Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer Hiatus is Upon Us: Bloggers to Take A Break

Yes, readers, it's that time of year when your bloggers take the summer off to recharge from a busy year thus far. Last summer we gave Dr. White a chance to settle into his new job and this summer we want to extend the same opportunity to the new Board of Education.  With the students and teachers off for the summer, it is time for us to also spend quality time with our children and place our trust in our elected school board officials to hopefully lead our district back into the light (of transparency) and work collaboratively with Dr. White to return the district to one where students are taught at their ability levels, in order to ensure that they all have the opportunity to maximize their academic potential.   

Perhaps by the end of the summer we will be able to declare that this blog is no longer the only avenue community members, parents and taxpayers have to express their opinions and engage in meaningful dialogue with the adults who play such an important role in overseeing the education of our children.  This summer, we will continue to post comments as we see fit, and we welcome any articles or written posts from readers who take the time to write thoughtful correspondence.  Should there be any breaking news stories, we will certainly interrupt our summer hiatus to report on them because we believe it's important for the community to be aware of important events. 

In the meantime, a recent FOIA request suggests a lack of research was used to develop a strong foundation for the current instructional model and practices within our district.  As a result, it has become clear to us that many D181 parents are probably dealing with a drought of information regarding school placements and ability grouping. Take a look at the following when you get a chance; we thought we would leave our readers with an excellent article dealing with gifted (now a dirty word in D181!) students from the respected Center for Gifted Education at the University of Iowa. The full article is titled:  "Study: Gifted Students still at risk of being left behind."

We believe that after you read this one article you will agree that the research is clear on the efficacy of ability grouping with acceleration.  And if there are any administrators within D181 who believe otherwise, then they need to leave the district as soon as possible.

Enjoy the beginning of summer break until the next BOE meeting on June 22 at 7 p.m. (according to Dr. White's last Superintendent's report from the June 8th meeting). 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Comment of the Day: Parent Jill Quinones Sounds Off on the June 8th MAP Data Presentation and What it Should Mean to the BOE.

Last night we received a series of comments from D181 Parent and Taxpayer Jill Quinones copying a letter she sent to the BOE  on June 10, 2015.  She has asked us to post the letter as a free standing post.  When we read her letter, we were blown away by the information on the recent MAP math data presentation Dr. White gave the BOE at the June 8 board meeting, HER professional presentation and the insights she provided to the BOE.  The letter is exactly the kind of communication that the board should not only acknowledge, but thank her for.  In our opinion, she has done the work of a REAL assessment director -- and at no charge to the taxpayer!  So, of course, we have agreed to post it as the Comment of the Day.  We can only hope that the BOE heeds her suggestions.  Perhaps Ms. Quinones should be hired as a D181 Administrator...

Ms. Quinones' Letter to the BOE:

"Dear Board of Education Members,
I have reviewed the MAP Presentation documents on Board Docs for the June 8, 2015 BOE meeting and listened to part of the Board discussion via podcast (although admittedly not the whole discussion).  When I heard Dr. White mentioning that a more detailed analysis would have to be part of an explanation as to why students didn’t meet their growth targets, an analysis that looked, for example, at performance on Operations and Algebra questions versus Geometry, it struck me that while this is a very important exercise for teachers and administrators, it is well below the high level that you as a Board look at things and on which you should be basing decisions.  As someone who has been working with and analyzing MAP scores for more years than I want to think about, I thought I would take the time to provide you with some foundational information that you may or may not already know to assist you with your analysis of our students’ performance.  I am not by any means an expert statistician or data analyzer.  I cannot urge you enough to find ways to tighten up current administrative roles and hire such a person without increasing total cost of administrating this District. 

First, while those MAP presentations by District, by grade, by school certainly tell a story, a more accurate story would be told if we were comparing the same set of students every year.  While the number may be small, there is a certain level of students who move in and move out of our District.  I had advocated for years (back under Janet Stutz) to get data crunched using the same exact cohort of students from Year 1 to Year 2 for example in Grade 3 in Year 1 and Grade 4 in Year 2 and compare it to using all students in those grades each year to see if there was a difference.  This has never happened.  Just something to keep in mind when you look at a report that compares grades over years – these are not necessarily all the same kids and a handful of move ins or outs at the top or bottom within one grade could certainly change the data when you are only talking about several hundred students. 

Next, while “quintile” data is interesting, I hope we can agree that a student consistently scoring at the 1st% ile has some different needs than a student consistently scoring at the 40th %ile (yet both are in the bottom 2 quintiles).  Similarly, a student consistently scoring at the 98th %ile has some different needs than the one consistently scoring at the 61st %ile (yet both are in the top 2 quintiles).    Also, as you know, the MAP norms are based on a National sampling of students.  I found it interesting that we often assume in D181 that we should have a higher percentage of our students scoring in the top 2 quintiles than the nation as a whole, and therefore our bell curve should be a bit skewed to the right.  In actuality, our numbers appear to be flat lined – no bell curve at all!  For example, 4th grade math by quintile low to high (number of students): 85, 85, 84, 84, 84.  You see this pretty much across all grades and all subjects on what was reported. (Throughout this letter I randomly use 4th grade math results as an example, no particular reason).

Looking at the quintile data for growth trends, please remember that making growth = maintaining achievement versus your grade level peers It does not mean you improved more than those peers. That is, if a student scores in the 50th %ile in the fall on 4th grade math (RIT 204), that student must show 8 points growth (RIT 212) to maintainthat 50th %ile. (I am using RIT/Growth data from NWEA as to Fall & Spring Math.  It comes from a lengthy Norms Report, but I would be happy to send you the PDF if you want to see it).  A student who exceeds growth target has improved his/her percentile versus his norm group peers and a student who does not meet growth target has dropped.

So, using what was presented to you Monday night, looking at our bottom quintile in 4th grade math, 69 % of 85 students who started below the 21st %ile in math (approximately 59 students) met or exceeded their growth target.  We don’t know how many met versus how many exceeded, but one category reflects maintenance and the other closing the gap, so it certainly would be nice to know.  We do know 26 students in this group ended the year at a lower  %ile ranking than they started.  I am assuming that many of the District’s Special Education students comprise this lower quintile.  If that were the case, I would certainly expect that there might be some who do not have the cognitive ability or emotional stability to show growth on this test.  Maybe that is 59 students, but I doubt it.  As a BOE I would hope the questions you are asking of your Administration is that for kids who DO have the ability to make growth, is there a process to increase the intensity of the intervention for this group because unless the growth target was EXCEEDED, the gap is not closing for these kiddos.  Whether that was because of how they scored on certain types of questions or what is going on in other Districts is totally irrelevant.    Even more so for the ones who may not have IEPs; something is missing in the educational programming for these students.

Looking at the next quintile (21st-40th %ile) 62% of the 85 students who started here made (or exceeded) growth (53 students).  The other 32 students did not maintain their %ile versus their Nationally normed peers.  I am sure this group includes many of the D181 RTI kiddos.  Hopefully something is being done to help them close the gap.  Unlike the PARCC test, the MAP is self adjusting – that is, when a student gets too many questions wrong the test starts getting easier so the final RIT score can be compared across grade levels to see at what level the student is functioning.  For example, the 4th grader at the 21st %ile with a RIT of 201 is answering questions correctly similar to those answered correctly by the average (50th %ile) 3rd grader (RIT 203), a full grade level below on skills.  Does their programming reflect this need?  Is it intensive enough to help them close that gap?  For at least 32 of them this year the answer is, “no.”

Looking at the next quintile (41st-60th %ile), these are your solidly average kids based on National norms and 63% of the 84 students who started here made (or exceeded) growth (53 students).  The other 31 students did not maintain their %ile versus their Nationally normed peers.   Again, at a BOE level, I believe that it is not only that over a third of our 4th graders did not achieve as well as the average in the nation as a whole that should be your focus, but without seeing a breakdown of meets versus exceeds it is hard to know how many actually improved their %ile.  Of those 31 who did not make growth, a telling statistic would also be how many fell into a lower quintile than they started the year with.

Looking at the next quintile (61st-80th %ile), these are high achieving kids based on National norms and of the 84 students who started here 60% made (or exceeded) growth (50 students).  The other 34 students did not maintain their %ile versus their Nationally normed peers.   The question you should be asking is why are 2/5 of some of our highest achieving kids falling behind their peers nationally?  The answer does not lie in further detailed analysis of their MAP test scores – it lies in their educational program.

Finally, looking at the top quintile (81st %ile and above).  These are our advanced learners, most of who should easily be able to not only meet growth targets, but also exceed them.  I say most because when looking at these results, bear in mind that the 99th %ile in the Fall for 4th grade math was 237 and in the Spring was 248.  The test the 4th graders took, however, has a RIT that goes up to at least 259.  This is a huge band.   I am not sure whether the 4th grader who scored a 250 in the Fall would have had a growth target of “0” because they could actually have a lower RIT in the Spring and still score in the 99th %ile.  How these students are accounted for in the reporting would be an interesting piece of information to track down.  Putting those students aside, it seems clear that when only 44% of 84 students or 37 students met growth targets allowing them to maintain standing versus their nationally normed peers that their educational needs are probably NOT being met.

Of course, MAP growth is just one data point based on two test periods.  While highly reliable and valid, particularly as we get multiple scores on the same children over the years, there will always be outliers who for some reason on that day just didn’t test up to their ability.  I personally saw this a lot this spring where I teach.  While many students take every single assessment seriously and do their best, by the time they were done with the first round of PARCC testing and just several weeks later had to take Spring MAP, there was certainly a level of lower motivation and burn out I had not seen before.  It is my opinion (no research to support this, just observation) that Fall scores for this year were more accurate because the students are “fresher.”  This is not to say I would advocate Fall to Fall growth comparisons because I think these results would be full of “noise.”  For instance, did the child spend the summer watching reruns or going to summer school?  There may have been growth/lack of growth but was it due to District Curriculum/teaching or something else?  I am glad to see there is just one round of PARCC being proposed for the end of next year, so hopefully any lack of motivation that may have been involved this year from over-assessing would not impact MAP testing next year.

Lack of motivation or not, these scores suggest that “raising the floor to raise the ceiling” isn’t working particularly well for either those at the bottom or the top.  Perhaps the saddest part of all for the top quintile students is that it has been over three years since Dr. Moon presented her findings about the weaknesses in our programming for these kids.  We have graduated three classes of 8thgraders who will not get another chance at an appropriate elementary school education, and yet still there is no defensible educational program in place for the advanced learner, gifted, or whatever you want to call them.  Dr. Stutz couldn’t do it, Dr. Russell couldn’t do it, and Dr. Schneider hasn’t done it.  I would argue that we are further failing these students than we were before the money was spent on Dr. Moon.  At least then they had a “part time solution to a full time issue.”  Now, there is no solution.  It is every school for themselves (just look at The Lane math acceleration numbers for next year versus the other schools) with no evidence that any particular approach is backed by data showing its ability to produce results.

Former BOE President Mr. Turek recently acknowledged we are still not meeting the higher performing students’ needs.  I am sure current BOE President Mrs. Garg would acknowledge this as well.   But, at the end of the day, what I think and you think and other parents think is not as important as what the data is telling us.  The data is telling us what is in place now is not working.  Of course, this is no surprise to many of us who knew there was NO research to back the current educational model for a demographic like that at D181, particularly the higher achieving students.  This should have been a red flag to the BOE a long time ago.   How much longer do these students need to wait before D 181 hires someone who has the background knowledge and experience to formulate appropriate educational programming for all students (appropriate being defined as research-supported to provide challenge and growth no matter what the student’s ability level)?

The time to hire such a person is now.  And looking at the lack of real progress with the majority of our lower quintile students in terms of closing the gap with their peers, it appears the lack of a full time dedicated head of Special Education has also had a negative impact. 
I thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about what I have written.
Jill Quinones"

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

CHMS Student Gets It Right, Superintendent White Gets it Wrong: A Commentary on the June 8 BOE Meeting

Now that the dust has settled from the marathon BOE meeting that took place Monday night, we have come to our sleep-deprived senses and realized a few critically important issues that the district now faces. We bloggers will list those in a minute, but we would first like to applaud all speakers who spoke from their hearts during the meeting. If you didn't hear the BOE meeting, we encourage you to listen to the podcast that is now available (Click to open 6/8/15 Podcast). The public comments were expressive and thoughtful on both sides of the ability-grouping aisle. It's no secret, however, that we bloggers believe pro ability grouping WITH acceleration is best for the students in our district, but even we can appreciate the attendance and commentary of the teachers and parents who spoke with differing opinions.
That being said, we would like to remind our readers our purpose in creating this blog was to provide a forum for all district parents, staff, teachers, and community members who felt a need to be heard due to the oppressive tactics used by the previous BOE and administration. We are not promoting nor encouraging a divide between parents and teachers, though we believe that is what a few of our administrators are currently seeking to do. Dividing parents and teachers creates strength for the administration. And let us tell you, after listening to the BOE meeting, the last thing we need as a community is for the administration to believe they have more strength and greater autonomy to continue using district children and their resources as grounds for experimentation. This is what we believe is occurring, despite the fact that numerous parents spoke in favor of ability grouping students for math and reading. Despite the fact that one brave parent mentioned a recent FOIA that uncovered pages of emails that call into question the soundness of instructional inclusive practices that the Assistant Superintendent of Everything has promoted since his employment began 3 years ago. There is seemingly no end to the list of concerns, but we will try to summarize them for you here:
1. The recent FOIA request regarding the emails and documentation related to the Assistant Superintendent of Everything's "Power-Point-Gate" (as some of our readers have begun calling it), that also deal with  the Learning-For-All-(Some)-Inverted-Using-Advanced-Learners-While-Earning-An-Additional-$9,000-While-Hawking-Inclusive-Practices-In-The-D181-Petri-Dish-Of-Educational-Experimentation is still not enough, apparently, to show him to the central office door. We really believed that after the FOIA documents were finally posted (Click to open emailsclick to open attachments) enough questions were raised that Dr. Assistant Supreme (in his own mind) would have had to turn in his office keys. This doesn't appear to be the case as he was awarded a raise that will increase his salary to $149,000+. How's that for educational ethics! BOE, we are calling on you to investigate the incriminating email chain and its profound impact on the students in our district. You are elected officials and owe us this much. So who is largely responsible for the continued, unmitigated support of this administrator?
2. Don White, Superintendent of D181, where chaos reigns continuously and apparently, indefinitely. How much value added is a salary of $235,000+ with a smoke and mirrors "leadership" style and now apparent unrelenting ability to use a version of the following response we heard more than a handful of times during the past several months (and we paraphrase) "I cannot answer that directly as data is used at the building level." In fact, when a board member directly asked Don White what he thought the causes were of the negative downtrends in the MAP scores of the advanced learners (formerly known as gifted and talented students), he stated he couldn't provide an answer without consulting the buildings. "We don't know if this trend is present in other districts (paraphrase). Seriously? Memo to Don White: you are being paid a handsome sum of taxpayer dollars to be giving non-answers, in our opinion. How about a real honest to goodness direct answer to a question instead of deflection? And we thought Schuster was the master of deflection!
3. As one parent pointed out during public comment: advanced learners continue to trend downward in their growth. Period. Any way Don White attempts to spin, slice and dice MAP data, the results speak for themselves. The data was clear as a bell that many of the advanced learners in the top quintile are not meeting their growth targets. And no answers or solutions were provided within the whopping 100+ MAP side, er, slideshow to fix this problem. And by the way, why is Don White giving the "presentation" of MAP data when we have 3 highly paid administrators sitting quietly during the discussion? Aren't they responsible for presenting MAP results, not the superintendent? Why has this happened several times now since White was hired? Do we not have any other administrators who are qualified enough to make such a presentation? We know you know the answer to that question.
4. And speaking of advanced students, how about the student selection criteria on 'roids that White is still promoting for so few students given his/The Assistant for All's rigid criteria? Take a look for yourself (Click to open math report with criteria). What research was used to determine this stringent criteria? We didn't see evidence of research in White's/Assistant for All's criteria, nor was it asked for by the BOE.
We could continue, but it would take us countless hours to sort it out. The good news is that flexible ability grouping for math was mandated by the BOE and we are grateful. The bad news is reading and language arts are still woefully inadequate in their substance and structure. And more bad news: implementing flexible ability grouping will be a huge task, and we are concerned about the level of talent within the administration to pull it off successfully. And when the parents and teachers speak with greater command of educational theories and philosophical underpinnings than does our own superintendent and when available, those in the Department of Learning, we know we have a leadership and knowledge void of epic proportions. This is serious stuff, folks. In our opinion, our children have been affected by unfounded, non-researched ideologies for more than 3 years. Haven't they had enough? The time is now to speak out.
Oh, and one more observation. The fact that an articulate middle school student was able to explain how she was used as a classroom tutor and coach to assist struggling learners, while her individual needs were overlooked, tells us all we need to know about the "inversion/inclusive" model that has been forced in our district since the Assistant Superintendent for Everything was hired 3 years ago. If you missed this young lady's thoughts on the Learning for All (Some) philosophy, you will want to listen to her on the podcast. Her statement will tell you everything that is wrong with the direction the administration wants to continue to take the district, in our opinion, on false pretenses, we might add. (Click to open Podcast, go to Counter 00:41:00.)
The BOE and Don White should listen to this student's comments very carefully. In a few minutes she was able to describe her deficient educational experience and those opportunities afforded to her peers. How's that for the SELAS advocates! Her statements are cause for pause, for the special education ideologies that were changed and altered on the whim of Power Point slides into apparent gifted/advanced learner ideologies have now become the cards on which the D181 house has been built.
Monday was a great start in speaking up, but it must continue if change is to occur. Finally, as the preeminent leader Mahatma Gandhi once said: "When the people lead, the leaders will follow."
Now more than ever this should be remembered.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Comment Of the Day: D181 Releases More Documents in Response to Mayer FOIA Request -- Mayer Sends Letter to Dr. White and BOE Raising Concerns.

On May 16 we published as a free standing post a comment we received from former D181 BOE member Yvonne Mayer  (Click to open May 16 post.)  Today we received a follow up comment. Ms. Mayer has asked us to publish her comment as a free standing post.  We have reviewed it and agreed to post it because it raises important issues.  

Sound off!

Ms. Mayer's Comment:

Below is an email I just sent to Dr. White and the BOE.  Please consider publishing it as a free-standing post as it is a follow up to the May 16 post titled: Comment of the Day.

Dear Dr. White and BOE Members:

I am writing to follow up on the email below that I sent you on May 15.  Nearly one month later, the district decided to produce all of the emails and attachments that were previously withheld from me in response to the FOIA request.  I do not know why the district suddenly made such an about face, however, I want to begin by thanking the district for this overt act of transparency.  By producing all of the documents, the district has shined a spotlight on what truly transpired in 2012 and 2013 and has now made it possible for you -- the Superintendent and D181's elected officials -- to evaluate and discuss the "facts" and decide whether to take any action.  

I have had an opportunity to review all of the documents that have now been produced and they confirm the concerns I raised in my May 15 email to you.  The purpose of this email is to highlight the content of some of the documents that were produced, explain my concerns about the content and why the content matters to D181's children and educational system, and ask you once again to discuss the ramifications of what these documents may mean for the future of D181.

First, as I discussed in Item #3 of my May 15 email to you, 

"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 two power points, Frattura's and Scheider's have now both been produced and can be found on the FOIA log beginning at Page 63 (Frattura's version) and Page 89 (Schneider's version) under the Attachments link Ms. Duggan created for the June 5, 2015 production of documents to me.  

I have compared them, slide by slide to see what changes Schneider actually made.  I am very concerned about the changes he made to a Special Education focused power point in order to "match" the D181 audience.  The changes are as follows:

-- On Slide 2 which is called "What We Know Across the country" on "school improvement at the district level," he changed the first bullet point by adding the word "advanced learning". The original Frattura slide read: "Often happens in isolation of special education and other programs" to "Often happens in isolation of advanced learning, special education and other programs."

-- On Slide 3 called "Across the Country we are seeing...," under the word "Vision" he changed several of the bullet points.  
            ---- He changed bullet one by adding the phrase "local politics/practices."  The original read "Districts are reactive to State and Federal mandates."  His version read "Districts are reactive to State and Federal mandates, and local politics/practices.
            ---- In bullet three he changed special education to "advanced learning". The original read: "Special Education and other programs are perceived as a place versus a service."  His version read "Advanced learning and other programs are perceived as a place versus a service."
            ---- In bullet 4 he changed Frattura's version which read "Pervasive believe that the only way to support support students with significant needs is to cluster students into programs in specific schools" to read "Pervasive belief that the only way to support students with advanced learning needs is to cluster/track students." 

-- Slide 4 called "What our Data tells us" added a bullet called "ability" under the phrase "schools have a culture of marginalization".  That word did not appear in Frattura's list.

-- Slide 8 called "Eight Major Problems with Separate Programs", Schneider changed several of the bullets. 
            ---- In bullet 2 he moved the phrase "who are high achievement" to the front of the list so the bullet would read "tracks and marginalizes students who are high achievement, of color, poverty, language and disability."
            ---- In bullet 5, he added "isolating teachers." Frattura's version read "fragment a student's day." Schneider's version read "fragment a student's day, isolating teachers." 
           ---- In bullet 7 he added the phrase "advanced learners not maximizing potential". Frattura's version read "forces a further gap in achievement."  Schneider's version read "forces a further gap in achievement; advanced learners not maximizing potential."

-- Slide 13 is called "Paying attention to the Research" and cites to findings made by 4 researchers, Hnushek, Klin, Markman and Rivkin in a 2003 article published in the Journal of Applied Economics titled "Does Peer Ability affect student achievement?" Schneider changed the second point on this slide by adding the phrase "not maximizing their learning."  Frattura's version read "The students who are isolated the most in ability groupings often are the furthest behind."  Schneider's version reads" The students who are isolated the most in ability groupings often are not maximizing their learning OR are the furthest behind." (** See footnote below.)

-- Slide 14 is called "The Goal."  Schneider changed the phrase "deficit-based program" to "segregated program" in the last line. Frattura's version read: "Most importantly, preventing the perpetuation of a deficit-based program model."  Schneider's version read: "Most importantly - preventing the perpetuation of a segregated program model."

-- Slide 20 is called "Non-Negotiables in Support of Proactive Services." Schneider changed two of the bullet points.
            ---- In bullet one, Frattura's version reads, "Source of student failure is the system, hence the system needs to accommodate the student."  Schneider deleted references to failure and his version reads: "The source of students not meeting their maximum potential is the system, hence the district/system needs to accommodate the student."
            ---- In bullet 2 he changed what the primary goal of education should be adding the phrase "maximize potential."  Frattura's version read "Primary goal of education is to prevent student failure."  Schneider's version reads "Primary goal of education is to maximize potential AND prevent student failure."

-- Slide 23 is a continuation of the list of non-negotiables started on Slide 20.  Schneider changes the second bullet on Slide 23 by adding the phrase "advanced learners." Frattura's version reads "No rooms/schools/offices that are set aside for labeled kids/staff (e.g., LD, ED, special education, resource, linguistically diverse, at-risk, advanced learners, discipline schools)."  She doesn't mention advanced learners at  all.  Schneider's version reads "No  rooms/schools/offices that are set aside for labeled kids/staff (e.g., advanced learners, LD, ED, special education, resource, linguistically diverse, at-risk, discipline schools)."

-- Slide 24  is a chart Titled "Clustering by like ability".  Schneider changed Frattura's title "Clustering by like disabilities," by changing the word disabilies to ability. The chart showed 8 "clusters."  Schneider changed the last three clusters  as follows: 
         ---- "Clustered classes by disability" changed to "clustered classes by ability."  
       --- "Shared services across districts for students with cognitive and or emotional disabilities and autism" changed to "Shared services across districts for students with advanced gifts". 
      --- "Separate school for students with severe behavioral or cognitive needs" changed to "Separate school for students with advanced gifts." 

Why do these changes matter?  Simply put, since this power point was one of the first ones presented to the Advanced learning committee, and I believe formed the basis of later presentations to the BOE on best practice research and findings to support the Advanced Learning Plan, Schneider's changes matter if there is no data or research to support them. Although Frattura informed him in a subsequent email that she was fine with his changes, that statement alone doesn't establish the research or data basis to support them.(** -- see footnote below.) 

Frattura's power point presentation was, as Dr. Schneider pointed out to her, "special ed/deficit focused."  He converted her power point to be advanced learner/gifted learner focused.  The question you should all be asking yourselves is what research or data supported the power point changes? In reviewing all of the materials sent to Schneider by Frattura that were produced to me, there is no data or research to support the changes he made to the slides.  When I served on the BOE with Mr. Heneghan, we both asked to see research and data on advanced learner/gifted learner populations that would support the "best practice/research" statements Schneider was attributing to the experts cited in his power points.  None was produced.  NOW it is time to insist that the research and data be produced to you for your review.

This is especially important in light of an email produced to me in this new batch in which Schneider recommends to Frattura that they hire Reva Friedman for the Summer 2013 UWM Social Justice Institute. Friedman was another expert that Schneider introduced to D181. Page 267 of the emails produced on June 5, is dated  2/15/13 from Frattura to Friedman. Embedded in this email is one from Schneider to Frattura in which he suggests hiring Friedman for the social justice institute. He says "like you, she's been an outstanding support to me in recent weeks at no cost as we're working on inverting our system to be inclusive, and are using the Advanced learning door as the entry point."  

When I read this statement, I was shocked.  INVERT D181's system?  Use the Advanced learning door as an ENTRY POINT?  

(This email was buried in new emails that were produced to me on Friday, all which were interactions Schneider had with Frattura and/or Capper in 2013 in which they were planning the Summer Social Justice Institute, the institute that seven D181 administrators attended.  These emails were originally withheld on the grounds that they had nothing to do with D181, however, obviously if they reference D181, and were written by or received by Schneider on D181's server using his D181 email address, they are relevant.  I would also assert that they are relevant to D181if any of the emails in which Schneider is planning an off-site, non-D181 conference (for which, according to emails that were produced he was to be paid $9000) were written during D181 work hours, or if he spent any time during D181 work hours planning or preparing for the off-site, non-D181 social justice institute. I would urge you to discuss whether or not it is appropriate for any D181 paid employee to be working on non-D181 work (for which they receive compensation) during D181 work hours, however, that is not the main focus of this email so I will not further elaborate.)  

In my opinion, Schneider's statement establishes his goal (shared apparently with experts that he was collaborating with) to "invert" D181's education system to be an inclusive system.  In my opinion, the work being done by the Advanced learning task force was in essence hijacked and the "Advanced Learning door" was used as the entry point to turn D181's educational "system" upside down.  

As a former board member who started the journey of evaluating the GIFTED/ADVANCED LEARNING programs   with the hiring of Dr. Moon, and who was asked to vote on an ADVANCED LEARNING PLAN that was supposed to "Raise the floor to raise the ceiling" and "accelerate all learners" by one year in math, in NO WAY was the BOE led to believe that what D181 was going to do  was "invert the system" through the Advanced Learning programs. 

The original "goal" of the BOE in hiring Dr. Moon was to improve the gifted/advanced learning programs and make entry into THOSE programs more inclusive.  That is very different that the integrated service, all inclusive, heterogeneous model that has been rolled out.

As a former board member, D181 parent and current tax payer, it is my opinion that the damage that many of D181's students have suffered in the last three years has been a result of "inverting" the D181 system.  It is my opinion that this is not something the community or BOE would have supported in 2012 or 2013 had any of the administrators represented the goal as being to "invert the system."  Certainly, at a minimum, the community and teachers would have demanded evidence that our system was a complete failure that required "inversion" and would have asked for data and research to justify such a drastic change.  

Since the BOE and community were never told outright that this was the goal, and instead everything was framed around improving the Advanced Learning programs, I have to say that I personally feel misled about what the Advanced Learning Plan "goal" really was.  The documents that have finally been produced (after nearly 2 years) cannot be ignored. They raise far too many questions about what the real "goal" was back in 2012-2013 when the administration presented the Advanced Learning Plan to the BOE.

The students, teachers and parents are all owed an explanation.  It is time for the BOE to publicly discuss just what exactly the GOAL of the Advanced Learning/Learning for All plan WAS and IS. THEN and NOW.  The teachers, Advanced Learning Committee, BOE, Parents, Teachers and Students were all asked to trust the experts.  We were all told that BEST practice research was being relied upon by the experts to form the basis for the ALP/LFA plans.  I and others who asked to see the research and data were called troublemakers and naysayers.  

Today, I am glad I asked my questions.  I am glad I filed a FOIA request. I am glad I did not back down.  Today, I am left with many of the same questions I asked when I was on the BOE and which were never answered.  Today YOU should be asking the same questions BUT THIS TIME, you should demand the answers.

It is true that I no longer have students in D181 and you may be asking yourselves, why should I care anymore? Well, I care because I chose to run for the D181 BOE because I cared about ALL D181 students and cared about making sure that ALL D181 students could excel and achieve their educational potential.  I voted yes on the Learning For All Plan even though many of my questions went unanswered because (as I stated in a public comment at the BOE meeting when I voted) it was clear that the plan was going to be approved by a board majority and I was asked to trust the educational experts who were recommending approval of the plan.  I voted yes, but expressed my reservations that there needed to be data collected to evaluate the rollout and that the BOE needed to hold the administration accountable if the plan did not succeed.  Following that vote, Board member Turek personally thanked me and promised me he would seek accountability.  Now three years into the plan, it has changed in so many ways, both in name and substance, and yet there still has never been a real analysis of the data.  Some of the changes, such as eliminating the acceleration for all, were necessary because too many students were on both ends of the educational spectrum were hurt by the original plan -- either because the work was to hard or the material was watered down for the highest achievers.  Yet, through all of this, the questions about whether this plan really made/makes sense for our community were left unanswered. There was, in my opinion, no accountability for the changes made to the "system" that some parents believe hurt their children, changes that have now been scaled back or eliminated. 

While I have no more children in D181, I still care about the other children.  Further I am still a taxpayer who no doubt will be asked to vote yes in the near future on one or more D181 referenda that will increase my property taxes. If you really expect me or others (with or without children in D181, some who believe their children have been hurt by the "inverted" educational model) to vote yes, then you should address our concerns and questions now. You should demand accountability where appropriate now.  If you do not, you cannot expect me or others to support a tax increase in the near future.

Please do not let D181's students down by ignoring the many red flags that have been raised in the documents that were withheld for nearly 2 years.  Please do right by D181's students and teachers.

Respectfully submitted,

Yvonne Mayer


** FOOTNOTE from above:
I would also urge all of you to read the study that is cited on Slide 13.  I googled the article to see if it actually stated that students in ability groupings are not maximizing their potential.  It can be accessed at:
I may not be a college professor, but I don't believe the study stands for that propositionl, let alone the summary points made in the original power point.  This really concerned me so I asked a special education teacher I highly respect to read through the article and see if it stands for the propositions cited in the power point. In her opinion it does not.  This is what the teacher wrote to me (note -- she has highlighted some of her thoughts and questions in green):  "In addition to the fact that ELL and SPED students were taken out of the study on purpose (fn 12), it stands for the proposition that the higher the average achievement is in your school (and they specifically also say they make no conclusions as to classroom composition) the better the student growth/learning will be.    Also specifically say they did not look at classroom composition as how kids were assigned.  

Goes on to say that from a policy perspective, if the higher achieving kids go to a charter school state achievement won’t increase because the increase these kids will show will be set off from the lower achievement of those left behind who had higher achievement when all the kids were in the school.  From p 542:  In terms of public policy, the fact that the effects are similar across the test score distribution suggests that a reallocation of students will have little impact on the overall state or school average.  Rather it will affect only the distribution of achievement across schools; winners from having more able peers are balanced by losers with less able peers. The findings also imply that there will be additional external benefits to improving student performance through special programmes, tutoring and the like. While such benefits are likely to be small in comparison to the main effect for the student receiving any treatment, it is clear that student outcomes are intertwined in important ways.  Special programs like pull-out ACE?

Also from p 542:  The results themselves provide little evidence that average income or the heterogeneity of peers in terms of variation in achievement levels affect growth in mathematics achievement.  If this is the case, and heterogeneity has no affect, then why is it necessary? Of course, again they were talking baout heterogeneity by school, not by class.
I do not understand how the following conclusions in the power point were gleaned from this research:
 "1. Varied achievement within student groupings positively impacts student achievement (It is not the variance, it is the average achievement level that they studied.  Perhaps you could extrapolate ability grouping would therefor have negative effects because the average achievement would be lower in the lower ability groups, but this is not what this study stands for) - 2. The students who are isolated the most in ability groupings often are not maximizing their learning OR are the furthest behind.” Nothing at all in that study about this! There are also statements that the top kids were least affected by the average peer achievement level.  Suggested it could be because of the ceiling of the test, but could also be because they are the ones bringing up the average!