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September 29, 2004

Diary of an Advisory Committee: Long Range Planning Committee Awaits Recommendation for Referendum for New School

On October 11, the administration will recommend to the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board that the district go to referendum on April 5, 2005 seeking funds for construction of a second elementary school building on the grounds of Leopold Elementary School. The new school would house kindergarten through second grade and the current school would convert to third through fifth grade, if this plan succeeds.

The LRP will hold a public hearing on this recommendation on Monday, October 18, at 7 p.m. at Leopold School at 2602 Post Road in Madison.

Over two years ago, the Board changed boundaries at many the west-side elementary schools and constructed Chavez Elementary School in order to ease crowding in the schools. Leopold Elementary School was growing very rapidly at that time and continues to grow, as new housing developments bring new families into the area. Because the new boundaries and Chavez School did not solve overcrowding problems for Leopold, the district "outposted" Leopold's third graders to other schools for two years. It has, however, promised not to resort to "outposting" again, because of the disruption for the families and the host schools.

On October 25, the LRP will vote on the administration's recommendation. If it adopts the administration's recommendation, the full Board of Education will vote on the recommendation for a referendum for construction on the same night.

Even a successful referendum on April 5, 2005 will not solve the overcrowding at Leopold in the near future. A successful April referendum would make it possible to open a second school on Leopold grounds in January, 2007 at the earliest. It is unclear how the district will relieve overcrowding in the interim.

The referendum for a new building is in addition to the $27M referendum for maintenance that the district presented to the LRP in September. The estimated cost for the new building is $11M.

For more information on this issue, go to Starting September 23, the district web site posts the agendas, minutes and all materials reviewed by the LRP by the Friday before the next meeting.

Ruth Robarts,
Member, Madison Board of Education, 1997 to present

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Rigor-Free Research?

Joanne Jacobs writing in Tech Central Station:

Forget the anecdotes and assumptions. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal education dollars are supposed to fund only programs proven effective by "scientifically based research." That's spotlighting a problem: A lot of what passes for education research isn't reliable or rigorous, and many education professors aren't keen on the scientific method.

Education has a "dirty little secret," writes Jeffrey Mervis in the June 11, 2004 Science Magazine:

"No program has yet met that rigorous standard, because none has been scientifically evaluated and shown to be effective. (A related secret is that there's no consensus on the type of evaluation studies that are needed.)"

Bush's Education Department wants controlled studies, like the tests that determine whether a new drug is safe and effective. Is Panacea Z more likely to cure ignorance than Brand X? It would be nice to know before investing millions of dollars. And yet the research often provides no guidance.

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Response to "What's Missing from the 'Strategic Plan' for Madison Schools?"

Ruth Robarts raises very valid issues about the goals of the MMSD.

As we all know, goals are supposed to be measurable and time specific, among other things. Not even the "goals" for academic achievement meet those criteria, let alone the other goals.

Each goal for academic achievement should be written something like this one on reading (with the added italics giving them more specificity) and they might have intermediate goals/steps leading to the final goal:

All students complete 3rd grade reading at grade level or beyond by the end of the school year in 2007;
a. Scores for reading at grade level will increase by a minimum of 5 percentage points a year until all students read at grade level.

Without putting numbers and timelines on the goals, they aren't very useful. For instance, the MMSD can claim that it's closing the achievement gap in reading between white and minority students, but it's closing at a fraction of a percentage point a year. At the current rate, it will take decades before "all students complete 3rd grade reading at grade level or beyond."

Ed Blume

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September 27, 2004

What's Missing from the "Strategic Plan" for Madison Schools?

According to the National School Board Association, a school district's Strategic Plan must include "student performance standards that clearly define what students are supposed to know and be able to do at each grade level". Toward that goal, the Strategic Plan should clearly state the benchmarks for assessing yearly progress in student achievement.

On September 20, the Madison Board of Education revised its Strategic Plan. Conspiciously missing from our Strategic Priorities are benchmarks for most of our priorities.

As revised, our "Strategic Priorities" are defined as "the most critical challenges that face us today".
1. Instructional Excellence
* Improving student achievement
* Offering challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction
2. Student support
* Assuring a safe, respectful and welcoming learning environment
3. Staff Effectiveness
*Recruiting, developing and retaining a highly competent workforce that reflects the diversity of our students
4. Home and Community Partnerships
* Strengthening community and family partnerships and communication
5. Fiscal Responsibility
* Using resources efficiently and strategically

Only the "Instructional Excellence" Priority includes any benchmarks. Under "Board Priorities", the district states:

As part of the evolution of the strategic plan, the Board of Education identified three key elements connected to the plan's 'Instructional Excellence' component as targets for continuous improvement.

1. All students complete 3rd grade reading at grade level or beyond;
2. All students complete Algebra by the end of 9th grade and Geometry by the end of 10th grade;
3. The district-wide attendance rate is at least 94%.

I have strongly supported the achievement of these three benchmarks as one step toward eliminating the achievement gap between white and minority students in our district and will continue to do so. However, I question why our Strategic Plan does not include other specific measures of "Instructional Excellence" and does not provide any benchmarks for the other priorities.

I believe that we are making progress, particularly in the areas of early reading and attendance, because the Board has set measurable goals and the community has come to expect improvements of student performance according to these measures. Why do we not set the same kinds of benchmarks for "a challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction" and for "a safe, respectful and welcoming learning environment", for example?

So far, the Board is not interested in attaching benchmarks to its stated priorities. Instead the adminstration will recommend "critical indicators" for our adoption later this year. An early sample of these "indicators" strongly suggests that they will not be specific and measurable goals. One possibility is that "Fiscal Responsibility" will include "indicators" such as "keeping the district legal".

The September 20 revisions should soon appear on the district's web site. See and

Ruth Robarts
Member, Madison Board of Education, 1997 to present

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School Capacity Figures for Long Range Planning

The MMSD Web site has the materials posted for the September 27, 2004, meeting of the Long Range Planning Committee's consideration of recommending a new school building.

The materials aren't self-explanatory, so maybe someone can help make sense of them.

For instance, the table titled Elementary School Potential Maximum Physical Capacity Worksheet shows 2004-2005 K-5 Enrollment, but it shows more than one enrollment figure for each school. The table shows enrollment at Allis as 501, 549, 513. Do the three figures mean different things? A separate table titled Unofficial Third Friday in September K-5 enrollment shows enrollment at Allis at 452. Sooooooo, how many kids are enrolled at Allis?

These are critical figures to determining whether the MMSD has sufficient capacity or needs a new school. It would be nice to know what they mean.

You can view the materials on the MMSD web site

Ed Blume

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Ready for a $27M Maintenance Referendum?

On September 13, the administration for the Madison Metropolitan School District advised the Long Range Planning Committee of the Board of Education that the district needs $27M for maintenance projects between 2005 and 2010.

A referendum would be necessary to raise this amount, because the administration is seeking a total of $46M for maintenance over the five years. The $27M would be in addition to $19M that the Board will spend on maintenance if it continues to earmark $3.8M from each annual operating budget for maintenance.

At the meeting the LRP and its advisory members reviewed documents summarizing this recommendation. The administration also offered a PowerPoint presentation in support of its recommendation. Here is the administration's presentation for your review: PDF Version

Powerpoint Version

Ruth Robarts
Member, Madison Board of Education, 1997 to present

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Cosby to visit Milwaukee North

Georgia Pabst on Bill Cosby's visit to Milwaukee North on October 20, 2004 (6 to 9p.m.); 1101 W. Center St.

The gathering was announced Friday by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who worked with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators and the Wisconsin Black Media Association to bring about the Cosby appearance.

Barrett said he hoped the discussion would deal with the importance of education and how the community can tackle and develop solutions to educational disparities and other challenges.

Cosby first raised a national storm in May during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring an end to school segregation. He decried the lack of emphasis on education in the black community and challenged parents to greater accountability. Though he earned rebukes from some commentators, others praised him for speaking out.

Debra Dickerson covers Cosby...

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September 26, 2004

India Launches First Education Satellite

New Scientist:

Millions of illiterate people in remote, rural India could soon have access to an education, as a satellite devoted exclusively to long distance learning was launched on Monday. It is the world's first dedicated educational satellite, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

India launched the $20 million, 2-tonne EDUSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal. The satellite is the heaviest ever launched by an Indian-made rocket - the new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which cost $33 million.

About 35% of the country�s billion-plus population are illiterate, a 2001 government census showed. �India will require 10,000 new schools each year and meeting the teaching needs on such a scale [by conventional methods] will be impossible,� Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO, told New Scientist.

To date, India has used both of its multi-purpose INSAT satellites to provide long-distance education information alongside their telecommunications, broadcasting and weather-forecasting functions.

Interesting way to leverage technology. It it works, it will turn out to be cheap..... (and creative!) We need more of this kind of thinking.

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September 25, 2004

Faster is Smarter

Accelerating the best students helps them intellectually and socially, says A Nation Deceived, a new report from the University of Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports:

A new University of Iowa report seeks to debunk myths that accelerated learning for gifted students is unfair, expensive for schools and causes students to be social outcasts, gifted-education experts said Monday.
Time recites the fears about children pushed too fast, but concedes there's evidence many very smart students are very bored.
For the smartest of these kids, those who quickly overpower schoolwork that flummoxes peers, skipping a grade isn't about showing off. Rather, according to a new report from the University of Iowa, it can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out from sheer tedium. "If the work is not challenging for these high-ability kids, they will become invisible," says the lead author of the report, Iowa education professor Nicholas Colangelo. "We will lose them. We already are."

. . . In a 2000 study for Gifted Child Quarterly, Joseph Renzulli and Sunghee Park found that 5% of the 3,520 gifted students they followed dropped out after eighth grade. Astonishingly, that's almost as high as the 5.2% of nongifted kids who dropped out. Untold numbers of other highly intelligent kids stay in school but tune out. "When we ask exceptional children about their main obstacle, they almost always say it's their school," says Jan Davidson, a co-author of the new book Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds. "Their school makes them put in seat time, and they can't learn at their own ability level."

Via Education News.

Via Joanne Jacobs
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September 23, 2004

Smart, knowledgeable, independent thinkers need not apply for East principal

�. . . the loss of Barb Thompson highlights a major Rainwater weaknesses. In filling key administrative jobs, he�s gravitated to loyalists, or looked outside for the district for candidates who will fit comfortably into Team Rainwater.
Smart, knowledgeable internal candidates with deep understanding of Madison and its problems, but who like Thompson are independent thinkers, are passed over.
. . .�She�s a bulldog, but that ain�t bad, � observes the blunt-talking [Milt] McPike [former East High Principal}. �Some people can�t handle that. Do you understand what I�m saying? I was a bulldog for my school, too.� �
Marc Eisen�s opinion piece Isthmus, June 13, 2003

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September 21, 2004

September 20, 2004 MMSD Board of Education Meeting Audio/Video Clips

Barb Schrank collected video & audio clips from last nights Madison School District Board of Education Meeting:

  • Don Hunt: Retired West High School Art Teacher Fine Arts Statement [MP3 1.4MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

  • Barb Schrank Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.6MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

  • Mariel Wozniak Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.9MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

  • Juan Lopez lecture to Ruth Robarts [MP3 2.7MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

  • Athletic Fees Presentation [MP3] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
Lee Sensenbrenner summarized the meeting as well.

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September 20, 2004

Diary of MMSD Fine Arts - District Policy Requires Fine Arts Coordinator

MMSD Board policies require a trained coordinator for filling a vacant position for a number of specialties, including art, music and physical education.

Only last night did the Superintendent inform the Board that he would be sending around a modification to this policy in light of no Fine Arts Coordinator and that this information would be made available to the Board on Tuesday, September 21, 2004. The only change being proposed would be to eliminate the coordinator requirement for music and art. The coordinator requirement will remain for bilingual, ESL, physical education and special education.

The Superintendent's remarks were made following a public appearance by the District's former Fine Arts Coordinator, Mariel Wozniak, who pointed this policy out to the Board. Dr. Wozniak said that if fine arts personnel were being hired without a coordinator, the district administration was in violation of Board policy.


1. The position supervisor(s) must complete a Vacancy Notice and forward it to the Human Resources Department. When a new position is to be filled, the Assistant Superintendent or Superintendent must approve the request to fill the vacant position.
2. When a vacancy occurs the Human Resources Department refers to the appropriate Coordinator names of up to five (5) applicants with the required certification and qualifications from the active applicant pool.

3. The Director of the Human Resources Department or the Director's designee will inform the Coordinator of her/his responsibility, the procedure and timetable to be followed, and the District's Affirmative Action goals.
4. The Coordinator reviews the credentials of the applicants who have been referred by the Human Resources Department and interviews all such applicants. The Coordinator shall develop job-related questions and ask all candidates the same questions. Follow-up questions may be asked.
5. The Coordinator refers up to three (3) candidates to a Principal.
6. The Principal reviews the credentials of the candidates referred by the Coordinator in the Human Resources Department and interviews all such applicants. The Principal shall develop job-related questions and ask all candidates the same questions. Follow-up questions may be asked.
7. The Principal shall consult with the Coordinator relative to the candidates s/he interviewed to fill the vacancy prior to making a recommendation to hire an individual.
8. If the references are to be used in the selection decision by the Principal, then the Principal must contact the references of all the candidate(s) and solicit the same information from such references.
9. The Principal will contact the reference(s) of the successful candidate before the Principal recommends that such candidate be employed by the Board of Education unless the Principal is informed that a successful reference check has already been made.
10. The Principal completes a written recommendation for employment for the applicant s/he selects, and an "unsuccessful candidate" form for each applicant not chosen.

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What's behind the change at East?

As taxpayers and parents, the public should get more than "it was a personnel change." What went wrong? Why? What will be done to prevent a similar disaster for the next principal?

These are legitimate questions Dr. Rainwater and the school board should address.

Ed Blume

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September 19, 2004

Diary of an Advisory Committee: Switch from Maintenance to New Building Issues

On September 13, 2004, The Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board reviewed a recommendation from the MMSD administration that the district spend $46M for school maintenance projects from 2005 through 2010. Because the Board dedicates approximately $3.8M per year for maintenance from the operating budget (%19M over the next five years), the administration's cost estimates amount to recommending referendum for $27M. In 2004-2005 the district will exhaust the $20M provided by the 1999 maintenance referendum. Some projects, however, remain to be done.

Citizen advisors asked many good questions to clarify the recommendation of the administration. The Committee will not, however, act on the administration's recommendation in the next few months.

According to a timeline developed by the MMSD administration, the Board has until January of 2005 to make its decision on a maintenance referendum. Meeting a January deadline would allow time for the Board to place the maintenance referendum on the April 5, 2005 ballot.

The same timeline will not work for a referendum to build an addition at an existing school or to build a new school. The full Board must decide to go to referendum for an addition or new school by early October in order for the district to open the new facilities to students by January of 2007. A decision made after October of 2004 will mean that the new facilities would not open until fall of 2007, at the earliest, assuming that the referendum passes.

Given these timelines, the Long Range Planning Committee will suspend discussions of maintenance in the short run and focus instead on the question whether new construction is needed.

Soon all materials that have been presented to the Long Range Planning Committee, including minutes of meetings since May of 2004, should be available on the MMSD web site at under "Long Range Planning". When I checked tonight, the icon appeared on the site but was not working.

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September 18, 2004

Lower Athletic Ticket Prices - Keep Extracurricular Athletic Budget As Is

What Short-Term Option Would I Suggest for Board Consideration? � I would lower the ticket prices to last year�s prices and include volleyball and swimming. Why - families with low or tight budgets are the ones being disenfranchised, and I believe that the drop in attendance will all but wipe out any potential gains from increased ticket prices. I would also not add any additional funds to the athletics budget and have the District Administration, Athletic Directors, Booster club representatives, parents, kids need to come together to review and to prioritize the extracurricular sports budget.

What Short-Term Option Would I Suggest for Board Consideration? � I would lower the ticket prices to last year�s prices and include volleyball and swimming. Why - families with low or tight budgets are the ones being disenfranchised, and I believe that the drop in attendance will all but wipe out any potential gains from increased ticket prices. I would also not add any additional funds to the athletics budget and have the District Administration, Athletic Directors, Booster club representatives, parents, kids need to come together to review and to prioritize the extracurricular sports budget. My reasons for this recommendation follow:

Extracurricular Sports Budget - The '04-'05 extracurricular sports budget is $2 million including the $210,000 the board transferred from the educational fund to the extracurricular sports budget several weeks ago. The approximate cost/extracurricular sports participant using �03-�04 numbers is $484/participant (not including revenues from fees and ticket sales) and $395/participant net (including the reduced budget expense when fees and ticket sale revenues are included). I expect the numbers for �04-�05 are not that much different. Consider that you spend on academics about $1,000/child on elementary math and $200-250/child on elementary art. Spending more than the current amount/participant on extracurricular sports does not make strategic or fiscal sense.

� What Can the District Spend on Extracurricular Sports? - Board members need to ask how much can the District spend on extracurricular sports. I would suggest that the District cannot spend anymore than you are currently spending and that the additional $210,000 that the board transferred several weeks ago was more than the District could afford to add to extracurricular sports. Board members are saying to the public that the District does not have the money to educate our children � adding money to extracurricular sports before educational priorities does not pass the common sense test. This would seem to imply that academic priorities do not come first, which will be a hard sell to the public when asking for additional operating funds.

Original Revenue Calculation May Actually Not Add Any Revenue � At your Performance and Achievement Committee, public in attendance asked if the administration had included a drop in attendance when they calculated revenue increases from increased ticket prices. The administration said they had not included a drop in attendance. A 10% drop in attendance would reduce revenues about $24,000. A 30% drop in attendance would reduce revenues $80,000. In sum, you may have no increase in revenue from increased prices if the result of the increased prices is to lower attendance, but there will be disenfranchised parents and bad feelings.

No Transfer of Educational Contingency Funds to Extracurricular Sports Budget � I do not support the transfer of any educational contingency funds to extracurricular activities without a full public strategic budget discussion by the Board. In the �04-�05 school budget, nearly $10 million was cut from the budget. Educational impacts need to be discussed before transferring funds to extracurricular activities.

Equity � I do not support transfers to extracurricular sports activities alone. If there are any increases in the extracurricular activities, the Board needs first to look across all extracurricular activities. For example, there are no funds or staff time for this fall�s West High Performance � needed funds for this are $11,000. How can the MMSD School Board justify adding more than $300,000 to the extracurricular sports budget and not $11,000 for the high school performance? This simply does not pass the common sense test.

Download file

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Call to Action for Teachers & Arts Advocates

I�ve just learned about the agenda for the Monday, September 20th School Board meeting that includes a proposal to transfer additional funds to the athletic afterschool budget from the educational contingency fund.

On Monday night, September 20th the School Board will be holding a special Board meeting. There will be public appearances. I think the art and music teachers (arts professionals in general) need to either e-mail board members prior to Monday or be at this meeting demanding a fine arts coordinator to help them with administrative and educational issues. I would suggest that the fine arts teachers send copies of all e-mail questions that you are asking about where you are working, how to transfer supplies, scheduling be copied to the school board.

I�m sure that Mary Gilbrandsen, Mary Ramburg and the HR department are doing their best, but they are simply inadequate resources for 130+ personnel working in 47 schools with increased class sizes and increased number of sections. Art has mistakenly said that Mary G. has done the allocations for the arts. In fact the senior administrators have determined the allocation amount, but finding the personnel for those allocations and working with the principals on scheduling was a major function of the Fine Arts Coordinator at the beginning of the year.

The reason this coming Monday is critical is because the Board will be considering a second request from the District Administration to add possibly up to $100,000+ into the extracurricular sports budget � see more information below.

Last Monday night, Laura Beale and Don Hunt spoke to the board, advocating for replacement of the Fine Arts Coordinator, (FAC). The Board did not respond to their requests for help, telling them they had no money. Board members said this to these two speakers after transferring $200,000 to the athletic budget from the educational contingency fund two weeks earlier. Further, Board members were not happy that people were pitting the arts against athletics. In my opinion, Board members are creating the division � not the public.

Board members did not tell these speakers that they could have made the requirement that the athletic director positions need to follow the union contract, but those working with the sports budget would need to work that out with existing funds, working with parents and coaches on this issue. That�s because Board members were not given this option nor did they ask for this option from the Administration.

Instead, a majority of the board voted to transfer educational funds to extracurricular activities � and only extracurricular sports activities, not the performance budget at West High School, for example.

To make a decision that did not transfer funds, the Board would have had to have a strategic discussion, which they did not.

What�s on the Board�s agenda

Agenda Item 4 - 2004-2005 adjustments to the budget relative to the price that has to be paid to be admitted into a MMSD interscholastic athletic event.

The board received a memo from Roger Price detailing two options to lower the ticket prices for athletic events, saying the additional cost is $80 - 100,000+. Roger�s options propose that the additional funds needed to cover the cost of the two options be transferred from the education contingency fund to the extracurricular sports budget. That would amount to nearly $300,000 added back to the sports budget in about 3 weeks, which would result in a total extracurricular athletic budget greater than $2 million for the �04-�05 school year.

When proposals such as these are made, the Board continually ignores the big strategic picture. Board members need first to review what cuts were made in June � which were in the classroom or affected delivery of educational services to children. Also, the board ought to review what proposed amendments to the budget have been made since June and what the outcomes of those changes to the budget were. All of these discussions need to take place in the context of the district�s overall educational priorities with consideration of equity and fairness to teachers and to students.

There are simply no procedures in place in the administration for changes to academic curricula that minimizes the impact on teachers and on students. Teachers are not engaged in a process; the community is certainly not asked nor included in discussions and decisions in any meaningful way. The result is bad decisions and more pain than necessary in the development and implementation of the MMSD budget. The results for the fine arts in the district is a continued deterioration of an excellent curricula that was once run extremely efficiently.

Action Needed Monday Night

I would recommend that the fine arts teachers need continually to e-mail the board about the additional burden to their workload is placing on them, the deterioration in their curriculum, the impact on the low income children, the increased inefficiencies they are experiencing.

I hope Don Hunt and Laura Beale will speak to the Board on Monday, again. Last week they were telling him they had no money for the FAC!!!!!!!

I strongly caution against comparing sports and the arts, which is not the issue - the Board is trying to pin that on folks, mentioning this to Don Hunt last week after he spoke. Teachers need to advocate for what they need to do their jobs and to show the negative impact and increased inefficiencies on their academic work, which results in lower academic standards for children. Every other academic subject has administrative and/or educational support from a person experienced in the field. The arts need this as well. There is no good reason for eliminating this support, but keeping this support for all other academic areas.

I will be speaking on Monday night regarding the failure of the School Board and the Administration to reinstate the FAC and that their decision to cut this position last spring has added inefficiencies to formerly efficient academic curricula. I believe the FAC helped keep the cost per child low by providing needed educational and logistics assistance to teachers who are often the only professional in their field in a school and are almost always in more than one school � up to 5 schools last year for one teacher.

The cost per participant in the arts is about $200-250 overall. For comparison nearly $1,000 per child is spent on math in elementary school and nearly $2,000 per child on language arts. Nearly $400 per participant is spent on extracurricular sports.

I will also address costs in my public appearance, emphasizing the costs of the inefficiencies the district is incurring, the lower quality of service to children, especially low income children who do not have options that children from families with money might have. I will offer some different options for the Board to consider rather than increasing the budget once again for extracurricular sports, including:

  • What cuts were made last June � what�s been changed since then. What�s been proposed to be added in/what has been added back into the budget and where did the money come from?

  • Lower ticket prices with no further increases to the athletic budget � MMSD administration needs to sit down with coaches, parents, etc. to go over the budget. As a group decide where to make changes so that ticket prices can be lowered. This should have been done when the additional athletic directors were discussed � prioritize. Even better, these discussions need to begin now for next year.
Lastly, I am working on a table of what the FAC does � I have the basic information, so I hope to get this done. I�m also working on information that shows the degradation of the Fine Arts curriculum over the past 5-6 years. It�s shameful, because the fine arts have been targeted disproportionately to other areas in the budget.

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Principal Removed at East

"Madison East High School Principal Catherine Tillman has been relieved of her duties and reassigned to a central office position for the remainder of the school year."

Like Tillman the newly named interim principal at East was transferred to an administrative position after serving a couple of reportedly unsuccessful years at West.

Is the change just going from one failed principal to another?

Read the story in the Wisconsin State.

Ed Blume

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123 State Schools Fall Short of No Child Left Behind Standards

Jamall Abdul-Alim:

The number of Wisconsin schools and districts that failed to make enough progress to satisfy federal law rose, according to statistics released Friday, prompting renewed concern over whether schools can meet the increasingly tough standards of the "No Child Left Behind" era.

According to state Department of Public Instruction figures, 123 schools were on the list of schools that failed to make "adequate yearly progress" - a 12.7% increase over last year.

Wisconsin DPI Report DPI Press Release (151K PDF)

Doug Erickson also covered this DPI news release.

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September 17, 2004

Who Runs the Madison Schools?

Understanding Superintendent Art Rainwater�s employment contract with the Madison Metropolitan School Board goes a long way toward answering a common question: �Who runs the Madison schools?�

Answer: Superintendent-for-Life Rainwater runs the Madison schools.

In January of 1999 the Board promoted Art Rainwater from Acting Superintendent to Superintendent. Voting for the contract were Carol Carstensen, Calvin Williams, Deborah Lawson, Joanne Elder and Juan Lopez. Ray Allen and I voted no.

The contract includes terms that significantly limit the Board�s ability to hold the superintendent accountable or direct his work.

First, the contract is open-ended. Most contracts for superintendents must be renewed every two or three years. The renewal requirement forces Boards of Education to evaluate the superintendent regularly. It also provides an opportunity to change superintendents at the end of a contract period without having to fire them.

However, the MMSD contract with Mr. Rainwater does not need renewal. Unless the Board acts to terminate the contract, the employment of the superintendent continues from year to year. Inertia is definitely on the side of the superintendent.

Second, the resignation of the superintendent will cost the district $250,000. Under the contract, if the majority of the Board votes to ask for the superintendent�s resignation, he must resign. In exchange, the Board owes him a quarter of a million dollars as a �golden parachute�.

Third, discharging the superintendent �for cause� also has costs. If the Board tries to discharge the superintendent for poor performance or disciplinary reasons, it must use the full adversarial hearing process and risk paying his attorney�s fees. If the case settles, instead of going to hearing, the district pays the superintendent�s legal costs. Such cases usually settle because hearings on a superintendent�s conduct are extremely disruptive for the district. Payment of attorney�s fees might be only part of a negotiated agreement to settle a discharge case.

Fourth, the contract automatically grants a 4-7% annual wage and benefits increase to the superintendent. There is no connection between performance evaluations and the annual increases. There is no requirement that the Board have the ability to pay a 4-7% increase. The contract contains a formula that automatically grants Mr. Rainwater between 4-7% increases each. No other employee in the district can depend on such increases.

Furthermore, the Board does not use its contractual power to evaluate the superintendent to hold the superintendent accountable for results, such as improved student achievement.

Under the contract, the Board must meet with Mr. Rainwater "on or before the 1st day of each school year" to establish his performance expectations. It must, "to the extent possible", use measurable outcomes to assess his performance. The contract states: "Each year, the Superintendent shall be evaluated on the specific results and accomplishments of the goals established by his performance expectations".

More than five years have passed since Mr. Rainwater became superintendent of MMSD. According to the Human Resources Department, the Board has completed only one formal evaluation. The evaluation occurred in 2002. At that time, Bill Keys was President of the Board and Ray Allen chaired the Board�s Human Resource Committee that conducted the evaluation.

No evaluations were completed in 2000, 2001, 2003 or 2004. Presidents and Human Resource chairs during those years were: 2000 and 2001 (Calvin Williams, President, and Bill Keys, Chair of Human Resources Committee); 2002 and 2003 (Bill Keys, President, and Ray Allen, Chair of Human Resources); and 2004 (Bill Keys, President, and Bill Clingan, Chair of Human Resources).

Ruth Robarts, Member
Madison Board of Education, 1997 - present

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 8:10 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Dr. Paul Yvarra's Dinner Presentation: 9.23.2004 @ La Hacienda

Rafael Gomez sent me an email regarding Dr. Paul Yvarra's dinner presentation at La Hacienda [map] next Thursday evening [9.23.2004 @ 6:00p.m.]. Yvarra is evidently planning to run for State Superintendant of DPI:

He is currently a professor in the deparment of school administration at Whitewater Univ. He is an ex-school board member at Whitewater school dist. And, he has been active on teacher training. He is running for school choice.

With this said, a dinner presentation is scheduled at La Hacienda from 6p.m to 7:30p.m. Sept. 23. There is a $10.00 donation. Please contact me at 277 83 42 if you have an interest to attend. Thank you for your attention to my note. Rafael Gomez

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September 16, 2004

Academic Ranking of World Universities - 2004

Fascinating look at the top 500 World Universities, from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University's perspective (the UW, my alma matter is #18). Criteria and weights are based on:

We rank universities by several indicators of academic or research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, articles published in Nature and Science, articles in Science Citation Index-expanded and Social Science Citation Index, and academic performance with respect to the size of an institution.

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September 10, 2004

Isthmus reports on East High School baseball coach

A story in this week's Isthmus reports on the "inexcusable" conduct of East High School's baseball coach and parents' complaints about him.

You can read the story and parents' letters of complaint at the Document Feed of The Daily Page.

Posted by Ed Blume at 11:27 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

September 8, 2004

Literacy & Economic Growth

Statistics Canada & The Economist:

TO WHAT extent is economic growth driven by the acquisition of �human capital�? Many economists have pursued the answer over the past 20 years, but without great success. Despite building and rebuilding elaborate growth models, they have failed to prove that better education and training significantly raises a country's long-term growth. Recently, though, a Canadian team made a breakthrough. It found that, if you measure actual skills rather than educational qualifications, human capital becomes a strong predictor of economic growth.

The team identified a clear and significant association between investments in human capital in each period and a country's subsequent growth and labour productivity. Specifically, a rise of 1% in literacy scores relative to the international average is associated with an eventual 2.5% relative rise in labour productivity and a 1.5% rise in GDP per head.

These are much clearer effects than those found in previous studies. In the three countries in the study where human capital improved the fastest between the older and the younger generations (Belgium, Finland and Italy), growth in output per worker rose much faster than average between 1960 and 1995, while in those with least improvement in skills (New Zealand, Sweden and the United States), growth was slower.

Statistics Canada: International Adult Literacy Survey: 656K PDF

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Long Range Planning Committee Advisory Members

On August 30, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board met with its advisory members for the first time. Advisory members in attendance were Dawn Crim, Joan Eggert, Jill Jokela, Lucy Mathiak, Pat Mooney, and Jan Sternbach. Teresa Tellez-Giron (nominated by Board member Juan Lopez) withdrew before our initial meeting. LRP Committee members Carol Carstensen and Johnny Winston Jr. were present as were several other Board members.

The advisory members introduced themselves and asked questions about their role and the work of the committee. Unfortunately, the MMSD staff had not been able to get written materials to all of the citizen members. Lack of common materials limited our discussion.

We briefly discussed the role of the citizen advisors. In June the Board of Education unanimously approved a two-part strategy for seeking advice from the public. The motion read, in part:

The Long Range Planning Committee recognizes the importance of public participation in its review of demographic issues, long range facility planning, strategic planning and referendum issues. Therefore, the committee will seek advice and comment at public hearings at appropriate times during 2004-2005.

In addition, the Board will select up to nine members of the public to serve on an ad hoc advisory committee for the year. The members of the advisory committee shall not have voting rights on LRP, but will be asked for their input and recommendations at all meetings of LRP. Their terms will run from appointment until reappointment of the LRP Committee in 2005.

On September 13, the LRP will review a report from Doug Pearson, Director of Building Services, regarding maintenance projects that will not be completed before the 5-year maintenance referendum ends at the finish of the 2004-05 school year. Pearson will also report on projected maintenance needs over the next five years. According to a recent story in the Wisconsin State Journal, the administration will identify $37M in maintenance needs. Following LRP's commitment to hold an informational meeting on the second Monday of each month and a decisional meeting on the fourth Monday of the month, the September 13 meeting will be for information and questions only. The Committee will not take action on the report.

In preparation for the meeting, I am working with Mary Gulbrandsen, administrative staff for the committee, to provide all information regarding the LRP through the MMSD web site, so that access is easy for the advisory members, parents and other interested community members. I hope that the web site will soon offer our minutes and all materials presented for the committee's review.

After we consider maintenance issues, we will move on to issues related to the need additions to buildings, new buildings or boundary changes that would relieve overcrowding in some of our schools. During these discussions, I will ask the committee to schedule some public hearings.

In the meantime, President Bill Keys and I will soon recommend Jeff Leverich as a replacement for Teresa Tellez-Giron. Jeff was a strong supporter of the June 2003 referendum and is a nominee of Carol Carstensen.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 3:54 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

September 7, 2004

Good Homes, Good Students

William Raspberry:

My hope is that by the time the children of our Baby Steps parents emerge from the preschool pipeline into regular classes, the difference will be plain to see.

I don't exempt either the school system or the larger community from its responsibility to help the town's children grow up smart and successful -- and, indeed, both the system and the community have come together in support of Baby Steps in its first year.

But I am convinced that all the other things we do will have limited impact unless we also undertake to enhance the competence of our children's first and most effective teachers: their parents.

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September 6, 2004

MMSD Administrative Costs & Staffing Levels - ACE White Paper

Don Severson: Active Citizen's for Education White Paper [212K PDF]:

MMSD has one of the highest per pupil costs of any school district in the state. MMSD administration proposed a FY 2004-05 budget with a $10 million shortfall in revenues to deliver the same services as that which was delivered in the 2003-04 budget year. This white paper compares MMSD administration costs, staffing levels and per pupil costs with peer school districts at Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha andRacine.

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Retention Rates & Comparative Performance - ACE White Paper

Don Severson: Active Citizens for Education's Retention Rate White Paper: [64K PDF]

The Madison Metropolitan School District has one of the highest costs per pupil of any school district in the state ($12,500, 2004-05). Madison District officials state that the high cost per student is needed in order to achieve success in many of the important academic areas. This paper compares retention rates of the Madison School District, (the number of pupils who were not passed to the next grade level) with fourother districts: Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. Retention occurs when a student has not made progress in a prescribed course of study. A pupil is consideredretained if:
  • a pupil needs an additional year to complete a prescribed program
  • a pupil in grades kindergarten through eight must repeat a grade
  • a pupil in high school (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior years) does nothave enough credits equal to or more than one-seventh of the district�s high school requirement
This 40K PDF compares the Madison School District with Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:39 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

ACE Fund 80 White Paper

Don Severson forwarded the most recent Active Citizens for Education White Paper on the MMSD's Community Service Fund (Fund 80) [64K PDF]:

The Community Service Fund is used as an administrative and accountingmechanism for activities such as adult education; community recreation programs, such as evening swimming pool operation and softball leagues; elderly food service programs,non-special education preschool; day care services; and other programs which are not elementary or secondary educational programs but have the primary function of servingthe community. Expenditures for these activities, including cost allocations for salaries, benefits, travel, purchased services, etc. are to be paid from this Fund to the extentfeasible. The district may adopt a separate tax levy for the Fund. Building use fees charged for utilities and other operational costs must be charged in the General Fund if nocost allocation was made for these to the Community Service Fund.

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September 3, 2004

Fighting College Cheating

Lawrence Hinman:

Recent studies have shown that a steadily growing number of students cheat or plagiarize in college -- and the data from high schools suggest that this number will continue to rise. A study by Don McCabe of Rutgers University showed that 74 percent of high school students admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on tests. Even more disturbing is the way that many students define cheating and plagiarism. For example, they believe that cutting and pasting a few sentences from various Web sources without attribution is not plagiarism.

Before the Web, students certainly plagiarized -- but they had to plan ahead to do so. Fraternities and sororities often had files of term papers, and some high-tech term-paper firms could fax papers to students. Overall, however, plagiarism required forethought.

I wish the article had gone further and mentioned that taken to its extreme, cheating manifests in leaders who will lie and lie and lie, and media who will let them get away with it, while our country suffers the consequences...

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September 2, 2004

Seven Years of 3rd Grade Reading Scores

The table shows 3rd grade reading scores for all Madison elementary schools for the last seven years.
Download file

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September 1, 2004

MAFAAC Information

Barb Golden forwarded some information on the Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Council:

MAFAAC: Closing the achievement gap through information, advocacy & support.
[67K PDF Press Release]

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