Search results

76 results found.

Wisconsin’s Act 10, Flexible Pay, and the Impact on Teacher Labor Markets: Student test scores rise in flexible-pay districts. So does a gender gap for teacher compensation.

Barbara Biasi

Using employment records on all public-school teachers in Wisconsin linked to individual student information on achievement and demographics from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, I first document how teacher salaries changed in flexible-pay and seniority-pay districts in the aftermath of the reform. After the expiration of districts’ collective bargaining agreements, salary differences among teachers with similar seniority and credentials emerged in flexible-pay districts, but not in seniority-pay districts. Before the passage of Act 10, such teachers would have been paid the same. These newly emerging differences are related to teachers’ effectiveness: Teachers with higher value-added (individual contributions to the growth in student achievement, as measured by standardized test scores) started earning more in flexible-pay districts. This finding is striking considering that school districts in Wisconsin neither calculate value-added nor use it to make any human-resources decisions. School and district administrators appear to be able to identify an effective teacher when they see one.

Does Flexible Pay Attract Better Teachers?

Changes in teachers’ pay arrangements after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements changed teachers’ incentives to stay in their district or to move, depending on the teachers’ effectiveness and the pay plan in place in their district of origin. Because flexible-pay districts compensate teachers for their effectiveness and seniority-pay districts only reward them for seniority and academic credentials, teachers with higher effectiveness should want to move to flexible-pay districts, whereas teachers with lower effectiveness and higher seniority should want to move to seniority-pay districts.

The data confirm these hypotheses. The rate of cross-district movement more than doubled after Act 10, with most moves occurring across districts of different type (flexible-pay vs. seniority-pay). Teachers who moved to a flexible-pay district after a collective bargaining agreement expired were more than a standard deviation more effective, on average, than teachers who moved to the same districts before the expiration; these teachers also had lower seniority and academic credentials and enjoyed a significant pay increase upon moving. The effectiveness of teachers moving to seniority-pay districts, on the other hand, did not change. and these teachers did not experience any change in pay.


WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators


The late 1990’s Milwaukee pension scandal is worth a deep dive as well.




Legislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

The states where teachers still hit students — and more reader questions!

Andrew Van Dam:

You might want to look at corporal punishment of children in schools.

— Lucien Lombardo, New York

As a means of controlling classrooms or improving academic performance, corporal punishment has an uninspiring track record. Last year, a review of 69 studiespublished in the medical journal the Lancet found “physical punishment is ineffective in achieving parents’ goal of improving child behaviour and instead appears to have the opposite effect of increasing unwanted behaviours.”

The good news is that, in most of the country, fewer than 0.01 percent of public school students were paddled, slapped or otherwise physically punished in the 2017-2018 school year, the most recent for which we have data from the U.S. Education Department.

The bad news is that 10 states, mostly in the South, don’t seem to have gotten the memo.

Those 10 states accounted for a full 99 percent of incidents of corporal punishment reported to the Education Department. About 75 percent happened in just four Southern states: Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

Mississippi is the nation’s corporal-punishment capital, and it’s not particularly close. About 4.2 percent of students there were physically punished, more than double the rate in Arkansas, which ranked second at 1.8 percent. That adds up to more than 20,000 Mississippi students being paddled in the 2017-2018 school year — nearly a third of all American public-school students who were physically punished that year.

In the 10 paddling states, Native American and Black boys are punished at the highest rates (more than double the average), while White boys and boys with disabilities also face relatively high rates of corporal punishment. Girls are physically punished at much lower rates, with Native Americans, Blacks and girls with disabilities bearing the brunt of such punishment in those states.

Statement of Commissioner Gail Heriot in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report: Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connection to School to Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Officials made public-health bets that students will have to pay for

Nat Malkus:

What Weingarten conveniently leaves out is the reason for “two years of disruption.” Time and again, cautious state and school leaders — disproportionately Democrats in concert with teachers’ unions — extended school closures or strict Covid protocols, demonstrated little responsiveness as new evidence on Covid emerged, and minimized the trade-offs. Many red-state leaders did the opposite, damning the torpedoes even when Covid threats skyrocketed. While both parties demonstrated remarkable inflexibility in their Covid responses, it is the most Covid-cautious bets that proved most disastrous for students.

Now, in the third pandemic summer, it’s worth remembering that things didn’t always look so dire, or so politically divided. Back in the first Covid summer, in 2020, prospects for the new school year seemed bright, and blue-state leaders were looking pretty good. In March 2020, all schools — in both red and blue states — closed for the rest of the school year. In the early-pandemic fog — with limited understanding of the virus’s lethality and transmission, of therapeutics or mitigation measures (remember the CDC’s early urging of Americans not to mask up?), and of the relative health threat to students — that was a reasonable decision.

During that spring, blue-state leaders did an admirable job providing the best possible approximation of routine, in-person learning. As I documented, 86 percent of blue-state districts got asynchronous learning platforms such as Google Classroom up and running that spring, compared with 79 percent of red-state districts, and over half of blue-state districts offered synchronous options such as Zoom, compared with less than a third of red-state districts. Blue states also better ensured that students had the devices, Internet access, and direct contact with teachers that made the best of a terrible spring.

By early summer 2020, we looked to be successfully “bending the curve” of Covid cases, and school leaders in both red and blue states were optimistic about plans for reopening and recovery. But then Covid cases began to rise again, and on July 6, President Trump took to Twitter to announce, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” He quickly doubled down, asserting that school closures were “causing death,” and he threatened to strip federal funding from any school that didn’t reopen.

Politics, closed schools and taxpayer supported Dane County Madison Public Health

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The Future of College Is Online, and It’s Cheaper

Hans Taparia:

Forty years ago, going to college in America was a reliable pathway for upward mobility. Today, it has become yet another 21st-century symbol of privilege for the wealthy. Through this period, tuition rates soared 260 percent,double the rate of inflation. In 2019, the average cost of attending a four-year private college was over $200,000. For a four-year public college, it was over $100,000. To sustain these prices, more students are now admittedfrom the top 1 percent of the income scale than the entire bottom 40 percent at the top 80 colleges. Universities have also opened the floodgates to wealthy international students, willing to pay full tuition for the American brand.

Covid-19 is about to ravage that business model. Mass unemployment is looming large and is likely to put college out of reach for many. With America now the epicenter of the pandemic and bungling its response, many students are looking to defer enrollment. Foreign students are questioning whether to register at all, with greater uncertainty around visas and work prospects. The “Trump Effect” had already begun to cause declining foreign student enrollment over the past three years.

The mightiest of institutions are bracing for the worst. Harvard, home to the country’s largest endowment, recently announceddrastic steps to manage the fallout, including salary cuts for its leadership, hiring freezes and cuts in discretionary spending. Most other universities have been forced to make similar decisions, and are nervous that if they continue with online teaching this fall, students will demand at least a partial remission of tuition.

Up until now, online education has been relegated to the equivalent of a hobby at most universities. With the pandemic, it has become a backup plan. But if universities embrace this moment strategically, online education could expand access exponentially and drop its cost by magnitudes — all while shoring up revenues for universities in a way that is more recession-proof, policy-proof and pandemic-proof.

Departing Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham WORT FM Interview

mp3 audio – Machine Transcript follows [Better transcript, via a kind reader PDF]:

I’m Carousel Baird and we have a fabulous and exciting show lined up today. Such a fabulous guy sitting right across from me right here in the studio. Is Madison metropolitan school district current superintendent? She still here in charge of all the fabulous thing it is. Dr. Jennifer Cheatham.

Hello, Jen. Hey Carousel. Hey everybody. It’s good to be here. Wonderful to have you and I do want to just take it off. You know, you’re leaving at the end of the summer moving on to other Adventures but to say first of all, thank you to your accessibility. We’ve had a lot of conversations. We have you and many of your leaders. They aren’t always easy going conversation there. I believe yeah. But they’re important conversations and your availability to answer questions and be on the show and come and have these conversations is really important to Madison. So thank you. Well, thank you for asking.

It’s been wonderful every time and I’m sure it’ll be wonderful again another great show. That’s right. We’re gonna make it happen. I don’t know I’ll burn down all the bridges really until nothing to lose. All right. Well, let’s sort of start with a I have very few statistics that I brought. Just a few. Okay. It’s a few there’s approximately 27,000 students career and MSD more than 50% or students of color including 18 percent that have self-identified as African-American 21 percent that have identified as lad necks. 32 elementary schools 12 middle schools six high schools. There you go. Those are the stat.

It’s big for Dane County, but it’s not it’s not huge and compared to other big cities. Does that make it more manageable? I can work with those six years ago when you showed up and not that I want to be the superintendent of Madison. Yeah, it felt like a world that you could play a role in no doubt. No doubt. I think you know this Carousel, but I worked in San Diego before coming to Madison where there are 200 schools. Then Chicago we’re at that time there were about 600 schools. And so coming to Madison. It did seem doable to the challenges seemed hard even from the outside, but they seem doable but I always imagined. Wow, I could have all 50 principles in a room together. Right right, and we can just talk real talk and that’s been true. I mean, it’s been wonderful. That way yeah big challenges but doable because of the size and the community that we had 11, so.

First of all, congratulations on your new position you’re moving off to Harvard University that I mean, I think that bodes well for us for that leader is from Madison move on to Harvard University big. So thanks for representing Madison and at Harvard. That’s that’s excellent. No doubt.

I think sometimes when we’re. In our own communities, we lose perspective on them and as much as we have challenges, we have tremendous strength and school districts outside. Of Madison nationally have looked to us right have come to us for guidance and advice for Lessons Learned some of them learn the hard way, right but important lessons that we’ve gleaned.

So I want people to know that not only have we made progress here within our community, but we’ve been already Madison’s been influencing the field of Education Beyond Madison. Is that right when we’re in it? Are we see are the challenges right? Because like okay, here’s another problem. Let’s work on that. Here’s another and you know, that’s the daily job of solving problems, but understand that it is it because we’re at least a community that is willing. To address the challenges instead of trying to ignore them. I think so. I think that’s a part of it. I had a in still have a long time Mentor named Karl Cohen. He was the superintendent in Long Beach many years ago, and I remember my early days working with Carl he called. This work. He describes it as a hard slog right the hard slog of school Improvement, right? It’s not you don’t get to spike the football much right? There’s always another challenge to address right and it’s ultimately about children, right? So it’s like schools and school districts are at the center have Humanity right in all the challenges that come with. With being alive right exist in a school in a classroom in a school district.

So yeah, it’s challenging work. But I to your point, I think that Madison has as a community right of Educators, but of people have been able I think to talk about hard issues together. I’d love to talk to you about that more actually. Okay, I think it’s a it’s a it’s a major asset that we don’t talk about enough our ability to be in dialogue with one another even if we disagree even if we don’t go the route that you know change makers want to go the fact that we’re willing to have those conversations that I do every show on the table. I do I think that that’s a really valid. Let’s talk about.

So you’ve been here for six plus years was talking about the changes that you’ve seen in that six plus years. I think there have been a lot of changes. Okay, and I I mean, of course everyone’s going to think that. But they’re for the better, but I would say it was for the better. I think most of they have been for the better when I started six plus years ago the general sentiment. It was a difficult time in Madison. By the way, the contacts Act 10 had just happened. So the education Community was feeling incredibly demoralizing of astride devastated. I mean, you don’t get over if those feelings actually, I think they’re hard to get over. Yes. What else was happening at that time the right as I was starting the race to equity report was released. So everyone was kind of grappling what the reality is of the disparities between black and white people in our community putting numbers to the communities of color new these challenges all along and no longer could the white communities of Madison deny them when the numbers were boldly in their face, right?

So think about that though. So here we have teachers staff. Educators feeling demoralized because of actin and simultaneously being faced with the reality of these disparities, right? That’s really challenging. What else was happening at that time? Oh and the Urban League proposal for the charter school, right had just been denied why that was a tough. That was a tough moment in Madison, right? It was a tough moment was a very. Conversation tell me about it. It was intense. And so that was the context that I came into welcome. Yeah, right and I’m a parent Lee a very optimistic person. So I thought yeah we can do this. This is hard but. There’s an inflection point here, right? We can come together and find a better way of doing this and I felt like the all the ingredients existed in Madison to do so, so it’s interesting.

I given all that context what came up in those first.

Few months when I was on the job was a desire for just Direction and coherence right? There. Was this feeling that the district at that point in time, which is a point of I think some chaos, right? There’s another chaotic period of. Not knowing what direction to go in knowing that we were facing challenges but not knowing how to move forward everyone just needed and wanted desperately some direction, right and some coherence around the strategies that were being put into play. So I took that and ran with it and I think over these last five or six years we’ve accomplished that meaning we have real Direction. I still get regularly criticized for doing too much. Lunch, right that’s different from not having Direction. It’s hard to do when there’s so many things to do to have I’m sure I desire to fix not everything at once and yet you have to move all the balls forward a little bit at a time. I think that’s true. So my challenge has always been well. Okay, we are going to have to do a lot because there’s urgency right and there are children who need us to make progress now. So I can’t narrow the focus too much. But at least I can make sure that what we’re doing is coherent right that it all holds together and is leading us in a Direction that’s addressing the real problems that we face not the fake problems.

But the real ones and again, I think we’ve accomplished that I really wanted for us to adopt some more discipline ways of working. I wanted us out of the gate to invest in school leadership. Team School Improvement planning data use I just wanted us to be a more discipline organization sense of structure. God have structured of systems and structures and shared leadership structures. That would help the people who work most closely with children. To be empowered to make the best possible decisions. I remember I remember that. Yeah, I remember when you moved here. Yeah. I have a 7th grader so high had just gotten to know. Ms. And Madison Public Schools, right? I was an observer on some level before before you became our superintendent and I and I remember having a conversation with Marj Passman is a mentor and good friend of mine who was a mentor member of the Madison School Board.

Yeah, but I’m talking about how my daughter’s first grade class wasn’t learning the same thing. Add another first grade class across town in still in Madison because that wasn’t the structure that we had and that on some level. There was a lot of teacher freedom, but on another level kids you you couldn’t switch schools and expect to be able to have the same curriculum and you would either be Advanced or behind depending on where you go. Just because you move departments across the city.

Well, that’s an excellent point. It’s not like that anymore. No, and so in addition to creating more discipline in the ways we make decisions and how we measure success and learn from. Our failures and make improvement over time. We insisted on more instructional coherence. So let’s get clear on what we think great teaching looks like in the classroom. Let’s get clear on.

The standards right that we have to teach especially in literacy and Mathematics that has been the major Focus for these past five six years and and we insisted on on teachers not working in isolation, but working in teams, right? So there was a big investment and not just. As a learning community understand how we teach. But knowing a little bit more about what we all need to teach and how we how we need to work together as teams to continually reflect on the effectiveness of our practice. So teachers coming together on a regular basis to talk about what we taught last week. What do we learn from it? Which kids are getting it who isn’t what does that mean for what we’re going to do next week, right? And that sounds simple but it is just essential. I mean that is the core of what. All districts do and I could see if I feel like every time you start a new initiative or change things up. Not you specifically but everyone in general. Yeah, you almost have to go all in okay. This is what we’re doing. And then once you master it, you can pull back out so I could see a lot of challenges and difficulties of teachers that were fabulous teachers. Oh, yeah that. More of course. They taught our kids, of course, they were fabulous qualified teachers, but they weren’t as interested in making sure that their first grader was doing the same as another first grader was doing they had love and nurturing and. They wanted to inspire this these students to love education and not that they have to be I can’t think of the right word come combative with each other but there were definitely teachers that thrived because of the free form that we allowed and here you are now adding adding a structure to it.

Where do you think we are in the process? Do you think there’s a point where we can say? Okay, you’ve mastered the structured and now we can pull back out.

Yeah. Oh my God, that’s such a good question. I think that both the discipline ways of working that I described first. And this work that we’ve done around instructional coherence was. For a while and for some felt really constraining write your point and it would for great principals who felt like they had a leadership structure that was working or you know, like they were principals who were feeling those constraints to and certainly teachers and I’ve talked with enough teachers to know for a fact that that is absolutely true, but I think. Foot I buy what I’ve always believed was that it was a step in the process, right? Which is I think is your point but that’s not the end goal. The end goal is something more important the end goal for those discipline ways of working at the school and District level, especially at the school level related to sit planning. We’re so that at this stage we could even further Empower schools right to make their own decisions because now sit planning, I don’t know.

I’m so. Sorry something and I will Improvement planning which is kind of disciplined way of working. We’ve adopted at the school level for decision making okay and school-level focus areas. We want now that those disciplined ways of working are pretty embedded. Like they’re part of our culture and our way of working. We can actually further Empower schools to do what they think is right for their school Community right and in collaboration with. Our students their staff their their families. We the new strategic framework kind of lays out a strategy for further empowerment of schools. Same thing for the classroom experience. Now that we have more coherence right instructionally as a system. I do think that now we’re at the stage where what we can and should be thinking about is how to ensure that those the teachers have the freedom they need. To ensure that those are not just nurturing environments that build community which is essential but that there’s deep and Rich learning happening in the classroom. Right? It’s not standards alignment isn’t enough. It’s got to be instruction that’s meaningful to the children who are in the classroom, right? It’s got to be content where students can see. Themselves represented in the curriculum I so that they can understand the world around them and interrogate it. Like I just think that we’re at poised to bring instruction to another level and Madison without losing the coherence that we’ve created right we can Empower schools to make decisions for their communities without losing those discipline ways of working that we think are essential this essay about Madison when you inherited it that it really. Didn’t have this structure.

It really was a city that you know again, I’ve only been here for I’ve been here for how long have I been here at around 20 years now. I don’t know some so I certainly don’t know the history of this of the city, but I know the gentleman before you were white men that perhaps didn’t mind that. School a was completely different than school be they didn’t think about the academics because that wasn’t they weren’t I don’t I don’t want to slam these gentlemen at all, but for some reason that wasn’t Madison’s priority, I was sort of surprising. There’s a whole lot to unpack there as their Carousel. But so I don’t know. I know all I know is what I’ve experienced and. Not just me, but the people who have led in Madison the teacher leaders who are on their school based leadership teams, the principles the senior team of Madison. We are hardcore Educators right who have put the educational experience at the center right that the theory that we have adopted for change has been. Guest on improving the experience that students have. With their teachers around content that’s worth learning, right that is that is the hard slog of school Improvement, right?

Yeah, we’re talking with dr. Jennifer Cheatham superintendent of Madison Public Schools. We’d love your questions or comments, please join the conversation the phone call. The phone number is area code 6082562001. You can also send us a tweet at wort talk or a message on our Facebook page. Our page is a public Affair 89.9 FM Madison.

So Jen. Let’s talk about race. Okay, and it seems the intersect with everything that we do big picture is I sir our president is racist. I think our I think our country is racist. It is Madison racist. Yeah. Yeah, I think every individual. I think I’m reason I live in Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin. I live in the United States.

I’m racist I am to I’m married to a black man and I’m a bi-racial son and I’m racist it is I’ve gotten myself into so much trouble for saying those words Carousel. Really? Yeah, I think you know, it’s funny. I’ve I love saying those words, but that’s a conversation. We were talking about at the beginning. Can we at least. Are there less admit it right? I think I out of all of the challenges that I’ve experienced in Madison being able to lead. For racial Equity to try to be an increasingly anti-racist leader, which means doing my own work, right? It means doing my own inside-out work simultaneously alongside everyone else who’s an educator Madison has that has been the most challenging aspect of this work and the most fulfilling in some ways right the most important the most powerful and the most. Anjing. Yeah. That’s sort of break break it down in so many pieces. Does this fit in with the conversation about the behavior education plan. It does because of The Bravery you say suspend and expel students of color at a tremendously High rate. I didn’t I didn’t pull up the numbers from six years ago. I’m happy I didn’t because I don’t we don’t need the numbers in front of us for you and I. To admit the things that we’ve already admitted and then Along Came the behavior education plan. That was really a challenging new way to look at things. Yeah. Yeah, I think let me let me I want to zoom out before we Zoom back into this because I do think it’s a great example of this work in action. I think in my first five years. We certainly were leading for racial equity and the main approach we were taking was to let me think a couple things. We were we were certainly talking a lot about. What it means for all of us to be culturally responsive Educators, right? How do we build relationships with students of color especially in a district where most of us most educators are white and white females like me and at the central office of the district level. We were very interested in both investing resources and tackling the. Institutional barriers that stood in the way of success for students of color and their families, right? So we’ve been all along, you know working on addressing those systems and structures, you know, we rewrote our strategic framework.

A couple years ago now launched it a year ago and the fall and tried. We thought we were ready and I think we were to take it a whole to a whole nother level and be even more explicit in that commitment. Right? We use the word anti-racism right that we are as Educators obligated to be actively anti-racist. You intentionally had a piece that talked about black Excellence. Yeah. We are focusing on our black. It’s to rise them up. And even though I think there has been criticism from the community of black Excellence. Let’s see it. But that’s the whole point. You’re at least you’re putting it out there. If you never put it out there. I can’t hold herself becoming an old accountable. That’s hey and he can’t measure. Your failure is it’s so the community that wants to tell us were failing. At least we’re saying you’re eight.

We said black excellence and we’re not meeting it at all.

No doubt and both of these simple things are different but half have to happen simultaneously, right? You have to lead for black Excellence, which is I mean, what what what is implied? I hope in those words is that. That black students are already excellent, right and that it is our job to yeah to cultivate that excellence and that we have an obligation simultaneously while we’re cultivating black Excellence to recognize and dismantle. Racism in all of its forms and we’re Educators who were held to a higher standard. This is a really big deal. I think for me the that work that we launched last year. What I wish I would have done better was to kind of preview for everybody what it might feel like. Right that we would feel excited and motivated by the commitment. And then when we started actually doing more of the work and holding ourselves accountable for it every time not just sometimes. That it would create a feeling of like not knowing of disequilibrium. I’m not sure being sure about your next step what I think it’s produced a lot in Madison right now is this feeling of. Of who’s the guy on the good side and who’s on the bad side? Right like yeah, which is really lines are very drawn the very drawn it’s fine because it is a step in the process. We just can’t stay there. Right? Like what we need to do as a community is a okay. Hi, this is this is natural feeling right when you’re faced with our own right racism the racism of the institution that we work for right? Like I have this ambivalent relationship with any school district.

I love it because I’m rooting for it and I hate it because it was. Kind of born out of out of racist ideal too many it right and that’s the rest the whole concept of institutional process what it is, you’re fulfilling your actual intentional institutional design, right which leads to racism. So it is natural to go through this feeling of disequilibrium to worry that you’re not on the good side, right and. And if we stay there things we may actually we will suffer as a result. We have to pull together and how that dialogue that we were talking about earlier in the show. Like we have to not let people leave the table but bring them back in and loving and compassionate ways. I actually think that Madison and the school district. Which is a kind of at the center of Madison will be stronger as a result of this dialogue, right? We’re going to get through it and we are going to be better the hope of the future. Yeah. I have no question about it because there is a movement underway in Madison not just in the school district. I mean our educators are phenomenal people who get it in our working heart to do this Inside Out work. And make our institution a better Institution for every child. I have no doubt but we have to stop pitting ourselves against one another right we have to stop looking for someone to blame and just accept that this is our reality right? It’s not just ours is that affects it? Yeah, and and where the people who are in these seats now right where the. Were the people do or learn leaders leaders do it?

Yeah, we have a question that came in Jen had a question on Facebook. Thank you Jenn for contributing to the conversation and using Facebook. Excellent. It does get related over to me. Ye success technology. She wanted to ask you dr. Cheatham to talk about what carrot parents can do. I almost had carrots. I guess I don’t know why maybe I’m hungry. Okay start over Jen wants to know what parents can do to. Push the school’s forward and to work on race and Equity issues. Oh, excellent. And I also I’m going to put my own little spin on me before of I think they’re different conversations versus white parents parents of color. I know that there’s so much intentional effort and we can talk about the successes there of getting families and communities involved. But we also live in a time where when people say where are the parents which I hear all the time. My answer is I don’t know working three jobs trying to knock it evicted. Taking the bus that doesn’t actually get them to where they’re going. They are just hoping that their kid is safe at school. They don’t have time to meet with the teacher because they don’t have enough time and money. To fight being evicted which is what they’re working on and then those are not I don’t think that’s anecdotal as a tenant rights attorney. I think those are very real lives of many many people. Absolutely. Sorry Jen. I co-opted your question there, but can you help us understand the complexity of wanting parents involved needing parents involved and also acknowledging that parents have. Overwhelming things of basic needs on their plate. Yeah, I parent partnership has been a steady Focus for us as well. I mean it was one of the major priorities in our initial strategic framework.

Shout out to Nichelle Nichols who’s been rocking it in that role. Yeah, one of the greatest thing Madison she is amazing and in our whole Focus there has been on. Parents as partners right as full Partners in the educational process. We have always felt that parents don’t need to be present in the traditional ways, which is what you are kind of getting at a minute ago Carousel to be our partners, but they need great communication. They need to know what’s happening with their child at school so that they can play a part in the ways that they that are possible for them. Meaning sometimes the most important thing a parent can do is just to check in with their kid right to talk about it to encourage them, right? You don’t have to come to the PTO or PTA meeting it on their math tests to say. Hey, how’s school going? Did you do feel safe and I’ll be there? How you challenged? I love you. I know you’re smart. Right? It’s right. Yeah, no question. Every parent of course does every that’s what every loving parent loving parent does absolutely they have a free five minutes at the end of the day, sometimes they don’t all kinds of ways to be partners with teachers and all the I’ve talked to a lot of parents over the years and I’ll tell you that relationship between the parent and the teacher is the one that’s most important to most parents, right? That’s a relationship. They want to have be really strong. I think to the Facebook question. Yes, what I’m reading into that is how beyond the typical parent partnership can parents be involved especially around this work on race and equity and I am and I would encourage. Especially the white parents and Madison to think very carefully about and deeply about this question. How do. White parents, especially parents of privilege unintentionally kind of hold up the systems and structures that need to be disassembled of every child is going to be successful the the wrong idea as a white parent and I live I’m a white parent in a predominantly white neighborhood in a predominantly white school that. We don’t have to talk about racism right don’t talk about it. We’re not racist. So we don’t talk about race, which is actually the wrong response when we live in a racist world, right? Yeah, I mean students need to talk about it, right they need to make sense out of this world around them, especially if they’re going to make it a better place. I think that’s essential but I think I’ve seen some leaders especially PTO and PTA leaders really lead this conversation while over.

Last couple of years I’ve seen PTO and PTA leaders introducing book clubs to read. I like books like Robyn D’Angelo is white fragility right among parents to better understand why they’re having some of the responses that they’re having to our efforts to address racial Equity had on. I mean, I would encourage. Parents be thinking about that. What inside out work do they need to do right? It’s not about what we do in the big ways necessarily the big initiatives. It’s what we do in the small ways our one-on-one conversations with our fellow parents, right how we challenge one another. I think that’s really important. And do you see those changes?

There’s so much to talk about we only had I known manage which is crazy. But do you see these changes? I do happening in Madison by the conversations of of and I think that’s the natural Progressive is to start with anger what we’re not racist. What are you talking about? My kid got a great education. I love Madison schools. Are you attacking Madison School? Yeah, we need to protect our schools, too. Sort of okay. Well, actually here’s a conversation. I just gave a here’s my tangent on this. I just gave a presentation on Criminal Justice Reform to Jewish Social Services and part of a tiny piece of my talk was about police in schools, uh-huh a tiny piece and it was just acknowledging. The school-to-prison pipeline and hey, here’s the percentage of African-American students that get tickets when their police are in our schools and all of a sudden people go. Oh, that’s why you’re mad about police and schools and that people in that room actually said that to me they were ready to say we don’t need police in schools, you know, but at least there was a moment of understanding that hadn’t trickled down to them of why would people only criminals are afraid of the police kind of thing. And I think that’s what you’re getting at. Is that do you see those conversations happening? I do I mean I again, I think there is a powerful.

An exciting movement underway in Madison that more and more people not just our Educators, but madisonians are are getting into this dialogue with one another right in the small moments and in the big ones and I think that bodes well for the future of Madison, we justwe you can’t step out of it. We can’t pity each other or people against one another even the police in schools issue. I mean, it’s such a good example care. Well, I think that bye. Criticizing and raising serious questions about the issue shouldn’t be misread as as being anti-police, but it always ends up sounding that way right and there might be people on that position that are anti-police but that’s not the core of what they’re saying and you and you use the excuse of anti-police to stop listening you what they’re saying. You got it. It’s a really. Easy way to shut down the conversation and what I want us all is to stay in it together, right? Let’s not shut down the conversation. Let’s figure out what is the real problem that we are trying to solve and if we can do that we’re going to be okay and you feel like we’re moving so back to Madison schools were what talk to us about some of the programs and the initiatives that you feel are moving us.

Especially there was a collar and then he got disconnected sorry about that Dan. He had a question about the achievement Gap and I don’t know the details of what his question was but moving forward with how do we raise, you know? Address the racial Equity that exists. Yeah. Well, I think that’s what this new strategic framework is all about. I’m very hopeful board I think is very supportive of continuing to move in this direction and I would hope would find a future leader who’s capable of leading this work. But but yeah, I think we’re poised for really really powerful things what needs to happen to end racial disparities in Madison schools. Oh gosh, I mean this not any one thing right? I mean I think the center of it if I had to pick one thing Carousel it would be to for everything that we do to be ultimately aimed at. Seeing each other’s Humanity it does that sound too fluffy. That’s what we need to do. Right everything. We do the way we. Organized schools right through the school Improvement planning process and our decisions about instructional design if we made all those decisions to make sure that you experience a school day and I deeply humane way right where your sauce seen as a human being that’s seeing the teacher as a full, you know, human beings seeing every student in their full Humanity every parent. I mean, it’s interesting right like what if that were the design principle for every. Fission we made moving forward. What does that look like? They’re I know that there’s conversations about schools have become too academic Focus sometimes.

Yeah, and I don’t know how you deal with this you get it from both directions. We’re not meeting. Our academic needs were not academic focused at all. And we’re to academic Focus can my kid please take a dance class and a Ceramics class and something that makes them feel like a beautiful person. I think that the. Energies, I’m going to make some assumptions about what the caller called about the strategies that have been put into play over the last 20 years to quote unquote close the achievement Gap that term drives me absolutely crazy, by the way.

Why because what we’re talking about is racism. We’re not talking about achievement Gap. Yeah. I don’t think it’s actually describing the actual problem that we’re trying to solve. But I think that the strategies that have been put into play which have been largely about. I being more prescriptive on academics how we teach literacy? How do we teach math about intervention? So giving double and triple doses of literacy and math if it’s a student is struggling. I think that those strategies I mean we need to teach literacy and math. Well, I mean don’t get me wrong. That’s what I wanted to see. I don’t want anyone to misinterpret me here, but the the intense focus on only that has actually I think set us backwards and not. Pushed us forward. I think that if we had and this is where the district is going now building on the coherence that we’ve created if districts were more focused on deep and Rich learning experiences for students if imagine young black students saw themselves in their curriculum right from day one if they were getting access to. Historically accurate depiction right of the world in which they live if they were. How do I say this if they were consistently seen as fully human? Riot too many black students in this country are not are dehumanized on a regular basis. I think we would see those results change much much faster.

So the next level of work in Madison is all about that empowering everyone in a school Community to create a holistic instructional experience investing in teachers as culturally responsive teachers who are actively anti-racist ensuring that The Learning Experience offers one that is deep and Rich right and relevant to the students who attend our schools. I mean that work is already underway in Madison and I feel like that is the key to transformation. So all of these things sound wonderful. I know they cost money.

Yeah, let’s talk about money. Let’s talk about that, Wisconsin the United States but Wisconsin award-winning, Wisconsin, we do not fund our Public Schools know and one of the. From my perspective from what I’ve seen as a parent and someone that cares about these issues from the behavioral education plan for example was that there weren’t enough support for teachers and in our schools because we don’t have enough money to hire. A dozen social workers in every school. I mean people always talk about let’s get it our knees. I want to have social workers sitting around doing nothing because we have we’ve hired so many of them. I mean I dream of that of a school just overflowing with abundance of people ready at any moment, but that is a complete fantasy that is not based in any reality of how we fund schools in Wisconsin.

Yeah. I agree entirely. I mean the scarcity model of it. I don’t know. I’ve been an educator for over 20 years and sometimes you’ve been living in scarcity and for me working and scarcity for so long. You forget what? What’s possible Right like you you might accept it as the me accepted as the norm. I know it’s terrible and we shouldn’t accept it as the norm. I I was thrilled when Tony Evers got elected. I will not I’m not shy about saying that. And I cares about public education. He sure does he gets it. I think the proposal that he put forward was really inspired and inspiring and not and not Fantasyland. I mean he was trying to lay out for all of us. A picture of what it actually looks like to fund education public education appropriately. I was happy to see that we got a little bit of bump in per-pupil aid for next year, which is great. It’s still not enough. No, the problem is is that right if my daughter’s don’t get things in their school. My daughters have piano lesson. My daughter has, you know dance classes among our neighbors daughter has.

My math tutor all of these things that if you can’t get it at school people with money can help supplement our are excellent schools that are starved to death. We can I can supplement it but if that cost thousands of dollars a year that which what I do, so ultimately the disparities get bigger that we get it right they get worse. I think that’s exactly right Carousel. I. I mean, I’m not giving up on what governor eavers is trying to accomplish and I don’t think anyone should we should be funding full day for K in the state of Wisconsin? I mean that is an absolute must we should be funding reimbursement for special ed services. That is an absolute must. Yeah, and we we should be fully funding services for English language Learners, which is not happening. Now. I mean the list goes on and on and on I’ll tell you we make we we do a lot with very little but yeah our kids and our teachers and our parents deserve much more. There’s no doubt about that. What do you what do you hope to see in the next superintendent? What is what is your you know, the team comes together. You don’t really give a saying I don’t the TV were part of got something in it.

You know, what do you think are? The school board should be looking at when they choose. Hopefully they have many qualified applicants to choose from but everyone brings their own unique strengths and weaknesses to the table. One of the strengths you think they should be looking for. Well, I mean this superintendent. We’ll be starting from a fairly strong Foundation. Right? I mean, they’re not going on say so yourself. Yeah, I mean, they’re not going to have to redo their HR systems the budget despite the challenges we just described is. This salad we have got is a lot to work from there. So I’m part of what I just I hope is that they’re looking for someone who can lead this kind of next level of work, right? And that’s got to be someone who has a. Fairly robust vision and deep understanding of the kind of transformational change that we’re trying to make now and we’re trying to make changes in instructional design that are.

That are truly transformed of the Community Schools model, right that is a different way of doing school Pathways at the high school level that’s a different way of doing school. There’s pushback and all of them. Yeah. I’m scared of Pathways and it’s gonna be amazing. Good good. I’m scared of what West High School looks like when my kids get their will because it is a different instructor design, right? I mean, it’s weird. This is a longer conversation, but when you’re trying to change. The way schooling looks and feels for students so that they so that they’re actually thriving in school and truly prepared for post-secondary and I would hope that we would get a leader who can lead that transformational effort. I do think the district and the school board should be looking for someone who can continue to keep racial Equity at the center. I think there are many enough education leaders and superintendents who cannot just talk that talk but but walk it so I’m hopeful that they’ll look for for somebody who can continue that work as well.

Yeah, and I think the last thing I would say is there are a lot of leaders out there who. Don’t understand teaching. This is maybe what you were getting to and you talked about my predecessors a little bit but there but I would hope that they’re looking for someone who has really strong instructional leadership skills. Right who really has a mission to feels like to be in the last past. I think it’s really important. I had always wished that I could have taken a week every year and gotten back into a classroom and co-taught with a teacher. I was never able to quite pull it off. I hope that the next superintendent right to say really grounded for my work that teachers do what is happening. That’s right. That’s right.

And do you think. I know the school board has talked about for referendum, ‘s do you think those are things that we should be moving forward both. I know there’s conversation about building referendums and operational referendum. They’ve been supported in Madison. I’m hopeful I would hope that our school district if they think that’s the right thing to do would go for it. I would hope so. I mean, I we’ve been working on that long range facilities plan for years and we didn’t even talk about some of the other things that we’ve done is we’ve made some facilities improvements already. But but the plan that is shaping up on facilities, which would lead with the for comprehensive high schools the Alternative High School Capital High and address. South Madison some major gaps in learning at the elementary level. I think the package up will Shape Up is going to be powerful. Yeah, and I both the school board and the new superintendent I think needs to leave that work forward, you know, the buildings that we have our old 50 years on average. We need to take good care of them and our students deserve to learn in you know, in spaces that reflect our r value of them that are inspiring. Yeah, that’s about deep learning to. Wonderful to have you want to wish you great success as you move on to your next Adventures, but you’re you’re still here for a couple more weeks.

Oh, yeah Bennett you have I’m thrilled them transition to transition to Jane Bell more as the interim as you know, and will she serve. The goal of the setup is she’ll serve for the duration of the next school year. Yeah. Yeah, uh-huh. That’s right. And she starts August first. She was the interim when I started. So transition with her in those first months with this job she sure is and it’s been a pleasure to transition with her. I think the district will be good and very good hands with Jay next year. Thanks Carousel. Well, that’s that’s good. Maybe well, I’ll put a bug in Jane’s ear and get her on the show to talk about. I’ve been the challenges of being a leader that isn’t a permanent leader. That’s a whole new world of it, but. When do you you head off to Boston? You still have a bit a couple more weeks other anything left that you’re really focusing on that you that you hope to work on in the next few weeks. Well the next couple of weeks. I’m getting the senior team with Jane set for next year. We want to make sure that the group is ready to rock and roll. The big kickoff of the Year happens in the second week of August meaning there are big Leadership Institute, which is really the signal but the school year is starting welcoming back teachers and starting with the administrators and the leadership teams which includes teachers and then a couple weeks later all the teachers. So we’re working on making sure that that welcome back plan is strong that the team is ready to rock and roll. And they will be it said there’s a strong team here in Madison.

I’m leaving but the team that is here both the principles of leadership teams at the school level and at the district level is a very I don’t know. I mean, they’re an impressive group to say the least. So Madison’s in good hands wonderful. Well again, thank you so much. Dr. Jennifer Cheatham Jen Cheatham Madison superintendent for. Six plus years. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for facing the challenges and. And the criticism and the successes and all of that and we wish you great success in Boston things Carousel. Thanks everyone for listening today exciting news. I’m actually filling in for Ali show tomorrow. So you’re going to hear me go get you to my fabulous voice. It’s coming back tomorrow, but thank you to Tim for engineering Michelle for producing. I think Anita and Joe have been working on the phones. Thanks everyone for your great work. Have a great day. Bye.

2013: What will be different, this time? The Jennifer Cheatham Madison experience – 2019.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts ($18.5 to 20K/student, depending on the District documents). Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Why are Arizona schools outperforming their peers nationally? Thank school choice

Robert Robb:

The governing board recently released a short study hailing the fact that the gains of Arizona students on the NAEP test were roughly double the national average from 2005 to 2017. That was true for math in the fourth and eighth grades, and for reading in the same grades.

Now that the trend has been validated, and praised, by a national, mainstream educational organization, maybe it will finally become of some interest here in Arizona.

The question, of course, is why are Arizona students showing so much more improvement than students in other states?

Should State Adopt Lower Passing Score for the Bar Exam? Current One May Harm Students of Color:

Sawsan Morrar:

A continuing decline in California’s bar exam pass rate is prompting nearly all of the state’s law school deans to call for an overhaul of the exam.

They suggest the state’s minimum passing score of 144 is too high, compared to the national average of 135, and disproportionately keeps African-American and Latino law graduates from entering the profession. They also say that California graduates who perform better than average, and who would have passed the bar in any other state, are failing in California.

The criticisms, included in a letter signed by 19 of the state’s 20 ABA accredited law school deans, follows the most recent July 2018 bar exam that saw scores fall to a 67-year low. Only 40.7 percent of test takers passed the exam, roughly a 9 percent drop since July 2017. California has seen more applicants fail than pass the exam since 2013.

At a time when the legal profession is looking to build diverse teams, the deans say the cut score of 144 — second highest in the nation — is too limiting for all applicants but especially harms minority graduates.

Newly released data, collected after the July 2018 bar exam, shows that if California adopted the national average, the number of African-American law graduates passing the exam would have doubled.

Nearly 24 percent more Latino law graduates would pass the exam if California adopted the national average score.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Ongoing Spending And Property Tax Growth….. Madison Plans Another 4.5% increase

Molly Beck:

In April, 76 percent of the referendums to exceed revenue limits passed. That compares to a typical rate of about 50 percent in years prior. This represents a changing perception of the state’s support of public schools, said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

“This reflects a shift in public opinion due, I think, to tighter state-imposed restraint on aids and revenue limits in recent years,” Berry said. “There is one instance above all when locals will vote to tax themselves: a fear that they might lose their community’s or neighborhood’s school.”

One bill — yet to be introduced but available in draft form — would require school boards to ask voters to approve referendums only during the traditional spring or fall elections, and prohibit school boards from going back to voters for two years after a referendum is rejected.

Currently, school boards can hold special elections for referendums and can go back to voters during the next scheduled election if a question fails.

Another bill bans school boards from exceeding their state-imposed revenue limits in order to pay for energy-efficiency projects — an exception to levy limits that lawmakers created in 2009.

Compare Madison’s property tax growth and income stagnation. Despite spending more than $15,000 per student annually – double the national average, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Fall, 2015 Madison prperty tax growth rhetoric and posturing.

Madison School District Superintendent “Reverts to the Mean”….

Via a kind reader’s email.

Despite spending double the national average per student and delivering disastrous reading results – for years – Madison’s Superintendent pushes back on school accountability:

The Wheeler Report (PDF):

Dear Legislators:

Thank you for your efforts to work on school accountability. We all agree that real accountability, focused on getting the best outcomes for all children, is important. From our first review of the bill introduced today, it is clear there is a lot of work to be done before a school accountability bill can be passed.

There are several parts of this bill that need more thoughtful consideration to be the type of real accountability that our students and families deserve:

– using multiple tests that would not fairly compare public and private schools

– requiring charter conversion rather than creating a true path to improvement

– assigning letter grades that do not accurately communicate how a school is performing

– removing control from locally elected school boards.

We need an accountability bill that supports our efforts to produce the best results for all children rather than a flawed one that is rushed to pass in order to make a political point.

I would urge you to work with districts to develop a true accountability system that holds all schools to the same standards and supports them in getting the best results for children. We have not yet been given the opportunity to work with you but we would welcome it. I would be happy to answer any questions, give input or discuss with you more.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely,

Jennifer Cheatham, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Madison Metropolitan School District

A further example, try to find total spending in this 2015-2016 Madison Schools’ Budget slideware document (PDF).

Auto-pilot spending and governance practices continue:

General Fund expenditures will increase by approximately 4.8%, based on existing wage and salary commitments and an estimated health insurance rate increase of 9%, unless budget actions are taken to intervene

A Budget Gap of 2.8% (2% Revenue vs. 4.8% Expenditures) or $9-$10 million will occur unless budget actions are taken to intervene

Note the use of “General Fund”. The document neglects to mention total spending, or recent increases in redistributed state tax dollars to the Madison Schools.

A party insider recently mentioned that the “days of Dane County Democrats harvesting tax dollars from around the state and spending them here, are over”.

I further recall lunch a few years ago with a long time Madison elected official: “Always blame the State”.

Wolfram: Reverting to the mean.

Madison Plans 4.2% Property Tax Increase

Molly Beck:

The Madison School District property tax levy would increase by 4.2 percent under the district’s final budget proposal.

That’s up from a 2 percent increase contained in the district’s preliminary budget approved in June.

The final 2014-15 district budget, which must be adopted by the School Board by Nov. 1, also includes a slight bump in the salary increase district staff were expecting this school year.

If approved, teachers will see a 1 percent raise in their base pay for the 2014-15 school year, a slight increase from the 0.75 percent increase the preliminary district budget included when it was adopted by the School Board in June. The salary increase is in addition to increases staff receive based on their level of education, training and years spent teaching, which brings the total increase to about 2.4 percent, according to assistant superintendent for business services Michael Barry.

Madison spends more than $15k annually per student, about double the national average. Yet, the District has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A comparable Middleton home’s property taxes are 16% less than Madison.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison/Dane County Property Taxes Highest in Wisconsin, 61st in USA

Nick Heynen:

Using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the report’s authors examined residential property taxes in every U.S. county from 2007 to 2011, looking at how much homeowners were paying on average and how that average compared to average home sale prices over the same time period.

The data contained some interesting, though perhaps not surprising, revelations about Wisconsin’s property taxes:

Dane County levied the state’s highest average property tax in dollars — $4,279 — and ranked 61st among all U.S. counties examined in the report.

Related: Madison’s 16% property tax increase since 2007 while median household income down 7.6%.

A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.

Madison is planning a maintenance referendum for 2015, which will further increase property taxes. Madison spends about double the national average per student, around $15,000 annually.

Considering Madison school district boundaries vis a vis the planned referendum.

Madison taxpayers have supported additional maintenance and operating spending over the years, yet reading results remain disastrous.

Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Molly Beck

There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding.

The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district.

After discussing the idea, School Board members said that the always contentious idea of changes to school boundaries would at least have to be publicly vetted as a possible solution to crowding before moving forward with a referendum. There have not been any public discussions on the matter since.

Spending and accounting problems with the last maintenance referendum (2005) lead to a discussion of an audit.

I recently met a young “Epic” husband and wife who are moving from their Madison townhouse to the Middleton/Cross Plains area. I asked them what prompted the move? “Costs and taxes per square foot are quite a bit less” as they begin planning a family. See “Where have all the students gone“.

Their attention to detail is unsurprising, particularly with so many young people supporting enormous student loans.

Madison spends double the national average per student. I hope that District seeks more efficient use of it’s $402,464,374 2014-2015 budget before raising property taxes.

Dive deeper into the charts, here.

Madison’s Latest Superintendent, one year hence: Deja Vu?

My simple thoughts on Madison’s latest Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham:

How is the new Superintendent Doing?

Our community faces several historic challenges:

Despite spending double the national average per student, Madison’s reading results are a disaster. The Superintendent has been talking about this and there are indications that at least administrative attention to this urgent problem has changed.

Perhaps the most significant challenge our community faces is that school districts largely remain as they were a century ago: doing the same thing over and over yet becoming more costly each year. The rest of the world is obviously not standing still (

The organizational stasis continues despite:

A. The information revolution:
I had dinner with some college students recently. All bright and motivated, they mentioned using the Khan Academy and many other online resources to learn. Sometimes supplementing coursework and in other cases replacing inadequate classroom lectures.

B. A few public schools are re-thinking their models:
Some Wisconsin Public schools are moving toward year around schedules:

Madison, meanwhile, seems largely content with the status quo:

C. Substantial growth in property taxes over the years, despite big changes in homeownership trends, demographics (rental growth) and the local economy.

D. Michael Barry (the Madison School District’s Business Services Director) recently confirmed to me via email that 25% of the District’s 2014-2015 budget is spent on benefits (!)

Those trends will be very difficult to address within the current structure.

In summary: two big challenges: disastrous reading problems and an organization structure created for 1914.

It is too early to tell how things are going, though the District could certainly share reading results throughout the most recent school year, via its test results.

The interested reader would do well to review previous Superintendent coverage before, during and after. It is revealing. Pat Schneider takes a quick survey, here.

Henry Whitehead:

Dear Editor: While I bet much of sleepy Madison loved your article on new super-intendent Jennifer Cheatham, I found it both revolting and a perfect microcosm for the extreme flaws in the way we talk about student issues in Madison. The Madison School District and local media refuse to ever put the focus of these types of conversations on students. “Locals,” to you, means 11 bureaucrats and one graduated student. I have no interest in hearing from self-serving members of various boards and committees.

What I want, and what I never get, is testimonies from actual kids in the district who are struggling, who have had a problem during their K-12 years, and who could be better served by the Madison School District. I want to hear from a kid whose only meal comes at school, telling me the actual truth about whether their situation has improved or worsened, not 12 nearly identical, nondescriptive praises by adults. Put the focus where it belongs.

Apartheid, just less black and white: ‘Inequality is the new apartheid. “Your life path is largely determined before birth’; Kansas City & Madison per student spending fails to address the gap

Simon Kuper

I especially see apartheid in the US. True, the country has made racist speech taboo. Use a racial epithet in public and your career combusts. That’s lovely. However, American school taxes are usually raised locally, and many neighbourhoods are segregated, and so most poor black children attend underfunded schools where they learn just enough to do lowly jobs for whites. The US later tries to airlift a few victims out of the ghetto through “affirmative action”, but by then the damage is done. Like apartheid South Africa, the US ensures through schooling that most black people won’t succeed. It just doesn’t call this “Bantu education”.

My instinctive measure of a society is how closely it resembles South African apartheid. On that score the Netherlands – despite ample racist speech – arguably beats the US, because the Dutch give so-called “black schools” more funding than white suburban schools. Similarly, ethnically mixed-up London has less apartheid than segregated Paris.

South African apartheid determined people’s life paths from before birth. If you were a white embryo, you’d be fine. A black embryo wouldn’t. I remember, aged about 16, sitting on the porch of some ridiculous white adult fraud, listening to him preach about the stupidity of his black servants, and realising: this guy needs to believe he made his own success. Few people at the top can think, “Luckily, I chose the right parents.” Instead they tell themselves a story about work and talent – even though their maid probably outworks them, and nobody ever cared whether she had talent.

Inequality is the new apartheid. Your life path is largely determined before birth. The ruling classes pass on their status by sending their children to exclusive schools, much like in apartheid Johannesburg.

Happily, ethnicity is no longer always decisive. Still, today’s apartheid delivers outcomes as unequal as the old apartheid did. One measure of a society’s inequality is its Gini coefficient. South Africa’s Gini in 1995, just after apartheid, was a shocking 0.59 (where 0 is perfect equality, and 1 is perfect inequality). But Manhattan today has almost exactly the same Gini: 0.6, according to the US Census Bureau. Amazingly, South Africa itself has become less equal since apartheid: by 2009 the country’s Gini had risen to 0.63, says the World Bank.

From the comments:

There are several key errors regarding school funding- many of the poorest performing schools spend the most per pupil. Schools and taxes are funded at the local AND state level, as well as directed by school boards elected locally and state DOE’s … these have been run almost exclusively by one philosophical perspective for more than 50 years, with the corruption and lack of accountability that comes with it … and results have gotten worse, not better. Maybe time for a change of concept!?!

Madison spends about double the national average per student yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results. Money may be a factor, but as the Kansas City experiment reveled, it is hardly decisive.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes $31 million, five-year technology plan

Molly Beck:

All students in the Madison School District would have their own tablets or notebook computers by the 2018-19 school year under a five-year, $31 million plan proposed by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
If approved, the plan would increase the district’s current
$1.5 million annual technology budget to $4.2 million in the 2014-15 school year to start upgrading the district’s network infrastructure, upgrade or equip classrooms and libraries with new technology or computers, and provide notebook computers to all district teachers and administrators. Elementary teachers also would get tablet computers under the plan.
Costs to upgrade are projected to increase each of the five years of the plan for a total of $31 million spent in that time. Afterward, the annual budget for technology would be about $7 million per year going forward.
Madison School Board members, who formally received the plan at their meeting Monday, were mostly optimistic about the plan. Board member T.J. Mertz questioned whether the program needed to be as extensive as it’s proposed given what he said were other unmet needs in the district and given research that he called “universally disappointing” surrounding such initiatives.
Mertz said in an interview after Monday’s board meeting that he agrees with the majority of the investments in technology under the plan, “but then there’s a third or a quarter where I think it’s going overboard.”
As an example, Mertz said he questions whether every kindergarten student needs their own tablet computer.

Prior to spending any additional taxpayer funds on new initiatives, I suggest that the District consider (and address) the status of past expensive initiatives, including:
Infinite Campus: is it fully implemented? If not, why? Why continue to spend money on it?
Standards based report cards“.
Connected Math.
Small Learning Communities.
And of course, job number one, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores.
Madison already spends double the national average per student ($15k). Thinning out initiatives and refocusing current spending on reading would seem to be far more pressing than more hardware.

Thinking about the Cost of Educating Students via the Madison School District, Virtual Schools and a Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes email to State Senator Fred Risser

Susan Troller:

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes sent me an e-mail pointing out another vexing problem with Wisconsin’s school funding system and how it penalizes the Madison district, which I’ve written about in the past. Hughes notes in his e-mail “This particular wrinkle of the state school financing system is truly nuts.”
Hughes is incensed that the IQ Academy, a virtual school operated by the Waukesha district, gets over $6000 in state aid for poaching students from the Madison district while total state aid for educating a student in a real school here at home is $3400. Waukesha makes a profit of about $500 per student at the expense of taxpayers here, Hughes says. And that’s including profits going to the national corporate IQ Academy that supplies the school’s programming.

The complete text of Ed Hughes letter to Senator Risser:

Sen. Risser:
As if we needed one, here is another reason to be outraged by our state school financing system:
This week’s issue of Isthmus carries a full page ad on page 2. It is sponsored by “IQ Academy Wisconsin,” which is described as a “tuition-free, online middle and high school program of the School District of Waukesha, WI.” The ad invites our Madison students to open-enroll in their “thriving learning community.”
What’s in it for Waukesha? A report on virtual charter schools by the State Fiscal Bureau, released this week, sheds some light on this. The Madison school district gets a little more than $2,000 in general state aid for each of our students. If you include categorical aids and everything else from the state, the amount goes up to about $3,400/student.
However, if Waukesha (or any other school district) is successful in poaching one of our students, it will qualify for an additional $6,007 in state aid. (That was actually the amount for the 2007-08 school year, that last year for which data was available for the Fiscal Bureau report.) As it was explained to me by the author of the Fiscal Bureau report, this $6,007 figure is made up of some combination of additional state aid and a transfer of property taxes paid by our district residents to Waukesha.
So the state financing system will provide nearly double the amount of aid to a virtual charter school associated with another school district to educate a Madison student than it will provide to the Madison school district to educate the same student in an actual school, with you know, bricks and mortar and a gym and cafeteria and the rest.
The report also states that the Waukesha virtual school spends about $5,500 per student. So for each additional student it enrolls, the Waukesha district makes at least a $500 profit. (It’s actually more than that, since the incremental cost of educating one additional student is less than the average cost for the district.) This does not count the profit earned by the private corporation that sells the on-line programming to Waukesha.
The legislature has created a system that sets up very strong incentives for a school district to contract with some corporate on-line operation, open up a virtual charter school, and set about trying to poach other districts’ students. Grantsburg, for example, has a virtual charter school that serves not a single resident of the Grantsburg school district. What a great policy.
By the way, Waukesha claims in its Isthmus ad that “Since 2004, IQ Academy Wisconsin students have consistently out-performed state-wide and district averages on the WKCE and ACT tests.” I didn’t check the WKCE scores, but last year 29.3% of the IQ Academy 12th graders took the ACT test and had an average composite score of 22.9. In the Madison school district, 56.6% of 12th graders took the test and the district average composite score was 24.0.
I understand that you are probably tired of hearing from local school board members complaining about the state’s school funding system. But the enormous disparity between what the state will provide to a virtual charter school for enrolling a student living in Madison, as compared to what it will provide the Madison school district to educate the same student, is so utterly wrong-headed as to be almost beyond belief.
Ed Hughes
Madison School Board

Amy Hetzner noted this post on her blog:

An interesting side note: the Madison Metropolitan School District’s current business manager, Erik Kass, was instrumental to helping to keep Waukesha’s virtual high school open and collecting a surplus when he was the business manager for that district.

I found the following comments interesting:

An interesting note is that the complainers never talked about which system more effectively taught students.
Then again, it has never really been about the students.

Madison is spending $418,415,780 to educate 24,295 students ($17,222 each).
Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget: Comments in a Vacuum? and a few comments on the recent “State of the Madison School District” presentation.
The “Great Recession” has pushed many organizations to seek more effective methods of accomplishing their goals. It would seem that virtual learning and cooperation with nearby higher education institutions would be ideal methods to provide more adult to student services at reduced cost, rather than emphasizing growing adult to adult spending.
Finally Richard Zimman’s recent Madison Rotary talk is well worth revisiting with respect to the K-12 focus on adult employment.

Gates Foundation releases new giving plans for education & Plans “National Standards”

Linda Shaw:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today unveiled new directions for its education giving, which include working to double the number of students who complete some kind of postsecondary degree.
Efforts also would be made to identify and reward good teaching, help average teachers get better, devise better tests and create a national set of learning standards for high schools.
Bill and Melinda Gates announced these and other plans today to a group of about 100 guests in Seattle that included many big names in U.S. education.
The leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions were there, as well as superintendents of some of the biggest districts in the country, including New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Advisers to president-elect Barack Obama also were present, as were several people who are rumored to be in the running to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

More here.

Are our children all above average? New study says no

Jeff Shelman:

Low graduation rates, high tuition and a disconcerting achievement gap at Minnesota colleges and universities, especially among minorities, are revealed in a new study.
Minnesotans pay twice as much as the national average to get a public college education, but they’re not getting double the results.
Fewer than 40 percent of students at Minnesota’s colleges and universities graduate in four years, according to a report released this week by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. In addition, students of color have less than a 50-50 chance of graduating at all.
For a state where high school students traditionally fare well on college entrance exams, that’s disconcerting to those in charge of assessing the quality of higher education in Minnesota.
“Part of our concern is that we start out so high, and then once the students get into school, our results tend to be really national average,” said Susan Heegaard, director of the Office of Higher Education. “The question for Minnesota as a state is, ‘Is this where we want to be?’ If we want to compete nationally and internationally, our argument is that we need to do better than average.”
Slow to graduate: For high school students who entered a four-year school in the fall of 2000, only 36.7 percent of them graduated in four years and 57.5 percent graduated in six years. Only five of the state’s 36 four-year schools — public or private — had a four year graduation rate of better than 70 percent.
Rates are particularly low at schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. According to the report, only 20.6 percent of MnSCU students graduated in four years, and fewer than half had graduated after six years.

Minnesota Higher Education Accountability Report.


When was the last time a college history professor made it her business to find out the names and schools of the best high school history students in the United States?
When was the last time a college basketball coach sat in his office and waited for the admissions office to deliver a good crop of recruits for the team?
When was the last time a high school history teacher got scores of phone calls and dozens of visits from college professors when he had an unusually promising history student?
When was the last time a high school athlete who was unusually productive in a major sport heard from no one at the college level?
Not one of these things happens, for some good reasons and some not-so-good reasons.
Before you think of the reasons however, we should be aware that sometimes the high school coach who is besieged with interest from the colleges is the same person who is ignored by colleges as a teacher. And sometimes the athlete who gets a number of offers from college coaches is the same person who, as an outstanding student, draws no interest at all. Not only do they observe this demonstration of our placing a higher value on athletics than on academics at the high school level, but their peers, both faculty and student, see it as well, and it teaches them a lesson.
Now it is obvious that if college coaches don’t scramble for the best high school athletes they can find, they may start to lose games, and, before long, perhaps their jobs as well.


How can we help poor students achieve more?

Jason Shephard:

As a teacher-centered lesson ended the other morning at Midvale Elementary School, about 15 first-graders jumped up from their places on the carpeted rug and dashed to their personal bins of books.
Most students quickly settled into two assigned groups. One read a story about a fox in a henhouse with the classroom teacher, and another group, headed by a UW-Madison student teacher, read a more challenging nonfiction book about a grandmother who, as one child excitedly noted, lived to be 101.
In addition to this guided reading lesson, one boy sat at a computer wearing headphones, clicking on the screen that displayed the words as a story was read aloud to him, to build word recognition and reading stamina. Two other boys read silently from more advanced books. Another boy received one-on-one help from a literacy coach conducting a Reading Recovery lesson with him.
“I think what’s so important is that this program truly meets the needs of a variety of students, from those who are struggling to those who are accelerated,” says Principal John Burkholder.


How One Suburb’s Black Students Gain

Micael Winerip:

Here in this integrated, upper-middle-class Cleveland suburb, you would think they would be boasting. African-Americans’ combined math and verbal SAT scores average 976, 110 points above the national average for black students. The number of black sixth graders scoring proficient on the state math test has nearly doubled in three years and is more than 20 percentage points above the Ohio average for blacks.
A black parent group here has sponsored many projects aimed at narrowing the gap, including a summer enrichment program started in 1997. In October, Alisa Smith opened a parent room at the high school to encourage more adult involvement. Ms. Smith, a Columbia graduate and a stay-at-home mother, and her husband, a doctor, have three children in the schools, including Andre, the MAC scholar. While she says her children have been underestimated at times because they are black, over all she is delighted with the schools.

Property-Tax Rise Triggers

Ray Smith’s article on the growing property tax backlash is one of many excellent examples of why Ruth Robart’s ongoing efforts to create a more strategic & transparent Madison Schools budget process is vital. The district’s plans for 2005 referendums simply increases the urgency for a well thought out process – rather than throwing hot button fee issues against the wall and determing what sticks. Read the entire article:


Legislation could boost old Madison Prep proposal

Chris Rickert:

More important than whether UW-Madison might take a chance on Madison Prep, though, is whether such a school chartered by UW-Madison would work. Caire said “higher education institutions tend to be more careful about who gets a charter and tend to charter some high-quality schools.”
There appears to be some evidence of this. Ten of 11 UW-Milwaukee-authorized charters have an average state report card score some 14 points higher than the Milwaukee Public Schools generally, with one charter school not rated.
The MPS and charter schools have comparable rates of poverty, although MPS schools have higher proportions of disabled students and English language learners. A special state test for disabled students and other accommodations can help mitigate the negative effect on a school’s overall performance but not necessarily completely, according to James Wollack, an associate professor and expert in testing and evaluation at UW-Madison.

Much more on the Madison Preparatory Academy, an IB charter school proposal rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.
Madison’s non-diverse K-12 governance model spends about double the national average per student yet has sustained disastrous reading results for some time. The “same service” governance model has long run its course.

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

Erin Richards:

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

Terry Flores

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

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

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”

Where have all the students gone?
Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

Esenberg sets out to identify the fundamental differences between voucher advocates and opponents. His thesis is that views on vouchers derive from deeper beliefs than objective assessments of how well voucher schools perform or concerns about vouchers draining funds from public schools. To him, your take on vouchers depends on how you view the world.
Esenberg asserts that voucher advocates are united by their embrace of three fundamental principles: that a centralized authority is unlikely to be able to decide what is best for all; that families should be trusted to select their children’s schools since ordinary people are capable of making choices for themselves without paternalistic direction; and that “government does not do diversity, experimentation and choice very well.”
By implication, he asserts that voucher opponents think that a centralized authority will be able to decide what’s best for all, that families shouldn’t be trusted to make choices for their children, and that government control is the best way to foster innovation.
And there you have it. Your views on school voucher expansion are entirely explained by whether you prefer individual freedom, like the voucher advocates, or stultifying government control, like the voucher opponents. In cinematic terms, voucher opponents are the legions of lifeless, gray drones in Apple’s famous 1984 commercial and voucher supporters are the colorful rebel, bravely challenging the control of Big Brother and hurling her sledgehammer to smash mindless conformity. You couldn’t ask for a more sophisticated analysis than that, could you?
While his thesis invites mockery, Esenberg’s short article does present a bit of a challenge to voucher opponents like myself. Can we set out a coherent justification for our opposition that doesn’t depend on the facts that voucher schools drain needed resources from public schools and don’t perform any better? Sweeping those fairly compelling points aside, Esenberg asks, in effect, what else you got?

Mr Hughes anti-voucher rhetoric is fascinating on several levels:
1. The Madison School District’s long term, disastrous reading results. How much time and money has been wasted on anti-voucher rhetoric? Reading has long been job one.
2. Local private schools do not have much, if any availability.
3. Madison spends double the national average per student (some of which has been spent on program explosion). Compare Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending.
4. Madison’s inability to address its long-term disastrous reading results will bring changes from State or Federal legislation or via litigation.
5. Superintendent Cheatham cited Long Beach and Boston as urban districts that have “narrowed the achievement gap”. Both districts offer a variety of school governance models, which is quite different than Madison’s long-time “one size fits all approach”.
I recall being astonished that previous Madison School District administrators planned to spend time lobbying at the State level for this or that change – while “Rome is burning“. Ironically, Superintendent Cheatham recently said:

“Rather than do a lot of work on opposing the voucher movement, we are going to focus on making sure our schools are the best schools possible and the schools of choice in Madison,” Cheatham said.

Mr. Hughes in 2005:

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

A great, salient quote. I would hope that the District would focus completely on the matter at hand, disastrous reading scores. Taking care of that problem – and we have the resources to do so – will solve lots of other atmospheric and perception issues.
In closing, I sense politics in the voucher (and anti-open enrollment) rhetoric. Two Madison School Board seats will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot. One is currently occupied by Mr. Hughes, the other by Marj Passman. In addition, local politics play a role in becoming school board President.

“Most importantly, he appears willing to sacrifice minority children’s educational opportunities to stay within the good graces of UFT.” 

Laura Waters:

But you have to understand where I’m coming from. My parents were both UFT members (my dad was a high school teacher and my mom was a high school social worker) and we practically davened to Albert Shanker, AFT’s founder. I knew all the words to Woody Guthrie’s labor hymn, “There Once was a Union Maid” (who never was afraid of goons and ginks and company finks…). I sang it to my kids too. What do you expect from an education-obsessed New York Jew from a union household?

During the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s there was no divide between education reform and union fidelity. If you were a UFT member than you were devoted to improving student outcomes. Everyone, or almost everyone, was on the same side.

And now we’re here, fraught with division. De Blasio ran on a platform that explicitly opposed the “creation of new charter schools” or the “co-location of charter schools within public schools” despite a waiting list of 43,000 names. He’s made enemies of Gov. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, almost entirely through divergent education agendas, and Eva Moskowitz, who runs the most outstanding and popular group of charter schools in the city. Most importantly, he appears willing to sacrifice minority children’s educational opportunities to stay within the good graces of UFT.

We live in a political world of lobbyists and special interests, of PAC’s and Citizens United. But elected representatives, especially the leader of one of the most educationally-troubled cities, have an absolute obligation to separate politics from policy. I think de Blasio is a good man but I think he’s crossed that line.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results despite spending double the national average per student.

Related: Madison’s schwerpunkt.

Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning; Stuck In The Past

Audrey Waters:

In 1913, Thomas Edison predicted that “Books will soon be obsolete in schools.” He wasn’t the only person at the time imagining how emergent technologies might change education. Columbia University educational psychology professor Edward Thorndike – behaviorist and creator of the multiple choice test – also imagined “what if” printed books would be replaced. He said in 1912 that

If, by a miracle of mechanical ingenuity, a book could be so arranged that only to him who had done what was directed on page one would page two become visible, and so on, much that now requires personal instruction could be managed by print.

Edison expanded on his prediction a decade later: “I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.” “I should say,” he continued, “that on the average we get about two percent efficiency out of schoolbooks as they are written today. The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture… where it should be possible to obtain one hundred percent efficiency.”

Indeed, Madison continues to tolerate long term, disastrous reading results. This, despite spending double the national average per student.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Median Household Income Lower Than 1996..


Taken as a whole, Ms Clinton’s plan is an eclectic grab-bag. It is as if her advisors brainstormed every possible policy to boost wages, and then kept them all. Some—such as greater investment in skills and infrastructure—are welcome. Wages, ultimately, reflect workers’ productivity. Ms Clinton is also right that the impact of technology on the labour market presents a huge and perplexing challenge for policymakers. But greater union power and more protectionism are comfort-blanket polices for which the economy—and most Americans—would pay a price in the long-run. Ms Clinton’s speech contained plenty of ideas. Perhaps when Mr Sanders exits the stage, some of the duds will be dropped.

Madison, which spends double the national average per student, plans to increase property taxes by 5% this fall.

Madison Schools’ Tax & Spending Priorities

Chris Rickert:

District officials were able to close about a third of the budget deficit by negotiating rate freezes with the three insurers it contracts with for employee health coverage — which is great, but isn’t going to put any more of those 79 positions back in the classroom.

The district, like local taxing bodies throughout Dane County, is wont to blame all its money woes on four years of tight-fisted and damaging Republican control of state spending.

It’s a fair point, although my experience over 15 years of covering local government is that cities, counties and school districts are quite capable of experiencing budget woes no matter who happens to be in charge at the Capital.

And who’s responsible for budget woes probably matters less than who suffers their effects.

Much more on Madison’s 2015-2016 budget and its long term disastrous reading results, here. Note that Madison has long spent more than double the national average per student.

Healthcare Costs & The Madison School District

Pat Schneider:

“I will consider contributions to health care, depending on what we see in terms of costs and the budget,” Burke said. “But we need to look at compensation in its entirety to make sure we remain competitive while we are accountable to the taxpayers.”

The school district is in the process of preparing to hire a consultant to conduct a study of employee compensation, she said.

Representatives of Madison Teachers Inc. say the fully paid health care premiums are a benefit bought with concessions on salary increases over the years.

That’s exactly why it’s so important to look at the district’s compensation as a whole, Burke said.

“We want to make sure the school district is a place that can attract quality people. That’s why the survey will not only compare us to other school districts, but also to other professions,” she said.

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s three major health insurance providers — Group Health Cooperative, Dean Health Plan and Unity Health Insurance — each agreed to hold the line on premiums next year. That helped the school district hold the line on a major expense — more than $61 million annually — in a budget round that saw operating expenses up nearly 11 percent as state aid dropped.

Madison’s 2015-2016 budget and its long term disastrous reading results, here. Note that Madison has long spent more than double the national average per student.

deja vu: Madison, 2015

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.

“All students” meant all students. We promised to stop thinking in terms of average student achievement in reading. Instead, we would separately analyze the reading ability of students by subgroups. The subgroups included white, African American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and other Asian students.

2004: Madison schools distort reading data.

Madison’s reading curriculum undoubtedly works well in many settings. For whatever reasons, many chil dren at the five targeted schools had fallen seriously behind. It is not an indictment of the district to acknowledge that these children might have benefited from additional resources and intervention strategies.

In her column, Belmore also emphasized the 80 percent of the children who are doing well, but she provided additional statistics indicating that test scores are improving at the five target schools. Thus she argued that the best thing is to stick with the current program rather than use the Reading First money.

Belmore has provided a lesson in the selective use of statistics. It’s true that third grade reading scores improved at the schools between 1998 and 2004. However, at Hawthorne, scores have been flat (not improving) since 2000; at Glendale, flat since 2001; at Midvale/ Lincoln, flat since 2002; and at Orchard Ridge they have improved since 2002 – bringing them back to slightly higher than where they were in 2001.

In short, these schools are not making steady upward progress, at least as measured by this test.

2013: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results

In investigating the options for data to report for these programs for 2011-12 and for prior years, Research & Program Evaluation staff have not been able to find a consistent way that students were identified as participants in these literacy interventions in prior years.

As such, there are serious data concerns that make the exact measures too difficult to secure at this time. Staff are working now with Curriculum & Assessment leads to find solutions. However, it is possible that this plan will need to be modified based on uncertain data availability prior to 2011-12.

Proposals to again increase property taxes and school board members’ compensation are in the news (additional school board campaign rhetoric – a bit of history).

Madison spends roughly double the national average per student.

Unfortunately, Madison resists substantive change at every opportunity.

Compare Madison staffing.

Why American Workers Without Much Education Are Being Hammered

Neil Irwin:

The last couple of decades have been terrible for American workers without much education. New research calculates just how bad, and offers some evidence as to why that is.

In short, they face a double whammy. Less-educated Americans, especially men, are shifting away from manufacturing and other jobs that once offered higher pay, and a higher share are now working in lower-paying food service, cleaning and groundskeeping jobs. Simultaneously, pay levels are declining in almost all of the fields that employ less-educated workers, so even those who have held onto jobs as manufacturers, operators and laborers are making less than they would have a generation ago.

Perhaps the single most shocking number in a new review of employment and earnings data by researchers at the Hamilton Project, a research group within the Brookings Institution, is this one: The median earnings of working men aged 30 to 45 without a high school diploma fell 20 percent from 1990 to 2013 when adjusted for inflation.

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Tap to view a larger version of these images.

Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D., Rick Esenberg & CJ Szafir, via a kind reader (PDF):

Robustness checks: Lastly, to check if the estimates from our main analysis behave differently when we modify our models, we conduct a series of robustness checks in our analysis. We estimate models with alternate specifications, disaggregate the spending variable by function, and examine an alternate data set that includes one year of school-level expenditures. Details about these approaches and their results are described and reported in Appendix B. As with our main analysis, we did not find conclusive evidence to indicate that marginal changes in spending had a significant impact on student outcomes.

Conclusion: We do not find reliable evidence in the data that a systematic relationship exists between additional spending and student outcomes. These results are similar to a larger body of research on the effectiveness of spending. Economist Eric Hanushek (2003), for example, systematically reviewed research on the effectiveness of key educational resources in U.S. schools. In examining the impact of per-pupil educational expenditures, he tallied the statistical significance and impact of 163 estimates on the impact of spending on student outcomes and found that 27% of these estimates were positive and statistically significant, while 66% were not statistically significant, meaning no impacts were detected.

Advocates for keeping the status quo argue for increasing education spending to solve problems with our education system. But, it is not the case that resources alone will bring about improvement – even substantial infusions of resources, as was the case with Kansas City’s experience. One plausible explanation may be that districts have reached what economists call diminishing returns. This occurs when an organization reaches a point where additional dollars spent do not produce proportional benefits, holding everything else constant. For example, a dollar spent on education in developing counties, such as India, is more likely to have a greater impact than in Wisconsin – or elsewhere in the United States – which spends more than most of the developed world.

This raises a question for policymakers: Has Wisconsin hit a wall where an additional dollar in education spending will not bring improvements in student outcomes? The results of our research indicate that this may be the case.


Funding disparities between schools
As Figure 8 shows, significant disparities in public funding exist among traditional public schools and both private schools in the choice program and independent public charter schools. The amount that independent charters and choice schools receive is set by state law. Currently, the amount of a voucher for the choice programs is $7,210 for K- 8 and $7,856 for grades 9-12.

Independent charters in Milwaukee receive the same amount (state law reflects that). Public school districts, on average, receive $12,512 per pupil. Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) receives $14,333 per pupil (Figure 8).

This disparity is not new. Since 2000, expenditures increased for public schools statewide by 3% while it decreased for independent charter and private schools in the parental choice program by 7% to 8% (adjusted for inflation, i.e. “real”).43 Notably, revenues for MPS increased by 15% in real terms.

Locally, Madison spends double the national average per student, or more than $15K annually, yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“The Future Should Belong To K-12 Spending Accounts”

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:

The tragedy of the discussion around “school choice” in America is the hidden presumption that “school choice” doesn’t exist already. But it does — for the privileged. This is not only a matter of the privileged being able to afford private schools, but also the fact that, through the public school catchment system, the real estate market is really the market for schools. Every family in America wants to buy a house in a place where there are good schools. Every commonwealth tries to boost real estate values by improving schools. That’s how the system works. The rich get school choice, the poor get… whatever.

The drive for school choice is not a drive to turn schools into a marketplace, it’s only to give the poor a way to access the preexisting market, which is currently closed off to them.

Charter schools are a step in the right direction, but the future should belong to K-12 spending accounts, whereby parents can spend their tuition dollars not just on a specific school but on a broad panel of educational activities, including internships, apprenticeships, and more. Families could pool accounts together and the poor and disabled would received fatter accounts.

I wholeheartedly agree. Madison is exhibit 1. Decades of monolithic K-12 governence combined with spending double the national average per student has failed to address its long term disastrous reading results.

Commentary on tension in the Madison Schools over “One Size Fits All” vs. “Increased Rigor”

Maggie Ginsberg interviews Brandi Grayson:

Can you give an example of what you’ve described as “intent versus impact?”

The Behavior Education Plan that the [Madison Metropolitan] school district came up with. The impact is effed up, in so many words, and that’s because the voices that are most affected weren’t considered. It’s like standing outside of a situation and then coming in and telling people what they ought to do and should be doing, according to your experience and perspective, which is totally disconnected from the people you’re talking to and talking at. In order to come up with solutions that are effective, they have to come from the people who are living in it. When I first heard about this Behavior Education Plan, I immediately knew that it was going to affect our kids negatively. But people sitting on that board thought it was an amazing idea; we’ll stop suspensions, we’ll stop expulsions, we’ll fix the school-to-prison pipeline, which is all bullcrap, because now what’s happening is the impact; the school is putting all these children with emotional and behavioral issues in the same classroom. And because of the lawsuit with all the parents suing for advanced placement classes and resources not being added, they’ve taken all the introduction classes away. They can’t afford it. So then our students who may need general science or pre-algebra no longer have that. So then they take all these students who aren’t prepared for these classes and throw them in algebra, throw them in biology and all together in the same class. And you know it’s very intentional because if you have a population of two percent Blacks at a school of two thousand and all the Black kids are in the same class, that is not something that happens by random. And then you have kids like my daughter, who is prepared for school and can do well in algebra, but she’s distracted because she’s placed in a class with all these kids with IEP issues who, based on the Behavior Education Plan, cannot be removed from the classroom. So what does that do? It adds to the gap.

Speaking of education, you’ve mentioned the critical need to educate young Black kids on their own history.

Our children don’t know what’s happening to them in school, when they are interacting in these systems. Whether it’s the system of education, the justice system, the human services system, the system within their own families—that’s programming them to think they’re inferior. We have to educate our kids so they know what they’re dealing with. In Western history, we’re only taught that our relevance and our being started with slavery, but we know as we look back that that’s a lie. That we are filled with greatness and magnificence and if our children can connect the link between who they are and where they’ve come, then they can discover where they’re going. But with that disconnection, they feel hopeless. They feel despair. They feel like this is all life has to offer them and it’s their fault and there’s no way out. We have to begin to reprogram that narrative at kindergarten on up. We have to teach our children the importance of reading and knowledge and educating yourself and not depending on the education of the system because it’s already biased, based on the very nature of our culture.

Related: Brandi Grayson.

Talented and gifted lawsuit

English 10

High School Redesign

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results. This is the core issue, one that has simmered for decades despite Madison spending double the national average per student.

Ironically, the April, 2015 Madison schools tax increase referendum includes a plan to expand two of the least economically diverse schools:

Van Hise Elementary / Hamilton Middle

Problem: With enrollment numbers on the rise, this combination elementary/middle school exceeded capacity in 2013 and 2014. Because the building is designed for a smaller student enrollment, simply adding classroom space is not a solution.

Proposed Solution: Relocating the library to the center of the building and dividing it into elementary and middle school spaces will free up seven classroom-sized spaces currently used for library activities. Est. Cost: $3,151,730 – View Plan Details.

K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Jim Schutze:

When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system.

Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided who got them. He wanted to know whose money it was. He was concerned there had to be legal issues with payments to public employees that were not visible to the public.

University of Texas President William Powers painted the law school slush fund as a problem only because it had caused “discord” within the faculty. He vowed to have a certain in-house lawyer get it straightened up. Hall, who thought the matter was more serious and called for a more arms-length investigation and analysis, thought Powers’ approach was too defensive. In particular, Hall didn’t want it left to the investigator Powers had assigned.

“I had issues with that,” Hall says. “I felt that was a bad, bad deal. The man’s a lawyer. He lives in Austin. The people in the foundation are his mentors, some of the best lawyers in the state. They’re wealthy. He’s not going to be in the [university] system forever. He’s going to be looking for a job one day.”
But Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and other members of the board of regents did not share Hall’s concerns. “I was overruled,” Hall says. “That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”

Since then, the university’s own in-house investigation, which cleared the law school of any real wrongdoing, has been discredited and deep-sixed. The in-house lawyer who did it is no longer on the payroll. The matter has been turned over to the Texas attorney general for a fresh investigation.

The head of the law school has resigned. The president of the university has resigned. Cigarroa has resigned.

Next, Hall questioned claims the university was making about how much money it raised every year. He thought the university was puffing its numbers by counting gifts of software for much more than the software really was worth, making it look as if Powers was doing a better job of fundraising than he really was.

When Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., to consult with the national body that sets rules for this sort of thing, he was accused of ratting out the university — a charge that became part of the basis for subsequent impeachment proceedings. But Hall was right. The university had to mark down its endowment by $215 million.

The really big trouble began in 2013 when Hall said he discovered a back-door black market trade in law school admissions, by which people in positions to do favors for the university, especially key legislators, were able to get their own notably unqualified kids and the notably unqualified kids of friends into UT Law School.

Local education issues that merit attention include:

A. The Wisconsin DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”… It is astonishing that we, after decades of DPI spending, have nothing useful to evaluate academic progress. A comparison with other states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts would be rather useful.

B. Susan Troller’s 2010 article: Madison school board member may seek an audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent. A look at local K-12 spending (and disclosure) practices may be useful in light of the planned April, 2015 referendum.

C. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

D. Teacher preparation standards.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax, Spending & Governance Climate

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF):

It has been a long, well-planned attack. In 1993, in an action against their own philosophy; i.e. decisions by government should be made at the lowest possible level, the Republican Governor and Legislature began actions to control local school boards. They passed Revenue Controls on school boards to limit how much they can increase taxes. This in itself caused harm by instructional materials and textbooks becoming out-dated. School Boards had to make choices between providing “current” materials and texts, or small class sizes to enable optimum learning. Eventually, the legislated revenue controls caused a double-whammy – out-dated texts & materials and an increase in class size, because of layoffs caused by the legislated revenue controls.

Next, the Governor & Legislature enabled vouchers so those who choose to send their children to private or religious schools can use “vouchers” which cause the public school, where the child could attend, to forfeit public/tax funds to pay for the child to attend the private or parochial school.

With revenue controls crippling the means to provide the best quality education and adequate financial reward for school district employees; and vouchers taking another big chunk, Wisconsin’s Governor and Legislature say of the schools that they have been starving to cause their failure, now, because of your failure, we will close your schools and convert them to for-profit private charter schools. This plan is to appease the Koch Brothers and others, who provide large sums to buy the elections of those promoting these privatization schemes.

Assembly Bill 1, in the 2015 Wisconsin legislative session, is designed just to do what is described above, and it is on the fast-track for approval, just as Act 10 was a few years ago. If it is not stopped, it will rip the heart out of every community – the pubic school will be gone, as will quality public education for all of Wisconsin’s children. The smaller the community, the bigger the harmful impact on Wisconsin’s towns and villages because of AB 1.

Madison spends about double the national average per student.

Madison Teachers, Inc. 26 January, 2015 newsletter can be found here (PDF).

Education and class: America’s new aristocracy

The Economist:

WHEN the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination line up on stage for their first debate in August, there may be three contenders whose fathers also ran for president. Whoever wins may face the wife of a former president next year. It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility to inherited status should be so tolerant of dynasties. Because America never had kings or lords, it sometimes seems less inclined to worry about signs that its elite is calcifying.

Thomas Jefferson drew a distinction between a natural aristocracy of the virtuous and talented, which was a blessing to a nation, and an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, which would slowly strangle it. Jefferson himself was a hybrid of these two types—a brilliant lawyer who inherited 11,000 acres and 135 slaves from his father-in-law—but the distinction proved durable. When the robber barons accumulated fortunes that made European princes envious, the combination of their own philanthropy, their children’s extravagance and federal trust-busting meant that Americans never discovered what it would be like to live in a country where the elite could reliably reproduce themselves.

Now they are beginning to find out, (see article), because today’s rich increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away in a few nights at a casino. It is far more useful than wealth, and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains.

America is one of only three advanced countries where the government spends more on schools in rich areas than in poor ones. Its university fees have risen 17 times as fast as median incomes since 1980, partly to pay for pointless bureaucracy and flashy buildings. And many universities offer “legacy” preferences, favouring the children of alumni in admissions.

Many schools are in the grip of one of the most anti-meritocratic forces in America: the teachers’ unions, which resist any hint that good teaching should be rewarded or bad teachers fired. To fix this, and the scandal of inequitable funding, the system should become both more and less local. Per-pupil funding should be set at the state level and tilted to favour the poor. Dollars should follow pupils, through a big expansion of voucher schemes or charter schools. In this way, good schools that attract more pupils will grow; bad ones will close or be taken over. Unions and their Democratic Party allies will howl, but experiments in cities such as battered New Orleans have shown that school choice works.

Familiar themes in Madison, where one size fits all reigns, while spending double the national average per student.

Commentary on education reform and status quo governance

Anthony Cody:

There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?

Teach For America: This project had as its central premise the idea that what was wrong with the teaching profession was that not enough really smart people were becoming teachers. So we will recruit some high flyers and fill the gaps in high needs schools. And because these folks are sooo smart, they do not need the year or two of preparation that regular old teachers needed – they could learn to crunch data, manage a class and prepare for tests in just five weeks. And if they leave after a couple of years, that’s ok too. They can transform education as the next generation of leaders and policymakers, because they will have brains that classroom experience, and TFA’s no excuses philosophy to guide them.

But this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school. Perhaps potential recruits have encountered TFA alums sharing their experiences, or even some of those organizing to resist the program. And word may have leaked out that TFA is not the best vehicle for those concerned with social justice – given that corps members are sometimes being used to replace veteran teachers.

We cannot pass laws that declare others “accountable” for making sure 100% of our children will be proficient and act as though we have accomplished something. It is time to go back to basic premises, and in every community, ask ourselves what we want from our schools? How can we meet the challenge of educating all our children – not leaving any behind? The answers will not come easily or cheaply. But just as a previous generation faced the challenge of the 20th century Civil Rights movement, our generation must respond.

Status quo governance has a substantial price as well – see Madison’s long term disastrous reading results -despite spending double the national average per student.

School should be year-round

Wausau Daily Herald:

More than 40 percent of Wausau School District students are attending summer school this year. That’s about the same proportion of students who took summer classes last year, and it’s considered pretty good participation for the Summer Learning program.

It should be 100 percent. A three-month summer vacation is bad for students, and it’s especially bad for at-risk students.

Story: 40 percent of Wausau district kids in summer school

The problem with a long summer break is that, when students are out on vacation for months on end, they tend to forget a lot of what they’ve learned. Research shows that they are especially likely to forget things that require memorization, such as multiplication tables or grammatical rules.

Locally, Madison appears unable to change any material aspect (the stillborn proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School) of its agrarian era K-12 organization, one that spends double the national average per student and has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Choice, Not More Spending, Is Key To Better Schools; Wisconsin 12th in Spending, 24th in Achievement

W. Michael Cox & Richard Alm

Education looms as both cause and cure for the decline of the middle class and the widening gap between rich and poor.

In today’s knowledge-based economy, poorly performing public schools leave many U.S. workers ill-equipped for jobs that pay middle-class wages.

So it follows that improving education is the only way to raise up the poor, reduce inequality and restore the American middle class.

We all want better schools — right-wingers, left-wingers, even business and labor are on board. Most proposals for improving education come down to the same thing — spend more of the taxpayers’ money.

But that’s what we’ve been doing for two or more generations, and it hasn’t worked. Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, calculates that inflation-adjusted spending per pupil more than doubled from $5,500 a year in 1970 to more than $12,500 in 2010.


So why do some states have better public schools — if it’s not a matter of money? Statistical regressions using the adjusted spending and demographic data find that test scores improve significantly as parents get more education and earn higher incomes.

The intuitive story goes like this: Better educated and richer parents tend to appreciate the value of schooling. They insist on better schools for their children and stress education in the home. School districts that spend more tend to be those where the cost-of-living is higher, where income is higher and where adults are better educated.

It’s not the spending that improves scores, it’s the parents’ high expectations and emphasis on education.

Money can buy a lot in public schools — smaller classes, better teachers, modern facilities, computers and other technologies. So why hasn’t spending paid off in better educational outcomes? The biggest impediment is a government-run school system resistant to innovation, indifferent to student needs and mired in mediocrity.

Wisconsin ranks 12th in dollars spent and 24th in achievement among the 50 US states.

State Education Trends by Andrew Coulson:

ong-term trends in academic performance and spending are valuable tools for evaluating past education policies and informing current ones. But such data have been scarce at the state level, where the most important education policy decisions are made. State spending data exist reaching back to the 1960s, but the figures have been scattered across many different publications. State-level academic performance data are either nonexistent prior to 1990 or, as in the case of the SAT, are unrepresentative of statewide student populations. Using a time-series regression approach described in a separate publication, this paper adjusts state SAT score averages for factors such as participation rate and student demographics, which are known to affect outcomes, then validates the results against recent state-level National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores. This produces continuous, state-representative estimated SAT score trends reaching back to 1972. The present paper charts these trends against both inflation-adjusted per pupil spending and the raw, unadjusted SAT results, providing an unprecedented perspective on American education inputs and outcomes over the past 40 years.

Locally, Madison spends double the national average per student.

“they set high standards and create a disciplined classroom culture”

David Leonardt

Among the reasons the Defense Department schools do so well:

  • Consistent with military culture, they set high standards and create a disciplined classroom culture. In 2015, the schools overhauled their curriculum using principles from the Common Core, a national program that many other districts have abandoned after criticism from both the political right and left. But the approach seems to benefit students. “Unlike the Common Core, which was carried out haphazardly across the country, the Defense Department’s plan was orchestrated with, well, military precision,” Sarah writes.
  • Defense Department schools are racially and economically integrated. Asian, Black, Hispanic and white students attend the same schools. So do the children of Army privates earning $25,000 a year and the children of high-ranking officers earning six-figure salaries.
  • The schools receive more funding than public schools in many states do. One teacher at an elementary school on Fort Moore in Georgia told The Times that she doubled her salary by switching from a traditional public school in Florida. The supply closets at Defense Department schools tend to be well-stocked, and teachers don’t have to pay for paper, pencils and books out of their own salaries, as is common elsewhere.
  • During the pandemic, the military’s schools reopened relatively quickly — and it’s clear that extended closures were terrible for children. By December 2020, 85 percent of students at Defense Department schools were learning in person, officials told Sarah. Only a handful of states exceeded that share, according to the Covid-19 School Data Hub. The share was below 10 percent in California, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and several other states.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

Pay Teachers, Not Administrators

Frederick Hess:

Democrats need to placate a host of entrenched claimants. This means that they’re all for pumping money into schools, but they do so in ways that tend to further bloat bureaucracies, pad payrolls, and supersize benefits rather than increase paychecks, reward hard work, or honor excellence.

The public thinks teachers deserve a raise. Last year, 72 percent of respondents to the annual Education Next survey said that teacher salaries should be higher, and just 4 percent said they should be lower. (Among Republicans, the split was 56 percent to 7 percent.) Even when told how much teachers in their state earn (which is invariably more than expected), respondents broke 60 percent to 4 percent for higher pay.

The public has a point. The National Education Association reported this spring that, in 2021–22, the average teacher’s salary was $66,745. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics has it a bit higher, at $67,680 as of May 2021, but I’ll use the NEA figure here.) Sixty-six grand isn’t peanuts, but it is below the $70,000 median for college graduates in all fields. To attract and retain the kinds of educators we want, we should aim to pay teachers more than the typical college grad makes. Another recent survey asked teachers how much they think teachers should earn. The median response was $80,000.

As I note in The Great School Rethink, communities benefit when teachers are capable and professionally compensated. And, contrary to union talking points, there’s no evidence that cheapskate taxpayers are the problem when it comes to directing money at public education. Since the publication of A Nation at Risk, the landmark 1983 report of the U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education, per pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has doubled. In 2019 (even before the massive infusion of federal pandemic aid), U.S. schools spent $16,774 per student.

But it can be unclear what taxpayers are getting for their money. Nationally, student achievement has been stagnant for a decade. Adding insult to injury, increases in school spending over time have done nothing to quiet concerns about teacher pay. Between 2012 and 2022, inflation-adjusted teacher pay fell by close to 4 percent even as real per pupil spending increased by 16 percent. In fact, falling pay and rising spending have been a pattern since the Clinton era. Why aren’t more dollars translating into more pay? Key culprits include the number of nonteaching staff, outsized benefits, and a truncated employee year.

LeVar Burton, ‘The Right to Read’ Director Jenny Mackenzie on the Underbelly of the American Literacy Crisis

Abby White:

When director Jenny Mackenzie began working on her latest documentary, The Right to Read, it was a story focused on kindergarten readiness and pre-literacy. But once she met Kareem Weaver, a former educator and member of the Oakland NAACP Education Committee, the documentary’s game-changing story clicked into place. 

And it’s an angle that doubles as a powerful and eye-opening challenge to much of the way America’s literacy crisis has historically been perceived and addressed. The Right to Read focuses on the civil rights work of Kareem, as well as the efforts of several Black and brown families in cities across the country facing lower literacy rates to ensure their children’s success in school and beyond.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

“She sees good behavior as a tool of the oppressors”

Dave Cieslewicz

Did she pick up that point of view in her training? Is it supported by the MMSD administration? is it engrained in the culture of her school? Wherever it originated from it’s a huge problem and my worries about MMSD, eased by the idea that districts we compete with don’t have stand-alone honors classes, were redoubled by that point of view. 

Two other points are worth noting. First, 45% of honors class students are non-white. The fundamental reason for eliminating the classes is that they’re not diverse enough, but when almost half the students aren’t white that strikes me as pretty diverse. 

Second, that figure is a couple of years old and it doesn’t include more detailed breakdowns. The State Journal requested more recent data, but District spokesperson Tim LeMonds said the paper would have to file an open records request to get the data. This continues a pattern of lack of transparency that I’ve noted in this space more than a couple of times in the past. Why not just hand over the public’s information to the public, especially given the fact that you will eventually have to comply with the FOIA request anyway?

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Curricular Commentary

Elizabeth Beyer:

In Natasha Sullivan’s AP English class at La Follette High School, students are assigned books by prominent Black authors alongside works like Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

At Memorial High School, English teacher Maureen Mead aims to help her English language learners develop their language skills instead of penalizing them if they enter her class without a strong grasp of the language.

Elsewhere in the Madison School District, history lessons pointedly note that most Black people brought to early America were enslaved, avoiding more anodyne descriptions that refer to “the migration of Black people to America.” Music lessons may include teaching about musicians from different cultures from across the globe.

To many conservatives, such intentional efforts to decentralize whiteness and diversify the curriculum constitutes “teaching” critical race theory, a graduate-level theoretical framework that examines how American political and social systems perpetuate racism.

David Blaska:

Baby steps. This time, at least, the Wisconsin State Journal reporter bothered to report the other side: namely, Blaska and Daniel Lennington of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

Two months ago, Elizabeth Beyer “reported” without a single attribution: “Critical Race Theory, an academic framework that focuses on racism embedded in the nation’s laws and institutions … isn’t taught in any of Wisconsin’s K-12 schools.” Today, education reporter Ms. Beyer doubles down on that Woke fiction with these three lies:

  • It isn’t being taught in K-12 schools, only at teachers’ colleges.
  • It’s nothing new.
  • You are a dupe if you oppose it, if not racist.

CRT is “a wedge issue — “manufactured panic,” according to the State Journal.

Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

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

a State-by-State Breakdown of How Often Schools Call the Cops

Mike Antonucci:

The Center for Public Integrity has produced a lot of work about the issue of police in schools. This latest effort adds a new perspective. While focused on the misdeeds of cops in classroom settings, it also shines a light on those schools, districts and states that call in the police a disproportionate number of times.

This chart shows state rankings by the number of times students were referred to law enforcement. Nationally, the average is 4.5 students for every 1,000. But some states go way beyond that, and political leanings do not seem to be a factor.

School officials in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin all called the cops on students at a rate at least double the national average. At the other end of the scale, some states with very large school districts, such as Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Ohio, called the police far less often.

In virtually every state, Black students and those with disabilities were referred to law enforcement at rates higher than those for all students.

While incidents of police violence and improper arrests of students made headlines, districts were also making questionable decisions in funding school police. The American Civil Liberties Union got involved in Vermont when it discovered that at least two school systems were using Medicaid reimbursement funds to pay for school cops. The money is supposed to be used to “facilitate early identification of and intervention with children with disabilities.”

The Des Moines, Iowa, school district canceled its contract with the city police but admitted school officials were also responsible for mishandling the use of security personnel.

Police calls, Madison Schools: 1996-2006.

Need Extra Time on Tests? It Helps to Have Cash

Jugal Patel:

From Weston, Conn., to Mercer Island, Wash., word has spread on parenting message boards and in the stands at home games: A federal disability designation known as a 504 plan can help struggling students improve their grades and test scores. But the plans are not doled out equitably across the United States.

In the country’s richest enclaves, where students already have greater access to private tutors and admissions coaches, the share of high school students with the designation is double the national average. In some communities, more than one in 10 students have one — up to seven times the rate nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

In Weston, where the median household income is $220,000, the rate is 18 percent, eight times that of Danbury, Conn., a city 30 minutes north. In Mercer Island, outside Seattle, where the median household income is $137,000, the number is 14 percent. That is about six times the rate of nearby Federal Way, Wash., where the median income is $65,000.

Students in every ZIP code are dealing with anxiety, stress and depression as academic competition grows ever more cutthroat. But the sharp disparity in accommodations raises the question of whether families in moneyed communities are taking advantage of the system, or whether they simply have the means to address a problem that less affluent families cannot.

Related: Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, yet we have long tolerated disastrous reading results. This despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Homeschooling Produces Better-Educated, More-Tolerant Kids. Politicians Hate That

J.D. Tuccille:

There’s no better sign of success than an escalation in attacks by your enemies. Based on such evidence, homeschooling is enjoying a boom, as growing numbers of families with diverse backgrounds, philosophies, and approaches abandon government-controlled schools in favor of taking responsibility for their own children’s education. As they do so, they’re coming under assault from officials panicking over the number of people slipping from their grasp.

There’s little doubt that homeschooling is an increasingly popular option. “From 1999 to 2012, the percentage of students who were homeschooled doubled, from an estimated 1.7 percent to 3.4 percent,” reports the National Center for Education Statistics. While the government agency suggests that growth has leveled off since then, other researchers say data is hard to come by, since many states simply don’t count people who homeschool.

“While the overall school-age population in the United States grew by about 2.0 percent from spring 2012 to spring 2016, data from 16 states from all four major regions of the nation showed that homeschooling grew by an average of about 25 percent in those states,” counters the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), in response to NCES figures. “If the data from these states are representative of what happened in the other states during those four years, then homeschooling is continuing to grow in both absolute numbers and as a portion of the overall school-age population.”

Commentary On Running And Serving On The Madison School Board…

Chris Rickert:

Because members are elected during low-turnout spring elections, special interest groups have a proportionally bigger voice in who wins. In Madison, it’s nearly impossible to win without union support unless you have tons of money.

But under a system of geographically assigned seats, there might be enough grassroots support in, say, a south Madison School Board district to mitigate the union’s influence.

Madison voters have the state Legislature to thank for the school district’s current, inane way of electing board members.

Until 1985, there were no numbered seats, and the top vote-getters for however many seats were up for election were declared the winners.

But in the late 1970s, there was a movement to force board members into one-on-one contests as a way to target specific members amid a broader debate on the board over plans to close some central-city schools.

A binding referendum to move to the current election system failed in 1978, but a bill to do the same was passed a few years later.

Today, School Board president James Howard tells me: “The board’s election process is not on our radar at this time.”

And I suppose it is easier just to hike pay.

Board members definitely work for their money — if not for a more democratic School Board.

Ideally, District academic achievement challengesand its $15k plus per student spending (double the national average) would always be transparent and easy to understand from year to year…

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Tax & Spending Policies

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email:

Governor Walker’s proposed Budget and the gamesmanship being played in the legislature has been compared to the game “whack-a-mole”. Representative Melissa Sargent, a champion for public education, teachers and progressive causes, said of the Budget proposals, “Just when you think we’ve averted one crisis, another initiative is introduced to threaten the progressive traditions of our state.” Sargent added, “The Budget process provides a look inside the corporate-driven policy agenda of the Republican party. Their goal is comprehensive privatization.”

That concept came through loud and clear last week, when the Republican majority on the Joint Finance Committee introduced a proposal which would enable even more funds to be diverted from money-starved public schools to private schools, by expanding the number of parents who can use a State-issued voucher to pay the cost of sending their child to a private school. The funds would come from that child’s area public school system. An investigation by One Wisconsin Now illustrates that a pro-voucher front group donated $122,000 to the campaigns of the Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee.

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling said education must be the top Budget priority, that “the needs of children and schools must be addressed before tax breaks for the wealthy and giveaways to special interests (voucher supporters).” Shilling continued, “To fully restore the cuts our schools have seen over the past four years, we need to invest an additional $200 per student above what Walker has proposed.” While the Republican majority brags that they are adding $208 million in school aids, it amounts to only 1⁄2 of 1% over the two-year Budget, and more than 50% of that will not go to schools, but to reducing property taxes.

The Walker Budget would also enable State takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools, and perhaps the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Budget proposal would enable a “commissioner to convert these schools to charter or voucher schools.” The “commissioner” would have the authority to fire all teachers and administrators in a school district taken over, given the provisions of the proposed law.

A recent amendment would enable anyone with any BA degree to teach English, social studies, math or science, and enable anyone – even without a degree – to teach business, art, music, agriculture or special education.

The Budget will be acted upon this month. It is time to let your objections be heard regarding the school funding crisis being created by the proposed Budget. Contact majority party members of the Joint Finance Committee:

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results, despite spending more than $15,000 per student, double the national average.

K-12 Governance: Proposal May Change Madison’s Non-Diverse School Governance/Choice Model

Molly Beck:

“We are confident the proposal can fundamentally transform the educational opportunities that are available to students in Wisconsin’s two largest school districts,” he said.

Delaporte pointed to Department of Public Instruction data that shows less than 40 percent of Madison students have tested proficient in reading in recent years — slightly higher than the statewide average.
But Madison School District superintendent Jennifer Cheatham blasted the proposal, saying in a statement: “We are incredibly determined, and we are making progress on behalf of all children. But at every step of the way, the Legislature puts more barriers in our way and makes our jobs more difficult.”

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes called the proposal “breathtaking.”

“It looks like the UW President is required to appoint someone who could then authorize as many publicly funded but potentially for-profit charter schools in Madison as that unelected and unaccountable person wanted,” he said.

The proposal requires DPI to reduce a school district’s funding by the same amount that is paid per student to independent charter schools, currently about $8,000.

Cheatham also said independent charter schools have no consistent record of improving education and drain school districts’ funding.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.

Commentary on Madison’s Proposed 2015-2016 Budget, Presentation Lacks Total Spending….

Page 8 is illustrated above, with Madison’s per student spending noted, not completely to scale.

36 Page PDF Slideware Presentation.

I’ve not seen a total spending number published in awhile (The last number I’ve seen was approximately $402,000,000) for 25,305 full time students and 1,962 4K participants. That’s roughly $15K per student, about double the national average.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2015-2016 budget, here.

Related: Attrition Report. Equity based staff reduction summary.

School Voucher Climate Commentary

Jessica Arp:

“My main concern is that right now we are at a 20-year low in funding for public education so our public schools are already in a state of crisis,” Moffit said.

Sierra disagrees and said vouchers are really about choice.

“We pay taxes also,” Sierra said. “Nothing against public schools, but we decided we wanted our children to come here. So why not use the vouchers and receive the help from the state like every other parent is receiving help?”

The plan faces an unclear future in the Legislature, with both Republicans and Democrats concerned about the funding structure in the plan.

The governor defended the plan in interviews Wednesday, calling it “a workable” plan.

Madison’s Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham blasted the school choice proposal in a statement Tuesday night.

Wednesday she said changes proposed would make it difficult, if not impossible, to do what is right for the district.

“When the announcement like the one that that we heard last night occurs, there’s no doubt that it feels like a punch to the stomach,” Cheatham said.

Cheatham called the political environment at the Capitol unsettling and distracting, and said the expansion of vouchers is very concerning to the future of the school district’s budget.

Madison spends around $15,000 per student, annually, roughly double the national average. Yet, it has long supported disastrous reading results.

The 2009 strategic plan goals… for 2015.

Commentary and Results of the Madison School District’s Maintenance Referendum Survey (3% Response)

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

MMSD received a total of 3,081 responses to the online survey. However, only Question #1 received the maximum number of responses; Questions #2-13 averaged around 2,200 respondents. Normally, a response rate is calculated by dividing the number of responses by the number of invitations to complete the survey. However, it is difficult to estimate an exact response rate to this survey, given that there was not a set number of invitations. The denominator, or number of possible respondents, could be calculated in a variety of ways, and that the survey allowed for an individual or family to take the survey multiple times. However, we have provided a couple possibilities for calculating a response rate, which should be considered very coarse estimates:

Per Housing Unit in MMSD Boundaries – According to ACS data, MMSD has about 100,000 occupied housing units, so about 3% of households within MMSD boundaries responded to any portion of the survey.

Per Households of MMSD Students – About 1,600 respondents reported having children in MMSD, and MMSD’s students as of October 2014 live in about 17,000 different households, so about 9% of households with MMSD students responded.

These response rates are high enough to be relatively certain about the survey results; the 2,200 responses to most questions out of 100,000 households would lead to a margin of error of about 2% with 95% confidence, and the margin of error relative to MMSD households would be similar.

Madison’s 2014/2015 budget includes a 4.2% property tax increase while spending between $15,000 and 16,000 per student – double the national average.


Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Substantial questions have been raised about the District’s last maintenance referendum. Unfortunately, we’ve not seen any additional information.

K-12 taxes and spending have increased substantially over the years, with little change in academic outcome.

New Jersey’s charter school law is too restrictive (Madison lacks independent charters)

Laura Waters:

Last week the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) published a new study, “The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: a State-by-State Analysis.” No worries here: according to NAPCS’s data, New Jersey is in fine fettle, ranking fourth among twenty-six states. (The analyses are restricted to states that serve more than one percent of students through public charters.)

However, a closer look at our scores reveals an infirmity that belies our glowing complexion: N.J.’s charter school sector soldiers in spite of the Legislative failure to ameliorate our outdated, pockmarked charter school law. Prognosis is guarded.

NAPCS’s new report, a follow-up to its research on model public school laws, creates a rubric based on 11 factors that indicate a healthy charter school environment. These include increases in the number of children served by these independent public schools; proportional representation of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch; proportional representation of children with disabilities and English language learner status; innovative practices like extended school calendars and higher education courses; rate of charter school closures.

Madison’s rejected charter schools include the Studio school and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

The status quo governance (and spending, > $15k / student or double the national average) continues despite long term disastrous reading results.

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. Permit me to try a different approach, namely, a debate with myself (I win!) over this proposition:

Wisconsin education is suffering a serious case of the blahs.

In defense of this statement, I point to how few new schools, new programs and initiatives there are this year, particularly in Milwaukee.

With its large voucher and charter sectors and with Milwaukee Public Schools frequently undergoing changes, you could count on Milwaukee to offer new developments each fall in recent years.

This year, there’s not much. A few programs are being launched or growing, such as the addition of parent centers in many Milwaukee schools that didn’t have them until now. But it’s really kind of status quo out there. And it’s a status quo in which less than one in five MPS students are rated as proficient or better in reading.

Consider my snapshot summary of the three big sectors of Milwaukee schools:

Unfortunately, status quo governance has become the norm in Madison and generally across the Badger State. Our agrarian era K-12 governance structures persist, mostly on the fumes of the past. Yet, spending continues to grow, with Madison’s $15,000+ / student double the national average, despite long term disastrous reading results. A 2012 comparison with the Austin, TX school district is worth a look.

Elementary Data: Madison’s Proposed $39,500,000 Maintenance & Expansion Referendum

Madison Schools’ March, 2014 Facility Plan (PDF)::

Shorewood Elementary: In conjunction with building an elevator tower, add a four-classroom addition. The additional classrooms are a relatively easy gain based on the building design.

Shorewood’s 2013-2014 Low Income Population: 33.8%; All Madison Elementary Schools: 52.1%

2012-2013 Basic & Minimal Reading Proficiency: 34.3% Madison School District: 62.5%

In conjunction with building an elevator tower, add a new cafeteria. Convert the existing cafeteria into four classrooms.

Midvale’s 2013-2014 Low Income Population: 60.9%; All Madison Elementary Schools: 52.1%

2012-2013 Basic & Minimal Reading Proficiency: 72.3% Madison School District: 62.5%

Wisconsin DPI School Report Cards: Midvale | Shorewood | Madison School District. Enrollment data.

Related: Madison’s 16% property tax increase since 2007, Median Household Income Down 7.6%, Middleton’s property taxes 16% less. Madison spends about $15k per student, double the national average.

Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes (16%)

Prior to spending more money from what is at best a flat tax base, perhaps Madison citizens might review previous maintenance referendum spending.

Better Schools, Fewer Dollars We can improve education without busting the budget.

Marcus Winters:

Here’s what looks like a policy dilemma. To attain the economic growth that it desperately needs, the United States must improve its schools and train a workforce capable of competing in the global economy. Economists Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann estimate that improving student achievement by half of one standard deviation–roughly the current difference between the United States and Finland–would increase U.S. GDP growth by about a full percentage point annually. Yet states and the federal government face severe budgetary constraints these days; how are policymakers supposed to improve student achievement while reducing school funding?
In reality, that task is far from impossible. The story of American education over the last three decades is one not of insufficient funds but of inefficient schools. Billions of new dollars have gone into the system, to little effect. Luckily, Americans are starting to recognize that we can improve schooling without paying an additional dime. In fact, by unleashing the power of educational choice, we might even save money while getting better results and helping the economy’s long-term prospects.
Over the last four decades, public education spending has increased rapidly in the United States. According to the Department of Education, public schools spent, on average, $12,922 per pupil in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than double the $6,402 per student that public schools spent in 1975.
Despite that doubling of funds, just about every measure of educational outcomes has remained stagnant since 1975, though some have finally begun to inch upward over the last few years. Student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the only consistently observed measure of student math and reading achievement over the period–have remained relatively flat since the mid-1970s. High school graduation rates haven’t budged much over the last 40 years, either.

PISA 2012 Results & Commentary: “US Mediocre, Expensive”


PISA 2012 is the programme’s 5th survey. It assessed the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science (with a focus on mathematics) in 65 countries and economies.
Around 510 000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months participated in the assessment, representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally.
The students took a paper-based test that lasted 2 hours. The tests were a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions that were organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. A total of about 390 minutes of test items were covered. Students took different combinations of different tests. They and their school principals also answered questionnaires to provide information about the students’ backgrounds, schools and learning experiences and about the broader school system and learning environment.

Laura Waters:

Among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in mathematics in 2012 and is ranked 26th…Performance in reading and science are both close to the OECD average. The United States ranks 17 in reading, (range of ranks: 14 to 20) and 21 in science (range of ranks: 17 to 25). There has been no significant change in these performances over time.
Mathematics scores for the top-performer, Shanghai-China, indicate a performance that is the equivalent of over two years of formal schooling ahead of those observed in Massachusetts, itself a strong-performing U.S. state.
While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around USD 53 000 per student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over USD 115 000 per student.
Just over one in four U.S. students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency – a higher-than-OECD average proportion and one that hasn’t changed since 2003. At the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the U.S. has a below-average share of top performers.
Students in the United States have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems. An alignment study between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and PISA suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA.

Dana Goldstein::

While these results always make news, this year there is an added tempest in the teapot of the education policy world: The OECD and the Obama administration worked in advance with a selected group of advocacy organizations to launch a media campaign called PISA Day. Which organizations? The College Board, ACT, America Achieves, and the Business Roundtable–all key architects of the Common Core, the new national curriculum standards whose increased rigor and standardized tests have led to a much-publicized protest movement among some parents, teachers, and kids. Groups that support the Core have an interest in calling attention to low American test scores, which today they will use to argue that the Core is the solution not only to our academic woes, but also to reviving the American economy. Happy PISA Day!
But the truth is that the lessons of PISA for our school reform movement are not as simple as they are often made out to be. PISA results aren’t just about K-12 test scores and curricula–they are also about academic ability tracking, income inequality, health care, child care, and how schools are organized as workplaces for adults.

Julia Ryan:

Not much has changed since 2000, when the U.S. scored along the OECD average in every subject: This year, the U.S. scores below average in math and ranks 17th among the 34 OECD countries. It scores close to the OECD average in science and reading and ranks 21st in science and 17th in reading.
Here are some other takeaways from the report:
America Is Struggling at Math
The U.S. scored below the PISA math mean and ranks 26th out of the 34 OECD countries. The U.S. math score is not statistically different than the following countries: Norway, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Sweden, and Hungary.
Do American Schools Need to Change? Depends What You Compare Them To
On average, 13 percent of students scored at the highest or second highest level on the PISA test, making them “top performers.” Fifty-five percent of students in Shanghai-China were considered top performers, while only nine percent of American students were.

Stephanie Banchero:

For the last few years, many U.S. educators and policy makers have looked to Finland, noting its high test scores and laser-like focus on attracting and retaining the best teachers. Although Finland still posts high scores, they have slid in the past few years.
Poland, on the other hand, has seen sharp improvement. The only European country to have avoided the recession, Poland undertook a host of education overhauls in 1999, including delaying by one year the system that places students into academic or vocational tracks, and crafting better systems to identify struggling students and get them help.
“Poland launched a massive set of reforms and, while we cannot say for sure they caused the improvement, they certainly are…a sort of plausible explanation,” said Andreas Schleicher, deputy director for education and skills at the OECD.
In Massachusetts, educators and policy makers credit the good showing, in part, to a 1993 effort that boosted spending and ushered in rigorous standards and achievement tests that students have to pass to graduate.


The Madison School Board Elections; setting the record straight

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email

March 6, 2013
Dear Madison Leaders.
As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. While I will not, as a nonprofit leader, speak about the merits of individual candidates, we are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring during the debates. The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, “Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?”…as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools.
While the Urban League has no interest in partaking in the squabbles and confusion that has unfortunately come to define public conversation about our public schools, we do want to set the record straight about deliberations on Madison Prep that have been falsely expressed by many during this campaign, and used to dog individuals who supported the school proposal more than one year ago.
Here is how things transpired.
On May 9, 2011, Steve Goldberg of the CUNA Mutual Foundation facilitated a meeting about Madison Prep, at my request, between Madison Teacher’s Incorporated President, John Matthews and me. The meeting was held in CUNA’s cafeteria. We had lunch and met for about an hour. It was a cordial meeting and we each discussed the Madison Prep proposal and what it would take for the Urban League and MTI to work together. We didn’t get into many details, however I was sure to inform John that our proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school (non-MTI) was not because we didn’t support the union but because the collective bargaining agreement was too restrictive for the school model and design we were proposing to be fully implemented, and because we desired to recruit teachers outside the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement. We wanted to have flexibility to aggressively recruit on an earlier timeline and have the final say on who worked in our school.
The three of us met again at the Coliseum Bar on August 23, 2011, this time involving other members of our teams. We got into the specifics of negotiations regarding the Urban League’s focus on establishing a non-instrumentality school and John’s desire to have Madison Prep’s employees be a part of MTI’s collective bargaining unit. At the close of that meeting, we (Urban League) offered to have Madison Prep’s teachers and guidance counselors be members of the collective bargaining unit. John said he felt we were making progress but he needed to think about not having MTI represent all of the staff that are a part of their bargaining unit. John and I also agreed that I would email him a memo outlining our desire to work with MTI, and provide the details of what we discussed. John agreed to respond after reviewing the proposal with his team. That memo, which we have not released previously, is attached [336K PDF]. You will see clearly that the Urban League initiated dialogue with MTI about having the teacher’s union represent our educators.
John, Steve and I met for a third time at Perkins restaurant for breakfast on the West Beltline on September 30, 2013. This time, I brought representatives of the Madison Prep and Urban League Boards with me: Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, John Roach and Derrick Smith. It was at the close of this meeting that John Matthews told all of us that we “had a deal”, that MTI and the Urban League would now work together on Madison Prep. We all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Our team was relieved.
Later that evening, I received calls from Matt DeFour, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal and Susan Troller of The Capital Times. They both asked me to confirm what John had told them; that we had a deal. I replied by confirming the deal. The next day, The Capital Times ran a story, Madison Prep and MTI will work together on new charter school. The State Journal ran an article too, Prep School agrees to employ union staff. All was good, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, our agreement was short-lived. The very next day after the story hit the newspapers, my team and I began receiving angry letters from social workers and psychologists in MMSD who were upset that we did not want to have those positions represented by MTI. We replied by explaining to them that our reasoning was purely driven by the fact that 99% of the Districts psychologists were white and that there were few social workers of color, too. For obvious reasons, we did not believe MMSD would have success hiring diverse staff for these positions. We desired a diverse staff for two reasons: we anticipated the majority of our students to be students of color and our social work and psychological service model was different. Madison Prep had a family-serving model where the school would pay for such services for every person in a family, if necessary, who needed it, and would make available to families and students a diverse pool of contracted psychologists that families and students could choose from.
That Monday evening, October 3, 2011, John Matthews approached me with Steve Goldberg at the School Board hearing on Madison Prep and informed me that his bargaining unit was very upset and that he needed to have our Physical education teacher be represented by MTI, too. Our Phy Ed model was different; we had been working on a plan with the YMCA to implement a very innovative approach to ensuring our students were deeply engaged in health and wellness activities at school and beyond the school day. In our plan, we considered the extraordinarily high rates of obesity among young men and women of color. However, to make the deal with MTI work, that evening I gave MTI the Phy Ed teaching position.
But that one request ultimately became a request by MTI for every position in our school, and a request by John Matthews to re-open negotiations, this time with a mediator. At first, we rejected this request because we felt “a deal is a deal”. When you shake hands, you follow through.
We only gave in after current school board president, James Howard, called me at home to request that the Urban League come back to the negotiating table. James acknowledged not feeling great about asking us to do this after all we had been through – jumping through hoop after hoop. If you followed the media closely, you would recall how many times we worked to overcome hurdles that were placed in our way – $200K worth of hurdles (that’s how much we spent). After meeting with MMSD leadership and staff, we agreed to come back to the table to address issues with MTI and AFSCME, who wanted our custodial and food service workers to be represented by the union as well. When we met, the unions came to the negotiation with attorneys and so did we. If you care to find out what was said during these negotiations, you can request a transcript from Beth Lehman, the liaison to the MMSD Board of Education who was taking official notes (October 31 and November 1, 2011).
On our first day of negotiations, after all sides shared their requests and concerns, we (ULGM) decided to let AFSCME represent our custodial and food service staff. AFSCME was immediately satisfied, and left the room. That’s when the hardball towards us started. We then countered with a plausible proposal that MTI did not like. When we couldn’t get anywhere, we agreed to go into recess. Shortly after we came back from recess, former MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad dropped the bomb on us. He shared that if we now agreed to have our staff be represented by MTI, we would have to budget paying our teachers an average of $80,000 per year per teacher and dedicating $25,000 per teacher to benefits. This would effectively increase our proposal from $15M over five years to $28M over five years.
Why the increased costs? For months, we projected in our budgets that our staff would likely average 7 years of teaching experience with a Master’s degree. We used the MTI-MMSD salary schedule to set the wages in our budget, and followed MMSD and MTI’s suggestions for how to budget for the extended school day and year parts of our charter school plan. Until that day, MMSD hadn’t once told us that the way we were budgeting was a problem. They actually submitted several versions of budgets to the School Board, and not once raising this issue.
Superintendent Nerad further informed us that MMSD was going to now submit a budget to the Board of Education that reflected costs for teachers with an average of 14 years’ experience and a master’s degree. When we shockingly asked Nerad if he thought the Board of Education would support such a proposal, he said they likely would not. We did not think the public would support such a unusual request either. As you can imagine, we left the negotiations very frustrated. In the 23rd hour, not only was the run we thought we had batted in taken away from us in the 9th inning, we felt like our entire season had been vacated by commissioners.
When we returned to our office that afternoon, we called an emergency meeting of the Urban League and Madison Prep boards. It was in those meetings that we had to make a choice. Do we completely abandon our proposal for Madison Prep after all we had done to see the project through, and after all of the community support and interests from parents that we had received, or do we go forward with our original proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school and let the chips fall where they may with a vote by the Board? At that point, our trust of MMSD and MTI was not very high. In fact, weeks before all of this happened, we were told by Nerad in a meeting with our team and attorneys, and his staff and attorneys, that the Board of Education had voted in closed session to unilaterally withdraw our charter school planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They reversed this decision after we informed them we would file a lawsuit against them. We were later told that a certain Board member was pushing for months to have this done. Then, after months of not being able to get certain board members to meet with us, Marj Passman, decided to meet with me alone in my office. During that meeting, she told me that we (ULGM) didn’t have the votes for Madison Prep and that we were never going to get the school approved. She the offered to donate her personal funds to Madison Prep, if we pulled our proposal and decided to do a private school instead. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but declined.
After finally meeting with all seven board of education members, both the Madison Prep and ULGM boards decided unanimously that we must in good conscience go forward, put the needs and future of our children first, and reintroduce the non-instrumentality proposal to the School Board. You know the rest of the story.
Over the next 45 days, we (ULGM) were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, “an Angry Black Man”. Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place – because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it even though the school system has known about its racial achievement gap since it was first document by researcher Naomi Lede for the National Urban League in 1965. That gap has doubled since then.
Ironically, two of the people behind the attacks on ULGM were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep. John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he told a story that was 80% consistent with the events that actually transpired. Watch the video and listen to the reason he gave for why he didn’t support Madison Prep. He didn’t call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. So why all the fuss now? Why have those who knew exactly what went on in these negotiations not told the true story about what really happened with Madison Prep? Why has a charter school proposal been made the scapegoat, or defining lever, in a school board race where there are so many other more important issues to address?
If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools.
So, for those who were unaware and those who’ve been misleading the public about Madison Prep and the Urban League, I hope you at least read this account all the way through and give all of the candidates in this school board election the opportunity to win or lose on their merits. Falsehoods and red herrings are not needed. They don’t make our city or our school district look good to the observing eye. Let’s be honest and accurate in our descriptions going forward.
Thank you for reading.
We continue to move forward for our children and are more determined than ever to serve them well.
Strengthening the Bridge Between Education and Work
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608.729.1200
Assistant: 608.729.1249
Fax: 608.729.1205
Invest in the Urban League
Urban League 2012 Third Quarter Progress Report

The Memorandum from Kaleem Caire to John Matthews (Madison Teachers, Inc)

Date: August 23, 2011
To: Mr. John Matthews, Executive Director, Madison Teachers, Inc.
From: Kaleem Caire, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Madison
cc: Mr. Steve Goldberg, President, CUNA Foundation; Mr. David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM); Ms Laura DeRoche-Perez, Charter School Development Consultant, ULGM; Mr. David Hase, Attorney, Cooke & Frank SC
Re: Discussion about potential MTl-Madison Prep Relationship
Greetings John.
I sincerely appreciate your openness to engaging in conversation about a possible relationship between MTI and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. We, ULGM and Madison Prep, look forward to determining very soon what the possibilities could be.
Please accept his memo as a means to frame the issues.

  1. The Urban League of Greater Madison initially pursued a non-instrumentality public charter school
    focused on young men to, first and foremost, eliminate the academic and graduate gaps between young people of color and their white peers, to successfully prepare greater percentages of young men of color and those at-risk for higher education, to significantly reduce the incarceration rate among young adult males of color and to provide an example of success that could become a learning laboratory for
    educators, parents and the Greater Madison community with regard to successful ly educating young men, regardless of th eir race or socio-economic status.

  2. We are very interested in determining how we can work with MTI while maintaining independence with regard to work rules, operations, management and leadership so that we can hire and retain the best team possible for Madison Prep, and make organizational and program decisions and modifications as necessary to meet the needs of our students, faculty, staff and parents.
  3. MTl’s collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District covers many positions within the school system. We are interested in having MTI represent our teachers and guidance counselors. All other staff would not be represented by MTI.
  4. The collective bargaining agreement between MTI and Madison Prep would be limited to employee wages and benefits. Madison Prep teachers would select a representative among them, independent of Madison Prep’s leadership, to serve as their union representative to MTI.

I look forward to discussing this with you and members of our teams, and hearing what ideas you have for the
relationship as well.
Kaleem Caire,
President & CEO

336K PDF Version
jpg version
Related Links:

Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School
(Rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board).
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment.“.
John Matthews, Madison Teachers, Inc.
Kaleem Caire, Madison Urban League
The rejected Studio Charter School.
Union politics.
2013 Madison School Board Elections.
Update: Matthew DeFour’s article on Caire’s message:

Lucy Mathiak, who was on the board in 2011, also didn’t dispute Caire’s account of the board action, but couldn’t recall exactly what happened in the board’s closed sessions.
“Did (the Urban League) jump through many hoops, provide multiple copies of revised proposals upon request, meet ongoing demands for new and more detailed information? Yes,” Mathiak said. “It speaks volumes that Madison Prep is being used to smear and discredit candidates for the School Board and used as a litmus test of political worthiness.”
Matthews said the problems with Madison Prep resulted from Caire’s proposal to hire nonunion staff.
“What Kaleem seems to have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, is that MTI representatives engaged in several discussions with him and several of his Board members, in attempt to reach an amicable resolution,” Matthews said. “What that now has to do with the current campaign for Board of Education, I fail to see. I know of no animosity among the candidates or their campaign workers.”
Passman and other board members who served at the time did not return a call seeking comment.

Kauffman School: a year of theory put to practice

Joe Robertson:

When the school year started, 103 children were enrolled in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s attempt to run its own charter school — an endeavor being watched nationally as the well-known research foundation becomes the practitioner.
More than nine months later, as the inaugural class’s fifth-grade year finally ends this week, 91 are still on board.
Between the longer year and the longer days, they’ve spent 35 percent more time in school than students on a regular school calendar.They’ve endured daily double doses of math and reading and extra tutoring.
In return, Principal Hannah Lofthus said, the students on average have gained 2.4 grade levels in math, 2.1 grade levels in reading and 2.3 grade levels in science.

Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era

Matt Richtel, New York Times
In the 1990s, the term “digital divide” emerged to describe technology’s haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families. Those efforts have indeed shrunk the divide. But they have created an unintended side effect, one that is surprising and troubling to researchers and policy makers and that the government now wants to fix.
As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show. This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.
“I’m not antitechnology at home, but it’s not a savior,” said Laura Robell, the principal at Elmhurst Community Prep, a public middle school in East Oakland, Calif., who has long doubted the value of putting a computer in every home without proper oversight. “So often we have parents come up to us and say, ‘I have no idea how to monitor Facebook,’ ” she said.
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers. Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft.
These efforts complement a handful of private and state projects aimed at paying for digital trainers to teach everything from basic keyboard use and word processing to how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography. “Digital literacy is so important,” said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the commission, adding that bridging the digital divide now also means “giving parents and students the tools and know-how to use technology for education and job-skills training.”
F.C.C. officials and other policy makers say they still want to get computing devices into the hands of every American. That gaps remains wide — according to the commission, about 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure is 40 percent in households with less than $20,000 in annual income. Half of all Hispanics and 41 percent of African-American homes lack broadband.
But “access is not a panacea,” said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft. “Not only does it not solve problems, it mirrors and magnifies existing problems we’ve been ignoring.” Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment. “We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.
A study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families. In 1999, the difference was just 16 minutes.


SAT Reading, Writing Scores Hit Low

Stephanie Banchero:

SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2011 fell in all three subject areas, and the average reading and writing scores were the lowest ever recorded, according to data released on Wednesday.
The results from the college-entrance exam, taken by about 1.6 million students, also revealed that only 43% of students posted a score high enough to indicate they were ready to succeed in college, according to the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the exam. Students had to score a 1550 out of a possible 2400 to meet that benchmark, which would indicate a 65% chance of getting at least a B-minus average in the first year of college, the Board calculated.
The report on the SAT, long known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, comes on the heels of results from the ACT college-entrance exam that suggested only 25% of high-school graduates who took that exam were ready for college. And results from national high-school math and reading exams show only modest progress over the past five years. The data highlight the difficult task faced by the Obama administration in pursuing education policies to help Americans remain globally competitive.

Michael Alison Chandler:

SAT reading scores for graduating high school seniors this year reached the lowest point in nearly four decades, reflecting a steady decline in performance in that subject on the college admissions test, the College Board reported Wednesday.
In the Washington area, one of the nation’s leading producers of college-bound students, educators were scrambling to understand double-digit drops in test scores in Montgomery and Prince William counties and elsewhere.

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.

Most from class of 2000 have failed to earn degrees

James Vaznis:

About two-thirds of the city’s high school graduates in 2000 who enrolled in college have failed to earn degrees, according to a first-of-its-kind study being released today.
The findings represent a major setback for a city school system that made significant strides in recent years with percentages of graduates enrolling in college consistently higher than national averages, according to the report by the Boston Private Industry Council and the School Department.
However, the study shows that the number who went on to graduate is lower than the national average.
The low number of students who were able to earn college degrees or post-secondary certificates in a city known as a center of American higher education points to the enormous barriers facing urban high school graduates – many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. While the study did not address reasons for the low graduation rates, these students often have financial problems, some are raising children, and others are held back by a need to retake high school courses in college because they lack basic skills.
The students’ failure to complete college could exacerbate the fiscal problems in the state’s economy, which requires a highly skilled workforce, say business leaders and educators. While tens of thousands of students around the globe flock to the region’s colleges each fall, many of them leave once receiving their degrees.


Wisconsin State & School Finance Climate Update

I recently had an opportunity to visit with Todd Barry, President of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance [29 minute mp3]. A summary of this timely conversation follows:
[2:25] Post Retirement Liabilities: Milwaukee Public Schools Post Retirement Health Care Liabilities: $2.2 to $2.5 billion
[3:01] Wisconsin’s $2.44 Billion structural deficit. The State debt load ($4billion to $9billion from 2000 to 2007) is now among the top 10.
[7:48] On property values and assessment changes. Two years ago, property values grew 9%, last year 6%, 3% this year with most of the recent growth coming from commercial properties.
[8:57] Wisconsin Income Growth: Per Capita personal income “The canary in the mineshaft” and how we lag the national average by 6% or more.
The population is aging. Senior population will double by 2030. School age population is stagnant.
Employment growth peaked before the nation (04/05)
Wisconsin wages per worker is about 10% less than the national average. 1969; 4% below national average, 1980’s; 10 or 11% below national average. Wisconsin wagers per worker are now 14% below national average. We’ve been on a 40 year slide.
We’ve hid this because the labor force participation of women has increased dramatically.
Wisconsin is losing corporate headquarters.
[18:18] What does this all mean for K-12 spending?
“If there is going to be growth in any state appropriation,it is going to be schools and Medicaid“. The way the Legislature and Governor have set up these two programs, they are more or less on auto-pilot. They will grab whatever money is available and crowd out most everything else. So you get this strange situation where state aid to schools has tripled in the last 25 years while funding for the UW has barely doubled. That sounds like a lot, but when you look at it on a year by year basis, that means state funding for the University of Wisconsin System has grown less than the rate of inflation on an annual average basis while school aids has outpaced it (inflation) as has Medicaid.”
Is there anything on the horizon in terms of changes in school finance sources? A discussion of shifting state school finance to the sales tax. “It’s clear that in states where state government became even more dominant (in K-12 finance) than in Wisconsin, the net result, in the long run, was a slowing of state support for schools. The legislature behaves like a school board, micromanaging and mandating. California is the poster child.
[20:52] On why the Madison School District, despite flat enrollment and revenue caps, has been able to grow revenues at an average of 5.25% over the past 20 years. Barry discussed: suburban growth around Madison, academic competition amongst Dane County high schools. He discussed Madison’s top end students (college bound kids, kids of professionals and faculty) versus the “other half that doesn’t take those (college entrance) tests” and that the “other half” is in the bottom 10 to 20% while the others are sitting up at the top on college entrance exams.
[23:17]: This is a long way of saying that Madison has made its problem worse and has put itself on a course toward flat enrollment because of social service policies, school boundary policies and so forth that have pushed people out of the city.
[23:42] “If there is a way within state law to get around revenue caps, Madison has been the poster child”. Mentions Fund 80 and frequent and successfully passing referendums along with Madison’s high spending per pupil.
People think of the Milwaukee Public Schools as a high spending District. When you really look start to dig into it, it is above average, but Madison is way out there compared to even MPS. People argue that argue that MPS is top heavy in terms of administrative costs per student, Madison actually spends more in some of those categories than Milwaukee. (See SchoolFacts, more)
[26:45] On K-12 School finance outlook: The last time we blew up the school finance system in Wisconsin was in 1994. And, it happened very quickly within a span of 2 to 3 months and it had everything to do with partisan political gotcha and it had nothing to do with education.
[28:26] “Where are the two bastians of Democratic seats in the legislature? Madison and Milwaukee. Madison is property rich and Milwaukee is relatively property poor. Somehow you have to reconcile those two within a Democratic environment and on the Republican side you have property rich suburbs and some very property poor rural districts.

2005 NAEP Grade 12 Reading and Math Scores Released

The Nation’s Report Card via Ed Week:

The proportion of high school students completing a solid core curriculum has nearly doubled since 1990, and students are doing better in their classes than their predecessors did.
But that good news is tempered by other findings in two federal reports released here today. The performance of the nation’s high school seniors on national tests has declined in reading over the past decade, and students are lackluster in mathematics. A third of high school graduates in 2005 did not complete a standard curriculum, which includes four credits of English and three credits each of social studies, math, and science.
The 12th grade reading and math results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are based on a nationally representative sample of 21,000 seniors at 900 public and private schools who took the tests between January and March of 2005. The report on their performance was accompanied by the latest NAEP transcript study, which analyzes the coursetaking patterns and achievement of high school graduates.
Two-thirds of the 26,000 graduates who were followed for the transcript study also participated in the 2005 NAEP math and science assessments.
No Improvement in Reading
On the reading test, 12th graders’ average score has declined significantly since the first time the test was given in 1992. The test-takers averaged 286 points on a 500-point scale, a 6-point decline over 13 years, but statistically the same score as in 2002. Achievement levels in reading have also declined since 1992; 80 percent of the students tested that year scored at the “basic” level or better, but only 73 percent did so on the 2005 test, the same proportion as in 2002. In addition, the gap in scores between members of minority groups and higher-scoring white students has not narrowed significantly.
In math, the scores are not comparable with those from previous tests since the 2005 test was based on a new framework. Students scored, on average, 150 points on a 300-point scale. Just 61 percent of the 12th graders demonstrated at least basic command of the subject, with 23 percent considered “proficient” and 2 percent “advanced.”
Among 2005 high school graduates, 68 percent completed at least a standard curriculum, while 41 percent took a more challenging course load, and 10 percent took more-rigorous classes. In 1990, just 40 percent of graduates completed at least a standard curriculum, and 36 percent took additional courses, while 5 percent took what was deemed a rigorous course load.

School Finance: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

School spending has always been a puzzle, both from a state and federal government perspective as well as local property taxpayers. In an effort to shed some light on the vagaries of K-12 finance, I’ve summarized below a number of local, state and federal articles and links.
The 2007 Statistical Abstract offers a great deal of information about education and many other topics. A few tidbits:

1980 1990 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
US K-12 Enrollment [.xls file] 40,878,000 41,216,000 47,203,000 47,671,000 48,183,000 48,540,000 NA
US K-12 Deflated Public K-12 Spending – Billions [.xls file] $230B 311.8B $419.7B $436.6B $454.6B $464.8B $475.5B
Avg. Per Student Spending $5,627 $7,565 $8,892 $9,159 $9,436 $9,576 NA
US Defense Spending (constant yr2000 billion dollars) [.xls file] $267.1B $382.7B $294.5B $297.2B $329.4B $365.3B $397.3B
US Health Care Spending (Billions of non-adjusted dollars) [.xls file] $255B $717B $1,359B $1,474B $1,608B $1,741B $1,878B
US Gross Domestic Product – Billions [.xls file] 5,161 7,112 9,817 9,890 10,048 10,320 10,755


The fate of the schools

Will the Madison district sink or swim?
April 4th elections could prove pivotal

At the end of an especially divisive Madison school board meeting, Annette Montegomery took to the microphone and laid bare her frustrations with the seven elected citizens who govern Madison schools.
“I don’t understand why it takes so long to get anything accomplished with this board!” yelled Montgomery, a Fitchburg parent with two children in Madison’s Leopold Elementary School. She pegged board members as clueless about how they’ve compromised the trust of the district’s residents.
“You don’t think we’re already angry? What do we have to do to show you, to convince you, how angry we are? If I could, I’d impeach every single one of you and start over!”
Impeachment isn’t being seriously considered as solution to the Madison Metropolitan School District’s problems. But infighting and seemingly insurmountable budget problems have increasingly undercut the board’s ability to chart a positive course for Madison schools.

And that’s not good, given the challenges on the horizon for a district of 24,490 kids with a $319 million budget. These include declining enrollment of upper- and middle-class families; continuing increases in low-income families and racial minorities; an overall stagnant enrollment which limits state funding increases; and prolonged battles with parent groups over everything from boundary changes to curriculum choices.
By Jason Shepard, Isthmus, March 23, 2006


Back to School

The Economist:

“TEACHERS, teachers, teachers.” Thus the headmistress of a school near Helsinki, giving her not-exactly-rocket-science explanation for why Finland has the best education system in the world.
It has achieved all this by changing its entire system, delegating
responsibility to teachers and giving them lots of support. There is no streaming and no selection; no magnet schools; no national curriculum; and few national exams. It is all, as that Finnish headmistress suggested, about getting good teachers–and then giving them freedom. If there is a lesson for EU leaders, it is: forget about multiple priority areas and action plans. European governments should go back to school. In Finland.


Building the Prototypical School: Measuring What Works, and What Doesn’t

Tom Still:

The report notes that Wisconsin’s education system needs to “double or triple current performance so that in the short term, 60 percent of students achieve at or above proficiency, and in the longer term 90 percent of students achieve at that level.”
Wisconsin suffers from what might be described as the “Lake Wobegone Syndrome.” Like the residents of Garrison Keillor’s mythical Minnesota burg, we believe our kids are all above average. Judged by some national standards, they are; judged by international standards; it’s not true at the K-12 level. Only after post-secondary education do American students begin to climb up the global proficiency scale.
If you’re looking for an ambitious mission statement, consider this pledge from the bipartisan Wisconsin School Finance Adequacy Initiative: “We will not simply propose adding new dollars on top of current dollars, but propose a complete new reuse of all dollars – first those currently in the (K-12 public school) system, and then any additional dollars if that is the finding of the adequacy analysis.”
In other words, this blue-ribbon panel won’t be satisfied with recommending more of the same when it comes to public education in Wisconsin, unless “more of the same” is producing tangible dividends for students, their communities and the overall economy.
Now halfway through its study of Wisconsin public schools, the 26-member task force led by UW-Madison Professor Allen Odden is trying to live up to its promise to scrutinize current spending levels and to adjust them up, down – or even out – based on empirical evidence of what works and what does not.

Links: via Google Allen Odden: Clusty | Google
Wisconsin School Adequacy Finance Initiative website.

The Two Faces of Advance Placement Courses

Tamar Lewin writes in the New York Times January 8, 2006, about Advance Placement Classes – students and parents believe AP classes are important preparation for college, colleges have mixed feelings about students who take AP classes.
“We’ve been put off for quite a while about the idea of teaching to the test, which is what a lot of A.P.’s are,” says Lynn Krahling, guidance director of the Queen Anne’s School in Upper Marlboro, Md. “We’re convinced, as an educational institution, that they’re not as valuable as what we could be offering on our own.
“But,” she says, “I think we’re going to stick with A.P.’s – purely out of fear. Parents are so terrified that if we drop our A.P.’s it would really affect college admissions that I think some of them would jump ship.”


WSJ: Texas School Finance Lesson

Wall Street Journal Review and Outlook:

The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was surprising and welcome was the Court’s unanimous ruling that the Texas school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the funding “adequacy” requirements of the state constitution. Most remarkable of all was the court’s declaration that “more money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students.”
In one of the most notorious cases, in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1980s, a judge issued an edict requiring a $1 billion tax hike to help the failing inner-city schools. This raised expenditures to about $14,000 per student, or double the national average, but test scores continued to decline. Even the judge later admitted that he had blundered.

LA education writer Paul Ciotti wrote in 1998 about the Kansas City Experiment:

In fact, the supposedly straightforward correspondence between student achievement and money spent, which educators had been insisting on for decades, didn’t seem to exist in the KCMSD. At the peak of spending in 1991-92, Kansas City was shelling out over $11,700 per student per year.(123) For the 1996-97 school year, the district’s cost per student was $9,407, an amount larger, on a cost-of-living-adjusted basis, than any of the country’s 280 largest school districts spent.(124) Missouri’s average cost per pupil, in contrast, was about $5,132 (excluding transportation and construction), and the per pupil cost in the Kansas City parochial system was a mere $2,884.(125)
The lack of correspondence between achievement and money was hardly unique to Kansas City. Eric Hanushek, a University of Rochester economist who testified as a witness regarding the relationship between funding and achievement before Judge Clark in January 1997, looked at 400 separate studies of the effects of resources on student achievement. What he found was that a few studies showed that increased spending helped achievement; a few studies showed that increased spending hurt achievement; but most showed that funding increases had no effect one way or the other.(126)
Between 1965 and 1990, said Hanushek, real spending in this country per student in grades K-12 more than doubled (from $2,402 to $5,582 in 1992 dollars), but student achievement either didn’t change or actually fell. And that was true, Hanushek found, in spite of the fact that during the same period class size dropped from 24.1 students per teacher to 17.3, the number of teachers with master’s degrees doubled, and so did the average teacher’s number of years of experience.(127)

More on Ciotti
Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater “implemented the largest court-ordered desegregation settlement in the nation’s history in Kansas City, MoGoogle search | Clusty Search