Madison School Board Discussion: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys

22MB mp3 audio file. A summary of the survey can be seen here. The Board and Administration are to be commended for this effort. It will be interesting to see how this initiative plays out.

7 thoughts on “Madison School Board Discussion: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys”

  1. I agree that Dr. Nerad is to be supremely commended for his willingness to listen to families who have opted out of our schools. Many of us have been arguing for “exit interviews” for years in order to see what we could learn. I hope there is ongoing effort put in this direction, as Kurt Kiefer made clear there could be. For example, I don’t think the sample included the families who opted out during this year’s open enrollment season (though I could be wrong about that). Given the significant increase in “leavers” this year, I would hope we follow up with them quickly. I suspect they would tell us the same sorts of things we see in the current results. But maybe not — maybe we’d learn something new — and, in any event, the sample size would be larger.
    The thing is, I’m not sure that more comments about disruptive classrooms and weak curriculum would convince everyone that these are real problems in need of real solutions. I was at the meeting last night and I must say, it was stunning — absolutely stunning — to watch as a couple of BOE members held tight to their rose-colored glasses (or were they blinders?) and continued to want to talk only about what’s good in the MMSD. Even in the light of these survey results, there were comments about misguided public “perceptions” and the need for better PR. As I have said many times, I believe it is this discomfort with the negative aspects of our communal reality — this need to minimize, if not deny; to cheerlead, rather than face problems head on — that has gotten us where we are. Our school district is falling apart. The things we are doing for our students are not working. New facades on our buildings will not fix that.
    I wish more people understood that the good things about our schools don’t go away when we take the time to address the bad things. Au contraire, I believe we risk losing the good things when we persist in our denial.

  2. Laurie:
    “Our school district is falling apart. The things we are doing for our students are not working.”
    Could you provide some real concrete examples — not anecdotes, but long-term analysis of data, or some hard facts — that support such a sweeping conclusion? Please provide something other than your oft-stated concerns about the English curriculum at West High, if possible.

  3. Ah, yes, I get bored with myself, too, sometimes, Phil. It’s hard to keep saying the same things over and over and still respect oneself in the morning. 🙂 Please accept my apologies. BTW, I hope you appreciate that my oft-stated concerns about English at West High School have been as much concerns about PROCESS as they have been about CONTENT. And by PROCESS I mean both the manner of implementation, as well as the tragically familiar lack of post-implementation evaluation. English 10 was implemented in order to address the poor performance and under-achievement of some groups of students in English, including their failure to take more rigorous, writing-intensive English electives as upperclassmen. To close a very specific achievement gap, if you will. Has it helped? Is that gap smaller? We don’t know because we haven’t looked to see, and apparently we aren’t going to. I went ’round and ’round with West HS Principal Ed Holmes a while ago about the need for follow-up; in the end, he denied that closing that gap had been part of the motivation for the change. Sigh. What to do? I’ve never been able to figure out how to manage that sort of endgame.
    But my comments here — that the things we’re doing aren’t working — are not about English at West or even about our high-performing students, wherever they may be in the District. I was thinking mainly about the evidence regarding our SLC initiatives, at both Memorial and West. If you go back to the SIS homepage, you’ll find several links to data analyses along the righthand side of the page.
    I suppose you could also look at the post listed there on the District’s dropout data for the second half of the 1990’s. It’s called something like “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine — NOT!”
    Thanks for asking.

  4. I attended Monday’s Board meeting, and I felt the majority of the School Board took the contents of Kurt’s report seriously, knowing full well changes need to be made and in many cases understanding what that means. The report, complete with the comments made by respondents to the survey, and the discussion were a significant improvement over what I had witnessed at School Board meetings only a few years ago.

  5. Superintendent Nerad and Mr. Kiefer deserve great praise for undertaking this survey. (Many thanks, also, to Jim Zellmer for posting the survey, responses and board discussion.) I hope that this can be a first step toward opening a meaningful conversation with parents about these concerns. Although I wish that the net had been cast wider for survey respondents, the survey responses are very consistent with what I hear (first-hand) from parents (in a wide range of schools and grade levels) that have made and are making this difficult choice. Would it not make sense to begin this conversation with families before they are out the door?

  6. Just to be clear, Barb’s comments are not at all inconsistent with mine. Yes, the majority “get it” (for which I am grateful) and yes, it is a definite improvement over years past. But there were still moments when I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

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