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 emails; click 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.
Great post, bloggers. I, too, just listened to the very lengthy podcast (I hope the BOE will work to shorten the meetings wherever possible, they are beginning to be just too long!). In looking at the data that begins on page 103 of the "all slides" presentation on Board Docs http://www.boarddocs.com/il/hccsdil/Board.nsf/files/9X6EKS394BA5/$file/2015_06_08_MAP_Fall_to_Spring_Report_to_BOE_All_Slides.pdf) it is clear that our top students are in trouble. Does anyone know how many students comprise a quintile? 250? 300? A lot of kids.
And Dr. White's non-explanataion of this data was really weak. He said something to the effect that he would need to check to see what the data from other district's show about growth of this quintile. Dr. White, our district should perform significantly better than other districts in this area because we have been focusing on it and devoting resources to "raising the ceiling" for 3 years now. The question isn't what other districts are doing but who failed in their job to increase the educational experience of these students? It seems that several other quintiles have done well. Could it be the the Department of Learning decreased achievement from one group of students to improve it in another? THAT IS NOT TRUE PROGRESS but a mere shifting of resources. ALL STUDENTS IN THIS DISTRICT MATTER. Anyone can achieve "success" like this in a resource rich district such as ours. A true expert would be able to increase performance across the board.
Since they are using our children as free child labor, why don't they start asking children to begin pulling weeds or sweeping up the lunchroom? (Kidding - I find this horrifying.)
Isn't it discrimination to only target the high ability children for free labor? If d181 truly wanted to be inclusive, they would use all children as laborers, not just the use learners.
I'm so glad to hear somebody else mention that their child was asked by the teacher to teach some of the struggling kids in the classroom. There is nothing wrong with that - by the process of teaching the student's mastery and knowledge of the subject gets stronger. BUT this very same action can be disastrous when a student is asked to teach one or more kids who don't want to learn from this student and then they turn against their 'student teacher'.
My daughter was taunted during recess by the very group that the teacher had asked her to teach. Talk about SELAS in this case for both the 'student teacher' and the group of students being taught.
Students teaching students who are closer to them in their ability levels is far better for the "student teacher" than consistently teaching students at ability levels below them. When they collaborate with other high performing students, they are able to challenge and correct each other and offer a level of questioning and thought that just won't be found with students at significantly lower ability levels. And, you are able to avoid the resentment and uncomfortable issues that arise on both ends when advanced students are consistently asked to tutor other students. Occasionally is fine, but it should not be a regular occurrence. Students within the same ability levels can do this and provide the same type of reinforcement that you can achieve with this type of collaborative learning - and in this way, no one is being held back or denied an opportunity to move forward and pushed and challenged by students who are able to do so. And no one feels "dumb" either. Consistently using students as teachers of struggling students is just inappropriate. We need to stop this pattern of using some students to improve the educational experience of others. The quintile data that the administration tried to hide is conclusive proof of this and it must stop immediately in all grades and subjects. If parents don't demand it, it will continue under the socially just Learning For Some plan.
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