Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham “exceeds expectations” in school board’s first evaluation

Molly Beck: Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has “brought a fresh lens to the district,” and exceeded the School Board’s expectations, according to her first evaluation by the board. The work completed in the district under Cheatham is “moving in the right direction,” board members wrote in a seven-page evaluation. Cheatham was hired in […]

“More Rigor is Needed” – Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; Possible?

Pat Schneider: Middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District have become caring environments for students, but aren’t rigorous enough to prepare them for high school academic work, says Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. “We know there are quite a few things that highly effective schools do that we have not been doing in both our middle […]

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Contract



630K PDF Contract between Superintendent Cheatham and the Madison School District.
The lack of Superintendent oversight was an issue during the Rainwater era. Superintendent Cheatham’s contract includes this:

14.01 At least once each year, the BOARD of Education will provide the ADMINISTRATOR with an evaluation
a. The annual evaluation shall occur in closed session.
b. Prior to the BOARD conducting the SUPERINTENDENT’S evaluation, the SUPERINTENDENT shall provide the BOARD a self-appraisal. The BOARD shall take this self-appraisal into account in conducting its evaluation
c. All forms used and report formats requested as part of the evaluation process shall be collaboratively developed and mutually agreed upon by the ADMINISTRATOR and the BOARD.
d. While individual opinions may be expressed in the evaluation process, the final written record of performance evaluations shall include only narrative statements or opinions endorsed by a majority of the BOARD. The written evaluation shall be considered confidential to the extent permitted by law

Related: A Look At Compensation Packages for Wisconsin School District Superintendents.
Yet, reading, an issue for years in the Madison School District, remains a disastrous problem.

A few “Tweets” on Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal


I’m glad to see the apparent focus on doing a few things well. This is the only way forward given the District’s disastrous reading results. That said, I was disappointed when the new Superintendent largely continued the “same service” budget approach during the 2013-2014 financial discussions.
The District’s 2x per student spending (above the national average) has supported numerous initiatives, likely preventing a focus on those that are truly meaningful for our students. For example, Kerry Motoviloff noted that Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”. Steven Sinofsky’s latest is also worth reading in this context.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan

Molly Beck:

All students in the Madison School District would have their own tablets or notebook computers by the 2018-19 school year under a five-year, $31 million plan proposed by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
If approved, the plan would increase the district’s current
$1.5 million annual technology budget to $4.2 million in the 2014-15 school year to start upgrading the district’s network infrastructure, upgrade or equip classrooms and libraries with new technology or computers, and provide notebook computers to all district teachers and administrators. Elementary teachers also would get tablet computers under the plan.
Costs to upgrade are projected to increase each of the five years of the plan for a total of $31 million spent in that time. Afterward, the annual budget for technology would be about $7 million per year going forward.
…..
Madison School Board members, who formally received the plan at their meeting Monday, were mostly optimistic about the plan. Board member T.J. Mertz questioned whether the program needed to be as extensive as it’s proposed given what he said were other unmet needs in the district and given research that he called “universally disappointing” surrounding such initiatives.
Mertz said in an interview after Monday’s board meeting that he agrees with the majority of the investments in technology under the plan, “but then there’s a third or a quarter where I think it’s going overboard.”
As an example, Mertz said he questions whether every kindergarten student needs their own tablet computer.

Prior to spending any additional taxpayer funds on new initiatives, I suggest that the District consider (and address) the status of past expensive initiatives, including:
Infinite Campus: is it fully implemented? If not, why? Why continue to spend money on it?
Standards based report cards“.
Connected Math.
Small Learning Communities.
And of course, job number one, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores.
Madison already spends double the national average per student ($15k). Thinning out initiatives and refocusing current spending on reading would seem to be far more pressing than more hardware.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham cites previous lack of “long-term vision” in presenting 2013-14 budget for Madison schools

Bennet Goldstein:

Cheatham said Madison schools have already implemented a variety of initiatives to increase student achievement but have not seen “measurable improvements.”
“It isn’t for lack of working very hard and doing a lot of things at once,” she said. “I feel pretty confident the reason that hasn’t occurred is because of the lack of long-term vision.”
Cheatham recommended the board focus on strengthening existing programs and infrastructure, which would not require new expenditures.
“I want to be more strategic and thoughtful about this than how we did it in the past,” she added.

Much more on the Madison School District’s planned spending & property tax increases via the 2013-2014 budget, here.
Related: Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap.

New Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham calls for accountability across the board in Madison School District

Pat Schneider:

Fresh off a two-month tour to observe the operations of all 48 schools, various programs, and the Madison School District’s central administrative offices, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is promising to “ensure accountability at every level.”
Accountability as Cheatham describes it will include student achievement on standardized tests of the type that current school reform movements emphasize, but will go far beyond that to a new understanding of educators’ roles, the support they need to master them, and refined local measures of progress, she said.
“I worry that people perceive accountability as standardized test results, for example, and what I’m talking about is accountability for everybody playing well the function they are best positioned for in the service of children learning well,” Cheatham told me Thursday in an interview. “Educators at every level of the system lack clarity on what that particular function is for them.”http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2013/06/deja_vu_a_focus.php”>Accountability was one of five priority areas Cheatham identified in anEntry Plan Report released Wednesday. The others are: well-rounded, culturally responsive instruction; personal educational pathways for students; attracting, developing and retaining top-level talent; and engaging families and community members as partners.

Related: Deja Vu: A Focus on “Adult Employment” or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.

Madison school board candidates Wayne Strong and Dean Loumos discuss superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 3, former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos is running against retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong. The winner will replace retiring school board member Beth Moss.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates.
This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison school board candidates Greg Packnett and James Howard discuss superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections here.

Why did Jennifer Cheatham change jobs so often?

Michael L. Gourlie:

The hiring process for Madison School District superintendent had its strange twists, but it appears all are euphoric with first impressions of Jennifer Cheatham. Our new superintendent received the School Board’s blessing, commendations from the mayor and community support for her pedigree and ability to relate to others.
However, one question that jumped out and either was never asked or not reported is why she never held a job longer than two years since she advanced to administration from a teacher position in 2003.
It’s not as if she was upwardly mobile within one school district, but rather she switched cities and districts at every stop except the first. Madison is her fifth change of city in 10 years, according to a Friday article.
Generally candidates with this type of resume are either opportunists jumping at the next ladder rung, or they move on before their performance catches up with them.

Much more on Jennifer Cheatham, here.

Citizen Dave: If Jennifer Cheatham is right for Madison schools superintendent, just hire her already

Dave Cieslewicz:

Madison has many wonderful traits. This town’s obsession with process is not one of them.
All indications are that the one remaining choice for the Madison public schools’ new superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, would be a great pick. I’m told by people close to the decision that the Chief Instruction Officer for the Chicago Public Schools has been the top candidate all along, and that she is a “rock star” in the education world.
There is no job harder or more important in our city than being its schools superintendent. This is a city full of education experts whose child is clearly a genius (just like them) and yet isn’t being challenged enough by their teachers. At the same time, we have a growing number of poor kids who come to school without the basics, even a good breakfast. So, the challenge is to meet the high expectations of highly educated parents, while trying to give underprivileged kids the best chance possible to succeed, all in the context of constricted budgets.
At the same time, the stakes for our whole city are enormous. Failing public schools have been the downfall of dozens of American cities.

Much more on Madison’s most recent Superintendent search, here.

Madison School District Mid Year Review

Madison School District Administration: We’re halfway through the school year and have some exciting updates to share with you. In this mid-year review, we’ll start by revisiting our vision for all Madison students (you can hear Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham describe that here), catch up with the graduates featured in our 2015-16 Annual Report, hear about […]

Commentary On The Legacy Government K-12 School Climate

Jennifer Cheatham: With a contested race for state superintendent of public instruction and a legislative session that is swinging into gear, much is at stake for public education in Wisconsin. One of the fundamental issues at the center of the debate is the potential expansion of “school choice,” which is the term used to describe […]

As charter renewal looms, Badger Rock Middle School pledges to improve its performance

Doug Erickson: A small, environmental-themed charter school in Madison with a substandard academic record is facing heightened School Board scrutiny as its charter comes up for renewal. Badger Rock Middle School, 501 E. Badger Road, opened in 2011 amid great enthusiasm for its emphasis on urban agriculture, environmental sustainability and project-based learning. Last month, though, […]

Madison’s Badger Rock Middle School Achievement Analysis

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF): BRMS was founded to empower its students to thrive as citizens, entrepreneurs, leaders, collaborators, and innovators, working to restore the natural world and to better the cultural environment while creating just, nourishing, and sustainable communities. Today, BRMS embraces this through an urban agriculture lens and a philosophy of participatory, place-based learning […]

Madison’s Wright Middle School Achievement Review

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF): Wright was founded to successfully educate all students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence required to participate fully in an evolving global society. The school was created to be a pioneer in the use of thematic integrated and multi-cultural curricula as a way of connecting with the lives of its students. […]

Madison Schools 2016 Property Tax Increase Referendum – Let’s Compare: Madison and Middleton Property Taxes

The Madison School District is considering another property tax increase referendum for the upcoming November election. We’ve long spent more than most districts (“plenty of resources”), despite challenging academic outcomes. I thought it might be useful to revisit the choices homeowners and parents make. I’ve compared two properties, one in Middleton (2015 assessment: $257,500.00) and […]

Let’s Compare: Boston, Long Beach & Madison

Enrollment Staff Budget Boston 56,650 9,125 $1,153,000,000 ($20,353/student) Long Beach 78,230 6,515 $1,133,478,905 ($14,489/student) Madison 25,231 4,081 ? $421M + “Construction” and ? (at least $17k/student) SIS: In 2013, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said “What will be different, this time“? The Superintendent further cited Long Beach and Boston as beacons in her Rotary speech. However, […]

Madison’s Trickle-Down Theory Of Education

David Blaska: You want local control? The ultimate local control pushes decision-making down to the family kitchen table. The Republican state government gave the UW System authority to create charter schools that are independent of the school district. This is something that the Madison School District asked for, however unknowingly, when it denied Madison Urban […]

Madison Adds Another Program: Community Schools

Doug Erickson: Madison has so many organizations that want to do good for the community and that offer programming; the problem is that the coordination is really hard,” Sloan said. “That will be the real benefit of this: coordination that’s focused and centralized.” Mendota Principal Carlettra Stanford said the school currently does not offer programming […]

Madison schools need global goals

Dave Baskerville: Madison will elect three School Board members in the spring. Our school taxes are set to rise 4.9 percent to accommodate a $504 million budget. A very well qualified and able superintendent is in place and will in several ways make the schools better. So what’s missing? Simply no mention or concern by […]

Reviewing and Renewing Madison’s Wright Middle School and Badger Rock Middle School “Charters”

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF): Issue: The charter contracts for Badger Rock Middle School (BRMS) and James C. Wright Middle School (Wright) expire on June 30, 2016. Per respective contracts, the Board is required to make a decision whether or not to renew Wright’s contract at least six months before the contract’s expiration and BRMS’ contract […]

For now, district drops Thoreau Elementary as site for dual language immersion program

Doug Erickson: Responding to public feedback, Madison school officials said Monday they have taken Thoreau Elementary School off the table for now as a potential site for a Spanish dual language immersion program. Additionally, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said her administration will recommend delaying the start of a Spanish dual language immersion program at Falk Elementary […]

Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc. The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a […]

Madison Schools’ Annual Report

WORT-FM How is the school year going? What about the behavior improvement plan, community schools, teacher diversity, racial equity, test scores, white flight, and school voucher schools? Today Carousel Bayrd talks with Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Cheatham today to discuss the upcoming year and her vision for the future.

Common Core Flop/Flip & Flip/Flop

Wheeler Report (PDF): For this reason, many of us were initially encouraged when you indicated that you would defund Wisconsin’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) via your proposed 2015-2017 biennial budget. We hoped for substantive movement, at long last, on an issue that affects most children, parents, and teachers in Wisconsin. However, […]

Madison Needs To Remove The Blinders

Mitch Henck: Gee, Kaleem Caire and other black community leaders fought for Madison Prep. It was a proposed charter school aimed at serving young males, mostly black and Hispanic, to be taught predominantly by teachers of color for more effective role modeling. Berg and several white conservatives in Madison, along with moderate John Roach, supported […]

K-12 Governance: Proposal May Change Madison’s Non-Diverse School Governance/Choice Model

Molly Beck: “We are confident the proposal can fundamentally transform the educational opportunities that are available to students in Wisconsin’s two largest school districts,” he said. Delaporte pointed to Department of Public Instruction data that shows less than 40 percent of Madison students have tested proficient in reading in recent years — slightly higher than […]

Grant Driven Strategy?

Molly Beck: A $300,000 grant paid over the next three years from the Madison Community Foundation will begin the process of developing “full-service” community schools in the Madison School District. “Our goal is to raise student achievement for all and narrow and close achievement gaps but we cannot do it on our own,” superintendent Jennifer […]

Madison Schools’ Leadership has allowed students to protest

Richard Berg: The Young, Gifted and Truant crowd really “jumped the shark” when they blocked all traffic on East Washington Avenue recently. But let’s not forget who helped to enable this crowd of malcontents. The Madison Police Department has bent over backward to accommodate this sort of action. And Madison School Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham helped […]

School Voucher Climate Commentary

Jessica Arp: “My main concern is that right now we are at a 20-year low in funding for public education so our public schools are already in a state of crisis,” Moffit said. Sierra disagrees and said vouchers are really about choice. “We pay taxes also,” Sierra said. “Nothing against public schools, but we decided […]

Madison’s Staffing Compared to Long Beach & Boston

In 2013, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said “What will be different, this time“? The Superintendent further cited Long Beach and Boston as beacons in her Rotary speech. However, based on recently released 2015-2016 budget slides (PDF) and Molly Beck’s summary, it appears that the same service, status quo governance model continues, unabated. A focus on […]

Wisconsin’s K-12 “Report Cards” Released

Matthew DeFour The average score for all districts statewide was 72.1, up from 71.5 last year. That translates to a rating near the top of the “meets expectations” scale. Madison also improved its overall score, from 68.5 to to 69.8. Its score remained among the bottom third of districts statewide, but moved up, from 11th […]

Election Grist: Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for too long

David Blaska: Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror. Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, […]

Commentary on Madison Teacher Evaluation Concepts

Chris Rickert District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson acknowledged that some teachers had been evaluated “inconsistently” but noted that the new evaluations, while time-consuming, will be limited to once every three years. School Board President Arlene Silveira also said the board has made it clear to Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham that evaluations are a priority and “the hope […]

Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Molly Beck There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding. The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district. After […]

Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap

The Capital Times: The statistics on African-American achievement have been so grim throughout the years that in 2010, Kaleem Caire, at the time the CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, put forth a proposal for a charter school designed to help African-American students surmount the achievement gap. It was ultimately rejected by the […]

Commentary on Madison’s special Education and “inclusive” practices; District enrollment remains flat while the suburbs continue to grow

Pat Schneider: That was one issue that brought together family activists who formed Madison Partners for Inclusive Education [duckduckgo search] in 2003, Pugh said. “A parent in an elementary school on the west side could be seeing high-quality inclusive expert teaching with a team that ‘got it,’ and someone on the east side could be […]

Madison’s Latest Superintendent, one year hence: Deja Vu?

My simple thoughts on Madison’s latest Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham: How is the new Superintendent Doing? Our community faces several historic challenges: Despite spending double the national average per student, Madison’s reading results are a disaster. The Superintendent has been talking about this and there are indications that at least administrative attention to this urgent problem […]

“we don’t believe now is the time to move individual (charter school) proposals forward” – Madison Superintendent

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (3MB PDF): While we are busy working in the present day on the improvement of all of our schools, a key aspect of our long-term strategy must include the addition or integration of unique programs or school models that meet identified needs. However, to ensure that these options are strategic and […]

Effective School Maintenance Spending?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is proposing a $39,500,000 November, 2014 maintenance referendum (page 38 of 39), according to her “Strategic Framework Progress” update [1MB PDF]. Questions remain on where the money went from the $26,200,000 2005 maintenance referendum. The District has, according to page 3, launched a “zero based budget”. I am hopeful that the […]

Educators launch defense of Common Core at Senate hearing

Erin Richards: More than more than 100 superintendents and school board members packed a Senate chamber Thursday in opposition to a bill that could derail the transition to new educational standards in Wisconsin. At issue are the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations for English and math instruction that most states have adopted […]

A Look At Compensation Packages for Wisconsin School District Superintendents

Eric Litke:

School district administrators often live in the crossfire, sandwiched between students and teachers, parents and school boards, taxpayers and state mandates. Even though salaries typically exceed $100,000, it’s a job not many want.
Those who take the job and keep it are in high demand, able to command an array of benefits and other enticements. A Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team review of nearly 100 school administrator contracts around the state revealed perks including five-figure annuities, promised payouts of $60,000 or more at retirement, car allowances of at least $500 per month and bonuses of $10,000 or more for meeting performance goals, staying with the district or simply moving into the district.
“There’s a diminishing pool of people wanting superintendent jobs — mostly because of the nature of the job and the things that go with it, particularly politically — so district boards are often really focused today more on incentives to retain superintendents,” said Jon Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

Related: Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s contract.

Con & Pro Commentary on the Madison School District’s Proposed Technology Plan

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is a strong supporter of technology in the classroom. That’s why she is putting a $27.7 million computer plan in front of the School Board tonight.
But Cheatham also knows what really drives education, from kindergarten to high school.
“It’s the quality of teachers that matters the most,” she told the State Journal editorial board during a recent meeting.
Putting a tablet computer into the hands of every Madison student “will absolutely help teachers with instruction,” Cheatham said.
In our multi-device, always-wired world, understanding and using the latest technology is a must for today’s students and can cater to their individual needs and interests.
Ultimately, the issue is not how many devices are in a classroom but, rather, how those devices are used. The technology needs to offer more than whiz-bang special effects. It needs to open new paths to learning.
The high-dollar technology plan has attracted critics who question the cost and worry about additional “screen time,” especially for the youngest students.

Pat Schneider

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s multi-million dollar Tech Plan is spending a lot of money on devices not proven to benefit student learning, according to an assistant professor of education at Madison’s Edgewood College.
In addition, the district isn’t giving teachers, parents or students opportunities to provide meaningful feedback on the plan, said Donna Vukelich-Selva in written remarks to the Madison school board shared Monday with The Cap Times.
The School Board is scheduled to vote Monday, Jan. 27, on what is now a revised, estimated $27.7 million, five-year plan that would greatly increase the use of computers in classroom instruction. The school district pared the proposal slightly, following a community update session last week, to include fewer devices for the youngest students. The plan now would provide one computer tablet in the classroom for about every two kindergartners and 1st-graders, and a one-to-one computer ratio for students in grades 2-12.
But Vukelich-Selva said concerns that the district is moving too fast on the Tech Plan, expressed by parents and teachers at the community update Jan. 22 at Memorial High School, were dismissed.
“It is clear that many significant stakeholders in the district were not taken into account,” she wrote.
The Madison school board first considered a draft of the plan on Jan. 13.
On hearing criticism that the proposal has advanced too quickly, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said last week that the district has been “thorough and methodical in the development of the draft plan.”
Vukelich-Selva also said there was inadequate assessment of the impact of one-to-one computing on learning for younger students through fifth grade. She pointed to an apparent focus on technology itself rather than curricular goals.
“The huge numbers of ‘devices’ we are being told we need in our classrooms will help support a vastly expanded platform for more standardized testing,” she said.
Research shows that most large-scale evaluations of one-to-one computing initiatives have found mixed or no results, and underscore the importance of teacher mastery of using the devices, Vukelich-Selva wrote, referring specifically to an article in “Educational Leadership” from February, 2011, that is critical of one-to-one programs.

Much more on the Madison School District’s Technology Plan, here.
One would hope that prior multi-million dollar technology implementations such as Infinite Campus, would be fully implemented first.

Madison School district’s plan redistributes wealth — to the wealthy

Chris Rickert:

There’s not much evidence showing that children learn any more effectively by way of computer screen than by way of pencil, paper, chalkboard and textbook.
Although at the very least, the Madison School District’s $31 million plan to put a tablet or netbook in the hands of every student will familiarize them with the kinds of technology necessary to function in modern-day America.
What I can’t figure out is why a community as fond of wealth redistribution as Madison would want to spread some of the school district’s wealth to the already wealthy.
The district has said that it’s open to the possibility of students bringing their own computer devices to school. But for now, it’s planning to lease new tablets or netbooks for every child regardless of his or her family’s ability to lease or buy their own.
With few exceptions, this is contrary to the way the district and the community treat other student necessities — which tablets or netbooks might soon become.

Related: Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan.

2013 Madison Summer School Report

Scott Zimmerman:

The district provided a comprehensive extended learning summer school program, K-Ready through 12th grade, at ten sites and served 5,097 students. At each of the K-8 sites, there was direction by a principal, professional Leopold, Chavez, Black Hawk and Toki, and oral language development was offered at Blackhawk and Toki. The 4th grade promotion classes were held at each elementary school, and 8th grade promotion classes were held at the two middle school sites.
Students in grades K-2 who received a 1 or 2 on their report card in literacy, and students in grades 3-5 who received a 1 or 2 in math or literacy, were invited to attend SLA. The 6-7 grade students who received a GPA of 2.0 or lower, or a 1 or 2 on WKCE, were invited to attend SLA. As in 2012, students with report cards indicating behavioral concerns were invited to attend summer school. Additionally, the summer school criterion for grades 5K-7th included consideration for students receiving a 3 or 4 asterisk grade on their report card (an asterisk grade indicates the student receives modified curriculum). In total, the academic program served 2,910 students, ranging from those entering five-year-old kindergarten through 8th grade.
High school courses were offered for credit recovery, first-time credit, and electives including English/language arts, math, science, social studies, health, physical education, keyboarding, computer literacy, art, study skills, algebra prep, ACT/SAT prep, and work experience. The high school program served a total of 1,536 students, with 74 students having completed their graduation requirements at the end of the summer.
All academic summer school teachers received approximately 20 hours of professional development prior to the start of the six-week program. Kindergarten-Ready teachers as well as primary literacy and math teachers also had access to job embedded professional development. In 2013, there were 476 certified staff employed in SLA.

Jennifer Cheatham:

Key Enhancements for Summer School 2014
A) Provide teachers with a pay increase without increasing overall cost of summer school.
Teacher salary increase of 3% ($53,887).
B) Smaller Learning Environments: Create smaller learning environments, with fewer students per summer school site compared to previous years, to achieve the following: increase student access to high quality learning, increase the number of students who can walk to school, and reduce number of people in the building when temperatures are high. ($50,482)
C) Innovations: Pilot at Wright Middle School and Lindbergh Elementary School where students receive instruction in a familiar environment, from a familiar teacher. These school sites were selected based on identification as intense focus schools along with having high poverty rates when compared to the rest of the district. Pilot character building curriculum at Sandburg Elementary School. ($37,529)
D) Student Engagement: Increase student engagement with high quality curriculum and instruction along with incentives such as Friday pep rallies and afternoon MSCR fieldtrips. ($25,000)
E) High School Professional Development: First-time-offered, to increase quality of instruction and student engagement in learning. ($12,083)
F) Student Selection: Utilize an enhanced student selection process that better aligns with school’s multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) so that student services intervention teams (SSIT) have time to problem solve, and recommend students for SLA. Recommendations are based on student grades and standardized assessment scores, such as a MAP score below the 25th percentile at grades 3-5, or a score of minimal on the WKCE in language arts, math, science, and social studies at grades 3-5. (no cost)
Estimated total cost: $185,709.00
Summer School Program Reductions
The following changes would allow enhancements to summer school and implementation of innovative pilots:
A) Professional development (PD): reduce PD days for teachers grades K-8 by one day. This change will save money and provide teachers with an extra day off of work before the start of summer school (save $49,344.60).
B) Materials reduction: the purchase of Mondo materials in 2013 allows for the reduction of general literacy curricular materials in 2014 (save $5,000).
C) Madison Virtual Campus (MVC): MVC is not a reimbursable summer school program as students are not in classroom seats. This program could be offered separate from summer school in the future (save $18,000).
D) Librarians: reduce 3 positions, assigning librarians to support two sites. Students will continue to have access to the expertise of the librarian and can utilize library resources including electronic equipment (save $12,903.84).
E) Reading Interventionists: reduce 8 positions, as summer school is a student intervention, it allows students additional learning time in literacy and math. With new Mondo materials and student data profiles, students can be grouped for the most effective instruction when appropriate (save $48,492).
F) PBS Coach: reduce 8 positions, combining the coach and interventionist positions to create one position (coach/interventionist) that supports teachers in setting up classes and school wide systems, along with providing individual student interventions. With smaller learning sites, there would be less need for two separate positions (save $24,408).
G) Literacy and Math Coach Positions: reduce from 16 to 5 positions, combining the role and purpose of the literacy and math coach. Each position supports two schools for both math and literacy. Teachers can meet weekly with literacy/math coach to plan and collaborate around curriculum and student needs (save $27,601.60).
Estimated Total Savings: $185,750.04
Strategic Framework:
The role of the Summer Learning Academy (SLA) is critical to preparing students for college career and community readiness. Research tells us that over 50% of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students is directly related to unequal learning opportunities over the summer (Alexander et al., 2007). Research based practices and interventions are utilized in SLA to increase opportunities for learning and to raise student achievement across the District (Odden & Archibald, 2008). The SLA is a valuable time for students to receive additional support in learning core concepts in literacy and math to move them toward MMSD benchmarks (Augustine et.al., 2013). SLA aligns with the following Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Strategic Framework goals:
A) Every student is on-track to graduate as measured by student growth and achievement at key milestones. Milestones of reading by grade 3, proficiency in reading and math in grade 5, high school readiness in grade 8, college readiness in grade 11, and high school graduation and completion rate.
B) Every student has access to challenging and well-rounded education as measured by programmatic access and participation data. Access to fine arts and world languages, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and advanced coursework.

Bill would add more math, science credits

Christin Tang:

Although Wisconsin currently requires the fewest number of math and science credits in the Midwest for high school students to graduate, recently proposed legislation would increase the number of necessary credits in those subjects.
The bill, which received a public hearing Thursday, would require students to take three credits of math and science, as opposed to the current state-required two credits of each.
“As we work to raise the bar this year, we are challenging students to think critically and solve complex problems. We believe that’s what it takes to ensure students are college, career and community ready,” Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said in an email to The Badger Herald. “Additional math and science classes align with that vision. Many of our students already take additional math and science in high school, and we’re supportive of making that a requirement.”
The bill would require more credits at the state level, but many districts in Wisconsin already have higher numbers of mandatory credits, Peter Goff, UW professor in the department of educational leadership and policy analysis, said.

romising CPS principal follows promising Chicago Schools administrator to Madison

Steve Bogira:

I called Hanks to ask her about her decision to leave Chicago. She responded by e-mail. “A great opportunity presented itself that I thought I could really grow and learn from. You know I am still pretty young, too. I don’t have kids, so it’s easier for me to move around now versus one day when I am more settled.
“I had a great experience leading Melody and I’m proud of the work that we did,” she went on. “That work prepared me to take on this role.”
A spokesperson for CPS told me in an e-mail: “We never like to see talented leaders like Nancy Hanks leave the district. We wish her success in her new role and hope she returns to CPS at some point.” He added that the district’s “extensive professional development, training, and recruiting programs . . . help ensure that we always have a pipeline of qualified leaders ready to replace principals who may move, retire, or leave the district for new opportunities.”
The Madison superintendent who recruited Hanks, Jennifer Cheatham, had herself recently left CPS. Cheatham, 41, who was chief instruction officer here, was named superintendent in Madison in February.

Jennifer Cheatham’s Chicago contingent well received in Madison

Pat Schneider:

Kelly Ruppel grew up on a dairy farm outside Racine, headed to the west coast for college and worked in Washington D.C. before moving back to the Midwest and becoming a private consultant to the embattled Chicago Public Schools system.
When she received a job offer from new Madison Schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, whom she met when Cheatham was a top administrator at Chicago Public Schools, she and her husband packed their bags.
Today Ruppel is Cheatham’s chief of staff, one of five top administrators hired by Cheatham with ties to Chicago since taking the reins of the Madison School District in April.
In addition to Ruppel, a former principal at Civic Consulting Alliance, they include:
Alex Fralin, assistant superintendent for secondary schools and former Deputy Chief of Schools for CPS
Rodney Thomas, special assistant to the superintendent and former director of Professional Development and Design for the Chicago Board of Education
Nancy Hanks, deputy assistant superintendent for Elementary Schools and a former Chicago public elementary school principal
Jessica Hankey, director of strategic partnerships and innovation, formerly manager of school partnerships at The Field Museum in Chicago.

Fascinating. Are these new positions, or are the entrants replacing others? 10/2013 Madison School District organization chart (PDF).
Related: “The thing about Madison that’s kind of exciting is there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of resources with which to do it,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a sweet spot for Jen. Whether she stays will depend on how committed the district is to continuing the work she does.”

Comments & Links on Madison’s Latest Teacher Union Agreement

Andrea Anderson:

Under the new contracts clerical and technical employees will be able to work 40-hour work weeks compared to the current 38.75, and based on the recommendation of principals, employees who serve on school-based leadership teams will be paid $20 per hour.
Additionally, six joint committees will be created to give employees a say in workplace issues and address topics such as planning time, professional collaboration and the design of parent-teacher conferences.
Kerry Motoviloff, a district instructional resource teacher and MTI member, spoke at the beginning of the meeting thanking School Board members for their collective bargaining and work in creating the committees that are “getting the right people at the right table to do the right work.”
Cheatham described the negotiations with the union as “both respectful and enormously productive,” adding that based on conversations with district employees the contract negotiations “accomplished the goal they set out to accomplish.”

Pat Schneider:

“Madison is in the minority. Very few teachers are still under contract,” said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Fewer than 10 of 424 school districts in the state have labor contracts with teachers for the current school year, she said Wednesday.
And while Brey said WEAC’s significance is not undermined by the slashed number of teacher contracts, at least one state legislator believes the state teacher’s union is much less effective as a resource than it once was.
Many school districts in the state extended teacher contracts through the 2011-2012 school year after Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s law gutting collective bargaining powers of most public employees, was implemented in 2011. The Madison Metropolitan School District extended its teacher contract for two years — through the 2013-2014 school year — after Dane County Judge Juan Colas struck down key provisions of Act 10 in September 2012.
The contract ratified by the members Monday will be in effect until June 30, 2015.

Andrea Anderson:

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty emailed a letter to Cheatham and the School Board warning that a contract extension could be in violation of Act 10.
Richard Esenberg, WILL president, said he sent the letter because “we think there are people who believe, in Wisconsin, that there is somehow a window of opportunity to pass collective bargaining agreements in violation of Act 10, and we don’t think that.”
If the Supreme Court rules Act 10 is constitutional all contracts signed will be in violation of the law, according to Esenberg.
Esenberg said he has not read the contract and does not know if the district and union contracts have violated collective bargaining agreements. But, he said, “I suspect this agreement does.”

Pat Schneider:

The contract does not “take back” any benefits, Matthews says. However, it calls for a comprehensive analysis of benefits that could include a provision to require employees to pay some or more toward health insurance premiums if they do not get health care check-ups or participate in a wellness program.
Ed Hughes, president of the Madison School Board, said that entering into labor contracts while the legal issues surrounding Act 10 play out in the courts was “the responsible thing to do. It provides some stability to do the important work we need to do in terms of getting better results for our students.”
Hughes pointed out that the contract establishes a half-dozen joint committees of union and school district representatives that will take up issues including teacher evaluations, planning time and assignments. The contract calls for mediation on several of the issues if the joint committees cannot reach agreement.
“Hopefully this will be a precursor of the way we will work together in years to come, whatever the legal framework is,” Hughes said.
Matthews, too, was positive about the potential of the joint committees.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg warns, “The Madison School Board is entering a legally-gray area. Judge Colas’ decision has no effect on anyone outside of the parties involved. The Madison School Board and Superintendent Cheatham – in addition to the many teachers in the district – were not parties to the lawsuit. As we have continued to say, circuit court cases have no precedential value, and Judge Colas never ordered anyone to do anything.”
He continued, “If the Madison School District were to collectively bargain in a way that violates Act 10, it could be exposed to litigation by taxpayers or teachers who do not wish to be bound to an illegal contract or to be forced to contribute to an organization that they do not support.” The risk is not theoretical. Last spring, WILL filed a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Area Technical College alleging such a violation.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty’s letter to Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF).
The essential question, how does Madison’s non-diverse K-12 governance model perform academically? Presumably, student achievement is job one for our $15k/student district.
Worth a re-read: Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and wisconsin2.org

Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: City Budget Slows Spending Growth, K-12 School District Raises Taxes. 4.5%

Madison leaders say trimming city workers’ pay might be necessary:

Scheduled pay raises for union-represented city employees may need to be trimmed to help balance the 2014 city budget, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and City Council President Chris Schmidt said Friday.
Schmidt said he didn’t relish the step — calling city workers “already underpaid for the jobs they do” — but he argued there could be no other choice.
Revenue limits under state law, rising city costs for fuel and health insurance, and a steadfast goal to protect funding for basic city services increasingly tie the city’s hands, he said.
“It’s understandable why it’s on the table, why we’re discussing it,” he said about the possible action, in which a 3 percent raise scheduled to start in the last pay period in December could be scaled back or eliminated for many employees in March.

Andrea Anderson:

Contract talks for Madison School District employees set to start this month, letter says contract negotiations for Madison School District employees are set to begin later this month, according to a letter sent Friday to district staff by superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews.
Cheatham said in a phone interview that she and employee unions will be negotiating “as soon as we can” in order to create collective bargaining agreements that will take effect after the current contracts end in June 2014.
MTI asked the district to begin collective bargaining in May, but the new superintendent wanted to adjust to her role, become acquainted with the staff and hear their requests before bargaining with the teachers union and other employee unions.
Although the timeline is unclear, Cheatham said she expects to complete the contracts “fairly quickly” while also taking time to ensure the process is done correctly and has an outcome acceptable to all parties.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget (including a 4.5 property tax increase, after 9% two years ago), here.

Homeowners can’t afford another tax hike



John Olson:

The Madison School Board and new Madison School Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sure have the nerve proposing a new tax levy for Madison homeowners that will raise the average homeowner property tax bill in Madison by about $120.
Not only is it hard for those homeowners on fixed incomes (think retirees), but what about all of those public employees who are on reduced incomes as the result of the last several years of public employee bashing?
Most public employees in Madison will be lucky to get 2 percent raises over the course of the last 5 years, not to mention having to pay considerable more for their benefits.
Enough is enough. We all can’t afford to continually pay more.

Much more on the Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget, here.

Health insurance changes a cure for what ails Madison schools budget?



Christ Rickert

The Madison School District won an historic concession from its teachers union over the last two years — the ability to require that teachers pay part of their health insurance premiums.
It came as the district was quickly extending union contracts before a law eliminating most collective bargaining rights took effect, and again while that law was held up in court.
But now as the district goes about crafting a 2013-14 budget that — among other cost-savings measures — reduces maintenance spending, freezes equipment budgets and includes no money for new efforts to close the district’s achievement gap, it doesn’t appear there’s much interest in implementing the concession.
The budget proposal from new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t subject teachers to health insurance premiums, and that’s fine with School Board President Ed Hughes.
“Because of our recent transitions, this was not the budget to take up significant changes to our structure of salary and benefits,” he said in an email. “I and other board members are looking forward to an in-depth review of salary and benefit levels as part of next year’s budget, when we’ll have the benefit of input from Jen Cheatham and (assistant superintendent for business services) Mike Barry, as well as from our affected teachers and staff. I’m sure that health insurance contributions will be part of that discussion.”
“Recent transitions” didn’t keep Cheatham from proposing changes to the district’s salary schedules, though.

Madison’s expensive approach to healthcare benefits are not a new subject.
Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 plans for spending and property tax increases, here.
Mr. Hughes in 2005

Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District has the money to improve low-income and minority student achievement but needs to reorganize its central administration to put more resources in the classroom, according to a group of local and national education experts who conducted a district review.
“We’re recommending the system turn on its head,” said Robert Peterkin, the former director of Harvard University’s Urban Superintendents Program who led the review team.
New Madison schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, a graduate of the Harvard program, organized the team of experts as part of her transition. She plans to consult their recommendations before releasing next month a set of specific strategies and 2013-14 budget proposal.
According to the team’s analysis, students need to be at the top of the “power pyramid” rather than district administration, with the focused goal of turning out graduates ready to attend college or start a career.
Central office administrators need to spend more time in the classroom and cut down on new programs that contribute to what teachers call “initiative fatigue.”
Principals should have more input into hiring a more diverse staff. Teachers need more focused professional development. And all district employees need specific goals that can be measured and used to hold them accountable.
Students also need “demand parents” who take an active role, not only in school bake sales and sports, but in understanding the curriculum and educational goals for their students.
“Resources even in this environment can be brought to bear from existing dollars to your more focused set of goals and activities, rather than supporting proliferation of those activities,” Peterkin told the Madison School Board on Monday night.
Cheatham said the review team had not taken a deep enough look at district finances to conclude that funding is available, but based on her assessment of the budget so far, she said the conclusion was “fairly accurate.”
“The recommendations from the transition team warrant a deep look at the central office organization and our allocation of resources,” she said.

The “Transition Team” Report (3MB PDF) and Superintendent Cheathem’s “Entry Plan” summary.
Related:
Madison’s disastrous long-term reading results.
Deja Vu: A Focus on “Adult Employment” or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.
Madison has long spent more per student than most districts. The most recent 2012-2013 budget, via a kind Donna Williams and Matthew DeFour email is $392,789,303 or $14,496.74 per student (27,095 students, including pre-k).

Entry Plan Report summarizes strengths, challenges, and planning efforts

Madison Times:

After two months on the job, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has released a report summarizing what she’s learned during her entry process and previewing the district’s planning work going forward.
“I’d like to thank our staff, parents, students and the Madison community for helping me build a shared understanding of our district’s strengths and challenges,” Cheatham said. “The work ahead will take urgency, determination and tenacity, but my experience over the past two months has made me so confident because I know that all of the ingredients for success are here in Madison.”
Over the past two months, Superintendent Cheatham has visited all 48 MMSD schools, as well as several after-school programs, alternative programs, community early childhood care and education centers, and the district’s alternative high school. Each visit included a meeting with teachers and staff, classroom observations and a meeting with the principal and members of their leadership team. In high schools, visits also included discussions with students and culminated in community meetings. The superintendent also met with parents, elected officials, community leaders, university partners, religious leaders, business leaders and union leaders.

Much more, here.

The family of Mann Scholars continues to grow, achieve

A. David Dahmer:

The Mann Scholars Ceremony was celebrated at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery Town Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus June 7.
“It’s a thrill to welcome you all here today to celebrate our new Mann Scholars and our graduating seniors,” said Madison Metropolitan School District Partnerships Coordinator Kathy Price. “The Madison Board of Education and our new [MMSD] Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham are extending their warmest wishes to you tonight and their sincere congratulations. For the Madison District, the Mann Scholars program represents one of our premiere collaboration of family, school, and community partners. This is one that has served as a model for additional scholarship programs that have been launched including the Sanchez Scholars and our the newest scholarship that we have launched — the Reading Recovery Scholarship Program.”
The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund is a scholarship that honors the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time African American residents of Madison whose strong belief in education helped ensure the graduation of their five children from Madison Memorial High School and later from universities. The Mann Program’s goal is to provide mentoring and educational tools to students from the Madison Metropolitan School District who show potential for academic achievement but face significant challenges to reaching their full potential.
Mann Scholars are picked every year based on their academic promise, their motivation, their financial need, and the willingness of their families to encourage participation in enrichment activities. They are primarily, but not exclusively, students of color.

Madison Superintendent’s “Entry Process Report”



Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

Strengths
Overall Themes
Quality of teachers, principals, and central office staff: By and large, we have quality teachers, principals, support staff and central office staff who are committed to working hard on behalf of the children of Madison. With clarity of focus, support, and accountability, these dedicated educators will be able to serve our students incredibly well.
Commitment to action: Across the community and within schools, there is not only support for public education, but there is also an honest recognition of our challenges and an urgency to address them. While alarming gaps in student achievement exist, our community has communicated a willingness to change and a commitment to action.
Positive behavior: District-wide efforts to implement an approach to positive student behavior are clearly paying off. Student behavior is very good across the vast majority of schools and classrooms. Most students are safe and supported, which sets the stage for raising the bar for all students academically.
Promising practices: The district has some promising programs in place to challenge students academically, like our AVID/TOPS program at the middle and high school levels, the one-to-one iPad programs in several of our elementary schools, and our Dual Language Immersion programs. The district also does an incredibly successful job of inclusion and support of students with special needs. Generally, I’ve observed some of the most joyful and challenging learning environments I’ve ever seen.
Well-rounded education: Finally, the district offers a high level of access to the arts, sports, world language and other enriching activities that provide students with a well- rounded learning experience. This is a strength on which we can build.
“AVID is totally paying off. Kids, staff, everyone is excited about what it has brought to the school.” – Staff member
“Positive Behavior Support has made a dramatic improvement in teaching and the behavior expected. We’ve seen big changes in kids knowing what is expected and in us having consistent, schoolwide expectations”
– Staff member
Challenges
Focus: Principals, teachers and students have been experiencing an ever-changing and expanding set of priorities that make it difficult for them to focus on the day-to-day work of knowing every child well and planning instruction accordingly. If we are going to be successful, we need to be focused on a clear set of priorities aimed at measurable goals, and we need to sustain this focus over time.
“One of the strengths of MMSD is that we will try anything. The problem is that we opt out just as easily as we opt in. We don’t wait to see what things can really do.”
– Staff member
Coherence: In order for students to be successful, they need
to experience an education that leads them from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade, systematically and seamlessly preparing them for graduation and postsecondary education. We’ve struggled to provide our teachers with the right tools, resources and support to ensure that coherence for every child.
Personalized Learning: We need to work harder than ever to keep students engaged through a relevant and personalized education at the middle and high school levels. We’ve struggled to ensure that all students have an educational experience that gives them a glimpse of the bright futures. Personalized learning also requires increased access to and integrated use of technology.
Priority Areas
To capture as many voices as accurately as possible, my entry plan included a uniquely comprehensive analysis process. Notes from more than 100 meetings, along with other handouts, emails, and resources, were analyzed and coded for themes by Research & Program Evaluation staff. This data has been used to provide weekly updates to district leadership, content for this report and information to fuel the internal planning process that follows these visits.
The listening and learning phase has led us to five major areas to focus our work going forward. Over the next month, we’ll dive deeper into each of these areas to define the work, the action we need to take and how we’ll measure our progress. The following pages outline our priorities, what we learned to guide us to these priorities and where we’ll focus our planning in the coming month.

Matthew DeFour collects a few comments, here.
Much more on Madison’s new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, here.

Madison Schools Graduation Rate Update for Class of 2012

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

his report presents high school graduation rates for the Madison Metropolitan School District. For additional information on graduation rates, see the Appendix.
For this report, we focus on a cohort of students expected to graduate at the end of the 2011-12 school year. For additional context and to track changes over time, we provide a three-year history for some measures. This report uses publicly available data from Wisconsin’s Information Network for Successful Schools (WINSS). Additional data is available
through http://winss.dpi.wi.gov/. Key findings include the following:
1. Overall graduation rates improved almost one percent from 2011 to 2012, from 73.7% to 74.6%.
2. African American and Hispanic students have improved their graduation rates by five percent and almost seven percent over the last three years.
3. Graduation rates for students with Limited English Proficiency have improved about four percent over the last three years.
4. MMSD high schools have similar graduation rates, ranging between 74.7% and 82.8%.

Deja vu: Madison West High electives vs one size fits all?

Pat Schnieder:

The rumor that a national school reform effort moving through Madison would wipe out treasured class electives at West High School has been buzzing in that community for years.
Parents and students got a chance to bring their concerns about the implementation of Common Core standards to the top Thursday evening, during a conversation with new Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, held in the school library after her day-long visit to West High.
It was the second in a series of four public meetings being held at the city’s public high schools this spring to allow Cheatham, who started work in the district on April 1, to hear community concerns.
Cheatham told the crowd of 150 or more that she had heard a lot that day from students and staff about the “amazing potpourri” of elective courses at West.
“They think they are a major asset of the school. I think so too,” she said.
West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students that speculation the Common Core standards would be their death knell fueled a sit-in of some 500 students in fall 2010, the year the state adopted the standards. Today, many of Madison’s public schools are still figuring out a way to incorporate the standards, about which confusion reigns among students, parents and teachers.
Lynn Glueck, a school improvement coordinator at Memorial High School, said this week that Common Core focuses on developing key skills needed for college and career readiness. The standards related to English language arts, for example, are about “close reading, critical thinking and argumentative writing where students pull evidence out of the text,” Glueck said.
In the instances where Common Core has been used at Memorial, which some say is leading the district in implementing the standards, “students are really engaging in it,” she said.

Fascinating. 2006: The movement toward one size fits all via English 10. 2013: “West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students”.
Additional and informative background here.

Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes



Steve Hartley, Madison Schools Chief of Staff:

Attached is a spreadsheet listing questions received from BOE members to date and some of our responses. Over the course of the next two months, we will continue to collect your questions and respond at both Operational Support and Regular Board meetings.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

The draft budget included several new positions for the Board’s consideration. After refining and prioritizing with staff and vetting with principals, we are only asking for approval of two essential positions at this point. The position changes represent a savings of just over $2 million from the draft budget.
As we prepare for next year, we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction. We must also be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by reducing the impact of our budget.
To get to these recommendations, we conducted a rigorous examination of positions funded in the draft budget to decide what we believe is absolutely necessary right now. Much of the work we need to do next year is about improving the systems and structures for how we serve students, not adding additional resources. It will be critical going forward that we narrow our focus to the strategies that we know work, implement them well and sustain the focus over time.
So far, we have only considered the position decisions that we need the Board to approve. Over the next two months, we will continue to work through the draft budget in order to reduce the tax impact and align with our efforts for next year. Also, we have only reviewed positions based on the draft budget. Next year, we plan to engage in a more thorough, zero-based budgeting process.
Position Additions from Draft Budget that are No Longer Recommended
There are several positions included in the draft budget that we are no longer recommending at this point. In looking at specific positions, we considered our ability to carry out necessary work through more efficient systems and in some cases, the need to pause and re-consider our approach.
With that in mind, we are no longer recommending going forward with the following position additions that were included in the draft budget. Because these were new positions in the draft budget, they do not have staff in them currently and do not require any layoffs.
Mental Health Coordinator: Through redistribution of work in student services, we will be able to provide support to implementation of the Mental Health Task Force’s work.
Safety Coordinator: We will continue to coordinate efforts across the organization to ensure safety.

Perhaps a positive sign “we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction”. Reading is surely job one, as the District’s long term disastrous reading scores illustrate.

March, 2013 Madison Schools’ financial reports (PDF).
Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.
Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words.

Commentary on Madison’s 2012 WKCE Results

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

This report includes data from the Fall 2012 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). In this report, we focus on reading and math scores. Students in grades 4, 8, and 10 also take Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts tests, but these tests are not used for school accountability in the same manner as Reading and Math tests and are not aligned to the new rigorous standards, so they are not directly comparable.
This year, WKCE results reflect the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards in that DPI has adjusted the cut scores for each performance level to reflect higher expectations for student proficiency. As a result, MMSD’s scores (and scores for every district in the state) look very different from prior years.
1. The new cut scores can be applied to last year’s scores to provide a more meaningful year-to-year comparison. Scores have remained roughly unchanged from last year when the same scale is used.
2. Achievement gaps between subgroups of students exist across grades and locations and show few signs of either increasing or decreasing.
3. Scores showed some changes from last year at the building level, but these changes were mostly small.
4. Schools with more students scoring “Advanced” in Fall 2011 faced smaller negative impacts from the new performance cut scores.
In addition, overall proficiency rates in MMSD are close to state averages. Asian and White students in MMSD significantly outperform the state averages for their racial groups in both Reading and Math. In addition, large achievement gaps exist statewide as well as within MMSD.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

“But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

A reporter recently asked me how often I planned to meet with Madisons’ new school Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham.
I do not know and frankly, I am wondering why it matters.
How often we meet will be driven by a number of yet to be determined factors. And more important than how often we meet, is the matter of improved performance for Madison school children.
It is the difference between outputs and outcomes. The number of miles of street we plow is an output, the measurement of the quality of the job is an outcome. The number of teenagers who attend a class on abstinence or receive condoms is an output, the number of teenage pregnancies is an outcome.
We need to focus on outcomes. We need to measure performance and ensure that educational attainment improves.
How often Superintendent Cheatham and I meet will be determined by the agenda, the role of our respective staffs, and other factors.
It is possible that we may find regular quarterly meetings too frequent, we may find that monthly meetings are not frequent enough. We don’t know yet. But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings.

Much more on Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, here.
Refreshing.

State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action

The Madison Urban League, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2013
Media contact: Kaleem Caire
kcaire@ulgm.org
608.729.1249
Click Here for Urban League’s 2013-14 Agenda
State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action
Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released students’ results on the annual statewide achievement test, Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The results confirm concerns raised by the Urban League of Greater Madison, that disadvantaged students and students of color are severely underperforming in many of Wisconsin’s public schools, particularly in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
All Wisconsin public school students completed the test in November 2012. This revised test raised the standards of performance for all students, thereby providing a more accurate picture of students who are on track to graduate from high school academically ready to succeed in college or a career. Test results show that all students, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or disability, are struggling to achieve to high standards in Madison-area public schools.
This afternoon, the Urban League of Greater Madison joined Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, and leaders of other community organizations, at a press conference where Cheatham shared MMSD’s results. Cheatham presented data showing that an astounding 92% of African American and 85% of Latino students are reading below their grade level, and 90% of African American and 77% of Latino children are failing in mathematics. The data further showed that a large percentage of white students have fallen behind as well, with 42% are reading below grade level and 33% failing in math.
In reflecting on the scores, Darrell Bazzell, the Chair of Urban League’s Board of Directors said, “These numbers are a stark message that Madison’s public schools are at a tipping point and that our community must embrace change. The implications for our region are profound. For the sake of our community and our children, Madison can, and must, do better for all students and families.”
Bazzell further stated that, “Every citizen in our community must say that ‘we will no longer harbor these gaps; that we accept responsibility for addressing these challenges; and that we will commit to doing all that we can to ensure all of our children succeed. We must also acknowledge where we are not succeeding and commit to change in smart, innovative and effective ways that lead to real progress for our kids’.”
In response to these troubling statistics, Urban League President and CEO, Kaleem Caire, shared that, “When 90% of Black children cannot read at their grade level, we are significantly reducing the possibility of success for an entire generation. This issue negatively affects not only this generation of children, but also the vitality of our entire region. If not addressed quickly, it will affect the quality of the lives of all citizens who call Madison home.” To address these challenges, Caire said “The Urban League is working to build a pipeline of high quality cradle to career educational and employment services that positively impact the entire family, move all children towards high performance, and prepare youth and adults for career success.” He further highlighted, “We have already begun working with the Madison Schools, other area school districts, employers and community partners to ensure that we attack the persistence of underachievement and other contributing factors, such as poverty, at its core. ”
The Urban League’s 2013-14 Strategic Plan creates opportunities that will help the community overcome these challenges. Caire enthusiastically shared that, “We are a community of great people, great teachers and great families who are passionate about helping others transform their lives. But our passion now must become our reality.”
About the Urban League of Greater Madison
The Urban League of Greater Madison’s mission is to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good in the 21st Century. We are committed to transforming Greater Madison into the Best [place] in the Midwest for everyone to live, learn, and work. We are working to make this vision a reality through a comprehensive strategic empowerment agenda that includes programs & services, advocacy, and partnerships & coalition building. www.ulgm.org
Urban League of Greater Madison | 2222 S. Park Street | Suite 200 | Madison | WI | 53713

Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school
Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.
The recently released WKCE results.

2012-13 MMSD WKCE Results


Tap or click to view a larger version.

Higher bar for WKCE results paints different picture of student achievement
Matt DeFour
Wisconsin student test scores released Tuesday look very different than they did a year ago, though not because of any major shift in student performance.
Similar to recent years, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results show gains in math and reading over the past five years, a persistent and growing performance gap between black and white students, and Milwaukee and Racine public school students outperforming their peers in the private school voucher program.
But the biggest difference is the scores reflect a higher bar for what students in each grade level should know and be able to do.
Only 36.2 percent of students who took the reading test last October met the new proficiency bar. Fewer than half, 48.1 percent, of students were proficient in math. When 2011-12 results were released last spring, those figures were both closer to 80 percent.
The change doesn’t reflect a precipitous drop in student test scores. The average scores in reading and math are about the same as last year for each grade level.
Instead, the change reflects a more rigorous standard for proficiency similar to what is used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is administered to a sample of students in each state every other year and is referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
The state agreed to raise the proficiency benchmark in math and reading last year in order to qualify for a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The benchmark did not rise for the language arts, science and social studies tests.
“Adjusting to higher expectations will take time and effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said. “But these are necessary changes that will ultimately help our schools better prepare all students to be college and career ready and link with work being done throughout the state to implement new standards.”
Evers also called on the Legislature to include private voucher schools in the state’s new accountability system.
He highlighted that test scores for all Milwaukee and Racine students need to improve. Among Milwaukee voucher students, 10.8 percent in reading and 11.9 percent in math scored proficient or better. Among Milwaukee public school students, it was 14.2 percent in reading and 19.7 percent in math.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program, including to such districts as Madison.
Changes in Dane County
The state previously announced how the changing bar would affect scores statewide and parents have seen their own students’ results in recent weeks, but the new figures for the first time show the impact on entire schools and districts.
In Dane County school districts, the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the test dropped on average by 42 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.
Madison schools had one of the smallest drops compared to its neighboring districts.
Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham noted schools with a higher number of students scoring in the “advanced” category experienced less of a drop. Madison’s smaller drop could reflect a higher proportion of students scoring in the top tier.
At the same time, Madison didn’t narrow the gap between minority and white student test results. Only 9 percent of black sixth-graders and only 2 percent of sixth-grade English language learners scored proficient in reading.
“It reinforces the importance of our work in the years ahead,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to work on accelerating student outcomes.”
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she hasn’t heard many complaints from parents whose students suddenly dropped a tier on the test. Like Madison and other districts across the state, Middleton-Cross Plains sent home letters bracing parents for the change.
But Lindgren fears the changing standards come at the worst time for public schools, which have faced tougher scrutiny and reduced state support.
“I’m glad that the standards have been raised by the state, because they were low, but this interim year, hopefully people won’t panic too much,” Lindgren said. “The public has been sold on the idea that we’re failing in our education system, and I just don’t believe that’s true.”
Next fall will be the last year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take the paper-and-pencil WKCE math and reading tests. Wisconsin is part of a coalition of states planning to administer a new computer-based test in the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed state budget also provides for students in grades 9-11 to take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT college and career readiness tests in future years.

Superintendent Cheatham is to be commended for her informed, intelligent and honest reaction to the MMSD’s results when compared to those of neighboring districts.
View a WKCE summary here (PDF).

Madison’s Sherman Middle School to drop French 1 class

Pat Schneider:

The way Principal Michael Hernandez tells it, something had to go.
Hernandez decided that at Sherman Middle School, it will be French class.
With a renewed emphasis on curriculum basics in the Madison School District, the need at Sherman to double-down on math skills, and a scheduled expansion there of the AVID program that prepares low-income minority kids for college, Hernandez figures the north-side middle school will need to drop its second “world language” offering next year.
French 2 will continue for seventh-graders who took French 1 this year. The school’s Spanish-language program — including three sections of dual-language instruction — also will continue.
“Unfortunately, there are tough decisions we have to make,” Hernandez told me. “With budget cuts, I can’t have a class with only approximately seven students, when I could use that (staff) allocation for a math intervention class.”
Principals will be developing these kinds of adjustments around the margins to prepare for the 2013-2014 school year as district officials begin work on the budget and schools get projections on how many staff members they will have.
School Board members on Monday will receive a “budget briefing” instead of fleshed-out budget proposal. Penciled in is $392,807,993 in district-wide spending next school year, down a fraction from this year.
The scaled-down budget proposal is due to the uncertain prospects of a controversial proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget to shift aid and expand vouchers to Madison and eight other school districts — at a projected cost of more than $800,000 to the Madison public schools. In addition, new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham just came on the job three weeks ago and is not prepared yet to present a detailed budget.

Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

Madison’s New Superintendent on Madison, Politics & Distractions

Pat Schneider:

You’ll find Jennifer Cheatham, new superintendent of the Madison School District, at the Capitol Wednesday when local education officials talk about how Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would hurt Dane County schools.
But don’t expect her to be spending much time making political statements, Cheatham told me and other staff members of the Cap Times Tuesday. Too much focus on politics would distract her from her work in the Madison schools, she said.
“I think my major role is to work on improving schools in Madison. That’s why I was hired and I need to remain focused on that,” Cheatham said. “But I do think there are times it is important for me to voice my opinion on behalf of the school district on state issues.”
That includes the Walker education budget.
Cheatham is scheduled to be on hand at noon Wednesday when School Board members, superintendents, parents and other advocates from around Dane County talk about the impact of Walker’s education proposals in Room 411, the large Senate meeting room.
The Madison School Board has already actively lobbied against the Walker budget, urging local legislators not to support a plan that is “bad for our students, our taxpayers and the future of public education.”
Board members say expanding vouchers into Madison, as Walker has proposed, is a particularly bad idea. They note there’s no consistent evidence that kids using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools do better academically, and they say that funding vouchers is likely to raise local property taxes.
It’s not just school officials who are weighing in on the highly politicized issue of school vouchers. The Madison City Council passed a resolution last month, sponsored by all 20 members, opposing expansion of vouchers to Madison. The Dane County Board is considering a similar resolution.

Reading has been job one for quite some time, unfortunately.
Right to read lawsuit filed in Michigan.

Jennifer Cheatham and community can support racial equity

Rachel Krinsky:

f you are tired of all the talk about the achievement gap in our school district, take heart. Newly appointed Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s entry plan is a promising beginning.
From racial disparities in academics to the race politics in the School Board primary election, the feeling of frustration has been palpable. The YWCA Madison suggests the reason this talk hasn’t created much tangible progress is that these issues are part of a larger system of racial inequalities. Individual strategies, action plans or initiatives are less likely to be successful if they are not part of a larger racial equity strategy.
So we are delighted to see Cheatham’s plan is based on values including commitment to equity and systemic improvement. If our community is serious about racial equity in education, we will join Cheatham in learning what kids of color need to be successful, and then making those resources and solutions the priority.
We will also consider every education-related decision and discussion with racial equity in mind. We will think holistically about Dane County’s future as a more racially diverse community and welcome and retain professionals, including educators, of color.
Let’s be part of a community-wide commitment to equity, and let’s remember that we’re doing it for the kids.

Related: And, so it continues.

Secrecy in school superintendent search was bad public policy

Bill Lueders:

The secrecy that attended the Madison School District’s pick of a new superintendent was bad form and bad public policy.
Prior to making its selection, the district announced just two finalists, one of whom was found to have a closet full of skeletons that prompted his withdrawal. The remaining finalist, Jennifer Cheatham, got the job.
State law requires that at least the top five contenders for such a position be named, but does not specify when. The Madison School District decided to do so after it was too late to matter.
And then, to add insult to injury, the district’s lawyer, Dylan Pauly, dissed the disclosure law that the district complied with only belatedly.
“We believe that by releasing these names, pursuant to our legal obligation, we are negatively contributing to the chilling effect that is occurring across the state with respect to school boards’ abilities to recruit and hire highly qualified individuals as superintendents,” she wrote.

A bit of history on Madison Superintendents. I fully agree with Lueders. I continue to be astonished at the ongoing lack of transparency in such public matters, from the local School District’s Superintendent search to the seemingly simple question of American citizen’s constitutional due process rights (is this being taught?)

And, so it continues



Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Leadership comes in different shapes and sizes. After spending time with 41-year-old Jen Cheatham and attending the community forum on Thursday, I kept thinking back to the winter day 23 years ago when 43-year-old Barry Alvarez was introduced to the Madison community and made his memorable statement about how fans interested in season tickets better get them now because they’d soon be hard to get.
Like Cheatham, Alvarez was an outsider, a rising star in a major program who was ready to take the reins of his own program and run with it. That certainly did not guarantee success, but he proved to have that rare and ineluctable something that inspired his players to raise their game, that drove them to succeed as a team because they couldn’t bear to let their coach or teammates down.
As with Barry, so with Jen. For those of us who have been able to spend time with Jen Cheatham and talk to her about her vision for our Madison schools, it is clear that whatever leadership is, she has it. What we heard time and again from those she’s worked with is that Jen is able to inspire principals and teachers to do their best possible work for the students they serve. But also like Alvarez, she’s doesn’t shy away from tough decisions when they’re necessary.

Related: Madison’s third grade reading results:

“The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.”

Madison School Board Needs to Address Search Fiasco:

That being the case, Cheatham would come to this position in a difficult circumstance. As Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, told the State Journal: “The perception of people in this community when we have one pick, they will always question the value of this woman. That’s not fair to her and not fair to our kids.”
The School Board has presided over a fiasco that board member Ed Hughes admits — in a major understatement — “has not gone as smoothly as we’d like.”
Now the board needs to get its act together.
If would be good if the board were to seek the return of the more than $30,000 in taxpayer money that was allocated for what can only charitably be referred to as a “search.” However, we don’t want the board to squander more tax money on extended legal wrangling.
The board should make it clear that it will not have further dealings with this search firm, as the firm’s vetting of applicants does not meet the basic standards that a responsible board should expect.
Perhaps most importantly, the board should engage in a serious rethink of its approach to searches for top administrators. The Madison Metropolitan School District is a great urban school district. It has challenges, especially with regard to achievement gaps and the overuse of standardized testing, that must be addressed.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman – August, 2009

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

Urban League Strongly Supports the Decision on Madison Superintendent

Madison Urban League, via a kind email:

The Urban League of Greater Madison strongly supports the Madison School Board’s decision to hire Dr. Jennifer Cheatham to serve as the next Superintendent of Schools of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Dr. Cheatham’s strong background in teacher quality, teacher evaluation, instructional leadership and organizing school system functions and operations around the educational and developmental needs of young people will be great assets for Madison’s public schools.
Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League shared that, “Dr. Cheatham’s experience as a leader of teachers and her strong focus on improving instruction, implementing a rigorous curriculum for all students, ensuring teachers build strong and motivating relationships with children, and using data to inform teaching represent the core of what our school system needs right now.” Caire further stated that, “The Urban League believes that children in Madison deserve world class leadership, world class teachers and world class schools. Dr. Cheatham’s history and track record show that she shares a common belief in these ideals and what it takes to get there. We look forward to supporting her transition and welcoming her and her family to Madison.”
The Urban League is presently partnering with the Madison Metropolitan School District on the recruitment of high quality teachers and professional staff, preparing high school juniors and seniors for the ACT college entrance exam, and engaging parents of color in the work and decision-making of the school system. The Urban League also launched the Urban League Scholars Academy in January 2013 at Sennett and Toki Middle Schools, a program that extends the instructional day for 6th graders by 80 minutes in reading/language arts and mathematics. The League also operates the Schools of Hope tutoring program at 17 middle and high schools in Madison, Middleton, Oregon and Sun Prairie in partnership with these school districts, the United Way of Dane County and Madison School Community Recreation.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Visit

Matthew DeFour:

In her first visit to a Madison school, superintendent candidate Jennifer Cheatham met two La Follette High School students whom principal Chad Wiese said represent the district’s diversity and also its greatest challenge.
Senior Tanner Trickle, a basketball player and honors student, and junior Khaleah Monger, a varsity cheerleader, president of the black student union and an AVID/TOPS participant, led Cheatham on a tour of the school, highlighting a remodeled study hall, the gym and Lussier Stadium.
When Trickle told Cheatham he had applied to University of Chicago, Cheatham replied, “That was my first choice too. It didn’t work out at all.”
Nonetheless, Cheatham, 41, chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, received her bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago and earned graduate degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard University.

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Madison School Board could shake things up, in a good way

Chris Rickert:

Five years ago, people were praising newly named Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad as a paragon of listening skills and inclusiveness — a trained social worker who seemingly never burned a bridge in his life.
By contrast, Milton, the current superintendent at the Springfield (Ill.) school district, and Chicago School District administrator Jennifer Cheatham seem willing to upset the apple cart if they think it will help students.
School Board president James Howard told me the board’s focus was not to find candidates who would shake things up because, overall, Madison remains a quality district that doesn’t need a whole lot of shaking.
Rather “the issue” — or, as he later clarified, one the most important issues — “is one thing: the achievement gap.”
And the board certainly wanted to know if candidates had “the kind of will to make the kind of changes” to tackle that problem, he said. “To demonstrate success, you have to be from a district that has some diversity.”

Much more on the Madison School District’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Consultant defends candidate vetting as a call is made for additional Madison superintendent finalists

Pat Schneider:

School Board members and Ray and Associates, the consultant in the superintendent search process, have been under fire since Sunday when the district announced finalists Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of schools in Springfield, Ill., and Jennifer Cheatham, chief of instruction for the Chicago Public Schools.
Milton pulled his name from consideration late Tuesday, following days of online comment by Madison residents on incidents in his past. Those included a 2007 state audit finding of mismanagement at the New York school district he headed and his hiring of a former business partner who was a convicted sex offender while with the Flint, Mich., school district. according to news reports. Milton also had been questioned about inaccurate resumes in applying for previous jobs.
The question bandied about in comments to online stories is: If citizens could unearth these apparent red flags about Milton’s background on Google, why didn’t Ray and Associates?

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.

With superintendent candidate set to visit, Madison School Board on hot seat

Matthew DeFour:

As a top Chicago Public Schools administrator visits Madison on Thursday to make her case to be the next Madison superintendent, questions linger about the School Board’s selection process.
The day after the other finalist for the job suddenly withdrew amid questions about his past, two Madison School Board members stood by the board’s decision to move forward with the visit by Jennifer Cheatham. The other five did not return calls seeking comment.
Board members Ed Hughes and Mary Burke also said they weren’t ready to pass judgment on the search consultant, Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after Walter Milton Jr., superintendent in Springfield, Ill., withdrew, and it was not clear how much board members knew about his background.
“We understand why people have questions about our process because it hasn’t gone as smoothly as we’d like,” Hughes said. “That said, I think we are excited about the possibility of Jennifer Cheatham. She sounds like she could be a terrific candidate.”

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.
Jennifer Cheatham links: Bing, Blekko, Clusty, Google, Twitter.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Roundup: It Seems Unlikely that One Person will Drive Significant Change

Amy Barrilleaux:

After paying an Iowa-based headhunting firm $30,975 to develop a candidate profile and launch a three-month nationwide recruitment effort, and after screening 65 applications, the Madison school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to two finalists. Dr. Jenifer Cheatham is chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, and Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., is superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Illinois.
Parents and community members will get a chance to meet both finalists at a forum at Monona Terrace starting at 5:45 p.m. Thursday night. But despite the exhaustive and expensive search, the finalists aren’t without flaws.
Cheatham was appointed to her current post as chief of instruction in June of 2011 by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who has since resigned. According to her Chicago district bio, Cheatham’s focus is improving urban school districts by “developing instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning.” Cheatham received a master’s and doctorate in education from Harvard and began her career as an 8th grade English teacher. But she found herself in a harsh spotlight as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and district officials pushed for a contentious 7.5 hour school day last year, which became one of many big issues that led to the Chicago teachers strike in September.
“It was handled horribly in terms of how it was rolled out,” says Chicago attorney Matt Farmer, who also blogs about Chicago school issues for The Huffington Post.
Farmer says pressure was mounting last spring for the district to explain how the longer day would work and how it would be paid for. Cheatham was sent to a community meeting he attended on the city’s south side to explain the district’s position.

Some of candidate Walter Milton Jr.’s history a surprise to School Board president

Madison School Board president James Howard said Monday he wasn’t aware of some of the controversial aspects of Walter Milton Jr.’s history until after the board named him a finalist to be Madison’s next superintendent.
Prior to becoming superintendent in Springfield, Ill., Milton was criticized for hiring without a background check a colleague who had been convicted of child molestation in Georgia. The colleague, Julius B. Anthony, was forced to resign from a $110,000 job in Flint, Mich., after a background check uncovered the case, according to the Springfield State Journal-Register.
Milton and Anthony were former business partners and worked together in Fallsburg, N.Y., where Milton was superintendent before moving to Flint, according to news reports.

Steven Verburg: Jennifer Cheatham fought for big changes in Chicago schools:

Jennifer Cheatham will be the third person in the last two years from our administration who I’ve been a reference for who has taken over a fairly significant school district,” Vitale said. “Chicago is a pretty good breeding place for leaders.”

Matthew DeFour:

A Springfield School District spokesman said Milton is declining interviews until a community forum in Madison on Thursday.
Prior to Fallsburg, Milton was a teacher and principal in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. He received a bachelor’s degree in African history and African-American studies from Albany State University, a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York College at Brockport and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Buffalo.
Milton’s contract in Springfield expires at the end of the 2013-14 school year. His current salary is $220,000 plus about $71,000 in benefits.

School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Madison School Board member Marj Passman says she was looking for superintendent candidates who have had experience working in contentious communities. “That’s important, considering what we’ve gone through here,” she told me Monday.
And what Madison schools are going through now.
The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates — Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. — before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned.
And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years — a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district — remain unresolved.
So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.

What are the odds that the traditional governance approach will substantively address Madison’s number one, long term challenge? Reading….
Much more on the latest Madison Superintendent search, here along with a history of Madison Superintendent experiences, here.

Madison School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Pat Schneider:

The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates — Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. — before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned.
And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years — a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district — remain unresolved.
So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.
Madison School Board members had 90-minute interviews with a pool of semifinalists before selecting Cheatham and Milton, and will interview them again on Thursday. The candidates also will appear at a public forum that starts at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Monona Terrace Convention Center.

Much more on Madison Superintendents past, present and future, here.

Madison Names Two Superintendent Finalists, Public Forum on 2.7.2013

The Madison School District:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has chosen the two finalists for the superintendent position, it was announced Sunday in a press release.
The two finalists are Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, chief of instruction at Chicago Public Schools, and Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., superintendent of Springfield (Ill.) Public Schools.
The public is invited to a public forum Thursday, Feb. 7 at 5:45 p.m. at the Monona Terrace to meet and ask questions of the two candidates. If you cannot attend the forum, you can email your comments or questions to board@madison.k12.wi.us.

Much more on Madison Superintendents.
A recent look at Madison Superintendent hires.
UPDATE: Samara Kalk Derby:

According to Cheatham’s biography on the Chicago Public Schools website, her focus is on “systemic improvement in urban school districts” and her expertise “lies in developing instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning.”
She has worked as a Chief Area Officer for Chicago Public Schools and the executive director of Curriculum and Instruction for San Diego City Schools, the biography said. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from DePaul University, a master’s in education from the University of Michigan, and a master’s and doctorate in education from Harvard University.
According to a personal website promoting his book, “Me in the Making: One Man’s Journey to Becoming a School Superintendent,” Milton is a native of Rochester, N.Y., who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Albany and a master’s from SUNY College at Brockport. He took post-graduate courses at the University of Rochester to receive his administrative certifications, including his superintendent’s license. He holds a doctorate of education in leadership and policy from the University of Buffalo. He has also been a teacher and principal.


Google News on On Chicago & Dr. Jennifer Cheatham
. More, here:Long on Class Time, Short on Answers .
Google News on Springfield Superintendent Walter Milton.