Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Wisconsin Reading Coalition has alerted you over the past 6 months to DPI’s intentions to change PI-34, the administrative rule that governs teacher licensing in Wisconsin. We consider those changes to allow overly-broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test for new teachers. The revised PI-34 has […]
Results, by ed school, via the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: October, 2015 data request: January 2014-August 2014 .xls. .docx September 2014-August 2015 .xls .docx To Date (2015) .xls .docx July 2017 Request: 2013-2014 .xls 2014-2015 .xls 2015-2016 .xls 2016 – YTD .xls Much more on Wisconsin’s Foundation of Reading Teacher Content Knowledge exam, here. […]
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Citing anecdotal evidence of a shortage of fully licensed teachers for available positions, DPI has issued an emergency rule that would allow many in-state and out-of-state individuals to become licensed and act as teachers-of-record in the classroom without passing the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). The work-around to […]
Wisconsin Reading Coalition Comments: Wisconsin’s DPI provided the results to-date of the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading exam to School Information System, which posted an analysis. Be aware that the passing score from January, 2014 through August, 2014, was lower than the passing score in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Since September of 2014, the Wisconsin passing score […]
Alan Borsuk: As someone recently put it to me, improving Wisconsin’s overall results in reading will not come from pushing one button. It will require pushing maybe 10 buttons. A lot needs to be done. Some of the buttons that should be pushed connect to what goes on in school. Some connect to things beyond […]
Erin K. Washburn, Candace A. Mulcahy, Gail Musante and R. Malatesha Joshi: Current understandings about the nature of persistent reading problems have been influenced by researchers in numerous fields. Researchers have noted that a current and accurate understanding of reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, can be helpful in assessing, teaching and supporting indi- viduals with […]
Natalie Wexler: Cognitive scientists have known for decades that simply mastering comprehension skills doesn’t ensure a young student will be able to apply them to whatever texts they’re confronted with on standardized tests and in their studies later in life. One of those cognitive scientists spoke on the Tuesday panel: Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor […]
Patrick Marley: A group of teachers and parents sued, arguing the law didn’t apply to Evers because of the powers granted to him by the state constitution. A Dane County judge agreed with them in 2012 and the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling in 2016. In 2017, Walker signed a new, similar law. Evers […]
Will Fitzhugh is founder and editor of The Concord Review, which publishes outstanding historical essays by high school students. I have long been an admirer of the publication and of Will for sustaining it without support from any major foundations, which are too engaged in reinventing the schools rather than supporting the work of excellent […]
Education Trust- Midwest (PDF): This decline has come as state leaders have invested nearly $80 million to raise third-grade reading levels — and during the same period when many other states that also adopted higher standards for teaching and learning produced notable learning gains for their students in the same metric. In some respects, Michigan’s […]
Wisconsin Reading Coalition: Milwaukee Summer Reading Project As MSRP enters its 7th year, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo has proposed legislation that would provide $1.1 million for the program over two years. The six-week summer program for Milwaukee students exiting 1st and 2nd grades has seen student scores rise significantly. Dr. Howard Fuller, who spearheaded MSRP, credits […]
Robert Pondiscio & Kevin Mahnken, via a kind reader’s email: Among opponents of the Common Core, one of the more popular targets of vitriol is the standards’ focus on improving literacy by introducing higher levels of textual complexity into the instructional mix. The move to challenge students with more knotty, grade-level reading material represents a […]
he National Center for Education Statistics has released the 2013 scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the “Nation’s Report Card.” While the press has rightly focused on Wisconsin’s scores for black students (lowest in the country) and the black-white gap (largest in the country), the data indicates many other areas of concern. Here are some major takeaways from the critical 4th grade reading performance:
- Wisconsin’s average score (221) in 2013 is identical to 2011, and is statistically unchanged from our first NAEP score (224) in 1992.While we have remained stagnant, many other jurisdictions have seen statistically significant increases.
- Wisconsin ranked 31st out of 52 jurisdictions that participated in NAEP this year. In 1994, we ranked 3rd.
- Since 2007, the number of jurisdictions scoring significantly lower than Wisconsin has shrunk from 21 to 11. The number scoring significantly higher has grown from 8 to 15. Wisconsin sits in the lower half of the “middle” group of 26 jurisdictions.
- Only 8% of Wisconsin students scored at the advanced level, while 32% were below basic, the lowest level.
- Compared to their peer groups nationwide, Wisconsin’s white, black, Hispanic, Asian, low income, and disabled students all scored below their respective national averages.
- Wisconsin had the lowest scores for black students in the nation.
- Wisconsin had the largest gap between white and black students in the nation.
How will Wisconsin respond?
Social and economic disadvantages affect achievement for many students, but other states do better at mitigating those realities. Wisconsin must look within the education system itself for improvement opportunities, starting with teacher preparation. Beginning in 2014, the Foundations of Reading exam will require prospective teachers to understand the science of reading that is woven through the Common Core State Standards and that is necessary for successful intervention with struggling readers. As DPI revises the regulations governing educator licensure and preparation program approval, it will be important to align them with the only comprehensive guidelines available, the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (Moats, Carreker, Davis, Meisel, Spear-Swerling, Wilson, 2010), and to encourage independent, objective program reviews for campuses. Equally important, our state and districts need to provide practicing teachers with that same knowledge of language structure and reading acquisition, and to track the impact of professional development on student performance outcomes. Programs like LETRS from Sopris Learning and the online coursework and coaching offerings from the Science of Reading Partnership deserve attention. Only then can we hope to see student outcomes begin to reflect the efforts of our dedicated educators.
The pie charts below show the breakdown of proficiency levels of Wisconsin students as a whole and broken into sub-groups. The line graphs show the trend over time in Wisconsin scores compared to Massachusetts, Florida, and Washington, D.C., where the science of reading has found a greater acceptance in education, as well as the changes in national ranking for Massachusetts, Florida, and Wisconsin.
Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results and Wisconsin adopts the MTEL-90 (Massachusetts) elementary teacher English content knowledge requirements.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company, announced a partnership on Wednesday to create online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months.
The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, Pearson and Gates officials said.
Widespread adoption of the new standards, known as the common core, has provoked a race among textbook publishers to revise their current classroom offerings so they align with the standards, and to produce new materials. The Gates-Pearson initiative appears to be the most ambitious such effort so far.
Improving teacher effectiveness is hgh on the list of most education reformers in colorado, as it is nationally. Effective teaching in the elementary years is of vital importance to ensure not only that children master fundamental skills, but that performance gaps narrow rather than widen beyond repair. We now know that disadvantaged students can catch up academically with their more advantaged peers if they have great elementary teachers several years in a row.
It is for these reasons that the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan research and advocacy group dedicated to the systemic reform of the teaching profession, evaluates the adequacy of preparation provided by undergraduate education schools. These programs produce 70 percent of our nation’s teachers. We think it is crucial to focus specifically on the quality of preparation of future elementary teachers in the core subjects of reading and mathematics.
Teacher preparation programs, or “ed schools” as they are more commonly known, do not now, nor have they ever, enjoyed a particularly positive reputation. Further, there is a growing body of research demonstrating that teacher preparation does not matter all that much and that a teacher with very little training can be as effective as a teacher who has had a lot of preparation. As a result, many education reformers are proposing that the solution to achieving better teacher quality is simply to attract more talented people into teaching, given that their preparation does not really matter.
In several significant ways, we respectfully disagree. NCTQ is deeply committed to high-quality formal teacher preparation, but, importantly, we are not defenders of the status quo. We also do not believe that it is a realistic strategy to fuel a profession with three million members nationally by only attracting more elite students. Yes, we need to be much more selective about who gets into teaching, and we strenuously advocate for that goal. But even smart people can become better teachers, particularly of young children, if they are provided with purposeful and systematic preparation.
NCTQ has issued two national reports on the reading and mathematics preparation of elementary teachers in undergraduate education schools. The first, What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning was released in May 2006.1 The second, No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America’s Education Schools, followed just over two years later.2 These reports provide the methodological foundations for this analysis of teacher preparation in every undergraduate program in Colorado.
1. The state should require teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.
2. All preparation programs in a state should use a common admissions test to facilitate program comparison, and the test should allow comparison of applicants to the general college-going population. The selection of applicants should be limited to the top half of that population.
Wisconsin requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs only accept teacher can- didates who have passed a basic skills test, the Praxis I. Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is normed just to the prospective teacher population. The state also allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate equivalent performance on a college entrance exam.
Wisconsin also requires a 2.5 GPA for admission to an undergraduate program.
To promote diversity, Wisconsin allows programs to admit up to 10 percent of the total number of students admitted who have not passed the basic skills test.
Require all teacher candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, writing and mathematics skills as a criterion for admission to teacher preparation programs.
Even though the state’s policy that permits programs to admit up to 10 percent of students who have not passed the basic skills test is part of a laudable goal to promote diversity, allowing this exemption is risky because of the low bar set by the Praxis I (see next recommendation).
Require preparation programs to use a common test normed to the general college-bound population.
Wisconsin should require an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically com- petitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class, as well as facilitate program comparison.
Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Wisconsin might also want to consider requiring content testing prior to program admission as opposed to at the point of program completion. Program candidates are likely to have completed coursework that covers related test content in the prerequisite classes required for program admis- sion. Thus, it would be sensible to have candidates take content tests while this knowledge is fresh rather than wait two years to fulfill the requirement, and candidates lacking sufficient expertise would be able to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.
For admission to teacher preparation programs, Rhode Island and Delaware require a test of academic proficiency normed to the general college- bound population rather than a test that is normed just to prospective teachers. Delaware also requires teacher candidates to have a 3.0 GPA or be in the top 50th percentile for general education coursework completed. Rhode Island also requires an average cohort GPA of 3.0, and beginning in 2016, the cohort mean score on nationally-normed tests such as the ACT, SAT or GRE must be in the top 50th percentile. In 2020, the requirement for the mean test score will increase from the top half to the top third.
via a kind Wisconsin Reading Coalition email:
After receiving a grade of D in 2009 and 2001, Wisconsin has risen to a D+ on the 2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook released by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
In the area of producing effective teachers of reading, Wisconsin received a bump up for requiring a rigorous test on the science of reading. The Foundations of Reading exam will be required beginning January 31, 2014.
Ironically, Wisconsin also scored low for not requiring teacher preparation programs to prepare candidates in the science of reading instruction. We hope that will change through the revision of the content guidelines related to elementary licensure during a comprehensive review process that is underway at DPI this winter and spring.
Elementary and Special Education Teacher Preparation in Reading Instruction
New legislation now requires as a condition of initial licensure that all elementary and special education teachers pass an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test administered as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure. The passing score on the examination will be set at a level no lower than the level recommended by the developer of the test, based on the state’s standards.
2011 Wisconsin Act 166, Section 21, 118.19(14)(a)
Teacher Preparation Program Accountability
Each teacher preparation program must submit a list of program completers who have been recommended for licensure. Also, a system will be developed to publicly report measures of performance for each prep program. Beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, each program must display a passage rate on the first attempt of recent graduates on licensure exams.
2011 Wisconsin Act 166, Section 14, 25.79, Section 17, 115.28(7g)
Wisconsin Response to Policy Update
States were asked to review NCTQ’s identified updates and also to comment on policy changes related to teacher preparation that have occurred in the last year, pending changes or teacher preparation in the state more generally. States were also asked to review NCTQ’s analysis of teacher preparation authority (See Figure 20).
Wisconsin noted that middle childhood–early adolescence elementary teachers are required to earn a subject area minor. Wisconsin also included links and citations pertaining to content test requirements for adding to secondary certifications.
The state asserted that its alternate route programs require the same basic skills tests and passing scores for admission that are required for institutions of higher education (IHEs). The state added that alternate route programs are required to use the same content tests and passing scores as IHEs and that content tests are taken as an
Wisconsin referred to its handbook and approval guidelines for alternate route programs and noted that the state has added a new pathway, “License based on Equivalency.” The state noted that its new website, Pathways to Wisconsin Licensure, along with updated materials, will be posted in mid-August 2012 at http://dpi.wi.gov/tepdl/
In addition, Wisconsin was helpful in providing NCTQ with further information about state authority for teacher preparation and licensing
Section 21. 118.19 (14) of the statutes is created to read:
118.19 (14) (a) The department may not issue an initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in grades kindergarten to 5 or in special education, an initial license as a reading teacher, or an initial license as a reading specialist, unless the applicant has passed an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test administered in 2012 as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure [blekko]. The department shall set the passing cut score on the examination at a level no lower than the level recommended by the developer of the test, based on this state’s standards.
(c) Any teacher who passes the examination under par. (a) shall notify the department, which shall add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that he or she passed the examination.
115.28 (7g) Evaluation of teacher preparatory programs.
(a) The department shall, in consultation with the governor’s office, the chairpersons of the committees in the assembly and senate whose subject matter is elementary and secondary education and ranking members of those committees, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, do all of the following:
1. Determine how the performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory program described in s. 115.28 (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in s. 115.28 (7) (e) 2. and located in this state will be used to evaluate the teacher preparatory and education programs. The determination under this subdivision shall, at minimum, define “recently completed” and identify measures to assess an individual’s performance, including the performance assessment made prior to making a recommendation for licensure.
2. Determine how the measures of performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory or education program identified as required under subd. 1. will be made accessible to the public.
3. Develop a system to publicly report the measures of performance identified as required under subd. 1. for each teacher preparatory and education program identified in subd. 1.
(b) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the department shall use the system developed under par. (a) 3. to annually report for each program identified in par. (a) 1. the passage rate on first attempt of students and graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1.
(c) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, each teacher preparatory and education program shall prominently display and annually update the passage rate on first attempt of recent graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1. on the program’s Web site and provide this information to persons receiving admissions materials to the program.
Section 18. 115.28 (12) (ag) of the statutes is created to read:
115.28 (12) (ag) Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, each school district using the system under par. (a) shall include in the system the following information for each teacher teaching in the school district who completed a teacher preparatory program described in sub. (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in sub. (7) (e) 2. and located in this state on or after January 1, 2012:
1. The name of the teacher preparatory program or teacher education program the teacher attended and completed.
2. The term or semester and year in which the teacher completed the program described in subd. 1.
- A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges
- 9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes
- Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting
- The Economist on Florida’s Education Reform
- July 29 Wisconsin Read to Lead task force meeting notes
- Notes and links on Wisconsins’s oft criticized WKCEGeorgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review
- Grade Inflation for Education Majors and Low Standards for Teachers When Everyone Makes the Grade
- When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?
This is a sea change for Wisconsin students, the most substantive in decades. Of course, what is entered into the statutes can be changed or eliminated. The MTEL requirement begins with licenses after 1.1.2014.
Wisconsin DPI Superintendent’s enewsletter:
The education bill with provisions related to Educator Effectiveness and Early Literacy is now waiting the governor’s signature.
State Superintendent Tony Evers applauded aspects of the bill this week, while acknowledging “difficult” moments during the Legislature’s just-ended session.
One provision of the education bill “incorporates the on-going work of my Educator Effectiveness Design Team,” Evers said.
That group is working to pilot “an educator evaluation system that is centered on student learning, and is fair, valid, and reliable. This legislation will allow our performance-based evaluation system to move forward, supporting teachers and principals in their job of educating students and helping our educators improve throughout their careers.”
Evers said other provisions “are based on a path forward that was agreed to by the members of the Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force.” He said those provisions “will help Wisconsin better prepare educators to teach reading. It will also help us to better identify kindergarteners who are struggling with the components of early literacy, and help us improve reading results for all children.”
“I look forward to the Governor signing this important bill into law,” Evers concluded.
Much more on the Read to Lead initiative, here.
This photo recently appeared on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ website.
The 2012 Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force report can be viewed, here. The report mentions a number of recommendations regarding teacher preparation, including:
The current Wisconsin teacher licensure exam has few questions on reading instruction, and many of those questions are lacking in rigor. Reading should be emphasized specifically; however, the state should also take this opportunity to strengthen licensure requirements overall. Specifically, the Task Force recommends the well-‐regarded Massachusetts Test for Education Licensure (MTEL) “Foundations of Reading” to be the required state exam by 2013 to raise the bar. The exam should be incorporated within the current Wisconsin exam to reduce costs in the short term. In the long term, the state should explore adopting MTEL exams across all subject areas.
As part of the process of adopting a new exam, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will inform institutions of higher education on what will be covered on the MTEL, thereby igniting a much-‐needed conversation to ensure the theoretical and technical knowledge needed to teach students to read is effectively and sufficiently taught to prospective reading teachers.
Summary of the Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Recommendations, January, 2012
Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
All teachers and administrators should receive more instruction in reading pedagogy that focuses on evidence-based practices and the five components of reading as defined by the National Reading Panel (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).
- There must be more accountability at the state level and a commitment by institutions of higher education to improving teacher preparation.
Licensure requirements should be strengthened to include the Massachusetts Foundations of Reading exam by 2013.
Teacher preparation programs should expand partnerships with local school districts and early childhood programs.
Information on the performance of graduates of teacher preparation programs should be available to the public.
A professional development conference should be convened for reading specialists and elementary school principals.
DPI should make high quality, science-based, online professional development in reading available to all teachers.
Professional development plans for all initial educators should include a component on instructional strategies for reading and writing.
Professional development in reading instruction should be required for all teachers whose students continually show low levels of achievement and/or growth in reading.
- Screening, Assessment, and Intervention
Wisconsin should use a universal statewide screening tool in pre-kindergarten through second grade to ensure that struggling readers are identified as early as possible.
Proper accommodations should be given to English language learners and special education students.
Formal assessments should not replace informal assessments, and schools should assess for formative and summative purposes.
Educators should be given the knowledge to interpret assessments in a way that guides instruction.
Student data should be shared among early childhood programs, K-12 schools, teachers, parents, reading specialists, and administrators.
Wisconsin should explore the creation of a program similar to the Minnesota Reading Corps in 2013.
- Early Childhood
DPI and the Department of Children and Families should work together to share data, allowing for evaluation of early childhood practices.
All 4K programs should have an adequate literacy component.
DPI will update the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards to ensure accuracy and alignment with the Common Core State Standards, and place more emphasis on fidelity of implementation of the WMELS.
The YoungStar rating system for early childhood programs should include more specific early literacy criteria.
The Educator Effectiveness Design Team should consider reading outcomes in its evaluation systems.
The Wisconsin School Accountability Design Team should emphasize early reading proficiency as a key measure for schools and districts. Struggling schools and districts should be given ongoing quality professional development and required to implement scientific research-based screening, assessment, curriculum, and intervention.
Educators and administrators should receive training on best practices in order to provide effective instruction for struggling readers.
The state should enforce the federal definition for scientific research-based practices, encourage the use of What Works Clearinghouse, and facilitate communication about effective strategies.
In addition to effective intervention throughout the school year, Wisconsin should consider mandatory evidence-based summer school programs for struggling readers, especially in the lower grades, and hold the programs accountable for results.
- Family Involvement
Support should be given to programs such as Reach Out and Read that reach low-income families in settings that are well-attended by parents, provide books to low-income children, and encourage adults to read to children.
The state should support programs that show families and caregivers how to foster oral language and reading skill development in children.
Adult literacy agencies and K-12 schools should collaborate at the community level so that parents can improve their own literacy skills.
The fourth meeting of the Governor’s Read to Lead task force took place in Milwaukee on Friday, July 29. The meeting was filmed by Wisconsin Eye, but we have not seen it offered yet through their website. We will send out a notice when that occurs. As always, we encourage you to watch and draw your own conclusions.
Following is a synopsis of the meeting, which centered on reading improvement success in Florida and previously-discussed task force topics (teacher preparation, licensing, professional development, screening/intervention, early childhood). In addition, Superintendent Evers gave an update on activity within DPI. The discussion of the impact of societal factors on reading achievement was held over to the next meeting, as was further revisiting of early childhood issues.
In addition to this summary, you can access Chan Stroman’s Eduphilia tweets at http://twitter.com/#!/eduphilia
Opening: Governor Walker welcomed everyone and stressed the importance of this conversation on reading. Using WKCE data, which has been criticized nationally and locally for years as being derived from low standards, the Governor stated that 80% of Wisconsin students are proficient or advanced in reading, and he is seeking to serve the other 20%. The NAEP data, which figured prominently in the presentation of the guest speakers, tell a very different story. Superintendent Evers thanked the task force members and indicated that this is all about “connecting the dots” and putting all of the “puzzle pieces” together. The work of this task force will impact the work going on in other education-focused committees.
The Florida Story: Guest speakers were Patricia Levesque, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, and Mary Laura Bragg, the director of Florida’s statewide reading initiative, Just Read, Florida! from 2001 to 2006.
In a series of slides, Levesque compared Wisconsin, Florida, and national performance on the NAEP reading test over the past decade. Despite challenges in terms of English language learners, a huge percentage of students on free/reduced lunch, and a minority-majority demographic, Florida has moved from the scraping the bottom on the NAEP to the top group of states. Over the same time period, Wisconsin has plummeted in national ranking, and our students now score below the national average in all subgroups for which NAEP data is disaggregated. 10 points on the NAEP scale is roughly equivalent to one grade level in performance, and Florida has moved from two grade levels below Wisconsin to 1/2 grade level above. For a full discussion of Wisconsin’s NAEP performance, see our website, http://www.wisconsinreadingcoalition.org.
Levesque and Bragg also described the components of the reading initiative in Florida, which included grading all schools from A to F, an objective test-based promotion policy from third to fourth grade, required state-approved reading plans in each district, trained reading coaches in schools, research assistance from the Florida Center for Reading Research, required individual student intervention plans for struggling students, universal K-2 screening for reading problems, improved licensure testing for teachers and principals, the creation of a reading endorsement for teaching licenses, and on-line professional development available to all teachers. As noted above, achievement has gone up dramatically, the gap between demographic groups has narrowed, early intervention is much more common, and third grade retention percentages continue to fall. The middle school performance is now rising as those children who received early intervention in elementary school reach that level. Those students have not yet reached high school, and there is still work to be done there. To accomplish all this, Florida leveraged federal funds for Title 1 and 2 and IDEA, requiring that they be spent for state-approved reading purposes. The Governor also worked actively with business to create private/public partnerships supporting reading. Just Read, Florida! was able to engineer a statewide conference for principals that was funded from vendor fees. While Florida is a strong local control state, reading is controlled from the state level, eliminating the need for local curriculum directors to research and design reading plans without the resources or manpower to do so. Florida also cut off funding to university professors who refused to go along with science-based reading instruction and assessment.
Florida is now sharing its story with other states, and offering assistance in reading plan development, as well as their screening program (FAIR assessment system) and their online professional development, which cost millions to develop. Levesque invited Wisconsin to join Indiana and other states at a conference in Florida this fall.
Questions for, or challenges to, the presenters came from three task force members.
- Rachel Lander asked about the reading coaches, and Bragg responded that they were extensively trained by the state office, beginning with Reading First money. They are in the classroom modeling for teachers and also work with principals on understanding data and becoming building reading leaders. The coaches now have an association that has acquired a presence in the state.
- Linda Pils stated her belief that Wisconsin outperforms Florida at the middle school level, and that we have higher graduation rates than Florida. She cited opinions that third grade retention has some immediate effect, but the results are the same or better for non-retained students later, and that most retained students will not graduate from high school. She also pointed out Florida’s class size reduction requirement, and suggested that the NAEP gains came from that. Levesque explained that the retention studies to which Pils was referring were from other states, where retention decisions were made subjectively by teachers, and there was no requirement for science-based individual intervention plans. The gains for retained students in Florida are greater than for matched students who are not retained, and the gains persist over time. Further, retention did not adversely affect graduation rates. In fact, graduation rates have increased, and dropout rates have declined. The University of Arkansas is planning to do a study of Florida retention. The class size reduction policy did not take effect in Florida until last year, and a Harvard study concluded that it had no effect on student reading achievement. Task force member Steve Dykstra pointed out that you cannot compare the NAEP scores from two states without considering the difference in student demographics. Wisconsin’s middle school scores benefit from the fact that we have a relative abundance of white students who are not on free/reduced lunch. Our overall average student score in middle school may be higher than Florida, but when we compare similar cohorts from both states, Florida is far ahead.
- Tony Pedriana asked what kinds of incentives have been put in place for higher education, principals, etc. to move to a science-based system of instruction. The guests noted that when schools are graded, reading performance receives double weight in the formula. They also withheld funding for university programs that were not science-based.
DPI Update: Superintendent Evers indicated that DPI is looking at action in fours areas: teacher licensure, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, the use of a screener to detect reading problems, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
- The committee looking at licensing is trying to decide whether they should recommend an existing, off-the-shelf competency exam, or revise the exam they are currently requiring (Praxis 2). He did not indicate who is on the committee or what existing tests they were looking at. In the past, several members of the task force have recommended that Wisconsin use the Foundations of Reading test given in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
- DPI is revising the WMELS to correct definitions and descriptions of phonological and phonemic awareness and phonics. The changes will align the WMELS with both the Report of the National Reading Panel and the Common Core State Standards. Per the suggestion of Eboni Howard, a guest speaker at the last meeting, they will get an outside opinion on the WMELS when they are finished. Evers did not indicate who is doing this work.
- DPI is looking at the possibility of using PALS screening or some other tool recommended by the National RTI Center to screen students in grades K-2 or K-3. Evers previously mentioned that this committee had been meeting for 6-7 months, but he did not indicate who is on it.
- Evers made reference to communication that was circulated this week (by Dr. Dan Gustafson and John Humphries) that expressed concern over the method in which DPI is implementing the Common Core. He stated that districts have been asking DPI for help in implementing the CC, and they want to provide districts with a number of resources. One of those is the model curriculum being developed by CESA 7. DPI is looking at it to see how it could help the state move forward, but no final decision has yet been made.
Task force member Pam Heyde, substituting for Marcia Henry, suggested that it would be better to look at what Florida is doing rather than start from ground zero looking at guidelines. Patricia Levesque confirmed that Florida was willing to assist other states, and invited Wisconsin to join a meeting of state reading commissioners in October.
Teacher Preparation: The discussion centered around what needs to change in teacher preparation programs, and how to fit this into a four-year degree.
Steve Dykstra said that Texas has looked at this issue extensively. Most schools need three courses to cover reading adequately, but it is also important to look at the texts that are used in the courses. He referenced a study by Joshi that showed most of the college texts to be inadequate.
Dawnene Hassett, UW-Madison literacy professor in charge of elementary teacher reading preparation, was invited to participate in this part of the discussion. She indicated we should talk in terms of content knowledge, not number of credits. In a couple of years, teachers will have to pass a Teacher Performance Assessment in order to graduate. This was described as a metacognitive exercise using student data. In 2012-13, UW-Madison will change its coursework, combining courses in some of the arts, and dropping some of the pedagogical, psychological offerings.
Tony Pedriana said he felt schools of education had fallen down on teaching content derived from empirical studies.
Hassett said schools teach all five “pillars” of reading, but they may not be doing it well enough. She said you cannot replicate classroom research, so you need research “plus.”
Pils was impressed with the assistance the FCRR gives to classroom teachers regarding interventions that work. She also said spending levels were important.
Dykstra asked Mary Laura Bragg if she had worked with professors who thought they were in alignment with the research, but really weren’t.
Bragg responded that “there’s research, and then there’s research.” They had to educate people on the difference between “research” from vendors and empirical research, which involves issues of fidelity and validation with different groups of students.
Levesque stated that Florida increased reading requirements for elementary candidates from 3 to 6 credits, and added a 3 credit requirement for secondary candidates. Colleges were required to fit this in by eliminating non-content area pedagogy courses.
Kathy Champeau repeated a concern from earlier meetings that teacher candidates need the opportunity to practice their new knowledge in a classroom setting, or they will forget it.
Hassett hoped the Teacher Performance Assessment would help this. The TPA would probably require certain things to be included in the teacher candidate’s portfolio.
Governor Walker said that the key to the effectiveness of Florida’s retention policy was the intervention provided to the students. He asked what they did to make sure intervention was successful.
Levesque replied that one key was reading coaches in the classroom. Also, district reading plans, individual intervention plans, student academies, etc. all need to be approved by the state.
There was consensus that there should be a difference in reading requirements for elementary vs. secondary teachers. There was no discussion of preparation for reading teachers, reading specialists, or special education teachers.
Licensing: The discussion centered around what teacher standards need to be tested.
Dykstra suggested that the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading, written by Louisa Moats, et al, and published by the International Dyslexia Association in 2010, would be good teacher standards, and the basis for a teacher competency exam. There was no need for DPI to spend the next year discussing and inventing new teacher standards.
Champeau said that the International Reading Association also has standards.
Pedriana asked if those standards are based on research.
Dykstra suggested that the task force look at the two sets of standards side-by-side and compare them.
Professional Development: The facilitators looked for input on how professional development for practicing teachers should be targeted. Should the state target struggling teachers, schools, or districts for professional development?
Rep. Jason Fields felt all three needed to be targeted.
Heyde asked Levesque for more details on how Wisconsin could do professional development, when we often hear there is no money.
Levesque provided more detail on the state making reading a priority, building public/private partnerships, and being more creative with federal grant money (e.g., the 20% of each grant that is normally carved out by the state for administration). There should be a clear reading plan (Florida started with just two people running their initiative, and after a decade only has eight people), and all the spending should align with the plan to be effective. You cannot keep sending money down the hole. Additional manpower was provided by the provision that all state employees would get one paid hour per week to volunteer on approved reading projects in schools, and also by community service requirements for high school students.
Bragg suggested using the online Florida training modules, and perhaps combining them with modules from Louisiana.
Dykstra also suggested taking advantage of existing training, including LETRS, which was made widely available in Massachusetts. He also stressed the importance of professional development for principals, coaches, and specialists.
Bragg pointed out that many online training modules are free, or provided for a nominal charge that does not come close to what it would cost Wisconsin to develop its own professional development.
Lander said there were many Wisconsin teachers who don’t need the training, and it should not be punitive.
Champeau suggested that Florida spends way more money on education that Wisconsin, based on information provided by the NAEP.
Levesque clarified that Florida actually is below the national average in cost per student. The only reason they spend more than Wisconsin is that they have more students.
Rep. Steve Kestell stated that teachers around the entire state have a need for professional development, and it is dangerous to give it only to the districts that are performing the worst.
Sarah Archibald (sitting in for Sen. Luther Olsen) said it would be good to look at the value added in districts across the state when trying to identify the greatest needs for professional development. The new statewide information system should provide us with some of this value added information, but not at a classroom teacher level.
Evers commented that the state could require new teacher Professional Development Plans to include or be focused on reading.
Pils commented that districts can have low and high performing schools, so it is not enough to look at district data.
Champeau said that administrators also need this professional development. They cannot evaluate teachers if they do not have the knowledge themselves.
Dykstra mentioned a Florida guidebook for principals with a checklist to help them. He is concerned about teachers who develop PDP’s with no guidance, and spend a lot of time and money on poor training and learning. There is a need for a clearinghouse for professional development programs.
Screening/Intervention: One of the main questions here was whether the screening should be universal using the same tools across the state.
Champeau repeated a belief that there are districts who are doing well with the screening they are doing, and they should not be required to change or add something new.
Dykstra responded that we need comparable data from every school to use value added analysis, so a universal tool makes sense. He also said there was going to be a lot of opposition to this, given the statements against screening that were issued when Rep. Keith Ripp introduced legislation on this topic in the last biennium. He felt the task force has not seen any screener in enough detail to recommend a particular one at this time.
Heyde said we need a screener that screens for the right things.
Pils agreed with Dykstra and Heyde. She mentioned that DIBELS is free and doesn’t take much time.
Michele Erickson asked if a task force recommendation would turn into a mandate. She asked if Florida used a universal screener.
Levesque replied that Florida initially used DIBELS statewide, and then the FCRR developed the FAIR assessments for them. The legislature in Florida mandated the policy of universal kindergarten screening that also traces students back to their pre-K programs to see which ones are doing a better job. Wisconsin could purchase the FAIR assessments from Florida.
Archilbald suggested phasing in screening if we could not afford to do it all at once.
Evers supports local control, but said there are reasons to have a universal screener for data systems, to inform college programs, and to implement professional development.
Lander asked what screening information we could get from the WKCE.
Evers responded that the WKCE doesn’t start unitl third grade.
Dykstra said we need a rubric about screening, and who needs what type and how often.
Pedriana said student mobility is another reason for a universal screener.
There was consensus that early screening is important. Certainly by 4K or 5K, but even at age three if a system could be established. Possibilities mentioned were district-run screenings or pediatrician screenings.
Walker reminded the task force that it only makes sense to screen if you have the ability to intervene with something.
Mara Brown wasn’t sure that a universal screener would tell her anything more about her students than she already knows.
Levesque said she could provide a screening roadmap rubric for the task force.
No one on the task force had suggestions for specific interventions. The feeling was that it is more important to have a well-trained teacher. Both Florida and Oregon started evaluating and rating interventions, but stopped because they got bogged down. Wisconsin must also be careful about evaluations by What Works Clearinghouse, which has some problems.
Pedriana asked if the task force is prepared to endorse a model of instruction based on science, where failure is not an option.
The facilitator said this discussion would have to wait for later.
Early Childhood: The task force agreed that YoungStar should include more specific literacy targets.
Rep. Kestell felt that some district are opening 4K programs primarily for added revenue, and that there is wide variability in quality. There is a need to spend more time on this and decide what 4K should look like.
Evers said we should use the Common Core and work backward to determine what needs to be done in 4K.
Wrap-Up: Further discussion of early childhood will be put over to the next meeting, as will the societal issues and accountability. A meeting site has not yet been set, but Governor Walker indicted he liked moving around the state. The Governor’s aides will follow up as to locations and specific agenda. The next meeting will be Thursday, August 25. All meetings are open to the public.
Related: An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards” and how does Wisconsin Compare? www.wisconsin2.org.
Much more on Wisconsin’s Read to Lead Task Force, here.
Governor Walker’s Read to Lead task force met on May 31st at the State Capitol. Following are observations from WRC.
Note: Peggy Stern, an Oscar-winning filmmaker currently working on a project about dyslexia, had a crew filming the meeting. If we are able to acquire footage, we will make it available. If you would like Wisconsin Eye to record future meetings, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Format: Unlike the first task force meeting, this meeting was guided by two facilitators from AIR, the American Institutes for Research. This was a suggestion of Senator Luther Olsen, and the facilitators were procured by State Superintendent Tony Evers. Evers and Governor Walker expressed appreciation at not having to be concerned with running the meeting, but there were some problems with the round-robin format chosen by the facilitators. Rather than a give-and-take discussion, as happened at the first meeting, this was primarily a series of statements from people at the table. There was very little opportunity to seek clarification or challenge statements. Time was spent encouraging everyone to comment on every question, regardless of whether they had anything of substance to contribute, and the time allotted to individual task force members varied. Some were cut off before finishing, while others were allowed to go on at length. As a direct result of this format, the conversation was considerably less robust than at the first meeting.
Topics: The range of topics proved to be too ambitious for the time allowed. Teacher preparation and professional development took up the bulk of the time, followed by a rather cursory discussion of assessment tools. The discussion of reading interventions was held over for the next meeting.
Dawnene Hassett, Asst. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction and new elementary literacy chair, UW-Madison
Tania Mertzman Habeck, Assoc. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction, UW-Milwaukee
Mary Jo Ziegler, Reading Consultant, Wis. Department of Public Instruction
Troy Couillard, Special Education Team, Wis. Department of Public Instruction
Next Meetings: The Governor’s office will work to set up a schedule of meetings for the next several months. Some of the meetings may be in other parts of the state.
Action: WRC suggests contacting the offices of the Governor, Luther Olsen, Steve Kestell, and Jason Fields and your own legislators to ask for several things:
Arrange for filming the next meeting through Wisconsin Eye
Bring in national experts such as Louisa Moats, Joe Torgesen, and Peggy McCardle to provide Wisconsin with the road map for effective reading instruction, teacher preparation, and professional development . . . top university, DPI, and professional organization leaders at the May 31st meeting asked for a road map and admitted they have not been able to develop one
Arrange the format of the next meeting to allow for more authentic and robust discussion of issues
Teacher Training and Professional Development
The professors felt that the five components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) are generally taught in preparation programs, but that instruction varies widely from one institution to another. Reading course work requirements can vary from 12 credits to just one course. They also felt, as did the teachers on the panel, that there needs to be more practical hand-on experience in the undergraduate program. There was a feeling that teachers “forget” their instruction in reading foundations by the time they graduate and get into the classroom. They have better luck teaching masters level students who already have classroom experience. The linguistic knowledge means very little without a practicum, and we may need to resort to professional development to impart that information. Teachers need to be experts in teaching reading, but many currently don’t feel that way. It is important, especially with RTI coming, to be able to meet the needs of individual students.Both professors and teachers, as well as others on the panel, felt a “road map” of critical information for teacher preparation programs and literacy instruction in schools would be a good idea. This was a point of agreement. Hassett felt that pieces of a plan currently exist, but not a complete road map. The professors and some of the teachers felt that teacher prep programs are doing a better job at teaching decoding than comprehension strategies. They were open to more uniformity in syllabi and some top-down mandates.
Marcia Henry mentioned studies by Joshi, et al. that found that 53% of pre-service teachers and 60% of in-service teachers are unable to correctly answer questions about the structure of the English language. Tony Pedriana cited another Joshi study that showed college professors of reading were equally uninformed about the language, and the majority cannot distinguish between phonemic awareness and phonics. He also said it was very difficult to find out what colleges were teaching; one college recently refused his request to see a syllabus for a reading course. Steve Dykstra read from the former Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the current Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which contained incorrect definitions and examples of phonemic awareness. He questioned whether teachers were being adequately prepared in decoding skills. Rep. Steve Kestell was concerned with the assessment that most teachers do not feel like experts in teaching reading, and he wondered if updated techniques for training teachers would make a difference.
Sarah Archibald (aide to Luther Olsen) proposed looking at a more rigorous foundations of reading test, as found in other states, as a requirement for teacher licensure. This would be one way to move toward more uniform instruction in teacher prep programs. Steve Dykstra pointed out that a test alone will not necessarily drive changes in teacher preparation, but publishing the passage results linked to individual colleges or professors would help. Evers indicated that DPI has been looking for several months into teacher testing and licensure.
Gov. Walker asked if the ed schools were looking at the latest trends in teacher preparation to become better. The professors indicated that the ed schools confer with local districts in an effort to improve.
Supt. Evers said it was probably not a good idea that teacher prep programs across Wisconsin vary so much.
Hassett indicated that some flexibility needs to be retained so that urban and rural areas can teach differently. There was some disagreement as to whether teachers of upper grades need to be trained in reading, or at least trained the same way.
Linda Pils pointed out that the amount and quality of professional development for Wisconsin teachers is very spotty. Most panel members felt that a coaching model with ongoing training for both teachers and principals was essential to professional development, but the coaches must be adequately trained. There was some discussion of Professional Development Plans, which are required for relicensure, and whether the areas of development should be totally up the individual teacher as they are now. Steve Dykstra felt that much existing professional development is very poor, and that money and time needs to be spent better. Some things should not count for professional development. Michele Erikson felt that it would be good to require that Professional development be linked to the needs of the students as demonstrated by performance data. Mary Read pointed out that coaching should extend to summer programs.
The main consensus here was that we need a road map for good reading instruction and good teacher training and coaching. What is missing is the substance of that road map, and the experts we will listen to in developing it.
Mary Jo Ziegler presented a list of formal and informal assessment tools used around Wisconsin. Evers pointed out that assessment is a local district decision. Many former Reading First schools use DIBELS or some formal screener that assesses individual skills. Balanced literacy districts generally use something different. Madison, for example, has its own PLA (Primary Language Assessment), which includes running records, an observational survey, word identification, etc. MAP assessments are widely used, but Evers indicated that have not been shown to be reliable/valid below third grade. Dykstra questioned the reliability of MAP on the individual student level for all ages. PALS was discussed, as was the new wireless handheld DIBELS technology that some states are using statewide. Many members mentioned the importance of having multiple methods of assessment. Kathy Champeau delivered an impassioned plea for running records and Clay’s Observational Survey, which she said have been cornerstones of her teaching. Kestell was surprised that so many different tools are being used, and that the goal should be to make use of the data that is gathered. Dykstra, Henry, and Pedriana mentioned that assessment must guide instruction, and Archibald said that the purpose of an assessment must be considered. Couillard said that the Wis. RTI center is producing a questionnaire by which districts can evaluate assessment tools they hear about, and that they will do trainings on multiple and balanced assessments. Dykstra questioned the three-cue reading philosophy that often underlies miscue analysis and running records. no consensus was reached on what types of assessment should be used, or whether they should be more consistent across the state. Hassett questioned the timed component of DIBELS,and Dykstra explained its purpose. Some serious disagreements remain about the appropriateness of certain assessment tools, and their use by untrained teachers who do not know what warning signs to look for.
Evers began the topic of intervention by saying that DPI was still collecting data on districts that score well, and then will look at what intervention techniques they use. Henry suggested deferring discussion of this important topic to the next meeting, as there were only 8 minutes left.
Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Thanks to everyone who contacted the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) with concerns about the new teacher licensing rules drafted by DPI. As you know, PI-34 provides broad exemptions from the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) that go way beyond providing flexibility for […]
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Alan Borsuk: There was not much reaction and certainly no surge of commitment and effort. Jump ahead to now. Everything that was true in 2004 remains true. NAEP scores come out generally every two years and a new round was released a few days ago. The scores for Wisconsin stayed generally flat and were unimpressive. […]
Wisconsin Reading Coalition: Teachers and more than 180,000 non-proficient, struggling readers* in Wisconsin schools need our support While we appreciate DPI’s concerns with a possible shortage of teacher candidates in some subject and geographical areas, we feel it is important to maintain teacher quality standards while moving to expand pathways to teaching. Statute section 118.19(14) […]
Wisconsin Reading Coalition (PDF), via a kind email: As we reported recently, districts in Wisconsin, with the cooperation of DPI, have been making extensive use of emergency licenses to hire individuals who are not fully-licensed teachers. Click here to see how many emergency licenses were issued in your district in 2016-17 for elementary teachers, special […]
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James Wollack and Michael Fish: Major Findings CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students Change in performance was observed immediately after switch Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as […]
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Robert Pondiscio: Slowly, slowly, a small but persuasive body of work is emerging which raises curriculum to an object of pressing concern for educators, and expresses long overdue appreciation for the idea that the instructional materials we put in front of children actually matter to student outcomes. A welcome addition to this emerging corpus is […]
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Alex Zimmerman: With just 10 percent of male students of color graduating “college ready” at the time, city officials hoped to boost that number by giving extra money and support to schools that already made strides getting those students to graduation. With extra resources, the theory went, those same schools might be able to nudge […]
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Madeline Will: After their time in Finland, the U.S. teachers traveled to Milan, Italy, for Education First’s Global Leadership Summit, which was focused on the future of food and had celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as one of the speakers. The teachers’ travels were funded through scholarships by EF, an international educational tours company, and the […]
Alan Borsuk:: But there is a lot more at work than Act 10 when it comes to attracting and keeping people in teaching. The roots of the shortages were showing up before 2011. For example, it was already getting challenging to find math and science teachers. The number of people in college-level programs to train […]
Will Fitzhugh: Will Fitzhugh, Founder, The Concord Review, Inc. 23 March 2017, Harvard Faculty Club Thanks, Bill, [Bill Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College] for the kind introduction, and for decades of encouragement and support. You know, in addition to managing 40,000 applications, he also runs marathons… Thanks also to our High […]
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Julie F. Mead & Preston C. Green III This policy brief addresses the challenge of using charter school policy to enhance equal educational opportunity. Three overriding assumptions guide the brief’s recommendations: (1) charter schools will be part of our public educational system for the foreseeable future; (2) charter schools are neither inherently good, nor inherently […]
abhishek: Somehow I became the canonical undergraduate source for bibliographical references, so I thought I would leave a list behind before I graduated. I list the books I have found useful in my wanderings through mathematics (in a few cases, those I found especially unuseful), and give short descriptions and comparisons within each category. I […]
Diane Ravitch writing in Educational Excellence Network, 1989: Futuristic novels with a bleak vision of the prospects for the free individual characteristically portray a society in which the dictatorship has eliminated or strictly controls knowledge of the past. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the regime successfully wages a “campaign against the Past” by banning […]
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D.E. Wittkower, Evan Selinger and Lucinda Rush: Some time has passed since Nicholas Kristof published his controversial Op-Ed “Professors, We Need You!“, and the time is ripe for us to approach the issue afresh. After briefly revisiting the controversy, we’ll offer some thoughts about how to promote public engagement by changing academic cultures and incentives. […]
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Superintendent’s Teaching and Learning Transition Team to Begin Work This Week
A group of national and local education experts will support Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s entry plan work, the district announced today. The Superintendent’s Teaching and Learning Transition Team will begin work this week.
“Instruction and leadership are critical components of systemic improvement,” Superintendent Cheatham said. “This team of local and national practitioners will join district and school staff in assessing and analyzing strengths, areas of opportunities and priorities for improving teaching and learning in Madison schools.”
The eight member team brings together education experts from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as educational practitioners from other urban school districts.
“We are fortunate to have access to national experts with a wide range of expertise from standards based instruction and leadership development, to bilingual and special education, to family and community involvement,” Cheatham said. “This team will help to deepen and strengthen my ongoing understanding of the strengths and challenges of our district. Their national perspective, coupled with the local perspective shared by principals, staff, parents and community members, will support us in narrowing our focus to only the most high leverage strategies for ensuring every student is college and career ready.”
The team, which was selected by the superintendent and will be funded through community and private foundations, will be chaired by Dr. Robert Peterkin, Professor Emeritus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and includes: Maree Sneed, partner at Hogan and Lovells US LLC; John Diamond, sociologist of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sheila Brown, Co-Director at the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program; Allan Odden, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Peterburs, Executive Director of Quarles & Brady; Wilma Valero, Coordinator for English Language Learner Programs in Elgin, Il; and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As Superintendent Cheatham continues the listening and learning phase of her entry plan, the Teaching and Learning Transition Team will also meet with central office leaders, conduct focus groups with teachers, principals, and parents as needed, and review a variety of relevant data.
At the end of their work, the team will present the superintendent with a report of what they have learned and recommendations for moving forward systemically with best practices. That report will be used, along with data collected by the superintendent in school visits and other entry plan activities, to refine the district’s goals and strategic priorities.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2001 (additional background here)
Updated Strategic Plan Results in Priority Action Teams
Five Strategic Priority Action Teams, centered around the most critical challenges facing the Madison Metropolitan School District, are among the outcomes of the recently-completed strategic plan.
“The immediate and emerging challenges facing the district are addressed in our revitalized strategic plan,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater, “and the Action Teams are focused on five important priorities for us.”
The five strategic priorities are:
Instructional Excellence – improving student achievement; offering challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction
Student Support – assuring a safe, respectful and welcoming learning environment
Staff Effectiveness – recruiting, developing and retaining a highly competent workforce that reflects the diversity of our students
Home and Community Partnerships – strengthening community and family partnerships and communication
Fiscal Responsibility – using resources efficiently and strategically
The five Strategic Priority Action Teams, one for each of the five priorities, are taking on the responsibility for continuous improvement toward “their” priority.
The Action Teams, which will have both staff members and non-staff members, will be responsible for existing initiatives. In addition they will identify and recommend benchmarks to use in assessing school district performance.
“We have a huge number of initiatives,” said Rainwater. “This strategic plan gives us a systemic approach to change, so that every initiative, everything we do, leads us to these established goals. I believe it is critical to our district’s success that we follow this strategic plan and use it as a decision filter against which we measure our activities.”
Two other outcomes from the updated strategic plan are:
a set of beliefs about children, families, enhanced learning, and the quality of life and learning, all of which are integrated with an identified District vision and mission.
improved cost efficiency and effectiveness of many central office functions, which are being addressed on an ongoing basis.
Madison Schools’ initial strategic plan came about in 1991, and provided direction until this update.
“As a result of this project,” said Rainwater, “all of us who are stakeholders — parents, students, teachers and staff, administrators and community members — will share a renewed sense of clarity, while seeing an ever-more efficient deployment of resources.”
You can see the complete strategic plan on the district’s Web site: http://www.mmsd.org.
- Teachers Dispute District Standards: Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s Biggest Goals have become caught up in the contract battle with Madison Teachers.:
Amid the picket signs Madison teachers carried at a rally last month protesting slow-moving contract talks, some teachers also carried a bright purple flier.
On one side was written the heading “standards and benchmarks.” On the other, “Dimensions of Learning.” Beneath each, and filling the entire page, was one uninterrupted string of text: “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. . . .”
While hardly erudite — some would call it juvenile — the flier expressed the sentiment many teachers have toward two of Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s biggest initiatives: the effort to create districtwide academic standards, and the teacher-training program that goes along with it.
Neither issue is a subject of bargaining. But the programs have become a sort of catch-all target for teachers who blame Wilhoyte for everything from the poor state of labor-management relations to the current contract impasse.
Wilhoyte, who was hired in part to implement the district’s 1991 strategic plan, including establishing rigorous standards, says carrying out that plan is central to the compact she has with the …
- The 2009 update to Madison’s “Strategic Planning Process“.
- Madison’s 2012-2013 $392,000,000 budget (just under $15k per student)
- Madison’s long term disastrous reading results
- The Madison school district’s recent “achievement gap and accountability plan“.
- The Capital Times (9.21.1992):
Wilhoyte, on the other hand, has demonstrated that she is a tough, hands-on administrator in her role as assistant superintendent for instruction and school administration in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. And even those who have tangled with her praise her philosophy, which is to put kids first.
She has been a leader in Maryland in shaking up the educational status quo, of moving it forward to meeat the needs of the children, even while juggling new programs with budget cuts. The big question remaining about her: She has never been a superintendent. How would she handle the top job?
- Retiring Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary club.
- Madison Teachers, Inc. on the Madison Schools 2000 “Participatory Management”
- Notes and links on recent Madison Superintendent hires”
Matthew DeFour summarizes and collects some feedback on the District’s press release here. It would be useful to dig into the archives and review the various strategic plans and initiatives over the years and compare the words and spending with results.
This probably sounds familiar: You are with a group of friends arguing about some piece of trivia or historical fact. Someone says, “Wait, let me look this up on Wikipedia,” and proceeds to read the information out loud to the whole group, thus resolving the argument. Don’t dismiss this as a trivial occasion. It represents a learning moment, or more precisely, a microlearning moment, and it foreshadows a much larger transformation–to what I call socialstructed learning.
Socialstructed learning is an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards. The microlearning moment may last a few minutes, hours, or days (if you are absorbed in reading something, tinkering with something, or listening to something from which you just can’t walk away). Socialstructed learning may be the future, but the foundations of this kind of education lie far in the past. Leading philosophers of education–from Socrates to Plutarch, Rousseau to Dewey–talked about many of these ideals centuries ago. Today, we have a host of tools to make their vision reality.
Socialstructed learning is an aggregation of microlearning experiences driven not by grades but by social rewards.
I may be one of a tiny minority who think that schools are for student academic work.
Of course, sports, concerts, social programs, dances, and all sorts of other youth activities are important, but students don’t need schools to do them in.
My view is that without student academic work, all the buildings, bond issues, budgets, school boards, teacher unions, superintendent and teacher training programs, Broad/Gates/WalMart grants, local-state-federal education departments, NCLB, RTT, CC, CCSSO, Schools of Education, standards projects, legislation, regulations, and all the rest of the Adults Only paraphernalia surrounding education in this country these days are just a waste of money and time.
The Education Punditocracy, including blogs, magazines, newspapers, foundations, Finn/Hess/Petrilli, etc., and even my friend and inspiration, Diane Ravitch, among hundreds and hundreds of others, are completely preoccupied with and absorbed in their consideration of what Adults are doing in education. The actual academic work of students takes place at much too low a level to attract their notice. They seem to be making the assumption that if they can just fix all the Adults Only stuff, then somehow student academic work will take care of itself. But they don’t pay any attention in the meantime to whether students are actually doing any academic work or not. And they have not learned that the students, and the students alone, have the power to determine whether they will do any academic work, and also what its quality will be.
To reiterate: without student academic work, all the rest of the bustle, noise, commentary, and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent will amount to nothing, so it should be important to pay attention to student academic work, should it not?
I came to understand this because for the last 25 years in particular, and for about 10 years before that, I have been fully engaged in efforts that completely depend upon good student academic work, and I have been fascinated to discover how few Education people seem to be involved with that, and that just about every one of them, though laboring away quite seriously and conscientiously, seems to spend all their time on the Adults Only matters, and to have almost no interest, other than to give it lip service and quickly move on, in the serious academic work of students.
If that should somehow change, and if student academic work were to become the central focus of what we pay attention to in education, there is a chance we might see more of it, and that its quality might improve too. But if we continue to ignore it and focus on Adults Only, that most assuredly is not going to happen. As the Hindus say: “Whatever you give your Attention to grows in your life,” and we have been giving, IMHO, far too much attention (almost all of it) to the Adults Only aspects of education and far too little to student academic work.
To test what I am saying, if a kind Reader would go back over articles, books, blogs, and speeches on education in recent years, please do let me know if you find any that talk about student science projects, the complete nonfiction books they are reading, or the serious history research papers they are writing. I believe if you look closely, almost all that you find will show people caught up in what Adults Only are doing, should do, will do, must do, or might do, and there will be little to no attention to the actual academic work of students in our schools. But please prove me mistaken, with evidence, if you would be so kind.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
After Detroit, Milwaukee is the country’s most segregated city. The Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) has an endemic racial achievement gap, in which, in terms of aggregate statistics, African American students perform three to four years below their European American counterparts in both math and reading. Combine this with a general dearth of resources — as is common to virtually all of public education — and you have a recipe for inadequate schooling that is failing its almost 90,000 students.
The crisis in Milwaukee is indicative of the educational crisis roiling the nation. Across the United States, school districts are facing enormous budget deficits, decreasing enrollment and intense pedagogical and ideological debates questioning the very foundations of modern education. The debate is particularly vociferous here in Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Education Association Council feels threatened by Governor Scott Walker’s educational platform. This past Tuesday, however, WEAC introduced a series of reforms it would endorse, many of which took observers by surprise, and received mixed reactions.
The reform drawing the most ire is the proposal to carve up MPS into multiple smaller districts to make them more manageable, and thus more successful. However, as pointed out by one observer, this separation of districts would probably mirror racial divisions within the city, compounding instead of alleviating racial achievement gaps.
It was inevitable that Michelle Rhee, the District of Columbia’s hard-driving schools chancellor, would resign after her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost last month’s Democratic primary. It was no secret that Ms. Rhee had a strained relationship with Vincent Gray, the presumptive mayor and chairman of the City Council.
Still, Ms. Rhee’s departure is a loss for the nation’s capital. It has unsettled middle-class parents who valued the strong, reform-minded leadership that was setting Washington’s schools on the path back from failure. And it sent a tremor through the private foundations that provisionally committed nearly $80 million to support the school reforms that were started during Ms. Rhee’s tenure.
After Mr. Gray’s clashes with Ms. Rhee, it was good news that he said the right things after her resignation. He pledged to move ahead with the reform agenda, which has strengthened the city’s teacher corps, remade a patronage-ridden central bureaucracy and raised math and reading scores. He said he would keep Ms. Rhee’s senior staff on for the remainder of the school year and named her deputy and longtime associate, Kaya Henderson, the interim chancellor.
When my father graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1927, I am pretty sure it was not called “The Harvard Graduate School of Medical Education.” People I know who got their degrees from Harvard Law School tell me that it was never, to their knowledge, called the “Harvard Graduate School of Legal Education.” I think that the Harvard Business School does not routinely refer to itself as the “Harvard Graduate School of Business Education.” Harvard College (this is my 50th reunion year) has never seen the need to call itself “The Harvard Undergraduate School of Academic Subjects,” as far as I know. But the Harvard Education School, where I was informed, in the late 1960s, that I had been made a “Master of Education,” (!?) calls itself the “Harvard Graduate School of Education.” Perhaps that makes it a status step up from being called the Harvard Normal School, but the name is, in my view, a small symptom of a deeper problem there.
I had lunch in Cambridge yesterday with a man from Madagascar, who was bringing his daughter (one of The Concord Review’s authors), for her first year at Harvard College. He asked me why there seemed to be so much emphasis in United States schools on nonacademic efforts by students (I assumed he was referring to things like art, band, drama, chorus, jazz ensemble, video workshop, sports of various kinds, community service, etc., etc.). Now you have to make allowances for a geophysicist from Madagascar. After all, on that large island, and indeed in the whole Southern Hemisphere, they think that June, July, and August are Winter months, for goodness’ sake!
As I tried to explain to him the long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American life, and the widespread anti-academic attitudes and efforts of so many of our school Pundits, I thought again about the way the Harvard Education School defines its mission.
As you may know, I am very biased in favor of reading and writing, especially by high school students, and since 1987, I have published 912 exemplary history essays by secondary students from 39 countries in the only journal in the world for such work, so when I have failed to stir some interest in faculty at the Harvard Education School, it has disposed me to look closer at what they are interested in other than the exemplary academic work of students at the high school (or any other) level.
To be fair, there have been a few Harvard people who have taken an interest in my work. Harold Howe II wrote to fifteen foundations on my behalf (without success) and Theodore Sizer wrote the introduction to the first issue in the Fall of 1988, and served on my Board of Directors for several years. Recently, Tony Wagner has taken an interest, and, a very good friend, William Fitzsimmons, Harvard Dean of Admissions, got his doctorate there.
But what are the research interests of faculty at the Harvard Education School, if they don’t include the academic work of students? I recommend that anyone who is curious about this odd phenomenon may review the interests of this graduate faculty by looking at their website, but here a few revealing examples:
“Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson is a Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Research Associate at the Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he has taught since 1983. His research publications cover issues in education policy, youth development programming, community development, economic consequences of skill disparities, and state and local economic development. For much of the past decade, Dr. Ferguson’s research has focused on racial achievement gaps…”
“During the past two decades, [Howard] Gardner and colleagues have been involved in the design of performance-based assessments; education for understanding; the use of multiple intelligences to achieve more personalized curriculum, instruction, and pedagogy; and the quality of interdisciplinary efforts in education. Since the mid-1990s, in collaboration with psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, Gardner has directed the GoodWork Project, a study of work that is excellent, engaging, and ethical. More recently, with longtime Project Zero colleagues Lynn Barendsen and Wendy Fischman, he has conducted reflection sessions designed to enhance the understanding and incidence of good work among young people. With Carrie James, he is investigating trust in contemporary society and ethical dimensions entailed in the use of the new digital media. Underway are studies of effective collaboration among nonprofit institutions in education and of conceptions of quality in the contemporary era. In 2008 he delivered a set of three lectures at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on the topic ‘The True, The Beautiful, and the Good: Reconsiderations in a post-modern, digital era.'”
“Nancy Hill’s area of research focuses on variations in parenting and family socialization practices across ethnic, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood contexts. In addition, her research focuses on demographic variations in the relations between family dynamics and children’s school performance and other developmental outcomes. Recent and ongoing projects include Project PASS (Promoting Academic Success for Students), a longitudinal study between kindergarten and 4th grade examining family related predictors of children’s early school performance; Project Alliance/Projecto Alianzo, a multiethnic, longitudinal study of parental involvement in education at the transition between elementary and middle school. She is the co-founder of the Study Group on Race, Culture, and Ethnicity, an interdisciplinary group of scientists who develop theory and methodology for defining and understanding the cultural context within diverse families. In addition to articles in peer-reviewed journals, she recently edited a book, African American Family Life: Ecological and Cultural Diversity (Guilford, 2005) and another edited volume is forthcoming (Family-School Relations during Adolescence: Linking Interdisciplinary Research, Policy and Practice; Teachers College Press).”
This is really a random sample and there are scores of faculty members in the School, studying all sort of things. If I were to summarize their work, I would suggest it tends toward research on poverty, race, culture, diversity, ethnicity, emotional and social disability, developmental psychology, school organization, “The True, the Beautiful, and the Good…in a post-modern, digital era,” and the like, but as far as I can tell, no one there is interested in the academic study (by students) of Asian history, biology, calculus, chemistry, foreign languages, European history, physics, United States History, or any of the academic subjects many taxpayers think should be the main business of education in our schools.
Of course all the things they do study are important, and can be funded with grants, but how can the academic work of students in our schools be of no importance to these scholars? How can they have no interest in the academic subjects which occupy the time and efforts of the teachers and students in our schools?
Perhaps if they were interested in the main academic business of our schools, the place would have to change its name to something less pretentious, like the Harvard Education School?
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Kudzu, (Pueraria lobata), I learn from Wikipedia, was “…introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant. From 1935 to the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the southeastern United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion… The Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years. It was subsequently discovered that the southeastern US has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control–hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, and temperate winters with few hard freezes…As such, the once-promoted plant was named a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1953.”
We now have, I suggest, an analogous risk from the widespread application of “the evidence-based techniques and processes of literacy instruction, k-12.” At least one major foundation and one very old and influential college for teachers are now promoting what I have described as “guidelines, parameters, checklists, techniques, rubrics, processes and the like, as props to substitute for students’ absent motivation to describe or express in writing something that they have learned.”
Most of these literacy experts are psychologists and educators, rather than historians or authors of literature. Samuel Johnson, an 18th century author some may remember, once wrote that “an author will turn over half a library to produce one book.” A recent major foundation report suggests that Dr. Johnson didn’t know what he was talking about when it comes to adolescents:
“Some educators feel that the ‘adolescent literacy crisis’ can be resolved simply by having adolescents read more books. This idea is based on the misconception that the source of the problem is ‘illiteracy.’ The truth is that adolescents–even those who have already ‘learned how to read’–need systematic support to learn how to ‘read to learn’ across a wide variety of contexts and content.” So, no need for adolescents to read books, just give them lots of literacy kudzu classes in “rubrics, guidelines, parameters, checklists, techniques, and processes…”
Other literacy kudzu specialists also suggest that reading books is not so important, instead that: (to quote a recent Washington Post article by Psychologist Dolores Perin of Teachers College, Columbia) “many students cannot learn well from a content curriculum because they have difficulty reading assigned text and fulfilling subject-area writing assignments. Secondary content teachers need to understand literacy processes and become aware of evidence-based reading and writing techniques to promote learners’ understanding of the content material being taught. Extended school-based professional development should be provided through collaborations between literacy and content-area specialists.”
E.D. Hirsch has called this “technique” philosophy of literacy instruction, “How-To-Ism” and says that it quite uselessly tries to substitute methods and skills for the knowledge that students must have in order to read well and often, and to write on academic subjects in school.
Literacy Kudzu has been with us for a long time, but it has received new fertilizer from large private foundation and now federal standards grants which will only help it choke, where it can, attention to the reading of complete books and the writing of serious academic papers by the students in our schools.
Writing in Insidehighereducation.com, Lisa Roney recently said: “But let me also point out that the rise of Composition Studies over the past 30 or 40 years does not seem to have led to a populace that writes better.”
Educrat Professors and Educrat Psychologists who have, perhaps, missed learning much about history and literature during their own educations, and have not made any obvious attempt to study their value in their education research, of course fall back on what they feel they can do: teach processes, skills, methods, rubrics, parameters, and techniques of literacy instruction. Their efforts, wherever they are successful, will be a disaster, in my view, for teachers and students who care about academic writing and about history and literature in the schools.
In a recent issue of Harvard Magazine an alum wrote: “Dad ( a professional writer) used to tell us what he felt was the best advice he ever had on good writing. One of his professors was the legendary Charles Townsend Copeland, A.B. 1882, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. Copeland didn’t collect themes and grade them. Rather, he made an appointment with each student to come to his quarters in Hollis Hall to read his theme and receive comments from the Master…”Dad started reading his offering and heard occasional groans and sighs of anguish from various locations in the (room). Finally, Copeland said in pained tones, ‘Stop, Mr. Duncan, stop.’ Dad stopped. After several seconds of deep silence, Copeland asked, ‘Mr. Duncan, what are you trying to say?’ Dad explained what he was trying to say. Said Copeland, ‘Why didn’t you write it down?'”
This is the sort of advice, completely foreign to the literacy kudzu community, which understands that in writing one first must have something to say (knowledge) and then one must work to express that knowledge so it may be understood. That may not play to the literacy kudzu community’s perception of their strengths, but it has a lot more to do with academic reading and writing than anything they are working to inflict on our teachers and students.
I hope they, including the foundations and the university consultant world, may before too long pause to re-consider their approach to literacy instruction, before we experience the damage from this pest-weed which they are presently, perhaps unwittingly, in the method-technique-process of spreading in our schools.
In the 1980s, when I was teaching history at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, one day there was a faculty meeting during which some of my colleagues put on a skit about one of our most intractable problems: students wandering in the hallways during classes. One person played the principal, another the hall monitor, and others the guidance counselor, the vice-principal, and I can’t remember who else from the staff. One teacher played the student who had been in the halls.
They did a good job on the acting and the lines were good, but as it went on, I noticed something a bit odd. Everyone had a part and things to say, but the only passive member of the show was the student, who had nothing much to say or do.
I notice a parallel to this in the majority of discussions about education reform these days. With some exceptions, including Carol Jago, Diane Ravitch, Paul Zoch, and me, edupundits seem occupied with just about everything except what students do academically.
There is a lot of discussion of what teachers do, and what superintendents, curriculum coordinators, principals, financial officers, mayors, legislators, and so on, do, but the actual academic work of students gets very little attention.
This observation was reinforced for me when the TCR Institute did a study in 2002 of the assignment of serious term papers in U.S. public high schools. It was the first (and last) study of its kind, and it found that the majority of HS students are not being asked to do the sort of academic writing they need to work on to prepare themselves for college (and career).
In the last eight years, I have sought funds for a study of the assignment of complete nonfiction books in U.S. public high schools, but no one seems interested. Of course, many billions have been spent since 2002 on school reinvention and reorganization, assessment plans, teacher selection, training and retention, and so on, but again, the academic work of the students (the principal mission of schools) is “more honored in the breach than the observance.”
My perspective on this is necessarily a bottom-up, Lower Education one. I publish the serious research papers of high school students of history. Most of the 20,000+ U.S. public high schools never send me one, which is not a great surprise, because most history departments, other than in IB schools, do not assign research papers.
But it gives me a curiosity over the neglect of student work which does not seem to be present in those whose focus is at a Higher Level in education. Those who live on the Public Policy level of Education Punditry can not see far enough Down or focus closely enough on the activity of schools to find out whether our HS students are reading history books and writing term papers.
I believe this is because foundation people, consultants, education professors, public policy experts, and their tribes mostly talk to each other, not to students or even to teachers, who are so far far beneath them. They hold conferences, and symposia, and they write papers and books about what needs to be done in education, but from almost none of them come suggestions that involve the academic reading and writing our students should be doing.
Of course what teachers do is vastly important, as well as very difficult to influence, but surely it cannot be that much more important than what students do.
Naturally, we should design curricula rich in knowledge, but if they don’t include serious independent academic work by students, the burden will still be on the teacher, and many too many students can slide through under it and arrive in college ready for their remedial classes in reading, math and writing, as more than a million do now each year.
Tony Wagner, the only person I know at the Harvard Education School who is interested in student work, did a focus group with some graduates of a high school he was working with, and they all said they wished they had been given more serious work in academic writing while they were in the high school. I asked him how many schools he knows of which take the time to hold focus groups with their recent graduates to get feedback from them on their level of academic preparation in school, and he said he only knew of three high schools in the country which did it.
We do need improvements in all the things the edupundits are working on, and the foundations and our governments are spending billions on. But if we continue to lack curiosity about and to ignore what students are doing academically, I feel sure all that money will continue to be wasted, as it has been so many many times in the past.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Michael F. Shaughnessy:
1) Will, you recently gave a talk in Madison, Wisconsin. What exactly did you speak about?
WF: A group of professors, teachers, business people, lawyers and community people invited me to speak at the University of Wisconsin in Madison about the work of The Concord Review since 1987, and about the problems of college readiness and academic writing for high school students.
The Boston Public Schools just reported that 67% of the graduating class of 2000 who had gone on to higher education had failed to earn a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree by 2008. Also, the Strong American Schools program just reported that more than a million of our high school graduates are in remedial education in college each year.
I recommend their report: Diploma to Nowhere, which came out last summer. While many foundations, such as Gates, and others, have focused on getting our students into college, too little attention has been paid to how few are ready for college work and how many drop out without any degree.
2) “We believe that the pursuit of academic excellence in secondary schools should be given the same attention as the pursuit of excellence in sports and other extracurricular activities.” This is a quote from The Concord Review. Now, I am asking you to hypothesize here–why do you think high schools across America seem to be preoccupied with sports and not academics?
WF: In Madison I also had a chance to speak about the huge imbalance in our attention to scholars and athletes at the high school level. I had recently seen a nationally televised high school football game in which, at breaks in the action, an athlete would come to the sidelines, and announce, to the national audience, which college he had decided to “sign” with. This is a far cry from what happens for high school scholars. High school coaches get a lot of attention for their best athletes, but if the coach also happens to be a history teacher, he or she will hear nothing from a college in the way of interest in his or her most outstanding history student.
When Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a very tall high school senior at Power Memorial Academy in New York, he not only heard from the head coaches at 60 college basketball programs, he also got a personal letter from Jackie Robinson of baseball fame and from Ralph Bunche at the United Nations, urging him to go to UCLA, which he did. That same year, in the U.S., the top ten high school history students heard from no one, and it has been that way every year since.
The lobby of every public high school is full of trophies for sports, and there is usually nothing about academic achievement. For some odd reason, attention to exemplary work in academics is seen as elitist, while heaps of attention to athletic achievement is not seen in the same way. Strange…The Boston Globe has 150 pages on year on high school athletes and no pages on high school academic achievement. Do we somehow believe that our society needs good athletes far more than it needs good students, and that is why we are so reluctant to celebrate fine academic work?
William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review. Varsity Academics®
The video of this presentation is about 1 1/2 hours long. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download. MP3 Audio is available here.
We are pleased to have William Fitzhugh, Editor of The Concord Review, present this lecture on history research and publication of original papers by high school students.
From an interview with Education News, William Fitzhugh summarizes some items from his Madison presentation:
“A group of professors, teachers, business people, lawyers and community people invited me to speak at the University of Wisconsin in Madison about the work of The Concord Review since 1987, and about the problems of college readiness and academic writing for high school students.
The Boston Public Schools just reported that 67% of the graduating class of 2000 who had gone on to higher education had failed to earn a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree by 2008. Also, the Strong American Schools program just reported that more than a million of our high school graduates are in remedial education in college each year.
I recommend their report: Diploma to Nowhere, which came out last summer. While many foundations, such as Gates, and others, have focused on getting our students into college, too little attention has been paid to how few are ready for college work and how many drop out without any degree.
In Madison I also had a chance to speak about the huge imbalance in our attention to scholars and athletes at the high school level. I had recently seen a nationally televised high school football game in which, at breaks in the action, an athlete would come to the sidelines, and announce, to the national audience, which college he had decided to “sign” with. This is a far cry from what happens for high school scholars. High school coaches get a lot of attention for their best athletes, but if the coach also happens to be a history teacher, he or she will hear nothing from a college in the way of interest in his or her most outstanding history student.
Madison meeting details here
The Boston Globe reported recently that Michelle Wie, the 16-year-old Korean-American golfing phenomenon, not only speaks Korean and English, but has also taken four years of Japanese, and is beginning to study Mandarin. She is planning to apply early to Stanford University. I would be willing to bet, however, that in high school her academic writing has been limited to the five-paragraph essay, and it is very likely that she has not been assigned a complete nonfiction book.
For the last two years, and especially since the National Endowment for the Arts unveiled the findings of its large ($300,000) study of reading of fiction in the United States, I have been seeking funding for a much smaller study of the assignment of complete nonfiction books in U.S. public high schools. This proposed study, which education historian Diane Ravitch has called “timely and relevant,” has met with little interest, having so far been turned down by the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as a number of foundations and institutes both large and small.
Still, I have a fair amount of anecdotal evidence some of it from people who would be quite shocked to hear that high school English departments were no longer assigning any complete novels that the non-assignment of nonfiction books on subjects like history is unremarkable and, in fact, accepted.
A partner in a law firm in Boston, for instance, told me there was no point in such a study, because everyone knows history books aren’t assigned in schools. This was the case, he said, even decades ago at his own alma mater, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he was assigned only selections, readings, and the like, never a complete book. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said when I lamented that I couldn’t find anyone who agrees that high school students should read at least one nonfiction book, “The only hope is parents introducing their kids to reading, and that’s a mighty slim hope.”
An Interview with Will Fitzhugh: About Assessing Writing EdNews.org Houston, Texas, 24 January 2007
Michael F. Shaughnessy Senior Columnist EdNews.org:
1) I understand that you have just finished a stint on the ACT/NAGB Steering Committee for the 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Writing Assessment. What was that like? (And what does NAGB stand for?)
WF: NAGB is the National Assessment Governing Board, which runs the NAEP, “America’s Report Card,” as they say. I was glad that Diane Ravitch recommended me for the Steering Committee for the new national writing assessment scheduled for 2011. I was very impressed with the intelligence and competence of Mary Crovo, representing NAEP, and Rosanne Cook, who is running the project for American College Testing. Many people on the Committee were from the National Council of Teachers of English and the College Composition world, which have little interest in having students read history books or write history research papers. In fact that world favors, or has favored in the past, personal and creative writing and the five-paragraph essay, which do a terrible job of preparing high school students for the nonfiction books and the academic term papers most will be asked to cope with in college.
2) Given the paucity of writing that goes on in the high schools of America, is it really fair to ask high school students to engage in a robust writing assessment?
WF: It would not be fair to ask high school students to play in a football game if they hadn’t had an opportunity for lots of practice, and it is very hard to ask high school students to do the sort of academic expository writing they should be doing if they have never done it in all their years in school. But we need to start somewhere. Every high school student does not need to be able to play football, but they all need to be able to read nonfiction books and write serious term papers.
3) On the other hand, since so much of the college experience is writing, are high school teachers doing students a disservice by NOT requiring more writing?
WF: High school teachers would make terrible football coaches and their teams would lose most if not all of their games, if the teacher/coaches did not have time to practice their teams. We take football seriously, and we take band seriously, so ample time and money are made available to produce the best teams and the best bands the high school can manage. We allow really no time for a public high school teacher to work with students on heavy-duty term papers. We don’t make time for them, because we don’t think they are that important. Not as important as drama practice, yearbook, chorus, debate or a host of other activities. As a result our high school students are, once again, ill-prepared for college reading and writing. AP courses in history do not require, in most cases, that students read a complete nonfiction book, and most of the AP teachers say they don’t have time to ask the student to write a research paper, because they “have to get students ready for the AP Exam.”
Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee School Board agree on this much: The community needs an accurate reading on the district’s finances.
Unfortunately, that may be the only thing they agree on.
Both are moving separately on plans to get the numbers. The School Board wants to spend $50,000 of taxpayers’ money to perform an audit to see where the Milwaukee Public Schools can be more efficient. Barrett is seeking funding from local foundations for an assessment of the struggling district’s financial and operational situation — a study that also could take the next step and recommend restructuring and how to best direct resources to the classroom where they can most help educate Milwaukee’s kids.
On paper, we believe Barrett’s plan goes beyond that of the School Board, because it will home in on a half-dozen or so top priorities that, when funded adequately, will improve MPS performance and increase the district’s credibility among parents, taxpayers and decision-makers in Madison.
For Barrett’s plan to have bite, he needs the support of foundations to retain a firm expert in urban school system finance and operations. Then the mayor needs to pressure the board and administration to get to work.
If administrators in the Centennial School District are right, all it takes is a few minutes a day to get many of their struggling readers on track.
The district’s five elementary schools are finishing the first year of the Centennial Early Reading Foundations program (CERF), a K-3 literacy initiative created to reduce the number of special education referrals, to lift more students to grade level, and to improve children’s social development, through increased small-group instruction and assessment, tailored to each child’s needs. Much of the extra work occurs right in the classroom.
“We recognize that literacy is a cornerstone to the success of our children,” said Dan Bittman, the district’s director of elementary and secondary schools. “Literacy affects achievement in all areas and prepares them for the global world.”
The Economist: Bac to School: LADEN with hefty backpacks, French children filed back to school this week amid fresh agonising about the education system. Given its reputation for rigour and secular egalitarianism, and its well-regarded baccalauréat exam, this is surprising. What do the French think is wrong? Quite a lot, to judge from a 30-page […]
Tom Shuford: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson The Fourth of July is fireworks, festivities and images of a gathering of remarkable men determined “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and […]
Let the Dialogue Begin Bridging Differences A Dialogue Between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch May 24, 2006 By Deborah Meier & Diane Ravitch In the course of the last 30 years, the two of us have been at odds on any number of issues – on our judgments about progressive education, on the relative importance […]
I was leaving for a trip the other day and scooped up some reading material off my desk for the plane ride. I found myself holding three documents: one was the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy for 2006; another was a new study by the Economic Strategy Institute entitled “America’s Technology Future at Risk,” about […]
The following letter was submitted to the Madison papers today. Dear Editor: What joy I experience when I attend performances at the new Overture Center for the Performing Arts! I�ve been to a variety of free and paid performances, including the MSO and Kanopy Dance. Thank you Jerry Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland for your gift […]