Treena Shapiro discusses concerns raised over school privacy notices:
Sybil Arum's eighth-grade granddaughter came home this week worried that she was on the verge of being drafted by the military and sent off to war.There's more to this than just information for recruiters. DPI has information on this issue here (parents can opt out. This page describes that process). MMSD's policy 4157 apparently describes the district's data privacy processes. Send me comments/questions on this: zellmer at mailbag dot com.
The reason for her fear was the Department of Education's annual privacy notice, which says contact information for secondary students as young as sixth-graders may be released to military recruiters unless the student, parent or legal guardian requests otherwise.
Arum, who is the child's guardian, quickly determined that her granddaughter was not being shipped off to Iraq, but became alarmed anyway.
"I'm very upset with the age level that this policy encompasses," she said.
DOE and U.S. Department of Defense officials, however, stress that the military is only interested in students who are 17 and older and will not be following up with students as young as sixth-graders.
"We don't just automatically release (the information to recruiters); it would have to be on request," said DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen. "Recruiters have told us that their interest is in juniors and seniors."
Ruth Robarts wrote:
Thanks to Jason Shepard for highlighting comments of UW Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg at the Dec. 13 Madison School Board meeting in his article, Not all good news on reading. Dr. Seidenberg asked important questions following the administrations presentation on the reading program. One question was whether the district should measure the effectiveness of its reading program by the percentages of third-graders scoring at proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT). He suggested that the scores may be improving because the tests arent that rigorous.
I have reflected on his comment and decided that he is correct.
Using success on the WRCT as our measurement of student achievement likely overstates the reading skills of our students. The WRCT---like the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) given in major subject areas in fourth, eighth and tenth grades--- measures student performance against standards developed in Wisconsin. The more teaching in Wisconsin schools aims at success on the WRCT or WKCE, the more likely it is that student scores will improve. If the tests provide an accurate, objective assessment of reading skills, then rising percentages of students who score at the proficient and advanced levels would mean that more children are reaching desirable reading competence.
However, there are reasons to doubt that high percentages of students scoring at these levels on the WRCT mean that high percentages of students are very proficient readers. High scores on Wisconsin tests do not correlate with high scores on the more rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
In 2003, 80% of Wisconsin fourth graders scored proficient or advanced on the WCKE in reading. However, in the same year only 33% of Wisconsin fourth graders reached the proficient or advanced level in reading on the NAEP. Because the performance of Madison students on the WCKE reading tests mirrors the performance of students statewide, it is reasonable to conclude that many of Madisons proficient and advanced readers would also score much lower on the NAEP. For more information about the gap between scores on the WKCE and the NAEP in reading and math, see EdWatch Online 2004 State Summary Reports at www.edtrust.org.
Next year the federal No Child Left Behind Act replaces the Wisconsin subject area tests with national tests. In view of this change and questions about the value of WRCT scores, its time for the Board of Education to review its benchmarks for progress on its goal of all third-graders reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Member, Madison Board of Education
Using success on the WRCT as our measurement of student achievement likely overstates the reading skills of our students. The WRCT---like the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) given in major subject areas in fourth, eighth and tenth grades--- measures student performance against standards developed in Wisconsin. The more teaching in Wisconsin schools aims at success on the WRCT or WKCE, the more likely it is that student scores will improve. If the tests provide an accurate, objective assessment of reading skills, then rising percentages of students who score at the �proficient� and �advanced� levels would mean that more children are reaching desirable reading competence.
However, there are reasons to doubt that high percentages of students scoring at these levels on the WRCT mean that high percentages of students are very proficient readers. High scores on Wisconsin tests do not correlate with high scores on the more rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
In 2003, 80% of Wisconsin fourth graders scored �proficient� or �advanced� on the WCKE in reading. However, in the same year only 33% of Wisconsin fourth graders reached the �proficient� or �advanced� level in reading on the NAEP. Because the performance of Madison students on the WCKE reading tests mirrors the performance of students statewide, it is reasonable to conclude that many of Madison�s �proficient� and �advanced� readers would also score much lower on the NAEP. For more information about the gap between scores on the WKCE and the NAEP in reading and math, see EdWatch Online 2004 State Summary Reports at www.edtrust.org.
Next year the federal No Child Left Behind Act replaces the Wisconsin subject area tests with national tests. In view of this change and questions about the value of WRCT scores, it�s time for the Board of Education to review its benchmarks for progress on its goal of all third-graders reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Member, Madison Board of Education
Barb Williams wrote:
I'm glad Jason Shepard questions MMSD's public display of self-congratulation over third grade reading test scores. It isn't that MMSD ought not be proud of progress made as measured by fewer African American students testing at the basic and minimal levels. But there is still a sigificant gap between white students and students of color--a fact easily lost in the headlines. Balanced Literacy, the district's preferred approach to reading instruction, works well for most kids. Yet there are kids who would do a lot better in a program that emphasizes explicit phonics instruction, like the one offered at Lapham and in some special education classrooms. Kids (arguably too many) are referred to special education because they have not learned to read with balanced literacy and are not lucky enough to land in the extraordinarily expensive Reading Recovery program that serves a very small number of students in one-on-on instruction. (I have witnessed Reading Recovery teachers reject children from their program because they would not receive the necessary support from home.)
Though the scripted lessons typical of most direct instruction programs are offensive to many teachers (and is one reason given that the district rejected the Reading First grant) the irony is that an elementary science program (Foss) that the district is now pushing is also scripted as is Reading Recovery and Everyday Math, all elementary curricula blessed by the district.Barb Williams is a Third Grade Teacher at Thoreau Elementary.
I wonder if we might close the achievement gap further if teachers in the district were encouraged to use an approach to reading that emphasizes explicit and systematic phonics instruction for those kids who need it. Maybe we'd have fewer kids in special education and more children of color scoring in the proficient and advanced levels of the third grade reading test.
Why didn't MMSD qualify for Reading First dollars? NYC was awarded a Reading First grant of $111.4 million over three years for 49 public and 35 non-public schools. NYC offers Balanced Literacy to its school children. Madison offers Balanced Literacy. Why wasn't the Reading First program able to become part of Madison's Balanced Literacy?
Part of the reason may lie in the NYC approach to seeking the grant money. NYC formed a committee of teaching professionals, union representatives, experts and parents to review the grant requirements and to determine what program would work with their comprehensive approach to literacy.
NYC succeeded in being able to incorporate Reading First, which is dollars targeted to literacy for low income children. Madison citizens need to know more about what process MMSD used and more specifics about what were the barriers to MMSD receiving Reading First dollars?
I'm puzzled. The MMSD School Board's Long Range Planning Committee and Community Advisory Committee have spent the fall discussing plans to build a new school on the grounds of the existing Leopold Elementary School and $26+ million maintenance referenda. But, what's the School Board been considering?
A new school and a new five year maintenance referendum are being given careful public consideration and discussion. But, there's been no discussion of the overall budget of which these two items are only two parts.
What about the rest of the $350 million school budget and its priorities? When will this be discussed? If you look at the present proposed timeline for development of the 2005-2006 budget, cuts won't be presented until March, at the earlies. Cuts are not a discussion of the budget.
Why haven't discussions been taking place about what the needs are for instruction and instructional support and what the budget costs of these needs will be for 2005-2006? What education for our children do we envision the next 3-5 years? What are ways to get to those goals?
We've heard about curriculum development, but have not seen dollars and effectiveness of those dollars being given much discussion publicly?
When did the School Board decide to discuss building an maintenance referendum, but decide to wait until March to consider the rest?
What plans are underway to maintain curriculum the community values and children/parents want? What new partnerships are being explored by the Partnerships Committee?
Debt buydown to pay for maintenance? Where's the discussion about using the debt buydown to pay for instruction and instructional support? When will the School Board have these discussions?
Let's consider the buildings and their maintenance, but let's keep the big picture in mind and present. Any addition to the budget needs to be weighed against the district's overall priorities, and there needs to be more public discussion and problem solving - soon, very soon.
In a recent editorial The Capital Times praised Supt. Rainwater's announcement of a hiring slowdown that is intended to maintain educational quality while saving money. Teaching positions will be filled, but non-teaching positions will only be filled if there is a clear necessity for them. The District expects to save $600,000 by holding open as many as 40 positions.
Sandy Cullen, Wi State Journal reported December 11, 2004 that "The Madison School District put the brakes on filling job openings Friday in anticipation of a potential $1 million shortfall in its utilities budget due to price increases."
Sandy Cullen, Wisconsin State Journal reporter, wrote a story in early December about a shortage of string instruments at Leopold Elementary School. It seems that newly hired MMSD strings teacher, Pat Kukes, has more students than violins for his elementary string students. He's hoping donations will be made to the school so that children will have instruments to practice and so that all students can play together in a concert.
Most of the students in the elementary strings program are low income, so renting an instrument privately is not an option.
Given this and the probability of three spending referendums this spring, I would like to see the Madison School District's finance folks publish the following information (in html, on their web site):
The District's sources and uses of funds over the past 10 years, including:This type of detailed, background information would be rather useful to all Madison citizens as we contemplate further increases in education spending. There's been some discussion of eliminating the deduction for state & local taxes for federal tax purposes. IF that happens, there will be quite a blowback from places like Wisconsin that have relatively high taxes.
- total spending (education, special ed, services, staff/admin, other)
- Employment numbers (teachers, staff, part time, mscr)
- revenues (by source: grants, local taxes, state & federal funds), fees
- Student counts, including low income changes, special ed and population changes across the district (from school to school)
- Supporting numbers, notes and comments to the data.
Several recent articles highlight the ongoing problem of state & local taxes growing faster than Wisconsin personal income:
"My options are to work until I'm 75 or 80 or sell my home and move south like three of my friends have," she said.) Via Patrick Marley & Steven Walters.
TALKING OUT OF SCHOOL / Jason Shepard / Isthmus, December 16, 2004
Not all good news on reading
Writing in the Isthmus weekly newspaper out on Thursday, December 16, 2004, Jason Shepard notes, "One reality touts the district [MMSD] as superior to any other known district in the country at nearly eliminating the gap among the lowest performing readers in the third grade. The other reality shows that minority third graders continue to lag far behind whites at higher levels. While nearly 94% of white third graders read at or above grade level this year, only 66% of black students do."
The Wisconsin Education Association Council and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators annual survey of school administrators uncovered a new trend in the 2003-2004 school year: districts are being forced to cut academic programs because of state-imposed revenue controls. Revenue controls severely limit the funds school districts can raise and spend.
Wisconsin State Journal
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
East Parents Lack Faith In Principal Hiring
by Sandy Cullen
Parents of East High School students say they lack confidence that the School District will hire a principal who can successfully lead what one described as a school "under siege."
About 50 people attended a meeting at the high school Tuesday with Assistant Superintendent Valencia Douglas to discuss the process for hiring a successor to Catherine Tillman.
"We all know what a successful candidate is," parent Lenny Alston told Douglas. "We want to make sure you guys know."
Soon after the start of the school year, Tillman was abruptly reassigned to an administrative position. She recently reached a settlement with the district, and her resignation becomes effective March 31.
Alston was one of several parents who said they had no confidence in the selection process that resulted in Tillman's hiring in September 2002. The district hasn't disclosed the reason for reassigning Tillman, but some parents were concerned early on that she lacked experience to lead the school's diverse population of 2,100 students, 40 percent minorities.
"I can't get over the fact that this place is under siege. We've got problems over here galore," said Alston, a parent of two East graduates and one freshman. "It isn't just a black problem, and it isn't just a race problem ... You guys aren't listening to us, that's the problem."
Other parents wanted to know what would be different from the last time. "It just has to be done right," said parent Pam Cross-Leone. "We cannot afford to fail this time."
Parents advocated for more input earlier in the selection process, before the search is narrowed to eight candidates who are interviewed by a 12-person committee of parents, students, teachers and other high school principals. That group selects three finalists to be interviewed by Douglas and other administrators.
Douglas said the process has resulted in the hiring of many successful principals. She agreed there are problems at the school and pledged that "there will be a very, very good pool of candidates."
American-American students fare badly in Reading Recovery. Only 43% successfully discontinue, compared to 49% for Asian students, 56% for Hispanic students, and 57% for white students.
According to one of the district�s report on Reading Recovery (p. 14), �Discontinued Reading Recovery students [that is, students who �graduate�] outperform the comparison group by 1.2 text reading levels while all other Reading Recovery students score almost 4 text reading levels less than their comparison group.�
In other words, for every 43 discontinued African-American Reading Recovery students who advance 1.2 text reading levels, 57 fall behind by 4 text reading levels relative to their comparison group. The net impact of Reading Recovery reduces overall reading success for the African-American students in the district.
Mary Watson Peterson, MMSD Reading Coordinator, presented the theory behind the design and development of MMSD's Balanced Literacy Program. Her professional presentation noted the significant progress in reading that the District has been reporting publicly during the past month.
Ms. Peterson mentioned that several teachers are trained in Direct Instruction and that some teachers use this method. However, no information was presented on the results using this approach as a core curriculum or as an intervention method.
Jay Mathews, Washington Post staff writer, wrote an article in the December 14, 2004 Washington Post (Mining Scores for Nuances in Improvement) about using value-added assessments, which "...use test scores to compare each child's progress to predictions based on past performance..." Not everyone is pleased with value-added assessments. "Value-added assessment has also become a political irritant because some school boards and superintendents want to pay teachers based on how much value they are adding, as measured by individual student test scores, for students in their classes. In Ohio and most other states, the system is being used only to diagnose student needs, leaving the question of teacher pay for later." Value-added assessments, which can be done by principals or teachers, is one approach that attempts to bring analysis of student data closer to the school/teacher.
U.W. psychologist, Mark Seidenberg, wrote an editorial in Sunday's (12/12/04) edition of the Wisconsin State Journal critical of the way that the district is presenting its reading data. He also points out that although Superintendent Rainwater would like the public to believe "that accepting the Reading First funds would have required him to "eliminate" the district's current reading curriculum - the one used throughout the district. ... The acceptance of Reading First funding has no bearing on the curriculum used in other schools."
Madison schools distort reading data
Mark S. Seidenberg
As a taxpayer who believes in the importance of reading, I'm having trouble understanding why Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater turned down $2 million that was supposed to be used to help educationally disadvantaged children in five Madison schools.
The superintendent and Assistant Superintendent Jane Belmore have offered explanations that don't wash. The district accepted funds for the first year of a five- year award under the federal government's Reading First program. After the first year, the program was assessed by an educational consultant hired to evaluate how the funds were being used. The evaluator found that reading programs in the target schools were not adequately documented. She asked for information about "scope and sequence" (educationese for "what will be taught when") and daily instructional activities. The school district in its wisdom decided that rather than comply with these conditions it would give back the money. Why?
Rainwater's explanation of this precipitous decision - echoed in published comments by Belmore and school board member Carol Carstensen - is that accepting the Reading First funds would have required him to "eliminate" the district's current reading curriculum - the one used throughout the district.
These assertions are unequivocally false. The acceptance of Reading First funding has no bearing on the curriculum used in other schools. The evaluator clearly requested changes in the Reading First program at the five schools, not the district as a whole. If the school district administrators were confused about this, they could have requested clarification. If they felt the conditions were unreasonable, they could have appealed.
Rainwater's explanation also emphasized the fact that 80 percent of Madison children score at or above grade level. But the funds were targeted for students who do not score at these levels. Current practices are clearly not working for these children, and the Reading First funds would have supported activities designed to help them.
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.
Belmore's attitude is that the current program is working at these schools and that the percentage of advanced/proficient readers will eventually reach the districtwide success level. But what happens to the children who have reading problems now? The school district seems to be writing them off.
So why did the school district give the money back? Belmore provided a clue when she said that continuing to take part in the program would mean incrementally ceding control over how reading is taught in Madison's schools (Capital Times, Oct 16). In other words, Reading First is a push down the slippery slope toward federal control over public education.
Parents and educators are right to be concerned about the incursion into local school districts via legislation such as "Leave No Child Behind." However, the place to make a stand was not refusing monies that could have been used in many ways to help children in need. Our school administrators placed their politics above their responsibility to educate all of our children.
Seidenberg is a UW-Madison psychology professor.
This is my first post to this blog, so I�ll start by introducing myself. My name is Bill Herman. I have two kids at Crestwood ES, and a third will start in the fall. Also, I work in K-12 education; I�m the technology director for Monona Grove Schools.
I read �Paper #1,� criticizing MMSD for declining $2 million of federal money for reading, with interest and some dismay. With interest because it does seem odd that the district would reject such a sum even if some strings are attached. With dismay because neither side in the debate had a good way to weigh the district�s key claim�that the existing program has improved student reading.
Both sides used WKCE scores to support their claims. Unfortunately, the WKCE is not a useful tool to assess the effectiveness of programs at MMSD or anywhere else, because it isn�t designed to measure student progress over time, or to compare scores from one year with scores from another year. This means that we have a bigger problem than not knowing if elementary reading instruction is effective in MMSD. We are not able to decisively assess the effectiveness of any instructional program in the Madison schools.
It may be hard to believe that state-administered tests in reading, math, and language arts can�t show whether students are doing better or worse over time, but DPI has warned that this is the case:
�It is very difficult to accurately compare [02-03 WKCE] scores with past years for two basic reasons. First, the tests are different. New test questions were added at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels and the tests were entirely customized at the tenth-grade level. Second, the cut scores for each proficiency category are different based on the bookmarking process conducted in February  by 240 educators.� (http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/oea/pdf/profnewq&a.pdf)
That is, there is no way of knowing whether previous WKCE tests were easier or harder than today�s, and also, DPI has changed the curve. For both reasons, we can�t use WKCE to gauge student progress (or lack of it) over time.
Pause and think about this. DPI says WKCE cannot tell us whether the academic skills of Wisconsin students are improving, staying the same, or getting worse over time.
This means that WKCE cannot answer the questions that are required to judge program effectiveness: Are student skills in the program area greater now than they were when the program was introduced? Can students read better? Can they do math better? Is this true of kids across the spectrum? High achievers? Low achievers? All grade levels? Different socioeconomic levels? Different ethnic groups? If we can�t answer these questions, we have no way of knowing where we are doing well and where we need to improve. We are in the dark.
There are standardized tests that can pinpoint gains or losses in student learning over time. An excellent one is NWEA�s MAP test (www.nwea.org), used by 1,200 school districts nationally. Like WKCE, MAP is a set of standardized tests that students take at least once a year. But unlike WKCE, MAP reveals where curriculum is effective and exposes where it is not, by measuring students� growth over time�and comparing it against local and national norms--in subject areas, grade levels, quartiles, and ethnic groups. MAP, unlike WKCE, can be used to gauge program effectiveness, because it is measures growth over time, and not merely current proficiency.
Currently 70 districts in Wisconsin use MAP, including Monona Grove and several other Madison suburban districts. I anticipate that MMSD would be reluctant to adopt MAP, in part because it would mean even more testing. However, DPI could alleviate this by allowing districts to give MAP instead of WKCE.
DPI recently signed a 10-year contract with McGraw-Hill to provide the �state assessment� (the test Wisconsin schools use to show they are meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind). This means that for the next 10 years, WKCE is the official Wisconsin No Child Left Behind test.
However, No Child Left Behind does not require states to choose a single test; only to develop an �assessment plan� that ensures that all students� proficiency can be accurately determined. And Wisconsin statute authorizes the state superintendent to determine which test or tests can be used to determine proficiency. It is within the power of DPI to include alternatives to WKCE in its No Child Left Behind assessment plan. That is, DPI can approve alternative assessments, and then school districts could give MAP instead of WKCE.
DPI does not want to do this, because it would mean extra work for them and it would create risk for them by adding one more thing to Wisconsin�s assessment plan that might get rejected by the feds. DPI�s official position is that MAP is great for measuring growth but no good for determining proficiency as defined by USDOE, and they have discouraged us at Monona Grove from trying to get MAP approved as an alternative state assessment.
So I think the battle, if anyone is interested in joining it, is on two fronts�one, convincing officials at MMSD of the need to give a test that measures academic growth over time, and two, pushing DPI to approve MAP as an alternative state assessment. This would make it possible for MMSD and all Wisconsin schools to give a single test to satisfy the feds while measuring student growth.
Until we start giving tests that accurately show where students are gaining academically and where they are stalling, MMSD officials will be able to believe whatever they want to about the effectiveness of their programs, because no one will have a way to substantiate or refute their claims.
MMSD District Administration will be making a presenation on the MMSD Literacy Program Research tomorrow during the Performance and Achievement Committee meeting. I hope significant time is spent discussing a) results and next steps for MMSD's Balanced Literacy approach to learning to read and write b) an analysis of alternative reading interventions and c) analysis and reasons that led the Superintendent to turn down Reading First grant funds.
If there are teachers who are using teaching methods/curricula that are not part of the current Balanced Literacy approach, but are effective with the student population who is not at the proficient and advanced reading levels, board members need to ask to see the results.
Why look at the results? All teachers want each child they teach to be successful learners. If teachers are being successful in their teaching approach, the District Administration needs to learn from these efforts and incorporate them into their existing curricula. Continuous change to improve best practices through various feedback mechanisms is an important part of a successful change in an organization.
Should Madison be celebrating?
MMSD has cause for celebration, because a) 80% of the student population is reading at the proficient and advanced reading levels and b) the achievement gap for Madison's students who are not low income has been closed.
What do these results mean?
Annually, the Superintendent reports results on meeting board priorities. One of the board priorities is that every student needs to be reading at grade level by 3rd grade. A third grade reading test (WCRT) is given in the spring of a child's 3rd grade education.
Some reading professionals, District administrators and board members believe that the results presented last week mean that what MMSD is doing is working - just fine, thank you very much. Others believe that the District needs to look more closely at alternative reading intervention approaches or even different core curriculum approaches for the 20% of the student population who are not proficient and advanced readers and are mostly low income students.
Reading the press on the various positions, you wonder if there is any common ground among the disperate views. I believe there is common ground - each and every teacher/administrator wants each child to be a successful reader. Without a solid reading foundation, a child will find it difficult to learn more, falling further and further behind over time.
How Can the Board Decide What Steps Need to be Taken next?
Board members are not reading experts. Yet, if you look at the District's materials and you look at DPI's discussion of a reading framework in its Reading First grant proposal, one comes away with the impression that there are reading professionals who have come to very different conclusions all the while using SBRR (scientific based reading research).
Board members can ask a series of questions that will provide them with the informationnecessay to make decisions that are in the best interest of the student. Examples of questions to ask include:
What's working/not working for different socio-economic groups?
What do teachers say about the current curriculum's ability to reach the 20% who are not proficient and advanced? What do teachers need to be more effective? Do teachers feel they have a choice in how children are taught to read?
What have we learned from the data about two talked about intervention strategies - direct instruction and reading recovery?
Over the past 6 years or so, there have been signficant strides made in reading at a third grade level in third grade. Curricula used and teacher experience are important variables to this success,but over this time we've also seen more SAGE classes instituted and the Schools of Hope that provides volunteers to help with teaching reading. Where we have SAGE and Schools of Hope in place, what have we seen with the reading results.
Why did Madison turn away Reading First grant money? The reasons given by the Superintendent are incomplete. Saying Reading First is too scripted is not entirely accurate and is an oversimplification of the State's approach to Reading First. When reading the grant submitted to the Department of Education from the WI DPI, the approach they describe appears to be developed and woven into WI's standards of academic excellence.
Board members need to know what's working for our kids in a more successful manner than what DPI's model is.
New York Times, December 12, 2004
The Last Time You Used Algebra Was...
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
It's been a long time since most of us have used algebra in our daily lives - unless, perhaps, you're helping your child with homework or work in a field that uses lots of mathematics. However, learning algebra is still important. The concepts I learned in mathematics have helped me with learning other concepts in different fields - math teaches you a way of thinking.
"...kids don't study poetry just because they're going to grow up to be poets. It's about a habit of mind. Your mind doesn't think abstractly unless it's asked to - and it needs to be asked to from a relatively young age. The rigor and logic that goes into math is a good way for your brain to be trained," said Miss Collins, the author's daughter's math teacher.
Reading First is a part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Title I, Part B, Subpart 1). Reading First is designed to assist schools in establishing reading programs for students in kindergarten through grade 3. These programs must be founded on scientifically-based reading research and aid in ensuring every student can read well by the end of third grade.
Reading First Initiative in Wisconsin
State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster has articulated a New Wisconsin Promise to ensure quality education for all Wisconsin children. Key strategic priorities of the New Wisconsin Promise that are consistent with Reading First include reading as a fundamental skill for all children, early learning opportunities, quality teachers in every classroom, and strong leadership in every school. Recognizing the critical importance of these key priorities in a child�s education, Wisconsin�s Reading First plan is designed to improve student reading achievement in grades K-3.
Implementation of this plan focuses on reading programs based on scientifically based reading research (SBRR); reliable and valid screening, diagnostic, progress monitoring and outcome assessments; high quality professional development to ensure that K-3 teachers and K-12 special education teachers develop the expertise to help students become successful readers; a sound evaluation design conducted by an experienced and highly qualified outside evaluator; and leadership that results in improvement in reading performance.
Findings from the National Reading Panel report indicate that effective instruction can help children become good readers. As envisioned by Wisconsin�s Reading First Leadership Team, our Reading First classroom will be a model classroom for meeting the needs of diverse groups of students. Classrooms will be staffed by highly qualified professional teachers who are well-versed in SBRR and able to share their expertise to best meet the needs of all children, regardless of the severity or complexity of their learning needs. Wisconsin�s Reading First Goals Statewide Impact Goal
To ensure that every Wisconsin student can read at grade level by the end of their third-grade year.
Objective 1: Each year narrow the achievement gap between the low income children and their peers in terms of percentage and number of low income students who score in the proficient and advanced levels as measured by TerraNova Reading and WI Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT).
Objective 2: Each year narrow the achievement gap between children of color and their peers in terms of percentage and number of children of color who score in the proficient and advanced levels as measured by TerraNova Reading and WRCT.
Objective 3: Each year narrow the achievement gap between Limited English Proficient (LEP) students and their peers in terms of percentage and number of LEP students who score in the proficient and advanced levels as measured by TerraNova Reading and WRCT.
Objective 4: Each year narrow the achievement gap between special education students and their peers in terms of percentage and number of special education students who score in the proficient and advanced levels as measured by TerraNova Reading and WRCT. irst Page 1WI Reading F 12 May 03
By Lee Sensenbrenner, The Capital Times
December 11, 2004
A hiring freeze has been declared in the Madison Metropolitan School District, as Superintendent Art Rainwater tries to deal with a possible $1 million shortfall in the utilities budget.
Rainwater made the announcement Friday in a letter to board members and the district's management team. It says that "the prospect remains that additional actions may be required."
Although we all love to watch our children play soccer, swim, play tennis, basketball, hockey and even lacrosse and field hockey, it is becoming incredibly important that we keep the role of sports in our life in perspective.
In the last few weeks, we have witnessed a basketball arena erupt in violence while young and old watched their "role models" explode with out of control anger and vigor. We have seen the "elite" track and field athletes questioned and suspected of artificial results.
What are our expectations of these athletes and our own son and daughters? Hopefully, it is to watch them compete, have fun and perform to the best of their natural ability. When society begins to focus on winning at all costs, we see where the fun leaves the sport, performance enhancement cheating begins and frustration of continual expectation boil over in an unexpected violence. In addition, the rapid firing of college coaches from an upstanding university where the student-athletes were students first and athletes second, makes one again question the values of the institutions of higher learning.
We would love to think that all of this is new. However, consider Rudy Tomjavonich having his face destroyed by Kermit Washington. Consider Ben Johnson and others having their gold medal and world championships stripped.
Today's events should not be that surprising. Until society changes some of their expectations, the athletes will continue to look at ways to cheat, violence will continue to infect the culture of sport and colleges will maintain their win first and education second mentality.
Considering all of this, it has been a treat watching Brett Favre continue to compete and overcome his personal problems and personal tragedy over the last year. He continues to play a GAME like our son or daughter might do on a Saturday morning whether it is soccer, tennis, or football. He plays for the FUN of the game and although disappointed, seems to recover quickly after a tough loss and not stay too high after a big win. Sure he makes some mistakes but he realizes this is just a GAME. There are bigger issues in the world - his father, his brother-n-law and now his wife to name a few. Hopefully, society can begin to focus on SPORT as a GAME, to be played for FUN as a way of entertaining us, keeping us healthy and improving our health -- physical and mental -- both as a participant and a spectator.
This attitude would go along way to solving many of the ills of sport -- the NHL strike, the violence, the performance enhancement. Yes this sounds simple but it also might keep children and adolescents participating when they want to give up a sport when it becomes too competitive.
For a related article, please see http://www.townhall.com/columnists/joelmowbray/jm20031204.shtml
PARIS, Dec. 6 - High school students in Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea do best in mathematics among those in 40 surveyed countries while students in the United States finished in the bottom half, according to a new international comparison of mathematical skills shown by 15-year-olds.
The United States was also cited as having the poorest outcomes per dollar spent on education. It ranked 28th of 40 countries in math and 18th in reading.
The following exchange of e-mails is between Lawrie Kobza and Johnny Winston Jr., regarding the District's proposed elimination of the equity policy.
As I read the two authors' comments, I become more convinced that board policy changes ought to be discussed first at a Board committee meeting prior to a final vote. The substance of the changes merit public discussion and comment. The District Administration's Questions and Answers sheet on this topic would have been a good place for the School Board to begin their discussions.
Subject: Equity - Response to Johnny Winston, Jr.
Prepared by Lawrie Kobza
The District is saying that the Board's Equity Resource Policy
(Board Policy 9001) has been replaced for all practical purposes by the equity resource formula. There is an important difference, however, between the Equity Policy and the equity resource formula. The Equity Policy is codified as an official Board policy - and therefore the Board should require that the District follow the policy. The equity resource formula, however, does not appear anywhere in Board policy, and therefore, its use appears to be discretionary by the District.
While supplemental allocations have been provided historically, they
are discretionary in nature and could be eliminated. (emphasis
In the email from Board Member Johnny Winston, Jr., he says that the
change should not be of concern, and that "the essence of the
proposed change is for resources to be distributed based on MATHEMATICAL FORMULAS rather than POLITICS. During these times of fiscal constraints and crisis, it is more important than ever that this occurs."
This statement gives little comfort, however, because while the
supplemental resources are allocated between schools based upon a
mathematical formula, the actual number of supplemental allocations
provided to address equity issues is totally discretionary with the
District, and we have seen that these supplemental allocations have
been disproportionately cut over the last several years.
In fact, the District's consultant, Virchow Krause, stated in its
report dated March 11, 2002, at page 146, that although supplemental
allocations (which result from the equity resource formula) have
been provided historically, they are discretionary in nature and could be eliminated.
More specifically, the Virchow Krause report said the following:
"Supplemental allocations currently exist at varying levels for
elementary, middle and high schools. The number of allocations for
each individual school building is created through formulas based mainly on Educational Need Index (ENI). ENI attributes include EEN/ESL attributes as well as free & reduced, parent education and home status factors.
This allocation methods results in a building with a high index
typically allocated more supplemental positions, while other buildings receive fewer supplemental allocations as a result of low ENI indexes. The supplemental FTE allocations are currently utilized differently by
each building with the most common uses as additional psychologists,
social workers, guidance or clerical staff.
An allocation chart provided by the Administration a year or two ago
shows allocations from 1998/99 to 2003/04. A copy of that document
is attached to this email. That document shows that from 1998/99 to
2002/03, supplemental allocations were cut 58.9% at elementary
schools, while total allocations at elementary schools were cut 6.1%.
Supplemental allocations were cut 27.5% at middle schools, while
total allocations at middle schools were cut 5.5%. And, supplemental allocations were cut 100% at high schools, while total allocations
in the high schools increased 4.6%. So, for high schools, the
mathematical formula applied to zero allocations is zero.
The number of allocations provided by the District to address equity
issues is an important issue. This has been cut disproportionately
over the last several years, and I expect we will see it cut even more at the middle schools for next year. The impact is that our neediest
students take the biggest cut.
Johnny Winston, Jr., letter to Ms. Kozba and I presume other community members who wrote him about the equity policy issue.
> Dear members of the community:
> A few days ago an e-mail was distributed to the various list serves
> regarding a policy change for the MMSD (Equity Policy - Board Policy
> The policy that was proposed to be deleted at last Monday's school
> board meeting was outdated in that it has been replaced by the equity resource formula which is now being used to ensure the equitable distribution
> of staff to ALL schools. The formula takes into consideration such
things as the number of students of poverty, the number of English language learners, the number of special education students, mobility etc. at each school to determine the staffing allocations for that particular school.
> This change in policy should not be construed that the district is
not committed to equity for all students. Rather, the essence of the
> proposed change is for resources to be distributed based on MATHMATICAL FORMULAS rather than POLITICS. During these times of fiscal constraints and crisis, it is more important than ever that this occurs.
> Superintendent Art Rainwater and his staff have produced a "Question
> & Answer" paper regarding the change in the Equity policy. I have a
> copy and would be happy to send it to you.
> Thank you for those of you who have expressed your concerns in
writing or just had questions regarding this policy. Your advocacy efforts assist in helping the MMSD provide a quality education for all students.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns about this issue and any other regarding the Madison Metropolitan School District.
> Johnny Winston, Jr.
> Madison School Board Member
JACKSON, Ky., Dec. 3 - As New York City schools celebrate the findings by a court-appointed panel that could bring them $5.6 billion more every year, the schools under the sawed-off mountains here in the heart of coal country tell a hopeful but cautionary tale of what may lie ahead.
Once the Kentucky Supreme Court said the state's school system needed revamping, in a ruling that inspired court cases and decisions around the nation, lawmakers here enacted one of the country's most thorough education overhauls within a year.
Leopold Elementary Needs Donations Of Violins, Violas And Cellos So That All Of The Students In Its Popular Strings Classes Can Take An Instrument Home To Practice.
Read Sandy Cullen's full article:
Wisconsin State Journal :: LOCAL/WISCONSIN :: B1
Visions Of Violins For Christmas
Thursday, December 9, 2004
Sandy Cullen Wisconsin State Journal
Montana's former state fiddle champion is something of a Pied Piper at Leopold Elementary, where so many students have enrolled in his strings classes that the school needs more musical instruments.
"I've got only 20 that are playable," said Pat Kukes, who is seeking donations of instruments for the school's 54 fourth- and fifth-graders learning to play violin, viola and cello.
Last year, about 35 students participated, said Principal Mary Hyde.
Most of his students are low-income, Kukes said, adding, "There's no way they can rent" their own instruments.
The school has enough instruments for students to play in classes that meet three times a week in a hallway foyer in the overcrowded school. But there aren't enough for all students to take one home to practice, so they are taking turns having an instrument on weekends.
"They're frustrated. Little kids are going home and playing on their fingers," Kukes said. "We're struggling simply because we don't have the instruments to take home."
Kukes has shown his students how to practice their fingering on a pencil or another finger.
"It's kind of hard to do it just with a pencil," said fourth-grader Emily Somberg, 9.
The instruments the school has are rundown, said Kukes, who hopes to refurbish some over the holiday break.
"My wish for Christmas is that I can send an instrument home with all the students so they can play for grandpa and grandma," he said.
Kukes is hoping people or businesses will donate instruments. His students need - and -size violins and cellos, and violas that are 14 inches or smaller. Full-size violins also can be used.
"In other years, we had $70,000 of district money to replace instruments," said district spokesman Ken Syke. "As part of our budget cuts this year, we put a moratorium on that."
This year's budget includes $11,000 for music workbooks and $17,000 for instrument repairs, he said, adding that schools have some flexibility in how they address needs not funded by the district.
Schools try to supply every fourth-grader in the strings program with an instrument they can take home to practice, Kukes said. More than 40 of his Leopold students are fourth-graders.
Fifth-graders usually rent their instruments, he said. Four of the school's fifth-graders have their own instruments.
Kukes has enough instruments for his 82 students at Chavez and 38 students at Huegel.
For the first time this year, the district is charging a $50 annual fee for students in the elementary strings program, in addition to rental fees of $20 a semester for fourth-graders and $35 a semester for fifth-graders. Fees are waived for low-income students.
More than 1,800 students participated in the district's strings program last year, Syke said. This year, more than 1,700 are enrolled, he said, adding that two schools, Emerson and Stephens, are in the process of hiring a strings teacher and haven't begun their programs.
\ Longtime teacher
A Montana native, Kukes, 52, taught strings for 25 years in Helena, where he also conducted a youth symphony. But the state's former fiddle champ doesn't consider himself a "typical orchestra person."
He's played in bands that were opening acts for Marshall Tucker, Pure Prairie League and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and he appeared as a violinist in the film "Return to Lonesome Dove."
"I went to my first jam session when I was 5 days old," said Kukes, whose mother played accordion and piano and father played bass guitar in country bands.
A "cowboy poet," Kukes recently shared his poem about a bronco-riding Santa with students.
"He has a very good way with teachers, kids and parents," Hyde said.
Kukes started in late October, recruiting students by going class to class, playing "little ditties." Students followed Kukes to his hallway classroom he calls "the fishbowl."
Fourth-grader Luis Rangel, 10, said he was "tired of soccer and baseball" and finds playing the violin more fun than sports.
Natalia Lucero, 10, said she hopes to play in an orchestra, and Becky Xiong, 9, said simply, "I wanted to learn."
Most students said they just thought playing an instrument would be fun.
Kukes believes it's that and more.
"If you get kids in music, it's amazing how much they succeed," he said. "It really helps with their reading. It really helps with their math."
It also develops self-discipline, Kukes said. "Some of these kids, it might be the thing that keeps them out of trouble. I've got so many kids on the fence."
"For some kids, this is a wonderful opportunity to excel," Hyde said.
\ Spring music festival
The School Board is expected to seek a funding referendum this spring to build a second school at Leopold, which has 680 students -- about 20 more than its capacity.
Kukes would like his Leopold students to participate in the district's spring music festival, but he said, "With 20 instruments and 54 students, how do I pick who goes and who doesn't?"
"We can't even do much with a school concert because they can't all play together," he said, adding, "That's what's cool. That's what's fun."
Despite the challenges for Leopold's students, Kukes said, "I haven't lost a single one."
He doesn't even mind the parade of third-graders walking though his hallway classroom.
"It's good recruiting for next year," he said.
\ To donate
If you have an instrument you would like to donate to the strings program at Leopold Elementary School, contact Pat Kukes at 204-4240.
The MMSD Board of Education has established three priorities aimed at improving student achievement:
1. All students reading at grade level by third grade
2. All students completing Algebra and Geometry by the end of 10 th grade
3. All students attending school at least 94%
Each year the Superintendent reports on progress toward these goals. This year's presentation was made on December 6, 2004.
Mixed in with other MMSD Board business on December 6, 2004 was a change to District Policy 9001 regarding equity.
From the Board Agenda - X Other Business - Item C.
It is recommended that the Board approve: 1) the changes that are attached relative to Board Policy 9000A and 9000B which have to do with a Code of Conduct for employees and Board members; 2) the deletion of Board Policy 9001 regarding equity; and 3) the changes that are attached relative to Board Policy 10,000 regarding charter schools.
The Northside PTO Coalition opposed the MMSD Administration proposal to eliminate the Equity Policy. Board members decided to postpose a decision on this policy and asked the administration to rework the policy with consideration given to equity issues.
This is the second time in little over a month that a policy change raised concern among the public. Earlier, the District administration had proposed eliminating the policy that required professionals to be included in the hiring of teachers in certain aeas: physical education, special education, fine arts, for example.
Fine arts teachers said they needed this professional help to ensure the quality teaching professionals are hired in specific areas.
Maybe the Board needs to consider an interim step in the policy revision process that first passes through a Board committee if the change is more than simple updating.
In a statement released on Monday, December 6th, the Northside PTO Coalition stated:
"The School Board must hear public input and carefully consider this proposed elimination because the Equity Policy is a statement of what the Board believes is important in providing an equitable education to all children. This is a Board policy, yet the Administration is recommending that it be eliminated
The proposed Equity Policy elimination raises concerns that the district is not committed to equity for all, even at a time they a spouting the rhetoric about equity issues and students of color. If this is the case, it will significantly impact students of color and the gap will continue to widen. We know that this cannot be true, so we call for the School Board to give the matter a full hearing by not voting to accept the proposed elimination, and instead call for a full review of the Equity Policy.
If the School Board determines that a more effective and encompassing Equity Policy is needed, then the current Equity Policy should not be abandoned until an acceptable replacement has been crafted and approved."
Superintendent Rainwater told MMSD board members Monday December 6, 2004 that some of the District's goals are directed to educate teachers to do the right thing...support and train teachers...provide various levels of interventions for students that are not successful with the core curriculum.
In the case of reading, Balanced Literacy is the core curriculum and Reading Recovery is a first grade intervention teaching tool/approach that is used to help certain students be successful with reading.
The Superintendent commented that he believes the recent controversy surrounding reading is due in part to a misunderstanding of what the various definitions of Balanced Literacy, Reading First, Reading Recovery and Direct Instruction are.
From what I've read and understand about the debate and controversy, there are different approaches being used in the district when intervening to help a student who is not being successful with the core reading curriculum. Direct Instruction, which is a stand alone reading curriculum, is used by some reading teachers in the district as an intervention tool rather than Reading Recovery.
If results are available for both these interventions, I hope that the School Board takes the time to ask questions about what results we are seeing with different intervention approaches. Now that we have 80% of our children at proficient or advanced reading levels, the last 20% are likely to be particularly challenging for educators.
As I listened to the presentations last night, I couldn't help but be impressed with two things regarding reading - strong community support and involvement through the Schools of Hope and other volunteers and continued reinforcement at all levels of the organization, beginning with teachers' commitment to the students. When my daughter was in elementary school at Franklin and Randall Elementary Schools you knew that the principals and teachers were strongly committed to the Board's reading priority.
Art Rainwater's comments to the School Board can be viewed by clicking on the following link:
Last spring four Board members �Carol Carstensen, Bill Clingan, Bill Keys and Juan Lopez�voted to authorize the superintendent to buyout problem employees and pay them up to five months in wages and benefits. Members Ray Allen, Shwaw Vang and I voted no. The decision was retroactive to cover deals with two teachers that the superintendent had already made.
Now we see the results of this bad policy decision,
as the Board finds that its role in buying out the former principal of East High School is limited to approving her resignation tonight, effective March 31, 2005. Her wages and most fringe benefits end on March 31, but her eligibility for district-paid health insurance continues through April 2005. In total, she receives at least six months of compensation.
One reason to vote no on the resignation is that the period of wages and benefits clearly exceeds the spirit of the policy.
Another reason to vote no is that the superintendent will fund the buyout with dollars not used for the wages and benefits of a Fine Arts Coordinator, an important position that remains unfilled. Recently we learned that a super-majority of the Board---5 members-- is necessary every time that the superintendent moves funds from one department to another. This buyout moves at least $37,000 from one department to another. No Board vote occurred on this transfer before the superintendent signed the agreement on November 29.
Reason Number 3 is that the superintendent hired outside counsel---an expensive attorney from a Milwaukee firm�to advise him on the deal. Never mind that the District has six attorneys on its payroll, all of whom are qualified to represent the district on employment termination agreements. This action�also not approved by the Board--- is an abuse of the superintendent�s discretion to purchase services for the district. This purchase of private counsel has not been explained. Nor does the Board know why the superintendent chose to exclude the Board�s attorney from the negotiation process.
Overall, this buyout has the appearance of the cover-up. The superintendent has sole discretion to reassign a problem employee in emergency circumstances. However, the employee has a right to a due process hearing on the reassignment, with legal counsel, the right to call witnesses, the right to cross-examine the district�s witnesses and other protections. The reassigned employee may request--- as did this employee-- a hearing before a private hearing examiner, as we routinely provide in expulsion hearings. The purpose of this hearing process is to safeguard the interests of the reassigned employee and of the district. In a hearing we would see the reassignment from both perspectives, whether we heard the case ourselves or assigned it to an outside examiner.
In extreme situations, I can understand that both parties might decide that a buyout is preferable to an adversarial hearing. But in those situations it is critical that the superintendent not be able to keep the whole process from the Board. We are the party to this buyout, not the superintendent as an individual. He is our employee and accountable to us for the judgment to reassign this employee and for how the reassignment process was carried out.
As the elected representatives of the public--- as we vote tonight--- the Board does not know whether there were good reasons for the buyout or not. We do not know whether our superintendent and assistant superintendent properly followed reassignment procedures or not. We do not know why our staff attorneys were considered not good enough for the job. We have no way, in short, to assure that the superintendent has negotiated a buyout in the best interests of the district or in his own interests. We just don�t know.
We have the bill for the outside attorney. We may eventually vote on which departmental funds are used in the buyout. We should not rubber-stamp this resignation. We should get answers to these and other important questions before we again retroactively approve a buyout by the superintendent.
Above all�however this vote goes---the majority should reconsider the policy that let this situation develop. It delegates major responsibilities of this elected body to one employee and such excessive delegation leads to abuse or at least the appearance of abuse of discretion.
Comments at the December 6, 2005 meeting of the Madison School Board. The Board voted 5-2 to accept the resignation of the principal. Voting yes were Carol Carstensen, Bill Clingan, Bill Keys, Juan Lopez,
Ruth Robarts and Johnny Winston, Jr. Shwaw Vang and I voted no.
Member, Madison Board of Education, 1997 to present
June Kronholz summarizes the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment, which finds that:
The percentage of top-achieving math students in the nation is about half that of other industrialized countries, and the gap between scores of whites and minority groups -- who will make up an increasing share of the labor force in coming decades -- is enormous.Here's the report.
Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater sent me an email today regarding this paper. Here's his email:
I received a copy of your email to Diane Mayerfeld regarding reading in the Madison Schools. I would like to set straight the misinformation that is contained in the document that you included with your email. First the Milwaukee Public Schools have not performed better on the fourth grade WKCE test that Madison. The report cites "School Facts 03" as the source. The numbers in that publication show that in Madison 80% of our fourth graders scored proficient and advanced on the test and that only 63% of Milwaukee"s fourth graders scored proficient and advanced. I am not sure how such an error could have occurred in the document that you produced since the numbers in the report are very clear. An examination of the DPI WINNS website shows the same numbers.
I find this type of inaccuracy extremely disturbing since inaccurate numbers were also used in the Wisconsin State Journal editorial regarding the Reading First grant. The editorial states that Lincoln's third grade reading scores have declined since 2001, when in fact, they have steadily increased. The editorial writer had the chart showing the increase in performance before her when she wrote the editorial.
There are always legitimate disagreements that can be made over many of the decisions that the District makes. However, using inaccurate and clearly wrong data to make those arguments should never be acceptable.
The Performance Series Report also indicates that there was a choice between Reading Recovery and the programs approved under the Reading First grant for funding. That assertion is not accurate. Reading Recovery was not part of the issue at all. The choice was between our Balanced Literacy Core Program (CLIP) and the Reading first programs. Reading Recovery is a first grade intervention not a core program. The following explanation written by the team that actually worked on the Reading First grant and have extraordinary expertise in reading says it much better than I can.
Letter to the Editor December 2, 2004 While we strongly believe that the editorial staff of the Wisconsin State Journal has every right to take a position critical of the Madison school district, it is vitally important for the editorial staff to get the facts right so that readers can accurately make their own judgments. Unfortunately, the WSJ's editorial, "Reading between the lines of rigidity" fails the test. The editorial contends that, "third grade reading test scores have actually declined since 2001 at Lincoln (Elementary)." Not true. In fact, Midvale/Lincoln students have improved in that period. In 2001, 52.7% of Midvale/Lincoln third graders were "proficient" and "advanced" while in 2004 66.9% of the students were proficient or advanced, according to the Department of Public Instruction's Web site. This is a 14.2% increase, not the decline stated in the editorial. In fact, since the inception of the district current classroom reading program during the 1997-98 school year, all of the schools that participated in the Reading First grant have improved: Glendale - from 34.5% to 67.3%; Hawthorne - from 31.1% to 71.2%; Midvale/Lincoln - from 44.8% to 66.9%; and Orchard Ridge - from 69.3% to 82.6%. The Reading First grant would have required a complete change in the district's classroom reading program. It called for us to dismantle this program which has enabled us to make substantial gains towards eliminating the minority student achievement gap on the third grade reading test (see WSJ article, Saturday, Nov. 20) and then to purchase and implement a program that has no documented record of success. The editorial confuses the reader by comparing "apples to airplanes" when it implies that the choice for the district was between one of Reading First approved programs and the Reading Recovery program. Reading Recovery has nothing to do with Reading First, aside from the fact that both have "reading" in the titles. Reading Recovery is an individual intervention program used only with first grade students who need additional instruction outside of the classroom reading program. In contrast, Reading First approved programs are used as the fundamental classroom reading program for all students. The editorial says the district should have accepted a grant that would have thrown out our successful classroom reading program at five of our schools, "while simultaneously getting the federal evaluators to take a good, hard look (at the district's current program)." While we didn't throw out our program, we did spend the first year of the grant working with the guidelines and getting the federal evaluators to take a "good, hard look" at our program. We made modifications and improvements and there was give and take, but the bottom line for the U.S. Dept. of Education was to do things their way, or no way. We chose to continue our successful classroom reading program. We are deeply committed to ensuring that every child in Madison schools can read at or above grade level. It is one of the Board of Education's goals for the district. We believe it can be done and our data shows it is being done. We work towards that end every day. Disagreement on substance is expected, but please don't muddle the truth to the extent that your readers aren't getting an accurate picture. Sincerely, Jane Belmore, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Instruction Beth Lehman, Principal, Lincoln School Andreal Davis, teacher, Lincoln School Carol Heibel, Principal, Glendale School Penny Johnson, teacher, Glendale School Michael Hertting, Principal, Orchard Ridge School Barb Dorn, teacher, Orchard Ridge School John Burkholder, Principal, Midvale School Mary Kay Johnson, teacher, Midvale School Cathy McMillan, Principal, Hawthorne School Jaci McDaniels, teacher, Hawthorne School Diane Esser, District Literacy Support Teacher
On November 8, 2004, Larry Winkler spoke before the MMSD School Board about the need for long range budget planning and consideration of priorities in planning.
Can Wisconsin cover the real expenses of schools without raising overall taxes? With each passing year of neglect, the task becomes more daunting.
Wisconsin schools will collect 7.3 percent more this year in property taxes, the largest boost in more than a decade, the state says. Wisconsin's 426 school districts expect to levy $3.61 billion on tax bills being sent out this month, compared with $3.37 billion last year.
Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, a lonely voice calling for wholesale overhaul of education financing, says even bigger levies are coming if government fails to revamp a financing system that no longer accounts for the widely varying types of financial pressures facing public schools.
Read the full Opinion piece from December 5, 2004
I recently received a copy of the minutes of the November 3, 2004 Superintendent's Faculty Committee meeting. During this meeting Superintendent Art Rainwater discusses a variety of topics, including the recent rejection of $2M in Reading First funds and the district's budget. The minutes are available in this 350K pdf document. Highlights:
On Declining Federal Funds: "This situation (declining federal funds) presents a dilemma for a Superintendent - not so much for me because I've done what I want to do and am looking at the end of my career. But for a young, career-building Superintendent in a struggling district it would be very hard to decide whether you accept desperately needed money and compromise program, or turn it down because you know you have something better."
"What was the reaction to the district saying no to federal money? I read a little about it in the newspaper. That was it - there was no other reaction."
on Reading First:
"The Reading 1st grants are designed to support schools where reading is an issue. Like everthing in NCLB, they are based on a relatively sound principle but farther down the line you find something insidious about that. . ."
On No Child Left Behind:
"By the year 2013, if we have one single student in the whole district who is not proficient or advanced in reading, math and science, then our district would be designated a failure. Much research has been done by a variety of educational associations. They show that, after six years, 80% of districts will be failing. When that is the goal, people don't take it seriously. An important part about making change is having attainable goals."
In response to a question on the budget,"Are we headed for another $10 million in budget cuts?" Art answered, "The best case, which I believe we are heading for, is between $6-7 million. The worst case would be if the Legislature passes a property tax freeze and the Governor can't veto it, which would result in somewhere between $15-17 million."
Melania Alvarez, former MMSD School Board candidate, spoke on Monday, November 30, 2004 before members of the School Board. Her comments raised concerns about the lack of evaluation of the math curriculum currently being used in the MMSD. Ms. Alvarez's comments are based upon her own review of the math curriculum and upon her conversations with concerned parents in the District.
Following are video clips of her comments and questions of her by School board members.
Madison Area Family Advisory/Advocacy Coalition presents:
Saturday December 11, 2004
The Bahai Center
324 W. Lakeside Street, across from Franklin School
Join us as we explore
What needs improving
Who is welcome in our public schools
Who feels unwelcome
What rights do parents and district citizens have in our schools
How can parents of students of color influence the CLIMATE and LEARNING environment
What can you do if you are treated poorly at a school
When should parents seek outside help
How can parents and ordinary citizens of color share in decision making
How to organize parents at your school
Parents and district residents are invited to attend this meeting. The emphasis is on making schools a more welcoming place for adults and students of color.
Co-sponsored by MEP (Money, Education, Prisons Taskforce)
And UW-MAFAAC chapter
For more information call 836-0616 or visit the MAFAAC Web site.
We're engaging in a bit of demand side democracy. I've posted a link to a page urging madison citizens to run for the school board. We take so much for granted here.
Andrew Jakowleff has posted some stunning VR scenes from Kiev as the Ukrainian people protest their recent election process.
The Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee met monday night, to discuss "Research-Base Underlying MMSD Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction" Here are some video clips from the meeting:
Jenny D posts a transcript of RFK's (Robert F. Kennedy) 1965 Senate testimony on school performance:
Some may wonder, why on earth is Jenny D. wasting her time copying down 40-year-old Senate testimony? Because it so closely mirrors the conversations today about No Child Left Behind. NCLB didn't fall out of the sky as some evil Republican plan. It was first hatched, albeit crudely, in 1965 by U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I think it's important to know where we came fromRFK on standardized tests | RFK on Title 1
Here's a 2 page pdf copy of a recent Beaver Dam mailing to all residents asking them to participate in a survey on "continuous improvement" of their public school system. Many of the questions relate to budget challenges the district is facing. [264K PDF] Beaver Dam School District Site