Deja vu: 2008 – 2019 Credit for non MadIson School District Courses and Adult Employment

Logan Wroge: To help students make the transition to a higher-intensity setting, two Madison School District teachers spend time at Goodman South instructing courses with solely STEM Academy students and some with a mix of traditional college and high school students. “We thought it was really important to have high school teachers be part of … Continue reading Deja vu: 2008 – 2019 Credit for non MadIson School District Courses and Adult Employment

“Rule Making”, achievement, adult employment, mulligans and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Molly Beck: Tuesday’s decision overturns the court’s own ruling just three years ago when a split panel of justices said in Coyne v. Walker that Evers could write rules and regulations related to education policy on his own — without permission from then-Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature — because the state constitution provides him with … Continue reading “Rule Making”, achievement, adult employment, mulligans and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Adult Employment: Bay Area teachers hold sickout to support striking Oakland teachers

ABC 7: The Albany Teachers Association is currently in negotiations with its district. Their contract expires in the fall. They feel the real battle though is with the state and plan on addressing school funding with Governor Gavin Newsom. “Because the districts can do what they can do, but the state has a lot more … Continue reading Adult Employment: Bay Area teachers hold sickout to support striking Oakland teachers

Adult employment and the Madison School Board’s self interest

Chris Rickert: Like the rest of the board, both also voted to approve the 304-page employee handbook that replaced union contracts beginning in summer 2016. District legal counsel Dylan Pauly pointed to two board policies that include provisions related to managing conflicts of interest among board members. One says board members should “avoid conflicts of … Continue reading Adult employment and the Madison School Board’s self interest

Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending; The Focus On Adult Employment

Josh McGee Taxpayer contributions to teachers’ retirement plans are expected to grow substantially over the next decade. But the underfunding shortfall is so large that aggregate pension debt will also continue to grow. Retirement costs per pupil are already approaching 10% of all education expenditures. Without meaningful reform, these costs, as well as the aggregate … Continue reading Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending; The Focus On Adult Employment

Adult Employment and Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Erin Richards: Spurred by a deal gone sour between Milwaukee Public Schools and the developer commissioned to renovate one of its empty buildings — a deal that kept a private school from buying the facility — Common Council President Michael Murphy has introduced an ordinance that would position the city to take charge and sell … Continue reading Adult Employment and Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

Erin Richards But after Tyson made his offer, an MPS teacher who also is a teachers’ union employee submitted a plan to reopen Lee as a district-run charter school. The School Board was said to be considering both options. It was scheduled to discuss the potential sale or lease of several empty buildings, including the … Continue reading Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

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

The Madison School Board discussed the renewal of Administrator contracts (500K PDF) during their June 10, 2013 meeting (video, about 50 minutes into the meeting). Listen via this 5mb mp3 audio.
The timing and length of administrator contracts along with substantive reviews is not a new subject:
February, 2006: Are Administrators Golden?

Lawrie Kobza pointed out last night that 2-year rolling administrative contracts may be important for some groups of administrators and that the School Board should consider that issue. Otherwise, if the annual pattern continues, extensions will occur in February before the School Board looks at the budget and makes their decisions about staffing. Even though the Superintendent has indicated what positions he proposes to eliminate for next year, when the School Board has additional information later in the budget year, they may want to make different decisions based upon various tradeoffs they believe are important for the entire district.
What might the School Board consider doing? Develop criteria to use to identify/rank your most “valuable” administrative positions (perhaps this already exists) and those positions where the district might be losing its competitive edge. Identify what the “at risk” issues are – wages, financial, gender/racial mix, location, student population mix. Or, start with prioritizing rolling two-year contracts for one of the more “important,” basic administrative groups – principals. Provide the School Board with options re administrative contracts. School board members please ask for options for this group of contracts.
Ms. Kobza commented that making an extension of contracts in February for this group of staff could make these positions appear to be golden, untouchable. Leaving as is might not be well received in Madison by a large number of people, including the thousands of MMSD staff who are not administrators on rolling two-year contracts nor a Superintendent with a rolling contract (without a horizon, I think). The board might be told MMSD won’t be able to attract talented administrators. I feel the School Board needs to publicly discuss the issues and risks to its entire talent pool.
Mr. Nadler reported that MMSD might be losing its edge in the area of administration. He gave one example where there more than a few applicants for an elementary school position (20 applicants); however, other districts, such as Sun Prairie, are attracting more applicants (more than 100). The communities surrounding Madison are becoming more attractive over time as places to live and to do business. If we don’t recognize and try to understand the issues, beyond simply wages and benefits, the situation will continue to worsen. I feel the process in place needs to change in order to be a) more responseive to the issues, b) more flexible for the School Board in their decisionmaking processes, especially around budget time.

Administrator Contracts – School Board Adds to Agenda

Questions that are not clear to me include: a) is a two-year rolling contract required for all administrators, b) what is the difference between non-renewal and extension of a contract – is the end of January date really an extension?, c)is there a Board policy – if not, does one need to be developed, d) are there options open to the School Board to hold on one-year contract extensions due to upcoming cuts to the budget, e) how can changes be made by moving/retraining staff if needed, and f) can grant money being used to pay for administrators be used in other ways (not including grant oversight/accounting? We’re in the same spot as the past two years – not talking about administrator contracts until one week or so before a deadline.
I feel this information needs to be clear and to be transparent to all employees, the board and the community. I believe a multi-year staffing strategy as part of a multi-year strategic plan is important to have, especially given the critical nature of the district’s resources. This idea is not proposed as a solution to the public school’s financial situation – not at all, that’s not the point.

Retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on the “adult employment focus”.
Additional administrator contract links, here.
It is ironic, in my view, that there has not been much change in the District’s administration from the Rainwater era….

An Emphasis on Adult Employment



Andrew Coulson:

This week, President Obama called for the hiring of 10,000 new teachers to beef up math and science achievement. Meanwhile, in America, Earth, Sol-System, public school employment has grown 10 times faster than enrollment for 40 years (see chart), while achievement at the end of high school has stagnated in math and declined in science (see other chart).
Either the president is badly misinformed about our education system or he thinks that promising to hire another 10,000 teachers union members is politically advantageous-in which case he would seem to be badly misinformed about the present political climate. Or he lives in an alternate universe in which Kirk and Spock have facial hair and government monopolies are efficient. It’s hard to say.

Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%, and Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

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

Janet Mertz:

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below. I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed. We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade. One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.

Great New Essay Tells the Truth About Teacher Pay. Unfortunately, in Ed World, the Truth Is Just Another Story

Mike Antonucci: Biggs and Richwine are especially effective in dissecting the annual reports on the “teacher pay gap” published by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute. They demonstrate that when EPI’s methodology is applied to other professions, it shows “pay gaps” for about 40 percent of all occupations. EPI’s methods suggest telemarketers are woefully underpaid. Biggs … Continue reading Great New Essay Tells the Truth About Teacher Pay. Unfortunately, in Ed World, the Truth Is Just Another Story

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

Wiseye @ 24 September WisPolitics Lunch: Jim Zellmer: Thank you for your service Governor Evers. Under your leadership, the Wisconsin d.p.i. granted Mulligan’s to thousands of elementary teachers who couldn’t pass a reading exam (that’s the “Foundations of Reading” elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam), yet our students lag Alabama, a state that spends less … Continue reading My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Parental rights and the Taxpayer Supported Madison School District

Logan Wroge: Last school year, the district began using a 35-page guidance document on student gender identity, which is based on federal and state laws and School Board policies regarding anti-bullying and non-discrimination, Hohs said. While the document was not voted on by the Madison School Board, members received updates on it when it was … Continue reading Parental rights and the Taxpayer Supported Madison School District

“ driven to leave the Democratic Party by the state of Hartford Public Schools, which lag far behind the state but also trail Connecticut’s other urban districts in terms of quality“

Rebecca Lurye: Democrats, in leadership in Hartford since 1971, are responsible for the city’s educational failures, Lewis said. “[The party] doesn’t serve black people, it doesn’t serve middle-class or poor white people, it doesn’t serve Hispanics,” Lewis said. “It serves people at the top tier of the party. “No matter how many times people from … Continue reading “ driven to leave the Democratic Party by the state of Hartford Public Schools, which lag far behind the state but also trail Connecticut’s other urban districts in terms of quality“

COMMENTARY on Madison k-12 teacher compensatioN: 2 + 2.44 + benefits

Logan Wroge: In addition to a higher base wage, the district has said that, on the average, employees will receive another 2% salary increase this year based on a salary schedule that awards experience and education. But MTI has said about 1,000 employees, including some of the lowest paid, won’t receive more money through the … Continue reading COMMENTARY on Madison k-12 teacher compensatioN: 2 + 2.44 + benefits

Commentary on Betsy DeVos Visit to a Milwaukee Voucher School

Do kids who attend private schools w publicly funded tuition vouchers do better than public schools? Research is mixed. Here’s a comprehensive look at the highs and lows in Milwaukee, which I wrote right as ⁦@BetsyDeVosED⁩ was rising to office. https://t.co/esSBjs5T7C — Erin Richards (@emrichards) September 16, 2019 .@betsydevosed was involved early in Wisconsin’s voucher … Continue reading Commentary on Betsy DeVos Visit to a Milwaukee Voucher School

Providence teachers push back against harsh report on schools

Madeleine List: Providence teachers describe a climate of negativity, an air of uncertainty and a culture of blame hovering over their district since the release of a report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy this summer on the state of the schools. But for them, the anxiety caused by the scathing report, the … Continue reading Providence teachers push back against harsh report on schools

“ They don’t want the competition of a private school”

waow: If we get this property and we will get it we will start the groundwork for a Christian school,” said Wade Reimer of Shepherd’s Watch. However, there is confusion over who owns the building. The confusion over the ownership led to a lawsuit between the Village of Mattoon, Town of Hutchins and The Antigo … Continue reading “ They don’t want the competition of a private school”

Why are Madison’s Students Struggling to Read?

Jenny Peek: Mark Seidenberg, a UW-Madison professor and cognitive neuroscientist, has spent decades researching the way humans acquire language. He is blunt about Wisconsin’s schools’ ability to teach children to read: “If you want your kid to learn to read you can’t assume that the school’s going to take care of it. You have to … Continue reading Why are Madison’s Students Struggling to Read?

Jersey City Board Of Education, Owned and Operated by Teacher Union Leaders. A Board Member Speaks Out.

Laura Waters: At that time Matt filed an ethics complaint with the State Ethics Commission. The Commission issued an Advisory Opinion on April 3d. (See the bottom of this post for the full opinion.) Regarding Lorenzo Richardson, the Commission opined that Mr. Richardson may have opted to support the JCEA over the Board and its … Continue reading Jersey City Board Of Education, Owned and Operated by Teacher Union Leaders. A Board Member Speaks Out.

The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama: Without telling me, she went over to the school and began a weeks-long process of behind-the-scenes lobbying, which led to me and a couple of other high-performing kids getting quietly pulled out of class, given a battery of tests, and about a week later reinstalled permanently into a bright and orderly third-grade class … Continue reading The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results. Chan Stroman tracks the frequent Foundations of Reading (FoRT) mulligans: Yet the statutory FoRT requirement is now deemed satisfied by “attempts” … Continue reading Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

2004-2019 Wisconsin K-12 Spending: Property Tax & Redistributed Taxpayer funds

Tap for a larger version. Raw data [Excel Numbers] via Sara Hynek. Note that taxpayer supported K-12 school districts receive funds from a variety of sources, including federal taxpayer funds along with local fees. Madison plans to spend $518,955,288 during the 2018-2019 school year. That’s about $20,000 per student (26,917, which includes 4k), which is … Continue reading 2004-2019 Wisconsin K-12 Spending: Property Tax & Redistributed Taxpayer funds

Commentary on Redistributed Taxpayer Funds and the Madison School District (no mention of total spending or effectiveness)

Former Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: It turns out that this isn’t true. Explaining why gets a bit complicated, but here goes. Mr. Hughes voted against the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts. Madison Wisconsin High … Continue reading Commentary on Redistributed Taxpayer Funds and the Madison School District (no mention of total spending or effectiveness)

Los Angeles School chief’s plan would divide L.A. school district into 32 networks. “Savings from the Central Bureaucracy”

Howard Blume & Anna Phillips: Under a proposal being developed confidentially, Beutner would divide the system into 32 “networks,” moving authority and resources out of the central office and into neighborhoods. He is expected to make his plan public next month. In L.A. Unified’s downtown headquarters, managers and other employees recently have been asked to … Continue reading Los Angeles School chief’s plan would divide L.A. school district into 32 networks. “Savings from the Central Bureaucracy”

Madison Schools’ 4th Grade Reading: 2005-2016

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, now around $20k per student. Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results. 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before: On November 7, Superintendent Art … Continue reading Madison Schools’ 4th Grade Reading: 2005-2016

Commentary on Madison’s K-12 spending, curriculum, rhetoric and governance practices “Plenty of Resources (2013)”

Steven Elbow: To make their point, the couple traced reading and math proficiency rates for the class of 2017 through the years, finding that the black and Hispanic cohorts saw little if any improvements between grades three to 11 and trailed white students by as many as 50 percentage points. “Both of these things suggest … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s K-12 spending, curriculum, rhetoric and governance practices “Plenty of Resources (2013)”

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Governance and the November, 2018 Election

<a href=”https://madison.com/ct/news/local/education/democratic-legislators-look-to-make-big-changes-to-state-education/article_882a0ddd-3671-5769-b969-dd9d2bc795db.html”>Negassi Tesfamichael</a>: <blockquote> Many local Democratic state legislators say much of the future of K-12 education in Wisconsin depends on the outcome of the Nov. 6 election, particularly the gubernatorial race between state superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Legislators spoke at a forum at Christ Presbyterian Church Wednesday night, … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Governance and the November, 2018 Election

“Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement”

Will Flanders: Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement. A school with a population of 100% students who are economically disadvantaged would be expected to have proficiency rates more than 40% lower than a school with wealthier students. Indeed, this economics achievement gap is far larger in … Continue reading “Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement”

Wisconsin DPI: “We set a high bar for achievement,” & abort Foundations of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement}

Molly Beck and Erin Richards: “We set a high bar for achievement,” DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said. “To reach more than half (proficiency), we would need to raise the achievement of our lowest district and subgroup performers through policies like those recommended in our budget, targeted at the large, urban districts.” The new scores reveal … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI: “We set a high bar for achievement,” & abort Foundations of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement}

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Jessie Opoien: Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state’s K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers’ budget letter includes a swipe at the … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

“A Adult issues kept you out of the classroom where you belong”

Nate Bowling: That’s an injustice and there’s no way to spin that. There shouldn’t have been a strike. I found the last two weeks mind-numbingly frustrating because it was preventable. If the McCleary Settlement was done with transparency, rather than dead-of-night-last-second deal making, we wouldn’t be here. If a fair contract had been offered from … Continue reading “A Adult issues kept you out of the classroom where you belong”

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Kelly Meyerhofer: Walker proposed $13.7 billion in total state support for public schools for the 2017-19 biennium. That includes about $2.2 billion in property tax credits that are counted as K-12 funding, but don’t go directly into the classroom. Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger touched on the record amount in a Saturday statement: “Scott Walker … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

In favor of deep (and complex) reporting

Amanda Ripley: The lesson for journalists (or anyone) working amidst intractable conflict: complicate the narrative. First, complexity leads to a fuller, more accurate story. Secondly, it boosts the odds that your work will matter — particularly if it is about a polarizing issue. When people encounter complexity, they become more curious and less closed off to new … Continue reading In favor of deep (and complex) reporting

Support modifications to the Wisconsin PI-34 educator licensing rule

Wisconsin Reading Coalition E-Alert: We have sent the following message and attachment to the members of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, urging modifications to the proposed PI-34 educator licensing rule that will maintain the integrity of the statutory requirement that all new elementary, special education, and reading teachers, along with reading specialists, … Continue reading Support modifications to the Wisconsin PI-34 educator licensing rule

I’m an NJEA member: With Supreme Court ruling, now I can use money from union dues on what I want

Cody Miller, via a kind reader: I’ve been a member of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) — one of the nation’s most powerful state teachers unions — since I started working in education a year and a half ago. I’ve been an advocate for education my entire life, served on a board of trustees … Continue reading I’m an NJEA member: With Supreme Court ruling, now I can use money from union dues on what I want

Requesting action one more time on Wisconsin PI-34 teacher licensing

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Thanks to everyone who contacted the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) with concerns about the new teacher licensing rules drafted by DPI. As you know, PI-34 provides broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) that go way beyond providing flexibility for … Continue reading Requesting action one more time on Wisconsin PI-34 teacher licensing

Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Wisconsin Reading Coalition has alerted you over the past 6 months to DPI’s intentions to change PI-34, the administrative rule that governs teacher licensing in Wisconsin. We consider those changes to allow overly-broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test for new teachers. The revised PI-34 has … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI efforts to weaken the Foundations of Reading Test for elementary teachers

97 (!) Emergency Elementary Teacher Licenses Granted to the Madison School District in 2016-2017

Wisconsin Reading Coalition (PDF), via a kind email: As we reported recently, districts in Wisconsin, with the cooperation of DPI, have been making extensive use of emergency licenses to hire individuals who are not fully-licensed teachers. Click here to see how many emergency licenses were issued in your district in 2016-17 for elementary teachers, special … Continue reading 97 (!) Emergency Elementary Teacher Licenses Granted to the Madison School District in 2016-2017

Madison School Board Continues Non Diverse Governance Practices with Proposed Montessori Academy School

Amber Walker: In a 5-2 decision on Monday, the Madison School Board voted to postpone the charter approval of Isthmus Montessori Academy. The board wanted more clarity around the school’s proposed attendance area, financial and academic accountability standards at their three-year mark, and language in the proposal that asks for waivers that apply to early … Continue reading Madison School Board Continues Non Diverse Governance Practices with Proposed Montessori Academy School

Independent (!) Charter School RFP: Madison OR Milwaukee (!)

University of Wisconsin System Office of Educational Opportunity, via a kind email: As home to the nation’s first public kindergarten, Wisconsin has a proud history of visionary educators incubating innovative educational opportunities for students, families, and their communities. The Office of Educational Opportunity is proud to be a partner in the Badger State’s living legacy … Continue reading Independent (!) Charter School RFP: Madison OR Milwaukee (!)

Getting Their Goats / Mills College’s use of hoofed herd draws less-than-gruff response from Teamsters

Rick DelVeccio: The Teamsters are complaining that Oakland’s Mills College took jobs away from working men and women and gave them to goats. The union’s top official in the East Bay has told college officials that Mills may have violated its work agreement with the Teamsters when, instead of dispatching union workers to clear and … Continue reading Getting Their Goats / Mills College’s use of hoofed herd draws less-than-gruff response from Teamsters

Parent LIFO Lawsuit: The battle over teacher seniority in N.J. has just begun

New Jersey Star Ledger Editorial: The Newark parents who sued, arguing that forcing school districts to prioritize seniority over teacher talent hurts their kids, just lost their case in court. That’s a real blow to students, who don’t have a special interest union. But make no mistake: this fight is far from over. Their families … Continue reading Parent LIFO Lawsuit: The battle over teacher seniority in N.J. has just begun

On Madison’s Lack Of K-12 Governance Diversity: “Cheatham declined to address that question”

Chris Rockert: Attendance, graduation rates and college enrollment were generally on the upswing beginning five to seven years before Hancock started moving toward selective enrollment. More to the point for Madison and West High is that improvements began happening at Hancock before Boran took over or even worked there. Regardless of who or what is … Continue reading On Madison’s Lack Of K-12 Governance Diversity: “Cheatham declined to address that question”

Mission Vs Organization: Shades Of Cutting Strings….

Valerie Strauss: “Their priorities are distorted. We need to make a decision to put kids first. Especially when they’re savings is about $500,000 to $750,000, when they’re paying out a million dollars on, on public relations specialists and on lobbyists, a million dollars.” Former Superintendent Art Rainwater frequently attempted to kill Madison’s strings program. Like … Continue reading Mission Vs Organization: Shades Of Cutting Strings….

“A Typical Well-Funded But Underperforming School District”

Because of its location near the nation’s capital, its charming historic Old Town, and its median family income of $109,228 (the highest of any city in Virginia), outsiders might think that Alexandria boasts a first-rate public-school system. It doesn’t. The quality of the public schools within the city varies greatly, and system as a whole … Continue reading “A Typical Well-Funded But Underperforming School District”

University of Wisconsin System Charter School Opportunities, including Madison; Draft Recovery School Legislation

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, via Gary Bennett: The University interprets its responsibility to authorize charter schools as a part of a larger attempt to improve education for children and in this instance, the education of children in the City. Charter schools must have programs that provide quality education to urban students and address the critical issues … Continue reading University of Wisconsin System Charter School Opportunities, including Madison; Draft Recovery School Legislation

Wisconsin Act 10, Outcomes, Spending And Rhetoric

Molly Beck: A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Act 10 has been an “undisputed victory for Wisconsin taxpayers.” “Wisconsin’s declining union membership since the passage of right-to-work legislation only reflects that workers now have the ability to make their own decision about the costs and benefits of union membership,” said spokeswoman … Continue reading Wisconsin Act 10, Outcomes, Spending And Rhetoric

“placing adult-centric politics over systemic school improvement”

Laura Waters: Plenty, according to members of the “Save Camden High School” cadre, who have rebranded themselves under the New Jersey Communities United banner and are planning a confrontation tonight at the Camden Board of Education meeting. Instead of following Sheriff Wilson’s example of placing children’s academic needs on top, this group has decided a … Continue reading “placing adult-centric politics over systemic school improvement”

Denver Public Schools set to strip 2% (47) of teachers of tenure after poor evaluations

Chalkbeat: Compared with other large Colorado school districts, Denver Public Schools has a higher proportion of teachers set to lose tenure under a sweeping educator effectiveness law passed six years ago. Forty-seven Denver teachers are poised to lose non-probationary status — or tenure — after two consecutive years of being rated ineffective at their jobs, … Continue reading Denver Public Schools set to strip 2% (47) of teachers of tenure after poor evaluations

Chicago Schools: $38,000 Pension And Bond Debt Per Student

Josh McGee: CPS’ budget crisis was not created overnight. For more than a decade, the district has struggled with a widening structural budget deficit. Since 2001, inflation-adjusted spending per pupil increased by nearly 40 percent. In 2001, CPS spent close to $12,000 per student; in 2015, $16,432. Yet revenue has not kept pace: CPS per-pupil … Continue reading Chicago Schools: $38,000 Pension And Bond Debt Per Student

Madison Government Schools’ K – 12 System Continues To Fight Diversity

Chris Rickert: Comparing Madison’s daycare and early childhood education programs with Madison’s public schools would not be apples-to-apples. But the quality of care available to Madison’s young children appears to stand in stark contrast to the quality of education those children later receive in Madison’s public schools. Everyone knows about the district’s racial achievement gaps, … Continue reading Madison Government Schools’ K – 12 System Continues To Fight Diversity

The Teacher Who Could Gut Unions

Josh Eidelson: A Supreme Court decision coming by the end of June could be devastating for organized labor. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), challenges a 1977 ruling allowing public-sector unions to charge nonmembers covered by union contracts mandatory fees to pay for the costs of collective bargaining. The lead plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, … Continue reading The Teacher Who Could Gut Unions

“Rapidly expanding charters” – Washington, DC. Expensive one size fits all reigns in Madison

Caroline Bermudez: In a city with the greatest economic inequity in the country and with a rapidly expanding charter school now serving nearly half of the city’s students, D.C. is one of the few traditional public school districts in the country with enrollment gains and is on track to exceed 50,000 students by 2017. Much … Continue reading “Rapidly expanding charters” – Washington, DC. Expensive one size fits all reigns in Madison

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

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc. The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a … Continue reading Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Stop treating teachers like commodities

Thomas Arnett: Fortunately, the tides in education policy are finally pushing the system to realize the importance of its teachers. Test-based accountability is forcing districts to look past their myopic focus on enrollments, course offerings, and graduation rates and to take students’ academic performance more seriously. And because modern research has shown that teachers are … Continue reading Stop treating teachers like commodities

“Democracy, Deliberation, and Education”

WORT’s A Public Affair: Just in time for the new school year, today guest host Mike Wagner talks with UW professor Robert Asen on his new publication, “Democracy, Deliberation, and Education,” on the difficult decisions school boards have to make the democratic process behind it. From Penn State University Press, “Democracy, Deliberation, and Education” looks … Continue reading “Democracy, Deliberation, and Education”

Commentary on Madison’s long term Reading “Tax” & Monolithic K-12 System

Possible de-regulation of Wisconsin charter school authorizations has lead to a bit of rhetoric on the state of Madison’s schools, their ability to compete and whether the District’s long term, disastrous reading results are being addressed. We begin with Chris Rickert: Madison school officials not eager to cede control of ‘progress’: Still, Department of Public … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s long term Reading “Tax” & Monolithic K-12 System

“in both professions, unions have consistently exploited that sympathy to protect failed policies and incompetent personnel.”

Ross Douthat In an irony typical of politics, then, the right’s intellectual critique of public-sector unions is illustrated by the ease with which police unions have bridled and ridden actual right-wing politicians. Which in turn has left those unions in a politically enviable position, insulated from any real pressure to reform. Yet reform is what … Continue reading “in both professions, unions have consistently exploited that sympathy to protect failed policies and incompetent personnel.”

Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

The Economist: This is not the end of the story for vouchers, however. In both Milwaukee and Washington, voucher schemes get similar results to the public schools but with much less money. Under the DC scheme, each voucher is worth $8,500 a year, compared with $17,500 to educate a child in the public school system. … Continue reading Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

Already a friend to charter schools, Wisconsin could see more growth under budget proposal; one size fits all continues in Madison

Molly Beck: “That charter authorizer is without accountability, if you will, to the voter in any way,” she said. “And so why would we want to do that? That’s what I would like explained to me. Why would that be a good thing for the state of Wisconsin? Honestly, I can’t fathom what the justification … Continue reading Already a friend to charter schools, Wisconsin could see more growth under budget proposal; one size fits all continues in Madison

Going Rogue on Monolithic Education Administrative Costs

Chris Rickert: Talk about putting your best foot forward only to get it stomped on. Last week, in response to an open records request from this newspaper, the UW System released internal emails that showed System President Ray Cross throwing UW-Eau Claire chancellor James Schmidt under the bus for sending him “candid” ideas for how … Continue reading Going Rogue on Monolithic Education Administrative Costs

Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

Tap to view larger versions.Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff: In support of the continued work of developing a thriving workforce, the HR team conducted a survey of the 10 largest districts in the State of Wisconsin as well as districts in Dane County to provide a picture of our current compensation standing. It is our intent to develop … Continue reading Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

Madison’s Staffing Compared to Long Beach & Boston

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

Property Tax Season: Comparing Madison Area Burdens in light of quarterly payments

The arrival of Thanksgiving means local homeowners will soon see their annual property tax bills. The chart below compares Madison area homes sold in 2012, ranging in price from $239,900 to $255,000 Tap to view a larger version. Excel. A Middleton home’s property tax burden is about 13% less than a similar property in Madison … Continue reading Property Tax Season: Comparing Madison Area Burdens in light of quarterly payments

Madison’s monolithic K-12 model, costs more & does less while the world races by…

Kevin Roose interviews Wisconsin native Marc Andreesen: But let’s just project forward. In ten years, what if we had Math 101 online, and what if it was well regarded and you got fully accredited and certified? What if we knew that we were going to have a million students per semester? And what if we … Continue reading Madison’s monolithic K-12 model, costs more & does less while the world races by…

Gubernatorial Candidate Burke’s Voucher & Status Quo Governance Commentary

Patrick Marley: Democrat Mary Burke told education officials Friday she would fight as governor to stop the expansion of voucher schools but would leave alone the long-standing program in Milwaukee. “This is something that may sound like a good political sound bite, but it is bad public policy,” she said of expanding the voucher program. … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Burke’s Voucher & Status Quo Governance Commentary

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education; ” Stop Running the system for the sake of the system”

Steve Denning: I have been asked for my “single best idea for reforming K-12 education”. When you only have one shot, you want to make it count. So I thought I would share my idea here, in case anyone has a brighter insight. Root cause: factory model of management To decide what is the single … Continue reading The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education; ” Stop Running the system for the sake of the system”

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

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

Dirty little secret of US ed spending: Since 1950, “US schools increased their non-teaching positions by 702%.”; Ranks #2 in world on non teacher staff spending!

Matthew Richmond (PDF), via several kind readers: Why do American public schools spend more of their operating budgets on non-teachers than almost every other country in the world, including nations that are as prosperous and humane as ours? We can’t be certain. But we do know this: » The number of non-teachers on U.S. school … Continue reading Dirty little secret of US ed spending: Since 1950, “US schools increased their non-teaching positions by 702%.”; Ranks #2 in world on non teacher staff spending!

Madison school board’s Ed Hughes: Don’t extend Teacher Union contract without rethinking hiring process

Pat Schneider: It’s not a good idea for the Madison School District to extend its labor contract with teachers through the 2015-2016 school year without renegotiating it, says school board member Ed Hughes. Hughes wants Madison School District administrators — especially school principals — to have the ability to offer jobs to the best teacher … Continue reading Madison school board’s Ed Hughes: Don’t extend Teacher Union contract without rethinking hiring process

Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Document (April, 2014 version)

The Madison School District (3MB PDF): Five Priority Areas (just like the “Big 10”) but who is counting! – page 6: – Common Core – Behavior Education Plan – Recruitment and hiring – New educator induction – Educator Effectiveness – Student, parent and staff surveys – Technology plan 2014-2015 “budget package” 3MB PDF features some … Continue reading Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Document (April, 2014 version)

Comments & Links on Madison’s Latest Teacher Union Agreement

Andrea Anderson:

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

Pat Schneider:

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

Andrea Anderson:

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

Pat Schneider:

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

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

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

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

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

On this Labor Day, let’s remember what unions have done for America

Fabius Maximus:

To remember the loneliness, the fear and the insecurity of men who once had to walk alone in huge factories, beside huge machines. To realize that labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen. To be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father. To know these things is to understand what American labor means.
— Adlai Stevenson, in a speech to the American Federation of Labor, New York City on 22 September 1952

Yin & Yang:

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

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”.

The dichotomy that is Madison School Board Governance was on display this past week.
1. Board Member TJ Mertz, in light of the District’s plan to continue growing spending and property taxes for current programs, suggests that “fiscal indulgences“:

Tax expenditures are not tax cuts. Tax expenditures are socialism and corporate welfare. Tax expenditures are increases on anyone who does not receive the benefit or can’t hire a lobbyist…to manipulate the code to their favor.

be applied to certain school volunteers.
This proposal represents a continuation of the Districts’ decades long “same service” approach to governance, with declining academic results that spawned the rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.
2. Madison’s new Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham introduced her “Strategic Framework” at Wednesday’s Downtown Rotary Club meeting.
The Superintendent’s letter (jpg version) (within the “framework” document) to the Madison Community included this statement (word cloud):

Rather than present our educators with an ever-changing array of strategies, we will focus on what we know works and implement these strategies extremely well. While some of the work may seem familiar, having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district. This is what it takes to narrow and eliminate gaps in student achievement.

The Madison School Board’s letter (jpg version) to the community includes this statement:

Public education is under sustained attack, both in our state and across the nation. Initiatives like voucher expansion are premised on the notion that public schools are not up to the challenge of effectively educating diverse groups of students in urban settings.
We are out to prove that wrong. With Superintendent Cheatham, we agree that here in Madison all the ingredients are in place. Now it is up to us to show that we can serve as a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partnerships and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
Our Strategic Framework lays out a roadmap for our work. While some of the goals will seem familiar, what’s new is a clear and streamlined focus and a tangible and energizing sense of shared commitment to our common goals.
The bedrock of the plan is the recognition that learning takes place in the classroom in the interactions between teachers and students. The efforts of all of us – from school board members to everyone in the organization – should be directed toward enhancing the quality and effectiveness of those interactions.
There is much work ahead of us, and the results we are expecting will not arrive overnight. But with focus, shared effort and tenacity, we can transform each of our schools into thriving schools. As we do so, Madison will be the school district of choice in Dane County.

Madison School Board word cloud:

Related: North Carolina Ends Pay Boosts for Teacher Master’s Degrees; Tenure for elementary and high-school teachers also eliminated

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a budget bill Friday that eliminates teacher tenure and–in a rare move–gets rid of the automatic pay increase teachers receive for earning a master’s degree.
The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching.
Although a few other states have talked about doing away with the automatic pay increase for advanced degrees, experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.
The budget bill–which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week–also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.
It comes as states and districts across the country are revamping teacher evaluations, salaries and job security, and linking them more closely to student performance. These changes have been propelled, in part, by the Obama administration and GOP governors.

The challenge for Madison is moving away from long time governance structures and practices, including a heavy (157 page pdf & revised summary of changes) teacher union contract. Chris Rickert’s recent column on Madison’s healthcare practices provides a glimpse at the teacher – student expenditure tension as well.
Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary speech offers important background on Madison’s dichotomy:

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

“Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay”.

A factory model for schools no longer works

Michael B. Horn And Meg Evans:

The past several decades have seen technology transform industry after industry. Nearly every sector in America has used new technologies to innovate in ways nearly unimaginable a generation before the change.
One sector, however, has remained nearly the same as it was a century ago.
The education system in place in urban school districts around the country was created in the early 1900s to serve a different time with different needs. In 1900, only 17% of all jobs required so-called knowledge workers, whereas over 60% do today.
Back then, the factory-model system that educators adopted created schools that in essence monolithically processed students in batches. By instituting grades and having a teacher focus on just one set of students of the same academic proficiency, the theory went, teachers could teach the same subjects, in the same way and at the same pace to all children in the classroom.
When most students would grow up to work in a factory or an industrial job of some sort, this standardization worked just fine. But now that we ask increasingly more students to master higher order knowledge and skills, this arrangement falls short.
Milwaukee and Wisconsin as a whole have felt this pressure acutely. Between 2011 and 2012, Wisconsin had the biggest six-month decline in manufacturing jobs in the nation after California. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel special report, the city’s pool of college-educated adults ranks among the lowest of the country’s 50 biggest cities. To become an average city among the top 50, Milwaukee would need another 36,000 adults with college degrees. Since 1990, it has added fewer than 1,000 a year.

Spot on. Much more on our “Frederick Taylor” style K-12 system and its’ focus on adult employment, here.

Seattle Schools’ Administrative Governance: “Culture of Bureaucracy”

Melissa Westbrook

There are sometimes days doing this watchdog work that are defeating, sad and frustrating. Today is one those. I’ll get to the issue at hand but a few thoughts first.
I’ve said this before – I do truly believe we have some good and decent people working in SPS. There are several up the food chain who are almost great but, like many a bureaucracy, have those whose work either drags them down or mires them in place.
I’ve also said this before – anyone who works in leadership at SPS who does not read and heed the words in the Moss-Adams report of 2002 is doomed to failure. Or, at least doomed to frustration.
The echo in my head from that brilliant report (and I paraphrase here) –
It does not matter what structural or systemic change you bring to an institution, if the culture of bureaucracy at an institution does not change, nothing changes.

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

Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour

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

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

An Update on the Madison Schools’ Administrator Contracts

Robert Nadler (PDF):

The list of administrators who are receiving a non-extension of contract is extensive due to the decision to move from rolling two-year contracts to straight two-year contracts and the desire to have approximately half of the administrators on odd-year contracts and half on even-year contracts. Other than the normal one-year contracted administrators, volunteers were solicited from the group of administrators who would have normally received a one-year contract extension to accept a non- extension this year and then accept a two-year contract for 2014-16. After the volunteers were accounted for, a lottery was held.
There is a group of 33 administrators in their first two years of employment with the district who are on one-year contracts. These contracts were approved in January 2013 and are not reflected on the attached lists (REVISED Appendix 000-12-5).

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

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

Pat Schneider:

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

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

Number of Homeschoolers Growing Nationwide Researchers are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years as more families spurn public schools.

Julia Lawrence:

As the dissatisfaction with the U.S. education system among parents grows, so does the appeal of homeschooling. Since 1999, the number of children who are being homeschooled has increased by 75%. Although currently only 4% of all school children nationwide are educated at home, the number of primary school kids whose parents choose to forgo traditional education is growing seven times faster than the number of kids enrolling in K-12 every year.
Any concerns expressed about the quality of education offered to the kids by their parents can surely be put to rest by the consistently high placement of homeschooled kids on standardized assessment exams. Data shows that those who are independently educated typically score between 65th and 89th percentile on such exams, while those attending traditional schools average on the 50th percentile. Furthermore, the achievement gaps, long plaguing school systems around the country, aren’t present in homeschooling environment. There’s no difference in achievement between sexes, income levels or race/ethnicity.

Recent studies laud homeschoolers’ academic success, noting their significantly higher ACT-Composite scores as high schoolers and higher grade point averages as college students. Yet surprisingly, the average expenditure for the education of a homeschooled child, per year, is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $10,000 per child, per year, for public school students.

College recruiters from the best schools in the United States aren’t slow to recognize homeschoolers’ achievements. Those from non-traditional education environments matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools. Homeschoolers are actively recruited by schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University and Duke.

Related: A focus on adult employment.

Shortchanging Illinois School Kids

The Chicago Tribune:

Indiana lawmakers are proposing huge increases in state education funding this year. Ditto those in Wisconsin.
Here in Illinois, The Deadbeat State? Just the opposite. Education funding is being strangled by the same python that is strangling the rest of state government’s finances: pension obligations. Every day that the Legislature delays the enactment of pension reform, the unfunded liability of the state’s five pension funds grows by $17 million, according to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office.
In this state, we’re not arguing about how to, say, give more money to schools because great schools drive growth and innovation, attract businesses, create jobs.
No, we’re arguing instead about which school kids will get cheated more than other school kids because state lawmakers dither on a pension fix — kids from richer districts or those from poorer districts? That’s the depressing debate we’re having.
Here’s why: In Illinois, the Legislature sets a “foundation” funding level that the state says every student needs for an adequate education. That’s the starting point for a calculation that determines how much state aid each district receives. The calculation considers each district’s local taxing ability to meet that foundation level, and also looks at how many students in the district need extra support because they’re from low-income families. Districts that have relatively lower revenue and educate relatively more higher-need students receive more state aid.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Speech:

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

Reading Recovery in Madison….. 28% to 58%; Lags National Effectiveness Average….


Tap or click for a larger version of the above chart.

Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore:

In investigating the options for data to report for these programs for 2011-12 and for prior years, Research & Program Evaluation staff have not been able to find a consistent way that students were identified as participants in these literacy interventions in prior years.
As such, there are serious data concerns that make the exact measures too difficult to secure at this time. Staff are working now with Curriculum & Assessment leads to find solutions. However, it is possible that this plan will need to be modified based on uncertain data availability prior to 2011-12.

Much more on Madison’s disastrous reading results, here. Reading continues to be job one for our $392,000,000 public schools.


Tap or click to view a larger version of the above image.
Measuring Madison’s Progress – Final Report (2.5MB PDF).
Given the results, perhaps the continued $pending and related property tax increases for Reading Recovery are driven by adult employment, rather than kids learning to read.
UPDATE: April 1, 2013 Madison School Board discussion of the District’s reading results. I found the curriculum creation conversation toward the end of the meeting fascinating, particularly in light of these long term terrible results. I am not optimistic that student reading skills will improve given the present structure and practices. 30 MB MP3.

Give the children the vote?

Chrystia Freeland:

Here’s a novel way to address the problems caused by rising income inequality: give children the vote.
One virtue of this iconoclastic idea, recently advanced by the Canadian economist Miles Corak, is that it sidesteps the usual partisan debates. After all, the right and left have profound moral disagreements about economic inequality. But whatever your political stripe, you almost certainly believe in equality of opportunity.
Unfortunately, some of Corak’s most celebrated work has been to show that rising income inequality and declining social mobility go together. This relationship, which Alan B. Krueger, the head of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has dubbed the Great Gatsby Curve, is one of the most powerful reasons to care about rising income inequality.
That’s where the kids come in. In a policy paper published last month by Canada 2020, a Canadian progressive research group, Corak points out that the group that suffers most from declining social mobility is the young. As it happens, this is also one of the last human constituencies that doesn’t have the right to vote. That relationship may not be coincidental.
“Older individuals, and those with more education working in higher-skilled occupations, are more likely to vote,” Corak writes in the paper. “But, in addition, there is a broad bias by virtue of the simple fact that children are disenfranchised. Children’s rights are not adequately recognized and they have a reduced political voice in setting social priorities.”
Corak has a simple and radical solution to that bias: Give children the vote. “When you first hear about it, it sounds like a crazy idea, and that was my first reaction,” Corak told me, speaking by phone from Ottawa.

Yes.
Related: “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment”

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.

Neenah teachers plan suit over loss of $170,000 retirement stipends

Bruce Vielmetti:

Teachers all over Wisconsin lost benefits after Bruce Vielmetti:Act 10 eliminated most collective bargaining by public employees.
But maybe none lost more than those in Neenah, where hundreds of veteran educators are now headed to court in a class-action lawsuit to try to win back $170,000 in stipends, which supplemented their regular pensions.
District officials said changes to the retirement plan were necessary in light of $185 million in unfunded retirement liabilities.
“Obviously, you care about what your neighbors think, but ultimately you have to look out for your family,” said Tim Hopfensperger, 49, who noted he passed up administrative jobs in other districts because the extra pay over 10 years still wouldn’t match what he thought he had coming from Neenah, where he’s been an elementary school teacher since he was recruited from Germantown schools in 1990.
For years, Neenah’s teachers enjoyed one of the most generous retirement plans in Wisconsin. Many who were hired in the 1990s could retire at age 55 if they had 15 years with the district and get big stipends on top of their regular state retirement, plus health care coverage until they were eligible for Medicare.
The payment was based on 10 annual payments of one-half the starting teacher salary in the district, which last year was $34,319, or about $170,000. Teachers hired after July 1, 1998, had to work 20 years and reach age 57 to collect eight annual payments. Those hired after 2003 were eligible for less lucrative retirement enhancements.

Related on the adult employment focus of school districts.

And, so it continues



Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

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

Related: Madison’s third grade reading results:

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

Madison School Board Needs to Address Search Fiasco:

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

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman – August, 2009

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

Twelve States Receive Failing Grades from StudentsFirst

Motoko Rich:

In a report issued Monday, StudentsFirst ranks states based on how closely they follow the group’s platform, looking at policies related not only to tenure and evaluations but also to pensions and the governance of school districts. The group uses the classic academic grading system, awarding states A to F ratings.
With no states receiving an A, two states receiving B-minuses and 12 states branded with an F, StudentsFirst would seem to be building a reputation as a harsh grader.
Ms. Rhee said that the relatively weak showing reflected how recently statehouses had begun to address issues like tenure and performance evaluations. “We didn’t say in any way that we want to show people how bad it is,” she said in a telephone interview. “We wanted to show the progress that is being made, but in places where progress is slower to come, be very clear with leaders of that state what they could do to push the agenda forward and create a better environment in which educators, parents and kids can operate.”

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

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

On US K-12 Staff Growth: Greater than Student Growth





Joe Rodriguez:

In a recent opinion piece, James L. Huffman requests Oregonians to ask “why those who run our public schools have seen fit to increase their own ranks at three times the rate of growth in student enrollment while allowing for a small decline in the number of teachers relative to students” (“Oregon’s schools: Are we putting money into staff at students’ expense?” Commentary, Nov. 17).
He references a report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice that uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics to document that K-12 personnel growth has outstripped K-12 student enrollment growth. The data are completely accurate, but the conclusions Huffman and the report reach are erroneous.
Huffman writes that some might be suspicious of the foundation as the source of the data. In reading the report’s conclusion (pages 19-22), such suspicion is justified.

Related: The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools:

America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.
In a recent Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, Lindsey Burke (2012) reports that since 1970, the number of students in American public schools increased by 8 percent while the number of teachers increased 60 percent and the number of non-teaching personnel increased 138 percent.
That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. This report analyzes the rise in public school personnel relative to the increase in students since FY 1992. Analyses are provided for the nation as a whole and for each state.
Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 46 percent; the growth in the number of administrators and other staff was 2.7 times that of students.

1.2MBPDF report and,

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

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