Monday, September 28, 2015

D181 Elementary Math Ability Groupings -- The BOE Mandated Them. Will the Administration Comply?

Per a reader's request, we are creating a free standing post on whether or not the D181 Administration will be implementing the mandated return of Elementary Math Ability Groupings.

Anonymous said...
To the Bloggers:
Would you please make a free standing post on the ridiculous excuse for a math ability grouping update in Dr. White's board of education report for Monday's meeting? Parents should be aware that the administration is stalling and asking for more time to collect results on how our kids are doing in math after completing two chapters. The Board told Dr. White math must have ability groups and it looks like this depends on the teacher your kid gets. Also, Dr. T is only working 100 days in the Learning Department. By my count she has already worked about 37 days. What projects has she or will she complete since math ability grouping results won't be reviewed now until sometime in October?
Another waste of time and money. More lip service from the administration. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

PARCC Assessment Comments -- "Read them and Weep....."

We have begun receiving a steady stream of comments regarding the release of the PARCC Assessment Results.  We are happy to oblige an anonymous reader's request that we create a free standing post where comments can be submitted.  Below are the ones we have already received. As alway, we invite you to sound off!

Be sure to click on the link in the last comment copied below.  It shows the preliminary data ISBE released today.  Pitiful. Looks like school district administrative spin machines are about to kick into high gear state wide.....

Comments received so far:

Anonymous said...
Part 1: Bloggers: I'm copying an email letter D181 parents and community members received today and that is also posted on the D181 website regarding the upcoming state release of the PARCC assessment scores. That is the test that replaced the ISAT tests. I don't know about you, but I read this letter as preemptive excuse making, should D181's students score badly.....

Text of Letter: "This letter is to share news on the initial release of PARCC Assessment data and to provide an update on efforts to review our District 181 Assessment Framework.

Assessments are of critical importance for continuous improvement. They are used to support students by informing instruction, guiding differentiation, and measuring growth for individuals and groups of learners. Some assessments provide immediate feedback, and some are used to create comparative analyses over time. To this end, we have built a robust assessment framework that includes nationally normed assessments as well as formative assessments that help our classroom teachers make day-to-day decisions about students' content mastery and help our team of educators make long-term decisions about curriculum and instruction across the District.

Our Assessment Framework must include a balance of all types of assessments while also being sensitive to the time that is taken from the actual tasks of teaching and learning. We are currently reviewing this balance and considering which assessments could be eliminated in response to consistent feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators. It is important we continue to talk with our community about why we administer each of our assessments, how they benefit students, are how they are used in decision making.

The PARCC Assessment is not being considered for elimination, as it is state-mandated, having replaced the previous Illinois Standards Assessment Test (ISAT). The first administration of the PARCC Assessment during the 2014-15 school year was a challenge for districts across the state. Change can be hard, especially considering the move from a written format to an online format and most importantly, the alignment of PARCC questions to the new Common Core standards. I am extremely proud of the partnership of D181 staff and parents in supporting our students' participation. We did not allow what seemed to be daunting hurdles to get in the way of our efforts to create a positive testing experience."
Anonymous said...
Part 2 -- Letter from Don White re PARCC tests:

"I recently received a communication from the State Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith in which he notes that the State Board of Education will release "the initial, and still incomplete, statewide results from the PARCC test" on Wednesday, September 16. I am excited to see how Illinois students have performed. According to Dr. Smith, district and student level data is not ready for release to school districts and may not be shared until later this fall. We will post a link to the released data on our website as it is made available ( > Learning > Assessment > PARCC). On this same webpage, we have posted an important memo outlining changes to PARCC that have been announced for 2015-16.

I think it is extremely important we understand that PARCC is simply one assessment, a part of the District's overall assessment framework along with components like the MAP Assessment, end-of-unit tests, and teacher observations. We must be cautious not to overreact to any one set of data and should focus on how data can inform and ultimately improve our work. Dr. Smith highlighted this caution in regard to the PARCC data. He shared that while the numbers are not final, the percentage of students across Illinois who demonstrate proficiency are likely to be lower than the percentage of students who were proficient on the ISAT. The State Superintendent said it well when he offered that "the initial [PARCC] results are simply a new baseline from which we can move forward."

Taking on warranted challenges are worth the effort when students benefit and when educators are stretched to consider new strategies for improving our practices to better support the children we serve. I am confident that if the State can accomplish the goal of providing individual student results by the start of the school year in the future, PARCC will be a great tool to help educators provide improved learning opportunities.


Don White, Ph.D.
Jill Quinones said...
I guess I am most troubled by the last sentence that reads in part "PARCC will be a great tool to help educators provide improved learning opportunities." As we know, more and more states, both those that have and have not abandoned the Common Core, have dropped out of PARCC. Illinois is now one of only 12 or 13 states using it. A recent article in Education week revealed that cut scores were set by teachers sent from each state analyzing data and making recommendations to PARCC representatives who then looked at where the actual student test scores would fall using those teacher-recommended scores and then adopted "mid range" cut scores - whatever that means. I have never heard of test cut scores being based on actual student performance when you are trying to hold students to a certain standard of performance.

My understanding is that the scores posted tomorrow will not include those from students who took the test paper/pencil - only computer. In Ohio that meant 36% of the students' scores were not included.

As a teacher, no one has yet been able to articulate to me in any specific way how a student's score on this test will translate into improved learning opportunities. I personally have little faith that the scores will really reflect what the CCSS expect to be mastered.
Jill Quinones said...
For anyone interested, PARCC released today a mock score report:

Level 2 Standard score 700, Level 3 725, Level 4 750 and Level 5 depends on grade and subject. No word on how actual score translated into Standard Score....
Jill Quinones said...
PS - States are allowed to change the Pearson-set cut scores and set there own...
Anonymous said...
Bloggers: Please create a freestanding post for PARCC comments. Here's another one. Read this and weep:
Anonymous said...
No one in HS Math exceeded expectation on the PARCC assessment:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

D181's Plans for a New Hinsdale Middle School? Sound Off!

No, we are not back.  However, today we received a comment regarding the unveiling of the three preliminary architectural plans for a new Hinsdale Middle School that were presented last night at one of the three meetings D181 is hosting this week.  Since this is clearly going to be an important topic of discussion for all D181 taxpayers over the next six months, we have decided to post the first comment below and create this free standing post for our readers to post comments on regarding building a new HMS and the referendum that would need to pass in order to raise the money for a new school.

Please sound off on this important topic!

Anonymous said...
I went to the facilities thing the district hosted last night at HMS. There were three architectural firms there, each with a different design for a new school. All three designs were interesting, though not necessarily in a good way.

One design I felt was very cool; it has a green roof classes can go to, plus terrariums and a large auditorium. However, as we saw with HMS and the "open concept" design, what's "cool" now doesn't mean it'll remain "cool" for the entire life span of the building. Plus, I don't know how practical it would be.

Another design had the main building, plus three "houses" connected to it, one for each grade level. I find this interesting, but not in a good way. I also talked to the architects about student capacity: 825 students. I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. HMS has frequently had over 825 students for the last decade. So I asked how easy it would be to expand, and add portables. They looked at me like I had three heads. They told me that they had projected 800-850 students. How far into the future did these projections go? 5 years? 10? And for a building that should last 40+ years, that's unacceptable. Should the district get a large influx of students, where will we put them? Build a third middle school?

The third design was probably the most boring, yet most practical. Lots of classrooms, plus an auditorium & gymnasium/fitness lab available for public use. However, on the blueprints, there's a student locker room on the opposite side of the building from the gym. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity the locker room would be used for. So I asked one of the architects, and he agreed that the placement didn't make sense, so he gestured for another architects with the firm to take a look. She said that it was so that the public couldn't look into it. Um… you can still attach it to the gym, and have it inaccessible to the general public. To make it worse, there were already locker rooms attached to the gym, apparently for public use. ?!? What the heck were they thinking? Plus, it would take around 1-2 minutes to go to the locker rooms to change into gym clothes, another 1-2 minutes to go back to the gym, plus all that again to change back into regular clothes at the end of class. So in a 42 minute period, students lose about 1/8 of the class just to go to & from the locker room, which doesn't include actual changing time, which probably gets closer to 1/4 of the period lost.

All designs had similar issues though: where are the day-today, behind-the-scenes stuff? Where's the elevator? Is it in an accessible place? Where are the staff bathrooms, staff lounge, copy/work rooms, custodial work areas, IT room? The kind of stuff where if you're there once, it's a minor inconvenience. But for students & staff there all day, everyday, it's a nightmare. All of the architects said the same things: this is very early drafts, and can change. I hope they get input on the needs, and not just from central office administrators. They really need to actively get input from the building staff & students/parents. Plus, don't go with what's "cool": go with what's practical and lasts for the 40+ year life of the school. Plus, make contingencies for if/when we get a lot more students, and parking.

On a separate matter, I heard that the 6th graders were finally able to hold classes in the new portables. Woo-hoo! Unfortunately, with the rain, there were already leaks in each room, along with the ramp. Are you (expletive) kidding me? What bozos are running this circus? Fortunately, I hear it was small drips in the classrooms, but still leaks nonetheless. We really need more competent people here.