MAFAAC & Communities United School Board Candidate Forum Audio

MAFAAC (the Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Committee) and Communities United (a broadly-based coalition of groups and individuals representing Madison’s minority communities, and other citizens working on behalf of social justice and civil rights) held a school board candidate forum yesterday. MP3 Audio clips are avaible below:

  • Opening Statements: [10.7MB mp3]
  • Question 1: What do you think the causes are of the achievement gap? [7MB mp3]
  • Question 2: What role do community groups play in addressing the achievement gap? [4MB mp3]
  • Question 3: How would you rate the leadership of Superintendent Art Rainwater? [7.5MB mp3]
  • Question 4: What are the sources of the discord, the disagreement on the board? [7.5MB mp3]
  • Question 5: Barbara Golden Statement on Dissent, David (I could not catch his last name) has a question on the budget & Candidate Responses to the budget priorities. [6MB mp3]
  • Question 6: Latinos Unite for Change in the Classroom. What are you going to do to support the needs of the ELL students? [3.5MB mp3]
  • Question 7: The district insists that a young child go through an ESL program. The parents disagree. What is your role if someone brings you a case like this? [4.5MB mp3]
  • Question 8: The chair of Communities United’s Statement and Question: What specifically would you do to insure that there is equity in the (District’s) programs. [8.5MB]
  • Question 9: Audience questions regarding heterogeneous vs homogeneous classrooms; can people in the community who care about an issue like heterogeneity, get that in front of the school board? The way the board is currently comprised, the answer is no. [10.5MB mp3]
  • Complete Event: 2 hours, 30 Minutes [65MB mp3]

9 thoughts on “MAFAAC & Communities United School Board Candidate Forum Audio”

  1. I just wanted to comment on one of the questions from the forum. Question 7: The district insists that a young child go through an ESL program. The parents disagree. What is your role if someone brings you a case like this? All students who register who check the box that a second language is spoken at home must be tested for their English proficiency. Before they are placed in a classroom or receive ESL services, the parents must sign a consent form authorizing the district to provide ESL services. Have there been mix-up’s in the past? I am sure there have been. Usually the consent forms and the discussion with parents happed during the Ready, Set, Go conferences. These were cut from the budget last year. The ESL teachers who coordinate the specialized services for children in the bilingual classrooms were cut from the budget last year.
    Juan has been to my school many times advocating for the students. I remember a couple of years ago when my students were feeling afraid about the fires that were occurring across the street from our school. He came and talked to them. It was such a powerful moment for my students. It was the first time that a person in power came to visit our classroom. He was like them. Latino, spoke Spanish, and could relate to the children in a way that helped to lessen their fears. I wish I had a video camera. The everyday interactions that the students have had with Juan Jose have been some of the highlights of my teaching career.
    State Statute:
    s.115.96 (1), Wis. Stats.: “Count of limited-English proficient pupils. Annually, on or before March 1, each school board shall conduct a count of the limited-English proficient pupils in the public schools of the district, assess the language proficiency of such pupils and classify such pupils by language group, grade level, age and English language proficiency.” [emphasis added]
    Federal Law (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001):
    Sec. 3116. (3)(C): [This is from the description of what local plans must include.] “describe how the eligible entity will hold elementary and secondary schools receiving funds under this subpart accountable for – annually measuring the English proficiency of limited English proficient children, so that such children served by the programs carried out under this part develop proficiency in English while meeting State academic content and student academic achievement standards as required by section 1111(b)(1).”
    To Note: State law has required the annual assessment of English language proficiency levels (ELP) for all English language learners since passage of ss.115.95-115.996, Wis. Stats. in 1977. With the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, federal law also requires annual assessment of ELP level. While parents may “opt out” of program placement or state standardized assessments, they may NOT do so for the annual ELP assessment.

  2. Troy, I am pretty sure that there was at least one case like this at Leopold in the last 3 years, with a child in Kindergarten. If I remember correctly, the parents spoke spanish with a little english, and they wanted to make sure their child learned in English. Not all families feel that the ELL classrooms are the best place for their children, just like not all families want their child to be labeled special ed. Not all families feel all hetrogeneous classes work for every child. Not all families want their child to be labeled special ed.
    Depending on the person who is asking the parent to sign some documentation, they may be given the impression that they will learn more english than they do. Once the child is in the ELL program, the parent had to jump through hurdles to get the child out of the program. As with Special Ed, I have seen parents upset with the services after they see what is being offered because it wasn’t what they were expecting.
    I totally disagree with the law that parents can not opt out of ELP testing. Parents are allowed to opt out of vaccines, state testing, and they are allowed to homeschool. Why would our state government all of a sudden not allow parents to opt out of ELP testing? Obviously, these are not people who understand, and frankly, a little bias in my view. I know that at times these are kids who have received National Merit Semi Finalist awards where they have to be strong in the English language and yet need to take the ELP test? There needs to be exceptions to this.
    Juan will advocate for the spanish speaking children, but I have never seen him come to a TAG event. I am sorry, he did poke his face in for a guest speaker this fall, who spent her own money to get her from Nevada, stay in hotels around Wisconsin for a week and never took a cent. He stayed for literally 10 minutes and then left. The hispanic population in the schools doesn’t represent every child, not even half of the population. Yes, I feel that hispanic children need advocates, as do other ESL students, special ed students, TAG students, and average students. I have emailed Juan a number of times questioning votes, congratulating him for votes, and just some basic information, and I have never heard from him. Recently, I emailed him about incorrect data on his website, and he didn’t comment but a volunteer emailed me. Juan is telling me by not responding that I don’t deserve his time. Unfortunately, Juan’s campaign group doesn’t understand the data they are posting nor that it is in fact incorrect. I was also told that the information was gathered by a staff member of MMSD. Okay, now this really makes me question Kurt Kiefer’s department, if they are the group who is interpreting incorrect data. I was able to locate this correct data on the DPI website and see easily that the data was incorrect. Funny, when it is election time, he still doesn’t communicate with consitutes personally, he does it through volunteers. I understand that he has had a family loss and that is he has a new job which takes a lot of time. But if this is the case and he is that busy, he needs to move on and not run again, specially when he has never answered an email of mine.
    I feel it is time for someone new. I question the Teachers Union for backing him and feel they are looking at who is best for them, not the children nor the people of Madison. It is very easy to fall into a view that the teachers know what is best for all children. After our experiences at Leopold, I completely disagree. To often I was told that my children needed something, and then later I found out it was completely incorrect. I am sorry but with budget concerns, it is time to have people ask the hard questions and stop pointing fingers like little children (who they state they are representing).
    It is time to have adults run the school board and get the children off.
    Sorry Troy that we disagree on this one.

  3. Just a point of clarification, since I’m not very familiar with ELL….my understanding is that parents may opt out of ELL services if they choose, so the answer to question 7 above is that the parents should fill out the appropriate paperwork that says they are refusing ELL services for their child and the district needs to abide by their decision, correct? It’s really the parents’ choice as to whether or not their child is placed in an ELL program, although I would venture a guess, since this question is even being asked, that most people don’t know that. As Troy indicates, the child must still be assessed via the annual ELP assessment, even if they aren’t receiving services. At the elementary school that my kids attended, which doesn’t have an ELL program, there are 11 kids enrolled this year whose parents opted out of ELL services. One of those kids was the school spelling bee champ.

  4. Please note that the issue for many families is the degree to which children are tested before they are given ELL status. As I mentioned in the forum, I have friends – both grew up in the US and are in a language intensive professional field – who were stunned to learn that their daughter’s “special English class” was ELL. She has an Asian name and appearance, but no one checked to see if she needed services.
    This is one of many similar stories and a different take on the issue of parents choosing not to have services. There was a definite unhappiness with the assumptions and the removal of the child from regular instruction to get the services that she didn’t need.

  5. Jill, I think about the child who was a school spelling be champ. It may be degrading for his/her family that he is good enough to win the school spelling bee, yet have to get tested on some very basic information. And if these are some harder quesitions, then maybe English speaking people like me should also have to take a test like this. Think about a child who’s family has elected to have their children bilingual. Often the parents are trying to keep a family tradition alive. Because the parents have checked off that the main language used in the house is not english, their child is going to be tested every year through 12th grade (I believe) to check on their English? Maybe they are going to speak only German at home because the child will get their english at school or have other avenues where the child is learning their english skills such as play groups or day care. I feel that the this law should allow schools to look at each situation uniquely, and not make families, who are offering bilingual services in their own home, to treat them like second class citizens for doing it.
    Project Excel, a program for middle school minority students to help them succeed in high school has similar situations. I know of a boy whose both parents where born in the US, yet because of the last name and heritage, was placed in Project Excel. Another child with the same last name was asked if he had any of the same nationality in his heritage because he would be also a candidate. Funny his heritage was actually european decent so he was not accepted. There was no examination on who they really are or their parents background (both kids had parents with college degrees).
    Jill, I am confused, I thought all schools were offering ELL classes. If your school doesn’t have it, why would they offer it?

  6. Edukation4u,
    Lapham Elementary, where my wife teaches, does not have ELL classes. Any child who would otherwise attend Lapham, but needs help with English, gets bussed to Lowell, if memory serves me correctly.

  7. When my children first began elementary school here I was surprised by a form that came home one day informing me that my child had been referred for services in ESL or ELL, I’m not very educated about these acronyms and what they mean. Apparently when I filled out the portion of the registration info that asks about languages spoken in the home, my marking Finnish as well as English triggered this referral. My husband speaks Finnish to the children in a (relatively unsuccessful) attempt to make them bilingual. This was a big joke at our house and easily straightened out at the school. But I can see how various things could go wrong in transmission. We all know how unreliable backpack mail can be. Even if the form makes it home, its import may easily be misunderstood. I would think that having this information delivered personally to the parent with attendant explanation about options could solve many problems

  8. I’m a member of the Equity Task Force and wanted to clear up some misconceptions from the candidate answers.
    First, we will be opening up to public input and comment and will be reaching out to organizations and individuals who have worked on equity issues to solicit their participation. Having said that, speaking as an individual and not for the Task Force I think that it is equally important to make it clear to the wider community that their ideas about equity are being considered and that equity is an issue for all children, not just some.
    Secondly, the impression seems to be that we are considering only budget/resource allocations/funding. The Task Force has understood our charge from the BOE to be wider. We are struggling with forming a full vision of what an equitable district would look like, how do we create it and what accountability measures can we use to judge and forward equity. We do not believe that equity is only a matter of resource allocation. This might not be how other Task Force members would phrase it, but that is my impression of what we have understood and how we are moving forward.
    Lastly, there was a reference to a need for more fequent meetings of the Task Force. We have been meeting regularly, frequently and working hard. Once again, I speak only for myself, but it appears we all take this very seriously and are devoting much thought and work. We consider it a priority and if anyone wants to review our efforts thus far, I think they will see that demonstrated. We meet again this evening.

  9. Here is the mmsd website:
    Firstly, most children who are ell’s are not pulled out of the classroom anymore. They are integrated into the regular classroom whenever possible. Some of the most successful programs are so transparent that ell’s, classroom teachers, esl teachers and native English speakers are indistinguishable from each other.
    Secondly, many ell’s are also TAG material. Learning a second language is not a disability. As a matter of fact, neither is having a developmental disability. It does not necessarily bar a child from being gifted. In my past life as a case manager, I helped a man with autism to enroll in the UW math department. He graduated last year. He was one of the most gifted persons I had ever met.
    Thirdly, ESL teachers have a valuable role to play in assuring the success of heterogeneous learning environments.
    Lastly, children who are inappropriately placed in bilingual/ESL classrooms are a waste of resources. But, we are bound by what parents check on the enrollment form.
    Parents ultimately know what is best for their children. In order for parents to have the information that they need to make an educated decision about what is right for their children, we all work very hard. We have had parent meetings, conferences one-on-one with parents, have distributed literature to parents, taken students and families to school board meetings, offered parent volunteers to help parents new to the district to understand the school system, made partnerships with local Latino groups, offered English classes and GED education in our school, created a Latino-school parent group, scheduled parent-teacher conferences so that working families could attend, had various family nights including math/Spanish/black history/multicultural, and have created a volunteer program that addresses the need of the students.
    I might add that this is almost completely volunteered by the staff and parents.
    On testing…. I could not agree more with the posts about how much testing a tiny child must endure. Then again, we are living in the age of testing and accountability.

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