Our series, School Matters, features extended stories and investigations on education. In this installment, we’re looking at a lawsuit winding its way through the federal appeals process that questions whether access to literacy is a constitutional right. A federal judge in Michigan recently ruled it wasn’t when he dismissed a 2016 case. That case claimed students in some of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools were denied “access” to literacy due to poor management, discrimination and underfunding.
For years, Detroit public schools were under control of emergency managers, who were trying to lift the district out of debt. But, this case has drawn national attention because of its wide-ranging implications, possibly leading to federal changes to the education system.
March 10, 2018: The Wisconsin State Journal published “Madison high school graduation rate for black students soars”.
September 1, 2018: “how are we to understand such high minority student graduation rates in combination with such low minority student achievement?”
On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.
2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”
2011: On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)
2013: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.
In closing, Madison spends far more than most K-12 taxpayer funded organizations.
Federal taxpayers have recently contributed to our property tax base.