The Rest of the Story

In her recent letter to the Wisconsin State Journal Chris Kolar, co-president of the Leopold Elementary School Parent Faculty Organization, criticizes me for my “early departure” from a Madison School Board meeting on April 25. She states that I “walked out of the board of education meeting at about the time Leopold was to be discussed”.
Please consider the facts that Ms. Kolar did not include in her letter.

Continue reading The Rest of the Story

Scullen on Wisconsin’s Thriving Charter Schools

Tom Scullen (Scullen is superintendent of the Appleton Area School District, which has 10 charter schools. He also is president of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.):

Charter schools are playing an increasingly important role in that success story.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, at a recent state charter school conference, said charter schools “are critical in making schools learning environments for all children.” She added, “Charter schools encourage community and parental involvement and innovative teaching practices within the system of accountability for results in public education.”

Brant on the May School Referendums

Quicktime Video 25MB
MP3 Audio 4.8MB

Kirby Brant is President of local PAC Get Real (he’s also a former Watertown School Board member and was a candidate for the Madison School Board in 2002). Brant gives his views on:

  • the Madison School District’s budget process
  • The May Referendums
  • Madison’s per student spending vis a vis other Wisconsin communities and those in Iowa
I’m happy to post views from all players interested in the May 2005 referendums. Email me at zellmer at mailbag dot com if you’d like to post an interview.

Bersin & School Reform in San Diego

Frederick Hess:

Bersin’s departure provides an opportunity to ask what we have learned from his highly visible and often contentious tenure. To explore that question, and with the district’s full cooperation, last year I assembled a team of analysts to examine the San Diego reform push. For me, five key lessons emerged from their appraisal.
First, the centralized, “managed instruction” model of improvement depends critically on the presence of a personnel and managerial infrastructure and on quality curricula. Alvarado gave unstinting attention to his centerpiece “Institute for Learning” training program for principals and faculty, and to building a corps of “peer coaches” to assist teachers. But his single-minded focus on these activities resulted in a lack of attention to infrastructure and curricula. As a result, the coaches, the Institute, and attempts to assign faculty where needed most ran afoul of the collective bargaining agreement’s provisions on professional development, staffing, and teacher transfers. A balky human resources operation reliant on outdated technology inhibited district efforts to speed up hiring or promote more flexible staffing.

Continue reading Bersin & School Reform in San Diego

My Perspective of District Boundary Changes

The Madison School Board is facing some of the biggest challenges that a school district can face. These challenges include three referenda on the ballot on May 24th. One of the most unique challenges is the potential boundary changes throughout the district. These situations are very complex, political, frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. They’re complex because it affects so many people. It is political because of the many parent organizations it involves. It is frustrating because it takes so much work and time. Finally, in the case of Hawthorne and Lakeview it is exhilarating because the school board took action.

Continue reading My Perspective of District Boundary Changes

Bill Gates on Hidebound High School Curricula

In “What, Me Worry?”, Tom Friedman holds forth, as he so often does, on a speech Bill Gates gave on the antiquated way we educate our high school students. Gates warns that the future belongs not to those countries rich in natural resources but rather to those who “mine” their populace’s intellectual power. China and India will soon propel many more of their students ahead of ours, and with the flattening of the globe, Tom’s latest book’s thesis, these students will no longer have to come to the US. Thus the brain drain will be from within and without.

Continue reading Bill Gates on Hidebound High School Curricula

Board split not liberal vs. conservative

Despite common characterizations of Madison’s school board as split along liberal and conservative lines, it just ain’t so.
The seven members of the board of education have to be among the most liberal people in Madison. I’d guess that all seven voted for John Kerry in the last presidential election, and they’ll all probably vote for the Democratic candidate in the next presidential election, no matter who the candidate might be.
The true fault line runs between a group determined to defend the status quo and a group whose few members ask whether the board and district could be better.
The status quo defenders say things like “Madison is the best school district in the nation” and “We follow the best possible decision-making processes. No change could make any improvement.”
By contrast, the questioners raise queries like “How can equity be improved in the district?” and “How can we make decisions on budget cuts before we’ve seen the budget?”
Forget liberal vs. conservative. Think in terms of status quo vs. improvement.
Ed Blume

Bar Coding Your Child? – No thanks!

June Kronholz:

Suppose you are a fifth-year mechanical-engineering student at Cleveland State University, paying your tuition by taking off an occasional semester to work.
Is that any business of the federal government?
An idea circulating in the U.S. Department of Education and on Capitol Hill says that maybe it should be, and that maybe the government should follow students’ progress through college by assigning them bar codes.
Not surprisingly, that already is raising alarms. “What right does the government have to know that?” asks Katherine Haley Will, president of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., an outspoken critic of student tracking.

Simply Absurd…

Buchen: Madison Schools; Are We Getting our Money’s Worth?

James Buchen:

It will come as no surprise to weary taxpayers that Wisconsin hosts one of the most expensive public school systems in the country.
We rank 8th in per capita spending for elementary and secondary education. The seven states above us tend to be either high cost states like New York and Connecticut or states with very small populations like Alaska and Wyoming. Taxpayers shoulder this burden by paying high property taxes and high state income taxes. In fact, on average, 44 percent of the property tax bill goes to fund public schools and 40 percent of the state budget is devoted to funding for K-12 public education in Wisconsin.

Proposed Milwaukee Schools Budget: 1% Property Tax Increase

Alan Borsuk:

A year after laying a 13% property tax increase on the city, Milwaukee Public Schools officials are proposing a budget for next year that projects an increase of less than 1% in the amount to be collected in property taxes to pay for schools.
But a budget proposal for 2005-’06 that continues reforms launched by Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and contains no major new steps is based on two big assumptions: That Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s state budget proposal, calling for a shift of more school funding back to state government, will win approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature; and that the School Board and the administration will win an arbitration proceeding with Milwaukee’s teachers union that focuses largely on health insurance costs.
The MPS proposal was presented to board members late Tuesday. They are scheduled to spend the next month working on it.

American Association for the Advancement of Science Report on Math and Science Learning

New AAAS Report Explores How Schools Improve Math and Science Learning
A System of Solutions: Every School, Every Student
Ten U.S. school districts have achieved significant improvement in science and mathematics performance by developing ambitious programs that set high standards and then closely tracking what works and what doesn’t work in helping students learn, according to a new AAAS report.
The 22-page report, “A System of Solutions: Every School, Every Student,” identifies 10 U.S. K-12 school districts, serving some of the nation’s major inner-city areas, and discusses the systemic practices that helped them improve student performance and close the gap between minority and non-minority students.
U.S. school districts examined as part of the AAAS report are: Atlanta; Boston; Brownsville, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Portland, Ore.; and San Diego.
The 22-page report was commissioned by the GE Foundation and is available on-line here

East High Principal Search

Late Monday afternoon, the school district finalized the search committee for the East High principal. The committee met Tuesday night for orientation, and I believe that the interviews will start next Monday, May 1.
As Mr. Rathert reported at the April 14 meeting of the new parent/staff/school community organization, there are 8 candidates who will be interviewed. The district typically doesn’t release the names until the field is narrowed to the finalists, so the names of the eight candidates are not available at this time.
It is likely that the new parent/staff/school community organization’s May 12 meeting (7:00, East High cafeteria) will focus on the search, results if any, and ways that the East High community can participate in the transition process.
According to Bob Nadler, head of Human Resources for the district, the committee members are:
Parents: Kymberli Crowder, Larry Riechers, Cynthia Walton-Jackson
Staff: Scott Eckel, Sara Krauskopf, Jen Simpson
Administrators: Ed Holmes, Mary Ramberg, Ted Szalkowski [Note: in the past the other three high school principals have served on the committee, but apparently there are reasons why that didn’t work this time.]
Students: Two students applied

Madison Schools Boundary Changes – More Discussion

Lee Sensenbrenner:

But several parents in an audience of about 50 said they have little hope that the May 24 referendum to build a new school will pass. Meanwhile, they said, school district officials need to reconsider their plans if the school isn’t built, and also, perhaps, consider alternative building plans.
But she said the main reason she did not support the contract was because the administration provided board members only a few details from it.
“I would have a hard time approving an agreement unless I see it in writing,” said Kobza, who is an attorney. “Maybe it’s just the line of work I’m in.”

School Daze – Answers to funding questions are elusive

This is an e-mail sent to the Madison CARES listserve. Enjoy. By DENNIS A. SHOOK – Freeman Staf (April 16, 2005)
The hardest question on any test for a state legislator is what should be done to fund education?
Some legislators would answer “nothing” while others would answer “whatever it takes.’” But common sense tells us the right answer has to be somewhere between those two poles.
It is not a multiple choice question, with one or two right answers. It is more like an essay question that could cause even the most terse college student to fill several pages with an answer.
The latest round of referendum questions statewide showed the public is generally of the belief that education receives enough of the public’s tax money already. Yet school districts like Racine are considering ending extracurricular activities such as music and athletic programs. That could well cause an exodus from that city’s public schools to private schools or force families to relocate to other communities entirely. That surely can’t be what anybody wants, even the most ardent teacher bashers.
How did we arrive at such a state?

Continue reading School Daze – Answers to funding questions are elusive

Elementary Strings Cut is Punitive and Too Much

Cuts of 10% to elementary music and art and 100% to elementary strings are being proposed by the administration. The overall MMSD budget cut needed is 2%. The School Board has not discussed or asked questions about the proposed cut list at any public meeting since they received the list on March 3rd – that’s nearly two months now. Rather School Board members are “selling Art Rainwater’s proposed cut list.” Board members are “making excuses” why there are increases to the administrative contract budget, save all extracurricular sports for kids, unecessarily dividing rather than bringing together parent and professionals to work on what we can do for all kids and fairly. Rather, our board says, we can’t do anything else – it’s because the state does not give the school district enough money. Our board membes are not asking the question – what’s academic, how will this affect children’s learning, how have the administrators worked with teachers and other relevant professionals to minimize the impact on children. If they asked this about elementary strings and fine arts education – the answer would be that they have done nothing. I expect the answer is the same for many other academic areas.

Continue reading Elementary Strings Cut is Punitive and Too Much

California Teacher Incentive Pay Plan

Developing incentive pay plans are a challenge. Gov. Schwarzenegger is pushing this in California. Dan Weintraub writes:

Everyone knows that our poorest kids tend to clump in schools that depend too much on inexperienced teachers, many of whom are still trying to find their way in the profession. We have good, experienced teachers who would teach in these schools if they were rewarded financially for their trouble – just as in every other profession, where the toughest-to-fill jobs normally earn higher pay. So who or what is standing in the way of the students who need better teachers getting those teachers? The teachers unions.

Continue reading California Teacher Incentive Pay Plan

Isthmus deserves thanks

Out of all the local media, only Isthmus probes for insights into the curriculum and governance of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Isthmus stories on reading, special education, talented and gifted, and board infighting support the best of democratic processes by sparking lively debate necessary to effective public policy decisions.
The rest of the media, the MMSD administration, and the majority of the school board condemn healthy discussions as divisive and destructive. Yet, the absence of debate will quietly slide the district deeper and deeper into stagnation.
Keep up your excellent reporting, Isthmus.
Ed Blume
ps. If you have an opinion on Isthmus’ reporting, feel free to post a comment.

Superintendent Art Rainwater- Public Doesn’t Care

I watched the school board last Monday talk about the process for the “budget” up until the referendum. The original timeline had public hearings being completed prior to release of the 2005-2006 budget. Why? As Superintendent Rainwater says people don’t care about the budget; they only care about the programs, courses and services they want to save. I care about the budget process and so do other parents and community members.

Continue reading Superintendent Art Rainwater- Public Doesn’t Care

Westport, CT: A Struggle over Special Education

Alison Leigh Cowan:

Special education is a hot topic here, with school board meetings exploding into shouting matches over what services children are entitled to under federal law and parents spending thousands of dollars on appeals to force the school district to provide those services for their children.

The parents say they have no choice: the district, one of the state’s most affluent, is fighting just as hard to hold the line on skyrocketing special education costs.

I’m voting against Leopold referendum

Back in October, I testified at a meeting of the Long Range Planning Committee. I asked the committee “to do only three simple things.” To my knowledge, the Board and Long Range Planning Committee have not done them, so I’m going to vote against the referendum on Leopold.
If the Board has done what I suggested, I welcome a response on all three points.
Here’s what I said in October:
First, take the time to understand the budget consequences of a new school. By this I mean that you needed a referendum for operating expenses for this school year. How much additionally will you need to ask from taxpayers in annual referenda to fund a new elementary school?
Second, take the time to understand the enrollment impact of a new elementary school on the middle school and high school it will serve.
Third, citizens of the broad Madison school community include people with a tremendous amount of expertise in education, management, finance, urban planning, real life, and more. You should use every possible opportunity to tap their knowledge.

Ed Blume

NYT: School Reform: How Fast, How Far?

Several interesting letters to the editor in Sunday’s NYT in response to this article: The Schools Under Bloomberg: Much Tumult, Mixed Results, including this comment:

Too many have held low expectations for Harlem’s children. We have a mayor who not only seems to care about reforming the schools, but also is holding himself accountable for raising the expectations of our children. While I do not agree with every single one of his reforms, I believe they should be given more time before they are dismissed.

Continue reading NYT: School Reform: How Fast, How Far?

Five Year Old Handcuffed for Tantrum

Florida is making news again: This time, having handcuffed a five-year old black girl, of course, but after her tantrum was over.
What impressed me was the incompetence of Nicole Dibenedetto, the new assistant principal of Fairmont Park Elementary school. This principal had just been through Crisis Prevention training and, I suppose, was following the rules and procedures she had learned there. It doesn’t say much about the competence of the training either.
Any parent who has had to handle the typical and not that unusual tantrum from a 5-year-old will recognize both the child’s behavior and the thorough lack of knowledge this principal has in handling children.
Here is the recent link to the news report that has links to the video. Total video time is about 30 minutes. Report and Video

First-To-Worst, PBS Special On California Schools

The California of the 50’s and 60’s was the embodiment of the “American Dream”. Their schools were the best. Today, the California school system ranks at the bottom in the nation, with Mississippi and Guam. Proposition 13 in 1978, and revenue caps require referenda to exceed the caps to be passed by 2/3! majority. Some now admit the California schools have achieved Third World status.
Today, most schools are like the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, serving one of the richest districts in California. The schools here do not have PE, Arts, Music, counselors, and minimal or no electives. A educational fads have taken hold: whole language, new math, multiple choice testing. And, of course, loss of local control to the State legislature.
For a sobering look at a failed school system, click on the transcript.

The Insanity of Youth Sports

Mark Purdy:

(Warning: Parent bragging ahead.) My daughter and son, now college students, had terrific school sports experiences by just about any standard. Both played for Central Coast Section and league championship teams at Archbishop Mitty High School. Sarah’s soccer team was ranked No. 1 in the nation for a while. Our son’s basketball team was ranked No. 1 by the Mercury News and reached the NorCal championship game at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
And yet for all of that, I still look back on our family’s trip through the youth and club sports gantlet with emotions that cause me to shake my head, shudder, grimace, get indigestion or . . . yes, scream.
This is what the gantlet does: It takes away the sweetness of simply enjoying a game. As your children progress in sports and the pressure builds from coaches and parents to make sure your kid plays on the “right team” with the “right exposure” so the kid can “move up to the next level,” you can almost feel the whole thing starting to smother you like a blanket.

Continue reading The Insanity of Youth Sports

Drastic Changes at Ridgewood Apartments Don’t Factor into School Board Plans for Leopold School

On Monday, April 25, the Madison School Board will hold a special session to vote on a plan that affects hundreds of west side families and six to eight elementary schools in the event that the May 24 referendum to build a second school on the Leopold site fails.
Options before the Board do not mention the drastic changes taking place in the Ridgewood apartment complex that is near Leopold Elementary School and home to many current Leopold students and their families. While it appears increasingly likely that the large low income community near Leopold will be displaced by changes in ownership of the apartment complex, the Board will be voting on plans that do not take this factor into account. Instead, at the insistence of Board member Carol Carstensen, the Board seems poised to lock into

Continue reading Drastic Changes at Ridgewood Apartments Don’t Factor into School Board Plans for Leopold School

LA Times: The Preschool-Tax Folly

The LA Times opposes Rob Reiner’s proposed “Universal Pre-School” scheme:

The last thing California needs right now is to raise another huge sum of money $2.3 billion a year to start that can’t be used to close existing gaps.
Reiner would do that with a higher tax on incomes of more than $400,000 a year. Last November, voters approved a poorly thought-out measure to tax million-dollar earners to fund mental health programs. The line of good causes calling out for a tax on the rich will only get longer.
This editorial page has advocated reinstating higher tax levels on top incomes, but only if the revenue is used to heal the crippled general fund, and only temporarily. With a healthier budget, the Legislature could have a rational discussion about funding more preschool.

Shook on School Funding

Dennis Shook:

Way back in the corners of our collective political consciousness I am beginning to sense that there is an answer beginning to form. It probably involves consolidating many school districts and putting in place some kind of insurance program that keeps employee costs under control on the expenditure side.
On the revenue side, it also seems we are all starting to become more aware that not every sector in our economy is pulling its weight. Most every comparative study of tax burden during the past few decades has seen a dramatic shift of the burden onto the individual property taxpayer and away from the business sector. There are also a lot of taxable entities that are not being taxed at all, like nonprofits and even fraternal and religious organizations.


The Lesson: Minority Achievement in Two Milwaukee Schools

Mary Van de Kamp:A fascinating article in Milwaukee Magazine compares two elementary schools with black principals and low-income black students. At one school, students outperform the district’s white students; at the neighboring school, students do far worse.

Last year, 81 percent of Hawthorne�s black fourth-graders scored proficient or above in math and 79 percent proficient or above in reading, compared to 34 and 63 percent, respectively, at Thurston Woods…..

Continue reading The Lesson: Minority Achievement in Two Milwaukee Schools

National Survey on K-12 Salaries Released

A national survey of K-12 salaries appears in a recent issue of Education Week.. Among other things, the Educational Research Service that conducted the survey found that the gap between salaries of teachers and those of education professionals in higher paid positions–principals and superintendents–has steadily widened over the past decade.
Local point of interest—the salary paid to Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater in 2003-04( $153,150) exceeded the average for superintendents in the Great lakes states ($114, 026) and the average for superintendents nationally with the same years in office ($109,254) for 2004-05.

Continue reading National Survey on K-12 Salaries Released

EIA: Teachers Comprise 50.8% of All US K-12 Public Education Employees

Education Intelligence Agency posted this data from the US Census Bureau, US Dept of Education and the NEA. Take a look.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia employ more non-teachers than teachers. South Carolina ranks highest in the percentage of teacher employees at 65 percent, while Kentucky brings up the rear with classroom teachers making up only 42.6 percent of its public education workforce.

via joanne jacobs

Addressing Racial Issues in School Discipline

In 2000, The Justice Matters Institute Discipline Task Force published a report called Turning TO Each Other Not ON Each Other: How School Communities Prevent Racial Bias in School Discipline.” The report provides helpful insights and resources for people who are concerned about creating more effective and equitable approaches to discipline in our schools.
That report is available in PDF form at:

Pre Evaluation for Reading

To add to the discussion of successful/unsuccessful reading programs there is an interesting system in place in Anchorage, Alaska that has shown to be successful and seems very logical. Kindergarten students are screened thru testing in the Spring of each year with a system called the Slingerland pre-reading test. This test evaluates student’s strengths and weaknesses in the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modalities. Once strengths are identified they are placed in first grade, and some times second, based on the results. First/Second grade teachers are trained to emphasis either an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic curriculm and students with that strength are placed accordingly. Of course, some students show no strengths or weaknesses in a specific area and are placed in classrooms based on traditional means.
This is a wonderful, proactive way to target a childs natural learning style. It avoids waiting for a problem to develop before seeking this information. Slingerland was developed to work with Autistic children but has been adapted to a general classroom setting and is implemented in all the Anchorage elementary schools.

Preventing Early Reading Failure

I came across an interesting review by Joseph K. Torgesen in the American Educator that is relevant to recent discussions on Reading Recovery and Direct Instruction. You can find the article online, but I will limit myself to quoting just a few lines from the paper.
“Instruction for at-risk children must be more explicit than for other children. … Explicit instruction is instruction that does not leave anything to chance and does not make assumptions about skills and knowledge that children will acquire on their own. … Evidence for this is found in a recent study of preventive instruction given to a group of highly at-risk children during kindergarten, first grade, and second grade (Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Rose, et al., 1999). Of three interventions that were tested on children with phonological weaknesses, the most phonemically explicit one produced the strongest growth in word-reading ability. In fact, of the three interventions tested, only the most explicit intervention produced a reliable increase in the growth of word-reading ability over children who were not provided any special interventions.(emphasis added) Other studies (Brown and Felton, 1990; Hatcher, Hulme, and Ellis, 1994; Iversen and Tunmer, 1993) combine with this one to suggest that schools must be prepared to provide very explicit and systematic instruction in beginning word-reading skills to some of their students if they expect virtually all children to acquire word-reading skills at grade level by third grade.

Additional School on the Leopold School Site Facts

This information was provided to school board members via public information department
· Leopold Elementary School is overcrowded, and will become more and more overcrowded. The school’s capacity is 655 students; 668 students currently attend the school. In five years the school is projected to have a minimum of 750 students and as many as 830 students, that is 95 to 175 over capacity.
· In addition, because of overcrowding there, 111 students who live close to Leopold are assigned to elementary schools outside their neighborhood. One of these schools is Chavez Elementary which currently needs and will continue to need seats for students moving into new developments close to this school on the southwest side.
· This question asks for authorization for up to $14.5 million to build and equip a new elementary school adjacent to the existing school on the Leopold site, and to renovate, remodel, equip and add to the existing Leopold building, and to make related site improvements.
· Building on the existing site precludes having to purchase at least 15 acres of additional land for an elementary school.
· Included in the $14.5 million is up to $1.6 million for the existing Leopold building to convert and remodel the former library and current cafeteria into small and large classrooms.
· If this referendum is approved, the new school will open for the 2007-08 school year, and plans call for the two schools to be paired. Just as it’s done in other school district paired schools, one building would have kindergarten – 2nd grade students, and the other building would have 3rd – 5th grade students.
· Construction of this new elementary school will be consistent with the school district practice of having schools close to where students live, and of all students in a given neighborhood attending the same school.
· Without the new school on the Leopold site, and in the optimal boundary changes scenario presented to the Board of Education, at least an additional 64 current Leopold students will be assigned to schools outside their neighborhood. Under this scenario, over 300 students will be moved to different West side elementary schools – Thoreau, Van Hise, Stephens and Crestwood.
· Other boundary redistricting scenarios under consideration would move 828, 1063 or 1137 students to different elementary schools due to overcrowding. *(soon there will be an option to move around 300 students but the school board has yet to receive the information)
· The new school will cost the average homeowner an average of $25 per year for 15 years, and will generally maintain present school boundaries. (The median value of Madison homes is $205,400.)
For more information about the May 24 referendum, go to the district’s Web site at

Steve Stephenson: Broken school budget led to Kobza win

Dear Editor: As a parent of children at both Madison East High School and Sherman Middle School, I am thankful for the hard work and significant positive contributions that Lawrie Kobza and her husband, Peter, have made to both of these schools.
Perhaps those apprehensive at the election of Lawrie Kobza to the Madison School Board are concerned that it won’t be business as usual. Quite frankly, this is exactly why Lawrie now sits on the board. The easiest thing for a school board to do when facing a budget problem is to float a referendum to ask the voters for more money. This is similar to giving a drug addict a fix. It is only temporary and the real issues will still be waiting for you when the fix wears off.

Continue reading Steve Stephenson: Broken school budget led to Kobza win

SB171 Hearing on School Referenda Timing

Click on this graph for a larger version
Following is a link to 2005 Senate Bill 171 relating to the scheduling of referenda to approve school district borrowing or exceed a school district’s revenue limit. A hearing is scheduled for the bill on Wednesday, April 20, 9:00 a.m., Room 400 SE, before the Committee on Labor and Election Process Reform of the Senate, Tom Reynolds, Chair. (74K PDF). Send your views on this to Senate President Alan Lasee
200K PDF
ACE Whitepapers:
1. Community Services Fund (Fund 80) [64K PDF]

2. Fund 80 Media Presentation [180K PDF]
Kanavas requests audit of Waukesha School District’s Community Service Funds.

Teachers fight possible bilingual education cuts

Capital Times April 15, 2005
Full article at:
Teachers fight possible bilingual education cuts
By Lee Sensenbrenner
April 15, 2005
Bilingual teachers who are helping students in the Madison Metropolitan School District to learn English are organizing against a proposed cut to their department.
Threatened with losing eight positions if a May 24 operating budget referendum for $7.4 million is unsuccessful, the teachers said in an open letter Thursday that the cut would take away much of their ability to help mainly Spanish speaking elementary students who are struggling to keep up.
As laid out in the administration’s $7.4 million list of proposed cuts, dropping 8.4 bilingual resource teachers would save $425,880. This would take away one of two teachers in the elementary classrooms where the positions would be lost.

Senator Kanavas Requests Audit of Waukesha School District

Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) has asked the Legislative Audit Bureau to audit the Waukesha School District’s use of “community service funds” (called “Fund 80” by Madison Metropolitan School District) to finance high school pool project.
The following article from the April 15 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel includes a larger discussion about how funds are being used in other Milwaukee-area communities and whether those uses conform to state law.

Continue reading Senator Kanavas Requests Audit of Waukesha School District

Neenah schools add staff to special ed, gifted-talented program

The following story from the April 13, Appleton Post-Crescent reports on a school district in Wisconsin that is actually adding staff to both gifted and special education.
News-Record staff writer
NEENAH � The equivalent of four teachers will be added to the Neenah Joint School District next year to enhance its special education, and gifted and talented programs.
Last week, the Board of Education set the staffing level at 480.5 teaching positions for 2005-06, compared with 476.5 this year.
The changes will cost taxpayers an additional $244,000 next year.

Continue reading Neenah schools add staff to special ed, gifted-talented program

Direct Instruction Wins More Praise

The cover story in today’s Isthmus (dated April 15) includes new praise for the effectiveness of Direct Instruction for teaching reading.
For example, the article says, “Among the beneficiaries . . . are special ed students, who receive an especially intense form of Direct Instruction. One-third of Marquette’s special ed kids were ‘advanced’ readers on last year’s third-grade test, while over one-half were ‘proficient.’
The article continue, “Meanwhile, at Franklin-Randall, the district’s other paired elementary schools, the third-grade scores for special ed students are the inverse of those at Lapham-Marquette: Whereas Marquette has one-third of its kids at the top and 8% at the bottom, Randall has 8% at the top and one third at the bottom. At Hawthorne Elementary, one of five schools formerly eligible for the Reading First grant, no special ed children register as ‘advanced,’ and most perform poorly.”
Unfortunately, most Isthmus articles are not posted on-line. When an electronic copy become available, I’ll post a link to it.
Ed Blume

Original letter on Reading Recovery weaknesses

Below Jeff Henriques posted a response from the MMSD to a letter criticizing Reading Recovery.
The critical letter concludes:
“Reading Recovery has not met the needs of these lowest performing students. Most significantly, its excessive costs can make it more difficult for a school to provide help for all students in need, especially those who are behind in the upper grades. Thus, Reading Recovery is not a productive investment of taxpayers� money or students� time and is a classic example of a �one size fits all� method.”
Read the full letter letter on Reading Recovery’s flaws.
Ed Blume

NCLB Causing Decline in Achievement

The New York Times on April 13 reported on a study by the Northwest Evaluation Association that shows there is a decline in the improvement of students in schools since the enactment of NCLB. To quote the article in part:
“Since No Child Left Behind, … individual growth has slowed, possibly because teachers feel compelled to spend the bulk of their time making sure students who are near proficiency make it over the hurdle.
The practice may leave teachers with less time to focus on students who are either far below or far above the proficiency mark, the researchers said, making it less likely for the whole class to move forward as rapidly as before No Child Left Behind set the agenda.”
The following link is to the actual report from the NWEA site, for your reading pleasure.
Download file

MMSD’s reply on Reading Recovery

In response to criticism of Reading Recovery here and on the Madison TAG Parents web site, MMSD Reading Recovery Coordinator, Sharon Gilpatrick, provided TAG staff with information in response to the letter about Reading Recovery and asked that it be shared with the community.
According to the Reading Recovery Council of North America the Internet letter criticizing Reading Recovery was not an “unbiased review of evidence. It represents a narrow but vocal minority opinion.” They also state that it has a number of biases and omits important findings. You can draw your own conclusions by reading their letter signed by their group of international researchers.

A Quid Pro Quo for Passing the Referenda

The District must have a budget process that allows the Board of Education and the public to review the budget, and balance the interests of the public, students and staff to accomplish the effective and efficient operation of the School District, and to ensure that its priorities are addressed.
The current timeline for budget approval does not allow the Board or the public to have reasonable and informed access to the information necessary to balance those interests, or to ensure those priorities.
Instead, current and past budget practices allow staff contracts to be accepted, budget cuts to be proposed, and additional programs to be considered, all without the ability to place these items within the budget as a whole, and therefore balance all interests.
Modifying the budget process to allow this balancing, to me, is non-negotiable.
I, for one, will not be supporting any of the referenda on the May 24 ballot, unless the budget process is fixed.
I will be voting in favor of all the referenda on May 24, if and only if the Board takes actions prior to the referenda to ensure all proposed staff contracts and other agreements are incorporated into the previously published budget and not acted separately upon by the Board; and, if and only if, all cuts to programs are proposed and presented in the context of the previously published budget, and not acted separately upon by the Board.
In order to get my vote, the 2005-2006 budget process and timelines need to be modified, even at this late date, to conform. We cannot reneg on any contracts already voted on by the Board, and we cannot review the failure to consider adminstrative renewals by the Board, and we cannot pull back the publicly proposed cuts to await the timely arrival of the budget.
But, we must be delivered an estimated 2005-2006 budget sooner than the proposed May 2nd to give the public time to review it, place the proposed cuts into its budget context, and plan for alternative budget adjustments. At the latest, the budget can be delivered to the Board and public on April 22nd, even under the current timeline, by posting the budget on the website prior to or instead of printing (we might even be able to save printing costs!).
Accepting the referenda for a changed budget process is a quid pro quo contract between the Board and the public. It is a prototypical win-win agreement. All sides to the coming debate over the referenda get everything they want. Those in favor of the referenda get the referenda passed; those who want a significantly better budget process get their interests heard.
Accepting such a challenge might even avoid the coming, and, what I perceive to be, very devisive battle among the many sides to debates.
For those who find such an agreement more of a compromise than a win-win agreement, consider it progress towards opening up the budget process � progress that could have been accomplished years ago.
The real debate has not started, but I�ve already heard some loose lips. I�ve heard it said (paraphrasing), �If you can�t afford the tax increases, take a mortgage out on your home.� And I�ve read comments that said (paraphrasing again), �If the Leopold expansion was in a white area, there would be no problem. The opposition are racists.�
Unless some agreement is accepted, I don�t see a reasoned and tempered debate occurring in the next month and a half.
Instead, we�ll be spitting at each other.

Middle School Goes out of Fashion?

Anne Marie Chaker:

. . . a growing body of evidence is showing that preteen students do better when they can remain in their familiar elementary schools for longer — with better grades and fewer disciplinary problems than their middle-school peers.
. . . An early study tracked hundreds of middle-school-age students in Milwaukee public schools, comparing those who switched to a new school in grade seven with their counterparts in a K-8 school who didn’t have to make any switch. The research found that those who switched had more negative attitudes toward school and lower grades. Girls in particular didn’t recover in middle adolescence (grades nine and 10) when it came to self-esteem and participation in extracurricular activities.

Via Eduwonk & Joanne Jacobs

MMSD Employee on Budget for 2005-06

TO: Madison School Board Members
FROM: School District Employee
RE: MMSD Budget Concerns/Questions
As a Madison taxpayer, parent, and employee of MMSD, I have a unique perspective on the workings of this school district. I also feel a great responsibility to write my concerns. The Board should address:
� How can food service/custodial/secretarial personnel be cut/surplused at the same time that more administrators are added and given substantial raises?

Continue reading MMSD Employee on Budget for 2005-06

Some Direct Instruction Curricula

Direct Instruction frequently enters discussions of reading in Madison’s schools.
Strictly speaking, Direct Instruction (with a capital D and a capital I) is a copyrighted program. Direct instruction (little d, little i) refers to a variety of programs that use direct systematic instruction and other principles of Direct Instruction.
Additionally, direct instruction works to teach other subjects, math, science, history, and more.
Dr. Martin Kozloff, professor at University of North Carolina-Willmington, prepared a long list of direct instruction cirricula. Click here to read a short description of each.
Ed Blume

QEO: Good or Bad?

Ken Cole:

The perennial argument that the QEO has somehow �capped� teacher salaries just doesn�t square with the numbers because most districts voluntarily settle above the 3.8 percent total package, which includes both salary and benefits. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards database shows that total-package increases averaged about 4.5 percent in 2003-04 and 4.3 percent in 2004-05.

Stan Johnson:

Prior to the law change, arbitrators intervened in stalled negotiations and brought the sides together by analyzing such data as a local school district�s ability to pay, national and regional market forces, and comparable wages and benefits in the geographic area. Arbitration was the single most important factor accounting for the period of labor peace from the late 1970s to early 1990s.

What’s the QEO? via wisopinion

Capital Times Editorial on Kobza’s Win

4.11.2005 Capital Times Editorial:

Newcomer Lawrie Kobza surprised a lot of people with her win in Tuesday’s voting for the Madison School Board, which saw her upset incumbent Bill Clingan by a comfortable 53-47 percent margin.
Her win is being read as something of a municipal Rorschach test.
Some members of the current board majority, who vigorously opposed her candidacy, fear that Kobza will be another Ruth Robarts, the dissident board member who has angered her colleagues by picking fights on budget issues and accusing other board members of being rubber stamps for Superintendent Art Rainwater.

Great to see the Capital Times engaged….
UPDATE: Karyn Saemann on No School District, no sense of place; schools in Fitchurg.

Where’s the board majority?

Jason Shepard speculated on how a majority might form on the MMSD school board when Lawrie Kobza officially takes a seat.
�Lawrie Kobza�s win . . . over Madison school board incumbent Bill Clingan by a 53% – 47% margin will almost certainly alter the board�s ideological alignment. The only question is how.
Kobza credits a surprise endorsement from The Capital Times as the tipping point of her campaign. But a last minute mailing signed by Ed Garvey and former Mayors Paul Soglin and Sue Bauman questioned whether Kobza is really a liberal.
Kobza, an attorney with a sharp mind, says her election proves voters want changes in school governance. Soon-to-be colleague Ruth Robarts is thrilled: �There�s going to be a new dialogue.�
At election�night parties, there was speculation that Kobza could side with Robarts on what would normally be 6-1 votes, and also of a coalition made up of Kobza, Robarts and moderates Shwaw Vang and Johnny Winston. But Carol Carstensen says her big win . . . shows public support of the board�s liberal majority. We�ll see.�
Isthmus, April 8, 2005

Milwaukee Schools Update

Quite a bit happening in Milwaukee, according to Alan Borsuk.

The revolving door for urban school superintendents has been a major fact of life across the country. The general rule of thumb many use is that if you make it three years in the job, you’re doing better than average.
Andrekopoulos will reach the three-year mark in August. He has said from the start that he was committed to the job for five years, and he recently said he might want to make it six.
It is still going to be heavy going for him and everyone else involved in MPS. The budget decisions are going to be tough and the politics demanding. Change, as Andrekopoulos says, is hard.
Most important, the job of raising the level of educational success of children in the city overall is complicated and slow going, at best.
But the Goldberg election may prove over time to have been an important signal that Andrekopoulos will beat the urban superintendent challenge and get the five years or more that he wants. That is likely to make this the key question for the next several years: Will the policies he stands for work?

The 65% Solution?

George Will, writing from Phoenix:

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district’s education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.
Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion. Only four states (Utah, Tennessee, New York, Maine) spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in classrooms. Fifteen states spend less than 60 percent. The worst jurisdiction — Washington, D.C., of course — spends less than 50 percent.

Joanne Jacobs has a few comments.

5 Reasons Why the Madison School Board Should Continue the Elementary Strings Program

In the May 24 referendum for the operating budget, voters will determine whether the Madison schools will have an additional $7.4 million to spend next year and for all the years thereafter. Superintendent Art Rainwater and the management team issued a cut list in March. According to Rainwater, the board should cut the programs, staff and expenses on this list if the referendum fails.
Before the referendum election, the school board can take items off of the cut list. One of the items that should come off the list is the proposed elimination of the elementary strings program, a program that costs $500,000 within a budget of more than $350 million.

Continue reading 5 Reasons Why the Madison School Board Should Continue the Elementary Strings Program

Dave Burkhalter Named WEAC Executive Director

Via Wispolitics:

Daniel Burkhalter, who has been director of government relations for the Illinois Education Association since 1993, is the new executive director of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
The WEAC Board of Directors approved the appointment of Burkhalter Friday (April 8, 2005). He succeeds Michael A. Butera, who left in November to take a position with the National Education Association. WEAC Legal Counsel Bruce Meredith has been acting executive director.

Wispolitics. Clusty search

Hacker High School

The Hacker Highschool project is the development of license-free, security and privacy awareness teaching materials and back-end support for teachers of elementary, junior high, and high school students.
Today’s kids and teens are in a world with major communication and productivity channels open to them and they don’t have the knowledge to defend themselves against the fraud, identity theft, privacy leaks and other attacks made against them just for using the Internet. This is the reason for Hacker Highschool.

Teacher Union Agreements Around the USA

Madison Teachers, Inc. is currently bargaining with the Madison School District. The current agreement can be found here (167 page PDF). I ran some google searches and found the following teacher contracts online:

I’ll continue to add to this list, along with the new MMSD/Madison Teachers Agreement when it is available. MTI’s weekly Solidarity is well worth checking out, for another view into our schools.

Arts & Education: Milwaukee Ballet, Degas & Milwaukee Art Museum

I chanced upon a rather extraordinary afternoon recently at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Museum is currently featuring a Degas sculpture exhibition, including Little Dancer. Interestingly, several ballerinas from the Milwaukee Ballet were present. Children could sketch and participate. I took a few photos and added some music. The result is this movie. Enjoy!

Connecticut’s A.G. to sue Federal Government

Air America’s Al Franken interviewed Richard Blumental, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Friday because he is fiing a law suit against the federal government. His complaint on behalf of the state of Connecticut is the federal government is illegally and unconstitutionally requiring states and communities to spend millions of dollars to administer federally mandated test. He claims it is unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate education to the local communities without financially backing the mandates. He is asking that other states join in…………

Continue reading Connecticut’s A.G. to sue Federal Government

School Administrator Sharing

Amanda Kramer:

Lake Mills Superintendent Dean Sanders will speak to the Johnson Creek School Board at the end of April about the possibility of the districts sharing a superintendent, a business manager and possibly a pupil services director.
The move might not only save money, but it could also avoid cuts to staff and services, he said. Sanders said both districts face financial challenges.
“We all have to look at ways of making our districts run, short of cutting programs and hurting kids,” Sanders said.

Madison C.A.R.E.S Presentation @ Thoreau PTO 4.12.2005

Mary Marcus forwarded this event notification: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 / 6:30 to 7:30p.m. @ Thoreau School PTO Meeting (Map & Driving Directions)

Guest Speakers Bill Keys and Arlene Silveria from Madison C.A.R.E.S. (Citizens Acting Responsibly for Every Student).

Madison CARES (Citizens Acting Responsibly for Every Student) is an organization of citizens who are concerned about the future of the public schools and have come together in support on the 3 referenda that will be on the ballot in the Madison Metropolitan School District on 5/24. At the meeting, we will provide you with information on the 3 referenda questions and how they may affect your school. We will also introduce you to our organization. There will be time for questions and answers.

Madison C.A.R.E.S. background information

Mr. Rainwater, I am looking at you. And I�m more than disappointed.

Dear Editor,
I just returned from the annual Madison Strings Festival with a warm feeling in my heart. It wasn�t the warmth of joy, however, despite the lasting echoes of 1,000 children playing music. It was the embers of rage beginning to kindle. For the fourth time, the Strings Festival was tainted by rumblings of anger, shock, and outrage at Art Rainwater�s ongoing assault on Madison values. For the fourth time, the elementary strings program in the Madison schools is targeted for demolition.

Continue reading Mr. Rainwater, I am looking at you. And I�m more than disappointed.

Leopold area split on location of new school?

By trying to compare city council ward maps and the Leopold Elementary attendance map, it appears to me that Lawrie Kobza and Bill Clingan ran neck and neck in the Leopold area:

Ward 57 Ward 58 Ward 59 Total
Kobza – 32 Kobza – 16 Kobza – 129 Kobza – 177
Clingan – 36 Clingan – 14 Clingan – 138 Clingan – 188

Kobza favored construction of a new school at a different location to help relieve crowding at Leopold. Clingan favored construction of the new school at the Leopold site.
Do the results mean that the attendance area is nearly evenly split on the two options?
The comments section is open for anyone with an answer or interpretation.
Ed Blume

The Real Education Revolution?

Greg Beato:

In doing so, they overlook people like Joyce and Eric Burges, who are at the Valley Home Educators convention promoting their organization, the National Black Home Educators Resource Association. The Burgeses produce an annual symposium for African-American families in their home state of Louisiana, and Joyce Burges dreams of opening up a series of private learning centers where homeschooling parents can combine resources and offer instruction in a central location. In pursuit of this goal, Burges has reached out to local businesses and foundations, but few have responded so far. �We�re an upstart, grassroots organization,� she says, �so I�m asking businesses for anything that can help us get the word out that parental involvement in education is a viable way of ensuring that children do exceptionally well.�A lot of them say, �Yes, we sense your passion, but we can�t really do anything.��

The arts are a crucial component of an intelligent school curriculum.

“Without incorporating arts education, our children will not be prepared for success and survival in the world community we live in. The arts broaden our perception of the world, utilize our brains more fully and train us to look for a variety of solutions. The arts bring joy into lives that are not always full of sun.

Continue reading The arts are a crucial component of an intelligent school curriculum.

Timing Of The One-Year Operating Referendum

Timing is everything. Timing is the reason that I believe a one-year operating referendum has a better chance of passage than a two or three year referendum.
Since being elected to the Madison school board last year, it has been very clear to me that many people in our community are educated in school board politics via local media. Unfortunately, television snippets, radio sound bites and newspaper articles rarely tell the entire story. However, in the March 31st Opinion section of the Wisconsin State Journal gets the story right! The article states, “Tapping property taxpayers for more money is a regrettable option, but the finger of blame does not point to the board. Rather, outdated and unproductive state school financing rules are at fault. They put school districts like Madison’s in a no-win situation. In response, the School Board, with a few exceptions, has been taking the right approach. By cutting, combining and conserving, the board has held down spending while keeping school quality high.” Thank you Wisconsin State Journal for telling readers the truth!
I support the one-year operating referendum because I believe it is the right thing to do and the right time given the other referenda on the ballot (building a new school and maintenance being the other two). I am also sympathetic to community concerns regarding higher property taxes and the uneasiness that leaves in the community’s sense of economic security. For instance, gas prices are increasing, President Bush is advocating privatizing social security and many lawmakers are still promoting the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The timing for any school board referendum will never be optimal. However, it is important to make any referenda as palatable as possible for as many people as possible. Given our circumstances, the time to do that is for one year. That time will be on Tuesday May 24th.

Let the String Teachers Stick to Music Education

“It is unreasonable that the strings program in MMSD should be the target of cuts every year, when it is demonstrated OVER AND OVER that it is a successful program musically, it helps with academic progress, and it is a boon to economically disadvantaged students. Will the School Board please allow the string teachers in the district stick to music education rather than fighting for the existence of a proven program?”
from comments – String Survey

String Survey – Comments

Take the string survey – results will be tabulated and forwarded to the school board. I’ll be posting comments from the survey on this website:
survey comment response: “Don’t cut music. I was never in a strings program, but rather played trombone. I think that my experiences in music helped shape my teenage years more than probably any other factor. I think it would be sad to see it go. 4th grade is not too young to learn music; and early start allows them to be interested in music before they are overwhelmed by too many other things.”

String Orchestra Festival Soars Despite District Administration Annual Assault

The annual string festival is a reminder of how wonderful music education is, and of how important this is for our children’s education. This annual spring event is also a reminder of how badly the existing School Board is failing our children. Lawrie Kobza, school board candidate for Seat 6, wrote, “Fourth and fifth grade strings is a well-established, much-loved, and much-supported program. There is also significant research demonstrating a high correlation between playing an instrument and achievement. Given all of these positives, the 4th & 5th grades strings program should not be considered for cuts until the district does everything possible it can to retain or if necessary restructure the program so that strings can continue to be offered in 4th and 5th grades even in times of tight finances.” This is Lawrie’s approach – not settling for the status quo, working together creatively for what we value for our kids’s education. I am voting for her on Tuesday, April 5th, because the strings festival, sports, academics would all benefit from her talents on the school board. The status quo is not working locally – the longer we stay with the status quo, the more our kids will suffer.

Continue reading String Orchestra Festival Soars Despite District Administration Annual Assault

Super Strings Festival

The Memorial Strings Festival was a wonderful collection of children from forth to twelve grade, every color, every size, and all abilities. As I sat proudly and watched my daughter play, along with so many parents who were sitting and standing (as there were no seats left so many showed up)I was sad. The director was sad and the two strings teachers that were given pink slips (one from Crestwood, our school) Friday were sad. Surely this program does not need to be on the chopping block. I kept thinking, with this many parents attending a festival couldn’t we do a fundraiser at the festival, sale something or just have a donation box for strings. Many parents like myself feel strings and no-cut freshman sports are placed on the block because they get the “involved parents” fired up to vote for whatever the referendum is, just to save these two programs. They are right. I will vote for the referendum to save a $500,000 program. I would not vote to save a secretary, two aides, two janitors and two middle management positions. But I will vote for it because, although I have been in charge of many fundraising events, I can’t figure out how to raise $500,000 without a major community effort.
I have an idea though. How about moving 4/5 strings out of the classroom and into the Monday afternoon slot? Run it through MSCR or After School Program and while all the other teachers do whatever it is they do Monday afternoon allow strings kids to stay Monday for an hour of strings.(At Crestwood, After School provides foreign language in this same manner) MSCR does not seem to be a part of the MMSD budget that requires cutting and parents already pay a fee ($40 for me) to have their child in strings. We could increase the fee and then raise money for scholarships so to include low income children. The only problem I see with this arrangement is;
1. transportation for low -income students (we could have one at the Allied Drive Learning center instead of the school, parents could choose) 2. could we get enough strings teachers to cover the schools at the same time slot? If the referendum fails lets not throw this program out, let’s think outside the box and find a solution.

April 5, 2005 Madison School Board Election Campaign Finance Disclosures

Pre-election School Board Candidates Campaign Finance Disclosures (City Clerk Reports):

  • Seat 7: Carol Carstensen: $ Raised: 9,906 (PAC = 100.00); Spent $4,697.94; On Hand 8,541.95
  • Seat 7: Larry Winkler: $ Raised: 3,788.25 (PAC = 0); Spent $1,788.25; On Hand 2,100.00
  • Seat 6: Bill Clingan: $ Raised: 11,305 (PAC = 2440); Spent $5183.8; On Hand 7,219.01
  • Seat 6: Lawrie Kobza: $ Raised: 11,474.01 (PAC = 575); Spent $3432.47; On Hand 6,706.94

Special Interest Spending:

  • MTI Voters (Madison Teachers PAC): $ Raised: $12,000 $ Spent 5,490.6 Cash on Hand: $28,211.23
  • Madison Teachers, Inc: Radio Ad Expenditures for Bill Clingan and Carol Carstensen: $5,514.00 (heard this ad today on 105.5
  • Progressive Dane: $ Raised: 2,205.81 $ Spent $2,114.69 Cash on Hand: 676.61 ($255 went to Bill Clingan)

The most interesting bit of data: Larry Winkler’s source of funds is…. Larry Winkler. His recent speech to the Madison Rotary is well worth reading.

Additional details and links are available here.

No Child Left Behind takes credit for Madison Schools reading success (No Joke)

A message to Madison School Board members from Superintendent Art Rainwater:
Attached is a press release from the Federal Department of Education in which they use our closing the gap in third grade reading as the example for Wisconsin of what NCLB and the Reading First grants have accomplished. The other interesting thing is the data they use to show how successful they have made us is the same data we used to show them why they should fund our Balanced Literacy program.
Download file

School Board Candidate Lawrie Kobza Says Don’t Cut Elementary Strings – Offers Suggestions

I support offering students the opportunity to take strings in 4th and 5th grade, and oppose the administration’s proposed cuts to the program.
Fourth and fifth grade strings is a well-established, much-loved, and much-supported program. There is also significant research demonstrating a high correlation between playing an instrument and achievement. Given all of these positives, the 4th & 5th grades strings program should not be considered for cuts until the district does everything possible it can to retain or if necessary restructure the program so that strings can continue to be offered in 4th and 5th grades even in times of tight finances.

Continue reading School Board Candidate Lawrie Kobza Says Don’t Cut Elementary Strings – Offers Suggestions

District’s Virchow-Krause Report Less Than It Seems

The District’s functional analysis report from Virchow-Krause (hereafter VK) has been touted as showing how well the District is being run. But, the report’s results are less than they seem. On page three of the report, VK gives the assumptions for the report. Quoting from the report:
As Superintendent Rainwater has noted, there are several key assumptions behind the functional
analysis. These assumptions are:
� Every single thing the District does is good for kids. Long ago the District eliminated all those
things that were peripheral.
� All District staff members – teachers, administrators, custodians and food service workers �
are good at what they do.
� The District has very talented people that work very hard and that work very smart.
� Site-based teachers and administrators currently have full time jobs � and they can’t absorb
more work. Functions cannot move from the central office to people at the site because sitebased
staff members are working as hard and as efficiently as possible.
With these assumptions in mind, the results of the functional analysis are presented in this
Clearly, given the assumptions of the report, VK could not have found anything but that the District is doing everything just perfectly.
Had these assumptions not been in place, VK might have been able to inform the District, Board and public of solutions not currently in front of us.
What is disturbing, however, is that the Board doesn’t truly read or understand the critical material before them, that the District can make those assumptions, probably with Board acquiesence, and then have the temerity to claim they are providing leadership, and doing all that they can do.

Press Release and List of Members of DPI Task Force on High Schools

Burmaster announces High School Task Force members
MADISON�State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster released a list of the members of the State
Superintendent�s High School Task Force.
The group, co-chaired by JoAnne Brandes, executive vice president, chief administrative officer,
and general counsel for Johnson Diversey Inc., and Ryan Champeau, principal of Waukesha North High
School, will hold its next meeting May 3 at the Sheraton Madison Hotel. It will look at various local
initiatives aimed at redesigning or transforming the high school experience, enhancing student learning
and engagement, and strengthening the alignment of high school with postsecondary education and
workforce needs.
Madison Participants include:
Katie Arnesen of Madison
Steve Hartley, Director of Alternative Programs
Madison Metropolitan School District
Michael Meissen, Principal
LaFollette High School, Madison
Kendra Parks, Teacher
Memorial High School, Madison
The press release and a list of the members of the task force is on-line at: