According to the data on DPI’s Web site, the combined percentages for minimum and basic categories (these are below grade level) for MMSD’s 10th graders on the WKCE reading test in November 2004 were:
All students – 26%
African American – 53%
Asian – 29%
Hispanic – 51%
White – 15%
The real shame lies, not in the scores, but in the MMSD’s lack of any systematic program to raise these students’ reading abilities before graduation.
A few schools may offer Read 180, a remedial curriculum praised by staff in the MMSD and other districts.
Pam Nash illustrated the MMSD’s weak commitment to Read 180 in a response to my question on how much money the current budget includes for Read 180. Pam wrote:
The district has not included any specific budget for 2006-07 that would be utilized for READ 180. Individual building principals may utilize existing supply/formula and staffing allocations to provide READ 180 strategies within existing curriculum offerings. Read 180 will be offered at all four high schools and Brearly Street Alternatives. (emphasis added)
Given that implementation of Read 180 costs about $40,000 per school, according to district figures, Read 180 won’t be expanded to schools currently without it.
From the WKCE scores, probably 20% to 26% of MMSD graduates cannot read their diploma, let alone read well enough to continue their education or land a job that pays a living wage. (The percentage might be lower than 20% since many non-readers may drop out before graduation.)
Additionally, the superintendent and some board members like to brag that the MMSD closed the achievement gap because children of color are no longer over represented in the minimum category on the third grade reading test. Obviously, that’s a pitiful claim when more than half of Madison’s African American 10th graders can’t read at grade level.