Resources online

I wanted to point out a couple of useful sites on the internet that can be very helpful in demonstrating the importance of music education as an important part of all students’ development.
A very useful site with lots of information, research and resources is SupportMusic.com. They can even help you build your case for keeping your school’s music program by addressing talking points to 13 common issues including: Music is not perceived as a core academic subject or districtwide budget cuts.
Another useful site is the American Music Conference. They also have a sizable listing of music related research.
For instance, did you know that middle school and high school students who participated in instrumental music scored significantly higher than their non-band peers in standardized tests. University studies conducted in Georgia and Texas found significant correlations between the number of years of instrumental music instruction and academic achievement in math, science and language arts.
Another important finding: A ten-year study, tracking more than 25,000 students, shows that music-making improves test scores. Regardless of socioeconomic background, music-making students get higher marks in standardized tests than those who had no music involvement. The test scores studied were not only standardized tests, such as the SAT, but also in reading proficiency exams.
Visit both of these sites and see why schools need more not less music instruction.

Wisconsin School Finance Opinion Articles

The Wisconsin State Journal has published three related editorials on school finance issues:

I would be surprised if this round of school finance changes substantially increases the amount of money available for schools. There’s also a growing risk of problems as local districts rely completely on state/federal funding sources (filled with political schemes and deal making).

Schools Chiefs Lead The Way in Pay Trends

From Education Week an article by Catherine Gewertz
New data from a survey of more than 500 school districts show the average salary of their superintendents has risen by more than 12 percent over the past decade in inflation-adjusted dollars, and that of their high school principals by more than 4 percent, while the average teacher salary declined by nearly 2 percent.
The salary survey of employees in precollegiate public schools also shows that the gap between teachers� and superintendents� salaries grew a bit wider in the same period. In 1993-94, the superintendents were paid on average 2.4 times as much as teachers. By 2003-04, the difference was 2.75 times.
The data come from the National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools and were released to Education Week this month by Educational Research Service as part of a research partnership.

Continue reading

The �No Child� Law�s Biggest Victims

An Answer That May Surprise
Margaret DeLacy’s recent article in Education Week
Since education is high on the national agenda, here�s a pop quiz that every American should take.
Question: What group of students makes the lowest achievement gains in school?
Answer: The brightest students.
In a pioneering study of the effects of teachers and schools on student learning, William Sanders and his staff at the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System put in this way: “Student achievement level was the second most important predictor of student learning. The higher the achievement level, the less growth a student was likely to have.”
Mr. Sanders found this problem in schools throughout the state, and with different levels of poverty and of minority enrollments. He speculated that the problem was due to a “lack of opportunity for highscoring students to proceed at their own pace, lack of challenging materials, lack of accelerated course
offerings, and concentration of instruction on the average or below-average student.”
While less effective teachers produced gains for lower-achieving students, Mr. Sanders found, only the top one-fifth of teachers were effective with high-achieving students. These problems have been confirmed in other states. There is overwhelming evidence that gifted students simply do not succeed on their own.

Continue reading

Balancing Mission & Money in Higher Education

Lewis Collens reviews Shakespeare, Einstein and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education by David L. Kirp.

David Kirp’s excellent book “Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line” provides a remarkable window into the financial challenges of higher education and the crosscurrents that drive institutional decision-making. He reminds us that the coin of the realm in higher education is the quality of education and research, and he cautions that the pursuit of dollars can debase the coin of the realm.
Kirp explores the continuing battle for the soul of the university: the role of the marketplace in shaping higher education, the tension between revenue generation and the historic mission of the university to advance the public good.

Isthmus articles

Two articles of interest appear in the issue of Isthmus dated June 15, 2004.
A small article on page 6 says “Several Madison elementary schools, including Thoreau and Glenn Stephens, will begin teaching Singapore Math next year. The change comes amid concerns that the district’s preferred math program, TERC Investigations, which stresses self-guided problem solving, does not teach students enough basic math skills.”
A lengthier article reviews the “difficult transiton at East High.” As “faculty vent deep discontent,” the article headline asks “is new princiapl to blame?” One source doubts, says the article, that “Tillman’s contract will be renewed” beyond next year.”
Ed Blume

2005 Referendums?

Lee Sensenbrenner writes about Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent comments regarding three possible 2005 referendums:

“Facing growing subdivisions on the city’s edges, the expiration of a maintenance fund, and state laws that annually force cuts, the Madison School Board may be looking at three referendums next year.”

State laws do not directly “force cuts”. Rather, Wisconsin has controversial state laws that control the annual rate of increase in local school spending (“revenue caps”) and teacher contract compensation growth (QEO). Indeed, there are state caps on most, but not all school spending growth.
Interestingly, according to this Active Citizens for Education document (270K PDF), Madison school spending has increased from $180M in 1993 to $308M in 2003/2004 – with revenue caps in place ($12,419/student). The document also mentions that enrollment “has stayed virtually the same during the past ten years: 24,800”.
Given the spending growth, there must be more to this than is mentioned in Lee’s article.

School Finance Reform

Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal features an editorial on the recently proposed Public School Finance Reforms:
School reformers fail math test:

Put together, this equation fails any basic math test. Even under the current limits, payroll eats around 80 percent of the money available to schools. If schools no longer limit employee cost increases but cannot get new money to cover those rising costs, where is the money coming from? Cuts to other areas? Most of the frills are already gone. More fees? Parents already fork over hundreds of dollars on top of the taxes they – and everyone else – already pay for schools. Tax swap aids pols, not schools Fatal flaw aside, any plan that uses sales taxes to help pay for schools invites a new set of problems. The task force nevertheless expects to recommend increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent to generate $800 million a year.

Links and additional comments are available here.

Arts & School Crime in the Local Newspapers

Brendia Ingersoll on “Some say schools have gotten more violent.”
Lee Sensenbrenner on Arts in Schools supporters pressing the Board of Education to save K-12 curriculum.
Manny Fernandez provides another perspective on school crime, from Washington, DC.

He avoided trouble by sticking to the basketball court, focused on sharpening his game while walking past clusters of young men who hang out near his apartment building after school.

FAQ: “Community Service” Funds aka “Fund 80”

Q: What is ?Fund 80??
A: A property tax that school districts may levy for ?community programs and services.? Unlike property tax levies for school operations, Fund 80 property taxes are subject to less restrictive revenue limits.

Beginning in 1993, Wisconsin law has imposed limits on the increases in residential property taxes that school districts may levy to pay for the operations of the k-12 educational program. Unless a referendum passes, the districts may increase taxes only up to a limit determined by a legal formula.

Continue reading

“Community Service” Funds: The Common Thread between Cutting the Fine Arts Coordinator, Displacing After School Programs and Buying More Computerized Time Clock Systems

On June 7, teachers, students, parents, and community representatives took the Madison Board of Education to task for its recent decision to eliminate the full-time district-level position of Fine Arts Coordinator. The same night, parents of children attending YMCA and After School, Inc. after-school programs at Midvale-Lincoln and Allis schools questioned the district?s unilateral imposition of a plan to replace those programs next year with ?Safe Haven?, a program operated by the district?s Madison School-Community Recreation department (MSCR). Later in the evening the Board voted 5-2 to spend more than $173,000 on a computerized time clock system for MSCR staff (YES: Carol Carstensen, Bill Clingan, Bill Keys, Juan Lopez, Shwaw Vang; NO: Johnny Winston Jr. and I).
On the surface the parent, staff, and community criticisms appear to have little relation to the decision to computerize time clocks for community program staff. But there is a common thread in terms of the district?s budget?something called ?Community Service? funds, or, ?Fund 80.?

Continue reading

States’ End Run Dilutes Special Ed Burden

Diana Jean Schemo writes about States’ efforts to get around the No Child Left Behind improvement requirements:

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, every category of student at Broad Acres � including special education � must show improvement or the entire school can face penalties. But like a dozen other states, Maryland is hoping to circumvent those rules, asking to count students like Ms. Grant’s only as children of poverty, a big group that would hide any lack of academic growth.
Maryland officials say their proposals would avoid large numbers of schools being labeled “in need of improvement” when only small numbers of students are doing poorly. If changes are not made, said Nancy Grasmick, Maryland’s superintendent of schools, “there’ll be a lot of anger on the part of the community,” some of it possibly directed at the special education students.

National Spelling Bee, School Finance

Two fascinating posts at former SJ Mercury writer Joanne Jacobs blog:

  • National Spelling Bee results, commentary from the American Literacy Union, who picketed the event (debt vs dette among other useful comments). Jackobs also writes about single mother Ashley White, a former spelling bee contestant featured in the film Spellbound.
  • School Finance Post, with some interesting comments and links (California Finance and a recent Economist article).

Cutting Fine Arts Coordinator Will Cost Money

With the recent elimination of the Fine Arts Coordinator in the Madison public schools, music and art (arts) education in Madison�s public schools will continue to crumble and to fall apart but at a faster pace. That�s bad for our children�s education, but it�s also bad for the City�s economy.
This letter to the editor of local Madison papers expresses concerns over the educational and financial costs of cutting 1/2 the position of the MMSD Fine Arts Coordinator that works with the District’s 130+ music and art FTEs in 47 schools to help these teachers deliver a quality curriculum.

Continue reading