Middle School Report Cards Continues

Several parents from Jefferson Middle School have been meeting with Dr. Nerad and administrators to discuss the evolution of the standards based report cards in Middle School.
After much research on my part, it is clear standard based report cards are the “new” thing and a result of NCLB. It is easily adaptable at the elementary school, but very FEW school districts have implemented these changes in the middle school and in the high school it is almost nonexistent due to the difficulty adapting them for college entrance. It seems the goal of standard based report cards from the NCLB legistation is to make sure teachers teach the standards. It is kind of backwards that way but many teachers feel it makes sure they cover all the required standards.
Our local concerns and response from district include:

  1. Infinite Campus, which was up and running last year is no longer functioning for middle school students.
    Their response: Yes there are problems and we have provided training but the staff have not taking us up on the paid training made available.
    My response: If you are going to implement a change, since when is it optional to learn a new system the district is implementing. My daughter has no grades, assignments, or anything on IC accept the final grade. When asked if this will be mandatory in the future I was told we have no idea and we can’t promise that it will be. It is clear after two meetings and several discussion with Lisa Wachtel that IC will not accommodate standards based grading. Basically elementary students will never be up. She projected 5 years and the middle school while up it is not easy to use the grade book for a program designed for 100% grading. I am only left to believe 2/3 of MMSD students will not benefit from a potentially good way for parents to stay informed about their students progress, grades, test, assignments, etc…..

  2. While some areas are better (Language Arts, Spanish, PE) evaluation includes written, oral,as well as comprehension for the languages, and for PE it includes evaluation for knowledge, skill, and effort.
    In Math my child made a 4 on Content 1, 2 on Content 2, 1 on Content 3, and a 3 on Content 4. She received a cummulitative grade of D. When I add 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 and divide by 4 it equals 2.5 which is not a D. After much research I found out each area is weighted different which is not explained on the report card. I also asked and it required much investigation to find out what each content area (1,2,3,4) was evaluating. She clearly understands one of them and has poor understanding in the one weighed higher but I had no idea what they were as they were only labelled by a number.
    Administration response: Math is a problem we are working on.

I accept with many reservations that we are doing standards based reporting for middle school students. I am angry that the district picked Infinite Campus at about the same time they were discussing going to Standards Based Report cards and did not realize 2/3 of the students will not benefit from IC. I am also upset that a pilot of the middle school report card was not conducted with staff, parents and student input. At Jefferson the staff feel under trained, overwhelmed and as though this was pushed down their throats. It says to me the staff were not consulted. When the staff person that was in charge of training the rest of the staff at Jefferson is not even using the I.C. it says a lot about the implementation of the middle school reporting. As far as standards based report cards moving to high school for MMSD, this would be very difficult. Not just due to college entrance but because MMSD high schools do not have standards to base the report cards upon.

No middle school report cards??!!

I received a newsletter in the mail yesterday from Toki Middle School, where my son is now a sixth-grader. The principal’s letter says:
“With the introduction of standards-based middle school report cards, we decided to send first quarter progress reports only to students currently not meeting grade level standards in curricular areas.”
So, assuming my child meets the standards, he just doesn’t matter? He’s not worth the time to figure out how to fill out the new report cards? The teachers are taking an extra half day today (early release: 11:30) to work more on dealing with these new report cards – and they’ve already taken at least one or two other days – but it’s still too hard to give my child a report card?
What if I want to know how well my child is doing? What if I want to know if he’s EXCEEDING the standards? Oh, wait…. I forgot. MMSD doesn’t care if he exceeds them. They just want to know if he MEETS them. God forbid I learn how MUCH he’s exceeding them by, or if he’s just skating and is merely meeting the standards. Or if he excels in one subject but is simply OK in another. We went through this in elementary school, so I suppose it should be no surprise that it’s happening in middle school.
I know there’s a teacher conference coming up, but if they’re not giving us report cards, then I’m thinking 15 minutes isn’t enough time to really lay out my child’s strengths and weaknesses in several different subjects. It’s not enough time for the teacher to give me a thorough assessment of my child’s progress. Oh, wait….I forgot. MMSD doesn’t care about giving me a thorough assessment. Judging from our experience in elementary school, the teachers just want you in and out of there as quickly as possible. They don’t want to answer my questions about how we can help him at home so he can do better in any subjects. (“Your son is a joy to have in class. He’s doing well in all subjects. He talks a little too much, but we’re working on that. Thanks for coming!”)
They DID send home a note asking if I needed to meet with any of his Unified Arts teachers (in addition to just his homeroom teacher) – but I checked no, because I assumed we’d be getting report cards with information from all his teachers! Nice of MMSD to wait until AFTER those papers had been turned in to let us know we wouldn’t be GETTING report cards. (Yes, I’ll be emailing the principal to let her know I’ve changed my mind.)
Oh, and I CAN sign in to Infinite Campus to see what’s going on with my child’s record (which hopefully is updated more often that the Toki Web site, which we were told would be updated every three or four weeks, but hasn’t been updated since before the beginning of school). But to do this, I have to **go into the school during school hours** with a photo ID. I can’t just use social security numbers or anything else to access this online. Could they be more clear in the message that they’d rather you not use Infinite Campus?
Isn’t it bad enough that MMSD doesn’t do thorough third-quarter report cards, because they believe not enough time has elapsed between the second and third quarters to make any discernible improvement? If my child isn’t making any improvement, if my child’s work isn’t worthy of a report card, then WHAT’S HE DOING IN SCHOOL?
We moved here four years ago, so looking forward to the “great” Madison schools. We couldn’t have been more wrong. My bright children are lagging. My sixth-grade son who tested as gifted before we moved to Madison is no longer (witness his dropping test scores – oh, wait…they’re still average or above, so MMSD doesn’t care).
I’ve brought up my concerns repeatedly. I’ve offered constructive suggestions. I’ve offered to help, at school and at home. I did two years as a PTO president in the elementary school and struggled unsuccessfully to get improvements. I might as well have thrown myself in front of a semi truck for all the good it’s done and for how beaten down I feel by this school system. The minute this housing market turns around, I’m investigating the nearby schooling options with an eye toward getting the heck out of here. I’m SO FED UP with MMSD and it’s reverse-discrimination against children who are average and above.
Class-action lawsuit, anyone?

Middle School Report Cards Future?

I just received an e-mail from a parent stating the Middle School report cards are converting to the elementary format of 1 – 4 and they are dropping the A – F grading system. She spoke to Lisa Wachtel, Head of Teaching and Learning to confirm that this is the direction the district is headed.
DO any of you have any info on this? They claim it is on the website but other than the Standards Base System info, which is pretty general I can not locate this info. This greatly concerns me if it is true.
Related: Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards.

“Yes, to Year Around School” Podcast Transcript (Not in the Madison School District)

Scoot Milfred and Phil Hands: Usual mumbo-jumbo, we do on this podcast. Why don’t we invite in today some experts to talk about our topic which is around school. Which Madison is finally going to give a try this fall to experts. I know very well we have all hands on deck here. We have … Continue reading “Yes, to Year Around School” Podcast Transcript (Not in the Madison School District)

A’s on the rise in U.S. report cards, but SAT scores founder

Greg Toppo: Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen. In 1998, it was 38.9%. By last year, it had grown to 47%. That’s right: Nearly … Continue reading A’s on the rise in U.S. report cards, but SAT scores founder

As charter renewal looms, Badger Rock Middle School pledges to improve its performance

Doug Erickson: A small, environmental-themed charter school in Madison with a substandard academic record is facing heightened School Board scrutiny as its charter comes up for renewal. Badger Rock Middle School, 501 E. Badger Road, opened in 2011 amid great enthusiasm for its emphasis on urban agriculture, environmental sustainability and project-based learning. Last month, though, … Continue reading As charter renewal looms, Badger Rock Middle School pledges to improve its performance

Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue

Tanzina Vega To hear Mikia Hutchings speak, one must lean in close, as her voice barely rises above a whisper. In report cards, her teachers describe her as “very focused,” someone who follows the rules and stays on task. So it was a surprise for her grandmother when Mikia, 12, and a friend got into … Continue reading Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue

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.

Commentary on Wisconsin Virtual School Governance

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes

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

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

Madison’s thriving private schools buck national trend

Matthew DeFour:

Private school enrollment has steadily declined across Wisconsin over the past 15 years, but that’s not the case in Madison and Dane County.
St. Ambrose Academy, a West Side Catholic middle and high school, has been rapidly expanding and is discussing the addition of an elementary school. EAGLE School is planning a $3 million expansion at its Fitchburg campus with the goal of increasing its student body by a third. And High Point Christian School on Madison’s Far West Side is full, so some students board a bus there and travel across town to its sister campus on the Far East Side.
“The Madison metropolitan area is definitely bucking the national trend,” said Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Madison Catholic Schools. “I wouldn’t say we’re growing at any kind of geometric or exponential rate. But we’re very solid in the Madison area.”
The vitality of local private schools could help explain the muted level of interest in Madison for the publicly funded voucher expansion proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget. Vouchers also face intense opposition from Dane County political and public school leaders.
Voucher expansion
Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program from Milwaukee and Racine to school districts with more than 4,000 students and at least two schools with low ratings on the state’s new school report card. Based on the first report cards released last fall, students in Madison and eight other districts would qualify for vouchers.
On March 4, the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools held the first public voucher meeting in Madison at St. James Catholic School on the Near West Side. Fewer than 10 parents and private school administrators attended.
A similar meeting last week in Beloit, a smaller city with far fewer private schools, drew about 40 people, WCRIS executive director Matt Kussow said.

The largest challenge to Madison’s $392,000,000 public schools is not the threat of vouchers. Rather, it is the District’s long time disastrous reading results that undermine its prospects and reputation.
Suburban district growth and open enrollment leavers are also worth contemplation and action.

Accountability: Report card scores for most Madison schools take small hit

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email

The report card scores of nearly all Madison schools will be reduced slightly after the district discovered it had reported incorrect student attendance data to the state and revised it.
In most cases the new, lower scores — which the Department of Public Instruction plans to update on its website next week — have no impact on the rating each Madison school receives on the report card. But six schools will be downgraded to a lower category.
Randall and Van Hise elementaries, which were rated in the highest performance category, are now in the second-highest tier. Olson and Chavez elementaries are now in the middle tier. And Mendota and Glendale elementaries are in the second-lowest tier.
The corrections — prompted by a State Journal inquiry — have no immediate practical ramifications, though the implications are significant as state leaders contemplate tying school funding to the report card results.
Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, said it’s “extremely important” that the data used to rate schools is accurate. The report cards are part of the state’s new school accountability system, and DPI has proposed directing resources to schools struggling in certain categories.
“The report cards are only as good as the data that goes into them,” he said.

Props to DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal for digging and pushing.
Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Where does the Madison School District Get its Numbers from?
Global Academic Standards: How we Outrace the Robots and www.wisconsin2.org.
An Update on Madison’s Use of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Assessment, including individual school reports. Much more on Madison and the MAP Assessment, here.
I strongly support diffused governance of our public schools. One size fits all has outlived its usefulness.

“Standards based report cards and the Milwaukee Schools

Joy Pullman:

Milwaukee Public Schools plans to expand districtwide a pilot program in which schools ditch traditional letter grades. Instead of A, B, C, D and F, teachers will compare students to a list of things the state expects students to know on core subjects in each grade and mark their skills advanced, proficient, basic or minimal. It’s called a “standards-based report card.”
The idea has some merits and several significant flaws.
Parents and students benefit from objective, specific standards for academic performance. If a father knows Julia must learn to define a story’s theme in second grade, he can ask her to do so when they read together. Grading metrics can also help counter grade inflation, where teachers give students high marks they have not earned. A 2005 ACT study found high school grades inflated 12.5% between 1991 and 2003.

The Madison School District implemented the ill-advised middle school “standards – based report cards” several years ago. Unfortunately, this initiative was incompatible with the multi-million dollar “Infinite Campus” system.

New Report Cards Grade Wisconsin Schools

Senator Kathleen Vinehout:

Every student received a report card at the end of the first quarter. This fall every school also received a report card.
The Department of Public Instruction recently released report cards on almost all of Wisconsin’s over 2,000 schools. High schools, middle schools, elementary schools and charter schools are all rated.
The report card gives a grade from 0 to 100. The grade is based on four priority areas: student achievement, student growth, on-track and post secondary readiness including attendance, ACT participation and graduation rates, and closing gaps among disadvantaged and disabled students.
Most of our area schools scored average or above average; an exception was the Whitehall Middle School where over half of the students are economically disadvantaged.

New school report cards another tool for achievement gap

A. David Dahmer:

It’s not just the students who are getting report cards during the 2012-13 school year.
On Monday, Oct. 22, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) issued a School Report Card for every public school in Wisconsin. The new school year has brought new measures on how the MMSD and other districts throughout the state evaluate its progress and makes improvements. Madison superintendent Jane Belmore said the ratings reflect data the district is already using to improve schools.
“There were no really surprises for us because we’ve been working with this data for over a year now,” Belmore tells The Madison Times. “It’s a complex picture – and maybe a better picture than we’ve had before — but we still believe we are on track with the strategies that we’ve developed and have started to put in place with this first year of the achievement gap plan.”
The school report cards, she adds, confirm MMSD’s knowledge about how the schools are doing on increasing student achievement, closing gaps, and preparing students for college or career.
Seven Madison schools — Van Hise, Randall, Shorewood Hills, Marquette, Franklin and Lapham elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School — “significantly exceed expectations” according to the report cards. That’s a designation only 3 percent of schools in the state received.

1 in 8 Wisconsin public schools not meeting expectations, DPI says

Matthew DeFour:

Update: One in eight public schools in Wisconsin aren’t meeting expectations set out by the state’s new accountability system, the Department of Public Instruction announced Monday.
Three in four schools are either meeting expectations or exceeding expectations, while about 10 percent of the state’s 2,118 public schools did not receive a rating.
No Madison schools failed to meet expectations, though 10 Madison schools received ratings in the second-lowest “meets few expectations” category. The Madison school with the lowest rating was East High School with a score of 55.6 on a scale of 0 to 100.
Seven Madison schools “significantly exceed expectations,” a designation assigned to only 3 percent of schools in the state. They were Van Hise, Randall, Shorewood Hills, Marquette, Franklin and Lapham elementaries and Hamilton Middle School.
The Department of Public Instruction on Monday released report cards for more than 2,000 public schools in Wisconsin. They can be accessed here.

Groundhog Day: Madison Schools’ Infinite Campus Usage Memorandum

The Madison School District (PDF):

In the spring of 2012 data was collected indicating a wide array of teacher grade book usage on Infinite Campus. Following the distribution of the letter on August 27, 2012 a number of concerns were brought forth regarding the use of grade book. Music and Physical Education teachers at the middle school level have larger class sizes and teach on an alternate day rotation in many cases. Currently, members of Curriculum and Assessment are working with Music and Physical Education teachers to develop a set of guidelines that are practical due to their schedules.
Following the end of the first quarter, November 7, we will gather data and measure the use of teacher grade book. The Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools will share the data with building principals to address areas of concern.
………
Across our middle and high schools, a number of you have utilized the Infinite Campus grade book.
Parents,guardians and other youth service providers appreciate the information regarding student progress. This year, the MMSD opened an online student enrollment option for families. The feedback is clear, a high percentage of MMSD families utilize Infinite Campus. The Research and Evaluation Department has analyzed the number of Infinite Campus grade book entries in all of our schools and it is evident to me that we have yet to reach our full implementation by having all teachers using the Infinite Campus grade book and consistently updating student progress. Therefore, it is my expectation that all teachers follow the below guidelines as we enter the 12-13 school year.

Infinite Campus (million$ have been spent) usage issues continue…
A few links:

Comments on the Pending Wisconsin School Report Cards

The Madison School District (160K PDF)

New benchmarks for proficiency. Starting in 2012-13, the benchmark for determining proficiency on the WKCE in math and reading will increase. New cut scores are being developed based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is conducted in a sample of schools every other year in Grades 4 and 8.
This higher cut score will result in a large number of students that will no longer be identified as proficient or advanced. This will be true at the state and local level. Recent coverage in the Wisconsin State Journal indicates that using NAEP-based cut scores causes the percent of Wisconsin students identified as proficient or advanced to decline from 81.9% to 35.8% for reading and from 78.0% to 48.1% for math.
The move toward NAEP-based cut scores is in part preparation for the statewide shift to Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2014-15. Results for individual schools using this new benchmark will be released this fall.
Accountability School Report Cards. Information packets from DPI provide context and formatting examples of the report cards that each school will receive to track its performance against various criteria.
Embargoed draft versions of school report cards will be shared with districts around September 24. Report cards for individual schools for 2011-12 will be finalized and made public around October 6.
Attached is an example of a school report card for a middle school. The report cards apply to all elementary, middle and high schools. Criteria are broken out by racial/ethnic, disability, income and ELL subgroup. More detailed “technical report cards” will also be prepared for each school that will go into more detail and methodology of the calculations.
The criteria for the Accountability School Report Card follow:

Watch a Madison school board discussion, starting at about 15 minutes.

Elmhurst District 205 School Report Card Data Now Available Online

Karen Chadra:

Elmhurst Unit District 205 has posted links to Illinois School Report Card data for the district’s schools on its web site.
The Illinois State Board of Education issues School Report Cards each fall for all public schools and school districts in the state. The reports include data on school finances, demographics, instruction and student assessments, which are based on student testing done during the 2010-2011 school year.
York High School and Churchville Middle School failed to meet adequate yearly progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which stipulates 100 percent of students must meet AYP by 2014. If any subgroup of a school fails to meet AYP, then the whole school does not meet AYP.

Never a better time for Seattle Schools?

Linda Thomas:

The new school year begins in Seattle today, with the superintendent feeling “excited and hopeful that anything is possible” in the year ahead.
I’m not as confident, yet.
My daughter starts her junior year of high school. She’s enthusiastic, optimistic and one of those students who always gets a “she’s a delight to have in class” comment on her report cards. She has the school system figured out. Today she’s on the team who will help incoming, possibly nervous, freshmen. Have a great day sweetie; I know you will.
This is not a routine day for my son. He’s making the transition from elementary to middle school. No more bubbly fish tank in the school lobby, little kids’ artwork on the walls and shock absorbing wood chips on the playground. Instead, he’ll be surrounded by the echoing thud of steel locker doors slamming, the shuffle of grown up-sized tennis shoes tromping through the halls and concrete sidewalks with weeds growing through the gaps. Have a great day son; I don’t know how your day will go. I can’t wait to find out this afternoon.

A Look at the Madison School District’s Use of Infinite Campus

Susan Troller:

Since Andie was in 6th grade – she’ll be entering 8th grade Sept. 1 – the Smith family has used Infinite Campus, an electronic data system that gives parents access to information about how students are doing in school. It often provides more information than the typical middle school student brings home and it helps parents know from week-to-week what’s going on in the classroom. Madison, like most other Dane County school districts, has been using some form of electronic communication system for the last several years.
“I don’t have to ask to look at her planner anymore,” says Smith. “And, her group of teachers at Toki wrote a weekly newsletter last year that I could read online. When your kids get into middle school, they’ve got more classes, and parents generally have fewer connections with the teachers so I really appreciate the way it works.”
For the first time this year, Smith, like the rest of the parents and guardians of the approximately 24,000 students in the Madison Metropolitan School District, is using the online system to enroll her children in class. She also has a son, Sam, who will be a 5th grader at Chavez Elementary this fall. District officials hope that giving parents a password and user ID at the enrollment stage will expand the number of parents using Infinite Campus. A primary goal is to help increase communication ties between home and school, which is a proven way to engage kids and boost academic achievement.
But whether all parents will take to the system remains to be seen. Despite the boom in electronic communication, there are plenty of homes without computers, especially in urban school districts like Madison where poverty levels are rising. The extent to which teachers will buy in is also unclear. Teachers are required to post report cards and attendance online, but things like test scores, assignments and quizzes will be discretionary.

Much more on Infinite Campus and “Standards Based Report Cards”, here.

Madison School District & Madison Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement: 3.93% Increase Year 1, 3.99% Year 2; Base Rate $33,242 Year 1, $33,575 Year 2: Requires 50% MTI 4K Members and will “Review the content and frequency of report cards”

via a kind reader’s email (200K PDF):

The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers Inc. reached a tentative agreement Tuesday evening on the terms and conditions of a new two-year Collective Bargaining Agreement for MTI’s 2,600 member teacher bargaining unit. Negotiations began April 15.
The Contract, for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011, needs ratification from both the Board of Education and MTI. The Union will hold its ratification meeting on Wednesday, October 14, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Alliant Energy Center, Dane County Forum. The Board of Education will tentatively take up the proposal in a special meeting on October 19 at 5:00 p.m.
Terms of the Contract include:
2009-2010 2010-11
Base Salary Raise – 1.00% Base Salary Raise – 1.00%
Total Increase Including Benefits – 3.93% Total Increase Including Benefits – 3.99%
Bachelor’s Degree Base Rate $33,242 Bachelor’s Degree Base Rate $33,575
A key part of this bargain involved working with the providers of long term disability insurance and health insurance. Meetings between MTI Executive Director John Matthews and District Superintendent Dan Nerad and representatives of WPS and GHC, the insurance carriers agreed to a rate increase for the second year of the Contract not to exceed that of the first year. In return, the District and MTI agreed to add to the plans a voluntary health risk assessment for teachers. The long term disability insurance provider reduced its rates by nearly 25%. The insurance cost reductions over the two years of the contract term amount to roughly $1.88 million, were then applied to increase wages, thus reducing new funds to accomplish this.
The new salary schedule increase at 1% per cell, inclusive of Social Security and WRS, amount to roughly $3.04 million. Roughly 62% of the salary increase, including Social Security and WRS, was made possible by the referenced insurance savings.
Key contract provisions include:

    Inclusion in the Contract of criteria to enable salary schedule progression by one working toward the newly created State teacher licensure, PI 34. Under the new Contract provision, one can earn professional advancement credits for work required by PI 34.

  • Additive pay regarding National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, i.e. an alternative for bargaining unit professionals who are not teachers (nurses, social workers, psychologists, et al) by achieving the newly created Master Educator’s License.
  • Continuance of the Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program (TERP).
  • The ability after retirement for one to use their Retirement Insurance Account for insurance plans other than those specified in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This will enable one to purchase coverage specific to a geographic area, if they so choose, or they may continue coverage with GHC or WPS – the current health insurance providers.
    For elementary teachers, the frequency and duration of meetings has been clarified, as have several issues involving planning time. All elementary teachers and all elementary principals will receive a joint letter from Matthews and Nerad explaining these Contract provisions.

  • For high school teachers who volunteer for building supervision, there is now an option to enable one to receive compensation, rather than compensatory time for the service. And there is a definition of what “class period” is for determining compensation or compensatory time.
  • For elementary and middle school teachers, MTI and the District will appoint a joint committee for each to study and recommend the content and frequency of report cards.
    For elementary specials (e.g. art, music) teachers, the parties agreed to end the class and a half, which will mean that class sizes for specials will be similar to the class size for elementary classroom teachers.

  • For coaches, and all others compensated on the extra duty compensation schedule, the additive percentage paid, which was frozen due to the State imposed revenue controls, will be restored.
  • School year calendars were agreed to through 2012-2013.
  • Also, MTI and the District agreed to a definite five-year exemption to the Contract work assignment clause to enable the District to assist with funding of a community-based 4-year-old kindergarten programs, provided the number of said 4-K teachers is no greater than the number of District employed 4-K teachers, and provided such does not cause bargaining unit members to be affected by adverse actions such as lay off, surplus and reduction of hours/contract percentage, due to the District’s establishment of, and continuance of, community based [Model III] 4-K programs. (See note below.)

Ohio School District Report Cards

Julie Carr Smyth:

A record 116 Ohio school districts have been rated excellent and overall student achievement returned to a 10-year high last year, but the statewide graduation rate fell to its lowest in five years, the state’s latest rankings show.
Data released Tuesday show that more schools and districts were rated effective or higher. However, test scores in the fifth and eighth grades — entry points to middle and high schools — failed to meet targets in reading, math, science and social studies. The statewide graduation rate for the previous year also fell to 84.6 percent.
And the Youngstown schools descended into academic emergency, the first district to receive the state’s lowest ranking since the 2004-05 school year. A special distress commission will be dispatched to the Steel Belt city to help administrators on the problem.
About 15 charter schools could be closed for failing to meet state academic performance standards, said state Superintendent Deborah Delisle.
The rankings will serve as a benchmark for judging the success of an overhaul of the state’s ailing public school system that Gov. Ted Strickland championed in his January State of the State address and during this spring’s state budget-writing process.

The Madison School District = General Motors?

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

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

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

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

1 Year Summary of Madison’s Implementation of “Standards Based Report Cards”

Notes and links on “Standards Based Report Cards” here.

Best and worst Public schools rating

http://www.walletpop.com/specials/best-and-worst-public-school-systems-in-us
The most interesting part of this evaluation is the continued poor rating our standards receive. Those lovely standards we are basing our new middle school report cards upon. Otherwise Wisconsin stacks up pretty well.

What’s in a Grade & An Update on Madison’s Standards Based Report Card Scheme

Stafford Palmieri:

The red pen. In our still largely decentralized public school system, it’s no big surprise that this old-fashioned instrument of ill repute gets starkly different treatment from district to district and state to state. Three locales, in fact, have recently reopened the question, “what’s in a grade”–and come up with very different answers. Perhaps by evaluating these recent conversations, we can imagine what standard GPAs might look like.
Fairfax County, Virginia, parents are outraged that their children must score a 94 to receive an A. Neighboring counties give As for a mere 90, they argue, and they and their kids are being unfairly penalized when competing for college admission, national merit awards, even a lower car insurance bill. Parents have taken up arms in hopes that extended pressure on the district to follow the example of nearby school systems will lead to a lower bar; Fairfax is contemplating doing so.
Fairfax’s one-county crusade against grade inflation is probably sacrificing its students on the altar of its ideals, as parents allege, and remedying that problem is not difficult. Despite cries of the old “slippery slope,” shifting the letter-number ratio to match neighboring counties will ultimately benefit Fairfax students (in the short term at least) when it comes to college admissions and the like.
Pittsburgh has tackled the other end of the grading spectrum. All failing grades (those of 50 or below) will henceforth be marked down as 50 percent credit in grade books. Long on the books but only recently enforced, this policy, the district claims, is simply giving students a better chance to “catch up” in the next quarter since quarters are averaged into semester and yearlong grades. “A failing grade is still a failing grade,” explains district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh. Seems not to matter if it’s a 14 or a 49. Round up to 50.

Locally, the Madison School District is implementing “Standards Based Report Cards” in the middle schools.
I’ve wondered what the implementation of this initiative tells parents, citizens and taxpayers, not to mention students about the new Superintendent? See his memo on the subject here. More here.
The State of Wisconsin’s standards are changing, according to this Department of Public Instruction. Peter Sobol’s post on the WKCE’s suitability for tracking student progress is illuminating:

… The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.

Much more on report cards here.

“Middle School Madness Blog”

by Unnamed MMSD Educators [RSS]. The blog touches on the “Standards Based Report Card” initiative among a number of other topics.

What about . . . THE 6th GRADE STUDENT READING AT A 2nd GRADE LEVEL?
From the district Curricular Standards:
“These Grade Level Performance Standards describe behaviors typical at the specified grade level. They represent behaviors students generally exhibit as they move from novice to expert in their ability to take control of language processes. It is important to remember, however, that literacy learning may not be sequential and each child has a unique developmental pattern.”
The 6th grade student reading at a 2nd grade level earns a ONE (remember, no zeroes) for the Power Standard of Reading Comprehension. Why? For not meeting the “behaviors typical at the specified grade level ” (6th).
Now, if said student raises her/his reading level to that of a 4th-grade student, guess what. That student still does not meet the 6th grade standard and will still earn a ONE for the Power Standard of Reading Comprehension. Effort and improvement are not taken into consideration in this constricted construct for grading.

via a kind reader email.
Much more on standards based report cards here.

School votes come amid economic woes, investigations

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher:

On Tuesday, voters will decide the fates of school budgets across Long Island. Most will be asked to support or reject spending increases that would inflate taxes during trying economic times of soaring gas and food prices.
“I think we are in a recession. In general, it’s impacting all of us,” said Donna Jones, superintendent of the Brentwood district, whose $295 million budget proposal is the largest on Long Island. “We know that these are challenging times.”
But she is hopeful voters will see the worth of new initiatives such as the implementation of a nine-period day for middle schools and the freshman center, and the creation of an online system where parents can track student records, such as report cards and attendance.
Compounding economic worries is the state attorney general’s subpoenas of all 124 Long Island districts over the issue of “double-dipping” – previously-retired administrators receiving salaries on top of hefty pensions after returning to work.

2008-2009 Madison School Board Budget Discussion

Monday evening’s (5/5/2008) meeting agenda (PDF) includes a discussion of the proposed $367,806,712 budget. It will be interesting to see what type of changes to retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater’s last budget are discussed. Perhaps, a place to start would be the report card initiative from the District’s curriculum creation department (Teaching & Learning). Watch a presentation on the proposed “Standards Based” report cards. Contact the Madison School Board here comments@madison.k12.wi.us

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



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

New report card for Madison middle schoolers draws praise, criticism

Andy Hall:

Congratulations, dear seventh grader, for nailing science class.
Your science grade this quarter is A, 4, 3, 3, M, S, R.
Now, let’s take a look at your English grade…
That’s a preview of how, beginning in the fall, parents of middle school students might read a new type of report card coming to the Madison School District.
The change will make Madison one of the first districts in Dane County to adopt middle school report cards based directly upon how well students are mastering the state’s standards that list what they’re supposed to learn in every subject.
In some ways, Madison’s change isn’t radical. The district is retaining traditional report card letter grades. And the district’s elementary students, like many around the state, already receive report cards based upon the state’s academic standards.
The shift is being met, however with a mixture of criticism and hope.

Related: Madison Middle School Report Card/Homework Assessment Proposed Changes.

Speaking of Report Cards: “So, Is That Like an A?”

Maura Casey:

Time was that a fifth grader’s greatest concern about gym was whether he or she would be picked last for the kickball team. Now, in schools in Hartford, that 10-year-old would-be athlete is being graded on how he or she “establishes and maintains a healthy lifestyle by avoiding risk-taking behavior.” In music class, students are being graded on how they make “connections between music and other disciplines through evaluation and analysis of compositions and performances.” That is pretty far from just trying to sing “Yankee Doodle” on key.
These examples come from a new report card, introduced last November in all of Hartford’s elementary schools. It measures 58 academic, social and behavioral skills and, including other information, can run as long as seven pages.
Not surprisingly, the language was produced by a committee. Some of the wording is clear; anyone can understand “shows courtesy and respect toward others.” But the academic measurements, which are designed to grade areas of student performance that are also measured on state standardized tests, seem more likely to confuse than illuminate.
Christopher Leone, the spokesman for the Hartford school district, said that the goal was to give parents more detailed information about the progress of their children. He says that so far the response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive. The district hasn’t surveyed the teachers, but the report card made me appreciate, as nothing else has ever done, why teachers say they are buried in paperwork.

Much more on Madison’s proposed report card changes here.

Madison Middle School Report Card/Homework Assessment Proposed Changes

Michael Maguire, via email:

I’m interested in gathering more information on this topic, as outlined in a message I received from a neighbor and PTO member. I appreciate more background info, if you have it (or a suggestion of where else I can go/with whom I can speak) to find out more: [“On Wednesday, February 20, at 7 pm Dr. Pam Nash and Lisa Wactel from MMSD will present the new format for middle school report cards. The meeting is in the LMC at Hamilton Middle School [Map].
The district is changing the middle school report cards to the same as the elementary: proficient, at grade level, needs improvement (or whatever those categories are). They will eliminate the letter grades: A, B, C, etc.
Another factor in the report cards is that homework will not count toward the grade. Teachers can still assign homework, but that will not count toward your child’s assessment.”]

Michael Maguire
RugbyMaguires@aol.com
(608) 233-1235
I’ve heard that this model is also intended for the high schools. Related posts by Mary Kay Battaglia, “Can We Talk?

Another Parent Concerned about Third-Quarter Report Cards

Recently, a parent expressed concern about the quality of third-quarter report cards at Crestwood Elementary School. Can We Talk 3: Third-Quarter Report Cards Today a parent of students at Elvejhem Elementary asked Madison School Board members why the teachers only reported on 10% of content areas. I have asked Superintendent Art Rainwater for a response … Continue reading Another Parent Concerned about Third-Quarter Report Cards

“I don’t think that actually stating they’re supporting these policies actually means that anything will change” (DPI Teacher Mulligans continue)

Logan Wroge: “I don’t think that actually stating they’re supporting these policies actually means that anything will change,” said Mark Seidenberg, a UW-Madison psychology professor. “I don’t take their statement as anything more than an attempt to defuse some of the controversy and some of the criticism that’s being directed their way.” While there’s broad … Continue reading “I don’t think that actually stating they’re supporting these policies actually means that anything will change” (DPI Teacher Mulligans continue)

The MPS Carmen saga — a three-act play with a little drama, no love and not much to laugh at

Alan Borsuk: The Milwaukee School Board’s version of Carmen, which played out over three evenings in the last three weeks, also attracted large audiences. But it was definitely lacking in love. It had some resemblance to a bullfight. I couldn’t find anything comic about it. I’d rate it pretty low for entertainment value. I’d rather … Continue reading The MPS Carmen saga — a three-act play with a little drama, no love and not much to laugh at

‘Getting-by girls’ straddle gap between academic winners and losers

University of California-Berkeley: Everyone notices the academic superstars and failures, but what about the tens of millions of American teens straddling these two extremes? A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, has spotlighted a high school subculture that has made an art of slacking – even with ample educational resources – and may … Continue reading ‘Getting-by girls’ straddle gap between academic winners and losers

Elementary Data: Madison’s Proposed $39,500,000 Maintenance & Expansion Referendum

Madison Schools’ March, 2014 Facility Plan (PDF):: Shorewood Elementary: In conjunction with building an elevator tower, add a four-classroom addition. The additional classrooms are a relatively easy gain based on the building design. Shorewood’s 2013-2014 Low Income Population: 33.8%; All Madison Elementary Schools: 52.1% 2012-2013 Basic & Minimal Reading Proficiency: 34.3% Madison School District: 62.5% … Continue reading Elementary Data: Madison’s Proposed $39,500,000 Maintenance & Expansion Referendum

The year in education: Wins, losses and unsung heroes

Alan Borsuk:

Did not much happen? Consider the waves of flat data on how kids are doing.
It may take a while to sort out this year. But that won’t stop me from offering a few awards for, um, distinguished something or other.
Most jaw-dropping moment of the year: Adding into the state budget a statewide private school voucher program. Literally in the middle of the night, with no public hearings or advance word, this emerged from a backroom deal by key Republicans and voucher lobbyists. It is limited to a small number of students now. But if Gov. Scott Walker wins re-election in November and Republicans keep control of the Assembly and Senate, there is a strong possibility vouchers will become available widely in Wisconsin.
Education person of the year: Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton. In his fourth year, Thornton and his powerful behind-the-scenes chief of staff, Naomi Gubernick, are at the center of so much. Thornton is both tough and a nice guy, each an asset in his work. He is good at spreading optimism. He’s got plans and goals that sound good and, in many ways, are. And he’s politically adept. But he is a perplexing figure who seems eager not to be challenged by subordinates or pesky people like reporters. A “gotcha” style of management by bosses seems to be pretty common in MPS, undermining morale.
The Same Old Same Old Award: Waves of test data and a second round of the new statewide school report cards told us that the Have kids are doing OK in Wisconsin and the Have Not kids are not. As for the Haves, they’re not doing so well that we shouldn’t be talking about how to give their schools a fresh burst of energy, and that seems to be happening in some places. As for the Have Nots, so little has changed, despite so much effort. There are a few bright spots on the scene, and we need to do more to grow them. Overall, we’ve got to find paths that are better than the ones we’ve been on.
The Gone-At-Last Award (Hopefully To Stay): Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School. This was one of a handful of voucher schools that was a model of what’s wrong with oversight of Milwaukee’s nationally important program to pay for children in private schools. The school was “an abomination,” as one strongly pro-voucher leader told me recently. But for years, it fended off attempts to cut off its funding. Finally, this year, after receiving $7,299,749 in public money over a dozen years, the Brenda Noach school ran out of options — it couldn’t find anyone to accredit it. But that doesn’t mean the school leaders aren’t shopping for accreditation to re-open for next year.

Are ‘No-Fail’ Grading Systems Hurting or Helping Students?

Joshua Rhett Miller via a kind reader’s email:

What’s a kid gotta do to get an “F” these days?
At a growing number of middle schools and high schools across the country, students no longer receive failing marks when they fail. Instead, they get an “H” — for “held” — on their report cards, and they’re given a chance to rectify their poor performance without tanking the entire semester.
Educators in schools from Costa Mesa, Calif., to Maynard, Mass., are also employing a policy known in school hallways as ZAP — or “Zeros Aren’t Permitted” — which gives students an opportunity to finish the homework they neglected to do on time.
While administrators and teachers say the policies provide hope for underperforming students, critics say that lowering or altering education standards is not the answer. They point to case studies in Grand Rapids, Mich., where public high schools are using the “H” grading system this year and, according to reports, only 16 percent of first-semester “H” grades became passing grades in the second semester.
Click here to see schools that implement some type of no-fail policy.

Much more on “standards based report cards“, here.

Madison Math Task Force Public Session Wednesday Evening 1/14/2009

The public is invited to attend the Cherokee Middle School PTO’s meeting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The Madison School District will present it’s recent Math Task Force findings at 7:00p.m. in the Library.
Cherokee Middle School
4301 Cherokee Dr
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 204-1240

Notes, audio and links from a recent meeting can be found here.
A few notes from Wednesday evening’s meeting:

  • A participant asked why the report focused on Middle Schools. The impetus behind the effort was the ongoing controversy over the Madison School District’s use of Connected Math.
  • Madison’s math coordinator, Brian Sniff, mentioned that the District sought a “neutral group, people not very vocal one end or the other”. Terry Millar, while not officially part of the task force, has been very involved in the District’s use of reform math programs (Connected Math) for a number of years and was present at the meeting. The 2003, $200,000 SCALE (System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (Award # EHR-0227016 (Clusty Search), CFDA # 47.076 (Clusty Search)), from the National Science Foundation) agreement between the UW School of Education (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) names Terry as the principal investigator [340K PDF]. The SCALE project has continued each year, since 2003. Interestingly, the 2008 SCALE agreement ([315K PDF] page 6) references the controversial “standards based report cards” as a deliverable by June, 2008, small learning communities (page 3) and “Science Standards Based Differentiated Assessments for Connected Math” (page 6). The document also references a budget increase to $812,336. (additional SCALE agreements, subsequent to 2003: two, three, four)
  • Task force member Dr. Mitchell Nathan is Director of AWAKEN [1.1MB PDF]:

    Agreement for Releasing Data and Conducting Research for
    AWAKEN Project in Madison Metropolitan School District
    The Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN) Project (NSF giant #EEC-0648267 (Clusty search)) aims to contribute to the long-term goal of fostering a larger, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the United States. We propose to do so by looking at engineering education as a system or continuous developmental experience from secondary education through professional practice….
    In collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), AWAKEN researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER) will study and report on science, mathematics, and Career and Technical Education (specifically Project Lead The Way) curricula in the district.

  • Task force member David Griffeath, a UW-Madison math professor provided $6,000 worth of consulting services to the District.
  • Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater is now working in the UW-Madison School of Education. He appointed (and the board approved) the members of the Math Task Force.

Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak recently said that the “conversation about math is far from over”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I am particularly interested in what the ties between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District mean for the upcoming “Strategic Planning Process” [49K PDF]. The presence of the term “standards based report cards” and “small learning communities” within one of the SCALE agreements makes me wonder who is actually driving the District. In other words, are the grants driving decision making?
Finally, it is worth reviewing the audio, notes and links from the 2005 Math Forum, including UW-Madison math professor emeritus Dick Askey’s look at the School District’s data.
Related: The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor.

Online Grading Systems Mean No More Changing D’s to B’s

Daniel de Vise:

Parents and students in a growing number of Washington area schools can track fluctuations in a grade-point average from the nearest computer in real time, a ritual that can become as addictive as watching political polls or a stock-market index.
The proliferation of online grading systems has transformed relations among teachers, parents and students and changed the rhythm of the school year. Internet-based programs including SchoolMAX and Edulink are pushing mid-term progress reports into obsolescence. Prospective failure is no longer a bombshell dropped in a parent-teacher conference. A bad grade on a test can’t be concealed by discarding the evidence. A student can log on at school, or a parent at work, to see the immediate impact of a missed assignment on the cumulative grade or to calculate what score on the next quiz might raise an 89.5 to a 90. Report cards hold little surprise.
“Half of the time, I know what grade my daughter got on something before she does,” said Susan Young, mother of an eighth-grader at Montgomery Village Middle School in Montgomery County.
Parents say the programs reconnect them to the academic lives of their children, a relationship that can decay as students move from elementary to middle and high school.

The Madison School District uses a system called “Infinite Campus“. A number of nearby districts use Powerschool, among others.

Great education debate: Reforming the grade system

Steve Friess:

When principal Debbie Brockett announced a policy last fall of not allowing teachers to issue any score less than 50 to failing students, she thought she was adopting a means of leveling out an unfair grading curve.
To many outraged teachers at Las Vegas High, however, Brockett’s plan amounted to fuzzy new math designed to offer unfair assistance to low-achieving students.
They protested, and she backed down. But in the process, both sides stepped into one of the hottest grading debates within academic circles today. Across the USA, education experts and school administrators are trying to determine how and whether to reform grading systems to give failing students a better chance to catch up.
“I made a bad call at the time, going with past experience, and I didn’t expect it to become controversial,” says Brockett, who had just been promoted from a middle school where her minimum-F policy was in place. “Now it’s an ongoing conversation we’re having.”

Proposed report cards changes have generated some controversy in Madison.

Some of California’s most gifted students are being ignored, advocates say

Carla Rivera:

If you reviewed Dalton Sargent’s report cards, you’d know only half his story. The 15-year-old Altadena junior has lousy grades in many subjects. He has blown off assignments and been dissatisfied with many of his teachers. It would be accurate to call him a problematic student. But he is also gifted.
Dalton is among the sizable number of highly intelligent or talented children in the nation’s classrooms who find little in the standard curriculum to rouse their interest and who often fall by the wayside.
With schools under intense pressure from state and federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind to raise test scores of low-achieving pupils, the educational needs of gifted students — who usually perform well on standardized tests — too often are ignored, advocates say.
Nationally, about 3 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students are identified as gifted, but 80% of them do not receive specialized instruction, experts say. Studies have found that 5% to 20% of students who drop out are gifted.
There is no federal law mandating special programs for gifted children, though many educators argue that these students — whose curiosity and creativity often coexist with emotional and social problems — deserve the same status as those with special needs. Services for gifted students vary from state to state. In California, about 512,000 students are enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education program, which aims to provide specialized and accelerated instruction.

Linda Scholl @ Wisconsin Center for Education Research: SCALE Case Study: Evolution of K-8 Science Instructional Guidance in Madison Metropolitan School District [PDF report]

In addition, by instituting a standards-based report card system K-8, the department has increased accountability for teaching to the standards.
The Department is struggling, however, to sharpen its efforts to reduce the achievement gap. While progress has been made in third grade reading, significant gaps are still evident in other subject areas, including math and science. Educational equity issues within the school district are the source of much public controversy, with a relatively small but vocal parent community that is advocating for directing greater resources toward meeting the needs of high achieving students. This has slowed efforts to implement strong academic equity initiatives, particularly at the middle and early high school levels. Nonetheless, T&L content areas specialists continue working with teachers to provide a rigorous curriculum and to differentiate instruction for all students. In that context, the new high school biology initiative represents a significant effort to raise the achievement of students of color and economic disadvantage.

WCER’s tight relationship with the Madison School District has been the source of some controversy.
Related:

Scholl’s error, in my view, is viewing the controversy as an issue of “advocating for directing greater resources toward meeting the needs of high achieving students”. The real issue is raising standards for all, rathing than reducing the curriculum quality (see West High School Math teachers letter to the Isthmus:

Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?

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A friend mentioned a few years ago that the problems are in elementary and middle school. Rather than addressing those, the administration is trying to make high school changes.
Thanks to a reader for sending along these links.

MMSD-MTI reach tentative agreement on contract

Joint committee to examine health care changes Union and district officials announced today a tentative teaching contract settlement for the period beginning July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2007. The contract was given preliminary approval by the Board of Education Monday night, and the union membership will vote this Thursday. Terms of the contract include: … Continue reading MMSD-MTI reach tentative agreement on contract