Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Comment of the Day: D181 Continues to Fail Our Brightest Math Students.

Over the last 24 hours, we have received a steady stream of criticism to the decision by the Administration to no longer accelerate students in math prior to consideration in 5th grade. This topic is on the agenda for tonight's Learning Committee Meeting and criticism of this latest D181 direction can be found under the following post:  December, 20, 2015 Post -- "Ho Ho Ho...." In addition, yesterday we received the following comment with a request to publish as a free-standing post. We are happy to oblige, because we agree with the commentary and continue to be appalled with the D181 Department of Learning and Dr. White's support of wiping out the excellent tiered math programs that existed in the district before Dr. Schneider came to town under Dr. Schuster and was later promoted by Dr. White.  Rather than fix the identification of students who should have been allowed into the top tiers, they have gone about systematically dismantling the programs.  

Parents who share these concerns need to attend tonight's Learning Committee Meeting that begins at 6 pm at the D181 Administration Center. 

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...

"Bloggers: Please post this comment as a separate post. Thank you.

Parents, we are and have been asleep at the wheel for years regarding the state of our school district. Tutoring is not a solution and will not solve the problems with the quality and rigor of the education our children are receiving. Take a look at just one of the documents that will be reviewed during the learning committee meeting on Wed:$file/Trajectory%20for%20Math%20-%20DRAFT%201.4.16.pdf

We are paying high taxes for grade level math instruction until 4th grade? Who knows how the needs of our high ability kids will be addressed? And as the previous comment states, this is latest flimsy fad from our "administration."

Several parents in my book club are reading "Failing our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students" by Finn and Wright. It has been a real eye opener. Here are a couple of excerpts that should sound the alarm bells for every one of us in this district:

"Effective differentiation is tough to pull off in a truly heterogeneous class that contains girls and boys with diverse needs and varied learning speeds. It's akin to presenting a physician with two dozen patients who manifest different symptoms, differing degrees of illness, and, upon examination, many different ailments. It's unlikely that any one doctor can do a great job with all of them, especially when strapped for time and resources. He's apt to engage in a form of triage, focusing mainly on those he can readily help and giving less attention to the mildly ill. The sickest may be sent to the hospital and others referred to appropriate specialists."

And this:
"Differentiation specialist Holly Hertberg-Davis wrote in 2009: "It does not seem that we are yet at a place where differentiation within the regular classroom is a particularly effective method of challenging our most able learners." More recently, gifted education specialist James R. Delisle wrote in Education Week that "although fine in theory, differentiation in practice is harder to implement in a heterogeneous classroom than it is to juggle with one arm tied behind your back. . . . Differentiation," he declares, "is a cheap way for school districts to pay lip service to those who demand that each child be educated to his or her fullest potential."

This is what our district is offering to our kids. This started with Schuster and Schneider is now continuing full speed under Don White. My kids have been sitting in classrooms for the past three years daydreaming while teachers are trying their hardest to do the impossible. Meanwhile, we are supposed to get our checkbooks ready to cover a possible higher tax bill for a new HMS? Unless we speak up about these issues, we will continue to get what we deserve."


Anonymous said...

I really hope the DOL gets its act together. We really need to be able to move kids to the correct level of math, regardless of grade. I admit, I didn't take geometry until sophomore year in high school. Does the fact that 8th graders are taking it make me feel stupid? A bit, but I also learned that I learn at my own pace. I'd rather be a little behind but actually learn the material, than ahead and not understand it at all. Bragging rights aren't enough for me.

We also really need good standards on where a student's placed. It should be firm and objective enough so that there's a clear cutoff, but enough flexibility so that a kid who knows the material but doesn't test well can still get into the advanced classes. We also need teachers and administrators who can tell the difference between kids who can do the work, and those who can't but whose parents want their kids to be in the most advanced classes just for bragging rights. I haven't seen many of those kinds of parents, but, unfortunately, I've seen and heard about enough of them to get annoyed.

Anonymous said...

The Dept. of Learning has proved time and time again they have no dea about HOW to get their act together ...precisely because their abilities are all an ACT. They are unskilled, inexperienced, arrogant neophytes who continue to get away with their incompetency. They are doing all they can to focus attention away from themselves by tallying around the time consuming process of new construction. Who can blame them for trying to protect themselves? The only people I blame are the Board of Education members - our elected friends and neighbors. We believed them when they said they would protect our children and start demanding accountability. Apparently that was all an act too. If it wasn't an act, they would have fired the incompetent administrators by now.

Anonymous said...

5:20. I agree with your opinions for the most part, but not the part about the BOE. I feel that there are a few board members who have made every effort to expose the travesty known as the DOL, but they are not in the majority and are therefore powerless What disappoints me is how every time a board member is elected president, they become puppets of the superintendent. I had real high hopes for the current president, but those hopes have been dashed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 5:30. I think Leslie Gray, Jennifer Burns and occasionally Garg and Vorobiev have advocated appropriately regarding DOL issues. But they never seem to make up a majority when critical issues are discussed. Recently, Giltner has shown some chops on finance/HMS facilities issues, and I hope he steps up on curriculum stuff soon. These people are our elected officials and are tasked with protecting our children and our tax dollars. It's time for a majority to realize that the administration is not serving our community well. Perhaps if experienced, "non-starter" administrators, who had some understanding of our demographics were finally hired, there wouldn't be such a revolving door of administrators. Unfortunately, this lot has to go, including White.

The Parents said...

5:37: It isn't true that they have never made up a majority. In May, there was a board majority that directed the administration to reinstate tiers in math. The administration has ignored this directive (as evidenced over the last few months and tonights Learning Committee agenda). Let's hope the same majority that voted on the math directive recognizes the administration's insubordination and holds them accountable. How? Don't renew any contracts that are up for renewal this spring, and definitely don't extend White's contract.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with The Parents at 5:40. If the BOE is not consistently reliable, then they are unreliable. Sometimes doing a good job is just not good enough. Just because Grey and Giltner came through at the last board meeting does not excuse the rest of the board. Nor does it excuse the times that they all have remained silent or ignored common sense.

There are some instances that all BOE members have remained silent when they should have spoken up. When they have allowed their directives to White to be blatantly ignored. It was a huge mistake on their parts to not use those opportunities to show him you were serious about holding him accointable.

Every student teacher is taught that the most important skill to gain is to be able to set clear expectations, standards, and consequences for their students. All leaders know this. What were the consequences that White and Schnieder were to face for spitting in the face of our Board member's expectations? Another paycheck handed to them and a "Yes Sir, may I have another" from the BOE? We are watching and we don't like what we see.

Instead of the administration listening to its bosses, the Board, they have allowed admin to assumed the role of the privileged, spoiled rotten child. The BOE should not have let White get away with this. We voted for this BOE because we thought they had the brains and strength to stand up to these bullies. Instead, they have turned into submissive people who talk about having more conversation. What happened?

If each board member does not realize his and her obligation to fire the problem people in this district- Dr. White, Dr. Schneider, the SELAS crew and Dr. Benaitis - then they are a major part of the problem. The board president allowed Dr. Schneider's and Dr. Bemaitis' contracts to slip through the cracks yet another year. Now they are up for tenure. If these people are not eliminated now, we are stuck with them even longer. They will continue to harm our children. They will continue to derail and postpone any possibility for a well thought out, fiscally responsible middle school.

The BOE don't aways need to secure a majority in order to stand up against what is wrong. Stop the all or none herd mentality and think like independent, critical thinkers. BOE members are adults and should be capable of independently standing up for what is in the best interest of our children. By not doing so, they are hurting everyone in this community. I apologize if I have hurt their feelings, but an apology is more than anyone in the BOE or the administration has ever given me or my children. This district is floundering and the board needs to act now, not later.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other comments. Yes, there are a few board members who have tried to ask pointed questions of White and his administration, but for the most part he has skated along with little concern of their wishes. I'm very disappointed. I really thought this board would put White and his administrators on notice, and so far it has been status quo. As far as I'm concerned, White and all of his administrators need to go at the end of this year. Why wait until his contract is up? What value has he or his administration added to the district? He has ignored board directives and anyone else would have been fired months ago. Why doesn't the board president and several others step up and show some authority? I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Why is there no audio from the Learning Committee Meeting? What happened?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see the report on the elective renewal cycle? Somehow Schenider got SELAS to be placed ahead of Social Studies. REALLY administration?? Haven't we heard enough about SELAS? Maybe it is time to reevaluate our pretty lame social studies program at the Middle School instead. And I thought it was interesting that the math track document was hidden under the 6th grade review section so that no one but parents of 6th graders would see what they are planning to do to the advanced kids. Mistake? I bet not.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? SELAS in our district is a joke. But the only thing that is a bigger joke than SELAS is the ACE social studies curriculum at HMS. There is no book. It is basically an ever-changing, wishy washy group project class. Maybe okay in college, but not a good idea for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. No wonder when our kids get to high school and have to learn actual history they get slammed. What is wrong with the curriculum department in this district?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the 5th grade teachers in the district are aware of the fact that they will now be required to compact 2 years into one for the advanced students next year. My 4th grader has not even completed half of the fourth grade Math In Focus materials and I am not optimistic that they will complete all materials - even with skipping some of the materials. So, how in the world can they expect to get through 2 years worth of material in one year with the same pool of students?? The administration has said that this is because the materials are more challenging. I think it is because there is too much repetition. My older high school son scored a Level 5 on the PARCC test with no common core materials and skipping content under the old program. He's doing well in high school math. So, tell me again why we have undergone 4 years of changes in math??? Who is benefitting here? Students? No. Teachers? No. Administrators looking for job security and big paychecks? Absolutely yes.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Part 1: I attended tonight's Learning Committee meeting. There appeared to be a large audience in attendance, but I soon realized that they were all there to listen to or participate in the first agenda item, which was an update from the Digital Learning Committee. Once that agenda item was finished, almost everyone left, leaving me as the sole non-D181 staff member in the audience. Two principals and another staff member remained. I was pretty upset at the lack of attendance, especially since I have been reading the blog comments the last two days which blasted the latest Math plans -- more changes that deviate from the board directive given to the administration last Spring to reinstate flexible ability grouping and ensure that there would be the same percentage of students completing advanced and accelerated math as there were before the learning for all plan.

I had to sit through 3 hours of the committee meeting before I had a chance to make a public comment, and as soon as the podcast is available I will find the time stamp where my comments start and send in to the blog. I hope you will all listen to my comments. I sound pretty angry because I am angry and I made sure the three board members -- Gray, Burns and Garg -- who were in attendance, and the administrators who were there -- White, Schneider, Benaitis -- heard me loud and clear.

My comments were not, however, directed at or critical of the BOE, as many of the comments have recently been on this blog, rather I went after the administration. I made sure to let them know tonight that in my opinion, the administration has undermined and been insubordinate to the math directive the board issued last Spring. All of the excuses and talk about how the teachers have been following the learner and that is why grade level math is the norm these days for almost all of our math students are in my opinion excuses for the administration refusing to get the message down to the teachers that a certain directive was issued that needed to be followed. I reminded the committee that last May, Dr. Schneider publicly stated he was not in support of the directive. Is it, therefore, surprising that the directive hasn't been implemented?

Tonight's meeting lasted four hours and during those four hours, Gray, Burns and Garg were extremely vocal in their criticism of what has happened to the math curriculum and the negative impact it has and will continue to have on advanced learners unless the administration complies with the board directive. Gray was quite clear and firm that no more changes should even be discussed with the committee, rather any deviation from the board directive should be brought before all 7 board members and only the board should decide if their original directive should be modified. She asked that this be put on Monday's board meeting agenda for discussion.

These three board members were on point tonight in their criticisms. These same board members have been quite vocal over the last year. They have not held back and have publicly called out the administration in a very professional manner. Yet in my opinion, the administrators have thumbed their noses in these board members' faces. The administration has chosen to simply disregard the board's directive, just as it chose to make change after change after change to the learning for all plan after the BOE approved it -- not once bringing it back to the BOE for a vote to change it. Instead after numerous changes were made to the Learning for All plan, making it barely recognizable from the original plan the BOE approved, Dr. White created a Seminal Document which attempted to summarize all the non-board approved changes and suddenly this document is now referenced as the plan. I reminded Dr. White that the BOE never approved changes to the Learning for All plan until the Spring math directive, and that now that directive has also not been followed.

Yvonne Mayer said...

Part 2:
So for all the people writing to this blog criticizing the full board for not acting, you are wrong. Have you actually attended or listened to any of the board meetings in the last six months? Or in the last month? If you had, you would know that there are board members such as Gray, Burns and Garg who do not agree with the administration's conduct, but as another comment earlier tonight pointed out, they have remained in the minority on the BOE. Unless a fourth board member steps up to join them and makes a motion to take action against one or more administrators in order to hold him, her or them accountable, these three board members are powerless. Do not lump these 3 board members into the same category as Turek or Clarin. Even Giltner and Vorobiev have publicly expressed concerns for the curriculum issues, and they supported the Spring Math directive. Hopefully one or both of them will realize that the administration has without first seeking board authority chosen to disrespect the BOE by ignoring it's directive. Hopefully one or both of them will side with Gray, Burns and Garg and demand answers and accountability on Monday night. Hopefully some of you, the readers and those sending in comments, will attend Monday's full board meeting.

I also commented tonight on the Curriculum Renewal cycle trajectory that has the administration prioritizing Selas ahead of social studies. I read some of the comments someone else posted on this very issue tonight. You should be aware that Garg, Gray and Burns also flagged this as a concern and were quite critical, asking that social studies be prioritized ahead of Selas, especially since the curriculum renewal cycle for both science and social studies is already a couple years behind schedule. I made a second public comment addressing this trajectory and the latest version of the math trajectory that shows the various math trajectories students will follow in the future. My comment focused on trust -- how can the community trust these ever changing trajectories?

Hopefully the full board will be given an opportunity to discuss the two trajectories and demand an explanation for why the same administrators who brought the BOE the original Learning for All Plan (which actually was first called the Advanced learning plan) have been allowed to keep changing and changing all the plans, paths, trajectories, etc. without seeking board permission. I for one no longer trust any curriculum decision coming out of the current administration. Do you?

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Mayer, thank you for all that you do. While a little coarser at times than I'd prefer, you have always been spot on with your criticisms. And you're correct, Garg, Gray, and Burns have kept some some oversight on the administration, with Giltner occasionally in there, too. Turek seems to only want to be on the board for the resume building, not to improve the district. As for the DOL, it's kind of a joke, unfortunately. We have an interim head of department, who won't stay around long enough to deal with any of the consequences, a director of learning who's a joke to even the teachers of the district, and then there's, well, Schneider. I think we can all agree he needs the boot yesterday. Plus, with the whole HMS thing and the large, fast price swings, that scares the heck out of me. While I do feel SELAS is important (the some students treat other people & property is horrid), Social Studies is definitely more important.

Anonymous said...

You are right Yvonne. Why do people comment and criticize here, but noone attends BOE meetings and speaks up? Nothing will change unless people make their opinions heard in the public forum provided.

I have spoken publicly often over the last few years, I have written to the Board and spoken to individual board members. When I made public comment at a BOE meeting earlier in the school year, I was only one of 3 parents in attendance and the only one who spoke.

When my child was in 4th grade I became alarmed that time was ticking and that unless I took action, his experience in middle school would be vastly different than his older sibling's. I made myself the squeaky wheel and brought pressure to bear at the building level on both the teacher and the principal. I used his MAP scores and unit test results as ammunition and pushed for him to be dealt with. Throughout the year I asked on a regular basis where he was at in the curriculum. He is now doing 6th grade math in 5th grade and provided the administration does not monkey around with the middle school tiers, I feel confident he will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to do Geometry in 8th grade.

Truthfully, I don't know if anyone could do what I did anymore. I did it within the context of the now all but abandoned Learning for All, follow the learner, differeniate within the classroom model that was delivered over the last 3 years. Within that model I was able to insist that my child and peers that fit his profile be "differentiated" to at their level and pace. Now there seems to be clear direction from the administration to keep all children at grade level until 5th grade despite requests by the BOE otherwise.

While I have continued to speak out on behalf of all students; after seeing the document posted regarding the math trajectory this week, I have officially thrown in the towel. Those with younger kids affected by these policies will have to start speaking out, not on this blog but in a context where the board and the administration will actually hear them.

Anonymous said...

Many parents are afraid to speak because they fear retaliation. Retaliation comes in many forms.

Anonymous said...

Really? Parents fear retaliation? Come on. For the minority of parents that deep down really do care what's going on, the truth of the matter is they don't want to step up and speak out because they don't want to tarnish their image in the party circuit. Or the image of their perfect child. Or the image of their perfect life in the perfect town of Hinsdale. My opinion is that most parents don't give a hoot what's going on in the schools b/c they're too busy with their perfect life with their perfect children in their perfect party circuit in their perfect town of Hinsdale. And nobody said it better than Turek when he conveyed that everybody in the party circuit wants a new middle school. So if parents want to use a convenient excuse that they "fear retaliation" then they and their children get every single thing from D181 that they deserve. Hiding behind a blog will get you absolutely nowhere. Quite blaming other people and instead, try doing something about it. Otherwise shut up!

Anonymous said...

Ok 9:25, what specifically do you mean by retaliation? Neither myself, nor anyone I know who has spoken in the public forum provided by our democratically elected Board of Education has experienced retaliation. I can't imagine what you are referring to? As long as we address the board and administration respectfully regarding our opinions, there should be no problems. Nothing will ever change if the stakeholders don't speak up and hold the administration accountable. Enough with the cloak and dagger. Be an advocate for your child if you want to see positive resolutions to the problems our district faces.

Anonymous said...

10:28: while I agree that there is a sense of arrogance, elitism, and entitlement in this community, I don't think it's great enough that people refuse to speak.

As for fear of retaliation, I haven't really seen or heard of any retaliation happening, really. Some people do have a reputation of being "that person," but nothing really noteworthy.

9:14, I think you answered your own question about why people don't speak up. There's very few other people who speak up at the meetings, little is done by the board & administration based on that, and when they do act, it's done in a ludicrous way, so why even speak up? Plus, with some of the marathon board meetings we've had, many people are unable to stay until the public comments. I really wish the board would meet more frequently as to avoid these lengthy meetings, as well as hold forums and let the community speak directly to the board, administration and other community members. There's a definite lack of clear communication throughout the district. I just wonder how much of the chaos we know as District 181 is caused not by incompetence or their own agendas, but people just not talking to each other and making sure the appropriate people get the appropriate information.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 10:28, your "Shut up!" makes you sound like you don't have a lot of communication skills. What makes you think you would be capable of understanding or helping anyone? Let me guess, we probably have all heard you speak in defense of the administration and try to throw everyone else under the bus.

Your comment doesn't really make sense because if all parents in Hinsdale and D181 were really as apathetic as you think they are, and really don't "give a hoot" about their children's education, why would they bother to spend time asking for help and support on a blog that we know the administration reads? You sure aren't offering any solutions other than to accuse everyone of being as shallow. At least Marty Turek sometimes goes to the meetings, which is more that most parents do. Are you implying that you are one of the minority of parents who "deep down" really care? Somehow, I doubt that. I know my children aren't perfect, nor am I. No one is for that matter, but at least I don't go around telling people to shut up and claim that people are lying about the reality that people who stand up for themselves are very often retaliated against by bullies like you.

As far as telling people to do something about it, you have no idea what people on this blog have or haven't done to reach out for help. You also have no idea about how much time, money, and effort they have spent with tutors, teachers, specialists, on school committees, speaking to principals, teachers, and administrators. And to 11:49, (if it isn't the same person) do you really think that a person would only complain on a blog instead of advocating for their own child? Time for a reality check. Most people just look out for their own children and never bother to speak up or write on a blog. And just because you don't perceive retaliation, or don't personally know anyone who has been mistreated, you feel you can make blanket statements like "there should be no problems". You probably also believe that the Chicago Police Department is always fair to everyone all the time. Ha!

Just because people don't want to reveal their children's names and problems in public to their neighbors doesn't mean that these same people are not having major problems with the district. Or, that the district isn't fighting tooth and nail to keep very real problems quiet in order to protect their jobs. Retaliation and other injustices are real. But if more, new faces don't stand up and complain over and over, and the same administrators fail to listen and actually do something about it, parents simply do not have the power to make change happen. Teachers, principals, and administrators control what books, materials and methods are used on our children. Even if the BOE ordered and paid for new books all by themselves, they cannot force teachers to use them if principals and administrators pretend and lie about what they are doing.

Consider when the board itself asked administrators for change with the math tiering last year. We listened to the meeting, and can rehear it on audio, but Dr. White and Dr. Schneider still pretend like the conversation never took place. Board members and other witnesses were there to hear it themselves, yet somehow its the board's, not the administration's, fault for not for not making sure the appropriate people were told? These are the leaders of the district being given instructions by their bosses, the BOE. If these administrators don't want their jobs any more because they cannot follow directions, they are free to leave.

And yes, the meetings are way too long, especially for parents and residents who are not paid to be there. Perhaps if the administrators would do what they were supposed to, the first time, the meetings wouldn't drag on so long?

Anonymous said...

Only a bully tells someone to shut up. That commenter is totally out of line and is ignorant of facts. I have been advocating for my kids for several years, ever since Schuster and Schneider began dismantling programs. The BOE and the administration ignored my concerns then, and they continue to ignore them now. I have watched every board president for years become sucked into the superintendent's web, which results in the continued ridiculous practice of undereducating our kids. Nothing happens. Everyone at the board meetings is so polite and nice, like everything is hunky dory and there are no problems. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but it must not be much because we are halfway finished with the school year and nothing has changed. If anything, this year is worse than last year, and I thought that couldn't happen.
I work in the corporate world, and if I saw the kind of performance that White, Schneider, Benaitis, Munch, etc exhibit consistently, they would have been fired long ago. No questions asked. No drama. They would just be gone. That's what needs to happen now, a clean sweep. The district is in such a mess that we need to clean house. And once the HMS referendum fails, and it will, that's just what needs to happen in order to start fixing the district.
Then any bullies can apply to work with the rest of us to fix the mess all these people have left us.

Anonymous said...

The learning committee podcast from last night is up. Rumor has it that the board members present - Burns, Garg, Gray -let the administration have it regarding math and Winter MAP. Let's hope the other 4 follow suit.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading the minutes from the meeting - can you advise me on how to find the podcast?

Anonymous said...

Go to the district web site, then boe tab, then audio/"live stream tab, then pre recorded audio. Then click on learning committee meeting January 6

Anonymous said...

It is once again time for parents to write letters to the BOE. The BOE will consider recommendations and criteria measures for D 181 advanced math and accelerated math placement and trajectory this Spring. They will discuss the awful recommendations of a math trajectory plan aligned to Common Core as Dr. Benaitis stated that limits advancement to 5th grade and beyond. 5th grade people. That means KG, 1st, 2nd and 3rd not to mention 4th grade students will languish in grade level math classrooms. Are you kidding? How can one mold fit all of our students in D 181?

Advanced learning opportunities are the hallmark of successful school districts. We need all children to be met at their instructional needs. Those children in the top 1/3 of their class deserve enrichment and advanced learning. Those children at the top 2 to 3 percent are on their own trajectory and deserve something else. Why can't we meet the needs of our learners?

It is clear that the DOL does not hear from enough parents interested in change. Please consider writing a letter, however short or long summarizing your feelings about the district criteria, the math trajectory, and what is happening in our curriculum. We have to rally the troops to write letters and make comments. Otherwise, it will be more of the same. Parents with older children who are now raising their 2nd or 3rd child will not enjoy the same opportunities for advancement if the current DOL initiatives take hold and are approved. Support our BOE members Gray, Burns and Garg who continually question and challenge. Demand accountability. Please take the moment to write a letter, have a meeting or attend public BOE meetings for public comment. Thank you.