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

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

“Plenty of Resources”: Madison’s school budget ($17K+/student) isn’t so bad

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: Cheatham has the right attitude on “repurposing” school resources within existing spending levels. She wants to add three more employees to focus on student academic and career planning, for example. That should help more struggling students graduate. She also wants to advance the district’s technology plan. Cheatham is proposing $2.1 million … Continue reading “Plenty of Resources”: Madison’s school budget ($17K+/student) isn’t so bad

2013: What will be different, this time? 2019: Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison Experience

Paul Fanlund, in an interesting contrast to recent Isthmus articles: She said Madison should look beyond simple metrics and keep working to “create a liberating experience for students where they’re valued, where they’re seen as fully human and complex. That’s what this community needs to hold at the center as it’s making its decisions in … Continue reading 2013: What will be different, this time? 2019: Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison Experience

Why are Madison’s Students Struggling to Read?

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

Commentary on Regional economic development

Judy Newman: The report, conducted by Market Street Services, an Atlanta business consulting firm, updates the first Advance Now plan, presented in 2012, and many of its recommendations are similar: Develop a brand identity for the Madison region — identified as Dane, Columbia, Dodge, Jefferson, Rock and Sauk counties — and promote it; educate and … Continue reading Commentary on Regional economic development

A rotten year Madison: teachers report from the classroom (2013 – “what will be different, this time?”)

Dylan Brogan: But the transfrmation has been a rocky one and disparities persist. Isthmus collected over 30 hours of interviews with dozens of Madison educators over the past two months. Teachers from three elementary schools, five middle schools and three high schools shared their experiences in the classroom. Most requested anonymity because of fears of … Continue reading A rotten year Madison: teachers report from the classroom (2013 – “what will be different, this time?”)

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

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

Madison Schools’ 4th Grade Reading: 2005-2016

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

“We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades”

Paul Fanlund: For example? “If you’re looking for the simplest examples, we weren’t consistently teaching students the fundamentals of reading in the earliest grades. We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades, and then you wonder why students aren’t attaining the skills, the basic skills … the foundational skills of reading. We still have … Continue reading “We weren’t teaching phonics consistently in the early grades”

Madison Schools 2017-2018 $494,652,025 Budget Documents

Madison School District Administration (PDF):: June Preliminary Budget Financial Status Balanced Operating Budget: $390,045,697 All Funds Budget: $494,652,025 All Funds Budget: $494,652,025 Total Tax Levy $298,495,588 Tax Rate Increase from $11.92 to $12.03 per $1,000 of home value Tax Impact on Avg. Home Valued at $258K is estimated at $74.57 Under-Levy of $2.0 million (Not … Continue reading Madison Schools 2017-2018 $494,652,025 Budget Documents

A different tune: Unschooling families pursue their own educational path

Amber Walker: Marie thought the “one-size-fits-all” model of public schools would not work for their kids. “I wanted them to be able to explore their individuality and find out what they really love to do,” she said. “Schools tend to tell you what you are not good at and then make you work harder at … Continue reading A different tune: Unschooling families pursue their own educational path

Mission Vs Organization: Shades Of Cutting Strings….

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

Commentary On The Legacy Government K-12 School Climate

Jennifer Cheatham: With a contested race for state superintendent of public instruction and a legislative session that is swinging into gear, much is at stake for public education in Wisconsin. One of the fundamental issues at the center of the debate is the potential expansion of “school choice,” which is the term used to describe … Continue reading Commentary On The Legacy Government K-12 School Climate

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

The Madison School District is considering another property tax increase referendum for the upcoming November election. We’ve long spent more than most districts (“plenty of resources”), despite challenging academic outcomes. I thought it might be useful to revisit the choices homeowners and parents make. I’ve compared two properties, one in Middleton (2015 assessment: $257,500.00) and … Continue reading Madison Schools 2016 Property Tax Increase Referendum – Let’s Compare: Madison and Middleton Property Taxes

Let’s Compare: Boston, Long Beach & Madison

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

“In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.” Slide updates on Madison’s $500M+ Government School System

PDF slides from a recent Madison School District Quarterly Board retreat. Readers may wish to understand “MAP” or “Measure of Academic Progress” [duck duck go SIS 2012 Madison and Waunakee results] Using MAP for Strategic Framework Milestones and SIP Metrics Feedback from various stakeholders has led us to examine the use of MAP (Measures of … Continue reading “In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.” Slide updates on Madison’s $500M+ Government School System

Madison Superintendent’s Perspective

Jennifer Cheatham: Our strategy is no longer a laundry list of ever-changing “initiatives,” but instead a set of inter-related, long-term work aimed at eliminating the gaps in opportunity that lead to disparities in achievement. It is directly focused on the day-to-day work of great teaching and learning. Put differently, our strategy directly impacts the daily … Continue reading Madison Superintendent’s Perspective

Madison School Board Member & Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke Apologizes to Neenah’s Superintendent over Act 10 Remarks

The Neenah Superintendent wrote a letter to Madison School Board Member & Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke on 19 September. Ms. Burke recently apologized for her Act 10 remarks: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has apologized to the superintendent of the Neenah school district for comments she made on the campaign trail. Burke had been citing … Continue reading Madison School Board Member & Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke Apologizes to Neenah’s Superintendent over Act 10 Remarks

Jennifer Cheatham’s Chicago contingent well received in Madison

Pat Schneider:

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

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: This is how everyone’s been doing since the financial crisis

Brad Plumer:

The median household income in July was $52,113, according to a report by Sentier Research. That’s 6.2 percent lower than the median in September 2008, the start of the financial crisis. And there hasn’t been much growth since 2011.
That jibes with Saez’s research, which notes that incomes of the bottom 99 percent have fallen 12 percent in the recession and have grown just 0.4 percent in the recovery.

Related: Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget includes a 4.5% property tax increase after 9% two years ago.
Plenty of resources” and “the Madison School District has the resources to close the achievement gap“.

Comparing Madison, Boston & Long Beach Public Schools: Student/Teacher Ratio

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham recently cited the Boston and Long Beach Schools for “narrowing their achievement gap” during a July, 2013 “What Will be Different This Time” presentation to the Madison Rotary Club.
As time permits, I intend to post comparisons between the Districts, starting today.
Student / Teacher Ratio



Per Student Annual Spending



Boston Schools’ budget information was, by far the easiest to find. Total spending is mentioned prominently, rather than buried in a mountain of numbers.
Finally, after I noticed that Madison’s student / teacher ratio is significantly lower than Boston, Long Beach and the Badger state average, I took a look at the Wisconsin DPI website to see how staffing has changed over the past few years. Madison’s licensed staff grew from 2,273 in 2007-2008 to 2,492 in 2011-2012.
What are the student achievement benefits of Madison’s very low ratio?
Related: Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget includes a 4.5% property tax increase after 9% two years ago.
Plenty of resources” and “the Madison School District has the resources to close the achievement gap“.

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

Matthew DeFour:

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

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

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