Does MAP Show District 64 Going In Wrong Direction?


Roughly one-third of our growing property tax bills goes to Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.  That’s a reason to pay attention to what’s going on with D-64, even if you don’t have kids enrolled in its schools.

In the past we have been critical of D-64’s unimpressive performance on the ISATs, noting that – as reported in the Chicago newspapers – D-64 schools are regularly outperformed by less affluent districts and/or those that spend less per student, on teachers, and on administrators.

But according to an article in last week’s Park Ridge Hearld-Advocate (“Kids not reaching ‘full-growth’ targets on standardized tests,” July 20), during the just-completed school year only 56.7% of D-64 students reached their “MAP” full-growth targets in reading; and only 57.2% reached their “MAP” full-growth targets in math. That’s down from 60.5% and 61.4%, respectively, for last year’s scores.

The MAP evaluation, developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association (“NWEA”), appears to be the latest educational BFF of D-64 teachers and administrators, presumably because – unlike other tests – the MAPs are designed to measure a student’s educational growth against his/her past performance rather than against other standards.  Those test results also are used to set curriculum priorities.

NWEA is a not-for-profit corporation based in Oregon that claims to be “dedicated to helping kids live their dreams” (really, that’s on its website!).  Such dedication can be pretty lucrative, however, as NWEA booked over $54 million in revenues in 2008 (based on its latest IRS From 990 posted on GuideStar) – and its President/CEO made almost $400,000 that year.  Not too shabby for an organization not interested in “profit.”

But back to D-64’s MAP quest. 

Diane Betts, assistant supt. for student learning, is quoted as saying: “We’re a little disappointed that we slipped down.” 

And well you should be, Ms. Betts.  And so should be the people who pay the bill for it, because high-quality education is extremely important for the students, their parents, and the community as a whole (e.g., for the positive effect good schools have on property values).  

Betts went on to state that there is “some variance between buildings and teachers.”  Surprisingly (or maybe not), neither the H-A article nor anything we could find on the D-64 website identified those variances, buildings or teachers. 

When it comes to how our schools and teachers are performing their duties, there shouldn’t be any secrets.  Any “variance between buildings and teachers” should be explained, with those buildings and those teachers identified so that parents and community members can meaningfully address those variances at public meetings.  And so they can hold teachers and administrators accountable for them.

We can imagine the D-64 administrators and teachers union…uh, we mean the “Park Ridge Education Association”…howling about “rights to privacy” and a “lynch mob” mentality if such information were readily available.  To that, we say: “Too bad.”

If you want the security of a public paycheck, pension and benefits, then you owe those taxpayers accountability for what you do to earn them.  And that goes for teachers and adminstrators alike.

As we have noted before, it appears the price taxpayers of Park Ridge are paying for education signficantly exceeds the quality of the education the students are getting, at least based on standardized test scores like the ISATs.  And, so far, we have not heard any satisfactory explanation of that situation from either the administrators or the teachers.  Worse yet, our “representatives” on the D-64 School Board – Pat Fioretto, Russ Gentile, John Heyde, Sharon Lawson, Ted Smart, Genie Taddeo and Eric Uhlig – continue to be deafeningly silent.

Which is why we’re also troubled by Ms. Betts’ quote that “[t]he lofty 70-percent goals may not be realistic” for D-64.

Those “lofty” goals she is talking about are reportedly the student growth rates of NWEA’s claimed 3400+ “partner” school districts, the better performers of which have 70% of their students meet or exceed their average growth standards, whatever that really means.  So if one of our head educators thinks 70% – which is a “D-” in most school grading systems – is too “lofty” a goal for our students, it sounds like D-64 may have a “standards” problem.

Unimpresive ISAT scores are one thing, but how can D-64 get lost with a MAP?

4 comments so far

Thank you so much for uncovering all of this, Public Watchdog!

We watch the city council quite a bit but they are amateur spenders compared to the two school districts.

When is the next budget discussion we can all attend? When is the next election for school board?

EDITOR’S NOTE:   Thanks, but we didn’t uncover all that much: we just took the H-A article, did a little extra digging (that, in our opinion, the reporter should have done), and supplied our own questions and comments. 

Unfortunately, you will just have to keep checking the D-64 website for the Board’s meeting agendas to monitor when budget discussions are scheduled. We’ll try to help where we can. 

The next school board election is in April 2011, at the same time as the City’s aldermanic and the Park District Board’s elections.

At least D-64 teachers and admins can’t use the alibi that they “don’t teach to the test” with MAP the way they do with ISAT.

A number of years ago I reviewed a draft of a 64 Strat Plan developed by the usual project team including parents.

I called the Board Chair to tell her that there was absolutely no commitment to provide the opportunity for each student to grow to his/her potential. Chair says you are right I’ll get back to you. She did……t inform me that the team felt the project was too far along to make commitments like that.

Now see the result. District 64 commits only to better bigger everything only for admin, teachers and other staff and the results really do show at test time


Wow!! A few years ago?? Were your kids in D64 schools at that time? I do not remember anyone mentioning this at a school board meeting. You had the conversation you claim to have had with the board chair and you say nothing until a few years later on a blog?!?!?!?! Thanks a freakin’ lot!!! Did you not consider it important at the time???

Here is what I find so frustrating about this topic. People like you making these claims years after the fact and go on to make blanket generalizations…..”commits only to better bigger everything only for admin, teachers and other staff”. Meanwhile, my family and virtually every family we are friends with continue to have EXCELLENT experiences with D64 schools (teachers, admin, staff). Are there a few bumps in the road? Of course but your claims are over the top.