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April 30, 2004

Eduwonk on No Child Left Behind NYT Article

Education blog Eduwonk writes about a recent NY Times article profiling a Florida school

So, rather than the storyline of an unfairly maligned school caught up the unfair rules of an ill-conceived law, instead we have a school where about only half the kids are proficient in reading and math overall, few can write at grade level, and special education and black students are doing very poorly. Though the school does appear to slowly be making progress, a lot of children are being shortchanged right now. NCLB was designed precisely to ferret out these inequities which are easily obscured by overall averages.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:33 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Reading Instruction Workshop

August 9-10, 2004
Edgewood College Campus
Madison, Wisconsin

  • Direct Instruction Training for both Beginning and Advanced
  • Sessions Specially Designed for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Teachers
  • College Credit Available
  • Great New Location

Sara Tarver, Ph.D., Professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Issues and Debates about Direct Instruction

Terry Dodds, Author of the new High-Performance Writing Program

Tonja Gallagher, M.S., Doctoral Student and Teaching Assistant, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Jane Jung , Ph.D., Second Grade Teacher, Lapham School, Madison,WI

Dolores Mishelow, former principal in Milwaukee, WI

Norm Mishelow, principal of Barton School in Milwaukee, U.S. Dept. of Ed. Blue Ribbon Award Winner

Beverly Trezek, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison

Chris Uelmen, M.S., Curriculum Coordinator, Core Knowledge Charter School, Verona, WI

The first day will begin with a keynote address by Dr. Sara Tarver. All participants will attend the keynote from 8:15-9:45. For the remainder of the first day and the entire second day, participants will attend one of five small group sessions (A, B, C, D or E). Participants who select �A� session, Reading Mastery I, for example, attend that session for two days. The �D� session is designed for participants with experience in Direct Instruction. Participants who select the �D� session should fill out the supplemental portion of the registration form. The �E� session, Train the Trainer, is designed for the experienced Direct Instruction teacher who wants to learn the skills needed to do large and small group DI training. Enrollment for �E� session is limited. Interested participants should fill out the supplemental application portion of the registration form and will be notified of acceptance by June 25, 2004.

Participants can register for 1 graduate credit. See registration form.

For more information

  • Content of conference or conference registration, contact Peggy Peterson at
  • Graduate credit or course registration, call Tonja Gallagher at 608-238-6738.

Full Two-Day Conference
Early Bird Discount � Save $25
Registration by May 14, 2004 $100
Registration after May 14, 2004 $125

August 9-10, 2004

Name: Affiliation:

Street Address:

City, State, Zip:

Phone where you can be reached after July 1, 2004:
Email Address:

I have enclosed a ___check____purchase order in the amount of $__________.
Please bill my _____VISA ______MASTERCARD
Card # ____________________________Exp. Date__

Circle your session choice

A B C (see * below) D (see ** below) E (see *** below)

*If you choose SESSION �C�, indicate the grades you are working with: _________________

**If you choose SESSION �D�, indicate your Direct Instruction experience.
Name(s) of program(s) taught: _________________________.Years of experience:__________

***If you choose SESSION �E�, complete the following.
Current education position:
Number of years experience teaching using DI Programs:
Please list the Direct Instruction programs and levels you have had experience teaching:

On a separate sheet of paper, please answer the following questions:

o Why are you interested in this session?
o How do you plan on using this training?
o Person to contact as a reference. Include Name, Phone #, Email Address:

How to Register by Mail
1. Complete the registration form.
2. Print out and enclose registration form with VISA/MASTERCARD information, check or institutional purchase order for the proper fee.
3. Mail completed form and fee to Peggy Petersen at: Peggy Petersen , 4802 West Wells Street, Apartment 4, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53208.

No confirmations will be sent for Session A, B, C and D. Please arrive at the conference registration area between 7:30 and 8:30 on Monday, August 9.

The closest lodging to Edgewood Campus is the Best Western Inntowner, 24224 University Ave. Call 608-233-8778 for reservations.

Parking is free.

Graduate credits
1 credit is available through Viterbo College at a cost of $80.00. Participants wishing to receive credit must attend the full 2 day conference. 1 hour of additional reading and lesson practice (from the session you attend) will also be required. There is no need to pre-register with Viterbo. When you arrive at the conference, a table will be set up where you can complete a short form and pay tuition. Tuition may be paid by cash or check (no credit cards/debit cards). Please arrive early on the first day of the conference. If you have questions regarding credit, you may contact Tonja Gallagher at

Special Needs
ADI-WI is committed to making our activities accessible to persons with disabilities or special needs. If you anticipate a need for service, please indicate your request on the registration form. In the space below, indicate nature of request no later than July 15, 2004.

In the event that the conference must be cancelled, ADI-WI will notify participants and send a full refund by July 15, 2004.

Posted by Ed Blume at 7:46 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

British System Shares Our Problems

Interesting piece by British teacher on the mixed messages we send our students.,3604,1206692,00.html

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WSJ Opinion Piece on School Board Governance

Today's Wisconsin State Journal has a useful opinion piece on MMSD's budget process & governance. This editorial is timely, given the current discussions regarding the district's $310M+ budget:

The Madison School Board is in the midst of tackling the district's budget woes, which include a $10 million shortfall between what the district can spend and what it wants to spend.

Board members can whine all they please that the "current way (the state) funds schools is broken," but here's the bottom line: The state school funding formula is not going to change this spring. If they want to fix something broken closer to home, they should start with their own flawed budgeting instead.

How bad is the district's budgeting? Well, for starters, the board began debating cuts to the budget March 11, according to Barbara Schrank, a parent who was active in protesting last year's proposed budget cuts, but they didn't see the actual budget until three weeks later, on March 31. A month later, board members were told they couldn't compare this year's "same service" budget to next year's "same service" budget because of computer software problems. And the board isn't expected to finalize the budget until June, although layoff notices must be turned in by May 22

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:50 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 29, 2004

California Schools Update - The Economist

The Economist has a look at the state of eduction in California:

In Belmont, a huge high school with 5,500 pupils, security guards at the door, gangs in the classrooms and a 40% graduation rate, it is hard to imagine how children could ever learn anything in such a forbidding place. Yet even the better schools seem overrun. Placencia Elementary School, for instance, is full of smiling pupils, but like many other schools it does not have proper terms; instead, it follows a �year-round� schedule, with the students being rotated through the classrooms (three groups in, one out). But at least the pupils are being taught close to home. Every day, 6,000 children from the Belmont area are bused out to other districts. �Can it be good,� Mr Alonzo asks, �for a five-year-old to be woken up at 6am to travel two hours for a half-day of education?�

District F demonstrates what one leading Democrat calls the �these-are-not-our-children� attitude of white voters. With their own children now either educated privately or safe in smaller suburban districts, they have not stumped up the cash to build the schools needed to educate the new browner-skinned arrivals. As Roy Romer, the head of the LAUSD, points out, the same community found the money to build the sparkling Disney Concert Hall and the Staples conference centre.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:35 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Parent Comments on Strings Program

"The strings program has been very valuable to my son. It has built up his confidence, and the musical performances have really shown him how his hard work pays off. Strings are an asset to his education that benefits him beyond the musical arena."
"Why are we spending time on pennies, when there are much larger issues at play?"

"Curriculum: Lack of any sort of strategic & tactical planning (Rainwater's comment about the potential need for new schools and a 2005 referendum.... - might be so, but how does this fit into any sort of a long-term educational plan and the overall costs for that plan)?"

"How are we going to pay for our plans? I think the property tax has largely run it's course? Low income achievement.....positive opportunity."

"My son is in the 4th grade strings program. Last year he had no interest in playing an instrument at all. After his teacher gave the demonstration class, he came home and handed me the sign up sheet and said "I want to play the cello, fill this out". He has really enjoyed playing this year, he has learned a lot about music and I think it has helped with his self esteem. He is a sports kid and I never thought he would take up an instrument, let alone a string instrument. I was amazed to see what the strings program has done when I attended the Strings Festival and saw the West High Gym filled with 600 kids from all the schools. I saw so many children that I would never have thought would be interested in playing an instrument, looking so proud of themselves. It would be a terrible waste and a great shame to cut money from a program that is reaching so many children who have so little to look forward to."

"I don't have anything profound to say, but something that happened in our house recently is a testimonial to the strings program."

"Our 11 year old son, who started strings in 4th grade recently asked his piano teacher if he could play a viola solo at his piano recital. She said yes, and as a result, he not only prepared his piano pieces, he also learned Vivaldi's "Spring" on viola. For a boy who can't seem to accomplish getting his dirty socks in the hamper, initiating and completing this goal is a big deal:-)"

"The 4th and 5th grade strings programs have meant a great deal to our son and to our family. I believe exposure to this wonderful musical opportunity helps to define our schools as excellent vs. just mediocre. It is especially important to provide this opportunity to the many children that could not possibly find the funds or means for private lessons. I believe musical education can open doors for children, broaden their horizons, touch and spark creativity that can lead to other successes. Musical education has documented positive impact on math skills as well. Trends in education caused by wrongheaded government management along with funding constraints are pushing schools toward rote learning for improved standardized test scores. This can only diminish the overall learning experience for our children and society as a whole. I strongly encourage the board to find a solution that will preserve the elementary strings program."

"Two thoughts leap to mind. First, I want Madison to have excellent public schools, not schools which provide only the barest basics. Music instruction at all levels is part of the excellence Madison should offer. A district without an elementary instrumental program is saying it is not an excellent school system. If Madison wants to declare loud and clear that excellence is not a priority, the schools will quickly get much worse, a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"Second, for my own kids I could live without school strings, because my children get private music instruction from a young age. But for many children, especially for children of poverty whom the district claims it wants to serve, the chance to study a string instrument in school opens the door to a whole cultural world which may otherwise be shut to these children forever, and to a challenge which they can meet individually and learn about their own abilities. That is what school is supposed to be for."

"I expect the girls will want to add some thought. I told them about this issue on the way to school and their responses were on the order of, "That makes me so mad! That is just *idiotic*!" We may have to tone down the language a little. : )"

[ 58K PDF Version]

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Strings Community Action

A. Introduction:
There's no need for community action if the MMSD Administration and BOE state support for the current elementary strings academic curriculum. They don't. When the Board members don't say yes, it means no, given their recent history with this curriculum.

The MMSD Board of Education adopted and approved the elementary strings program as a necessary component of its Music Education Curriculum in the late 1980s. Standards and benchmarks were added in the late 1990s. The BOE has neither discussed nor changed its decisions on this curriculum.

The recent treatment of the elementary strings curriculum is another example of what happens when our BOE is lacking Long Range Plans for curriculum, for funding and for letting the Administration call the shots for kids rather than the BOE.

B. Background:
For the 2 previous MMSD budget cycles, the District Administration has used various approaches to try to eliminate the 4-5th grade strings academic curriculum.

  • Spring 2002 - included elimination of Grade 4 strings on cut list - at least this approach gave parents, teachers and the community notice - opportunity to propose ideas for alternative funding, etc. There was no follow up by the Administration during the 2002-2003 school year.

  • Spring 2003 - after waiting until BOE completed its budget amendments, the District administration proposed a huge fee for families (a fee so large that the BOE would have cut the program rather than charge the fee). The District Administration and the BOE did not use this interim academic year (2003-2004) to engage the community and to seek alternative options or funding by foundations, different fee structure, etc

  • Spring 2004 � There is no Administration proposal to cut the elementary strings curriculum, but Board President Bill Keys has asked the District Administration for the kind of information that would justify elimination of the program.

I directly asked Mr. Keys and all of the other Board members during public appearances at the Board meeting on Monday night, April 26th, whether a cut proposal was coming � I did not get an answer. Based upon the Board�s lack of response, a rally was discussed among parents, teachers and community members. The decision to share the information and to take action on Monday, May 3, 2004 was decided.

C. Concerns/Issues:

  • It was irresponsible and unfair of Mr. Keys to singularly identify this curriculum/activity without applying the same request to all district activities. It is unclear what criteria were used in the analysis the School Board received and if the same criteria have been applied to other activities/curricula. I prepared a critique of the District Administration�s analysis, which was given to the Board on Monday, April 26th.

  • The District Administration said that eliminating this academic curriculum would save 5% of the needed budget cut. What does that mean out of context of educational goals and objectives for the district, etc.?

  • Why doesn�t the district have a comprehensive set of criteria to use for a cost analysis which is applied to ALL programs, curricula and activities? The board does not have an understanding and agreement about what is curriculum, what an extra-curricular activity is and what a co-curricular activity is.

    Upon determining the base-line costs of all activities, then an equitable decision framework can developed as to how and to what degree such activities can/should be funded on an equitable basis across the total list. It�s not okay simply to say sports yes, elementary strings no. Attached is a proposal for equitable funding prepared by Don Severson.

  • It�s not okay to eliminate a valued Board approved academic subject that is in high demand (more than 50% of 4th and 5th graders � about 1900 kids in September) by many students who cannot afford to study privately. Each year the demand from minority and low income students increases.

    Why does the School Board continue to consider cutting an academic curriculum that is part of a Board approved curriculum that has standards and benchmarks in place? Why would the School Board want to dumb down its curriculum two years? (Current 12th graders in strings would have two years fewer of study.) Colleges often look to a student�s sports and music accomplishments in addition to core academics.

  • What are the motivations of board members to identify �lightening rods� of selective programs for parents, teachers, and the public to �fight� against each other to �save� whatever program/activity? Our excellent school system demands that we work together to problem solve the issues facing us.

  • Why isn�t the Administration and the School Board working with the community?
45K PDF Document

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college pressure

This is an article from several years ago. It describes the pressures and attitudes of those seriously college bound students. (I'm not a fan of Brooks as a political commentator, but I think he did his homework on this. It certainly compares to our college sophomore's experience.)

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Thursday, April 29,2004, ABC's Primetime will investigate cheating in high school and college. A summary is available at:

Posted by at 8:45 AM | Comments (322) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 28, 2004

Elementary Strings - Call to Action

Who: Students, Parents, Teachers and Citizens � Elementary Strings Kids Need Your Help!

What: Rally in Support of the Elementary Strings Program � Grades 4 & 5.

When: Monday, May 3, 2004 � Meet at 6:30 p.m. to organize/picket before the 7:15 p.m.regular School Board Meeting and personal appearances. String teachers will organize children who bring their string instruments to play a couple of songs from the spring string festival.

Where: Doyle Building McDaniels Auditorium at 545 W. Dayton Street.

Why: To let the MMSD School Board know that we do not want to see elementary strings added to the cut list this year. No assessment of the cut�s curriculum impact has been made.

On March 21, Board President Bill Keys asked the Administration to prepare an analysisof the cost of the elementary strings program. The Administration�s analysis, which was released only last Thursday, April 22, was very biased, incorrect and unfavorable toward thecurriculum and proposed a $493 fee to cover the full cost of the program � no other activity has a 100% fee! Blatant, inequitable treatment � not fair to kids or Madison!

There is a chance the elementary strings program could be put on the cut list by School Boardmembers, and the May 3rd rally at the auditorium is to let the School Board hear from the public in a loud unison voice - NO.

Time is of the essence. Budget decisions will be made very soon. Here�s the budget timeline:

  • May 3 � Budget workshop before the 7:15 p.m. regular school board meeting. Further review of the proposed 2004-2005 budget.
  • May 5 � Board member amendments to the MMSD Administration budget cut list to be submitted. At this time a School Board member could recommend including elementary strings (4th and 5th grade) on the cut list.
  • May 10 � Board budget workshop to discuss and vote on Board member proposed amendments. Four votes are needed to include/exclude an item from the budget cut list
  • May 13 � Public Hearing on the Budget at 7 p.m. in the McDaniels Auditorium.
  • May 17 � Board budget workshop � determine personnel layoffs.

Come to the rally and let your voice be heard. Tell others. Call Board members. E-mail the Board:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

PDF Version (print/distribute) 40K

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April 27, 2004

Dumbing Down Our Schools

Ruth Mitchell writes:

If you visited these classes and didn't look at the sign over the door of the school, you might think you were in an elementary school, or a middle school at best. But such classes are not atypical in large urban high schools, where, except for the Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes, much of the classroom work is below grade level.

On one trip to a Midwestern city, I found one out of eight assignments at grade level in two high schools. A colleague popped in on about 40 English classes in the course of a day at a West Coast high school and found one -- just one -- class where real learning was going on.

This is the dirty secret in the wars over teacher quality: the low level of academic work at all levels in far too many schools. The consequences of low-level work are seen in poor test results: Students given only work that is below their grade level cannot pass standardized tests about material they have never seen.

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April 25, 2004

Madison Schools Budget Update

Three Madison School District 2004 - 2005 Budget Documents:

  • Summary of the 2004-2005 Budget Process: Discussing cuts before we see a budget: [71K PDF]
  • MMSD Budget Numbers [65K PDF]
  • Proposed Budget with Expenditure Constraints for 2004-2005
    (A Place to Start Budget Discussions) [48K PDF]
  • East High Booster Club March, 2004 Letter to the Board regarding proposed athletic cuts. [59K PDF]

Posted by at 8:03 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Priority Driven Budget

Model Cycle for Priority-Driven Budget

Purpose: Student achievement priorities drive budget allocations.

Administration uses specific, measurable goals to review student achievement inprior year according to district?s ?Strategic Priorities?. For example, it reviews reading, math, social studies, science curriculum for all student groups as well as programs aligned to district standards. Administration should ensure that suggestions for change come from the staff level that will implement the changes. Board committees, such as Performance & Achievement, monitor the review throughout the year.

Opportunities for public, staff input

Administration reviews facility, maintenance and non-instructional departments for prior year seeking efficiencies. Board committees, such as Budget & Finance and Long Range Planning, monitor the review throughout the year.

Opportunities for public, staff input

Before January, Administration recommends curriculum & program changes to improve student achievement. Appropriate committees review recommendations before sending them to full Board.

Opportunities for public, staff input

In January, Administration recommends budget for the next year allocating resources based on its analysis (connection between curriculum and programs and desired student achievement).

Opportunities for public, staff input

Where recommended budget exceeds revenue forecast for coming year, Administration presents funding alternatives including private partnerships or changes in fees.

Opportunities for public, staff input

Administration recommends modifications and cuts necessary to balance budget for coming year.

Opportunities for public, staff input

Board reviews recommendations for modifications and cuts, adopting or revising administrative recommendations.

Board approves budget for coming year. If budget exceeds revenues, Board considers referendum or further cuts.

Model based on recommendations in Team Leadership for Student Achievement, Ellen Henderson et al., National School Boards Association & American Association of School Administrators, 2001.
[40K PDF]

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 6:52 PM | Comments (215) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas