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April 30, 2006

On Food Policy

Reader Rosanne Lindsay emails:

On Food Policy: I would encourage MMSD to investigate the recent studies that attribute a poor diet, high in sugars and trans fats to hyperactive behavior. The more we learn about food additives, the more we realize its negative affect on behavior and health in general. Please go to or alternatively look at a clear example of what a healthy food program can accomplish in improved focus and behavior in schools, as seen in our own backyard, Appleton, WI.

Name Rosanne Lindsay E-mail:

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Suggestion: Improve Election Day

Reader Paul Malischke emails:

Board of Education: Common Council Liaison Committee Date: April 18, 2006

Here is a suggestion to improve election day: schedule a staff development day (no school for students) for the November gubernatorial and presidential election days, when there is a very high voter turnout. This would make it easier to find an appropriate room for the polls. Previously, schools have placed equipment and voters in hallways where there is heavy student traffic; or used classrooms, which disrupt classes.

An additional advantage to this schedule proposal is that it will eliminate the extra election-day security concerns for students generated by the many people entering the school to vote. An additional safety concern is the increased vehicular traffic around the school on election day.

Paul Malischke E-mail:

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What Makes A Good High School?

NPR's Elaine Korry:

How can U.S. high schools do a better job? A new study identifies key characteristics of high schools that work. And at Granger High in Washington state, the principal demands high standards for students and staff.

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Opening Classroom Doors

A good teacher friend emailed this article: Nicholas Kristof:

Suppose Colin Powell tires of giving $100,000-a-pop speeches and wants to teach high school social studies. Suppose Meryl Streep has a hankering to teach drama.

Alas, they would be "unqualified" for a public school. Elite private schools would snap them up, of course, but public schools that are begging for teachers would have to turn them away because they don't have teacher certification.

That's an absurd snarl in our education bureaucracy. Let's relax the barriers so people can enter teaching more easily, either right out of college or later as a midcareer switch.

Sure, there are lots of other problems in the U.S. education system. But this is one of the easiest to solve.

One reason to act is that the U.S. faces a growing shortage of teachers. Just to keep student-teacher ratios where they are now, we need a 35 percent increase in the number of people entering teaching.

The other problem is that the quality of teachers is deteriorating, mostly because — fortunately! — women have more career options. A smart and ambitious woman graduating from college in 1970 often ended up as a third-grade teacher; today, she ends up as a surgeon or senator.

The upshot is that between 1971 and 1974, 24 percent of teachers had scored in the top 10 percent on their high school achievement tests. Now only 11 percent have done so.

So one study after another has concluded that it is time to relax teacher certification requirements.

"Barriers to entry are too high," declared last month's final report of the Teaching Commission, a private blue-ribbon panel led by Louis Gerstner, the former I.B.M. chief. "Confusing and cumbersome procedures discourage many talented would-be teachers from entering the classroom."

A white paper from the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution urged, "Rather than dig further down in the pool of those willing to consider teacher certification programs or raise class sizes, we need to expand the pool of those eligible to teach."

In a new book called "Tough Love for Schools," Frederick Hess argues that applicants should be eligible for teaching jobs if they have graduated from a recognized college, have passed a competency test in their field and have passed a rigorous background check. Principals may prefer to hire graduates of teaching colleges, he writes, but they should have the option to hire other outstanding applicants as well.

That's the situation in some of America's most elite private high schools. Phillips Exeter Academy, for example, says that 85 percent of its faculty have advanced degrees but probably only a handful are certified. (Since it is private, it doesn't worry about certification or even keep track of which teachers are certified.)

At Exeter, for example, biology is taught by a former doctor. Japanese is taught by a former businessman who worked in Japan. And a history teacher arrived with no teaching experience but has published five books.

The idea behind teacher certification is that there are special skills that are picked up in teacher training courses — secret snake-charming skills to keep the little vipers calm. But there's no evidence this is so. On the contrary, several new programs have brought outstanding young people into teaching without putting them through conventional training programs, and those teachers have been widely hailed as first-rate.

One superb initiative for young college graduates is Teach for America, which last year had 17,000 applicants for 2,000 spots teaching in low-income schools. Among those who applied were 12 percent of Yale's senior class and 8 percent of Harvard's and Princeton's.

Teach for America participants get only an intensive six-week training session, yet they excel in the classroom. One study found that classes with a Teach for America participant learn an extra month of math over the school year, compared with classes with a traditional teacher.

Likewise, Troops to Teachers helps retiring military personnel become teachers in public schools. And I.B.M. has started a program to help executives with math or science backgrounds switch to teaching.

Granted, intellectual brilliance alone does not make a great teacher. When I think of my best teachers, like Juanita Trantina in the fifth grade, they didn't just teach us but also inspired us, humored us, tamed us and enchanted us. Maybe it helps to be brilliant and to have studied teaching, but mostly it is personality. Colin Powell, Meryl Streep and many anonymous others would dazzle the surliest student, so why continue to bar them at the schoolhouse door?

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:29 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Weekly Email Message

Carol Carstensen:

Parent Group Presidents:

The 2006-07 proposed budget is on the district’s web site ( The Executive Summary provides an overview of the budget. The list of specific staff cuts is found on pages 3 & 4 of Chapter 3, Department & Division Reports.

None of the cuts are good for the district or for the education of our children but they are required to keep the budget in compliance with the state revenue caps. Since there is likely to be considerable discussion about the cut affecting the elementary strings program, I wanted to provide a little additional information. The administration is proposing to continue the current structure (strings once a week for 45 minutes) for 5th graders only. Additionally, there is a recommendation to have a committee of district staff and UW music education specialists develop a new approach for K-5 music that will include, for all students, experience playing an instrument.
There are forums on the budget scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. at LaFollette and Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 at Memorial.

APRIL 24 MEETINGS: 5 p.m. Special Board Meeting: Newly elected Board Members were sworn in (this will be repeated at the Regular Meeting on May 1 at 7:15 when it can be televised). Executive Session (Room 103): expulsions. Open Session (McDaniels Auditorium) The Board gave permission to a group proposing a Studio Charter School to submit its application for a DPI planning grant. The Board authorized the sale of the most recent house built by the LaFollette Trades students. (We made a profit on this!!) We also agreed to sell a parcel of land to the city for use as the site of a new fire station. This parcel is a small part of the land we own at Sprecher Road and Wyalusing Drive; this land was purchased several years ago in anticipation of the need for additional schools as the area on the far east side builds out. There was an extensive discussion on the bid for electrical upgrade work at Sennett. The discussion was to understand why the bid was so much higher than the original estimated cost. The administration explained that the increase was because: 1) the scope of the project was enlarged to include a second project that had been scheduled for a couple years later (it makes sense (and was cheaper overall) when we were closing down the school and tearing into ceiling and walls to do both projects together); 2) construction costs have gone up significantly over the last year; and 3) the RFP for the bid was not put out as early as it should have been due to loss of staff. The Board, after considerable discussion voted to accept the bid. The administration presented the 2006-07 proposed budget and Board members asked for additional information and explanations. The Board will hold hearings over the next 2 weeks and also go over each area of the budget with the administration to get all questions answered.

Future Meetings: (The Board’s schedule can change so always check the website for the most recent schedule.)
May 1:
5:30 p.m. Special Board Meeting: Presentation of the 5 Year Long Range Plan; followed by the presentation of the proposed new Food Policy. The Board will create a subcommittee to consider the Food Policy and the views of the public, and come back to the Board with recommendations.
7:15 Regular Board Meeting: Formal swearing in of newly elected Board members; election of new Board officers. The agenda includes a proposal to restructure the Board’s Legislative Committee into an Outreach Committee which will focus on public communication and engagement and government relations.

May 8: (McDaniels Auditorium)
5:15 p.m. Special Board Meeting: Discussion of Board priorities, goals and challenges.
6 p.m. The Board will hold a forum to get public feed back on the plan CP 1a from Jan 23, on the website: This plan describes the changes that will have to be made, if the referendum for doesn’t pass, to accommodate increasing numbers of students in the Memorial and West elementary schools.


Carol Carstensen, President
Madison School Board

"Until lions have their own historians, the hunters will always be glorified." - African Proverb

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Connecting Math with Literature


To visit the Exhibit Hall at an NCTM conference is an infuriating activity for me, but I can't avoid it. I am charged with checking out the competition.
Via Joanne.

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For Physics Teacher, Experiments in Learning

Ian Shapira:

In his eternal quest to demystify the nuanced wonders of physics for his students at Gar-Field Senior High School, Bill Willis, 65, has conducted a number of experiments that educate as well as entertain.

Once, he built a hovercraft from a leaf blower and cushion so he could demonstrate Newton's laws of motion. Another time, he lay on a bed of about 1,000 upright nails to show how weight distribution can affect pressure. And, on other occasions, he has swung a bowling ball hanging from the ceiling at his face to show how kinetic energy cannot surpass potential energy.

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April 29, 2006

Milwaukee Public Schools 2006/2007 Budget Information

The Milwaukee Public Schools recently posted their 2006/2007 budget. Alan Borsuk has more:

Citing the intensifying impact of poverty on the lives of students, Milwaukee School Superintendent William Andrekopoulos unveiled a budget proposal Friday for the 2006-'07 school year that increases health and nutrition programs for students.

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DeForest Student Arrrested with Loaded Guns


A 17-year-old DeForest High School student was arrested on Thursday for allegedly keeping two loaded guns in his car in the school parking lot.
Authorities said that a loaded 9 mm and a loaded .25 caliber automatic pistol were in the student's car.

The student was booked into the Dane County Jail on charges of possession of a concealed weapon on school grounds, WISC-TV reported.

and Dodgeville

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April 28, 2006

West students win Science Olympiad

Bill Novak:

Science students from West High School will be competing against students from all 50 states in May after winning the 2006 Wisconsin Science Olympiad state tournament last weekend at the UW Engineering Department.

La Follette High's A team finished second and its B team was sixth, while Memorial High was seventh out of 46 teams.

Students competed in 28 events at the state meet, ranging from food chemistry and nuclear science to astronomy and protein modeling.

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Audio: Mitch Henck Interviews Carol Carstensen and Nan Brien

Mitch Henck interviewed Carol Carstensen and Nan Brien this morning. They discussed the District's 06/07 planned budget, health care spending, local property taxes and Monday's approval of an 856K electrical upgrade to Sennett Middle School that was $397,000 over the estimated cost, funded by the maintenance referendum (I've not seen any discussion of this in the local media [Cap Times | Channel3000]. Excerpt: 5.7MB MP3 file.

The property tax discussion is interesting as there are many factors that affect what a homeowner pays for schools including:

  • redistributed state taxes ("aid" - via income, sales and other taxes/fees), # of students (the district's taxing/spending authority follows students numbers. Losing students is expensive.),

  • assessed value changes (some communities like Madison reassess annually, while others, such as Fitchburg are on a much less frequent schedule) and

  • Fund 80 - district spending that is not constrained by state revenue caps.
I'm glad Carol, Nan and others are discussing these issues. I hope we see more of this.

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Fostering Young Artists: Start Spreading the News

Erika Kinetz:

The foundation awards high school seniors more than $500,000 in cash prizes each year for achievement in the performing, literary and visual arts. It also nominates presidential scholars in the arts, and some colleges refer to its rosters for recruitment.

Yet many people have never heard of the foundation.

"That's what I was surprised about," said Grace Weber, a winner in voice who attends Pius XI High School in Milwaukee. "People outside the art world don't know about it."

Billy Buss, a winner in jazz trumpet and a senior at Berkeley High School in California, added, "My friends only cared I was winning a lot of money."

National Foundation for the Advancement of Arts website. 2007 registration is open.

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April 27, 2006


In an e-mail to the Board of Education, Roger Price admitted a serious error in the budget documents given to the board only three days ago:

I incorrectly classified some professional positions as administrators and some supervisory positions as clerical.

Price attached a corrected Excel table to show the FTEs in the revised "balanced budget."

I've taken Price's revised "balanced budget" FTEs and compared them to the current year FTEs in a second Excel table.

Initially, Price's table show and INCREASE of 5.38 FTE clerical positions. Now he shows a DECREASE of 16.32. His original table showed a DECREASE of 22.70 supervisor FTEs. Now he shows a decrease of 1. For administrators, the original table showed an INCREASE of 2.50. His table now shows a DECREASE of 3.00.

You have to wonder how many other figures are wrong. You have to wonder whether the rest of the budget figures need to be changed throughout the 99-page Financial Summaries document to reflect the errors.

And now the MOST AMAZING CHANGE! Price's new chart includes the seven members of the board in the FTEs. This has NEVER been done previously, and Price gave no reason in his memo to explain the sudden need to add the board members to the FTEs.

This budget process has GOT TO CHANGE!

Remember, this is the same Roger Price who couldn't produce a budget on time last year, and then needed hundreds of hours of staff overtime to produce the budget at the last minute! This is the same Roger Price who cost the district tens of thousands of dollars to reprint referendum ballots because of "miscommunication".

Price's memo to the board:

Board of Education,

Attached is a corrected copy of the Staffing Changes by position chart from page 41 of the Financial Summaries Document (Chapter 1). During the compilation of this chart which DOES NOT come directly off of the system, I incorrectly classified some professional positions as administrators and some supervisory positions as clerical.

I have now expanded the table to include last years original budget and last years revised budget, as it correlates to the info in the budget materials.

I am sorry that this occurred, but as careful as we are in preparation of the materials, errors are missed. In the future, please give me a call if you encounter data that does not flow or appears in conflict and we will work to either explain or correct as needed.

I am also attaching the full list of positions by department that
provides more detail as to the changes in positions from the current


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100 Black Men of Madison Presents its Annual African American History Challenge Bowl

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

On Saturday May 6th, 2006 the 100 Black Men of Madison presents its Annual African American History Challenge Bowl at 8:30 a.m. This event will be located at 545 W. Dayton St. in Madison at the MMSD Doyle Administration Building, McDaniels Auditorium.

The African American History Challenge Bowl is a competition where teams of middle and high school students from the Madison School District and Edgewood answer questions based on African American history. Winners of the local contest are awarded savings bonds and an all expense paid trip to the national competition where they will compete against other chapters of the 100 Black Men of America in Atlanta, Georgia.

This event is free to the public. We are encouraging our community to attend. This event will televised live on MMSD Cable Channel 10.

The master of ceremonies for this event is Channel 15 television personality Mike McKinney. The narrators of this event include: George Johnson, Channel 3 Sportscaster and Annette Miller of MG&E. The judges of the competition include Police Chief Noble Wray, Richard Harris, CEO of Genesis Development Corporation; Barbara Golden, Community Activist and Co-Founder of MAFAAC; and Judge Paul H. Higginbotham of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. The mission of the organization is to enhance the community by conducting and promoting programs and activities focused on Academic Achievement and Self-Esteem of youth, Economic Development, Health and Wellness. The organization is locally well known for its mentoring program with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Annual Back to School Picnic, which annually gives over 2,000 free backpacks filled with school supplies.

For more information regarding the 100 Black Men of Madison African American History Challenge Bowl please contact: Everett Mitchell, 256-0906; or Chris Canty at 469-5213;

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LA's Mayor Takes Charge

The Economist:

“WE CAN'T be a great global city,” says Antonio Villaraigosa, “if we lose half of our workforce before they graduate from high school.” The hyper-energetic mayor of sprawling Los Angeles is stating the obvious. A low graduation rate from the giant Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) feeds through into fewer skilled workers, more criminals and every social ill in America's second-biggest city, from drug abuse to broken families.

And the rate is low indeed. According to a study last year by Harvard's Civil Rights Project, only 45.3% of LAUSD students who started ninth grade (ie, senior high school, at the age of 14 or so) graduated four years later from 12th grade; for Latino students, who make up three-quarters of the student body, the rate was a mere 39%. School-district officials dispute the figures, saying they include as dropouts students who have simply moved away, but even their estimate—a dropout rate of around 33%—is unacceptable.

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Cieslewicz State of the City speech

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz spoke at yesterday's Rotary club meeting. His 3416 word state of the city speech included 159 directly related to our local public schools:

8. We need to work more seamlessly to maintain our excellent public school system.

Our public schools have recently been ranked the third best in the nation. Yet, they face unprecedented challenges as they work to educate more children that come from impoverished families and more children with special needs. I am very aware that we elect a school board to make these decisions and it is not my intent to overstep my authority, but I do recognize that good schools are vital ingredients in healthy neighborhoods. We will renew our efforts to work with the school district, with parents and teachers to make sure that city government and the schools are pulling together, not working at cross purposes. For instance, the decisions the City regarding new housing development has a significant impact on school attendance and boundary issues. Our recently-adopted Comprehensive Plan notes the importance of city and school planning staff working together.

Kristian Knutsen attended the speech.

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New Study Examines Industry's Demand for Highly Educated Workers

The Campaign for College Opportunity:

Can California Keep it's Competitive Edge?

California has long been regarded as a center of innovation and industry. The state ranks as the sixth largest economy in the world, and much of this economic success has been driven by a highly-educated workforce.

Yet, looking ahead, California's competitive advantage - and therefore our economic vitality and quality of life - may be at risk. California's population is growing in regions of the state and among ethnic groups with lower levels of educational attainment.

"Keeping California's Edge: The Growing Demand for Highly Educated Workers," is a new study commissioned by the Campaign for College Opportunity and researched by economists at the Applied Research Center at California State University, Sacramento. Looking forward to 2022, this study identifies growing sectors seeking highly educated workers, analyzes the economic value created by those workers and identifies the top six industries with the most at stake in our state's highly educated high demand future.

Executive Summary [pdf] Fast facts, Full report [pdf]

There's a webcast today @ 1:00p.m. CST where you can listen to a variety of perspectives from education and business leaders on the report. A number of my classmates immediately left Madison after graduating from the UW for a warmer climate and far better tech career opportunities in California. They've not returned.

Lisa Krieger has more.

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Gap in teacher quality falls on income lines

Ledyard King:

Public school teachers in the nation's wealthiest communities continue to be more qualified than those in the poorest despite a federal law designed to provide all children equal educational opportunity.
Preliminary data released by the Department of Education show that in 39 states, the chance of finding teachers who know their subjects are better in elementary schools where parents' incomes are highest. The data show that's also the case among middle and high schools in 43 states.

"Obviously, we have a long way to go," says Rene Islas, who monitors teacher quality for the Department of Education. "Even if you have high numbers (of certified instructors) in the aggregate, there are pockets where students are being taught by teachers that are not highly qualified."

Under the No Child Left Behind law President Bush signed in 2002, states are supposed to have "highly qualified teachers" for all core academic courses, such as math, English and science, by the end of this school year. States that don't face a loss of federal funding.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:42 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Educating from the Bench

Jay Greene:

Spending on public schools nationwide has skyrocketed to $536 billion as of the 2004 school year, or more than $10,000 per pupil. That's more than double per pupil what we spent three decades ago, adjusted for inflation--and more than we currently spend on national defense ($494 billion as of 2005). But the argument behind lawsuits in 45 states is that we don't spend nearly enough on schools. Spending is so low, these litigants claim, that it is in violation of state constitutional provisions requiring an "adequate" education. And in almost half the states, the courts have agreed.

Arkansas is one such state, and its "adequacy" problem neatly illustrates the way courts have driven spending up and evidence out. In 2001 the state Supreme Court declared the amount of money spent at that time--more than $7,000 per pupil--in violation of the state constitutional requirement to provide a "general, suitable and efficient" system of public education. Like courts in other states, Arkansas's court ordered that outside consultants be hired to determine how much extra funding would be required for an adequate education.

A firm led by two education professors, Lawrence Picus and Allan Odden, was paid $350,000 to put a price tag on what would be considered adequate. In September 2003 Messrs. Picus and Odden completed their report, concluding that Arkansas needed to add $847.3 million to existing school budgets. They also recommended policy changes, but the only thing that really mattered, at least as far as the court was concerned, was the bottom line--bringing the total to $4 billion, or $9,000 per pupil.

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Californial Public Education Poll

Mitchell Landsberg:

Almost two-thirds in the state say education quality is a major problem, but most oppose tax hikes to fix it—except on the rich.

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April 26, 2006

Uniforms Proposed at Janesville School Board Meeting


School uniforms were proposed at the Janesville School Board meeting Tuesday night, even thought the topic wasn't on the agenda.
Board member Todd Bailey suggested a pilot program, taking place as early as next January, with uniforms consisting of trousers and polo shirts.
Bailey said it would end arguments between parents and children over school attire, cut family clothing costs, and eliminate distractions inside the classroom.
Bailey declined WISC-TV's request for an interview.
Many students at Janesville Craig High School said the idea of uniforms hinders their ability to express themselves.

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Knitting and School Board Meetings

WTDY is running a poll on whether new board member Lucy Mathiak should knit during meetings. Watch Monday's meeting, where the Board discussed the just released 2006/2007 budget. Monday's agenda can be found here. I'm glad WTDY is having a look at the school board. Perhaps they might include some additional topics. The meeting included the award (8C) of a 856K electrical upgrade for Sennett Middle School (referendum - estimated at 459,300).

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West High Student Does A Virtual Hip Replacement

James Edward Mills:

West High School sophomore Haya Khatib, 16, is already planning a career as a physician. And even though she hasn't even picked a college yet, Khatib had an opportunity Monday to perform her first operation.

A nonprofit Web site called lets visitors wield a scalpel through a virtual knee surgery, and beginning Wednesday, a virtual hip replacement surgery. Developed with the help of UW Health doctors, this is the latest addition to an online education site that offers interactive experiential learning programs. Students at West are testing the program before its national launch.

The program was funded through a grant from Zimmer, an orthopedic products company in Warsaw, Ind.

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The Madison Community - Students, Parents, Professionals, Citizens - Can Help Elementary Strings: Here's How

The community CAN HELP elementary strings and fine arts education in MMSD. Please write the School Board - - ask them a) to establish a community fine arts education advisory committee beginning with a small community working group to put together a plan for this, b) develop a multi-year strategic and education plan for fine arts education, c) work with the music professionals and community to address short-term issues facing elementary music education (other fine arts areas - dance, drama) that supports children's learning and academic achievement. Until this is done, please write the School Board asking them not to accept (to reject) the Superintendent’s current K-5 music education proposal to eliminate elementary strings.

At this late date in the year, I feel a small community working group needs to be established that will develop a plan for moving forward with the community on fine arts education issues. I would be more than happy to volunteer my time to help coordinate this effort, which I see as a first step toward the establishment of a community fine arts education task force/advisory committee. However, what is key is the School Board’s support and the Superintendent’s leadership, and I would be honored to work with all members of the school board and with the Superintendent. I'm sure other people would be happy to help as well.

The issues with MMSD's fine arts elementary music education is not solely a budget issue, but the administration's lack of imagination and longer-term education planning in fine arts makes courses such as strings become budget issues because nothing is done from year to year to make it anything other than a budget issue.

Elementary strings is a high-demand course - this isn't 50 kids across the district, it was 1,745 in September 2005. From 1969 to 2005, enrollment has tripled, increasing by 1,000 students from 1992 until 2002, at the same time that the number of low income and minority children increased in the elementary student population. Demand for the course is annually 50% of the total enrollment in 4th and 5th grade. Plus, minority and low income enrollment has increased over the years. This year there are about 550 low income children enrolled in the elementary class. More low income children enrolled to take the course, but did not because of the pull out nature, I'm assuming. There is nowhere else in the City that so many low-income children have the opportunity to study an instrument at a higher level and continuously as part of their daily education.

Each spring, the administration waits until late April and then releases reports on elementary strings, saying they've worked hard, but can't figure it out. These documents imply that teachers have had input, but I can tell you that this spring's reports a) were not reviewed by teachers, and b) string teachers might have spent less than an hour or so learning about what other schools do, but they were not asked to be part of a process, they were not given objectives, process, timeline. And, they did not receive any draft documents to review. To me, this is unacceptable in the day and age of email.

I spoke before the board less than a month ago, saying how concerned I was that nothing had been done asking them to please avoid the past years’ mistakes and move forward working together, knowing how important this course is to the community and how quickly budget time was approaching. I asked the School Board to consider establishing an advisory Fine Arts Community Education Committee, because a) Madison values the arts and b) this would be a great vehicle to develop a fine arts education strategy. Shwaw Vang, who chaired the committee I spoke at, and other board members were supportive of my comments. If there are any plans to obtain private grants or private money, there must be a strategy in place that is clear and supported. Also, there must be vehicles that allow relationships to be built that will lead to contributions – this takes organization, commitment and time.
To be successful, support for fine arts education and a strategic plan has to come from the School Board and has to come from the Superintendent. So far, it has not, and I believe this has been damaging on so many fronts.

Both Art Rainwater and the Fine Arts Coordinator heard me say publicly another approach is needed, reports should be reviewed and have input from the appropriate professionals and that we should work together as we move forward. I said I wanted to be supportive and work together. I have spent time with each one of them privately saying the same things as I am writing here. Yet, at the meeting where I spoke publicly, neither person indicated to the school board publicly that a report with a proposal for K-5 music education was underway and would be sent to the school board shortly. No K-5 music teacher knew this report/memo was being prepared.

In my opinion, major issues negatively affecting music education are a) lack of top level administrative support for fine arts education and b) lack of multi-year planning in fine arts education, which would have been in place years ago when cuts first affected fine arts education if top level administrators cared about this education.

Sometimes approaches appear to me to reflect some sort of a mindset - that only administrators can do the job. The best administrators I encountered while working were those who knew how to surround themselves and work with the appropriate expertise, no matter what the issue. I have not seen this approach with fine arts education in Madison recently. Music education planning this year effectively has been closed - to teachers, to the School Board, to the public. In effect, the district added an additional administrative layer, that put up one more wall. I don't think the district and the community can afford additional layers of administrators who keep out and do not work side-by-side with teachers, other professionals and the community, keeping them informed and "in the loop," so to speak. It’s not productive and it is too expensive.

Why don't I feel the Superintendent’s approach takes fine arts education more seriously? Two years ago or more, the Superintendent requested a committee composed of parents come together to address specific issues re extracurricular sports when sports became an issue. No such action was forthcoming on fine arts, especially strings. We currently have board sponsored public committees on equity, animals in the classroom, boundaries. It's time for one for fine arts, and I think this has to come from the School Board and be co-chaired by members of the community.

I support referendums, adequate funding for our schools, and I abhor the legislature's lack of attention and failure to address school financing. However, locally, I feel our school board needs to encourage and to support different approaches and next steps. Please write to Madison's School Board members, asking them to do this for strings and fine arts education in MMSD.

Posted by at 9:42 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Florida Links Teacher Pay to Student Test Scores

Peter Whoriskey:

A new pay-for-performance program for Florida's teachers will tie raises and bonuses directly to pupils' standardized-test scores beginning next year, marking the first time a state has so closely linked the wages of individual school personnel to their students' exam results.

The effort, now being adopted by local districts, is viewed as a landmark in the movement to restructure American schools by having them face the same kind of competitive pressures placed on private enterprise, and advocates say it could serve as a national model to replace traditional teacher pay plans that award raises based largely on academic degrees and years of experience.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has characterized the new policy, which bases a teacher's pay on improvements in test scores, as a matter of common sense, asking, "What's wrong about paying good teachers more for doing a better job?"

But teachers unions and some education experts say any effort to evaluate teachers exclusively on test-score improvements will not work, because schools are not factories and their output is not so easily measured. An exam, they say, cannot measure how much teachers have inspired students, or whether they have instilled in them a lifelong curiosity. Moreover, some critics say, the explicit profit motive could overshadow teacher-student relationships.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:25 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Milwaukee Schools Budget: District wants to spread funds evenly

Sarah Carr:

Next year, the High School of the Arts might not have a spring musical at all.

Some parents and teachers say the soul of the school is at stake. Their concern is echoed at some of the other most renowned high schools in Milwaukee Public Schools, including Rufus King, considered the toughest school to get into.

Parents are crying out that MPS schools with strong academic or art specialties can't survive much longer under current budget realities. They argue that their programs have been taken for granted as the district moves to put more families in neighborhood schools and create dozens of smaller high schools.

"I'm really afraid the School Board is positioning itself to cut its arts program," said John Glaspey, whose daughters attend the arts high school. "I think they are hellbent on sacrificing that for the neighborhood and K-8 schools and this small high school initiative."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:22 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Lengthy Reading Recovery Discussion

The use and effectiveness of Reading Recovery is in the news elsewhere. More links. Joanne Jacobs has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Red Flag in the Brain Game

Business Week:

The members of Duke University's computer programming team had solved only one problem in the world finals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest in San Antonio on Apr. 12. The winning team, from Saratov State University in Russia, solved six puzzles over the course of the grueling five-hour contest. Afterward, Duke coach Owen Astrachan tried to cheer up his team by pointing out that they were among ``the best of the best'' student programmers in the world. Edwards, 20, still distraught, couldn't resist a self-deprecating dig: ``We're the worst of the best of the best.''

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April 25, 2006

Similar Students, Different Results

From the latest Teacher's College Record.

It looks like a solid study, but I have one caveat. One of the findings is that successful schools are aligned with the State Standards and success is then measured by these standards. This does raise questions about the content of these standards. The creation of these standards has been highly political and in some cases the resulting standards leave much to be desired. For an earlier California story, see Gary Nash, Charlotte Crabtree and Ross Dunn's History on Trial.


Similar Students, Different Results by Trish Williams & Michael W. Kirst — January 25, 2006

Why do some California elementary schools serving largely low-income students score as much as 250 points higher on the state's academic performance index (API) than other schools with very similar students?

That’s the research question asked by a new, large-scale EdSource-led study that surveyed principals and teachers in 257 such schools across the state. What we learned is that the higher performing schools tend to have four interrelated practices at the core of their operation—prioritizing student achievement; implementing a coherent, standards-based curriculum and instructional program; analyzing student-assessment data from multiple sources; and ensuring availability of instructional resources.

Many studies have examined successful schools as a group, in an effort to understand their methods or best practices. This study—conducted by EdSource and researchers from Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the American Institutes for Research—took a different tack. Rather than looking at a specific performance zone, we examined elementary schools within a specific, fairly narrow socioeconomic and demographic band but across the full range of school performance.

Specifically, we garnered the participation of 257 out of the 550 elementary schools that fall within the 25–35th percentile band of California’s School Characteristics Index (SCI). This band of schools has high levels of students from low-income families, or from ethnic minorities, and/or who are learning English as a second language. Our dependent variable was the school’s Academic Performance Index (API), which is based annually for these schools on student scores in English Language Arts and math on the California Standards Tests in grades 2–5. We surveyed all the principals and 80 % of the K–5 classroom teachers at the schools in our sample, giving us 257 principal surveys and over 5,500 teacher surveys.

Our surveys included over 300 items each covering seven broad domains often associated with effective schools. The questions were updated to reflect California’s current standards based reform environment, asking specifically what principals and teachers were doing, and how frequently. Once the data was collected, we used a weighted analysis to assure that results were statistically representative of all public, non-charter elementary schools in the 25–35th SCI band. We then used several types of regression analyses to determine which school practices differentiated the highest performing schools from the lowest performing ones.


We’ve heard people say that you can guess a school’s Academic Performance Index (API) score by the zip code of its students. But the 250-point difference in API between schools serving similarly disadvantaged students shows that’s not true. What do the higher performing schools do differently? From the school district through to the classroom, they focus on improving student achievement against the state’s academic standards and align all their practices around that goal. Of the seven domains we studied, these four had the biggest impact on a school’s API:

  • Prioritizing Student Achievement. Where teacher and principal answers to multiple survey questions indicated higher expectations for students, their schools had, on average, higher API scores than schools whose staffs indicated lower expectations. In more successful schools, teachers and principals alike reported that their schools have well defined plans for instructional improvement and that they put priority on meeting the state’s API goals and the federal adequate yearly progress goals. Teachers and principals also report that their schools set measurable goals for exceeding the mandated API student subgroup growth targets for improved achievement.

  • Implementing a Coherent, Standards-based Curriculum and Instructional Program. Teachers who report the following were more likely to be in higher performing schools: instructional consistency within grades; curricular alignment from grade-to-grade; classroom instruction guided by state academic standards; curriculum materials in math and language arts aligned with the state’s standards; in a district that addresses the instructional needs of English learners at their school. Principals were more likely to be in higher performing schools if they reported that the district has clear expectations for student performance aligned with the district’s adopted curriculum and that the district evaluates the principal based on the extent to which instruction in the school aligns with the curriculum.

  • Using Assessment Data to Improve Student Achievement and Instruction. Strongly correlated with a higher school API was the extensive use of student assessment data by the district and the principal in an effort to improve instruction and student learning. For example, principals more often reported that they and the district use assessment data from multiple sources (including frequent curriculum program tests and annual California Standards Tests) to evaluate teachers’ practices and to identify teachers who need instructional improvement. Principals report using this data to develop strategies to follow up on the progress of selected students and help them reach academic goals. According to these principals, the district expects all of its schools to improve achievement, evaluates principals based on student achievement, and provides support for site-level planning related to improving achievement.

  • Ensuring Availability of Instructional Resources. Where more teachers reported having regular or standard certification for teaching in California, schools had, on average, higher API scores. The same was true of schools where principals more often reported that their districts provide sufficient and up-to-date instructional materials as well as support for supplementary instruction for struggling students and for facilities management. Teachers with at least five years of full time teaching experience were more likely, on average, to be from schools with higher APIs. Principal experience was also correlated with higher school achievement.
The survey also included questions related to schools’ efforts to involve parents, teacher collaboration and development, and the enforcement of high expectations for student behavior. Although each of these types of practices made some contribution to a school’s API score, and were likely practiced by most of the schools in the sample, they were not nearly as strongly correlated with higher school performance as were the four key interactive, interdependent school improvement practices described above.


Our study underscores that there is no single silver bullet for school success; multiple factors and practices are at work. Yet it appears that in the context of standards based, accountability-driven reform, at least for elementary schools with large numbers of low-income students, a major implication is that the caliber of teaching and learning appears directly related to the level of system-wide coherence. The clearer the strategic through line from district to school to classroom, the more likely it is that higher achievement will result. Put another way, the more all the requisite pieces are aligned, seen as interdependent parts of a whole, and overtly structured to support the work of teachers in the classroom, the stronger the benefits to learning.

The study provided some glimpses of how this looks in action:

  • District practices include setting clear expectations that schools meet API and AYP growth targets, including for subgroups, as well as providing schools with achievement data and evaluating principal performance and teacher practices based on that data. They also include ensuring that math and language arts curricula are aligned with state standards, that instruction is focused on achievement and that schools have adequate facilities and textbooks as well as resources for struggling students.
  • Principal leadership is redefined to focus on effective management of the school improvement process. In general, API scores were higher in schools with principals whose responses indicate that they act as proactive managers of school improvement, driving the reform process, cultivating the school vision, and extensively and personally using student assessment data for a wide variety of school improvement areas of focus, including evaluation of teacher practice and assistance to struggling students.

  • An effective teaching staff appears to be characterized by certain ingredients. In higher achieving schools, principals reported that a higher proportion of their teaching staff had, in order of priority: a demonstrated ability to raise student achievement, strong content knowledge, characteristics that made them a good fit with the school culture, training in curriculum programs, and the ability to map curriculum standards to instruction. These teachers were also supportive of colleagues’ learning and improvement, able to use data from student assessments, familiar with the school community, excited about teaching, and familiar with state standards.


An interrelated question we plan to follow up on is the relationship between school-wide use of specific curriculum packages, other curricular and instructional school practices, and school performance. In addition, our teacher survey included a robust set of questions around EL instruction that have yet to be analyzed.


Williams, T., Kirst, M., Haertel, E., et al. (2005). Similar students, different results: Why do some schools do better? A large-scale survey of California elementary schools serving low-income students. Mountain View, CA: EdSource.

The initial findings report, Similar Schools, Different Results: Why Do Some Schools Do Better?, including appendices with more details on the research methodology and the demographics of the school and student sample, can be found at

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 25, 2006 ID Number: 12299, Date Accessed: 4/25/2006 3:24:06 PM

Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 2:26 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Nine Madison School District students named All-State Scholars

Madison Metropolitan School District:
Nine Madison School District students named All-State Scholars

Nine students from the Madison School District have earned the All-State Scholars honor out of 120 so named in Wisconsin. In addition, the nine Madison students comprise 60% of the 15 students chosen from the six-county Second Congressional District.

The All-State Scholars from Madison are:

  • Lauren Brown, La Follette HS
  • Brian Lee, Memorial HS
  • Adeyinka Lesi, West HS
  • Neil Liu, Memorial HS
  • Edson Makuluni, Memorial HS
  • Alexander Pinigis, East HS
  • Yaoli Pu, West HS
  • Mitchell Shanklin, La Follette HS
  • Mary Thurber, West HS

Selection as an All-State Scholar is based primarily on a student's overall high school grade-point average and ACT or SAT scores. In the event of a tie, judges consider student statements, extracurricular activities, and leadership.

All-State Scholars receive a $1,500 one-year scholarship which can be renewed for an additional three years.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:13 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

2006 / 2007 Madison School Board Budget Discussion

Superintendent Art Rainwater presented the proposed 2006 / 2007 budget Monday night (Barb earlier pointed out that 06/07 allocations were sent to the schools on 4/3/2006). Board questions followed. Video and audio [22MB mp3]:

36 minute video

1 hour Board Q & A/Discussion video

Additional commentary:

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:36 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Charter Schools?

In light of the planning grant application approval for the proposed Studio School Charter yesterday, I'm curious about how others view public charters and what their roles should be.

Here are some different conceptions that I've heard or read (I'm sure there are many more and I'd be glad to hear about those):

  1. Charters as laboratories for innovations that can be replicated in other district schools.
  2. Charters as a means of of addressing the needs or desires of self-defined populations.
  3. Charters as a first step toward replacing the current system with a system of semi-autonomous schools.
Related questions include: How should charters and charter proposals be evaluated?


Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 8:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Concern about quality of 3rd quarter report cards (cont.)

Expressions of parent concern over the quality of third-quarter report cards for students in Madison's elementary schools continue. Parents at Thoreau School joined parents from other schools who have wondered why their children make so little progress in the third quarter of the year in many subject areas that no information on progress can be provided to their families. Another Parent Concerned About Third-Quarter Report Cards and Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards

Here is a letter from Thoreau parents to the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools.

Dear Ms. Abplanalp,

Thank you for you explanatory note regarding third quarter report cards.The report cards would have been most confusing without this explanation.

Regrettably, the reports are of little or no use to us in this format. We understand that our children learn best if parents and teachers can work in partnership to educate. While we make an effort to stay in touch with our children’s teachers, we are unfortunately not always able to communicate effectively on a regular basis. Indirect communication can also be lacking. Although we appreciate that teachers are busy, much of the completed and “graded” homework that comes home does not provide much insight to our children’s progress. With a formal report, we would be able to identify problem areas and work supportively to reinforce those lessons while simultaneously identifying and rewarding successes.

If the changes students experience during the third quarter are too small to measure, it begs the question: why is there not more progress during the heart of the school year? It also leads one to question why an early release day is required to generate such incomplete reports.

The fourth quarter report cards will give us a measure of how our children performed over the course of the year, but will not be of much value as a tool for co-teaching from home. We hope that you will reconsider this reporting practice and replace it with something worthy.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 8:28 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

MMSD Budget Mystery #6: FTEs from the Black Box Budget

Once again the strange MMSD budget process presents uncountable mysteries for our intrepid investigators.

Somehow the administration puts this year's budget and staff into a black box somewhere in the Doyle Building and miraculously out comes a prediction of the FTEs needed to continue the current level of services, as well as proposed FTEs for a balanced budget.

A look at this year's FTEs compared to the balanced budget FTEs produces a much different picture for investigation, as you can see from the attached Excel file.

Train your spy glasses on the puzzling FTEs in a couple of job classifications.

In 2005-2006 the district employed 34.70 supervisors. However, the administration said only 11 are need under the cost to coninue budget (page 41) and 12 under the balanced budget. Page 41 then shows an increase of one position, when the comparison between current FTEs and the balanced budget shows a reduction of 22.7. (As an aside, does the cost to continue with 11 supervisors mean that last year the district employed 23.70 supervisors who really weren't needed?) Very strange.

In another inexplicable change, the district employed 94.57 food service workers in 2004-2005. This year's balanced budget proposes 105.89 FTEs for Food Service Workers. Why? Why does the district need 11.32 more FTEs to serve about 300 fewer students? Maybe we're getting bigger eaters in the MMSD. Who knows?

Check this writer's facts, the district's facts, and come up with soluitons to the Mysteries of the Black Box Budget!

Posted by Ed Blume at 8:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Charter Schools in Wisconsin

Madison School Board OK’s charter school of arts applying for DPI planning grant.  See The Studio School Website
Converting to Healthy Living Charter School
Governor Proclaims May 1 - 6, 2006 as Charter Schools Week in Wisconsin
Charter Schools about Social Justice, says Fuller
What is Chartering and Where Did It Come From?
DPI's NEW 2005-06 Charter Schools Directory   (Under "Charter School Information" on right side of page, click "2005--06 Directory" (pdf)

Charter Schools Authorized by UW-Milwaukee
Green Charter Eco-Schools (30 Websites)
DPI Charter School Grant Info
Highly Qualified Teachers & Paraprofessionals in Charter Schools:  A Guide for Charter School Authorizers and Operators

Posted by Senn Brown at 7:52 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Fordham Foundation's 2007 Education Excellence Nominations

Thomas B. Fordham Foundation:

The Foundation awards two prizes annually:
  • The Thomas B. Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship is awarded to a scholar who has made major contributions to education reform via research, analysis, and successful engagement in the war of ideas.
  • The Thomas B. Fordham Prize for Valor is awarded to a leader who has made major contributions to education reform via noteworthy accomplishments at the national, state, local, and/or school levels.
Anyone can be nominated whose work has had a profound impact on education in the United States. Candidates may be nominated either for cumulative lifetime achievement or for extraordinary one-time accomplishments. Employees and trustees of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation are not eligible, nor are members of the prize committee.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:22 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

More thoughts on math teacher training

Jo Anne Cobasko:

“A small cadre of math specialists is helping teachers with instruction and curriculum.”

While it sounds promising that “math specialists” will be helping teachers with instruction and curriculum, the converse may be likely to occur.

In the following excerpt from "Why Johnny Can’t Calculate" (Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2005--link here), CSU-Northridge mathematics professor David Klein and high school teacher Jennifer Marple have detailed how the “experts” responsible for professional development for LAUSD often fail to deliver.

The district requires math teachers to attend in-service meetings to learn more math and better ways to teach it. No one would quarrel with those goals, but the quality of professional development programs is often so poor that they are likely to cause more harm than good.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:05 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Competition as an Effective Education Reform

Nancy Salvato:

Reminding the audience that public education is charged with educating our citizenry to participate in self government, he quoted Jefferson, “If you want a nation that is both ignorant and free, that is something that never was and never will be.” Because a good education should afford each person an opportunity to participate in the American Dream, education taxes are levied so that generations may acquire the skills necessary to earn a living, knowledge required to sustain a Democratic-Republic, and civility essential to a free society.

A plethora of studies implicate the public schools for failing to provide a good education. The American Institute for Research found U.S. math students at all grade levels were consistently behind their peers around the world. A survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, found only 31% of college students tested as proficient in reading and extracting information from complex material, such as legal documents. In an employer survey from The National Association of Manufacturers, 84% of respondents reported K-12 schools were not doing a good job of preparing students for the workplace; lacking basic employability skills, such as: attendance, timeliness, and work ethic, exhibiting deficiencies in math and science, and in reading and comprehension. Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force found the performance of the U.S. public education system virtually unchanged in the twenty years since the publication of A Nation at Risk. The Knight Foundation found most U.S. high school students don’t understand the First Amendment. Finally, none of the eight education goals (Goals 2000) established by President Bush (41) and 49 state governors were achieved.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 24, 2006

MMSD Cross-High School Comparison -- continued

I recently posted a comparative list of the English courses offered to 9th and 10th graders at Madison's four high schools. The list showed clearly that West High School does not offer its high achieving and highly motivated 9th and 10th grade students the same appropriately challenging English classes that are offered at East, LaFollette and Memorial.

Here is the yield from a similar comparison for 9th and 10th grade Social Studies and Science.

Social Studies -- Ninth Grade

East: U.S. History 9, TAG U.S. History (U.S. History or TAG U.S. History required)

LaFollette: Exploring U.S. History, Challenges of Democracy (a.k.a. Advanced U.S. History) (Exploring U.S. History or Challenges of Democracy required)

Memorial: American Experience 1 and 2, 9th grade elective -- .25 credit course "Interdisciplinary TAG" (American History 1 and 2 required)

West: U.S. History (required)

Social Studies -- Tenth Grade

East: World History, TAG World History, Ethnic Studies, Social Psychology (consent of instructor required for 10th graders only), American Politics and Government (World History or TAG World History required)

LaFollette: World History, Civilizations (a.k.a. Advanced World History), Challenges of Democracy, American Women's History, AP European History, AP Psychology (World History or Civilizations required)

Memorial: World History, World History AP, American Politics Today, International Relations and National Security Issues, Women In U.S. History, The Ancient World, Modern European History AP (World History required; World History AP can replace World History)

West: Western Civilization 10, Tools for Success in the Social Sciences (World Civilization 10 required)

Science -- Ninth Grade

East: Biology I, Biology 9 for Talented and Gifted (number of sections depends on demand)

LaFollette: General Biology I, Honors Biology I (number of sections sections depends on demand)

Memorial: Integrated Science, 9th grade elective -- .25 credit course "Interdisciplinary TAG" (Integrated Science required)

West: Biology (embedded honors option available beginning 2006-07), Accelerated Biology (one section of 24 students, regardless of demand)

Science -- Tenth Grade

East: Chemistry, Chemistry for Talented and Gifted, Earth Science 1, Earth Science 2, Biology I, Physical Science Chemistry, Physical Science Physics, Advanced Laboratory Science

LaFollette: General Biology I, Honors Biology I, Practical Biological Science, Biology II, Physical Science, Practical Physical Science, General Physics, Math Physics 1 and 2

Memorial: Earth Science 1, Fundamentals of Biology, Biology, General Physics, Chemistry in the Community, Math Chemistry, Chemistry AP, Aircraft Construction (Biology AP is available to 11th and 12th graders -- Biology is not a pre-req for Biology AP)

West: Biology (embedded honors option available beginning 2006-07), Biology II, Earth Science, Chemistry, Chemistry in the Community

I have asked the District and West High School administrations to please explain to me how the more limited course offerings at West fulfill the District's legal responsibilities to the school's academically talented and highly motivated 9th and 10th grade students, under the requirements set forth by Wisconsin State Standard t.

I have also asked if the District has plans to "re-design" our four high schools with an eye on equity of educational opportunity, in the same way the District's eleven middle schools were evaluated this year. I have asked if the plan is to bring West in line with the other three high schools or vice versa.

Stay tuned for more.

Posted by Laurie Frost at 2:04 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Insurance trumps teachers' raises

Jake Rigdon:

The dilemma has hit smaller school districts the hardest.

According to unofficial estimates, health insurance premiums are expected to increase between 16 percent and 23 percent in the next school year in the Athens, Auburndale, Edgar, Marathon, Spencer, Stratford and Tomahawk school districts, affecting more than 460 teachers. Some districts pay 100 percent of the premiums. Others require teachers to pay a portion.

In response, Athens, Auburndale, Edgar, Marathon and Stratford are considering options such as finding a new insurance carrier that offers a cheaper plan, shifting to plans with fewer benefits or joining an insurance consortium.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:38 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Fifth Verse - Same, Sorrowful Tune: Superintendent Proposes to Elminate Elementary Strings

Other districts facing fiscal and academic achievement challenges have had successes maintaining and growing their fine arts education - through strategic planning, active engagement and real partnerships with their communities. In Tuscon, AZ, with a large low income and hispanic population, test scores of this population have climbed measurably (independent evaluations confirmed this). This state has received more than $1 million in federal funding for their fine arts education work. School districts in Chicago, New York, Texas and Minneapolis have also done some remarkable work in this area.

In my opinion, the administration's music education work products and planning efforts this year are unsatisfactory, unimaginative and incomplete. In spite of research that continues to demonstrate the positive effects on student achievement (especially for low income students) and the high value the Madison community places on fine arts, the administration continues to put forth incomplete proposals that will short change all students, especially our low-income students, and the administration does its work "behind closed doors."

Three or four weeks ago, I spoke at a board meeting and said I thought we needed to do things differently this year - Shwaw Vang and other board members supported my idea of working together to solve issues surrounding elementary strings. Apparently, the administration saw things differently. Since my public appearance the Superintendent has issued two reports - one eliminating elementary strings replacing K-5 music with a “new, improved” idea for K-5 music and a second report with enrollment data presented incompletely with an anti-elementary strings bias. Teachers had no idea this proposal or data were forthcoming, saw no drafts, and they did not receive copies of statistics relevant to their field that was sent last week to the School Board. Neither did the public or the entire School Board know these reports were planned and underway. During the past 12 months, there were no lists of fine arts education priorities developed and shared, no plans to address priorities, processes, timelines, staff/community involvement, etc. String teachers received no curriculum support to adjust to teaching a two-year curriculum in 1/2 the instructional time even though they asked for this help from the Doyle building, and they never received information about the plans for recreating elementary strings in the future. None.

I don't feel the Superintendent proceeded in the manner expressed to me by Mr. Vang nor as demonstrated by the School Board's establishment of community task forces over this past year on a number of important issues to the community. Madison's love of fine arts lends itself well to a community advisory committee. I hope other Board members support Mr. Vang's community team approach, rejecting the Superintendent's recent music proposal as incomplete and unacceptable.

In his fifth year of proposals to eliminate elementary strings, the Superintendent is proposing a "new and improved" K-5 music that is not planned for another year, but requires elimination of Grade 4 strings next year. The recent proposal, once again, was developed by administrators without any meaningful involvement of teachers and no involvement of the community. Elementary strings and fine arts education are important to the community. The Superintendent did not use a process that was transparent, well planned with a timeline, open and involved the community.

Music education, including elementary string instruction, is beneficial to a child's developing, learning and engagement in school. However, music education, also directly supports and reinforces learning in math and reading. Instrument instruction does this at a higher level and that's one of the reasons why MMSD's music education curriculum introduces strings in Grade 4, following a sequence of increasing challenges in music education. In fact, all the points made in the Superintendent's "new" K-5 music program, including multicultural experiences, exist in MMSD's current music curriculum. The only thing "new" in the Superintendent's proposal is the elimination of elementary strings.

It is not acceptable to say that we have to do something, because we have to cut money. Also, this is not about some folks being able to "yell" louder than others. To me, this is about five years that have been wasted - no planning, no community involvement, no shared visions. Our kids deserve better. Let's get started on a new path working together now.

MMSD administration has not worked with the Madison community (parents, teachers, organizations), and this year has simply been a continuation of a closed-door attitude toward the community and toward teachers in this field. Until the administration has worked with the community and put in place a transparent, public process, proposed changes to fine arts education should be rejected. Also, the School Board needs to set expectations before any process commences.

MMSD's historical data for elementary strings tell us the program is reaching and attracting our low income students: From 1992-2002 enrollment doubled to 2,049 students (consistently about 50% of 4th and 5th graders were enrolled in classes). During this same time period the NUMBER of low income MMSD students enrolled in elementary school grew and the NUMBER of non-low income MMSD students in elementary school declined. Nearly 30% of students currently enrolled in elementary strings are low income and the percentage of students taking the class has grown over time.

NO OTHER PUBLIC/PRIVATE ORGANIZATION IN THE AREA TEACHES HUNDREDS OF LOW-INCOME CHILDREN HOW TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT – NO OTHER ORGANIZATION IS PRESENTLY EQUIPPED TO DO THIS. No other public/private organization teaches hundreds of low-income children how to play an instrument for little more than $100 per student per year. How can the Madison community help these students continue to be successful?

While THOUSANDS of dollars of administrative time have been spent discussing next steps for elementary strings, teachers were basically excluded. This year teachers were given limited, incomplete information at one voluntary (unpaid) meeting in December, which less than half the teachers were in attendance. They received no information on next steps and heard nothing on progress following this meeting.

Even sadder, the Superintendent has sent a proposal for K-5 music to the School Board, which "promises" a new K-5 music education course in one year (nothing now) that will be great, because it will be well planned! There has been no curriculum assessment or planning this entire year! Why should the School Board expect this to magically change next year unless the structure, process and "players" change?

If this "new" curriculum already exists, the following question comes to mind - why isn't the existing curriculum being implemented? When was an evaluation last done? Who did this evaluation? There could be a number of issues - questions about implementation, training and coordination that need to be addressed. I would expect any process to begin with an assessment of the current curriculum; which, at a minimum, I would expect to include teachers and community representatives.

The Superintendent's "idea" will not result in a new, improved K-5 music curriculum and will continue to alienate students, teachers and the community. What the Superintendent wrote in his proposal for K-5 music education ALREADY EXISTS in a thoroughly written K-12 sequential MMSD music education curriculum plan that meets state requirements for a) a K-12 sequential curriculum plan for music and b) is approved by the School Board. When resources are tight, we cannot afford to waste precious time and money.

Lastly, some may read and roll their eyes that I'm writing AGAIN about elementary strings! Rightly so, but not because I'm having to write about this course again and again, but because the Superintendent and the School Board majority have not taken proactive steps toward meaningful, workable solutions - at every turn teachers, parents, and community organizations are excluded. Teachers asked for curriculum time last summer to reorganize the strings course, which was cut in half. The admin. did not help and has not helped this past year, being more of a burden on teachers. This situation has left teachers and kids to figure out curriculum as they go, which does not help teachers who are new or teachers who have introductory classes of 35 kids.

The Superintendent's record of handling fine arts education in MMSD has wasted precious time and resources, is short changing our low income population and our community. I'd like to see the process change this year. Until it does, I believe the School Board needs to reject the current proposal from the Superintendent.

Posted by at 9:07 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Landmark Legal Foundation: Files IRS Complaint Against Wisconsin NEA Affiliate (WEAC)


Landmark Legal Foundation today asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate numerous activities by the National Education Association's Wisconsin affiliate, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) that may have violated federal tax law.

WEAC made a total of $430,000 in contributions to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) that weren't reported on WEAC's tax returns. The DLCC is a political organization formed by the Democratic National Committee to provide funding and logistical assistance to state legislative campaigns around the country. The WEAC contributions, which were reported by the DLCC on its tax filings, were made in 2000 and 2002, and were apparently used by the DLCC to underwrite state legislative campaigns in California and elsewhere.

WEAC is a 501(c)(5) tax-exempt union under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). As a 501(c)(5), WEAC is required to report and pay federal income tax on almost any general revenue funds used for political purposes, including contributions made by the union to political organizations like the DLCC (called 527s, for the section of the IRC under which they are formed.) WEAC's own 527, the Wisconsin Education Association Council -- Political Action Committee (WEAC-PAC), also did not report the DLCC contributions in question on their tax filings.

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Teachers share fear of questioning school boards

Arrin Newton Brunson:

A grass-roots group, Parents for Positive Change, invited the two lawyers after controversies erupted in the Logan School District earlier this year, leading to the resignation of a popular principal and the early retirement of an embattled superintendent.

Many of the complaints centered on the rights of teachers to complain without fear of retribution.

McCoy assured teachers that challenging school officials on issues of public concern is protected speech. "You do have substantial rights," he said.

State law prohibits retaliation against teachers who speak out about practices or policies they perceive as detrimental to students, McCoy said. Punishments such as the loss of salary, prestige and job opportunities are illegal, he said.

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Milwaukee Graduation Rates - Poverty & Governance

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial:

t is simply nothing short of catastrophic that so many Milwaukee youngsters are being left behind in a world in which a bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma. It's a trend that bodes ill for the region's capacity to grow and compete.

Yes, Milwaukee again makes a list it should wish it weren't on with a ranking that should properly make every Milwaukee Public Schools official, School Board member, teacher, parent and taxpayer intensely introspective, not to mention angry.

That's because, whether the graduation rate is 45% - ranking it 94th among the 100 largest school districts in the country, according to the generally conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute - or 61% or 67%, what, respectively, the state and district say it is, that's too few high schoolers graduating.

And the gap between African-American and white achievement in Wisconsin (and between boys and girls) should be topics getting more focus than they have to date. The Manhattan Institute study, released Tuesday, says Wisconsin overall enjoys an 85% graduation rate, but for African-Americans statewide, it's 55%, the second lowest in the country.

Yes, we know all the societal factors involved in low graduation rates, mostly revolving around poverty. However, these graduation figures also point to a degree of failure in the district in dealing with these realities

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Learning on Their Own Terms

Nick Anderson:

"I just really hated school, and Roosevelt brought that out of me," the 19-year-old said one spring afternoon next to an iron handrail that doubled as a launching slope. "Being told what to do and what to learn. Having to do homework. Grades. Grade levels. Everything that this school stands against."

Justin will graduate in June from the highly unconventional Fairhaven School with a diploma that may require explanation to a college or future boss. He took no tests in his three years at the private school, received no grades and had no course requirements. But he played electric guitar, read and wrote poetry, made friends and got the last laugh on lunch. "No more tater tots!" he said.

Cory Doctorow discusses his own experiences with a "free school" and points to a trailer for a documentary called "Voices from the New American Schoolhouse".

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Milwaukee Voucher School Accreditation

Alan Borsuk:

About 50 of 122 schools in the voucher program have no form of accreditation - no organization outside the school that is giving it a stamp of approval. Although some of the unaccredited schools should be able to get accreditation, the list includes almost all the schools that raise the most doubts among knowledgeable observers.

Some of those observers will be in positions to do something because they will be involved in accreditation, and generally, they are talking a tough game: They will be insistent that voucher schools demonstrate they meet genuine standards of quality.

The new law makes that more than idle talk. While attention focused on allowing the program to grow from less than 15,000 students to 22,500, the law also makes this clear: No accreditation, no money from the state.

Sarah Carr has more.

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Families Need to Take Responsibility

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Madison's attempt to reach a growing number of low-income, minority and immigrant students requires a return effort: The target families need to take responsibility for their own success.

That means the low-income, minority and immigrant communities should build more organizations to promote their own causes. The Madison School Board needs to hear from them when decisions are made about what programs to keep or cut. The Madison Area Family Advisory Advocacy Coalition, which speaks up for black students, is an example.

MAFAAC's website.

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April 23, 2006

The Wall - Foundations of Education Blog

I thought some of the readers might be interested in a Blog dedicated by and for those working in the Foundations of Education field. Full disclosure, my academic work as a historian is on the margins of Foundations of Education and one of the contributers, Sherman Dorn, is a friend.


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Adapt to New Student Population

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

If Madison is to maintain the high quality of its public schools, the community must solve a growing problem. But first, Madison must distinguish what the problem is from what it is not.
It is not a dramatic increase in the number of minority, immigrant and low-income students requiring extra services. That is not a problem. That is a fact.

The problem is the community's response to the stunning change in the student population. We must find ways to cost-effectively educate the new and vastly more diverse generation of Madisonians.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:41 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

DC Public Schools & Charters

Kevin Carey:

Normally I leave charter school issues to my colleagues Eduwonk and Sara Mead. But this morning's front page article in the WaPo struck me as too obvious to pass up. It details how DC Public Schools is considering a novel arrangement with KIPP, one of the city's most successful charter schools. KIPP wants to start a new middle school, but is having a hard time finding space. Meanwhile, one the regular DCPS elementary schools is losing enrollment and thus has too much space, to the point that it's in danger of being closed. Thus, the arrrangement: co-locate in the same building, don't overlap grades, and coordinate curricula so students from the elementary school can stay in the building and go to the KIPP middle school if that's what they want to do.

Sounds great, right? Not to DC school board vice president Carolyn Graham, who said:
"We want to fully embrace a working relationship with KIPP, but we don't want to do it to the detriment of our student body and financial viability," she said, adding that the system lost about $11 million in city funding this year after more than 3,000 students departed. "We want them to come up with a way of working with our charter school partners so that all our students would benefit."
Hmmm. You know, that's kind of wordy, let's tighten that up a little:
"We want to fully embrace a working relationship with KIPP, but we don't want to do it to the detriment of our student body and financial viability," she said, adding that the system lost about $11 million in city funding this year after more than 3,000 students departed. "We want them to come up with a way of working with our charter school partners so that all our students I would benefit."
There we go. Much more clear.

It's true that more students in charter schools means less students in DCPS. But if you're going to complain about that, you've got to at least make an attempt to say why that would be bad, particularly wih the test scores, parental demand, and the best judgment of the DCPS superintendant providing evidence to the country. The fact that Graham offers nothing of the kind is enormously telling

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A Cry in the Streets of Brooklyn is Answered by a Prep School

Pete Thamel:

In looping printed letters, which looked like the handwriting of a young girl, Thomas wrote a one-page cry for help: "I cannot read or write. I need all you people's help. Please do not turn your back on me."

Thomas's note was not that clear, however. Riddled with spelling mistakes, it had clear signs of what experts later diagnosed as dyslexia. He spelled please "peasl," turn was "tron" and write was "witer."

That admission by Thomas, one of the nation's top basketball prospects, stunned faculty members at South Kent. But they soon found out that it was just the beginning of his story. He lived on the subways as a preteenager, sold drugs for a year as a teenager and could not read at age 17.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:31 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 22, 2006

Children Before Special Interests

Matthew Ladner:

Oprah Winfrey recently used two days of her program to highlight the crisis in American public schools, focusing attention on our appalling dropout problem. The visuals were quite stunning.

In one segment, a group of inner-city Chicago students traded places with a group of suburban students to compare facilities and curriculums. In another, a valedictorian from a rural high school told of needing remedial classes in college. Perhaps most striking of all, CNN's Andersen Cooper toured a high school near the White House that was in a shameful state of disrepair. Pieces of the ceiling had fallen on the ground, holes in the roof let rain pour into the school, restrooms were inoperable and unlit.

Oprah deserves a good deal of credit for putting a spotlight on these problems. Public schools face a dropout problem of stunning scale. Estimates from the Manhattan Institute put the nation's dropout rate near 30 percent, with rates much higher among low-income and minority students. Many who do graduate do so without mastering high-school level material, as evidenced not only by the need for remediation among college students, but also in the stunningly poor literacy skills of the public.

National reading tests show that 38 percent of our fourth-graders score "below basic" in reading, meaning that they have failed to gain the basic literacy skills necessary to function academically. These students will drift into middle school, and literally be unable to make heads or tails of their textbooks.

via Andrew Rotherham:
Matthew Ladner, of steak dinner fame, weighs-in in the Philly Inquirer about what the Oprah hype all means. You can disagree with Ladner's advocacy of vouchers but he nails the macro-problem here:

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:33 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

2 Teachers Respond: "Teach to the Test"

Jay Matthews:

To my astonishment, I am still receiving e-mails about an op-ed piece, "Let's Teach to the Test," I wrote two months ago. I argued that most good teachers consider No Child Left Behind and other test-driven assessments convenient benchmarks and don't find them disabling, as many critics say they are. I said what people call teaching to the test is actually teaching to the state standards, which most of us parents think is good, so perhaps we should consider teaching to the test a good thing, if the test is valid and the teaching sound.

Most of the hundreds of e-mails that have come in have suggested, in mostly polite terms, that I have no business writing about schools. But a larger minority than I expected said I was right. Given that continued interest, I thought I would share reactions to the op-ed from two teachers whom I know well, and who are both stars in the classroom. Kenneth Bernstein, who teaches social studies at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County, Md., and Mark Ingerson, who teaches social studies in the city of Salem, Va., look at this issue from different angles. In my view they should be read carefully because they both understand how best to communicate difficult material in the classroom and motivate students to learn.

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April 21, 2006

6% Success Rate: From High School to the Future: A first look at Chicago Public School graduates' college enrollment, college preparation, and graduation from four-year colleges

Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago:

Following CPS (Chicago Public Schools) graduates from 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, this report uses records from Chicago high schools and data from the National Student Clearinghouse to examine the college experiences of all CPS alumni who entered college in the year after they graduated high school.

The study paints a discouraging picture of college success for CPS graduates. Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of seniors state that they expect to graduate from a four-year college, only about 30 percent enroll in a four-year college within a year of graduating high school, and only 35 percent of those who enroll received a bachelor’s degree within six years. According to this report, CPS students’ low grades and test scores are keeping them from entering four-year colleges and more selective four-year colleges.

Complete study [14.9MB PDF]

Jodi Cohen and Darnell Little have more:

By Jodi S. Cohen and Darnell Little
Tribune staff reporters

April 20, 2006, 11:13 PM CDT

Of every 100 freshmen entering a Chicago public high school, only about six will earn a bachelor's degree by the time they're in their mid-20s, according to a first-of-its-kind study released Thursday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

The prospects are even worse for African-American and Latino male freshmen, who only have about a 3 percent chance of obtaining a bachelor's degree by the time they're 25.

The study, which tracked Chicago high school students who graduated in 1998 and 1999, also found that making it to college doesn't ensure success: Of the city public school students who went to a four-year college, only about 35 percent earned a bachelor's degree within six years, compared with 64 percent nationally.

Researchers say they're not exactly sure why Chicago schools alumni graduate from college in such low numbers, but that poor preparation during high school and too few resources at the college level contribute to the problem.

"Just focusing on getting kids to survive in high school isn't going to be enough," said study co-author Elaine Allensworth, a researcher at the consortium, a group that works closely with Chicago Public Schools. "This report raises a lot of issues that the colleges need to struggle with."

Schools chief Arne Duncan said the grim statistics outlined in the report and the variation in the college rates among city high schools is no surprise--it's what is driving massive private investment in high school reform.

"When students here are unprepared for college or the world of work, they are condemned to social failure," he said. "We're doing everything we can to dramatically change the high school experience for our teenagers."

Among other findings:

Students who graduated from high school with a grade-point average below 3.0 were unlikely to graduate within six years, lacking the study skills that contribute to college success. Only about 16 percent of students with a high school GPA between 2.1 and 2.5 graduated during that time, compared with 63 percent of students who had a 3.6 GPA or better.

African-American and Latino students from Chicago high schools have the lowest graduation rates--lower than the national average for those groups and lower than their white and Asian peers from Chicago. Just 22 percent of African-American males who began at a four-year college graduated within six years.

Chicago high school graduate Nigel Valentine, 26, is on the 10-year plan. He graduated from Kennedy High School in 1997. After getting an associate's degree from Daley College in 2003, he is now a junior at Northeastern Illinois University. He expects to graduate next year.

"Originally, I was hoping to be out in four or five years," said Valentine, who is studying criminal justice. He says he blames himself and a school system that didn't ensure college readiness. "It's all about preparation. The structure of the classes in high school and elementary school were not up to par."

The study also found varying degrees of success among colleges in graduating students from Chicago schools.

Of the Chicago students who start as full-time freshmen at Northeastern, only 11 percent graduate within six years.

Northeastern officials said the study is unfair to the university, which primarily serves non-traditional students, including many part-time students who take an average of 9 years to graduate. Many students are older, low-income and work while in school, said Provost Lawrence Frank.

But Frank said the study does point "to things we need to address," particularly improving the experience for freshmen. The university next fall will require that all freshmen take a small seminar class with a maximum of 24 students. Sophomores will receive more advising about course selection and major.

To be sure, there were limitations to the study. It only provided graduation rates for students who enrolled full time in a four-year college. It did not include students from alternative high schools or those eligible for special education. Researchers also did not have graduation data from every Illinois college, and DePaul University, Northern Illinois University and Robert Morris College were among those left out.

The researchers used data from the non-profit National Student Clearinghouse, a group that collects data from secondary school officials who want to track their graduates. More than 2,800 colleges participate, and students are tracked by their Social Security numbers.

Carole Snow, an executive associate provost at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said many students start college unprepared in math and writing.

The university recently opened a math learning center where students can get tutoring and work on study skills.

About 46 percent of UIC students, including Chicago public school graduates, complete college within six years.

Loyola University has one of the highest graduation rates for Chicago students. About 66 percent complete college within six years, nearly the same as the school average.

Loyola Vice Provost John Pelissero attributes that success to individualized student attention, including mandatory academic counseling. All freshmen also get a peer adviser.

The researchers said that the study could help high school guidance counselors better advise students about where to go to college.

"Our kids could be making better choices than going to U. of. I. Urbana," said co-author Melissa Roderick. "That is a very significant statement on that college, and they need to be paying attention to that."

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where some of Chicago's brightest students enroll, only 42 percent graduate within six years compared with 81 percent of all students, according to the study.

Robin Kaler, spokeswoman for the Urbana campus, disputed the consortium's numbers and said the graduation rate for Chicago students is nearly 65 percent.

"It is still not acceptable to us," said Kaler, who attributed the low number to a challenging environment at U. of. I. "We work hard to attract and identify students that we think can succeed. ... There is no way to predict perfectly who is going to have the most success and who isn't'"

She said the university has worked on improving student advising, with several colleges now requiring it. The advisers are supposed to not only monitor a student's academic progress, but also connect them with career-focused clubs and other services. The university also started a program last fall called "University 101," which is intended to teach students how to study, conduct research, and locate programs and services at the university.

That program came too late for Crystalynn Ortiz, 19, who started at the Urbana campus in fall 2004 after graduating from Prosser Career Academy in Chicago with a 4.5 GPA. She dropped out of U. of. I. after the first year, and now attends nearby Parkland Community College.

"I wasn't prepared to go to U. of. I. I got my first bad grades and then I wasn't motivated to do well," she said. "I felt really unprepared in study habits, how hard it was going to be here." Ortiz said she lives two blocks from U. of I.'s campus, and takes the bus to Parkland. Some of her friends and family members don't know she flunked out, and she hopes to do well enough to return. "For me, this is low. This is bad. I shouldn't be at Parkland. I should be at U. of I. so I am trying to get through this and get back in," she said.

Tribune staff reporter Tracy Dell'Angela contributed to this report
Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune

via Joanne Jacobs.

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Madison Schools' Proposed Balanced Budget for 2006/2007

The Madison Metropolitan School District Administration published it's proposed $332.9M+ balanced budget for 2006/2007 in 3 parts:

  • Executive Summary [pdf]
  • Financial Summaries [pdf]
  • Department and Division Reports [pdf]
"Total spending under the proposed budget is $332,947,870, which is an increase of $11,012,181 or 3.42% over 2005-06. The increase of 2.6% under the revenue limit plus other fund increases or expenditures makes up the whole proposed budget. The property tax levy would increase $11,626,677 or 5.8% to $211,989,932."

"The property tax levy has to increase more than spending because state and federal aids and grants are decreasing. The district is being conservative in its early estimates of these aids and grants in order to avoid overspending."

4/5 strings is once again on the chopping block. Page 6 of the executive summary. The document refers to the "current strings program".

Links & Notes:

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West HS English 9 and 10 Again -- No Child Moves Ahead

Several of us received the following email today from Ted Widerski, MMSD TAG ("Talented and Gifted") Resource Teacher for Middle and High Schools. Ted has been working with other District and West HS staff to find a way to allow West 9th and 10th graders who are advanced in English to grade accelerate in English, whether through the INSTEP process or some other method.

Here is what he wrote:

Parents -

On Wednesday, April 12th, Welda Simousek and I met with Pamela Nash, Mary Ramberg, Mary Watson-Peterson, Ed Holmes, and Keesia Hyzer to discuss In-STEP procedures for students in English 9 and/or 10. Through this discussion, it became clear that there was no reasonable method available at this time to assess which students might not need to take English 9 or 10 because part of what is learned in English classes comes through the processes of analysis, discussion, and critical critiquing that are shared by the entire class. An alternative assessment approach was discussed: having students present a portfolio to be juried. This approach would require a great deal of groundwork, however, and would not be available yet this spring. It will be looked at as a possibility for the future.

Please keep in mind that it is the intention of West High School to offer meaningful and challenging English courses for all levels of students. It is also the usual TAG Classroom Action Summary and In-STEP approach to have students be present in a classroom for a period of time before it is possible to assess whether they are extremely beyond their classroom peers and need a different option. Welda will follow up with teachers and students in the fall to ascertain progress for students during the first semester. The use of the Classroom Action Summary and In-STEP approach (with a brainstorming of possible options) will be reviewed again at the end of semester one.

Please feel free to contact me with further questions.

Ted Widerski
Talented and Gifted Resource Teacher
Madison Metropolitan School District

I replied to Ted (copying many others, including parents, Teaching and Learning staff, Art Rainwater, Pam Nash, the BOE, and West HS staff), saying that this is a case of unequal access to appropriate educational opportunities because of how poorly West HS provides for its 9th and 10th graders who are academically advanced in English, as compared to the other three high schools.

Here is my reply:

Dear Ted,

Thanks for your email and update. I agree with the other parent who wrote to you that this outcome is very disappointing. I second his concerns and his several requests. I would like to ask that you please send your replies and future updates to this entire list.

I am especially distressed by this outcome because it means that academically advanced ninth and tenth graders at West will continue to have fewer appropriate educational options than their counterparts at the other three MMSD high schools. Below is a list of what is offered to and required of high school freshman and sophomores at our four high schools in their first two years of English.

Note: Required courses offered are listed first; electives are listed in parentheses; classes intended for academically advanced students are listed in bold.

Ninth Grade English

East: English 9, special section of English 9 for those enrolled in Reading 180, English 9 for the Academically Motivated, English 9 for Talented and Gifted

LaFollette: English 9; Advanced English 9

Memorial: English 9 (In addition to English 9, Memorial freshmen may elect to take a .25 credit course in the Humanities Department entitled "Interdisciplinary TAG.")

West: English 9

Tenth Grade English

: English 10, English 10 for Academically Motivated, English 10 for Talented and Gifted (Electives available to 10th graders = Introduction to Journalism, Theater Arts)

LaFollette: English 10, Advanced English 10 (Electives available to 10th graders = Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing, Writing for the Media)

Memorial: English 10, English 10 TAG (Electives available to 10th graders = Drama 1, Drama 2, Reading Improvement)

West: English 10 (Electives available to 10th graders = Writing for Publication; Language, Usage and Grammar; Contemporary Literature; Dramatic Literature; The Bible as Literature; Science Fiction; Film Study; Public Speaking; Theater Arts I; Mass Media)

In my humble opinion, the disparity between West HS and the other three high schools with regard to the learning opportunities provided for the highest achieving 9th and 10th graders in English constitutes a situation of gross inequity of educational opportunity and access across the District. It makes it hard to believe that "it is the intention of West High School to offer meaningful and challenging English courses for all levels of students," as you say in your email.

I think it is time to revisit the possibility of having honors sections of English 9 and English 10 at West H.S. -- perhaps one section per SLC -- into which West students may self-select. In the absence of said honors sections, West 9th and 10th graders who are academically advanced and highly motivated in English are being deprived of the educational opportunities that are available at every other high school in the District. Meanwhile, parents of high achieving middle and elementary school students in the West attendance area continue to make their decisions about where to live and where to send their children to school (especially high school).

Thanks so much for your efforts in this matter, Ted. I appreciate how hard you worked on this issue. I also fully realize that there is only so much that you -- as an individual and as an educational professional who so clearly cares about academically advanced students -- can do.


Laurie Frost

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AP Poll: Teachers & Parents on No Child Left Behind

Ben Feller:

Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act. That's left a huge expectations gap between the two main sets of adults in children's lives.

An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.

The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.

A major reason is that adults see the children differently. Parents tend to focus on their own children, while teachers work with dozens of students from different backgrounds.

Ms. Cornelius has more

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Carol Carstensen's Weekly Email

Carol Carstensen:

Parent Group Presidents:
The administration’s proposed budget for the 2006-07 school year will be made public on Friday, April 21. Board members and the media will have hard copies of the budget and an electronic version should be up on the web site shortly. The Board begins discussion and consideration of the budget on Monday April 24th at about 6:30 p.m. There are forums scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. at LaFollette and Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 at Memorial.

APRIL 10 MEETING: April 10 (at LaFollette High School): 5 p.m. Special Board Meeting: The Board discussed the financing for the Leopold addition and voted to have the administration include the first year’s cost (about $343,000) in the proposed 2006-07 budget. The Board will then consider this allocation of funds in the context of the other changes proposed by the budget. At this point it is not certain how the Board, with the new Board members, will decide this issue. There was a brief discussion about scheduling a referendum for the new school and to refinance earlier borrowings at the time of the September primary. There was general agreement on this but no vote was taken.

7 p.m. Special Board Meeting: 46 staff, students and community volunteers were recognized with Distinguished Service Awards. Friends, family and colleagues came to cheer on award winners. I think this is one of the highlights of each year; it is so encouraging to see all the excellent people in the district.

Future Meetings: (The Board’s schedule can change so always check the website for the most recent schedule.)

April 24:
5 p.m. Special Board Meeting: Swearing in of newly elected Board Members (this will be repeated at the Regular Meeting on May 1 at 7:15 when it can be televised).
Executive Session (Room 103): expulsions.
About 6:30 p.m. Resume open session (McDaniels Auditorium) The administration will present the 2006-07 proposed budget.

May 1:
5 p.m. Special Board Meeting: Presentation of proposals for a Food Policy. The Board will begin discussion of the Food Policy proposals. Please fill out the survey available on the district’s web site:
7:15 Regular Board Meeting: Formal swearing in of newly elected Board members; election of new Board officers. The Board will also consider a new policy that sets up a procedure for approving the placement of “telecommunication facilities” (usually antenna) on school property for a fee. This policy will be on the website shortly and the Public Information Office of the district will email you a copy so that you have information if you want to comment.
May 8: (time and place to be decided)
The Board will hold a forum to get public feed back on the plan CP 1a from Jan 23, on the website: This plan describes the changes that will have to be made, if the referendum doesn’t pass, to accommodate increasing numbers of students in the Memorial and West elementary schools.


Carol Carstensen, President
Madison School Board

"Until lions have their own historians, the hunters will always be glorified." - African Proverb

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4 Presidential Scholar Semifinalists from the Madison Public Schools

US Dept of Education Presidential Scholars:

WI—Madison—Brian Lee, James Madison Memorial High School
WI—Madison—Adeyinka A. Lesi, West High School
WI—Madison—Melanie R. Rawlings, James Madison Memorial High School
WI—Madison—Ilari A. Shafer, James Madison Memorial High School
Eligibility information can be found here.

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2006-2007 School Budget Already Implemented: What's the Current Fanfare About?

The Superintendent, along with the President and Vice President of the School Board, is holding a press conference to announce the 2006-2007 school budget. They're performing as if this is the start of the public discussion of the budget for next year, which it is. While late April may be the first time the School Board and the community have seen next year's school budget, this budget has already been implemented, beginning in early April and possibly earlier -

Was the School Board involved with any aspect of the implementation of next year's budget? NO. On April 3rd, under the Superintendent's direction, all schools received their staffing allocations for the next year - 85% of the district's budget is staffing. The administration says deadlines for layoff notices and surplus notices to teachers per the union contract drive this timeline, because it takes the district two months to figure out who will need to be laid off - last year it was about 10 people who received layoff notices.

What does this reason have to do with School Board's responsibility to see that proposed resources are being allocated according the the School Board's goals and objectives for next year? Nothing. If the Superintendent feels he needs to give allocations to schools in early April, he then needs to present the budget earlier if he is implementing allocations with budget cuts. (I do not feel the School Board understood that the budget is implemented when allocations are given when they set the budget timeline.)

Prior to the implementation of next year's school budget, I believe the School Board needs to know what is in the budget, what cuts (if any) are being proposed, what curriculum changes are being implemented. Also, they need to know what planning is underway in other areas of the budget for next year that is using current staff time and dollars. In order to perform their responsibilities, the School Board needs some form of an Executive Budget that lays out the framework and gives the School Board the opportunity to publicly discuss the Superintendent's proposed changes. I would recommend strongly that the School Board consider this for next year.

When could the School Board do this? I would suggest the School Board consider doing this during the month of March prior to April 3rd if that deadline is firm. Did any budget discussions take place this year, prior to April 3rd and the April 4th school board elections. NO. Johnny Winston, Jr., who chairs the Finance and Operations Committee, held no meetings in March to discuss next year's school budget, so this might be the time to hold those meetings, asking for the presentation of an Executive level budget with proposed changes.

There is another reason to do this - staffing confusion and uncertainty. Building principals give surplus notices, but staff has no idea what the budget is, if the School Board approved these decisions (School Board has not approved the staffing allocations).

I believe budget objectives, an executive budget (by department) and any cuts to the budget need to be packaged together and the School Board needs to publicly discuss this prior to implementation. As one principal said to me years ago, "Once the Superintendent gives us our allocations, there won't be any changes." That's what I have observed over the past five years. By the time the School Board receives the budget document, next year's budget is already in place and being implemented, and the School Board ends up talking in great detail about less than $1 million of the budget, is unable to make/direct changes.

Sure, the School Board has the authority and can make any changes the majority approves, but a) why isn't the School Board "approving" the budget vs. the Superintendent and b) why would a School Board want to waste precious resources implementing and then reimplementing the budget?

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Classroom Realities

Shari Wilson:

Finally I attended a valuable workshop on high- and low-context learners. Suddenly I could understand why certain students wanted to know about the whole semester’s work at the start of the first few classes. And why other students were happy to have information parceled out at two-week intervals. Desperate to improve retention, I rewrote my class materials again. I drafted a day-by-day course outline that provided not only important due dates, but guidelines of what we’d be doing in each class. Some were general ideas; others were specific instructions, listing handouts and work to be done.

My high-context students were thrilled. They immediately skimmed the course outline and highlighted certain dates. Armed with knowledge, they started to feel more accountable. Many spent more time on assignments, saw tutors, and turned in better work. My low-context students, of course, were not affected. They simply read what was immediately due the next day and accomplished that one piece. A few read ahead — if only to avoid scheduling problems with their busy social lives. Others only consulted the syllabus minutes before class

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Madison School Board to Vote on a Proposed Charter Elementary School of Arts & Technology

The Madison Board of Education is scheduled to act on Monday evening (4/24) on a request relating to a proposed charter elementary school of arts and technology.

The Board will vote on whether or not to support a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for funds to support planning of The Studio School by a group of educators, parents and others. See info about The Studio School, including the proposed planning grant application at: .

The Board's meeting, which begins at 5:00 pm, will be held in the McDaniel's Auditorium at the district offices at 545 West Dayton Street. [map]

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MD to use Data to Combat Bullying

Lori Aratani:

Maryland's middle school students are more likely than their elementary or high school peers to be involved in incidents of bullying and other harassment, according to a recently released state report -- the first such effort to track the problem.

Incidents most often took place on school campuses or buses, the report said, with the majority involving name calling or threatening remarks. About one-third of the incidents involved a physical attack.

The 21-page report to the General Assembly is an attempt by state officials to count incidents of bullying and other harassment in its 24 public school systems. Officials in Virginia have been collecting information on bullying and other harassment in public schools since 1999.

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April 20, 2006

Constructivist Theory of Education

As we know, curriculae like Everyday Math, Core Math, Reading Recovery, Balanced Literacy and the Literacy Collaborative are based on the constructivist theory of education. Indeed, the Literacy Collaborative (a trademarked name for Balanced Literacy) states that its framework is based on the theories of Vygotsky, Bruner and Clay.

For an interesting exercise, do a google search with all three of these keywords "constructivist marxism vygotsky" [ask | clusty | google | msn | yahoo]

Now before the constructivists out there accuse me of labelling them as marxists, let me say I am not. I am, however, making the point that the curriculae you advocate has deep roots in marxist egalitarian theory.

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Classmates Count

I was looking for more information about the combined grades at Elvejhem (my grade school was all combined grades with team teaching and it worked very well) and I found an interesting study that I don't think has been previously noted on SIS. It is by noted Urbanist David Rusk and looks at the effects of economic segregation and integration on academic performance in Madison schools. I hope the East and West task forces were aware of this study.


The conclusion states:

"Summing Up Part V: A school’s socioeconomic context does matter far more for low-income pupils than for their middle class counterparts. The statistical analysis did show a slight decline of middle class pupils’ test scores as the percentage of low income classmates increased. The rate of decline for middle class pupils was less than half the rate of improvement for low income pupils.

However, that apparent decline in middle class pupils’ performance most probably reflected the changing composition of the “middle class” in schools with increasingly higher percentages of low income classmates. “Middle class” schools with very few low income pupils had higher percentages of children from the highest income, largely professional households. In “middle class” schools with much larger numbers of lowincome pupils, children from more modest “blue collar” households predominated.

That was most likely the primary contributing factor to the apparent slow decline in middle class test scores and not any directly adverse effect of having more low income classmates. From a larger perspective, middle class pupils’ performance levels never dropped below 70-75% achieving advanced and proficient levels under any socioeconomic circumstances in Madison-Dane County (which had no very high-poverty schools)."

Here is a link to the pdf file: Final Report

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Another Parent Concerned about Third-Quarter Report Cards

Recently, a parent expressed concern about the quality of third-quarter report cards at Crestwood Elementary School.
Can We Talk 3: Third-Quarter Report Cards

Today a parent of students at Elvejhem Elementary asked Madison School Board members why the teachers only reported on 10% of content areas. I have asked Superintendent Art Rainwater for a response to the parent's concerns.

From the Elvejhem Parent:

Have you seen this quarter's elementary grade reports? The teachers at Elvejhem Elementary only reported on about 10% of the evaluated areas. A letter accompanying the report card stated that the students were only being ranked on areas that related to standardized testing. I don't recall whether the letter stated this to be a district wide policy nor was the letter clear as to why this approach was being taken. I hope that this is not some political point that teachers are making, because that would be a wholly inappropriate way to treat our kids.

In any event, I find that this grade reporting was totally inadequate and does not justify the day off that they took to prepare these reports. The ambiguous standards employed on these report cards provides little clear guidance when all of the areas are completed. But if all they can complete is 10% of that, well then, if this is all they can tell me about the progress of my children, they could have saved their ink.

Finally, the combined grades classes that the Elvejhem Elementary School forced upon us (they provided no option for single grade classes) have been a combined disaster. Parents at the soccer fields talk openly about the failure of this approach to adequately challenge the upper grade students. In fact, it has begun having an effect on Sennett M.S. as students leave elementary wholly unprepared for middle school challenges by their 4/5 grade experience at Elvejhem.

I hope that you will look into whether this quarter's grade reporting was some sort of political stunt to make a statement about standardized testing. For the rest of the district, I hope that this practice was limited to this school. This is certainly being perceived as a political stunt by a large number of parents that I have spoken with.

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Study Suggests Link Between Achievement and Curriculum Choice in High-Poverty Elementary Schools

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Does a school’s performance on California’s Academic Performance Index (API) relate to the use of a particular curriculum program? An analysis released today by EdSource from a large-scale survey of elementary schools serving similarly-challenged students suggests an answer.

School APIs are based on student test scores on the California Standards Tests, which measure how well students at the school are mastering grade level academic standards. According to many experts, California’s K-12 academic standards, adopted in the late 1990s, are among the most challenging in the nation.

The new analysis found that for English language arts, using the Open Court curriculum program school-wide did appear to make a difference in a school’s API score. Open Court appeared to be most effective when it was:

  • used intensively—i.e., all teachers in the school reported using Open Court daily;
  • combined with a coherent, school-wide, standards-based instructional program; and
  • combined with the frequent use of student assessment data to improve instruction.

Open Court is one of two main English language arts curriculum packages currently approved by the State Board of Education in California. The new findings are the result of an extended regression analysis of survey data collected last spring from 5,500 K-5 classroom teachers in 257 schools from 145 different districts.

Joanne Jacobs has more.
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The New Push to Rate Schools Will Make Adults Perform and Help Kids Learn

Jay Greene:

Accountability is a constructive and increasingly powerful force in the education of New York City schoolchildren. It starts with report cards and runs far deeper.

Third-graders have to pass a basic skills test to be promoted to fourth grade. High school seniors cannot earn a Regents diploma without passing a series of exams. And, of course, students hoping to attend college need to take, and perform moderately well, on the SAT or ACT.

B ut while young people have been held increasingly accountable for results, adults who work in the schools have been largely shielded from such judgments. Whether students succeed or not has little or no effect on whether teachers or administrators continue to be employed or how much they are paid. Heroic educators who transform the lives of their students are not rewarded, nor are subpar educators who deprive students of future opportunities required to improve or punished.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:40 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin Academic Decathlon Saved...

Wisconsin Academic Decathlon:

Last month, members of the non-profit Wisconsin Academic Decathlon announced that “donor fatigue” had severely weakened program donations and that the organization would deplete its reserves to make it through this year's State Finals. Program Director Molly Ritchie revealed that the 23-year-old extra curricular scholastic program for Wisconsin high school students might very well have to shut down. Ritchie invited a major corporate sponsor, or sponsors, to come to the rescue with a $150,000 donation.

Dependent on private funding for the last eleven years-since the elimination of their Department of Public Instruction state grant in 1995, Wisconsin has maintained a solid and competitive statewide program, third largest among 40 in the nation, faring well in national competition. For the past two decades, the state champions have placed in the top 10 nationwide, in all but two appearances, and landed the national overall title with Waukesha West's big win in 2002. However, the program's success alone no longer generates enough donations to cover the $220,000+ annual budget (67% of funds are secured through donations, team entrance fees bring in the rest).

Peter Gascoyne kindly covered this years event, held a few weeks ago.

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New York offers Housing Subsidy as a Teacher Lure

David Herszenhorn:

New York City will offer housing subsidies of up to $14,600 to entice new math, science and special education teachers to work in the city's most challenging schools, in one of the most aggressive housing incentive programs in the nation to address a chronic shortage of qualified educators in these specialties.

To be eligible for the subsidies, teachers must have at least two years' experience. City officials said they hoped the program, to be announced by the city Education Department today, would immediately lead to the hiring of an extra 100 teachers for September and, with other recruitment efforts, ultimately help fill as many as 600 positions now held by teachers without the proper credentials.

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April 19, 2006

The New Soft Paternalism

The Economist covers a fascinating subject:

For its exponents, this is a paternalism for the times. People are jealous of their freedoms; yet they squander them. They resent outside authorities telling them how to live their lives, but they lack self-command. They have legions of entrepreneurs dedicated to serving them better, but often they fail even to understand the embarrassment of offerings that is spread before them. Some gentle guidance would not go amiss.

But if such manipulation is sometimes a necessity, should it be made a virtue? (John Stuart) Mill, for one, would have disapproved.

He who lets the world choose...his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself must...use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.
Reasoning, judgment, discrimination and self-control—all of these the soft paternalists see as burdens the state can and should lighten. Mill, by contrast, saw them as opportunities for citizens to exercise their humanity. Soft paternalism may improve people's choices, rescuing them from their own worst tendencies, but it does nothing to improve those tendencies. The nephews of the avuncular state have no reason to grow up.

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UW-Madison and MATC Finalize Transfer Agreement


A new agreement allows qualified students at Madison Area Technical College guaranteed admission to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as transfer students.
The program announced Wednesday by both schools is intended for students who begin as freshmen in MATC's liberal arts transfer program.

Qualified students who complete 54 credits in specified areas and earn a 3.0 grade-point average will be guaranteed admission to UW-Madison when they apply as transfer students.

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LA Not so Confidential

Education Sector:

Los Angeles is rightly known as a cultural bellwether because of its diverse population, thriving entertainment industry, and powerful artistic community. But the city is also a harbinger of educational change, as two recent developments suggest. Democratic Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa is seeking substantial control over the Los Angeles Unified School District, while minority parents are demanding alternatives to the city's existing public schools, putting them at odds with the teachers' union and the school district. The result is a debate pitting Democrats against Democrats in the city.

Who gets to control schools is of course an old debate. Historically, urban school districts have vacillated between centralized and decentralized control. Villaraigosa's bid for more leverage over the Los Angeles school system is a reflection of the frustration of urban mayors today: They are politically accountable for school performance and whether a city offers quality public schools but have little control over actual educational decision-making.

Villaraigosa has stopped short of calling for outright control of the schools, saying he would retain an elected school board. But he is still seeking to choose the next superintendent, to have control over major budget decisions, and to launch an ambitious effort to turn around low-performing schools, so it is obvious where he would like power to be vested. This was enough to prompt the National School Boards Association at its annual meeting this month to pass a resolution strongly opposing mayoral control, a measure clearly aimed at Villaraigosa. Meanwhile, with Los Angeles Superintendent Roy Romer on his way out, the power struggle complicates the search for a replacement.

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Doyle's School Related Vetoes

Governor Doyle vetoed several school related bills, including those related to SAGE changes and virtual schools. Details here and here.

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Nan Brien on Local Property Taxes

Nan Brien:

In recent weeks Madison homeowners received their 2006 assessments. Most of us saw an increase in the value of our homes. What will this mean for the next property tax bill?
Last spring Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools attempted to explain that school property taxes had actually gone down for many Madison homeowners over the previous 10 years.

Now it's time to revisit five factors that influence the school district's role in your property tax bill.

School District tax levy: Property taxpayers fund a little less than two-thirds of the Madison School District budget, which was $321 million in 2005-06.

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Arlene Silveira: Thanks for support, now it's on to work

A letter to the editor

Dear Editor: I want to thank my supporters and many volunteers during the spirited run for Seat 1 of the Madison School Board. I appreciate the challenging forums and discussions with the press and community members, who have shown why Madison is always considered among the top school systems in the United States.

I also thank those who voted for me in this close election a choice that was confirmed with a well-organized and competent recount.

I look forward to being sworn in on April 24 for Seat 1, and from then on, serving every child, school and family in the best way I know how. I will represent all the district and will seek information from all sources, listen carefully and make sound choices when voting on all issues.

I am eagerly anticipating being the School Board member I promised to be during the campaign: ensuring access to all, welcoming all, improving on a strong school system, and respecting taxpayer dollars in school spending.

Arlene Silveira
Madison School Board member-elect

Published: April 18, 2006
The Capital Times

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Teachers Unions as Agents of Reform

Sara Reed:

Voters in Denver, Colo., in 2005 overwhelmingly approved a $25 million tax increase to fund a new, nine-year performance-based pay system for the city's teachers. Brad Jupp taught in Denver's public schools for 20 years, and was the lead DCTA negotiator on the team that negotiated the pilot project in 1999, and for the next 5 years he worked on the team that implemented the ProComp pilot.

ES: Why were you able to develop a pay-for-performance model in Denver when other places haven't been?

BJ: Denver had a combination of the right opportunities and people who were willing, once they saw the opportunities, to put aside their fears of losing and work with other people to try to take advantage of those opportunities. The people included a school board president willing to say, "If the teachers accept this, we'll figure out how to pay for it. They included the teacher building reps who said, “This is too good to refuse outright; let's study it." They included a local foundation that, once we negotiated the pay for performance pilot, realized we might actually be serious and offered us a million dollars to help put it in place. They included the Community Training and Assistance Center, the group that provided us with technical support and a research study of our work. They were willing to take on the enormous and risky task of measuring the impact of the pilot. And they included 16 principals in Denver who were able to see that this was going to be an opportunity for their faculties to build esprit de corps, to make a little extra money, to do some professional development around measuring results. I don't really think there was a secret ingredient other than people being able to move past their doubts and seize an opportunity. It was a chance to create opportunities where the rewards outweighed the risks. I don't think we do that much in public education.


But public schools have a harder time making changes, especially in the way people are paid, for a number of reasons. First, we don't have a history of measuring results, and we don't have a results-oriented attitude in our industry. Furthermore, we have configured the debate about teacher pay so that it's a conflict between heavyweight policy contenders like unions and school boards. Finally, we do not have direct control over our revenue. It is easier to change a pay system when there is a rapid change in revenue that can be oriented to new outcomes. Most school finance systems provide nothing but routine cost of living adjustments. If that is all a district and union have to work with, they're not going to have money to redistribute and make a new pay system.

Fascinating interview.

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Seattle's Teaching of Math adds up to Much Confusion

Jessica Blanchard:

Rick Burke remembers looking at his elementary-school daughter's math homework and wondering where the math was.

Like many Seattle schools, his daughter's school was teaching "reform" math, a style that encourages students to discover math principles and derive formulas themselves. Burke, an engineer, worried that his daughter wasn't learning basic math skills.

"It was a lot of drawing pictures and playing games," he said. "Her whole first-grade year was pretty much a lateral move."

So for the past few years, Burke and his wife have been tutoring their three children after school -- and this fall, they plan to switch them to North Beach Elementary, which uses a more traditional approach to math.

Sarah Natividad adds:
The biggest problem is that the teachers currently in service never learned enough math to begin with, and so can’t be expected to teach what they don’t already know. We only think our teachers know math because they know just as little math as we do. If you want to know how scarily ignorant of math our teachers are, I suggest reading Liping Ma’s Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics for a start.

I’ve written about this on my own blog, and I’m not just talking out of my butt here. I’ve taught math to these potential teachers. They lack the prerequisite skills to pass a college algebra class. You can tell who in the class is in the Elementary Education program; they’re the ones sitting in the back row, getting a D on every exam because they have to use a calculator to do three times two (and they think this is normal). So when Bob Brandt of Bellevue says "How do you know three times two equals six? Any idiot knows that," I would counter that an exceptional idiot must be teaching his kids math. We’ve raised an entire generation of teachers who don’t even know enough about math to know that they are ignorant of it.

D-Ed Reckoning touches on math as well.

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Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates

Jay Greene and Marcus Winters:

This study uses a widely respected method to calculate public high school graduation rates for the nation, for each state, and for the 100 largest school districts in the United States. We calculate graduation rates overall, by race, and by gender, using the most recent available data (the class of 2003).

Among our key findings:

  • The overall national public high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was 70 percent.
  • There is a wide disparity in the public high school graduation rates of white and minority students.
  • Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.
  • Female students graduate high school at a higher rate than male students. Nationally, 72 percent of female students graduated, compared with 65 percent of male students.
  • The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percentage points fewer white male students and 3 percentage points fewer Asian male students graduate than their respective female students. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma (a difference of 11 percentage points). Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males (a difference of 9 percentage points).
  • The state with the highest overall graduation rate was New Jersey (88 percent), followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, each with 85 percent. The state with the lowest overall graduation rate was
    South Carolina (54 percent), followed by Georgia (56 percent) and New York (58 percent).
Sarah Carr notes that some question the methods used in this analysis:
Milwaukee public high schools have one of the worst graduation rates [chart] in the country among large school districts, according to a new report that takes the unusual step of trying to make comparisons across large school districts as well as states.
Tamar Lewin also takes a look at this report:
The report, "Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates," found that 59 percent of African-American girls, but only 48 percent of African-American boys, earned their diplomas that year. Among Hispanics, the graduation rate was 58 percent for girls, but only 49 percent for boys.

"It's a fairly large difference, particularly when you consider that unlike differences across racial and ethnic groups, boys and girls are raised in the same households, so it's not so easy to explain the differences by their community, or their income level," said Jay P. Greene, an author of the report.

Mr. Greene helped set off widespread national alarm with findings several years ago that almost one in three high school students, and almost half the African-American and Hispanic students, did not complete high school. His research has been widely embraced by policy makers, though some researchers argue that his method overstates the dropout problem over all and among minorities in particular.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:29 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Allied Drive Property Purchase Approved

Kristian Knutsen covers last night's Madison City Council meeting where they approved the purchase of several allied drive properties. The City's goal is to redevelop the purchased lots.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:29 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 18, 2006

SAT Math Pro

A free math preparation service.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:43 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards

Ms. Abplanalp and MMSD District Staff (cc'd to the Board of Education),
I read with some confusion your letter [350K PDF] sent to all elementary school parents about the lack of measurable change in students marking period as too small to report to parents on their third quarter report cards.  
Here's my confusion.  I have complained many times about the lack of communication from MMSD to parents concerning students grades or progress.  At the elementary level the "grade issue" seems to do with the lack of any measurable assessments.  While I know testing is a bad word in the education world I find it amusing that between the end of Jan. and beginning of April,  my two elementary students failed to have any measurable change in their grades.  My 7th grader had a full report card.....with grades and everything.  I'm old at 42, but we used to have report cards come home every 6 weeks. My parents could assess my progress rather well that way, and I got lots of candy from Grandma.  I accept the quarter system as being more practical but can't even accomplish quarterly reports.  
I am wondering why my two elementary students were sent home early on April 4th.  My tax dollars went to pay for what?.....four grades evaluated out of 31 (not including behavior grades).  The teachers spent the time to log onto the computers to tell me about one grade in reading and 3 in math.  My daughter who is in 5th grade tells me lots of social studies and science occurred from Jan. to April but I guess none was graded.  The paper work, the early release, the time spent logging on for four grades has to rank up there with the last day of school with the amount of  waste of tax payer money (last day is one and 1/2 hour of school with bus service and all). 

We do not receive grades for the first quarter.  We get a conference.  Parents can then evaluate their child's progress after half the year is gone.  Now I get to wait until the year is over.  While I know your response will be if my child is failing her/his teacher would let me know.....I say great but I'd like to know if they are struggling, confused, or just not meeting MY expectations.  
Study after study states a students success is highly correlated with parents expectations.  But since MMSD has taken an attitude that THEY will let me know if my child is failing but not if they do not meet MY expectations a am unsure how I proceed.  My expectations just might be different than yours. 
You set up the schedule for 2005/2006 and you were unable to figure out how to get three report cards home to me during a 9 month period.  This is my 6th year with MMSD and previous years I guess "changes a student experienced between the grade periods" were bigger then. 
My confidence is weakening.         
Mary Kay Battaglia

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The School Transformation Plan

A Strategy to Create Small, High-Performing College-Preparatory Schools in Every Neighborhood of Los Angeles

Green Dot Public Schools, Bain & Company [180K PDF]:

Public school reform has become the #1 issue for the City of Los Angeles. While most acknowledge the poor state of the public education system, the discussion to date has largely focused on governance issues, such as mayoral control and district break-up. This whitepaper is intended to refocus the debate on a future vision for public schools in Los Angeles about which all stakeholders will be enthusiastic. Simply put, every child in Los Angeles should have the opportunity to attend a small, safe, college-preparatory public school. This whitepaper also provides a strategy for how the City of Los Angeles can take advantage of its historic opportunity to make this vision a reality. With $19 billion in bond funding, the Los Angeles Unified School District has unparalleled resources to execute a dramatic transformation.
via Eduwonk.

Every young Angeleno should have the opportunity to attend a great public school. A neighborhood school that is safe, personalized, rigorous and engaging. A school where every teacher knows every student’s name and parents are actively involved in the education process. A school that provides children with the skills they need to reach their potential, fulfill their dreams, and thrive in today’s economy. A great school system is the foundation of a great city; Los Angeles desperately needs a great public school system to harness the city’s creativity, diversity and boundless opportunity. Unfortunately, Los Angeles’ public schools are in a state of crisis. Only 45% of high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD” or “District”) graduate after four years.i Most public schools, particularly at the high school level, are overcrowded, academically deficient, and too often violent and unsafe. The city’s economy, safety, social stability and sense of hope are at risk, prompting Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to comment that the high school dropout problem is “the new civil rights issue of our time.” While the need for dramatic reform is clear, LAUSD has been unable to create a vision or strategy for dramatically improving its public schools. In a collaborative effort to help LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer create such a reform plan, Green Dot Public Schools, a leading public school operator in Los Angeles, and Bain & Company, one of the world’s preeminent management consulting firms, developed the “School Transformation Plan.”iii The School Transformation Plan details how LAUSD can leverage its successful $19 billion school bond campaign to transform its 46 comprehensive high schools into 500 high-performing small schools within 10 years. The School Transformation Plan is made up of the following core components:
  • Definition of the key attributes consistently found in high-performing schools, called the “Six Tenets,” which all LAUSD high schools should follow in order to have the greatest likelihood of success.

  • An introduction to “School Transformation,” a process that can be used to transform all comprehensive high schools in LAUSD into clusters of small successful schools that follow the Six Tenets.

  • Identification of strategies LAUSD can use to roll out School Transformations at all of its high schools and the key execution implications that the District must address to effectively implement School Transformations on a broad scale.
Were LAUSD to embrace the School Transformation Plan immediately, it could start this fall by transforming Jefferson High School, the lowest-performing high school in the District. In parallel, LAUSD could further refine the School Transformation Plan, leading to a larger scale rollout that would fundamentally remake the District within 10 years.

It is an unprecedented time to change Los Angeles’ public schools. The District has recently raised over $19 billion in bond funds that can be used in School Transformations, citizens of this city are demanding dramatic public school reform and the state and federal governments are putting pressure on LAUSD to fix its failing schools. The mayor of Los Angeles has committed to prioritizing education reform as the top issue of his administration and has expressed his desire to take responsibility for all LAUSD schools. If School Transformations are executed at all high schools throughout the District and all schools follow the Six Tenets within 10 years, then we truly will have a vibrant city where all young Angelenos can get the education they need to fulfill their dreams.

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Food Policy and Physical Education

To those concerned about the success of the Madison Schools,

I am writing to express my support for the positive changes proposed by the district with respect to food policy. It is exciting that the district has been proactive in including students, parents, health providers, educators, and policy makers. As a pediatrician working with childhood obesity and childhood diabetes, I believe our schools do- and can have an even more positive influence- on the health of our children. 

We are all struggling with the epidemic of childhood obesity, its costs, ramifications, and its effect on children and their families. We need to address this problem though our families, through our communities, and definitely through our schools. We continue to "leave many children behind" when it comes to healthy nutrition and physical activity. The State of California has shown that children with greater fitness levels, also have greater academic levels. Supporting an environment for achieving this is imperative for our children.

Healthy food choices should always be offered even if it means different fund raising methods in our schools including removing soda, and other unhealthy food practices.  It is time for the Board to look carefully at how they can help be part of the solution regarding this problem and the long-term health of our students. 

I hope that the board will also consider a minimum standard of physical activity for each student. The Surgeon General has called for 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children, (of which much could come through school),  while in Canada, the recommendation for Healthy Active Living is 90 minutes of exercise (activity) per day.
This week, on a national level, a bipartisan coalition has introduced the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act to improve students' eating habits and children's overall health. The legislation would update outdated federal nutrition standards for snack foods sold in school cafeterias alongside regular school meals and would apply those standards everywhere on school grounds, including in vending machines and school stores.

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) sponsored the measure. "Many American kids are at school for two meals a day," said Harkin. "But instead of a nutritious school breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria, they are enticed to eat Cheetos and a Snickers bar from the vending machines in the hallway. Junk food sales in schools are out of control.  It undercuts our investment in school meal programs, and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease." According to the release, current federal regulations limiting the sale of junk food in schools are narrow and have not been updated in almost 30 years. And although a narrow category of junk foods cannot be sold in certain areas of schools, even those items can be sold anywhere else on-campus, at any time.

I realize there are many issues facing the board related to budget, academic curriculum, and overcrowding. I hope you will consider the food policy on May 1st and physical activity issues in the future with the same convictions.  Thank you for considering.

Aaron Carrel

Aaron Carrel, MD
University of Wisconsin Children's Hospital
Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Fitness

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Coke's CEO on Soda in Schools

Chad Terhune:

WSJ: How well is the company responding to the obesity issue?

Mr. Isdell: We are in what I would call the bull's-eye of public opinion with regard to calorie consumption. It's something I inherited and something as an industry we have not been able to rebut effectively at this point in time. It's something we are working diligently on as an industry.... We really need to widen the debate. For example, Diet Coke, a zero-calorie beverage, is actually in the obesity debate because there has been a demonization of carbonated soft drinks. But if it's really about obesity, why would you not want people to drink a diet soft drink?

WSJ: Why should any regular sodas be sold in middle or high schools?

Mr. Isdell: It's high schools where the current policy we have is 50% noncarbonated drinks. In the middle schools [full-calorie sodas are sold from vending machines] only after school [according to an industrywide agreement.]

I saw this interesting piece on a guy in California who came out very strongly and said, "Why am I allowed to vote and I can own a gun, but I can't choose my own soft drink?" I think when you reach high school, you do have a level of sophistication and you can be allowed to choose what you wish.... There are some schools where some kids are making good money bootlegging soft drinks in and selling them to students.... I think that is not all bad for us. After all, every kid likes being rebellious.

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MPS Plans Free Web Access

Tom Held:

Looking to give poorer students the technological muscle to scale the "digital divide," the Milwaukee Public Schools district is turning to the promise of an emerging wireless service described as "Wi-Fi on steroids."

Using WiMax, MPS would provide free broadband Internet service to the homes of all MPS students and staff.

The district would be one of the first public entities in the country to launch a WiMax system, using television channels that the Federal Communications Commission allocated for educational purposes. A pilot system covering roughly 5 square miles is scheduled to be operating by August 2007.

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April 17, 2006

Conflicting Interests

John D. Wiley:

Having said all this, let me turn, now, to some of the reasons for the growing public cries for better accountability, and some of the problems I think we need to address in our system of self-regulation:

1. Even in the best-performing universities, there is still considerable room for improvement. To mention one high-visibility area, I think it is nothing short of scandalous that, in 2006, the average six-year graduation rate is only around 50 percent nationwide. Either we are doing a disservice to under-prepared or unqualified students by admitting them in the first place, or we are failing perfectly capable students by not giving them the advising and other help they need to graduate. Either way, we are wasting money and human capital inexcusably. Even at universities like mine, where the graduation rate is now 80 percent, if there are peer institutions doing better (and there are), then 80 percent should be considered unacceptably low.

Now, if we were pressured to increase that number quickly to 85 percent or 90 percent and threatened with severe sanctions for failing to do so, we could meet any established goal by lowering our graduation standards, or by fudging our numbers in plausibly defensible ways, or by doing any number of other things that would satisfy our self-interest but fail the public-interest test. Who’s to stop us? Well, I submit these are exactly the sorts of conflicts of interest the accrediting organizations should be expected to monitor and resolve in the public interest. The public interest is in a better-educated public, not in superficial compliance with some particular standard. The public relies on accreditors to keep their eye on the right ball. More generally, accrediting organizations are in an excellent — maybe even unique — position to identify best practices and transfer them from one colleges to another, improving our entire system of higher education.

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Minority Student Achievement Network Conference on Saturday 4/22 at J.C. Wright

Via a an email from Johnny Winston, Jr.

The Madison Metropolitan School District presents its 2nd Annual Minority Student Achievement Network Conference for students of color on Saturday April 22, 2006 at 8 am to 2 pm at James C. Wright Middle School located at 1717 Fish Hatchery Road. Students and families of middle school children are invited. If you have questions, please contact Diane Crear, Special Assistant to the Superintendent at 204-1692 or Michelle Olson, Minority Services Coordinator at LaFollette High School at 204-3661.

Topic for students and parents include: Achieving in High School, Health Matters, Goal Setting, Careers in Journalism and Science; SPITE programs and “Success for your Student.” Keynote address by the performance group “Elements of Change.” Refreshments will be provided during the morning and lunch in the afternoon at no cost to the participants. There will be limited on-site registration.

Hope to see you on Saturday April 22nd at the MMSD's 2nd Annual Minority Student Achievement Network Conference at 8 am to 2 pm at James C. Wright Middle School.

Please share this information with other interested persons or organizations. Thank you.

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States Help Schools Hide Minority Scores

Frank Bass, Nicole Ziegler Dizon and Ben Feller:

States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law's requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress.

With the federal government's permission, schools aren't counting the test scores of nearly 2 million students when they report progress by racial groups, an Associated Press computer analysis found.

Minorities - who historically haven't fared as well as whites in testing - make up the vast majority of students whose scores are being excluded, AP found. And the numbers have been rising.

"I can't believe that my child is going through testing just like the person sitting next to him or her and she's not being counted," said Angela Smith, a single mother. Her daughter, Shunta' Winston, was among two dozen black students whose test scores weren't broken out by race at her suburban Kansas City, Mo., high school.

To calculate a nationwide estimate, AP analyzed the 2003-04 enrollment figures the government collected - the latest on record - and applied the current racial category exemptions the states use.

Overall, AP found that about 1.9 million students - or about 1 in every 14 test scores - aren't being counted under the law's racial categories. Minorities are seven times as likely to have their scores excluded as whites, the analysis showed.

Less than 2 percent of white children's scores aren't being counted as a separate category. In contrast, Hispanics and blacks have roughly 10 percent of their scores excluded. More than one-third of Asian scores and nearly half of American Indian scores aren't broken out, AP found.

Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights website.

Carrie Antifinger notes that the loophole snares 33% of Wisconsin minority students.

Andrew Rotherham:

First, a reader of some of the back and forth might end up thinking that the law requires some minimum subgroup or that the feds set the subgroup size. It doesn't, they don't. Here are the exact AYP regulations from the Federal Register (pdf) and here is Ed Trust's explanatory piece. It's left up to the states although the feds approve the state plans and consequently have approved the various sizes in effect now. Now they're trying to figure out how to clean up (pdf) some of the mess they've created.

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Students Receive Academic Honors

Via the Capital Times:

Three Madison students are among 800 high school seniors honored for their academic excellence by the National Achievement Scholarship Program, which recognizes talented African-American youths.

Aubrey M. Chamberlain and Adeyinka Lesi, both seniors at West High School, and Kayla M. McClendon, a senior at Memorial High School, were named Achievement Scholarship winners.

The National Achievement Program, a privately financed academic competition, is conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Competitors for the award were chosen based on their high scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, taken when the students were juniors. Finalists were judged on their academic record, recommendation by their high school principals, submission of an essay about personal interests and goals, and earning an SAT score that confirmed their PSAT performance.

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The heterogeneous debate: Some say best students get short shrift

Sandy Cullen:

Some parents say the Madison School District's spending cuts, combined with its attempts to close the achievement gap, have reduced opportunities for higher-achieving students.
Jeff Henriques, a parent of two high-achieving students, said one of the potential consequences he sees is "bright flight" - families pulling students with higher abilities out of the district and going elsewhere because their needs aren't being met.

One of the larger examples of this conflict is surfacing in the district's move toward creating "heterogeneous" classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.

Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But some parents of higher-achieving students are concerned their children won't be fully challenged in such classes - at a time when the amount of resources going to talented and gifted, or TAG, programs is also diminishing.

Check out Part I and Part II of Cullen's series.

Watch Professor Gamoran's presentation, along with others related to the homogeneous / heterogeneous grouping debate here. Links and commentary and discussion on West's English 10. Jason Shepherd took a look at these issues in his "Fate of the Schools" article.

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Madison Schools Make Effort to Close the Achievement Gap

Sandy Cullen:

Working in conjunction with the Schools of Hope project led by the United Way of Dane County, the district has made progress in third-grade reading scores at the lowest achievement levels. But racial and income gaps persist among third-graders reading at proficient and advanced levels.

Other initiatives are taking place in the middle and high schools. There, the district has eliminated "dead-end classes" that have less rigorous expectations to eliminate the chance that students will be put on a path of lower achievement because they are perceived as not being able to succeed in higher-level classes.

In the past, high school students were able to take classes such as general or consumer math. Now, all students are required to take algebra and geometry - or two credits of integrated mathematics, combining algebra, statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry - in order to graduate.

One of the district's more controversial efforts has been a move toward "heterogeneous" classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.

Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students who are achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But others say the needs of higher-achieving students aren't met in such classes.

And in addition to what schools are already doing, Superintendent Art Rainwater said he would like to put learning coaches for math and reading in each of the district's elementary schools to improve teachers' ability to teach all students effectively.

The first part of Cullen's series is here.

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In Carson, Teachers Say No Thanks to Grant

Mitchell Landsberg:

The concept of Talent Development rests largely on two pillars. One is a special ninth-grade "academy" that focuses extra attention on freshmen, who are at the highest risk of dropping out. Once students make it to 10th grade, the odds are strong that they will graduate.

The other pillar involves a different way of scheduling classes. Known as the "four-by-four block schedule," it breaks the school year into quarters, and the school day into four 90-minute classes. The idea is to make each course more intensive, collapsing a semester's work into 10 weeks. It also gives students the opportunity to take more courses over a school year — 16, compared with 12 in a typical schedule. If a student flunks a class, there are more opportunities to make it up.

John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley adopted the four-by-four schedule in 2004, along with other aspects of the Talent Development program. Last June, 92% of its ninth-graders had enough credits to move up to 10th grade, about one-third more than the previous year.

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April 16, 2006

Milwaukee schools build their budgets

The Web site of the Milwaukee schools includes the documents school use to build their budgets. Unlike the MMSD, which creates a budget in a black box at the top, the Milwaukee district appears to build a budget publicly from the bottom up. I prefer Milwaukee's approach.

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Promises Betrayed

Five years ago we moved to Madison. A big factor in this decision was the expectation that we could rely on Madison public schools to educate our children. Our eldest went through West High School. To our delight the rigorous academic environment at West High transformed him into a better student, and he got accepted at several good public universities.

Now we are finding this promise betrayed for our younger children. Our elementary school appears to be sliding into disarray. Teachers and children are threatened, bullied, assaulted, and cursed at. Curricula are dumbed down to accommodate students who are unprepared for real school work. Cuts in special education are leaving the special needs kids adrift, and adding to the already impossible burdens of classroom teachers. To our disappointment we are forced to pull one child out of public school, simply to ensure her an orderly and safe learning environment.

Unless the School Board addresses these challenges forcefully and without obfuscation, I am afraid a historic mistake will be made. Madison schools will slip into a vicious cycle of middle class flight and steady decline. The very livability of our city might be at stake, not to mention our property values.

To me the necessary step is clear. The bottom five to ten percent of students, and especially all the aggressive kids, must be removed from regular classes. They should be concentrated in separate schools where they can receive the extra attention and intensive instruction they need, with an option to join regular classes if they are ready.

Meanwhile regular schools should be populated by children who can actually remain in their seats and do school work. Money can be saved by increasing class size. Achievement of underprivileged kids would improve when harmful distractions are removed and teachers can focus on teaching instead of constant discplinary management.

I have boiled things down to three theses, which I imagine most Madisonians would agree with:

  1. I am willing to pay higher taxes to share the burden of those families who struggle to raise disabled children or other kinds of children with special needs.

  2. I am willing to pay higher taxes to provide the special educational services needed to give underprivileged children a fair chance to succeed.

  3. But I am NOT willing to sacrifice my children's education and happiness in school for either of the goals above.

I sincerely hope we can maintain a viable city and its great schools. In the case of Madison these two are inextricably tied together.

Timo Seppalainen

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Richard Davis Birthday Bash Audio / Video

Richard Davis's Friday night Birthday Bash (Richard mentioned that his birthday is actually tax day, April 15) seemed an appropriate way to wrap up a beautiful Madison week, with temperatures reaching into the 70's. The bash was held Friday night at Mills Hall and included participants from the Bass Conference Faculty.

Audio / Video:
Conference pictures are available here.

More on Richard: Wikipedia | Clusty | Google | Yahoo
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The Changing Face of Madison's Schools

Sandy Cullen:

Other school districts surrounding Madison also are seeing an increase in minority and low-income students.

In Sun Prairie and Verona, the percentage of minority students is more than five times what it was in the early 1990s, while the percentage of low-income students in Verona has more than doubled. Both districts also have seen significant growth in the number of Hispanic students who are not proficient in English.

Private schools in the Madison area also are seeing increases in their percentage of minority students. In the last seven years, minority enrollment increased 54 percent at Edgewood High School, where minorities now make up nearly 12 percent of the student body. At Madison Country Day School, in the Waunakee School District, 17 percent of its 247 students are minorities, up from 15 percent in 1997.

Between 1997 and 2004, enrollment at private schools in the Madison School District increased by 400 students, according to figures compiled by the district. Edgewood spokeswoman Kate Ripple said most Madison students who enroll in the private Catholic high school do so because of its faith component.

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Madison Schools, New Population, New Challenges

Sandy Cullen:

Twenty-five years ago, less than 10 percent of the district's students were minorities and relatively few lived in poverty. Today, there are almost as many minority students as white, and nearly 40 percent of all students are considered poor - many of them minority students. And the number of students who aren't native English speakers has more than quadrupled.

"The school district looks a lot different from 1986 when I graduated," said Madison School Board member Johnny Winston Jr.

The implications of this shift for the district and the city of Madison are huge, city and school officials say. Academic achievement levels of minority and low-income students continue to lag behind those of their peers. Dropout, suspension and expulsion rates also are higher for minority students.

"Generally speaking, children who grow up in poverty do not come to school with the same skills and background" that enable their wealthier peers to be successful, Superintendent Art Rainwater said. "I think there are certainly societal issues that are race-related that also affect the school environment."

While the demographics of the district's students have changed dramatically, the makeup of the district as a whole doesn't match.

The overall population within the school district, which includes most of Madison along with parts of some surrounding municipalities, is predominantly white and far less likely to be poor. And most taxpayers in the district do not have school-age children, statistics show, a factor some suggest makes it harder to pass referendums to increase taxes when schools are seeking more money.

Forty-four percent of Madison public school students are minorities, while more than 80 percent of residents in the city are white, according to U.S. Census figures for 2000, the most recent year available. And since 1991, the percentage of district students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches has nearly doubled to 39 percent; in 2000, only 15 percent of Madison's residents were below the poverty level.

Although the city's minority and low-income population has increased since the 2000 census, it's "nowhere near what it is in the schools," said Dan Veroff, director of the Applied Population Laboratory in UW- Madison's department of rural sociology.

Barb Schrank asked "Where have all the Students Gone? in November, 2005:

There's a lot more at work in the MMSD's flat or slightly declining enrollment than Cullen's article discusses. These issues include:Thoreau's most recent PTO meeting, which included 50 parent and teacher participants, illustrates a few of the issues that I believe are driving some families to leave: growing math curriculum concerns and the recent imposition of mandatory playground grouping without any prior parent/PTO discussion.

Student losses, or the MMSD's failure to capture local population growth directly affects the district's ability to grow revenue (based on per student spending and annual budget increases under the state's revenue caps).

The MMSD's failure to address curriculum and govenance concerns will simply increase the brain flight and reduces the number of people supporting the necessary referendums. Jason Shepherd's recent article is well worth reading for additional background.

Finally, Mary Kay Battaglia put together some of these numbers in December with her "This is not Your Grandchild's Madison School District".

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Building Knowledge: The Case for Bringing Content into the Language Arts Block

E.D. Hirsch, Jr.:

I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.... Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

—J. M. Keynes
The General Theory of Employment,
Interest, and Money

Consider the following sentence, which is one that most literate Americans can understand, but most literate British people cannot, even when they have a wide vocabulary and know the conventions of the standard language:

Jones sacrificed and knocked in a run.

Typically, a literate British person would know all the words in the sentence yet wouldn’t comprehend it. (In fairness, most Americans would be equally baffled by a sentence about the sport of cricket.)

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April 15, 2006

Views on California's Proposition 82 (preschool for all 4 year olds)

Two articles on Proposition 82:

  • Dana Hull:
    It sounds like a no-brainer for advocates of early childhood education: a state ballot initiative that would offer preschool to every 4-year-old in California, free of charge to parents. What preschool wouldn't be all for that?

    But as the June 6 election approaches, an increasingly vocal number of preschools are lining up against it.

    Some Montessori schools fear Proposition 82, dubbed the Preschool for All Act, would lead to state standards that could compromise their teaching methods and mixed-age classrooms. Faith-based preschools say they would be at a competitive disadvantage because the measure wouldn't fund schools that offer religious instruction. Others worry a requirement that teachers earn a bachelor's degree would drive them out of business.

    ``I am going to vote no, and I am very much in favor of universal preschool,'' said Bonnie Mathisen, director of Discovery Children's House, a Montessori school in Palo Alto. ``I just feel that Prop. 82 is not the right way to go about it. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, a lot of preschools will be left out.''

  • Dana Hull:
    The children, ages 3 to 6, are part of a class of 28 at Casa di Mir Montessori School in Campbell. While many schools group children by age, Montessori believes children of different ages teach, help and learn from each other.

    Tara started the year as a kindergartner at a local elementary school, where her parents were stunned to learn there was homework. She rebelled against its structure, and her parents struggled with what to do. In January, they enrolled Tara at Casa di Mir.

    ``Montessori is perfect for her,'' says Haleh, Tara's mom. ``They don't ring a bell to start class; they play a flute. She wrote a four-page journal about cats.''

  • Joanne Jacobs has more

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"Standardize Education"

Paul Hoss:

The Times is to be congratulated for its tough-love posture on No Child Left Behind legislation (editorial, April 9). Too many states shortchange too many students with "loophole" diplomas by lowering their standards on their way to the deadline of 2014 for all students being "proficient" in math and English. This inevitable fiasco could be avoided if the U.S. went to a national curriculum, with corresponding assessments and standards to be met by all students nationwide. Talk about equity and equal access for all.

Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — the top five performers on math exams — all benefit from this standardization of what's expected in their schools. So could the United States.

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Union Wants Early Say on School Reform

Joel Rubin:

A coalition led by the L.A. teachers group will reveal its own plan for revamping the district a day before the mayor outlines his proposal.

Intent on being a player in the ongoing scrum over the future of Los Angeles schools, the powerful teachers union and a coalition of community organizations will outline Monday their own plan to overhaul the city's public school system.

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April 14, 2006

Math Rebellion Up North: Ashland Students Favor New Algebra Course, Fewer Enroll in Core Plus

Kevin O'Brien:

An overwhelming majority of Ashland students who were given the choice between traditional math and the Core Plus curriculum decided to take algebra I courses next school year, according to a report given Monday by Ashland High School Principal Steve Gromala.

In a report to the Ashland School Board, it was noted that 83 percent of students signed up for algebra I, which was offered for the first time in several years after parents and board members demanded an alternative to the Core Plus curriculum.

A total of 170 students, including 115 incoming freshmen and 55 of next year’s sophomores, enrolled in the newly offered algebra I course for the 2006-07 school year. By comparison, 34 students enrolled in Core Plus 1.

The addition of algebra I next school year is the first step toward offering a dual-track math curriculum that will allow incoming freshmen to choose between algebra classes and Core Plus. Additional classes such as geometry, algebra II and pre-calculus will be added in future years as students advance.

"I want to ensure you that we will not need any additional staff next year," Gromala told the board. "For future years, we'll have to wait and see."

The 55 sophomores who chose to take algebra I next year will have to start over in the traditional curriculum and must take a minimum of three years of algebra to meet graduation requirements, Gromala noted.

To ensure that students had equal opportunity to choose either algebra or Core Plus, Gromala said the new algebra class was offered during each of the school's eight daily sections.

Board member Jeanne Thompson, a longtime proponent of implementing a dual math curriculum, thanked Gromala and Curriculum Director Barb O'Brien for setting up the new schedule.

"It's been a long road, but the parents' wishes are being met," Thompson said. "That's very important."

Now that enrollment numbers have been determined, the school's math department is trying to decide which textbook to purchase for next year's students.

Math teachers have already reviewed 14 different algebra books using a list of criteria and have narrowed their selection to two choices: Glencoe/McGraw Hill 2005 and McDougal Littell 2007.

"They're in unanimous agreement that either of these textbooks would be appropriate," O'Brien said.

However, because of the public's interest in the new math curriculum, O'Brien wanted to give community members an opportunity to review the two texts before the board approves a set of books at its April meeting.

As a result, over the next month, community members can stop by the school district's administrative offices, review each of the textbooks and fill out comment cards.

The Ashland School District's central office is located at 2000 Beaser Avenue, and Curriculum Director Barb O'Brien can be contacted at 682-7080, ext. 4.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 7:37 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Nice Update to the Madison School District Website

check it out.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Computers May Not Boost Student Achievement

Greg Toppo:

Give a kid a laptop and it might not make any difference.
That's the message from research presented here Monday, which suggests that spending millions of dollars to bring technology into kids' homes and schools has decidedly mixed results.

Taxpayer-supported school computer and Internet giveaways are political gold, but studies have questioned whether they actually help student achievement. This research, presented at the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting, confirms skeptics' doubts.

In one study, researchers from Syracuse and Michigan State universities examined a program that gave laptop computers to middle-school students in Ohio in 2003. Preliminary findings are mixed.

"Overall, we don't know if it is a worthwhile investment," says Syracuse researcher Jing Lei.

We should not spend money on these things unless and until we get the basics right (Math, reading/writing and science).

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:59 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Fairfax Success Masks Gaps for Black Students

Maria Glod:

Black students in Fairfax County are consistently scoring lower on state standardized tests than African American children in Richmond, Norfolk and other comparatively poor Virginia districts, surprising Fairfax educators and forcing one of the nation's wealthiest school systems to acknowledge shortcomings that have been masked by its overall success.

Even within Fairfax schools, black elementary school students are outperformed on reading and math tests by whites and some other students, including Hispanics, poor children and immigrants learning English.

Well worth reading.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:36 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Omaha Schools Split Along Ethnic Lines


In a move decried by some as state-sponsored segregation, the legislature voted Thursday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts -- one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic.

tate Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha decried the bill, saying, "We will go down in history as one of the first states in 20 years to set race relations back."

"History will not, and should not, judge us kindly," said state Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.

There is no intent to create segregation," said state Sen. Ernie Chambers (Omaha), the legislature's only black senator and a longtime critic of the school system.

He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students for integration and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.

Chambers said the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and well-qualified teachers provided others in the district. He said the black students he represents in north Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:23 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

"Keep Option To Recount Ballots By Hand"

Paul Malischke:

Because of Madison's close School Board election, you may be witnessing the last manual recount of election results in Wisconsin for some time to come. A bill in the Legislature, poised to become law, will outlaw manual recounts for municipalities that use machine-readable ballots.
Under current law, the board of canvassers may use automatic voting machines for recounts, but the board may also perform a manual count of the ballots.

Senate Bill 612 would change that. Buried on page 18 of this 120-page bill is a requirement that all recounts be done by machine for machine-readable ballots, unless a petition for a manual recount is approved by a circuit court. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is under consideration by a committee in the Assembly.

This bill should be changed. We need to preserve the ability to conduct a manual recount.

In September 2005, the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office summarized the flaws in the computerized voting machines now being sold. The conclusion of the GAO was that "key activities need to be completed" before we have secure and reliable electronic voting systems.

In the Madison School Board race there was a large number of undervotes (ballots that were not counted by the machine). Seven wards had an undervote of more than 20, and three more were more than 10 percent.

I observed the recount of Ward 52 this week. Interestingly, hand recounts (by two different people) confirmed Maya's 231 votes while the same people counted Arlene's votes and ended up with 300, twice. The machine, however, counted 301 on election night and during the recount. I agree with Malischke.

Greg Borowski and Tom Kertscher looked at another unusual election issue (from the November, 2004 election) last spring, voting gaps:

"In Madison, the city counts of the number of ballots cast, but doesn't routinely try to reconcile that figure with the number of people recorded as having voted in an election. The firm found in Madison 133,598 people were recorded as having voted but 138,204 ballots were cast, a difference of more than 4,600. The actual number of ballots cast overall was 138,452, but the city doesn't have a figure for the number of people recorded as having voted, Deputy City Clerk Sharon Christensen said."

During a manual recount, these ballots would be inspected to determine voter intent under state law, which describes in detail the procedure to ascertain intent. But if these ballots are sent through the machine, they will probably not be counted.

A 20-page study published in May 2005 in the Journal of Politics found that manually counting ballots resulted in the lowest rate of uncounted ballots, when compared to four different types of machines.

Manual recounts can serve as an audit of machine results. In fact, a letter from 15 Wisconsin county clerks to the State Elections Board earlier this year cited manual recounts as a method of verifying the accuracy of electronic equipment.

This could be a partial fulfillment of a state law calling for audits to determine the error rate of each voting system. This statute has yet to be implemented.

A manual recount is the best way to ensure that a major electronic snafu (intentional or unintentional) does not disrupt the accuracy of the count of votes. Manual recounts of the paper ballots will maintain voter confidence in our election results.

If we count the ballots two ways, and both methods substantially agree, there can be little doubt as to the outcome. We are already counting the ballots by machine on election night. Let's do recounts by hand where practical.

This does not have to be an all-or-none proposition. If recounts are performed by machine in large elections, let's do a 10 percent manual audit.

A proposal before the Joint Legislative Council calls for a committee to investigate the best way for Wisconsin to perform audits and recounts.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:14 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 13, 2006

San Diego School District Overhauls Physics Curriculum

Robert Tomsho:

When San Diego's school district began overhauling its science-education curriculum five years ago, it wanted to raise the performance of minority, low-income and immigrant students.

But parents in middle- and upper-income areas, where many students were already doing well, rebelled against the new curriculum, and a course called Active Physics in particular. They called it watered-down science, too skimpy on math.

A resistance movement took hold. Some teachers refused to use the new textbooks, which are peppered with cartoons. They gathered up phased-out texts to use on the sly. As controversy over the issue escalated, it played a part in an election in which the majority of the school board was replaced. Now, further curriculum changes are under consideration.

The skirmishes in the nation's eighth-largest urban school district reflect a wider battle over how to make science classes accessible to a broader array of students while maintaining their rigor.

Amid mediocre U.S. scores on international science tests and predictions of future shortages of scientists and engineers, policy makers have begun requiring more science in schools. By 2011, 27 states will require high-school students to take at least three science courses to graduate. In 1992, only six had such requirements.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:02 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Parents Weigh in on Middle Schools

Aruna Jain:

Last year, Joan Blair's daughter enrolled at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, the new creative and performing arts school in Silver Spring. She is learning high-school-level Spanish, ranks above grade level in math, and takes theater and arts courses that she loves. But her science and social studies classes, where students of different academic levels are grouped together, are not rigorous enough, Blair said.

"As a teacher, how are you going to meet the needs of all students if they are all mixed together?" Blair asked.

She was among the more than 100 parents, teachers and educators who filed into Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring on a recent Monday night to offer concerns and suggestions at a community outreach session aimed at helping the Montgomery County school system improve its middle schools. The event was the last of three such sessions that drew crowds of county residents and educators eager to participate in a middle school reform initiative launched last fall.

The initiative was partially prompted by a middle school audit released last year that showed a lag in achievement, particularly among African American and Hispanic students, students learning English, students with disabilities and those living in poverty. The independent audit found that county middle schools are not consistent in the application of curriculum standards, the quality of school improvement programs, teacher training opportunities and discipline procedures.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:49 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

LA Mayor's Public School Takeover Plans

Joel Rubin and Duke Helfand:

Villaraigosa's advisors look at extending the academic year and selling the headquarters.

As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pursues control of the Los Angeles school system, his advisors are considering wide-ranging changes that could gut the central bureaucracy, sell the district's headquarters, keep students in class until 5 p.m. and extend the academic year to 10 1/2 months.

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A Parent's Questions About the Elimination of Honors Courses

Jay Matthews:

Like many journalists, I love to read other people's mail. West Potomac High School parent John Dickert kindly sent me an exchange of messages with Ann Monday, assistant superintendent for instructional services for the Fairfax County public schools. Their dialogue shows why Fairfax County educators disagree with many parents over the new policy of eliminating honors courses in 11th grade and leaving students a choice of a regular class or an Advanced Placement course in humanities subjects such as history.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:17 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Waukesha Charter Schools

Amy Hetzner:

The Waukesha School District already operates four charter schools. In addition to the two proposed schools discussed at Wednesday's meeting, La Casa de Esperanza has expressed interest in opening a charter school as well.

Under Wisconsin law, however, charter schools outside Milwaukee and Racine have to get the approval of their local school boards before they can open.

South's proposed charter school would build on Project Lead the Way, a leading pre-engineering curriculum among American high schools that is now in its second year at South.

In addition to continuing that four-year curriculum, the charter school could offer special math and science courses geared to support students' engineering coursework. School planners also say they would like it to involve work experience for students, who would be provided mentors in the engineering field.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:16 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 12, 2006

Stanford: First virtual high school for the gifted

Becky Bartindale:

Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth is taking the next logical step: launching what is believed to be the nation's first online high school for gifted students.

The virtual high school will offer a full standard curriculum -- and more -- for students in 10th through 12th grades, leading to a high school diploma.

The only restrictions? Students will have to prove their intellectual prowess -- and come up with the tuition of about $12,000 a year. Applications are being accepted later this month, classes will begin in the fall.

Gifted students around the world already flock to the program at Stanford, in part because many schools are unable to offer everything that advanced students need.

``The gifted are among those left behind,'' said Patrick Suppes, a philosophy professor emeritus from Stanford who directs the Stanford program. ``For reasons that aren't bad policy, No Child Left Behind worries most about students who are underperforming.

Stanford's Educational Program for Gifted Youth website.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:02 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Internet & Higher Education: From Fad to Worse?

Terry Heaton:

He offers an extensive list of innovations in education to which he's been exposed over the years, one of which is the internet. Each, he notes, promised to transform education.

Some of those much-heralded innovations are long forgotten. Others remain housed somewhere on the campus, but I think it is fair to say that higher education hasn't changed all that much, that none of these ideas proved to be as transformative as their advocates predicted. Compared to their advance billing, they all turned out to be short-term enthusiasms or -- more bluntly -- educational fads.

So the internet is a fad that has failed to transform higher education. This, I believe, may be the most ignorant statement I've ever heard from an academic. The internet has already altered all education forever, because a great deal of knowledge is now accessible without memorization, contemplation, research or study. That higher education "hasn't changed all that much" may be more a reflection of the self-serving nature of the institution than what he sees as the false promises of "fads." Moreover, I think it's a little early to proclaim that the internet isn't transformative.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:36 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why the GMCC Opposes the Taxpayers Protection Amendment

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce [pdf]

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) Board of Directors opposes the Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment and has urged legislators to vote against SJR 63 and AJR 77.

What the Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment (WTPA) proposes and what the likely outcome will be are two different things. While we believe that limiting or reducing taxes is a laudable goal, we disagree that this proposed amendment is the best way to achieve that. The GMCC’s intent is to bring balance to the discussion.

It is our position that the state constitution is not a place to implement permanent limitations that are sure to have major long term consequences. There are many unresolved questions and arguments raised by others related to WTPA which are outlined below. GMCC shares many of these questions and concerns.
via an email from Jennifer Alexander.

Dear Valued GMCC Member: The Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment (WTPA) was proposed in March and Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and Representative Jeff Wood (R-Chippewa Falls) are leading the push in the Senate and Assembly, respectively. The proposed constitutional amendment, which many call the newest version of TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights), aims to limit revenue increases for the state, K-12 schools, technical colleges, counties, and municipalities of Wisconsin. The plan is similar to the previously proposed TABOR, which drew a substantial amount of controversy from both political parties. However, unlike TABOR, which focused on limiting government spending, TPA is aimed at limiting state and local government tax and fee collections. The GMCC Board of Directors has taken a formal position of opposition to the proposed legislation due to concerns about the direct and indirect effects TPA will have on our region. Proponents of this legislation assert that the overall goal is to bring Wisconsin taxes back in line with taxpayers’ ability to pay. While GMCC certainly supports efforts to reduce the overall tax burden for businesses and residents, we do not believe that financial limitations and policies belong in the Constitution. Elected officials need to be held accountable by voters for decisions on budgets and program spending. This legislation will take away the ability of elected officials to perform the tasks and make the decisions which the public elects them to make. As we collectively work towards local and regional economic development that preserves and enhances quality of life, our goal has been to encourage business creation, expansion and retention, sector-based business development (including bio-agriculture, biomedical, health care, etc), reliable energy, the highest-quality workforce, diverse housing choices, an efficient transportation system, and the availability of quality, affordable health care. We believe adoption of WTPA will jeopardize these goals. If WTPA is adopted, it will negatively impact businesses and jobs in Wisconsin. Companies demand highly educated and trained workers. Additional revenue limits on K-12 education, the technical college system and the University of Wisconsin System will reduce the number of available skilled workers and graduate degree employees. Revenue limits on local government may force communities to curtail economic growth because they may be unable to fully recoup the cost of providing infrastructure and expanded services to areas of new growth. While GMCC certainly supports efforts to reduce the overall tax burden for businesses and residents, the State Constitution is not the proper venue for limitations on state revenues or spending. Elected officials, including those in the state legislature, need to be held accountable by voters for decisions on budgets and program spending. This legislation will take away the ability of elected officials at all levels to perform the tasks and make the decisions which the public elects them to make. During the Collaboration Council’s trip to Denver earlier this year, we heard numerous stories of how Colorado’s TABOR negatively impacted education, the economy and the overall business climate. Colorado voters recognized the problem and responded by approving Referendum C which suspends TABOR for five years in order to restore earlier spending cuts to higher education, K-12 and transportation. The GMCC Board of Directors heard the message and decided there is no choice but to oppose WTPA. Please take a moment to view our website at You will find a featured link in the Government Affairs section which explains in greater detail why passage of WTPA will be detrimental to the health of education and economic development throughout Wisconsin. If you have questions about GMCC’s position in opposition to WTPA, please contact Delora Newton at, or by phone at 443-1947. Sincerely, Jennifer Alexander President, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce
Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:59 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

San Francisco Schools: Student Funding Follows Kids

Lisa Snell:

San Francisco is one of a handful of public school districts across the nation that mimic an education market. In these districts, the money follows the children, parents have the right to choose their children’s public schools and leave underperforming schools, and school principals and communities have the right to spend their school budgets in ways that make their schools more desirable to parents.

Thanks to weighted funding, schools get more money for harder-to-educate students. Principals decide how to allocate funds.

In San Francisco the weighted student formula gives each school a foundation allocation that covers the cost of a principal’s salary and a clerk’s salary. The rest of each school’s budget is allocated on a per student basis. There is a base amount for the “average student,” with additional money assigned based on individual student characteristics: grade level, English language skills, socioeconomic status, and special education needs.

. . . The more students a school attracts, the bigger the school’s budget. So public schools in San Francisco now have an incentive to differentiate themselves from one another. Every parent can look through an online catalog of niche schools that include Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog language immersion schools, college preparatory schools, performing arts schools that collaborate with an urban ballet and symphony, schools specializing in math and technology, traditional neighborhood schools, and a year-round school based on multiple-intelligence theory. Each San Francisco public school is unique. The number of students, the school hours, the teaching style, and the program choices vary from site to site

Via Joanne Jacobs

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Commission on NCLB: Teacher Quality Hearing

Aspen Institute:

Quality Teachers Equal Quality Schools: Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on Teacher Quality, Recruitment, Retention, and Distribution.

The hearing will help inform the Commission on how to improve NCLB so that it can assist in the improvement of teacher quality, recruitment, retention, and distribution.

The LA Times has more.

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NY City Grades School Principals

Elissa Gootman:

New York City will give grades from A to F each year and principals at failing schools could be removed.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 11, 2006

Advanced Placement's Growth Places it Under Scrutiny

Ms Cornelius:

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about whether the Advanced Placement program is actually worthy of its reputation.

The Advanced Placement program, administered by the College Board, began 50 years ago as a way to give a select few high school students a jump-start on college work. But in recent decades, it has morphed into something quite different - a mass program that reaches more than a million students each year and is used almost as much to impress college admissions officers and raise a school's reputation as to get college credit. As the admissions race has hit warp speed, Advanced Placement has taken on new importance, and government officials, educators and the College Board itself have united behind a push to broaden access to A.P. courses as a matter of equity in education.

Posted by James Zellmer at 9:57 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Oprah on Education: What Bill & Melinda Gates Want You To Know


t's their first interview together…Bill and Melinda Gates. What they want you to know. Then, Lisa Ling investigates America's silent epidemic. And, what Anderson Cooper uncovered just minutes from the White House. Why Oprah is shocked, and you will be, too!

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School Board Seat 1 Election Recount Begins

Channel3000 mentioned the recount today.

Room 103, City County Building [map]

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Reorganizing the Reorganization

Diane Ravitch:

But what is obvious is that once again a major decision—one might even say a revolutionary decision—affecting the most important public institution in the city and the lives of 1.1 students has been taken without any public consultation. Once again, the leaders at Tweed met behind closed doors with their management consultants and their experts in corporate governance, along with chosen staff members, and reached decisions that will have sweeping implications for the public school system.

Something is terribly wrong with this scenario. Public agencies in a democracy are not free to make major policy changes without public consultation, public feedback, public review, and other efforts to forge a consensus. That is the way democratic governance is supposed to work. What we have now seems to be the behavior and actions of a monarchy or a privately held corporation that has no stockholders; its leaders can do whatever they wish without seeking public input or public assent.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:30 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Leopold Additions Included in 2006 MMSD Operating Budget


The Madison school board voted 4--3 Monday night to include additions to Leopold Elementary School in next year's operating budget.

A final vote will come at a later meeting, but this essentially means that construction can start with our without a referendum.

Background on Leopold here. Johnny Winston, Jr., Juan Jose Lopez, Bill Keys and Shwaw Vang voted for the motion while Carol Carstensen, Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts voted against it, preferring, I'm told, to consider this question with the entire 2006/2007 budget, which the board has not yet seen.

Student rep Connor Gants pointed out (he also voted for it) that the motion does not really matter as it could be changed when the 2006/2007 budget is actually approved. More on the budget, here.

Channel3000 has an update here.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:45 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Irvine Co. To Donate $20M to Schools

David Haldane:

The Irvine Co. said Monday it would provide $20 million over the next 10 years to fund fine arts, music and science programs for fourth- through sixth-graders in the Irvine Unified School District.

The money will be in addition to the $25 million pledged by the Newport Beach developer to Irvine schools in 2000, officials said.

"We think it's an important investment to acknowledge the importance of these programs in providing a comprehensive quality education in the school district," said Michael LeBlanc, a company senior vice president.

Dean Waldfogel, the school district's superintendent, expressed delight."We're very excited," he said. "This will allow us to maintain the program at its current level."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:12 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 10, 2006

Schools Struggle with Requiring PE

Lucas Johnson II:

At Moore Elementary School, fourth-grader Michael Turri looks forward to 30 minutes of jump-rope at the start of the day.

"It really gets my brain going," said the 10-year-old. "You need to do this stuff to get through life."

That's one of the approaches this suburban Nashville school takes to thwart a growing childhood obesity problem. Students at Moore are required to take PE every day.

Now, some state lawmakers are pointing to Moore as a model for the state in a plan to set tougher phys ed standards for all schools

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LA Charters & Public School Transformation


Steve Barr is winning. Also, note the LA Times descriptor of charters, long at 22 words but not too shabby though it doesn't get at the open admissions issue. Incidentally, per the posts below and the need to change public schools, this is the equation that ought to scare the teachers' unions into moving on the issue: Steve Barr, strong union proponent, Teamster, along with a very big coalition of almost entirely minority parents is at odds with the teachers' union and the school district in LA. You don't need to be an ace political consultant to see the problem there...And if Barr doesn't succeed, these guys (Clint Bolick, Ken Starr, and company) are more than willing to help out..

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:11 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Students' lawsuit threats kept secret

Katherine Goodloe of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reports:

Federal agency decides in Cedarburg case that releasing documents violated privacy rights.

Cedarburg - The next time a student threatens to sue a public school district, taxpayers probably won't know anything about it.

That's because the entire process can be kept secret unless the dispute enters a courtroom, after the U.S. Department of Education found that releasing notices of claim filed by two students in the Cedarburg School District violated federal student privacy rights. The finding directly conflicts with the state's long-standing practice that such notices - which serve as precursors to lawsuits - are considered public documents.


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Affordable Health Care: Four Wisconsin Proposals

A forum hosted by Progressive Dane and The Edgewood College Human Issues Program.

Thursday, April 6th 6:30 to 8:30 at Edgewood College's Anderson Auditorium, in the Predolin Humanities Center.

Access to health insurance has become a national crisis, but there are bold, creative proposals to fix it. Please join us to hear four great proposals to make affordable health care widely available locally and statewide. Representatives from each plan will briefly describe their proposal, followed by ample time for audience questions and open discussion.

Co-Sponsors include: The League of Women Voters, The Democratic Party of Dane County, The South Central Federation of Labor, The Four Lakes Green Party, and The Center for Patient Partnerships at the UW-Madison.

The presenters and four major health care plan proposals are:

  • Linda Farley, M.D. of the Coalition for Wisconsin Health will present "The Wisconsin Health Security Act." This is a comprehensive plan to provide quality health care to all Wisconsin residents--rich and poor, young and old, regardless of health condition, medical history or employment status by replacing more than 700 different health insurers with a single publicly financed plan.

  • Ann Fleischli of Wisconsin Heath Care for All will present a "provide-or-pay" plan for Wisconsin where non-insuring businesses are required to either provide coverage or contribute to a fund that buys coverage for their employees, while unemployed, self-employed, retired and young people would buy coverage through additional low rate insurance pools.

  • David Newby of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO will present "The Wisconsin Health Care Plan", which would establish a Labor-Management Commission through legislation to develop a quality-driven comprehensive plan that will cover all medically necessary care.

  • David Riemer, Project Director of the Wisconsin Health Project, who will present the "Wisconsin Health Plan", which proposes to create an effective purchasing pool and incorporates "consumer driven" incentives to promote health care quality and use market forces to drive down health care costs.
Darcy Haber, Statewide Program Manager for Wisconsin Citizen Action, will moderate the forum. Darcy is an experienced moderator with deep ties to health care issues, having received a William Shernoff Health and Consumer Law Fellowship to work for the National Health Law Program in coalition with national health care reform groups in Washington D.C. For more info, contact: Rick Richards, Co-Chair Progressive Dane Economic Issues Task Force (608) 255-5023 or ; or Elizabeth Tryon, Community Partner Specialist, 663-2889,
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Skills tests for teachers miss mark, studies find

Greg Toppo:

The skills tests that most public school teachers must pass to get a job are poor predictors of whether they'll actually be good teachers — and in some cases may even keep good ones from entering the classroom, new research suggests.

A pair of long-term studies presented here at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association challenge longstanding policies in 48 states that require teachers to pass standardized exams to get jobs.

In one, Marc Claude-Charles Colitti of Michigan State University examined data going back to 1960 and found teachers' scores had almost no correlation to principals' evaluations of their classroom performance.

"How smart a teacher is doesn't necessarily tell us that they're a good teacher," he says. Teachers' SAT or ACT college entrance exam scores, or even their own scores on fifth-grade skills tests when they were children, would be as accurate at telling whether they'll be good teachers, he says.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:26 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 9, 2006

Wisconsin Charter School Update


Valley New School in Appleton

Sparta Charter Pre-School at Sparta

TALC & New Small Schools in Milwaukee

The Brompton School at Kenosha

Kiel eSchool at Kiel

Renaissance Academy at River Falls

Core Knowledge Charter School at Verona

GREEN Charter Eco-Schools (30 Websites) --

DPI Charter School Grant Info --

SCHOOL MATTERS: A Service of Standard & Poor's --

Highly Qualified Teachers & Paraprofessionals in Charter Schools: A Guide for Charter School Authorizers and Operators ---

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Lawmakers Try to Expel Junk Food From Schools


Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation's schools.

Dangerous weight is on the rise in kids. This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of obese and overweight kids has climbed to 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls. Four years ago, the number was 14 percent.

Lawmakers blame high-fat, high-sugar snacks that compete with nutritious meals in schools.
"Junk food sales in schools are out of control," Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said Thursday. "It undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease."

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What's Wrong with America's High Schools?

Shawn's friends are not alone in their exodus. Of the 315 Shelbyville students who showed up for the first day of high school four years ago, only 215 are expected to graduate.

In today's data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly one out of three public high school students won't graduate, not just in Shelbyville but around the nation.

For Latinos and African-Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50 percent. Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.

There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don't quite approach those levels. They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15 percent to 20 percent.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:32 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Priorities for upcoming budget

In the upcoming budget deliberations, I urge the board to direct as many available funds as possible to proven in-school programs which support the board's three stated goals:

* All students complete 3rd grade able to read at grade level or beyond.
* All students complete Algebra by the end of 9th grade and Geometry by the end of 10th grade.
* All students, regardless of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic or linguistic subgroup, attend school at a 94 percent attendance rate at each grade level.

On the flip side, I urge the board to avoid cuts in proven in-school programs that support these goals.

To go a step further, I urge the board to initiate new in-school programs and expand those MMSD programs already proven to succeed.

Posted by Ed Blume at 5:20 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Schools Need Our Help in Preventing Medication Errors

Valerie Ulene:

Schools are under an incredible strain to simply educate children — let alone medicate them — so it's hardly surprising that dispensing drugs at school leads to an alarming number of errors. The surprise is that parents and doctors don't work harder to prevent them.

The laws requiring schools to dispense drugs were designed to protect children with medical problems, such as asthma and diabetes. Such kids wouldn't be safe at school if their medications weren't available.

ut a large, and growing, number of children are taking a wide variety of medications, including psychoactive drugs, that frequently have little to do with safety. Instead, the drugs are often prescribed — at least in part — to improve attentiveness and concentration and to enhance academic performance.

The resulting burden for schools is enormous. About 5% of children receive medication during a typical school day. Each year, the Los Angeles Unified School District dispenses about 450,000 doses of medications.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 8, 2006

New York City Tries More Ways to Fix Schools

David Herszenhorn:

The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, is once again rethinking the nation's largest school system.

He has hired Chris Cerf, former president of Edison Schools, the commercial manager of public schools in 25 states. He has retained Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm that revamped the school system in St. Louis and is rebuilding the system in New Orleans. And he has enlisted Sir Michael Barber, a former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair of England who is now at McKinsey & Company in London.

They are evaluating everything from how textbooks and paper are bought, to how teacher training programs are chosen, to how students, teachers, principals and schools are judged. They are running focus groups of dozens of principals, and they are studying districts in England, Canada and California.

Their primary goal is to find ways to relax much of the very centralization put in place by the Bloomberg administration and give principals a far freer hand, provided the schools can meet goals for attendance, test scores, promotion rates and other criteria.

Posted by James Zellmer at 12:00 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Teaching the Unreachable

Joanne Jacobs:

Stuart Buck recounts a conversation with a friend, a black man teaching high school English at a mostly black school in Georgia, about the challenge of teaching students who've made it to 10th grade without learning how to read. The friend says:

"It's just impossible for me to spend one or two semesters and get someone caught up on 9 or 10 years of schooling. And then there are always some kids that just don't care, and no matter what I try, they just won't do the work. So the government is going to tell me that because of a handful of students that are unreachable, therefore I'm a bad teacher? No way."
The teacher also talks about confronting a boy, who says, "You can't tell me what to do. You're not my dad."
“Then I said, ‘No, I am your dad. I’m the only grown male who is willing to stand out here, before God and before anyone else who is listening, and to tell you that I love you and that I’m here for you. Now you tell me, if that’s not a dad, then what is?’

“That’s when the kid just started sobbing."

The boy's behavior improved. But he's still going to flunk the class. He hasn't done most of the work and has no chance of passing the test.

Update: On Right Wing Nation, the prof writes about trying to teach a bright, hard-working student who'd made it to college without understanding how to compute a mean or median or how to abstract an idea from an example. The professor wonders why nobody taught him math in high school.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:32 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 7, 2006

Cole asks for recount

Maya Cole released the following to the media this afternoon:

Feeling obligated to her supporters, Maya Cole filed a petition for a recount in her election loss for a school board seat on April 4.

“As a public candidate, I feel compelled to respond to the dozens of people who asked me to seek a recount,” Cole said in a press statement.

“This election truly illustrates that every vote counts. I don’t want any voter who made an effort to go to the polls to feel as if there was any question about the accuracy of the result,” she said. “This race was just so close.”

Cole lost the contest for Madison School Board Seat 1 to Arlene Silveira by 86 votes, 17,933 to 17,847, a margin of .24 percent.

“I called Arlene to let her know about the recount. I have no hard feelings toward her. I wished her the best of luck on the board, because only a fluke would change the result,” Cole added.

Cole filed a petition for a recount on Friday afternoon with the Madison city clerk’s office.

The State Journal has more.

Posted by Ed Blume at 5:23 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Virtual Schools, Real Innovation

Andrew Rotherham:

A WISCONSIN court rejected a high-profile lawsuit by the state's largest teachers' union last month seeking to close a public charter school that offers all its courses online on the ground that it violated state law by depending on parents rather than on certified teachers to educate children. The case is part of a national trend that goes well beyond virtual schooling: teachers' unions are turning to the courts to fight virtually any deviation from uniformity in public schools.

Unfortunately, this stance not only hinders efforts to provide more customized schooling for needy students, it is also relegating teachers to the sidelines of the national debate about expanding choice in public education.

Virtual charter schools grab headlines, but they are actually relatively minor players. The Center for Education Reform reports that there are 147 online-only charter schools in 18 states, with 65,354 students. In other words, virtual schools make up just 4 percent of the entire public charter school sector. And a third of them can be found in just one state, Ohio.

Still, they are valuable for many students. For example, a student in a rural community with few schooling options who finds the curriculum in her school too limiting might be better served through an online program that allows her to learn at her own pace. So, too, might a ninth grader who finds unbearable the jock-and-popularity culture that still largely prevails in our high schools. And some parents may want to be more involved in their child's education than is possible in traditional public schools but don't have the time or resources to do fully independent home schooling.

Andy Smarick has much more on this issue:
The article's launching point is virtual schools, but there are three basic arguments here. First, the future of public education is more diversity and greater parental choice. Many of us hope this is the case and some of us actually believe it, but for it to be written so matter-of-factly and published on the pages of the old gray lady nearly gave me the vapors.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:29 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Legality of teacher bargaining unit questioned

Sandy Cullen:

A behind-the-scenes dispute over whether Madison School Board member Lawrie Kobza should be allowed to vote on the district's next teachers contract has led to her questioning the legality of the teachers bargaining unit.

That, in turn, has brought charges from Madison Teachers Inc. that Kobza is trying to break up the teachers bargaining unit.

The issue of whether Kobza - whose husband is employed as a high school soccer coach under the MTI teachers contract -should recuse herself from negotiating and voting on the 2007-2009 contract was raised last fall by School Board member and former MTI president Bill Keys.

Owen Robinson has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:59 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 6, 2006

MMSD decides to comply with ethics policy

I sent the following letter to board president Carol Carstensen a few days ago:

In correspondence with MMSD Attorney Clarence Sherrod, I learned that the district and board have not complied with Board Policy 9000A 4, which reads:
Board members, the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, and all employees with District purchasing authority shall (1) file a Statement of Economic Interests with the Legal Counsel of the Board prior to April 30th of each year and (2) file a disclosure form with the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services or her/his designee within 30 days after entering into an employment or independent contractor agreement contemplating annual compensation of $1,000.00 or more.

When I requested copies of the Statements of Economic Interests filed in compliance with 9000A 4, Attorney Sherrod provided . . . copies. I summarized the filings by individual and year in the attached table. As you can see, very few board members or employees filed annually.

Board Policy 9000A provides the following sanctions for failure to comply:

Employees violating this policy or procedure are subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal. Board members who fail to file the required Statement of Economic Interest shall not be paid until such filing is effected.

I request that you, as Board president, direct the MMSD to comply with Board Policy 9000A 4 by April 30th, 2006, and annually thereafter, so that a formal complaint or other action will not be necessary.

The summary table shows, for instance, that Superintendent Rainwater has not filed a Statement of Economic Interest since he was deputy superintendent in 1998 and Ruth Robarts hasn't filed since 1997.

Shortly after I hand delivered my letter to the Doyle building, Attorney Sherrod called to explain that he had annually requested statements if the person felt that anything had changed from the previous year. He commented that his advice was based on what the board had intended when it adopted the policy, though he admitted that his advice was not "technically" correct. He assured me that the policy would be followed this year, and I assured him that I would request copies of this year's statements in early May.

Posted by Ed Blume at 10:58 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

IBM Helping Employees Move into Classrooms

Natalie Gott:

After more than three decades at IBM, Larry Leise and Susan Luerich could be planning a leisurely retirement. Instead, the married couple are headed back to college, with plans to start new careers in retirement as high school science teachers.
"Seeing the proverbial light bulb come on (in a student), there is no better feeling," said Luerich, 54. "It's a way to give back."

And their bosses at IBM Corp. are only too happy to help.

Luerich and Leise, 58, are among the first batch of IBM employees taking the company up on its offer to pay for the college classes needed to leave Big Blue behind for a math or science classroom, where a shortage of qualified teachers concerns a company that thrives on high-tech innovation.

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:37 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Should Schools Be Included in Taxpayer Amendment

Mike Ellis:

Unfortunately, it appears the controls proposed for school districts under the constitutional amendment could undo all that. Just as troubling, it also appears the amendment could seriously disequalize taxes and spending across school districts in Wisconsin – something that itself would appear to violate an existing constitutional mandate that requires school districts to be “as nearly uniform as practical.”

When the proposed amendment was introduced last month, I asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to analyze its effect on school levies compared to the statutory revenue controls in current law. Because the proposed constitutional limits would not be in effect until the 2009-10 fiscal year, the bureau analysis estimated the effect of the amendment if it had been in effect for the current school year rather than the current statutory controls.

According to the Fiscal Bureau analysis, “In the absence of the statutory revenue limits, the total allowable levy under the joint resolutions would have been $3.71 billion, which would have been an increase of $117.8 million compared to the actual 2005-06 levy.”
That begs the question, why would we amend the constitution to increase property taxes more than $100 million? How can that be labeled taxpayer protection?

Posted by James Zellmer at 7:31 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Bill Strikes at Low-Nutrition Foods in School

Marian Burros:

Under the bill, an amendment to the National School Lunch Act, high nutritional standards would be required of all food sold on school premises. That means not just in cafeterias but in vending machines, school stores and snack bars as well, even at fund-raising events.

The measure, which has strong bipartisan support in both houses, would do on a national level what many school districts have been trying to do for years: require that the schools set an example by providing only healthful food and so perhaps reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, has watched what goes on in the school her two teenage sons attend.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:09 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Elephant in the School Board Meeting

Scott Niederjohn [PDF File]:

These requests were overwhelmingly rejected by the voters with more than 70% of ballots cast as “no” on each of the measures. Perhaps voters recognize that many school districts are ignoring the elephant sitting right in their meetings.

Data from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) database show that teacher health insurance costs have grown much faster than teacher salaries in recent years.i In fact, the average annual Wisconsin teacher health benefit costs in 2002-2003 were over 46% of the average annual base teacher salary. In 1984-1985, health benefit costs averaged just 14% of average annual teacher salaries. 2001-2002 data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Wisconsin provides the second most generous fringe benefits in the nation, in terms of per-pupil costs, for teachers. Only New York teachers enjoy more lucrative benefit packages than educators in Wisconsin. In 2001-2002, Wisconsin taxpayers spent an average of $1,397 per pupil on public school teacher benefits while the national average was $884 per pupil.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 4:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Cole on fence over recount

Cole on fence over recount

Madison School Board candidate Maya Cole said today that she is still trying to decide whether to ask for a recount of the vote in her race.

Cole lost Tuesday's election to Arlene Silveira by 86 votes, less than one quarter of 1 percent of the almost 36,000 votes cast.

"My opinion is that I don't think a recount is going to bring about a change" in the outcome, Cole said in a telephone interview, adding that she doesn't want to waste time or money.

But Cole also said she has had some 20 people contact her since the election to urge her to ask for a recount.

It is hard to get people to vote at a time when national voting scandals have eroded confidence in the political process, she said, adding that she wants her next move, whatever it is, to still encourage her supporters to stay engaged. "I don't want people to feel like their vote didn't count."

Cole said she hopes she and her top advisers will have a consensus by later today or Friday.

Published: April 6, 2006

Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 3:01 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Vision for School Board

A Capital Times Editorial:

But assuming that Mathiak and Silveira will be joining the board, we think that this marks a major transition point.

Mathiak and Silveira are both smart and independent. They got to know each other well during the many forums that were held during the long campaign that preceded Tuesday's voting.

If they are as smart and committed as we think they are, Mathiak and Silveira will link up with Kobza, a relative board newcomer elected in something of an upset last year, and try to work together across the lines of division on the board.

It this trio does commit to work together for a set of smart and necessary goals budget transparency, administration accountability, and better analysis of minority achievement and curriculum initiatives they will become the dynamic core of a board that will be able to function far more smoothly as a whole. We believe that, for all the infighting that has caused concern in recent years, members as distinct as current board President Carol Carstensen and Robarts can be brought into that whole if the newer members of the board demand it.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:41 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Discussion of The Special Madison School Board Meeting on Student Absences

Madison School Board Member Juan Jose Lopez discussed tonight's of the Madison Board of Education meeting agenda with WORT's Tony Casteneda this morning. MP3 audio file. The MMSD has cancelled tonight's Board meeting based on a Wisconsin Statute.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:03 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Struggling Students Want Vocational Education, Poll Shows

Mitchell Landsberg:

The poll of California 9th- and 10th-graders, conducted for the James Irvine Foundation, found that six in 10 students didn't particularly like school and weren't motivated to succeed. But of those disaffected students, more than 90% said they would be more motivated if their school offered classes relevant to their future careers.

The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch of an Irvine Foundation center dedicated to encouraging the growth of career-oriented education in California. The foundation is spending $6 million on a new San Francisco-based center called ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.

Posted by James Zellmer at 6:03 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Survey: Teens Lack Financial Literacy


They like to spend it, but young people don't know much about how money works. On average, high school seniors answered correctly only 52.4 percent of questions about personal finance and economics, according to a nationwide survey released Wednesday....

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 5:53 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Program on Vouchers Draws Minority Support

Diana Jean Schemo:

Washington's African-American mayor, Anthony A. Williams, joined Republicans in supporting the program, prompted in part by a concession from Congress that pumped more money into public and charter schools. In doing so, Mr. Williams ignored the ire of fellow Democrats, labor unions and advocates of public schools.

"As mayor, if I can't get the city together, people move out," said Mr. Williams, who attended Catholic schools as a child. "If I can't get the schools together, why should there be a barrier programmatically to people exercising their choice and moving their children out?"

School-choice programs have fervent opponents, and here, public school officials worry that the voucher program will diminish the importance of the neighborhood school, though the program serves only a relative few of the district's 58,000 students. National critics of school choice like Reg Weaver, president of the country's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, accused voucher supporters of "exploiting the frustration of these minority parents to push for a political agenda" intended to undermine public schools.

Posted by James Zellmer at 5:45 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 5, 2006

Trends in International Mathematics & Science Study

Institute of Educational Sciences:

The new TIMSS 1999 Video Study report on eighth-grade science teaching examines how students in 5 countries, including the United States, experience science as it is actually taught.

Posted by James Zellmer at 11:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wellness Initiatives

Jamaal Abdul-Alim:

Black pedometer in hand, Greendale Middle School Spanish teacher Barb Rampolla hits the track behind her school to do three or four laps a few times a week.

Last summer, she joined an area fitness center. Over Christmas vacation, she abstained from her favorite holiday treats - and won a contest for not gaining any weight over winter break.

Fruits and vegetables are now a regular part of her diet. She's feeling better, too.

"And I have to say that my clothes fit better," said Rampolla, 58. "And for a woman, that's really good."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:48 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

2004 US Census Data on Public School Financing

US Census Bureau:

Education finance data include revenues, expenditures, debt, and assets (cash and security holdings) of elementary and secondary public school systems. These data are available in viewable tables and downloadable files. Information related to file layouts and definitions can be found in the Technical Documentation below.

Posted by James Zellmer at 10:34 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Spellings on NCLB

US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings:

Few voices have been stronger in support of education reform over the years than your editorial page. Which is why it troubles me to have to respond to your March 24 editorial "Spellings Test."

Instead of challenging reform's opponents, you found fault with its best friend. The Bush administration led the charge to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, the strongest educational accountability measure ever instituted. The Department of Education has challenged states that have tried to water down or wriggle out of its provisions. And we have been immovable on the "bright line" goals of the law, including annual testing, disaggregated test score data and full grade level proficiency in reading and math by 2013-14.

Four years ago, we fought hard to ensure that public school choice and tutoring services were part of NCLB. They are important accountability tools. We have urged school districts to partner with community and faith-based organizations and to set aside adequate funds for transportation. We insist school districts comply with both its letter and spirit; for example, by informing parents in a timely manner and in plain language. Sticking a letter in a kid's backpack is just not good enough.

We are holding up successful districts, such as Miami-Dade County in Florida and Desert Sands Unified in California, as role models. And those dragging their feet have been warned of consequences. Henry Johnson, who heads my Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, is taking a very close look at how well states are complying with the law. We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement actions.

Of course, we are not satisfied with current student participation rates. To spur improvement, we established pilot programs in several states prior to the 2005-06 school year. Early returns are promising. In Newport News, Va., for example, preliminary data show that 62% of students eligible for free tutoring signed up, aided by a door-to-door campaign to notify low-income parents. This is nearly four times the national average.

We welcome everyone's effort to use the latest data in support of closing the achievement gap. The bottom line is that none of this activity would be happening without the No Child Left Behind Act. It has done more than raise test scores and narrow the achievement gap. It has shone a bright light on the entire public education system, so that parents are no longer kept in the dark.

Margaret Spellings
U.S. Secretary of Education

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Election Link Roundup

  • Susan Troller: New Blood for Schools:
    Madison voters want tighter fiscal control from their School Board, said one longtime schools observer in the wake of Tuesday night's vote.

    Newcomer Lucy Mathiak unseated four-term incumbent Juan Jose Lopez in one race while Arlene Silveira squeaked past Maya Cole by just 86 votes to win the seat being vacated by Bill Keys' decision not to seek re-election. Cole said this morning that she is still thinking about asking for a recount.

  • Channel3000

  • NBC 15

  • Sandy Cullen and Danya Hooker
  • New Blood Bodes Well for Madison Schools - WiSJ Editorial

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"Autism epidemic doubted"

Susanne Rust:

Indeed, special education figures that are being used to suggest an autism explosion are faulty and confounded, said Paul Shattuck, a researcher at the university's Waisman Center and author of the study, which appears in today's issue of the journal Pediatrics.

From 1993 to 2003, statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education showed a 657% increase in autism across the country - an explosive jump that signaled an epidemic to many.

But Shattuck discovered that, at least in most cases, the numbers are not only misleading, they're likely inaccurate. On one hand, they don't support a dramatic increase in autism prevalence, but on the other, the figures could be underestimating the absolute number of children with the condition.

Posted by James Zellmer at 8:36 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

New Issue of Teacher's College Record

The new issue of the online Teacher's Collge Record includes two video clips of AERA President and Madison's own Gloria Ladson-Billings on education and social justice and two essays from James B. Conant on "Public Education and the Structure of American Society." I believe that these are all in the free content area, although you may need to register.


Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 5:40 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Study of Core Plus Mathematics Students Attending Michigan State University

Richard O. Hill and Thomas H. Parker: Department of Mathematics - Michigan State University [Complete Study: PDF]:

One measure of the effectiveness of a high school mathematics program is the success students have in subsequent university mathematics courses. As part of a large-scale study of Michigan students, we analyzed the records of students arriving at Michigan State University from four high schools which adopted the Core-Plus Mathematics program. Those students placed into, and enrolled in, increasingly lower level courses as the implementation progressed; the downward trend is statistically very robust (p < .0005). The grades these students earned in their university mathematics courses were also below average (p < .01). ACT scores suggested the existence but not the severity of these trends.

Over the past two decades there has been a growing awareness of the inadequacy of the mathematical skills of American high school graduates. That was the assessment of the 1983 report A Nation at Risk [9]. Many subsequent studies point to the same conclusion. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Report [2] concluded that only 17 percent of US twelfth graders were proficient at mathematics (1). International comparisons also indicate a relatively low level of mathematics achievement by US high schoolstudents. The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessed the ‘Mathematics Literacy’ of end-of -secondary students in 22 countries and found that US students statistically outperformed only two countries, Cyprus and South Africa [13]. Related studies suggest that the mathematics courses taken by American high school students are often at a lower level than those taken by their international peers, and that US high schools are offering a wide assortment of courses which lack the focus and coherence found in many foreign curricula [14]. This situation has been of particular concern on college and university campuses, where large numbers of students require remedial courses to bring their mathematical knowledge and skills up to what is required for college-level mathematics and science courses.

Posted by Steffen Lempp at 11:23 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Election & SIS Commentary

I would like to thank the four candidates for their hard work and unflagging good cheer. Congrats, Arlene and Lucy. I direct special heartfelt warm thanks to you, Jim, for all the time, effort and good will that you put into providing this site and also to all its regular contributors. This forum is such a useful public service. For me it has been a lifeline. You have successfully brought many important issues into public view for a much-needed airing. Judging from yesterday's results, people are starting to pay attention. Please let's keep it up. Much more work ahead.

Posted by Celeste Roberts at 10:14 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

A Look at Differences in The Mathiak / Cole Vote

Click to view a ward by ward analysis of the differences in the Mathiak / Cole vote. City of Madison Ward map is available here.

Posted by Steffen Lempp at 9:24 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 4, 2006

Congratulations to Arlene and Lucy

And thank you to Juan and Maya.

I hope that everyone who posts on the blog and who worked in the campaigns will do everything possible to help Lucy and Arlene accomplish what they articulated for the MMSD in their campaigns.

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


I just voted. We like to bring our children to vote, so we waited till after preschool. My parents did the same thing.

I love voting. I love being part of a democracy. Usually, even when I think my candidates will lose, I leave the polling place with a little spring in my step. I especially love school board election, in part because I study school board elections. Today was different.

This was the first time I have decided who to vote for while in the booth. It is a strange election. On one hand I could rejoice that I can see good things about more than one candidate, but that's not what I'm feeling. There has been too much bitterness and nastiness and the lines have been drawn boldly, but strangely. Some have called it the status quo vs. change, but I think even the status quo candidates think that MMSD can do better in a multitude of areas.

What has been called the "transparency" issue has loomed large. I prefer to think of this as being about how much deference should be given to the administration and how active a role should the board take. The3 budget and MTI negotiations are part of this, but it is bigger. This issue also presents problems. If you support expanded roles for the board (as I do), then the question of who fills these roles becomes very important. It isn't enough to just support those who agree with you about the roles of the board, you have to look closely at what they (and their opponents) would do with that power.

An example of the strange ways the lines have been drawn is the ability grouping issue. Both ability grouping and mixed ability grouping are the status quo in MMSD. Neither has a whole lot to do with the deference issues that seemed so central to the races a few weeks ago, but the lines have been drawn and some of us are uncomfortable with the choices we now face.

Lastly there is the issue of supporters. It is a strange time when self-proclaimed conservatives actively support self-proclaimed progressives. I don't even know what this means, except that perhaps true conservatives see no chance of electing one of their own (and whatever you think of Mathiak and Cole, they are not movement conservatives).

I also love the secret ballot, so I'm going to leave it at this. I'd love to hear from others who also struggled with these choices.


Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 6:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


I believe there has been enough ineffective communication on the school board and I am ready for decisions based on solid data and careful discussion. I believe that Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak will both bring that to the board.

I am also certain that if we do not vote for them, we will endanger the strings programs, the TAG program and others that current board members deem unnecessary, even though they serve a diverse population of students.

We are a family looking for other educational options for our kids because we are tired of fighting to get our children's needs met in the Madison Schools. We are tired of "being patient," as one teacher told us. We are ready for our children to have access to challenges. Cole and Mathiak will serve the board well in examining the current school district agenda and exposing the truth.

- Elizabeth A. Dohrn, Madison
March 30, 2006 - WI State Journal

Posted by at 2:32 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


I believe there has been enough ineffective communication on the school board and I am ready for decisions based on solid data and careful discussion. I believe that Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak will both bring that to the board.

I am also certain that if we do not vote for them, we will endanger the strings programs, the TAG program and others that current board members deem unnecessary, even though they serve a diverse population of students.

We are a family looking for other educational options for our kids because we are tired of fighting to get our children's needs met in the Madison Schools. We are tired of "being patient," as one teacher told us. We are ready for our children to have access to challenges. Cole and Mathiak will serve the board well in examining the current school district agenda and exposing the truth.

- Elizabeth A. Dohrn, Madison
March 30, 2006 - WI State Journal

Posted by at 2:32 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Power of Blogs

Marisue, Your comments are closed so I have to open a new post. Curiously, you as one of the regular posters here complain about the influence of blogs and talk radio. I saw lots of your candidates' supporters at the 92.1 radio forum and many of your associates, especially from the special ed bloc, post here regularly.

So what's the beef exactly--that folks can speak their minds freely and reference materials and sources not otherwise available in the echo chamber that has until recently been our political scene here in Madison?

I am happy to have this place to debate ideas. I welcome the disagreement so long as it isn't personal. I think that's something alot of folks have gotten sick of with the way the current board majority functions--if you don't fall in step, you're attacked personally.

So let's keep talking, posting new data, pushing for answers together--here, and hopefully before a school board dedicated to those same principles.

Posted by Joan Knoebel at 11:48 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


Arguably every school board election is important, but this one is critical---this is a race for control of the majority. Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak, two admirable, excellent candidates on their own, if elected today will shift the majority, in combination with Ruth Robarts and Lawrie Kobza. The result will be a new day in district politics. This new era will be marked by civility, public accessibility, accountability and cooperation, a far cry from the way the current board majority has run things. But BOTH Lucy and Maya must be elected for this to happen.

Arlene Silveira, Maya Cole's worthy opponent, is firmly in the Carstensen, Keys, Lopez, Vang and Winston camp. Arlene has their support along with the endorsement of MTI. I have been impressed with her easy, professional manner. However, I disagree strongly not only with her blanket commitment to heterogeneity but also as to what her election would represent--business as usual,

If nothing else, this race has shaken up Madison politics. So-called progressives smear a graduate of Camp Wellstone/social justice activist as conservative. The liberal newspaper endorses what would in any other year have been described as the "pro-business" candidate while the conservative paper endorses her opponent, the stay-at-home mom. Local "progressives" spread rumors about PAC money from conservatives despite the strenous protests of an incredibly independent candidate who has always disavowed PAC money.

The only way I can really make sense out of it is that it's outcome-based --do you want the board to continue on the current path, or is it time for a change? Thus, the CapTimes can endorse Mathiak and Silveira because this will keep the status quo in charge. The WSJ wants to see a change so endorses Cole and Mathiak.

Today is a perfect early spring day in our fair city. My neighborhood will echo with the happy shouts and laughter from the Randall playground when I leave the house this morning. Please take the time to stop by your ward and vote. This is for them.

One last thought: thank you to the candidates and all the members of the school board. While I may disagree profoundly with some of you, I have the greatest respect for your commitment to our schools and dedication to public service.

Posted by Joan Knoebel at 9:11 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


Madison public schools have been ranked among the best in the country. That is one of the reasons we moved here 16 years ago. Unfortunately, financial pressures from state-imposed caps, coupled with bad curriculum decisions, have our district moving in the wrong direction.

We need strong leadership from the school board, board members who will connect with the public and find solutions that meet the needs of all of our students, new ideas and fresh perspectives. That's why I am voting for Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak. We can do better for our children and our community. We must.

- Jane Doughty, Madison
March 30, 2006 WI State Journal

Posted by at 8:40 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 3, 2006


Dear Editor,
For the past five years I've been a volunteer tutor at a Madison elementary school with high minority enrollment, and I've seen firsthand how the district has failed to respond adequately to its changing demographics.

Minority students remain underserved and under-educated by a rigid, one-size- fits-all curriculum that promotes politically correct symbolism more than solid academic progress by all its students.

The district desperately needs new leadership that will focus on matters of substance instead of better public relations, as advocated by Arlene Silveira. I urge readers to vote for Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak. If elected, they, along with Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts, could form a new board majority that would improve public education in Madison.

- Carl Silverman, Madison
March 30, 2006 WI State Journal

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Mathiak and Cole Support Increased Educational Opportunities for All Students

Dear Editor,

I was glad to see the Capital Times’ endorsement of Lucy Mathiak for the Madison School Board. Mathiak will tackle the problems facing our school district with vigor and clarity, and she will demand accountability from administrators. Mathiak’s advocacy in our schools represents a wide range of needs and interests; she wants to ensure the best academic opportunities for all students.

Unfortunately, parents from Madison Partners for Inclusive Schools have mischaracterized Mathiak, as well as candidate Maya Cole, as wanting to limit students’ access to educational opportunity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mathiak and Cole are skeptical of the District’s push toward compulsory heterogeneous classrooms precisely because this practice hobbles many students’ opportunities to learn. Administrators of our middle and high schools have eliminated course options in core subjects, reduced the choice of instructional levels, and prohibited motivated students from advancing with appropriate curriculum and learning peers.

Administrators have argued that advanced academic programs segregate students unfairly, since the advanced classes have been populated mainly by white, middle-class children. They think to address this injustice by doing away with the programs. This tactic reveals a prejudice of low expectations on their part: they apparently do not expect that low-income, minority students will ever qualify for advanced placement.

In fact, depriving gifted children of support and opportunity at school most hurts those gifted students from low-income families and traditionally marginalized groups. Families with money and connections can get educational enrichment for their children outside of school; families struggling to make ends meet cannot. The District’s own report on high school dropouts identifies 27% of them as having shown high ability as younger children; a large portion of these were minority students. Nurturing these students by identifying them early on, grouping them with learning peers, and pulling them into advanced, accelerated classes might have kept them engaged in school and fostered their potential.

Proponents of “equalizing” educational opportunity believe that filling classrooms with children of widely ranging abilities will help motivate students at risk. But, they have not evaluated the data to see if this is actually so. Administrators are moving ahead to expand the standard course/heterogeneous classroom initiative without studying whether or not it has helped struggling students to succeed. In contrast, supporters of Mathiak in the Madison TAG Parents group have compiled a long list of studies on the issue of heterogeneous classrooms vs. ability grouping. Jeff Henriques, a leader of the TAG Parents group, provided not only a summary of this research with citations and abstracts from some 60 articles, but also hard copies of approximately 40 papers to the School Board earlier this year. I myself have sent similar information, in smaller doses, to various school officials. Anyone looking for these sources can easily find them on the TAG Parents’ website.

Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole will not endorse curriculum policy without taking a hard look at the data and carefully considering the complex issues involved. Our diverse student body has diverse learning needs. We need equal opportunity for every child, not the same education for all.


Lorie Raihala

Posted by Jeff Henriques at 3:09 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

WIBA's Mitch Henck Interviews Seat 2 Candidate Lucy Mathiak

MP3 audio file of this recent interview. Lucy and Mitch discussed heterogeneous classes, among other issues.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 12:30 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas


The school board race has exposed beliefs among some citizens that I thought I had escaped by moving to a progressive city.

The people of Madison should be proud of the school board's efforts to create a real world environment for our kids in the classroom, a real world made up of all types of learners of all economic backgrounds. To say that a teacher cannot teach a variety of students in the same classroom is an insult to Madison's teachers.

Creating homogeneous classrooms would harm all students because it would deprive them of learning the skill and art of "getting along" with those who are different. The attitude that students should be segregated is outdated and prejudicial. It is also against the law. Students learn and absorb so much more in school than the content of a lesson.

I will vote for Arlene Silveira and Juan Jose Lopez because they are committed to maintaining an inclusive environment in our classrooms.

- Beth Moss, Madison
Letter to the Editor
Wisconsin State Journal, March 30, 2006

Posted by at 8:43 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Mathiak, Cole Will Restore Leadership

Now is the time for independent voices with fresh perspectives on the Madison School Board. Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole offer both.

These two talented, qualified, progressive candidates will put children's education and classroom support first, work hard to grow Madison's schools of excellence and build community support for public education.

During March, the Madison School Board has had no discussions about next year's $320 million-plus budget that will include more than $8 million in educational cuts. They won't do this until late April. Meanwhile, administrators will mail staff cuts and levels to school principals on April 3.

Where is the public discussion about the budget? Where are the school board discussions on important issues of budget and curriculum policy, especially important during tight financial times?

Mathiak and Cole will bring leadership and governance of our schools back to the school board and back to the public.

Letter to Editor
Thursday, March 30, 2006 WI State Journal

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April 2, 2006

Channel3000, For the Record: Madison School Board Candidates

QT VideoNeil Heinen hosted a "For The Record" discussion with the four candidates for Madison School Board. This video clip, from their podcast feeds is about 23 minutes long. Click on the image to view. Subscribe to their podcasts here.
Posted by Jim Zellmer at 2:57 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Wisconsin State Journal Endorses Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak

The Madison School Board can no longer afford to do business as usual.
More to the point, families in the Madison School District can no longer afford a school board unwilling to take bolder action.

For that reason, voters should elect to the board on Tuesday two candidates promoting change: Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak.

From Wisconsin State Journal, April 2, 2006

At stake is the School Board's ability to pull the district's budget out of quicksand, address shifting demographics, narrow the achievement gap between minority and white students and restore the public's trust.

Cole, 43, is a stay-at-home mom with three sons from 6 to 9 years of age. She has been involved in a variety of school and political organizations, from the Franklin/Randall Parent Teacher Organization to Mothers Acting Up, a group encouraging mothers to be politically active on behalf of children.

Mathiak, 50, is an assistant dean at the University of Wisconsin's College of Letters and Science. She has two teen-age sons, and her husband has two older daughters. She has been involved in several East High School organizations.

Cole and Mathiak come to the school board race from different backgrounds. But both believe that challenges closing in on the Madison schools demand action that the current majority on the School Board is failing to take.

They are right.

Their opponents, in contrast, are far too comfortable with the status quo. Running against Cole for Seat No. 1 on the board, being vacated by Bill Keys, is Arlene Silveira, 47, a marketing director for Promega Corp. of Fitchburg, and president of the Cherokee Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization. While Silveira would bring a welcome business perspective to the board, she lacks Cole's drive to change the board approach.

Mathiak's opponent for Seat No. 2 is incumbent Juan Lopez, a board member for 12 years who is too wedded to the way things have been done.

The Madison School Board is in an unenviable position. Outdated and unproductive state school financing rules have put school districts like Madison in a perpetual financial squeeze.

Meanwhile, the makeup of the district's population has been shifting. Minorities compose a greater proportion of the student population, and the population is shifting from where the schools are to where they aren't. In addition, the achievement gap between minority and white students continues to suggest that Madison's schools are failing to deliver for too many students.

The board has cut, combined and conserved to hold costs down, and it has made some encouraging progress on closing the achievement gap. However, the board's majority continues to shrink from new approaches, preferring to blame the state for a lack of money.

Yes, the Legislature should address school funding. But waiting for a magic solution from the Capitol only compounds the problem. Rather than looking to the state for answers, the board should look to itself.

The times require bold action. Between the two of them, Cole and Mathiak have some enlightened ideas, including plans to make the school budget process simpler, improve oversight of the budget and curriculums, reach minority students with more effective teaching and fairer discipline, challenge students with higher standards and consider the consolidation of administrative staff in the district's central office.

A year ago the State Journal endorsed incumbents in two school board races on the belief that the board would continue to set priorities and address challenges. But since then, a lack of public trust in the board contributed to the failure of two out of three questions on a school referendum, and the board's majority appeared to stick its head in the sand during the budget process.

It is obvious now that change is required.

Cole and Mathiak can supply new direction.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 7:20 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The real race and the real story

Lets face it. We all take sides whether in the school yard, the Board room or the School Board Race.

Already, we see the lines of division. The Mathiak/Cole group on one side, the Lopez/ Silveira group on the other. What is ultimately at stake is the best interests of our children.

What do we do? In the case of the School Board race, I believe it all comes down to Who gets to run the show. And blame is at the root of it all.

As I look over all the candidates, skills, commitment, ability to articulate, ability to form solid opinions and positions I know who I will vote for. But when I lift the covers and look underneath something smells very fishy to me, it looks like one of the factions in the School Board race wants to change Superintendents. The BLAME game. We hear statements like, "We got here because he is in bed with the Teachers Union"; or "He doesn't make good fiscal decisions"; or "He is responsible for cutting this or that, that "I" want for my child!"

An opinion piece in the April 1 Wall Street Journal by the School Board President of the Glen Ridge Board of Education in Glen Ridge, NJ states the case very well. She says "...Anyone with even a passing familiarity with New Jersey's property tax woes knows that the real problem is not superintendents' contracts, but legislators' unwillingness to fix a school funding system that is irretrievably broken..." She went on, "Superintendents are responsible to local boards and taxpayers and on call 24/7. They build budgets, negotiate contracts, meet with parents, serve as the 'public face' of their districts, deal with facilities and construction projects, hire, evaluate and mentor administrators, observe teachers, and much more."

On April 4 we have decision to make. Do we start over, as Ms. Cole says, and tear down what we have? Or, as Ms. Silveira says, do we build from a strong foundation? Do we bring in new talent as urged by Ms. Mathiak who has no public service record, or go with a proven child advocate, namely Juan Jose Lopez, who has a solid track record in the district?

These are the questions we must ask ourselves. We need to remember; when challengers to the current system say that we are spending more than we take in, keep in mind who made that misleading claim since our own legislature has mandated spending caps and rules that FORCE us to spend more annually than we take in. Some $8 million more.

This is not the fault of the Board or the Superintendent. And, although candidates for "change" Cole and Mathiak -- state that they want to review the budget for more effective ways to use existing funds, I doubt that the current School Board hasn't already examined all the options. Ms. Cole wants some type of 5 year plan to deal with the $40 million budget. That still leaves $8 million less per year to run the public schools. Ms. Mathiak, who wants to sell the Doyle building, is essentially saying, ?OK, here are a few bucks for this year and a de-centralized administration for the future. This makes no sense at all. It is hard enough to find the right person in one building let alone the communication nightmares we will would encounter as the school staff tries to work together from disparate locations.

The only plan that will help the budget crisis that our schools are in is for us citizens to elect public officials, local and statewide, who will give us more realistic budgets for our schools!

What to do. I am biased. I want stability, I want representatives that know change comes not from wholesale "slaughter" of our current system during an ongoing fiscal crisis, but from within. I want representatives for MY CHILDREN and ALL THE CHILDREN of Madison. I will vote for stability and sanity. Please join me in voting for the best interests of our children and vote on April 4 for Juan Lopez and Arlene Silveira.

David Wandel,
Past PTO President, Midvale/Lincoln,
Commissioner, Community Services Commission and Community Activist

Posted by David Wandel at 6:32 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

April 1, 2006

4 Candidates Vie For Madison School Board


Vying for Seat 1 on the board are Maya Cole and Arlene Silveira. On the matter of budget cuts, Silveira says keeping as many cuts as possible away from the classroom is her first priority, along with finding a better way to fund public schools.

"The state funding is broken and that's going to continually strain all districts in the state of Wisconsin. That's something we have to focus on lobbying the legislature to try and fix."

Cole agrees that state funding is not working, but says the district needs to get organized first.

"I don't see that we have the political capitol yet. Does that mean I'm not going to work on it? Of course not, but we need to be organized as a district and get the trust of our constituents before we can say it's all the legislators fault."

Cole also says the board needs to simplify the budget process, so the public knows exactly what it's voting on if it comes down to a referendum.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:11 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Endorsements come in many colors

In campaigning for the Madison School Board, I learned something that may be useful for voters. There are two very different kinds of political endorsements.

Endorsements that candidates seek. Some candidates seek the endorsement of organizations. In these situations, the organizations endorse the candidate only if the candidate passes its litmus tests. Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) has this kind of process. Candidates are invited to complete a very long and detailed questionnaire and must appear before the Political Action Committee (PAC) to explain their answers. Endorsed candidates receive direct financial assistance from the PAC and help with the campaign (leafleting neighborhoods and get-out-the-vote phone banks). The PAC also buys "independent" radio and newspaper ads supporting the endorsed candidate.

Endorsements that candidates do not seek.. There is, however, a second kind of endorsement. Candidates who run as "independents" do not seek organizational endorsements and PAC funds. They do not make promises to move the organization's agenda forward. They make clear that they are not seeking PAC funds. Nonetheless, the organization decides independently to support the candidate. The organization decides without consulting the candidate. It exercises its independent right to buy ads in support of a candidate. In the April election, ads from the "Get Real" organization are an example of the second kind of endorsement.

Big picture? Independent candidates--as in the April 4 school board race---offer value choices to voters. They stand as individuals. They ask for support for their goals. The only promises that they make are the promises to the voters. If elected, they are free to work for the values that the voters shared. They are not in the position of the candidates who owe their election, at least in part, to organizations that have their own interests.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 11:44 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

For The Record

Sunday 10 a.m., Channel 3's For the Record will feature a debate among the four candidates for school board.

Here is my email to Neil Heinen regarding the station's coverage including a discussion of some of the issues at stake in the race: To: Neil Heinen Subject: Sunday show

Dear Neil,

A new post up on SIS ( discusses a debate at East yesterday covered by your station. Thank you for this and for dedicating Sunday's show to the race.

One point that I'm not sure was reported correctly however, is the assertion in your coverage that the current board has not said who they support. The five-member majority has clearly stated their support for Silveira and Lopez (who is of course part of that majority and a candidate) while Robarts and Kobza have stated their support for Mathiak and Cole.

This race truly is for control of the majority and will dictate how we go forward on matters of heterogeneous classrooms (the dismantling of honors and possibly AP at West is part of that), school boundary changes, the construction of new and closure of existing schools, budget concerns, how to responsibly provide teachers health insurance, etc.

The Silveira/Lopez line is that Mathiak and Cole are focused merely on "process". This significantly minimizes what's at stake. The board is currently divided and removed from community input. For instance, when a school board member can't get an item on the agenda because she's in the minority, or she can't get information she has requested from the superintendent, we've got closed, dysfunctional governance. Mathiak and Cole may not always vote the same with each other or Kobza or Robarts, but the four of them are dedicated to transparency and public participation. With that, I believe the community will be better informed and more likely to support the hard decisions facing our district as we go forward into a land of $40 million more in budget cuts over the next five years.

But there's an even bigger topic that might be coming up soon. I'd appreciate if you could ask the candidates what they'd look for in a new superintendent. Rainwater has made no secret of his plan to retire in the not too distant future and it's no stretch to believe that the next board majority will determine whether we hire someone like Art or someone who is less, shall we say, autocratic/didactic, someone who takes his direction FROM the board on policy matters rather than dictating it TO them?

Let me close by focusing on hetergeneous classes. The trend everywhere else is to have more not less AP and honors classes. I met a woman recently who is an education professor at Marquette. She was shocked to learn of MMSD's policy changes, pointing out that in Milwaukee even the most impoverished schools have AP, with the focus being how to increase participation by more students, especially minority students. Extending the K-8 model into high school is irresponsible. The data clearly indicate that this model is failing our students. Indeed, even at West, the internal data show that the one-size-fits-all English 9 and now English 10 doesn't work as advertised. Our children attend Stanford and Macalester. Almost all their classmates have had the full range of AP courses in their high schools, even those coming from small towns. Especially in science and math, this is critical. Success after MMSD is a measure that doesn't get much play, but it really should be the ultimate measure of our students' success, not just those who go on to college and post-graduate careers, but all our students. Are they prepared to participate meaningfully in society. Do they have the skills they need to be good critical thinkers, to make informed decisions.

As our district grows increasingly more diverse ethnically, and as the disparity socieconomically widens, we have to ask whether we can meet all students' needs with the little red school house approach, if that model ever worked in a town our size. More important, perhaps, will be how the community will perceive this---a posting a few months back on SIS looked at the district's demographic data and demonstrated that brain flight has already happened out of the West HS district. Folks will be voting with their feet if they feel those setting policy don't care about all the children.

How we see ourselves and whether Madison continues to draw new folks to our community depends heavily on the strength of our schools. Obviously I believe we need a fresh start, but however you come down on it, the stakes are high.



Posted by Joan Knoebel at 11:07 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Northside Candidate Forum of 30-Mar-2006

The Northside Coalition sponsored a Candidate Forum on March 30, 2006 at the Warner Park Community Center.

The video of the forum QT Video is 170MB and 1 hour 50 minutes long. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will begin to play almost immediately so you can watch the forum as it continues to download; at DSL speeds, you should not experience any disruptions. The video contains chapter headings which allow quick navigation to each section and question asked (after that portion of the video has been downloaded), so you will be able to quickly view those portions of interest to you.

The candidates are, from left to right, Maya Cole and Arlene Silveira, vying for Seat 1, and Juan Lopez and Lucy Mathiak, vying for Seat 2.

One caveat. I was unsuccessful in my attempt to have the forum preceedings paused to allow me to change video tapes. Therefore, there is a 30 second gap in the video during the public questions portion, wherein a question was asked concerning the Reading Recovery program. The question itself was not recorded, and only a portion of Arlene Silveira's response is present. The responses by Maya Cole, Juan Lopez, and Lucy Mathiak are complete.

If anyone recalls the missing question, please include it in a comment to this entry.

Posted by Larry Winkler at 9:13 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Get Real PAC Money

This past Monday, I learned that the PAC Get Real planned to take out independent ads urging people to vote for Maya Cole and me for school board.

I have spoken with Get Real members and have been clear with Get Real and its leadership from the start: I do not accept PAC money or group endorsements. Its members need to read my responses to MTI and other campaign statements to see if they agree with my positions before offering support, because there are issues on which I do NOT agree with Get Real or its individual members. I am talking to all groups who invite me because I want all voters to understand what I believe and stand for.

After learning about the planned ads, I called Nancy Harper, as did several other people including Maya Cole, Ruth Robarts, and Lawrie Kobza. Some of us also called current Get Real president, Sam Johnson. Our message was clear and simple: you do not have permission to use our names, and we do not want you to run an ad in our behalf. They didn't listen.

I, and other people, then consulted the editors of the two dailies and Isthmus to ask what recourse we had under the circumstances. It turns out that we have no recourse, legal or otherwise, if an independent political group wishes to post an ad using our names. That information was confirmed by my consultation with a lawyer.

While I support freedom of speech, I am deeply disappointed that Get Real chose to insert itself into my campaign at this time and in this way. And troubled that there is no way to prevent the false impression that I sought and accepted their endorsement.

Posted by Lucy Mathiak at 7:17 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

School Board Election is Pivotal

Sandy Cullen:

Who wins the two seats up for grabs on the Madison School Board could have a major impact on how the seven-member board deals with challenges ranging from budgets to curriculum.

The outcome of Tuesday's pivotal election could shift the board majority from members some perceive as being too accepting of a course set by the administration to those clamoring for new ways of doing business.

If candidates Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak win, they will join the two board members who support them - Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts - in calling for new ways of approaching the district's budget and other growing challenges. But incumbent Juan Jose Lopez - who faces Mathiak in his bid for a fifth three-year term - and Arlene Silveira - who is running against Cole - said they are anything but status quo.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:14 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas