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 … Continue reading Strings Program – Why is it So Important?

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 … Continue reading Strings Program – A Response

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?

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

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

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

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 … Continue reading Mission Vs Organization: Shades Of Cutting Strings….

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 Musicnotes.com teamed up to provide Sandburg with 36 new instruments, worth about $35,000, to fill … Continue reading Strings are making a comeback for fifth-graders at Sandburg Elementary

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

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

School Board to restore school programs, but . . .

Sandy Cullen: Madison School Board members have come up with their lists of programs to put back into next year’s budget. But in order to get those items back, four of the board’s seven members have to agree not only on what to add, but how to fund it. Madison School Board President Johnny Winston … Continue reading School Board to restore school programs, but . . .

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

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 … Continue reading 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

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

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

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 … Continue reading Cutting Elementary Strings Will Cost MMSD Millions – Not Save Money

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

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 … Continue reading Open Letter to the Community Regarding Strings

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

VOTE TUESDAY, APRIL 5 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 … Continue reading School Board Candidate Lawrie Kobza Says Don’t Cut Elementary Strings – Offers Suggestions

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

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 – … Continue reading School Strings Cut Plan Blasted by Lee Sensenbrenner, The Capital Times

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 … Continue reading Budget Hearing – Elementary Strings Update

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

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 … Continue reading Strings Community Action

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 … Continue reading Elementary Strings – Call to Action

Administration Memo on the Madison Superintendent Search

Dylan Pauly, Legal Services:

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

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

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

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

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

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

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

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

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

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

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

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

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

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

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

Sometimes, the best we can do for kids’ education is to get out of the way and let them do it themselves.

Steve Rankin, via email:

Mikko Utevsky, 17, of Madison, decided to form a student-led chamber orchestra, so he did. Their premiere was June 17 on the UW-Madison campus, and here’s what Mikko had to say to Jacob Stockinger, a classical music blogger from Madison, at the beginning of a week of intensive rehearsal: http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/classical-music-qa-high-school-conductor-mikko-utevsky-discusses-the-madison-area-youth-chamber-orchestra-which-makes-its-debut-this-friday-night-in-vivaldi-beethoven-and-borodin/
Obviously, these kids did not arrive at their musical talents without adult teaching and guidance. Many of them began in their school bands and orchestras. They continue to study with their own teachers and with adult-run orchestras such as WYSO (http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/) and school-based bands and orchestras. As school funding continues to be in jeopardy, and arts programming is first on the chopping block (the MMSD strings program has been under threat of elimination a number of times and has been cut twice since most of these students began, (http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2007/01/elementary_stri_3.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/05/speak_up_for_st.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/000241.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/05/on_wednesday_ma.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/05/speak_up_for_st_2.php – many more citations available through SIS), the chances for a student-led ensemble such as MAYCO (Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra) to continue to thrive are also in jeopardy.

2007 / 2008 Budget Approved: School Board keeps Lindbergh open

Susan Troller: Board members tussled over dozens of suggestions to try to find money to return various programs and services to the district that had been cut by the administration in an effort to balance the $339.6 million budget. The administration had originally proposed about $8 million in cuts, including $2 million from special education … Continue reading 2007 / 2008 Budget Approved: School Board keeps Lindbergh open

Budget Impacts at Franklin-Randall–Don’t Get Mad, Get Active!!

(This letter is being distributed to parents of Franklin-Randall students, but should concern everyone in the MMSD and Regent Neighborhood) SCHOOL FUNDING CRISIS: Don’t get mad, get active!! March 16, 2007 The School Board recently announced sweeping budget cuts for the coming school year that will have a severe impact on Franklin-Randall, as well as … Continue reading Budget Impacts at Franklin-Randall–Don’t Get Mad, Get Active!!

“Bitter Medicine for Madison Schools”:
07/08 budget grows 3.6% from 333M (06/07) to $345M with Reductions in the Increase

Doug Erickson on the 2007/2008 $345M budget (up from $333M in 2006/2007) for 24,342 students): As feared by some parents, the recommendations also included a plan to consolidate schools on the city’s East Side. Marquette Elementary students would move to Lapham Elementary and Sherman Middle School students would be split between O’Keeffe and Black Hawk … Continue reading “Bitter Medicine for Madison Schools”:
07/08 budget grows 3.6% from 333M (06/07) to $345M with Reductions in the Increase

June 12th School Board Update – End of School Year

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email: The Madison School Board has been (and will be) very busy. At the June 12th meeting the board voted to go to referendum on November 7th for a new elementary school on the far Westside of Madison, Leopold Addition and refinancing of existing debt. The total amount of the … Continue reading June 12th School Board Update – End of School Year

AKA Fundraiser: Men Who Cook

On SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 3PM TO 5 PM Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Annual Scholarship Fundraiser “Men Who Cook” is at the Fitchburg Community Center located on 5520 Lacy Road. Tickets are $15 in advance or can be purchased at the door the day of the event for $20.

Board Votes to Create Equity Task Force

Schools to take closer look at equity Task force could lead to budget war By Matt Pommer, The Capital Times November 1, 2005 The Madison School Board created an “equity” task force Monday, setting the stage for a possible budget war over programs like elementary school strings and foreign language instruction in middle schools. President … Continue reading Board Votes to Create Equity Task Force

Guest Editorial to the Simpson Street Free Press

Dear Editor: Thank you for your comments regarding the reductions in Madison Metropolitan School District’s 4th and 5th grade elementary strings program and other Fine Arts programs. I personally know the importance of the strings program. I played the violin many years ago as a student at Lindbergh Elementary School. I continue to support Fine … Continue reading Guest Editorial to the Simpson Street Free Press

There is Something Seriously Wrong with Music Education in MMSD

Suzy Grindrod writes that Madison school bureaucrats’ decisions are short-sighted and are Stringing the kids along So they make the arts unworkable in early elementary school, they gut the incredibly successful elementary strings program, they remove band and orchestra from core curriculum in middle school … and then they are going to complain that there … Continue reading There is Something Seriously Wrong with Music Education in MMSD

Superintendent Rainwater: It doesn’t matter what Johnny thinks

In Thursday’s Capital Times article titled “Strings program is still not safe” by Lee Sensenbrenner, the Superintendent said, “It doesn’t matter what Johnny thinks!” Mr. Winston responded strongly. “I would like to see the strings program continued somehow, some way,” Winston added. “I think the community wants that. I think that’s loud and clear.” Mr. … Continue reading Superintendent Rainwater: It doesn’t matter what Johnny thinks

String / Fine Arts Rally – May 2nd at 545 W. Dayton

What: Elementary Strings / Fine Arts Rally – Where: Doyle Building – 545 W. Dayton Street When: May 2nd, 7 p.m. Why: 1,866 Nine- and Ten-Year Old Children Need Your Help Now! The entire 4th and 5th grade elementary strings program has been targeted for removal from the 2005-2006 budget. Further, since last year, the … Continue reading String / Fine Arts Rally – May 2nd at 545 W. Dayton

Mr. Rainwater, I am looking at you. And I�m more than disappointed.

Dear Editor, I just returned from the annual Madison Strings Festival with a warm feeling in my heart. It wasn�t the warmth of joy, however, despite the lasting echoes of 1,000 children playing music. It was the embers of rage beginning to kindle. For the fourth time, the Strings Festival was tainted by rumblings of … Continue reading Mr. Rainwater, I am looking at you. And I�m more than disappointed.

The arts are a crucial component of an intelligent school curriculum.

“Without incorporating arts education, our children will not be prepared for success and survival in the world community we live in. The arts broaden our perception of the world, utilize our brains more fully and train us to look for a variety of solutions. The arts bring joy into lives that are not always full … Continue reading The arts are a crucial component of an intelligent school curriculum.

String Orchestra Festival Soars Despite District Administration Annual Assault

The annual string festival is a reminder of how wonderful music education is, and of how important this is for our children’s education. This annual spring event is also a reminder of how badly the existing School Board is failing our children. Lawrie Kobza, school board candidate for Seat 6, wrote, “Fourth and fifth grade … Continue reading String Orchestra Festival Soars Despite District Administration Annual Assault

Our School Board Needs a Budget: No Budget Yet We Have a Cut List that Harms Underprivileged Children’s Education and Divides Parent Groups

The inside, unsigned cover page of MMSD’s non-budget cut list that tells the public that the administration is protecting math and reading for young children. For $12,000+ per student, the administration will teach our kids to read and to do math – what happened to science and social studies? What happened to educating the whole … Continue reading Our School Board Needs a Budget: No Budget Yet We Have a Cut List that Harms Underprivileged Children’s Education and Divides Parent Groups

3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Board Members and citizens discussed the Madison School District Administration’s proposed budget changes (reductions in the increase, cuts and program eliminations – see this post for details. The overall budget will go up, from 317M to 327.7M as it does annually.) this past Monday evening: Don Severson & Bill Keys on special election costs, spending … Continue reading 3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Elementary School Needs String Instruments – Sandy Cullen

Sandy Cullen, Wisconsin State Journal reporter, wrote a story in early December about a shortage of string instruments at Leopold Elementary School. It seems that newly hired MMSD strings teacher, Pat Kukes, has more students than violins for his elementary string students. He’s hoping donations will be made to the school so that children will … Continue reading Elementary School Needs String Instruments – Sandy Cullen

School Board Balances Final Budget on the Backs of Some Kids

On Monday, May 17th, the MMSD School Board made less than $1 million in changes to Mr. Rainwater’s proposed $308 million budget for the 2004-2005 school year. These changes were made right after the Board approved more than $500,000 in salary and benefits increases to Administrators. The primary changes later made to the 2004-2005 budget … Continue reading School Board Balances Final Budget on the Backs of Some Kids

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

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 … Continue reading String quartet brings classical music to area elementary schools

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

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, … Continue reading The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)

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 … Continue reading Dual enrollment growing in popularity and frustration

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 … Continue reading Arne Duncan, Larry Summers, and the Higher Education Myth

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

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.

The misguided race to federalize education

David Davenport, Gordon Lloyd:

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan call their $4 billion program of education reform grants the Race to the Top. A more accurate title would be the Race to Washington, because their program culminates a stunning decade in which school policy decisions have been wrested from local and state control to become matters of federal oversight. With the possible exception of Texas – where Gov. Rick Perry is resisting federal education grants with all their strings – no state has been left behind in the race to federalize education.
It’s easy to miss this important power shift because few of us notice, much less worry about, constitutional processes during a crisis. But, as presidential Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” because, he continued, it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before. And that’s precisely what is happening in education as we complete a transfer of money and power to Washington to oversee our schools, in violation of the 10th Amendment, a couple of hundred years of history and common sense.
There is a disturbing pattern of Washington using crises to consolidate power. First we declare war on a problem, which shifts things into crisis mode. Remember the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on illiteracy, the war on terror? Now we have a war on underperforming schools, so naturally Washington needs to step in and nationalize standards and tests.

We (Monona, WI School Board) Get Lots and Lots of Letters

Peter Sobol:

We have received several letters over the last few days. I am posting here all of them for which I have received the author’s permission for your review. I had to reformat them for this forum, so i apologize if anything got mangled in the process:
____________________________________________________________________________
Dear School Board Members,
I am writing to urge you to keep 4th grade strings and specifically Jill Jensen on board in our schools. I know how difficult and painful the process of making budget cuts is–if anything, we would all like to see more programs available to our kids, let alone cut what we already have. I am fairly new to Monona, having moved here a year and a half ago, and have been extremely impressed by the 4th and 5th grade performances organized by Jill. It is obvious that she puts in many extra hours and goes far above and beyond her duties as a classroom teacher, because it is one thing–and hard enough–to teach a group of kids the mechanics involved in learning to read and perform music. It is another thing entirely to connect with children so closely and so well as to inspire obvious the joy and enthusiasm for performing that I have seen bursting forth in every one of their concerts that I have attended.

One size does not fit all kids

Capital Times Editorial:

President Obama and his aides, like their predecessors in the administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney, are attempting to force states to comply with rigid federal standards in order to qualify for so-called “Race to the Top” stimulus funds.
During a visit to Madison last November, President Obama outlined the $4.35 billion program in great detail and Gov. Jim Doyle quickly embraced its agenda. The Doyle administration is going after $254 million in Race to the Top money, and Wisconsin schools, which have suffered sharp cuts in promised state funding, could use it.
But the money comes with strings attached. To qualify for the money, states are pressuring school districts to agree to abide by the new standards. Last Monday, the Madison School Board voted 5-1 to do so.
In fairness, many of the requirements are good ones. But tailoring education policy to fit agendas set in Washington is a bad approach. And it is especially bad when school districts with traditions of excellence start trimming their sails and altering their approaches in order to satisfy the whims of distant bureaucrats.

Race to the Top’ – the view from Oakland

Betty Olson-Jones:

We applaud Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums for refusing to join the Race to the Top parade by not signing the letter by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (“Dellums ducks out of mayors coalition,” Chip Johnson, Jan. 5).
Dellums should not be whipsawed into the frenzy just to run after more federal and state dollars that will do little to address the major issues of educational equity that we need in Oakland.
I was asked for the Oakland Education Association’s opinion on the proposed letter and concurred with others that it would be a mistake to sign it. The lure of a minuscule amount of money is not justification for further decimating a compromised program in Oakland schools, especially when that money comes with serious strings attached.

Stimulus can’t solve schools’ shortfalls

Mark Pitsch:

The federal economic stimulus law will deliver about $398 million to Wisconsin’s schools over the next two years, but officials say it won’t solve their budget problems and homeowners should still expect property tax increases.
Moreover, it’s still unclear how districts will be able to use the money, when it will arrive and what impact it will have on students.
“It is pretty significant,” said Erica Pickett, director of business services for the Stoughton School District, of the stimulus money. “But what we don’t have are the strings — what we can and can’t spend it on.”
Also unclear is how most of the money will be divided among school districts.
The U.S. Department of Education last week unveiled preliminary district-by-district allocations for the program in the stimulus law that provides money to help disadvantaged students, a total of $139 million for Wisconsin.
Madison schools, for example, would receive $5.7 million over the next two years for the program, known as Title I and designed to assist disadvantaged students in reading and math.
That’s in addition to the $5.4 million the district is getting in the current year under the program. In Portage, schools will get $175,987 over two years in new Title I money under the stimulus law. That compares with the $268,497 it is receiving this year.

School Districts should not spend the money in ways that increase ongoing operating costs…. Much more on the splurge/stimulus here.

Keeping Notes Afloat in Class

Michael Alison Chandler:

Third-graders at Hunters Woods Elementary School are required to learn the fundamentals of the violin. They know how to stand up straight, how to hold their instruments and how to use the tippy tips of their fingers when they press on the strings so they don’t make what their teacher calls “an icky sound.”
After learning a grand total of eight notes, they also know how to make music. Their repertoire one fall morning included pieces from a range of cultures and styles: “Caribbean Island,” “Seminole Chant,” “Good King Wenceslas.”
In Fairfax County and elsewhere, students often begin studying violin in fourth grade. Hunters Woods, an arts and science magnet school in Reston, gives them a one-year head start. Experts say the earlier children begin, the more likely they are to succeed in music.
Hunters Woods, with 950 students, is one of more than a dozen local schools in which teachers are trained through the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to infuse arts education into other subjects. For instance, students might build instruments from recycled materials, learn science through lessons on sound and vibration or study math through measurement and patterning. Some also compose songs with lyrics inspired by Virginia history.
But music programs and the rest of the education budget are under scrutiny as the county School Board seeks to close a $220 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July. One proposal to save about $850,000 would trim band and strings teaching positions, making it tough to keep such programs in third and fourth grades, said Roger Tomhave, fine arts coordinator for Fairfax schools.

This tune sounds familiar. Madison formerly offered a 4th grade strings program (now only in 5th).

School starts early for musically inclined

Pameal Cotant:

When some area students start band and strings classes for the first time this fall, they will have a head start.
That’s because some school districts, including Madison, offer lessons in the summer for beginning as well as continuing students. They are part of the summer school program.
“If we would just start in school then we wouldn’t know many of the notes and the basic songs,” said Karly Keller, who will play the clarinet as a Waunakee sixth-grader this fall. “We can just jump back in when school starts.”
In the Waunakee School District, lessons are first offered for strings students in the summer before fifth grade. Band students can start taking the lessons just before sixth grade.
“We’ve always started our beginners in the summer because typically they have more time in the summer than the regular school year,” said Ross Cowing, sixth-grade band director and the summer music coordinator for Waunakee Intermediate School.

An open letter to the School Board of Madison Metropolitan Schools

It’s about time that this community approached the budget process with the honesty and integrity that we homeowners are required to do. For the past several years, the Superintendent and his associates have made a projected budget by increasing all categories of the budget by a certain percentage (about 5%) whether costs in that area … Continue reading An open letter to the School Board of Madison Metropolitan Schools

April Board of Education Progress Report – Johnny Winston, Jr.

The month of April brings showers; however, for the Madison BOE it brings new beginnings, budget challenges and community dialogue. First, regarding new beginnings, let me congratulate Beth Moss and Maya Cole on their election onto the Madison School Board. They will be replacing the retiring Shwaw Vang and Ruth Robarts. Our community should be … Continue reading April Board of Education Progress Report – Johnny Winston, Jr.

An open letter to the Superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools

Dear Mr. Rainwater: I just found out from the principal at my school that you cut the allocations for SAGE teachers and Strings teachers, but the budget hasn’t even been approved. Will you please stop playing politics with our children education? It?s time to think about your legacy. As you step up to the chopping … Continue reading An open letter to the Superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools

Carstensen opposes consolidation, seeks referendum

Carol Carstensen circulated the e-mail below and gave permission to post it here: I am opposed to the proposal to close/consolidate schools on the east side – I am also opposed to increasing class size (eliminating SAGE classes) in the lower poverty elementary schools (which includes Lapham and Marquette) and I am opposed to increasing … Continue reading Carstensen opposes consolidation, seeks referendum

Elementary String Education for Nine and Ten Year Olds: Private Funding Required

According to a meeting I had with the Superintendent, he says MMSD will require $300,000 to fund elementary string instruction and that private funding and/or grants will be needed to continue Elementary String Education in the Madison public schools. Without this funding, he is likely to again propose cutting this Madison public school tradition of … Continue reading Elementary String Education for Nine and Ten Year Olds: Private Funding Required

School Board OK’s 23.5M November Referendum: Three Requests in One Question

Sandy Cullen: he Madison School Board will put one $23.5 million referendum question to voters in the Nov. 7 general election. If approved, the referendum would provide $17.7 million for a new elementary school on the Far West Side, $2.7 million for an addition at Leopold Elementary, and $3.1 million to refinance debt. It also … Continue reading School Board OK’s 23.5M November Referendum: Three Requests in One Question

Week of May 30th – School Board Update by President Johnny Winston, Jr.

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email: Currently, the Madison School Board is deliberating over the 2006-07 budget. Board members submitted budget amendments to the Administration last week. The strings program, library pages, funding for community groups, student fees, school programs and class sizes are among the items identified by board members to change in the … Continue reading Week of May 30th – School Board Update by President Johnny Winston, Jr.

Why Does Elementary Stringed Instrument Instruction Matter? One Reason – Student Demand is Strong

I sent the following letter to the School Board last week after reviewing data and text on elementary strings sent to the School Board by the Fine Arts Coordinator. In late March, I spoke before the School Board about working together on strengthening strings and fine arts education and hoped that we would not see … Continue reading Why Does Elementary Stringed Instrument Instruction Matter? One Reason – Student Demand is Strong

Announcement from Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. (and the 04 / 07 elections)

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. MMSD email: It is with great humility that I announce that I have been elected to serve as President of the Madison School Board. I am honored to have the opportunity to provide leadership to our school district and community. Serving as President is the culmination of part of a … Continue reading Announcement from Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. (and the 04 / 07 elections)

Madison Schools’ Proposed Balanced Budget for 2006/2007

The Madison Metropolitan School District Administration published it’s proposed $332.9M+ balanced budget for 2006/2007 in 3 parts: Executive Summary [pdf] Financial Summaries [pdf] Department and Division Reports [pdf] “Total spending under the proposed budget is $332,947,870, which is an increase of $11,012,181 or 3.42% over 2005-06. The increase of 2.6% under the revenue limit plus … Continue reading Madison Schools’ Proposed Balanced Budget for 2006/2007

SHOULD LEOPOLD EXPANSION BE PAID FOR OUT OF THE OPERATING BUDGET?

A proposal is before the Madison Metropolitan School Board to approve a $2.8 million addition to Leopold funded under the revenue caps. The Board may vote on this proposal on Monday, March 27. While the Leopold overcrowding is a serious problem that absolutely must be addressed, the question for the Board is whether this should … Continue reading SHOULD LEOPOLD EXPANSION BE PAID FOR OUT OF THE OPERATING BUDGET?

New York City’s Big Donors Find New Cause: Public Schools

David M. Herszenhorn writes: In the context of the system’s regular budget of about $15 billion a year, $311 million might seem insignificant. But the tax dollars come with so many strings that the administration has viewed private money as crucial for research and development and an array of experimental programs. “You are able to … Continue reading New York City’s Big Donors Find New Cause: Public Schools