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Mission Vs Organization: Shades Of Cutting Strings….

Valerie Strauss:

“Their priorities are distorted. We need to make a decision to put kids first. Especially when they’re savings is about $500,000 to $750,000, when they’re paying out a million dollars on, on public relations specialists and on lobbyists, a million dollars.”

Former Superintendent Art Rainwater frequently attempted to kill Madison’s strings program.

Like Albuquerque, Madison long had a lobbyist. Do they have one today?

Madison, with “plenty of resources” spends about $18,000 per student annually – well above the national average.

An emphasis on “adult employment“.

Strings are making a comeback for fifth-graders at Sandburg Elementary

Amanda Finn:

Fifth-graders will soon be coming out of Sandburg Elementary fiddling happy tunes thanks to a major instrument donation making it possible for strings to be part of the fifth-grade curriculum.

The VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Madison-based teamed up to provide Sandburg with 36 new instruments, worth about $35,000, to fill gaps in an aged instrument inventory and to provide enough instruments to suit the needs of the children.

The foundation has already been working with the Madison School District to create 12 keyboard labs in various elementary schools.

“We are really fortunate that we began a relationship with VH1 Save the Music six years ago,” said Laurie Fellenz, fine arts coordinator for the district.

The Strings Program has a rather fascinating history, including numerous attempts to abort it.

Madison’s Strings Program….. All Quiet?

For my family, one of the unexpected assets of the Madison School District was the Strings Program. Perennially under attack during the Superintendent Rainwater reign, I’ve seen little mention of the District’s String’s program, now available from grades 5 to 12. I only found this snippet on the Madison School District’s website:

Music opportunities continue to expand in Grades 5 through 12. Strings instruction is available to students starting in 5th grade and the curriculum is based on the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Instrumental Music. Students in grades 6 and 7 choose to participate in Band, Chorus, General Music, or Orchestra, which also have curriculum based on the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards. In grades 8-12, students may elect to enroll in one of these classes or the additional elective courses at our high schools. These course in connection with the community musical offerings, provide a breadth of experiences to help build student skills and knowledge of music.

Is there more?

Pulling strings into a top school: More parents are getting their children to play the harp as a way into prestigious institutions

Lana Lam:

More Hong Kong youngsters are following in the footsteps of Botticelli angels by learning the harp, with parents encouraging this special option as a way to secure a spot in a prestigious school.
Demand for harp lessons had steadily increased in the last three years and its appeal was multi-faceted, said professional harpist Joan Lee Wai-ying, who opened a home-based harp school in Sha Tin in 2008.
“Many parents want to widen the musical knowledge of their children but it’s also because of the school admission test which requires a basic instrument like the piano but also a very special instrument like the harp,” Lee said, with the number of students at her school increasing fivefold since opening.

Playground politics: Devolving power over schools while tightening purse strings requires guile

The Economist:

THE success of the government’s bid to create new “free schools”–funded by the state, but able to set conditions for staff, pick and choose from the national curriculum, and so on–rests on its ability to wrest power from local authorities and give it to community groups. The policy is a key element of David Cameron’s “Big Society”, but suffers from the same difficulty as the overall project: pushing through devolution in a time of austerity is tricky.
The aim of free schools, which are based on American and Swedish models, is to give parents more choice and promote competition. New schools can be established by parents, teachers, charities, religious outfits, universities, private schools and not-for-profit groups. They will be given public funds based on how many pupils enroll, with those from poor families attracting a premium.

14 Quirky College Donations (and the Strings Attached)

Ethan Trex:

For most of us, college donations entail little more than occasionally dropping a small check in the mail after receiving repeated pleas for cash from our alma maters. Some people, though, tend to be a bit more individualistic with their generosity. Let’s take a look at some of the quirkier donations schools have received:
1. Bequest Puts Jocks on the Ropes
swarthmoreIn 1907, fledgling Swarthmore College received a bequest that was estimated to be worth somewhere between $1 and $3 million. If the school wanted the cash, though, it would have to stop participating in intercollegiate sports. Swarthmore badly needed the cash–its entire endowment was only in the $1 million range–but in the end, the school turned down the gift and the sports survived.

Who’s Pulling the Milwaukee Public School Takeover Strings?

Lisa Kaiser:

National pro-privatization organizations led by former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Joe Williams and backed by Wall Street hedge fund managers are emerging as a driving force behind the mayoral takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
Williams is the executive director of the affiliated groups named Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Education Reform Now (ERN), based in New York City. ERN has a nine-month-old chapter in Wisconsin, and DFER has branches in Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and New Jersey.
The Wisconsin state director of both groups, Katy Venskus, has been lobbying in support of the pro-mayoral takeover Senate Bill 405, authored by state Sen. Lena Taylor and state Rep. Pedro Colon.
Venskus also has organized a group of Milwaukee business leaders–including Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Tim Sheehy of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Tim Sullivan of Bucyrus International–to push for a mayor-appointed superintendent of MPS with enhanced executive powers.

Music Event Benefitting Madison’s Elementary Strings Program

Wednesday night, May 23, local band Marvin’s Gardens, will be playing at the King’s Club (114 King Street). There will be jazz from 6-9 p.m. All proceeds will go to benefit Grade 5 Strings! Strings players invited to bring their instruments to play with the band.
$5 at the door.

Grade 5 Strings – How you can help

Grade 5 elementary string students need your help. There are ways you can support the hundreds of ten-year olds who are in Grade 5 strings and this year’s Grade 4 students who would like the chance to take the course next year:
A. Bring your child to play his/her instrument at Thursday’s Budget Hearing – April 19th at 6:00 p.m., Memorial High School Auditorium.
If your child would like to “play” in support of Grade 5 strings, there will be an opportunity to do this at Thursday’s budget hearing to be held in the auditorium at Memorial High School ( Students from grades 5-12 are welcome. There will be adults present to help coordinate the playing of a few songs from the strings festival. If you want to play, please come at 6 p.m., so we can organize the students.
B. Email the School Board – – let them know:
1. you support the program for all children,
2. what this course has meant to your child if your child is/has
taken elementary strings,
3. you would like the newly formed school board community task
force on fine arts to have a chance to do it’s work, which
a. identifying the community’s fine arts education values and
b. identifying ways to increase low-income/minority
participation in the arts (45% elementary string students
are minority, 35% are low income), and
c. identifying funding priorities for the School Board
C. Speak at the Budget Hearings – 6:30 p.m. – Tuesday, April 17th at La Follette High School Auditorium and Thursday, April 19th at Memorial High School Auditorium:
There are two public hearings next week on the budget – Tuesday, April 17th, 6:30 p.m. at La Follette High School and Thursday, April 19th, 6:30 p.m. at Memorial High School – both public hearings are in the school’s auditoriums. If you come, you need to sign if you want to speak. You can sign in and not speak but say you support the program. Each person who speaks is given 3 minutes.
For nearly 40 years, MMSD has had an elementary strings program. Two years ago, elementary string instruction was cut in half. Last year, Grade 4 strings was cut entirely. This year, Superintendent Rainwater is proposing to cut Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate all string instruction during the school day.
Thank you for your support of Grade 5 strings and a strong fine arts education for our children.

Grade 5 Strings – Letter to School Board

Please write the School Board about what is important to you and your state legislature about funding our public schools. Following is a copy of my letter to the school board on Grade 5 strings:
Dear School Board Members (,
I am happy to serve as a member of the newly created Fine Arts Task Force for the next year. The second charge to the committee is: ” Recommend up to five ways to increase minority student participation and participation of low income students in Fine Arts at elementary, middle and high school levels.”
I noticed in the Grade 5 strings report you received last week there was no information on low-income and minority student enrollment. Our task force received this specific demographic information at our March 26th meeting along with additional information, so I would like to share it with you, because I think it is important. As the program has been cut in the past two years, the low-income and minority student enrollment (numbers and percentage) has remained strong [but the cuts have affected hundreds of low-income students as the numbers show]. For this school year, 44% of the string students are minority students (47% of all Grade 5 students are minority students), and 35% of the string students are low income (44% of Grade 5 students are low income students). This information is captured in the attached Chart for the this year and the previous two years when the program was offered to students in Grades 4 and 5. I’ve also included information on special education student enrollment. I was not able to access ELL information for the previous years.

Decreasing academic opportunities to develop skills at a younger age is more likely to hurt participation at higher grades for low income and minority students who often lack support outside school to strengthen and reinforce what is learned in school either at home or through additional, private opportunities.
I hope you make the decision to give the Fine Arts Task Force an opportunity to complete its charge before making additional cuts to courses, because these cuts may prove to be more harmful to those students we want to reach than we realize. Also, if changes are made, I hope they are done equitably and with time for transitions. I’m asking this not only for arts education but also for other programs and activities Madison values in its public education. Eliminating elementary strings entirely would be the third year of major cuts in either funds or instruction time for students in this program. This seems to me to be overly harsh, especially when you consider that no extracurricular sports have been cut (nor would I support that).
Elementary strings is one arts course, but it has taught up to 2,000+ children in one year and is valued highly by parents and the community. I have 500+ signatures on a petition, which I will share with the board next week that says: “Madison Community Asks the MMSD School Board: Don’t Cut, Work with the Community to Strengthen and Grow Madison’s Elementary String Program. I have many emails with these signatures, and I’m planning to ask folks to write you about what this program means to them, so you hear their words and not only my words.
As I stated when I spoke before you earlier this year, there are those activities where a mix of public and private funding along with fees and grants might work for the arts and for extracurricular sports, for example. Please consider support of this and please consider helping with transitions toward different approaches.
Thank you for your hard work and support for public education.
Barbara Schrank
P.s. – note, I am speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the fine arts task force.
I would also like to add for SIS readers – I know due to the current financing scheme, the state is not funding public schools adequately nor fairly and is placing a huge burden on personal income and property taxes. I also know there have been cuts in previous years to the arts, increases in class sizes, fewer SAGE classes, etc. Just so you know, that is not the point of this letter. I see the need to work both locally and at the state. I also feel we need to be doing something more than referendums at the local level, and I don’t mean cut or referendum. I think in the areas of extracurricular sports, some of the arts, we may be able to put in place a financial package of public, private, fees, grants – but this takes time and planning and commitment by our school board following public discussions on the topic.
Not all minority children are low income, but by far, the majority of low income children are minority. By not working with the community on funding for this high demand, highly valued program, several hundred fewer low income students are receiving skill-based training on an instrument, which scientific research is showing more and more has a positive effect on other areas of academics.
No where else in this city do so many low-income children have the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument and to do so as inexpensively per student. This is a program where “thinking outside the box” for the School Board could come in handy, so we can continue this academic program as part of the school day for so many children.

Maintain and Grow Madison’s Art Programs: Support Elementary Strings

Parents and Students distributed to attendees of the recent Spring 2007 Strings Festival the following information in a flier:
Madison Community Asks the MMSD School Board:
Don’t Cut, Work with the Community to Strengthen and Grow
Madison’s Elementary String Program

Superintendent Rainwater has proposed cutting Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate the nearly 40-year old elementary strings program. This does not have to happen and you can help:
1) Email the School Board (, letting the School Board know:
a. You support elementary strings and a vibrant, strong fine arts academic education for all Madison’s school children as important for and fundamental to a student’s personal and academic growth, and
b. You support and want the newly formed School Board Community Fine Arts Task Force to have a chance and time to explore ways to continue and to sustain elementary strings, and all arts education, in Madison’s schools, without further cuts to programs.

Elementary Strings: Update and Community Appeal

Action and Help Needed: I am beginning to work with some parents and others in the community to raise awareness and possibly financial support for all fine arts education. If you are interested in learning more, or would like to help, let me know ( or 231-3954). I will be posting on the blog more of what we are doing, including surveys and petitions of support.
Due to the proposed budget gap for next year and the Superintendent’s preliminary discussion idea to cut up to $300,000 from elementary strings, our focus will be on this course in the short-term. Elementary strings is only one piece of Fine Arts Education, but there is no other organization that teaches so many low income children how to play an instrument for about $200 per child vs. $2,000 per child in private instruction. We would like to resolve this issue this spring, working collaboratively with the administration and the school board.
The School Board would like proposals from the community re supporting elementary strings. I have begun working with parents and others on this topic, and I welcome ideas and support from readers of this blog. In addition to various proposals for School Board consideration, which I’m being encouraged to submit, we feel there is a need to raise awareness of the importance of a strong, vibrant standards-based, academic fine arts education. For an instrumental curriculum that meets national and state standards, course instruction begins in Grade 4 and classes are held at least twice weekly during the day.
The demand for elementary strings from parents and students has been and continues to be strong; but sadly, I feel the administration (not the School Board) has been a barrier to moving forward in partnership with the community, preferring each year to cut and to whittle away the course each year rather than gather the community together to bring ideas and solutions to the table. Last November, I asked District Administration for the following basic information: number of elementary string students, number of FTEs, number of middle and high school band and string students, number of FTEs, and revenue collected. I have not received this information, which I need to work on proposals, even though I have asked for the information repeatedly. The administration may have a lot on their plate, but I was only asking for basic information needed to develop some proposals for board consideration. I thought, perhaps the administration is working on their own proposals to continue this course, but that is not the case.
Up until a few years ago, there were nearly 2,000 4th and 5th grade students taking elementary strings, 30-40% of these children were low income (600+ children). During the 1990s, as the district’s low income population increased, enrollment in elementary strings doubled from about 1,000 students in 1991 to more than 1,900 in after the year 2000.
Elementary strings has been part of the Madison schools for more than 40 years. Growing school districts around Madison offer this course, and the enrollment is growing. Grandparents and parents who live in Madison took this course when they were in elementary school. The large string festival is one of other opportunities that make our elementary schools unique. If we want to keep parents sending their children to Madison, and to keep the needed diversity in our schools, I think this course is important and unique to Madison.
I hope some of you will join me in supporting a vibrant fine arts education for our children and working on proposals for elementary strings. Thank you for reading this blog item,


Kobza, Mathiak, Robarts and Vang Vote Yes to Support Elementary Strings: Carstensen, Silveira and Winston Vote No And Support Cutting Elementary Strings

Thank you to students, parents and community members who wrote to and spoke before the School Board in support of elementary strings. It may seem, at times, that your letters or statements fall on deaf ears, but that is not the case. Each and every letter and each and every statement of support is critical to communicating to the School Board how much the community values this course. There are Board members who listen and understand what you’re saying.
Last night MMSD School Board members Lawrie Kobza, Lucy Mathiak, Ruth Robarts and Shwaw Vang voted to restore Grade 5 elementary strings classes to twice weekly. Also, these same four Board members voted in favor of a pilot elementary string course at one or more schools that would provide 4th and 5th grade students with the option to select either General Music or Elementary Strings as their music class. My thanks for their votes of support for elementary strings and a strong music education and opportunities for all our children.
Johnny Winston Jr. (Board President), Carol Carstensen and Arlene Silveira voted against this option, electing to support cutting elementary strings. These three board members did not support elementary strings and supported the Superintendent’s proposal, which would cut Grade 4 elementary strings next year and would have cut Grade 5 elementary strings the following year, eliminating elementary strings for about 543 low-income children, 1610 elementary children in all, within two years.
The elementary string program, even with an additional class in Grade 5 was cut in Grade 4 and the budget was reduced about 13% on top of a 50% cut the previously year. (In comparison, the budget for extracurricular sports increased 25%.)
The board majority who voted for 2 classes per week in Grade 5 and a pilot want to learn more about what option(s), instructionally, administratively, and financially would work best in the future, so elementary string instruction remains part of music education. I appreciate their efforts.
Elementary strings is less than 0.09% of the District’s $330+ million budget, taught 1610 (543 low income) Grade 4 and Grade 5 children this year, is a heterogenous, diverse course.

Continue Elementary Strings – 550 Low-Income Children Deserve the Opportunity to Proudly Play Their Instruments

On Wednesday, May 31st, the MMSD School Board will consider amendments to the 2006-2007 school budget proposed by the Superintedent. In his proposal, the Superintendent proposed cutting Grade 4 strings this year and Grade 5 strings the end of next year. One amendment to be discussed on Wednesday would have Grade 4 strings 1x per week (45 minutes) and Grade 5 2x per week (45 minutes each class).
Students who will be affected the most are our low-income children. There is no other place in Dane County that can teach so many low-income children. This year about 550 low-income students took elementary strings. Fewer opportunities at this age will lead to fewer low-income/minority students in our middle and high school orchestras and band – this is a direction we do not want to move in as our student body becomes more diverse.
Like it or not, people moving into the area with children check out what schools offer – our suburban school districts have elementary string programs that are growing in many towns.
I’ve advocated for a community committee for fine arts education to develop a long-term plan for this academic area. I hope this comes to pass, but first I hope the School Board favorably considers this amendment and follows Lawrie Kobza’s idea – hold off spending on “things” because people cannot be added back in as easily as things can be added back into the budget.
I’ve written a letter to the school board that follows:


A Parent’s Note to the Madison School Board on Strings

Ann O’ Brien:

Every year when I attend my children’s strings concerts, I am so amazed by the broad and diverse participation of students in strings. How moving to see so many students playing instruments often stereotyped as only for the rich who can afford lessons. The cacophony of sounds coming from the 100’s of students at the city-wide concerts inspires the kids, the parents and the community that all is well in the world; that integration, opportunity, and artistic expression are not just paid lip service, but are working in our schools. I appreciate your work to keep strings available to all students.

Speak Up For Strings – Thanks for Emailing the School Board: Keep The Emails Coming

MMSD’s School Board meets tonight to discuss the 2006-2007 school budget. There are no public appearances on tonight’s agenda, but the Madison community can continue to email the School Board in support of elementary strings at: Thank you to the parents and community who have attended the public hearing and who have sent emails to the School Board in support of elementary strings for Madison’s 9- and 10-year old students.
Cutting elementary strings will hurt low-income children! Keep the emails coming in support of about 550 low-income children who signed up for elementary strings – no other organization in Madison or Dane County offers an academic year long class that teaches this many children how to play an instrument. Madison School Board: Let’s work together to enhance this learning experience for our children; not tear it down and not tear it down before hearing from and working with the community.
I support restoring elementary strings to 2x per week, and I support forming a community task force on elementary strings and fine arts education to build fine arts education in Madison, not continue to tear it down. I reject late spring reports from the District administration that are clearly biased against this course and have not engaged teachers, music professionals, the community in the preceding 4 years! It’s not a administrative staffing issue, but it is poor, poor planning. We’ve had revenue caps since the early 1990s, and the Superintendent has been cutting fine arts since 1999 with no long-term plan in place, no community task force formed.
Call for an end to unfair cuts to elementary strings – cut 50% last year. No other high demand, highly valued course has been targeted in any year let alone year in and year out for cuts for 5 springs!
The state needs to take action on school financing; Madison needs the MMSD School Board to take action on elementary strings and fine arts educationl. Work with the community – please start now!

Cutting Elementary Strings Hurts Children From Families With Low and Moderate Incomes

Members of the Board of Education,
I am writing to urge you all to vote in support of continuing the strings program in elementary schools.
I am a parent of a 6th grader at Hamilton Middle School, and I am fortunate to have been able to afford private and group violin lessons outside the school system for my son, since kindergarten. I can not tell you what a huge benefit this has been to him, in terms of teaching him to strive towards a rewarding goal, the joy of working together in a group of other learners, and appreciating the goodness of the arts in a troubled world.
And yet I know that the disadvantaged children in MMSD have no opportunity at all to play a violin or other instrument in elementary school unless the strings program continues.
It is clear to me and all music instructors that if a child starts violin in 6th grade, it is by far more difficult for them and much more likely that they will become frustrated and give up.
Starting in grade 4 will not only help students learn and stay with it, but will be a better use of the precious funds that we do allocate to strings in all grades — a better foundation means better participation and more benefits in the later grades.
My own son did not take strings in 4th and 5th grade, because I felt it was better to give another spot to a family that did not have another means to offer strings to their child. He now participates in 6th grade. I can tell you that with all the other major adjustments of the transition to middle school, starting a stringed instrument from scratch would have added a lot of stress to our family.
Please, please find a way to continue strings in 4th and 5th grades. I have been to enough meetings to know that there are things that could be cut from the budget that are way less important than strings.
Thank you,
Jane Sekulski
PS. If you have never seen the movie “Music of the Heart”, please consider doing so. It is based on a true story, which is documented in the film “Small Wonders”, of a violin program in inner city New York. The documentary is even better.

Speak Up for Strings Tonight: Public Appearances at Board Public Hearing On the Budget – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9th at Memorial High School

Dear Madison Community,
Children and parents are encouraged to speak in support of elementary strings and to bring their instruments to tonight’s School Board public hearing on the budget if they would like to play. My husband, Fred Schrank, who is the principal bassist with the MSO and who teaches orchestra to elementary and middle school children in the district, will be there. I’ve asked him if he would accompany those children who might want to play for the School Board to show their support for the course. The public hearing begins 6:30 p.m at Memorial High School, 201 S. Gammon Road, Auditorium [map].
For your information – the School Board takes students who want to speak for 3 minutes (or play for 3 minutes) first. I also have signs and will have colored markers for students or others who want to make signs for the School Board to see.
The Superintendent’s proposal to cut Grade 4 strings is unacceptable, incomplete and would put in place a music curriculum planning process AFTER the cut is made to Grade 4 strings instruction. His conceptual idea is to plan to offer elementary children experiences with varied instruments in the 07-08 school year when Grade 5 strings would be cut and there would be no more elementary strings. That’s a curious idea. Why? Current General Music practice is to offer children experiences on different instruments – so the planning would not result in any meaningful curriculum change except the elimination of elementary stringed instrument instruction. What kind of plan would that be? No community planning took place this year for music education, which DPI recommends as best practice for standards based curriculum planning – include professionals and the community in the effort. The only plan is to cut Grade 4 strings, with planning for next steps to follow. Without good planning and good information – bad practice and bad decisions follow.
My question: Where’s the planning been for the past year, for the past 5 years? Our kids deserve better. Hundreds of children and community members have spoken in support of the elementary strings course over the years and emails and support for this course remain strong as demonstrated by the children once again this year through their enrollment in this course – over 1,700 children in September (550+ low income children who will be hurt the most by this cut).
After 5 springs of advocating for this course, I’m exasperated and annoyed; but when I listen to children and parents tell their stories about their hopes and dreams, I get reinvigorated as I was last night after listening and speaking. Last night, Ruth Robarts, Shwaw Vang and Lucy Mathiak spoke strongly in support of the program and in working on strings through the Performance and Achievement and the Partnership Committees. I think the idea to collaborate among board committees is novel and appropriate for Fine Arts – and may be for other areas. I feel involving the community – music and art professionals, parents, organizations in the process is critical to the long-term success of fine arts education in Madison, especially in tight financial times.
Also, Lawrie Kobza, School Board Vice President, reminded the Superintendent that the School Board had additional options to his proposal to consider – the Superintendent’s options plus keeping the course the same as this year or restoring the course to what it was two years ago (2x per week for 45 minutes).
So, please, if you have time tonight, come and Speak Up For Strings! Even if it’s only to stop in on your way to and from another event (it’s that crazy time of year with concerts, sporting games, dances and preparation for graduations taking up lots of time) and register with the Board in support of the course. I’ll be there to help with registering to speak in support, or simply registering your support. Each person’s presence makes a difference – individually and collectively!
Barbara Schrank
P.S and FYI – the Supt.’s proposed Grade 4 strings cut would not affect any current teachers and would be made through retirements and resignations. However, 1,700 children would lose something they dearly value that provides them with so much. I think, over time, our community will lose even more.

Speak Up For Strings – Monday At Midnight? Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

In my previous post on Speak Up for Strings, I wrote about two ways to contact the School Board – one way is by speaking to the School Board at public appearances; which,is normally after the minutes of a meeting – at the beginning, before the board begins it’s business. A special Board meeting is scheduled for today, but public appearances will not be until agenda item 10, which follows many substantive agenda items, so chances to speak will not be until later in the evening – perhaps quite late.


Strings Program – Why is it So Important?

Reader Andrea Cox emails:

I don’t understand why it’s so important to keep the elementary strings program. Some things have to go because of the budget constraints imposed upon the schools. Strings strikes me as much less important than, say, class size, mathematics, or reading. We can’t have everything without major changes in how the school funding is set at the state level.
(I would have posted a “comment” to this topic, but I couldn’t figure out how to do this on the site.)

Speak Up For Strings – Starting May 9th

Please Help Save Elementary Strings!!!
How: Ask the New School Board –
Work with the Community to Build Fine Arts Education!
When: Starting May 9th
Other districts facing fiscal and academic achievement challenges have had successes maintaining and growing their fine arts education – through strategic planning, active engagement and real partnerships with their communities. School districts in Arizona, Chicago, New York, Texas and Minneapolis are looking for innovative ways to preserve and to grow fine arts education when facing tight budgets.
What does MMSD do?

For the 5th spring, elementary strings are at risk. Superintendent Rainwater is proposing to eliminate elementary strings – to cut Grade 4 strings next year and Grade 5 strings the following year. NO other high demand, highly valued academic course is targeted in next year’s budget – NONE.

Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and community members understand the value of this course for young children and have shown their public support for this course before the School Board each spring. We need to remind the new School Board, once again, of the value of this course – to our students’ growth and achievement, to our community.

Enrollment Doubled – In the 1990s, course enrollment doubled to slightly more than 2,000 students – at the same time the low income and minority elementary student population increased. Approximately 50% of 4th and 5th graders elect to participate in elementary strings.
Low Income Enrollment Grew – Over time, low-income enrollment in elementary strings has grown. This year, the percentage of low-income children enrolled in Grade 4 strings is higher than the percentage of low-income children in that grade enrolled in the district. No other private/public organization in Madison teaches 550+ low-income children how to play an instrument at a higher level and to perform in ensembles.

You Can Help:
Speak to the School Board – bring signs, play your instrument
When: Tuesday, May 9, 2006 – 6:30 p.m., Memorial High School Auditorium [map]
Write to the School Board – – and ask them

  1. to reject the Superintendent’s proposal as inadequate, and
  2. to work with Madison by forming a community fine arts committee to address fine arts educations issues, such as strings, so kids can get the personal and academic benefits of fine arts education.

Five years of targeting strings is unacceptable, short-sighted and goes against a) what the research shows strings does for children’s growth, development and academic achievement, b) what’s being done in other areas in MMSD, and b) what the community values for our children’s education.
For more information, email:

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 – – 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.


Fifth Verse – Same, Sorrowful Tune: Superintendent Proposes to Elminate Elementary Strings

Other districts facing fiscal and academic achievement challenges have had successes maintaining and growing their fine arts education – through strategic planning, active engagement and real partnerships with their communities. In Tuscon, AZ, with a large low income and hispanic population, test scores of this population have climbed measurably (independent evaluations confirmed this). This state has received more than $1 million in federal funding for their fine arts education work. School districts in Chicago, New York, Texas and Minneapolis have also done some remarkable work in this area.
In my opinion, the administration’s music education work products and planning efforts this year are unsatisfactory, unimaginative and incomplete. In spite of research that continues to demonstrate the positive effects on student achievement (especially for low income students) and the high value the Madison community places on fine arts, the administration continues to put forth incomplete proposals that will short change all students, especially our low-income students, and the administration does its work “behind closed doors.”
Three or four weeks ago, I spoke at a board meeting and said I thought we needed to do things differently this year – Shwaw Vang and other board members supported my idea of working together to solve issues surrounding elementary strings. Apparently, the administration saw things differently. Since my public appearance the Superintendent has issued two reports – one eliminating elementary strings replacing K-5 music with a “new, improved” idea for K-5 music and a second report with enrollment data presented incompletely with an anti-elementary strings bias. Teachers had no idea this proposal or data were forthcoming, saw no drafts, and they did not receive copies of statistics relevant to their field that was sent last week to the School Board. Neither did the public or the entire School Board know these reports were planned and underway. During the past 12 months, there were no lists of fine arts education priorities developed and shared, no plans to address priorities, processes, timelines, staff/community involvement, etc. String teachers received no curriculum support to adjust to teaching a two-year curriculum in 1/2 the instructional time even though they asked for this help from the Doyle building, and they never received information about the plans for recreating elementary strings in the future. None.
I don’t feel the Superintendent proceeded in the manner expressed to me by Mr. Vang nor as demonstrated by the School Board’s establishment of community task forces over this past year on a number of important issues to the community. Madison’s love of fine arts lends itself well to a community advisory committee. I hope other Board members support Mr. Vang’s community team approach, rejecting the Superintendent’s recent music proposal as incomplete and unacceptable.
In his fifth year of proposals to eliminate elementary strings, the Superintendent is proposing a “new and improved” K-5 music that is not planned for another year, but requires elimination of Grade 4 strings next year. The recent proposal, once again, was developed by administrators without any meaningful involvement of teachers and no involvement of the community. Elementary strings and fine arts education are important to the community. The Superintendent did not use a process that was transparent, well planned with a timeline, open and involved the community.
Music education, including elementary string instruction, is beneficial to a child’s developing, learning and engagement in school. However, music education, also directly supports and reinforces learning in math and reading. Instrument instruction does this at a higher level and that’s one of the reasons why MMSD’s music education curriculum introduces strings in Grade 4, following a sequence of increasing challenges in music education. In fact, all the points made in the Superintendent’s “new” K-5 music program, including multicultural experiences, exist in MMSD’s current music curriculum. The only thing “new” in the Superintendent’s proposal is the elimination of elementary strings.
It is not acceptable to say that we have to do something, because we have to cut money. Also, this is not about some folks being able to “yell” louder than others. To me, this is about five years that have been wasted – no planning, no community involvement, no shared visions. Our kids deserve better. Let’s get started on a new path working together now.


Revisit and Evaluate a Strings Change

I know this topic is discussed every year but I want to re-visit the success of the administrative change to 4/5 strings based on budgetary demands versus academic demands.
The 4/5 strings was changed to once a week this year from twice a week last year. The choices the board juggled was no strings in 4/5, twice a week 5th only, or once a week 4/5 strings due to the budget cuts. While I applaud the board for trying to work with the community I would love some feedback on how the once a week 4/5 decision is working at other schools.
For my daughter, and I can only speak for her and a few of her friends, this is what we have experienced………


Elementary Specials: Funding Restored for All Elementary Special Classes Except Strings? Can That Be Correct?

At the Monday June 20, 2005 MMSD School Board meeting, funding was restored for music, art and gym elementary specials for a total of about $550,000. Can it be possible that all elementary specials, except elementary strings, would be restored? I can’t believe this. Isn’t the elementary string course an elementary music special (part of the School Board approved music education curriculum). If this restoration of funds exclude the elementary string teachers, isn’t this even more demoralizing to a small group of teachers who have already seen 60% of their colleagues laid off. And, what about the nearly 2,000 children who will only learn half what they previously learned in two years – that’s okay? How can these children’s education NOT be affected if they are only learning half the curriculum?
The Administration in March and the School Board last night have made all these decisions without asking one single question about the impact of their decisions on what children will be able to learn. They did not ask one single question about what planning has taken place in music education curriculum in the past year. There hasn’t been any.
Money is not the only issue. I believe a lack of strategic planning in fine arts is an issue. I’m coming to think this about foreign language and more advanced math in middle school – challenging curriculum in general. Progressive curriculum planning in the face of draconian budget constraints is desperately needed in music education and has not taken place over the past five years that courses have been on the chopping block. Administrative staff admits they have not assessed music curriculum. Without further exploration, staff continues to think only general music is needed. Administrators do not want to pay attention to music education in my opinion, so parents, teachers and the community need to let our School Board know action is needed (


Gilmore: Add Elementary Strings to the Curriculum

Andrea Gilmore (This opinion piece was published in the Wisconsin State Journal):

I am lucky. I have been playing the violin since I was in the fourth grade. I was exposed to music at an early age and music has helped me gain skills that have enhanced my school career. Through music, I learned self-confidence, self-discipline, time management, cooperation and study skills.
Unfortunately, many young people may not have the opportunity I had. The elementary strings program costs only $500,000 in a budget of about $300 million. School board members recently decided to keep the elementary strings program next year in some form, while cutting approximately $500,000 overall out of the music-education programs.


Strings Program – A Response

I would like to be perfectly clear. I want a Madison Metropolitan School District strings program in elementary schools. I have been very clear about this since my first televised board meeting last year, where I exclaimed, “I want a strings program in the budget!” However, with unfunded mandates, revenue caps, additional academic testing requirements and possible annual referendums, it is very hard to continue to make that exclamation.


My Proposal for 4th & 5th Grade Strings

Tonight (May 10, 2005) the Board of Education will discuss proposed amendments to the budget. This discussion will include a discussion of the 4th & 5th grade strings programs.
I support offering students the opportunity to take strings in 4th and 5th grade. Currently, 4th and 5th grade students who elect to take strings have two different music classes each week: general music, and strings. General music has two 30 minute classes per week, and strings meets twice a week for 45 minutes each. The strings classes are pull-out classes, which means that the students taking strings are missing another class during the time that they are out for strings.


Cutting Elementary Strings Will Cost MMSD Millions – Not Save Money

I agree whole heartedly with Mr. Pay’s comments to Johnny Winston Jr., that the MMSD School Board is not taking a long-term financial or educational look at elementary strings that shows increased numbers of middle and high school children taking orchestra and band will save money for the district while providing immeasurable personal and educational benefits to children.
However, there are two other reasons why this is a bad decision that come to mind – one is standards and the other is, in my mind, an even bigger economic impact than benefits from larger class sizes.
The long-term educational and financial fallout from cutting elementary strings will cost far more than the annual $500,000 cost of the program. I predict a decision to cut elementary strings will cost the district millions in the long-term.


Elementary Strings – It Doesn’t Affect You Bill Keys Tells Student

An East High Student wrote Bill Keys, MMSD School Board president. In her letter she wrote:
“The reason I am involved in the high school orchestra today is
because I was able to participate in the elementary strings program
in elementary school….I am the oldest child of thirteen children. The youngest is about two months old today. All of my siblings following me up to the fifth grade play the violin in school. This was made possible because we were all given the chance to participate in the ever-wonderful Elementary Strings program that started in elementary school.”
Mr. Keys’ began his response, “First, to clarify: it is only at the 4th and 5th grade level that the strings program has been recommended bythe staff for cut should the referendum fail.”
Mr. Keys, I think it is you who need the clarification.


Open Letter to the Community Regarding Strings

Dear Community Members:
Thank you for your heartfelt comments regarding the 4th & 5th grade strings program. I know first hand about the program. I was a strings program participant at Lindbergh Elementary School in 1977. I know that strings are a very beloved program within our district. However, I don’t believe that our community understands the complexity of our budgetary challenges. This is not something you merely can “bake sale”, “brat fest” or write grants to solve.


Benefits of Strings More Than Music

Pat Kukes, MMSD teacher, wrote the following opinion piece that appeared in the WI State Journal on Friday, April 29, 2005:
Having already received my termination notice, I write this not as a teacher trying to save his job, but rather as an experienced educator who knows the value of a good educational system and who has seen firsthand how cutting a program like elementary strings can hurt a sound school district.


Elementary Strings Cut is Punitive and Too Much

Cuts of 10% to elementary music and art and 100% to elementary strings are being proposed by the administration. The overall MMSD budget cut needed is 2%. The School Board has not discussed or asked questions about the proposed cut list at any public meeting since they received the list on March 3rd – that’s nearly two months now. Rather School Board members are “selling Art Rainwater’s proposed cut list.” Board members are “making excuses” why there are increases to the administrative contract budget, save all extracurricular sports for kids, unecessarily dividing rather than bringing together parent and professionals to work on what we can do for all kids and fairly. Rather, our board says, we can’t do anything else – it’s because the state does not give the school district enough money. Our board membes are not asking the question – what’s academic, how will this affect children’s learning, how have the administrators worked with teachers and other relevant professionals to minimize the impact on children. If they asked this about elementary strings and fine arts education – the answer would be that they have done nothing. I expect the answer is the same for many other academic areas.


5 Reasons Why the Madison School Board Should Continue the Elementary Strings Program

In the May 24 referendum for the operating budget, voters will determine whether the Madison schools will have an additional $7.4 million to spend next year and for all the years thereafter. Superintendent Art Rainwater and the management team issued a cut list in March. According to Rainwater, the board should cut the programs, staff and expenses on this list if the referendum fails.
Before the referendum election, the school board can take items off of the cut list. One of the items that should come off the list is the proposed elimination of the elementary strings program, a program that costs $500,000 within a budget of more than $350 million.


Super Strings Festival

The Memorial Strings Festival was a wonderful collection of children from forth to twelve grade, every color, every size, and all abilities. As I sat proudly and watched my daughter play, along with so many parents who were sitting and standing (as there were no seats left so many showed up)I was sad. The director was sad and the two strings teachers that were given pink slips (one from Crestwood, our school) Friday were sad. Surely this program does not need to be on the chopping block. I kept thinking, with this many parents attending a festival couldn’t we do a fundraiser at the festival, sale something or just have a donation box for strings. Many parents like myself feel strings and no-cut freshman sports are placed on the block because they get the “involved parents” fired up to vote for whatever the referendum is, just to save these two programs. They are right. I will vote for the referendum to save a $500,000 program. I would not vote to save a secretary, two aides, two janitors and two middle management positions. But I will vote for it because, although I have been in charge of many fundraising events, I can’t figure out how to raise $500,000 without a major community effort.
I have an idea though. How about moving 4/5 strings out of the classroom and into the Monday afternoon slot? Run it through MSCR or After School Program and while all the other teachers do whatever it is they do Monday afternoon allow strings kids to stay Monday for an hour of strings.(At Crestwood, After School provides foreign language in this same manner) MSCR does not seem to be a part of the MMSD budget that requires cutting and parents already pay a fee ($40 for me) to have their child in strings. We could increase the fee and then raise money for scholarships so to include low income children. The only problem I see with this arrangement is;
1. transportation for low -income students (we could have one at the Allied Drive Learning center instead of the school, parents could choose) 2. could we get enough strings teachers to cover the schools at the same time slot? If the referendum fails lets not throw this program out, let’s think outside the box and find a solution.

School Board Candidate Lawrie Kobza Says Don’t Cut Elementary Strings – Offers Suggestions

I support offering students the opportunity to take strings in 4th and 5th grade, and oppose the administration’s proposed cuts to the program.
Fourth and fifth grade strings is a well-established, much-loved, and much-supported program. There is also significant research demonstrating a high correlation between playing an instrument and achievement. Given all of these positives, the 4th & 5th grades strings program should not be considered for cuts until the district does everything possible it can to retain or if necessary restructure the program so that strings can continue to be offered in 4th and 5th grades even in times of tight finances.


Elementary Strings is Academic Music Education – Parents and Madison Citizens Need to Ask School Board Why Supt. Is Not Supporting an Academic Curriculum with Direct Postive Benefits on Student Achievement

Madison parents and citizens need to ask the School Board a) why they continue to allow the Superintendent to treat elementary strings separate from the music education curriculum, b) why there is a continued delay in getting a committee together for fine arts, c) why the delay in seeking federal funding for fine arts for disadvantaged children, d) why the Administration continues to attack the fine arts academic curriculum rather than coming forward with ideas for strengthening this curriculum in light of the academic achievement benefits?
In July 2004, U.S. Secretary of Education wrote to all Superintendents of school districts in the United States:

“…the arts are a core academic subject under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I believe the arts have a significant role in education both for their intrinsic value and for the ways in which they can enhance general academic achievement and improve students’ social and emotional development.”
“There is much flexibility for states and local school districts under the No Child Left Behind Act with respect to support for the core subjects. …Under NCLB, Title I, Part A funds also can be used by local education agencies to improve the educational achievement of disadvantaged students through the arts.”
“In keeping with NCLB’s principle of classroom practices based on research evidence, studies have shown that arts teaching and learning can increase students’ cognitive and social development. The arts can be a critical link for students in developing the crucial thinking skills and motivations they need to achieve at higher levels.”

Carol Carstensen Says I’m Angry and Threatens Elementary Strings: Raises Confidence and Governance Issues for Me

Carol Carstensen told me last night that I’ve been “angry” over elementary strings for the past four years. I learned many years ago never to “tell” people what they are feeling – 90% of the time you’re wrong, and in this case Ms. Carstensen is dead wrong about me.
Her comment to me came after I asked her why the board would agree to a recommendation that puts the ENTIRE elementary strings program at risk if a referendum does not pass yet the board did not ask nor would it even consider a) reducing the administrative budget (increased $1.5 million over two years even with cut of 2 positions), b) reducing any of the services to high school children for extracurricular sports ($2 million budget) – which makes sense. They are paying 20% of the cost of the program, and, so are the elementary strings children. Plus, the board has an athletics committee – not a fine arts committee. Something wrong with this picture? Yes, very much so, and it’s resulting in discrimination against underprivileged children who study instrumental music.


Axing the Arts: District (again) proposes cutting popular strings program

Jason Shephard, writing in the 3.11.2005 Isthmus:
Music teachers, parents and community activists are already agitating against Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater�s call to eliminate the elementary strings program, as part of a proposed slate of budget cuts.
�This creates a very disturbing environment in the community,� says Marie Breed, executive director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. �It�s particularly shocking for a strong arts community like Madison to dismiss elementary string education so easily, saying essentially, �We�re not going to support these children.��
By eliminating the fourth- and fifth-grade strings program, Rainwater says the district can cut nearly ten full-time equivalent positions, saving about $500,000 in salaries and another $100,000 in equipment, repairs and books. In all, the district needs to trim $8.6 million to comply with state-imposed revenue caps — or else secure referendum approval to exceed them.


School Strings Cut Plan Blasted by Lee Sensenbrenner, The Capital Times

Strings Plucked: Once again, District administrators attack elementary music and art to the tune of nearly $800,000, including total elimination of the elementary string progam. Their pitch is off and their song is out of tune.
Keys and Carstensen have no plans to reach out to fine arts students and teachers for their support – aren’t annual threats of cut classes and lost livelihood enough? In his article Sensenbrenner writes “…School Board President Bill Keys said he hoped that strings supporters would help the district pass the spring referendums.
But neither he nor fellow board member Carol Carstensen said they had a ready plan to convince strings supporters – stung to see the whole program on the chopping block – to be a helping hand, not a pounding fist.”
Monday night Mr. Keys said that the Overture Center was not a metaphor for MMSD’s fine arts – however, the fine arts vision of those who brought Overture is what inspires.
Ms. Carstensen said she had tried to raise money throught the Founation for Madison Public Schools – I worked with her on those fundraisers. they were not designed to fund a fine arts curriculum but rather were meant to have an endowment for grants for creative projects for existing fine arts curriculum. further the foundation for Madison’s public schools, at the time, was not making grants for existing MMSD programs. That policy is now changing and may provide an opportunity to pursue.
If our leaders look at the glass as half empty that’s what we’ll get – a half empty glass. You never finish a painting unless you begin, you never get to the fourth movement of a symphony unless you start playing, etc. Failed expectations won’t get us where we need to go and it’s not up to two people – we need the community at the table.

Budget Hearing – Elementary Strings Update

At the May 13th MMSD Budget Hearing parents and community representatives spoke against the proposed elementary string fee, calling it outrageous and equivalent to cutting the program.
“We are not a good-things-come-to-those-who pay town,” said parent Maureen Rickman, adding that the proposed fee would “cut out a big chunk of the students [in the middle income range].”
This coming Monday, May 17, the Board will begin the process of voting on the budget amendments. It is expected that they will start with those amendments that involve personnel because layoff notices need to go out before the end of the school year.


MMSD Administration’s Cost Analysis of Elementary Strings is Out of Tune – A Critique

If the City of Madison is to have confidence in the School Board’s decisions, a fair and equitable budget process that is clear and understandable to the public is essential.
In late April 2004, the District Administration responded to the Bill Keys’ question about the cost of the District’s elementary strings program. The following letter to the School Board is a critique of that analysis which concluded the budget and curriculum information presented to the Board on elementary strings was done in a manner inconsistent with other cost studies and was incomplete.


String ’em up – Strings Hits the Isthmus

In an article by Vikki Kratz in the Isthmus, published on May 7, 2004, the author wonders if the MMSD is tone deaf.
“Bill Keys, president of the Madison Board of Education, recently asked for a budget analysis of the popular 4th and 5th grade strings program. … The move by Keys was the last straw for Rick Neuenfeldt, the district’s coordinator of fine arts, who says he can no longer work in the district’s anti-arts atmosphere. ”
The analsysis that exasperated the District’s Fine Arts Coordinator was not prepared by him, but by District business professionals, unfamiliar with the academic curriculum. The analysis stated that a fee to cover the costs of the program would need to be nearly $500 per academic year.
The elementary strings program costs 1/4 what the District spends on extracurricular sports ($2 million per year) but a possible fee would be more than 5 times higher than what is currently paid for by any participant in a MMSD extracurricular sport this school year.
Examining the costs of all the District’s programs and services ought to be part of a robust budget process – targeting one program seems purposeful and biased. This approach runs the risk of losing rather than building the community’s confidence in its School Board.
The complete article and reference material is included below and can also be read at:


Elementary Strings Rally A Success

About forty elementary string students serenaded the School Board members as they entered the McDaniels Auditorium Monday evening, May 3rd. Nearly 200 parents and children filled the auditorium to demonstrate to School Board members their support for the academic program.
If you have not written the School Board about the strings program, take a moment to compose an e-mail. Ask your children if they want to write a letter to School Board members (545 W. Dayton Street, Madison, 53703) – School Board members read these letters AND THEY DO MATTER.
MMSD School Board e-mail:
Public Hearing on the Budget – May 13 5:00 p.m. in the McDaniels Auditorium.


Parent Comments on Strings Program

“The strings program has been very valuable to my son. It has built up his confidence, and the musical performances have really shown him how his hard work pays off. Strings are an asset to his education that benefits him beyond the musical arena.”


Strings Community Action

A. Introduction:
There’s no need for community action if the MMSD Administration and BOE state support for the current elementary strings academic curriculum. They don’t. When the Board members don’t say yes, it means no, given their recent history with this curriculum.
The MMSD Board of Education adopted and approved the elementary strings program as a necessary component of its Music Education Curriculum in the late 1980s. Standards and benchmarks were added in the late 1990s. The BOE has neither discussed nor changed its decisions on this curriculum.
The recent treatment of the elementary strings curriculum is another example of what happens when our BOE is lacking Long Range Plans for curriculum, for funding and for letting the Administration call the shots for kids rather than the BOE.


Elementary Strings – Call to Action

Who: Students, Parents, Teachers and Citizens � Elementary Strings Kids Need Your Help!
What: Rally in Support of the Elementary Strings Program � Grades 4 & 5.
When: Monday, May 3, 2004 � Meet at 6:30 p.m. to organize/picket before the 7:15 p.m.regular School Board Meeting and personal appearances. String teachers will organize children who bring their string instruments to play a couple of songs from the spring string festival.
Where: Doyle Building McDaniels Auditorium at 545 W. Dayton Street.
Why: To let the MMSD School Board know that we do not want to see elementary strings added to the cut list this year. No assessment of the cut�s curriculum impact has been made.
On March 21, Board President Bill Keys asked the Administration to prepare an analysisof the cost of the elementary strings program. The Administration�s analysis, which was released only last Thursday, April 22, was very biased, incorrect and unfavorable toward thecurriculum and proposed a $493 fee to cover the full cost of the program � no other activity has a 100% fee! Blatant, inequitable treatment � not fair to kids or Madison!
There is a chance the elementary strings program could be put on the cut list by School Boardmembers, and the May 3rd rally at the auditorium is to let the School Board hear from the public in a loud unison voice – NO.
Time is of the essence. Budget decisions will be made very soon. Here�s the budget timeline:

  • May 3 � Budget workshop before the 7:15 p.m. regular school board meeting. Further review of the proposed 2004-2005 budget.
  • May 5 � Board member amendments to the MMSD Administration budget cut list to be submitted. At this time a School Board member could recommend including elementary strings (4th and 5th grade) on the cut list.
  • May 10 � Board budget workshop to discuss and vote on Board member proposed amendments. Four votes are needed to include/exclude an item from the budget cut list
  • May 13 � Public Hearing on the Budget at 7 p.m. in the McDaniels Auditorium.
  • May 17 � Board budget workshop � determine personnel layoffs.

Come to the rally and let your voice be heard. Tell others. Call Board members. E-mail the Board:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
PDF Version (print/distribute) 40K

The Origins of Woke

Misha Saul:

Tucked away half-way through Richard Hanania’s quietly acerbic and ambitious how-to-overthrow-this-regime handbook is this jaw-dropping portrait of civil rights law’s totalitarian impulse. 

Why has race and sex lunacy eaten at American life? It’s the law, says Richard. When half the economy is fueled by government spending which comes with race and sex strings attached, there’s not much point talking about anything else. It’s like talking about book selling without Amazon or search without Google. Sure there are other reasons, and sure there is downstream metastisation as what’s legally mandated becomes culturally self-propagating. But the heart of its power remains the astonishing fact that civil rights law has effectively made holding conservative and often majority-held beliefs illegal (or at least ‘problematic’).

Richard is meticulous in his description of the way the courts and the executive took civil rights legislation and developed doctrines opposite to the intent of Congress. This is his summary of the hydra and his prescription for where its various heads may be struck:

Another court finds Biden Administration censored the public

US Fifth Circuit:

For the last few years—at least since the 2020 presidential transition—a group of federal officials has been in regular contact with nearly every major American social-media company about the spread of “misinformation” on their platforms. In their concern, those officialshailing from the White House, the CDC, the FBI, and a few other agenciesurged the platforms to remove disfavored content and accounts from their sites. And, the platforms seemingly complied. They gave the officials access to an expedited reporting system, downgraded or removed flagged posts, and deplatformed users. The platforms also changed their internal policies to capture more flagged content and sent steady reports on their moderation activities to the officials. That went on through the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 congressional election, and continues to this day.

Enter this lawsuit. The Plaintiffs—three doctors, a news website, a healthcare activist, and two states1 —had posts and stories removed or downgraded by the platforms. Their content touched on a host of divisive topics like the COVID-19 lab-leak theory, pandemic lockdowns, vaccine sideeffects, election fraud, and the Hunter Biden laptop story. The Plaintiffs maintain that although the platforms stifled their speech, the government officials were the ones pulling the strings—they “coerced, threatened, and pressured [the] social-media platforms to censor [them]” through private

“A compound denial like that often means that portions or slight variations of the statement are true”

Stewart Baker:

But there is a provision of federal law that allows electronic service providers to volunteer information to law enforcement. To do so, they need to believe “in good faith … that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay of communications relating to the emergency.” 18 USC 2702(c).

So, Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies could have developed an AI engine to search for strings of words that its legal department has precleared — in good faith — as evidence of an emergency involving a danger of death or serious injury. (And after the fact, the injuries that occurred in the January 6 riot could be used to predict such a danger from a lot of antigovernment and “rigged election” talk.)

These passages could be excerpted by social media platforms, along with identifying information, and sent to Justice, under the “danger of death or injury” exception. Justice could then use them to subpoena all of the less inflammatory posts by the same people and then farm out the results to local FBI offices for investigation across the country.

Google is working on a fix for the Camera app randomly changing QR code URLs on Android 12

Manuel Vonau:

As reported and investigated by German publication Heise, Google Camera routinely runs into at least three distinct errors. The first one revolves around a few country-code top level domains (ccTLD), and it doesn’t matter if a QR code only directs you to an affected domain (like the non-existent Austrian or if it links to further directories ( If the domain’s second level (fooco) ends with certain strings, Google Camera will automatically insert a dot, turning a link like into Heise tested further combinations and found that the issue also exists for .au, .br, .hu, .il, .kr, .nz, .ru, .tr, .uk, and .za. The affected strings at the end of the second level include co, com, ac, net, org, gov, mil, muni, and edu, but not or, gv, and k12.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Letter to Wisconsin Governor Evers on His Roadmap to Reading Success Veto

State Senator Kathy Bernier and State Representative Joel Kitchens:

Literacy in Wisconsin is in crisis: 64% of Wisconsin 4th graders can’t read at grade level, with 34% failing to read at even the basic level. As co-chair of Governor Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force, you know that high quality universal literacy screening is the undisputed cornerstone of evidence-based reading instruction. Unfortunately, your veto of Senate Bill 454, The Roadmap to Reading Success, delays the inevitable adoption of desperately needed science-based standards for how we screen and identify struggling readers to get them the help they need.

For too long we have relied on the now disproven pet theories and guesswork of the education establishment and it has left a full two-thirds of our 4th graders struggling to read. How many more children need to pass through Wisconsin’s failing reading system while state specialists hold endless meetings to puzzle over this crisis?

When you vetoed the Roadmap to Reading Success, you said more money is needed. Governor Evers, under the budget you signed into law in July, the state already reimburses schools for 100% of the costs of literacy screeners. Sadly, what you vetoed are the science-based high standards that would ensure we use screeners that actually get the job done with accurate, actionable data.

Our recent budget invests $15.3 billion into K-12 education, or nearly 40% of all state spending. On top of this, Wisconsin schools are receiving an unprecedented $2.7 billion in federal COVID funds and you recently committed an additional $110 million in no-strings-attached federal ARPA funds. Governor Evers, if more funds are needed to take this inevitable and critical first step toward solving our reading crisis, you have sole control over nearly $1 billion in additional federal COVID dollars. That’s why today, we’re introducing an amendment to Assembly Bill 446, calling on you to release any portion of these funds you see fit and sign this bill into law. When a full one-third of fourth graders can’t read at the basic level, we simply cannot wait.

As red and blue states across the country are adopting the reforms in this bill and seeing stunning improvement in reading achievement, Wisconsin’s children are being left behind. If you need further convincing that the Roadmap to Reading Success is the foundational change we need to begin addressing our literacy crisis, some of the most significant research driving literacy reforms across the country is happening right here at UW-Madison’s Language and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. Dr. Seidenberg, one of the world’s foremost researchers on neuroscientific understanding of how children learn to read, spearheads groundbreaking research. We urge you talk with Dr. Seidenberg and learn firsthand why he supports the Roadmap to Reading Success.

The time to act is now. As more and more Wisconsin parents, teachers and local school leaders are waking up to this reading crisis and taking the challenge head-on, they are crying out for desperately needed statewide leadership. The Roadmap to Reading Success isn’t speculative, wishful thinking about what might work. It is the best of evidence-based screening practices. It’s not a question of if, but when Wisconsin will adopt these science-based reforms. Governor Evers, if you don’t sign this bill into law, someone else will. So, for the sake of our kids, do your homework on this quickly and sign this bill into law.

State Senator Kathy Bernier

State Representative Joel Kitchens

Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health.

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”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Mathematician Hurls Structure and Disorder Into Century-Old Problem

Erica Klarreich:

The mathematician Ben Green of the University of Oxford has made a major stride toward understanding a nearly 100-year-old combinatorics problem, showing that a well-known recent conjecture is “not only wrong but spectacularly wrong,” as Andrew Granville of the University of Montreal put it. The new paper shows how to create much longer disordered strings of colored beads than mathematicians had thought possible, extending a line of work from the 1940s that has found applications in many areas of computer science.

The conjecture, formulated about 17 years ago by Ron Graham, one of the leading discrete mathematicians of the past half-century, concerns how many red and blue beads you can string together without creating any long sequences of evenly spaced beads of a single color. (You get to decide what “long” means for each color.)

This problem is one of the oldest in Ramsey theory, which asks how large various mathematical objects can grow before pockets of order must emerge. The bead-stringing question is easy to state but deceptively difficult: For long strings there are just too many bead arrangements to try one by one.

“Sometimes there’s these very basic-looking questions where we really don’t understand almost anything,” said Jacob Fox of Stanford University. “I think this was one of those questions that really surprised a lot of people, how little we understood.”

Requiring Preschool Teachers to Earn a B.A. Would Hike Costs for Parents

Noah Diekemper:

A key piece of the massive “Build Back Better” legislation under consideration in Congress is the institution of “universal, high-quality, free, inclusive, and mixed preschool services” funded by the federal government but administered by the states — with strings attached. For example, the bill would require that “at a minimum, [States] requir[e] that lead teachers in the preschool have a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or a related field by not later than 7 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”

This requirement doesn’t seem to address the challenges about pre-K, including lack of childcare options and childcare workers. Parents want a safe and loving place to take their children. Is the government creating a solution for that, or more barriers?

The strongest argument for the policy might be the fact that several states already have some such requirement on the books for state-run preschool systems, and nothing is obviously apocalyptic. There is a sort of patchwork across the states with many requiring a college degree, some requiring it for only some of the state-run systems, and some having no requirement — or no state-run program at all.

And there’s certainly a lot of partisan diversity in the different state policies. States like New York, Texas, Hawaii, and Alabama all require such degrees already. But states like Florida, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Arizona, and Oregon do not require a degree.

Requiring Preschool Teachers to Earn a B.A. Would Hike Costs for Parents

Noah Diekemper

A key piece of the massive “Build Back Better” legislation under consideration in Congress is the institution of “universal, high-quality, free, inclusive, and mixed preschool services” funded by the federal government but administered by the states — with strings attached. For example, the bill would require that “at a minimum, [States] requir[e] that lead teachers in the preschool have a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or a related field by not later than 7 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”

This requirement doesn’t seem to address the challenges about pre-K, including lack of childcare options and childcare workers. Parents want a safe and loving place to take their children. Is the government creating a solution for that, or more barriers?

The strongest argument for the policy might be the fact that several states already have some such requirement on the books for state-run preschool systems, and nothing is obviously apocalyptic. There is a sort of patchwork across the states with many requiring a college degree, some requiring it for only some of the state-run systems, and some having no requirement — or no state-run program at all.

And there’s certainly a lot of partisan diversity in the different state policies. States like New York, Texas, Hawaii, and Alabama all require such degrees already. But states like Florida, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Arizona, and Oregon do not require a degree.

But that would miss the fact that preschool demand is in fact a crisis subject for many parents who are in the market for it. Wisconsin, which requires bachelor degrees for some programs, has had a well-documented shortage of preschool teachers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington, DC, which adopted the policy, is already the most expensive place for infant care in the country.

Read the Letter GOP Legislators Sent to Superintendents Pressuring Them to Reopen Schools


A still unknown number of school superintendents across Wisconsin are receiving a letter from top Assembly Republicans –the people who control the purse strings to state education funds – strongly urging them to consider reopening their schools rather than opting for virtual learning this fall, according to a copy of the letter obtained by UpNorthNews.

The letter is being criticized as a power grab and a potential risk to educators’ and students’ health.

Dated July 29, the letter is signed by 47 of the Assembly’s 63 Republican members, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester; Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna; and Assistant Majority Leader Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma.

In it they say the state is “minimally obligated” to provide a sound education to state students and ask the superintendents “to consider opening your doors this fall to provide every student with an in-class experience.”

How one woman’s stolen identity exposed a system of exam fraud

Yvette Tan:

This week around 10 million students across China have sat the Gaokao – a college entrance exam which determines their entire future.

Hanging over their heads, though, is the recent revelation that hundreds of other students before them were victim to an identity theft scandal which saw them robbed of their results.

For Chen Chunxiu, it was an exam that could change everything. Doing well in the Gaokao meant the farmer’s daughter had a shot of getting into her dream university. Failing meant it would remain just that – a dream.

She failed.

Denied admission to college, she took up various jobs – a factory worker, a waitress – before eventually becoming a kindergarten teacher.

But 16 years later, she found to her shock that she had, in fact, earned a place at the Shandong University of Technology – and enrolled there.

But it hadn’t been her. Her score – and in fact, her entire identity – was stolen by a girl whose relatives had pulled strings to make this happen.

Civics: US Government-funded Android phones come preinstalled with unremovable malware

Dan Goodin:

An Android phone subsidized by the US government for low-income users comes preinstalled with malware that can’t be removed without making the device cease to work, researchers reported on Thursday.

The UMX U686CL is provided by Virgin Mobile’s Assurance Wireless program. Assurance Wireless is an offshoot of the Lifeline Assistance program, a Federal Communications Commissions plan that makes free or government-subsidized phones service available to millions of low-income families. The program is often referred to as the Obama Phone because it expanded in 2008, when President Barack Obama took office. The UMX U686CL runs Android and is available for $35 to qualifying users.

Researchers at Malwarebytes said on Thursday that the device comes with some nasty surprises. Representatives of Sprint, the owner of Virgin Mobile, meanwhile said it didn’t believe the apps were malicious.

The first is heavily obfuscated malware that can install adware and other unwanted apps without the knowledge or permission of the user. Android/Trojan.Dropper.Agent.UMX contains striking similarities to two other trojan droppers. For one, it uses identical text strings and almost identical code. And for another, it contains an encoded string that, when decoded, contains a hidden library named

Once the library is loaded into memory, it installs software Malwarebytes calls Android/Trojan.HiddenAds. It aggressively displays ads. Malwarebytes researcher Nathan Collier said company users have reported that the hidden library installs a variant of HiddenAds, but the researchers were unable to reproduce that installation, possibly because the library waits some amount of time before doing so.

String quartet brings classical music to area elementary schools

Scott Girard:

“So for some kids here this is their first experience with orchestral string instruments,” Moran said. “Getting to see them live is a really exciting and big deal for them.

“I feel really lucky to have it at our school.”

That excitement was clear as the students listened to the four members of the quartet — Rachel Reese, Alex Chambers-Ozasky, Ava Shadmani and Fabio Sággin — explain ascending and descending melodies in the various pieces they played. Students at times pretended to conduct the group from their seats, and excitedly yelled out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” when they recognized the piece.

Moran said the students making connections with the music and the musicians is an especially great part of the program, as the same four visit each time and the students begin to recognize them. The diversity of the group, with one each from Mississippi, Minnesota, Brazil and Iran, allows a range of students to see that orchestral music can be open to all.

Madison’s elementary strings program has been on the chopping block a number of times, despite ongoing tax and spending increases.

New jersey Teachers Union and Dark Money

Sunlight policy center:

So we can now confirm what many of us already assumed: NDNJ would not exist if not for the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). With almost 70 percent of the $6.5 million raised coming from New Jersey’s most powerful special interest, and with Governor Murphy appearing in NDNJ’s TV ads, it sure looks like the NJEA is pulling the strings of the Murphy administration. For all intents and purposes, NDNJ appears to be a NJEA Super PAC with our governor serving as its spokesperson.

Here are five other things we learned:

1. NDNJ’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. NDNJ’s spokesperson, Phil Swibinski, decries potential attacks on NDNJ from “entrenched Trenton special interests.” This is laughable coming from NDNJ, which got $4.5 million from the most powerful entrenched special interest of them all, the NJEA. SPCNJ estimates, from 1999 to 2017, the NJEA spent over $880 million on politics, most of it disguised and unreported. No other political force in the state comes close. A look at NJEA’s multi-million-dollar headquarters in Trenton, a short walk across the street from the Statehouse, tells you all you need to know. Moreover, the list of NDNJ donors is nothing but a list of special interests. Finally, after its months of delay, it takes some real chutzpah for NDNJ to call on other organizations to reveal their donors and promise to hold them “accountable” if they don’t.

I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.

Anthony Abraham Jack:

Now, as a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I teach a course I’ve titled C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) — borrowing the title of that still-relevant Wu-Tang Clan track — in which we examine how poverty shapes the ways in which many students make it to and through college. Admission alone, as it turns out, is not the great equalizer. Just walking through the campus gates unavoidably heightens these students’ awareness and experience of the deep inequalities around them.

I’ve spent half my life in Miami and the other half in Massachusetts. One 20-minute phone call with an Amherst football coach when I was a high school senior, and a college brochure that arrived two days later, brought this dual citizenship into existence. I can still hear my brother asking, “What is an Amherst?” We didn’t have internet at home, so we had to wait to get to the school computer lab before we could look up the unfamiliar name. We learned that the “H” was as silent as my brother was when he found out a United States president — Calvin Coolidge — was an alumnus, and so was the eminent black physician Dr. Charles Drew. Now maybe his baby brother could be one, too.

The path from Miami to Massachusetts was not one that everyone around me could see. I attended George Washington Carver Middle School, which had an International Baccalaureate program, in my neighborhood, Coconut Grove. But the summer before I started at Carver, I took some summer school electives at Ponce de Leon Middle School, our zoned school, where my mom worked as a security guard and which she helped to desegregate in the ’60s. Before the starting bell one day, an assistant principal from Carver saw me goofing around with some friends from around the way. She strode over and said to me, “You don’t have the potential to be a Carverite.”

That assistant principal saw black, boisterous boys and deemed us, and me, less than. She didn’t see my drive to succeed. My family didn’t have much, but since my days in Head Start, I was always a top performer in every subject. During one rough patch, I stayed home from school for a few days when we couldn’t afford all the supplies needed to carry out my science-fair experiment on bulb voltage and battery life. I developed my hypotheses and outlined my proposed methods without the materials and had everything ready to go when we were able to afford the supplies. I missed the ribbon but got the A. So on that summer morning when the assistant principal admonished me, anger welled up inside me, but I couldn’t let it show. That would have just played into her preconceived notion of who — or rather, what — I was. I had to prove her wrong. I had to prove myself right.

But even as I write these words, I’m aware that this is exactly the kind of story that poor, black and Latinx students are conditioned to write for college application essays. In everyday life, as the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote, we “wear the mask that grins and lies” that “hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,” but when we write these all-important essays we are pushed — by teachers, counselors and anyone who gives advice — to tug the heartstrings of upper-middle-class white admissions officers. “Make them cry,” we hear. And so we pimp out our trauma for a shot at a future we want but can’t fully imagine.

Related: Former Madison K-12 Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s Harvard lecturer position.

Stanford CS Education Library


This online library collects education CS material from Stanford courses and distributes them for free. Update 2006 For learning code concepts (Java strings, loops, arrays, …), check out Nick’s experimental server, where you can type in little code puzzles and get immediate feedback.

Many Families Aren’t Sending Their Kids to Small Liberal Arts Colleges Anymore. Mine Isn’t, Either. Here’s Why

Laura McKenna:

n January, two small liberal arts colleges, Green Mountain College in Vermont and Hampshire College in Massachusetts, announced that they were going to close or merge with other schools. They joined the ranks of other small schools that have closed in recent years, such as Mount Ida College in Massachusetts, St. Gregory’s University in Oklahoma, and Marygrove College in Detroit. Sweet Briar College in Virginia was flatlining in 2015 before being resuscitated from certain death, thanks to extreme fundraising efforts by alumnae.

Small private schools suffer from a multitude of problems, including endowments that are tangled in strings, a declining interest in liberal arts, a decreasing pool of college-age kids, competition from online education, and growing administrative expenses. But most importantly, they can’t get families like mine to send their kids to their schools. They don’t have enough students who can pay full freight and are interested in the slower pace of a small liberal arts campus.

The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)

Jon Henschen:

Throughout grade school and high school, I was fortunate to participate in quality music programs. Our high school had a top Illinois state jazz band; I also participated in symphonic band, which gave me a greater appreciation for classical music. It wasn’t enough to just read music. You would need to sight read, meaning you are given a difficult composition to play cold, without any prior practice. Sight reading would quickly reveal how fine-tuned playing “chops” really were. In college I continued in a jazz band and also took a music theory class. The experience gave me the ability to visualize music (If you play by ear only, you will never have that same depth of understanding music construct.)

Both jazz and classical art forms require not only music literacy, but for the musician to be at the top of their game in technical proficiency, tonal quality and creativity in the case of the jazz idiom. Jazz masters like John Coltrane would practice six to nine hours a day, often cutting his practice only because his inner lower lip would be bleeding from the friction caused by his mouth piece against his gums and teeth. His ability to compose and create new styles and directions for jazz was legendary. With few exceptions such as Wes Montgomery or Chet Baker, if you couldn’t read music, you couldn’t play jazz. In the case of classical music, if you can’t read music you can’t play in an orchestra or symphonic band. Over the last 20 years, musical foundations like reading and composing music are disappearing with the percentage of people that can read music notation proficiently down to 11 percent, according to some surveys.

Related: Madison’s periodic battle over the elementary strings program.

How The US Pushed Sweden to Take Down The Pirate Bay


In some countries they’ve actively helped write copyright law. Elsewhere, U.S. authorities provide concrete suggestions for improvement, including in Sweden.

After The Pirate Bay was raided for the first time, more than ten years ago, the media highlighted that the U.S. Government and Hollywood pulled strings behind the scenes. However, little was known about what this actually entailed.

Today we can provide more context, thanks to a Freedom of Information request that was sent to the U.S. Department of State. While the events happened a decade ago, they show how action against The Pirate Bay was discussed at the highest political level.

The trail starts with a cable sent from the US Embassy in Sweden to Washington in November 2005. This is roughly six months before the Pirate Bay raid, which eventually resulted in criminal convictions for four men connected to the site.

Symmetry, Algebra and the Monster

Scott Martin:

You could forgive mathematicians for being drawn to the monster group, an algebraic object so enormous and mysterious that it took them nearly a decade to prove it exists. Now, 30 years later, string theorists — physicists studying how all fundamental forces and particles might be explained by tiny strings vibrating in hidden dimensions — are looking to connect the monster to their physical questions. What is it about this collection of more than 1053 elements that excites both mathematicians and physicists? The study of algebraic groups like the monster helps make sense of the mathematical structures of symmetries, and hidden symmetries offer clues for building new physical theories. Group theory in many ways epitomizes mathematical abstraction, yet it underlies some of our most familiar mathematical experiences. Let’s explore the basics of symmetries and the algebra that illuminates their structure.

We are fond of saying things are symmetric, but what does that really mean? Intuitively we have a sense of symmetry as a kind of mirroring. Suppose we draw a vertical line through the middle of a square.

Giving All NYC Families the Same School Choice That The Deputy Mayor Has

Alina Adams:

On April 3, 2017, The New York Post broke the story of how Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, with the help of Chancellor Carmen Fariña, pulled strings to get his son into Park Slope’s top middle school. This is a blatant violation of rules that all families, connected or not, are expected to follow.

And here is what’s funny: In March, when Buery gleefully tweeted out the news that his son had gotten into Brooklyn Technical High-School, I responded that since Buery’s boss, the Mayor, once asserted the only way to get into any of NYC’s Specialized High-Schools was to “game the system” (this despite de Blasio’s own son being a Brooklyn Tech graduate), I looked forward to hearing how Buery had done so for the benefit of his child. I guess now we know.

After going through the Kindergarten admissions process with my three kids, and high school for my oldest, I wrote two books, Getting Into NYC Kindergarten and Getting Into NYC High-School, as well as started doing open to the public workshops and producing free podcasts and webisodes on the subject.

Commentary on Education Federalism

Kim Schroeder (President of the Milwaukee Teacher Union:

Critics may say that not all charter schools are bad, which may be true. But only a small percentage of private charters outperform traditional public schools. And private schools serve fewer English-language learners and children with special needs; expel a disproportionate number of minority students; and, even though they are funded with public dollars, are not held to the same legal standards as public schools. We should not consider funding these schools with public dollars unless they are held to the same standards as public schools.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association represents the educators who work with the children and families of Milwaukee Public Schools. We cannot stand by as the private school profiteers cheer, waiting for DeVos to funnel every last dollar from our public schools into their bank accounts — without any strings attached. This single cabinet appointment could undo decades of advances in public education set up to protect the educational rights of every child in this nation.

Robin Lake:

With Donald Trump’s recent nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, people in the education world have picked sides faster than in a Super Bowl office pool. A common subject of debate, raised by Doug Harris in a New York Times op-ed, is the education track record in Ms. DeVos’s home state of Michigan. Ms. DeVos is an unabashed supporter of school choice, including the expansion of for-profit charter schools and vouchers. In Michigan, an aggressive choice policy has resulted in schools of wildly varying quality. Harris asserts that Michigan represents choice run amok, “a triumph of ideology over evidence.” Choice advocates in the state have come rushing to their schools’ defense, often sounding like union representatives protecting their weakest members.

At CRPE, we’ve spent time studying Detroit’s and Michigan’s choice systems. We’ve looked at student outcomes, visited schools, and spoken to choice advocates and district officials. Most importantly, we’ve interviewed and surveyed parents. We have been clear that families are, for the most part, experiencing a chaotic, low-quality, and largely unregulated charter school environment. But we’ve also been clear that the facts don’t support neat and tidy conclusions. In Michigan, the problem hasn’t been choice itself: the failure is in the way choice has been executed.

Dual enrollment growing in popularity and frustration

Ron French:

Dual enrollment is suffering growing pains. The popular program allows high schoolers to take college courses free, with the incentive that they will apply to a degree program. But opportunities still vary widely between counties, and credits earned come with strings attached at many Michigan universities.

There is no state office assuring that dual-enrollment courses align with requirements at the state’s universities. And because Michigan’s 15 public universities are autonomous, their policies on accepting dual-enrollment credits vary.

Dual enrollment has benefited thousands of Michigan students by giving them an early taste of college and, in many cases, allowed them to earn credits without paying tuition. But frustrations remain for students and families, who often find out later that the credits either aren’t accepted at the university they enroll in, or are counted only as general credits rather than applying toward a major.

Private Goods, from Florence Nightingale to Wendy Brown

Corey Robin:

Yesterday, Berkeley political theorist Wendy Brown gave a once-in-a-lifetime talk at the Graduate Center—the kind that reminds you what it means to be a political theorist—about the way in which financialization—not just privatization or corporatization—had transformed the academy. Through a deft re-reading of Max Weber’s two vocation lectures, Brown showed how much the contemporary university’s frenzied quest for rankings and ratings has come to mirror Wall Street’s obsession with shareholder value.

In the course of her talk, Brown briefly dilated on the suspicion of public goods in today’s academy. She referenced one university leader saying, with no apparent irony, that the problem with state funding is that it comes with strings attached. The unsaid implication, of course, is that private funding is somehow free of those constraints, a comment that Brown used to open a window onto our contemporary infatuation, even in the academy, with the world of private money and private funding.

“K-12 spending under the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessor agencies rose from $4.5 billion in 1965 to $40.2 billion in 2016, in constant 2016 dollars”

Neal McCluskey:

Despite the large increases in federal aid since the 1960s, public school academic performance has ultimately not improved. While scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have improved for some groups and younger ages, math and reading scores for 17-year-olds—essentially, the school system’s “final products”—have been stagnant. In addition, America’s performance on international exams has remained mediocre, yet we spend more per-pupil on K-12 education than almost any other country.6 Federal funding and top-down rules are not the way to create a high-quality K-12 education system in America.

Congress should phase out federal funding for K-12 education and end all related regulations. Policymakers need to recognize that federal aid is ultimately funded by the taxpayers who live in the 50 states, and thus provides no free lunch. Indeed, the states just get money back with strings attached, while losing billions of dollars from wasteful bureaucracy. There is no compelling policy reason, nor constitutional authority, for the federal government to be involved in K-12 education. In the long run, America’s schools would be better off without it.

Indeed, spending more does not seem to improve academic outcomes. Madison spends more than $17K per student annually, despite long term, disastrous reading results. Via Chris Edwards.

Clinton’s $350 billion College Spending Growth Plan

Wall Street Journal

The plan—dubbed the “New College Compact” and estimated to cost $350 billion over 10 years—would fundamentally reshape the federal government’s role in higher education by offering new federal money, but with strings attached.

States would have to increase their own spending on higher education, and universities would be required to control spending, though the Democratic presidential front-runner hasn’t yet worked out details. Families still would be required to contribute, but students wouldn’t have to take out loans to attend public schools.

Commentary, including Mark Cuban.

US National Debt.

Vassar president: Institutions must reallocate for core educational missions

Tara Garcia Mathewson:

Vassar College has proven it is possible to substantially increase the portion of low-income students on a selective campus. And the college did it right through the Great Recession, committing to its income diversity model at a time when finding extra money for financial aid was especially difficult.

The college’s success with low-income students recently earned it the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s inaugural $1 million no-strings-attached award.

Vassar President Catharine Bond Hill said increasing the financial aid funding available to students required a number of hard decisions, including shrinking the staff. With two-thirds of the budget consumed by employee compensation, Bond Hill said Vassar had no choice but to cut there. While the campus used to have its own post office, and employees to staff it, Vassar now relies on the local post office. Where it used to allow courses to run with only a handful of students, the college now requires minimums, reducing the costs in faculty compensation of its entire course catalog.

Arts Rich School Blueprint (Madison)

Madison School District

Why is it important for all of our children in Madison to have equitable access to a comprehensive arts education and to thrive in an arts rich school? Through creating, presenting, responding, and connecting in multiple art forms, students can come to recognize and celebrate their own unique ways of seeing, doing, and communicating. With access to a comprehensive arts education, our students can explore and problem-solve through productivity and teamwork. Skill development through an art form teaches students to describe, analyze, and interpret visual, aural, and kinesthetic images. This strengthens skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening within text and language of that art form, and contributes to their comprehensive literacy skills.

The arts also impact our local economy by creating a sense of place, developing skilled creative workers for non-arts related careers, helping to revitalize neighborhoods and giving communities a competitive edge in attracting businesses and talent. We believe that arts rich schools are a foundational piece of our community fabric that cultivate the creative thinking, innovation, and attractive community that will fuel our economic future. Students trained in the arts as part of their K-12 education will have the opportunity to contribute to one of our city’s major economic engines. The local abundance of cultural offerings and the arts are cited frequently as attributes that support Madison being listed as a top place to live in the United States.

The Arts Rich Schools Blueprint will also build on a long history of arts education support between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the community.

The Madison School District administration tried, a number of years ago, to kill the popular strings program.

View a longer version of the Arts Rich School Blueprint (PDF).

Arts Rich School Continnum Rubric – 2015-16 (PDF).

Music Education Needs to Be a Click Away

David Gelernter

Most children learn nothing about serious music in school and don’t expect to learn anything. Outside school, the music world is being upended and shaken vigorously. The ways we choose music and listen to it are being transformed by iTunes and Spotify and other such sites.

For most young people, music is a minor consumable, like toothpaste. Musicians and music majors aside, my students at Yale—and there are no smarter, more eager, more open students anywhere—just barely know who Beethoven is. Beethoven. “He composed music”—that is the general consensus.

To know nothing about Beethoven? That is cultural bankruptcy. That is collapse. It goes far beyond incompetence, deep into betrayal and farce.

“Why should we know anything about Beethoven?” The question was asked in all seriousness by a sophomore just a few months ago. When I dredged up old, tired clichés, he listened carefully—and seemed convinced! What could be sadder? He was only waiting for the smallest bit of encouragement.

Ironically, the Madison School District Administration tried for a number of years to kill the “strings program“.

The Fine Art of Tough Love

Joanne Lipman:

What does it take to achieve excellence? I’ve spent much of my career chronicling top executives as a business journalist. But I’ve spent much of the last year on a very different pursuit, coauthoring a book about education, focusing on a tough but ultimately revered public-school music teacher.

And here’s what I learned: When it comes to creating a culture of excellence, the CEO has an awful lot to learn from the schoolteacher.

The teacher at the heart of the book Strings Attached is on the face of it an unlikely corporate role model. My childhood music teacher Jerry Kupchynsky, who we called “Mr. K,” was strictly old school: A ferocious Ukrainian immigrant and World War II refugee, he was a tyrannical school orchestra conductor in suburban New Jersey. He would yell and stomp and scream when we screwed up, bellowing “Who eez DEAF in first violins?” His highest praise was “not bad.” He rehearsed us until our fingers were raw.

Arne Duncan, Larry Summers, and the Higher Education Myth

Bob Samuels:

I am currently working on a book, The Politics of Higher Education, Jobs, and Inequality. One of my main arguments is that there is a bipartisan consensus that higher education is the solution to all of our economic and social problems. There are several problems with this stance: 1) producing more people with college degrees does not create more good jobs; 2) higher education itself magnifies economic and social inequality; 3) political officials focus on higher education so they don’t have to talk about underemployment, exploitive labor practices, globalization, automation, de-unionization, de-professionalization, privatization, poverty, the minimum wage, and social welfare programs; and 4) the belief in higher education as a fair meritocracy serves to justify inequality.

These myths surrounding higher education and the economy were on full display during Arne Duncan’s and Larry Summers’ presentations at the Aspen Festival of Ideas this week. Duncan argued that since the value of having a college degree has never been greater, we have to find ways of making colleges and universities more accountable. For Duncan, this means that instead of the government simply giving schools more money with no strings attached, we need to judge higher education institutions on outputs like their graduation rates and number of Pell Grant students. Although these are important issues, they do not address the question of educational quality. Instead, the Obama administration is developing their own method of rating and ranking schools, and this feeds into the logic of the meritocracy and the idea that we know how to judge learning in a quantifiable way.

Get a College-Level Computer Science Education with These Free Courses

Melanie Pinola:

We’re lucky to have access to so many excellent free online courses for just about anything you want to study, including computer science. Here’s a curriculum list that strings various free computing courses into the equivalent of a college bachelor’s degree.

aGupieWare, an independent app developer, surveyed the curricular requirements for computer science programs at several of the US’s top universities. It then developed a similar program using 15 free online courses from MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, and other sources. Like formal college programs, the courses are broken into introductory classes, core classes, and electives.

While this won’t get you an actual college degree, you can save tens of thousands of dollars rolling your own education. (And you might also be able to get formal college credit through exams.)

Checking My Privilege: Character as the Basis of Privilege

Tal Fortang:

There is a phrase that floats around college campuses, Princeton being no exception, that threatens to strike down opinions without regard for their merits, but rather solely on the basis of the person that voiced them. “Check your privilege,” the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year. The phrase, handed down by my moral superiors, descends recklessly, like an Obama-sanctioned drone, and aims laser-like at my pinkish-peach complexion, my maleness, and the nerve I displayed in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung. “Check your privilege,” they tell me in a command that teeters between an imposition to actually explore how I got where I am, and a reminder that I ought to feel personally apologetic because white males seem to pull most of the strings in the world.

I do not accuse those who “check” me and my perspective of overt racism, although the phrase, which assumes that simply because I belong to a certain ethnic group I should be judged collectively with it, toes that line. But I do condemn them for diminishing everything I have personally accomplished, all the hard work I have done in my life, and for ascribing all the fruit I reap not to the seeds I sow but to some invisible patron saint of white maleness who places it out for me before I even arrive. Furthermore, I condemn them for casting the equal protection clause, indeed the very idea of a meritocracy, as a myth, and for declaring that we are all governed by invisible forces (some would call them “stigmas” or “societal norms”), that our nation runs on racist and sexist conspiracies. Forget “you didn’t build that;” check your privilege and realize that nothing you have accomplished is real.

Upton Sinclair on college presidents

Louis Proyect:

Thus the college president spends his time running back and forth between Mammon and God, known in the academic vocabulary as Business and Learning. He pleads with the business man to make a little more allowance for the eccentricities of the scholar; explaining the absurd notion which men of learning have that they owe loyalty to truth and public welfare. He points out that if the college comes to be known as a mere tool of special privilege it loses all its dignity and authority; it is absolutely necessary that it should maintain a pretense of disinterestedness, it should appear to the public as a shrine of wisdom and piety. He points out that Professor So-and-So has managed to secure great prestige throughout the state, and if he is unceremoniously fired it will make a terrific scandal, and perhaps cause other faculty members to resign, and other famous scientists to stay away from the institution.
The president says this at a dinner-party in the home of his grand duke; and next morning he hurries off to argue with the recalcitrant professor. He points out the humiliating need of funds-just now when the professor’s own salary is so entirely inadequate. He begs the professor to realize the president’s own position, the crudity of business men who hold the purse-strings, and have no understanding of academic dignity. He pleads for just a little discretion, just a little time-just a little anything that will moderate the clash between greed and service, the incompatibility of hate and love.

Education that’s not to the point

Esther Cepeda:

My belief that the PowerPoint presentation is the worst thing that ever happened to modern education was verified a few months ago while I was observing a training session on the art of marketing complex technology. At one point, the teacher stopped his PowerPoint presentation to rant about the tyranny of PowerPoint presentations.
The trainer bemoaned the skull-numbing effect that an endless stream of bullet points and images has on a listener.
He painstakingly detailed the absolute no-nos of trying to impart important information through such a limited method: Keep the number of slides to a minimum, use as little text on each slide as possible and never, ever, recite your bullet points verbatim.
Then he told us that the newest trend in high-level salesmanship is to perform important presentations without electronic aides. Apparently, top sales professionals have started learning to sketch so they can hand-illustrate their most important concepts on whiteboards during a talk in front of clients.
Such an effort demonstrates two things, the trainer said. “First, it shows the customer that you know your stuff, that you’re not just regurgitating strings of facts because you need to have slides and fill them. And second, it shows your audience that you are tailoring how you impart information in a way that is relevant to them in the moment.”
“Wow!” I thought. “That’s exactly how teaching used to be.”
Well, that’s how it used to be a long time ago when teachers were masters of their subject areas and they shared their wisdom by lecturing and maybe making a few notes on a chalkboard. Back when students were — gasp! –expected to listen and even — double-gasp! — take notes.
That method died sometime after I graduated from college and before I began my graduate-level teacher training nearly a decade later.

The Decline and Fall of the English Major

Verlyn Klinkenborg:

In the past few years, I’ve taught nonfiction writing to undergraduates and graduate students at Harvard, Yale, Bard, Pomona, Sarah Lawrence and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t.
They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them — no.
That kind of writing — clear, direct, humane — and the reading on which it is based are the very root of the humanities, a set of disciplines that is ultimately an attempt to examine and comprehend the cultural, social and historical activity of our species through the medium of language.
The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times. So says a new report on the state of the humanities by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and so says the experience of nearly everyone who teaches at a college or university. Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.

A bit of History on The Madison School District’s at large board seats

Chris Rickert:

Since Sarah Manski dropped out of the Madison School Board race two days after winning her primary, she’s been pilloried not only by the school district’s smattering of conservatives but by the same liberal, pro-democracy folks she once epitomized.
Leaving the race effectively left voters with little choice in who will get the seat she briefly coveted. It will either be second-place primary finisher T.J. Mertz or whomever the board appoints should Manski — whose name will remain on the April general election ballot — get the most votes.
Sure, Manski deserves the criticism.
But in creating the current mess, she had quite a bit of help from people pulling the district’s strings back when she was just a kid.
Until 1985, if one candidate dropped out of a school board race it mattered less because candidates weren’t required to run for particular, numbered seats.
Instead, they filed as candidates, primaries were held if the number of candidates was more than twice the number of seats up for election and, in the general election, voters voted for their top two or three choices, depending on whether there were two or three seats on the ballot.
Under that system, the people who actually got the most votes were assured of winning seats. And if one person dropped out of a six-person race — say, after a primary — you still had five to choose from.

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

Curse of Cursive Handwriting: It’s absurd to teach children this way

Philip Ball:

There’s something deeply peculiar about the way we teach children to play the violin. It’s a very difficult skill for them to master–getting their fingers under control, holding the bow properly, learning how to move it over the strings without scratching and slipping. But just as they are finally getting there, are beginning to feel confident, to hit the right notes, to sound a bit like the musicians they hear, we break the news to them: we’ve taught them to play left-handed, but now it’s time to do it like grown-ups do, the other way around.
Alright, I’m fibbing. Of course we don’t teach violin that way. We wouldn’t do anything so absurd for something as important as learning an instrument, would we? No–but that’s how we teach children to write.
It’s best not to examine the analogy too deeply, but you see the point. The odd thing is that, when most parents watch their child’s hard-earned gains in forming letters like those printed in their storybooks crumble under the demand that they now relearn the art of writing “joined up” (“and don’t forget the joining tail!”), leaving their calligraphy a confused scrawl of extraneous cusps and wiggles desperately seeking a home, they don’t ask what on earth the school thinks it is doing. They smile, comforted that their child is starting to write like them.

On Charter Schools and Education Reform

Karran Harper Royal:

And how an you tell if you’re on the wrong side of reform: Does the policy shut down open debate? Does it remove the democratic process? Do parents get to elect the charter board? Do the policymakers have to focus on a villain, in this case, teachers and unions as the bogeyman? Do they insist on closing schools rather than improving them? Do they impose on high stakes decision for children or teachers or schools? Do they talk about return on investment and are there billionaires pulling the strings? Do they focus on “school choice” over civil rights? These are signals that they are on the wrong side of education reform. And yet it’s easy to fall into the wrong side. Check out Karran’s brilliant analysis why. Thanks to Norm Scott for the video.

Student Loans and Double Standards

The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama likes to say that everyone in America should “play by the same rules.” Okay, so then why does the Administration’s new student-loan rule apply to for-profit colleges, but not nonprofits?
The regulations that go into effect in July cut off federal student aid to career and technical colleges whose former students don’t meet the Education Department’s definition of “gainful employment.” Education programs would be cut off from the government trough if their former students don’t meet one of three thresholds for three out of four years: They must have at least a 35% loan repayment rate, 30% debt-to-discretionary-income ratio, or 12% debt-to-annual earnings ratio.
The stated purpose of the regulations is to protect taxpayers. Fine. If the feds are going to subsidize higher education, it makes sense to attach strings to the taxpayer purse. If only the White House had been as scrupulous when it doled out billions to its for-profit friends in the green lobby. But then shouldn’t the White House apply the same medicine to all colleges?

2012 WSMA State Festival Madison Area High School Student Event Counts

I’ve periodically wondered what the downstream effects of the Madison School District’s mid-2000’s war on the long running strings program might be. Perhaps this chart is a place to begin the discussion.
Of course there may be many other explanations, from staff changes, student interests and so on. That said, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony continues to be popular.
Data via The Wisconsin School Music Association. Note that I looked around the WSMA site extensively for Sun Prairie counts, but failed to find any.
Per Student Spending:
Middleton 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.

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.

Our debt to Greek culture

Harry Eyres:

A conversation over lunch with the violinist Leonidas Kavakos – maybe Greece’s most gifted classical performer since Maria Callas – made me reflect more generally on the relationship between Greece and gifts. The most famous saying about Greeks and gifts is of course the line from Virgil’s Aeneid, “I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts” (timeo Danaos et dona ferentes), but nowadays this might be reversed. The Greeks have good reason to fear the gifts in the form of bail-outs – designed to bail out creditors, not Greek citizens – that have reduced the country to a province in the European empire controlled, at least as to its purse strings, by Germany.
But Kavakos is not disposed to self-pity à la Grecque. He seems a rather tough-minded character who believes Greeks deserve much of the punishment they are getting. What he finds most unforgivable is the way Greece, or its political class, has betrayed its incomparable legacy of culture, philosophy and art. He reserved especial scorn for a certain Greek politician who decreed that the Greek language should be reduced from 6m words to 600,000. That was an entirely avoidable form of self-impoverishment.

Oh, the Places We Go, Madison Superintendents…


Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly $15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.