With apologies to Jonathan Swift:
Given the concerns about obesity in children – and the high cost of gasoline, I have a suggestion to deal with both. We need to redesign our buses so there are pedals for each rider – the students can provide much of the power to move the bus and reduce our reliance on gasoline while getting good exercise.
To take this one step further – we should design exercise rooms at the high schools so that bikes and treadmills also replace other energy sources.

Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Tests: Are our kids doing as well as we think?

A recent New York Times article, “One Secret to Better Test Scores: Make State Reading Tests Easier” by Michael Winerip (10/05/05) reported that changes in k-12 achievement tests are the reason for substantially improved scores. The reporter argues that easier tests–not improved reading–account for much of the improvements claimed.
The Education Trust, a national non-profit organization, has published a study that compares student scores on state-created achievement tests with scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for each state. The most recent edition of the report covers 2003. The data support the conclusion that Wisconsin’s tests may be overstating our students’ achievement. For example, in Wisconsin 80% of students statewide scored at grade level or better (“Proficient or Advanced”) on the Grade 4 Overall Reading and English Language Arts tests. However, only 33% of the Wisconsin sample taking the NAEP test scored at this level.

Can we Talk 2

I previously wrote about the lack of information received via email, internet, etc…from the school district. Since I posted that blog the District has been “experimenting” with two software systems they deem worth evaluation by parents and staff and are asking for feedback. (please go to the www.Madison.k12.wi.us for more info)
But not all the communication problems with MMSD have to do with modern technology. Let me give some examples……..

Continue reading Can we Talk 2

Example of Board Goals

Thanks to Lawrie Kobza for her post “Superintendent’s Evaluation a Step in the Right Direction.”
She stresses the need for the board to set goals and expectations.
As an example of board-set goals and expectations, I noticed a list created by the board of education of the Forest Grove School District in Oregon. (I first saw the list when looking at the way the Forest Grove district used the concept of the $100 budget, promoted for use by the MMSD by Johnny Winston, Jr.)

Continue reading Example of Board Goals

Senate Bill 286, What a waste of time

Just wanted to let everyone know that while WI tries to figure out how to pay for schools, healthcare, balance the budget, care for the needy, etc………………
Your legislatures are spending time on SB286.
In a nutshell it says “school districts should teach abstinence” as the only way to prevent STD and pregnancy. Wow, what a waste of time and your money. I received my undergraduate degree in Secondary Health and Biology education and I can assure you that all the books, lectures, and information I received in college taught me that this was the only form of “birth control” that was 100%. While I agree a great Health or Human Growth and Development class is of utmost importance to a great school district, this legislation is the biggest waste of time and tax payers money, but the biggest laugh is there are communities that will not allow you to teach Sex Education, or Human Growth and Development as we like to call it, in their schools so where does the Senate assume this statement or lecture will occur in these ultra conservative districts?
Wisconsin Legislation could not scream any louder that it is ignorant and scared of SCIENCE. Look at the bills; ban cloning, teach abstinence only, alleviate health care providers of responsibility if there is a conflict with moral judgement, and the ever popular intellegient design in science classes. We as educated parents should be concerned with science education in this state and how new legislation could effect our children’s view and evaluation of science and theroy. Science is currently on the chopping block of the evagelical right and I am very concerned about legislation at the federal and state level concerning what our children are taught in Science class and whether that is decided by scientist and educators or whether it is decided by a religious political group.

One Secret to Better Test Scores: Make State Reading Tests Easier

Michael Winerip:

So? “The state test was easier,” she said. Ms. Rosenstein, who has been principal 13 years and began teaching in 1974, says the 2005 state English test was unusually easy and the 2004 test unusually hard. “I knew it the minute I opened the test booklets,” she said.
The first reading excerpt in the 2004 test was 451 words. It was about a family traveling west on the Oregon Trail. There were six characters to keep track of (Levi, Austin, Pa, Mr. Morrison, Miss Amelia, Mr. Ezra Zikes). The story was written in 1850’s western vernacular with phrases like “I reckon,” “cut out the oxen from the herd,” “check over the running gear” for the oxen, “set the stock to graze,” “Pa’s claim.”


Establishing Performance Goals Must Be Next
I ran for the Madison School Board because I believed the Board needed to change how it did business. The majority of voters agreed with me.
I have now been on the Board for five months, and it is fair to ask whether my election really will make a difference. Will it result in the change I called for?
I am hopeful it will.


Doyle Wants to Increase Math and Science Requirements

From NBC15.madison.com
Gov. Doyle says he wants high school students to take another year of math and science. Doyle says the move will make students better prepared for the future.
The announcement came when Gov. Jim Doyle released his Grow Wisconsin agenda last week.


Continue reading Doyle Wants to Increase Math and Science Requirements

New Elementary Attendance Compared to Last Year

You can find the attendance by elementary school for the 2004-2005 school year compared to the newly release figures for the 2005-2006 school year. The comparisons are grouped by high school attendance area. Click here.
ps My apologies for the earlier and erroneous chart. I replaced it with one that should be accurate. If it isn’t, please let me know. And always remember, take nothing at face value from me or the MMSD. Always check and double-check.

School Swaps Books for Bytes


A school in Arizona, US, has thrown out its paper-based text books and is relying solely on laptops and digital material to teach its pupils.
Empire High School is one of a band of schools which is taking computer technology out of the classroom and into students’ bags.
Calvin Baker, chief superintendent of the Vail School district, told BBC World Service programme Go Digital that it has not signalled the total demise of text books

News Release: Madison Schools Enrollment Is 24,490

Student enrollment in the Madison Metropolitan School District for the 2005-06 school year is 24,490 according to the official enrollment count conducted on the third Friday in September, as required by state law. The number represents a decrease from last year of 220 students or eight-tenths of one percent.
This figure aligns with the district’s most recent projected student count — 24,524. The total enrollment is only 34 students (0.1%) lower than this projection.
“When you look at the long-term trend statistically, our district-wide student enrollment remains stable,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater. “Of concern now – and one of the reasons two community task forces are working on possible solutions — is under-enrollment in some of our schools and high enrollment in others.”
In comparison to last year, the number of elementary students (gr. K-5) is up 143, partially due to the largest kindergarten class since September 1996 – 1,957. There are 151 fewer middle school students (grades 6-8), and 212 fewer high school students (gr. 9-12).

Continue reading News Release: Madison Schools Enrollment Is 24,490

Excess school supplies

In our dive travels, we have happened upon rural schools in remote parts of the world operating with little in the way of supplies. Dive outfits who bring folks to these areas are a great conduit for getting supplies to these isolated areas.
A nifty service project perhaps for some enterprising students would be to gather up those extra notebooks, pencils, art supplies, etc at the end of the year, things that often get tossed, and ship them, or send them along with area divers, to these poor schools. The same of course could be done for schools in this country. I mention the international connection only because I’m familiar with some of the dive operators who expressed a willlingness to do the delivery and the extreme scarcity of school resources.
I’m in the phone book!

Bucks 4 Books

This is a neat idea for helping out students displaced by the hurricanes administered by the League of Women Voters. The Wisconsin League is checking to see if MMSD is following up on the grant request piece. Read on if you’d like to contribute:
Melanie Ramey, President
LWV of Wisconsin
122 State Street, Suite. 405
Madison, WI 53703-2500
Phone: 608-256-0827
Fax: 608-256-2853
E-mail: lwvwisconsin@lwvwi.org
Dear Melanie,
Due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many students (K-12) in the Gulf States (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) have been driven from their homes and schools. The League of Women Voters of Louisiana Education fund has approved the “Bucks 4 Books” campaign to raise funds to support the displaced children from the Gulf States in their new school districts, whether those school districts are located elsewhere in their native state or in any other of the 48 contiguous states. The LWV of LA Ed Fund needs your support and help in the following tasks:
1. Helping to raise the funds to support this project by sending the attached letter to all of the League,
League allies and partners, the Parent Teacher Organizations, and everyone in your personal e-mail address book(s).
2. Help us to identify the school districts in your state that have taken in the Hurricane evacuees and
encourage the school districts to write for a grants application for financial support of those children’s education materials.
These young people have lost their homes; they do not have to lose their hope. Remember, children learn from example. When we are responsible for them, they will become the responsible future citizens, whom our country needs.
The 100% of the “Bucks for Books” funds raised will be administered in accordance to the guidelines outlined in the attached letter. Since this is a 100% flow through of funds, all solicitation for this campaign will be by e-mail and no expenses may be charged against the donations. All checks should be may payable to: LWV of Louisiana Education Fund, P. O. Box 4451, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4451
The League of Women Voters is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge with local League presents in all states. Please help us to help our children and the very generous school districts that have taken them in. Please encourage your State League, Local Leagues, Friends, Neighbors and Allies to enthusiastically embrace this very special project, “Bucks 4 Books.” We must measure up for our young people and always . . .
Share the Spirit of League,
Jean Armstrong, President
LWV of Louisiana Education Fund
LWV of Louisiana

An Embattled School Chief’s Parting Fight

Daniel de Vise:

It is perhaps the final chance for Smith to impose his vision, and his will, on a school system he set out to transform three years ago. He has built much of his reputation in Anne Arundel by importing or expanding rigorous programs such as IB, on the theory that an infusion of challenging coursework would benefit all.
Smith acknowledges that completing the trio of IB schools is “a very important piece” of his plan, and his legacy, in the county.

60 Madison Students Named National Merit Scholars

Madison Metropolitan School District:

The third most students in Madison history — 60 — have qualified as semifinalists in competition for the 2006 National Merit Scholarship Awards. Three Madison students earned National Merit Achievement semifinalist status. This is the sixth straight year that at least 56 Madison students have achieved semifinalist status, a number not reached by any of the previous classes. That’s quite remarkable because the National Merit Corporation says that about 1.3% of test-taking students become semifinalists. Based on that percentage, the Madison district should have about 10 semifinalists. Only last year and the year before did Madison have more semifinalists, 69 and 67 respectively.

High Quality Teaching make the difference

Young, Gifted and Black, by Perry, Steele and Hilliard is a little gem of a book. (Hereafter, YGB). The subtitle is “Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students”. Though specifically addressing African-American kids, the descriptions and proscriptions proposed can be applied to all – important, given the continual poor showing of U.S. students generally on international tests (OECD PISA, TIMSS).
It is the section written by Asa Hilliard, Professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University, that addresses the real “gap” and real “reform”. The following attempts to summarize his positions and arguments:
The real gap for all students, not just Black, is the gap between student performance and excellence. Where does one start to close the gap? – by relying on the experiences of teachers who do not fail to achieve excellence in all their students, regardless of background – these experiences have always been around, but few educators want to acknowledge. It is in this protected environment of excellence in education that the theories of curriculum, and excuses of deprivation, of language, of failure can be unmasked.

Continue reading High Quality Teaching make the difference

City of the Big Gaps

Luis Alberto Urrea:

But few of the hundreds, if not thousands, of poor evacuees now staring at Chicago’s formidable towers are likely to enjoy the good fortunes of A. J. Liddell. And that’s the larger story of the local economy: that in this era of outsourcing, housing bubbles and budget deficit pay-downs, the traditional Chicago gap between haves and have-nots has eroded into a chasm.

Teach for America

Tamara Lewin:

For a surprisingly large number of bright young people, Teach for America – which sends recent college graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years for the same pay and benefits as other beginning teachers at those schools – has become the next step after graduation. It is the postcollege do-good program with buzz, drawing those who want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open, building an ever-more impressive résumé and delaying long-term career decisions.
This year, Teach for America drew applications from 12 percent of Yale’s graduates, 11 percent of Dartmouth’s and 8 percent of Harvard’s and Princeton’s. The group also recruits for diversity, and this year got applications from 12 percent of the graduates of Spelman College, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta

Study Faults High-Stakes Testing

Terrence Stutz:

High-stakes testing in Texas and across the nation has had
little impact on student achievement and is disproportionately targeting
minority students – as evidenced by increased retention and dropout
rates in many states – according to a study by researchers in Texas and Arizona.
The study, which examined the impact of high-stakes testing in Texas and 24 other states, found “no convincing evidence” that the pressure
associated with those tests – such as threatened sanctions for low
scores – produced better student achievement than would otherwise have
been expected.

Via Tom Maxwell.

Continue reading Study Faults High-Stakes Testing

WestEd Book: How California’s Most Challenged High Schools are Sending More Kids to College

Jordan Horowitz’s Inside High School Reform, Making the Changes that Matter details the turnaround approaches that are preparing more students for college – disadvantaged students who wouldn’t get there otherwise.


  1. Treat teachers as the trained education professionals they are.
  2. Hold students to high expectations.
  3. Continually use school, teacher, and student data to decide what changes to make next.
  4. Start with what you want students to know and achieve, then work backwards to create tests and lesson plans.
  5. Coordinate lesson plans and tests within departments and across grades and schools.
  6. Don’t take the “easy way out” when deciding how to help underachieving kids.
  7. Create an optimistic, college-going culture and help students understand how high school work affects their future college and career choices.
  8. Develop flexible school systems to maintain reforms that work.
  9. Find partners such as local colleges, businesses, other schools, and parent groups to provide help.
  10. Stay alert for new partners, activities, and funding streams while maintaining a focus on reform.