Friday, May 27, 2016

Curriculum Mess in D181 Has Come Full Circle

As the end of another school year approaches, we have been deliberating how best to address the state of curriculum in D181.  Over the last three weeks, the D181 administration released the MAP scores, presented their interpretation and excuses for yet another year of declining individual student performance data and then, using brand new criteria/cut-off scores, released placement decisions for next year's 6th grade students into the middle school math, language arts and social studies tiers.  Between all of us bloggers, we have attended or listened to the podcasts of the last two board meetings and the May Learning Committee meeting, and we have concluded that D181 has come full circle in the curriculum mess that led to hiring Dr. Moon five years ago to do an assessment of the gifted programs.

We have concluded that D181 is no better off, in fact we believe it is worse off, than it was in 2011 when the Department of Learning began leading the district down the socially just/learning for all pathway to nowhere.

We are not going to rehash the minutiae of the last five plus years of D181's curriculum history, nor are we going to link every sentence to the podcast counters.  Instead, below are the links to the last three meetings.  We urge our reader to listen to the nearly 11 hours of meeting tapes (just as we have) and hear for yourselves the discussions (or lack thereof) that took place.  This blog post is simply going to  remind our readers of some of the issues that were addressed in those three meeting, describe our reaction and ask you to Sound Off.  (But remember to do so before June 9, when we will be signing off permanently.....)


May 9, 2016 BOE Meeting:

May 16, 2016 Learning Committee Meeting:

May 23, 2016 Learning Committee Meeting:

Long before the district hired or promoted the last five DOL administrators --- Stutz, Russell, Benaitis, Schneider and this year's 2 interims -- D181 had dedicated gifted and advanced learner programs both at the elementary and middle school levels.   GRC, and later ACE, were the names of the previous gifted programs.  In addition, starting in elementary school, there was math compacting and acceleration offered to the highest achieving math students and by the time they got to middle school, there were 3 levels of math (one or two years acceleration), 2 or 3 levels of language arts and 2 levels of social studies.  These programs required placement based upon students achieving certain cut-scores on either of or a combination of cognitive and achievement tests.   The cut scores were chosen by the DOL administration and seemed to change year after year, depending on who was running the department.  The problem with the past programs, however,  was that students who just missed the cut-offs were not really afforded an appeals process and were rarely added to a higher tier.  That is, unless they were grandfathered into the programs with scores they had received in second grade that placed them into GRC/ACE, even if those scores were well below the cut-offs needed for new students to place into the programs going into middle school.  Five years ago, in 2011, Dr. Moon was hired to evaluate  the gifted programs in D181.  Her conclusions included:  D181 was committing educational malpractice,  gifted students were only having their needs met on a part time basis , the identification process for placing students into the gifted or advanced tiers was flawed and needed to be changed to allow more students an opportunity to be successful, and district wide there was not appropriate differentiation taking place in the general classes.

Following Dr. Moon's report, the district embarked on a "journey" (to use Dr. White's favorite phrase) under Dr. Schuster's leadership to develop a new philosophy of learning, which ultimately led to Dr. Schneider's and the DOL's creation and implementation of a socially just Advanced Learning Plan, which then morphed into the Learning for All Plan.  During the Learning for All years, "gifted" became a dirty word in D181 and was replaced with various iterations such as "advanced learner" or "unique learner."  The gifted programs were stripped down and a one size fits all/acceleration for all model replaced it.  All students were accelerated one full year in math, and a seven year plan was presented that once fully rolled out would have all students taking ACE social studies and ELA.  This seven year plan was pushed by the DOL despite concerns raised by some teachers that such a plan would lead to watering down of the curriculum or would simply be too difficult for the average or below average students.  Teachers were tasked with effectively differentiating all instructional levels within their classroom. In addition, under the plan, as the seven year roll out began, students could opt in to any of the upper level programs in the middle school regardless of their placement scores.

Rather than work on fixing the broken identification process, the administration (in our opinion) simply opened the floodgates and let anyone in who wanted to try the upper level tiers.  For those of you who have followed the discussion on required student performance to stay in the upper level classes, you will remember that over the years, students went from having to maintain an 80% in the classes to only a 70% and then could actually stay in the class if parents insisted, regardless of the student performance.

As we now know, the acceleration for all model didn't work.  The differentiation of all students within one classroom didn't work.  The dismantling of the gifted program didn't work, and the Learning for All Program didn't work.  Each year the new fangled socially just curriculum program rolled out culminated in a growing awareness that student performance was declining in most schools and over most grades.  Certain schools and grades did show good performance but the administration did not undertake a real analysis of what was working at those schools that should be implemented in the schools/grades where performance was tanking.

Year after year for the last five years, the MAP scores have declined.  Year after year the BOE and the community have listened to a series of excuses from the administration as to why this might be.  From a change in achievement tests given statewide, to a change in norming standards on MAP, to growing pains from implementation of common core standards, to the challenge of implementing new math materials, there was always an excuse given.  Yet what was missing was any attempt to truly collect or analyze not only the test data but class work data,  to understand the performance decline and make the necessary adjustments.

In the Spring of 2015, the new BOE members finally demanded change.  Even without the real analysis of why scores were going down, they recognized that the Learning for All program wasn't working and student performance was declining, especially in math. The BOE directed a reinstatement of math tiers. The administration pushed back and after nearly one year, the board directive hadn't been fully implemented.   This spring, teachers began speaking out about how the programs have either been watered down to make them easier for the average learners or if not watered down are too difficult for many students.  If one listens to the meetings, you will hear reports from teachers of students crying because they are so stressed out from the higher level work.  You will hear them say how materials have become so watered down due to the opt-ins, that the courses are no longer challenging the highest achievers.  And throughout all of this, one can look at the student performance data and see that has continued to decline.  The teachers are now seeking placement changes, especially in ACE social studies and ELA.  Listening to the teachers, it is clear they want a return of tiered programs so that students can be taught at their appropriate levels.

But the problem with a return to tiered programs is that one must have an appropriate identification process to properly place students.  So has the identification process been fixed?  No it has not.

Listening to the May 16 Learning Committee meeting, there was extensive discussion of how the DOL had to come up with new cut-offs this year.  Unlike last year when cut-offs were based on a combination of scores from the Inview test (a cognitive test) and MAP tests (achievement tests)  this year, Inview was eliminated, leaving only MAP scores.  In addition, for language arts and ACE social studies, students took a writing narrative assessment graded by the sixth grade ELA teachers.  Apparently there was confusion by the DOL administration as to what exactly the BOE was looking for in terms of placement of students into the math, language arts an social studies tiers.  But rather than go before the BOE to seek clarification, the DOL took it upon itself to simply start adjusting the cut-off's until it achieved class sizes that it thought would balance the interests of the BOE, administrators, and teachers.

We are not going to detail the Learning Committee discussion, but suffice it to say that it is clear that rather than select cut-off scores based upon an analysis of student performance in the classes and the corresponding MAP and narrative writing sample scores achieved by successful students, the cut-offs were tweaked to fill seats.  There was no scientific analysis done of student performance to determine what the appropriate cut-off scores should be.  In fact, during the committee discussion, there was talk of possibly further manipulating the cut-offs to get to a desired number of students for each level.  But worse than this was the insistence by the DOL administration that it was very difficult for them to set the criteria without there being a philosophy of learning in the district on how to treat gifted students.

SAY WHAT?  Did the DOL administration really say this?  Yes they did and to us this was a sign that everyone in the DOL has dropped the ball big time.  How could any administrator not know about the PHILOSOPHY of LEARNING that the BOE approved less than five years ago?  And IF the DOL  administrators really believe that there is no philosophy of learning, why the heck didn't they go before the BOE to ask before deciding on the placement criteria it thought would balance all interests?

When we listened to this discussion we were horrified.  Not only hadn't the BOE been consulted about the methodology the DOL was using to set the placement criteria, but the teachers who were consulted and who had voiced their concerns, came to the meeting to express their  shock that the criteria had been changed from what they had been led to believe the cut-offs would be.

But instead of the committee insisting that no placement decisions should be sent to parents until after the BOE could address the DOL administrator's questions,  and clarify what the philosophy of learning, philosophy of gifted, directives and intentions of the BOE actually are, the learning committee further "tweaked" the placement criteria to tighten the ACE social studies criteria to address the teacher's concerns, even though it would lead to much smaller ACE classes than the last couple of years.  What amazed us as we listened to the discussion was that it was almost as if the DOL administrators and certain committee members were prepared to manipulate the data to suit whatever the "flavor of the day" by the DOL administration or certain committee members decided that evening to sample.

And two days later, placement letters were sent home to parents without first discussing any of this with the BOE at the May 23 meeting.

So we waited to see whether or not there would be substantive discussion by the BOE on either the MAP data or the placement criteria at the May 23rd board meeting.  Both items were on the agenda.  But after cursory presentations on what had been discussed at the Learning Committee meeting, the BOE didn't have much of anything to say on either topic.

WOW.  We were shocked.  And we remain shocked and concerned.   As we sit here writing this post, there is absolutely no way that the administration or BOE can say that the identification process it is using for next fall is appropriate, based on research, will ensure proper placement of students into their correct level, will not change next year when the DOL or someone on a committee wants to change it, and will not be subject to change up or down depending on the desired class size.

Is this what Dr. Moon meant when she said D181 needed to fix the identification process? The district has now reinstated tiers that it was quick to eliminate under the Learning for All Plan. The DOL administrators are now once again using the phrase "gifted" students. The ACE program which five years ago was criticized for being too small and excluding students who just missed the cut-off, is now once again going to be very small and subject to tight, restrictive cut-offs.

So like we said at the beginning, we have come full circle. Yes, now there is an appeals process, but it is subjective. So we anticipate that there will be claims of unfairness and claims that not all students who could succeed are getting the opportunities to try the higher level work. And at the end of the day, we won't be surprised if a future board or administration suggests hiring another consultant to assess the state of the tiered programs. And the identification process. And the cycle will start all over.  And nothing will have really changed, except that student performance will have steadily declined over the years.

So sad.



Anonymous said...

So SAD , but no surprise. Our children are JUST NUMBERS with no faces or feelings.

The d181 administration are NOT INVOLVED with parents or students. Parents struggling to get help are faced with a STONE WALL or district attorneys where open dialogue and support used to be. Well, I guess, no leadership remains with both Kurt Schneider & Dawn Benaitis on leave - plus all the people who jumped ship before. This administration needs to be present - they need to understand the supportive history of the district and build relationships within the community, not retreat to the safety of their statistics. I thought Dr. White was a good hire because decisions would be data driven, but I was mistaken he lacks the people skills so important in a superintendent who makes decisions for our most valuable assets, our children.

Education isn't a numbers game - it is about meeting kids where they are and raising them up. In Special Ed, they tell me that MAP scores (and PARCC) don't mean anything, they don't qualify for an intervention or acceleration. It has been 5+ years since anyone really cared about the Special Education community. Since then, the district has systematically isolated parents eliminating the parent support groups of the past. Thankfully, d86 picked up the slack.

Sadly, kids who are not achievers - mostly 2e –who would have been accelerated in the past have been lost in the shuffle, because having them in class is hard. Unfortunately, when students are held down in Middle School, it takes them a long time to pull themselves up (sadly some never do), and it causes ANXIETY. ASYNCHRONOUS students are stuck in special ed classes that focus on their weaknesses (with the goal only to reach grade level). ASYNCHRONOUS students belong in classes that capitalize on their strong HIGH ORDER skills - and accommodate their weaknesses.

How many years do we keep doing the same thing, expecting different results?

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong. Didn't Ms. Garg and the BOE insist on having "around 30% of the student population in accelerated classes"? Wasn't that where the shuffling of numbers came in? I didn't think the administration or teachers were the ones fighting for a number to "fill seats", I believe it was the board "directive" to fill a 30% quota.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you are implying that the people who left over the past 3 years were leaders. If so I couldn't disagree more. Bad leaders can do more damage by their presence. I think we are fortunate to have the turnover to make room for new administrators. We can complain about the new ones but frankly it can only get better. We have seen the worst with social justice. Most of the problems started 4-5 years ago with a board and administration that had a certain agenda. The moon evaluation was just a means to get rid of programs. Anyone sitting in the audience could tell their minds were made up.

Anonymous said...

11:08: the boe "directive" referred to elementary math not middle school courses. That was clearly stated if you listen to the learning committee and past boe meetings. So yes I am correcting you and you are wrong. And if you likewise listen to past boe and learning meetings, the boe repeatedly stated that the 1/3 was not a quota and it was just a guide based on what was done in the past. They also stated placement should be based on performance data and that the administration needed to look at what kids were successful in the past to use as a guide for placement. A lot of misinformation is freely being thrown around.

Mother of 4 D181 students said...

Everyone should read the following blog post from January 31, 2015:

It is long but definitely worth reading. I did and it makes me sick to my stomach to realize not much has changed. Administrators are still not collecting or using data, they are still making excuses and they still don't understand what has or is happening in D181 in the area of curriculum. Really, it feels like we are living in the twilight zone.

Anonymous said...

11:08: I don't think you were present or listened to the same meeting as I. This was never the direction of the board. The board majority has requested multiple times nothing but the highest standards for our students.

The incoming 6th grade class for Language Arts will be watered down. The directive from the district, NEVER asked for input by the board, was a MAP score of 224 and a Common Writing Assessment of 3 and above for the Enriched class. Scoring a 224 was the AVERAGE for the district. This is a very low standard, especially for a district like D181.

We are so thankful for the Principal we had at the time "learning for all" started, because he is helping every student in the district for 6th grade math. He stood up for what he knew was best practices, within the field of education. The standards are much higher, thanks to him. Ability grouping works, and this is the proof.

Anonymous said...

The main problem is the writing score. Writers workshop, peer editing, lack of grammar books, and unpublished teacher approved writing pieces have all contributed to a cohort of students who cannot put a simple paragraph together. Math is a disaster, but so is writing. Students need to know how to write to succeed in ELA.

Anonymous said...

This post is very apropos at this time of the year. Compared to parents of D181 even 4 years ago, parents NOW have no idea where their children will be placed in math. Nor do we know what the requirements are for children to be selected for advanced classes or acceleration. This is a disgrace.

Instead of fixing the problem 5 years ago, D181 chose to eliminate it on paper, yet claim that the program still met individual learner's needs through "differentiation". Hmm. Where on the website, or anywhere at a board meeting, did the curriculum department describe in writing, with details, how they were going to change the gifted/accelerated program? What exactly did they do to make spending $50,000 on Dr. Moon's report worth it? Instead of using the taxpayer's investment to IMPROVE our children's educations, they decided to just scrap it. My my. It sounds like yet another example of taxpayer fraud by the administration of D181, all at the expense of our children.

Anonymous said...

9:06pm - you have it exactly right. I warned Justin Horne for years that the language arts program is a disaster and that students are learning a fraction of what they would have learned 5 years ago. He didn't want to listen to me. Now the middle school teachers are trying to play catch up and teach our students how to write.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that I am very worried how my child will fare at Hinsdale Central and I blame all of the past and present administrators for screwing with a time proven curriculum, replacing it with an unproven social justice ideology promoted by the now missing in action Schneider, that was followed blindly by building principals and many teachers. Had I known six years ago when I moved here what the future would hold, I would have never moved here. Never in my adult life have I encountered so many professionals who have acted so unprofessionally and in a completely self serving manner. Their behavior has centered around their next promotion, rather than educating children. I am sorry this blog is ending because all the writers have had the balls to call them out publicly. I can only imagine how relieved the administrators must feel knowing that in one week they will once again be free to continue their reign of terror and educational malpractice unfettered and uncriticized.

Anonymous said...

9:46 - while we have waited a long time for criteria for placement in accelerated classes, it has been discussed in multiple meetings over the last couple of months. Math criteria can be found on the board website under Learning:

This includes math trajectories and placement criteria for both elementary and middle school. As discussed there is still no accelerated ELA for elementary aged students.

Descriptions of grade level and accelerated classes for middle school can also be found on the website under Learning:

The Parents said...

Anyone who has listened to the Learning Committee Meetings and BOE meetings knows that the cut-offs have been a moving target, even this year. Once again, there will be no consistency between past years and next year. According to Dr. Larson, she had a hard time knowing what cut-offs to pick because the district has no philosophy for gifted kids. It was truly shocking to hear her say this since EVERYONE who works in D181 should have been educated on the events of the last 5 years, including the work done by the overpaid consultants who were hired to develop the philosophy that was then board approved. Once we, the bloggers, realized that yet another D181 administrator has been performing her job in the dark, we decided it was time to throw in the towel, because it is clear as day that nothing has changed and we have zero confidence that things will improve in the next few years. For the sake of all D181 children -- current and future -- we hope we are proven wrong. The cut-offs thankfully will no longer impact our kids, but other parents should be very concerned about the unscientific manner in which they were chosen, then tweaked, this year. Where is the research that shows what cut-offs are appropriate? There is none. This was another dart game in the making, as far as we are concerned.

Anonymous said...

Please don't throw in the towel. We need you. Admittedly, D181 is probably worse off under Dr. White than even Dr. Schuster.

White has allowed the curriculum mess to proliferate, promoted incompetent people, hired people who don't seem to have a clue or the inclination to do work necessary to fix the messes in our schools. The special education students we know are worse off than ever while they are pushed thru their various grades. Many of us know parents of special education students and have heard them tell stories of special education staff denying the existence of blatant issues that a lay person could easily see. We have watched as bullying by staff members has proliferated in some of our schools. It is covered up and denied while staff are moved to different grades and different schools. D181 still isn't challenging our advanced learners.

The code of silence lives among D181 teachers, staff and administrators.

Without this blog, most of the BOE and many district parents would be in the dark.

Anonymous said...

There certainly does seem to be a code of silence, but it is clearly beyond our control in certain areas. Case in point -- Dr. Schneider. Nothing on any consent agenda to indicate if he quit, was fired or what the circumstances are for his not being at work for over one month. All we know is that the new Asst. Superintendent of PPS has started and was introduced at the last board meeting. Someone should file a FOIA to see if Schneider is still collecting his salary. If he is, there should be an investigation by an outside agency to find out if there are any abuses taking place.

Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% on this (forgive me if I'm wrong), but I heard that Dr. Schneider had a "medical" issue, hence why he was out. My question is: does he really have weeks, if not months, worth of sick leave accumulated? If so, the district really needs to change that. Our kids are in school for 9 moths a year. A single month out could have disastrous results.

On a different note, is there anyone willing to take the reigns for this blog? I realize maintaining this blog must be time consuming, but I really wish someone would take on the role. I would, but I'm busy enough as it is. Parents, if you're unwilling to reveal your identity, maybe you could set up a dead drop like they use in cop shows to pass on any relevant information?

Anonymous said...

There is a code of silence - but only we are to blame for that. How many parents have contacted the authorities to complain about this behavior? Not enough. 8:00 am needs to write an email to the board, file a FOIA, and contact the Attorney General. It is not enough to sit around and read for entertainment. If we allow the administration to continue to give our children's educational money to a revolving door of undeserving, impotent administrators, then why is anyone surprised when they get away with it? Not enough people have complained. Have you insisted for a response when you are ignored? Have you called the media to expose the problems? Have you publicly called out the offending administrators or board members when you are robbed blind? Treating these folks with kindness does NOT work. The golden rule does not apply to people without morals or a value system. It is better to be feared than loved. D181 knows this Machiavellian tenet. Do you? This administration is not using the same rulebook we are. What will you do about it?

Like Dr. White's quote says at the end of his emails, if you "dream" instead of "act", then nothing will ever change. He and his followers are all counting on the fact that parents are busy with their jobs and lives and won't have the time,money, or energy to take action against them. They want you to be afraid. Will you let them intimidate and embarrass you when THEY are the ones who should be embarrassed? People reading this blog - stop dreaming that this blog is the "action". This blog is the well that provides us will all the information you need to take action. Use it. Take your buckets to this well and drink the water. Let the water give you the strength to ACT. Instead, of drinking for sustenance, most of us stare at their buckets of water with parched mouths. Stop complaining how thirsty you are and ACT. GO to the next board meeting. Send more emails. Call a lawyer. Run for the School Board.

There are a lot of attorneys, CFO's and CEO's who live in this town who ironically, allow their K-8 school system to rob them blind. If we allow our board members to condone the silence and the wrongdoing, then we get what we deserve. Everyone hanging back on the sidelines, staring at the water, don't be surprised when your children do not get the same treatment that board members children's get. Or, the same treatment that parents with attorneys get. When no one dares to speak up against the corruption or silence, the whole group suffers. The parents who invest the time and the money to fight the corruption get what they want. The rest of us will not. It will not be easy, but anything worth fighting for is hard.

I am thankful for this blog, but if you read the story above our posts, you must understand that NOTHING has changed. What is the point of a well if no one drinks from it? I do not blame the bloggers for hanging it up. They have done important, valuable public service for ALL our our children. They and certain board members like Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray have put their reputations on the line while other parents think showing up at a school fund raisers meets their public service requirements. Act. Don't dream.

Anonymous said...

I agree 10:50. My children are long grown, but I served on the Caucus and went to a number of school board meetings in my day. I follow this blog and our local papers, but that is it. We get the schools we deserve. Many drink the Koolaid that Hinsdale schools are outstanding. This is driven by the still strong results of Hinsdale Central. When the current group of 4th through 8th graders start making their way through high school, it will be interesting to see how the scores hold up.

I for one would like to see honest, fair reporting by the Hinsdalean and The Doings. The local press should be much more than cheerleaders for our town. Many people that are not aware of this blog will peruse the local paper once a week. The test results MUST be published and COMPARED to the results of 5, 10, and 15 years ago. Math and Reading scores must be published by school. I talk to former Monroe parents, and they are literally clueless about how far a once top school in the state has fallen. Parents of young children need to be INFORMED, they need to GET MAD, and they need to ACT!. My child is done, my child was an AP scholar at Hinsdale Central. My child got a great college degree and a REAL JOB!!!! My child worked her tail off starting in 2nd and 3rd grade. My child knew math facts in second grade and was required to learn 50 vocabulary words PER WEEK in 5th grade, plus all the countries and all the states. Learning is NOT a GROUP PROJECT. No one is going to take the ACT or SAT for your child. No one is going to take AP tests for your child.

Parents of young children, you have to wake up. Our district has fallen very far in a short period of time. Cleaning house in the administration is the first step. We need disruptors on the school board, not the "go along to get along" types that fall for every educational fad that comes down the pike.

This situation can be fixed. It starts when the parents of school aged children are informed and take the initiative to get their schools fixed. As a taxpayer, I will tell you we don't need more money or fancy new buildings. We need a solid curriculum that challenges all students. We need differentiated learning for our top students. We need much improved special education for a population of students. Please get informed and get involved.

Unknown said...

Sadly, I have just reread the 5/27 blog post on the D181 curriculum mess. To think that the last five years' MAP scores have declined is just awful. Having been involved in the operations of D181 for the last 29 years and had two children successfully educated in D181, it is so upsetting to realize how D181 has slipped from being a high performing district that successfully serviced all students.

I want to make a couple of observations. In a high performing district such as D181, it is crucial that there be knowledgable, experienced educational leadership that puts what is best for the students first. The superintendent MUST BE knowledgable and experienced in ALL ASPECTS of elementary education, not just management and technology, but finance and CURRICULUM, too. D181 has NOT experienced a superintendent of this caliber for 10 years. I won't go into all the details/specifics, but it is TRUE! The administrative personnel blunders that D181 has experienced the last 10 years demonstrate what happens in a district when the WRONG people, who may have degrees, but no knowledge and genuine experience, are in charge. D181 was actually blessed when so many of the "bad leaders" jumped ship and then the BOE demanded that Schneider and Benaitis be "coached out." The interim personnel that D181 has experienced, going all the way back to Dr. Sabatino and up to the present, didn't work out well in our high performing district either. At best, interims help a district "tread water" and, hopefully, the district will not regress until a qualified permanent replacement is found. We know what has happened the last ten years. 6/2, 9:30am's comments are 100% correct. Also, 6/3, 10:50am has it right, too. The D181 community must end its "code of silence!" The entire D181 community, both parents and empty nesters, is to blame for allowing this unsatisfactory performance to continue in D181. Action needs to be taken! Go to BOE meetings and speak, contact the BOE members, serve on the Hinsdale Village Caucus that recommends BOE candidates, run for the BOE, demand that a new superintendent be found. There are current BOE members who know the current administration is inadequate, but just don't want to go through another superintendent search!!! They don't want tobe bothered to put in the time and effort....shame on them!! Not doing their job is negatively impacting our children's education. The only thing I take exception to in 6/3 10:50am's statement is the impression given that BOE members Rich Giltner and Leslie Gray are the only BOE members who have put their reputations on the line and acted correctly. Their are other current BOE members who have worked enormously hard for our students, devoted their time and put their reputations on the line, too. A couple others not so much.

Anyway, with new permanent SpEd and Curriculum Asst. Superintendents in place, hopefully, circumstance is D181 will greatly improve. However, dedicated, knowledgeable BOE members are needed and a knowledgable, experienced superintendent is mandatory. An engaged community that will take action is a must, too.

Anonymous said...

Yes Yes Yes, there is a code of silence. Sadly, I have known some of the incidents that occur from the elementary level. They are covered up and are not disclosed to the parents in full. From aggressive behavior between students to blatantly lying to parents about their child's development...specifically at Monroe on the Admin level (hint hint: Principal), all to save face. We do have children with needs and they try hiding it or just act as a baby sitter.

Teachers indicate that they are in the dark and are asked to 'cover up' incidents or 'don't talk to the parents'. Teachers are moved to different locations after the Admin promises a parent their child will have certain attention devoted.

Anonymous said...

Sounds far too familiar to my experiences at HMS. Especially regarding the cover ups, directions to staff to not talk to the parents, and special education staff lying to both parents and teachers. Disgusting behavior.

Anonymous said...

The truth is the district has posted some criteria on the Board Docs for fall, but it is vague. 90th percentile in the grade above the standard grade? And 80th percentile and 90 percent class average? This is too broad and frankly, too vague. We have no idea what this will actually translate too and the idea that they will do this work over the summer and then miraculously present it in the fall means that once again parents will be in the dark.

I've been in D 181 three years and guess what? There has been three different criteria for math in those three years. I'm really disappointed with the academics here. Let's get this show on the road. SHAPE UP. We look terrible to other feeder school districts to HC.
Our children are not getting their needs met. I"m frankly just so disappointed DOL. I will be voting NO till you clean up this mess.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Monroe has bigger problems than we all thought and it seems like the problems all point to the top management at the school. So what is Dr. White going to do about it? The principal does not believe that advanced learners should be challenged because then the kids at the bottom cannot catch up. He thumbed his nose at the math directive all year and went along with ability grouping in name only but it is still learning for all (really none) at that school. The parents get education double talk when they complain. It sounds like the teachers are bullied into a code of silence. And the scores are the lowest in the district - again and again and again. Enough already! This should of ended when Monroe fell to 109 in the rankings but instead the problem is only getting worse. It is time to get experienced leadership to take the reins at Monroe.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation - the teachers who do not believe in the learning for all nonsense are bullied into silence. The believers are promoted into top positions (principal spots with no prior experience , cushy coaching positions, admin positions). The believer teachers are the pets and they feel free to come to board meetings and tell off the BOE. The rest cower in fear in the shadows. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I've only really experienced the "code of silence" once. A teacher had left the district so I innocently asked one of the other teachers what happened. They were told "don't ask." Usually, it's maternity leave or a medical condition. If that was the case, I would have respected the teacher's privacy and not pry. However, when the teachers are told to not even ask, that's sketchy. If the teacher was harming our kids, we have the right to know.

Other than that, sometimes when I e-mailed someone in the district, I wouldn't get a response back. Besides that, I haven't really experienced a code of silence. If anything, it's just the people not knowing. Unfortunately, a lot of people of people who should know certain things don't. I hate to use the word incompetent to describe the administration, but in many cases, I think it's valid. I've seen so many administrators not even know the basics of the curriculum, like what textbook we use. And I've heard from teachers way too many times that the administration makes decisions without actually checking with the teachers/committees first. Or if they do, the administration just cares about stuff that looks good on paper rather than the actual benefits/utility of it.

I'm also curious: with all this talk about how poorly Monroe is doing, do the teachers even talk to the teachers in other schools? Do they get a chance to share lesson plans, what works and what doesn't? If not, is it just that they choose not to, or is the administration not giving them the appropriate time and resources to do that?

8:44, I'm a little surprised by the statement that the principal doesn't want to challenge the advanced learners because the kids at the bottom won't catch up. Can anyone confirm this? Is there something in writing? If true, that's extremely disturbing. While I can understand not being at the same level. There are 8th graders taking Geometry, which I didn't take until 2 years later in my sophomore year. Does that make me feel a little stupid? Sure, a little. But I'm not asking the top students to be dumbed down. I've learned that people learn at different speeds, and people are good at different things. While I don't want the high achievers to show off and make the the lower kids feel stupid, but (and forgive my bluntness) the lower achieving kids and their parents really need to grow a backbone. Parents complained about how their kids didn't get into the accelerated math courses, and we saw how that ended. We got the 4th grade compacting thing where a good portion of the kids needing tutoring. It's not the end of the world if our kids don't go to Harvard or some other Ivy League school. I've met way too many people who got great educations at the College of DuPage (myself included) and people from Harvard as dumb as a stump. However, I also think the administration's failing us. They really need to define what is gifted, and how to identify such kids, as well as SpEd/IEP/504 students. Both ends of the spectrum, along with those in the middle, are all falling behind. We really need to step up and hold the board & administration accountable.

Anonymous said...

The Monroe Principal is a perfect example of an administrator who has leapfrogged to the top of the food chain in a startlingly short period of time. He went from being a relatively young 5th grade Math teacher at the Lane to being the principal of one of the largest elementary schools in the district. Was he really the most qualified to take on this position after the revolving door of past Monroe principals? Shouldn't the then superintendent (the one with the supersensitive nose that declared there was no mold at HMS right before all H-ll broke loose and millions were spent to remediate the infestation) have looked for a principal who had proven him or herself in a comparable school district? For those who have followed district happenings, don't you find it coincidental that the year before his internal promotion, he was the HCHTA president who negotiated a 3 year teacher contract where the teachers took a pretty raw deal -- including a salary freeze for one year? Is it remotely possible that he was rewarded for negotiating such a bad contract for the teachers, with the end result being a positive one for him? And is it coincidental that he has now become one of the right hand helpers to White on curriculum matters, along with another middle school principal who has somehow survived not one but two scandals? What is happening in D181 is really horrendous. But will it ever change? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Monroe isn't the only school in the district with huge problems. If it was, our district test scores wouldn't be so low.

Our schools are doing awful compared to the Western Springs schools which spend thousands of dollars less per student than D181. I don't think Western Springs students are smarter than D181 students. I think they are taught better.

Putting aside the education fiasco, look at the bullying problems at our schools. Elm is the perfect example. Parent after parent have complained about some staff members. The offending staff members at Elm have been moved to other schools in the district or moved to higher grades because, I guess, older children can better take the abuse.

Parents have pulled their children out of Elm School. The principal knows of many of the problems and has done nothing. Like the earlier writers have said, Elm School's principal has allowed the code of silence to continue.

A few D181 families have hired lawyers. I've heard that lawyers have threatened class actions.

The BOE should be concerned about the families hiring attorneys. The administration may claim these parents are the squeaky wheels or crazy. The BOE should realize they aren't protecting the district's interests by burying their heads in the sand and protecting the administration.

One of these days, these families with lawyers with find each other. When they do, the stuff is going to hit the fan and all of the administrations' excuses will cost D181 big bucks.

It won't cost the administrators because they don't live here and will have moved on to other cushy jobs or will be enjoying their pensions with bumped up payments. It will cost the D181 taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Very good points, 1:53. The board is burying their heads in the sand. Some are hoping that their double faced, back stabbing tactics towards us and our children will be rewarded just like certain principals and administrators are. Very naive of the BOE. At least the staff has contracts and are getting paid. If the BOE continues to protects these administrators, their children's educations and their property values will suffer along with our losses.

Undoubtedly, the BOE and the administration will do all they can to paint the families faced to hire lawyers as bad guys and trouble makers. That's what the district's defense attorneys tell them to do. This is yet another way the district bullies parents and students to prevent them from complaining. It might take time, but the truth always comes out. Karma has a good way of leveling the playing field.

I agree with 10:07 and 10:42 also. The staff with weak ethics definitely are rewarded here. The ones who don't play ball with mafioso mentality of the administration have the common sense to run before they get get sued and/or caught.

D181 Staff Member said...

9:55: I am just now catching up on reading the blog. I am a D181 staff member, and like many other teachers in the District, am sad that the blog is going to end. So I am compelled to send you this information in response to your comment on Dr. Schneider. Here is the text from an email the D181 staff members received from Dr. White on May 23, 2016. It provides some information answers and raises more questions. I am a staff member who will not remain silent. After reading Dr. White's email, I was left feeling very empty and disappointed in an administrator who may be gaming the system. I will comment further after the text of the email:

"Dear Colleagues,

I know that many of you have inquired about Dr. Kurt Schneider's status. As you may know, he has been absent for several weeks. I am pleased to share that Dr. Schneider contacted us today and he is doing well and will return to D181 for a few days starting June 2nd. His last few days in D181 will be spent on transition work with Dr. Christina Sepiol. He is also planning to visit schools and meet with key stakeholders during this time.

On a related note, Dr. Sepiol began her work today in D181. I am confident you will enjoy working with her. She will become a great asset to D181.

Thank you.


What you should all know is that Dr. Schneider hasn't just been absent for several weeks. Several suggests 3 weeks and everyone on staff knows he never returned to D181 after Spring Break -- that was NINE weeks ago. Staff was led to believe that Dr. Schneider was out sick, so no one was going to suggest otherwise. I am glad for him personally if he has recovered from whatever ailed him that he can return to work, but I am not naive enough to be fooled by the verbiage in Dr. White's letter. Dr. White says Dr. Schneider is going to return for a FEW days starting June 2. What does FEW mean? Two, three, four or five days? It certainly doesn't mean more than that under any definition. My understanding is that Dr. Schneider resigned some time ago with an effective date of June 30, not June 5, 6 or 7. So is he being allowed to leave earlier than that now that Dr. Sepiol is here and on staff full time? If so, is he being paid through June 30? I certainly hope not and further hope he hasn't been allowed to game the system by using accrued vacation days. Past administrators who have left have worked right up to their final day. As a teacher, I know when administrators leave, if they have unused vacation days, they are cut a check. They are not allowed to spend their last few weeks on vacation. For me, that would be so wrong and I hope it is not something that Dr. White or any BOE member is endorsing. It sends a wrong message to all other D181 employees. Like I said in the beginning of this comment, I am left feeling very empty and disappointed in what I am seeing play out. This district is not a game, even if some administrators are treating it like one.