Notes on politics and the achievement gap

Daniel Lennington and Will Flanders Last week, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly put out a press releasebroadly outlining her plans to address Wisconsin’s racial achievement gap. While it is perhaps a positive to finally see the superintendent addressing the failings of Wisconsin’s public schools, this release offers a disturbing window into the way … Continue reading Notes on politics and the achievement gap

The Bias Fallacy: It’s the achievement gap, not systemic racism, that explains demographic disparities in education and employment.

Heather MacDonald: The United States is being torn apart by an idea: that racism defines America. The death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in late May 2020 catapulted this claim into national prominence; riots and the desecration of national symbols followed. Now, activists and their media allies are marshaling … Continue reading The Bias Fallacy: It’s the achievement gap, not systemic racism, that explains demographic disparities in education and employment.

Research shows progressive places, like Minneapolis, have the worst achievement gaps

Nekima Levy Armstrong: It is an open secret in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities that black and brown children are being left behind within the public school system. The dominant narrative places the blame on poor children of color and their parents, as well as their communities. When racial stereotypes are used as the default … Continue reading Research shows progressive places, like Minneapolis, have the worst achievement gaps

Minnesota teachers union opposes constitutional amendment to address achievement gap

Mary Lynn Smith: The largest organization representing Minnesota educators announced Wednesday that it opposes a plan to change the state Constitution in an effort to narrow the state’s persistent academic achievement gap. Education Minnesota, the union representing 80,000 members who work in pre-K and K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, announced its opposition as the authors … Continue reading Minnesota teachers union opposes constitutional amendment to address achievement gap

Elizabeth Warren’s Education Plan Is Exactly What We Need — If Our Goal Is to Make the Achievement Gap Permanent

Chris Stewart: Finally, a Democratic presidential candidate brave enough to focus less on classroom instruction and more on factors outside of schools; a candidate informed enough to know there is nothing wrong with teaching and learning that won’t be fixed by big-budget infrastructure upgrades along with housing grants and health care. For unions, this must … Continue reading Elizabeth Warren’s Education Plan Is Exactly What We Need — If Our Goal Is to Make the Achievement Gap Permanent

America’s Schools Flunk Despite more spending, test scores fall and the achievement gap grows.

Wall Street Journal: The highest-achieving students are doing better and the lowest are doing worse than a decade ago. That’s one depressing revelation from the latest Nation’s Report Card that details how America’s union-run public schools are flunking. The results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered to students around the … Continue reading America’s Schools Flunk Despite more spending, test scores fall and the achievement gap grows.

Where is the outrage on Wisconsin‘s achievement gap? And Madison…

Alan Borsuk: There was not much reaction and certainly no surge of commitment and effort. Jump ahead to now. Everything that was true in 2004 remains true. NAEP scores come out generally every two years and a new round was released a few days ago. The scores for Wisconsin stayed generally flat and were unimpressive. … Continue reading Where is the outrage on Wisconsin‘s achievement gap? And Madison…

Have we made progress on achievement gaps? Looking at evidence from the new NAEP results

Michael Hansen, Elizabeth Mann Levesque, Diana Quintero, and Jon Valant : Last week, the National Assessment Governing Board and National Center for Education Statistics released results from the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card,” these results provide a bi-annual barometer on how states and the country … Continue reading Have we made progress on achievement gaps? Looking at evidence from the new NAEP results

Analysis: Christakis Enshrines the ‘Common’ Public School — but Somehow Forgets About the Achievement Gap

Beth Hawkins: During one family engagement night last year, my son’s ninth-grade class competed in a contest called a policy slam. Working in teams of three, students were given two sets of data that, analyzed together, revealed a social issue. Students then created policy prescriptions to address the problem they found, detailed in short PowerPoints. … Continue reading Analysis: Christakis Enshrines the ‘Common’ Public School — but Somehow Forgets About the Achievement Gap

SF school leaders, advocates wary of Silicon Valley group aiming to tackle achievement gap

Laura Waxmann: A Silicon Valley-based education reform nonprofit promising to tackle the achievement gap in San Francisco’s public schools by empowering parents has drawn the ire of district leaders and advocates, who criticize the group for its track record of advocating for charter schools. Citing student achievement data obtained from the California Department of Education, … Continue reading SF school leaders, advocates wary of Silicon Valley group aiming to tackle achievement gap

Despite Startling Achievement Gaps, San Francisco Board Rejects Bid to Bring KIPP School to Poor Neighborhood

David Kantor: The push to expand the KIPP network in San Francisco was at least momentarily halted last week after the city’s Board of Education turned down its proposal for a new elementary school in Bayview–Hunters Point, traditionally one of the city’s poorest and most heavily African-American areas. In finding that KIPP was “demonstrably unlikely” … Continue reading Despite Startling Achievement Gaps, San Francisco Board Rejects Bid to Bring KIPP School to Poor Neighborhood

Come together and take action to close achievement gaps in Milwaukee schools

Alan Borsuk: But the ice-breaker question was to name our favorite childhood book. I said, “Horton Hears a Who,” by Dr. Seuss. I’ve given that answer pretty often over the years. There are several reasons I think it’s a great book. One is that, in the end, the community of “Whos” is saved when all … Continue reading Come together and take action to close achievement gaps in Milwaukee schools

Student test engagement and its impact on achievement gap estimates

Jim Soland: Achievement gaps are one of education’s most important policy metrics. Gaps between boys and girls, as well as white and racial minority students, are often used to measure the effectiveness and fairness of the education system at a given point in time, over the course of decades, and as children progress through school. … Continue reading Student test engagement and its impact on achievement gap estimates

Denver, Boulder schools home to the state’s largest achievement gaps based on race, new data shows; Spend Far Less Than Madison.

Nic Garcia: The data show wide differences between how different student groups score — for example, gaps separating black and Hispanic students from white students, or students with special needs from other students, or students who qualify for subsidized lunches and those who don’t. On Monday, state officials quietly posted district- and school-level scores broken … Continue reading Denver, Boulder schools home to the state’s largest achievement gaps based on race, new data shows; Spend Far Less Than Madison.

“We (Madison) cannot spend half a billion $ per year to produce the nation’s largest achievement gap”

Former Madison School Board candidate Ali Muldrow, speaking yesterday on WORT-FM’s A Public Affair (MP3 audio) – via a kind reader. Madison has long spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. They are all rich white kids and they will do … Continue reading “We (Madison) cannot spend half a billion $ per year to produce the nation’s largest achievement gap”

Wisconsin Lawmaker: Lack of rigorous goals contributed to state’s achievement gap (decades go by)

Molly Beck: The huge gap in average academic achievement among racial groups in Wisconsin is likely a result of state education officials not setting rigorous goals to address the problem years ago, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Wednesday. Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said Wednesday that state lawmakers and education officials did not … Continue reading Wisconsin Lawmaker: Lack of rigorous goals contributed to state’s achievement gap (decades go by)

Madison’s achievement gap: a stubbornly ‘stable trend’

Abigail Becker: The state of education in Madison is stuck. For the past eight to 10 years, data and test scores have consistently shown disparities between black and white students that are closely linked to socioeconomic divides. The achievement gap—a disparity in test scores between the performance of students in groups broken down by race, … Continue reading Madison’s achievement gap: a stubbornly ‘stable trend’

Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap?

Elizabeth Raleigh and Grace Kao: In one of the first longitudinal population-based studies examining adopted children’s educational achievement, we analyze whether there is a test-score gap between children in adoptive families and children in biological families. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we find in aggregate adopted children have lower reading and math … Continue reading Is there a (transracial) adoption achievement gap?

Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Abigail Becker: Wisconsin has been labeled one of the worst states in the nation for black children based on measures including poverty, single-parent households and math proficiency. Statewide, just over 15 percent of black students tested proficient on statewide exams in math, compared to 43 percent of white students, according to 2013-14 test scores from … Continue reading Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

On Governance, Rigor & Achievement Gaps

Jay Matthews: uselessness of our fascination with achievement gaps better illustrated than in two lists from an admirable paper by Stanford University researchers, which that university’s Center for Education Policy Analysis published in April. “The Geography of Racial/Ethnic Test Score Gaps” was written by Sean F. Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides and Ken Shores. It identifies the … Continue reading On Governance, Rigor & Achievement Gaps

“You can’t close the achievement gap by erasing the data”

Laura Waters: Certainly, Chris’s points are borne out by the opt-out activity in New York and New Jersey, where the biggest fans of test refusal live in wealthy suburbs and are financially and educationally invested in local control of their high-performing and exclusionary school districts. Yesterday Jonathan Chait described the “emerging alliance between teacher unions” … Continue reading “You can’t close the achievement gap by erasing the data”

Harold Rayford hopes to narrow achievement gap by addressing early childhood developme

Ogechi Emechebe: The achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts in Dane County has been an area of concern for the past several years. In addition to what the Madison School District is doing to try and eliminate the gap, a local grassroots organization is hoping to reduce the achievement gap before … Continue reading Harold Rayford hopes to narrow achievement gap by addressing early childhood developme

Not, ahem, hoping for another 20 years of Madison’s achievement gap

Chris Rickert: Charter schools that overhaul the usual public school model — such as the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, which the school board rejected in 2011 — are another approach. Madison has not embraced the charter school movement with nearly as much vigor as some other districts with race- and income-based achievement gaps. This is … Continue reading Not, ahem, hoping for another 20 years of Madison’s achievement gap

DPI/UW grant to address achievement gap

Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, along with the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have received a four-year, $5.25 million grant to advance the work of DPI’s Promoting Excellence for All initiative. Promoting Excellence for All is focused on reducing achievement gaps for student … Continue reading DPI/UW grant to address achievement gap

Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Abigail Becker: Test results released in October from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests known as the Nation’s Report Card, reaffirmed Wisconsin’s poor record of educating black children: The state had the worst achievement gap between black and white students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. This is the … Continue reading Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Pat Schneider: “It seems reasonable to attribute a good share of the improvements to the specific and focused strategies we have pursued this year,” Hughes writes. The process of improvement will become self-reinforcing, he predicts. “This bodes well for better results on the horizon.” Not so fast, writes Madison attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick in his Systems … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Digital education could make Americans more competitive, close achievement gap

Sarah Garland: To technology advocates, these are visions of how technology could transform U.S. classrooms. With a desktop or portable computer, a tablet or even a smartphone available to every student and every teacher, the idea is that school will be better tailored to students’ needs and also better able to prepare them for the … Continue reading Digital education could make Americans more competitive, close achievement gap

Report: Achievement gaps smaller among Florida charter school students

Travis Pillow: Achievement gaps are smaller for Florida’s charter school students than for their peers in traditional public schools, according to the state Department of Education’s latest state-mandated report comparing their student achievement. Like previous years’ reports, the latest results show charter schools outperforming their district-run counterparts on a range of measures, scoring higher and … Continue reading Report: Achievement gaps smaller among Florida charter school students

Cincinnati’s achievement gap initiatives

Kim McGuire: When educators nationwide want to look at proven ways to turn around a struggling urban school system, this is the city they visit. Over a decade, Cincinnati Public Schools’ graduation rate has jumped from 50 to 80 percent. And in the past five years, the reading and math proficiency of its elementary students … Continue reading Cincinnati’s achievement gap initiatives

Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Seth Jovaag: Melissa Droessler tries not to flinch when she tells people her dream of opening a charter school in Madison. “Even the word ‘charter’ in Madison can be emotionally charged,” she says. But Droessler, director of Isthmus Montessori Academy, is steadfast in her belief that a century-old pedagogy created in the slums of Rome … Continue reading Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

The Global Achievement Gap

Caroline M. Hoxby: Most Americans, whether employers or parents or people who do business internationally, recognize that our students’ achievement is mismatched with our economy. The growing sectors of our economy are highly skill-intensive, and only the shrinking sectors require unskilled laborers. Yet, as evinced by scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), … Continue reading The Global Achievement Gap

Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

Pat Schneider: Yet some of those strategies have been used by the school district for years, and the results have not been good, Hughes acknowledged. “The results have been disappointing not just because African-American kids are achieving at lower rates than white kids, but because our African-American kids are doing worse than African-American kids in … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

Education programs take on Madison’s achievement gap

Rachel Schulze:

Rose Yang, a senior at UW-Madison, is starting to consider plans for graduate school. After she earns her bachelor’s in social welfare, she wants to complete a master’s and become a social worker.
“I want to help students very similar to myself, who didn’t have opportunities–or didn’t feel like they had the chance to go to college,” Yang said, reflecting on her experience growing up in a low-income household in Madison. “I want to be that person who helps advocate for students like me at one point to get to college.”
While the Madison Metropolitan School District’s 2011-12 graduation rate was 74.6 percent overall, the figure hides disparites. For white students the graduation rate was 86.7 percent, but it was lower for all other races: 80.8 percent among Asians, 63.2 among Hispanics, and 53.1 among blacks. The rate for economically disadvantaged students was 55.4 percent.
Disparity in Madison received fresh attention in October when the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families released the “Race to Equity” report. The document outlined disparity between blacks and whites in Dane County, focusing on differing outcomes in education, employment and arrest rates as well as other areas.
“I think that was a real litmus test that people in our communities were surprised by those numbers,” said Madeline Hafner, executive of the Minority Student Achievement Network, a Madison-based national coalition of school districts aiming to reduce their levels educational disparity.

The Achievement Gap as Seen Through the Eyes of a Student

Robin Mwai and Deidre Green Simpson Street Free Press The achievement gap is very prevalent in my school on a day-to-day basis. From the lack of minority students taking honors classes, to the over abundance of minority students occupying the hallways during valuable class time, the continuously nagging minority achievement gap prevails. Upon entering LaFollette … Continue reading The Achievement Gap as Seen Through the Eyes of a Student

N.J. School Boards Association to study ways to close economic achievement gap

Peggy Mcglone:

The New Jersey School Boards Association has created a task force on student achievement to help local boards identify strategies to improve student performance and close the economic achievement gap.
Members of 11 school boards from urban, rural and suburban districts are joined by education and community leaders to review relevant research and address issues ranging from curriculum to access to technology. The task force will present best practices and make recommendations that local boards can use to improve student performance.
“Overall New Jersey’s students performing well on nationwide measures of academic progress, but when one digs deeper, a troubling statistic becomes apparent: a persistent economic achievement gap,” the association’s executive director Lawrence Feinsod said. “Poverty is no friend to academic achievement. Neither should it be an excuse for allowing children not to succeed.”

Closing the achievement gap: Not failing, but too slow

Chris Rickert:

Lead researcher Sara Goldrick-Rab also said the most recent study — released Monday, of the 2012-13 school year — provides better evidence that the advancements probably come as a result of the program (i.e., they aren’t just a coincidence or a result of other causes).
This is good news for a district that has seen the percentage of low-income students reach 50 percent and now enrolls more students of color than whites.
But it’s not as if these demographic changes were sudden, and the district’s failure to reach low-income, minority students is longstanding.
The achievement gap is clear in state testing data online that goes back to 1996, but it almost certainly existed for many years before that.

Much more on the achievement gap, here.

Closing the achievement gap

Rhema Thompson

The search for a few good men and women, a few good readers, writers and artists are in focus this week.
Escambia County School District officials will soon be forming a new task force to help close the achievement gap among the district’s students.
During a special workshop earlier this month, Escambia County Schools Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said he would be working with the school board’s new chairwoman Linda Moultrie to organize a committee of community members dedicated to “solution-finding” in the coming months.

UW researcher surprised by ‘magnitude of grimness’ of Wisconsin achievement gap

Jesse Opoien:

Without trying to pin it on one magic solution — what are some of the potential solutions that are being discussed?
There’s plenty of research that says you get the most bang for your buck in investing in the early childhood grades. That probably still holds true. But at the same time, if you invested in high quality preschool and then let chips fall where they may, many of those positive effects will eventually deteriorate.
My sense is that the efforts to identify high-performing schools, high-quality schools regardless of what sector they’re in — public, charter or private — identifying the characteristics of high-performing schools regardless of sector, and trying to replicate them.
The other thing we’ve known for a long time is the single biggest within-school factor or influence on student achievement, in this order, are the quality of the teacher and the quality of the principal. Investing in ways of identifying effective teachers and helping them get better is almost always a good investment. It’s hard work, but it’s a good investment.
The other thing in terms of causes worth mentioning: there’s plenty of research that shows we have inequitable distributions of teacher quality. The higher the poverty rate, the more likely students are to be taught by a younger, less effective teacher. We can look at ways of trying to incentivize the most effective teachers to teach in the neediest schools. There are some positive signs here, but it’s nothing that’s going to be fixed over night.

Related: the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

Send in the SEALs: Can a new generation of young, Navy SEAL-like teachers finally club the achievement gap out of existence?

EduShyster
Hedge funder Whitney Tilson argues that a new generation of young Navy SEAL-like teachers can club the achievement gap out of existence.
Can a new generation of young, Navy SEAL-like teachers finally club the achievement gap out of existence? That is today’s fiercely urgent question, reader, and believe it or not, I do not ask it in jest. The call to send in the SEALs comes from hedge fund manager and edu-visionary extraordinaire Whitney Tilson. When Tilson read this recent New York Times story about high turnover among young charter school teachers, he went ballistic, to use a military metaphor. After all, turnover among Navy SEALs is also very high, notes Tilson, and no one complains about that.
Bigger rigor
So how exactly is the young super teacher in an urban No Excuses charter school like a Navy SEAL? Better yet, how are such teachers NOT like SEALs? Both sign onto an all-consuming mission, the SEAL to take on any situation or enemy the world has to offer, the teacher to tackle the greatest enemy our nation has ever known: teacher union low expectations. But as Tilson has seen second-hand, being a “bad a**” warrior is exhausting, which is why SEALs, like young super teachers, enjoy extraordinarily short careers.
But the work is incredibly intense and not really compatible with family life, so few are doing active missions for their career–they move on into management/leadership positions or go into the private sector (egads!). Could you imagine the NY Times writing a snarky story about high turnover among SEALs?!
Cream of the crop
Egads! indeed, reader. In fact, now that I think of it, *crushing* the achievement gap in our failed and failing public schools is almost exactly like delivering highly specialized, intensely challenging warfare capabilities that are beyond the means of standard military forces. For one thing, the SEALs are extremely choosy about who they let into their ranks, just as we’ll need to be if we’re going to replace our old, low-expectations teachers with fresh young commandos. Only the cream of the crop make it to SEALdom, and by cream, I mean “cream” colored. The SEALs are overwhelmingly white; just 2% of SEAL officers are African American.
See the world
And let’s not forget that SEALs and new urban teachers both get plenty of opportunities to experience parts of the world they haven’t seen before. The elite Navy men train and operate in desert and urban areas, mountains and woodlands, and jungle and arctic conditions, while members of the elite teaching force spend two years combating the achievement gap in the urban schools before they receive officer status. And while Frog Men live on military bases, our commando teachers increasingly live in special encampments built just for them.
And here is where our metaphor begins to break down ever so slightly….
Of course, there are a few teeny tiny areas where the SEALs differ from the young teachers who will finally club the achievement gap out of existence. There is, for instance, the teeny tiny matter of the training that the SEALs receive: 8-weeks Naval Special Warfare Prep School, 24-weeks Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) Training, 3-weeks Parachute Jump School, 26-weeks SEAL Qualification Training (SQT), followed by 18-months of pre-deployment training, including 6-month Individual Specialty Training, 6-month Unit Level Training and 6-month Task Group Level Training before they are considered deployable. TFA, which Tilson praises for its “yeoman” work in recruiting and grooming the next generation of urban teacher hot shots, relies upon an, ahem, somewhat different approach…
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Madison’s Achievement Gap Grows While the School Board and City Continue to Ignore Charter Success

Nick Novak:

On Thursday, Chris Rickert – writer for the Wisconsin State Journal – thankfully reminded us about Madison’s dirty little secret. The district has a huge problem when it comes to the achievement gap – how students from different races are learning – and little in terms of a plan to fix it.
Indeed, Madison has one of the largest achievement gaps in Wisconsin. While 86.7 percent of white students in the district graduated in 2012, only 53.1 percent of their African American classmates could say the same. That’s a graduation difference of nearly 34 percent. Even Milwaukee, the state’s most embattled district, beats Madison on this very important issue. African American students in Milwaukee Public Schools were six percent more likely to graduate than their counterparts in MMSD.
For a city that goes out of its way to preach utopian equality and the great successes of union-run public schools, Madison’s lack of an answer for the achievement gap should come as a shock.
Here’s how the district stacked up, in terms of graduation rates, with the state’s other large districts:

Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results.

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).

MMSD partnership with Boys & Girls Club shows continued gains in closing achievement gap

The Madison Times:

Students in the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and the Boys & Girls Club’s Teens of Promise (TOPS) programs (www.avidtops.org) are achieving higher GPAs, enrolling in more advanced placement courses, and scoring higher on tests, according to a new analysis of the programs provided by the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE).
“We are so pleased that our ongoing partnership with the Boys & Girls Club is having a consistently positive impact on our students,” Superintendent Jane Belmore said. “It is because of this success that we have expanded AVID to middle schools this year. I want to thank the Boys & Girls Club for their work to make this partnership so effective.”

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses why he is running, the achievement gap

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. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

Madison school board candidates James Howard and Greg Packnett discuss why they are running, the achievement gap

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. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

Madison school board candidates Dean Loumos and Wayne Strong discuss why they are running, the achievement gap

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. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

Is Madison having a truly open dialogue about the schools’ achievement gap?

Pat Schneider:

Can you have a public discussion on closing the achievement gap in Madison without inviting Kaleem Caire, the architect of a would-be charter school plan that pushed the issue of the Madison School District’s persistent race-based gap to the front burner of local civic debate?
Caire, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is not on the roster for the March 13 installment of Ed Talks Wisconsin, a UW-Madison-sponsored series on current education topics, when a Madison panel will discuss “Closing the Achievement Gap: Toward a Community-Wide K12 Agenda.”
Joel Rogers, director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the equity advocacy group that organized the achievement gap panel discussion, said Monday that the presentation was conceived as a response to Caire’s education forum featuring such lights of the “school reform” movement as Geoffrey Canada, John Legend and Howard Fuller. At that two-day event last December, people heard a lot of talk promoting charter schools and greater teacher accountability as the answer to lagging performance by students of color.
“We wanted voices of people who think that, whatever its defects, public education is important in the 21st century,” Rogers said, adding that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin urged him to organize a program.
For his part, Soglin said that Caire has organized a number of discussions, like December’s “Educate to Elevate,” and “he did not invite anyone with different opinions on charter schools to participate.”
…….
The achievement gap presentation in Ed Talks was in response to the Urban League’s education summit, but other programs in the eight-day series were suggested by a variety of other groups as early as last fall, organizer Sara Goldrick-Rab [SIS], an associate professor in the School of Education, told me.
The final event on March 21 is part of a two-day educational policy conference that the university has hosted for years, she said.
Ed Talks is funded by some $5,000 in donations from a variety of university entities, but some $8,000 in funding for the educational policy conference includes $300 from the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers and $500 from WEAC, Goldrick-Rab said.

Related Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

What will it really take to Eliminate the Achievement Gap and Provide World-Class Schools for All Children in 2013 and beyond?

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

February 6, 2013
Dear Friends & Colleagues.
As the Board of Education deliberates on who the next Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District will be, and as school districts in our state and across the nation wrestle with what to do to eliminate the racial achievement gap in education, while at the same time establishing world class schools that help prepare all children to learn, succeed and thrive in the 21st century, it’s important that we not lose sight of what the research continues to tell us really makes the difference in a child’s education.
More than 40 years of research on effective schools and transformational education have informed us that the key drivers for eliminating the racial achievement gap in schools and ensuring all students graduate from high school prepared for college and life continue to be:

  • An Effective Teacher in Every Classroom – We must ensure every classroom is led by an effective teacher who is committed to and passionate about teaching young people, inspires all children to want to learn, has an appropriate depth of knowledge of the content they are teaching, is comfortable teaching and empowering diverse students, and coaches all of their students to high performance and expectations. Through its Race to the Top Initiative, the Obama Administration also defined an effective teacher as someone who can improve a students’ achievement by 1.0 grade levels in one school year while a highly effective teacher is someone who can improve student achievement by 1.5 grade levels annually. Schools with large numbers of students who are academically behind, therefore, should have the most effective teachers teaching them to ensure they catch up.
  • High Quality, Effective Schools with Effective Leaders and Practices – Schools that are considered high quality have a combination of effective leaders, effective teachers, a rigorous curriculum, utilize data-driven instruction, frequently assess student growth and learning, offer a supportive and inspiring school culture, maintain effective governing boards and enjoy support from the broader community in which they reside. They operate with a clear vision, mission, core values and measurable goals and objectives that are monitored frequently and embraced by all in the school community. They also have principals and educators who maintain positive relationships with parents and each other and effectively catalyze and deploy resources (people, money, partnerships) to support student learning and teacher success. Schools that serve high poverty students also are most effective when they provide additional instructional support that’s aligned with what students are learning in the classroom each day, and engage their students and families in extended learning opportunities that facilitate a stronger connection to school, enable children to explore careers and other interests, and provide greater context for what students are learning in the classroom.
  • Adequately Employed and Engaged Parents – The impact of parents’ socio-economic status on a child’s educational outcomes, and their emotional and social development, has been well documented by education researchers and educational psychologists since the 1960s. However, the very best way to address the issue of poverty among students in schools is to ensure that the parents of children attending a school are employed and earning wages that allow them to provide for the basic needs of their children. The most effective plans to address the persistent underachievement of low-income students, therefore, must include strategies that lead to quality job training, high school completion and higher education, and employment among parents. Parents who are employed and can provide food and shelter for their children are much more likely to be engaged in their children’s education than those who are not. Besides being employed, parents who emphasize and model the importance of learning, provide a safe, nurturing, structured and orderly living environment at home, demonstrate healthy behaviors and habits in their interactions with their children and others, expose their children to extended learning opportunities, and hold their children accountable to high standards of character and conduct generally rear children who do well in school. Presently, 74% of Black women and 72% of white women residing in Dane County are in the labor force; however, black women are much more likely to be unemployed and looking for work, unmarried and raising children by themselves, or working in low wage jobs even if they have a higher education.
  • Positive Peer Relationships and Affiliations – A child’s peer group can have an extraordinarily positive, or negative, affect on their persistence and success in school. Students who spend time with other students who believe that learning and attending school is important, and who inspire and support each other, generally spend more time focused on learning in class, more time studying outside of class, and tend to place a higher value on school and learning overall. To the contrary, children who spend a lot of time with peer groups that devalue learning, or engage in bullying, are generally at a greater risk of under-performing themselves. Creating opportunities and space for positive peer relationships to form and persist within and outside of school can lead to significantly positive outcomes for student achievement.
  • Community Support and Engagement – Children who are reared in safe and resourceful communities that celebrate their achievements, encourage them to excel, inform them that they are valued, hold them accountable to a high standard of character and integrity, provide them with a multitude of positive learning experiences, and work together to help them succeed rarely fail to graduate high school and are more likely to pursue higher education, regardless of their parents educational background. “It Takes A Whole Village to Raise a Child” is as true of a statement now as it was when the African proverb was written in ancient times. Unfortunately, as children encounter greater economic and social hardships, such as homelessness, joblessness, long-term poverty, poor health, poor parenting and safety concerns, the village must be stronger, more uplifting and more determined than ever to ensure these children have the opportunity to learn and remain hopeful. It is often hopelessness that brings us down, and others along with us.

If we place all of our eggs in just one of the five baskets rather than develop strategies that bring together all five areas that affect student outcomes, our efforts to improve student performance and provide quality schools where all children succeed will likely come up short. This is why the Urban League of Greater Madison is working with its partners to extend the learning time “in school” for middle schoolers who are most at-risk of failing when they reach high school, and why we’ll be engaging their parents in the process. It’s also why we’ve worked with the United Way and other partners to strengthen the Schools of Hope tutoring initiative for the 1,600 students it serves, and why we are working with local school districts to help them recruit effective, diverse educators and ensure the parents of the children they serve are employed and have access to education and job training services. Still, there is so much more to be done.
As a community, I strongly believe we can achieve the educational goals we set for our chlidren if we focus on the right work, invest in innovation, take a “no excuses” approach to setting policy and getting the work done, and hire a high potential, world-class Superintendent who can take us there.
God bless our children, families, schools and capital region.
Onward!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Assistant: 608-729-1249
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org

Related: Kaleem Caire interview, notes and links along with the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school (rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board).

Stay Focused: New research on how to close the achievement gap

The Economist:

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. By Paul Tough. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 256 pages; $27. Random House; £12.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
THE young teenagers who graduated from a special South Bronx middle school in 1999 became nationally famous. All black and Hispanic and largely from low-income families, the students had been recruited four years earlier to participate in an experimental programme called KIPP (ie, the Knowledge Is Power Program), designed to close the achievement gap between privileged and poor students. The experience seemed to pay off: in a citywide test, these students earned the highest scores of any school in the Bronx, and the fifth-highest in all of New York City. Most won admission to top high schools, often with full scholarships. They all seemed destined for college, and for successful, precedent-bucking, demographic-defying lives.
But six years after their high-school graduation, only about a fifth of KIPP’s first class had completed a four-year college degree. Most ended up dropping out, reaffirming America’s growing class divide on college campuses. KIPP’s founders were distraught, particularly because a college degree has never been more valuable, enabling Americans to earn some 80% more than people with only a high-school diploma. So how had KIPP failed to prepare these students for college? What did they do wrong?

District analysis finds Madison 4K may help close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour: Results from a fall kindergarten test that gauges school readiness show Madison’s 4-year-old kindergarten program may help raise achievement levels of minority students, according to a new district analysis. The analysis found attending 4K in Madison reduced a student’s chance of being deemed unprepared for school by 5.5 percent and increased scores on … Continue reading District analysis finds Madison 4K may help close achievement gap

Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students

Matthew DeFour:

The data showed the same result overall, but found new students are disproportionately low-income or minorities. Comparing students in similar racial and income groups, the district found time spent in the district did not explain the difference in test results.
The new district analysis challenges Mayor Paul Soglin’s focus in recent months on students moving to Madison from larger cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago. Soglin has called for alternative programs specifically geared toward new students to help improve low-income and minority student achievement.
“The practical fact is that mobility and newness are things we take into consideration, but when we plan how we’re going to address learning needs, they’re not the most important factors,” Superintendent Jane Belmore said.

I’m glad Mr. DeFour continues to look into this important issue.
Related links:
“When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”. An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

“When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”: An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap





170K PDF via a kind Andrew Statz email:

MAJOR FINDINGS
1. Students who have spent more time in MMSD perform better on the WKCE than their peers who have spent less time in MMSD.
2. Students who have spent more time in MMSD are demographically different from recent arrivals, who are less likely to be white and more likely to be low-income.
3. When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous.
Based on these findings, MMSD may be better served by refining its core curriculum to meet students’ needs based on demographic characteristics rather than the recency of their arrival in MMSD. The recent arrivals report is attached. Our official statement about our findings follows.
The most notable anomaly is among 10th grade students. In both Reading and Math, 10th grade students who had spent one year in MMSD performed as well as students who had spent their entire careers in MMSD and substantially better than new students as well as students who had spent between 2 and 9 years in MMSD. This suggests that students who enter MMSD in 9th grade are altogether different from students who enter in other grades. The high performance level for students spending one year in MMSD prior to 10th grade may reflect students entering MMSD in 9th grade after attending private schools through 8th grade.
——————————–
It is the district’s responsibility to meet students where they are in their learning and identify needed interventions, enrichment or other programs to advance that learning. That means we need to have curriculum and programs that work for all of the students we serve, regardless of demographic background or how long they have been in the district.
Unfortunately, we know that achievement gaps exist in schools across the country, and no single district has entirely eliminated them. Focusing only on how long a student has been in our district does not underscore the complexity of the issue and is not the most effective predictor of achievement.
Instead, strengthening classroom instruction and ensuring interventions and enrichment that advance learning for every student regardless of demographic characteristics will yield the best results.
However, we do know that mobility, including moving from another district or moves within MMSD, does have some impact on achievement. Exploring community solutions to enhance stability throughout a student’s education could both increase achievement and help close gaps.

Related: Madison’s Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data “Within 3 Weeks”.
Larry Winkler kindly published a more detailed analysis, here.
I asked several observers for their perspective on the rhetoric, assertions and the Friday report. Here’s one:
“When the data were first presented, the argument put forth was that the performance of newly arrived students explained much of the performance gap that we see in our schools. However, when the District examined the effects of race and socioeconomic status in the analysis, they found that the performance of low income and minority students who had been in the MMSD for many years was not significantly different from the performance of low income and minority students who were new to the District.
It is disappointing that the District and the Mayor’s office ran so far and so fast with their initial, incomplete analysis.”
UPDATE: Larry Winkler kindly created a set of charts scaled by percentages.

Madison’s Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data “Within 3 Weeks”

Paul Fanlund, via a kind reader’s email

There is an achievement gap. A significant part of the achievement gap is not because of the failure on the part of the Madison public schools, but it is because of the number of students who have transferred here from other districts, districts like Chicago,” he says.
“Those kids come here unprepared. They come from poorly performing schools. There is a reluctance to discuss this factor. The reluctance to discuss it has at least two consequences. The first is that we come to erroneous conclusions about the quality of education in Madison. The second problem is that we don’t develop strategies for these kids so that we can close that achievement gap.”
Soglin says a child who’s far behind in reading “who transferred in from a poorly performing district as opposed to a child who’s been in Madison her entire life, could require very different interventions. There are people who don’t want to talk about this problem and that’s one of the reasons we fail in addressing the achievement gap.
“Now, talking about this alone is not going to solve it, but addressing it and analyzing it properly may in the short term cast some negatives, but it is going to lead to a better job in terms of correcting the problem.”

I (and others) inquired about the data behind the Mayor’s assertion several months ago. I received an email today – after another inquiry – from the District’s Steve Hartley stating that the data will be available in “under 3 weeks”.
Related, also from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Background links:
November, 2005 When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
61 Page Madison Schools Achievement Gap Plan -Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

$1.2 million Madison schools foundation grant targets achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Two yet-to-be-determined Madison elementary schools will split a $1.2 million grant to accelerate low-income and minority student achievement, the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools announced Wednesday.
School Board member Mary Burke contributed the funding for the grant, which will be awarded in $200,000 installments over three years.
The foundation currently distributes about $400,000 a year to Madison schools, so the grant will double that amount, foundation executive director Stephanie Hayden said. The goal of the grant is to demonstrate that closing the achievement gap can be done more quickly than currently expected.
“We would hope that others in the community would step forward and fund similar things,” Hayden said. “We really view these as a demonstration project to show it can be done.”
The eligible non-charter schools must have at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Eighteen elementary schools meet that threshold this year.

Don’t blame teachers for achievement gap

Stephanie Lowden:

With all due respect to John Legend and Geoff Canada, firing teachers is not the solution to the achievement gap in Madison schools. The two spoke in Madison last week, prompting Friday’s article “Reformers: City schools need institutional change.”
I have been a substitute teacher in many classrooms since 2005 in Madison schools. What do I see?
Teachers who come early and stay late. Teachers who keep a stash of granola bars in their desks for the child who doesn’t make it to school on time for breakfast. Aides who lovingly attend to children with serious special needs.
I see 5-year-olds so out of control they can disrupt a classroom in minutes. Kids who live in their cars.

Northfield program shrinks Latino achievement gap

Elizabeth Baier:

When Jhosi Martinez thinks of college, she remembers the words of her father.
“He’s always wanted me to graduate and he’s always wanted me to continue and go to college and become someone else,” the Northfield High School senior said.
Jhosi’s dad never graduated from high school. Neither did her mom nor her older sister. Her family is like that of tens of thousands of Mexicans who have moved to greater Minnesota in search of better opportunities.
Many of those families represent a persistent achievement gap between white students and students of color that Minnesota education have long grappled with.

Education forum shows divide persists over Madison’s achievement gap strategy

Pat Schneider:

But divisions over strategy, wrapped in ideology, loom as large as ever. The mere mention that the education forum and summit were on tap drew online comments about the connection of school reformers to the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that generates model legislation for conservative causes.
Conspiracy theorists, opponents retorted.
Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey walked out early from the fundraising luncheon because he didn’t like what Canada and Legend were saying about the possibility of reform hinging on the ability to fire ineffective teachers.
Thomas J. Mertz, a parent and college instructor who blogs on education issues, expressed in a phone interview Friday his indignation over “flying in outside agitators who have spent no time in our schools and telling us what our problems are.”
Mertz said he also was concerned by the involvement of the Madison School District with events delivering anti-union, anti-public education, pro-charter school messages. The school district, for its part, took pains to say that the $5,000 it donated in staff time was for a Friday workshop session and that it had no involvement with the appearances by Canada and Legend.
Madison doesn’t need a summit to whip up excitement over the achievement gap issue, Mertz said when I asked if the Urban League events didn’t at least accomplish that. “It’s at the point where there’s more heat than light,” he said. “There’s all this agitation, but the work is being neglected.”
That’s a charge that School Board President James Howard, who says that the district might decide to mimic some of the practices presented at the summit, flatly denies. “We’re moving full speed ahead,” he said.
….
Caire told me that the school district and teachers union aren’t ready to give up their control over the school system. “The teachers union should be the entity that embraces change. The resources they get from the public should be used for the children’s advantage. What we’re saying is, ‘Be flexible, look at that contract and see how you can do what works.'”
Madison Teachers Inc. head John Matthews responded in an email to me that MTI contracts often include proposals aimed at improving education, in the best interests of students. “What Mr. Caire apparently objects to is that the contract provides those whom MTI represents due process and social justice, workplace justice that all employees deserve.”
If Caire has his way, Madison — and the state — are up for another round of debate over how radically to change education infrastructure to boost achievement of students of color.

More here and here.

Suburban Milwaukee schools take on minority students’ achievement gap

Alan Borsuk:

Means, the superintendent of Mequon-Thiensville schools and the most prominent African-American involved in education in Milwaukee suburban schools, is pushing to have constructive conversations about a subject few have wanted to discuss publicly: the lower achievement overall of minority children in suburban schools, at a time when the number of minority children in those schools is rising.
Means’ presentation came on a recent evening before 35 people at Wauwatosa West High School, a session hosted by Wauwatosa and West Allis-West Milwaukee school officials.
A few weeks earlier, Means made a similar presentation at Whitefish Bay High School. He has made the same pitch in the district where he works and just about anywhere else people will listen to him.
He is spearheading the launch of a collaborative effort involving at least a half-dozen suburban districts aimed at taking new runs at improving the picture.
The gaps are widespread and persistent. Black kids and Hispanic kids do not do as well in school as their white peers, even in the schools with the highest incomes, best facilities, most stable teaching staffs and highest test scores.
But Means told the Wauwatosa audience that schools shouldn’t focus on societal factors they can’t control. There are things schools can do, he said, such as making more meaningful commitments to high expectations for all students, insisting on rigor in classrooms, and ensuring that culturally responsive teaching styles and relationship-building are prevalent.
Means advocated three broad routes for schools:

Mequon-Thiensville’s 2012-2013 budget is $51,286,130 or $14,024 for 3,657 students. Madison will spend $15,132 per student during the 2012-2013 school year.

Madison Urban League and high-profile guests discuss achievement gap at education summit opener

Mario Koran:

But, Caire said, the biggest misperception about the achievement gap is that the same disparities exist across the county and that the problems are insurmountable.
“You guys, that’s just not true,” he said.
“People are doing this all over the country, proving it’s not the kids,” he added. “It’s the structure, and it is the adults that have to be changed. There’s some personal responsibility that has to be taken: we’re not going to allow the same thing that’s been going on to [keep] going on.”
Canada challenged school districts to rethink their approaches to education by engaging students; “to prove something can work, then scale that up.”
“We’re not saying privatize education, we’re saying let’s try some innovation, hold some people accountable, this is moderate stuff, but because the climate has been so resistant to change it sounds revolutionary,” he said.
Legend recognized that nationally, school districts face limited budgets but said countries with fewer resources are doing a better job of educating their students.

Can Longer School Days Close the Achievement Gap?

Kelly Chen:

In an experiment aimed to raise achievement in America’s public schools, 11 school districts across five states — Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee — will be extending their class time learning by at least 300 hours, starting in 2013. The three-year pilot program, which will serve more than 20,000 students in 40 schools, hopes to improve under-performing schools and make students more competitive internationally.
By a standard school calendar, students attend six-and-a-half hour school days for 180 days a year. Of the 1,000 schools already participating in expanded-time schedules, students attend on average 7.8 hours of school a day, according to a report by the National Center on Time & Learning.
Under the pilot program, 11 school districts will add at least 300 more hours to the academic calendar by extending hours within a day or adding more days to the academic year.

Draft for presenting Measures of the Madison School District Achievement Gap Plan



Madison School District 600K PDF:

The overarching priorities were identified by the MMSD Management Team in the areas of Attendance, Behavior, Growth and Achievement. The rationale for these priorities is based on the following theory of action:
When our teachers apply strong, explicit teaching skills within an aligned multi-tiered system of instruction and support, and students attend school regularly with behavior that doesn’t interfere with their learning or the learn- ing environment, then students will show growth and achievement academically, socially and emotionally.

Much more on the Madison School District’s “achievement gap” plan, here.

Madison Memorial High School Evening Meal Program Aims to Reduce Achievement Gap

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter:

Often one does not realize how information gathered may be used to benefit others when the information is first received. Such is the case of the Memorial High School Evening Meal Program. Several years ago, Art Camosy, MTI Vice President and MTI’s Senior Faculty Representative for Memorial High School, attended a lecture given by Columbia Teachers’ College Professor Richard Rothstein. The lecture was sponsored by MTI, State Representative Cory Mason (Racine), and several entities within the UW. Professor Rothstein spoke about the impact of poverty on learning, citing, among other things, that a lack of medical and dental care result in lack of readiness for school, one of the causes of an achievement gap for the children growing up in poverty.
According to Rothstein in his book, “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Achievement Gap” (www.epi.org/publication/books_class_and_schools/), children of high school drop-outs probably know 400 words by the time they enter school; children of high school graduates 1600 words; and children of college graduates 2400 words. That preparedness deficit added to poor nutrition and lack of regular meals makes it almost impossible for a child to catch up with his/her peers who do not experience the described complicating factors. Rothstein states, “Low-income kindergartners whose height and weight are below normal children for their age tend to have lower test scores …. Indeed, the relationship between good nutrition and achievement is so obvious, that some school districts, under pressure recently to increase poor children’s test scores, boosted caloric content of school lunches on test days.”
Having heard Rothstein’s passion on the impact of poverty on nutrition, and nutrition on the achievement gap, Camosy approached MTI Executive Director John Matthews about providing an evening meal at Memorial. Matthews approached United Way President Leslie Howard, who was excited about the idea and offered UWDC support. MTI and United Way met last spring with various Memorial staff, students, parents and community members to get the project rolling. The Memorial Evening Meal Project got under way. Matthews also contacted Madison Mayor Paul Soglin to ensure appropriate bus transportation. Kick-off was last Monday, with 100 meals served and the number of participants rising. Added benefit to the students participating is tutoring by upper level students and teachers, all of whom are volunteering their time and talents. Thanks to the progressive Memorial Principal Bruce Dahmen, who not only has worked with Camosy to make the project a reality, but whose efforts in working with others in the District have made the Evening Meal Program an instant success. Camosy’s idea is sure to spread to other schools. It’s impact on the achievement gap is certain.

61 Page Madison Schools Achievement Gap Plan -Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore (2.5mb PDF)

Background on Goals: During the Student Achievement Committee meeting of October 1, several Board members discussed the issue of setting reasonable goals and the time needed to accomplish them. Most of the goals presented today are based on a five-year convergence model. Under this approach, achievement gaps are closed for every student subgroup in five years.
Forr example the baseline four-year graduation rate among white students is 85%. It is 61% among Hispanic students, and 54% among African American students.. With a five-year convergence model, the goal is for all student subgroups to reach a 90% on-time graduation rate. It is a statement that all student subgroups should improve and all gaps should close.
The reason for this approach is twofold. First, as adopted by the Board, the Achievement Gap Plan is a five-year plan. It is important that the student achievement goals reflect the timeline in the plan itself. The timeline for goals could be pushed out to ten years or more, but it would require formal directive from the Board to adopt ten years as the district’s new timeline for the Achievement Gap Plan.
Second, other models can be seen as conveying different expectations for students based on race/ethnicity or other characteristics like poverty, and that is not our intent. Taking ten years or longer to achieve stated goals may be viewed as a more reasonable time frame, but a five-year plan comes with a natural snapshot half way through that will illustrate persistent gaps and potentially convey varying expectations. Again, that is not our intent or our goal.
A note on Chapter 1, Literacy: The Accountability Plans for literacy are an example of two important concepts:
1. The district wide, instructional core in literacy must be strengthened in every school and every grade. Chapter 1, #1 speaks to a part of strengthening that core.
2. Once the core is strong fewer interventions are needed. However, some students will continue to need additional support. Chapter 1, #2 speaks to one example of an intervention that will help to prevent summer reading loss and close gaps.
The Board approval of $1.9 million for the purchase of elementary literacy materials provides a powerful framework for bringing cohesion to the elementary literacy program. The purchase will provide a well-coordinated core literacy program that is aligned with the common core standards and meets the needs of all learners.
The first steps will bring together an Elementary Literacy Leadership team to clarify the purpose and framework for our program. The overall framework for our entire elementary literacy program is Balanced Literacy. Building upon the current MMSD core practices in 4K-12 Literacy and Focus documents, the work being done to align our instruction and assessment with common core standards will increase rigor and take our current Elementary Balanced Literacy Program to what could be seen as an Elementary Balanced Literacy Program version 2.0. The Elementary Literacy Leadership team will bring clarity to the components of the program and what is expected and what is optional.
Chapter 1, #1 and #2 are important supports for our Balanced Literacy Program

Reading is certainly job number one for the Madison School District – and has been for quite some time….
Related: November, 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.
“All students” meant all students. We promised to stop thinking in terms of average student achievement in reading. Instead, we would separately analyze the reading ability of students by subgroups. The subgroups included white, African American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and other Asian students.

New school report cards another tool for achievement gap

A. David Dahmer:

It’s not just the students who are getting report cards during the 2012-13 school year.
On Monday, Oct. 22, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) issued a School Report Card for every public school in Wisconsin. The new school year has brought new measures on how the MMSD and other districts throughout the state evaluate its progress and makes improvements. Madison superintendent Jane Belmore said the ratings reflect data the district is already using to improve schools.
“There were no really surprises for us because we’ve been working with this data for over a year now,” Belmore tells The Madison Times. “It’s a complex picture – and maybe a better picture than we’ve had before — but we still believe we are on track with the strategies that we’ve developed and have started to put in place with this first year of the achievement gap plan.”
The school report cards, she adds, confirm MMSD’s knowledge about how the schools are doing on increasing student achievement, closing gaps, and preparing students for college or career.
Seven Madison schools — Van Hise, Randall, Shorewood Hills, Marquette, Franklin and Lapham elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School — “significantly exceed expectations” according to the report cards. That’s a designation only 3 percent of schools in the state received.

Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap?

Isabel Sawhill & Ron Haskins:

Abstract: Good jobs in the nation’s twenty-first-century economy require advanced literacy skills such as categorizing, evaluating, and drawing conclusions from written texts. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards by nearly all the states, combined with tough literacy assessments that are now in the offing, will soon reveal that literacy skills of average students fall below international standards and that the gap in literacy skills between students from advantaged and disadvantaged families is huge. The authors offer a plan to help states develop and test programs that improve the quality of teaching, especially in high-poverty schools, and thereby both improve the literacy skills of average students and narrow the literacy gap.
U.S. schools are struggling to enable students, espe­cially those from poor families, to attain the advanced literacy skills required by the twenty-first-century American economy. One approach to enhancing schools’ efficacy in this area is improved educational standards. Standards are routine in American life. Sports have them; businesses have them; profes­sions have them. Standards are useful in clarifying the knowledge, skills, and competencies that society expects from individuals and organizations. Society also needs a way to determine whether the standards have been met, usually through testing, certification, licensing, or inspection systems. And a respected body of experts must be responsible for maintaining the integrity of the standards.

Madison schools propose using $12M redistributed state tax windfall for tax relief, technology upgrades, achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

That means the district’s property tax levy would increase 3.47 percent, down from the 4.95 percent increase the board approved in June. The tax rate would be $11.71 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $11.88. For an average $232,024 home, the difference is about $40.
The board could use the remaining $8.1 million on property tax relief, but Belmore is recommending it be used in other ways, including:
$3.7 million held in reserves, in case the state overestimated additional aid.
$1.6 million to buy iPads for use in the classroom, $650,000 to upgrade wireless bandwidth in all schools and $75,000 for an iPad coach.
$1.2 million to account for a projected increase in the district’s contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System.
About $800,000 geared toward closing achievement gaps including: three security assistants at Black Hawk, O’Keeffe and Hamilton middle schools; an assistant principal at Stephens Elementary, where the district’s Work and Learn alternative program caused parent concerns last year; two teacher leaders to assist with the district’s literacy program; a high school math interventionist; increasing the number of unassigned positions from 13.45 to 18.45 to align with past years; and a new student agricultural program.
$100,000 to fund the chief of staff position for one year.

104K PDF Memo to the Madison School Board regarding redistribution of state tax dollars.
Madison plans to spend $376,200,000 during the 2012-2013 school year or $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students.

Madison’s RE: Achievement Gap Plan – Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore:

3. It was moved by James Howard and seconded by Beth Moss that the pending motion to approve the preliminary 2012-2013 School District budget be amended to include specific accountability measures for all reading intervention programs receiving funding pursuant to 2012-2013 budget allocations. Specifically, in order for any reading intervention program being funded during the 2012-2013 school year to receive continued and/or increased funding in future budgets, each intervention must:
a. By November 15, 2012, submit to the Board of Education, proposed progress indicators for improved student achievement for students of color.
b. Progress indicators will be defined on a yearly basis for a minimum of 5 years and compared to the initial year of 2011-12.
c. Progress indicators will be broken down by African-American, Hispanic, special education and other non-White students affected by the program.
d. Progress indicators will include not only student achievement measures but also number of students included.
e. Data for each progress indicator will be required before continued or additional funding is approved.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

Achievement Gap Plan – Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

Madison School District:

Accountability Plan for All Achievement Gap Programs and Positions
The following motions were passed by the Board of Education on June 18, 2012, to assure that all staff responsible for the program or position/s follow the following protocol for accountability. Each staff member must submit to the Deputy Superintendent their plans for accountability in sections 1, 2 and 3 by September 1, 2012 (See attached template).

Madison Looks To Arlington, VA Schools for Achievement Gap Solutions; Arlington’s Tax Base & Demographics Quite Difference

Madison School District PDF Summary Document:

The 2005 to 2011 Strategic Plan was adopted by the School Board in June 2005. It outlines major objectives for the Arlington Public Schools for the six years covered by the plan. The Strategic Plan process was designed to result in clear direction for the school system that focuses on improved student learning for all students. For each goal of the plan, the School Board has defined specific objectives, indicators, and targets or benchmarks to measure progress over each of the 6 years. This summary provides selected findings from the results presented for 2009-10.

Links:

I hope the Madison School Board reviews additional Districts. Arlington’s demographics and tax base are substantially different than Madison.

Focus on front lines of achievement gap: Questions on Madison Administrative Spending

Adaeze Okoli:

I understand closing the achievement gap is a huge task. But the Madison School District often fails to take the right measures. It is a mistake, for example, to spend more money hiring top-level staff to coordinate meetings and oversee district plans. If we truly want to close the achievement gap, resources need to be on the front lines — at the schools working with kids. This is not the approach the district is choosing.
Recently, the School Board voted to hire a chief of staff for interim Superintendent Jane Belmore. The position will cost $170,000 and last one year. The superintendent said: “We’re about doing everything we can to start to close that achievement gap and in order to do that this position is critical.”
I disagree. I understand the need for staff support and accountability. Overseeing a large school district is a huge undertaking. But hiring more top-level staff who earn six figures will not teach third-graders at Glendale Elementary how to read and write.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Club speech:

“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).

Words: Madison’s Plan to Close the Achievement Gap: The Good, Bad, and Unknown

Mike Ford:

Admittedly I did not expect much. Upon review some parts pleasantly surprised me, but I am not holding my breath that it is the answer to MMSD’s achievement gaps. It is a classic example of what I call a butterflies and rainbows education plan. It includes a variety of non-controversial, ambitious, and often positive goals and strategies, but no compelling reason to expect it to close the achievement gap. Good things people will like, unlikely to address MMSD’s serious problems: butterflies and rainbows.
What follows is a review of the specific recommendations in the MSSD plan. And yes, there are good things in here that the district should pursue. However, any serious education plan must include timelines not just for implementation, but also for results. This plan does not do that. Nor does it say what happens if outcomes for struggling subgroups of students do not improve.
Recommendation #1: Ensure that All K-12 Students are Reading at Grade Level

The rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school was proposed to address, in part Madison’s long standing achievement gap.
Related: Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School (an inner-city voucher school).

Michigan school report cards: Achievement gaps could see academic powerhouses targeted for improvement

Dave Murray: For individual school and district data, visit www.MISchoolData.org and click on Dashboard & School Report Card button located on the left. The changes were praised by an education advocacy group, with leaders saying that the problems of low-scoring students were for years masked by the high-achievers in some districts. Communities that have long … Continue reading Michigan school report cards: Achievement gaps could see academic powerhouses targeted for improvement

Addressing the Middle School Achievement Gap

GE Citizenship:

Dr. Sabrina Hope King is Chief Academic Officer for the New York Department of Education’s Office of Curriculum and Professional Development. As part of her role, she leads the Campaign for Middle School Success, a multi-year strategic plan to develop a culture of success in schools throughout the city and improve the academic performance of middle school students.
The Campaign for Middle School Success is a $35 million initiative supported by both public and private funds, including a five-year, $17.9 million grant from the GE Foundation as part of the Developing Futures™ in Education program.
Dr. King’s audio perspective discusses how New York City schools are addressing the achievement gap and creating a system of middle schools that help prepare children for success in further education and future careers.

Educators say Michigan Merit Exams, ACT tests reveal ‘shameful’ achievement gaps

Dave Murray:

State educators are celebrating scores on standardized tests offered to high school students, but call achievement gaps between some student groups “shameful.”
Those concerns are echoed by an education advocacy group’s analysis of last week’s Michigan Merit Exam and ACT scores that show black and low-income students are falling even further behind the state’s white students.
While white student achievement has risen slightly over five years, scores for black and Hispanic students and students in poverty “remain grim,” according to the Education Trust-Midwest.

On the Madison School District’s “Achievement Gap” Plan and Looming Superintendent Departure

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s impending departure raises questions about the future of this year’s biggest budget initiative: the School District’s $49 million achievement gap plan.
“It’s a big question mark” whether a new superintendent will want to adopt the plan or make changes, said Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County.
“I don’t think (the School Board) should adopt the whole plan and hand it over to the new superintendent,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t take a job if a board of directors said, ‘Here’s the plan we came up with and want you to execute.'”
Nerad said Friday he plans to accept a superintendent job offer in Birmingham, Mich., and leave Madison by September.

Homework and the Achievement Gap

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

When I reviewed the many sound initiatives in the Achievement Gap Plan (AGP), I came to think that a piece was missing. The plan addresses the need for our teachers and schools, our community partners, and our parents all to do their part to assist in the academic achievement of our students. Nowhere in the plan, however, do we acknowledge the basic fact that ultimately our students are the ones responsible for their own learning.
The only way students who are behind will be able to catch up is by putting in the time and effort necessary to expand their learning and increase their skills. It’s pretty simple. If we are to narrow the achievement gap in the sense that we expect students of color to achieve at the same level as white students – and not merely expect that a higher percentage of students of color will achieve proficiency as measured on standardized tests – then the students of color will have to work harder than the white students in order to make up the ground between them. There is simply no other way. The white students aren’t going to just sit around and wait for the others to reach their level.

Related: Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews on the achievement gap, Act 10 and Scott Walker

Pat Schneider:

CT: What about the training and capabilities of Madison school teachers and how they deliver in the classroom day to day — is there room for improvement there?
JM: Well, there’s always room for improvement — there’s room for improvement in what I do. I can only say that the Madison School District has invested all kinds of things in professional development. One thing teachers tell us if they have time to work together, they can make strides. I found early in my career if I’m having a teacher identified as having a performance problem, ask the principal who is the best at doing what they want this teacher to do. Then you go to that teacher and say: “You have a colleague who needs help, will you take them under your wing?” I don’t have access to any of what they talk about, management doesn’t have access to that — it’s been a remarkably successful venture.
CT: In discussion of the achievement gap in Madison I’ve heard from African-American parents up and down the economic spectrum who say that their children are met at school with low expectations that really hamper their performance.
JM: I’ve heard that too. The Madison School District has an agreed-upon mandatory cultural course that people have to take. But there are people in society who don’t like to be around other races. I don’t see that when teachers are together. And we have a variety of people who are leaders in MTI — either Asian or Indian or black — but there are people who have different expectations from people who are different from them.
CT: Does the union have a role in dealing with teachers whose lowered expectations of students of color might contribute to the achievement gap?
JM: The only time MTI would get involved is if somebody was being criticized for that, we’d likely be involved with that; if someone were being disciplined for that, we would be involved. We’ve not seen that.

Public Comments on Madison’s Achievement Gap Plans

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email:

Madison community members say an extended school day, career academies, cultural training for teachers, alternative discipline, more contact between school staff and parents and recruiting minority students to become teachers are some of the best strategies for raising achievement levels of low-income and minority students.
However, some of those same ideas — such as adding an extra hour in the morning and emphasizing career training over college preparation for some students — are raising the most questions and concerns.
Those are a few of the key findings of a two-month public-input process on Superintendent Dan Nerad’s achievement gap plan.
The district released a summary report Friday. Nerad plans to revise the plan based on the public’s response and deliver a final proposal to the School Board on May 14.
Nerad said there is clearer support for more parent engagement and cultural training for teachers, than for an extended school day. He said not everyone may have understood that students who focus on a technical rather than liberal arts education might still go on to college after they graduate.

Additional reader notes:

There are profound deficiencies in the methodology and attempted “analysis” in the district’s and Hanover reports (https://boeweb.madison.k12.wi.us/files/boe/Appx%2010-40.pdf), but it’s interesting to see the district’s summary of staff input on literacy (page 2 of Marcia Standiford’s memo):
“4. Literacy – Start early with a consistent curriculm [sic]
Support for an emphasis on literacy was evident among the comments. Staff members called for a consistent program and greater supports at the middle and high school levels. Several questioned why the recommendations emphasized third grade rather than starting at earlier grades. Comments also called for bringing fidelity and consistency to the literacy curriculum. Several comments expressed concern that dedicating extra time to literacy would come at the expense of math or other content areas.” And a somewhat buried lede in the Hanover report (p. 3 of the report, p. 21 of the pdf):
“Nine focus groups mentioned the reading recovery [sic] program, all of whom felt negatively about the strategy.” and (p. 10 of the report, p. 29 of the pdf) “Nine comments referred to the reading recovery plan, all of which were negative. Comments noted that ‘reading recovery has failed’ and ‘reading recovery has not been effective in Madison Schools.’ None of the comments supported reading recovery.”

Madison School District related website comments includes:
https://www.madison.k12.wi.us/node/10069 specific criticism of Reading Recovery from Amy Rogers: https://www.madison.k12.wi.us/node/10069#comment-53 and this from Chan Stroman-Roll: https://www.madison.k12.wi.us/node/10069#comment-82
60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

Former students from other side of achievement gap weigh in on proposed solutions

Matthew DeFour:

Dominique Gaines, 22, has lived in Wisconsin foster homes most of his life. As he moved between schools he would miss lessons and fall behind. Eventually he dropped out.
Looking back he said he would have benefited from more hands-on, technical classes and experiences, similar to what he does now as a participant in Operation Fresh Start.
“It would have been nice to actively use the brain,” Gaines said.
Gaines and other Operation Fresh Start participants have experiences common among students whom the Madison School District wants to help with its sweeping achievement gap plan. They also have a unique perspective on how best to reach struggling students.
In their opinion, the best strategies for improving low-income and minority student achievement are providing assistance to transient families, offering students that cause trouble other outlets for their energy, and creating career academy programs, according to a recent survey.

UW Dept of Educational Policy Studies Brownbag on MMSD Achievement Gap

Laura De-Roche Perez, via a kind email:

On Monday May 7, 2012 from 12-130 pm, the Department of Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison will host a brownbag on the topic “What is the Madison Metropolitan School District achievement gap — and what can be done about it?” It will feature EPS faculty and affiliates Harry Brighouse, Adam Gamoran, Nancy Kendall, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Linn Posey.
The brownbag will take place in the Wisconsin Idea Room at the Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall.

Much more on Adam Gamoran, including a video interview, here.

Faces of the achievement gap in Madison: The stories behind the statistics

Pat Dillon:  

In 2010, just five black and 13 Hispanic graduating seniors in the Madison Metropolitan School District were ready for college, according to data from the district and Urban League of Greater Madison. These statistics should make your heart race. If they don’t, and you’re white, you may be suffering from what anti-racism educator Tim Wise calls “the pathology of white privilege.” If you do get it and don’t take action, that is almost worse.
The issue affects all of us and fell a little harder into my lap than it does in most white middle-class families when my daughter told me last summer that I was going to have a biracial grandson. My response? “Not in this school district.”
The dismal academic record of minorities has long been apparent to me, through my own experiences and the stories of others. But many people only hear about the statistics. To help humanize these numbers I asked students and parents who are most affected to share their stories so I could tell them along with mine. The experiences are anecdotal, but the facts speak for themselves.

 Related:

In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track.  Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

 Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.

Student test scores show Madison lags state in cutting achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Madison and Wisconsin are moving in opposite directions in raising achievement levels of black students, according to state test scores released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.
The percentage of black Madison students scoring proficient or better on the state reading test dropped to the lowest level in six years, while statewide black student reading scores continued to improve.
“The results affirm the work that we need to be doing and are doing to close our unacceptable gaps in achievement,” Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said.
Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.
Madison’s strongest gains were among eighth grade math scores, with the percentage of black students scoring proficient gaining 8 percentage points, Hispanic students gaining 16 percentage points and low-income students gaining 6.5 percentage points over last year.
Overall 77 percent of eighth-graders scored advanced or proficient on math, up from 76 percent last year. In all other grade levels the math scores were down in Madison from last year, whereas statewide the scores were up or the same in each grade level.

Related:

Madison school board candidates Nichelle Nichols and Arlene Silveira discuss the achievement gap and Madison Prep

Isthmus:

School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 1, two-term incumbent Arlene Silveira is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, who works at the Urban League of Greater Madison, the main sponsor of Madison Prep.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week we ask the candidates how they would address what might be the primary issue of the election: the achievement gap. What would they do to address this gap, and balance the needs of both high and low achieving students? More specifically, we ask about their view of Madison Prep, and whether they would vote for or against it in the future.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison school board candidates Mary Burke and Michael Flores discuss the achievement gap and Madison Prep

Isthmus:

School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 2, which is being vacated by retiring board member Lucy Mathiak, philanthropist Mary Burke is running against firefighter Michael Flores.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week we ask the candidates how they would address what might be the primary issue of the election: the achievement gap. What would they do to address this gap, and balance the needs of both high and low achieving students? More specifically, we ask about their view of Madison Prep, and whether they would vote for or against it in the future.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Public meetings continue on school district’s plan to close achievement gap

Anna Asendorf:

Closing the achievement gap in Madison schools takes commitment, courage, collaboration and unity, according to community members present at Wednesday night’s Madison Metropolitan School District input session at CUNA Mutual Group.
About 150 attendees jotted down these key words, along with others, on a small notecard in response to a question posed by Deputy Superintendent, Sue Abplanalp.
“Using one word, what do you think it will take to build and sustain a community-wide movement in Madison to close the achievement gaps in the Madison schools?”
The notecards were then collected and compiled into a word cloud, pictured left, shared at the meeting’s close. Popular words were displayed in a bold, prominent font with less popular words surrounding them.

Much more on the proposed “achievement gap plan”, here.
Comments on the District’s plan are worth reading.

Achievement Gap Plan Front And Center At Madison School Board Candidate Forum

Amelia Wedemeyer:

About 20 people attended a 2012 School Board candidate forum, co-sponsored by the Northside Planning Council (NPC) and the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition (EAAPTOC), held at Warner Park Community Recreation Center on March 1.
Community members were introduced to the four candidates running for two available seats on the School Board.
The candidates, who include incumbent, Arlene Silveira, vice president of education and learning at Urban League of Greater Madison, Nichelle Nichols, former Commerce Secretary, Mary Burke, and firefighter, Michael Flores, gave brief introductory statements and then answered questions posed by the NPC and the EAAPTOC.
Nichols will take on Silveira, and Burke and Flores will face each other at the polls on April 3.
One of the first questions of the night referred to the recent achievement gap plan proposed by the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Each candidate was asked what they thought the single most important part of the plan was.
Burke mentioned the significance of the broad array of programs designed to affect students of all ages, while her opponent, Flores, likened the plan to his job as a firefighter.

2012 Madison School Board Candidates
Seat 1:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Input into the Proposed Achievement Gap Plan

I have been hearing from constituents who want to know more about how to provide input in addition to the community input sessions. There are at least two easy ways to provide input: 1) Use the on-line form that can be found at: https://www.madison.k12.wi.us/node/10069 2) As always, e-mails sent to board@madison.k12.wi.us will reach all members … Continue reading Input into the Proposed Achievement Gap Plan

MMSD’s Plan to Close the Achievement Gap: All Students Welcome

Karen Veith:

When I attended the Board of Education meeting back in October 2011, I walked in without expectations. I was there to hear the public testimony on Madison Preparatory Academy and to figure out my own position in this controversy. I listened to everyone speak, but I came away from the meeting conflicted. I realized that my desire to do something to eliminate the achievement gap was as strong as ever, but that something seemed amiss. Rather than rely on what I had read in the media or heard at the podium, I decided to do my homework and read the Urban League’s proposal for this charter school. What I found in its pages confirmed my fears that this was not a solution for the students I serve.
My Thoughts on Madison Preparatory Academy 10/22/2011
Madison Preparatory Academy Still Waiting for Answers 11/07/2011
So, it was with hesitance that I received Superintendent Nerad’s words earlier this month. His summary was well received by those in attendance, but it was just that, a summary. A coworker handed me the 97 page plan and I’m fairly certain a sigh escaped with my “Thank you.” Once again, I was sent home with studying to do.

Achievement Gap Still a Problem in Madison

Taylor Nye:

Madison, Wisconsin is a city divided. Downtown areas of predominately higher socioeconomic status are associated, in this case, with Caucasian residents. Other areas, such as South Park Street, are physically removed from downtown and are home to residents of lower socioeconomic status. These residents, to some degree, are of other ethnic groups, including African Americans and Hispanics.
In Madison, this seems an anomaly. We are a small city, the state’s capitol, and the seat of many social service agencies that serve Wisconsin. However, the disparity in socioeconomic status is still present and manifests itself in a very important way: the high school achievement gap. Unfortunately, this gap has yet to be addressed in a meaningful way, and it’s not looking good for the near future. As reported by the Capital Times, the four-year high school graduation rate of African Americans in Madison is 48% that of their white counterparts. African Americans also score much lower on standardized tests.
Many felt that the Madison School District was not doing enough to combat this glaring inequality. Therefore, Kaleem Caire, the head of the Greater Urban League of Greater Madison, drew up plans for a charter school for ethnic minorities. Fundamental tenets of the proposed school, Madison Preparatory Academy, included longer hours, uniforms, same sex classrooms, and teachers and advisors from ethnic backgrounds that would act as both instructors and mentors to students.

Achievement gap needs public’s greater scrutiny

Eric Hill:

You’ve undoubtedly read about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s recent initiative to close the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap that’s been plaguing the city for decades. This sudden shift in collective focus is likely the result of the Urban League of Madison’s recent Madison Prep charter school proposal. If not, it’s important to note that the proposal would open two schools to serve a portion of youth from some of city’s most under-served communities. They would borrow from formulas being used by highly effective charter schools across the country to get at-risk youth achieving at levels consistent with their more fortunate counterparts. But despite it being sound, well-funded and supported by evidence, the plan was ultimately voted down by the Madison school board in favor of the unchanging system that guarantees nothing but persistent failure.
The only silver lining to emerge from the school district’s disappointing decision is that the community has a renewed sense of urgency around the issues of education inequality in Madison.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

(Madison) District in distress: School Board races buffeted by achievement gap tensions

Jack Craver:

Since 2007, there have been nine elections for seats on the Madison School Board. Only two have been contested. Thus, in seven instances, a candidate was elected or re-elected without having to persuade the community on the merits of his or her platform, without ever facing an opponent in a debate.
This year, two seats on the School Board are hotly contested, a political dynamic that engages the community and that most members of the board welcome.
“What an active campaign does is get the candidate out and engaged with the community, specifically on larger issues affecting the school district,” says Lucy Mathiak, a School Board member who is vacating one of the seats that is on the April 3 ballot.
Competition may be healthy, but it can also be ugly. While the rhetoric in this year’s School Board races seems harmless compared to the toxic dialogue we’ve grown accustomed to in national and state politics, there is a palpable tension that underpins the contests.
Teachers and their union worry that Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining rights and support for school vouchers could gain more traction if candidates who favor “flexibilities” and “tools” get elected to the board. Meanwhile, many in the black community feel their children are being neglected because policy-makers are not willing to challenge the unions or the status quo. District officials must contend with a rising poverty level among enrolled students and concerns about “white flight.”
In addition to massive cuts to education funding from the state, the current anxiety about the future of Madison’s schools was fueled by last year’s debate over the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, a charter school plan devised by Kaleem Caire, the head of the Urban League of Greater Madison, to help minority students who are falling behind their white peers in academic achievement. Minority students in the Madison district have only a 48 percent four-year graduation rate and score much lower on standardized tests than do white students.
Objections to Madison Prep varied. Some thought creating a school focused on certain racial groups would be a step backward toward segregation. Others disliked the plan for its same-sex classrooms.
However, what ultimately killed the plan was the Urban League’s decision to have the school operate as a “non-instrumentality” of the Madison Metropolitan School District, meaning it would not have to hire union-represented district teachers and staff. In particular, Caire wanted to be able to hire non-white social workers and psychologists, few of whom are on the district’s current staff.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio
Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Dates for MMSD Achievement Gap Input Sessions

Article on first Input Session (held at West last night) in Feb. 22 Wisconsin State Journal. Whatever your position/perspective may be, please participate in these important discussions that will have a significant impact on the future of MMSD schools and the students that they serve. • Feb. 28 (Tuesday), Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 … Continue reading Dates for MMSD Achievement Gap Input Sessions

Madison School District begins public hearings for achievement gap plan

Matthew DeFour:

About 50 people attended the first public input session for the Madison School District’s plan to close the achievement gap.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said during a brief overview of the issue that he couldn’t promise every idea would be included in the final plan. But he did promise that every idea would be looked at.
“Whether it is this plan or another plan, if we are to make things right for our children and eliminate achievement gaps, we must invest,”
Nerad’s plan for closing the School District’s persistent racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps calls for spending an estimated $105.6 million over the next five years on a mix of new and existing strategies.

I have to agree with Steve Prestegard’s concern regarding the use of the term “investment” and education:

Nearly every politician or candidate speaks of education spending as an “investment.” Some claim any kind of government spending is an “investment,” but education is always so termed, particularly by teacher unions, as if the more spending on schools, the better schools will be, and the better our country will be.
Anecdotally, this doesn’t make sense, at least in Wisconsin. The state has spent more than nearly every other state for decades for our alleged ‘great schools.” Based on education “investment,” Wisconsin should have the number one state economy in the U.S. And yet, in such measures of economic health as per capita personal income growth, business start-ups and incorporations, Wisconsin has trailed the nation since the late 1970s.

Ideally, the local District would critically evaluate current programs and initiatives prior to significantly increasing spending.
Invest.

NJEA And the Achievement Gap

New Jersey Department of Education:

The NJEA over the last several months has indicated again and again that they are not especially troubled with the significant achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers in New Jersey.
In December, the NJEA distributed a press release suggesting that my claim that New Jersey has a “shameful” achievement gap was a “straw man” and based on a “deliberate misuse of data.” Instead, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian argued that while there is an achievement gap in New Jersey between white and African American students, and also high-income and low-income students, we really shouldn’t worry about it because it is not as bad as the gap in some other states.
Earlier this week, when asked about students stuck in failing schools across the state, a leader of the NJEA said, “life’s not always fair, and I’m sorry about that.”
Before we look at the evidence, let’s look at why this matters. The notion of an achievement gap may not be something that matters to the NJEA. But it matters to the nearly 40% of our students who can’t read at grade level in 3rd grade – an indicator closely tied to future success in school. It matters to the thousands of students that drop out of high school or even before high school each year.

The Achievement Gap in Madison


Rob Starbuck talks to leaders of the African-American community about the history of Madison’s academic achievement gap and what can be done to reverse the alarming trend.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.
Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)