The Madison School District = General Motors?

A provocative headline.
Last Wednesday, Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on “What Wisconsin’s Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late.” 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).
Zimman’s talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin’s K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”
In light of this talk, It has been fascinating to watch (and participate in) the intersection of:

Several years ago, former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater remarked that “sometimes I think we have 25,000 school districts, one for each child”.
I found Monday evening’s school board meeting interesting, and perhaps indicative of the issues Zimman noted recently. Our public schools have an always challenging task of trying to support the growing range of wants, needs and desires for our 24,180 students, staff members, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and parents. Monday’s topics included:

I’ve not mentioned the potential addition of 4K, high school redesign or other topics that bubble up from time to time.
In my layperson’s view, taking Zimman’s talk to heart, our public schools should dramatically shrink their primary goals and focus on only the most essential topics (student achievement?). In Madison’s case, get out of the curriculum creation business and embrace online learning opportunities for those students who can excel in that space while devoting staff to the kids who need them most. I would also like to see more opportunities for our students at MATC, the UW, Edgewood College and other nearby institutions. Bellevue (WA) College has a “running start” program for the local high school.

Chart via Whitney Tilson.
Richard Zimman closed his talk with these words (@27 minutes): “Simply throwing more money at schools to continue as they are now is not the answer. We cannot afford more of the same with just a bigger price tag”.
General Motors as formerly constituted is dead. What remains is a much smaller organization beholden to Washington. We’ll see how that plays out. The Madison School District enjoys significant financial, community and parental assets. I hope the Administration does just a few things well.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Jessie Opoien: Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state’s K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers’ budget letter includes a swipe at the … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Kelly Meyerhofer: Walker proposed $13.7 billion in total state support for public schools for the 2017-19 biennium. That includes about $2.2 billion in property tax credits that are counted as K-12 funding, but don’t go directly into the classroom. Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger touched on the record amount in a Saturday statement: “Scott Walker … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Adult employment and the Madison School Board’s self interest

Chris Rickert: Like the rest of the board, both also voted to approve the 304-page employee handbook that replaced union contracts beginning in summer 2016. District legal counsel Dylan Pauly pointed to two board policies that include provisions related to managing conflicts of interest among board members. One says board members should “avoid conflicts of … Continue reading Adult employment and the Madison School Board’s self interest

New Detroit Schools boss vows to cut everything but corners, sets ‘focus on educating kids’

Associated Press:

After only about a month as top boss of Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts, a 72-year-old former General Motors executive and private equity firm founder, is well aware that some people already want him gone.
The district’s new financial manager said he’s OK with that reality, adding that differing opinions have value. His only request: Stay out of the way as he tries to turn around one of the nation’s worst public school systems.
I don’t care what people think about me, really … because I know what parents are going to think,” Roberts told The Associated Press during an interview in his Detroit Midtown office. “They’re going to love it because I’m trying to do the right thing for their children, and you won’t find a parent that doesn’t want that. I’m simply going to look at a system and say ‘What is the best system we can put in place to educate these kids?’ I don’t care about the politics.”
What concerns him, he said, is a massive budget deficit and students who either don’t receive a legitimate education or flee the district in search of one. Those mountainous challenges form the ridge that for decades has left the 74,000-student district on the shadowy side of progress.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s speech to the Madison Rotary Club.

“We need entirely different schools to fit the needs of students, not the teachers and administrators,” – Kaleem Caire

David Blaska on the recent Community Conversation on Education:

Caire was one of four main presenters, the others being Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad, the dean of the UW-Madison School of Education, and — sure enough — Madison Teachers Inc. union president Mike Lipp.
Nerad was o.k. He got off a good line: “Children are the future but we are our children’s future.” He even quoted Sitting Bull but on first reference made certain to use his actual Native American name. This IS Madison, after all.
UW Education Dean Julie Underwood was atrocious — a firm defender of the status quo denouncing the “slashing” of school budgets, “negative ads,” and demanding that the community become “public school advocates.” I.E., the whole liberal litany.
Say, Dean Julie, how about the community become advocates for teaching children — in other words, the goal — instead of a one-size-fits-all, government-ordained delivery mechanism? Isn’t competition the American way?
Union apologist Mike Lipp reminded me of Welcome Back Kotter — looks and mien. He could be humorous (I am certain he is a good teacher) but he spent his allotted time on the glories of that holy grail of education: the union’s collective bargaining agreement. I expected an ethereal light beam to shine down on this holy writ, which Lipp lamented that he did not bring with him. His other purpose was to defuse the powerhouse documentary, “Waiting for Superman.”
Indeed, it was that indictment of public education’s “failure factories” and the hidebound me-first teachers unions that prompted Tuesday evening’s “conversation.” I wrote about it, and Kaleem Caire, here.
When Lipp was finished he returned to his table next to union hired gun John Matthews. No sense in sitting with parents and taxpayers.
When it came time for the participants to respond, one parent said of the four presenters that only Kaleem Caire took to heart the evening’s admonition to “keep students as the focus.” I think that was a little unfair to Nerad, who deserves credit for opening this can of worms, but otherwise right on target.
Caire reported that only 7% of African-American students tested as college-ready on the ACT test. For Latinos, the percentage is 14. Those are 2010 statistics — for Madison schools. In these schools, 2,800 suspensions were handed down to black students — of a total black enrollment of 5,300 students!

Related links: The Madison School District = General Motors; Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

An interview with Kaleem Caire.

Comments on the Madison School District’s Budget

Susan Troller:

Madison’s public school budget process is lurching to a preliminary close tonight — final numbers will be available in October after the state revenue picture is clear and district enrollment will be set. Tonight there’s a public meeting at 5 p.m. at the Doyle Building for last minute pleas and entreaties, 545 West Dayton St., followed by a School Board workshop session, which is likely to include some additional budget amendments from board members. Current projections suggest there will be an increase of about $225 property tax increase on the average $250,000 home.
It’s been a particularly painful process this time around, as illustrated by a recent e-mail I got. It came from one of my favorite teachers and said that due to some of the recent budget amendments, the Madison school district’s elementary school health offices would no longer be able to provide band-aids for teachers to use in their classrooms. Instead, children would be required to bring them from home with other supplies, like tissues or crayons.

Related: Madison Schools’ 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Task Force Spending Moratorium, Increase consulting, travel and Professional Development Spending.
A Madison School District Property Tax Increase Outlook (39% over the next 6 years) including 4 Year Old Kindergarten (4K).
Madison School District’s 2009-2010 Citizen’s Budget Released ($421,333,692 Gross Expenditures, $370,287,471 Net); an Increase of $2,917,912 from the preliminary $418,415,780 2009-2010 Budget.
Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District Budget here.
The Madison School District = General Motors?:

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on “What Wisconsin’s Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late.” 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).
Zimman’s talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin’s K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

Hysteria Around School Turnarounds

Tom Vander Ark:

The NYTimes ran a story with this misleading headline and byline:

A Vote to Fire All Teachers at a Failing High School
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — A plan to dismiss the entire faculty and staff of the only public high school in this small city just west of the Massachusetts border was approved Tuesday night at an emotional public meeting of the school board.

When the teachers failed to adopt a ‘transformation’ plan that included a modest lengthening of the day, the superintendent shifted to Plan B, what federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) call Turnaround, which requires that at least 50% of the staff be replaced. Under Rhode Island law, teachers must be notified of the potential for nonrenewal by March 20, hence the board vote and notices. All the teachers will have the opportunity to reapply, up to half will be rehired.
The hysteria is now reverberating on CNN and papers around the country. Central Falls may be an early example but there are thousands to come. As I began reporting in October, SIG will cause widespread urban disruption. But we’ll all need to be cautious to use language carefully and differentiate between ‘firing all the teachers’ and notifying them of the requirement to reapply for their positions.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s speech to the Madison Rotary:

Last Wednesday, Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on “What Wisconsin’s Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late.” 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).
Zimman’s talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin’s K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).