With all of the talk about the district’s high schools going through a redesign process (similar to what the middle schools did last summer), I think it’s important that as many interested people as possible attend the East High United meeting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at East High School [map/directions].
I recently asked principal Alan Harris about English 9 and whether it would continue to be divided into three ability groupings: TAG, Academically Motivated, and regular. I was pleased to find out that they no longer call one section Academically Motivated. Instead, it’s called Advanced.
At any rate, Alan told me that assistant principal David Watkins is the best contact for all information regarding core academics (English, Math, Science, Social Studies). He also told me that they are in the current planning stages for next year and can’t say whether ability groupings will be offered.
Alan stated: “At our East High United meeting on November ninth, at 7:00 we will be discussing our Vision 2012 goals related to high expectations. Advanced classes, TAG programming and curriculum expectations will be a part of this discussion.”
If TAG programming, high expectations, and academic rigor are important to you, please attend this meeting and voice your concerns.
E sanderfoot at charter.net
A new study by the Institute for One Wisconsin found that Dane County had the lowest regional health insurance cost in the state, as did the Madison metropolitan area compared to other metro areas.
The analysis by the nonprofit research and education organization, which supports a progressive agenda, found that there was a nearly 30 percent cost variation between the highest and lowest cost areas.
Northwestern Wisconsin had the highest costs by region, followed by west-central and then southeastern Wisconsin. The Racine metro area had the highest cost, followed by the Chippewa Valley and then La Crosse.
By Anita Weier, The Capitol Times, October 31, 2006.
October 31, 2006
I know that decision-makers often try to bury items in budgets, planning documents, and legislation, but I had to chuckle at one that I found in an MMSD budgte document that details spending on consultants. Here’s how the explanation of a consulting expenditure of $159,144 reads:
debate and forensics, accompanists for choral/band/orchestra concerts and rehearsals and jazz directors, piano/organ player for graduation, consultant for developing middle school guidance program, drama (costume designers, pit orchestra, lighting, set designers). Other expenses are speakers for all school assemblies, artists in residence, speakers for various classes.
Now isn’t it odd that an expenditure for a “consultant for developing middle school guidance program” get buried in a long list of items for the performing arts? Could a reasonable person believe that someone was trying to hid the expenditure for a consultant for developing middle school guidance program?
I asked the MMSD to provide a breakout of the expenditure for the guidance program consultant.
Feel free to search for other oddities in the million dollar budget for consultants. Click here for a PDF of the expenditures.
As a senior adviser and former president of Public Agenda, I’m often asked to interpret public-opinion research in relation to the priorities of major education groups. These groups are seeking information that can help them refine their “messaging” strategies to promote a particular agenda.
“Messaging,” when it assumes that the solution is a given, merely in need of better packaging, is the last thing education reform needs more of. What is undeniably needed in its stead is authentic public engagement, and lots more of it.
The American public education system is facing multiple challenges that are unique in its history, and its ability to respond will depend on greater public involvement and understanding than has been evident to date.
By Deborah Wadsworth, Education Week, October 25, 2006
The Madison School District Board of Education approved a collective bargaining contract with the custodial units last night in which the custodians agreed to move from their current health care plans (GHC and the Alliance PPO) to a 3 HMO plan which is GHC, Dean Care and Physicans Plus. MMSD continues to pay 100% of the premium, but there are cost savings associated with this change. 85% of those costs savings was passed on to employees in salary and 15% went to MMSD.
This change is effective 1/1/2007. A big benefit of this change is that Administrators will also move to the 3 HMO option.
I’ve not seen an MMSD press on this important issue, but this is what I understand is happening.
Health care expense links.
This is a very positive development, particularly given the inaction on this topic in the recent past and one I believe helps support the 11/7/2006 referendum.
MMSD Press Release.
Wall Street Journal Editorial:
For example, the Education Department has granted a waiver to Chicago’s public schools, even though that system has been identified repeatedly as “in need of improvement” under NCLB and therefore not allowed to provide after-school tutoring. There is no shortage of private providers — from Newton Learning to Sylvan to the Princeton Review — willing to step in and serve the 200,000 or so students in the Windy City eligible for free tutoring.
But under pressure from teachers unions and public education bureaucrats like the Council of the Great City Schools, Ms. Spellings is allowing the Chicago system to offer its own tutoring. And with predictable results. After assuring the secretary that it would not limit student access to private tutoring, Chicago is doing exactly that. Principals have been directed to give preference to the district’s service and limit parent and student access to alternatives. Teachers have handed out registration forms for the district’s tutoring program at events where outside providers were banned. A full third of all students enrolled in tutoring are enrolled in the public district’s program.
Stanford’s Terry Moe:
The Department of Education recently announced its first grants in a new $94-million program to fund incentive-pay plans for teachers. The money itself is a drop in the bucket for a public school industry that spends more than $400 billion annually. And only a small portion of the nation’s school districts will be chosen to participate. But the idea — that a teacher’s pay should depend in part on how much his students actually learn — is revolutionary. It is also common sense.
The current system makes no sense at all. Beyond a brief probationary period, teachers have lifetime job security (tenure) and are virtually impossible to dismiss even if their students learn absolutely nothing year after year. Their pay, moreover, is based entirely on a salary schedule defined by seniority and credentials, and takes no account of whether their students are learning anything. All teachers, good and bad, are rewarded equally — a truly dumb idea. With this kind of reward structure, teachers are not given strong incentives to promote student learning to the fullest, because nothing happens to them one way or the other. Good teachers do not gain from their successes; mediocre teachers suffer no consequences for their failures. So why strive extra hard to get students to achieve? Taking it easy yields the same rewards.
To make matters worse, teachers who are especially talented, skilled and effective — qualities that employers throughout the economy are looking for — are well aware that their superior value will only be rewarded if they leave teaching for another career, which many of them do. Mediocre teachers, meantime, have the same lifetime security and pay as the good teachers. And people of low quality have especially strong reason to seek out these jobs and remain in the system until retirement, because almost nowhere else (outside government) would their poor performance be tolerated — indeed, rewarded. The disconnect between pay and performance, then, inevitably affects the quality and motivational character of the entire pool of people who wind up in the classroom.
Recent comments on merit pay. More on Terry Moe.
The outcomes of previous ballot measures have varied.
Voters approved six of seven referendums offered from 1995 to 2003.
In May 2005, district voters approved a referendum exempting $29.2 million in maintenance and equipment expenses from state revenue limits through 2010.
Voters rejected two other measures, though, that would have exempted $7.4 million in operating costs from revenue limits and would have approved $14.5 million for renovations and a second school on the Leopold site.
The School Board then decided to press ahead with a scaled-down project at Leopold, paying for it — at least for now — out of the operating budget.
More on the referendum here. Meanwhile, Janesville has a $70M question for voters.
By the end of the day one thing was clear: Parents, teachers and community organizations want an equal say in determining how the district will be remade.
illaraigosa acknowledged as much in his opening remarks to the group of 100 or so people, who represented church groups, businesses, human services agencies, city and county departments, law enforcement, city councils and numerous schools.
“This issue of ‘mayor control’ is a misnomer,” he told the meeting — billed as an education retreat — at the Doheny campus of Mount St. Mary’s College near downtown. “This is the perfect example of a partnership. I don’t need to bring 200 people together if I was just going to do it alone.”
A close observer of the Madison public education scene for a number of years, I’ve seen this tension grow, something reflected in recent referenda results and board elections.
On the one hand, we have statements from top Administrators like “we have the children” to teachers, on the other; staff and parents very unhappy with a top down, one size fits all approach to many issues (see the most recent example of substantive changes without public discussion). Parental interest and influence (the use of the term influence does not reflect today’s current reality) ranges from those who are extremely active with respect to systemic issues and those active for individual children to various stages of participation and indifference.
In 2006, I believe that parents and citizens continue to have a much smaller role in our K-12 public system governance than they should, given our children’s interests and the District’s source of funds such as property taxes, fees, sales and income taxes recycled through state and federal spending. Madison’s school climate is certainly not unique (Nielsen’s Participation Inequality is a good read in this context).
Peter Gascoyne asked some useful questions in response to Gene Hickok’s recent Washington Post piece. I “think” that Hickok was driving in the direction of a much more substantive parental role in education.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Society for Human Resource Management:
As the baby boom generation slowly exits the U.S. workplace, a new survey of leaders from a consortium of business research organizations finds the incoming generation sorely lacking in much needed workplace skills — both basic academic and more advanced “applied” skills, according to a report released today.
The report is based on a detailed survey of 431 human resource officials that was conducted in April and May 2006 by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management. Its objective was to examine employers’ views on the readiness of new entrants to the U.S. workforce — recently hired graduates from high schools, two-year colleges or technical schools, and four-year colleges.
“The future workforce is here, and it is ill-prepared,” concludes the report.
The findings reflect employers’ growing frustrations over the preparedness of new entrants to the workforce. Employers expect young people to arrive with a core set of basic knowledge and the ability to apply their skills in the workplace – and the reality is not matching the expectation.
Complete 3.5MB PDF report | PDF Workforce Readiness Report Card
At the October 23, 2006 meeting of the Human Resources Committee for the Madison School Board, I reported on why the Board of Education and employee representatives should work together to reduce future health insurance costs.
With one exception, my data came directly from the September 25 presentation by Bob Butler, attorney-consultant for the Wisconsin Association for School Boards. Madison School Board HR Committee: Health Care Costs Discussion
What’s new in my presentation
[880K pdf version
]is the cost for employee health insurance in 2006-07 ($43.3M) and the portion of this year’s budget that goes to pay for health insurance (13%).
Here’s the short version of my presentation.
Health insurance costs for school districts are increasing at higher rates than for the private sector or other government employers in Wisconsin.
The percentage of the district’s operating budget that goes to health insurance is large and growing rapidly.
- $43,303,350 will go to employee health insurance for 2006-07
- 13% of the total budget for 2006-07 will go to employee health insurance
- 17% of the budget under revenue limits will go to employee health insurance
Spending more and more on health insurance means that the district must go to strategies such as cutting positions, not replacing employees that retire, increasing class sizes, or creating positions that do not qualify for health insurance in order to balance the budget.
Health insurance costs are drastically reducing dollars that can go to pay competitive wages.
Health insurance costs are also drastically reducing post-retirement benefits to our employees.
Changes in providers and plans can significantly affect future costs.
Districts can have a significant impact on future health insurance costs by working with employee representatives to propose changes in plan designs, providers and wellness plans.
US Census Bureau. The data is aggregated a variety of ways, including by state. Minnesota ranks first in the percentage of population 25 and older who have a high school diploma (Wisconsin is 9th) while Connecticut ranks first in the percentage with Bachelor’s degrees at 36.8% (Wisconsin is 33rd at 25%). .xls file.
Census Bureau press release:
Adults age 18 and older with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $51,554 in 2004, while those with a high school diploma earned $28,645, according to new tabulations released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Those without a high school diploma earned an average of $19,169.
The series of tables, Educational Attainment in the United States: 2005, also showed advanced-degree holders made an average of $78,093.
It will be interesting to see which way the Madison school district goes – one size fits all ala West High’s English 9 & 10 [Bruce King’s report] or toward a more rigorous, college prep/technical curriculum. One hopeful sign is Johnny Winston Jr.’s recent statement that education is “not one size fits all“. We’ll see how this plays out and if the school board is active on this question.
Nelson Hernandez and Daniel de Vise:
Deasy has vowed to raise the county’s test scores, which have increased in recent years, by reallocating staff to the system’s worst-performing schools, bolstering teacher recruitment and retention, improving parental participation, and giving children more opportunities and better training to participate in Advanced Placement courses.
“You need not be concerned about the level of gravity in which we take it,” Deasy told the board. “You need to be concerned about the celebration when we meet our goals.”
The “tax freeze” continues. Alan Borsuk:
At the heart of a decision by Milwaukee Public Schools officials to increase property taxes for schools by 7.7% was a choice not discussed in public:
Millions of dollars that had been freed up within the $1.15 billion budget for the 2006-’07 school year could be used to hold down the tax increase. Or they could be used to increase spending by $78.90 per student across the MPS system – totaling almost $6.7 million.
Administrators and a split School Board on Tuesday went with the increased spending.
Labeled a “one-time rebate” in MPS budget documents, the payments will go to all the schools in the traditional MPS system and to charter schools staffed by MPS employees.
That will help ease a financial squeeze that is harming education in the city, MPS officials say. The money will allow schools to do such things as restore teaching or safety aide positions that were cut going into this year, MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said Wednesday.
The Madison School District’s property taxes will rise 5.8% with the arrival of December’s tax bills. Local school property taxes had been relatively flat the past few years due to redistribution of income, sales taxes and fees via state aids and to some extent flat enrollment and the revenue caps.
I’ve added a number of links to the election page including:
- Marisue Horton’s letter to the editor: “Yes Moves Schools Ahead”.
- One Question Wraps Up $23.5M Referendum – Channel3000
- Where’s the Beef? – WKOW-TV
- CAST Pro Referendum Internet Advertising, appearing Thursday the first day of no school during the fall WEAC convention. (TJ Mertz notes in a comment that the ads started running Wednesday.)
Here is the official wording of the new MMSD policy regarding students taking non-MMSD courses. 78K PDF. See my earlier post on this unpublished change:
A. Taking outside courses (other than Youth Options) if a student wishes to receive credit toward graduation.
- The course must be pre-approved by the principal.
- The course may only be an elective.
- A student may only receive elective credit toward graduation provided the District does not offer a comparable course, if a student receives credit it will be reflected as pass/fail.
- Elective credits toward graduation shall be granted in the following manner:
No more than 1 elective credit per year. No more than 1 elective credit in the same subject. more than 2 elective credits may be applied to the total graduation requirement.
- The student’s transcript shall only include a description of the course, the institution, if any, the date the course was completed, the credit, if any, and the pass/fail grade.
- No grades will be included as part of a student’s GPA.
- All costs related to taking the course shall be the responsibility of the guardian of the student or student.
Having long believed that there are solid grounds for criticizing the Madison School Board, I am happy to see how well we compare in our conduct and meetings to some school boards.
School board has a truancy problem
Steve Brandt, Star Tribune
State conservation officer Brian Buria was checking a wetland complaint on Deer Lake last summer when he encountered a nude Minneapolis school board member.
“It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I said, ‘Jeepers. You got to be careful about that. You can get yourself in trouble. You could get registered as a sex offender exposing yourself.’ ”
Neighbors say it was just another swim for Audrey Johnson. Bert Robertson, who lives next door, is among the neighbors who say that Johnson has been living at her family’s Itasca County cabin, almost 200 miles from her Minneapolis constituency.
Johnson is one of three members of the seven-person board whose attendance has plummeted this year.
Johnson and Colleen Moriarty, both lame ducks whose terms conclude Dec. 31, have missed six and nine, respectively, out of about 30 public meetings since January, records indicate. Mid-termer Sharon Henry-Blythe has missed seven.
Responding via e-mail from her cabin, Johnson said she has spent substantial time at her cabin for family reasons and acknowledged the skinny-dipping, but she disputed the neighbors’ time estimates for both. She said she keeps in touch with constituents mostly by e-mail but also by phone.
Other board members say the absences are frustrating, one factor in the perception that the board has lost steam this year.
There’s plenty to deal with: falling enrollment, tight money, an achievement gap, reforming middle and high schools. The board sets policy in these areas, hires a superintendent and oversees finances.
“It’s never an easy job, but when I look at what’s on their plate, it’s an awful lot,” said Ann Kaari, a former board chairwoman.
The board adopted a budget in June with only four of seven members present; the numbers were the same on Aug. 22 and Sept. 26, when the board got state testing results. Minutes indicate that the board hasn’t met at full strength since July 11.
“It’s been really frustrating not to have a full board for meetings,” said first-termer Peggy Flanagan. “Frankly, when you run for the board you say you’re going to serve the people of Minneapolis, and people need to honor that commitment to the end of the term.”
Steven Wilson & George Wood:
Resolved: For-profit companies shouldn’t run public schools.
Wilson: The irony! Here we are, in the temple of entrepreneurialism, debating a proposal to continue to deny our public schools–our most troubled institution–that greatest of American strengths, private sector innovation. The results are entirely predictable: An inefficient, outdated education system that consumes ever-increasing resources and posts flat or declining academic results. Worse still, in many inner cities, the public schools not only betray our shared ideals. They are our national shame. Systematically, callously, year after year, they fail millions of children, especially the urban poor. How can there be equal opportunity without universal access to a high quality education? Private action in public education should be welcomed, not decried. Let’s engage the talents of private sector in reinventing the schools.
Wood: Not so fast, my friend. Let’s look at a couple of your suppositions before we go on, beginning with the claim that our public schools are our most troubled institution. Really? Checked out the health care system lately? How about Congress? And before you credit the American private sector with too much innovative power let us not forget Enron and General Motors to name just a couple of instructive examples.
Of course schools could be better; I’ve spent the past 25 years working inside of them to do just that. With fewer resources than any CEO would accept, my school and thousands like it are doing a terrific job for every kid that walks through the door. We do something the private sector would never dream of doing: with no control over the funds we have, the materials we are given, or the outcomes that are dictated to us, we do our job and enjoy the highest level of trust of any institution in this country (see the 5/22/06 Zogby poll).
Diana Jean Schemo:
The Bush administration is giving public school districts broad new latitude to expand the number of single-sex classes, and even schools, in what is widely considered the most significant policy change on the issue since a landmark federal law barring sex discrimination in education more than 30 years ago.
Two years in the making, the new rules, announced Tuesday by the Education Department, will allow districts to create single-sex schools and classes as long as enrollment is voluntary. School districts that go that route must also make coeducational schools and classes of “substantially equal” quality available for members of the excluded sex.
The federal action is likely to accelerate efforts by public school systems to experiment with single-sex education, particularly among charter schools. Across the nation, the number of public schools exclusively for boys or girls has risen from 3 in 1995 to 241 today, said Leonard Sax, executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. That is a tiny fraction of the approximately 93,000 public schools across the country.
Andrew Rotherham notes that Hilary Clinton has long supported single sex education.
Now, six years later, we were alone as we discussed Vang’s reasons for not seeking reelection to the school board in April 2007. While I had heard rumors of his decision, our discussion made it public and official. Vang’s life had changed in six years. His job at Kajsiab House as the resource development director was taking up more and more of his time. And his children were growing older and needing more and more of his time, whether they realized it or not. His oldest son was now in high school.
Continued at The Capital City Hues.
From Nancy Salvato, a Head Start teacher in Illinois:
In the Summer of 2001 Dame Marie Clay, creator of the New Zealand based Reading Recovery program, and her entourage came to the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, to speak with House Education Committee Staffer Bob Sweet. Her purpose was to ascertain whether Reading Recovery would be eligible for Reading First funding once the bill was passed. Bob explained to Ms. Clay that explicit, systematic phonics instruction had to be included in any program eligible for RF funding because it was one of the necessary key components of reading instruction that had been established through decades of carefully conducted quantitative research.
These findings had been validated in the Report of the National Reading Panel in 2000 and were now going to become an essential part of the Reading First Law. He pleaded with Ms. Clay to use her extensive network of teacher training programs all over the US to help in the implementation of the RF program. He encouraged her to provide the leadership within the RR family to make the modifications necessary, and thus make RR eligible for RF funding consideration.
With a stare as cold as ice, Marie Clay replied that RR would not be making any changes to their program; however, Mr. Sweet could be certain a new description of its components would be written in such a way as to bring it into compliance with the RF law. Momentarily dumbfounded, he maintained that Reading Recovery could not be eligible for RF funding without modification, and his initial estimation then still stands today.
Continued at National Ledger:
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
That is why Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater was right last week when he said a recent flurry of violence in Madison schools merited attention by families and the community, as well as educators.
School violence is not just a school problem. It is a community problem.
Rainwater also said something that was wrong, however: “Our schools are absolutely safe.”
To be sure, Madison schools deserve high marks for safety. But the evidence shows that safety is far from absolute.
A radical new approach to government accounting that would require the US administration to account for the cost of future social security payments year by year as people build up entitlements will be proposed on Monday.
The proposal by the federal accounting standards advisory board (FASAB) – which would also require the government to account for benefits accrued under Medicare and other social insurance programmes in the same way – is unprecedented internationally. It would radically change the presentation of US government finances, in effect bringing forward the cost of rapidly increasing social security and Medicare obligations and greatly increasing the reported fiscal deficit.
George W. Bush’s administration is firmly opposed to the proposal, which officials believe wrongly implies that the government is contractually obliged to make future payments based on current benefit rules.
They fear this would make it more difficult to reform the big entitlement programmes and increase pressure on future governments to raise taxes to meet projected funding shortfalls.
The big increase in the reported fiscal deficit under the proposed rule could have an immediate political effect, making it more difficult to press for Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2010 to be made permanent.
This will ripple all over the place, or “trickle down” as it were. FASAB “preliminary views“.
ideasfortps.com is all about citizen-powered ideas. You can comment, rate and even submit your own ideas here to help the Toledo Public School (TPS) district save money. Learn more about the site purpose and function or get help by reading our FAQ.
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Deja vu on the list of ideas, particularly with respect to the Administration Building. A great example of citizen activism.
Daniel de Vise:
Mike Greiner teaches grammar to high school sophomores in half-hour lessons, inserted between Shakespeare and Italian sonnets. He is an old-school grammarian, one of a defiant few in the Washington region who believe in spending large blocks of class time teaching how sentences are built.
For this he has earned the alliterative nickname “Grammar Greiner,” along with a reputation as one of the tougher draws in the Westfield High School English department.
Or, as one student opined in a sonnet he wrote, “Mr. Greiner, I think you’re torturing us.”
Greiner, 43, teaches future Advanced Placement students at the Chantilly school. Left on their own to decide where to place a comma, “they’ll get it right about half of the time,” he said. “But half is an F.”
Ten or 20 years ago, Greiner might have been ostracized for his views or at least counseled to keep them to himself. Grammar lessons vanished from public schools in the 1970s, supplanted by a more holistic view of English instruction. A generation of teachers and students learned grammar through the act of writing, not in isolated drills and diagrams.
Today, Greiner is encouraged, even sought out. Direct grammar instruction, long thought to do more harm than good, is welcome once more
One of my high school English teachers was just like Greiner.
I’ve been very impressed with the way that Madison School District staff have communicated with parents during several recent unfortunate events and incidents.
The first comprehensive look at New York City’s failing students has found that nearly 140,000 people from ages 16 to 21 have either dropped out of high school or are already so far behind that they are unlikely to graduate.
The study, which the New York City Department of Education is to present to the State Board of Regents today, for the first time sheds light on a population of students who for decades have been relegated to the shadows of the city’s sprawling school system. The study was conducted by the Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting group, and was paid for with $2.6 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Lucy Mathiak recently discussed a Madison School District Study that evaluated late 1990’s dropout data:
I think we need to be careful about what we assume when we are talking about students of color in the schools. The children of color in our schools include a growing number of children whose parents, regardless of racial or ethnic identity, are highly educated with degrees ranging from the BA/BS levels to PhD, law, and medical degrees. Many have attended schools or come from communities with high numbers of professionals of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, or American Indian heritage. As our businesses and higher educational institutions hire more diverse professionals, we will see more children of color from middle and upper income families.
Children of color with highly educated parents historically have had trouble getting access to advanced educational opportunities regardless of their academic preparation or ability. And we are seeing a concurrent relocation to private schools, suburbs, and other cities because the parents have every bit as high expectation for their children as any other parents.
I hope there will be an update to this study. Related: The Gap According to Black.
Lucy Mathiak deserves high praise for her performance in the discussion on the MMSD’s math curriculum. She pressed and pressed the superintendent to justify his recommendations.
A board member of any organization or corporation does not need to be an expert on a topic, but simply has to be certain that the head of the organization holds a firm grasp of the facts to support the direction of the organization.
We need more Lucy Mathiak’s on the board.
Reader Steven Ralser emails this article by Wendy Cole:
Twenty pairs of eyes eagerly converge on Jennifer Larcey as the afternoon science lesson gets under way at Bassett Elementary in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Sure, the transfixed first-graders are salivating at the prospect of examining–and tasting–the physical properties of peanuts, raisins and M&Ms. But something else is riveting the kids, even as Larcey stands to the side of the room issuing directions: the breathtaking clarity of her voice. “Feel the peanuts, and try to describe the texture,” she instructs.
Larcey is one of seven teachers at Bassett who are, in effect, wired for sound. Nearly every word to her students is amplified through speakers wirelessly linked to a small blue transmitter dangling from her neck. Because she began using the technology three years ago, Larcey barely notices the device, except for the rare instances when she forgets to switch it on. “It’s obvious. The kids just don’t pay attention in the same way,” she says. Bassett has joined the growing ranks of schools embracing a deceptively simple technology at a time when federal No Child Left Behind accountability standards are compelling districts to find new ways to boost academic performance. Although amplification systems have long been used to help hearing-impaired students, recent research has shown that enhanced audio benefits all students by helping a teacher’s voice get through loud and clear, even at the back of the classroom.
Recently, the Sun Prairie School district and its teachers’ union successfully bargained with DeanCare to bring down future costs for employee health insurance. This week Dane County and five of its employee unions agreed to save $1.2M in employee health insurance costs for 2007 by moving all covered employees to one provider, Physicians Plus HMO. County reaches pacts with 5 of 9 employe unions They chose Physicans Plus HMO following a competitive bidding process.
Can the Madison School Board learn from these examples? I hope so.
On September 25, the Human Resources Committee (Kobza, Vang and Robarts) heard a presentation from a Bob Butler, an attorney-consultant from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards on this topic. Containing MMSD’s employee health insurance costs: what’s next? The presentation demonstrated why school districts have no choice but to work with employee representatives to try to get the best health insurance for the lowest cost.
On Monday, October 23, the Human Resources Committee will consider making recommendations to the full board regarding future health insurance costs. The meeting will be at 7:45 p.m. in McDaniels Auditorium and will be televised.
A nation full of students who enjoy mathematics and feel confident in the subject is not necessarily a nation that scores high on international math tests, a report being released this week concludes.
The report from the Brookings Institution suggests, in fact, that the so-called “happiness factor” in math may be inversely related to achievement. In countries where students express high levels of math confidence and enjoyment, it says, students tend to score below average on international math exams in 4th and 8th grades, and vice versa.
Students in the United States are among the world’s happiest, though their average scores are higher than those for most countries that rate strongly on the “happiness” scale.
By Debra Viadero, in Education Week, published October 18, 2006
I didn’t vote for the Leopold referendum last spring, and I still believe that was the correct vote. If the community had voted to build a second school on Leopold then we would not have the opportunity for the community to vote “Yes” on this referendum, which I believe is a better financial and long term solution for our growth. When I was asked to participate on the Westside Long Range Planning Task Force, I was determined to find a better solution for our district than building another school.
I approached this job with study and concentration, as did many of the Task Force participants. In my effort to not build a new school I looked at shifting students East, shifting South, moving 5th graders to middle school, and moving neighborhoods to other schools and in the end I found it was more than just filling seats. The shifts made equity uneven. One shift created a school with less than 5 % low income while others were closer to 70%. Other shifts still left some schools too full because the seats were not where the growth is coming from. Some shifts worked but only for two years. After many hours of discussion and shifting, it became clear that we could shift students if we wanted to; split neighborhoods, shift them again in two years, create schools of inequity, provide 100’s of students with a bus ride of 45 minutes or more each way, and change our classroom quality so that teachers no longer had classrooms but carts that they moved from room to room (Art and Music Teachers). When we thought about those options, none of us wanted it for our own children or grandchildren and we believed that for $30 a year, others in the community would prefer that their children and grandchildren not be handed one of these options either. There are other options, but none with the long term solutions that the current referendum provides.
Video | Audio
|School Board members that ask questions are essential to public confidence in and strong oversight of our $332m+ district. Monday evening’s Superintendent review discussion with respect to the district’s controversial math curriculum was interesting in this respect. Watch the video or listen to the mp3 audio file. The math related discussion starts about 24 minute into the video and ends at about the one hour mark.
3 School Board seats are up for election in April, 2007. These meetings demonstrate the need for candidates with strong leadership and governance abilities with respect to the most important issues for our next generation: a world class curriculum.
Listen to the conversation, along with call-in questions: 17MB mp3 audio (about 50 minutes). Mitch Henck’s website. Much more on the referendum here.
Madison’s East and West High Schools were locked down Monday. The Daily Page linked to the two police reports:
Channel3000 has more here and here.
It is difficult to get through a day in an American school without hearing maxims such as these: “To succeed, you must believe in yourself,” and “To teach, you must relate the subject to the lives of students.”
But the Brookings Institution is reporting today that countries such as the United States that embrace self-esteem, joy and real-world relevance in learning mathematics are lagging behind others that don’t promote all that self-regard.
onsider Korea and Japan.
According to the Washington think tank’s annual Brown Center report on education, 6 percent of Korean eighth-graders surveyed expressed confidence in their math skills, compared with 39 percent of U.S. eighth-graders. But a respected international math assessment showed Koreans scoring far ahead of their peers in the United States, raising questions about the importance of self-esteem.
1.3mb PDF Full Brookings/Brown Report
Ted Kolderie and Joe Graba, charter school leaders at Education/Evolving urge legislators to expand Wisconsin’s charter school law:
“The Importance of Innovation in Chartering”
Remarks to the Legislative Study Committee on Charter Schools
By Ted Kolderie and Joe Graba, Education/Evolving
October 17, 2006
Let me try to set the context for the Legislature’s use of the chartering strategy. The ‘Why?’ of anything is important to legislators. It is fair to ask: “If ‘chartering’ is the answer, what was the question?”
The question is: How do we make schooling different enough to motivate the kids who have never learned well in conventional school?
Paul Houston, the head of AASA, has been pointing out how dramatically the signals have been switched for public education. Forever, their charge was access and equity: take everybody; give everybody the opportunity to participate and to learn. Now suddenly the charge is proficiency: The districts are required to see that all children learn.
This is a huge change. The current model of schooling was not built for this. The districts were not built for this. Success with this very different assignment requires major readjustment in the institution.
Michael Waldman, Sean Nicholson and Nodir Adilov [Full 728K PDF Report]:
One of the major health care crises currently facing the United States is the exploding incidence of autism diagnoses. Thirty years ago it was estimated that roughly one in 2500 children had autism while today it is estimated that approximately one in 166 is diagnosed with the condition – more than a ten-fold increase.1 In turn, due to the high costs of treating and caring for a typical autistic individual over his or her lifetime, it is estimated that the annual cost to society of autism is thirty-five billion dollars (Ganz 2006). Clearly, the highest priority needs to be given to better understanding what is causing the dramatic increase in diagnoses and, if possible, using that improved knowledge to reverse the trend.
Despite the recent rapid increase in diagnoses and the resulting increased attention the condition has received both in the media and in the medical community, very little is known about what causes the condition. Starting with the work of Rimland (1964), it is well understood that genetics or biology plays an important role, but many in the medical community argue that the increased incidence must be due to an environmental trigger that is becoming more common over time (a few argue that the cause is a widening of the criteria used to diagnose the condition and that the increased incidence is thus illusory). However, there seems to be little consensus and little evidence concerning what the trigger or triggers might be. In this paper we empirically investigate a possibility that has received almost no attention in the medical literature, i.e., that early childhood television watching is an important trigger for the onset of autism.
Researchers might also turn new attention to study of the Amish. Autism is rare in Amish society, and the standing assumption has been that this is because most Amish refuse to vaccinate children. The Amish also do not watch television.
Trying to find the truth in education, like in most areas in American society, is fraught with dilemma — most public commentors are either incompetent or bald-faced liars.
Robert W. Sweet, Jr. likely falls into both categories.
See previous posts of regarding his comments on this site, and his letter to the Washington Post here. Robert Sweet’s title is Former Professional Staff Member Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives Committee Staffer for the Reading First law.
First, let’s place all this into context. The Inspector General’s Reading First report (hereafter IGRF), published September 2006, audited the Reading First Grant Application Process and reported problems. Michael Grunwald of the Washington Post wrote an article about the IGRF Report, and Robert Sweet responded to the Grunwald article in a letter to the Washington Post editor. The crux of the Sweet letter was to allege, point-by-point, each significant error made the Grunwald in his article interpreting the IGRF findings.
I’m not going to review either Grunwald’s article nor Sweet’s response point-by-point, and I have not read or studied the IGRF fully, so I’m not prepared to do so. To prove Robert Sweet a liar will only require comparing one, his first, claim of “error” he’s alleged with the actual language of the IGRF.
Here is Sweet’s first alleged error by Grunwald.
1. Grunwald: “The Reading First panels that oversaw state applications were stacked with department officials and other phonics fans.”
Correction: Department officials were not on panels that judged state applications.
Sweet’s comment shows his art of misdirection — his “correction” does not refute Grunwald’s interpretation. It’s true that Department officials were not on the panels, but as the IGRF details, quoted below, it was the Department officials who actually judged the applications from the States’ perspective.
Let’s read the actual language of the IGRF report, at length (with minimal editting).
Here’s a math problem for you: Count the excuses people are trotting out for why schoolkids in New York City and State did poorly in the latest round of math scores. The results showed just 57% of the city’s and 66% of the state’s students performing at grade level – and a steady decline in achievement as kids got older.
It’s about family income, said an article in The New York Times. “The share of students at grade level in affluent districts was more than twice as big as in impoverished urban districts.”
It’s about unfair funding levels, said state education Secretary Richard Mills.
It’s about class size, said activist Leonie Haimson.
Wrong again, claimed other observers. The real culprit was a new test.
If, like me, you’re running out of fingers – and patience – there’s a reason. Nobody spinning the test scores is zeroing in on the single biggest reason math achievement in New York City and state lags and will continue to lag: Our schools use a far-too-fuzzy curriculum that fails to give kids rigorous instruction in the basics.
In New York City, the program required in the vast majority of schools is called Everyday Mathematics. Chancellor Joel Klein swears by it. If you ask administrators to explain it, they’ll use just enough jargon to make it sound decent.
But the truth is, Everyday Math systematically downplays addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, which everyone knows are the foundations for all higher math. Instead of learning those basic four operations like the backs of their hands, students are asked to choose from an array of alternative methods, such as an ancient Egyptian method for multiplication. Long division is especially frowned upon.
Everyday Math is used in the Madison School District. Much more on Math curriculum and politics here. Via Joanne.
Carson is Co-Founder and Executive Director of NYC Hold:
The performance of American students in mathematics is mediocre at best. In many cases, mathematics instruction is not serving our children’s best interests. In order to help all students achieve success in school mathematics courses, have access to adequate preparation for the broadest options in high school math and science courses, and the opportunity to advance into mathematics based college courses and careers, it is important to examine the direction of recent attempts at mathematics education reform.
More on Everyday math.
Robert W. Sweet, Jr.
This letter and the enclosure are an appeal to you for help in alerting your readers to significant errors and misconceptions in an article printed in the Post on October 1, 2006 titled “Billions for an Inside Game on Reading” by Michael Grunwald.
He asserted that Reading First grants were awarded to preferred reading programs, and that billions of dollars were misspent because the requirement in Reading First that reading programs be based on “scientifically based reading research” were ignored.
Below is a summary of the essential facts that document the errors and misconceptions that have damaged one of the most effective programs to teach vulnerable children to read. Attached to this letter is a detailed presentation that seeks to correct the record.
It is my hope that you will consider printing a clarification so that the public you serve will know the truth about Reading First.
The MMSD’s omission with respect to Reading First was to support the Superintendent’s rejection of the $2M+ grant without a School Board discussion, particularly in light of the District’s devotion to the expensive Reading Recovery program. 2M is material, even to an organization with an annual budget of $332M+. Much more on Reading First here and Bob Sweet [Interview].
Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Anthony S. Bryk, John Q. Easton, and Stuart Luppescu:
n this report, which draws on data from Chicago public elementary schools in the 1990s, the authors present a framework of essential supports and community resources that facilitate school improvement. The authors provide evidence on how the essential supports contribute to improvements in student learning, and they investigate how community circumstances impact schools’ ability to embrace the essential supports.
The authors offer empirical evidence on the five essential supports—leadership, parent-community ties, professional capacity, student-centered learning climate, and ambitious instruction—and investigate the extent to which strength in the essential supports was linked to improvements in student learning, and the extent to which weakness was linked to stagnation in learning gains.
Recently, I posted a letter from a middle school teacher in Madison regarding inadequate computers at one of our middle schools. Fancy programs on aging computers:an MMSD teacher tries to make things work
Today the Madison school board received another letter from a teacher explaining how the current state of computers and software makes teaching harder and more stressful. While this is a typical complaint from the schools, I don’t see the same problems with central administration computers.
Dear Board Members and Mr. Rainwater,
I have been a teacher for MMSD for fifteen years. I am committed to and love this district and its students. I work at …. This is a wonderful building in which to work. The staff is solid, caring, and professional.
A second concern in our building is technology. I love the new attendance system and am currently using the grading program on infinite campus which I also enjoy. Unfortunately, our computers are slow and often freeze up. Quite often, I have to call my attendance into the office because it takes 10-15 minutes for the computer to load. We have little access to adequate computers as a staff. It makes it difficult to be able to keep grades in a timely manner. Six of us in 8th grade have to share one antiquated computer for our planning area. My guess is that most other professionals in this city would not even think of working with such inadequate technology.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
The first step toward improving the state’s tax climate must be for lawmakers to control spending. The state cannot afford to cut taxes and thus forgo revenue unless the next governor and Legislature do a better job of paring, consolidating and conserving.
Even the promise that lower taxes will generate more business development in the future will not address the immediate strains created by rising costs for Medicaid and other programs.
Tax Foundation’s report.
WISTAX has more:
- Municipal Property Taxes Outpace “Freeze”, Rise 4.1% in Large Cities:
Despite a “freeze” designed to slow property tax growth, Wisconsin’s 230 largest cities and villages increased levies at the same rate as in prior years. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), municipal-purpose property tax levies rose 4.1% in these municipalities in 2005-06 (2006), the same as the average increase from 2002 to 2005.
- State Budget Increasingly on Autopilot:
In recent years, most state spending growth has been in two areas: school aids and Medical Assistance (MA). The inescapable link between state aid and school revenue limits on the one hand and property taxes on the other virtually assures that, when combined with accelerating MA costs, most new state revenue is already “spoken for.” Funds for state agencies, higher education, and other state programs are likely to grow little, if at all, thus continuing a long trend..
State law gives the governor and legislators the power to enact budgets. Yet, through various actions and commitments from both over the past decade, they have increasingly put the state budget on autopilot.
- Election 2006 Issues and Questions.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Globally, American companies already are at a disadvantage because the benchmark federal corporate tax rate is 35%, which the Tax Foundation notes is “one of the highest corporate tax rates of any of the industrialized economies” – even after the successive rounds of tax reductions under President Bush.
The foundation’s report, however, only added to a bewildering array of national tax rankings, each using different methodologies that have sparked a lively debate among policy-makers.
The foundation’s annual State Business Tax Climate Index is based on a weighted index that ranks each state’s corporate taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment taxes and property taxes. While it relies on U.S. census data for each state’s property tax, it compares state tax rates and tax laws to measure the other four. It employs a matrix of 10 subindexes and 113 variables.
The Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, using the latest available census numbers, put Wisconsin at No. 6 when measured as a percentage of personal income. That figure represents years of incremental improvements after Wisconsin registered No. 3 in the nation under the same measures in 1994.
Taxes, particularly the much discussed property tax “Freeze” will certainly be on voter’s minds November 7, 2006. The Madison School District’s 06/07 budget will grow local property taxes by 11,626,677 to $211,989,932 (5.8%) [See 2006/2007 Budget Executive Summary – PDF]. Gotta love politics, 5.8% is certainly not a freeze :). The Madison School District’s property tax levy changes over the past 6 years. The mill rate has not changed at the same rate as the levy increases because local assessed values have been increasing. That will probably change now as the housing market takes a breather.
On November 7, Madison area residents will be asked to vote on a referendum concerning our local schools. While the referendum has three parts, this paper will focus on the first part – the construction of a new school on the far west side, representing over 75% of the total cost of the referendum.
This report will argue that the most important determinant of whether or not a new school should be built on the far west side (or anywhere else in the district), is whether the long-term outlook clearly indicates it is appropriate. Otherwise, the problem should be considered temporary, with temporary measures pursued to address it. However, the situation here suggests strongly that the problem is a more permanent one, requiring a “permanent solution”, the building of a new school.
This report will not attempt to forecast specific enrollment figures for the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) – such an effort would take several months to do properly. Instead, it will focus on the TRENDS that support the conclusion a new school is warranted.
by Superintendent Art Rainwater
The purpose of high school is to ensure that all of our students leave ready for college, jobs and civic involvement. Our traditional, comprehensive high schools today look and feel much like they have for generations. However, the world our students will live and work in has changed dramatically.
The structure of high schools has served society well by preparing young people for the world they were entering. There were good, family supporting jobs that didn’t require a high school diploma. The type of classroom teaching strategies that were employed worked well for the post high school plans of our students.
It is becoming increasingly clear however, that not only four year colleges, but also any post secondary education or job training program requires a substantial background in mathematics, science, social studies and language arts.
We need to dramatically change our high schools. This is not a reflection of current high school teachers or their teaching methods. It is a reflection of a changing society. The needed reforms at high school have to be concentrated on making a high level of demanding coursework accessible to all students. To accomplish this goal requires that we change the way we relate to students and that we implement a wide variety of teaching strategies in every class.
The education world has not been oblivious to this need for change. There have been many efforts, across the country, to change high schools, including in our own district. However, high school reform has rarely addressed the underlying problem — the high school classroom.
To meet the needs of every student, the student, not the content of the course, must be at the center of our work. It’s obvious that the content is critical, for that is what will prepare students for adult success. But first, everything from our teaching methods to the way we inculcate positive behaviors must begin with the student and not the textbook. We have to use our knowledge of how children learn to create classroom strategies that connect with students’ own experiences and relate what we want them to learn to its use in the real world.
Regardless of how our high schools look there must always be three goals for our students: ensure that every student gains the knowledge and skills to be a successful adult, provide the opportunity for every student to grow academically and socially, and to learn to be an active participant in the society in which they live.
To reach these three goals we must continue to foster high academic achievement; we must close the achievement gap among different groups of students and we must promote civic and personal growth among our students.
We are beginning the journey of redesigning our high schools. This will take creativity, commitment and our best thinking. It will take all of us, collectively, having the will to find the way so that a diploma from our high schools can provide a ticket to the future for all of our students.
The State Superintendent will host a conference on October 20 on the recommendations of the High School Task Force, which she appointed:
A: Encourage educators and policymakers to move outside of existing structures and pursue innovation.
B: Give students the opportunity to engage in rigorous, authentic learning experiences that are relevant to their learning needs and future ambitions.
C: Create smaller, personalized learning environments and require learning and lifelong education plans for individual students.
D: Promote and enhance partnerships among schools, parents, businesses, and communities, linking community resources with school programs and curriculum.
Link to a PDF of the conference brochure.
||Superintendent Art Rainwater and Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. discuss the state of Madison’s public schools with Stuart Levitan.
Watch the video | MP3 Audio
Topics discussed include:
- School Safety
- The November 7, 2006 Referendum
- School funding
- “Education is not one size fits all” – Johnny during a discussion of the initiatives underway within the school district (the last 12 minutes) such as online learning, the Studio School and differentiation.
- Levitan asked Art Rainwater if, during his 8 years as Superintendent, the education our children receive is better than it was in 1998? Art said it was and cited a number of examples.
The Mathematical Education of Teachers [268K PDF] recommends that the mathematical education of teachers be viewed as a partnership between mathematics faculty and mathematics education faculty and further recommends that there needs to be more collaboration between mathematics faculty and school mathematics teachers. We will report on The Mathematics Semester at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a partnership that resulted from Math Matters, a NSF-CCLI grant.
Also: Math in the Middle Institute Partnership [PDF]
Look around the business world and two things stand out: the modern economy places an enormous premium on brainpower; and there is not enough to go round.
But education inevitably matters most. How can India talk about its IT economy lifting the country out of poverty when 40% of its population cannot read? [MMSD’s 10th Grade Reading Data] As for the richer world, it is hard to say which throw more talent away—America’s dire public schools or Europe’s dire universities. Both suffer from too little competition and what George Bush has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.
Thursday’s meeting between Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater, the MMSD’s Brian Sniff and the UW Math department included two interesting guests: UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley [useful math links via the Chancellor’s website] and the Dean of the UW-Madison Education School. Wiley and the Ed School Dean’s attendance reflects the political nature of K-12 curriculum, particularly math. I’m glad Chancellor Wiley took time from his busy schedule to attend and look forward to his support for substantial improvements in our local math program.
The countries that outperform the United States in math and science education have some things in common. They set national priorities for what public school children should learn and when. They also spend a lot of energy ensuring that every school has a high-quality curriculum that is harnessed to clearly articulated national goals. This country, by contrast, has a wildly uneven system of standards and tests that varies from place to place. We are also notoriously susceptible to educational fads.
Editorial, New York Times, September 18, 2006
tudents at a Madison middle school collaborated with a world-famous contemporary painter to create a mural.
The artist known simply as Wyland — who is famous for panting building-sized marine murals in cities around the country — visited Cherokee Middle School on Tuesday where he worked with 40 students to paint a mural.
Much more on Wyland. Wyland’s Milwaukee County Courthouse Annex “Whale Commuters” was recently destroyed as part of a new freeway project.
In a major shift from its influential recommendations 17 years ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics yesterday issued a report urging that math teaching in kindergarten through eighth grade focus on a few basic skills.
If the report, ”Curriculum Focal Points,” has anywhere near the impact of the council’s 1989 report, it could signal a profound change in the teaching of math in American schools. It could also help end the math curriculum struggles that for the last two decades have set progressive educators and their liberal supporters against conservatives and many mathematicians.
Article by Tamar Lewin, New York Times, September 13, 2006
William J. Mathis [16.1MB PDF]:
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is the key element of the accountability system mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This report reveals that AYP in its 2006 form as the prime indicator of academic achievement is not supported by reliable evidence. Expecting all children to reach mastery level on their state’s standardized tests by 2014, the fundamental requirement of AYP, is unrealistic. The growth model and other improvement proposals now on the table do not have sufficient power to resolve the underlying problems of the system. In addition, the program, whether conceived as implementation costs or remedial costs, is significantly underfunded in a way that will disproportionately penalize schools attended by the neediest children. Further, the curriculum is being narrowed to focus on tested areas at the cost of other vital educational purposes.
From time to time, I wonder whether MMSD’s central administration decisions take into account the needs of staff in our schools. Here’s a recent letter to the school board from a middle school teacher discussing the poor fit between software and hardware at the school.
“I came in very early this morning to run new student summaries for several of my kids who had decided to make up missing work in order to raise their grades. I think we would all agree that this is a good thing.
I spent 15 minutes trying to get my computer to print one student’s summary. The computer kept locking up on me and I would have to cold boot it. Actually, this is not my computer; it is the only computer in the planning area shared by 6 eighth grade teachers. It runs Windows 98.
Do current housing declines wipe out the need for a new West side school? Here’s an article from The Capital Times (Oct. 9, 2006):
Home building keeps plunging hereThe decline in home building in Dane County this year accelerated in September, remaining the weakest this century, according to the latest figures from MTD Marketing.
There were just 73 permits issued for single-family homes and duplexes here in September, less than half the 195 last September, and at least 68 below every September back to 1999, the earliest year MTD reported figures.
The September permits did set a record average value for the month at $242,836. The average square footage was 2,410, third highest since 1999.
Year-to-date through September, there were 1,116 permits in Dane County, 711 below a year ago and at least 332 below every year back to 1999. The average value for the first nine months of the year did set a record at $246,660. The average square footage of 2,449 was behind only the 2,469 in 2004.