Diary of an Advisory Committee: Long Range Planning Committee Awaits Recommendation for Referendum for New School

On October 11, the administration will recommend to the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board that the district go to referendum on April 5, 2005 seeking funds for construction of a second elementary school building on the grounds of Leopold Elementary School. The new school would house kindergarten through second grade and the current school would convert to third through fifth grade, if this plan succeeds.
The LRP will hold a public hearing on this recommendation on Monday, October 18, at 7 p.m. at Leopold School at 2602 Post Road in Madison.

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Rigor-Free Research?

Joanne Jacobs writing in Tech Central Station:
Forget the anecdotes and assumptions. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal education dollars are supposed to fund only programs proven effective by “scientifically based research.” That’s spotlighting a problem: A lot of what passes for education research isn’t reliable or rigorous, and many education professors aren’t keen on the scientific method.
Education has a “dirty little secret,” writes Jeffrey Mervis in the June 11, 2004 Science Magazine:

“No program has yet met that rigorous standard, because none has been scientifically evaluated and shown to be effective. (A related secret is that there’s no consensus on the type of evaluation studies that are needed.)”

Bush’s Education Department wants controlled studies, like the tests that determine whether a new drug is safe and effective. Is Panacea Z more likely to cure ignorance than Brand X? It would be nice to know before investing millions of dollars. And yet the research often provides no guidance.

Response to “What’s Missing from the ‘Strategic Plan’ for Madison Schools?”

Ruth Robarts raises very valid issues about the goals of the MMSD.
As we all know, goals are supposed to be measurable and time specific, among other things. Not even the “goals” for academic achievement meet those criteria, let alone the other goals.
Each goal for academic achievement should be written something like this one on reading (with the added italics giving them more specificity) and they might have intermediate goals/steps leading to the final goal:
All students complete 3rd grade reading at grade level or beyond by the end of the school year in 2007;
a. Scores for reading at grade level will increase by a minimum of 5 percentage points a year until all students read at grade level.

Without putting numbers and timelines on the goals, they aren’t very useful. For instance, the MMSD can claim that it’s closing the achievement gap in reading between white and minority students, but it’s closing at a fraction of a percentage point a year. At the current rate, it will take decades before “all students complete 3rd grade reading at grade level or beyond.”
Ed Blume

What’s Missing from the “Strategic Plan” for Madison Schools?

According to the National School Board Association, a school district’s Strategic Plan must include “student performance standards that clearly define what students are supposed to know and be able to do at each grade level”. Toward that goal, the Strategic Plan should clearly state the benchmarks for assessing yearly progress in student achievement.
On September 20, the Madison Board of Education revised its Strategic Plan. Conspiciously missing from our Strategic Priorities are benchmarks for most of our priorities.

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School Capacity Figures for Long Range Planning

The MMSD Web site has the materials posted for the September 27, 2004, meeting of the Long Range Planning Committee’s consideration of recommending a new school building.
The materials aren’t self-explanatory, so maybe someone can help make sense of them.
For instance, the table titled Elementary School Potential Maximum Physical Capacity Worksheet shows 2004-2005 K-5 Enrollment, but it shows more than one enrollment figure for each school. The table shows enrollment at Allis as 501, 549, 513. Do the three figures mean different things? A separate table titled Unofficial Third Friday in September K-5 enrollment shows enrollment at Allis at 452. Sooooooo, how many kids are enrolled at Allis?
These are critical figures to determining whether the MMSD has sufficient capacity or needs a new school. It would be nice to know what they mean.
You can view the materials on the MMSD web site
Ed Blume

Ready for a $27M Maintenance Referendum?

On September 13, the administration for the Madison Metropolitan School District advised the Long Range Planning Committee of the Board of Education that the district needs $27M for maintenance projects between 2005 and 2010.
A referendum would be necessary to raise this amount, because the administration is seeking a total of $46M for maintenance over the five years. The $27M would be in addition to $19M that the Board will spend on maintenance if it continues to earmark $3.8M from each annual operating budget for maintenance.

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Cosby to visit Milwaukee North

Georgia Pabst on Bill Cosby’s visit to Milwaukee North on October 20, 2004 (6 to 9p.m.); 1101 W. Center St.

The gathering was announced Friday by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who worked with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators and the Wisconsin Black Media Association to bring about the Cosby appearance.
Barrett said he hoped the discussion would deal with the importance of education and how the community can tackle and develop solutions to educational disparities and other challenges.
Cosby first raised a national storm in May during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring an end to school segregation. He decried the lack of emphasis on education in the black community and challenged parents to greater accountability. Though he earned rebukes from some commentators, others praised him for speaking out.

Debra Dickerson covers Cosby…

India Launches First Education Satellite

New Scientist:

Millions of illiterate people in remote, rural India could soon have access to an education, as a satellite devoted exclusively to long distance learning was launched on Monday. It is the world’s first dedicated educational satellite, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
India launched the $20 million, 2-tonne EDUSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal. The satellite is the heaviest ever launched by an Indian-made rocket – the new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which cost $33 million.
About 35% of the country�s billion-plus population are illiterate, a 2001 government census showed. �India will require 10,000 new schools each year and meeting the teaching needs on such a scale [by conventional methods] will be impossible,� Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO, told New Scientist.
To date, India has used both of its multi-purpose INSAT satellites to provide long-distance education information alongside their telecommunications, broadcasting and weather-forecasting functions.

Interesting way to leverage technology. It it works, it will turn out to be cheap….. (and creative!) We need more of this kind of thinking.

Faster is Smarter

Accelerating the best students helps them intellectually and socially, says A Nation Deceived, a new report from the University of Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports:

A new University of Iowa report seeks to debunk myths that accelerated learning for gifted students is unfair, expensive for schools and causes students to be social outcasts, gifted-education experts said Monday.

Time recites the fears about children pushed too fast, but concedes there’s evidence many very smart students are very bored.

For the smartest of these kids, those who quickly overpower schoolwork that flummoxes peers, skipping a grade isn’t about showing off. Rather, according to a new report from the University of Iowa, it can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out from sheer tedium. “If the work is not challenging for these high-ability kids, they will become invisible,” says the lead author of the report, Iowa education professor Nicholas Colangelo. “We will lose them. We already are.”

. . . In a 2000 study for Gifted Child Quarterly, Joseph Renzulli and Sunghee Park found that 5% of the 3,520 gifted students they followed dropped out after eighth grade. Astonishingly, that’s almost as high as the 5.2% of nongifted kids who dropped out. Untold numbers of other highly intelligent kids stay in school but tune out. “When we ask exceptional children about their main obstacle, they almost always say it’s their school,” says Jan Davidson, a co-author of the new book Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds. “Their school makes them put in seat time, and they can’t learn at their own ability level.”

Via Education News.

Via Joanne Jacobs

Smart, knowledgeable, independent thinkers need not apply for East principal

�. . . the loss of Barb Thompson highlights a major Rainwater weaknesses. In filling key administrative jobs, he�s gravitated to loyalists, or looked outside for the district for candidates who will fit comfortably into Team Rainwater.
Smart, knowledgeable internal candidates with deep understanding of Madison and its problems, but who like Thompson are independent thinkers, are passed over.
. . .�She�s a bulldog, but that ain�t bad, � observes the blunt-talking [Milt] McPike [former East High Principal}. �Some people can�t handle that. Do you understand what I�m saying? I was a bulldog for my school, too.� �
Marc Eisen�s opinion piece Isthmus, June 13, 2003

September 20, 2004 MMSD Board of Education Meeting Audio/Video Clips

Barb Schrank collected video & audio clips from last nights Madison School District Board of Education Meeting:

  • Don Hunt: Retired West High School Art Teacher Fine Arts Statement [MP3 1.4MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Barb Schrank Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.6MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Mariel Wozniak Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.9MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Juan Lopez lecture to Ruth Robarts [MP3 2.7MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Athletic Fees Presentation [MP3] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

Lee Sensenbrenner summarized the meeting as well.

Diary of MMSD Fine Arts – District Policy Requires Fine Arts Coordinator

MMSD Board policies require a trained coordinator for filling a vacant position for a number of specialties, including art, music and physical education.
Only last night did the Superintendent inform the Board that he would be sending around a modification to this policy in light of no Fine Arts Coordinator and that this information would be made available to the Board on Tuesday, September 21, 2004. The only change being proposed would be to eliminate the coordinator requirement for music and art. The coordinator requirement will remain for bilingual, ESL, physical education and special education.
The Superintendent’s remarks were made following a public appearance by the District’s former Fine Arts Coordinator, Mariel Wozniak, who pointed this policy out to the Board. Dr. Wozniak said that if fine arts personnel were being hired without a coordinator, the district administration was in violation of Board policy.

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Diary of an Advisory Committee: Switch from Maintenance to New Building Issues

On September 13, 2004, The Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board reviewed a recommendation from the MMSD administration that the district spend $46M for school maintenance projects from 2005 through 2010. Because the Board dedicates approximately $3.8M per year for maintenance from the operating budget (%19M over the next five years), the administration’s cost estimates amount to recommending referendum for $27M. In 2004-2005 the district will exhaust the $20M provided by the 1999 maintenance referendum. Some projects, however, remain to be done.
Citizen advisors asked many good questions to clarify the recommendation of the administration. The Committee will not, however, act on the administration’s recommendation in the next few months.

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Lower Athletic Ticket Prices – Keep Extracurricular Athletic Budget As Is

What Short-Term Option Would I Suggest for Board Consideration? � I would lower the ticket prices to last year�s prices and include volleyball and swimming. Why – families with low or tight budgets are the ones being disenfranchised, and I believe that the drop in attendance will all but wipe out any potential gains from increased ticket prices. I would also not add any additional funds to the athletics budget and have the District Administration, Athletic Directors, Booster club representatives, parents, kids need to come together to review and to prioritize the extracurricular sports budget.

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Call to Action for Teachers & Arts Advocates

I�ve just learned about the agenda for the Monday, September 20th School Board meeting that includes a proposal to transfer additional funds to the athletic afterschool budget from the educational contingency fund.
On Monday night, September 20th the School Board will be holding a special Board meeting. There will be public appearances. I think the art and music teachers (arts professionals in general) need to either e-mail board members prior to Monday or be at this meeting demanding a fine arts coordinator to help them with administrative and educational issues. I would suggest that the fine arts teachers send copies of all e-mail questions that you are asking about where you are working, how to transfer supplies, scheduling be copied to the school board.
I�m sure that Mary Gilbrandsen, Mary Ramburg and the HR department are doing their best, but they are simply inadequate resources for 130+ personnel working in 47 schools with increased class sizes and increased number of sections. Art has mistakenly said that Mary G. has done the allocations for the arts. In fact the senior administrators have determined the allocation amount, but finding the personnel for those allocations and working with the principals on scheduling was a major function of the Fine Arts Coordinator at the beginning of the year.

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Principal Removed at East

“Madison East High School Principal Catherine Tillman has been relieved of her duties and reassigned to a central office position for the remainder of the school year.”
Like Tillman the newly named interim principal at East was transferred to an administrative position after serving a couple of reportedly unsuccessful years at West.
Is the change just going from one failed principal to another?
Read the story in the Wisconsin State.
Ed Blume

123 State Schools Fall Short of No Child Left Behind Standards

Jamall Abdul-Alim:

The number of Wisconsin schools and districts that failed to make enough progress to satisfy federal law rose, according to statistics released Friday, prompting renewed concern over whether schools can meet the increasingly tough standards of the “No Child Left Behind” era.
According to state Department of Public Instruction figures, 123 schools were on the list of schools that failed to make “adequate yearly progress” – a 12.7% increase over last year.

Wisconsin DPI Report DPI Press Release (151K PDF)
Doug Erickson also covered this DPI news release.

Who Runs the Madison Schools?

Understanding Superintendent Art Rainwater�s employment contract with the Madison Metropolitan School Board goes a long way toward answering a common question: �Who runs the Madison schools?�
Answer: Superintendent-for-Life Rainwater runs the Madison schools.
In January of 1999 the Board promoted Art Rainwater from Acting Superintendent to Superintendent. Voting for the contract were Carol Carstensen, Calvin Williams, Deborah Lawson, Joanne Elder and Juan Lopez. Ray Allen and I voted no.

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Dr. Paul Yvarra’s Dinner Presentation: 9.23.2004 @ La Hacienda

Rafael Gomez sent me an email regarding Dr. Paul Yvarra’s dinner presentation at La Hacienda [map] next Thursday evening [9.23.2004 @ 6:00p.m.]. Yvarra is evidently planning to run for State Superintendant of DPI:

He is currently a professor in the deparment of school administration at Whitewater Univ. He is an ex-school board member at Whitewater school dist. And, he has been active on teacher training. He is running for school choice.
With this said, a dinner presentation is scheduled at La Hacienda from 6p.m to 7:30p.m. Sept. 23. There is a $10.00 donation. Please contact me at 277 83 42 if you have an interest to attend. Thank you for your attention to my note. Rafael Gomez

Academic Ranking of World Universities – 2004

Fascinating look at the top 500 World Universities, from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s perspective (the UW, my alma matter is #18). Criteria and weights are based on:

We rank universities by several indicators of academic or research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, articles published in Nature and Science, articles in Science Citation Index-expanded and Social Science Citation Index, and academic performance with respect to the size of an institution.

Literacy & Economic Growth

Statistics Canada & The Economist:


TO WHAT extent is economic growth driven by the acquisition of �human capital�? Many economists have pursued the answer over the past 20 years, but without great success. Despite building and rebuilding elaborate growth models, they have failed to prove that better education and training significantly raises a country’s long-term growth. Recently, though, a Canadian team made a breakthrough. It found that, if you measure actual skills rather than educational qualifications, human capital becomes a strong predictor of economic growth.
The team identified a clear and significant association between investments in human capital in each period and a country’s subsequent growth and labour productivity. Specifically, a rise of 1% in literacy scores relative to the international average is associated with an eventual 2.5% relative rise in labour productivity and a 1.5% rise in GDP per head.
These are much clearer effects than those found in previous studies. In the three countries in the study where human capital improved the fastest between the older and the younger generations (Belgium, Finland and Italy), growth in output per worker rose much faster than average between 1960 and 1995, while in those with least improvement in skills (New Zealand, Sweden and the United States), growth was slower.

Statistics Canada: International Adult Literacy Survey: 656K PDF

Long Range Planning Committee Advisory Members

On August 30, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board met with its advisory members for the first time. Advisory members in attendance were Dawn Crim, Joan Eggert, Jill Jokela, Lucy Mathiak, Pat Mooney, and Jan Sternbach. Teresa Tellez-Giron (nominated by Board member Juan Lopez) withdrew before our initial meeting. LRP Committee members Carol Carstensen and Johnny Winston Jr. were present as were several other Board members.
The advisory members introduced themselves and asked questions about their role and the work of the committee. Unfortunately, the MMSD staff had not been able to get written materials to all of the citizen members. Lack of common materials limited our discussion.
We briefly discussed the role of the citizen advisors. In June the Board of Education unanimously approved a two-part strategy for seeking advice from the public. The motion read, in part:
The Long Range Planning Committee recognizes the importance of public participation in its review of demographic issues, long range facility planning, strategic planning and referendum issues. Therefore, the committee will seek advice and comment at public hearings at appropriate times during 2004-2005.

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Good Homes, Good Students

William Raspberry:

My hope is that by the time the children of our Baby Steps parents emerge from the preschool pipeline into regular classes, the difference will be plain to see.
I don’t exempt either the school system or the larger community from its responsibility to help the town’s children grow up smart and successful — and, indeed, both the system and the community have come together in support of Baby Steps in its first year.
But I am convinced that all the other things we do will have limited impact unless we also undertake to enhance the competence of our children’s first and most effective teachers: their parents.

MMSD Administrative Costs & Staffing Levels – ACE White Paper

Don Severson: Active Citizen’s for Education White Paper [212K PDF]:

MMSD has one of the highest per pupil costs of any school district in the state. MMSD administration proposed a FY 2004-05 budget with a $10 million shortfall in revenues to deliver the same services as that which was delivered in the 2003-04 budget year. This white paper compares MMSD administration costs, staffing levels and per pupil costs with peer school districts at Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha andRacine.

Retention Rates & Comparative Performance – ACE White Paper

Don Severson: Active Citizens for Education’s Retention Rate White Paper: [64K PDF]

The Madison Metropolitan School District has one of the highest costs per pupil of any school district in the state ($12,500, 2004-05). Madison District officials state that the high cost per student is needed in order to achieve success in many of the important academic areas. This paper compares retention rates of the Madison School District, (the number of pupils who were not passed to the next grade level) with fourother districts: Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. Retention occurs when a student has not made progress in a prescribed course of study. A pupil is consideredretained if:

  • a pupil needs an additional year to complete a prescribed program
  • a pupil in grades kindergarten through eight must repeat a grade
  • a pupil in high school (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior years) does nothave enough credits equal to or more than one-seventh of the district�s high school requirement

This 40K PDF compares the Madison School District with Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

ACE Fund 80 White Paper

Don Severson forwarded the most recent Active Citizens for Education White Paper on the MMSD’s Community Service Fund (Fund 80) [64K PDF]:

The Community Service Fund is used as an administrative and accountingmechanism for activities such as adult education; community recreation programs, such as evening swimming pool operation and softball leagues; elderly food service programs,non-special education preschool; day care services; and other programs which are not elementary or secondary educational programs but have the primary function of servingthe community. Expenditures for these activities, including cost allocations for salaries, benefits, travel, purchased services, etc. are to be paid from this Fund to the extentfeasible. The district may adopt a separate tax levy for the Fund. Building use fees charged for utilities and other operational costs must be charged in the General Fund if nocost allocation was made for these to the Community Service Fund.

Fighting College Cheating

Lawrence Hinman:

Recent studies have shown that a steadily growing number of students cheat or plagiarize in college — and the data from high schools suggest that this number will continue to rise. A study by Don McCabe of Rutgers University showed that 74 percent of high school students admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on tests. Even more disturbing is the way that many students define cheating and plagiarism. For example, they believe that cutting and pasting a few sentences from various Web sources without attribution is not plagiarism.
Before the Web, students certainly plagiarized — but they had to plan ahead to do so. Fraternities and sororities often had files of term papers, and some high-tech term-paper firms could fax papers to students. Overall, however, plagiarism required forethought.

I wish the article had gone further and mentioned that taken to its extreme, cheating manifests in leaders who will lie and lie and lie, and media who will let them get away with it, while our country suffers the consequences…