Raises, officers both out as Madison School Board OKs 2020-21 budget — but COVID-19 may cause changes

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The district said total compensation has exceeded the rate of inflation for the last seven years — something it said has helped recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers.

But the board directed officials to pause a proposed 1% increase to base wages and freeze part of a salary schedule that rewards staff the longer they work in the district.

Those raises could eventually be incorporated back into the district’s budget approved in the fall, depending on how the state budget shakes out.

Mirilli said she thinks Gov. Tony Evers will prioritize education in his budget given that he is a former educator. She was optimistic that the raises could be added back in, but said the board needs to be cautious because there’s so much uncertainty.

“This is not our final decision around this,” Mirilli said. “This is a placeholder based on what we know currently.”

Board members Carusi and Nicki Vander Meulen both voted against the preliminary budget. Carusi said she thinks the district’s financial situation “won’t be as dire” as predicted. Vander Meulen said she could not support taking away any money from teachers, even on a preliminary basis.

Recent Madison School District tax & spending history:

1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21

2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21

3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21

4. Total expenditures per pupil: +19.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21

5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 2020

6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020.

Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science

Louisa Moats:

The most fundamental responsibility of schools is teaching students to read. Because reading affects all other academic achievement and is associated with social, emotional, economic, and physical health, it has been the most researched aspect of human cognition. By the year 2000, after decades of multidisciplinary research, the scientific community had achieved broad consensus regarding these questions: How do children learn to read? What causes reading difficulties? What are the essential components of effective reading instruction and why is each important? How can we prevent or reduce reading difficulties? Two decades later, hundreds of additional studies have refined and consolidated what we know about bolstering reading achievement, especially for students at risk.

Scientists use increasingly sophisticated technology that can picture the brain’s activation patterns or measure split-second reactions to speech or print. New statistical methods can document the complicated interactions of many factors as students develop reading skills. Fine-grained analyses illuminate the nature of individual differences and individual responses to instruction. These advanced investigative techniques have confirmed and extended the bedrock findings about reading and effective teaching of reading that were known 20 years ago. Evidence to guide our practices is stronger than it has ever been.

Unfortunately, much of this research is not yet included in teacher preparation programs, widely used curricula, or professional development, so it should come as no surprise that typical classroom practices often deviate substantially from what is recommended by our most credible sources. As a result, reading achievement is not as strong as it should be for most students, and the consequences are particularly dire for students from the least advantaged families and communities.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

High School Athletes Experiencing Increased Anxiety, Depression During Pandemic, Study Shows

Megan Hart:

Public health experts should carefully consider the long-term effects of extended school closures as the coronavirus pandemic continues, according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Timothy McGuine led a team who surveyed more than 3,200 young athletes across the state in May, about three months after schools were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. McGuine said they focused on athletes because they had control data from before the pandemic for comparison.

The survey was conducted online and took about seven minutes to complete. The athletes who responded came from 71 different Wisconsin counties and played a variety of sports.

Reports of moderate to severe depressionwere up by more than 20 percent among those who took the survey in May. According to researchers, this means 66,000 young athletes across the state could be at risk for depression.

Meanwhile, 65 percent of recent survey respondents reported feeling a level of anxiety that’s typically treated by medical intervention, McGuine said.

At the same time, physical activity was down 50 percent among those who took the survey in May. Exercise is considered a powerful intervention against anxiety and depression, he said.

Howard Fuller: On education, race and racism, and how we move forward as a country

Annysa Johnson:

Howard Fuller announced this month that he is retiring from Marquette University, where he is a distinguished professor of education and founder and director of its Institute for the Transformation of Learning.

At 79, Fuller has served in many roles in his lifetime: civil rights activist, educator and civil servant. He is a former superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools and best known in recent decades as a national advocate for school choice, which provides taxpayer-funded vouchers, typically to low-income families.

He is founder of Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy, a local charter high school, which beganinitially as a private religious school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.He is a controversial figure for many public school advocates who believe school choice bleeds needed dollars from those schools.

In addition to retiring from Marquette, Fuller has resigned all of his board appointments, except for that of the school.

Fuller sat down with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Annysa Johnson for a lengthy and wide-ranging discussion. These are excerpts:

Question: When you first announced your retirement, I could sense a weariness in your voice. It was clear you were struggling with where we are in this country right now. What can you say about education in the context of this moment?

Fuller: One of the things that became absolutely clear when the pandemic hit was what we already knew, and that was the inequities in education in this country. What the pandemic did was show which schools were already into the 21st century and which were holding on tightly to the 20th century, still functioning with an industrial-age paradigm. When the pandemic broke, the people who were tied lock, stock and barrel to the industrial-age paradigm, were lost. They had no idea what to do. Because everything was centered onyou gottacome to a building, the teacher is the center of learning, etc.

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Academic Censorship in STEM Fields

Jordan Peterson:

The first story emerges at Brock University, in combination with the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie—the former an educational institution of moderate reputability; the latter a prestigious place of scientific publication among chemists. It is no easy matter to find a permanent tenured faculty position at such a university, or to publish research findings or literature reviews/summaries in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The process generally requires several years and multiple resubmissions and rounds of editing by a minimum of three colleagues per submission with expertise in the field as well as approval by the editor. Angewandte has a rejection rate of 80%—and it should be noted that that rejection rate only takes into account papers that the submitting researcher felt were of sufficient quality to be considered by a journal of high standards. Dr. Tomas Hudlicky of Brock submitted an essay memorializing and updating a piece written thirty years ago, which has been widely recognized as powerfully influencing the direction of the chemistry subfield in question (organic synthesis).

Now, the first thing that must be understood about Dr. Hudlicky is that he holds a prestigious Canada Research Chair, a position funded by part of a large federal initiative devoting approximately 300 million dollars per year in the attempt to attract to Canada (or to encourage to stay in Canada) researchers who are of particular promise, as evidenced most fundamentally by their research productivity. That promise or productivity, in turn, can be measured with reasonable accuracy with metrics such as number of peer-reviewed articles in relevant scientific journals (more than 400 in Hudlicky’s case), by noting how many times such articles are cited by other authors over the years subsequent to publication (Hudlicky: 13300) and, finally, by a metric known as the h-index, which provides a measure of how many publications have received a variable minimum number of citations (and which therefore combines in a single number some information about publications per se and some about citations). A researcher with an h-index of 10 has published 10 papers with 10 or more citations; a researcher with an h-index of 57 (Hudlicky’s score) has published 57 papers with 57 or more citations. Hudlicky’s research productivity is admirable and rare. The mere fact that he was hired as a Canada Research Chair meant that his department, as well as the federal governmental agency tasked with funding the attraction or retention of extreme talent, both determined in the relatively recent past that he was a fish well worth landing. Something about this needs to be clarified: the universities that hire those researchers competent enough to be competitive in a Canada Research Chair competition are not doing them a favor by offering them a position; rather, it is an honor for the university (and the students, both undergraduate and graduate, that attend the institution) to be chosen by the researcher in question. No serious academic disputes this, although some may quibble about the precise metrics used for identification of the serious talent. This is particularly true of an institution such as Brock, which is an university of reasonable but not exceptional quality, and which genuinely needs highly productive faculty members to help it ratchet itself up the very competitive academic ladder.

Hudlicky’s paper in Angewandte Chemie was peer-reviewed positively, judged as desirable by the relevant editorial staff, and published. This meant that it managed the difficult job of passing through the eye of a needle, and entering the kingdom of heaven, at least as far as research chemists might be concerned. But some of Dr. Hudlicky’s surmises with regard to the discipline of organic synthesis raised the ire of a Twitter mob (https://twitter.com/fxcoudert/status/1268920299833233416?s=20). This is not a difficult feat, in my opinion, as Twitter seems to exist primarily for the purpose of generating mobs—composed primarily of individuals who are hungry for the opportunity to taste blood and bask in the joys of reasonably risk-free reputation destruction, revenge and self-righteousness. Furthermore, as far as Twitter mobs go, those who complained about the Angewandte Chemie publication were not particularly numerous. No matter: once the complaints emerged, the editor of the journal in charge of Dr. Hudlicky’s work—one Dr. Neville Compton—removed the paper from the journal’s website, and offered an abject apology for daring to have published it in the first place. Furthermore, he reported the “suspension” of two of the journal’s editors (indicating precisely how much trust those individuals should have placed initially in his judgement) and cast aspersions on Hudlicky’s ethics, stating that his essay did not properly reflect fairness, trustworthiness and social awareness, while implying that the now-pilloried author and his peer reviewers and editors were discriminatory, unjust and inequitable in practice. It should be noted, by the way, that the position of editor for a scientific journal is general one filled by volunteers, who donate their time for the greater good of the scientific enterprise, rather than for any monetary gain. So Compton fired generous volunteers to ensure that his good name would not be irredeemably sullied by any association with the now-demonized professor Hudlicky and his ne’er-do-well compatriots (none of whom likely knew each other except in passing).

Bashing Administrators While The University Burns

Gabriele Paquette:

Furstenberg joins a venerable tradition of scholars, stretching from Thorstein Veblen to his colleague Benjamin Ginsberg, who decry the misplaced priorities of universities and those who lead them. Infected by the mentality of the marketplace, these custodians of tradition contend, universities have abandoned their lofty (and laudable) mission as creators and repositories of knowledge. They have been reduced to mere finishing schools for the offspring of the One Percent. Their endowments serve as tax shelters for latter-day captains of industry whose philanthropic priorities conflict with, and eventually supersede, long-cherished academic values.

The elegiac tone of Furstenberg’s essay is justified. The following are incontrovertible: the adjunctification of the professoriate; the proliferation of deans; the defunding of public universities; the depreciation of the humanities; the sharp rise in managerial salaries; the comparative stagnation of faculty and staff compensation; the conflation of a university’s reputation with the fortunes of its athletic teams; and the asset-stripping that sometimes accompanies university partnerships with private enterprise.

It is not my purpose to rebut Furstenberg’s critique or to rationalize the injurious slashing of benefits. Yet his essay suffers from a defect that undermines its forcefulness — a false nostalgia for a purportedly lost Golden Age of faculty-led university governance, insulated from and impervious to market forces. This notion is widely shared in contemporary academic culture. It is also harmful, stifling reform when universities can ill afford complacency.

If universities are to survive the present crisis (and, sadly, many will not), a collective drive for self-preservation must replace the internecine jostling between the faculty and administration. Averting a mass-extinction event will necessitate a radical restructuring of the university, which can only succeed with an unprecedented degree of collaboration.

China’s gaokao exam fraud: victims learn the worst after cheats steal their grades and university places

Alice Yan:

Gou Jing wondered whether something was amiss when she took China’s university entrance exam, or gaokao , in 1997 and got a surprisingly low mark.

A student from a peasant family in the town of Jiezhuang, in the eastern province of Shandong, Gou sat the test again the next year and – despite having been ranked fourth out of tens of thousands of students in a mock test not long before – she again did mysteriously poorly, and was sent to study at a tertiary technical college in Hubei, in central China.

It remained a mystery until 2003, when Gou’s former form teacher sent her a letter in which he admitted tampering with the marks and asked for Gou’s forgiveness, news portal ifeng.com reported on Wednesday.

Colleges Spend Millions to Prepare to Reopen Amid Coronavirus

Melissa Korn:

As colleges around the country map out plans to reopen their campuses in the fall, they have embarked on some unique and pricey shopping expeditions: sourcing miles of plexiglass, hundreds of thousands of face masks and, in the case of the University of Central Florida, trying to get in an order for 1,200 hand-sanitizer stations before neighboring theme parks could buy them all up.

Costs for protective gear, cleaning supplies and labor for employees to take students’ temperatures and conduct hourly wipe-downs of doorknobs are already running into the millions of dollars.

The added expenses come as many schools face severe budget crunches due to lower enrollment and tuition revenue, refunded housing fees from the spring and costs tied to shifting online. Even well-resourced schools are trying to fundraise to stock up on supplies.

Reopening college campuses is contingent on approval from local health officials, who in some states haven’t yet signed off on campus-based instruction. Still, many schools remain hopeful and are pushing ahead with planning, with some already bringing student-athletes back for voluntary workouts.

In high school, my friends and I were inseparable. We grew up in the same church with the same faith. How did we all drift so far apart?

Laura Turner:

The church at the corner of Algonquin and Barrington roads was so big that it was often mistaken for a community college. At Willow Creek, a mile-long driveway wound around a manmade lake where believers got baptized in the summer months, and in the spring it was littered with Canadian geese and their goslings. The parking lots were so big that I learned to drive there, on uninterrupted swaths of flat Midwestern bog. My family lived three miles away; my parents were both pastors there; my first job was there. My friends were there. For a time that still feels like something out of a Pat Conroy novel, I had a group of wonderful friends. We moved as one organism in those high school days, submerged as we were in the urgent, heady waters of teenage faith in the middle of the cresting wave of American evangelicalism. Bound to them by the kind of affection born of knowing someone when they were 16, I still count these people as dear to me. But the truth is it has been a decade since we were all together.