The Milwaukee School Board: “A Very Sad Scandal” Lightbourn:

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

The Spellings Plan for College Student Aid Simplification

Doug Lederman:

In a speech tonight at Harvard University, the U.S. education secretary will unveil a proposal to greatly simplify the process by which students apply for federal financial aid. Under the plan, which flows from a set of ideas floated by Under Secretary Sara Martinez Tucker at an Education Department summit in July, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid would shrink from more than 100 questions to 26, and students would find out before their senior year of high school how much federal financial aid they would qualify for.
“This all flies under the rubric of needing to make this process much much less burdensome,” Spellings said in an interview in her office Monday. “Right now, it’s like we’re trying to keep people out of college, not get them in…. The whole thing is, ‘You want to go to college? Here are seven pages of bureaucracy, and here’s what you’re going to have to do to get it.’ As opposed to, ‘Here’s a simple way to do it, and here’s what we’re going to do for you, so you can get it.’ It’s the whole psychology.”

“Limit Low Income Housing” – Madison Police Official

Patricia Simms:

A top Madison Police Department official says the city should reduce or freeze building low-income housing because the tenants are overwhelming police services.
In addition, Jay Lengfeld, captain of the West District, wrote an e-mail to Madison Alderman Thuy Pham-Remmele, 20th District, on Monday in which he suggested the city should license landlords to “weed out the bad ones” and give landlords more leeway to reject applicants with a history of bad behavior.
“The city needs to reduce or freeze the number of subsidized housing units in the city,” he wrote. “The at-risk population in Madison has exceeded the ability of service providers to service them.”
Lengfeld’s comments, part of an exchange of e-mails between Lengfeld and Pham-Remmele over quality of life issues on the West Side, sparked the wrath of at least one affordable housing advocate.

A Broader Definition of Merit: The Trouble With College Entry Exams

Brent Staples:

Imagine yourself an admissions director of a status-seeking college that wants desperately to move up in the rankings. With next year’s freshman class nearly filled, you are choosing between two applicants. The first has very high SAT scores, but little else to recommend him. The second is an aspiring doctor who tests poorly but graduated near the top of his high school class while volunteering as an emergency medical technician in his rural county.
This applicant has the kind of background that higher education has always claimed to covet. But the pressures that are driving colleges — and the country as a whole — to give college entry exams more weight than they were ever intended to have would clearly work against him. Those same pressures are distorting the admissions process, corrupting education generally and slanting the field toward students whose families can afford test preparation classes.
Consider the admissions director at our hypothetical college. He knows that college ranking systems take SAT’s and ACT’s into account. He knows that bond-rating companies look at the same scores when judging a college’s credit worthiness. And in lean times like these, he would be especially eager for a share of the so-called merit scholarship money that state legislators give students who test well.

Parents Give Up Youths Under Law Meant for Babies

Erik Eckholm:

The abandonments began on Sept. 1, when a mother left her 14-year-old son in a police station here.
y Sept. 23, two more boys and one girl, ages 11 to 14, had been abandoned in hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln. Then a 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were left.
The biggest shock to public officials came last week, when a single father walked into an Omaha hospital and surrendered nine of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, saying that his wife had died and he could no longer cope with the burden of raising them.
In total last month, 15 older children in Nebraska were dropped off by a beleaguered parent or custodial aunt or grandmother who said the children were unmanageable.

Hartland Arrowhead Honored for Best High School Musical


A Wisconsin high school will receive an award Thursday for producing the best high school musical in the nation.
Arrowhead High School about 30 miles west of Milwaukee is being honored for last year’s production of “Cats.”
The school has spent the past decade developing a musical theater program so strong students joke the Broadway Company is a varsity sport. Its graduates have gone on to major in music at Harvard University, Lawrence University and the Chicago College of the Performing Arts.

American Math Chuckleheads

Rich Karlgaard:

I got an e-mail titled “An Angry American With An Idea.” This e-mail must have gone viral, because I received it a half-dozen times. You probably got it too. Here is what it said:

“I’m against the $85,000,000,000 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a ‘We Deserve It Dividend.’ To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bona fide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/-, counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion. That equals $425,000. My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a ‘We Deserve It Dividend.’ “

The letter goes on and describes the many wonderful things that could happen in America if each adult had an extra $425,000.
Now the funny part. Friends and colleagues–they shall remain anonymous–who passed this e-mail along would append a note: “You should read this.” “This actually makes sense.”
Not once did anyone point out the Angry American’s wee calculation flaw. Eighty-five billion dollars divided by 200 million people is $425, not $425,000.

Madison School District Facing Class-Action Lawsuit Over Open Enrollment


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.

Arts Task Force to present findings and recommendations to Madison School Board: Presentation at 6 pm, Monday, October 6, 2008

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:

  1. Identify community goals for Madison Metropolitan School District K-12 Fine Arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
Fine Arts Task Force Report [1.62MB PDF] and appendices:

For more information, contact Anne Katz, Task Force co-chair, 608 335 7909 |

More Online Education Options: Now from Wharton High School @ U of Pennsylvania

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.

3 Madison schools offer free fresh fruit, veggies

The Capital Times:

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program has expanded to 56 schools in Wisconsin this year, including three Madison elementary schools, providing free fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day to all students wanting a quick nutritious snack.
The state received $870,994 in the national farm bill for the program, which works out to $51 per student for the 17,000 state students served.
The program started in 2002 as a way to combat obesity in kids. Funding is geared to schools with a higher incidence of students from economically disadvantaged families.
Madison schools getting funding through the program for fresh fruits and vegetables include Falk Elementary ($15,700), Glendale Elementary ($20,696) and Hawthorne Elementary ($16,312).

Contentless Writing

Mr. Fitzhugh [] is Editor and Publisher of The Concord Review and Founder of the National Writing Board and the TCR Institute [].
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

Curriculum Compacting: One way to help advanced students move ahead and learn at their own level.

Tamara Fisher:

Professional development. What thoughts and feelings do those words conjure up for you? Excitement? Boredom? A chance to improve your skills and learn new, interesting teaching strategies? Or a painful time of listening to someone talk about a topic you already know?
We’ve all been there–sitting in a required in-service class listening to someone go over Bloom’s Taxonomy or some other concept or strategy that we’ve been using effortlessly for years. We grumble our way through the session, irritated that we have to sit on our butts “re-learning” a topic we could have taught just as well ourselves, if not better. Partly we’re irritated because we have so much else to do! Many teachers would categorize a situation like this as wasted time.
Of course, not all professional development is like that. But I use the example because it is a great way to help teachers relate to what a gifted kid experiences when the material being taught in class is not at the right readiness-level for him or her. We don’t like it when someone else puts us into that kind of a situation, yet we routinely do the same to the gifted students.

Owl Creek neighborhood raises red flags for city, schools

Sandy Cullen:

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.

Autonomy “Key to School Success”


Independent schools get better results than state schools because they have the freedom to tailor teaching to the needs of their pupils, researchers say.
A University of Buckingham report found social background and ability were not the only factors behind higher grades in private schools.
The study said autonomy meant decisions were made close to the classroom.
The findings showed how the quality of education could be improved in the state school sector, the report added.

Wisconsin “School Lawsuit Facts” Site Posted by PR Firm

“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?”

Education funding and bureaucracy

“The Punch:

A recent World Bank report on the Federal Government’s funding of the education sector has revealed a disproportionate allocation of funds to the payment of salaries and wages. The report titled “A Review of the Cost and Financing of Public Education” states that while funding levels increased from N30.6 billion in 1999 to N205.2 billion in 2007, public expenditure on education declined in real terms as the increase in funding did not translate into a commensurate improvement in the provision of facilities, equipment, infrastructure and services.
Giving the breakdown of the total sum of N738 billion the FG allocated to the sector between 1999 and 2007, the report revealed that the Federal Ministry of Education and its four key agencies spent about N472 billion on salaries and wages, leaving a paltry sum of N265 billion for infrastructure development. For the 2008 budget, the FG devoted N210 billion or 13 per cent of the total budget to education, apart from another N39.7 billion earmarked as intervention fund for the UBE programme.
It is claimed that the funds the National Universities Commission and the federal universities devoted to salaries and wages alone peaked at 83 per cent of the FG’s university funding in 2007. Other streams of education, including colleges of education, similarly recorded high percentages in personnel costs.

Lost Cause: Why do My Children Lose Everything?

Emily Bazelon:

ere must be a hidden graveyard for them or a coach who picks them up after practice and cuts them up to make leather jackets. Two Fridays ago, we had four soccer balls: two for 8-year-old Eli to practice with; a slightly smaller one for his younger brother, Simon; and a special, pristine ball that Eli’s teammates in Washington, D.C., signed for him when he left the team last summer because we were moving to a new city. Last Friday, five minutes before Simon’s soccer practice, we had only one ball. The unblemished one with the signatures. Understandably, Eli didn’t want Simon to take it to practice. But where had all the other ones gone? Neither of my boys knew. I tore around the house and the garage. Well, actually, Eli allowed, one or maybe two of the balls had somehow failed to make it home from practice the previous week. What to do now? Fume.
“Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/ of lost door keys, the hour badly spent./ The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote. Yet I can’t accept the fluster. My children’s penchant for leaving their belongings strewn behind them–a long tail of balls and toys and lunchboxes and socks and shoes and sweatshirts–makes me fear that they are heedless prima donnas who will never be ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. And then, of course, I’m forced to concede that I seem to have raised them to be this way. The ritual of losing things makes me wonder about the line between taking good care of your kids and impossibly coddling them. Have middle-class American parents like us forever blurred the distinction?

SAT: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Scott Jaschik:

For decades, critics of standardized testing — and especially of the SAT – have said that these examinations fail to capture important qualities, resulting in admissions systems that favor certain groups over others, while failing to represent test takers’ full identities. And generally, these critics have said, the qualities that the SAT is best at identifying are those that wealthy white students are more likely than others to possess.
On Saturday at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the College Board — the creator and defender of the SAT — said pretty much what critics have been saying all along. The board presented the most detailed results yet of new approaches to standardized tests that would measure non-cognitive qualities and could become what some have called the “SAT III.”
Thus far, the board has found that there are specific non-cognitive qualities that relate to college success, and that these qualities can be measured. Further, board research suggests that if the admissions process included these qualities in addition to traditional measures, black and Latino enrollments would increase significantly while white and Asian enrollments would drop — the latter significantly at the most competitive colleges.

To School or Not to School: Parents Skip Lesson Plans

John Edwards, III:

It’s safe to say my wife and I considered keeping our kids out of school about as much as we considered not feeding and clothing them.
Joanne Rendell, a New York City novelist and mother of a near-5-year-old, is taking a very different approach. She wrote recently on the Babble parenting Web site about a philosophy she and some other parents are adhering to: unschooling. Ms. Rendell’s son, Benny, by age would be starting kindergarten around now, but instead she and her partner are keeping him at home for a much more loosely structured experience.
So, rather than wake up early to rush to regimented lessons in a big building, Benny wakes up at midday and heads with his mother to Brooklyn for a playgroup with other unschooled kids. Ms. Rendell writes: “[U]n-kindergarten for us … means we don’t have to worry about bedtimes and can go out on the town with friends any night of the week. He can read a book on sharks when he feels like it. He can experiment with bungee cords while eating his breakfast at noon.”

Arizona AG: “Virtual Meetings OK

Paul Davenport:

Arizona school boards, city councils and other public bodies can meet online to discuss public business but that they still need to accommodate the public, Attorney General Terry Goddard said Tuesday.
Telecommunications technology offers the promise of widening public access to meetings held through webcasts and other means, Goddard said. “This promise, however, is counterbalanced by the potential for abuse or technical obstacles for some citizens to access the meeting.”
Goddard discussed the issue in a legal opinion that reviewed a plan by the Camp Verde Unified School District’s governing board to meet online to discuss a document.

Education: One size does not fit all

John Carey:

During deliberations on House Bill 119 – the state budget bill for fiscal years 2009-10 – the Strickland administration worked with the Legislature to invest an unprecedented amount of money in higher education, recognizing its importance to Ohio’s future success.
A major player in these discussions was former state senator and current Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, who was appointed by Strickland in 2007 to help expand access to Ohio’s higher education institutions, increase the number of Ohioans with college degrees and help attract and retain talented students that will strengthen the state’s workforce and grow our economy.
I believe the governor made the right decision in choosing Fingerhut. In more than a year on the job, he has done many good things and has broadened support for higher education. In fact, in March, the chancellor unveiled a 10-year strategic plan for higher education, which includes the goal of enrolling 230,000 more students in Ohio’s colleges and universities by 2017.

The New Paternalism in Urban Schools

David Whitman:

By the time youngsters reach high school in the United States, the achievement gap is immense. The average black 12th grader has the reading and writing skills of a typical white 8th grader and the math skills of a typical white 7th grader. The gap between white and Hispanic students is similar. But some remarkable inner-city schools are showing that the achievement gap can be closed, even at the middle and high school level, if poor minority kids are given the right kind of instruction.
Over the past two years, I have visited six outstanding schools. (For a list of schools, see sidebar.) All of these educational gems enroll minority youngsters from rough urban neighborhoods with initially poor to mediocre academic skills; all but one are open-admission schools that admit students mostly by lottery. Their middle school students perform as well as their white peers, and in some middle schools, minority students learn at a rate comparable to that of affluent white students in their state’s top schools. (For one impressive example, see Figure 1.) At the high school level, low-income minority students are more likely to matriculate to college than their more advantaged peers, with more than 95 percent of graduates gaining admission to college. Not surprisingly, they all have gifted, deeply committed teachers and dedicated, forceful principals. They also have rigorous academic standards, test students frequently, and carefully monitor students’ academic performance to assess where students need help. “Accountability,” for both teachers and students, is not a loaded code word but a lodestar. Students take a college-prep curriculum and are not tracked into vocational or noncollege-bound classes. Most of the schools have uniforms or a dress code, an extended school day, and three weeks of summer school.

Sun Prairie teacher with creative approach to reading honored

Pamela Cotant:

Sandra Kowalczyk’s creative approach to helping students read is evident when you walk into her classroom at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie.
Kowalczyk, who has traveled to 55 countries in five continents, decorated her room with a variety of artifacts such as wood carvings and masks from Ghana, batik sarongs from Malaysia and Indonesia, mud paintings from the Ivory Coast, mola cloth from Panama, puppets from India and books from around the world.
“My philosophy is build interest, give them background,” said Kowalczyk, who was named the Wisconsin Middle/Junior High School Teacher of the Year.
As Teacher of the Year, she received $3,000 from Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., through the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. She was recognized by state Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster along with the other three 2008-09 Teachers of the Year during the recent State of Education speech and awards ceremony at the Capitol.