ACLU Wisconsin Opposed to Single Sex Charter School (Proposed IB Madison Preparatory Academy)

Chris Ahmuty 220K PDF:

Superintendent Daniel Nerad School Board President Maya Cole School Board Members Ed Hughes, James Howard, Lucy Matthiak,
Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman & Arlene Silveira, and
Student Representative Wyeth Jackson
Madison Metropolitan School District
545 W Dayton St
Madison WI 53703-1967
RE: Opposition to Single Sex Charter School
Dear Superintendent Nerad, President Cole, and School Board Members:
We are writing on behalf of the ACLU of Wisconsin to oppose the proposal for an all-male charter school in Madison. Single sex education is inadvisable as a policy matter, and it also raises significant legal concerns.
The performance problems for children of color in Madison public schools cross gender lines: it is not only African-American and Latino boys who are being failed by the system. Many students of color and low income students – girls as well as boys – are losing out. Further, there is no proof that separating girls from boys results in better-educated children. What’s more, perpetuating gender stereotypes can do nothing more than short-change our children, limiting options for boys and girls alike. For these reasons, the ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the effort to open a single-sex, publicly-funded charter school in Madison.
To be clear: the ACLU does not oppose the idea of providing a public charter school with a rigorous academic program and supplemental resources as an alternative to existing school programs in the Madison district. And we strongly encourage efforts to ensure that programming is available to children in underserved communities. Were this an effort to provide an International Baccalaureate program to both boys and girls in Madison – such as the highly- rated, coeducational Rufus King High School in Milwaukee, whose students are predominantly low-income children of color – we would likely be applauding it.

Clusty Search: Chris Ahmuty.
Much more on the proposed IB Charter School Madison Preparatory Academy, here.

  • Jim Zellmer

    The Urban League’s response to the ACLU-Wisconsin letter can be viewed here:
    http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/pdf/2010/12/ulgm_aclu_response_12162010.pdf

  • Lucy Mathiak

    My response to the ACLU:
    Thank you for writing.
    Please be advised that there is a companion proposal for a single sex school for
    girls that will complement the proposal for a single sex school for boys.
    While your points are well argued, I respectfully point out that the families
    whose children are not being served by Madison schools, don’t have the luxury of
    theoretical arguments about the finer points of law. They need schools where
    there (sic) children can succeed and be encouraged to produce academic excellence.
    They needed such schools yesterday and have not succeeded in achieving such
    schools within the Madison public school system.
    For that reason, I will support the Madison Prep proposal as long as district
    fiscal liability is limited in the final contract.
    At this time, there is no formal or final proposal. Only a preliminary document
    and a request for the opportunity to apply to DPI for a planning grant. I will
    support the application for a planning grant for the purpose of working out the
    details and developing a financial plan for the school.
    I will do so because the children who the Urban League proposes to serve are
    real and need real opportunities. The Urban League and its community propose to
    address those needs. I intend to support such efforts.
    Sincerely,
    Lucy Mathiak

    Lucy J. Mathiak
    716 Orton Ct.
    Madison, WI 53703
    Madison School Board
    Seat #2

  • James Madison

    Lucy Mathiak wrote:
    ” I respectfully point out that the families whose children are not being served by Madison schools, don’t have the luxury of theoretical arguments about the finer points of law. They need schools where there (sic) children can succeed and be encouraged to produce academic excellence. They needed such schools yesterday and have not succeeded in achieving such schools within the Madison public school system.”
    I couldn’t agree more. Low income minority kids with high potential are the most disadvantaged by elimination of rigorous, honors classes, yet that is the situation at West High School. And yet the West HS principal, who endorses such poverty of educational opportunity, supposedly supports the Urban League’s IB School. I am all for this IB Charter school, but the absolute irony is that if West HS were providing the challenging classes that the Madison Prep School plans to do, Madison Prep wouldn’t be needed so very much. (I realize there would be students from the other high schools that might feed kids into Madison Prep, but none of the other 3 high schools have the total lack of true honors classes for 9th grade.)
    We have a very confusing twisted political situation here.

  • Larry Winkler

    In supporting the prep school proposals, Lucy responds to the ACLU suit that parents and underachieving kids “don’t have the luxury of theoretical arguments about the finer points of law”,
    I didn’t see any finer points of laws discussed but did note that the ACLU of Wisconsin cited Kaleem Caire and the Urban League’s support of Leonard Sax and Michael Gurian positions on sex differences and education. Further digging into Sax and Gurian’s arguments and substantive positions and how their positions are reflected in this proposal is critical.
    For those who did not read the ACLU letter, they list some positions Sax makes to support single sex education:
    1) Teachers should smile at girls and look them in the eye. However, teachers must not look boys directly in the eye or smile at them.
    2) Boys do well under stress, and girls do badly, so girls should never be given time limits on a test.
    3) Girls should take their shoes off in class because this helps them relax and think better.
    4) Literature teachers should not ask boys about characters’ emotions, and should only focus on what the characters actually did. But teachers should focus on characters’ emotions in teaching literature to girls.
    5) Boys should receive strict discipline based on asserting power over them. Young boys can be spanked. Girls must never be spanked. Girls should be disciplined by appealing to their empathy.
    6) A boy who likes to read, who does not enjoy contact sports, and who does not have a lot of close male friends has a problem, even if he thinks he is happy. He should be firmly disciplined, required to spend time with “normal males,” and made to play sports.”
    They also list a few positions from Gurian:
    1) Boys are better than girls in math because boys’ bodies receive daily surges of testosterone. Girls have similar skills only during the few days in their menstrual cycle when they have an estrogen surge. Because of this estrogen surge, “an adolescent girl may perform well on any test, including math, a few days a month.” Boys can do well any day.
    2) Boys are abstract thinkers, and so are naturally good at things like philosophy and engineering. Girls are concrete thinkers and do better in math and science if teachers give them objects that they can touch, such as beans or buttons, to illustrate the lesson.
    3) Boys should be given Nerf baseball bats with which to hit things so they can release tension during class.
    4) “Pursuit of power is a universal male trait. Pursuit of a comfortable environment is a universal female trait.”
    Really! ?
    We’ve had 50 years or more of fads and pseudo-scientific theories that support them that has lead to continual decline even the most basic thinking skills — the proof of which is adults (teachers, school board members, politicians, community leaders) who are simply incapable of the necessary thinking skills to dispense with this garbage out-of-hand.

  • Lucy Mathiak

    Interesting points, James, and well taken. My sense is that the issues with honors at West and the proposal for the IB school may overlap a bit, but are also very different.
    It is true that some students of color would likely be served if West offered the same advanced educational opportunities.
    I don’t know if West’s principal actively supports the Madison Prep proposal.
    I do know that the parents who have been fighting for Honors classes at West also have been very active and knowledgeable in trying to help diversify the Talented and Gifted programs in MMSD. Individuals who have been leaders in advocating for advanced opportunities also have spoken in support of the Madison Prep proposal.
    I think it would be great if all Madison schools provided advanced academic opportunities for as many students as there are students wanting to participate. I think it would be fabulous of all students of color were encouraged to to achieve at their highest levels and provided the opportunities to do so.
    The thing is, neither of those two dream structures exist in MMSD at this time. That is why there was a complaint to the DPI over TAG programming, and there are the seeds of a proposal for a rigorous academic prep school to serve young men of color.
    As a result, parents of TAG students (including students of color) students of color, and parents of color who are unwilling to gamble with their chidren’s future, are choosing schools and districts other than MMSD. (At least that is what they are telling us.)

  • MMSD teacher

    Many aspects of the Madison Prep proposal seem very viable for a public charter school such as single-gender population, parental involvement contract and school uniforms. But, what is unacceptable to me is that Madison Prep’s planning group would attempt to circumvent the legal contract between MMSD and Madison Teacher’s, Inc. unlike Badger Rock Middle School’s planning group that saught a cooperative relationship with MTI related to their charter school planning grant proposal.
    In my opinion, the Madison Prep’s proposal to hire non-Union represented teachers implies that our fairly bargained contract is to blame for the lack of minority student achievement of black and Latino males in our district. This is unfair and unwise indeed when I witness on a day to day basis the hard work of all of my peers related to meeting the needs of diverse students in their classrooms.
    Nuestro Mundo Community School and James C. Wright Middle School are two successful charter schools in our district that work well within our current CBA. Why change that for Madison Prep? I certainly hope that our school district administration consider the legal ramifications of approving this charter proposal.

  • Anonymous

    I have to ask: if Wright Middle School is so darn successful, why are it’s alumni so poorly prepared for success in high school?
    Why not find a way to turn Wright over to Caire and his group? Girls on one floor, boys on another.
    Although I sometimes question their sincerity, it seems to me that those TAG parents are the only ones who believe that poor and minority students can actually achieve at high levels. Everyone else has those crippling, racist, patronizing low expectations.

  • dadanonymous

    On a slightly different note, if approved, where will the MMSD house Madison Prep? Seems as if they can’t afford to buy and build, so it would need a current building, a middle school at the minimum since they won’t stick a potential middle/high school inside or alongside an elementary school. Has anyone considered this or does that discussion happen only after approval by the district? I’m thinking of the loud and long battle over displacing an entire school to make way for a charter.

  • Arlene Silveira

    To: dadanonymous
    The school is being proposed as an MMSD non-instrumentality. This means it will not be an MMSD school, nor will their employees be MMSD employees. Therefore, it is not the responsibility of the MMSD to find a location for the school. It is the responsibility of the group applying for the charter school.

  • Lucy Mathiak

    I am not a lawyer, but I can read policy documents. WI statutes were revised to permit single-sex schools and courses. DPI has a very good question and answer page about the law and how DPI is interpreting it, at: http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/pnd-singlesex.html The page begins: On April 14, 2006, the Governor approved Act 346, which allows school boards and charter schools to establish single-sex schools and courses. Act 346 amended §§ 118.13(1), 118.40(4)(b)2, 119.04(1), and 119.22, Wisconsin Statutes, and created §§ 118.40(4)(c) and 120.13(38), Wisconsin Statutes. You can access Act 346 online at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2005/data/acts/05Act346.pdf ….