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!


Anonymous said...

This information is incredible. Everything that Dr. Schneider has espoused must be questioned by the administration and the BOE. Everything that was done by the ALP task force was based on this misleading information. If I were a teacher who was a member of the task force or who had received professional development based on this misleading information, I would be furious. Not just because I had been made a fool of by Dr. Schneider or I had wasted my time and missed the opportunity to learn something else, but because I had been using faulty information that very likely caused students to be harmed or have their educational experience lessened. What a travesty for those students and their parents.

Anonymous said...

Every parent in this district owes Ms Mayer for her advocacy and dedication to search for the truth. I am beyond outraged that we have been hoodwinked by Kurt Schneider in his quest to better his own personal causes. We now have proof of his manipulations and the fact his Learning for All "plan" is based on lies and fabrications. He should be fired immediately. And so should Dr. White for jumping on Kurt Schneider's bandwagon shortly after being hired. How dare both of these administrators continue to promote unsound educational practices on the backs of our kids. Shame on them.

Anonymous said...

How many times did we hear "trust the experts" or "parents are not qualified to question this because they are not educational experts"????? I am furious.

Anonymous said...

If the administration knew what they were doing, they would have answered the questions. Their answers would have made sense, too. But when all of their actions were based on forced manipulations of one of his friend's special education research, no wonder no one was willing to talk. No wonder scores tanked and administrators fled. This is disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it a retiring principal and her favorite scarf-clad administrator will be strongly voicing their support of the ALP at tomorrow's board meeting. It appears that they, along with some disgruntled Madison and Clarendon Hills parents want to reject the BOE's clearly stated requests that schools return to ability grouping.

The time to stop fictional research from driving our public schools into mayhem is tomorrow at the BOE meeting. No ones children deserves this mess, however, if these parents are so clueless, let them volunteer to jeopardize only their own children's educations in a private school of their own communistic design. Public schools are run by the public and their elected Board of Education, not 1 or 2 self serving, overpaid tyrants.

Anonymous said...

10:56pm - You are absolutely right! If any teacher or principal gets up and pins their hat on this made up research that has harmed our district's children over the last 2-3 years, he or she should be fired!

The board meeting is at Prospect School at 7pm tonight. Time again to show up, speak up and write letters to the BOE.

Anonymous said...

There is no way that someone could read the FOIA documents and not at least question whether or not the research behind the many presentations and educational decisions is sound and applicable, not only to advanced learns but also to our population. Not to mention the resources that were reviewed by the advanced learning task force. They are incredibly biased and one-sided in their viewpoint. Dr. Schneider was truly trying to "invert our system" and "used advanced learning as the entry" and he didn't care how he did it or if he hurt students in the process. How dare he.

jay_wick said...

Sadly there are no shortage of individuals who will manipulate data to get to outcomes they desire:

British Doctor Faked Data Linking Vaccines to Autism, and Aimed to Profit From It

Retraction Watch: Author retracts study of changing minds

Fake Data Prompts Major Journals to Retract Chemistry Papers

NYTimes: Scientist Faked Data Linking Cancer to Electromagnetic Fields, Probe Finds

Epic fraud: How to succeed in science (without doing any)

Stanford: A Close Examination of Jo Boaler’s Railside Report

Those who follow the BOE closely will note that the last controversy is one I previously warned of; it involves someone held in high esteem by district staff, despite their questionable data in regards to discovery style mathematics.

It is clear that at least one current member of the BOE does not want all students in the district to have access to the resources necessary for appropriate learning; that member may have manipulated the composition of volunteer panels to also support their aims.

Hopefully the district can correct these errors in a more timely manner than has been previously suggested.

Anonymous said...

Isn't fraud a crime? Especially when it concerns government employees and children? I can understand how it would be more difficult for a person to be fired from Stanford because it's a private university with adult students. But fraud like this concerns the public's tax dollars in a bankrupt state. And our children are not offered the option to go to private schools. This is really disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

Interesting public comment made by teacher representatives from Madison and Walker against the BOE's directive at last meeting to return to flexible across grade level ability groups in math next fall. They only represented 2 of 7 elementary schools. Does this mean that the teachers at the other schools do not agree with the Madison and Walker teacher perspectives?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Shocking that the teachers left right after public comment, not bothering to stay and listen to the discussion on MAP or math. Sorry to sound offensive, but WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?

Anonymous said...

"We reserve the right to not publish comments. The purpose of this blog is to support the education of D181 students and present facts, data and opinions related to D181 issues. We ask commentators to avoid name calling or unfounded and sweeping allegations. No profanity will be allowed. We will reject comments that do not address specific D181 issues that have been addressed in posts or that you would like us to write about. Under Common Core these days our children must support their arguments with what is written in the text. Opposing opinions are ok - ad hominem attacks are not."

Maybe we need to think more carefully about which comments are published and which are not.

"Wow. Shocking that the teachers left right after public comment, not bothering to stay and listen to the discussion on MAP or math. Sorry to sound offensive, but WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?"

I'm pretty sure the above comment does not support the education of D181 students or present facts, data or opinions related to D181 issues. It only appears to be a personal attack aimed at discrediting the people who spend more time with your children during the school year than you do.

What I also find fascinating about this blog is that it's really easy for community members to be rude and slanderous when they don't have to sign their name.

As a teacher in this district, I would be happy to have an open and honest conversation with any parent that asked why I didn't stay for the whole meeting. Maybe instead of attacking the very people who work to do what they believe is best for your children, you might want to think, "What am I missing? Why do so many teachers seem to be adamantly against flexible ability grouping or tracking? Is there a happy medium we can find?"

Why am I signing my comment anonymously? Not so I can be rude and slanderous, but so I can maintain a positive relationship with the parents of the students I care about so much.

The Parents said...

We published the comment because it expressed a person's frustration that teachers would leave without staying for the discussion. Fair criticism, in our opinion. Plus the person didn't identify teachers by name, or call anyone any names, or use profanity.

Anonymous said...

This blog has been asking for the teachers to weigh in. Apparently they are only interested in hearing the teachers' opinions only if they agree with them.

The Parents said...

On the contrary. No one attacked what the teachers had to say, just asked if other schools -- Elm, Lane, Prospect, Monroe and Oak teacher -- agreed with Madison and Walker's teachers. And asking why teachers left and didn't stay for the discussion, which is going on right now, is a valid question.

The Parents said...

What the Parents would love to know is whether teachers have any opinion on the information that was disclosed recently FOIA documents.

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between asking, "Why did the teachers leave after public comment?" and "What is wrong with them?" Plain and simple... It's a matter of respect. Disagreement is often good, and can lead to a better outcome for all, but when people comment in such a rude and sarcastic way, it makes it really hard for anyone, community members, parents or teachers to take them seriously. That's one of the major downfalls of this blog. If all of the stake holders would comment and have discussion in a way that they would be proud to sign their name to, people might take this blog more seriously.

Anonymous said...

There were 2 teachers from the Lane there, too. Hmm, if teachers get to make public comment at BOE meetings, does that mean that parents are now allowed to make public comments at faculty meetings? Or at district committee meetings? It is my understanding that only select parents may ever address staff in public. Since the teacher who just posted seems so concerned with hypocrisy, perhaps she should suggest to the teachers union that parents be given equal speaking access.

Anonymous said...

9:35, no profanity was used. Simmer down.

Anonymous said...

I too would like to know why the teachers left right after the public comment. They certainly have a right to voice their objections to the board directive, but to refuse to stay and listen to the discussion the board was going to have on the math ability grouping topic was disappointing to me as a parent of three children in the district. I also echo the question asked by the Parents at 10:02. What do the teachers think about the FOIA documents that were released that raise questions about whether or not a power point was changed without best practice research to back it up?

Anonymous said...

"WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?" I wonder if this question would have been asked if the teacher comments had agreed with the opinion of this blog.
Sarcasm is an acceptable form of discourse as long as there is no profanity?
Regarding teachers making public comment at board meetings, vs parents making comments at faculty meetings, these are two completely different forums. The person who posed that question clearly does not understand the purpose of either.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with the teachers speaking as long as everyone understands that they are just one voice, an important voice, but one voice. And among teachers, as with parents and other professionals, there are differing opinions about how to achieve goals. I, too, was disappointed that they left en masse after public comment rather than stay to hear the MAP data and elementary math discussion. I hope that they listened to the remainder of the meeting on LiveStream or will follow up with the podcast. I work during the day, too, and stayed for almost 4 hours.

Listening to what they had to say, I got the feeling that they truly cared about our children but that the first speaker hadn't reviewed the almost 200 pages of data that had been posted nor had she listened to the podcast of last month's meeting. Her comments seemed to be focused on social emotional issues, and academic performance for all students seemed to be a secondary concern. Perhaps if she had reviewed the data regarding the top quintile performance she would not have made the same comments. I also think it is interesting that these Madison teachers spoke in support of ability inclusive classrooms when they don't have them at their school. And, when they did (with the Investigations pilot), there was high parent, student and teacher dissatisfaction. Madison parents who spoke out against the math pilot design should be aware that some of their teachers would like to go back to that format.

As one parent commented, it is clear that the top quintile (200-300 students?) at the elementary level are still not getting even close to what they need to be challenged and succeed to the best of their abilities. Where are the teachers speaking out in support of them? Oh that's right, we took away the gifted teachers, put them on the advanced learning task force and fed them faulty data. And besides that, it is now politically incorrect in this district to say that these top performing students are different or special in any way. They will be fine sitting in the corner with their iPads, helping other students and growing less than all other students. Really teachers? This is ok with you? Talk about social emotional issues. The administration keeps asking why this blog exists. Well, maybe if the parents who post felt that their children's needs were actually being looked out for and represented by someone, if there were advocates for this top quintile of children, parents wouldn't be so angry and the need for the blog would be lessened. As it stands now, the blog is all we've got.

Anonymous said...

Jay Wick: Isn't Jo Boaler one of the "experts" espoused by Dr. Schneider? Didn't he show a really long video of her during recent BOE and faculty meetings? Maybe he also watched her video on data-fudging and fact distortion...

Frustrated parent said...

Why hasn't 9:35 answered the questions: Why did teachers leave without staying to hear (and let me add, "learn something") from the board discussion? And what do the teachers in D181 think about the power point/FOIA issue?

Anonymous said...

7:38: Fascinating comment. Just googled her name. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to hear what the teachers think about the quintile data that shows without a doubt that our top students are meeting their growth targets at significantly lower rates than almost all other students. I hadn't seen that data until I heard the parent mention that is was hidden in another slideshow.

Elm Parent said...

Bloggers: For your next post, can you start a list of questions parents would like to hear answers to from the teachers. While I realize some teachers might shy away from responding, even anonymously, my hope is that at least a few of them will sound off. Many parents feel completely misled by the actions of certain administrators and we are wondering if teachers do too. Also, I just want to point out that in my many years as a D181 parent, it is usually the HCHTA Union President or other officer who makes a public comment on behalf of teachers when they have an opinion to share. I am wondering if the fact that the two teachers who spoke last night were not Union representatives is indicative of their opinion not being universally shared.

Anonymous said...

Apparently teachers deserve to be paid and speak in public to their hearts content, while parents, (those who pay them) should only be allowed to grovel at their feet and wait to be called on to speak during a particular, teacher specified forum. If staff & administration do not choose a particular parent to serve on a committee, then the opinions of the offending parent do not exist. Our complaints suddenly become non-issues, or invalid, and we are simply dismissed. We don't exist because they made sure they couldn't see or hear us. But believe us, we are still there.

The district refused to allow us to know the names of the teachers who served on the Advanced Learning or Math Commitees, yet we are expected to blindly trust them? We can't contact them, and they refuse to respond to us, but they consider this fair? Parents had no say as to who would be selected to represent us at the Superintendent's Curriculum Committee, and we are expected to be thankful for this forum? Parents are not given a process so that we may notify committee members of our concerns, yet it is claimed that our opinions are considered? How? By ESP?

Clearly the person who posted at 5:14 believes that parents do not deserve the right to speak or be heard. Not only is THIS shockingly rude, it is illegal. It is called DISCRIMINATION. Of course they are two different forums, but PTO's allow teachers to speak at our meetings. We buy you gifts, prepare teacher appreciation weeks, raise funds for service projects, all in the hope that you will treat our children in an equally kind and respectful manner. But you don't. You don't even acknowledge that our children are different.

Teachers are allowed to post comments on this blog that are abhorrent to parents, yet you feel you deserve the right to ignore us when who explain to you what happens when our children come home. We are not allowed to write anything in your newsletters or on your websites. When you have one set of rules and standards for teachers, and another, less favorable set of standards for parents and children, it is called discrimination. Although parents and staff are offered separate forums to speak, they clearly are not EQUAL. Our words are never acted upon, or even acknowledged. Can't the teachers and administrators see that it's rude to have PARENTS buy them the cake, watch staff eat 2nds and 3rds, yet they never offer ANY to parents or their children? Not only do they eat the cake at the schools that WE pay for, when we ask for a crumb because we are hungry, WE are called rude.
How is it that teachers and administrators are allowed to participate in all of our forums, yet they do not allow us to participate in THEIR forums? Discrimination.

You don't feel parents deserve to be heard. You are paid handsomely to do your job, yet you do not feel any necessity to listen to or understand our concerns Truly, what is wrong with you? If I could give you a report card you would receive an F for cooperation/group work, an F for compassion, and an F in social emotional learning. I'd also give you an F in comprehension, public speaking and report writing. I think the BOE would probably agree with me. If I could, I would expel you. But I can't. I don't have the power to. That's why I write on this blog. I hope that at some point, the sounds that come out of our mouths and the words you see printed on our emails and blogs will FINALLY be understood. Until that happens, and a common bridge of understanding connects our two islands, we will never make any progress in working successfully together. But why would you care? You are the ones getting paid regardless of whether or not you do your jobs fairly or correctly. There is no incentive for you to behave in any other way.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers: I have listened to the end of the meeting tape from last night. The BOE voted unanimously to approve the Personnel Consent Agenda after removing the PPS Director position (a planned new hire?) from the agenda. I just looked at the Personnel Consent Agenda which is available on Board Docs and saw that they approved raises for ALL of the administrators. Can you do a comparison chart as in past years? Very curious to know if certain administrators (Learning dept "assessment" director and Asst. Sup. of Learning) got raises. Also wondering if certain administrators brought here from White's former district got unusually high raises compared to the rest.

Anonymous said...

12:19: Your comment is very harsh but as a fellow D181 parent, I understand how frustrated you must be feeling to have written it. I hope that your comment was directed more at 9:35, rather than all teachers in our district, and I also hope that 9:35 doesn't simply attack you for your honesty but reflects on your words. I truly respect all of the teachers in D181 and believe they all mean well and want the very best for our children. I do agree that they are extremely well paid. I also agree that parents have been navigating their way through a very Non-transparent district for the last few years. Hopefully the recent release of FOIA docs is a change in the right direction. I hope the teachers all read the materials that, in my opinion, show that parents AND teachers were misled by the learning dept. -- by a certain administrator in particular. If any teacher does take the time to read through the public records that have now been released, I too would like to hear what they think of "power-point-gate" that the BOE is hopefully investigating.

The Parents said...

1:03: We will take a look and see if the raises merit a separate post or just a response to your comment.

Anonymous said...

12:19, It sounds as though you have had a very bad run of things with the district, and you feel that you have not been heard. THat being said, I would hope, though, that any teacher reading the blog realizes that your words in no way reflect the way the majority of parents feel about our teachers. You are very angry, but to imply that our teachers deserve a failing grade is out of line. To accuse them of discrimination is out of line. Our teachers work tirelessly to help our children learn, and have been asked over the years to change teaching directions multiple times. Parents always have the right to speak at board meetings, and they do. The PTO does not do things for teachers in order to gain their favor - they do it out of sincere appreciation for what our teachers do. I can honestly say that my children have never, ever been mistreated or disrespected by any teacher or staff member in this district. Nor have I. I sincerely hope that your child/ren get every service and attention they require from the district, and that your experience with the teachers improves.

D181 Staff Member said...

To 12:19: I've spent a long time thinking how to answer you. I know where you're coming from. I work in the district, and, for what it's worth, the staff is treated like crap by the administration as well. Teachers, support staff, and even some of the building principals have raised issues about how the district is run. However, the central office ignores us, or at least doesn't explain their decisions. They may have totally valid reasons, but heck if we know what they are. I've been to multiple staff meetings where a teacher prefaces what they say with "I'll probably get **** for this, but…" So it is not just the parents who do not have a forum.

It is also difficult to differentiate such a wide range of abilities and interests. I've heard my colleagues saying that they have to dumb down their curriculum to accommodate the opt-ins. No wonder our top learners didn't reach their growth potential. I've heard that in District 86, many teachers of Honors & AP classes don't dumb down their classes. If a kid doesn't get it, they get sent back to a lower level class. That actually happened to me when I was a student. I took Geometry when I was a sophomore. There were freshman in my class. Heck, now there are 8th graders in HMS & CHMS who take it. Do I feel stupid? Maybe a little. But I learned that I learn at my own pace and should try my best. I may not be the best at something, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try. Why should I cry, and make myself go at a faster pace than I'm ready for? Or bring other people down? That doesn't solve anything. I've read this blog for a while now. I've seen many posts about how their kids are ready for higher tiered classes, but aren't put in them. I've seen posts about the acceleration in the elementary schools and how the kids weren't ready. I've heard colleagues on the phones with parents, saying that the kid isn't ready for a higher tiered class. I've seen colleagues literally break down in tears multiple times because the job gets to them. Sometimes, I don't even know how we should measure a student's performance to see if they're ready or not. There's always someone who complains. The people I work with are definitely not weaklings and have a deep love and appreciation for their profession, their students and their parents. So it really upsets me when I read something like 12:19's post. Nothing against you, it's just that we try so hard and it's so often not enough. I will not speak for my colleagues, but I know my door's always open, my phone and e-mail are ready for any of your input. If I disagree with you, I'll always try to explain my reasoning. I'll admit when I'm wrong, as much as I might hate doing so. You are definitely right we do need a forum for teachers, parents, and all stakeholders. The only issue would be having the powers that be listen and act respectfully & responsibly.

D181 Staff said...

1:09: I just saw your comment after I posted. Thank you for your understanding. I have heard about the "Powerpoint-gate." If Schneider really is doing this, Schneider not only deserves to get fired, but get his teaching licensed revoked, and possibly get criminal charges against him. If he intentionally changed the results to further his own agenda, that is is most definitely fraud.

What really bothers me is that despite being in the district for only 3 years, he has the highest seniority of anyone in the central administration. The district really needs more continuity. However, we need good people in those positions.

Another thing that bothers me is how hard it is for teachers & other certified staff to change districts. This is not just a D181/D86 thing. While teachers do get paid more for masters and doctorate degrees, they're basically stuck in the districts they currently teach. When a district hires people, from what I've seen, they only want people with bachelor's degrees and as little experience as possible, so they can pay them as little as possible. Quality & experience factors very little into it. I've heard many of my colleagues say they want to go to a different district, but no one will touch them because they cost too much. And I wonder how many amazing teachers D181 passes up because they would cost too much? I totally understand not wanting to raise taxes, but where's the threshold between cost & quality?

A British Tar said...

Regarding having forums, 12:19, what kind of forum are you looking for and how will it work? You definitely have a point in that parents' voices are rarely listened to, but I'm unclear what your goal is. What happens when parents disagree on how the district should run? Who gets a say in these forums? I apologize if my questions are offensive, I'm just genuinely curious.

Something I'm curious about is besides parent and teacher input, how much input does the support staff have? I've heard that the building engineer at HMS warned the administration about the causes of "water intrusion event" of last year before it happened. I was at a few of the facilities community outreach meetings. The only support staff member in attendence was the HMS IT guy. Does the district not listen to them? Does the support staff not step up? While teachers are the main implementors of the education system, nurses, custodians, IT, secretaries, etc. all have an important job, too. I seriously doubt a teacher or parent knows how the HVAC system works beyond "My room is too hot/cold" and adjusting the thermostat. Or where to find a quiet place to do 1 on 1/small group work with an aide. I'd like to see what the support staff has to say about the district and the behind-the-scenes work they do.

And totally off topic (sorry): Parents: I really like the Captchas you have for posting. It's a lot easier than the funky letters & numbers.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are a stakeholder in D181, so it is normal that they are one of the voices that contribute at board meetings. Parents are not stakeholders in the union, so it is normal that they are not given a voice in that forum. I agree with an earlier poster, there is a big difference between those two bodies and who should have a say in their deliberations.

And I would hesitate before jumping to conclusions. Leaving a meeting does not mean that the person did not follow the discussion either on tape or on the live stream. Many of the teachers do not live in the district, have young children and had to be back at work early this morning. The meetings are often long and end very late and the math discussion was at the end of the meeting.

Even if I do not agree with everything they said, and found it confusing that the Madison teachers spoke against the system that is currently in place in Madison in 3rd thru 5th grade, I for one appreciate the willingness of the teachers to come in on their own time and share their views at a board meeting. Their voice are important ones and need to be part of the discussion.

Anonymous said...

3:07, are you kidding when you say parents are not stakeholders? Of course they are. Teachers get PAID to do their jobs by us. We have jobs and places to be in the morning, too, yet we are expected to sit through 4 hours of rehashed problems that have been raised for parents by year's? Teacher and administrator salaries are paid with the high property taxes that we parents are forced to pay. The values of our homes go down along with the quality of our schools. More importantly, our children and their educations are currently being negatively affected by the actions of these administrators and teachers who continually choose to ignore parents like 12:18.

People who think parents don't deserve a voice or a forum, but demand hat we continue to fund the wildly dysfunctional D181 are the biggest part of the problem. Parents who raise the concerns are not. It is the responsibility of parents to bring concerns to the forefront. And British Tar, it is the job of the superintendent to figure all this out - not mine. Believe me, I have made many suggestions and filled out far to many skewed surveys to have any sympathy for d181.

I am shocked that 1:18 dares to dismiss 12:18's claims when they have no idea what this person is going through. Then, makes a broad generalization that they trust ALL teachers in D181. Pretty naive and dumb. Yes, I said it, dumb. I don't trust ALL teachers, ALL cops, ALL doctors, etc..if I did, I would be dumb, too. I look at every person individually and get as many facts as I can before I pass judgment. But I have seen many children and parents break down in tears, too. I have seen far too many for sale signs this year, and too many of my neighbors forced to send their children to overpriced private schools in order to avoid moving.

Thankfully, honest, conscientious staff like 1:48 DO exist. However, there are not enough of them. No, ALL teachers do not deserve Fs. But MANY administrators and a large group of teachers certainly do.

Anonymous said...

It concerns me greatly that the board and administration have gone silent about "power-point-gate" and that they gave ALL administrators, including the one who magically changed a SPED/deficit focused power-point into one claiming to reflect best practice research in gifted/advanced learning arena. Why aren't they investigating what best practice research the administration actually relied upon to justify those magical changes? Why is the administration and BOE pretending to "see the clothes." I for one hope that a follow up FOIA request is filed by ANYONE in our district asking for the district to produce the research and studies. My guess is that it won't be produced and the answer will be that all the materials are available at the Hinsdale library. THose of us who have read these materials in the last three years know that they don't contain data or research to support the changes. So disappointed at the continued circling of the wagons......If I were the teachers' union, I would ask to see the specific research and data. Don't just accept a "changed up" power point as gospel or truth. Our children deserve better than blind faith in an administrator who NEVER has taught in elementary or gifted, had no gifted training when he was promoted to run the dept. of learning and who has, in my opinion, hurt our children. Didn't Moon use the phrase educational malpractice to describe D181's advanced learning programs in D181 back in 2012? I wonder if she would label what has gone on in D181 since her site visits as educational malpractice, because I, one very disappointed parent of 2 kids, do.

Anonymous said...

Heard a rumor that even one of the former board members who voted for the ALP/LFA plan is moving his child out of district to a private school this fall. If this is true, then I am simply speechless.

The Parents said...

1:03: We have done a quick analysis of the raises and it is true that almost all administrators got a raise. It looks like one had her salary cut in half, but we don't even know who this person is, so perhaps she changed her job description. And no, it isn't Dawn Benaitis, who got a 1.5% automatic raise under her 3 year contract. Kurt Schneider got a 2% raise, which was the norm for almost all of the administrators, however, there were some outliers and we are curious to know what the BOE's justification was for the raises. Ken Surma got a 10.5% raise from his starting salary last July of $128,250 to a new salary of $141,750. Surma worked for Don White in his last district -- Troy 30C, as the Director of Operations and has been employed in D181 since July 9, 2014, less than one year. Out of curiosity, we looked up what his salary was at the time he left Troy 30-C. For the 2014-2015 compensation report on that district's website, he was scheduled to earn $103,637 as the Director of Operations. Wow! Looks like he hit the lottery when he was hired by D181 to be the Asst. Sup. of Information Services and Operations, and now that he will be taking over Gary Frisch's responsibilities, he has gotten another huge pay increase while Michael Vilendrer, the Facilities Director has been promoted to Director of Operations. Vilendrer who was also hired last year by White got a 10% raise. Interestingly, Vilendrer's starting salary as Facilities director last year was $89,299 but his "replacement," Michael Duggan is only getting a starting salary for the same position in the amount of $55,614. That hardly seems fair especially since Duggan has been working in our district for several years as the Night Custodial Supervisor. In our opinion, there is something off with how White has decided on who gets big raises and who does not. We are also shocked that the BOE would approve a raise for the Dept. of Learning administrators in light of the big raises they have gotten in the past (see earlier posts) and the lack of data that shows, in our opinion, that what they have been implementing has NOT"raised the floor to raise the ceiling." The quintile data presented on Monday night showed exactly the opposite. Our district's top students have not benefited from the "inclusive" practices that they have rolled out. What a shame that rather than demand accountability from the administration, the BOE approved raises for everyone -- why not, we are an affluent community and we are all wealthy and have money to throw around, right? We think not! Taxpayers be warned!