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! Each and every board member who advocated for reinstatement of ability groups in math made clear to the administration that teachers should have flexibility to modify students' placements during the school year as needed. Veteran and new board members expressed legitimate concerns as to the negative impact that the administration's inclusive model could have on our students, especially when they matriculate to high school and are put at a placement disadvantage against students from the other feeder schools that have retained ability groupings, advanced and accelerated tiers for more than the few students that our administration are now calling unique learners. The board members who advocated for flexible ability based groups in math across grade levels clarified for the administration that there SHOULD be flexible movement in and out of the ability groups and that teachers should be able to change a student's placement.Yet the Board Summary fails to mention any of this, leaving the impression that the BOE wants to implement a rigid tracking system.
Since the Board Summary is, in our opinion, a distorted version of the truth, we feel it is our obligation to point out some key points and statements the board members in support of flexibility that were not mentioned:
1. Counter 00:50:16 -- Jennifer Burns pointed out that she had had conversations with parents of advanced learners who said their students "needs were not being met in the classroom through differentiation. Then looking at a teacher perspective, [she] also heard from teachers that differentiating to a classroom of learners with a wide range of ability is challenging." She expressed her concern that under the administration's inclusive model, students who would be offered subject acceleration would be a "relatively limited group of people, group of students" and she was concerned that there would still be a large group of student who would "fall through the cracks, whose needs are not going to be met by differentiation within a single classroom with flexible grouping." Another concern parents had brought forward was "that there isn't consistency between the schools." In her opinion, "it seems to me that ability grouping across the grade can provide -- if
there is flexibility between those groups and movement between those groups --there is flexibility that is needed at a school level and at a classroom level, however, the demands on the teacher to meet the needs of every student within the classroom are much more reasonable."
2. Counter 00:54:38 -- Jill Vorobiev pointed out that during her students' tenure in the district, there had been close to about 10 years where 30% of the students had been subject accelerated in math starting in 3rd grade by one year and the administration's proposal seems like they were "going from a third of the students to a couple per building." Her concern was that since the administration wasn't doing away with subject acceleration at the middle school, "essentially we are now saying we are going to start students in grade 6 at either grade 7 or 8 math and in a few years we are actually effectively eliminating 6th grade math, down the road, that's how the plan looks, conceptually I struggle with how do we get kids from at grade level through 5th grade to the following year either being in 7th or 8th grade math why is there this new resistance to subject accelerating kids when it's been done for so long and math is so specific and tracked through the high school level....I have concerns about taking away the subject acceleration in math at the elementary level and I don't understand how we can go from grade 5 to grade 7 or grade 5 to grade 8. We are going to effectively going to deny that opportunity to some kids."
3. Counter 01:04:30 -- Burns reminded the board how the district had "ended up herer" and that all the changes had been initiated after a study was commissioned on the gifted and advanced learning program and "specifically because there were some problems with identification and question over whether or not the needs advanced learners were being met in the district. And there was also a need for flexibility....on the part of the teachers. I would suggest that flexibility doesn't mean that teachers have to be able to decide whether or not they are grouping within a classroom or across a grade. I think that flexibility can be provided by an openness to movement between groups, if you are grouping across an entire grade level."
4. Counter 01:06:35 -- Garg offered her opinion that "we've had a tumultuous two years in math. We've gone through some compacting, accelerating all students, then we had a pilot last year that was a little bit of a roller coaster ride and we've come out and picked two materials and we realize that the standards are rigorous. The one thing to keep in mind is that we're not the only district implementing these standards. Districts like ours are implementing it, districts like ours who have
had ability grouping are going to continue doing it, we are continuing to do it in the middle school and we've actually made the criteria to be more consistent, we've removed the opt in. In my opinion, also look to continue to provide the same opportunities, have some criteria, that the schools have some flexibility to form their groups."
5. Counter 01:16:28 -- Richard Giltner stated "I'm a bottom line guy Dr. White. I think sometimes we are talking past each other here. I think subject acceleration is not the issue, it's how we deliver acceleration, that's the issue. And one side says we can differentiate within a classroom and another side is saying we need flexible grouping across the grade level. I think that's kind of this big issue that's been talked about for a long time. And I think intuitively a lot of us think that people will learn math at different speeds, so it's very challenging to have all these kids in the same classroom. I don't delve into this lightly, it's balance of determining policy and providing oversight as a board versus micromanaging and telling people how to do their job, but I think when this Learning for All Plan was put into place in math, the community was not ready, the ground work was not properly placed, the ability to assess the results was not there yet. What we are using to judge its success or lack of success was not clearly determined in advance, and the cost of implementation was not spelled out very clearly in terms of coaches or whatever else we are going to need. So, in math, I would support and suggest that we return to ability based grouping at the grade level, with flexible grouping at least quarterly, and consistency across the district and the grades. I am not saying no to this plan, I am just saying not at this time. We have too many things to tackle, in terms of common core, in terms of Math in Focus, and if we can just get this behind us, at least for now, I think there are so many other great things we can accomplish in terms of curriculum updates, maybe looking at foreign language, etc. There's a lot of things we can agree on, and we keep talking about this one thing that we don't agree on and I think if we can just put this behind us for now, this is not a criticism of anyone, Dr. Schneider, or anyone in your department. I'm not saying that you don't have the best interests of the students at heart, because I know you do, you're doing what you think is best, but I just think this is what's best for our community right now."
6, Counter 01:19:02 -- Leslie Gray also addressed the concept of flexibly grouping by stating: "I just want to make sure that when we flexibly group across the grade level that each group can move at an independent pace, I think that's very important and some of the gaps we experienced in the past were because of skipping, we don't necessarily need to skip, it can just be moving at a faster pace when the teachers determine in their discretion the kids are ready to move on, not tying each of the groups across the grade to staying at a certain pace together I think is very important." She encouraged the administration to look to how The Lane School has balanced teacher discretion, flexibility while allowing the advanced learners to move at a faster pace and "also that flexibility component, when students show the readiness component, they can move up and down, that was lacking in the past." She hoped the administration would build consistency because "no matter what school you go to you should have similar learning opportunities in the district, we need to have that uniformity."
7. Counter 01:20:26 -- Marty Turek spoke next and asked whether the administration had any data to show that their inclusive model "was a failure yet." He argued that the board was quick to demand data, but without this data the board was trying to undo the administration's educational model. We have to interject at this point and state how HYPOCRITICAL Mr. Turek's data comments were, in light of the fact that for the last three years, board members have asked, begged and pleaded for data and research from the administration to support the inclusive, social justice, integrated, all-in-one-classroom, heterogeneous model of instruction that was being forced on our students, and it was NEVER adequately provided. Yet now he wants data? Please, Mr. Turek, give all the concerned parents, community members, teachers and students a break! What's worse was his admission that "everyone agrees" that there is a group of students that "we have yet to address" -- the "gifted." To have the former board president of two years make this scathing admission and then NOT support the board majority's desire to immediately rectify the situation in a manner that will ensure that all students are taught at their appropriate academic level is truly terrifying!
We think these excerpts from each of the board members who were in attendance (Gary Clarin was not) clearly establish that the BOE was NOT directing the administration to implement rigid, permanent tracks. Nevertheless, despite their candid, open discussion, the administration claimed ignorance (for lack of a better word) in how to go about implementing the proposed flexible ability groups across the elementary grade levels. Fortunately, the BOE refused to catch the bait and cast the line back at the administration stating that it is the administration's job to implement the board's direction.
We were quite disturbed that, in our opinion, the administration acted like it didn't know how to proceed with the board's directive, since as board members pointed out during the discussion, other districts -- who are also implementing common core -- have retained ability groups across grade levels, and D181 did it in the past. D181's past ability groups were not flexible enough -- per Dr. Moon's report on Advanced Learning -- and the challenge she identified in her report was how to fix the identification piece, in order to ensure that no student would miss an opportunity to be challenged at their academic level.
It seems to us that the administration has come full circle. In 2012, rather than implement Dr. Moon's identification recommendations, it chose to completely alter the instructional model -- first compacting and accelerating for all students (in math). When that didn't work, it reversed course and eliminated acceleration for all claiming that under Common Core, students should not be accelerated. The administration's instructional model for next fall would eliminate math acceleration for all but a very small group of "unique learners." In fact, Common Core standards do not advocate elimination of accelerated instruction and the administration should have been aware of that, since it is clearly spelled out on Pages 80 and 81 of Common Core Appendix A.
We also want to take this opportunity to point out that the administration is incorrect in using the word "tracking" to describe the flexible ability groups the board majority has directed it to implement. Tracking, by definition, is an identified cohesive group of students that are usually in a self-contained program. An example of this can actually be found in District Troy 30 C (Dr. White's former district) where accelerated students are identified and put in self contained programs). As recently as April 2015, District Troy 30C updated its "Comprehensive Plan for Accelerated Programs of Education." (See: https://www.troy30c.org/images/526/14-15%20Updated%20DEA%20Docs%208.14/Accelerated_Programs_Overview_3_30_15.pdf
D181 parents and teachers should read how Dr. White's former district (and remember, he only left there one year ago) is not using the heterogeneous model that he is advocating in D181. The Troy 30C report also makes it quite clear that Dr. White should be aware of methods to identify and place students into ability groups! Perhaps the Department of Learning's ignorance is also partially a result of prior boards hiring first time curriculum administrators at the recommendation of the superintendent, acting like D181 is a starter district, and allowing them to learn on the job, rather than bring curriculum expertise and proven, successful experience to our district.
In our opinion, worse than the administration's apparent ignorance of how to implement the board's directive, we were and remain appalled by a comment made by the current Assistant Superintendent of Learning following the board spelling out its new directive on implementing flexible, ability groupings in math across the elementary grades. After remaining silent for the first hour of the discussion (deferring to the Directors of Learning to answer questions), he stated at Counter 01:42:41:
"What we need to understand is that we are making a significant philosophical shift and one that I personally would not support."
Well, well, well, That seems to be quite the push back, one that in our opinion, borders on insubordination. It should make everyone's heads snap up when they listen to the podcast and cause all D181 parents and board members to question this administrator's willingness or ability to implement the board's directive. This "in your face" response by an administrator was another "first" for us as we listened to the podcast, and our immediate reaction was to conclude that if an administrator cannot support the board of education, perhaps it is time for that administrator to hit the road.
Coming on the heels of this administrator's declaration that he will not support the board's directive, it really was not that surprising that the Board Summary, prepared by the administration, failed to present the board directive as a positive step that the administration will support. Rather than accurately describe the thoughtful and comprehensive discussion that the board engaged in to reach its directive that flexible ability groups be reinstated in the elementary grades, it suggested that the BOE is seeking to implement permanent, inflexible math tracks for our students,
So the only question that remains at this juncture is what is the BOE going to do to ensure that the administration successfully implements the board's directive AND does so in a manner that is supportive and will not undermine the BOE? We will all have to wait and see, but it is clear to us that more "change" is needed -- administrative change. We can only hope that the BOE continues to take all of the necessary steps needed to meet the needs of ALL of our students.
It is obviously time for a court reporter to type a transcript of the meeting and for board members themselves to start writing the board summaries. This is really unacceptable. I thought that all of the board members (with the excpetion of Turek, of course) all spoke very deftly and respectfully. The overall tone was courteous and polite, yet look how the administration reacted - like bullies.
That distorted summary was brazen insubordination by the director of communiciations and the adminisitration. It was especially bold since the meeting was open to the public and recoreded! Perhaps the director of communication should be required to have her communications signed and approved by the superintendent and the BOE before they are presented as fact in the future? What a discouraging waste of time for the board members and parents who attended and/or listened to the meeting. Clearly the administration really does need to be micromanaged because they are not capable of doing anything correctly themselves.
I totally agree with 11:11 comment. I am very concerned about the misrepresentation by the administration of this meeting. What is troubling is the director of communications did get the approval of the superintendent of this summary. Accountability begins at the top. The defiant attitude that resonates throughout the administration is inexcusable.
I concur with both 11:11 and 11:32. The BOE needs to get tough. I hope that the President and Vice President of the BOE have had a nice little chat with White about his unacceptable behavior.....the buck stops with him. He should’ve been reprimanded immediately. If this were a corporation and the CEO was give a directive by the Board and the CEO and his team thumbed their noses at the Board, what would happen??? Time to stop tip-toeing around these people. The BOE was very respectful with their comments and concerns, but respect is a 2 way street. Clearly, the Administration has stated how they feel about the direction they were given by the BOE. So how does the BOE feel about it and what are they going to do?
One technical correction to the post. In the interest of accuracy the quote from the board summary attributed to Dr. Schneider regarding the negative effect of the grouping change should read "creating what COULD essentially be a tracking system.", not "creating what WOULD essentially be a tracking system".
4:59 p.m. You are correct. We have made the correction. Thank you for bringing the error to our attention.
I noticed a few other errors/distortions in the district summary of the May 18 meeting:
1. 3 parents spoke in support of the board's decision to bring back ability grouping. The summary took great pains to avoid saying that - the summary danced around what they clearly said
2. Prospect 2nd grade spoke about adding another section not prospect 5th grade
3. At the end of the May 18 summary it was stated that the next meeting would take place on May 18.
Friday's communication from the district shocked me in another way, too, when it implied that parents need to teach their children self control. Of course we would all LOVE for our children to have self control, our 1st graders to use, "I feel__ " sentences when speaking, and our infants to be potty trained from birth, but these things are largely developmental. As we have been reminded many times by certain board members, we parents are not the experts. However, we are expected to take full responsibility for teaching our children restraint and self control? It takes time, knowledge, and patience for self control to develop, and requires consistency and support between parents, schools, and the community. But most importantly, it seems like the author of that newsletter does not realize that the pre-frontal cortex of a child isn't fully developed until late teens to early 20's. This is learned in the most basic of child development and psychology classes, so why does the district think that this is humanly possible in all young children?
Consider this: our administrators and staff are adults, with (presumably) fully developed brains. They also receive the reinforcement of a paycheck, benefits, and a pension. But judging by their recent board summary, it still isn't enough to encourage administrators themselves to demonstrate self control and appropriate decision making skills! If they had SELAS skills themselves, they would demonstrate maturity, fairness, honesty and cooperation by writing an accurate meeting summary. They wouldn't balk at directives given to them by the board either - especially in public. Yet they demand that our children exhibit restraint and self control, in spite of the fact that they are 5-13 year olds?
I keep hearing complaints about the same teachers and administrators, year after year, yet NOTHING is ever done. When parents ask to file formal complaints, the administration acts as though there is no formal process. Instead of encouraging cooperation, and then, allowing parents to file complaints to address problems, parents are made to think that making a suggestion, or a valid complaint is an indication of a lack of self control. This is anathema to any form of justice, especially in a democracy. Silencing people's voices is not SELAS-like. I am so tired of the district holding parents and children to vague, ever changing versions of policies when they rarely follow policies and guidelines meant for employees and staff themselves. Let's all consider the Golden Rule: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated." If this elemental form of morality could not only be embraced, but practiced, by both parents and staff, our children would have a much better chance of developing into adults that we would all be proud of.
The Civility Police
In addition to the administration's choice to write and submit an altered, incorrect board summary, they also have the nerve to include advice to parents in last Friday's newsletter. I found it curious that a school district, whose main job is to teach, advocates that children need to learn how to solve problems independently.
I don't know about you, but I send my children to school so they can be taught how to learn from a responsible adult - not so they can figure things out with their immature brains by themselves or at home. Hasn't the district considered that children are watching and emulating the staff, who is in turn, model the actions and behaviors of the administrators towards them? The schools are mandated to teach SELAS, parents aren't. Each family has their own set of religious or moral standards that we reinforce at home, and believe me, it is nothing like what D181's version of SELAS is! Stop expecting parents to correct all of the problems that 181 has created with their faulty understanding and implementation of SELAS and learning. All a parent has to do is listen to the audio of the board meeting, then, read the board summary to realize that our administration has been demonstrating poorly developed problem solving skills for years and years.
The board was not quick to demand data previously. The majority was content to rely on the experts words and spin about how the data is not really giving us any real information. Dr. White has created long presentations to lose his audience it seems and not have any accountability. Lastly after listening to the podcast I thought it was highly hypocritical to talk about yanking out something which was never put in place completely. If anything was yanked out without forethought it was what Mr. Turek helped approve, it was the old gifted programs. It seems the administration wants to continue to pursue their own agenda and not be flexible. Excuse the pun but they have a one track mind!
I am glad the board had this discussion regarding Math. I just worry that if we rush this, they will not develop an effective system and have a similar disaster when they pulled all those programs without a plan in place before. Plus, we have a new math curriculum next year that is much more rigorous than Everyday Math. That's a lot of changes for the kids and teachers. I would rather wait for a collaborative and effective plan to be developed before everything is rolled out, and avoid creating another mess.
Part 1: Here is a letter I emailed to the BOE tonight:
Dear Board of Education,
I am writing to you not only as a parent and taxpayer in D181, but as a special education teacher for over 20 years, the past President of the D181 Gifted Education Cooperative, and a former elementary school Board of Education member. I am writing to you because I am deeply concerned about how both the District’s Mission Vision and Values, adopted in February 2002 (MVV), and Philosophy of Teaching and Learning, adopted in May 2012 (Philosophy), have been actualized in the classroom. Specifically, I am referring to the idea that all students, no matter what their skill and ability level, should be instructed in heterogeneous classrooms. I suggest to you that not only is this model not required by either the MVV or Philosophy, but also is contrary to best practices.
For the past several years, I have watched as board members refused to demand accountability from the Administration regarding student growth under this heterogeneous classroom model. Instead, most (but not all) have taken the easy way out, claiming this would be micromanaging. If you as a Board believe asking to be shown support, both in terms of research and actual data on our students, is the same thing as substituting your decisions for the decisions made by Administration, then I hope you would seek additional training from the IASB, because they are two very different things. The latter is micromanaging; the former is what you were elected to do.
I recently took the District’s parent survey. One important question I thought was missing was this one: As a community, would you rather have your students taught (1) using evidence based theories proven to be effective for school populations demographically similar to D181 schools or (2) with a cutting edge, sounds good, but is not yet proven with a population demographically similar to D181 schools educational fad to hopefully get the District’s name (as well as that of its administrators) in the National limelight? Perhaps the reason you didn’t ask that question is because you already know the answer.
(to be continued...)
But yet, here we are, pursuing the cutting edge with no relevant research to support this path. There is NO research in the area of gifted education that supports 100% heterogeneous classrooms. Similarly, in the field of special education, it is widely recognized that the best philosophy, and the one legally mandated, is to provide a continuum of services from total inclusion to outside placement in an alternative school, and everything in between. Placement decisions are made based on student needs. While these decisions may not be made with the same level of 1:1 detail in the general education environment of a public school for every child, placement decisions should always be based on student need, not some all or nothing philosophy.
Moreover, inclusion is NOT the same thing as heterogeneous classrooms. Those who suggest this apparently believe that ELL, special education, low income, and minority students would not be diverse as to ability level. Certainly these populations include gifted learners, advanced learners, on-grade level learners, as well as struggling learners. Inclusion means these students should be appropriately placed within the general education environment based on their learning needs, not segregated. It does NOT mean their learning needs are all the same. It does NOT mean the general education environment needs to be heterogeneous.
And how do public schools determine student need? They do so by having staff who are appropriately trained to do so look at student data. Despite best efforts of most teachers, this has not happened in D181 for years because teachers have not had an appropriately trained administrator to lead them with this task. And how does that need translate into appropriate curriculum and delivery models? Again, by having staff who are appropriately trained staying up to date on education research, research-backed curriculum, and working with the “data staff” and the teachers to develop appropriate services. This also has not happened in D181 for years. Neither Dr. Stutz, Dr. Russell, nor any of the current Department of Learning administrators came to their job with any expertise in the field for which they were hired. They were promoted from other Administrator positions. They may or may not have been good in their former positions, but they had no experience for the position to which they were promoted. Not a good thing in a district like D181. While Dr. Schneider may have appropriate expertise to lead the Special Education Department, he does not have this expertise in the area of elementary school curriculum, gifted education, or statistics/data review.
(to be continued...)
Dr. White does have the experience to do his job, and he came from a District where many research-based, appropriate programs were put in place under his watch. I don’t know why he is not stepping up to stop the runaway train in D181, but he is not. His blind faith in the current central office administrators is misplaced and it is our children who are suffering and will continue to do so if you don’t hold him accountable for holding our other administrators accountable. And you are entitled to see evidence of the accountability. You are entitled as Board Members to have your questions answered. This is not micromanaging.
I have put two of my children through this District. My third child is finishing 6th grade this year. All three have been part gifted/part special needs. All three are minorities (hispanic). My first child is a rising junior in college. He started in D181 13 years ago. He participated in the general education environment in heterogeneous and ability grouped classes, in pullout gifted programming (no opt-in provisions), and in whole grade acceleration. He went on to have a very successful four years at Hinsdale Central. He was well prepared for regular classes, honors classes, and AP classes. My second child is a rising junior at Hinsdale Central. While at D181 she had academic supports and also participated in the general education environment in heterogeneous and ability-grouped classes, in math grade level acceleration, and in pullout gifted programming. There were no opt-in provisions. She, too, was well prepared for regular classes, honors classes, and AP classes in high school. It was by no means perfect for these two students along the way. There were issues with identification, cut-off scores, and some staff who saw the disabilities rather than the abilities, but in the end, they both got what they needed. One size did not fit all.
My third child has been caught in the District’s delivery model schizophrenia. She started with the general education environment in heterogeneous classes with homogenous grouping by ability for reading, in math grade level acceleration, and in pullout gifted programming. The gifted programming then became push-in and then went away altogether. Opt-in became the model in middle school. Although opt-in is available at Hinsdale Central, it is discouraged, not promoted, and teachers will in no way slow down or teach to the middle. High rigorous standards are maintained. This has not been the case for my third child in the classes where opt-in students are included. I can already tell that she is not as well prepared for what she is going to face in high school as her siblings were. She has not been held to a heightened rigor urging her to do her best. She is coasting. Her grades show it. Her test scores show it.
(to be continued...)
Students in D181 should not coast. Nor should they be frustrated 24/7 like those whose parents have poured their hearts out and shared their horror stories with the BOE over the past few years, especially related to forced math acceleration. They should be appropriately placed in classes aimed at their instructional level. Not independent level, not frustration level, but instructional level. This is Education 101, best practice, never disproved. Without a significant increase in staff, this cannot be done in a one size fits all classroom. If it has been successful somewhere, I urge you to ask your Administrators to show you the data supporting such a claim and the growth all levels of learners made. I doubt they will have anything to offer you.
I am at a loss as to how we got from an audit of a gifted program’s eligibility standards to where we are now, but I am urging you to take a hard look at what has transpired over the past three to six years in this District and do what is right for the students – the current ones and those yet to come. And do it quickly. If you are uncertain of the expectations of the community, then ask the community, but at a minimum find some administrators who have a proven track record of success in a demographically similar community and get them to do here what they did there. And have them prove to you that they are getting the results we want.
Thank you for your time.
The Board Summary appears to be purposely misleading at worst and grossly one-sided at best. Although it may be technically accurate, it definitely did not represent the bulk of the conversation between the BOE and the administration, nor did it convey the most important parts of the the BOE's reasoning. The bloggers are right, the administration cannot be trusted to accurately represent the facts and parents and staff members must listen to the podcast themselves for a full explanation of the decision regarding math grouping. It is unfortunate and more than a little disturbing that this is the case.
I have also listened to the podcast and read the board summary and the bloggers are right. In my opinion the summary is at best a careless, sloppy, incomplete mess or at worst misleading and undermining of the BOE. I looked up all of the administrative salaries to see how much the superintendent, curriculum administrators (1 asst. superintendent and 2 directors) and the communications director were paid this year (2014-2015). A whopping $730,386.00 and that doesn't include benefits! For only FIVE employees. The director of communication alone made $89,065 last year (up from $85,475 in 2013-2014). That is way more than some of our best teachers make. Do we REALLY need to pay someone that much to send out weekly updates to our parents? Do we really need to pay nearly THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS for 5 administrators who apparently need the BOE to tell them how to implement flexible ability groups? I think not!
I apologize for going off topic, but is anyone going to the district's community engagement night tonight at 7:00 in the MRC of HMS? It's apparently about facilities issues, focused mainly on HMS.
I agree with 8:20. The districts pays way too much for the amount & quality of work they receive.
In my opinion, the Asst. Supt. of Learning position needs a doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction, while the Director level people need at least a Masters level in that, not to mention years of experience teaching in the classroom.
Plus, we need people who are here to do the job, not just use it as a stepping stone to become a superintendent somewhere else, nor a vehicle for his/her lecture circuit (you know who I'm talking about). For the former, with Kevin Russell, he went from a teacher to a superintendent position in what? 5 years? I'm sorry, but I don't think that's enough administrative experience to be a valid superintendent, no matter how good he is.
This latest turn of events is extremely disappointing...
The bottom line is, our children and teachers are getting caught in the cross fire!
And that is not what anybody wants.
The BOE and Dr White need to come up with a solution that works and is beneficial for our children.
We moved to this district from Chicago 4 years ago - based on the reputation of the schools.
That reputation is getting tarnished by these kinds of shenanigans.
I agree with 11:37. Yesterday I heard that a famliy from our elementary school is moving to another public school district 7 or 8 miles away. In this particular famly, both parents were teachers whose jobs were not changing. They just wanted to get their children out of this district. People in the know are upset and the administration needs to act quickly to restore our faith in them.
In light of the state of flux in our Math curriculum, I hear a lot of parents of elementary school children talking about all the Math tutoring that they are lining up for their kids this summer. I'm a parent of three children at Oak School and I feel this year has been extremely disappointing. I'm on the fence about getting math tutoring for my children this summer, because I feel the school system should be providing my kids which the math knowledge and skills that they need. Why should I have to look elsewhere? Should I be sending my tutoring bill to D181?
I agree with 11:37 AM - our children are getting caught in the crossfire! What is so hard about teaching our children math and customizing the math content to their ability? so that parents don't have to seek math tutoring outside the school system.
Everyone should read this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/14/seven-things-teachers-are-sick-of-hearing-from-school-reformers/
Especially the social justice reformers who are running D181's Dept. of Learning -- you know who you are!
Great article! Who does this sounds like.....
"After consulting the research and assessment data, and involving all stakeholders in the decision-making process,....."
Are teachers in this district as fed up with Schneider's agenda as parents are?
GREAT article 12:29, thanks for posting. Loved #4 and #6. Reminds me of our district.
Loved the article too. Especially the observation that polite people cause the most harm because they follow orders - good and bad ones. That is how we got in this mess.
Part ONE of TWO
I saw the EXCELLENT Washington Post article too. It was published on a part of their site that is edited by full-time reporters that cover the education topics around Washington DC as well as national topics.
The author is quite accomplished: " Georgia teacher Ian Altman explains what he and his colleagues are really sick of hearing from reformers. Altman is an award-winning high school English teacher in Athens, where he has lived since 1993, as well as an advocate for teachers and students. He has presented at several national conferences and published in the Journal of Language and Literacy Education. He won the 2014 University of Georgia College of Education Distinguished Alumni Crystal Apple Award as well as the 2012 University of Chicago Outstanding Educator award."
Seven Things Classroom Teachers are Sick of Hearing From School Reformers
Ian REALLY hits the nail on the head with many of his points:
"...purpose of the policies is the same in both cases: to serve a top-down structure that is in place not to help students but to serve a kind of aesthetic of educational toughness, which itself is in place to combat a “crisis” in education that scholars such as David Berliner have thoroughly exposed as a sham. Most instructional policies are unnecessary and empty at best, roadblocks to real learning at worst, and either way merely devices to make the whole top-down structure appear justifiable."
"...Common Core language arts standards are so general that just about any assignment can be interpreted and defended in terms of the standards. Two teachers can teach the same standard using different texts, different methods, and with different purposes, giving students radically different experiences. In essence, that means the standard, ostensibly the same in both cases, is internally incoherent, and in that sense non-standard. “Standards-based” is a meaningless criterion..."
"...believe the use of those tests is inherently and necessarily damaging to all of us, including to those students who do very well on them. "
"...often when confronted with a “research says” claim that I find dubious or irrelevant, I ask for a citation and get a blank or vaguely menacing stare, or some invented claim about the demands of the Common Core ... research is not some giant, single edifice of settled conclusions; it is multifaceted and full of endless debates. Research is also of varying quality. "
Too many administrators that have passed through our district REALLY miss the boat on that point -- there are MANY dedicated parents in our district that very much understand there is almost NO "settled research" on education. Attempts to shut down debate are futile. Smart administrators need to channel the questions towards appropriate common ground and find productive ways to not brush aside concerns but incorporate the best ideas into the most cohesive vision for all learners.
The real issue with the integrated classroom is that it makes no sense intuitively, and the administration has provided no evidence that it works better, or even as well as the tiered system.
Mr. Turek made the same admission regarding gifted students at the campaign debate. He said they weren't being adequately supported and they hoped to address it in the next couple of years.
We need to continue to move toward the common core, but I see no reason that math should not be differentiated until clear evidence can be shown that all students would benefit from an integrated classroom.
The new BOE is asking all the right questions. That is great!
Part Two of Two
"...current education “reform” leaders like to preach about the importance of critical thinking. Of course critical thinking is important, what exactly does that mean? For many reformers, critical thinking usually means problem-solving skills... For me, critical thinking means analyzing ideas to understand them completely and find ways to improve them or dismiss them, including ideas about the value and purpose of technical and technological innovation.
"Too many people never learn how to discuss and debate sensibly and with decency. Too many people are trained to shy away from controversial ideas for the sake of being polite because confrontation might be considered embarrassing or impolitic."
Boy oh boy is that LAST POINT RELEVANT to the screwed up loyalties that some folks in our district feel to some phony sense of history! If I could accomplish ONE THING in our district it would be to get MORE PEOPLE to really dig into the tough questions about what sorts of resources our district should be directing toward what ends.
We need to really think about ALL the kids that our district serves and make efforts to meet their needs in the best way possible. There are far too few parents that want to face the reality that other districts are doing MUCH BETTER in how they address the needs of learners especially those "in the middle of the pack" that often have no advocates or legal protections. We pay lip service to so many "buzz words" without really embracing the depth of learning that ALL our district students should be engaged in. While we bend over backwards praising the talented teachers that are in generous supply in our district, we shy away from honest discussions about how to improve the consistency of performance between schools / classrooms.
I've worked in Chicago Public Schools, I volunteer my free time for a whole range of activities that some people are utterly clueless about. Just this Saturday I was talking to a younger teacher that works in CPS in pretty awful part of the city about how demoralizing it is to have headline grabbing stories about violence and corruption while the higher-ups are holding his feet to the fire over the scores his students get on standardized tests.
Do we really want to end up as just a less violence plagued and better financed version of such a district? Don't we want to see our children really getting all they can from art and music and foreign language and technology or will we be content to see meaningless test scores be the only measure of our commitment to learning?
Part ONE of TWO
In the above linked article, Ian Altman mentions that David Berliner thoroughly exposes Common Core as a sham. Professor Berliner holds a PhD from Stanford in Educational Psychology and is the Dean ASU Graduate School of Education.
I respect his views but won't go so far as to say Common Core is universally harmful, as I do believe that talented teachers that thoughtfully use the mandated time to examine how their classrooms will be effected by Common Core can actually have a positive impact on the learning of students, but it bears linking to David Berliner's views:
Myths and Lies that Threaten Our Schools, an interview with David Berliner and Gene Glass
...the Common Core may not lead to a more democratic society. While the "rigor" of the CCSS is applauded by many, the application of "rigor" is sometimes used to keep poor and minority students out of college preparatory and AP courses, and to foster dropouts. Rigor is often a code word for discrimination.
We felt that the the Common Core will not reduce the achievement gap. The standards were not written by experienced educators, and so they do not consider the individual needs of students of varying abilities who populate the classes in our public schools. Some students might need to be challenged more, some students need to be challenged with a different curriculum, and there are those who face challenges in learning at the levels expected at each grade. The CCSS do not have much to say about these realities of classroom life.
Furthermore, the testing accompanying the Common Core will limit the states' abilities to develop unique local curriculum, as promised by the developers of the CCSS. This is likely to occur because teachers and schools will be judged on tests that match the standards not the local curriculum. This likelihood suggests, as well, that the U.S. system of education might end up having more homogeneity in its outcomes than is desirable. If all 50 million or more students are learning the same things, it might be limiting the potential of our nation. Our nation has to deal with a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. To confront such a world we might be better served with a broad spectrum of students' knowledge and skills than by a narrower set of the type promoted by the CCSSs.
I do firmly believe that Berliner and Glass accurately understand the deadening effect of mindless PARCC tests on learners at all levels. Anyone that has kids who struggle, do just fine or excel can readily see that the overemphasis on testing is a disgraceful use of valuable learning time.
Part TWO of Two
I especially like the advice that Berliner & Glass have about how to change the direction of those who wrongly embrace more standardized testing and similar detriments to real learning:
"Become more politically active. Education is often the biggest budget item in states and local districts so unless you are helping to make those decisions education will get targeted, especially by the rich and the old who don't want to pay taxes, especially for young children of color. Run for school board in your own or in neighboring districts.
Join community organizations that are concerned with the schools: The Lions, Rotary, Elks, the woman's auxiliary to the Royal Order of Moose, and the like. Make sure that those people know what is going on in the schools. ... Write letters to the editor, op ed pieces, attend political meetings, especially school board meetings when you can, and speak out."
I can't back every argument that David Berliner lays out, but he and his co-author have a perspective that is needed: "We are for an enriched but not an academically pressured childhood. We like play. We invented childhood 150 tears ago--lets not throw it out just because many [tiger moms] are willing to. We are for an inspectorate made up of excellent experienced teachers (perhaps Nationally Board Certified Teachers) to regularly supplement principals visits to classrooms. They should both advise and, if needed, help remove teachers from the classroom. This requires a number of observers, and a number of observations, to reliably assess teachers and is therefore expensive. But it is likely to be less expensive than a court fight over teacher tenure. Professions are partly defined by having the right to police themselves and determine due process. Maybe it's time to try doing this.
We are for an expansion of the meaning of an education budget. We'd include expansion of high quality early childhood education, summer educational programs that are not just for remediation, paying a part of the budget to local people who run local youth organizations, running after school cross age tutoring programs and after school clubs with paid instructors, such as robotics clubs, school news clubs, and of course sports. Evidence exists that each of these activities helps youth develop in both academic and pro-social ways as they mature.
Shame people who say really stupid things, like "teachers are overpaid," "we have lots of incompetent teachers," "teachers don't work hard," and "poverty is no excuse." Make fun of them. They deserve that. "
I will add that MAKING FUN OF THEM is especially gratifying when the bozos that foolishly attempt to use a position on BOE in pursuit of higher office fail to recognize that in the current political environment any effort to align oneself with the budget slashers that would destroy education will not lead to the broad support necessary to bridge the growing chasm between the radical idealogues and the civic minded supporters of transparent government.
From Jay Wick's post:
Myths and Lies that Threaten Our Schools, an interview with David Berliner and Gene Glass
...the Common Core may not lead to a more democratic society. While the "rigor" of the CCSS is applauded by many, the application of "rigor" is sometimes used to keep poor and minority students out of college preparatory and AP courses, and to foster dropouts. Rigor is often a code word for discrimination."
This is the same canard that always comes up. Basically arguing that the best way to keep everyone equal is to teach at the pace of the slowest student. A very communist idea.
We have to be able to challenge students if we are going to give them a chance to be successful, and rigorous courses are the only way to do it. If this country is going to remain great, we have to have a great education system that allows the best minds to reach their maximum potential.
Suggesting that rigor is code for discrimination is just about the dumbest idea ever. If we avoid rigor so that no one thinks classes are hard, then we will doom all of our children to failure. Apparently, some think that is better because they will all fail, so it is equal? We need to find ways to help poor and minority students keep up with top students, not by slowing down top students. What idiocy.
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