School Privacy Notices

Treena Shapiro discusses concerns raised over school privacy notices:

Sybil Arum’s eighth-grade granddaughter came home this week worried that she was on the verge of being drafted by the military and sent off to war.
The reason for her fear was the Department of Education’s annual privacy notice, which says contact information for secondary students as young as sixth-graders may be released to military recruiters unless the student, parent or legal guardian requests otherwise.
Arum, who is the child’s guardian, quickly determined that her granddaughter was not being shipped off to Iraq, but became alarmed anyway.
“I’m very upset with the age level that this policy encompasses,” she said.
DOE and U.S. Department of Defense officials, however, stress that the military is only interested in students who are 17 and older and will not be following up with students as young as sixth-graders.
“We don’t just automatically release (the information to recruiters); it would have to be on request,” said DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen. “Recruiters have told us that their interest is in juniors and seniors.”

There’s more to this than just information for recruiters. DPI has information on this issue here (parents can opt out. This page describes that process). MMSD’s policy 4157 apparently describes the district’s data privacy processes. Send me comments/questions on this: zellmer at mailbag dot com.

Ruth Robarts Letter to the Isthmus editor on MMSD Reading Progress

Ruth Robarts wrote:

Thanks to Jason Shepard for highlighting comments of UW Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg at the Dec. 13 Madison School Board meeting in his article, Not all good news on reading. Dr. Seidenberg asked important questions following the administrations presentation on the reading program. One question was whether the district should measure the effectiveness of its reading program by the percentages of third-graders scoring at proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT). He suggested that the scores may be improving because the tests arent that rigorous.
I have reflected on his comment and decided that he is correct.
Using success on the WRCT as our measurement of student achievement likely overstates the reading skills of our students. The WRCT—like the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) given in major subject areas in fourth, eighth and tenth grades— measures student performance against standards developed in Wisconsin. The more teaching in Wisconsin schools aims at success on the WRCT or WKCE, the more likely it is that student scores will improve. If the tests provide an accurate, objective assessment of reading skills, then rising percentages of students who score at the proficient and advanced levels would mean that more children are reaching desirable reading competence.
However, there are reasons to doubt that high percentages of students scoring at these levels on the WRCT mean that high percentages of students are very proficient readers. High scores on Wisconsin tests do not correlate with high scores on the more rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
In 2003, 80% of Wisconsin fourth graders scored proficient or advanced on the WCKE in reading. However, in the same year only 33% of Wisconsin fourth graders reached the proficient or advanced level in reading on the NAEP. Because the performance of Madison students on the WCKE reading tests mirrors the performance of students statewide, it is reasonable to conclude that many of Madisons proficient and advanced readers would also score much lower on the NAEP. For more information about the gap between scores on the WKCE and the NAEP in reading and math, see EdWatch Online 2004 State Summary Reports at www.edtrust.org.
Next year the federal No Child Left Behind Act replaces the Wisconsin subject area tests with national tests. In view of this change and questions about the value of WRCT scores, its time for the Board of Education to review its benchmarks for progress on its goal of all third-graders reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Ruth Robarts
Member, Madison Board of Education

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Barb Williams: Letter to the Isthmus Editor on 3rd Grade Reading Scores

Barb Williams wrote:

I’m glad Jason Shepard questions MMSD’s public display of self-congratulation over third grade reading test scores. It isn’t that MMSD ought not be proud of progress made as measured by fewer African American students testing at the basic and minimal levels. But there is still a sigificant gap between white students and students of color–a fact easily lost in the headlines. Balanced Literacy, the district’s preferred approach to reading instruction, works well for most kids. Yet there are kids who would do a lot better in a program that emphasizes explicit phonics instruction, like the one offered at Lapham and in some special education classrooms. Kids (arguably too many) are referred to special education because they have not learned to read with balanced literacy and are not lucky enough to land in the extraordinarily expensive Reading Recovery program that serves a very small number of students in one-on-on instruction. (I have witnessed Reading Recovery teachers reject children from their program because they would not receive the necessary support from home.)

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NYC – Balanced Literacy and Reading First Grant – $111 million. Why Wasn’t MMSD Successful?

Why didn’t MMSD qualify for Reading First dollars? NYC was awarded a Reading First grant of $111.4 million over three years for 49 public and 35 non-public schools. NYC offers Balanced Literacy to its school children. Madison offers Balanced Literacy. Why wasn’t the Reading First program able to become part of Madison’s Balanced Literacy?
Part of the reason may lie in the NYC approach to seeking the grant money. NYC formed a committee of teaching professionals, union representatives, experts and parents to review the grant requirements and to determine what program would work with their comprehensive approach to literacy.
NYC succeeded in being able to incorporate Reading First, which is dollars targeted to literacy for low income children. Madison citizens need to know more about what process MMSD used and more specifics about what were the barriers to MMSD receiving Reading First dollars?

Reading First in the NYC Department of Literacy
Letter Describing NYC Process for Seeking Reading First Grant Money

MMSD Committee Considers Building and Maintenance Referenda – But What About the Rest of the Budget

I’m puzzled. The MMSD School Board’s Long Range Planning Committee and Community Advisory Committee have spent the fall discussing plans to build a new school on the grounds of the existing Leopold Elementary School and $26+ million maintenance referenda. But, what’s the School Board been considering?
A new school and a new five year maintenance referendum are being given careful public consideration and discussion. But, there’s been no discussion of the overall budget of which these two items are only two parts.
What about the rest of the $350 million school budget and its priorities? When will this be discussed? If you look at the present proposed timeline for development of the 2005-2006 budget, cuts won’t be presented until March, at the earlies. Cuts are not a discussion of the budget.
Why haven’t discussions been taking place about what the needs are for instruction and instructional support and what the budget costs of these needs will be for 2005-2006? What education for our children do we envision the next 3-5 years? What are ways to get to those goals?
We’ve heard about curriculum development, but have not seen dollars and effectiveness of those dollars being given much discussion publicly?
When did the School Board decide to discuss building an maintenance referendum, but decide to wait until March to consider the rest?
What plans are underway to maintain curriculum the community values and children/parents want? What new partnerships are being explored by the Partnerships Committee?
Debt buydown to pay for maintenance? Where’s the discussion about using the debt buydown to pay for instruction and instructional support? When will the School Board have these discussions?
Let’s consider the buildings and their maintenance, but let’s keep the big picture in mind and present. Any addition to the budget needs to be weighed against the district’s overall priorities, and there needs to be more public discussion and problem solving – soon, very soon.
Upkeep Of Schools On Ballot? – Lee Sensenbrenner, The Capital Times
Committee Ponders Two Referendums – Sandy Cullen in Wi State Journal

MMSD Hiring Freeze – Capital Times Editorial

In a recent editorial The Capital Times praised Supt. Rainwater’s announcement of a hiring slowdown that is intended to maintain educational quality while saving money. Teaching positions will be filled, but non-teaching positions will only be filled if there is a clear necessity for them. The District expects to save $600,000 by holding open as many as 40 positions.
The Capital Times Praises MMSD Hiring Slowdown as Necessary and Prudent

Elementary School Needs String Instruments – Sandy Cullen

Sandy Cullen, Wisconsin State Journal reporter, wrote a story in early December about a shortage of string instruments at Leopold Elementary School. It seems that newly hired MMSD strings teacher, Pat Kukes, has more students than violins for his elementary string students. He’s hoping donations will be made to the school so that children will have instruments to practice and so that all students can play together in a concert.
Most of the students in the elementary strings program are low income, so renting an instrument privately is not an option.
Elementary School Needs String Instrumenets

Taxpayer Information I’d like to see from the Madison School District

Given this and the probability of three spending referendums this spring, I would like to see the Madison School District’s finance folks publish the following information (in html, on their web site):

The District’s sources and uses of funds over the past 10 years, including:

  • total spending (education, special ed, services, staff/admin, other)
  • Employment numbers (teachers, staff, part time, mscr)
  • revenues (by source: grants, local taxes, state & federal funds), fees
  • Student counts, including low income changes, special ed and population changes across the district (from school to school)
  • Supporting numbers, notes and comments to the data.

This type of detailed, background information would be rather useful to all Madison citizens as we contemplate further increases in education spending. There’s been some discussion of eliminating the deduction for state & local taxes for federal tax purposes. IF that happens, there will be quite a blowback from places like Wisconsin that have relatively high taxes.

Wisconsin Property Taxes

Several recent articles highlight the ongoing problem of state & local taxes growing faster than Wisconsin personal income:

  • Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance released a study that forecasts 2005 property taxes will go up more than 6 percent. They also forecast that the local school portion of property taxes will go up 7.3%. They also found that property taxes will account for 4.1% of Wisconsin taxpayer’s personal income. (via JR Ross)
  • Unsurprisingly, The Taxpayer Bill of Rights continues to be discussed in Madison. This will continue to be a hot button issue as long as state and local spending continues to rise faster than personal incomes (there will be a reckoning unless the economy grows faster…., here’s an example: Judy Wagner, 65, a Milwaukee substitute teacher, said her property taxes were forcing her to postpone her retirement. Her property tax bill had risen from about $3,000 in 2000 to just under $4,700 now, she said.
    “My options are to work until I’m 75 or 80 or sell my home and move south like three of my friends have,” she said.) Via Patrick Marley & Steven Walters.

  • This will help, to some degree, though we must create a more robust environment for tax paying entrepreneurs. True statewide, 2 way broadband (not the current slow DSL and cable modem services) and a much simplified tax/paperwork process would be a great start.

Not all good news on reading – Jason Shepard

TALKING OUT OF SCHOOL / Jason Shepard / Isthmus, December 16, 2004
Not all good news on reading
Writing in the Isthmus weekly newspaper out on Thursday, December 16, 2004, Jason Shepard notes, “One reality touts the district [MMSD] as superior to any other known district in the country at nearly eliminating the gap among the lowest performing readers in the third grade. The other reality shows that minority third graders continue to lag far behind whites at higher levels. While nearly 94% of white third graders read at or above grade level this year, only 66% of black students do.”
Download file

WEAC Survey on Revenue Caps & School Spending

WEAC:

The Wisconsin Education Association Council and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators annual survey of school administrators uncovered a new trend in the 2003-2004 school year: districts are being forced to cut academic programs because of state-imposed revenue controls. Revenue controls severely limit the funds school districts can raise and spend.

East Parents Lack Faith In Principal Hiring

Wisconsin State Journal
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
East Parents Lack Faith In Principal Hiring
by Sandy Cullen
Parents of East High School students say they lack confidence that the School District will hire a principal who can successfully lead what one described as a school “under siege.”
About 50 people attended a meeting at the high school Tuesday with Assistant Superintendent Valencia Douglas to discuss the process for hiring a successor to Catherine Tillman.
“We all know what a successful candidate is,” parent Lenny Alston told Douglas. “We want to make sure you guys know.”
Soon after the start of the school year, Tillman was abruptly reassigned to an administrative position. She recently reached a settlement with the district, and her resignation becomes effective March 31.
Alston was one of several parents who said they had no confidence in the selection process that resulted in Tillman’s hiring in September 2002. The district hasn’t disclosed the reason for reassigning Tillman, but some parents were concerned early on that she lacked experience to lead the school’s diverse population of 2,100 students, 40 percent minorities.
“I can’t get over the fact that this place is under siege. We’ve got problems over here galore,” said Alston, a parent of two East graduates and one freshman. “It isn’t just a black problem, and it isn’t just a race problem … You guys aren’t listening to us, that’s the problem.”
Other parents wanted to know what would be different from the last time. “It just has to be done right,” said parent Pam Cross-Leone. “We cannot afford to fail this time.”
Parents advocated for more input earlier in the selection process, before the search is narrowed to eight candidates who are interviewed by a 12-person committee of parents, students, teachers and other high school principals. That group selects three finalists to be interviewed by Douglas and other administrators.
Douglas said the process has resulted in the hiring of many successful principals. She agreed there are problems at the school and pledged that “there will be a very, very good pool of candidates.”

Reading Recovery reduces overall performance for African American kids

American-American students fare badly in Reading Recovery. Only 43% successfully discontinue, compared to 49% for Asian students, 56% for Hispanic students, and 57% for white students.
According to one of the district�s report on Reading Recovery (p. 14), �Discontinued Reading Recovery students [that is, students who �graduate�] outperform the comparison group by 1.2 text reading levels while all other Reading Recovery students score almost 4 text reading levels less than their comparison group.�
In other words, for every 43 discontinued African-American Reading Recovery students who advance 1.2 text reading levels, 57 fall behind by 4 text reading levels relative to their comparison group. The net impact of Reading Recovery reduces overall reading success for the African-American students in the district.
Ed Blume

Mary Watson Peterson Presents MMSD’s Elementary Reading Curriculum

Mary Watson Peterson, MMSD Reading Coordinator, presented the theory behind the design and development of MMSD’s Balanced Literacy Program. Her professional presentation noted the significant progress in reading that the District has been reporting publicly during the past month.
Ms. Peterson mentioned that several teachers are trained in Direct Instruction and that some teachers use this method. However, no information was presented on the results using this approach as a core curriculum or as an intervention method.
Mary Watson Peterson MMSD Elementary Reading Curriculum Presentation to the MMSD School Board on Monday, December 13, 2004

Examining Student Scores for Opportunities for Academic Improvement

Jay Mathews, Washington Post staff writer, wrote an article in the December 14, 2004 Washington Post (Mining Scores for Nuances in Improvement) about using value-added assessments, which “…use test scores to compare each child’s progress to predictions based on past performance…” Not everyone is pleased with value-added assessments. “Value-added assessment has also become a political irritant because some school boards and superintendents want to pay teachers based on how much value they are adding, as measured by individual student test scores, for students in their classes. In Ohio and most other states, the system is being used only to diagnose student needs, leaving the question of teacher pay for later.” Value-added assessments, which can be done by principals or teachers, is one approach that attempts to bring analysis of student data closer to the school/teacher.
Mining Scores for Nuances in Improvement

Madison schools distort reading data

U.W. psychologist, Mark Seidenberg, wrote an editorial in Sunday’s (12/12/04) edition of the Wisconsin State Journal critical of the way that the district is presenting its reading data. He also points out that although Superintendent Rainwater would like the public to believe “that accepting the Reading First funds would have required him to “eliminate” the district’s current reading curriculum – the one used throughout the district. … The acceptance of Reading First funding has no bearing on the curriculum used in other schools.”

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Are MMSD Programs Effective? Who Knows?

This is my first post to this blog, so I�ll start by introducing myself. My name is Bill Herman. I have two kids at Crestwood ES, and a third will start in the fall. Also, I work in K-12 education; I�m the technology director for Monona Grove Schools.
I read �Paper #1,� criticizing MMSD for declining $2 million of federal money for reading, with interest and some dismay. With interest because it does seem odd that the district would reject such a sum even if some strings are attached. With dismay because neither side in the debate had a good way to weigh the district�s key claim�that the existing program has improved student reading.
Both sides used WKCE scores to support their claims. Unfortunately, the WKCE is not a useful tool to assess the effectiveness of programs at MMSD or anywhere else, because it isn�t designed to measure student progress over time, or to compare scores from one year with scores from another year. This means that we have a bigger problem than not knowing if elementary reading instruction is effective in MMSD. We are not able to decisively assess the effectiveness of any instructional program in the Madison schools.

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A Parent’s Thoughts on Learning to Read – Next Step Considerations

MMSD District Administration will be making a presenation on the MMSD Literacy Program Research tomorrow during the Performance and Achievement Committee meeting. I hope significant time is spent discussing a) results and next steps for MMSD’s Balanced Literacy approach to learning to read and write b) an analysis of alternative reading interventions and c) analysis and reasons that led the Superintendent to turn down Reading First grant funds.
If there are teachers who are using teaching methods/curricula that are not part of the current Balanced Literacy approach, but are effective with the student population who is not at the proficient and advanced reading levels, board members need to ask to see the results.
Why look at the results? All teachers want each child they teach to be successful learners. If teachers are being successful in their teaching approach, the District Administration needs to learn from these efforts and incorporate them into their existing curricula. Continuous change to improve best practices through various feedback mechanisms is an important part of a successful change in an organization.

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The Last Time You Used Algebra Was…

New York Times, December 12, 2004
The Last Time You Used Algebra Was…
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
It’s been a long time since most of us have used algebra in our daily lives – unless, perhaps, you’re helping your child with homework or work in a field that uses lots of mathematics. However, learning algebra is still important. The concepts I learned in mathematics have helped me with learning other concepts in different fields – math teaches you a way of thinking.
“…kids don’t study poetry just because they’re going to grow up to be poets. It’s about a habit of mind. Your mind doesn’t think abstractly unless it’s asked to – and it needs to be asked to from a relatively young age. The rigor and logic that goes into math is a good way for your brain to be trained,” said Miss Collins, the author’s daughter’s math teacher.
The Last Time You Used Algebra Was…

Reading First Program in Wisconsin

Reading First is a part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Title I, Part B, Subpart 1). Reading First is designed to assist schools in establishing reading programs for students in kindergarten through grade 3. These programs must be founded on scientifically-based reading research and aid in ensuring every student can read well by the end of third grade.
Link to DPI Reading First Website and WI Reading First Grant Application

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Schools [MMSD] Freeze Hiring

By Lee Sensenbrenner, The Capital Times
December 11, 2004
A hiring freeze has been declared in the Madison Metropolitan School District, as Superintendent Art Rainwater tries to deal with a possible $1 million shortfall in the utilities budget.
Rainwater made the announcement Friday in a letter to board members and the district’s management team. It says that “the prospect remains that additional actions may be required.”
Link to Full Story – Schools Freeze Hiring

U.S. Students Fare Badly in International Survey of Math Skills

PARIS, Dec. 6 – High school students in Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea do best in mathematics among those in 40 surveyed countries while students in the United States finished in the bottom half, according to a new international comparison of mathematical skills shown by 15-year-olds.
The United States was also cited as having the poorest outcomes per dollar spent on education. It ranked 28th of 40 countries in math and 18th in reading.
U.S. Students Fare Badly in International Survey of Math Skills

MMSD Equity Policy – Board Member’s Comments and Community Member’s Response to Those Comments

The following exchange of e-mails is between Lawrie Kobza and Johnny Winston Jr., regarding the District’s proposed elimination of the equity policy.
As I read the two authors’ comments, I become more convinced that board policy changes ought to be discussed first at a Board committee meeting prior to a final vote. The substance of the changes merit public discussion and comment. The District Administration’s Questions and Answers sheet on this topic would have been a good place for the School Board to begin their discussions.

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At a Frontier of School Reform, Getting Millions, Seeking More

JACKSON, Ky., Dec. 3 – As New York City schools celebrate the findings by a court-appointed panel that could bring them $5.6 billion more every year, the schools under the sawed-off mountains here in the heart of coal country tell a hopeful but cautionary tale of what may lie ahead.
Once the Kentucky Supreme Court said the state’s school system needed revamping, in a ruling that inspired court cases and decisions around the nation, lawmakers here enacted one of the country’s most thorough education overhauls within a year.
At a Frontier of School Reform, Getting Millions, Seeking More

Board Priorities – Annual Report

The MMSD Board of Education has established three priorities aimed at improving student achievement:
1. All students reading at grade level by third grade
2. All students completing Algebra and Geometry by the end of 10 th grade
3. All students attending school at least 94%
Each year the Superintendent reports on progress toward these goals. This year’s presentation was made on December 6, 2004.
Superintendent’s Annual Report to School Board on Board Priorities

MMSD Board Policy Changes – Administration Proposes Eliminating Equity Policy / Northside PTO Coalition Says No, Not a Good Idea

Mixed in with other MMSD Board business on December 6, 2004 was a change to District Policy 9001 regarding equity.
From the Board Agenda – X Other Business – Item C.
It is recommended that the Board approve: 1) the changes that are attached relative to Board Policy 9000A and 9000B which have to do with a Code of Conduct for employees and Board members; 2) the deletion of Board Policy 9001 regarding equity; and 3) the changes that are attached relative to Board Policy 10,000 regarding charter schools.
The Northside PTO Coalition opposed the MMSD Administration proposal to eliminate the Equity Policy. Board members decided to postpose a decision on this policy and asked the administration to rework the policy with consideration given to equity issues.
This is the second time in little over a month that a policy change raised concern among the public. Earlier, the District administration had proposed eliminating the policy that required professionals to be included in the hiring of teachers in certain aeas: physical education, special education, fine arts, for example.
Fine arts teachers said they needed this professional help to ensure the quality teaching professionals are hired in specific areas.
Maybe the Board needs to consider an interim step in the policy revision process that first passes through a Board committee if the change is more than simple updating.
Download press release file

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MMSD Theory of Action for Change and Continuous Improvement

Superintendent Rainwater told MMSD board members Monday December 6, 2004 that some of the District’s goals are directed to educate teachers to do the right thing…support and train teachers…provide various levels of interventions for students that are not successful with the core curriculum.
In the case of reading, Balanced Literacy is the core curriculum and Reading Recovery is a first grade intervention teaching tool/approach that is used to help certain students be successful with reading.
The Superintendent commented that he believes the recent controversy surrounding reading is due in part to a misunderstanding of what the various definitions of Balanced Literacy, Reading First, Reading Recovery and Direct Instruction are.
From what I’ve read and understand about the debate and controversy, there are different approaches being used in the district when intervening to help a student who is not being successful with the core reading curriculum. Direct Instruction, which is a stand alone reading curriculum, is used by some reading teachers in the district as an intervention tool rather than Reading Recovery.
If results are available for both these interventions, I hope that the School Board takes the time to ask questions about what results we are seeing with different intervention approaches. Now that we have 80% of our children at proficient or advanced reading levels, the last 20% are likely to be particularly challenging for educators.
As I listened to the presentations last night, I couldn’t help but be impressed with two things regarding reading – strong community support and involvement through the Schools of Hope and other volunteers and continued reinforcement at all levels of the organization, beginning with teachers’ commitment to the students. When my daughter was in elementary school at Franklin and Randall Elementary Schools you knew that the principals and teachers were strongly committed to the Board’s reading priority.
Art Rainwater’s comments to the School Board can be viewed by clicking on the following link:
MMSD Theory of Action for Change and Continuous Improvement relative to the Academic Achievement of MMSD Students
Questions of Superintendent Rainwater

Comments on MMSD’s Buyout of East High Principal

Last spring four Board members �Carol Carstensen, Bill Clingan, Bill Keys and Juan Lopez�voted to authorize the superintendent to buyout problem employees and pay them up to five months in wages and benefits. Members Ray Allen, Shwaw Vang and I voted no. The decision was retroactive to cover deals with two teachers that the superintendent had already made.
Now we see the results of this bad policy decision,

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Art Rainwater’s Email regarding Reading First

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater sent me an email today regarding this paper. Here’s his email:

Dear Jim
I received a copy of your email to Diane Mayerfeld regarding reading in the Madison Schools. I would like to set straight the misinformation that is contained in the document that you included with your email. First the Milwaukee Public Schools have not performed better on the fourth grade WKCE test that Madison. The report cites “School Facts 03” as the source. The numbers in that publication show that in Madison 80% of our fourth graders scored proficient and advanced on the test and that only 63% of Milwaukee”s fourth graders scored proficient and advanced. I am not sure how such an error could have occurred in the document that you produced since the numbers in the report are very clear. An examination of the DPI WINNS website shows the same numbers.
I find this type of inaccuracy extremely disturbing since inaccurate numbers were also used in the Wisconsin State Journal editorial regarding the Reading First grant. The editorial states that Lincoln’s third grade reading scores have declined since 2001, when in fact, they have steadily increased. The editorial writer had the chart showing the increase in performance before her when she wrote the editorial.
There are always legitimate disagreements that can be made over many of the decisions that the District makes. However, using inaccurate and clearly wrong data to make those arguments should never be acceptable.
The Performance Series Report also indicates that there was a choice between Reading Recovery and the programs approved under the Reading First grant for funding. That assertion is not accurate. Reading Recovery was not part of the issue at all. The choice was between our Balanced Literacy Core Program (CLIP) and the Reading first programs. Reading Recovery is a first grade intervention not a core program. The following explanation written by the team that actually worked on the Reading First grant and have extraordinary expertise in reading says it much better than I can.

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Put School Costs Back on the Agenda – WI State Journal Opinion

Can Wisconsin cover the real expenses of schools without raising overall taxes? With each passing year of neglect, the task becomes more daunting.
Wisconsin schools will collect 7.3 percent more this year in property taxes, the largest boost in more than a decade, the state says. Wisconsin’s 426 school districts expect to levy $3.61 billion on tax bills being sent out this month, compared with $3.37 billion last year.
Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, a lonely voice calling for wholesale overhaul of education financing, says even bigger levies are coming if government fails to revamp a financing system that no longer accounts for the widely varying types of financial pressures facing public schools.
Read the full Opinion piece from December 5, 2004
WI Journal Opinion: Put school costs back on agenda

Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent comments on the Budget and the Reading First rejection

I recently received a copy of the minutes of the November 3, 2004 Superintendent’s Faculty Committee meeting. During this meeting Superintendent Art Rainwater discusses a variety of topics, including the recent rejection of $2M in Reading First funds and the district’s budget. The minutes are available in this 350K pdf document. Highlights:

On Declining Federal Funds: “This situation (declining federal funds) presents a dilemma for a Superintendent – not so much for me because I’ve done what I want to do and am looking at the end of my career. But for a young, career-building Superintendent in a struggling district it would be very hard to decide whether you accept desperately needed money and compromise program, or turn it down because you know you have something better.”
What was the reaction to the district saying no to federal money? I read a little about it in the newspaper. That was it – there was no other reaction.”
on Reading First:
“The Reading 1st grants are designed to support schools where reading is an issue. Like everthing in NCLB, they are based on a relatively sound principle but farther down the line you find something insidious about that. . .”
On No Child Left Behind:
“By the year 2013, if we have one single student in the whole district who is not proficient or advanced in reading, math and science, then our district would be designated a failure. Much research has been done by a variety of educational associations. They show that, after six years, 80% of districts will be failing. When that is the goal, people don’t take it seriously. An important part about making change is having attainable goals.”
In response to a question on the budget,”Are we headed for another $10 million in budget cuts?” Art answered, “The best case, which I believe we are heading for, is between $6-7 million. The worst case would be if the Legislature passes a property tax freeze and the Governor can’t veto it, which would result in somewhere between $15-17 million.”

MMSD Math Curriculum – Melania Alvarez Comments

Melania Alvarez, former MMSD School Board candidate, spoke on Monday, November 30, 2004 before members of the School Board. Her comments raised concerns about the lack of evaluation of the math curriculum currently being used in the MMSD. Ms. Alvarez’s comments are based upon her own review of the math curriculum and upon her conversations with concerned parents in the District.
Following are video clips of her comments and questions of her by School board members.
Melania’s Presentation
Question/Answer Session

School-Community-Parent Partnerships – Conference, Dec. 11

Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Coalition presents:
School-Community-Parent Partnerships
Saturday December 11, 2004
Noon-3:00 PM
at
The Bahai Center
324 W. Lakeside Street, across from Franklin School
Join us as we explore
What’s working
What needs improving
Who is welcome in our public schools
Who feels unwelcome
What rights do parents and district citizens have in our schools
How can parents of students of color influence the CLIMATE and LEARNING environment
What can you do if you are treated poorly at a school
When should parents seek outside help
How can parents and ordinary citizens of color share in decision making
How to organize parents at your school
Parents and district residents are invited to attend this meeting. The emphasis is on making schools a more welcoming place for adults and students of color.
Co-sponsored by MEP (Money, Education, Prisons Taskforce)
And UW-MAFAAC chapter
For more information call 836-0616 or visit the MAFAAC Web site.

Math Curriculum Board Meeting Video Clips

The Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee met monday night, to discuss “Research-Base Underlying MMSD Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction” Here are some video clips from the meeting:

RFK on School Performance: 1965

Jenny D posts a transcript of RFK’s (Robert F. Kennedy) 1965 Senate testimony on school performance:

Some may wonder, why on earth is Jenny D. wasting her time copying down 40-year-old Senate testimony? Because it so closely mirrors the conversations today about No Child Left Behind. NCLB didn’t fall out of the sky as some evil Republican plan. It was first hatched, albeit crudely, in 1965 by U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I think it’s important to know where we came from

RFK on standardized tests | RFK on Title 1