Stossel: How the Lack of School Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of A Good Education

John Stossel:

And while many people say, “We need to spend more money on our schools,” there actually isn’t a link between spending and student achievement.
Jay Greene, author of “Education Myths,” points out that “If money were the solution, the problem would already be solved … We’ve doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30 years, and yet schools aren’t better.”
He’s absolutely right. National graduation rates and achievement scores are flat, while spending on education has increased more than 100 percent since 1971. More money hasn’t helped American kids.
Ben Chavis is a former public school principal who now runs an alternative charter school in Oakland, Calif., that spends thousands of dollars less per student than the surrounding public schools. He laughs at the public schools’ complaints about money.

I’m impressed ABC devoted so much effort to education. The article includes full text and video.
Stossel also touches on Kansas City’s effort to turn around (1980’s and 1990’s) by spending more per student than any other district in the country. Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater implemented the largest court-ordered desegregation settlement in the nation’s history in Kansas City, Mo

Swan Creek Residents Organize to Stay at Leopold

Kurt Gutknecht, writing in the Fitchburg Star:

Residents of Swan Creek have launched a spirited campaign against plans to bus students from the area to Midvale/Lincoln elementary schools.
A few days after Christmas, 185 households signed a letter [500K PDF] opposing the plan, which a task force had proposed to address overcrowding at several schools in the western part of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Students from Swan Creek now attend Leopold Elementary School.
The letter was presented at the Jan. 5 meeting of the task force. Another task force is preparing plans for the east side of the district where under enrollment is a greater concern.
According to the letter, said the plan being considered meant the “subdivision is used selfishly by the Madison school district” to “plug holes in a plan that has very little merit” and contradicts an agreement the district made when it exchanged land with the Oregon School District. During the negotiations prior to the land swap, the Madison district said children from Swan Creek would attend Leopold.
The letter cited behavioral and safety issues associated with long bus rides, the negative effects on parent involvement and neighborhood cohesion, and criticized the attempt to use children from the subdivision to achieve balanced income at the schools.
Prasanna Raman, a member of the task force who presented the letter, said busing students from Swan Creek could be a case of reverse discrimination.

UPDATE: Midvale parent Jerry Eykholt sent this letter [pdf] to the Task Force and Swan Creek residents.

Continue reading Swan Creek Residents Organize to Stay at Leopold

Forum on moving alternative programs to O’Keefe

O’Keeffe and Lapham/Marquette PTGs will host a forum on the Affiliated Alternative Programs at 6:45 p.m. in the all purpose room on Wednesday, January 18. A flyer on the meeting lists the following purposes for the forum:

* Provide an opportunity for O’Keeffe, Lapham/Marquette school community members to ask questions about the proposal to place the Affiliated Alternative Program at the O’Keeffe/Marquette site AND to have an open community forum among ourselves after the Q&A
* Steve Hartley, Director of Alternative Programs, will be presenting information on the Affiliated Alternative Program and its space needs.
* Loren Rathert, Chairman for the East Area Task Force, will answer questions regarding the task force process.

The seven stupid arguments for cutting gifted education

Michael F. Shaughnessy recently interviewed Frances R. Spielhagen about Gifted Ed in the new millennium. Dr. Spielhagen has engaged in both funded and non-funded education research and policy analysis. As an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow in 1991-1992, she explored perspectives of achievement among gifted females, ages 9-26. She continues her work on acceleration policies in mathematics, working in collaboration with Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, of the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dr. Spielhagen has recently spoken out against cuts in gifted education, and has identified “seven stupid arguments” that are offered as explanations for cutting gifted education.
# 1: All children are gifted
#2: It is not fair to offer special services for gifted students.
#3: Gifted students learn on their own.
#4: Gifted programs are elitist.
#5: Gifted programs are racist.
#6: Gifted children are weird.
#7: Why bother? Gifted students pass the state tests.
You can read the entire interview at EducationNews.Org.

Speaking up about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & King Events in Madison

The Madison Times (now owned by former school board member, Ray Allen) recently asked various members of the Madison community to comment on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was honored to do so. These comments can be seen in this weeks issue. I’m also including dates and times of Dr. King events in the City. I hope you and your family are able to attend some of these events.

Continue reading Speaking up about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & King Events in Madison

20/20 Program – Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids

American students fizzle in international comparisons, placing 18th in reading, 22nd in science and 28th in math – behind countries like Poland, Australia and Korea. But why? Are American kids less intelligent? John Stossel looks at the ways the U.S. public education system cheats students out of a quality education in “Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids,” airing this Friday at 9 p.m CST on ABC.

Thursday Morning Links: School Performance

  • Milwaukee’s new School Performance Ratings:

    Andrekopoulos said those studies are showing that students in high value-added programs are decidedly more engaged in actual classroom activity than those in low value-added schools.
    In a recent presentation to the School Board, he said MPS now understands why low-performing schools are that way. “We didn’t know that two years ago,” he said.
    Milwaukee Public Schools has begun listing how individual schools are doing not only on the widely used measure of what percentage of students are proficient or btter in standardizd tests, (attainment), but also with a measure in which the average increase in student scores from year to year in each school is compared with the average for all of MPS (value added).

  • Houston to pay teacher bonuses based on student test scores.

Candidate Forum

Madison United for Academic Excellence will be hosting a Candidates Forum this coming Tuesday, January 17, 2006 to be held at 7:00 p.m. in Room 209 of the Doyle Administration Building.
Come dialogue with the candidates for the Madison School Board about curriculum, academic excellence and related issues. Voice your concerns. Share you views.
You are invited and encouraged to submit questions to the candidates before the forum. Please email them at:

Candidates for Seat 1

Candidates for Seat 2

Our you can send your questions to, and we will pass them along to the candidates.
We hope that you can join us on Tuesday night.

Madison a National Leader in Special Education

“Inclusive education” is often mischaracterized as solely about educating students with disabilities in the “least restrictive environment.” Fortunately, inclusive education now means providing a supportive and quality education for all students. It is in this spirit that I want to speak to the accomplishments of our staff in making Madison one of the most inclusive, progressive urban school systems in the country.

Continue reading Madison a National Leader in Special Education

Via Email: What’s at Stake – Investing in Our Children and Our Future

Join West Madison and Middleton Neighbors: Make a Difference in Our Community
Sunday, January 22, 2006, 1:30–3:30 p.m.
Middleton Public Library, 7426 Hubbard Avenue [map]
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Are you concerned about:

  • Reductions in public support for education, health care, housing and food assistance?
  • The growing disparity between the rich and the poor?
  • The long term impact of these trends on children and the future of our society?
  • The need for positive new approaches to address our community’s needs?
  • Do you feel that you don’t have the power to change things?

Continue reading Via Email: What’s at Stake – Investing in Our Children and Our Future

West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at a PTO Meeting

Summary of a West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at the Thoreau PTO:
MMSD Chief of Staff Mary Gulbrandsen participated in a well attended Thoreau PTO meeting recently to discuss the options that the West Attendance Area Task force is currently evaluating. I thought the conversation was quite interesting and have summarized several of the points discussed below:

  • The May, 2005 referenda failed due to poor communication. What will the District due to improve that? There was some additional discussion on this topic regarding whether a referendum could pass.
  • Why don’t the developers (and therefore the homeowners in these new subdivisions) pay for the costs of a new school? Discussion followed that included much larger building permit fees, a referenda question that asked whether the homeowners in these emerging subdivisions should pay for a facility and changes in the way that we fund public education. Some also suggested that people purchased homes in these areas knowing that there was not a school nearby and therefore should not be surprised that a bus ride is required. Mary mentioned her experiences growing up an a farm where a 45 minute bus ride was no big deal. Obviously, there are different perspectives on this – I rode the bus daily for several years.
  • Can’t the District sell some of their buildings (excess schools, Hoyt, Doyle – next to the Kohl Center) to pay for this? That would be a strong statement that might support the passage of a referendum.

Continue reading West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at a PTO Meeting

Challenging Classes Inspire Students

Edward L. Kenney:

Some students think it’s OK to be average. They know they could do better, but figure why bother?
Besides, it’s not cool to do well in school. Their friends tell them so through classroom put-downs.
Gary Gilmer, 15, a freshman at Mount Pleasant High School, found that out when he signed up for a program the school started this year called Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID. Through AVID, school officials select average students who are making C’s and D’s, but have the potential to do better, and put them in honors and college-prep classes.

“School Choice: A Moral Issue?”

Shay Riley:

I am a staunch advocate for school vouchers, and a recent controversy help reaffirm my support. Residents of Ladera Heights – an affluent, mostly black community in Los Angeles metro – have organized for a territory transfer proposal to leave Inglewood’s school district of not-as-affluent blacks and Hispanics and join Culver City’s mostly white, middle-class school district with higher student achievement (registration required). However, both suburbs oppose the plan, which the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization takes up this month. Ladera Heights should have foreseen opposition by Culver City. That was a not-so-subtle hint by white folks to upscale coloreds (median household income in Ladera Heights: $90,000+); create your own good schools. Whatis even more problematic to me was the response by Inglewood officials, one of whose school board members calls the proposal racist and argues that Ladera Heights residents merely want to raise their property values (which are already higher than that of Culver City). Ahem, Ladera Heights is 70%+ black. Yet Inglewood officials want children to remain in crap schools in order to do social engineering and undermine freedom of association. However, if there was a school voucher option then the parents of Ladera Heights (which is not large enough to form its own district) could tailor a school for its community’s children.

“My Vocation Ed Problem”

Jay Matthews:

What’s the point of high school for the majority of our kids? Even at a school as successful on paper as Cajon, most of the kids I see every day are literally having their time wasted by a curriculum that is at least 80 percent college preparatory. I know that in the last decade the concept of “school-to-work” connections, “career academies” and “smaller learning communities” has been all the rage. But the reality that I’ve seen is that most of these have been pretty ineffectual due to the counter-trend of steadily beefing up college prep curriculum requirements – to the point that virtually all high school students are required to follow a course of study that will qualify them for a four-year college, even though less than half have any mathematical hope of doing so.

Clarification of plans for 9th and 10th grade science at West HS

If you were at the West HS PTSO meeting last night (report to be posted soon for anyone who was unable to attend — the topic was an update on the SLC initiative by SLC Coordiator Heather Lott), then you know that the question of what 9th and 10th grade science will look like next year and thereafter was left somewhat unanswered. I had the following clarifying email exchange with West HS Principal Ed Holmes today:

Continue reading Clarification of plans for 9th and 10th grade science at West HS

First election mailing from Juan Lopez

I received a mailing from Juan Lopez today, and his message struck me as sharply negative toward his opponent and anyone else who makes suggestions about how to improve the district. Here are a few excerpts:

We do not lack for nay-sayers and pessimists who say that the sky is falling and dismiss our accomplishments. . . . We do not lack for special interests during this period of fiscal austerity. . . .
Already my opponents are crafting narrow, negative issues to try to focus the campaign on a few trees while ignoring the beauty of the forest. . . .
I will be vocal during the upcoming campaign in order to counter the distrotions and pessisism that may be put forward during this election. . . .

I respectfully urge Juan to take the high road throughout the rest of the campaign.
Truth in advertising: I’ll be voting for Lucy Mathiak.

The Gap According to Black

Cydny Black:

In high school now, at Madison Memorial, I see this achievement gap more clearly than ever. Where are all the minority students in my advanced placement classes? Or more specifically, where are all the black students? In my advanced classes I can count them on one hand. And of these students, most are from middle to upper class families. Their parents have degrees of some sort, and their parents have pushed education—just as my parents encouraged me.
This leads me to ask, “What happens to all the kids whose parents don’t have degrees and who aren’t pushed to learn?” It seems to me that in a lot of these cases, they get trapped in the system, just like the two boys who fought at my school. And do teachers and administrations really know how to help them? It surprises me that we are taught history, math, science, and English but we are never given answers to some of the more difficult questions. The questions that deal with our society and our lives as young people growing up.
What does all of this mean for the African American youth who are struggling? How will they advance in school, and what’s more, in society?

“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.
When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:
Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved
This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:

  • Grade 5 math scores – 84.2 percentile
  • Male – 55%
  • Low income – 53%
  • Minority – 42%
  • African American – 31%
  • Hispanic – 6%
  • Asian – 5%

Continue reading “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Help Create a Public Charter School of Arts and Technology – in Madison

Are you interested in helping to create a public charter school of arts and technology in Madison?
You’re invited to attend a planning meeting of local parents, educators and others at:
Date: January 18 ( Wednesday )
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Site: MADISON Library – Sequoya Branch
513 South Midvalle Blvd. [map]
Please help to make THE STUDIO SCHOOL a reality within the public school district.

Continue reading Help Create a Public Charter School of Arts and Technology – in Madison

MMSD $100 Community Budget Process – Information Available

Information about MMSD’s Community $100 Budget Process is now available. Community members will have the opportunity to participate in this process on one of three nights (January 24, 25, 26) at one of 11 locations (MMSD middle schools) around Madison.
Through this process, community members will have the opportunity to share their priorities for cutting the budget with the School Board. At each meeting there will be a presentation followed by community input.
The goals of this process are: 1) generate community priorities to use in the formal budget process, 2) provide opportunities for individuals to express budget priorities, 3) demonstrate difficulty in making $6-10 million in cuts, 4) improve understanding of educational implications of budget reductions and 5) develop awareness of size and complexity of operating budget.
Every MMSD resident is invited to participate, but each is limited to participating one time. Length of the sessions will be between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes.

Tuesday Morning Links

  • Urban Colleges Learn to be Good Neighbors:

    As a case study, Penn’s urban renewal effort is probably the most comprehensive — targeting every service and institution that makes a community vibrant. The university restored shuttered houses and offered faculty incentives to move into the neighborhood; invested $7 million to build a public school; brought in a much-needed 35,000-square-foot grocery store and movie theater; and offered the community resources such as hundreds of used Penn computers.
    “We said we teach our students about civic engagement. You can’t do that and not be role models for civic engagement,” said former Penn president Judith Rodin, who was a catalyst in the renewal efforts.

  • Referendum Tactic Calls on Old Friends
  • Earlier is Better, Leaders Say
  • No Child Left Behind: President Bush Visits School that Closed the Gap:

    The president invoked North Glen’s success on the fourth anniversary of the law, at a time when support for his signature education initiative has eroded.
    Despite large increases in federal aid to schools, many congressional Democrats say that overall, the law is underfunded. Some conservatives say the law undermines local authority and gives the federal government too much control over schools. Those concerns have stalled a Bush administration proposal to expand the law’s testing requirement to the nation’s high schools.
    Educational researchers say it is too soon to say whether the law has prompted lasting improvement in student achievement. “Bush is claiming greater success for the act than he can justify,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington research organization that has closely studied the law’s impact. “It is still unclear that the law will be successful in solving the problems in public education.”
    At North Glen, the percentage of black third-graders rated as proficient on the statewide test rose from 32 percent in 2003 to 94 percent in 2005, placing the campus among the top schools in Maryland for black student performance. Black students perform at least as well as whites on several academic measures at the school, whose student population is 42 percent black, 40 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic and 7 percent other ethnic groups.

  • Teens hangout at myspace
  • DC Seeks to Redirect Sales Tax to Schools:

    The chairman of the D.C. Council’s finance committee said yesterday that a proposal to modernize schools should be paid for by dedicating $100 million of city sales tax revenue every year for the next 15 years.

Memorial Students Studying Mandarin

Sandy Cullen:

Memorial High School sophomore Christopher Tate didn’t want to study the “regular” foreign languages such as Spanish or French.
“I wanted to take something new and different,” said Christopher, 15. So, like a growing number of people nationwide, he is learning Mandarin Chinese instead.
“China is poised to become the world’s other superpower,” said Natasha Pierce, who is teaching Mandarin to about 70 students at Memorial, the only Madison school where the language is offered. “We need to be culturally and linguistically competent in Chinese.”
Beginning in 2007, an Advanced Placement exam in Mandarin will be offered, providing students the added incentive of receiving college credit if they pass the test, she said.

This “choice” or elective approach is an interesting contrast to the English elective reductions underway at West.

What Are They Teaching the Teachers?

Joanne Jacobs:

Close the education schools writes George Will in Newsweek:

The surest, quickest way to add quality to primary and secondary education would be addition by subtraction: Close all the schools of education.

Will doesn’t think much of requiring would-be teachers to have the politically correct “disposition” for teaching. “The permeation of ed schools by politics is a consequence of the vacuity of their curricula, he argues, quoting Heather McDonald’s 1998 City Journal article, “Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Teach.”

Today’s teacher-education focus on “professional disposition” is just the latest permutation of what MacDonald calls the education schools’ “immutable dogma,” which she calls “Anything But Knowledge.”

The dogma has been that primary and secondary education is about “self-actualization” or “finding one’s joy” or “social adjustment” or “multicultural sensitivity” or “minority empowerment.” But is never about anything as banal as mere knowledge. It is about “constructing one’s own knowledge” and “contextualizing knowledge,” but never about knowledge of things like biology or history.

Will wants to return to teacher-centered classrooms led by math teachers who know math.

Wisconsin Scores “F” on State Science Standards (Redux)

In my Dec 12, 2005 entry, I described the 2005 Fordham Institute report giving Wisconsin an “F” on its State Science Standards. As I mentioned, then, having a quality state standard is not synonomous with quality implementation. The Fordham report also included comments by the evaluators, disparaging the pedagogical approaches taken by schools.
To make the issue of Standards vs. Implementation more concrete, here is a year 2000 report by Dr. Gerald Bracey comparing Fordham’s prior report with the NAEP and other tests.
His analysis showed that the states scoring highest in the Fordham study ranked at the low end of the scale on NAEP and the international TIMSS study, while the states that the Fordham study ranked “irresponsible” occupied 7 of the top 10 on NAEP-TIMSS.
I briefly reviewed the latest published NAEP Science report (2000) for a similar comparison. The Fordham “A” states of California, New Mexico, and South Carolina scored significantly below the National average; the “A” states of Indiana and New York scored average; and only the “A” states of Massachusetts and Vermont scored as above average. (Wisconsin was not included in the report).
So, now I ask, as I asked and suggested in a previous comment, where is the data and reliable information to make informed decisions? or even to have an informed opinion?

Board of Education Meetings and Agendas, week of January 9

This version includes the address/location of the joint insurance committee meeting on Wednesday.
Also, note that the agenda for the Board-Common Council Liaison meeting on Wed. night is of interest to the two attendance area task forces that are due to report in this month.
1:00 p.m. Madison Metropolitan School District/Madison Teachers Inc.
Joint Insurance Committee
1. Call to Order
2. Options regarding Health Insurance Benefits for Certain Madison School District Employees
3. Adjournment
Madison Teachers Inc.
Large Conference Room
821 Williamson Street
Madison, WI 53703
6:30 p.m. Special Meeting of the Madison School Board and the Memorial
and West Attendance Areas Demographics and Long Range Facility Needs Task
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
7:00 p.m. Common Council/Board of Education Liaison Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated November 16, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. New Developments/Growth in the City of Madison and Implications for
Madison Schools
5. Housing Patterns Impact on Student Enrollments in Madison Schools
6. Madison Schools with Declining Enrollments
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703

The Two Faces of Advance Placement Courses

Tamar Lewin writes in the New York Times January 8, 2006, about Advance Placement Classes – students and parents believe AP classes are important preparation for college, colleges have mixed feelings about students who take AP classes.
“We’ve been put off for quite a while about the idea of teaching to the test, which is what a lot of A.P.’s are,” says Lynn Krahling, guidance director of the Queen Anne’s School in Upper Marlboro, Md. “We’re convinced, as an educational institution, that they’re not as valuable as what we could be offering on our own.
“But,” she says, “I think we’re going to stick with A.P.’s – purely out of fear. Parents are so terrified that if we drop our A.P.’s it would really affect college admissions that I think some of them would jump ship.”

Continue reading The Two Faces of Advance Placement Courses

Florida Vouchers: Separate but Uniform

Joanne Jacobs:

Black Students Lose Again is the headline on John Tierney’s Jan. 7 New York Times column on the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to throw out vouchers for students attending low-performing schools.

Democrats once went to court to desegregate schools. But in Florida they’ve been fighting to kick black students out of integrated schools, and they’ve succeeded, thanks to the Democratic majority on the State Supreme Court.

Most voucher recipients are black students who’ve used the tuition aid to transfer from nearly all-minority schools to integrated private schools that offer a college prep education. Tierney cites Adrian Bushell, who chose a Catholic school that is 24 percent black instead of Miami Edison, a large local high school that’s 94 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic.

His experience is typical. In other places that have tried vouchers, like Milwaukee and Cleveland, studies have shown that voucher recipients tend to move to less segregated schools.

Besides helping Adrian (who’s got a 3.1 average and plans on college), the Florida program has also benefited students in public schools like Miami Edison. Because each voucher is worth less than what the public system spends per student, more money is left for each student in the public system. And studies have repeatedly shown that failing Florida schools facing voucher competition have raised their test scores more than schools not facing the voucher threat.

The court majority ruled the vouchers are unconstitutional because Florida is required to provide a “uniform” system of education.

Fail Exam? You Don’t Graduate

Nanette Asimov:

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell delivered a tough-love message Friday to nearly 50,000 high school seniors still hoping to escape a new requirement that they pass the state’s exit exam to get a diploma in June:
The answer is “no,” he said. There will be no way for this year’s students who fail the test to graduate with their classmates.
His message was a response to demands from critics of the exit exam that he find some alternative to this high-stakes test.
“I have concluded that there is no practical alternative available that would ensure that all students awarded a high school diploma have mastered the subject areas tested by the exam and needed to compete in today’s global economy,” O’Connell said.

Teachers Turning Tech Devices into Learning Tools

Ann Ryman:

High-tech gadgets have become some of the biggest nuisances at schools in recent years, especially right after winter break. But slowly, surely, instead of shunning such devices, some teachers are finding ways to use them in the classroom.
They’re part of a small but growing movement where educators strive to use the language and media of today’s tech- and Web-savvy kids to teach.
Here are three of the most popular new technologies teachers are testing in their classrooms.

Some useful ideas in this story, including teacher training. Stanford is podcasting, among othes.

Carstensen’s “attempt to answer” MMSD Budget Mystery #4: Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen

Let me attempt to answer your questions [about Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen].
First, remember that the budget is an estimate made in April/May of what will be needed in the next school year. Several determinants of the budget are not known until the fall – most importantly, the number of students.

Continue reading Carstensen’s “attempt to answer” MMSD Budget Mystery #4: Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen

Governor Supports Higher Math and Science Graduation Requirements

Preview of Doyle’s State of the State speech from The Wheeler Report, 1/6/06
MERRILL, WI — Gov. Doyle last night endorsed higher math and science requirements for high school graduation during a town hall meeting set up to preview his January 17 State of the State Message to the Legislature.
Doyle focused on education, health care and environmental proposals during the session. “I want to make sure every kid in Wisconsin gets a quality education,” he said, pointing to his vetoes in the current budget to restore twothirds funding for public schools. He said three years of science and three years of math should be required in Wisconsin high schools.

Continue reading Governor Supports Higher Math and Science Graduation Requirements

Art Rainwater’s Monthly Column: Current School Finance System Needs to Change: “Advanced Courses May

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater:

School districts across Wisconsin are preparing to begin the yearly ritual of reducing services to their students. Under the current revenue caps there really is no choice for most of us. For most districts the easy choices were made long ago. After twelve years of revenue caps there are only choices left that harm our children.
At the same time that educational research is showing us more effective ways to ensure that all children learn, inadequate school finance systems are ensuring that we do not have the resources to implement what we know.
Or, the choice this year for some may be the reduction of the advanced courses (emphasis added) that allow our state’s students to be competitive with students globally, thus limiting the availability of the highly educated work force that our state needs to be competitive.

There are many budget posts on this site, including those that discuss health care costs, reading recovery, business services, state funding, local property taxes and a different point of view on school funding. Personally, for many reasons, I don’t see the current situation, modest annual budget growth, changing much. The more we yearn for additional state and federal dollars, the more we become dependent upon the political spaghetti associated with that type of funding. Having said all that, I do agree that the current model is a mess. I just don’t see it getting any better. We simply need to spend our annual $329M in the most effective, productive way possible.
I’m glad that Art is putting his words on the web! I look forward to more such publications.

The Year in Madison Blogs, Circa 2005

Kristian Knutsen:

In Madison, locally-oriented blogging is being led by a number of group efforts focused upon education, taverns, and the overall experience of living in town, complemented by a growing host of political writers. Here’s my thoughts about the growth of blogging in Madison over 2005.
The incontestable leader among Madison blogs over 2005 was School Information System (SIS), the group blog devoted to promoting community discussion about the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, look for School Information System to increase its visibility and activity over the next year.

The Safe Room

These words were written by a middle school special education assistant (SEA) who prefers to remain anonymous:

As adults, we head off to work everyday expecting each day to be similar to the others. Nothing out of the ordinary, just, pretty much, the same old, same old. But one day a difference occurs. A pounding against a wall starts somewhere down the hallway. It gets louder and more frequent. Then, the yelling begins. At first, one considers the possibilities for such commotion and none of them are pleasant. A fight amongst workers? A disgruntled customer or client? The yelling turns to screaming and it unnerves everyone around. The explanation is that there is a problem and to keep on working, to simply ignore the disruption. It eventually stops. The next day and after that, several days a week the same incident happens. The length of the disturbance can last from 10 to 45 minutes. It is obvious that whoever is in this situation is in severe emotional distress. Still, all those working on that same floor are told to ignore it, even if it is making one physically uncomfortable to listen to these episodes.

Continue reading The Safe Room

“the Geezer Wars… have begun?”


In the December 25th Wash. Post Outlook section Stan Hinden discussed the impending retirement of the baby boomers. It’s an enormous issue in terms of the shifting demographic burden.

It also matters for schools. Yet rather than preparing, the spending trajectory of the past thirty years has created an assumption that we can just spend our way to better schools and in any event is unlikely to continue. And, for a couple of reasons especially tax structures and entitlement spending schools are particularly vulnerable if indeed there is a Geezer War.

In today’s Baltimore Sun, Eduwonk writes about some implications for schools as the burden shifts and what to start doing about it — namely addressing the dreaded P-word: Productivity.

MMSD Budget Mystery #4 (Disappearing Library Aids) Prompts Changes

After reported on inconsistencies in the MMSD’s library aids budgeting and possibly poor management of the funds (also called Common School Funds), the MMSD changed budget and accounting practices in October.
In a communication to MMSD School Library Media Specialists, the MMSD’s library coordinator Mark Lea wrote on October 24, 2005:
“On Wednesday, the Superintendent, Art Rainwater informed the building principals of the steps that the District needed to take to satisfy the requirements of the 2004-05 disbursement of the Common School Fund (CSF). In late April of 2005, the District received $675,055 in categorical aid to compensate us for the purchase of school materials purchased during the 2004-205 school year. In 2004-05, the District expended @$382,000 (sic) school library materials, so we were about $293,000 short of fulfilling our obligation for receipt of the categorical aid. Because we did not spend as much as we received in categorical aid, we are required to expend an additional $293,000 this year, or return the difference to DPI.”

Continue reading MMSD Budget Mystery #4 (Disappearing Library Aids) Prompts Changes

Changing City Puts Choice in New Light

Patrick McIlheran:

But what government can do, he says, is expand opportunities, most classically by education. The Milwaukee Public Schools are trying but are frequently unsuccessful. Of the children who enter its ninth grade, fewer than half make it to 12th grade. The district is trying to change, but a city that makes it onto national TV because of a mob beating needs anyone with bright ideas. And it would be particularly perverse to see those bright ideas, or the willingness of parents to take charge of children’s lives, stymied because of some separate argument about other programs the governor is demanding.

Parting Liberal Waters over No Child Left Behind

Samuel G. Freedman:

He wrote the legal brief that persuaded the Supreme Court in 1958 to order the integration of Little Rock’s public schools, and four decades later, his wavy black hair having long turned into an unruly gray cumulus, he was in court fighting to preserve a desegregation program for the St. Louis region.
In the past several years, though, Mr. Taylor has added a more controversial line to his résumé, as a public advocate for the No Child Left Behind law. From conferences of state legislators to conclaves at education schools, he has defended a statute closely associated with President Bush, parting ways with many of his lifelong allies on the left and bewildering the audiences that would otherwise venerate him.

“Are Teachers Unions Good for Urban Education?”

Shavar Jeffries:

Largely because of these rules, our urban schools better resemble bloated, civil-service bureaucracies than efficient, professional academies of learning.
The problem of union-precipitated bureaucracy is especially acute in urban schools given that union fundraising and organization greatly outstrip the political resources available to urban parents. Given this disparity in political influence, urban-district teachers unions negotiate, disproportionately, with themselves: unions on one side of the table; union-backed school board members, often elected specifically because of union support, on the other.

This is obviously a heated issue all around.

State Superintendent’s PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Citizenship

The 2006 State Superintendent’s PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Citizenship, in conjunction with the Dialogues with Democracy Conference, will be held February 2, 2006 at the Marriott West in Madison. Julie Rodriguez Chavez, granddaughter of late civil rights and farm labor leader, Cesar Chavez, will deliver the keynote presentation.

Continue reading State Superintendent’s PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Citizenship

We All Have a Lot to Learn

Fareed Zakaria:

This small event says a lot about global competition. Traveling around Asia for most of the past month, I have been struck by the relentless focus on education. It makes sense. Many of these countries have no natural resources, other than their people; making them smarter is the only path for development. China, as always, appears to be moving fastest.
But one thing puzzles me about these oft-made comparisons. I talked to Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand it better. He’s the minister of Education of Singapore, the country that is No. 1 in the global science and math rankings for schoolchildren. I asked the minister how to explain the fact that even though Singapore’s students do so brilliantly on these tests, when you look at these same students 10 or 20 years later, few of them are worldbeaters anymore. Singapore has few truly top-ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business executives or academics.

Greatest classroom catastrophe in 50 years

The Daily Telegraph reports on the collapse of the most accepted and widely used reading methodology in England and the United States:

The abandonment by teachers of the traditional method of teaching reading, known as phonics, precipitated the greatest educational catastrophe of the past 50 years.
Their steadfast refusal to re-introduce the method, in the face of overwhelming evidence of sharply falling reading standards, represents the greatest educational betrayal of the past 20 years, reducing the life chances of an estimated four million children.
Yesterday’s carefully worded but withering report by Jim Rose (176K PDF), a former chief inspector, accepted instantly and in its entirety by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, should finally draw a line under this shocking example of the profession’s capacity for collective pig-headedness and self-delusion.

Jim Zellmer previously posted a BBC story on the report by Rose.

Private Education in India

Alex Tabarrok:

More than four out of five Indian engineering students attend private colleges, whose potential growth seems limitless. …
Something similar is happening to the Indian school system…Since the early 1990s the percentage of 6-to-14-year-olds attending private school has jumped from less than a tenth to roughly a quarter of the total in that cohort, according to India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research. And this number may be on the low side. James Tooley of the University of Newcastle in Britain has found that in some Indian slums about two-thirds of the children attend private schools, many of which are not officially recognized and so may escape the attention of nationwide surveys.

“Charter School Confidential”

Jay Matthews:

I don’t think there is a more important story in this new year of 2006 than what happens to the country’s growing charter schools.
But no matter what happens to the federal law, we are going to continue to try to improve schools in this country, one way or another. I would prefer to spend my time looking at the most interesting and encouraging efforts to do so, and that means checking on the charter schools — independently run public schools — since they have the most freedom to innovate.

More than a Comment: Gifted Education and Equity

(What follows started out as a comment in response to the 12/27 entry and 1/3 comment on gifted education and equity, but has grown to entry status.)
Here is another relevant link — It’s to a page on the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) website. The page is entitled “Why We Should Advocate for Gifted and Talented Students.”
I think it’s important, when speaking about these issues, to know where the education money is going. It’s really quite sobering to learn the truth and should put anyone who feels guilty about advocating for the needs of really bright, academically advanced kids at ease. Remember, the bright kids who suffer the most as a result of the lack of dollars and appropriate curriculum — the ones whose potential remains untapped and undeveloped — are the ones whose parents cannot provide for them when the schools fail to. In addition, as learning continues to be watered down, more and more students will need additional challenge beyond what they receive in the regular classroom — if they are to thrive, that is, rather than just get by. Of course, much of what we are dealing with these days is less a matter of money than it is a matter of attitude.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, gifted programming is mandated in the state of Wisconsin — It’s just not funded (until this year, when fewer than $200,000 were included in the budget for a new gifted and talented consultant at DPI and some AP and middle school programming). Not only that, but for well over a decade there hasn’t been a g/t consultant on the staff of DPI (see last sentence — that will be changing in February). That means no one to oversee the delivery of services to the 51,000 gifted students in Wisconsin and no one to monitor districts’ compliance with the state statutes.
What about the MMSD? Well, the MMSD has been out of compliance with Wisconsin state statutes for gifted education since 1990. (Yes, 1990. That’s not a typo.) It’s “Talented and Gifted Program Plan” was written in 1991. I’m trying to get it posted on the District website.
Anyway, here is the excerpt from the NAGC website:

Continue reading More than a Comment: Gifted Education and Equity

Unsolved MMSD Budget Mystery #5: Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen

To cut through the fog, intrepid investigators, the so far unsolved mystery boils down to three questions:
1. Why did the MMSD Food Service budget increase by $246,599 or 3.5% this year compared to the previous year?
2. Why did the MMSD add 10 new food service workers, when the school population (and presumably the number of meals) is in decline?
3. Why did the budget document claim to reduce staffing by “by approximately 2%” when staffing actually increased by 10.9%?

Article from 12/25 Wisconsin State Journal on Successul Job Placement of Student with Disabilities

Here are links to the Wisconsin State Journal article on Dan Spooner that I mentioned in my December 29 post. This portrays just one of a number of students in MMSD who make very successful transitions into adulthood and jobs, thanks to strong cooperatiive efforts between the school district and local employers, with support from Dane County.
These are links to the main story and the sidebar:

“What You’ll Wish You’d Known”

Reader Carla Shedivy suggests that this Paul Graham essay “What You’ll Wish You’d Known” is a must read for high school freshman:

But there are other jobs you can’t learn about, because no one is doing them yet. Most of the work I’ve done in the last ten years didn’t exist when I was in high school. The world changes fast, and the rate at which it changes is itself speeding up. In such a world it’s not a good idea to have fixed plans.
And yet every May, speakers all over the country fire up the Standard Graduation Speech, the theme of which is: don’t give up on your dreams. I know what they mean, but this is a bad way to put it, because it implies you’re supposed to be bound by some plan you made early on. The computer world has a name for this: premature optimization. And it is synonymous with disaster. These speakers would do better to say simply, don’t give up.

Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget

Paying my annual property tax bill recently, I wondered what the effect of Madison’s development growth (some might call it sprawl) has had on overall spending growth and on an individual’s tax burden (note, Madison Schools include Fitchburg, Maple Bluff and Shorewood parcels). I contacted the city assessor’s office and asked how the number of parcels has changed since 1990. Here are the numbers (thanks to Hayley Hart and JoAnn Terasa):

2005: 64976 2004: 62249 2003: 60667 2002: 59090
2001: 58140 2000: 57028 1999: 56006 1998: 54264
1997: 53680 1996: 53152 1995: 52524 1994: 51271
1993: 50938 1992: 49804 1991: 49462 1990: 49069

Some believe that more money will solve the School District’s challenges.

Continue reading Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget

“Why Slave-Era Barriers to Literacy Still Matter”

Brent Staples:

Literate black people were not immune to the mob violence and intensifying racism that greeted all African-Americans after the Civil War. Nevertheless, the ability to read and write gave them a vantage point on their circumstances and protected them from swindlers who regularly stripped illiterate people of land and other assets. For these families, literacy was a form of social capital that could be passed from one generation to the next. By contrast, nonliterate families were disproportionately vulnerable to the Jim Crow policies and social exploitation that often locked them out of the American mainstream for generations on end.

More Money is Not Always the Answer: The New Space Race

Ed Bradley:

Interesting interview with Burt Rutan on his approach to space travel (low cost, efficient) vs. the traditional NASA approach (very expensive).

I found it interesting to listen to Rutan’s young engineer’s discuss the challenges and opportunities in their work. Two related articles worth reading:

The Education process is clearly at a tipping point in terms of conventional vs. new approaches. A teacher friend recently strongly suggested that we need to start from scratch (would that be a 0 based budget?).

2006-2007 MMSD Budget Comments

Jason Shepherd writing in the December 29, 2005 Isthmus:

  • Superintendent Art Rainwater: says the “most frustrating” part of his job is knowing there are ways to boost achievement with more resources, but not being able to allocate them. Instead, the district must each year try to find ways to minimize the hurt.
  • Board member Lawrie Kobza wants the board to review its strategic plan to ensure all students are being challenged with a rigorous curriculum.
  • Carol Carstensen, the current Board President says the “heterogenous” groupings, central to the West controversy (English 10, 1 curriculum for all), will be among the most important curriculum issues for 2006.
  • Ruth Robarts is closely watching an upcoming review of the district’s health insurance plans and pushing to ensure that performance goals for Rainwater include targeted gains for student achievement.
  • Johnny Winston says he’ll continue to seek additional revenue streams, including selling district land.

Read the full article here.

With respect to funding and new programs, the district spends a great deal on the controversial Reading Recovery program. The district also turned down millions in federal funds last year for the Reading First Program. Perhaps there are some opportunities to think differently with respect to curriculum and dollars in the district’s $329M+ budget, which increases annually.

Teacher Barb Williams offers her perspective on the expensive Reading Recovery program and the district’s language curriculum.

Board Candidate Maya Cole offers her thoughts on Transparency and the Budget

Top 10 Links for 2005’s top 10 links for 2005:

  1. School Climate
  2. Governance/Board Decision Making
  3. Society and Sports
  4. Look Before you Leap: A Good Rule for Public Budget Making?
  5. Budget Financing
  6. Five Year Old Handcuffed in Tantrum
  7. Top 1000 US High Schools
  8. Update on MMSD Hiring a Fine Arts Coordinator
  9. Curriculum-Fine Arts
  10. Student Support
  11. Eugene Parks

Like the Big Ten, I cannot count. I included 11 in this top 10 list 🙂

Happy New Year!