Friday, January 27, 2012

It appears the BOE is tracking curriculum changes

So, if you are not pleased with how it's going, be sure and let them know. The following is excerpted from an Jan/Feb 2012 article on the Illinois Association of School Boards website entitled "Reading: Pumping up the Basics"...

The reason why the BOE meeting schedule was changed (from the article)
In order to keep track of the curriculum changes that are being implemented, the District 150 board has modified its meeting schedule. While the board still meets twice a month, one meeting is devoted to business with a 10-minute slot allotted for teacher or student presentations. The other meeting allots from 30 minutes to two hours for individual program presentations and discussion topics. These in-depth explanations also give the community the transparency and information that they have been asking for.

The District’s literacy plan is COMPLETE (from the article)
With the beginning of the 2011-12 school years, District 150 embarked on an orchestrated quest to pump up its reading scores on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). The multi-pronged approach is supported by teachers and tutors in the classroom all the way up through the superintendent and the school board.
 “We really want the board to see how this is working; Becky (Lindholm) and Shameika (Sykes-Patterson) can go through programs with them and not be concerned about the amount of time allotted.” Board President Butler
The basics of the change involve a daily dedicated 90 minutes of reading instruction throughout the elementary grades and an additional 45 minutes of grouped reading work every day. While the 90-minute reading block was in place before, it has now become sacrosanct. No student can be pulled out of that 90-minute reading block — not for speech, not for band, not for anything.

Superintendent Lathan knows that in order to make a difference, the district — from the board down to the teachers — must follow the plan that has been created. “This has to be done with fidelity,” Lathan said. To achieve that fidelity in the classroom, the district is providing professional development for teachers and principals on the new balanced literacy program, doing walk-throughs in classrooms to observe progress and implementing coaching where help is needed.

The district’s ambitious three-year strategic plan shows much work remains to be completed by 2014. But the important strategy of creating a new literacy program is checked off as complete. Read complete article here…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Superintendent Grenita Lathan being blamed for problems in San Diego Unified's special education program

Today I heard about how it was going for teachers who are now teaching gifted classes in District 150. They are excited to have the opportunity. The only problem is, the teachers I heard about have not had any training, the principal was not given any resources, there were no materials purchased and there is no directive on what the teachers should be teaching. When the teachers registered to receive training on gifted education at a seminar in Chicago, the District Administration denied the request. This sounds a lot like the San Diego Unified issue:

 San Diego Unified's Big Special Ed Shift

It was the biggest change in the way San Diego Unified educates its students with special needs in a decade, and we wanted to know how the district had coped with the transition.

In 2008, after a report concluded that children with disabilities were too often being segregated into separate classrooms, the district began a concentrated effort to include far more children with special needs in general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools.

The shift required a complex reorganization of where kids with special needs would go to school. Rather than being grouped at relatively few sites that focused on special education, thousands of students with disabilities instead began flooding into their local schools.

Here are the conclusions we came to:
• Interviews with more than two dozen teachers, principals, experts and parents revealed a haphazard rollout of the new special education model that was plagued by a lack of vision and leadership.
• On the issue of training, specifically, there was confusion. Despite advocates pushing for mandatory training for teachers, nobody at the district ever tried to make that happen.
• There's also disagreement about how principals were trained for the big change. The top official at the district's Special Education Division says she was blocked from approaching principals to tell them about training. But that claim is refuted by her former boss, who no longer works in San Diego.
• What's clear is that individual schools were essentially left to work out how to make the move on their own, with little help from the district.
• Though many schools say they have now ironed out most of the kinks in making the transition, that's taken time and has placed undue stress on teachers while impacting the education of kids with special needs and the children they now share classrooms with.
• Some principals said three years later they're still struggling to implement the new model, as each year they must learn to teach children with disabilities they have not encountered at the school before.

Why Training Was Never Mandated
Back in October, we described how many general education teachers at the district were suddenly faced with teaching children with special needs, despite having no training on how to do so.What we didn't tell you was why the district never made that training compulsory for the thousands of teachers making the transition.

Here's why: Nobody at the district ever tried to make training mandatory, despite being urged to do so by some advocates of the change.

Arguably the district's biggest challenge in implementing the new approach was convincing skeptical teachers and principals that it was the right thing to do. An effective way to do that was to get those teachers into training sessions, to show them the benefits of inclusion, said Marvin Elementary School Principal E. Jay Derwae.

"Of course training should have been mandatory. You have to make sure everybody buys into the new paradigm shift, and you've got to be able to hold teachers' hands through the changes."
Jay Derwae

Many Principals Weren't Trained Either
While the decision that more inclusion was needed came down from the higher echelons of the district, the foot soldiers in the effort to make the change a reality were individual school principals. Like teachers, many principals at the district needed crucial training to help them assimilate their new found students with special needs into their schools. And there were practical considerations too, like how to set up "sensory rooms" where children with certain disabilities could cool down after getting upset.

Special education training was never mandated for principals either. And there's more.

Susan Martinez, executive director of the district's Special Education Division, said she was told principals were too busy to hear about additional training. She said she was told not to attend meetings with principals, and was barred from putting information about training on the district's website.

"Because of the way the system was, we were not allowed access to principals. So, the word was out there that we didn't want to work with principals," Martinez said. "We would say 'We can do training, we want to do training, but we're not allowed to.'"

Asked who barred her from approaching principals, Martinez named Grenita Lathan, who used to serve as a deputy superintendent and is now superintendent of a school district in Peoria, Ill.

Lathan said Martinez's claim is untrue. She said she'll be contacting the district. Source

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

School Board member calls student behavior 'atrocious'

Yesterday the School Board met as a Committee of the Whole at Washington Gifted School. The issue of discipline was a hot topic, as the Board received a report on student discipline.

Kudos to the Lathan Administration, they seem to be cognizant of the civil rights issues surrounding inconsistent enforcement of problem behaviors in schools and they appear to be working diligently to insure that a discipline policy is instituted that will be applied equally across the District.

There are very few issues that School Board members are vocal about and I am pleased that they are vocal about resolving issues of discipline. However, in my opinion, it is unfortunate to hear a steward of our children’s education speak with such disdain for the clients they serve. I understand the frustrations, but words can hurt. When dealing with children, we must make every effort to temper our emotions.

"I used the term 'atrocious' to describe behavior
last time, I'm going to leave that word in place."
School Board member Rick Cloyd,
referring to an earlier first-quarter report on discipline.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Note to the inner city: The COP does not care about you

The School District shuts down schools because they "can't afford to keep them open" and inner city neighborhoods are ripped apart. The Park District closes down inner city YMCA/YWCA, limiting places where inner city children can play, thereby leaving children to make do on the streets. 

In the meantime, the COP is creating TIF Districts specifically for private developers and as soon as the TIF reaches maturity, giving payouts to private developers, rather than returning the monies back to the Districts. 

The Southtown TIF district, which was created in 1978, currently has a $4.6 million balance and will expire next year. The TIF-generated payouts SHOULD go back to taxing districts such as the School District and the Park District. Instead the COP has decided that a private developer is entitled to three-quarters of the payout. In addition, the Southtown TIF could also be tapped to pay for ongoing work in the Warehouse District. 
 “…in 2010, $3.5 million in property tax revenues that would otherwise have gone to District 150 was redirected to City Hall for projects within the TIF districts.
David Kinney, the comptroller and treasurer of District 150

Does this sound like a City that cares about inner city children and the neighborhoods in which they live?  Not to me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cancellation of Tavis Smiley brings huge publicity for his "cause"

... and boy is he working it. We already saw the write up on Politico, but today Tavis continues to move forward with  a rejuvenation of his campaign (and his cancellation fee) to "hold the President accountable." This cancellation comes at quite an opportune time in the campaign season, as bad mouthing the Obama White House is in vogue. Tavis has been all over Fox doing what he does.

What was supposed to be an event to celebrate MLK turns out to be wonderful publicity for Tavis, but not a good look for Peoria and the black folks who assimilate here. All across the blogosphere folks have an opinion on brother Tavis and how he was treated by the "Peoria Civic Center group"...

Smiley’s replacement will be Hip-Hop intellectual and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. Smiley was set to earn $37,000, but will be given a smaller cancellation fee instead. Should officials at the Peoria Civic Center have buckled to the pressure of a few Obama supporters? And do you feel Tavis Smiley has been treated unfairly because he is a black public figure who criticizes the President? Give us your thoughts!
Tavis Smiley was set to speak at the annual Martin Luther King luncheon Jan. 16 at Peoria Civic Center until Obama supporters began a boycott of the event.

Tavis Smiley was scheduled to speak at a Martin Luther King celebration event in Illinois. smiley has been a frequent critic of President Obama. Obama supporters threatened to boycott the event and the invitation was recsinded. Smiley speaking to Fox News said “I don’t see my roles as one of criticizing the president. I see my roles as one of holding the president–this president –accountable. I am no fan of Smiley but this is not right. Sure an organization has a right to choose a speaker for an event but why invite him and then uninvite him this just bad taste.
Tavis Smiley will not be the keynote speaker at the annual Peoria MLK Luncheon. Event Organizers say the threat of a boycott prompted them to cancel Smiley's contract.

Tavis Smiley was set to deliver the keynote address at an MLK luncheon hosted by the Peoria Civic Center next week in central Illinois until a group of Obama supporters demanded that he be replaced or face a boycott…

Tavis Smiley replaced as speaker @ MLK event in Peoria, IL - 2 hours ago
Tavis Smiley was booted from the 20th annual MLK luncheon on Jan. ... aware of unfortunately so we made the decision to cancel his contract. ...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bratz Dolls / Barbie Dolls = Kardashian Dolls

Bratz Dolls
For years now the Mattel company (the makers of Barbie) has been fighting the makers of the Bratz Dolls. If you are not familiar with the Bratz dolls, notice the image above and you will see they do not resemble Mattel’s Barbie dolls: neither aesthetically nor in demeanor. Visibly there’s a certain multi-cultural/diverse feel to the Bratz dolls that Barbie has never been able to fully grasp or create. The Bratz Dolls have exotic names like Yasmin, Chloe, Katia, Sasha and Jade.

According to an E! Online source, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian dolls are coming our way. The limited edition dolls are expected to be released later this year and they’ll be available where all Barbie dolls are sold. The Kardashian sisters like to refer to their fans and the employees at their Dash retail stores as “Dash Dolls,” and the source says the mini Kardashians will be outfitted with clothes available at their shops. Mattel, the makers of Barbie, tells the site that it doesn’t discuss product rumors.

It would seem to me that if Mattel does go forward with the Kardashian sister dolls, they run a good risk of infringing on the Bratz Dolls copyright, considering how much the Bratz Dolls look like the Kardashian sisters.
Kourtney, Khloe and Kim Kardashian

Bratz doll maker MGA wins court battle with Mattel

April 22, 2011 - A jury in the federal retrial over who owns the rights to the billion-dollar Bratz franchise finds that Mattel stole trade secrets from MGA and owes the company $88.5 million. In siding with MGA Entertainment Inc. over rival Mattel Inc. in the retrial over who owns the rights to the billion-dollar Bratz doll franchise, a federal jury said the toy giant had not proved its allegations of copyright infringement.

The eight-person jury unanimously rejected Mattel's copyright infringement claims; said Mattel did not own the rights to the dolls, early models or sketches; and said MGA did not steal trade secrets. Instead, it found that Mattel had stolen trade secrets from MGA and owed MGA $88.5 million. MGA had accused its rival of stealing 114 trade secrets; the jury awarded damages on 26 of them.

In Mattel's only win, the jury found that MGA and its chief executive, Isaac Larian, intentionally interfered with Mattel's contractual relations with Bratz creator Carter Bryant, a former Barbie designer. Mattel was awarded a total of $10,000 on those claims.
The decision came in federal court, capping eight days of jury deliberations, nearly three months of testimony and years of corporate bickering. Dozens of spectators packed U.S. District Judge David O. Carter's courtroom for the announcement, including the CEOs of both companies. The decision was a major turnabout from the first trial in 2008, when a jury in Riverside awarded $100 million in damages to Mattel in the copyright infringement case; MGA was ordered to turn over the franchise to Mattel and stop making and selling Bratz products.