Monday, February 15, 2016

Comment of the Day: Fact Checking of 2/8/16 BOE Meeting Public Comments Reveals Misinformation

This morning we received a series of public comments from Jill Quinones, a highly respected D181 community member who has submitted signed comments to our blog in the past.  This morning's comments were copies of 2 letters she sent to the BOE last night addressing misinformation given during public comments 2 parents gave at the 2/8/16 board meeting.  As she points out in her first letter, Ms. Quinones is an educator with 24 years experience, a D181 Learning Committee Member, and a resident of D181 with a 15 year history.  It is also well known in the district that Ms. Quinones is a lawyer, although she is currently a teacher in a neighboring district.

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!


Jill Quinones said...

Bloggers: Last night I sent 2 emails to the BOE that address factual errors made during the public comments at the 2/8/16 meeting. I'm submitting them in multiple parts to your blog.

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.
That said, the bigger question that must be discussed now, especially as to those hundreds of students (53%) already showing mastery at the 80th %ile or better on MAP, is whether they should be held to on-grade level CONTENT/TOPICS while they develop math language and construction of their learning or whether they should be accelerated to more challenging CONTENT/TOPICS while developing those skills.

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.
PC: The BOE should expand its focus beyond just Advanced Learners and do what is best for all students.

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,

Jill Quinones
Jill Quinones said...

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.
Facts: It appears the referenced blog began publishing at the end of May 2013. In the almost three (3) years since then, eight administrators have left. Of these eight, one – Dr. Tornatore, was hired as an interim and was expected to leave and another, Gary Frisch retired. Three (3) left for job promotions – Ms. Igoe to an Assistant Superintendent position, Dr. Russell to a Superintendent position, and Dr. Schneider to be the Superintendent of a special education Cooperative. One (1) left for a lateral position – Mr. Eccarius. Dr. Schuster left to be near her parents and was also in the process of building her retirement home in AZ, and Mr. Walsh left to go back to being a Principal. Several of these Administrators left after completing graduate education on the D181 taxpayer’s dollar. Although there were payback requirements, they were not enforced.

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,
Jill Quinones


Anonymous said...

Here's the money quote which explains D181's dire condition with pinpoint accuracy:

"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."

Clearly, the problem ain't the blog. It's the people hiring administrators who are over their skis. On the very first day these folks rolled out the Learning For All Plan, anyone who possessed an iota of critical thought could see the house of cards. The administrators could not defend it with data or best practices. So they became defensive and reflexively called anyone who would question the plan a troublemaker. They are the "experts," after all. But an expert who can't support her decisions or conclusions is not an expert. Rather, she is an incompetent.

The BOE would do well to learn from this little history lesson. Hire someone who knows what the hell they are doing because they've done it before.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Ms Quinones for again taking the time to try to inform the community about the reality of our district. I'm grateful that someone of her caliber cares enough to spend her time on the mess that continues even under the current board of education. This latest incident at the last meeting of allowing a couple of parents to speak negatively about another parent along with making inaccurate statements about the true state of the district and the administration within it is the height of hypocrisy. Why these rants weren't cut off as they they have been in the past shows great incompetence and weakness, which also explains why Dr. White continues to defy board directives and do what he wants. The status of Special Education along with thumbing his nose on the math ability grouping shows the level to which he feels emplowered. The board sits back, just as they have for years, and allows half of the school year to go by without demanding changes. As another community member pointed out on this blog, the board requested a status report of Special Education and White responded by saying there wasn't time to produce the report. He did nothing. The board has done nothing about his defiance, but they sure seem to have all the time in the world to mull over arhitect contracts, marvel at fancy school building drawings, and review detailed, text filled slides about financial issues related to the referendum. What a waste. They have been sidetracked by the referendum while the poor curriculum goes unchanged. For this very reason, I will be voting NO.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schneider and Mrs. Igoe may have been qualified to run Special Education departments but the level of special education services seems to have declined during their tenures. Were they not as qualified as some think or is the decline due to robbing Peter to pay Paul? Taking money from the special needs kids and putting that money somewhere else such as administrator salaries and benefits.

Special needs children don't often realize they are not getting what they are supposed to be getting. They are not able to tell their parents or don't know to tell their parents.

Too often, parents are given scores to show how magnificent their children are doing when the numbers show nothing. It's like a slight of hand. By way of explanation, I've seen standardized test scores offered as proof of how well a special needs child is reading when that very test was never designed to reflect a child's ability or inability to decode. Parents are in the dark.

Unknown said...

All I have to say is, thank God for Jill Q.!!! Jill, it is so essential that you took the time (I know you, as a SpEd teacher, have off school today) to address the irresponsible statements that were made during public comment at the last BOE meeting. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Your legal & educational knowledge, both as a previous BOE member in another district as well as currently as a SpEd teacher, enables you to call out the totally wrong statements that were made at the last meeting. Having attended that BOE meeting, I cringed when those two ladies made those statements & truly wondered how they could have allowed themselves to be USED by another person in the audience that night. It was painfully obvious to those aware of what has been happening in D181 that those two ladies, who made the incorrect statements and accusations, were prompted to make those statements and the statements were probably written by an individual they were sitting with who just so happens to work for the D181 SpEd department. Who did this person and her posse think they were fooling? Guess the rants were suppose to be a tribute to an administrator who never belonged in D181 in the first place & is thankfully gone. So much damage done. Will take time to repair. But, thanks Jill for setting the record straight. Wish you worked in D181. Our SpEd students could use your legal and educational knowledge and dedication.

jay_wick said...

I too must commend dedicated community members like Ms. Quinones. Her analysis of the district is factual and not clouded by any desires to curry favor with the old cliques. Facts are needed to help understand the crises facing all schools in Illinois.

Sadly there are not enough people like Ms. Quinones that get the facts correct. Too many of the folks that are chosen by the administration seem more concerned with providing cover to the shortcomings of the district or worse, just do not understand the issues. When such errors are easily checked one must question if they arise from simple carelessness or an intent to mislead. Recently a claim was made that the projected shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars was due to a one time failure of legislators to approve a budget for the state.This is false. The changes will be ongoing, spiraling unless there is an a massive increase in income taxes and subsequent changes in statewide funding. The unanimous support of the Illinois State Board of Education shows what little compromise is currently possible will only increase the burden on fiscally prudent suburban districts and allow districts with artificially low tax rates, such as Chicago, to continue their path of failure -- State change cuts funding to some schools, raises others|Daily State's school funding plan spurs concerns over cuts, special education |Chicago Tribune
The state is in a budget crisis — I understand that. But it is crazy to put that on the backs of children with disabilities," said Johns, who is active in several special education organizations in Illinois....Superintendent Brian Harris [Barrington Community Unit School District 220] said that's a significant loss for the district, affecting teachers, education programs and school buildings. ..."All they're doing here is reshuffling the deck chairs," Harris said. "That is inappropriate. I understand the districts who are winners — they are probably happy. But we're still not solving the big picture."

Without additional revenue the suburban districts will need to make cuts. The necessity of Federal mandates means those cuts will result in increased class sizes, elimination of options like accelerated mathematics, language arts, music, and drama. The folly of trying to claim these are "one time events" forces one to question other assertions offered by those so deluded.

Anonymous said...

This post above is exactly correct. Thank you to whoever wrote it. Based on our family's experience, I would not paint the picture that Ms. Igoe was an ideal administrator at all. Schneider was even worse. We only realized the magnitude of the unfair treatment when we finally hired an advocate. Do yourself a favor and don't hire an advocate recommended by the special education department. Although it is the obligation of the special education department to tell parents the truth, you will not always get this from D181's interpretation of evidence or "facts". Unfortunately, we had lived through this experience and our children lost years of services. Unless you are a special education expert, no untrained parent is capable of understanding whether or not their child is receiving reasonable supports. Nor is your child's classroom teacher. It does not matter if you are an MD, an attorney, or a CEO. Nor does it matter if you THINK your PPS people are really nice and helpful. We found that most PPS personnel were more than willing to throw parents, principals and teachers under the bus and place the responsibilities on these untrained folks to do PPS' job. This way the special ed people claim that they never knew anything was wrong. This is unacceptable and illegal. Even though it is the obligation of the special education staff to supervise, monitor, and provide support to staff for our children, our experience showed us that PPS specialists and the district's defense attorneys will do everything in their power to be uncooperative and deny services. Unless you are trained in analyzing special ed assessments, are fluent in special ed laws and ethics, and most importantly, realize the amount of money that our district has access to to provide these required services, you have no idea of how poorly, or well, your child is being serviced. D181 would much rather pay defense attorneys, architects, and superfluous tech consultants than provide the minimum, required supports to your child.

Considering that there are laws that demand students must receive special education services, and there is NO LAW that students or teachers must have a state of the art, $65 million dollar school in a downtown location, the BOE has allowed the current administrators to get away with awful behavior for years. All while giving them automatic raises.

Turn the Spotlight on 181

Anonymous said...

8:55: you're correct that there have been several bad PPS administrators. I've heard of one (who's no longer in the district, fortunately) who was observing one of the one on one aides, as part of the aide's evaluation. Unfortunately, she went to observe the wrong aide. This administrator didn't even know the people for whom she was responsible. Plus, this administrator hated following directions. Instead of learning how to do things (even really simple things like turning on a speaker phone) herself, she just had someone else do it for her. I'm glad this administrator is gone.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

PPS stands for Pupil Personnel Services. PPS is the name the name D181 calls its Special Dducation department. This department falls under the supervision of the the Department of Learning which includes Dawn Benaitis and Kurt Schneider. However, Kurt Schneider is the only one listed as the district's special education administrator for D181 on the ISBE website.

The PPS department is supposed to supervise RTI, recommendations for evaluations, 504 and IEP services. Not 100% sure of this, but I believe the district's Differentiation Specialists (known as gifted specialists a few years ago) also fall under the supervision of the PPS Department and the Department of Learning. I believe this because back when Renee Schuster was the superintendent 3 years ago, she along with Kurt Schneider began the unorthodox claim that, suddenly, gifted students would be receiving services through the RTI process. Strange because RTI is almost exclusively used by other districts to provide evidence based supports for children who are falling behind in school.

When we asked for the district's information regarding their RTI program as it pertained to both gifted and non-gifted children, no one in the district ever responded with any information. Just a claim that our child's needs were being met. When we asked what options were available, the now retired differentiation specialist at the Lane told us that" no RTI services were available in language arts for our 5th grader", even though she told another parent at the school that her child did qualify (and was actually receiving) ACE or accelerated Language Arts support in 5th grade! This is disturbing, because I would think that our district is currently receiving RTI funding from the government to provide this type of support for kids, but if no one ever knows exactly what RTI consists of in D181, how can anyone ever make sure their child is getting that support?

The whole bogus RTI process further made no sense because none of the administrators in the Department of Learning or it's Special Education Department (PPS) had any training in gifted education. Hope that helps your child.

Anonymous said...

One can identify the demise of SpEd services within D181 when it chose to exit LADSE.

Anonymous said...

There are state and federal laws that are supposed to protect our special education students. D181 personnel seem to think the laws they are arbitrary or can be manipulated to suit their needs.

My favorite is pull out services that start week 6, 7 or 8 of the school year. Services are supposed to start on day 1 not weeks into the school year. If the services are missed or not provided, they need to be made up. Parents should be insisting that the missed sessions are made up.

My second favorite thing is when D181 PPS people tell you that they can't evaluate your child because the problem requires a medical diagnosis and is not an educational issue. If you hear that, require the PPS person to put it in writing and keep the letter or e-mail. You may need it down the road!

I've heard BOE members claim that certain problems reported by parents of special education students are the responsibility of the school principal. It doesn't seem like the BOE is following up with the parents, the principal or the administration to ensure there's compliance.

Why would the BOE follow up? After all it's only our children's well being at stake.

I think a few more parents hiring attorneys might wake up the BOE and jolt them into action.

Anonymous said...

My favorite is keeping children who need special education in RTI for years.

Anonymous said...

6:49, it sounds like you realize how ridiculous this district is, but I bet many others do not. Keeping a child in RTI for years rather than evaluating and qualifying them for a 504 or IEP is breaking special education law. Any parent whose child is being pulled out of class for services, or asked to go in after school for help needs to ask why their child doesn't have an IEP. They need to immediately write to the principal and the PPS administrator to evaluate their child for services. The district has a legal obligation to locate, evaluate, and provide support to children who have disabilities and special needs. Contrary to what the SELAS folks in D181 will tell you, it is not the sole responsibility of parents to help their child. Parents can only do so much to fix the problems that the school's curriculum and poor teaching methods have brought us the last 5 years.

D181 slowly pushes RTI kids along for years and convinces parents that their child will grow out of their troubles. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Ignoring the problem makes the child's problem harder to solve and causes the child to suffer unnecessarily. Worse yet, it makes kids lose the motivation to learn. Even if your child does not have problems, your child's teacher spends an inordinate amount of time during the day trying to help the children that deserve special education teachers and support. This takes valuable teaching time away from average or quiet children. If people don't report this type of special education misconduct to ISBE then the district will continue to get away with their willful negligence.

Parents shouldn't have to pay $20,000 in lawyers fees to force the district to follow the law. Nor should they be forced to send their child to private schools. If the district cannot help your child with special needs, and says YOU should send them to a special school, the district has to pay for this. This behavior from public schools is not only obscene, it is another form of government corruption, waste and mismanagement. The easiest, cheapest way to jolt the district into action is to report them to ISBE. Google how to file a misconduct report through ISBE or email: report

Unknown said...

Yes, Jay Wick there will be changes in IL state educational funding, but this year's lack of special funds to D181 & the lack of MAP funds to IL colleges & universities is due to the lack of a state budget. Unless you have a crystal ball that projects the true future, I would be careful when making the statement that " massive increases in state income taxes" are in D181's future. We all know that the state of IL's finances are a mess and changes in the state's educational funding is inevitable. So, it will be the responsibility of all IL taxpayers to become knowledgable and involved in what is happening or not happening in our state, as well as our school districts. It won't be sufficient to make scary statements to worry people. Knowledgable involvement is a right and necessity in a democracy. The state of IL is a perfect example of a government entity in great need of citizen involvement.

Anonymous said...

Parents do need to push and keep pushing this district to get their children evaluated.

Parents need to realize when PPS people respond that "parents should not want their children labeled", it is usually code for "it saves D181 a lot of time, work or expense if your child doesn't have an IEP".

The special education laws were enacted to level the playing field for children with disabilities. Dyslexia, ADHD, ADD and a variety of other things can be enough for an IEP, if they impact a child's ability to learn. D181 seems to blame a lot of learning problems on a child's behavior. Don't let them blame your child for the district's refusal to evaluate your child.

Anonymous said...

If people aren't worried about the finances in IL, they've been living in a hole. Mr. Wick is right. There will be a day of reckoning. You can only push the boulder so far down the road.

A blogger said it earlier. That is probably why there is a race for the referendum. The board is probably hoping to push thru the referendum before people realize how much we really will be paying.

White probably has other reasons. It takes the focus off the curriculum mess, special education, the Learning Dept and PPS, his failure to raise district test scores, his inability to clean up the administration and the fact that he makes several hundred thousand dollars a year. A large project is a resume stuffer in case the board ever gets its act together.

Anonymous said...

To comment 1:32: You are so right. There is no doubt the board rushed to get the referenDUMB going so they could get ahead of D86 and the upcoming state financial crash. We can all see this for what it is: a possible feather in the bus hat of Don White's, who has successfually managed to steer his 5 clueless bosses away from the real issues of the district for months now. Combine this with the fact that there are a couple of board members whose kids would directly benefit from a new HMS. Gee, what a surprise. Wish they cared as much about the state of the curriculum as much as a running track or auditorium.

Anonymous said...

To 2-14-16 at 8:37 AM

I, too, am a parent of a special needs child and feel compelled to write. I have watched my child and others suffer for years. It’s truly disgusting that a district with its bloated and overpaid administrative staff allows these vulnerable children to receive so little.

Several parents of special needs students spoke repeatedly at board meetings over the last 2 or 3 years. They documented malfeasances and transgressions the PSS Department staff forced their children to endure. The board turned a deaf ear to them and on more than one occasion, rudely shut them down. (Some of us remember Turek and his grunts, groans and rudeness when parents got up to speak).

I am glad to hear that some parents of special needs students have hired lawyers. The BOE's refusal to act could cost this district and its tax payers dearly and it should. I, for one, am cheering on every one of those families.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if the teachers are really as uneducated about our children’s needs, if they have been instructed to act as they do by their principals and the PPS staff or if they are protecting themselves in order to keep their lucrative teaching positions.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, the district will hire a great person to replace Dr. Schneider.

Anyways, did anyone go to the HMS community thing last night? I guess teachers gave tours to whoever came. I'd be interested in what they showed and the reactions.

Anonymous said...

About 30 community members came out to see the building in person; I believe those that did found it beneficial.