Madison PTO presidents consider education challenges

Susan Endres:

Although the school board elections are over, education-related issues still weigh on parents’ minds.
For Suzanne Swift, the president of Franklin-Randall Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization, the issues are the same as they have always been, despite certain ones being used by candidates to “hang their hats on.”
Several PTO leaders from around the Madison Metropolitan School District hit on four common topics that concern them: the achievement gap, the Common Core State Standards, the state budget, and the allocation of resources across MMSD’s schools.
According to Swift, the issues have shifted since her oldest child started at Franklin Elementary six years ago. At that time, the increasingly large classroom sizes dominated the discussion. Now, that issue comes up less often than the achievement gap and changing curriculum.
The achievement gap
The academic achievement disparity between white and minority students remains one of the top concerns in education.
Jill Jokela is a past PTO president who remains actively involved in the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition. The group aims to include voices from all schools that feed into East High School.
The achievement gap has been an issue for a long time, she said, but became more pronounced as Madison’s demographics have changed. She spent about eight years as a PTO leader on Madison’s east side until 2010.
Shelby Connell, PTO president at Van Hise Elementary School, and Ann Lacy, co-coordinator of the parent-staff group at East High School, said that although they haven’t personally seen much of the achievement gap in their schools, it’s still a big issue for MMSD.