Impasse breached, Oconomowoc school district announces pay plan

Donna Frake: After announcing it had reached an impasse in negotiations with the Oconomowoc Education Association, the Oconomowoc Area School District School Board approved a new contract for teachers for the 2015-16 school year. The new compensation model approved in January this year, sets pay ranges, or bands, at five levels, each with more requirements […]

Oconomowoc & Madison

I read with interest Madison School Board President Ed Hughes’ blog post on local spending, redistributed state tax dollars & property tax increases. Mr. Hughes mentioned Oconomowoc:

Superintendent Cheatham and new Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Mike Barry (recently arrived from the Oconomowoc school district to replace Erik Kass) promise a zero-based approach to budgeting for the 2014-15 school year, so the budgeting process promises to be more lively next year.

Mr. Hughes, writing on May 3, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay..
Alan Borsuk recently followed up on the changes (fewer, but better paid teachers) in Oconomowoc.
Rocketship and Avenues are also worth looking into.

One year in, Oconomowoc High School staff, students adjusting to change

Alan Borsuk:

Time, time, time, see what’s become of Oconomowoc High School.
The nearly 1,500-student high school 30 miles west of Milwaukee attracted a lot of attention a year ago with a transformation plan: Reduce the staff, give most teachers increased workloads and pay, and implement learning approaches that call for more initiative by students and a lot of technology.
As Superintendent Patricia Neudecker (now retired) and high school Principal Joseph Moylan saw it, it was a way to tighten spending while personalizing and improving learning. As critics, including many teachers and students, saw it, it was a way to make things worse.
One year into the new reality, Oconomowoc High still stands. The critics haven’t been proved wrong, but it appears it was a pretty decent year by many measures. Change did not derail the basic flow of a healthy, energetic school and in some ways it helped. But there are signs of the stress the approach is putting on all involved, and change does not come easily.
With a bow to Simon and Garfunkel (“Hazy Shade of Winter,” of course), consider this an update focused on time, time, time.
Teachers’ time: For about a decade, the high school has used a block schedule, which means the school day is built around four longer periods rather than six or seven periods. The conventional teaching load in such a situation is three blocks a day. Many Oconomowoc teachers now teach all four blocks, which means they are in front of students just about all day.
Neudecker said the change was made to reduce staff and save money without reducing offerings to students. “We haven’t cut one program,” she said. “We have not increased our class size.”
In exchange for the heavier workload, teachers receive an additional $14,000 a year. For those affected, that has raised salaries to $50,000 at the starting level and $70,000 or more for experienced teachers.

Related: May, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay. Indeed. Madison appears to have mastered the art of status quo governance.

Oconomowoc worth watching

Wisconsin State Journal:

Oconomowoc’s plans for next school year are undeniably bold:

  • Reduce the number of teachers but pay the many who stay a lot more money for teaching an extra period.
  • Use technology — including students’ own hand-held devices — to encourage and personalize learning.
  • Save more than $500,000 to help balance the district’s budget without reducing class sizes or cutting programs for students.

Wisconsin will be watching closely for results.

Oconomowoc High School plan brings transformation

Patricia Neudecker:

I support the teaching profession, administration, school boards and public education. Above balancing the needs of adults, however, my main responsibility is for students and the environments necessary for their learning.
Hundreds of decisions must be made daily to support that learning environment. Some decisions are easy, obvious and routine; some are difficult, painful and even courageous. All decisions are subject to both support and criticism. In a democratic environment with local control for schools, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
A transformational plan for high school staffing was presented recently to the Oconomowoc School Board. The plan reallocates resources, human and financial, and deploys them where they are needed the most. Across seven departments at Oconomowoc High School, an original staff of 60 will be reduced to a staff of 45. The 45 teachers each will be assigned an additional class section and will be compensated $14,000 each for that addition and the loss of some preparation time within the school day.
Unfortunately, 15 positions will be eliminated and teachers will be personally affected. Some teachers are eligible for retirement, some will be reassigned based on licensure and, unfortunately, nine will be laid off. The plan also generates a recurring savings of over $500,000 annually, maintains all programs and services for high school students and does not increase class sizes.

An alternate view from Rose Locander: Gut education now, pay later

When I first read of the draconian hits to public education that the Oconomowoc Area School District is proposing, I thought this might be a belated April Fools’ joke. Who in their right mind guts their high school staff in an attempt to balance their budget?
The school district wants to reduce its high school teaching staff by about 20%. It has become obvious that the “tools” given to school districts by Gov. Scott Walker have turned into sharpened arrows directed at the heart of public education.
I have questions for the residents of Oconomowoc: Are you going to accept what is going on in your district? Is this what you want for your children? Are you willing to have overworked staff members try to help your children with key curricular subjects? Are you willing to watch as your district goes knee-deep into the abyss?

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

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

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Another approach might be eliminating programs or initiatives that are more closely aligned to student learning. Possibilities here could include reducing our school staff who are not classroom teachers, like Reading Interventionists, Instructional Resource Teachers, and Positive Behavior Coaches. We could also eliminate special interventions for struggling readers. The reading recovery program is the best-known example. While reading recovery is backed by research that supports its effectiveness, it’s an expensive program and, at least as of a couple of years ago, we hadn’t seen in Madison the level of successful outcomes in terms of students’ reading progress that had typically been achieved elsewhere with the program.
My view is that we should have in place an established schedule for evaluating the effectiveness of our intervention programs, like Reading Recovery, and we should be willing to make difficult decisions based on what the evaluations tell us. But that evaluation and review process should be separate from our budgeting process. We shouldn’t look at cutting programs like Reading Recovery strictly as a cost-saving measure. I doubt that we’re willing to eliminate all intensive interventions for struggling readers – I don’t even know if we could do so legally – and it’s far from obvious that substituting one intensive reading intervention program for another would end up saving us all that much money.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Much more on the Oconomowoc School District’s high school staffing an compensation plan, here.

Oconomowoc — unanswered questions

Regarding Oconomowoc’s proposal to let go 20% of its high school teachers, get rid of prep time, give the remaining teachers a $14,000 pay increase, and evidently move to a flipped classroom model supported by some kind of online system that provides content and creates individualized learning plans for the students — It’s extraordinarily bold, […]

$9,860/student vs. $14,858.40/student; Paying for Educational Priorities and/or Structural Change: Oconomowoc vs. Madison

Chris Rickert summarizes a bit of recent Madison School Board decision making vis a vis educational outcomes. Contrast this with the recent governance news (more) from Oconomowoc; a community 58 miles east of Madison.


Moreover, it’s not like Madisonians are certain to oppose a large tax hike, especially given the way they responded to Walker’s bid to kill collective bargaining.
Before that idea became law, the board voted for — and the community supported — extending union contracts. Unions agreed to some $21 million in concessions in return for two years’ worth of protection from the law’s restrictions.
But the board could have effectively stripped the union of seniority protections, forced members to pay more for health insurance, ended automatic pay raises and taken other actions that would have been even worse for union workers — but that also would have saved taxpayers lots of money.
Board members didn’t do that because they knew protecting employees was important to the people they represent. They should be able to count on a similar dedication to public schooling in asking for the money to pay for the district’s latest priorities.

Christian D’Andrea

The changes would have a significant effect on teachers that the district retains. Starting positions – though it’s unclear how many would be available due to the staff reduction – would go from starting at a $36,000 salary to a $50,000 stipend. The average teacher in the district would see his or her pay rise from $57,000 to $71,000. It’s a move that would not only reward educators for the extra work that they would take on, but could also have a significant effect in luring high-level teachers to the district.
In essence, the district is moving forward with a plan that will increase the workload for their strong teachers, but also increase their pay to reflect that shift. In cutting staff, the district has the flexibility to raise these salaries while saving money thanks to the benefit packages that will not have to be replaced. Despite the shuffle, class sizes and course offerings will remain the same, though some teachers may not. It’s a bold move to not only retain the high school’s top performers, but to lure good teachers from other districts to the city.
Tuesday’s meeting laid out the first step of issuing non-renewal notices to the 15 teachers that will not be retained. The school board will vote on the reforms as a whole on next month.

The Madison School District has, to date, been unwilling to substantively change it’s model, one that has been around for decades. The continuing use of Reading Recovery despite its cost and lower than average performance is one example.
With respect to facilities spending, perhaps it would be useful to look into the 2005 maintenance referendum spending & effectiveness.
It is my great “hope” (hope and change?) that Madison’s above average spending, in this case, 33% more per student than well to do Oconomowoc, nearby higher education institutions and a very supportive population will ultimately improve the curriculum and provide a superior environment for great teachers.

Oconomowoc plan a recipe for burnout

Teacher Mark Miner:

I have taught 28 years in the Oconomowoc Area School District, the last 25 at Oconomowoc High School. I am retiring at the end of this year so I have some perspective on the proposed “transformation” of the high school. I also have the luxury of being able to speak my mind without fear of repercussion.
Media coverage has focused on how the transformation is a bold educational innovation. However, there is more to the story.
For most of the years I have taught, there has been a genuine feeling of collaboration and teamwork among administrators, teachers and support staff. That has quickly eroded this past year into a culture of fear. Teachers fear that by speaking up, by questioning, they may be putting their careers in jeopardy.
I do not believe this is the kind of culture our school administration wants, but it is what we have. And now they are going to compound this situation by taking away the most valuable resource a teacher has: time.
I have been, as have many teachers, to many workshops over the years where innovative and exciting ideas and programs have been put forth on how to better meet the needs of students. Teachers come away thinking: If only we could . . . well we could . . . if we had the time.
Without a doubt, the No. 1 limiting factor in the successful implementation of new ideas and programs is time – the time to read, to mull over, to discuss, to plan, the time to create, to implement, to evaluate and to make changes.

Alan Borsuk:

Oconomowoc Superintendent Pat Neudecker calls the plan “the right thing to do for our students, our schools and the teaching profession.” Even before the financial belt got much tighter across Wisconsin, she was an advocate of changing classroom life to take better advantage of technology and make education more customized for students. Neudecker is currently president of the American Association of School Administrators; she was a leading figure in developing a statement issued by a group of Milwaukee area educators in 2010 that called for these kinds of changes.
Now, talk turns into action. Act 10, the Republican-backed state law that pretty much wiped out the role of teachers unions in school life, and cuts in education spending create the landscape for Oconomowoc to make big changes.
Oconomowoc High uses a block schedule, which means its days are built around four periods of about 90 minutes each, rather than, say, seven of 50 minutes. Generally, teachers teach three blocks and get one to work on things such as preparation. (If you think three blocks is a fairly light schedule, that’s because you haven’t done it.)
There is a big need to reduce spending for next year. For many school districts, that is going to mean reducing staff, keeping a tight grip on salary and benefits (as allowed now by state law), reducing offerings and increasing some class sizes – the four pillars of school cost cutting.

Governance: Changing Expectations in Oconomowoc – Paying Fewer High School Teachers More

Erin Richards:

In a move sure to capture the attention of school districts across the state grappling with how to reallocate resources in a time of reduced funding, the Oconomowoc Area School District administration on Tuesday proposed a profound restructuring of its high school, cutting staff and demanding the remaining educators take on more teaching duties.
The kicker: Those remaining staffers would each get a $14,000 annual stipend.
The plan requires reducing Oconomowoc High School’s core teaching force by about 20% – from about 75 to about 60 people – across the departments of math, science, social studies, language arts, foreign language, physical education and art, Oconomowoc Superintendent Pat Neudecker said Tuesday before a school board meeting where the plan’s details were released.
Oconomowoc’s dramatic step reflects a district responding to reduced resources amid an urgent push to reshape teaching, with newfound leeway to adjust compensation, staffing and school structures without having to bargain with unions.
“We haven’t ever moved around the pieces in education like this,” Neudecker said, adding that even with the stipends next year, the district would save $500,000 annually under the new plan.
“Our expectations are changing for teachers, but we’re also going to deploy resources to help them change,” Neudecker said.

Structural change rather than just ongoing, overall spending increases.
Oconomowoc’s 2011-2012 budget is $51,381,000 for 5,211 students results in per student spending of $9,860, 33% less than Madison. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $369,394,753 for 24,861 = $14,858.40/student.
Update: Alan Borsuk:

Oconomowoc Superintendent Pat Neudecker calls the plan “the right thing to do for our students, our schools and the teaching profession.” Even before the financial belt got much tighter across Wisconsin, she was an advocate of changing classroom life to take better advantage of technology and make education more customized for students. Neudecker is currently president of the American Association of School Administrators; she was a leading figure in developing a statement issued by a group of Milwaukee area educators in 2010 that called for these kinds of changes.
Now, talk turns into action. Act 10, the Republican-backed state law that pretty much wiped out the role of teachers unions in school life, and cuts in education spending create the landscape for Oconomowoc to make big changes.
Oconomowoc High uses a block schedule, which means its days are built around four periods of about 90 minutes each, rather than, say, seven of 50 minutes. Generally, teachers teach three blocks and get one to work on things such as preparation. (If you think three blocks is a fairly light schedule, that’s because you haven’t done it.)
There is a big need to reduce spending for next year. For many school districts, that is going to mean reducing staff, keeping a tight grip on salary and benefits (as allowed now by state law), reducing offerings and increasing some class sizes – the four pillars of school cost cutting.

Oconomowoc students to take act overseas to Fringe Fest

Laurel Walker:

As plots go, this theater production has some twists that are still turning.
Tom Klubertanz had been a hotshot drama teacher at Wauwatosa West – even named Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2000 – when he was invited to seek a place in the prestigious Fringe festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, this summer.
By the time the invitation arrived, he’d moved on to Oconomowoc High School, succeeding Vic Passante, who retired in 2007 after 33 years leading the program. Klubertanz applied anyway and learned last spring that he’d been accepted.
It was some honor, with only 42 American schools accepted among the 1,600 applicants invited to apply. Now he’s taking 30 Oconomowoc High School drama students with him in August, but they’ve got work ahead.
They’re madly working to raise funds to help pay the hefty $5,500 per student cost. They’re also furiously working to write and perfect an original work that they will perform five times in Edinburgh.
The Fringe, for the uninitiated, is billed as the largest performing arts festival in the world, where hundreds of groups from around the world perform theater, dance, music and similar arts. It coincides with other events featuring classical dance and music, films, gallery art, books and piper and drummer performances, all under the umbrella The Edinburgh Festival.

Oconomowoc Must Pay for Disabled Student

Amy Hetzner:

The Oconomowoc Area School District must pay the educational costs of a disabled man placed by Winnebago County court order in a residential treatment center within district boundaries, an appeals court has decided.
Officials involved in the case say it could affect other school districts that host residential care and education centers, which often serve the most drastically disabled and costly students.
“Special education tuitions can run thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Oconomowoc Superintendent Patricia Neudecker said.
The ruling affirms a decision by the state Department of Public Instruction that transferred the financial burden of the man’s education at the Oconomowoc Developmental Training Center to the Oconomowoc district once he reached 18 and moved to an adult residential facility located in the district.
The DPI had argued that while state law exempts local school districts from paying the costs of students placed by court order in residential care centers such as the one in Oconomowoc, that exemption does not apply to adult students living in community facilities.
Neudecker said her district challenged the state’s decision to assign to it the educational costs of a person who had never been enrolled in the school system or lived there before his court-ordered placement, not only because of the financial burden but also because of the larger implications.

“lead to a small increase in average quality of the teaching workforce in individual-salary districts.”

As Stanford University economic researcher Barbara Biasi explains in a new study (which is awaiting peer review), Act 10 created a marketplace for teachers in which public-school districts can compete for better employees. For instance, a district can pay more to recruit and retain “high-value added” teachers—that is, those who most improve student learning. Districts […]

Schools face tougher task in finding teachers

Dave Umhoefer and Sarah Hauer: But the steep decline in the number of teacher candidates started before Act 10’s passage, it follows a national trend, and Wisconsin is faring better than its neighbors, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examination found. Experts say root causes of the drop include tougher training and licensure requirements and tight school […]

Lawmaker to propose requiring random drug testing for high school students in extracurriculars

Molly Beck: All Wisconsin high school students participating in extracurricular activities would be subject to random drug testing under legislation being drafted by a Republican lawmaker. The bill would also require random testing for students who want to park vehicles on school grounds. Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said that when lawmakers reconvene next year he […]

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

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc. The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a […]

Commentary on the Teaching Climate, Cost Disease & Curriculum

David Kirp: The same message — that the personal touch is crucial — comes from community college students who have participated in the City University of New York’s anti-dropout initiative, which has doubled graduation rates. Even as these programs, and many others with a similar philosophy, have proven their worth, public schools have been spending […]

Madison’s Latest Superintendent, one year hence: Deja Vu?

My simple thoughts on Madison’s latest Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham: How is the new Superintendent Doing? Our community faces several historic challenges: Despite spending double the national average per student, Madison’s reading results are a disaster. The Superintendent has been talking about this and there are indications that at least administrative attention to this urgent problem […]

Madison Governance Status Quo: Teacher “Collective Bargaining” Continues; West Athens Parent Union “Bargains Like any other Union” in Los Angeles

Ben Austin, via a kind email: Last week was an important moment in the Parent Power movement. On Friday, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy came to West Athens Elementary School in South LA to sign a groundbreaking Partnership Agreement with the leadership of the West Athens Parents Union, called the “Aguilas de West Athens” (AWA) – […]

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”.

Mayor Paul Soglin Discusses Education Reform with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

City of Madison, via a kind reader’s email:

Mayor Paul Soglin joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, other mayors and school superintendents in Washington, DC, today to discuss partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to foster effective approaches to education reform.
Participating city leaders are part of a new Mayors’ Education Reform Task Force co-chaired by National League of Cities (NLC) First Vice President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, MN, and NLC Second Vice President Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City, UT. Mayors Coleman and Becker formed the task force in March 2013 to explore how cities can and should be involved in local education reform efforts.
During today’s meeting, task force members highlighted the growing commitment by municipal officials across the country to promoting educational achievement.
“Mayors and elected officials can bring together all the stakeholders in the education conversation in their cities,” said Mayor Soglin. “The perspectives from mayors of cities large to small are valuable to local and national policymakers. I’m glad we had an opportunity to talk with the Secretary and his staff about the role mayors can play in education transformation.”
Local leaders shared examples of city-school partnerships they have formed in their communities in areas such as school improvement, early learning, afterschool programming, and postsecondary success.
“The trajectory of learning begins at birth and extends over a lifetime,” said Mayor Becker, who was unable to attend the meeting. “Cities now experience an unprecedented level of collaboration and discussion in formulating specific plans for postsecondary access and success and productive out-of-school time learning.”
The meeting with Secretary Duncan provided mayors with an opportunity to discuss how lessons learned at the city level can inform federal education policy. Among the key issues of concern identified by the task force are:

  • Finding a “third way” in education reform that balances a commitment to accountability with a spirit of collaboration among school administrators, teachers, and cities;
  • Transforming schools into centers of community that support parent engagement and provide wraparound services to children and families;
  • Building on successful “cradle-to-career” models to develop a strong educational pipeline;
  • Securing adequate and equitable funding for local education initiatives; and
  • Promoting college access and completion.

“In this global economy, cities and towns depend on an educated workforce and schools are depending on us. We need to work together to ensure that our children graduate high school ready for postsecondary education and career success,” said NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, Mayor of Avondale, AZ. “As city leaders, we have an important message that must be heard and we must be at the table in guiding federal and local education reform policies.”
In addition to Mayors Soglin, Coleman and Becker participants in today’s meeting included: Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Indiana; Mayor Edna Branch Jackson of Savannah, Georgia; Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond, Virginia; Mayor Pedro Segarra of Hartford, Connecticut; Riverside (Calif.) Unified School District Superintendent Rick Miller; Gary Community School Corporations Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt; and New York City Deputy Chief Academic Officer Josh Thomases.
The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.

Related:

A Look at Property Taxes Around the World and Madison’s 16% increase since 2007; Median Household Income Down 7.6%; Middleton’s 16% less





Sources:
Department of Numbers.
City of Madison Assessor Reports
Related:
August, 2006 (Deja-vu): Property Taxes Outstrip Income.
Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.
Madison’s long-term disastrous reading results.
The Hated Property Tax: Salience, Tax Rates, and Tax Revolts.
Levying the Land.
Revenue Potential and Implementation
Challenges (IMF PDF)
.
Tax Policy Reform and Economic Growth (OECD).
Stagnant School Governance; Tax & Spending Growth and the “NSA’s European Adventure”.










Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap.
A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton..

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..

Charter Schools Receive a Passing Grade: Overall Reading Gains Stronger Than on Regular Public Campuses, but Results Vary Widely by State

Stephanie Banchero:

Students attending publicly funded, privately run charter schools posted slightly higher learning gains overall in reading than their peers in traditional public schools and about the same gains in math, but the results varied drastically by state, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of U.S. charter schools.
The study [PDF], published Tuesday by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter students in Rhode Island, for example, gained the equivalent of an additional 86 days of reading comprehension and 108 days of math comprehension annually compared with peers in traditional public schools. In Nevada, however, charter students had 115 fewer days of learning in reading and 137 fewer in math annually, the study found.
Overall, the new study found that charter students gained an additional eight days of reading, while the math gains were identical. Low-income Hispanic and African-American students did much better in charters than their peers in the traditional school option, while white children did worse in charters.
The researchers and some charter proponents said the results suggest some states need to be more particular about which groups they award charters, and more aggressive about shutting low-performers.

Center for Research on Education Outcomes Press Release:

According to the 26-state study:

  • Students in poverty, black students, and those who are English language learners (ELL) gain significantly more days of learning each year in both reading and math compared to their traditional public school peers. Performance differences between charter school students and their traditional public school peers were especially strong among black and Hispanic students in poverty and Hispanic students who are ELL in both reading and math.
  • Charter school enrollment has grown among students who are in poverty, black students, and Hispanic students.
  • The 11 new states added marginally to the mathematics gains seen since the 2009 study, but more so to gains in reading.

More from Stephanie Simon.
Related:One year in, Oconomowoc High School staff, students adjusting to change and May, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
A majority of Madison school board members rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in 2012.
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading scores.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Bi-Partisan Fiscal Indulgences Shift more Taxes to the “little people”

Chris Rickert

The bill’s author and primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc, says that broadcasters have poured lots of money into their operations to make them compatible with an increasingly digital world, and he lauds the “distinctive link” between the stations and the communities they serve.
Co-sponsor Rep. Brett Hulsey, a liberal Madison Democrat not usually given to signing on to Republican bills, is more blunt.
“I co-sponsored this bill because employers from the TV and radio stations in my district asked me to,” he said. “There are four TV stations and 13 radio stations, and they employ over 200 people in the district.”
This is typical of the approach legislators take to taxes, according to Berry. “Somebody will come to them and ask them to carve out some teeny exemption.”
And over time, they add up.

Much more on fiscal indulgences and our political class, here.

10 things to watch for in the new school year

Alan Borsuk

Oconomowoc High School.
They have reduced the teaching staff and increased the workload for many teachers (giving them a boost in pay).
But what really interests me is a key to their plan: Making fundamental changes in the dynamic of education.
The goal is that a lot of the presentation of lectures and other instruction will come via video and the Internet. Education will be more customized for students, students will take more responsibility for their learning, and teachers will do more coaching, mentoring, monitoring.
There’s a lot of ferment in education over changes such as these. Oconomowoc will be an important test case.

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

Madison School District Employee Handbook Process

The Madison School District Administration:

Guiding Principles: Superintendent

  • Improve student learning. As in everything we do, the first question and the top priority is student learning. How does what we are considering impact students?
  • Empower staff to do their best work. How does this impact teachers and staff? Does it help or hinder them in doing their jobs effectively?
  • Strategically align use of resources. Does this align with our strategic plan and achievement gap plan? Will it allow us to implement, measure, and improve that work? Is it financially responsible?
  • Avoid redundancies and create consistencies. Are pieces of the handbook already outlined in state law or Board policy or other mandates?
  • Consider incremental change. Can we work toward a larger goal through incremental steps?
  • Respectful discussion.

I will be surprised if the school District’s handbook differs materially from the current 182 page union contract. Some Districts will think very differently, while most will, I suspect continue business as usual.
Related:

15 Wisconsin groups eye Race to the Top funds; Madison won’t apply

Matthew DeFour:

Madison recently completed and is now implementing “an ambitious and innovative plan to improve student achievement and close gaps.” The district had discussed applying for Race to the Top funds in recent weeks, but decided the timing wasn’t right, Belmore told the board.
“A year or two from now, we feel MMSD would be poised to take advantage of an opportunity like this one and make a competitive case,” Belmore wrote to the board. “But based on our implementation time line, we feel this grant does not come at the right time for our district. This year, we will be disciplined in focusing our internal resources on effectively implementing our achievement gap plan and making improvements for all students.”

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

Big changes in the works for Madison’s 2012-13 school year

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin students, parents, teachers and property owners will feel the impact of major changes rolling out in Wisconsin’s public schools this school year.
This fall for the first time:

  • The state will assign numerical ratings to schools based on various test score measures.
  • Most students will start to see a new, more specific curriculum — in math and language arts, and with literacy incorporated in all subjects — in anticipation of a new state test in two years.
  • And dozens of schools, including three in Madison, will take part in the state’s new teacher evaluation system, which takes into account student test scores.

“This is huge,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said. “I’ve been doing this for 37 years and I haven’t seen this level of reform efforts.”
The unifying reason for the changes is the end of the No Child Left Behind era and the national move toward a more rigorous set of standards for what students are expected to know at each grade level, said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison. In order to obtain a waiver from NCLB, Wisconsin had to adopt the accountability system, higher curriculum standards and a teacher evaluation system.
“This has nothing to do with the turmoil we experienced in Wisconsin last year,” Gamoran said. “This is happening in every state in the country.”

Related:

Focus on front lines of achievement gap: Questions on Madison Administrative Spending

Adaeze Okoli:

I understand closing the achievement gap is a huge task. But the Madison School District often fails to take the right measures. It is a mistake, for example, to spend more money hiring top-level staff to coordinate meetings and oversee district plans. If we truly want to close the achievement gap, resources need to be on the front lines — at the schools working with kids. This is not the approach the district is choosing.
Recently, the School Board voted to hire a chief of staff for interim Superintendent Jane Belmore. The position will cost $170,000 and last one year. The superintendent said: “We’re about doing everything we can to start to close that achievement gap and in order to do that this position is critical.”
I disagree. I understand the need for staff support and accountability. Overseeing a large school district is a huge undertaking. But hiring more top-level staff who earn six figures will not teach third-graders at Glendale Elementary how to read and write.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Club speech:

“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).

Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Solidarity Newsletter by Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF):

MTI President Kerry Motoviloff addressed the Board of Education at its May 21 general meeting. At issue is the District’s plan to introduce more new programs into elementary teachers’ literacy curriculum, including Mondo and 3 new assessments. At the same time, elementary teachers are being told that they will be losing release days for the administration of K-2 testing.
Motoviloff listed more than 13 current K-5 assessments, explaining to Board members that each assessment comes with a set of non-comparable data or scores. She noted that the District has introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009.
Motoviloff stressed that all teachers are concerned about the achievement gap, and that the District needs to walk its own talk relative to ensuring fidelity in the curriculum process. She challenged the District to prioritize essentials, instead of swamping teachers with initiatives while reducing teachers’ time to implement the curriculum with fidelity, and emphasized the need to include time not only for assessments, but also time for teachers to analyze and plan. She also urged the District to stop pitting professional development against planning/prep time.

Related:

I’ve long suggested that the District should get out of the curriculum/program creation business and focus on hiring the best teachers. Like it or not, Oconomowoc is changing the game by focusing efforts and increasing teacher pay. Madison, given our high per student spending and incredible community and academic resources, should be delivering world class results for all students.
I don’t see how more than 18 programs and initiatives can be implemented successfully in just a few years. I’m glad MTI President Kerry Motoviloff raised this important issue. Will the proposed “achievement gap plan” add, replace or eliminate programs and spending?
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Madison tenure, which began in 2008, appears to be quickly coming to an end.

Governance: The Acquisition of Knowledge

Rory Stewart:

Today, instead of deferring to long practical experience, and deep knowledge of a particular place, managers prefer to implement ‘best practice’ from somewhere else; they impose theoretical models with less and less understanding of what does not work on the ground; and they justify decisions with abstract metrics, and obscure concepts. And as more and more positions are filled with people with this mentality, there are fewer people, with the confidence, or seniority, to expose the shallowness of this approach. Our culture is beginning to forget what deep knowledge and contact with the ground looked like, or why it mattered.

The solution must be to give power back to people with deep knowledge. But it won’t happen through running training courses. You need to force institutions to change their promotion criteria, and put those with knowledge, judgement and experience back at the very top. Some of them might not be ideal managers: they might be less popular with staff, unappealing to stake-holders, more difficult to work with. But they can offer things we have forgotten how to measure: not just long experience, but rigour, a sense of vocation, and unexpected frames of reference. They might have prevented some of our recent mistakes. They could certainly bring more flexible and inventive ways of engaging with the world. And we cannot afford to continue to ignore them.

Something to consider in light of Oconomowoc’s planned changes.

Huge child health survey kicks off in Waukesha

Laurel Walker:

One hundred down, 1,150 more to go.
Waukesha County researchers have identified 100 babies who’ll be part of a landmark study of children’s health – a tiny fraction of the 100,000 nationwide who may eventually be identified for the largest long-term study of children’s health ever conducted in the country.
Waukesha County is among the first seven pilot locations, the only one in Wisconsin and part of 105 centers eventually who’ll participate in the National Children’s Study. The $2.7 billion study will follow children from before their birth until age 21 with the aim of identifying the influence of environmental factors, including physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial, on their health and development.
A celebration at the study’s Waukesha office Wednesday highlighted the success in finding the first 100 local participants.
Another 1,150 babies will eventually be added in Waukesha County, and researchers are still recruiting from Brookfield, Big Bend, Hartland, Pewaukee, Oconomowoc, Dousman, New Berlin, Waukesha, Menomonee Falls and Sussex.

Memories on trial: Parents say therapists gave daughter false memories of abuse

In 1991, Charlotte Johnson dropped a bomb on her parents. She accused her father, Charles Johnson, of sexually abusing her. Two years later she accused her mother, Karen Johnson, of being complicit in the sexual abuse and of being physically abusive to her. The abuse, she believes to this day, happened when she was a young child.
The painful memories, buried deep in Johnson’s subconscious, surfaced in adulthood.
Charles and Karen Johnson, of St. Louis, say the abuse never happened and that mental health treatment providers encouraged and fostered false memories of abuse.
In 1996 the Johnsons sued Rogers Memorial Hospital, where their daughter was admitted for treatment. They also sued Heartland Counseling Services in Madison, Madison therapist Kay Phillips, Oconomowoc therapists Jeff Hollowell and Tim Reisenauer, and the defendants’ insurers. The lawsuit has crept through the legal system for more than 14 years, including two trips to the state Supreme Court.

The Overhaul of Wisconsin’s Assessment System (WKCE) Begins

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [52K PDF]:

Wisconsin will transform its statewide testing program to a new system that combines state, district, and classroom assessments and is more responsive to students, teachers, and parents needs while also offering public accountability for education.
“We will be phasing out the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE),” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “We must begin now to make needed changes to our state’s assessment system.” He also explained that the WKCE will still be an important part of the educational landscape for two to three years during test development. “At minimum, students will be taking the WKCEs this fall and again during the 2010-11 school year. Results from these tests will be used for federal accountability purposes,” he said.
“A common sense approach to assessment combines a variety of assessments to give a fuller picture of educational progress for our students and schools,” Evers explained. “Using a balanced approach to assessment, recommended by the Next Generation Assessment Task Force, will be the guiding principle for our work.”
The Next Generation Assessment Task Force, convened in fall 2008, was made up of 42 individuals representing a wide range of backgrounds in education and business. Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, and Joan Wade, administrator for Cooperative Educational Service Agency 6 in Oshkosh, were co-chairs. The task force reviewed the history of assessment in Wisconsin; explored the value, limitations, and costs of a range of assessment approaches; and heard presentations on assessment systems from a number of other states.
It recommended that Wisconsin move to a balanced assessment system that would go beyond annual, large-scale testing like the WKCE.

Jason Stein:


The state’s top schools official said Thursday that he will blow up the system used to test state students, rousing cheers from local education leaders.
The statewide test used to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law will be replaced with a broader, more timely approach to judging how well Wisconsin students are performing.
“I’m extremely pleased with this announcement,” said Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad. “This is signaling Wisconsin is going to have a healthier assessment tool.”

Amy Hetzner:

Task force member Deb Lindsey, director of research and assessment for Milwaukee Public Schools, said she was especially impressed by Oregon’s computerized testing system. The program gives students several opportunities to take state assessments, with their highest scores used for statewide accountability purposes and other scores used for teachers and schools to measure their performance during the school year, she said.
“I like that students in schools have multiple opportunities to take the test, that there is emphasis on progress rather than a single test score,” she said. “I like that the tests are administered online.”
Computerized tests give schools and states an opportunity to develop more meaningful tests because they can assess a wider range of skills by modifying questions based on student answers, Lindsey said. Such tests are more likely to pick up on differences between students who are far above or below grade level than pencil-and-paper tests, which generate good information only for students who are around grade level, she said.
For testing at the high school level, task force member and Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan also has a preference.
“I’m hoping it’s the ACT and I’m hoping it’s (given in) the 11th grade,” he said. “That’s what I believe would be the best thing for Wisconsin.”
By administering the ACT college admissions test to all students, as is done in Michigan, Moylan said the state would have a good gauge of students’ college readiness as well as a test that’s important to students. High school officials have lamented that the low-stakes nature of the 10th-grade WKCE distorts results.

Wisconsin State K-12 Budget: “Robin Hood” for Madison Schools?

Steven Walters:

School-aid shift: Democrats added a shift in school-aid funding that would guarantee that no district loses more than 10% of state aid. The shift would give the Madison School District up to $1.8 million more, and take about that much from five Milwaukee-area suburban districts – Elmbrook, Oconomowoc, Mequon-Thiensville, Fox Point-Bayside and Nicolet.
QEO: The committee adopted a Senate-backed plan for an immediate repeal of the qualified economic offer system of limiting teachers’ pay raises. Doyle and the Assembly proposed a delay of the repeal until the 2010-’11 school year. Teachers have long complained that the QEO has unfairly kept salaries low; others say it keeps property taxes in check.

It will be interesting to see how the shift of money for Madison, at the expense of others plays out as state politics inevitably change…

Schools aim to make lunches healthy, tasty

Amy Hetzner:

Before the first lunch period begins at Oconomowoc High School, students sidle up to see what chef Brian Shoemake is cooking.
“Chicken pasta broccoli bowl,” Shoemake says in answer to an inquiry. “I’ll get you to eat your broccoli.”
Well, maybe not that student. But in the 15 minutes that ensue, Shoemake manages to fill the bowls of at least 60 others with steaming rotini, strips of chicken breast, their choice of Alfredo sauce and, yes, freshly cooked broccoli spears.
The addition of Shoemake to the lunch lineup this school year is part of a larger effort at the school.
Like a number of schools throughout the state, Oconomowoc High School is trying to tackle that seemingly intractable barrier in the fight to improve childhood nutrition: the school lunch.
“Student tastes have changed so much in the last 10 years,” said Brenda Klamert, director of child nutrition services for the Oconomowoc Area School District. “They’re looking for healthy foods.”
Schools have been slow to meet the demand.
Sure, many have added salad bars. But most lunches remain high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber- and nutrient-rich food, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Washington-based group advocates a more vegetarian approach.

Wait for Autism Care Outlasts Bill

Patrick Marley:

Cindy Brimacombe has known for almost two years that her son has autism, but she won’t be able to get him the full treatment he needs until next year because of a long waiting list.
Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature both had plans that would have helped Brimacombe and her 3 1/2 -year-old son, Max. But they ended their session last week without a compromise, guaranteeing that nothing will change until next year.
“It’s so sad,” the Oconomowoc mother said of the stalemate. “It’s so sad because these children have so many special gifts. . . . How can you deny these little ones help?”
Such is the nature of a Capitol under split control, where little gets done but lawmakers build up records they can tout on the campaign trail.

Hands-on Science Brings Deforest Teacher Kudos

Ellen Williams-Masson: The mock forensics exercise is one of many hands-on approaches that fifth-grade science teacher Anne Tredinnick uses to illustrate the scientific method and share a love of science with her pupils. Tredinnick has been named the Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Department of Public Instruction and is under consideration to […]