Madison West Students To Protest Proposed School Changes, via a kind reader’s email:

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4 thoughts on “Madison West Students To Protest Proposed School Changes”

  1. The high school reform proposal would apply to all of the Madison high schools, but only West HS students have gotten so riled up. And how did that happen? Certain staff at West fed the kids misinformation. I don’t know whether the misinformation was because the staff didn’t understand the proposal or was intentional. Regardless, it was manipulative and an abuse of their position as teachers and staff to do so. Further, many of these teachers encouraged the agitation. Highly unprofessional!!!
    Most of these kids who are protesting are really pretty confused about what they are protesting about. If you read the proposal and the letter from Dan Nerad, they don’t say the things these kids think are going to happen.
    What an embarrassment. West has become the biggest MMSD-pain-in-the-ass.

  2. As a board member, I have a somewhat different take.
    Initially, I was outraged over the role that inflammatory roles that some – not all – West staff played in inflammatory statements and behaviors. The most unfortunate singled out the parents of current students who signed the complaint to DPI over programming for TAG students.
    After I read the e-mail sent to staff, I did not appreciate the behaviors and the use of class time to agitate. On the other hand, I have to say that I would be pretty distressed were I a high school teacher hearing about changes in my daily work, and feeling as if my experience, observations, questions, or reservations were excluded and unwelcome in the process.
    As for the students, the contacts that I have had, and many of the postings on Facebook, have been appropriate, eloquent, and earnest. The speed and level of mobilization on this issue was very impressive, and at times the students have sounded more intelligent and responsible than some of the adults in the conversation.
    There were indeed places where students had their facts wrong. Having looked at the documents, I don’t know that I am seeing a plan so much as a grid outlining a plan. There is not a lot of detail, and that leaves room for confusion and misinterpretation.
    There also were misunderstandings of some of the procedural issues. Some of those misunderstandings related to the process of presenting a proposal to the board and asking for approval. It is understandable that many people are unaware that major curricular changes must be approved by the school board before they can be implemented. Why? Because this has been presented to staff as a done deal.
    To the extent that students have been informed by staff (remember, the letter to families went out after this blew up), it makes sense that many people would be unaware that there is a more formal process before this is set in place.
    Instead of trashing the students, it might be helpful to stop and consider that these are young people who are learning as they advocate for their school and their programs.
    I am looking forward hearing the reactions of the other high school communities when they receive information on what is being proposed. To be honest, parts of what I have seen have reminded me of the changes that Alan Harris tried to make in TAG at East. Changes that also drew rooms full of angry parents and students.
    West may have been first in reacting to the proposed high school reforms, but I will be surprised if it is the last school community to go full out to prootect against threats – real or perceived – to the classes and programs that are part of the school’s vitality and academic tradition.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts here, Lucy, and I agree that it definitely has not been all teachers and staff at West that have been involved, and there has been much reason for misinformation.
    However, students have been coming home crying (literally) and very distressed because of what their teachers have told their classes, and these statements have included such unsubstantiated rumors as:
    That 22 teachers would be fired (Do you think MTI would let that happen?)
    That the theater program would be cancelled.
    Complaining to the students that they would no longer be able to teach their specific electives (without any indication that this would happen).
    That the situation proposed is tracking and racism (Do these teachers know what flexible ability grouping is and how it differs from tracking?)
    That students who have already taken electives would not receive credit for them and would be forced to retake them as English 11 and English 12.
    Some encouraged and helped students write a petition that was full of misinformation.
    One teacher even publicly humiliated a student who disagreed, including bringing principal Ed Holmes into his class to do so.
    The students did conduct themselves well in their sit-in, but who sparked their adolescent passion to protest in the first place?

  4. It is true that my daughter came home crying that electives were going to be taken away. She even mentioned something that made be believe that teachers were expecting students to walk out though when I later questioned her on this she did not think this was true and perhaps she had imagined this . It is great that the staff at West are passionate about what they teach but as the comment above mentions,why was there misinformation and sharing of rumors with students to the extent that students reacted with a protest?

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