Mayoral Control Coming Soon to Madison Schools?

via a kind readers email – The Milwaukee Drum:

TMD has obtained an internal memo sent from Sen. Taylor (1.5MB PDF) to other state representatives (dated 11/5/09 7:35 pm) seeking their co-sponsorship for the MPS Takeover legislation. This memo not only asks for co-sponsorship, but it provides specific details of the upcoming (draft) legislation. This is what the public has been waiting for… details!
Beloved, one thing you will continue to read from me is the mantra follow the money. This entire reform gets down to one thing, money… more specifically, Race To The Top federal grants. State governors must apply for the grant and that is where this all begins with Doyle. Did you know that 50% of any grant received must be given to local educational agencies (LEAs), including public charter schools identified as LEAs under State law? I guess you won’t see many preachers in Milwaukee opposing this Takeover since their schools stand to benefit financially. Where did Doyle have that press conference in Milwaukee last week?
Let me back this thing up for you quickly. Some of you still are wondering what gives? Jump down the worm hole with me again just for a second… President Obama and Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) aka the Stimulus Package (2/17/09). Inside this legislation is approximately $4.3 billion set aside for states that implement education reform targeted to increase student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving graduation rates and preparation for success in college/careers. Follow the money family…

A reader mentioned that the governance changes may apply to other Wisconsin Districts, perhaps rendering local boards as simple wallflowers….
More to come, I’m sure.

Madison School District Strategic Plan Action Steps & Budget Recommendations

Superintendent Dan Nerad [1.5MB PDF]:

Included in the 2009/10 budget is $324,123 for the implementation of activities specifically related to the approved Strategic Plan.
Attached are:
Strategic Plan: Objectives organized by Priority 1 Action Steps
Strategic Objectives: Action Steps, Priority 1 Recommended Budget.
The total identified in the Priority 1 Recommended Budget is $284,925.
We are continuing to plan in the areas of:

  • implementing Individual Learning Plans,
  • using ACT Standards as part of assessments,
  • supporting technology,
  • program evaluation, and
  • a possible expulsion abeyance options pilot for second semester.

Budget recommendations for these areas will come to the Board at a later date.


The electronic based ILP (Individual Learning Plan) developed in collaboration with University of Wisconsin staff to meet the unique needs ofthe MMSD. The ILP will be based off of the WisCareers platform which will interface with Infinite Campus, the District’s information management system.
Identify a subgroup of the ILP Action Team to create an ILP implementation plan that includes a mechanism for feedback and evaluation (e.g., Survey instruments, external evaluation conducted by the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research).
Curriculum Action Plan Focus Areas

  • Accelerated Learning
  • Assessment
  • Civic Engagement
  • Cultural Relevance
  • Flexible Instruction

Related: Proposed Madison School District Strategic Plan Performance Measures.

School board chief asks kids: ‘How can I help?’

Mary Mitchell:

Last Thursday morning, Chicago School Board President Michael Scott stood on a corner at Altgeld Gardens and surveyed the landscape.
The unseasonable chill was a warning of things to come.
It would not do to have students waiting in a snowstorm for a bus to take them to Fenger High School.
Scott thought arrangements had been made with a local community center.
“What community center? Where?” asked Marguerite Jacobs, the lone parent on hand when the yellow school bus rolled up at 7 a.m.
Although her son is not yet in high school, Jacobs said she is concerned about CPS’ plan to keep sending students to Fenger.
“My kid is not going to walk into this mess,” she said.
Turns out, the community center that Scott thought would be a haven is a couple of blocks away and doesn’t open so early in the morning.

Obama’s subtle message spoke volumes about Milwaukee schools

Alan Borsuk:

The only way President Barack Obama could have been any more indirect about his message on Wednesday in a speech at a middle school in Madison was by giving it in another state.
He never mentioned Milwaukee, he barely mentioned Wisconsin. It might seem hard to be boring when you’re talking about giving away billions of dollars to places that shake up their education systems, but Obama succeeded, so much so that a Washington Post story described his speech as “turgid.”
And yet, there was a very pointed message in there, aimed right at Wisconsin and Milwaukee. How do I know? Arne Duncan told me so.
Being president may mean rarely being able to say what’s really on your mind, but, in a telephone interview after the speech, the outspoken secretary of education was more than willing to tread almost all the places his boss didn’t want to go.
In short, the message of the visit was: Get with the program, Wisconsin.

“Fast Food” Learning


In a Wellstone Elementary classroom, the five minutes before class have become the quietest part of the school day.
You can’t blame the students for not talking. They’re busy eating.
A growing school-breakfast program in St. Paul, called Breakfast to Go, allows these students to grab a free nutritious meal in the cafeteria and take it to class. This “fast food” ensures more children are eating their morning meal and can cut down on tardiness and other barriers to their education.
“There were people that had concerns about food in the classroom. But now they’ve seen the benefit of it and are very supportive of it,” said Christine Osorio, principal of St. Paul’s Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary, the site for the district’s pilot program last year.
“Teachers really like having the kids up in class and getting started,” Osorio said. “It’s built community in classrooms. It’s given us a much more relaxed start to our day.”

Demerit Pay

Dennis Danziger:

In the spirit of generosity I’ve been thanking the gods that private school teachers’ salaries are not connected to students’ standardized test scores. Else Malia Obama’s science teacher at the Sidwell Friends School might have lost her job faster than you can say “grade inflation.”
On November 3, 2009, the one-year anniversary of his election, President Obama, speaking at a middle school in Madison, Wisconsin, told his audience that First Daughter Malia had recently come home from school with a 73 on a science test, but after renewed educational vigor she aced her next test. This was the same day President Obama reiterated his call for public school teachers’ merit pay to be based in part on student performance on standardized tests.
I’m a 17-year veteran English teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, so naturally I thought, “Yep, change has finally come.”
After numbing my students with No Child Left Behind tests for the past seven years, I can now depend on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to turn it all around.
But Secretary Duncan’s not going to hand over any federal grant money willy-nilly. No sir. No money changes hands until the states beat down those all-powerful teacher unions (and if you want to see how powerful teacher unions are, just drive by your local public school and check out the cars in the faculty parking lot. The Cash for Clunkers program rejected my 1997 Toyota Corolla and most of my colleagues’ cars as well)

Spotlight on schools

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

President Barack Obama handed out some difficult assignments Wednesday at a Madison middle school.
Elected leaders, educators, parents and students need to get these tasks done. The future of Wisconsin and our nation is at stake.
Obama didn’t sugar coat what needs to occur. He talked tough about closing failing schools and firing bad teachers. He told parents and students they were more responsible than anyone for student success, which hinges on high expectations and follow-through.
Yet the “educator in chief” also offered reassurance and rewards, including a chance to win hundreds of millions of dollars in competitive grants.
It’s time to act.
A day after Obama’s visit to Wright Middle School on Madison’s South Side, the Wisconsin Legislature barely approved a bill allowing student test scores to be used in teacher evaluations – something Obama specifically called for. Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan had called Wisconsin’s ban on tying teachers to test data “ridiculous.”

Young, Talented and Unhappy Playing Basketball Overseas

Pete Thamel:

Jeremy Tyler came to this scenic city overlooking the Mediterranean as a trailblazer. As the first American basketball player to skip his senior year of high school to play professionally overseas, Tyler signed a $140,000 deal to play for Maccabi Haifa this year. The grand plan revolves around him being a top pick, if not the top pick, in the 2011 N.B.A. draft.
But after nearly three months of professional basketball in Israel’s top division, Tyler is at a crossroads. Caught in a clash of cultures, distractions and agendas, he appears to be worlds away from a draft-night handshake with Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner.

Virtual schools chart new course

D. Aileen Dodd:

Representatives of five would-be virtual charter schools will file into the administrative towers of the Georgia Department of Education today to pitch their brand of public education, which lets students study at home computers in their pajamas.
Some contenders will come with national representatives from education management companies touting their records of student achievement in other states. Some will rely on the moms and dads who sit on the boards of petitioning schools to make their case.
If they’re successful, they stand to be funded just as any other Georgia public school. Some state officials, however, aren’t ready to prop open the door of school choice and let more cyber campuses in without first doing more homework on the subject.

Will 21st century skills weaken our federal education programs?

Jay Matthews:

The Common Core blog, which shares my distrust of the 21st century skills movement, is warning about the appointment of Apple executive Karen Cator as head of the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Education Technology. I don’t know Cator. Common Core says she once chaired the board of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the movement’s leading organization, and might push their agenda in Washington. I think the partnership is led by well-intentioned people, but so far they have done a lousy job showing how their approach will improve schools.
My recent column about a book by two partnership leaders made this case in more detail. Lynne Munson and James Elias, who wrote the Common Core post about Cator, seem to think she would use her new job to divert more education dollars to technology companies and forget about giving students a deep and balanced education.

An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Dean Dad:

Thanks for the wonderful grant support you’ve offered recently to community colleges. With enrollments up and state support down, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
That said, though, I wonder if a simple procedural change could save untold reporting and staff costs, and allow us to focus more resources on direct service delivery. I’m referring to “time and effort reports.”
As anyone who has worked on grant-supported projects can attest, time and effort reports are detailed accounts of how people who receive grant support spend their days. Personnel whose salaries are partly or entirely grant-supported are supposed to spend a proportionate amount of their time on grant-related activities. That means that someone whose salary is half Perkins funded and half college funded is supposed to spend two and a half days per week on grant activity.
While I can appreciate the idea behind time and effort reports – they’re a way to prevent ‘supplanting’ college resources with grant money – they’re untenably detailed, and they focus on the wrong thing. They focus on inputs, rather than outputs. They reward “but I tried really hard!,” as opposed to “I got it done.” And the paperwork involved in doing them is non-trivial.

A Few Comments from Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz on President Obama’s Visit

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz:

The last sitting President to visit Madison didn’t have a plane. This one had a very big plane, which pulled to a stop in Madison right on time (The commander of the 115th Fighter Wing, Col. Joseph Brandemuehl told me that Air Force One is never more than two minutes off schedule). It was fitting that he came here to give a serious policy speech about education and that he visited a Madison public school with both high diversity and high achievement. And it was an honor to host the President one year after his election. All in all, it was experience those kids – and most of the rest of us – will never forget.
At the school the President did trip a little on the pronunciation of my name. But this is his third attempt and he’s getting closer each time. And here’s the thing. When the President of the United States mispronounces your name you don’t think ‘gee, I wish that guy would get it right.’ No. You think, ‘gee, the President tried to pronounce my name.’
This job has its long days and its share of difficult stretches but once in awhile you get a moment that is just undeniably cool. As we waited for President Obama to walk down the stairs from Air Force One, I was thinking about the last time I was at that spot. It was exactly five years ago when I got a ride with the Colonel in an F-16. Taking a flight in a fighter jet or greeting the leader of the free world qualifies as one of those times when I take a moment to thank the voters of Madison for giving me the chance to be there on their behalf. This is not a job that lacks interesting days, but yesterday is one I’ll remember long after someone else gets the honor of saying, “Welcome to Madison, Mr. President.”

Has Federal Involvement Improved America’s Schools?

Andrew Coulson:

The No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal. It costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year but the Obama administration is giving its reauthorization less serious attention than most people pay to their phone bill. Families facing tight budgets actually consider cancelling a service that doesn’t benefit them. (“Do I really need a landline if I already have a cell phone?”) But ending federal involvement in k-12 schooling is not something that education secretary Arne Duncan is even willing to talk about.
Here are three good reasons why we need to have that conversation:
First, we have little to show for the nearly $2 trillion dollars spent on federal education programs since 1965. As the chart demonstrates, federal education spending per pupil has nearly tripled since 1970 in real, inflation-adjusted dollars — but achievement has barely budged. In fact, the only subject in which achievement at the end of high school has changed by more than 1 percent is science, and it has gotten worse.
This overall average masks some tiny gains for minority children, such as a 3 to 5 percent rise in the scores of African American 17-year-olds. But even these modest improvements can’t be attributed to federal spending. Almost all of the gain occurred between 1980 and 1988, a period during which federal spending per pupil actually fell. And the scores of African American 17-year-olds have declined in the twenty years since, even as federal spending has shot through the roof.

Wisconsin Legislature Passes (47-46!) Education “Reform” Bills: Teachers Cannot Be Disciplined or Removed using Test Data


The Wisconsin Legislature passed a series of education reform bills designed to make the state compete for nearly $4.5 billion in federal stimulus money.
The Assembly voted 47 to 46 in favor of the reform bills around 3 a.m. on Friday morning after a long closed door meeting among Democrats. The Senate approved the measures earlier on Thursday.
The action came after President Barack Obama came to Madison on Wednesday to tout the Race to the Top grant program.
One of the bills would create a system to track student data from preschool through college. A second bill would tie teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests. Another bill would require all charter schools to be created under federal guidelines. The last bill would move grants awarded to Milwaukee Public Schools for student achievement to move from Department of Administration to Department of Public Instruction control.
The bills remove a prohibition in state law from using student test data to evaluate teachers.
Even with it removed, teachers could not be disciplined or removed based on student test scores. And the teacher evaluation process would have to be part of collective bargaining.
Republicans argued that means most schools won’t even attempt to use the test data when evaluating teachers. Attempts by them to alter the bill were defeated by Democrats.
Senate Republicans expressed concern about the teacher evaluation portion, saying collective bargaining could become a hurdle to the Race to the Top guidelines and that teachers should also be disciplined or fired based on standardized testing results, not only rewarded.
“(Obama) said we have to be bold in holding people accountable for the achievement of our schools. Well, trust me, if we pass this legislation requiring mandatory negotiations we’re not bold, we’re a joke,” said Sen. Luther Olson, R-Ripon.


Four education bills aimed at bolstering the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funds were also moved through the Legislature. In the Assembly, passage of a bill allowing the use of student performance on standardized tests to be used in evaluating teachers. Republicans objected to the bill because they say it requires school districts to negotiate how the data is used in the teacher evaluations and would tie the hands of administrators who seek to discipline or dismiss poor performing teachers.
The bill barely passed the Assembly on a 47-46 vote.
The Assembly session wrapped up at about 4 a.m.

It will be interesting to see how these bills look, in terms of special interest influence, once Governor Doyle signs them. I do – possibly – like the student data tracking from preschool through college. Of course, the evaluations may be weak and the content may change rendering the results useless. We’ll see.
In related news, Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak again raised the issue of evaluating math curriculum effectiveness via University of Wisconsin System entrance exam results and college placement at the 11/2/2009 Madison School Board meeting. This request has fallen on deaf ears within the MMSD Administration for some time. [Madison School Board Math Discussion 40MB mp3 audio (Documents and links).]

How best to add value? Strike a balance between the individual and the organization in school reform

Susan Moore Johnson:

Two developments in public education converged near the turn of the century to bring rare prominence to the issue of teacher policy. First, several researchers reported with confidence that teachers are the single most important school-level factor in students’ learning. Although schools could not influence the prior experience or socioeconomic status of a student, they could decide who the child’s teachers would be, and those decisions would have long-term consequences for students’ academic success. Meanwhile, school officials faced the challenge of replacing an enormous cohort of retiring veterans with new teachers. The demand for teachers in low-income schools was especially great.
Recognizing this pressing need for new, effective teachers, policy makers and administrators began to adopt strategies for recruiting, hiring, supporting, motivating, assessing, and compensating the best possible individuals. Their efforts succeeded in highlighting for the public the importance of teachers. Over the past decade, however, this sharpened focus on the individual teacher has eclipsed the role that the school as an organization can and must play in enhancing the quality and effectiveness of teachers and teaching. As a result, teachers are getting less support than they should and schools are less successful than they might be.

Race & Elite Colleges

Scott Jaschik:

Thomas J. Espenshade, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, used that question to answer a question about his new book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life (Princeton University Press), co-written with Alexandria Walton Radford, a research associate at MPR Associates. In fact, he could probably use the glass image to answer questions about numerous parts of the book.
While Espenshade and Radford — in the book and in interviews — avoid broad conclusions over whether affirmative action is working or should continue, their findings almost certainly will be used both by supporters and critics of affirmative action to advance their arguments. (In fact, a talk Espenshade gave at a meeting earlier this year about some of the findings is already being cited by affirmative action critics, although in ways that he says don’t exactly reflect his thinking.)
Unlike much writing about affirmative action, this book is based not on philosophy, but actual data — both on academic credentials and student experiences — from 9,000 students who attended one of 10 highly selective colleges and universities. (They are not named, but include public and private institutions, research universities and liberal arts colleges.)
Among the findings:

Teacher Compensation Ripe for Change, Authors Say

Ford Foundation:

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has released “Redesigning Teacher Pay,” the second volume in its series on Alternative Teacher Compensation Systems. The Ford Foundation provided support for the report, which takes on the debate over performance-based pay systems for public school teachers, an approach that aims to better serve students and academic goals. The foundation funded the research and collaboration of EPI’s leading scholars as part of our reform work in education and scholarship.
Published in Education Week (subscription required): October 13, 2009
The current movement for paying teachers based on how well they teach, rather than how long they’ve been on the job, represents at least the fourth wave of national interest in performance-pay plans, two scholars say in a new book.

75% of Potential Military Recruits Too Fat, Too Sickly, Too Dumb to Serve

Noah Schachtman:

More than three-quarters of the nation’s 17- to 24-year-olds couldn’t serve in the military, even if they wanted to. They’re too fat, too sickly, too dumb, have too many kids, or have copped to using illegal drugs.
The armed services are willing to grant waivers for some of those conditions – asthma, or a little bit of weed. But the military’s biggest concern is how big and how weak its potential recruits have become.
“The major component of this is obesity,” Curt Gilroy, the Pentagon’s director of accessions, tells Army Times’ William McMichael. “Kids are just not able to do push-ups… And they can’t do pull-ups. And they can’t run.”
23 percent of 18- to 34-year-old are now obese, up from just six percent in 1987.
The group of potential enlistees is further slimmed by the “propensity to serve” among American youths, which social scientists say also is declining. According to Gilroy, research shows that about 12 percent of all U.S. military-eligible youth show an interest in military service.

How Tough Times Yield Model Children

Anjali Athavaley:

Natacha Andrews recently signed up her 4-year-old daughter, Anaya, with a modeling agency. Anaya says she wants to be “like Tyra”–that is, model-turned-media-personality Tyra Banks.
Her mother, a 36-year-old Phoenix attorney, has another motivation. “I know people who successfully saved money this way,” she says. In a weak economy, with five kids’ college tuitions to plan for, Ms. Andrews says, “I want to make the most out of whatever resources we have.”
More parents are signing their children up with modeling agencies and talent classes, in search of fame and, even better, a little extra money in a weak economy. Agencies like Wilhelmina International Inc.’s Wilhelmina Kids and Teens and Funnyface Today Inc. in New York City and Peak Models & Talent in Los Angeles say they have seen the numbers of child applicants grow in the past few years. Charlie Winfield, head booker at Funnyface, estimates the agency’s children’s division has seen a 50% increase in applicants in the past three years. Modeling Camp in Tyson’s Corner, Va., saw a 30% increase in attendance at its workshops last summer from the year earlier and plans to expand to New York and Florida next year.
The economy is driving the trend, says Funnyface’s Mr. Winfield. The agency is getting more calls from parents who are out of work and now have the time to take their children to auditions. With kids’ modeling wages typically about $100 to $125 an hour, he says, “it’s another way to subsidize their income.”

Ford Foundation gives $100 million to reform urban high schools

Mitchell Landsberg:

The Ford Foundation pledged $100 million Wednesday to “transform” urban high schools in the United States, focusing on seven cities, including Los Angeles.
The seven-year initiative is among the largest philanthropic efforts aimed at improving education in the United States and, as described, could both complement and challenge aspects of the Obama administration’s education reform efforts. It will fund research and reform in four areas: teacher quality, student assessment, a longer school day and year, and school funding.
The initiative is being led by Jeannie Oakes, who until recently was head of the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access at UCLA, where she was a strong advocate for reform aimed at helping disadvantaged students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Besides Los Angeles, the Ford Foundation effort will focus on schools in New York, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and Denver.
Oakes said the foundation has already begun working with L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines to find ways to better distribute finances in the district. She said Ford also hopes to help Los Angeles land one of the Obama administration’s “Promise Neighborhood” grants, which place public schools at the center of a comprehensive strategy of combating poverty and improving educational achievement.

Will State Education Reforms Get a Boost from Obama?

Alan Borsuk:

When, if ever, has a president of the United States inserted himself as directly into a legislative issue in Wisconsin as President Barack Obama is doing by visiting Madison on Wednesday? Obama’s visit to a middle school a couple miles from the State Capitol will focus on education – and it comes as Gov. Jim Doyle and others are ramping up their push for a series of educational reforms, including giving much of the power over Milwaukee Public Schools to Milwaukee’s mayor.
Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who will be with him, are firm supporters of many of the ideas being incorporated into the legislative package. Wisconsin clearly has to make changes such as these if it wants a decent chance at a share of the $5 billion in the Race to the Top money and other incentive funds Obama and Duncan will distribute over the next couple years.
It appears highly likely a special session of the Legislature will be called in November to consider the education proposals. The outcome is not clear.

The Greatest Generation (of Networkers)

Jeffrey Zaslow:

A 17-year-old boy, caught sending text messages in class, was recently sent to the vice principal’s office at Millwood High School in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The vice principal, Steve Gallagher, told the boy he needed to focus on the teacher, not his cellphone. The boy listened politely and nodded, and that’s when Mr. Gallagher noticed the student’s fingers moving on his lap.
He was texting while being reprimanded for texting.
“It was a subconscious act,” says Mr. Gallagher, who took the phone away. “Young people today are connected socially from the moment they open their eyes in the morning until they close their eyes at night. It’s compulsive.”
Because so many people in their teens and early 20s are in this constant whir of socializing–accessible to each other every minute of the day via cellphone, instant messaging and social-networking Web sites–there are a host of new questions that need to be addressed in schools, in the workplace and at home. Chief among them: How much work can “hyper-socializing” students or employees really accomplish if they are holding multiple conversations with friends via text-messaging, or are obsessively checking Facebook?

Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities

William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos & Michael S. McPherson:

Long revered for their dedication to equal opportunity and affordability, public universities play a crucial role in building our country’s human capital. And yet–a sobering fact–less than 60 percent of the students entering four-year colleges in America today are graduating. Why is this happening and what can be done? Crossing the Finish Line, the most important book on higher education to appear since The Shape of the River, provides the most detailed exploration ever of the crisis of college completion at America’s public universities. This groundbreaking book sheds light on such serious issues as dropout rates linked to race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Probing graduation rates at twenty-one flagship public universities and four statewide systems of public higher education, the authors focus on the progress of students in the entering class of 1999–from entry to graduation, transfer, or withdrawal. They examine the effects of parental education, family income, race and gender, high school grades, test scores, financial aid, and characteristics of universities attended (especially their selectivity). The conclusions are compelling: minority students and students from poor families have markedly lower graduation rates–and take longer to earn degrees–even when other variables are taken into account. Noting the strong performance of transfer students and the effects of financial constraints on student retention, the authors call for improved transfer and financial aid policies, and suggest ways of improving the sorting processes that match students to institutions.

Chad Alderman:

Crossing the Finish Line has things to say about virtually every important factor in college life, but by far the most important thing is this:
The SAT and ACT do not matter in predicting college success.
I have been an unequivocal supporter of using the SAT/ACT* in making college admissions decisions (see here and here), but this sample of students and the rigor of this study are impossible to ignore. Here’s what the authors found:

  • Taken separately, high school GPA is a better predictor of college graduation rates than SAT/ACT score. This findings holds true across institution type, and gets stronger the less selective an institution is. High school GPA is three to five times more important in predicting college graduation than SAT/ ACT score.
  • SAT and ACT scores are proxies for high school quality. When the authors factored in which high schools students attended (i.e. high school quality), the predictive power of high school GPA went up, and the predictive power of SAT/ ACT scores fell below zero.
  • High school quality mattered, but not nearly as much as the student’s GPA. Other research, most notably on Texas’ ten percent admission rule, has proven this before. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but it shows that a student’s initiative to succeed, complete their work, and jump any hurdles that come up matters more than the quality of their high school.

Schooling for Sustainability

SMART By NATURE: Schooling for Sustainability — a new book from the Center for Ecoliteracy. It describes the significance of the emerging green schools sector across the country.
Bringing Bioneers to Wisconsin
Green Schools National Conference
Tales From Planet Earth
Going GREEN?
Education / Evolving Disrupting Class
Network of EdVisions Schools
Audubon Center Charter Schools
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Collaborative for Sustainability Education
What’s NEXT?
Join the Green Charter Schools Network as an organization member and we’ll send you a FREE copy of SMART By NATURE. Click organization membership form.
“Smart by Nature is must reading for teachers, school administrators, parents, and the concerned public,” writes leading environmental educator David W. Orr. “It is an encyclopedia of good ideas, principles, and case studies of some of the most exciting developments in education.”
The Green Charter Schools Network and River Crossing Environmental Charter School are featured in Smart By Nature. “We’re all concerned about the environment and sustainability,” says Jim McGrath, GCSNet President. “That’s why we’re doing it — because, really, what could be more important than preparing young people for a sustainable future.”

Milwaukee Public School system in serious need of repair

Sean Kittridge:

Helen Lovejoy is more than a minister’s wife. She is an icon, the yellow-faced bulldog behind one of society’s most enduringly annoying mantras:
Won’t somebody please think of the children?
In Milwaukee, this cry often falls on deaf ears. The Milwaukee Public School system is less an educational structure than it is a punch line on fail blog. Students are performing far below expected levels, resources are few, and ultimately too few people are thinking about the children.
Fortunately, Gov. Doyle decided to step in. Knowing there needed to be a change in MPS, and potentially motivated by a larger desire to make Wisconsin attractive for the Obama administration’s Race To The Top grants, Doyle announced a bill that would take significant authority away from the school board and put it in the hands of Milwaukee’s mayor. These powers, which include the ability to select the superintendent and set the annual tax levy, should not be taken lightly, and one would hope a busy mayor would find adequate time to thoroughly look at the city’s public school system. After all, if you have time to lose a fight at a state fair, you can budget a few days to deal with education.

NJ gov.-elect renews pledge to improve education

Angela Delli Santi:

New Jersey’s next governor, making his first post-Election Day appearance at a thriving charter school in the state’s largest city, renewed a campaign pledge to reform urban education.
Chris Christie, speaking to grade-schoolers in green uniforms who addressed him as “Governor Chris,” used the event at the Robert Treat Academy in Newark’s North Ward to demonstrate his commitment to improving education and reducing crime in New Jersey’s cities.
“When I had to decide what I was going to do with my day, the day I was elected governor, there was no place else I wanted to be than here with all of you,” Christie said. “And I knew, because I was just elected yesterday, that all these people would come,” he said referring to the reporters and photographers who ringed the podium in the school’s auditorium.
The visit was also politically symbolic for the Republican governor-elect: the school was founded by Essex County Democratic Party boss Steve Adubato Sr.
A hoarse and worn-looking Christie was joined by Adubato, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo Jr., also Democrats. Christie said he was sending a message that his new administration would encourage bipartisan cooperation but is not afraid to fight for his principles.
Booker seemed eager to accept Christie’s offer.
“Politics is over,” said the mayor, who campaigned hard for Gov. Jon Corzine. “I’ve got to find partners for progress.”

Schools improve certification for school lunches

Henry Jackson:

Schools are doing a better job of identifying students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, but some states are much better than others, the Agriculture Department says in a report to Congress.
In 2008-2009, 78 percent of schools identified eligible students by using government records of which households already receive aid like food stamps. Use of the so-called direct certification method, the most efficient way to enroll school children in subsidized lunch programs, was up 11 percentage points from the previous year, according to the report, which is being delivered to Congress on Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
Direct certification helps eliminate the lengthy application process for free meals.
Despite the overall improvement, the report shows a wide disparity in performance from state to state. The top four states – Alaska, Delaware, New York and Tennessee – all directly enrolled more than 90 percent of students from households that receive food stamps.

School board meeting descends into chaos as lawsuit approved, Mayoral Control Battle

Ethan Shorey:

Jim Chellel suggests ‘regionalized’ superintendent, but Breault-Zolt wants Mercer
The Pawtucket School Committee fights about everything.
And no one, not even its members, would argue with that.
The fracturing of the Pawtucket School Department’s governing body has been a gradual one, its members tell The Valley Breeze, but they say last Wednesday’s special meeting, when members argued loudly over everything from rules of order to a lawsuit against the city, “marked a new low” in basic civility.
Member Jim Chellel, who would later be unanimously elected new chairman of the School Committee, was forced to pound his gavel early and often, while even the man who controls the microphone soundboard was having trouble mitigating the eruptions as his fingers danced over the volume controls.
Despite all the arguing, School Committee members still found the time last Wednesday to move forward with a number of big-ticket items, including approving by a 4-3 vote a Caruolo lawsuit against the city of Pawtucket and its taxpayers seeking more than $4 million in additional funds.

Obama Shares Story About Malia’s Test Scores

Peter Maer:

President Obama is telling tales out of school.
As he promoted administration education goals today, Mr. Obama uncharacteristically departed from his prepared text to share details of a First Family situation.
He told a Madison, Wisconsin school audience that his 11-year-old daughter Malia recently “became depressed” after scoring a 73 on a sixth grade science test. According to the president, that was disappointing news in a household where “our goal is 90 percent and up” on school tests.
He went into surprising detail as he recounted his daughter’s complaint that the test differed from the class study guide. The president told the audience of parents, students and teachers that Malia was determined to improve. After changing her study habits she scored a 95 on the next science exam. He quoted Malia as saying, “I like having knowledge.” The audience applauded the accomplishment.

Obama calls for end of ‘firewall’ rules that shield teachers

Christi Parsons:

Declaring there should be “no excuse for mediocrity” in public schools, President Obama on Wednesday pledged to push for recruitment of better teachers, better pay for those who succeed and dismissal of those who let their students down.
When principals are trying to determine which teachers are doing well, he said, they should be able to consider student performance as part of the evaluation.
And when schools are failing, “they should be shut down,” Obama said. “But when innovative public schools are succeeding, they shouldn’t be stifled, they should be supported.”
The president’s tough words came as Obama spoke to students and teachers at a charter middle school in Wisconsin’s capital, Madison. But as he announced the criteria by which states can win grants from his Department of Education’s $4.35-billion “Race to the Top” fund, Obama spelled out standards that depart from conventional Democratic dogma.
For one thing, Obama called for the abolition of “firewall” rules, which prevent many schools from judging teacher performance based on student performance.

Comments on Obama & Race to the Top

Peter Sobol:

The Department of Education will be accepting proposals for projects aimed at four reform areas:

To reverse the pervasive dumbing-down of academic standards and assessments by states, Race to the Top winners need to work toward adopting common, internationally bench marked K-12 standards that prepare students for success in college and careers.

  • To close the data gap — which now handcuffs districts from tracking growth in student learning and improving classroom instruction — states will need to monitor advances in student achievement and identify effective instructional practices.
  • To boost the quality of teachers and principals, especially in high-poverty schools and hard-to-staff subjects, states and districts should be able to identify effective teachers and principals — and have strategies for rewarding and retaining more top-notch teachers and improving or replacing ones who aren’t up to the job.
  • Finally, to turn around the lowest-performing schools, states and districts must be ready to institute far-reaching reforms, from replacing staff and leadership to changing the school culture
  • There is one issue standing in the way for Wisconsin: a state law that prevents standardized test results from being used to evaluate teachers, which makes WI ineligible for “Race to the Top” funds. A bill in the legislature aims to repeal that law.

    Teacher Performance: White House Press Gaggle by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Aboard Air Force One 11/4/2009

    Q Secretary Duncan, can you articulate why it’s important to link student achievement data with teacher performance, and also why it’s important to lift these caps on the charter schools?
    SECRETARY DUNCAN: I’ll take one at a time. On the first one — it’s amazing, I always use the California example because California is a big state — California has 300,000 teachers — 300,000 teachers. The top 10 percent, the top 30,000 teachers in California, would be world-class, would be among the best teachers in the world. The bottom 10 percent in California, the bottom 30,000, probably need to find another line of work, another profession. And nobody can tell you of those 300,000 teachers who’s in what category. There’s no recognition.
    And so what I fundamentally believe is that great teaching matters and we need to be able to identify those teachers who routinely are making an extraordinary difference in students’ lives. And to say that teaching has no impact on student performance, on student achievement, just absolutely makes no sense to me. It absolutely degrades the profession.
    So the counterargument — so right now as a country basically zero percent of student achievement relates to teacher evaluation. I think that’s a problem. I also think 100 percent — if all you do is look at a test score to evaluate a teacher, I think that’s a problem. So zero is a problem; 100 is a problem. As a country, we’re here, we’re trying to move to a middle point where you would evaluate teachers on multiple measures — that’s really important — not just on a single test score, but, yes, student achievement would be a part of what you look at in evaluating a teacher.
    And so whether it’s an individual teacher, whether it’s a school, whether it’s a school district, whether it’s a state, the whole thing as a country we need to do is we need to accelerate the rate of change. We have to get better faster. And there are teachers every single year — just to give you an illustration — there are teachers every single year where the average child in their class is gaining two years of growth — two years of growth per year of instruction. That is herculean work. Those teachers are the unsung heroes in our society. And nobody can tell you who those teachers are.
    There are some schools that do that, not just one miraculous teacher or one miraculous student. There are schools that year after year produce students that are showing extraordinary gains. Shouldn’t we know that? Isn’t that something valuable? Shouldn’t we be learning from them?
    And the flip side of it, if you have teachers or schools where students are falling further and further behind each year, I think we need to know that as well. And so we just want to have an open, honest conversation, but at the end of the day, teachers should never be evaluated on a single test score. I want to be absolutely clear there should always be multiple measures. But student achievement has to be a piece of what teachers are evaluated on.
    And there’s a recent study that came out, The New Teacher Project, that talked about this Widget Effect where 99 percent of teachers were rated as superior. It’s not reality.
    On your second point, on charter caps, I’ve been really clear I’m not a fan of charter schools, I’m a fan of good charter schools. And what we need in this country is just more good schools. We need more good elementary, more good middle, more good high schools. No second grader knows whether they’re going to a charter school, or a gifted school, or traditional school, or magnet school. They know, does my teacher care about me? Am I safe? Is there high expectations? Does the principal know who I am?
    We need more good schools. And where you have — where you have good charters, we need to replicate them and to learn from them and to grow. Where you have bad charters, we need to close them down and hold them accountable. And so this is not let a thousand flowers bloom, this is trying to take what is being successful and grow.
    And what I would say is if something is working, if you reduce — we talked about the graduation rate, if you’re doing something to reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate, would you put a cap on that strategy? Would you ever say that we’re going to cap the number of students who can take AP classes this year? We’re going to limit the number of kids who take — we’re going to limit the number of kids that graduate? We would never do that.
    So if something is working, if that innovation is helping us get better, why would you put an artificial cap on it? So let’s let that innovation flourish, but at the same time actually have a high bar and hold folks accountable.
    So I was a big fan of successful charter schools in Chicago when I was a superintendent there, but I also closed three charter schools for academic failure. And you need both. Good charters are a big piece of the answer. Bad charters perpetuate the status quo and we need to challenge that.

    Prior to the President’s visit, I emailed a number of elected officials and education stakeholders seeking commentary on the Wright Middle School visit. One of my inquiries went to the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association. I asked for a statement on charters in Madison. They declined to make a public statement, which, perhaps is a statement in and of itself.

    Madison schools — “the biggest loser”

    Susan Troller:

    Despite an ailing economy, Madison School Board members were guardedly optimistic last spring as they put together the district’s preliminary 2009-2010 budget. The community had overwhelmingly passed a referendum the previous fall that allowed the district to exceed state revenue caps, providing an extra $13 million to the district through 2012.
    As a result, the board was anticipating a rare year where public school programs and services were not on the chopping block and was looking forward to crafting a budget with minimal property tax increases. Initial projections worked out to a $2.50 increase on an average $250,000 Madison home on this year’s tax bill.
    For once, it looked as if both parents and taxpayers would be happy with the budget, a rare scenario in Wisconsin where school spending formulas and revenue caps often seem tailor-made to pit taxpayers against school advocates.
    But the preliminary budget plan the Madison district drew up and approved in May predated the news that Wisconsin’s revenue situation was far worse than predicted. The result was a steep reduction in what the state’s 438 school districts would get from Wisconsin’s general school aid fund. The drop in general school aid amounted to $149 million, or 3 percent.
    These cuts, however, would not be shared equally across every district, and the formula used was particularly unkind to Madison, which overnight saw a gaping hole of more than $9 million, a drop in aid not seen by any other district in the state.
    “We were so happy last spring. In retrospect, it was really kind of pitiful,” says Lucy Mathiak, vice president of Madison’s School Board. The mood was decidedly more downbeat, she notes, in late October when the board gave its final approval to the $350 million 2009-2010 school district budget.

    I’m glad Susan mentioned the District’s total spending. While such budget changes are difficult, many public and private organizations are facing revenue challenges. The Madison School District has long spent more per student than most Districts in Wisconsin and has enjoyed annual revenue growth of around 5.25% over the past 20+ years – despite state imposed “revenue caps” and flat enrollment.
    Some can argue that more should be spent. In my view, the District MUST complete the oft discussed program review as soon as possible and determine how effective its expenditures are. Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak again raised the issue of evaluating math curriculum effectiveness via University of Wisconsin System entrance exam results and college placement. This request has fallen on deaf ears within the MMSD Administration for some time. [Madison School Board Math Discussion 40MB mp3 audio (Documents and links).] I very much appreciate Lucy’s comments. The District’s extensive use of Reading Recovery should also be evaluated in terms of effectiveness and student skills. The District should be planning for a tighter budget climate in this, the Great Recession.
    Finally, I found Marj Passman’s comments in the article interesting:

    “I understand that the economy is terrible, but for years we heard that the reason we had this school funding mess was because we had Republicans in charge who were basically content with the status quo,” says board member Marj Passman. “I had expected so much change and leadership on school funding issues with a Democratic governor and a Democratic Legislature. Honestly, we’ve got Rep. Pocan and Sen. Miller as co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee and Democratic majorities in both houses! Frankly, it’s been a huge disappointment. I’d love to see that little beer tax raised and have it go to education.”

    In my view, we’re much better off with “divided” government. The current Governor and legislative majority’s budget included a poor change to the arbitration rules between school districts and teacher unions:

    To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

    Madison School District Spending History.
    It’s good to see Susan Troller writing about local school issues.

    Remarks by The President and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Discussion with Students

    1:05 P.M. CST
    SECRETARY DUNCAN: Well, we’re thrilled to be here and this is a school that’s getting better and better, and you guys are working really, really hard. And we’ve been lucky. We have a President here who has got a tough, tough job. Being President is tough without the — he’s fighting two wars, a really, really tough economy — I like your shirt.
    STUDENT: Thanks. (Laughter.)
    SECRETARY DUNCAN: And what amazes me is that week after week, month after month, he just keeps coming back to education, and he’s absolutely passionate about it. He and his wife, the First Lady Michelle Obama, received great educations. Neither one was born with a lot of money, but they worked really hard and had great teachers and great principals and made the most of it. And now he’s our President. So it’s a pretty remarkable journey. The only reason he’s the President is because he got a great education.
    So we’re thrilled to be here. He might want to say a few things, and looks like you guys have questions for him. And so we’ll be quick and we’ll open up to your questions.
    THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is good to see all of you. Thanks so much for having us.
    First of all, I’ve got a great Secretary of Education in Arne Duncan. So he helps school districts all across the country in trying to figure out how to improve what’s going on in the schools. And let me just pick up on something that Arne said earlier.
    I was really lucky to have a great education. I didn’t have a lot of money. My parents weren’t famous. In fact, my father left when I was two years old, so I really didn’t grow up with a father in the house; mostly it was my mom and my grandparents. But they always emphasized education and they were able to send me to good schools, and by working hard I was obviously in a position to do some good stuff.
    My wife, Michelle, same thing. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Her dad was actually disabled, he had multiple sclerosis, but he still worked every day in a blue collar job. And her mom didn’t work, and when she did she was a secretary. But because she worked really hard in school she ended up getting a scholarship to Princeton and to Harvard Law School and ended up really being able to achieve a lot.
    So that’s the reason why we are spending a lot of time talking to folks like you, because we want all of you to understand that there’s nothing more important than what you’re doing right here at this school. And Wright has a great reputation, this school is improving all the time, but ultimately how good a school is depends on how well you guys are doing.
    And the main message that I just wanted to deliver to you is, every single one of you could be doing the same kinds of things that Arne is doing or I’m doing or you could be running a company or you can be inventing a product or you could — look, anything you can imagine, you can accomplish, but the only way you do it is if you’re succeeding here in school. And we are spending a lot of money to try to improve school buildings and put computers in and make sure that your teachers are well trained and that they are getting the support they need.
    So we’re working really hard to try to reform the schools, but ultimately what matters most is how badly you want a good education. If you think that somehow somebody is just going to — you can tilt your head and somebody is going to pour education in your ear, that’s just not how it works. The only way that you end up being in a position to achieve is if you want it, if inside you want it.
    And part of the reason why we wanted to talk to you guys is, you’re right at the point now in your lives where what you do is really going to start mattering. My daughters are a little younger than you — Malia is 11, Sasha is eight — but when you’re in grade school, you’re playing — hopefully somebody is making sure you’re doing your homework when you get it, but to some degree you’re still just kind of learning how to learn.
    By the time you get to middle school, you’re now going to be confronted with a lot of choices. You’re going to start entering those teenage years where there are a lot of distractions and in some places people will say you don’t need to worry about school or it’s uncool to be smart or — you know, all kinds of things. And, look, I’ll be honest, I went through some of that when I was in high school and I made some mistakes and had some setbacks.
    So I just want everybody to understand right now that nothing is going to be more important to you than just being hungry for knowledge. And if all of you decide to do that, then there are going to be teachers and principals and secretaries of education who are going to be there to help you. So hopefully you guys will take that all to heart.
    All right. Okay. Now we’re going to kick out everybody so I can let you — you guys can ask me all the really tough questions without having the press here.
    1:09 P.M CST

    Much more on the President’s visit to Madison’s Wright Middle School.

    Background on President Obama’s trip to Madison’s Wright Middle School, via a kind reader’s email:

    1:00 PM CDT
    The President and Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with approximately 40 students at James C. Wright Middle School, one of two public charter schools in Madison, Wisconsin. The group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders was chosen based on teacher recommendation.
    1:30 PM CDT
    The President will deliver remarks to students, parents, teachers, school officials and state/local leaders at James C. Wright Middle School on strengthening America’s education system and putting the interests of the nation’s students first. In coming weeks, states will be able to compete for a grant from one of the largest investments ever made in education – over $4 billion – the Race to the Top Fund. These grants will be made available to states committed to transforming the way we educate our kids so that they can develop a real plan to improve the quality of education across the nation.
    The audience will be composed of approximately 500 Wright Middle School students, parents, teachers, and school officials as well as state and local leaders. Secretary Duncan will also be in attendance.
    – Principal Nancy Evans will welcome students, parents and invited guests.
    – Ari Davis (6th grade) will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
    – Miko Jobst (8th grade), Laura Sumi (7th grade), and Erika Meyer (orchestra teacher) will perform the National Anthem.
    – Governor Jim Doyle will introduce the President.
    The mission of the Wright Middle school is “to educate all students to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence required to participate fully in an evolving global society.” A public charter school established in 1997, the Wright school is the smallest and most ethnically and economically diverse middle school in Madison (38% African-American, 37% Latino, 13% White, and 86% low-income). The school also has a significant population of students with disabilities (22%) and English language learners (39%), and outpaces both the school district and statewide average achievement for both student subgroups.
    Wright offers a core curriculum of language arts, social studies, math and science at each grade level, and provides enrichment courses in physical education, music, art, and technology. All grades at the school participate in a social action project focused on the environment at the sixth grade level; the economy at the seventh grade level; and government at the eighth grade level. Among the school’s signature reforms are a small and tailored instructional program; bilingual resource specialists (Spanish and Hmong languages); an academic acceleration program in literacy to support struggling 6th and 7th graders; and a mentorship and afterschool homework program.
    Wright is also one of three middle schools in Madison that partners with the University of Madison in a teacher preparation program through an innovative model that pairs new teachers with veterans and delivers professional development and ongoing support.

    Many Tennessee school districts get low marks on report card

    Michael Grider:

    The Tennessee Department of Education released its 2009 report card Tuesday.
    State officials changed the way the TDEC “value added” and “achievement” report card scores were calculated this year.
    “Because we have been on an aggressive path to improvement with the Tennessee Diploma Project,” Education Commissioner Timothy Webb said, “it was necessary to utilize this transition year to change our calculation methods and more accurately demonstrate student progress in an effort to pursue higher standards.”
    Officials changed the baseline year used to compare student scores and achievement, and they’ve implemented a new grading scale that could see previously high A marks lowered to the B or C level, according to a TDEC release.
    Referring to the scoring changes, Knox County Schools spokesperson Melissa Copelan, in a news release, said, “This makes comparison of the 2009 Report Card data with previous years’ scores not possible or valid.”

    Bye-bye Arne: Why we don’t need an education secretary

    Jay Matthews:

    Arne Duncan is the latest in a splendid crop of U.S. education secretaries over the last few decades. The ones I have known best include, in alphabetical order: Bill Bennett, Rod Paige, Dick Riley and Margaret Spellings–all fine people who care about kids and understand the issues. But I wish all of them had not spent valuable time trying to deal with the painfully slow pace and often politically-addled reasoning of national education policy. Their best work for kids, in my view, happened when they were NOT education secretary. So let’s abolish the office and get that talent back where it belongs, where school change really happens, in our states and cities.
    Secretary Duncan is going to reject this idea immediately, and I know why. He took the job because his friend the president needed him. Both are from Chicago, and know how much that city has struggled to improve its schools. The president, I suspect, thought that Duncan, the former chief of the Chicago public schools, could use all he had learned there to raise achievement for students across the country.
    It sounds great, but it was the same thought that led previous presidents to appoint those previous fine education secretaries to their posts. How much good did that do? Test scores for elementary and middle school students have come up a bit in the last couple of decades, but not enough to get excited about. High school scores are still flat. If national education policy had made a big jump forward, I would say we should continue to fill this job, but that hasn’t happened either. I think the No Child Left Behind law, supported by both parties, was an improvement over previous federal policies, but it was only copying what several states had already done to make schools accountable and identify schools that needed extra help.
    Duncan will never admit this, but I am betting that soon he will realize, if he hasn’t already, that he had the potential to do much more for students when he was running the Chicago schools. He was able to make vital decisions like appointing principals, rather than push papers and give speeches in his new Washington gig.

    I agree.
    Duncan appears in Madison today with President Obama.

    No Child Left Behind: New evidence that charter schools help even kids in other schools.

    Wall Street Journal:

    Opponents of school choice are running out of excuses as evidence continues to roll in about the positive impact of charter schools.
    Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby recently found that poor urban children who attend a charter school from kindergarten through 8th grade can close the learning gap with affluent suburban kids by 86% in reading and 66% in math. And now Marcus Winters, who follows education for the Manhattan Institute, has released a paper showing that even students who don’t attend a charter school benefit academically when their public school is exposed to charter competition.
    Mr. Winters focuses on New York City public school students in grades 3 through 8. “For every one percent of a public school’s students who leave for a charter,” concludes Mr. Winters, “reading proficiency among those who remain increases by about 0.02 standard deviations, a small but not insignificant number, in view of the widely held suspicion that the impact on local public schools . . . would be negative.” It tuns out that traditional public schools respond to competition in a way that benefits their students.

    Advocating Indiana Teacher Licensing Reform

    Eric Berman:

    Bennett says instead of assuming people will pick teaching careers and stay for life, schools could consider front-loading pay for beginning teachers to lure more people in, while also instituting closer evaluations for those rookie teachers to make sure they’re qualified.
    The Professional Standards Board is scheduled to discuss Bennett’s call to license teachers based on non-school experience at its November 18 meeting. Bennett says he expects the board to make some changes to the details of the plan, but says he hopes for final approval before year’s end.

    Hillsborough Schools stand on the verge of massive, Gates-funded reforms to boost teaching

    Tom Marshall:

    Hillsborough County Public Schools will soon embark on a seven year, $202 million journey to find out. The district would join a national effort to improve teacher effectiveness, the one factor experts say makes the biggest difference in a student’s success or failure.
    Officials worry about cost overruns, dissension from teachers and their union, and other glitches which have doomed similar efforts across the nation. But success would create a generation of great teachers, and bolster the district’s reputation as a laboratory for educational reform./em>

    Duncan’s reform hinges on an ancient theory

    Elizabeth Brown:

    Teachers, historically, have had to fight for respect in a society that placed a lower premium on teaching. From its origins, teaching has been held as a lowly position held by unskilled clergy and masters (mostly men) who, as long as they could recite the Bible, were equipped. Those that couldn’t do, taught. As a matter of fact, not too long ago, before unions fought for higher pay, teaching was the one of the lowest paid professions.
    Currently, in Connecticut, along with other states across the country, we have raised the bar, and set the highest standards for our teachers. Susan Engel suggests otherwise. In an article in the New York Times entitled “Teach Your Teachers Well” (11/01/09), she agrees with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s reform that in order to have good schools “we need great teachers.” Engel goes onto say that “once we have a better pool of graduate students, we need to train them differently than we did in the past.” Engels calls for a more rigorous teacher preparation program with a 3.5 GPA minimum requirement and an “intensive application process.”
    The implication is that our failing schools are due to dumb teachers teaching the students. As she states: “weaker students are in the less intellectually rigorous programs and the ones training to become teachers.”
    Before the 19th century, teachers didn’t require a license to teach. Today, we have increased standards, dramatically, yet, oddly enough, our students are failing to make the grade. It’s hard to believe that we were better off just teaching the Bible.

    School Boards Unhappy with Wisconsin Test Score Teacher Evaluation Bill, Teacher Union supports it

    Scott Bauer:

    Wisconsin schools could use student test scores to evaluate teachers, but they still couldn’t use the information to discipline or fire them under a bill moving quickly through the Legislature.
    Lawmakers must remove a ban on using test scores in evaluations for Wisconsin to compete for about $4.5 billion in Race to the Top stimulus money for education. Race to the Top is intended to improve student achievement, boost the performance of minority students and raise graduation rates.
    Republicans and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards say Doyle and Democrats who control the Legislature are still giving teachers too much deference even as they work to qualify the state for the program.
    Wisconsin and Nevada are the only states that don’t allow test results to be used to evaluate teachers. A similar prohibition in New York expires next year, and California removed its ban earlier this year to compete for the federal stimulus money.
    Doyle and Democratic lawmakers are moving quickly to get Wisconsin’s ban removed with a vote this week. There is urgency because applications for the Race to the Top money will likely be due in a couple of months and the Legislature ends its session for the year on Thursday.
    Doyle supports a proposal that would lift Wisconsin’s restriction on tying test scores with teacher evaluations. However, it would keep in place a ban on using the scores to fire, suspend or discipline a teacher.

    Call to punish parents who ‘steal’ places at best schools

    Richard Garner:

    Tough new measures, including fines to punish parents who cheat their way into securing school places for their children, were demanded by the Schools Adjudicator yesterday.
    Ian Craig, who is in charge of policing school admissions policies, revealed that up to 3,000 parents a year are conning their way into finding a school place by lying or bending the rules. He argued that the parents were guilty of “theft”.
    “They are depriving another child of their school place. It is theft of a school place which belongs to another child. The Secretary of State [Ed Balls] needs to launch a campaign to persuade parents it is wrong – it is not fair,” said Dr Craig, who was charged with mounting an investigation into parental malpractice.
    Among the suggested measures for tackling the “fraudulent and misleading applications” were banning younger siblings from taking advantage of their older brother or sister winning a school place, and warning councils to take tougher action by immediately expelling any child whose parents had tried to cheat the system. Fines could also be levied through civil court action. A survey of 123 authorities found 1,100 cases where a child had subsequently had a place withdrawn as a result of their parents supplying misleading information.

    School spotlight: Director sparks interest in drama at Middleton High

    Pamela Cotant:

    Thanks to a burgeoning drama club, audiences in Middleton High School’s Performing Arts Center this week will be treated to two performances each night, not one.
    The double bill exemplifies the drama program under Lynda Sharpe, who recently received the John C. Barner Teacher of the Year award from the American Alliance of Theater in Education.
    With 87 students in the drama club, drama director Sharpe needed two productions so more students could take part.
    “She (Sharpe) works to get us all involved as individuals as well as the whole circle,” said junior Katy Dallman, secretary of the drama club.
    Sharpe has all of those involved in a production stand in a circle before and after each rehearsal and before each show.
    “I use a circle because we are all equal,” said Sharpe, who also teaches at Middleton High.
    “Live Broadcast,” a 1940s-style live radio drama, will kick off the evening Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. Written by former Middleton students Charles Stone and Timothy Wendorff, who are now students at UW-Madison, the performance will include live entertainment and live commercials.

    Madison’s Wright Middle School Panorama; -24 to the Obama / Duncan Education Speech

    Click to view a panoramic image shot earlier today (click the full screen icon – lower right – to view full quality). The calm before the storm, as it were at Madison’s Wright Middle School. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will give an education speech tomorrow at one of Madison’s two charter schools.

    Perils of rating teachers–Part one, the District

    Jay Matthews:

    In the last half of the 19th century, many inventors pursued the dream of building an airplane. Duds and crashes were frequent and skeptics numerous. Only a decade before the Wright brothers’ 1903 flight, British physicist and engineer Lord Kelvin had declared that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” American educators are similarly scrambling to create a teacher evaluation system that will raise the level of instruction and student achievement in the same reliable way that modern jetliners take us home for Thanksgiving. They have not been very successful.
    Many smart teachers have concluded the idea is a loser. They are artists, they say, whose work cannot be reduced to numbers for placement, pay and promotion.
    Still, many people are trying to be teacher assessment’s answer to Wilbur and Orville Wright. Take, for instance, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and a team of educators led by Jason Kamras, the 2005 national teacher of the year. You can find their IMPACT plan, the result of input from more than 500 D.C. educators, by clicking on the “Teaching and Learning” tab|
    Will it crash and burn? Many think so. George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said “it takes the art of teaching and turns it into bean counting.”
    I have been sending the plan to experts around the country, however, and they are more optimistic than I expected.

    The new myths of gifted education

    Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (November 2, 2009) – More than 25 years after myths about gifted education were first explored, they are all still with us and new ones have been added, according to research published in the current Gifted Child Quarterly (GCQ), the official journal of National Association for Gifted Children.
    Providing specialized and organized gifted education courses was a relatively new concept in 1982 when an article entitled “Demythologizing Gifted Education” was first published in GCQ. Research at that time found that certain myths were widely believed, such as the idea that the gifted constituted a single, homogeneous group of learners, or that just one curriculum would serve all equally.
    In “The Myths of Gifted Education: A Contemporary View,” the journal takes a new look at the current state of gifted education. Researchers found that all 15 of the 1982 myths are still with us, though some have been modified over time, and several new ones have emerged. A few of the now 19 myths in this special issue of GCQ include:

    • Creativity is too difficult to measure
    • Gifted education means having a program
    • High ability students don’t face problems and challenges
    • It’s “fair” to teach all children the same way
    • Advanced Placement (AP) is an adequate secondary program

    “Our hope is that this issue will stimulate lively discussion, critical thinking, and creative research in the field,” writes guest editor Donald J. Treffinger. “We hope to help ‘shake loose the grip’ of some common myths and suggest promising directions for more productive foundations for inquiry and practice.”


    “The Myths of Gifted Education: A Contemporary View” a special issue of Gifted Child Quarterly (published by SAGE) is available free for a limited time at A Podcast interview with the editor about the differences (or not) in the myths since 1982 is available at

    Teach Your Teachers Well

    Susan Engel, via a kind Barb Williams email:

    ARNE DUNCAN, the secretary of education, recently called for sweeping changes to the way we select and train teachers. He’s right. If we really want good schools, we need to create a critical mass of great teachers. And if we want smart, passionate people to become these great educators, we have to attract them with excellent programs and train them properly in the substance and practice of teaching.
    Our best universities have, paradoxically, typically looked down their noses at education, as if it were intellectually inferior. The result is that the strongest students are often in colleges that have no interest in education, while the most inspiring professors aren’t working with students who want to teach. This means that comparatively weaker students in less intellectually rigorous programs are the ones preparing to become teachers.
    So the first step is to get the best colleges to throw themselves into the fray. If education was a good enough topic for Plato, John Dewey and William James, it should be good enough for 21st-century college professors.
    These new teacher programs should be selective, requiring a 3.5 undergraduate grade point average and an intensive application process. But they should also be free of charge, and admission should include a stipend for the first three years of teaching in a public school.
    Once we have a better pool of graduate students, we need to train them differently from how we have in the past. Too often, teaching students spend their time studying specific instructional programs and learning how to handle mechanics like making lesson plans. These skills, while useful, are not what will transform a promising student into a good teacher.

    Barb Williams is a teacher at Madison’s Hamilton Middle School.

    Madison School Board Members on President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan’s 11/4/2009 Wright Middle School Visit

    The elected Madison School Board will be present at Wednesday’s visit and rightfully so. There will be plenty of other politicians, but these people truly deserve a bit of time in the spotlight.
    Love them or loath them, we should all be thankful for the time and effort our board members devote to that most important public expenditure: public schools. It is truly an essential but thankless job. I believe boardmembers are paid $4,000 annually.
    I emailed our board and asked for a quote prior to the President’s arrival. Four responded thus far:
    President Arlene Silveira:

    “How exciting for our students at Wright. To meet the president of the United States is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I hope his visit awakens the civic responsibility in all who attend”.

    Ed Hughes:

    We’re honored by the President’s visit. I’m pleased that the visit will shine a positive light on the great work the Principal Nancy Evans and her staff have been doing at Wright, and that we’re able to provide Wright students with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
    If the President is able to find the time to visit one of our Madison schools, I hope that any Madison parents who have questions about what’s best for their kids will similarly make the effort to visit their neighborhood schools and see for themselves what we have to offer.

    Beth Moss:

    The President’s visit to a Madison school is an honor for our entire community. Nancy Evans, her staff, students, and the Wright Middle School families deserve to be recognized for their success in creating and maintaining a school community worthy of the President’s attention. This is an experience that none of us will forget, and we should be extremely proud that we have been chosen to host a presidential speech on education.

    Marj Passman:

    President Obama and I may not always agree about what is best for education
    but I am very grateful that he has returned the importance of education to
    center stage. It is an honor to have been invited to meet him.

    It will be interesting to observe the Board when and if President Obama discusses mayoral control of schools in Milwaukee, as Alexander Russo muses.

    Ex-Portland Superintendent Vicki Phillips: It’s all about the teacher

    Betsy Hammond:

    Former Portland Superintendent Vicki Phillips, now director of education for the Gates Foundation, didn’t break any news in her speech to big city school board members and superintendents in Portland last week.
    Instead, she reinterated what she and others already have said about Gates’ version 2.0 of fixing American high schools: Essentially, it’s all about the teacher.
    The Gates Foundation first tried to improve students’ readiness for college and decrease the dropout rate by getting high schools to morph into smaller, more personalized academies. It poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort, but ultimately, it didn’t work.
    Gates and Phillips now openly admit: School structure is not the key. (Parents and educators in Portland Public School make use that same line about Phillips’ main, and unfinished, initiative while in PPS: creating K-8 schools in place of middle schools.)
    So, the foundation now plans to pour at least half a billion dollars into a teacher quality initiative.
    It will sponsor rigorous research to help determine which qualities or skills that a teacher exhibits translate into the greatest gains in student learning, so that school districts can identify, recruit and retain the best performers. And it will award millions to several pioneering urban districts that agree to hire, place, train and pay teachers differently, with much more weight given to helping ensure that students get highly effective teachers, particularly students in greatest academic need.

    Education reform long troubled in Washington, DC

    Bill Turque:

    When Kathy Patterson learned about Thursday’s D.C. Council hearing, during which Chairman Vincent C. Gray and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee pelted each other with accusations of law-breaking and secret meetings, she had one immediate reaction.
    “Here we go again,” said Patterson, a former council member and chairwoman of its education committee. It looked as if another attempt at public school reform was disintegrating in a hail of recriminations and rhetoric, with Rhee destined to join Franklin L. Smith, Lt. Gen. Julius Becton, Arlene Ackerman, Paul L. Vance and Clifford B. Janey, the school leaders who preceded her in the past two decades.
    It was supposed to be different this time. The 2007 legislation that disbanded the old D.C. Board of Education and gave control of the school system to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) was designed to minimize the push-and-pull of ward politics, making a single executive accountable. But Thursday’s hearing vividly illustrated that no legislation can completely account for the mix of personalities who come together to execute it.

    Learning Curve: A troubling score gap

    Maureen Downey:

    In a new report contrasting proficiency scores on state exams to federal tests, Georgia comes across as a very easy grader.
    “States are setting the bar too low,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in response to the release Thursday of the study “Mapping State Proficiency Standards onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2007.”
    The federal study compares proficiency standards of states using the results of the National Assessment of Education Progress — often called the Nation’s Report Card — as the common yardstick.
    A national test given to select students in every state, NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.
    Because students across the nation take the same NAEP assessment, state-to-state comparisons can be made.

    Highest paid private college presidents


    Leaders in Total Compensation at Private Colleges, 2007-8. Source: IRS tax reports analyzed by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
    1. Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: $1,598,247
    2. David Sargent, Suffolk University: $1,496,593
    3. Steadman Upham, University of Tulsa: $1,485,275
    4. Richard Meyers, Webster University: $1,429,738
    5. Cornelius M. Kerwin, American University: $1,419,339
    6. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia: $1,380,035

    Education reform long troubled in Washington, DC

    Bill Turque:

    When Kathy Patterson learned about Thursday’s D.C. Council hearing, during which Chairman Vincent C. Gray and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee pelted each other with accusations of law-breaking and secret meetings, she had one immediate reaction.
    “Here we go again,” said Patterson, a former council member and chairwoman of its education committee. It looked as if another attempt at public school reform was disintegrating in a hail of recriminations and rhetoric, with Rhee destined to join Franklin L. Smith, Lt. Gen. Julius Becton, Arlene Ackerman, Paul L. Vance and Clifford B. Janey, the school leaders who preceded her in the past two decades.
    It was supposed to be different this time. The 2007 legislation that disbanded the old D.C. Board of Education and gave control of the school system to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) was designed to minimize the push-and-pull of ward politics, making a single executive accountable. But Thursday’s hearing vividly illustrated that no legislation can completely account for the mix of personalities who come together to execute it.

    California’s deficit of common sense

    Rebecca Solnit:

    The state has plenty of money and resources. What we’ve been lacking is a real-world discussion about how we distribute them.
    California is rich. Even in the midst of a drought, we have lots of water, and in the midst of a recession, we have lots of money. The problem is one of distribution, not of actual scarcity.
    This is the usual problem of the United States, which is not just the richest and most powerful nation on Earth now, but on Earth ever, and one of the most blessed in terms of natural resources. We just collectively make loopy decisions about how to distribute the money and water, and we could make other decisions. Whether or not those priorities will change, we could at least have a reality-based conversation about them.
    Take water. My friend Derek Hitchcock, a biologist working to restore the Yuba River, likes to say that California is still a place of abundance. He recently showed me a Pacific Institute report and other documents to bolster his point. They show that about 80% of the state’s water goes to agriculture, not to people, and half of that goes to four crops — cotton, rice, alfalfa and pasturage (irrigated grazing land) — that produce less than 1% of the state’s wealth. Forty percent of the state’s water. Less than 1% of its income. Meanwhile, we Californians are told the drought means that ordinary households should cut back — and probably most should — but the lion’s share of water never went to us in the first place, and we should know it.

    Wis. teachers couldn’t be fired over test scores

    Scott Bauer:

    Wisconsin schools could use student test scores to evaluate teachers, but they still couldn’t use the information to discipline or fire them under a bill moving quickly through the Legislature.
    Lawmakers must remove a ban on using test scores in evaluations for Wisconsin to compete for about $4.5 billion in Race to the Top stimulus money for education. Race to the Top is intended to improve student achievement, boost the performance of minority students and raise graduation rates.
    Republicans and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards say Doyle and Democrats who control the Legislature are still giving teachers too much deference even as they work to qualify the state for the program.
    Wisconsin and Nevada are the only states that don’t allow test results to be used to evaluate teachers. A similar prohibition in New York expires next year, and California removed its ban earlier this year to compete for the federal stimulus money.
    Doyle and Democratic lawmakers are moving quickly to get Wisconsin’s ban removed with a vote this week. There is urgency because applications for the Race to the Top money will likely be due in a couple of months and the Legislature ends its session for the year on Thursday.
    Doyle supports a proposal that would lift Wisconsin’s restriction on tying test scores with teacher evaluations. However, it would keep in place a ban on using the scores to fire, suspend or discipline a teacher.

    Related: Notes and Links: President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Visit Madison’s Wright Middle School (one of two Charter Schools in Madison)..

    For Debate: Who Picks School Board

    [Sent to: Winnie Hu]
    Terrific job with your article “For Debate: Who Picks School Board“.
    A suggestion for a follow-up piece would be not only who Picks the School Board, but also to examine how do candidates get on the ballot. For example in Connecticut, School Board candidates come through the local political ranks yet we always hear, “politics don’t belong on the Board of Education”.
    Then there is another issue of strategically running just enough candidates and thereby severely limiting voter choice. In my town for example there are six BOE candidates and five seats to be filled; that is an 83% chance of winning a BOE seat based on shear numbers and no other factor — is that an election? Voters are not even provided the opportunity to vote a poor performing member off the board under this archaic method. FYI, running just enough candidates is a very well thought out strategy by the local political parties to avoid cannibalizing votes with more candidates to ultimately win Board control which is the end game; but remember, politics don’t belong a the BOE.
    There will be a legislative bill re-introduced for a second time in February allowing Connecticut towns to have non-partison BOE elections, if they so choose. FYI, approximately 90% of all BOE’s nationally are non-partisan and all candidates run as petition candidates.
    For more information, please visit
    Thank you,
    Doug Newman
    Guiflord, CT
    Cell: (203) 516-1006

    NCES High School Longitudinal Study 2009

    National Center for Educational Statistics:

    The High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) is a nationally representative, longitudinal study of more than 23,000 9th graders in 944 schools who will be followed through their secondary and postsecondary years. The study focuses on understanding students’ trajectories from the beginning of high school into postsecondary education or the workforce and beyond. What students decide to pursue when, why, and how are crucial questions for HSLS:09, especially, but not solely, in regards to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, majors, and careers. This study features a new student assessment in algebraic skills, reasoning, and problem solving and includes, like past studies, surveys of students, their parents, math and science teachers, school administrators, as well as a new survey of school counselors. The first wave of data collection for HSLS:09 begins in the fall of 2009 and will produce not only a nationally representative dataset but also state representative datasets for each of ten states.

    The study’s basic facts are here.

    Student achievement standards higher in South Carolina than other states

    Liz Carey:

    According to a new national report, South Carolina student achievement standards are among the highest in the nation.
    The report said many states declare students to have achieved grade-level mastery of reading and math when the children have not, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. [Complete Report 3MB PDF.]
    The agency compared state achievement standards to the standards behind the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress.
    The report, which was released Thursday, said many states deemed children to be proficient or on grade level based on state standards when those students would rate “below basic,” meaning lacking even partial mastery, in reading and math under the NAEP standards.
    State standards vary significantly from state to state, according to the report. But South Carolina standards measured among the highest.
    In 15 states the standards a student had to meet to score proficient on state reading tests for eighth-graders were not as high as the standards to score basic on NAEP, according to the report. But South Carolina standards for eighth-grade reading were the highest in the nation.

    N.Y. Harbor School Seeks Sea Change In Education

    Jacki Lyden:

    Murray Fisher had a dream: Take the 600 miles of New York City’s coastline and all the water surrounding it, and start a maritime high school that would teach inner-city kids about their watery world — everything from boat building and ocean ecology to oyster growing.
    Next year, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School will open its doors on Governors Island, a tree-covered jewel sold to the Dutch for two axes and a necklace, 800 yards off the coast of Manhattan. But for now, the Harbor School is in Bushwick, in the heart of Brooklyn.
    Urban Environment Meets Natural World
    At the Harbor School, each student wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the school’s name. Tanks burble with classroom-grown fish.
    Brendan Malone teaches maritime technology — his classroom is big enough to build wooden boats in.

    Grade the Teachers: A way to improve schools, one instructor at a time

    Michael Jonas:

    A good teacher equals a good school year. Not always, but far more often than not. Ask any parents of an elementary-grade child how the school year is going, and it won’t be long before you’ll hear them rave about – or bemoan – the teacher their child has been assigned to. There are teachers who are duds, who can find a way to drain the fun out of a unit on dinosaurs for second-graders. And there those with a gift for reaching the eighth-grader slouched in the back of the classroom with a penchant for eye rolling. These teachers can bring to life to Poe’s fascination with the dead, or deliver just the right contemporary analogy to make sense of the War of 1812.
    Nearly everyone can probably recall a teacher who lit their passion for poetry or who was able to help them connect all the dots in a seemingly incomprehensible algebra formula. We know that individual teachers can make a huge difference.
    But public schools in America have been bent on ignoring the obvious: Almost nothing about the way we hire, evaluate, pay, or assign teachers to classrooms is designed to operate with that goal in mind. Most teachers receive only cursory performance evaluations, with virtually every teacher graded highly. We use a one-size-for-all salary structure, in which the only factors used in raises are teachers’ higher-education credentials and number of years in the system, neither of which is strongly linked to their effectiveness. And we often let seniority, rather than merit, drive decisions about where a teacher is placed. It is in many ways an industrial model that treats teachers as identical, interchangeable parts, when we know that they are not.

    Education rights for American Indian children need protecting

    Lewis Diguid:

    Robert Cook gave people at a multicultural education convention in Denver a patriotic history lesson that was different from any that most people had heard before.
    Cook, president of the Oglala Lakota Indian Education Association, said Saturday that Article I Section 8 and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution ensure rights through treaties for American Indians. That includes the right for American Indian children to receive a good education that will prepare them for college and good careers.
    Sadly, however, American Indian schools, with an average age of 60 years, are in horrible condition, and the dropout rate of Native people is disproportionately high.
    “Our schools are literally falling apart,” Cook told the 19th Annual International Conference of the National Association for Multicultural Education, which ends today. “They don’t serve the needs of our students.”

    Wilson High School track athlete killed after football game in Long Beach

    Ruben Vives & Ben Bolch:

    Friends and family gathered today at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach to mourn the death of a 16-year-old honors student and track athlete who was gunned down as she and her friends were leaving a football game the night before.
    Melody Ross, a junior in advanced-placement honors and a pole vaulter on the track team, was randomly hit by gunfire that also injured two young men, police said. It is not known if the shooting was gang-related. No arrests have been made.
    Ross was identified by her uncle, Sam Che, who said their family emigrated to Southern California in the mid-1980s from Cambodia. “We escaped the killing fields,” said Che, 36.
    Ross was dressed as Supergirl for the homecoming game against Polytechnic High School that was attended by many other students in costume on the day before Halloween. Ross was “an innocent kid” said Mario Morales, the Wilson High football coach.

    Notes and Links: President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Visit Madison’s Wright Middle School (one of two Charter Schools in Madison).


    President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will visit Madison’s Wright Middle School Wednesday, November 4, 2009, purportedly to give an education speech. The visit may also be related to the 2010 Wisconsin Governor’s race. The Democrat party currently (as of 11/1/2009) has no major announced candidate. Wednesday’s event may include a formal candidacy announcement by Milwaukee Mayor, and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. UPDATE: Alexander Russo writes that the visit is indeed about Barrett and possible legislation to give the Milwaukee Mayor control of the schools.

    Possible Participants:

    Wright Principal Nancy Evans will surely attend. Former Principal Ed Holmes may attend as well. Holmes, currently Principal at West High has presided over a number of controversial iniatives, including the “Small Learning Community” implementation and several curriculum reduction initiatives (more here).
    I’m certain that a number of local politicians will not miss the opportunity to be seen with the President. Retiring Democrat Governor Jim Doyle, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (Falk has run for Governor and Attorney General in the past) and Madison School Superintendent Dan Nerad are likely to be part of the event. Senator Russ Feingold’s seat is on the fall, 2010 ballot so I would not be surprised to see him at Wright Middle School as well.

    Madison’s Charter Intransigence

    Madison, still, has only two charter schools for its 24,295 students: Wright and Nuestro Mundo.
    Wright resulted from the “Madison Middle School 2000” initiative. The District website has some background on Wright’s beginnings, but, as if on queue with respect to Charter schools, most of the links are broken (for comparison, here is a link to Houston’s Charter School Page). Local biotech behemoth Promega offered free land for Madison Middle School 2000 [PDF version of the District’s Promega Partnership webpage]. Unfortunately, this was turned down by the District, which built the current South Side Madison facility several years ago (some School Board members argued that the District needed to fulfill a community promise to build a school in the present location). Promega’s kind offer was taken up by Eagle School. [2001 Draft Wright Charter 60K PDF]

    Wright & Neustro Mundo Background

    Wright Middle School Searches:

    Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

    Madison Middle School 2000 Searches:

    Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

    Nuestro Mundo, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was established in response to the commitment of its founders to provide educational, cultural and social opportunities for Madison’s ever-expanding Latino community.” The dual immersion school lives because the community and several School Board members overcame District Administration opposition. Former Madison School Board member Ruth Robarts commented in 2005:

    The Madison Board of Education rarely rejects the recommendations of Superintendent Rainwater. I recall only two times that we have explicitly rejected his views. One was the vote to authorize Nuestro Mundo Community School as a charter school. The other was when we gave the go-ahead for a new Wexford Ridge Community Center on the campus of Memorial High School.

    Here’s how things happen when the superintendent opposes the Board’s proposed action.

    Nuestro Mundo:

    Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

    The local school District Administration (and Teacher’s Union) intransigence on charter schools is illustrated by the death of two recent community charter initiatives: The Studio School and a proposed Nuestro Mundo Middle School.

    About the Madison Public Schools

    Those interested in a quick look at the state of Madison’s public schools should review Superintendent Dan Nerad’s proposed District performance measures. This document presents a wide variety of metrics on the District’s current performance, from advanced course “participation” to the percentage of students earning a “C” in all courses and suspension rates, among others.

    Education Hot Topics

    Finally, I hope President Obama mentions a number of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent hot topics, including:

    This wonderful opportunity for Wright’s students will, perhaps be most interesting for the ramifications it may have on the adults in attendance. Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman recent Rotary speech alluded to school district’s conflicting emphasis on “adult employment” vs education.

    Wisconsin State Test Score Comparisons: Madison Middle Schools:

    WKCE Madison Middle School Comparison: Wright / Cherokee / Hamilton / Jefferson / O’Keefe / Sennett / Sherman / Spring Harbor / Whitehorse

    About Madison:

    UPDATE: How Do Students at Wright Compare to Their Peers at Other MMSD Middle Schools?

    Will reforming teacher salaries bring mile high results?

    Alan Borsuk:

    Denver is to reform in the way teachers are paid what Milwaukee is to private school vouchers: It’s the place that’s broken a lot of new ground and been a magnet for national attention.
    With the likelihood that the Wisconsin Legislature will take important steps in the next few weeks that will substantially increase the prospects for changing the classic system for teacher salaries, here’s some advice for Wisconsin from Brad Jupp, a central architect of the Denver system:
    “The most important thing to do is not to be so cautious that you don’t move forward,” Jupp said. “Breaking the barrier doesn’t kill you.”
    Nationwide for almost a century, salaries of teachers have been set almost entirely by how many years a person has taught and whether the person has a master’s degree or certain amounts of college credits beyond a bachelor’s degree. Research has pretty firmly established that there is little, if any, correlation between teaching quality and those traditional measurements.
    The political appeal of changing the way teachers are paid is huge now. The idea of paying good teachers more than bad teachers or using pay as an incentive to improve educational results has become popular across the political spectrum. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Madison this week to speak on education, and you can bet he will hit on this point.

    Racial Achievement Gap Still Plagues Schools

    Nancy Solomon via a kind reader’s email:

    American schools have struggled for decades to close what’s called the ‘minority achievement gap’ — the lower average test scores, grades and college attendance rates among black and Latino students.
    Typically, schools place children who are falling behind in remedial classes, to help them catch up. But some schools are finding that grouping students by ability, also known as tracking or leveling, causes more problems than it solves.
    Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., is a well-funded school that is roughly 60 percent black and 40 percent white. The kids mix easily and are friendly with one another. But when the bell rings, students go their separate ways.
    Teacher Noel Cooperberg’s repeat algebra class last year consisted of all minority kids who had flunked the previous year. There were only about a dozen students because the school keeps lower-level classes small to try to boost success. But a group of girls sitting in the middle never so much as picked up a pencil, and they often disrupted the class. It was a different scene from Cooperberg’s honors-level pre-calculus class, which had three times as many students — most of them white.
    These two classes are pretty typical for the school. Lower-level classes — called levels two and three — are overwhelmingly black, while higher-level four and five are mostly white. Students are assigned to these levels by a combination of grades, test scores and teacher recommendations.

    Madison School District Administration Response to the Math Task Force

    The local school district’s increasing use of reform math programs lead to the creation of a “Math Task Force“. The District Administration’s response is outlined in this 2.6MB PDF document:

    The purpose of this report is to describe the recomrnendations in response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Mathematics Task Force Report: Review of Mathematics Curriculum and Related Issues, submitted to the Board of Education June, 2008.
    Administrative Recommendations Summary The materials included in this packet update and replace those distributed to the Board of Education in April 2009. Included in the materials is a proposed budget.
    Middle School Mathematics Specialists (see Recommendations 1-5)
    The Superintendent and UW-Madison Deans of Letters and Sciences and the School of Education commissioned a representative and collaborative group to design a professional development plan for this initiative. The group was convened in June and has since met four times during the summer to research and design a professional development plan to support middle school mathematics teachers.
    The Middle School Math Partnership committee has tentatively planned five courses for the professional development proposal. Those courses are Number and Generalization, Rational Number and Proportional Reasoning, Geometry, Measurement and Trigonometry, and Algebra and Functions. The courses would be spread out over two years and be co-facilitated by UW and MMSD staff.
    Research, data gathering and design will continue through 2009-2010 with the initial cohort of middle school teachers beginning in summer 2010. Upon completion of an initial draft, the plan will be presented to district teachers for further input and refinement.
    In collaboration with the above group, a National Science Foundation Targeted Partnership proposal, Professional Learning Partnership K-20 (PLP K-20), was submitted on August 20, 2009. A UW-Madison and MMSD team of nearly 30 members worked during the summer to craft a proposal focused on systemic and sustainable mathematics professional development. The vision described in the proposal creates “a lasting interface to coordinate material, human, social, and cyber resources” among the UW-Madison and District. The principal investigator of the NSF proposal is Eric Wilcots. Co-Pl’s include Provost Deluca, Superintendent Nerad, Dean Sandefur and Dean Underwood.

    Background notes and links:

    Again, it will be interesting to see what, if any substantive changes occur in the local math programs.

    “Chicago Muscle” on Education Reform and the Democrat Party

    Jonathan Alter:

    Kennedy worked closely with President Bush on the flawed and deeply unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. Like a packaged-goods company with a tainted product, the Obama administration has left that name behind and now calls its program the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, LBJ’s original title in 1965. But the accountability-and-standards movement Kennedy and Bush launched is essential, and Obama has moved much faster than expected to advance it. He and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are showing some Chicago muscle and giving states a “choice” right out of The Untouchables: lift your caps on the number of innovative charter schools allowed and your prohibitions on holding teachers accountable for whether kids learn–or lose a chance for some of Obama’s $5 billion “Race to the Top” money. Massachusetts recently lifted its charter cap and nearly a dozen other states are scampering to comply. Now that’s hardball we can believe in.
    This issue cleaves the Democratic Party. On one side are Obama and the reformers, who point out that we now have a good idea of what works: KIPP and other “no excuses” charter models boast 80 percent graduation rates in America’s roughest neighborhoods, nearly twice the norm. On the other side are the teachers’ unions and their incrementalist enablers in the political class. They talk a good game about education but make up phony excuses for opposing real reform and accountability.

    Madison School District 4K Proposal

    Superintendent Dan Nerad [1.5MB PDF]:

    Providing four year old kindergarten (4K) may be the district’s next best tool to continue the trend of improving academic achievement for all students and continuing to close the achievement gap.
    The quality of care and education that children receive in the early years of their lives is one of the most critical factors in their development. Empirical and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that nurturing environments with appropriate challenging activities have large and lasting effects on our children’s school success, ability to get along with others, and emotional health. Such evidence also indicates that inadequate early childhood care and education increases the danger that at-risk children will grow up with problem behaviors that can lead to later crime and violence.
    Background/Charge On February 9, 2009, the Board of Education asked the Superintendent to reconvene staff, and community members to begin planning for a collaborative 4K program in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The committee was directed to develop recommendations and timelines to present to the BOE.
    Process Membership is attached and was generated by the AFSCME Child Care Representatives with membership growing as the months proceeded. Kathy Hubbard began facilitation and Jim Moeser is currently facilitating the committee work. Throughout the months of meeting, membership and attendance has been constantly high with energy and enthusiasm the same. The matrix presented in this packet includes a brief overview of the five committees below.


    Perhaps the District might implement these initiatives first – and evaluate their effectiveness prior to expanding the organization (and budget) for 4K.

    New York Governor’s Charter Shock

    Brendan Scott & Yoav Gonen:

    In a surprise move, Gov. Paterson said yesterday he doesn’t plan to push for changes to state laws that experts have warned could jeopardize New York’s chances of raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education aid.
    Federal officials have highlighted two state laws in particular — one limiting the number of charter schools to 200 and another prohibiting the use of student test scores in determining whether a teacher deserves tenure — as potential barriers to the state’s bid for a share of the $4.3 billion competitive pot, known as Race to the Top.
    While legislation was introduced last week to enhance New York’s standing by scrapping those laws, a spokeswoman for Paterson — who has supported charter schools in the past — said the governor would not be among its boosters.
    “At this time, we believe New York state is eligible for Race to the Top funds and that legislative changes are currently not needed,” said the spokeswoman, Marissa Shorenstein.

    Madison School District: School Enrollment & Capacity Planning

    Superintendent Dan Nerad [1.75MB PDF]:

    Attached to this memo are several items related to enrollments, both actual and projections, as well as school capacities. We also include data on the enrollment data for students on the basis of their residence. Additional enrollment data will be provided in summary for the Board of Education at the December meeting.
    The first attachment is a one-page overview summary of the past five years of enrollment history, the current year enrollment, and five years of projected enrollment by grade level. Overall, enrollment is generally flat for the district as a whole. However, the projections begin to show a slight increase starting in 2012-13 into 2014-15 at which time we will have increased enrollment to its highest level over the past ten years. By level, elementary and middle schools will continue to see increases in enrollment during the next five years whereas high schools will decline in enrollment.
    The second attachment shows the detailed K-12 enrollment history and projections for each school. Historical data go back to the 1989-90 school year. Projections are through 2014-15. Projection years are boldfaced. The precision of projections at a school level and for specific grade levels within a school are less accurate when compared to the district as a whole. Furthermore, projections are much less reliable for later years in the projection timeline. Also, the worksheet reflects various program and boundary changes that were implemented and this accounts for some large shifts within schools and programs from one year to the next.
    The third attachment contains two sheets – one for elementary and one for middle and high combined – and details the maximum capacities for each school, the current enrollment and capacity percentage, and the projected 2014-15 enrollment and capacity percentage. The sheets are organized by attendance area. Summaries are provided for levels. From the data, it appears elementary schools that have long term capacity constraints include Gompers,.Lake View, Sandburg, Allis/Nuestro Mundo, Kennedy, Orchard Ridge, and Van Hise. However, the schools that share a building with a middle school have access to other space. Among middle schools, Jefferson Middle School is the only school that may experience capacity concerns. None of the high schools are expected to have capacity issues for the foreseeable future.

    College Competitiveness Reconsidered

    Scott Jaschik:

    Everybody knows that college is harder to get into today than ever before, right? That’s why students flock to test-prep courses, and spend countless hours trying to transform themselves into what they imagine admissions deans want.
    Admissions deans have tried to play down the hype, and just last week the National Association for College Admission Counseling released data showing that the acceptance rate at four-year colleges has declined from 71.3 percent in 2001 to 66.8 percent in 2007 — hardly an impossible bar to get over. So why are so many people convinced that the story in higher education admissions is about increased competitiveness?
    The problem — according to a major research project released Monday by a leading scholar of higher education — is that there are two trends at play.
    A small number of colleges have become much more competitive over recent decades, according to Caroline M. Hoxby, an economist at Stanford University. But her study — published by the National Bureau of Economic Research — finds that as many as half of colleges have become substantially less competitive over time.
    The key shift in college admissions isn’t increased competitiveness, Hoxby writes. Rather, both trends are explained by an increased willingness by students generally, and especially the best students, to attend colleges that aren’t near where they grew up. This shift increased the applicant pool for some colleges but cut it for others.
    “Typical college-going students in the U.S. should be unconcerned about rising selectivity. If anything, they should be concerned about falling selectivity, the phenomenon they will actually experience,” Hoxby writes.

    Hoxby’s paper:

    This paper shows that although the top ten percent of colleges are substantially more selective now than they were 5 decades ago, most colleges are not more selective. Moreover, at least 50 percent of colleges are substantially less selective now than they were then. This paper demonstrates that competition for space–the number of students who wish to attend college growing faster than the number of spaces available–does not explain changing selectivity. The explanation is, instead, that the elasticity of a student’s preference for a college with respect to its proximity to his home has fallen substantially over time and there has been a corresponding increase in the elasticity of his preference for a college with respect to its resources and peers. In other words, students used to attend a local college regardless of their abilities and its characteristics. Now, their choices are driven far less by distance and far more by a college’s resources and student body. It is the consequent re-sorting of students among colleges that has, at once, caused selectivity to rise in a small number of colleges while simultaneously causing it to fall in other colleges. I show that the integration of the market for college education has had profound implications on the peers whom college students experience, the resources invested in their education, the tuition they pay, and the subsidies they enjoy. An important finding is that, even though tuition has been rising rapidly at the most selective schools, the deal students get there has arguably improved greatly. The result is that the “stakes” associated with admission to these colleges are much higher now than in the past.

    New Global Academy to offer specialized courses to students in eight Dane County school districts

    Gena Kittner:

    The initial program in biomedicine would include courses in the principles of biomedical sciences; human body systems; medical interventions; and science research. The classes likely would be taught by high school teachers, but would incorporate business and academic experts to help teach, offer apprenticeships and career placement.
    The academy’s location won’t be decided until leaders know how many students are interested in the program. However, one possibility is holding classes at MATC’s West campus in the former Famous Footwear building, Reis said.
    Students – organizers hope about 150 – would travel from their respective high schools to Madison’s Far West Side every day for the courses, which would be part of the academy’s two-year programs. Depending on the interest in the biomedical class, three sections would be taught during the day and possibly one in the evening, Reis said.
    Offering a night class would maximize the use of the facility and offer some flexibility to students who live farther outside of Madison, he said.
    Verona, Middleton Cross-Plains, Belleville, McFarland, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Wisconsin Heights and Madison school districts have agreed to participate in the academy.

    Related: Credit for non Madison School District Courses.