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.
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.
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
- Civic Engagement
- Cultural Relevance
- Flexible Instruction
Related: Proposed Madison School District Strategic Plan Performance Measures.
Doonesbury covers the Facebook pulse….
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.”
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.”
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).]
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.
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.
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
Education / Evolving Disrupting Class
Network of EdVisions Schools
Audubon Center Charter Schools
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Collaborative for Sustainability Education
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.”
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.
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.
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.
www.whitehouse.gov, via a kind reader’s email:
DISCUSSION WITH STUDENTS WITH SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN
JAMES C. WRIGHT MIDDLE SCHOOL
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.
RACE TO THE TOP ANNOUNCEMENT
JAMES C. WRIGHT MIDDLE SCHOOL
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.
BACKGROUND ON JAMES C. WRIGHT MIDDLE SCHOOL
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.
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.
Duncan appears in Madison today with President Obama.
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.
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 http://gcq.sagepub.com/content/vol53/issue4. A Podcast interview with the editor about the differences (or not) in the myths since 1982 is available at http://gcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/full/53/4/DC1.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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)..
[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 http://sites.google.com/site/ctnonpartisanboardsofecuation/
Cell: (203) 516-1006
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.
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.
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.
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
UPDATE: How Do Students at Wright Compare to Their Peers at Other MMSD Middle 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.