Since 1984 I have been following issues in and around Milwaukee Public Schools. That means that, since 1984 I have been searching for who is responsible for the pitiful state of education in Milwaukee. At long last I found the culprit; it is the Milwaukee School Board. That board has proven itself to be self-serving, insular and overtly political.
Their high crime is that this body, entrusted to care for Milwaukee’s children, has been caught stealing money that should have been put into the classrooms of schools throughout the city.
Like the scandals that brought down huge corporations, from Enron to Fannie Mae, the evidence of the crime was assembled by accountants. Last week the WPRI released a report, authored by Christian Schneider, showing that the MPS board has racked up $2.2 billion of unfunded liabilities to pay the health care cost of retired employees. That means that the board committed to pay $2.2 billion it does not have. That also means that for years, while begging for more money to address the all-to-real challenges of urban education, the MPS board had already decided that their top priority was to pay for retiree health care costs.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
The Milwaukee School Board should censure member Charlene Hardin and forbid her from taking any more trips after records revealed she racked up bills of more than $8,500 while jetting around the country on the school district’s dime. For one trip, she billed Milwaukee Public Schools more than $400 to rent a Chrysler 300 Touring car for two days.
In a column Thursday, the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice revealed that Hardin was hit in March with a nearly $300 penalty for smoking cigarettes while staying at a smoke-free Marriott in Washington
he Madison Metropolitan School District is facing a federal class-action lawsuit.
An East High School parent claims a request to transfer her daughter out of the district was been denied based on race.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court on Wednesday, claims the Madison school district discriminated against a white, female student who wanted to transfer from East High School using open enrollment.
At the time, in the 2006-2007 school year, the transfer request was denied because it would increase the racial imbalance in the district. It was the district’s policy at the time, but that policy was changed earlier this year after a Supreme Court ruling involving school districts in Seattle and Louisville, WISC-TV reported.
“I believe this district had a policy that was absolutely consistent with state law,” Madison Schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad said. “When there was a legal decision by the highest court of the land… that was no longer a factor. I believe the district responded very responsibly in making a change in the policy.”
Much more on open enrollment here.
Andy Hall has more:
In the 2006-07 school year, Madison was the only one of the state’s 426 school districts to deny transfer requests because of race, rejecting 126 white students’ applications to enroll in other districts, including online schools, records show.
Doyle Administration Building, 545 West Dayton Street, Madison [Map]
“The arts are not a luxury; they are essential”. State Supt. of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster
Being concerned about the effect of cuts to funding, staffing and instruction time on arts education and the effect of these cuts on low-income students and students of color, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Board of Education formed the district’s Fine Arts Task Force in January 2007 to respond to three charges:
- Identify community goals for Madison Metropolitan School District K-12 Fine Arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular.
- Recommend up to five ways to increase minority student participation and participation of low-income students in Fine Arts at elementary, middle and high school levels.
- Make recommendations regarding priorities for district funding of Fine Arts.
Members of the Task Force will present the findings and recommendations to the MMSD School Board on Monday, October, 6, 2008, at 6:15 pm, in the McDaniels Auditorium of the Doyle Administration Building, 545 West Dayton Street, Madison.
Students, parents and the general public are encouraged to attend to show support for the role of the arts in ensuring a quality education for every MMSD student. Attendees can register in support of the report at the meeting.
Nineteen community members, including 5 MMSD students, were appointed by the School Board to the Task Force, which met numerous times from February 2007 through June 2008. The Task Force received a great deal of supportive assistance from the Madison community and many individuals throughout the 16 month information gathering and , deliberation process. More than 1,000 on-line surveys were completed by community members, parents, artists, arts organizations, students, administrators and teachers, providing a wealth of information to inform the task force?s discussions and recommendations.
The full Task Force report and appendices, and a list of Task Force members, can be found at http://mmsd.org/boe/finearts/.
Fine Arts Task Force Report [1.62MB PDF] and appendices:
For more information, contact Anne Katz, Task Force co-chair, 608 335 7909 | email@example.com.
Knowledge @ Wharton High School, via a kind reader email:
Knowledge@Wharton High School is an interactive site for high school students interested in finding out more about the world of business. It’s a subject that touches your lives in many ways — from the malls you shop and the plastics you recycle to the entrepreneurs, sports managers, fashion designers, stock brokers, artists and other leaders that you might become. At KWHS, you will find features about the companies you know and the people who run them, games to improve your financial skills and test your commitment to a greener marketplace, tools to explain how business works, and podcasts and videos that spotlight the world’s most creative and colorful people. As part of a network of global online business publications published by The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, KWHS will show you how your ideas can change the world.
Related: Credit for non-Madison School District courses:
In the agreement announced Tuesday, there were no program changes made to the current virtual/online curriculum, but requirements outlined in the agreement assure that classes are supervised by district teachers.
During the 2007-08 school year, there were 10 district students and 40 students from across the state who took MMSD online courses.
Mr. Fitzhugh [firstname.lastname@example.org] is Editor and Publisher of The Concord Review and Founder of the National Writing Board and the TCR Institute [www.tcr.org].
Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg was short. Indeed, the President had spoken and taken his seat before many in that large crowd gathered outdoors even realized that he had spoken. Fortunately, an alert reporter took down his words. Short as the speech was, it began with a date and a fact–the sort of factual content that is being drained away from student writing today.
The very idea of writing without content takes some getting used to. I was taken aback not long ago to read the comments of a young woman who had been asked how she felt about having a computer grade the essays that she wrote on the Graduate Management Admission Test (Mathews, 2004). She replied that she didn’t mind, noting that the test givers were more interested in her “ability to communicate” than in what she actually said.
Although style, fluency, tone, and correct grammar are certainly important in writing, folks like me think that content has value as well. The guidelines for scoring the new writing section on the SAT seem to say otherwise, however. Readers evaluating the essays are told not to take points off for factual mistakes, and they must score the essays “holistically”–at the rate of 30 an hour (Winerip, 2005).
Earlier this year, Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times (2006), reported that the the rules for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) do not allow dictionaries, but “when it comes to the writing section, there’s one rule they can break: They can make things up. Statistics. Experts. Quotes. Whatever helps them make their point.” According to Shaw, the state’s education office announced that “making up facts is acceptable when writing nonfiction, persuasive essays on the WASL.”
Lest you conclude that writing without content, or writing nonfiction with fictional content–think James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces–is limited to the Left Coast, think again. Across the United States, even the most prestigious writing workshops for teachers generally bypass the what to focus on the how.
All writing has to have some content, of course. So what are students encouraged to put down on the page? In its 2003 report, The Neglected ‘R’, The National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, gave us a clue. According to the report, the following passage by a high school student about the September 11 terrorist attacks shows “how powerfully children can express their emotions.”
“The time has come to fight back and we are. By supporting our leaders and each other, we are stronger than ever. We will never forget those who died, nor will we forgive those who took them from us.”
Or look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the supposed gold standard for evaluating academic achievement in U.S. schools, as measured and reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. In its 2002 writing assessment, in which 77 percent of 12th graders scored “Basic” or “Below Basic,” NAEP scored the following student response “Excellent.” The prompt called for a brief review of a book worth preserving. In a discussion of Herman Hesse’s Demian, in which the main character grows up and awakens to himself, the student wrote,
Continue reading Contentless Writing
The first thing the school principal noticed was the large number of new students coming from a tiny, isolated neighborhood that didn’t exist two years ago.
Then it was the repeated fights — which would begin on the bus ride home, fester in the neighborhood, then come back to school the next day, said Glendale Elementary School Principal Mickey Buhl.
And there were other troubling signs — youngsters shaving their eyebrows and cutting their hair in ways that Buhl said indicated flirtation with the idea of gangs. Glendale staff who went to the Owl Creek neighborhood, off Voges Road on the southeast side near McFarland, saw an unfinished development sandwiched between two industrial parks and far from stores, social services and bus lines.
Madison police also noticed problems. From March 1 to June 30 of this year, police responded to 81 calls for service, ranging from theft to battery, in the tiny development, said Lt. Carl Strasburg.
Related: Police calls near Madison area high schools: 1996-2006.
“School Lawsuit Facts”:
MILWAUKEE, WI, September 30, 2008 . . . Five Wisconsin school districts (the “Districts”) filed suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court yesterday seeking to rescind their $200 million investment with Stifel Nicolaus & Company, Inc. (“Stifel”) and the Royal Bank of Canada (“RBC”). They allege $150 million in losses to date.
The Districts contend Stifel and RBC either knowingly or negligently misrepresented and omitted crucial details in transactions made by the Districts to secure funding for their Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) liabilities by failing to disclose or concealing their true risks. The Districts contend such investments were unsuitable for a public trust fund. They further allege Stifel and RBC collected large fees and realized massive cost savings while effectively positioning the Districts as guarantors of an ultra-risky portfolio of assets.
The school districts include: Kenosha Unified School District; Kimberly Area School District; School District of Waukesha; West Allis – West Milwaukee School District and Whitefish Bay School District. In addition to Stifel Nicolaus and RBC, the school districts have also included James M. Zemlyak of Elm Grove in the complaint. During the time of the transaction Zemlyak was the Chief Financial Officer and Co-Chief Operations Officer for Stifel.
Madison Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Erik Kass was most recently with the Waukesha School District. Amy Hetzner and Paul Soglin have more.
Roger Frank Bass on Two Crises: Wall Street & Education:
One, $700 billion is peanuts. Low-end estimates of educational outlays are more than $400 billion per year — that’s $5.2 trillion during a child’s K-12 education, more than seven times what the government will spend to prop up “free” enterprise. (The Global Movement for Children, using United Nations data, states that the 80 million children not receiving education could be schooled for about $15 billion per year.) And, like our financial institutions, U.S. education performs less well than in virtually all developed countries despite per-student outlays that are some of the highest anywhere. In military terms, this is a clear and present danger.
Along with bankrolling failures, the parallels include lax oversight. Just as Wall Street was craftily packaging collateralized debt obligations and hedge funds, state- and local-education agencies were bundling worthless test scores into triple-A public relations.
Just as the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies failed to monitor their charges, Departments of Public Instruction and those responsible for our children’s education never demanded the transparency needed to evaluate the substandard data behind ever riskier instructional methods. When a stock market falls apart, at least we can pick ourselves up and keep going. When education falls apart, we won’t have the intellectual capital to move forward. Economic growth begins with knowledge, not money. Ask India.
These events provide timely and useful dinner conversation fodder with our children:
- “What do you think happened to the baby-sitting money deposited into the bank yesterday?”
- “What will you do one day if the money is not there?”
- “Where does the money come from?”