West HS English 10: Request for Data — Reply from Pam Nash

I received the following reply to my request for English 10 data from Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Pam Nash: Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 14:27:48 -0500 From: pnash@madison.k12.wi.us> To: lauriefrost@ameritech.net, eholmes@madison.k12.wi.us, hlott@madison.k12.wi.us, arainwater@madison.k12.wi.us, mbking1@wisc.edu Laurie- Mr. Holmes and his staff will do this. Pam Pamela J. Nash Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Madison Metropolitan […]

West HS English 10: Time to Show Us the Data

According to the November, 2005, report by SLC Evaluator Bruce King, the overriding motivation for the implementation of West’s English 10 core curriculum (indeed, the overriding motivation for the implementation of the entire 9th and 10th grade core curriculum) was to reduce the achievement gap. As described in the report, some groups of West students […]

More Than English 10: Let’s REALLY Talk About Our High Schools

First, I want to say BRAVO, RUTH, for putting it all together and bringing it on home to us. Thanks, too, to the BOE members who overrode BOE President Johnny Winston Jr’s decision to table this important discussion. Finally, deepest thanks to all of the East parents, students and teachers who are speaking out … […]

West HS students speek/speak out on English 10

Here are two stories from the December 23, 2005, issue of the West HS student newspaper, The Regent Review. I reprint them here just as they appear in print (that is, with all misspellings, grammatical errors, etc.). (Note: the faculty advisor for The Regent Review is West HS English teacher Mark Nepper. Mr. Nepper has […]

The impossibility of English 10

Forget the philosophies about heterogeneous versus homogenous classrooms. Forget English 9. Forget Shakespeare. English 10 just ain’t gonna’ work for struggling and advanced student, who we’re told can meet with teachers twice a week during the lunch hour. A few quick calculations show the glaring impossibility of success for these students. * Twenty-percent of West’s […]

Steve Rosenblum on West’s Planned English 10: Same Curriculum for All

Steve Rosenblum, writing to Carol Carstensen: Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 15:07:45 -0600 To: Carol Carstensen ,”Laurie A. Frost” From: Steven Rosenblum Subject: Re: West English Cc: raihala@charter.net, jedwards2@wisc.edu, bier@engr.wisc.edu, jlopez@madison.k12.wi.us, wkeys@madison.k12.wi.us, svang7@madison.k12.wi.us, rrobarts@madison.k12.wi.us, jwinstonjr@madison.k12.wi.us, lkobza@madison.k12.wi.us Carol, Thank you for the response. I am somewhat confused however regarding your statement concerning the Board’s role. Maybe […]

Use And Abuse Of Data

Cliff Maas: The writer of the story, Lynda Mapes, could not have been more explicit: The cause of death was climate change: steadily warming and drier summers, that stressed the tree in its position atop a droughty knoll. So, lets check the data and determine the truth. My first stop was the nice website of […]

Unsayable Truths About a Failing High School

Kay Hymowitz: Last week, my high school alma mater in the prosperous Montgomery County suburbs of Philadelphia went viral. A video of a student brawl injuring four security officers and eight teachers appeared on YouTube, bolstering long-whispered rumors of the district’s decline. Four students were taken into custody; one of them, 18 and charged as […]

How to improve high school? Ask college freshmen

Phil Luciano: Last month, the state announced that Peoria Public Schools and Williamsfield Community Unit School District are among 10 school districts picked for a new project designed to transform how students prepare for college and careers after high school. The title is a mouthful — Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program — […]

Is High School Meaningful?

Tawnell Hobbs: Chicago Public School students who want to graduate will have to show proof that they have a plan after high school—such as providing an offer letter for a job or acceptance into college or military service, under a plan expected to be approved next month. The initiative, pitched by former U.S. Education Secretary […]

Ortega y Gasset and You Tube

John Minehan Professor Vlahos concludes that elites (which he defines more broadly than “the One Percent”) are acting to their own advantage, as elites have done in other times moving towards the point when things fell apart (for example, at the end of Classical times in 6th through the 8th Centuries or after the Black […]

Madison School District’s advanced learner program is still a work in progress

Amber Walker: Though the Madison Metropolitan School District revised its advanced learner program in recent years, some schools are still struggling to provide tailored classroom instruction for qualified students. The district defines advanced learners as students who demonstrate, or have the potential to demonstrate, high performance in one or more areas. MMSD contracted with the […]

Deja Vu: Madison School District Agreement with the US ED Office of Civil Rights

Last October, Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding OCR’s compliance review of access to advanced coursework by Hispanic and African-American students in the District. The resolution agreement was presented at the December 5, 2016 Instruction Workgroup meeting (agenda item 6.1): http://www.boarddocs.com/wi/mmsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AFL2QH731563 The […]

A High Schooler’s View On The Education System

Zach Cmiel After reading Nathan Bashaw and Hank Green’s articles on the school system, I was inspired to write my own version. (Nathan’s and Hank’s) I’m a junior in high school and I love entrepreneurship and business. I’ve made 14+ apps on the iOS App Store and have explored design and marketing through an e-commerce […]

Approved Textbooks

American Inst. of Mathematics: The list below groups open textbooks by course title. All the books have been judged to meet the evaluation criteria set by the AIM editorial board. Related: Connected Math, math forum audio/video and English 10.

The Gates Foundation And Governance Change

Joanne Jacobs: I’m not sure this is quite the mea culpa the Times thinks it is. Gates certainly isn’t abandoning the Common Core. The foundation will focus on providing high-quality Core-aligned learning materials and helping teachers choose from what’s available. “If the knock on the hidebound education system is that it doesn’t change fast enough […]

Madison Schools “Advanced Learner” Update

Madison School District Administration (PDF): 1. In 2014-15, 3,660 students were identified as advanced learners in grades K-8, accounting for about 19% of all K-8 students. 2. The demographic diversity of the students identified as advanced learners increased from 2013-14 to 2014-15 by race/ethnicity, income, and English Language Learner (ELL) status. 3. Advanced learners exhibit […]

The public debate over academic selection at 11 has once again ignited. Professor Chris Husbands wonders why, when all the evidence argues against this approach to education.

UK Secretary of Education: It is a persistent undercurrent in English educational debate, but it is peculiarly English: should academic selection at the age of 11 be restored? Boris Johnson, perhaps in response to perceived UKIP pressure, has declared himself in favour of more grammar schools, and Teresa May, more cautiously, has welcomed plans for […]

The Plot Against Public Education How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools.

Bob Herbert: Bill Gates had an idea. He was passionate about it, absolutely sure he had a winner. His idea? America’s high schools were too big. When a multibillionaire gets an idea, just about everybody leans in to listen. And when that idea has to do with matters of important public policy and the billionaire […]

Splitting classes by ability undermines efforts to help disadvantaged children, finds research into English primaries

Richards Adams: Splitting pupils as young as six into classes based on ability – known as streaming – makes the brightest children brighter but does little to help the rest to catch up, according to new research into schools in England. The analysis of the progress made by 2,500 six and seven-year-olds in state primary […]

Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

Danette Clark: According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.” As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill […]

Online education company edX offering free high school courses

Matt Rocheleau: The online-learning collaborative edX, a partnership between Harvard University and MIT, is expanding its reach beyond higher education and will begin offering courses geared toward high school students. Edx plans to unveil its first free classes for younger students Wednesday, when most of the new courses will open for enrollment. The 26 high […]

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

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

Madison’s High School “Coursework Review”

Average GPA in Core Subjects in 8th and 9th Grades and Percentage of Students Receiving a D or F in a Core Course in 9th Grade, by Feeder School, 2010 – 2013: Madison School District 1.3MB PDF Presentation: In focus groups, several teachers noted what they perceived to be a lack of adequate preparation their […]

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

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

Help Us Investigate Segregation at Secondary Schools

Blair Hickman:

Middle schools and high schools often offer an array of classes and programs in order to serve students with a variety of educational needs. They include talented and gifted, special education, honors and advanced placements, career and technical education and basic courses. ProPublica is investigating whether these courses have also become a means of segregating students by race.
Help us investigate this issue by filling out the form below. We promise any personally identifying information will remain confidential. If you’d rather, you can also reach out to reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones directly at Nikole.Hannah-Jones@propublica.org

Related: English 10.

The Crushing Racism of Low Expectations

Liz Peek:

One of the lesser-broadcast features of the most recent jobs report is that unemployment for African-Americans actually ticked higher, to 13 percent, even as the rest of the country held even at 7.3 percent.
Unemployment for Hispanics was 9.3 percent and for Asians 5.1 percent. Also worrisome, the number of African-American adults who held jobs actually declined last month, and fewer than 61 percent of blacks are working–the lowest participation rate since 1982.
While New York’s Mayor Bloomberg sees racism in the campaign of Bill deBlasio and Jay Z finds racism in the Trayvon Martin decision, I perceive racism in these jobs figures. Blacks are increasingly left behind, at least in part because their leaders do not demand better schools. The greatest source of “disparate impact” in this country, to borrow a phrase currently popular with the Justice Department, is that most black kids can’t read or write. Upward mobility for the African-American community, tenuous at best, is squashed the minute they enter kindergarten.
Too harsh? Not by half. Consider the results from the recent Common Core testing in New York, one of the first to measure how students meet the new nation-wide standards. Statewide, 31 percent of public school students in grades 3 through 8 were considered proficient in English; only 16 percent of blacks met that test, compared to 50 percent of Asians and 40 percent of whites – results which the state’s education department says reveals “the persistence of the achievement gap.”

Related: English 10 & Connected Math.

School choice and ability grouping

John Merrfield

For years, it was lost in the wreckage from the crash of the politically incorrect “tracking” of students. But now, the worthy concept of “ability grouping” is making a comeback. A June 9 New York Times article on its resurgence is good news, but in the current public school system the much-needed ability grouping by subject is especially costly, with a very a limited upside. If parents had more freedom to choose within a system that could easily diversify its instructional offerings in response to families’ interests and needs, the power and attractiveness of the concept would be much greater.
Unlike tracking, which assumes an across-the-board, one-dimensional level of student ability – i.e., students are uniformly brilliant, average, or slow – ability grouping by subject recognizes children have strengths and weaknesses. Strengths probably correlate with interest/talent, so in a system of genuine school choices, parents recognizing those interest/talents would tend to enroll their children in schools specializing in those particular areas. They’d be in classrooms with children who are similarly passionate and able to progress at similar, fast rates. And, likewise, for necessary subject matter in which they are not as adept, again, they’d be in a room and school building full of kids more similar to them. Stigma gone; no self-esteem threat.

Related: English 10.

The Return of “Ability Grouping”

Vivian Yee:

It was once common for elementary-school teachers to arrange their classrooms by ability, placing the highest-achieving students in one cluster, the lowest in another. But ability grouping and its close cousin, tracking, in which children take different classes based on their proficiency levels, fell out of favor in the late 1980s and the 1990s as critics charged that they perpetuated inequality by trapping poor and minority students in low-level groups.
Now ability grouping has re-emerged in classrooms all over the country — a trend that has surprised education experts who believed the outcry had all but ended its use.
A new analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progressa a Census-like agency for school statistics, shows that of the fourth-grade teachers surveyed, 71 percent said they had grouped students by reading ability in 2009, up from 28 percent in 1998. In math, 61 percent of fourth-grade teachers reported ability grouping in 2011, up from 40 percent in 1996.
“These practices were essentially stigmatized,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who first noted the returning trend in a March report, and who has studied the grouping debate. “It’s kind of gone underground, it’s become less controversial.”

We have seen this movie before English 10.
Much more on ability grouping, here.

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

Pat Schnieder:

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

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

Let’s Go Back to Grouping Students by Ability

Barry Garelick:

Is it my imagination, or have you noticed that some public high school courses that are now called “honors” are equivalent to the regular “college prep” curriculum of earlier eras? And have you also noticed that what is now called “college prep” is aimed largely at students who are deemed low achievers or of low cognitive ability?
In fact, this trend is nobody’s imagination. Over the past generation, public schools have done away with “tracking” — a practice that began in the early 1900′s. By the 20′s and 30′s, curricula in high schools had evolved into four different types: college-preparatory, vocational (e.g., plumbing, metal work, electrical, auto), trade-oriented (e.g., accounting, secretarial), and general. Students were tracked into the various curricula based largely on IQ but sometimes other factors such as race and skin color. Children of immigrants, and children who came from farms rather than cities, were often assumed to be inferior in cognitive ability and treated accordingly.
During the 60’s and 70’s, radical education critics such as Jonathan Kozol brought accusations against a system they found racist and sadistic. They argued that public schools were hostile to children and lacked innovation in pedagogy. Their goal — which became the goal of the larger education establishment — was to restore equity to students, erasing the lines that divided them by social class and race. The desire to eliminate inequity translated to the goal of preparing every student for college. The goal was laudable, but as college prep merged with the general education track, it became student-centered and needs-based, with lower standards and less homework assigned.
Some of the previous standards returned during the early 80’s, when the “Back to Basics” movement reacted against the fads of the late 60’s and the 70’s by reinstituting traditional curricula. But the underlying ideas of Kozol and others did not go away, and the progressive watchword in education has continued to be “equality.”

Related: English 10.

Dumb Kids’ Class

Mark Bowden:

CATHOLIC SCHOOL was not the ordeal for me that it apparently was for many other children of my generation. I attended Catholic grade schools, served as an altar boy, and, astonishingly, was never struck by a nun or molested by a priest. All in all I was treated kindly, which often was more than I deserved. My education has withstood the test of time, including both the lessons my teachers instilled and the ones they never intended.
In the mid-20th century, when I was in grade school, a child’s self-esteem was not a matter for concern. Shame was considered a spur to better behavior and accomplishment. If you flunked a test, you were singled out, and the offending sheet of paper, bloodied with red marks, was waved before the entire class as a warning, much the way our catechisms depicted a boy with black splotches on his soul.
Fear was also considered useful. In the fourth grade, right around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, one of the nuns at St. Petronille’s, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, told us that the Vatican had received a secret warning that the world would soon be consumed by a fatal nuclear exchange. The fact that the warning had purportedly been delivered by Our Lady of Fátima lent the prediction divine authority. (Any last sliver of doubt was removed by our viewing of the 1952 movie The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, wherein the Virgin Mary herself appeared on a luminous cloud.) We were surely cooked. I remember pondering the futility of existence, to say nothing of the futility of safety drills that involved huddling under desks. When the fateful sirens sounded, I resolved, I would be out of there. Down the front steps, across Hillside Avenue, over fences, and through backyards, I would take the shortest possible route home, where I planned to crawl under my father’s workbench in the basement. It was the sturdiest thing I had ever seen. I didn’t believe it would save me, but after weighing the alternatives carefully, I decided it was my preferred spot to face oblivion.

Related: English 10

Who Should Be in the Gifted Program? New York, D.C., and other cities experiment with making honors classes more inclusive.

Sarah Garland:

Starting in second grade, I took a school bus from my middle-class neighborhood to downtown Louisville, Ky., where my grade school was surrounded by public housing projects, as part of an effort to desegregate schools. The year I started there, I was identified as “gifted” and put in a separate, accelerated class, where my classmates were mostly other white boys and girls from the suburbs.
In 1975, the school system in Louisville had launched the district-wide “Advance Program,” which offered an enriched curriculum, just as the desegregation plan went into effect. All Louisville schools were required to have a mix of black and white students so that the number of black students never fell below or rose above a certain cutoff. (It varied over the years, but the range was around 20 to 40 percent.) In the Advance Program, however, the rules didn’t apply because classroom assignments within schools were exempt. The percentage of black students in the gifted program was 11 percent.
I had the choice to leave the school in fourth grade, as did my suburban peers, but most of us stayed at our inner city school because our parents liked the program so much. From second grade until my senior year in high school, my classes never had more than two black students at a time.

Related: English 10 and the talented and gifted complaint.

Madison School District Talented & Gifted Report: An interesting change from a few years ago; 41 students out of 1877 were newly identified for TAG talent development by the CogA T nonverbal.

Superintendent Jane Belmore (652K PDF):

This information is provided in response to a request for more information made at the January 28th Regular Board of Education meeting regarding the implication of CogAT for the 2012-13 school year. Communication with DPI TAG consultant has occurred on numerous occasions. A Review Committee, with additional members, met twice since January 28 and a survey of options was developed and distributed to the Assessment Review Committee and elementary and middle school principals. Results from this survey, in addition to previous Review Committee information, were used to develop the recommendation.
The BOE requested a report on CogAT which is attached to this memo.

A few charts from the report:

Much more on the 2010 parent complaint on Madison’s “Talented & Gifted” program, here. The move to more one size fits all classes, such as English 10 a few years ago, reduced curricular options for all students. East High School “Redesign” halted.

An Update on the Parent Complaint of Madison’s Talent & Gifted Program, and the Wisconsin DPI’s Repsonse

Matthew DeFour:

But because the district has made significant progress and expects to make further improvements to its program, it won’t face any penalties at this time, DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper said.
Parents who filed a complaint with the DPI about Madison’s TAG program in September 2010, and wrote the DPI another letter last fall about shortcomings in the district’s middle school offerings, were pleased with the results of the latest audit.
“The preliminary report achieves a good balance of recognizing effort without losing sight of continued weaknesses,” parent Laurie Frost said in an email. “I am happy the district was found to be in only partial compliance, but also very glad the DPI did not levy any financial penalty.”
The DPI determined the district’s program was deficient in 2011, but agreed to an Aug. 22, 2012, compliance deadline. The School Board adopted a TAG plan and hired a program administrator in 2011.

Much more on the 2010 parent complaint on Madison’s “Talented & Gifted” program, here. The move to more one size fits all classes, such as English 10, reduced curricular options for all students.

Gifted, Talented and Seperated, Deja Vu

Al Baker:

IT is just a metal door with three windows, the kind meant to keep the clamor of an elementary school hallway from piercing a classroom’s quiet. Other than paint the color of bubble gum, it is unremarkable.
But the pink door on Room 311 at Public School 163 on the Upper West Side represents a barrier belied by its friendly hue. On one side are 21 fourth graders labeled gifted and talented by New York City’s school system. They are coursing through public school careers stamped accelerated.
And they are mostly white.
On the other side, sometimes sitting for reading lessons on the floor of the hallway, are those in the school’s vast majority: They are enrolled in general or special education programs.

Related:
English 10
TAG Complaint
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Do We Still Segregate Students? Schools around the nation are ‘detracking’ classes, putting kids of all achievement levels in the same room. Does that sabotage higher achievers?

Julie Halpert:

WHEN ERIC WITHERSPOON became superintendent of Evanston Township High School (www site) near Chicago in 2006, he walked into a math class where all the students were black. “A young man leaned over to me and said, ‘This is the dummy class.'”
The kids at Evanston who took honors classes were primarily white; those in the less demanding classes were minority–a pattern repeated, still, almost 60 years after integration, across the nation. All of the Evanston kids had been tracked into their classes based on how they’d performed on a test they took in eighth grade.
Last September, for the first time, most incoming freshmen, ranging from those reading at grade level to those reading far above it, were sitting together in rigorous humanities classes. When I visited, students of all abilities and backgrounds met in small groups to discuss one of the required readings, which include A Raisin in the Sun and The Odyssey. This September, most freshmen will sit side-by-side in biology classes.
Mindy Wallis, the mother of a sophomore at Evanston Township High, agrees. She opposed the decision to detrack, and spearheaded a petition that advocated waiting for the results of a three-year evaluation before making changes that so substantively affected the freshman class. Angela Allyn, whose 14-year-old son just took a freshman humanities class, says her son was hungry to read more than two-thirds of The Odyssey, which was all the class required. He was encouraged by his teachers to read the entire book, but Allyn says the teachers didn’t help him navigate difficult portions during class, so she had to work with him into the late hours of the night. Her son was teased by classmates, she says, for “showing off and using big words,” something she believes wouldn’t have occurred if he’d been grouped with a similar cohort. Detracking, she contends, focuses “on bringing the bottom up–and there’s an assumption that our bright children will take care of themselves.” She acknowledges that because she’s seen as having “white privilege,” despite the fact that she put herself through school and even occasionally had to use soup kitchens to get by, she’s perceived as racist by merely making such a comment.

Adam Gamoran
, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, also believes that race is part of the debate: “People who support tracking are more interested in productivity and less concerned about inequality, and people who are critics tend to focus on inequality and don’t spend too much time thinking about productivity.” Gamoran argues that schools that want to keep ability-grouping need to do a better job with the students in the lowest tracks, but he also believes that the most capable students may not always be sufficiently challenged in mixed-ability classes. “There’s no single solution,” he says. “The point is to try to address the limitations of whatever approach is selected.”

Links:

Tyrany of Low Expectations: Will lowered test scores bring about broader change in Madison schools?

Chris Rickert via several kind readers:

Wisconsin has a “long way to go in all our racial/ethnic groups,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
My hope is that, given Wisconsin’s overwhelmingly white population, proficiency problems among white students will spur more people to push for policies inside and outside of school that help children — all children — learn.
“I hate to look at it that way, but I think you’re absolutely right,” said Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The low performance of white students in our state may just lead to the type and level of change that’s necessary in public education for black and other students of color to succeed as well.”
Indeed, Gamoran said Massachusetts’ implementation of an evaluation system similar to the one Wisconsin is adopting now has been correlated with gains in reading and math proficiency and a narrowing of the racial achievement gap in math. But he emphasized that student achievement is more than just the schools’ responsibility.
Madison has known for a while that its schools are not meeting the needs of too many students of color.

The issue of low expectations and reduced academic standards is not a new one. A few worthwhile, related links:

Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012





Related:

Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Directions.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.
A few useful links over the past decade:

Dumbing down of state education has made Britain more unequal than 25 years ago; In the name of equality, anti-elitist teachers are betraying the hopes of the young.

Toby Young:

A controversy broke out on Twitter earlier this week about an article in the Times Educational Supplement in which a teacher called Jonny Griffiths describes a conversation with a bright sixth-former who’s worried about his exam results. “Apart from you, Michael, who cares what you get in your A-levels?” he says. “What is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?”
The controversy was not about whether the teacher was right to discourage his student to apply to Cambridge – no one thought that, obviously – but whether the article was genuine. Was Jonny Griffiths a real teacher or the fictional creation of a brilliant Tory satirist? Most people found it hard to believe that a teacher who didn’t want his pupils to do well could be in gainful employment.
Alas, Mr Griffiths is all too real. Since 2009, when I first mooted the idea of setting up a free school devoted to academic excellence, I’ve come across dozens of examples of the same attitude, all equally jaw-dropping.

We’ve certainly seen such initiatives locally. They include English 10, Connected Math and the ongoing use of Reading Recovery.
Perhaps Wisconsin’s Read to Lead initiative offers some hope with its proposal to tie teacher licensing to teacher content knowledge.
Related: Examinations for teachers, past and present.
There are certainly many parents who make sure that their children learn what is necessary through tutors, third parties, personal involement, camps, or online services. However, what about the children who don’t have such family resources and/or awareness?

Proposed Madison Prep Academy needs to show proof of effectiveness of single-gender education to get grant

Matthew DeFour:

The state Department of Public Instruction is requiring backers of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy to provide scientific research supporting the effectiveness of single-gender education to receive additional funding.
The hurdle comes as university researchers are raising questions about whether such evidence exists. In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers also say single-gender education increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.
Efforts to justify single-gender education as innovative school reform “is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence,” according to the article by eight university professors associated with the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde.
The Urban League of Greater Madison originally proposed Madison Prep as an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities. But after a state planning grant was held up because of legal questions related to single-gender education, the Urban League announced it would open the school next year with single-gender classrooms in the same building.

I find this ironic, given the many other programs attempted within our public schools, such as English 10, small learning communities, connected math and a number of reading programs.
Related: Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education and from Susan Troller:

A newly published article by child development experts and neuroscientists blasting the trend toward single-sex education as “pseudoscience” won’t help the cause of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy.
Neither will the continued opposition of the South Central Federation of Labor, which reiterated its opposition to the Urban League-sponsored proposal this week because teachers at the school would not be represented by a union. The Madison Metropolitan School District has a collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc. that runs through June of 2013, and Madison Prep’s plan envisions working conditions for its staff — a longer school day and a longer school year, for example — that differ substantially from the contract the district has with its employees.
With a public hearing on the charter school scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, the debate surrounding Madison Prep is heating up on many fronts. The Madison School Board must take a final vote giving the charter school a go or no-go decision in November.
Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League and a passionate proponent for the separate boys and girls academies aimed at helping boost minority youth academic performance, says he is unimpressed by an article published in the prestigious journal, Science, on Sept. 23, that says there is “no empirical evidence” supporting academic improvement through single-sex education.

Are other DPI funded initiatives held to the same “standard”?
The timing of these events is certainly interesting.
14mb mp3 audio. WORT-FM conducted an interview this evening with Janet Shibley Hyde, one of the authors. Unrelated, but interesting, Hyde’s interview further debunked the “learning styles” rhetoric we hear from time to time.
UPDATE: The Paper in Question: The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling:

In attempting to improve schools, it is critical to remember that not all reforms lead to meaningful gains for students. We argue that one change in particular–sex-segregated education–is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

The Process for Discussing Madison School District High School Alignment

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

This is to provide clarity, transparency and direction in improving our high school curriculum and instruction, with ongoing communication.
(As presented to the MMSD Board of Education on January 6, 2011)
The following guiding principles were discussed:

Lots of related links:

‘Embedded honors’ program has issues

Mary Bridget Lee:

The controversy at West High School continues about the Madison School District’s new talented and gifted program. Students, parents and teachers decry the plan, pointing to the likelihood of a “tracking” system and increasingly segregated classes.
While I am in agreement with them here, I must differ when they mistakenly point to the current “embedded honors” system as a preferable method for dealing with TAG students.
The idea itself should immediately raise red flags. Teaching two classes at the same time is impossible to do well, if at all. Forcing teachers to create twice the amount of curriculum and attempt to teach both within a single context is unrealistic and stressful for the educators.
The system creates problems for students as well. There is very little regulation in the execution of these “embedded honors” classes, creating widely varying experiences among students. By trying to teach to two different levels within one classroom, “embedded honors” divides teachers’ attention and ultimately impairs the educational experiences of both groups of students.
While the concerns raised about Superintendent Dan Nerad’s plan are legitimate, “embedded honors” as a solution is not.

Lots of related links:

A rebellion at Madison West High School over new curriculum

Lynn Welch

When Paul Radspinner’s 15-year-old son Mitchell wanted to participate in a student sit-in last October outside West High School, he called his dad to ask permission.
“He said he was going to protest, and wanted to make sure I had no problem with it. I thought, ‘It’s not the ’60s anymore,'” recalls Radspinner. The students, he learned, were upset about planned curriculum changes, which they fear will eliminate elective class choices, a big part of the West culture.
“It was a real issue at the school,” notes Radspinner. “The kids found out about it, but the parents didn’t.”
This lack of communication is a main reason Radspinner and 60 other parents recently formed a group called West Cares. Calling itself the “silent majority,” the group this month opposed the new English and social studies honors classes the district is adding next fall at West, as well as Memorial. (East and La Follette High Schools already offer these classes for freshmen and sophomores.)
The parents fear separating smarter kids from others at the ninth-grade level will deepen the achievement gap by pushing some college-bound students into advanced-level coursework sooner. They also believe it will eviscerate West’s culture, where all freshmen and sophomores learn main subjects in core classes together regardless of achievement level.
“It’s a big cultural paradigm shift,” says parent Jan O’Neil. “That’s what we’re struggling with in the West community.”

Lots of related links:

Unlike Madison, Evanston is cutting honors classes

Chris Rickert:

Twenty-three years ago I walked the halls of Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., with a diverse mix of white-, black- and brown-skinned fellow students.
Then I would walk into an honors class and be confronted with a near-blanket of white.
Not much has changed at my alma mater, and as a result the school district has been embroiled in a contentious curriculum debate that touches on race, academics and the meaning of public education itself.
Sound familiar?
Evanston and Madison are both affluent, well-educated and liberal. And both have high schools where racial achievement gaps are the norm. Their school districts differ, though, in their approach to that gap today: Evanston is cutting honors classes; Madison is adding them.
Unlike Madison, Evanston has long had a sizable minority population and began desegregating its elementary and middle schools in the 1960s — with some positive academic results.
Seniors at ETHS, the city’s only public high school, last year had an average ACT score of 23.5, or 2.5 points higher than the national average. This in one of only five states that requires its students to take the test and in a high school whose student population, about 2,900, is 43 percent white, 32 percent black and 17 percent Latino.

Lots of related links:

More here.

Response to Madison West High Parents’ Open Letter

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

As to the first point, I wish people were a bit less concerned about what will inconvenience or irritate our teachers and a bit more concerned about what’s best for our students. I think it is absolutely correct that the alignment plan will reduce the autonomy of teachers. Classes will have to be designed and taught against an overriding structure of curricular standards that will need to be addressed. I think that is a good thing.
We’d all like the freedom and autonomy to be able to define our own job responsibilities so that we could spend our time exclusively on the parts of our jobs that we particularly like and are good at, but that is certainly not the way that effective organizations work. I believe that teachers need to be held accountable for covering a specific, consistent, coherent and rigorous curriculum, because that is what’s best for their students. I don’t see how holding teachers to curriculum standards should inhibit their skills, creativity or engagement in the classroom.
The second point concerns 9th and 10th grade accelerated class options and the accusation that this will result in “segregation.” This line of argument has consistently bothered me.
We don’t hear much from African-American parents who are upset about the possibility of accelerated classes because, as the open letter puts it, they will result in “more segregation.” On the contrary, we on the Board have heard a number of times from middle class African-American parents who are dissatisfied, sometimes to the point of pulling their kids from our schools, because their kids regularly experience situations where well-meaning teachers and staff assume that because the kids are African-American, they’ll need special help or won’t be able to keep up with advanced class work. I think that frustration with this essentially patronizing attitude has contributed to community support for the Madison Prep proposal. It seems to me that the open letter suggests the same attitude.

It will be interesting to see how the course options play out. I suspect this will be a marathon, as it has been since the grant driven small learning community initiative and the launch of English 10 some years ago.
I very much appreciate Ed’s comments, including this “a bit more concerned about what’s best for our students”.
Lots of related links:

More here.

Madison Schools will press ahead with High School honors classes despite protests

Matthew DeFour:

Despite lingering concerns from some parents, students and teachers, the Madison School District will introduce 9th and 10th grade honors classes next fall at West High School — changes that prompted a student protest last fall.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said he discussed with staff over the weekend the possibility of not introducing the honors classes after school board members and parents raised questions at a meeting Thursday night.
Nerad said the decision comes down to following the district’s talented-and-gifted plan, which called for offering honors classes at all high schools starting in this current school year.
“This has already been put off a year,” Nerad said in an interview Monday. “We have an obligation to move forward with what’s been identified in the TAG plan.”
On Friday, 18 West parents sent a letter to the district asking that the honors classes be delayed.

Lots of related links:

More here.

An Update on Madison’s High School Reforms

TJ Mertz:

The issues are the failure of the MMSD Administration to follow basic practices of open inclusive governance and the implementation of segregative policies.
Below (and here) [70K PDF] is an open letter drafted and signed by 18 West High parents on Friday 1/7/2010. Understanding the letter requires some background and context. The background — along with the latest news and some final thoughts -follows.

Lots of related links:

More here.

More on Madison’s Response to DPI Complaint

Great Madison Schools.org

In its response to the Department of Public Instruction’s request for information on its talented and gifted services, the Madison School District points out that the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has recently updated its standards for TAG programming. Now, the District argues, the NAGC standards “actually serve as validation of the District’s current practices,” including West High School’s claim that it meets the needs of talented and gifted students through differentiation within regular classrooms. We disagree.
The NAGC issued its revised standards in September, around the same time West High School area parents filed a complaint against the Madison School District for allowing West High to deny appropriate programming to academically gifted students. West has refused for years to provide alternatives to its regular core curriculum for 9th and 10th graders who demonstrate high performance capabilities in language arts and social studies.
The District writes:

Lots of related links:

Madison School District Responds to DPI

Great Madison Schools

On November 29, 2010, the Madison School District responded to a request for information from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) about Madison’s services for talented and gifted students.
The DPI initiated an audit of Madison’s talented and gifted programming after West High School area parents filed a complaint on September 20, 2010, arguing that West refuses to provide appropriate programs for ninth and tenth grade students gifted in language arts and social studies. West requires all freshmen and sophomores to take regular core English and history courses, regardless of learning level.
(All three of Madison’s other comprehensive high schools-East, LaFollette, and Memorial-provide advanced sections of core subjects before 11th grade. East and LaFollette offer advanced and/or honors sections starting in ninth grade, while Memorial offers English 10 honors and AP World History for tenth graders.)
As part of a Small Learning Community Initiative phased in over the past decade, West implemented a one-size-for-all English and social studies program to stop different groups of students from following different courses of study. Some groups had typically self-selected into rigorous, advanced levels while others seemed stuck in more basic or remedial levels. Administrators wanted to improve the quality of classroom experience and instruction for “all students” by mixing wide ranges of ability together in heterogeneous classrooms.

All Together Now? Educating high and low achievers in the same classroom

Michael Petrilli, via a kind reader’s email:

The greatest challenge facing America’s schools today isn’t the budget crisis, or standardized testing, or “teacher quality.” It’s the enormous variation in the academic level of students coming into any given classroom. How we as a country handle this challenge says a lot about our values and priorities, for good and ill. Unfortunately, the issue has become enmeshed in polarizing arguments about race, class, excellence, and equity. What’s needed instead is some honest, frank discussion about the trade-offs associated with any possible solution.
U.S. students are all over the map in terms of achievement (see Figure 1). By the 4th grade, public-school children who score among the top 10 percent of students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are reading at least six grade levels above those in the bottom 10 percent. For a teacher with both types of students in her classroom, that means trying to challenge kids ready for middle-school work while at the same time helping others to decode. Even differences between students at the 25th and at the 75th percentiles are huge–at least three grade levels. So if you’re a teacher, how the heck do you deal with that?

Lots of related links:

The Six Major Components of the MMSD High School Plan

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

In an earlier post, I provided my understanding of the background of the protest at West High about the proposal for changes in the District’s high school curriculum. I explained how the proposal was an outgrowth of the work that has gone on at the high schools for the last few years under the auspices of a federal grant, known as the REaL grant (for Relationships, Engagement and Learning).
That proposal, which will affect all four of the District’s comprehensive high schools and is now known as the High School Career and College Readiness Plan, has since evolved somewhat, partially in response to the feedback that has been received and partially as a consequence of thinking the proposals through a bit more.
Here is where things currently stand.
The high school proposal should start a conversation that could last for a few years regarding a long-term, systematic review of our curriculum and the way it is delivered to serve the interests of all learners. What’s currently on the table is more limited in scope, though it is intended to serve as the foundation for later work.
The principal problem the proposal is meant to address is that we currently don’t have any district-defined academic standards at the high school level. There is no established set of expectations for what skills students should be learning in each subject area each year. Since we don’t have any basic expectations, we also don’t have any specific and consistent goals for accelerated learning. A corollary of this is that we really don’t have many ways to hold a teacher accountable for the level of learning that goes on in his or her classroom. Also, we lack a system of assessments that would let us know how our students are progressing through high school.

Lots of related links:

Segregating the smart from the not-as-smart helps nobody

Chris Rickert

I’ve never been accused of having any talent worth nurturing in an Advanced Placement class, although I’m sure there are some who would say I have a gift for irritating people. (Unfortunately, they don’t give out Rhodes Scholarships for that.)
So feel free to take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt, or a healthy dose of sour grapes on my part, but I question the utility of the way we challenge the young brainiacs among us.
Diving deeply into physics or fine arts might make for good rocket scientists and concert pianists, but it would also seem inevitably to exclude a certain less intense, yet broader range of experiences and the people they include.
My new Facebook friends and perhaps the most courteous political insurgents ever, Madison West seniors Joaquin Selva and Jacob Fiksel, admitted to something along those lines when I ran into them Wednesday at the school district’s Community Conversation on Education.

Lots of related links:

Response to WSJ Article: More Background, Additional Information, Long History of Advocacy

Lorie Raihala, via email

On Sunday, November 7, the Wisconsin State Journal featured a front-page article about the Madison School District’s Talented and Gifted education services: “TAG, they’re it.” The story describes parents’ frustration with the pace of reform since the Board of Education approved the new TAG Plan in August, 2009. It paints the TAG Plan as very ambitious and the parents as impatient-perhaps unreasonable-to expect such quick implementation.
The article includes a “Complaint Timeline” that starts with the approval of the TAG Plan, skips to the filing of the complaint on September 20, and proceeds from there to list the steps of the DPI audit.
Unfortunately, neither this timeline nor the WSJ article conveys the long history leading up to the parents’ complaint. This story did not start with the 2009 TAG Plan. Rather, the 2009 TAG Plan came after almost two decades of the District violating State law for gifted education.
To provide better background, we would like to add more information and several key dates to the “Complaint Timeline.”
November 2005: West High School administrators roll out their plan for English 10 at a PTSO meeting. Most of the 70 parents in attendance object to the school eliminating English electives and imposing a one-size-for-all curriculum on all students. Parents ask administrators to provide honors sections of English 10. They refuse. Parents ask administrators to evaluate and fix the problems with English 9 before implementing the same approach in 10th grade. They refuse. Parents appeal to the BOE to intervene; they remain silent. Meanwhile, parents have already been advocating for years to save the lone section of Accelerated Biology at West.

Madison grapples with how to serve ‘Talented and Gifted’

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

Three times a week, Van Hise Elementary fifth-grader Eve Sidikman and two fellow students from her school board a bus bound for GEMS, the Madison school district’s “Growing Elementary Math Students” program for students whose math abilities are so high they aren’t challenged in a standard classroom.
Eve’s bus also makes the rounds to Randall and Thoreau before pulling up to the curb at Shorewood Elementary, where Eve and her GEMS classmates have a two-hour math session taught by a member of the district’s Talented and Gifted staff.
“She teaches it in a creative and fun way,” Eve, who was placed in GEMS after her mother sought out and paid for a national test that proved Eve was capable of acing eighth-grade math, said of her teacher. “I think she’s preparing us for our middle school years well.”
The Madison School district is grappling with how best to serve students deemed “Talented and Gifted,” or TAG in district shorthand — partly to stem a talent drain through open enrollment, partly to satisfy a vocal group of dissatisfied parents, and partly to find more Eves who don’t necessarily have a family with the financial means, determination and know-how to capitalize on their student’s untapped talents.
District critics say change is happening too slowly — something Superintendent Dan Nerad admits — and programs like GEMS are few and far between. Advocates also acknowledge, however, there is skepticism of gifted services among both the public and educators at a time when so many students fail to meet even minimal standards.

Lots of related links:

Watch, listen or read an interview with UW-Madison Education Professor Adam Gamoran. Gamoran was interviewed in Gayle Worland’s article.

Madison Schools delay changes to High School curriculum after backlash

Matthew DeFour

But for West High School teachers and students the “dual pathways” label sounded like the tracking model the school abandoned 15 years ago that created a lot of “low-level, non-rigorous classes with a lot of segregation by socio-economic status, which is pretty much racially,” science department chairman Steve Pike said.
“If they had this document beforehand” Pike said of the document unveiled Friday, “it would have at least shown that there’s a lot of questions and a lot of work that needed to be done.”
West teachers aren’t the only ones with concerns.
Peggy Ellerkamp, a librarian at LaFollette High School, said teachers there wonder how students in regular classes will be able to move into advanced classes, especially if regular courses become “more like a one-room schoolhouse” with embedded honors, regular, special education and English language learner students.
“I have a lot of questions about a lot of the details,” Ellerkamp said. “I’m very pleased that there’s more time for this to be worked through.”
Jessica Hotz, a social studies teacher at East High School, is concerned that gearing classes to the Advanced Placement test could result in a “dumbing down of the curriculum.” One proposed change in social studies would cram U.S. history into one year instead of the two years that East offers now, Hotz said.

Many links:

Madison School District: High School Career and College Readiness Plan

via a kind reader’s email:

We have received a significant volume of questions and feedback regarding the plan for High School College and Career Readiness. We are in the process of reviewing and reflecting upon questions and feedback submitted to date. We are using this information to revise our original timeline. We will provide additional information as we move forward.
We will have an electronic format for gathering additional feedback in the near future.
Summary
High School Career And College Readiness Plan is a comprehensive plan outlining curricular reform for MMSD comprehensive high schools and a district-wide process that will end in significant curriculum reform. The rationale for developing this plan is based on five points:

  1. Need for greater consistency across our comprehensive high schools.
  2. Need to align our work to the ACT career and college readiness standards and common core standards.
  3. Need to address our achievement gaps and to do so with a focus on rigor and acceleration of instruction.
  4. Need to address loss of students through open enrollment.
  5. Need to respond to issues regarding unequal access to accelerated courses in grades 9 and 10.

The plan is based on the following theory of action:

Lots of related links:

The Backstory on the Madison West High Protest

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

IV. The Rollout of the Plan: The Plotlines Converge
I first heard indirectly about this new high school plan in the works sometime around the start of the school year in September. While the work on the development of the plan continued, the District’s responses to the various sides interested in the issue of accelerated classes for 9th and 10th grade students at West was pretty much put on hold.
This was frustrating for everyone. The West parents decided they had waited long enough for a definitive response from the District and filed a complaint with DPI, charging that the lack of 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes at West violated state educational standards. I imagine the teachers at West most interested in this issue were frustrated as well. An additional complication was that West’s Small Learning Communities grant coordinator, Heather Lott, moved from West to an administrative position in the Doyle building, which couldn’t have helped communication with the West teachers.
The administration finally decided they had developed the Dual Pathways plan sufficiently that they could share it publicly. (Individual School Board members were provided an opportunity to meet individually with Dan Nerad and Pam Nash for a preview of the plan before it was publicly announced, and most of us took advantage of the opportunity.) Last Wednesday, October 13, the administration presented the plan at a meeting of high school department chairs, and described it later in the day at a meeting of the TAG Advisory Committee. On the administration side, the sense was that those meetings went pretty well.
Then came Thursday, and the issue blew up at West. I don’t know how it happened, but some number of teachers were very upset about what they heard about the plan, and somehow or another they started telling students about how awful it was. I would like to learn of a reason why I shouldn’t think that this was appallingly unprofessional behavior on the part of whatever West teachers took it upon themselves to stir up their students on the basis of erroneous and inflammatory information, but I haven’t found such a reason yet.

Lots of related links:

School Board member Marj Passmon on the Proposed Madison High School Changes

via email:

It was the intention of the Administration to first introduce the plan to HS staff and administrators and get some input from them. If you read the Plan then you know that it never discusses anything relating to current electives or student options and, I, personally, would never vote for any plan that does.
Although I admire the students for their leadership and support of their school, both they and their teachers seem to have leaped to certain conclusions. I am not saying that this is a perfect plan and yes, there are elements that may need to be worked on but to immediately jump on it without asking any questions or presenting suggestions for improvement does not speak well of those who helped to spread rumors.
It is now up to MMSD Administrators to explain to the staff and students what this Plan is actually about and, perhaps then, the West Staff can have a more objective discussion with their classes.
Marj
———————————–
Marjorie Passman
Madison Board of Education
mpassman@madison.k12.wi.us

Lots of related links:

Notes and Links on the Madison West High School Student Sit-in

Gayle Worland:

Sitting cross-legged on the ground or perched high on stone sculptures outside the school, about a quarter of West High’s 2,086 students staged a silent 37-minute sit-in Friday morning outside their building to protest a district proposal to revamp curriculum at the city’s high schools.
The plan, unveiled to Madison School District teachers and parents this week, would offer students in each high school the chance to pick from advanced or regular classes in the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies. Students in the regular classes could also do additional work for honors credit.
Designed to help the district comply with new national academic standards, the proposal comes in the wake of a complaint filed against the district by parents in the West attendance area arguing the district fails to offer adequate programs for “talented and gifted” ninth and 10th grade students at West. The complaint has prompted an audit by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Susan Troller:

Okay, everyone, remember to breathe, and don’t forget to read.
A draft copy of possible high school curriculum changes got what could be gently characterized as a turbulent response from staff and students at West High School. Within hours of the release of a proposal that would offer more advanced placement options in core level courses at local high schools, there was a furious reaction from staff and students at West, with rumors flying, petitions signed and social media organizing for a protest. All in all, the coordination and passion was pretty amazing and would have done a well-financed political campaign proud.
Wednesday and Thursday there was talk of a protest walk-out at West that generated interest from over 600 students. By Friday morning, the march had morphed into a silent sitdown on the school steps with what looked like 200 to 300 students at about 10:50 a.m. when I attended. There were also adult supporters on the street, a media presence and quite a few police cars, although the demonstration was quiet and respectful. (Somehow, I don’t think the students I saw walking towards the Regent Market or sitting, smoking, on a stone wall several blocks from school, were part of the protest).

TJ Mertz has more as does Lucy Mathiak.
Lots of related links:

Madison West Students To Protest Proposed School Changes

channel3000.com, via a kind reader’s email:

Lots of related links:

The Mess with Madison West (Updated)

TJ Mertz, via email:

[Update: I just got emailed this letter as West parent. Crisis communication is happening. Not much new here, but some clarity}

The first steps with the “High School Curricular Reform, Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” are a mess, a big mess of the administration’s own making.

Before I delve into the mess and the proposal, I think it is important to say that despite huge and inexcusable problems with the process, many unanswered questions and some real things of concern; there are some good things in the proposal. One part near the heart of the plan in particular is something I’ve been pushing for years: open access to advanced classes and programs with supports. In the language of the proposal:

Pathways open to all students. Students are originally identified by Advanced Placement requirements and other suggested guidelines such as EXPLORE /PLAN scores, GPA, past MS/HS performance and MS/HS Recommendation. however, all students would be able to enroll. Students not meeting suggested guidelines but wanting to enroll would receive additional supports (tutoring, skill development classes, AVID, etc.) to ensure success. (emphasis added and I would like to see it added in the implementation).

Right now there are great and at times irrational barriers in place. These need to go. I hope this does not get lost as the mess is cleaned up.

This is in four sections: The Mess; What Next?; The Plan: Unanswered Questions and Causes for Concern; and Final Thought.

Lots of related links:

Uproar at West High over Madison School District’s Curricular Reform Proposal

Lorie Raihala:

There’s been a great deal of misinformation and angry speculation flying around West High regarding the District’s High School Curricular Reform proposal.
On Tuesday, District administrators unveiled their plan for high school curricular reform at meeting with nearly 200 educators from all four high schools. Several parents attended the subsequent TAG Advisory Committee meeting, during which they also revealed an overview of the plan to this group.
I attended the TAG Advisory meeting. As I understand it, this plan involves increasing the number of accelerated and AP courses and expanding access to these options.
When teachers at West got news of this plan, many were enraged at not being included in its development. Further, many concluded that the District plans to replace West’s electives with AP courses. They’ve expressed their concerns to students in their classes, and kids are riled up. Students plan to stage a walk-out on Friday, during which they will walk down to the Doyle Building and deliver a petition to Superintendent Nerad protesting the proposed reforms.

Lots of related links:

Madison school district to consider alternatives to traditional public schools

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

The Madison School District will explore creating more charter schools, magnet schools, and schools-within-schools — in part to help keep middle-class families in the district.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said Tuesday he plans to appoint a committee next month to study alternatives to the traditional public school.
The group will include district staff as well as members from the community and will work on the project for about a year, Nerad said Tuesday in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.
“I don’t know what they’ll come back with, but it’s something that I think is certainly worth investigating, and worth discussion,” School Board member Arlene Silveira said of the committee. “It’s kind of exciting — there’s so many ways to deliver education now.”

Related:

220K Draft copy of the Madison School District’s “High School Curricular Reform”.
Promising. We’ll see how it plays out.

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools

greatmadisonschools.org, via a kind reader’s email:

News Release, Complaint attached

Fifty Madison School District parents filed a formal complaint on September 20, 2010, with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (“DPI”) against the Madison School District for violating State statutes for gifted education. The complaint targets Madison West High School‘s refusal to provide appropriate programs for students identified as academically gifted.

State statutes mandate that “each school board shall provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” The DPI stipulates that this programming must be systematic and continuous, from kindergarten through grade 12. Madison schools have been out of compliance with these standards since 1990, the last time the DPI formally audited the District’s gifted educational services.

“Despair over the lack of TAG services has driven Madison families out of the district,” said Lorie Raihala, a parent in the group. “Hundreds have left through open enrollment, and many have cited the desire for better opportunities for gifted students as the reason for moving their children.”

Recognizing this concern, Superintendent Dan Nerad has stated that “while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district.”

“At the secondary level, the inconsistencies are glaring,” said Raihala. “There are broad disparities among Madison’s public high schools with regard to the number of honors, advanced/accelerated, and AP courses each one offers. Also, each school imposes different requirements and restrictions on students seeking advanced courses. Surprisingly, Madison’s much touted West High School offers the fewest advanced course options for ninth and tenth graders. While the other schools offer various levels of English, science, and social science, Madison West requires all students to follow a standardized program of academic courses, regardless of their ability. This means that students with SAT/ACT scores already exceeding those of most West seniors (obtained via participation in the Northwestern University Midwest Area Talent Search program) must sit through the same courses as students working at basic and emerging proficiency levels.”

Related:

Gayle Worland:Parents file complaint over ‘talented and gifted’ school programming.

Madison School Board Wants To Challenge Gifted Kids

Channel3000, via a kind reader:

Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education members are trying to fight a perception that the school district doesn’t pay enough attention to the city’s brightest students.
School Board member Marj Passman told WTDY Radio that the perception of ignoring gifted students needs, along with the changing demographics of the district, have resulted in a tripling of the number of students transferring out of the district in the past five years.
Passman said despite budget cuts, the board will still strive to launch new partnerships and initiatives this year to push students further, and retain more of them.

Related: Madison School District Talented & Gifted Plan, English 10 and the recent Madison School Board discussion and vote on outbound open enrollment.
A reader mentioned that the Madison School Board meets this evening, but that Talented and Gifted is not on the agenda.
Finally, two Madison School Board seats will be on the April, 2011 spring ballot. They are currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman.

4,100 Students Prove ‘Small Is Better’ Rule Wrong

Sam Dillon

A decade ago, Brockton High School was a case study in failure. Teachers and administrators often voiced the unofficial school motto in hallway chitchat: students have a right to fail if they want. And many of them did — only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.
Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.
Their efforts paid off quickly. In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts. The gains continued. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools. And its turnaround is getting new attention in a report, “How High Schools Become Exemplary,” published last month by Ronald F. Ferguson, an economist at Harvard who researches the minority achievement gap.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

A Look at the Small Learning Community Experiment

Alex Tabarrok:

Did Bill Gates waste a billion dollars because he failed to understand the formula for the standard deviation of the mean? Howard Wainer makes the case in the entertaining Picturing the Uncertain World (first chapter with the Gates story free here). The Gates Foundation certainly spent a lot of money, along with many others, pushing for smaller schools and a lot of the push came because people jumped to the wrong conclusion when they discovered that the smallest schools were consistently among the best performing schools.
…….
States like North Carolina which reward schools for big performance gains without correcting for size end up rewarding small schools for random reasons. Worst yet, the focus on small schools may actually be counter-productive because large schools do have important advantages such as being able to offer more advanced classes and better facilities.
Schools2 All of this was laid out in 2002 in a wonderful paper I teach my students every year, Thomas Kane and Douglas Staiger’s The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures.
In recent years Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have acknowledged that their earlier emphasis on small schools was misplaced. Perhaps not coincidentally the Foundation recently hired Thomas Kane to be deputy director of its education programs.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

Bill Gates’ School Crusade The Microsoft founder’s foundation is betting billions that a business approach can work wonders in the classroom

Daniel Golden:

It’s been two years since Bill Gates left his day-to-day role at Microsoft (MSFT) to concentrate on supervising the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation–and his new enterprise is booming. Headquartered in a converted check-processing center in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood, the 10-year-old foundation plans to move into a 900,000-square-foot campus and visitors’ center near the city’s Space Needle next spring. The Gates Foundation opened a London office this year; it also has offices in Washington, Delhi, and Beijing, and 830 employees around the world, up from about 500 in 2008. With assets of $33.9 billion as of Dec. 31, 2009, and America’s two richest people–Gates and Warren Buffett–as trustees, the foundation plans to spend $3 billion in the next five to seven years on education. If there’s such a thing as a charity behemoth, the Gates Foundation is it.
While its efforts in global health are widely applauded, its record in America’s schools has been more controversial. Starting in 2000, the Gates Foundation spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its first big project, trying to revitalize U.S. high schools by making them smaller, only to discover that student body size has little effect on achievement.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

Small High Schools still in flux

Kristen Graham:

For a time in the mid-2000s, small schools were booming. They were supposed to transform the large, failing American high school, to engage students and boost their achievement to ready them for college.
But the results have been mixed, national and local research shows. Students at small high schools were more likely to graduate, have positive relationships with their teachers, and feel safer. Still, they did no better on standardized tests than did their peers at big schools.
In Philadelphia, where 26 of the 32 small high schools have been opened or made smaller in the last seven years, some schools have thrived. Their presence has transformed the high school mix.
Among the district’s current 63 high schools, the 32 small schools enroll roughly a quarter of the 48,000 total enrollment. The rest attend large neighborhood high schools.

High School of the Future and Science Leadership Academy, four-year-old Phila. high schools just graduated their first classes. Their experiences differ greatly..
Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

Madison High School REal Grant Report to the School Board

Madison School District [4.6MB PDF]:

District administration, along with school leadership and school staff; have examined the research that shows thatfundamental change in education can only be accomplished by creating the opportunity for teachers to talk with one another regarding their instructional practice. The central theme and approach for REaL has heen to improve and enhance instructional practice through collaboration in order to increase student achievement. Special attention has been paid to ensure the work is done in a cross – district, interdepartmental and collaborative manner. Central to the work, are district and school based discussions focused on what skills and knowledge students need to know and be able to do, in order to be prepared for post-secondary education and work. Systemized discussions regarding curriculum aligmnent, course offerings, assessment systems, behavioral expectations and 21 st century skills are occurring across all four high schools and at the district level.
Collaborative professional development has been established to ensure that the work capitalizes on the expertise of current staff, furthers best practices that are already occurring within the MMSD high school classrooms, and enhances the skills of individuals at all levels from administration to classroom teachers needed. Our work to date has laid the foundation for further and more in-depth work to occur.
Since March of 2010, MMSD district and school staff has completed the following work to move the goals of the REaL Grant forward. Specific accomplishments aligning to REaL grant goals are listed below.
REaL Grant Goal 1: Improve Student Achievement for all students

  • Accomplishment I: Completed year 2 of professional development for Department Chairpersons to become instructional leaders. The work will continue this summer with the first ever Department Chairperson and Assistant Principal Summer Institute to focus on leading and fostering teacher collaboration in order to improve student achievement.
  • Accomplishment 2: Continued with planning for implementing the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the EP AS system. Visited with area districts to see the
    impact of effective implementation the EP AS system in order to ensure successful implementation within MMSD.

  • Accomplishment 3: Piloted the implementation of the EXPLORE test at Memorial, Sherman and with 9th grade AVID students at all four comprehensive high schools.
  • Accomplishment 4: This summer, in partnership with Monona Grove High School and Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA), MMSD will host the Aligned by Design: Aligning High School and Middle School English, Science, Math and Social Studies Courses to College/Career Readiness Skills. To be attended by teams of MMSD high school and middle school staff in July of 2010.
  • Accomplishment 5: Continued focused planning and development of a master communication system for the possible implementation of early release Professional Collaboration Time at MMSD High Schools. Schools have developed plans for effective teaming structures and accountability measures.
  • Accomplishment 6: District English leadership team developed recommendations for essential understandings in the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening for 9th and 10th grades. Following this successful model, similar work will occur in Math, Science and Social studies.

Related: Small Learning Community and English 10.
Bruce King, who evaluated the West High’s English 9 (one English class for all students) approach offers observations on the REal program beginning on page 20 of the PDF file.

The Edu-Innovation Opportunity

Tom Vander Ark:

A reporter asked me “what went wrong with the small schools idea?” It’s odd question because all the networks developing highly effective new schools–KIPP, Achievement First, Success Network, Green Dot, Alliance and dozens more–still use the tried and true rule of thumb of 100 students per grade.
The better question is “what went wrong with the big schools idea?” The 50-year experiment with mega-high schools of 1,500-4,500 students had disastrous results especially for low income students. The combination of anonymity and a proliferation of low expectation courses set up the results we see today: one third of American students drop out and one third graduate unprepared for college or careers.
Fixing this problem has proven vexing. The one difference between good schools and bad schools is everything–structure, schedule, curriculum, instruction, culture, and connections with families and community. That makes turnarounds, especially at the high school level, really difficult. Layer on top of that outdated employment contracts and revolving door leadership and you have a national Gordian knot.

Related: English 10.

Madison High School Comparison: Advanced Levels of Academic Core Courses

Lorie Raihala 91K PDF via email:

For years there has been broad disparity among the four MMSD high schools in the number of honors, advanced/accelerated, and AP courses each one offers. In contrast to East and LaFollette, for instance, West requires all students, regardless of learning level or demonstrated competence, to take standard academic core courses in 9th and 10th grade. There has also been wide discrepancy in the requirements and restrictions each school imposes on students who seek to participate in existing advanced course options.
Parents of children at West have long called on administrators to address this inequity by increasing opportunities for advanced, accelerated instruction. Last year Superintendent Dan Nerad affirmed the goal of bringing consistency to the opportunities offered to students across the District. Accordingly, the Talented and Gifted Education Plan includes five Action Steps specifically geared toward bringing consistency and increasing student participation in advanced courses across MMSD high schools. This effort was supposed to inform the MMSD master course list for the 2010/11 school year. Though District administrators say they have begun internal conversations about this disparity, next year’s course offerings again remain the same.
Please consider what levels of English, science, and social studies each MMSD high school offers its respective 9th and 10th graders for the 2010-11 school year, and what measures each school uses to determine students’ eligibility for advanced or honors level courses.

Related: English 10 and Dane County AP Course Comparison.
I appreciate Lorie’s (and others) efforts to compile and share this information.
Update: 104K PDF revised comparison.

Berkeley High may cut lab classes to fund programs for struggling students

Marie L. La Ganga:

Trying to address a major ethnic and racial achievement gap, the school could divert funds from before- and after-school science labs filled mostly with white students. The plan has sparked debate.
Aaron Glimme’s Advanced Placement chemistry students straggle in, sleepy. It is 7:30 a.m. at Berkeley High School. The day doesn’t officially begin for another hour. They pull on safety goggles, measure out t-butyl alcohol and try to determine the molar mass of an unknown substance by measuring how much its freezing point decreases.
In the last school year, 82% of Berkeley’s AP chemistry students passed the rigorous exam, which gives college credit for high school work. The national passing rate is 55.2%. The school’s AP biology and physics students are even more successful.
Most districts would not argue with such a record, but Berkeley High’s science labs are embroiled in a debate over scarce resources with overtones of race, class and politics.
Campus leadership has proposed cutting before- and after-school labs — decreasing science instruction by 20% to 40% — and using that money to fund “equity” programs for struggling students in an effort to close one of the widest racial and ethnic achievement gaps in the state.

Related: English 10.

Berkeley High May Cut Out Science Labs
The proposal would trade labs seen as benefiting white students for resources to help struggling students.

Eric Klein:

Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.
The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High’s School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley’s dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.
Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.
Science teachers were understandably horrified by the proposal. “The majority of the science department believes that this major policy decision affecting the entire student body, the faculty, and the community has been made without any notification, without a hearing,” said Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School’s science department, at last week’s school board meeting.

La Shawn Barber has more.
Related: English 10.

Tracking/Grouping Students: Detracked Schools have fewer advanced math students than “tracked schools”

Tom Loveless:

What are the implications of “tracking,” or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement? Many schools have moved away from this practice and reduced the number of subject-area courses offered in a given grade. In this new Thomas B. Fordham Institute report, Brookings scholar Tom Loveless examines tracking and detracking in Massachusetts middle schools, with particular focus on changes that have occurred over time and their implications for high-achieving students. Among the report’s key findings: detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. The report also finds that detracking is more popular in schools serving disadvantaged populations.

Valerie Strauss:

A new report out today makes the case that students do better in school when they are separated into groups based on their achievement.
Loveless found that de-tracked schools have fewer advanced students in math than do tracked schools–and that de-tracking is more popular in schools that serve disadvantaged students.

Chester Finn, Jr. and Amber Winkler [1.3MB complete report pdf]:

By 2011, if the states stick to their policy guns, all eighth graders in California and Minnesota will be required to take algebra. Other states are all but certain to follow. Assuming these courses hold water, some youngsters will dive in majestically and then ascend gracefully to the surface, breathing easily. Others, however, will smack their bellies, sink to the bottom and/or come up gasping. Clearly, the architects of this policy have the best of intentions. In recent years, the conventional wisdom of American K-12 education has declared algebra to be a “gatekeeper” to future educational and career success. One can scarcely fault policy makers for insisting that every youngster pass through that gate, lest too many find their futures constrained. It’s also well known that placing students in remedial classes rarely ends up doing them a favor, especially in light of evi- dence that low-performing students may learn more in heterogeneous classrooms.
Yet common sense must ask whether all eighth graders are truly prepared to succeed in algebra class. That precise question was posed in a recent study by Brookings scholar Tom Loveless (The 2008 Brown Center Report on American Education), who is also the author of the present study. He found that over a quarter of low-performing math students–those scoring in the bottom 10 percent on NAEP–were enrolled in advanced math courses in 2005. Since these “misplaced” students are ill-pre- pared for the curricular challenges that lie ahead, Loveless warned, pushing an “algebra for all” policy on them could further endanger their already-precarious chances of success.
When American education produced this situation by abolishing low-level tracks and courses, did people really believe that such seemingly simple–and well-meanin –changes in policy and school organization would magically transform struggling learners into middling or high-achieving ones? And were they oblivious to the effects that such alterations might have on youngsters who were al- ready high-performing?

Related: English 10.

Rethinking “Small Learning Communities”: A review of the small-schools structure at North Eugene High nears

Anne Williams:

Four years after North Eugene High School set out to reinvent itself, the Eugene School Board wants to take stock. [Eugene School Board Goals, Superintendent’s Proposed Goals.]
Within the next month or two, the district — at the board’s behest — will hire an individual or team of educational researchers to try to gauge how well North Eugene’s “small schools” structure is serving students.
“It’s kind of consistent with board goals; we try to have measurable results,” board Chairman Craig Smith said. “We decided that, since the first class has come through, it’s time to see where we are in terms of progress.”
Showing gains — lower dropout rates, improved student achievement, better attendance and greater college readiness — has been difficult at many schools that have taken North Eugene’s path.
Championed and chiefly bankrolled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the small schools movement aimed to lift student achievement by creating highly personalized schools where all students were known and held to high standards and teachers worked closely together.
But after investing a goodly share of $2 billion into the creation of hundreds of small schools across the country, the Gates Foundation has shifted direction in its high school reform strategy, focusing less on structure and more on effective teaching and curriculum.
“The structural and design changes in schools we focused on in our earlier work simply did not yield those gains,” Vicki Phillips, the foundation’s education director, told Congress last May.
A growing number of grant recipients have dissolved their small schools and are going back to a traditional model, sometimes with some small-school elements intact. Most cite disappointing results or burdensome operating costs, or both. Those schools include Portland’s Madison High School and Mountlake Terrace High School in the Seattle suburbs, a flagship of the initiative that staff members from North visited during the planning phase.

Related:

SIS Interview: University of Wisconsin Education Professor Adam Gamoran



Dr. Adam Gamoran (Dr. Gamoran’s website; Clusty search) has been involved with a variety Madison School District issues, including controversial mandatory academic grouping changes (English 10, among others).
I had an opportunity to briefly visit with Dr. Gamoran during the District’s Strategic Planning Process. He kindly agreed to spend some time recently discussing these and other issues (22K PDF discussion topics, one of which – outbound open enrollment growth – he was unfamiliar with).
Click here to download the 298MB .m4v (iTunes, iPhone, iPod) video file, or a 18MB audio file. A transcript is available here.

2008-2009 Madison West High School ReaLGrant Initiave update

57K PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

The School Improvement Committee has spent this year investigating academic support models in other schools to begin to develop an effective model for West High School. The committee visited Memorial High School, Evanston High School, Wheeling High School, and New Trier High School, in IL. Some of the common themes that were discovered, especially in the Illinois schools, were as follows:

  • Many schools have an identified academic team who intervene with struggling students. These teams of support people have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The students are regularly monitored, they develop both short and long term goals and the students develop meaningful relationships with an adult in the building. The academic support team has regular communication with teaching staff and makes recommendations for student support.
  • There are mandatory study tables in each academic content areas where students are directed to go if they are receiving a D or F in any given course.
  • Students who are skill deficient are identified in 8th grade and are provided with a summer program designed to prepare them for high school, enhanced English and Math instruction in 9th grade, and creative scheduling that allows for students to catch up to grade level.
  • Some schools have a family liaison person who is able to make meaningful connections in the community and with parents. After school homework centers are thriving.
  • Social privileges are used as incentives for students to keep their grades up.

Recommendations from the SIP Committee

  • Design more creative use of academic support allocation to better meet the needs of struggling students.
  • Create an intervention team with specific role definition for each team member.
  • Design and implement an after school homework center that will be available for all students, not just those struggling academically.
  • Design and implement student centers and tables that meet specific academic and time needs (after school, lunch, etc.)
  • Identify a key staff person to serve in a specialized family liaison role.
  • Develop a clear intervention scaffold that is easy for staff to interpret and use.
  • Design and implement enhanced Math and English interventions for skill deficient students.

Related topics: