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Open Records Response: “Community Leader & Stakeholder” meeting with Madison Superintendent Candidates



On January 21, 2020, I sent this email to board@madison.k12.wi.us

Hi:

I hope that you are well.

I write to make an open records request for a list of invitees and participants in last week’s “community leader and stakeholder” meetings with the (Superintendent) candidates.

Thank you and best wishes,


Jim

Hearing nothing, I wrote on February 13, 2020:

Has my open records request gone missing?

School Board member Cris Carusi emailed me, twice that day, kindly following up on this request.

I received an email on February 18, 2020 from Barbara Osborn that my “request has been shared with our legal department”.

I received this response from Sherrice M Perry on March 13, 2020:

Dear Mr. James Zellmer,

Please accept this email as the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (the “District”) response to your public records request for “a list of invitees and participants in last week’s ‘community leader and stakeholder’ meetings with the candidates.” Attached below are the records that are most responsive to your request.

With regard to the requested records, the District redacted portions of the attached records consistent with the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA; 34 CFR 99.3 et seq.) and Wis. Stat. § 118.125(1)(d). The requested records contain “personally identifiable information.” Pursuant to FERPA, “personally identifiable information” is defined as “information requested by a person who the educational agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the record relates” or “information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty.” (34 CFR 99 3). According to these definitions, the District determined that the redacted documents contain information regarding very small populations (e.g. one or two students) from a distinct group or affiliation and thus, a “reasonable person in the school community” could identify the students who were referenced in the record. Nonetheless, by providing you the record with only limited redactions, the District is in full compliance with Wis. Stat. 19.36(6).

Please note: The denials, in the form of the redacted material referenced above, are subject to review in an action for mandamus under Wis. Stat. 19.37(1), or by application to the local district attorney or Attorney General. See Wis. Stat. 19.35(4)(b).

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the District’s Public Information Officer, Timothy LeMonds, at (608) 663-1903.

PDF Attachment.

Much more on the 2019 Madison School District Superintendent Search, here.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”. 

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close. 

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.


The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers. 

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.




Gifted Education in Massachusetts: A Practice and Policy Review



Dana Ansel:

Last year, the Massachusetts Legislature decided that the time had come to understand the state of education that gifted students receive in Massachusetts. They issued a mandate for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to review the policy and practices of education in public schools for gifted students as well as for students capable of performing above grade level.

The challenge that this mandate presents is that Massachusetts neither defines giftedness nor collects data on gifted students. We can nevertheless review what districts report about their practices and what parents of gifted children report about their experiences. We can also report on the state’s policies toward gifted education. In addition, we can analyze the academic trajectory and social-emotional well-being of academically advanced students based on their math MCAS scores. All of this information is valuable in painting a picture of gifted education in Massachusetts, but it is nonetheless limited.

To begin, Massachusetts is an outlier in the country in its approach to gifted education. Nearly every other state in the country defines giftedness. Nor is there an explicit mandate to either identify or serve gifted students in Massachusetts. In contrast, 32 states reported a mandate to identify and/or serve gifted students, according to the State of the States in Gifted Education. In terms of preparing teachers to teach gifted students, Massachusetts used to have an Academically Advanced Specialist Teacher License, but it was eliminated in 2017 because of the lack of licenses being issued and programs preparing teachers for the license.

We do not know how many gifted students live in Massachusetts, but a reasonable estimate would be 6–8 percent of state’s students, which translates into 57,000 – 76,000 students.1 Without a common definition and identification process, it is impossible to pinpoint the precise number. According to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) 2015-16 survey, 6.6 percent of students were enrolled in gifted programs nationally. This number includes states such as Massachusetts that have very few gifted programs, and other states that enroll many more than the average. Another source of data, a nationally representative survey of school districts, found that the fraction of elementary school students nationwide who have been identified as gifted and enrolled in a gifted program was 7.8 percent (Callahan, Moon, & Oh, 2017)

Related: Wisconsin adopted a very small part of Massachusetts’ elementary teacher content knowledge licensing requirements, known as MTEL.

Massachusetts public schools lead the United States in academic performance.

However and unfortunately, the Wisconsin Department of public instruction has waived more than 6000 elementary teacher exam requirements since 2015…. (Foundations of reading)

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”




Deja Vu? Education Experts to Review the Madison School District



The Madison School District:

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

Related:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Administration Memo on the Madison Superintendent Search



Dylan Pauly, Legal Services:

Dr. Nerad recently announced his retirement effective June 30, 2013. Consequently, over the next few months this Board will be required to begin its search for the next District leader. While some members of the Board were Board members during the search that brought Dr. Nerad to Madison, many were not. A number of members have asked me to provide some background information so that they may familiarize themselves with the process that was used in 2007. Consequently, I have gathered the following documents for your review:
1. Request for Proposals: Consultation Services for Superintendent Search, Proposal 3113, dated March 19, 2007;
2. Minutes from Board meetings on February 26,2007, and March 12,2007, reflecting Board input and feedback regarding draft versions ofthe RFP;
3. Contract with Hazard, Young and Attea;
4. A copy of the Notice of Vacancy that was published in Education Week;
5. Minutes from a Board meeting on August 27, 2007, which contains the general timeline used to complete the search process; and,
6. Superintendent Search- Leadership Profile Development Session Schedule, which reflects how community engagement was handled during the previous search.
It is also my understanding that the Board may wish to create an ad hoc committee to handle various procedural tasks related to the search process. In line with Board Policy 1041, I believe it is appropriate to take official action in open session to create the new ad hoc. I recommend the following motion:

Dave Zweiful shares his thoughts on Dan Nerad’s retirement.
Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.

The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.

Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.

Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.

Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.




Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad to Leave when Contract Expires in 2013



Channel3000.com:

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad announced on Monday that he will retire and not seek a contract extension.
Nerad made the announcement at a press conference on Monday afternoon. Nerad’s contract runs through June 2013 and he said he will remain through then.
He said calling this announcement a “resignation” would be accurate.
Nerad said that decision came to a culmination in the last 10 days and that he has been in the process of deciding on retirement for several months.
He cited his reason for retiring for a variety of factors.He said that controversy over achievement gap was “a factor.”
“I wish I could’ve done more to develop a consensus on how to move forward on issues, including (the) achievement gap,” he said.
Nerad said that a new leader could provide a spark on the achievement gap that he could no longer provide.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad will leave the job when his contract expires in the summer of 2013.
Nerad, 60, made the announcement Monday hours before the Madison School Board was scheduled to vote on whether to extend the contract.
School board president James Howard didn’t offer a timeline for hiring a replacement.
Nerad said he had been thinking about leaving the Madison district for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.

Madison School District Press Release 52K PDF.
Pat Schneider:

A community leader who has had a ringside seat to the struggles to forge a plan to end the academic achievement gap in the Madison schools thinks Superintendent Dan Nerad’s announcement Monday of his planned departure next year just might be the break needed to make real progress.
This view isn’t universally shared, but Steve Goldberg, executive director of the CUNA Mutual Foundation who has worked closely with the Madison Metropolitan School District, its teachers union and community leaders, says Nerad’s announcement could put him in a position to have a greater influence over acceptance of a plan he recently put forward to close the race-based achievement gap.
With any inkling that Nerad is working to preserve his job removed from the equation, the likely efficacy of his proposals might become a tighter focus of discussion, Goldberg said.
“This might change the way he is perceived,” Goldberg told me. “Since he no longer has ‘an axe to grind,’ he may be viewed as more objective.”

Matthew DeFour:

Nerad, 60, said he had been thinking about leaving the job for several months, and made a decision within the last 10 days.
He said there were multiple factors that contributed to his decision. When pressed to identify examples, he said division on the board over his performance and division in the community about how to address the district’s persistent achievement gap between minority and white students were factors, though not primary ones.
“I wish I could have done more to try to develop a broader base of consensus around how we best serve children,” Nerad said.
Nerad, a former social worker, came to Madison after six years as superintendent in Green Bay, where he had been credited for his work on addressing the community’s achievement gap.
Soon after taking the reins in Madison, Nerad oversaw the passage of a $13 million operating referendum. He launched 4-year-old kindergarten, developed a five-year strategic plan, expanded the dual-language immersion and summer school programs, reorganized central office staff, introduced curricular alignment among all schools and restored the district’s AAA bond rating.
Don Severson, president of a conservative watchdog group, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement given the lack of overwhelming support for Nerad’s leadership.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” Severson said. “He had to be much more proactive and take some risks, make some decisions, go in some direction where he knows he won’t have unanimity.”

Related: Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:




Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…



Oh, the places we go.
I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

  1. Despite spending nearly $15,000 per student annually, our Reading Results, the District’s job number one, need reform. 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This is not a new topic.
  2. The District’s math program has been an issue for some time, as well (Math Forum).
  3. How does Madison compare to the World, or other US cities? We can and should do much better.
  4. What is happening with Madison’s multi-million dollar investment (waste?) in Infinite Campus? Other Districts have been far more successful implementing this important tool.
  5. Are the District’s tax expenditures well managed?

With respect to the current Superintendent Review, the job pays quite well (IRS income distribution data: table 7), so I believe the position should be fully accountable to parents and taxpayers. Matthew DeFour:

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell’s would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

More, here.
The current rhetoric is quite a change in just 8 years. (Why did things change? A number of citizens care, decided to run for school board – won – and made a difference…) I certainly hope that the Board and community do not revert to past practice where “we know best” – the status quo – prevailed, as the Obama Administration recently asserted in a vital constitutional matter:

Holder made clear that decisions about which citizens the government can kill are the exclusive province of the executive branch, because only the executive branch possess the “expertise and immediate access to information” to make these life-and-death judgments.
Holder argues that “robust oversight” is provided by Congress, but that “oversight” actually amounts to members of the relevant congressional committees being briefed. Press reports suggest this can simply amount to a curt fax to intelligence committees notifying them after the fact that an American has been added to a “kill list.” It also seems like it would be difficult for Congress to provide “robust oversight” of the targeted killing program when intelligence committee members like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are still demanding to see the actual legal memo justifying the policy.

More, here on the political class and the legal system.
The choice is ours. Use our rights locally/nationally, or lose them.
A look back at previous Madison Superintendents.
High expectations surely begin at the top.




Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;



Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.




Washington State’s Math Standards Review



Donna Gordon Blankinship:

The board’s executive director, Edie Harding, said public comment required some changes to a draft report the committee circulated last month, but the basic message is the same: The state needs tougher math standards and clearer guidance for teachers, parents and students.
The draft report called for putting more emphasis on learning the mechanics of math, but Harding said the math committee learned during public hearings around the state that people thought the report came on too strong concerning memorizing basic math facts.
Washington does need to re-emphasize the mechanics of math, but not give up on teaching students how to apply what they learn and to understand how math ideas fit together, Harding said.
The report, written by Linda Plattner of the Maryland-based educational research firm Strategic Teaching, which was hired by the state to assess its math expectations, also emphasizes the need to simplify grade level expectations and to set priorities for the state’s math standards.
“That should help teachers as well as kids,” Harding said.
The focus groups also taught the math committee that they need to include a math educator in their review committee so they can hear from a teacher if the standards will work in the classroom.

Strategic Teaching Draft Report: 650K PDF:

The bottom line is that Washington’s math standards need to be strengthened. If mathematics is the gateway to student success in higher education and the workplace, Washington is getting too few of its students to and through the door.
Compared to other higher-achieving states and countries, Washington is not expecting enough of its students. There is insufficient emphasis on key mathematical content. Some key math should be taught earlier in a student’s schooling, and some key math is simply missing. Washington does not provide sufficient clarity in its math expectations and does not ensure that Washington students learn the critical algorithms — math rules — that they need to succeed.
And the standards do not provide sufficient clarity of how well students are expected to learn math. For example, the standards often call for student “understanding” rather than a demonstration that a student can actually use the math to calculate, estimate, or solve a problem.
This is a harsh assessment. To be sure, there are good qualities in Washington’s mathematics standards including well-defined and developed mathematical processes and some well-developed strands, such as Algebra in the elementary years.

The Madison School Board instructed Superintendent Art Rainwater to conduct an “Independent Math Review” as part of his annual review process. Proposed Math Review Task Force [outline] (which did not obtain the required NSF funding).
I found it interesting and useful that Strategic Teaching included a discussion “on higher achieving states and countries” acknowledging the fact that our next generation is not competing with students from only from Racine or Green Bay, but those from Helsinki, Bangalore, Moscow and many other communities around the world.




Madison Superintendent’s 2007-2008 Proposed Budget Changes



Art Rainwater on the reductions in increases to the proposed 2007-2008 MMSD Budget [1.4MB PDF]:

Dear Board of Education,
The attached is my recommendation for the service reductions required to balance the budget for 2007-2008. They are provided to you for review in advance of my Recommended Balanced Budget for 2007-2008 which will be available on April 12, 2007. You requested that the service reductions be presented to you in advance to provide sufficient time for your study and analysis.
After 14 years of continuous reductions in our services for children there are no good choices. While these service reductions are not good for children or the health of the school district they represent our best professional judgment of the least harmful alternatives.
The process that we used to study, analyze, consider and finally recommend the items presented was done over a period of weeks. We first reviewed each department and division of the district and listed anything that could be reduced or eliminated legally or contractually. We narrowed that list to those items which we believed would do the least harm to:

  • Our academic programs,
  • The health and safety of our schools,
  • The opportunities for student involvement,
  • Our ability to complete our legal and fiscal requirements

The document presented to you today is the result of those discussions. The items are broken into four categories:

  1. Reductions to balance the budget ( Impact Statements provided)
  2. Reductions analyzed, discussed and not included (Impact statements provided)
  3. Reductions reviewed and not advanced
  4. Possible revenues dependent on legislative action

The administration is prepared to provide you further analysis and respond to questions as we continue to work to approve a final working budget in May.

2006/2007 Citizen’s Budget ($333M+) for 24,342 students. I did not quickly notice a total proposed 2007/2008 spending number in this document.
UPDATE: Overall spending will grow about 3.4% from $333M to $345M per Doug Erickson’s article.
Links: NBC15 | Channel3000




Madison School Board Discusses an Independent Math Curriculum Review



The Madison School Board’s 2006/2007 Goals for Superintendent Art Rainwater included the “Initiatiation and completion of a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum”. Watch the discussion [Video] and read a memo [240K PDF] from the Superintendent regarding his plans for this goal. Much more here and here.
Barbara Lehman kindly emailed the Board’s conclusion Monday evening:

It was moved by Lawrie Kobza and seconded by Ruth Robarts to approve the revised plan for implementation of the Superintendent’s 2006-07 goal to initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent, and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum as presented at this meeting, including extension for completion of the evaluation to the 2007-08 school year. The Board of Education shall receive a report in 2006-07 with analysis of math achievement data for MMSD K-12 students, including analysis of all math sub-test scores disaggregated by student characteristics and schools in addition to reports in subsequent years. Student representative advisory vote * aye. Motion carried 6-1 with Lucy Mathiak voting no.




Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992



Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

In 1985 a federal district judge took partial control over the troubled Kansas City, Missouri, School District (KCMSD) on the grounds that it was an unconstitutionally segregated district with dilapidated facilities and students who performed poorly. In an effort to bring the district into compliance with his liberal interpretation of federal law, the judge ordered the state and district to spend nearly $2 billion over the next 12 years to build new schools, integrate classrooms, and bring student test scores up to national norms.
It didn’t work. When the judge, in March 1997, finally agreed to let the state stop making desegregation payments to the district after 1999, there was little to show for all the money spent. Although the students enjoyed perhaps the best school facilities in the country, the percentage of black students in the largely black district had continued to increase, black students’ achievement hadn’t improved at all, and the black-white achievement gap was unchanged.(1)
The situation in Kansas City was both a major embarrassment and an ideological setback for supporters of increased funding for public schools. From the beginning, the designers of the district’s desegregation and education plan openly touted it as a controlled experiment that, once and for all, would test two radically different philosophies of education. For decades critics of public schools had been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” Educators and advocates of public schools, on the other hand, had always responded by saying, “No one’s ever tried.”

Cheryl Wilhoyte was hired, with the support of the two local dailies (Wisconsin State Journal, 9/30/1992: Search No Further & Cap Times Editorial, 9/21/1992: Wilhoyte Fits Madison) by a school board 4-3 vote. The District’s budget in 1992-1993 was $180,400,000 with local property taxes generating $151,200,00 of that amount. 14 years later, despite the 1993 imposition of state imposed annual school spending increase limits (“Revenue Caps“), the 2006 budget is $331,000,000. Dehli’s article mentions that the 1992-1993 School Board approved a 12.9% school property tax increase for that budget. An August, 1996 Capital Times editorial expressed puzzlement over terms of Cheryl Wilhoyte’s contract extension.
Art, the only applicant, was promoted from Acting Superintendent to Superintendent in January, 1999. Chris Murphy’s January, 1999 article includes this:

Since Wilhoyte’s departure, Rainwater has emerged as a popular interim successor. Late last year, School Board members received a set of surveys revealing broad support for a local superintendent as opposed to one hired from outside the district. More than 100 of the 661 respondents recommended hiring Rainwater.

Art was hired on a 7-0 vote but his contract was not as popular – approved on a 5-2 vote (Carol Carstensen, Calvin Williams, Deb Lawson, Joanne Elder and Juan Jose Lopez voted for it while Ray Allen and Ruth Robarts voted no). The contract was and is controversial, as Ruth Robarts wrote in September, 2004.
A February, 2004 Doug Erickson summary of Madison School Board member views of Art Rainwater’s tenure to date.
Quickly reading through a few of these articles, I found that the more things change, the more they stay the same:

Fascinating. Perhaps someone will conduct a much more detailed review of the record, which would be rather useful over the next year or two.




Board’s goals for Superintendent Rainwater in 2006-07



On Monday, November 20, 2006, the Madison Board of Education voted unanimously to approve four goals for Superintendent Art Rainwater for 2006-07. (Carstensen, Kobza, Mathiak, Robarts, Silviera, Vang voting yes; Winston absent)
The goals require the superintendent to do the following:
1. Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum.
• The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force whose members are appointed by the Superintendent and approved by the BOE. Members of the task force shall have math and math education expertise and represent a variety of perspectives regarding math education.
• The task force shall prepare and present to the BOE a preliminary outline of the review and assessment to be undertaken by the task force. The outline shall, at a minimum, include: (1) analysis of math achievement data for MMSD K-12 students, including analysis of all math sub-tests scores disaggregated by student characteristics and schools; (2) analysis of performance expectations for MMSD K-12 students; (3) an overview of math curricula, including MMSD’s math curriculum; (4) a discussion of how to improve MMSD student achievement; and (5) recommendations on measures to evaluate the effectiveness of MMSD’s math curriculum. The task force is to present the preliminary outline and a timeline to the BOE for comment and approval.
• The task force is to prepare a written draft of the review and assessment, consistent with the approved preliminary outline. The draft is to be presented to the BOE for review and comment.
• The task force is to prepare the final report on the review and assessment.
2. Develop in collaboration with the Board and external advisors, a plan for the District to communicate to the community why parents or guardians should send their children to MMSD schools. Specific tasks include (1) determining what parents and guardians consider important in selecting schools; (2) determining whether and how MMSD schools provide what parents and guardians consider important in selecting schools; (3) using the information gained from parents and guardians, developing a vision of what MMSD should be in the future; and (4) developing a communications plan to promote MMSD schools and why parents or guardians should send their children to them. Timeframe to develop: 6 months.
3. Provide information to the Board in a clear, accurate, complete yet concise, and timely manner. The Board will evaluate progress on this goal through the use of a rating sheet for Board members to give periodic feed-back on the information they receive from the administration. Information provided to the Board shall be rated for timeliness, accuracy, organization and presentation.
4. Implement the Administrative Intern Professional Development Program. Program participants should be selected by the 4th quarter of this year. Special attention will be given to the recruitment of people of color and other historically under-represented groups in administrative positions in all employment categories of the District. (principals, building services, etc.) A report on the program shall be provided to the BOE at least annually.




Keep an eye on math, board tells Rainwater



The Madison School Board has given Superintendent Art Rainwater a set of specific orders to accomplish in the coming year, including several directives to take an in-depth look at the district’s entire math curriculum.
In the past several years, area math educators have expressed concern about the effectiveness of the Madison district’s reliance on a reform math curriculum, which emphasizes word-based problem-solving.
Another goal board members mandated for the superintendent for next year is that he collaborate with them and other advisers on a plan to tell community members why parents and guardians should send their children to Madison public schools.
In addition, the board will evaluate the administration on providing information in a clear, accurate, concise and timely manner.
By Susan Troller, The Capital Times, November 21, 2006

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Board of Education’s 2005-06 evaluation of superintendent: next steps



On October 31, the Human Resources Committee of the Madison Board of Education reviewed a memo from Juan Jose Lopez, the chair of the committee. According to the memo, the Board developed goals for the 2005-06 evaluation of the superintendent during its recent closed sessions to evaluate his performance between 2002 and now.
If so, I believe that the Board violated the requirements of the Wisconsin Open Meetings law in those sessions. The Open Meetings law permits the Board to meet in closed sessions to consider “performance evaluation data”. That is, the Board may discuss how the superintendent’s performance measures up under the performance standards. The law does not permit the Board to develop the standards for future evaluations behind closed doors. That’s why the October 10 meeting was scheduled as an open meeting. The Board must hold its discussion of future standards for this evaluation in public.
The memo also refers to a still secret document, “the Superintendent’s evaluation”, and recommends that the next evaluation of Superintendent Art Rainwater focus on four categories. Did the Board evaluate the superintendent in just four categories? We can’t say, because the sessions were closed. Were there other ideas about where improvement is needed? We can’t say, because the sessions were closed. Is this memo an accurate summary of Board discussions? We can’t say, because the sessions were closed.
The next step is another Human Resource Committee meeting. Board members are encouraged to submit recommendations for the next evaluation before this meeting.
The memo follows:

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A Few Notes on the Superintendent’s Evaluation & Curriculum



Several writers have mentioned the positive news that the Madison Board of Education has reviewed Superintendent Art Rainwater for the first time since 2002. I agree that it is a step in the right direction.
In my view, the first responsibility of the Board and Administration, including the Superintendent is curriculum: Is the Madison School District using the most effective methods to prepare our children for the future?
There seems to be some question about this:

  • Language: The District has strongly embraced whole language (Troy Dassler notes in the comments that he has been trained in balanced literacy). I would certainly be interested in more comments on this (and other) point(s). [Ed Blume mentions that “”Balanced literacy” became the popular new term for whole language when whole language crumbled theoretically and scientifically.”] UW Professor Mark Seidenberg provides background on whole language and raises many useful questions about it. Related: The District has invested heavily in Reading Recovery. Ed Blume summarized 8 years of District reading scores and notes that Madison 3rd graders rank below state wide average for children children in the advanced and proficient categories. (Madison spends about 30% more than the state average per student)
  • Math: The District embraces Connected Math. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has raised a number of questions about this curriculum, not the least of which is whether our textbooks include all of the corrections. A quick look at the size of the Connected Math textbooks demonstrates that reading skills are critical to student achievement.
  • Sherman Middle School’s curriculum changes
  • West High School’s curriculum changes and families leaving
  • Same Service Budget Approach“: I think the District’s annual same service approach reflects a general stagnation.

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SUPERINTENDENT’S EVALUATION A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION



Establishing Performance Goals Must Be Next
I ran for the Madison School Board because I believed the Board needed to change how it did business. The majority of voters agreed with me.
I have now been on the Board for five months, and it is fair to ask whether my election really will make a difference. Will it result in the change I called for?
I am hopeful it will.

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How Will the Madison School Board Evaluate the Superintendent? Stay tuned.



Since 1999, the Madison School Board has had a written employment contract with Superintendent Art Rainwater. It contains a job evaluation process that is fair to the superintendent and that requires the Board to perform its most important function, setting clear goals for the district.
Before the first day of each school year, the Board must set performance goals that are “measurable to the extent possible”. By July 30 of the next year, the Board must meet with the superintendent, review his progress toward meeting the performance goals, review his self-evaluation, and review confidential evaluations by other administrators in the district.
If the Board followed the contract, the superintendent and the public would know what’s expected of the most powerful employee in terms of “improvement in programs, projects and activities to be undertaken” during the upcoming year.
According to the MMSD Human Resources department, the last time the Board evaluated the superintendent was in 2002. It did not follow all of the requirements of the contract in that evaluation.
The first day of the school year is September 1. The Board has not set measurable performance goals for the superintendent for 2005-06, although it has had two discussions on the subject.
When the evaluation does occur, I suggest that we all compare the provisions of the contract with the evaluation. If the Board does not set measurable performance goals for the superintendent in 2005-06, it will again fail in its duty under the contract.It will again fail to inform the public about its priorities for our children and fail to hold the superintendent accoutable under the priorities.

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Superintendent Rainwater’s Letter to Governor Doyle



Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater via WisPolitics :

Thank you for making public education in Wisconsin a priority in the budget you presented to the Legislature – a proposal that protected Wisconsin’s overburdened property tax payers and the children of the state. Unfortunately, the budget before you resembles little of what you offered for our taxpayers and K-12 students.
Since the inception of state-imposed revenue limits in 1993, Madison has cut over $43 million in its “same-service” budget and eliminated almost 540 positions – including 121 positions for the 05-06 school year. It is disingenuous for Republican leaders to claim their $458 million school aid increase as “historic,” when over 90 percent of the resources are targeted for school property tax relief, not for school programs and services. We have long surpassed cutting fat from our local budget, but have cut into bone as we increase class size in secondary instruction, eliminate classroom opportunities for students and cut support staff who assist our most needy students and families.
I urge you to use your veto authority to the fullest extent in order to restore revenue limit increases that keep pace with inflation, versus the GOP plan that cuts the allowable increase to 1.4 percent – less than half of the current inflation rate. Aside from increases in categorical aids, the revenue limit increase represents a school district’s only opportunity to fund critical programs for students.

I’m glad the Superintendent sent his comments to the Governor. It will be interesting to see where the Governor, facing a 2006 election campaign, lands on the amount of increased spending for Wisconsin schools (the battle is over the amount of increased money: the Republican budget includes a 458M increase to the 5.3B base, while Governor Doyle originally proposed a $900M increase via borrowing and other shifts).

Madison is also somewhat unique in this discussion in that about 25% of its budget comes from the State (State school spending will go up faster than inflation, in either case. The puzzle for me is the 1.4% that Superintendent Rainwater refers to. Is this due to Madison’s flat enrollment and/or based on the formulaic penalty we face for our higher than average per student spending? The enrollment situation is sort of strange, given the housing explosion we’ve seen over the past 10 years), whereas other districts receive a much higher percentage of their budget from state taxpayers. Further, Madison taxpayers have supported a significant increase in local school support over the past decade. The District’s Operating Budget has grown from $200M in 1994-1995 to $317M in 2005-2005. Art’s letter mentions “cut $43 million in its “same-service” budget and eliminated almost 540 positions – including 121 positions for the 05-06 school year”. There’s also been some discussion here about District staffing changes.

I also believe the District needs to immediately stop operating on a “same service approach”. Given the rapid pace of knowledge and information change today (biotech, science, engineering among others) AND the global challenges our children face (Finland, India, China and other growing economies – see Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat) things that worked over the past decade may no longer be practical or affordable for that matter.

Having said all that, it is difficult to manage anything when the curveballs are coming rather quickly. It would be great for the state to be consistent in the way it provides funds for 25% of our District’s budget. Similarily, in the private sector, many would love to see less risk and change, but I don’t see it happening.




Superintendent Rainwater: It doesn’t matter what Johnny thinks



In Thursday’s Capital Times article titled “Strings program is still not safe” by Lee Sensenbrenner, the Superintendent said, “It doesn’t matter what Johnny thinks!” Mr. Winston responded strongly. “I would like to see the strings program continued somehow, some way,” Winston added. “I think the community wants that. I think that’s loud and clear.”
Mr. Rainwater, it does matter to me what Johnny thinks. I, and I’m sure others, care about what the School Board is directing the superintendent to do, and we care deeply that the Superintendent is following through on directions from the majority of the School Board. Coming back one day later, declaring the charge is impossible, is puzzling following a presentation by the administration the night before of options.

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Stoughton Won’t Renew Superintendent’s Contract



I found the story on the Stoughton superintendent interesting because the school board conducts an evaluation twice a year. Madison’s board has failed to evaluate the MMSD superintendent for years!
Bill Clingan, chair of the MMSD’s human resources committee responsible for evaluating Superintendent Art Rainwater, admits that Lawrie Kobza, his opponent in the upcoming election, is right to highlight an oversight in the superintendent’s evaluation, according to a story in Isthmus.
The story on the Stoughton board’s action in the Wisconsin State Journal says:
“According to the board’s policy, the superintendent is evaluated twice each year, the first during an informal session in the fall. The second evaluation is a formal session before the board’s April reorganizational meeting and includes written evaluation statements from each board member.
The president of the board then writes a composite evaluation based on the written work of the board members, and it is then reviewed by the board.”

Read the full story here.
Ed Blume
ps The comment option below is open for anyone with thoughts on how the Madison school board could evaluate the superintendent.




Superintendent Art Rainwater Proposes to Decimate Fine Arts: Turns Back on Curriculum and Academic Achievement Benefits of Fine Arts Education – Fails to Work with the Community, Year After Year



Superintendent Art Rainwater proposes (2005-2006 Budget Discussion Items)to cut another $1 million in elementary music and art education once again this year without any prior curriculum review and assessment of impact on children’s learning and achievement – that would have involved teachers and the community.

MADISON SCHOOL BOARD CONTINUES TO IGNORE CHILDREN’S, PARENTS’, TEACHERS’ AND THE COMMUNITY’S REQUEST TO WORK TOGETHER TO EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE FINANCING STRATEGIES FOR FINE ARTS EVEN AS STUDIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE SHOWING THE POSITIVE IMPACTS ON ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR LOW INCOME CHILDREN WHO HAVE A STRONG MUSIC, ART AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND IDENTIFIES FINE ARTS AS CORE CURRICULUM – IMPORTANT TO STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT, STUDENT INTEREST IN LEARNING AND IMPROVEMENT IN CHILDREN’S CREATIVITY.

Here’s the Information:
Superintendent’s Proposed Fine Arts Cuts – Released to MMSD Board of Education yesterday:
Eliminate elementary strings curriculum 9.8 FTEs $496,860
Double up Special classes in Grade 1 5-7.5 FTEs $253,500-$380,250
Total Impact on Fine Arts Curriculum 14.8-17.3 FTEs $750,367-$877,110

plus another $100,000 in instrument purchase and repair budget.
Total existing k-12 Fine Arts budget approximately $7 million
which is 2% of the total budget. Superintendent Art Rainwater’s proposed cut would eliminate 14% of the existing fine arts budget – 100% of the elementary string teachers who likely would be laid off as they are specialized and not easily transferred. They’re also not administrators, none of whom are at risk of layoff.
History of Holding Hostage a Community that Values Music and Art Education:

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Madison Superintendent Declines $2M in Federal Funds Without Consulting the Board



On Friday, October 15, Madison School Board members received an e-mail from Superintendent Art Rainwater announcing that the district will withdraw from a federal program known as Reading First.
In subsequent interviews with local newspapers, Rainwater estimated that the decision means forgoing approximately $2M in funds for materials to help students in the primary grades learn to read. The Cap Times
Wisconsin State Journal
Whenever the district qualifies for such federal grants, the Board votes to increase the budget to reflect the new revenues. To the best of my knowledge, the superintendent has not discussed this decision with the Performance & Achievement Committee. He has certainly not included the full Board in the decision to withdraw from Reading First.
The memo follows (click on the link below to view it or click here to view a 200K PDF):

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



Christopher Osher:

But districts are free to use their READ Act per-pupil funds on whatever curriculum they want, even on interventions researchers have found ineffective.

“Typically, as with any education policy, we’re only given so much authority on what we can tell districts to do and what we monitor for,” Colsman said in an interview with The Colorado Sun.

The state spends $3 million annually through the READ Act to provide diagnostic software school districts can use to assess student reading levels, but not all districts use it. Data shows the state’s software is used on fewer than half of the students in the state. The reading proficiency of most of the young students in Colorado is determined through other diagnostic tools never subjected to quality reviews by the state.

Meanwhile, state tracking of READ Act student performance shows that only 6 percent of children identified with a significant reading deficiency in kindergarten were reading at their grade level by third grade.

“All of us are looking for a way to get better results for kids because we can’t wait a generation for this,” Colsman said.

Half of state districts see worsening rates for significant deficiencies

Nearly half of the state’s 178 school districts saw the rate of students with significant reading deficiencies worsen since the READ Act program was put in place, according to a review of state data.

Commerce City’s Adams County 14 school district, home to 7,500 students, received more than $3 million in per-pupil READ Act funding to tackle significant reading deficiencies from 2012 through 2018, but reading problems there have worsened over same period.

In 2014, slightly more than 18 percent of the district’s kindergarten through third-grade students had a significant reading deficiency, according to state records. By 2018, that rate had more than doubled to nearly 40 percent.

New administrators at the district, forced by the Colorado Board of Education in November to hire an outside management consultant, said they’ve discovered the reading curriculum they were using was ineffective and not suited to the district’s heavily bilingual student population. They’ve since switched curriculum and are putting in place a summer school program devoted solely to reading instruction.

“Over the past 19 years we’ve had a high turnover in teachers and administrators,” said Jeanette Patterson, who was hired as the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction last summer. “We’ve had to do a lot of training and retraining and retraining. That leads to inconsistency in the literacy block at the elementary school level.”

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques on Madison’s disastrous reading results:

Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.

Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and flat. According to the most recent data from 2017-18, fewer than 9 percent of black and fewer than 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were reading proficiently. Year after year, we fail these students in the most basic of our responsibilities to them: teaching them how to read.

Much is known about the process of learning to read, but a huge gap is between that knowledge and what is practiced in our schools. The Madison School District needs a science-based literacy curriculum overseen by licensed reading professionals who understand the cognitive processes that underlie learning how to read.

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

Routing around Madison’s non-diverse K-12 legacy governance model:

In March 2016, Cheatham said that it was her intent to make OEO “obsolete — that our schools will be serving students so well that there isn’t a need.”

Since then, the district has tried to keep tabs on any new charter proposals for Madison, going so far as to send former School Board member Ed Hughes to a September meeting of the Goodman Community Center board of directors to express the district’s opposition to another proposed charter school, Arbor Community School, which was looking to partner with the Goodman center.

Hughes gave the board a letter from Cheatham to UW System President Ray Cross that expressed the district’s dismay at allegedly being kept out of the loop on Arbor’s plans, pointed to alleged deficiencies in Arbor’s charter proposal, and asked that Arbor either be rejected or at least kept out of Madison.

Hughes also told the board that as a Goodman donor, he did not think other donors would look kindly on a Goodman partnership with Arbor.

Becky Steinhoff, Goodman executive director, later told the Wisconsin State Journal that Goodman was “experiencing a period of enormous change,” including the recent opening of a new building, and chose not to work with Arbor.

“I understand the climate and the polarizing topic of charters” in Madison, McCabe said, but he wasn’t concerned the district would attempt to thwart Milestone and he said it would “be a dream come true” if Milestone were one day folded into the district.

He said Community—Learning—Design has an application due to the state Feb. 22 for a federal planning grant.

Much more on our 2019 school board election:

Seat 3

Kaleem Caire, 7856 Wood Reed Drive, Madison

Cristiana Carusi, 5709 Bittersweet Place

Skylar Croy, 502 N. Frances St., Madison

Seat 4

David Blaska, 5213 Loruth Terrace, Madison

Laila Borokhim, 2214 Monroe St., Madison

Albert Bryan, 4302 Hillcrest Drive, Madison

Ali Muldrow, 1966 East Main St., Madison

Seat 5

TJ Mertz, 1210 Gilson St., Madison

Ananda Mirilli, 1027 S. Sunnyvale Lane Unit A, Madison

Amos Roe, 5705 Crabapple Lane, Madison

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Sarah Manski and Ed Hughes “withdrew” from their respective races in recent elections. The timing, in both cases was unfortunate for voters, and other candidates.




Madison’s education academics get involved in the argument over education reform; What is the Track Record of ties between the Ed School and the MMSD?



Pat Schneider:

“I’m an academic,” says Slekar, a Pittsburgh-area native whose mother and grandmother were elementary school teachers and who was a classroom teacher himself before earning a Ph.D. in curriculum from University of Maryland.
“I understand scholarship, I understand evidence, I understand the role of higher education in society,” he says. “When initiatives come through, if we have solid evidence that something is not a good idea, it’s really my job to come out and say that.”
Michael Apple, an internationally recognized education theorist and professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison agrees. In the face of conservative state legislators’ push to privatize public education, “it is part of my civic responsibility to say what is happening,” says Apple.
“In a society that sees corporations as having all the rights of people, by and large education is a private good, not a public good,” he says. “I need to defend the very idea of public schools.”
Both Apple and Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at UW-Madison, share Slekar’s concern over the systematic privatization of education and recognize a role for scholars in the public debate about it.

A wide-ranging, animated, sometimes loud conversation with Slekar includes familiar controversies hotly debated around the country and in the Wisconsin Capitol, like high-stakes testing, vouchers and Common Core standards. The evidence, Slekar says flatly, shows that none of it will work to improve student learning.
The reform initiatives are instead part of a corporate takeover of public education masquerading as reform that will harm low-income and minority students before spreading to the suburbs, says Slekar, in what he calls the civil rights issue of our time.
A 30-year attack has worked to erode the legitimacy of the public education system. And teachers are taking much of the blame for the stark findings of the data now pulled from classrooms, he says.
“We’re absolutely horrible at educating poor minority kids,” says Slekar. “We absolutely know that.”
But neither the so-called reformers, nor many more casual observers, want to talk about the real reason for the disparities in achievement, Slekar says, which is poverty.
“That’s not an excuse, it’s a diagnosis,” he says, quoting John Kuhn, a firebrand Texas superintendent and activist who, at a 2011 rally, suggested that instead of performance-based salaries for teachers, the nation institute merit pay for members of Congress.

Local Education school academics have long had interactions with the Madison School District. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater works in the UW-Madison School of Education.

Further, this 122 page pdf (3.9mb) includes contracts (not sure if it is complete) between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District between 2004 and 2008. Has this relationship improved achievement?
Related: Deja Vu? Education Experts to Review the Madison School District and When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?




Stagnant School Governance; Tax & Spending Growth and the “NSA’s European Adventure”



The Madison School District’s recent rhetoric around annual property tax increases (after a significant increase in redistributed state tax dollars last year and a “return to normal” this year) is, to the ongoing observer, unsurprising. We appear to be in the Rainwater era “same service” approach to everything, from million$ spent on a partially implemented Infinite Campus to long-term disastrous reading scores.
Steve Coll’s 5 July 2013 New Yorker column nails it:

The most likely explanation is that President Obama never carefully discussed or specifically approved the E.U. bugging, and that no cabinet-level body ever reviewed, on the President’s behalf, the operation’s potential costs in the event of exposure. America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why?

Much more on annual local property tax increases, here:

The Madison School Board should limit the school property tax hike to the rate of inflation next year, even if that means scaling back a proposed 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase for school district employees, says member Mary Burke.
“I think in an environment where we’ve seen real wages in Dane County decrease, and a lot of people are on fixed incomes, we have to work as hard as possible to limit any increase to the inflation rate,” Burke said Tuesday in an interview.

But School Board discussions have focused around reducing the proposed salary hike, and cutting back on facility maintenance to pare down the $392 million proposed budget enough to bring the property tax increase to 4 or 5 percent, board President Ed Hughes told me.
The district under state law could increase its levy by as much as $18,385,847 or 9 percent. Keeping the increase to around the rate of inflation would mean an increase of less 2 percent.

Board member TJ Mertz can’t vote on salaries because his wife is a teacher’s aide with the school district, he told me, but he has long been outspoken in his belief in good pay for teachers to ensure the best academic achievement for students.
“As a citizen, I understand our staff needs to be compensated,” he said, adding that teachers have taken losses in take-home pay since they were required to begin making contributions to their pensions in 2011. “If the state won’t invest in our children, it has to come from the property tax,” he said.
Mertz said he would prefer a tax increase steeper than the 4 percent or 5 percent the board as a whole is focusing on. “I firmly believe the most important thing we can do is invest in our students; the question should not be what property tax levy can we afford,” he said.

I appreciate Schneider’s worthwhile questions, including a discussion of “program reviews”:

Several School Board members interviewed for this story stressed that the 2013-2014 budget will be a transitional one, before a broad re-evaluation of spending planned by Cheatham can be conducted.

Yet, it would be useful to ask if in fact programs will be reviewed and those found wanting eliminated. The previous Superintendent, Dan Nerad, discussed program reviews as well.
Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.
The Madison School Board seat currently occupied by Mr. Hughes (Seat 7, and Seat 6 – presently Marj Passman) will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot (candidate information is available at the Madison City Clerk’s website).












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



The Madison School Board discussed the renewal of Administrator contracts (500K PDF) during their June 10, 2013 meeting (video, about 50 minutes into the meeting). Listen via this 5mb mp3 audio.
The timing and length of administrator contracts along with substantive reviews is not a new subject:
February, 2006: Are Administrators Golden?

Lawrie Kobza pointed out last night that 2-year rolling administrative contracts may be important for some groups of administrators and that the School Board should consider that issue. Otherwise, if the annual pattern continues, extensions will occur in February before the School Board looks at the budget and makes their decisions about staffing. Even though the Superintendent has indicated what positions he proposes to eliminate for next year, when the School Board has additional information later in the budget year, they may want to make different decisions based upon various tradeoffs they believe are important for the entire district.
What might the School Board consider doing? Develop criteria to use to identify/rank your most “valuable” administrative positions (perhaps this already exists) and those positions where the district might be losing its competitive edge. Identify what the “at risk” issues are – wages, financial, gender/racial mix, location, student population mix. Or, start with prioritizing rolling two-year contracts for one of the more “important,” basic administrative groups – principals. Provide the School Board with options re administrative contracts. School board members please ask for options for this group of contracts.
Ms. Kobza commented that making an extension of contracts in February for this group of staff could make these positions appear to be golden, untouchable. Leaving as is might not be well received in Madison by a large number of people, including the thousands of MMSD staff who are not administrators on rolling two-year contracts nor a Superintendent with a rolling contract (without a horizon, I think). The board might be told MMSD won’t be able to attract talented administrators. I feel the School Board needs to publicly discuss the issues and risks to its entire talent pool.
Mr. Nadler reported that MMSD might be losing its edge in the area of administration. He gave one example where there more than a few applicants for an elementary school position (20 applicants); however, other districts, such as Sun Prairie, are attracting more applicants (more than 100). The communities surrounding Madison are becoming more attractive over time as places to live and to do business. If we don’t recognize and try to understand the issues, beyond simply wages and benefits, the situation will continue to worsen. I feel the process in place needs to change in order to be a) more responseive to the issues, b) more flexible for the School Board in their decisionmaking processes, especially around budget time.

Administrator Contracts – School Board Adds to Agenda

Questions that are not clear to me include: a) is a two-year rolling contract required for all administrators, b) what is the difference between non-renewal and extension of a contract – is the end of January date really an extension?, c)is there a Board policy – if not, does one need to be developed, d) are there options open to the School Board to hold on one-year contract extensions due to upcoming cuts to the budget, e) how can changes be made by moving/retraining staff if needed, and f) can grant money being used to pay for administrators be used in other ways (not including grant oversight/accounting? We’re in the same spot as the past two years – not talking about administrator contracts until one week or so before a deadline.
I feel this information needs to be clear and to be transparent to all employees, the board and the community. I believe a multi-year staffing strategy as part of a multi-year strategic plan is important to have, especially given the critical nature of the district’s resources. This idea is not proposed as a solution to the public school’s financial situation – not at all, that’s not the point.

Retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on the “adult employment focus”.
Additional administrator contract links, here.
It is ironic, in my view, that there has not been much change in the District’s administration from the Rainwater era….




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



Superintendent Jane Belmore (652K PDF):

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

A few charts from the report:

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




Madison School District School Safety Recommendations and Tactical Site Assessments



Luis Yudice, Safety/Security Coordinator Madison School District:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has the responsibility to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff. To this end, the district periodically conducts assessments of its facilities and reviews its operating practices to ensure that all that can be done is being done to ensure the safety of our schools.
Background
Following a school shooting in the Weston School District in Cazenovia, Wisconsin in 2006, Superintendent Art Rainwater issued security reminders that included the following:

  • Ensure that building security and door locking procedures are followed.
  • Ensure that all non-employees in a building are identified and registered in the office.
  • Ensure that communication systems, radios and PA’s are functioning.
  • Have employees visibly display their MMSD identification badges.
  • Be aware of the school’s security plan and of their role in security procedures.
  • Communicate with and listen to students.
  • Remind students that they should always communicate with staff and share information regarding any threats to the school or to other persons.
  • Ensure that the school’s crisis team is in place.




Notes and Links: President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Visit Madison’s Wright Middle School (one of two Charter Schools in Madison).




Background

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will visit Madison’s Wright Middle School Wednesday, November 4, 2009, purportedly to give an education speech. The visit may also be related to the 2010 Wisconsin Governor’s race. The Democrat party currently (as of 11/1/2009) has no major announced candidate. Wednesday’s event may include a formal candidacy announcement by Milwaukee Mayor, and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. UPDATE: Alexander Russo writes that the visit is indeed about Barrett and possible legislation to give the Milwaukee Mayor control of the schools.

Possible Participants:

Wright Principal Nancy Evans will surely attend. Former Principal Ed Holmes may attend as well. Holmes, currently Principal at West High has presided over a number of controversial iniatives, including the “Small Learning Community” implementation and several curriculum reduction initiatives (more here).
I’m certain that a number of local politicians will not miss the opportunity to be seen with the President. Retiring Democrat Governor Jim Doyle, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (Falk has run for Governor and Attorney General in the past) and Madison School Superintendent Dan Nerad are likely to be part of the event. Senator Russ Feingold’s seat is on the fall, 2010 ballot so I would not be surprised to see him at Wright Middle School as well.

Madison’s Charter Intransigence

Madison, still, has only two charter schools for its 24,295 students: Wright and Nuestro Mundo.
Wright resulted from the “Madison Middle School 2000” initiative. The District website has some background on Wright’s beginnings, but, as if on queue with respect to Charter schools, most of the links are broken (for comparison, here is a link to Houston’s Charter School Page). Local biotech behemoth Promega offered free land for Madison Middle School 2000 [PDF version of the District’s Promega Partnership webpage]. Unfortunately, this was turned down by the District, which built the current South Side Madison facility several years ago (some School Board members argued that the District needed to fulfill a community promise to build a school in the present location). Promega’s kind offer was taken up by Eagle School. [2001 Draft Wright Charter 60K PDF]

Wright & Neustro Mundo Background

Wright Middle School Searches:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

Madison Middle School 2000 Searches:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

Nuestro Mundo, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was established in response to the commitment of its founders to provide educational, cultural and social opportunities for Madison’s ever-expanding Latino community.” The dual immersion school lives because the community and several School Board members overcame District Administration opposition. Former Madison School Board member Ruth Robarts commented in 2005:

The Madison Board of Education rarely rejects the recommendations of Superintendent Rainwater. I recall only two times that we have explicitly rejected his views. One was the vote to authorize Nuestro Mundo Community School as a charter school. The other was when we gave the go-ahead for a new Wexford Ridge Community Center on the campus of Memorial High School.

Here’s how things happen when the superintendent opposes the Board’s proposed action.

Nuestro Mundo:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

The local school District Administration (and Teacher’s Union) intransigence on charter schools is illustrated by the death of two recent community charter initiatives: The Studio School and a proposed Nuestro Mundo Middle School.

About the Madison Public Schools

Those interested in a quick look at the state of Madison’s public schools should review Superintendent Dan Nerad’s proposed District performance measures. This document presents a wide variety of metrics on the District’s current performance, from advanced course “participation” to the percentage of students earning a “C” in all courses and suspension rates, among others.

Education Hot Topics

Finally, I hope President Obama mentions a number of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent hot topics, including:

This wonderful opportunity for Wright’s students will, perhaps be most interesting for the ramifications it may have on the adults in attendance. Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman recent Rotary speech alluded to school district’s conflicting emphasis on “adult employment” vs education.

Wisconsin State Test Score Comparisons: Madison Middle Schools:

WKCE Madison Middle School Comparison: Wright / Cherokee / Hamilton / Jefferson / O’Keefe / Sennett / Sherman / Spring Harbor / Whitehorse

About Madison:

UPDATE: How Do Students at Wright Compare to Their Peers at Other MMSD Middle Schools?




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.




The Next Kind of Integration: Class, Race and Desegregating American Schools



Emily Bazelon:

In June of last year, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, declared the racial-integration efforts of two school districts unconstitutional. Seattle and Louisville, Ky., could no longer assign students to schools based on their race, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his lead opinion in Meredith v. Jefferson County School Board (and its companion case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1). Justice Stephen Breyer sounded a sad and grim note of dissent. Pointing out that the court was rejecting student-assignment plans that the districts had designed to stave off de facto resegregation, Breyer wrote that “to invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.” By invoking Brown v. Board of Education, the court’s landmark 1954 civil rights ruling, Breyer accused the majority of abandoning a touchstone in the country’s efforts to overcome racial division. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded.
Breyer’s warning, along with even more dire predictions from civil rights groups, helped place the court’s ruling at the center of the liberal indictment of the Roberts court. In Louisville, too, the court’s verdict met with resentment. Last fall, I asked Pat Todd, the assignment director for the school district of Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville and its suburbs, whether any good could come of the ruling. She shook her head so hard that strands of blond hair loosened from her bun. “No,” she said with uncharacteristic exasperation, “we’re already doing what we should be.”
Todd was referring to Louisville’s success in distributing black and white students, which it does more evenly than any district in the country with a comparable black student population; almost every school is between 15 and 50 percent African-American. The district’s combination of school choice, busing and magnet programs has brought general, if not uniform, acceptance — rather than white flight and disaffection, the legacy of desegregation in cities like Boston and Kansas City, Mo. The student population, which now numbers nearly 100,000, has held steady at about 35 percent black and 55 percent white, along with a small and growing number of Hispanics and Asians.

Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater was a principal and assistant Superintendent in Kansas City.




Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Releases Latest State Test Results, Madison Trails State Averages



380K PDF Press Release [AP’s posting of DPI’s press release]:

Results for statewide testing show an overall upward trend for mathematics, stable scores in reading, and a slight narrowing of several achievement gaps. This three-year trend comes at a time when poverty is continuing to increase among Wisconsin students.
The 434,507 students who took the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD) this school year showed gains over the past three years in mathematics in six out of seven grades tested. Reading achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels was stable over three years. An analysis of all combined grades indicates a narrowing of some achievement gaps by racial/ethnic group.
“These three years of assessment data show some positive trends. While some results point to achievement gains, we must continue our focus on closing achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

Andy Hall notes that Madison Trails State Averages [Dane County Test Result Comparison prepared by Andy Hall & Phil Brinkmanpdf]:

But in the Madison School District, just two of the 23 proficiency scores improved, while five were unchanged and 16 declined, according to a Wisconsin State Journal review of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school year data from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Madison’s scores trail the state average in 22 of the 23 scores. Typically the percentage of Madison students attaining proficient or advanced ratings trails the state average by several percentage points.
“The fact that we’re able to stay close to the state average as our demographics have made dramatic changes, I think is a positive,” said Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater, who added that the district’s “strong instructional program” is meeting many of the challenges of immigrant and low-income students while ensuring that “high fliers are still flying high.”
A district analysis shows that when the district’s students are compared with their peers across the state, a higher percentage of Madison students continue to attain “advanced” proficiency scores — the highest category.
Madison students who aren’t from low-income families “continue to outperform their state counterparts,” with higher percentages with advanced scores in reading and math at all seven tested grade levels, the district reported.
Rainwater said he’s long feared that the district’s increasingly needy student population, coupled with the state’s revenue limits that regularly force the district to cut programs and services, someday will cause test scores to drop sharply. But so far, he said, the district’s scores are higher than would be expected, based on research examining the effects of poverty and limited English abilities on achievement.
This school year, 43 percent of Madison students are from low-income families eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, while 16 percent of students are classified as English language learners — numbers that are far above those of any other Dane County school district.
Rainwater noted that students with limited English abilities receive little help while taking the reading and language arts tests in English.

Tamira Madsen:

Reading test scores for Madison students changed little compared to 2006-07, but math results decreased in six of the seven grades tested. Of 23 scores in five topics tested statewide, Madison lagged behind state peers in 22 of 23 of those scores.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater attributes the district’s performance and trends to the growing population of English language learners in the district.

Officials now are able to draw upon three years of results since Wisconsin began administering testing to students in grades three through eight and grade 10 in reading and mathematics. Based on state regulations, students in fourth, eighth and 10th grade were also tested in language arts, science and social studies.

Alan Borsuk on Milwaukee’s results:

But there is little room for debate about what the scores say about the need for improvement in the outcomes for Milwaukee Public Schools students: The gaps between Milwaukee students and the rest of the state remain large, and school improvement efforts of many kinds over the years have not made much of a dent.
The problem is especially vivid when it comes to 10th-graders, the highest grade that is part of Wisconsin’s testing system. The gap between sophomores in Milwaukee and those statewide has grown larger over the last two years, and, once again, no more than 40% of 10th-graders in MPS were rated as proficient or better in any of the five areas tested by the state. For math and science, the figure is under 30%.

Amy Hetzner notes that Waukesha County’s test scores also slipped.
Notes and links regarding the rigor of Wisconsin DPI standards. DPI academic standards home page. Search individual school and district results here. The 2006 Math Forum discussed changes to the DPI math test and local results.
TJ Mertz reviews Wright Middle School’s results.
Chan Stroman’s June, 2007 summary of Madison WKCE PR, data and an interesting discussion. Notes on spin from Jason Spencer.
Jeff Henriques dove into the 2007 WKCE results and found that Madison tested fewer 10th graders than Green Bay, Appleton, Milwaukee and Kenosha. There’s also a useful discussion on Jeff’s post.
Advocating a Standard Grad Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”.
Madison School District’s Press Release and analysis: Slight decline on WKCE; non-low income students shine




Madison School Board Update on Recruiting Policy and Public Appearances



Susan Troller:

A new policy to clarify rules on recruiting Madison high school students for the military, for post-secondary education opportunities or for potential employment is under review by the Madison School Board, but is not quite ready to pass muster.
At a meeting Monday night, the board sent the recruitment policy back to the administration for additional work and chose to table a discussion about the sales of military ads on school grounds until the recruitment policy changes are complete.
Anti-war activists have argued that the ads constitute recruiting materials and are by current policy banned anywhere except in school guidance offices. In addition, some students have complained that recruiters can be overly aggressive in pursuing students.
“I think we’re pretty close to making a decision on the revised recruitment policy,” Board President Arlene Silveira said in an interview this morning, “but we wanted some additional clarification from the administration, and we wanted to make sure the changes in the rules make sense to the people in the schools who will be working with them.”
She also said the board wanted to ensure the policy was fair and consistent toward all individuals and organizations coming into the schools to recruit students, whether they are promoting military service, employment or educational opportunities.
Issues include how many visits recruiters may make to a school, and whether activities like hanging around the cafeteria during lunch to talk with students would be permitted.
Superintendent Art Rainwater said that while only about one percent of Madison students go into the military, 80 percent go on to post-secondary education. He emphasized that treatment of recruiters, no matter who they represent, must be consistent.




Wisconsin Attorney General Says Race Can’t Stop Student Transfers from Madison



Andy Hall:


The future of the state’s voluntary school integration program in Madison was thrown into doubt Thursday by a formal opinion from Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declaring it unconstitutional to use race to block students’ attempts to transfer to other school districts.
The 11-page opinion, issued in response to a Sept. 17 request by Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, isn’t legally binding. However, courts consider interpretations offered by attorneys general, and the opinions can carry weight among lawmakers, too.
Madison is the only one of the state’s 426 public school districts that invokes race to deny some students’ requests to transfer to other districts under the state’s open enrollment program, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on Sept. 9.
In response to Van Hollen’s opinion, Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater said he and the district’s legal staff will review the document and confer with DPI officials before commenting.
“As we always have, we have every intention of obeying the law,” Rainwater said.
Figures compiled by the State Journal showed the Madison School District cited concerns over increasing its “racial imbalance” in rejecting 140 transfer requests involving 126 students for this school year. There are more applications than students because some filed more than one request.
All of the students involved in those rejected transfer requests were white.
The number of race-based rejections represents a 71 percent increase over the previous year, according to data supplied by the district. The number of rejections has nearly tripled since the 2004-05 school year.

This is an interesting paradox, a District that takes great pride in some area rankings while at the same time being resistant to such movements. Transfers can go both ways, of course. Redistributed state tax dollar transfers and local property tax & spending authority dollars are tied to enrollment.
Todd Richmond has more along with Alan Borsuk:

According to DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper, Madison is the only district in the state that could be directly affected. The Madison district has refused to allow students, almost all of them white, to enroll in other districts because of racial balance issues. This year, about 125 students were kept from transferring, Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater said.
Milwaukee Public Schools followed a similar practice in the late 1990s but changed policies about eight years ago, allowing students to attend suburban schools under the state’s open enrollment law regardless of the impact on school integration in Milwaukee.




Involving the Community (in High School Reform)



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

(more…)




Madison School Board August 2007 Progress Report



Arlene Silveira:

Superintendent Search: The search for our new Superintendent officially started on August 27. The Board met with our search consultant, Hazard, Young and Attea, to plan the timeline and action items for the search. Ideally, we would like to have a new Superintendent in place in the February time-frame. This will give the new person time to transition properly with Superintendent Rainwater. The first big step in the process is the development of the Superintendent Leadership Profile. The development of the profile will involve the Board, staff and community. Our consultants will conduct focus groups and forums on September 19 and 20 to determine what people value in a new Superintendent. We are in the process of scheduling times for our staff and community to be involved in this process. More detailed information will be available the week of September 3. Everyone will have an opportunity to participate in this process.
School Naming: The Board has made final revisions to Board Policy 6700, the policy for naming an MMSD building or facility. A Citizens Naming Committee will now be part of the process. The committee will review all of the proposed names, copies of public comments, and ay additional research conducted on the proposed names. The committee will recommend to the Board a minimum of four names which meet the naming criteria established by the Policy and provide the reasons for the Committee’s recommendation. At least 2 of the recommended names shall be for a prominent national or local figure who is deceased. The committee will have 12 members and 1 chairperson. Board members will submit citizen recommendations to the Board President who will assign the committee members. We will start accepting new names the week of September 17. The process and information on how to submit names will be found on the MMSD home page at www.mmsd.org .
Referendum Discussion: The Board had its first discussion on a potential referendum to be held during the 2007-2008 school year. Below are the questions the Board will have to answer as we move through the evaluation process:

  • Should the Board submit a referendum question(s) to the public during the 2007-2008 school year to alleviate the continuing reduction of services caused by the revenue caps?
  • If the Board decided to submit a referendum question(s) to the public, should it be recurring or non-recurring?
  • How many years should the referendum question(s) cover?
  • What should be the content of the referendum question(s)?
  • Should the referendum be one question or separate questions?
  • When should the referendum be held? February 19, 2008 or April 1, 2008




CUNY Plans to Raise Its Admissions Standards: “the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared””



Karen Arenson:

The City University of New York is beginning a drive to raise admissions requirements at its senior colleges, its first broad revision since its trustees voted to bar students needing remedial instruction from its bachelor’s degree programs nine years ago.
In 2008, freshmen will have to show math SAT scores 20 to 30 points higher than they do now to enter the university’s top-tier colleges — Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens — and its six other senior colleges.
Students now can also qualify for the bachelor’s degree programs with satisfactory scores on the math Regents examination or on placement tests; required cutoffs for those tests will also be raised.
Open admissions policies at the community colleges will be unaffected.
“We are very serious in taking a group of our institutions and placing them in the top segment of universities and colleges,” said Matthew Goldstein, the university chancellor, who described the plan in an interview. “That is the kind of profile we want for our students.”
Dr. Goldstein said that the English requirements for the senior colleges would be raised as well, but that the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared.”

Speaking of Math, I’m told that the MMSD’s Math Task Force did not obtain the required NSF Grant. [PDF Overview, audio / video introduction] and Retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater’s response to the School Board’s first 2006-2007 Performance Goal:

1. Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum. The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force whose members are appointed by the Superintendent and approved by the BOE. Members of the task force shall have math and math education expertise and represent a variety of perspectives regarding math education.




The “Small School Hype”



Diane Ravitch:

I like small schools, but I also like middle-size schools. About ten years ago, Valerie Lee of the University of Michigan did a study in which she asked what was the ideal size for a high school, and she concluded that the ideal school was small enough for kids to be known by the teachers, but large enough to mount a reasonable curriculum. The best size for a high school, she decided, based on a review of student progress in schools of different sizes, is 600-900 students. You may think this is too large, but it sure beats schools of 2,000-3,000. I think we can all agree that the mega-schools that were created in the past forty years or so are hard, difficult environments for adolescents, where they can easily get lost in the crowd. Anonymity is not good for kids or for adults, either.
Anyway, American education seems to be engaged in yet another statistical sham, this time involving small high schools. Everyone wants Gates money, so almost every big-city school district is breaking up big schools into small schools. To make sure that they look good and get good press (the same thing), the leadership of some districts stack the deck by screening out the lowest performing kids—the special education students, the limited-English speakers, and kids with low test scores.

Much more on Madison’s Dance with “Small Learning Communities” here, including outgoing Superintendent Art Rainwater’s presentation on the proposed “High School Redesign”.




Board of Education Activity in 2006-07



A few weeks ago, the Madison BOE received a summary of what the board and its committees had done in its meetings during the past year. I am posting the entire document as an extended entry as community information. It provides a lot more detail, a good overview, and a glimpse at the pieces that didn’t make it into the print and broadcast media.

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Accelerated Biology Update: “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”?



When last I wrote about the status of Accelerated Biology at West HS, I was waiting to hear back from Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash. I had written to Pam on June 8 about how the promised second section of the course never had a chance, given the statistical procedure they used to admit students for next year.
On June 11, I wrote to Pam again, this time including Superintendent Rainwater. I said to them “I do hope one of you intends to respond to [my previous email]. I hope you appreciate what it looks like out in the community. Either the selection system was deliberately designed to preclude the need for two sections (in which case the promise of two sections was completely disingenuous) or someone’s lack of facility with statistical procedures is showing.” I heard back from Art right away. He said that one of them would respond by the end of the week.
On 6/13, he did, indeed, write:

Laurie,
I finally have time to reply to your concerns. In our meeting I agreed that selecting an arbitrary number of 20 students for accelerated biology was not fair. I agreed to examine this and develop a process that would allow all students who meet a set criteria to be provided the accelerated biology class. I used two sections as an example. Obviously it would be just as wrong to set an arbitrary 2 sections as it would be to set 20 as an arbitrary number. Our intent was to set a cut score on the placement test and allow everyone who met the cut score to be enrolled in the class. After reviewing the previous years test data we selected the mean score of the last student admitted over the past several years. I understand that you believe that is not the way to select. However, I am very comfortable with this approach and approved it as the means of selecting who can be enrolled. Thank you for your continued concern about these issues. Please feel free to bring to my attention any other inequities that you see in our curriculum.
Art

I quickly replied, twice. Here is my first reply (6/13):

Quickly, I have one question, Art (and will likely write more later). Each year, four slots are reserved for additional students to get into the Accel Bio class in the fall. These might be students who are new to the District, who didn’t know about the screening test in the spring, or who want to try again.
Were the screening test scores of students admitted into the class in the fall included in the selection system used on this year’s 8th graders?
Thanks,
Laurie

(SIS readers, the reason why it is important to know if the fall scores were included is that it is highly likely that the scores of the students who enter the class in the fall are lower than the cut score used for selection purposes in the spring. It is simply too hard to believe that four students scoring higher than the cut score would magically appear each fall.)
Art wrote back simply (6/13):

There are two slots remaining.

I wrote back again (6/13):

My question is about the set of scores that were used to determine the cut score for this year. Were the scores of students admitted into the class in the fall over the past several years included in the set of scores used to determine this year’s cut score?

Art, parents would like to see all of the test scores from recent years — that is, we would like to see the frequency distribution of all scores for each year, with the cut score indicated and the scores of the fall entires into the class included.
Laurie

Meanwhile, my second initial email (6/13) consisted of a forward to Art of the email he wrote to me on February 12, with a cover line:

Art, see below. FWIW, there is no ambiguity or equivocation in your email here. –L
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 08:04:40 -0600
From: “Art Rainwater”
To: “Laurie A. Frost”
Subject: Re: West HS follow-up: Accelerated Biology
Laurie
We have followed up with Ed and there will be an additional Advanced Biology class.
Art


After seeing a copy of his own email, Art replied (6/13):

Laurie,
Creating two accelerated biology classes solely for the sake of having 40 students taking the class is no different than having a class for 20 students arbitrarily selected. If you feel that I broke some promise to you based on this email I am sorry. The responsibility for these decisions is mine and I am going to make the one that I feel is in the best interest of the district. I believe this decision is fair and removed the arbitrary nature of the previous class selection.
My decision is final.
Art

I have not yet written back, but here is what I will say: “Art, I do feel you broke your promise to me. I also feel you broke your promise to future West HS students. Selection based on high scores is not “arbitrary.” And 40 is no more or less “arbitrary” a number than 20. “Arbitrary” means “for no particular reason.” But you had a reason. For whatever reason, you (or someone) wanted to make sure there was only one section of the class after all. If you (or that same someone) had wanted there to be two sections of the class, then you (or they) would have come up with selection criteria designed to insure that outcome.”
Meanwhile, I forwarded Art’s emails to the three other West parents who attended the meeting with him in January. To a one, we recall the same thing very clearly, that Art agreed there should be a second section of Accelerated Biology at West due to consistently high interest and demand at the school and in order to create greater access to a particular learning opportunity, the same expanded access there is at the other high schools. My best guess is that Art ran into unanticipated and powerful opposition to a second section in some key places at West and so is now changing his story.
In my mind, I keep going back to how poorly the Accelerated Biology screening test was publicized at Hamilton; how the Hamilton staff were told by the West counselors to “downplay” the opportunity to the students; and how that West staff person responded so carefully, “IF there is need for a second section, then the current teacher has been asked to teacher it.” All that, combined with a selection procedure that so clearly guaranteed only one section’s worth of eligible students (a point that no teacher or administrator seems to understand).
Now I’m hearing that at least some parents of students who did not get into the class are reluctant to say anything because they fear repercussions from the West staff.
Mission accomplished? I guess so, though it depends on what your mission is.
Interestingly, today’s SLC grant focus group at West included a long discussion of the fact that we have no PTSO officers for next year and what sort of parental frustration and dissatisfaction with the school might account for that.




How can we help poor students achieve more?



Jason Shephard:

As a teacher-centered lesson ended the other morning at Midvale Elementary School, about 15 first-graders jumped up from their places on the carpeted rug and dashed to their personal bins of books.
Most students quickly settled into two assigned groups. One read a story about a fox in a henhouse with the classroom teacher, and another group, headed by a UW-Madison student teacher, read a more challenging nonfiction book about a grandmother who, as one child excitedly noted, lived to be 101.
In addition to this guided reading lesson, one boy sat at a computer wearing headphones, clicking on the screen that displayed the words as a story was read aloud to him, to build word recognition and reading stamina. Two other boys read silently from more advanced books. Another boy received one-on-one help from a literacy coach conducting a Reading Recovery lesson with him.
“I think what’s so important is that this program truly meets the needs of a variety of students, from those who are struggling to those who are accelerated,” says Principal John Burkholder.

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Comments on BOE Progress Report for December



Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. (thanks!) posted a rather remarkable summary of recent activity today. I thought it would be useful to recall recent Board Majority inaction when reviewing Johnny’s words:
It’s remarkable to consider that just a few short years ago, substantive issues were simply not discussed by the School Board, such as the Superintendent’s rejection of the $2M in Federal Reading First Funds (regardless of the merits, $2M is material and there should have been a public discussion).
Reductions in the District’s annual ($332M+ this year) spending increases were thinly discussed (May, 2004).
Today, we know that the School District has been running a structural deficit for years, something previous Board Majority’s were apparently unaware of or certainly never discussed publicly.

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Revamping the high schools



Isthmus’ Jason Shepard covers the story:
Curriculum changes halted as district eyes study group
JStanding in front of a giant projection screen with his wireless remote control and clip-on microphone, Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater on Monday unveiled his grand vision for Madison’s four major high schools. But the real backdrop for his presentation before the Madison school board was the criticism of changes implemented last year at West High and proposed this year at East. Both involved reducing course offerings in favor of a core curriculum for all students, from gifted to struggling.
Rainwater stressed his intention to start from scratch in overhauling all aspects of the education provided at West, East, Memorial and La Follette, whose combined enrollment tops 7,600 students. The move follows consolidation of practices in the city’s elementary and middle schools. But it may prove more challenging, since the high schools have a longstanding tradition of independence.
Over the next two years, Rainwater would like a steering committee of experts to study best practices in high school education. Everything, Rainwater stresses, is on the table: “It’s important we don’t have preconceived notions of what it should be.”
Heterogeneous classes, which until last week were the district’s preferred direction for high school changes, are, said Rainwater, “only one piece” of the redesign. But curriculum changes are clearly going to happen.
“It’s not acceptable anymore to lecture four days a week and give a test on Friday,” Rainwater declared. Teachers must learn how to teach students, rather than teach content.
The 50 parents and teachers in the audience reacted coolly, judging from the comments muttered among themselves during the presentation and the nearly two-hour discussion that followed.
Tellingly, the biggest applause came when board member Ruth Robarts said it was “high time we as a board start talking about high school curriculum.” Robarts chastised Rainwater for not including teachers and parents on the steering committee, which will “reinforce a perception that is not in our favor.” She said the district was giving critics only two options: accept the changes or “come down and protest.”
On Nov. 16, East Principal Alan Harris unveiled plans to eliminate several courses in favor of core classes in ninth and 10th grades. Attendees said the plan was presented as a “done deal.” In e-mails to the board, parents called the plan “short-sighted and misguided,” and one teacher warned: “Don’t do it.”
Rainwater, apparently recognizing the damage to parent and teacher relations, sent a memo to principals last week.
“I am asking you to cease any significant programmatic changes at each of your schools as this community dialogue progresses,” he wrote. “We need a tabula rasa mentality that will allow for a free flow of ideas, an opportunity to solidify trust in our expertise, and a chance at a solid, exciting product at the end.”
The four high schools will remain under their current programs until the steering committee gets to work. Chaired by Pam Nash, deputy superintendent of secondary schools, it will include several district administrators as well as experts from the UW-Madison, Edgewood College and MATC.
Rainwater sought to assure board and audience members that teachers and parents will have ample opportunity for input. His plan calls for three separate periods of public comment, after which subcommittees will make revisions. The school board will then vote on the recommendations after additional hearings and debate.
“You get better input if people have something to react to,” Rainwater said, adding that involving teachers in all stages would be impractical, because it would be difficult to cover their teaching assignments. That comment drew a collective groan from teachers in the audience.
Rainwater’s call for a revamping of the city’s high schools suggests the current approach isn’t working. And that poses a dilemma for school officials. The district likes to tout its record number of National Merit semifinalists and state-leading ACT scores as proof that its high schools are successful. Many parents worry that those high-end benchmarks are under attack.
But Madison’s schools continue to fail countless kids — mostly low-income and minority students. This is a profound challenge hardly unique to Madison, but one that deserves more attention from policymakers.
Research in education, the starting point for Rainwater’s steering committee, offers promising solutions. But the district risks much in excluding teachers from the start, since inevitably they will be on the front lines of any change. And excluding parents could heighten the alienation that has already prompted some middle- and upper-class families to abandon the public schools.
While struggling over details, most board members conceptually support the study. During their discussion Monday, Lawrie Kobza cut to the chase.
“What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” she asked. “And is this how we solve this problem?” Kobza professed not to know the answer. But these are the right questions to ask.
http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/article.php?article=4919




Audit Faults Wisconsin’s Reading First Grant Process



Wisconsin education officials failed to ensure that schools and districts that received federal Reading First grants adhered to the program’s strict guidelines, a failing that, if not rectified, could cost the state nearly $6 million of its $45 million allocation, a federal report concludes.
The audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, dated Oct. 20, found that nine of the state’s 26 grant recipients had not received the required approval of a review panel and may not have met all the requirements for receiving the money.
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, Education Week, November 1, 2006

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The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor



The Economist:

Look around the business world and two things stand out: the modern economy places an enormous premium on brainpower; and there is not enough to go round.
But education inevitably matters most. How can India talk about its IT economy lifting the country out of poverty when 40% of its population cannot read? [MMSD’s 10th Grade Reading Data] As for the richer world, it is hard to say which throw more talent away—America’s dire public schools or Europe’s dire universities. Both suffer from too little competition and what George Bush has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

Thursday’s meeting between Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater, the MMSD’s Brian Sniff and the UW Math department included two interesting guests: UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley [useful math links via the Chancellor’s website] and the Dean of the UW-Madison Education School. Wiley and the Ed School Dean’s attendance reflects the political nature of K-12 curriculum, particularly math. I’m glad Chancellor Wiley took time from his busy schedule to attend and look forward to his support for substantial improvements in our local math program.

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Work on education gap lauded



From the Wisconsin State Journal, May 2, 2006
ANDY HALL ahall@madison.com
Madison made more progress than any urban area in the country in shrinking the racial achievement gap and managed to raise the performance levels of all racial groups over the past decade, two UW- Madison education experts said Monday in urging local leaders to continue current strategies despite tight budgets.
“I’ve seen districts around the United States, and it really is remarkable that the Madison School District is raising the achievement levels for all students, and at the same time they’re closing the gaps,” Julie Underwood, dean of the UW- Madison School of Education, said in an interview.
Underwood said she’s heard of no other urban district that reduced the gap so significantly without letting the test scores of white students stagnate or slide closer to the levels of lower-achieving black, Hispanic or Southeast Asian students.
“The way that it’s happened in Madison,” she said, “is truly the best scenario. . . . We haven’t done it at the expense of white students.”
Among the most striking trends:
Disparities between the portions of white and minority students attaining the lowest ranking on the state Third Grade Reading Test have essentially been eliminated.
Increasing shares of students of all racial groups are scoring at the top levels – proficient and advanced – on the Third Grade Reading Test.
Graduation rates have improved significantly for students in every racial group.
Underwood commented after one of her colleagues, Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, presented a review of efforts to attack the racial achievement gap to the Schools of Hope Leadership Team meeting at United Way of Dane County.
Gamoran told the 25- member team, comprised of community leaders from the school system, higher education, nonprofit agencies, business and government, that Madison’s strategy parallels national research documenting the most effective approaches – one-to-one tutoring, particularly from certified teachers; smaller class sizes; and improved training of teachers.
“My conclusion is that the strategies the Madison school system has put in place to reduce the racial achievement gap have paid off very well and my hope is that the strategies will continue,” said Gamoran, who as director of the education-research center oversees 60 research projects, most of which are federally funded. A sociologist who’s worked at UW-Madison since 1984, Gamoran’s research focuses on inequality in education and school reform.
In an interview, Gamoran said that Madison “bucked the national trend” by beginning to shrink the racial achievement during the late 1990s, while it was growing in most of America’s urban school districts.
But he warned that those gains are in jeopardy as Wisconsin school districts, including Madison, increasingly resort to cuts and referendums to balance their budgets.
Art Rainwater, Madison schools superintendent, said Gamoran’s analysis affirmed that the district and Schools of Hope, a civic journalism project of the Wisconsin State Journal and WISC-TV (Ch. 3) that grew into a community campaign to combat the racial achievement gap, are using the best known tactics – approaches that need to be preserved as the district makes future cuts.
“The things that we’ve done, which were the right things to do, positively affect not just our educationally neediest students,” Rainwater said. “They help everybody.”
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., the teachers union, and Rainwater agree that the progress is fragile.
“The future of it is threatened if we don’t have it adequately funded,” Matthews said.
Leslie Ann Howard, United Way president, whose agency coordinates Schools of Hope, said Gamoran’s analysis will help focus the community’s efforts, which include about 1,000 trained volunteer tutors a year working with 2,000 struggling students on reading and math in grades kindergarten through eight.
The project’s leaders have vowed to continue working until at least 2011 to fight gaps that persist at other grade levels despite the gains among third- graders.
“I think it’s critical for the community to know that all kids benefited from the strategies that have been put in place the last 10 years – the highest achievers, the lowest achievers and everybody in between,” Howard said.
“To be able to say it’s helping everyone, I think is really astonishing.”




The Madison Community – Students, Parents, Professionals, Citizens – Can Help Elementary Strings: Here’s How



The community CAN HELP elementary strings and fine arts education in MMSD. Please write the School Board – comments@madison.k12.wi.us – ask them a) to establish a community fine arts education advisory committee beginning with a small community working group to put together a plan for this, b) develop a multi-year strategic and education plan for fine arts education, c) work with the music professionals and community to address short-term issues facing elementary music education (other fine arts areas – dance, drama) that supports children’s learning and academic achievement. Until this is done, please write the School Board asking them not to accept (to reject) the Superintendent’s current K-5 music education proposal to eliminate elementary strings.
At this late date in the year, I feel a small community working group needs to be established that will develop a plan for moving forward with the community on fine arts education issues. I would be more than happy to volunteer my time to help coordinate this effort, which I see as a first step toward the establishment of a community fine arts education task force/advisory committee. However, what is key is the School Board’s support and the Superintendent’s leadership, and I would be honored to work with all members of the school board and with the Superintendent. I’m sure other people would be happy to help as well.
The issues with MMSD’s fine arts elementary music education is not solely a budget issue, but the administration’s lack of imagination and longer-term education planning in fine arts makes courses such as strings become budget issues because nothing is done from year to year to make it anything other than a budget issue.
Elementary strings is a high-demand course – this isn’t 50 kids across the district, it was 1,745 in September 2005. From 1969 to 2005, enrollment has tripled, increasing by 1,000 students from 1992 until 2002, at the same time that the number of low income and minority children increased in the elementary student population. Demand for the course is annually 50% of the total enrollment in 4th and 5th grade. Plus, minority and low income enrollment has increased over the years. This year there are about 550 low income children enrolled in the elementary class. More low income children enrolled to take the course, but did not because of the pull out nature, I’m assuming. There is nowhere else in the City that so many low-income children have the opportunity to study an instrument at a higher level and continuously as part of their daily education.

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Minutes from Board Meeting to Create the Equity Task Force



Thanks for the link to the minutes of the October 31 meeting in the other thread. I found the document fascinating, and am posting it here (with the portion of the meeting devoted to expungement deleted for length reasons) for those who are following the equity task force. The discussion leading up to the charge is particularly interesting. The “continue reading” link will take you to the full minutes.

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2006-2007 MMSD Budget Comments



Jason Shepherd writing in the December 29, 2005 Isthmus:

  • Superintendent Art Rainwater: says the “most frustrating” part of his job is knowing there are ways to boost achievement with more resources, but not being able to allocate them. Instead, the district must each year try to find ways to minimize the hurt.
  • Board member Lawrie Kobza wants the board to review its strategic plan to ensure all students are being challenged with a rigorous curriculum.
  • Carol Carstensen, the current Board President says the “heterogenous” groupings, central to the West controversy (English 10, 1 curriculum for all), will be among the most important curriculum issues for 2006.
  • Ruth Robarts is closely watching an upcoming review of the district’s health insurance plans and pushing to ensure that performance goals for Rainwater include targeted gains for student achievement.
  • Johnny Winston says he’ll continue to seek additional revenue streams, including selling district land.

Read the full article here.

With respect to funding and new programs, the district spends a great deal on the controversial Reading Recovery program. The district also turned down millions in federal funds last year for the Reading First Program. Perhaps there are some opportunities to think differently with respect to curriculum and dollars in the district’s $329M+ budget, which increases annually.

Teacher Barb Williams offers her perspective on the expensive Reading Recovery program and the district’s language curriculum.

Board Candidate Maya Cole offers her thoughts on Transparency and the Budget




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



An administrative report recommending changes the middle school curriculum district-wide that was due in late December is now expected some time in January. Shwaw Vang, chair of the Performance and Achievement Committee of the MMSD school board, held a second meeting on the expected report on December 19. According to minutes of the November meeting on this topic, the December meeting would be an opportunity for Board members to provide feedback or input.
Unfortunately, the Board received no new information about the likely proposal of the committee, although the recommendations will affect most areas of the middle school curriculum, including Fine Arts, Life Skills, Mathematics, Wellness, and World Languages as well as Student Support Services. Among other things, the recommendations will result in equal minutes of instruction across subject areas.

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West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!



Here is a synopsis of the English 10 situation at West HS.
Currently — having failed to receive any reply from BOE Performance and Achievement Committee Chair Shwaw Vang to our request that he investigate this matter and provide an opportunity for public discussion — we are trying to get BOE President Carol Carstensen to put a discussion of the English 10 proposal (and the apparent lack of data supporting its implementation) on the agenda for a BOE meeting.  Aside from the fact that there is serious doubt that the course, as proposed, will meet the educational needs of the high and low end students, it is clear we are witnessing yet another example of school officials making radical curricular changes without empirical evidence that they will work and without open, honest and respectful dialogue with the community.
As the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!”

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WSJ: Texas School Finance Lesson



Wall Street Journal Review and Outlook:

The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was surprising and welcome was the Court’s unanimous ruling that the Texas school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the funding “adequacy” requirements of the state constitution. Most remarkable of all was the court’s declaration that “more money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students.”
In one of the most notorious cases, in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1980s, a judge issued an edict requiring a $1 billion tax hike to help the failing inner-city schools. This raised expenditures to about $14,000 per student, or double the national average, but test scores continued to decline. Even the judge later admitted that he had blundered.

LA education writer Paul Ciotti wrote in 1998 about the Kansas City Experiment:

In fact, the supposedly straightforward correspondence between student achievement and money spent, which educators had been insisting on for decades, didn’t seem to exist in the KCMSD. At the peak of spending in 1991-92, Kansas City was shelling out over $11,700 per student per year.(123) For the 1996-97 school year, the district’s cost per student was $9,407, an amount larger, on a cost-of-living-adjusted basis, than any of the country’s 280 largest school districts spent.(124) Missouri’s average cost per pupil, in contrast, was about $5,132 (excluding transportation and construction), and the per pupil cost in the Kansas City parochial system was a mere $2,884.(125)
The lack of correspondence between achievement and money was hardly unique to Kansas City. Eric Hanushek, a University of Rochester economist who testified as a witness regarding the relationship between funding and achievement before Judge Clark in January 1997, looked at 400 separate studies of the effects of resources on student achievement. What he found was that a few studies showed that increased spending helped achievement; a few studies showed that increased spending hurt achievement; but most showed that funding increases had no effect one way or the other.(126)
Between 1965 and 1990, said Hanushek, real spending in this country per student in grades K-12 more than doubled (from $2,402 to $5,582 in 1992 dollars), but student achievement either didn’t change or actually fell. And that was true, Hanushek found, in spite of the fact that during the same period class size dropped from 24.1 students per teacher to 17.3, the number of teachers with master’s degrees doubled, and so did the average teacher’s number of years of experience.(127)

More on Ciotti
Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater “implemented the largest court-ordered desegregation settlement in the nation’s history in Kansas City, MoGoogle search | Clusty Search




Thursday’s Middle School Curriculum Parent Forum



I believe a relevant and challenging curriculum is the #1 priority for any educational organization. There have been a number of questions raised over the years regarding the Madison School District’s curriculum, including Math, English and Fine Arts and the recent controversial changes at Sherman Middle School (more details in Kathy Esposito’s recent Isthmus article).

The District is currently conducting a Middle School Curriculum Review, lead by Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash (Formerly Principal of Memorial High School). Pam lead a Parent Forum Thursday evening, which I attended (one of about 28 participants). (7MB video clip of Pam kicking off the Forum). The goal of this event was to collect feedback from parents regarding these five questions (pdf version):

  1. The school district is continually working to build more rigor into the learning experiences that students have. Rigor is defined as commitment to a core subject matter knowledge, a high demand for thinking, and an active use of knowledge. When you think of a rigorous academic curriculum in the middle school, what would it look like?
  2. What experiences do you want your child to have in middle school to enhance his or her social and emotional growth?
  3. What are your hopes and dreams for your child in middle school?
  4. What are your greatest concerns for your child in middle school?
  5. If you could design Madison middle schools in any way you wanted, what would they be like?

Pam mentioned that the parent comments would be posted on the district’s website, hopefully next week. She also said that the district would post these questions online, in an interactive way so that parents who were unable to attend Thursday’s event might add their comments.

My notes follow:

  • Superintendent Art Rainwater wants the middle school curriculum task force to report back to him by mid December (2005).
  • The task force “design teams” recently broke up into “work teams”.
  • Recommendations will affect middle school allocations.
  • I asked Pam when this process began. She said it started one month ago.
  • Pam mentioned that they hope to pull the parent group together one more time, in December.

I was initially displeased that the group of 28 participants was broken up (I was interested in hearing all of the conversations). However, I thought that the format was rather effective in obtaining comments from all participants (at least those in my group). Kudos to Pam for collecting a good deal of information.

I spoke briefly with Pam when the event concluded. I mentioned that it appears to me, a layman, that it would be challenging to implement major changes via a two month task force. However, incremental changes occuring via the allocations are certainly possible (for better or worse).

I heard many useful suggestions on these questions and will point to them when available on the District’s website.

Learn more about the “Middle Grades Design Team” via this Board presentation (800K PDF file) Email your comments on this initiative to the Madison School Board: comments@madison.k12.wi.us




The shocking truth



From Jason Shepard’s column Talking Out of School in Isthmus, Madison’s only media outlet to give the public in-depth coverage of the MMSD:

A series of institutional failures — by court employees, police officers, and school officials — led to a Madison student being shot with a Taser stun gun in a school parking lot early this year, according to an independent investigator whose report the school district has tried to keep secret. . . .
[The report] is a remarkable indictment of the ways in which police and school officials handled the Taser incident. But perhaps the case’s most distrubing aspect concerns what appear to be ongoing efforts to cover up what transpired.

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The Seven Options of the West/Memorial Task Force



The MMSD Web site says that the West/Memorial task force “identified seven options for additional analysis” by MMSD staff. I asked Superintendent Rainwater’s Chief of Staff Mary Gulbrandsen for a list of the seven options, and here is her reply:

The West Memorial task force has not even seen the seven ideas that
were put forth by the seven small work groups, as they were the last
thing that we did at the meeting on Thursday night. We are just pulling the ideas together and are going to work with some of the members to actually create options. As soon as we have something that is in a form to send out to the task force, it will be posted on the MMSD website for reviewing. Mary




MMSD Budget Mysteries #2



Mystery fans, you’re joining this budget baffler in mid-case. I previously sent the following e-mail to Superintendent Rainwater:

I received an inquiry about library aids from a district employee, and I can’t find the answer. Maybe you and Roger Price [Assistant Superintendent for Business Services] can help.
The DPI Web site shows that the MMSD received $675,055 in library aids from the Common School Fund for the school year 2004-05. The DPI site also notes that the funds are paid by May 1 and have to be expended by June 30 of the year they were received.

I was able to find that the MMSD shows library aid revenue of $568,560 for 2004-2005 on page 238 in the 2005-2006 Budget & District Profile.

However, I cannot find an expenditure for the funds. On page 103 of the same document, I can find a total of $242,700 for “Major Non-salary Expenditures” in the Division of Library Media Services. The same page shows “Other expenses,” including equipment and supplies, of $181,270 under a heading called General and another expenditure of $46,720 under the heading Community services. Those three amounts total $470,720.

Can you please explain why DPI shows a payment of $675,055 and the budget book shows an expenditure of only $568,560 for library aids?

Can you also tell me and the district employee where in the 2005-2006 Budget and District Profile I can find how the library aids were expended to total either $675,055 or $568,560?

The district employee was also under the impression that library aids were distributed to individual schools, but was told by the school librarian that the school had not received any funds prior to June 1. Could you possibly provide a list of library aids received by each school in the MMSD, if that’s the way the MMSD uses the funds?

As always, I appreciate your time and attention.

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Middle School Curriculum



Much afoot at Sherman Middle school. MMSD will look at developing a district-wide middle school curriculum. While that might improve the mess at Sherman, it might also mean watering down the curriculum, eg. math, throughout the district.
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/index.php?ntid=45223
“School Board President Carol Carstensen, who made it one of her priorities to examine how the district’s 11 middle schools are structured and to consider proposals for changes, said that questions and concerns about middle- school curriculum existed before the situation at Sherman boiled over.
“It came to a head around Sherman,” Carstensen said.
Among the concerns is whether the kind of preparation students receive for high school varies depending on which middle school they attend, she said.
In one of her first jobs as the new superintendent of secondary schools, Pam Nash will focus on designing a middle school system that is consistent across the district, Rainwater said.
“Each of our middle schools has developed in a very different way,” Rainwater said, adding, “It provides a tremendous amount of flexibility.”
Carstensen said that while a more centralized model would sacrifice some autonomy and creativity in a school’s ability to meet the needs of its specific student population, she believes that all students should have the same opportunities in certain areas, including instrumental music and advanced math classes.”

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States Report Reading First Yielding Gains, Some Schools Getting Ousted for Quitting



Little solid evidence is available to gauge whether the federal government’s multibillion-dollar Reading First initiative is having an effect on student achievement, but many states are reporting anecdotally that they are seeing benefits for their schools.
Among those benefits are extensive professional development in practices deemed to be research-based, extra instructional resources, and ongoing support services, according to an Education Week analysis of state performance reports published June 8, 2005.

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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:
2005-2006
Base Salary Raise – .75%
Benefits – 3.32%
Total – 3.98%
2006-2007
Base salary raise – .90 %
Benefits – 3.07%
Total – 3.97%

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Budget Hides Extras – Public Only Shown Cuts Not Budget: Current School Board Not Governing Budget Priorities



Mr. Rainwater says, “We are long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are nice but not necessary (March 2005 Budget Discussion Items Report – basically, budget cut document). Without the budget, this is a scary statement. Sadly, a budget would show this statement to be a scare tactic.
What’s scary to me is that we may indeed need a referendum, but the current board’s weak governance, lack of public discussion and review, alienation of many public groups won’t be able to make the case, because educating the entire child and excellent instruction for all are not driving the board’s priorities. That scares me.

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Board Scares Parents-Threatens All District Can Teach Kids for $13,000+ is Reading and Math: Yet MMSD Board Has No Budget, Keeps $2 Million for Extracurr. Sports, Increases Admin. Budget $1.5 Million in Two Years, Turned Away $10+ Million Fed. Rdg. Grant



This is not the headline of an article in The Onion. Rather, as the Astronauts on the Apollo Mission said, “Houston, we have a problem.”
After 10 years of continually reducing services to our children and community . . . long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are �nice but not necessary� (MMSD budget cut document – not budget) More than $13,000 per student and all the Distict can do is teach math and reading. This should send a huge red flag up. It is – to those who can afford to, they are moving their kids, home schooling, paying for private tutoring and other lessons, and sending their kids to private schools. Who’s losing inthis picture – underprivileged kids in education and priviledged kids by not being part of a diverse school environment. All the kids are losing – big time and the negative impact on the economics and culture of the city will follow – that’s why my parents kept me out of NYC schools and I went to high school in Connecticut. That is not what I wanted for my daughter, but I need to protect her education – she’s only got the next 5 years.
There is no budget governance and leadership by board members and by the Finance and Operations Committee, which Ms. Carstensen chairs – threatening statements are made to other board members and to the public, no questions are asked, no budget is visible and the state is to blame. I suggest board members hold up a mirror, and I suggest that other progressives in Madison who share my concerns and want an excellent public education system in Madison, vote for a positive change in leadership on April 5th and read the following:

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Madison�s Accredited Early Educators Propose Solution for Four-Year Old Kindergarten



Several times in recent years, the Madison School Board has considered ways to create a four-year old kindergarten program for all Madison children. The goal of “universal” four-year old kindergarten is to assure that every child enters elementary school ready to learn. In the past, the administration’s proposals involved partnerships with private accredited daycare programs in Madison.
On Monday, October 18, the Performance & Achievement Committee of the Madison School Board will review a report from Superintendent Art Rainwater that recommends against going forward with four-year old kindergarten and rejects a July 2004 proposal from the Madison Area Association of Accredited Early Care and Education Providers.
The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at Leopold Elementary School, 2602 Post Road. Below is a summary of the Association’s proposal in “question-and-answer” format.

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After School Child Care in Madison: Why the Madison Schools Should Continue Community Partnerships



On July 12, the Madison Board of Education will review proposals from Superintendent Rainwater that may mean the end of a long and successful collaboration between the district, the City of Madison and private child care providers to ensure quality after-school child care for elementary students. Apparently the superintendent plans to argue that MMSD can do a better job and can afford to expand into the after-school care business.

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Board Watch



Don Severson sent this email over the weekend regarding Monday’s BOE meeting (5.17.2004) :

Please join me (Don Severson) in a MMSD Board of Education watch Monday evening, May 17 at about 6:00 p.m. The agenda is copied below. The Board will start discussing amendments to the 04-05 budget proposed by Supt. Rainwater sometime by 6:00. The Board will ostensibly make decisions on $9.9 million worth cuts and changes to the budget. The rules of the Board discussion on the budget preclude public input at this meeting.
It is critical, however, that we have a strong show of community interest in
their deliberations.

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