We are publishing Ms. Quinones' comments as our Comment of the Day because we believe that it is important for our readers and anyone who listens to the Board Meeting Podcasts to realize that not all of the information stated during public comments is accurate.
We invite those individuals who made the 2/8/16 BOE meeting public comments to respond to Ms. Quinone's letters if you believe she is incorrect in any of the information she has provided the BOE.
As alway, SOUND OFF!
COMMENT OF THE DAY:
Jill Quinones said...
Part 1 Email 1:
From: Jill Quinones
Subject: Feb 8 Meeting Public Comments
Date: February 14, 2016 at 11:01:45 AM CST
Dear Board of Education,
I recently listened to the public comment made at your last meeting (February 8). While I can appreciate the passion from these speakers, several of the comments contained not only impassioned opinions, but also incorrect facts. As an educator with 24 years of experience, a D181 Learning Committee member, and a resident of this District with a 15-year history, I would like to provide you with a little fact checking as I think it is important that we all have factually correct knowledge when talking about decision making and educating students in D181. This letter is 1 of 2. I will send the second one later.
Public Comment: The Board gave a directive to advance 1/3 of our students 2 years in math
Facts: The Board directive was, according to the 1/11/2016 meeting recording, to advance the highest performing group of students in each grade by 1 year. No exact number was set, nor should it be. Some BOE members referenced the number of students that had been accelerated in the past (1/4 – 1/3), but the math trajectory on Board Docs is what was approved as the “directive.” There is no Board directive that 1/3 of our students should be finishing Geometry in 8th grade.
PC: The Board has no data to support this (directive to accelerate)
Facts: The PARCC presentation given at the 2/8 meeting provides ample data. Both MAP and PARCC are CCSS aligned assessments. This data shows that:1435/2669 (53%) of our students are scoring at the 80th %ile or higher on MAP. 382/2669 (14%) are exceeding expectations on PARCC. 1053/2669 (39%) are meeting expectations on PARCC at these top levels.
As an FYI, depending on grade, students scoring at the 80th%ile or higher on MAP are scoring equal to the average (50th %ile) student anywhere from 1 to 4 grades ahead of them. The RIT score allows educators to make this comparison. For example, the 5th grader with a 230 RIT (90th %ile) has the same RIT (and math achievement) as a 9th grader at the 50th%ile, which is also a 230 RIT.
Finally, an earlier report presented to the BOE by Dr. Carol Larson shows that it is these same top students who are NOT making expected growth. This is additional data that supports that these students need more.
PC: What criteria support this (directive to accelerate)?
Fact: None. Despite multiple hires of consultants in the area of gifted education who provided numerous recommendations over the years about this, the District went from developing thought-out criteria in the 2005-2008 years that needed to be reviewed and adjusted, to implementing random criteria 2008-2012, to abandoning all criteria when first it was proposed that ALL students be accelerated on a trajectory to take Algebra in 8th grade and then this was changed to NO students be accelerated and all needs be met in the classroom. Development of appropriate criteria should be a priority for Ms. Deichstetter and whoever follows her as lead of the Learning Department.
PC: Dr. Moon pointed out that our previous curriculum wasn’t rigorous or challenging so the fact that 1/3 of the students “back then” were accelerated doesn’t mean 1/3 of the children today should be.
Fact: Quotas are not appropriate or best practice, but the directive is for the highest achieving students to be accelerated, NOT a set number. Moreover, Dr. Moon pointed out a lot of problems with our curriculum, most of which remain problems today. The fact that that accelerated curriculum and resources might have lacked appropriate rigor and challenge for an advance learner years ago when we had these programs in no way negates the fact that students were being taught with above grade level materials and learning from those materials. Current students need to be looked at based on their current achievement. The data for acceleration is there – see above.
PC: The CCSS and new math materials result in increased rigor equal to a 1 grade level acceleration
FACT: The CCSS and new math materials result in increased rigor, but this is NOT equal to a 1 grade level acceleration. Although popular perception is that the CCSS have pushed math content mastery expectations down a grade level (such that 2nd graders are now doing what 3rd graders used to do), this is just not true. A quick comparison of the Table of Contents of Everyday Math and Math in Focus (as well as the old and new IL Learning Standards) reveals that while some topics have been pushed a grade lower, others remain at the same grade level, and yet others have been pushed up a grade level. Obviously, in its first year of implementation, students may have gaps as to content pushed down that they missed, but not content that stayed on grade level or was pushed up.
The increase in rigor is due to two things. First, the CCSS, and hence the new materials, place an increased emphasis on the “language of math” – both oral and written. Students no longer only learn the algorithm, practice it and apply it. They must be able to talk about what they did and why (“why is 7<8?”) and also problem solve what others did wrong and why. As to written language, math problems can be several sentences to even paragraphs long and have an increased emphasis on math vocabulary. For example, not only must a student know how to solve 1336/122, but they must also be fluid with which part of the problem is the dividend and which is the divisor. Math now requires not only good reading comprehension, but good written expression skills as well as many problems require an analysis written in words.
Second, the approach to learning math under the CCSS is a constructive one. That is, students are given relatively little direct instruction from the teacher, rather the teacher serves as a “guide on the side” supporting students as they try to “construct” their on learning of a concept rather than have it told to them - reminiscent of the “Whole Language” approach to learning how to read which fell out of disfavor years ago. There are experts in the field on both sides of the direct instruction v. constructivism approach to education. Only time will tell if this change in approach is successful for elementary math students.
There is no question that the added language demands and constructive approach to learning math increase the rigor of the curriculum as these are new skills for most students when studying math. As the years go on and our current K-1 students who have started school under CCSS and know no other methodology progress through the grades it is my prediction we will see teachers be able to speed up program pacing. In addition, teachers who are currently in the first year of the program will become more familiar, proficient, and comfortable with it. That will also lead to faster pacing.
PC: Teachers are reporting that the students are not ready to be accelerated and they are sometimes pulling material from below grade level.
Fact: Part of that discussion referenced above should be how 14% - 382 students - can be scoring 80th%ile or higher on MAP, exceeding PARCC expectations yet be in classes where teachers are reporting they cannot move any faster on on-grade level material.
PC: Acceleration has a negative impact long-term on our students as they enter high school. Hinsdale Central had to create an Integrated Algebra 1/Geometry class for 9th graders because they lacked fundamentals and were accelerated too quickly in middle school.
Prior to 2006, when D181 had middle school students who were ready for Algebra 1 in 7th or 8th grade or Geometry in 8th grade, these students were bussed to Hinsdale Central where they were taught in high school classes, by high school teachers, with high school assessments, and with the same number of minutes as a high school student. Using 170 days per year as an example (allowing 6 days/missed class periods for assemblies, field trips, etc. during the year) a high school Algebra 1 student gets approximately 8800 minutes of class per year.
Beginning in 2006, D181 decided to keep middle school students needing advanced math in their middle school. These students are taught high school classes by middle school teachers (some of whom have no high school math credential nor were they a math major in college), with middle school assessments because the high school would not release its assessments, with only approximately 7140 minutes of class per year (170 x 42). This equates to 16% fewer instructional minutes – approximately five weeks less instruction.
While the District is able to accelerate a greater number of students at less cost and schedule disruption, the Algebra and Geometry foundation given these students is NOT the same as taking the class in high school. No one should be surprised that within a few years of D181 taking this approach (as well as other feeder districts) students were showing up at Hinsdale Central lacking the foundation needed to handle the rigor of a High School Algebra 2/Trig course. The fact that this “review” class was NOT deemed necessary when the students were being sent to Hinsdale Central for Algebra 1/Geometry instruction suggests being accelerated too quickly was not the main reason this class needed to be created.
That said, at the time the high school level math was moved into the middle school, more students were enrolled in those classes. Although the District has always given the Iowa Algebra Aptitude test, a highly regarded nationally normed test for determining readiness for Algebra 1, it is very possible that the criteria for acceleration was not sufficiently selective, which is why there is a pressing need to develop appropriate criteria regarding acceleration.
Fact: There is no evidence that what is best for all students is not being looked at by the BOE and Administration. As the MAP/PARCC data show, over 50% of our students could be called Advanced Learners in math. Unfortunately, the data presented to the BOE by Dr. Larson earlier regarding growth shows that it is these very same Advanced Learners who are not making appropriate growth while most of the other students are. The fact that the BOE is putting more of a focus on these students while continuing to keep all students in mind is totally appropriate.
PC: Teachers and Administrators should be making educational decisions – not school board members
Fact: While Administrators and Teachers should be carrying out day-to-day education of our students, the role of an elected school board includes setting educational goals for the schools — based on state laws and community values — and seeing that the superintendent and the total staff vigorously pursue those goals. Between (i) setting a goal for math acceleration and (ii) sitting down at the table to negotiate a contract with an architect for a new school, it is certainly the latter that crosses the line into micromanagement yet no one really complained when that took place.
PC: Given the directive for ability grouping, how will the BOE make sure resources will be fairly allocated to smaller schools with only 2 sections per grade level?
Fact: This directive for ability grouping is a return to what was in place pre-2012. Inequity at smaller schools was a problem then and remains one now and that problem needs to be solved. It is not, however any more or less of a problem than having one teacher required to teach a heterogeneous classroom of 20 + students with multiple abilities.
Thank you for your time,
Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2016 7:50:32 PM
Subject: Feb. 8 Meeting Public Comments Part 2
Dear Board of Education,
Please first see the letter I sent earlier today. This letter is 2 of 2 concerning fact checking of recent public comments.
PC: Parents speak all too often to criticize Teachers or Administration
Facts: I can’t remember ever hearing a teacher criticized at Public Comment in the 15 years I have been here. One parent tried one time years ago and was told that could not be done at Public Comment. Unfortunately, no one generally wants to take the time out of their busy schedules to praise when things are going well, but it is human nature to complain when they are not. It is nice when someone does, and there have been times when I have heard such public comments.
PC: BWP told PTO D181 is labeled as a “difficult” district and administrators don’t want to put up with “this kind of criticism”
Fact: This was not something told to the general public, so cannot be fact checked, but I question the professionalism of a search firm that would make such a comment to a group of PTO members.
PC: Dr. White did not want to apply. BWP approached him.
Facts: Shortly after his hiring Dr. White was quoted in the Suburban Life newspaper as saying coming to D181 was a professional goal that has been 27 years in the making. "I have always aspired to be in a high achieving school district where there is a genuine interest from the parents and everyone in the community to make this the best district we can for the students," White said.
Whether he applied or BWP approached him was never shared publicly prior to this public comment.
PC: Dr. White’s talents are limited by a micromanaging Board.
Facts: No examples given of where/how this limiting occurred.
PC: Last several years have been a revolving door of administrators leaving because they feel their reputation has been tarnished by a blog or they did not want to be the next target.
Facts: Did this person making public comment have access to exit interviews or conduct her own? The District really should be doing exit interviews when Administrators leave. There is no way to fact check this statement.
PC: Eight qualified Administrators have left since the Blog started. The Administrators are not the problem; it’s the ones attacking them.
Of these eight, a search on the referenced blog shows five (5) were criticized as to job performance (not personally attacked), two (2) were mentioned in a neutral manner, and one (1), Mr. Walsh was praised.
Interestingly, in the three (3) years prior to the blog starting, six (6) Administrators left: one (1) was not rehired, one (1) had been an interim and four (4) left to become Superintendents (job promotion), several of whom had their degrees paid for by D181 but did not stay for the District to benefit. In the three (3) years before that, seven (7) Administrators also left for various reasons.
This data does not support a conclusion that a blog is causing high administrator turnover. In fact, 6-8 per three (3) year period has been the norm in D181 for the last 9 years.
As to whether the eight (8) Administrators who have left in the last three (3) years were “qualified” for the jobs they held at D181 when they left, the answer as to most of them is, “no.” Dr. Schneider is qualified as head of PPS/Special Education, but he does not have the experience to be in charge of decisions relative to general education curriculum. He is fiercely passionate about an ideology that had no data supporting that it could be successful in a District with demographics like D181 or with Advanced Learners. Mr. Walsh was a highly qualified principal who also had no job experience in the area of central office curriculum and instruction and there was no one leading that department to train him who did either. Ms. Igoe was very qualified in the area of special education, but she quickly was tasked as a leading contributor to the Learning for All Plan including advising on general curriculum issues and infusing Common Core Math into the Everyday Math Program – tasks for which she held no qualifications. Kevin Russell was a fabulous building Principal. He was “double accelerated,” however, into Director and then Assistant Superintendent in charge of Learning with no prior experience working at first under Janet Stutz, who also came to the District with NO experience in curriculum and instruction. He was not “highly qualified” for those positions. Mr. Eccarius was a well-respected, highly qualified building principal who was promoted to be in charge of Human Resources with NO background or experience in that area. The only three (3) of the eight (8) with appropriate experience were Dr. Schuster, Gary Frisch (who retired), and Dr. Tornatore (who, as an Interim, was supposed to leave).
If these Administrators felt overly criticized perhaps it was because they did not have the appropriate credentials for the job they accepted to do. As the Board currently seeks to fill the head of special education and curriculum and instruction positions hopefully you will realize the importance of experience to do a job in what is a very demanding community.
PC: We teach our children that bullying is not ok. What example is the blog setting?
Fact: Our children are probably not reading a D181 blog, but likewise what example is shown at a public comment that attacks a community member by name?
PC: On the ECRA survey only 60% of teachers agreed that they were appropriately involved in decision-making that affected their work and expressed that parents and the community disproportionately impacted District decision-making.
Fact: The same ECRA survey showed only 51% of the teachers agreed that the District Leadership made decisions in the best interest of students. 78% of the teachers replied that the District was a great place to work. Only 53% feel District Leadership has appropriate expertise. Clearly parents/community are not the only concern of teacher. Teachers would like greater autonomy over decision-making. This autonomy comes, however, within the parameters of educational goals set by the Board of Education and implemented by qualified administrators as this is how public education is set up to operate.
PC: Teachers are leaving out of fear.
Fact: No data to show that qualified teachers are leaving the District. In fact, on the ECRA survey 80% reported positive interactions with parents and 78% feel the District is a great place to work.
PC: NSBA 8 characteristics of effective school boards provides that effective Boards act together as a team with the Superintendent, which is not happening
FACT: The IASB states that an effective board also “constantly monitors progress toward district ends and compliance with written board policies using data as the basis for assessment. A school board that pursues its ends through delegation of authority has a moral obligation to itself and the community to determine whether that authority is being used as intended.”
For years now when board members have tried to do this they are told they are micromanaging or their requests are simply ignored. This creates lack of trust that leads to micromanaging. It is an unfortunate cycle that needs to be broken. Administration needs to provide data and transparently answer questions. When provided with appropriate answers, Board Members can make informed decisions and stick to monitoring policies.
PC: A community member with no children in the District has filed 18 FOIA requests since 2013 resulting in unnecessary attorney fees and administration taking time away from students’ interests.
Facts: The FOIA log on the D181 website only logs FOIA requests since July 2014, not three years back, so I am not sure where this information comes from. In the time period shown on the FOIA log the referenced community member filed eight (8) requests.
Anyone can file a FOIA request of any US government body. One does not need to have children in the school district. One does not need to be a taxpayer. One does not need to be a US citizen. This particular community member did have children in the District for one of the last three years and remains a resident and therefore a taxpayer in the District. Since July of 2014, 30 other FOIA Requests have been logged/received by D181, most of which were not filed by people with children in the District let alone District residents.
Had the District simply complied with the community member’s FOIA requests, there would have been no attorney fees. The majority of the community member’s requests were ultimately found to be appropriate by the IL Attorney General and did not have to be disputed by the District which is what resulted in attorney fees.
The majority of work done to comply with a FOIA request is performed by a technology search and by Ms. Duggan, the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent (who also has her own assistant). Their time would not otherwise be spent on matters directly relating to what is going on in the classroom.
PC: Only 38% agree that the Board of Education is representing their needs and expectations
Fact: This question was only asked of parents and community members and was calculated on fewer than 800 survey responses in a community 8-10 times that size. While it is possible that it is an accurate reflection of the community at large, it is also possible that it is not. Moreover, when this survey was completed in the fall the Board of Ed majority was still supporting the Learning for All Plan and had not given the recent directive concerning math ability grouping. Perhaps that is the reason for the response below benchmark?
Again, thank you for your time,