DPI Forum on Special Ed

From Lauren Mikol:

The Department of Educational Services would like to advise staff, parents and community members of a public forum on November 9 sponsored by the State Superintendent’s Council on Special Education.
The purpose of the forum is to gather public input on significant topics related to special education in Wisconsin including IDEA 2004 and state special education law and disproportionality issues in special education.
Open to anyone interested to attend and give input.

Middle School Focus Group – Parents

Pam Nash (Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools) emailed this notice:

Many of you have expressed an interest in participating and discussing the changes to our middle schools. There will be a middle school focus group meeting for parents on Thursday, November 10, 2005, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Doyle Building, 545 W. Dayton Street in Room 103. [Map]
At this meeting, we will be gathering thoughts of what parents would like to see in the middle schools in Madison. There will also be an on-line survey available for parents to complete if they were unable to attend the meeting.

Denver to Vote on Teacher Pay for Performance

Andrea Dukakis:

Denver residents will vote Tuesday on whether to approve a far-reaching plan to pay teachers extra based on their students’ performance. School districts across the country are under pressure to raise test scores, and they are watching the vote closely.


Barbara Golden: Is Art Rainwater Doing a Good Job?

Barbara Golden:

The Madison Metropolitan School District HAS NOT CLOSED THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP. Black third graders are still not reading at the same level as white students, most school arrests involve African Americans and the graduation gap is as wide as ever. Black students are disproportionately referred to special education (and once in, rarely get out), and are overly represented in remedial classes that do not prepare them for higher education, or meaningful employment after high school.

Testing Time and Parent Power

See “Will Testing Be Right Answer for Schools?” in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . The interesting story is about NCLB and testing time throughout Wisconsin. Coming Monday in the Journal Sentinel is a follow-up story about testing special ed students.
You may be interested, also, in reading “Cheating Our Kids — How Politics and Greed Ruin Education,” by Joe Williams, who writes about education for “The New York Daily News.” Joe is a former education writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . According to a reviewer, Joe Williams shows how parents can use consumer power to put children first, shining light on the special interests controlling our schools, where politics and pork infuse everything and our children’s education is compromised, . He argues that increased accountability and choice are necessary, and shows how the people can take back the education system, enhancing responsibility inherent in democracy. The solution is a new brand of hardball politics that demands competence from school leaders and shifts the power away from bureaucrats and union leaders to the people who have a the greatest reason to put kids first: concerned parents. With practical steps and uplifting examples of success, this is a manifesto to action.

Bob & Jan Davidson: Child Geniuses Find A Home

CBS News:

Finally it meant I wasn’t the crazy mom who was pushing her kid to do things. I was a mom of a kid who had extraordinary abilities,” Alicja says.
Jacob Komar was the epitome of what the Davidsons were looking for and the Davidson Institute was just what the Komars needed. First, the Davidsons helped pay Jacob’s tuition to a private middle school for gifted math and science students.

More on Jan Davidson, here. Her low cost ideas for improving schools

What are the Task Force options?

The newsletters posted on the MMSD’s Long Range Planning page say that the East task force narrowed its considerations to eight options, and the West/Memorial narrowed its considerations to seven.
Could someone please post a list of the options for each task force?

I am Greatly Distressed About La Follette High School’s Four Block System

Dear La Follette Parents & Taxpayers,
I am writing because I am greatly distressed about conditions at La Follette High School under the 4-block system. I strongly believe that as parents and taxpayers you have the right to be included in the debate about your child’s education. Because I believe the future of the 4-block will be decided in the near future I am compelled to provide you with some information.

  1. Students in the traditional MMSD high schools are required to spend 50% of the credits required for graduation in academic areas. La Follette students are required to spend only 42% of their time in academic areas. Why does the district believe that La Follette students need less time in academic areas? Do the taxpayers support this decision? I understand that this is a debatable question. What I do not understand is why there is a different answer for La Follette students.


Obama on No Child Left Behind

Barack Obama:

But we don’t make much progress for our kids when we constrain ourselves like this. It appeared for a brief moment that the President, working with leaders like Senator Kennedy understood this, and many of us were initially encouraged by the passage of No Child Left Behind. It may not be popular to say in Democratic circles, but there were good elements to this bill – its emphasis on the achievement gap, raising standards, and accountability. Unfortunately, because of failures in implementation, particularly its failure to provide adequate funding and a failure to design better assessment tests that provide a clearer path for schools to raise achievement, the bill’s promise is not yet fulfilled.
The shortcomings of NCLB shouldn’t end the conversation, however. They should be the start of a conversation about how we can do better. Yes, it’s a moral outrage that this Administration hasn’t come through with the funding for what it claims has been its number one domestic priority. But to wage war against the entire law for that reason is not an education policy, and Democrats need to realize that.

[PDF Verision]

Massachusetts Schools Try a Longer School Day

Anthony Brooks:

Massachusetts is the first state giving out grants to school districts to pursue a longer school day — and 20 districts have applied for the money. Murphy Middle School in Boston is already experimenting with a longer day, offering help with homework and extra curriculum until late in the evening.

Organized Athletics Taking Away from Kids Childhood?

Rob Zaleski:

A group of kids in the 8- to 10-year-old range would gather in a small park just across the street and engage in pickup baseball games, much like Richter, the recently retired University of Wisconsin athletic director, did while growing up on Madison’s east side a half-century ago.
“They actually took a hammer and nails and some old plywood they must have found and tried to make a dugout,” Richter laughs. “And they put a pole out in left field, with a tennis ball on top, as a foul line. I was just amazed.”

MMSD Legislative Committee Recommends Joining Statewide Coalition

On October 17, the Legislative Committee of the Madison School Board voted unanimously to recommend that the district join the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) The organization is a diverse, statewide coalition working for comprehensive school-funding reform.
Partners in the coalition believe in the following core principles that serve as “membership criteria” and the rationale for a school-finance reform proposal based on the Adequacy model, the Wisconsin Adequacy


Colorado Referendum Targets Revenue Cap

To some Colorado residents, Referendum C is the best chance to spare the state’s schools from deep budget cuts. To others, the ballot measure—which will go before voters Nov. 1—represents a steep tax increase and gives lawmakers too much power over how state revenues are spent.
Referendum C is a proposed five-year suspension of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR. TABOR is a voter-approved 1992 constitutional amendment that imposed a formula-driven cap on state spending and required the state and local jurisdictions, including school districts, to give back to taxpayers any revenues in excess of the cap.
“It is by far and away the most restrictive tax and spending limitation in the country,” said Wade Buchanan, the president of the Bell Policy Center, a think tank in Denver. “It really is a measure that gives fiscal decisionmaking powers almost exclusively to the voters.”
From “Colorado Referendum Targets Revenue Cap: Easing restrictions would free up more tax dollars for schools and colleges”, by Linda Jacobson in Education Week, October 19, 2005.


Poverty and Education Forum: Audio and Video Archive

Rafael Gomez organized an excellent Forum Wednesday evening on Poverty and Education. Participants include:

  • Tom Kaplan: Associate Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty kaplan at ssc.wisc.edu
  • Ray Allen, Former Madison Board of Education Member, Publisher – Madison Times
  • Maria Covarrubias: A Teacher at Chavez Elementary mcovarrubias at madison.k12.wi.us
  • Mary Kay Baum: Executive Director; Madison-Area Urban Ministry mkb at emum.org
  • Bob Howard: Madison School District rhoward at madison.k12.wi.us

Listen to the entire event (70 minutes) via a mp3 file on your ipod/mp3 player or watch the entire video here. Individual presentations are available below:

Maria Covarrubias: A Teacher at Chavez Elementary describes her journey from a California migrant worker to a UW Educated Madison Teacher. Video


Amazing solution to Mystery #3: Unknown Authorization

Try your decoder ring on this cryptic missive to solve Mystery #3, Case of the Unknown Authorization:

Major Division Highlights and Anticipated Challenges [for the Department of Educational Services]:
– Expand programming and placement options for elementary age students with severe Emotional Behavioral Disability (EBD) and significant mental health needs. Budget & District Profile, page 79

When you break the MMSD’s crypt it means:

Create two new classrooms at Marquette Elementary for students with EBD;
Put two teachers, two aids, and a school psychologist in the two classrooms;
Spend a minimum of $350,000 on the classrooms.


Arts & Technology Charter School

The Capital Times:

The initial steps toward creation of an arts and technology charter public school in Madison will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Madison Gas and Electric Co. Innovation Center in Research Park.
The target date to begin such a program is the fall of 2007, according to Nancy Donahue, a leader in the Preschool of the Arts. The Madison School District now has two charter schools – the Wright Middle School and Nuestro Mundo, a kindergarten/first-grade unit operating in the Allis Elementary School. Board of Education approval would be required to add a third school.
Donahue said the charter school could be built on encouraging the exploration by pupils much like what occurs in the private preschool of the arts. A downtown location would enable pupils to tap into existing resources there, she said.

Madison Country Day School Budget Challenges

Doug Erickson:

Part of the operating budget for the private school was covered each year by John Frautschi of Maple Bluff, father of school founder Christopher Frautschi, according to Dan Stewart, newly elected chairman of the school’s board of trustees.
The elder Frautschi will no longer fill that role, Stewart said.
Stewart would not reveal the size of Frautschi’s annual subsidy, other than to say it was sizable. School officials are discussing the matter with other potential donors who have the capacity to give “six-figure gifts,” he said.
“We do face a fundraising challenge this year of significant proportion,” Stewart said. “The initial responses we’re receiving are very encouraging and point toward a significant opportunity for success.”

Parents question school safety at Memorial

The Wisconsin State Journal (October 26) carries a story on violence at Madison’s Memorial High School:

After a tumultuous two weeks at Madison Memorial High School marked by four weapons incidents, a student hit by a car and a gang fight, about 250 parents gathered to question Principal Bruce Dahmen about school security Tuesday night.

Language Learning Through Podcasts

Alex Williams:

It’s evident that podcasting is changing how educators view how they teach. Language learning services are picking up on the trend and in the process, showing the first examples of podcasting as a premium service.
I ran across an article in Asia Times Online about ALC Press Inc., a company in Japan that is teaching conversational english to students by using podcatching services. The cost comes to about $86 per year.
In ALC’s new service, the student will pay a monthly study fee. The student will also purchase a study book that includes the necessary software for “podcatching”, the process used to download new podcast feed files.
Here’s how it works.

300 Turn Out for Memorial Violence Meeting


There have been six incidents of violence at the school in the past week.
“It’s pretty obvious that there is some gang issues related to what happened at school yesterday,” said Lt. Tony Peterson.
Peterson said there have now been 40 arrests and citations at Memorial this school year.
Following a freedom of information request, the district released surveillance tape to News 3 showing a student waving a knife following an open gym night. Later, two others got into a fight.
Weapons, including a box cutter and a 9 mm handgun have also been seized from Memorial students.

Public’s Right To Know: Madison School District Land Purchases

Two weeks ago, I emailed this Open Records request to Madison School District Attorney Clarence Sherrod:

Good Afternoon, Clarence:
I hope this note finds you well.
I am writing to make an open records request under sec. 19.35 of the Wisconsin Statutes. I would like copies of any agreements signed this year by the Madison Metropolitan School District or its representatives to purchase land for a school site. I believe the issue of purchasing land for a school site was discussed by the Madison Board of Education on 10/10/2005.
I believe that these sort of land/facilities discussions should be public knowledge, particularly in light of the East / West task force activity.
Thank you very much and best wishes.

I received a response today from Bob Nadler, the District’s Custodian of Records. Essentially, this response means that the public has no right to know about the District’s purchase of land for a new school site until after the Board agrees to purchase. Read Bob’s letter here. I will post the document he referenced upon receipt.

Fights break out, staffer hit in face at Memorial

The Capital Times reports in a story by Lee Sensenbrenner:

A staff member at Memorial High School was struck in the face and a fire alarm went off after several fights broke out at once in a crowded hallway of Madison’s largest high school.
According to a report by Madison Police Lt. Pat Malloy, eight to 10 students were involved in a disturbance Monday morning that “turned into three to five physical fights in the hallway.” At some point during this, “an officer inadvertently touched a fire alarm,” Malloy said.
“A short time later, a staff member asked a student to remove a hat,” Malloy wrote in a release. “The student responded by striking the staff member in the face.”

Has the MMSD or any other agency followed up on the suggestions to convene a task force on gangs and student violence, as proposed at the forum sponsored by the schoolinfosystem.org? Seems like some follow up would be a good idea.

Beaver Dam School Wins National Award


Statistics show half the students at South Beaver Dam Elementary fall into the disadvantaged category.
Yet the school scored 100 percent on reading, knowledge and concept exams and more than 96 percent in attendance.
The school received a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
“There is no child left behind,” said parent Amy Grunst. “No child who can’t go. Everybody goes.”
“Our expectations are high,” said Principal Dan Rikli. “We are sensitive where they came from, but we expect just as much from every kid who walks into this school.”

Making Schools Work: Hedrick Smith

Hedrick Smith:

This web site follows our production team into classrooms from coast to coast to see how some American communities are creating a small revolution in our schools. Don’t expect one magic formula. You’ll see different strategies. The common denominator is results – lifting scores and closing achievement gaps, not just for a few hundred children but for nearly two million, from our inner cities to rural America.

Transcript here.

Ken Lonnquist @ Thoreau School

Local musician Ken Lonnquist was recently in residence at Thoreau School. Ken worked with each grade to compose a song. The resulting music, ultimately destined for a CD, was performed on a recent evening. Here’s a brief video clip from the event.
UPDATE: Thoreau’s Rhonda Schilling emailed the funding details:

Dane County Cultural Affairs ($1450 grant)
Wisconsin School Music Association ($500 grant)
Thoreau PTO ($1750 Cultural Arts Budget and Barnes & Noble Fundraiser)

Mystery #3: Case of the Unknown Authorization

So far, undaunted detectives, Mysteries #1 and #2 remain largely unsolved, and I’ll shortly update the faithful followers on those.
In the meantime, train your magnifying glasses on Mystery #3, The Case of the Unknown Authorization.
The Unknown Authorization took place in the MMSD budget approved by the Board of Education. It created two new classrooms at Marquette Elementary for a cost of at least $350,000.
Find the authorization and the funds in the MMSD budget documents . . . if you can.
Hint: You’ll need your secret decoder ring!
Good sleuthing!

Mary Gulbrandsen: MMSD Power Broker

No one appreciates Mary Gulbrandsen’s contributions to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) more than her boss, superintendent Art Rainwater. When we included Gulbrandsen in Madison Magazine’s 2004 People You Should Know list, Rainwater was the first to let us know we’d made an inspired choice. As MMSD chief of staff for the last two years, Gulbrandsen’s influence on all aspects of Madison’s K-12 schools is undeniable. From long-range planning to finance and operations to performance and achievement, district administration minutes suggest Gulbrandsen has spent the last two years in meetings. But seeing her in action on some of the most difficult issues, like the school environment for kids and families of color, proves what a skilled administrator she’s become. Add on top of all that her striking warmth and good sense, and Gulbrandsen seems a perfect fit for her behind-the-scenes position of power.

From “Power Influence & Anonymity: The Seven Women Power Brokers You Need to Know” by Robert Chappell, Neil Heinen and Brennan Nardi
Madison Magazine, November 2005

Fascinating: Novel Way to Assess School Competition Creates a Stir

Jon E. Hilsenrath:

The unusual spat has put a prominent economist in the awkward position of having to defend one of her most influential studies. Along the way, it has spotlighted the challenges economists face as they study possible solutions to one of the nation’s most pressing problems: the poor performance of some public schools. Despite a vast array of statistical tools, economists have had a very hard time coming up with clear answers.
“They’re fighting over streams,” marvels John Witte, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of political science and veteran of a brawl over school vouchers in Milwaukee in the 1990s. “It’s almost to the point where you can’t really determine what’s going on.”
Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist known for his free-market views, proposed 50 years ago that to improve schools, parents could be given vouchers — tickets they could spend to shop for a better education for their kids. He theorized that the resulting competition among schools would spark improvements in the system. Free-market advocates loved the idea. Teachers’ unions hated it, arguing that it could drain resources from some public schools and direct resources to religious institutions.


The Budget: Same Service = Cost to Continue = Baseline

Jim Zellmer, and others have taken the district to task for having a “same service” budget – alledging that nothing changes as a consequence.
But let’s clarify the use of some terms. The district uses the term “same service” to estimate the next year’s costs – the city and county do the same thing, but use the term “cost to continue.” This is not the entire process, but merely the starting place. The district and Board then make changes – both to comply with the state revenue caps and to improve our programs. We can figure what the changes will cost (or amount saved) by the difference from the same service budget.
Change and how to achieve it in a large system such as the school district is a major concern. Some changes have significant budgetary impacts, e.g. equipping schools with adequate computers (and the infrastructure to support this), reducing class sizes in the primary grades.
However, the one of the most far-reaching changes needed is to change what is occurring in the classroom. This change is brought about through intensive staff development – and is aided by smaller class sizes, but once the district budget includes funding for staff development and for smaller classes the critical factor is not the budget for these but how the funds are used.

Student Brings Weapons into Memorial High School


Another Memorial High School student was arrested Thursday, when school officials say a teen brought in a handgun magazine and 12 9-mm rounds to school.
News 3 reported a teacher noticed them when they fell out of the student’s pocket. A search of his car turned up two more boxes of ammo and a 12½ inch “Rambo Style” knife.
The student was taken to Dane County jail and arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and having a dangerous weapon on school grounds. Police said this is the third weapons incident at Memorial in a week.

Media – The Next Generation

Lookout Sandy Cullen, Matt Pommer, Jason Shepard, and Mitch Henck! Professor Jack Mitchell’s Journalism 335 class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is teaching the next generation of media. For several weeks these students learn about the Madison School Board and the City Council. I asked Professor Mitchell if I could share the stories with all of you. Enjoy.

Michigan Universities Offer More Remedial Math Courses

Lori Higgins:

What’s the price of leaving high school unprepared? Ask Chelsea Stephanoff, a Wayne State University student who is spending nearly $600 this semester for a class that won’t count toward graduation.
Why? Her math skills were poor enough that even after four years of high school math, she was placed in a remedial class.
“Math is not my strong point at all. I’m horrible at it. I have a hard time focusing on it,” said Stephanoff, a fourth-year student from Shelby Township who wants to be an elementary school teacher.

Via Joanne.

UW Freshman Class Scores High in Smarts – 52% Studied Performance Music

Karen Rivedale in the WI State Journal article, “Creamier Crop at UW Madison,” writes that “This year’s freshman class posted high scores on college entrance exams, beating the average national scores on the tests and continuing UW-Madison’s increasing selectivity among the state’s top students. Freshmen this year posted high class ranks, with more than half graduating from high school in the top 10 percent.”
In a sidebar in the article, the Freshamn enrolled is a record high (6,142), 62% earned a varsity letter, 52% performed with a school musical group, 23% won an award for community service.
Meanwhile, closer to home, MMSD’s administrator’s proposed a competitive athletic budget that continued to grow from the previous school year for this school year (parents do pay a fee of $115 per sport, extra for more expensive sports) – that’s good. However, MMSD’s administrators continued their cuts to music education with proposals to eliminate elementary performance music and increase general music class size. The School Board restored half the elementary stringed course in elementary schools and did not increase general music class size. There were also reductions in middle school performance music that were not restored.
Performance music improves academic performance, especially for lower income children who have no other access to performance music except through their public school. It is sad that MMSD is moving in the opposite direction of what the research shows benefits children’s academic performance by cutting performance music.
Performance music directly benefits reading and mathematical skills for young children. There is more research and results that show that today and the information and data showing the positive effects of instrumental music on children’s education are growing not shrinking. In future blogs I will post additional information on this research and results.

Mr. Mom’s Transport Service Press Conference

Mr. Mom’s Transport held a news conference Friday. Pat Schneider was there:

Peter Munoz, executive director of Centro Hispano, fought back tears as he recounted the company’s generous support of his nonprofit agency.
The Smiths’ predicament, he said, “embodies some of the most intransigent problems we face in economic disparity and injustice.
“This business cannot be allowed to fail. It is too important,” he said.
Richard Harris, executive director of the south side Genesis Enterprise Center where the news conference was held, said he doubted that state officials were giving other transportation providers “scrutiny as intent as Mr. Mom’s.”
“Ask yourself: Is the playing field equal?” he said.

More on the Madison School District’s transportion contracts.

Numbers on Arrests at MMSD School

Document Feed on the Isthmus web site has posted Jason Shepard’s recent column and data supplied by the school district:
Police and schools: By the numbers
Spreadsheets compiled from raw data showing police calls and arrests at Madison schools, 2004-2005

In the 2004-05 school year, police were summoned to Madison schools more than 1,500 times and made nearly 400 arrests, mostly of students. Recently Isthmus writer Jason Shepard went through raw data of police reports to compile spreadsheets of police calls and arrests, arranged by school. One resulting finding — that students of color account for a sharply disproportionate percentage of arrests — has stirred particular concern, a topic explored in Shepard’s column for the Oct. 21 edition of Isthmus. Included here is that column and three spreadsheets that provide cumulative data.

Poverty & Education, Wednesday, October 26, Overture Center

The volunteers of the schoolinfosystem blog invite everyone in the community to our second forum “Poverty and Education,” Wednesday, October 26, 2005 7:00p.m. in the 3rd floor Wisconsin Studio of the Overture Center, 201 State St.
Presenters will be:
– Tom Kaplan: Associate Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty;
– Mary Kay Baum: Executive Director; Madison-Area Urban Ministry
– Hemant Shah: Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication and Asian America Studies
– A representative from the City of Madison
See all the details here.

In the classroom, easy doesn’t do it

A recent posting from the Tomorrow’s Professor listserve looks at the importance of being a demanding teacher, and while the author is reflecting on his experience in the college classroom, the message is just as relevant for students at all grades.


Child Enticement Near Emerson


Madison police are warning parents about another child enticement. This one happened near Emerson School on Johnson Street. Two sisters say a man in a 4-door dark sedan told them to get in his car last Thursday morning. The suspect was a white male with a gray beard. He took off when the girls ran away. Similar cases have been reported in the Madison-metro area since September.

Police and Madison Schools

Bill Lueders and Jason Shepherd:

In the 2004-05 school year, police were summoned to Madison schools more than 1,500 times and made nearly 400 arrests, mostly of students. Recently Isthmus writer Jason Shepard went through raw data of police reports to compile spreadsheets of police calls and arrests, arranged by school. One resulting finding — that students of color account for a sharply disproportionate percentage of arrests — has stirred particular concern, a topic explored in Shepard’s column for the Oct. 21 edition of Isthmus. Included here is that column and three spreadsheets that provide cumulative data

Message from Mr. Mom’s Attorney

This message was posted on the Communities United list serve by Yolanda Woodard, attorney for Mr. Mom’s Transportation Service.
Dear Concerned Community & Business Leaders:
Recently the local newspapers and electronic media have reported on the Mr. Mom’s Transportation Service. This coverage has been in the most unfavorable light possible. While some missteps have been made with the current operation of the business, the sensational, negative media coverage far exceeds the true nature of the situation.
Corrective actions have already begun, long before it became fashionable for the local media to “bash” Mr, Mom’s.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that those of good conscience support Jeff and Cathy Smith and their company Mr. Mom’s. We are asking the community to support this company’s long standing presence in our community and its efforts to address the public concerns by attending a Press Conference to be held on Wednesday, October 21st at 10 am at the Genesis Economic Development Center, 313 W. Beltline Hwy. (Next to Nedrebo’s).

Yolanda S. Woodard
Attorney for Cathy and Jeff Smith

Eyewitness Report: School Board Decisions on Bus Contracts

A recent editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal claims that the Madison school board rejected Superintendent Art Rainwater’s “painstaking” analysis of known problems with local bus companies when it granted long-term contracts to transport our students to locally owned companies. According to the editorial, the administration informed the Board about safety and reliability problems with some of the companies, but—safety and reliability be damned— the Board rushed ahead. The administration, having taken its stand, then meekly agreed to commit the districts to contracts likely to fail our students and their families.
Time for a fact check. I was there for the administration’s presentation, for the votes on the contracts and for recent Board discussions about the problems that have developed with one of the local companies, Mr. Mom’s.
This is my eyewitness report.


State’s learning gap still vast

Wisconsin students stayed above national averages in test results released Wednesday, but a Journal Sentinel analysis of the data shows that the gap between black and white students was among the largest in the nation. In eighth-grade reading and in fourth-grade math, the gaps were larger than in any other state in the country.
Oct. 19, 2005


2005 NAEP Results

2005 National and State Mathematics and Reading Assessments for grades 4 and 8 are now available.
Robert Tomsho takes a look at the reading results:

Observers say boosting reading scores isn’t likely to get any easier, given the rapidly changing demographics in the nation’s schools where, for many students, English is a second language. Indeed, English was a second language for 10% of the fourth graders who took the NAEP reading test this year, up from 3% in 1992.
The lack of progress may also reflect divisions in the philosophy of how reading should be taught. Educators and political partisans have waged a long and sometimes bitter battle over how to handle the subject, as conservatives championing basic phonics-based teaching have clashed with liberal backers of “whole language,” which revolves around making English instruction exciting by reading stories.

Study Shows Few Gains Since NCLB

Lois Romano:

Despite a new federal educational testing law championed by the Bush administration, scores among fourth and eighth graders failed to show any improvements in reading, and showed only slow gains in math nationally during the past two years, according to a study released today.
Most troubling for educators are the sluggish reading skills among middle school students, which have remained flat for 13 years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which has been testing students for three decades and bills itself as the “nation’s report card.”
“There is no rationale on eighth-grade reading other than we are not making progress,” said Darvin M. Winick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the testing. Yet, he added, “I think educators and parents of elementary schools students should feel pretty good about this report. There is progress.”

interesting quote NPR has more.

Minority Overrepresentation in Special Ed. Targeted

From Education Week, October 12, 2005
By Christina A. Samuels
A new provision of federal law taking effect this school year allows, and in some cases requires, school districts to focus some of their federal special education money on reducing the enrollment of minority students in such programs.
The provision, contained in the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, requires some districts to spend as much as 15 percent of that federal aid on what are called “early intervening” services, which are meant to bolster the achievement of students before they are officially referred for special education.


UW Center Established To Promote Reading Recovery

A gift of nearly $3 million is being used to boost teacher training at the UW-Madison in a special, reading program.
But that program, Reading Recovery, has critics, who say it’s not worth the necessary investment.
Training at a new UW-Madison Reading Recovery Center will involve videotaping teachers, as they instruct young children, in a one-on-one process between student and teacher that costs more than group programs.
Student progress with Reading Recovery in the Madison School District and across the country has been questioned.


A History of Changes at West

Last spring a longtime parent at West HS was asked to write a description — content area by content area — of the curriculum changes that have occurred at West HS in recent years that have affected the academic opportunities of West’s “high end” students. Below you will find what she wrote. It includes changes that have actually occurred; changes that may and probably will occur; and important questions about what else may happen in the future.
This summary was then forwarded to two other longtime West parents for their comments. Excerpts from those comments may be found just after the original description. Next, the description of each content area was sent to the appropriate department head at West, for their comment with the goal being to produce a brief, descriptive document that everyone would agree was factually accurate, for educational and advocacy purposes. Unfortunately, none of the department heads responded.
Here is the original description:


Wisconsin AB 618 and SB 305: Protect Child Passengers

Denny Lund emailed this information on two bills that address requirements for child passenger booster seats:

On Wednesday, October 19, the Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature will be voting on both AB 618 and SB 305. Because there is no public hearing for this bill, it is imperative that these committee members hear from you.
Please call and/or email your representatives and urge them to support AB 618 and SB 305. If they are not on the Joint Finance Committee, urge them to contact committee members.
Find your legislator’s phone number here: www.legis.state.wi.us
List of Joint Finance Committee members


Non-Traditional School Finance Discussion

Props to Johnny Winston, Jr. for organizing today’s Madison Board of Education Finance & Operations Subcommittee on Advertising meeting. I think a discussion of alternative funding sources is vital in light of Madison’s generally high property taxes, sluggish economic growth and the biennial state funding battles. A number of possibilities were discussed including:

  • The District leading the implementation of local fibre optic networks, via it’s many facilities (with, perhaps wifi servicing the last mile). I think this is quite interesting. Madison lags in true broadband service.
  • Naming Rights
  • Curriculum Program Underwriting
  • Sponsorships for district cable channels, website(s) and other parental communications

Participants included: Johnny, Roger Price, Barb Lehman, Ken Syke, Vince Sweeney (UW Athletic Department), Melanie Schmidt (President of the Timpano Group) Jodi Bender Sweeney, President of the Foundation for Madison Public Schools and the writer (me).

Finally, A representative of local cell providers discussed the type of fees they would pay for very small antennas placed on District facilities (no towers). The Capital Times’ Matt Pommer attended as well and will, I’m sure write about it.
UPDATE: Pommer’s article is here. I have some corrections:

  • I did not hear the word tower used in connection with the cell service discussions. I heard the word antenna used. Obviously, we’ll have to see what the actual plans include to make an aesthetic determination on this question.
  • I’m quoted as saying “Madison is way behind on this issue,” related to sponsorship and advertising. I said this when Roger Price was discussing the District’s fibre optic network options vis a vis community broadband.

Ridgewood building razed

FITCHBURG – A demolition crew on Monday began tearing down a fire-ruined apartment building at 2001 Post Road in the Ridgewood Country Club Apartments complex.
Though the work was the first visible activity in the 52-acre, 832 apartment subdivision since Madison developers E.J. Plesko & Associates bought the troubled property this summer, a spokesman said taking down the structure “is not a precursor to other actions” being planned there.
By Cliff Miller
Correspondent for The Capital Times
October 18, 2005


Get Involved at West NOW

I said it in the comments section attached to Marcia’s original post. Now is the time for pre-high school families to get involved at West. Don’t wait.
This will be like turning around the Titanic, however–there is a great deal of momentum to disassemble much of what was strong about West for high achievers. And what the district seems to be ignoring is that many of these families make up the backbone of support for the school, from PTO, to athletic and drama boosters, etc, both in terms of hands-on involvement and financial contributions.
The safety valve of attending UW classes is also being shut off, too. If a course is offered ANYWHERE in the district, MMSD won’t pay for a West student to take it at UW. In addition, there is a “residency” requirement, i.e., to be considered a full-time student, a certain number of credit hours have to be taken at West or be approved to be taken elsewhere. So even if your family can afford to pay for UW courses and can get approval from UW for your student to take more than one class per semester, your student might still run afoul of the residency requirement.
Of course, home schooling is an option. Some families have quilted together classes at West, UW and home or on-line. One of the “West” national merit scholars this year has done just that.

Curriculum Changes Proposed at West High

As discussion continues over the lack of AP courses at West High School relative to the other three Madison high schools, West prepares to further reduce the course opportunities for students.
Many West parents wrote this past spring and summer to Principal Ed Holmes, Science Chair Mike Lipp, and District Science Coordinator Lisa Wachtel advocating for more not fewer sections of Accelerated Biology. Parents have also written to express concern about plans to homogenize the 10th grade English curriuculum, eliminating the options currently available to 10th graders, and requiring students to wait until 11th grade before they can take elective courses in English.
There had been no response to these concerns until a recent letter went out at the end of September from Principal Ed Holmes.
Dear Interested Parent:
As we continue to improve and expand our curricular program to meet the needs of a very diverse student population, I want to assure you that we are working with best practice models and some of the most informed professionals in the field to make sure we offer a quality academic program for your child. Our goal is to do our absolute best to provide a challenging rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of every student that we serve at West High School.
The following information represents the work that has been done over the summer and at the outset of the 2005/06 school year in the areas of science and English. The people involved in the work in biology have been Welda Simousek, Talented and Gifted Coordinator for MMSD, Lisa Wachtel MMSD science coordinator, Mike Lipp, West High, science Department Chairperson, and members of the West High biology teaching team. Work in the area of English has been done by Keesia Hyzer, West High English Department Chairperson, Ed Holmes, Principal, West High School and members of the West High English teaching team.

  • There was over 25 hours of district-supported science professional development this summer focusing on quality instruction and differentiation at the high school level. Members of the West biology staff participated in this professional development opportunity along with high school science teachers from all the other MMSD high schools.
  • There are eight professional development days scheduled during the 05-06 academic year to continue the work begun over the summer and further develop the honors designation in science.
  • While there has been initial work over the summer on the honors designation in science there remains a lot of work to be done by the West science staff
  • We are keeping in mind the following critical components as we plan:
    • More work is not the goal. Qualitatively different work is what will be expected.
    • Not all of the work can be done inside of class. There will be homework assignments just as always, but again, the work expected will be qualitatively, not quantitatively different.
    • We are looking for ways to enable students working toward the honors designation to spend some time together as a group as well as to work with other groups of students.

Over the summer, members of the English Department worked to create an English 10 curriculum. We will continue to fine-tune this curriculum over the school year. During the summer of 2006, English 10 teachers will meet to plan and differentiate particular units. Criteria for an honors designation in English 10 as well as additional attention for struggling students are both specified in the curriculum.

  • All students have the option to elect or drop the honors designation.
  • Honors designation does not guarantee an A.
  • One English teacher, as part of her allocation, will be assigned as Skills and Enrichment Coordinator. This teacher will meet with those students who have elected honors twice weekly during lunch to lead discussion of the enrichment literature. This person will also grade honors exams and papers.
  • The Skills and Enrichment Coordinator will meet twice weekly during lunch with students needing additional help. Books on tape, as well as reading and writing assistance will be provided.

The English Department meets at least once monthly; professional development days will also be used to continue our work on planning English 10. We plan to present information regarding grade 10 English curriculum at the November 7 PTSO meeting. All parents are invited to come to hear about the work the English Department has been doing over the last few months. We will continue to keep parents involved in the process as we determine the future of curricular and academic programming at West.
Ed Holmes

AP Courses Taught in Four Madison Public High Schools

Here is a listing of the AP courses taught at each Madison high school:
East (8 AP courses) — Calculus I, Calculus II, French, Macro Economics, Micro Economics, Music Theory, Psychology, Spanish
LaFollette (13 AP courses) — Calculus I, Calculus II, Chemistry, Computer Science, European History, French, Literature and Composition, Macro Economics, Micro Economics, Psychology, Spanish, Statistics, U.S. History
Memorial (16 AP courses) — Biology, Calculus I, Calculus II, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, European History, French, Language and Composition, Literature and Composition, Macro Economics, Micro Economics, Physics, Psychology, Spanish, World History
West (8 AP courses) — Calculus I, Calculus II, Computer Science, French, Latin, Music Theory, Spanish, Statistics

Ridgewood Apartment Building Demolished

Channel 3000:

Demolishing the structure was the last step necessary for previous managers, CMS, to collect on the insurance claim.
New owners, EJ Plesko & Associates, are now in the early stags of conducting a market analysis.
“You want to look at surrounding areas,” said Plesko official Brandon Scholz. “You want to know what apartments are like, what condos are like, what businesses are like and be able to look at what you have and how much more development you want to put into it.”
EJ Plesko & Associates hopes to have a redevelopment plan to Fitchburg officials by early 2006.

Data on AP Courses

The Department of Public Instruction web site includes data on AP courses offered going back to 1996-1997 through 2003-2004. (I apologize in advance for the long URL) The data is presented on statewide and individual district and school levels, which makes comparison possible:

The page also has a utility that allows comparisons between districts and schools using pre-defined sets (ex. Big Eight) or user choice.
The user will need to use the links to view data for individual subject areas (math, foreign languages, English, etc.). The menu pick for statewide data is in the left hand column of the page. If I read it correctly, the number of AP course offerings is going up across the state, down in the Madison Metropolitan School District. At least in English AP offerings.
I note that haven’t had time to do a thorough analysis and have some questions about the data, and encourage others to do the same. I believe that there is some useful information through this source.

Schoolhouse Blogs

Edward Moyer:

As blogging enters the classrooom and takes its place alongside reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, adult Web surfers have the chance to relive the trials and tribulations of the wonder years.

Book: Top of the Class

Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Y Kim:

Asians and Asian-Americans make up 4 percent of the U.S. Population, and 20 percent of the Ivy League. The authors contend that Asian-Americans are no more intelligent than any other race or ethnic group, but that their parents have instilled in them a love of learning.

A Few Notes on the Superintendent’s Evaluation & Curriculum

Several writers have mentioned the positive news that the Madison Board of Education has reviewed Superintendent Art Rainwater for the first time since 2002. I agree that it is a step in the right direction.
In my view, the first responsibility of the Board and Administration, including the Superintendent is curriculum: Is the Madison School District using the most effective methods to prepare our children for the future?
There seems to be some question about this:

  • Language: The District has strongly embraced whole language (Troy Dassler notes in the comments that he has been trained in balanced literacy). I would certainly be interested in more comments on this (and other) point(s). [Ed Blume mentions that “”Balanced literacy” became the popular new term for whole language when whole language crumbled theoretically and scientifically.”] UW Professor Mark Seidenberg provides background on whole language and raises many useful questions about it. Related: The District has invested heavily in Reading Recovery. Ed Blume summarized 8 years of District reading scores and notes that Madison 3rd graders rank below state wide average for children children in the advanced and proficient categories. (Madison spends about 30% more than the state average per student)
  • Math: The District embraces Connected Math. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has raised a number of questions about this curriculum, not the least of which is whether our textbooks include all of the corrections. A quick look at the size of the Connected Math textbooks demonstrates that reading skills are critical to student achievement.
  • Sherman Middle School’s curriculum changes
  • West High School’s curriculum changes and families leaving
  • Same Service Budget Approach“: I think the District’s annual same service approach reflects a general stagnation.


Third Grade Reading Scores

Madison third graders rank BELOW the state-wide average for children in the advanced and proficient categories.
Nearly one-third of the African-American third graders read at basic or below. (And basic is below grade level.)
African-American third grades still trail white students by a substantial margin.
Schools at the bottom in 1978-79 are still at the bottom in 2004-2005.
Click here to view an Excel file with eight years of reading scores.


Superintendent’s Evaluation: What’s Missing?

For the first time since 2002, the Madison School Board has produced a performance evaluation of Superintendent Art Rainwater. It’s a small step in the right direction. However, it’s important to understand how the evaluation fails to meet the requirements of the district’s employment contract with the superintendent.
The contract requires the Board to set specific, measurable goals for the superintendent by the first day of each school year. That did not happen.


Families Leaving West?

Many good things are happening in the Madison Metropolitan School District! This viewpoint and the things we see conflict with the stated concern by some families as they tell us that they will be leaving the district rather than attend West high school. The one reason common to families is that they want their child to have a chance to take AP courses (limited numbers offered at West, in contrast to the other MMSD high schools) for the academic challenge offered to prepare their child for application to competitive colleges. (This viewpoint seems to be paired with a concern that the Small Learning Community approach at West may result in decreased opportunities for other challenging course work). It seems so sad that these families are choosing to leave the district. The contributions that children and parents have made to the district will be greatly missed.
AP offerings seem to be the norm across the nation, yet at least one West staff member opposes these offerings. Can we have an open discussion about issues of concern??? What are the pros and cons of increased AP offerings? Is it important to attempt to retain families currently attending our schools? What do you think? If you have a special interest in this issue, you may want to check below for additional information. . . .


Seidenberg’s Recent “Informal Talk on Reading Education”

University of Wisconsin Psychology Professor [Language and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab] Mark Seidenberg recently gave a lecture on reading education at the University Club:

Whole Language was a massive, uncontrolled experiment, with millions of children as unwitting subjects.
How it’s done: Someone gets an idea

  • Often a Guru. Many Gurus in reading instruction.
  • Guru has brilliant insight about how children learn, how to teach reading – Their own personal theory
  • The idea may be personally promoted by the guru, with direct appeals to teachers
  • The idea is implemented on a vast scale, based on intuitions that it is good.

860K PDF Version of the lecture.

Comments on Superintendent Evaluation

Thanks to both Johnny & Ruth for posting the news of the superintendent’s evaluation.
Since neither left their posts open for comments, I’ll offer a comment and encourage others to use this post for additional comments.
I’m particularly pleased that the board said that it “would like the Superintendent to develop targets and measures for each priority and to provide an annual report on our performance in each area.”
I’ve argued before (Was the board actually listening!) that the priorities have no power without measurable, time-specific goals. Now maybe they will.

Report on Evaluation of the Superintendent

News Statement from the Madison Board of Education
Report on Evaluation of the Superintendent
Hiring, supervising and evaluating the Superintendent are major responsibilities for the Board of Education. It is important to remember that this is a collective task for the Board and represents the combined views of seven very different individuals.
Download file


Jan Davidson’s low cost suggestions for improving education

When Dr. Jan Davidson spoke this week in Madison, she shared with her audience of parents, teachers, and administrators 12 low cost ideas for improving the educational opportunities of our academically advanced students.
What can schools do?
What can schools — schools that don’t have extra funds, but really care about the learning of their bright students — do?

1. Early Entrance to kindergarten — if a child is developmentally ready before the age or date specified, she can enter school early.
2. Pre-assessments are done before a unit or a course — if a student demonstrates mastery, he is able to move to a more advanced course.
3. Self-contained classes for the gifted, particularly in core curriculum subjects.
4. Multi-age, self-contained gifted classes are even more effective.
5. Subject acceleration is encouraged when a student is proficient in a particular subject.
6. Grade acceleration is encouraged when a student demonstrates proficiency in a particular grade level.
7. Opportunities for dual enrollment are available to students, e.g., taking some high school courses when a student is in middle school.
8. Advanced Placement (AP) courses and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) program are available to students.
9. Provide counselors who are trained to counsel gifted students, including advising them of talent development opportunities.
10. Work with the Talent Searches and give students credit for the credits they earn in their academic summer programs.
11. Create a school culture that values intellectual discovery and achievement, where students encourage one another to accomplish more than they would on their own.
12. Administrators and teachers who are knowledgeable about the wide range of exceptional abilities among bright students and are flexible in addressing the individual student’s learning needs.
Dr. Davidson will be posting her lecture slides online at the Genius Denied website

Thinking Different: Little Rock Principal and Teacher Incentives

Daniel Henninger:

She went to the Public Education Foundation of Little Rock. The Foundation had no money for her, and the Little Rock system’s budget was a non-starter. So the Foundation produced a private, anonymous donor, which made union approval unnecessary.
Together this small group worked out the program’s details. The Stanford test results would be the basis for the bonuses. For each student in a teacher’s charge whose Stanford score rose up to 4% over the year, the teacher got $100; 5% to 9% — $200; 10% to 14% — $300; and more than 15% — $400. This straight-line pay-for-performance formula awarded teachers objectively in a way that squares with popular notions of fairness and skirts fears of subjective judgment. In most merit-based lines of work, say baseball, it’s called getting paid for “putting numbers on the board.”
Still, it required a leap of faith. “I will tell you the truth,” said Karen Carter, “we thought one student would improve more than 15%.” The tests and financial incentives, however, turned out to be a powerful combination. The August test gave the teachers a detailed analysis of individual student strengths and weaknesses. From this, they tailored instruction for each student. It paid off on every level.


A Profile of 2004 American High School Seniors

National Center for Education Statistics:

More than two-thirds of students who were high school seniors in 2004 expected to complete a bachelor’s degree, and 35 percent planned to get a graduate or professional degree. But nearly two-thirds of the students who expected to get a four-year degree had not mastered intermediate level mathematics concepts as 12th graders, and nearly a third could not consistently solve simple problems based on low-level mathematical concepts, according to a study released Friday by the U.S. Education Department.

Via Inside Higher Ed.

Mr. Mom’s – Due Process Must Happen

It is no longer a secret that Mr. Mom’s Transportation Services currently faces significant challenges. Probably the biggest challenge for this small, local, minority owned business came from the school board last spring (2004). Mr. Mom’s and Badger Bus services were denied district transportation contracts. Our community was angered by this. In 2004, the Board received dozens of e-mails criticizing our decisions regarding contracts with local businesses. Here are some examples of the e-mails the school board members received:


Tell Family Stories To Your Kids

Jennifer Harper:

Granddad’s first job, the old homestead, mom’s legendary cooking: Family stories make effective armor for children in an unsure world, according to a three-year study of 40 families by Emory University.
It found that children who share in those endearing and even heroic memories can grow strong and resilient for a simple reason: They have proof from mom and dad that family life goes on, despite negative outside events.

This is right on. I have direct experience with this, via my parents and grandparents.

Madison Schools Transport Update: Cullen and Pommer on Mr. Mom’s

Sandy Cullen:

The district is investigating how long the company was without insurance and also is looking into reports that some bus drivers did not have valid driver’s licenses, Rainwater said.
Also last month, the brakes failed on a bus returning students to Spring Harbor Middle School after a field trip, Rainwater said. No students were injured, and the bus did not crash.
Attorney Clarence Sherrod said the district is in the process of preparing a notice of default, which could lead to termination of Mr. Mom’s two contracts with the district.
Under the terms of its contracts, Mr. Mom’s will have 20 days to respond to the default notice.

Matt Pommer has more:

Price provided copies of the safety audits done on the five bus firms that serve the Madison district in response to questions raised Monday by School Board member Ruth Robarts.
The reports showed that other bus firms last year had far smaller percentages of buses needing repairs in inspections by the State Patrol. Two of 15 Badger buses needed work; one of 20 Rite-Way vehicles needed repairs; eight of 23 Durham buses failed; and five of 21 First Student buses inspected needed work.


Vernice Jones:

I left the Dominican Republic to come to the United States in 7th grade. I was put in a special education class. I wasn’t slow, but I was quiet – you know different culture? I was very introverted. I’ll always remember that class. Other kids used to tease all of us. It’s interesting how people can get lost that way.
I befriended a teacher who took me under his wing. He encouraged me to participate in class. It was just a matter of confidence. If we were going to do something in science, he would encourage me to do a project and present it. He helped me come out of my shell.

Via Joanne.

3 of 4 Middleton-Cross Plains Referenda Fail

Barry Adams:

Voters in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District narrowly approved Tuesday more elementary space and upgrades to heating and air conditioning at two schools but overwhelmingly rejected three other questions in a $53 million referendum package.
Voters said no to a $36 million combined elementary and middle school, a $5.8 million transportation garage and increases in state-imposed revenue caps.
“I’m really not surprised because of the bottom-line price,” School Board member Ellen Lindgren said. “I think we’ll have to take quite a bit of time analyzing why they voted the way they did.”

Channel3000 has more.

Budgets and Account Structures – How Can We Find Out What a Budget is for a Curriculum, Service?

The expenditure side of the MMSD budget appears to be organized around departments – general administration, business services, student services, elementary education, etc. Within each department, expenditures seem to be organized according to an accounting structure, which I believe is dictated by DPI requirements.
Ed Blume has been asking questions about library and other program/services expenditures. The response from the administration, “…There are no specific accounts in the financial statements that report the expenditures against this receipt. Library expenditures are part of the central library and included in each building as part of the building formula accounts…” This seems to be an accounting response to a budget question.
In the chart of accounts why aren’t there, or are there, “tags” (my word) that enable financial information to be organized in a way that if either a board member or the public wants to know what is being spent on library services, reading recovery, math instruction, other projects, this information can be provided?

Update: Mr. Mom’s Bus Company Contract with the Madison School District

As reported in The Capital Times, I recently questioned Superintendent Art Rainwater about the process that the district used to determine that Mr. Mom’s bus company was qualified to bid for contracts to transport our students in the years from 2005-06 through 2010-11. The process is known as the “pre-qualification evaluation”.
In a memo today, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Roger Price told the Board of Education that the pre-qualification evaluation for companies who wanted to bid on these six year transportation contracts was conducted in December of 2004. The process resulted in qualifying five companies to bid for the contracts. Mr. Price noted that “all vendors had some vehicles fail inspection” on the most recent inspections by the State Patrol.
His materials show very different failure rates for the companies.
Riteway: .5% failure rate (19 vehicles passed, 1 failed)
Badger Bus: 13% failure rate (13 vehicles passed, 2 failed)
First Student: 19% failure rate (21 vehicles passed, 5 failed)
Durham: 26% failure rate (23 passed, 8 failed)
Mr. Mom’s: 75% failure rate (2 passed, 8 failed)
When the Board of Education voted on the contracts, it did not receive this information.

School Board Governance Perspectives

Last night’s Madison Board of Education meeting provided an illuminating look at two rather different perspectives on governance. The Board voted 4 (Carstensen, Keys, Lopez and Winston) – 3 (Kobza, Robarts, Vang) to support the Administration’s approach to the growing problems with Mr. Mom’s Transport Service (I believe there were two votes on this question – the minutes are not available as of this writing).

Many points were discussed, including the District’s pre-contract vetting of Mr. Mom’s and whether, given recent experience, the Administration should be allowed to subcontract with Badger Bus via Mr. Mom’s (Badger Bus is replacing Mr. Mom’s service on many routes). The District recently signed a five year agreement with Mr. Mom’s Transport Service.

The motion passed 4-3 to allow the Administration to Subcontract Badger Bus service via Mr. Mom’s (again, I think there was a 2nd vote on this). Watch the debate here

For what it’s worth, I’m actually in favor of long term (5 year) contracts. They, hopefully allow vendors to optimize and perhaps manage costs more effectively. The subcontract to Badger Bus via Mr. Mom’s, given the issues, seems unusual.

UPDATE: The 4-3 vote was on a Kobza motion, seconded by Robarts to contract directly with Badger Bus, rather than using a subcontract via Mr. Mom’s. After this motion was defeated 4-3 (Kobza, Robarts, Vang), as noted above, the Board voted 5 – 2 (Kobza joined Carstensen, Keys, Lopez and Winston) to support the Administration’s proposed subcontract with Badger Bus via Mr. Moms.

Middleton-Cross Plains School Referenda

Channel 3000:

Some in the district are concerned that there would be too many kids of widely varying age groups on the same campus, but Supt. Bill Reis sees benefits in kids staying at one school for nine years.
“So we’ll get to know families, teachers, get to know kids,” said Reis. “There will be communication elementary to middle school so that transition, I think, will be more successful.”
But at least one Middleton resident opposes the idea.
“Mostly I’m looking at physical problems,” said Karl Schroeder. “You already have harassment in your own age group. Now, you’re just adding on to that.”
Enrollment figures released to News 3 show just a one-student increase in the school district from one year ago, but explosive future population growth seems imminent.

MMSD Budget Mysteries #2

Mystery fans, you’re joining this budget baffler in mid-case. I previously sent the following e-mail to Superintendent Rainwater:

I received an inquiry about library aids from a district employee, and I can’t find the answer. Maybe you and Roger Price [Assistant Superintendent for Business Services] can help.
The DPI Web site shows that the MMSD received $675,055 in library aids from the Common School Fund for the school year 2004-05. The DPI site also notes that the funds are paid by May 1 and have to be expended by June 30 of the year they were received.

I was able to find that the MMSD shows library aid revenue of $568,560 for 2004-2005 on page 238 in the 2005-2006 Budget & District Profile.

However, I cannot find an expenditure for the funds. On page 103 of the same document, I can find a total of $242,700 for “Major Non-salary Expenditures” in the Division of Library Media Services. The same page shows “Other expenses,” including equipment and supplies, of $181,270 under a heading called General and another expenditure of $46,720 under the heading Community services. Those three amounts total $470,720.

Can you please explain why DPI shows a payment of $675,055 and the budget book shows an expenditure of only $568,560 for library aids?

Can you also tell me and the district employee where in the 2005-2006 Budget and District Profile I can find how the library aids were expended to total either $675,055 or $568,560?

The district employee was also under the impression that library aids were distributed to individual schools, but was told by the school librarian that the school had not received any funds prior to June 1. Could you possibly provide a list of library aids received by each school in the MMSD, if that’s the way the MMSD uses the funds?

As always, I appreciate your time and attention.


State Superintendent Burmaster’s Message for the Week

This is Elizabeth Burmaster’s weekly message for October 9-15.
Gifted Education Week is Oct. 9-15
Wisconsin’s observance of Gifted Education Week reinforces our commitment to educating gifted and talented children to their full potential, Through education, today’s young people who are highly capable intellectually, academically, creatively, artistically or through leadership will become tomorrow’s inventors, leaders, and poets. We certainly want our best and brightest working in our schools, medical facilities, businesses, and communities and contributing their talents to the betterment of our society.
Educators have an important role in identifying and meeting the needs of gifted and talented children, The diversity of those recognized as gifted and talented should reflect the diversity of our student population. To ensure that we identify and educate all gifted and talented children no matter where they live, their family’s socio-economic background, their racial or ethnic heritage, the language spoken at home, or their disability status, we must continuously learn to recognize new cues, especially those that are creative or artistic, to identify students who need more opportunities to grow and develop.


Schools Try Recess First, Lunch Later

Amy Hetzner:

Proponents of holding recess before lunch say it helps reduce food waste in the cafeteria, increases students’ caloric and calcium consumption and can provide a calming buffer between frenetic play and quiet classroom work.
Food service and school nutrition groups have been busily advocating for more schools to change their schedules to reap the benefits.

Take Nothing from the MMSD at Face Value – Part 2

I previously posted a warning to take nothing from the MMSD at face value.
Here’s another reason.
The MMSD claims that capacity at Lapham Elementary stands below 67%. However, the MMSD reports Lapham’s maximum capacity at 304 students, and this year’s attendance at 252 students, giving Lapham a current enrollment of 82.9% of capacity.
It’s easy to believe that the MMSD administration has a hidden agenda to close an east side school when the administration plays with the truth.
Click here for a chart of enrollment and capacity.

Wisconsin School Spending Increases 4.6%, largest since 2001-2002


Wisconsin public school spending rose 4.6% in 2004-05, the largest increase since 2001-02 (5.7%). Spending on instructional support for such items as staff training, library services and athletics rose 7.7%. Expenditures for instruction and for building and grounds were both up 4.8%.
Spending per student rose 4.8%, slightly faster than the total because enrollments in the state’s public schools fell 0.3% in 2004-05 to 869,961. In 2004-05, Wisconsin school districts budgeted to spend $10,367 per student, or $477 more than the year before (The Madison School District’s per student spending is about 30% higher than the state average). The majority of expenditures were for instructional costs, which climbed 5.0% to $6,068 per student. Expenditures for instructional salaries and benefits ($5,428) rose 4.6%, higher than the annual average of 3.9% during the previous five years. Per student expenditures for transportation ($408, +2.5%) and administration ($785, +3.8%) increased at below-average rates, WISTAX noted.

More on East / West Task Forces

Sandy Cullen:

Elementary schools considered most at risk are Emerson, Lapham and Lowell – which are at or below 67 percent of their capacity for students – as well as Lindbergh, Cohen said.
“We’re rallying around Lindbergh,” he said, adding that the school serves “probably the most fragile” population of low-income and minority families, including many from Kennedy Heights just across the street from the school.
Mary Gulbrandsen, director of student services and chief of staff to Superintendent Art Rainwater, said the Madison School District has no hidden agenda to close one or more East Side schools, as some parents fear.

Much more here.

The Social Logic of Ivy League Admissions

Malcolm Gladwell:

“As a hypothetical example, take the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State, which are two schools a lot of students choose between,” Krueger said. “One is Ivy, one is a state school. Penn is much more highly selective. If you compare the students who go to those two schools, the ones who go to Penn have higher incomes. But let’s look at those who got into both types of schools, some of whom chose Penn and some of whom chose Penn State. Within that set it doesn’t seem to matter whether you go to the more selective school. Now, you would think that the more ambitious student is the one who would choose to go to Penn, and the ones choosing to go to Penn State might be a little less confident in their abilities or have a little lower family income, and both of those factors would point to people doing worse later on. But they don’t.”
Krueger says that there is one exception to this. Students from the very lowest economic strata do seem to benefit from going to an Ivy.

More on Gladwell.

MMSD Budget Mysteries #1

This is the first installment of a series on the mysteries of the MMSD Budget.
Mystery #1: The MMSD received $$1,373,333 from a TEACH Grant Fund, and only spent $63,741. The budget document shows no other transfers or expeditures out of the $1,373,333. Where did the balance ($1,309,592) go?
To help solve this mystery, the revenue of $1,373,333 is shown on page 2 of the 2005-2006 Budget Financial Summaries. The expenditure of $63,741 is listed under expenditures for CFO/COO-Summary on page 50 of the same document.
Good sluething, all you Sherlock Holmes wannabe’s.

Gifted Education Week

October 9-15 has been declared “Gifted Education Week” in Wisconsin by both Governor Jim Doyle and DPI Superintendent Libby Burmaster. Why not “celebrate” by attending one of the following events with Dr. Jan Davidson, co-author of “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds” and co-founder and president of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development?
October 11, 7:30 p.m., McDaniels Auditorium, MMSD Doyle Administration Building, 545 West Dayton Street. Community presentation on “How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds” and book signing. Co-sponsored by the Madison TAG Parents Group and the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth. Free and open to the public. Information: tagparents@tagparents.org
October 12, 8:00 a.m., Randy’s Restaurant, Whitewater WI. Open administrator’s breakfast and program on gifted education in Wisconsin. $10.00 per person; r.s.v.p. required. Contact Dale Johnson at daljoh@sharon.k12.wi.us to find out if there is still room. Sponsored by the Whitewater Talented and Gifted Network.
October 13, 7:00 p.m., Whitnall High School Auditorium, 5000 South 116th Street, Greenfield, WI. Community presentation on educating our gifted and talented students and book signing. Free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. Reserve your seat by sending an e-mail to PAGE@wi.rr.com, indicating your name, the number attending and your school district’s name in the subject line. Sponsored by Wisconsin CESA #1 P.A.G.E. (Parent Advocates for Gifted Education).

Teach for America is 15

Morning Edition:

Renee Montagne talks with Wendy Kopp, president and founder of Teach for America, about how far the organization has come in the last 15 years. Kopp came up with the idea for Teach for America as her senior project at Princeton and has since built it into a powerful nonprofit.

364 Day School Opening?


A school is to consult teachers and parents on the idea of opening for lessons 364 days a year.
Teaching would take place throughout the year – even on weekends – but not everyone would be in at the same time.
Paul Mortimer, who is a government adviser and in charge of two Rochdale schools, says he wants to have a school of the 21st Century, not the 19th.

NCLB & Privatization

Maya Portulaca Cole posted the following thoughts on the listserve of MAFAAC:

Reading through a recent article about the Portland, OR school system from In These Times, titled, “All for One, None for All: Schoolchoice policies sacrifice universal education in favor of personal freedom,” I’m reminded of our own city and worry for its future.
On one hand, I think of Asa Hilliard’s words that remind us that, The relative ‘wealth’ of the relatively small numbers of Africans in the middle-income level obscures the gross poverty of the masses of low and no income Africans. Satisfied personally, the higher income Africans may even become a buffer, silencing the voice of the masses by being in a broker position to cool out the masses, and earning money for that containment of their brothers and sisters. These brothers and sisters are usually not clear at all. Many seem not even to seek clarity. They seek entertainment.”


Town of Burke Aligns with DeForest

Bill Novak:

Madison’s Smart Growth (land use) plan was rolled out this summer, and it put a shiver into Burke residents.
“It showed Madison stretching north to Wisconsin 19, which is the southern border of DeForest,” Miller said. “When Burke officials came to us they said the residents of the town go to the DeForest schools so they wanted to be part of DeForest.”

Middle School Curriculum: Social Focus Yielding to Academics

Jay Matthews:

For two decades, policymakers have decreed that seventh grade should be a time when children have a chance to adjust to puberty and cliques and the other annoyances of turning 13. Lessons should be engaging and enriching, middle school advocates have said, but not put too much emphasis on mastering subject matter and passing difficult tests.
That attitude is changing, at Kenmore Middle School and in much of the rest of the country. Middle schools have “overemphasized emotional development at the expense of academic growth,” said Mike Riley, superintendent of Bellevue, Wash., schools

Plugged In, But Tuned Out: Getting Kids to Connect to the Non-Virtual World

Jeff Zaslow:

Children today have been labeled “the connected generation,” with iPods in their ears, text messages at their fingertips and laptop screens at eye level. But their technology-focused lifestyle can also leave them disconnected from the wider world, especially from their parents.
Many teens won’t give friends their home numbers, says Samantha Landau, 15, of West Hills, Calif. “They don’t want friends to talk to their parents, because they don’t want their parents to know about their lives.”

Can We Talk: Some Ideas to Follow

A reader forwarded another perspective on school-parent communication in the Madison School District:

Here are some examples of really positive communication:
Our child’s savvy, experienced 4th grade teacher sends home a ‘weekly work ticket’. The ticket summarizes test/quiz scores, unfinished work not turned in and includes a place for teacher comments. I think this format is exceptional. It is certainly a time intensive task for the teacher. During the elementary years both of our children often had to return weekly progress slips with our signature. The teacher both children had for 3rd grade sent home a weekly newsletter that was simply a joy to read. A synopsis was created of the week’s work and provocative questions were included to facilitate parent/child conversation. Example, “Tell me about the way mummies were preserved in Ancient Egypt?” The kids do have some responsibility for communication.