US News & World Report:
We analyzed data from thousands of schools to produce our list of the nation’s best. The top schools are a diverse bunch, and each one has found its unique way to best teach our future leaders.
Wisconsin high schools can be found here. Andrew Rotherham has more, along with Maria Glod.
At the November 26, 2007 meeting of the MMSD BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee [18MB mp3 audio], the District’s Attorney handed out a draft of a policy for the District’s Youth Options Program dated November 20, 2007. It is a fine working draft. However, it has been written with rules making it as difficult as possible for students to actually take advantage of this State-mandated program. Thus, I urge all families with children who may be affected by this policy now or in the future to request a copy of this document, read it over carefully, and then write within the next couple of weeks to all BOE members, the District’s Attorney, Pam Nash, and Art Rainwater with suggestions for modifications to the draft text. For example, the current draft states that students are not eligible to take a course under the YOP if a comparable course is offered ANYWHERE in the MMSD (i.e., regardless of whether the student has a reasonable method to physically access the District’s comparable course). It also restricts students to taking courses at institutions “located in this State” (i.e., precluding online courses such as ones offered for academically advanced students via Stanford’s EPGY and Northwestern’s CTD).
The Attorney’s memorandum dated November 21, 2007 to this Committee, the BOE, and the Superintendent outlined a BOE policy chapter entitled “Educational Options” that would include, as well, a policy regarding “Credit for Courses Taken Outside the MMSD”. Unfortunately, this memo stated that this latter policy as one “to be developed”. It has now been almost 6 years (!) since Art Rainwater promised us that the District would develop an official policy regarding credit for courses taken outside the MMSD. A working draft available for public comment and BOE approval has yet to appear. In the interim, the “freeze” the BOE unanimously approved, yet again, last winter has been ignored by administrators, some students are leaving the MMSD because of its absence, and chaos continues to rein because there exists no clearly written policy defining the rules by which non-MMSD courses can be taken for high school credit. Can anyone give us a timetable by which an official BOE-approved policy on this topic will finally be in place?
U.S. fourth-graders have lost ground in reading ability compared with kids around the world, according to results of a global reading test.
Test results released Wednesday showed U.S. students, who took the test last year, scored about the same as they did in 2001, the last time the test was given — despite an increased emphasis on reading under the No Child Left Behind law.
Still, the U.S. average score on the Progress in International Reading Literacy test remained above the international average. Ten countries or jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and three Canadian provinces, were ahead of the United States this time. In 2001, only three countries were ahead of the United States.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test students annually in reading and math, and imposes sanctions on schools that miss testing goals.
The U.S. performance on the international test of 45 nations or jurisdictions differed somewhat from results of a U.S. national reading test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card. Fourth-grade reading scores rose modestly on the most recent version of that test, taken earlier this year and measuring growth since 2005. During the previous two-year period, scores were flat.
On the latest international exam, U.S. students posted a lower average score than students in Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy and Sweden, along with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.
TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center Website.
Students’ success in mathematics, and algebra specifically, hinges largely on their mastering a focused, clearly defined set of topics in that subject in early grades, the draft report of a federal panel concludes.
The long-awaited report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel is still very much in flux. Members of the White House-commissioned group staged their 10th, and what was supposed to be their final, meeting in a hotel here Nov. 28, though they indicated that numerous revisions to the document are yet to come.
The panel spent most of a day debating and rewriting a 68-page draft of the report. The draft makes recommendations and findings on curricular content, learning processes, training and evaluation of teachers, instructional practices, assessment, and research as those topics apply to math in grades pre-K through 8.
“International and domestic comparisons show that American students have not been succeeding in the mathematical part of their education at anything like a leadership level,” the report says. “Particularly disturbing is the consistent finding that American students achieve in mathematics progressively more poorly at higher grades.”
The 19-member panel has reviewed an estimated 18,000 research documents and reports as part of its work, which began in 2006. But its draft document also bemoans the paucity of available research in several areas of math—including instruction and teacher training. Government needs to do more, it says, to support research with “large enough samples of students, classrooms, teachers, and schools to identify reliable effects.”
The draft attempts to define the core features of a legitimate school algebra course as opposed to one, the panelists said, that presents watered-down math under that course title. Topics in an algebra course should include concepts such as symbols and expressions, functions, quadratic relations, and others, it notes.
The working report also spells out specific concepts in math that are too often neglected in pre-K through grade 8 math instruction generally, such as fractions, whole numbers, and particular elements of geometry and measurement.
“We don’t spend enough time on them and we don’t assess them,” panel member Camilla Persson Benbow, an educational psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said of fractions. “[They’re] really not well mastered by schoolchildren.”
In arguing in behalf of a more focused curriculum in elementary and middle schools, the panel lists several “benchmarks for critical foundations” in prekindergarten through 8th grade math, leading to algebra. The goal is to develop fluency with fractions, whole numbers, and other topics. The panel drew from a diverse assortment of documents, including the 2006 “Curriculum Focal Points,” published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, as well as Singapore’s national standards and a number of U.S. state math standards.
National Mathematics Advisory Panel Website
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
Another year and deeper in debt.
No, that’s not some sad-eyed, old country ballad. It’s the state of Wisconsin’s long-term finances.
To pay for highways, buildings and environmental programs over the past decade, the state has increased long-term debt by 87%, a trend that if left unchecked will surely mean increasingly difficult budget decisions down the road.
The Journal Sentinel’s Steven Walters noted in a recent report that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the state had $8.28 billion in such debt in 2006, up from $4.41 billion in 1996 (www.jsonline.com/689757). The period studied covered the leadership of Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, and Republicans Scott McCallum and Tommy G. Thompson.
In effect, the governors, with legislative acquiescence, have made politically advantageous decisions to have their favorite programs and pay for them later. It’s basically credit card budgeting.
But the bill always comes due.
As Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, told Walters, the growing debt is a risk. Principal and interest payments on general-obligation bonds will exceed $700 million for the first time this year. Payments on transportation bonds will cost $174 million.
While state officials say the debt load is manageable, a major bond agency, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, last week changed its rating outlook from “positive” to “stable.”
Other long-term trends make such budget moves all the more troublesome. Per-capita income in Wisconsin is about $4,000 a year less than in Minnesota, for example, a gap that has widened. And the number of elderly is expected to jump 90% from 702,000 in 2000 to near 1.34 million by 2030 while the percentage of working age people is expected to decline from 61% to 57%, meaning fewer taxpayers supporting more people in need of services. Add to that the need to replace aging roads, bridges and sewers.
Clearly, we are unlikely to see significant increases in redistributed state tax dollars to “rich” school districts like Madison [2007-2008 Citizen’s Budget].
Related: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:
According to the Wisconsin DPI, per student spending in Wisconsin has increased by 5.1% annually, since 1987. The Madison School District increased at a 5.25% rate during that time. Clearly, our public schools are attempting to address more issues than ever, from academics to breakfast, special education and health care.
The Data Quality Campaign and the National Center for Educational Accountability (NCEA):
conducted a survey in September 2007, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about state data systems to determine the number of states that have built the infrastructure to tap into the power of longitudinal data. Similar surveys were conducted by NCEA in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. This website provides an overview of the findings of the survey in addition to a state-by-state analysis of the policy implications of each state’s data system.
The Power of Longitudinal Data
Longitudinal data matches individual student records over time, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and into post secondary education. States are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to improve student achievement. But without quality data, they are essentially flying blind. Policymakers need to act now to put in place the policies and resources to ensure that each state has a longitudinal data system and the culture and capacity to translate the information into specific action steps to improve student achievement. When states collect the most relevant data and are able to match individual student records over time, they can answer the questions that are at the core of educational effectiveness. Longitudinal data (data gathered on the same student from year to year) makes it possible to:
State specific results.
Elissa Gootman & Jennifer Medina:
Not long after Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced plans last year to give grades of A through F to schools, principals at some of New York City’s coveted specialized high schools grew concerned. With the city looking to reward gains among the lowest-achieving students, how would the elite schools be judged?
The principals peppered the administration with ideas for extra credits for their schools: perhaps counting how many Advanced Placement tests students pass or the college credits they accumulate. In the end, the city decided to tie bonus points for these schools to high scores on state Regents exams.
That served the gold-standard Stuyvesant High School well, propelling it from a high B to a comfortable A. But the principal of Brooklyn Technical High School, Randy J. Asher, called the decision “ridiculous,” saying it contradicted a core principle of the report cards: the need to gauge how far students have come, rather than simply how they perform.
“I think we all really came to the table saying, let’s find something fair for schools like ours,” Mr. Asher, whose school earned a B, said in a recent interview. “And I don’t think we succeeded.”
Last fall, groups who favor placing disabled students in regular classrooms faced opposition from an unlikely quarter: parents like Norette Travis, whose daughter Valerie has autism.
Valerie had already tried the mainstreaming approach that the disability-advocacy groups were supporting. After attending a preschool program for special-needs students, she was assigned to a regular kindergarten class. But there, her mother says, she disrupted class, ran through the hallways and lashed out at others — at one point giving a teacher a black eye.
“She did not learn anything that year,” Ms. Travis recalls. “She regressed.”
As policy makers push to include more special-education students into general classrooms, factions are increasingly divided. Advocates for the disabled say special-education students benefit both academically and socially by being taught alongside typical students. Legislators often side with them, arguing that mainstreaming is productive for students and cost-effective for taxpayers.
Some teachers and administrators have been less supportive of the practice, saying that they lack the training and resources to handle significantly disabled children. And more parents are joining the dissenters. People like Ms. Travis believe that mainstreaming can actually hinder the students it is intended to help. Waging a battle to preserve older policies, these parents are demanding segregated teaching environments — including separate schools.
More on from the Wall Street Journal on Mainstreaming.
Joanne has more.
The National Endowment for the Arts has released a new study of studies of the decline of reading in the United States. Some kinds of reading were apparently not considered.
Zeus and Mnemosyne [Memory] were the parents of the nine Muses. Calliope was the muse of epic poetry, Clio was the muse of history, Erato was the muse of love poetry, Euterpe was the muse of music, Melpomene was the muse of tragedy, Polyhymnia was the muse of sacred poetry, Terpsichore was the muse of dance, Thalia was the muse of comedy, and Urania was the muse of astronomy.
Of these nine, two are now off the reservation. Urania has clearly taken Astronomy over to the Science side of the Arts, and Clio has had the misfortune of presiding over history and nonfiction, and so, at least for the National Endowment for the Arts, has evidently lost her status among the Arts.
In 2004, the National Endowment of the Arts conducted a $300,000 study of the reading habits of Americans. It found a significant decline in literary reading for pleasure among just about every group. In The Washington Post, on Friday, July 9, 2004, Jacqueline Trescott wrote that the NEA study found that an industry group “predicts that annual sales for all types of books will top $44 billion by 2008, up 59 percent from last year. Nevertheless, only 46.7 percent of adults say they are reading literature, compared with 56.9 percent two decades ago.”
Their new study of studies continues this limited focus on literary reading for pleasure.
Continue reading Memory’s Forgotten Daughter →
As important, is the state of science and math education, particularly in the early grades, where young students’ abilities have been in a steady decline. The slip results as much from failings in government priorities as from income and class inequities, Kao believes.
“We are allowing the vagaries of income disparity to waste generations of potential innovators,” he says. “In U.S. schools serving low-income students, 30 percent of junior high mathematics teachers majored in math in college.” In China, the majority of math and science teachers at all levels have advanced degrees in their subjects.
Related: Math Forum | Math Task Force.
Whenever I speak about my book, It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools, I know I will face at least a few skeptics—and sometimes more than a few. They can easily be identified by their questions and comments. For example, they ask whether the schools I profile in the book are magnet schools or in some way select their students. I patiently explain that they don’t. Or, they will say, “I have unions in my school,” as though that would explain why they can’t make any improvements. Since some of the most impressive schools I profile in the book are in New York, Philadelphia, and St. Paul—all places with very powerful and serious teacher unions—I tell them that unions by themselves don’t seem to be an obstacle. Or, they say, “I have a lot of low-income kids in my district,” allowing that fact to speak for itself as an explanation for why their schools are low-performing.
I always answer as fully as I can, but I know that I probably haven’t convinced them that the schools are as I report them to be—high achieving or rapidly improving with student populations that are mostly either students of poverty or students of color or both. I know many people in my audience simply cannot envision schools that are as good as I say they are or educators who are as uncompromising and frank as I portray them.
Chenoweth recently appeared in Madison.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy recently spoke to a joint session of Congress. Sarokozy’s excellent speech can be heard here [8.5mb mp3 audio file]:
From the very beginning, the American dream meant proving to all mankind that freedom, justice, human rights and democracy were no utopia but were rather the most realistic policy there is and the most likely to improve the fate of each and every person.
America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who–with their hands, their intelligence and their heart–built the greatest nation in the world: “Come, and everything will be given to you.” She said: “Come, and the only limits to what you’ll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent.” America embodies this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance.
Here, both the humblest and most illustrious citizens alike know that nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. That’s what constitutes the moral value of America. America did not teach men the idea of freedom; she taught them how to practice it. And she fought for this freedom whenever she felt it to be threatened somewhere in the world. It was by watching America grow that men and women understood that freedom was possible.
What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind.
Via a reader’s email – Madison Police Department:
On November 19th at 2:44 p.m. Madison police responded to 1300 Seminole Highway after a Metro bus driver noticed someone pointing a gun out of a window on the back of his bus. This was a bus with about 50 Cherokee Middle School students on board. They were going home from school. The driver also indicated he had been shot in the back of the head with a BB. This caused no injury. Officers were able to find a Smith & Wesson black plastic BB/pellet gun & a container of BBs in a backpack. The 13 year old listed above admitted the backpack was his and he had fired the weapon. A friend of his was arrested for disorderly conduct after he threatened to harm other students. He believed one of those students had “snitched.”
The Madison School viewed a presentation from the Administration Monday evening on their proposed High School redesign. Listen via this mp3 audio file (or watch the MMSDTV Video Archive).
“Sometimes institutional history can be a weight around your neck,” Rainwater noted. “This can be an opportunity to bring in new ideas, and new blood,” he added.
Rainwater has said change is necessary because high schools today look and feel much like they have for generations but that students will live and work in a world that has changed dramatically, and which demands new skills and abilities.
He acknowledged that the path was likely to be bumpy, and noted that the plan — which has been developed thus far without public input — recognizes that there are major concerns in the community regarding changes to Madison’s school system.
Some of those concerns include worries about trying to balance resources among students of widely varying abilities, about “dumbing down” the curriculum with inclusive classrooms, the potential for the high schools to lose their unique personalities and concerns that addressing the broad ranges of culture in the district will not serve students well.
A group of parents will be gathering to discuss developing a public school charter (or other educational alternatives) for middle schoolers who need an advanced level and faster pace of instruction (curriculum acceleration). Our first meeting will be Monday, November 26 at 11:30 am for lunch at the Sun Print Cafe, 1 South Pinckney Street [Map], in the US Bank building. If interested, please email Bonnie at email@example.com.
Friends from Hanover came into town this weekend and mentioned this story: “A small town in New Hampshire is coming to grips with a scandal at the public high school where nine students face criminal charges for allegedly breaking into a classroom and stealing advance copies of final exams.
The incident at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., is sparking debate between those who believe the students are being treated fairly and those who think the charges go too far.”
But what I found most interesting about this story was this:”Teachers also may be sending kids the wrong message about cheating.
Students say they know they won’t get in trouble for things like sharing homework or finding out what’s on a test from kids who’ve already taken it. “That is cheating, and some teachers don’t classify it as cheating,” said Junior Cory Burns. “Or some don’t see it as such a serious issue, ” added Dillon Gregory.
The millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) seems to have a different notion about honesty than previous generations.
Aine Donovan, executive director of the Dartmouth College Ethics Institute, said kids today are more apt to rationalize their behavior as a means to an end; and they seem to have invented their own particular code of right and wrong.
“When I ask my students: ‘Is there anything unethical about downloading music?'” Donovan said. “(They answer) ‘Absolutely not.’ They don’t have a problem with it. And yet, those same kids would never in a million years, walk into a K-mart and steal a CD. They just have a different kind of orientation of morality.”
Continue reading Different Notions of Honesty? →
WKOW-TV [Watch Video | mp3 Audio]:
February 13 became a tense day in two, separate Madison schools.
Police reports show a fifteen year old student at Memorial High School became angry with special education teacher Tim Droster. Another staff member told officers the student made motions to mimic the act of shooting Droster. The student was arrested.
At Cherokee Heights Middle School, police reports show a thirteen year old student reacted to being denied laptop computer priveleges by posing this question to special education assistant Becky Buchmann: “Did you want me to gun you down?” Juvenile court records show the student had previously shot an acquaintance with a BB gun, and Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) information stated the student had also brought a BB gun to school and had gang affiliation.
Buchmann went to court and obtained a restraining order against the student.
Droster worked through school officials and his threatening student was given a different school schedule and new conduct rules.
Attorney Jordan Loeb has represented teachers seeking restraining orders to protect themselves in the classroom. “It’s controversial,” Loeb told 27 News.
But Loeb said teachers are no different than someone from any other walk of life when it comes to needing the authority of a judge to insure a threatening person does not cause harm.
“When it’s your safety on the line, you have to do everything you believe is necessary to keep yourself safe.”
Loeb estimated an average of ten teachers and other school staff members per year over the past decade have obtained restraining orders against threatening students and adults in Dane County courts.
But school district statistics show a more than five fold increase in teacher and staff injuries caused by students in the past three years.
In 2003, of 532 injury reports submitted by teachers and staff members, 29 were the result of student assaults.
In 2006, 540 teacher and staff injury reports involved 153 student assaults.
School district spokesperson Ken Syke said the most recent student assault numbers may be inflated by the inclusion of teacher injuries incidental to fights between students.
Amy’s Game: The Concealed Structure of Education :
Amy’s Game is a field manual for parents, teachers, and leaders who want to give our children the education they deserve. The author draws on over 30 years experience and hundreds of studies to expose education’s hidden structure responsible for our schools’ decline. Tactics for reversing that slide are given along with inexpensive, well-researched instructional methods that anyone-parent to professor-can use to improve our children’s education.
Amazon Link. Thanks to Larry Winkler for the link.
Madison School Board: Monday evening, November 12, 2007: 40MB mp3 audio file. Participants include: Superintendent Art Rainwater, East High Principal Al Harris, Cherokee Middle School Principal Karen Seno, Sennett Middle School Principal Colleen Lodholz and Pam Nash, assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
A few notes:
- First 30 minutes: The City of Madison has agreed to fund police overtime in the schools. Johnny Winston, Jr. asked about supporting temporary “shows of force” to respond to issues that arise. Maya Cole asked what they (Administrators) do when staff choose not to get involved. East High Principal Al Harris mentioned that his staff conducts hall sweeps hourly. Sennett Principal Colleen Lodholz mentioned that they keep only one entrance open during recess.
- 52 minutes: Al Harris discussed the importance of consistency for staff, students and parents. He has named an assistant principal to be responsible for security. East now has data for the past year for comparison purposes. Additional assistant principals are responsible for classrooms, transitions and athletics.
- 55 minutes: Art Rainwater discussed District-wide procedures, a checklist for major incidents and that today parents are often informed before anyone else due to cell phones and text messaging.
- Recommendations (at 60 minutes):
- Pam Nash mentioned a strong need for increased communication. She discussed the recent West High School community forums and their new personal safety handbook. This handbook includes an outline of how West is supervised.
- 68 to 74 minutes: A discussion of the District’s equity policy vis a vis resource allocations for special needs students.
- 77 minutes – Steve Hartley discusses his experiences with community resources.
- 81+ minutes: Steve Hartley mentioned the need for improved tracking and Art Rainwater discussed perceptions vs what is actually happening. He also mentioned that the District is looking at alternative programs for some of these children. Student Board Representative Joe Carlsmith mentioned that these issues are not a big part of student life. He had not yet seen the new West High safety handbook. Carol Carstensen discussed (95 minutes) that these issues are not the common day to day experiences of our students and that contacts from the public are sometimes based more on rumor and gossip than actual reality.
I’m glad the Board and Administration had this discussion.
There’s a crisis among young African-American males in Madison, says Kenneth Black, president of 100 Black Men of Madison.
High school drop-out rates, low employment, a high incidence of jail and prison time — and beneath it all, a growing number of black children growing up without a father.
“It definitely needs to be dealt with,” said Black, a division administrator in the state Department of Veteran Affairs. “There’s a huge void in most of these kids’ lives. They need to see positive African-American role models who are successful in the community. They need to see us,” he said.
100 Black Men of Madison may be best known for its back-to-school backpack giveaway that draws hundreds of children each year, but its bedrock program is mentoring. “Our intent is to get these young men and expose them to the more positive things in life: the Overture, sporting events, UW and places outside our community,” Black said.
Black was among several local African-Americans interviewed for this article who had praise, and some criticism, for the rallying cry to social responsibility raised by comedian Bill Cosby.
“Some people are not happy with Bill Cosby for airing dirty laundry,” said Johnny Winston Jr., a member of the Madison School Board. “But it’s not like he’s saying something we don’t know.”
Barbara Golden, an advocate for children and families in Dane County, said it was good that the discussion opened by Cosby was taking place outside just African-American circles. “We are very much a part of America. What happens to us should be the concern of everybody,” Golden said.
The African-American culture also has a strong influence on mainstream U.S. culture, she noted, noting how white kids’ performances at a recent Madison middle-school talent show borrowed heavily from hip-hop.
“No one can sit and say, ‘This doesn’t affect me,'” she said.
Cosby’s book published last month, “Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors” is just the latest round in a years-long confrontation with his fellow African-Americans.
Additional links and notes on Bill Cosby [RSS]
On a Friday night in late October, the Prince of Peace Eagles are about to lose to Rockwall Christian 49-6. As she paces the sidelines, Susan Myers isn’t thinking about gender roles. She’s a coach for an 0-8 team whose players seem to be losing faith in themselves.
As quarterback Austin Smith shuffles off the field, Ms. Myers grabs his jersey and pulls him close until her nose is just a couple of inches from his facemask. Before the season, the Eagles had pointed to their next opponent, a small Catholic school in Irving, Texas, called The Highlands, as one they should beat. She wanted Mr. Smith to send a message to the team. “That’s the game we’ve got to win,” she shouted. “They’ve got to know that’s the game.”
As the wide receivers coach for Prince of Peace, a private Christian School near Dallas, Ms. Myers, 55 years old, is one of only a few women in the nation coaching high school football. So far as the American Football Coaches Association knows, she’s the only one plying her trade in Texas — a state where the boys who play the game and the men who lead them form a current that powers the egos of entire towns. Women operate on the fringes of the football world, mostly to support and validate. They rarely step on the field without a set of pompons.
Morgan Schwab, a wide receiver, had never heard of a female football coach before Prince of Peace hired Ms. Myers. He says he got over the novelty on the second day of spring practice when, during agility and footwork drills, she took a plastic bat to the legs of any players with poor form.
An excerpt from “The Complete Handbook of Coaching Wide Receivers” PDF.
Pete Selkowe crunches the findings:
After ten years of exhaustive diagnostics, poking and prodding, the patient — Racine Unified School District — still is quite sick.
The Public Policy Forum’s just released 10th annual comparative analysis of RUSD (paid for by Education Racine, the not-for-profit foundation of RAMAC) — comparing the district to nine peer* districts with similar enrollments — is measured in many places, objectively reporting such things as student achievement, graduation rates, truancy and more.
But the bottom line, stated with ultimate tact — “Our data do not fit with the customer satisfaction objective.” — gives clear warning of what’s to come.
The report’s major findings, released at a Wingspread briefing tonight, conclude:
Diversity: The minority population in RUSD, the state’s fourth largest district with 21,696 students, continues to grow. Racine’s classrooms now are 48.1% minority, up from 36.9% ten years ago, thanks to an influx of Asian and Hispanic students. African-American enrollment has increased “modestly” in recent years and white enrollment has “declined somewhat.”
White students now make up 51.9% of RUSD’s enrollment; African-Americans 26.7% and Hispanics 19.6%. Statewide, 22.1% of students are minority.
Operational Efficiency: State aid to RUSD has increased 40.2% in 10 years, yet we’re now 8th out of 10. (State aid to Kenosha has risen 70.8% in the same period.) Property tax revenue is up 21.4%; Kenosha’s has gone up 41.7%. RUSD falls to 9th in the growth of federal aid: up 87.5% in 10 years, while Kenosha has gone up 146.9% and Appleton 346.9%.
The district ranked 8th out of 10 in property taxes collected per pupil. Racine was third in instructional spending per pupil, sixth in operational spending. RUSD spent $10,169 per pupil, just $119 below the state average, but well below Madison’s $12,163.
These findings are part of the Public Policy Forum’s 10th annual report on how Racine Unified stacks up among Wisconsin’s 10 largest districts – excluding Milwaukee – in student achievement, engagement and finances.
“I think you have here the largest, most comprehensive study of any district in the state of Wisconsin, and possibly the country,” Jeff Browne, president of the Milwaukee think tank, said to a gathering of advocates, school officials and business leaders Wednesday.
Racine Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district, faces serious challenges, the report shows.
Its students ranked near the bottom at all grade levels when compared with peer districts on state reading and math tests in the 2006-’07 school year. This is in keeping with recent years’ rankings, though there is some improvement at the elementary level.
Charts comparing the 10 Districts.
Complete Report: 240K PDF
Public Policy Forum Website
The “Wisconsin Way” recently held a forum in Waukesha. The local Taxpayer’s League posted some notes [website].
A schedule of forums appears on their website (Madison is 12/6/2007). More:
Welcome to the Wisconsin Way! You’ve made the first step to helping lower Wisconsin’s property taxes, while protecting our services and maintaining Wisconsin’s quality of life.
A groundswell of public concern about the affordability of property taxes on the one hand and the need to maintain Wisconsin’s critical infrastructure on the other has prompted several statewide leadership groups to join forces in a historic search for solutions called The Wisconsin Way.
In the coming months, the original conveners of the Wisconsin Way—the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and Wood Communications Group—will host a series of public gatherings around the state in an effort to engage Wisconsin citizens in a constructive, solution-oriented conversation about what we can do to make Wisconsin taxes fairer and reduce the property tax burden without sacrificing the quality of public services that have made Wisconsin a special place to live and work.
There are casual days at Milwaukee College Preparatory School when it comes to what students can wear. Polo shirts (red for almost all the students and yellow for standouts who have earned privileges) are the uniform for those days. Other days, students have to wear blazers and ties.
But there are no casual days at the school when it comes to academics, even down to the kindergartners.
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” eighth-grade math teacher Edward Richerson exhorts his students as a half dozen head toward the blackboard to solve some equations. They’re not moving fast enough for him.
A couple of them falter in their explanations. “What I’ve told you not to do is get lazy on these equations, which is what you’ve done,” Richerson says. If you’re not getting them, it’s not because you’re not smart enough, he says. “Since we are overachievers,” he begins as he tells them why they have to be as picky about the details of the answers as he is.
In a 5-year-old kindergarten class, children do an exercise in counting and understanding sequences of shapes. Four-year-olds are expected to be on the verge of reading by Christmas.
In national education circles, phrases such as “no excuses” and names such as “KIPP” have come to stand for a hard-driving approach to educating low-income urban children, and that includes longer days, strict codes of conduct, an emphasis on mastering basics and a dedication among staff members approaching zeal. The Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, operates 57 schools in cities around the country and has a record that is not perfect but is noteworthy for its success.
Milwaukee College Prep, 2449 N. 36th St., is the prime example in Milwaukee of a no-excuses school. The charter school, which is publicly funded and was chartered through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is not formally a KIPP school, although it is affiliated with the KIPP movement.
Milwaukee College Preparatory School’s website.
Thanks to Laurie Frost for obtaining this video.
By Friday, the system, known as Infinite Campus, will be available to all parents of Madison School District middle and high school students. Those students, and parents of elementary students, will be able to tap in sometime after the first of the year.
Parents and students receive individual passwords. Parents can e-mail teachers and see whether their children owe any fees. They also can view, on a single calendar, a summary of important upcoming assignment deadlines and school events for all of their children.
With the arrival of Infinite Campus, Madison becomes the 13th of Dane County’s 16 school districts to offer around-the-clock electronic access to student information.
Officials at the three remaining districts — Marshall, Deerfield and Stoughton — plan to install similar systems soon and Stoughton already permits parents to receive frequent e-mail summaries of their children’s grades. More than 80 percent of Stoughton parents have signed up for the e-mail updates.
The Madison School District should be quite pleased with this effort. Initiatives on this scale are never easy. Certainly, much remains to be done, but lifting off, getting a great deal of staff buy in and opening it up to parents is a significant win.
Click for a larger version of this image.
Educators and politicians these days make a point of saying that U.S. schoolchildren aren’t just competing locally for good, high-paying jobs — they’re competing globally.
A detailed study lets them know just how well kids may do if they really compete globally someday — and it’s not exactly pretty.
Crunching the most recent data from a pair of U.S. and international math and science exams for middle-schoolers, Gary Phillips, a researcher at the non-profit American Institutes for Research (AIR), a non-partisan Washington think tank, finds a decidedly mixed picture: Students in most states perform as well as — or better than — peers in most foreign countries.
But he also finds that even those in the highest-scoring states, such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, are significantly below a handful of top-scoring nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
1.9MB PDF Report:
In mathematics, students in 49 states and the District of Columbia are behind their counterparts in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Students in Massachusetts are on a par with Japanese students, but trail the other four nations. In science, students in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin trail only students in Singapore and Taiwan, while performing equal or better than students in the other 45 countries surveyed.
“More than a century ago Louis Pasteur revealed the secret to invention and innovation when he said ‘chance favors the prepared mind’. The take away message from this report is that the United States is loosing the race to prepare the minds of the future generation,” said Dr. Phillips.
Students in the District of Columbia had the lowest U.S. performance in mathematics (they did not participate in the science test). In math, the average D.C. student is at the Below Basic level, putting them behind students in 29 countries and ahead of those in 14 countries. In science, nine states are at the Below Basic level: Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Alabama, Hawaii, California and Mississippi.
Clusty Search: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) | Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS)
The word “mediation” usually isnt all that menacing. But these days, and in this district, “mediation” packs plenty of punch.
A few weeks ago the Waukesha School Board announced it had taken its teachers to mediation. That means a neutral party will try to negotiate a settlement between the teachers union (the Education Association of Waukesha) and the board.
Whats most significant about the boards action is the mediator can declare an impasse and send the proposals to an arbitrator. And that, my friend, is a big deal.
Why? First, because arbitration is the labor-relations version of high-stakes poker. Its a winner-take-all proposition. Both sides present their proposal to a (supposedly) neutral third party, who picks the plan he or she believes fairest. There is no in-between – you win or you lose.
Arbitration also is a big deal because its hardly ever done, at least when state public schools are involved.
“Yes, its significant,” said David Schmidt, superintendent of the School District of Waukesha for the past 10 years. “Its the first time weve done it since Ive been here.”
Schmidt says he is fine with the teachers union, that the real trouble is in Madison. (The EAW is very much in agreement.) But right now, the problem has to be fixed closer to home. “What we can control locally are our expenditures,” Schmidt says.
Links and notes on Madison’s recent teacher’s contract.
“I’m afraid the game is over. In our American academia, the arts must be satisfied with the leftovers.”
Morning Edition, NPR
A few weeks ago, I offered up the thoughts of Gary Walters, the distinguished athletic director at Princeton, that sport should be held in the same high regard as art.
I thought it was a rather interesting and cogent opinion for someone to posit, but in the fabled words of the longtime football announcer, Keith Jackson: “Whoa, Nellie!” Never have I suffered such a battering. I think the nicest thing I was called in the responses that poured in, dripping with blood, was “apologist dingbat.”
But then, after I withdrew the slings and arrows from my person and assessed the reaction, I realized how almost all the responses didn’t really bother to address the question posed: Whether, in fact, sport might be an art. No, they were just mad, full of rage and fury. But it did serve to inform me all the more how much antipathy there does exist toward the American system of school sports.
Here are just a few of the more restrained comments:
Continue reading Comparing Sports, Arts is Dangerous Business →
This report includes an updated Pangloss Index, based on a new round of state reports submitted in 2007. As Table 1 shows, many states look about the same Wisconsin and Iowa are tied for first, distinguishing themselves by insisting that their states house a pair of educational utopias along the upper Mississippi River. In contrast, Massachusetts—which is the highest-performing state in the country according to the NAEP—continues to hold itself to far tougher standards than most, showing up at 46th, near the bottom of the list.
Wisconsin – especially the state Department of Public Instruction – continues to avoid taking steps to increase the success of low-performing children in the state, a national non-profit organization says in a report released today.
For the second year in a row, Education Sector put Wisconsin at the top of its Pangloss Index, a ranking of states based on how much they are overly cheery about how their students are doing. Much of the ranking is based on the author’s assessment of data related to what a state is doing to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
“Wisconsin policy-makers are fooling parents by pretending that everything is perfect,” said Kevin Carey, research and policy manager for the organization. “As a result, the most vulnerable students aren’t getting the attention they need.”
DPI officials declined to comment on the new report because they had not seen it yet. In 2006, Tony Evers, the deputy state superintendent of public instruction, objected strongly to a nearly identical ranking from Education Sector and said state officials and schools were focused on improving student achievement, especially of low-income and minority students on the short end of achievement gaps in education.
The report is the latest of several over the last two years from several national groups that have said Wisconsin is generally not doing enough to challenge its schools and students to do better. The groups can be described politically as centrist to conservative and broadly supportive of No Child Left Behind. Education Sector’s founders include Andrew Rotherham, a former education adviser to President Bill Clinton, and the group describes itself as non-partisan.
Several of the reports have contrasted Wisconsin and Massachusetts as states with similar histories of offering high-quality education but different approaches toward setting statewide standards now. Massachusetts has drawn praise for action it has taken in areas such as testing the proficiency of teachers, setting the bar high on standardized tests and developing rigorous education standards.
The Education Sector report and Carey did the same. The report rated Massachusetts as 46th in the nation, meaning it is one of the most demanding states when it comes to giving schools high ratings.
Carey said that in 1992, Wisconsin outscored Massachusetts in the nationwide testing program known as NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But Wisconsin is now behind that state in every area of NAEP testing, he said.
“Unlike Wisconsin, Massachusetts has really challenged its schools,” Carey said.
Additional commentary from TJ Mertz and Joanne Jacobs. All about Pangloss.
Madison’s Midvale School is hosting a pancake breakfast this Saturday, 11/17/2007 from 8:30 to 11:00a.m. 502 Caromar Dr Madison, WI 53711 [Map] $4.00 per person / $12.00 per family.
Peter Schmidt in The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “(t)he Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit research organization, favorably reviews several Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in a report scheduled to be released this week.
The study evaluated course materials, teacher’s guides, and examinations used in connection with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in biology, English, history, and mathematics. Based on reviews of the materials conducted by experts in the fields covered, the report concludes that the courses generally merit praise. The biology offerings in particular deserve high marks, it says.
The researchers did not examine how well the courses are actually being taught, and its report warns that “successful implementation of these programs depends on the availability of talented, motivated, and well-educated teachers.”
The institute plans to make the report available online as of Tuesday, although it is not scheduled for release to the public until the following day.”
Will the board continue to be weak — letting the super set the agenda and following along? Or, will the board exert some leadership?
Notice of Madison School Board Meetings
Week of November 12, 2007
Thursday, November 15
1025 West Johnson Street
Madison, WI 53706
Math Task Force – Student Achievement and Data Working Group
1. Introductions and Review of Agenda
2. Main Questions to be Answered by Data for the Mathematics Task Force and the Priority of the Questions
3. Data Sources and Availability
4. Necessary Resources to Produce the Needed Analyses
5. Adjournment Education Sciences Bldg.
Via a reader email – Daniel de Vise:
In a notebook on her desk at Rock View Elementary School, Principal Patsy Roberson keeps tabs on every student: red for those who have failed to attain proficiency on Maryland’s statewide exam, an asterisk for students learning English and squares for black or Hispanic children whose scores place them “in the gap.”
Roberson and the Rock View faculty are having remarkable success lifting children out of that gap, the achievement gap that separates poor and minority children from other students and represents one of public education’s most intractable problems.
They have done it with an unusual approach. The Kensington school’s 497 students are grouped into classrooms according to reading and math ability for more than half of the instructional day.
The technique, called performance-based grouping, is uncommon in the region. Some educators believe it too closely resembles tracking, the outmoded practice of assigning students to inflexible academic tracks by ability.
Educators say Rock View, however, is using the same basic concept to opposite effect, and the results have been positive. While some other Montgomery County schools serving low-income populations have posted higher test scores, few have shown such improvement or consistency across socioeconomic and racial lines.
Joanne has more.
IN THE 1990s New York City’s success in cutting crime became a model for America and the world. Innovative policing methods, guided by the “broken windows” philosophy of cracking down on minor offences to encourage a culture of lawfulness, showed that a seemingly hopeless situation could be turned around. It made the name of the mayor, Rudy Giuliani, now a presidential aspirant.
Hopeless is how many people feel about America’s government-funded public schools, particularly in the dodgier parts of big cities, where graduation rates are shockingly low and many fail to achieve basic levels of literacy and numeracy. As with urban crime, failing urban schools are preoccupying countries the world over. And just as New York pointed the way on fighting crime, under another mayor, Michael Bloomberg, it is now emerging as a model for school reform.
On November 5th Mr Bloomberg announced a new “report card” for the city’s schools, designed to make them accountable for their performance. The highest-graded schools will get an increased budget and perhaps a bonus for the principal (head teacher). Schools that fail will not be tolerated: unless their performance improves, their principals will be fired, and if that does not do the trick, they will be closed. This is the culmination of a series of reforms that began when Mr Bloomberg campaigned for, and won, direct control of the school system after becoming mayor in 2002. Even before the “report cards”, there have been impressive signs of improvement, including higher test scores and better graduation rates.
NYC School Progress Reports:
Progress Reports grade each school with an A, B, C, D, or F. These reports help parents, teachers, principals, and others understand how well schools are doing—and compare them to other, similar schools. Most schools received pilot Progress Reports for the 2005-06 school year in spring 2007. Progress Reports for Early Childhood and Special Education schools will be piloted during the 2007-08 academic year.
To find the Progress Report for your school, go to Find a School and enter the school’s name or number. This will bring you to the school’s Web page. Click on “Statistics,” which is a link on the left side of the page, where various accountability information can be found for each school. You can also ask your parent coordinator for a copy of your school’s Progress Report or e-mail PR_Support@schools.nyc.gov with questions. Click here to view the Progress Report results for all schools Citywide.
Schools that get As and Bs on their Progress Reports will be eligible for rewards. The Department of Education will work with schools that get low grades to help them improve. Schools that get low grades will also face consequences, such as leadership changes or closure. This is an important part of our work to hold children’s schools accountable for living up to the high standards we all expect them to achieve.
The Great Experiment:
Bringing accountability and competition to New York City’s struggling schools.
THE 220 children are called scholars, not students, at the Excellence charter school in Brooklyn‘s impoverished Bedford-Stuyvesant district. To promote the highest expectations, the scholars—who are all boys, mostly black and more than half of whom get free or subsidised school lunches—are encouraged to think beyond school, to university. Outside each classroom is a plaque, with the name of a teacher’s alma mater, and then the year (2024 in the case of the kindergarten), in which the boys will graduate from college.
Like the other charter schools that are fast multiplying across America, Excellence is an independently run public school that has been allowed greater flexibility in its operations in return for greater accountability, though it cannot select its pupils, instead choosing them by lottery. If it fails, the principal (head teacher) will be held accountable, and the school could be closed. Three years old, Excellence is living up to its name: 92% of its third-grade scholars (eight-year-olds, the oldest boys it has, so far) scored “advanced” or “proficient” in New York state English language exams this year, compared to an average (for fourth-graders) across the state of 68% and only 62% in the Big Apple. They did even better in mathematics.
Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:
When Lindsey Jones was deciding which high school to attend in a district that offers nearly three dozen options for secondary education, she was swayed by the Boston Community Leadership Academy’s claims that it would prepare her well for college. She didn’t realize how well until she started classes at the 400-student academy, part of a network of small schools the Boston district established more than a decade ago to provide alternatives outside its traditional system of large, comprehensive high schools and selective exam schools.
A four-year study of that network, released this week, shows that the academy and the nine other “pilot” high schools in the 56,000-student district are seeing more students through to graduation than regular high schools here. They also have significantly higher promotion and graduation rates, fewer dropouts, and fewer disciplinary issues.
Conceived in 1994 as the district’s response to charter schools, pilot schools have won praise from educators, business leaders, and community groups for providing school choice and innovation within the city’s public school system.
Still, some observers say their results are due more to the schools’ ability to choose or remove teachers, lower proportions of high-needs students, and the control they have in selecting students or weeding out those who are not likely to succeed in them.
Strong Results, High Demand, a Four Year Study of Boston’s Pilot High Schools 4.3MB PDF.
The Economist (Los Angeles & New Orleans):
OUTSIDE New York, as usual, it is a different story. Most American mayors look longingly at Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments and wish they were equally mighty. West of the Mississippi, none has succeeded in seizing control of a school system. Nor are they likely to be able to do so: the early 20th century progressive movement, strongest in the West, severely blunted their powers. “We haven’t had reform from the top here,” says Eli Broad, a Los Angeles philanthropist. “So instead we’re seeing change from the bottom up.”
In the vanguard are charter schools like the Academy of Opportunity [Ask Google Live Yahoo] in south-central Los Angeles. Here 13- and 14-year-olds, almost all of them black or Hispanic, firmly shake your hand and outline their plans to go to Yale and Stanford. They work long hours—from 7.30am to 5pm five days a week, plus four hours every other Saturday. The grind pays off. At the end of their first year in the school just 28% of pupils are proficient or advanced in maths, compared to 48% of pupils elsewhere in California. By the time they leave, three years later, they far outperform their peers.
1 Madison East MAEA 233
2 Madison Memorial MAME 229.5
3 Middleton MIDD 203.5
4 Waukesha South/Mukwonago WSMU 191
5 Arrowhead ARRO 176
6 Oshkosh West OWES 130
7 Madison West MAWE 129
8 Bay Port BAYP 107
9 Badger/Big Foot/Williams Bay BBWB 86
10 Brookfield East BREA 82
Congratulations to all participants.
Madison East High’s website.
The American Beverage Association is supporting proposed U.S. Farm Bill legislation that would curb the sale of soft drinks in schools.
The proposed legislation would limit the sale of sports drinks to athletic areas in high schools. Only bottled water, milk, juice or other drinks containing no more than 25 calories for every eight ounces would be allowed, the Wall Street Journal said Friday.
Interesting perspective, that perhaps speaks to their market power.
A total of 92 students were recommended for expulsion in 2006-07, compared with 105 similar recommendations the previous year. Students are recommended for expulsion for a serious violation of the district’s student conduct and discipline plan.
Following the recommendation, the student may be expelled, or may be diverted or dismissed from the process for special education reasons, or because there is not sufficient proof of the violation.
According to the report, 12 students were expelled for use of force against a staff member, eight were expelled for possession of a weapon with intent to use, and seven were expelled for possessing an illegal drug with intent to deliver.
Other offenses included engaging in physical acts of violence as part of a gang (four students), possession of a bomb or explosive device or making a bomb threat (three students), possession of a pellet or BB gun (three students), and physical attacks, arson, serious threats to students and something called “volatile acts.”
School Board President Arlene Silveira noted that the board will be considering expulsion policies at its meeting on Monday.
“The board has had a series of meetings to ensure that we have a fair, consistent and unbiased process for considering expulsions,” Silveira said. “This is an ongoing process, and we will be taking a look at how we fairly handle the student code of conduct in coming meetings.”
Much more on gangs and school violence.
Need a Little Drama in Your Life?
Come support the drama communities at East and West!
At West HS [Map] — “I Hate Hamlet”
Friday, November 9, 7:30
Saturday, November 10, 7:30
At East HS [Map] — “The Crucible”
Thursday, November 15, 7:30
Friday, November 16, 7:30
Saturday, November 17, 2:30 and 7:30
Students and staff at James C. Wright Middle School will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the charter school through a Give Us 10! campaign. Wright students will read 10 books outside of the classroom curriculum and then create a mural showcasing their hand prints and the book titles they’ve read. This colorful symbol of student achievement will be showcased in the LMC at Wright.
Community members are welcome to join in the celebration by honoring students who reach the ten book goal. They can show their support by contributing $10 to the Wright Middle School Endowment at the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, so they too can Give Us 10!
Continue reading Wright Middle School Celebrates 10 years with Give Us 10! Campaign →
If you feel like work is getting harder, it’s not just your imagination, says Malcolm Gladwell.
The bestselling author of Blink and The Tipping Point says the mental demands of the workplace are steadily growing — and we’re all going to have to smarten up if we want to succeed.
“I’m quite prepared for the possibility that the next revolution is not going to come from a machine,” says Mr. Gladwell, 44, a staff writer for New Yorker magazine, who has carved out his own niche as a business guru. “It’s going to come from creating a more thoughtful work force and giving people the opportunity to be thoughtful.”
Among his recommendations: Business leaders should get more involved in education policy debates, Canada should consider other countries’ models for teaching advanced mathematics, and hiring managers should stop looking for a perfect fit when scouting for employees.
When you say that the cognitive demands of the workplace will be growing, what do you mean?
We will require, from a larger and larger percentage of our work force, the ability to engage in relatively complicated analytical and cognitive tasks. So it’s not that we’re going to need more geniuses, but the 50th percentile is going to have to be better educated than they are now. We’re going to have to graduate more people from high school who’ve done advanced math, is a very simple way of putting it.
Math Forum Audio / Video.