Monday, February 1, 2016

Comment of the Day -- Where Have the Good Ole' Days Gone?

We miss the good ole' days......

Comment of the Day:

Anonymous said...
Two True Stories Parents,

I am a parent of D 181 children who were educated back in the dark ages of late 90s, early 2000s, you know before electricity and the internet and we all milked cows every day:

Today, I meet a parent and a 4th grader at one of our fine elementary schools. Mom says they no longer give spelling tests in D181. The child learns 10 vocab words PER WEEK. Definition, how to use in a sentence etc. 

I tell her my child went through D181 back in the old days, when children were actually required to learn stuff. My child was required to learn 10 words PER DAY! Every Friday a spelling and vocab test with 50 words! The word lists were differentiated including " challenge words" Challenge words were were at high school level. You did not need to be in a special class to learn challenge words. Children 15 years ago were adding hundreds of words to their vocabulary each year. Routinely "non gifted" students were getting 28 to 34 on their ACTs because they were educated from Day 1.

Second True Story:

Went to Hinsdale Public Library around 4 pm one day last week. Cars were parked up and down Washington, library parking full, cars parked one block over east of Garfield. I asked the library lady if there was something special going on. She says it is like this every day because of all the kids being tutored at the library. I glanced around; there must have been 75 to 100 elementary and middle school aged kids sitting with their tutors. This happens every day! Plus more tutors at home! 

OMG people, what hath we wrought? It is one thing to use a tutor for ACT prep or SAT prep as a junior and senior in high school or to help cram for an AP calc or AP Bio exam. When kids this young are needing tutors what does that say? How on earth can we take spelling and vocabulary away from our kids??? What on earth are they replacing it with? Will they have to dumb down Hinsdale Central? How will are kids fare at Fenwick or another private school?

Please wake up parents. It is worse than you think.

I don't blame teachers; I blame the administration and this very sad curriculum.


Anonymous said...

How do you know all the students being tutored were D181 students?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure they weren't all D181 students but, given how many people I know who have hired tutors for math, and the fact that most Hinsdale residents send their elementary students to D181 schools, I'm sure most of them were. I just spoke to a D181 5th grade parent this weekend who told me that she was now going to tutor her 5th daughter because the 5th graders are only going to finish 2/3 of the 5th grade Math in Focus materials by the end of the year and the rest of the material will be covered in 6th grade. Because, evidently, students don't already have enough homework in 6th grade and the 6th grade math teachers haven't been stressed enough over the past 3 years. Not to mention how challenging the Big Ideas materials are. Let's pass the buck from grade school, where we keep messing up math, to the middle school and right on up to Hinsdale Central.

Anonymous said...

As a fifth grade parent, I can confirm the curriculum, especially math, is in a sad state. My child will not complete all of the lessons this year. Why? Teachers are doing their best, but there is absolutely no guidance or direction from Mr White and his "DOL" (in name only). Don't even get me started on the weak reading and writing programs.
I sure hope Mr. White has his resume in circulation because he really needs to move on to a district where he can continue his curriculum experimentation. What is he doing for his $250k+/year? Not much. Pretty sad that cars are lined around the library for tutors to cover what should be taught in our classrooms.

Anonymous said...

The state of curriculum is sickening. As a kid, I hated spelling tests. But the real utility of such exams was not the spelling itself, though it was a positive byproduct. Spelling tests are useful in early grades because it's one of the few opportunities where kids learn that they are responsible for knowing and mastering material. It's on them to actually learn it. Yes, it's menial. And yes, it's boring. But it's also a necessary skill.

Today's D181 students are responsible for nothing. I've heard administrators of the DOL actually say that it's no longer important to memorize anything. That's the old way of learning. Kid's brains are different today. What's important now is that kids know how to google it.

It may shock you to learn that this administrator still has a job and is responsible for the education of all our children. When we tolerate and even reward utter garbage like this, we get garbage in return. D181 is garbage. Period.

More parents need to hear that reality. Everyday our kids get a garbage education fed to them from garbage administrators who fall for EVERY educational fad that comes down the pike. As an example, these are the same administrators who thought the Ian Jukes lecture series was a swell idea and worth $50k.

These are the same people who eliminated spelling tests. These are the same people who compacted 3rd and 4th grade math into 3rd grade, only to reverse course a year later with no explanation. These are the same people who thought having third graders change rooms for classes 5 and 6 times a day was a good idea. These are the same people who offered up a PowerPoint presentation as THE basis for their educational strategy. These are the same people who gutted any semblance of a reading program and replaced it with "independent reading" which never requires students to account for what they read. These are the same people who gave your child's age, identity, and home address to a purported political action committee.

Through it all, not one person lost their job. Though it all, the ineffective and dysfunctional BOE rubber stamped every harebrained idea.

If not for parental intervention and tutoring propping up these incompetents, our kids would achieve test scores about equivalent to CPS students.

It's all garbage. And it's time to throw out the trash.

Anonymous said...

11:49: if this administrator really said that students don't need to memorize anything besides knowing how to Google it, that administrator has to go. Technology is only a tool, not a replacement for knowing basic things like figuring out a tip, or even communicating with friends.

I've heard of another horror story of lack of student responsibility: I've heard that there have been cases of petty theft at the middle schools. Food stolen from the cafeteria, books, personal belongings and money stolen from lockers and even teacher's purses. To make it worse, I guess when some of these kids are caught, they don't care. What is the district doing about this? Do the principals look for the thieves? If so, what do they of when found? Are the student's parents called?

Anonymous said...

The district likes to close its eyes and pretend that they have nothing to do with any imaginary problems at HMS. That all problems are a direct result of our terrible children and their overprotective mothers. I was stunned to see in the most recent HMS newsletter a link to an online CNN article entitled " Why Middle School is the Most Stressful Age for Moms." The author of this lifestyle, family article touched upon a host of problems that make the middle school years stressful for mothers. Of course, over testing, rising societal pressures, too much homework, and schools failing to meet student needs was never mentioned. Nor were dads. Just well-educated moms.

Here is the link, sandwiched between info about Girls in the Run and Operation Snowflake:

An Article About Mothers of Middle Schoolers

Anonymous said...

The newsletter is produced by the PTO, not the school. Any issues with entries in the PTO newsletter, should be taken up with the PTO.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the district doesn't even take responsibility for that? This obviously is part of the job responsibilities for staff and administrators. Staff runs the groups and the principal approves of everything in the newsletter. The emails are sent out from a "Hinsdale Middle School" email address that runs on a district and taxpayer funded wifi. Yet 7:22 tells us that the newsletter is the sole responsibility of the PTO? Wow, just another example of exactly what 10:19 was referring to in the above post. It's never the school district's fault. Back to blaming the moms and dads.

Anonymous said...

9:14: Have the fifth grade parents been notified about the fact that their students will not complete all of the 5th grade materials this year? Are they going to just skip over the material or will they teach it in 6th grade? How can they do that, another homemade curriculum? How will some students not covering all of teh material impact the MAP test score cutoffs used for placement? How many students will be able to test into accelerated math? I don't have a 5th grader (thank goodness) but this seems like a big problem to me.

And, what about the 4th graders? How far have they gotten this year? Middle School isn't that far away for them.

Anonymous said...

I believe the newsletter was given the referendum information from the Office of Communications. This has nothing to do with the PTO. Love the way someone is trying to create more divisiveness in our community by trying to pit PTO parents against others. Smacks of spin originating from someone who is not a D181 parent......

Anonymous said...

I doubt students' parents were even notified. Just like they were not notified about the released directory information, were parents notified ahead of time of the recently posted photo of HMS children walking through the halls at HMS on the "Vote Yes for HMS" Facebook page?

Surprise, surprise, another failure on the district's part to obtain parental permission. Sure the faces of most of the students are conveniently blurred out, but not all are. Hmmm....I wonder who would have had access to our children in the hallways of HMS and permission to take a photo of them? A teacher, an administrator, or facilities member? Someone must know who took the photo, blacked out the faces, then posted it onto the political group's Facebook page. This political group seems to believe that rules don't apply to them. I don't think it's ok to publish photos of our kids, even if they blur out photos. I can't believe they did this. If they were allowed to enter the school and take photos, then who authorized this? If they were given a photo by the administration, then who authorized it's release?

And to suggest as their photo comment does that the picture shows the "overcrowded and dangerous dash" HMS students have to navigate when changing from the portables to the main building is downright irresponsible. Once again, didn't Dr. White already say that the conditions in HMS are NOT dangerous? Didn't this political group have to take their reference to the building being dangerous down from their website after he made this declaration at a recent meeting? So now, they are trying to fear monger using Facebook? Dr. White, please tell them to stop with the theatrics and misrepresentations. If Dr. White thinks the building or its conditions are causing a danger to the students, then it shouldn't cost the community $65 million to fix those conditions now. They should be fixed regardless of the spending that kind of money. And if he can't get it done without spending $65 million then he needs to be fired.

But let's get serious now. This photo is downright silly. There is nothing wrong with the amount of children in the hallway nor is there anyhing wrong with the portables. Take a picture of any middle school hallway in America and you will see the exact same thing - lots of kids walking to their classrooms. But their hallways will probably be older than those in HMS. And they will probably have metal detectors. In fact, lets all go over to the high school and see how crazy those WIDE hallways and stairwells are during any passing period. D86 needs to go to referendum too but you can bet they are not going to suggest a total new building because the hallways are dangerously crowded during passing period!

And one last note, I have 6th grader at HMS and my child never once complained about a lack of heat in the portables or crowds. So I'm not sure where those comments are coming from.....

Anonymous said...

This is 7:22. I have a child at HMS, I am not staff or administration. The PTO publishes posts according to its own and district guidelines. The PTO posts submissions mostly from PTO chairs but also from staff or administrators if relevant to the HMS community. In that capacity it should follow district rules about electronic posts in order to not violate student privacy or PTO bylaws.

It is unlikely the link to a CNN article came from school staff or district administrators. That was the only point I was making. If you want to know who submitted the article, you should ask the parent volunteer who is the HMS PTO newsletter editor - I am not that person BTW.

The HMS PTO newsletter comes from, not a Hinsdale Middle School address which would be a address. It is produced out of the parent volunteer's home on their own time and personal wifi, not funded by taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your information 7:22. Your information clarifies the extent to which the administration has been able to deflect its own responsibilities to parent volunteers. Although very kind of the PTO, this is unacceptable. Parents all rely on these newsletters so that we can be informed about what is going on in the school. Unless the PTO wants to now assume legal liability for the spin that the district directs them to write, this duty needs to immediately be assumed by the district itself. This is just another example why the district gets away without actually be accountable for anything. They know that it is safer for them to blame errors and misinformation on the PTO and other volunteers instead of the actual people who are trained and paid to provide valid information.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that there are actually people on this blog commenting about an innocent article on a parent volunteer created PTO newsletter. Paranoia anyone?? We have so many other and more important issues to be focusing on. No wonder the administration is often successful in arguing that we are crazy parents who micromanage. Wow.

Anonymous said...

You just supported what everyone on this blog has been commenting about - that there are far more pressing and important issues in 181, like the curriculum, but the district always finds a way to focus on irrelevant fluff like crazy moms or pictures of hallways. It sounds like the district probably needs to micromanage someone like you because you aren't capable of coming to your own decisions. And if, as you suggest, the district seriously calls other parents crazy because they expect transparency and pertinent, valid information, then they (and you) are the ones who desperately need therapy.

Good Luck.

Parent Losing Patience said...

I am disappointed. Four years ago, board presidents and administrators and Learning Committee members (made up of elected officials and educational "experts") kept telling us all to trust them and not question their plans to raise the floor to raise the ceiling. Now we all know -- and the data has proven it - that no one should have trusted them. Sorry, but that's the truth.

So when committee members or political groups tell us to trust the experts and not question them because we are all ignorant or claim we don't know what we are talking about, they need to understand that trust has to be earned.

This district lost the right to expect parents and taxpayers to trust them simply because the administration and committee members tell us to.

We are all intelligent adults. We may be fooled once, maybe twice, but after our kids and our pocketbooks get burned repeatedly, we will demand and deserve facts and data to analyze ourselves before we are asked to accept what others are telling us to buy.

No disrespect intended to all those who have worked on the committees, but your telling me to trust you and that everyone else is wrong, is actually disrespecting our independence and right as homeowners and parents and taxpayers to come to our own conclusions -- even it they do not agree with yours. I'm really hoping the answers that a committee members says she is putting together will help me make a more informed decision. I hope the answers are posted soon. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have information on the a new mastery program the White and the DOL want to purchase for $150,000+? I looked at Learning Committee meeting boardocs and saw it was on the agenda. Looks like Benaitis is "leading" this to try to improve learning for the advanced students. How about we just focus on the sorry state of the curriculum instead of going to yet another fad, this time in an expensive software program?
We are supposed to support this expense along with a referendum? No way.

Anonymous said...

I am livid. What is the administration doing? Why can they find it acceptable to purchase a $150,000+ Mastery System (Mastery of What?) with all the problems our educational system is facing? Why does ANYONE think anything proposed by a person without any meaningful degree of training or experience in teaching advanced students will have a positive effect on them? We, and the police can all can SEE how dangerous and dysfunctional the drop off lane is at HMS. Please, if you haven't ever been on the south bound Garfield entrance to this drop off on a busy school day morning between 7:20- 8:00, or tried to get a parking spot anywhere near the school during any other time of the school day, try it next week. Or check it out during the HMS performances this weekend. I am certainly not saying that our curriculum still does not require improvement, but this group of "leaders" has not earned the trust to spend a dime, let alone $150,000 of our money on yet another, unproven new fad. Instead, perhaps, this person might be able to take coffee out to the construction workers re-paving the area, or direct traffic (maybe not), but please, stop hemorrhaging money on any more foolish learning tools!

Anonymous said...

9:24 Comment -

Here is the proposal for the Mastery program you mentioned:
(part 1)
Community Consolidated School District 181
CONTACT: Dr. Dawn Benaitis, Director of Learning
With collaboration from Subcommittee Members:
Dr. Carol Larson, Director of Assessment & Program Effectiveness
Mrs. Mary Morgan Ryan, Interim Instructional Technology Coordinator
Mr. Justin Horne, Monroe School Principal
Mr. Griffin Sonntag, Clarendon Hills Middle School Principal
TITLE: MasteryConnect Contract
DATE: February 8, 2016
Background Information:
A review of our data has indicated a need to more effectively target instruction to close
achievement gaps and accelerate learning for D181 students. In the summer of 2015,
the administrative team analyzed the impact that formative assessments can have on
meeting the varied needs of student learners. Opportunities to assist teachers and
administrators with this concept were sought to support staff in further developing their
skills with data-driven decisions to inform instruction. The analysis confirmed that using
formative assessments as part of ongoing instructional practice better assists teachers in
their ability to meet the various instructional needs of their students. Specifically,
formative assessments can provide a systematic means to better determine instructional
levels for students, in turn allowing for more informed placement decisions to support
subject acceleration, advancing higher performing students, as well as closing the gaps
for struggling learners. The organized use and management of formative assessments
will also assist the District in moving toward a standards-based report card.
Per Dr. White’s direction, a small subcommittee of administrators researched several
companies including, among others, Mastery Manager, Just 5 Clicks, Otus,
MasteryConnect, and Renaissance Learning to see what types of common assessment
programming are offered. Many of these companies offer either data warehousing,
curriculum mapping, or common assessments. MasteryConnect offers an “approach" to
teaching and learning, providing tools for curriculum mapping, allowing common
assessments to be embedded in the maps. It is also a means for monitoring the data
through classroom warehouses and dashboards for populations such as the Board of
Education, District administration, and parents. MasteryConnect has tools that allow
teachers to identify student levels of understanding relative to standards in real time,
giving them greater access to meaningful, actionable data on an ongoing basis.
Teachers are able to identify intervention and enrichment opportunities in the moment,
as well as collaborate with one another about what's working in their classrooms
through a common set of data. Using the MasteryConnect tracker tool, mastery of
learning standards can be monitored by student and/or by standard to target
instruction for re-teaching or advancement.
Based upon the Board’s goals for advanced learning opportunities for higher
performing students, as well as appropriate levels of challenge for all student ability
groups, there is a compelling case for building teachers’ understanding of common
assessments, the importance of their use in the classroom, professional development
regarding how to create common assessments, and a systemic structure for planned
and organized use of ongoing formative assessments across the District. Additionally,
the Board of Education has identified several strategic goals that can be directly
addressed through the use of MasteryConnect. For example, the Board would like to
include the identification and addressing of program weaknesses for advanced learners
and special education populations. The Board would also like to see monitoring of
individual student performance, growth, and preparedness for high school as well as
the creation of a data dashboard.

Anonymous said...

9:24 Comment (part 2)

After investigating multiple options, and speaking with districts that have successfully
implemented the use of MasteryConnect in their system, District 181 has signed a
contract with MasteryConnect for professional development, which is the first step
toward implementation using research-based formative assessment practices to drive
instruction. The total cost for 3.5 years of professional development is $20,750, which
includes six months of free professional development and access to all MasteryConnect
tools, as well as their support system. This cost was fully funded through Title II grant

Next steps in this process will include the formation of a curriculum team with teacher
leaders, instructional coaches, and content area specialists. This group will work
together to align standards to units where necessary in the areas of mathematics and
language arts. MasteryConnect uses a “train the trainer” model allowing teachers and
administration to receive intensive professional development in the areas of writing
high-quality common assessments, data-driven instruction, and use of the tools. During
the leadership trainings, staff will learn about district benchmarking and create district
protocols for such. Trainings will begin with teacher leaders in the beginning of March,
with leadership trainings occurring in late spring. The attached chart highlights the
timeline for rollout, including professional development and focus for each school
year. The process for full implementation will take three years.
Financial Impact:
MasteryConnect offers a 3.5-year contract, which includes the professional
development, software, and support for staff and administration, at a total cost of
$157,250. Of that, $20,750 has currently been invested for the professional
development portion of this contract. Future costs will only require use of
MasteryConnect software after the 3.5 years. The future cost to continue use of this
systemic and systematic structure for learning will be $45,500 annually. Department of
Learning dollars and grant money have been budgeted for this contract.
Approve the attached three-year agreement for use of Mastery Connect.

The DOL/White want the board of education to spend $157,250 for this program. Should the board be spending this kind of money at this time with these administrators in place? I think we already know the answer to that question.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what other districts have used this program and what the specific feedback is from them. I'm not familiar with this program but it seems to me that figuring out how to challenge advanced learners before was done by the administration. Are we outsourcing now because we don't have the expertise in-house anymore?

Honestly, with the exception of the elementary ACE program and some identification/inflexibility issues, wasn't everyone relatively happy with the way advanced math and language arts used to be delivered in the elementary schools? And, until last year (when the crazy opt-in program was implemented) weren't most student needs being met through the tiers in middle school? Hasn't the performance of our students at Central been good (with the exceptions of Science). Why are we re-inventing the wheel and acting like we don't already know how to do all of this? Improve where we can/need to, yes, but completely dismantle and start from scratch in a wasted and unnecessary effort, no. And that is exactly what has been done, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

They already signed a contract for $20,000? Has it been approved by the board? Let Dr. White pay for this program with his own money if he is so convinced it will work. There is no nationally accepted evidence, either from the Department of Education research clearinghouse or any reputable education journal that this program works! Is that clear? They are basing their decisions purely upon the recommendations of this company's sales reps and Dr. White's colleagues.

Are we sure that no one in the administration is getting kickbacks from private companies like this? Why else would they so hastily find yet another unproven program and begin implementing it on our children - again. Enough is enough. We have had it up to our eyebrows with expensive experimental programs that end up being unsuccessful, and usually even detrimental to our teachers and children.

Fed Up

Anonymous said...

We can spend all the money in the world on assessments, how to use assessments, how to teach our teachers to use assessments to drive curriculum, etc.; HOWEVER, it is all for not without ACTUAL RESEARCH BASED AND EVIDENCE BASED CURRICULUM! Does our administration even know that there is state of the art research out there? Can you imagine if all oncologists came up with their own ideas for assessments and treatment? For example, one oncologist uses an ultrasound to try to identify breast cancer, another uses an MRI, another uses an x-ray, another uses a manual breast exam, another uses a cancer sniffing dog, despite the fact that there is no research to support some of these methods. Then each of these oncologists decides on the treatment that they liked best based on either what cost them the least, what their friendly colleague was using, what had the best presentation by the manufacturer, etc. Better yet, what if they divided their patient practice into three groups and gave each of the groups a different treatment and then asked these groups which treatment they "liked" best after 4 months, and then chose treatment for all subsequent patients based upon their faux "research". Our administrators are not making research driven decision here!! There is a body of research that should be the core of curricular decision making. Better training and use of formative assessments will do nothing until we have the research driven curriculum for all of our groups of students, including advanced learners and those with learning differences. Sadly, at this point, I have lost all hope in D181.