August 20, 2007
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3W243 FB6
Washington, DC 20202-6200
Dear Mr. Dennis,
As a long-time advocate for academic excellence in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD, Madison, Wisconsin), I urge the Department of Education to reject the MMSD’s recent application for a Small Learning Centers grant, Smaller Learning Communities Program CFDA #84.215L.
Please visit a popular Madison blog, schoolinfosystem.org, where you will find long threads with comments, questions, and concerns about the grant application, as well as the MMSD’s pilot efforts in small learning centers.
Blog commentators, some of whom as statistics instructors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, clinical psychologists, and other professionals with advanced degrees, express little support for the MMSD’s implementation of small learning communities.
When people try to get evaluation data from the MMSD on the current small learning communities, the district cannot or will not produce the information. The little available information about the MMSD’s small learning communities does not point to success, but rather to no impact on academic achievement. (See the evaluation on the MMSD Web site by Bruce King, whose services the MMSD wrote into its grant proposal.)
As the MMSD implements small learning schools, it simply amounts to closing the achievement gap by limiting opportunities for academic success of advanced students without raising the academic performance of low-performing ones.
Finally, the MMSD would be better off not to launch a major program change, especially when the current superintendent, the champion for the changes, will leave the district in the summer of 2008.
August 20, 2007