Recently, Soros Funded Wisconsin Watch released articles criticizing the Wisconsin parental choice programs and incorrectly claiming that private schools may “discriminate.

Will-Law Recently Wisconsin Watch released articles criticizing the Wisconsin parental choice programs and incorrectly claiming that private schools may “discriminate.” This memo provides resources and information about the false claims made in the article and talking points to refute them.  The claims that private schools may “discriminate” are false.  These claims are false. Wisconsin Watch claims … Continue reading Recently, Soros Funded Wisconsin Watch released articles criticizing the Wisconsin parental choice programs and incorrectly claiming that private schools may “discriminate.

Interesting “Wisconsin Watch” choice school coverage and a very recent public school article

Housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Journalism School (along with Marquette University), the formation, affiliation(s) and funding sources of Wisconsin Watch have generated some controversy. Jim Piwowarczyk noted in November, 2022: “Wisconsin Watch, a 501(c)(3) organization that disseminates news stories to many prominent media outlets statewide and is housed at the taxpayer-funded UW-Madison campus, has … Continue reading Interesting “Wisconsin Watch” choice school coverage and a very recent public school article

A “Wisconsin Watch” look at Voucher schools; DPI heavy, no mention of $pending or achievement…

Phoebe Petrovic As an advocacy specialist at Disability Rights Wisconsin, Joanne Juhnke regularly finds herself on the phone with parents concerned about their children’s treatment at school.  Most complaints concern public schools, which enroll the majority of students. State funding for special education has shrunk, forcing districts to struggle to provide services, and disparate treatment of students with … Continue reading A “Wisconsin Watch” look at Voucher schools; DPI heavy, no mention of $pending or achievement…

Attack on ‘critical race theory’ ignores bullying of Black student – Wisconsin Watch

Mario Koran: But documented racism provided the kindling for Kiel’s political eruption. That story started in 2020 when Amy Wempner discovered racist Snapchat messages sent about her son Armond — one of five Black students at Kiel High School. The family’s push for the school district to respond illustrates how a Republican strategy to mischaracterize … Continue reading Attack on ‘critical race theory’ ignores bullying of Black student – Wisconsin Watch

Commentary on Wisconsin taxpayer funded k-12 spending growth over the years

I’ve long found these posts rather curious in light of I Madison’s “more than most” k-12 tax & spending practices: now > $25k per student, amidst declining enrollment. In 2007, we Madisonians spent 333,101,865 for K-12. Inflation adjusted $486,328,722, today. Yet our current budget is $557,015,538 (it is higher every time I look). Readers interested … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin taxpayer funded k-12 spending growth over the years

Wisconsin students with disabilities often denied public school options

Mario Koran: Less talked about, however, is how the state’s biggest choice program, open enrollment, excludes students with disabilities. Roughly 70,000 Wisconsin students attend public schools outside their home districts through the 25-year-old open enrollment program. It allows students to apply to better-resourced public schools outside of district boundaries. But those schools can limit or … Continue reading Wisconsin students with disabilities often denied public school options

More on Wisconsin School Choice Governance, freedom of speech, civil rights and freedom of religion

Phoebe Petrovic: Wisconsin Watch reviewed public materials for about one-third of the state’s 373 voucher schools and found that four out of 10 had policies or statements that appeared to target LGBTQ+ students for disparate treatment. Some had explicitly discriminatory policies, such as expelling students for being gay or transgender.  All 50 of the voucher … Continue reading More on Wisconsin School Choice Governance, freedom of speech, civil rights and freedom of religion

Civics: An ongoing look at voter data (Wisconsin charges $10k per request!)

MATTHEW DeFOUR, MATT MENCARINI, and JACOB RESNECK Wisconsin Watch: Helping fuel the concern over ineligible voters is the case of Sandra Klitzke, a resident of the Brewster Village nursing home in Outagamie County, who voted in the November 2020 and April 2021 elections, even though a court had removed her right to vote in February … Continue reading Civics: An ongoing look at voter data (Wisconsin charges $10k per request!)

Watch now: A charter school with all-day outdoor education in the middle of winter

Barry Adams: Almost all of the lessons at the Kickapoo Valley Forest School are held outdoors, even on days when the temperature plunges well below freezing. The nature-based curriculum is central for the 4K and kindergarten students and their teachers, who have had lunch outside all but four days since the first day of school … Continue reading Watch now: A charter school with all-day outdoor education in the middle of winter

Watch now: Melee outside Madison East High draws heavy police response, pepper spray, ambulances

Elizabeth Beyer: Police responded to an active fight involving dozens of students outside school property at around 11:37 a.m.More than 15 officers were dispatched to the scene and the incident remains an open and active investigation, Madison Police officer Ryan Kimberley said in a statement.  Interim Principal Mikki Smith declined to comment and instructed staff who were … Continue reading Watch now: Melee outside Madison East High draws heavy police response, pepper spray, ambulances

Non-Profit Acquires Vacant School, Plans Private Choice School for Mattoon, Wisconsin

WILL: A non-profit finally acquired a vacant elementary school in Mattoon, Wisconsin, subject of a lengthy legal dispute over ownership, and intends to start a private choice school in the underserved community. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) represented the non-profit, Shepherd’s Watch, in the legal fight over ownership of the building that concluded earlier this year … Continue reading Non-Profit Acquires Vacant School, Plans Private Choice School for Mattoon, Wisconsin

Roadmap to Reading Success Wisconsin Assembly Vote (AB446)

October 21, 2021 11:00a.m. CST. Watch via Wisconsin Eye. Wisconsin AB 446; SIS links. The list of lobbying organizations (many taxpayer supported!) opposed to Roadmap to Reading Success is remarkable: Association of Wisconsin School Administrators League of Women Voters Wisconsin (!) Pearson NA (!) Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance WIRSA Wisconsin Association of School Boards Wisconsin … Continue reading Roadmap to Reading Success Wisconsin Assembly Vote (AB446)

Civics: Burlington teacher suspended after allegedly directing students to watch video questioning election results

Scott Williams: A teacher at Burlington High School has been pulled out of the classroom after allegations that he directed students to watch a video baselessly questioning the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Jeff Taff, a social studies teacher, also told students that he was traveling this week to Washington D.C. In an online … Continue reading Civics: Burlington teacher suspended after allegedly directing students to watch video questioning election results

Rural Wisconsin School Choice Fight

WILL: SUMMARY JUDGMENT HEARING TO DETERMINE FATE OF VACANT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL The News: Attorneys from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) will participate in a summary judgment hearing, Monday, in a rural school choice case before the Shawano County Circuit Court. WILL represents Shepherd’s Watch, a Mattoon-based Christian community group, attempting to purchase a … Continue reading Rural Wisconsin School Choice Fight

Parents Are Watching Like Never Before. ‘Trust Us’ Isn’t Enough

Sonja Brookins Santelises: Since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools across the country, district leaders and educators have worked to navigate the challenges of this “new normal” in education. And nowhere have the challenges been steeper than in districts like the one I lead in Baltimore. Like other districts already battling historic and systematic … Continue reading Parents Are Watching Like Never Before. ‘Trust Us’ Isn’t Enough

“If you believe in charter schools, then it’s time to start asking why Wisconsin doesn’t have more.”

Libby Sobic: So what’s a charter school and what kind of options do parents have access to? Charter schools are public schools with significantly less red tape than their traditional public school peers. Wisconsin has several types with the most common type of charter school is a school authorized by the school district. “Instrumentality” charter … Continue reading “If you believe in charter schools, then it’s time to start asking why Wisconsin doesn’t have more.”

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Disastrous Reading Climate

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, Via a kind email: New Wisconsin Group Issues a Call to Action for Reading Excellence On February 12th, a new group called WI-CARE – Wisconsin Call to Action for Reading Excellence – issued a Call to Action for DPI, detailing five areas of concern. You can watch their press conference on Wisconsin Eye and read commentary … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin’s Disastrous Reading Climate

Wisconsin judge to rule on school choice intervention request

Bethany Blankley: Their plight “is symbolic of rural education in Wisconsin (and the Midwest) which lags far behind the suburbs and, in Wisconsin, performs worse academically than urban schools,” CJ Szafir, executive vice president at Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), told The Center Square. WILL filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit … Continue reading Wisconsin judge to rule on school choice intervention request

The Simpson Street Free Press was awarded the 2019 Media Openness Award, or “Mopee,” by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin’s largest newspaper and a small Madison paper produced mostly by teens are among the honorees of the 2019 Openness Awards, or Opees, bestowed annually by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, along with awards to a Wausau-based citizens environmental group and a state senator who is seeking to end his colleagues’ ability … Continue reading The Simpson Street Free Press was awarded the 2019 Media Openness Award, or “Mopee,” by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Poll on Tax, Spending, Choice and Accountability

Bethany Blankley: While 59 percent of respondents supported Evers’ plan to increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, support fell to 39 percent when respondents learned the increase in spending comes with no academic accountability, the polls found. In response to Evers’ budget proposal, Madison–Co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Poll on Tax, Spending, Choice and Accountability

Wisconsin Governor Proposes 10% K-12 Tax & Spending increase over the next two years

Bethany Blankely: “Will massive increases in spending actually improve student outcomes?” WILL asks. According to an analysis of education spending and outcomes, WILL says, “probably not.” WILL’s Truth in Spending: An Analysis of K-12 Spending in Wisconsin compares K-12 spending on Wisconsin public schools and student outcomes. Based on the most recent available data, Wisconsin’s … Continue reading Wisconsin Governor Proposes 10% K-12 Tax & Spending increase over the next two years

Commentary on proposed Wisconsin K-12 Tax and spending increases and effectiveness

Bethany Blankley: Slinger and Hartford school districts spend significantly less than the state average on education but their students’ Forward Exam performances are significantly higher than other districts, the report found. By comparison, White Lake and Bayfield districts have “woeful proficiency rates despite spending far more than the average district,” the report states. In Evers’ … Continue reading Commentary on proposed Wisconsin K-12 Tax and spending increases and effectiveness

Governor Candidate & Wisconsin Public Instruction chief Tony Evers Governance Commentary (track record?)

Tony Evers: As state superintendent, I’ve fought Walker’s school privatization schemes. I’ve proudly stood by our educators and fought for more funding for our public schools, while Walker has cut funding. We must never forget that under Walker, over a million Wisconsinites voted to raise their own taxes to adequately fund their schools. This isn’t … Continue reading Governor Candidate & Wisconsin Public Instruction chief Tony Evers Governance Commentary (track record?)

Open Meetings And School Board Governance: The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling

Wisconsin Supreme Court: ¶27 Applying these principles, we conclude that CAMRC was a committee created by rule under Wis. Stat. § 19.82(1). First, it qualifies as a “committee” for purposes of the open meetings law because it had a defined membership of 17 individuals upon whom was conferred the authority, as a body, to review … Continue reading Open Meetings And School Board Governance: The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling

Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Abigail Becker: Wisconsin has been labeled one of the worst states in the nation for black children based on measures including poverty, single-parent households and math proficiency. Statewide, just over 15 percent of black students tested proficient on statewide exams in math, compared to 43 percent of white students, according to 2013-14 test scores from … Continue reading Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Abigail Becker: Test results released in October from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests known as the Nation’s Report Card, reaffirmed Wisconsin’s poor record of educating black children: The state had the worst achievement gap between black and white students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. This is the … Continue reading Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Wisconsin ACT scores hold steady at No. 2 for Class of 2015

Erin Richards: Wisconsin’s Class of 2015 posted an average ACT composite score of 22.2, tying the state for second nationally among states where the majority of students take the national college entrance exam, according to results released Wednesday. The results come from the 73% of Wisconsin students who graduated in 2015 and took the exam … Continue reading Wisconsin ACT scores hold steady at No. 2 for Class of 2015

Wisconsin Education Political Commentary

Alan Borsuk: everal years ago, I was writing about how the most significant debates in approaches to improving education didn’t pit Republicans against Democrats. They pitted Democrats against Democrats. Now, the dynamic to watch is between Republicans and Republicans. Both in Washington and Madison, they have so much power now — and they have some … Continue reading Wisconsin Education Political Commentary

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Across Wisconsin, uneven property assessments fly in the face of fairness

Raquel Rutledge and Kevin Crowe James Fleischman and his wife, Barbara, have lived in their five-bedroom ranch on Applewood Drive in Glendale for about three decades. In recent years, the assessed value of their house hovered around $331,400, and they paid about the same in property taxes as their next-door neighbor. But when the four-bedroom … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Across Wisconsin, uneven property assessments fly in the face of fairness

Election, Tax & Spending Climate: As new year school year begins, Wisconsin’s education scene lacks energy

Alan Borsuk In recent years on this Sunday, the last before most kids start school, I have offered thoughts on what is new and worth watching on the school scene in Wisconsin and particularly in Milwaukee. I started to make up a list for this year and was struck by how, um, boring it was. … Continue reading Election, Tax & Spending Climate: As new year school year begins, Wisconsin’s education scene lacks energy

The DOJ and Wisconsin’s private-school choice program: a storm is brewing

CJ Szafir: Last week, the Wisconsin Reporter reported that the United States Department of Justice is still conducting an “ongoing investigation” into whether Wisconsin’s private-school choice program discriminates against children with disabilities and, as a result, violates federal disability law. In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the Justice Department … Continue reading The DOJ and Wisconsin’s private-school choice program: a storm is brewing

Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Richard Adams: England’s GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers’ calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation. At the urging of the education secretary, Michael Gove, Ofqual has unveiled a plan to link … Continue reading Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Proposed Wisconsin Academic Standards Bills (Replacing the “Common Core”)

The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

The following links provide a lot of additional details on the legislation that would replace the Common Core State Standards within 12 months with model academic standards created in Wisconsin. Please stay informed and contact your legislators with your thoughts.

2013 Senate Bill 619.
Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 617 (ASA1/AB617)
Video message from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers.
Governor Scott Walker staff drafted bill aimed at Common Core State Standards.
A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes.

K-12 Influence Spending in Wisconsin Political Races

Daniel Bice:

Rarely has the political payoff for a special interest group been as quick or blatant.
The American Federation for Children, one of the leading advocates for school choice in the country, brags in a recent brochure that it spent more than $325,000 – far more than the group has previously made public – to help elect state Sen. Rick Gudex in a closely contested Wisconsin race last fall.
Gudex won his seat by less than 600 votes.
Then, last week, the freshman lawmaker joined two other Senate Republicans in saying they were drawing a line in the sand by vowing to oppose a state budget bill if it doesn’t include an expansion of the state’s school voucher program.
“The American Federation of Children got exactly what they wanted,” said Mike McCabe, head of the left-leaning election watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “They want legislators who will go to the mat and make expanding the voucher program the bottom line.”
Just as interesting, McCabe said, is that the school choice organization is saying in its own material that it spent twice as much helping Gudex as it reported to state regulators. McCabe said his group is looking into filing an election complaint.
A source familiar with the American Federation’s political spending in Wisconsin called such a complaint “frivolous.” The organization, the source said, had abided by Wisconsin election laws.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

“School Choice Will Expand” – Wisconsin Governor Walker

M. D. Kittle:

The governor also touched on statewide proficiency data released by the state Department of Public Instruction earlier this week.
DPI on Tuesday released test scores comparing Milwaukee Parental Choice Program students to Milwaukee Public Schools students, failing to account for disparate income levels between the students.
“The vast majority of families in that program are low income,” Walker said. “If you compare the same income categories of students who come from families in Milwaukee Public Schools with Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, you’ll find that in almost every category the kids in the choice schools outperform those in the public schools.”
He added he wanted all schools to perform better.
DPI’s release showed that 19.4 percent of MPS students were proficient or advanced in mathematics compared to 13.2 percent MPCP students participating in the Wisconsin Student Assessment System.
It also showed 14.2 percent of MPS students were proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 11.1 percent of MPCP students.
Data released by the voucher advocacy organization School Choice Wisconsin, however, showed that MPCP students outperformed MPS students everywhere except math, including reading, language arts, science and social studies when comparing only students in low income families.
Free and reduced lunch is available for students whose parents earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty line, about $41,000 for a family of four. Until last school year, the income eligibility for the school choice program was 175 percent of the federal poverty line.

Wisconsin’s Literacy (un)Conference; April 15 & 16th

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction invites you to attend our upcoming Literacy (un)Conference. Aimed toward literacy leaders, especially principals and reading specialists serving grades K-3, this online professional learning opportunity includes pre-recorded sessions and live chats.
Sessions about standards-based instruction and assessment will be posted Monday, April 15, 2013. A live chat about this content will be held April 15 at 7:00 p.m.
Sessions about planning for professional learning and collaboration will be posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013. A live chat about this content will be held April 25 at 7:00 p.m.
Watch this space for further details including links to the conference site and live chat events. More details can be found here.

Status Quo K-12 vs a Little “Reform” Rhetoric at a Wisconsin Budget Hearing

Matthew DeFour’s tweets tell the unsurprising story (Wisconsin Schools Superintendent Tony Evers is testifying before the State’s “Joint Finance Committee”):


Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.
Madison’s per student spending is $14,547 for the 2012-2013 school year (the number ignores differences in pre-k per student costs – lower, vs “full time” students).
Watch the committee hearing.

New ‘flipped classroom’ learning model catching on in Wisconsin schools

Matthew DeFour:

On a typical school night, while most chemistry students are solving homework problems, Verona High School junior Alison Ford is watching her teacher lecture on her iPod Touch.
The next day in class she huddles with two classmates to work on equilibrium equations based on the recorded lecture while her teacher moves between groups of students to answer questions about the assignment.
“It’s a lot nicer because instead of tying up class time trying to explain everything, it really allows you to learn at your own pace,” Ford said.
Welcome to the “flipped classroom,” a learning model that is going viral across Wisconsin and the nation. It’s being employed not only in local elementary and high schools, but also at Madison Area Technical College, UW-Madison and even the Madison Fire Department.

Wisconsin Governor Walker promises major tax reforms, school funding changes

Daniel Bice: Walker also said he wants to require the state’s public schools, including the technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System, to meet performance-based targets to receive increased state funding – similar to programs in Florida and Pennsylvania. The first-term Republican governor said he will push to expand the state’s voucher program for … Continue reading Wisconsin Governor Walker promises major tax reforms, school funding changes

Comments on the Pending Wisconsin School Report Cards

The Madison School District (160K PDF)

New benchmarks for proficiency. Starting in 2012-13, the benchmark for determining proficiency on the WKCE in math and reading will increase. New cut scores are being developed based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is conducted in a sample of schools every other year in Grades 4 and 8.
This higher cut score will result in a large number of students that will no longer be identified as proficient or advanced. This will be true at the state and local level. Recent coverage in the Wisconsin State Journal indicates that using NAEP-based cut scores causes the percent of Wisconsin students identified as proficient or advanced to decline from 81.9% to 35.8% for reading and from 78.0% to 48.1% for math.
The move toward NAEP-based cut scores is in part preparation for the statewide shift to Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2014-15. Results for individual schools using this new benchmark will be released this fall.
Accountability School Report Cards. Information packets from DPI provide context and formatting examples of the report cards that each school will receive to track its performance against various criteria.
Embargoed draft versions of school report cards will be shared with districts around September 24. Report cards for individual schools for 2011-12 will be finalized and made public around October 6.
Attached is an example of a school report card for a middle school. The report cards apply to all elementary, middle and high schools. Criteria are broken out by racial/ethnic, disability, income and ELL subgroup. More detailed “technical report cards” will also be prepared for each school that will go into more detail and methodology of the calculations.
The criteria for the Accountability School Report Card follow:

Watch a Madison school board discussion, starting at about 15 minutes.

Oconomowoc worth watching

Wisconsin State Journal:

Oconomowoc’s plans for next school year are undeniably bold:

  • Reduce the number of teachers but pay the many who stay a lot more money for teaching an extra period.
  • Use technology — including students’ own hand-held devices — to encourage and personalize learning.
  • Save more than $500,000 to help balance the district’s budget without reducing class sizes or cutting programs for students.

Wisconsin will be watching closely for results.

Wisconsin Assembly should ice teacher discipline bill

Mary Bell:

If you want to tell if someone is a good driver, you watch them drive. If you want to tell if someone is a good teacher, watch them teach. When it comes to evaluating teachers, the further from the classroom you get, the weaker the measure is.
There’s no doubt about it – high-quality evaluation systems for teachers and principals help students and schools. Our union of educators has called for consistent evaluations for years – and even advanced our own proposal back in January. We have been one of many voices on the State Superintendent’s Educator Effectiveness Design Team, which is near to releasing a comprehensive evaluation framework.
The education community knows what works: professional development, consistent and thorough classroom observation and using results to help good educators become great.
It was troubling, then, when last week the state Senate voted to advance a bill to tie teacher discipline – even firing – to students’ Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) test scores.

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

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.

7.28.2011 Wisconsin School Accountability Conference, with Video

Matthew DeFour:

An effort to develop a statewide school accountability system marks a turning point in Wisconsin, education experts said last week as a public effort to design the system got under way.
When the modern school accountability movement began in the 1990s, several states such as Massachusetts, Kentucky and Florida developed their own systems for measuring how well schools helped students learn. Wisconsin created a statewide test in 1993, but deferred to local districts on what it meant for schools.
“Some states have embraced (school accountability) more than others,” said UW-Madison education professor Doug Harris. “Wisconsin hasn’t.”
Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers, who otherwise have clashed on education issues, have agreed to change that. A task force they formed began collecting information at a symposium last week organized by Walker, Evers and the La Follette School of Public Affairs and will soon meet to begin designing the system.

Susan Troller:

When it comes to developing a system for accountability for Wisconsin’s schools, including ways to measure whether students are meeting the ultimate goal of being ready for a career or college, Betebenner says, “My advice to you is to go slow … and be deliberate.”
John Johnson, director of education information for DPI, was encouraged by the standing-room-only crowd and the attendance by a number of policymakers, including key legislators, at Thursday’s meeting.
“Maybe by wading into school reform rather than diving into the deep end of the pool with Race to the Top, we’ll actually be able to swim, instead of drowning,” he says.

Watch the “Building a New School Accountability System for Wisconsin” conference, here.
Wisconsin’s academic standards have long been criticized for their lack of rigor.

Wisconsin Governor Walker instructs us on future of schools; Notes on Teacher Content Knowledge Requirements

Alan Borsuk:

Scott Walker, the governor who set the stage for a burst of educational excellence? The guy who helped teachers make their work more successful and more rewarding (at least intangibly)?
Goodness, turning those question marks into periods is going to be a project. It’s hard to imagine how Walker’s standing among teachers could be lower.
But Walker thinks that will be the verdict several years from now.
By winning (as of now) the epic battle to cut school spending and erase almost all collective bargaining powers for teachers, as well as other educational battles, Walker has changed the realities of life in just about every school in the state, including many private schools.
The focus through our tumultuous spring was on money, power and politics. Now the focus is shifting to ideas for changing education itself.
So what are Walker’s ideas on those scores?
In a 40-minute telephone interview a few days ago, Walker talked about a range of education questions. There will be strong criticism of a lot of what he stands for. Let’s deal with that in upcoming columns. For the moment, I’m going to give Walker the floor, since, so far this year, the tune he calls has been the tune that the state ends up playing. Here are some excerpts:

Much like our exploding federalism, history will certainly reveal how Walker’s big changes played out versus the mostly status quo K-12 world of the past few decades. One thing is certain: the next 10 years will be different, regardless of how the present politics play out.
I found the interview comments on the teacher climate interesting. Watching events locally for some time, it seems that there is a good deal more top down curricular (more) and pedagogy (teaching methods) dogma from administrators, ed school grants/research and others.
Other states, such as Minnesota and Massachusetts have raised the bar with respect to teacher content knowledge in certain subjects.
Wisconsin teacher license information.
Related: 2 Big Goals for Wisconsin.

Teaching and Learning in the Midst of the Wisconsin Uprising

Kate Lyman:

It all started when my daughter, also a Madison teacher, called me. “You have to get down to the union office. We need to call people to go to the rally at the Capitol.” I told her I hadn’t heard about the rally. “It’s on Facebook,” she responded impatiently. “That’s how they did it in Egypt.”
That Sunday rally in Capitol Square was just the first step in the massive protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s infamous “budget repair bill.” The Madison teachers’ union declared a “work action” and that Wednesday, instead of going to school, we marched into the Capitol building, filling every nook and cranny. The excitement mounted day by day that week, as teachers from throughout the state were joined by students, parents, union and nonunion workers in the occupation and demonstrations.
Madison teachers stayed out for four days. It was four exhilarating days, four confusing days, four stressful and exhausting days.
When we returned to school the following week, I debated how to handle the days off. We had received a three- page email from our principal warning us to “remain politically neutral” as noted in the school board policy relating to controversial issues. We were to watch not only our words, but also our “tone and body language.” If students wanted to talk about the rallies, we were to respond: “We are back in school to learn now.”

What does the future hold for education in Wisconsin?

Alan Borsuk:

Mr. Educational Landscape Watcher here, with his jaw hanging open while he thinks about a few questions that boil down to this: What next?
In January, Gov. Scott Walker told a convention of school board members and administrators from around Wisconsin that he was going to give them new tools to deal with their financial issues. Naïve me – I thought he meant bigger hammers and saws.
It turned out Walker was thinking along the lines of those machines that can strip-mine most of China in a week.
Goodness gracious, look at where things stand less than five months later, with more earth moving and drama ahead. Every public school in Wisconsin will be different in important ways because of what has happened in Madison. The private school enrollment in the Milwaukee and Racine areas will get a boost, maybe a large one. The decisions many people make on schooling for their kids are likely to be changed by what has happened in Madison. And then there’s the future of Milwaukee Public Schools (he said with a shudder).
As the Legislature’s budget committee wraps up its work, let’s venture thoughts on a few questions:

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

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

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

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

Caire, Nerad & Passman Wisconsin Senate Bill 22 (SB 22) Testimony Regarding Charter School Governance Changes

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire 13mb .mp3 audio file. Notes and links on the Urban League’s proposed IB Charter school: Madison Preparatory Academy. Caire spoke in favor of SB 22.
Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 5mb .mp3 audio file. Nerad spoke in opposition to SB 22.
Madison School Board Member Marj Passman 5mb .mp3 audio file. Passman spoke in opposition to SB 22.
Much more on SB 22 here.
Well worth listening to. Watch the hearing here.

Video, Notes & Links: Wisconsin Senate Bill 22 Hearing

via a kind reader’s email:

Clusty Search: Wisconsin Senate Bill 22.

A teacher weeps for the future of Wisconsin schools

Vikki Kratz:

The morning after the Republicans stripped me of my rights, I stood in the hallway of my school, watching my four-year-olds stream in. They gave me hugs. They ran up to show me things: a new shirt, an extra pretty hair ribbon, a silly band. They wanted to know if it was chocolate milk day. They pointed out that one of their classmates, who had been out sick for a few days, had come finally come back!
And for a little while, normalcy returned to our world. I had spent the evening before at the Capitol, in the crowd of thousands that pushed against the locked doors, demanding to be let in. I think I spent most of the night in shock – not only at how suddenly I could be deprived of everything I had worked for, but of how suddenly the country I thought I knew could become unrecognizable. I was standing with a crowd on the steps in front of the Capitol door when a police officer slammed it shut in our faces. I walked around the building until I found a spot where protesters had lowered a bathroom window. And I watched in disbelief as people began hoisting each other in through the open window, while dozens milled around them. “Ssssh,” they warned each other. Don’t make any noises that might attract the police.

Federal judges consider Wisconsin high school sports case

Associated Press:

A Wisconsin case that could have nationwide implications for how reporters cover and how parents watch high school sports is making its way through the courts, with crucial constitutional arguments taking place Friday in federal court in Chicago.
The case pits community newspapers against the association that oversees high school sports in Wisconsin. Fans in many states rely on community newspapers for news about high school teams, and the newspapers say they need easy, unencumbered access to sporting events to provide that coverage. But the association says it can’t survive if it can’t raise money by signing exclusive contracts with a single video-production company for streaming its tournaments.
The newspapers argued Friday before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of press should enable them to put such publicly funded events online as they see fit, free of charge.
The case began in 2008, when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association sued The Post-Crescent of Appleton after it streamed live coverage of high school football playoff games. After a U.S. District judge sided with the association last year, saying its exclusive deal with a video production company didn’t impinge on freedom of the press, the newspaper’s owner, Gannett Co., and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association appealed.

A Look at Wisconsin School Administrative Salaries; Madison has 45 employees earning > $100,000 annually.

Amy Hetzner

Public school districts in southeastern Wisconsin reported paying their top leaders an average salary of nearly $130,000 in the 2009-’10 school year, data released by the state Department of Public Instruction shows.
The average salary for the six-county region, which includes Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties, represents a 7.4% increase over superintendent salaries two years before and more than 40% more than such positions averaged a decade ago.
Teacher pay for the same school districts rose 7.6%, on average, between the 2007-’08 and 2009-’10 school years. Over the previous 10 years, however, average teacher salaries in southeastern Wisconsin school districts increased by 29%, according to the state information.
The data from the DPI is reported by school districts every fall, meaning that it might not capture salary increases given retroactively after teacher contracts are settled, which is also when many districts approve administrative compensation packages.
For that reason, the Journal Sentinel compared salaries reported in 2009-’10, the first year of negotiations for a new teacher contract, with the salaries from two years before at a similar stage in negotiations. The 10-year comparison also should eliminate some of the year-to-year fluctuations caused by the self-reporting method employed by the state.

Madison has 45 employees earning greater than $100,000.00, Green Bay has 21 (Madison’s Dan Nerad previously served as the Green Bay Superintendent), Milwaukee has 103, Racine 10, Waukesha 7 and Appleton 18. Madison spends $15,241 per student, according to the 2009-2010 Citizen’s Budget.
Search the Wisconsin public school employee database here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public Sector Benefits Under Fire, Wisconsin Tax Climate Update

Jon Ward:

America’s recession is exposing societal fault lines, as various groups fight over increasingly smaller pieces of the pie. Tensions are particularly flaring between government workers and employees of private businesses.
David Walker, the U.S. comptroller appointed by President Bill Clinton who continued in the role under George Bush, on Friday gave a bracing indictment of the pension and salary benefits being rewarded to government workers at the federal, state and local level. Walker said that public sector workers are growing prosperous on the back of private sector workers.
“There is a huge gap. State and local plans on average … are much more lucrative than typical plans for employees. State and local government employees, on average, have greater job security than people in the private sector. And state and local government employees, in the middle of government, in many cases make more money than their private sector counterparts,” Walker said during a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to Pew numbers provided by the Chamber, the budget gap to cover state employees’ benefits totals $1 trillion.

John Schmid:

Newly released U.S. census figures show that Wisconsin, often derided by its own residents as a “tax hell,” stayed out of the top 10 highest tax states for the third consecutive year in 2008, the year of the latest available data.
State and local taxes claimed 11.8% of total state personal income, landing the Badger State 13th among the 50 states, and slipping a notch from No. 14 a year earlier, according to an analysis of census data from the Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal Bailout Spending up to 3,700,000,000,000; A Look at Wisconsin’s Taxes and the British PM Flies Commercial


Increased housing commitments swelled U.S. taxpayers’ total support for the financial system by $700 billion in the past year to around $3.7 trillion, a government watchdog said on Wednesday.
The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said the increase was due largely to the government’s pledges to supply capital to Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) and to guarantee more mortgages to the support the housing market.
Increased guarantees for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the Government National Mortgage Association and the Veterans administration increased the government’s commitments by $512.4 billion alone in the year to June 30, according to the report.

The Wisconsin Budget Project (“An Initiative of the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families“).

The Wisconsin Budget Project is a WCCF initiative engaged in analysis and education on the state budget and tax issues, particularly those relating to low and moderate income families. The budget project seeks to broaden the debate on budget and tax policy through public education and the encouragement of civic engagement on these issues.
Quick Facts about the Wisconsin Budget:

  • Based on the most recent national data (from 2007), Wisconsin ranked 29th in total state and local spending (measured as a percentage of income).
  • Contrary to the perception that our state has a large government bureaucracy, Wisconsin ranked 44th (7th lowest) in 2008 in the number of state employees relative to population, and 41st (10th lowest) in total state and local government employees relative to population.

Clusty Search: Wisconsin Budget Project & WISTAX (Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance).
Setting a great example for our political class, British Prime Minister David Cameron flew commercial on a recent trip to the United States. Congressional use of military jets continues to be controversial (to his credit, US Senator Russ Feingold can often be seen flying commercial).

Wisconsin high schools webcast graduations to reach wider audience

Amy Hetzner:

While iQ Academy Wisconsin can reach students statewide through lessons taught over the Internet, that doesn’t mean all 128 graduates can reach the academy for Sunday’s commencement at Waukesha South High School.
So, for the first time, the school is offering a webcast of its graduation, which students and their relatives can watch in streaming video as names are called out and awards are distributed.
“A lot of our students live pretty far from Waukesha,” said iQ Principal Rick Nettesheim, who estimates about two-thirds of the graduating class will be at commencement this year. “Now they can participate in the graduation or, if they have friends or family that live far away, they can participate, too.”
The Waukesha-based charter school is one of a growing number of high schools to broadcast their graduation ceremonies over the Internet, allowing far-flung friends or family members who couldn’t travel or get tickets to participate in once-in-a-lifetime events.
Henry Holmes, 18, said the webcast will allow his grandfather in Waupun to watch as he picks up his iQ diploma.

Wisconsin Lags in Closing the Education Gap – Education Trust

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin is not making as much progress raising student achievement and closing the gaps between have and have-not students as the nation as a whole, according to a report released Tuesday by the Education Trust, an influential, Washington-based nonprofit group.

As with other reports in recent years, the analysis showed the achievement of African-American students remains a major issue overall and that the gaps between black students and white students in Wisconsin are among the largest in the United States.

But it also analyzed the progress made in recent years and found Wisconsin lagging when it came to all racial and ethnic groups – and the news was generally not good across a wide range of measures.

Daria Hall, director of kindergarten through 12th-grade policy for the Education Trust, said, “What you see is when you look at any of the critical milestones in education – fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade math, high school graduation, collegiate graduation – Wisconsin and African-American students in particular are far below their peers in other states. This shows that while there has been some improvement, it is not nearly fast enough for the state’s young people, communities or the economy as a whole.”

For example, consider reading scores for fourth-graders in 1998 and in 2007 in the testing program known as the National Assessment of Education Progress. White students nationwide improved their scores seven points over the nine-year period (on a scale where average scores were in the low 200s), while in Wisconsin, the improvement was one point. For black fourth-graders, the nationwide gain was 11 points, while in Wisconsin it was four. And for low-income students in general, the national gain was 10 points, while in Wisconsin it was two points.

Wisconsin lagged the nation when it came to similar comparisons involving the graduation rate for black students, the percentages of black and Hispanic students graduating college within six years of finishing high school and the degree to which there had been improvements in recent years in the size of black/white achievement gaps.

This pdf chart compares the 50 States and the District of Columbia.

Related: Tony Evers and Rose Fernandez are running for Wisconsin DPI Superintendent in the April 7, 2009 spring election. Capital Newspapers’ Capital Times Editorial Board endorsed Tony Evers today.

Watch or listen to a recent debate here. SIS links on the race.

Third Party Group Leafletting for Wisconsin DPI Candidate Tony Evers

Advancing Wisconsin is leafletting (and profiling voters with handheld devices) for Wisconsin DPI Candidate Tony Evers (opposed by Ruth Fernandez) (watch a recent debate), Supreme Court Candidate Shirley Abrahamson (opposed by Randy Koschnick) and Dane County Incumbent Executive Kathleen Falk (opposed by Nancy Mistele).

Wisconsin Task Force on Arts & Creativity

In March of 2008, Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton and State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster formed the Wisconsin Task Force on Arts and Creativity in Education and they began their work to assert the central role of the arts and creativity in education in this 21st century global economy. (You can watch a short video on the Task Force’s launch here.) The Co-Chairs and Task Force members alike understand creativity to be the bedrock of the arts, the renewable resource that will be the sustainable energy of this economy. As international expert Charles Landry says, “Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.
Through this web site you will learn about the Task Force and its workgroups. You can listen to the testimony from the Public Forums and experience the resources that influenced the Task Force’s work.

Madison 2008 Referendum: Watch List Report Card

10/6/2008 update (pdf)
Active Citizens for Education presents this “Watch List Report Card” as a means of reporting relevant information, facts and analyses on topics appropriate for consideration by taxpayers in voting on the Madison Metropolitan School District referendum question November 4, 2008.
This document is dynamic in nature, thus it is updated on a regular basis with new information and data. Questions, analyses, clarifications and perspectives will be added to the entries as appropriate. Review Ratings will be applied to report the progress (or lack thereof) of the Board of Education and Administration in its plans, data, information, reports and communications related to the referendum.
The question which shall appear on the ballot is as follows:

“Shall the following Resolution be approved?
BE IT RESOLVED by the School Board of the Madison Metropolitan School District, Dane County, Wisconsin that the revenues included in the School District budget be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, for recurring purposes by: $5,000,000 beginning in the 2009-2010 school year; an additional $4,000,000 beginning in the 2010-2011 school year (for a total of $9,000,000); and an additional $4,000,000 beginning in the 2011-2012 school year (for a total of $13,000,000 in 2011-2012 and each year thereafter).”

(Source: MMSD Administration 09/15/08)
Continue reading here (277K PDF).

More on Wisconsin 4 Year Old Kindergarden

Amy Hetzner:

On the heels of news that better than two-thirds of the state’s school districts now offer 4-year-old kindergarten, an apparent backlash has turned the tide in several southeastern Wisconsin school districts.
First, there was the Elmbrook School Board narrowly rejecting administrators’ proposal to extend a 4K pilot that’s several years old. Then, on Monday, the Muskego-Norway School Board unanimously shot down a proposal to start junior kindgarten.
Last night, the Plymouth School Board held an hours-long hearing into whether to continue a 4K program that was started just last year. One of the guests was Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman, a vocal opponent of 4K who has previously compared the publicly funded preschool program to communist schemes.

Related – Marc Eisen: Missed Opportunity for 4K and High School Redesign.

Property Tax Levies in Wisconsin #1 As a % of Home Values

Avram Lank: Property taxes in Wisconsin are the nation’s highest in proportion to the value of owner-occupied homes, according to a recent national study. hat is “nothing terribly new or earth-shaking,” said Todd A. Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance in Madison, who predicted the taxes still are too low to cause a fundamental … Continue reading Property Tax Levies in Wisconsin #1 As a % of Home Values

Wisconsin DPI Candidate Forum

Three of the four candidates for Wisconsin DPI Superintendent participated in a Madison Forum Saturday morning. The League of Women Voters Melanie Ramey kindly moderated. Watch the forum here (video and audio clips). You can also read individual questions and watch/listen to the candidate responses. Incumbent Libby Burmaster was unable to attend, though the three … Continue reading Wisconsin DPI Candidate Forum

Curious (false claims) reporting on legacy k-12 schools, charter/voucher models and special education

Wisconsin coalition for education freedom: Wisconsin Watch has released its third article in a series attempting to discredit the great work choice programs do in Wisconsin. Their latest article misrepresents admission policies of choice schools while ignoring the fact that public schools often engage in admission practices that would be illegal for schools participating in … Continue reading Curious (false claims) reporting on legacy k-12 schools, charter/voucher models and special education

K-12 Governance climate: Kiel edition

Mario Koran: (finding notes) Tri-County Citizens ratcheted up most of the pressure on Ebert. Seeking to block “woke ideology” and lessons on racial justice, the group helped elect like-minded school board challengers last April by canvassing, producing campaign videos and creating a political action committee to raise funds. Matt Piper, a Tri-County Citizens leader who … Continue reading K-12 Governance climate: Kiel edition

Wauwatosa School Board Pays My Bills and Offers Public Apology for Violating the Constitution

Megan Fox Last year, I covered a board meeting at the Wauwatosa School Board in Wisconsin. The board was implementing pornographic content in its elementary school program that was so graphic that local news wouldn’t show it on television. Parents, activists, and protesters streamed to the meeting to let their voices be heard against the sexualization of … Continue reading Wauwatosa School Board Pays My Bills and Offers Public Apology for Violating the Constitution

Where Should Teachers Turn When Marxist Training Leaves Them Unprepared For Real Classrooms?

Daniel Buck: Walking into a classroom my first year of teaching, I experienced less a transition shock and more a disgraceful-lack-of-preparation shock. It turns out the university lectures on self-care and transgender literacies didn’t quite prepare me for a student calling another student’s mother an indecorous word. Nor did a few sample lesson plans equip … Continue reading Where Should Teachers Turn When Marxist Training Leaves Them Unprepared For Real Classrooms?

“For some parents, it was a reminder that school policies didn’t reflect their values.”

Rachel Hale: Since it started in January 2021 Moms for Liberty says it has expanded to 285 chapters in 46 states with over 125,000 members. In Wisconsin, chapters in Kenosha, Marathon, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Polk, Rock, St. Croix, Vilas, Washington, Winnebago and Wood County have popped up over the past two years. It’s hard to pinpoint … Continue reading “For some parents, it was a reminder that school policies didn’t reflect their values.”

Private choice schools treat all students fairly

Will Flanders and Cory Brewer: The recent article by Wisconsin Watch, “Wisconsin students with disabilities often denied public school choices,” suggested private schools that participate in Wisconsin’s school choice program can discriminate against students. The article specifically alleges that choice schools “expel” students with disabilities, without providing a single example of when this has occurred. … Continue reading Private choice schools treat all students fairly

The economics of school choice: political rhetoric on the tree, missing the forest

Jason Bedrick and Corey DeAngelis That $900 mil­lion is barely 2% of to­tal Ari­zona state spend­ing of $80.5 bil­lion in 2022. Ari­zona pub­lic schools spend about $14,000 per pupil, or $1.4 bil­lion for 100,000 stu­dents. If the de­part­ment’s en­roll­ment pro­jec­tion is reached, school choice would serve roughly 8% of Ari­zona’s stu­dents for 6% of the … Continue reading The economics of school choice: political rhetoric on the tree, missing the forest

Commentary on Media Veracity

In case there was any remaining doubt about the objectivity of @WisconsinWatch, they are now fundraising off their “journalism” that is full of half-truths about discrimination in WI’s #SchoolChoice programs. We outlined the problems with their work here: — Will Flanders (@WillFlandersWI) May 30, 2023

Notes on Madison Lafollette’s recent taxpayer-funded referendum facility improvements

Scott Girard: The work at La Follette, led by Findorff Project Engineer Courtney Cates, features a new gym, weight room and “athletics entry” space that includes concessions and a trophy case. That entry area will also feature pieces of the wood floor from the current spectator gym, which will be turned into classroom space, and … Continue reading Notes on Madison Lafollette’s recent taxpayer-funded referendum facility improvements

Get serious about improving literacy

Dr. Judith E. FitzGerald: Wisconsin has a reading problem, especially for those whose home language is not mainstream English, which is the language of instruction, government and business. Every year we have watched our literacy scores and state ranking suffer as other states pursue teacher training and education legislation. Illiteracy has multiple causes including poverty … Continue reading Get serious about improving literacy

Notes on growth in charter and voucher schools amidst decline in traditional “government” schools (who spend far more)

Olivia Herken: Enrollment in Wisconsin’s traditional public schools has continued to decline since the start of the pandemic. There isn’t a single answer as to where students are going and why. A nationwide declining birth rate and changing trends in where families live are big contributors. But there’s clearly a growing appetite in Wisconsin for … Continue reading Notes on growth in charter and voucher schools amidst decline in traditional “government” schools (who spend far more)

Report: K-12 school property tax payments will rise statewide

Scott Girard: Those totals don’t include the Madison Metropolitan School District or Milwaukee Public Schools, both of which passed operational referendums in 2020 that continue to allow them to surpass the revenue limit. Both districts are among those that are increasing their total tax levies and contributing to the statewide rise, WPF notes. “Property tax levies increased … Continue reading Report: K-12 school property tax payments will rise statewide

Civics: “In three different incidents in Virginia, North Carolina and Oregon, no arrests have been made either, according to news reports”

Lucas Robinson: After more than six months, Madison police have not made an arrest in an arson at the office of an anti-abortion group, leading its director to question whether the organization’s political stance has slowed the momentum of the investigation. Wisconsin Family Action has had limited updates from Madison police since the arson in May, … Continue reading Civics: “In three different incidents in Virginia, North Carolina and Oregon, no arrests have been made either, according to news reports”

Commentary on legacy media and political bias

Dan O’Donnell: Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson went to a debate Thursday night and a Mandela Barnes rally broke out.  The crowd for Today’s TMJ 4’s farce wildly applauded Barnes, repeatedly booed and heckled Johnson, and whipped itself into such a partisan frenzy that it accidentally gave away the media bias game by loudly cheering at some of … Continue reading Commentary on legacy media and political bias

Notes on taxpayer supported censorship

Just the news: The Stanford Internet Observatory, University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, think tank Atlantic Council, and social media analytics firm Graphika claimed their consortium had a 35% success rate getting flagged content removed, throttled or labeled.  The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the State Department, and liberal groups … Continue reading Notes on taxpayer supported censorship

Commentary on legacy taxpayer supported K-12 Governance outcomes

Leah Triedler: But in a statement after the speech, Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said Wisconsin students’ poor performance stems from Gov. Tony Evers “refusing to reform education in Wisconsin” despite Republican efforts, including a literacy bill Evers vetoed twice. Darling said Underly is following in his footsteps. “The DPI Secretary … Continue reading Commentary on legacy taxpayer supported K-12 Governance outcomes

“That’s very different than what you’re peddling to a sixth or seventh or eighth grader, where a teacher’s word is law.”

Adam Wren: “If you look down your nose at someone long enough, one day they will punch you in it.” And I think that’s what happened. I sat there that night — I don’t watch much television — but these national network commentators are talking to each other incredulously. What happened here? Well, these under-educated … Continue reading “That’s very different than what you’re peddling to a sixth or seventh or eighth grader, where a teacher’s word is law.”

“Essentially, that meant kids were not being taught to read at all”

Ronald Kessler: Essentially, that meant kids were not being taught to read at all. Whole language proponents even said that when children guessed wrong, they should not be corrected. “It is unpleasant to be corrected,” Paul Jennings, an Australian whole language enthusiast, said. “It has to be fun, fun, fun.” But reading, like devising algebraic … Continue reading “Essentially, that meant kids were not being taught to read at all”

Public health has fragmented trust: The problem is not rogue online misinformation; it is errors from CDC, NIAID, and the White House

Vinay Prasad Building trust in institutions is vital to their success, but as we enter the third year of the pandemic, public health still seems hellbent on destroying itself. In recent weeks, we have seen flip flops on major policy proposal: a vaccine passport for domestic air-travel and authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages … Continue reading Public health has fragmented trust: The problem is not rogue online misinformation; it is errors from CDC, NIAID, and the White House

Ongoing Mask Mandate in our taxpayer supported K-12 schools (1 of 2 statewide)

Elizabeth Beyer and Emily Hamer: Most other Dane County school districts shifted their masking protocol to strongly recommend, as opposed to require, face coverings while in school buildings on March 1, when the Public Health Madison and Dane County emergency masking order expired. The decision by the city-county health department to lift the mask order … Continue reading Ongoing Mask Mandate in our taxpayer supported K-12 schools (1 of 2 statewide)

Supporting David Blaska (2022 write in) for Madison School Board; Muldrow Campaign messages

Dave Cieslewicz: I’m voting for David Blaska. God help me. But God help us all if we continue down the path laid out for us by the current board without at least someone to challenge the status quo.  Postscript: This is not just a Madison problem. Liberal San Francisco voters recently recalled three hard-left school … Continue reading Supporting David Blaska (2022 write in) for Madison School Board; Muldrow Campaign messages

Notes on a recent School brawl at Madison East High School

Elizabeth Beyer: In the video taken Monday at East and later removed from Facebook, a student verbally confronts another student in a classroom before physically attacking the student, and eventually tackling the student onto a table, which subsequently buckles. Another person is seen in the video attempting to separate the two students, but it’s unclear … Continue reading Notes on a recent School brawl at Madison East High School

The War on Gifted Education: Why the landslide loss for San Francisco’s school board is a victory for American meritocracy

James Pethokoukis: Central to that cultural history has also been the notion of meritocracy, going back to the Mandarin bureaucrat-scholars who obtained their positions through the imperial examination system. More recently, China’s communists have attempted to run a more vibrant economy by reintroducing meritocracy — and not just in government.  As Adrian Wooldridge, author of The … Continue reading The War on Gifted Education: Why the landslide loss for San Francisco’s school board is a victory for American meritocracy

Blessed Sacrament sixth-grader Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya wins Madison Spelling Bee

Lucas Robinson: After a nearly 30-minute back-and-forth with another finalist, Blessed Sacrament sixth-grader Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya walked away a champion at the Madison All-City Spelling Bee Saturday morning. Aiden, 11, properly spelled “effete” and then “agate” after runner-up Vincent Bautista misspelled “effete” with an “a” at the beginning. Vincent, a student at St. Maria Goretti School, went … Continue reading Blessed Sacrament sixth-grader Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya wins Madison Spelling Bee

Maskless students

Stop what you’re doing and watch this. Kids at a Las Vegas elementary school burst out into cheers after learning they no longer have to wear a mask to school — Courtney Holland 🇺🇸 (@hollandcourtney) February 11, 2022 Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health. The data clearly indicate that being able to read is … Continue reading Maskless students

Off campus Madison East high fight

Emily Hamer: Madison police were called to respond to a lunchtime fight between East High School students Wednesday off campus, but students began to dissipate just before officers arrived, according to the school’s interim principal. While only a few students were involved in the physical altercation near the parking lot of Milio’s Sandwiches, 2202 E. Johnson … Continue reading Off campus Madison East high fight

Mission vs organization: taxpayer supported k-12 edition

Chester Finn Monday’s Washington Post featured a long, front-page article by the estimable Laura Meckler titled “Public schools facing a crisis of epic proportions.” In it, she skillfully summarized a laundry list of current woes facing traditional public education: The scores are down and violence is up. Parents are screaming at school boards, and children are crying … Continue reading Mission vs organization: taxpayer supported k-12 edition

Civics: Dr. Fauci and the Coronavirus Policy Blame Game

MARTIN KULLDORFF AND JAY BHATTACHARYA With millions of Americans getting infected and over 800,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, most people now realize that Washington’s pandemic policies failed. Lockdowns just postponed the inevitable while causing enormous collateral damage on cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, mental health, education and much else. So, the blame game is in full … Continue reading Civics: Dr. Fauci and the Coronavirus Policy Blame Game

School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It.

Jonathan Chait: Within blue America, transparently irrational ideas like this were able to carry the day for a disturbingly long period of time. In recent days, Angie Schmitt and Rebecca Bodenheimer have both written essays recounting the disorienting and lonely experience they had watching their friends and putative political allies denounce them for supporting a return to in-person learning. … Continue reading School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It.

“the referenced study made no mention of the education of its educators as a variable”

Noah Diekemper: It’s little wonder that the American Enterprise Institute’s education research fellow Max Eden has denounced college requirements for preschool teachers as “regressive,” declaring that there is “ no evidence to support this will help with student outcomes .” Why, then, are lawmakers considering a federal law that would fund preschool programs only if lead teachers … Continue reading “the referenced study made no mention of the education of its educators as a variable”