A surge of action and proposed action, a president who wants his hands on a lot of things and bad blood between board members – the heat is growing at Milwaukee School Board meetings, and it is creating an environment in which Superintendent William Andrekopoulos is facing the stiffest political challenges of his five years in office.
The election in April of Michael Bonds to replace Ken Johnson on the board, followed by the election of Peter Blewett as the board’s president, have put into power two people with strong feelings about doing things differently from the way Andrekopoulos wants.
And they are acting on those feelings.
A central role for the board president is to name members of the committees that do most of the board’s work. The president usually gives his allies the dominant positions but doesn’t put himself in many roles.
Blewett has done much more than that – he named himself chairman of two committees, one that handles the budget and strategic direction of Milwaukee Public Schools and one that handles questions of policy and rules, and he named himself as a member of two other major committees, handling finance and safety. He also named Bonds to head the Finance Committee, an unusual step, given that Bonds was brand new.
Blewett and Bonds, who have formed a generally close relationship, have also been submitting a relative flood of proposals for the board to take up. Since May 1, the two have submitted 34 resolutions between them, with nine others coming from the other seven members of the board.
Some seek major changes in MPS practices or to reopen issues previously decided by the board. Included would be reopening Juneau High School, reuniting Washington High School into one operation (it has been broken into three), restoring ninth-grade athletics and building up arts programs in schools.
The total of 43 resolutions is more than board members submitted in the entire year in six of the eight previous years. Seventeen resolutions were introduced at a board meeting last week, 14 of them written or co-written by Blewett or Bonds.
Although this might seem like a bureaucratic matter, it is a key element of efforts by Blewett and Bonds to shake up the central administration of MPS. They are challenging Andrekopoulos openly in ways not seen in prior years, when a firm majority of board members supported Andrekopoulos.
He and Bonds have been critical of Andrekopoulos and the previous board for not doing enough to listen to people in the city as a whole and for not providing enough information to the board.
Blewett said his main agenda item as president is “to engage the community.” Just holding public hearings or meetings around the community is not enough, he said, referring to a round of community meetings last fall on a new strategic plan for MPS as “spectacular wastes of time and money.” He said people who work in schools, parents and the community in general need meaningful involvement.
“I really want to make sure that we’re investigating every opportunity to engage the public and provide our students with quality learning experiences that get beyond reading and math,” he said.
Bonds said, “I have a very aggressive agenda to change the direction of the School District.”
He was strongly critical of policies such as the redesigning of high schools led by Andrekopoulos in recent years, including the creation of numerous small high schools.
“Given the resources we (MPS) have, we should be providing a better product,” he said. “I feel the administration has led us down a failed path.”
There are similar issues at play in Madison. The local school board’s composition has significantly changed over the past few years – much for the better. Time will tell, whether that governance change translates into a necessary new direction for our $339M+, 24, 342 student Madison School District. Alan Borsuk is a Madison West High Grad.
The recent news that Oregon (WI) is considering the addition of foreign language courses to their elementary schools caused me to wonder what, if anything has happened in this important area within the MMSD? Pamela Cotant’s 5/22/1990 article contains this snippet:
Foreign languages: At the regular school board meeting Monday, the board voted unanimously in favor of seven recommendations made by an ad-hoc foreign language evaluation committee. The recommendations include hiring a half-time foreign language coordinator, consideration of an elementary school pilot program, and evaluation of offering a five-year sequence of the same languages in middle and high schools.
The 1990-1991 MMSD budget was $149.2M. (2007-2008 budget is $339M+).
Celeste Roberts adds some useful comments on the importance of elementary foreign language offerings here.
18K PDF. Wisconsin’s K-12 funding has increased, in “real dollars” 45.3% from 1986 to 2005 (25th). Interestingly, from a tax perspective, Wisconsin ranks 17th in public elementary and secondary school revenue per $1,000 personal income in 2004 [20K PDF]. Via Morgan Quitno Press: State Trends.
MQ also publishes an annual “Smartest State” award. Wisconsin ranked 8th in 2006/2007.
At business meetings the world over, PowerPoint-style presentations are often met with yawns and glazed eyes.
But at one of the world’s top business schools, such slide shows are now an entrance requirement. In a first, the University of Chicago will begin requiring prospective students to submit four pages of PowerPoint-like slides with their applications this fall.
The new requirement is partly an acknowledgment that Microsoft Corp.’s PowerPoint, along with similar but lesser-known programs, have become a ubiquitous tool in the business world. But Chicago says so-called “slideware,” if used correctly, also can let students show off a creative side that might not reveal itself in test scores, recommendations and even essays.
By adding PowerPoint to its application, Chicago thinks it might attract more students who have the kind of cleverness that can really pay off in business, and fewer of the technocrat types who sometimes give the program a bad name.
“We wanted to have a freeform space for students to be able to say what they think is important, not always having the school run that dialogue,” said Rose Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions. “To me this is just four pieces of blank paper. You do what you want. It can be a presentation. It can be poetry. It can be anything.”
A dark day. Much more on PowerPoint and Education, here. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, by Edward Tufte.
The City University of New York is beginning a drive to raise admissions requirements at its senior colleges, its first broad revision since its trustees voted to bar students needing remedial instruction from its bachelor’s degree programs nine years ago.
In 2008, freshmen will have to show math SAT scores 20 to 30 points higher than they do now to enter the university’s top-tier colleges — Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens — and its six other senior colleges.
Students now can also qualify for the bachelor’s degree programs with satisfactory scores on the math Regents examination or on placement tests; required cutoffs for those tests will also be raised.
Open admissions policies at the community colleges will be unaffected.
“We are very serious in taking a group of our institutions and placing them in the top segment of universities and colleges,” said Matthew Goldstein, the university chancellor, who described the plan in an interview. “That is the kind of profile we want for our students.”
Dr. Goldstein said that the English requirements for the senior colleges would be raised as well, but that the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared.”
Speaking of Math, I’m told that the MMSD’s Math Task Force did not obtain the required NSF Grant. [PDF Overview, audio / video introduction] and Retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater’s response to the School Board’s first 2006-2007 Performance Goal:
1. Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum. The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force whose members are appointed by the Superintendent and approved by the BOE. Members of the task force shall have math and math education expertise and represent a variety of perspectives regarding math education.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
What’s needed is a regional response, which should include more involvement of businesses outside Milwaukee County in MPS and other school districts’ programs, more collaborative efforts such as the Kern Family Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Lead the Way program and a debate on what fundamental changes need to be made at MPS and other troubled districts, including whether to change their governing structure. Such a debate should be considered for other local governments, the idea being to make them more manageable, more accountable and more in control of their own affairs and budgets.
Businessman Sheldon Lubar of the Greater Milwaukee Committee put his finger on the problem early in the discussion: “You cannot reach the levels that I think all of you want to see us reach if you have a dropout rate of 50% of your high school students.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said one of his biggest surprises after taking office was the need to improve work force development. “If there’s one issue where I would love to take this community and shake it by the shoulders, it is how important education is in this world economy now,” he said.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker talked about breaking up MPS into several districts; Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas argued for the need to reduce health care costs, the single biggest driver of government and school district costs; state Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) talked about the politics of changing the educational system.
“This issue has been occurring for the last 20 years, but nothing’s been done about it,” Fields said. “If I sit at this table and we all agree that we need to do something, when we leave this room not a damn thing will change, and those black kids, kids in my neighborhood and my community, will still be in the same position.”
That needs to change for the sake of giving those kids a reasonable chance at a better life but also for the sake of southeastern Wisconsin’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.
Howard Blume & Carla Rivera:
When it comes to looking out for her children and grandchildren, Patricia Britt, a no-nonsense hospital nursing director, is nobody’s fool. Yet here she is, in late July, beside herself because she hasn’t yet settled on a school for her 8-year-old grandson Corey to attend in the fall.
Britt and her son, who are raising Corey together, gradually became dissatisfied with the private school that’s putting a $400-a-month strain on the family budget. But they have concerns about the quality of the public schools close to their Hyde Park home. And schools that they do like, such as the View Park Preparatory charter school run by Inner City Education, have a discouragingly long waiting list.
“My son has been looking,” Britt said. “He’s getting kind of frustrated. It’s almost to the 99th hour of making the decision.”
No one knows exactly how many students are still without a school, but indicators show that the annual last-ditch scramble for a seat at a school of choice is in high gear:
And now his successor, Bart Peterson, a Democrat, has laid down a bold challenge to the city’s troubled public school system: improve or see your students migrate to the city’s growing roster of impressive charter schools authorized by the mayor himself.
This is no idle threat. In the 2006–07 academic year, the mayor oversaw 16 charter schools serving 3,870 students. Peterson is currently the only mayor in the nation running a charter school authorizer out of his office and has proven himself willing to be judged by the results. The charter school office issues an annual report on its schools that, in its candor and analytical sophistication, rivals just about any report out there. But what makes the mayor’s experiment far more interesting than, say, improvements in the city’s bus service, is that his charter schools are achieving results—in some cases, great results—with seriously disadvantaged kids. The Indianapolis experience shows that government, when ably led, can adapt and usher in its own set of reforms.
The story also shows that charter schools are much more than a right-wing hobbyhorse—that Democrats, too, are capable of using them to buck the system. Peterson himself says, “I’m not interested in striking ideological notes,” but he has certainly struck a chord with education thinkers like Andy Rotherham, former education adviser to President Clinton and co-founder of Education Sector in Washington, D.C. Rotherham says Peterson’s example proves that school choice is perfectly compatible with the philosophy of the left. Such a philosophy, however, must be a “liberalism of people,” devoted above all to the interests of students and families, not a “liberalism of institutions,” devoted to preserving the bureaucracy and the unions.
Family Guide to public schools in Indianapolis.
via Democrats for Education Reform.
National Council on Teacher Quality:
A letter to the editor in today’s Wall Street Journal brings more attention to the low academic performance of the average teacher with more meaningful data than just how well (or poorly) aspiring teachers perform on the SAT. On the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) which many teachers take before entering a Master’s program, we find the best evidence to date of substandard performance for the nation’s educators.
While the letter cited older data, more recent data from the ETS site tells a sorrowful tale. With the notable exception of secondary school teachers, the large majority of teachers score at the bottom. Out of the 50 intended graduate majors ETS collected data on, seven of the lowest scoring 10 majors on the list are education fields. Only one field–social work–scored lower.
The most popular choice of graduate degrees for teachers with aspirations for school or district leadership is a degree in education administration. The average GRE score was 948, comparing poorly with the national average score of 1058 for all fields of study.
“When public officials want to reduce crime,” says Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, “they listen to police officers. When they want to control flooding, they talk to engineers. . . .” (Letters, July 16). Implication: Want to improve education? Talk to the teachers union. A laughable proposition. Digest these data: Applicants for graduate study in education administration — tested between July 1, 2001, and June 30, 2004 — had a combined mean total GRE (Graduate Record Examination) score of 950 (Verbal, 427; Math, 523). That is sixth from the bottom of 51 fields of graduate study tabulated by the Educational Testing Service.
The mean total GRE score across all fields was 1066. Which applicants had still lower total GRE scores than applicants in education administration? Social work, 896; early childhood, 913; student counseling, 928; home economics, 933; special education, 934 —
education fields all. Other fields with mean GRE scores on the far left side of the GRE bell curve? Seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th from the left tip of the curve, respectively: public administration (“practices and roles of public bureaucracies”), 965; other education, 968; elementary education, 970; education evaluation and research, 985; other social science, 993. Note the pattern: Eighty-plus percent on the far-left-side-of-the-GRE-bell-curve are headed for — or, more likely, already employed by — public education systems. Ninety-plus percent are headed for some form of government employment. This GRE snapshot of the capabilities of the people who run government schooling monopolies is not unrelievedly bleak: There is one education “outlier,” secondary education, that has a mean score of 1063, in the middle of the bell curve distribution.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking to the Urban League:
“Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the publication of ‘A Nation at Risk,’ the landmark study that showed how American students were falling behind students in other nations – and the consequences we would face if it continued. Well, it did continue – and it got worse. Much worse. Today, our schools are further behind than they were 25 years ago –even though we’ve doubled education spending over the last several decades. If you did that with your 401(K) or your pension fund, you’d work for the rest of your life and die broke!
“In many cities, including New York, the money was squandered by politicians and special interests who protected their own jobs first, and worried about classroom learning second. A generation of students paid a terrible price, and let’s face facts: No group of children paid more than African-Americans.
“Today, black and Latino 12th graders – who should be reading college catalogs – are reading at the same level as white 8th graders. And a shockingly high percentage of black and Latino 4th graders – who should be reading Harry Potter – cannot even read a simple children’s book. This is not only not acceptable – it’s shameful. Whitney Young Jr. must be turning over in his grave!
“Here we are in the greatest country on earth – home of the best universities in the world. Is this really the best we can do? No way. We’re better than that. But let me tell you something. Let me tell you exactly who’s at fault: Us. That’s right. We are the ones to blame. And here’s why: Politicians have pandered to us by selling us on the idea that all we need is more money and smaller classes – and we’ve bought it. They’ve given us cheap platitudes and slogans instead of real solutions – and we’ve bought it. Whoever’s in power, they’ve pointed fingers at the other party when nothing improves – and we have bought it!
Experienced teachers, supplemental programs are two key elements to helping students thrive
July 22, 2007
Tucked amid a block of rowhouses around the corner from Camden Yards is an elementary school with a statistical profile that often spells academic trouble: 76 percent of the students are poor, and 95 percent are minorities.
But George Washington Elementary has more academic whizzes than most of the schools in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore counties.
These students don’t just pass the Maryland School Assessment – they ace it. About 46.2 percent of George Washington students are scoring at the advanced level, representing nearly half of the school’s 94 percent pass rate.
An analysis by The Sun of 2007 MSA scores shows that most schools with a large percentage of high achievers on the test are in the suburban counties, often neighborhoods of middle- and upper-middle-class families. But a few schools in poorer neighborhoods, such as George Washington, have beaten the odds.
Statewide, Howard County had the highest percentage of students with advanced scores, and Montgomery and Worcester counties weren’t far behind.
Of the top five elementary schools, two are in Montgomery County, two in Anne Arundel and one in Baltimore County.
Whether they are in wealthy or poor neighborhoods, schools with lots of high-scoring students share certain characteristics. They have experienced teachers who stay for years, and they offer extracurricular activities after school. Sometimes, they have many students in gifted-and-talented classes working with advanced material.
136 Page 2.6MB PDF:
Madison Metropolitan School District: A Tale of Two Cities-Interrupted
Smaller Learning Communities Program CFDA #84.215L [Clusty Search]
NEED FOR THE PROJECT
Wisconsin. Home of contented cows, cheese curds, and the highest incarceration rate for African American males in the country. The juxtaposition of one against the other, the bucolic against the inexplicable, causes those of us who live here and work with Wisconsin youth to want desperately to change this embarrassment. Madison, Wisconsin. Capital city. Ranked number one place in America to live by Money (1997) magazine. Home to Presidential scholars, twenty times the average number of National Merit finalists, perfect ACT and SAT scores. Home also to glaring rates of racial and socio-economic disproportionality in special education identification, suspension and expulsion rates, graduation rates, and enrollment in rigorous courses. This disparity holds true across all four of Madison’s large, comprehensive high schools and is increasing over time.
Madison’s Chief of Police has grimly characterized the educational experience for many low income students of color as a “pipeline to prison” in Wisconsin. He alludes to Madison’s dramatically changing demographics as a “tale of two cities.” The purpose of the proposed project is to re-title that unfolding story and change it to a “tale of two cities-interrupted” (TC-I). We are optimistic in altering the plot based upon our success educating a large portion of our students and our ability to solve problems through thoughtful innovation and purposeful action. Our intent is to provide the best possible educational experience for all of our students.
Much more on Small Learning Communities here [RSS SIS SLC Feed]. Bruce King’s evaluation of Madison West’s SLC Implementation. Thanks to Elizabeth Contrucci who forwarded this document (via Pam Nash). MMSD website.
This document is a fascinating look into the “soul” of the current MMSD Administration ($339M+ annual budget) along with their perceptions of our community. It’s important to note that the current “high school redesign” committee (Note Celeste Roberts’ comments in this link) is rather insular from a community participation perspective, not to mention those who actually “pay the bills” via property taxes and redistributed sales, income and user fees at the state and federal level.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
Wisconsin should reward hard-working, innovative teachers such as William Farnsworth with merit pay.
Farnsworth, a science teacher at Waunakee Intermediate School, received the 2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He was the only Wisconsin teacher among the 93 teachers honored.
Performance-based pay serves as an incentive for better work, makes salaries competitive and reflects the complexity of many teaching jobs. It’s time has come in Wisconsin.
Tom Kertscher & Erica Perez:
A proposal to remove Germantown from the Milwaukee Area Technical College District is a step into largely uncharted territory, but it is attracting interest from other communities that want to cut property taxes.
Meanwhile, MATC is waiting to see whether it could lose millions of dollars to the Moraine Park Technical College District, should Germantown succeed in moving to the lower taxing district.
Gaining approval from the state technical college board for such a move probably would be difficult, given that it would take money away from the Milwaukee district, said Germantown Village Trustee Al Vanderheiden.
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools:
OK, so the Lieberman/Landrieu/Coleman bill is technically second out of the gate, but [this one] really gets the NCLB reauthorization debate started. Making its debut at a Senate-side shindig featuring Chancellors Klein (NY) and Rhee (DC), the Lieberman-led proposal lays done some important markers, to wit:
- Lets schools move away from input-driven “Highly Qualified Teachers” rules and toward a new standard based on effectiveness in the classroom
- Permits growth measures in Adequate Yearly Progress, and fund the technologies needed to move rapidly toward measuring student-level longitudinal gains
- Morphs NAEP’s governing body into a new commission that would write voluntary standards – – and make states tell parents about the gap between their own state assessments and prevailing national norms
More sunshine is better. Props to Madison Magazine for taking a closer look at our local schools.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial Board:
Kindergarten for 3-year-olds has been a smash hit at Bruce Guadalupe Community School on Milwaukee’s near south side, where, bucking what is supposed to be their fate, low-income students perform at a high academic level.
Jill Matusin, who teaches 5-year-olds at the charter school, swears by 3K.
“The difference – it was amazing,” she says of two sisters in her classroom in successive years – one who started in 5K and the other in 3K. The sister with the head start was far more advanced in numbers, colors, language and social skills.
The results so impressed Bruce Guadalupe that it is set to open four more 3K classrooms this fall – setting a splendid example for the state, which must boost preschool education, particularly for needy children. This strategy would narrow, if not close, the gaps in academic achievement between the poor and the middle class, whites and blacks, Anglos and Latinos.
Decades of study have led educators to this consensus: When aimed at kids from lower-income families, quality early childhood education boosts academic attainment, high school graduation rates, college attendance and future wages, and it reduces truancy, crime and teenage pregnancies.
Kathy Goolsby & Karen Ayres:
Nearly 1,000 parents and students packed into Lancaster High School’s auditorium Thursday night to hear district officials pitch a plan for a four-day school week that drew fiery criticism from the crowd.
Many parents at the emotion-charged meeting said the proposal – which would take effect this fall and is being presented as a one-year pilot program – would allow unsupervised students to get into trouble while home alone Fridays and would force parents to spend hundreds of dollars on child care for young children.
UW-Milwaukee Professor Emeritus Martin Haberman (and create of MMTEP):
I recently examined the four most widely used texts sold to faculty in schools of education to teach “learning” to future teachers. The courses these texts are used in are well known to teacher educators. They carry titles such as “Principles of Learning for Teachers,” or “Introduction to Educational Psychology,” or “Learning in Classrooms.” There is no accredited teacher preparation program in the country that does not require at least one such course. There is no state department of education that does not require such courses before they will accredit a college or university as having an approved program of teacher education. No other academic discipline has any where near such total control and influence over the “knowledge” required of future teachers.
As I scanned these texts I asked myself a simple question. If I were a classroom teacher how would the learning theories being presented in these texts help me to deal with the following subgroups in a class of 25 to 35 students:
1.4-6 students feign helplessness regardless of how much the assignments are watered down and never complete assignments.
2.6-8 students need for attention prevents them from staying on task and interferes with the work of others.
3.1-2 students see themselves as having been hurt by teachers and seek revenge regardless of the task or assignment at hand.
4.3-4 students challenge the teacher for control of the classroom
5.6-8 students come to school everyday and function as observers rather than participants. They devote most of their time to observing the interactions ( i.e. the cold or hot war) between the teacher and each of the four student groups cited above.
Ultimately, this group comprises the majority of school dropouts; these are students with very low achievement who declare they quit school because it was”boring.”
6.4-6 officially labeled special needs students with IEP’s.
It is important to understand that the causes of feigned helplessness, the need for constant attention, assurance, control, revenge, or to observe rather than participate cannot be fully explained by psychological constructs.At least a dozen academic disciplines provide valid theoretic and research based constructs that explain these student behaviors. Thinking of classes in real schools comprised of these six subgroups I found little in the texts that explain either why students take on these roles or what a teacher could do to best teach students assuming these roles. But worst of all, I found no connection anywhere in the four texts between the endless lists of recommended behaviors given to prospective teachers and any theory of learning. In a desperate attempt to convince myself that surely these texts on “learning” would have some relevance to the real world I looked up the terms “classroom management” and “discipline” in their glossaries. Each of these volumes consisted of over 300 pages. In each case I found less that two pages of do’s and don’ts dealing with discipline and no connection of these recipes to any theory of learning.The volumes themselves are endless lists of things teachers should do without any connections whatever between their endless admonitions to any psychological theory. The reason for this is simple. The interminable advocacies are not based on or derived from any psychological theory… none.
Martin Haberman Clusty Search.
Rep. Karl Van Roy:
Calling an increase in spending or funding a ‘cut,’ just because it isn’t as much as someone proposed, is a textbook example of “Madison Math.” In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing a lot about the Assembly version of the budget and a good portion of the criticism will be false claims that our version cuts our most important programs. For example, you’ll hear that the Assembly budget cuts funding for the UW system and K-12 education. Both of these claims are patently false. In fact, the Assembly version of the budget increases spending on K-12 education by $464,404,400 ($16 million more than Governor Doyle proposed). And the UW system receives a $62.3 million increase above their funding level in the last budget, but yet you will hear cries of ‘cuts’ to the UW system simply because they were offered more in the Governor’s and Senate’s versions of the budget.
K-12 spending increases annually. The debate is always over the amount (and sometimes the source such as the redistribution of income, sales or property taxes) of the increase. The current state of Wisconsin Budget is $54,268,817,100. Senate Democrats proposed a new budget of $66,106,668,800 while Assembly Republicans proposed spending $56,336,765,800 in the next budget cycle. TJ Mertz has more on the proposed state budget here and here.
Via a reader email: Christina Settimi:
More spending doesn’t necessarily buy you better schools. With property taxes rising across the country, we took a look at per-pupil spending in public schools and weighed it against student performance–college entrance exam scores (SAT or ACT, depending on which is more common in the state), exam participation rates and graduation rates.
Winners in this rating system are counties whose schools deliver high performance at low cost. The losers spend a lot of money and have little to show for it.
Marin County, Calif., provides the best bang for the buck. In 2004 Marin spent an average of $9,356 ($6,579 adjusted for the cost of living relative to other metro areas in the U.S.) per pupil, among the lowest education expenditures in the country. But in return Marin delivered results above the national average: 96.8% of its seniors graduated, and 60.4% of them took the SAT college entrance exam and scored a mean 1133 (out of 1600). The others in the top five are Collin, Texas; Hamilton, Ind.; Norfolk, Mass.; and Montgomery, Md.
In Pictures: Best And Worst School Districts For The Buck
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alexandria City, Va., which sits just six miles outside of our nation’s capital, spent $13,730 ($11,404 adjusted) per pupil, but its high schools registered only a 73% graduation rate, with 65.0% of the seniors participating in the SAT for a mean score of 963. According to John Porter, assistant superintendent, Administrative Services and Public Relations for the Alexandria City Public Schools, their graduation rate is reflective of a large number of foreign-born students who may take longer than the traditional four years to graduate. He also noted that their performance measures are rising, along with their expenditures. Per-pupil spending in Alexandria City is now over $18,000. Others on the bottom of the list include Glynn, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Ulster, N.Y.; and Beaufort, S.C.
Using research provided by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., Forbes began with a list of the 775 counties in the country with populations greater than 65,000 that had the highest average property taxes. From this list we isolated the 97 counties where more than 50% of per-pupil spending contributions comes from property taxes. ( Click Here For Full Rankings)
Since it costs more to educate a student in New York than Alabama, we adjusted expenditures for each metropolitan area based on Economy.com’s national cost of living average. We then chose to compare spending to the only performance measures that can be used to compare students equally across the country. With a nod toward recognizing the importance of education, performance was weighted twice against cost. Performance and cost numbers are county averages; individual school districts within a county can vary greatly.
Dane County ranked 63rd (Other Wisconsin Districts in the Top 97 include: Ozaukee – 16, -43 and Walworth – 91).
Daniel de Vise:
Education scholars and school system officials greeted the study as a flawed answer to a fascinating question: Which school districts deliver the best results for the tax dollars citizens invest?
“The value of this kind of analysis is to remind us that simply pouring more [money] into existing school systems is no formula for producing higher achievement out the other end,” Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, said in an e-mail.
But Finn derided this analysis as “just plain dumb” for failing to consider other factors, such as wealth and parent education, that affect test scores and graduation prospects.
The Forbes study takes the unusual approach of rating school systems from a stockbroker’s perspective — or, more specifically, the perspective of a stockbroker raising a family in the D.C. suburbs. Rather than simply rank them by SAT participation or outcome or graduation rate, it considers all three measures and a fourth, dollars spent.
The endeavor is skewed toward affluent and suburban schools, educators said, because of the focus on local property taxes; wealthier jurisdictions tend to pay a greater share of education costs from their own tax coffers. The top three systems in the resulting ranking are all suburban: Marin County, just north of San Francisco; Collin County, near Dallas; and Hamilton County, outside Indianapolis.
David J. Hoff
A new study out of Chicago suggests that low-achieving and high-achieving students haven’t benefited from No Child Left Behind.
When comparing changes in Chicago students’ test scores pre- and post-NCLB, researchers Derek Neal and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach found a “strikingly consistent pattern” in the test scores of students with lowest-achievement test scores. They scored “the same or lower” under NCLB’s accountability system than they did in the 1990s under the Chicago’s accountability measures.
When looking at gifted students, the researchers found “mixed evidence of gains” in the NCLB era.
Kids in the middle–the ones closest to proficiency–performed better under NCLB than they did before.
This study lends credence to common critiques of that law encourages teachers to focus on the so-called bubble kids–the ones that are close to reaching proficiency.
The Capital Times
You can’t blame them for screaming, even if it does scare the fish.
The high school students in Paul du Vair’s aqua biology summer school course have learned to be extraordinarily game as they explore and record scientific data about Lake Mendota and its Six Mile Creek tributary. But there are a few things that make even these field-tested young ecologists shriek or howl out loud.
Like when they emerge from Lake Mendota or Six Mile Creek with blood-sucking leeches firmly attached to their legs. Or when they are hauling nets through waist-deep, murky water and big dark shapes bump against them. Or when they are wading along and suddenly step deep into a hidden, muck-filled hole.
The 20-odd students who are part of du Vair’s three-week summer enrichment biology class are not faint of heart, and they don’t complain much. Like generations before them, they are taking part in a Madison institution, the only summer school enrichment course that has survived mostly unchanged from the 1960s.
Paul du Vair is the legendary TAG Biology teacher at Madison East High School.
I like small schools, but I also like middle-size schools. About ten years ago, Valerie Lee of the University of Michigan did a study in which she asked what was the ideal size for a high school, and she concluded that the ideal school was small enough for kids to be known by the teachers, but large enough to mount a reasonable curriculum. The best size for a high school, she decided, based on a review of student progress in schools of different sizes, is 600-900 students. You may think this is too large, but it sure beats schools of 2,000-3,000. I think we can all agree that the mega-schools that were created in the past forty years or so are hard, difficult environments for adolescents, where they can easily get lost in the crowd. Anonymity is not good for kids or for adults, either.
Anyway, American education seems to be engaged in yet another statistical sham, this time involving small high schools. Everyone wants Gates money, so almost every big-city school district is breaking up big schools into small schools. To make sure that they look good and get good press (the same thing), the leadership of some districts stack the deck by screening out the lowest performing kids—the special education students, the limited-English speakers, and kids with low test scores.
Much more on Madison’s Dance with “Small Learning Communities” here, including outgoing Superintendent Art Rainwater’s presentation on the proposed “High School Redesign”.
Matthew Arkin and Bryan Hassel [2.33MB PDF]:
School districts across the country are having financial problems, and charter schools are increasingly getting blamed. Charters are accused of taking money from “the public schools,” although they are public schools themselves. Charters are even taking the blame for rising taxes. These assertions certainly paint a clear picture of some district administrators’ feelings about charter schools – but they don’t tell the full story.
In fact, high-quality public charter schools have positive financial impacts for communities that more than offset the obvious and immediate revenue losses to districts. Accurately measuring the financial impact of charters requires looking at not only the revenue shifts for the school district but also these benefits to the broader community.
Pamela Burdman and Marshall S. Smith
California’s vibrant economy is in jeopardy because we aren’t producing enough educated workers to meet the state’s future needs, according to a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California. The authors see only one solution: improving college attendance and graduation rates of Californians.
High-profile attempts by top universities to serve more low-income and minority students are important, but they won’t solve this problem. Only a limited number of students can attend these schools. Substantially increasing graduation rates will require lifting achievement levels for students who are not admitted to public universities.
If approved by lawmakers, a $33 million investment tucked inside the state budget represents a rare attempt to work toward that goal. The funds would ensure continuation of an audacious initiative that is shining a spotlight on a problem that has historically seemed intractable: the large number of students who don’t succeed in college because they don’t complete remedial English or math.
This effort represents the best chance in years to reverse that trend. It is being coordinated by instructors at the state’s community colleges, and no one is better positioned to tackle the problem. But the plan will not work without the serious engagement of colleges and sustained state support.
Jonathan Glater & Alan Finder:
When San Francisco started trying to promote socioeconomic diversity in its public schools, officials hoped racial diversity would result as well.
It has not worked out that way.
Abraham Lincoln High School, for example, with its stellar reputation and Advanced Placement courses, has drawn a mix of rich and poor students. More than 50 percent of those students are of Chinese descent.
“If you look at diversity based on race, the school hasn’t been as integrated,” Lincoln’s principal, Ronald J. K. Pang, said. “If you don’t look at race, the school has become much more diverse.”
San Francisco began considering factors like family income, instead of race, in school assignments when it modified a court-ordered desegregation plan in response to a lawsuit. But school officials have found that the 55,000-student city school district, with Chinese the dominant ethnic group followed by Hispanics, blacks and whites, is resegregrating.
The number of schools where students of a single racial or ethnic group make up 60 percent or more of the population in at least one grade is increasing sharply. In 2005-06, about 50 schools were segregated using that standard as measured by a court-appointed monitor. That was up from 30 schools in the 2001-02 school year, the year before the change, according to court filings.
Minnesota Department of Education:
Governor Tim Pawlenty today announced the establishment of the Minnesota School Safety Center, which will develop a framework for all-hazard safety planning for schools and will coordinate activities of federal, state and local partners.
The School Safety Center will be housed at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and will work in partnership with other state agencies. Retiring Brooklyn Park Chief of Police Wade Setter has been named to lead the Center.
“Bringing together all of the partners involved in school safety – law enforcement, schools, emergency response and victim service providers and others – will help us keep Minnesota students safe at school,” Governor Pawlenty said.
“This cooperation will go a long way toward ensuring the safety of our children,” said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion. “Wade’s experience as a law enforcement officer, a mentor to young people and his proven leadership in forming partnerships make him the ideal individual to launch this effort.”
Robert Reich and Kai Ryssdal:
Worried about American competitiveness? Worry about our schools.
The No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to fix our broken system of K-12 education by setting higher standards and requiring lots of tests. But the system’s still broken.
Of course, some testing is necessary to measure whether students are learning. But the No Child Left Behind Act has overdone it, turning our nation’s classrooms into test-taking factories where the curriculum is how to take tests rather than how to think.
The one thing we do know about successful classrooms is they require talented and dedicated teachers. And that’s the other problem with the Act. It hasn’t included enough money to pay salaries needed to attract the best and brightest into K-12 teaching — especially into classrooms populated mainly by poor and working-class kids.
The District will be holding a parent training session with Corwin Kronenberg on Wednesday, August 22, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn on Deming Way. Mr. Kronenberg’s focus will be “A Parent’s Approach to Above-the-Line-Behavior for Students.” Teachers will be doing an all-day training with Mr. Kronenberg on August 20 that will focus on creating a common understanding of behavioral expectations in the classroom.
Each MMSD principal was asked to work with their parent organization to send a representative team of five parents to the event. It is not clear if this happened at each school or if the program has reached capacity.
If you did not hear about this event before the school year ended and are interested in going, contact either your principal or the appropriate Assistant Superintendent — for elementary parents, that would be Sue Abplanalp (firstname.lastname@example.org, 663-1639); for middle and high school parents, Pam Nash (email@example.com, 663-1635).
Read more about the MMSD’s adoption of Kronenberg’s system —
A few weeks ago, the Madison BOE received a summary of what the board and its committees had done in its meetings during the past year. I am posting the entire document as an extended entry as community information. It provides a lot more detail, a good overview, and a glimpse at the pieces that didn’t make it into the print and broadcast media.
Via an email from Johnny:
The 2007 Johnny Winston, Jr. Streetball and Block Party will be held on Saturday August 11th from 12 noon to 7:00 p.m. at Penn Park (South Madison). Activities include an adult mens basketball tournament, youth drill team competition, music, entertainment, free bingo sponsored by Dejope gaming, youth and family activities, information booths, food vendors and more. Proceeds from this event will be donated to non-for-profit organizations. For more information please contact (608) 347-9715 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tyler Whitley and Linday Kastner:
Despite slowing revenues, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said yesterday that he still plans to offer a universal, but not mandatory, pre-kindergarten program in Virginia without raising taxes.
Kaine said the program for 4-year-olds will have to be phased in. He has estimated the program, one of his main proposals when he ran for governor in 2005, will cost about $300 million a year.
He spoke to reporters after putting in a plug for the program at a meeting of the Virginia School Boards Association at the Richmond Marriott Hotel.
His remarks came the same day as the release of a new study that says while publicly funded preschool is a wise investment for Virginia it could cost more than Kaine predicts.
Patrick Marley and Steven Walters:
The Republican-run Assembly passed a budget late Tuesday that avoids tax increases by funding education, the University of Wisconsin System and local governments with much less than what Democratic legislators insist is needed to protect programs for two years.
The $56.3 billion Assembly budget, passed on a 51-44 vote, diverges from the version passed June 26 by the Democrat-led Senate in almost every area of spending.
Next, eight legislative leaders – four Republicans and four Democrats – will meet as a conference committee to negotiate a compromise two-year budget. Those talks could stretch into the fall or beyond, since Senate Democrats voted to spend $9.8 billion more than Assembly Republicans.
K-12 state spending growth: Provide $150 million in new school aid, $85 million less than what Democrats want. Current annual school aid is $4.7 billion.
Issmat I Kassem, Von Sigler and Malak A Esseili:
The role of computer keyboards used by students of a metropolitan university as reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant staphylococci was determined. Putative methicillin (oxacillin)-resistant staphylococci isolates were identified from keyboard swabs following a combination of biochemical and genetic analyses. Of 24 keyboards surveyed, 17 were contaminated with staphylococci that grew in the presence of oxacillin (2 mg l-1). Methicillin (oxacillin)-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), -S. epidermidis (MRSE) and -S. hominis (MRSH) were present on two, five and two keyboards, respectively, while all three staphylococci co-contaminated one keyboard. Furthermore, these were found to be part of a greater community of oxacillin-resistant bacteria. Combined with the broad user base common to public computers, the presence of antibiotic-resistant staphylococci on keyboard surfaces might impact the transmission and prevalence of pathogens throughout the community.
Education Commission for the States, via MetLife:
The Toolkit is the product of a two-year effort by ECS, underwritten by the MetLife Foundation, to enlarge awareness and understanding of the policies, practices and processes that serve to strengthen leadership for reform and improvement in schools and districts.
Policymakers and educators across the nation can tap the lessons learned in eight critical areas – ranging from decisionmaking processes to resource allocation to instruction, professional development and accountability – in three outstanding school systems: Boston Public Schools, Memphis City School District and National City (California) School District.
The Toolkit is organized around what the ECS study team found to be the defining features of the improvement efforts under way in Boston, National City and Memphis. Foremost among them is a clearly expressed, widely shared acceptance of responsibility for the educational success of all children.
This commitment is reflected in – and reinforced by – purposeful efforts to enhance collaboration, communication and leadership capacity within and across schools, and to forge stronger connections with families, community organizations, higher education institutions and other partners; a versatile infrastructure of support for teachers and principals; consistent, continuous evaluation of student performance, instructional practices and program implementation; and creative, strategic use of resources – not just money but also time, space and talent.
Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray spoke on downtown safety at the monthly meeting of Downtown Madison, Inc. on June 28, 2007, and also briefly addressed the topic of gang activity in Madison schools during the program, as reported in The Capital Times (via the MadCrime101 blog, a welcome and valuable new resource focusing on concerns and issues relating to crime in Madison).
Chief Wray acknowledged the growing problem of gangs in Madison and their presence in Madison schools, and spoke of the need to quantify the extent of the problem and its trends, rather than reacting based on anecdotal “information”. I couldn’t agree more. The MPD can make much progress toward this goal by fuller and consistent disclosure to the public of incidents and statistics on gang activity (whether through its police district newsletters or its public information office news releases). But to quantify the gang problem in schools, the MPD will need to rely on data from the MMSD, since much can happen in a school which is relevant to quantifying the gang problem but isn’t brought to the attention of the MPD. Can the gang problem in Madison schools be accurately and reliably quantified and assessed for those schools that don’t have ERO’s (Education Resource Officers)? Of if the policies on when calls for service are to be made to MPD vary from school to school? Or when the MMSD relies on suspension and expulsion rates, instead of actual incidents of disruptive and violent behavior, to gauge school safety (all the while moving toward a policy of discouraging suspensions and expulsions)?
Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio / Video. More here [RSS].
There are many important variables to consider in evaluating the causes for academic failure or success in the high school classroom. The training of the teacher, the quality of the curriculum, school safety, availability of books, etc., etc., are extensively studied, and all these have a part to play.
But I would argue that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work, including classroom work. Why do so many of our high school students do so little academic work? Because they can get away with it.
A close study of the academic demands on students in the vast majority of our high school classrooms would disclose, I feel certain, that one of the principal reasons for their boredom is that they really have nothing to do but sit still and wait for the bell.
In most classrooms the chances of a student being called on are slight, and of being called on twice are almost nonexistent. If a student is called on and has not done the reading or other class preparation, most probably the teacher will just call on someone else. There are no real consequences for being unprepared, and as a result many, if not most, students are unprepared, and that also contributes to their boredom.
Driven by rising school taxes, overall property tax collections in southeastern Wisconsin rose 4.6% this year, compared with a 2.4% increase the year before, a new Public Policy Forum study shows.
Most taxpayers were insulated from having to pay more because rising property values allowed government to spread the burden across an expanded tax base, the study says, but a local official warns that the trend in overall tax collections is bound to eventually push up tax bills as property values cool down.
“There’s no question in my mind that the inflationary factor is not going to be that high,” said Norm Cummings, director of administration for Waukesha County. “We’ll start to see it slow down; it’s not going to be like the ’90s.”
That will cause homeowners to watch local property tax levy increases more closely than they have in many years, Cummings predicted.
The slowdown in assessment increases (decreases?) will change the “we’re keeping the mill rate flat” sales pitch.
The organizing board said around 600 contestants from 100 countries and territories will take part in the IMO.
The organisation of the IMO aims to encourage students to study mathematics and create favourable conditions for countries to exchange information on the curriculum in schools.
48th International Mathematical Olympiad website. International Math Olympiad Website. US Site. MATC’s math club.
Photo taken at the Hanoi Temple of Literature.