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Teachers taking it to Springfield

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About 50 local teachers from school districts 203 and 204 are headed to the state capital Wednesday to make their voices heard on legislation that affects things like teacher negotiations and tenure.
If you were a teacher, what would you say to state officials? If you were a state official, what would you say to the teachers?

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oops: correction.

source: Daily Herald

From the Herald News:

“We are data rich. What we are lacking is how to use that data instantaneously. And the mentality has been, and these tests reflect it, that we look at groups,” Superintendent Mark Mitrovich said. “Well groups are comprised of individuals and unless you can drill down very quickly and look at very sophisticated data on these kids you continue to operate in a way that depends on the professional skill and knowledge that the teachers have.”

In the coming years the district expects to have implemented software that will allow them to narrow in and track each individual student through the years.

(golf clap)

And an admission that they cannot track a student now. Need I link Mr. Higgins or not?

By the way, what does the last sentence of the first paragraph say? Is that a compliment to the teachers or not?



You are sounding like me explaining to you how easy it is to verify certain things for D203.


How about the Naperville Development Partnership???

Or is squabbling over assessments and renovations more important than D203 spending?



You, true to form, did not read my post. When I processed THREE homeowners improvements, I dealt with the township assessor (who you quoted) and not the Board of Review. And there was no record for the Board of Review.

And all that the Lisle Township assessor stated they would file is an exemption, not a change in assessment. They do not even show the exemptions on the Board of REview web page. So for all we know, you both filed for an exemption (that does not show up) and an assessment reduction in the same year. Can't tell.

Do assessments go up 75%? Sure they do. When your four year period was over, they go up by the 75% unless you appeal. When Suzanne Price said her house was underassessed by 50% (in the paper), you could have cut out that public admission and sent it to the township assessor and he would have fixed her assessment at her word.

Maybe you should be blogging for more tansparency on assessments like in other counties including Cook. The information is lacking in DuPage.

I do not know about Taxed Enough, but for me I had no clue on why that record would show up. NONE!!!!!

Responding to Dan Denys latest comment:

No one would have a clue?

Assessments don’t increase 75% in one year. Seeing that certainly should have raised Taxed Enough’s eyebrows (to say nothing of yours) when looking at the record. I fault both of you frankly for not doing the logical thing if you were interested in perusing it: calling the County or Assessor’s office and asking for an explanation. It’s not like I didn’t repeatedly tell both of you that you were wrong.

My “sin” was expecting one of you would actually spend a few moments checking it out. It would have taken far less time than what both of you spent writing your comments here in ignorance.

As for the rest of your post, it is completely in error. The Board of Review plays a part in the process, and as for you making it sound like I somehow missed a deadline, I offer this from the LTA website:

Documents Needed: None

When the improvement is completed, our office will send out a field person and confirm the nature and extent of the improvement. Our office will then calculate the assessment increase and post it on your property record card. At the same time, our office will automatically prepare the exemption paperwork and submit it to the county. The exemption amount will match the assessment increase amount. No action by the property owner is required.

”No action by the property owner is required”

I found this in a matter of seconds.

Thom Higgins



I must admit I am confused. I am aware of the home improvement exemption. When you make a home improvement, you get a four year reduction on the improvement. But that is handled by the assessor, not the Board of Review. At least the three times it did it.

Did they process the exempton as an error since you missed the deadline for filing with the assessor? How would anyone know. You saw the section I posted, said nothing about the homeower improvement.

So YOU might have known what you did, but nobody else would have a clue. If I am correct in assuming you missed the deadline to file directly with your assessor. Who knows, it could be for anything. I just went by their web page, your application was not included.

But I will take your word, curious if you would accept my explanation above? If you confirmed what happen, I would know better now.

Come again.

Who is asking for an apology?

Forget taxes, Mr. Higgins. Do the maths. You are in serious arrears for apologies to me.

And has anyone else made a donation based on conversations in these blogs besides me? Or are you co-opting my offers?

My donations were not for being wrong, but for some (indirect) reimbursement to D203 (via NEF) for Mr. Zagar's time in which he confirmed that...well...you know the story.

-1 ... still waiting for an explanation on why D203 is paying 10K per year to be part of the Naperville Development Partnership and also wondering how much more of our tax dollars go there?

also: With D203 and city taxing districts which cross county borders, balancing assessments gets to be very difficult.

My homes assessed valuation went down and consequently my taxes went down as a result. I didn't appeal anything, or challenge the assessment, but as Anonymous wrote the valuation is based on what I will call a "rolling average" of comparable homes in my area.

The fact that my taxes were going to go down wasn't news to me, it's been written about frequently as one of the reasons the elected officials are looking to (once again) raise taxes. Their belief, is that if they raise the taxes it will / may make up for the lowering of taxes due to lowered assessments. People will continue to pay the same amount, although the percentage will go up.

I do not believe you have to challenge your assessment to gain this. I also do not believe that a board of review will only review your property assessment after you first file an appeal. In my case I did nothing. So my taxes went down, doesn't mean that I don't feel my local school is or isn't a good value. (As an aside, I'm not in D203 and I'm not trying to make Thom's case, I'm just commenting on my situation).

As for "taxed enough" (And Dan's comment) questioning Thom Higgins claim of having the best value I fail to see how continuing to pay an overinflated tax rate corresponds to a school education value - they are mutually exclusive. Using your logic then it seems you are saying that someone like Thom who believes his school district to be a "value" would be precluded from ever trying to find out or challenging if his home / property taxes are fair and equal with everyone else???? Really, are you trying to make this case?


I continue to hope for better from you.

One more time:

I didn't appeal my taxes

I have never appealed my taxes.

I think you are smart enough to know that. Frankly, based on your most recent comments my sense is that you are simply interesting in demagoguing.

Why did my assessment suddenly shoot up 75% in one year. How could that happen?

Simple. We did a major remodel and upon completion the house was reassessed. As part of that an owner is eligible for a residential improvement exemption, for 3 years I believe. That's the $25,000 action in 2005.

So, Taxed Enough, Dan, how about an apology and a donation?

Thom Higgins


Looks like the Sun values cutting edge academics. This article sounds like my broken record for years. What about the public schools? Can't wait to see the reply from the tax protester!!!!!

Private schools accelerate academics
For Sun-Times Media

According to the Private School Review (www.privateschoolreview.com), a major advantage of private education is that students are challenged to meet a higher academic standard as they prepare to enroll in the nation’s top universities. In recent years, opportunities for post-high school growth have extended beyond a school’s core curriculum. Tracy Evans, special Pioneer Press reporter, investigates.

Elevated Course Levels

In high schools, Advanced Placement (AP) courses examine subjects, commonly language and mathematics, through deeper analysis. Lake Forest Academy encourages open enrollment for advanced courses that usually require an application process.

“AP course experience provides students with an educational advantage over their peers,” says Phil Schwartz, head of the Upper School at Lake Forest Academy. “Although not all students find great success on the AP exams, the knowledge and experience they gain in the classroom is extremely beneficial.”

Beyond the walls of a private high school, a small percentage of talented students are often allowed the opportunity to study college level curriculum on a campus itself. Northwestern University in Evanston does allow many area schools on-campus study during the summer session and select semesters.

At Roycemore School, also in Evanston, about 10 percent of the high school’s intimate classes — about two students a year — are accepted to pursue an additional course or two at Northwestern.

“A key point of independent schools is allowing more flexibility in the curriculum,” says John Novick, Roycemore’s Upper School division head. “Students can really work up to their potential. They don’t just get As without working, but we want them to be genuinely challenged.”

Novick continues: “We want them to develop self-confidence, and having earned credits from a respected university, they feel more than prepared when they walk on campus as college freshman.”

About 10 percent of North Shore Country Day School’s incoming senior class enrolls in summer semester courses at Northwestern. Likewise, academically superior students at Notre Dame College Prep, a private school for boys, can register for advanced courses at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota by using a system of credit sharing called the Program for Advanced College Credit (PACC).

Out-of-the-Box Education

A new, popular option for accelerated high school students allows for independent, customized study. Juniors and seniors create a personalized course that covers a specific area of interest. They are then paired with a faculty member to guide them through scheduled meetings and to evaluate performance for a course grade. For some students, the process mimics researching and defending a master’s thesis.

Dave Potter, head of the Upper School at North Shore Country Day, estimates about five juniors and five seniors apply to self-study each year. The topics, after being reviewed and approved by the relevant department, are incredibly diverse. One student has elected to study global public health: examining socio-cultural and health standards that influence health care in various nations. The course is set up to straddle several humanities along with basic health science.

“If we can cultivate and nurture an inclination on the part of our students to understand the benefits of working on an individual basis with their teachers, then students become more comfortable with the idea of proactively getting to know their professors in college,” Potter explains.

At Lake Forest Academy, students meet with faculty regularly to work toward a predetermined end goal, which typically includes a formal presentation of the independent study’s results. Schwartz believes this process “cultivates intellectual curiosity and prepares students for the rigors of college and any career they may choose in the future.”

Indeed, Roycemore’s Novick agrees that out-of-the-box learning experiences often lay the groundwork for college majors and a career path. A mandatory short term in January places students in professional internships for three weeks of hands-on study. Often, students find work with a local congressional representative to learn about a career in politics, or perhaps they will be teaching assistants at a local school. Many schools are considering this an important path toward defining a student’s skills and a richer sense of how their education applies to real-world goals.

General Growth Key

While many students exhibit strength in a particular discipline, the challenge is to provide a solid foundation of core curricula.

“A student who is 15 and says ‘I know what I want’ may change his mind several times before college,” Novick says. “We want to nurture their strengths but always want to keep other doors open.”

Many private schools echo this generalist viewpoint. Only then can students understand how to excel in the halls of academia and beyond.

Higgins has always struck me as unstable, why encourage his psychosis?

Boards of Review do at times review areas, neighborhoods, etc and change the assessments to bring them more in line with each other. It is possible that the neighborhoods in question were on the list for review that year. Not all reviews are by request of the homeowner.
I believe subdivision associations can request their subdivisions be reviewed too.


I, unlike you, feel that our taxes are not a value. There are numerous steps,including the Board of Reveiw, but others (that I am not willing to disclose, keep hunting boys) to get value reductions. And I have used every tool available to do so because there was the 75% increase in value and the fraud by District 203 at the same time.

By the way, if the assessments did not go up 75%, 203 would not have been able to fleece the taxpayers by over hundred million dollars.

But the only way to get the board of reveiw to act, is for the property owner to take action. Here is their infor from their web site.:

Property owners have an annual opportunity to appeal their assessments to the DuPage County Board of Review. The period during which an appeal may be filed begins on June 10th of the assessment year, and ends September 10th or thirty days after the publication of the township assessment roll, whichever is later. You may view the assessment publication dates and corresponding Board of Review Deadlines for each township on this webpage.

An assessment appeal does not address the amount of the property tax bill, it is an attempt to prove that the assessed value overstates the property's market value, or is higher than the estimated value of similar properties.

Property owners who question their assessments are encouraged to first call or visit the Township Assessor's office to review the information in their property files.

If the property owner still believes that his/her property is over assessed, he/she may file an assessment appeal. You may download assessment appeal forms from our forms and documents webpage.

A property owner must provide evidence to support his/her assessment appeal. This evidence should include three (or more) comparable properties. These comparables should be similar properties to the subject, preferably within the same neighborhood.

If the appeal is based on market value, the comparables must be properties that sold recently. If the appeal is based on assessment uniformity, the comparables should be similar properties with similar amenities. The Township Assessor's staff will also compile sales and/or uniformity comparables to present to the Board of Review.

After the appeal deadline, Board of Review hearings are scheduled. At the hearing, the appellant is given the opportunity to explain his/her case. The Township Assessor or a Deputy Assessor will respond, and present an analysis of both the Appellant's Comparables and the Assessor's Comparables.

The Board of Review may ask questions of the appellant and the Assessor. After the hearing, the Board will render a decision. The decision is mailed to the property owner after all Board of Review action is completed for the tax year.

If a property owner is not satisfied by a decision of the Board of Review, he/she may then appeal to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, or to the Appellate/Circuit Court.

When preparing an assessment appeal, please remember:
•The best evidence to value is a recent appraisal, a recent sale of the property, or recent sales of similar properties.
•Assessed values are required by law to be based upon the three prior years of actual sales transactions within the jurisdiction.
•For example, the 2011 assessed value was based upon sales occurring during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 calendar years.
•Be sure to review your property characteristics at the assessor's office before filing an appeal.
•Understand that Fair Market Value is not the highest or lowest selling price of a property but the most probable selling price.
•When comparing properties in your area, use only similar properties (i.e. same design, same size, etc.).

Now here is the uncanny question, how did your taxes get appealed? Divine intervention?

And how can you be out there telling everyone that they are getting value for the taxes when at the same time you are appealling the value that drives them? For full transparency, make sure QE203 states that they feel taxpayers are getting a good value particularly after they appeal their taxes.

And don't throw stones at me. Go search every blog, I know I posted a comment somewhere that I had taken action to get an assessment change that negated much of the District 203 fraud. Kudos, you did too!!!! You took the same actions as the Taxpayer Ticket people that we never publicized (we will have to send you a membership card)!!!! This is the most hilarious set of events. You rail all of us and then you are following our lead.

You are a real HOOT!!!!

Let’s see, I have an assessed value increase of approximately 75% from 2004 to 2005, and almost a 100% increase between 2004 and 2011.

As duly noted, there was a Board of Review notice in 2005 with the Fair Cash Value set at $25,000.00 less than the amount shown for 2005; however this is not from me appealing my assessment. I have never appealed my assessment.

As long as someone mentioned Dan’s assessments, let’s look at his. They went down, decreasing approximately 13% between 2007 and 2011, with a Board of Review notice in 2008 with a value that is just slightly less than the amount shown for 2008.

So, who can tell us what happened to our respective properties?

Thom Higgins


Uh, I don't think TaxedEnough actually accepted your proposed bet. Doesn't it take two to make a bet?

Now, if he is wrong, I can see why as in looking at the website he posted, it does look like there was an odd, and large, decrease in valuation for both you and Dan D.

So, his question is viable: did you in any way challenge your value?

Thommy Boy,

Quit this bullying and rude posting. And your bombasts with these bets.

I looked at the web pages and it shows a Board of Review action that lowered your assessment by $25,000 in 2005. Who asked them to do that? Santa Claus, the teachers union on your behalf? No, only you could originate or authorize such request.

What is the impact of the $25,000 reduction? Based on a school district tax rate of 4% (I cannot find exact amount for 2005 and it is no longer in the District's budget), that would be a $1,000 reduction in taxes. Since the average tax person was to be hit with an increase of $1,375 compared to the promised $511, looks like you avoided most of the over taxation. The rest of us could not.

Is this all false? If so, what did I read wrong?

And when you talk about how fair the school taxes are, make sure you also tell everyone that you got a $1,000 school tax break. FULL DISCLOSURE AND TRANSPARENCY!!!! That is why these web pages are on there.

"If so, It looks like you and Dan D. both ducked much of the increase that the rest of us paid at that time. No wonder you say you get such a value!!!!"
If your assessment is out of line, then you have the right to appeal it. As I have said before, all homeowners should be looking at this info and comparing it to nearby properties to make sure it is fair. The Board of Review will make changes to an assessment that appears out of line with comparable local properties.

Taxed Enough:


Now you're asking if the charge you made against me is true? Little late for that, don't you think?

You have made a claim based on looking at something you don't understand.

You need to call DuPage County and talk to someone.

Then it's a check and an apology.

At least for me......

Thom Higgins


Simple question. Did you or did you not appeal your taxes (value) in 2005?

If so, It looks like you and Dan D. both ducked much of the increase that the rest of us paid at that time. No wonder you say you get such a value!!!!

To be very clear on the appeal information, when your tax bill opens up, click on the third opton for assessment information. I did not know how the link would work since it was like yours.

I was also wrong on the math, a 25,000 reduction.

For Taxed Enough:


Once again:


1.a failure to understand correctly

2.a wrong judgment

A few comments:

You might want to brush up on your addition; $20,000?

Then, take a closer look at the page you provided and call someone at the County to explain it to you.

After they do, please forward your check to the NEF. Get a money order if you want to remain anonymous.

Oh, an apology here is in order as well.

Thom Higgins


First, this is not Thom, just another viewer reader here...
I feel there is a difference between appealing taxes and appealing your assessment. No one wants the assessment of the value of their property to be out of line with other properties in the neighborhood. Everyone should be checking their assessments to be sure they are not out of line with comparable properties. We should all be paying taxes on a fair assessment of our properties.

What Thom may have done here is appealed the assessment, indicating it was out of line. Since it was reduced it obviously was overvalued previously. That is fair, not an indication that he does not want to pay taxes, but that he wants the taxes to be assessed fairly.

Thanks for the precise quotes. For some reason, only part of your post showed up, the rest did later. I also briefly explored Butler's and 181's site.

My comment about these district was based on their policies 15 year ago. But as I read there sites, this concept of tiering and grouping sounds an awful like tracking. And you can differentiate with a more homogenous group, not every person grasps every concept the same way.

But also note the amount of data these district provide on "how to" create the best environment. Their class pages make sense, not this confusing info like 203. IN my almost ten years of following the board, I have not once seen a discussion or focus group on how to best provide education. It was our way or the high way. That was what I was told when I inquired about 203 programs. In fact, the high school counselor was surprised I would even allow my children to chose a high school.

But don't shoot me just because of the Taxpayer Ticket, that is getting really old. Be objective. When I raised these concepts with Leis and Mitrovich (who knew who I was), they both admitted that more review would be healthy. Now I did not want to throw them under the bus like you do me and force the issue. But I think these approaches are huge.

And I attended a grade school that saw the general grouping fail and changed to tracking with huge success. I feel fortunate that they made that change since it helped me. And it helped most of the students.

My only question is whether you 100 % support the education of your children or are you open to improvements that will help? Again, I agree with your partner, Peter Schulman, I worked hard to give my children every opportunity for the best education. Yes I did.

And I am not going to go into details for privacy concerns and not to brag, but it has paid off big time for them. They have taken advantage of the opportunities I provided for them. And are grateful I gave them good choices. By the way, I would not take New Trier and am a little concerned about Stevenson. I think the schools like Lake Forest, Deerfield, and Highland Park (1,500 students) seem to be the best size.

Here is a link to the public web site, DuPage Supervisor of Assessments, for what I think is you property. It shows a 2005 appeal in property taxes.


Nice reduction, $20,000!! No wonder you say taxes are a value.

Taxed Enough:


1.a failure to understand correctly

2.a wrong judgment

As an anonymous poster you can claim anything you like.

You are incorrect in this case.

As I am not interested in going on and on about this with a ghost I make this proposal; If I had appealed my taxes there would be a document I filled out and signed. Post it or some other supporting official document that indicates I appealed my taxes on Mediafire and I will donate $500. to your favorite charity. Conversely, If you do not, then you owe the NEF the same amount.

Thom Higgins


Misaprehension. That is a big word, don't know if I understand what you are saying.

According to the DuPage County Board of Review, you appealed your taxes.

I thought you said they were a value?

There seems to be a problem posting with embedded links. Let me try this again for Anonymous (Dan Denys):

This should help you feel better about what your property taxes are paying for as compared to Hinsdale and Oak Brook:

From Hinsdale 181:

“All Students will demonstrate academic excellence by meeting or exceeding learning standards through differentiated instruction in a learning environment that fosters social and emotional development.”

The entire 2011 SIP presentation is worth reading; differentiation is mentioned repeatedly there and in the entire website.

From Butler 51's website:

“Your child's journey will include many opportunities for critical thinking, hands-on discovery, and cooperative activities. Each child is challenged through an exciting curriculum unique to his or her own needs. Differentiation and flexible grouping are utilized to develop reading, math, and spelling skills. Second grade also promotes responsibility. The children will have a chance to put their self-help skills to work using an agenda book to keep track of daily assignments and projects.”

Like the example from the Wilmette District I posted previously, both the Hinsdale and Oak Brook school districts use differentiation in their schools, just like D203.

Lastly, as continually remind you, D203’s gifted program is open to all who qualify.


For the anonymous poster on Nov 4th:

I’m working on our latest analysis of the Illinois State Report Cards and can provisionally state that there are only four districts in Illinois whose students posted higher ACT scores than D203 in 2011.The most current figures tell us those districts spent, on average, over 40% more than D203. 40%!

Conversely, there are a host of school districts with comparable socioeconomic conditions who spend more than D203 but whose students do not achieve D203 student’s score. Put simply, for the years we have been compiling it, there has not been a school district in Illinois who spent less than D203, but whose students achieved equal or higher ACT scores than D203 students.

I believe D203’s composite ACT score of 25.4 places it in the top 1%-2% of districts nationally, so yeah, I think the facts illustrate that D203 is both a great value and is also delivering a quality education.

I will note there are some districts with a higher percentage of low income students who, although they do not equal D203 scores, are doing a great job. Wheaton Warrenville, just to our north, is an excellent example.


For Taxed Enough:

What on earth caused this misapprehension?

Thom Higgins



My apology to not responding to your post; for some reason the full amount did not display. This blog is a bit wierd.

What does "differentiation and felxible grouping" mean? Differentiating a concept so that others can understand is what I do in life all the time.

And notice the intensity on gifted education in these two districts. Starting at kindergarden. Where are the comparable 203 programs?

And there are limits in 203. Both of these districts do not limit gifted education at all. If 90% were gifted, they would get the program.

And why should only students wtih IQs greater than 130 get special attention. Why no 120 to 130, etc.

Two points. 1. I think tracking and segregated learning has the best outcomes. It definitely did for my children.

2. I am open to improvements. I am not open to this one size fits all approach. Might be popular with the left, but not me. If you like it, fine. But why force one style of education in a democracy? Do we need private schools to have alternative education that is not watered down?

I appreciate your tenacity. But look in a mirror and ask this question. Has 203 (or for that matter all of the rest of the districts) pursued educational choice with an open mind? Yourself included.

Sorry I am not sold on the "spread the IQ" approach. Just does not make sense.




If you feel that District 203 taxes are such a great deal, then why did you appeal your taxes in 2005?

Could not open your specific link, but I did find other info on their programs.

Specifically, I noted that they rirgorously test students in second grade for placement in third grade. Here is the quote from their web site:

"Parents of second graders receive a letter from the school district notifying them of their child’s test results and placement at the end of the school year. "

Sounds like tracking to me. They reference "tiers" and other concepts, but not entirely clear. They note the anxieties of children maintaining their placement and the need to be more rigorous for K-2 (like Mike Davitt always recommended).

So I have no idea of what the link referred to, but this seems to be a different (and not differentiation) approach than 203. And parents that are pressing and getting accountability. However, their web site could improve.

They also detail the improvement in test scores as children progress through their system. Can 203 demonstrate that (number exceeding level INCREASES!!!!). I think that is what -1 was advocating.

And Hinsdale 181 was honest and gave back the over taxation, much more character of a district.

Again, I am done with K-12 education, I did all I could do to provide the best for my children (Ironically, that was Peter Schulman's comment about me, but, of course. he went on said I would not do the best for everyone else). I think parents who have energetic students need to find a quality school from three years old to fourth grade. Did not exist fifteen years ago in 203, seems to be the same today.

Can someone explain why D203 pays $10,000 per year to the Naperville Development Partnership?


For Anonymous (Dan Denys):

Let me help you feel better about what your property taxes are paying for as compared to Hinsdale and Oak Brook:

Hinsdale 'http://www.d181.org/data/files/news/CurriculumNews/BOE_SIP_Presentation_1.10.11.ppt.pdf'

District 181

Oak Brook District 53 'http://www.butler53.com/BrookForestSchool/FacultyandStaffContacts/Grade2/tabid/199/Default.aspx%27%3Ehttp://www.butler53.com/BrookForestSchool/FacultyandStaffContacts/Grade2/tabid/199/Default.aspx%3C/a%3E%0A'

Just like the example from the Wilmette District I posted previously, both the Hinsdale and Oak Brook school districts use differentiation in their schools.

Feel better now?

Lastly, as continually remind you, D203’s gifted program is open to all who qualify.

Thom Higgins

QE203.org 'http://www.qualityeducation203.org/cms/'

Thom incessantly tries to argue that Naperville SD 203 is a better "value" and along the way plays a shuck and give game of really trying to sell SD 203 as better than any other SD.

The first point Thom doesn't grasp, doesn't comprehend is that value and quality do not correlate and never have. The second point Thom doesn't understand is that there is no merit in arguing you are better or worse than any other school in Illinois when the entire Illinois school system is at the lower end of the pile... kind of like two poor students and one who is bragging he got a higher "D" than the other... big deal kid, you still got a "D".

And it is the very reason so many people living in Naperville who are paying 12, 15 or more thousand dollars a year in property taxes choose to send their children to private schools. It isn't that they are fool hardy or just have money to burn. Rather they voluntarily pay private tuition on top of outrageous property taxes (school taxes) because they know both the environment of learning and the quality of education is superior in any of the private school choices that are available.

And a lot of people would be shocked at just how many SD 203 and SD 204 teachers don't and won't send their own children to schools in the district where they work.

This post was me.

Uh, it is not just opinion.

Our education system k-12 does NOT work. We are slipping by the quarter into oblivion, and this has been happening for 25 years.

Throwing more and more moneynhas made it worse and worse.

Why throw more money? Social dogma, period! Trying to defend the current system of union rules and increasing amounts of money requires a moronic system of values and judgements.

Thom States:

"Suffice to say I believe your latest post contains a number of erroneous comments."

The following was my comment about tracking that supposedly contains these errors. Please point out.

"However, this concept (choice of must challenging class proposed by Thom) should apply to ALL students, not just gifted or special ed students. Further, it should apply to ALL grade levels. Talented students in first grade should be given the opportunity for more challenging classes within their schools. THEY DON'T!!!! Go ask STAGE. So for K through 4, you have to go to a private school or settle for "social justice/differentiated learning" one size fits all program. At least in Chicago, you have a choice in either magnet or charter alternatives. And the same for more alternatives at high school."

Bombast simply does not carry the day. District 203 generally does not track students. That is their policy, they are steadfast to follow it. I disagree. You put forth "facts" that are really opinions to justify their action.

I think that not just left philosophy is central to public educaton, rather, it is based on a socialistic construct. I respectfullly disagree. But don't hide behind policies to hide what is really going on. Just say it. It does not work. My opinion. And when confronted with the choice of sending my children to a school that follows that philosphy versus a private school that does better, I made the choice. However, there were other pararents in Oak Brook and Hinsdale that moved their children to public schools because they do not follow the Naperville system. I'd be better off paying $24,000 in property taxes there than $12,000 here.

Simple. Don't try to paint the schools since they have LIMITED gifted education.

The IPI is made up of dozens of people with twice the education and experience of Thom and Thom has "suspicions" the IPI just misunderstood the contract.


While this little squabble over who really pays how much and what is or is not properly taxed, the bigger, more correctly focused question is why in the world we haven't demanded the end of ALL public employee pensions and conversion to a 401K like the rest of America?

Seems to me the people we have entrusted to negotiate and sign these public employee collective bargaining contracts on behalf of the taxpayers need to grow a spine and stop slithering around.

And while we are at it how about reforming the public employee union rules just like was done in Wisconsin?

I'm not going to argue forever about your views on how D203 structures their classes. Suffice to say I believe your latest post contains a number of erroneous comments.

As for the teacher pensions, you need to understand the context. The IPI is claiming that something like 60% of teachers don't actually make their pension contributions; the districts make if for them on top of their salaries.They claimed this for D203 which is untrue and I suspect it is untrue for many of the others listed as well.

Thom Higgins


I must admit that I totally agree with Thom's following comment:

"My only comment is that I would rather school children have the ability to take any class they want to/qualify for, at either D203 high school, as opposed to having to potentially get accepted/attend a magnet school (that is usually not nearby) in the CPS system if they want more challenging coursework.'

However, this concept should apply to ALL students, not just gifted or special ed students. Further, it should apply to ALL grade levels. Talented students in first grade should be given the opportunity for more challenging classes within their schools. THEY DON'T!!!! Go ask STAGE. So for K through 4, you have to go to a private school or settle for "social justice/differentiated learning" one size fits all program. At least in Chicago, you have a choice in either magnet or charter alternatives. And the same for more alternatives at high school.

And Yes Thom, teachers do not pay state income taxes on the 9.4% withheld or when they get the retirement benefit unlike the rest of us in social security. That tax loophope at the state level should be eliminated.

And former teacher, fluidity creates fairness, I agree that studnets change and teaching needs to change. And I think that the concept of "differentiation" would work well within a tracking situation. Except the amount of differentiation would be less and would be focussed on higher achievement.

Before anybody gets too carried away, the Illinois Policy Institute is incorrect as far as D203 goes. Teachers have their 9.4% pension contribution deducted from their paychecks; meaning that the amounts listed on the salary schedules are “pre deduction.”

My suspicion is that the IPI looked up the various contracts and misunderstood the contract language for D203 and probably others.

I don’t know about the IPI, but the District did contact our local State Representatives to let them know the IPI information is incorrect.

I don’t have much more to add about tracking. I think “Former Teacher” made a number of excellent points. Further, I don’t see the value of spending a lot of time comparing D203 with CPS, two very different systems with different challenges. My only comment is that I would rather school children have the ability to take any class they want to/qualify for, at either D203 high school, as opposed to having to potentially get accepted/attend a magnet school (that is usually not nearby) in the CPS system if they want more challenging coursework.

Thom Higgins



I am not sure the report jibes with what the NUEA is telling its members.

Can someone verify what is actually going on? Is this semantics or real?

In some districts they mention pay and pay with TRS on their salary schedules.


Given the story in this week's Times and Sun, can we finally all agree that Dan D. Is correct and Thom H is wrong on the longer school day issue.

Re: "The 10 highest-ranking suburban neighborhood elementary schools all have longer days for kids than the typical Chicago public school — but shorter ones than those advocated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city public school officials."

Where in my post do I (in your words) "emphasize fairness even if it means somebody falls over time" ?
What I emphasize is that tracking needs to be fluid and allow for kids to move up and down in ability groups as needed. I emphasize that it should be subject based so that kids are allowed to be in different tracks based on the subjects they excel or struggle in.

You are right I do not advocate a one-size-fits-all program. I have a certification as an elementary school teacher, K-9 gifted teacher, K-12 special education, and K-12 library media. I know that the same things do not work for everyone... hence the fluidity that I advocate for tracking. Not everyone will catch up, but we should always be striving for that anyway. And we should not allow anyone to be entrenched in a track (especially a lower one) without trying to do whatever needs to be done to move them up.

As far as educating kids with diverse backgrounds- that is an entirely separate issue from tracking. (Unless people allow those backgrounds to determine track as was done in the past.) From a personal standpoint, I sent my own kids to a nursery school that used to exist near downtown Aurora. They were the only full tuition paying children there at the time, and were only allowed to attend because I volunteered for the organization that ran it and there was space open. It was the best decision I ever made for my kids since it grounded them in a world view that has influenced them to appreciate what they have, work hard, and give back to others.

As far as where these things came from? It all started happening in the 70s. It was a response to the negative things involved in tracking that I stated in my original post. Unfortunately,. it went too far in many ways. The concept of ability grouping, accelerated placement in certain subjects, and gifted education that is coming more into focus now is an attempt to get things to where they should be. It's just not there yet. And there are people who are fighting against it too since it does make the job of a teacher much more difficult. But there are schools where grade levels are taking more of a team approach to this where all of the kids in the grade are considered students of all the teachers at that grade.

Everyone HAS to read the following story (see link).

This is a potentially huge scandal for SD 203.


I agree with all of your comments. In fact, if all children were to study and perform and catch up as you illustrate, you would not need tracking at all, because all would be at the top. Unfortunately, that is not possible based on varying abilities.

With more students, a district like 203 should be able to provide the top notch education for all students. The concepts of differentiated education would work better if the skill levels are tighter, makes all the sense in the world. And children need to proceed or should be moved to a more appropriate level.

I also note two thought themes in your comments. 1. Mistakes are made that hold back students. Agree and why would people tolerate that? But you emphasize fairness even if it means somebody falls over time.

2. You said nothing about the value of educating with diverse backgrounds, nothing to advocate a one size fits all program.

Where did these policies come from? Who approved them?

I wonder what Thom feels about the Chicago Public Schools magnet schools. Before educational reform in 1996, they had one magnet (Whitney Young) and maybe Lane Tech. They had 6,000 qualified applicants for Whitney Young and they admitted 500 or so. The question, what happened to the other 5,500? They should have been scoring high in other schools.

Due to privacy and other rules, the schools could not research this information. They did not see high scores in the general cirriculum schools so they feel they moved to the suburbs or went to private schools. However, they felt if they built more magnet high schools, they would retain more of these high performers. They did and now CPS has the top high schools in the state.

Doesn't the selective enrollment policy disprove the "social justice system" advanced by suburban districts? More interesting, many parents seek the best for their children; many of the 5,500 had to sacrifice to get the best for their children.

One more concept. Read the following article from the Chicago Tribune.

After years of suburban domination, a Chicago public school is making moves to compete for the state math championship at the highest level.

Whitney Young Magnet High School won last week's North Suburban Math League meet — only the second time a public Chicago school has won the regional competition.

The victory marks Young's arrival as an intellectual force to be reckoned with next spring in competition for the state title in Division 4AA, the top level.

Another Chicago public school, Walter Payton College Prep, has won in smaller divisions, but no Chicago public school has won the 4AA title, which usually goes to suburban academic powerhouses like Naperville North.

Whitney Young co-coaches Matthew Moran and Julienne Au say their team earned the victory through long hours of practice at the blackboard, including four hours every Saturday morning. When they won, the 44 students turned the awards ceremony into what one coach called a "madhouse."

"The kids really want it," Moran said. "The kids have a chip on their shoulder, kind of an underdog thing going on."

The way they attack problems, the students call themselves "the animals of the math league," Moran said. "We make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun doing it."

Young team members have a friendly rivalry with students at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IMSA coach Steve Condie said, because they know the difficulty of doing college-level trigonometry and pre-calculus.

"We want to beat them, and they want to beat us," he said. "But the kids are so respectful of each other. When kids get perfect papers, everybody is applauding, because there may be only a few throughout the city."

Isn't this what education should all be about? "Attack problems." Four hours of work on a Saturday. Clearly, there is a passion to help the best in Chicago. But for those students who are not the top of the math class, they also need to spend four hours of more intense studying, maybe more, not being grouped with high performing students trying to promote equal outcomes advocated by Marx!!!!

By the way, I am a strong supporter of such competitions. I particpated for my high school, but I was more impressed on the high quality of the North and Benet programs (and recently Central) for my children. They did not settle for just showing up.

The problem with tracking in the past (and why it fell out of practice) was that there was often little opportunity for someone to change tracks.Students were often placed in a track and stayed there throughout their schooling. Very few kids were allowed to move up or down. And they were in that track for almost every subject regardless of weaknesses and strengths. Kids in the vocational track were there, kids in college prep were there, and at the time which one they would be put in was determined before they even made it to high school. (And unfortunately at one time, racism was an issue in tracking.)

Lower grade students (I am thinking K-3 here) are often at different developmental stages that do impact their classroom ability. Some kids learn to read in kindergarten and just take off. It takes others longer. That being said, by 4th grade many of the slower starters do catch up and even surpass the earlier readers. I call it the "click" moment when reading finally clicks with a student. With my own two, my daughter was reading in kindergarten, chapter books too. My son did not read well until the end of first grade when something all of a sudden clicked in his brain and he just took off. He went from reading The Cat in the Hat to Hardy Boys mysteries in about a months time. So tracking at the very low grades is difficult since it would need to be fluid constantly throughout the year to accommodate kids who have their "clicks" at different times.

As a former teacher who worked with elementary gifted students, this was the precise reason we identified on a yearly basis and why kids had opportunities to be identified for the program every year. As a former gifted teacher, I can also attest that the kids who were often identified as first graders, while bright, were not any brighter or more gifted for the most part than the ones who were identified later, they were merely early readers, (And early reading while a sign of a bright child, it is not necessarily a sign of a gifted child. Giftedness really involves more higher level thinking.) If someone were to walk into my class of fifth graders back when I was teaching, watch them work, observe their interactions and discussions, and look at their most recent test scores, they would not know who joined the program in first grade and who started later.

Lets also realize that kids have different abilities. Some are very good readers but just average in math. The opposite is true too. In the past when tracking was most popular, this was not always taken into account at the younger grades.

So Tracking can be ok if...
...there is constant opportunity and fluidity so that students can move in and out of tracks, even mid year if need be
...students are encouraged to strive to move up in the tracks and given assistance when needed to catch up
...students have opportunities to be in different tracks based on the subjects they are strongest and weakest
...and these decisions are constantly reevaluated so that no one student is entrenched in a track from day one


1. I started to surf their materials. Just because there are reams of numbers, doesn't mean they are authoritative. And Thom, if you found the link to the tracking details, please post. Just like you did with Glencoe. I am very curious about the details rather than some generalities cited (either by you or the speaker). Maybe he does have facts, but I would like to see them and see how they lay out.

2. As to my comment about OECD, this is more Federal spending. If there really was a need for these types of organizations, document it. Maybe there was a need in 1960, but today??????? I do not know if Thom's state and national political leanings are the same as his 203 leanings. But to further clarify my comment, we do not need a third of the Federal bureucrats collection data let alone fund more internationally. These jobs add no value to the economy.

And we had money to do so in 1960, we do not today, we are broke. Entities like this should be first to lose their funding before social security and Medicare.

But I also advocate the elimination of the Federal Department of Education and Transportation. Totally. Let state and local governements collect the 25 cent gas tax and pay for roads without a middle man.


Fair. I will use my my local grade school. There were 50 students in my grade level. They put the students with the top test scores, school performance, and attidude in the top section and the balance in the second session. There were two different lesson plans, with the top group taking on more work, generally beyond the goals for each grade level. Of course, students in the lower levels had to meet minimum grade level goals or they had to repeat the grade (something that is not done now).

I observed one problem with this system. There should have been 30 students in the top group and 20 students in the second group. Reason? There were four to six borderline students who could have and wanted to take on a more challenging program (think about that, students in 4th to 8th grades having their own goals!!!). Also, I think that the remaining students needed more attention than the top.

Now if you apply that in Naperville, except for the two smallest schools, there were 100 to 150 students in each class. With a target class size of 20 to 25 (I must confess we are quoted averages, but I do not know what goals are), instead of two sections, there would be four to eight. The ability levels within each class would be less than a testing quartile. So the benefits that I realized would be even greater in the Naperville system.

And for the students in the lower groups? For them to achieve the goals for a grade level or to catch up to the top, many can. But to do that, they need to work harder to overcome deficiencies. Like taking batting practice to hit a curve ball. Putting them in a group with students who geneally grasp concepts faster than them probably discourages such students, rather than motivating them.

And I wlll close with Phillips Exetor's teaching style of the Harkness Table. Alll of the students gather around a table and learn (all classes) through a Socratic method. Pray tell how someone who is not following the materials would succeed?

The lack of tracking would be like forcing high schools to have 25% of their sports teams starting lineups being freshman. Makes no sense.

So yes, Thom, I am a product of Public School tracking. For all you know, you might be too!!! And when I ran for election, I have many parents complain about the Naperville system, almost based on forced equality.

I will give one last example. In high school, my schedule would not allow me to get honors English my sophomore year (the school was not perfect). While not my best subject, there was still a difference. The tests were more multiple choice. There were few essays. Students would come to the class unprepared so everyone would be given class time to read books and stories they were suppose to do as homework. It was easy, but I was mortified, I would fall behind by working with these students. I asked the head of the English department for supplemental work so I would be able to rejoin the honors classes the next year. I took a tutoring course the next summer.

Did any of those students in that class work harder because I was in the class? First of all, I did not announce to the class that I was misgrouped. (In my school at tjat to,e, that would be at least five beatings in a semester.) You could just tell that they simply did not care or were overwhelmed. The teacher did a great job trying to connect to those students. I did not even want to raise my hand.

By the way, Thom, I have talked to my clients and the "leaders" in the educational field feel compelled to address social issues rather than educational issues. And many people are challenging them in other districts. The Glencoe letter shows it explicitly. I believe that the orientation is more social than educational based. For a lot of reasons and not that teachers despise Glen Beck or prefer unions. That is the travesty.


It always brings a smile to my face when I see Mr. Denys feel compelled to start throwing around terms such as “far left”, and making claims such as “no empirical justification” or “intellectual thought,” in order to buttress his argument, which, in this latest case as it relates to his dismissal of Andreas Schleicher, is wonderfully humorous, considering how completely off-base he is.

Mr. Schleicher, as head of PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is nothing, if not data driven. The PISA test is given every three years, with the last test given in 2009. It was given to approximately 500,000 students in 74 countries (from memory), its fourth test cycle since it was initiated in 2000. If you go to the website there are literally thousands of pages of data regarding these tests (including a great deal of information on how the US compares to the rest of the world, and if you look long enough, information regarding tracking). Put simply the data created by the PISA examinations is invaluable if you are interested in understanding educational systems and outcomes internationally.

True to form, Mr. Denys, when confronted with a thought that doesn’t conform to his world view responds thusly: ” By teh way, the OECD is one of those agencies that the US should stop funding. A clear waste of our dollars.

As Mr. Schleicher is fond of saying “without data all you have is an opinion.” Without some independent agency conducing these kinds of tests on an international scale, countries would have no idea how well their education system’s compare to other countries.

Lastly, since Mr.Denys has, for so long, strongly advocated for tracking in D203, I think it’s time for him to lay out exactly what his vision of tracking is and what changes D203 would have to make if it adopted his beliefs.

Thom Higgins


It would be helpful if Thom or the sponsor of the seminar where Andreas Schleicher spoke would provide a link to his published studies. I seached the web page of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and found nothing,

In the tracking situations, how did the higher groups perform compared to non tracked? More interestingly, who tracks?

By teh way, the OECD is one of those agencies that the US should stop funding. A clear waste of our dollars.

Seriously, if I could find the statistic of the actual contact time on the ISBE web page, I would have simply printed, rather than inquiring to the broad base of the actual amount.

Go back to my orginal post, one school district was accused of distorting this number (the Chicago Tribune article). The key is not how long a student is required attend school (the six hours, 15 minutes), rather, how much instruction time occurs. I would suspect that if you deducted time for recess and lunch, that would be close to the answer. We really do not need BLAH BLAH BLAH.

As to the bus schedule, OK, somebody solved it and
Thom has two issues (reasonable). Ok, being world class, come up with yet a better approach. Now we have been discussing this for FIVE YEARS. The most serious queston, has ANYTHING been done? An internal study, task force? I have seen nothing. Mediocrity is the result of being complancent.

And once again, the short school day was a concern of President Jaensch, not me.

And the track goes on. So Thom quotes yet another of these far left groups as if they were authoritative. No Thom, that is their opinion.

Not once in the quote did this person explain how the lack of tracking resulted in better outcomes, if fact, if you read close to this persons comments and others, I think they suggest that the lower end proceeds more at the expense of the higher end. AND THEY DO NOT EVEN PROVIDE EMPIRCAL JUSTIFICATION, THEORY OR OTHER INTELLECTUAL THOUGHT ON WHY THAT WOULD WORK.

Do I feel that all students should improve? YES, TOTALLY YES. But for those who are struggling, they need more and different education approaches than those with greater skills. The whole social justice education model has the same factual support as putting your textbook under your pillow.

As a parent, I am glad my children were not subjected to this great "social experimentation". Ironically, as these programs have been implemented over the last twenty or thirty years, has educational performance improved? Not by the statistics I see.

But go back to two of my lead points. First, if tracking is so bad, why does 203 have the pullout programs and tracking in high school? How can this contradiction be explained? Either it works or it does not work, you cannot have it both ways.

But more important, why not create school choice? Now I know there are many parents out their that would prefer that their children follow socialistic approaches, they are the most vocal. Fine, let them pursue these models. But since 203 is such a large district, establish other schools that use a different model--tracking. Let PARENTS CHOSE!!!

There is an inclination to say that these models could be used to measure the alternative methods. However, to do that accurately, you would need a baseline for each student and measure their progress rather than the raw data for each school. Since 203 is not doing this now, it is unlikely whether they could do this for a more complex situation.

A few comments on Mr. Denys last post:

As to the length of the elementary school day, if Mr. Denys is interested in discussing the “official” contact time per the ISBE, may I gently request he locate those figures. For myself, I think he is simply engaging in a bit of “smoke and mirrors” as, if the elementary student day is from 8:15 to 2:30 (6 hours, 15 minutes) and we know that lunch/recess is 40 minutes, then we can fairly safely say that teacher contact time is five hours 35 minutes. I mean, seriously, Denys himself states: ”While children are in classrooms from 8:15 to 2:30 (six hours, 15 minutes), what is the contact time?” He himself states they are in the classroom, they certainly are always in the presence of a teacher, and we have discussed AMPE below, what more does he want?

As to the bus schedule, Mr. Denys seems to think that D204 has”figured it out.” Why?

He has been complaining that D203’s elementary school day is too short, even though it’s comparable to Avery Coonley’s 1st through 4th grade school day. D204’s elementary school day is 15 minutes longer, however, their elementary school day doesn’t start until 9:05 which I have to think creates some problems for working families trying to get to their jobs, and they have a 25 minute shorter high school day. If Mr. Denys feels this is superior to D203’s way of scheduling, that’s fine, but I will offer the view that compared to D203, D204 has made the decision to have a longer elementary day at the cost of having a shorter HS day and a less convenient starting time for the elementary schools. Again, if Mr. Denys thinks this is preferable, fine, but both methods involve tradeoffs in the length of day. Bottom line: I have a hard time crediting Mr. Denys long standing criticism of D203’s elementary school day
As to differentiation vs. tracking, interested readers can see my previous comments. I will only add that recently Andreas Schleicher spoke in Aurora. He is head of the Indicators and Analysis Division (Directorate for Education) for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or put plainly, is the head of the PISA assessment for the OECD. He commented that we: “can no longer just sort people but must raise the performance of everyone. The highest performing systems can do this.” And: “in high performing systems there are high expectations for all, do not tolerate failure. As opposed to systems that believe students have different destinations, different expectations, who use tracking/streaming.”

I think that’s pretty much right on target. One of the knocks on tracking was it was used to “sort” students, with lower tracks being given less rigorous coursework, from which few if any ever succeeded in escaping, which ultimately lead to inferior educational outcomes. Mr. Schleicher also indicated that countries that sorted (tracked) students by ability had, on average, lower outcomes because lower tracked students have lower ending points; not good enough in today’s world.

Thom Higgins


My response from a couple of weeks ago got lost in the Sun web. So here goes again.


1. I repeat my original request that went unanswered. What is the official Illinois State Board of Education contact time reported for District 203? While children are in classrooms from 8:15 to 2:30 (six hours, 15 minutes), what is t he contact time? We do not need Thom’s BLAH BLAH BLAH, just the ISBE official number. And as I noted, some school districts have been caught in inflating this number.

2. The Bus schedule. It looks like District 204 has figured it out. You would think a world class district would figure it out. Going on six years since Jeansch raised the issue and no action.


1. I think Thom, after reams and reams of BLAH BLAH BLAH has admitted there are two styles of education: Differentiated or social justice and tracking.

2. My point for extra teachers is that the significant numbers of teachers BEYOND primary (or whatever they are called) classroom teachers to compensate for the shortfall of Social Justice teaching (and effectively replaces it with Tracking!!!!) is inefficient. If tracking were implemented and pullouts therefore eliminated, smaller class sizes for ALL classes could be achieved.

3. Kudos for the Winnetka information. But when you read the sheet, it is not scientific, rather a propaganda sheet. There is no empirical support for this approach.

Don’t get me wrong on this topic. It would be great if all students could get a 33 or more on the ACT. But that is not the case. The high schools realize this, they do not group the top performers with those who need more work and attention (and I am not talking about special education here). So if it is good for high schoolers, whey wouldn’t it be even BETTER for young students in the most critical years of their education.

And as I have stated, let there be multiple approaches. Let parents select the education they want for their children.


For a bus to arrive by 7:00, it needs to have its first pickup between 6:30 and 6:45. When the busses leave, the first run is at 3:20, but the second run is a half hour later with students getting to their bus stops by 4:00. That is long.

As for lunch, most schools have a full period during lunch. Lunch periods are typically half of a full period. Students could use that time more productively like at most other schools. Must be the teacher contract!!!!

If we can get 203 to extend the school day and provide more instructional time I would definitely vote to give Thom a K-12 "do over". Thom clearly could benefit from more instructional time the second time around.

A few comments on Dan Denys latest post:

Length of school day

Mr. Denys has the unfortunate habit of putting words in other people’s mouths to make his point. I suspect that Mr. Jaensch’s alleged comment is such an example. Making sweeping statements with no explanation is also his forte: ” And I forgot about that bus schedule. Looks like other districts can solve, but we cannot.”

Perhaps he will be good enough to tell us how other districts (consolidated) “solved the problem?”

As to “contact time” I think anyone who reads the summary I provided (quickly put together) will get a very good sense of the time students are in contact with the various teachers.

For the anonymous poster who posted a similar schedule: thanks for adding the elementary lunch/recess time. So you know 203 dropped the 10 minute homeroom for the middle schools this year and extended the class time 2 minutes.

For the record I would welcome a longer elementary school day, especially if we could incorporate a some foreign language instruction as part of it. But the point needs to be made that lengthening the school day isn't in any way as easy as one might think, especially in a consolidated school district. Lots of moving parts.

Instructional style

It seems Mr. Denys is going to ride his “social justice” meme for a bit longer. It’s just plain silly. As is his claim that the 5th grade teachers in my example were violating District policy. Further, in his claim that the District’s curriculum is: ” based on a differentiated instruction to "many levels of ability" by a single classroom teacher.” Mr. Denys seems to be arguing two irreconcilable positions. How can he reconcile his claim above of a “single classroom teacher” with his complaint that that D203 has too many teachers/support staff pulling students out of class?

The bottom line always has been, and continues to be, that Mr. Denys is in favor of a full tracking system for students, which is not the mainstream educational practice in this country today. D203 is no different than other high achieving school districts in how they deliver their curriculum. Interested readers will find this FAQ on differentiation from the Winnetka elementary district of interest as it also discusses tracking in question 5. There is quite a lot of information of differentiation on their website.

High school day

Mr. Denys is exaggerating the HS bus schedule. Busses arrive between 7:00 and 7:15 for classes that start at 7:45. School ends at 3:10 and busses leave between 3:20 and 3:30. The early arrival in the morning has its advantages as students use it to meet with teachers and finish up homework. Also, many clubs and organizations also have morning meetings, so the need to get to school early is common for many students, whether they are bussed or not.

The following is an excellent example of my complaint of Mr. Denys putting words in other people’s mouth to make his point: ” And for the third time, I agree with Thom. Lunch periods are too long”

Readers will look in vain for any comment by me stating that the lunch periods are too long; never so much as alluded to it. It is unfortunate that Mr. Denys continues to attempt to confuse the reader in this manner.

I did state that 15-20 years ago it was decided for curricular reasons to lengthen the lunch period to 1 hour. My understanding is the reason for this was to have more full period class time available for students during the lunch period.
Thom Higgins


See what I mean?

Instead of acknowledging 203 needs to increase the length of day in it's grade schools, Higgins goes out to find the most meaningless data on defend the status quo.

Apparently, his motto is "we are almost bas goodness the others"!

Folks, it is a simple matter: it has been conclusively shown that length of school day for grade school is an imperative part of future skill sets!!

Quit defending and start proactively changing!


I asked a simple question, how many contact hours, not when students are required. Clearly based on the length of Mr. Higgins response he either did not understand what I was asking or avoiding the response. He would have more dignity if he said he just did not know. And unless you have contact time, all of his comparisons are irrelevant.

And when Mr. Jaensch made the comment about the shortest school day at a candidate workshop we both attended, Thom was not there. But again, notice that Thom does not say what I said was wrong, rather Jaensch could not possibly say that in front of me.

And I forgot about that bus schedule. Looks like other districts can solve, but we cannot.


Thom, you need to do a little more reading other than the materials supplied by the Teachers Union. If you read the District cirriculum summaries (which are very poorly written) and listen to the administrators (remember, I did compare 203 schools before picking my children's school), they are based on a differentiated instruction to "many levels of ability" by a single classroom teacher. The underlying premise is soial justice education where all but those with extreme special needs and select gifted students progress in a single classroom.

Thom repeats his example of the 5th grade teachers who are violating District policy. It's almost like Thom is endorsing tracking (he almost claims that this revolt achieves the goal. He;s right, those teachers are right. But my assigned school did not go against the District policies.

Thom states that Avery Coonley does well since it has homogenus group of students. AGREE AGAIN. My further point, the 125 students at a given grade level would be better served by five groups that are homogenus than five groups that have a wide range of abilities. Like Thom's 5th grade renegade example. And these groupings should be based on other factors rather than testing. That is why you have teachers. Also, "new" technology could enhance this structure rather than compensating for the challenges of a cumbersome model.


Thom has not identified all of the shortomings in the high school day. Buses are scheduled to arrive as much as one hour before classes start. Further, the first to arrive are the last to leave, making it even longer. With all the demands on these students, they could use the extra time. And for the third time, I agree with Thom. Lunch periods are too long.

Again, these issues have been out there for years and no action. Is that world class?

"Parents are paying close to $20,000 a year for that school day at Avery Coonley and I’ll assume are not particularly troubled about it."

Just another example of more Thom nonsense. Seems Thom if frequently willing to accept his own opinions as fact without bothering to collect any proof. Those of us who are critical thinkers will continue to challenge Thom with his less than scholarly approach and views.

Regardless, it is the C and D students who are having trouble learning who benefit the most from more educational time, not the more gifted students.

To truly compare the school schedules of 203 and 204, there is more to take into account than start time to end time.
According to the websites,
203 high schools - 7:45 - 3:10 with 6 minute passing periods, 50 minute classes (except period 2 which is 3 minutes longer possibly for announcements?) Once a month late arrival days (seems classes start over an hour later on those days?)
204 high schools - 7:25 - 2:25 with 5 minute passing periods, 47 minute classes (with a couple odd exceptions, not sure why)

203 middle schools - 8:00 - 2:50 with 4 minute passing periods, all classes 40 minutes plus a 10 minute homeroom
204 middle schools - 8:00 - 3:00 with 3 minute passing periods, core classes 45 minutes in length, but "encore" classes (music, PE, etc.) are shorter it seems. Lunch is 30 minutes. Advisory is 20 minutes but is not held on the late arrival Wednesday.

203 elementary schools – 8:15 – 2:30 Art 50? mins once a week, PE 25-30 mins twice a week, Music 25-30 mins twice a week, lunch/recess 40 minutes daily
204 elementary school – 9:00 – 3:30 Art 50 mins once a week, PE 25 minutes 3 times a week, Music, 25 minutes 2 times a week, lunch/recess 35 minutes daily

Just for fun I looked up D204’s schedule. Their high school day is 25 minutes shorter than D203, with a middle school day that is 10 minutes longer and 15 minute longer elementary day. All three schools shorten their day by 15 to 20 minute on Wednesdays to allow for professional development.

What’s interesting is how the two districts structure their starting times. For D203, HS starts at 7:45, middle at 8:00 and elementary is 8:15. So there is only a half hour between the HS and elementary start times.

For D204, HS starts at 7:25, with middle schools starting at 8:00 and elementary at 9:05. So, D204 has 1hr. and 40 minutes between their HS start time and their elementary time.

For all those taking issue at the length of D203’s elementary day, I will point out that their elementary day is the same length as Avery Coonley’s day for 1st through 4th grade. Parents are paying close to $20,000 a year for that school day at Avery Coonley and I’ll assume are not particularly troubled about it.

Thom Higgins


"He is a person of sway within the community and the district and I believe he has an obligation to both acknowledge when the district is weak/wrong AND to try to influence it's change. Otherwise he is just empty yapping."

Don't be misled about Thom based upon the reams of nonsense he posts here. While I'm certain Thom is a legend in his own mind he actually is held in much lower regard by most people in the community. Yes, certain people in the administration and certain school board members manipulate him because he is a good lap dog.

Thom is not a SD203 decision maker and never has been. Based upon his convoluted thought processes lets all hope Thom never has any hand in setting district policy. Even having Thom influence district policy in any way would be pretty scary because he does not speak for any kind of district majority and the whole QE203 things is nothing more than a sham organization he conveniently hides behind.

Of course I don't balme Higgins for the ignorant dostrict decision to let a bus schedule dictate the education opportunities for the community.

I DO blame him for his blind obediance to the district.

Not only does he not question anything they do, including such ignorant decisions liken the bus schedule driving (pun intended) education opps, but he actually accepts and defends it!

He is a person of sway within the community and the district and I believe he has an obligation to both acknowledge when the district is weak/wrong AND to try to influence it's change. Otherwise he is just empty yapping.

Blaming the length of the school day on the bus schedule?

Just so we are clear, what we are saying by this is that however much actual educational time our children might need need comes second to whatever the bus schedule dictates?

How about a better solution? Just get rid of all of the school buses, get rid of all of the school bus drivers, get rid of all of the school bus schedulers and mechanics and supervisors. Get rid of their salaries, benefits, and retirement. In retrospect we probably never should have started a school bus system and just left transportation the responsibility of each family... like it should be and how it still is for many.

Let parent be responsible for getting their children to and from school. Neighbors can help neighbors and broker all kinds of deals to help each other out. Instead of spending millions each year on a school buss system just open the school doors at 5:30AM before school and keep the doors open until 7:00PM after school. Open up the library and study halls, cafeteria, etc. and give the students a place to gather, study, and work on assignments. In the end it would cost the taxpayer a heck of a lot less that what we currently are spending on the school bus system. Plus we know all of the union teachers will jump at the chance to monitor these areas and make a few more bucks.

But the bottom line is if the school bus schedule is impeding what is needed to deliver a quality education or is impacting how much education time is available the solution is actually quite simple. Get rid of the buses and get back to making decisions that are in the best educational interest of the students. When the school board or administration starts letting something like the school bus schedule drive educational decisions they have clearly lost sight of what is most important.

While I will agree that the reasons Higgins gives for the shorter school day are ridiculous, we can't really blame him for that. Those are the reasons given by the school district. So blame the school district in this case.
There are other districts that also use the same buses for every level of schooling that have managed to solve this issue better than 203 has.

The "reasons" Higgins uses for the shorter school day are just lame excuses. 

The  bus schedule------ really?  Really!

A few observations about some of Dan Denys statements:

I not sure Mike Jaensch ever told Dan that D203 has the shortest school day in the state as I believe that is incorrect and I’m sure Mike knew better (CPS is an easy example of a shorter day although the most valid comparison is instructional time, not length of day). Dan has brought up this issue numerous times and I recall him previously making the statement that D203 has a shorter day than average (true), and we have discussed the reason for this before as well, namely the fact that the district utilizes the same school buses and drivers for all three levels of schools.

So how did we get to the current schedule? District 203 has the longest, or at least one of the longest, high school days in the state. About 15-20 years ago there was a curricular decision to lengthen the lunch hour to full periods, I believe to allow the classes held during lunch periods to be full periods. This caused the entire districts schedule to be rearranged. One of the consequences of this is the shorter elementary school day due to sharing buses and drivers. In response the District has maximized instructional time in the elementary schools in a number of ways; a relatively short lunch/recess period, and students only have PE and music twice a week, with a once weekly longer art period.

The District can’t lengthen the elementary school day without it impacting the middle and high school schedules as well. I’ll remind readers that D203 has historically spent, on average, at the state average for operations for 20 some years. This is one of the ways they keep the costs down. Could they re-gigger the schedule? Yes, and there has been talk of it over the years, mostly about having a shorter HS day and have it start even earlier. But then you have all the studies that argue for HS’s to start later because of HS student’s sleeping needs and its impact on learning.

I did the following quickly so I won’t claim 100% accuracy. Briefly, the length of day is for D203 is as follows. This is when class is in session, not the first bell:


8:15 to 2:30.


Class starts at 8:00 and ends at 2:50. There are 9 periods of 42 (approx) minutes with 4 minute passing periods. PE every day, lunch, study hall, 2 language arts, 1 math, 1 science, 1 social studies, 1 foreign language/exploratory.

High School:

Class starts at 7:45 and ends at 3:10. There are 8 periods of 50 minutes and 6 minute passing periods. PE/health every day, one period for lunch, and 6 classes or 5 with a study hall.

Frankly, the schedule doesn’t compare badly with Avery Coonley (who has PE 5 times a week) and Benet:

ACS has full day Kindergarten, D203 has half days.
ACS and D203 are identical 1st through 4th.
ACS has a 50 minute longer 5th grade day
ACS has a 15 minute longer 6th through 8th grade day.
D 203 High school 7:45 to 3:10
Benet 7:55 to 2:35 but shorter lunch time

Moving on, I don’t think that D203, or public educators nationally, believe that “all kids are equal so let’s teach them all the same,” which is what I perceive to be Mr. Denys’ view of how public education operates. Instead, I see the belief as “all kids are equally entitled to a quality education appropriate to their abilities.” For some that’s a gifted program, for others, it’s special ed. I’ll mention here that for all its failings, I think NCLB has forced some districts to focus on educating every student. Previously, too many districts focused on the middle and top achievers and forgot the rest. NCLB ended that.

Mr. Denys concept of District 203’s “social justice teaching model” exists, in my opinion, solely in his mind. I have never heard or read anything relating to this in all my years of following D203. He seems intent to continue to conflate this with the mainstream national educational model of Differentiation, where Districts use various techniques/programs to give as individualized an educational experience as possible to a wide range of students of varying abilities and health. Which brings me to a point I have made repeatedly; Avery Coonely is, I’m sure, an excellent (abet very expensive and small) primary school. However, they have the advantage of having a very homogeneous population of gifted students. D203, and all public schools, have to take whatever comes in through the door, a much more complicated task.

And, yes, the wide range of students that attend D203 requires an equally wide range of educational services. It’s far from just a gifted and talented program for 25% and “the rest” get the same program as Mr. Denys implies. The District has a large special ed population, and about 10% of students have IEP’s. Then there’s the ESL and Title 1 programs, and programs that most people don’t know about like the alternative high school for behavioral students who can’t make it in a traditional school environment or the Academy programs for students struggling academically.

As an aside, I will re-tell an experience I’m aware of at one of the elementary schools 5th grade classes. Two teachers noticed that after all the kids left the room for the various pull-outs (honors-enrichment-remedial, etc) for math, I believe, they had about half of each of their classes left. Looking at the remaining students they decided to combine the classes and then divide them in two groups based on the students progress, with a smaller group being those a bit behind the larger group so they could get more individualized attention. These kind of creative ad-hoc efforts occur regularly, but isn’t something you know about unless you experience it.

Needless to say, the one size fits all curriculum that Mr. Denys claims exists in the District, doesn’t. Could one make the argument some of these efforts amount to tracking of a sort? Sure, but my sense is Mr. Denys wants to go back to the old model of placing students into fixed groups based on test results. I just don’t see that happening, especially as more technology comes into the schools. The current “talk” in the District (and nationally) is, in the near future, for each student to receive an individualized educational experience based on their ability/progress.

I’ll mention at this week’s school board meeting they discussed the Extended School Year Program for especial ed students who attend classes over the summer. Until it was bought up I was unaware of its existence. My point here being here is but another example of the very wide range of students that public schools have to educate, requiring a commensurately wide range of educational offerings. Another testament of the diversity within the District, that I just heard, is the fact that there are 51 different languages spoken by D203 students. I was shocked to hear that frankly.

Thom Higgins



I agree with you 100%. Every student has different capabilities, not just the top 1% or the top 25% in math and reading.

But the 203 "social justice teaching" model treats MOST the same. Their is no individuallized teaching.

With modern technolgy and the size of the District, there could be groups A through E (each 20% range in ability). Students could be in A group for math, C group for English, B group for science, etc. If they can make a baseball schedule, they surely could create one for education.

Tell me again why it was a good idea to put the government in charge of public education?

Maybe at a point in time that was a good idea. Clearly those times have changed and the education system has evolved, as have the needs of society for educated citizens.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the whole structure and purpose of government meddling in the education of our children and privatize the entire system.

Fat, lazy, bureaucratic school systems that do not compete and simply tax us relentlessly to fund their inability to manage and operate economically has got to end. Good of fashioned competition is the only way our schools will learn to improve and get to the point where they CAN compete on a global scale and demonstrably be able to claim any kind of "world class" status.

Until then expect more of the same, expect mediocrity, and expect to hear all the reasons why it is the students and parents fault... yada yada yada

Dan D wrote;

And be clear to the readers. Only 1% are put into PI+ where 100% of the classes are honors, the only full time tracked program. The other programs are for limited classes, not the entire school day. Nothing tricky.

While I can't argue with adding separate tracks for more subjects, or adding additional levels of tracking, I do think that tracking by subject is a more flexible approach that better addresses the needs of students. Not every kid is "gifted" in every subject.

Like most that push a socialist agenda, Higgins believes that more money translates into better results and services.

Further, as any good socialist believes, these results are magnified by a factor IF the money comes from the general public ( ie the entire social structure) versus the responsible individuals.

Give Thom credit for being a true believer.


There has been a focus on the short school day in the Chicago Public Schools. Naperville School Board President Jaesch enlighhened me five years ago whey he noted that Naperville 203 had the shortest day in the state. I take his word, he sent his children to the schools.

With this issue being addressed, how about some facts. I tried to look at the 203 webt site (both general and by school). I know "School Hours" are 8:15 to 2:30. But of that time, how much are direct student contact hours? How much of these 6 hours, 15 minutes are actual class contact time?

I hope we can get a straight forward answer. I was amazed at how districts lie about this data. For example, Willmette 39 reported to the state that they had seven hours per day, but the actual was substantiially less.

This also raises a subsequent question. How much contact time do teachers need to perform to be paid full time at all levels of education? This would be very pertinent in contract negotiations.

And Mr. Jaensch, it has been five years since you raised this very important issue and not action. What is the cause of the delay?

Has anyone else noted the uncanny similarities between Thom and Scott Huber? Can it possibly be they are one and the same?

Does Thom Higgins have children? It does not seem so. I have never encountered a person so complacent about excellence. That is not what made Naperville great.

Schools are not about union teachers having a cush job. You would think that our schools would be creating the best for all.

But if Thom represents a typical public school parent, I might have picked the wrong community to live in. Alternatively, I could pay more money like Dan and help my children. I think we need to pursue better schools like -1 and Dan D. advocate.

And it does not have to cost money!!!!

U have 2b nuts to think voters will approve a 5% 401k match. The likely number there will be zero.





These two amounts were taken directly out of each of our e-mails. A couple of observations.

1. ACS is a very special (and expensive) school. No doubt. I had suggested that "portions" of their program that have the most "bang" for the buck be implemented.

2. Thom is drinking the union juice on pensions. Chris Christies' comments apply to Illinois. Pension benefits were promised that the STate simply could not afford.

3. All of the numbers are hard to get at, Thom had similar issues. However, for ACS, the fund raising goes to pay down debt on principal and fund an endowment. They typically run at break even with tuition. Also, one of the operating costs is financial aid, something a public school does not have. These amounts are the primariy cause of the differences between our numbers, the only meaningful difference.

4. Not to belabor a point, while ACS borrowed throught Downers GRove, they did not pay the same rate that Downers Grove or Naperville 203 would pay. These bonds were conduit bonds (simlar to the Children's Museum bonds in Naperville) and had higher rates. I should know, I structured their first bond issue (my exposure to the school).

5. Thom marvels how Benet can educate students at such a low cost. Their teachers are paid well. They simply do not have the overhead and the "extra" teachers like 203. I am a strong advocate of the ACTUAL classroom teacher, but not all the excess. There are no hidden subsidies; the concept of cost efficient educaton is tough for the left.


Based on the actions during our election, QE203 is "pathetic and deceitful". People have said as much about Thom and his partner Peter Schulman now for four years. You and your organization have lived up to your claim.

But you claimed that we disparaged your board members "individually and personally." Again, not true. You will need to dig deeper.


My view on "LACK OF TRACKING" is that this is a "SOCIALISTIC CONCEPT", all students are equal. When I inquired about the 203 system, that is my impression.

As to Mr. Ayers, go read the 10/16/2008 article in the Wall Street Journal. His mentor at Columbia advocated that teachers should "tell children about the evils of the existing, oppressive social order" in the US. Ayers advocated "social justice teaching." He was a key leader of the UIC education department. The illustrive teacher at Naperville North was one of his students.

And this nonsense that children cannot be evaluated until the third grade. My children were tested for acceptance at ACS when they were 2 1/2 and again at 31/2. In fact, hundreds of parents took this test even if they had no intention of going to ACS since it provided early input on student performance.

The educational work from Junior Kindergarden was very insightful. We along with most ACS parents engaged tutors during the 4 to 7 year old times to address learning challenges. I view these three years as the cornerstone of my children's education success (and I am not bragging here). I feel sorry for parents who don't get this benefit!!!!

And even at ACS, there were students who tested well as 3 year olds who either did not apply themselves and "false tested." They left the program and went to a more suitable alternative. But all of this takes enormous amounts of teacher time and accountability. By passing this off to third grade, the work for a teacher is substantially diminished.

And yes, Thom, I do view PI/PI+/Honors as a tracking, a half baked and ineffective one. It is almost like an excuse to cover up for the inadequacies of "social justice teaching" that based on my reading and discussions with the cirriculum personnel is the underpinning of the 203 educational program.

And to be rhetorical and serious, if tracking works for 25% of the students in select subjects, why would it not work for 100% of the students in all subjects? It did for me, I am glad my public school converted to tracking when I made sixth grade. Might have even done for you!!!!

And be clear to the readers. Only 1% are put into PI+ where 100% of the classes are honors, the only full time tracked program. The other programs are for limited classes, not the entire school day. Nothing tricky. By the way, ask STAGE if they woudl like increased tracking!!!!!!! How about a survey of current parents rather than students who are four to six years out of school!!!!


Local taxpayers do not pay for teacher's pensions. If this cost is transferred, there would need to be cuts, most likely in teacher salaries. Just like the airlines and most of the private sector. Local citizens should not take the responsibilty of the state and unions collective failure.

Here’s my best estimate for costs for the various schools, all based on the 2009-2010 school year:

Avery Coonley

$16,750 stated tuition
$ 2,199 stated annual giving amount
$18,949 total

Avery Coonley is explicit about the fact that tuition only covers part of the cost of educating its students and they annually give the amount of the shortfall, which they ask parents to write a check for in addition to their tuition check. They also do fundraisers/auctions to raise money and have an endowment. I’m doubtful tuition and the annual giving amount they list is the total financial income to the school but it’s as close as I can get.

As an aside, I did see they have financed projects using Village of Downers Grove municipal bonds, so their cost of money is comparable to D203’s.


$11,863 OEPP Operational Expenditures per Pupil.
$ 667 $12 million in capital outlay/17,994 students
$ 592 8% nominal cost for employers state) contribution of pension + District contribution .58%
$13,122 total

It’s hard to know how Avery Coonley funds repairs/capital improvements. Erring on the conservative side, I’ll assume it’s included in their $18, 949 total. Therefore, I’ll add in $12 million for D203 for their capital outlays.

With a D203 elementary enrollment of approx 12,000, we get to my $70 million figure, meaning that the district would have to spend $70 million a year more to match what Avery Conley spends per student. I ask readers to remember that D203 has a far wider range of services and students. Avery Coonely needs to do one thing well, educate gifted students. D203 has to educate every student of every ability and disability.

A note on the pension amount: 8% is the nominal amount for the employer side of the pension. The state has been negligent in making their payments over a very long time frame, causing the State’s annual cost to be in the 25% range, which they are typically missing, getting themselves even more behind. 25% is not a fair percentage to include as the nominal amount. You could quibble about actuarial issues for a few additional percent if you want to.

As an aside, as I mentioned previously, Tom Cross has a bill in committee that transfers the nominal pension payment to the school districts going forward. Considering the economy and the State’s finances, I have to believe this could very well happen.

Someone mentioned D203 fundraising. Sure, the H&S does some and the NEA does a bit, but the amounts on a per child basis are ridiculously low.

Want to figure 12% on pensions and a couple of million for D203 fundraising? OK, then D203 would need an additional $65 million a year for elementary students to match Avery Coonley’s spending.

Benet’s even tougher to know what the true cost is. Looking at the two years I know 2007 and 2012, and taking an average, I come up with $8350. Add in $533 ($750K/1333) for fundraising gets us to $8913. But to have a full picture, per the principal’s statement, we have to know the amounts for all the following:

Support and contributed service of the Monks of St. Procopius.

Donations by parents, alumni, past parents and friends of the Academy.

Funds raised by the annual auction.

Funds raised by the annual appeal (I believe this is the $533 amount).
Grants and matching gift contributions.

Donations to various endowments.

How much does this all add up to? I don’t know, but could it add four million a year to get the per pupil spending to equal D203? Wouldn’t shock me a bit. If you look at how much private high schools charge and the disparity between them and schools attached to religious institutions, it seems clear that there is heavy subsidization for the religious institutions. The figures I have from a 2009 Chicago magazine article have an average tuition of $18,000 for private high schools and $8,000 for catholic ones. A huge difference and Benet’s teachers are comparably paid to what D203 teachers make.

If you ignore the value of the unknown contributions for Benet and take the combined Avery Coonley’s costs and the known Benet costs, and compare it to D203 if they spent that amount per pupil, the District would still need an additional $44 million a year, and to be fair you have to assume that figure would increase significantly if all of Benet’s income was known.

I really love this from Dan:

Tom quotes a web site (I cannot verify, but will accept)

Ah, Dan? As I plainly indicated, it’s your website, the Taxpayers Ticket the one where you called QE203 members “pathetic and deceitful.” Remember?

As for Bill Ayers, Mr. Denys continued attempt to link us is childish. First, what he claims is “my position” is simply me explaining how the District operates, and, frankly, differentiated education is a mainstream educational philosophy throughout this country today. Perhaps more importantly, I’m doubtful if Mr. Denys can actually find Ayers discussing differentiation vs tracking at any length. I read extensively about education. I never see his name referenced about anything. All he is doing is, once again, trying to create a controversy where there is none by inserting Ayers name into the conversation.

Forgetting that diversion, considering that the enrichment/honors/ PI/PI+/AP offerings could, in themselves, be considered a form of tracking, is he not just finding something else to complain about? Is he not taken aback by the fact that the Avery Coonley website plainly talks in terns that have all the hallmarks of differentiation?

Regarding this: Again, you do not dispute that this does not occur until LATE in the education cycle.

Is the third grade late? So you know, the Districts position is that it takes until third grade to be able to make an accurate assessment of whether a child is gifted or not. Per the District, there are no quotas in the enrichment/honors/PI/PI+ program. If they qualify, they’re in. There is a detailed matrix the District uses Illustrating what a student needs to score to qualify for the various programs. Again, approximately 25% of elementary students are touched by the various programs. His constant use of 1% is tiring.

This comment by Dan is interesting:

“If the state eliminates pensions, then teachers would have no pension. They would have to find another soucre that would do it for nothing (the current plan) or negotiate a plan that could result is a corresponding salary reduction.”

Another source that would do it for nothing? No pension? Corresponding salary reduction? Seriously? Every employer has to pay a corresponding amount of the employee FICA contribution. Teachers have no social security. The pension is in its stead. How can you not expect someone, the state or local school districts, not have to also pay a corresponding amount for pensions?

Going back to my previous statement, if Cross’ bill passes, Districts will have to pay the teachers 8% nominal contribution. If pensions go away and the teachers go on SS and a 401K program, then it will be 7.65% FICA and I’ll bet a 5% 401K match. That’s 12.65%. I’m ignoring the temporary FICA reductions here. Either way, the local school districts will be on the hook, not the teachers.

OK, spent way too much time on this, bye!

Thom Higgins


Excuse me, but per his prior post  Mr Higgins infers  that 203 does not have parents volunteer and that  203 does not have fundraising.

He is wrong on both accounts and his post was clearlynintended to mislead on the cost comparisons.

ACS BENET versus 203 COSTS

You asked about my calcuations and I gave them. You then quote two unique aspects of each organization to infer their costs need to be increased more that I proposed. First, Benet. Yes, the monks of St. Procopius Abbey do support the facilty. They bought the land over 100 years ago, they built the initial buildings, they provide religious leadership, although limited direct teaching. I guess you would be right if 50% of the classes were actually taught by the monks who took no salary. However, today, that is not the case.

As to Avery Coonley, their fundraising last year was $400,000 or so. If you divide this amount by the 350 "equivalent students, that works out to $1,000 per year. However, you ignored my comment that financial aid, included in the cost of tan ACS education is over $250,000 per year. And they either pay down their debt or add the princiapl to their endowment.

It would be nice to have the actual financial statements (both entities use to post) rather than broad statements.

But I put out my numbers, counter. By the way, your silence is observed on the lack of pension costs in the 203 education number.


Tom quotes a web site (I cannot verify, but will accept)

"There is left wing, and then there is LEFT wing. The people behind Quality Education for 203 represent the furthest reaches of the fringe left."

Come on Thom. People who are on Emily's list, moveon.org, humanitarians, universalists are far left groups. Or am I mistaken, they alignt themselves with the John Birch Society? The comment about "far left" did not bother your consituencies, that is their political position (or they should not join such extreme left organizations). Rather, it bothers you since you tried to pass them off as "main stream" Naperville (which once as a clear right leaning, conservative town) and you knew the impact if people took the time to check.

But again, if these people were not far left leaning and we called them such, then we would have disparaged them.

And I did not associate you with Bill Ayers, just that your position was comparable to his!!! Spot on. Unless your want to change your position.


Again, you do not dispute that this does not occur until LATE in the education cycle.

And just like you have never responded to the "differentiated education" policy, you might want to check the quotas. Again, my source are parents. And note that these honor programs are only for a couple of classes except the 1% PI+ program.


On my last post, I stated that the state did not pay a pension. They do. The local district has no requirement to do so. If the state eliminates pensions, then teachers would have no pension. They would have to find another soucre that would do it for nothing (the current plan) or negotiate a plan that could result is a corresponding salary reduction.

This potential issue is not a reason for hoarding funds (they should put District 203 on the A&E Hoarders show!!!!!)

A few brief comments about the costs for Avery Coonley and Benet:

It’s hard to state exactly what AC/B spend, as tuition alone doesn’t cover the total cost of educating a student at these institutions; both schools plainly state this.

I’ll let Benet’s principal explain in his own words: ”it should be noted that Benet Academy has consistently offered a high quality, college-preparatory education at a lower per pupil expenditure rate than many neighboring public and private schools. This can only be accomplished through the support and contributed services of the monks of St. Procopius Abbey as well as the generous donations of many of you parents and such benefactors as alumni, past parents, and friends of the Academy. We are especially grateful for the response we receive at the auction, during the annual fund appeal, and through grants and matching gift contributions, for these fundraising activities help keep tuition costs down for all of our families.” OK, how much does this all add up to?

If you look at the Avery Coonley website, every year they indicate what the shortfall is between tuition and the total cost to educate a student. It looks to run between $1850 and $2200 per student on top of the tuition. Any fair comparison needs to include this amount.

As to Mr. Denys claim that neither he nor Mr. Davitt “disparaged” members of QE203, I will remind Mr. Denys of the QE203 page on the Taxpayers Ticket website:

Quality Education 203 is endorsing the very same candidates as the NUEA. What a coincidence! The teachers' union simply does not have the guts to come out and openly acknowledge who they have endorsed, so they work covertly with an organiztion using the classic "it's for the kids" strategy by coming up with a name like Quality Education 203. After all, who could be against a quality education? Pathetic and deceitful.

There is left wing, and then there is LEFT wing. The people behind Quality Education for 203 represent the furthest reaches of the fringe left.

Mr. Denys has consistently attempted to tie QE203.org with the NUEA and whomever he feels might damage our credibility. This tactic is on display in his latest post where he attempts to tie me to Bill Ayers. Bringing up Ayers is his attempt at character assassination by association, nothing more.

I’ll also mention that approximately 25% of all D203 elementary students are touched by enrichment/honors/PI/PI+ programs, which are based on eligibility, not a numeric limitation. If your child tests into the various programs they are available to them.

Thom Higgins



Here Thom goes again. Neither Mike Davitt nor myself or for that matter anyone associated with our campaign disparaged the signators of QE203. Rather we simply pointed out the affiliations of these people.


Emily's List
Unitarian Universalists

We asked our followers to check out these orgainzations and see if they wanted such people influencing our education. You might see why the Thom propoganda machine (QE203) wanted them off his list.

BTW, we still have the list, if the Sun allows, we can post all of the names, they are in the public domain. Once on the internet, always on the internet!!!


I have not been ignoring this, I have simply been very busy, both business and personally. Took my son out east to college and my daughter to her first job on the east coast (they have jobs there!!!).

Also, the data that would make this very precise is simply not available (unless I call some people or dig through some files). The most recent 203 numbers are 2008-2009. The Benet and ACS numbers are for 2011-2012. So here is a rough cut.


2011-2012 tuition...........$18,500
3 years cumulative increase......$2,500.......5 to 6%
2008-2009 amount..............$16,000

With these tuitions, the school breaks even. Fund raising of $300,000 offsets financial aid and principal payments on debt. So these adjusted tuition should be a reasonable proxy for cost per student.


2011-2012 tuition...........$9,000
3 years cumulative increase......$1,000.......3 to 4%
2008-2009 amount..............$8,000

Fund raising adds also to the Benet numbers, I would use the $500 per student supplied at a parent meeting. Total $8,500

If you take a weighted average of these two amounts, you end up with a number of $13,750 (8.5 ACS/4 Benet)

District 203

Reported cost per student.......$11,219
Teacher pension cost (Benet and ACS costs include pensions)
.....Teacher salaries--75% of total...$8,415
.....State funding need--25% of salaries.....$2,103

District 203 cost per student including teacher pensions.....$13,322

As you can see, Benet is a real bargain (imagine how much taxes could be reduced if the 203 schools delivered education like Benet). Even more tragic, the close cost indicates that 203 parents are really not getting as much for their money.

But nowhere near $70 million more.


A "wee bit elitist". So that is the rub. That is precisely what Bill Ayers states. Should I conclude that you are advocating that tracking is a right concept? Is the lack of tracking an educational or political decision?

You will never directly answer that question. My view is that "political correctness" heavily influenced by Socialists such as Ayers have overtaken the educational system to the demise of children. That is the sole objection to tracking, not that it produces better results.

But again, why one way for all Naperville students? Why not offer alternative education including schools that track their students? People can choose. The alternatives that are not chosen close. Competitiion in the 21 schools in Naperville. What an American concept!!!!!!


This is a funny one. After spending has gone awry, schools are controlling spending? I saw a brief comparison of a Naperville school when it opened in the sixties to today (Elsworth??--forgot to save the paper). Enrollment today is 30% less, "certified staff" has doubled. Have the educational outcomes doubled? Doubt it. Remember, for every classroom teacher there almost another "support" teacher or staff person.

Funny thing, if all of these extra teachers were given their own classroom, class size could be cut almost in half.


Teachers do not get any pension from the STate. If the STate eliminatd pensions, teachers would be on their own. Local taxpayers should not pick up the tab. Teachers should have been fighting the losing programs in Springfield like Medicaid and soon Obamacare. And they got to greedy by insisting on pension plans that state simply could not afford. In the private sector, their pension plans would be turned over to PBCC and they would be lucky to get 30 cents on the dollar. (That would be for recent retirees, older retirees would keep most since their pensions are substantially lower).

But if taxes need to be raised to continue pensions, hold a referendum. Simple.


I'll close once again reflecting that I do not regret spending substantialy more money to provide my children a better education. And these schools worked to push my children to achieve as much as they could. Thom denies such a concept, but don't ask me, ask your child. Is he or she doing two to four hours of homework every day since fourth grade (I am told not). In fact educators seem to be looking for a rational to reduce homework.

PI+ rivals ACS, but it starts in fifth grade, ACS starts in Junior kindergarden (4 years old). Starting a more rigorous education SIX YEARS LATER at the prime learning years is simply dangerous, in fact, a disgrace. And we did look into transferring particularly at the junior high level for "social" reasons. But the schools make you wait a year to get into the PI+ program, a penalty for not being in the system.

And high schools were comparable particularly now that Dr. Leis addressed the inequities at Central (that is why North has one 15 years due to an inferior program at Central). The only difference is discipline. And the lack of a meaningful affiliation with a four year college (don't throw up North Central, no students pursue it, So it either isn't any good or students are not qualified. I think the students are qualified, you have advocated such!!!

Or better yet, do only 1% of the Naperville elementary students deserve an accelerated education? I would think that the percentage would be at least 25%, that is what the high schools do with AP. Why would the schools ration more rigorous education? And yes, Thom, I have met parents who have moved their children out of 203 for a more rigorous private school education. Just as I have known parents who have moved their children into 203 for the special eduation.

Yes, I had included thevTrib links with a quick follow-up to my Aug 31 post.


"Gee, you put together a group of talented students, teach them well and you get high test scores! Who knew? "

Just so we are all clear... Is your argument that SD203 doesn't have talented students or that SD203 just isn't capable of teaching them well?

How about explaining the numerous state and national awards in math and science that 203’s high school students have won, (as a recent example I note that a D203 student won the first prize in the American Chemical Society exam, another received an honorable mention) how does a so called mediocre district manage to win so many of them? What is North’s tally? 15 state Math championships?


Do not take individual accomplishments or the accomplishments of the few to mean anything positive (or negative) about the district educating anyone.

To co-opt successes like these for your personal agenda is asinine.


This has to be one of my all time favorite Dan Denys comments: ” ALL students are tracked in Avery Coonley and Benet, just by their admission as he points out ("selective enrolment"). Results, high test scores.”

Gee, you put together a group of talented students, teach them well and you get high test scores! Who knew?

Your "who knew" sounds like mine when I mention an average of 80th+ percentile in 5th grade leading to students with an average of the 80th+ percentile in 11th grade. Clearly a sign of World Class education, no? NO!

. I hope that the District does find a way to bring foreign languages into the elementary schools. Anyone who watches D203 SB meetings is well aware of the constant movement to improve the educational offerings for its students.

So would you agree with me in encouraging a different pay scale for the non-classroom teachers and for the grade school teachers in order to free up money for such programs?

D203 and all districts have to be cognizant of discussions (actually I believe Tom Cross has authored a Bill) to transfer the nominal pension costs (call it 9%) onto school districts (and potentially allow districts who need to institute a tax increase outside of the tax cap to pay for it!).

Pitchforks and torches will storm the school board meeting if the employees do not have to take a hit for the cost being shifted to the districts.

The fact that we have cash reserves is a huge positive.

Having a huge cash reserve is always nice for whatever entity needs the money. Admitting where it came from is the problem. Not for D203, but for you, Mr. Higgins.

I am going to post something right after this with a link to the site with the GPA/ACT data. if that fails, I will have to stop posting since the system is too annoying to deal with.


I attend many, may SB meetings, and I stand firmly b my observations.

Movement does not equal action,my friend.

Be very sure the data supports whatever conclusions you choose to make.

A few quick comments:

I suspect the data made available from ACT will provide this blog with months of discussion. I’m finishing up a project that I will share here in the coming weeks, so I’m going to sit back and “enjoy the show” a bit while I’m finishing up. My first blush comment about the ACT data? Be very sure the data supports whatever conclusions you choose to make.

I will offer for the anonymous poster of 8-31 at 10:32pm and sadlypayingmoretaxes the observation that it would behoove you to attend/watch a few SB meetings before making such sweeping (and in my view incorrect) statements. This district is deadly serious about its mission and continuing to improve. My strongest wish here is that the district goes live with a website that Dr. Mitrovich previewed in the spring called Actions and Initiatives, which would give the public an insider’s view of what is being undertaken. I have no doubt that people will be impressed at what they see.

For anonymous of August 30th at 1:32am:

To answer your first question, no. It’s not my website alone.

As to your second question, a few comments: First, I find a certain irony in an anonymous poster asking why we don’t put names on our pieces; why don’t you post your name? Secondly, we had a member’s and supporter’s page in our infancy (and innocence). Unfortunately Messers Davitt and Denys took it upon themselves a number of times to make unkind comments about the people listed. Third, I’ll offer the opinion that there are many, many blogs/websites that are completely anonymous. That there are three names on our website and it is registered under one of them, is far more than many websites do. We would probably do more, and potentially list authors I suppose, if certain people would behave themselves. I write a large part of it with help/editing from others. I help/edit for other writers too and the extracurricular piece was a submitted piece. I’ll mention if anyone has a yen to write about education issues to contact us, we are always interested. We’ll put your name on it if you want, or not.

I think our practices compare quite well in comparison to, say, some previous websites that had D203 as its topic such as “thenuea203.org” whose website was anonymous or hold203accountable.org” which was not only anonymous but registered anonymously as well.

A few global comments responding to Dan Denys last post:

First, I note that Mr. Denys has chosen to ignore my offer to compare calculations of what Avery Coonley/Benet spend vs. D203. Wise man. After doing some research it looks like my back of the envelope estimate of D203 needing $70 million additional every year to equal the Avery Coonley/Benet cost to be significantly off on the low side.

In that same vein I note he talks about his thoughts of moving to Hinsdale/north shore for better educational offerings. Of course he ignores the vast additional sums these districts spend, just as he ignores the differential between ACS/Benet and D203. For those readers who haven’t seen it I refer you to What is the best Educational Value in Chicagoland ? where you can see just how much they spend, and will note that there isn’t a district whose students post the same or higher ACT scores but spends less than D203. Not one. D203’s students post the 6th highest ACT scores in the Chicagoland area (really Illinois). Mr. Denys and others can go on and on about D203’s supposed “mediocrity”, but it rings hollow.

Same for the alleged “deficiencies” claim, please Dan, tell the readers again about them, and tell us why the PI or PI+ program was insufficient for your needs. How about explaining the numerous state and national awards in math and science that 203’s high school students have won, (as a recent example I note that a D203 student won the first prize in the American Chemical Society exam, another received an honorable mention) how does a so called mediocre district manage to win so many of them? What is North’s tally? 15 state Math championships?

This has to be one of my all time favorite Dan Denys comments: ” ALL students are tracked in Avery Coonley and Benet, just by their admission as he points out ("selective enrolment"). Results, high test scores.”

Gee, you put together a group of talented students, teach them well and you get high test scores! Who knew?

So Dan likes tracking (or perhaps segregating is more accurate although I don’t mean it a racial context) high performing students into their own schools, fine. But to then criticize public schools for, in his words: ”promoting social equality in education” is to my view just a wee bit elitist.

Do I think that everyone deserves a quality education? Yes, across the board. That D203 students run the gamut, from the seriously disabled to the remarkably gifted, and the District offers all of them a quality education at a cost that equals the state average for operations, is to be celebrated. Having all of them rub elbows with each other every day is a plus too.

Finally, as I have stated repeatedly, D203 continues to grow and improve. I hope that the District does find a way to bring foreign languages into the elementary schools. Anyone who watches D203 SB meetings is well aware of the constant movement to improve the educational offerings for its students. Unfortunately the District instituted a number of austerity moves, including a freeze on some new programs. '

Mr. Denys continues to complain about D203’s cash surplus, but neglects to talk about the austerity moves the district has initiated to conserve cash in very uncertain times for school districts. D203 and all districts have to be cognizant of discussions (actually I believe Tom Cross has authored a Bill) to transfer the nominal pension costs (call it 9%) onto school districts (and potentially allow districts who need to institute a tax increase outside of the tax cap to pay for it!). This could very well happen. The other challenge is the state’s continuing financial difficulties. As a financially well off district, D203 could end up with a reduced state payment or the payment could be zeroed out as the state focuses on districts who need the financial support just to reach the Foundation Level of spending.

We are fortunate that the District has a balanced budget and can look forward to improving as opposed to many districts that are facing serious financial issues, causing some very unpleasant decisions to be made. The fact that we have cash reserves is a huge positive.

Thom Higgins



Where did my post from earlier today go?

I had links in it to the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the studies that I was discussing.

-1 -- slightly annoyed at any post of mine with links being eaten by the spam monster

Part of the problem isthe obstacle represented by "ostriches" such asnThom Higgins. These arevthe people (parents, teachers, plain old citizens, etc) who spend all of their efforts defending the status quo.

They react to every criticism with an animal-like response of personal attacks
And defensive swill. The best example is the terror attack these people had against the Tapayers Ticket a few years back. Laws were broken, reputations were attacked, kids were bullied, all because of. A combo of fear of change and a refusal to acknowledge weaknesses that could be fixed.

Thus, 203 is detained to continue to grow in the cost curve yet never get closer to world class.

Have to agree with Or............. on this. Both of my kids who went to college had similar experiences. The one who had done some summer programs during high school on college campuses was far more equipped to deal with being away from home for the first semester of college. The one who had never left home did go through an adjustment process. (Luckily though neither of them went through the binge drinking stage ever.)

Let's get this right once and for all:

SD203 is definitely NOT "World Class"

SD203 is definitely NOT "best in state"

SD203 is definitely NOT "best in county"

Despite all of the back slappers and cheerleaders around town it is really pretty difficult to nail down anything that SD203 does that could be considered "best".

As a simple case in point regarding "world class"... SD 203 is WAY, WAY down the list of best schools in Illinois. In turn, Illinois is WAY, WAY down the list of states with the best schools in the US. In turn, the US is not exactly at the top of the list of countries with the best performing schools. And what is important to note is SD203 is NOT making any step change or even significant progress toward improve our standing.

In reality and in terms of true "world class" performance all SD203 is is a wannabee without a plan or any goals. Even worse there isn't a single visionary on the elected SD203 board or within Mr. Mitrovich's senior staff that can lead SD203 to performing at a "world class" level within any foreseeable future.

Despite all of the time, effort, and money thrown at SD203 the absolute best that the school board, administration, and teachers have been able to produce are very, very mediocre results. And despite all the chest beaters trying to mislead parents into believing otherwise the comparable results objectively prove they don't have a factual leg to stand on.

Having had two kids recently graduate from college and graduate school, I think that there are factors other than academics involved. One kid who went to IMSA had not only the academics but the knowledge to survive away from home. He knew how to set his schedule and balance his time. The other went to Waubonsie and did not have these skills. It took her a semester to acquire them. Her second term and thereafter were just fine.


More brutal than announced.

Of the high schools which sent 60 or more students to UIUC, there were 19 schools with a higher average Freshman GPA than NN and NC. ALL of them had a lower ACT average than NN or NC.

I guess the two Naperville schools are in good shape, though, There was only one school below them in average Freshman GPA with an equal average ACT -- IMSA.

-1 -- knowing that there *could* be a difference in classes taken which could account for the discrepancy, but.....

check that.

I filtered the wrong column and will re post when I redo.


Did any of you see today's Tribune?

There is an article on grade point average discrepancies between high school and college, by high school.

I must say, I was not impressed by the 203 results.

Given there are those out there saying 203 is "world class", "best in state", etc, and given the best go on to college, the over half point drop by NNHS was uninspiring at best (NCHS was better, as was Neuqua).

In fact, NNHS was the third worst in DuPage mentioned in the article!

Somebody asked for motivation for comments. I started with simply one. Mismanagement and disregard for the taxpayers of the District. And while not as blatantly poor as was the case in 2002 to 2008 when these excesses went to 7% plus teacher salary increases and padding budgets, it persists. The District sits on a cash horde at least $20 million in excess of their target and they justify the take to pay teachers pensions if the state no longer does so (don't the teachers have to do so?). The funds that the District has taken from an average taxpayer over the past ten years has to exceed $35,000 for typical residents, enough to buy an new car or two.

In short, over 60% (I do get confused about these numbers since I work with multiple districts) do not use the system (like myself since I used private schools and now no longer have K-12 children) and should pay for what is necessary and not in excess.

But a second issue motivated my comments, the deficiencies of the school system. On a personal level, when I considered the District when my children reached first grade, I was flat out told that the public schools in Naperville did not offer magnet programs like other DuPage districts. As a parent, there was no way I would let my child go backward from a highly rated private school My only option was to move to either Hinsdale/OakBrook or the North Shore. So much for our tax dollars!!!

At the high school level, I was stunned that one District school did not offer the same programs as another and those programs were in my child's area of interest. This deficiency was subsequently corrected, but it would have been too late for my one child. More amazing, before Dr. Leis stepped in and corrected the situation, I was amazed on the disdain pointed my way by even daring to question the schools. And most notable is our good friend Thom. If these deficiencies were so inconsequential, why did Dr. Leis correct them? And don't "world class" institutions work to constantly improve?

But my concerns about education do not stop there. As a candidate for the Board, I had many parents tell me that the programs simply move the masses at one pace. This whole over the top comments is very pertinent there. It use to be that student progress was measured in releative grade attainment. For example, a fifth grade that was advanced in math might be rated 6.8 compared to the 5.0 rating he should have achieved by the fifth grade. Somewhere this scoring was replaced by meets expectation (the state test). So instead of being able to say that Naperville Students in the fifth grade averaged 5.2 or whatever, now they say that 60% meet the grade level.

My previous comments about tracking are what is relevant. To Thom's question that he conveniently dropped, ALL students are tracked in Avery Coonley and Benet, just by their admission as he points out ("selective enrolment"). Results, high test scores.

But the massive public education machine ranging from Chicago to Naperville (inclusive by the way) rejects this concept and insteade promotes social equality in education. So -1, there cannot be any attempt for a student to do more, it is against the underlying philosophy of the schools. And ironically, such a program makes the accountability of the teacher easier.

Take the student who tested 5.2 in the fifth grade. Doing just fine. However, he tested 5.3 in the fourth grade, so he went backwards.

And if all Naperville parents are satisfied with such mediocrity, great!! I was not. And I know many other parents are not. STAGE fights to get more enrichment into the children's education. As I reported here before, the Asian community supplements their public education with extensive tutoring. Other parents push their children. I suspect that 203 can do better, but there is little transparency in the process.

I need to go, but I watch how -1 and others clamor for more and get rebuffed by Thom Higgins, the union defender. There is only one way that works? I strongly doubt it. But a challenge. Let's have a referendum. Then we can really see. I have advocated that parents and/or children evaluate the schools annually, Distrcit 203 refuses to do so. Instead they will contact former students four or more years out of school to guage their education. The primary responses will be those "do gooders", the others have moved on.


Two questions:

1. Would it not be more honest and ethical to state something like: "I have posted the first of a number of pieces discussing education reform in Illinois on my website."?

2. Why do none of the "pieces" or "articles" posted on your website have a listed author?

-1 wrote: " think what you are hinting at is value-added modeling. I spoke with someone who tried to get some information from D203 and he told me that no, they are not doing this.


Yes, -1 that's what I read about. Thanks. link below for anyone interested.

Anonymous One:

Thanks for the link to the review. I thought the writer well understands the topic and players; very informative. Like most things, the more you learn about education reform the more you realize how complex the issue is and the many divergent views that are held.

I find particular resonance in the comments made about Geoffery Canada views of the KIP Academy: ” If you don’t believe me, believe Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, who is featured in “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” and whom Brill lionizes. In Paul Tough’s laudatory book “Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America” (2008), Canada decries KIPP’s approach as a kind of reverse “quarantine, walling off the most promising kids from a sick neighborhood’s contagion,” in Tough’s paraphrase. In fact, though Brill and the filmmakers never acknowledge it, Canada’s philosophy is actually diametrically opposed to KIPP’s. Canada insists such charters can’t succeed, at least not with all inner-city children, including those who may be disaffected from school, without substantially increased investments in wraparound social services, which Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone provides.”

Here’s two guys fighting for the same thing, better educational outcomes, but coming at it from completely different perspectives. I head Brill in an interview state that the head of KIP readily agrees that their system isn’t “The Answer”, and that teacher burnout is a worry. Here, I think Canada’s view of inner city schools being a center of support of students and their families has a better chance of being scalable.

Brill himself is pretty interesting, no fan of unions he, apparently, by the end of the book comes to the conclusion that we have to work within the existing framework, unions and all, up to even including the idea of making Randy Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, the Chancellor of NYPS. I have to give him credit for his open-mindedness.

I will say, personally, I have huge problems with the required lottery concept for Charters. Let them open as a neighborhood school, take all comers, and then we can see how much “magic” there is in any given concept. Most people don’t know that the initial idea of Charters was put forth by Al Shanker a lion of the teachers union movement. He wanted charters to specialize in the toughest to educate students and to serve as a laboratory for innovation to be shared. That isn’t happening and that’s too bad.

The unspoken of “child in the corner” is all the rural schools, often very poor, that are suffering with the same kinds of education issues, but nobody’s talking about them. I find that odd and disturbing.

Lastly, with respect to one of your previous comments, I will make the observation regarding discussing schools and ACT scores that, yes, a schools composite ACT score is irrelevant to an individual student applying to college, but that is a different topic than what I often discuss with Mr. Denys and -1, which is how good is D203 and is the composite ACT score a valid measure of a school district.

For all:

I have posted on the QE203.org website the first of a number of pieces discussing education reform in Illinois. The first one is the Synopsis of the Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010. Happy reading.

Thom Higgins


And a thought unrelated to D203.

The CTU spokesperson is not so bright.

"We fully support a better, smarter school day for our children, but teachers are now being asked to work 29 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase," union President Karen Lewis said. "To that we say, 'Thanks but no thanks.'"

So let's see. She is claiming they work no hours outside of the school day.

Since they then decided to use $3.41/hour for their extra pay, that means they are paid (being generous with the number of days and hours per day):

57000/(180*6) = $53/hour right now. And that's for a teacher making only 57K.

Tata ! Cheerio ! New Union President/spokesperson needed. That is not going to gain any sympathy from anyone.


The short reply was to Mr. Higgins, NOT Anonymous.

Sorry about that.
To Anonymous ONE who wrote:

I did read an article the other day (that I can't recall where) that made a point that high school performance and teacher ability can be measured if you are able to sort the data using 8th grade test scores. i.e. find a data group with equivalent 8th grade test scores, and then compare them upon h.s. graduation. This "could" provide some answers about teacher effectiveness. Not sure if anyone has done this, or if it is in the works, but it sounds like schools in our area are not doing this.

I think what you are hinting at is value-added modeling. I spoke with someone who tried to get some information from D203 and he told me that no, they are not doing this. They do not keep data in such a away to allow this. Hint to Mr. Higgins: another non-STAGE presentation source.

Since you have gotten this far into this topic, I'd strongly suggest you read up on value-added modeling. It could be great if used correctly, but I am not convinced any single year set of data is robust and stable enough to make any sane decisions. The teachers union would have a cow if that data got out there (and rightly so for short term data). However, I think the topic of this blog and associated new law does include a teacher effectiveness piece, so D203 will have to do something.

As an aside, I saw "Waiting for Superman" and I thought it was a well made movie in terms of human interest. However, it was way too biased in favor of charter schools and seemed to use too many select "facts" to be convincing in its thesis. Certain places like the Harlem Success Academy have such a driven leader that he alone may be able to effect improvement anywhere he goes. And I think that the commitment of the parents of kids who get into those charter schools may be also be a driver of success.


As my closing statement on your charges coming out of a STAGE PowerPoint, I will simply offer the opinion that if you ask any D203 administrator if any of the following statements made by you are true, they will universally say, to each and every one, no.

I will point out that your opinion is wrong.

As it has been oh so many times.



I will agree with you that Naperville schools provide at best a very mediocre education. Absolutely, positively not world class. Not even close.

The biggest mistake the citizens of Illinois ever made was when it was decided many, many years ago to entrust the education of our children to government workers.

If we want to see world class performance we need to privatize the entire education system. Unionized, government employees have a very long and well established track record that clearly documents their inability to deliver world class performance. It doesn't matter what community, how much money is thrown at them, how much education they have... none of it has been able to improve performance beyond a certain point.

If nothing else it means the very culture of our public education system is corrupt and needs to be eradicated. A corrupt culture can never be rebuilt, especially within a unionized government workforce. The only way to kill off a corrupt culture is to kill the entire system and design a new system with no ties or allegiances to the old system.

As one example of what I mean by this, the power in the current public school system is held by the administration and teachers union. The true power should be held by the students and their families, but it isn't. Administrators and teachers get paid, get bonuses, and rack up fat retirements despite the grades they hand out, despite test scores, and despite school performance.

And teachers typically blame poor grades and test scores on the students as not working hard enough or parents not supporting them, along with a myriad of other convenient excuses. When was the last time a teacher admitted they weren't doing as good of a job as they could? In the real world people who don't perform get sacked, yet teachers can perform sub-standardly for years and are next to impossible to fire. And every year we let thousands and thousands of public school students to be exposed to lazy, sub-standard teachers protected by their union. Sadly no one is protecting our children against sub-standard teachers. There is no teacher peer review to get rid of bad teachers; their union fights to keep every one no matter how bad; the administration, school board, human resources, legal and court systems are more interested in fairness to the teacher than fairness to the student. And nothing ever changes. And don't expect anything to change until we all admit the culture is corrupt and needs to be changed.

As an industry public schools are mostly lazy, lethargic, and complacent. They have never learned how to compete for the best students or to compete for tuition dollars. Competition and performance are things they talk about intangibly, but have no real or practical experience to deliver real results. Thankfully there are plenty of people in our communities who know hot to deliver real results and it is time to put them in charge of our schools and educating our children and most importantly building a new culture.

Thom Higgins wrote: I will caution you that the charter school draws students from a pool of qualified applicants that are drawn by a lottery, so for starters, the playing field is uneven. Additionally, they require certain commitments/actions by the parent and students as a requirement of continued attendance


Hi Thom, good point, and as a lay person not something that I have seen in discussions about private / magnet schools vs. public schools. This weekends NYT has a book review by Sara Tosle about Brills book that includes the following:

More problematic for Brill’s thesis, charter schools, which are typically freed from union rules, haven’t succeeded in the ways their champions once hoped. A small percentage are undeniably superb. But most are not. One particularly rigorous 2009 study, which surveyed approximately half of all charters nationwide and was financed by the pro-­charter Walton Family and Michael and Susan Dell Foundations, found that more than 80 percent either do no better, or actually perform substantially worse, than traditional public schools, a dismal record. The study concluded that “tremendous variation in academic quality among charters is the norm, not the exception.”

In another part she writes: "Teacher quality may be the most important variable within schools, but mountains of data, going back decades, demonstrates that most of the variation in student performance is explained by nonschool factors: not just poverty, but also parental literacy (and whether parents read to their children), student health, frequent relocations, crime-­related stress and the like.


It's definitely a tough subject to nail down.

-1 Wrote:

Anonymous ONE, Mr. Higgins, and anyone still reading:

eh...this IS my argument about the district being unable to do real analysis. D203 is incapable of charting individual trajectories. Incapable of analyzing the inputs which create the outputs.


Thanks, I agree, it just seemed like the 3 of you are / or were mired in a discussion about averages that I interpreted to mean more than I felt they were. point taken.

I've written before that Universities do not admit students based on their schools average ACT / SAT, but based on that individual students performance.

I did read an article the other day (that I can't recall where) that made a point that high school performance and teacher ability can be measured if you are able to sort the data using 8th grade test scores. i.e. find a data group with equivalent 8th grade test scores, and then compare them upon h.s. graduation. This "could" provide some answers about teacher effectiveness. Not sure if anyone has done this, or if it is in the works, but it sounds like schools in our area are not doing this.

Numbers would be higher, but if 20 - 8th grade students had near identical test scores and 10 of them went to Benet and 10 went to Central that would give us a group of "equivalent" students to compare their ACT / SAT scores 3 years later. Before market researchers fillet me for a bad study, I'm just saying this is the "jist" of my argument, not meant to be peer reviewed.

Burnout is always an issue with all professions.

To understand it, one needs to actually go out and talk to members od a profession to understand. With teachers, this would involve talking to current teachers by strata (brand new, 5 yr experience, been in than one system, etc), teachers who have left the system and took one of two paths (went to another profession or just plain quit,), and those trained to teach but elected not to.

Those who have taught and left often have a similar story: the system itself, the influence of the union on the lack of achievement, the drag of older, established teachers on innovation, the disinterest by parents, lack of funding, etc.

Many (not all) of these are not issues in Naperville, and as a result our systems are outstanding. However, being complacent is our strongest enemy, and accepting status quo as good enough will, eventually, undo it.


I earlier  posted "....In think we can all agree that there is ample evidence of some very, very, very smart people that came from situations of poverty.
Let me add that despite many who insist it is all about the teachers, the single most correlative matter to educational success has proven to be relative wealth, so I am first in the line that says poverty is a strong obstacle to educational success.".

Let me add that in the past TH has argued loudly that there was not a correlation twixt  educational results and. Income levels, so I am delighted that Thom has now "seen the light".

AnonyOne,  your question of what is Benet doing wrong is actually a good question. In the corporate. World we are always asked to raise the bar, to perform continuous  process improvement, to find cycle time reductions, to accept no lame excuses. Education, and parents, and taxpayers, should do the same. Why is Benet lower than IMSA? Why are both so much higher than NCHS?. To just accept the simple answer of selectivity is I. Itself simplistic
and lazy. If our business's  had answered the bell in this same way, they would have been pummeled by the Japanese businesses in the 80s and the German ones in the 90s.

Never quit asking the "why" of any issue, certainly never except a lame excuse, an just plain don't excuses at all OR same old answers to evolving questions.

Thank you Anonymous One for a post that is well written, enlightening, and not too one-sided. Change does need to happen in all school districts, it is the type of change and the scope of it that may differ by district.

I would like to again disagree with all 3 of you when you use averages so much in your arguments. I understand it is available, and there isn't a lot else to use, but when everyone is required to take a test the average score is but a snapshot and doesn't give much detail. Outliers, and other relevant data are not analyzed so the average is just a number.

Anonymous ONE, Mr. Higgins, and anyone still reading:

eh...this IS my argument about the district being unable to do real analysis. D203 is incapable of charting individual trajectories. Incapable of analyzing the inputs which create the outputs.

As Mr. Higgins admitted, the data is scattered. It is not usable and has not been USED for such analysis. Go ask. Again. Go back to the School Board meeting where Dr. Mitrovich asked for help from the two groups who presented on the law which is the actually subject of this particular blog topic. Ohh Ohh..information from a real meeting. Maybe I was there. Call 911from Mr. Higgins. Maybe I saw the video. Maybe I read a report. Does it matter? I have the correct information. Maybe I was also at the STAGE meeting. Does that change anything? Maybe I was at every school board meeting for the last 2 years. Maybe. maybe not. Does it matter when the information is correct?

I give not a rats patoose that Mr. Higgins does not get it. I care that Dr. Mitrovich and others get it.

All we are left with is a fifth grade class average score which is in the 80th percentile and a junior class with an average score in the 80th percentile.

Lastly, I will note for the record, when asked repeatedly for one school as an example that: ”is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities” you have not done so. That you criticize D203 for not doing this, without being able to give us even one example,

Where have I criticized D203 for not doing this?

Mr. Higgins, you are a strange strange person.

I have noted that they are NOT doing this, on average.

For the record, you have made my point. D203 has an average input which matches the average output.

Just like Benet and IMSA have select enrollment, so does D203.

It has an enrollment that has an average performance near the 80th percentile and has an average output near the 80th percentile.

Not WORLD CLASS. Not a criticism. A statement.

Maybe we can claim that D203 at least does not screw up the students too much. That's fair. Or maybe there is enough support at home to get them back on the right track.

A better data system would help immensely in this analysis. And in the analysis of what subjects are working and which teachers are working and which schools are working and what arts of the curriculum are working and...D203 has not done this analysis because it did not have a data system to do it. Is this not true?

-1 of course holding back on using Atlanta as a system which "educated" students beyond their skills and abilities based on standardized test scores

Anonymous One:

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I’ve read some excerpts and watched an interview with Steven Brill and find myself agreeing with many of his comments. He has a new book out, Class Warfare, which I probably should find time to read. I am impressed by the story he tells about a woman he followed who was an incredibly committed educator, but ended up burning out after a few years and leaving the field, and how this is brings into focus the question of sustainability and just how incredibly hard improving educational outcomes is. There are some incredibly dedicated teachers at all schools and some excellent charter schools out there, but many schools who are trying to institute significant reforms can’t keep people for more than a few years before they burnout.

You reference a comment by Klein about Brill’s story of two schools sharing one building, one a Harlem Success Charter, I will caution you that the charter school draws students from a pool of qualified applicants that are drawn by a lottery, so for starters, the playing field is uneven. Additionally, they require certain commitments/actions by the parent and students as a requirement of continued attendance, and, lastly, I question Klein’s assertion that the PS “spends” $1,000 more per student. They probably receive $1,000 more from state/district funding, but charters like the Harlem Success Academy and the Harlem Children’s Zone receive huge amounts from private donors. Indeed, the HAS initially was bankrolled was by hedge fund managers, not an uncommon experience for charters. Finally, they specifically, have been criticized for having lower percentages of special ed and ell students than the public schools.

This is not to say they don’t do good work, they do, but be careful when making simple direct comparisons. I’ll also mention that similar disparities exist between CPS schools and Charters. There was a big deal, this spring I believe, about a beautiful brand new charter school opening up in a Chicago neighborhood that had an existing, crumbing, public school with a library with no books.

Regarding this comment: A few take aways I have are that both sides specifically point out that poverty is one of the main reasons for low performance in schools. Whether Thom Higgins worded it improperly, or some people just look for a reason to argue, the low income / poverty component is one of the main reasons for poor performance.

There seems to some influential people in the education debate who, to my mind, want to ignore poverty and believe that if you can just get great teachers in every classroom you can bring every child to grade level. I personally heard Robin Steans of Advance Illinois make that very claim, to my complete amazement, citing studies that sound similar to what you describe. Bill Gates has come to a similar position recently, abandoning his earlier belief that small schools with small class sizes would make the difference. That didn’t work,(or perhaps didn’t show results fast enough), so he’s moved on to sort of a “great teachers solve everything” belief. I suspect people like Geoffrey Canada, of the Harlem Children’s Zone, couldn’t disagree more.

Great teachers will help hugely (great principals and admin too), but if CPS is any guide, the system is overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of trying to teach kids who arrive to school daily with a list of challenges that even the greatest teacher can’t overcome alone, which is not to say that CPS can’t improve, from what I’ve seen they have a lot of work to do to fully hold up their end of the bargain. But you have to see the student in the context of their reality and adjust programs and services accordingly. So call me someone with a foot in both of the camps you describe.

As an aside, I talked to Robin after her presentation and asked her what to take away from her talk that applied to D203. She laughed and said something to the effect that “If all school districts performed as well as D203 we wouldn’t need to be talking about reform”, which is something I ask readers to keep in mind. The issues and challenges that district’s like NY or Chicago face are light-years away from the reality of districts like 203.

Lastly, as to your question, of course, Benet isn’t doing anything wrong, any more than Central is. IMSA draws a very select group of students and educates them well. To your comment here: ” Schools with selective enrollments being compared to public schools is not a valid argument”. all I can say is, Amen!

Thank you again for your comments.

Briefly, for those who want to continue making comments about my recent posts; I am more than content that the fair-minded reader will understand just who is spinning and twisting words and who is not.

For -1:

I grow weary of you going on and on complaining about certain issues that, from my perspective, only serve to Illustrate that you are adept at making very forceful comments about an issue you have little actual knowledge of, by fastening onto some item or document as your “proof”, and then beating it to death.

I’m done. As my closing statement on your charges coming out of a STAGE PowerPoint, I will simply offer the opinion that if you ask any D203 administrator if any of the following statements made by you are true, they will universally say, to each and every one, no.

””Yes it has outputs of the machine, but does not know the inputs.”

”D203 has no idea how its programs have worked or are working”.

”The one which says that the district does not even know which students were in which classes (PI / HM..).

“Those two slides are the tip of the iceberg of a system which as failed to track how it is educating students.”

Lastly, I will note for the record, when asked repeatedly for one school as an example that: ”is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities” you have not done so. That you criticize D203 for not doing this, without being able to give us even one example, illustrates your lack of interest in making comments that have some basis in reality, and your desire in these blogs is to criticize the district at every turn, fairness be damned.

Thom Higgins


Today's WSJ has an interesting piece by Joel Klein that is appropos to your discussion. This piece is actually a book review about two books that delve into this issue.

(Note: this link "may" require a subscription - some content is free)

Klein starts by saying:,

"Like so many debates in America today, the fight over public education is as polarized as it is consequential. There appears to be a general sense of agreement that the results we are getting are woefully inadequate, especially given the demands that a high-tech, global economy will place on our future work force. Nevertheless, there's a sharp disagreement over exactly what to do."

Klein goes on to describe two groups currently battling for what they consider to be the real issue: The author states:

"On one side are what might be called "traditionalists," consisting largely of unions purporting to represent the interests of teachers. The members of this group argue that poverty is the great impediment to educational success and that we must lift people out of poverty if we are really to better educate our kids—and in the meantime we can't expect schools to perform miracles. The traditionalists propose that we pay teachers more, hire more of them and spend more dollars on public education overall.

Klein then states the other side has the following beliefs:

"On the other side are what might be called "reformers" (some traditionalists refer to them as "deformers"). This group is made up largely of policy analysts skeptical of the status quo and young idealists, many of whom came to education through Teach for America, the nonprofit program that places talented college graduates in high-poverty, urban schools.

The reformers acknowledge that poverty is an impediment to educational success but argue that teaching itself can still have a big effect. They point to specific classroom achievements, as well as to various studies, to show that different schools and different teachers get very different results with essentially the same kids.

A few take aways I have are that both sides specifically point out that poverty is one of the main reasons for low performance in schools. Whether Thom Higgins worded it improperly, or some people just look for a reason to argue, the low income / poverty component is one of the main reasons for poor performance. The real debate is how best to remedy this situation.

There is one other example that Klein uses that I find extraordinary. He describes a NYC school as discussed in Steven Brills new book, Class Warfare:

There is, for instance, the story of two New York schools sharing a building in Harlem: PS 149, a traditional public school, and Harlem Success Academy, a nonunionized charter school. According to Mr. Brill, both schools draw "similarly qualified, or challenged students" from "the same community," with PS 149 spending about $1,000 more per student. Nevertheless, at PS 149 only 29% of the students are performing at or above grade level in English and 34% in math, while at Harlem Success the comparable numbers are 86% in English and 94% in math. That difference, Mr. Brill asserts, "provides the most vivid argument for school reform. . . . Parents who had their kids, or who had neighbors with kids, on both sides of the building didn't need much convincing that all kids could learn if their schools were operated without all the constraints imposed on the public school side."

I realize that the discussion between thom, -1 and Dan D. is not a disagreement over poverty - particularly in the Naperville area. But I thought this article was relevant to the discussion.

I would like to again disagree with all 3 of you when you use averages so much in your arguments. I understand it is available, and there isn't a lot else to use, but when everyone is required to take a test the average score is but a snapshot and doesn't give much detail. Outliers, and other relevant data are not analyzed so the average is just a number.

As long as you like averages I have a question for all 3:

According to IMSA's web site: The Mean ACT composite score for IMSA’s Class of 2007 was 30.3, 9.1 points above the national average for college bound seniors. . Based on this information is it fair for me to ask what Benet is doing wrong that explains this difference? Benet is ~3 points lower and Central is even farther behind. Statistically my question is valid, but we all know the reasons for this and I would submit is the same reason Benet will always score higher than our local public high schools. Schools with selective enrollments being compared to public schools is not a valid argument.

sorry to go so long, I just thought this was relevant to your discussion.

Who dat,

As I said, i don't see TH as a racist, but his wording can easily be seen as an inference that students in poverty must by definition have low academic ability.

You can deny it all you want, but at least two people have responded to this.


You wrote: "The anonymous poster taking me to task apparently didn’t read my comment very carefully (even though he re-produced it!) as he claims I was talking about test scores declining because of low income students. Oops!"

No oops about it. You did write about test scores declining because of low income students. Now I'm not sure if I'm more bothered about what you actually wrote or that you claim not to have written what is clearly your work.

So lets go back and look at what you did write: "Illinois is one of the few states that require all students take the test and, interestingly, has the highest score for all states requiring over 90% of its students to take the test. Test scores dropped 1.5 in 2002, the first year all students were required to take the test. In prior year’s the average percentage of test takers was in the high 60’s. Additionally, Illinois has shown growth since 2002 of .8, whereas national scores have increased only .3. Illinois achieved this increase even though, undoubtedly, the number of low income students increased. The interesting question there is what percentage of Illinois students live in poverty vs. nationally. I’m thinking Illinois is probably higher."

You wrote the above as one single paragraph. A paragraphs is supposed to be written as a collection of related sentences pertaining to a central thought or subject. Your first sentence states: "Illinois is one of the few states that require all students take the test and, interestingly, has the highest score for all states requiring over 90% of its students to take the test. Your fifth sentence states: "Illinois achieved this increase even though, undoubtedly, the number of low income students increased." You can not argue that what you wrote, i.e. "even though, undoubtedly", and how you phrased it strongly infers that had it not been for low income and an increase in low income students the average increase in scores might have been higher.

Further you also wrote: "Test scores dropped 1.5 in 2002, the first year all students were required to take the test." We all know who used to take the test before it was required and who didn't. If you didn't want this sentence to be linked to your other sentences where you discussed low income students and increases in low income students then you should not have written these sentences together in the same paragraph.

At this point I haven't decided for myself if you are just a really, really lousy writer who is incapable of competently communicating your thoughts or if, once again, you have writers regret and are making a clumsy attempt to spin and twist the words you actually wrote.


You wrote: "Lastly, can you tell show us a school that, as you say: ”is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities”?"

The field of coaching has been built upon getting athletes to perform beyond their skills and abilities. Neither skills nor abilities are finite and improvements can be obtained through good techniques, hard work, and practice.

All of this can and has been applied to the field of education. Part of the very reason schools were created and why we send our children to school is to give them the tools they need to perform beyond their shills and abilities.

If you don't understand that you shouldn't be in the discussion. Or would you prefer Naperville children to not progress beyond a kindergarten skill and ability level?

The fine institutions that both Naperville North and SD203 are, right. Yes, let's talk about the mark they leave upon our local children in terms of trying to do the best they can, preparing them for higher education and living their life as good and responsible citizens.

I guess that explains why a HUGE percentage of this years Naperville North senior class found it appropriate to arrive for the first day of classes INTOXICATED.

Clearly something that was orchestrated through social networking that, once again, the hapless and overpaid school and SD administration had NO CLUE was about to happen.

With scores of senior class seats empty because of suspensions one can only wonder what is going to happen in terms of GPA's and college admission with this years graduating class.

Good thing it wasn't ACT test day they picked to show up intoxicated. Or maybe they did and that explains a lot more about local test scores than low income or poverty students ever will.

Now a quick reply.

D203 has not and has not been able to track individual students over time.

There is a 7 year curriculum cycle.

Where is the defect?


A quick expansion of a comment so no one misunderstands:

It is, indeed, a significant and positive development that Illinois’ ACT results have increased, and increased a significantly larger amount compared to the increase in national scores.

Mr. Higgins.


You have no clue.

There are other sources of information besides the presentation.

Would me being at the presentation change anything? Would all of my claims change from false to true in your mind. Were you there? Have you talked to anyone who went? Can you reread the slides? May I suggest talking with STAGE about this. In fact D203 does not know how students in HM/PI do in subsequent classes because the data is so widely scattered that they cannot analyze it.

Let's suppose for a minute that they get this cleaned up. Isn't it bad that they could not do that before? NOT World Class for sure.

And since you continue to disagree with me, why don't you share how the district thinks it is following student progress and following its programs. Yes it has outputs of the machine, but does not know the inputs.

And your continued confusion: have you heard of overachieving and underachieving. I am sure you know underachieving all too well. How are those defined? Is a district which takes students performing at the 80th percentile nationally in 5th grade and getting them to perform at the 80th percentile nationally as juniors considered World Class?


And since you seem to finally be close to understanding the concern, why don't you share what you found out what the district has and has not done regarding following student progress AND making intelligent decisions about changing programs. It wastes an entire set of data (ITBS and COGAT) for HM and PI placement when it could be used to help the riff-raff who do not make HM/PI/PI Plus.

And about those HM and PI rubrics. I did finally look into them and spoke with someone else who has also. I won't try to go through the maths with you. Let me just say they are seriously outdated, flat out error-prone, use the wrong test levels, and create some major randomness. Suffice it to say that let's hope nobody who really cares gets in and who does not. What is being done now looks dangerous.

-1 (in case TH does not know, I am using riff-raff sarcastically)

A few brief responses for Dan Denys and -1:

First, an additional comment regarding students not taking the PSAE. I was told that some ELL students are exempt from the test as well.

I’ll also mention that D203 has initiated a graduate survey, with the first one sent out in May 2010 to that years graduating class asking about their experience as a D203 student. The district will send subsequent surveys at 18 months and 5 years to follow D203 graduates through their college career, or career path.

For Dan Denys, responding to his three comments by number:

1. Ok, let’s have some fun. You calculate what ACS, Benet and D203 spend per student and I’ll do the same. Show your work! We agree to post our answers on the same day and time. Deal?

2. What are you talking about? You brought up the question of how well Benet students would score if educated by D203. How are any of your comments in point 2 relevant?

3. All the newspaper articles, and everything on the Benet website, discuss a 50,000 sf. addition. If you want to try and pass it off as a 150,000 sq. ft. addition, hey, knock your socks off, but I think Just Wondering got it right, Benet paid a much higher per sq. ft. cost than D203 did for Central (which btw looks to come in at around $80 million, almost $8 million under budget, further lowering the sq. ft. cost). This is no knock on Benet. The Central project was much larger and here economies of scale come in. Central’s timing was better too, as the construction market was depressed. But, bottom line; Benet paid a lot more per sq. ft.

For -1:

Let’s go back to your original comment:

”D203 has no idea how its programs have worked or are working”.

I have two words for you my friend: Data Spa.

You subsequently stated:

”The one which says that the district does not even know which students were in which classes (PI / HM..).

“Those two slides are the tip of the iceberg of a system which as failed to track how it is educating students.”

You seemingly have inferred all this from some PowerPoint slides. Were you there at the presentation? You haven’t indicated you were, so I’m assuming not. Your extreme comments tell me you really have very little understanding of how the District operates.

If you want to claim that the District previously didn’t have the ability to pull up -1 jr’s full school record in his own personal database then yes, that’s true, and that’s what the District is in the process of implementing. However, if little -1 has been a student in D203 for any time at all, he is in a number of databases that the district uses. And it is from those databases that the District makes decisions on placement, and monitors the academic progress of students and the effectiveness of the district’s current curriculum, which I remind you they largely write in house (and occasionally sell to the other districts as well).

Lastly, can you tell show us a school that, as you say: ”is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities”?

Thom Higgins


A few responses regarding comments made about my statement regarding low income students and Illinois’ ACT results. It is, indeed, a significant and positive development that Illinois’ ACT results have increased, and increased a significantly larger amount over national scores, when one considers that the number students living in poverty has increased in Illinois (and nationally as well). My point is the ACT increase is all the more impressive, as the percentage of low income students has increased. I would have hoped that achievement to be greeted with some approval here.

The anonymous poster taking me to task apparently didn’t read my comment very carefully (even though he re-produced it!) as he claims I was talking about test scores declining because of low income students. Oops!

For DollarCents: Nowhere, nowhere, did I infer anything about low income students having low ability as you state. You claim is simply incorrect as well.

Anyone who has spent even a modest amount of time reading about education understands that there is, tragically, a strong correlation between low income and low academic performance (note, I said performance, not ability).

For those interested here is an interesting discussion from 2009 on the growth in poverty in Illinois and poverty’s effect on education by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Lastly, anyone who knows about schools like Walter Payton, the CPS magnet school, understands that low income, in and of itself, is not a barrier to high academic achievement. Also, we all might want to remember that you find low income students of every race. I refer readers to the National Center on Family Homelessness who reports that 38% of families living in poverty in Illinois are black, 34% are white, and 26% are Hispanic. Sorry, can't get it to hot-link

Thom Higgins


Mr. Higgins was talking about ACT scores increasing in Illinois, not decreasing. Mentioning Illinois managing that with more low income students is not a racist comment.

Who dat,

The part that could be mistaken for a racist comment would pertain to the inference that students in poverty must by definition have low academic ability.

In think we can all agree that there is ample evidence of some very, very, very smart people that came from situations of poverty.

Let me add that despite many who insist it is all about the teachers, the single most correlative matter to educational success has proven to be relative wealth, so I am first in the line that says poverty is a strong obstacle to educational success.


You wrote: 'DollarCents, since when has talking about the challenges low income students face been considered racist?"

The problem here is Thom wasn't discussing the challenges low income students face. Everyone is free to make their own decision as whether or not Thom's statements were racist.

Thom wrote: "Additionally, Illinois has shown growth since 2002 of .8, whereas national scores have increased only .3. Illinois achieved this increase even though, undoubtedly, the number of low income students increased. The interesting question there is what percentage of Illinois students live in poverty vs. nationally. I’m thinking Illinois is probably higher."

Thom was not discussing challenges, rather he was making a rather broad-brushed insinuation that the drop in average test scores was the result of testing low income and poverty students.

Freedom of speech does allow for ignorant statements. Sometimes no one can protect people from their own worse enemy, themselves. Thankfully Thom didn't make that mind numbingly insensitive statement somewhere where he would have been tarred and feathered and rode out of town on a rail.

And maybe in the future Thom will stop and THINK before he clicks on "Submit"...

DollarCents, since when has talking about the challenges low income students face been considered racist?


You posted "Sorry Thom, and increase in low income students does not mean an increase in low test scores. Students living in poverty do not equate to students with low academic abilities."

Just another example of the subtle, implied racism I have previously warned TH about.

Thom, you need to be much more careful ----- I don't suspect you are raise, but at times your statements, implied and otherwise, can easily be taken as such. Your liberal dogma has holes!

My three comments from Thom.

1. Pension expense. Per the state actuary report, the funding for pension works out to be somewhere between 25% and 30% of reported salaries for the most recent year. If you were going to calculate the cost of education in 203, don't you have to add this cost? I was going to wait for your diatribe about normal cost and amortization of unfunded costs. That is for the state to argue. In order to fairly evaluate the cost of any school, you need to add in the pension and retireee medical costs. You pick the percent.

2. As to District 203 educating Benet students, they could. But would they? They do not provide adequate opportunities for existing students, why would they accomodate foreigners?

3. As to the size of the Benet expansion, the poster quoted one of the brothers comments. That could have been the typ. I did look for the original documents used to raise funds for the program knowing you would raise this diatribe. My recollection was at the $80 to $100 square foot due to additional rennovation .Unfortunately, I could only find contribution receipts. The cafeterial alone is at least 10,000 square feet. Maybe I could go through this post. At the time Benet announced the project, 203 had been casting about on its misinformation propoganda for three years. Benet announced, raised the funds, and completed the project four years before 203.

And I admire all of the space they claimed. They added a basement (connecting it to existing wings) for an extra $2 million (Father Jude was proud of this thrift).

I will arrange for you to measure the expansion.

The students who would have taken the ACT in Massachusetts would have been students who were applying to colleges that required the ACT for admission.
Most east coast schools require the SAT over the ACT. So we are looking at students who most likely are applying to schools elsewhere.

"Illinois is one of the few states that require all students take the test and, interestingly, has the highest score for all states requiring over 90% of its students to take the test. Test scores dropped 1.5 in 2002, the first year all students were required to take the test. In prior year’s the average percentage of test takers was in the high 60’s. Additionally, Illinois has shown growth since 2002 of .8, whereas national scores have increased only .3. Illinois achieved this increase even though, undoubtedly, the number of low income students increased. The interesting question there is what percentage of Illinois students live in poverty vs. nationally. I’m thinking Illinois is probably higher."

Sorry Thom, and increase in low income students does not mean an increase in low test scores. Students living in poverty do not equate to students with low academic abilities.

The testing playing field may not be fair from state to state, but it is what it is. It would be nice if all states did it the same. It would be even nicer if teachers and school administrators didn't cheat on the test results.

Regardless of the analytical nonsense of what and why... what remains is the actual test score every student achieves and the admission requirements of college or university they hope to attend.

Some SD like 203 and 2204 like to brag about their graduation rates. Some also like to brag about what per cent say they are going to attend college next year vs how many who actually show up in August. What SD don't talk about is how many students are able to get admitted to the college they really wanted to attend or how many students wash out in their freshman year, or never graduate from college.

Despite huge restrictions on privacy the medical community is able to track millions of patients over their lifetime to learn how various treatments work over the long term. It is time for SD to start tracking students through their academic career as well. Let's see how many ever actually earn a bachelors degree, now long it took them, how many earn a masters, or a doctorate. We could even track how many resort to faking it and going to a diploma mill, maybe Mr. Mitrovich could sponsor a new after school club to give those who are so inclined a leg up?

Mr. Higgins:


I asked you to check.

You did not.


Q: Does the district track what programs a student has participated in?. A:Better systems are on the way.

If you have information saying D203 does track what programs a student has participated in and can easily find this info, please share. I am sure STAGE would love to hear about it. It ain't happening. It is an embarrassment. There is no internal control/quality check going on. Please. Spend your time looking into this instead of idiotic ISAT M/E scores. What is your information debunking my claims other than your babbling? Nothing!

As to my other comment:

However, D203 has not shown that it is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities.

You (not surprisingly) find it incredibly odd.

I claim it is at the heart of all discussions of outstanding education when you use standardized test scores as the metric.

Please do your homework like I asked you to.



Seems Thom is back. Let's see how he responds to the misleading cost of District 203 education without the 30% cost for pensions. Can't wait!!!!!

I have not been paying that much attention to this side discussion. Did you include health care and other benefits also?

As far as the pension expense goes, it all depends on how you count it. 30% seems high. Maybe 20%+ additional right now -- not including the D203 employee piece since that is already counted in the costs of labor. This might have been slightly lower had the state kept up with payments, but it is still a sizable chunk of money that does not go on the D203 ledger. This is one of the major flaws with the system -- a costly benefit without pain for the direct employer (in terms of higher local costs) or employee (in terms of lower salaries).


I’ve been busy and a lot of comments have been made. I don’t have the time to respond to all of it but here’s my best shot:

On the ACT in general:

There are a large number of studies that find a strong correlation between high ACT scores and success in college. The ACT is arguably the best available overall measure of student academic performance in Illinois as all (some minor exceptions) take the test. Nationally, it is considered to be a reliable and valid measure of academic performance and, of course, is universally used by colleges (along with the SAT), as one of the major criterions for admission. Which is why we use the ACT as the basis of our analysis What is the best Educational Value in Chicagoland ?

Illinois is one of the few states that require all students take the test and, interestingly, has the highest score for all states requiring over 90% of its students to take the test. Test scores dropped 1.5 in 2002, the first year all students were required to take the test. In prior year’s the average percentage of test takers was in the high 60’s. Additionally, Illinois has shown growth since 2002 of .8, whereas national scores have increased only .3. Illinois achieved this increase even though, undoubtedly, the number of low income students increased. The interesting question there is what percentage of Illinois students live in poverty vs. nationally. I’m thinking Illinois is probably higher.

As to -1’s comment here: ” In the past, schools would hide low performing juniors and have them take it as a senior to boost the apparent scores, because only juniors were counted. Did that affect the D203 and D204 results? No theoretical answers please, because it could affect the new reported scores positively here in Naperville…”

There are two issues here relating to students not taking the test. One is; “what is a junior?” The ISBE issued a new rule that states a student is an 11th grader when they accumulate the necessary credits, not necessarily the third year of high school. This helps stop social promotions. Where the problem comes in is some districts played games with classifications and sophomores suddenly became seniors, never taking the test. If -1 wants to imply that this is occurring with D203, I request he simply ask/FOIA the district.

The other issue is that a certain number of special ed students do not take the test as they simply are cognitively unable to, and shouldn’t. As an aside, some teachers in another state were fired a few years ago when a statewide testing regime was instituted for all students. They refused to give it to their students that were cognitively unable to take the test and for that were fired.

A little bit more for -1 who made this statement: ”However, D203 has not shown that it is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities.”

What an incredibly odd statement. "educating the children beyond their skills and abilities.” What does that mean? -1, are their schools that miraculously do this? If so, please show us a district that is achieving this and what criterion you are using to justify your claim.

Lastly, I find your fascination with the stages presentation increasingly humorous. You are really claiming that: ”… the district does not even know which students were in which classes (PI / HM..).”


For Dan Denys:

I find this: ”..Let's see how he responds to the misleading cost of District 203 education without the 30% cost for pensions. Can't wait!!!!!" reminiscent of your oft repeated claim of teachers receiving 9%-10% raises in previous years. If you want to be treated seriously, you need to make factual statements.

As to your Benet question, Benet’s a great school and does a great job. Would D203 be up to the task of educating them to the same high standard? Yes. I heard Kevin Pobst this week mention that North has taken the state title in math 15 times, D203 8th graders took first in the world in science in the TIMMS some years ago, and I could dig up a lot more of these kinds of statics, so yeah, I think Benet students would do equally well at D203, even the ones who are " dumb as rocks!” And yes, I know it wasn’t you who made that unfortunate comment, but I couldn’t resist.

Lastly, I find this comment boarding on the incredible: ”The 50,000 square feet was the footprint of the addition, given that three floors were built and existing space rennovated, the costs were dramatically lower.’ Are you really telling us that what Benet refers to in all their documents as a 50,000 sq. ft. addition is really a 150,000 sq. ft addition? Seriously?

That’s enough for one night.

Thom Higgins



You wrote:

"1) "...(in) Massachusetts less(sic) than 20% of high school graduates take the ACT by the time they graduate." So the comparison to D203 and D204 is not fair. A select group takes the ACT. Is that the case at Benet? Which leads me to #2."

Granted, Massachusetts and other states such as Illinois do not appear to be on a level playing field in terms of who are supposed to be taking the test.

However, what we don't know is which students in Massachusetts actually took the test. Was it just the smart students at a bunch off schools or was it all the students at just some of the schools?

At the same time all students in Illinois are supposed to take the test. Not all do and there are all kinds of reasons why any given student didn't take the test. Even SD203 and SD204 can not claim 100% of the students took the test. The percentage drops much, much lower in certain school in certain school districts. You can let your imagination run wild with which schools and which districts and which students are either didn't bother to show up and take the test or (cough, cough) took the test and were reported absent anyway.... and why... And then we can talk about all of the cases that are starting to come out where teachers and principals are meeting in secret to change answers on the tests. Oh, but something sinister like that only happens somewhere else doesn't is? Right.

I would hate to see the overall Illinois average if a true 100% was ever actually obtained.

-1 is absolutely correct. My focus as as parent over the past 20 years of preschool through 12 education is on the progress of my children, not on the averages. In fact, this is most critical in the 3 year old to 8th grade levels, where children are developing basic skills. In high school, they use these skills to mster more advanced concepts that quite frankly are not measured by any ACT or SAT test.

And -1, on an individual basis, there were several steps taken along the way for personal development. It is amazing how reading was an integral task beginning at 4 years old (junior kindergarten). I think that is the key. A world class school system (that I do not think exists) would develop personal learning plans for every student and not just special education students like they do in District 203.

I must confess that I was upset with Avery Coonley taking the Iowa skills test each year, a total waste of time. Most of the students scored in the 95% plus range. They did this to "document" that they had a student body in the top 1%. The late headmaster Tom Kracht eliminated this nonsense and instead implemented a gifted test to do precisely what you suggested, to test true progress of the students. The results of the basic skills test along with several more intensive reading and writing tests replaced the average run of the mill public education model. And the tests results were used not to create bragging rights for the school. Instead, they were used to create a tailored educational program for each student.

District 204 has come up with some experiments in education at the high school level. Both district should look to improve programs at the elementary level. I have encountered many gifted District 203 students that are not challenged in the system. Ask the 203 STAGE people. They play footsie with the District to keep what they have, but deep down many want more for their children. This is not Dan D saying this, these are real parents struggling to get more for their children.

Seems Thom is back. Let's see how he responds to the misleading cost of District 203 education without the 30% cost for pensions. Can't wait!!!!!

Just a couple comments on ACT scores...and I can link to my old posts about the so-what-edness of them later. But to be fair:

1) "...(in) Massachusetts less(sic) than 20% of high school graduates take the ACT by the time they graduate." So the comparison to D203 and D204 is not fair. A select group takes the ACT. Is that the case at Benet? Which leads me to #2.

2) There was an article about the reported scores being different this year. Now they include everyone who took the test. In the past, schools would hide low performing juniors and have them take it as a senior to boost the apparent scores, because only juniors were counted. Did that affect the D203 and D204 results? No theoretical answers please, because it could affect the new reported scores positively here in Naperville or negatively like in Chicago. If anyone knows the real answer, please post.


Dan D,

Why address a question about Benet to Thom? When it comes to SD203 Thom's track record is pretty spotty at best to say the least. From what he posts he clearly knows little to nothing factual about Benet.

Thom doesn't like to talk about Benet and he dismisses anything comparative about Benet with the rationale that Benet is a selective admission school. Factually, is Benet a selective admission school? Yes and No. It depends on who you are if you are a student.

What Thom doesn't like to talk about is the honest fact that a huge per cent, i.e. almost 50%, of the student population at Benet is composed of family members who have a strong family tradition of attending Benet. These students are called legacy students and can literally be as dumb as a box of rocks. If they score at least a 60 on the standardized admission test they get in just because someone else in their family attends or attended Benet at some time in the past.

If no one in your family has ever attended Benet and you would like to attend as a new admission then, yes, you have to score pretty high on the same standardized admissions test. The second admission sort is that priority is given to Catholics, but hey it is a private, Catholic institution so nothing wrong with that.

What that really means, and what Thom doesn't like to talk about, is that about 1/2 of each class at Benet is composed of new admissions that scored really high, mostly above a score of 89, on the admissions test along with the other 1/2 that scored anywhere above a 60.

So when something like the ACT scores are dragged up for comparative purposes Benet's average score just like 203 or 204 represent the average of the good with the bad or shall we say the smart and the dumb If Benet was 100% selective admission it is scary to think what it's average ACT score might be.

If Benet didn't exist would 203 and 204 scores increase? Obviously a lot of Benet's top students come from Naperville and it would be easy to think of it in terms of Benet stealing the top students. Let's not forget that the legacy students would also be at 203 or 204 schools if Benet didn't exist and their far lower scores would have the same downward averaging effect.

What Thom doesn't want to talk about is the fact that there really is a far greater mix of students at Benet representing a wider range of abilities than he would like to admit yet the overall average at Benet is much higher than 203 and 204 have either ever been able to produce. And Thom doesn't have a clue as to why that is. So instead of digging in and finding out what Benet is doing that is able to produce such better results he ducks the issue and attempts to label the entire school and entire student population as selective admission and claim that no comparison can be made because of that. And nothing could be further from the truth.

Why don't you ask Thom why the average score in the entire state of Massachusetts was a 24.2 and then compare that to the 25.4 in SD203 or the 24.5 in SD204 he wants to brag about especially considering IL had a miserable statewide average of 20.9 and ranks in 32nd place of all states? Let's not forget that Thom like to blow his horn about how well SD203 and SD 204 do compared to the rest of the schools in Illinois. If either SD203 or SD204 picked up and moved to Massachusetts there would be absolutely nothing to brag about because our schools would be solidly hanging just on the plus side of average. Compared to the dismal performance of Illinois schools both SD203 and SD204 perform above average among all Illinois school though even there neither of them are in the top group of best performers. So Thom tries to hide that fact by trying to make it about the money instead of the performance arguing that SD203 and SD204 are a better value. Last time I checked college admission counselors could care less if your school was a good value or not, all that matters is what each student is able to produce in terms of actual performance.

Face the fact. The Illinois State Board of Education and the Regional School Superintendents in Illinois which dictate what 203 and 204 and all the other school district have to do are all a total failure and a waste of time, energy, and money considering the lackluster performance they have been able to milk out of local school boards, administrations, teachers, and students for many, many decades and despite the billions of dollars Illinois taxpayers have thrown at all of them.

If and when Illinois schools want to BEGIN to compete on a national level, much less a global level, then we need to be prepared to throw the entire system out and rebuild it from the bottom up to better serve the needs of the students. The existing system is corrupt and neglects the students in favor of teacher unions and personal power held by boards and administrators. It's not that Illinois children are dumb or can't achieve better results rather the education system serves the needs of adults ahead of the needs of students and until that fundamental difference is changed nothing will improve.

D203 also sent out an email this week announcing that 53% of students taking the ACT are considered college ready. Does this seem low to anyone else, especially considering about 75% of the students in both high schools make the honor rolll?



Nice ACT scores.

However, D203 has not shown that it is educating the children beyond their skills and abilities.

I will leave it as a homework assignment for Mr,. Higgins to recheck the STAGE203.org presentation in April. The one which says that the district does not even know which students were in which classes (PI / HM..).

Look at the COGAT and ITBS scores for the 5th graders. Look at the district average slides. 16 and 17, I think. And then go to the recent ACT scores and see how those compare nationally.

Pretty darn close.

Report back without and filler please.

And this is the partial answer to the question from Mr. Denys: we need to know how similar performing students in 6th/7th/8th grade do in D203, D204 and Benet when they are juniors..



Why would the Naperville public schools go to the press about bavavioral matters in the school, comiing to schools under the influence?

Who is the brains behind this ideal? What is accomplished?

I agree, all impressive.

Now a question for Thom. As you point out, Benet selectively admits students (the ultimate tracking). If these students were blended in with the District 203 "differentiated education method", would their 28.7 score increase, decrease, or remain the same?

I will hang up and await your answer

A quick shout out to D203, D204 and Benet students, parents and school staff. The 2011 ACT scores have been released and D203 student’s composite score increased from 25.0 to 25.4. D204 student’s composite score increased from 23.9 to 24.5, and Benet students increased from 28.4 to 28.7. I believe all of these are district records for highest ACT score achieved. All are meaningful increases, especially 204’s.

As a comparison, Illinois composite score increased from 20.7 to 20.9 and has shown growth, increasing from 20.5 in 2007. Nationally the increase was .1; from 21.0 to 21.1 and hasn't really changed in years.

I urge caution in making comparisons to any national number or other states numbers as the number of students taking a test within a state varies wildly and the national percentage of students taking the test is, I think, 49%. Illinois is only one of, 8 states (from memory) that have 100% of its students take the test.

Back soon…

Thom Higgins


Because Bunko parties are such a good source of information.... Wow...

Note on differentiated education. The best source on "differentiated
education" would be to see the written words in the District 203 curriculum.
Here the exact web pages with specific relevant quotes.


Content is differentiated and scaffolded appropriately to meet the needs of
all learners.
How is your lesson structured to meet the needs of all learners?

Content is challenging and rigorous.
How is your lesson structured to meet the needs of all learners?


Content is presented through multiple modalities, from multiple
perspectives, and addressing different learning styles.
How will you organize knowledge to engage all learners?


Teacher provides accommodations to meet the needs of all learners in order
to meet the standard.
What critical elements of the standard are you trying to meet, and how do
you differentiate to meet the needs of all students?
What instructional strategies, resources do you have in mind for those
students who don't understand the first time?
How do you differentiate product, process, and content?
How do you accommodate varied learning styles, learning rates, and
developmental levels?


Products are differentiated to match student interest and ability.
How are student interest and ability levels determined?
How do students provide input into choices of products?

A variety of instructional formats and modes are utilized.
How did you determine the most effective method of presentation?
How have you accommodated different learning styles?

Now it would be useful if there were more specific statements about the
"standards of curriculum"; instead, there are just rhetorical questions.
Further, these comments are very consistent with my one paragraph summary of
the District's Director of Curriculum. But it is clear that the philosophy
presented and the methods espoused directly contrast to what Thom has been

And I will repeat, this concept and structure is unwieldy. I do not know
how this can be successful. No matter if Bill Ayers thinks it is a better

Sun Editors,

With all due respect, watch what?

Over the course of the last several years I can count numerous examples of several prolific posters who have openly and repeatedly posted outright lies and have consistently twisted and distorted the truth as well as a Washington bureaucrat. Nothing was ever done to retract, redact, edit, or otherwise censure their posts despite other posters uncovering and pointing out the lies and distortions. And these same liars continue to churn out endless reams of mind numbing nonsense ad nauseam. If being honest and truthful on Potluck isn't the most important aspect of how we make a point on Potluck then what is? Please enlighten us all on what is important when making a point.

I think it is fair to remind you and everyone else that Potluck has never provided any kind of written guidelines in terms of what is or is not acceptable. Absent any such guidelines it is pretty lame to be crying foul. However, with guidelines posters then have the ability to choose to participate or not if they don't like the rules, post at the peril of being censured, etc.

At the same time Potluck, aka Naperville Sun, has been inconsistent from person to person serving in your role in terms of what each person has liked or disliked. Clearly some in your position have had thicker skin than others. Notwithstanding the fact that Potluck entirely controls which topics are discussed and then hovers in the background wielding a heavy handed red pen.

If you have a specific concern please do everyone a favor and express exactly what it is so we all know now as well as for future reference. Vague generalities help enlighten no one. On sites similar to Potluck the right to free speech is usually respected.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I've only repeated certain aspects of what is already frequently known and discussed at infamous Naperville bunko parties. The Naperville Sun would be well advised to get out and mingle with the people more and maybe it would better understand what it's customers are thinking. Plus there is plenty of dirt worth some investigative reporting in most of the branches of local government. For some reason everyone in the news media thinks government corruption stops at Chicago city limits.

I call (expletive deleted) on that post from "Fact of the matter is it is all about the kids... " on.




Of course Higgins believes 203 is perfect. it is the only way he can rationalize how much he takes it up the keester with the 203 tax rates. If 203 was less than perfect then the amount of taxes people are paying might get questioned.

So Thom is on the bandwagon trying to sell everyone that 203 is perfect so they will be fooled into thinking the amount of taxes 203 rakes in is justified. And being in the auto business Thom knows full well that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Granted Thom has, and is entitled to, his own opinion. Goodness knows why anyone would listen to much less take advice from someone in the auto business when it comes to public school education.

Fact of the matter is it is all about the kids... Thom's kids. Stand behind the teachers union, suck up to the teachers and whatever position they take on education issues and your kid, just like Thom's, are going to roll through K-12 with a pretty high GPA.

BTW, the same thing is true of elected school board members who support what the teachers want. It is well known that kids of 203 school boards end up with high GPA's too; sometimes unusually high for their abilities and standardized test scores.

Pretty good strategy if you think about. Support the teachers. Be noisy and vocal about it. Do your best to get others in 203 to join in and support the teachers. Even create a website to tell the whole world how great 203 is. For payback the teachers will take real good care of your kids. You pay more in 203 taxes like everyone else but when your kid ends up with a college scholarship it was money well spent.

Like they say. Always follow the money.

The 50,000 square feet was the footprint of the addition, given that three floors were built and existing space rennovated, the costs were dramatically lower.

I have a vested interest in the education since I am being compelled to pay 75% of my tax billls to support education. I would like to see that money well spent so my taxes do not skyrocket for the next ten years like the past ten years. And I do support meaningful education.

I would love to know if Higgins really believes the district is perfect, or if he is just having knee-jerk reactions to anything/anyone who questions them.

Dan D you said "Their new science classrooms and other areas are outstanding and did not require all of the cost that 203 expended (for what I hope is equivalent)."

That go me thinking, so I looked up Benet's own numbers

"May, 2007 groundbreaking on the new $16 million science wing and student activity center. The 50,000 square-foot building adds extra corridors to ease hall traffic and features a cafeteria larger than the previous one."


Or $320 sq ft.

Daily Herald (Melissa Jenco):

While Central won't get an entirely new building, roughly 75 percent of it will be affected by the project, which will produce 170,000 square feet of new construction and 370,000 square feet of renovation.

Or 540,000 square feet, simple average cost of $162/ft2.

Now, we don't have a break down by section, however, I suspect Mr. -1, the resident math pedant will concur that D203's costs are probably very similar to Benet...

I seem to recall that you wrote that all your children are out of secondary school (or nearly so. Given that you don't have a vested interest in the quality of public education in Naperville nor seem to e actively engaged in any activities that directly benefit the schools, e.g. volunteerism, what is your real agenda?

Here are my responses to the rest of Thom’s questions.


YES THE DO!! Two examples. It started in the Junior Kindergarten program (4 year olds, a program that 203 does not even offer). Students were set aside in small groups for reading and math (4 to 6 students that would break out from other activities). The groupings were based on reading ability. The goal was to provide individualized education to ALL students. There is no comparable program in 203.

In seventh grade, students are grouped based on their math abilities. One track completes algebra and geometry in two years (just like the 1% at Kennedy). The second track that is not as strong in math takes two years to master Algebra. In 203, since everyone is getting a “differentiated education” (except some PI pullouts and Kennedy), they are not even given the opportunity to learn algebra. Instead, they get a more “intense” review of elementary math education.


Again, you do not pay attention. Benet has between $15 and $20 million of outstanding long term debt; ACS has between $6 and $10 million. Both schools have to raise funds while 203 simply taxes for what they need. But again, Benet started two years after 203 in assessing its needs and completed them three years before Central was completed. Their new science classrooms and other areas are outstanding and did not require all of the cost that 203 expended (for what I hope is equivalent). And both schools need to deal with buildings that are up to 100 years old.


You missed the largest benefit to District 203, not having to pay for its lucrative pension plan. Recent estimates place that cost at 30% of teacher salaries. That is a huge advantage. If you factored that cost into the numbers, is it even close between 203 and private schools?

And there are other economies in the school food program, insurance (with limits on liabilities for governments not extended to a private school), and others.


Here is a surprise for you. It is provided, as needed, in both schools. Of course, not the high incidence programs that most districts outsource to larger cooperatives. But specialized needs are addressed. In fact, either District 203 or District 202 provide these services for Benet and District 53 provides them for ACS. But both schools limit expenditures to state mandated amounts and do not provide additional services that are not mandate or funded like 203.

And my other point is that special education spending should be a category by itself and not included in the general costs of the District. In fact, if you review the calculation of per capita student costs, the only cost that is reflected in this amount is the local spending not funded through state and Federal grants. In fact, for the tuition charge, you will note that such costs are totally excluded. Many districts limit their special ed offerings to what the state funds.


My comment about Exetor was their unique education style, the Harkness table. You do not need to spend more money to utilize innovative educational approaches. Such an approach would be excellent for history and English.


These schools DO NOT cost more, they deliver education in different styles. Magnet schools are an extension of the Kennedy and Highlands school projects, only earlier and for more students. (Most parents really do not like Differentiated Education, except for you and a couple of extreme “progressives” I know). Again, in Chicago and elsewhere, these schools are highly sought after. I would expect even more demand in 203 if they were to implement.

Charter schools are typically funded in Chicago at between 75% and 90% of average salaries. Again, District 203 could allow a charter to establish itself at one of the school buildings that should close as enrollment declines. Again, I would expect the demand to exceed the number of classrooms available.

And yes, Mitrovich was open to creating competing schools within the District (based on my short conversation). Why wouldn’t he, it is the most promising trend in education. However, he did mention that the dreaded bus schedule got in the way.

I remain stunned that you defend mediocrity so much when you have children in the District. Amazing.

Have fun with your extended family. Mine is clearing out soon.

It’s a PowerPoint presentation given by a District employee. I suspect more was said at the presentation. Regardless, the new information system is just now going on line. There will be a lot of discussion about it and how it improves over the old system. Not positive if all of it is up or just parts. As it comes up I’ll make some notes.

1) You mean the D203 Director of Research and Assessment, Dave Chizsar? Those were some pretty good questions without answers.

2) Which "system?" I am assuming you are not referring to the iparent replacement.

3) I repeat my request. Look into how the district tracks performance over time. I understand from some good sources that D203 has not and cannot do that.

4) It also sounds as if the system for choosing HM and PI needs some fixing. Great! I'll look into that some more over the weekend.

For -1: Can’t say I’m surprised by you dismissive comments towards teachers and enrichment. Seems a bit par for the course, if you know what I mean.

I stand by my comments and the assessment of the maths skills of the teachers of my child(ren) who made decisions for enrichment. This is not up for debate. Some are better than others, but across the board, the maths skills of the lower grade teachers was not very good.

I am not surprised that you may feel the maths skills of the grade school teachers is good. THAT seems par for the course, if you know what I mean.


Well kids, my extended family has arrived for a visit so I’m off to more pleasurable pursuits. I may or may not be around here much while they are in town.

For -1: Can’t say I’m surprised by you dismissive comments towards teachers and enrichment. Seems a bit par for the course, if you know what I mean.

However, I do think you have it right in #3. Think of the computer programs more as a replacement for those zeroxed worksheets, not as a substitute for instruction.

Lastly, yeah, I read the slides. I still maintain you are reading entirely too much into them. It’s a PowerPoint presentation given by a District employee. I suspect more was said at the presentation. Regardless, the new information system is just now going on line. There will be a lot of discussion about it and how it improves over the old system. Not positive if all of it is up or just parts. As it comes up I’ll make some notes.

Thom Higgins


The lies continue!

The average you tend to use for the nation is the AVERAGE INDIVIDUAL RAISE, not the avg hit to the taxpayer.

You purposefully misuse the data in your knee-jerk attempts to blindly support
All things 203 regardless of the facts.

Learn to see all sides of the argument, man!

..and now some other stuff...

1) Enrichment. Recalling the grade schools, I have to say the teachers' maths knowledge was not sufficient to categorize the inquisitive from the confused. Enrichment was a joke at best and rarely tied to the topics at hand.

2) Differentiated instruction. We all may be talking about different ideas here. A teacher must know multiple teaching modalities, multiple cultural quirks, multiple right and wrong approaches to the subject matter, and multiple assessment methods in order to truly provide excellent differentiated instruction. Some teachers just have some of these these skills . Most grade school teachers are lacking the maths subject knowledge to truly make it work.

3) Computer maths. Adaptive programming for assessing skills and knowledge is not unreasonable for most kids. Adaptive programming which may give "differentiated instruction" is as close to silly as it gets. See #2.


You say ” D203 has no idea how its programs have worked or are working” From those two slides? Really?

Did you READ the slides? Did you read beyond the slides?

I did request you go ask.

You have no problem asking someone at the district for help on figuring meaningless M/E without Asians.

The least you could do is ask how scores are tracked over time in the district and not just blindly support D203. $100 to NEF when you report back truthfully.

-1 sitting here with jaw wide open with Mr. "Zowie!" and "No 6-7% raises" himself NOW justifying 7% per year career raises


You are telling us that Avery Coonley puts their student in tracks? I can’t believe that. Btw you should spend some time with SB7 especially as it relates to tenure (should make you happy).

Some responses to your comments (in italics ) about examples of the financial advantages public schools have from economies of scale:

“borrowing money at lower rates.” Perhaps, but D203, Avery Coonley and Benet are established schools/District with little construction debt to retire. Really doesn’t apply that much here. And, of course, the big question is how much do both private schools get in donations from all the fundraising they do.

”Purchasing power for computers etc” Yes, I agree they should be able to get a better deal based on volume. D203 is also active in partnering when possible. They have done so recently with D204 and the City of Naperville.

”They do not have to pay taxes.” If Benet and Avery Coonley are not for profit, they don’t either. I can’t believe that ACS is for profit, is it?

”Purchasing power for textbooks. Yes, same as your computer statement.

“ the District is taking advantage of lower cost trade program in Addison.” Perhaps the costs are lower. I don’t know, but as Benet doesn’t have a trades program I don’t see this as an financial advantage. It’s just one more type of program that a good public school offers that costs money that schools like Benet don’t offer. No knock on Benet, it’s not their charge.

Not sure what your point is about special ed. As ACS and Benet don’t have to offer it, that again goes into the category of additional public school expenses that the private schools don’t have to face.

So, tell me if I’m wrong but if we compare D203 and ACS and Benet on your criterion, D203 has an edge on textbooks and hardware, true enough, but these are a tiny fraction of D203’s costs. In no way does this remotely add up to the $70 million that D203 would spent if they equaled the private school spending, and that doesn’t take into consideration all the many programs public schools deal with that private schools don’t. Seems like they have quite the advantage over D203 financially to me.

Differentiated Education comments:

As I have stated; D203 doesn’t deliver curriculum as you describe. I believe you must have misunderstood their comments.

As to this comment: “It seems that your schools are not following the official program. Maybe we should report them.” D203 is nothing if not flexible in how it delivers curriculum. And schools try out different concepts all the time.

School choice within the District? How about every school should be a great school? A Magnet school or Math and Science Academies? Call me when the Aurora Academy starts beating North and Central who regularly win state competitions. I truly wish them well, but they will have a huge challenge creating a program that equals what D203 already has.

Regarding this: ” No comments about the disruption of these pullouts and how they contradict the "differentiated educaton" model?” Why is it a disruption and how does it contradict?

Phillips Exetor? Are you kidding? Tuition is like $33,000 almost three times as much as D203! That’s a fair comparison? Think what D203 could do with that kind of money or anything close to it.

As to this: You also asked about tracking at Benet. They have certain honors courses with the exception of English …..and of course numerous AP classes.” Sounds a lot like D203’s offerings, although the HS’s have a program for struggling students (Academy) and some enrichment programs as too. Broader student population and broader course offerings.

Charters? Don’t we also need to mention the huge amounts of foundation money they take in on top of what they get from CPS?

Finally: ”And I think Mitrovich endorses everything I say”

Oh boy!!!!!

For -1:

You say ” D203 has no idea how its programs have worked or are working”
From those two slides? Really?

As to raises:

We are, once again, talking about the past, not the current contract or,to a certain degree, the previous one.

So,talking about raises using a 7% figure is the only correct way to discuss the increases? I don’t think so.

Most professional people see their income increase significantly in excess of CPI due to promotions. Is 7% a reasonable percentage increase over a career? Yes.

For teachers, it’s only one job classification so it all gets lumped into the “raise” category.

Regarding this: And it is the result of those 7% raises which made salary payroll expense increase at a larger rate than CPI-allowable collections, an economically unacceptable situation.”

As I continue to point out (to no avail apparently), the raises in the past decade have resulted in an increase in average salary of 3.5%. That is what these raises are costing the taxpayer. Which is slightly higher than the national average of 3.2%, and both are higher than the average increase in CPI. Taxes from new construction helps offset this somewhat. Considering where we live, granting increases a few tenths of a percent more than the national average is not unreasonable or unsustainable in my view.

Thom Higgins


No, we have always been talking average raises per teacher.

 It has been YOU who keep trying to mislead readers be using the overall wages as a placebo for individual raises argument,  which is intellectually immoral.  That is the only way to analyze wages as it is the only true indicator of future costs.

No, I will not waste any of my time finding crap on the inet for you concerning the degrading test scores of American students.  The data is out there in spades ---- talk about low hanging fruit.

The fact that you asked me in such a way is another indicator of your dishonest attempts at a civil debate.

Spending comments.

1. Do I support giving District 203 as currently configured an extra $70 million? NO WAY. If District 203 restructured and provided education in the same manner as Avery Coonley including tracking, small class sizes, and no tenure (get that one, by the way, individual one year contracts, a total at will employment) without the same bait and switch as the 2002 referendum? YES.

2. Economies of scale. Public schools can borrow money at lower tax exempt rates. They have purchasing powers for computers, software and cooperative programs (if 203 takes advantage of such). They do not have to pay any taxes. With 18,000 students they should have purchasing power for textbooks, Benet use to tag onto the state program to save money. As for special education, most districts are part of larger cooperatives so that there are economies of scale. District 203 dropped out (in the 80's or 90's). Was that a good idea? Finally, the District is taking advantage of the lower cost trade program in Addison rather than the higher costs in house. Ability to lower insurance costs.

This comment would not be true only if 203 mismanaged themselves.

3. Differentiated Education. This comment was publicly made by the head of the Cirriculum of the District. Go talk to them. I'll see if they have any specific information on the web site. As I previously stated, the Cirriculum web site is unintelligable.

As I stated before, it is very difficult to follow the program. It seems that your schools are not following the official program. Maybe we should report them.

Again, no response by you about school choice within the District. Might make your teacher friends more accountable, we would never want to do that.

4. As to top schools, the Sun Times listed the top ten. New Trier made it, not sure about Lake Forest. The parents in Hinsdale rave about Central, but not South.

But as I noted before, a truly world class district would benchmark themselves to the top schools. Of course, 203 does not. And if you are world class, why not benchmark to the top in the world, like Phillips Exetor's Harkness table. Instead, we are left with plain old public education.

5. No comments about the disruption of these pullouts and how they contradict the "differentiated educaton" model?

You also asked about tracking at Benet. They have certain honors courses with the exception of English (a disappointment for me--their rationale is the the classes are tought at a high level and students have to keep up, most settle for C's) and of course numerous AP classes. But as you point out, most score in the top 15% of the entrance exam (national level), so the need for tracking (in my opinion) is less relevant than in a general high school.

And did you notice that the Aurora schools are going to get their own math and science academy? Something I advocated for Naperville during my election. Imagine the dynamic environment such a magnet school would have, it would vault to number 1 in th state.

And lastly, neither you or I have all of the information. All I know is what I found out when I evaluated 203 for educating my children. They had a choice of high schools (IMSA, Central, Benet) and they made the selection there. Except for the shortcomings at Central that have been addressed, they could not go wrong at any of these choices. (By the way, the guidance counselor at Central thought it was awful for us to give our childrean a choice!!!!). And I appreciate some aspects of Benet such as the discipline and uniforms.

But elementary education was nowhere near the mark. And I do disagree with you that money would fix it. That is a lame excuse. All of the charters in Chicago educate children for 80% or less than the public alternative. (I guess there are not economies of scale when you have government run a program!!!!).

And I think Mitrovich endorses everything I say. I think he wants education that competes against an ACS. And a longer school day. Again, it is the bus schedule.

Later I will give my view on the bus system.


Go to April 7 presentation and slides 35 and 36 (typo below said 26).

Read the questions and the answers.


I posted this again separately since it is almost too important to ignore in the context of the tracking vs differentiated instruction discussion. I almost forgot about it until Mr. Higgins thought I was replying to a comment of his.

D203 has no idea how its programs have worked or are working.


You are reading too much into a comment of mine. D203 has systems in place that can track student scores

Uh...not really. Go ask. My comment has NOTHING to do with any comment you made.

The data tracking system sucks. Big time. I suspect you will be majorly offended and shocked at what you learn. Some info from STAGE shocked me.


Go to April 7 presentation and slides 35 and 26.

Read the questions and the answers. If you want to do something productive, you may want to lean on the district to do something about this. Not only these HM/PI testing scores but all scores.

Those two slides are the tip of the iceberg of a system which as failed to track how it is educating students.
And on the raises. Why is it that you cannot bring yourself to use 7%?

Why is it that you cannot use a non-deceptive number which everyday people can relate to (7%) when the result of those 7% raises has created the 4th highest paid elementary school teachers in the state?

Nobody asks their employer what the increase in payroll expense due to raises and turnover was. People want to know what THEIR raise is. As such, the 7% number is a completely understandable and completely comparable number to what the taxpayer has been experiencing. And it is the result of those 7% raises which made salary payroll expense increase at a larger rate than CPI-allowable collections, an economically unacceptable situation.
more later on differentiated instruction and computer maths.


A few brief responses going backwards because it’s easier.

Regarding Dan Denys post:

1. I made the allowance for Benet being less in my calculation. Even with taking Benet’s lower cost into consideration, D203 would need approx $70 Million every year to equal AveryCoonley/Benet spending per student

2. Will you please outline what these tremendous cost advantages for public schools are? Please explain why public schools should be able to do more with less especially considering that public school do certainly have to do more due to the wider range of students and all the special ed requirements and yet you want them to do it with less money than the private schools.

Regardless, I think it’s fair to say you are opposed to funding public schools at the same financial level as ACS/Benet. Yes?

Under Differentiated Education:

No, I think your one paragraph summary was completely off. This is not how teachers instruct:

The classroom teacher is to present EVERY concept at three levels, elementary that the people in the 20th to 50th percentile grasp, mid level for the 50th to 80th percentile and advanced for the 80th to 100th percentile. The top student is board with the elementary concepts and most are lost on what is being taught. This is the underlying basis of a District 203 education. Does this make ANY sense?

Not even close. When school starts I’ll talk to some of the teachers and ask them to give us a view on how they differentiate in the classroom.

As for the rest, I’ll pass on going though it point by point as there is a lot to respond to, but I have to say I laughed as your stigma comment. You don’t think that tracking stigmatizes the lower track students?

OK, this made me laugh too:

"Closing thought. Thom points out that most if not all public schools follow differentiated learning. Could that be the reason for failed public education as a whole? Just asking."

And of course there is this recent comment of yours: "You would be hard pressed to find top notch public schools in the Chicago metro area."

So even schools like New Trier or Lake Forest don’t make the grade, seriously? Looking from your comments it seems the only schools you believe do a good job are selective enrollment private schools or the top selective enrollment CPS schools. Is this really your position?

For Dire:

Will you please offer data and sources to back up this claim?

Newsflash ----- the test scores and all around educational results of th American child has been steadily tanking (including the time period in question).

With respect to your wage comments, we actually are talking about overall average salary increases. I have in the past stated that in prior contracts an individual can get as large as a 12-15% (forget the exact) increase in any given year if they have a significant lane (education) change. At the same time average increases for all incumbent teachers can be in the 6% range and due to turnover the total increase actually costs the taxpayer 3.5% which is only a few tenths higher that the increase in average wages nationally.That was past contracts, the current contract has lower percentages.

Frankly if we are going to talk about raises/increases in any depth this is the fairest and most accurate way to present it.

For anonymous:

No, no, no, teachers and classrooms aren’t going anywhere. Are high performing school districts going to incorporate gobs of technology into the classroom? Let’s hope so. Will it enhance education? Yes.

We have no choice, technology is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives, both professionally and personally. In 1985 when I saw the incredible promise of Lotus 123 and how it could change my professional life I was more than a bit of an anomaly (I still remember the tiny amber screen fondly – heck, I miss Lotus and wish Excel hadn’t taken over the market). But I digress; today they are starting kids in elementary school on the computer and my kids are far more proficient with the various software programs than I am. That’s a very good thing. This will be their future.

From a D203 technology piece:

Technology is changing K-12 education now, in the same way that it changed
the financial, manufacturing and service industries in the last decades of the
twentieth century.

The major indicators of the technology impact on education are:

Instructional delivery of educational materials is moving online.
Instructional processes including standards, content, assessment and
analysis are integrated.
1:1 computing is becoming cost effective.
21st century skills such as research, analysis and production of
presentations are becoming real.
All instruction and management are digitally mediated.
Almost all systems impacting the management, delivery and
assessment of education are interoperable.

Getting back to the differentiated education topic, we are heading toward a system where every student will essentially have their own learning plan.

For -1:

You are reading too much into a comment of mine. D203 has systems in place that can track student scores, but, as I’m sure you know, technology continues to advance. There are more sophisticated programs available that will give teachers, administrators, students and parent a real time reports of how a given student is doing in a whole range of metrics. You must remember that D203 creates much of its curriculum so it is already following students progress as a measure of how well the curriculum is functioning.

Thom Higgins


I must comment Thom on a very civil response.


I only had a couple of minutes and subsequently realized that I had not responded to your increased spending comment. I have two reactions.

1. Spending for Benet, even with the charitable contributions (and they do have $18 million in debt for capital prgrams outstanding) is still lower than the Naperville average (even the K-12 average). So no more spending needed at the high school level. As to the grade school, if the concepts of ACS (tracking) were implemented without the 16 student class sizes, much of the ACS cirriculum could be realized without spending increases.

2. Public education has tremendous cost advantages over a private school. They should be able to do more with less. But let me repeat one of your dear friends Mike Davitt's positions, reduce class sizes in the K-3 grade levels, the most important classes in the distirct. And my position is that if the District proposed a program for improved education (lower class sizes where appropriate, foreign language, longer elementary school cay, etc) and there was a cost, then package the entire amount up and put it to the taxpayers to approve. If a good package that would make the schools better than the run than the typical public education gin mills with a prudent plan, I would strongly consider supporting it. I am much more supportive of such a plan than giving teachers unnecessary 7% raises from 1998 to 2008 (or there abouts).


I assume my one paragraph summary is not a far off as you originally stated. Took you several paragraphs to respond. Again, what I wrote was what District 203 people expressly stated to me at a school board candidate orientation meeting.

And I see all that you list, but a couple of reactions.

1. I am glad that you acknowledge there is a difference. So did Superintendent Mitrovich. In fact, he stated he would strongly consider providing alternative educational arrangements within the District except for that nasty bus schedule (now please Thom, my discussion with him was VERY brief, so do not read more into it).

2. Let me clarify that except for the special ed programs, most of the other programs you refer to do not start until third or fourth grade. In raising my two children, their education was essentially "framed" from pre kindergarten (that 203 does not even have!!! for "regular" or "advanced" students) through third grade.

3. But reflect on your comments about pull outs and moving around. It essentially states that "differentiated learning" does not work!! Otherwise, why not leave all of the students in the same class room all day. But take this one step further. IF these pull outs work for English and math, why not for science, social studies and other classes? The same issues are present.

4. This pull out and separate teachers seems to raise the cost of providing education. As I stated before (and you generally agreed), there are 20 classrooms and 40 to 50 "professionals." Some of them are these extra teachers. If you tracked all students, you would not need the extra teachers for these pullouts. These teachers could have their own classrooms to implement Mike Davitt's proposal for smaller class sizes for K-3 or cut spending (please note the order).

5. This pull out concept seems extraordinaily disruptive to young adults. But my opinion. Also, there is a stigma on who leaves and who stays.

6. This "differentiated learning" is a fad no different than the new math and english when we were in school. Sometimes you cannot beat the basics.


While there might not be tracking at the other elementary schools, the students either need to keep up (work extra) or they are forced out (and placed in the public schools as Thom rightfully points out need more attention). I would agree that these schools do not focus on gifted learning, but do focus on making certain that students are in the 70th percentile or above.

The larger schools such as St. Joan of Arc I think track.

Closing thought. Thom points out that most if not all public schools follow differentiated learning. Could that be the reason for failed public education as a whole? Just asking.


I am more familiar with the high schools, the top magnet schools. Four of the top five high schools in Illinois are now Chicago magnet schools. More interestingly, these schools get three to five qualified applicants than there are spaces available. Wonder what happens to these students.

There is a parallel elementary school program, Magnet schools, that people fight to get their children into. I think the shame in Chicago is that they limit the number of students who can get into these schools. Then there is the extensive Charter schools. Thom, there is far more choice in Chicago than almost anywhere in the country. And the liberals want to eliminate all of these schools.

...and we are tired of you lying wghemnever the subject of AVERAGE wage raises comes up. it is clear you try very hard to hide the facts.

rarely, if ever, has the discussion been based on overall average salary increases. It has virtuallyalways been about the average raise to the individual, as this represents fairness to the individuals in the district who pay for it all and wonder how the people they are paying for are doing.

Your argument lacks an intellectual. Based on your argument, a CEO REALLY only makes, like $40k because you want to average in all the workers and all the turnover.


Let me see if I have this straight:

Higgins posted that "......so everyone knows, tracking went out of favor in the 90’s, replaced by the differentiated instruction model." and he APPEARS to be posting this  from a standpoint of pride, to "make" his argument, to somehow infer Dan D. is wrong on something.

Newsflash ----- the test scores and all around  educational results of th American child has been steadily tanking (including the time period in question).  

I guess the differentiated model ain't  all that! Perhaps Dan D. has it right when he made an informed decision to spend extra bucks and send his children to better schools (yes, even better than the bestest schools in the solar system ~~~~~ 203!)


What that means is we have thrown in the towel on what it costs to hire and retire teachers. It also means we have thrown in the towel in terms of being able to attract and retain competent teachers. It also means we are wasting hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide building school buildings we won't be needing. Just like corporate America has sent home hundreds of thousands of employees to "work from home" we won't be needing traditional school buildings anything like has been used historically. Great news to dump on the SD203 taxpayers who are taking it up the keester on renovations that aren't even finished!

The best answer of the most brilliant minds in education in America today now want to turn the education of our children over to machines. Isn't that just wonderful. School age children who already spend way too much time in front of "screens" will now have their daily dose increased by another 6 hours per day. What are all these clowns former classmates of Mr. Mitrovich at his infamous diploma mill alma mater.

The sooner we can get you and the rest of these idiots hands off the education of our children the better off we will all be, especially the school children of Naperville.

For -1: Do you need a hug?

No...but you might need one of those learn-at-your-slow-pace computer math classes.

I'll say more about that type of "instruction" later.

I will repeat that D203 (and other districts) should be embarrassed that they do not have systems in place to track student scores (ISAT, district assessments, COGAT, ITBS, EXPLORE, etc.) over time, and thus lack the ability to see which schools and which teachers appear to be delivering the curriculum well so that those who are not doing a great job can be identified and offered help. (Note: I did not say fired, replaced or anything like that!)

This should have been done LONG ago. This is not something which needed a law to take care of.



If the recent board member comments are any indication then yes, "they've drunk the kool-aid." All of them.

More seriously, this is a national movement. D203 is far from being unique in this.
And let's face, it we live in an increasingly technological society and the potential here is enormous. Think of a fully interactive math program for students. It gives them a question and based on the response it either continues on or tries again. If the student is having problems it goes back over the concepts. The student proceeds as they master the material. It's a very powerful concept.

The other side of the coin is with the passing of PERA and SB7, districts will have to create a fairly sophisticated "back room" operation to track teachers and students. D203 is in the process of bringing theirs online currently.

Thom Higgins



You wrote: "I’ll also mention that this argument will soon be all but moot (well, It already is). The coming technology revolution in curriculum delivery will allow students to proceed at more of their own pace as they master the material."

See you are already chugging Mr. Mitrovich's kool-aid. Cheers! Let me get you a couple for the road. Honestly, you I could care less about because you are a lost cause. The important question is whether any of our elected school board members are also guilty of drinking his kool-aid.

May God give us the strength to make it to the next election.

A bit more from St. Peter and Paul's website:

To help meet the special needs of our students, we have teachers on staff who work with smaller groups of students whose learning style requires additional, or enhanced, instruction. One of these programs is called Project Explore. It teaches higher level thinking skills to all children in grades 3-5 and is offered as a before-school program to qualified students in the junior high.

Another program, Project Discover, provides additional reinforcement in a small group setting for children in grades K-8 whose performance is not commensurate with their abilities.

Sounds like they do not track.

Thom Higgins


A few, hopefully quick, responses:

Regarding Dan Denys comments:

I note he did not answer my question vis a vis the $70 million extra that D203 would need to equal ACS and Benet spending. Is he willing to put D203 on an equal financial footing? Yes? No?

As to answering his question, readers can see from Mr. Denys last few posts (and previous ones as well) that he is in favor with tracking students (placing students into classes based on assessments of their ability) vs. differentiated instruction where you have a wider ability group within the same classroom, which is what D203 and pretty much what everyone else does.

This does not mean that every child in a classroom receives that same instruction or has to listen to it delivered at three different levels. As stated previously, you have a number of different levels; PI plus PI, honors, enrichment, the standard class, and then programs such as Project Leap and the title one programs. Except for the standard instruction they all leave the classroom.

Additionally, teachers work to differentiate the standard instruction for those left. I previously wrote of two elementary teachers, who after all the kids left for their various programs, looked at who was left and realized they could be more effective if they split the remaining kids into two groups. The smaller group had kids who would benefit from more personalized attention.

Frankly, one could make the argument that tracking is alive and well, as the different offerings are based on differing abilities, and this allows more fine tuning by subject that traditional tracking ( I'm talking elementary here)as some kids need extra help or have advanced ability in one subject. The model is very flexible.

So everyone knows, tracking went out of favor in the 90’s, replaced by the differentiated instruction model. Anyone who is interested can Google it.

I’ll also mention that this argument will soon be all but moot (well, It already is). The coming technology revolution in curriculum delivery will allow students to proceed at more of their own pace as they master the material. I’ll also mention that D203 is more and more incorporating Standards Based Grading (horrible name, should be Standards Based Education) into the system. Here’s a brief re-cap from D203:

Standards Based Grading allows students and teachers to focus achievement on specific topics or standards. Assessment data determines which standards the students master and which ones they need to work on. When a student struggles with the standard, the student and teacher partner to give the student new opportunities to learn. Once the student has completed requisite learning activities, they can be re-assessed to see if they have mastered the standard.

Lastly, I doubt ACS and Benet track. Perhaps Mr. Denys will be kind enough to tell us if they do or not.

Dinking around I found the following at the St. Peter and Paul website:

Throughout the primary grades, each teacher has a certified aide to assist with smaller group reinforcement. Phonics is introduced at the kindergarten level and continued throughout the primary grades. We also offer small group instruction in Math for students in grades 4-8 and Language Arts for jr. high children.

From this it looks to me like they don't track either. But there's not very much about curriculum on the website, so it's hard to be positive.

Lastly, I’d be interested in hearing what schools Mr. Denys is talking about in Chicago.

For -1:

Do you need a hug?


For Be Truthful:

What I am saying is, broadly speaking, that you can have average increases in the 6% range, and, because of turnover, the average salary will only increase by 3.5% which is what the increases cost us in real dollars. So, yes, if the average increases were closer to 3.5% and turnover remained as usual, then the increased cost to the taxpayer would be more or less zero. I’m not signing in blood on these exact percentages as there are variables, but the concept is correct. And yes, I grow weary of people harping about 7% raises (and higher) and not explaining this financial reality.

As a real world example of this, because of the salary freeze on base and steps in the 2010-2011 year, more or less as it’s from memory, the lane increases result 1.2% average increase but the average wage will decline almost 2%. Indeed the total contract averages something like 3% but the net cost to the taxpayer is .5%.

Again, it’s the function of the wide range of salary schedule and turnover.

Thom Higgins


That silly paragraph of Dan D. is a reasonable summary of what District 203 calls "Differentiated Instruction". You should know, you support them.

And a question for you. Are you telling us that if teachers who returned to work received a 3% salary increase rather than 7%, then our taxes could have gone down instead of up by 3.5%?

You are making things up again.


No, this is an ongoing problem that should be put in the Higginsisms FAQ

Note the post from January. Same mistake. Again.

Like the ISAT

Like the Asian scores and accusing me of saying ONLY

Like saying Mr. Denys and not acknowledging the 3.5%

Like making fun of me for not including HS districts when his heckle did not include Elementary School Districts.

and the list goes on...

I feel like I am in a time loop with someone who just does not learn from his mistakes.

You act like a fool once, shame on you.

You cat like a fool five hundred times, shame on you.


Fair question. A couple of answers.

1. At the time I moved to Naperville, the schools are highly rated. But in retrospect, a highly rated public school is a low bar.

2. Schools in general and Distirct 203 had changed. The tracking of students was practiced at many local schools, but the practice was specifically banned in the question of a socialized education.

3. What the schools promote and what they do are two entirely different outcomes.

You would be hard pressed to find top notch public schools in the Chicago metro area. The best are in Chicago (so are the worst). It would be enlightening to see what other districts do.

But again, my comment is that District 203's prime focus is on the socialized one track inclusion of all students. Maybe more so than other distircts.


Please respond to one simple question. Is it District 203's policy for the majority of the elementary school children (k-12) not to track students and instead provide "differenctiated education"?

As a followup, please explain differentiated education since you did not like my one paragraph summary of a presentation at a District meeting I attended.

We will wait for you answer.

Again, Mr. Higgins lies to us about individual raises to teachers!!!!

As we have all been relentlessly exposed to the numbers in these blogs, PLEASE try to finally tell the truth: these individual raises were at approx 7% for the entire decade!

Really, is the truth that hard for you?

Regarding -1’s latest:

Sorry, I transposed the words “average” and “increase.”

My complaint remains however; talking only about 7% raises (in order to make people feel teachers are getting too good a deal?) obscures the reality that the increase in the average teachers salary has averaged around 3.5% (which is what these raises cost us in actual dollars) in a time frame that had average wages increase 3.2% nationally, which is more than CPI increased for that time frame, say 3.0%.

So, in essence, in real dollars, we are talking about spending few tenths of a percent over the national average for increases, which is itself a few tenths of a percent over inflation.

For the reader who hasn't witnessed this argument before the difference between 7% (a bit high if he's talking about the average for the decade) and the 3.5% is turnover. Because there is such a large spread between starting and ending salaries, the function of older, higher paid teachers retiring and being replaced by younger significantly lower paid teachers offsets the raises for a net cost of around 3.5%.

Thom Higgins




Learn the English language

Was that the average increase in a teacher’s salary

YES, 7%. Don't make me pull out the FOIA to show how you created that language and then tried to pass it off as belonging to Dave Zager. NONONO.

The average increase in average teacher salary may have been 3.5%. More than CPI. Having payroll costs (which make up the bulk of costs) increase at a higher rate than what is coming in is not economically sound and it created the 4th highest paid grade school teachers in the state.

Apparently you have never done payroll or doled out raises. Stop.

What I said was 100% true and non-deceptive. I did not give out 7% raises in the 2000s like D203 did.

Did you get 7% raises through the 2000s?


Regarding Mr. Denys latest posts:

I admit I find it wonderfully ironic that Dan Denys is incapable of admitting (seeing?) the inherent conflict between two of his most strongly held convictions. At the same time he complains of being overtaxed for D203 operations, he heartily recommends Averey Coonley and Benet Academy. In rough numbers, if D203 spent the same amount on their students as ACS and Benet spend on theirs, D203 would need an extra $70 million a year. And let’s not forget D203 has a far, far larger mandate and a wider spectrum of student ability. One could make a very legitimate case that D203 needs more than these two organizations. I’m curious, is Mr. Denys willing to fund D203 schools to the same level as these two private schools? If not, why not?
Saying that I’m not interested in excellence and that D203 is engaging in social experimentation is just silly, and paragraph’s like the following have no connection with reality:

The classroom teacher is to present EVERY concept at three levels, elementary that the people in the 20th to 50th percentile grasp, mid level for the 50th to 80th percentile and advanced for the 80th to 100th percentile. The top student is board with the elementary concepts and most are lost on what is being taught.

With respect to the rest of his comments, we can see his usual tactic of trying to place people with negative connotations close to D203 (or myself or QE203), as some sort of guilt by association tactic. And, of course, his comments about QE203.org members, displays the similar tactic of trying to make us out to be what we are not.

Lastly, I wish -1 (and Mr. Denys for that matter) would be fairer in their comments. His 7% raise comment is a prime example. Was that the average increase in a teacher’s salary? No, that percentage is roughly 3.5%. Was 7% the amount our taxes went up to pay for raises? No again.

Thom Higgins


Have any of you ever managed or run a large organization, say 500 employees or more? With a budget of over $200MM?

Are you asking about bloggers or the board members?

-1.... proud small business owner who did not give 7% per year raises in the 2000s like the D203 board did, because I wanted to stay in business

There seems to be a lot of criticism here of your local schools, but it's not clear that everyone had/has a bonafide intention of sending their children to public school? If you are so critical of the local schools, didn't you check them out before you moved here? You all have plenty of suggestions for district 203 about how they should run themselves, however, you don't seem to have a good grasp of what it takes to assess and implement change on an organizational level, i.e. I see a lot of book smarts and arm chair qb'ing; what is your management experience? Have any of you ever managed or run a large organization, say 500 employees or more? With a budget of over $200MM? It's easy to criticize something you have never done, how many of you have actually been under the hood?

I will make two more comments. I am amazed the Thom is such an apologist for not pursuing excellence. He had children; why wouldn't he want the best for them? Why wouldn't he be open to improvement? I am done with education, but I would whole heartedly recommend ACS and Benet. The parents of the public school children do not have that pride (at least the ones I know). I could expand on this comment, but that is enough for now.

The second point. -1, I found a bunch of people who are worst at numbers than Higgins. The Federal budget people.

The most damning statisitic. "Baseline" Federal governemnt spending is to increase by 8% per year forever. 8%!!!!!!!!!

Even Thom's 3.5% BS looks reasonable compared to that mess. Let's redirect our criticism.

Besides overtaxation, my biggest concern is about the social experimentation being done by District 203. Back when I was in public schools in a blue collar suburb, children were grouped by their ability within classrooms with the specific objective of creating homogenous learning environments where ALL (or at least most) students progressed based on their ability. Not just the top 20%, but 100%.

Distirct 203 and the current "liberal education mainstream" (just like the mainstream media) reject this concept. All children should progress at the same pace. The parenta who formed this STAGE fight hard to get some form of advanced education. This would be like forcing all baseball teams to have a mix of A level players through major leaguers. Imagine the mess.

During my run for election, I had many parents come to me complaining about this system. Not the people in the top, but the parents of children in the middle to the bottom. Their children were being left behind.

And for the fortunate second 19% (after the top 1%). They get pulled out of their regular classrooms for reading and math, those are the two "gifted" subjects. Just the top 20% get differentiated, not the other 80% (with the exception of special ed students as Tom mentions).

Who is a leading architect of this educational strategy? William Ayers, amongs many left leaning progressives.

The classroom teacher is to present EVERY concept at three levels, elementary that the people in the 20th to 50th percentile grasp, mid level for the 50th to 80th percentile and advanced for the 80th to 100th percentile. The top student is board with the elementary concepts and most are lost on what is being taught.

This is the underlying basis of a District 203 education. Does this make ANY sense?

And for the pull outs, you need extra teachers and classrooms. But rhetorically, if District 203 was so committed to the complete diversity in classrooms, why do they have these programs? Further, when you get to high schools, there are two tracks of education (the top 20% and the rest). Ironically, when I went to a "lower rated" high school, we had four tracks.

But most ironic, Mr. Higgins notes that homogenius student populations such as Avery Coonley create better outcomes. If so, why not extend that to the entire student population? That is why the parents of one of the top Naperville Central students noted on this post pulled their child from District 203 for elementary school.

And of course, the quaint nature of certain private schools cannot be matched by most public schools, that is a personal choice. The more problematic issues is that the public schools are such an inferior choice for the reasons noted above.

Another issue. The District 203 cirriculum is on line. Try to read it. Totally unintelligable. A corporation makes its mission statements and tactics understandable. These policies will make your head spin. There is no way there can be any accountability.

And all of the rest of Thoms examples are a canard. They could comply with these rules without fanfare. The administrators make a mountain out of a molehill.

By the way, when qe203 posted their supporters, they were members of fringe organizations I did not even know existed in Naperville. These organizations are so extreme that the members did not want others to know of their affiliations. How is that for character!!!!

Let me add to -1's comments:

Higgins, like many liberals, has a closed mind and refuses to accept that others have an opinion, especially when it disagrees with his own mental model. Thus, he has a knee-jerk reaction to every post bynthose with an opposite (or even another) opinion.

Dude, open your mind and accept others!

A few thoughts on Dan Denys post

The district has a variety of programs for students who will benefit from various levels of advanced curriculum. From enrichment to honors to PI and PI plus, I believe approx 20% of elementary students are touched with one of these programs

Alternatively, there are numerous programs for struggling students. From D203’s nationally recognized Project LEAP (which it sells parts of to other districts as well as mentoring other districts) to the Title 1 and ELL programs, there are numerous resources available for this population. All this pertains to elementary schools.

With respect to his comments about D203 vs. Avery Coonley he might want to look at their tuition costs. Even if I factor in D203’s construction costs, ACS is 55% more than D203. I’ll also mention again that elite schools like Avery Coonley have a homogeneous enrollment and a far more limited scope.

In contrast, D203 has to take all comers and comply with a maze of laws regarding public education that a private school doesn’t.

For example public schools are now mandated to provide early childhood education, hence the Ann Reid Center. Additionally, public schools are required to have special ed students in the system till they are 23. Many of these students are medically fragile and require dedicated aides and nursing staffs. Public schools take all the kid’s with learning disabilities and ELL kids as well. We also get the minor discipline problems too, and have to pay for the education of kids with serious discipline problems at an alternative school.

Every year there are more and more mandates placed on public schools, (usually unfunded). Illinois just signed a law into effect that mandates that any student that is absent for over two weeks for health issues be educated at home or hospital. A wonderful thing but it takes time, attention, manpower and money. Another law requires school districts to provide instruction in violence prevention and conflict resolution to classes from kindergarten to grade 12, rather than just from grades 4 to 12 as current law requires. Private schools avoid all of this and it costs public schools a bundle. Are these kinds of initiatives worthy? Absolutely, but they cost money, lots of money, and I ask Mr. Denys to remember this in his comments.

Which brings me to another of Mr. Denys comment about schools with 20 classrooms and 50 teachers. He is incorrect in a couple of ways. First they are not all teachers. They are all Certified Staff, meaning general ed teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, technology experts, special ed teachers, enrichment teachers, ELL teachers, speech pathologists, music, art, PE, etc. The idea of one teacher doing it all is, well…

Further, the ratio is not 20 to 50. My memory is it’s somewhere shy of 20 support staff to 20 gen ed teachers. I’d have to look again to be totally exact.

Lastly, I will mention as one recent example of D203 continuing to grow and evolve that was discussed at the last SB meeting. D203 has partnered with the ACT folks and Turning Technologies to roll out the first effort in the nation to integrate “clicker” technology for test taking. Make no mistake, this district is heavily invested in incorporating technology in the administration of the district and into the classroom to a far greater degree than is currently the case.

As for -1’s latest post, covering the same old ground, I see no reason to respond. I am eminently comfortable with my rebuttal to his many recent attacks and see no value in continuing on.

Thom Higgins


Brief in the ballpark summary of -1, Higgins and Denys:

1) -1 (me) wants to increase programs and offerings by getting a better handle on finances and using the money wisely. We have approx the 35th highest paid HS teachers and 4th highest paid grade school teachers in the state. We could add programs (all day kindergarten, grade school language, better differentiated learning) by permanently altering that grade school payscale and also paying the non-classroom certified staff slightly differently. We are not hurting for HS teachers despite being 35th are we? I can repost my salary analysis but the raises during the 2000s were hefty. The new contract does a better job. I also wish for better tracking of student progress so we can better tell what is working and WHO is working, but I have heard the district/state does not have a method for tracking individuals through the years. Fix that now for many reasons.

2) Mr. Denys wants to have competition for more offerings in the schools to make D203 do a better job of educating the students. He, like me, feels the district did and continues to over-collect taxes from the 2002 referendum. I suspect the board (save Susan Crotty) and Mitrovich now do understand this.

3) Mr. Higgins wants to protect D203 from the threat he sees from Mr, Denys. He wants to protect what he sees as the status quo since he feels D203 is doing such a good job of educating the students. In so doing he has shown (repeatedly) a major lack of understanding of numbers, despite what you might think on first glance at the qe203 website. He remains highly uncritical of the board and D203, and I fell he could actually do some good if he weren't such a homer.

-1 using up my allotment of posts for the month in just a few days' time.

Yet your argument (read it again!) spent a lot of effort talking about Asianpops another schools and tried to make the inference that they should have had similar or the same test rsults. This means that YOU were selecting and using that demographic as the key argument, thus the appearance of subtle racism.

Thanks Thom, -1 and Dan,

I appreciate your responses and have a better understanding and more context to your debate. There are at least 3-4 very long threads where you are jostling back and forth making similar points, and I needed to find out where you stand and in some cases what exactly your point was.

From where I sit you all have similar motives and desires for a better school district, it's a shame the passion can't be harnessed together.

Ha Ha Ha

I just got it.

Mr. Higgins rant about me not using the IIRC website correctly when I responded with UNIT districts in response to JQPs question about Asian piopulation is wrong. His revised rankings of districts used ONLY UNIT and High School districts. I guess Elementary Districts are not real districts according to Mr. Higgins???

Dude...what are you doing?

Once again, you are a goofball extraordinaire.

And the reason I thought you might have (correctly) included Elementary districts was your Niles commentary. But no. You apparently compared only UNIT and HS districts.

Let's hear it Mr. Higgins: "oops. My bad I was incorrect in using only UNIT and HS districts in my misfired heckle of -1"


(blago)-ing amazing


I've said it before and I'll say it again.

Kudos to the Asian student population which, on the ACT, seems to perform on College Readiness Benchmarks somewhere between New trier and Payton. Awesome!

Kudos to the non-Asian student population at each school which performs at a level which would place them on par with the top 15-25 performing schools in the state.

Not World Class, but pretty good.

Now how can we do better or do those stats even matter? Do they show that D203 (or D204) is doing a good job of educating the students or is this a letdown?


"oops. My bad" on the (UNIT) District mistake.

See that as pretty easy. You are in arrears to me for about 100 of those.

See I did not blame anyone, I just gave reason why I used the UNIT districts that I did.

In his last post he starts talking about how I added elementary schools. Nowhere did I mention elementary schools in the relevant post.

Is this an imaginary comment? Please post what you are referring to. I really have no idea. I mention elementary districts in the scatter plot which you must have used for your revised Asian% rankings. Or maybe you just used HS districts?? Really what are you talking about?

1) Confidence Interval. I asked you to look it up. You tried to fight back . I asked you again. You tried to fight back. I asked you again. You continue to be ignorant. Look it up and come back with an apology. What I am saying and what the census writes are NOT really different. You can quote what I wrote and quote what the census wrote as many times as you wish, and it will still show your lack of knowledge in your original quote. Really. Learn some stats 101. This is not a big deal. You are making it a big deal. There is a language of maths and you are not getting it. This is no different than your misunderstanding of the raise issue which took you at least 9 months and some blaming of someone at the district for your misunderstanding before you came around a bit..a bit...

2) Asian Only. hahahaha. One again -- putting quotes in my mouth. Take a look back here where he tries to pin statements to me And what do you know..right next to your incorrect comments about the ISAT scores just like now where you would not own up to the use of PSAE scores within. So precious. And for those who care Mr. Higgins original statement where he thinks he got me

3) ACT vs ISAT . You talked about ACT then pulled the meaningless ISAT M/E to back you up. I was just calling you out for it.

3) "De Minimus" and BELOW STANDARDS in Math. 7.7% without Asians and 7% with Asians. Is that 10% difference de minumus?

The answer was that the Asian population increased ISAT M&E scores between .05% and .07%, a de minimis amount.

So you see the problem I hope. The answer was...(admin thoughts),(Higgins commentary). Really. This is deceptive. Why would someone think this was two different sources of information? Just like when you tried to tie you salary commentary to a district official.

This also shows how you will quote someone without thinking and then blame them. Kind of like the confidence interval.

I can repost all the times Mr. Higgins denied placing commentary in the qe203 salary analysis page and can repost the proof, but simply the Asst Sup of Finance essentially said of the Q&A sheet posted on the qe203 site that D203 doesn't have a copy of the one posted online.

4) TT Salary argument. Well, as of last year there was still an entire section of the qe203 site devoted to the TT salary information and not much else on them. You have/had the proof.


Just a few comments:

For Dollar Cents:

No, I do not use or consider Asian Student population as ”THE meaningful data point” in any way. Others, possibly -1, started us on that path. I ask you to re-read my lengthy post where I state the following ”Most importantly, I think the statement ”The only reason why D203 cumulative academic scores are so high is because it has a large Asian Population” disrespects and discounts the effort and hard work by both teachers and students that goes into in achieving these scores, irrespective of ethnic origin. Are we to believe that Asian students don’t benefit from the education they are receiving; the quality of instruction a school district provides is irrelevant to their successes”?

Responding to -1’s comments:

Once again, anyone who reads What is the best Educational Value in Chicagoland ? will see that the analysis I do keys on the ACT scores. -1 seems to want to tie me to other tests/scores for unknown reasons.

I did not create QE203.org, nor was I involved in its creation. I joined it a short time after its forming during the 2007 SB election cycle. We initially posted a list of members and supporters (I was in the supporters group) but withdrew it after Mr. Denys and Mr. Davitt started Googling people and posting unkind comments about them. Further, if -1 can substantiate this comment: ” A large part of the rhetoric back then was that the TT was making false claims about teacher salary,” I’d really love to see all of it.

As to his "claim” I’m putting words in D203 employee’s mouths and finally owning up to it (the “de minimus" bit), I ask he read my comments about this topic (and others) more carefully. Any time I quote someone I use quotation marks. As I didn’t in the passage he’s complaining about, it’s clear I wasn’t quoting or putting words in anyone’s mouth. As I noted recently, -1 combs my comments trying to find ways to pick fights with me. Same goes for his trumped up claims about QE203’s salary analysis.

Why -1 is coming un-glued over what “confidence level” means is anyone's guess. If he doesn't like how I represented it he can take it up with the US Census, apparently he doesn’t like how they define it. Criticizing me for a lack of understanding because I reference their comments is, again, just more of him picking fights.

I wish he would stop his ongoing attempt to continue the fight about Asian Students. In his last post he starts talking about how I added elementary schools. Nowhere did I mention elementary schools in the relevant post. All he's doing is trying, big time, to cover his tracks on his mistake of only looking at Unit districts (which is no big deal, we all make mistakes). Here is the question he was responding to from John Q. Public: “Is District 203 the only district in Chicagoland that has Asian students”?

Anyone can readily see that the question was not limited to Units districts. He just goofed, that’s all. He should say; “oops, my bad”, that would be the end it. He/she? can go on about Asian students if he wants, I’m done. As I stated previously, I think the whole discussion ”disrespects and discounts the effort and hard work by both teachers and students that goes into in achieving these scores, irrespective of ethnic origin.” And further, is being used solely in an attempt to damage the reputation of the district.

Thom Higgins


and a final one...

I answered for UNIT districts since I thought that was what was being asked since we were looking at D203 and D204. If you want to include Elementary and HS districts and try to combine them in some weird way...have at it.

Now here's where Mr. Higgins goes off the rails in trying to show that %Asian has nothing to do with performance.

The graph of Meets AYP as a function of %Asian population which he is trying to heckle me with.....is as blatant as it gets. (And completely worthless since we now graph HS and Elementary districts together...but whatever..it is his heckle so I am going with it)

I challenge him to make a table with 4 parts: Asian% >10 OR NOT. AYP yes or no.

In fact, there are ZERO Elementary districts with greater than 5% Asian population not makjng AYP. NONE

yes this is completely stupid since %low income is the primary driver of the completely worthless %M/E, but since he brought it up and was so proud of finding the ability to compare NON UNIT districts, I'll let him bask in his idiocy a bit more.

For those not following, I truly suggest you go to iirc.niu.edu and play around. There is a lot of good information there. It is fairly intuitive.

Get Naperville CUSD 203 up and go to Test Results

Scatter Plots
All Grades
All Subjects

On the right you can add in Elementary and High School to the Unit


I guess I have two major issues.

1. District 203 has overtaxed its residents, spent about half of this wastefully in the early 2000's (for whatever reason, have become more responsible), spend another third on the capital plan (to bury their overtaxation), and still have at least $20 million more than they need (by their own standards) and then contrive a reason to hold on to it. They have gone from an F minus to a D plus. It would not be hard to be transparent and honest to the taxpayers.

2. District 203 is ok for the typical student. They can do better. A couple of personal observations.

a. My largest issue was in elementary levels. The District does not track students except for the minimal number(1%) in the PI plus program and some sporadic "pull out programs. Why not group students by ability so that that the class can learn together at the same speed, not just the top of the class, but at all levels. Ironically, I was told this was the basis of a one size fit all program.

b. The shortest elementary school day in the county, maybe the state. Because of the bus schedule? By the way, Jaensch's campaign issue in 2007.

c. No foreign language in elementary schools. Due to the shortest school day and logistics Again, one of Jaensch's campaign issues in 2007

d. Excessive staff. If a school has 20 classrooms, they have 50 teachers. Huh? Specialists, for the pullout classes, etc. If you made the elementary teacher responsible for their classes 100%, you could dramatically lower class size.

Now the trademark of a world class orgainization is to try to stay ahead of developments. Why does Chicago have magnet programs, classical schools, and alternative charter programs and Naperville does not? Why does District 204 have Frontier campus? Is it because these are terrible alternatives or since they do not use union teachers that such programs are not implemented?

And Tom notes that ACS charges more, about 40% more. So ACS has 16 children in a classroom and some frills, you could keep the frill and provide the same with 20 students to a classroom.

To summarize, I was shocked on the limited offerings in the elementary level as a parent When I ran for the Board, I was even more dismayed. That is the largest waste of our tax dollars.

But it is not Distrit 203. It is the entire US educational system. I would advocate introducing competition into the system. Why not make the 12 elementary schools in Naperville seperate companies that compete for students? Those that attract students stay in business, the others are closed down. Now that would be world class.

But again, my two issues.

To save you some time... An AP stats tutorial:


To wit:

Consider the following confidence interval: We are 90% confident that the population mean is greater than 100 and less than 200. Some people think this means there is a 90% chance that the population mean falls between 100 and 200. This is incorrect.

Try again.

Google away. Learn something.

Go ask one of the teachers.


Mr. Higgins,

i warned you.

Look up confidence interval.

You are now not only ignorant, you are acting it.

Note the couching of "interpreted roughly " in the second paragraph. It is there for a VERY good reason.

Are you really this stupid? I guess so.


Anonymous one:

Thank you for your thoughtful comments

To answer your question, the website is largely intended to be informational. We feel the more people know about public education the better. We do dip our toes into politics when we do our SB candidate questionnaire every two years, endorsing candidates and running ads in support of them, and of course, the group was started to raise the alarm about the Taxpayers Ticket who ran in 2007. So, our beginnings were political.

I think it’s obvious that residents within the D203 boundary area will find the information we post to most relevant and those are our target audience that we are interested in reaching with our message about what a great value D203 is. But there is also information of a general ed flavor as well. We just finished an analysis of the PERA act which will be posted shortly, which is applicable to every public school in Illinois.

I appreciate you taking the time to read the posts and I apologize that too much time is spent with me, -1 and Dan Denys debating things between ourselves that is of little interest to others such as yourself. Hang in there

More tonight on other comments if time permits.

Thom Higgins


My desire is to make D203 a better district. My desire is to figure out how we can actually measure success is some reasonable way. (I will *try* to re-post my ideas within the next few days.)

I truly think Dr. Mitrovich gets it. I have no problems with his recent raise and bonus. None.

Mr. Higgins does not get it, as he is blind to the possibilities and uses ISAT M/E scores as some silly measure other than a marker of district wealth (with a bit of Asian student boost). I think his work with the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation must be shielding his view. He also keeps talking about the great value.

ALL districts are essentially hamstrung in what they can collect by law and referendum***. So D203s relative place has been consistent with respect to the other "top" districts for years. Yet his group is "amazed" at what (t)he(y) find(s) each and every year.

Mr. Higgins created a "group" qe203.org and a website based on opposing Dan Denys and the taxpayer ticket in 2007. A large part of the rhetoric back then was that the TT was making false claims about teacher salary. Well Mr. Higgins was flat out wrong.

I can link to the old comments, but suffice it so say that he did not understand individual teacher raises. I am happy to post my salary analysis again.

As usual he tries to quote people in the district who somehow supply him with numbers and then he adds commentary making it appear as if the D203 employee made those comments. If I worked for the district, I would stop communicating with him unless he is on the PR payroll. Why should anyone at the district spend any time calculating ISAT Meets&Exceeds scores (or NCLB scores) with and without Asian population when it can be done in someone's head in 10 seconds as I demonstrated when he thought he had a "gotcha" moment with me last year?

Case in point: his recent "de minimus" comment on the "ISAT" scores. His writing makes it seem as if there was district official commentary. It was not. He owned up this time, thankfully. He also finally owned up that the "ISAT" score he was peddling was not ISAT score alone. 10 months later and a mea culpa. That is about his usual time frame.

I have not checked his website recently, but he had a page posted which made it appear as if the fiance director had made a subjective comment about teacher salaries, when the commentary actually belonged to Mr. Higgins as is shown in FOIA documents.

No maths arguments here today.

Just truths.


Thom, -1 and Dan D.

I'm sure there are others who are reading your posts, but I would ask for my sake that you take a step back and enlighten me a little.

Thom has a web site (I've seen) that is promoting D203 as a great value, and a top performing school, especially when compared to other districts of similar size, make up, etc. I'm not trying to be trite, but can you tell me who it is you are directing your website toward? Is it meant to simply be informational, or is it political? Who is it that you are trying to convince that 203 is a great value?

-1, your grasp and use of numbers and statistics is so esoteric that I tend to gloss over your argument. I know your debate is with Thom, and this level is what you feel is required, but I'll ask you the same question as Thom. Are you making the case that D203 isn't as good as everyone thinks? Or are you saying D203 is OK, just not as good as everyone thinks? Are you saying that D203 isn't a very good deal?

Dan: You obviously have a long history with Thom and both of you show this to be true. You ran for the school board previously, Do you think D203 is a good school district? Are you saying to Thom that his analysis that D203 being a good value is wrong, do you think D203 is a bad value?

You guys go back and forth, but I'm trying to figure out exactly who you are trying to convince, or what your ultimate point is. The debate about private schools is becoming more of a red herring than anything, people send their kids to private schools for many reasons - I find it hard to believe that a lot of people are sending their kids to private schools (In 203, 204 only - places like Chicago are a different story) because they truly feel 203 and 204 are such horrible school districts.

And lastly, Don't forget that colleges select their students based on that students individual performance, grades, interviews, etc. A student is not admitted to a university based on what the average ACT was of their particular high school.


You keep using total Asian pop as THE meaningful data point ( as if all Asians are inherently smarter). By definition your argument is beginnig to take on a racist tone, brother.

The point of this argument (mine, anyway), is that if you simply isolate 203's Asian pop and take their ACT scores OUT of the equation,203's scores are significantly (statisticallyt) altered downward (I wil submit it id between .75 and .5 points).

Does thie mean 203 is not a good district without their scores?

Nope! Still a really good one, but I am sick of hearing how 203 is one of the best districts in the country (heard that from several Board members), or the best in the state. That kind of talk is dilusional and results in stupid moves like huge raises for a Superintendent in the middle of a recession/depression environment and will, eventually, bedetrimental to the district and the education of the kids.

I am also sick of hearing the argument that every school that does better has some built in reason for it. That is a lame excuse (thinkthe 5th discipline).

Let's be clear: NAPERVILLE IS RICH AND HAS UNBELIEVABLY ENGAGED & EDUCATED PARENTS (these are simply demographic-based comments,not subjective ones), which are the two areas that have been correlated to excellent school results.

A little more fun with -1 in response to his recent post that I will parody:

I request you look up how the ACS measures sampling error:

The ACS calculates standard errors for each estimate produced and publishes the 90 percent confidence level margins of error (the Census Bureau standard). You can be 90 percent confident that the interval within the margin of error from the estimate includes the true value. See Accuracy of the Data for more details on how margin of error and confidence intervals are calculated and interpreted.


Data are based on a sample and are subject to sampling variability. The degree of uncertainty for an estimate arising from sampling variability is represented through the use of a margin of error. The value shown here is the 90 percent margin of error. The margin of error can be interpreted roughly as providing 90 percent probability that the interval defined by the estimate minus the margin of error and the estimate plus the margin of error (the lower and upper confidence bounds) contains the true value.

Maybe go ask a D203 math teachers (I hear they are excellent). Really. Report back. Better yet, spend some quality time with the ACS Accuracy of Data section; specifically the 2005-2009 multi-year accuracy pdf.

If you are incapable of knowing the difference between what you want CIs to represent and what the rest of the world it understands them to be, then please stop posting this gibberish.

I would say stop when you are ahead, but stop now when you are only a few miles behind...


Ok, enough light comedy for one night, off to bed.

Thom Higgins


Claim #1. D203’s overall performance is nothing to get excited about, the only reason why D203 cumulative academic scores are so high is because it has a large Asian Population (4th largest in the Chicago area).

Who used the word ONLY?

As you apparently still do not know in all of your jibberish below is that some data points will be above and some below a best fit curve. And that different inputs have different weights to create the output.

You have used this completely inane argument enough times that I truly think you need to go back to school, take some online stats course, and get back to us in about 10 years which may be how long it'd take you to pass the class.

regarding the Asian performance on the ACT meeting all four CRB: It was apparent from the data shown last year that the D203 Asian performance is up there with whole schools like New Trier, Payton, etc.. The non-asian performance was on par with many decent schools in the top 15-25 range. Not World Class. Plain and simple. Good student performance. Not World Class.


Having a little fun here:

Yep.. -1 is again full of it.


Choose %Asian and whatever subtest you want to use.
204 is #1 in Asian population
203 is #2
Then Dunlap, Barrington and Champaign (50% Low income for Champaign)

Sorry! Not even close!

Now getting serious here for a moment I will mention that one of the reasons why I bother to engage here is it always makes me spend time digging and learning more. Here is a perfect example. Using the iirc (and putting in the proper parameters) I found a district (high school and unit) with a higher percentage of Asians that I didn’t know about – Niles Township with a 33.4% Asian population. Good to know
Back to the Dead Horse Beating:

D204 is 2nd. Stevenson is 3rd, Northfield is 4th, D203 5th. I could go on but Dunlop is 8th, Champaign is 12th and Barrington is 14th. You even had the last two reversed!

Dude, stop being a knucklehead, learn how to use the iirc please, and remember that your Scatter Plot God only works when you understand what parameters to enter.

Sarcasm off.

I’m not at all interested in correcting -1’s mistakes like this. I always smile at –1‘s well developed enmity towards me, dissecting my every post looking for a way to criticize me. (I fear that somebody needs a hug!). It would be great if he could be a wee bit more pleasant, but such is the nature of anonymous blogs. Usually I smile, sometimes I feel sorry for him....doesn’t he have something better to do than vent such spleen?

And now a slight Mea Culpa: in my post that -1 references, I duplicated exactly the comment I received from a Dist. Administrator. He made the slight error of expressing .5% and .7% as .05% and .07%, as -1 correctly points out (D203's bad) the analysis does include the PSAE (my bad). Does that change anything? Not really. As I said, the percentages are de minimus whether they are in the tenths of a percent or hundredths. If -1 wants to go on and on about this, hey, it’s a free country. He's the one making the stink about Asian students.

For Mr. Denys’s:

For my part, an estimate that is at the 90 percent confidence level that returns a value between 8% and 25%, is, all but useless, and does nothing to prove your claim that these people left because of the mediocre education D203 offers. If you want to use it fine, but if you are interested in being fair you need to mention this is an estimate with a 90% confidence interval.

As for the quality of D203 vs. Avery Coonley, I would hope that spending 60% more, with a homogenous enrollment, means they can offer some advantages to a student. Does this tell us in any way that D203 is deficient? Not in the least.

Benet? Yes a great school. But your comparisons to Central are the same old story you pitch. D203 students have the opportunity for dual credit classes, but let’s remember that’s not the panacea you make it out to. Many colleges won’t accept it as they want the (ahem) tuition. Frankly, one of D203’s strengths is they have a strong college prep track but also offer the ability for more vocational classes as well. If you read the literature you will find that more and more districts and colleges are developing programs like this.

Thom Higgins


I re-request you look up what a confidence interval implies. I suggest you note the words of Inigo Montoya when Vezzini says "Inconceivable". In particular "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Maybe go ask your maths tutors in the district. Really. Report back. Yes, I am calling out the census/ACS website if that is what it said. (and it apparently said "interpreted roughly" and that is what it is...incorrect and rough.)

If you are incapable of knowing the difference between what you think CIs represent and what it does, then please stop using them.

I ignore Mr. Denys private school argument because it is irrelevant to what I am concerned about, which is trying to figure out if a school or a district can actually show that it is doing a better or worse job of educating the students.

Back to the "ISAT" numbers you quoted. Take the M&E and convert them to DOES NOT MEET. That .5% to .7% becomes quite large on that scale.


Yep..Higgins is again full of it.

So, what is the data? We can look at ISAT scores for some help if we want to look at how Asian students impact scores, as they are broken down by ethnicity. When I asked a D203 administrator in 2009: “do the Asian students significantly bring up the overall district average test scores”, he compared ALL students to ALL students minus Asian students for the ISAT test. The answer was that the Asian population increased ISAT M&E scores between .05% and .07%, a de minimis amount.

Off by a factor of 10 (should be .5% to .7%) and includes PSAE , not only ISATS as I mention back here when you were claiming it was all NCLB data:


Dude, stop being a knucklehead. Please.

I corrected you before, and I am doing it again on a topic (ISAT M&E) which is close to meaningless for affluent districts.

This is a classic Higginsism --- misquote someone at the district. And did this actual person say "a de minimus amount?"


Come on Thom, you have disputed every number about private school enrollment. I will accept 8% to 25%, I think I have noted 10 to 15%. At one time, the Census bureau had a specific page on school enrollment.

But you did raise a good issue. Why not survey why people send their children to private schools. As Mayor Emanual just stated, this is a very personal issue just as I stated when people like Thom tried to bring my children into the school district campaign.

I will not focus on my children specifically, but I will represent that a majority of the people I know that send their children to a whole range of private schools do so for a better education, NOT OFFERRED BY DISTRICT 203.

I do have some specifics. First, I was told flat out that District 203 would not offer students the same education as Avery Coonley. That is not me making up the information, that is the District 203 administrators.

Second, for the high schools, the following are some options offerred at Benet that are not offerred at Naperville Central

Dual credit courses with a four year university.
Ability to take college courses when the high school cirriculum has been exhausted.
Total college prep program, no time spent in trade classes.
Strict discipline including uniforms and real consequences.
Rated by the Sun Times as one of the top ten high schools in Chicago.

And I think that the Frontier campus in District 204 has both schools beat as a meaningful option.

for -1;

Are you telling us that the American Fact Finder is not saying that there is a 90% chance that the correct percentage falls within the MOE?

I find it interesting that you ignore Mr. Denys misuse of the data by implying an exact number for private school enrollment. Do you find his answer to be correct, or more accurate, than mine?

Thom Higgins


Does D203 do anything special to positively affect the educational outcomes of it students?

And...how do we measure that? And what do we compare it to?

Note that you flit back and forth on what D203 actually is. In the above statement it is the schools and the teachers and the curriculum.

But then you sometimes include the students and parents in the definition.

Which is it?

An Intel award finalist saying a teacher inspired her is not surprising. What is surprising is the number of teachers who do not inspire their students. That is truly sad.

The Director of Assessment for D203 did the ISAT analysis and indicated the variance, not me.

...and you repeat the incorrect numbers. Please. What year was this? Nowhere on the IIRC can I find a year which matches your claims of M&E Mathematics = 93%. I saw your post and it has values which do not appear on the IIRC. This is the same crappy data you tried to pull on us last year.

I am going to claim the "Meets" height for HS juniors is 5'0". Most will make that barrier. I will make "Exceeds" 5'7". Doing this analysis, I can see that excluding Asian students does nothing to change the "height" of the district students when measured by Meets&Exceeds. Silly? yes. No sillier than using M&E on the ISAT.


A few brief responses to -1's comments:

The Director of Assessment for D203 did the ISAT analysis and indicated the variance, not me.

I ask readers to understand that -1 is the author of the "Red Dot God" phrase. Anyone who reads What is the best Educational Value in Chicagoland ? will note the emphasis we place on the ACT score in our analysis (done annually), which is different from the College Readiness Score from ACT, which we do not address in our analysis.

For some inexplicable reason -1 is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill over the fact that we include a Daily Herald study that uses College Readiness Score as its academic performance criterion. Be that as it may, one of the benefits of the study (it is all but unique) is they gave the reader a cost for 11 years of education for a large number of districts.


?Confidence factor?

You may want to look up confidence interval and learn what is really means....While you are at it...look up "Inconceivable" said by Wallace Shawn.

I also find your shock at the negative 5.5% to be continued evidence of your inability to understand numbers and stats.

I would say stop when you are ahead, but stop now when you are only a few miles behind...


he compared ALL students to ALL students minus Asian students for the ISAT test. The answer was that the Asian population increased ISAT M&E scores between .05% and .07%, a de minimis amount.

ISAT is worthless. Meets is such a low bar that using this is nonsense.

Without checking I doubt that .05 to .07% is correct, but it could be.

I suggest you rerun your data looking only at exceeds. get D203 up on IIRC.niu.edu . Choose test Reults/ISAT, then choose Summary..All Subjects...Ethnicity.

You will see that White M&E is pretty close Asian M&E. But take a look at the blue bar...exceeds...I think you'll see a difference.

And what if you ran a SunTimes type analysis using scale scores. Hmm...

M&E is a worthless number. Stop using it. Put that it your global analysis.

Lastly, as an aside mostly, I’ll mention that I recently found out that the New Trier Director of Curriculum is unimpressed with the ACT College Readiness benchmarks as ACT has come under fire for methodological reasons, stating : ” These methodological issues result in the data being of little use.“ I do not know what the criticism’s are.

you mean.,.perhaps..maybe..your Red Dot God is a false god???

Hallelujah. You are finally seeing the light (and it is not a red dot).

I can tell you (and I told you before looking at school performace) that the r squared between Meets all 4 CRB and Meets CRB is Science is over .95. .95. Did I say .95? So overall meets CRB essentially depends on Science scores. Plain and simple.


Claim #2. D203 is such a mediocre school district that a large percentage of parents send their children to private schools to get a better education.

First, aside from Mr. Denys making this claim, who else has leveled this charge? Anyone recall articles in the papers about parents and students fleeing D203 schools in search of a better education? Any articles critical of D203’s curriculum or academic prowess? How about letters to the editors from parents and community leaders demanding that D203 do a better job educating students? Has there been one person speak at a school board meeting claiming they are choosing private schools for their children because D203 schools are inadequate? Has the issue been brought up during school board elections by any candidates? Indeed, did the Taxpayers Ticket (of which Mr. Denys was a member) make this claim in 2007?
The answer to all of this is, of course, no. Interestingly, as it is Mr. Denys is making this claim, is the fact that his own groups website stated: “District 203 has been producing high-quality students since the district was formed in 1972”. Mr. Davitt reiterated this in his comments at the NAHC forum.

Certainly, some parents and students choose private schools. They do so for a variety of reasons, in many cases for religious ones. The fact that parents choose these schools does not, in and of itself, mean in any way they do so because D203 schools are inferior. I actually know parents who have children attending both D203 and private (Catholic) schools who appreciate the differing attributes of both systems.

Further, the data Mr. Denys uses doesn’t actually indicate what public and private school enrollment is for students living in the D203’s service area. He uses estimates from the American Fact Finder, which is part of the US Census, against the known actual enrollment of the district. There are a number of problems with this, not the least being that when you create a custom table for something like this they state:

Data are based on a sample and are subject to sampling variability. The degree of uncertainty for an estimate arising from sampling variability is represented through the use of a margin of error. The value shown here is the 90 percent margin of error. The margin of error can be interpreted roughly as providing 90 percent probability that the interval defined by the estimate minus the margin of error and the estimate plus the margin of error (the lower and upper confidence bounds) contains the true value.

Worse, Mr. Denys played a bit fast and loose on his latest calculations, which are based an average for the years 2005-2009, not just 2009 as he indicated. If he was interested in being fair he should have also used an average for D203 enrollment for those years. He did not, he picked the lowest value he could find, using the 2009-2010 school year. He also ignored the MOE (margin of error) hoping you will believe his number for private school enrollment was an exact actual number. As anyone can see, it’s not.

Here’s the fun part. If we average D203’s enrollment versus the AFF’s estimate (using the 2005-2009 data) and taking into consideration the MOE, the possible private school enrollment ranges from 8% to 25% of all students in D203’s service area. Again, remember these numbers are based on a 90% confidence factor, meaning there is a 90% chance the correct percentage lies within those values. But it gets better; I did D204 just for grins. Using the same criterion returns 8% on the high side and a negative 5.5% on the low side!

Who knew?

As someone who does this kind of analysis for a living said to me: ” data has to be used in context of what it can measure”.So true.

The bottom lines is, we do not know with any accuracy what the actual percentage of students attending private schools in the D203 service area is, and even if we did know the percentage, it tells us nothing about the reason why. The claim that parents are sending students to private schools, because D203 is mediocre, is laughable.

Thom Higgins


Claim #1. D203’s overall performance is nothing to get excited about, the only reason why D203 cumulative academic scores are so high is because it has a large Asian Population (4th largest in the Chicago area).

Most importantly, I think the statement disrespects and discounts the effort and hard work by both teachers and students that goes into in achieving these scores, irrespective of ethnic origin. Are we to believe that Asian students don’t benefit from the education they are receiving; the quality of instruction a school district provides is irrelevant to their successes?

In the same vein, do these people also say that Benet isn’t really that great either, it’s only because it restricts its enrollment to students both financially well off (largely) and academically talented that their test scores are so high?

Or, how about the top two performing public high school districts based on ACT scores; are New Trier and Lake Forest really that good, or is it only because there are so few low income and ELL students, they spend a whopping 50-60% more per student that D203 and come from high income families?

What about #3, Stevenson? A far larger Asian population than New Trier and Lake Forest (2 to 3 times larger), similar low income percentages to New Trier. Spending is close to their levels. Why then aren’t they number 1 if the percentage Asian population is so determinative of the academic success of a school district?

Highland Park/Deerfield comes in 4th even with a very low Asian population and (for this group) a significant low income population. How did they manage that?

#5 Hinsdale’s cumulative ACT beats out D203 by .2. How do they do that with only 2/3rd’s (more or less) of D203’s Asian population and a .4% more low income students?

Indeed, why isn’t there a direct correlation between test scores and the percentage of Asian Students in any given district? Why does the district with the largest percentage of Asian students in Chicagoland (with a comparable low income student population to D203) have lower cumulative scores than D203? Could it really be, as a recent poster explained, because: ” the non-Asian pop could be substandard?”

Critics try to use the little data out there that separates scores by ethnicity to prove their point by inference. Do Asian students tend to score higher than other groups? Yes. But how does that demonstrate that any given school district (say D203) is doing a mediocre job?

So, what is the data? We can look at ISAT scores for some help if we want to look at how Asian students impact scores, as they are broken down by ethnicity. When I asked a D203 administrator in 2009: “do the Asian students significantly bring up the overall district average test scores”, he compared ALL students to ALL students minus Asian students for the ISAT test. The answer was that the Asian population increased ISAT M&E scores between .05% and .07%, a de minimis amount.

Another source that breaks down test results by ethnicity is the ACT College Readiness Score (not to be confused with the ACT test score used for college entrance). I looked at the 2010 scores and found that the difference between scores for all students and all students minus Asian students in D203 to be as follows:

Reading: 69 vs 68
Math 70 vs 66
Science: 52 vs 49
Reading: 84 vs 83

slight variance (1pt.) in reading score with published scores, I'll assume due to rounding

So, does this mean anything? Not really. Males score higher in math and science classes. Females score higher in reading and English. I don’t see anyone criticizing 203 (or other school districts), because of this. You could use Hinsdale is an example of the critics premise as it has a lower percentage of Asian students and a lower disparity than the above example. Proves the point, right? Except, their college readiness scores, across the board, are lower than D203’s. Not much help there. If you look at the absolute score difference as some kind of gauge of effectiveness of teaching ,then Lake Forest is in big trouble, as the disparity between Asian and white students is greater than D203’s. Someone want to tell them they’re not doing a very good job?

Lastly, as an aside mostly, I’ll mention that I recently found out that the New Trier Director of Curriculum is unimpressed with the ACT College Readiness benchmarks as ACT has come under fire for methodological reasons, stating : ” These methodological issues result in the data being of little use.“ I do not know what the criticism’s are.

I will note that some commenters have made statements claiming they have been supplied information by Fred Lu backing up this very claim. Fine, please post it. Mr. Lu (who ran unsuccessfully for the D203 school board in 2007), did make a brief off handed comment at a forum about Asian students test scores. Importantly, he offered no statistics and voiced no complaints about the quality of instruction D203 offered. Indeed, he stated in the NAHC forum: “his children have benefited from the quality education here,” telling him: ”...the districts challenging and engaging curriculum and diverse student body has prepared them well for college,” and:” I appreciate the continuous teacher parent communication,” wanting to serve on the board to: “continue the tradition of excellence.”

Sounds like Mr. Lu feels pretty strongly about the quality of education being offered by D203.

Thom Higgins


Allow me to go a bit “global” in my comments as a response to some recent posts. In essence, all the discussion on these blogs, as it relates to the quality of education D203 provides, is really asking one question: Does D203 do anything special to positively affect the educational outcomes of it students?

I, of course, am of the belief that it does. Others here seek to offer an alternative view with (generally) two positions that argue in the negative on display. As I grow weary of arguing these same points over and over, I’m going to try to offer a somewhat blanket response that I can simply re-post/re-use the next time (and believe me there will be a next time), this comes up.

As the blog seems to be eating what people are posting, I’m going to do it in separate posts.

Thom Higgins


Higgins must have run out of BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Dan D. showed the private school student numbers, where are these ACT scores by ethnicity?


Thanks -1

I have done this before and even sent it to Higgins directly, but here is the breakdown of school children in District 203

The following amounts per 2009 American Community Survey

Total population............................102,048

Enrolled in school.(Table B14001)..33,617
Less: Nursery.................................2,138
...........Undergraduate college..........7,424

Total enrolled, K-12........................22,005

District 203 enrollment.(203 web

Private school enrollment.................4,011

Private school as a percentage of

So for at least the third time, Mr. Higgins, here are the numbers. How about the Asia test score numbers? Why doesn't the District release this data?

I think the picture is clear if you look at it!!!!!!!!!

Mr. Higgins,

Order your resonse to the following question.

1. Why did the parents of the 2011 NC ACT and SAT perfect score student pull their child out of District 203 elementary schools? Not the 2010 student.

2. Please complete the following grid

Number of total students taking ACT

Average score for total students

Number of Asian students taking ACT (defined as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Philipino, Malyasian, Pakistania, Tawanese)

Average score of Asian students

(You might want to check with Fred Lu if your inside source won't tell you. Better yet, direct us to the 203 web site with this information. Remember, not ISAT scores).

Please refrain from the BLAH BLAH BLAH

Let me see if I have this straight:

To make an argument on this blog, you first must create your own website to use as proof of your arguments.

Than, you must make a conscious decision to ignore imperative data that does not support your opinion. Example --- Let’s just ignore Benet, New Trier, etc.

Finally, just issue non sequiters about the matter at hand and ignore the real argument.

Nice work if you can get it!


You can use the site -1 supplied to recreate (easily!) a mathgame to prove the skewing affect of the Asian demographic scores on the overall 203 scores.

Your lame comment about 204 is a meaningless canard that lacks intellectual effort. You ignore the idea that regardless of the Asian pop in 204, the non-Asian pop could be substandard, don’t you? Or that the breakdown of demographics could be minimal vs other districts (and still be “#1”).

As usual you deflect and dodge instead of addressing the data offered. The issue is not that all Asians are better test takers, or that other districts with few Asians should have lower scores.

In fact, your own comments add weight to those on this blog about the 203 results: 203 results are heavily skewed upwards by the Asian demographic, yet the other districts you refer to have high scores without a demographic skewing. In other words, 203 is NOT the best district in Illinois!

Do the math ---- they easily have a 1pt or better effect on the scores

Lets see Higgins in action.

Blah Blah blah ACT blah blah.

Oh but Asians don't do anything for Meets and Exceeds on the ISAT.


As I estimated before, D203 meets College Readiness Benchmark across the board (Higgins' Red Dot God from the Daily Herald study) would drop about 3-4 percentage points without the strong Asian population performance. The % meets CRB is directly correlated with % meeting science CRB. In D203, Asians were at 70% meeting the College Readiness Benchmark in science. Whites were at 52%. I can post to my prior comments if needed, but D203s overall performance is nothing to get excited about.

If you want to harp about ACT use ACT as a comparison. The Meets/Exceeds is a non-differentiator for anything other than income status. The value is too high already as is expected for the poverty level of this district and the LOW standard Meets represents. Any contribution from a 1/6 subgroup cannot be seen.

If someone could do it -- compare average 6th,7th and 8th grade ISATs for the inputs at Benet and see what they would predict for ACT scores. It is silly to compare Benet's average ACT to any public school's ACT.

Can someone publish average Asian ACT in D203 vs overall?

note: I do not support using ACT for comparisons without reasonable controls, but if we do, the above is what I feel.

Higgins, do you know the situation on the student in question? Are you asking his/her parents (one of whom once blogged here) to explain themselves and their decisions? Are you sure IMSA was an option? Do you know why they chose not to have him/her go to IMSA? Or are you talking out of your posterior side again? Or maybe you are referring to the 2011 graduate and are off by a year in your posting?


For Real Southeast Side Dad:

It should be noted that the recent 2010 Naperville Central graduate you discuss credits her sophomore chemistry teacher at Central for sparking her passion for chemistry. Additionally, she was the second Intel finalist in as many years from Naperville Central. The 2010 grad was the only finalist hailing from Illinois and the 2009 grad was one of two Illinois finalists. Additionally, Central had two of the thirteen semi-finalists from Illinois in 2010. Students from both Central and North excel in science and math winning many, many awards and competitions. If D203 was so inferior why did her parents send her to Central? She certainly had options (IMSA as an obvious example).

I refer you and other readers to QE203’s What is the Best Educational Value in Chicagoland? where the reader can see the cumulative scores for all the major tests in the D203 compared to the top CUSD’s and HSD’s sections. D203 students score very well, irrespective of whether it’s high school or elementary. All data is directly from the ISBE report card with the exception of the top seven HS districts where a weighted average (using the individual elementary feeder schools ISAT score from the ISBE) is calculated for the reported district ISAT score.

As to the 10% claim, it has been tossed around here in the blog but I have yet to see any legitimate documentation backing it up. Further, D203’s Asian population is 15.1%, not the 20-30% you state.

The spread between Benet and D203‘s ACT scores is three pts, not four as you indicated. Taking nothing away from Benet, which is an excellent school, as has been mentioned by others, it must be remembered that it is a selective enrollment school, with a narrower focus than D203, its student body is quite different than D203’s. Btw, I believe it has the highest ACT score for a private HS in the Chicago area.

Regarding the comments in the blog about the impact D203’s Asian population has on test scores:

It has been over 4 years since the 2007 SB election that Mr. Denys ran in. In this time he has never provided the “information” he claims Mr. LU supplied him with. The claim has been made often, backing it up has been, well….lacking.

If the percentage of Asian students within a district had a direct correlation with test scores then D204 would have the highest scores in the Chicagoland area, followed by Stevenson and Northfield, they don’t. Further, many schools such as New Trier, Lake Forest and Highland Park, wouldn’t be at the top academically if this were true, as they have comparatively low Asian populations.

I will re-produce the following from D203’s Director of Assessments a few years ago, when I asked him specifically about this issue:

”The question is if the Asian students significantly bring up the overall district average for Meets and Exceeds in reading and math on the state test. To answer this question we compare ALL students to ALL students minus Asian students.”

”For reading it is 91.3% minus 90.8% for a resultant of -.05%. In other words the entire Asian population did not exist the district percent Meets and Exceeds in Reading on the State Test would be one half of one percent less (-.05%).”

”For math it is 93.0% minus 92.3% for a resultant of -.07%. In other words the entire Asian population did not exist the district percent Meets and Exceeds in Math on the State Test would be seven tenths of one percent less (-.07%).”

This is from looking at the ISAT test data, where it is broken down in such a manner that this kind of analysis is possible.

Thom Higgins


Benet also gives test that students have to achieve a minimum score on in order to be accepted to the school. They have the power to say no to a student who does not do well on those tests. You can't compare a private school that has selective enrollment to a public school. That is like comparing Harvard to Southern Illinois based on test scores.

Comparing District 203 with Benet is an apples to oranges comparison, since Benet can deny admission to academic under-performers.

Funny....... be net not only smokes 204 and 203, but it has a much smaller Asian population, thus reins much less on that single demographic.

Notice how Higgines has crawled back into his rabbit hole? But three to six months from now he will be spewing all that is great about 203!!!!!


Click District

Type in Naperville and get 203 to come up.

Click on test results and Scatter plots

Choose %Asian and whatever subtest you want to use.

204 is #1 in Asian population

203 is #2

Then Dunlap, Barrington and Champaign (50% Low income for Champaign)

Hope that helps.

If you go to scatter plots and click % low income....well..you'll see the true primary driver of Meets/exceeds scores.

For ACT you can go to ACT and click to sort by ethnicity to see how each ethnic subgroup performs in D203 on the College Readiness Benchmarks.


Is District 203 the only district in Chicagoland that has Asian students?

As DD posted ----- talk to Fred Liu as he had the actual data.

I can say that a 10% population can easily affect the scores by 1.5 to 2 points (just run a math game).

During my campaign for school board, Fred Lu, a leading Asian resident, was the one who provided us with the information.

Call Fred. Also, go to Kumon learning centers around Naperville and note the swarms of Asians who send their children for tutoring. That must be how they compensate for the lower quality elementary education.

Please show us your calculations to back up this comment. Are there that many Asians to skew the results so significantly?

Side note: IF you take the Asian test results out of 203, there is a statistically significant drop inovall test scores."

Real se side dad,

Watch out --- Higgins. Will update his website to say yonare wrong!

Side note: IF you take the Asian test results out of 203, there is a statistically significant drop inovall test scores.

Also, I really like your logic loop on the elementary schools --- if the high schools are so great because of test scores, then there MUST be something I defile with our elementary schools!


Question again for the guru of 203, Mr. Higgins.

Why did the parents of the recent Naperville Central graduate with perfect SAT and ACT's pull their child out of Naperville elementary schools and enroll her in private schools? Because Naperville schools were great?

The same parents fought to have their child enrolled in North, the better of the two schools to no avail. And they simply refused Benet since that conflicted with their religion (no not Bhudist, but fundamentalist Christian).

Further, while ACT scores are competitive, the grade school scores are not as high. Does that reflect the lower quality of the grade school education?

At least 10% of District 203 school aged students opt of private school. It would be more if there was a secular school alternative for the 20 to 30% of the District that is "Asian".

I think District 203 would love to retain the Benet students with the aveage 28 ACT, four points more than 203.

Thom, aka QE203, and his analytical abilities bring new meaning to the expression "Garbage in, garbage out".

REALLY ~~~~~ The ACT score is your determinate basis of analysis?

So you put your eggs in the single basket of a standard test scorec----- can we assume that you area big proponent of NCLB?

The ONLY true measure is post college success stories.

Figures do not lie, but liars figure!!!!!

A few thoughts on D204 and D203:

As far as Operating Expenses Per Pupil (OEPP) and academic performance, D204 has a lower OEPP, but just as importantly, lags D203 in all the major academic performance indicators, including the composite ACT score where their average is 1.1 pts. behind D203, a significant difference. You can compare both districts with the other top 6 CUDS’s in the Chicago area here, which is part of this larger analysis: What is the Best Educational Value in Chicagoland? All data derived from the ISBE Report Card.

As I have repeatedly stated; there is not another district in the Chicagoland area that spends less than D203, but whose students equal or surpass D203 students ACT scores. There are numerous districts that spend more than D203 but whose students don’t achieve D203’s composite ACT scores. The five districts whose students do achieve higher composite ACT scores spend, on average, $4,305 per pupil more.

There are also many districts like D204, who spend less than D203 and whose students do not equal the ACT scores of D203 students.

There are other noteworthy differences between the districts. D204 has been battling considerable budget deficits for the past two years, necessitating cuts to programs and staff. D203 has been fortunate to avoid that fate. I will also note that D204 has significant bonding costs due to the fact it is a new district with, I believe, something like $500 million (from memory) in bonding for all its school construction that add substantial costs to D204 residents tax bill. D203, in comparison has minimal bonding costs ($42 million) and has abated the interest repayment for two of the three years it has been due. These costs are in addition to OEPP costs.

Thom Higgins



Welcome to the realization that Thom Higgins, aka QE203, is nothing more than a BS artist who like to blindly argue pro SD203 more than he has anything credible, honest, or impartial to write that would actually lead to improving local schools.

Anything that merry bunch of SD203 dysfunctionaries propose is always just fine with good old Thom. You see Thom is a what is known as a mushroom in political terms. Thom is happy in the dark and he feeds off the manure supplied to him by SD203 administrators. The funny thing about mushrooms though, some of them are toxic.


QE203 iis officially full of crapola and has been lying to us for years!

It has posted for years that 203 is the best "deal" in the entire state, now we find out right next door in 204 is an even better deal!

How? Well, it is clear that 204 takes FULL advantage of the economies of scale (a skill 203 lost years ago).

Kudos to 204 for being the best education "deal" in Naperville!

(...and shame on QE203 for lying to us all these years)

Now I would defer to -1 for a more accurate calculation (and ignore Higgins for inevitable deception).

But if you divided the test score by dollars spent, does this infer that 204 is 15% more cost effective in producing the same results as District 203? Or should 204 taxpayers have their taxes increased by 15% to match 203?

Just Asking (there was a poster of such name).

There is too much to say about the propaganda put out by IPSD. I'm in D203, but beware.

The Fiscal responsibility page is the funniest since it is allowed to ignore the HUGE capital expense D204 is dealing with for Metea. Almost 1/3 of the 2010 budget was for Debt service and Site & Construction.

ACT scores -- look at the increase in Asian population over that time frame.

Teacher Salary -- this is a ticking time bomb for IPSD. The average experience is quite low as is expected with a district which has gained 6000 students in the past decade. As that growth stops and new teachers are not needed, average salary will creep up. As a side note on teacher salary -- woo-hoo for D203!

All graphs start at a non-zero level making all differences appear larger. A classic marketing trick.


This is interesting; especially the comparisons to other districts.


I understand, but it still suffers from "the end justifies the means" syndrome, which means accepting this just at face value does reward what was clearly abhorrent behavior by the 203 School Boars.


My apologies, but I’m not a big fan of dealing in hypotheticals.

Don't you recognize that it is ENTIRELY theoreticals on which Susan Crotty made her faulty $XM savings claim which you agreed with. It was based on a theoretically larger referendum for which we would have needed to bond more money and that $25M of over-collection would still be sitting in the surplus. This logic is Idiotic at best.

More recently, in the quote I linked.....since D203 did not return the surplus and D203 cannot make much money in short term interest investments, I do agree of the draw down of the surplus if it pays down a higher interest cost than it could get in investment.



My apologies, but I’m not a big fan of dealing in hypotheticals.

I will offer the thought that some sort of mechanism that would allow a taxing body operating under PTELL to not levy the max CPI increase (limited to 5% regardless) in a given year, or years, and “bank” a certain amount until they potentially need it, would be a welcome improvement.

The current law is: “levy it, or lose it forever”, and that causes taxing bodies to err on the side of caution. If the law allowed some flexibility, I think you would see some entities not levy the full amount every year.


I like your comment here: “ "Sorry --- ooops! lucky, it will work out in the long run"

It is important to remember that yes, they were lucky with the timing from the perspective that the referendum mechanics allowed them to reap the benefit from some excellent years of housing appreciation. No one expected that in advance.

In the end, I do think that it is working out as we approach 10 years out. Today, 203 spends at the state average, has a balanced budget with a budget surplus, and has abated around $6 million is facilities costs to date with the understanding that it will continue to do so if conditions permit. It’s important to note the District didn’t “blow” the surplus. A large part of it is paying for facility reconstruction costs.

Thom Higgins


I have a direct question for Thom:

Given your blind allegiance to the 203 school district, and your utter failure to ever
criticize them for anything, and your belief (stated often) that 203 is a great deal REGARDLESS of the escalating costs over the years,


If your answer is no, please tell us why not.

If yes, please also tell us if you have ANY limit to what you would allow.

Ask Susan Crotty or Thom Higgins(you).

After all, she saved the taxpayers $12M.



Enlighten us.

What are theoretical interest dollars? and how does one go about avoiding paying them?

Thom Higgins


In a civil world the district owes us (it is easy to limit it to current homeowners) at least the interest on the excess funds they over-collected.

Once taken, I agree it was than best to keep it for the construction (always did feel this way), but the prolonged FIGHT to finally get them to admit totheover-collection just served to destroy what little trust many of us had in them.

What is so freaking hard about saying"Sorry --- ooops! lucky, it will work out in the long run"?

The alternative route which the district and Board took was to first ignore us, then fight us and tell us we were wrong, then subtle dissing of us, and finally admitting it. Sionded like a bad 12 step program!

District saved X dollars in interest by using cash.

Again, from the "District's" view, not that of the taxpayer which is the entire point of the prior argument which you fail to recognize.

Yes, the district ended up paying fewer theoretical interest dollars for the assumed larger referendum (which, by the way, total interest was fully added up by Mrs. Crotty not accounting for present value).

However, from the taxpayer's point of view, that money was withheld from them and they could not earn anything on it.

For anyone to claim that they saved the TAXPAYER anything is foolish unless they account for what it cost us by prepaying. For anyone to agree with that person is Higgensesque.


This issue was flogged to death in a previous thread. I’ll just offer a few thoughts:

I appreciate the difficulty of fairly rebating any property taxes some years after the fact. Do you just rebate current owners or do you track do those who paid and then moved? Accomplishing it would not have been as easy as one might think.

I agree with the District that returning funds and then immediately asking for them back in a larger referendum request, requiring bonding a larger amount (paying interest), would not have been the wisest financial decision.

In defense of Ms. Crotty, it was not pre-ordained that the surplus funds would be rolled into a Site and Construction fund. D203 could have easily found other legitimate uses for some or all the funds elsewhere. From my perspective, she gets credit for introducing and pushing for the establishment of the S&C fund.

-1 has previously made, to my mind, a convoluted argument based on a number of unlikely hypothetical’s in order to argue that there was not any savings by using the cash reserves over bonding said amount. Therefore, it made no difference whether the District bonded or paid cash. He has, so far, been mute on whether he feels the same about the recent instance of using cash reserves to fund the last bit of construction costs.

Lastly, if the District uses cash reserves over bonding it saves the interest costs. In my view, it is entirely legitimate to make the statement that by doing so the District saved X dollars in interest by using cash. To complain that a speaker has committed some huge error unless they also include some sort of detailed disclaimer listing any alternatives that might include interest income from the cash reserves, had they bonded the renovation costs instead, is to me, overly pedantic, especially when rates of return are, essentially, zero.

Thom Higgins


and furthermore...

...Nobody should be claiming she saved taxpayers $XM by using our money in that fashion. And nobody (TH) should be agreeing with her.



I think you tend to miss the point of many arguments here.

I do not think ANYONE has ever said, in isolation, that the extra funds s/n be used for capital expenses to avoid further bonding.

I DO think many have said that the surpluses were built on a form of lie (the
Over-collected referendum) and that the purest form of retribution was to first return the excess THAN collect again via the referendum.

In other words, rewarding the previous abhorrent behavior by NOT holding the Board accountable for what many saw as an immoral action Was in itself a bad behavior.

Once done, no one wants to see them bond the entire referendum and build an even more obnoxious surplus.


Although the two instances are not perfectly analogous, it is notable that in both cases it was found that the fiscally prudent decision was to use cash balances to fund referendum expenses so as to save the cost of bonding (interest) these amounts.
You have previously claimed that in the first instance there was zero savings. Is that your position in this latest action?

Thom Higgins


Mr. Higgins,

A while back you decided to side with Susan Crotty on her statement that she saved taxpayers $XMillion by suggesting using the over-collections from the 2002 referendum for capital improvements which otherwise would have needed additional referendum ask of the taxpayer in 2008.

Take a gander here: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/naperville203/Board.nsf/files/8HUL6254A8C9/$file/Finance%20Advisor%20Committee%202011-12%20budget%20letter%20Final.pdf

To wit: "The district cost of capital(bond interest) is greater than the return on investment of the funds..."

What do you think that means? Perhaps, maybe, the district is comparing two possible uses of the money and choosing which one works out better. (Note: this is still taxpayer over-collection from the 2002 referendum).

In your defense of Mrs. Crotty, you both made the flaw of looking at only the total interest payments (not adjusted for dollar value over time) as the total the taxpayers would "save".

Do you see any flaws in your logic now? Maybe you can ask Mr. Zager for some more help if it still not clear.


I don't really disagree with anything you say. i was addressing it more from the other end of the spectrum where folks are saying Naperville teachers are underpaid!

I have to wonder where you went to school, even a while ago, where you had those numbers in your classrooms. I don't know anyone else that had 50 kids in their classes growing up. Were you in a larger city and not in a suburb or rural area? Even so, things are different today. Expectations are different. While you may have done fine in that situation, it was a far different time. I do not believe kids today would do as well in a situation like that.

That being said, as a former teacher who has taught in both Naperville and the East Aurora school districts, I totally agree with you that the teachers in Naperville don't understand how good they have it. I can remember teachers complaining about the technology available when I was working Naperville. They had fairly new computers at the time. I had just left the East Aurora district after my part time position had been eliminated. I had never had a computer to use there at any time. (However, thanks to some grants the East Aurora schools now are doing quite well with technology.) They were also complaining about their pay. In moving districts, I had not been given credit for my full experience. Yet I was still making about $2000 more per year on step 5 in Naperville than I had been on step 8 in East Aurora.

And all of that being said, if I ever go back to teaching, I will go back to a lower income school district. I found myself happier overall as a teacher in East Aurora than I did in Naperville. I felt like I was making a difference for those children.


I went and counted my grade school pictures too. Most of my grade school years had over 50 and my average was 52. One teacher. No aides or helpers of any kind. No "class moms" in the classroom either. Today's teachers complain about how hard they work and they really have no clue.

I agree with you about the excessive benefits. I'm not sure I agree that teachers are fairly compensated considering how much of our taxes go towards compensation and how much higher our property taxes are than the Illinois average (i.e. 10 to 14 % higher) and that Illinois school budgets are about 14% higher than the US average. That all adds up to Naperville teachers possibly being overcompensated by 24 to 28% when compared to their own peers elsewhere in the state and in other states.

Don't get me wrong. I fully support pay for performance. However, Naperville schools do not currently and have not historically performed at a level locally, statewide, nationally, or internationally that would warrant such excessive overcompensation. In fact, IF individual teacher performance was the only factor of consideration when determining compensation Naperville teachers would have to be paid significantly under the state and national averages.

I honestly don't think the average Naperville teacher comes anywhere close to appreciating how easy they have it, yet they constantly want more. Possibly someone forgot to tell them as children to "never kick a gift horse in the mouth". Some timeless wisdom in that old saying for Naperville teachers to take to heart.

Teachers and administrators in 203 and 204 are totally overpaid. I think we could do with half of them. Last I read, the head of 204 makes more than the CPS superintendent. For a group of people who work about seven months a year (summer vacation, Christmas vacation, grading days, on and on), In the regular workforce, a person is lucky to get four weeks off after working years and ten days of holidays a year. I think all of their salaries and benefits should be cut to about half of what it is now. Th e teachers and administrators get astronomical benefits when regular working stiffs are lucky to get a pension. The non-teachers are supporting a bunch of overpaid whining oafs who could never make it in the regular workforce.

FB, that is not even logical.

Why would truthful go join something that they think is broken or not working?

If you don't like it, go be a teacher. Apparently, it's very easy to do, and if it's such an easy job, you shouldn't have a problem. Great pay. Great benefits. Let's go.

Let’s clear up some errors in data here, shall we?

First, if I read the Naperville 203 website correctly the average class size is less than 22. So, I pulled out my grade school picture and counted the faces ----- I had an 8th grade grad class of 46. Not implying this is the norm, just laying out the facts I happen to have,

Second, the thread bounces around a lot, often taking extremist (far left or far right) arguments (or, more appropo, the other side of the argument interprets everything as extremist). Thus, I will state again: I think teachers are fairly paid in today’s 203 environment and are overly-fairly comped with their benefits (which were originally designed upon the basis of belief that they were unfairly paid).

Third, just as the teachers have complained that those who do not teach don’t understand their work hours, I fully believe that teachers who don’t work in a corporate environment cannot and do not fathom the extent of the hours it requires to A)Keep a job and B)get raises when we are not protected with terms like “tenure”. In fact, most/many of us work under the concept of voluntary employment.

Fourth, Higgins couldn’t be more incorrect than when he makes invalid, all-encompassing statements about 401k programs. During the recession many companies outright dropped these programs, and it has just been recently that they have begun to re-establish them. They are being re-established on the discretionary basis they were originally designed as (yet turned into an “almost entitlement” in the 90s), the match is, on average, down to a percentage of the employee contribution (example: 50% match for every dollar), and caps are back in style (many are dollar caps, like $500).In short, Higgin’s use of 5% is ridiculous and wrong.

Fifth, let’s all be honest on the contribution to “retirement” (I use quotes because the system was NOT designed, or began, as a retirement program but as a supplemental program) by private workers: We in the private sector contribute 12.4% to social security in every pay period, with another 2.9% for Medicare. A small percentage of workers makes over the 106,000 (just as few teachers do), so the limit argument is a canard. To get any 401k, we have to first contribute even more, so the 12,4% rises.

Sixth, concerning insurance you need to match apples to apples. Within the private sector, a husband/wife alone get ripped as the scheme is geared towards families. Also, remember that we will need to pay for our own once retired (at least until 65), while you get yours covered by the overly-fair comps I mentioned earlier.

Seventh, the simplest fact is the data found in the BLS stats. On an hourly basis, teachers are the highest paid sector (only #2 in Chicagoland, a fact I believe is caused by the dismal pay in the CPS system) in our economy. The data for BLS comes from the industry itself, so I will go with the belief that the time on grading, etc., is included.

Please understand, none of this is a ‘shot’ at teachers, just an attempt to look at the data clearly. Many have chastised us for not accepting the status quo and having the temerity to question our prop taxes and the extent of the retirement system (comps, etc) for the publicly-funded teachers. Some call the rest of us names (ya hearing me, La cuc?) for speaking up. However, if you look at the data, which includes the reasons behind certain things (such as SS as a supplement program and teacher retirement comps being based on their being, in the past, underpaid), than hopefully we can quit with the name calling and have intelligent discussions.

Finally, yes, I do know teachers ---- many of them (my spouse teaches in 203). I am fairly aware of many of their common complaints, both valid and invalid.

Your point of view is appreciated. Two questions.

1. If the Bureau of Labor Statisitic selected you for their salary survey, how many hours do you work per week and how many weeks? By the way, this does not include thinking about your job in the shower or as you eat breakfast, we all do that.

2. Your brief characterization of your job is a bit more than a teacher, includes other duties such as being a nurse (by the way, if you were a nurse, your salary would be 40% less!! and they change diapers all day long). In contrast, a gym teacher does not have the same stresses that you have. Is it fair that you are both paid the same?

Be truthful!!

I'm going to be completely honest here. I've been following this thread for a while, and I've never had the courage to post anything on here. But as I continue to read...I don't see a healthy or even good discussion going on. Everyone is just complaining about how much teachers get paid, and how hard they do or do not work. I'm a special education teacher, and I come from a long line of special education teachers. And I have to say I don't wake up on a daily basis and think how easy my job is. No, I wake up and think about what tests my students have, what meetings I have to attend, if i have to change a student's diaper, or if I'm going to have a student attack me (which has happened several times and yes all in Naperville schools). During the summer, I get my next group of students and I go over their records and make sure I get a chance to meet their families so they see a friendly face when they start school in the fall.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I believe that this forum has gotten completely off topic. Individuals started talking about Obama vs. Bush, and other things. What I have to say to that is if you don't like who is President now, vote and change who will be our next President. Don't just sit there behind your computer and pass judgment because I see you doing nothing to change the state of the economy. I always tell my students to not just sit there if they see a problem, that they should become more proactive and get involved and I'm going to tell that to everyone else in this forum.

I can't afford to socialize, need to work!!

Kudos, you feel your salary is adequate. Don't hear that from teachers often. Always want to be paid as if they were a CEO of a Fortunre 500 company.

I know several teachers. The amount of preparation time varies. Gym teacher, 5 minutes a semester. Here is an interesting one. Math teacher. Tests are scored electronically. Dedicated English teachers . Five to ten hours a week. Most, negligible. You know this is true.

The Bureau of Labor bases their hourly salary rates based on actual surveys. Teachers tell them they work 30 hours per week or less. By the way, post on this web page how you are paid overtime for special duty. What is the denominator (the hours you are expected to work to get your salary)? Can't have it both ways.

It all varies. In general, thought, if you work harder, you do not get paid more.

As to the pension, the required contributions for the lucrative teachers pensions plans should have been a total of 30% per year. If we capped the employee share like the private sector at 10% (6% FICA and 5% 401k match if Higgins is right), then teachers should be contribuing 19%, not 9.4%. Also, 1% of that 9.4% is for retiree medical (and that is not enough). So you are only contributing 8.4%.

This is why Tom Cross's bill should pass. You want to keep your pension plan, increase the withholdings to 20 to 25%. Otherwise, get what the rest of us get.

Be truthful-
Where have you seen me complain about my salary? Please reprint. If you cannot find it, then "Be Truthful" and admit you were putting words in my mouth.

Again you say 8-3. I specifically stated my district's school day isn't over till 3:40. Do you suggest I walk out the door at 3 and leave the kids unattended?

As for Thom's study, I have not personally viewed it. However, quickly doing the math, it looks like for teachers it accounts for contract time, 8 hours a day, 180-190 days a year. The vast majority of teachers put in more time than that. Based on what my lawyer friends make, it looks like it breaks their salary down based on billable hours, not 40 hours a week. Again skewing the data by using actual hours worked for one and contract time for the other.

Based on the assumptions you make about teachers, how many do you know personally and socialize with on a regular basis?

Thom Higgins beloved Bureau of Labor Statistics DOES publish a listing of average wages for all types of workers on an HOURLY basis. This report summarizes data collection. What data is collected? The salary paid and the number of hours worked for a whole host of occupations.

ACTUAL DATA from 2006 Report on Chicago area.

What profession is the highest paid? Lawyers at $66 per hour.

Second? TEACHERS. Public school teachers average hourly wages were $39.99 per hour (private school teachers were $30.82 per hour).

The average white collar? $28 per hour

That lazy account? $27.98. No wonder he has to work 60 hours, he has to to equal a teacher.

Even today, the median Distirct 203 teacher makes more money than the median wage in Naperville.

However, if you are feeling underpaid as a teacher, do like the rest of us, get a different job. Good luck matching your hourly earnings.

And for people who work from 8:00 to 3:00 (I am giving liberal assumptions of time before and after school, but not time to driink coffee), this seems light, even for nine months of the year. With a half hour for lunch, this works out to 6.5 hours per day. What happened to the 8 hour work day? No wonder our children are not taught to work, their teachers do not know what it means to work. Do they really spend seven and a half hours on preparation and grading beyond the five hours provided in the regular time scheduled? A gym teacher???

When there is not a good reason to pay somebody, the only alternative is to create a union and strike.

The district where I work, our elementary students are also in school more than 6 hours a day. It sounds to me like maybe you should be more involved with your school board, go to meetings and ask why your hours are shorter. If you are told bus routes which seems to be the common answer, they can stagger the beginning and end times of each level.

As far as what I pay for retirement, I pay 9.4% out of my paycheck to TRS. This is on the entire amount of my salary. The private sector pays 6% towards social security, but only on the first $106,000. I also pay into my 403b, with no match from my employer. Most private sector pay into a 401k with some match from employeers. From what I have also compared with friends regarding insurance, I pay more for my husband and I, (single +1) then they do for family coverage. This is by no means representative of all private sector jobs. It compares positions held by my friends and me: all hold Bachelor's degrees, many hold advanced degrees, and all work in white collar, professional jobs.

I don't have a fall break, so do not know what you are talking about. As far as winter/semester break. We get time off around Christmas and New Year's as well as most of my friends who work in the private sector. If we had school at the time, tax payers would complain that it was a waste, because enrollment drops. Therefore, the school district woud lose state funding due to the lower attendance. Yes, we get a spring break and time off in the summer. It is not three months, as you state. This year due to attending conferences and workshops, I get 5 weeks. Again my friends in the private sector get between 4-6 weeks vacation per year. They also get flex time, comp time and bonuses based on time worked. Maybe you are in the wrong profession if you are not getting good health care, vacation time, sick days, bonuses, etc.

Before you say, I get paid extra to attend conferences and workshops, I'll tell you there is no payment for going, nor is there an adjustment in salary because I went. I'm going to better myself and keep current.

What is most glaring from your response is that you discount time spent preparing, grading, etc as time not worked. When you retain an attorney do you only pay for the time in court? Does a doctor only work when he sees patients?

I'll repeat, I am not saying I work harder than another profession. I'm not complaining about the hours I work. However, you and others who state teachers only work 6 hours a day, are making an igorant statement.

Fair enough. I will go on the record as stating that I think teachers are exactly, fairly paid in the Naperville area with benefits that are too "rich", or exorbitant, versus the private sector. Nothing more, nothing less.

So you think the GOP stopped stimulus Iand II? Stopped Obamacare?

Grow up and do your own thinking instead of letting Soros do it for you. The Keynesian econ model being used by Obama is a complete failure. It is a theory that works well in the classroom, but fais in practice.

You attack tax cuts, but just look at the data provided by practice: Every tax CUT has resulted in significant tax revenue increases to the Fed coffers. that is a simple fact.

Bottom line? Obama has increased debt by what, almost 5 trillion dollars (take your time and think that number through a bit), and the unemployment rate is rising at 9.1%.

That is the very definition of a failed economic policy, especially oine that was designed to "create jobs for working Americans".

Do some math on your own and figure out the unemployment rate if every single GM worker was fired because GM was allowed to fail ---- actually kind of a rounding error. It is also unrealistic fearmongoring by you and your ideologue progressive friends to say they would all be out of a job. The facts are that a large percentage would have remained employed as other car companies were already lining up to either purchase opieces of GM or add obntotheir existing physical presence in the US.

Funny thing about these blogs. The people that hate government employees and teachers all work 70-80 hours a week, have no vacation, pay a ton for health insurance, and have no pensions.

I know lots of private sector people and they don't have it nearly as bad as you. They work 40-50 hours a week including e-mail at home, etc., take nice vacactions, own second homes, have good heath insurance at a reasonable price, and have a 401k.

I figured it out. You're bitter about your lives so you come here to feel like you told off the people that have it better than you do. How about getting a better job? Be a teacher. Ah, you missed that boat years ago when you were dreaming about your seven figure 401k = more bitterness.

Just checking the math here.

If you are working a 70 - 80 hour work week, you work 12 - 14 hours a day 6 days a week. And that is your regular work schedule week in and week out? Might you be exagerating just a little bit?

Class sizes were twice as big when you were in school. Most of my kids' classes have between 25 and 30 students are you saying when you went to school there were 50 to 60 students in a class? Might you be exagerating just a little bit again?

Many of your points are valid, but they all loose validity when you throw in "facts" that don't pass the smell test. Keep to the facts and keep to the point, you might actually win some converts to your ideas.


Sounds like you are a HS teacher somewhere. I was actually referring to grade school hours. But come on over to SD203 which has the same start time yet gets out at 3:10 and you can have an extra 30 minutes a day or 2 1/2 hours a week off at the Naperville taxpayer expense.

When and if all the homework and text grading etc hits 70 to 80 hours a week like the rest of us you can still look forward to the fact that you still get a fall break, a semester break, a spring break, personal days, holidays, sick days, and you still get 3 months off in the summer. Any you don't pay social security, you don't pay into your retirement any where near what we do, nor do you pay as much out of your paycheck for medical insurance. Tell us again how bad you've got it that we need to walk a week in your shoes.

When I was in school class sizes were twice what they are today and there were no aides of any kind giving teachers all of the help they can't seem to get by without today. Just one teacher and a class room full of students. Tell us again just how bad you've got it. Then be honest with yourself and be thankful. You could have it a lot, lot worse.

Anonymous and workinghardinbatonrouge-
I never said teachers work longer or hard than another profession. I was addressing the comment made uncommonsense which said teachers work 6 hours a day. That statement is not true.

I have numerous friends in the legal profession and see how hard they work, especially when preparing for trial. I also have friends who work in positions of finance. I understand they work hard as well.

The difference is this blog is not addressing how hard those professions work or how well they are compensated; it does address teacher compensation and work hours.

Wow. Not one but two right wingers gunning for me. Ok it's true unemployment is higher now than it was under bush, but my problem with the right is that they refuse to do anything about it. Where would the unemployment rate be if we hadn't bailed out GM and Chrysler? At least Obama is trying to do something with economic stimulus to keep the country afloat and to try to create more jobs. What are Republicans doing? they're just griping for more tax cuts. In fact, if you look at Florida and Texas, the two governors there are cutting unemployment benefits, not because they can't afford them, but because businesses are griping about having to pay too much unemployment tax. I don't see Republicans doing ANYTHING to help average Americans. And i have a question for DollarCents. If you claim Obama has failed, how much responsibility lies with Republicans for ensuring that failure. They fight and block everything he tries to do so how can you lay blame on him? It's like blaming the fireman for not saving the house when the city shuts off the fire hydrant.

...and to teachers I like to say "take a week off during your 9 month work year and spend it in, say, a corporate finance department or law department. Once there, you will find people who average 65 ton70!hours a week eachyear, every year, including vacation (thus working more than those hours to make up for the off time).

Then, and only then, come and tell me how tough your work life is.

When people complain about how much teachers make or how little they work, I say, "Please take a week vacation from your job and volunteer at my school. You will get a real look at how much work goes into teaching and I would love the assistance." Funny, no one ever takes me up on the offer.


now that summer is here maybe you could use some of your 2 1/2 months of vacation time and see how the other half live. we work from 8 to 5 and also spend countless hours after work, at home, working on e-mail and reports. Welcome to the Real World - teachers work hard no doubt, but you don't work harder or longer hours than a majority of us.

Uncomonsense- Where do you get the idea that teachers work 6 hours a day? Are you looking at time in the classroom, length of school day, or making up a number?

In the district where I work, our student school day is from 8:45- 3:40. During that school day I get 50 minutes of plan time. Do you think I'm not working during those additonal 50 minutes? How do you think papers are graded. copies are made, lesson plans are written, parent phone calls/ emails are made or responded to, grades are updated in the computer, etc.

I teach 3 different subjects and see approximately 160 kids a day. Do you realize if I only worked my required contract hours I would have less than 3 minutes per week per child to accomplish all of that? There is an additional 40 minutes before the school day starts . This is often taken up my grade level, department, faculty or parent meetings as well as morning supervision, but I included it as time alotted to get the less than 3 minutes. Without that time, I would be under 2 minutes per child per week. In addition, I often times spend my lunch hour eating lunch with students who come in because they need extra help or someone to talk to.

When people complain about how much teachers make or how little they work, I say, "Please take a week vacation from your job and volunteer at my school. You will get a real look at how much work goes into teaching and I would love the assistance." Funny, no one ever takes me up on the offer.


QUICK math test for appeal2treason":

The unemployment rate under Bush averaged around 5%.

The unemployment rate under Obama is averaging about 9.4%.

Which number is worse?

Under MY math, the Bush rate is lower.


Wah,wah, wah, wah!!!!!

appeal2treason cannot face the math (or perhaps doesn't understand it ---- so sad!) so he cries & whines and falls back on the same old, tired, Bush did it excuse.

Gosh, what a fine, mindless little progressive soldier you are! No facts, but still repeating the talking points even when they have nothing to do with the subject matter. I suppose you are buying the NBC line that Wiener's wife has responsibility for his internet actions?

Instead of obeying your masters, wy do't you do something novel and actually think and run the numbers and stay on point?

You want math. You can't handle the math. the math is that 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost under bush. the math is that billions were given away in a tax break to the rich. the math is that hundreds of billions were wasted on wars built on lies. the math is that Republicans either didn't take stimulus funds or used them for reasons other than to stimulate the economies in their own states. And on and on and on....

appeal treason,

You whine & moan and throw out labels, blame everything on the right (after all, a liberal could NEVER dothemath and figure out things are dismal, right?), but Inote with emphasis that you did NOT address the math!!!!

not quite. typical. right wing does everything it can to stop Obama, stifles hundreds of bills that would have helped the average American, then scoffs and blames him for bad jobs. Typical.

Memo to voters:

The Obama economy has failed. It does not matter if you are liberal or conservative, the math does not lie.

After both fiscal and monetary stimulus (two each to the tune of 5 trillion in add'l debt over 3 years including two stimulus programs and two QE trunches), we have a jobless rate of over 9%.

Whatever happened to the promise of an unemployment rate below 7% by 2011 if the stimulus programs were approved?

The end result is that the Keynesian policies of Obama, Reid, & Pelosi have been an epic failure. It is time to allow the adult free markets to address this failure.

We need lower debt, more jobs, and less government programs.Once spending is addressed and lowered to pre-stimulus levels, THEN we can look at the tax rates.

Trying to compare teacher salaries against just about any other profession isn't exactly easy.

Do we take teacher salaries and "average" it over a 40 hour week, 52 weeks a year as is the case being done for most salaried workers?

Or do we do an hourly wage comparison based upon actual hours worked which would be 6 hours, 5 days a week for 9 months of the year?

BLS stats are a lot of junk numbers for the most part because they do not correctly count the actual number of hours worked by the vast majority of workers, esp salaried workers which as a category has been growing by leaps and bounds. At the same time we could set our watch by the start and quitting times for government workers. When the BLS starts to use actual hours worker by all employees we will only see government worker hourly rates rise higher and higher.

Learn to read better ---- that is pretty much exactly what the survey sez!

Read deeper about the study, and you will again find that you are wrong.

Here is some more:

Interesting that you will try and use the BLS to support your ill-directed belief as you were so against the same BLS when it determined that Teachers are the highest hourly paid workforce in America. How liberally progressive you are in your selective use of data.

A P.E. teacher, music teacher and art teacher are all classroom teachers, and important to my child's education, so yes.

Required AND must have actual meanings.

I pay 100% of employee health care premium and have a 3% 401(k) contribution.

I have also said we should have local control of pension decisions and a non-defined benefit plan.

Make local bodies input some percent of payroll and have the employee get the riches when the returns exceed expectations.


A few comments:

On June 1st. Doctor 3 made this claim: ”Fed employees are paid twice what private workers are paid for the exact same job!”

Earlier today another poster linked to the USA Today article Doctor 3 was referencing. It is readily apparent that the paper was not making the claim that Fed Employees are paid twice as much for the exact same job. Interested readers should read this brief response from the Bureau of Economic Analysis that discusses the difference in the makeup between the Federal and civilian workforce, that largely leads to the disparity in the two salary amounts.

I will once again offer this link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart of mean hourly earnings for major occupational groups, broken down by private and state/local govt. workers. This does not include federal workers
On a separate topic, I’ll mention that, nationally, the median 401K employer contribution was 3% in 2009. I’ll stand by my statement that if you are working at a white collar job at a publicly held company in the Chicago area 5% is more typical.

For -1:

I sincerely wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth. In one for your posts you made the following statement: “Really? I am telling you that I do not contribute 20% of payroll to my employees' pension like the City of Naperville must do. I do not contribute 10-15% of payroll like the state must do.”

From this I felt it was safe to say you don’t contribute even 10% of payroll for you employee’s retirement (SS included). Are you going to surprise us and reveal you actually do have a 401K program for your employees and you’re matching 3% or more?

Glad you found the supporting information on the TRS return statistics I referenced.

Lastly, I’m sure no one understands your Higgins/Crotty reference. I smile whenever you bring it up. Keep trying.

Thom Higgins


See sites:



There is also a site that warns you need to look at the quality of work, the absence of ability to compare, it is apples to oranges, etc ----- of course, that site deals with comments from the head of a fed workers union!


Thom is the one who is just palin wrong!

I don't care about your little worksheet ------ go to the independent, freaking study! It is easily accessed online.

Higgins is so far off on his wacky guess at the 401k match in the Chicago area that i can only assume he is intentionally misleading us (again!).

He says a "typical white collar job 401k match" is 5%.

Gooooong! Take him off of the stage.

Now, I may be off base on this, but "typical" to me implies something along the lines of "a lot", "most", "average", etc. Given that, I would be surprised if the average even approaches 2% (yes, I have access to both the Hewitt and Half studies). The 5% is a ludicrous number thrown from the hip with intent to either enflame,mislead, or both!

Shame on you!

Does your belief include the librarian, the gym teacher, the art teacher and the music teacher and other assorted teachers or just the classroom teacher?


Not long ago Thom Higgins wrote a letter to the editor castigating D203 school board member Dave Weeks for talking too much. Utterly priceless coming from a man who has so much free time on his hands he has posted thousands of comments over the years. How many times does Higgins' name come up within these 100 posts?

"Hypocrites kick with their hind feet while licking with their tongues." - Russian proverb

i believe the elementary teacher of my children should earn an average of $81,000. I have no problem with this.

Got it...


There is another publication which mentions an 8.8% over the past 30 years.

Mr. Higgins,

1) PLEASE learn how to read.
2) Stop attributing words to me which I did not use.

Mods: Another missing post. See ya until that gets fixed.

If TRS got 9.25% over the last 28 years, then great. I have a bit of trouble believing the TRS got 3.3% over the past 10 years. If you have a link, please share.

The problem is both the shape of the raise curve and the relative average raise.

Assuming the same final salary, a salary vs time curve whereby someone gets paid a large salary early and then has minimal raises is not good for the local taxpayer(larger area under the curve), but is good for the state retirement system since more money has been sitting in there longer. A structure whereby bigger bumps occur at the end of the career cycle are slightly better locally but worse for the retirement system.

The larger the end salary from similar starting points also makes it harder for the state system to amass the needed employee contributions. In other words, if there is a constant %raise structure, the higher the average %raise, the more that needs to be put aside.

I will try to post a link to a pension calculator when this site is fixed. fwiw, the Champion/Family taxpayer network pension calculator seems to automatically pump out 30 years for pensions and shows it to you as a sum without discounting the future dollars for inflation. That is deceptive. Not as bad as the Higgins/Crotty referendum "savings" miscalculation, but it is still misinformation.


Some thoughts for tonight:

As to the TRS, they have returned 3.3% net annually, over the last 10 years, and have averaged 9.25% annually over 28 years, both through June 2010. They recovered quite nicely after the 2001 stock market dump and are, once again, recovering quite nicely from the 08/09 crash. Two crashes in 10 years is tough, as we all know.

I find the comments here regarding what is a reasonable amount for an employer to contribute for an employee’s retirement interesting. -1 says he doesn’t contribute even 10% of payroll for his employee’s retirement (SS included). Now, it’s true that many employers don’t match 401K contributions at all, but is that where we want to go as a country?

Now, I have no idea what kind of employees -1 has. That makes a huge difference. But I will say that if you are working at a white collar job at a publicly held corporation in the Chicagoland area, you are typically getting a 5% 401K match on top of your employers SS match. Let’s call it 12.5%. Heck, I know people who get that and 3% contributed to a DB pension plan. Yes, I know that’s not the norm. Even if we assume the 3% median match we are still 10.5%, so I don’t think a -1’s calculated 12% nominal contribution by the state for teachers is excessive. I’ll mention my memory is that the TRS uses a 10% to 11% percentage as the nominal contribution percentage.

Someone brought up Belgium way back as the top performing country educationally. I believe they are confusing Belgium with Finland who has top scores in the PISA test and is internationally recognized for their school system. Interestingly, both countries are heavily unionized and the Belgium teachers just went on strike a few weeks ago! Probably not what that poster wanted to hear.

Lastly, I will refer Doctor 3 to my BLS link in a previous post. The following is simply incorrect:Fed employees are paid twice what private workers are paid for the exact same job!

Thom Higgins


UncommonSense wrote:

Not a completely true or accurate statement.


I posted one this am with links to my d203 salary analysis and the suntimes teacher database.

Not sure where it is.

I do occasionally get "To many posts" when I click preview and then click submit. But I then wait a few minutes and submit again and it gives me the Thanks--waiting for approval page.

Check in the spam folder.



"Also, the system we evolved from was one where there were also only two choices: private school, or none. Most people got option 2, whether they wanted it, or not."

Not a completely true or accurate statement.

Maybe it is time to simply scrap the existing system for primary and secondary public education and let it evolve into a tuition only funded system. Let parents pay to educate their own kids out of their own pocket and not from property taxes or any other government subsidies or taxes.

After all becoming a parent brings with it lots of responsibility. Parents are responsible to provide their children with food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc. Providing for the education of your own children should be the responsibility of the parent not society. If one looks at how much parents actually spend on food, clothing, housing, day care, etc. from birth to age 18 the total far exceeds the cost of primary and secondary education so not being able to afford education really isn't a valid argument.

USA TODAY paper had a relatively simple to read & understand study last year that compared EXACT jobs in the private arena versus Fed employees.

The results?

Fed employees are paid twice what private workers are paid for the exact same job!

When benefits were added in (estimated at 4x those of the private sector), the results were astounding:

An average Fed job with benefits resulted in wealth of $123k, compared with $61k for the exact same job in the private arena!

I find the earlier data about the private sector kicking in 10-12% of salary for retirement is bogus. There are few defined benefit programs left and 401k programs are paid by the employee (with some companies occasionally matching, usually with a cap (often 2% or less). Thus, the figure used IS unreasonable.

The move to 401Ks started way before the bust ----- a defined benefit program is just not feasible given the demographics of today’s world.


it says required

Assume 6% raises for 35 years and 8.5% return of investment, 24 years of retirement receiving 75% of final pay and increasing at 3% per year . Assume 9.4% of the paycheck actually goes to pension funding.

11.8% of payroll is needed.

If you think TRS is doing a pretty goods job of recovering, what of the ten years of essentially no stock gains in a time frame where the money was assumed to have more than doubled. (power(1.085,10)= 2.26 )


Here's a PDF from the BLS regarding public vs private pay for various careers. I have a more detailed one somewhere but I can't find it.

I'll mention that if we are going to talk about public vs private retirement contributions then we have to remember that in private industry the employer is responsible for making the SS payment and typically some sort of pension or 401K match (sometimes for both). It is not unreasonable for an employer to contribute 10-12% of an employees compensation for these items.

I can't speak for Naperville's pension payments, but currently the state should be paying around 19% of a teachers salary for their pension. My understanding is that the nominal payment is something like 10%. the other 9% is primarily due to the fact that the state has historically not made the nominal payments as required. Now it owes the back payments plus interest at 9%. Part of the 9% is also due to actuarial issues and here is where the teachers need to be flexible (be willing to chip in a percent or two more, or reduce some of the kickers such as end of career or the 3% annual increases). The effects of the 2008/09 market crash have added to the problem as well I'm sure but the TRS is doing a pretty good job of recovering.

As for Naperville, I wonder if they fell into the trap many private corporations fell into during the go-go 90's. A lot of pension funds were over 100% funded so the corp's asked to halt contributions. The market crashed and presto! they were underwater big-time.The 401K concept suddenly looked awfully good if you were the corporation.

Thom Higgins


"I have not been that involved in this post. But the fundamental problem with US public education INCLUDING NAPERVILLE is that it has evolved into a socialistic system. People only have two choices, private education or move."

If, by "socialistic", you mean public, I'm pretty sure most of the countries whose kids outperform ours also rely primarily on public schools (Belgium notwithstanding). Also, the system we evolved from was one where there were also only two choices: private school, or none. Most people got option 2, whether they wanted it, or not.

Statewide, the average elementary teacher made $61,140 — including all benefits, summer school pay, after-school stipends and retirement payouts. The average high school teacher took home $69,366.

Same data-set:

NCUSD203 Elementary Teacher Average salary: $81,908.98 #4 in the state.

NCUSD203 High School Teacher Average Salary: $79,067.54 #37 in the state.

By the way "all benefits" likely does not include the state portion of the pension match and health care. I am fairly certain it includes all creditable earnings. (mods can you check)


Sun Times Media story:

Statewide, the average elementary teacher made $61,140 — including all benefits, summer school pay, after-school stipends and retirement payouts. The average high school teacher took home $69,366.

Please reread what I have said about this. I do not think I think what you think I think or what I supposedly cannot handle. I can handle the fact that directly comparing overall average pay in public and private sectors is flawed in that they have very different workers.

But the truth is not within these articles as there are severe methodological flaws which they admit. One of them even starts to go to an edge and pulls itself back.

"Adjusting for detailed measures of ability (e.g. intelligence tests ) causes these (pay gaps) to generally move to zero."

..and then that analysis disappears.

They do NOT account for the tax consequences of required pension/SS payroll deductions.

These reports do NOT have a job-to-job comparison nor do they look at the quality of the candidates in the direct job-to-job comparison they mention. The use advanced degree as a marker. It turns out that many private jobs require a master's or better as part of the job requirement. Not so for teachers (except maybe at IMSA in the subject material, not education).

Now in the section on benefits it says

The required contributions of state and local employers are modestly lower than that of private employers.."

Really? I am telling you that I do not contribute 20% of payroll to my employees' pension like the City of Naperville must do. I do not contribute 10-15% of payroll like the state must do.


Well Jack Nicholson would say something like I want the truth . . . .

The latter would be appropriate under the circumstances; don't you agree?

I have not been that involved in this post. But the fundamental problem with US public education INCLUDING NAPERVILLE is that it has evolved into a socialistic system. People only have two choices, private education or move.

I will qualify my comments in that I have not totally researched other methods. But in a distirct with 15 elementary schools, five junior high schools and two high schools, why is there only one type of education? Why not allow the private sector take over each school and let them compete for students with unique programs? Those that succeed stay in business. Those that fail get rebid to another group.

Each competing school can figure out how to configure and compensate their staffs without the UAW setting prices and ridiculous work rules (such as 50 "professionals" for 20 class rooms). If the teachers do not like a particular arrangement, they can like the rest of us get a job somewhere else.

The teachers at the successful schools will be paid more. In fact, they will be in high demand from other schools just like star baseball players go to the highest bidder. They will be part of the team.

Two final points. First, I briefly discussed this concept with Superintendent Mitrovich. He would like to implement such a program. The impediment? THE BUS SYSTEM!!!!! Same excuse for the shortest elementary school day in the County. (As a parent, I did not let the bus system determine what kind of education my child received!!!!!).

Second, it is my understanding (again subject to my qualfication above) that this is how Belgium (the country with the highest test scores) operates from an ABC news program several years ago. But again, the PROFESSIONALS running the school district should check this out.

Imagine a system where teachers would need to perform to retain their jobs and obtain salary increases rather then go on strike!!!!! Performance determines pay and you could not rest on your laurels!!

Until then, if you want a good education, do what most people in Naperville do. Opt for private education. Or move. That is why there are over 2,000 empty homes in the town.

I did read the STUDIES and skimmed the articles.

Are you asking a personal opinion or a data driven opinion of advanced degrees and teachers?


RE: -1 replied to comment from Experienced | May 25, 2011 9:49 PM

Why didn't you read the study itself instead of just the article? Then you wouldn't have to guess at what the basis of the study was.

Why do you believe Master's degrees do not make a teacher better?

Why don't you read the study and then we'll discuss it.

The major disconnect is between unions and reality whereby everyone gets paid the same based on years of service and "education".

The fact is that the brightest of the people with science and maths abilities have something else to do which does pay more (or so they thought...), so that those who might also have the skills and temperament to be great teachers do not consider education.

That is not the case in most other disciplines.

Regarding merit pay and teacher evaluations and value-added modeling, there is a good reason why so many AMPE teachers reportedly showed up at the school board meeting when the tenure legislation was presented....(which is the theme of this topic, eh)


A few thoughts, although I’ll state upfront that I’m not going to spend the rest of my life arguing about it.

There are quite a few studies that talk about the lack of correlation between advanced degrees of teachers and test scores, leading some to question the utility of advanced degrees. Bill Gates is another person very much in this camp. However, it must be noted that this does not mean they are advocating dumping paying teachers for continuing education, thereby reducing teacher’s salaries. Instead, they are advocating transferring these sums into a merit pay program, with the belief that such a program will encourage great teachers to stay in teaching and encourage them to find “what works”. Absent attending grad school I’m wondering just where these potential super teachers are supposed to learn their advanced skills.

Gates takes the concept even further; talking also about increasing class sizes so we can pay teachers more (really dumb idea IMHO). I don’t know of any credible education reform group that is talking about paying teachers less. Indeed, the mantra is to increase the quality of the teaching community. You don’t do that by reducing salaries. Of course, the huge funding cuts some districts are experiencing nationally, means that salaries and school budgets are decreasing. Will that help attract and retain high quality educators? No, and that is just one of the many disconnects between reform groups and the fiscal environment many districts are facing.

It is apparent the concept of scraping pay for advanced degrees looks good on paper to many, but color me doubtful. Now, if you want to take tenure payments “steps” and use those funds for a merit pay system, I’m on board although there are pitfalls with merit pay systems. If you incentivize teachers to simply produce better test scores, then that may be what you get, to the detriment of actually educating the child.

Now to the subject itself: Does it logically follow that because advanced degrees doesn’t correlate with higher test scores then, by definition, they are irrelevant. I say no.

A quality education isn’t simply high test scores, as China has discovered to its dismay. They are important certainly, but there needs to be a balance between having students demonstrate mastery of their subjects in a test environment but also displaying critical thinking skills and hopefully an ability to apply what they learn to their lives. If you look at D203’s mission statement, there is no mention of high test scores in it. High performing countries such as Finland do not “test their kids to death”, and yet they are considered one of the top performing ed systems in the world, (although a 2% poverty rate doesn’t hurt).

So, yeah, I say keep paying teachers for advanced degrees. -1 may have a problem with a music, or art, or PE teacher getting a Masters, but I certainly can see in all three cases vast amounts of information they could learn that would make them better teachers. That said, if we are going to have a revolution in education (and we truly are in the beginning stages of one), then let’s makes sure the grad schools up their game as well.

Thom Higgins


-1 wrote, "If you can read this thank your teacher" (barf!)


I'm with you -1. If this is true isn't the reverse true as well? How would a teacher react to a bumper sticker that read, "If you can't read this BLAME a Teacher"...

I know, if they can't read to start it wouldn't make much sense, but I like the irony.

Teachers seem to take credit for students who excel - The valedictorian of a class Always has to thank their teachers. It seems, however, that when discussing underperforming students, or students who can't read, the teachers are quick to blame the parents. Pretty big generalization I know, but a majority of a students success or failure in school is (IMO) due to parental involvement.

I am a little unclear on what you are claiming I do or do not want to hear.

I am assuming you read the entire report on which that snippet of a story was written.

If not here it is.

It has the same exact methodological flaws of having non-comparable jobs in the analysis so they use educational attainment as a marker.

fwiw, I have no doubt that interpreting the BLS data without doing an "apples-to-apples" comparison is wrong, it is just that the two reports which claim to do so do not do so.


The studies cited in the link I gave below mention that Master's degrees in Science and Maths SUBJECT material helps marginally but general education master's degrees do not. Don't get me started on paying more for a PE teacher, a music teacher, or an art teacher getting a master's in anything.

Teachers pound their chests and say two things "What do you think someone with a master's degree is worth!" (well, it depends...) and "If you can read this thank your teacher" (barf!)

Experienced, I am still not sure I'd cite the "statistical study" linked below on either side of this discussion.



I cannot believe that a study with that many people in a large number of positions could control for so many variables. I don't think any of the studies, wether they point to the public or private sector are valid.

Your comment is interesting and I would say, in my opinion, teachers with Masters degrees make more than other public sector employees with Masters degrees. Obviously, that is due to way that the teacher's pay scale is designed. They value education and pay for it. I really don't have a problem with that. I couldn't say wether, or not teachers with Masters degrees are better than those without, but I like them continuing with their education which, I would hope, leads to teachers with more current learning that in turn can help educated their pupils.

That's one piece of the puzzle - try checking out what ABC News reported as well. Both stories are there, and together they tell you what you don't seem to want to hear.

Research Associate Andrew Cannon, who authored the report, said almost one-third of the public sector employees are teachers, who have high educational requirements. He said two-thirds of state government workers could be classified as administrative and professional, versus about one-half of private sector employees.

from this article which discuses the "statistical study"

So the study is a report generated by some group using data which may or may not apply to the Illinois situation. The author of the report goes to use the same implications that a Master's degree in Education is somehow equivalent to a master's degree in a technical field. Furthermore, there is no private comparison to a group which makes up 1/3 of the total public employee group.

Does this report which cites multiple studies evaluating the worth of a Masters in education have no validity?

So...teachers make up 1/3 of the public employees. Master's degrees do not make a teacher better. They have no private comparison.

So public employees with "similar" education make less is the conclusion?


Here's my stance.

Looking at the universe of all public sector salaries versus all private sector salaries, I cannot see how anyone can say this group gets more than that group. It is impossible. There are a large number of positions that exist only in one sector or another. Using an average for that is not statiscally relevant.

When one compares like positions, as in they each have those kinds of positions, there is no way you can tell me that the private sector makes less. We're talking about CEOs vs. City Manager types, attornies, HR people, IT people, accountants, etc.

Your stance on pensions is based on feelings, not data.

Also, you talk like I know who you are and what data you provided. Get a handle.

One more thing, I like the fact that you sling mud all over the place, "duh," "get it yet," etc. and accuse me of attacking you. Notice that there is nothing condecending from me here. I'm challenging your opiions that you state like facts.

YOU clearly don't get it. Take a look at the ACTUAL data that compares Public Sector to Private sector, education level to education level. The Public sector is paid SIGNIFICANTLY less than the private. It's a fact - and you can shout all you want that it isn't, but that doesn't make you right. I've already posted two sites that prove exactly what I am saying is true. Look it up if you don't believe it - but stop playing the bully with bad information, it's a waste of time.

La kook,

Uh, I think I said "I'll say it -$75 k is too high", thus it is MY stance. not really very confusing assuming you are reading without a pre-notion of attacking.

The data? Who did your heavy work last week? "cause I'm noit doing it for you this week! the data is out there, it is with the dept of labor, AND it was all over the news (yes, CBS and NBC) a few months back ----- The public sector is paid more than the private sector!

THAT is why all the spin started with schooling levels, etc. Duh! We, the taxpayers, give teachers automatic raises for more schooling, so they spend 20 years getting more and more classes and degrees, so of course there is a potential for skewing on the schooling issue. That, however, is all spin on the simple, and proven, statement that THE PUBLIC SECTOR HAS, ON AVERAGE,HIGHER PAY THAN THE PRIVATE SECTOR and, even more unbelievable, they have pensions and post-retirement benefits that are off the hook!

Now, let's be clear and avoid any further fear mongering by you: No one, not me, not others on this blog, not a single politician I have heard speak, has asked to take away pensions from anyone now receiving one.

However, most of us understand that the economic imbalance that currently exists is a form of bankruptcy (hey, when you are trillions in unfunded iabilities, it IS bankruptcy!) and we need to do something NOW before ALL of those now receiving, and receiving these rich pensions in the future, have nothing!!

Get it yet?

-1 replied to comment from Experienced | May 21, 2011 4:36 AM | Reply

uh...where is the statistical study?

On the website cited by anon on 5/19. Just checked. It's still there.

Reply to what data? What am I making up? Your arguments don't make sense. I haven't seen any data from you, whoever you are. I have seen data from Higgins and -1.

Here's the funny thing. You talk about data then say $75k is too high for a defined benefit pension for a public employee. Why is it too high? Based on what? Your feelings or some data? Or, dare I say it, because you aren't getting it? It is what it is. These people earn earned it. It was a simple offer and an acceptance. You work for me, you put this much money in this plan, I'll gave you this pension. It's already changed going forward so we're done. Or are we going to cut current employee's and retirees pension's?

I agree with you on the incease, that makes no sense.

Is that clear enough for you? And honestly, I don't care about your typing skills. You're acting like a winey little baby.

Funny you should ask.

You may want to research the Naperville median family income over the last ten years.


uh...where is the statistical study?

Can we then conclude that private teachers make more than public teachers?


For Anon and Anonymous who are discussing private vs. public salaries:

It is true that if you take all government workers salaries and arrive at an average wage it is higher than the comparable average for all workers in the private sector. However, that does not mean that govt. workers are paid more than their private sector counterparts. The reason for this is the “mix” of govt. employees occupations skews higher than the private sector. Meaning, they have a greater proportion of scientists than sectaries (secretary, talk about a dead word), as compared to the private sector. I’d have to go search for the information on the BLS website but my memory is, additionally, higher paying occupations are paid more in the private sector. But conversely, the lowest wage occupations pay better in the Govt.

It’s unfortunate that the media likes to highlight the higher average govt. salary but doesn’t tell the whole story.

Thom Higgins



What might the increase in average wage for D203 taxpayers themselves be for the same time frame,2.4% 3.0? 3.5%? Even more perhaps?

Thom Higgins


OK discussion is over. anon at May 19, 2011 4:03 PM has supplied a statistical study indicating that public emploees are paid less. Unless someone has another professional study indicating otherwise, the issue is forever resolved.

Wage growth nationally has historically been greater than inflation. Looking at the CPI and ECI from 1996 through 2010, inflation averaged 2.41% annually while national wage growth averaged 3.0%. D203 certified staff did a bit better than the national average, averaging around, say, 3.5%

So...if I may. Using the ECI logic. (again, not validating the concept, but using the logic involved.)

power(1.035/1.03,14)=1.07 so D203 wages are 7% higher this year than what ECI would predict. 7% of 100,000,000 = 7M This year alone.

Ignoring ECI, we get Power(1.035/1.0241,14)=1.159 so D203 salary costs are 16% higher than CPI would predict. $16M this year alone.

Both of these are despite a loss of 2- years of experience per teacher.

What about this might annoy the taxpayers in D203? I wonder?


I guess if you have the exact same number of teachers at each level each year and the schedule only changes by CPI and all of the over-steppers get CPI, then salary costs would increase exactly by CPI with BASE = CPI. YES!

That would also keep the average experience the same.

Some of the gripe on D203 salary escalation in the 2000s is seen exactly in that point. Increase in Average Salary (not average raise) of say 3.6%. CPI has been say 2.9% but we lost 2.8 years of experience from 1999 to 2008 (when the data for this was being addressed by other parties) More relative money going to even less experienced teachers. The last 2 years we have bounced back with an increase of .8 years of experience. Not sure what 2009-2010 to 2010-2011 will show.

Since there are other benefits associated with employees such as health care, this becomes unsustainable without extra money sources. Extra money sources not creating more costs (read: students) should not be funneled into existing labor. The money should be used for either more services or taxpayer relief. Extra money sources also help offset the slight decrease in state funding.


A few thoughts for JQP and his salary/cpi question.

Wage growth nationally has historically been greater than inflation. Looking at the CPI and ECI from 1996 through 2010, inflation averaged 2.41% annually while national wage growth averaged 3.0%. D203 certified staff did a bit better than the national average, averaging around, say, 3.5%

Looking at just a few years of statistics is a bit dangerous as well. I will mention D203’s average salary will certainly decline for this year due to the salary freeze. Dave Zager has estimated it will decline just about 2% (there’s a larger than average number of retirements this year). Looking at all three years of the contract Dave is estimating that over the three years average salary will grow .5% annually, certainly under CPI and I suspect it will be under ECI as well. Average salary, being less than average raise (2.8% for the three years) due to turnover.

The wage freeze for the 107 teachers who reached 23 years service by the 2009-2010 school year has a slight downward effect on Dave’s estimates but the dollars are so small it’s more “noise” than anything. Slowing down the lane movement (educational attainment) and removing some steps means more in dollars than the wage freeze for the 107.

Lastly, I’m unsure the reason for your question. Having wages increase higher than CPI is a real problem when your revenue increases are tied to CPI as is the case for school districts. However, District’s also get additional tax revenue from new construction, so that helps. If the reason for your question is more tied to looking at CPI as being the appropriate basis for a raise, remember if all you ever get is a CPI wage you are forever stuck at your starting wage.

Bottom line? Some see the previous raises as excessive based on the percentage increase. If that’s the problem I can fix it really easy, simply narrow the range between the starting and top salaries. You can easily create a pay schedule with a higher start, lower top, and spend just as much (or more) as we currently are spending. Presto! We now go from say 6% average raises to 4%. Heck, you can lower top salaries and push those dollars down into the earlier years (not a bad idea actually) and still spend the same total dollars, but same result, lower raises.

Thom Higgins


It's been shown time and time again - the public sector makes LESS when you compare apples to apples, ie - $ for $ on EDUCATION LEVELS. Believe it or don't - your choice, it's just a flat out fact.

From: The Iowa Policy Project
20 E. Market St. • Iowa City, Iowa 52245 • (319) 338-0773

February 2011
Executive Summary
Apples to Apples: Private-Sector and Public-Sector
Compensation in Iowa
By Andrew Cannon, Research Associate

When education, work experience, annual hours worked, race, sex, disability status, and firm size are
accounted for, male public-sector workers earn nearly 12 percent less and female public-sector workers
earn over 16 percent less than private-sector workers. Male state government workers earn 9 percent less
than comparable workers in private industry, while for local government the public-sector wage penalty
was 14 percent. Among women, the earnings penalty was over 13 percent for state workers and 19
percent for local government workers.

More? Sure.
He and professor John Heywood found that wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than for private sector workers of equal education, and further, that for the past 20 years those earnings have been in relative decline. Factoring in benefits including pensions, which in the public sector comprise a greater share of compensation, doesn't change that picture: state and local workers still have lower total compensation. Compensation for state employees, the report finds, is on average 6.8 percent lower than that earned by comparable private sector employees.


So, why has the idea gained currency that public workers are overpaid?

It's because, says Bender, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows public sector workers making more. The problem there, he says, is that the BLS isn't comparing apples and apples—it doesn't take into account workers' level of education, which tends to be higher in the public sector. Adjust for education level, says Bender, and you find public workers underpaid.

Now, before you go off the deep end or your head explodes from these actual facts that prove your argument silly - I KNOW you can find plenty of Conservative pieces that will run around and hit the same facts from their own perspective.

Here's the thing though - I know enough public employees due to my former employment in a related organization to tell you, flat out, that in hour local government, the public sector makes MUCH LESS than the vast majority of the Private Sector in the same area. LOOK at the salaries of local public workers and tell me there is a private sector corporation where the opportunity to earn more than $150,000 a year with an advanced degree simply doesn't exist. You might find the random lower level position that pays more in the public sector, but you won't find Engineers with 20 years of experience making less than 100,000 a year very any places.

I know I'm making you mad - sorry about that, but the truth is the truth, and no matter how Limbaugh or Fox News choose to spin it (from their multi million dollar seats dare I add) - if one of your neighbors has a degree as an Electrical Engineer and works for local government, and the other one has the same degree, the same years of experience, and is exactly equally qualified but works for a private corporation (lets say Comm Ed for example) the Private sector employee is going to make a very significant amount more money than your public sector neighbor can even dream of.

-1 wrote:

By my calculations, the increase in average salary (which accounts for turnover) went up about 3.5% in each of the two years of the prior contract (column M). Base was 2% each of those years. CPI was 2.5% and 4.1%. Average raise was around 5.5%.

Okay, but that would be because turnover was low those two years, correct? In years of higher than normal turnover, a base equal to CPI would lower overall salary costs. Over time, if head count stays relatively constant (K know this is a big "if"), this should average out.



Not necessarily. It depends how far below CPI the BASE is.

By my calculations, the increase in average salary (which accounts for turnover) went up about 3.5% in each of the two years of the prior contract (column M). Base was 2% each of those years. CPI was 2.5% and 4.1%. Average raise was around 5.5%.

The concern about BASE less than CPI for NUEA is that if it is applied to the over-steppers then they start making less money compared to inflation. That's likely why the NUEA negotiated a CPI raise for the over-steppers in the last contract.

Dave Zagar has used BASE+STEP as an estimate for the increase in NUEA labor costs since retirement tends to cancel LANE. In most years Zager's thumbnail number overestimates the increase in costs.

So with a CPI of 1.5% and a base of 1.4% for 2012-2013, we will again be paying more than CPI for the teachers salary costs. For 2011-2012 there is a BASE of 1.35% plus an estimated STEP of 1.8% = 3.15% and a CPI of 2.7%. However, if those 107 in question do not get raises, then the calculation certainly changes.

None of this factors in the 8% increase in medical costs projected for next year. I may have seen an estimated 2% increase in salary costs for next year (not 3.15%), but I am unsure if that includes the 107 or not (quick guess -- the 107 would increase costs by .15%). There may be a larger number of retirees which make the estimates goofy.

-1 (not edited and wondering where two posts from yesterday went)

-1 wrote:

We just need BASE less than CPI or we get back into excess raises as is seen in my 1999-2010 D203 Salary Analysis

If base is less than CPI over time, then the amount the district spends on teachers' salaries adjusted for inflation theoretically decreases, does it not?

la kook,

Yet you still do not reply to the actual data! You make up stuff on pensions, then when called on it yu get sullen.

I will say it: In this day and age, a $75,000.00/year defined benefit pension for a public employee it too high, period!

The fact that it is allowed to increase at a rate that is 1.5x the average inflation of the past 15 years is just salt in the wound (3% increase vs a 15 yr inflation of about 2.1%)

Is that clear enough for you?

By the way, can you explain the "no sense" comment? Using data,I mean. If you refer to my typing, I can only do so much on this tiny 4 inch screen. However, said typing does not diminish the argument that the pensions are too high for a public pension and that the pubic sector now makes more than the private one.


The is La Kook, reporting back, over.

I totally agree with you that the contributiuons are inconsistent. Here's my argument. They've been inconsistent for years. So has the action, or lack thereof, of employers, legislators, and the public. My point continues that I find it very interesting that nobody cared about public pensions until the economic floor fell out and now were supposed to knee jerk react and cut everyone's pension to balance the State's budget. A budget, I suggest, that has not been cut at all. Get all of the political crap out of there, get some efficiencies and see where we're at. I told you all, I'm a longer term public sector person, so you know where I'm at. I'm not looking to bankrupt the State, or anyone else, but all I see are people talking about the problem. What are the solutions?

BTW minus, apprecitate the passion and the toughts you put in to the blog.

I almost didn't reply, but I thought I should at least tell you that I read your response and that you make no sense whatsoever.

Seriouly ----- seriusly?

You try to use an example of a CEO making $1/year as acomp to a teacher as an example of how to manioulate data? Really?

Your example was nothingmore than an asinine attempt by the unmoraled to mislead the uninformed.

The public sector on average does makes more, do your own research, and intellectual discourse is certainly not viable when one intentionally lies ike yourself.

Believe it or not, that is somewhat rational.

I'd love to see that line of reasoning in contract language --HA! I'd like to see the contracts prior to 2008 where the language implied everyone got the base raise.

Anyway...the base was 2% for those two years if I remember correctly.

CPI was, I think 2.5% and 4.1%, allowing the over-steppers to pace themselves away from the pack.

1.025*1.041*1.00*1.00*1.00= 1.067
1.02*1.02*1.00*1.0135*1.014 = 1.069

However, in the past BASE was close to, if not more than, CPI preventing any over-steppers from getting a paycut relative to inflation. I have said before, I have no problem allowing the over-steppers to get a CPI raise. We just need BASE less than CPI or we get back into excess raises as is seen in my 1999-2010 D203 Salary Analysis

La Cuc...please report back later this week. I have given as favorable as possible conditions (10% of salary, 8.5% ROI).


I was contacted today by a D203 teacher and was told the 107 teachers in question were off schedule during the time the previous contract was in force, namely the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 fiscal years. These teachers received a different deal in these two years, in that they got CPI increases, vs earlier years when those who were off schedule received base increases. Getting the CPI increase was a better deal than getting the base increase for these two years. Remember this.

Fast forward to next year: 2011-2012 (there’s a pay freeze this year for everyone). The Districts position is that those reaching 23 years in either this year or 2011-2012 will get the base raise, and will get another one in the 2012-2013 year. Anyone reaching 23 years in 2012-2013 will get a base raise that year. However, those who reached 23 years in 2009-2010 and previous years, will not get raise for either 2011-2012 or 2012-2013 (or at least not until their pay equals the 22 year step - this is not clear). The rationale being that the District is interested in getting these teachers, the 107, into parity going forward, meaning that they want these 107 to have a pay freeze until the salaries of those just reaching 23 years now equals where the 107 already are.

Confused yet?

Thom Higgins


Sorry my response comment was to anonymous, not anon.

Also, seeing his/her response to La Cucaracha it seems name calling and insults are the only arguments and an intellectual discourse is not possible.

Anon- My comparison of a teacher to a CEO who makes $1 a year was made specifically to show how easily you can manipulate data, therefore be careful what you believe. It refutes your point that the public sector makes more.
You reference department of labor website; can you post a link to the exact comparison study? Looking at the footnotes on many of the comparisons, the data is skewed based on jobs available or areas compared and makes note of those facts. If you have a study that compares like positions with equal education and experience levels, in the same area, I'd love to see it.
As far as the name calling, please refrain from doing so, it makes your arguments much less credible and leaves them intellictually empty.

Suggestion for the NUEA unfair labor claim.

NUEA: Come in and say you'll take 1.125% base for 2012-2013 instead of 1.4% since the CPI was much lower than expected.

D203 Board: Allow all 22+ year certified staff to get the base increase in each of the next two years.

Agree to it now. Everyone saves legal fees. Everyone saves time. Everyone looks good. Move on. As usual, I'll charge nothing for my advice.

Mr. Higgins, since you had access to Dave Zager and have posted his estimates for increased labor costs for the newest contract, maybe you can tell us if he was using a ZERO raise for the NUEA over-steppers in the numbers you posted here?


La Cuc,

I ask you to do some calculations.

Assume someone ends their career being paid 100000. Do not worry if you think that number is too high or too low. It can be erased later.

Assume 5% per year raises over their career. Assume they worked 35 years. so when they started they made 100,000/power(1.05,34).Assume each year 10% of their paycheck was taken out for retirement. (This can be adjusted easily too.) Assume that money was immediately placed into an account whereby they earned an 8.5% return per year.

How much money is in "their account" when they retire?

Next: Assume they retire at age 60 and will live 24 years, get 3% per year increase in their 75% pension (75K). Investments will get an 8.5% rate of return. How much money do they need in their account to make that work?

Now do the same calculation for people getting 4% and 6% raises.

Report back.

You will see that a much larger contribution is needed for the people getting 6% raises compared to those getting 4% raises to get to the amount needed at retirement for the annuity payment as listed. ( It was worse when spiking was being done with 20%x1 or 20%x2 or even 20%x3 at the end of a career. Most of that has stopped, but those retirees are getting that inflated pension now on the taxpayers dime.)

So it ends up that those employees who have a lower percent raise, in addition to earning less money, will need a smaller contribution as a percentage of their income to make the pension system work.

-1 (not edited. may contain small errors)

la kook,

Get some data and drop the emotion. You're embarrassing yourself. Just because you don' tlike the truth is not a valid reason to just spout off inaccuracies and lies on the subject matter (unless, of course, you are simply an unthinking automotron repeating the talking points of your leftist union masters?)


Not sure what you're sorry about, but I accept your apology.

Ok, you are being specific to Naperville and that is the crux of the article. I would say that your comments about inconsistency are interesting.

As I've said and heard from others before, nobody, maybe a few, thought that the contributions and pension amounts for public pensions were "inconsistent" until the economy tanked. If the private sector folks 401s were still riding high you'd all be saying that public sector folk's pensions aren't that great.

You want it both ways. For the average worker, it's a tortise and hare thing with public sector pensions. You don't make a lot of money, you don't get paid more when public organizations are doing well, you may get nothing when they are not, although I agree that's not the case with Union folks.

The 800 pound gorilla is that private sector orgs change the rules mid stream and public folks may, or may not, be protected from mid stream changes by Union contracts or the Constitution. I assume that the private folks knew the risk going in and the public sector folks typically don't have that risk.

The pension rules were changed for new folks which I agree with. So, why all the banter about teachers, what they make and their pensions? You all knew this was the deal. That pension calculation has not changed. What do you want? To cut their pensions and... get a $25 check from the State? Or just be happy that they would get screwed and be in the same boat as others?

Regardless, whatever the problem is here, it is in everyone's interest; the community, students, teachers and administration, that this dispute is settled quickly, fairly, and amicably.


If you have a copy of the prior contract and language I'd love to see it posted so us lay people can compare.

By giving base increases to everyone, you keep the over 22 year staff at the 22 year wage + the current increase. This has the effect of having everyone greater than 22 years piling onto this “step”. Perhaps a clearer explanation is to say there is an “additional step” (not on the schedule) for 23 year and greater teachers that is always the 22 year salary plus the base increase.

Not so sure this should be true. You'd be giving the person going from 22 to 23 the base twice. They should be piling up at 22.


A few thoughts on how the NUEA teachers raises function:

Historically, all teachers (really Certified Staff) receive the same base raise, irrespective of whether or not you are "on the schedule". Structurally, there is good reason for this. If you froze a teacher’s salary at 22 years but allow salary growth for those under 22 years, as time goes by, the salary schedule would continue to increase past the frozen salaries of the over 22 year teachers. By giving base increases to everyone, you keep the over 22 year staff at the 22 year wage + the current increase. This has the effect of having everyone greater than 22 years piling onto this “step”. Perhaps a clearer explanation is to say there is an “additional step” (not on the schedule) for 23 year and greater teachers that is always the 22 year salary plus the base increase. This keeps them at the top of the schedule. I’ll also mention for completeness sake there are 8 different lanes (3 being phased out before 22 years) that have 22 year steps, meaning that you can have teachers at 8 different salaries (continuing education credits being the difference) but still topping out of the schedule.

There was a deviation in this practice in the last contract (2008-2009 and 2009-2010 years) where the off-schedule teachers (those with greater than 22 year’s service) received base increases equal to the CPI increase. Because there was a different pay agreement for this cohort, this contract had specific language outlining this difference. This is the only reason for the specific language. I believe the over 22 yrs. did better under the 08-09 through 09-10 arrangement than had they received just the base increase.

With the latest contract (2010-2011 through 2011-2013) there is no specific language for off-schedule teachers. The union contends that all this means is they are back to the typical arrangement of all teachers receiving the same base increase. The language that outlines the base increases for this current contract is essentially identical to the contract language in contracts prior to the 9-10/10-11 contract. I believe this is the reason that the union is not asking for a change in language or additional language. However, laymen reading the contract (either the current one or the 5-6 through 7-8 and earlier) would be hard put to understand the implications of the language.

There are additional documents such as the Tentative Agreement that outline key agreements such as salary increases as well.

D203 currently is working with the teachers to fashion a comprehensive professional development agreement. One of my hopes is they discard the entire steps and lanes construct and opt for a more contemporary wage structure.

For those looking to understand the various dynamics of teacher’s salaries I refer you to Overview of Teachers Salary Increases For Fiscal Years 2007-2010

Regardless, whatever the problem is here, it is in everyone's interest; the community, students, teachers and administration, that this dispute is settled quickly, fairly, and amicably.

Thom Higgins


Sorry la Cuc.

This seems to be a blog about the D203 and D204 teachers going to Springfield.

Since D203 has given out raises which make the pension calculation inconsistent with what has been taken out of their paychecks and inconsistent with what the residents of the state of Illinois should be expected to pay, it is not unreasonable to discuss them in particular.

For districts which have 3-4% raises across the career, then maybe, I repeat maybe, the pension calculations are not whacked out with a reasonable state contribution. All pension calculations are based on an 8.5% per year return on investment, which has not been so reliable over the past ten years.

Take a look at your very own City salaries - you will find every single thing I've told you is true. Now grow up and stop throwing out your little tantrums everytime someone else knows something you don't.

As usual, anon makes stuff up and just throws out crap about FOX news,etc. because he really has no data on his side.

In a debate involving data and thinking ability, an inis unarmed!

Talk about stupid comparisons ---- now you want to compare a CEO with a teacher?

Forget FOX --- you need to leave your commie talking points which make no sense out of this debate. You are just wrong on the facts re: public v. private pay. Go the the website for dept of labor and actually get educated instead of falling in line with your liberal masters.

The fact remains that property taxes in Naperville have risen approximately 100% in the past 11 years and that the school districts account for most of the increase.

There has been no corresponding increase in National scores, so the price is twice as much for the same thing.

Most private sector employees have Social Security as their only pension, and whatever that saved in their 401K and IRA accounts which are being decimated by the collapse of the dollar and the substantial increase in commodities, while the value of the primary asset their house continues to collapse.

The value of real estate is what you can sell it for; or what you can rent it for. Rents can not be increased to cover the 100% increase in property taxes, effectively making Naperville real estate overpriced and uncompetitive.

With the real unemployment rate hovering around 19%, wage increases can not cover the increased cost of the Public Sector Unions or all of the vote buying programs.

The jobs will either move to more competitive States, or leave the US all together so that the employers can remain profitable. With the Democrats likely to lose the Senate, the push to turn the US into New York State, with the New York cost structure has failed.

The Federal money printing operation has just about run its course, so its time to pay the piper.

Simple distortion. TRS is a State pension system, is it not? Then let's talk about the State average, not 203s. It's a pension system issue, not just a 203 or 204 issue.

You'd only use the 203 numbers if you were trying to make the story worse that it is.

If the librarians are doing their jobs correctly, they are teaching on a regular basis. They should be working with ALL the teachers so that the librarians can teach research and information literacy skills to the students. They may not have one group of kids assigned to them every day, but they should be teaching ALL of the students in the building.

That being said, maybe some aren't doing that.

NUEA did not read the contract! No raises for those with more than 22 years of experience. Sun Story

In March 2010, I raised the issue of "salary inversion" whereby a 23 year teacher makes less than a 22-year teacher.

I did not explain it well then so I'll try again. Numbers approximate.

Teacher A 21 years and MA+12 -- 88K
Teacher B 22 years and MA+12 -- 92K

In the next year, the entire salary schedule is increased 1.35%

So MA+12 and 22 years = 92k*1.0135 = 93.24K. This is what Teacher A would make. Base plus step.

What does Teacher B make now? In the prior contracts they increased the pay of someone who was off the scale by CPI or some factor. OOPS! That proviso is not in the new contract (Section A.1). No raise!

Teacher A 22 years MA+12 -- 93.24K
Teacher B 23 years MA+12 == 92K

This will happen whenever the raise for those beyond the steps is smaller than the increase in base pay. In the case, base = 1.35% and the super-stepper raise = 0%

I did have a brief conversation with Dave Zager about this and he seemed to imply everyone just piled up on the last step anyway. That's my recollection, although that makes absolutely no sense when you look at the contracts.

So what is my analysis? The union or union lawyer screwed up. Not sure what labor law says on this. Fairness says give the teachers at the top end a base increase (or maybe a CPI). This should ONLY go to those at the 22+ section, not less experienced dead-enders in BA and MA lanes.

Interestingly salary inversion was probably happening in the old contracts when the base was greater than CPI, and the end of steppers got CPI raises. If the base is less than CPI then the value of a new teacher drops compared to inflation. If the base is anywhere close to CPI then we have problems with labor costs accelerating faster than income.


If you are somehow implying I ever watch Fox News for anything other than its unintentional comedic value...you are sadly mistaken. That station rarely makes it on in my household and when the remote accidentally stops there I tend to get a chuckle at the "analysis". People who don't watch Fox can look at the financials for the pensions and say "Holy @!%$!!!"

Again, the problem is promised benefits based on wrong assumptions. I'd love for teachers and firefighters and police to get a great pension based on reality. I'll try to find the links to the state information that I posted for La Cuc. It is brutal.


Nothing new in the distortion - in an effort to get their followers to go after teachers and cops and firemen etc...., the Faux news and it's flock have been beating up on teachers and anyone else they can find to point a finger at except themselves (you know, the ones who are actually responsible for the problem). Facts mean nothing, people mean nothing - so long as the fanatics win and the big shots get to keep their fortunes, they will distort anything and everything.

Will say it again - WHEN THEY REFORM from the top down - that is worth supporting, but until those who are the CAUSE of the problem - the politicians and the executive staff (including superintendents in the case of schools) it is absolute insanity to go after the teacher or the cop or the clerk who are looking at losing the $19,000 (approx) they have saved 20 plus years years to receive.

La Cuc,

Simple. Most retiring D203 teachers are making over 100K. 100K*.75 = 75K

Yes, the STATE average is much lower, but the NEW retirees will be getting close to 75K per year. Do you doubt that? I am fairly sure Mr. Higgins does not object to these numbers.

Please review the spreadsheet I posted. You can see the salaries in D203.

Whomever wrote about the poor kindergarten teacher. In D203 and D204 the teachers are paid the same regardless of what level they teach (or don't teach in the case of librarians).

Maximum SS benefit is $2366 per month = 28.4K per year for a retiree at 66 in 2011 who put in the maximum amount throughout her career.


Didn't I just see the average teacher pension in a DH article at $43k?

Why yes I did. Where does $75 come from?


No, you are falling for the Tea Party stupidity. If you have the courage to actually look at the FACTS and take education level to education level - the public sector makes less than the private sector. Believe Fox news if you want to - but you'll be embarrassed if you ever have to prove your incorrect information to anyone who has the intelligence to look it up.

Do you believe that the CEO of Citibank really makes $1 a year? That is what is reported as his salary, of course that doesn't include stock options, bonuses, etc. When you use the $1 figure of course teachers, firefighters, police officers, and government employees make more. Data can be manipulated; be careful what you blindly believe.

Also,youarefalling for theta union-liberal crap about equalizing jobs. Sorry, but the info is there: the public sector makes more!

You need tobe corrected---- pension reforms about the coming BOOM! to fimamncials based on those recently retiredandwho wi be retiring.

NO ONE is worried about the 80 year old retirees getting their $30 K, IT IS ABOUT THE RECENT ONES ($65K) and near future retirees ($80k).

If you bother to compare apples to apples - you will see that the Public Sector makes less than the private sector. Yes, you have to take into account education levels and such, but it's a fact - it's been proven over and over again. If you graduate with an engineering degree, and you go to work in the public sector, you will TOP out at about 90,000 a year (with a LOT of experience) ..... is that the case in the private sector? NO way in the world. The ONLY way you make more than that in the Public Sector is if some City Manager or City Council member takes a liking to you and promotes you to the Director Level. Only a handful get that lucky, and that is the handful that rakes in those HUGE pensions everybody is worried about. THOSE are the source of the problem, but THOSE are never threatened because THOSE are the people who are making the rules, an they never take from themselves.

Pension reform for people entering the system now is not what the majority of this argument is about. The argument is that the same politicians who are taking the most from the public - and who broke the system by not paying into it as required in the first place DO want to take the Pensions of the guy who has worked for 20 years, put his portion in from every pay check, and who is now being told that because the Government didn't do the same won't be given what he was promised and what he has worked for.

Again, take from the TOP FIRST - then talk about the rest - that's reasonable, but if they want to keep the perks for the bosses, and steal from the workers, it's wrong, plain and simple.

Be a little more honest,guys.

First,the public sector makes more (do your own research on the D of L site)

Second, of course the existing pensioners make less. That is a disingenuine red herring. We have been talking about today (and tomorrows) retirees, where the pension is uber lucrative.

There is no one who has proposed taking existing pensions away, but those of us who understand economics KNOW that if we do not change the formula today for the the future retirees, event the existing ones will get shafted by a little thing we all call bankruptcy/insolvency.

One more quick fact.

When I last checked, about 25% of the D203 teachers were making >100K. Most of those will have raises leading into retirement.


Go to "Alpha Year Over Year" to see what each teacher has received over the past 10 years. "Filtered retagged data" has the salary listed by year.


AND not a word about taking from the top first, you know, the ones who took ADVANTAGE of the system? The one's who ignored their legal obligation to put money into the fund in favor of putting said money into something more lucritive for themselves and their friends? I didn't say no to reform - I am good with making things realistic across the board - but somehow whenever "reform" is presented it hits the workers first, and never quite get's around to the guys who are the real problem.

One other quick point on which I am sure Mr. Higgins will agree:

Stop the spiking.

A quick calculation shows that


So that giving 4 1.06 raises instead of 4 1.03 raises gives a final pension which is 7.6% larger than otherwise would be expected with a 3% raise per year at the end.

I know the spiking theoretically encourages retirement and saves the district money via turnover, but it costs the state more money.

I used to think that the single 20% preceded by 3x3% was about the same, but at least with the 4x6% some teachers might not take the entire 4 years worth of 6% raises, whereas it would be easier with a single 20%.

Quick question: What is the CPI used on this tax bill for D203 and was the DSL actually abated for this tax bill?


It is important to note that this is all teachers/admin receive, and has to be balanced against what the rest of us that have (SS + 401K's or pensions). And yes, there are private companies that still offer small pensions and 401K's.

Sort of. We have to compare what we/our employer put in (and should have put in) compared to what we get out for a fair comparison. I am not against teachers getting a fair pension. In that calculation, as I mentioned before, we also need to compare what tax consequences there are to our payroll deductions. Employee SS is not a pre-tax event whereas TRS is. The sticky wicket in this analysis is figuring exactly WHAT the state should have put in. So maybe better is excluding the employer SS contribution and state contribution.
$4M analysis

Anyway, if you are 60 and a female, you are expected to collect 24 years of pension based on actuarial survival tables. The pension will go up 3% per year. I'll assume inflation will be 3% as well.

100K*75% =75K

75K*24 = 1.8M in today's dollars. That may be more or less depending on survival and spousal rights to the pension.

In Higgins-Crotty non-depreciated dollars world we get 75*(1+1.03+1.03^2+..+1.03^23))=

75*(1.03^24-1)/(1.03-1)=75*35= 2.635M, again plus or minus depending on survival...

Add to that any insurance benefit.


I've seen those rediculous articles.

When comparing like positions, the private sector pays more. Variable pay, stock options, include it all. We're talking apples to apples, not cops with OT vs. a private sector janitor.

So, you tell me, what is the average teacher pension in Illinois? Give me cops and firefighters as well.

Also, show me the math on the $4m.

Scare tactics.

As much as I'm enjoying my vacation from blogging, I 'll offer the following. As of last fall there were 739 D203 pensioners. The average pension is $56,355 and the median is $61,700. There are 219 that have pensions less than $40,000.

There are 20 receiving greater than $100K in pensions. Looking at the list I see Ex-Supt. Weber, other Admin and Principals names. Could be a teacher or two. Dr. Leis does not receive a pension, nor I expect will Dr. Mirtovich, as neither of them will be here long enough to vest.

It is important to note that this is all teachers/admin receive, and has to be balanced against what the rest of us that have (SS + 401K's or pensions). And yes, there are private companies that still offer small pensions and 401K's.

Thom Higgins



"the only people being hurt are the one's who did nothing wrong except show up every day".

Oh Please!

Did nothing wrong? The workers and their unions orchestrated at least part of this so called "theft" and were happy to take every penny they could get away with. It's not like the workers or their unions ever bothered to stop and realistically say you know this has gotten excessive and the system can't sustain itself. Nope, they all walk around with a smug attitude of entitlement.

Well guess again. When the state ends up bankrupt and at the rate it is headed it most likely will it is anyones guess what a federal bankruptcy judge will do in terms of honoring contracts and obligation the state made now that it doesn't have the money to honor it's promises. If we were to take a cue from what has happened in the private sector during bankruptcy government workers could end up with no pension too.

When they take from the top guys first, they can talk about reform, but so long as the only people being hurt are the one's who did nothing wrong except show up every day, contribute what they were asked to, and watch the politicians who are giving up NOTHING take more, then no - that isn't reform - that's theft.

la cuc,

unfortunately, you have bad info.

First, the public sector make more than the private sector (on average0

Second, there are no teachers or FD types around here retiring at only $40k. If they were, we would not be having the national debate on pensions.

A 203 teacher retiring this year will make over $4 million in retirement. How many private plans pay that?

La Cuc,

Could you please see who is retiring from D203 and estimate their first year pension.


I love it when unions run and hide behind the Illinois constitution. This is part of the flawed promise made to the unions! What will happen when they hide behind this, resist any reforms along the way, and wake up one day in a state that has nobody left in it along with no money to pay for the pensions? Look at the decline in our number of representitives in the US House over the years. People ARE moving out of this state at an alarming rate. You can try and pass the bill on to those of us foolish enough to still be here but as soon as you do more of us will leave compounding the problem. In the end reform is on its way. Better do it now while someone is still here to pay.


The difference that I see is that the private sector exists to make money. When companies make money, employees make money. You know the deal coming in, you understand the risk. When things are going good, private sector guys could care less what teachers and firefighters make.

In the public sector, lower pay is traded for better benefits and more stable employment. At least it used to be. You know the deal coming in.

Do pensions need to be reformed to get some of the sweeteners out? Yes, and that's being done. What I'd like to know is this, what would happen to the average teacher or firefighter making a $40k pension if you "restructure" it? So, cut it in half? Make them live on $20k per year after they planned on more?

Be careful what you wish for. Crappy, unmotivated teachers. Retirees with no money to use in private businesses are not what you want.

What is any different about all of the millions of employees who work for corporations who also had a promise of a pension? Many will remind you that our government, government lawyers, and government judges allowed all of these corporations to dismantle or restructure their pension plans. Many companies that used to have pension plans no longer do.
The difference is:

Article XIII of the Illinois Constitution

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the
State, any unit of local government or school district, or
any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an
enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which
shall not be diminished or impaired.

The unions have worked with the legislature. We currently have a two tier system where new hires will work under a different set of pension rules.

It's unfair to take someone who is nearing retirement and tell them sorry, we won't meet our obligations. Good luck making up for our shortcomings. By the way, you are still capped by the max contribution to your 403b, eventhough you need to make up for not saving enough for the previous 20-30 years.

The biggest problem with what is currently proposed is that it still allows the Governor to "borrow" from the pension fund. Going forward, the state cannot be allowed to take pension holidays in order to balance the budget.

It's also ironic that the politican's pension fund has always been fully funded. The new legislation doesn't seem to call for any changes in their benefits either. If it's good for the goose, it's good for the gander.


What is any different about all of the millions of employees who work for corporations who also had a promise of a pension? Many will remind you that our government, government lawyers, and government judges allowed all of these corporations to dismantle or restructure their pension plans. Many companies that used to have pension plans no longer do.

Government pensions are not an entitlement. There was a point in time when there were no government pensions. Once government pensions were created the bureaucrats and unions have sweetened the deal considerably... and there has been a lot of "self dealing" that has gone on over the years that has brought it to the breaking point we know find it in.

Surely no one really expects that pensions can only remain the same or get better do they? Wishful thinking if they do. I'm not yet ready to suggest all government pensions should be done away with even though some may have come to that conclusion. I do think it is reasonable, fair, and just to all of the taxpayers to have a fair retirement program for government employees. To make it fair though it is definitely going to need to be reformed.

Right now it isn't fair. Government employees contribute way too little towards their own pension while pension benefits and increases are too high. Government bodies that oversee pension plans have robbed peter to pay paul and that practice simply has got to stop. Government employees are allowed to retire too early in life. Then their is the question of double and triple dipping and the totally meritless end of career "bumps" that go on with a wink and a nod.

If government employees think the average taxpayer is picking on them then maybe government employees better start letting us know what they are willing to give up to "reform" the pension system. So far all we have heard is a lot of noise about maintaining the status quo. Propose something reasonable and the taxpayers might just support you. The alternative is to dig you heal in, hoping against the inevitable, and then discovering it is going to be done with or without you anyway.

So we as as the people of this state should break the promise of a pension to the folks getting ready to retire? How honorable all the rich folks in Naperville are. If we didn't think we could afford it, we shouldn't have made the promise. Hope you all feel good about saving a few bucks and sticking it to those who work for you. So are you going to vote out of office all those that made the promise to employees? Some of them still work for you. Taxed enouigh, if you can't afford to live here, move somewhere else. Don't expect people to work for low wages so you can afford that big Naperville house.

If i was a state legislator, I would tell the teachers "not to worry, the legislators do not want to jeapordize their pensions."

Why can't a union member lobby individually? I'll just have to disagree with you here. If they want to go golfing -- fine. If they want to do origami -- fine. If they want to go to Springfield to lobby --fine. Since I have no problem with the 2 personal days per year with at most one carryover (and the third day can only be used for personal business which cannot be done on any other day), I cannot see a problem here. Sometimes someone just needs a day off for whatever reason. 2 per year is hardly excessive.

I think the bigger problem is the 1.5 days of sick leave per month. That ratio far exceeds almost all other jobs.



Union employees taking the day off to travel to Springfield to lobby elected officials IS union business not personal business.

As a union member teachers can not lobby or negotiate individually which would be personal business if they could... but since they can't it isn't. So this really IS an abuse of personal days any way we try to look at it.

It is also fair to point out that most companies do not give personal days or personal time off. For many, many employees if you are not there you don't get paid. That is what weekends and evenings are for. Yes, some companies do give personal days, but they are the exception, not the rule. Of companies that do grant personal days I've never seen one that allowed any personal days to be carried over to another year and if you use all of your personal days every year you are going to end up in the cross hairs of the HR department who track usage... then get a talking to from your immediate supervisor.

Although I am more than willing to criticize certain decisions by the board, and have shown concern regarding staffing and spending practices, I have absolutely no idea why people would complain about an employee using a personal day. Complain about what they are using the personal day for...fine. Two personal days per year. One day can carry over for three MAX per year. The carry over can be used only for non-recreational personal business. (p19)

Complaining that they have a personal day to use...a little confusing. If they were taking a fake sick day...that would be unacceptable.

Now don't get me wrong. I have know teachers who have taken fake sick days off for prearranged personal recreational business. That makes me mad.

Although I may be wrong, as I understand the contract, the union must reimburse the district for some of the days off taken by union leadership to do union work. (p20)


Interesting that 50 teachers are not at school doing the work they are paid to do. Interesting that an activity like this wasn't scheduled for a weekend, a holiday, or at least on a teacher institute day. That is 50 extra days of substitute teachers pay that it will cost local taxpayers because they want to lobby for their own interest. Interesting that 50 teachers can even just take the day off like this when they should be expected to be at school teaching unless they are sick.

I've had just about all I can take of all government employee unions. Clearly the unions are mismanaged and government administrators are unable, unwilling, or incompetent to manage union workers and negotiate reasonable pay and benefits. Arbitration of government union issues has been nothing but a joke. Government unions clearly have a stranglehold and when the balance of power shifts this far too one side reform is clearly needed as has been seen in other states.

Viable solutions remain to reform the union rules that are steeped in legislation, privatize the entire public school system, or giving an education voucher to every school age child that would be good at any school of their choice. Given a choice I'd opt for privatizing or vouchers. Legislative reform in a corrupt state would be a nightmare and would drag on for years.

If the unions will not accept reform. If the unions will not accept reasonable working hours and conditions, If the unions will not accept reasonable pay and benefits. If the unions will not accept reasonable contributions towards health care and retirement. If the unions won't then it is time to break up the unions and create a brand new baseline of employment that can be designed with a structure that is both reasonable, accountable, and consistent with the pay, benefit packages, and working conditions that most Americans receive.

Self-serving greed has caused much of this resentment and ill will toward teachers. But that is not the end of the story. Poor teacher performance and more importantly poor student performance are two fundamental issues that must go hand-in-hand with any discussion of changes to the teaching system.

Bad teachers and teachers who will not or can not produce better student results simply can not be allowed to be protected by a union or an employment contract.

The crash of the Teacher's Union is inevitable,mostly because they are immovable on their stance. They still think it is the 90s eand they have the power to demand whatever they want.

They are also lying to their members. A simple review of the actuarial studies behind the benefits (insurance and pensions) shows that they ARE BANKRUPT, yet instead of working with the government and the people to find realistic solution to save some of it, they are seemingly intent on fighting it all "into the ground".

The final losers will be the good, young teachers of Illinois who are blindly following these bureaucrats.

The state legislators should tell the teachers what Chris Christie did. We made promises that were flawed and that the state cannot keep without driving the remaining businesses out of the state. We have already lost 700,000 jobs and along with that the tax revenue.

To properly fund the exhorbadent pensions for school teachers, 40% of salaries need to be set aside, not 10% each. The state cannot pay more, so teachers need to increase their withholdings to 30% of salary or drop the benefit.

Transfer all employees to IMRF where employees py 4.5% and the local governements pay 10%. Benefits are lower, but affordable.

Or travel to Springfield once a month for script (an IOU) when nobody is left in the state to pay the pensions.

Let's see ...... we go to school, we study, we learn new, big words, we observe our environment, we categorize the observed actions, and we comment.


Militant? How do you guys come up with this stuff?

You better be able to back up those statements.

This is impressive. From today's IPSD 204 email:

During Dr. Birkett's first two years as Superintendent, District 204 has achieved incredible results.

- More students are meeting and exceeding state standards than ever before.

- We earned an Aa1 financial rating, placing us in the top 10 percent of districts nationally.

- Community members grading the district with an "A" or "B" increased from 76 percent to 87 percent.

- We achieved these results while operating at the lowest cost per student of any school district in our county.

Great! Take a militant stance to protect a neandrathal system that does not work instead of embracing change and making it happen!

EXACTLY what I expect of a union, especially the corrupt, anti-capitalist Teacher's Union.

We're going to tell the legislators the same thing we always tell them our friends get rewarded with lots of cash, and our enemies get block voted against.

We know our friends by the size of our pay raises and benefits packages.

As soon as I get my pension, I am moving to Florida so I wont have to pay for my own retirement.

Wonderful, now the Naperville Sun is becoming the next cheerleader for Naperville's militant teacher's union. I can hear it now - It is for the Children. Enough of this, enough of the teachers dishonesty with their retirement and the consistent demands for salary bump ups in the last years of employment to artificially increase their pensions. Sure lets stick it to the taxpayers of the state. This practice was supposed to end in with the 2005 contract but since NUEA203 has bought the school board here it will continue. It would be nice if this town wakes up and smells the coffee but, based on April Election turnouts it will never happen until the next referendum.

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This page contains a single entry by Naperville Sun editors published on April 29, 2011 9:20 PM.

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