West: TAG Complaint and Proposed High School Redesign Create Perfect Storm

The parent complaint to DPI over MMSD’s failure to comply with WI laws on Talented and Gifted education have combined with administration’s recent proposal to create more consistency across the four major high schools, to create a perfect storm of controversy at Madison West. Within the past 24 hours, allegations that the proposal eliminates all electives have spawned a number of calls and e-mails to the Board of Education, a FB page (Walk-out Against MMSD School Reform) promoting a student walk out on Friday, and a YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zgjee-GmGI created to protest the elimination of electives.
As a board member, I have a somewhat different take largely because I know that allegations that the proposal to standardize core high school curriculum is not a product of the DPI complaint. Anyone who has watched MMSD operate, would probably agree that nothing is put together that quickly (the complaint is less than a month old), especially when it involves a proposal.
I also just received the proposal a day or so ago. In full disclosure, I did not take advantage of the briefings conducted for board members who met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent individually or in pairs. I’m a certifiable pain in the neck and thought that any presentations should be made to the board as a whole in an open board or committee meeting, but that is just my issue.) I am just beginning to read and think through what is being proposed, so have no firm opinion yet.
More at http://lucymathiak.blogspot.com/2010/10/west-two-issues-in-perfect-storm.html

UK Grammar schools announce plan to give priority to disadvantaged pupils

Richard Adams: Grammar schools in England are looking to break the middle-class stranglehold on selective state education by offering to rewrite their admissions codes to discriminate in favour of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. More than half of England’s 164 existing grammar schools – the survivors of England’s comprehensive school reforms in the 1960s and 1970s […]

Madison School District’s Talented & Gifted Plan 3 Pager (TAG)

Madison School District (205K PDF):

The BOARD is committed to providing a strong instructional program that results in student growth for all students, including advanced learners. The BOARD recognizes that many advanced learners have unique academic and social-emotional needs that may require additional supports or interventions beyond the strong core instruction that is provided within a general education classroom if they are to achieve growth in their identified domain(s). The BOARD further recognizes the need to create systems for identifying, monitoring and serving advanced learners that are culturally responsive and sensitive to the needs and experiences of students with the potential for high performance but who are underperforming and students from underrepresented groups. The BOARD is committed to engaging the parents and guardians of advanced learners through outreach to, communication with and the inclusion of parents and guardians in education decisions that affect their students. In order to actualize these commitments for all students, all schools must, through professional collaboration and with the input from parents and guardians, appropriately identify and serve all advanced learners, including students from underrepresented groups, students who evidence high potential but are underperforming and twice exceptional learners, using the identification, monitoring and intervention systems set forth in the BOARD-approved Talented and Gifted Plan.
A. Differentiated Instruction – A best practice for all instructional staff across all grade levels and subjects that involves modifying the classroom curriculum, instructional model and/or expected evidence of learning to meet unique student needs within the classroom.
B. Advanced Learner – A student who demonstrates high performance capability or the potential for high performance in one or more of the following domains and requires enrichment and/or intervention beyond differentiated core instruction. The domains are general intellectual, creativity, specific academic, leadership and visual and performing arts.
C. Interventions – Research-based instructional practices and programs used systematically to provide support to students who exceed academic or behavioral benchmarks or who evidence high potential but have not yet demonstrated high performance. Interventions, which are provided in addition to or in replacement of differentiated, grade-level core instruction, are used to systematically provide an enhanced opportunity to learn, scaffold learning for students whose mastery of skills or content are below what is expected and/or provide a faster pace of learning.

Much more on the talented & gifted program, here and a parental complaint.

TAG Best Practices

Madison School District PDF:

#1: Good teaching needs to be seen as including those students who are already grade-level proficient
– Lesson plans (coherent instruction) – Curricular alignment
– Accountability
#2 Needs-Based Learning
• What a student is learning should be based on his or her current level of mastery
• This may or may not correspond with age-level norms

This would seem to make sense for all students.
Related: Some states begin to add teacher content knowledge requirements to the licensing process.
Much more on Madison’s Talented & Gifted program along with a recent parent complaint.

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

Superintendent Jane Belmore (652K PDF):

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

A few charts from the report:

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

An Update on the Parent Complaint of Madison’s Talent & Gifted Program, and the Wisconsin DPI’s Repsonse

Matthew DeFour:

But because the district has made significant progress and expects to make further improvements to its program, it won’t face any penalties at this time, DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper said.
Parents who filed a complaint with the DPI about Madison’s TAG program in September 2010, and wrote the DPI another letter last fall about shortcomings in the district’s middle school offerings, were pleased with the results of the latest audit.
“The preliminary report achieves a good balance of recognizing effort without losing sight of continued weaknesses,” parent Laurie Frost said in an email. “I am happy the district was found to be in only partial compliance, but also very glad the DPI did not levy any financial penalty.”
The DPI determined the district’s program was deficient in 2011, but agreed to an Aug. 22, 2012, compliance deadline. The School Board adopted a TAG plan and hired a program administrator in 2011.

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

Do We Still Segregate Students? Schools around the nation are ‘detracking’ classes, putting kids of all achievement levels in the same room. Does that sabotage higher achievers?

Julie Halpert:

WHEN ERIC WITHERSPOON became superintendent of Evanston Township High School (www site) near Chicago in 2006, he walked into a math class where all the students were black. “A young man leaned over to me and said, ‘This is the dummy class.'”
The kids at Evanston who took honors classes were primarily white; those in the less demanding classes were minority–a pattern repeated, still, almost 60 years after integration, across the nation. All of the Evanston kids had been tracked into their classes based on how they’d performed on a test they took in eighth grade.
Last September, for the first time, most incoming freshmen, ranging from those reading at grade level to those reading far above it, were sitting together in rigorous humanities classes. When I visited, students of all abilities and backgrounds met in small groups to discuss one of the required readings, which include A Raisin in the Sun and The Odyssey. This September, most freshmen will sit side-by-side in biology classes.
Mindy Wallis, the mother of a sophomore at Evanston Township High, agrees. She opposed the decision to detrack, and spearheaded a petition that advocated waiting for the results of a three-year evaluation before making changes that so substantively affected the freshman class. Angela Allyn, whose 14-year-old son just took a freshman humanities class, says her son was hungry to read more than two-thirds of The Odyssey, which was all the class required. He was encouraged by his teachers to read the entire book, but Allyn says the teachers didn’t help him navigate difficult portions during class, so she had to work with him into the late hours of the night. Her son was teased by classmates, she says, for “showing off and using big words,” something she believes wouldn’t have occurred if he’d been grouped with a similar cohort. Detracking, she contends, focuses “on bringing the bottom up–and there’s an assumption that our bright children will take care of themselves.” She acknowledges that because she’s seen as having “white privilege,” despite the fact that she put herself through school and even occasionally had to use soup kitchens to get by, she’s perceived as racist by merely making such a comment.

Adam Gamoran
, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, also believes that race is part of the debate: “People who support tracking are more interested in productivity and less concerned about inequality, and people who are critics tend to focus on inequality and don’t spend too much time thinking about productivity.” Gamoran argues that schools that want to keep ability-grouping need to do a better job with the students in the lowest tracks, but he also believes that the most capable students may not always be sufficiently challenged in mixed-ability classes. “There’s no single solution,” he says. “The point is to try to address the limitations of whatever approach is selected.”

Links:

Would improved TAG program hurt other Madison School District Programs?

Chris Rickert:

Just when you thought the Madison School District had enough on its plate — perennially tight budgets, teachers incensed at Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting, minority achievement gaps — it’s under a gun of a different sort:
Get your program for talented and gifted, or TAG, students in order, the state told the district in March, after a group of parents complained their kids were not being sufficiently challenged in the classroom.
I am dubious of efforts to devote additional time and money to students who already have the advantage of being smart — and often white and upper-middle class — and who have similarly situated parents adept at lobbying school officials.
Money, time and effort generally not being unlimited commodities in public school districts, the question over what is to be done about Madison’s TAG program strikes me as one of priorities.
Improving TAG offerings would seem to require an equal reduction in something else. And maybe that something else is more important to more students.
Not that it’s likely anyone on the School Board would ever acknowledge any trade-offs.
It’s a “false dichotomy,” said School Board member Ed Hughes, and “not an either/or situation.” Can the district be all things to all people? I asked. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

Much more on the Talented & Gifted Wisconsin DPI complaint, here.

Madison Schools Found Non-Compliant on Wisconsin DPI Talented & Gifted Complaint

Madison School District 450K PDF and the DPI Preliminary Audit, via a kind reader’s email:

I. Introduction A.Title/topic-Talented and Gifted Compliance
B. Presenter/contact person -Sue Abplanalp, Jennifer Allen, Pam Nash and Dylan Pauly
Background information- On March 24,2011, MMSD received DPI’s initial findings in the matter ofthe TAG complaint. DPI found MMSD to be noncompliant on all four counts. The Board has forty-five days from the date of receipt ofthe initial findings to petition the state superintendent for a public hearing. If the Board does not request such a hearing, the findings will become final. Once the findings are final, regardless of whether a hearing is held, if there is a finding of noncompliance, the state superintendent may develop with the Board a plan for compliance. The plan must contain a time line for achievement of compliance that cannot exceed ninety days. An extension of the time period may be requested if extenuating or mitigating circumstances exist.
II. Summary of Current Information:
Current Status: Currently, DPI has made an initial finding of noncompliance against MMSD. While the Board is entitled to request a public hearing on the issue of compliance, the administration does not recommend this course of action. Consequently, at this time, the administration is working toward the development ofa response to DPI’s findings, which will focus on remedial steps to insure compliance.
Proposal: Staff are working on a response to the preliminary findings which we will present to the Board when completed. It is the administration’s hope that this response will serve as the foundation to the compliance plan that will be developed once the DPI findings are final. The response will include input from the TAG Advisory Committee, the District’s TAG professionals — our Coordinator and staff. A meeting to begin work one the proposed response is currently scheduled for April28, 2011 from 4:00 p.m.-5:00pm. Subsequent meetings will follow.

Much more on the Wisconsin DPI Parent Talented & Gifted complaint.
Watch Monday evening’s Madison School Board discussion of the DPI Talented & Gifted complaint, here (starts at 128:37). and here.

More on Madison’s Response to DPI Complaint

Great Madison Schools.org

In its response to the Department of Public Instruction’s request for information on its talented and gifted services, the Madison School District points out that the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has recently updated its standards for TAG programming. Now, the District argues, the NAGC standards “actually serve as validation of the District’s current practices,” including West High School’s claim that it meets the needs of talented and gifted students through differentiation within regular classrooms. We disagree.
The NAGC issued its revised standards in September, around the same time West High School area parents filed a complaint against the Madison School District for allowing West High to deny appropriate programming to academically gifted students. West has refused for years to provide alternatives to its regular core curriculum for 9th and 10th graders who demonstrate high performance capabilities in language arts and social studies.
The District writes:

Lots of related links:

AP component of MMSD high school plan is about access and equity, not “TAG”

One of the many pieces of the MMSD administration’s just-introduced high school proposal that has not been made clear is where the prominent AP component comes from. The answer is that it comes largely from a three-year federal grant, a $2.2 Advanced Placement Incentive Program grant that was awarded to the DPI in 2009. As […]

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools

greatmadisonschools.org, via a kind reader’s email:

News Release, Complaint attached

Fifty Madison School District parents filed a formal complaint on September 20, 2010, with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (“DPI”) against the Madison School District for violating State statutes for gifted education. The complaint targets Madison West High School‘s refusal to provide appropriate programs for students identified as academically gifted.

State statutes mandate that “each school board shall provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” The DPI stipulates that this programming must be systematic and continuous, from kindergarten through grade 12. Madison schools have been out of compliance with these standards since 1990, the last time the DPI formally audited the District’s gifted educational services.

“Despair over the lack of TAG services has driven Madison families out of the district,” said Lorie Raihala, a parent in the group. “Hundreds have left through open enrollment, and many have cited the desire for better opportunities for gifted students as the reason for moving their children.”

Recognizing this concern, Superintendent Dan Nerad has stated that “while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district.”

“At the secondary level, the inconsistencies are glaring,” said Raihala. “There are broad disparities among Madison’s public high schools with regard to the number of honors, advanced/accelerated, and AP courses each one offers. Also, each school imposes different requirements and restrictions on students seeking advanced courses. Surprisingly, Madison’s much touted West High School offers the fewest advanced course options for ninth and tenth graders. While the other schools offer various levels of English, science, and social science, Madison West requires all students to follow a standardized program of academic courses, regardless of their ability. This means that students with SAT/ACT scores already exceeding those of most West seniors (obtained via participation in the Northwestern University Midwest Area Talent Search program) must sit through the same courses as students working at basic and emerging proficiency levels.”

Related:

Gayle Worland:Parents file complaint over ‘talented and gifted’ school programming.

My Open Records Complaint to DA Brian Blanchard

Following up on my 10/12/2005 Open Records request regarding closed discussions (particularly the terms) of the Madison School District’s purchase of land for a new elementary school on the far west side, I recently filed the following open records complaint with District Attorney Brian Blanchard: Background: Bill Lueders Lawrie Kobza Marisue Horton Ruth Robarts

Gifted, Talented and Seperated, Deja Vu

Al Baker:

IT is just a metal door with three windows, the kind meant to keep the clamor of an elementary school hallway from piercing a classroom’s quiet. Other than paint the color of bubble gum, it is unremarkable.
But the pink door on Room 311 at Public School 163 on the Upper West Side represents a barrier belied by its friendly hue. On one side are 21 fourth graders labeled gifted and talented by New York City’s school system. They are coursing through public school careers stamped accelerated.
And they are mostly white.
On the other side, sometimes sitting for reading lessons on the floor of the hallway, are those in the school’s vast majority: They are enrolled in general or special education programs.

Related:
English 10
TAG Complaint
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Kaleem Caire should run for School Board

The Capital Times:

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire fought hard to win approval of his Madison Prep project. But the Madison School Board ultimately rejected a plan that would have steered tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into a project that board members felt lacked sufficient oversight and accountability.
The response of Caire and his fellow Madison Prep advocates was to suggest a variety of moves: the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, or perhaps a request for state intervention to allow the project to go forward without state approval.
We would suggest another approach.
Caire has succeeded in garnering a good deal of support for Madison Prep. He could capitalize on that support and make a run for the School Board.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Changing the school board would either require: patience (just two of seven seats: Lucy Mathiak, who is not running after two terms and Arlene Silveira, who apparently is seeking a third term) are up in April, 2012 or a more radical approach via the current Wisconsin method (and Oakland): recalls. Winning the two seats may not be sufficient to change the Board, given the 5-2 no vote. Perhaps the “momentum”, if realized, might sway a vote or two?
Perhaps the TAG complaint illustrates another approach, via the courts and/or different government agencies.

Is There a Gifted Gap? Gifted Education in High-Poverty Schools

Christopher Yaluma, Adam Tyner, Ph.D., Amber M. Northern, Ph.D. and Chester E. Finn, Jr. : Schools have long failed to cultivate the innate talents of many of their young people, particularly high-ability girls and boys from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. This failure harms the economy, widens income gaps, arrests upward mobility, and exacerbates civic decay […]

Tackling Inequality in Gifted-and-Talented Programs

Max Nisen, via a iind reader: In many places around the U.S., low-income and minority children are significantly underrepresented in gifted-and-talented programs. This seems to be the case whether the process for identifying gifted children relies on teacher referrals for screening, or on evaluations arranged and paid for independently by parents. So what happens when […]

Unsayable Truths About a Failing High School

Kay Hymowitz: Last week, my high school alma mater in the prosperous Montgomery County suburbs of Philadelphia went viral. A video of a student brawl injuring four security officers and eight teachers appeared on YouTube, bolstering long-whispered rumors of the district’s decline. Four students were taken into custody; one of them, 18 and charged as […]

Madison School District’s advanced learner program is still a work in progress

Amber Walker: Though the Madison Metropolitan School District revised its advanced learner program in recent years, some schools are still struggling to provide tailored classroom instruction for qualified students. The district defines advanced learners as students who demonstrate, or have the potential to demonstrate, high performance in one or more areas. MMSD contracted with the […]

Deja Vu: Madison School District Agreement with the US ED Office of Civil Rights

Last October, Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding OCR’s compliance review of access to advanced coursework by Hispanic and African-American students in the District. The resolution agreement was presented at the December 5, 2016 Instruction Workgroup meeting (agenda item 6.1): http://www.boarddocs.com/wi/mmsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AFL2QH731563 The […]

Brown M&Ms and Religious Illiteracy

Rod Dreher:: The rock band Van Halen was famous for putting a rider in their contracts requiring that a bowl of M&Ms be backstage for them, and that there be no brown M&Ms in the bowl. It sounds like typical rock star vanity, but there was actually a good reason for it. The band had […]

Fake News: Postmodernism By Another Name

Victor Davis Hanson After the election, Democrats could not explain the inexplicable defeat of Hillary Clinton, who would be, they thought, the shoo-in winner in November. Over the next three months until Inauguration Day, progressives floated a variety of explanations for the Trump win—none of them, though, mentioned that the Clinton campaign had proven uninspired, […]

Asian Americans and Ivy League Admissions

Douglas Belkin: coalition of Asian-American organizations asked the Department of Education on Monday to investigate Brown University, Dartmouth College and Yale University, alleging they discriminate against Asian-American students during the admissions process. While the population of college age Asian-Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of highly qualified Asian-American students “has increased dramatically,” […]

Facebook loses first round in suit over storing biometric data

Reuters: Facebook lost the first round in a court fight against some of its users who sued the social networking company, alleging it “unlawfully” collected and stored users’ biometric data derived from their faces in photographs.  The judge presiding over the case in a California federal court on Thursday turned down Facebook’s motion seeking dismissal of […]

Opinion: Here’s Why Tests Matter

James Piereson & Naomi Schafer Riley: Earlier this month, students for the first time took a new, and allegedly improved, SAT. The test’s developer included more-contemporary vocabulary and removed penalties for guessing the wrong answer. The changes came with a predictable outcry—complaints, for instance, that too many word problems in the math sections disadvantage some […]

U of California Accused of Favoring Non-Californians

Scott Jaschik: What did happen was a sudden spike in enrolling out-of-state undergraduates, even as demand increased for spots at the University of California — and especially at the campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles and, to a slightly lesser degree, San Diego. There has been plenty of grumbling by applicants, parents and politicians. Governor Jerry […]

College Students Have Forgotten How to Fight the System

Fredrik deBoer I can’t say that I was surprised when I heard that the latest chapter of our perpetual conversation about campus politics was playing out at Wesleyan University. Having spent my childhood there, I knew enough to know that such a controversy was always a possibility. But I must admit disappointment when I heard […]

the Department of Education as loan shark

Fredrik deBoer: Jordan Weissmann’s piece today, discussing grad student loan debt today, is a bit of a logical pretzel. The piece is set up as a complaint about the fiscal damage grad students are doing to the budget, with a headline reading “The Newest Scourge of the Federal Budget: Graduate Students.” But as Weissmann points […]

Harvard’s Chinese Exclusion Act

Kate Bachelor: Getting into Harvard is tough enough: Every year come the stories about applicants who built toilets in developing countries, performed groundbreaking lunar research, or won national fencing competitions, whatever it takes to edge out the competition. So you can imagine that the 52-year-old Florida businessman and author Yukong Zhao is incensed that gaining […]

Trigger Warning: College Kids Are Human Veal

Nick Gillespie: Abetted by idiot administrators, today’s students seem incapable of living in the real world. Every time we seem to have reached peak insanity when it comes to the intellectually constipated and socially stultifying atmosphere on today’s college campuses, some new story manages to reveal vast new and untapped reservoirs of ridiculousness. In a […]

“The Plight of History in American Schools”

Diane Ravitch writing in Educational Excellence Network, 1989: Futuristic novels with a bleak vision of the prospects for the free individual characteristically portray a society in which the dictatorship has eliminated or strictly controls knowledge of the past. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the regime successfully wages a “campaign against the Past” by banning […]

Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Erin Richards: The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools. But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, […]

Commentary on open Enrollment & the Madison school District

Chris Rickert: Of course, public schools officials will never accept a rating system that includes a failing-grade option; some things are OK for students, but not for the people who educate them. None of these initiatives is any older than 2011, when Republicans took over complete control of the state government, but parents have been […]

Commentary on Madison’s special Education and “inclusive” practices; District enrollment remains flat while the suburbs continue to grow

Pat Schneider: That was one issue that brought together family activists who formed Madison Partners for Inclusive Education [duckduckgo search] in 2003, Pugh said. “A parent in an elementary school on the west side could be seeing high-quality inclusive expert teaching with a team that ‘got it,’ and someone on the east side could be […]

The Dark Power of Fraternities

Caitlin Flanagan:

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him–under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself–to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.
Also on the deck, and also in the thrall of the night’s pleasures, was one Louis Helmburg III, an education major and ace benchwarmer for the Thundering Herd baseball team. His response to the proposed launch was the obvious one: he reportedly whipped out his cellphone to record it on video, which would turn out to be yet another of the night’s seemingly excellent but ultimately misguided ideas. When the bottle rocket exploded in Hughes’s rectum, Helmburg was seized by the kind of battlefield panic that has claimed brave men from outfits far more illustrious than even the Thundering Herd. Terrified, he staggered away from the human bomb and fell off the deck. Fortunately for him, and adding to the Chaplinesque aspect of the night’s miseries, the deck was no more than four feet off the ground, but such was the urgency of his escape that he managed to get himself wedged between the structure and an air-conditioning unit, sustaining injuries that would require medical attention, cut short his baseball season, and–in the fullness of time–pit him against the mighty forces of the Alpha Tau Omega national organization, which had been waiting for him.
It takes a certain kind of personal-injury lawyer to look at the facts of this glittering night and wrest from them a plausible plaintiff and defendant, unless it were possible for Travis Hughes to be sued by his own anus. But the fraternity lawsuit is a lucrative mini-segment of the personal-injury business, and if ever there was a deck that ought to have had a railing, it was the one that served as a nighttime think tank and party-idea testing ground for the brain trust of the Theta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega and its honored guests–including these two knuckleheads, who didn’t even belong to the fraternity. Moreover, the building codes of Huntington, West Virginia, are unambiguous on the necessity of railings on elevated decks. Whether Helmburg stumbled in reaction to an exploding party guest or to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is immaterial; there should have been a railing to catch him.
And so it was that Louis Helmburg III joined forces with Timothy P. Rosinsky, Esq., a slip-and-fall lawyer from Huntington who had experience also with dog-bite, DUI, car-repossession, and drug cases. The events of that night, laid out in Helmburg’s complaint, suggested a relatively straightforward lawsuit. But the suit would turn out to have its own repeated failures to launch and unintended collateral damage, and it would include an ever-widening and desperate search for potential defendants willing to foot the modest bill for Helmburg’s documented injuries. Sending a lawyer without special expertise in wrangling with fraternities to sue one of them is like sending a Boy Scout to sort out the unpleasantness in Afghanistan. Who knows? The kid could get lucky. But it never hurts–preparedness and all that–to send him off with a body bag.

Madison’s Lake Wobegon schools?

Chris Rickert:

Nearly 30 percent of the students at Madison’s Marquette Elementary School were classified last year as “talented and gifted,” or TAG, according to the school district.
That may not be Lake Wobegon territory — where “all the children are above average” — but it’s still pretty hard to believe.
Such alleged widespread student giftedness isn’t just the case at one district school.
Yes, there are wide variations among Madison elementary and middle schools in percentage of TAG students, but figures from the district suggest that on average districtwide, there are about twice as many TAG students as one would expect given national averages and expert opinion.
The National Association for Gifted Children estimates that about 6 percent of American school children are gifted.
The federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics put the gifted and talented number at 6.7 percent as of 2006, the most recent year for which data are available.

Much more on “talented & gifted” programs, here, including a recent parent group complaint.

Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up In Math and Science, the Best Fend for Themselves

NY Times Editorial, via a kind reader:

“Federal, state and local governments and school districts have put little effort into identifying and developing students of all racial and economic backgrounds, both in terms of intelligence and the sheer grit needed to succeed. There are an estimated three million gifted children in K-12in the United States, about 6 percent of the student population. Some schools have a challenging curriculum for them, but most do not.”
…..
In a post-smokestack age, there is only one way for the United States to avoid a declining standard of living, and that is through innovation. Advancements in science and engineering have extended life, employed millions and accounted for more than half of American economic growth since World War II, but they are slowing. The nation has to enlarge its pool of the best and brightest science and math students and encourage them to pursue careers that will keep the country competitive.
But that isn’t happening. Not only do average American students perform poorly compared with those in other countries, but so do the best students, languishing in the middle of the pack as measured by the two leading tests used in international comparisons.
On the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment test, the most recent, 34 of 65 countries and school systems had a higher percentage of 15-year-olds scoring at the advanced levels in mathematics than the United States did. The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland all had at least twice the proportion of mathematically advanced students as the United States, and many Asian countries had far more than that.
Other tests have shown that America’s younger students fare better in global comparisons than its older students do, which suggests a disturbing failure of educators to nurture good students as they progress to higher grades. Over all, the United States is largely holding still while foreign competitors are improving rapidly.
Federal, state and local governments and school districts have put little effort into identifying and developing students of all racial and economic backgrounds, both in terms of intelligence and the sheer grit needed to succeed. There are an estimated three million gifted children in K-12 in the United States, about 6 percent of the student population. Some schools have a challenging curriculum for them, but most do not.

Related: parents file talented & gifted complaint with the Madison School District.

Texas education board rejects charter school proposed for Irving

Terrence Stutz:

State Board of Education members vetoed a proposed charter school in the Dallas area Friday after complaints were raised that its operator has a history of catering to white students from more affluent families.
Board members voted, 9-6, to deny a state charter to Great Hearts Academies. The group had hoped to establish at least four campuses in the Dallas area, beginning with Irving.
The board approved a Great Hearts charter school in San Antonio last year, but that campus won’t open until next fall.
Great Hearts was one of four independent charter schools that Education Commissioner Michael Williams authorized in September, subject to the board’s approval.
The three other schools, in Austin, El Paso and San Antonio, won board approval Friday.
Board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, noted that the 15 Great Hearts charter schools in Phoenix — where the charter operator is based — have a much higher percentage of white students than the regular public schools in the Phoenix area. While 42 percent of the public school students are Hispanic, only 13 percent of the enrollment at the Great Hearts schools is Hispanic.

Michigan teachers fight unions over forced dues

Sean Higgins:

Michigan teachers are discovering that their union is determined to make it as hard as possible for them to take advantage of the state’s new right-to-work law, which prohibits workers from being forced to pay dues to a union.
Nine teachers sued the Michigan Education Association in the last week alleging unfair labor practices.
Eight teachers sued the MEA on Monday. They are being represented by the conservative Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. Their complaint alleges the union is violating the intent of the right-to-work law by only giving them a very brief period — the month of August — to drop their membership.
One of the eight, Coopersville teacher Miriam Chanski, told MEA in a May letter she was leaving the union. MEA denied her request because it was sent in too early.
She claims the union did not tell her this at the time. She only learned of the August opt-out window in September. That was when MEA informed her she would now have to pay another year’s dues.
“It surprised me that there would be more to the process — I had not heard anything else,” she told the local ABC affiliate.
It got worse for her when MEA said that if she didn’t continue to pay, they would report her to a collection agency, which would negatively affect her credit rating.

Bidding farewell to a great teacher who beat dumb ideas

Jay Matthews:

Nothing I have read in The Washington Post lately has been more lucid and bracing than Patrick Welsh’s assault on catch-phrase school reforms in the Sept. 29 edition of the Outlook section. It was vintage Welsh — detailed, angry, literate. It’s what you expect from one of our best education writers and high school teachers. He added a dash of melancholy for fans like me as we learned he had just retired after 43 years at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
My only complaint about the piece is that it did not celebrate Welsh or his school enough. It would be out of character for him to mention his own accomplishments. He did say how superb several of his colleagues on T.C. Williams’s faculty have been, but someone reading his piece too fast might think that dumb programs such as Effective Schools, SPONGE and Standard-Based Education had turned T.C. Williams into a bad school. The truth is that they failed to diminish a great school.

K-12 Governance Post Act 10: Kenosha teachers union is decertified; Madison Appears to Continue the Status Quo

Erin Richards:

The union representing Kenosha teachers has been decertified and may not bargain base wages with the district.
Because unions are limited in what they can do even if they are certified, the new status of Kenosha’s teachers union — just like the decertification of many other teachers unions in the state that did not or could not pursue the steps necessary to maintain certification in the new era of Act 10 — may be a moral blow more than anything else.
Teachers in Milwaukee and Janesville met the state’s Aug. 30 deadline to apply for recertification, a state agency representative says. Peter Davis, general counsel for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, said the Milwaukee and Janesville districts will hold recertification votes in November.
To continue as the recognized bargaining unit in the district, 51% of the union’s eligible membership must vote in favor of recertification, according to the controversial Act 10 legislation passed in 2011.
With contracts that were in place through the end of June, teachers in the three large southeastern Wisconsin districts were protected the longest from the new legislation, which limits collective bargaining, requires unions to hold annual votes to be recognized as official entities, and mandates that teachers and other public employees pay more out-of-pocket for their health care and retirement costs.
…..
“It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren’t seeking recertification, so I don’t think the KEA is an outlier or unique in this,” Brey said.
She added that certification gives the union scant power over a limited number of issues they’d like a voice in.
Sheronda Glass, the director of business services in Kenosha, said it’s a new experience for the district to be under Act 10.

Terry Flores

Contrary to some published media reports, however, the union did not vote to decertify.
In fact, no such election was ever held, according to KEA Executive Director Joe Kiriaki, who responded to a report from the Conservative Badger blog, which published an article by Milwaukee radio talk show host Mark Belling, who said he had learned that just 37 percent of the teachers had voted to reauthorize the union.
In a prepared statement, Kiriaki criticized the district for “promoting untrue information” to Belling.
Union chose to focus on other issues
Kiriaki said the union opted not to “jump through the hoops,” such as the recertification requirement, created by Act 10, the state’s relatively new law on collective bargaining.
The law, among other things required the annual re-certification of unions if they want to serve as bargaining representatives for teachers and other public workers. It also prohibits most public employees from negotiating all but base wages, limiting them to the rate of inflation.
Kiriaki cited a ruling by a Dane County Circuit Court judge on the constitutionality of Act 10, saying he believed it would be upheld.

Interestingly, Madison School District & Madison Teachers to Commence Bargaining. Far more important, in my view is addressing Madison’s long standing, disastrous reading results.
In my view, the unions that wish to serve their membership effectively going forward would be much better off addressing new opportunities, including charters, virtual, and dual enrollment services. The Minneapolis Teachers Union can authorize charters, for example.
Much more on Act 10, here.
A conversation with retired WEAC executive Director Morris Andrews.
The Frederick Taylor inspired, agrarian K-12 model is changing, albeit at a glacial pace. Madison lags in many areas, from advanced opportunities to governance diversity, dual enrollment and online opportunities. Yet we spend double the national average per student, funded by ongoing property tax increases.
An elected official recently remarked to me that “it’s as if Madison schools have been stuck in a bubble for the past 40 years”.

2012-13 MMSD WKCE Results


Tap or click to view a larger version.

Higher bar for WKCE results paints different picture of student achievement
Matt DeFour
Wisconsin student test scores released Tuesday look very different than they did a year ago, though not because of any major shift in student performance.
Similar to recent years, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results show gains in math and reading over the past five years, a persistent and growing performance gap between black and white students, and Milwaukee and Racine public school students outperforming their peers in the private school voucher program.
But the biggest difference is the scores reflect a higher bar for what students in each grade level should know and be able to do.
Only 36.2 percent of students who took the reading test last October met the new proficiency bar. Fewer than half, 48.1 percent, of students were proficient in math. When 2011-12 results were released last spring, those figures were both closer to 80 percent.
The change doesn’t reflect a precipitous drop in student test scores. The average scores in reading and math are about the same as last year for each grade level.
Instead, the change reflects a more rigorous standard for proficiency similar to what is used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is administered to a sample of students in each state every other year and is referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
The state agreed to raise the proficiency benchmark in math and reading last year in order to qualify for a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The benchmark did not rise for the language arts, science and social studies tests.
“Adjusting to higher expectations will take time and effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said. “But these are necessary changes that will ultimately help our schools better prepare all students to be college and career ready and link with work being done throughout the state to implement new standards.”
Evers also called on the Legislature to include private voucher schools in the state’s new accountability system.
He highlighted that test scores for all Milwaukee and Racine students need to improve. Among Milwaukee voucher students, 10.8 percent in reading and 11.9 percent in math scored proficient or better. Among Milwaukee public school students, it was 14.2 percent in reading and 19.7 percent in math.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program, including to such districts as Madison.
Changes in Dane County
The state previously announced how the changing bar would affect scores statewide and parents have seen their own students’ results in recent weeks, but the new figures for the first time show the impact on entire schools and districts.
In Dane County school districts, the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the test dropped on average by 42 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.
Madison schools had one of the smallest drops compared to its neighboring districts.
Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham noted schools with a higher number of students scoring in the “advanced” category experienced less of a drop. Madison’s smaller drop could reflect a higher proportion of students scoring in the top tier.
At the same time, Madison didn’t narrow the gap between minority and white student test results. Only 9 percent of black sixth-graders and only 2 percent of sixth-grade English language learners scored proficient in reading.
“It reinforces the importance of our work in the years ahead,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to work on accelerating student outcomes.”
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she hasn’t heard many complaints from parents whose students suddenly dropped a tier on the test. Like Madison and other districts across the state, Middleton-Cross Plains sent home letters bracing parents for the change.
But Lindgren fears the changing standards come at the worst time for public schools, which have faced tougher scrutiny and reduced state support.
“I’m glad that the standards have been raised by the state, because they were low, but this interim year, hopefully people won’t panic too much,” Lindgren said. “The public has been sold on the idea that we’re failing in our education system, and I just don’t believe that’s true.”
Next fall will be the last year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take the paper-and-pencil WKCE math and reading tests. Wisconsin is part of a coalition of states planning to administer a new computer-based test in the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed state budget also provides for students in grades 9-11 to take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT college and career readiness tests in future years.

Superintendent Cheatham is to be commended for her informed, intelligent and honest reaction to the MMSD’s results when compared to those of neighboring districts.
View a WKCE summary here (PDF).

“Voucher Voodoo: Smart Kids Shine Here” (Madison); A few links to consider


Tap on the image to view a larger version. Source: The Global Report Card.


Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the Madison school district’s achievement gap problems and other challenges we face. I’ve also been responding to the outlandish notion that Madison is a failing school district whose students deserve private school vouchers as their only lifeline to academic success.
At times like this, I find it helpful to remember that Madison’s schools are educating many, many students who are succeeding. Some of them are succeeding spectacularly. With apologies to those I’m overlooking, here’s a brief run-down on some of our stars –
Madison Memorial’s recently-formed science bowl team won the Wisconsin state championship in January. The team of seniors Srikar Adibhatla, Sohil Shah, Thejas Wesley and William Xiang and sophomore Brian Luo will represent Wisconsin in the National Science Bowl Championship in Washington, D.C. in April.

Related:
Credit for non-Madison School District courses and the Talented and Gifted complaint.
Census.gov on Madison’s demographics, compared to College Station, TX. 52.9% of Madison residents have a bachelor’s degree, compared to the State’s 26%. 57.5% of College Station, Texas’s residents have a college degree.
Madison High School UW-Madison and University of Wisconsin System enrollment trends 1983-2011:
East LaFollette, Memorial, West, Edgewood.
Where have all the students, gone? A look at suburban Madison enrollment changes.
National Merit Semifinalists & Wisconsin’s cut scores.
Madison’s nearly $15k per student annual spending, community support and higher education infrastructure provide the raw materials for world class public schools. Benchmarking ourselves against world leaders would seem to be a great place to begin.

Who Should Be in the Gifted Program? New York, D.C., and other cities experiment with making honors classes more inclusive.

Sarah Garland:

Starting in second grade, I took a school bus from my middle-class neighborhood to downtown Louisville, Ky., where my grade school was surrounded by public housing projects, as part of an effort to desegregate schools. The year I started there, I was identified as “gifted” and put in a separate, accelerated class, where my classmates were mostly other white boys and girls from the suburbs.
In 1975, the school system in Louisville had launched the district-wide “Advance Program,” which offered an enriched curriculum, just as the desegregation plan went into effect. All Louisville schools were required to have a mix of black and white students so that the number of black students never fell below or rose above a certain cutoff. (It varied over the years, but the range was around 20 to 40 percent.) In the Advance Program, however, the rules didn’t apply because classroom assignments within schools were exempt. The percentage of black students in the gifted program was 11 percent.
I had the choice to leave the school in fourth grade, as did my suburban peers, but most of us stayed at our inner city school because our parents liked the program so much. From second grade until my senior year in high school, my classes never had more than two black students at a time.

Related: English 10 and the talented and gifted complaint.

UW Regents panel proposes raising out-of-state enrollment

Karen Herzog:

A slightly higher percentage of students from outside Wisconsin would be allowed to enroll at University of Wisconsin System campuses for the first time in more than 40 years, starting next fall, under a compromise expected to be approved Friday by the UW Board of Regents.
A regents committee Thursday unanimously approved the compromise, raising the nonresident enrollment cap by 2.5% – from the current 25% cap to 27.5% on a three-year rolling average.
UW-Madison had proposed a nonresident enrollment cap of 30% on a rolling three-year average to help manage its enrollment. But it quickly became clear that the 30% cap wasn’t going to fly.
UW-Madison is responding to complaints that too many bright Wisconsin kids can’t get admitted to the flagship. While raising the nonresident cap, the campus also is pledging to offer 200 more freshman seats to Wisconsin residents.

Should this school be saved? The fight over Chicago’s Dyett High

Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher:

By just about any definition, Walter H. Dyett High School has failed.
Just 10 percent can pass the state math exam; barely one in six is proficient in reading. The technology lab is so ancient, some of the computers still take 3-inch floppy disks. More teens drop out than graduate.
Yet when the Chicago Board of Education announced plans to shut the place down, it sparked a community uprising.
Students, parents and teachers have staged sit-ins outside the mayor’s office; earlier this month, 10 were arrested for refusing to leave the fifth floor of City Hall. The protestors have held rallies. They’ve sued the school board. A group of students has filed a federal civil-rights complaint seeking to keep Dyett open.
Their quest to save a failed school may seem quixotic. But it is echoed in communities across the United States, as a rising anger at school closures takes hold.
The bipartisan education reform movement sweeping the nation – and promoted by President Barack Obama – calls for rating schools by their students’ test scores and then taking drastic steps to overhaul the worst performers by firing the teachers, turning the schools over to private management or shutting them down altogether.

Before a Test, a Poverty of Words

Gina Bellafante Not too long ago, I witnessed a child, about two months shy of 3, welcome the return of some furniture to his family’s apartment with the enthusiastic declaration “Ottoman is back!” The child understood that the stout cylindrical object from which he liked to jump had a name and that its absence had […]

No Appetite for Good-for-You School Lunches

Vivian Yee:

Outside Pittsburgh, they are proclaiming a strike, taking to Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. In a village near Milwaukee, hundreds staged a boycott. In a small farming and ranching community in western Kansas, they have produced a parody video. And in Parsippany, N.J., the protest is six days old and counting.
They are high school students, and their complaint is about lunch — healthier, smaller and more expensive than ever.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which required public schools to follow new nutritional guidelines this academic year to receive extra federal lunch aid, has created a nationwide version of the age-old parental challenge: persuading children to eat what is good for them.

Charges of Bias in Admission Test Policy at Eight Elite Public High Schools

Al Baker, via a kind reader’s email:

A coalition of educational and civil rights groups filed a federal complaint on Thursday saying that black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from New York City’s most selective high schools because of a single-test admittance policy they say is racially discriminatory.
The complaint, filed with the United States Education Department, seeks to have the policy found in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to change admissions procedures “to something that is nondiscriminatory and fair to all students,” said Damon T. Hewitt, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups that filed the complaint.
At issue is the Specialized High School Admissions Test, which is the sole criterion for admission to eight specialized schools that, even in the view of city officials, have been troubled by racial demographics that are out of balance.
Although 70 percent of the city’s public school students are black and Hispanic, a far smaller percentage have scored high enough to receive offers from one of the schools. According to the complaint, 733 of the 12,525 black and Hispanic students who took the exam were offered seats this year. For whites, 1,253 of the 4,101 test takers were offered seats. Of 7,119 Asian students who took the test, 2,490 were offered seats. At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.

Reading, Writing, and Rabble-Rousing Does unionization make for better teachers?

Brian Palmer:

The Chicago teacher strike seemed to be heading toward resolution on Thursday, although school probably won’t be back in session until next week. Among the teachers’ complaints was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to base evaluations largely on student test scores and to expand charter schools that hire non-union teachers. Are unionized teachers better than non-unionized teachers?
It’s not clear. Despite decades of trying, no one has come up with a perfect study design to measure the effects of unionization on teacher performance. One strategy favored by economists is to ask what happens to student outcomes when the teachers in a school district unionize. These studies don’t reflect well on unions. An oft-cited 1996 study found that the high school dropout rate in a school district increases 2.3 percentage points after its teachers unionize. The study also suggested that unionization tends to soak up a district’s financial resources: When non-union districts increase salaries and reduce class size, the dropout rate decreases. In unionized districts, however, the dropout rate is virtually impervious to increased spending. Another studied, published in 2009, was slightly kinder to unions, finding that teacher unionization had no significant impact on the dropout rate.

Madison’s Talented & Gifted Plan Revisions

Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore:

The initial TAG Plan, created by a variety of stakeholders including teachers, administrators, parents, and community members was approved by the Board of Education on August 27, 2009, and revised and approved on December 13, 2010. The Department of Public Instruction determined that the MMSD TAG Department was out of compliance at the end of May 2011. In June 2011, the current coordinator assumed duties and a new TAG Plan was written to address issues of noncompliance; the plan was approved by the BOE on August 8, 2011. An extension of one year was granted to MMSD to become compliant. The TAG End-of-Year document uses the framework of the original plan and incorporates information that addresses compliance issues as outlined in the 2011 TAG Plan. DPI has indicated that the audit will take place in the last half of September, 2012.
In the letter to Mr. Howard (August 14, 2012), DPI requested additional documentation be submitted to the DPI no later than September 7. The TAG Plan is a major piece of this documentation.

Related: Notes and links on the parent talented & gifted complaint.

NCTQ Sues UW Ed Schools over Access to Course Syllabi

Kate Walsh, via a kind reader’s email:

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Associated Press, NCTQ filed a lawsuit yesterday — a first for us — against the University of Wisconsin system.
UW campuses issued identically worded denials of our requests for course syllabi, which is one of the many sources of information we use to rate programs for the National Review of teacher preparation programs. They argue that “syllabi are not public records because they are subject to copyright” and therefore do not have to be produced in response to an open records request.
We believe that the University’s reading of the law is flawed. We are engaged in research on the quality of teacher preparation programs, and so our request falls squarely within the fair use provision of copyright law. What’s more, these documents were created at public institutions for the training of public school teachers, and so should be subject to scrutiny by the public.
You can read our complaint here.

Related Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review

Public higher education institutions in Wisconsin and Georgia–and possibly as many as five other states–will not participate voluntarily in a review of education schools now being conducted by the National Council for Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report, according to recent correspondence between state consortia and the two groups.
In response, NCTQ and U.S. News are moving forward with plans to obtain the information from these institutions through open-records requests.
In letters to the two organizations, the president of the University of Wisconsin system and the chancellor of Georgia’s board of regents said their public institutions would opt out of the review, citing a lack of transparency and questionable methodology, among other concerns.
Formally announced in January, the review will rate education schools on up to 18 standards, basing the decisions primarily on examinations of course syllabuses and student-teaching manuals.

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

Lake Wobegon has nothing on the UW-Madison School of Education. All of the children in Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town are “above average.” Well, in the School of Education they’re all A students.
The 1,400 or so kids in the teacher-training department soared to a dizzying 3.91 grade point average on a four-point scale in the spring 2009 semester.
This was par for the course, so to speak. The eight departments in Education (see below) had an aggregate 3.69 grade point average, next to Pharmacy the highest among the UW’s schools. Scrolling through the Registrar’s online grade records is a discombobulating experience, if you hold to an old-school belief that average kids get C’s and only the really high performers score A’s.
Much like a modern-day middle school honors assembly, everybody’s a winner at the UW School of Education. In its Department of Curriculum and Instruction (that’s the teacher-training program), 96% of the undergraduates who received letter grades collected A’s and a handful of A/B’s. No fluke, another survey taken 12 years ago found almost exactly the same percentage.

Madison Schools for Whites Equivalent to Singapore, Finland (!); Troller Bids Adieu

Susan Troller, Via email:

Madison schools aren’t failing, by any stretch of the imagination, for many students.
In fact, if you’re a white, middle-class family sending your children to public school here, your kids are likely getting an education that’s on a par with Singapore or Finland — among the best in the world.
However, if you’re black or Latino and poor, it’s an unquestionable fact that Madison schools don’t as good a job helping you with your grade-point average, high school graduation, college readiness or test scores. By all these measures, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students is awful.
These facts have informed the stern (and legitimate) criticisms leveled by Urban League President Kaleem Caire and Madison Prep backers.
But they doesn’t take into account some recent glimmers of hope that shouldn’t be discounted or overlooked. Programs like AVID/TOPS support first-generation college-bound students in Madison public schools and are showing some successes. Four-year-old kindergarten is likely to even the playing field for the district’s youngest students, giving them a leg up as they enter school. And, the data surrounding increasing numbers of kids of color participating in Advanced Placement classes is encouraging.
Stepping back from the local district and looking at education through a broader lens, it’s easy to see that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have aimed to legislate, bribe and punish their way toward an unrealistic Lake Wobegon world where all the students are above average.

Remarkable. Are there some excellent teachers in Madison? Certainly. Does Madison’s Administration seek best in the world results? A look at the math task force, seemingly on hold for years, is informative. The long one size fits all battle and the talented and gifted complaint are worth contemplating.
Could Madison be the best? Certainly. The infrastructure is present, from current spending of $14,963/student to the nearby UW-Madison, Madison College and Edgewood College backed by a supportive community.
Ideally, Madison (and Wisconsin) should have the courage to participate in global examinations (Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin’s Don’t). Taxpayers and parents would then know if Troller’s assertions are fact based.

Bidding Adieu to the Madison School Board; “Facts are an Obstacle to the Reform of America”

Lucy Mathiak, via a kind email:

Dear Friends,
I am writing to thank you for your encouragement and support in my decision to seek election to the MMSD Board of Education in late fall 2005. Your help in getting elected, your support during tough times, and your help in finding solutions to problems, have made a great difference to my service on the board.
I am writing to let you know that I will not seek re-election in 2012. I continue to believe that the Board of Education is one of the most important elected positions for our community and its schools, and encourage others to step forward to serve in this capacity. MMSD is facing significant challenges, and it is more important than ever that thoughtful citizens engage in the work that will be needed to preserve the traditional strengths of our public schools while helping those schools to change in keeping with the times and the families that they serve.
At the same time, I do not view school board service as a career, and believe that turnover in membership is healthy for the organization and for the district. I have been fortunate to have had an opportunity to serve on this board, and to work with many fine community organizations in that capacity. For that I am grateful.
Again, thank you for your interest, support, and collegiality.
Lucy J. Mathiak
716 Orton Ct.
Madison, WI 53703
Madison School Board
Seat #2

I am appreciative of Lucy’s tireless and often thankless work on behalf of our students.
Every organization – public or private, deteriorates. It is often easier to spend more (raise taxes), raise fees on consumers – or a “rate base”, reduce curricular quality and in general go along and get along than to seek substantive improvements. Change is hard.
Citizens who seek facts, ask difficult and uncomfortable questions are essential for strong institutions – public or private. Progress requires conflict.
Yet, very few of us are willing to step into the theatre, spend time, dig deep and raise such questions. I am thankful for those, like Lucy, who do.
Her years of activism and governance have touched numerous issues, from the lack of Superintendent oversight (related: Ruth Robarts) (that’s what a board does), the District’s $372M+ budget priorities and transparency to substantive questions about Math, reading and the endless battle for increased rigor in the Madison Schools.
In closing, I had an opportunity to hear Peter Schneider speak during a recent Madison visit. Schneider discussed cultural differences and similarities between America and Germany. He specifically discussed the recent financial crisis. I paraphrase: “If I do not understand a financial vehicle, I buy it”. “I create a financial product that no one, including me, understands, I sell it”. This is “collective ignorance”.
Schneider’s talk reminded me of a wonderful Madison teacher’s comments some years ago: “if we are doing such a great job, why do so few people vote and/or understand civic and business issues”?
What, then, is the payoff of increased rigor and the pursuit of high standards throughout an organization? Opportunity.
I recently met a technical professional who works throughout the United States from a suburban Madison home. This person is the product of a very poor single parent household. Yet, high parental standards and rigorous academic opportunities at a somewhat rural Wisconsin high school and UW-Madison led to an advanced degree and professional opportunities.
It also led to a successful citizen and taxpayer. The alternative, as discussed in my recent conversation with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is growth in those who don’t contribute, but rather increase costs on society.
Lucy will be missed.

ACT Scores Decline Somewhat in Madison, Wisconsin Slightly Up, 32% of Badger Students “Ready” for College Level Courses in 4 Areas

Matthew DeFour:

The average ACT score among the Madison School District’s 2011 graduates dipped to its lowest level in 15 years, while the gap between white and minority student scores shrank for the first time in five years.
Though Madison’s average score dipped from 24.2 to 23.9, district students still outperformed the state average of 22.2 and national average of 21.1. A perfect score on the college entrance exam is 36.
Madison’s average scores in recent years have ranged from 23.5 in 1995 to 24.6 in 2007. The average score was also 23.9 in 2003.

Amy Hetzner:

With the highest percent of students taking the ACT in state history, Wisconsin’s Class of 2011 posted an average score slightly above that from the previous year’s graduates and maintained the state’s third-place ranking among states in which the test is widespread.
Seventy-one percent of the 2011 graduates from Wisconsin private and public schools took the college admissions test, averaging a 22.2 composite score on the 36-point test, according to information to be publicly released Wednesday. The nationwide average was 21.1 on the ACT Assessment, which includes tests in English, reading, mathematics and science.
State schools superintendent Tony Evers credited the results to more high school students pursuing more demanding coursework.
“The message of using high school as preparation for college and careers is taking hold with our students,” Evers said in a news release. “Nearly three-quarters of our kids said they took the rigorous classes recommended for college entry, up from just over half five years ago.”
Even so, ACT reported that only 32% of Wisconsin’s recently graduated seniors had test results that showed they were ready for college-level courses in all four areas. Results for individual subjects ranged from 39% readiness in science to 75% in English.

A few somewhat related links:

Ruth Robarts:

When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.
On November 7 (2005), Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

“Penelope Trunk”: (Adrienne Roston, Adrienne Greenheart(

10. Homeschool. Your kids will be screwed if you don't.
The world will not look kindly on people who put their kids into public school. We all know that learning is best when it's customized to the child and we all know that public schools are not able to do that effectively. And the truly game-changing private schools cost $40,000 a year.

Notes and links on the recent, successful Madison Talented & Gifted parent complaint.

Madison School District Talented & Gifted Program Update

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

During the 2011-2012 school year, as MMSD implements Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) and the new district School Support Teams, the plan for delivery of Talented and Gifted Services will continue to be integrated and refined so that it accomplishes the following: 1) is both systemic and systematic in nature; 2) is collaborative; 3) is financially sustainable; 4) is fluid and responsive to student needs; S) offers appropriate opportunities for student growth and talent development; 6) addresses the comprehensive needs (academic, social and personal growth) of students; 7) is aligned with State regulations, professional standards, current research, and effective practice; and 8) provides goals and evaluation procedures to evaluate growth and suggest areas in which change is needed. This Plan for TAG Services describes the following:

Much more on the recent complaint regarding the Madison School District’s Talent & Gifted Update, here.

NEA vs. Teach for America

Laura Cunliffe:

Simmering tensions between the nation’s largest teachers’ union and a highly acclaimed national service program boiled over this week. The National Education Association vowed to “publicly oppose Teach for America (TFA) contracts when they are used in Districts where there is no teacher shortage or when Districts use TFA agreements to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.”
Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that recruits graduates from leading universities to teach for two years in some of the nation’s most impoverished school districts. Study after study shows that TFA’s dedicated teachers are effective in lifting achievement levels among the poor and minority students they serve. Why would the NEA want to deprive our neediest kids of good teachers?
NEA member Marianne Bratsanos of Washington, who proposed the anti-TFA resolution, complained that the volunteer group undermines schools of education and accepts money from foundations and other funders who are hostile to unions. The key complaint, however, seems to be that TFA volunteers are displacing more experienced teachers, even in districts with no teacher shortages.
Full disclosure: I’m a TFA alum. You may discount my views accordingly, but the NEA’s indictment is very far from the reality I encountered on the ground teaching Language Arts to inner city kids in Charlotte, N.C.

DPI Report: Madison Schools Are Out of Compliance on Gifted and Talented Education

Lori Raihala:

In response, Superintendent Nerad directed West to start providing honors courses in the fall of 2010. West staff protested, however, and Nerad retracted the directive.
Community members sent another petition in July, 2010-this time signed by 188 supporters-again calling for multiple measures of identification and advanced levels of core courses for 9th and 10th graders at West. This time there was no response but silence.
In the meantime, Greater Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire told us: “The law is there for a reason. Use it.”
So, after years of trying to work with the system, we filed a formal complaint with the DPI in September, 2010. Little did we know what upheaval the next months would bring. In October, the district administration rolled out its College and Career Readiness Plan; teachers at West agitated, and students staged a sit-in. In February, our new governor issued his reform proposal; protesters massed at the Capitol, and school was called off for four days.
In the meantime, the DPI conducted its investigation. Though our complaint had targeted West for its chronic, blatant, willful violations, the DPI extended its audit to the entire Madison School District.

Much more on the Madison parents complaint to the Wisconsin DPI, here.

Madison School District Final Audit Report: Gifted and Talented Standard

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

On September 20,2010, eight residents of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) filed a complaint (numerous others were listed as supporting the complaint) alleging the school district was not in compliance with the Gifted and Talented (G/T) standard, Wis. Stat. sec. 121.02(1)(t), that requires that each school board shall “provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” Based upon this complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (department) initiated an audit pursuant to Wis. Admin Code sec. PI 8.02. The purpose ofthe audit was to determine whether the school district is in compliance with Wis. Stat. sees. 121.02(1)(t) and 118.35, and Wis. Admin. Code
sec. PI 8.01(2)(t)2. The investigation focused on three core content areas: English/language arts; science; and social studies; in particular at the 9th and 1oth grade levels, per the letter of complaint.
The department informed the school district of the audit on October 13, 2010, and requested information and documentation for key components of the G/T plan. The school district provided a written response and materials on November 29, 2010 and supplemental materials on December 21 , 2010.
On January 25 and 26, 2011, a team of four department representatives conducted an on-site audit which began with a meeting that included the school board president, the district administrator, the deputy superintendent, the secondary assistant superintendent, the executive director of curriculum and assessment, the interim Talented and Gifted (TAG) administrator, an elementary TAG resource teacher, a secondary TAG resource teacher, and legal counsel. After this meeting, the team visited East, West, LaFollette, and Memorial High Schools. At each of these sites, the team conducted interviews with the building principal, school counselors, teachers, and students. At the end ofeach ofthe two days the department team met with parents.

State investigation finds problems with Madison talented and gifted program

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District is under added pressure to improve how it identifies and educates talented and gifted students after state officials found its program does not comply with state law.
In revealing shortcomings in the district’s offerings for talented and gifted (TAG) students, the Department of Public Instruction challenges the approach some schools, particularly West High School, have used in which all students learn together.
“The district is going to have to face (the question): ‘How do they reconcile their policy of inclusion with honors classes?’?” said Carole Trone, director of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth at UW-Madison. “If parents see the other districts are challenging their students more, they might send their students there.”
Developing a comprehensive system to identify TAG students — including testing and staff training — can be expensive, Trone said. Moreover, districts that don’t identify students from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds open themselves up to discrimination lawsuits, she said.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said it’s unclear how much such a revamped program will cost.

Much more on the talented & gifted complaint, here.

Madison Teachers, Inc. 2011 Candidate Questionnaire

1MB PDF, via a kind reader’s email:. Mayoral Candidate Paul Soglin participated and I found this question and response interesting:


What strategies will you introduce to reduce the 6000+ families who move in and out of Madison Public School classrooms each year?
In the last three years more children opted out of the district than all previous years in the history of the district. That contributed to the increase of children from households below the poverty line rising to over 48% of the kids enrolled.
To stabilize our enrollment we need stable families and stable neighborhoods. This will require a collaborate effort between governments, like the city, the county and the school district, as well as the private sector and the non-profits. It means opening Madison’s economy to all families, providing stable housing, and building on the assets of our neighborhoods.
One decades old problem is the significant poverty in the Town of Madison. I would work with town officials, and city of Fitchburg officials to see if we could accelerate the annexation of the town so we could provide better services to area residents.

Ed Hughes and Marj Passman, both running unopposed responded to MTI’s questions via this pdf document.

MTIVOTERS 2011 School Board Election Questionnaire
Please respond to each ofthe following questions. If you wish to add/clarifY your response, please attach a separate sheet and designate your responses with the same number which appears in the questionnaire. Please deliver your responses to MTI Headquarters (821 Williamson Street) by, February 17, 2011.
General:
If the School Board finds it necessary to change school boundaries due to enrollment, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?
Ifthe School Board finds it necessary to close a school/schools due to economic reasons, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?
If the School Board finds it necessary, due to the State-imposed revenue controls, to make further budget cuts to the 2011-12 budget, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?
IdentifY specific MMSD programs and/or policies which you believe should to be modified, re-prioritized, or eliminated, and explain why.
What should the District do to reduce violence/assure that proper discipline and safety (of the learning and working environment) is maintained in our schools?
Do you agree that the health insurance provided to District employees should be mutually selected through collective bargaining?
_ _ YES _ _ NO Explain your concerns/proposed solutions relative to the District’s efforts to reduce the “achievement gap”.
Should planning time for teachers be increased? If yes, how could this be accomplished?
Given that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards rarely supports the interests of the Madison Metropolitan School District, do you support the District withdrawing from the W ASB? Please explain your rationale.
From what sources do you believe that public schools should be funded?
a. Do you support further increasing student fees? _ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Do you support the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools’ (WAES) initiative to raise sales tax by 1% to help fund schools?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support class sizes of 15 or less for all primary grades? _ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support:
a. The use of public funds (vouchers) to enable parents to pay tuition with tax payers’ money for religious and private schools?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
b. The expansion of Charter schools within the Madison Metropolitan School District? _ _ YES _ _ NO
c. The Urban League’s proposed “Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men” as a charter school which would not be an instrumentality of the District?
_ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Do you agree that the usual and customary work ofteachers, i.e. work ofthose in MTI’s teacher bargaining unit, should not be performed by others (sub-contracted)?
_ _ YES _ _ NO List MMSD staff and Board member(s) from whom you do or would seek advice.
Is your candidacy being promoted by any organization? _ _ YES _ _ NO
If yes, please name such organization(s). Have you ever been employed as a teacher? If yes, please describe why you left the teaching profession.
Do you support the inclusion model for including Title 1, EEN and ESL students in the regular education classroom? Why/why not?
What grouping practices do you advocate for talented and gifted (TAG) students?
Aside from limitations from lack ofadequate financial resources, what problems to you feel exist in meeting TAG students’ needs at present, and how would you propose to solve these problems?
The Board ofEducation has moved from the development ofpolicy to becoming involved in implementation of policy; i.e. matters usually reserved to administration. Some examples are when it:
a. Decided to hear parents’ complaints about a teacher’s tests and grading. b. Decided to modifY the administration’s decision about how a State Statute should be implemented.
Do you believe that the Board should delegate to administrators the implementation of policy which the Board has created?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you believe that the Board should delegate to administrators the implementation of State Statutes? _ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support the Board exploring further means to make their meetings more efficient? _ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Do you support a merit pay scheme being added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement _ _ YES _ _ _ NO
If yes, based on which performance indicators?
Do/did/will your children attend private or parochial schools during their K-12 years? Ifno, and ifyou have children, what schools have/will they attend(ed)?
_ _ YES _ _ NO If you responded “yes”, please explain why your child/children attended private parochial schools.
Legislation
Will you introduce and vote for a motion which would direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation to eliminate the revenue controls on public schools and return full budgeting authority to the School Board?
_ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation to prohibit the privatization ofpublic schools via the use oftuition tax credits (vouchers) to pay tuition with taxpayers’ money to private or religious schools?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will maintain or expand the benefit level of the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act?
_ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation which will increase the retirement formula multiplier from 1.6% to 2% for teachers and general employees, i.e. equal that of protective employees?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will forbid restrictions to free and open collective bargaining for the selection ofinsurance for public employees (under Wis. Stat. 111.70), including the naming ofthe insurance carrier?
_ _ YES
_ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will guarantee free and open collective bargaining regarding the establishment of the school calendar/school year, including when the school year begins?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsiu Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation to forbid the work of employees organized under Wis. Stat. 111.70 (collective bargaining statute) to be subcontracted?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to seek passage of legislation which will require full State funding of any State-mandated program?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to seek passage oflegislation which will provide adequate State funding of public education?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support a specific school finance reform plan (e.g., School Finance Network (SFN), Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES), Andrews/Matthews Plan)?
Why/why not? Your Campaign:
Are you, or any of your campaign committee members, active in or supportive (past or present) of the “Get Real”, “ACE”, “Vote No for Change” or similar organizations?
Name ofCampaign Committee/Address/Phone #/Treasurer. List the members ofyour campaign committee.

‘Embedded honors’ program has issues

Mary Bridget Lee:

The controversy at West High School continues about the Madison School District’s new talented and gifted program. Students, parents and teachers decry the plan, pointing to the likelihood of a “tracking” system and increasingly segregated classes.
While I am in agreement with them here, I must differ when they mistakenly point to the current “embedded honors” system as a preferable method for dealing with TAG students.
The idea itself should immediately raise red flags. Teaching two classes at the same time is impossible to do well, if at all. Forcing teachers to create twice the amount of curriculum and attempt to teach both within a single context is unrealistic and stressful for the educators.
The system creates problems for students as well. There is very little regulation in the execution of these “embedded honors” classes, creating widely varying experiences among students. By trying to teach to two different levels within one classroom, “embedded honors” divides teachers’ attention and ultimately impairs the educational experiences of both groups of students.
While the concerns raised about Superintendent Dan Nerad’s plan are legitimate, “embedded honors” as a solution is not.

Lots of related links:

Madison Schools will press ahead with High School honors classes despite protests

Matthew DeFour:

Despite lingering concerns from some parents, students and teachers, the Madison School District will introduce 9th and 10th grade honors classes next fall at West High School — changes that prompted a student protest last fall.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said he discussed with staff over the weekend the possibility of not introducing the honors classes after school board members and parents raised questions at a meeting Thursday night.
Nerad said the decision comes down to following the district’s talented-and-gifted plan, which called for offering honors classes at all high schools starting in this current school year.
“This has already been put off a year,” Nerad said in an interview Monday. “We have an obligation to move forward with what’s been identified in the TAG plan.”
On Friday, 18 West parents sent a letter to the district asking that the honors classes be delayed.

Lots of related links:

More here.

Response to WSJ Article: More Background, Additional Information, Long History of Advocacy

Lorie Raihala, via email

On Sunday, November 7, the Wisconsin State Journal featured a front-page article about the Madison School District’s Talented and Gifted education services: “TAG, they’re it.” The story describes parents’ frustration with the pace of reform since the Board of Education approved the new TAG Plan in August, 2009. It paints the TAG Plan as very ambitious and the parents as impatient-perhaps unreasonable-to expect such quick implementation.
The article includes a “Complaint Timeline” that starts with the approval of the TAG Plan, skips to the filing of the complaint on September 20, and proceeds from there to list the steps of the DPI audit.
Unfortunately, neither this timeline nor the WSJ article conveys the long history leading up to the parents’ complaint. This story did not start with the 2009 TAG Plan. Rather, the 2009 TAG Plan came after almost two decades of the District violating State law for gifted education.
To provide better background, we would like to add more information and several key dates to the “Complaint Timeline.”
November 2005: West High School administrators roll out their plan for English 10 at a PTSO meeting. Most of the 70 parents in attendance object to the school eliminating English electives and imposing a one-size-for-all curriculum on all students. Parents ask administrators to provide honors sections of English 10. They refuse. Parents ask administrators to evaluate and fix the problems with English 9 before implementing the same approach in 10th grade. They refuse. Parents appeal to the BOE to intervene; they remain silent. Meanwhile, parents have already been advocating for years to save the lone section of Accelerated Biology at West.

Madison grapples with how to serve ‘Talented and Gifted’

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

Three times a week, Van Hise Elementary fifth-grader Eve Sidikman and two fellow students from her school board a bus bound for GEMS, the Madison school district’s “Growing Elementary Math Students” program for students whose math abilities are so high they aren’t challenged in a standard classroom.
Eve’s bus also makes the rounds to Randall and Thoreau before pulling up to the curb at Shorewood Elementary, where Eve and her GEMS classmates have a two-hour math session taught by a member of the district’s Talented and Gifted staff.
“She teaches it in a creative and fun way,” Eve, who was placed in GEMS after her mother sought out and paid for a national test that proved Eve was capable of acing eighth-grade math, said of her teacher. “I think she’s preparing us for our middle school years well.”
The Madison School district is grappling with how best to serve students deemed “Talented and Gifted,” or TAG in district shorthand — partly to stem a talent drain through open enrollment, partly to satisfy a vocal group of dissatisfied parents, and partly to find more Eves who don’t necessarily have a family with the financial means, determination and know-how to capitalize on their student’s untapped talents.
District critics say change is happening too slowly — something Superintendent Dan Nerad admits — and programs like GEMS are few and far between. Advocates also acknowledge, however, there is skepticism of gifted services among both the public and educators at a time when so many students fail to meet even minimal standards.

Lots of related links:

Watch, listen or read an interview with UW-Madison Education Professor Adam Gamoran. Gamoran was interviewed in Gayle Worland’s article.

The Backstory on the Madison West High Protest

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

IV. The Rollout of the Plan: The Plotlines Converge
I first heard indirectly about this new high school plan in the works sometime around the start of the school year in September. While the work on the development of the plan continued, the District’s responses to the various sides interested in the issue of accelerated classes for 9th and 10th grade students at West was pretty much put on hold.
This was frustrating for everyone. The West parents decided they had waited long enough for a definitive response from the District and filed a complaint with DPI, charging that the lack of 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes at West violated state educational standards. I imagine the teachers at West most interested in this issue were frustrated as well. An additional complication was that West’s Small Learning Communities grant coordinator, Heather Lott, moved from West to an administrative position in the Doyle building, which couldn’t have helped communication with the West teachers.
The administration finally decided they had developed the Dual Pathways plan sufficiently that they could share it publicly. (Individual School Board members were provided an opportunity to meet individually with Dan Nerad and Pam Nash for a preview of the plan before it was publicly announced, and most of us took advantage of the opportunity.) Last Wednesday, October 13, the administration presented the plan at a meeting of high school department chairs, and described it later in the day at a meeting of the TAG Advisory Committee. On the administration side, the sense was that those meetings went pretty well.
Then came Thursday, and the issue blew up at West. I don’t know how it happened, but some number of teachers were very upset about what they heard about the plan, and somehow or another they started telling students about how awful it was. I would like to learn of a reason why I shouldn’t think that this was appallingly unprofessional behavior on the part of whatever West teachers took it upon themselves to stir up their students on the basis of erroneous and inflammatory information, but I haven’t found such a reason yet.

Lots of related links:

Notes and Links on the Madison West High School Student Sit-in

Gayle Worland:

Sitting cross-legged on the ground or perched high on stone sculptures outside the school, about a quarter of West High’s 2,086 students staged a silent 37-minute sit-in Friday morning outside their building to protest a district proposal to revamp curriculum at the city’s high schools.
The plan, unveiled to Madison School District teachers and parents this week, would offer students in each high school the chance to pick from advanced or regular classes in the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies. Students in the regular classes could also do additional work for honors credit.
Designed to help the district comply with new national academic standards, the proposal comes in the wake of a complaint filed against the district by parents in the West attendance area arguing the district fails to offer adequate programs for “talented and gifted” ninth and 10th grade students at West. The complaint has prompted an audit by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Susan Troller:

Okay, everyone, remember to breathe, and don’t forget to read.
A draft copy of possible high school curriculum changes got what could be gently characterized as a turbulent response from staff and students at West High School. Within hours of the release of a proposal that would offer more advanced placement options in core level courses at local high schools, there was a furious reaction from staff and students at West, with rumors flying, petitions signed and social media organizing for a protest. All in all, the coordination and passion was pretty amazing and would have done a well-financed political campaign proud.
Wednesday and Thursday there was talk of a protest walk-out at West that generated interest from over 600 students. By Friday morning, the march had morphed into a silent sitdown on the school steps with what looked like 200 to 300 students at about 10:50 a.m. when I attended. There were also adult supporters on the street, a media presence and quite a few police cars, although the demonstration was quiet and respectful. (Somehow, I don’t think the students I saw walking towards the Regent Market or sitting, smoking, on a stone wall several blocks from school, were part of the protest).

TJ Mertz has more as does Lucy Mathiak.
Lots of related links:

Uproar at West High over Madison School District’s Curricular Reform Proposal

Lorie Raihala:

There’s been a great deal of misinformation and angry speculation flying around West High regarding the District’s High School Curricular Reform proposal.
On Tuesday, District administrators unveiled their plan for high school curricular reform at meeting with nearly 200 educators from all four high schools. Several parents attended the subsequent TAG Advisory Committee meeting, during which they also revealed an overview of the plan to this group.
I attended the TAG Advisory meeting. As I understand it, this plan involves increasing the number of accelerated and AP courses and expanding access to these options.
When teachers at West got news of this plan, many were enraged at not being included in its development. Further, many concluded that the District plans to replace West’s electives with AP courses. They’ve expressed their concerns to students in their classes, and kids are riled up. Students plan to stage a walk-out on Friday, during which they will walk down to the Doyle Building and deliver a petition to Superintendent Nerad protesting the proposed reforms.

Lots of related links:

Reader complains about Hispanic students who take AP Spanish

Jay Matthews:

Early last Monday , while I was still in bed and wondering why the “Today” show had gotten so tabloidish, I was slammed on my washingtonpost.com blog by a reader who did not like my column about Doris Jackson, the principal at Wakefield High School in Arlington County.
It wasn’t Jackson who bothered the commenter, but my praise of the school’s strong performance on Advanced Placement tests. He had a complaint that has often puzzled me: Hispanic students who take AP Spanish, and the schools that let them, are getting away with something, he suggested.
“It is because of the Internet that we know that about half the students in Wakefield are Hispanic,” he said. “We also know that the AP test that they are taking, which has falsely massaged these stats, is the Spanish Advanced Placement test. Take away that fabrication of academic performance, and the true percentage of AP tests passed plummets.”

Harvard’s Hollow Core

“The philosophy behind the core is that educated people are not those who have read many books and have learned many facts but rather those who could analyze facts if they should ever happen to encounter any, and who could ‘approach’ books if it were ever necessary to do so.”

Caleb Nelson ’88 (Mathematics) writing in The Atlantic Monthly, September 1990:

Even before Harvard’s Core Curriculum made its debut, in 1979, Saturday Review hailed it as “a quiet revolution.” The magazine was wrong on both counts: not only was the core unrevolutionary but it rapidly became one of the loudest curricula in America. Time, Newsweek, and other popular periodicals celebrated the new program, which required undergraduates to take special courses designed to reveal the methods–not the content–of the various academic disciplines. “Not since…1945,” The Washington Post said, “had the academic world dared to devise a new formula for developing ‘the educated man.'” The reform was front-page news for The New York Times, and even network television covered it. Media enthusiasm continues today, with Edward Fiske, the former education editor of The New York Times advising readers of The Fiske Guide to Colleges: “Back in the mid-1970s Harvard helped launch the current curriculum reform movement, and the core curriculum that emerged ranks as perhaps the most exciting collection of academic offerings in all of American higher education.”
The core did indeed start a movement. A 1981 report issued by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching spoke of “the Harvard lead” and recommended a general-education program that put more emphasis on “the shared relationships common to all people” than on any particular facts. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill soon adopted the Harvard approach, and other schools have instituted programs that stress skills over facts. The structures of these programs vary, but the Harvard core’s singular influence is suggested by Ernest Boyer’s 1987 book College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. Boyer’s survey of academic deans at colleges and universities nationwide found that the Harvard core was the most frequently mentioned example of a successful program of general education.
For their part, Harvard officials seem delighted with the program. A. Michael Spence, who just finished a six-year term as dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, has labeled it “a smash hit”; President Derek Bok has heralded its “enormous success.” Indeed, Bok, who will step down next year after two decades at the helm, said in 1983, when the faculty approved the continuation of the core, that the development of the program had given him more satisfaction than any other project undertaken during his presidency. In 1985 the members of Harvard’s chief governing board showed that they had no complaints either when the elected the core’s architect, Henry Rosovsky, to their number. (Rosovsky, who preceded Spence as dean of the faculty, has now been appointed acting dean while Harvard searches for Spence’s permanent replacement.) The program recently marked its tenth anniversary, and no fundamental changes are on the horizon.
Forty-five years ago Harvard had a clear idea of its mission. In 1945 it published a 267-page book laying out goals for educators, with the hope of giving American colleges and secondary schools a “unifying purpose and idea.” The thrust of this volume, titled General Education in a Free Society but nicknamed “the Redbook,” was that educational institutions should strive to create responsible democratic citizens, well versed in the heritage of the West and endowed with “the common knowledge and the common values on which a free society depends.” As James Bryant Conant, then the president of Harvard, once summed up his goal, “Our purpose is to cultivate in the largest possible number of our future citizens an appreciation of both the responsibilities and the benefits which come to them because they are Americans and are free.”
To accomplish this goal at Harvard, the Redbook recommended that every undergraduate be required to take two full-year survey courses, tentatively called “Great Texts of Literature” and “Western Thought and Institutions,” and a full-year course on the principles of either the physical or the biological sciences. The Harvard faculty balked at this specific program, but it endorsed the Redbook’s essence. In each of three areas–the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences–it established a short list of approved courses. The general education program was first required in the fall of 1949 and was fully phased in two years later, when all entering students were required to do two semesters of approved coursework in each area.

Stop Sending Sick Kids to School

Valerie Strauss:

Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you have sent a child to school when you have suspected (I’m being polite here) that he/she was not well and might be contagious?
Maybe it will help if I tell you that my hand is up.
I know that you had your excuses: Your son didn’t have fever when you dropped him off at school at 8 a.m.–even if the nurse says he has 102 degrees Fahrenheit an hour later… You thought your daughter was sneezing and coughing because of her allergies… It is sometimes hard to tell when your kid’s physical complaint is an excuse to get out of a test.
I believe all of that. And I also believe that some people will keep sending their kids to school sick even if the secretary of Health and Human Services personally comes to their door and begs them not to.
But for those of us who are capable of changing our behavior, this is the time. Here’s why:

A story from the trenches — send me more!; DAVID STEINER ELECTED COMMISSIONER OF EDUC FOR NY; As Charter Schools Unionize; Must unions always block innovation in public schools?; NEA Discovers It Is a Labor Union; So You Want to Be a Teacher for America?

1) If you read anything I send out this year, let this be it. One of my friends responded to the survey I sent around a couple of weeks ago by emailing me this story of his experience as a TFA teacher in the South Bronx a decade ago (though he’s no longer there, he is still (thankfully) very much involved with educating disadvantaged kids). It is one of the most powerful, heart-breaking, enraging things I have ever read — and perfectly captures what this education reform struggle is all about. Stories like this about what REALLY goes on in our failing public schools need to be told and publicized, so please share yours with me:

Whitney,
Thanks so much for putting this survey together. It brought back some memories well beyond the few questions about what it was like to teach in the South Bronx with TFA back in the late nineties. I want to emphasize here that I no longer teach in the Bronx, so I have little idea how things have changed and have seen the current Administration take a number of important steps that may be making a great impact. I’m not close enough to the ground to know, but my guess is that there are still plenty of schools in the Bronx and in every other low-income community in the country that reflect some of the miserable stuff I saw in my school. You should really start collecting a book of stories like these. Among all the people I know who’ve done TFA, these stories are just a few among many sad ones.
As I filled out the survey, I was first reminded of the art teacher in our school. She was truly a caricature of bad teaching. Like something out of the movies. She spent almost every minute of every day screaming at the top of her lungs in the faces of 5-8 year olds who had done horrible things like coloring outside the lines. The ART teacher! Screaming so loud you could hear her 2-3 floors away in a decades old, solid brick building. When she heard I was looking for an apt, she sent me to an apt broker friend of hers. I told the friend I wanted to live in Washington Heights. “Your mother would be very upset with me if I let you go live with THOSE PEOPLE. We fought with bricks and bats and bottles to keep them out of our neighborhoods. Do you see what they have done to this place?” This same attitude could be heard in the art teacher’s screams, the administration’s ambivalence towards the kids we were supposed to be educating and the sometimes overt racism of the people in charge. The assistant principal (who could not, as far as I could tell, do 4th grade math, but offered me stop-in math professional development for a few minutes every few months with gems like “these numbers you see here to the left of the zero are negative numbers. Like when it is very cold outside.”) once told me “I call them God’s stupidest people” referring to a Puerto Rican woman who was blocking our way as we drove to another school. She also once told me I needed to put together a bulletin board in the hallway about Veteran’s Day. I told her we were in the middle of assembling an Encyclopedia on great Dominican, Puerto Rican and Black leaders (all of my students were Dominican, Black or Puerto Rican). “Mr. ____, we had Cin-co de May-o, and Black History Month, and all that other stuff. It is time for the AMERICAN Americans.”
Not everyone in the school was a racist. There were many hard working teachers of all ethnicities who did not reflect this attitude at all. But the fact that the leadership of the school and a number of the most senior teachers was either utterly disdainful of the students they taught, or has completely given up on the educability of the kids, had a terrible effect on overall staff motivation. And many of the well-meaning teachers were extremely poorly prepared to make a dent in the needs of the students even if they had been well led. The Principal told more than one teacher there that “as long as they are quiet and in their seats, I don’t care what else you do.” This was on the day this person was HIRED. This was their first and probably last instruction. He never gave me a single instruction. Ever. And I was a new teacher with nothing but TFA’s Summer Institute under my belt. The Principal proceeded to get a law degree while sitting in his office ignoring the school. When we went to the Assistant Superintendent to report that the school was systematically cheating on the 3rd grade test (i.e., the third grade team met with the principal and APs, planned the cheating carefully, locked their doors and covered their windows and gave answers) she told the principal to watch his back. A few months later, inspectors came from the state. After observing our mostly horrible classes for a full day, they told us how wonderful we were doing and that they had just come down to see what they could replicate in other schools to produce scores like ours. And the list goes on and on.
Like when I asked the principal to bring in one of the district’s special education specialists to assess two of my lowest readers, both of whom had fewer than 25 sight-words (words they could recognize on paper) in the 3rd grade, he did. She proceeded to hand one of the students a list of words that the child couldn’t read and tell her to write them over again. Then she went to gossip with the Principal. After explaining to him in gory detail, IN FRONT OF THE STUDENT, that she had just been “dealing with a case where a father had jumped off a roof nearby and committed double-suicide with his 8 year old daughter in his arms”, she collected the sheet with no words on it, patted the child on the head and left. No IEP was filed nor was I allowed to pursue further action through official channels (I lobbied the mother extensively on my own). I never asked for her to come back to assess the other student.
Our Union Rep was said to have tried to push another teacher down a flight of stairs. The same Union Rep, while I was tutoring a child, cursed out a fellow teacher in the room next door at the top of her lungs so the child I was tutoring could hear every word. When I went to address her about it, the other teacher had to restrain the Rep as she threatened to physically attack me. And when the cheating allegations were finally take up by city investigators, the same Union Rep was sent to a cushy desk job in the district offices. I hear that most of the people I’m referencing here are long gone now, and some of them actually got pushed out of the system, but how rare can this story really be given the pitiful results we see from so many of our nation’s poorest schools and how far the system goes to protect horrible teachers and administrators like the ones I worked with?
At the same time as all of this was happening, by the way, the few good teachers in the building often became beaten down and disillusioned. One of the best in my building was consistenly punished for trying to make her corner of the school a better place for learning. They put her in a basement corner with no ventilation, no windows and nothing but a 6-foot-high cubicle-style partition separating her from the other 5 classrooms in the basement. After fighting the good fight she went to teach in the suburbs. When I got a financial firm to donate 20 computers, the principal said he didn’t have the resources to get them setup for use and refused to allow them into the school. When I had my students stage a writing campaign to get the vacant lot behind the building turned into a playground, the principal wanted me silenced.
The saddest thing about the whole damn mess was that our K-3 kids still REALLY WANTED TO LEARN. Every day they came eager for knowledge. And every day this cabal of cynicism, racism and laziness did everything within their powers to drain it out of them. It was unreal. Don’t get me wrong. There were some good teachers there. And some well meaning, but poor teachers. But in many classrooms, the main lesson learned was that school became something to dread, many adults thought you were capable of very little, and some adults couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger.
I hope if any of the good, hard-working teachers who fought so hard to rid the school of this mess read this, they’ll know I’m not lumping them in with the rest. But the problem was, when I addressed the worst practices in the school at a staff meeting, the bad teachers laughed and the good teachers took it the hardest and thought I was criticizing them.
Thanks again for the survey. Let’s make these stories known.

Plans to reform the Italian school system run into criticism

The Economist:

TALY may be facing recession, but for Siggi, a textile firm near Vicenza in the north-east of the country, 2009 offers the promise of unprecedented growth. Siggi is the biggest producer of grembiuli, or school smocks. Once universal in Italian primary schools, they were becoming as outdated as ink-wells. But in July the education minister, Mariastella Gelmini, backed the reintroduction of grembiuli to combat brand- and class-consciousness among schoolchildren. Siggi’s output this year has almost sold out and its chairman, Gino Marta, says that “next year could see an out-and-out boom.”
The decision on whether pupils should wear the grembiule has been left to head teachers. It does not figure in either of the two education bills that have been introduced by Ms Gelmini. But it has become a symbol of her efforts to shake up Italian education. Her critics argue that these are a vain attempt to turn back the clock; her supporters see them as a necessary first step to a more equitable, efficient system.
On October 30th the opposition she has aroused will culminate in a one-day teachers’ strike. The union’s main complaint is a programme of cuts aimed at saving almost €8 billion ($11 billion). It includes the loss by natural wastage of 87,000 teachers’ jobs over the three academic years to 2012 and the return to a system in which just one teacher is allotted to each year of elementary school.

24/7 School Reform

Paul Tough:

In an election season when Democrats find themselves unusually unified on everything from tax policy to foreign affairs, one issue still divides them: education. It is a surprising fault line, perhaps, given the party’s long dominance on the issue. Voters consistently say they trust the Democrats over the Republicans on education, by a wide margin. But the split in the party is real, deep and intense, and it shows no signs of healing any time soon.
On one side are the members of the two huge teachers’ unions and the many parents who support them. To them, the big problem in public education is No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law. Teachers have many complaints about the law: it encourages “teaching to the test” at the expense of art, music and other electives, they say; it blames teachers, especially those in inner-city schools, for the poor performance of disadvantaged children; and it demands better results without providing educators with the resources they need.
On the other side are the party’s self-defined “education reformers.” Members of this group — a loose coalition of mayors and superintendents, charter-school proponents and civil rights advocates — actually admire the accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind, although they often criticize the law’s implementation. They point instead to a bigger, more systemic crisis. These reformers describe the underperformance of the country’s schoolchildren, and especially of poor minorities, as a national crisis that demands a drastic overhaul of the way schools are run. In order to get better teachers into failing classrooms, they support performance bonuses, less protection for low-performing teachers, alternative certification programs to attract young, ambitious teachers and flexible contracts that could allow for longer school days and an extended school year. The unions see these proposals as attacks on their members’ job security — which, in many ways, they are.
Obama’s contention is that the traditional Democratic solution — more money for public schools — is no longer enough. In February, in an interview with the editorial board of The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee, he called for “a cultural change in education in inner-city communities and low-income communities across the country — not just inner-city, but also rural.” In many low-income communities, Obama said, “there’s this sense that education is somehow a passive activity, and you tip your head over and pour education in somebody’s ear. And that’s not how it works. So we’re going to have to work with parents.”

Madison La Follette Principal Joe Gothard helped turn around his alma mater

Tamira Madsen:

John Broome lasted just four months as principal of La Follette High School.
Under pressure due to escalating fighting at the 1,710-student east side school and hearing far-reaching complaints from parents and staff over his management style, Broome resigned in December 2006. Veteran district administrator Loren Rathert came out of retirement to finish the school year as interim principal.
So when Joe Gothard took over as principal last September, it was no secret that he was entering a difficult situation.
“Actually it was really bad,” says Jamison Vacek, a member of a Lancer senior class that has had four principals in four years. “There were fights almost every day at the school when we had those other principals.”
But ask students, staff and observers about La Follette now, and there seems a consensus that Gothard has helped put the school on the right path.

Much more on La Follette here.

On Madison Boundary Changes

Dear Board,
As the opening of a new school is coming close, I was surprised to some extent that the plans were changed with such a short amount of time left before the new year.
So………..I dug up my West Side Long Term Planning Binder and reviewed all the data presented to us, as a member of that committee, and remembered the HOURS we spent debating and reviewing the pros and cons of each plan. I believe this is a very hard process and I am sad it is being altered at this late date.
I think one thing many of us felt on the Long Range Planning Committee was even with the new school and addition to Leopold we did not devise a Long Term Plan. My #1 suggestion to the board would be to revisit the plan of “making the map look better” and balancing the income levels but TO MAKE IT A LONG TERM plan and say in 6 years this is what we are going to do. (and stick to it) I think when you spring it on families that in a few months Johnny has to switch schools, we parents are too invested and comfortable with the school and protest the change. But if a 6 Year Plan was in place with some options to start at the new school, grandfather for a couple of years the protest would be great but families would have lots of time to accept the change and deal with it. It would also be a LONG TERM PLAN.

A Few Words on Sports

Sports provide many opportunities for students, often well beyond the physical effort, competition and team building skills. These two articles provide different perspectives on sports, particularly the climate around such activities and the people who give so much time to our next generation.
Matthew Defour:

The Dane County Sheriff ‘s Office has fired Lt. Shawn Haney because he released to the Waunakee School District a report on a September underage drinking party allegedly involving Waunakee High School students.
Lester Pines, attorney for the 21-year veteran of the department who has no previous disciplinary record, said the termination was based on an ethics violation resulting from a “conflict of interest. ”
The sheriff ‘s report described a Sept. 30 incident that led to five people, including a member of the Waunakee High School football team, being charged with various misdemeanors. According to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 13, a witness told sheriff ‘s deputies investigating the party that “the majority of the Waunakee High School football team ” was at the party.
Waunakee School District Superintendent Charles Pursell did not return messages left Tuesday. He previously said several students, including football players, were disciplined in connection with the party and an elementary school teacher ‘s aide accused of hosting the party resigned. He also has said players weren ‘t disciplined before an important playoff game because the district ‘s investigation had not yet determined that any of them attended the party.

Bob Gosman:

The coaching lifer, much like the three-sport varsity athlete, is on its way to extinction.
But walk into a Wisconsin Lutheran boys basketball practice, and it’s obvious there is plenty of life left in that team’s 62-year-old coach.
It has been quite a season for Dale Walz and the Vikings (4-1). Walz picked up his 500th career victory Dec. 7 when the Vikings topped Hartford, 58-47. More good news came Sunday when he learned he will be enshrined in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame next October.
Walz, in his 35th year as a coach at the prep level, enjoys the game as much as ever. The Vikings play host to Slinger in a big Wisconsin Little Ten Conference game tonight at 7:30.
“I’ve known since college I wanted to be a high school basketball coach,” Walz said. “The challenge is always there. There’s not a day that goes by at any time of the year when I don’t think about basketball.”
Walz, an assistant principal at Wisconsin Lutheran, has remained true to himself while making subtle adjustments to how the game and kids have changed since he ran his first practice at Lakeside Lutheran in 1973.
“He’s still intense, but everybody mellows a little,” said Ryan Walz, Walz’s second-oldest son and the Vikings’ junior varsity coach. “He’s changed with the kids, which is part of the reason he’s coached as long as he has.”

I learned a number of things from my coaches many (!) years ago – including Walz. Those include:

  • the benefit of persistence and a willingness to keep on when most others give up, (I consider this an invaluable lesson),
  • Drive, sometimes bordering on fanaticism 🙂
  • The ability to push your body far beyond what was previously possible – and why that is important for one’s self confidence,
  • Competing against the best is the fastest route to improvement,
  • Duplicity, that is; things are not always black and white. The Waunakee story above reminded me of the fog that is athletic conduct rules (or, cheatingmore), something important to understand as one travels through life,
  • Growing up: the minute I realized that the NFL or NBA was not in my future, I became more interested in lifelong pursuits, including academics.

Looking back to the 1970’s, I am astonished at the level of time and effort my coaches put into a ragtag group of kids. Creating winners out of such raw material is an art.
Update: Susan Lampert Smith:

Boy, that Homecoming drinking party in Waunakee has a hangover that won’t go away.
So far, it’s cost the jobs of a Waunakee teacher’s aide, at whose home the party was allegedly held, and that of a 22-year veteran of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, who was apparently fired ratting out the miscreants to the WIAA. Of course, that might have been because his son played for the football team of Waunakee’s arch rival, DeForest.
There are some lessons to be drawn from this fiasco: First, it seems that high school sports are just a little too important to people who are old enough to know better.
DeForest wasn’t the only Badger Conference town where people were rubbing their hands together in glee over rumors that, as one witness told the cops, “the majority of the Waunakee High School football team” was at the party. The celebrants hoped the players would get punished and miss some games. But really, why celebrate an event that could have cost lives in drunken-driving crashes?

Minneapolis School District Aims for a New Start

Catherine Gewertz:

The Minneapolis school district has been struggling in the past few years with low student achievement, declining enrollment, money shortages, and frequent leadership changes. Now, its leaders are staking their hopes on a new strategic plan to help revitalize the system and rebuild public confidence.
At a meeting last week, the school board adopted a set of nine recommendations drawn from the plan 36K PDF. They form a broad outline for the district as it addresses complaints that have prompted hundreds of city families to sign their children up for private, charter, and nearby suburban schools.
The recommendations include raising expectations and academic rigor for students, correcting practices that perpetuate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, building a stronger corps of principals and teachers, and shoring up the district’s financial health.
Minneapolis’ strategic plan still must be shaped into concrete steps to be implemented in the coming months, a process made tougher by next year’s projected $11 million shortfall in the roughly $650 million budget.

West High / Regent Neighborhood Crime Discussion

Parents, staff and community officials met Wednesday night to discuss a number of recent violent incidents at and near Madison West High School [map]
I took a few notes during the first 60 minutes:
Madison Alders Robbie Webber and Brian Solomon along with James Wheeler (Captain of Police – South District), Luis Yudice (Madison School District The Coordinator of Safety And Security), Randy Boyd (Madison Metro Security) and West Principal Ed Holmes started the meeting with a brief summary of the recent incidents along with a brief school climate discussion:
James Wheeler:

Police beat officer and Educational Resource Office (ERO) patrol during West’s lunch period.
“There have been complaints from the houses around the school” so MPD increased patrols to “make a statement last week”.
Still a relatively safe neighborhood.
3 arrests at Homecoming.
Made a drug dealing arrest recently.
People do see drug dealing going on and have reported it.
There have been additional violent incidents, especially at the Madison Metro transfer points

Ed Holmes

Behavior is atypical of what we have seen on the past . Perpetrators are new to West.
Emphasized the importance of a safe learning environment.
Make sure there are police and school consequences and that they are severe. These crimes are unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

Randy Boyd (Madison Metro)


60+ bus runs daily for the school system.
There have been some serious fights at the transfer points. Cameras are in place there.
Main problem is confidentiality due to the students age. Can track them via bus passes.
Adding DSL so that the police precinct can monitor the transfer points. Incidents are about the same as last year but the numbers are going up.
Baptist church elders have helped patrol the South Transfer Point. We are looking for more community help.

Luis Yudice

Big picture perspective:
Our community really has changed a lot within the past five years. I sense a great deal of stress within the police department.
Citywide issues
Increasing violence involving girls. He has looked at a lot of data with the District Attorney’s office. Girls are extremely angry.
Angry parents are coming into the schools.
Increasing issues in the neighborhood that end up in the schools. Mentioned South Transfer Point beating and that Principal Ed Holmes mediated the situation at an early stage.
Growing gang violence issue particularly in the east side schools. We do have gang activity at Memorial and West but most of the issues are at Lafollete and East. Dealing with this via training and building relationships
What the school are experiencing is a reflection of what is going on in the community.

Parents:

Parent asked about weapons in school, metal detectors and k9 units.
Response:


Do we have weapons in school? Yes we find knives in all the schools. No guns. Unfortunate fact is that if a kid wants to get their hand on a gun, they can. They are available.

Ed Holmes:

“We took away a gun once in my 18 years”.
I want to get across to the students – if they see something they have to report it. We have 2100 students and 250 staff members.

Parents:

Kids are afraid of the bathrooms
Another lunch assault that has not been reported.
Incidents are much higher than we know because many incidents are not reported.

A parent asked why the District/Police did not use school ID photos to help victims find the perpetrators? Ed Holmes mentioned that District has had problems with their photo ID vendor.

Madison School Board member (and West area parent) Maya Cole also attended this event.

No Child Left Behind Act faces overhaul, political donnybrook

Zachary Coile In 2002, two of Congress’ liberal Democratic lions – Rep. George Miller of Martinez and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy – stood behind President Bush as he signed the No Child Left Behind Act, a law they promised would shine a bright light on the failures in America’s public schools and kick-start reforms. Five […]

Going to the Mat for WPS

Jason Shephard: Suzanne Fatupaito, a nurse’s assistant in Madison schools, is fed up with Wisconsin Physicians Service, the preferred health insurance provider of Madison Teachers Inc. “MTI uses scare tactics” to maintain teacher support for WPS, Fatupaito recently wrote to the school board. “If members knew that another insurance [plan] would offer similar services to […]

Not to Worry: Neal Gleason Responds to Marc Eisen’s “Brave New World”

Neal Gleason in a letter to the Isthmus Editor: I have long admired Marc Eisen’s thoughtful prose. But his recent struggle to come to grips with a mutli-ethnic world vvers from xenophobia to hysteria (“Brave New World”, 6/23/06). His “unsettling” contact with “stylish” Chinese and “turbaned Sikhs” at a summer program for gifted children precipitated […]

Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

This is very long, and the link may require a password so I’ve posted the entire article on the continued page. TJM http://www.tcrecord.org/PrintContent.asp?ContentID=11566 Standards, Accountability, and School Reform by Linda Darling-Hammond — 2004 The standards-based reform movement has led to increased emphasis on tests, coupled with rewards and sanctions, as the basis for “accountability” systems. […]

Secrets of Success: America’s system of higher education is the best in the world. That is because there is no system

The Economist via Tom Barnett: Wooldridge says three reasons account for this: 1) the Fed plays a limited role, unlike in a France or Germany; 2) schools compete for everything, including students and teachers; and 3) our universities are anything but ivory towers, instead being quite focused on practical stuff (Great line: “Bertrand Russell once […]