Madison High School Redesign: 2006 Presentation & Links

via a kind reader’s email:

Four citizens spoke at Monday evening’s school board meeting regarding the proposed “high school redesign”.
Superintendent Art Rainwater’s powerpoint presentation and followup board discussion

There are many links in that post.

West: TAG Complaint and Proposed High School Redesign Create Perfect Storm

The parent complaint to DPI over MMSD’s failure to comply with WI laws on Talented and Gifted education have combined with administration’s recent proposal to create more consistency across the four major high schools, to create a perfect storm of controversy at Madison West. Within the past 24 hours, allegations that the proposal eliminates all electives have spawned a number of calls and e-mails to the Board of Education, a FB page (Walk-out Against MMSD School Reform) promoting a student walk out on Friday, and a YouTube video created to protest the elimination of electives.
As a board member, I have a somewhat different take largely because I know that allegations that the proposal to standardize core high school curriculum is not a product of the DPI complaint. Anyone who has watched MMSD operate, would probably agree that nothing is put together that quickly (the complaint is less than a month old), especially when it involves a proposal.
I also just received the proposal a day or so ago. In full disclosure, I did not take advantage of the briefings conducted for board members who met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent individually or in pairs. I’m a certifiable pain in the neck and thought that any presentations should be made to the board as a whole in an open board or committee meeting, but that is just my issue.) I am just beginning to read and think through what is being proposed, so have no firm opinion yet.
More at

Madison: Missed Opportunity for 4K and High School Redesign

Marc Eisen:

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


Madison School District Administration Presentation on High School Redesign

The Madison School viewed a presentation from the Administration Monday evening on their proposed High School redesign. Listen via this mp3 audio file (or watch the MMSDTV Video Archive).
Susan Troller:

“Sometimes institutional history can be a weight around your neck,” Rainwater noted. “This can be an opportunity to bring in new ideas, and new blood,” he added.
Rainwater has said change is necessary because high schools today look and feel much like they have for generations but that students will live and work in a world that has changed dramatically, and which demands new skills and abilities.
He acknowledged that the path was likely to be bumpy, and noted that the plan — which has been developed thus far without public input — recognizes that there are major concerns in the community regarding changes to Madison’s school system.
Some of those concerns include worries about trying to balance resources among students of widely varying abilities, about “dumbing down” the curriculum with inclusive classrooms, the potential for the high schools to lose their unique personalities and concerns that addressing the broad ranges of culture in the district will not serve students well.


The Need for Better PR & Madison High School Redesign Notes

Jason Shephard:

Beebe made his pitch at a meeting of the school board’s communications committee chaired by Beth Moss, who says one of her top priorities this year is developing strategies to more aggressively seek changes in state funding.
“We’re going to have to continue to cut the budget annually, and it’s going to be worse and worse,” laments Moss, a school board newcomer elected in April. She fears the district will have no choice but to begin “dismantling programs.
As for the perennial issue of school funding, Moss and others are gearing up for a Nov. 15 state Senate education committee hearing. Tom Beebe’s group supports a proposal to hike state funding for K-12 education by $2.6 billion a year, based on a model developed by UW-Madison professor Allan Odden.
But as Beebe was asking the Madison district to join his group as a paying member, Rainwater expressed “serious doubts” about the plan and questioned whether Madison schools would benefit. The funding scheme, Beebe admitted, could potentially lead to an initial decrease in state funding to Madison.
“In the first year, Madison gets screwed for political reasons,” Beebe told the committee — hardly the best message to send when seeking money from a cash-strapped district.
Beebe might benefit from a lesson in better communication. Or maybe he believes that sometimes, the best PR strategy is telling it like it really is.

I continue to believe that the odds of successfully influencing the State Legislature – in Madison’s favor – are long. Better to spend the effort locally on community partnerships and substantively addressing the many issues facing our public schools (such as academic issues in elementary and middle schools before it is often too late in high school). Madison spends more per student (about $13,997) than the average Wisconsin School District (11,085).
Tom Beebe Audio / Video.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s Presentation on the Proposed High School Redesign and Small Learning Community Grant

June 11, 2007 35 Minute Video | MP3 Audio Background Links: High School Redesign SIS Search [rss] Learning from Milwaukee, MPS leads the way on Innovation MMSD High School Redesign Committee Selected High School Redesign Notes Public comments and links. Important new information about credit for non-mmsd courses West HS English 9 and 10: Show … Continue reading Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s Presentation on the Proposed High School Redesign and Small Learning Community Grant

Open Letter to BOE Re. High School Redesign

Dear BOE, Hi, everyone. We are writing to share a few thoughts about Monday night’s Special Meeting on the High School Redesign and SLC grant. We are writing to you and copying the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent — rather than writing to them and copying you — in order to underscore our belief that you, … Continue reading Open Letter to BOE Re. High School Redesign

MMSD High School Redesign Committee Selected

According to a report from a recent East High United meeting, where MMSD Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Pam Nash did a presentation on the District’s high school redesign plans, the following eleven people have been named to the redesign committee: Pam Nash — Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools, former principal of Memorial HS. While … Continue reading MMSD High School Redesign Committee Selected

High School Redesign Notes

As Arlene has reached out to the community for suggestions about the Redesign of the high schools, let me share a couple of thoughts: It’s too late. The students that are behind in 5th grade rarely catch up. The 2/3 combinations are by far the worst academic combination for elementary students, yet we continue this … Continue reading High School Redesign Notes

Arlene Silveira Seeks Comments on The Madison School District’s Proposed High School Redesign Process

Arlene Silveira: Good morning – As you may have heard, the School Board and district are embarking on a major high school redesign initiative [Discussion & Presentation Audio / Video]. The Superintendent made a presentation at the board meeting last week, giving some background information and outlining the process by which we will gather feedback … Continue reading Arlene Silveira Seeks Comments on The Madison School District’s Proposed High School Redesign Process

Madison School Board: Superintendent’s High School Redesign Presentation & Public Comments [Audio / Video]

Four citizens spoke at Monday evening’s school board meeting regarding the proposed “high school redesign”. Watch or download this video clip. Superintendent Art Rainwater’s powerpoint presentation and followup board discussion. Watch or download the video. Links: Susan Troller: MMSD to study high schools before “redesigning” them Joan Knoebel comments. East High School Principal Allen Harris’s … Continue reading Madison School Board: Superintendent’s High School Redesign Presentation & Public Comments [Audio / Video]

On, Off and On Again 11/27/2006 Madison School Board High School Redesign Discussion

Susan Troller wrote this on Tuesday, 11/21/2006: A presentation on the redesign of Madison’s high school curriculum scheduled for next week’s School Board meeting has been scrapped for the immediate future, School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. confirmed late this morning. “We’ll hold off on changes until we get a better feel for how the … Continue reading On, Off and On Again 11/27/2006 Madison School Board High School Redesign Discussion

High School Redesign & Academic Rigor: East High United Meeting 11/9 @ 7:00p.m.

With all of the talk about the district’s high schools going through a redesign process (similar to what the middle schools did last summer), I think it’s important that as many interested people as possible attend the East High United meeting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at East High School [map/directions]. I recently asked … Continue reading High School Redesign & Academic Rigor: East High United Meeting 11/9 @ 7:00p.m.

An Update on Madison’s Small Learning Community / High School “Redesign” Plans

The Madison School Board recently received a presentation (25mb mp3 file) from the Administration on its plans for High School “redesign” and the use of the $5,500,000 Small Learning Community grant funded by our federal tax dollars. Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash along with representatives from the four large high schools participated in the discussion. The Board asked some interesting questions. President Arlene Silveira asked how this initiative relates to the District’s “Strategic Planning Process”? Vice President Lucy Mathiak asked about opportunities for advanced students.

The interesting question in all of this is: does the money drive strategy or is it the other way around? In addition, what is the budget impact after 5 years? A friend mentioned several years ago, during the proposed East High School curriculum change controversy, that these initiatives fail to address the real issue: lack of elementary and middle school preparation.

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

Andy Hall:

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

Tamira Madsen:

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


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

A Look at Sacramento’s High School “Redesign” Initiative

Linking Education and Economic Development and the Sacramento City Unified School District [488K PDF]:

Over the past five years, the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) in partnership with LEED—Linking Education and Economic Development, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has implemented a system-wide redesign of the District’s high schools. With the assistance of community members, teachers principals, and especially parents and students, we have worked to create new models for high school learning in the 21st Century. To share the results of this effort, including accomplishments, lessons learned, and ongoing challenges, partners came together to create the “Report to the Community on the Education for the 21st Century (e21) High School Redesign Initiative: 2002-2007 and Beyond”. This Executive Summary captures some of the key elements of this Report

Complete report [1.9MB]
LEED Website.
Bruce King’s evaluation of Madison West High School’s Small Learning Community (SLC) implementation.
Examining the data from Madison’s SLC grants.

Comments on Redesign of MMSD High Schools

Kudos to the district for stopping the rush to the middle Rainwater and his assistants have been promoting for East. However, the changes that were pushed onto West should also be backed off while the district has a long overdue, community-wide conversation about what it desires its high schools to provide all students. And this … Continue reading Comments on Redesign of MMSD High Schools

MMSD to study high schools before “redesigning” them

Madison school Superintendent Art Rainwater has put the brakes on recently proposed changes to the city’s high schools as part of an effort to make long-term progress. That means putting a hold on the proposed elimination of accelerated classes at East. In addition, there will be no changes in the four-block schedule at La Follette … Continue reading MMSD to study high schools before “redesigning” them

Madison School Board approves a substantial tax and spending hike fall 2020 referendum

Scott Girard: If approved, the district would be able to exceed the revenue limit by $6 million in 2020-21, an additional $8 million in 2021-22, another $9 million in 2022-23 and finally another $10 million in 2023-24. The referendum would allow the district to surpass the revenue limit by that total of $33 million in … Continue reading Madison School Board approves a substantial tax and spending hike fall 2020 referendum

A new way to do high school? Tulsa Public Schools program to explore options

Samuel, Hardiman: Tulsa Public Schools plans to begin pilot programs for what a reimagined high school experience would look like, starting with two schools in the 2019-20 school year. Implementing and scaling the test programs is the goal of what will be the district’s early steps in the process of improving how students prepare for … Continue reading A new way to do high school? Tulsa Public Schools program to explore options

Unsayable Truths About a Failing High School

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

How to improve high school? Ask college freshmen

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

Madison Schools “Advanced Learner” Update

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

Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools

Jennifer Medina: advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. In essence, Ms. Powell Jobs and her team of high-profile educators and designers hope they can crowd-source a solution to a problem that has flummoxed policy makers for … Continue reading Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools

Commentary on tension in the Madison Schools over “One Size Fits All” vs. “Increased Rigor”

Maggie Ginsberg interviews Brandi Grayson: Can you give an example of what you’ve described as “intent versus impact?” The Behavior Education Plan that the [Madison Metropolitan] school district came up with. The impact is effed up, in so many words, and that’s because the voices that are most affected weren’t considered. It’s like standing outside … Continue reading Commentary on tension in the Madison Schools over “One Size Fits All” vs. “Increased Rigor”

A Blueprint for Effective and Adaptable School District Procurement

Tricia Maas, Robin Lake: In public education, procurement reform has been all but ignored in policy discussions and procurement policies have remained virtually untouched. But the high price of ignoring procurement is becoming clear to people trying to reform education on the ground. Often involving long, cumbersome processes and risk-averse central office cultures, procurement can … Continue reading A Blueprint for Effective and Adaptable School District Procurement

Janesville schools retool graduation requirements Educators hope to better prepare students for college, careers

Margo Spann:

Janesville School District leaders are retooling the school day and graduation requirements to give students a competitive edge outside the classroom. The initiative is called Project Redesign.
Right now Janesville students only need 22.5 credits to graduate from high school. Students in seventh grade this year will be required to earn 26.5 credits during their high school stints to get a diploma.
Craig High School’s principal, Dr. Alison Bjoin, is one of many who helped design the district’s new graduation requirements.
“This whole initiative is about making sure that our students leave Craig and Parker high schools ready to compete,” Bjoin said.
The school will be adding credits in four core areas: science, math, social studies and English. Bjoin said Project Redesign is about giving students the skills to compete after high school.
“[They’ll be] able to compete in college, in the military, in [careers],” Bjoin said. “Making sure students get additional credits in those core areas is going to help them on that path.”
The additional credit requirements will be phased in starting in 2014.

Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement: How Mayor-Led Districts Are Improving School and Student Performance

Kenneth K. Wong and Francis X. Shen:

Using mayoral governance–in which a city’s mayor replaces an elected school board with a board that he or she appoints–as a strategy to raise urban school performance began about two decades ago, when then-Mayor of Boston Raymond Flynn (D) gained control over the city’s school district. Boston was soon followed by Chicago, where Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) appointed both the chief executive officer and the entire school board of the school system. Over the past 20 years, mayoral governance of schools has been featured prominently in nearly 20 urban school systems across the country. (see Table 1 in the PDF)
Mayoral control and accountability is one of very few major education reforms that aim at governance coherence in our highly fragmented urban school systems. A primary feature of mayoral governance is that it holds the office of the mayor accountable for school performance. As an institutional redesign, mayoral governance integrates school-district accountability and the electoral process at the systemwide level. The so-called education mayor is ultimately held accountable for the school system’s performance on an academic, fiscal, operational, and managerial level. While school board members are elected by fewer than 10 percent of the eligible voters, mayoral races are often decided by more than half of the electorate. Under mayoral control, public education gets on the citywide agenda.
Governance constitutes a structural barrier to academic and management improvement in too many large urban districts, where turf battles and political squabbles involving school leaders and an array of stakeholders have for too long taken energy and focus away from the core mission of education. Many urban districts are exceedingly ungovernable, with fragmented centers of power tending to look after the interests of their own specific constituencies. Consequently, the independently elected school board has limited leverage to advance collective priorities, and the school superintendent lacks the institutional capacity to manage the policy constraints established in state regulations and the union contract. Therefore, mayoral accountability aims to address the governing challenges in urban districts by making a single office responsible for the performance the city’s public schools. Citywide priorities such as reducing the achievement gap receive more focused attention.

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

Superintendent Jane Belmore (652K PDF):

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

A few charts from the report:

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

2013 Wisconsin DPI Superintendent and Madison School Board Candidates

Patrick Marley & Erin Richards:

“I’ve been frustrated with the fact that our educational system continues to go downhill even with all the money the Legislature puts into it,” he said.
Pridemore said he will release more details about his educational agenda in forthcoming policy statements and has several education bills in the drafting phase. Asked if he believed schools should have armed teachers, he said that was a matter that should be left entirely to local school boards to decide.
Evers, who has been school superintendent since 2009, is seeking a second term. He has previously served as a teacher, principal, local school superintendent and deputy state schools superintendent.
Wisconsin’s education landscape has undergone some major changes during his tenure, including significant reductions in school spending and limits on collective bargaining for public workers that weakened teachers unions, which have supported Evers in the past.
Evers wants to redesign the funding formula that determines aid for each of Wisconsin’s 424 school districts and to provide more aid to schools. Also, he wants to reinvigorate technical education and to require all high schools to administer a new suite of tests that would offer a better way to track students’ academic progress and preparation for the ACT college admissions exam.

Don Pridemore links: SIS, Clusty, Blekko, Google and link farming. Incumbent Tony Evers: SIS, Clusty, Blekko, Google and link farming.
Matthew DeFour:

School Board president James Howard, the lone incumbent seeking re-election, faces a challenge from Greg Packnett, a legislative aide active with the local Democratic Party. The seats are officially nonpartisan.
Two candidates, low-income housing provider Dean Loumos and recently retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong, are vying for Moss’ seat.
The race for Cole’s seat will include a primary on Feb. 19, the first one for a Madison School Board seat in six years. The candidates are Sarah Manski, a Green Party political activist who runs a website that encourages buying local; Ananda Mirilli, social justice coordinator for the YWCA who has a student at Nuestro Mundo Community School; and T.J. Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and local education blogger whose children attend West High and Randall Elementary schools.

First Niagara’s $3M to shape CT school-reform debate

Hartford Business, via a kind Doug Newman email:

First Niagara Bank has pledged $3 million to support a nonprofit group that is representing business interests in Connecticut’s education reform debate.
The money will go to Hartford’s Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), which is led by a group of prominent Connecticut business leaders including former Hartford Financial Services Group CEO Ramani Ayer, and Peyton Patterson, the former chief executive of NewAllinace Bank, which was acquired by First Niagara Bank last year.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform also unveiled Thursday its education agenda for the upcoming legislative session, which includes urging the state to adopt:
–Teacher and leader employment and retention policies that attract the highest quality professionals and insist upon effectiveness as defined by their ability to demonstrate improvement in student performance, not seniority, as the measure of success defined by redesigned evaluation systems.

Introduction to School Models

Opportunity Culture:

Only about one of every four U.S. classrooms has an “excellent teacher,” one who produces enough learning progress to close achievement gaps and help all students leap ahead to higher-order learning. Three-quarters do not.
The school models presented here aim to change that. These models use job redesign, technology, or both to help excellent teachers reach more students. Done right, all the models presented here can meet our Reach Extension Principles. Most models can be used for whole schools or single courses.
Here’s a quick overview: Our primary goal is to enable schools to reach significantly more students with excellent teachers. Every model outlined here identifies the excellent teacher in charge–the person who is truly accountable for learning. In more detailed models coming in 2012, we also indicate what people, technology, and other resources the excellent teacher has authority to choose and change. We organized the models around two key dimensions:

Madison schools ‘don’t want to wait’ for a crisis

Matthew DeFour:

Responding to an increase in violence, drugs and gang activity in and around schools, the Madison School District is considering a broad effort to improve building security, including the use of drug-sniffing dogs in high schools next year.
The district also is proposing to lock the main entrances of middle school buildings during the day. Other recommendations include redesigning main entrances at West and Memorial high schools and adding surveillance cameras to all elementary and middle schools, district security coordinator Luis Yudice said.
“We are not doing this because we believe we have severe problems in our schools (or) because we experienced a tragedy in our schools,” Yudice said. “We don’t want to wait until there’s a crisis. We want to get ahead of the game.”

Obama’s School Reforms Are a Priority


In the days following his inauguration, President Obama included a package of educational reforms in his stimulus bill that offered states financial incentives to make dramatic improvements in their education systems. About 10% of the $100 billion allocated for education was used to create competitive grants. States could only win them by drafting comprehensive and aggressive plans to, for example, adopt higher academic standards, turn around chronically low-performing schools, and redesign teacher evaluation and compensation systems.
Although it has received much less attention than health care and financial regulatory reform, this measure may ultimately be one of Mr. Obama’s most profound and lasting achievements. In just one year, we’ve already seen more reforms proposed and enacted around the country than in the preceding decade.
Yet on July 1, with little warning, the House of Representatives watered down these reform efforts by approving an amendment to the emergency supplemental appropriations bill, proposed by Rep. David Obey (D., Wis.). It takes away $800 million that has already been committed to three critical parts of the president’s education reform package–Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the Charter Schools Program. This breaks a promise to the states, districts and schools that are doing the most important work in America. The funds are to be redirected to a $10 billion “Edujobs” bill to prevent teacher layoffs.

Are ‘Early College’ High Schools A Good Idea?

Eliza Krigman:

In recent years, high schools that are configured to provide students the opportunity to earn both a high-school diploma and a college associate’s degree or up two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree have grown in popularity. The Early College High School Initiative, a private partnership made up of 13 member organizations, has started or redesigned more than 200 such schools since 2002. In addition, the National Center on Education and the Economy is spearheading a similar initiative. Dozens of public schools in eight states next fall will adopt a program that lets 10th-grade students test out of high school and go to community college. The first generation of these schools targeted low-income, minority students who were likely to be the first in their family to attend college.

New Jersey’s 2010 Race to the Top Application; 11 Wisconsin School Districts Don’t Participate

New Jersey Department of Education, 3MB PDF:

In New Jersey, we are proud to be ranked among the top 5 NAEP performers in reading, writing, and mathematics. We are proud to have invested so successfully in admired and effective early childhood programs, high-quality charter schools, and high school redesign. We are proud to see the success of our efforts.
However, while we are making inroads to close the achievement gap, we also recognize that more work is needed to prepare all of our students for the demands of the global economy. The existing minority achievement gaps and the gaps for economically-disadvantaged and non- disadvantaged students are unacceptable. There is an urgent need for these further reforms.
The landmark Abbot decisions over the last three decades in conjunction with the creation of the new school funding formula in 2008 solidified New Jersey’s commitment to equitable school resources and ensuring that all student sin the State have access to needed resources. Although this has been a significant step, we have not yet achieved outcomes commensurate with the State’s investments in education in all districts. Furthermore, we have not yet solved the problems of how to place great teachers and leaders in struggling schools and districts.

Scott Bauer:

Eleven Wisconsin school districts want nothing to do with a highly touted federal grant program that could direct thousands of dollars to their classrooms.
The districts were the only ones out of 425 that refused to take part in the state’s application to receive money under the nearly $4.5 billion Race to the Top grant program.
That means if Wisconsin is awarded the $254 million it seeks, the 11 districts won’t get a cut, and the money they would have gotten will go to the remaining schools.
That’s just fine with Mary Dean, administrator of the Maple Dale-Indian Hills School District just north of Milwaukee. She said the requirements under the state’s Race to the Top application were too onerous for her 500-student district to comply with, so instead of giving itself the option of declining to take part later, it decided not to participate at all.
“We really had too many questions, too many unknowns,” she said. “We thought the costs would outweigh the benefits.”

New York City’s Schools Share Space, And Bitterness, With Charters

Jennifer Medina:

Suzanne Tecza had spent a year redesigning the library at Middle School 126 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, including colorful new furniture and elaborate murals of leafy trees. So when her principal decided this year to give the space to the charter high schools that share the building, Ms. Tecza was furious.
“It’s not fair to our students,” she said of the decision, which gives the charter students access to the room for most of the day. “It’s depriving them of a fully functioning library, something they deserve.”
In Red Hook, Brooklyn, teachers at Public School 15 said they avoid walking their students past rooms being used by the PAVE Academy Charter School, fearing that they will envy those students for their sparkling-clean classrooms and computers. On the Lower East Side, the Girls Preparatory Charter School was forced to turn away 50 students it had hoped to accept because it was unable to find more room in the Public School 188 building.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has made charter schools one of his third-term priorities, and that means that in New York, battles and resentment over space — already a way of life — will become even more common. He and his schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, have allowed nearly two-thirds of the city’s 99 charter schools to move into public school buildings, officials expect two dozen charter schools to open next fall, and the mayor has said he will push the Legislature to allow him to add 100 more in the next four years.

Hard-Hit Schools Try Public-Relations Push

Stephanie Simon:

Public schools in the U.S. have added professional marketing to their back-to-school shopping lists.
Financially struggling urban districts are trying to win back students fleeing to charter schools, private schools and suburban districts that offer open enrollment. Administrators say they are working hard to improve academics — but it can’t hurt to burnish their image as well.
A bus in Washington, D.C., carries an ad for the city’s public schools, which have seen enrollment plunge from nearly 150,000 students in 1970 to less than 50,000 last year. The district spent $100,000 this spring on a campaign that also included radio spots in an effort to win back students who have left public schools. The ads include quotes from students who say they are glad they stayed in public school.
So they are recording radio ads, filming TV infomercials and buying address lists for direct-mail campaigns. Other efforts, by both districts and individual schools, call for catering Mexican dinners for potential students, making sales pitches at churches and hiring branding experts to redesign logos.
“Schools are really getting that they can’t just expect students to show up any more,” said Lisa Relou, who directs marketing efforts for the Denver Public Schools. “They have to go out and recruit.”
Administrators working on the public-relations push say the potential returns are high. State funding for public schools is based on attendance, so each new student brings more money, typically $5,000 to $8,000 per head. In addition, schools with small enrollments are at constant risk of being shuttered in this recession, and full classrooms help.
Some districts also hope a better image will entice more local business sponsorship and persuade voters to support school levies and bond issues

Substance, such as a rigorous curriculum, strong school leadership, extensive education options (languages, arts, science and math, among others) will always be better than simple pr/marketing/advertising efforts. General Motors tried re-brand their business repeatedly over the past few decades.

The Madison School District = General Motors?

A provocative headline.
Last Wednesday, Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on “What Wisconsin’s Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late.” 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).
Zimman’s talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin’s K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”
In light of this talk, It has been fascinating to watch (and participate in) the intersection of:

Several years ago, former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater remarked that “sometimes I think we have 25,000 school districts, one for each child”.
I found Monday evening’s school board meeting interesting, and perhaps indicative of the issues Zimman noted recently. Our public schools have an always challenging task of trying to support the growing range of wants, needs and desires for our 24,180 students, staff members, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and parents. Monday’s topics included:

I’ve not mentioned the potential addition of 4K, high school redesign or other topics that bubble up from time to time.
In my layperson’s view, taking Zimman’s talk to heart, our public schools should dramatically shrink their primary goals and focus on only the most essential topics (student achievement?). In Madison’s case, get out of the curriculum creation business and embrace online learning opportunities for those students who can excel in that space while devoting staff to the kids who need them most. I would also like to see more opportunities for our students at MATC, the UW, Edgewood College and other nearby institutions. Bellevue (WA) College has a “running start” program for the local high school.

Chart via Whitney Tilson.
Richard Zimman closed his talk with these words (@27 minutes): “Simply throwing more money at schools to continue as they are now is not the answer. We cannot afford more of the same with just a bigger price tag”.
General Motors as formerly constituted is dead. What remains is a much smaller organization beholden to Washington. We’ll see how that plays out. The Madison School District enjoys significant financial, community and parental assets. I hope the Administration does just a few things well.

School spotlight: Apprenticeship provides taste of product engineering

Pamela Cotant:

In between summertime activities, recent Oregon High School graduate Erik VanderSanden is focusing on winter as he helps redesign a device that makes cross country skiing accessible to the disabled.
VanderSanden spent his senior year assisting in the design and redesign of parts and items for Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing of Madison through the Dane County Youth Apprenticeship Program.
In Dane County, nearly 130 students have participated this school year and into the summer, said Diane Kraus, school to career coordinator for the Dane County consortium of 16 school districts. The county program offers 11 program areas and the most popular right now are health care, information technology, automotive and biotechnology, said Kraus, adding that her program is always looking for more businesses that want to participate.
One of the items VanderSanden worked on for his apprenticeship is a device that allows people to sit while skiing. VanderSanden is now being retained as needed to finish up a prototype, which will be used by Isthmus to manufacture 100 more. The unit was originally designed by UW-Madison mechanical engineering students under professor Jay Martin through the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology, which is also known as UW-CREATe.
“I tried to optimize what they had already done … and take it a step further than what they had time for in their class,” said VanderSanden said.

2008-2009 Madison West High School ReaLGrant Initiave update

57K PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

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

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

Recommendations from the SIP Committee

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

Related topics:

Teacher Union Contracts and High School Reform

Mitch Price:

Are teachers unions and collective bargaining agreements barriers to high school reform and redesign efforts in Washington, California, and Ohio? The short answer: sometimes, but not as often as many educators seem to think.
On one hand, collective bargaining agreements (CBAs)–long, complex, and unwieldy documents which can be difficult for an overworked principal to navigate–are often perceived as obstacles by many principals and other educators, and to a certain extent this perception becomes reality. And, while these perceptions can limit school-level flexibility and autonomy, there are also restrictive provisions within CBAs that do so as well.
On the other hand, CBAs tend to have waiver provisions. In many cases, districts and teachers unions can also negotiate side agreements on individual issues (e.g., memoranda of understanding, or MOUs) to provide desired flexibility. And, in perhaps our most significant finding, many of the CBA provisions that we analyzed were more flexible than educators and reform advocates often suggest.
Finally, many CBA provisions that we studied were simply ambiguous. This ambiguity could potentially allow for greater latitude for an aggressive principal who is looking for greater flexibility and willing to push the envelope, while serving to limit a more cautious or timid principal who looks to the CBA for explicit authority or permission first before acting.

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

Marc Eisen:

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

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

A Second-Rate Secondary Education
High schools need to start treating their students with the same respect colleges do.

Leon Botstein:

The weakest and most vulnerable element in education, particularly in the developed world, is the education of adolescents in our secondary-school systems. Relative economic prosperity and the extension of leisure time have spawned an inconsistent but prevalent postponement of adulthood. On the one hand, as consumers and future citizens, young people between the ages of 13 and 18 are afforded considerable status and independence. Yet they remain infantilized in terms of their education, despite the earlier onset of maturation. Standards and expectations are too low. Modern democracies are increasingly inclined to ensure rates of close to 100 percent completion of a secondary school that can lead to university education. This has intensified an unresolved struggle between the demands of equity and the requirements of excellence. If we do not address these problems, the quality of university education will be at risk.
To make secondary education meaningful, more intellectual demands of an adult nature should be placed on adolescents. They should be required to use primary materials of learning, not standardized textbooks; original work should be emphasized, not imitative, uniform assignments; and above all, students should undergo inspired teaching by experts. Curricula should be based on current problems and issues, not disciplines defined a century ago. Statistics and probability need to be brought to the forefront, given our need to assess risk and handle data, replacing calculus as the entry-level college requirement. Secondary schools and their programs of study are not only intellectually out of date, but socially obsolete. They were designed decades ago for large children, not today’s young adults.

Raise, not lower standards. Quite a concept. Clusty Search: Leon Botstein.
High School Redesign.

Study of Small High Schools (Small Learning Communities or SLC) Yields Little on Achievement

David Hoff:

High schools receiving $80 million in annual federal funding to support “smaller learning communities” can document that they are taking steps to establish learning environments more intimate than found in the typical comprehensive high school.
But, according to a federal study, such smaller schools can’t answer the most significant question: Is student achievement improving in the smaller settings?
The evaluation of the 8-year-old program found that schools participating in it show signs of success. In the schools, the proportion of students being promoted from 9th to 10th grade increases, participation in extracurricular activities rises, and the rate of violent incidents declines.
But the evaluation found “no significant trends” in achievement on state tests or college-entrance exams, says the report, which was prepared by a private contractor and released by the U.S. Department of Education last week.


Another Look at High School Performance Assessments

Bill Tucker:

Just returned from Providence where I spent two days learning about Rhode Island’s diploma system, which includes a number of performance-based assessment requirements. Today at Portsmouth High School I saw students present their senior projects to groups of teachers, classmates, and outside community judges. Beginning this year, to graduate, all 200+ seniors at Portsmouth are required to complete a year-long senior project, consisting of the “4Ps” — a research paper, a tangible product, a process portfolio, and today’s oral presentation. Students select their projects, submit a letter of intent, and work closely with a school or community mentor. And, the projects really are diverse. The first student I saw today presented the stage set she’d designed for the school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Another student’s project consisted of running a marathon and fundraising to support leukemia research.
The students were, of course, outstanding. But, what surprised me most were my conversations with the principal, teachers, and state officials about the cultural changes that were emerging from the senior project requirement. Roy Seitsinger, Director of RI High School Redesign, was emphatic that this work was “about transformative cultural change.”

Garden City New York School Board Seeks to Expand AP & International Baccalaureate Opportunities

Stephanie Mariel Petrellese:

The AB/IB Committee, co-chaired by Drs. Prendergast and Bacotti, and comprised of administrators, teachers and three parents, conducted a comprehensive study of the current AP program and researched the possibility of implementing the IB program. They then compared the two and presented their recommendations to the Board.
“It is clear that some of the issues that we realize are out there with AP programs may in fact be addressed by a rigorous IB program,” said School Board President Kenneth Monaghan. He gave the example of the study of world language. Many students do not pursue foreign language study at the AP level because the course and exam are recognized to be extremely difficult and students are concerned with how it might affect their overall grade point average.
“It’s not that the AP program is irrelevant. It’s not,” he continued. “Nor is it a matter of whether or not the IB program is more relevant. The question is whether or not the two together, or in combination, may balance out each other’s shortcomings and help us devise a program which has greater relevance for our students going forward, in particular for the vast majority of our students who are going on to collegiate work. We want to make sure that they are as prepared as possible.”
The committee will take their research to the next level by establishing contacts with other high-performing districts that are offering the IB program and expanding the number of parents on the committee. Committee members plan to attend a Guild of IB Schools of the Northeast orientation seminar in Commack on June 7th and file an official “Intent to Apply” interest form with the International Baccalaureate Organization. After they file the interest form, teachers and administrators will be allowed to attend professional development Level 1 workshops. The committee will report back to the Board in the fall.


I’m glad Garden City included three parents and some teachers on their AP/IB committee.

Madison School District Administration’s Proposed 2008-2009 Budget Published

The observation of school district budgeting can be fascinating. Numbers are big (9 or more digits) and the politics often significant. Many factors affect such expenditures including, local property taxes, state and federal redistributed tax dollars, enrollment, grants, referendums, new programs, politics and periodically, local priorities. The Madison School District Administration released it’s proposed 2008-2009 $367,806,712 budget Friday, April 4, 2008.
There will be a number of versions between now and sometime next year. The numbers will change.
Allocations were sent to the schools on March 5, 2008 prior to the budget’s public release. MMSD 2008-2009 Budget timeline.
I’ve summarized budget and enrollment information from1995 through 2008-2009 below:

Tax credits for private-school grants a win-win

Erich Cochling:

Education spending has increased at a breakneck pace in Georgia over the past decade, outpacing inflation substantially. Since 1994 per-student spending has more than doubled, representing an increase in spending each year of nearly 10 percent. In 2007 per-student spending exceeded $10,000 for the first time in Georgia’s history.
But despite the high level of spending, Georgia was ranked 48th among the states in high school graduation rates in 2007. That is exactly where the state ranked in 2000. In some of the intervening years, Georgia dropped to 50th, managing to beat out only the District of Columbia and avoid the dishonorable title of “worst in the nation.” State SAT scores have remained stagnant for years in Georgia, with rankings hovering painfully close to 50th. While that trend seems to have changed in 2007, a positive thing no doubt, time will tell whether the improvement is based in real academic achievement or a redesigned exam.
These facts point to a sobering reality that demands our attention: Every four years a generation of students in failing schools graduates unprepared for higher education or the work force, if they graduate at all. To these students, the lack of a quality education can and likely will have devastating results. And requiring students to be subjects in a protracted experiment in education reform seems inhumane at the very least.
Fortunately, Gov. Sonny Perdue and the General Assembly have recognized the plight of these students and have championed legislation to give them hope through education choice.

Seven Warnings and One Mistake in High School Reform

Jay Matthews:

I receive many reports on how to improve our schools. This is an occupational hazard. Reading them is often confusing, depressing, disorienting and maddening. But there is no help for it. The academic papers, commission recommendations and task force action plans are usually written by some of the smartest experts in the country. They have stuff I need to know, so I plow through them.
It is best that I be vague, however, about what the margins of these reports look like after I have finished with them. I have just gone through, for instance, a paper by two leading experts, W. Norton Grubb of the University of California, Berkeley, and Jeannie Oakes of the University of California, Los Angeles. I looked forward to reading their report, “‘Restoring Value’ to the High School Diploma: The Rhetoric and Practice of Higher Standards. 432K PDF” It was published by the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University. They focus on the push for rigor in high schools and argue that the discussion spends too much time on narrow definitions of rigor, based on test scores and demanding courses, and ignores other conceptions, such as more sophisticated levels of understanding and the ability to apply learning in unfamiliar settings.
The authors write well and know their stuff. Nonetheless, here are some of the words I wrote on the margins: “stupid,” “so what?” “no! no!” “recipe for disaster,” “booo!” “who cares?” and a few others I may not quote on a family Web site.
Ordinarily, I would use this column to flay Grubb and Oakes for disagreeing with me on how to fix high schools, my favorite topic. But I am writing this on a lovely Saturday, with the leaves turning and the birds happily washing themselves in the little puddles left by my garden-watering wife. Why don’t I, just this once, write about this report’s good points? They include at least seven astute warnings about sloppy thinking in the high school reform debate. Here they are, plus one mistake in their thinking that I could not resist trashing.


Involving the Community (in High School Reform)

I will periodically provide updates for the community so that you can read what the Board of Education (BOE) is working on during the year. I also do so when I have particular interest in, or concerns regarding, decisions made on behalf of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).
One area that I believe is of utmost importance and may be on the mind of the public is high school reform.
I am particularly interested in answering two questions as they relate to this issue.
First, what are the problem(s) we are trying to address as a district in our high schools?
Second, how does the current high school framework align with the skills and knowledge required by colleges and employers and in the overall reform movement of standards and accountability?
To address this issue as a board member, I look for specific timelines, benchmarks and periodic updates.
I think it would well serve the community and the entire board to know exactly where we are in the process. Originally, high school reform in MMSD was presented to the community in a BOE Special Meeting and referred to as a “blank slate.”
Recently, the district submitted an application for a Small Learning Communities (SLC) federal grant. It was not awarded. It was at this time that I had requested that the BOE review the process of high school reform in MMSD at a BOE Special Meeting. I have also raised concerns that the administration has decided to apply for the grant again. The board has been told that we have a good chance that we will get the grant on the second round. I have again requested that the board meet as soon as possible.
However, as a board member of seven – there must be four BOE members willing to submit such a request to put this topic on the agenda. So far, I am the only member requesting this motion.
I raise this issue because of my firmly held belief that my role as a BOE member is to represent the community and provide, to the best of my ability, an accessible, open process when major decisions are made on behalf of the community.
It appears that as of today, the grant will be resubmitted before the only scheduled BOE meeting on high school reform on the 19th of November.
A little history. The high school reform process should be transparent and accessible to the entire community. I am trying to get a handle on this process myself. Here is a look at what has transpired so far:

Governance Changes in the Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

A surge of action and proposed action, a president who wants his hands on a lot of things and bad blood between board members – the heat is growing at Milwaukee School Board meetings, and it is creating an environment in which Superintendent William Andrekopoulos is facing the stiffest political challenges of his five years in office.
The election in April of Michael Bonds to replace Ken Johnson on the board, followed by the election of Peter Blewett as the board’s president, have put into power two people with strong feelings about doing things differently from the way Andrekopoulos wants.
And they are acting on those feelings.
A central role for the board president is to name members of the committees that do most of the board’s work. The president usually gives his allies the dominant positions but doesn’t put himself in many roles.
Blewett has done much more than that – he named himself chairman of two committees, one that handles the budget and strategic direction of Milwaukee Public Schools and one that handles questions of policy and rules, and he named himself as a member of two other major committees, handling finance and safety. He also named Bonds to head the Finance Committee, an unusual step, given that Bonds was brand new.
Blewett and Bonds, who have formed a generally close relationship, have also been submitting a relative flood of proposals for the board to take up. Since May 1, the two have submitted 34 resolutions between them, with nine others coming from the other seven members of the board.
Some seek major changes in MPS practices or to reopen issues previously decided by the board. Included would be reopening Juneau High School, reuniting Washington High School into one operation (it has been broken into three), restoring ninth-grade athletics and building up arts programs in schools.
The total of 43 resolutions is more than board members submitted in the entire year in six of the eight previous years. Seventeen resolutions were introduced at a board meeting last week, 14 of them written or co-written by Blewett or Bonds.
Although this might seem like a bureaucratic matter, it is a key element of efforts by Blewett and Bonds to shake up the central administration of MPS. They are challenging Andrekopoulos openly in ways not seen in prior years, when a firm majority of board members supported Andrekopoulos.
He and Bonds have been critical of Andrekopoulos and the previous board for not doing enough to listen to people in the city as a whole and for not providing enough information to the board.
Blewett said his main agenda item as president is “to engage the community.” Just holding public hearings or meetings around the community is not enough, he said, referring to a round of community meetings last fall on a new strategic plan for MPS as “spectacular wastes of time and money.” He said people who work in schools, parents and the community in general need meaningful involvement.
“I really want to make sure that we’re investigating every opportunity to engage the public and provide our students with quality learning experiences that get beyond reading and math,” he said.
Bonds said, “I have a very aggressive agenda to change the direction of the School District.”
He was strongly critical of policies such as the redesigning of high schools led by Andrekopoulos in recent years, including the creation of numerous small high schools.
“Given the resources we (MPS) have, we should be providing a better product,” he said. “I feel the administration has led us down a failed path.”

There are similar issues at play in Madison. The local school board’s composition has significantly changed over the past few years – much for the better. Time will tell, whether that governance change translates into a necessary new direction for our $339M+, 24, 342 student Madison School District. Alan Borsuk is a Madison West High Grad.

Madison School District Small Learning Community Grant Application

136 Page 2.6MB PDF:

Madison Metropolitan School District: A Tale of Two Cities-Interrupted
Smaller Learning Communities Program CFDA #84.215L [Clusty Search]
Wisconsin. Home of contented cows, cheese curds, and the highest incarceration rate for African American males in the country. The juxtaposition of one against the other, the bucolic against the inexplicable, causes those of us who live here and work with Wisconsin youth to want desperately to change this embarrassment. Madison, Wisconsin. Capital city. Ranked number one place in America to live by Money (1997) magazine. Home to Presidential scholars, twenty times the average number of National Merit finalists, perfect ACT and SAT scores. Home also to glaring rates of racial and socio-economic disproportionality in special education identification, suspension and expulsion rates, graduation rates, and enrollment in rigorous courses. This disparity holds true across all four of Madison’s large, comprehensive high schools and is increasing over time.
Madison’s Chief of Police has grimly characterized the educational experience for many low income students of color as a “pipeline to prison” in Wisconsin. He alludes to Madison’s dramatically changing demographics as a “tale of two cities.” The purpose of the proposed project is to re-title that unfolding story and change it to a “tale of two cities-interrupted” (TC-I). We are optimistic in altering the plot based upon our success educating a large portion of our students and our ability to solve problems through thoughtful innovation and purposeful action. Our intent is to provide the best possible educational experience for all of our students.

Much more on Small Learning Communities here [RSS SIS SLC Feed]. Bruce King’s evaluation of Madison West’s SLC Implementation. Thanks to Elizabeth Contrucci who forwarded this document (via Pam Nash). MMSD website.
This document is a fascinating look into the “soul” of the current MMSD Administration ($339M+ annual budget) along with their perceptions of our community. It’s important to note that the current “high school redesign” committee (Note Celeste Roberts’ comments in this link) is rather insular from a community participation perspective, not to mention those who actually “pay the bills” via property taxes and redistributed sales, income and user fees at the state and federal level.

Learning from Milwaukee: MPS Leads the Way on High School Innovation

Marc Eisen: The much-reviled Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) could be a surprising role model for the Madison school district as it begins formulating a plan to refashion its high schools for the demands of the 21st century. MPS, which educates a student body that is overwhelming minority and deeply ensnared in the tentacles of poverty, … Continue reading Learning from Milwaukee: MPS Leads the Way on High School Innovation

2007 Challenge Index: Ranking America’s High Schools

Memorial is the only Madison High School in the top 1200 (1084), while Verona ranked 738th. Washington Post: The Washington Post Challenge Index measures a public high school’s effort to challenge its students. The formula is simple: Divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests a school gave by the number of … Continue reading 2007 Challenge Index: Ranking America’s High Schools

2005-2006 Milwaukee Public Schools Report Card

Milwaukee Public Schools: School by school reports are presented along with a district overview. Alan Borsuk has more: “We have to do much better,” School Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said, summarizing it all. But he pointed to improved graduation and dropout rates as encouraging and said he remains convinced reforms will bear fruit, even though it … Continue reading 2005-2006 Milwaukee Public Schools Report Card

Revamping the high schools

If Jason Shepard is correct, West will stay as is during the review process, heterogeneous classes is the goal and the study committee will not include parents or teachers.
If the BOE doesn’t step in right now, it’s all over. I hadn’t quite understood what Ed Blume has been writing about here structurally as much as I do at this moment. This process will be driven to Rainwater’s foregone conclusions. The BOE must frame the questions and decide who is on this committee. And if it’s truly a tabula rasa, let’s put West on the same footing as East, that is, undo the changes the Rainwater administration shoved through.

School Board to discuss future of high schools

From The Capital Times: A discussion regarding the future of Madison’s high schools is back on the agenda for tonight’s School Board meeting. The controversial item, which involves curriculum changes and other proposals, is scheduled as part of a special board meeting at 8 p.m. in the Doyle Administration Building, 545 W. Dayton St. In … Continue reading School Board to discuss future of high schools

Redesign acknowledges failure to close achievement gap

The high school dumbing down (aka high school redesign) shows the MMSD administration’s loss of will, as well as its refusal to adopt curriculum changes needed to close the achievement gap. The gap begins in elementary school: 46% of black students score below grade level on the third grade reading test, but only 9% of … Continue reading Redesign acknowledges failure to close achievement gap

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

First, I want to say BRAVO, RUTH, for putting it all together and bringing it on home to us. Thanks, too, to the BOE members who overrode BOE President Johnny Winston Jr’s decision to table this important discussion. Finally, deepest thanks to all of the East parents, students and teachers who are speaking out … … Continue reading More Than English 10: Let’s REALLY Talk About Our High Schools

Superintendent Rainwater: “We need to dramatically change our high schools.”

On Monday, November 27, the Madison School Board will begin to address rumors about major changes coming to our high schools. There are some realities behind the rumors. For example, West High School substantially reduced the English courses for tenth graders this year. The principal at East High School met with parents last week. He … Continue reading Superintendent Rainwater: “We need to dramatically change our high schools.”

East High Student Insurrection Over Proposed Curriculum Changes?

Andy Hall: “This is a discussion killer and it’s an education killer because it’s going to make kids feel uncomfortable,” Collin said Monday of the emerging plan, which would take effect in the fall. This morning, Collin and other students – he says it may involve 100 of the school’s 1,834 students – plan to … Continue reading East High Student Insurrection Over Proposed Curriculum Changes?

Book: What School Boards Can Do

Donald R. McAdams: To provide essential guidance to urban school board members committed to high achievement for all children, Don McAdams presents a comprehensive approach to board leadership he calls reform governance. This accessible framework brings together all the work of an urban school board, including everything from big ideas about core beliefs and theories … Continue reading Book: What School Boards Can Do

Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

This is very long, and the link may require a password so I’ve posted the entire article on the continued page. TJM Standards, Accountability, and School Reform by Linda Darling-Hammond — 2004 The standards-based reform movement has led to increased emphasis on tests, coupled with rewards and sanctions, as the basis for “accountability” systems. … Continue reading Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

The Gates Effect: High School Small Learning Communities

Wendy Zellner: More to the point, others wonder: Is the Gates Foundation making the right calls? The early results of its high school reinvention efforts–with many foundation-backed schools now in their fourth year of existence–are mixed at best. Outside researchers hired by Gates have found “positive cultures” at the new and redesigned schools but raise … Continue reading The Gates Effect: High School Small Learning Communities

MMSD School Board’s Philosopy of Education – community responsibility

Point 5 in the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Philosophy of Education says: We believe that students, parents, school personnel, members of the BOARD, and the general public share the responsibility for the total educational program of the School District. We believe that this responsibility requires cooperation, effort, and dedication if the youth of the school … Continue reading MMSD School Board’s Philosopy of Education – community responsibility

MAUE School Board Candidate Forum

Madison United for Academic Excellence [www site] held a Madison School Board candidate forum Tuesday evening, January 17, 2006. Maya Cole, Michael Kelly, Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira participated (election website). Candidate statements and questions appear below:

Report of Committee to Redesign Middle School Curriculum: Top Secret for Now

An administrative report recommending changes the middle school curriculum district-wide that was due in late December is now expected some time in January. Shwaw Vang, chair of the Performance and Achievement Committee of the MMSD school board, held a second meeting on the expected report on December 19. According to minutes of the November meeting … Continue reading Report of Committee to Redesign Middle School Curriculum: Top Secret for Now

Strong, Consistent Middle School Academics

As I listened to the Pam Nash’s (Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools) presentation on the Middle School Redesign to the Performance and Achievement Committee last night, I was thinking of an academic/elective middle school framework applied across the district that would be notable in its rigor and attractiveness to parents and some next steps. Personally, … Continue reading Strong, Consistent Middle School Academics

Report from West High PTSO Meeting

Some 70 parents were in attendance at Monday evening’s PTSO meeting to hear about West High School’s plans for 10th grade English. This was the largest turnout for a PTSO meeting in recent history. Approximately one-third of those there were parents of elementary and middle school students who will be attending West at some point … Continue reading Report from West High PTSO Meeting

Equity and School Board – Hard Work Needed by School Board AND Equity Task Force

I’ve attended many of the School Board meetings where equity issues came up. I listened to parents and representatives from the Northside Coalition talk about their concerns about equity issues over the past several years, including concerns about the application of the equity formula over the past several years frustrated, in part, that the School … Continue reading Equity and School Board – Hard Work Needed by School Board AND Equity Task Force

Press Release and List of Members of DPI Task Force on High Schools

Burmaster announces High School Task Force members MADISON�State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster released a list of the members of the State Superintendent�s High School Task Force. The group, co-chaired by JoAnne Brandes, executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and general counsel for Johnson Diversey Inc., and Ryan Champeau, principal of Waukesha North High School, will hold … Continue reading Press Release and List of Members of DPI Task Force on High Schools

High Schools Nationwide Paring Down

“Whenever you have a reform that has been successful in some places and then it�s scaled up quickly, with a lot of people who only understand it superficially, there�s a lot of danger that some people will do it poorly and that the idea will go down in flames,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University who is an expert in small-school design.

Madison’s Superintendent Search Service Contenders

Proact Services: [1MB PDF Presentation]

Gary Solomon, Chief Executive Officer
Gary Solomon was elevated to CEO of PROACT Search in 2009. Previously, Mr. Solomon had founded Synesi Associates and worked in Education for the past twenty years, starting as a high school teacher and administrator in the Chicago suburbs. Gary transitioned from the public to the private sector taking on a position as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Princeton Review, and was responsible for rebuilding the sales organization into a senior consultative team focused on creating custom solutions in the areas of assessment, professional development and academic intervention. During his six years with The Princeton Review, where annual revenue goals were exceeded by and average 150%, Solomon was fortunate to do significant business in many of the top 50 urban districts in the country, and work with some of the best and brightest reformers in the K12 space. 

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Solomon holds a Masters in Education Arts from Northeastern University.

Thomas Vranas
, President
Thomas brings an extensive background in educational management in the private sector, as well as numerous start-ups across various industries. He recently served as Vice President at one of the largest publicly traded test preparation companies where he was directly responsible for their sales teams as well as online learning division. Previously Thomas built an urban tutoring program in Chicago to service over 8,000 students with recognition for a quality program from the local and national government. Thomas has also started-up a Wireless Internet company, a Sales and Marketing company as well as a boutique Venture Capital firm. Thomas has been published by the Northwestern Press for his work in political economics and is and active volunteer at many organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Northwestern University and Steppenwolf Theatre. He’s been a guest lecturer at Northwestern University, where he earned his B.A. in Economics and Slavic Languages.

Phil Hansen
, Chief Operations Officer
Phil Hansen is a seasoned educator with an impeccable record rooted in Accountability. For fifteen years Phil taught history, before moving on to five years as assistant principal for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and then Director of Special Education in the southern suburbs of Chicago. In 1991 Phil took on the role of Principal at Clissold Elementary, a Chicago Public school. In 1995 he became the CPS Director of School Intervention, before moving on in 1997 to take on the position of Chief Accountability Officer, where he served until 2002. At this time Phil was offered a position working as an assistant to the Illinois State Superintendent where he was the liaison between CPS and the Illinois State Board of Education specifically focused on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) implementation throughout the state.
Upon his retirement Phil joined The Princeton Review and managed a turnaround project in Philadelphia, transitioning four middle schools to new small high schools. He also separately did consulting work for the School District of Philadelphia, the St Louis Schools Office of Accountability, and the Recovery School District of New Orleans. In the Recovery School District he served as the Interim Chief Academic Officer during the transition of leadership. Upon joining Synesi Associates, as Vice President of Policy and Development he has worked with the State Board of Louisiana and the East Baton Rouge Parish School District. His primary work has been in completing school and district quality reviews followed up by long term support as an external partner. Through Synesi he also continues to work in New Orleans, assisting with the High School Redesign efforts
As an active member of his community, Phil has also served as President and Secretary of the Beverly Area Planning Association, and has received rewards for service from both the local community as well as the greater city of Chicago. Most recently Phil was honored as an outstanding City of Chicago Employee and Outstanding Educator from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Stephen Kupfer
, Regional President
Steve Kupfer serves as Northeast Regional President for PROACT Search and is responsible for executing talent management and support strategies in K-12 education institutions and organizations. He was previously a Senior Consultant in the education practice at Public Consulting Group where he worked alongside district leadership to implement web-based special education and response to intervention (RtI) case management modules in some of the largest school districts in the country, including Miami Dade County Public Schools, The School District of Philadelphia, and the Louisiana Recovery School District.
Steve brings practical, district-level experience in organizational development to challenges in K-12 human capital management and support. In his most recent role, he leveraged local leadership to build operational and financial capacity through Medicaid reimbursement programs, mitigating budget shortfalls and sustaining critical student services. Steve has also developed and implemented comprehensive strategies to engage and communicate with key internal and external stakeholders across districts, and has front line experience with the urgency and complexity of the problems school leaders face today.
Steve is a proud product of the K-12 public school system. He went on to receive a B.A. in political economy from Skidmore College, where he played baseball and was a member of various chamber music groups. He continued on to receive an M.B.A. from Clark University.
Kristin Osborn, Director of Operations
Krissi Osborn runs all Operations and Recruitment for PROACT Search. In her role with the company, she has additionally established an award winning internship program exclusively with Northwestern University. Krissi is an active member in her Chicago community, volunteering as an ESL Tutor in Albany Park, as well as on the executive board for a community outreach group. Krissi graduated from Northwestern with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and History from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Ray and Associates: [2.6MB PDF Presentation]

Gary L. Ray, President
Christine Kingery, Vice-President
William Newman, National Executive Director
Ryan Ray, Corporate Director
Heidi Cordes, Corporate Associate
HeidiAnn Long, Executive Search Assistant
Carrie Gray, Executive Search Assistant

Notes, links, audio and video from the 2008 Madison Superintendent Search: Steve Gallon, James McIntyre and Dan Nerad.
Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.
TJ Mertz comments.

10/26/2009 =, < or > 4/6/2010 in Madison?

How will tonight’s property tax increase vote play out on April 6, 2010? Three Madison School Board seats will be on the ballot that day. The seats are currently occupied by:

Beth Moss Johnny Winston Maya Cole
Terms 1 2 1
Regular Board Meetings > 2007 election 28 28 28
Absent 4 (14%) 3 (10.7%) 3 (10.7%)
Interviews: 2007 Video 2004 Video (Election info) 2007 Video

I emailed Beth, Johnny and Maya recently to see if they plan to seek re-election in the April 6, 2010 election. I will publish any responses received.
What issues might be on voters minds in five months?:

4 Year Old Kindergarten Again Discussed in Madison

Tamira Madsen:

But there is controversy with 4K, and not just because of the cost. In other districts that have started programs, operators of private centers that stand to lose tuition dollars have emerged as opponents.
That’s unlikely to be true for Renee Zaman, director of Orchard Ridge Nursery School on Madison’s west side, who said last week that her center would be in a good position to participate with a 4K program because they already teach 84 4-year-olds and because all of their early childhood teachers are state certified.
But Zaman also said she hopes that the district doesn’t push a 4K program through too quickly. She is particularly worried that the curriculum might focus too heavily on academics.
One sticking point in past 4K discussions in Madison was concern from the teachers union, Madison Teachers Inc., that preschool teachers at off-site programming centers might not be employees of the school district.
But Nerad and MTI Executive Director John Matthews have had many discussions about 4K over the past several months, and Matthews said as long as no district teachers are displaced, he is in favor of the program.

Related: Marc Eisen on “Missed Opportunities for 4K and High School Redesign”.

A Robin Hood Effect: Does the focus on students who are furthest behind come at the expense of top students?

Ann Duffett, Steve Farkas, Tom Loveless: High Achieving Students in the era of NCLB.

This publication reports the results of the first two (of five) studies of a multifaceted research investigation of the state of high-achieving students in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era.
Part I: An Analysis of NAEP Data, authored by Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, examines achievement trends for high-achieving students (defined, like low-achieving students, by their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) since the early 1990s and, in more detail, since 2000.
Part II: Results from a National Teacher Survey, authored by Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of Farkas Duffett Research Group, reports on teachers’ own views of how schools are serving high-achieving pupils in the NCLB era.

Locally, these issues have manifested themselves with a controversial move toward one size fits all curriculum: English 10 and mandatory academic grouping, High School Redesign and a letter from the West High School Math teachers to Isthmus. Dane County AP Class offering comparison.
Report Sees Cost in Some Academic Gains by Sam Dillon:

And about three-quarters of the teachers surveyed said they agreed with this statement: “Too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school — we’re not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive”.

Download the complete 7.3MB report here.
Thanks to a reader for emailing the report.

On Madison’s Lack of a 4K Program

Andy Hall:

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


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

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

Quinn Craugh:

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Shephard on John Matthews:

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

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

More on Wisconsin 4 Year Old Kindergarden

Amy Hetzner:

On the heels of news that better than two-thirds of the state’s school districts now offer 4-year-old kindergarten, an apparent backlash has turned the tide in several southeastern Wisconsin school districts.
First, there was the Elmbrook School Board narrowly rejecting administrators’ proposal to extend a 4K pilot that’s several years old. Then, on Monday, the Muskego-Norway School Board unanimously shot down a proposal to start junior kindgarten.
Last night, the Plymouth School Board held an hours-long hearing into whether to continue a 4K program that was started just last year. One of the guests was Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman, a vocal opponent of 4K who has previously compared the publicly funded preschool program to communist schemes.

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

Ed Hughes and Marj Passman on Madison’s Small Learning Community Climate and Grant Application

I sent an email to Ed and Marj, both of whom have announced their plans to run for Madison School Board next spring, asking the following:

I’m writing to see what your thoughts are on the mmsd’s high school “reform” initiative, particularly in light of two things:

  1. The decision to re-apply for the US Dept of Education Grant next month
  2. The lack of any public (any?) evaluation of the results at West and Memorial in light of their stated SLC goals?

In other words, how do you feel about accountability? 🙂

They replied:
Marj Passman:

I am generally supportive of small learning communities and the decision to reapply for a Federal grant. Our high schools continue to provide a rich education for most students — especially the college bound – but there is a significant and maybe growing number of students who are not being engaged. They need our attention. The best evidence is that well implemented small learning communities show promise as part of the solution to increasing the engagement and achievement of those who are not being well served, do no harm and may help others also. My experience as a teacher backs up the research because I found that the caring relationships between staff and students so crucial to reaching those students falling between the cracks on any level of achievement are more likely to develop in smaller settings. Some form of small learning communities are almost a given as part of any reform of our high schools and if we can get financial help from the Federal government with this part of the work, I’m all for it.
I think it is important not to overestimate either the problems or the promise of the proposed solutions. The first step in things like this is to ask what is good that we want to preserve. Our best graduates are competitive with any students anywhere. The majority of our graduates are well prepared for their next academic or vocational endeavors. We need to keep doing the good things we do well. If done successfully, SLCs offer as much for the top achieving students as for any group – individual attention, focus on working with others of their ability, close connection to staff, and consistent evaluation.
You also asked about “accountability” and the evaluations of the existing SLCs. Both evaluations are generally positive, show some progress in important areas and point to places where improvements still need to be made. Neither contains any alarming information that would suggest the SLCs should be abandoned. The data from these limited studies should be looked at with similar research elsewhere that supports SLC as part of the solution to persistent (and in Madison) growing issues.
Like many I applauded when all the Board members asked for a public process for the High Schools of the Future project and like many I have been woefully disappointed with what I’ve seen so far. Because of this and the coming changes in district leadership I’d like to see the redesign time line extended (the final report is due in April) to allow for more input from both the public and the new superintendent.
Thanks for this opportunity
Marjorie Passman

Ed Hughes:

From what I know, I am not opposed to MMSD re-applying for the U.S. Dept. of Education grant next month. From my review of the grant application, it did not seem to lock the high schools into new and significant changes. Perhaps that is a weakness of the application. But if the federal government is willing to provide funds to our high schools to do what they are likely to do anyway, I’m all for it.
Like you, I am troubled with the apparent lack of evaluation of results at West and Memorial attributable to their small learning communities initiatives. This may seem inconsistent with my view on applying for the grant, but I do not think we should proceed further down an SLC path without having a better sense of whether in fact it is working at the two schools that have tried it. It seems to me that this should be a major focus of the high school redesign study, but who knows what is going on with that. I asked recently and was told that the study kind of went dormant for awhile after the grant application was submitted.
My own thoughts about high school are pointing in what may be the opposite direction – bigger learning communities rather than smaller. I am concerned about our high schools being able to provide a sufficiently rich range of courses to prepare our students for post-high school life and to retain our students whose families have educational options. The challenges the schools face in this regard were underscored last spring when East eliminated German classes, and now offers only Spanish and French as world language options.
It seems to me that one way to approach this issue is to move toward thinking of the four comprehensive high schools as separate campuses of a single, unified, city-wide high school in some respects. We need to do a lot more to install sufficient teleconferencing equipment to allow the four schools to be linked – so that a teacher in a classroom at Memorial, say, can be seen on a screen in classrooms in the other three schools. In fact, views of all four linked classrooms should simultaneously be seen on the screen. With this kind of linkage, we could take advantage of economies of scale and have enough student interest to justify offering classes in a rich selection of languages to students in all four high schools. I’m sure there are other types of classes where linked classrooms would also make sense.
This kind of approach raises issues. For example, LaFollette’s four block system would be incompatible with this approach. There would also be a question of whether there would need to be a teacher or educational assistant in every classroom, even if the students in the classroom are receiving instruction over the teleconferencing system from another teacher in another school. I would hope that these are the kinds of issues the high school re-design group would be wrestling with. Perhaps they are, or will, but at this point there seems to be no way to know.
There are some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts prompted by your question and by Maya Cole’s post about the high school re-design study. Feel free to do what you want with this response.

Related Links:

Thanks to Ed and Marj for taking the time to share their thoughts on this important matter.

Round and Round and Round and Round we go

Wisconsin Center for Education Research (Twitter): Research shows that ability grouping helps underrepresented students become included in gifted programs. @MSANachieve #MSANinstitute shrink the excellence gap. Closing Poverty-Based Excellence Gaps: Conceptual, Measurement, and Educational Issues,” Jonathan A. Plucker and Scott J. Peters, Gifted Child Quarterly Vol 62: “Ability Grouping Although often unpopular because of its association … Continue reading Round and Round and Round and Round we go

“The Grant Made Me Do It”: Federal rules distort local education policy

Badger Institute: When a van used for transporting special education students in the Pulaski School District near Green Bay had piled on the miles and was due to be replaced, district officials thought the common-sense thing to do would be to reuse the van for lower-priority purposes, such as hauling athletic equipment and making deliveries … Continue reading “The Grant Made Me Do It”: Federal rules distort local education policy

“It always feels like we are starting over instead of building”

Amber Walker: “It always feels like we are starting over instead of building. Where do you feel we are at in terms of preparing our kids now who are in K-5?” he said. “It seems as though the pool (for advanced learners) will shrink if we haven’t prepared them early on.” Cheatham pointed to the … Continue reading “It always feels like we are starting over instead of building”

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

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

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

Pat Schneider: That was one issue that brought together family activists who formed Madison Partners for Inclusive Education [duckduckgo search] in 2003, Pugh said. “A parent in an elementary school on the west side could be seeing high-quality inclusive expert teaching with a team that ‘got it,’ and someone on the east side could be … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s special Education and “inclusive” practices; District enrollment remains flat while the suburbs continue to grow