The Wisconsin Center for Education Research was founded 44 years ago this month.

via email:

Part of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research receives $29 million in current funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and private foundations.
One of WCER’s strengths is the interdisciplinary nature of its work. While most of its researchers make their academic home in the School of Education, one-third come from other fields, including astronomy, business, chemistry, economics, engineering, human ecology, law, mathematics, sociology, and social work. Each discipline brings its own way of learning and thinking. Together these researchers focus on problems of learning, teaching, assessment, and policy in today’s education systems.
In August 1964 then-University president Fred Harvey Harrington signed an agreement with the U.S. Office of Education to establish what was then called the Wisconsin Research and Development Center for Learning and Re-education. “It was an adventure of opportunity that was in line with the University’s traditional commitment to innovation and experimentation in teaching, to the union of basic and applied research, and to outreach tying the Madison campus to progress in the state and beyond,” he writes in the introduction to the book, The Wisconsin Center for Education Research: 25 Years of Knowledge Generation and Educational Improvement” (WCER, 1990).
WCER’s funding sources represent a broad mix of federal, private, state, and district level agencies. Of $29 million in current funding, fees for service account for 44%, while private foundations account for 21%. The U.S. Education Department accounts for 19% of current funding and the National Science Foundation 7%. The State of Wisconsin and school districts including Milwaukee and Chicago account for 9%. This array of sources attests to WCER’s breadth of research across disciplines, and its depth of reach from the federal level to local school districts.
The establishment of the Center, Harrington wrote, was “a part of a major movement of our time—the conscious attempt to enlist higher education in research-and-action efforts to help solve pressing problems and improve the quality of life in the U.S. and abroad.”
A list of 48 education experts and topics of research interest is available. Contact Paul Baker,

Madison School Board Detailed Agenda Posted Online – Including a Proposed Wisconsin Center for Education Research Contract

A reader’s email mentioned that the Madison School Board has begun posting more detailed agenda items on their meeting web page. Monday, March 3’s full agenda includes Superintedent Art Rainwater’s discussion of the proposed Middle School report card changes along with a recommendation to approve an agreement with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (1.5MB PDF):

The focus of this project is to develop a value-added system for the Madison Metropolitan School District and produce value-added reports using assessment data from November 2005 to November 2007. Since the data from the November 2007 assessment will not be available until March 2008, WCER will first develop a value-added system based on two years of state assessment data (November 2005 and November 2006). After the 2007 data becomes available (about Ma r c h 1 2008), WCER will extend the value-added system so that it incorporates all three years of data. Below, we list the tasks for this project and a project timeline.
Task 1. Specify features o f MMSD value-added model
Task 2. Develop value-added model using 2005 and 2006 assessment dat a
Task 3. Produce value-added reports using 2005 and 2006 assessment data
Task 4. Develop value-added model using 2005, 2006, and 2007 assessment
Task 5. Produce value-added reports using 2005-2007 assessment data

August, 2007 presentation to the Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee on “Value Added Assessment”.

(Some) Madison Governance Rhetoric on University of Wisconsin Governance Plans

Kelly Meyerhofer: Blank defended the decision to reopen campus at a faculty committee meeting on Monday, saying UW-Madison will nearly double the number of tests administered within the county and add 35 contact tracers to the county’s ranks. The number of tests UW-Madison plans to administer — up to 8,000 weekly, covering roughly 15% to … Continue reading (Some) Madison Governance Rhetoric on University of Wisconsin Governance Plans

Howard Fuller: On education, race and racism, and how we move forward as a country

Annysa Johnson: Howard Fuller announced this month that he is retiring from Marquette University, where he is a distinguished professor of education and founder and director of its Institute for the Transformation of Learning. At 79, Fuller has served in many roles in his lifetime: civil rights activist, educator and civil servant. He is a former superintendent of Milwaukee … Continue reading Howard Fuller: On education, race and racism, and how we move forward as a country

Commentary on Education Schools and Teacher Supply/Demand

: More than 2,500 teachers in Wisconsin worked in schools using emergency licenses during the 2017-18 school year, according to DPI data. In the Madison Metropolitan School District, 109 teachers were on emergency licenses during the 2016-17 school year after 67 the preceding school year. Teachers who work with some of the state’s most vulnerable … Continue reading Commentary on Education Schools and Teacher Supply/Demand

Relaxing Wisconsin’s Weak K-12 Teacher Licensing Requirements; MTEL?

Molly Beck: A group of school officials, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, is asking lawmakers to address potential staffing shortages in Wisconsin schools by making the way teachers get licensed less complicated. The Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges, created by Evers and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators executive director Jon Bales, released last … Continue reading Relaxing Wisconsin’s Weak K-12 Teacher Licensing Requirements; MTEL?

Curriculum Is the Cure: The next phase of education reform must include restoring knowledge to the classroom.

“The existing K-12 school system (including most charters and private schools) has been transformed into a knowledge-free zone…Surveys conducted by NAEP and other testing agencies reveal an astonishing lack of historical and civic knowledge…Fifty-two percent chose Germany, Japan, or Italy as “U.S. Allies” in World War II.” Sol Stern, via Will Fitzhugh: President-elect Donald Trump’s … Continue reading Curriculum Is the Cure: The next phase of education reform must include restoring knowledge to the classroom.

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 test Regime…

Molly Beck: According to the Department of Administration, bids were sought for a Web-based exam testing third- through eighth-graders in English and fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders in math and science. A separate bidding process was set up for a new exam to test students in social studies. Daniel Wilson of the DOA said the process … Continue reading Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 test Regime…

Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Mila Koumpilova Six years ago, 225 students graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School. More than 70 percent went to college. Almost 40 percent got a degree. That’s the sort of information Minnesota educators and parents have long wished they had. Now, it is readily available for the first time on a newly launched … Continue reading Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Best state in America: Massachusetts, for its educational success

Reid Wilson: That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement. In almost every category, the Bay State beats the … Continue reading Best state in America: Massachusetts, for its educational success

Social Studies Standards: “Doing” Common Core Social Studies: Promoting Radical Activism under the Obama Department of Education

“Were the Common Core authors serious about ‘college-readiness,’ they would have taken their cue from publisher Will Fitzhugh, who for decades has been swimming against the tide of downgraded writing standards (blogging, journal-writing, video-producing). To this end, he has been publishing impressive student history papers in his scholarly journal, The Concord Review. The new (CC) … Continue reading Social Studies Standards: “Doing” Common Core Social Studies: Promoting Radical Activism under the Obama Department of Education

Tennessee Achievement School District leads nation on implementing portfolio reforms; new assessments show progress across districts (No Wisconsin Districts)

Center on Reinventing Public Education, via a kind Deb Britt email: Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District (ASD) has again received high marks on its implementation of the portfolio strategy for managing and improving schools. New York City, Denver, and the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans also continue to lead among districts implementing these … Continue reading Tennessee Achievement School District leads nation on implementing portfolio reforms; new assessments show progress across districts (No Wisconsin Districts)

Schools expert Diane Ravitch warns Wisconsin off Common Core standards

Catherine Capellaro:

Less than a decade ago, Ravitch promoted many of the same policies she now rails against. As assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, and then as head of the federal testing program, she led the charge for state and national academic standards and supported ideas of “choice” and merit pay. “I believed in those things because in theory they made a lot of sense,” Ravitch says when I ask about her dramatic about-face. “It sounds right that if you pay teachers a bonus they’ll get higher scores. It just doesn’t work.”
Ravitch went public with her change of heart in her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. In her new book, she uses data to rebut arguments for market-based solutions to education problems.
“When you look at the data, the test scores have never been higher in the last 40 years,” says Ravitch. “Dropouts have never been lower than they are today.”
Real gaps
“The achievement gap is real,” Ravitch told me when I brought up Madison’s racial and economic disparities.
She points to research showing the only time the black-white achievement gap has narrowed was in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of concerted efforts to desegregate schools, reduce class size, increase access to early childhood education and target federal resources to schools with low-income students.
But today’s leaders have abandoned solutions that work, says Ravitch, who comes down as hard on President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan as she does on conservatives. “Our policymakers have given up on reducing class size,” she adds, saying she visits classes with up to 40 students. “Are there expanding opportunities for African American families? Our society has thrown up its hands, and we’re resegregating

Evidence suggests voucher expansion won’t lift education

Karl Dommershausen:

I started out against the voucher program in Wisconsin, even organizing a letter from the Janesville School Board to our lawmakers opposing this effort. Later, I decided to research vouchers/charters and their tax credits/scholarships to understand them better. I didn’t study existing private schools, unless they were involved with vouchers.
Gov. Tommy Thompson started Wisconsin’s voucher system in 1990 in Milwaukee. It has grown, and other programs have emerged throughout the country. With thousands of voucher programs in 20 states, solid evidence for evaluation should exist. From Florida’s scholarship programs, Texas’ charter schools, Indiana and Louisiana’s charter-to-voucher adjustments, Tennessee’s Muslim question, and other adaptations, I searched for answers. Surprisingly, very little documentation of results exists, and what is available appears to be selectively picked.
Private companies and their associations have created the “mantra of choice and competition” for the impoverished, challenged and underperforming. This method focuses on the hopes and fears of parents. It also labels public schools and teachers as culprits, while ignoring social-economic factors, dwindling funding, or lack of parental involvement and responsibility.

Much more on vouchers, here.

So why haven’t we ensured that all children get a rigorous, supportive education? Fear Factor: Teaching Without Training

Lisa Hansel, via a kind reader’s email:

So why haven’t we ensured that all children get a rigorous, supportive education?
This is a question I ask myself and others all the time. I think it’s more productive than merely asking “How can we?” Those who ask how without also asking why haven’t tend to waste significant amounts of time and resources “discovering” things that some already knew.
Okay, so I’ve partly answer the why question right there. Much better answers can be found in Diane Ravitch’s Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, E. D. Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, and Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.
But still, those answers are not complete.
Right now, Kate Walsh and her team with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) are adding to our collective wisdom–and potentially to our collective ability to act.
NCTQ is just a couple months away from releasing its review of teacher preparation programs. The results may not be shocking, but they are terrifying. Walsh provides a preview in the current issue of Education Next. In that preview, she reminds us of a study from several years ago that offers an insiders’ look at teacher preparation:

The most revealing insight into what teacher educators believe to be wrong or right about the field is a lengthy 2006 volume published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Studying Teacher Education. It contains contributions from 15 prominent deans and education professors and was intended to provide “balanced, thorough, and unapologetically honest descriptions of the state of research on particular topics in teacher education.” It lives up to that billing. First, the volume demonstrates the paucity of credible research that would support the current practices of traditional teacher education, across all of its many functions, including foundations courses, arts and sciences courses, field experiences, and pedagogical approaches, as well as how current practice prepares candidates to teach diverse populations and special education students. More intriguing, however, is the contributors’ examination of the dramatic evolution of the mission of teacher education over the last 50 years, in ways that have certainly been poorly understood by anyone outside the profession.
Studying Teacher Education explains the disconnect between what teacher educators believe is the right way to prepare a new teacher and the unhappy K-12 schools on the receiving end of that effort. It happens that the job of teacher educators is not to train the next generation of teachers but to prepare them.

Huh? Really? How exactly does one prepare without training? Walsh goes on to explain that. But the only way to prepare yourself to comprehend the teacher educators’ reasoning is to pretend like “prepare them” actually means “brainwash them into believing that in order to be a good teacher, you have to make everything up yourself.” Back to Walsh:

Harking back perhaps to teacher education’s 19th-century ecclesiastical origins, its mission has shifted away from the medical model of training doctors to professional formation. The function of teacher education is to launch the candidate on a lifelong path of learning, distinct from knowing, as actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable. In the course of a teacher’s preparation, prejudices and errant assumptions must be confronted and expunged, with particular emphasis on those related to race, class, language, and culture. This improbable feat, not unlike the transformation of Pinocchio from puppet to real boy, is accomplished as candidates reveal their feelings and attitudes through abundant in-class dialogue and by keeping a journal. From these activities is born each teacher’s unique philosophy of teaching and learning.
There is also a strong social-justice component to teacher education, with teachers cast as “activists committed to diminishing the inequities of American society.” That vision of a teacher is seen by a considerable fraction of teacher educators (although not all) as more important than preparing a teacher to be an effective instructor.

Kate Walsh:

Nowhere is the chasm between the two visions of teacher education–training versus formation–clearer than in the demise of the traditional methods course. The public, and policymakers who require such courses in regulations governing teacher education, may assume that when a teacher takes a methods course, it is to learn the best methods for teaching certain subject matter. That view, we are told in the AERA volume, is for the most part an anachronism. The current view, state professors Renee T. Clift and Patricia Brady, is that “A methods course is seldom defined as a class that transmits information about methods of instruction and ends with a final exam. [They] are seen as complex sites in which instructors work simultaneously with prospective teachers on beliefs, teaching practices and creation of identities–their students’ and their own.”
The statement reveals just how far afield teacher education has traveled from its training purposes. It is hard not to suspect that the ambiguity in such language as the “creation of identities” is purposeful, because if a class fails to meet such objectives, no one would be the wiser.
The shift away from training to formation has had one immediate and indisputable outcome: the onus of a teacher’s training has shifted from the teacher educators to the teacher candidates. What remains of the teacher educator’s purpose is only to build the “capacity” of the candidate to be able to make seasoned professional judgments. Figuring out what actually to do falls entirely on the candidate.
Here is the guidance provided to student teachers at a large public university in New York:
In addition to establishing the norm for your level, you must, after determining your year-end goals, break down all that you will teach into manageable lessons. While so much of this is something you learn on the job, a great measure of it must be inside you, or you must be able to find it in a resource. This means that if you do not know the content of a grade level, or if you do not know how to prepare a lesson plan, or if you do not know how to do whatever is expected of you, it is your responsibility to find out how to do these things. Your university preparation is not intended to address every conceivable aspect of teaching.
Do not be surprised if your Cooperating Teacher is helpful but suggests you find out the “how to” on your own. Your Cooperating Teacher knows the value of owning your way into your teaching style.

Related: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.
Wisconsin has recently taken a first baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements (something Massachusetts and Minnesota have done for years) via the adoption of MTEL-90. Much more on teacher content knowledge requirements, here.
Content knowledge requirements for teachers past & present.

The Impact of Disruptive Students in Wisconsin School Districts

Michael Ford:

In 2010-2011, more than 48,000 Wisconsin students were suspended. The disruptive behavior leading to these suspensions is detrimental to teachers, school cultures, and ultimately, student learning. Reducing suspension rates in Wisconsin school districts with high numbers of disruptive pupils can substantially increase achievement levels in those districts. An analysis of suspension rates in Wisconsin shows that decreasing those rates by five percentage points would yield an almost five percentage point increase in math proficiency, and a three and one-half percentage point increase in reading proficiency on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.
In other words, reducing disruptive behavior can yield substantial achievement gains for Wisconsin pupils.
This report reviews existing research on the link between student disruption and academic achievement, reviews current Wisconsin statues and practices regarding student behavior, includes comments from a discussion with teachers from the state’s largest school district, and uses data from both the Department of Public Instruction and from the National Center for Education Statistics to test several hypotheses. The finding that student behavior affects student achievement at the school district level is both intuitive and well-supported by evidence.
The findings are particularly interesting because the other factors that significantly affect achievement in Wisconsin districts, such as the socioeconomic makeup of the student population, cannot be readily addressed in the ways that student behavior can.
Ultimately, this report concludes that Wisconsin must honor its commitment to make a public education available to all of its students, but must not do so at the expense of the vast majority of pupils who do not engage in disruptive behaviors. Similarly, teachers must be supported and allowed to teach in an environment where their focus can be on student learning, not discipline.

A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes

Chris Rickert:

Chief among them has been this notion from state superintendent Tony Evers that the state’s new accountability system, known as state report cards, shouldn’t be used to determine which districts get vouchers.
Under Walker’s plan, districts with at least 4,000 students and two or more schools getting a D or an F under a new rating system would be eligible for vouchers. Evers — no fan of vouchers anyway — says the report cards were not intended for such use and need more refinement over several years.
But what was the purpose of spending more than a year working with a diverse group of education and business groups and state elected officials to create the report cards — which replaced the widely panned No Child Left Behind system — if not to use them to make consequential decisions about education?
On Thursday, Department of Public Instruction director of Education Information Services John Johnson called the report cards a “work in progress” that aren’t an appropriate tool for making a “major policy decision.”
Among their current limitations are that they are based on tests that are expected to change two years from now, they can’t show growth in high school student achievement, some schools weren’t rated, and there’s too little data to reliably identify trends in school performance.
Adam Gamoran, director of the UW-Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Education Research and a skeptic on voucher programs, agrees that the tool isn’t perfect and may well change, but “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them now” to rate schools.
It’s also not as if DPI itself didn’t expect to use the report cards. Its budget request — which Walker didn’t include in his budget — included about $10.3 million over the next two years to replicate best practices from schools deemed high-performing by the report cards, as well as to help schools deemed low-performing by the report cards get better.

John Nichols appears to support the present DPI approach. Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing.
Related: The Wisconsin DPI in 2008:
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.
A citizen, parent, voter and taxpayer might ask what the DPI has been
with state and federal taxpayer dollars since 2008?
Meanwhile, Alabama (!), Minnesota, Florida and Massachusetts are
continuing to aim high and compare their students to the world.
And, Vietnam is teaching computer science concepts in primary school.

It has been an exciting week here for those of us in Washington who are following the education scene.

John Dickert writes from Mount Vernon Farms, Virginia:

It has been an exciting week here for those of us in Washington who are following the education scene.
In one of the counties in Maryland adjacent to Washington, the county executive (in this case, an elected position) has taken over more control of the school system, after first trying to completely override the school board and the office of the school superintendent. Part of what drives this effort is that while that county’s academic scores are not high, its neighboring county to the west has the highest academic scores i the state of Maryland. The first linked article (released April 1st) will relate to that.
Then there was the test scoring scandal which broke in Atlanta. The next two articles (released April 4th) relate to that. The first was by Bill Gates. The second was printed next to it on the Op-ED pages of the Washington Post and relates to an educational incident in Wisconsin. I find that the ideas in the Bill Gates article will run into two roadblocks. The first is teat score envy, the concept that our district needs to keep up with the scores of those of our neighbors. The second is that in Education at the college (or university) level, success is measured by pushing the edge of the envelope in teaching methodology, in a field where success can not be measured until the suggestee is long graduated. When my children went through their pre-collegial schooling they were subjected to several new innovations in education, some of which worked and some of which were disasters. The creators of all these programs were rewarded before any of their programs were proven in the field.
The final attachment was released in our (Fairfax County VA) public library weekly newsletter. It is a recently developed program for aiding parents in assisting with their child’s homework. As it seems very involved, I can posit that only the most helicopterish of parents will be willing to use it.
As a window into my view of high school education when my oldest son entered high school back in 1996, Fairfax County Public Schools only required 3 years of social studies. Our high school offered a 4th year of the program, offered in the Sophomore year, the AP Modern European course. About 150 students would take the course each year offered in 5 periods by one teacher. It was highly sought after. In part due to this program our high school was one of the highest placing high schools on Jay Mathew’s early High School Challenge listings, back when it was only published by the Washington Post. At the time the school was offering only some 5 or 6 AP courses, 2 of which were electives. In the intervening years the AP Challenge Index has gone national, and the AP course offerings have grown geometrically, with the situation that for many courses the only effective college-prep version of a course is the AP course. Initially the AP program was promoted as a way to give high school students a means to have a taste of college. Many high school seniors now are driven to take 4 such courses. AND none of these courses in the social sciences or English, requires the creation of a researched paper. When my youngest child was in high school (she graduated in 2007) I served on a school education committee, and wrote locally about this issue. I never could convince anyone that high school was really about preparing our children for college, not directing them to take the maximum number of College like courses as possible.

Parents: A New Way To Help Your Kids with Their Homework

Library customers can now access a new resource to help with homework. To learn more about it, teachers and parents can sign up for a 30-minute demonstration on April 17. Online registration required: Wednesday, April 17 at 2 p.m.
This new online service by Literati includes a host of resources such as educational content for K-12 students and adults, informational videos and tutorials and interactive discovery tools. Literati Public has been specifically customized for Virginia libraries. Online tutoring help from certified teachers is offered through the “Homework Help” tab Monday through Thursday from
3 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. This service is offered to all students in Virginia (Grades 3-12) needing help in math, reading or writing. You can access this resource here. Select Fairfax County Public Library and Go; on the second screen enter your library card number.
There are multiple ways to access this new resource from the library website; here’s one:
Go to the library home page:;
Select Homework help under Library Services in the center column;
Select Find an Online Teacher to Help/Find Resources;
Then follow the steps above (select FCPL and Go/enter your card number).

Madison Education Event: 12.6 & 12.7 John Legend, Geoffrey Canada and more

via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Join John Legend, Geoffrey Canada and Madison’s own education luminaries, Gloria Ladson-Billings and Sal Carranza as they discuss what our children need to succeed in school and life, and answer questions from the audience.
Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former president of the American Education Research Association.
Salvadore Carranza is a Senior Academic Planner in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin System and co-founder and Chair of the Latino Education Council of Dane County.

University of Wisconsin Regents discuss economic future of higher education

Cheyenne Langkamp:

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents discussed Thursday the national and state higher education climate in relation to economic development–a topic that Board of Regents President Brent Smith said will be brought up in many upcoming board meetings.
The board streamed a video conference with Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who spoke about the nation’s increasing skills gap.
According to Carnevale, while technology-based, post-secondary skills are becoming increasingly necessary to get a job, access to higher education is becoming less attainable.
Carnevale said he predicts this inconsistency will continue and may prevent economic improvement, saying access to the middle class is becoming more and more dependent on access to post-secondary education.

Wisconsin’s Achievement Stagnation: 1992 – 2011

Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

“Yet when compared to gains made by students in other countries, progress within the United States is middling, not stellar (see Figure 1). While 24 countries trail the U.S. rate of improvement, another 24 countries appear to be improving at a faster rate. Nor is U.S. progress sufficiently rapid to allow it to catch up with the leaders of the industrialized world.”
“Meanwhile, students in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana were among those making the fewest average gains between 1992 and 2011. Once again, the larger political climate may have affected the progress on the ground. Unlike in the South, the reform movement has made little headway within midwestern states, at least until very recently. Many of the midwestern states had proud education histories symbolized by internationally acclaimed land-grant universities, which have become the pride of East Lansing, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Lafayette, Indiana. Satisfaction with past accomplishments may have dampened interest in the school reform agenda sweeping through southern, border, and some western states.”
Underlying study: “Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance


  • Student scores slip with new proficiency benchmarks by Erin Richards

    The results: Only 35.8% of Wisconsin’s WKCE test-takers in third through eighth and 10th grade in fall 2011 scored proficient or better in reading, and just 48.1% scored proficient or better in math.
    Compare that with March, when the state released 2011 WKCE results that showed 78% and 82% of students scored proficient or better in math and reading.
    Under the new benchmarks, just 41.9% of white students scored proficient or advanced in reading, and 55.2% met that mark in math on the latest state test. Previously, more than 87% of white students were considered proficient or better in reading, and 84.3% were considered to have scored proficient or better in math in 2011.
    As for the state’s black students – many of whom attend Milwaukee Public Schools – 13.4% are considered proficient or advanced in reading, down from 58.7% using the old grading scale.
    Rep. Steve Kestell, a Republican from Elkhart Lake who chairs the Assembly’s Education Committee, called the revised picture of student performance a “necessary and long-delayed wake-up call for Wisconsin.”
    “We’ve been trying to tell folks for some time that we’ve been looking at things through rose-colored glasses in Wisconsin,” he added. “It was a hard thing to communicate, and it was largely ignored. This is a new awakening.”
    State Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said: “We’ve known for years that our proficiency-cut scores are way below where they should be, and really, this shows that we have got to do a better job.”
    Under the past decade of No Child Left Behind, Wisconsin had been criticized for having a more lenient bar for proficiency than other states.

  • Less than half of state’s students measure proficient under new national standards by Matthew DeFour:

    Still, the new results should be a “smack in the face” for Wisconsin, said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
    “It’s going to be a wake-up call,” Gamoran said. “It’s a more honest reckoning of where Wisconsin students stand relative to other students across the nation and relative to the goals we want for all of our students.”
    The old results were based on whether students were meeting Wisconsin’s definition of being at grade-level, whereas the new results reflect more rigorous standards of what it means to be prepared for college or a career used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card.
    About 3,000 4th and 8th graders in Wisconsin take the NAEP every other year. In 2011, 32 percent of Wisconsin 4th graders scored proficient on NAEP’s reading test and 39 percent scored proficient on the math test.
    The data released Tuesday marks the first time DPI has converted results of the state test, which more than 430,000 students in grades 3-8 and 10 take in the fall, to the NAEP benchmarks.
    DPI won’t release recalculated results for individual schools and districts until the fall, when it also plans to release individual school report cards with ratings on a scale of 0 to 100.
    Kim Henderson, president of the Wisconsin Parent Teacher Association, said parents pay closer attention to state test scores than NAEP scores, so the results could “bring up a lot of good questioning.”

  • State sets new, tougher standards for student tests by the Associated Press:

    To get the waiver, Wisconsin had to develop its own accountability system in addition to teacher and principal evaluations, among other things.
    The scores will be included on new school report cards to be released in the fall. How well individual students in grades 3-8 and 10 do on reading and math tests they take in November will be released next spring.
    The new school report cards were developed in conjunction with Gov. Scott Walker, legislative leaders and others over the past year. They will include a numerical rating for individual schools from 0-100 based on student achievement, growth, graduation rates and closing of achievement gaps between different groups of students. The scores will generate an overall total that will place each school into one of five categories ranging from “Fails to Meet Expectations” to “Significantly Exceeds Expectations.”
    “This new system will empower parents, allowing them to make education related decisions based on reliable and uniform data,” Walker said in a statement.
    Sample report cards, without actual school data, are posted online to solicit feedback through Aug. 12.

  • Numerous notes and links on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

Wisconsin, Milwaukee & Madison High School Graduation Rates

The DPI released graduation rates last year using both the new and old calculation method for the state and individual school districts, and did the same again this year.
An example of the difference between the two calculations: The legacy rate for the most recent data shows Wisconsin’s students had a 90.5% graduation rate for 2011, instead of the 87% rate for that class under the new method the federal government considers more accurate.
Using the new, stricter method, the data shows Milwaukee Public Schools’ graduation rate increased for 2011 to 62.8%., up from 61.1% in 2010.
“We have much more work to do, but these numbers – along with ACT score growth and growth in 10th grade state test scores – show that we continue to move in the right direction,” MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said in a statement Thursday.
MPS officials on Thursday pointed out that the 1.7 percentage-point increase between the two years for the district was greater than the state four-year graduation rate increase in that time. The state’s four-year rate increased 1.3 percentage points, from 85.7% in 2009-’10.

Matthew DeFour:

The annual report from the Department of Public Instruction released Thursday also showed Madison’s four-year graduation rate dipped slightly last year to 73.7 percent.
According to the data, 50.1 percent of Madison’s black students graduated in four years, up from 48.3 percent in 2010. The white student graduation rate declined about 3.1 percentage points, to 84.1 percent.
District officials and education experts said it was unclear what accounted for the changes, and it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about Madison’s achievement gap from one or two years of data.
“You need to be looking over a period of several years that what you’re looking at is real change rather than a little blip from one to the other,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
The graduation rates of black and white students in Madison have been a major topic of discussion in the city over the past year.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Standing Firm on Grad Rates
by Chuck Edwards:

Even as the Obama administration is busy dismantling much of NCLB through waivers, it is standing firm on some Bush-era decisions.
One of them is to consider high school graduation to be exactly that — graduating with a regular diploma, even if it takes five or six years for kids with special barriers. For accountability decisions affecting high schools, the Bush administration would not allow states to give schools “graduation” credit for students who obtain a GED or certificate of completion — only a regular diploma would do.
In response to the Obama administration’s new “ESEA Flexibility” initiative, states have taken another run at that decision, which was enshrined in last-gasp Bush regulations issued in October 2008.

New Report Shows the Power of Early Childhood Education

Mike Ford:

A report released today by WPRI details the strong connection between early childhood education and economic development. The authors, Minneapolis Federal Reserve economist Rob Grunewald and former Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau analyst Don Bezruki, use existing economic research on early childhood education programs to inform a series of recommendations for increasing the economic development power of early childhood education in Wisconsin.
The authors review four key longitudinal studies on early childhood education and conclude that the return on investment in such programs can be “as high as $16 for every $1” spent. Looking specifically at Wisconsin’s YoungStar system, it is possible to estimate that the additional $20 million in incentive payments required from moving about 10,000 children into higher quality education centers would generate $60 million in future economic benefit.

New teachers getting ready to be graded on classroom work: Wisconsin moving toward portfolio-based assessment

Erin Richards:

For example, in addition to having to publicly post their graduates’ first-time pass rates on the exams required for licensure starting in the 2013-’14 school year, the programs would also have to annually provide the DPI with a list of their graduates and graduation dates.
DPI, in turn, is required in the legislation to include that data in a statewide student-information system, which could allow the state to track which schools new teachers end up in after graduation.
It could also eventually be connected to the performance of those teachers’ students on state tests.
Teacher certification tests have been scrutinized because it’s hard to adequately assess, in one exam, the multitude of skills necessary to be a good teacher. And there’s little research evidence to suggest that the current crop of exams is a useful tool for doing that.
The current tests are developed by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service or the for-profit education company Pearson, and they typically rely heavily on multiple-choice questions.
Cut scores, or the score required to pass the tests, are often set well below averages.
A 2010 analysis by the National Council for Teacher Quality (reports) found that on average, states had set the bar so low, that even teacher candidates who scored in the 16th percentile would receive their certification.
In Wisconsin, the pass rates of new teachers on the multiple-choice subject tests required for licensure the same every year – 100%. That’s because the state requires a passing grade on the test before an institution can recommend that teacher candidate for a license.
Nobody is currently required to report how many times a teacher candidate might have taken the certification test and failed.
“The testing technology that is widely used today just can’t get at what is really the fundamental question of ‘Can the person actually teach?’ ” said Sharon Robinson of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which is collaborating with Pearson on the performance assessment.
“We can give a number of different tests about what they know,” she said. “I think the ambition now is to get an assessment that can actually document the candidate’s ability to teach.”

Related: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges and 9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes

Wisconsin Read to Lead Report Released

Wisconsin Read to Lead Final Report (PDF), via several readers.  Mary Newton kindly provided this summary:

Summary of the Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Recommendations, January, 2012

    Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
    All teachers and administrators should receive more instruction in reading pedagogy that focuses on evidence-based practices and the five components of reading as defined by the National Reading Panel (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).

  1. There must be more accountability at the state level and a commitment by institutions of higher education to improving teacher preparation.
    Licensure requirements should be strengthened to include the Massachusetts Foundations of Reading exam by 2013.
    Teacher preparation programs should expand partnerships with local school districts and early childhood programs.
    Information on the performance of graduates of teacher preparation programs should be available to the public.
    A professional development conference should be convened for reading specialists and elementary school principals.
    DPI should make high quality, science-based, online professional development in reading available to all teachers.
    Professional development plans for all initial educators should include a component on instructional strategies for reading and writing.
    Professional development in reading instruction should be required for all teachers whose students continually show low levels of achievement and/or growth in reading.

  2. Screening, Assessment, and Intervention
    Wisconsin should use a universal statewide screening tool in pre-kindergarten through second grade to ensure that struggling readers are identified as early as possible.
    Proper accommodations should be given to English language learners and special education students.
    Formal assessments should not replace informal assessments, and schools should assess for formative and summative purposes.
    Educators should be given the knowledge to interpret assessments in a way that guides instruction.
    Student data should be shared among early childhood programs, K-12 schools, teachers, parents, reading specialists, and administrators.
    Wisconsin should explore the creation of a program similar to the Minnesota Reading Corps in 2013.

  3. Early Childhood
    DPI and the Department of Children and Families should work together to share data, allowing for evaluation of early childhood practices.
    All 4K programs should have an adequate literacy component.
    DPI will update the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards to ensure accuracy and alignment with the Common Core State Standards, and place more emphasis on fidelity of implementation of the WMELS.
    The YoungStar rating system for early childhood programs should include more specific early literacy criteria.

  4. Accountability
    The Educator Effectiveness Design Team should consider reading outcomes in its evaluation systems.
    The Wisconsin School Accountability Design Team should emphasize early reading proficiency as a key measure for schools and districts. Struggling schools and districts should be given ongoing quality professional development and required to implement scientific research-based screening, assessment, curriculum, and intervention.
    Educators and administrators should receive training on best practices in order to provide effective instruction for struggling readers.
    The state should enforce the federal definition for scientific research-based practices, encourage the use of What Works Clearinghouse, and facilitate communication about effective strategies.
    In addition to effective intervention throughout the school year, Wisconsin should consider mandatory evidence-based summer school programs for struggling readers, especially in the lower grades, and hold the programs accountable for results.

  5. Family Involvement
    Support should be given to programs such as Reach Out and Read that reach low-income families in settings that are well-attended by parents, provide books to low-income children, and encourage adults to read to children.
    The state should support programs that show families and caregivers how to foster oral language and reading skill development in children.
    Adult literacy agencies and K-12 schools should collaborate at the community level so that parents can improve their own literacy skills.

Related:  Erin Richards’ summary (and Google News aggregation) and many SIS links

Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Business & Education Plans

Education Plan (PDF) via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Madison Preparatory Academy’s educational program has been designed to be different. The eight features of the educational program will serve as a powerful mix of strategies that allow Madison Prep to fulfill its mission: to prepare students for success at a four-year college or university by instilling Excellence, Pride, Leadership and Service. By fulfilling this mission, Madison Prep will serve as a catalyst of change and opportunity for young men and women who live in a city where only 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduate from high school. Madison Prep’s educational program will produce students who are ready for college; who think, read, and write critically; who are culturally aware and embrace differences among all people; who give back to their communities; and who know how to work hard.
One of the most unique features of Madison Prep is the single gender approach. While single gender education has a long, successful history, there are currently no schools – public or private – in Dane County that offer single gender education. While single gender education is not right for every student, the demand demonstrated thus far by families who are interested in enrolling their children in Madison Prep shows that a significant number of parents believe their children would benefit from a single gender secondary school experience.
Madison Prep will operate two schools – a boys’ school and a girls’ school – in order to meet this demand as well as ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The schools will be virtually identical in all aspects, from culture to curriculum, because the founders of Madison Prep know that both boys and girls need and will benefit from the other educational features of Madison Prep.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is one of those strategies that Madison Prep’s founders know will positively impact all the students the schools serve. IB is widely considered to be the highest quality curricular framework available. What makes IB particularly suitable for Madison Prep is that it can be designed around local learning standards (the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the Common Core State Standards) and it is inherently college preparatory. For students at Madison Prep who have special learning needs or speak English as a second language, IB is fully adaptable to their needs. Madison Prep will offer both the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP) to all its students.
Because IB is designed to be college preparatory, this curricular framework is an ideal foundation for the other aspects of Madison Prep’s college preparatory program. Madison Prep is aiming to serve a student population of which at least 65% qualify for free or reduced lunch. This means that many of the parents of Madison Prep students will not be college educated themselves and will need the school to provide considerable support as their students embark on their journey through Madison Prep and to college.
College exposure, Destination Planning, and graduation requirements that mirror admissions requirements are some of the ways in which Madison Prep will ensure students are headed to college. Furthermore, parents’ pursuit of an international education for their children is increasing rapidly around the world as they seek to foster in their children a global outlook that also expands their awareness, competence and comfort level with communicating, living, working and problem solving with and among cultures different than their own.
Harkness Teaching, the cornerstone instructional strategy for Madison Prep, will serve as an effective avenue through which students will develop the critical thinking and communication skills that IB emphasizes. Harkness Teaching, which puts teacher and students around a table rather than in theater-style classrooms, promotes student-centered learning and rigorous exchange of ideas. Disciplinary Apprenticeship, Madison Prep’s approach to literacy across the curriculum, will ensure that students have the literacy skills to glean ideas and information from a variety of texts, ideas and information that they can then bring to the Harkness Table for critical analysis.
Yet to ensure that students are on track for college readiness and learning the standards set out in the curriculum, teachers will have to take a disciplined approach to data-driven instruction. Frequent, high quality assessments – aligned to the standards when possible – will serve as the basis for instructional practices. Madison Prep teachers will consistently be analyzing new data to adjust their practice as needed.

Business Plan (PDF), via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Based on current education and social conditions, the fate of young men and women of color is uncertain.
Black and Hispanic boys are grossly over-represented among youth failing to achieve academic success, are at grave risk of dropping out of school before they reach 10th grade, are disproportionately represented among adjudicated and incarcerated youth, and are far less likely than their peers in other subgroups to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Likewise, boys in general lag behind girls in most indicators of student achievement.
Research indicates that although boys of color have high aspirations for academic and career success, their underperformance in school and lack of educational attainment undermine their career pursuits and the success they desire. This misalignment of aspirations and achievement is fueled by and perpetuates a set of social conditions wherein men of color find themselves disproportionately represented among the unemployed and incarcerated. Without meaningful, targeted, and sustainable interventions and support systems, hundreds of thousands of young men of color will never realize their true potential and the cycle of high unemployment, fatherless homes, overcrowded jails, incarcerated talent, deferred dreams, and high rates of school failure will continue.
Likewise, girls of color are failing to graduate high school on-time, underperform on standardized achievement and college entrance exams and are under-enrolled in college preparatory classes in secondary school. The situation is particularly pronounced in the Madison Metropolitan School District where Black and Hispanic girls are far less likely than Asian and White girls to take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in high school or successfully complete such courses with a grade of C or better when they do. In this regard, they mimic the course taking patterns of boys of color.
Additionally, data on ACT college entrance exam completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement tests scores provided to the Urban League of Greater Madison by the Madison Metropolitan School District show a significant gap in ACT completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement scores between students of color and their White peers.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women will be established to serve as catalysts for change and opportunity among young men and women in the Greater Madison, Wisconsin area, particularly young men and women of color. It will also serve the interests of parents who desire a nurturing, college preparatory educational experience for their child.
Both schools will be administratively separate and operated by Madison Preparatory Academy, Inc. (Madison Prep), an independent 501(c)(3) established by the Urban League of Greater Madison and members of Madison Prep’s inaugural board of directors.
The Urban League of Greater Madison, the “founder” of Madison Prep, understands that poverty, isolation, structural discrimination, limited access to schools and classrooms that provide academic rigor, lack of access to positive male and female role models in different career fields, limited exposure to academically successful and achievement-oriented peer groups, and limited exposure to opportunity and culture experiences outside their neighborhoods contribute to reasons why so many young men and women fail to achieve their full potential. At the same time, the Urban League and its supporters understand that these issues can be addressed by directly countering each issue with a positive, exciting, engaging, enriching, challenging, affirming and structured learning community designed to specifically address these issues.
Madison Prep will consist of two independent public charter schools – authorized by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education – designed to serve adolescent males and females in grades 6-12 in two separate schools. Both will be open to all students residing within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) who apply, regardless of their previous academic performance.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

Wisconsin gets $10.5M in federal redistributed tax dollars for English learner assessment

Bill Novak: The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been awarded a $10.5 million grant to develop technology-based assessments for students learning English. The four-year grant from the federal Department of Education will be used to develop an online assessment system to measure student progress in attaining the English language skills they need to be … Continue reading Wisconsin gets $10.5M in federal redistributed tax dollars for English learner assessment

New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin

Center for Equal Opportunity:

Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.
The studies are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization’s website,
CEO president Roger Clegg will answer questions about the studies when they are formally released at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree hotel in Madison–525 W. Johnson St.
The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.

Adelaide Blanchard:

Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.
A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.
The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.
Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.

Todd Finkelmeyer:

Whites and Asians aren’t getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
That’s what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is “severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions” at Wisconsin’s flagship institution of higher education.
The CEO — a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes “colorblind public policies” and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs — reports that UW-Madison gives “African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians” in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.
According to the executive summary of the report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: “In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites.”

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:

The Center for Equal Opportunity and its president and general counsel, Roger Clegg, claim to advance educational opportunity by punishing colleges and universities for attempting to level a highly unequal playing field.
The CEO’s name is laughable. It is the exact opposite of what the organization does. The misnomer is a deliberate deception. It is a lie so blatant that it would be considered a joke in very poor taste were it not so outrageously fallacious.
The record of CEO’s lawsuits has never been in support of equality–it has always been to preserve and protect educational opportunity for those most fortunate social classes and racial/ethnic groups. There is no no record of this organization filing a lawsuit on behalf of newly emerging and underrepresented populations in higher education–it always and only files lawsuits on behalf of the already-advantaged.

Wisconsin’s cuts to school aid steepest of 24 states studied

Susan Troller:

Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of reducing state aid per student this school year the most of 24 states studied by an independent, Washington-based think tank, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
According to a preliminary study released Sept. 1 by the nonprofit research organization, the dollar change in spending from the last fiscal year to this year dropped $635 per student under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget that took effect July 1. New York was in second place, cutting state school aid $585 per student. California was third at $484.
The study only reports on the 24 states where current-year data is available. Those states educate about two-thirds of the nation’s K-12 students.
In percentage terms, Wisconsin had the third sharpest state school aid cut, at 10 percent. Illinois was worst, cutting state aid 12.9 percent. Texas was second at 10.4 percent. Wisconsin now provides an average of about $9,500 per student.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Madison spends roughly $14,476 per student, according to the recent Madison Preparatory Academy charter school discussions.
Federal, State, and Local Expenditures as a Share of GDP at WWII Levels.
Much more on our K-12 tax & spending climate, here.
The “Great Recession” has certainly changed our tax base….

Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force 8.25.2011 Meeting Summary

Wisconsin Reading Coaltion, via a kind reader’s email:

Summary of the August 25, 2011 Read to Lead Task Force Meeting
Green Bay, WI
The fifth meeting of the Read to Lead task force was held on August 25, 2011, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Governor Walker was delayed, so State Superintendent Tony Evers opened the meeting. The main topic of discussion was accountability for reading outcomes, including the strategy of mandatory grade retention. Troy Couillard from DPI also presented an overview of reading reform in Milwaukee Public Schools.
Superintendent Evers said that Wisconsin will seek a waiver from the No Child Left Behind proficiency requirements by instituting a new system of accountability. His Educator Effectiveness and Accountability Design teams are working on this, with the goal of a new accountability system being in place by late 2011.
Accountability at the educator level:
The concept of using student achievement or growth data in teacher and principal evaluations is not without controversy, but Wisconsin is including student data in its evaluation model, keeping in mind fairness and validity. The current thought is to base 50% of the educator evaluation on qualitative considerations, using the Danielson Framework (“promoting professional learning through self assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversations”), and 50% on student data, including multiple measures of performance. 10% of the student data portion of the evaluation (5% of the total evaluation) would be based on whole-school performance. This 5% would be based on a proficiency standard as opposed to a value-added measurement. The 5% is thought to be small enough that it will not affect an individual teacher adversely, but large enough to send a message that all teachers need to work together to raise achievement in a school. The task force was asked if it could endorse whole-school performance as part of teacher evaluation. The task force members seemed to have some support for that notion, especially at the principal level, but had some reservations at the level of the individual teacher.
Kathy Champeau was concerned that some schools do not have the resources to serve some children. She also felt it might not be fair to teachers, as they have no control over other teachers in the school or the principal.
Steve Dykstra said it is important to make sure any value-added system is designed to be fair.
Rachel Lander felt it would be better to use value-added data for whole-school performance rather than a proficiency standard, but supported the importance of schoolwide standards.
Rep. Steve Kestell supported the 5% requirement, and questioned what the qualitative half of the evaluation would be based on. He felt perhaps there could be some schoolwide standards to be met in that part of the evaluation, also.
Tony Evers responded that the Danielson Framework was research-based observations, and that the evaluators would need to be highly trained and consistent in their evaluations.
Tony Pedriana had questions about the type of research on which the Danielson Framework is based.
Evers said he would provide further information to the task force.
Mara Brown said she cannot control what the teacher down the hall does, and that the 5% should apply only to principals.
Linda Pils agreed with the 5%, but felt principals need to be watching and guiding new teachers. She agreed with Dykstra’s comments on measuring growth.
Sen. Luther Olsen was concerned that the 5% portion of a teacher’s evaluation may be the part that tips the balance on job retention for an individual, yet that individual has no control over whole-school performance. He understood the principle of getting everyone involved and committed to a goal, but was concerned with possible consequences.
Mandatory Retention:
The task force was asked to consider whether Wisconsin should implement a mandatory retention policy. If so, what would it look like, and if not, what can be done to make sure students are reading at grade level?
After a guest presentation and discussion, the consensus of the task force was that Wisconsin should not have mandatory retention. Reasons cited were negative effects on later achievement, graduation, self esteem, and psychological well-being. Third grade was felt to be far too late to start intervention, and there needs to be more emphasis on developing teacher expertise and focusing on the responsibility of teachers, principals, and higher education as opposed to threatening the students with retention. Retention without changing the curriculum for the student the following year is pointless.
Dr. Elaine Allensworth, a director at the Consortium on Chicago School Research, joined the task force by telephone to summarize the outcomes of a mandatory retention project in Chicago. Students more than 1 year below the cut-off level on certain tested skills were retained unless they passed the test after a summer bridge program. Students identified as at-risk were given after-school tutoring during the year. Retention was thought to have three primary mechanisms that would affect student performance: motivation for students, families, and teachers to work harder, supplemental instruction after school and during the summer, and an additional year in the grade for failing students. All students in the school could be affected by the motivation and the supplemental instruction, but only the retained students by the extra year of instruction. The study found that the threat of retention worked as a positive motivator for teachers, parents, and some older students. However, there were also negatives in terms of higher-achieving students receiving less attention, more time on test preparation, and an instructional shift to focus on tested skills. The supplemental instruction, especially the summer bridge program, was the biggest positive of the retention project. There was high participation, increased personal attention, and higher-quality instruction. Retention itself had more negative effects than positive. Academic gains were either non-existent or rapidly-disappearing. Multiple year retentions resulted in a problematic mix of ages in classrooms, students unable to finish high school by age 18, and a negative overall attitude toward school.
Dykstra said it appeared that the impetus to do things differently because of the threat of retention had some benefit, but the actual retention had either no effect or a negative effect. He wondered if there was some way to provide the motivation without retention.
Allensworth agreed that the challenge was to provide a motivation without having a threat.
Pils asked if third graders could even understand the threat of retention.
Allensworth replied that they understood if teachers helped them. She also said that some schools with low-quality instruction had no way to improve student learning even with the threat of retention.
Rep. Jason Fields asked how you could avoid teaching to the test.
Allensworth replied that teaching the skills on the test was productive, but not the excessive time that was spent on test-taking strategies. She also said the tendency to teach more narrowly could cause problems later in high school where students needed to be able to participate in broader learning.
Marcia Henry inquired about students who returned to their old rate of learning when they returned to the regular classroom after successfully completing the summer bridge.
Allensworth replied that the summer program used higher quality curriculum and teachers, there was more time provided with students, and the students were more highly motivated.
Dykstra asked if it was possible to determine how much of the summer gain was due to student motivation, and how much due to teachers or parents.
Allensworth said those factors could not be pulled apart.
Champeau questioned whether the summer bridge program taught to the test.
Allensworth replied that it taught in a good way to the skills that the test assessed.
Brown asked if intervention was provided for the first time in third grade.
Allensworth replied that some schools began providing intervention and retaining in first or second grade.
Dykstra asked if the project created a situation where a majority of the school’s resources were concentrated in third grade, leaving other grades short.
Allensworth said they didn’t look at that, though some schools appeared to put their better teachers at certain grades.
Dykstra thought it was the wrong approach to tie services and supports to a specific grade rather than a specific student.
Are some types of consequences necessary to achieve the urgency and intensity necessary for performance improvement? Should there be mandatory summer school or other motivators? The task force did not seem to arrive at a consensus on this.
Lander said schools need the resources to do early intervention, plus information on what should be done in early intervention, and this is not currently the case in Wisconsin.
Pils questioned where teachers would find the time to provide intervention. She liked the idea of after-school and summer programs as well as reading the classics to kids. Providing a model of best instruction is important for teachers who don’t have that background.
Mary Read commented on Bill Gates’ experience with spending a lot of money for minimal results, and the conclusion that money needs to go into teacher training and proven programs such as the Kipp schools or into a national core curriculum.
Dykstra noted that everyone agrees that teacher training is essential, but there is disagreement as to curriculum and training content. His experience is that teachers are generally unable to pinpoint what is going wrong with a student’s reading. We must understand how poor and widespread current teacher training is, apologize to teachers, and then fix the problem, but not at teachers’ expense.
The facilitators asked what the policy should be. Is there an alternative to using retention? Should teacher re-training be mandatory for those who need the support?
Evers said that a school-by-school response does not work. The reforms in Milwaukee may have some relevance.
Olsen suggested that there are some reading programs that have been proven successful. If a school is not successful, perhaps they should be required to choose from a list of approved instructional methods and assessment tools, show their results, and monitor program fidelity. He feels we have a great resource in successful teachers in Wisconsin and other states, and the biggest issue is agreeing on programs that work for intervention and doing it right the first time.
Kestell said some major problems are teachers with high numbers of failing students, poor teacher preparation, the quality of early childhood education, and over-funding of 4K programs without a mandate on how that money is used. There has been some poor decision-making, and the kids are not responsible for that. We must somehow hold schools, school board, and individual educators accountable.
Champeau said teachers have no control over how money is spent. This accountability must be at the school and district level. More resources need to be available to some schools depending on the needs of their student population.
Lander: We must provide the necessary resources to identified schools.
Dykstra: We must develop an excellent system of value-added data so we can determine which schools are actually doing well. Right now we have no way of knowing. High-performing schools may actually be under-performing given their student demographics; projected student growth will not be the same in high and low performing schools.
Pedriana: We have long known how to teach even the most at-risk readers with evidence-based instruction. The truth is that much of our teacher training and classroom instruction is not evidence-based. We need the collective will to identify the evidence base on which we will base our choices, and then apply it consistently across the state. The task force has not yet taken on this critical question.
Pils: In her experience, she feels Wisconsin teachers are among the best in the country. There are some gaps we need to close.
Pedriana: Saying how good we are does not help the kids who are struggling.
Pils: We need to have our best teachers in the inner city, and teachers should not need to purchase their own supplies. We have to be careful with a limited list of approved programs. This may lead to ethics violations.
Pedriana: Referring to Pils’ mention of Wisconsin’s high graduation rates in a previous meeting, what does our poor performance on the NAEP reading test say about our graduation standards?
Michael Brickman (Governor’s aide): There is evidence of problems when you do retention, and evidence of problems when you do nothing. We can’t reduce the failing readers to zero using task force recommendations, so what should we do with students who leave 3rd grade not reading anywhere near grade level? Should we have mandatory summer school?
Henry: Response to Intervention (RTI) is a perfect model for intervening early in an appropriate way. A summer bridge program is excellent if it has the right focus. We must think more realistically about the budget we will require to do this intervention.
Olsen: If we do early intervention, we should have a very small number of kids who are still behind in 3rd grade. Are we teaching the right, most efficient way? We spend a lot of money on K-12 education in Wisconsin, but we may need to set priorities in reading. There is enough money to do it. Reading should be our mission at each grade level.
Facilitator: What will be the “stick” to make people provide the best instruction?
Dykstra: Accountability needs to start at the top in the state’s education system. When the same people continue to make the same mistakes, yet there are no consequences, we need to let some people go. That is what they did in Massachusetts and Florida: start with two or three people in whom you have great confidence, and build from there.
Facilitator: Is there consensus on mandatory summer school for failing students?
Michele Erickson: Summer school is OK if the right resources are available for curriculum and teachers.
Kestell: All grades 4K – 3 are gateway grades. They are all important.
Champeau: Summer school is a good idea, but we would need to solve transportation issues.
Dykstra: We should open up the concept of summer school beyond public schools to any agency that offers quality instruction using highly qualified instructors from outside the educational establishment.
Lander: Supports Dykstra’s idea. You can’t lay summer instruction on schools that can hardly educate during the school year.
Brown: Could support summer school in addition to, but not in place of, early intervention during the school year.
Erickson: Look at the school year first when allocating resources. Summer school is a hard sell to families.
Pedriana: Agrees with Olsen that we probably have sufficient funds for the school year, but we need to spend it more wisely. We cannot expect districts to make the commitment to extra instruction if there is no accountability at the top (including institutions of higher education). We need to resolve the issue of what knowledge and content standards will be taught before we address summer school or other issues.
Milwaukee Public Schools’ tiered RTI system was presented by DPI’s Troy Couillard as an example of an accountability system. MPS chose a new core reading program for 2010-11 after submitting its research base to DPI. Teachers were provided with some in-service training, and there are some site checks for fidelity of implementation. Tier 2 interventions will begin in 2011-12, and Tier 3 interventions in 2012-13. He felt that the pace of these changes, plus development of a data accountability system, student screening with MAP and other testing, progress monitoring, and professional development, has MPS moving much faster than most districts around the county on implementing RTI. DPI embedded RTI in the district’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan. DPI is pushing interventions that are listed on the National RTI site, but teachers are allowed to submit research for things they are using to see if those tools might be used.
Pils: Kids in MPS are already struggling. Reading First would suggest that they have 120 minuets of reading a day instead of the 90 minutes provided in the MPS plan.
Couillard: Tier 2 intervention for struggling students will add onto the 90 minutes of core instruction.
Olsen: Can this system work statewide without DPI monitoring all the districts?
Couillard: Districts are trained to monitor their own programs.
Pils: Veteran schools with proven strategies could be paired with struggling schools as mentors and models.
Pedriana: We have no way of knowing what proven strategies are unless we discuss what scientific evidence says works in reading. The task force must grapple with this question.
Brickman: Read to Lead task force needs to start with larger questions and then move to finer grain; this task force may not be able to do everything.
Pedriana: Is there anything more important for this task force to do than to decide what evidence-based reading instruction is?
Brickman: Task force members may submit suggestions for issues to discuss at the final meeting in September. Tony could submit some sample language on “evidence-based instruction” as a starting point for discussion.
Henry: The worst schools should be required to at least have specific guidelines, whether it is a legislative or DPI issue. Teacher retraining (not a 1-day workshop) is a necessity. Teachers are unprepared to teach.
Olsen: Wisconsin has always been a local control state, but one of the outcomes of the task force may be that we have a method for identifying schools that are not doing well, and then intervene with a plan. The state is ultimately responsible for K-12 education. Districts should take the state blueprint or come up with their own for approval by the state.
Erickson: Can we define what will work so districts can just do it?
Evers: MPS experience shows there is a process that works, and districts can do their own monitoring.
Dykstra: Sees value in making a list of things that districts are not allowed to do in reading instruction; also value in making a list of recommended programs based on alignment with the convergence of the science of reading research. That list would not be closed, but it should not include programs based on individual, publisher-funded studies that do not align with the convergence of the science. This could be of benefit to all districts. Even those doing relatively well could be doing better. Right now there is no list, and no learning targets. The MPS plan contains the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which contain errors. DPI needs to correct that information and distribute it right now. That would be a good example of accountability at the state level.
Couillard: The new statewide data collection system will help districts monitor their own data.
Champeau: School needs change depending on demographics. The goal should be to build decision-making capacity at the local level, not dictation from outside. We should be talking more about people than programs. Have MPS teachers been doing a better job? What will they do if their program goes away? We need to work on the underlying expertise and knowledge base.
Facilitator: There appears to be agreement that the state can intervene in failing districts.
Lander: We might have some consensus as to what teachers need to know, and then go into schools to see if they know it. If not, we need to teach them.
Pedriana: What is so bad about providing a program, with training, of course? It would help people.
Facilitator: There is consensus around training of teachers.
Dykstra: Some of the distinction between training and programs is artificial. You need both.
Other things the state could require: weighting of reading in evaluation systems, grading of schools etc.
Dykstra: If giving schools grades, they should get separate grades for how they do in teaching separate content areas. In addition, everything should be reported in the best value-added system we can create, because it’s the only way to know if you’re doing a good job.
Pils: Doesn’t like grading of schools. She has a whole folder on cheating in districts that have grading of schools and high stakes tests.
Evers: Do we just want to measure what schools are doing, or do we want to use it to leverage change?
Erickson: Wisconsin has gone from 3rd to 30th on the NAEP, so of course we should be seeking change.
Walker: The idea is not to pick on failing schools, but to help them. We must be able to deploy the resources to the things that work in accordance with science and research to teach reading right.
Dykstra: We should seek small kernels of detailed information about which teachers consistently produce better results in a given type of school for a given type of student. There is a problem with reliability when using MAP data at an individual student level.
Supt. Evers talked about the new state accountability system as being a better alternative to no Child Left Behind. Governor Walker said the state is not just doing this as an alternative to NCLB, but in response to comments from business that our graduates are not well-prepared. Parents want to know what all schools are doing.
Olsen: We need a system to monitor reading in Wisconsin before we get into big trouble. Our changing population is leading us to discover challenges that other states have dealt with for years.
Kestell: The accountability design team is an excellent opportunity to discuss priorities in education; a time to set aside personal agendas and look for solutions that work.
Next Meeting/Status of Report
Michael Brickman will try to send out a draft of a report the week of August 29 with his best interpretation of task force consensus items. The final meeting will be Sept. 27, perhaps in Madison, Eau Claire, or Wausau. Some task force issues will need to be passed on to other task forces in the future.

Related: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges and Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting and

Science can lead to better (Wisconsin) readers

Marcia Henry, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Fifteen years ago, Wisconsin fourth-graders placed third in the country in state rankings of reading ability known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. By 2009, our fourth-graders’ scores plunged to 30th, with a third of the students reading below basic levels. The scores of minority youth were even bleaker, with 65% of African-American and 50% of Hispanic students scoring in the below-basic range.
As a member of Gov. Scott Walker’s blue ribbon reading task force, I am one of 14 people charged with reversing that drop. And, as a 50-year veteran educator, I have a partial solution. Let me spell it out for you: We need better teacher preparation.
How many of you remember your very best teachers? I remember Miss Hickey at Lincoln School and Miss Brauer at Folwell School in Rochester, Minn. They taught me to read.
I travel throughout the country consulting and providing staff development for school districts and literacy organizations. I’ve met thousands of dedicated teachers who tell me they are unprepared to teach struggling readers.
This situation is not the teachers’ fault. Some teachers in Wisconsin had only one course in reading instruction. Most were never exposed to the latest research regarding early reading acquisition and instruction. In contrast, several states require three or four classes in courses that contain the latest in science-based reading instruction.

Related: Wisconsin’s “Read to Lead” task force and “a Capitol Conversation” on reading.

A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges

UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg and I had an informative conversation with two elected officials at the Capitol recently.
I am thankful for Mark’s time and the fact that both Luther Olsen and Steve Kestell along with staff members took the time to meet. I also met recently with Brett Hulsey and hope to meet with more elected officials, from both parties.
The topic du jour was education, specifically the Governor’s Read to Lead task force.
Mark kindly shared this handout:

My name is Mark Seidenberg, Hilldale Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison,, I have studied how reading works, how children learn to read, reading disabilities, and the brain bases of reading for over 30 years. I am a co-author of a forthcoming report from the National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) on low literacy among older adolescents and adults. I’m writing a general audience book about reading research and educational practices.
We have a literacy problem: about 30% of the US (and WI) population reads at a “basic” or “below basic” level. Literacy levels are particularly low among poor and minority individuals. The identification of this problem does not rest on any single test (e.g., NAEP, WKCE, OECD). Our literacy problem arises from many causes, some of which are not easy to address by legislative fiat. However, far more could be done in several important areas.
1. How teachers are taught. In Wisconsin as in much of the US, prospective teachers are not exposed to modern research on how children develop, learn, and think. Instead, they are immersed in the views of educational theorists such as Lev Vygotsky (d. 1934) and John Dewey (d. 1952). Talented, highly motivated prospective teachers are socialized into beliefs about children that are not informed by the past 50 years of basic research in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience.
A vast amount is known about reading in particular, ranging from what your eyes do while reading to how people comprehend documents to what causes reading disabilities. However, there is a gulf between Education and Science, and so this research is largely ignored in teacher training and curriculum development.
2. How children are taught. There continue to be fruitless battles over how beginning readers should be taught, and how to insure that comprehension skills continue to develop through middle and high school. Teachers rely on outdated beliefs about how children learn, and how reading works. As a result, for many children, learning to read is harder than it should be. We lose many children because of how they are taught. This problem does NOT arise from “bad teachers”; there is a general, systematic problem related to teacher education and training in the US.
3. Identification of children at risk for reading failures. Some children are at risk for reading and school failure because of developmental conditions that interfere with learning to read. Such children can be identified at young ages (preschool, kindergarten) using relatively simple behavioral measures. They can also be helped by effective early interventions that target basic components of reading such as vocabulary and letter-sound knowledge. The 30% of the US population that cannot read adequately includes a large number of individuals whose reading/learning impairments were undiagnosed and untreated.
Recommendations: Improve teacher education. Mechanism: change the certification requirements for new teachers, as has been done in several other states. Certification exams must reflect the kinds of knowledge that teachers need, including relevant research findings from cognitive science and neuroscience. Instruction in these areas would then need to be provided by schools of education or via other channels. In-service training courses could be provided for current teachers (e.g., as on-line courses).
Children who are at risk for reading and schooling failures must be identified and supported at young ages. Although it is difficult to definitively confirm a reading/learning disability in children at young ages (e.g., 4-6) using behavioral, neuroimaging, or genetic measures, it is possible to identify children at risk, most of whom will develop reading difficulties unless intervention occurs, via screening that involves simple tests of pre-reading skills and spoken language plus other indicators. Few children just “grow out of” reading impairments; active intervention is required.

I am cautiously optimistic that we may see an improvement in Wisconsin’s K-12 curricular standards.
Related: Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting and

July 29 Wisconsin Read to Lead task force meeting

Julie Gocey, via email:

The fourth meeting of the Governor’s Read to Lead task force took place in Milwaukee on Friday, July 29. The meeting was filmed by Wisconsin Eye, but we have not seen it offered yet through their website. We will send out a notice when that occurs. As always, we encourage you to watch and draw your own conclusions.
Following is a synopsis of the meeting, which centered on reading improvement success in Florida and previously-discussed task force topics (teacher preparation, licensing, professional development, screening/intervention, early childhood). In addition, Superintendent Evers gave an update on activity within DPI. The discussion of the impact of societal factors on reading achievement was held over to the next meeting, as was further revisiting of early childhood issues.

In addition to this summary, you can access Chan Stroman’s Eduphilia tweets at!/eduphilia
Opening: Governor Walker welcomed everyone and stressed the importance of this conversation on reading. Using WKCE data, which has been criticized nationally and locally for years as being derived from low standards, the Governor stated that 80% of Wisconsin students are proficient or advanced in reading, and he is seeking to serve the other 20%. The NAEP data, which figured prominently in the presentation of the guest speakers, tell a very different story. Superintendent Evers thanked the task force members and indicated that this is all about “connecting the dots” and putting all of the “puzzle pieces” together. The work of this task force will impact the work going on in other education-focused committees.
The Florida Story: Guest speakers were Patricia Levesque, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, and Mary Laura Bragg, the director of Florida’s statewide reading initiative, Just Read, Florida! from 2001 to 2006.
In a series of slides, Levesque compared Wisconsin, Florida, and national performance on the NAEP reading test over the past decade. Despite challenges in terms of English language learners, a huge percentage of students on free/reduced lunch, and a minority-majority demographic, Florida has moved from the scraping the bottom on the NAEP to the top group of states. Over the same time period, Wisconsin has plummeted in national ranking, and our students now score below the national average in all subgroups for which NAEP data is disaggregated. 10 points on the NAEP scale is roughly equivalent to one grade level in performance, and Florida has moved from two grade levels below Wisconsin to 1/2 grade level above. For a full discussion of Wisconsin’s NAEP performance, see our website,
Levesque and Bragg also described the components of the reading initiative in Florida, which included grading all schools from A to F, an objective test-based promotion policy from third to fourth grade, required state-approved reading plans in each district, trained reading coaches in schools, research assistance from the Florida Center for Reading Research, required individual student intervention plans for struggling students, universal K-2 screening for reading problems, improved licensure testing for teachers and principals, the creation of a reading endorsement for teaching licenses, and on-line professional development available to all teachers. As noted above, achievement has gone up dramatically, the gap between demographic groups has narrowed, early intervention is much more common, and third grade retention percentages continue to fall. The middle school performance is now rising as those children who received early intervention in elementary school reach that level. Those students have not yet reached high school, and there is still work to be done there. To accomplish all this, Florida leveraged federal funds for Title 1 and 2 and IDEA, requiring that they be spent for state-approved reading purposes. The Governor also worked actively with business to create private/public partnerships supporting reading. Just Read, Florida! was able to engineer a statewide conference for principals that was funded from vendor fees. While Florida is a strong local control state, reading is controlled from the state level, eliminating the need for local curriculum directors to research and design reading plans without the resources or manpower to do so. Florida also cut off funding to university professors who refused to go along with science-based reading instruction and assessment.
Florida is now sharing its story with other states, and offering assistance in reading plan development, as well as their screening program (FAIR assessment system) and their online professional development, which cost millions to develop. Levesque invited Wisconsin to join Indiana and other states at a conference in Florida this fall.
Questions for, or challenges to, the presenters came from three task force members.

  • Rachel Lander asked about the reading coaches, and Bragg responded that they were extensively trained by the state office, beginning with Reading First money. They are in the classroom modeling for teachers and also work with principals on understanding data and becoming building reading leaders. The coaches now have an association that has acquired a presence in the state.
  • Linda Pils stated her belief that Wisconsin outperforms Florida at the middle school level, and that we have higher graduation rates than Florida. She cited opinions that third grade retention has some immediate effect, but the results are the same or better for non-retained students later, and that most retained students will not graduate from high school. She also pointed out Florida’s class size reduction requirement, and suggested that the NAEP gains came from that. Levesque explained that the retention studies to which Pils was referring were from other states, where retention decisions were made subjectively by teachers, and there was no requirement for science-based individual intervention plans. The gains for retained students in Florida are greater than for matched students who are not retained, and the gains persist over time. Further, retention did not adversely affect graduation rates. In fact, graduation rates have increased, and dropout rates have declined. The University of Arkansas is planning to do a study of Florida retention. The class size reduction policy did not take effect in Florida until last year, and a Harvard study concluded that it had no effect on student reading achievement. Task force member Steve Dykstra pointed out that you cannot compare the NAEP scores from two states without considering the difference in student demographics. Wisconsin’s middle school scores benefit from the fact that we have a relative abundance of white students who are not on free/reduced lunch. Our overall average student score in middle school may be higher than Florida, but when we compare similar cohorts from both states, Florida is far ahead.
  • Tony Pedriana asked what kinds of incentives have been put in place for higher education, principals, etc. to move to a science-based system of instruction. The guests noted that when schools are graded, reading performance receives double weight in the formula. They also withheld funding for university programs that were not science-based.

DPI Update: Superintendent Evers indicated that DPI is looking at action in fours areas: teacher licensure, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, the use of a screener to detect reading problems, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

  • The committee looking at licensing is trying to decide whether they should recommend an existing, off-the-shelf competency exam, or revise the exam they are currently requiring (Praxis 2). He did not indicate who is on the committee or what existing tests they were looking at. In the past, several members of the task force have recommended that Wisconsin use the Foundations of Reading test given in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • DPI is revising the WMELS to correct definitions and descriptions of phonological and phonemic awareness and phonics. The changes will align the WMELS with both the Report of the National Reading Panel and the Common Core State Standards. Per the suggestion of Eboni Howard, a guest speaker at the last meeting, they will get an outside opinion on the WMELS when they are finished. Evers did not indicate who is doing this work.
  • DPI is looking at the possibility of using PALS screening or some other tool recommended by the National RTI Center to screen students in grades K-2 or K-3. Evers previously mentioned that this committee had been meeting for 6-7 months, but he did not indicate who is on it.
  • Evers made reference to communication that was circulated this week (by Dr. Dan Gustafson and John Humphries) that expressed concern over the method in which DPI is implementing the Common Core. He stated that districts have been asking DPI for help in implementing the CC, and they want to provide districts with a number of resources. One of those is the model curriculum being developed by CESA 7. DPI is looking at it to see how it could help the state move forward, but no final decision has yet been made.

Task force member Pam Heyde, substituting for Marcia Henry, suggested that it would be better to look at what Florida is doing rather than start from ground zero looking at guidelines. Patricia Levesque confirmed that Florida was willing to assist other states, and invited Wisconsin to join a meeting of state reading commissioners in October.
Teacher Preparation: The discussion centered around what needs to change in teacher preparation programs, and how to fit this into a four-year degree.
Steve Dykstra said that Texas has looked at this issue extensively. Most schools need three courses to cover reading adequately, but it is also important to look at the texts that are used in the courses. He referenced a study by Joshi that showed most of the college texts to be inadequate.
Dawnene Hassett, UW-Madison literacy professor in charge of elementary teacher reading preparation, was invited to participate in this part of the discussion. She indicated we should talk in terms of content knowledge, not number of credits. In a couple of years, teachers will have to pass a Teacher Performance Assessment in order to graduate. This was described as a metacognitive exercise using student data. In 2012-13, UW-Madison will change its coursework, combining courses in some of the arts, and dropping some of the pedagogical, psychological offerings.
Tony Pedriana said he felt schools of education had fallen down on teaching content derived from empirical studies.
Hassett said schools teach all five “pillars” of reading, but they may not be doing it well enough. She said you cannot replicate classroom research, so you need research “plus.”
Pils was impressed with the assistance the FCRR gives to classroom teachers regarding interventions that work. She also said spending levels were important.
Dykstra asked Mary Laura Bragg if she had worked with professors who thought they were in alignment with the research, but really weren’t.
Bragg responded that “there’s research, and then there’s research.” They had to educate people on the difference between “research” from vendors and empirical research, which involves issues of fidelity and validation with different groups of students.
Levesque stated that Florida increased reading requirements for elementary candidates from 3 to 6 credits, and added a 3 credit requirement for secondary candidates. Colleges were required to fit this in by eliminating non-content area pedagogy courses.
Kathy Champeau repeated a concern from earlier meetings that teacher candidates need the opportunity to practice their new knowledge in a classroom setting, or they will forget it.
Hassett hoped the Teacher Performance Assessment would help this. The TPA would probably require certain things to be included in the teacher candidate’s portfolio.
Governor Walker said that the key to the effectiveness of Florida’s retention policy was the intervention provided to the students. He asked what they did to make sure intervention was successful.
Levesque replied that one key was reading coaches in the classroom. Also, district reading plans, individual intervention plans, student academies, etc. all need to be approved by the state.
There was consensus that there should be a difference in reading requirements for elementary vs. secondary teachers. There was no discussion of preparation for reading teachers, reading specialists, or special education teachers.
Licensing: The discussion centered around what teacher standards need to be tested.
Dykstra suggested that the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading, written by Louisa Moats, et al, and published by the International Dyslexia Association in 2010, would be good teacher standards, and the basis for a teacher competency exam. There was no need for DPI to spend the next year discussing and inventing new teacher standards.
Champeau said that the International Reading Association also has standards.
Pedriana asked if those standards are based on research.
Dykstra suggested that the task force look at the two sets of standards side-by-side and compare them.
Professional Development: The facilitators looked for input on how professional development for practicing teachers should be targeted. Should the state target struggling teachers, schools, or districts for professional development?
Rep. Jason Fields felt all three needed to be targeted.
Heyde asked Levesque for more details on how Wisconsin could do professional development, when we often hear there is no money.
Levesque provided more detail on the state making reading a priority, building public/private partnerships, and being more creative with federal grant money (e.g., the 20% of each grant that is normally carved out by the state for administration). There should be a clear reading plan (Florida started with just two people running their initiative, and after a decade only has eight people), and all the spending should align with the plan to be effective. You cannot keep sending money down the hole. Additional manpower was provided by the provision that all state employees would get one paid hour per week to volunteer on approved reading projects in schools, and also by community service requirements for high school students.
Bragg suggested using the online Florida training modules, and perhaps combining them with modules from Louisiana.
Dykstra also suggested taking advantage of existing training, including LETRS, which was made widely available in Massachusetts. He also stressed the importance of professional development for principals, coaches, and specialists.
Bragg pointed out that many online training modules are free, or provided for a nominal charge that does not come close to what it would cost Wisconsin to develop its own professional development.
Lander said there were many Wisconsin teachers who don’t need the training, and it should not be punitive.
Champeau suggested that Florida spends way more money on education that Wisconsin, based on information provided by the NAEP.
Levesque clarified that Florida actually is below the national average in cost per student. The only reason they spend more than Wisconsin is that they have more students.
Rep. Steve Kestell stated that teachers around the entire state have a need for professional development, and it is dangerous to give it only to the districts that are performing the worst.
Sarah Archibald (sitting in for Sen. Luther Olsen) said it would be good to look at the value added in districts across the state when trying to identify the greatest needs for professional development. The new statewide information system should provide us with some of this value added information, but not at a classroom teacher level.
Evers commented that the state could require new teacher Professional Development Plans to include or be focused on reading.
Pils commented that districts can have low and high performing schools, so it is not enough to look at district data.
Champeau said that administrators also need this professional development. They cannot evaluate teachers if they do not have the knowledge themselves.
Dykstra mentioned a Florida guidebook for principals with a checklist to help them. He is concerned about teachers who develop PDP’s with no guidance, and spend a lot of time and money on poor training and learning. There is a need for a clearinghouse for professional development programs.
Screening/Intervention: One of the main questions here was whether the screening should be universal using the same tools across the state.
Champeau repeated a belief that there are districts who are doing well with the screening they are doing, and they should not be required to change or add something new.
Dykstra responded that we need comparable data from every school to use value added analysis, so a universal tool makes sense. He also said there was going to be a lot of opposition to this, given the statements against screening that were issued when Rep. Keith Ripp introduced legislation on this topic in the last biennium. He felt the task force has not seen any screener in enough detail to recommend a particular one at this time.
Heyde said we need a screener that screens for the right things.
Pils agreed with Dykstra and Heyde. She mentioned that DIBELS is free and doesn’t take much time.
Michele Erickson asked if a task force recommendation would turn into a mandate. She asked if Florida used a universal screener.
Levesque replied that Florida initially used DIBELS statewide, and then the FCRR developed the FAIR assessments for them. The legislature in Florida mandated the policy of universal kindergarten screening that also traces students back to their pre-K programs to see which ones are doing a better job. Wisconsin could purchase the FAIR assessments from Florida.
Archilbald suggested phasing in screening if we could not afford to do it all at once.
Evers supports local control, but said there are reasons to have a universal screener for data systems, to inform college programs, and to implement professional development.
Lander asked what screening information we could get from the WKCE.
Evers responded that the WKCE doesn’t start unitl third grade.
Dykstra said we need a rubric about screening, and who needs what type and how often.
Pedriana said student mobility is another reason for a universal screener.
There was consensus that early screening is important. Certainly by 4K or 5K, but even at age three if a system could be established. Possibilities mentioned were district-run screenings or pediatrician screenings.
Walker reminded the task force that it only makes sense to screen if you have the ability to intervene with something.
Mara Brown wasn’t sure that a universal screener would tell her anything more about her students than she already knows.
Levesque said she could provide a screening roadmap rubric for the task force.
No one on the task force had suggestions for specific interventions. The feeling was that it is more important to have a well-trained teacher. Both Florida and Oregon started evaluating and rating interventions, but stopped because they got bogged down. Wisconsin must also be careful about evaluations by What Works Clearinghouse, which has some problems.
Pedriana asked if the task force is prepared to endorse a model of instruction based on science, where failure is not an option.
The facilitator said this discussion would have to wait for later.
Early Childhood: The task force agreed that YoungStar should include more specific literacy targets.
Rep. Kestell felt that some district are opening 4K programs primarily for added revenue, and that there is wide variability in quality. There is a need to spend more time on this and decide what 4K should look like.
Evers said we should use the Common Core and work backward to determine what needs to be done in 4K.
Wrap-Up: Further discussion of early childhood will be put over to the next meeting, as will the societal issues and accountability. A meeting site has not yet been set, but Governor Walker indicted he liked moving around the state. The Governor’s aides will follow up as to locations and specific agenda. The next meeting will be Thursday, August 25. All meetings are open to the public.

Related: An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards” and how does Wisconsin Compare?
Much more on Wisconsin’s Read to Lead Task Force, here.

An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards”

Dan Gustafson, PhD 133K PDF, via a kind email from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

WRC recommends reading the following open letter from Madison neuropsychologist Dan Gustafson to the Governor’s Read to Lead task force. It reflects many of our concerns about the state of reading instruction in Wisconsin and the lack of an effective response from the Department of Public Instruction.
An Open Letter to the Read-To-Lead Task Force
From Dan Gustafson, PhD
State Superintendent Evers, you appointed me to the Common Core Leadership Group. You charged that the Leadership Group would guide Wisconsin’s implementation of new reading instruction standards developed by the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
It is my understanding that I was asked to join the group with the express purpose of bringing different voices to the table. If anything, my experience with the group illustrates how very far we need to go in achieving a transparent and reasoned discussion about the reading crisis in Wisconsin.
DPI Secretly Endorses Plan Created by Poor Performing CESA-7
I have grave concerns about DPI’s recent announcement that Wisconsin will follow CESA-7’s approach to implementing the Common Core reading standards. DPI is proposing this will be the state’s new model reading curriculum.
I can attest that there was absolutely no consensus reached in the Common Core group in support of CESA-7’s approach. In point of fact, at the 27th of June Common Core meeting, CESA-7 representative Claire Wick refused to respond to even general questions about her program.
I pointed out that our group, the Common Core Leadership Group, had a right to know about how CESA-7 intended to implement the Common Core Standards. She denied this was the case, citing a “non-disclosure agreement.”
The moderator of the discussion, DPI’s Emilie Amundson, concurred that Claire didn’t need to discuss the program further on the grounds that it was only a CESA-7 program. Our Common Core meeting occurred on the 27th of June. Only two weeks later, on July 14th, DPI released the following statement:
State Superintendent Evers formally adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, making Wisconsin the first state in the country to adopt these rigorous, internationally benchmarked set of expectations for what students should know and are expected to do in English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards guide both curriculum and assessment development at the state level. Significant work is now underway to determine how training will be advanced for these new standards, and DPI is currently working with CESA 7 to develop a model curriculum aligned to the new standards.
In glaring contrast to the deliberative process that went into creating the Common Core goals, Wisconsin is rushing to implement the goals without being willing to even show their program to their own panel of experts.
What Do We Know About Wisconsin/CESA-7’s Model Curriculum?
As an outsider to DPI, I was only able to locate one piece of data regarding CESA-7’s elementary school reading performance:
What Claire did say about her philosophy and the CESA-7 program, before she decided to refuse further comment, was that she did not think significant changes were needed in reading instruction in Wisconsin, as “only three-percent” of children were struggling to read in the state. This is a strikingly low number, one that reflects an arbitrary cutoff for special education. Her view does not reflect the painful experience of the 67% of Wisconsin 4th graders who scored below proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
As people in attendance at the meeting can attest, Claire also said that her approach was “not curriculum neutral” and she was taking a “strong stand” on how to teach reading. Again, when I pressed her on what these statements meant, she would only reference oblique whole language jargon, such as a belief in the principal of release from instruction. When I later asked her about finding a balance that included more phonics instruction, she said “too much emphasis” had been given to balanced literacy. After making her brief statements to the Common Core group, she said she had already disclosed too much, and refused to provide more details about the CESA-7 program.
Disregarding Research and Enormous Gains Made by other States, Wisconsin Continues to Stridently Support Whole Language
During the remainder of the day-long meeting on the 27th, I pressed the group to decide about a mechanism to achieve an expert consensus grounded in research. I suggested ways we could move beyond the clear differences that existed among us regarding how to assess and teach reading.
The end product of the meeting, however, was just a list of aspirational goals. We were told this would likely be the last meeting of the group. There was no substantive discussion about implementation of the goals–even though this had been Superintendent Evers’ primary mandate for the group.
I can better understand now why Emilie kept steering the discussion back to aspirational goals. The backroom deal had already been made with Claire and other leaders of the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA). It would have been inconvenient to tell me the truth.
WSRA continues to unapologetically champion a remarkably strident version of whole-language reading instruction. Please take a look at the advocacy section of their website. Their model of reading instruction has been abandoned through most the United States due to lack of research support. It is still alive and well in CESA-7, however.
Our State Motto is “Forward”
After years of failing to identify and recommend model curriculum by passing it off as an issue of local control, the DPI now purports to lead. Unfortunately, Superintendent Evers, you are now leading us backward.
Making CESA-7 your model curriculum is going to cause real harm. DPI is not only rashly and secretly endorsing what appears to be a radical version of whole language, but now school districts who have adopted research validated procedures, such as the Monroe School District, will feel themselves under pressure to fall in line with your recommended curriculum.
By all appearances, CESA-7’s program is absolutely out of keeping with new Federal laws addressing Response to Intervention and Wisconsin’s own Specific Learning Disability Rule. CESA-7’s program will not earn us Race to the Top funding. Most significantly, CESA-7’s approach is going to harm children.
In medicine we would call this malpractice. There is clear and compelling data supporting one set of interventions (Monroe), and another set of intervention that are counter-indicated (CESA-7). This is not a matter of opinion, or people taking sides. This is an empirical question. If you don’t have them already, I hope you will find trusted advisors who will rise above the WSRA obfuscation and just look at the data. It is my impression that you are moving fast and receiving poor advice.
I am mystified as to why, after years of making little headway on topics related to reading, DPI is now making major decisions at a breakneck pace. Is this an effort to circumvent the Read-To-Lead Task Force by instituting new policies before the group has finished its scheduled meetings? Superintendent Evers, why haven’t you shared anything about the CESA-7 curriculum with them? Have you already made your decision, or are you prepared to show the Read-To-Lead that there is a deliberative process underway to find a true model curriculum?
There are senior leaders at DPI who recognize that the reading-related input DPI has received has been substantially unbalanced. For example, there were about five senior WSRA members present at the Common Core meetings, meaning that I was substantially outnumbered. While ultimately unsuccessful due to logistics, an 11th hour effort was made to add researchers and leadership members from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition to the Common Core group.
The Leadership Group could achieve what you asked of it, which is to thoughtfully guide implementation of the Common Core. I am still willing to work with you on this goal.
State Superintendent Evers, I assume that you asked me to be a member of the Leadership Group in good faith, and will be disappointed to learn of what actually transpired with the group. You may have the false impression that CESA-7’s approach was vetted at your Common Core Leadership Group. Lastly, and most importantly, I trust you have every desire to see beyond destructive politics and find a way to protect the welfare of the children of Wisconsin.
Dan Gustafson, PhD, EdM
Neuropsychologist, Dean Clinic

View a 133K PDF or Google Docs version.
How does Wisconsin Compare: 2 Big Goals.
Wisconsin Academic Standards

Wisconsin Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement Comparison

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Evers emerges as fierce advocate of schools in face of massive cuts, privatization efforts

Susan Troller:

About a dozen members of a bipartisan, mostly volunteer organization called Common Ground file into Superintendent Tony Evers’ utilitarian conference room in downtown Milwaukee. The group is exploring how to help Milwaukee’s beleaguered schools, and it has scheduled a meeting with the head of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as part of its research.
Tall, thin and gray haired, Evers has a boyish smile and a welcoming manner. He’s now in a white shirt and tie, sans the suit coat he wore to an earlier meeting with suburban school officials in Pewaukee.
Common Ground, a nonpartisan coalition that includes churches, nonprofits and labor unions, has come to Evers’ office today looking for advice on how best to direct its considerable resources toward helping Milwaukee students, whose performance in both traditional public schools and in taxpayer-funded voucher schools ranks at the bottom of major American cities.
After initial pleasantries and introductions are exchanged, Keisha Krumm, lead organizer for Common Ground, asks Evers a question. “At this stage we’re still researching what issue we will be focusing on. But we do want to know what you can do. What’s your power and influence?”

How does Wisconsin compare to other states and the world? Learn more at

Wisconsin Considering New Ways of Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

Alan Borsuk:

What does just about every fifth-grader know that stumps experts?
Who the best teachers are in that kid’s school. Who’s hard, who’s easy, who makes you work, who lets you get away with stuff, who gets you interested in things, who’s not really on top of what’s going on. In other words: how good each teacher is.
A lot of the time, the fifth-grader’s opinions are on target.
But would you want to base a teacher’s pay or career on that?
Sorry, the experts are right. It’s tough to get a fair, thorough and insightful handle on how to judge a teacher.
“If there was a magic answer for this, somebody would have thought of it a long time ago,” Bradley Carl of Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:  told a gathering of about 100 educators and policy-makers last week.

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been working on “Value Added Assessment” using the oft-criticized WKCE

Wisconsin Governor Walker’s Read to Lead task force met on May 31st at the State Capitol. Following are observations from WRC.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via email:

Governor Walker’s Read to Lead task force met on May 31st at the State Capitol. Following are observations from WRC.
Note: Peggy Stern, an Oscar-winning filmmaker currently working on a project about dyslexia, had a crew filming the meeting. If we are able to acquire footage, we will make it available. If you would like Wisconsin Eye to record future meetings, please contact them at
Format: Unlike the first task force meeting, this meeting was guided by two facilitators from AIR, the American Institutes for Research. This was a suggestion of Senator Luther Olsen, and the facilitators were procured by State Superintendent Tony Evers. Evers and Governor Walker expressed appreciation at not having to be concerned with running the meeting, but there were some problems with the round-robin format chosen by the facilitators. Rather than a give-and-take discussion, as happened at the first meeting, this was primarily a series of statements from people at the table. There was very little opportunity to seek clarification or challenge statements. Time was spent encouraging everyone to comment on every question, regardless of whether they had anything of substance to contribute, and the time allotted to individual task force members varied. Some were cut off before finishing, while others were allowed to go on at length. As a direct result of this format, the conversation was considerably less robust than at the first meeting.
Topics: The range of topics proved to be too ambitious for the time allowed. Teacher preparation and professional development took up the bulk of the time, followed by a rather cursory discussion of assessment tools. The discussion of reading interventions was held over for the next meeting.
Dawnene Hassett, Asst. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction and new elementary literacy chair, UW-Madison
Tania Mertzman Habeck, Assoc. Prof. of Curriculum and Instruction, UW-Milwaukee
Mary Jo Ziegler, Reading Consultant, Wis. Department of Public Instruction
Troy Couillard, Special Education Team, Wis. Department of Public Instruction
Next Meetings: The Governor’s office will work to set up a schedule of meetings for the next several months. Some of the meetings may be in other parts of the state.
Action: WRC suggests contacting the offices of the Governor, Luther Olsen, Steve Kestell, and Jason Fields and your own legislators to ask for several things:
Arrange for filming the next meeting through Wisconsin Eye
Bring in national experts such as Louisa Moats, Joe Torgesen, and Peggy McCardle to provide Wisconsin with the road map for effective reading instruction, teacher preparation, and professional development . . . top university, DPI, and professional organization leaders at the May 31st meeting asked for a road map and admitted they have not been able to develop one
Arrange the format of the next meeting to allow for more authentic and robust discussion of issues
Teacher Training and Professional Development
The professors felt that the five components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) are generally taught in preparation programs, but that instruction varies widely from one institution to another. Reading course work requirements can vary from 12 credits to just one course. They also felt, as did the teachers on the panel, that there needs to be more practical hand-on experience in the undergraduate program. There was a feeling that teachers “forget” their instruction in reading foundations by the time they graduate and get into the classroom. They have better luck teaching masters level students who already have classroom experience. The linguistic knowledge means very little without a practicum, and we may need to resort to professional development to impart that information. Teachers need to be experts in teaching reading, but many currently don’t feel that way. It is important, especially with RTI coming, to be able to meet the needs of individual students.Both professors and teachers, as well as others on the panel, felt a “road map” of critical information for teacher preparation programs and literacy instruction in schools would be a good idea. This was a point of agreement. Hassett felt that pieces of a plan currently exist, but not a complete road map. The professors and some of the teachers felt that teacher prep programs are doing a better job at teaching decoding than comprehension strategies. They were open to more uniformity in syllabi and some top-down mandates.
Marcia Henry mentioned studies by Joshi, et al. that found that 53% of pre-service teachers and 60% of in-service teachers are unable to correctly answer questions about the structure of the English language. Tony Pedriana cited another Joshi study that showed college professors of reading were equally uninformed about the language, and the majority cannot distinguish between phonemic awareness and phonics. He also said it was very difficult to find out what colleges were teaching; one college recently refused his request to see a syllabus for a reading course. Steve Dykstra read from the former Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the current Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which contained incorrect definitions and examples of phonemic awareness. He questioned whether teachers were being adequately prepared in decoding skills. Rep. Steve Kestell was concerned with the assessment that most teachers do not feel like experts in teaching reading, and he wondered if updated techniques for training teachers would make a difference.
Sarah Archibald (aide to Luther Olsen) proposed looking at a more rigorous foundations of reading test, as found in other states, as a requirement for teacher licensure. This would be one way to move toward more uniform instruction in teacher prep programs. Steve Dykstra pointed out that a test alone will not necessarily drive changes in teacher preparation, but publishing the passage results linked to individual colleges or professors would help. Evers indicated that DPI has been looking for several months into teacher testing and licensure.
Gov. Walker asked if the ed schools were looking at the latest trends in teacher preparation to become better. The professors indicated that the ed schools confer with local districts in an effort to improve.
Supt. Evers said it was probably not a good idea that teacher prep programs across Wisconsin vary so much.
Hassett indicated that some flexibility needs to be retained so that urban and rural areas can teach differently. There was some disagreement as to whether teachers of upper grades need to be trained in reading, or at least trained the same way.
Linda Pils pointed out that the amount and quality of professional development for Wisconsin teachers is very spotty. Most panel members felt that a coaching model with ongoing training for both teachers and principals was essential to professional development, but the coaches must be adequately trained. There was some discussion of Professional Development Plans, which are required for relicensure, and whether the areas of development should be totally up the individual teacher as they are now. Steve Dykstra felt that much existing professional development is very poor, and that money and time needs to be spent better. Some things should not count for professional development. Michele Erikson felt that it would be good to require that Professional development be linked to the needs of the students as demonstrated by performance data. Mary Read pointed out that coaching should extend to summer programs.
The main consensus here was that we need a road map for good reading instruction and good teacher training and coaching. What is missing is the substance of that road map, and the experts we will listen to in developing it.
Mary Jo Ziegler presented a list of formal and informal assessment tools used around Wisconsin. Evers pointed out that assessment is a local district decision. Many former Reading First schools use DIBELS or some formal screener that assesses individual skills. Balanced literacy districts generally use something different. Madison, for example, has its own PLA (Primary Language Assessment), which includes running records, an observational survey, word identification, etc. MAP assessments are widely used, but Evers indicated that have not been shown to be reliable/valid below third grade. Dykstra questioned the reliability of MAP on the individual student level for all ages. PALS was discussed, as was the new wireless handheld DIBELS technology that some states are using statewide. Many members mentioned the importance of having multiple methods of assessment. Kathy Champeau delivered an impassioned plea for running records and Clay’s Observational Survey, which she said have been cornerstones of her teaching. Kestell was surprised that so many different tools are being used, and that the goal should be to make use of the data that is gathered. Dykstra, Henry, and Pedriana mentioned that assessment must guide instruction, and Archibald said that the purpose of an assessment must be considered. Couillard said that the Wis. RTI center is producing a questionnaire by which districts can evaluate assessment tools they hear about, and that they will do trainings on multiple and balanced assessments. Dykstra questioned the three-cue reading philosophy that often underlies miscue analysis and running records. no consensus was reached on what types of assessment should be used, or whether they should be more consistent across the state. Hassett questioned the timed component of DIBELS,and Dykstra explained its purpose. Some serious disagreements remain about the appropriateness of certain assessment tools, and their use by untrained teachers who do not know what warning signs to look for.
Evers began the topic of intervention by saying that DPI was still collecting data on districts that score well, and then will look at what intervention techniques they use. Henry suggested deferring discussion of this important topic to the next meeting, as there were only 8 minutes left.

IMPORTANT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING: Madison Board of Education to Vote on Madison Prep Planning Grant!

Kaleem Caire, via email:

March 28, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
In 30 minutes, our team and the public supporting us will stand before the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to learn if they will support our efforts to secure a charter planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men.
For those who still do not believe that Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men is a cause worthy of investment, let’s look at some reasons why it is. The following data was provided by the Madison Metropolitan School District to the Urban League of Greater Madison in September 2010.
Lowest Graduation Rates:

  • In 2009, just 52% of Black males and 52% of Latino males graduated on-time from the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) compared to 81% of Asian males and 88% of White males.

Lowest Reading Proficiency:

  • In 2010, just 45% of Black, 49% of Hispanic, and 59% of Asian males in 10th grade in the MMSD were proficient in reading compared to 87% of White males.

Largest ACT Performance Gap:

  • Just 7% of Black and 18% of Latino seniors in the MMSD who completed the ACT college entrance exam were “college ready” according to the test maker. Put another way, a staggering 93% of Black and 82% of Latino seniors were identified as “not ready” for college. Wisconsin persistently has the largest gap in ACT performance between Black and White students in the nation every year.

Children Grossly Underprepared for College:

  • Of the 76 Black seniors enrolled in MMSD in 2010 who completed the ACT college entrance exam required by Wisconsin public universities for admission consideration, just 5 students (7%) were truly ready for college. Of the 71 Latino students who completed the ACT, just 13 students (18%) were ready for college compared to 403 White seniors who were ready.
  • Looking at it another way, in 2010, there were 378 Black 12th graders enrolled in MMSD high schools. Just 20% of Black seniors and completed the ACT and only 5 were determined to be college ready as state above. So overall, assuming completion of the ACT is a sign of students’ intention and readiness to attend college, only 1.3% of Black 12th graders were ready for college compared to 36% of White 12th graders.

Not Enrolled or Succeeding in College Preparatory Courses:

  • High percentages of Black high school students are completing algebra in the 9th grade but only half are succeeding with a grade of C or better. In 2009-10, 82% of Black 9th graders attending MMSD’s four comprehensive high schools took algebra; 42% of those taking the class received a C or better compared to 55% of Latino and 74% of White students.
  • Just 7% of Black and 17% of Latino 10th graders attending MMSD’s four comprehensive high schools who completed geometry in 10th grade earned a grade of C or better compared to 35% of Asian and 56% of White students.
  • Just 13% of Black and 20% of Latino 12th graders in the class of 2010 completed at least two or more Advanced Literature courses with a grade of C or better compared to 40% of White and 43% of Asian students.
  • Just 18% of Black and 26% of Latino 12th graders in the class of 2010 completed at least two or more Advanced Writing courses with a grade of C or better compared to 45% of White and 59% of Asian students.
  • Just 20% of Black 12th graders in the class of 2010 completed 2 or more credits of a Single Foreign Language with a grade of C or better compared to 34% of Latino, 69% of White and 59% of Asian students.
  • Just 33% of Black students took Honors, Advanced and/or AP courses in 2009-10 compared to and 46% of Latino, 72% of White and 70% of Asian students.
  • Just 25% of Black students who took Honors, Advanced and/or AP courses earned a C or better grade in 2009-10 compared to 38% of Latino, 68% of White and 64% of Asian students.

Extraordinarily High Special Education Placements:

  • Black students are grossly over-represented in special education in the MMSD. In 2009-10, Black students made up just 24% of the school system student enrollment but were referred to special education at twice that rate.
  • Among young men attending MMSD’s 11 middle schools in 2009-10, 39% of Black males were assigned to special education compared to 18% of Hispanic, 12% of Asian and 17% of White males. MMSD has been cited by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for disparities in assigning African American males to special education. The full chart is attached.
  • Of all students being treated for Autism in MMSD, 14% are Black and 70% are White. Of all Black students labeled autistic, 77% are males.
  • Of all students labeled cognitively disabled, 46% are Black and 35% are White. Of all Black students labeled CD, 53% are males.
  • Of all students labeled emotionally disabled, 55% are Black and 35% are White. Of the Black students labeled ED, 70% are males.
  • Of all students labeled learning disabled, 49% are Black and 35% are White. Of the Black students labeled LD, 57% are males.

Black students are Disproportionately Subjected to School Discipline:

  • Black students make up a disproportionate percentage of students who are suspended from school. Only Black students are over represented among suspension cases.
  • In 2009-10, MMSD levied 2,754 suspensions against Black students: 920 to Black girls and 1,834 to Black boys. While Black students made up 24% of the total student enrollment (n=5,370), they accounted for 72% of suspensions district-wide.
  • Suspension rates among Black children in MMSD have barely changed in nearly 20 years. In 1992-93, MMSD levied 1,959 suspensions against a total of 3,325 Black students. This equaled 58.9% of the total black enrollment in the district compared to 1,877 suspensions against a total of 18,346 (or 10.2%) white students [Dual Education in the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, February 1994, Vol. 7, No. 2].
  • Black males were missed a total of 2,709 days of school during the 2009-10 school year due to suspension.
  • Additionally, 20 Black students were expelled from the MMSD in 2009-10 compared to 8 White students in the same year.

    The Urban League of Greater Madison his offering MMSD a viable solution to better prepare young men of color for college and beyond. We look forward to making this solution a reality in the next 18 months.
    Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men 2012!
    Kaleem Caire
    President & CEO
    Urban League of Greater Madison
    Main: 608-729-1200
    Assistant: 608-729-1249
    Fax: 608-729-1205

  • Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy Charter school.

    Wisconsin Teachers’ Union Proposed Education Reforms

    Wisconsin Education Association Council:

    State officers of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) today unveiled three dramatic proposals as part of their quality-improvement platform called “Moving Education Forward: Bold Reforms.” The proposals include the creation of a statewide system to evaluate educators; instituting performance pay to recognize teaching excellence; and breaking up the Milwaukee Public School District into a series of manageable-sized districts within the city.
    “In our work with WEAC leaders and members we have debated and discussed many ideas related to modernizing pay systems, better evaluation models, and ways to help turn around struggling schools in Milwaukee,” said WEAC President Mary Bell. “We believe bold actions are needed in these three areas to move education forward. The time for change is now. This is a pivotal time in public education and we’re in an era of tight resources. We must have systems in place to ensure high standards for accountability – that means those working in the system must be held accountable to high standards of excellence.”
    TEACHER EVALUATION: In WEAC’s proposed teacher evaluation system, new teachers would be reviewed annually for their first three years by a Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) panel made up of both teachers and administrators. The PAR panels judge performance in four areas:

    • Planning and preparing for student learning
    • Creating a quality learning environment
    • Effective teaching
    • Professional responsibility

    The proposed system would utilize the expertise of the UW Value-Added Research Center (Value Added Assessment) and would include the review of various student data to inform evaluation decisions and to develop corrective strategies for struggling teachers. Teachers who do not demonstrate effectiveness to the PAR panels are exited out of the profession and offered career transition programs and services through locally negotiated agreements.
    Veteran teachers would be evaluated every three years, using a combination of video and written analysis and administrator observation. Underperforming veteran teachers would be required to go through this process a second year. If they were still deemed unsatisfactory, they would be re-entered into the PAR program and could ultimately face removal.
    “The union is accepting our responsibility for improving the quality of the profession, not just for protecting the due process rights of our members,” said Bell. “Our goal is to have the highest-quality teachers at the front of every classroom across the state. And we see a role for classroom teachers to contribute as peer reviewers, much like a process often used in many private sector performance evaluation models.”
    “If you want to drive change in Milwaukee’s public schools, connect the educators and the community together into smaller districts within the city, and without a doubt it can happen,” said Bell. “We must put the needs of Milwaukee’s students and families ahead of what’s best for the adults in the system,” said Bell. “That includes our union – we must act differently – we must lead.”

    Madison’s “value added assessment” program is based on the oft-criticized WKCE examinations.
    Related: student learning has become focused instead on adult employment – Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

    Education historian Diane Ravitch to speak in Madison 3/8/2011

    University of Wisconsin School of Education:

    Diane Ravitch, regarded by many as the nation’s leading education historian today, will offer an informed analysis of the current state of American education — what’s broken and how can it be fixed — at a free, public presentation sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, and the Wisconsin Center on Education Research, with support from the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the UW-Madison Lectures Committee.
    Ravitch’s presentation, “The Future of Public Education,” will be held Tuesday, March 8, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater, Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St., Madison. A 30-minute question-and-answer period will follow the presentation. Students, parents of students, and education professionals are encouraged to attend.

    Well Worth Reading: Wisconsin needs two big goals

    Dave Baskerville

    Having worked some 40 years in the business world, mostly abroad, with many leaders in business, politics and religion, I believe the most important ingredient for success is setting one or two ambitious, long-term goals that are routinely and publicly measured against the best in the world.
    For Wisconsin, we only need two:
    Raise our state’s per capita income to 10 percent above Minnesota’s by 2030.
    In job and business creation over the next decade, Wisconsin is often predicted to be among the lowest 10 states. When I was a kid growing up in Madison, income in Wisconsin was some 10 percent higher than in Minnesota. Minnesota caught up to us in 1967, and now the average Minnesotan makes $4,500 more than the average Wisconsinite.
    Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030. (emphasis added)
    Wisconsinites often believe we lose jobs because of lower wages elsewhere. In fact, it is often the abundance of skills (and subsidies and effort) that bring huge Intel research and development labs to Bangalore, Microsoft research centers to Beijing, and Advanced Micro Devices chip factories to Dresden.
    Our educational standards are based relative to the United States. So even if we “successfully” accomplish all of our state educational goals, our kids would still be in the global minor leagues. How about targeting Finland and Singapore in math, South Korea and Japan in science, Canada in reading?
    As the saying goes: “When one does not know where one is going, any road will do” (or not do).
    Without clear scorecards, we citizens will have little ability to coerce and evaluate politicians and their excuses, rhetoric and laws from the right and left. If JFK had not set a “man on the moon” stretch target, would we have landed there? Do the Green Bay Packers have a chance at winning another Super Bowl if they never tack that goal to the locker room walls?

    Clusty Search: Dave Baskerville.

    Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference in Madison March 22-23: many important keynote speakers, including politicians + important topics for education

    Laurel Cavalluzzo 160K PDF:

    Featured speakers at the conference include Greg Richmond, President and founding board member of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and establisher of the Chicago Public School District’s Charter Schools Office; Ursula Wright, the Chief Operating Officer for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; Sarah Archibald of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at UW-Madison and the Value-Added Research Center; and Richard Halverson, an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    Also speaking at the Conference will be:

    • State Senator John Lehman (D-Racine), Chair Senate Education Committee
    • State Senator Luther Olsen (R-Berlin), Ranking Minority Member, Senate Education
    • State Representative Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton), Chair, Assembly Education Committee
    • State Representative Brett Davis (R-Oregon), Ranking Minority Member, Assembly Education

    The Conference will feature interactive sessions; hands-on examples of innovative learning in classrooms; networking; a coaching room open throughout the conference; and keynote speakers that highlight the importance of quality in and around each classroom, and the impact that quality has on the learning of students everywhere. More details are attached.
    Thank you for your consideration and your help in getting word out! If you would like to attend on a press pass, please let me know and I will have one in your name at the registration area.

    Child care quality studied Better early education would benefit region, but at double the cost

    Erin Richards:

    Southeastern Wisconsin could benefit economically by increasing the quality of early childhood education centers, but doing so presents a daunting tradeoff: more than doubling the expense of caring for infants and young children up to age 5.
    A three-year study by Public Policy Forum researchers released Tuesday found that a system of high-quality early childhood education programs would cost about $11,500 per child, per year.
    In the current system, child care providers are estimated to spend about $5,625 per child annually.
    The new report relies on research showing a correlation between high-quality early learning experiences and higher rates of achievement in school, especially for disadvantaged children.
    The analysis for policy-makers includes the economic pros and cons of maintaining the status quo, funding a variety of mid-level improvements and implementing a high-quality system of early childhood education across southeastern Wisconsin, said Anneliese Dickman, research director at the Public Policy Forum.

    Complete 1MB PDF Report.

    A Look at the University of Wisconsin’s Value Added Research Center:

    Todd Finkelmeyer:

    Rob Meyer can’t help but get excited when he hears President Barack Obama talking about the need for states to start measuring whether their teachers, schools and districts are doing enough to help students succeed.
    “What he’s talking about is what we are doing,” says Meyer, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Value-Added Research Center.
    If states hope to secure a piece of Obama’s $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” stimulus money, they’ll have to commit to using research data to evaluate student progress and the effectiveness of teachers, schools and districts.
    Crunching numbers and producing statistical models that measure these things is what Meyer and his staff of 50 educators, researchers and various stakeholders do at the Value-Added Research Center, which was founded in 2004. These so-called “value-added” models of evaluation are designed to measure the contributions teachers and schools make to student academic growth. This method not only looks at standardized test results, but also uses statistical models to take into account a range of factors that might affect scores – including a student’s race, English language ability, family income and parental education level.
    “What the value-added model is designed to do is measure the effect and contribution of the educational unit on a student, whether it’s a classroom, a team of teachers, a school or a program,” says Meyer. Most other evaluation systems currently in use simply hold schools accountable for how many students at a single point in time are rated proficient on state tests.

    Much more on “value added assessment” here, along with the oft-criticized WKCE test, the soft foundation of much of this local work.

    Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction statewide value added project results (Including the Madison & Milwaukee Public Schools)

    Kurt Kiefer, Madison School District Chief Information Officer [150K PDF]:

    Attached is a summary of the results form a recently completed research project conducted by The Value Added Research center (VARC) within the UW-Madison Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER). Dr. Rob Meyer and Dr. Mike Christian will be on hand at the September 14 Board of Education meeting to review these findings.
    The study was commissioned by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Both the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) were district participants. The purpose of the study was to determine the feasibility of a statewide value added statistical model and the development of state reporting and analysis prototypes. We are pleased with the results in that this creates yet one more vehicle through which we may benchmark our district and school performance.
    At the September 14, 2009 Board meeting we will also share plans for continued professional development with our principals and staff around value added during the upcoming school year.
    In November we plan to return to the Board with another presentation on the 2008-09 results that are to include additional methods of reporting data developed by VARC in conjunction with MPS and the DPI. We will also share progress with the professional development efforts.


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

    Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction [52K PDF]:

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

    Jason Stein:

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

    Amy Hetzner:

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

    Tracking and Inequality: New Directions for Research and Practice Presentation by UW School of Education Professor Adam Gamoran

    via a kind reader’s email:

    Good afternoon. We’d like to invite you to Memorial High tomorrow afternoon for a discussion hosted by our Equity Team. Professor Adam Gamoran, Interim Dean of the UW School of Education, will be presenting paper titled Tracking and Inequality: New Directions for Research and Practice. His article is attached. We will begin at 4:15pm and should end around:15pm, and we’ll meet in the Wisconsin Neighborhood Center, which is in the Southwest corner of the building. Please park on the Mineral Point Rd. side of the building, and enter through the doors closest to Gammon Rd. There will signs to direct you from there. Have a good week, and we hope to see you tomorrow afternoon…Jay

    Jay Affeldt
    James Madison Memorial High School
    Professional Development School Coordinator
    Project REAL SLC Grant Coordinator
    201 South Gammon Road
    Madison, WI 53717
    608-442-2203 fax
    608-663-6182 office

    Wisconsin SAGE program’s 15-student limit is often exceeded, report says

    Amy Hetzner:

    About half of the classrooms participating in the state’s school class-size reduction program in 2006-’07 exceeded its 15-student limit at least part of the school day, according to a recent report.
    Dwindling resources and enrollment fluctuations were the main reasons given for the variation, according to the report by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    Although the report raises concerns about such practices, including that some school administrators seemed unaware of the program’s 15-student maximum, it concludes, “There are multiple ways to implement reduced class size well.”
    The report is part of the state Department of Public Instruction’s regular monitoring of the $111 million SAGE program – Student Achievement Guarantee in Education – that aims to reduce class sizes for kindergarten through third grade in more than 470 Wisconsin schools. The center has another study in the works looking at long-term quantitative results from the program.

    Give Education a Sporting Chance

    Frederic J. Fransen Center for Excellence in Higher Education Perhaps it’s time for college fundraisers to come clean about the differences between giving to colleges and universities and giving to their athletic programs. When donors give to athletics their gifts may produce visible results (a winning season, perhaps, or an NCAA tournament spot), but such … Continue reading Give Education a Sporting Chance

    50 State Charter School Law Comparison (Wisconsin Ranks “B”)

    The Center for Education Reform (1.1MB PDF):

    In their recent report analyzing the politics of charter school laws, Christiana Stoddard and Sean P. Corcoran of Education Nextrelied upon The Center for Education Reform’s (CER) Charter School Law Rankings and Profiles to study the success of the charter school movement.
    As they recognized, the strength of a law could impact the way in which healthy charter schools grow and how they serve students. Having laws with certain components is critical.
    CER welcomes this scrutiny and the dozens of other research reports, which utilize its rankings as a guide for assessing policy. We also recognize that not all researchers find the work we have done for ten years on law strength compelling. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder find our data and conclusions a bit hard to swallow. They argue that what CER considers strong components of a law – flexibility, autonomy, equitable funding – are actually weaknesses. Despite their claims that the weakest are actually the strongest, the data do not lie. States with strong laws by our standards (and those shared almost universally by the research community whether friend or foe) create strong schools.
    Put another way, strong laws matter.

    Quality Counts State K-12 Survey: Wisconsin = C+

    Editorial Projects in Education Research Center [1.2MB PDF]:

    The 12th annual edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts continues the cradle-to-career framework launched in last year’s report. But it also reintroduces some of the categories in which we have graded states in the past, though some of the indicators and the grading have changed. The cradle-to-career perspective emphasizes the connections between K-12 education and other systems with which it intersects: preschool education, other social and economic institutions, and further education and training.
    To emphasize this approach, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center last year created two new state-performance measures: the Chance-for-Success Index and the K-12 Achievement Index. These indicators, respectively, capture key learning foundations and outcomes at various stages in a person’s life and the performance of the states’ public schools. Coupled with that heightened attention to outcomes, the 2007 edition of Quality Counts examined a series of policies that states could pursue to better align public education from preschool to postsecondary education and into the workplace.

    Millar: Improving education in math and science

    Terry Millar: Improvement in math and science education is a priority in Madison, as it is across the nation. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training is not only of growing importance to our technology-dependent society, these disciplines also represent esthetically compelling advances in human knowledge that all students should have the opportunity to appreciate. … Continue reading Millar: Improving education in math and science

    System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators (SCALE) research project at UW-Madison

    I would like to direct readers’ attention to our our web site where we have highlighted key concepts of the System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators (SCALE) research project here at the Wisconsin Center for Research Education, UW Madison. The vision of the SCALE partnership is to make it the rule, instead of the … Continue reading System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators (SCALE) research project at UW-Madison

    A UW-Madison education prof seeks middle school science teachers to participate in a professional development project.
    Improving science teaching with hypertext support

    Researcher: Sadhana Puntambekar
    Phone: (608) 262-0829
    Link to site:
    News context:
    Science Magazine: The World of Undergraduate Education
    Previous participants include:
    Kelly Francour:
    Dana Gnesdilow:
    Hands-on science lab activities provide students with engaging ways to learn. But sometimes students don’t fully learn the concepts behind what they’re doing.
    A hypertext computer environment being developed and field tested gives students graphical ways to practice learning and relating science concepts like ‘force’ and ‘energy,’ for example.
    The program, called CoMPASS, helps ensure that hands-on construction activities leads to student understanding of the underlying deep science principles and phenomena.
    UW-Madison education professor Sadhana Puntambekar points out that reading, writing, and communicating are an essential part of science instruction.
    Research has pointed out the important role of language in science. Yet informational text is seldom used to complement hands-on activities in science classrooms.
    This CoMPASS computer environment gives students a graphical, interactive, hypertext ‘concept map’ to help students visualize concepts and their relations. Navigating these ‘concept maps’ helps student make connections between abstract concepts, and to select text resources based on the relatedness of the documents to each other.
    Eighth-grade students using the CoMPASS ‘concept maps’ performed better on essay question requiring depth. On a concept mapping test, students using CoMPASS made richer connections between concepts in their own maps (6th and 8th grades)
    The CoMPASS environment helps teachers, too. It gives them another way to observe how well students learn.
    The system is being used in inquiry-based curriculum units in sixth and eighth grade science classes. To date, CoMPASS has been used by over 1000 students in sixth and eighth grades in Wisconsin and Connecticut.

    “No Need to Worry About Math Education”

    From a reader involved in these issues, by Kerry Hill: Demystifying math: UW-Madison scholars maintain focus on effective teaching, learning Tuesday, January 30, 2007 – By Kerry Hill New generation of Math Ed Many people still see mathematics as a difficult subject that only a select group of students with special abilities can master. Learning … Continue reading “No Need to Worry About Math Education”

    Education and Educational Research in an Era of Accountability: Insights and Blind Spots

    I am pleased to invite you to a conference on “Education and Educational Research in an Era of Accountability: Insights and Blind Spots“, to be held on February 7-8, 2007, at the Pyle Center [map], near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Attendance is free, and we very much hope that members of the local educational … Continue reading Education and Educational Research in an Era of Accountability: Insights and Blind Spots

    Noted Educator Donna Ford is Coming to Wisconsin

    Dr. Donna Ford, Vanderbilt University Professor and nationally known speaker on gifted education and multi cultural and urban education issues, will be visiting Wisconsin this March. In conjunction with the MMSD Parent Community Relations Department, Dr. Ford will be presenting a workshop for parents entitled “Promoting Achievement, Identity, and Pride in your Children” on March … Continue reading Noted Educator Donna Ford is Coming to Wisconsin

    Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools School-funding update

    The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan — a proposal for school-finance reform — is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards. Quality Counts grades are mixed for Wisconsin … Continue reading Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools School-funding update

    “State Support for Higher Education Has No Correlation with College Quality”

    Anne K. Walters writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Public colleges in states that spend a lot of money on higher education aren’t necessarily better than colleges in states that provide them with meager support, according to a report that ranks states based on an analysis of their higher-education budgets and the performance of … Continue reading “State Support for Higher Education Has No Correlation with College Quality”

    Poverty & Education, Wednesday, October 26, Overture Center

    The volunteers of the schoolinfosystem blog invite everyone in the community to our second forum “Poverty and Education,” Wednesday, October 26, 2005 7:00p.m. in the 3rd floor Wisconsin Studio of the Overture Center, 201 State St. Presenters will be: – Tom Kaplan: Associate Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty; – Mary Kay Baum: … Continue reading Poverty & Education, Wednesday, October 26, Overture Center

    Noted Researcher to Talk on “Best Practices in Gifted and Talented Education”

    Community members are invited to join the Madison TAG Parents Group to hear Pam Clinkenbeard, Ph.D. talk on the topic of “Best Practices in Gifted and Talented Education” this Thursday, November 11, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. in Room 209 of the Doyle Administration Building. Dr. Clinkendbeard is Professor of Educational Foundations at the University of … Continue reading Noted Researcher to Talk on “Best Practices in Gifted and Talented Education”

    Accountability: Report card scores for most Madison schools take small hit

    Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email

    The report card scores of nearly all Madison schools will be reduced slightly after the district discovered it had reported incorrect student attendance data to the state and revised it.
    In most cases the new, lower scores — which the Department of Public Instruction plans to update on its website next week — have no impact on the rating each Madison school receives on the report card. But six schools will be downgraded to a lower category.
    Randall and Van Hise elementaries, which were rated in the highest performance category, are now in the second-highest tier. Olson and Chavez elementaries are now in the middle tier. And Mendota and Glendale elementaries are in the second-lowest tier.
    The corrections — prompted by a State Journal inquiry — have no immediate practical ramifications, though the implications are significant as state leaders contemplate tying school funding to the report card results.
    Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, said it’s “extremely important” that the data used to rate schools is accurate. The report cards are part of the state’s new school accountability system, and DPI has proposed directing resources to schools struggling in certain categories.
    “The report cards are only as good as the data that goes into them,” he said.

    Props to DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal for digging and pushing.
    Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
    Where does the Madison School District Get its Numbers from?
    Global Academic Standards: How we Outrace the Robots and
    An Update on Madison’s Use of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Assessment, including individual school reports. Much more on Madison and the MAP Assessment, here.
    I strongly support diffused governance of our public schools. One size fits all has outlived its usefulness.

    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.”


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

    Matthew DeFour:

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

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

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


    Tyrany of Low Expectations: Will lowered test scores bring about broader change in Madison schools?

    Chris Rickert via several kind readers:

    Wisconsin has a “long way to go in all our racial/ethnic groups,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
    My hope is that, given Wisconsin’s overwhelmingly white population, proficiency problems among white students will spur more people to push for policies inside and outside of school that help children — all children — learn.
    “I hate to look at it that way, but I think you’re absolutely right,” said Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The low performance of white students in our state may just lead to the type and level of change that’s necessary in public education for black and other students of color to succeed as well.”
    Indeed, Gamoran said Massachusetts’ implementation of an evaluation system similar to the one Wisconsin is adopting now has been correlated with gains in reading and math proficiency and a narrowing of the racial achievement gap in math. But he emphasized that student achievement is more than just the schools’ responsibility.
    Madison has known for a while that its schools are not meeting the needs of too many students of color.

    The issue of low expectations and reduced academic standards is not a new one. A few worthwhile, related links:

    Lecture of Interest on March 20t: Carl Wieman, Assoc. Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology, US White House

    Via a kind reader’s email:

    I am pleased to ask you to help me spread the word about a public lecture by Carl Wieman, who directs the Science office of the White House Office of Science and Technology. As the attached flyer indicates, he will present a public lecture (topic: taking a scientific approach to science teaching) on:
    Tuesday, MARCH 20, at 2 pm
    in the DeLuca Forum of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
    (tasty reception to follow)
    I believe many on campus who care about STEM teaching and learning would want to know about this lecture; thank you very much for helping by sending the attached flyer to your various relevant mailing lists, and asking folks to post copies of the poster.
    Thank you!
    Susan B. Millar, PhD
    Founding Director Emeritus, Education Research Integration Area
    Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
    Senior Scientist, Wisconsin Center for Education Research
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    608-332-8496 (c)

    Value Added Report for the Madison School District

    Full Report 1.1MB PDF

    Value added is the use of statistical technique to isolate the contributions of schools to measured student knowledge from other influences such as prior student knowledge and demographics. In practice, value added focuses on the improvement of students from one year to the next on an annual state examination or other periodic assessment. The Value-Added Research Center (VARC) of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research produces value-added measures for schools in Madison using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) as an outcome. The model controls for prior-year WKCE scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, English language learner, low-income status, parent education, and full academic year enrollment to capture the effects of schools on student performance on the WKCE. This model yields measures of student growth in schools in Madison relative to each other. VARC also produces value-added measures using the entire state of Wisconsin as a data set, which yields measures of student growth in Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) relative to the rest of the state.
    Some of the most notable results are:
    1. Value added for the entire district of Madison relative to the rest of the state is generally positive, but it differs by subject and grade. In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, and in both math and reading, the value added of Madison Metropolitan School District was positive in more grades than it was negative, and the average value added across grades was positive in both subjects in both years. There are variations across grades and subjects, however. In grade 4, value-added is significantly positive in both years in reading and significantly negative in both years in math. In contrast, value-added in math is significantly positive–to a very substantial extent–in grade 7. Some of these variations may be the result of the extent to which instruction in those grades facilitate student learning on tested material relative to non-tested material. Overall, between November 2009 and November 2010, value-added for MMSD as a whole relative to the state was very slightly above average in math and substantially above average in reading. The section “Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model” present these results in detail.
    2. The variance of value added across schools is generally smaller in Madison than in the state of Wisconsin as a whole, specifically in math. In other words, at least in terms of what is measured by value added, the extent to which schools differ from each other in Madison is smaller than the extent to which schools differ from each other elsewhere in Wisconsin. This appears to be more strongly the case in the middle school grades than in the elementary grades. Some of this result may be an artifact of schools in Madison being relatively large; when schools are large, they encompass more classrooms per grade, leading to more across-classroom variance being within-school rather than across-school. More of this result may be that while the variance across schools in Madison is entirely within one district, the variance across schools for the rest of the state is across many districts, and so differences in district policies will likely generate more variance across the entire state. The section “Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model” present results on the variance of value added from the statewide value-added model. This result is also evident in the charts in the “School Value-Added Charts from the MMSD Value-Added Model” section: one can see that the majority of schools’ confidence intervals cross (1) the district average, which means that we cannot reject the hypothesis that these schools’ values added are not different from the district average.
    Even with a relatively small variance across schools in the district in general, several individual schools have values added that are statistically significantly greater or less than the district average. At the elementary level, both Lake View and Randall have values added in both reading and math that are significantly greater than the district average. In math, Marquette, Nuestro Mundo, Shorewood Hills, and Van Hise also have values added that are significantly greater than the district average. Values added are lower than the district average in math at Crestwood, Hawthorne, Kennedy, and Stephens, and in reading at Allis. At the middle school level, value added in reading is greater than the district average at Toki and lower than the district average at Black Hawk and Sennett. Value added in math is lower than the district average at Toki and Whitehorse.
    3. Gaps in student improvement persist across subgroups of students. The value-added model measures gaps in student growth over time by race, gender, English language learner, and several other subgroups. The gaps are overall gaps, not gaps relative to the rest of the state. These gaps are especially informative because they are partial coefficients. These measure the black/white, ELL/non-ELL, or high-school/college-graduate-parent gaps, controlling for all variables available, including both demographic variables and schools attended. If one wanted to measure the combined effect of being both ELL and Hispanic relative to non-ELL and white, one would add the ELL/non-ELL gap to the Hispanic/white gap to find the combined effect. The gaps are within-school gaps, based on comparison of students in different subgroups who are in the same schools; consequently, these gaps do not include any effects of students of different subgroups sorting into different schools, and reflect within-school differences only. There does not appear to be an evident trend over time in gaps by race, low-income status, and parent education measured by the value-added model. The section “Coefficients from the MMSD Value-Added Model” present these results.
    4. The gap in student improvement by English language learner, race, or low-income status usually does not differ substantively across schools; that between students with disabilities and students without disabilities sometimes does differ across schools. This can be seen in the subgroup value-added results across schools, which appear in the Appendix. There are some schools where value-added for students with disabilities differs substantively from overall value- added. Some of these differences may be due to differences in the composition of students with disabilities across schools, although the model already controls for overall differences between students with learning disabilities, students with speech disabilities, and students with all other disabilities. In contrast, value-added for black, Hispanic, ELL, or economically disadvantaged students is usually very close to overall value added.
    Value added for students with disabilities is greater than the school’s overall value added in math at Falk and Whitehorse and in reading at Marquette; it is lower than the school’s overall value added in math at O’Keefe and Sennett and in reading at Allis, Schenk, and Thoreau. Value added in math for Hispanic students is lower than the school’s overall value added at Lincoln, and greater than the school’s overall value added at Nuestro Mundo. Value added in math is also higher for ELL and low-income students than it is for the school overall at Nuestro Mundo.

    Much more on “value added assessment”, here.

    Comparing K-12 Funding Adequacy Across 50 States

    Wisconsin Center for Education Research, via email:

    Until now, no one has tried to estimate the costs of educational adequacy across all 50 states using a common method applied in a consistent manner. UW-Madison education professor Allan Odden and colleagues have realized that goal.
    In a recent report, Odden, Lawrence Picus, and Michael Goetz provide state-by-state estimates of the cost of the evidence-based model. The evidence-based model relies primarily on research evidence when making programmatic recommendations. The evidence-based approach starts with a set of recommendations based on a distillation of research and best practices. As implementation unfolds, teams of state policymakers, education leaders, and practitioners review, modify, and tailor those core recommendations to the context of their state’s situation. Odden’s report compares those estimates to each state’s current spending.
    Allan Odden and colleagues have developed the first state-level analysis of education finance spending using a model with consistent assumptions across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
    Odden and colleagues studied districts and schools that have made substantial gains in student performance. They identified the strategies used, then compared those strategies to the recommendations of the evidence-based model. The research found a strong alignment between the strategies and the resources in the evidence-based model and those strategies used by districts and schools that have seen dramatic increase in student learning.
    The Evidence-Based Model and Adequacy
    When experts discuss education finance, they sometimes use the term “adequacy.” Odden offers this definition: “Providing a level of resources to schools that will enable them to make substantial improvements in student performance over the next 4 to 6 years, as progress toward ensuring that all, or almost all, students meet their state’s performance standards in the longer term.”
    “Substantial improvement in student performance” means that, where possible, the proportion of students meeting a proficiency goal will increase substantially in the short- to medium term. Specific targets might vary, depending on the state and a school’s current performance. Yet this goal could be interpreted as raising the percentage of students who meet a state’s student proficiency level from 35% to 70%, or from 70% to something approaching 90% and, in both examples, to increase the percentage of students meeting advanced proficiency standards. There are several approaches to estimating adequacy. They include cost functions, professional judgment, successful schools and districts, and the evidence-based approach.
    Using the national average compensation figures, the weighted per pupil estimated costs for adequacy using the evidence-based model is $9,641, an average increase of $566 per student on a national basis. In 30 of the 50 states, additional revenues are needed to reach the estimated cost level. In the remaining 20 states and Washington, D.C., current funding levels are more than enough.
    If all states were to receive funding at the estimated level of the evidence-based model, the total cost would be $27.0 billion, or a 6.2% increase. However, the politically feasible approach would not allow using the “excess funds” from the states currently spending more than that level. Given that, the total cost rises to $47.2 billion (a 10.9% increase) to fully fund the model’s estimates.

    Locally, the Madison School District spent $370, 287,471 during the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Citizen’s Budget. for 24,295 students ($15,241/student). I have not seen a Citizen’s Budget for the 2010-2011 period. Madison School District budget information.
    More from the WCER article:

    Nor does this research address how the funds should be allocated once they are sent to school districts. This is an important point, Odden says, because some states currently spend more than identified in this model, yet do not appear to show the gains in student performance the model suggests are possible.

    Now is the Time to Overhaul the Milwaukee Public Schools – Brown Professor Kenneth Wong

    Alan Borsuk:

    nter professor Kenneth K. Wong of Brown University in Providence, R.I., lead author of the 2007 book “The Education Mayor: Improving America’s Schools.” It was the fullest examination to date of the range of ways mayors have become involved in school governance in dozens of cities across the United States.
    The book was generally favorable to well-executed mayoral involvement, broadly saying mayoral control creates a political environment for stronger decision making about improving schools. But the conclusions on academic impact were more tepid – Wong and his associates said there were improvements in reading and in math in many cases, but that, overall, getting the mayor involved didn’t help and sometimes harmed efforts to close the achievement gaps between have and have-not students.
    Both supporters and critics of mayoral control have cited things in the book as supporting their side.
    Wong spent three days in Madison and Milwaukee, guest of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, both based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    Wong was more assertive about the merits of mayoral control than he was in the book. “Mayoral control has a statistically significant positive effect on student achievement in reading and math at both elementary and high school grades,” he said.
    Mayoral control, he said, eliminates the “nobody’s in charge culture” that leads to many school systems just keeping on doing things the way they’ve been done, even though they aren’t succeeding overall. With a clear point of power, there is clear accountability and motivation to make needed changes, he said.

    “Hand in Hand: Academic & Social Success”

    Wisconsin Center for Education Research, via a kind reader’s email:

    Recent developments in social and emotional learning (SEL) have pointed to the reciprocal relations between children’s academic functioning and their socio-emotional health. Professional literature in this field points to the need for including students’ academic skills and competencies as part of mental health intervention research.
    University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist and professor Thomas R. Kratochwill says educators cannot afford to continue offering mental health services for K-12 students in isolation. These services need to be reframed, mainstreamed, and folded into schools’ broader academic mission.
    The good news is that schools already have resources, supports, and opportunities that may provide entry points for delivery of expanded mental health services. Virtually all elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. have school psychologists and provide mental health services, Kratochwill says. The bad news is that the proportion of students needing services continues to outpace supply, and mental health services often remain separate from academic programs. Knowledge about mental health programs and educational achievement have developed in isolation from each other.
    To identify research directions for future studies of school-based mental health services, Tom Kratochwill and colleagues reviewed scholarly literature to identify evidence- based interventions that target a combination of students’ academic-educational functioning and their mental health functioning.
    They studied 2000 articles published between 1990 and 2006; only 64 studies met the methodological criteria for inclusion in this review. Of those 64 studies, 24 tested the effects of a program on both academic and mental health outcomes, while 40 examined mental health outcomes only.
    Schools are increasingly held accountable for achieving academic outcomes. Given that, Kratochwill says he was surprised that most of the mental health studies did not include academically relevant outcomes. That means that the impact of school-based mental health interventions on educationally relevant behaviors is under researched and may be poorly understood.
    Many children receive mental health services in school settings. Although studies of social and emotional learning have linked social and academic competence, the impacts of mental health interventions on academics, and of academic interventions on mental health, are understudied.
    Kratochwill argues for a multi-tiered intervention approach in schools. Varying levels of service intensity are available over time and in different grades for students, especially during transitional periods.
    Because schools and districts have tight budgets, it’s important to know which students might benefit most from different types of intervention. And to streamline or adapt effective interventions for dissemination on a larger scale, it’s important to understand how various interventions produce positive outcomes.

    Madison Math Task Force Public Session Wednesday Evening 1/14/2009

    The public is invited to attend the Cherokee Middle School PTO’s meeting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The Madison School District will present it’s recent Math Task Force findings at 7:00p.m. in the Library.
    Cherokee Middle School
    4301 Cherokee Dr
    Madison, WI 53711
    (608) 204-1240

    Notes, audio and links from a recent meeting can be found here.
    A few notes from Wednesday evening’s meeting:

    • A participant asked why the report focused on Middle Schools. The impetus behind the effort was the ongoing controversy over the Madison School District’s use of Connected Math.
    • Madison’s math coordinator, Brian Sniff, mentioned that the District sought a “neutral group, people not very vocal one end or the other”. Terry Millar, while not officially part of the task force, has been very involved in the District’s use of reform math programs (Connected Math) for a number of years and was present at the meeting. The 2003, $200,000 SCALE (System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (Award # EHR-0227016 (Clusty Search), CFDA # 47.076 (Clusty Search)), from the National Science Foundation) agreement between the UW School of Education (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) names Terry as the principal investigator [340K PDF]. The SCALE project has continued each year, since 2003. Interestingly, the 2008 SCALE agreement ([315K PDF] page 6) references the controversial “standards based report cards” as a deliverable by June, 2008, small learning communities (page 3) and “Science Standards Based Differentiated Assessments for Connected Math” (page 6). The document also references a budget increase to $812,336. (additional SCALE agreements, subsequent to 2003: two, three, four)
    • Task force member Dr. Mitchell Nathan is Director of AWAKEN [1.1MB PDF]:

      Agreement for Releasing Data and Conducting Research for
      AWAKEN Project in Madison Metropolitan School District
      The Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN) Project (NSF giant #EEC-0648267 (Clusty search)) aims to contribute to the long-term goal of fostering a larger, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the United States. We propose to do so by looking at engineering education as a system or continuous developmental experience from secondary education through professional practice….
      In collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), AWAKEN researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER) will study and report on science, mathematics, and Career and Technical Education (specifically Project Lead The Way) curricula in the district.

    • Task force member David Griffeath, a UW-Madison math professor provided $6,000 worth of consulting services to the District.
    • Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater is now working in the UW-Madison School of Education. He appointed (and the board approved) the members of the Math Task Force.

    Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak recently said that the “conversation about math is far from over”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
    I am particularly interested in what the ties between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District mean for the upcoming “Strategic Planning Process” [49K PDF]. The presence of the term “standards based report cards” and “small learning communities” within one of the SCALE agreements makes me wonder who is actually driving the District. In other words, are the grants driving decision making?
    Finally, it is worth reviewing the audio, notes and links from the 2005 Math Forum, including UW-Madison math professor emeritus Dick Askey’s look at the School District’s data.
    Related: The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor.

    Dane County, WI Schools Consider MAP Assessement Tests After Frustration with State WKCE Exams
    Waunakee Urges that the State Dump the WKCE

    Andy Hall takes a look at a useful topic:

    From Wisconsin Heights on the west to Marshall on the east, 10 Dane County school districts and the private Eagle School in Fitchburg are among more than 170 Wisconsin public and private school systems purchasing tests from Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit group based in the state of Oregon.
    The aim of those tests, known as Measures of Academic Progress, and others purchased from other vendors, is to give educators, students and parents more information about students ‘ strengths and weaknesses. Officials at these districts say the cost, about $12 per student per year for MAP tests, is a good investment.
    The tests ‘ popularity also reflects widespread frustration over the state ‘s $10 million testing program, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
    Critics say that WKCE, which is used to hold schools accountable under the federal No Child Left Behind law, fails to provide adequate data to help improve the teaching methods and curriculum used in the classrooms.
    They complain that because the tests are administered just once a year, and it takes nearly six months to receive the results, the information arrives in May — too late to be of use to teachers during the school year.
    The testing controversy is “a healthy debate, ” said Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, whose agency contends that there ‘s room for both WKCE and MAP.
    “It ‘s a test that we feel is much more relevant to assisting students and helping them with their skills development, ” said Mike Hensgen, director of curriculum and instruction for the Waunakee School District, who acknowledges he ‘s a radical in his dislike of WKCE.
    “To me, the WKCE is not rigorous enough. When a kid sees he ‘s proficient, ‘ he thinks he ‘s fine. ”
    Hensgen contends that the WKCE, which is based on the state ‘s academic content for each grade level, does a poor job of depicting what elite students, and students performing at the bottom level, really know.
    The Waunakee School Board, in a letter being distributed this month, is urging state legislators and education officials to find ways to dump WKCE in favor of MAP and tests from ACT and other vendors.

    The Madison School District and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research are using the WKCE as a benchmark for “Value Added Assessment”.

    “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”

    Peter Sobol on the 2007 Wisconsin DPI State test results (WKCE):

    The results for the WKCE test administered in November 2007 were finally released on May 30th. That is more than six months after the test was given. Worse, the data files containing the detailed results that can be used for proper statistical analysis of the results are STILL not available for download. Assessments are information that degrades over time. The fact that it takes six months to get the data out (whatever its other shortcomings) cheats the taxpayers of the full value of their investment.
    At the very least the WI DPI should be embarrassed by the fact it takes this long to release the test results. Personally I find it outrageous. I had an email exchange with DPI officials concerning this long delay and the loss of value, this is an excerpt from part of that response (italics mine):

    … The WKCE is a large-scale assessment designed to provide a snapshot of how well a district or school is doing at helping all students reach proficiency on state standards, with a focus on school and district-level accountability. A large-scale, summative assessment such as the WKCE is not designed to provide diagnostic information about individual students. Those assessments are best done at the local level, where immediate results can be obtained. Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum.

    Does anyone else find the fact that the state issues WKCE results to individual students surprising given the above statement?

    The Madison School District, together with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research is using local WKCE results for “Value Added Assessment“.
    Much more on the WKCE here.
    Minnesota recently administered their first online science test.

    Some of California’s most gifted students are being ignored, advocates say

    Carla Rivera:

    If you reviewed Dalton Sargent’s report cards, you’d know only half his story. The 15-year-old Altadena junior has lousy grades in many subjects. He has blown off assignments and been dissatisfied with many of his teachers. It would be accurate to call him a problematic student. But he is also gifted.
    Dalton is among the sizable number of highly intelligent or talented children in the nation’s classrooms who find little in the standard curriculum to rouse their interest and who often fall by the wayside.
    With schools under intense pressure from state and federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind to raise test scores of low-achieving pupils, the educational needs of gifted students — who usually perform well on standardized tests — too often are ignored, advocates say.
    Nationally, about 3 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students are identified as gifted, but 80% of them do not receive specialized instruction, experts say. Studies have found that 5% to 20% of students who drop out are gifted.
    There is no federal law mandating special programs for gifted children, though many educators argue that these students — whose curiosity and creativity often coexist with emotional and social problems — deserve the same status as those with special needs. Services for gifted students vary from state to state. In California, about 512,000 students are enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education program, which aims to provide specialized and accelerated instruction.

    Linda Scholl @ Wisconsin Center for Education Research: SCALE Case Study: Evolution of K-8 Science Instructional Guidance in Madison Metropolitan School District [PDF report]

    In addition, by instituting a standards-based report card system K-8, the department has increased accountability for teaching to the standards.
    The Department is struggling, however, to sharpen its efforts to reduce the achievement gap. While progress has been made in third grade reading, significant gaps are still evident in other subject areas, including math and science. Educational equity issues within the school district are the source of much public controversy, with a relatively small but vocal parent community that is advocating for directing greater resources toward meeting the needs of high achieving students. This has slowed efforts to implement strong academic equity initiatives, particularly at the middle and early high school levels. Nonetheless, T&L content areas specialists continue working with teachers to provide a rigorous curriculum and to differentiate instruction for all students. In that context, the new high school biology initiative represents a significant effort to raise the achievement of students of color and economic disadvantage.

    WCER’s tight relationship with the Madison School District has been the source of some controversy.

    Scholl’s error, in my view, is viewing the controversy as an issue of “advocating for directing greater resources toward meeting the needs of high achieving students”. The real issue is raising standards for all, rathing than reducing the curriculum quality (see West High School Math teachers letter to the Isthmus:

    Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
    It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?

    A friend mentioned a few years ago that the problems are in elementary and middle school. Rather than addressing those, the administration is trying to make high school changes.
    Thanks to a reader for sending along these links.

    UW persuades Minority Student Network to bring offices here

    Susan Troller:

    Recently, the University of Wisconsin scored a coup over Harvard and Penn when it persuaded the Minority Student Achievement Network to bring its offices from Evanston, Ill., to the Wisconsin Center for Education Research here.
    So what, exactly, is the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN), and why were prestigious major research universities vying to offer it a home?
    The group, whose Wisconsin members include the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Green Bay school system, is a consortium of about 25 high-performing school districts from across the country. They joined forces in 1999 to figure out why their students of color aren’t doing as well in school as their white counterparts.
    Besides Green Bay and Madison, other districts that have been part of the group include Ann Arbor, Mich.; Shaker Heights, Ohio; Cambridge, Mass., White Plains, N.Y. and Chapel Hill, N.C.
    All are public school districts where education is a well-funded community priority. All have been disappointed that even in their relatively affluent public schools, minority students still lag behind white and Asian students.

    Making Better Use of Limited Resources, Part I

    Wisconsin Center for Education Research:

    Over the past 15 years, WCER’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has worked to find better ways to allocate education funds and to link them to powerful school-based strategies to boost student learning. This is the second of a four-part series covering highlights from CPRE research. This article covers reallocating dollars at the school level and by educational strategy; documenting best practices in school finance adequacy; and using resources to double student performance.
    Reallocating School-Level Funds
    The U.S. education system educates only about one-third of the nation’s students to a rigorous proficiency standard. Improving education productivity must be placed onto the policy agenda and the practice agenda, says UW-Madison education professor and CPRE director Allan Odden. The goal of teaching all, or nearly all, students to high standards will require doubling or tripling student academic achievement.
    But it’s unlikely that education funding will correspondingly increase, Odden says. To accomplish this goal, schools will need to adopt more powerful educational strategies and, in the process, reallocate funds. CPRE research found many examples of schools that reallocated their resources to improve student performance. From that research CPRE created a dozen case studies of schools—urban, suburban, and rural—that had reallocated resources to use teachers, time, and funds more productively.
    Dissatisfied with their students’ performance, these schools redesigned their entire education programs. By reallocating resources and restructuring they transformed themselves into more productive educational organizations. They tended to spend more time on core academic subjects and they often provided lower class sizes for those subjects. They invested more in teacher professional development and provided more effective help for struggling students, including one-to-one tutoring. Subsequent research showed that many, but not all, designs produced higher levels of student achievement than typical schools.

    Making Better Use of Limited (Financial) Resources

    Wisconsin Center for Education Research:

    The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has documented a steady increase in per-pupil education funding in the U.S. over the past 100 years. After adjusting for inflation, education funds have risen on average about 3.5% annually. UW-Madison education professor Odden says the consistent rise in spending has not, however, been accompanied by a similar rise in student performance, at least over the past 30 to 40 years.
    Current education goals are thus not likely to be met without determining how better to use school resources.
    Today, about 60% of the education dollar is spent on instruction. Another 10% is spent on administration, 10% on instructional and pupil support, 10% on operations and maintenance, 5% on transportation, and 5% on food and miscellaneous items. Odden says this pattern is similar across districts, regardless of demographics and enrollment.
    To align resources with strategies for improving student achievement, Odden suggests thinking of education spending as divided into three “portions”:

    • One portion for core instructional services, professional development, and site administration;
    • A second portion for instructional and pupil support services, which help the education system accomplish the goal of student achievement in the core subjects; and
    • A third portion for overhead (school operation and maintenance, transportation, food services, and central office administration).

    Much more on Allen Odden. Related: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

    “Internal Funding Opportunity”

    Madison Education Partnership Internal @UWMadison Funding Alert We’re seeking researchers interested in exploring pressing, equity-focused topics in @MMSDschools. We provide funding up to $50k. Proposals will be considered on a rolling basis until all funds spent or by November 25. The Madison Education Partnership is part of the $80M+ (!) Wisconsin center for Education Research.

    Commentary on The taxpayer supported Madison School District’s online Teacher Effectiveness

    Emily Shetler: Almost immediately after the Madison School District joined other districts across the country in announcing a return to online instruction instead of bringing students back to the classroom for the fall semester, posts started popping up on Facebook groups, Craigslist, Reddit and the University of Wisconsin-Madison student job board seeking in-home academic help. Parents … Continue reading Commentary on The taxpayer supported Madison School District’s online Teacher Effectiveness

    Commentary on Avid/Tops in the Madison Schools

    Logan Wroge: The board also approved a three-year partnership renewal with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County for the college preparation program AVID/TOPS. The program is meant to prepare students for post-secondary education, particularly low-income and minority students or students who would be the first in their family to go to college. AVID/TOPS … Continue reading Commentary on Avid/Tops in the Madison Schools

    One City to Establish Elementary School in South Madison

    Kaleem Caire, via a kind email: Madison, WI – One City Schools Founder and CEO Kaleem Caire — with support from One City parents, Board of Directors, and partners — is pleased to announce that One City’s plan to establish One City Expeditionary Elementary School in South Madison has been approved. Last Friday, One City … Continue reading One City to Establish Elementary School in South Madison

    Round and Round and Round and Round we go

    Wisconsin Center for Education Research (Twitter): Research shows that ability grouping helps underrepresented students become included in gifted programs. @MSANachieve #MSANinstitute shrink the excellence gap. Closing Poverty-Based Excellence Gaps: Conceptual, Measurement, and Educational Issues,” Jonathan A. Plucker and Scott J. Peters, Gifted Child Quarterly Vol 62: “Ability Grouping Although often unpopular because of its association … Continue reading Round and Round and Round and Round we go

    “Value Added Assessment” Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee Looks at “A Model to Measure Student Performance”

    Video / 20MB Mp3 Audio Superintendent Art Rainwater gave a presentation on “Value Added Assessment” to the Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement committee Monday evening. Art described VAA “as a method to track student growth longitudinally over time and to utilize that data to look at how successful we are at all levels of … Continue reading “Value Added Assessment” Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee Looks at “A Model to Measure Student Performance”

    Madison Math Task Force Meetings Today and Wednesday

    Week of June 11, 2007 Tuesday, June 12 9:00 a.m. Math Task Force 1. Introduction of Task Force Members 2. Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Math Instructional System 3. Next steps on How to Proceed and Timeline 4. Adjournment Wisconsin Center for Education Research 1025 West Johnson St. Madison, WI 53706 [map] 13th Floor Conference … Continue reading Madison Math Task Force Meetings Today and Wednesday

    Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

    Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and UW Math Professor) Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District Gabriele Meyer … Continue reading Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

    Making One Size Fit All: Rainwater seeks board input as schools cut ability-based classes

    Jason Shephard, writing in this week’s Isthmus: Kerry Berns, a resource teacher for talented and gifted students in Madison schools, is worried about the push to group students of all abilities in the same classrooms. “I hope we can slow down, make a comprehensive plan, [and] start training all teachers in a systematic way” in … Continue reading Making One Size Fit All: Rainwater seeks board input as schools cut ability-based classes

    Math Forum: Wednesday 2.22.2006 7:00p.m.

    There’s been no shortage of discusion regarding math curriculum. Rafael Gomez’s latest event, this Wednesday’s Math Forum should prove quite interesting. The event will be at the Doyle Administration Building (McDaniels Auditorium) [Map] from 7:00 to 8:00p.m. Participants include: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and … Continue reading Math Forum: Wednesday 2.22.2006 7:00p.m.

    Covid-19 and Madison’s K-12 World

    Hi, I’m cap tines K-12 education reporter Scott Gerard. Today. Our cap times IDFs panel will discuss how will COVID-19 change K-12 education. I’m lucky to have three wonderful panelists with me to help answer that question. Marilee McKenzie is a teacher at Middleton’s Clark street community school, where she has worked since the school was in its planning stages.

    She’s in her [00:03:00] 11th year of teaching. Dr. Gloria Ladson billings is a nationally recognized education expert who was a U w Madison faculty member for more than 26 years, including as a professor in the departments of curriculum and instruction, educational policy studies and educational leadership and policy analysis.

    She is also the current president of the national Academy of education. Finally dr. Carlton Jenkins is the new superintendent of the Madison metropolitan school district. He started the districts top job in August, coming from the Robbinsdale school district in Minnesota, where he worked for the past five years, Jenkins began his career in the Madison area.

    Having worked in Beloit and at Memorial high school in early 1990s before moving to various districts around the country. Thank you all so much for being here. Mary Lee, I’m going to start with you. You’ve been working with students directly throughout this pandemic. How has it gone? Both in the spring when changes were very sudden, and then this fall with a summer to reflect and [00:04:00] plan, it’s been interesting for sure.

    Um, overall, I would say the it’s been hard. There has been nothing about this have been like, ah, It’s really, it makes my life easy. It’s been really challenging. And at the same time, the amount of growth and learning that we’ve been able to do as staff has been incredible. And I think about how teachers have moved from face-to-face to online to then planning for.

    Questionable Curriculum: Black Lives Matters in Milwaukee Classrooms

    Maciver Institute: When there’s trouble in Milwaukee, there’s usually a small army of young people leading the charge. It’s no coincidence. Milwaukee Public Schools spends considerable time and effort developing its students to become young revolutionaries. The district was one of many across Wisconsin (and the country) that spent the entire first week of February … Continue reading Questionable Curriculum: Black Lives Matters in Milwaukee Classrooms

    Not indoctrinated, just ignorant

    Joanne Jacobs: I remember the fight over national history standards in 1994.  The standards, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which would have been available for state adoption, if they wished, were attacked for for anti-Americanism. They crashed and burned. History isn’t about good and evil, writes Natalie Wexler in Forbes. History is complicated. President Trump wants … Continue reading Not indoctrinated, just ignorant

    Q&A: Percy Brown Jr. jumps into Middleton’s first day of school focused on equity, access

    Yvonne Kim: As students across Dane County return to classes for the fall, education leaders are focused on keeping them as safe and engaged as possible. To do so, Percy Brown, Jr., director of equity and student achievement at the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, is working to provide physical and informational resources to students … Continue reading Q&A: Percy Brown Jr. jumps into Middleton’s first day of school focused on equity, access

    Preschool of the Arts expands to include elementary students amid COVID-19 pandemic

    Pamela Cotant: The early childhood center on Madison’s West Side, which previously served children from ages 17 months to about 5, has added kindergarten through second grade this fall as it pivots to address the new realities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The new arrangement helps the preschool families who were juggling jobs and assisting their … Continue reading Preschool of the Arts expands to include elementary students amid COVID-19 pandemic

    The Misunderstanding that Sparked the Reading Wars

    Breaking the Code: I just finished reading Anthony Pedriana’s Leaving Johnny Behind, an enormously important and under-appreciated book that I discovered by chance, thanks to a post on Facebook. (Social media certainly does serve a purpose other than being a black hole of procrastination from time to time!) The author is a retired teacher and principal … Continue reading The Misunderstanding that Sparked the Reading Wars