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

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

Jennifer Cheatham resigning as Madison school superintendent

Dylan Brogan: Jennifer Cheatham is expected to resign as superintendent of the Madison school district at a news conference Wednesday. Isthmus confirmed the news with three members of the Madison school board and other sources. It is not known when Cheatham, who has led the district since 2013, will step down. Rachel Strauch-Nelson, district spokesperson, … Continue reading Jennifer Cheatham resigning as Madison school superintendent

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham “exceeds expectations” in school board’s first evaluation

Molly Beck: Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has “brought a fresh lens to the district,” and exceeded the School Board’s expectations, according to her first evaluation by the board. The work completed in the district under Cheatham is “moving in the right direction,” board members wrote in a seven-page evaluation. Cheatham was hired in … Continue reading Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham “exceeds expectations” in school board’s first evaluation

“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?

A Positive Madison Magazine Article on Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham

Deanna Wright: Last April, and to a remarkable amount of fanfare, Jennifer Cheatham became the superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. From the very start, the community has opened its arms to welcome her. When I interviewed her for Madison Magazine TV last month, I was aware that the community, especially parents of color, … Continue reading A Positive Madison Magazine Article on Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Contract



630K PDF Contract between Superintendent Cheatham and the Madison School District.
The lack of Superintendent oversight was an issue during the Rainwater era. Superintendent Cheatham’s contract includes this:

14.01 At least once each year, the BOARD of Education will provide the ADMINISTRATOR with an evaluation
a. The annual evaluation shall occur in closed session.
b. Prior to the BOARD conducting the SUPERINTENDENT’S evaluation, the SUPERINTENDENT shall provide the BOARD a self-appraisal. The BOARD shall take this self-appraisal into account in conducting its evaluation
c. All forms used and report formats requested as part of the evaluation process shall be collaboratively developed and mutually agreed upon by the ADMINISTRATOR and the BOARD.
d. While individual opinions may be expressed in the evaluation process, the final written record of performance evaluations shall include only narrative statements or opinions endorsed by a majority of the BOARD. The written evaluation shall be considered confidential to the extent permitted by law

Related: A Look At Compensation Packages for Wisconsin School District Superintendents.
Yet, reading, an issue for years in the Madison School District, remains a disastrous problem.

A few “Tweets” on Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal


I’m glad to see the apparent focus on doing a few things well. This is the only way forward given the District’s disastrous reading results. That said, I was disappointed when the new Superintendent largely continued the “same service” budget approach during the 2013-2014 financial discussions.
The District’s 2x per student spending (above the national average) has supported numerous initiatives, likely preventing a focus on those that are truly meaningful for our students. For example, Kerry Motoviloff noted that Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”. Steven Sinofsky’s latest is also worth reading in this context.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan

Molly Beck:

All students in the Madison School District would have their own tablets or notebook computers by the 2018-19 school year under a five-year, $31 million plan proposed by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
If approved, the plan would increase the district’s current
$1.5 million annual technology budget to $4.2 million in the 2014-15 school year to start upgrading the district’s network infrastructure, upgrade or equip classrooms and libraries with new technology or computers, and provide notebook computers to all district teachers and administrators. Elementary teachers also would get tablet computers under the plan.
Costs to upgrade are projected to increase each of the five years of the plan for a total of $31 million spent in that time. Afterward, the annual budget for technology would be about $7 million per year going forward.
…..
Madison School Board members, who formally received the plan at their meeting Monday, were mostly optimistic about the plan. Board member T.J. Mertz questioned whether the program needed to be as extensive as it’s proposed given what he said were other unmet needs in the district and given research that he called “universally disappointing” surrounding such initiatives.
Mertz said in an interview after Monday’s board meeting that he agrees with the majority of the investments in technology under the plan, “but then there’s a third or a quarter where I think it’s going overboard.”
As an example, Mertz said he questions whether every kindergarten student needs their own tablet computer.

Prior to spending any additional taxpayer funds on new initiatives, I suggest that the District consider (and address) the status of past expensive initiatives, including:
Infinite Campus: is it fully implemented? If not, why? Why continue to spend money on it?
Standards based report cards“.
Connected Math.
Small Learning Communities.
And of course, job number one, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores.
Madison already spends double the national average per student ($15k). Thinning out initiatives and refocusing current spending on reading would seem to be far more pressing than more hardware.

Jennifer Cheatham’s Chicago contingent well received in Madison

Pat Schneider:

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

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

Jennifer Cheatham takes charge of Madison schools

Catherine Capellaro:

Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t have the countenance of someone who has stepped into a maelstrom. Madison schools superintendent since April, Cheatham, 41, has already visited every school in the district and rolled out a “Strategic Framework” to tackle some of the district’s thorniest issues, including the achievement gap. So far she’s generated considerable excitement around her plans and raised hopes, even among skeptics.
Kaleem Caire has even put off plans to file a federal civil rights complaint against the district for the school board’s rejection of a charter school geared toward low-income minority students. The CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, which spearheaded the proposal, says he’s now content to play a “facilitative, supportive role” and get behind Cheatham’s plan to “bring order and structure” to the district.
“Personally, I’ve been hanging back, letting her get her space,” says Caire. “The superintendent should be the leader of education. All of us should be supporting and holding that person accountable.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham cites previous lack of “long-term vision” in presenting 2013-14 budget for Madison schools

Bennet Goldstein:

Cheatham said Madison schools have already implemented a variety of initiatives to increase student achievement but have not seen “measurable improvements.”
“It isn’t for lack of working very hard and doing a lot of things at once,” she said. “I feel pretty confident the reason that hasn’t occurred is because of the lack of long-term vision.”
Cheatham recommended the board focus on strengthening existing programs and infrastructure, which would not require new expenditures.
“I want to be more strategic and thoughtful about this than how we did it in the past,” she added.

Much more on the Madison School District’s planned spending & property tax increases via the 2013-2014 budget, here.
Related: Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap.

New Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham calls for accountability across the board in Madison School District

Pat Schneider:

Fresh off a two-month tour to observe the operations of all 48 schools, various programs, and the Madison School District’s central administrative offices, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is promising to “ensure accountability at every level.”
Accountability as Cheatham describes it will include student achievement on standardized tests of the type that current school reform movements emphasize, but will go far beyond that to a new understanding of educators’ roles, the support they need to master them, and refined local measures of progress, she said.
“I worry that people perceive accountability as standardized test results, for example, and what I’m talking about is accountability for everybody playing well the function they are best positioned for in the service of children learning well,” Cheatham told me Thursday in an interview. “Educators at every level of the system lack clarity on what that particular function is for them.”http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2013/06/deja_vu_a_focus.php”>Accountability was one of five priority areas Cheatham identified in anEntry Plan Report released Wednesday. The others are: well-rounded, culturally responsive instruction; personal educational pathways for students; attracting, developing and retaining top-level talent; and engaging families and community members as partners.

Related: Deja Vu: A Focus on “Adult Employment” or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.

Jennifer Cheatham and community can support racial equity

Rachel Krinsky:

f you are tired of all the talk about the achievement gap in our school district, take heart. Newly appointed Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s entry plan is a promising beginning.
From racial disparities in academics to the race politics in the School Board primary election, the feeling of frustration has been palpable. The YWCA Madison suggests the reason this talk hasn’t created much tangible progress is that these issues are part of a larger system of racial inequalities. Individual strategies, action plans or initiatives are less likely to be successful if they are not part of a larger racial equity strategy.
So we are delighted to see Cheatham’s plan is based on values including commitment to equity and systemic improvement. If our community is serious about racial equity in education, we will join Cheatham in learning what kids of color need to be successful, and then making those resources and solutions the priority.
We will also consider every education-related decision and discussion with racial equity in mind. We will think holistically about Dane County’s future as a more racially diverse community and welcome and retain professionals, including educators, of color.
Let’s be part of a community-wide commitment to equity, and let’s remember that we’re doing it for the kids.

Related: And, so it continues.

Madison school board candidates Wayne Strong and Dean Loumos discuss superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 3, former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos is running against retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong. The winner will replace retiring school board member Beth Moss.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates.
This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison school board candidates Greg Packnett and James Howard discuss superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections here.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham to start April 1 after contract OK’d

Jeff Glaze: Incoming Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham will begin her new role in just a matter of weeks. April 1 is the start date specified in Cheatham’s contract, which the School Board unanimously approved Wednesday evening. The date is significantly earlier than the July 1 start date of her predecessor, Dan Nerad. School … Continue reading Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham to start April 1 after contract OK’d

Why did Jennifer Cheatham change jobs so often?

Michael L. Gourlie:

The hiring process for Madison School District superintendent had its strange twists, but it appears all are euphoric with first impressions of Jennifer Cheatham. Our new superintendent received the School Board’s blessing, commendations from the mayor and community support for her pedigree and ability to relate to others.
However, one question that jumped out and either was never asked or not reported is why she never held a job longer than two years since she advanced to administration from a teacher position in 2003.
It’s not as if she was upwardly mobile within one school district, but rather she switched cities and districts at every stop except the first. Madison is her fifth change of city in 10 years, according to a Friday article.
Generally candidates with this type of resume are either opportunists jumping at the next ladder rung, or they move on before their performance catches up with them.

Much more on Jennifer Cheatham, here.

Citizen Dave: If Jennifer Cheatham is right for Madison schools superintendent, just hire her already

Dave Cieslewicz:

Madison has many wonderful traits. This town’s obsession with process is not one of them.
All indications are that the one remaining choice for the Madison public schools’ new superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, would be a great pick. I’m told by people close to the decision that the Chief Instruction Officer for the Chicago Public Schools has been the top candidate all along, and that she is a “rock star” in the education world.
There is no job harder or more important in our city than being its schools superintendent. This is a city full of education experts whose child is clearly a genius (just like them) and yet isn’t being challenged enough by their teachers. At the same time, we have a growing number of poor kids who come to school without the basics, even a good breakfast. So, the challenge is to meet the high expectations of highly educated parents, while trying to give underprivileged kids the best chance possible to succeed, all in the context of constricted budgets.
At the same time, the stakes for our whole city are enormous. Failing public schools have been the downfall of dozens of American cities.

Much more on Madison’s most recent Superintendent search, here.

Madison’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Superintendent Cheatham’s 2019 Rotary Talk

2013: What will be different, this time? Incoming Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Madison Rotary Talk. December, 2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic” 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end … Continue reading Madison’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Superintendent Cheatham’s 2019 Rotary Talk

Commentary on New Madison Superintendent Cheatham’s “Style”….

Paul Fanlund

he gist of her framework is hard to argue. It calls for a renewed focus on learning, a school system that makes curriculum consistent across the district and better measures student and teacher performance. In sum, it is a back-to-basics approach that does not require new money, at least for now.
Madison, of course, has been grappling with its changing demographics where many students, especially minority children, struggle academically. In shorthand, it’s called the “achievement gap,” and the approach to date has been a long list of seemingly laudable, logical programs.
Now comes Cheatham saying we don’t need more money, at least not yet, but instead we need to rebuild the foundation. Might some see that as counterintuitive, I wonder?
“It might be,” she responds. “My take is that we were adding on with a big price tag to an infrastructure that was weak. … Does that make sense? The bones of the organization were weak and we didn’t do the hard work of making sure that the day-to-day processes … were strong before deciding to make targeted investments on top of a strong foundation.”
She continues: “That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some targeted investments down the line. I suspect that will be in things like technology, for instance, which is a real challenge … and is going to have a price tag later. I need to make sure that the foundation is strong first.”
Cheatham alludes to her Chicago experience. “Having worked with lots of schools — and lots of schools that have struggled — and worked with schools targeting narrowing and closure of the achievement gap, these fundamental practices” make the biggest difference. “It’s that day-to-day work that ultimately produces results and student learning.”

We shall see. Local media have greeted prior Superintendents, including Cheryl Wilhoyte with style points, prior to the beginning of tough decision-making.
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”.
Another interesting governance question, particularly when changes to the 157 page teacher union contract, or perhaps “handbook” arise, is where the school board stands? Two seats will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot. They are presently occupied by Marj Passman and Ed Hughes. In addition, not all members may vote on teacher union related matters due to conflict of interests. Finally, Mary Burke’s possible race for the Governor’s seat (2014) may further change board dynamics.
I hope that Superintendent Cheatham’s plans to focus the organization on teaching become a reality. Nothing is more important given the District’s disastrous reading results. That said, talk is cheap and we’ve seen this movie before.

Madison Superintendent Cheatham’s Rotary Club Talk (audio & slides): “What will be different this time?”

15mb mp3 audio.

Superintendent Cheatham’s slides follow (4MB PDF version). I hope that the prominence of Madison’s disastrous reading scores – slide 1 – indicates that this is job one for our $15,000ish/student organization.





























A few of the Superintendent’s words merit a bit of analysis:
1. “What will be different this time?” That rhetoric is appropriate for our Madison schools. I compiled a number of notes and links on this subject, here.
2. “Ready to partner with local businesses and other organizations”. Great idea. The substance of this would certainly be a change after the Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school debacle (Urban League) and, some years ago, the rejection of Promega’s kind offer to partner on Madison Middle Schools 2000.
3. Mentions “all Madison schools are diverse”. I don’t buy that. The range of student climate across all schools is significant, from Van Hise and Franklin to LakeView, Mendota and Sandburg. Madison school data by income summary. I have long been astonished that this wide variation continues. Note that Madison’s reading problems are not limited to African-American students.
4. Mentioned Long Beach and Boston as urban districts that have narrowed the achievement gap. Both districts offer a variety of school governance models, which is quite different than Madison’s long-time “one size fits all approach”.
5. Dave Baskerville (www.wisconsin2.org) asked a question about benchmarking Madison students vs. the world, rather than Green Bay and Milwaukee. Superintendent Cheatham responded positively to that inquiry. Interestingly, the Long Beach schools prominently display their status as a “top 5 school system worldwide”.
6. “Some teachers and principals have not been reviewed for as long as 7 years”. This points to the crux of hard decision making. Presumably, we are at this point because such reviews make no difference given rolling administrator contracts and a strong union umbrella (or floor depending on your point of view). Thus, my last point (below) about getting on with the hard decisions which focus the organization on job number one: reading.
Pat Schneider and Matthew DeFour summarize the Superintendent’s press release and appearance.
Finally, I found it a bit curious that the Superintendent is supporting spending (and related property tax growth) for current programs in light of the larger strategy discussed today along with the recent “expert review”. The review stated that the “Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap”
This would be a great time to eliminate some programs such as the partially implemented Infinite Campus system.
Superintendent Cheatham’s plan indicates that choices will be made so that staff and resources can focus on where they are most needed. I wholeheartedly agree. There is no point in waiting and wasting more time and money. Delay will only increase the cost of her “strategy tax“.

Commentary on Incoming Madison Superintendent Cheatham’s First Listening Session

Joe Tarr:

Cheatham said that she believed teachers and administrators needed to be evaluated regularly and that it shouldn’t be based only on students’ test scores. She said that when she was a teacher, she once had a principal tell her to fill out her own evaluation. “I didn’t want that. I wanted someone to tell me how I was doing,” she said. “Most teacher evaluations, generally they’re using a vague checklist and they happen so sporadically that they’re not meaningful.”
“The frequency has to increase and they have to be collaborative conversations. The teacher needs to identify things he or she wants to improve on and identify goals.”
One parent said he wanted something to be done to hold parents more accountable for student performance. While Cheatham said that parent involvement is invaluable, “Of all the things within our control, I’m not sure it’s worth our time to work on parental accountability. Some parents are not going to be involved. It’s not because they don’t love their children, it’s because they’re working two jobs.”

Barry Adam:

Julie Salt has a son in kindergarten at Mendota Elementary and is an educational assistant. She told Cheatham she is concerned about some of her son’s classmates who are already noticeably behind.
“The students that are kind of prepared to do the alphabet and numbers and all that kind of stuff, obviously have had exposure (compared to) kids who have not had that experience. That makes a difference in the classroom,” Salt said. “So already there’s that gap.”
Robert Bergeron works with pre-kindergarten students at Goodman Community Center and has a daughter at East High School. He believes more of an effort needs to be made by educators at all levels to get parents involved in their child’s education.
“It can be any kind of involvement but the teachers also have a responsibility to try and get parents involved,” Bergeron said. “Sometimes, it’s communication.”

Commentary on Madison’s Incoming Superintendent Cheatham

Pat Schneider:

But Cheatham, who served as what amounts to an area superintendent overseeing 25 schools and later as chief of instruction and curriculum for the entire 400,000-student, $5.1 billion-budget school system, not only got strong recommendations, she demonstrated intellect and ideas to Madison school officials, Passman said. The Madison School District, in comparison, has a $376 million budget and an enrollment of about 27,000.
Board member Mary Burke told me she wasn’t thrilled at first to be considering a candidate from the perennially troubled Chicago Public Schools. “I feel Madison is the type of district that should be able to attract people from the best school districts,” Burke said. So she used a method that had served her well in hiring situations over a career that has included executive positions in the private and public sectors: Burke and other School Board members went beyond resumes and references and contacted additional people Cheatham had worked with in the past.
“They were very consistent in terms of what they said: She’s a great instructional leader, really smart and hardworking, and the schools under her made incredible progress raising students’ level of achievement,” Burke told me.
Like the board members, I also turned to people Cheatham had worked with in Chicago to get a glimpse of how her skills and personality will dovetail with the Madison community.

Pat Schneider refers to the Madison School District’s $376,000,000 budget, yet Matthew Defour just a few days ago, put it at $394,000,000. A subsequent email from the District’s Donna Williams placed the 2012-2013 budget at $392,789,303 for approximately 27,000 students, or $14,547/student about 12% more than Chicago’s $12,750, according to Schneider’s article.
Many notes and links on Jennifer Cheatham, here.

A Look At Compensation Packages for Wisconsin School District Superintendents

Eric Litke:

School district administrators often live in the crossfire, sandwiched between students and teachers, parents and school boards, taxpayers and state mandates. Even though salaries typically exceed $100,000, it’s a job not many want.
Those who take the job and keep it are in high demand, able to command an array of benefits and other enticements. A Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team review of nearly 100 school administrator contracts around the state revealed perks including five-figure annuities, promised payouts of $60,000 or more at retirement, car allowances of at least $500 per month and bonuses of $10,000 or more for meeting performance goals, staying with the district or simply moving into the district.
“There’s a diminishing pool of people wanting superintendent jobs — mostly because of the nature of the job and the things that go with it, particularly politically — so district boards are often really focused today more on incentives to retain superintendents,” said Jon Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

Related: Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s contract.

Con & Pro Commentary on the Madison School District’s Proposed Technology Plan

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is a strong supporter of technology in the classroom. That’s why she is putting a $27.7 million computer plan in front of the School Board tonight.
But Cheatham also knows what really drives education, from kindergarten to high school.
“It’s the quality of teachers that matters the most,” she told the State Journal editorial board during a recent meeting.
Putting a tablet computer into the hands of every Madison student “will absolutely help teachers with instruction,” Cheatham said.
In our multi-device, always-wired world, understanding and using the latest technology is a must for today’s students and can cater to their individual needs and interests.
Ultimately, the issue is not how many devices are in a classroom but, rather, how those devices are used. The technology needs to offer more than whiz-bang special effects. It needs to open new paths to learning.
The high-dollar technology plan has attracted critics who question the cost and worry about additional “screen time,” especially for the youngest students.

Pat Schneider

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s multi-million dollar Tech Plan is spending a lot of money on devices not proven to benefit student learning, according to an assistant professor of education at Madison’s Edgewood College.
In addition, the district isn’t giving teachers, parents or students opportunities to provide meaningful feedback on the plan, said Donna Vukelich-Selva in written remarks to the Madison school board shared Monday with The Cap Times.
The School Board is scheduled to vote Monday, Jan. 27, on what is now a revised, estimated $27.7 million, five-year plan that would greatly increase the use of computers in classroom instruction. The school district pared the proposal slightly, following a community update session last week, to include fewer devices for the youngest students. The plan now would provide one computer tablet in the classroom for about every two kindergartners and 1st-graders, and a one-to-one computer ratio for students in grades 2-12.
But Vukelich-Selva said concerns that the district is moving too fast on the Tech Plan, expressed by parents and teachers at the community update Jan. 22 at Memorial High School, were dismissed.
“It is clear that many significant stakeholders in the district were not taken into account,” she wrote.
The Madison school board first considered a draft of the plan on Jan. 13.
On hearing criticism that the proposal has advanced too quickly, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said last week that the district has been “thorough and methodical in the development of the draft plan.”
Vukelich-Selva also said there was inadequate assessment of the impact of one-to-one computing on learning for younger students through fifth grade. She pointed to an apparent focus on technology itself rather than curricular goals.
“The huge numbers of ‘devices’ we are being told we need in our classrooms will help support a vastly expanded platform for more standardized testing,” she said.
Research shows that most large-scale evaluations of one-to-one computing initiatives have found mixed or no results, and underscore the importance of teacher mastery of using the devices, Vukelich-Selva wrote, referring specifically to an article in “Educational Leadership” from February, 2011, that is critical of one-to-one programs.

Much more on the Madison School District’s Technology Plan, here.
One would hope that prior multi-million dollar technology implementations such as Infinite Campus, would be fully implemented first.

A somewhat connected (one end of the class spectrum) view of the State of Madison’s $395M Public School District

Mary Erpenbach (and This story was made possible by supp​ort from Madison Gas & Electric, Summit Credit Union, CUNA Mutual Foundation and Aldo Leopold Nature Center.):

Today, Caire’s tone has moderated. Somewhat.
“Teachers are not to blame for the problems kids bring into the classroom,” he says. “But teachers have to teach the kids in front of them. And Madison teachers are not prepared to do that. Now we have two choices: Make excuses why these kids can’t make it and just know that they won’t. Or move beyond and see a brighter future for kids.”
Many parents back him up. And many parents of students of color say that their experience with Madison’s public schools–both as students here, themselves, and now as parents–is simply much different and much worse than what they see white students and parents experiencing.
“I just always felt like I was on as a parent, like every time I walked through the door of that school I would have to go to bat for my son,” says Sabrina Madison, mother of a West High graduate who is now a freshman at UW-Milwaukee. “Do you know how many times I was asked if I wanted to apply for this [assistance] program or that program? I would always say, ‘No, we’re good.’ And at the same time, there is not the same ACT prep or things like that for my child. I was never asked ‘Is your son prepared for college?’ I never had that conversation with his guidance counselor.”
Hedi Rudd, whose two daughters graduated from East and son from West, says it has been her experience that the schools are informally segregated by assistance programs and that students of color are more likely to be treated with disrespect by school personnel. “Walk into the cafeteria and you’ll see the kids [of color] getting free food and the white students eating in the hall. I walked into the school office one day,” she recalls. “I look young and the secretary thought I was a student. She yelled, ‘What are you doing here?’ I just looked at her and said, ‘Do you talk to your students like that?'”
Dawn Crim, the mother of a daughter in elementary school and a son in middle school, says lowered expectations for students of color regardless of family income is an ongoing problem. “When we moved to Madison in 1996, we heard that MMSD was a great school district … and for the most part it has been good for our kids and family: strong teachers, good administrators, a supportive learning environment, and we’ve been able to be very involved.”
But?
“Regarding lower expectations for kids of color, not just disadvantaged kids, we, too, have experienced the lower expectations for our kids; overall there is a feeling and a sense of lower expectations,” Crim says. “And that should not come into play. All of our kids should be respected, pushed, have high expectations and should get the best education this district says it gives.”
In the meantime, the school district has been running programs in partnership with the Urban League of Greater Madison, UW-Madison, United Way of Dane County, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, and other organizations–all designed to lift scholastic achievement, close the gap, and get more kids graduated and on to college.
The Advancement Via Individual Determination program known as AVID (or AVID/TOPS, when coordinated with the Teens Of Promise program) is run by the district and the Boys and Girls Club here, and is a standout in a slew of public/private efforts to change the fate of students of color in Madison.
…..
At the end of the last school year, a total of four hundred forty-two students did not graduate on time from high school in Madison. One hundred nine were white, eighty-six were Hispanic, thirty-three were Asian and one hundred ninety-one were African American. If the graduation rate for African American students had been comparable to the eighty-eight percent graduation rate of white students, one hundred forty more African American students would have graduated from Madison high schools.
But they did not. While it’s true that the district actively searches out students who did not graduate on time, and works with them so that as many as possible do ultimately graduate, the black-and-white dividing line of fifty-five/eighty-eight remains for now the achievement gap’s stark, frightening, final face. What can be said is that many more Madisonians are paying attention to it, and many people in a position to make a difference are doing their level best to do something about it.
……
“One of the reasons we haven’t been as successful as we could be is because we’ve lacked focus and jumped from initiative to initiative,” she (Cheatham) says of the Madison schools.

Related: notes and links on Mary Erpanbach, Jennifer Cheatham and Madison’s long term disastrous reading scores.
Background articles:
Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.
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 (2005).
Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992.
My Life and Times With the Madison Public Schools
Latest Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 $391,834,829 Budget.

Madison School district’s plan redistributes wealth — to the wealthy

Chris Rickert:

There’s not much evidence showing that children learn any more effectively by way of computer screen than by way of pencil, paper, chalkboard and textbook.
Although at the very least, the Madison School District’s $31 million plan to put a tablet or netbook in the hands of every student will familiarize them with the kinds of technology necessary to function in modern-day America.
What I can’t figure out is why a community as fond of wealth redistribution as Madison would want to spread some of the school district’s wealth to the already wealthy.
The district has said that it’s open to the possibility of students bringing their own computer devices to school. But for now, it’s planning to lease new tablets or netbooks for every child regardless of his or her family’s ability to lease or buy their own.
With few exceptions, this is contrary to the way the district and the community treat other student necessities — which tablets or netbooks might soon become.

Related: Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan.

2013 Madison Summer School Report

Scott Zimmerman:

The district provided a comprehensive extended learning summer school program, K-Ready through 12th grade, at ten sites and served 5,097 students. At each of the K-8 sites, there was direction by a principal, professional Leopold, Chavez, Black Hawk and Toki, and oral language development was offered at Blackhawk and Toki. The 4th grade promotion classes were held at each elementary school, and 8th grade promotion classes were held at the two middle school sites.
Students in grades K-2 who received a 1 or 2 on their report card in literacy, and students in grades 3-5 who received a 1 or 2 in math or literacy, were invited to attend SLA. The 6-7 grade students who received a GPA of 2.0 or lower, or a 1 or 2 on WKCE, were invited to attend SLA. As in 2012, students with report cards indicating behavioral concerns were invited to attend summer school. Additionally, the summer school criterion for grades 5K-7th included consideration for students receiving a 3 or 4 asterisk grade on their report card (an asterisk grade indicates the student receives modified curriculum). In total, the academic program served 2,910 students, ranging from those entering five-year-old kindergarten through 8th grade.
High school courses were offered for credit recovery, first-time credit, and electives including English/language arts, math, science, social studies, health, physical education, keyboarding, computer literacy, art, study skills, algebra prep, ACT/SAT prep, and work experience. The high school program served a total of 1,536 students, with 74 students having completed their graduation requirements at the end of the summer.
All academic summer school teachers received approximately 20 hours of professional development prior to the start of the six-week program. Kindergarten-Ready teachers as well as primary literacy and math teachers also had access to job embedded professional development. In 2013, there were 476 certified staff employed in SLA.

Jennifer Cheatham:

Key Enhancements for Summer School 2014
A) Provide teachers with a pay increase without increasing overall cost of summer school.
Teacher salary increase of 3% ($53,887).
B) Smaller Learning Environments: Create smaller learning environments, with fewer students per summer school site compared to previous years, to achieve the following: increase student access to high quality learning, increase the number of students who can walk to school, and reduce number of people in the building when temperatures are high. ($50,482)
C) Innovations: Pilot at Wright Middle School and Lindbergh Elementary School where students receive instruction in a familiar environment, from a familiar teacher. These school sites were selected based on identification as intense focus schools along with having high poverty rates when compared to the rest of the district. Pilot character building curriculum at Sandburg Elementary School. ($37,529)
D) Student Engagement: Increase student engagement with high quality curriculum and instruction along with incentives such as Friday pep rallies and afternoon MSCR fieldtrips. ($25,000)
E) High School Professional Development: First-time-offered, to increase quality of instruction and student engagement in learning. ($12,083)
F) Student Selection: Utilize an enhanced student selection process that better aligns with school’s multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) so that student services intervention teams (SSIT) have time to problem solve, and recommend students for SLA. Recommendations are based on student grades and standardized assessment scores, such as a MAP score below the 25th percentile at grades 3-5, or a score of minimal on the WKCE in language arts, math, science, and social studies at grades 3-5. (no cost)
Estimated total cost: $185,709.00
Summer School Program Reductions
The following changes would allow enhancements to summer school and implementation of innovative pilots:
A) Professional development (PD): reduce PD days for teachers grades K-8 by one day. This change will save money and provide teachers with an extra day off of work before the start of summer school (save $49,344.60).
B) Materials reduction: the purchase of Mondo materials in 2013 allows for the reduction of general literacy curricular materials in 2014 (save $5,000).
C) Madison Virtual Campus (MVC): MVC is not a reimbursable summer school program as students are not in classroom seats. This program could be offered separate from summer school in the future (save $18,000).
D) Librarians: reduce 3 positions, assigning librarians to support two sites. Students will continue to have access to the expertise of the librarian and can utilize library resources including electronic equipment (save $12,903.84).
E) Reading Interventionists: reduce 8 positions, as summer school is a student intervention, it allows students additional learning time in literacy and math. With new Mondo materials and student data profiles, students can be grouped for the most effective instruction when appropriate (save $48,492).
F) PBS Coach: reduce 8 positions, combining the coach and interventionist positions to create one position (coach/interventionist) that supports teachers in setting up classes and school wide systems, along with providing individual student interventions. With smaller learning sites, there would be less need for two separate positions (save $24,408).
G) Literacy and Math Coach Positions: reduce from 16 to 5 positions, combining the role and purpose of the literacy and math coach. Each position supports two schools for both math and literacy. Teachers can meet weekly with literacy/math coach to plan and collaborate around curriculum and student needs (save $27,601.60).
Estimated Total Savings: $185,750.04
Strategic Framework:
The role of the Summer Learning Academy (SLA) is critical to preparing students for college career and community readiness. Research tells us that over 50% of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students is directly related to unequal learning opportunities over the summer (Alexander et al., 2007). Research based practices and interventions are utilized in SLA to increase opportunities for learning and to raise student achievement across the District (Odden & Archibald, 2008). The SLA is a valuable time for students to receive additional support in learning core concepts in literacy and math to move them toward MMSD benchmarks (Augustine et.al., 2013). SLA aligns with the following Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Strategic Framework goals:
A) Every student is on-track to graduate as measured by student growth and achievement at key milestones. Milestones of reading by grade 3, proficiency in reading and math in grade 5, high school readiness in grade 8, college readiness in grade 11, and high school graduation and completion rate.
B) Every student has access to challenging and well-rounded education as measured by programmatic access and participation data. Access to fine arts and world languages, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and advanced coursework.

Bill would add more math, science credits

Christin Tang:

Although Wisconsin currently requires the fewest number of math and science credits in the Midwest for high school students to graduate, recently proposed legislation would increase the number of necessary credits in those subjects.
The bill, which received a public hearing Thursday, would require students to take three credits of math and science, as opposed to the current state-required two credits of each.
“As we work to raise the bar this year, we are challenging students to think critically and solve complex problems. We believe that’s what it takes to ensure students are college, career and community ready,” Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said in an email to The Badger Herald. “Additional math and science classes align with that vision. Many of our students already take additional math and science in high school, and we’re supportive of making that a requirement.”
The bill would require more credits at the state level, but many districts in Wisconsin already have higher numbers of mandatory credits, Peter Goff, UW professor in the department of educational leadership and policy analysis, said.

romising CPS principal follows promising Chicago Schools administrator to Madison

Steve Bogira:

I called Hanks to ask her about her decision to leave Chicago. She responded by e-mail. “A great opportunity presented itself that I thought I could really grow and learn from. You know I am still pretty young, too. I don’t have kids, so it’s easier for me to move around now versus one day when I am more settled.
“I had a great experience leading Melody and I’m proud of the work that we did,” she went on. “That work prepared me to take on this role.”
A spokesperson for CPS told me in an e-mail: “We never like to see talented leaders like Nancy Hanks leave the district. We wish her success in her new role and hope she returns to CPS at some point.” He added that the district’s “extensive professional development, training, and recruiting programs . . . help ensure that we always have a pipeline of qualified leaders ready to replace principals who may move, retire, or leave the district for new opportunities.”
The Madison superintendent who recruited Hanks, Jennifer Cheatham, had herself recently left CPS. Cheatham, 41, who was chief instruction officer here, was named superintendent in Madison in February.

Madison Elementary School iPad Newspaper Article

Andrea Anderson:

Jennifer Cheatham, Madison School District superintendent, said what type of devices and how much funding the plan will need has not been determined.
“We believe that in order to be college-, career- and community-ready they need to know how to use the technology available to them,” Cheatham said.
At Sandburg, the iPads are used in lesson plans daily and stay with the students through the end of elementary school. By the end of the year, about 70 percent of the instruction and learning involve an iPad, according to Coblentz. Currently, students are not allowed to take them home.
The students start using the iPads in second grade with access to seven educational apps and no access to the Internet or the camera. Week by week the students learn how to use the iPad in additional subjects.
Coblentz and Wilfrid said the limited functionality is intentional. They want the younger students to learn how to correctly use the camera and Internet, and have students realize it is a privilege to use the devices and to demonstrate they are ready for other features.

I disagree somewhat with the Superintendent’s sentiment. The iPad per se is not terribly important at this point. Rather, reading continues to be job one along with math and science.
The third grader using an iPad today will be interacting with information in a very different way in tech school or college. Accomplished reading, math, science and critical thinking skills are far more important.

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).

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and wisconsin2.org

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

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



Per Student Annual Spending



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

Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: City Budget Slows Spending Growth, K-12 School District Raises Taxes. 4.5%

Madison leaders say trimming city workers’ pay might be necessary:

Scheduled pay raises for union-represented city employees may need to be trimmed to help balance the 2014 city budget, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and City Council President Chris Schmidt said Friday.
Schmidt said he didn’t relish the step — calling city workers “already underpaid for the jobs they do” — but he argued there could be no other choice.
Revenue limits under state law, rising city costs for fuel and health insurance, and a steadfast goal to protect funding for basic city services increasingly tie the city’s hands, he said.
“It’s understandable why it’s on the table, why we’re discussing it,” he said about the possible action, in which a 3 percent raise scheduled to start in the last pay period in December could be scaled back or eliminated for many employees in March.

Andrea Anderson:

Contract talks for Madison School District employees set to start this month, letter says contract negotiations for Madison School District employees are set to begin later this month, according to a letter sent Friday to district staff by superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews.
Cheatham said in a phone interview that she and employee unions will be negotiating “as soon as we can” in order to create collective bargaining agreements that will take effect after the current contracts end in June 2014.
MTI asked the district to begin collective bargaining in May, but the new superintendent wanted to adjust to her role, become acquainted with the staff and hear their requests before bargaining with the teachers union and other employee unions.
Although the timeline is unclear, Cheatham said she expects to complete the contracts “fairly quickly” while also taking time to ensure the process is done correctly and has an outcome acceptable to all parties.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget (including a 4.5 property tax increase, after 9% two years ago), here.

Madison School District students should expect visible changes this year

Andrea Anderson:

When Madison public school students go back to class Tuesday, they’ll find some lessons will be tougher, according to Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
The gradual implementation of the Common Core standards, a series of benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do, will begin this year by helping educators, students and staff understand what the standards are and how instruction will change .
Teachers will implement Close Reading, a practice used to study literacy standards , to become more familiar with the increase in rigor and standards while monitoring how the students and the teachers themselves are faring .
“The study will allow teachers to better understand the standards and learn about what it will take to plan instruction using the standards and learn more about instructional practices necessary to teach the standards and learn about” ways to assess what students are learning, Cheatham said.
An example of a Close Reading lesson would be reading a primary source document in a history class and later answering short-answer questions. Teachers would review how students performed, what challenges there were and what the teacher could do to improve.

Homeowners can’t afford another tax hike



John Olson:

The Madison School Board and new Madison School Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sure have the nerve proposing a new tax levy for Madison homeowners that will raise the average homeowner property tax bill in Madison by about $120.
Not only is it hard for those homeowners on fixed incomes (think retirees), but what about all of those public employees who are on reduced incomes as the result of the last several years of public employee bashing?
Most public employees in Madison will be lucky to get 2 percent raises over the course of the last 5 years, not to mention having to pay considerable more for their benefits.
Enough is enough. We all can’t afford to continually pay more.

Much more on the Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget, here.

90 Schools (2 in Dane County) Apply to Join Wisconsin Voucher Program; Madison Schools Governance Dichotomy?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham wisely stated:

“Rather than do a lot of work on opposing the voucher movement, we are going to focus on making sure our schools are the best schools possible and the schools of choice in Madison,” Cheatham said.

Just a few days ago, the Madison School Board said this in the “strategic framework document”:

Public education is under sustained attack, both in our state and across the nation. Initiatives like voucher expansion are premised on the notion that public schools are not up to the challenge of effectively educating diverse groups of students in urban settings.
We are out to prove that wrong. With Superintendent Cheatham, we agree that here in Madison all the ingredients are in place. Now it is up to us to show that we can serve as a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partnerships and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
Our Strategic Framework lays out a roadmap for our work. While some of the goals will seem familiar, what’s new is a clear and streamlined focus and a tangible and energizing sense of shared commitment to our common goals.

Madison must focus, laser like on academic achievement.

Successful (Madison) achievement plan will cost plenty — just maybe not in dollars

Chris Rickert:

The ill-fated charter school Madison Preparatory Academy would have cost Madison School District taxpayers about $17.5 million over five years to start addressing the district’s long-standing minority and low-income achievement gaps.
The achievement gap plan introduced by former superintendent Dan Nerad shortly after Madison Prep crashed and burned would have cost about $105 million over five years. Before being adopted, it was whittled down to about $49 million.
And the so-called “strategic framework” proposed last week by new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham?
Nada.
“The really exciting news is we have all the ingredients to be successful,” she told this newspaper.
No doubt that could be thinking so wishful it borders on delusion or, worse, code for “we’re not really all that interested in closing the gap anyway.” But it could also be a harbinger of real change.
“The framework isn’t meant to be compared to the achievement gap plan,” district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said. It’s “not about an array of new initiatives with a big price tag” but about focusing “on the day-to-day work of teaching and learning” and “what we know works.”

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 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 dichotomy that is Madison School Board Governance was on display this past week.
1. Board Member TJ Mertz, in light of the District’s plan to continue growing spending and property taxes for current programs, suggests that “fiscal indulgences“:

Tax expenditures are not tax cuts. Tax expenditures are socialism and corporate welfare. Tax expenditures are increases on anyone who does not receive the benefit or can’t hire a lobbyist…to manipulate the code to their favor.

be applied to certain school volunteers.
This proposal represents a continuation of the Districts’ decades long “same service” approach to governance, with declining academic results that spawned the rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.
2. Madison’s new Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham introduced her “Strategic Framework” at Wednesday’s Downtown Rotary Club meeting.
The Superintendent’s letter (jpg version) (within the “framework” document) to the Madison Community included this statement (word cloud):

Rather than present our educators with an ever-changing array of strategies, we will focus on what we know works and implement these strategies extremely well. While some of the work may seem familiar, having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district. This is what it takes to narrow and eliminate gaps in student achievement.

The Madison School Board’s letter (jpg version) to the community includes this statement:

Public education is under sustained attack, both in our state and across the nation. Initiatives like voucher expansion are premised on the notion that public schools are not up to the challenge of effectively educating diverse groups of students in urban settings.
We are out to prove that wrong. With Superintendent Cheatham, we agree that here in Madison all the ingredients are in place. Now it is up to us to show that we can serve as a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partnerships and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
Our Strategic Framework lays out a roadmap for our work. While some of the goals will seem familiar, what’s new is a clear and streamlined focus and a tangible and energizing sense of shared commitment to our common goals.
The bedrock of the plan is the recognition that learning takes place in the classroom in the interactions between teachers and students. The efforts of all of us – from school board members to everyone in the organization – should be directed toward enhancing the quality and effectiveness of those interactions.
There is much work ahead of us, and the results we are expecting will not arrive overnight. But with focus, shared effort and tenacity, we can transform each of our schools into thriving schools. As we do so, Madison will be the school district of choice in Dane County.

Madison School Board word cloud:

Related: North Carolina Ends Pay Boosts for Teacher Master’s Degrees; Tenure for elementary and high-school teachers also eliminated

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a budget bill Friday that eliminates teacher tenure and–in a rare move–gets rid of the automatic pay increase teachers receive for earning a master’s degree.
The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching.
Although a few other states have talked about doing away with the automatic pay increase for advanced degrees, experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.
The budget bill–which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week–also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.
It comes as states and districts across the country are revamping teacher evaluations, salaries and job security, and linking them more closely to student performance. These changes have been propelled, in part, by the Obama administration and GOP governors.

The challenge for Madison is moving away from long time governance structures and practices, including a heavy (157 page pdf & revised summary of changes) teacher union contract. Chris Rickert’s recent column on Madison’s healthcare practices provides a glimpse at the teacher – student expenditure tension as well.
Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary speech offers important background on Madison’s dichotomy:

“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).

“Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay”.

Health insurance changes a cure for what ails Madison schools budget?



Christ Rickert

The Madison School District won an historic concession from its teachers union over the last two years — the ability to require that teachers pay part of their health insurance premiums.
It came as the district was quickly extending union contracts before a law eliminating most collective bargaining rights took effect, and again while that law was held up in court.
But now as the district goes about crafting a 2013-14 budget that — among other cost-savings measures — reduces maintenance spending, freezes equipment budgets and includes no money for new efforts to close the district’s achievement gap, it doesn’t appear there’s much interest in implementing the concession.
The budget proposal from new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t subject teachers to health insurance premiums, and that’s fine with School Board President Ed Hughes.
“Because of our recent transitions, this was not the budget to take up significant changes to our structure of salary and benefits,” he said in an email. “I and other board members are looking forward to an in-depth review of salary and benefit levels as part of next year’s budget, when we’ll have the benefit of input from Jen Cheatham and (assistant superintendent for business services) Mike Barry, as well as from our affected teachers and staff. I’m sure that health insurance contributions will be part of that discussion.”
“Recent transitions” didn’t keep Cheatham from proposing changes to the district’s salary schedules, though.

Madison’s expensive approach to healthcare benefits are not a new subject.
Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 plans for spending and property tax increases, here.
Mr. Hughes in 2005

Public education innovation — if not from the place that needs it most

Chris Rickert:

It might seem strange that it’s an overwhelmingly white, middle-class school district about one-seventh the size of Madison’s that is considering a strategy that could narrow the kind of long-standing achievement gap Madison is becoming known for.
It’s not. Heavily influenced by its host city’s brand of establishment liberalism, the Madison School District isn’t known for tinkering much with the sacred cow that is traditional public education.
But should that change, school leaders might be wise to take a gander 11 miles south.
The Oregon School District has a task force to look into converting one of its three elementary schools, Netherwood Knoll, to a year-round calendar — something no other public school in Dane County has.
Spreading the standard 180-day school year out over 11 or 12 months is an intriguing idea given the well-documented “summer learning loss” phenomenon.
Even more to the point, summer learning loss is most apparent among low-income, often minority, students, and recent research has shown that year-round learning can be of most benefit to them.
New Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said through a spokeswoman that year-round school isn’t on the district’s radar.

Related: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay..

Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District has the money to improve low-income and minority student achievement but needs to reorganize its central administration to put more resources in the classroom, according to a group of local and national education experts who conducted a district review.
“We’re recommending the system turn on its head,” said Robert Peterkin, the former director of Harvard University’s Urban Superintendents Program who led the review team.
New Madison schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, a graduate of the Harvard program, organized the team of experts as part of her transition. She plans to consult their recommendations before releasing next month a set of specific strategies and 2013-14 budget proposal.
According to the team’s analysis, students need to be at the top of the “power pyramid” rather than district administration, with the focused goal of turning out graduates ready to attend college or start a career.
Central office administrators need to spend more time in the classroom and cut down on new programs that contribute to what teachers call “initiative fatigue.”
Principals should have more input into hiring a more diverse staff. Teachers need more focused professional development. And all district employees need specific goals that can be measured and used to hold them accountable.
Students also need “demand parents” who take an active role, not only in school bake sales and sports, but in understanding the curriculum and educational goals for their students.
“Resources even in this environment can be brought to bear from existing dollars to your more focused set of goals and activities, rather than supporting proliferation of those activities,” Peterkin told the Madison School Board on Monday night.
Cheatham said the review team had not taken a deep enough look at district finances to conclude that funding is available, but based on her assessment of the budget so far, she said the conclusion was “fairly accurate.”
“The recommendations from the transition team warrant a deep look at the central office organization and our allocation of resources,” she said.

The “Transition Team” Report (3MB PDF) and Superintendent Cheathem’s “Entry Plan” summary.
Related:
Madison’s disastrous long-term reading results.
Deja Vu: A Focus on “Adult Employment” or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.
Madison has long spent more per student than most districts. The most recent 2012-2013 budget, via a kind Donna Williams and Matthew DeFour email is $392,789,303 or $14,496.74 per student (27,095 students, including pre-k).

Entry Plan Report summarizes strengths, challenges, and planning efforts

Madison Times:

After two months on the job, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has released a report summarizing what she’s learned during her entry process and previewing the district’s planning work going forward.
“I’d like to thank our staff, parents, students and the Madison community for helping me build a shared understanding of our district’s strengths and challenges,” Cheatham said. “The work ahead will take urgency, determination and tenacity, but my experience over the past two months has made me so confident because I know that all of the ingredients for success are here in Madison.”
Over the past two months, Superintendent Cheatham has visited all 48 MMSD schools, as well as several after-school programs, alternative programs, community early childhood care and education centers, and the district’s alternative high school. Each visit included a meeting with teachers and staff, classroom observations and a meeting with the principal and members of their leadership team. In high schools, visits also included discussions with students and culminated in community meetings. The superintendent also met with parents, elected officials, community leaders, university partners, religious leaders, business leaders and union leaders.

Much more, here.

The family of Mann Scholars continues to grow, achieve

A. David Dahmer:

The Mann Scholars Ceremony was celebrated at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery Town Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus June 7.
“It’s a thrill to welcome you all here today to celebrate our new Mann Scholars and our graduating seniors,” said Madison Metropolitan School District Partnerships Coordinator Kathy Price. “The Madison Board of Education and our new [MMSD] Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham are extending their warmest wishes to you tonight and their sincere congratulations. For the Madison District, the Mann Scholars program represents one of our premiere collaboration of family, school, and community partners. This is one that has served as a model for additional scholarship programs that have been launched including the Sanchez Scholars and our the newest scholarship that we have launched — the Reading Recovery Scholarship Program.”
The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund is a scholarship that honors the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time African American residents of Madison whose strong belief in education helped ensure the graduation of their five children from Madison Memorial High School and later from universities. The Mann Program’s goal is to provide mentoring and educational tools to students from the Madison Metropolitan School District who show potential for academic achievement but face significant challenges to reaching their full potential.
Mann Scholars are picked every year based on their academic promise, their motivation, their financial need, and the willingness of their families to encourage participation in enrichment activities. They are primarily, but not exclusively, students of color.

Madison Superintendent’s “Entry Process Report”



Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

Strengths
Overall Themes
Quality of teachers, principals, and central office staff: By and large, we have quality teachers, principals, support staff and central office staff who are committed to working hard on behalf of the children of Madison. With clarity of focus, support, and accountability, these dedicated educators will be able to serve our students incredibly well.
Commitment to action: Across the community and within schools, there is not only support for public education, but there is also an honest recognition of our challenges and an urgency to address them. While alarming gaps in student achievement exist, our community has communicated a willingness to change and a commitment to action.
Positive behavior: District-wide efforts to implement an approach to positive student behavior are clearly paying off. Student behavior is very good across the vast majority of schools and classrooms. Most students are safe and supported, which sets the stage for raising the bar for all students academically.
Promising practices: The district has some promising programs in place to challenge students academically, like our AVID/TOPS program at the middle and high school levels, the one-to-one iPad programs in several of our elementary schools, and our Dual Language Immersion programs. The district also does an incredibly successful job of inclusion and support of students with special needs. Generally, I’ve observed some of the most joyful and challenging learning environments I’ve ever seen.
Well-rounded education: Finally, the district offers a high level of access to the arts, sports, world language and other enriching activities that provide students with a well- rounded learning experience. This is a strength on which we can build.
“AVID is totally paying off. Kids, staff, everyone is excited about what it has brought to the school.” – Staff member
“Positive Behavior Support has made a dramatic improvement in teaching and the behavior expected. We’ve seen big changes in kids knowing what is expected and in us having consistent, schoolwide expectations”
– Staff member
Challenges
Focus: Principals, teachers and students have been experiencing an ever-changing and expanding set of priorities that make it difficult for them to focus on the day-to-day work of knowing every child well and planning instruction accordingly. If we are going to be successful, we need to be focused on a clear set of priorities aimed at measurable goals, and we need to sustain this focus over time.
“One of the strengths of MMSD is that we will try anything. The problem is that we opt out just as easily as we opt in. We don’t wait to see what things can really do.”
– Staff member
Coherence: In order for students to be successful, they need
to experience an education that leads them from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade, systematically and seamlessly preparing them for graduation and postsecondary education. We’ve struggled to provide our teachers with the right tools, resources and support to ensure that coherence for every child.
Personalized Learning: We need to work harder than ever to keep students engaged through a relevant and personalized education at the middle and high school levels. We’ve struggled to ensure that all students have an educational experience that gives them a glimpse of the bright futures. Personalized learning also requires increased access to and integrated use of technology.
Priority Areas
To capture as many voices as accurately as possible, my entry plan included a uniquely comprehensive analysis process. Notes from more than 100 meetings, along with other handouts, emails, and resources, were analyzed and coded for themes by Research & Program Evaluation staff. This data has been used to provide weekly updates to district leadership, content for this report and information to fuel the internal planning process that follows these visits.
The listening and learning phase has led us to five major areas to focus our work going forward. Over the next month, we’ll dive deeper into each of these areas to define the work, the action we need to take and how we’ll measure our progress. The following pages outline our priorities, what we learned to guide us to these priorities and where we’ll focus our planning in the coming month.

Matthew DeFour collects a few comments, here.
Much more on Madison’s new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, here.

“We have every ingredient here (Madison) to be successful”

A. David Dahmer:

“I definitely see myself as being a highly accessible superintendent. Every person I meet, they’re getting my contact information,” says new Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. “I’m easy to find and very open to hearing from everyone. [I’m] not just open, but seeking out those opportunities [to interact].”
Cheatham, who was recently the chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, started her job as MMSD superintendent on April 1 and is in the midst of a structured 90-day entry plan that includes three phrases — transitioning, listening and learning, and planning. In the coming months, she will be gathering community input and developing a multi-year strategy with measurable goals.
“I want authentic opportunities to talk with the people that we serve –parents, community members, families,” Cheatham tells The Madison Times from her office in the Doyle Administration Building in downtown Madison. “What are less important to me are opportunities for people to just hear me talk like at public appearances. I will do them on occasion, because I want to get the word out on what we’re up to in response to what I’m hearing from people. But I really want to know what people are thinking and feeling. I’m really seeking out those two-way conservations during my entry phase.”
Cheatham is currently in the listening and learning phase where she is meeting with a variety of stakeholders to discuss the district’s goals and to better understand the district’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. This phase is critical in that it will be the time period in which she hears broadly from students, teachers, staff, principals, parents, community members, and others.
Cheatham is in the process of holding four “community days” (see sidebar below) as part of her ongoing entry plan. The first one was held April 18 at Madison East High School. The community day includes meetings with teachers and staff, discussions with students, a student-led tour, a neighborhood walk, and a forum for parents and community members. “Over the next couple of months, I want to learn more about and fine tune a strategy on how we can get parents more involved with the students,” Cheatham says. “I want to learn more about how parents have engaged in the past — what has worked and what hasn’t worked. I’m not quite sure what our strategy is going to be yet, but I know that we’re going to need one.”
Cheatham has visited 14 schools in a little over 2 weeks, and is planning on keeping up that pace.
“I’ve had some really substantial visits to schools — not just meet and greets. I’ve been really pleased with the honesty and frankness of those conversations with teachers, staff, and principals,” Cheatham says. “On the positive side, I’m learning that there are extremely committed people in the district. The quality of principals, by and large, has been strong. I’ve talked to teachers and seen them in action in their classrooms and have been pretty pleased with what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the willingness to do the hard work it will take to address our challenges.”

Madison Schools Graduation Rate Update for Class of 2012

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

his report presents high school graduation rates for the Madison Metropolitan School District. For additional information on graduation rates, see the Appendix.
For this report, we focus on a cohort of students expected to graduate at the end of the 2011-12 school year. For additional context and to track changes over time, we provide a three-year history for some measures. This report uses publicly available data from Wisconsin’s Information Network for Successful Schools (WINSS). Additional data is available
through http://winss.dpi.wi.gov/. Key findings include the following:
1. Overall graduation rates improved almost one percent from 2011 to 2012, from 73.7% to 74.6%.
2. African American and Hispanic students have improved their graduation rates by five percent and almost seven percent over the last three years.
3. Graduation rates for students with Limited English Proficiency have improved about four percent over the last three years.
4. MMSD high schools have similar graduation rates, ranging between 74.7% and 82.8%.

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

Pat Schnieder:

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

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

Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes



Steve Hartley, Madison Schools Chief of Staff:

Attached is a spreadsheet listing questions received from BOE members to date and some of our responses. Over the course of the next two months, we will continue to collect your questions and respond at both Operational Support and Regular Board meetings.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

The draft budget included several new positions for the Board’s consideration. After refining and prioritizing with staff and vetting with principals, we are only asking for approval of two essential positions at this point. The position changes represent a savings of just over $2 million from the draft budget.
As we prepare for next year, we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction. We must also be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by reducing the impact of our budget.
To get to these recommendations, we conducted a rigorous examination of positions funded in the draft budget to decide what we believe is absolutely necessary right now. Much of the work we need to do next year is about improving the systems and structures for how we serve students, not adding additional resources. It will be critical going forward that we narrow our focus to the strategies that we know work, implement them well and sustain the focus over time.
So far, we have only considered the position decisions that we need the Board to approve. Over the next two months, we will continue to work through the draft budget in order to reduce the tax impact and align with our efforts for next year. Also, we have only reviewed positions based on the draft budget. Next year, we plan to engage in a more thorough, zero-based budgeting process.
Position Additions from Draft Budget that are No Longer Recommended
There are several positions included in the draft budget that we are no longer recommending at this point. In looking at specific positions, we considered our ability to carry out necessary work through more efficient systems and in some cases, the need to pause and re-consider our approach.
With that in mind, we are no longer recommending going forward with the following position additions that were included in the draft budget. Because these were new positions in the draft budget, they do not have staff in them currently and do not require any layoffs.
Mental Health Coordinator: Through redistribution of work in student services, we will be able to provide support to implementation of the Mental Health Task Force’s work.
Safety Coordinator: We will continue to coordinate efforts across the organization to ensure safety.

Perhaps a positive sign “we must keep our efforts and resources focused on providing supports to schools to improve instruction”. Reading is surely job one, as the District’s long term disastrous reading scores illustrate.

March, 2013 Madison Schools’ financial reports (PDF).
Related: 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.
Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words.

Commentary on Madison’s 2012 WKCE Results

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

This report includes data from the Fall 2012 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). In this report, we focus on reading and math scores. Students in grades 4, 8, and 10 also take Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts tests, but these tests are not used for school accountability in the same manner as Reading and Math tests and are not aligned to the new rigorous standards, so they are not directly comparable.
This year, WKCE results reflect the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards in that DPI has adjusted the cut scores for each performance level to reflect higher expectations for student proficiency. As a result, MMSD’s scores (and scores for every district in the state) look very different from prior years.
1. The new cut scores can be applied to last year’s scores to provide a more meaningful year-to-year comparison. Scores have remained roughly unchanged from last year when the same scale is used.
2. Achievement gaps between subgroups of students exist across grades and locations and show few signs of either increasing or decreasing.
3. Scores showed some changes from last year at the building level, but these changes were mostly small.
4. Schools with more students scoring “Advanced” in Fall 2011 faced smaller negative impacts from the new performance cut scores.
In addition, overall proficiency rates in MMSD are close to state averages. Asian and White students in MMSD significantly outperform the state averages for their racial groups in both Reading and Math. In addition, large achievement gaps exist statewide as well as within MMSD.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

“But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

A reporter recently asked me how often I planned to meet with Madisons’ new school Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham.
I do not know and frankly, I am wondering why it matters.
How often we meet will be driven by a number of yet to be determined factors. And more important than how often we meet, is the matter of improved performance for Madison school children.
It is the difference between outputs and outcomes. The number of miles of street we plow is an output, the measurement of the quality of the job is an outcome. The number of teenagers who attend a class on abstinence or receive condoms is an output, the number of teenage pregnancies is an outcome.
We need to focus on outcomes. We need to measure performance and ensure that educational attainment improves.
How often Superintendent Cheatham and I meet will be determined by the agenda, the role of our respective staffs, and other factors.
It is possible that we may find regular quarterly meetings too frequent, we may find that monthly meetings are not frequent enough. We don’t know yet. But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings.

Much more on Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, here.
Refreshing.

State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action

The Madison Urban League, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2013
Media contact: Kaleem Caire
kcaire@ulgm.org
608.729.1249
Click Here for Urban League’s 2013-14 Agenda
State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action
Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released students’ results on the annual statewide achievement test, Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The results confirm concerns raised by the Urban League of Greater Madison, that disadvantaged students and students of color are severely underperforming in many of Wisconsin’s public schools, particularly in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
All Wisconsin public school students completed the test in November 2012. This revised test raised the standards of performance for all students, thereby providing a more accurate picture of students who are on track to graduate from high school academically ready to succeed in college or a career. Test results show that all students, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or disability, are struggling to achieve to high standards in Madison-area public schools.
This afternoon, the Urban League of Greater Madison joined Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, and leaders of other community organizations, at a press conference where Cheatham shared MMSD’s results. Cheatham presented data showing that an astounding 92% of African American and 85% of Latino students are reading below their grade level, and 90% of African American and 77% of Latino children are failing in mathematics. The data further showed that a large percentage of white students have fallen behind as well, with 42% are reading below grade level and 33% failing in math.
In reflecting on the scores, Darrell Bazzell, the Chair of Urban League’s Board of Directors said, “These numbers are a stark message that Madison’s public schools are at a tipping point and that our community must embrace change. The implications for our region are profound. For the sake of our community and our children, Madison can, and must, do better for all students and families.”
Bazzell further stated that, “Every citizen in our community must say that ‘we will no longer harbor these gaps; that we accept responsibility for addressing these challenges; and that we will commit to doing all that we can to ensure all of our children succeed. We must also acknowledge where we are not succeeding and commit to change in smart, innovative and effective ways that lead to real progress for our kids’.”
In response to these troubling statistics, Urban League President and CEO, Kaleem Caire, shared that, “When 90% of Black children cannot read at their grade level, we are significantly reducing the possibility of success for an entire generation. This issue negatively affects not only this generation of children, but also the vitality of our entire region. If not addressed quickly, it will affect the quality of the lives of all citizens who call Madison home.” To address these challenges, Caire said “The Urban League is working to build a pipeline of high quality cradle to career educational and employment services that positively impact the entire family, move all children towards high performance, and prepare youth and adults for career success.” He further highlighted, “We have already begun working with the Madison Schools, other area school districts, employers and community partners to ensure that we attack the persistence of underachievement and other contributing factors, such as poverty, at its core. ”
The Urban League’s 2013-14 Strategic Plan creates opportunities that will help the community overcome these challenges. Caire enthusiastically shared that, “We are a community of great people, great teachers and great families who are passionate about helping others transform their lives. But our passion now must become our reality.”
About the Urban League of Greater Madison
The Urban League of Greater Madison’s mission is to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good in the 21st Century. We are committed to transforming Greater Madison into the Best [place] in the Midwest for everyone to live, learn, and work. We are working to make this vision a reality through a comprehensive strategic empowerment agenda that includes programs & services, advocacy, and partnerships & coalition building. www.ulgm.org
Urban League of Greater Madison | 2222 S. Park Street | Suite 200 | Madison | WI | 53713

Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school
Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.
The recently released WKCE results.

2012-13 MMSD WKCE Results


Tap or click to view a larger version.

Higher bar for WKCE results paints different picture of student achievement
Matt DeFour
Wisconsin student test scores released Tuesday look very different than they did a year ago, though not because of any major shift in student performance.
Similar to recent years, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results show gains in math and reading over the past five years, a persistent and growing performance gap between black and white students, and Milwaukee and Racine public school students outperforming their peers in the private school voucher program.
But the biggest difference is the scores reflect a higher bar for what students in each grade level should know and be able to do.
Only 36.2 percent of students who took the reading test last October met the new proficiency bar. Fewer than half, 48.1 percent, of students were proficient in math. When 2011-12 results were released last spring, those figures were both closer to 80 percent.
The change doesn’t reflect a precipitous drop in student test scores. The average scores in reading and math are about the same as last year for each grade level.
Instead, the change reflects a more rigorous standard for proficiency similar to what is used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is administered to a sample of students in each state every other year and is referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
The state agreed to raise the proficiency benchmark in math and reading last year in order to qualify for a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The benchmark did not rise for the language arts, science and social studies tests.
“Adjusting to higher expectations will take time and effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said. “But these are necessary changes that will ultimately help our schools better prepare all students to be college and career ready and link with work being done throughout the state to implement new standards.”
Evers also called on the Legislature to include private voucher schools in the state’s new accountability system.
He highlighted that test scores for all Milwaukee and Racine students need to improve. Among Milwaukee voucher students, 10.8 percent in reading and 11.9 percent in math scored proficient or better. Among Milwaukee public school students, it was 14.2 percent in reading and 19.7 percent in math.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program, including to such districts as Madison.
Changes in Dane County
The state previously announced how the changing bar would affect scores statewide and parents have seen their own students’ results in recent weeks, but the new figures for the first time show the impact on entire schools and districts.
In Dane County school districts, the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the test dropped on average by 42 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.
Madison schools had one of the smallest drops compared to its neighboring districts.
Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham noted schools with a higher number of students scoring in the “advanced” category experienced less of a drop. Madison’s smaller drop could reflect a higher proportion of students scoring in the top tier.
At the same time, Madison didn’t narrow the gap between minority and white student test results. Only 9 percent of black sixth-graders and only 2 percent of sixth-grade English language learners scored proficient in reading.
“It reinforces the importance of our work in the years ahead,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to work on accelerating student outcomes.”
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she hasn’t heard many complaints from parents whose students suddenly dropped a tier on the test. Like Madison and other districts across the state, Middleton-Cross Plains sent home letters bracing parents for the change.
But Lindgren fears the changing standards come at the worst time for public schools, which have faced tougher scrutiny and reduced state support.
“I’m glad that the standards have been raised by the state, because they were low, but this interim year, hopefully people won’t panic too much,” Lindgren said. “The public has been sold on the idea that we’re failing in our education system, and I just don’t believe that’s true.”
Next fall will be the last year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take the paper-and-pencil WKCE math and reading tests. Wisconsin is part of a coalition of states planning to administer a new computer-based test in the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed state budget also provides for students in grades 9-11 to take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT college and career readiness tests in future years.

Superintendent Cheatham is to be commended for her informed, intelligent and honest reaction to the MMSD’s results when compared to those of neighboring districts.
View a WKCE summary here (PDF).

Commentary on the Madison School District’s Floated 7.36% Property Tax Increase

Matthew DeFour

Madison School District property taxes for 2013 could increase 7.4 percent under budget recommendations being presented Monday to the Madison School Board.
That would be the biggest percent increase in the district’s property tax levy in a decade. Taxes on an average Madison home valued at $230,831 would total $2,855, a $182 increase from last year.
However, district officials cautioned the numbers likely will change once the state budget is finalized and new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham conducts a review of the district.
“Before I can feel comfortable recommending a tax increase I would want to make sure that every dollar is spent effectively and I can feel confident that the funds that we’re investing are going to pay off for students,” Cheatham said.

David Blaska

Did you get a 7.4% pay raise this year? State employees have forgone a pay raise the last couple years. They had to reach in their pockets to pay new health insurance and pension co-pays. Annuitants covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System have been treading water since 2009. Those who retired nine or more years ago are facing a 9.6% reduction in their pensions. Many of those, ironically, are retired teachers.
Yet the Madison School Board proposes a 1.5% across-the-board pay increase. Actually, reporter DeFour underreported the proposed pay increase. Add another 1% for the “step” increases to account for longevity to equal a 2.5% increase. Almost uniquely among taxpayer-supported employees these days, the district’s teachers still would pay nothing toward their generous health insurance benefits. Job security is nearly guaranteed. Meanwhile, the district acts as bagman for union boss John Matthews, deducting dues from teacher paychecks.
Can we expect the district to end that statutorily forbidden practice when the current contract expires after this June? Let’s hope so, unless the district hides behind Dane County Judge Juan Colas’ Act 10 ruling.
What would get the axe? Parent-teacher conferences. So much for addressing the achievement gap.

Related: 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.

Madison’s Sherman Middle School to drop French 1 class

Pat Schneider:

The way Principal Michael Hernandez tells it, something had to go.
Hernandez decided that at Sherman Middle School, it will be French class.
With a renewed emphasis on curriculum basics in the Madison School District, the need at Sherman to double-down on math skills, and a scheduled expansion there of the AVID program that prepares low-income minority kids for college, Hernandez figures the north-side middle school will need to drop its second “world language” offering next year.
French 2 will continue for seventh-graders who took French 1 this year. The school’s Spanish-language program — including three sections of dual-language instruction — also will continue.
“Unfortunately, there are tough decisions we have to make,” Hernandez told me. “With budget cuts, I can’t have a class with only approximately seven students, when I could use that (staff) allocation for a math intervention class.”
Principals will be developing these kinds of adjustments around the margins to prepare for the 2013-2014 school year as district officials begin work on the budget and schools get projections on how many staff members they will have.
School Board members on Monday will receive a “budget briefing” instead of fleshed-out budget proposal. Penciled in is $392,807,993 in district-wide spending next school year, down a fraction from this year.
The scaled-down budget proposal is due to the uncertain prospects of a controversial proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget to shift aid and expand vouchers to Madison and eight other school districts — at a projected cost of more than $800,000 to the Madison public schools. In addition, new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham just came on the job three weeks ago and is not prepared yet to present a detailed budget.

Related: 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.

Deja Vu? Education Experts to Review the Madison School District

The Madison School District:

Superintendent’s Teaching and Learning Transition Team to Begin Work This Week
A group of national and local education experts will support Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s entry plan work, the district announced today. The Superintendent’s Teaching and Learning Transition Team will begin work this week.
“Instruction and leadership are critical components of systemic improvement,” Superintendent Cheatham said. “This team of local and national practitioners will join district and school staff in assessing and analyzing strengths, areas of opportunities and priorities for improving teaching and learning in Madison schools.”
The eight member team brings together education experts from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as educational practitioners from other urban school districts.
“We are fortunate to have access to national experts with a wide range of expertise from standards based instruction and leadership development, to bilingual and special education, to family and community involvement,” Cheatham said. “This team will help to deepen and strengthen my ongoing understanding of the strengths and challenges of our district. Their national perspective, coupled with the local perspective shared by principals, staff, parents and community members, will support us in narrowing our focus to only the most high leverage strategies for ensuring every student is college and career ready.”
The team, which was selected by the superintendent and will be funded through community and private foundations, will be chaired by Dr. Robert Peterkin, Professor Emeritus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and includes: Maree Sneed, partner at Hogan and Lovells US LLC; John Diamond, sociologist of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Sheila Brown, Co-Director at the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program; Allan Odden, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Peterburs, Executive Director of Quarles & Brady; Wilma Valero, Coordinator for English Language Learner Programs in Elgin, Il; and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As Superintendent Cheatham continues the listening and learning phase of her entry plan, the Teaching and Learning Transition Team will also meet with central office leaders, conduct focus groups with teachers, principals, and parents as needed, and review a variety of relevant data.
At the end of their work, the team will present the superintendent with a report of what they have learned and recommendations for moving forward systemically with best practices. That report will be used, along with data collected by the superintendent in school visits and other entry plan activities, to refine the district’s goals and strategic priorities.

Related:

  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2001 (additional background here)
    Updated Strategic Plan Results in Priority Action Teams
    Five Strategic Priority Action Teams, centered around the most critical challenges facing the Madison Metropolitan School District, are among the outcomes of the recently-completed strategic plan.
    “The immediate and emerging challenges facing the district are addressed in our revitalized strategic plan,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater, “and the Action Teams are focused on five important priorities for us.”
    The five strategic priorities are:
    Instructional Excellence – improving student achievement; offering challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction
    Student Support – assuring a safe, respectful and welcoming learning environment
    Staff Effectiveness – recruiting, developing and retaining a highly competent workforce that reflects the diversity of our students
    Home and Community Partnerships – strengthening community and family partnerships and communication
    Fiscal Responsibility – using resources efficiently and strategically
    The five Strategic Priority Action Teams, one for each of the five priorities, are taking on the responsibility for continuous improvement toward “their” priority.
    The Action Teams, which will have both staff members and non-staff members, will be responsible for existing initiatives. In addition they will identify and recommend benchmarks to use in assessing school district performance.
    “We have a huge number of initiatives,” said Rainwater. “This strategic plan gives us a systemic approach to change, so that every initiative, everything we do, leads us to these established goals. I believe it is critical to our district’s success that we follow this strategic plan and use it as a decision filter against which we measure our activities.”
    Two other outcomes from the updated strategic plan are:
    a set of beliefs about children, families, enhanced learning, and the quality of life and learning, all of which are integrated with an identified District vision and mission.
    improved cost efficiency and effectiveness of many central office functions, which are being addressed on an ongoing basis.
    Madison Schools’ initial strategic plan came about in 1991, and provided direction until this update.
    “As a result of this project,” said Rainwater, “all of us who are stakeholders — parents, students, teachers and staff, administrators and community members — will share a renewed sense of clarity, while seeing an ever-more efficient deployment of resources.”
    You can see the complete strategic plan on the district’s Web site: http://www.mmsd.org.

  • Teachers Dispute District Standards: Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s Biggest Goals have become caught up in the contract battle with Madison Teachers.:

    Amid the picket signs Madison teachers carried at a rally last month protesting slow-moving contract talks, some teachers also carried a bright purple flier.
    On one side was written the heading “standards and benchmarks.” On the other, “Dimensions of Learning.” Beneath each, and filling the entire page, was one uninterrupted string of text: “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. . . .”
    While hardly erudite — some would call it juvenile — the flier expressed the sentiment many teachers have toward two of Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte’s biggest initiatives: the effort to create districtwide academic standards, and the teacher-training program that goes along with it.
    Neither issue is a subject of bargaining. But the programs have become a sort of catch-all target for teachers who blame Wilhoyte for everything from the poor state of labor-management relations to the current contract impasse.
    Wilhoyte, who was hired in part to implement the district’s 1991 strategic plan, including establishing rigorous standards, says carrying out that plan is central to the compact she has with the …

  • The 2009 update to Madison’s “Strategic Planning Process“.
  • Madison’s 2012-2013 $392,000,000 budget (just under $15k per student)
  • Madison’s long term disastrous reading results
  • The Madison school district’s recent “achievement gap and accountability plan“.
  • The Capital Times (9.21.1992):

    Wilhoyte, on the other hand, has demonstrated that she is a tough, hands-on administrator in her role as assistant superintendent for instruction and school administration in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. And even those who have tangled with her praise her philosophy, which is to put kids first.
    She has been a leader in Maryland in shaking up the educational status quo, of moving it forward to meeat the needs of the children, even while juggling new programs with budget cuts. The big question remaining about her: She has never been a superintendent. How would she handle the top job?

  • Retiring Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary club.
  • Madison Teachers, Inc. on the Madison Schools 2000 “Participatory Management”
  • Notes and links on recent Madison Superintendent hires”

Matthew DeFour summarizes and collects some feedback on the District’s press release here. It would be useful to dig into the archives and review the various strategic plans and initiatives over the years and compare the words and spending with results.
Deja vu.

Madison’s New Superintendent on Madison, Politics & Distractions

Pat Schneider:

You’ll find Jennifer Cheatham, new superintendent of the Madison School District, at the Capitol Wednesday when local education officials talk about how Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would hurt Dane County schools.
But don’t expect her to be spending much time making political statements, Cheatham told me and other staff members of the Cap Times Tuesday. Too much focus on politics would distract her from her work in the Madison schools, she said.
“I think my major role is to work on improving schools in Madison. That’s why I was hired and I need to remain focused on that,” Cheatham said. “But I do think there are times it is important for me to voice my opinion on behalf of the school district on state issues.”
That includes the Walker education budget.
Cheatham is scheduled to be on hand at noon Wednesday when School Board members, superintendents, parents and other advocates from around Dane County talk about the impact of Walker’s education proposals in Room 411, the large Senate meeting room.
The Madison School Board has already actively lobbied against the Walker budget, urging local legislators not to support a plan that is “bad for our students, our taxpayers and the future of public education.”
Board members say expanding vouchers into Madison, as Walker has proposed, is a particularly bad idea. They note there’s no consistent evidence that kids using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools do better academically, and they say that funding vouchers is likely to raise local property taxes.
It’s not just school officials who are weighing in on the highly politicized issue of school vouchers. The Madison City Council passed a resolution last month, sponsored by all 20 members, opposing expansion of vouchers to Madison. The Dane County Board is considering a similar resolution.

Reading has been job one for quite some time, unfortunately.
Right to read lawsuit filed in Michigan.

Chicago’s public schools are in shutdown mode

David Blaska:

May explain why former Chicago schools administrator Jennifer Cheatham sought greater opportunities here in Madison. The Chicago school system is closing 61 school buildings to address a $1 billion deficit; 140 of its 681 schools are at least half-empty. (More about that here.)
Might not a tiny voice be whispering to Fighting Ed Garvey, John Nichols, Jeff Simpson, the UW School of Education, and other bitter-enders that perhaps the Chicago teachers union bears some responsibility for a) the financial deficit and b) the flight of students out of the public schools? It was, after all, the Chicago teachers union that walked out on students last September to fight performance measures and a longer school day.
Fighting Ed Garvey is not a stupid man. But he does suffer from labor union fixation disorder. Visit his blog on that subject today and tell me if Ed doesn’t remind you of the guy stocking up on matches as his house burns down. Bad schools are how cities die.

Wisconsin State Journal Madison School Board Endorsements

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board interviewed — in person — 20 candidates for the City Council and four for Madison School Board. Every candidate deserves praise for giving voters a choice.
Yet the candidates pictured below are best prepared to tackle local challenges, including a dismal graduation rate for minority students and the need for a stronger economy and more jobs.
Seat 3
Wayne Strong will bring urgency to narrowing the achievement gap for minority students in Madison schools, while insisting on high standards for all. A father of two Madison graduates and an active community volunteer, Strong served on the strategic committee that prioritized the gap for action. Strong promises more accountability for results, starting with the new superintendent. He also wants to improve the school climate for minority families to encourage more involvement. A retired police officer, he’s well versed on effective strategies for reducing conflicts in schools that often lead to suspensions — “the genesis of the problem.” Strong’s opponent, Dean Loumos, is impressive, too. But Strong seems more willing to try new strategies for success.
Seat 4
James Howard likes to focus on school data to inform board decisions, rather than relying on assumptions or bowing to political pressure. The longtime economist and father of Madison students doesn’t go along to get along. Yet his peers elected him board president, and he played a big role in hiring incoming Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. Howard expects action toward better results for struggling students. He wants to hire more minority educators and let key staff work flexible hours to better engage parents. Unlike his opponent, Greg Packnett, Howard cites concern for the burden property taxes place on older homeowners. A legislative aide at the Capitol, Packnett shows promise. But Howard’s experience makes him the clear choice.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison superintendent consultant defends search process

Matthew DeFour:

The consultant the Madison School Board hired to conduct its recent superintendent search defended its work in a statement Thursday, saying that the district hired “a top-notch leader” and that the company provided the board with detailed background information about all candidates.
The statement from Gary Ray, president of Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which the board hired for $31,000, comes more than a month after the district hired Jennifer Cheatham, a Chicago Public Schools administrator who will start April 1.
It says the company provided the board “with all of the Internet information” regarding Springfield, Ill., superintendent Walter Milton Jr. before he was named with Cheatham as a finalist for the job on Feb. 3 and said reports to the contrary are “totally erroneous.”
Ray also issued a statement on Madison School Board letterhead dated Feb. 11 stating, “Ray and Associates did make the board aware of earlier allegations about Dr. Milton as well as Dr. Milton’s assurances that the claims were unfounded.”

Secrecy in school superintendent search was bad public policy

Bill Lueders:

The secrecy that attended the Madison School District’s pick of a new superintendent was bad form and bad public policy.
Prior to making its selection, the district announced just two finalists, one of whom was found to have a closet full of skeletons that prompted his withdrawal. The remaining finalist, Jennifer Cheatham, got the job.
State law requires that at least the top five contenders for such a position be named, but does not specify when. The Madison School District decided to do so after it was too late to matter.
And then, to add insult to injury, the district’s lawyer, Dylan Pauly, dissed the disclosure law that the district complied with only belatedly.
“We believe that by releasing these names, pursuant to our legal obligation, we are negatively contributing to the chilling effect that is occurring across the state with respect to school boards’ abilities to recruit and hire highly qualified individuals as superintendents,” she wrote.

A bit of history on Madison Superintendents. I fully agree with Lueders. I continue to be astonished at the ongoing lack of transparency in such public matters, from the local School District’s Superintendent search to the seemingly simple question of American citizen’s constitutional due process rights (is this being taught?)

Barbara Thompson Did Not Make the Madison School Board’s Final Two Superintendent Candidate Beauty Contest

I applaud the Wisconsin State Journal’s efforts to dig deeper into the Madison Superintendent search process. A kind reader pointed out to me how “shocking” it is that Barbara Thompson was NOT one of the two finalists.
The Madison School Board named these two finalists:

Jennifer Cheatham – apparently selected.
Walter Milton, Jr. – withdrew under a cloud of controversy.
from a larger group that included:

  • Joe Gothard, Madison’s assistant superintendent for secondary education.
  • Barbara Thompson, a former Madison principal and New Glarus superintendent who is currently superintendent in Montgomery, Ala.
  • Tony Apostle, a retired superintendent from the Puyallup School District near Tacoma, Wash.
  • Curtis Cain, administrator of the Shawnee Mission School District near Kansas City, Mo.
  • Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County Schools in Eagle, Colo.

Change is the Only Path to Better Schools

Chris Rickert:

Shortly after Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad resigned last year, School Board member Ed Hughes told me that when it comes to the Madison School District, “People want improvement, but they don’t want change.”
I thought about Hughes’ words last weekend after the school district announced it had hired Chicago Public Schools chief of instruction Jennifer Cheatham as Nerad’s replacement.
Cheatham is seen as the best bet for improvement — specifically to the long history of low-income and minority student under-achievement.
The question now is: Will people tolerate her changes?
Hughes told me Sunday he was “optimistic” they would. “I think she will earn teachers’ trust and inspire them to do their best work,” he said. “If she succeeds at that, everything else will fall into place.”
I hope he’s right, but I don’t yet share his optimism.
Back in 2011, it was the district’s long-standing inability to do anything bold about the achievement gap that left it vulnerable to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s bid to open its own charter school for minority and low-income students.
Madison Preparatory Academy brought the issue of the achievement gap to the fore. But the school’s rejection — largely due to opposition from the teachers union — left notoriously progressive Madison doing some uncomfortable soul-searching.

Related: And so it continues…..

And, so it continues



Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Leadership comes in different shapes and sizes. After spending time with 41-year-old Jen Cheatham and attending the community forum on Thursday, I kept thinking back to the winter day 23 years ago when 43-year-old Barry Alvarez was introduced to the Madison community and made his memorable statement about how fans interested in season tickets better get them now because they’d soon be hard to get.
Like Cheatham, Alvarez was an outsider, a rising star in a major program who was ready to take the reins of his own program and run with it. That certainly did not guarantee success, but he proved to have that rare and ineluctable something that inspired his players to raise their game, that drove them to succeed as a team because they couldn’t bear to let their coach or teammates down.
As with Barry, so with Jen. For those of us who have been able to spend time with Jen Cheatham and talk to her about her vision for our Madison schools, it is clear that whatever leadership is, she has it. What we heard time and again from those she’s worked with is that Jen is able to inspire principals and teachers to do their best possible work for the students they serve. But also like Alvarez, she’s doesn’t shy away from tough decisions when they’re necessary.

Related: Madison’s third grade reading results:

“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 School Board Needs to Address Search Fiasco:

That being the case, Cheatham would come to this position in a difficult circumstance. As Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, told the State Journal: “The perception of people in this community when we have one pick, they will always question the value of this woman. That’s not fair to her and not fair to our kids.”
The School Board has presided over a fiasco that board member Ed Hughes admits — in a major understatement — “has not gone as smoothly as we’d like.”
Now the board needs to get its act together.
If would be good if the board were to seek the return of the more than $30,000 in taxpayer money that was allocated for what can only charitably be referred to as a “search.” However, we don’t want the board to squander more tax money on extended legal wrangling.
The board should make it clear that it will not have further dealings with this search firm, as the firm’s vetting of applicants does not meet the basic standards that a responsible board should expect.
Perhaps most importantly, the board should engage in a serious rethink of its approach to searches for top administrators. The Madison Metropolitan School District is a great urban school district. It has challenges, especially with regard to achievement gaps and the overuse of standardized testing, that must be addressed.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman – August, 2009

“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.”

Urban League Strongly Supports the Decision on Madison Superintendent

Madison Urban League, via a kind email:

The Urban League of Greater Madison strongly supports the Madison School Board’s decision to hire Dr. Jennifer Cheatham to serve as the next Superintendent of Schools of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Dr. Cheatham’s strong background in teacher quality, teacher evaluation, instructional leadership and organizing school system functions and operations around the educational and developmental needs of young people will be great assets for Madison’s public schools.
Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League shared that, “Dr. Cheatham’s experience as a leader of teachers and her strong focus on improving instruction, implementing a rigorous curriculum for all students, ensuring teachers build strong and motivating relationships with children, and using data to inform teaching represent the core of what our school system needs right now.” Caire further stated that, “The Urban League believes that children in Madison deserve world class leadership, world class teachers and world class schools. Dr. Cheatham’s history and track record show that she shares a common belief in these ideals and what it takes to get there. We look forward to supporting her transition and welcoming her and her family to Madison.”
The Urban League is presently partnering with the Madison Metropolitan School District on the recruitment of high quality teachers and professional staff, preparing high school juniors and seniors for the ACT college entrance exam, and engaging parents of color in the work and decision-making of the school system. The Urban League also launched the Urban League Scholars Academy in January 2013 at Sennett and Toki Middle Schools, a program that extends the instructional day for 6th graders by 80 minutes in reading/language arts and mathematics. The League also operates the Schools of Hope tutoring program at 17 middle and high schools in Madison, Middleton, Oregon and Sun Prairie in partnership with these school districts, the United Way of Dane County and Madison School Community Recreation.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Visit

Matthew DeFour:

In her first visit to a Madison school, superintendent candidate Jennifer Cheatham met two La Follette High School students whom principal Chad Wiese said represent the district’s diversity and also its greatest challenge.
Senior Tanner Trickle, a basketball player and honors student, and junior Khaleah Monger, a varsity cheerleader, president of the black student union and an AVID/TOPS participant, led Cheatham on a tour of the school, highlighting a remodeled study hall, the gym and Lussier Stadium.
When Trickle told Cheatham he had applied to University of Chicago, Cheatham replied, “That was my first choice too. It didn’t work out at all.”
Nonetheless, Cheatham, 41, chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, received her bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago and earned graduate degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard University.

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Madison School Board could shake things up, in a good way

Chris Rickert:

Five years ago, people were praising newly named Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad as a paragon of listening skills and inclusiveness — a trained social worker who seemingly never burned a bridge in his life.
By contrast, Milton, the current superintendent at the Springfield (Ill.) school district, and Chicago School District administrator Jennifer Cheatham seem willing to upset the apple cart if they think it will help students.
School Board president James Howard told me the board’s focus was not to find candidates who would shake things up because, overall, Madison remains a quality district that doesn’t need a whole lot of shaking.
Rather “the issue” — or, as he later clarified, one the most important issues — “is one thing: the achievement gap.”
And the board certainly wanted to know if candidates had “the kind of will to make the kind of changes” to tackle that problem, he said. “To demonstrate success, you have to be from a district that has some diversity.”

Much more on the Madison School District’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Consultant defends candidate vetting as a call is made for additional Madison superintendent finalists

Pat Schneider:

School Board members and Ray and Associates, the consultant in the superintendent search process, have been under fire since Sunday when the district announced finalists Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of schools in Springfield, Ill., and Jennifer Cheatham, chief of instruction for the Chicago Public Schools.
Milton pulled his name from consideration late Tuesday, following days of online comment by Madison residents on incidents in his past. Those included a 2007 state audit finding of mismanagement at the New York school district he headed and his hiring of a former business partner who was a convicted sex offender while with the Flint, Mich., school district. according to news reports. Milton also had been questioned about inaccurate resumes in applying for previous jobs.
The question bandied about in comments to online stories is: If citizens could unearth these apparent red flags about Milton’s background on Google, why didn’t Ray and Associates?

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.

With superintendent candidate set to visit, Madison School Board on hot seat

Matthew DeFour:

As a top Chicago Public Schools administrator visits Madison on Thursday to make her case to be the next Madison superintendent, questions linger about the School Board’s selection process.
The day after the other finalist for the job suddenly withdrew amid questions about his past, two Madison School Board members stood by the board’s decision to move forward with the visit by Jennifer Cheatham. The other five did not return calls seeking comment.
Board members Ed Hughes and Mary Burke also said they weren’t ready to pass judgment on the search consultant, Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after Walter Milton Jr., superintendent in Springfield, Ill., withdrew, and it was not clear how much board members knew about his background.
“We understand why people have questions about our process because it hasn’t gone as smoothly as we’d like,” Hughes said. “That said, I think we are excited about the possibility of Jennifer Cheatham. She sounds like she could be a terrific candidate.”

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.
Jennifer Cheatham links: Bing, Blekko, Clusty, Google, Twitter.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Roundup: It Seems Unlikely that One Person will Drive Significant Change

Amy Barrilleaux:

After paying an Iowa-based headhunting firm $30,975 to develop a candidate profile and launch a three-month nationwide recruitment effort, and after screening 65 applications, the Madison school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to two finalists. Dr. Jenifer Cheatham is chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, and Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., is superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Illinois.
Parents and community members will get a chance to meet both finalists at a forum at Monona Terrace starting at 5:45 p.m. Thursday night. But despite the exhaustive and expensive search, the finalists aren’t without flaws.
Cheatham was appointed to her current post as chief of instruction in June of 2011 by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who has since resigned. According to her Chicago district bio, Cheatham’s focus is improving urban school districts by “developing instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning.” Cheatham received a master’s and doctorate in education from Harvard and began her career as an 8th grade English teacher. But she found herself in a harsh spotlight as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and district officials pushed for a contentious 7.5 hour school day last year, which became one of many big issues that led to the Chicago teachers strike in September.
“It was handled horribly in terms of how it was rolled out,” says Chicago attorney Matt Farmer, who also blogs about Chicago school issues for The Huffington Post.
Farmer says pressure was mounting last spring for the district to explain how the longer day would work and how it would be paid for. Cheatham was sent to a community meeting he attended on the city’s south side to explain the district’s position.

Some of candidate Walter Milton Jr.’s history a surprise to School Board president

Madison School Board president James Howard said Monday he wasn’t aware of some of the controversial aspects of Walter Milton Jr.’s history until after the board named him a finalist to be Madison’s next superintendent.
Prior to becoming superintendent in Springfield, Ill., Milton was criticized for hiring without a background check a colleague who had been convicted of child molestation in Georgia. The colleague, Julius B. Anthony, was forced to resign from a $110,000 job in Flint, Mich., after a background check uncovered the case, according to the Springfield State Journal-Register.
Milton and Anthony were former business partners and worked together in Fallsburg, N.Y., where Milton was superintendent before moving to Flint, according to news reports.

Steven Verburg: Jennifer Cheatham fought for big changes in Chicago schools:

Jennifer Cheatham will be the third person in the last two years from our administration who I’ve been a reference for who has taken over a fairly significant school district,” Vitale said. “Chicago is a pretty good breeding place for leaders.”

Matthew DeFour:

A Springfield School District spokesman said Milton is declining interviews until a community forum in Madison on Thursday.
Prior to Fallsburg, Milton was a teacher and principal in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. He received a bachelor’s degree in African history and African-American studies from Albany State University, a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York College at Brockport and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Buffalo.
Milton’s contract in Springfield expires at the end of the 2013-14 school year. His current salary is $220,000 plus about $71,000 in benefits.

School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Madison School Board member Marj Passman says she was looking for superintendent candidates who have had experience working in contentious communities. “That’s important, considering what we’ve gone through here,” she told me Monday.
And what Madison schools are going through now.
The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates — Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. — before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned.
And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years — a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district — remain unresolved.
So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.

What are the odds that the traditional governance approach will substantively address Madison’s number one, long term challenge? Reading….
Much more on the latest Madison Superintendent search, here along with a history of Madison Superintendent experiences, here.

Madison School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Pat Schneider:

The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates — Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. — before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned.
And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years — a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district — remain unresolved.
So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.
Madison School Board members had 90-minute interviews with a pool of semifinalists before selecting Cheatham and Milton, and will interview them again on Thursday. The candidates also will appear at a public forum that starts at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Monona Terrace Convention Center.

Much more on Madison Superintendents past, present and future, here.

Madison Names Two Superintendent Finalists, Public Forum on 2.7.2013

The Madison School District:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has chosen the two finalists for the superintendent position, it was announced Sunday in a press release.
The two finalists are Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, chief of instruction at Chicago Public Schools, and Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., superintendent of Springfield (Ill.) Public Schools.
The public is invited to a public forum Thursday, Feb. 7 at 5:45 p.m. at the Monona Terrace to meet and ask questions of the two candidates. If you cannot attend the forum, you can email your comments or questions to board@madison.k12.wi.us.

Much more on Madison Superintendents.
A recent look at Madison Superintendent hires.
UPDATE: Samara Kalk Derby:

According to Cheatham’s biography on the Chicago Public Schools website, her focus is on “systemic improvement in urban school districts” and her expertise “lies in developing instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning.”
She has worked as a Chief Area Officer for Chicago Public Schools and the executive director of Curriculum and Instruction for San Diego City Schools, the biography said. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from DePaul University, a master’s in education from the University of Michigan, and a master’s and doctorate in education from Harvard University.
According to a personal website promoting his book, “Me in the Making: One Man’s Journey to Becoming a School Superintendent,” Milton is a native of Rochester, N.Y., who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Albany and a master’s from SUNY College at Brockport. He took post-graduate courses at the University of Rochester to receive his administrative certifications, including his superintendent’s license. He holds a doctorate of education in leadership and policy from the University of Buffalo. He has also been a teacher and principal.


Google News on On Chicago & Dr. Jennifer Cheatham
. More, here:Long on Class Time, Short on Answers .
Google News on Springfield Superintendent Walter Milton.

Ethics violation alleged in Madison School Board president’s vote to keep police in schools

Logan Wroge: Three former elected officials are alleging Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes violated the body’s ethics policy when she voted in favor of a contract that would keep Madison police officers in the district’s high schools. On Tuesday, former City Council members Andy Heidt, Brenda Konkel and Andy Olsen, who also served on … Continue reading Ethics violation alleged in Madison School Board president’s vote to keep police in schools

Superintendents’ group should spend more time on academics, next leader says

Jeffrey Solochek: “In the last two years, we have had very little conversation at our meetings about student achievement,” said Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning, who assumes the leadership post in July. “We need to bring it back into balance.” Browning noted the state has taken an increasing tough line with schools that do not … Continue reading Superintendents’ group should spend more time on academics, next leader says

Madison K-12 Superintendent’s School Board “weekly Update” – via open records (!)

Jennifer Cheatham: Dear Board Members: As you know, we have already begun on boarding our three new board members who will be sworn in later this month. Congratulations to each of them! I want to thank TJ, Dean and James for their service to the Board all these years. I appreciate you so much…your time, … Continue reading Madison K-12 Superintendent’s School Board “weekly Update” – via open records (!)

Commentary on the UW School of Education and The taxpayer supported Madison school district

David Blaska: The school district lives and breathes identity politics because they teach it at UW-Madison and at all leading schools of education across the country. That includes Harvard, from which superintendent Jennifer Cheatham received her doctoral degree and at which she will grow future crops. Even at a school as left-wing as UW-Madison, its … Continue reading Commentary on the UW School of Education and The taxpayer supported Madison school district

Madison School District plays the ‘long game’ in training students to become teachers

Logan Wroge: Four years into a program designed to diversify the Madison School District’s teaching pool by encouraging students to enter the profession, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sees “the potential for real impact” from the couple dozen participants who have signed up. The TEEM Scholars program, which stands for Tomorrow’s Educators for Equity in Madison, launched … Continue reading Madison School District plays the ‘long game’ in training students to become teachers

Classrooms in chaos? Kids running amok? We want you at Harvard!

David Blaska: Jennifer Cheatham will leave but nothing has changed. Madison elected, if anything, an even racialized school board, a school board content to evict its school resource police officers despite increasing disorder. Helzz bellz, the school board can’t even maintain order at its own meetings. Related: Superintendent Cheatham’s 2013 Madison Rotary Club speech and, … Continue reading Classrooms in chaos? Kids running amok? We want you at Harvard!

Madison schools test limits of open government with private board member meetings

Chris Rickert: Individually or in pairs, Madison School Board members spend hours each year in private “board briefings” with Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, discussing matters soon to come before the full board for votes that must be held in public. Cheatham instituted the briefings after she was hired in 2013, and district administrators and some board … Continue reading Madison schools test limits of open government with private board member meetings

In interview, former Madison Whitehorse staffer speaks publicly for the first time since altercation with student

Negassi Tesfamichael: Whether Mueller-Owens will be able to find a place in the community remains to be seen, as he has kept a low profile since media reports surfaced last month about the Feb. 13 incident and sparked a flurry of outrage in the community. Mikiea Price, the girl’s mother, has said she believed Mueller-Owens … Continue reading In interview, former Madison Whitehorse staffer speaks publicly for the first time since altercation with student

Commentary on Madison’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Discipline and Achievement Climate

Kaleem Caire: Our School District has an obligation to learn from these incidents and to ensure that our staff, students and parents have clear guidelines about how to address similar situations when they arise, and how they can also avoid such challenges as well. After reading the police reports, it is clear to me that … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Taxpayer Supported K-12 School Discipline and Achievement Climate

Madison schools superintendent pens open letter following Whitehorse incident, calls for action

Negassi Tesfamichael: In an open letter to the community released Thursday morning, Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham acknowledged that the district “cannot be silent” on issues of racial justice. The letter comes eight days after media reports surfaced regarding an alleged assault at Whitehorse Middle School. In that incident, which is still being investigated … Continue reading Madison schools superintendent pens open letter following Whitehorse incident, calls for action

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

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