The Capital Times editorializes, “Madison has a great public schools system” and Board President “Ali Muldrow, is a dynamic leader “who will move Madison schools in the right direction” — sentiments reminiscent of the acclaim it offered former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, whose policies Muldrow seems poised to continue.
But is it really great?
Cheatham and Muldrow committed to eliminate the Black achievement gap. After seven years of their leadership, 89% of black third graders remain unable to read, plummeting to 5% by eighth grade — no better than when they began.
First, the school district persisted in teaching reading with obsolete whole and balanced language methods for two decades after research demonstrated that phonics is superior for disadvantaged kids.
Worse, the district has focused not on fixing its mistakes, but, like a magician’s misdirection, on shifting attention away from those embarrassing reading scores to graduation rates. Then it promptly lowered standards to pump up graduation stats.
The second reason for the district’s failure has been a breakdown in discipline. Just two years ago, Madisonian’s, who like the Cap Times had thought the city still had great schools, woke up to read a shocking article in Isthmus titled “A Rotten Year.”
The article meticulously documented the unraveling of discipline at Madison’s middle and high schools that followed the policies of Cheatham, who threw dedicated teachers committed to racial justice under the bus when they sought to maintain order, and Muldrow, who accused teachers worried about disruptive behavior of being racist.
“What’s new this year,” one teacher said, “is you don’t know how an interaction with a kid is going to go or that the district will support you after the fact. What ends up happening is teachers do nothing.”
2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results
My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results
Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.