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

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

Run for Madison School Board: 2014 Election Key Dates; Incumbents Marj Passman Won’t Run, Ed Hughes Seeks Re-Election



The City of Madison Clerk has posted a helpful candidate guide (PDF), here.
Two Madison School Board seats will be on the spring, 2014 ballot: Seat 6 and Seat 7. It is never too early to run for school board, particularly in light of the District’s long term, disastrous reading results.
The 2014 Spring Primary will be held on February 18, 2014 if necessary. The spring election is scheduled for April 1, 2014.
Much more on Ed Hughes and Marj Passman. Incumbent Ed Hughes has not had a competitive race in his previous two elections.

Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words

Chris Rickert:

“Our teachers haven’t had a raise for the last three years.” — Ed Hughes, clerk and candidate for president of the Madison School Board
There are a lot of employees who haven’t seen their pay go up in three years, but the vast majority of Madison public school teachers aren’t among them.
And yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re taking home more money.
Confused? Welcome to the world of public school teacher compensation, post-Act 10.
Hughes isn’t the first public school representative whose definition of “raise” doesn’t jibe with the way the rest of the world defines “raise” — i.e., an increase in salary for a job well done.
During teachers union contract negotiations, public school and union officials routinely refer to a “raise” as something that is distinct from and in addition to the automatic bumps in salary teachers are already getting for remaining on the job and accruing more college credit. Essentially, such raises are across-the-board increases in a district’s salary range, known as a salary schedule.
But if a district refuses to increase that range, teachers continue to get longevity and degree-attainment pay raises under the old salary schedule.
It’s such parsing that allows Hughes to say teachers haven’t gotten raises — and to be right, at least in one context.

Related: MTI & The Madison School Board, written by Ed Hughes in 2005:

The WSJ article also states that “This year’s salary and benefits increase, including raises for seniority or advanced degrees, was projected at 4.9 percent, or $8.48 million.” So the school board, with all the budgetary problems it confronts, is apparently willing to pay for salaries and benefits an increase that is about twice as much as state law will permit the overall budget to rise next year, and $1.9 million more than the amount necessary to avoid arbitration. (Using the same numbers, a 3.8% increase would be $6.57 million.)
What could be the justification for this? I understand that, as a practical matter, the increase has to be more than 3.8% in order for the district to obtain any sort of concessions. (Across the state for 2004-2005, the average total package increase per teacher was 4.28%.) Does anyone know if there are concessions on the table that might explain what seems to be an excessive increase in these difficult times? Or what other justification for this level of increase there might be?

Related: Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year.
Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.

Notes and links on Ed Hughes and the 2013 Madison School Board election.
I’ve become a broken record vis a vis Madison’s disastrous reading results. The District has been largely operating on auto-pilot for decades. It is as if a 1940’s/1950’s model is sufficient. Spending increases annually (at lower rates in recent years – roughly $15k/student), yet Madison’s disastrous reading results continue, apace.
Four links for your consideration.
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
3rd Grade Madison School District Reading Proficiency Data (“Achievement Gap Plan”)

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

Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
How many School Board elections, meetings, votes have taken place since 2005 (a number of candidates were elected unopposed)? How many Superintendents have been hired, retired or moved? Yet, the core structure remains. This, in my view is why we have seen the move to a more diffused governance model in many communities with charters, vouchers and online options.
Change is surely coming. Ideally, Madison should drive this rather than State or Federal requirements. I suspect it will be the latter, in the end, that opens up our monolithic, we know best approach to public education.

On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

The Madison School Board voted early Tuesday morning against a charter school geared toward low-income minority students.
Moments later, Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire announced to a crowd of emotional supporters that he planned to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Department. He also urged the supporters to run for School Board.
“We are going to challenge this school district like they’ve never been challenged before, I swear to God,” Caire said.
The School Board voted against the plan 5-2, as expected, just after midnight. In the hours leading up to the vote, however, hundreds of Madison Preparatory Academy supporters urged them to change their minds.
More than 450 people gathered at Memorial High School for public comments, which lasted more than four hours.
It was the first School Board meeting moved to Memorial since a 2001 debate over the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.

Nathan Comp:

But the night’s harshest criticism was leveled not at the proposal but at the board itself, over a perceived lack of leadership “from the superintendent on down.”
“You meet every need of the unions, but keep minority student achievement a low priority,” said one parent.
Others suggested the same.
“This vote is not about Madison Prep,” said Jan O’Neill, a citizen who came out to speak. “It’s about this community, who we are and what we stand for — and who we stand up for.”
Among the issues raised by opponents, the one that seemed to weigh heaviest on the minds of board members was the non-instrumentality issue, which would’ve allowed Madison Prep to hire non-union staff.
A work preservation clause in the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the teacher’s union requires the district to hire union staff. Board member Ed Hughes said he wanted to approve Madison Prep, but feared that approving a non-instrumentality school would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers, Inc.
“It’s undeniable that Madison school district hasn’t done very well by its African American students,” he said. “But I think it’s incumbent upon us to honor the contract.”

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

School board member Ed Hughes wants to give some docked pay back to Madison teachers (Proposal Withdrawn Later in the Day)

Matthew DeFour:

Hughes is making the proposal [56K PDF Ed Hughes Amendment] as an amendment to the district’s budget.
Funding would come from the $1.3 million windfall the district will get from docking the pay of 1,769 teachers who were absent without an excuse on one or more days between Feb. 16-18 and 21.
The district closed school during those four days because of the high number of staff members who called in sick to attend protests over Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed changes to public sector collective bargaining.
“Under the circumstances it seemed to me the school district shouldn’t necessarily profit from that, because the teachers agreed to make up the time in a way that took away planning time for them,” said Hughes, who is considering a run for school board president when new officers are elected Monday.
Hughes is also proposing increasing the district’s proposed property tax levy for next year by about $2 million to pay for maintenance and technology projects and any costs associated with the district’s implementation of a state-imposed talented-and-gifted education plan.
“It seems goofy that we give away $1 million and then raise property taxes [50K PDF Ed Hughes Amendment],” board member Lucy Mathiak said.

Jay Sorgi:

If a school board member in Madison gets his way, the district would used money it saved when teachers forced schools to shut down during the budget debate to award end of the year bonuses to teachers.
WTMJ partner station WIBA Radio in Madison says that teachers in Madison would receive $200 gift cards as year-end bonuses.
“Whenever we can, we need to show some kind of tangible appreciation for the extremely hard work our teachers and staff do,” said Ed Hughes, a member of the Madison school board.
“They’ve had a particularly tough year as you know, given that they kind of became political footballs in the legislature. We’re ending up slashing their take home pay by a substantial amount, pretty much because we have to.”

Additional links:

Related: 5/26/2005 MTI & The Madison School Board by Ed Hughes.

Ed Hughes, Beth Moss and Maya Cole: Cieslewicz forged good partnership with schools

Ed Hughes, Beth Moss and Maya Cole

As members of the Madison School Board, we appreciate that Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s vision for the future recognizes that strong Madison public schools are vital to a growing and vibrant community.
Whether it’s been working together to establish the Meadowood Community Center, devoting city funds to improving safe routes for walking and biking to our schools or helping to plan for our new 4-year-old kindergarten program, the city under Cieslewicz’s leadership has forged a strong and productive partnership with the school district.
We look forward to continuing our work with Mayor Dave on smart and effective responses to the challenges that lie ahead for our schools and our city.
Ed Hughes, Beth Moss and Maya Cole, members, Madison School Board

Ed Hughes on Madison Teacher Absences & Protest

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes, via email:

It’s been a non-quiet week here in Madison. Everyone has his or her own take on the events. Since I’m a member of the Madison School Board, mine is necessarily a management perspective. Here’s what the week’s been like for me.
Nearly as soon as the governor’s budget repair bill was released last Friday, I had a chance to look at a summary and saw what it did to collective bargaining rights. Basically, the bill is designed to gut public employee unions, including teacher unions. While it does not outlaw such unions outright, it eliminates just about all their functions.
Our collective bargaining agreement with MTI is currently about 165 pages, which I think is way too long. If the bill passes, our next collective bargaining agreement can be one paragraph — way, way, way too short.
On Monday, Board members collaborated on a statement condemning the legislation and the rush to push it through. All Board members signed the statement on Monday evening and it was distributed to all MMSD staff on Tuesday.

“Students and Their Needs Come First” – Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

via greatmadisonschools.org:

One in particular — the addition of more AP classes will certainly not be a detriment in the college application process. However, the most selective colleges generally expect applicants to have taken the AP classes at their high school if they are available.
The idea that this new plan will promote segregation is particularly pernicious and about 180 degrees off the mark as far as the intent of the program goes.
Finally, the point of choosing a curriculum for our schools is to determine the best courses for our students to take, not the courses that teachers most want to teach. Students and their needs come first.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to write.
Ed Hughes, Madison School Board

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes New Blog: A Number of Comments on Maintenance Spending & Budgeting

Ed Hughes:

I plan to write in more detail about why I dislike the tradition of explaining property tax levy changes in terms of the impact on the owner of a house assessed at a value of $250,000. The editorial in this morning’s State Journal is evidence of how reliance on the $250,000 house trope can lead to mischief.
Here are the third and fourth paragraphs of the editorial:
“The Madison School Board just agreed to a preliminary budget that will increase the district’s tax on a $250,000 home by about 9 percent to $2,770. The board was dealt a difficult hand by the state. But it didn’t do nearly enough to trim spending.
“Madison Area Technical College is similarly poised to jack up its tax bite by about 8 percent to $348. MATC is at least dealing with higher enrollment. But the 8 percent jump follows a similar increase last year. And MATC is now laying the groundwork for a big building referendum.”

Blog address: http://edhughesschoolblog.wordpress.com/, RSS Feed.
I’m glad Ed is writing online. Two Madison School Board seats are open during the spring, 2011 election: the two currently occupied by Ed and Marj Passman.

Madison School Board Votes 5-2 to Continue Reading Recovery (Howard, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira: Yes; Cole & Mathiak Vote No)

Gayle Worland:

With Monday’s actions, the board still has about $5.6 million to deal with – either through cuts, property tax increases, or a combination of the two – when it meets again next week to finalize the district’s preliminary budget for 2010-11. So far, the board has made about $10.6 million in cuts and approved a levy increase of $12.7 million, a tax hike of $141.76 for the owner of a $250,000 Madison home.
In an evening of cost shifting, the board voted to apply $1,437,820 in overestimated health care insurance costs to save 17.8 positions for Reading Recovery teachers, who focus on the district’s lowest-performing readers. That measure passed 5-2, with board members Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak voting no. The district is undergoing a review of its reading programs and Cole questioned whether it makes sense to retain Reading Recovery, which she said has a 42 percent success rate.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Surprising, in light of the ongoing poor low income reading scores here and around Wisconsin. How many more children will leave our schools with poor reading skills?
The Wisconsin State Journal advocates a teacher compensation freeze (annual increase plus the “step” increases).

Governance: Madison School Board Members Proposed 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Cole, Hughes, Mathiak, Moss & Silveira. Reading Recovery, Teaching & Learning, “Value Added Assessment” based on WKCE on the Chopping Block

Well worth reading, particularly Maya Cole’s suggestions on Reading Recovery (60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use) spending, Administrative compensation comparison, a proposal to eliminate the District’s public information position, Ed Hughes suggestion to eliminate the District’s lobbyist (Madison is the only District in the state with a lobbyist), trade salary increases for jobs, Lucy Mathiak’s recommendations vis a vis Teaching & Learning, the elimination of the “expulsion navigator position”, reduction of Administrative travel to fund Instructional Resource Teachers, Arlene Silveira’s recommendation to reduce supply spending in an effort to fund elementary school coaches and a $200,000 reduction in consultant spending. Details via the following links:
Maya Cole: 36K PDF
Ed Hughes: 127K PDF
Lucy Mathiak: 114K PDF
Beth Moss: 10K PDF
Arlene Silveira: 114K PDF
The Madison School District Administration responded in the following pdf documents:

Much more on the proposed 2010-2011 Madison School District Budget here.

Thinking about the Cost of Educating Students via the Madison School District, Virtual Schools and a Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes email to State Senator Fred Risser

Susan Troller:

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes sent me an e-mail pointing out another vexing problem with Wisconsin’s school funding system and how it penalizes the Madison district, which I’ve written about in the past. Hughes notes in his e-mail “This particular wrinkle of the state school financing system is truly nuts.”
Hughes is incensed that the IQ Academy, a virtual school operated by the Waukesha district, gets over $6000 in state aid for poaching students from the Madison district while total state aid for educating a student in a real school here at home is $3400. Waukesha makes a profit of about $500 per student at the expense of taxpayers here, Hughes says. And that’s including profits going to the national corporate IQ Academy that supplies the school’s programming.

The complete text of Ed Hughes letter to Senator Risser:

Sen. Risser:
As if we needed one, here is another reason to be outraged by our state school financing system:
This week’s issue of Isthmus carries a full page ad on page 2. It is sponsored by “IQ Academy Wisconsin,” which is described as a “tuition-free, online middle and high school program of the School District of Waukesha, WI.” The ad invites our Madison students to open-enroll in their “thriving learning community.”
What’s in it for Waukesha? A report on virtual charter schools by the State Fiscal Bureau, released this week, sheds some light on this. The Madison school district gets a little more than $2,000 in general state aid for each of our students. If you include categorical aids and everything else from the state, the amount goes up to about $3,400/student.
However, if Waukesha (or any other school district) is successful in poaching one of our students, it will qualify for an additional $6,007 in state aid. (That was actually the amount for the 2007-08 school year, that last year for which data was available for the Fiscal Bureau report.) As it was explained to me by the author of the Fiscal Bureau report, this $6,007 figure is made up of some combination of additional state aid and a transfer of property taxes paid by our district residents to Waukesha.
So the state financing system will provide nearly double the amount of aid to a virtual charter school associated with another school district to educate a Madison student than it will provide to the Madison school district to educate the same student in an actual school, with you know, bricks and mortar and a gym and cafeteria and the rest.
The report also states that the Waukesha virtual school spends about $5,500 per student. So for each additional student it enrolls, the Waukesha district makes at least a $500 profit. (It’s actually more than that, since the incremental cost of educating one additional student is less than the average cost for the district.) This does not count the profit earned by the private corporation that sells the on-line programming to Waukesha.
The legislature has created a system that sets up very strong incentives for a school district to contract with some corporate on-line operation, open up a virtual charter school, and set about trying to poach other districts’ students. Grantsburg, for example, has a virtual charter school that serves not a single resident of the Grantsburg school district. What a great policy.
By the way, Waukesha claims in its Isthmus ad that “Since 2004, IQ Academy Wisconsin students have consistently out-performed state-wide and district averages on the WKCE and ACT tests.” I didn’t check the WKCE scores, but last year 29.3% of the IQ Academy 12th graders took the ACT test and had an average composite score of 22.9. In the Madison school district, 56.6% of 12th graders took the test and the district average composite score was 24.0.
I understand that you are probably tired of hearing from local school board members complaining about the state’s school funding system. But the enormous disparity between what the state will provide to a virtual charter school for enrolling a student living in Madison, as compared to what it will provide the Madison school district to educate the same student, is so utterly wrong-headed as to be almost beyond belief.
Ed Hughes
Madison School Board

Amy Hetzner noted this post on her blog:

An interesting side note: the Madison Metropolitan School District’s current business manager, Erik Kass, was instrumental to helping to keep Waukesha’s virtual high school open and collecting a surplus when he was the business manager for that district.

I found the following comments interesting:

An interesting note is that the complainers never talked about which system more effectively taught students.
Then again, it has never really been about the students.

Madison is spending $418,415,780 to educate 24,295 students ($17,222 each).
Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget: Comments in a Vacuum? and a few comments on the recent “State of the Madison School District” presentation.
The “Great Recession” has pushed many organizations to seek more effective methods of accomplishing their goals. It would seem that virtual learning and cooperation with nearby higher education institutions would be ideal methods to provide more adult to student services at reduced cost, rather than emphasizing growing adult to adult spending.
Finally Richard Zimman’s recent Madison Rotary talk is well worth revisiting with respect to the K-12 focus on adult employment.
Fascinating.

For Marj Passman & Ed Hughes: Madison School Board Candidates

Capital Times Editorial:

For the first time in years, Madison has no contested School Board races this year.
On April 1, voters will elect two new members of the board. Traditionally, open seat contests have been intense, highlighting ideological, practical, geographic and stylistic divides not just between the candidates but within the community.
This year, there is no such competition.
Retired teacher Marj Passman is running without opposition for Seat 6.
Attorney and veteran community leader Ed Hughes is the sole contender for Seat 7.
They will be elected Tuesday and quickly join a board that faces serious budgeting, curriculum and structural challenges at a time when funding has been squeezed and the district superintendent, Art Rainwater, is retiring.
That does not mean that voters should take a pass on these races, however.

Madison school board candidates Hughes and Passman discuss the achievement gap

Marc Eisen @ Isthmus:

In one key way, the Madison school district is no different than any other urban school system in the country — poor kids and kids of color just aren’t learning as much as other students.
We asked the two Madison school board candidates on the April 1 ballot — Marj Passman is the lone candidate for Seat 6, while Ed Hughes is running unopposed for Seat 7 — how they would address the achievement gap.
Interestingly, both see early education as part of the solution, but both also stopped short of endorsing the introduction of 4-year-old kindergarten in Madison.
We ended our five-week series of questions for the candidates with an open-ended query on what they felt were an overlooked issue in the schools.
Both gave thoughtful responses.
Passman suggested the schools needed to do more about the pervasiveness of substance abuse among teenagers, while Hughes said the district needs to pay more attention to why parents pull their children out of the Madison schools.

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
http://marjpassmanforschoolboard.com

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.

Ed Hughes to run for Madison school board

Marc Eisen: The next Madison School Board election is ten long months away, but the first candidate to replace retiring board member Carol Carstensen has already emerged. Attorney Ed Hughes, 54, an east-side parent activist, says he will seek Carstensen’s seat in the spring 2008 election. “My interest in the school board started with my … Continue reading Ed Hughes to run for Madison school board

Texas bill would allow state to sue social media companies like Facebook and Twitter over free speech

Elizabeth Byrne: A bill before the Texas Senate seeks to prevent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their viewpoints. Supporters say it would protect the free exchange of ideas, but critics say the bill contradicts a federal law that allows social media platforms to regulate their own content. The … Continue reading Texas bill would allow state to sue social media companies like Facebook and Twitter over free speech

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

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

K-12 Governance Diversity: the 2019 Madison School Board Election, Parental Choice and our long term, disastrous reading results

Chris Rickert: Endorsements in this month’s School Board primary from the influential Madison teachers union include one for a candidate who sends her two children to the kind of charter school strongly opposed by the union. Madison Teachers Inc. this week endorsed Ali Muldrow over David Blaska, Laila Borokhim and Albert Bryan for Seat 4; … Continue reading K-12 Governance Diversity: the 2019 Madison School Board Election, Parental Choice and our long term, disastrous reading results

Commentary on a 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Forum

David Blaska: The occasion was a school board candidate forum. An organization named GRUMPS sponsored it. It stands for GRandparents United for Madison Public Schools. Its major domos are former school board members Nan Brien, Anne Arnesen, Barbara Arnold, Arlene Silviera, and Carol Carstensen. We also encountered former board guys Bill Keyes, Bill Clingan, and … Continue reading Commentary on a 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Forum

2019 Madison School Board Candidate Events; Kaleem Caire on Accountability

I’ve added the following audio recordings to the 2019 Madison School Board Candidate page. WORT FM Candidate discussion 2.5.2019 Cris Carusi and Kaleem Caire [mp3 audio] Mr. Caire: “If we don’t reach our benchmarks in five years, they can shut us down”. There is no public school in Madison that has closed because only 7 … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Events; Kaleem Caire on Accountability

Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading

Avi Wolfman-Arent: The small parent rebellion forming in one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest school districts began at a Starbucks in suburban Chester County. Over coffee, three moms — Kate Mayer, Jamie Lynch, and Wendy Brooks — swapped stories about how their kids struggled to read as they moved through the Tredyffrin/Easttown school district, located about 30 … Continue reading Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading

Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance

Negassi Tesfamichael: MTI cited Carusi’s opposition to voucher and independent charter schools in its endorsement. “Carusi is opposed to vouchers and independent charter schools and strongly believes that we need to continuously work to improve our public schools, rather than support alternatives,” MTI’s endorsement said. Caire’s One City Schools, which expanded from One City Early … Continue reading Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance

Minnesota’s persistent literacy gap has lawmakers looking for ways to push evidence-based reading instruction

Erin Hinrichs: “Minnesota has a state of emergency regarding literacy. I’m very disappointed with where we’re at right now with the persistent reading success gap between white students and students of color,” he said Wednesday. “We are not making adequate progress, and the future of tens of thousands of our students is seriously at risk … Continue reading Minnesota’s persistent literacy gap has lawmakers looking for ways to push evidence-based reading instruction

UW rejects application for independent Madison charter school

Chris Rickert: According to emails released to the State Journal under the state’s open records law, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham on Sept. 10 asked her chief of staff, Ricardo Jara, and other front-office officials whether Arbor was “worth trying to stop? Or change somehow? If so, how?” Cheatham expressed the district’s opposition to the school in … Continue reading UW rejects application for independent Madison charter school

“One issue state officials say they have detected as they monitor the effectiveness of the READ Act is that not all teachers are up to date on how best to teach reading.”

Christopher Osher: But districts are free to use their READ Act per-pupil funds on whatever curriculum they want, even on interventions researchers have found ineffective. “Typically, as with any education policy, we’re only given so much authority on what we can tell districts to do and what we monitor for,” Colsman said in an interview … Continue reading “One issue state officials say they have detected as they monitor the effectiveness of the READ Act is that not all teachers are up to date on how best to teach reading.”

2019 Madison School Board Election: Madison Teachers Union Candidate Questions

Negassi Tesfamichael: Nearly all current candidates for the Madison School Board have started to make their case to voters and potential endorsers as the primary election heats up. That included answering questions from Madison Teachers Inc., the city’s teachers’ union. Nine candidates are running for three seats on the seven-person School Board. MTI executive director … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Election: Madison Teachers Union Candidate Questions

deja vu: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

Laurie Frost and Heff Henriques: Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare. Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and … Continue reading deja vu: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

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

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

Skylar Croy withdrawing from 2019 Madison School Board race, name will still appear on ballot

Negassi Tesfamichael: Madison School Board candidate Skylar Croy said in an interview with the Cap Times Friday that he would suspend his campaign and withdraw from the Seat 3 race, citing personal reasons. Because Croy turned in his verified nomination signatures on Wednesday to the city clerk’s office, the third-year University of Wisconsin law student’s … Continue reading Skylar Croy withdrawing from 2019 Madison School Board race, name will still appear on ballot

Who’s running for Madison School Board (so far)? 2019

Negassi Tesfamichael: The Madison School Board’s general election is still nearly five months away, but candidates have been jumping into the race the past few weeks at a rapid pace. Three seats on the seven-person School Board will be on the ballot this spring, and each seat will be contested. Here’s what you need to … Continue reading Who’s running for Madison School Board (so far)? 2019

Organization vs Mission: Madison’s legacy K-12 Governance model vs Parent and Student choice; 2018

Chris Rickert: Meanwhile, in a sign of how the Madison district is responding to subsequent charter applications, former Madison School Board member Ed Hughes said he went before the Goodman Community Center’s board on the district’s behalf on Sept. 24 to express the district’s opposition to another proposed non-district charter school, Arbor Community School, which … Continue reading Organization vs Mission: Madison’s legacy K-12 Governance model vs Parent and Student choice; 2018

On Madison: “It was a lot of talk”

Cathleen Draper: “It was a lot of talk,” Johnson said. “[There’s] a lot of good people doing a lot of good things, but systemically, when you look at the data, things are not getting better. Systemically, we’re still operating in silos.” Before leaving Madison, Johnson called for greater funding and committed community leadership. He cited … Continue reading On Madison: “It was a lot of talk”

“We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

CBS News: Our series, School Matters, features extended stories and investigations on education. In this installment, we’re looking at a lawsuit winding its way through the federal appeals process that questions whether access to literacy is a constitutional right. A federal judge in Michigan recently ruled it wasn’t when he dismissed a 2016 case. That … Continue reading “We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

The Harsh Truth About Progressive Cities; Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

David Dahmer: How can this be, in a “unversity town”? It’s true, some more affluent people reside in this city due to the existence of a large, world-class university. People with more money do create disparities. Does that explain the exodus of brown and black professionals when they complete their four years at the university … Continue reading The Harsh Truth About Progressive Cities; Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Emily Hanford: Balanced literacy was a way to defuse the wars over reading,” said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight.” “It succeeded in keeping the science at bay, and it allowed things to continue as before.” He says the reading wars are over, and science … Continue reading Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Molly Beck: But Walker and his campaign accused Evers of flip-flopping on the issue of school funding because Evers once said in an interview with WisconsinEye that improving academic outcomes for students struggling the most could still be achieved even if the state didn’t provide a significant funding increase. Evers in the interview did say … Continue reading Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Civics: Using supervised machine learning to quantify political rhetoric

Adam Hughes: Using the 11,000 posts coded by Mechanical Turk workers, we split the data into five equally sized portions and trained the model five separate times, each time omitting a different 20% of the data so we could check how well the model did. Not only did this process help determine whether the models … Continue reading Civics: Using supervised machine learning to quantify political rhetoric

“And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Amber Walker: Critics were also concerned about Madison Prep’s operating costs — totaling $11,000 per student — and its reliance on non-union staff in the wake of Wisconsin’s Act 10, a state law that severely limited collective bargaining rights of teachers and other state employees which passed early in 2011. Caire said despite the challenges, … Continue reading “And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Unfair Madison schools election system elicits yawn from liberal leaders

Chris Rickert: Instead, candidates are forced to choose which seat to run for, meaning that if there are two seats up for election and three candidates are interested in serving on the board, two of them end up vying for one seat and the third runs unopposed. This year, two people, incumbent Ed Hughes and … Continue reading Unfair Madison schools election system elicits yawn from liberal leaders

Change: Madison School Board members will face challengers in 2017

Lisa Speckhard Several individuals have filed paperwork to run for the Madison School Board this spring, ending its members’ trend of running unopposed. During the last school board election, with three seats up for grabs, TJ Mertz, Dean Loumos and James Howard all ran unopposed. Including those three, six of the last seven board races … Continue reading Change: Madison School Board members will face challengers in 2017

Madison’s Reading Data, an Update

Our community, via the quite traditional Madison School District, has long tolerated disastrous reading results. Has anything changed? The District’s 2015-2016 “annual report” includes a bit of data on reading and math: Tap for larger versions. Unfortunately, the annual report lacks a significant amount of data, from enrollment to staffing and total spending. Boston publishes … Continue reading Madison’s Reading Data, an Update

The Madison School Districts Maintenance And Healthcare Spending Priorities

James Wigderson: Despite the administration’s plan to make sure no employee experienced a net loss in pay in the coming year, Loumos wanted the district to cover the cost of the employee contributions for the first year so every employee could have the full amount of their raises. “What would it be if we held, … Continue reading The Madison School Districts Maintenance And Healthcare Spending Priorities

Every Federal Worker is Above Average

Charles Hughes: A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that virtually every one of the 1.2 million employees in their study received a rating at or above “fully successful,” compared to only 0.1 percent who were deemed “unacceptable,” which might be surprising given the scandals that have rocked multiple agencies in recent years … Continue reading Every Federal Worker is Above Average

Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement

neeravkingsland: table below to compare New Orleans African-American students and economically disadvantages students against the same subgroups in other places across all subjects in grades 3-8, with the hope that looking across grades and varied proficiency differentials might illuminate trends. It should be noted that New Orleans students used paper and pencil versions, so in … Continue reading Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement

Commentary On Improving Madison’s $17k/student School District

Ed Hughes: long arc of successful school improvement efforts, we should pay more attention to long-term trends than test-to-test or even year-to-year progress. This requires a kind of patience that coexists uneasily with the sense of urgency for our urban public schools. It also calls for the kind of long-term commitment that isn’t very compatible … Continue reading Commentary On Improving Madison’s $17k/student School District

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax and Spending Climate; Madison’s Above Average Spending

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: Is it misguided, inefficient and wasteful to compel school districts to resort to referenda for authority to meet the rising costs of school operations? Not everyone thinks so. For example, Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, does not see a problem with government by referendum. … Continue reading Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax and Spending Climate; Madison’s Above Average Spending

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

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

Unconventional school board risks little backlash in Madison

Chris Rickert: In other words, it’s wrong for a school board member to vote specifically on policy affecting his finances, but OK to vote on a budget including that very same policy. There are probably people in other parts of Wisconsin who would object to a local school board that gives itself big, immediate raises … Continue reading Unconventional school board risks little backlash in Madison

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

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

K-12 Governance: Proposal May Change Madison’s Non-Diverse School Governance/Choice Model

Molly Beck: “We are confident the proposal can fundamentally transform the educational opportunities that are available to students in Wisconsin’s two largest school districts,” he said. Delaporte pointed to Department of Public Instruction data that shows less than 40 percent of Madison students have tested proficient in reading in recent years — slightly higher than … Continue reading K-12 Governance: Proposal May Change Madison’s Non-Diverse School Governance/Choice Model

The Unfortunate Trend Toward Opting Out of Standardized Tests

Ed Hughes: Ignore this. Parents should not opt their children out of the MAP test. That won’t accomplish anything but frustrate the school district’s assessment of our own performance and blur our vision of where we should be focusing our improvement efforts. There are plenty of ways to support our public schools but this isn’t … Continue reading The Unfortunate Trend Toward Opting Out of Standardized Tests

Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Chris Rickert: Finances are always a consideration; they can also be an excuse. The district has cried poor at budget time for years, and yet somehow continued to find the money to, say, cover the full cost of union employees’ health insurance. Board member Ed Hughes said he wouldn’t vote for Madison Prep because the … Continue reading Madison School District keeps education, ahem, old school

Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

Chris Arnold: As the economy continues to recover, economists are seeing stark differences between people with high school and college degrees. The unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for Americans with a high school diploma as for those with a four-year college degree or more. But economists say that doesn’t mean everybody needs a … Continue reading Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

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

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

Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

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

Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything

Allison Slater Tate: On the days that I drive the middle school carpool, I purposely choose a route that takes us past a huge river. Some mornings, the water looks like glass; others, it reflects the moody clouds above with choppy waves – either way, it’s gorgeous. Every time we drive past it, I point … Continue reading Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything

Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Pat Schneider: “It seems reasonable to attribute a good share of the improvements to the specific and focused strategies we have pursued this year,” Hughes writes. The process of improvement will become self-reinforcing, he predicts. “This bodes well for better results on the horizon.” Not so fast, writes Madison attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick in his Systems … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Madison “Strategic Framework Process” Update; a few tweets

Supt. Cheatam on 1st year of new school improvement effort: Schools moving away from wanting to be complaint, to adapting for their students — Molly Beck (@MollyBeckWSJ) June 28, 2014 "You don’t get to opt out of doing what works in schools, but there are lots of ways that can look (for each school)." — … Continue reading Madison “Strategic Framework Process” Update; a few tweets

MTI Preserves, Gains Contracts Through June, 2016

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF): Last fall, MTI asked the District to bargain Contracts for multiple years. They refused, and a Contract was negotiated for the 2014-15 school year. After hundreds of MTI members, sporting their MTI red shirts, attended two school board meetings in late May, the Board … Continue reading MTI Preserves, Gains Contracts Through June, 2016

Commentary & Votes on The Madison School Board’s Collective Bargaining Plans

Pat Schnieder: Maybe the formal deliberations on strategy don’t start until a closed session of the Madison School Board on Thursday, May 15, but engagement over a proposed extension of the teachers contract already has begun. School board member Ed Hughes is stirring the pot with his remarks that the contract should not be extended … Continue reading Commentary & Votes on The Madison School Board’s Collective Bargaining Plans

A few links on the April, 2014 Madison School Board Election & Climate, 1 contested seat, 1 uncontested

Interview with MMSD School Board candidate Wayne Strong Safe schools and high academic achievement: High academic achievement, for Strong, means that all of our MMSD students are achieving to the fullest extent of their abilities. “Whether you are a TAG [Talented and Gifted] or a special-needs student or whether you are a middleof- the-road student, … Continue reading A few links on the April, 2014 Madison School Board Election & Climate, 1 contested seat, 1 uncontested

Madison Schools’ Referendum & Possible Boundary Change Commentary

Molly Beck: Even though expanding eight schools is only part of the plan, “if there’s any one (school) that looks particularly challenging to explain,” Hughes said, “we know that will be what the opponents of the referendum will latch onto. … We are going to have to be able to work through that and decide … Continue reading Madison Schools’ Referendum & Possible Boundary Change Commentary

Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Seth Jovaag: Melissa Droessler tries not to flinch when she tells people her dream of opening a charter school in Madison. “Even the word ‘charter’ in Madison can be emotionally charged,” she says. But Droessler, director of Isthmus Montessori Academy, is steadfast in her belief that a century-old pedagogy created in the slums of Rome … Continue reading Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

Pat Schneider: Yet some of those strategies have been used by the school district for years, and the results have not been good, Hughes acknowledged. “The results have been disappointing not just because African-American kids are achieving at lower rates than white kids, but because our African-American kids are doing worse than African-American kids in … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

The Dark Power of Fraternities

Caitlin Flanagan:

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him–under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself–to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.
Also on the deck, and also in the thrall of the night’s pleasures, was one Louis Helmburg III, an education major and ace benchwarmer for the Thundering Herd baseball team. His response to the proposed launch was the obvious one: he reportedly whipped out his cellphone to record it on video, which would turn out to be yet another of the night’s seemingly excellent but ultimately misguided ideas. When the bottle rocket exploded in Hughes’s rectum, Helmburg was seized by the kind of battlefield panic that has claimed brave men from outfits far more illustrious than even the Thundering Herd. Terrified, he staggered away from the human bomb and fell off the deck. Fortunately for him, and adding to the Chaplinesque aspect of the night’s miseries, the deck was no more than four feet off the ground, but such was the urgency of his escape that he managed to get himself wedged between the structure and an air-conditioning unit, sustaining injuries that would require medical attention, cut short his baseball season, and–in the fullness of time–pit him against the mighty forces of the Alpha Tau Omega national organization, which had been waiting for him.
It takes a certain kind of personal-injury lawyer to look at the facts of this glittering night and wrest from them a plausible plaintiff and defendant, unless it were possible for Travis Hughes to be sued by his own anus. But the fraternity lawsuit is a lucrative mini-segment of the personal-injury business, and if ever there was a deck that ought to have had a railing, it was the one that served as a nighttime think tank and party-idea testing ground for the brain trust of the Theta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega and its honored guests–including these two knuckleheads, who didn’t even belong to the fraternity. Moreover, the building codes of Huntington, West Virginia, are unambiguous on the necessity of railings on elevated decks. Whether Helmburg stumbled in reaction to an exploding party guest or to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is immaterial; there should have been a railing to catch him.
And so it was that Louis Helmburg III joined forces with Timothy P. Rosinsky, Esq., a slip-and-fall lawyer from Huntington who had experience also with dog-bite, DUI, car-repossession, and drug cases. The events of that night, laid out in Helmburg’s complaint, suggested a relatively straightforward lawsuit. But the suit would turn out to have its own repeated failures to launch and unintended collateral damage, and it would include an ever-widening and desperate search for potential defendants willing to foot the modest bill for Helmburg’s documented injuries. Sending a lawyer without special expertise in wrangling with fraternities to sue one of them is like sending a Boy Scout to sort out the unpleasantness in Afghanistan. Who knows? The kid could get lucky. But it never hurts–preparedness and all that–to send him off with a body bag.

Hey, guilty liberals, how about OK for Madison Prep?

David Blaska:

Nobody does guilt like a Madison liberal! The president of the Madison School Board tells me that I really didn’t make that. All along, I have been swimming in the water of white privilege.
I wish Ed Hughes had told me about white privilege when, growing up on the farm, I was mucking out the old barn with a shovel. I knew I was swimming in something but I didn’t think it was white privilege.
Ed is an honorable public servant, mindful of the dismayingly poor unemployment, incarceration, and graduation rates among people of color here in the Emerald City.
“We white folks pretty much get to set the rules in Madison,” Hughes apologizes. He meant “liberal white folks.” They’ve been running Madison for 40 years, since Paul Soglin first became mayor. It’s 50 years since LBJ’s Great Society. Something besides the Obamacare website ain’t workin’.
Allow this Madison minority — I’m a conservative — to propose a fix: If a crusading young black educator named Kaleem Caire returns to the Madison School Board with a plan for a school focused on tackling minority underachievement, give it a chance! Ed, you voted with the majority to kill Madison Prep.

Much more on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

Commentary on the Madison School Board’s Uncontested Election

Chris Rickert

“The test of any particular voting scheme is the quality of the candidates who are elected under it,” Hughes told me. “We currently have seven good board members. After the spring election we’ll continue to have seven good board members. I don’t see a problem.”
And here I thought that in a democracy the best test of a voting “scheme” was how well it represented the desires of the democracy’s citizens.
Silly me.

ObamaCore Public Education, or “We Know Best”

Lee Cary:

With the nationalizing of the American healthcare system well underway, nationalizing public education pre-K through 12 is the next big thing on the progressive agenda. Wait for it.
It will be called ObamaCore Education, for short.
The original 2008 Obama campaign Blueprint for Change document included a “Plan to Give Every American Child a World Class Education” and linked to a 15-page, single-spaced document entitled “Barack Obama’s Plan For Lifetime Success Through Education.” It offered a litany of proposals as part of a broad, federal intervention into America’s public education system.
A case can be made that the regime would have been better off, in the long run, nationalizing public education before healthcare, because the fundamental transformation of education would have been easier.
How so? you ask.
The reasons for the relative ease — compared to ObamaCare — of installing ObamaCore Education were cited in the American Thinker back in June 2009.

Related: Up for re-election Madison School Board President Ed Hughes: “The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”. Remarkable.

Encouraging Competitive Madison School Board Elections

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

t would be terrific if three or more people run for Passman’s open seat, triggering a Feb. 18 primary, followed by the general election April 1. That would allow more debate — and community engagement — on the future of our schools.
The School Board seat held by president Ed Hughes also is up for election this spring. We admire Hughes for his public service. He’s capable and level-headed.
But incumbents shouldn’t get a free pass. We hope someone — or more than one challenger — will step forward to give voters a choice.
When it comes to School Board elections, the more candidates, the better. Our community deserves the best leaders possible.

Much more on the 2014 Madison School Board election, here.

Commentary on Wisconsin Virtual School Governance

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes

Pending Senate Bill 76 is another volley in the war Wisconsin Republican legislators have unleashed on local control. The bill would further undermine the authority of locally-elected school boards to determine the number of charter schools that operate within their school districts.
Senators Darling and Olson introduced an amendment to the bill on October 31. The amendment provision making it easier for a school district to convert all of its schools to charter schools has already drawn attention. What seems to have escaped notice so far is that Senators Olson and Darling may have mixed up their holidays – their Halloween amendment provides yet another Christmas present for their well-heeled friends at K12 Inc. and the for-profit virtual charter school industry.
The poor performance of virtual charter schools in Wisconsin has resulted in few if any negative consequences for their operators. But this past year, a slight dose of accountability has slipped into the mix with the advent of school district report cards issued by DPI. Senators Olson and Darling’s amendment nips that positive trend in the bud by stripping virtual charter schools out of the home school district for report card purposes. It is hard to see this as anything other than a sell-out to K12 and their virtual charter chums.
There are currently 28 virtual charter schools operating in Wisconsin. Many of them – like Middleton-Cross Plains 21st century eSchool – are wholly operated by and genuinely integrated into the home school district. In other cases, however, the home school district serves as the equivalent of a mailing address for a virtual charter school that is operated by an out-of-state, for-profit vendor.

Do we apply the same governance standards to traditional school districts that spend at least double the virtual schools?
Much more on Ed Hughes, here.

At-risk Madison students play school district’s waiting game

Chris Rickert:

@hen I asked district officials why they aren’t interested in throwing some of that money the way of programs like these, the answer I got can be boiled down to what Chicago Cubs fans like me are all too well accustomed to hearing: Wait until next year.
“Going forward, the district will work to further align our resources with the district’s framework and support schools to the fullest,” said district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson in a statement. “Until we do that, we don’t want to ask taxpayers for additional investments.”
School Board president Ed Hughes said that the district’s state aid next year would decrease by about 50 cents on each extra dollar it were to spend out of the property tax cut windfall this year.
“So if we don’t increase our spending now and instead are able to lower our tax levy, this makes it more likely that we’ll also be able to keep the tax levy at a manageable level for next year as well,” he said.
School board member T.J. Mertz described this year’s budget as “transitional” and said, “at this point, the current administrative team believes we need to concentrate on doing better with what we have while figuring out what we are not doing but should be, or aren’t doing enough of (and what we are doing and isn’t working).”

Commentary on the Common Core & Madison Schools

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

As I hope someone might have noticed, I have not been posting much lately. Part of the reason is that I have another outlet. I have been writing a column in the school district’s bi-weekly family newsletter.
My latest column focused on a recent School Board retreat where we learned more about the Common Core State Standards. Even though the family newsletter is a district publication, I should point out that the views I express in the column (as well as in this blog) are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, positions or policies of the Madison Metropolitan School District. But however unofficial my words may be, here is what I wrote:
On Saturday, September 28, the Madison School Board held the first of our quarterly board retreats. We get together on a Saturday for an extended discussion of a few topics of particular interest. Our focus this time was on the much-misunderstood Common Core academic standards for literacy and math.

On Mary Burke, the Rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School, The School Board and Running for Governor

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

Mary Burke’s past activities are coming under increased scrutiny now that she is an active candidate for governor. Mary has generously supported different educational initiatives for many years. Her primary focus has been the AVID/TOPS partnership between the Madison School District and the Boys and Girls Club. But her pledge of support for the Madison Prep charter school proposal has drawn the most attention. Since I was more involved in the Madison Prep saga than most, I thought it might be helpful if I provided a summary of what I know about Mary’s involvement.
In December, 2010, the Urban League of Greater Madison presented an initial proposal to the Madison School Board to establish a charter school called Madison Prep. The Urban League described the school as “a catalyst for change and opportunity among young men, particularly young men of color.” The school was intended to inculcate a culture of hard-work and achievement among its students through a host of practices, including single-sex classrooms, an International Baccalaureate curriculum, longer school days and school years, intensive mentoring, and obligatory parental involvement.
Madison Prep was controversial from the start and the initial proposal was adjusted in response to various concerns. By the fall of 2011, Madison Prep was planned to be an instrumentality charter school, like our existing charter schools Nuestro Mundo and Badger Rock. As an instrumentality, all teachers and staff would have been union members.

Burke’s candidacy will bring additional statewide attention (and rhetoric) to the Madison schools, particularly its challenges. It will be interesting to see what, if anything Mary Burke says about her time on the local school board.

Comments & Links on Madison’s Latest Teacher Union Agreement

Andrea Anderson:

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

Pat Schneider:

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

Andrea Anderson:

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

Pat Schneider:

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

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

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

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

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

Continuing the Voucher Debate (This Time 100% Insult-Free!): Remarkable

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes

Rick Esenberg has responded to my last blog post, which was critical of a short article he had written about the difference between supporters and opponents of school vouchers.
I wrote that Esenberg’s analysis was superficial and his characterization of voucher opponents insulting. While decrying the unflattering terms I employed, Esenberg writes that my analysis of his piece is sophomoric, cartoonish and simplistic. Okay, fine. Let’s move on.
Esenberg writes that I overlooked his principal point, which is that people’s views on vouchers are heavily influenced by their predispositions. That seems to me to be obvious. What I found more interesting about his article is that it suggested the challenge of discussing whether vouchers represent sound public policy without resorting to arguments about whether public schools or voucher schools lead to better learning outcomes or which end up costing taxpayers more. It’s not that these aren’t important considerations, but the various rhetorical thrusts and parries along these lines have been repeated almost ad nauseum and neither side is going to convince the other on either basis. Let’s explore some other arguments.

The ongoing Madison School Board voucher rhetoric is ironic, given the disastrous reading scores.

Celebrated educator’s career takes a disturbing turn

Jim Stingl:

I came away from Ronn Johnson’s classroom thinking he was the best teacher I ever met.
Now, he sits in the Milwaukee County Jail.
It was 23 years ago that I met Johnson. He was 24 and teaching fifth grade at Lee Elementary School in Milwaukee with less than two years on the job.
The wiry and energetic teacher was himself the product of Milwaukee Public Schools and a graduate of Marquette University. His mother and his aunt were both teachers.
In an article I wrote in 1990, I said: “A visit to Johnson’s classroom is the antidote to what seems like chronic bad news about academic achievement in city schools. His pupils — all black and all from the economically depressed neighborhood near the school at 921 W. Meinecke Ave. — appeared attentive and enthusiastic about learning. The school day ended at 2:40 p.m., but the pupils remained at their desks engaging in a stimulating give and take with their teacher until after 3.”
The principal at Lee, George Hughes, called Johnson one of the most outstanding teachers he had ever supervised. Johnson was able to maintain strict discipline and to teach in a way that connected to the students’ real lives. A sign on his classroom door said: “Have no misunderstanding. Learning takes place here.”
“I teach the way I would like to be taught. I hate going through the workbook page by page,” he told me.

Getting beyond insults in the school choice debate; Responding to the Madison School Board President on Vouchers, Parents & School Climate

Rick Esenberg, via a kind reader’s email:

Whether or not he is right, we are left with, again, with the very philosophical divide that I identified. Mr. Hughes thinks that centralized and collective decision-making will more properly value diversity (as he defines it) and make better educational choices for children than their parents will.
Of course to describe a philosophical divide does not tell us who has the better of the argument. Mr. Hughes defends his position by relying on a 2007 “study” by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute which, strictly speaking, was not a study at all and had more to do with the impact of choice on public schools than its value to the families who participate in the program.
The 2007 WPRI publication collected no data on what was actually happening in Milwaukee. It simply took a national data base on the educational involvement of families and extrapolated it to Milwaukee based on the socioeconomic characteristics of Milwaukee families. It was, strictly speaking, nothing more than a calculation. If low income and minority families in Milwaukee behave like low income and minority families nationally, the calculation showed, then, based on certain assumptions, very few would engage in informed decision-making regarding their children’s education.
It was an interesting and thought provoking exercise but one with an obvious limitation. It is not at all clear that national findings would extend to a city with a relatively longstanding and actively promoted choice program. It is possible that the existence of a greater array of educational choices would change the incentives and capacity of parents to engage in the informed and engaged decision-making that would otherwise not happen.
Beyond that, the fact that only a subset of families will exercise a choice tells us precisely nothing about whether they ought to have the opportunity to make one – unless you entertain a presumption against individual choice and a diversity of alternatives in education.
Mr. Hughes argues that education is an “experience good” which is a fancy way of saying that it is something that consumers have a difficult time evaluating before deciding whether to buy it. But, again, the extent to which you think something is that type of good (many things are difficult to be sure about before you try them) and whether, having decided it is, you think that people should have someone else choose for them reflects very philosophical divide I’m concerned with.

We know best” has long been associated with parts of Madison’s K-12 community, despite long term, disastrous reading scores and spending twice the national average per student.
Background: “The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”.
It would certainly be useful to spend a bit of time learning about Milwaukee’s experiences, positive and negative with a far more open k-12 climate. The results of Madison’s insular, non-diverse approach are an embarrassment to students, citizens, taxpayers and employers.


“The School District of Choice in Dane County”

A. David Dahmer:

MMSD School Board President Ed Hughes said that public education these days is under a lot of pointed criticism if not under an outright attack. “Initiatives like the voucher expansion program are premised on the notion that urban traditional public schools are not up to the task of effectively educating a diverse body of students,” Hughes says. “We’re out to prove that they are wrong. We agree with Superintendent Cheatham that in Madison all of the pieces are in place for us to be successful. Following the framework that she will describe to you, we set the goal for ourselves to be the model of a thriving urban school district that is built on strong community partnerships as well as genuine collaboration of teachers and staff. As we do that, we will be the school district of choice in Dane County.”
Cheatham said that Madison has a lot of great things going for it, but also had its share of challenges.
“A continually changing set of priorities has made it difficult for our educators to remain focused on the day-to-day work of teaching and learning, a culture of autonomy that has made it difficult to guaranteed access to a challenging curriculum for all students,” Cheatham said. “The system is hard for many of our students to navigate which results in too many of our students falling through the cracks.”
It starts with a simple but bold vision that every school is a thriving school that prepares every student for college, career, and community. “From now on, we will be incredibly focused on making that day-to-day vision become a reality,” she said.
“Many districts create plans at central office and implement them from the top down. Instead, schools will become the driving force of change in Madison,” Cheatham said. “Rather than present our educators with an ever-changing array of strategies, we will focus on what we know works — high quality teaching, coherent instruction, and strong leadership — and implement these strategies extremely well.”

Related: The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: “Same Service” vs. “having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district”.
“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”.
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.