At School Dist. 64, Change Just Means More Of The Same


We’re always looking to see how our two local school districts are doing in comparison to the schools in other comparable upper-level communities. 

That’s because we believe that top-shelf schools at a reasonable price can be a difference-maker for folks considering moving to not-inexpensive suburbs like Park Ridge. And even at a high price, top-shelf schools can still add enough value to be a difference-maker. 

Which should mean better education for the kids and higher property values for the taxpayers. 

But as we’ve pointed out repeatedly, although Park Ridge public schools are better than most they no longer appear to rank among the very best – judging by the annual ISAT-based rankings that both Chicago newspapers (and sometimes Chicago magazine) put out – despite Park Ridge taxpayers continuing to pay top-shelf prices for those schools.

Over-payment for under-performance is never a good strategy.

So a recent Park Ridge Journal article with the title “District 64 Prepares For Strategic Planning” (09.11.14) caught our eye. It talked about how Park Ridge-Niles School Dist. 64, with one year still left on former Supt. Sally Pryor’s five year strategic plan, is looking to hire a consultant to assess where the District’s current situation. And new D-64 superintendent Laurie Heinz wants that assessment to be “a nice, objective look from highly trained professionals.”

Heinz’s consultant of choice? The Consortium for Educational Change (“CEC”).

Note the key words in the name: “educational change.” Not “educational excellence.” Not “educational achievement.” Not “educational improvement.” Not even “educational hope and change.”

Just “educational change.”

That’s because “change” is no longer merely inevitable: it’s now actually considered good. “New” – as in “different” – has replaced “new and improved,” presumably because novelty is all we need. The tiny-brained folks, encouraged by marketers, advertisers and politicians, now embrace anything new or different so long as it doesn’t require them to do the heavy lifting of determining whether that new or different is actually better.

And if better, whether the benefits meet or exceed the costs.

Then again, cost-benefit analyses are not the forte of most public school teachers and administrators. That holds true at D-64, including its School Board members who should be focused on the bottom line both educationally and financially. It comes as no shock, then, that the D-64 Board apparently has endorsed Heinz’s choice of CEC.

What is CEC?

According to the “About” page of its website, CEC claims to be:

“[A] nonprofit organization affiliated with the Illinois Education Association that works with teachers, school and district administrators, school boards and unions to improve student learning and achievement.”

In other words, it’s a teachers union-dominated private corporation with the audacity to claim that its goal is…wait for it…educational achievement.  Even if, by all outward appearances, “change” seems to be its greater concern.

And since it’s a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, there are no pesky shareholders looking over CEC management’s shoulders making sure the services it provides are competent and valuable enough to generate profits that can be paid to those shareholders as dividends. That leaves CEC free to be a one-trick pony: a shameless cheerleader for unaccountable educators and administrators who hire it – presumably using taxpayer funds – to tell them what they want to hear.

What the D-64 Board, teachers and administrators DON’T want to hear is anything about ISAT-based performance rankings. Which is why a more-than-cursory Google search failed to disclose any public acknowledgement of those kinds of rankings by the D-64 Board or administration since Sally Pryor pushed the adoption of her “Journey of Excellence” plan four years earlier, before retiring with her guaranteed $183,400/year pension, avec COLAs.

Which is curious, given that one of the “Parameters” on page 2 of the “Strategic Plan Components” from the D-64 website states: “Student performance on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISATs) will always compare favorably with other high-achieving districts.”

Although edu-speak often is a totally foreign language, in common English the term “compare favorably with” customarily means “is better than.”

Does D-64 really need to hire a consultant like CEC to tell it how close it hasn’t come to meeting that particular performance “parameter”?

To read or post comments, click on title.

14 comments so far

Excellent frickin’ post.

So you call it insanity when as you put it the board continues to do the same thing (increasing teacher pay) and now you criticize when they try something different. Yet you offer no solutions yourself just cry about keeping tax dollars in yout pocket.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, they’re still “increasing teacher [and administrator] pay.” And the “different” thing(s) they are trying have no clearly-defined, objectively-measurable benchmarks by which they and the taxpayers can judge any achievement – so there’s no way of determining whether the latest “magic bullet” (i.e., Chromebooks) is successful.

Agree — excellent POV.

Disclaimer. Same poster not trying to give impression of “groundswell” just pointing out pubdogs vicious attacks lack support in facts and possibly demonstrate his self interest

He mentions Chicago magazine. Found 2012 ranking. I’ll look for 2013. Main south ranked number 6 in cook county suburbs. Following pubdogs logic this means what has been done at d207 has worked? So don’t change? See how blindly following rankings without assessing the actual programs at school or success rate at college etc can lead to some strange theories?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Using the Chicago mag rankings, the only way you could get a 6th place ranking for Maine South was by limiting your comparables to Cook County and excluding City of Chicago schools. By simply including the schools in DuPage and Lake Counties (a/k/a, the greater Chicagoland metropolitan area) for communities comparable to Park Ridge, Maine South drops to 13th, behind five Cook County schools and the likes of Hinsdale Central, Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, Deerfield, Lake Forest, Libertyville and Stevenson.

And guess what? Only New Trier and Lake Forest spend more per pupil than Maine South, while only Stevenson has a lower graduation rate (93%) than Maine South’s (93.3)

Finally, that Chicago mag ranking was for the 2010-11 school year, so it is 3 years outdated.

Actually, based on multitudes of experiences, wouldn’t it be far more likely that the consultant would pander to the client if he WERE with a for-profit company? Non-profits are full of idealists who may be wrong but seldom lie outright and harm masses of people to appease the guy who writes the check and is “accountable” for the next quarter’s bottom line/shareholder value.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Non-profits don’t perform their services FOR FREE. It’s actually easier for the non-profit to pander because it DOESN’T have to build a dividend into its cost structure, which means more money for the folks running the non-profit.

Until D-64 faces its failure to get its students’ performance on standardized tests to compare favorably to communities like Glenview, Northbrook, it can’t do anything to improve on that performance. All the happy talk coming out of the ESC is worthless if the scores don’t improve.

10:37 has it totally right. Now what? How do we get the message across to the deciders?

EDITOR’S NOTE: By throwing them out of office and electing people who actually share 10:37’s view?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the current ponies know only one trick, and don’t appear capable of learning any new tricks; or, if they do, they can’t seem to remember to do them the second time.

And where exactly are those folks who think like 10:37 going to come from?…..the right wing recruiting machine that brought Dr. Paterno to the ballot??

EDITOR’S NOTE: As distinguished from the mindless lefties who have provided the Board majority for the past 20 years?

Hell, either way, none will have a chance to elect people who actually share 10:73’s view.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And why, pray tell, would that be?

I don’t see the school board as a right versus left argument. So-called “right wingers” have spent like drunken sailors on the school boards, the park district and the city council. Left or right, there seems to be a lack of willingness to interrogate matters, think them through and get to a workable solution.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re right in the sense that many self-styled “conservatives” on our local governmental boards have spent like drunken sailors. But NO governing body has spent more money without any clearly-defined goals and objectively-measurable results than both of our school districts.

I would like to see the Boards of D-64 and D-207 publicly announce, via well-publicized press releases, that all of these various rankings are meaningless and, consequently, those Boards care nothing about them and will do nothing to raise their schools’ rankings.

Let’s lay all the cards on the table face-up for a change.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That would be refreshing candor from folks who historically have been provided anything but candor. But that would take more courage than either Board could muster.

Perhaps because the schools have more money to spend than all the other taxing bodies put together?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s not get too loose with that language. The schools have more OF THE TAXPAYERS’ MONEY than all other taxing bodies put together. And they’ve demonstrated time and again how more money to spend doesn’t mean it will be spent wisely or optimally.

So Pryor’s 5-year plan specifies that D-64 should be doing better on standardized tests than other high-achieving districts, but neither the D-64 board or staff want to do those comparisons? And they also don’t want to acknowledge the rankings?

What’s that old line about denial being more than a river in Egypt?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It was a nifty sound bite when they were adopting Sally’s plan. But who would expect them to actually achieve it?

An Open Invitation to all District 64 Community Members:

District 64 invites all local community members to explore the “A-B-C’s” of what serving on a school board means by attending an informal coffee and conversation on Tuesday, October 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the District 64 Educational Service Center (ESC), 164 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge.

A short overview of Board duties and the election process will be presented, followed by an open Q & A with several current and past Board members.

This is an opportunity to see if Board work is for you now, or at some point in the future, and to hear directly from other community members who have served in this way.

District 64 will elect a total of four members on April 7, 2015: three, four-year terms and one, two-year term. Elections are non-partisan.

District 64’s website offers resources about Board service and links to candidate filing information.

For Your Children,

Dr. Laurie Heinz

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nothing new here, folks: this is how the D-64 “establishment” (i.e., current and past rubber-stamp board members, and staff) initially screens prospective candidates to determine whether they are easily flummoxed and have sufficiently cartilaginous spines capable of being bent to the will of the teachers and administrators. This is the selection process that has effectively replaced the old “Caucus” school board member anointing ceremony.

But we have to give style points for Heinz’s “For Your Children” complimentary close, a nifty touch that should provide enough near-term emotional Kool-Aid to keep undemanding parents and simple-minded taxpayers warm and fuzzy while test scores and comparative inter-district performance continue to languish.

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