More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Pat Schneider:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad packed the house Monday night for what he termed “a call to action” to the community to join his administration in a strategy to close the racial achievement gap that has haunted the school district for decades.
His blueprint for change, “Building our Future,” weighs in at 100 pages and took an hour to outline with a Power Point presentation to an audience of about 200 at the Fitchburg Community Center. The proposal will be digested, dissected and debated in the weeks to come, including at a series of community meetings hosted by the school district.
But one thing is clear: from Nerad’s point of view, the future of children of color in our city lies not only in the hands of the teachers and administrators who shape their lives at school, but also in the hands of their families, their neighbors, and members of the community who live and work all around town.
“It can’t be the schools alone; it has to be the schools working with the community if we’re going to have outcomes,” he said.

Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Nathan Comp:

Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan (mp3 audio) to close the district’s more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.
The 109-page plan, titled “Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement,” makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.
Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.
Others, like a “parent university,” a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.
Matthew DeFour helpfully puts dollars ($105,600,000 over 5 years, about 5.6% of the roughly $1,860,000,000 that the District will spend over the same period) to the proposal. How does that compare with current programs and the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

Madison Schools Superintendent Nerad unveils $12.4 million plan to close school achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Altogether, Nerad makes about 40 recommendations in six categories — instruction, college and career readiness, culturally relevant practices, school environment, family engagement and staff diversity.
“The plan is based on the view that there isn’t one thing alone the school district can do to eliminate achievement gaps,” Nerad said. “We’re attempting to be comprehensive with the proposal.”
The plan’s projected cost for next year is $12.4 million, which Nerad is recommending come from the district’s untapped property taxing authority under state-imposed limits. The amount includes adding about 67.5 positions, including behavioral support staff, reading specialists and parent liaisons.
Some recommendations wouldn’t take effect until future years. The district estimates they will cost $20.9 million in 2013-14 and $26.6 million by 2016-17. The district doesn’t have the authority to raise property taxes by that amount, though Nerad said part of the discussion in coming months will involve whether the private and nonprofit sectors can help fund the strategies.
“We’re going to have to struggle through the conversation of how to get it done,” Nerad said.

Related:

Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

Madison Public Schools’ Superintendent Nerad’s request community input into his plan to eliminate the long-standing Racial Achievement Gap

via email:

Below is a letter from Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Please show up on Monday, February 6 to learn about his plan and register to participate in an input session. We need you to exercise your voice, share your view and speak to our children’s needs. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
February 2, 2012
RE: Invitation to attend Board of Education meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012
Dear Community Leader:
As you may know, this Monday, February 6, 2012, we are poised to present to the Board of Education a significant and system-wide plan to close the achievement gaps in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Building Our Future: A Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement
We invite you to attend Monday’s Board of Education workshop at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road in Fitchburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. This workshop is for presentation purposes only. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to speak. However, Monday’s workshop marks the beginning of a two-month, community-wide engagement process. We invite parents, students, and residents concerned about the future of our children to join one or more of the many sessions held throughout Madison to learn about the achievement gaps in the MMSD and discuss and provide input into the plan.
I have greatly appreciated your concern, commitment, and willingness to challenge us to provide the kind of education that every child deserves and is due. Together, we must eliminate our achievement gaps.
The Board of Education workshop on Monday, February 6th is just the beginning. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming information and input sessions. To register for a session, go to: www.mmsd.org/inputsession
Beginning Tuesday, February 7, go to: www.mmsd.org/thefuture to read more about the Plan.
Sincerely,
Daniel A. Nerad
Superintendent of Schools
Reprinted from a letter sent to community leaders today by Superintendent Nerad. We are sharing this to inform you and help the Madison Metropolitan School District get the word out. We have not yet seen the plan and therefore, this email should not viewed as an endorsement of it. We will reserve judgment until after the plan is released, we have had a chance to review it, and the public has responded.

Stakes high for Nerad on achievement gap proposal, including his contract which currently expires June, 2013

Matthew DeFour:

lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.
The plan is billed as a blueprint for addressing an intractable, divisive issue in Madison, and it could also factor into the upcoming School Board discussion of Nerad’s future in Madison.
The United Way of Dane County has made closing the achievement gap one of its primary issues for more than 15 years through the Schools of Hope tutoring program. But president Leslie Howard said the recent debate over the proposed Madison Prepatory Academy charter school has drawn more public attention to the issue than ever before.
“I don’t want to say something so grandiose that everything’s at stake, but in some ways it feels like that,” Howard said.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Related links:
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!
Acting White
Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Reflects on His Tenure

channel3000.com:

Dan Nerad, the departing Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent, talked with WISC-TV on Thursday about his four years leading the district, plus the greatest challenges going forward.
He cited the four-year-old kindergarten program, which he implemented, and tackling difficult budgets as his achievements. Nerad said on some issues, such as over the heightened debate over the district’s minority achievement gap, there were shortcomings.
Nerad is scheduled to leave July 27 for the top job at the school district in Birmingham, Mich., a smaller and more affluent suburb of Detroit.
THEO KEITH, WISC-TV: Is there an issue or issues where you had your greatest success or shortcoming?

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.

Birmingham School Board Questions Nerad About Controversy in Madison

Laura Houser:

In 2006, you were the Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year. Can you address why some of your later evaluations in Madison haven’t reflected that?
In March, the Madison Board of Education evaluated Nerad on the low end of “proficient” in an evaluations system designed to mimic the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Nerad scored lowest in “strategic leadership and district culture,” and in “staff evaluation and personnel management.”
However, Nerad said Thursday there are two things he has not been deserving of: being named superintendent of the year and being assessed as barely proficient.
“The last couple years in Madison have been challenging (and) there’s no one that wishes I could be more of a unifying force than me,” Nerad said. “I ask only to be judged on my whole record.”
What is your recommended evaluation process between yourself and the school board?
“I’m a big believer in evaluation,” Nerad said, noting that if he were hired, he and the school board would have to agree on evaluation metrics.
“We should have a conversation about what that assessment should look like, (but) I believe in holding myself to the highest standards when it comes to improvement goals.”
How did you whittle down your plan to reduce the achievement gap from $12 million to $4 million?
Nerad admitted that upon cutting down his plan’s price tag, it wasn’t able to accomplish everything it originally set out to do. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the original plan included 40 strategies for reducing the achievement gap; the revised plan has 21 strategies.
“I felt it was my responsibility to present something (to the school board) that’s stable financially,” Nerad said, noting he and his team had to prioritize the most important strategies.
His plan to fund the first year of the achievement gap plan? Nerad said he is proposing to use Madison’s fund balance — similiar to Birmingham Public School’s fund equity — and leaving it to the school board to decide where funding should come from in coming years.

Much more on outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, and Birmingham, here.

Dan Nerad a Semi-Finalist for the Birmingham, MI Schools Superintendent; District spends about 10% less per student than Madison

Pat Schneider:

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad made the cut Saturday to become one of two finalists for the top job at a school district in suburban Detroit, according to an online report.
Nerad was selected as a finalist for superintendent of the Birmingham Public Schools at a special Saturday session of the School Board, the Birmingham Patch reports.
He apparently made a big impression on school board members in Michigan, particularly with his handling of controversy over the race-based achievement gap in Madison schools.

Much more on Dan Nerad, here.
A few comparisons:
Birmingham’s 2011-2012 budget is $107,251,333 for “more than 8000 students”, or roughly $13,406/student. That is about 10% less than Madison’s $14,858.40/student.
Birmingham’s per capita income is $69,151, more than double Madison’s $29,782. Birmingham’s median household income is $101,529 while Madison’s is nearly half: $52,550.
Birmingham had 6 national merit semi-finalists this past year while Madison featured 41. Michigan’s 209 cut score was identical to Wisconsin’s this past year.
Madison continues to spend more per student than most American school districts.

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.

Hiring Nerad’s replacement requires willing candidates

Chris Rickert:

The ink on Madison School superintendent Dan Nerad’s resignation letter is barely dry and already the hand-wringing over finding his replacement has begun.
The applicant market is tight, the job is tough, other places offer more attractive terms, warn the school administrators professional association and executive search firms, who arguably have something of a vested interest in tight markets that drive up school administrators’ salaries and require executive search firms to navigate.
Not that the locals are doing much of a sell job. I’d be pretty freaked out about applying for a position with the kinds of very high, yet mostly nonspecific, expectations voiced by the education and community bigwigs quoted in this paper on Sunday. (What exactly is a “bridge builder that can create a bold vision,” as Michael Johnson, head of the county Boys & Girls Club, put it?)
Hiring Madison’s superintendent in these days of shrinking state aid, uncertain labor rules and an embarrassing racial achievement gap is not to be taken lightly.

Much more, here.

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.

Madison schools prepare for life after Nerad

Matthew DeFour:

WANTED: A K-12 schools leader with experience uniting a divided community, managing tight budgets and closing achievement gaps in an urban school setting.
PROBLEM: A shrinking pool of such dynamic leaders and a growing number of urbanizing districts like Madison seeking top talent.
“It is a tight market,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “The number of experienced superintendents that have done well in their districts and have the reputation of having done well — those are relatively few and those are the ones that everyone is going after.”
Madison will soon be conducting a search for a new schools chief after superintendent Dan Nerad announced he plans to depart by June 2013, when his current contract expires. He recently was named a finalist for a superintendency in Omaha, Neb., and though he wasn’t selected, he hasn’t ruled out moving to another job before the next school year starts.
Though Nerad’s time in Madison will have been short-lived compared to his predecessor, Art Rainwater, who retired after 10 years, the average superintendent in a mid- to large-sized city holds the job for an average of 3.5 years, Domenech said.

Much more on the Madison Superintendent search, 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.

4.1.2012 from Omaha: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad: Narrowing gap a work in progress in Madison

Joe Dejka:

The push to raise achievement for minority and low-income students in Madison Metropolitan School District remains “a work in progress,” said Superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Work has been done on Nerad’s watch, such as drafting a new strategic plan and a multifaceted, $106 million proposal for programs aimed at shrinking test score gaps between students of different races and income levels.
As for results, Nerad and Madison school board member Ed Hughes say there hasn’t been enough progress.
“We certainly haven’t seen, overall, the kind of improvement that we would like to see in reducing the achievement gap,” Hughes said. “But we need to look at whether the steps are being put in place that would give us some hope or confidence that we will see those gaps narrowing in the future.”
Hughes thinks Madison is on the right track.

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.
A look at the numbers:
Omaha spends substantially less per student than Madison. The Omaha 2011-2012 adopted budget will spend 468,946,264 for 46,000 students: $10,194.48/student. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $369,394,753 for 24,861 = $14,858.40/student, 31.4% more than Omaha…. Green Bay (Superintendent Nerad’s former position) spent about 10% less than Madison, per student.

Nerad resignation adds new wrinkle to School Board races

Matthew DeFour, a local education reporter:

Nichols said declining test scores and low graduation rates for minority students over the past six years have been a reflection of the board and superintendent not having shared priorities. She said a change in board leadership is necessary “because we can’t afford to lose more precious time.”
Silveira did not respond Wednesday to a request to discuss Nerad’s departure.
Burke said she would have liked to see Nerad stay and worries his departure could expend the momentum for addressing the achievement gap that has built up over the last year.
Hiring Nerad’s replacement, she said, is “probably the most important issue now facing the board.”
Flores said he has mixed feeling about Nerad’s departure. On one hand, the district now has a new issue to address on top of the achievement gap and the budget. At the same time, there arises the potential for finding a leader who the community embraces and will make difficult decisions.

Related:

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

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 Superintendent Dan Nerad to Leave when Contract Expires in 2013

Channel3000.com:

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad announced on Monday that he will retire and not seek a contract extension.
Nerad made the announcement at a press conference on Monday afternoon. Nerad’s contract runs through June 2013 and he said he will remain through then.
He said calling this announcement a “resignation” would be accurate.
Nerad said that decision came to a culmination in the last 10 days and that he has been in the process of deciding on retirement for several months.
He cited his reason for retiring for a variety of factors.He said that controversy over achievement gap was “a factor.”
“I wish I could’ve done more to develop a consensus on how to move forward on issues, including (the) achievement gap,” he said.
Nerad said that a new leader could provide a spark on the achievement gap that he could no longer provide.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad will leave the job when his contract expires in the summer of 2013.
Nerad, 60, made the announcement Monday hours before the Madison School Board was scheduled to vote on whether to extend the contract.
School board president James Howard didn’t offer a timeline for hiring a replacement.
Nerad said he had been thinking about leaving the Madison district for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.

Madison School District Press Release 52K PDF.
Pat Schneider:

A community leader who has had a ringside seat to the struggles to forge a plan to end the academic achievement gap in the Madison schools thinks Superintendent Dan Nerad’s announcement Monday of his planned departure next year just might be the break needed to make real progress.
This view isn’t universally shared, but Steve Goldberg, executive director of the CUNA Mutual Foundation who has worked closely with the Madison Metropolitan School District, its teachers union and community leaders, says Nerad’s announcement could put him in a position to have a greater influence over acceptance of a plan he recently put forward to close the race-based achievement gap.
With any inkling that Nerad is working to preserve his job removed from the equation, the likely efficacy of his proposals might become a tighter focus of discussion, Goldberg said.
“This might change the way he is perceived,” Goldberg told me. “Since he no longer has ‘an axe to grind,’ he may be viewed as more objective.”

Matthew DeFour:

Nerad, 60, said he had been thinking about leaving the job for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.
He said there were multiple factors that contributed to his decision. When pressed to identify examples, he said division on the board over his performance and division in the community about how to address the district’s persistent achievement gap between minority and white students were factors, though not primary ones.
“I wish I could have done more to try to develop a broader base of consensus around how we best serve children,” Nerad said.
Nerad, a former social worker, came to Madison after six years as superintendent in Green Bay, where he had been credited for his work on addressing the community’s achievement gap.
Soon after taking the reins in Madison, Nerad oversaw the passage of a $13 million operating referendum. He launched 4-year-old kindergarten, developed a five-year strategic plan, expanded the dual-language immersion and summer school programs, reorganized central office staff, introduced curricular alignment among all schools and restored the district’s AAA bond rating.
Don Severson, president of a conservative watchdog group, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement given the lack of overwhelming support for Nerad’s leadership.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” Severson said. “He had to be much more proactive and take some risks, make some decisions, go in some direction where he knows he won’t have unanimity.”

Related: Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

Madison Superintendent Nerad faces student critiques at Centro Hispano

Mario Koran:

At the March 17 meeting on the school district’s plan to eliminate the achievement gap, Superintendent Dan Nerad opened the discussion on a familiar note, laying out the statistics that underline Madison’s achievement gap problem and outlining strategies to bridge the gap.
Describing the situation as “a tale of two school districts,” Nerad said that recent data shows MMSD graduates 87 percent of its white students in four years, compared to 56 percent of its black students and 48 percent of its Hispanic students. An interpreter conveyed his message to the largely Spanish-speaking audience.
But unlike the nine public meetings before, Nerad was confronted by a different set of stakeholders–students. While attendees at earlier discussions have largely been parents and other adults, at Centro Hispano, students took the floor.

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.

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

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 School chief Nerad weighs in on relationships

Paul Fanlund:

Well, that covers everyone who appeared in my column. One might see all of this as damage control, but I didn’t think the column was all that damaging. Anyway, here is Nerad’s text:

Dear friends,
Community input on our preliminary plan to close the achievement gap is off to a good start. We held our first input session this week at West High School and had 50 participants who spent two hours learning more about the preliminary plan and providing us input on how to make it better.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the start of this conversation, and I look forward to it continuing in the coming weeks. We are holding 12 more sessions between now and the end of March — from our larger community conversation to smaller neighborhood-based sessions.
You can read more about the sessions in WISC’s editorial, “closing the gap together.” I agree that this is the most important issue we face as a community

Nerad’s plan just throws more money at problem

Bob Hartwig:

After reading the highlights of Dan Nerad’s proposal to close the student achievement gap, I see the same liberal method of looking for solutions by throwing more money at the problem.
His proposal will cost the district a projected $100 million-plus over five years. This is an average of $800 per year across the 25,000 student body. Madison is already 13 percent higher in cost per student, now $13,493 versus the state average of $11,894 per student per year, according to the Madison School District website.

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.

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)

Narrowing Madison’s Achievement gap will take more than money

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Madison school chief Dan Nerad’s plan to close the district’s achievement gap is certainly bold about spending money.
It seeks an estimated $105 million over five years for a slew of ideas — many of them already in place or attempted, just not to the degree Nerad envisions.
The school superintendent argues a comprehensive approach is needed to boost the academic performance of struggling minority and low-income students. No one approach will magically lift the district’s terrible graduation rates of just 48 percent for black students and 57 percent for Latinos.

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

Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

Well worth reading: Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment
:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

And, In Kansas City, tackling education’s status quo “We’re not an Employment Agency, We’re a School District”

Evaluating the Madison Metropolitan School District’s 2012 Plan to Eliminate the Racial Achievement Gap

Kaleem Caire, via email:

February 6, 2011
Greetings Community Member.
This evening, at 6pm at the Fitchburg Library, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad will present his plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap in our public schools to the Board of Education. We anticipate there will be many citizens in the audience listening in.
While we are pleased that our advocacy over the last 19 months has resulted in the District developing a plan to address the gap, we are also mindful of history. Our organization has pushed hard for our public school system to embrace change, address the gap and expand educational opportunity many times before.
In the 1960s, Madison learned that a wide gap existed between black and white students in reading, math and high school completion in Madison’s public schools. In the 1970s, the Urban League of Greater Madison reported that just 60% of black students were graduating from the city’s public high schools. In the 1980s, ULGM released a widely reported study that found the average GPA for a black high school student attending the city’s public high schools was 1.58 on a 4.00 scale, with 61% scoring below a 2.0 GPA. It also found that a disproportionate number of black students were enrolled in remedial math and science classes, and that black students were significantly over-represented in special education and school suspensions. Then, in the 1990s, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute issued a report that stated there were two school districts in MMSD, one that poorly served black children and one that served everyone else.
Today, just 48% of black and 56% of Latino students are graduating from high school. Just 1% of black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are academically ready for college. Nearly 40% of all black boys in middle school are enrolled in special education, and more than 60% of black and 50% of Latino high school students earn below a 2.0 GPA.
Over the years, several district-wide efforts have been tried. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have either been discontinued, unevenly implemented, ineffective, lacked the support of parents/community/teachers, or failed to go far enough to address the myriad needs of students, families, teachers and schools. Madison also has a well-documented history of not heeding the advice of leaders and educators of color or educational experts, and not investing in efforts to codify and replicate successful strategies employed by its most effective educators. MMSD also has not acted fast enough to address its challenges and rarely looks beyond its borders for strategies that have proven effective elsewhere in the country.
The stakes are higher now; too high to continue on our present course of incrementalism rooted in our fear of the unknown, fear of significant change, and fear of admitting that our view of Madison being the utopic experience of the Midwest and #1 city in the U.S. doesn’t apply to everyone who lives here. We no longer have the luxury of time to figure out how to address the gap. We cannot afford to lose nearly 300 black, 200 Latino and an untold number of Southeast Asian and underprivileged white students each year from our public schools. And we cannot afford to see hundreds of students leave our school system each year for public and private schools outside of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
We must embrace strategies that work. We must also behave differently than we have in the past, and can no longer afford to be afraid of addressing intersection or race and poverty, and how they are playing out in our schools, social relationships and community, and impacting the educational success of our kids.
Furthermore, we need all hands on deck. Everyone in our community must play a role in shaping the self-image, expectations and outcomes of our children – in school, in the community and at home. Some children have parents who spend more quality time with their career and coworkers than with their family. Some children have a parent or relative who struggles to raise them alone. Some have parents who are out of work, under stress and struggling to find a job to provide for their family. And unfortunately, some children have parents who make bad decisions and/or don’t care about their well-being. Regardless of the situation, we cannot allow the lack of quality parenting to be the excuse why we don’t reach, teach, or hold children accountable and prepare them for the future.
As we prepare to review the Superintendent’s plan, we have developed a rubric that will allow for an objective review of his proposal(s). The attached rubric, which you can access by clicking here, was developed and informed by members of the staff and Board of Director of ULGM, business and community leaders, and teachers and leading experts in the field of K-12 and higher education. The tool will be used by an independent Community Review Panel, organized by the Urban League. pver the next several weeks to vet the plan. The intent of this review is to ensure MMSD has an optimal plan for ensuring that all of the children it serves succeed academically and graduate from high school prepared for college and work.
Specifically, our reasons for establishing this rubric and a Community Review Panel are four-fold:

  • Develop an objective and comprehensive understanding of the plan and its many elements;
  • Objectively review the efficacy of the plan, its goals and objectives, and desired outcomes;
  • Formally communicate thoughts, concerns and ideas for supporting and/or improving the plan; and
  • Effectively engage the Madison community in supporting and strengthening its public schools.

We have high expectations of the Superintendent’s plan. We hope for a bold, transformational, aggressive and concise plan, and stand ready to assist the Superintendent and his team in any way we can. We hope you will be standing their with us, with your arms outstretched and ready to uplift or babies – the next generation.
All Hands on Deck!
Onward.
Team Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org
www.madison-prep.org
Urban League of Greater Madison 2012 Agenda

How to solve the achievement gap in Madison?

Nathan Comp:

Just when all signs indicated that supporters of Madison Preparatory Academy were abandoning hope of joining forces with the Madison school district, they’ve decided to give it one more shot. They’re seeking another vote on the controversial charter-school proposal in late February.
Urban League of Greater Madison CEO and president Kaleem Caire says Madison Prep will open this fall as a private entity, but hopes it will transition into the district in 2013, once the district’s union contract expires.
Board members who voted against the charter school in December expressed concerns that it would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers Inc., due to a provision requiring district schools to hire union staff.
School board president James Howard, who voted for Madison Prep, says the board may not have time to address the proposal in February.
Whether the Urban League — which proposed Madison Prep as an ambitious step toward closing the district’s decades-old achievement gap — can recapture its earlier momentum is uncertain, considering that Superintendent Dan Nerad and school board members seem particularly excited about their own plans to address the issue.
“We’re going at it from so many different angles right now,” says board member Beth Moss. “I can’t see how we can’t make some improvement.”

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

Madison Superintendent Nerad to unveil plan to help low-income minority students

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said Wednesday he will unveil next month a new plan for improving the achievement of low-income minority students.
The plan will summarize the district’s current efforts as well as put forth new approaches, such as a longer school year and opening magnet schools, Nerad said.
Nerad discussed the plan in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board less than a week before the School Board is to vote on Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school geared toward low-income, minority students.
Nerad said he opposes the current proposal for Madison Prep primarily because it would violate the district’s contract with its teachers union, but that he agrees with the charter school’s supporters in that a new approach to close the achievement gap is necessary.
“I made a purposeful decision to not bring (a plan) forward over the past several months to not cloud the discussion about Madison Prep,” Nerad said. “It’s caused us to take a step back and say, ‘We’re doing a lot of things, but what else do we need to be doing?'”

Superintendent Nerad’s former District; Green Bay offers three “magnet options”:

Frustrations mount as racial achievement gap persists in Madison schools

Matthew DeFour: Tim Comer says when his son moved from a mostly black magnet school in Chicago to the Madison School District in 2006, “he went from sharp to dull.” Comer, 45, a black father and unemployed electronic engineer, said the difference was that Madison was “laid back” while the Chicago school pushed students to … Continue reading Frustrations mount as racial achievement gap persists in Madison schools

Tests Reveal Madison Schools Wrestle With Achievement Gaps Tests Examined Reading, Math Proficiency

Channel3000:

Madison Metropolitan School District officials are beginning to digest new statewide test score results.
The results for Madison are mixed, but district leaders said that they believe they have a lot of work to do to improve.
The tests reveal that Madison is home to some very bright students, but Superintendent Dan Nerad said that schools aren’t doing enough for students who are struggling. He said the test results are proof.
The results showed that, in general, reading levels among students increased across the board while math performance improved only slightly.
District officials said that they also continue to be a “bi-modal” district — meaning there are students who are scoring at the highest level while it also has ones who are scoring at the lowest levels in nearly every grade in math and reading.

Related:

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.

Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Racial achievement gap narrows state-wide, but remains a problem in Madison

Matthew DeFour:

Statewide the gap between the percentage of white and black students scoring proficient or advanced closed 6.8 percentage points in math and 3.9 points in reading between 2005-06 and this year. Comparing white students to Hispanics, the gap closed 5.7 points in math and 3.7 points in reading.
In Madison the gap between white and black students closed 0.4 percentage points in math and 0.6 points in reading. Among Hispanics, the gap increased half a point in math and decreased 1 point in reading.
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad was unavailable to comment Monday on the results.

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Q&A with Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad

Matthew DeFour:

WSJ: What is Madison’s biggest challenge?
DN: Unless we get more of our kids to standards, children will not remain strong and the community will not remain strong. Our vision has to be about advancing learning for all kids while we work to address these very notable achievement gaps for certain groups of kids. It’s not an either-or. It’s not a zero sum. That’s why I believe we can be about a conversation about achievement gaps and we can be about a conversation about how we can better serve talented-and-gifted students.
WSJ: Is that the central tension?
DN: That’s the manifestation. If it’s about human capital development, it has to be about all kids moving forward, but there’s real constraints around that because we do in fact make budget decisions year by year and people feel disaffected by those budget decisions. There’s real concern, and I’m right in line with that concern, that we aren’t doing enough to face these achievement gaps in an aggressive enough way. (Other) people feel very strongly that we’re not doing enough to advance the needs of our advanced learners.
WSJ: Summarize your first 2½ years in Madison.
DN: We immediately jumped into a referendum discussion. The need for that was identified prior to my coming. We spent a considerable amount of time in that first year focused on those issues. From there I worked with the board on some board reorganization. And then it moved into comprehensive strategic planning with our community. From there we did the reorganization of the administration. Creating a teacher and a parent council was part of our thinking about how we do our work differently. And then we had a major focus needed on this current year’s budget. That was a very difficult conversation. We were looking at this huge gap and this huge amount of money. There has been one major thing after another. Take one, it’s significant. Take them all, it’s been very significant. And while I’ve been here 30 months, I’m still learning the culture of this organization and of this community. I’ve tried to be sensitive to the culture and there’s been some tension about how we’ve done our work and has it been sensitive enough to the culture. None of that is lost on me.

Much more on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.
The Madison School Board votes on the Superintendent’s contract tonight.

DCPAC Dan Nerad Meeting Summary

A video tape of the entire presentation and discussion with Dr. Nerad may be viewed by visiting this internet link: http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2008/09/ madison_superin_10.php

Dan Nerad opened his remarks by stating his commitment to efforts for always continuing change and improvement with the engagement of the community. He outlined four areas of focus on where we are going from here.

  1. Funding: must balance district needs and taxpayer needs. He mentioned the referendum to help keep current programs in place and it will not include “new” things.
  2. Strategic Plan: this initiative will formally begin in January 2009 and will involve a large community group process to develop as an ongoing activity.
  3. Meet people: going throughout the community to meet people on their own terms. He will carefully listen. He also has ideas.
  4. Teaching and learning mission: there are notable achievement gaps we need to face head-on. The “achievement gap” is serious. The broader mission not only includes workforce development but also helping students learn to be better people. We have a “tale of two school districts” – numbers of high achievers (including National Merit Scholars), but not doing well with a lot of other students. Low income and minority students are furtherest away from standards that must be met. Need to be more transparent with the journey to fix this problem and where we are not good. Must have the help of the community. The focus must be to improve learning for ALL kids, it is a “both/and” proposition with a need to reframe the issue to help all kids move forward from where they are. Must use best practices in contemporary assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instructional methods.

Dr. Nerad discussed five areas about which he sees a need for community-wide conversations for how to meet needs in the district.

  1. Early learning opportunities: for pre-kindergarten children. A total community commitment is needed to prevent the ‘achievement gap’ from widening.
  2. High schools: How do we want high schools to be? Need to be more responsive. The curriculum needs to be more career oriented. Need to break down the ‘silos’ between high school, tech schools and colleges. Need to help students move through the opportunities differently. The Small Learning Communities Grant recently awarded to the district for high schools and with the help of the community will aid the processes for changes in the high schools.
  3. School safety: there must be an on-going commitment for changes. Nerad cited three areas for change:

    a. A stronger curriculum helping people relate with other people, their differences and conflicts.

    b. A response system to safety. Schools must be the safest of sanctuaries for living, learning and development.

    c.Must make better use of research-based technology that makes sense.

  4. Math curriculum and instruction: Cited the recent Math Task Force Report

    a. Good news: several recommendations for curriculum, instruction and policies for change.

    b. Bad news: our students take less math than other urban schools in the state; there are notable differences in the achievement gap.

  5. Fine Arts: Cited recent Fine Arts Task Force Report. Fine arts curriculum and activities in the schools, once a strength, has been whittled away due to budget constraints. We must deal with the ‘hands of the clock’ going forward and develop a closer integration of the schools and community in this area.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Remarks at a Dane County Public Affairs Council Event

Watch the 70 minute presentation and discussion or listen to this 29MB mp3 file

I took a few notes (with apologies for their brevity):

Dan Nerad:

Revisit strategic plan in January with local stakeholders. Preferred to lead with strategic plan but budget came first.
Hopes (MMSD) literacy programs are maintained.
He wants to listen to the community.
The District’s mission is teaching and learning.
The District has several strengths and some notable weaknesses, including achievement gaps.
Schools have a broader mission than workforce development, including helping students be good people.
Achievement gap is a significant issue. There is a compelling need to face an issue that affects Madison’s viability. These are not quick fix kind of issues. We need to talk more openly about this.
If I speak openly, I hope that people will be supportive of public education.
He wishes to reframe conversation around improvements for all students.
Five areas of discussion:

  1. 4k community conversation
  2. SLC grant (More here). Use the grant to begin a conversation about high schools. The structure has been in place for over 100 years. Discussed kids who are lost in high school.
  3. Curriculum can be more workforce based. Green bay has 4 high schools aligned with careers (for example: Health care).
  4. Revisit school safety
  5. Curriculum
    – safety plan and response system
    – schools should be the safest place in the community
    – technology is not the complete answer
    math task force; Madison high school students take fewer credits than other Wisconsin urban districts
    – reaffirms notable math achievement gap

  6. Fine Arts task force report: Fine arts help kids do better academically,

Erik Kass, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services:

Discussed budget gaps.
Plans to review financial processes.
He previously worked as a financial analyst.
Goal is to provide accurate, honest and understandable information.

Jonathan Barry posed a useful question (46 minutes) on how the current MTI agreement prohibits participation in alternative programs, such as Operation Fresh Start (“nobody shall educate that is not a member of Madison Teachers”). Barry mentioned that a recent United Way study referenced 4,000 local disconnected youth (under 21). This topic is relevant in a number of areas, including online learning and credit for non-MMSD courses. This has also been an issue in the local lack of a 4K program.

Welcome to the Nerad era
Madison’s new school chief seems ready for a tough job

Marc Eisen:

Nerad is earnest, diplomatic and clear spoken. It’s a good bet that most anybody who hears him talk will find something they like in his message. Whether that adds up to support for a coherent educational program remains to be seen.
He faces huge challenges: not just closing the achievement gap while maintaining programs that attract middle-class families, but doing it while state fiscal controls continually squeeze his budget.
Equally hard will be overcoming the district’s own organizational stasis — it’s tendency to stick with the status quo. For all of Madison’s reputation as a progressive community, Madison schools are conservatively run and seriously resistant to change.
Authoritarian, top-down management grew under Nerad’s predecessor, Art Rainwater. Innovations like charter schools are still viewed skeptically, including by Nerad. Four-year-old kindergarten, which could be key to narrowing the achievement gap, is still seen as a problem. The middle school redesign project of a few years ago has been judged by insiders as pretty much a non-event. The high school redesign effort that Nerad inherited seems intent on embracing a program that is still unproven at West and Memorial.

Much more on Dan Nerad here, including his January, 2008 public appearance video.

Find Answer to Achievement Gap

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Test scores released last week clearly show one of the primary tasks confronting Madison School District ‘s incoming superintendent, Daniel Nerad:
The district should find more effective ways to educate its rapidly growing populations of foreign-speaking students and lower-income students.
Students from immigrant families and students from lower-income families continue to score low on the annual tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
That ‘s the chief reason the Madison district fell below the state average in 22 of 23 scores.

Many notes and links on the latest Wisconsin scores here.

Madison Adds Another Program: Community Schools

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

Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Chris Rickert: Finances are always a consideration; they can also be an excuse. The district has cried poor at budget time for years, and yet somehow continued to find the money to, say, cover the full cost of union employees’ health insurance. Board member Ed Hughes said he wouldn’t vote for Madison Prep because the … Continue reading Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Madison School Climate, Achievement, Rhetoric & The New Superintendent







In light of Alan Borsuk’s positive article, I thought it timely understand the mountain to be climbed by our traditional $15k/student public school district. The charts above are a brief update of the always useful “Where have all the Students Gone” articles.
Further, early tenure cheerleading is not a new subject. Those interested might dive into the Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal Superintendent (recently easily searched, now rather difficult) archive:
Cheryl Wilhoyte (1,569) SIS
Art Rainwater (2,124) SIS
Dan Nerad (275) SIS
That being said, Superintendent Cheatham’s comments are worth following:

Cheatham’s ideas for change don’t involve redoing structure. “I’d rather stick with an imperfect structure,” she said, and stay focused on the heart of her vision: building up the quality and effectiveness of teaching.
Improving teaching is the approach that will have the biggest impact on the gaps, she said.
“The heart of the endeavor is good teaching for all kids,” Cheatham said in an interview. Madison, she said, has not defined what good teaching is and it needs to focus on that. It’s not just compliance with directives, she said.

Perhaps the State Journal’s new K-12 reporter might dive into what is actually happening in the schools.
Related: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results and “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“.

Successful (Madison) achievement plan will cost plenty — just maybe not in dollars

Chris Rickert:

The ill-fated charter school Madison Preparatory Academy would have cost Madison School District taxpayers about $17.5 million over five years to start addressing the district’s long-standing minority and low-income achievement gaps.
The achievement gap plan introduced by former superintendent Dan Nerad shortly after Madison Prep crashed and burned would have cost about $105 million over five years. Before being adopted, it was whittled down to about $49 million.
And the so-called “strategic framework” proposed last week by new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham?
Nada.
“The really exciting news is we have all the ingredients to be successful,” she told this newspaper.
No doubt that could be thinking so wishful it borders on delusion or, worse, code for “we’re not really all that interested in closing the gap anyway.” But it could also be a harbinger of real change.
“The framework isn’t meant to be compared to the achievement gap plan,” district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said. It’s “not about an array of new initiatives with a big price tag” but about focusing “on the day-to-day work of teaching and learning” and “what we know works.”

Related: The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: “Same Service” vs. “having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district”..

“High Quality Madison Teachers” vs. “New Programs Every Few Years”, “Plenty of Resource$”; Madison’s latest Superintendent Arrives

Matthew DeFour:

“I have no doubt that the way we’re going to improve student achievement is by focusing on what happens in the classroom,” Cheatham said.
Clash with unions

Madison Teachers Inc.
executive director John Matthews and others say poverty drives the achievement gap more so than classroom factors.
“We do have a high-quality teaching force in Madison — it’s been that way for years,” Matthews said. He added that one challenge he’d like to see Cheatham address is the administration’s tendency to adopt new programs every few years.
Cheatham’s salary will be $235,000, 17 percent more than predecessor Dan Nerad. Unlike Nerad, a former Green Bay social worker and superintendent, Cheatham has never led an organization. She also hasn’t stayed in the same job for more than two years since she was a teacher in Newark, Calif., from 1997 to 2003.
Mitchell, who beat out Cheatham for the top job at Partners in School Innovation where she worked for a year before moving to Chicago, said Cheatham has the talent to become schools chief in a major city like Chicago or New York in seven to 10 years. That’s a benefit for Madison because Cheatham is on the upswing of her career and must succeed in order to advance, Mitchell said.
“The thing about Madison that’s kind of exciting is there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of resources with which to do it,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a sweet spot for Jen. Whether she stays will depend on how committed the district is to continuing the work she does.”

Related: A history of Madison Superintendent experiences.
I asked the three (! – just one in 2013) 2008 Madison school board candidates (Gallon, Nerad or McIntyre), if they supported “hiring the best teachers and getting out of the way”, or a “top down” approach where the District administration’s department of “curriculum done our way” working in unison with Schools of Education, grant makers and other third parties attempt to impose teaching models on staff.
Union intransigence is one of the reasons (in my view) we experience administrative attempts to impose curricula via math or reading “police”. I would prefer to see a “hire the best and let them teach – to high global standards” approach. Simplify and focus on the basics: reading, writing, math and science.

The Madison School Board Elections; setting the record straight

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email

March 6, 2013
Dear Madison Leaders.
As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. While I will not, as a nonprofit leader, speak about the merits of individual candidates, we are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring during the debates. The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, “Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?”…as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools.
While the Urban League has no interest in partaking in the squabbles and confusion that has unfortunately come to define public conversation about our public schools, we do want to set the record straight about deliberations on Madison Prep that have been falsely expressed by many during this campaign, and used to dog individuals who supported the school proposal more than one year ago.
Here is how things transpired.
On May 9, 2011, Steve Goldberg of the CUNA Mutual Foundation facilitated a meeting about Madison Prep, at my request, between Madison Teacher’s Incorporated President, John Matthews and me. The meeting was held in CUNA’s cafeteria. We had lunch and met for about an hour. It was a cordial meeting and we each discussed the Madison Prep proposal and what it would take for the Urban League and MTI to work together. We didn’t get into many details, however I was sure to inform John that our proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school (non-MTI) was not because we didn’t support the union but because the collective bargaining agreement was too restrictive for the school model and design we were proposing to be fully implemented, and because we desired to recruit teachers outside the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement. We wanted to have flexibility to aggressively recruit on an earlier timeline and have the final say on who worked in our school.
The three of us met again at the Coliseum Bar on August 23, 2011, this time involving other members of our teams. We got into the specifics of negotiations regarding the Urban League’s focus on establishing a non-instrumentality school and John’s desire to have Madison Prep’s employees be a part of MTI’s collective bargaining unit. At the close of that meeting, we (Urban League) offered to have Madison Prep’s teachers and guidance counselors be members of the collective bargaining unit. John said he felt we were making progress but he needed to think about not having MTI represent all of the staff that are a part of their bargaining unit. John and I also agreed that I would email him a memo outlining our desire to work with MTI, and provide the details of what we discussed. John agreed to respond after reviewing the proposal with his team. That memo, which we have not released previously, is attached [336K PDF]. You will see clearly that the Urban League initiated dialogue with MTI about having the teacher’s union represent our educators.
John, Steve and I met for a third time at Perkins restaurant for breakfast on the West Beltline on September 30, 2013. This time, I brought representatives of the Madison Prep and Urban League Boards with me: Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, John Roach and Derrick Smith. It was at the close of this meeting that John Matthews told all of us that we “had a deal”, that MTI and the Urban League would now work together on Madison Prep. We all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Our team was relieved.
Later that evening, I received calls from Matt DeFour, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal and Susan Troller of The Capital Times. They both asked me to confirm what John had told them; that we had a deal. I replied by confirming the deal. The next day, The Capital Times ran a story, Madison Prep and MTI will work together on new charter school. The State Journal ran an article too, Prep School agrees to employ union staff. All was good, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, our agreement was short-lived. The very next day after the story hit the newspapers, my team and I began receiving angry letters from social workers and psychologists in MMSD who were upset that we did not want to have those positions represented by MTI. We replied by explaining to them that our reasoning was purely driven by the fact that 99% of the Districts psychologists were white and that there were few social workers of color, too. For obvious reasons, we did not believe MMSD would have success hiring diverse staff for these positions. We desired a diverse staff for two reasons: we anticipated the majority of our students to be students of color and our social work and psychological service model was different. Madison Prep had a family-serving model where the school would pay for such services for every person in a family, if necessary, who needed it, and would make available to families and students a diverse pool of contracted psychologists that families and students could choose from.
That Monday evening, October 3, 2011, John Matthews approached me with Steve Goldberg at the School Board hearing on Madison Prep and informed me that his bargaining unit was very upset and that he needed to have our Physical education teacher be represented by MTI, too. Our Phy Ed model was different; we had been working on a plan with the YMCA to implement a very innovative approach to ensuring our students were deeply engaged in health and wellness activities at school and beyond the school day. In our plan, we considered the extraordinarily high rates of obesity among young men and women of color. However, to make the deal with MTI work, that evening I gave MTI the Phy Ed teaching position.
But that one request ultimately became a request by MTI for every position in our school, and a request by John Matthews to re-open negotiations, this time with a mediator. At first, we rejected this request because we felt “a deal is a deal”. When you shake hands, you follow through.
We only gave in after current school board president, James Howard, called me at home to request that the Urban League come back to the negotiating table. James acknowledged not feeling great about asking us to do this after all we had been through – jumping through hoop after hoop. If you followed the media closely, you would recall how many times we worked to overcome hurdles that were placed in our way – $200K worth of hurdles (that’s how much we spent). After meeting with MMSD leadership and staff, we agreed to come back to the table to address issues with MTI and AFSCME, who wanted our custodial and food service workers to be represented by the union as well. When we met, the unions came to the negotiation with attorneys and so did we. If you care to find out what was said during these negotiations, you can request a transcript from Beth Lehman, the liaison to the MMSD Board of Education who was taking official notes (October 31 and November 1, 2011).
On our first day of negotiations, after all sides shared their requests and concerns, we (ULGM) decided to let AFSCME represent our custodial and food service staff. AFSCME was immediately satisfied, and left the room. That’s when the hardball towards us started. We then countered with a plausible proposal that MTI did not like. When we couldn’t get anywhere, we agreed to go into recess. Shortly after we came back from recess, former MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad dropped the bomb on us. He shared that if we now agreed to have our staff be represented by MTI, we would have to budget paying our teachers an average of $80,000 per year per teacher and dedicating $25,000 per teacher to benefits. This would effectively increase our proposal from $15M over five years to $28M over five years.
Why the increased costs? For months, we projected in our budgets that our staff would likely average 7 years of teaching experience with a Master’s degree. We used the MTI-MMSD salary schedule to set the wages in our budget, and followed MMSD and MTI’s suggestions for how to budget for the extended school day and year parts of our charter school plan. Until that day, MMSD hadn’t once told us that the way we were budgeting was a problem. They actually submitted several versions of budgets to the School Board, and not once raising this issue.
Superintendent Nerad further informed us that MMSD was going to now submit a budget to the Board of Education that reflected costs for teachers with an average of 14 years’ experience and a master’s degree. When we shockingly asked Nerad if he thought the Board of Education would support such a proposal, he said they likely would not. We did not think the public would support such a unusual request either. As you can imagine, we left the negotiations very frustrated. In the 23rd hour, not only was the run we thought we had batted in taken away from us in the 9th inning, we felt like our entire season had been vacated by commissioners.
When we returned to our office that afternoon, we called an emergency meeting of the Urban League and Madison Prep boards. It was in those meetings that we had to make a choice. Do we completely abandon our proposal for Madison Prep after all we had done to see the project through, and after all of the community support and interests from parents that we had received, or do we go forward with our original proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school and let the chips fall where they may with a vote by the Board? At that point, our trust of MMSD and MTI was not very high. In fact, weeks before all of this happened, we were told by Nerad in a meeting with our team and attorneys, and his staff and attorneys, that the Board of Education had voted in closed session to unilaterally withdraw our charter school planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They reversed this decision after we informed them we would file a lawsuit against them. We were later told that a certain Board member was pushing for months to have this done. Then, after months of not being able to get certain board members to meet with us, Marj Passman, decided to meet with me alone in my office. During that meeting, she told me that we (ULGM) didn’t have the votes for Madison Prep and that we were never going to get the school approved. She the offered to donate her personal funds to Madison Prep, if we pulled our proposal and decided to do a private school instead. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but declined.
After finally meeting with all seven board of education members, both the Madison Prep and ULGM boards decided unanimously that we must in good conscience go forward, put the needs and future of our children first, and reintroduce the non-instrumentality proposal to the School Board. You know the rest of the story.
Over the next 45 days, we (ULGM) were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, “an Angry Black Man”. Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place – because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it even though the school system has known about its racial achievement gap since it was first document by researcher Naomi Lede for the National Urban League in 1965. That gap has doubled since then.
Ironically, two of the people behind the attacks on ULGM were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep. John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he told a story that was 80% consistent with the events that actually transpired. Watch the video and listen to the reason he gave for why he didn’t support Madison Prep. He didn’t call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. So why all the fuss now? Why have those who knew exactly what went on in these negotiations not told the true story about what really happened with Madison Prep? Why has a charter school proposal been made the scapegoat, or defining lever, in a school board race where there are so many other more important issues to address?
If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools.
So, for those who were unaware and those who’ve been misleading the public about Madison Prep and the Urban League, I hope you at least read this account all the way through and give all of the candidates in this school board election the opportunity to win or lose on their merits. Falsehoods and red herrings are not needed. They don’t make our city or our school district look good to the observing eye. Let’s be honest and accurate in our descriptions going forward.
Thank you for reading.
We continue to move forward for our children and are more determined than ever to serve them well.
Onward.
Strengthening the Bridge Between Education and Work
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608.729.1200
Assistant: 608.729.1249
Fax: 608.729.1205
www.ulgm.org
www.madison-prep.org
Invest in the Urban League
Urban League 2012 Third Quarter Progress Report

The Memorandum from Kaleem Caire to John Matthews (Madison Teachers, Inc)

MEMORANDUM
Date: August 23, 2011
To: Mr. John Matthews, Executive Director, Madison Teachers, Inc.
From: Kaleem Caire, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Madison
cc: Mr. Steve Goldberg, President, CUNA Foundation; Mr. David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM); Ms Laura DeRoche-Perez, Charter School Development Consultant, ULGM; Mr. David Hase, Attorney, Cooke & Frank SC
Re: Discussion about potential MTl-Madison Prep Relationship
Greetings John.
I sincerely appreciate your openness to engaging in conversation about a possible relationship between MTI and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. We, ULGM and Madison Prep, look forward to determining very soon what the possibilities could be.
Please accept his memo as a means to frame the issues.

  1. The Urban League of Greater Madison initially pursued a non-instrumentality public charter school
    focused on young men to, first and foremost, eliminate the academic and graduate gaps between young people of color and their white peers, to successfully prepare greater percentages of young men of color and those at-risk for higher education, to significantly reduce the incarceration rate among young adult males of color and to provide an example of success that could become a learning laboratory for
    educators, parents and the Greater Madison community with regard to successful ly educating young men, regardless of th eir race or socio-economic status.

  2. We are very interested in determining how we can work with MTI while maintaining independence with regard to work rules, operations, management and leadership so that we can hire and retain the best team possible for Madison Prep, and make organizational and program decisions and modifications as necessary to meet the needs of our students, faculty, staff and parents.
  3. MTl’s collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District covers many positions within the school system. We are interested in having MTI represent our teachers and guidance counselors. All other staff would not be represented by MTI.
  4. The collective bargaining agreement between MTI and Madison Prep would be limited to employee wages and benefits. Madison Prep teachers would select a representative among them, independent of Madison Prep’s leadership, to serve as their union representative to MTI.

I look forward to discussing this with you and members of our teams, and hearing what ideas you have for the
relationship as well.
Respectfully,
Kaleem Caire,
President & CEO
CONFIDENTIAL

336K PDF Version
jpg version
Related Links:

Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School
(Rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board).
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment.“.
John Matthews, Madison Teachers, Inc.
Kaleem Caire, Madison Urban League
The rejected Studio Charter School.
Union politics.
2013 Madison School Board Elections.
Update: Matthew DeFour’s article on Caire’s message:

Lucy Mathiak, who was on the board in 2011, also didn’t dispute Caire’s account of the board action, but couldn’t recall exactly what happened in the board’s closed sessions.
“Did (the Urban League) jump through many hoops, provide multiple copies of revised proposals upon request, meet ongoing demands for new and more detailed information? Yes,” Mathiak said. “It speaks volumes that Madison Prep is being used to smear and discredit candidates for the School Board and used as a litmus test of political worthiness.”
Matthews said the problems with Madison Prep resulted from Caire’s proposal to hire nonunion staff.
“What Kaleem seems to have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, is that MTI representatives engaged in several discussions with him and several of his Board members, in attempt to reach an amicable resolution,” Matthews said. “What that now has to do with the current campaign for Board of Education, I fail to see. I know of no animosity among the candidates or their campaign workers.”
Passman and other board members who served at the time did not return a call seeking comment.

Change is the Only Path to Better Schools

Chris Rickert:

Shortly after Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad resigned last year, School Board member Ed Hughes told me that when it comes to the Madison School District, “People want improvement, but they don’t want change.”
I thought about Hughes’ words last weekend after the school district announced it had hired Chicago Public Schools chief of instruction Jennifer Cheatham as Nerad’s replacement.
Cheatham is seen as the best bet for improvement — specifically to the long history of low-income and minority student under-achievement.
The question now is: Will people tolerate her changes?
Hughes told me Sunday he was “optimistic” they would. “I think she will earn teachers’ trust and inspire them to do their best work,” he said. “If she succeeds at that, everything else will fall into place.”
I hope he’s right, but I don’t yet share his optimism.
Back in 2011, it was the district’s long-standing inability to do anything bold about the achievement gap that left it vulnerable to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s bid to open its own charter school for minority and low-income students.
Madison Preparatory Academy brought the issue of the achievement gap to the fore. But the school’s rejection — largely due to opposition from the teachers union — left notoriously progressive Madison doing some uncomfortable soul-searching.

Related: And so it continues…..

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

Chris Rickert:

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

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

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

Amy Barrilleaux:

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew DeFour:

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Schneider:

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

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

The search for a new Madison schools superintendent: Can anyone meet our expectations?

Nayantara Mukherji:

Everyone in Madison seems to have an opinion about who the next superintendent of the school district should be.
Suzanne Swift, president of the Franklin Randall Elementary School PTO, wants a superintendent who can motivate a “demoralized staff,” develop relationships and advocate for the district at the state and national levels.
Education policy expert Sarah Archibald says a future superintendent should be willing to make tough decisions about allocating shrinking resources.
Eugenia Highland, program coordinator at Centro Hispano, wants someone who will focus on reducing the achievement gap.
School board member Ed Hughes says the district needs a leader who can “navigate the political shoals of serving in a place like Madison.”
Outgoing Superintendent Dan Nerad, who began his Madison tenure in 2008, insists his replacement must care about students and the community.

Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires.

Next Steps for Madison Schools’ 2012-2013 $374,700,000 Budget

Todd Finkelmeyer:

But as the School Board prepares to sign off on a final, scaled back version of the district’s achievement gap plan on Monday night, it appears a little wind has been taken out of the sails of an initiative that had many in the community talking this past winter.
“This whole discussion has been a bit hard to follow in recent weeks,” says Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The plan started out as one thing and then became something else and then became something else. To be honest, though, I’m not sure this issue ever got the momentum in the community that I thought it would.”
The School Board is meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the district’s Doyle Administration Building (545 W. Dayton St.) to give preliminary approval for a 2012-13 budget. Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $374.7 million budget proposal released late last month includes $4.4 million next year to fund the achievement gap plan, which is down significantly from the $12.4 million price tag that was originally attached to the project.
“When the original plan was presented it was based on a view that there isn’t just one thing that any school district can do, and there isn’t any one thing that the community can do, to solve this problem,” says Nerad. “Instead, we needed to look at the many things that need to be in place if we’re going to have the elimination of this disparate achievement. But in the end, we also had to make sure we took into account other budget needs and to present a sustainable plan, so reductions were made.”
Nerad’s budget proposal also includes a $3.5 million increase in funding for maintenance. The entire budget, as proposed by the superintendent, would increase the amount the district levies for taxes by 4.1 percent — to $11.78 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average-priced home in Madison, it’s estimated that school property taxes would increase $68.12.

Related: notes and links on the 2011-2012 Madison school district budget, which spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student).
And, more from Birmingham, Michigan on their Superintendent search. Birmingham spends about 10% less per student than Madison.

For our schools, is blame the only certain outcome?

Paul Fanlund:

But both are deeply concerned about what the school district’s ability to serve children, and the achievement gap is on the front burner. In the wake of a bitter fight over Madison Preparatory Academy — a proposed but ultimately rejected charter school aimed at fighting that gap — Nerad proposed a detailed achievement gap plan of his own. Even after scaling it back recently, it would still cost an additional $5.8 million next year.
And then there are the maintenance needs. “It’s HVAC systems, it’s roofs, it’s asphalt on parking lots,” Nerad says. “It’s all those things that don’t necessarily lead to a better educational outcome for young people, but it ensures that our buildings look good and people feel good about our buildings, they’re safe for children.”
He pauses, and adds, “My point is that we have a complex set of issues on the table right now.”
Madison teachers made about $20 million in voluntary pay and benefit concessions before the anti-collective bargaining law was enacted, according to district figures. But Nerad says state school support has been in relative decline for more than a decade, long before Walker’s campaign against teacher rights.

Related:

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

Solidarity Newsletter by Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF):

MTI President Kerry Motoviloff addressed the Board of Education at its May 21 general meeting. At issue is the District’s plan to introduce more new programs into elementary teachers’ literacy curriculum, including Mondo and 3 new assessments. At the same time, elementary teachers are being told that they will be losing release days for the administration of K-2 testing.
Motoviloff listed more than 13 current K-5 assessments, explaining to Board members that each assessment comes with a set of non-comparable data or scores. She noted that the District has introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009.
Motoviloff stressed that all teachers are concerned about the achievement gap, and that the District needs to walk its own talk relative to ensuring fidelity in the curriculum process. She challenged the District to prioritize essentials, instead of swamping teachers with initiatives while reducing teachers’ time to implement the curriculum with fidelity, and emphasized the need to include time not only for assessments, but also time for teachers to analyze and plan. She also urged the District to stop pitting professional development against planning/prep time.

Related:

I’ve long suggested that the District should get out of the curriculum/program creation business and focus on hiring the best teachers. Like it or not, Oconomowoc is changing the game by focusing efforts and increasing teacher pay. Madison, given our high per student spending and incredible community and academic resources, should be delivering world class results for all students.
I don’t see how more than 18 programs and initiatives can be implemented successfully in just a few years. I’m glad MTI President Kerry Motoviloff raised this important issue. Will the proposed “achievement gap plan” add, replace or eliminate programs and spending?
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Madison tenure, which began in 2008, appears to be quickly coming to an end.

Who is Paul Vallas and why is he coming to Madison?

TJ Mertz

As Jim Anchower says, “I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…” Sometimes you need a break; expect more soon.
Paul Vallas will be featured at a “school reform town hall meeting” this Saturday, May 26, 1:00 PM at LaFollette High School. The announcements feature “Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County” as “collaborating” hosts, but as reported by Matt DeFour the United Way “has requested that our name be removed from all upcoming communications related to the event, but will attend to hear the conversation from all those involved.”
Attempts to clarify MMSD’s role have not yielded a response. You can try yourself: Board of Education: board@madison.k12.wi.us, Supt. Dan Nerad: dnerad@madison.k12.wi.us. I’ve been told unofficially that MMSD is donating the space, which would mean that your tax dollars and mine are being used (see the district facilities rental policy here). It would really be a shame if our district collaborated in bringing Vallas here, there is very little in his version of school reform that our community, or any community will benefit from.

Much more on Paul Vallas’s visit, here.
ACLU on freedom of speech.
Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use?
and: 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
How long will our community tolerate its reading problem? Bread and circuses.

123 Page Madison School District Achievement Plan Published

The Madison School District 3.5MB PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear Community Members,
The preliminary plan to eliminate achievement gaps provided a framework around which to engage members of the community in a discussion about what we need to do to address the achievement gaps. To gather input, we held community input sessions, met with community organizations, and talked with our staff. Summaries and an analysis of session feedback are listed in the plan and at mmsd.org/thefuture.
That input served as our guide in developing these recommendations. Then, we also considered educational research, the new federal mandates of the Response to Intervention (RtI) program, cost, and logistics, as well as community input. We reviewed what has worked in our school district, in our community, and in other districts across the country.
I believe that if we are going to do better by our children, we must invest. But I also believe we have a responsibility to balance the needs of our community and leverage resources for the greatest impact on student achievement. The final recommended plan is reduced from a financial perspective. This was done to ensure greater sustainability from a fiscal perspective.
The revised plan maintains the six original areas of focus. These six chapters illustrate the landscape of education today – areas that are critical to closing achievement gaps. They also represent areas where leverage exists to eliminate our achievement gaps. Any successful plan to close student achievement gaps must employ a combination of strategies. If there were one simple answer, it would have been employed a long time ago and replicated in districts across the country. Our reality calls for many solutions at many levels of the organization. Our problem is a complex one. Our solutions must be equally complex in their approach.
The good news is that research on what works has been going on for years. Although there is no one right way to teach all students, the research is solid on increasing student performance through an aligned curriculum, effective instruction, frequent monitoring of progress, research-based decision making before a child experiences failure, having interventions in place to help learners, and involving the entire community in support of children.
To address this last point, this plan also asks for a commitment from the community to join MMSD using elements of the Strive Model (Kania, John and Kramer, Mark. (2011). “Collective impact.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011) to develop a network which links services to schools through a collaborative district approach as well a school-based grass roots “community school model” approach based on each school’s need. This concept is elaborated where appropriate in each chapter and in the conclusion of this document.
The recommendations within this plan focus on academic rigor, expectations, accountability, response to behaviors, professional development, cultural competence,3 parents as partners, hiring for diversity, and establishing a new relationship with our community. It also is a plan that supports the federal mandates of Response to Intervention (RtI), which is the practice of providing high-quality instruction, interventions, and progress monitoring which is matched to student needs to make decisions about changes in instruction, and analyzing student response data decisions through collaboration.
These final recommendations reflect some effective work already under way that needs additional focus in order to meet student needs and RtI requirements, some promising practices, and some new ideas. These recommendations are all based on research and are a call to action to our staff, our families, and our community.
Some recommendations from the preliminary plan have been made more cost effective, and others have been elaborated upon. The following items are either new, have been eliminated, or have been revised to allow further planning during the 2012-13 school year:
New Initiative: Ensure all K-12 Students Demonstrate Proficiency in the Standards for Mathematics Practice
New Initiative: Drop-Out Recovery
New Initiative: Increase Options for Restorative Practices in the MMSD Student Conduct and Discipline Plan
Eliminated: PEOPLE Program for Elementary Students Eliminated: Youth Court Expansion to Middle School
Eliminated: Implement 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the Highest Need Elementary Schools
Eliminated: Professional Development – Technology Coach
Eliminated: Collaborate with the Community to Implement the Parent-Child Home Program
Further Planning: Extend the School Day
This final recommended plan, Building our Future, was developed to eliminate our achievement gaps. As a school district, we know we need to take new action. We also know we must work with you, members of this great community, to better address the needs of our children. We now look forward to discussing this final proposed plan with the Board of Education. Let’s work together to make a difference for our children.
Sincerely,
Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent

Pages 117 to 123 describe the baseline metrics.
Matthew DeFour has more.

Links and Comments on Arne Duncan’s Madison Visit

via a kind reader:

Alexander Russo linked the Badger Herald’s video excerpt:
(I hope that the common core standards will lead to high school graduates knowing when to use “fewer” instead of “less,” because evidently a Princeton degree doesn’t \snark. It’s interesting to see the Madison business community represented in this video, given the economic development implications of the district’s challenges.)
http://badgerherald.com/news/2012/04/18/us_sec_backs_forgivi.php
(Good reporting by the Badger Herald.)
http://www.ed.gov/blog/2012/03/wisconsin-community-targets-achievement-gap/
(The reflections by Dan Nerad and Sue Abplanalp on the district’s achievement gap plan may be of interest here.)
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/local_schools/u-s-education-secretary-praises-madison-schools-efforts-on-achievement/article_88563b3c-8983-11e1-97b5-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=story
(I think an earlier version of this article included a description of Kaleem Caire asking Secretary Duncan if he was aware of other places that have been successful in addressing the achievement gap, and Duncan replying something to the effect of ‘it’s a challenge for everyone.’ It would have been useful information for the audience if Duncan would have mentioned that Massachusetts reduced the percentage of low income black students performing at the below basic level on the NAEP in 4th grade reading from 54% to 43% between 2003 and 2011, compared to Wisconsin, where it went up from 62% to 67%.)

Madison School Board reviews Proposed $373,000,000 Budget

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board reviewed the almost $373 million budget proposed by Superintendent Dan Nerad Monday night.
If the superintendent’s budget is approved, Madison property taxes could increase more than four percent, about a $100 tax increase on the average home in Madison.
The estimate does not include a proposed $12.4 million put aside to help the achievement gap in Madison schools.
The budget already poses an estimated $12.4 million deficit.

Related: Singapore vs. Madison/US Schools: Do We (Americans) Put Money into Our Children?

WKCE & Madison Students

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Finally, the troubling differences in levels of student learning that give rise to our achievement gap present an enormous challenge for our teachers. We as a District have long been committed to inclusive and heterogeneous elementary school classrooms. Consequently, given the gap, our teachers frequently lead classrooms with a number of high-achieving students and a number of struggling students. Imagine how much dedication and ingenuity it must take for our classroom teachers to provide a learning environment where all their students can thrive. It would be helpful to hear from teachers about how they think they can be most effective in teaching all students in classes with such a wide span of developed capabilities, given our resource limitations.
Even test results as generally uninformative as the WKCE make clear the extent of our achievement gap in Madison. From the perspective of the WKCE and based on statewide averages, our white students on the whole seem to be doing just fine while our African-American students on the whole are struggling. This shouldn’t come as news to anyone, but it does underscore what’s at stake when over the next several weeks the School Board starts to decide what components of the superintendent’s achievement gap plan we’re actually willing to raise taxes to support.

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

Know your Madison School Board candidates

Gretchen Miron:

Madison schools’ Superintendent Dan Nerad’s announcement that he will resign by June 2013 has given the April 3 School Board election new meaning. In addition to addressing the achievement gap and educational budget cuts, the Board will also be responsible for hiring Nerad’s replacement. Madison Commons talked to the four candidates to find out what makes them uniquely qualified for the position, and how they plan to tackle the problems facing the district.

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

Reflections and questions on Wisconsin school test results

Alan Borsuk:

So what was new in all the data released last week summarizing results of the standardized tests, known as the WKCEs, that were taken last fall by more than 400,000 students from Kenosha to Superior?
Not much.
Some things a little better, most things the same, the state of meeting our educational needs pretty much unchanged.
But for every answer like that, I have a dozen questions (and lots of sub-questions).
Here they are:
1. Do we have the patience to pursue solid, significant improvement in how our students are doing?
The highflying schools I know of all took years to reach the heights.
Are we willing to do the steady, thoughtful work of building quality and resist the rapidly revolving carousel of education fads?
2. Do we have the impatience to pursue solid, significant improvement in how our students are doing?
At the same time we’ve got to be steady, we’ve got to be propelled by the urgency of improving.
Especially outside of Milwaukee, an awful lot of people are complacent about how Wisconsin’s kids are doing, and that complacency is often not well justified.

Related:

New MMSD chief diversity officer excited to get to work

A. David Dahmer:

Earlier this month, Superintendent Dan Nerad announced a preliminary plan to close the Madison Metropolitan School District’s persistent racial and socioeconomic achievement gap. Along with that proposal came the hiring of Shahanna McKinney-Baldon, the district’s first chief diversity officer, who is charged with coordinating initiatives to foster diversity in the district.
“It’s so exciting,” McKinney-Baldon tells The Madison Times at her office in the Doyle Administration Building downtown. “This is a wonderful opportunity. Madison a unique city and you have so many people engaged in the process. Everybody has been so welcoming here in Madison. People have been so willing to share their thinking. It’s been exciting to be able to identify recurring themes as I talk to people throughout the city.”
Year after year, Madison has attempted to lessen its more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap, with little positive results. With the announcing of its elaborate strategic plan and the hiring of McKinney-Baldon, MMSD hopes to signal to the community that it is “all in” as far as its efforts to end the systematic educational disenfranchisement of students in certain groups.

We Need Transformational Change, and We Can Do it!

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Kaleem Caire, President/CEO
February 21, 2012
Dear Friends & Colleagues.
I read yesterday’s article by Paul Fanlund of the Capital Times titled, “On School Gap Issue, there’s also a Gap between Leaders.” In his article, he addresses the perception of a gap that exist between Madison School’s superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, and myself.
Is there a gap?
Yes. So far as our proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy is concerned, there is a gap. Dr. Nerad did not support the proposal. I do. I still believe, as thousands of others do, that Madison Prep would benefit children and our public schools, and should be supported.
However, beyond Madison Prep, the only gaps that may exist between Dr. Nerad and me are our different personal and professional backgrounds and experiences; his full silver top and my emerging grey hairs; my love for old school hip hop, break dancing and the cupid shuffle, and his love for disco, the mashed potato and the electric slide; and perhaps our respective views about how innovative and aggressive we should be in pursuing change in public education. Although, I did see Dr. Nerad bobbing his head to some Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye West tunes while driving down Park Street last week. We actually might not be that far apart after all (smile).
But these are authentic differences that can be mitigated and parlayed into a powerful and effective partnership, which is something that I am very interested in. More importantly, our mutual concerns outweigh our differences, and that is where we, the media and the public need to focus our attention.
What’s immediately concerning is that this summer, we will learn that another 350 Black, 200 Latino and 50 Southeast Asian teenagers stopped attending school this year. Our children cannot wait any longer. They need transformation change in our schools and community right now. They need Madison to empower them, their families and embrace their cultural differences. They need Madisonians to support and inspire them, not quietly complain about which neighborhood in Chicago they might come from.
Can Dr. Nerad and I work together?
Of course we can; and, we do. This week, we will announce that our organization has secured private funding to partner with MMSD to operate 14 College Readiness Academies between March and December 2012. These academies will provide four-weeks of free ACT prep classes, test preparation and academic skills development to 200 MMSD high school juniors and seniors.
We will also announce the hiring of the Project Director for the South Madison Promise Zone Initiative that we are spearheading. This initiative will address the need for a comprehensive and collaborative approach to addressing the multifaceted needs of children and their families within a specific geographic region of South Madison, with the ultimate goal being the creation of an environment where all children are ready for college. MMSD is a partner in this initiative, too.
Additionally, our agency operates the Schools of Hope Initiative, serving more than 1,300 students in several MMSD middle and high schools in partnership with the United Way of Dane County and other agencies and community partners. We have also worked over the last 2 years to identify federal and national funding to support the work of MMSD and its students, and have helped the District think through some its diversity hiring strategies.
Beyond these things, we are exploring partnerships to expand our children’s involvement in recreational sports and the arts; to give them opportunities to have fun and be kids. We are also planning a new, major annual fall event aimed at building broad community support for our children and schools and restoring fun and inspiration in public education. “School Night” will be an entertaining celebration that recognizes the unsung heroes in our schools, classrooms and community who are going above and beyond the call of duty to provide quality educational experiences for kids.
What About Dr. Nerad’s Plan?
We look forward to sharing our thoughts and suggestions in the coming weeks. However, don’t expect a thoughtless or categorical critique of Dr. Nerad’s plan. Instead of adding more divisive discourse to public education and highlighting where we disagree with Dr. Nerad’s plan, our proposal will flesh out “how” MMSD could, in a cost effective manner, identify and manifest the level of system-wide changes and improvements that we believe are needed in order to eliminate the achievement gap and stop the flow middle class families out of our community and public schools.
Yes, Madison Prep will be included as one valuable strategy, but only because we believe there is much to be gained from what the school can accomplish.
In the end, regardless of our differences, I believe Dr. Nerad and I want the same thing. We want our children and schools to succeed, and we want to keep dancing and having fun for as long as our knees will allow. I remain ready and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that we achieve these aims.
Onward!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org

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

Madison 360: On school ‘gap’ issue, there’s also a gap between leaders

I am quoted in the article. This is the full response that I made to the proposition that it would be terribly “hard to confront achievement gap issues head on without potentially fueling feelings that regular or high-achieving kids are not front and center in Madison, perhaps even increasing white flight. It must be a very hard balancing act.”
That may be the case, but to divert attention from a very real crisis rooted in over 50 years of failed effort to focus attention on achievement and opportunity for African American students, is something that I cannot accept. It has taken a lot of work and controversy to get the issue of the achievement gap (no, it is not a “gap”) on the table. How ironic (and morally reprehensible) it would be to refocus on white flight while letting the opportunity to unite around racial achievement slip through our fingers.
Dear Paul,
I realize that my answer is blunt and edgy. I was going to apologize but I really cannot. How long must this community live with its head in the sand when it comes to racial justice? And how long must families of color hear words of concern followed with “but we are worried about our white middle class families leaving?” Please watch the video taped testimony from December 19, and then think about what it is that you really want to write. If you do not want to watch 5.5 hours of painful commentary, then please watch (separate video) James Howard’s statement during the board comments on how and why we each voted the way that we did.
To be honest, I would find the column that you propose to write to be offensive at best. Especially to the families who provided over 10 hours of testimony at 3 minutes per person, with very few repeat testifiers, over the course of the Madison Prep debate. Some of those families have waited over 40 years for someone to take their aspirations and their children’s achievement seriously. And as thanks for raising the issue, parents of African American students are being told that the problem is really broken homes, lack of value for education, poor parenting, addiction, and poverty. Well, I AM one of “those parents.” James Howard, the president of the school board, is one of “those parents.” As are [names redacted], and many many other parents.
I wonder if you and others are aware that not all middle, upper middle class, and/or affluent people are are white. Or the number of African American kids who can achieve but are sent direct and indirect messages that they really aren’t “high achiever” material. Or that many white middle class families are every bit as unhappy and uncomfortable with the racism that they see in our schools and in the people who wish to cater to it in order to prevent the white flight of privilege. The “real” problem is not white flight. It is the failure to take achievement seriously, particularly when it comes to students of color.
There is a very real reason why many UW African American faculty, and African American religious and business leaders who have school age children will not live in the Madison district. There is a very real reason why many African American graduates of our schools will not send their children to Madison schools. There is a very real reason why families who can afford to send their kids to Edgewood, St. James, and other schools are doing so. It boils down to where they think their kids will have the best chance of being seen and nurtured as achievers, and that is not the Madison Metropolitan School District.
I am sorry to say this, but I find it repulsive that, particularly during black history month, you are interested in writing a pity piece for the people who are always at the forefront of our concerns, while ignoring the very real, raw, and painful experience of the people who cannot get any acknowledgment of their conditions. And, frankly, if that is what you got out of your conversation with Dan Nerad, I would respectfully suggest that the ability of this district and this leader to address achievement need no further explanation.
Full article at Madison.com

Q&A with Madison School Board candidates

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin State Journal, as part of its coverage of the Madison School Board election, is posing questions to the four candidates on various topics. Here the candidates react to Superintendent Dan Nerad’s achievement gap plan.
What are three strengths of the plan?
Mary Burke: Emphasis on K-3 literacy, research proves this is most effective in closing the achievement gap; AVID (expansion), in four years, I’ve seen AVID be effective, accountable and generate school support; and parental liaisons, but should be from low-income communities and trained to help parents engage in children’s education.
Michael Flores: Those that have the direct impact on children and families, such as expanding AVID/TOPS, parent liaisons to bridge the cultural gap that can exist between home and school, and implementing the mentor academy to provide positive role models to struggling minority students.
Nichelle Nichols: The document presented to the community is a document of ideas. It is not yet a plan. When the community is presented with a comprehensive plan for addressing the achievement gap in schools, and I have had sufficient time to review it, I will be happy to share my view.
Arlene Silveira: Early literacy programming and intervention focus because being able to read is critical for success. Expansion of the school day/year options to provide more time for our students in a learning environment. Parent engagement models because caregivers are important partners in supporting the education of our youth.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent) 2006 election links & video
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 Audio & Transcript.

Madison Schools Governance & Madison Teachers



Tweet, in reply to this, via a kind reader.
Related: Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10’s negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?

Much more on More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

James Howard: Board responsible for narrowing gap

Madison School Board President James Howard

Accountability for significantly narrowing the achievement gap must be at the top of the Madison School District agenda in 2012. How long should the current members of the School Board, Superintendant Dan Nerad, the administration and staff have to demonstrate gains in narrowing the gap?
In 2010 a five-year strategic plan was implemented with narrowing achievement gaps as the number one priority, and we are now starting to get results from the initiatives in the plan.
What will the level of accountability be for those of us who approved the plan? What will the level of accountability be for those of us who have responsibility for implementing the plan?
The question must be: Have we achieved the desired results or educational outcomes demanded by the taxpayers?

Madison School District, Urban League Need To Come Together On Madison Prep

Derrell Connor:

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education vote on the proposed charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy, is just around the corner.
We have heard from school board members, business leaders, teachers and other members of the community. It’s safe to say that this is one of the most important issues in this city’s history. While I am happy that Madison is finally having the long overdue conversation about how we educate our students who are falling through the cracks, I am not happy that the Urban League of Greater Madison and the school district couldn’t come together to agree on a solution. In fact, it bothers me greatly.
It is a huge mistake to have this yearlong discussion come down to a contentious school board vote on Dec. 19. Both sides needed to come together to figure out a way to make Madison Prep a reality before that meeting.
Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad and various members of the school board say approving Madison Prep would violate the current contract with Madison Teachers, Inc. So, if 2012 isn’t feasible, committing to a date to open Madison Prep’s doors in 2013, and using the next three to six months to figure out the terms of that agreement should have been an option. But, unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Instead we have a school district and a civil rights organization arguing over ways to address the achievement gap and graduation rates. Not a good look. And the future relationship between the MMSD and the African American community could hang in the balance.

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

Madison Schools’ Administration Opposes the Proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Recommendations:
We are in agreement that the achievement gaps for low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners must be eliminated. The Administration agrees that bolder steps must be taken to address these gaps. We also know that closing these gaps is not a simple task and change will not come overnight, but, the District’s commitment to doing so will not waiver. We also know that to be successful in the long run, we must employ multiple strategies both within our schools and within our community. This is why the District has held interest in many of the educational strategies included in the Madison Prep’s proposal like longer school days and a longer school year at an appropriately compensated level for staff, mentoring support, the proposed culture of the school and the International Baccalaureate Program.
While enthusiastic about these educational strategies, the Administration has also been clear throughout this conversation about its concern with a non-instrumentality model.
Autonomy is a notion inherent in all charter school proposals. Freedom and flexibility to do things differently are the very reasons charter schools exist. However, the non-instrumentality charter school model goes beyond freedom and flexibility to a level of separateness that the Administration cannot support.
In essence, Madison Prep’s current proposal calls for the exclusion of the elected Board of Education and the District’s Administration from the day-to-day operations of the school. It prevents the Board, and therefore the public, from having direct oversight of student learning conditions and teacher working conditions in a publicly-funded charter school. From our perspective, the use of public funds calls for a higher level of oversight than found in the Madison Prep proposal and for that matter in any non-instrumentality proposal.
In addition, based on the District’s analysis, there is significant legal risk in entering into a non- instrumentality charter contract under our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.
In our analysis of Madison Prep’s initial instrumentality proposal, the Administration expressed concerns over the cost of the program to the District and ultimately could not recommend funding at the level proposed. Rather, the Administration proposed a funding formula tied to the District’s per pupil revenues. We also offered to continue to work with Madison Prep to find ways to lower these costs. Without having those conversations, the current proposal reduces Madison Prep’s costs by changing from an instrumentality to a non-instrumentality model. This means that the savings are realized directly through reductions in staff compensation and benefits to levels lower than MMSD employees. The Administration has been willing to have conversations to determine how to make an instrumentality proposal work.
In summary, this administrative analysis finds concerns with Madison Prep’s non-instrumentality proposal due to the level of governance autonomy called for in the plan and due to our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. Based on these issues, we cannot recommend to the Board that Madison Prep be approved as a non-instrumentality charter school.
We know more needs to be done as a district and a community to eliminate our achievement gaps. We must continue to identify strategies both within our schools and our larger community to eliminate achievement gaps. These discussions, with the Urban League and with our entire community, need to continue on behalf of all of our students.

Matthew DeFour:

In anticipation of the recommendation, Caire sent out an email Friday night to School Board members with a letter responding to concerns about the union contract issue.
The problem concerns a “work preservation” clause in the Madison Teachers Inc. contract that requires all teaching duties in the district be performed by union teachers.
Exceptions to the clause have been made in the past, such as having private day-care centers offer 4-year-old kindergarten, but those resulted from agreements with the union. Such an agreement would nullify the current union contract under the state’s new collective bargaining law, according to the district.
Caire said a recent law signed by Gov. Scott Walker could allow the district to amend its union contract. However, School Board member Ed Hughes, who is a lawyer, disagreed with Caire’s interpretation.
Nerad said even if the union issue can be resolved, he still objects to the school seeking autonomy from all district policies except those related to health and safety of students.
…..
Caire said Madison Prep’s specific policies could be ironed out as part of the charter contract after the School Board approves the proposal. He plans to hold a press conference Tuesday to respond to the district’s review.
“The purpose of a charter school is to free you from red tape — not to adopt the same red tape that they have,” Caire said. “We hope the board will stop looking at all of those details and start looking at why we are doing this in the first place.”

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
The fate of Madison Prep, yea or nea, will resonate locally for years. A decisive moment for our local $372M schools.

Low-income, minority students shine in Madison schools’ college prep program, analysis shows

Matthew DeFour:

Black and Hispanic students in a special Madison School District college preparatory program have higher grade point averages, attendance rates and test scores than their peers who aren’t in the program, according to a UW-Madison analysis.
The study of the AVID/TOPS program — geared toward preparing low-income, minority students for college — comes as the Madison School Board contemplates a proposal to create Madison Preparatory Academy, a controversial charter school with similar goals.
Some opponents of Madison Prep argue the AVID/TOPS program is a proven way of helping close the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said the district is pushing ahead with a proposal to expand the program in middle school. It currently serves 491 students at East, West, Memorial and La Follette high schools and Black Hawk Middle School.
“I would not tell you that AVID alone will make the difference,” Nerad said. “But it’s a very important piece for us.”

November 17, 2011 Madison, Wis. – Last night, by unanimous vote, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy announced they would request that the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education approve their proposal to establish it

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

November 17, 2011
Madison, Wis. – Last night, by unanimous vote, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy announced they would request that the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education approve their proposal to establish its all-boys and all-girls schools as non-instrumentality public charter schools. This means that Madison Preparatory Academy would employ all staff at both schools instead of MMSD, and that Madison Prep’s staff would not be members of the district’s collective bargaining units.
If approved, the Board of Education would retain oversight of both schools and likely require Madison Prep to submit to annual progress reviews and a five year performance review, both of which would determine if the school should be allowed to continue operating beyond its first five-year contract.
“We have worked for six months to reach agreement with MMSD’s administration and Madison Teachers Incorporated on how Madison Prep could operate as a part of the school district and its collective bargaining units while retaining the core elements of its program design and remain cost effective,” said Board Chair David Cagigal.
Cagigal further stated, “From the beginning, we were willing to change several aspects of our school design in order to find common ground with MMSD and MTI to operate Madison Prep as a school whose staff would be employed by the district. We achieved agreement on most positions being represented by local unions, including teachers, counselors, custodial staff and food service workers. However, we were not willing to compromise key elements of Madison Prep that were uniquely designed to meet the educational needs of our most at-risk students and close the achievement gap.”
During negotiations, MMSD, MTI and the Boards of Madison Prep and the Urban League were informed that Act 10, the state’s new law pertaining to collective bargaining, would prohibit MMSD and MTI from providing the flexibility and autonomy Madison Prep would need to effectively implement its model. This included, among other things:
Changing or excluding Madison Prep’s strategies for hiring, evaluating and rewarding its principals, faculty and staff for a job well done;
Excluding Madison Prep’s plans to contract with multiple providers of psychological and social work services to ensure students and their families receive culturally competent counseling and support, which is not sufficiently available through MMSD; and
Eliminating the school’s ability to offer a longer school day and year, which Madison Prep recently learned would prove to be too costly as an MMSD charter school.
On November 1, 2011, after Madison Prep’s proposal was submitted to the Board of Education, MMSD shared that operating under staffing and salary provisions listed in the district’s existing collective bargaining agreement would cost $13.1 million more in salaries and benefits over five years, as compared to the budget created by the Urban League for Madison Prep’s budget.
Cagigal shared, “The week after we submitted our business plan to the Board of Education for consideration, MMSD’s administration informed us that they were going to use district averages for salaries, wages and benefits in existing MMSD schools rather than our budget for a new start-up school to determine how much personnel would cost at both Madison Prep schools.”
Both MMSD and the Urban League used the same district salary schedule to write their budgets. However, MMSD budgets using salaries of district teachers with 14 years teaching experience and a master’s degree while the Urban League budgeted using salaries of teachers with 7 years’ experience and a master’s degree.
Gloria Ladson Billings, Vice Chair of Madison Prep’s Board and the Kellner Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison stated that, “It has been clear to all parties involved that the Urban League is committed to offering comparable and competitive salaries to its teachers but that with limited resources as a new school, it would have to set salaries and wages at a level that would likely attract educators with less teaching experience than the average MMSD teacher. At the budget level we set, we believe we can accomplish our goal of hiring effective educators and provide them a fair wage for their level of experience.”
Madison Prep is also committed to offering bonuses to its entire staff, on top of their salaries, in recognition of their effort and success, as well as the success of their students. This also was not allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement.
Summarizing the decision of Madison Prep’s Board, Reverend Richard Jones, Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church and Madison Prep Board member shared, “Our Board has thought deep and hard about additional ways to compromise around the limitations that Act 10 places on our ability to partner with our teachers’ union. However, after consulting parents, community partners and the MMSD Board of Education, we ultimately decided that our children need what Madison Prep will offer, and they need it now. A dream deferred is a dream denied, and we must put the needs of our children first and get Madison Prep going right away. That said, we remain committed to finding creative ways to partner with MMSD and the teachers’ union, including having the superintendent of MMSD, or his designee, serve on the Board of Madison Prep so innovation and learning can be shared immediately.”
Cagigal further stated that, “It is important for the public to understand that our focus from the beginning has been improving the educational and life outcomes of our most vulnerable students. Forty-eight percent high school graduation and 47 percent incarceration rates are just not acceptable; not for one more day. It is unconscionable that only 1% of Black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are ready for college. We must break from the status quo and take bold steps to close the achievement gap, and be ready and willing to share our success and key learning with MMSD and other school districts so that we can positively impact the lives of all of our children.”
The Urban League has informed MMSD’s administration and Board of Education that it will share with them an updated version of its business plan this evening. The updated plan will request non-instrumentality status for Madison Prep and address key questions posed in MMSD’s administrative analysis of the plan that was shared publicly last week.
The Board of Education is expected to vote on the Madison Prep proposal in December 2011.
Copies of the updated plan will be available on the Urban League (www.ulgm.org) and Madison Prep (www.madison-prep) websites after 9pm CST this evening.
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez at Lderoche@ulgm.org or 608.729.1230.

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

A Madison School Board vote to approve Madison Preparatory Academy has been delayed until at least December after the proposed charter school’s board decided to amend its proposal to use nonunion employees.
The Madison Prep board voted Wednesday night after an analysis by the school district found the pair of single-sex charter schools, geared toward low-income minority students, would cost $10.4 million more than previously estimated if it were to use union staff.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said the district would have to update its analysis based on the new proposal, which means a vote will not happen Nov. 28. A new time line for approval has not been established.
In announcing Wednesday’s decision, the Madison Prep board said the state’s new collective bargaining law made the school district and teachers union inflexible about how to pay for employing teachers for longer school days and a longer school year, among other issues.

Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 15MB PDF

1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement Plan
Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.
MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.
Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):

  1. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Grades 3-7. MAP is incorporated into the MMSD Balanced Assessment Plan as a computer adaptive benchmark assessment tool for grades 3-7. Administration of the assessment was implemented in spring, 2011.
  2. Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT): Grades 2 and 5. As proposed in the Talented and Gifted Plan approved by the Board of Education in August, 2009, the district requested approval of funds to purchase and score the Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) which was administered in February, 2011, to all second and fifth graders.
  3. The EPAS System: Explore Grades 8-9, Plan Grade 10, ACT Grade 11. The EPAS system provides a longitudinal, systematic approach to educational and career planning, assessment, instructional support, and evaluation. The system focuses on the integrated, higher-order thinking skills students develop in grades K-12 that are important for success both during and after high school. The EPAS system is linked to the College and Career Readiness standards so that the information gained about student performance can be used to inform instruction around those standards.

Attached are six documents describing programs being implemented for the 2011-12 school year to address the needs of all students.
1. Strategic Plan Document: Year Three (Attachment 2)
2. Strategic Plan Summary of Three Main Focus Areas (Attachment 3)
3. Addressing the Needs of All Learners and Closing the Achievement Gap Through K-12 Alignment (Attachment 4)
4. Scope and Sequence (Attachment 5)
5. The Ideal Graduate from MMSD (Attachment 6)
6. 4K Update to BOE- Program and Sites- (Attachment 7)

Clusty Search: District Identified for Improvement (DIFI)
Matthew DeFour:

Madison School District administrators aren’t keeping track of the best classroom instruction. Not all principals create a culture of high expectations for all students. And teachers aren’t using the same research-based methods.
Such inconsistencies across the district and within schools — stemming from Madison’s tradition of school and teacher autonomy — are hurting student achievement, according to a district analysis required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“There are problems within the entire system,” Superintendent Dan Nerad said. “We do have good practice, but we need to be more consistent and have more fidelity to our practices.”
Inconsistencies in teaching and building culture can affect low-income students, who are more likely to move from school to school, and make teacher training less effective, Nerad said.
The analysis is contained in an improvement plan the district is scheduled to discuss with the School Board on Monday and to deliver next week to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Minority Student Achievement Network Plan of Action

Madison School District Superintendent Daniel A. Nerad 215K PDF Presentation

During the annual conference the team of students engaged in.
1. College planning including a tour of Missouri University
2. Participated in Achievement Gap Readings including discussions and student action planning
3. Shared their ideas about how to motivate students to succeed and how their school could be made a meaningful and interesting place
4. Developed plans of action to implement these strategies for change and report these valuable messages to the academic leaders of their schools and districts (See Attached- MSAN Students Conference Agenda)

Madison Preparatory IB Charter School School Board Discussion Notes

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy will receive the first half of a $225,000 state planning grant after the Madison School Board determined Thursday that the revised proposal for the charter school addresses legal concerns about gender equality.
Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad announced the decision following a closed School Board meeting.
Questions still remain about the cost of the proposal by the Urban League of Greater Madison, which calls for a school for 60 male and 60 female sixth-graders geared toward low-income minorities that would open next year.
“I understand the heartfelt needs for this program,” Nerad said, but “there are other needs we need to address.”

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

The school district does not have a lot of spare money lying around that it can devote to Madison Prep. Speaking for myself, I am not willing to cut educational opportunities for other students in order to fund Madison Prep. If it turns out that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would impose a net cost of millions of dollars on the school district, then, for me, we’d have to be willing to raise property taxes by that same millions of dollars in order to cover the cost.
It is not at all clear that we’d be able to do this even if we wanted to. Like all school districts in the state, MMSD labors under the restrictions of the state-imposed revenue caps. The law places a limit on how much school districts can spend. The legislature determines how that limit changes from year to year. In the best of times, the increase in revenues that Wisconsin school districts have been allowed have tended to be less than their annual increases in costs. This has led to the budget-slashing exercises that the school districts endure annually.
In this environment, it is extremely difficult to see how we could justify taking on the kind of multi-million dollar obligation that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would entail. Indeed, given the projected budget numbers and revenue limits, it seems inevitable that signing on to the Madison Prep proposal would obligate the school district to millions of dollars in cuts to the services we provide to our students who would not attend Madison Prep.
A sense of the magnitude of these cuts can be gleaned by taking one year as an example. Since Madison Prep would be adding classes for seven years, let’s look at year four, the 2015-16 school year, which falls smack dab in the middle.

TJ Mertz:

Last night I (TJ) was asked to leave the meeting on African American issues in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) advertised as being facilitated by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service (DOJ CRS) and hosted or convened by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) with the consent and participation of MMSD. I was told that if I did not leave, the meeting would be canceled. The reason given was that I write a blog (see here for some background on the exclusion of the media and bloggers and here for Matt DeFour’s report from outside the meeting).
I gave my word that I would not write about the meeting, but that did not alter the request. I argued that as a parent and as someone who has labored for years to address inequities in public education, I had both a legitimate interest in being there and the potential to contribute to the proceedings. This was acknowledged and I was still asked to leave and told again that the meeting would not proceed if I did not leave. I asked to speak to the DOJ CRS representatives in order to confirm that this was the case and this request was repeatedly refused by Kaleem Caire of the ULGM.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

An idea hatched in Madison aims to give parents with boys in Wisconsin’s second-largest city another positive option for their children. It’s an idea that ought to be channeled to Milwaukee.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men would feature the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, longer days, a longer school year and lofty expectations for dress and behavior for boys in sixth grade through high school. And while it would accept all comers, clearly it is designed to focus on low-income boys of color. Backers hope to open a year from now.
One of the primary movers behind Madison Prep is Kaleem Caire, the head of the Urban League of Madison, who grew up in the city and attended Madison West High School in 1980s, Alan J. Borsuk explained in a column last Sunday. Caire later worked in Washington, D.C., as an education advocate before returning to Madison.
Caire saw too many young black men wash out and end up either dead or in jail, reported Borsuk, a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. And Caire now is worried, as are we, about the atrocious statistics that place young black boys so far behind their white peers.

Rebecca Kemble:

The Department of Justice official explained the shadowy, confidential nature of the Community Relations Service to the audience by describing the kinds of situations it intervenes in, mostly having to do with hate crimes and rioting. He said in no uncertain terms, “We are not here to do an investigation,” and even asked for the audience members to repeat the sentence with him. He then went on to ask for people to respect the confidentiality of those raising issues, and laid out the structure of the meeting: 30 minutes for listing problems relating to the achievement gap and 45 minutes generating solutions.
I will respect the confidentiality of the content of the meeting by not repeating it. However, I will say that what was said in that room was no different that what has been said at countless other open, public meetings with the School District and in community groups on the same topic, the only difference being that there were far fewer parents in the room and few if any teachers.
It turned out that the Department of Justice secretive meeting was a convenient way to pack the house with a captive audience for yet another infomercial about Madison Prep. Kaleem Caire adjourned the one meeting and immediately convened an Urban League meeting where he gave his Madison Prep sales pitch yet again. About 1/3 of the audience left at that point.

PLEASE JOIN US MONDAY! Madison Board of Education to Vote on Madison Prep; costs clarified



March 25, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
On Monday evening, March 28, 2011 at 6pm, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Board of Education will meet to vote on whether or not to support the Urban League’s submission of a $225,000 charter school planning grant to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This grant is essential to the development of Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men, an all-male 6th – 12th grade public charter school.
Given the promise of our proposal, the magnitude of longstanding achievement gaps in MMSD, and the need for adequate time to prepare our final proposal for Madison Prep, we have requested full support from the school board.
Monday’s Board meeting will take place at the Doyle Administration Building (545 West Dayton Street) next to the Kohl Center. We hope you will come out to support Madison Prep as this will be a critical vote to keep the Madison Prep proposal moving forward. Please let us know if you’ll be attending by clicking here. If you wish to speak, please arrive at 5:45pm to register.
Prior to you attending, we want to clarify misconceptions about the costs of Madison Prep.
The REAL Costs versus the Perceived Costs of Madison Prep
Recent headlines in the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) reported that Madison Prep is “less likely” to be approved because of the size of the school’s projected budget. The article implied that Madison Prep will somehow cost the district more than it currently spends to educate children. This, in fact, is not accurate. We are requesting $14,476 per student for Madison Prep’s first year of operation, 2012-2013, which is less than the $14,802 per pupil that MMSD informed us it spends now. During its fifth year of operation, Madison Prep’s requested payment from MMSD drops to $13,395, which is $1,500 less per student than what the district says it spends now. Madison Prep will likely be even more of a savings to the school district by the fifth year of operation given that the district’s spending increases every year.
A March 14, 2011 memo prepared by MMSD Superintendent Daniel Nerad and submitted to the Board reflects the Urban League’s funding requests noted above. This memo also shows that the administration would transfer just $5,541 per student – $664,925 in total for all 120 students – to Madison Prep in 2012-2013, despite the fact that the district is currently spending $14,802 per pupil. Even though it will not be educating the 120 young men Madison Prep will serve, MMSD is proposing that it needs to keep $8,935 per Madison Prep student.


Therefore, the Urban League stands by its request for equitable and fair funding of $14,476 per student, which is less than the $14,802 MMSD’s administration have told us they spend on each student now. As Madison Prep achieves economies of scale, reaches its full enrollment of 420 sixth through twelfth graders, and graduates its first class of seniors in 2017-18, it will cost MMSD much less than what it spends now. A cost comparison between Madison Prep, which will enroll both middle and high school students at full enrollment, and MMSD’s Toki Middle School illustrates this point.




We have also attached four one-page documents that we prepared for the Board of Education. These documents summarize key points on several issues about which they have expressed questions.
We look forward to seeing you!
Onward!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608-729-1200
Assistant: 608-729-1249
Fax: 608-729-1205
Website: www.ulgm.org



Kaleem Caire, via email.
Madison Preparatory Academy Brochure (PDF): English & Spanish.
DPI Planning Grant Application: Key Points and Modifications.
Update: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: What To Do About Madison Prep:

In order to maintain Madison Prep, the school district would have to find these amounts somewhere in our budget or else raise property taxes to cover the expenditures. I am not willing to take money away from our other schools in order to fund Madison Prep. I have been willing to consider raising property taxes to come up with the requested amounts, if that seemed to be the will of the community. However, the draconian spending limits the governor seeks to impose on school districts through the budget bill may render that approach impossible. Even if we wanted to, we likely would be barred from increasing property taxes in order to raise an amount equal to the net cost to the school district of the Madison Prep proposal.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that budgetary considerations prevent us from investing in promising approaches to increasing student achievement. For example, one component of the Madison Prep proposal is a longer school year. I’m in favor. One way the school district has pursued this concept has been by looking at our summer school model and considering improvements. A good, promising plan has been developed. Sadly, we likely will not be in a position to implement its recommendations because they cost money we don’t have and can’t raise under the Governor’s budget proposal.
Similarly, Madison Prep proposes matching students with mentors from the community who will help the students dream bigger dreams. Effective use of mentors is also a key component of the AVID program, which is now in all our high schools. We would very much like to expand the program to our middle schools, but again we do not have the funds to do so.

Mr. Hughes largely references redistributed state tax dollars for charter/virtual schools – a portion of total District per student spending – the total (including property taxes) that Madison Prep’s request mentions. I find Madison Prep’s fully loaded school based cost comparisons useful. Ideally, all public schools would publish their individual budgets along with total District spending.

Minn. Senate passes alternative teacher licensing

AP:

The Minnesota Senate has passed a bill that creates a new method of obtaining teacher licenses.
The alternative licensing plan is aimed at meeting projected teacher shortages in the future. It’s designed to give Minnesota schools an infusion of new, mostly young teachers who don’t attend traditional teaching colleges, and help close an achievement gap between white and minority students that’s one of the worst in the country.
Critics say it will harm schoolchildren by making it too easy to become a teacher. But the bill the Senate passed Thursday reflects a compromise between Gov. Mark Dayton and bill sponsors, and it’s expected to get his signature.

Related: Janet Mertz: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

An Update on Madison’s Proposed 4K Program

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Purpose: The purpose of this Data Retreat is to provide all BOE members with an update on the progress of 4K planning and the work of subcommittees with a recommendation to start 4K September, 2011.
Research Providing four year old kindergarten (4K) may be the district’s next best tool to continue the trend of improving academic achievement for all students and continuing to close the achievement gap.
The quality of care and education that children receive in the early years of their lives is one of the most critical factors in their development. Empirical and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that nurturing environments with appropriate challenging activities have large and lasting effects on our children’s school success, ability to get along with others, and emotional health. Such evidence also indicates that inadequate early childhoOd care and education increases the danger that at-risk children will grow up with problem behaviors that can lead to later crime and violence.
The primary reason for the Madison Metropolitan School District’s implementation of four year old kindergarten (4K) is to better prepare all students for educational success. Similarly, the community and society as a whole receive many positive benefits when students are well prepared for learning at a young age. The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool: Using Early Education to Improve Economic Growth and the Fiscal Sustainability of States and the Nation by The Committee for Economic Development states the following about the importance of early learning.

Are Honors Classes Racist?

High Expectations For All Students is the Way to Beat the Achievement Gaps

Simpson Street Free Press
editorial
Chantal Van Ginkel, age 18
Historically, Madison West High School has not had a spotless regard regarding race relations. Before and during the 1990’s, the school was accused by some of segregation. Most white students had their lockers on the second floor, while most minority students used lockers on the ground floor.
To the school’s credit, changes in policies have greatly improved a once hostile environment. Some of these changes include getting rid of remedial classes, and implementing SLC’s or Small Learning Communities.
A more recent change, however, has sparked controversy and heated debate. Madison West High School plans to largely eliminate honors classes. This is part of an attempt to provide equal opportunity for all students by homogenizing their classroom experience.
At one time, this might have been a good step toward desegregation of West’s student body. It is not a good idea now.
To some extent, enrollment in honors courses of all Madison high schools is racially segregated. Affluent students and white students take advanced courses much more frequently than other students.
But in my opinion, the lack of more rigorous courses is a problem. It is a problem for all students at West. Many parents, students and some faculty share this sentiment.
Recently, a petition signed by over a hundred West attendance area parents requested that 9th and 10th grade honors classes be reinstated. When Superintendent Nerad took steps to make this, some members of the West High teaching staff spoke up. They asserted that honors classes are racist. The project to reinstate advanced course offerings for West’s freshmen and sophomores was then abandoned.
Honors classes, in and of themselves, are not inherently racist. Rather, the expectation that only certain students will take these classes is the problem. The fact that too many minority students end up in remedial courses is racist, but eliminating rigorous courses is not the answer.
As writers for this newspaper have said many times, the real racism is the cancer of low expectations. High expectations for all of our students is how we will beat the achievement gaps in local schools. Low expectations will only make our problem worse.

Note: Madison West High School has not had honors classes in 9th and 10th grade for several years. (The only exception to that is the historically lone section of Accelerated Biology, which some West teachers have repeatedly tried to get rid of.) Not only that, but Madison West High School is the only Madison high school that does not have any honors/advanced/accelerated classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade. All West 9th and 10th grade students are expected to take regular English 9 and 10 and regular Social Studies 9 and 10, in completely heterogeneous (by ability) classes.
Note: The petition mentioned by the author — the one requesting honors classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade — has now been signed by almost 200 current, past and future West community members.

Madison School Board to Discuss the Superintendent’s Proposed Administrative Reorganization Monday Evening

Organization Chart 352K PDF
Reorgnanization Budget 180K PDF
February, 2010 background memo from Superintendent Dan Nerad.
I spoke with the Superintendent Friday regarding the proposed reorganization. The conversation occurred subsequent to an email I sent to the School Board regarding Administrative cost growth and the proposed reduction in Superintendent direct reports.
I inquired about the reduction in direct reports, the addition of a Chief Learning Officer, or Deputy Superintendent and the apparent increased costs of this change. Mr. Nerad said that he would email updated budget numbers Monday (he said Friday that there would be cost savings). With respect to the change in direct reports, he said that the District surveyed other large Wisconsin Schools and found that those Superintendents typically had 6 to 8, maybe 9 direct reports. He also reminded me that the District formerly had a Deputy Superintendent. Art Rainwater served in that position prior to his boss, Cheryl Wilhoyte’s demise. He discussed a number of reasons for the proposed changes, largely to eliminate management silos and support the District’s strategic plan. He also referenced a proposed reduction in Teaching & Learning staff.
I mentioned Administrative costs vis a vis the current financial climate.
I will post the budget numbers and any related information upon receipt.
Finally, I ran into a wonderful MMSD teacher this weekend. I mentioned my recent conversation with the Superintendent. This teacher asked if I “set him straight” on the “dumbing down of the Madison School District”?
That’s a good question. This teacher believes that we should be learning from Geoffrey Canada’s efforts with respect to the achievement gap, particularly his high expectations. Much more on the Harlem Children’s Zone here.
Finally, TJ Mertz offers a bit of commentary on Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting.

The Proposed Madison School District Administrative Reorganization Plan

Superintendent Dan Nerad, via an Arlene Silveira email 1.4MB PDF:

Processes of the Administration
The following administrative processes are currently being utilized to provide administrative leadership within the district:

  1. Superintendent’s Management Team Comprised of the Superintendent and department administrators, this team meets weekly and serves as the major decision making body of the administration.
  2. Strategic Plan Monitoring and Support
    The Superintendent meets monthly with administrators with lead responsibility for the five priority strategies within the Strategic Plan.
  3. Superintendents-Assistant Superintendents, Chief of Staff and Executive Director, Human Resources
    The Superintendent meets weekly with the Assistant Superintendents, Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Human Resources to discuss key operational issues.
  4. Board Liaison Team
    The Board Liaison Team, consisting of designated administrators, meets three times a month to coordinate Board agenda planning and preparation. District Learning Council The District Learning Council consists of curriculum, instruction and assessment related administrators and teacher leaders. This council meets bi-weekly to discuss major instructional issues in the district and provides coordination across related departments.
  5. Department Meetings Administrators assigned to each department meet as needed.
  6. Principal Meetings Assistant Superintendents meet minimally one time per month with all principals
  7. Committee Meetings
    There are numerous administrative/staff committees that meet as specific tasks require.

General Strengths of the Current Administrative Structure
The strengths of the current administrative structure within the district are as follows:

  1. The basic structure of our district has been in place for many years. As a result, the current department structure is known by many and has predictable ways of operating.
      There exist needed checks and balances within the current system, given the relative equal status of the departments, with each department leader along with the Assistant Superintendents and Chief of Staff directly reporting to the Superintendent of Schools.

    General Weaknesses of the Current Administrative Structure
    The weaknesses of the current administrative structure within the district are as follows:

    1. The degree to which the mission-work of the district, teaching and learning, is central to the function of administration is of concern especially in the way professional development is addressed without a departmental focus.
    2. Traditional organizational structures, while having a degree of predictability, can become bureaucratically laden and can lack inventiveness and the means to encourage participation in decision making.

    Organizational Principles
    In addition to the mission, belief statements and parameters, the following organizational principles serve as a guide for reviewing and defining the administrative structure and administrative processes within the district.

    1. The district will be organized in a manner to best serve the mission of the district .and to support key district strategies to accomplish the mission.
    2. Leadership decisions will be filtered through the lens of our mission.
    3. Central service functions will be organized to support teaching and learning at the schools and should foster supportive relationships between schools and central service functions.
    4. The district’s organizational structure must have coherence on a preK-12 basis and must address the successful transition of students within the district.
    5. The district will be structured to maximize inter-division and intra-division collaboration and cooperation.
    6. The district’s organizational structure must have an orientation toward being of service to stakeholders, internally and externally.
    7. The district must be organized in a manner that allows for ongoing public engagement
      and stakeholder input.

    8. To meet the district’s mission, the district will embrace the principles of learning organizations, effective schools, participative and distributive leadership and teamwork.
    9. The district will make better use of data for decision making, analyzing issues, improving district operations, developing improvement plans and evaluating district efforts.
    10. The need for continuous improvement will be emphasized in our leadership work.
    11. Ongoing development and annual evaluation of district leaders is essential.

    Leadership Needs
    Given these organizational principles, as well as a review of the current administrative structure and administrative processes within the district, the following needs exist. In addition, in the development of this plan, input was sought from all administrators during the annual leadership retreat, individual Management Team members and individual members of the Board of Education. These needs were specifically referenced in identifying the recommended changes in our administrative structure and related administrative processes that are found in this report.

    1. There is a need to better align the administrative structure to the district’s mission and Strategic Plan and to place greater priority on the mission-work of our organization (improved achievement for all students and the elimination of achievement gaps).
    2. From an administrative perspective, the mission-work of our district is mainly delivered through teaching and learning and leadership work being done in our schools. Central service functions must act in support of this work. In addition, central service functions are needed to ensure constancy of focus and direction for the district.
    3. New processes are needed to allow for stakeholder engagement and input and to create greater inter-department and division collaboration and cooperation
    4. The mission of the district must be central to decisions made in the district.
    5. The organizational structure must support PreK -12 articulation and coordination needs within the district.
    6. Leadership work must embody principles of contemporary learning organizations, effective school practices, participative and distributive leadership and teamwork. Included in this will be a focus on the purposeful use ofteacher leadership, support for our schools and a focus on positive culture within the district.
    7. There must be an enhanced focus on the use of data in our improvement and related accountability efforts.
    8. There is a need to unifonnly implement school and department improvement plans and to change administrative supervision and evaluation plans based on research in the field and on the need for continuous improvement of all schools, departments and all individual administrators.

    In addition, as this plan was constructed there was a focus on ensuring, over the next couple of years, that the plan was sustainable from a financial point of view.

Madison School District 4K Proposal

Superintendent Dan Nerad [1.5MB PDF]:

Providing four year old kindergarten (4K) may be the district’s next best tool to continue the trend of improving academic achievement for all students and continuing to close the achievement gap.
The quality of care and education that children receive in the early years of their lives is one of the most critical factors in their development. Empirical and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that nurturing environments with appropriate challenging activities have large and lasting effects on our children’s school success, ability to get along with others, and emotional health. Such evidence also indicates that inadequate early childhood care and education increases the danger that at-risk children will grow up with problem behaviors that can lead to later crime and violence.
Background/Charge On February 9, 2009, the Board of Education asked the Superintendent to reconvene staff, and community members to begin planning for a collaborative 4K program in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The committee was directed to develop recommendations and timelines to present to the BOE.
Process Membership is attached and was generated by the AFSCME Child Care Representatives with membership growing as the months proceeded. Kathy Hubbard began facilitation and Jim Moeser is currently facilitating the committee work. Throughout the months of meeting, membership and attendance has been constantly high with energy and enthusiasm the same. The matrix presented in this packet includes a brief overview of the five committees below.

Related:

Perhaps the District might implement these initiatives first – and evaluate their effectiveness prior to expanding the organization (and budget) for 4K.

Madison School District Strategic Plan: Nirvana by 2014/2015?

The Madison School Board recently passed the District’s Strategic Plan. Superintendent Dan Nerad has now published a draft document outlining performance measures for the plan (this is positive). The 600K PDF document is well worth reading. Mr. Nerad’s proposed performance measures rely on the oft criticized – for its lack of rigor – state exam, the WKCE. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently stated that “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum“.
A few highlights from the 600K PDF document:

Related:

Discussing these data is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, use of the WKCE does not instill much confidence, from my perspective.

via “Some States Drop Testing Bar” by John Hechinger.
Happy Halloween!

A Public Hearing on Madison’s November, 2008 Referendum

Channel3000:

Taxpayers got a chance to ask the questions Tuesday night about the upcoming multimillion dollar Madison school referendum.
More than a dozen people turned out to Sherman Middle School for the first of four public hearings across the city.
Superintendent Dan Nerad gave a brief presentation before opening the forum up for questions.
Voters questioned everything from Fund 80 to the Capital Expansion Fund and student achievement.
Active Citizens for Education said they would like to have seen the referendum scheduled for the spring in order to give the district time to re-evaluate programs that they say are not working – programs that could be cut or changed.
“Where they’re talking about maintaining current programs and services it’s not getting good results,” said ACE’s Don Severson. “You look at the achievement gap, look at increased truancy, look an an increased drop-out rate, decreased attendance rates, more money isn’t going to get different results.”
Referendum supporters, Communities And Schools Together, know the $13 million referendum will be a tough sell, but worth it.
“I think it is going to be a hard sell,” said CAST member and first-grade teacher Troy Dassler. “We really need to get people out there who are interested still in investing in infrastructure. I can think of no greater an investment — even in the most difficult tough times that we’re facing that we wouldn’t invest in the future of Madison.”

Tamira Madsen:

School Board President Arlene Silveira was pleased with the dialogue and questions asked at the forum and said she hasn’t been overwhelmed with questions from constituents about the referendum.
“It’s been fairly quiet, and I think it’s been overshadowed by the presidential election and (downturn with) the economy,” Silveira said. “People are very interested, but it does take an explanation.
“People ask a lot of questions just because it’s different (with the tax components). Their initial reaction is: Tell me what this is again and what this means? They realize a lot of thought and work has gone into this and certainly this is something they will support or consider supporting after they go back and look at their own personal needs.”
Superintendent Dan Nerad has already formulated a plan for program and service cuts in the 2009-2010 budget if voters do not pass the referendum. Those include increasing class sizes at elementary and high schools, trimming services for at-risk students, reducing high school support staff, decreasing special education staffing, and eliminating some maintenance projects.
Nerad said outlining potential budget cuts by general categories as opposed to specific programs was the best route for the district at this juncture.

Madison High School “Redesign”: $5.5M Small Learning Community Grant for Teacher Training and Literacy Coordinators

Andy Hall:

A $5.5 million federal grant will boost efforts to shrink the racial achievement gap, raise graduation rates and expand the courses available in the Madison School District’s four major high schools, officials announced Monday.
The five-year U.S. Department of Education grant will help the district build stronger connections to students by creating so-called “small learning communities” that divide each high school population into smaller populations.
Many of those structural changes already have been implemented at two high schools — Memorial and West — and similar redesigns are planned for East and La Follette high schools.
Under that plan, East’s student body will be randomly assigned to four learning communities. La Follette will launch “freshman academies” — smaller class sizes for freshmen in core academic areas, plus advisers and mentors to help them feel connected to the school.

Tamira Madsen:

“The grant centers on things that already are important to the school district: the goals of increasing academic success for all students, strengthening student-student and student-adult relationships and improving post-secondary outlooks,” Nerad said.
Expected plans at Madison East include randomly placing students in one of four learning neighborhoods, while faculty and administrators at La Follette will create “academies” with smaller classes to improve learning for freshmen in core courses. Additional advisors will also be assigned to aid students in academies at La Follette.

Related:

The interesting question in all of this is: does the money drive strategy or is it the other way around? In addition, what is the budget impact after 5 years? A friend mentioned several years ago, during the proposed East High School curriculum change controversy, that these initiatives fail to address the real issue: lack of elementary and middle school preparation.
Finally, will this additional $1.1m in annual funds for 5 years reduce the projected budget “gap” that may drive a fall referendum?

On Madison’s Lack of a 4K Program

Andy Hall:

In Madison, where schools Superintendent Art Rainwater in a 2004 memo described 4K as potentially “the next best tool” for raising students’ performance and narrowing the racial achievement gap, years of study and talks with leaders of early childhood education centers have failed to produce results.
“It’s one of the things that I regret the most, that I think would have made a big impact, that I was not able to do,” said Rainwater, who is retiring next month after leading the district for a decade.
“We’ve never been able to get around the money,” said Rainwater, whose tenure was marked by annual multimillion-dollar budget cuts to conform to the state’s limits on how much money districts can raise from local property taxpayers.
A complicating factor was the opposition of Madison Teachers Inc., the teachers union, to the idea that the 4K program would include preschool teachers not employed by the School District. However, Rainwater said he’s “always believed that those things could have been resolved” if money had been available.
Starting a 4K program for an estimated 1,700 students would cost Madison $5 million the first year and $2.5 million the second year before it would get full state funding in the third year under the state’s school-funding system.
In comparison, the entire state grant available to defray Wisconsin districts’ startup costs next year is $3 million — and that amount is being shared by 32 eligible districts.
One of those districts, Green Bay, is headed by Daniel Nerad, who has been hired to succeed Rainwater in Madison.
“I am excited about it,” said Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira, who is envious of the 4K sign-up information that appears on the Green Bay district’s Web site. “He’s gone out and he’s made it work in Green Bay. That will certainly help us here as we start taking the message forward again.
Madison’s inability to start 4K has gained the attention of national advocates of 4K programs, who hail Wisconsin’s approach as a model during the current national economic downturn. Milwaukee, the state’s largest district, long has offered 4K.
“It’s been disappointing that Madison has been very slow to step up to provide for its children,” said Libby Doggett, executive director of Pre-K Now, a national nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., that campaigns for kindergarten programs for children ages 3 and 4.
“The way 4K is being done in your state is the right way.”

Related:

  • Marc Eisen: Missed Opportunity for 4K and High School Redesign
  • MMSD Budget History: Madison’s spending has grown about 50% from 1998 ($245,131,022) to 2008 ($367,806,712) while enrollment has declined slightly from 25,132 to 24,268 ($13,997/student).

Columbus, Stoughton Granted Startup Funds for 4-Year-Old Kindergarten; Background on Madison’s inaction

Quinn Craugh:


School districts in Stoughton, Columbus, Deerfield, Sauk Prairie and Janesville were among 32 statewide named Monday to receive Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction grants to start kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds.
But it may not be enough for at least one area district.
Getting 4-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten is a key step to raising student achievement levels and graduation rates, particularly among children from low-income families, national research has shown, DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper said.
School districts’ efforts to launch 4K programs have been hampered because it takes three years to get full funding for the program under the state’s school-finance system, according to DPI.
That’s what these grants are supposed to address with $3 million announced for 4K programs to start this fall.
Columbus, one of the school districts that qualified for the grant, would get an estimated $62,814 to enroll 87 children this fall.

Related: Marc Eisen on Missed Opportunity for 4K and High School Redesign.

The good news is that the feds refused to fund the school district’s proposal to revamp the high schools. The plan was wrongheaded in many respects, including its seeming intent to eliminate advanced classes that are overwhelmingly white and mix kids of distressingly varied achievement levels in the same classrooms.
This is a recipe for encouraging more middle-class flight to the suburbs. And, more to the point, addressing the achievement gap in high school is way too late. Turning around a hormone-surging teenager after eight years of educational frustration and failure is painfully hard.
We need to save these kids when they’re still kids. We need to pull them up to grade level well before they hit the wasteland of middle school. That’s why kindergarten for 4-year-olds is a community imperative.
As it happens, state school Supt. Elizabeth Burmaster issued a report last week announcing that 283 of Wisconsin’s 426 school districts now offer 4K. Enrollment has doubled since 2001, to almost 28,000 4-year-olds statewide.
Burmaster nailed it when she cited research showing that quality early-childhood programs prepare children “to successfully transition into school by bridging the effects of poverty, allowing children from economically disadvantaged families to gain an equal footing with their peers.”

Madison Teachers Inc.’s John Matthews on 4 Year Old Kindergarten:

For many years, recognizing the value to both children and the community, Madison Teachers Inc. has endorsed 4-year-old kindergarten being universally accessible to all.
This forward-thinking educational opportunity will provide all children with an opportunity to develop the skills they need to be better prepared to proceed with their education, with the benefit of 4- year-old kindergarten. They will be more successful, not only in school, but in life.
Four-year-old kindergarten is just one more way in which Madison schools will be on the cutting edge, offering the best educational opportunities to children. In a city that values education as we do, there is no question that people understand the value it provides.
Because of the increasing financial pressures placed upon the Madison School District, resulting from state- imposed revenue limits, many educational services and programs have been cut to the bone.
During the 2001-02 budget cycle, the axe unfortunately fell on the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program. The School Board was forced to eliminate the remaining $380,000 funding then available to those families opting to enroll their children in the program.

Jason Shephard on John Matthews:

This includes its opposition to collaborative 4-year-old kindergarten, virtual classes and charter schools, all of which might improve the chances of low achievers and help retain a crucial cadre of students from higher-income families. Virtual classes would allow the district to expand its offerings beyond its traditional curriculum, helping everyone from teen parents to those seeking high-level math and science courses. But the union has fought the district’s attempts to offer classes that are not led by MTI teachers.
As for charter schools, MTI has long opposed them and lobbied behind the scenes last year to kill the Studio School, an arts and technology charter that the school board rejected by a 4-3 vote. (Many have also speculated that Winston’s last minute flip-flop was partly to appease the union.)
“There have become these huge blind spots in a system where the superintendent doesn’t raise certain issues because it will upset the union,” Robarts says. “Everyone ends up being subject to the one big political player in the system, and that’s the teachers union.”
MTI’s opposition was a major factor in Rainwater’s decision to kill a 4-year-old kindergarten proposal in 2003, a city official told Isthmus last year (See “How can we help poor students achieve more?” 3/22/07).
Matthews’ major problem with a collaborative proposal is that district money would support daycare workers who are not MTI members. “The basic union concept gets shot,” he says. “And if you shoot it there, where else are you going to shoot it?”
At times, Matthews can appear downright callous. He says he has no problem with the district opening up its own 4K program, which would cost more and require significant physical space that the district doesn’t have. It would also devastate the city’s accredited non-profit daycare providers by siphoning off older kids whose enrollment offsets costs associated with infants and toddlers.
“Not my problem,” Matthews retorts.

It will be interesting to see where incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad takes this issue.
Kindergarten.

“The time for school change is now: We should get serious about minority achievement”

Steve Braunginn:

Now that Madison School Supt. Art Rainwater is on his way to retirement, it’s time to reexamine programs, staffing and curricula throughout the district.
Let’s face it, again. African American and Latino academic achievement pales in comparison to that of white and Asian American students, though some segments of the Southeast Asian community struggle as well.
Daniel Nerad, the new superintendent, should dust off all the research that the district has gathered over the past 40 years, look at the recent studies pointing to excellence in education and put together a new approach to ending the achievement gap.
Things are already cooking at the Ruth Doyle Administration Building. Restructuring the high schools is in the works. Pam Nash, former Memorial High School principal and now assistant superintendent for secondary schools, is taking on this enormous task. Based on her work at Memorial, she’s the right person for the task.
Nash acknowledges the concerns and complaints of African American parents, educators and community leaders. It’s time to raise those achievement scores and graduation rates. She’s fully aware of a solid approach that didn’t fare well with Rainwater, so she’s left to figure out what else can be done.
First, let’s acknowledge the good news.

Clusty Search: Steve Braunginn.

Madison School Superintendent Finalists Named Later Today

Susan Troller:

And then there will be three.
Members of the Madison School Board will narrow the field of candidates for the next superintendent of the school district from five to three late today. School Board President Arlene Silveira said she expected that the three final candidates would be named sometime late this afternoon or early evening, following three candidate interviews today and two on Friday.
The five candidates are: Bart Anderson, county superintendent of the Franklin County Educational Service Center in Columbus, Ohio; Steve Gallon, district administrative director of the Miami/Dade Public Schools; James McIntyre, chief operating officer of the Boston Public Schools; Daniel Nerad, superintendent of schools, Green Bay Public Schools and Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, chief academic officer, Racine Public School District.
The Capital Times asked candidates why they would like to come to Madison and what accomplishments have given them pride in their careers. Anderson, McIntyre and Vanden Wyngaard were interviewed by phone, and Nerad responded by e-mail. Steve Gallon did not respond to several calls asking for his answers to the two questions.

Related: