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June 30, 2006

More Discussion on Spending & Education Quality

Ryan Boots:

From time to time I've mentioned the disastrous Kansas City experiment, which tends to be a rallying point for those who dare to contradict the Kozol doctrine that increased spending will cure all that ails American education. Looks like somebody didn't get the memo, because we have a Kansas City for the new millennium:
Boots references George Stratigos, President of the Marin city School District - blog.

Gregory Kane:
In the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Black Power movement in the United States, there is no clearer indication of black power’s failure than in urban school systems like Baltimore’s that are run by Democrats. Washington, D. C. schools are some of the worst in the country. Democrats run D.C.

In the Manhattan Institute study, Baltimore’s graduation rate was 91st of the country’s 100 largest school systems. But Detroit’s -- another city run by Democrats -- was 98th. In both Baltimore and Detroit, most of those Democrats are black who are supposed to be exercising black power to improve conditions for black folks.

- via Rotherham.

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June 29, 2006

Education Action

Posted on Edwonk


An Update, Bulletin, and Manifesto to the Education Activists who have asked me: Where do we go next?
June 16, 2006

This is to report that, at long last, the network of activists in education that I've been assembling from the thousands of teachers and advocates for children who turned out for massive rallies while I was on that grueling six-month book-tour for The Shame of the Nation as well as the many local groups of teachers organized to fight racism and inequality and the murderous impact of the NCLB legislation is now up and running.

We're using the name Education Action and will soon set up a website but, for now, I hope that you'll feel free to contact us at our e-mail,

By the start of August, we'll be operating out of a house we've purchased for this purpose (16 Lowell St, Cambridge, MA 02138) in which we hope to gather groups of teachers, activists, especially the leaders of these groups, for strategy sessions in which we can link our efforts with the goal of mobilizing educators to resist the testing mania and directly challenge Congress, possibly by a march on Washington, at the time when NCLB comes up for reauthorization in 2007.

We are already in contact with our close friends at Rethinking Schools, with dozens of local action groups like Teachers for Social Justice in San Francisco, with dynamic African-American religious groups that share our goals, with activist white denominations, and with some of the NEA and AFT affiliates in particular, the activist caucuses within both unions such as those in Oakland, Miami, and Los Angeles. But we want to extend these contacts rapidly in order to create what one of our friends who is the leader of a major union local calls a massive wave of noncompliance.

My close co-worker, Nayad Abrahamian, who is based in Cambridge, will be the contact person for this mobilizing effort, along with Rachel Becker, Erin Osborne, and a group of other activists and educators who are determined that we turn the growing, but too often muted and frustrated discontent with NCLB and the racist policies and privatizing forces that are threatening the very soul of public education into a series of national actions that are explicitly political in the same tradition as the civil rights upheavals of the early 1960s.

We want to pull in youth affiliates as well and are working with high school kids and countless college groups that are burning with a sense of shame and indignation at the stupid and destructive education policies of state and federal autocrats. We want the passionate voices of these young folks to be heard. College students tell us they are tired of so many feel-good conferences where everyone wrings their hands about injustice but offers them nothing more than risk-free service projects? that cannot affect the sources of injustice. They've asked us for a mobilizing focus that can unify their isolated efforts. We are writing to you now to ask for your suggestions as to how we ought to give a realistic answer to these students.

IMPORTANT: When I say we're 'up and running,' I mean that Education Action, as a framework and an organizing structure for our efforts, is in place. I do not mean that our goals and strategies are set in stone. We are still wide-open to proposals from you, and other organizational leaders we're in touch with, to rethink our plans according to your own experience and judgment. We'd also like to broaden our initial organizing structure by asking if you'll serve, to the degree that's possible for you, as part of our national board of organizers and advisors. We don't want to duplicate the efforts strong groups are already making. And the last thing on our minds is to compete with any group already in existence.? (Political struggles ever since the 1960s have been plagued with problems based on turf mentality. We want to be certain to avoid this.)

Tell us how you feel about our plans and how you think they ought to be expanded or improved. How closely can we link our efforts with your own? Do you believe that NCLB can be stopped, or at least dramatically contested, by the methods we propose?

Let us hear from you! We want to be in touch.

In the struggle,
Jonathan Kozol for Education Action

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K-12 and College Readiness

Holly K. Hacker:

Kimberly Green figured she was ready for college. And why not? She had a diploma from Duncanville High School with a B-minus average.

But then she got to Mountain View College and had to take four remedial courses, three in math and one in reading.

"I'll admit, I was kind of down that I had to take developmental classes," Kimberly said. It was tough enough adjusting to college without having to catch up, she said.

This isn't to place all the blame on Duncanville; Kimberly has plenty of company. Half – yes, half – of students entering public colleges and universities in Texas need some type of remedial help, according to the state's higher education board.

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LA's Muddled Governance

LA Times Editorial:

A.J. DUFFY'S SUPPORT OF the mayor's plan to reorganize the management of Los Angeles' schools hardly qualifies as news. Duffy is president of the school district's teachers union, which would gain even more power under the plan. But Duffy did propose a novel argument Wednesday in Sacramento, testifying in support of the bill that would authorize the restructuring.

A weakened school board, as beholden to UTLA as ever, makes an ideal negotiating partner for a powerful union. A superintendent who isn't answerable to the board gives the union enough wiggle room to continually challenge district policy. A situation in which no one is dominant provides a perfect opportunity for the strongest player to emerge as the leader of the district. And UTLA is a strong, well-financed player. No wonder Duffy likes this deal so much.

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Test Scores

Thomas C. Reeves [PDF]:

In Wisconsin, as elsewhere, teachers and administrators are eager to avoid being branded deficient and suffer potential financial losses. Department of Public Instruction officials in Wisconsin reported recently that the cost of tests taken in late 2005 included a $10 million contract with CTB/McGraw Hill, a well-known testing company that designed new tests exclusively for the state. Almost half a million students took the tests, and the overall results were less than encouraging. This at a time when much money and effort have been employed to hike the quality of instruction and fend off the transfer of students to voucher schools.

Common sense and decades of teaching experience dictate at least two observations: 1) until the home life of many low-income students improves (two parents, a steady income, solid moral teaching, at least some sort of intellectual stimulation higher than MTV, including the reading of books), the young people in question cannot be expected to embrace a life of learning and begin to plan for the future;

Via WisPolitics.

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University Student Reading Buddies

Reader Reed Schneider emails this:

A plan to have 40 Spring Arbor University students serve next year as "reading buddies" for struggling first-graders in Jackson Public Schools could be a win-win situation.

The Jackson school board recently cut three Reading Recovery teacher positions to help trim its $1.86 million deficit.

JPS will obtain the services of 40 people who plan to make education their future profession, at a very low cost -- $1,800 to transport the Spring Arbor students to elementary buildings. The remaining cost of the $69,780 program will go toward various training programs for teachers in the district. Overall, the district will save $221,287 over the Reading Recovery program.

"I'm sure there are a couple thousand students in the UW-Madison School of Education. With numbers like that, you could save many $100,000's by getting rid of Reading Recovery and still have two teachers for every former RR kid."

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'Not it!' More schools ban games at recess

Emily Bazar:

Some traditional childhood games are disappearing from school playgrounds because educators say they're dangerous.
Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., banned tag at recess this year. Others, including a suburban Charleston, S.C., school, dumped contact sports such as soccer and touch football.

In other cities, including Wichita; San Jose, Calif.; Beaverton, Ore.; and Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., schools took similar actions earlier.

The bans were passed in the name of safety, but some children's health advocates say limiting exercise and free play can inhibit a child's development.

Groups such as the National School Boards Association don't keep statistics on school games.

But several experts, including Donna Thompson of the National Program for Playground Safety, verify the trend. Dodge ball has been out at some schools for years, but banning games such as tag and soccer is a newer development.

Madison's Thoreau school implemented a controversial mandatory grouping recess plan (no free play) earlier this year.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:38 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

High School Math Teacher's Blog

Dan Greene, a San Jose, CA high school math teacher maintains a blog whose purpose is to "help generate and share ideas for teaching high school math concepts to students whose skills are below grade level.".

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

June 28, 2006

No More Teacher Ed?

Peter Wood (Provost of New York City's Kings College):

By 2036, the forms of teacher preparation that currently prevail in Western nations will have sunk into oblivion. We will have discarded schools of education, the pedagogies they teach, and the certification apparatus that they serve. Such schools, pedagogies, and certifications have clung to life stubbornly for the better part of a century despite ample evidence of their unsuitability. Why predict that in the next 30 years they will finally follow the giant ground sloth into the La Brea tar pit of history?

In an era when jobs that require a high level of trained intelligence flow easily to India and other countries, Western countries are awakening to the awkward reality that we are not very good at basic schooling.

Mediocre teaching isn’t the only reason we aren’t very good at basic schooling. A distressingly large and growing percentage of children grow up semi-parentless; increasingly children are lost in the buzz of electronic distractions; and we preoccupy kids with group grievances at the expense of learning. Every few years our governments launch ambitious new programs of school reform, each of which seems to create a maelstrom of new kinds of educational misfeasance.

But after we have sifted and weighed all these contributory maladies, the main problem remains that we just don’t do a very good job at encouraging talented people to become teachers and equipping them along the way with the right kind of preparation. The single biggest cause of the deficiencies in our schools is the risible system by which we train teachers.

Joanne has more.

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Harper Lee Surfaces on Reading


Harper Lee, author of the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird," has written a rare published item -- a letter for Oprah Winfrey's magazine on how she became a reader as a child in a rural, Depression-era Alabama town.

In a letter for the magazine's July "special summer reading issue," Lee tells of becoming a reader before first grade: She was read to by her older sisters and brother, a story a day by her mother, newspaper articles by her father. "Then, of course, it was Uncle Wiggly at bedtime."

She also writes about the scarcity of books in the 1930s in Monroeville, where she grew up and where she lives part of each year. That deficit, combined with a lack of anything else to do -- no movies for kids, no parks for games -- made books especially treasured, she writes.

More on Harper Lee.

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Minnesota Governor Proposes Two Years "Free" College Tuition for the Top High School Students

Patricia Lopez and Dan Wescoe:

Nearly all high school students in the top fourth of their graduating class would get free tuition at any state college or university, under a plan proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday.

An estimated 15,000 students would get two years free at the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system schools as early as fall 2007 and could continue the free ride in their final two years by majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.

Families making as much as $150,000 in adjusted gross income would be eligible -- about 93 percent of the state's households.

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June 27, 2006

For School Equality, Try Mobility

Rod Paige:

DUMB liberal ideas in education are a dime a dozen, and during my time as superintendent of Houston's schools and as the United States secretary of education I battled against all sorts of progressivist lunacy, from whole-language reading to fuzzy math to lifetime teacher tenure. Today, however, one of the worst ideas in education is coming from conservatives: the so-called 65 percent solution.

This movement, bankrolled largely by Patrick Byrne, the founder of, wants states to mandate that 65 percent of school dollars be spent "in the classroom." Budget items like teacher salaries would count; librarians, transportation costs and upkeep of buildings would not.

Proponents argue that this will counter wasteful spending and runaway school "overhead," and they have convinced many voters — a Harris poll last fall put national support at more than 70 percent. Four states — Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana and Texas — have adopted 65 percent mandates and at least six more are seriously considering them.

The only drawback is that such laws won't actually make schools any better, and could make them worse. Yes, it's true that education financing is a mess and that billions are wasted every year. But the 65 percent solution won't help. The most likely outcome is that school officials will learn the art of creative accounting in order to increase the percentage of money that can be deemed "classroom" expenses.

Andrew Rotherham has more:
An op-ed by Rod Paige in today's NYT kicks off a new round of debate about student finance. Paige makes some good points, criticizes the 65 percent solution, and touts a new ecumenical manifesto about school finance organized by the Fordham Foundation and signed by a wide range of people including former Clinton WH Chief of Staff John Podesta and former NC Governor Jim Hunt. But, because the manifesto is bipartisan, or really non-partisan, it's a shame Paige's op-ed doesn't have a dual byline to better frame the issue. Incidentally, hard to miss that while a few years ago few on the left wanted much to do with Fordham, that's really changed. Sign of the changing edupolitics. (Disc. I signed.) It's also hard to miss the enormous impact Commodore Marguerite Roza is having on this debate.

More ominously, it will tie school leaders' hands at a time when they need more freedom to innovate. Things we should be stressing, like teacher training, online content to supplement lessons and after-school tutoring, would not fall under "classroom expenses."

What we need is a 100 percent solution, a reform that tackles America's antiquated education financing system, gives dynamic school leaders more freedom, fosters true equity and opens the door wider to school choice.

Our schools are failing our most at-risk students. Only 30 percent of eighth graders are "proficient" or "advanced" in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Math scores are nearly as bad. The No Child Left Behind Act is helping, by focusing attention on our neediest students, but it will succeed only if we recognize that certain children require more resources to educate than others.

Most children living in poverty, for example, need longer school days and years, better teachers and materials, and extra services like tutoring.

A second problem is that as we enter a new era of choice-driven schooling, with a growing menu of options from charter schools to virtual schools to cross-district choices, the old budgeting model is getting in the way. Charter schools, for example, receive on average only 80 cents on the dollar compared to traditional schools. A million children attend charter schools, but in most places we essentially tell them that their education is worth considerably less than that of their friends in district-run schools.

Instead of gimmicky fads, we need fundamental reforms. One good idea now picking up support is "weighted student funding." Under this approach, each child receives a "backpack" of financing that travels with him to the public school of his family's choice. The more disadvantaged the child, the bigger the backpack.

When that money arrives at a school, principals have freedom to spend them as they see fit. Does the school need to pay more to snag a top-notch math teacher? Are extra hours needed to allow for intensive tutoring? Principals would be able to allocate resources accordingly; accountability systems like No Child Left Behind give them strong incentives to make good decisions.

What about reducing administrative waste, the primary aim of the 65 percent solution? Weighted financing handles this better, too: because principals are given full control over their budgets, they can choose whether to forgo a new coat of paint — or, better, consultants and travel expenses — in favor of an additional classroom aide.

Weighted student financing was pioneered in Edmonton, Alberta, in the 1970's and has now been tried in a handful of cities including Houston, San Francisco and Seattle. These experiments have shown considerable promise. In Edmonton, education reforms based on a weighted system helped turn the city's struggling public schools into some of Canada's finest — 80 percent of students regularly score at or above grade level on standardized tests.

Perhaps the best thing about weighted student financing is that it's a reform both liberals and conservatives can support. Liberals should like the extra investment in needy children; conservatives should appreciate its positive effects on deregulation and school choice. That's why Democrats like John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and former Gov. Jim Hunt of North Carolina have joined Republicans like me and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett in supporting weighted financing. When it comes to educating our children, we should all put politics aside.

Rod Paige, the secretary of education from 2001 to 2005, is the chairman of Chartwell Education Group, a consulting company.

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Math and Science Education In a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn from China

The Asia Society:

This report takes an incisive look at what U.S. education leaders can learn from China's success in math and science education. From a comparative perspective, it evaluates complementary strengths and weaknesses in the two education systems. The report also outlines areas of potential collaboration so that both the U.S. and China can build and sustain excellence in math and science.
35 Page report: 267K PDF File.

The Asia Society has an extensive set of teacher and student resources.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:21 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Chinese Medicine for American Schools

Nicholas Kristof follows up Marc Eisen's recent words on a world of competition for our children:

But the investments in China's modernization that are most impressive of all are in human capital. The blunt fact is that many young Chinese in cities like Shanghai or Beijing get a better elementary and high school education than Americans do. That's a reality that should embarrass us and stir us to seek lessons from China.

On this trip I brought with me a specialist on American third-grade education — my third-grade daughter. Together we sat in on third-grade classes in urban Shanghai and in a rural village near the Great Wall. In math, science and foreign languages, the Chinese students were far ahead.

My daughter was mortified when I showed a group of Shanghai teachers some of the homework she had brought along. Their verdict: first-grade level at a Shanghai school.

Granted, China's education system has lots of problems. Universities are mostly awful, and in rural areas it's normally impossible to hold even a primitive conversation in English with an English teacher. But kids in the good schools in Chinese cities are leaving our children in the dust.

Last month, the Asia Society published an excellent report, "Math and Science Education in a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn from China." It notes that China educates 20 percent of the world's students with 2 percent of the world's education resources. And the report finds many potential lessons in China's rigorous math and science programs.

Yet, there isn't any magic to it. One reason Chinese students learn more math and science than Americans is that they work harder at it. They spend twice as many hours studying, in school and out, as Americans.

Chinese students, for example, must do several hours of homework each day during their summer vacation, which lasts just two months. In contrast, American students have to spend each September relearning what they forgot over the summer.

China's government has developed a solid national curriculum, so that nearly all high school students study advanced biology and calculus. In contrast, only 13 percent of American high school pupils study calculus, and fewer than 18 percent take advanced biology.

Yet if the Chinese government takes math and science seriously, children and parents do so even more. At Cao Guangbiao elementary school in Shanghai, I asked a third-grade girl, Li Shuyan, her daily schedule. She gets up at 6:30 a.m. and spends the rest of the day studying or practicing her two musical instruments.

So if she gets her work done and has time in the evening, does she watch TV or hang out with friends? "No," she said, "then I review my work and do extra exercises."

A classmate, Jiang Xiuyuan, said that during summer vacation, his father allows him to watch television each evening — for 10 minutes.

The Chinese students get even more driven in high school, as they prepare for the national college entrance exams. Yang Luyi, a tenth grader at the first-rate Shanghai High School, said that even on weekends he avoided going to movies. "Going to the cinema is time-consuming," he noted, "so when all the other students are working so diligently, how can you do something so irrelevant?"

And romance?

Li Yafeng, a tenth-grade girl at the same school, giggled at my question. "I never planned to have a boyfriend in high school," she said, "because it's a waste of time."

Now, I don't want such a pressured childhood for my children. But if Chinese go overboard in one direction, we Americans go overboard in the other. U.S. children average 900 hours a year in class and 1,023 hours in front of a television.

I don't think we could replicate the Chinese students' drive even if we wanted to. But there are lessons we can learn — like the need to shorten summer vacations and to put far more emphasis on math and science. A central challenge for this century will be how to regulate genetic tinkering with the human species; educated Chinese are probably better equipped to make those kinds of decisions than educated Americans.

During the Qing Dynasty that ended in 1912, China was slow to learn lessons from abroad and adjust its curriculum, and it paid the price in its inability to compete with Western powers. These days, the tables are turned, and now we need to learn from China.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:15 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 26, 2006

Renewed Push for the Arts in New York's Schools

Robin Pogrebin:

Each of the 10 Regional Arts Supervisors oversees more than 100 schools, making it difficult to monitor each one closely. And with the recent establishment of about 300 "empowerment" schools that are largely independent of the Education Department, superintendents have been asked to cut their budgets in proportion to the number of schools leaving their jurisdiction. Regional arts supervisors could be a casualty.

Still, arts education advocates say the administration is moving in the right direction. They point to the beefed-up staff dedicated to arts education at the Education Department. In addition to Ms. Dunn there is now a full-time director in each of the four disciplines.

The very existence of qualified regional arts supervisors represents progress. In the past a district superintendent could appoint anybody for the position; now it requires supervisory certification and experience teaching the arts. Schools formerly could get away with spending their arts education money — known as Project Arts funds — on nonarts expenses, but now, for the first time, there is a budget code, which is being hailed as an accomplishment in and of itself. (Principals in the new empowerment schools will have greater budgetary autonomy, however, so the Education Department will not monitor their arts spending.)

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Racine Health Care Costs & Teacher Layoffs

Scott Niederjohn [PDF]:

Facing a budget shortfall of $7.2 million this year, the Kenosha school district asked each of their labor groups to switch their health insurance provider from the WEA Trust to Minneapolis-based United Healthcare. The coverage offered by United Healthcare has the same benefits and cost sharing provisions as the WEA Trust plan currently used by the district’s employees. All of the labor groups within the district, except for the teacher’s union, chose to make this change and save the district over $3 million in benefit costs. Another $3 million would have been saved if the teacher’s had switched to this identical insurance plan as opposed to remaining with the union owned insurance provider.

The most remarkable part of this story is that because the teachers chose not to make this switch, the district has been forced to layoff 40 teachers to alleviate their budget shortfall.

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The Schools Scam

I realize that some of the legal frameworks differ but think that this serves as a good remider that TIFs have an impact on school funding everywhere.

From the Chicago Reader See also: Epoch TimesTJM

By Ben Joravsky

The Schools Scam

Under the TIF system millions of dollars in property taxes are being diverted from education to development.
By Ben Joravsky June 23, 2006

On June 15 Mayor Daley brought public school officials and aldermen to a south-side grammar school for a revival meeting of sorts. The ostensible purpose of the press conference was to announce the mayor’s plans to spend $1 billion over the next six years to build 24 new schools in neighborhoods across Chicago. But Daley and the other officials made a point of reminding people of the economic development plan that makes this possible: the tax increment financing program.

“This is a creative use of existing dollars which have accrued from our successful TIF program and will not require any property tax increase by the city of Chicago to fund,” Daley said in his remarks.

Even as public pronouncements go, this was a whopper. Of course building new schools requires an increase in property taxes. It’s just that in this case the deed’s been done: TIFs have been jacking up property tax bills for almost 23 years. Rest assured they’ll continue to—the city shows no sign of abandoning them. On the contrary, City Hall insiders tell me that the mayor’s press conference was part of a move to win public approval for the extension of the Central Loop TIF, the city’s oldest and largest, which is set to expire next year.

But as a public relations maneuver the announcement was brilliant. In one fell swoop, Daley managed to tweak the state for not paying more in education funds and look like the heroic protector of the city’s schoolchildren, using the promise of new schools to camouflage the diversion by TIFs of millions from public education coffers.

According to the city, as much as $600 million, or 60 percent, of the new construction costs will come from various TIFs, districts created by the City Council that put a rough cap on the amount of property taxes that go to the schools, the parks, and the county for a period of 23 years. Additional property taxes generated in these districts through rising assessments and new development flow into TIF accounts, which function as virtually unmonitored slush funds.

Originally TIFs weren’t intended to build tax-exempt properties like schools: they were supposed to subsidize economic development in blighted communities with the goal of even-tually increasing property tax revenue. But as the TIF program has expanded and evolved—the city’s created more than 100 districts in the last ten years—Mayor Daley and the City Council have drawn on them to subsidize projects from upscale condos in trendy neighborhoods to Millennium Park to a rehab of of the lake-shore campus of tax-exempt Loyola University.

Daley says he’s repaying the public. “Our taxpayers have been generous beyond words,” he said at the press conference. “Today we’re giving back to those taxpayers something real and meaningful—something they will see and touch and feel and know that their dollars are being invested carefully and appropriately.”

That’s a noble aspiration, and Lord knows there are neighborhoods that desperately need new classrooms. But even with the new construction, the Chicago Public Schools won’t come close to retrieving the property tax revenue it’s lost to TIFs. According to CPS officials, the city has already spent about $280 million in TIF funds building or rehabbing schools. By 2012, when the proposed construction program is completed, that amount will have gone up to about $880 million. Since TIFs operate without budgets, the other side of the ledger is more difficult to calculate. But based on the annual statements provided by the county clerk’s office, TIFs have diverted about $621 million in property taxes over the last two years. Since roughly half of this would have gone to the schools, the money diverted from the schools to TIFs amounts to about $310 million in the last two years alone. As TIFs continually grow, this means that by a conservative estimate they will have diverted well over $1 billion from the schools by 2012, when the new construction is completed—a shortfall of $120 million or so.

But this is only part of the story. If you really want to understand the impact of TIFs on the schools, you have to know a little about state education funding. Illinois sets what school officials call a “target foundation level”—a minimum per-pupil amount—that every school district must meet. In 2004 the foundation level was $4,810 (I’m using 2004 because that’s the most recent year for which all the needed statistics are readily available). State law requires that school districts use “available local resources” (i.e., property taxes) to raise the target amount. “If districts are too poor to raise the foundation level though property taxes, the state makes up the shortfall,” explains Rachel Weber, an associate professor of urban planning at UIC and an expert on public financing. “As the property tax base decreases, or if it stays the same as the number of students increases, the amount of state aid increases. This is how the state compensates poor school districts.”

Intentionally or not, the state formula also compensates school districts that are losing money to TIFs. That’s right—the more money Chicago diverts into TIFs, the more money it gets from the state to meet the target level. How much are we talking about? Based on the city’s property tax yield, its public school enrollment, and the state’s foundation level, I figure the state paid Chicago about $112.6 million in 2004 to compensate for the TIFs, about 70 percent of the $163 million TIFs diverted from the schools that year.

As Weber notes, with this policy the state is effectively encouraging cities to create TIFs. “The fact that the school aid formula will compensate TIF-ing municipalities is a case of what economists call a ‘moral hazard,’” she wrote in one paper on the subject. Borrowed from the insurance industry, this phrase “refers to a situation in which the insurer makes terms so favorable to the insured that there is no incentive to take precautions,” Weber says. “In this case, the state may be creating an incentive for municipalities to over-TIF and to take on more risk.”

This twist helps put CPS officials in a box. Privately, several admit they’re trying to make the best of a bad situation. Publicly it’s a different story. Schools CEO Arne Duncan and the school board members are mayoral appointees, and when it comes to TIFs they’re team players. At last week’s press conference Duncan praised Daley for his “unwavering leadership and support,” adding that “our students are benefiting from our city’s commitment to its schools.” The schools’ publicists are armed with a four-point press statement headlined “Key factors that lead to the conclusion that City TIFs have had a positive net financial impact on CPS.” The final item on the list is the acknowledgment that “most of any additional property tax revenue that CPS would have gotten without TIFs would have been offset by a reduction in general state aid. . . .The offset is equal to at least 70 percent of the new property tax revenue.”

“What a cynical admission,” says Jason Hardy of the Center for Economic Policy Analysis, an independent watchdog group. “They’re manipulating the system to get the state to subsidize development in the name of funding schools. It’s your state educational dollars at work.”

In the long run the strategy is counterproductive. School officials should be clawing for every nickel they can get. Instead they’re going along with a system that diverts tax revenue from education and, even factoring in the state’s largesse, leaves a strapped Board of Education 30 percent poorer than it would be if there were no TIFs. Meanwhile our tax bills continue to mount—many of us can expect our property taxes to rise as much as 50 percent after this year’s assessment. And of course TIFs do nothing to help the CPS address its chronic shortage of operating cash. While Daley boasts of his plans to “assure that our children learn in modern, up-to-date environments,” Duncan and his board have proposed raising $55 million by hiking property taxes to the maximum allowed by the state, threatening increased class sizes and teacher firings as the alternative.

Not surprisingly, Daley didn’t mention any of this when he announced his school-construction plan. Instead, in a breathtaking show of chutzpah, he took the opportunity to criticize the state. “I can’t be waiting for what’s going to happen,” he told reporters the day before the press conference. “I’m talking about the city of Chicago, and we’re not going to shortchange our children.”

As observers note, it’s disingenuous for Daley to harp about the state’s education funding while bragging about the way it offsets money going to build Logan Square condos or refurbish Loyola. But PR-wise, this might not really matter, so long as no one except a few TIF geeks pays attention to the details. “Bottom line—we’re building new schools,” says one CPS official. “How can you be against that?” Call me a geek.

Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 2:53 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Early signs of positive change on Madison School board

The editorial board of the Wisconsin State Journal credits the election of Lawrie Kobza, Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira for helping the Madison School board to begin to move in new directions.

New blood betters School Board

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Special ed teachers in short supply

Sarah Carr:

When it scales back in size next year, Milwaukee's Madison High School will lose nearly 15 teaching positions: a guidance counselor, a health teacher, a physical education teacher, two social studies teachers, one art teacher and five positions in science and math, among others.

At the same time, however, Madison will gain an additional special education teacher.

The same trend is playing out in many of the city's schools. The overall student population keeps shrinking. The administrative staff at the central office keeps shrinking. The teaching corps keeps shrinking - down 14% in four years.

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Schools' Efforts on Race Await Justices' Ruling

Sam Dillon:

And here in Louisville, the school board uses race as a factor in a student assignment plan to keep enrollments at most schools roughly in line with the district's overall racial composition, making this one of the most thoroughly integrated urban school systems in the nation.

As different as they are, all these approaches and many more like them could now be in jeopardy, lawyers say, because of the Supreme Court's decision this month to review cases involving race and school assignment programs here and in Seattle.

"We'll be watching this very closely, because whichever way the Supreme Court rules, it will certainly have an impact on our district," said Arthur R. Culver, superintendent of schools in Champaign, Ill., where African-American students make up 36 percent of students. Under a court-supervised plan, the district keeps the proportion of black students in all schools within 15 percentage points of that average by controlling school assignments.

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June 25, 2006

Inequality and the American Dream

The Economist:

That said, government should not be looking for ways to haul the rich down. Rather, it should help others, especially the extremely poor, to climb up—and that must mean education. Parts of the American system are still magnificent, such as its community colleges. But as countless international league tables show, its schools are not. Education is a political football, tossed about between Republicans who refuse to reform a locally based funding system that starves schools in poor districts, and Democrats who will never dare offend their paymasters in the teachers' unions.

The other challenge is to create a social-welfare system that matches a global business world of fast-changing careers. No country has done this well. But the answer has to be broader than just “trade-adjustment” assistance or tax breaks for hard-hit areas. Health care, for instance, needs reform. America's traditional way of providing it through companies is crumbling. The public pension system, too, needs an overhaul.

Inequality and the American Dream Jun 15th 2006 From The Economist print edition The world's most impressive economic machine needs a little adjusting

MORE than any other country, America defines itself by a collective dream: the dream of economic opportunity and upward mobility. Its proudest boast is that it offers a chance of the good life to everybody who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. This ideal has made the United States the world's strongest magnet for immigrants; it has also reconciled ordinary Americans to the rough side of a dynamic economy, with all its inequalities and insecurities. Who cares if the boss earns 300 times more than the average working stiff, if the stiff knows he can become the boss?

Look around the world and the supremacy of “the American model” might seem assured. No other rich country has so successfully harnessed the modern juggernauts of technology and globalisation. The hallmarks of American capitalism—a willingness to take risks, a light regulatory touch and sharp competition—have spawned enormous wealth. “This economy is powerful, productive and prosperous,” George Bush boasted recently, and by many yardsticks he is right. Growth is fast, unemployment is low and profits are fat. It is hardly surprising that so many other governments are trying to “Americanise” their economies—whether through the European Union's Lisbon Agenda or Japan's Koizumi reforms.

Yet many people feel unhappy about the American model—not least in the United States. Only one in four Americans believes the economy is in good shape. While firms' profits have soared, wages for the typical worker have barely budged. The middle class—admittedly a vague term in America—feels squeezed. A college degree is no longer a passport to ever-higher pay. Now politicians are playing on these fears. From the left, populists complain about Mr Bush's plutocratic friends exporting jobs abroad; from the right, nativists howl about immigrants wrecking the system.

A global argument
The debate about the American model echoes far beyond the nation's shores. Europeans have long held that America does not look after its poor—a prejudice reinforced by the ghastly scenes after Hurricane Katrina. The sharp decline in America's image abroad has much to do with foreign policy, but Americanisation has also become synonymous with globalisation. Across the rich world, global competition is forcing economies to become more flexible, often increasing inequality; Japan is one example (see article). The logic of many non-Americans is that if globalisation makes their economy more like America's, and the American model is defective, then free trade and open markets must be bad.
This debate mixes up three arguments—about inequality, meritocracy and immigration. The word that America should worry about most is the one you hear least—meritocracy.

Begin with inequality. The flip-side of America's economic dynamism is that it has become more unequal—but in a more complex way than first appears (see article). America's rich have been pulling away from the rest of the population, as the returns for talent and capital in a global market have increased. Even if American business stopped at the water's edge, Bill Gates and the partners of Goldman Sachs would still be wealthy people; but since software and investment banking are global industries, Mr Gates is worth $50 billion and the average pay-and-benefits package for Goldman's 22,400 employees is above $500,000.
On the other hand, the current wave of globalisation may not be widening the gap between the poor and the rest. Indeed, the headwinds of the global economy are being felt less by Americans at the bottom than by those in the middle. The jobs threatened by outsourcing—data-processing, accounting and so on—are white-collar jobs; the jobs done by the poor—cleaning and table-waiting, for example—could never be done from Bangalore.

Those at the bottom have different fears, immigration high among them. Their jobs cannot be exported to rival countries perhaps, but rival workers can and are being imported to America. Yet there is surprisingly little evidence that the arrival of low-skilled workers has pulled poor Americans' wages down. And it has certainly provided a far better life for new arrivals than the one they left behind (see article).

A long ladder is fine, but it must have rungs

To many who would discredit American capitalism, this sort of cold-hearted number-crunching is beside the point. Any system in which the spoils are distributed so unevenly is morally wrong, they say. This newspaper disagrees. Inequality is not inherently wrong—as long as three conditions are met: first, society as a whole is getting richer; second, there is a safety net for the very poor; and third, everybody, regardless of class, race, creed or sex, has an opportunity to climb up through the system. A dynamic, fast-growing economy may sometimes look ugly, but it offers far more hope than a stagnant one for everybody in the United States.

This is not to let the American system off the hook when it comes to social mobility. Although the United States is seen as a world of opportunity, the reality may be different. Some studies have shown that it is easier for poorer children to rise through society in many European countries than in America. There is a particular fear about the engine of American meritocracy, its education system. Only 3% of students at top colleges come from the poorest quarter of the population. Poor children are trapped in dismal schools, while richer parents spend ever more cash on tutoring their offspring.

What, if anything, needs to be done? A meritocracy works only if it is seen to be fair. There are some unfair ways in which rich Americans have rewarded themselves, from backdated share options to reserved places at universities for the offspring of alumni. And a few of Mr Bush's fiscal choices are not helping. Why make the tax system less progressive at a time when the most affluent are doing best?

That said, government should not be looking for ways to haul the rich down. Rather, it should help others, especially the extremely poor, to climb up—and that must mean education. Parts of the American system are still magnificent, such as its community colleges. But as countless international league tables show, its schools are not. Education is a political football, tossed about between Republicans who refuse to reform a locally based funding system that starves schools in poor districts, and Democrats who will never dare offend their paymasters in the teachers' unions.

The other challenge is to create a social-welfare system that matches a global business world of fast-changing careers. No country has done this well. But the answer has to be broader than just “trade-adjustment” assistance or tax breaks for hard-hit areas. Health care, for instance, needs reform. America's traditional way of providing it through companies is crumbling. The public pension system, too, needs an overhaul.

These are mightily complicated areas, but the United States has always had a genius for translating the highfalutin' talk of the American Dream into practical policies, such as the GI Bill, a scholarship scheme for returning troops after the second world war. The country needs another burst of practical idealism. It is still the model the rest of the world is following.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:21 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not

Marc Eisen:

Most of us have had those eerie moments when the distant winds of globalization suddenly blow across our desks here in comfortable Madison. For parents, it can lead to an unsettling question: Will my kids have the skills, temperament and knowledge to prosper in an exceedingly competitive world?

I’m not so sure.

I’m a fan of Madison’s public schools, but I have my doubts if such preparation is high on the list of school district priorities. (I have no reason to think things are any better in the suburban schools.) Like a lot of parents, I want my kids pushed, prodded, inspired and challenged in school. Too often -- in the name of equity, or progressive education, or union protectionism, or just plain cheapness -- that isn’t happening.

Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not

Last summer I saw the future, and it was unsettling.

My daughter, then 14, found herself a racial minority in a class of gifted kids in a three-week program at Northwestern University. Of the 16 or so kids, a dozen were Asian or Asian American.

The class wasn't computer science or engineering or chemistry -- classes increasingly populated by international students at the college level -- but a “soft” class, nonfiction writing.

When several hundred parents and students met that afternoon for the introductory remarks, I spotted more turbaned Sikhs in the auditorium than black people. I can't say if there were any Hispanics at all.

Earlier, I had met my daughter's roommate and her mom -- both thin, stylish and surgically connected to their cell phones and iPods. I casually assumed that the kid was a suburban princess, Chinese American division. Later, my daughter told me that her roommate was from Hong Kong, the daughter of a banker, and had at the age of 14 already taken enrichment classes in Europe and Canada. Oh, and she had been born in Australia.

Welcome to the 21st century.

In the coming decades, you can be sure the faces of power and influence won't be monochromatic white and solely American. Being multilingual will be a powerful advantage in the business world, familiarity and ease with other cultures will be a plus, and, above all, talent and drive will be the passwords of success in the global economy.

Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, his chronicle of the rapid economic and social changes wrought by the mercury-like spread of new technology, serves as an essential primer for understanding this new world.

In a nutshell, we shouldn't bet on American hegemony in technology and economic growth in the 21st century. In a ramped-up, knowledge-based, digitalized economy, there are no borders. The built-in advantage the U.S. enjoyed after World War II -- our industrial based was untouched, while the rest of the developed world's was in ruins -- has finally run its course. Today, many tech jobs can just as easily be performed in Bangalore and Beijing as in Fitchburg.

Whether America's youth, raised in the lap of luxury with an overpowering sense of entitlement, will prosper in this meritocratic environment is an interesting question. And what of America's underprivileged youth, struggling in school and conspicuously short of family assets: How well will they fare in the new global marketplace?

My own a-ha! moment came a year ago at about the same time I dropped my youngest daughter off at Northwestern. Out of the blue I received an e-mail from a young man in India, offering his services to proofread the paper. Technically, it was no problem to ship him copy, and because of the 12-hour time difference he could work while the rest of us slept and played -- if we wanted to go down the outsourcing road.

Most of us have had those eerie moments when the distant winds of globalization suddenly blow across our desks here in comfortable Madison. For parents, it can lead to an unsettling question: Will my kids have the skills, temperament and knowledge to prosper in an exceedingly competitive world?

I'm not so sure.

I'm a fan of Madison's public schools, but I have my doubts if such preparation is high on the list of school district priorities. (I have no reason to think things are any better in the suburban schools.) Like a lot of parents, I want my kids pushed, prodded, inspired and challenged in school. Too often -- in the name of equity, or progressive education, or union protectionism, or just plain cheapness -- that isn't happening.

Instead, what we see in Madison is just the opposite: Advanced classes are choked off; one-size-fits-all classes (“heterogeneous class groupings”) are mandated for more and more students; the talented-and-gifted staff is slashed; outside groups promoting educational excellence are treated coolly if not with hostility; and arts programs are demeaned and orphaned. This is not Tom Friedman's recipe for student success in the 21st century.

Sure, many factors can be blamed for this declining state of affairs, notably the howlingly bad way in which K-12 education is financed in Wisconsin. But much of the problem also derives from the district's own efforts to deal with “the achievement gap.”

That gap is the euphemism used for the uncomfortable fact that, as a group, white students perform better academically than do black and Hispanic students. More to the point, mandating heterogeneous class grouping becomes a convenient cover for reducing the number of advanced classes that fail the PC test: too white and unrepresentative of the district's minority demographics.

The problem is that heterogeneous classes are based on the questionable assumption that kids with a wide range of skills -- from high-schoolers reading at a fourth-grade level to future National Merit students -- can be successfully taught in the same sophomore classroom.

“It can be done effectively, but the research so far suggests that it usually doesn't work,” says Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, head of Northwestern's Center for Talent Development, which runs an enrichment program for Evanston's schools.

I have to ask: After failing to improve the skills of so many black and Hispanic kids, is the Madison district now prepared to jeopardize the education of its most academically promising kids as well?

Please don't let me be misunderstood. Madison schools are making progress in reducing the achievement gap. The district does offer alternatives for its brightest students, including college-level Advanced Placement classes. There are scores of educators dedicated to improving both groups of students. But it's also clear which way the wind blows from the district headquarters: Embrace heterogeneous classrooms. Reject tracking of brighter kids. Suppress dissent in the ranks.

The district's wrongheaded approach does the most damage in the elementary-school years. That's where the schools embrace dubious math and reading pedagogy and shun innovative programs, like those operated by the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth, a nonprofit group that works tirelessly to promote gifted education. (Credit school board president Johnny Winston Jr. for cracking the door open to WCATY.)

In a perfect world, Madison would learn from Evanston's schools and their relationship with WCATY's peer, the Center for Talent Development. Faced with predominantly white faces in its advanced high school classes, this racially mixed district didn't dump those classes but hired Olszewski-Kubilius' group to run an after-school and weekend math and science enrichment program for promising minority students in grades 3-6.

In other words, raise their performance so they qualify for those advanced classes once they get to high school. Now there's an idea that Tom Friedman would like!


Links: There have been some positive governance signs from the Madison School Board recently. I hope that they quickly take a hard, substantive look at what's required to provide a world class curriculum for our next generation. There are many parents concerned about this issue.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:18 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Local Population Growth, Student Numbers and Budget Implications

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Imagine what would have happened if a city the size of Beloit had sprung up in Dane County over the past five years.

That's almost what happened. Dane County's population grew by 31,580 from 2000 to 2005, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week.

No other Wisconsin county gained as many people.

The population increase extended a trend. Over the past 15 years Dane County has gained 91,000 people, almost equal to the population of Kenosha, Wisconsin's fourth largest city. Projections call for the growth to continue.

Barb Schrank:
MMSD Lost 174 Students While the Surrounding School Districts Increased by 1,462 Students Over Four School Years. Revenue Value of 1,462 Students - $13.16 Million Per Year*

MMSD reports that student population is declining. From the 2000-2001 school year through the 2003-2004 school year, MMSD lost 174 students. Did this happen in the areas surrounding MMSD? No. From the 2000-2001 through the 2003-2004 school year, the increase in non-MMSD public school student enrollment was 1,462 outside MMSD.

The property tax and state general fund revenue value of 174 students is $1.57 million per year in the 2003-2004 MMSD school year dollars (about $9,000 per student). For 1,462 students, the revenue value is $13.16 million per year. Put another way, the value of losing 174 students equals a loss of 26-30 teachers. A net increase of 1,462 students equals nearly 219 teachers. There are more subtleties to these calculations due to the convoluted nature of the revenue cap calculation, federal and state funds for ELL and special education, but the impact of losing students and not gaining any of the increase of students in the area is enormous.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:21 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

What Price, Privilege? Has our overinvolved parenting style created a generation of kids with an impaired sense of self? If so, how can we work to get it back?

Madeline Levine:

Sensing their children's vulnerabilities, parents find themselves protecting their offspring from either challenge or disappointment. Fearful that their kids will not be sturdy enough to withstand even the most mundane requirements of completing homework, meeting curfew, straightening their rooms or even showing up for dinner, discipline becomes lax, often nonexistent. While demands for outstanding academic or extracurricular performance are very high, expectations about family responsibilities are amazingly low. This kind of imbalance in expectations results in kids who regularly expect others to "take up the slack," rather than learning how to prioritize tasks or how to manage time. Tutors, coaches, counselors and psychotherapists are all enlisted by parents to shore up performance and help ensure the kind of academic and athletic success so prized in my community. While my patients seem passive and disconnected, their parents are typically in a frenzy of worry and overinvolvement. They tend to shower their children with material goods, hoping to buy compliance with parents' goals as well as divert attention away from their children's unhappiness.

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June 24, 2006

Edwize on the Poor Track Record of Small Learning Communities

Maisie adds notes and links to the recent Business Week interview with Bill and Melinda Gates on their Small Learning Community High School initiative (now underway at Madison's West High chool - leading to mandatory grouping initiatives like English 10):

Business Week has a cover story this week about Bill and Melinda Gates’ small schools efforts. The story starts in Denver, where the Gates folks made a mess of breaking up that city’s lowest-performing school, “a complete failure,” in the Denver superintendent’s words. Summarizing reporters’ visits to 22 Gates-funded schools around the country, the article finds that “while the Microsoft couple indisputably merit praise for calling national attention to the dropout crisis and funding the creation of some promising schools, they deserve no better than a C when it comes to improving academic performance…Creating small schools may work sometimes, but it’s no panacea.”

The article points to some real successes. Some are in New York City, and the article says part of the reason for the success is Gates’ partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, which has been in the small-schools business a lot longer than Bill and Melinda. Mott Haven Village Prep HS [pdf] is one example. But of all the Gates schools in NYC, the report says one-third had ineffective partnerships, many have rising “social tensions,” and suspensions have triped in the new schools over the last three years to reach the system average.
We are never snippy but we told you so. The UFT’s 2005 Small Schools Task Force found too many of the Gates-funded small schools have been started with little planning, inexperienced leadership, minimal input from staff or stakeholders and no coherent vision. Some are little more than shells behind a lofty–sometimes ridiculously lofty–name.

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

June 23, 2006


Some interesting changes in the Madison School Board's Governance this week:

  • Renewed administrator contracts for one year rather than the customary two years. Via Sandy Cullen:
    The administration had proposed a two year wage and benefit package for administrators, but School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. said board members did not want to be locked into increases for a second year.

    The 3.98 percent increase for the 2006-07 school year - which includes a base salary increase of 2.18 percent - is equal to what teachers received last year and is the maximum allowed under the state's Qualified Economic Offer, or QEO, Rainwater said.

    Administrator compensation and contract term been discussed previously.
  • Voted (7 - 0) to use the low bid architect for the planned Linden school (some $200K less than the Administration's suggested award winner based on points). Construction of Linden is part of a planned November 2006 referendum.
  • Began to address health care costs - via Sandy Cullen:
    The Madison School Board on Thursday took what members hope will be a first step toward lowering health-care costs for district employees.

    In unanimously approving a 3.98 percent increase in wages and benefits for administrators for the 2006-07 school year, board members also reserved the right to make changes in health insurance providers that would offer the same level of coverage at a lower cost to the district. Cost savings would be used for salary increases for administrators and other district needs.

The Wisconsin State Journal has more:
Voters sought change in recent Madison School Board races, and they are getting the first positive stirrings of it.

There are fewer long, tedious speeches and less of the factionalism that has marred board work in past years. There is more substantial questioning and less contentiousness. Split votes don't have to lead to finger pointing and personal attacks.

And last week the board took a first step toward lowering health care costs.

Lawrie Kobza has spearheaded the shift since her election a year back. And rookie board members Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira, who took office last month, seem to be helping.

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Need based School Funding Formula Disputed

Peter Gascoyne made an excellent point in recent comment regarding "No free lunch". In other words, a change that's positive in one area may not be all that great for others. Beverly Creamer notes that Hawaii is implementing a new Weighted Student Formula that is not without controversy:

A new controversy is shaping up over how money is divided among the state's public schools under a formula based on student need.

Small and rural schools were expected to suffer staggering monetary losses under a new Weighted Student Formula that will take effect with the new school year July 27. And even though the losses were averted with an extra $20 million from the Legislature, the outcry over the expected impact on small and rural schools generated widespread concern.

Now, a special Department of Education committee charged with re-examining the formula has proposed a key change intended primarily to address wide discrepancies in funding between the largest and smallest schools.

Under the plan, each school would receive a base amount — or "foundation grant" — to assure that each could afford essential positions. The foundation grants would amount to about 25 percent of total school funding, leaving much less to be divided according to student need.

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Addressing the "Teacher Gap"

Pauline Vu:

States have two weeks to comply with the latest requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and come up with a solution to what U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings calls teaching's “dirty little secret”:

The disparity in teacher quality between poor, largely minority schools and their more affluent, white counterparts.

The challenge of ensuring that schools have equal numbers of good teachers will involve huge changes in the way schools recruit, train, prepare and compensate teachers, said Scott Emerick, a policy expert for the Center for Teacher Quality, a research organization based in Chapel Hill, N.C. “There’s no silver-bullet solution to do this on the cheap,” he said.

A recent Education Trust report [PDF] revealed large discrepancies in teacher qualifications in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin between poor and rich schools, and between mostly white schools and mostly minority ones.

In Ohio’s poorest elementary schools, for example, one of every eight teachers is not considered highly qualified, but in the state’s richest schools, that number falls to one in 67 teachers. In Wisconsin, schools with the highest minority student populations have more than twice as many novice teachers as schools with the lowest numbers of minority students.

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WIAA: Should Schools Be in the Athletic Business?

Rob Hernandez:

"Are we making the assumption that all districts want to have (sports)?" Dyer asked. "How widely is that (view) shared. Maybe they don't want them. Maybe they're becoming too much of an albatross financially. That's a question that has to be asked."

Afterward, Dyer predicted the question will be asked more frequently unless the WIAA and other agencies "get behind" interscholastic athletics and defend their existence.

The Madison School District's sports budget increased from 1.4M in 2005/2006 to 1.8M in 2006/2007 - a topic discussed during recent school board budget deliberations.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 6:39 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

June 22, 2006

Madison School District Worker's Comp Investigation


Administrators from the Madison School District tell us before our story aired last year, the district was seeing a decrease in worker's comp claims and days missed. But in the year that passed by since our story aired, the numbers shot way down -- 41 percent.

According to records from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) -- in 2004, Madison School District employees reported 144 injuries, resulting in 1280 missed days of work. That cost tax payers roughly $1.25 million in worker's comp claims.

A year ago, Roger Price, Madison School District Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, told us the district was in control of the situation. "We've been able to get our employees back to work, which reduces the days out," Price said last year.

But we compared Madison's numbers to other similar sized districts, and found a much different story in Green Gay. In the same time frame, OSHA records show that the Green Bay School District reported 219 injuries -- about 60 more than Madison. But Green Bay employees missed only 92 days of work. That means Madison employees missed roughly 1,100 more days, due to on the job injuries, than similar sized Green Bay.

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How to Create a Hydra

Mike Antonucci:

You learn all you need to know about education policy in California when you understand that both a Republican governor and a Democratic big-city mayor are compelled to negotiate behind closed doors with the bosses of a private enterprise - the teachers' union - but are in no way obligated to solicit the views of the public, who will pay the price for such grand schemes.

The Los Angeles Times editorial page got it exactly right this morning: "Consider a school whose students are failing at math. Who could responsible parents see to address the problem? The teachers picked the curriculum, but they can't be voted out of office. The school didn't decide its budget; the superintendent did that. But both the board and the mayor have a say in it. The board can't hire and fire the superintendent on its own; the mayor can say the board selects the superintendent. And because the board loses power in this deal, it has little interest in seeing it succeed."

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The Politics of School Choice: An Update

Clint Bolick:

Yet Arizona is not an aberration. Already in 2006, a new Iowa corporate scholarship tax credit bill was signed into law by Gov. Tom Vilsack; and in Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill increasing the Milwaukee voucher program by 50%. Gov. Ed Rendell may expand Pennsylvania's corporate scholarship tax credit program, as he did last year. Messrs. Vilsack, Doyle and Rendell are all Democrats.

And last year, hell froze over: Sen. Ted Kennedy endorsed the inclusion of private schools in a rescue effort for over 300,000 children displaced from their schools by Hurricane Katrina. As a result, tens of thousands of kids are attending private schools using federal funds, amounting to the largest (albeit temporary) voucher program ever enacted. Before that, a voucher program for the District of Columbia was established with support from Democratic Mayor Anthony Williams and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Joseph Lieberman.

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2006 / 2007 Madison Middle School Changes

Madison Metropolitan School District June 22, 2006 memorandum on 06/07 middle school changes.
[pdf version]

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Santa Clara district eases junk food ban

Becky Bartindale:

The all-out junk food ban proposed earlier this year in the Santa Clara Unified School District has gone through a process not unlike what Goldilocks experienced when she visited the three bears' house and saw three bowls of porridge on the table.

The first proposal -- which banned unhealthy food sold or given away on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- was seen by some as extreme. Others thought a reworked version was lax. Now, district officials hope, they have come up with something that is just right: a ban on selling or giving away unhealthy foods during the school day, while encouraging organizations to choose healthy options for half the food and drinks at after-school events.

``Nothing is ever perfect,'' said board member Teresa O'Neill, a nutrition committee member who would have liked a stricter policy. ``This is the reality.''

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"The Secret to Partnering with Business"

The Dehaviland Blog:

I’ve been thinking through my experiences with such partnerships, wondering what the common thread is – what do businesses want to hear from nonprofits who come calling for support? What’s the one thing (if there is one thing) that, more than anything else, will give you the best shot at establishing the partnerships you want?

And in the spirit of the quote above, I think I’ve found the answer – the thing that opens the door to limitless opportunity for any school or nonprofit organization that takes it to heart. Just one word.

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Few school districts set up benefits trusts

Amy Hetzner:

School districts throughout Wisconsin could be losing out on thousands of dollars in aid by not setting up special funds to pay retirement benefits for their employees.

Only 32 of the state's 426 school districts in the 2004-'05 school year had established the trust funds, which set aside money to pay promised benefits to employees once they retire, according to Kathy Guralski, a school finance auditor with the state Department of Public Instruction.

At least 10 more established them for 2005-'06, although they have not submitted their final paperwork, she said.

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June 21, 2006

Friends of MSCR Fund Raiser

Lucy Chafin:

The Friends of MSCR Board of Directors invites you to their post-golf outing fund-raising dinner on July 21 at the Harley-Davidson showroom, 6200 Millpond Road, just west of Yahara Hill Golf Course. Come to dinner beginning at 5pm and support MSCR's Friends organization. Check out the Harleys from the classy banquet hall while you enjoy brats or burgers (veggies options available), plus 4 salads, dessert, iced tea and lemonade - all for $15 per person.

A cash bar will be available.

You can bid on awesome silent auction items with cash values to accomodate every budget.

Dinner reservations can be made by mail or in person at the MSCR office, 3802 Regent St., between 8am-4:30pm M-F and must be made before 4:30 pm, Monday, July 10. For information on the golf outin

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June 20, 2006

States Inflate Graduation Rates, Study Says

NPR's All Things Considered:

There are serious gaps between the high school graduation rates that states report and the actual number of students who receive a diploma, according to a new report. The study, from the journal Education Week, estimates that in the school year that just ended, 1.2 million students failed to graduate.
The EdWeek report can be found here.

EdWeek's Wisconsin Report: [750K PDF] US Graduation Rate Map (by County)

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A Look at Johnny Winston's 6 Weeks As President of the Madison School Board

Susan Troller:

At a brainstorming workshop meeting Monday night organized by Winston, School Board members outlined ideas and priorities for the next year. While there was some initial grumbling about process, within a couple of hours, dozens of ideas had been presented, organized and prioritized.

By the end of the evening, four subject areas were chosen as priorities: fair allocation of resources to schools, the budget process, attendance issues and academic performance.

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Bad Attitude Won't Help Scores

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

The federal push for accountability makes some sense. Parents and taxpayers deserve an independent assessment of how well their schools are doing.

Where the federal law fails is in its rigid simplicity and punitive sanctions from on high.

The Madison School District, for example, has a growing population of students who enter school speaking little or no English. And close to 40 percent of all students in Madison public schools are from low-income families.

Those factors undoubtedly contributed to Madison's four main high schools -- as well as some schools in Stoughton, Janesville and Beloit -- being flagged for not making "adequate yearly progress." Ninety-two Wisconsin schools in all were similarly cited, almost twice as many as last year. Milwaukee accounted for more than half.

That information is valuable to the public and can help pressure schools to improve. State and local school officials should redouble their efforts to try to meet more of the standards of No Child Left Behind, despite its flaws.

Instead, too many school officials are grousing about their grades -- just as some of their students might do after a difficult algebra quiz.

A bad attitude won't help improve the scores. And while some of the poor marks can be explained, they shouldn't be explained away.

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June 19, 2006

Similar Students, Different Results: Why Do Some Schools Do Better?


What schools do and what resources they have for doing it can make a powerful difference in the achievement of students from low-income backgrounds, according to findings from this two-year EdSource study.
Based on a large-scale survey of principals and teachers in 257 California elementary schools serving many low-income students, the initial findings (October 2005) identified four interrelated practices associated with higher API scores and suggested implications for district and principal leadership. Further analysis (April 2006) examined whether a school's API performance related to use of particular curriculum program. In addition, study findings shed light on the relationship between district practices and school performance as well as on the pivotal, and changing, role of the principal. Interviews with a subset of superintendents in participating districts helped illuminate specific approaches schools and districts have used to improve achievement.

The study was conducted by EdSource and researchers from Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the American Institutes for Research.

20 Page Summary [PDF]

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Teach for America: Why We Should Be Afraid

Here's an excerpt from a post by Jim Horn [Corrected Peter Campbell]on an education blog I really like, Schools Matter.

[TFA President and Founder Wendy} Kopp says that we have many examples of how schools can take kids growing up in poverty and put them on a level playing field with kids in other communities. I know of some schools that have been able to do this, most notably the KIPP schools that TFA alumni Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin started. But these are only a handful of schools scattered amongst the country's 15,000 school districts. We must never mistake these isolated examples as the norm. They aren't. Nor must we ever believe that these isolated cases can be reproduced nation-wide. They can't. KIPP relies on energetic idealists in their 20's who are single and have no kids to work 10 hour days, an extra day on Saturday, and an extra month in the summer. There are only so many people who are willing to do this. There are even fewer who can do this because of their family commitments. They have to go home, fix dinner, do the dishes, walk the dog, and help with their kids' homework.

To read the rest, click here.


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YearlyKos Education Panel

Much good stuff here but I'll just point to the "Blueberry Story," which encapsulates how public education differs from business.

Click the title link for a version with comments


The Yearlykos Education Panel - a review / reflection
by teacherken
Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 03:19:37 AM PDT
NOTE also crossposted at MyLeftWing

I had the honor and pleasure of chairing the Yearlykos Education Panel discussion on Saturday Morning, June 10. After soliciting ideas from a number of people, I had finally wound up with a principal speaker, Jamie Vollmer, a responder, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, and a moderator / commenter - me. I will in this diary attempt to cover as much as I can from my notes of what occurred. I did not take detailed notes during the 15-20 minutes of questions, although I may be able to reconstruct at least some of it.

I hope after you read it you will realize why many who attended considered this one of the best panels of the get-together. Perhaps now you will be sorry you slept in after the wonderful parties sponsored by Mark Warner and Maryscott. But if you got up for Howard Dean, you really should have walked over to Room 1 for our session. See you below the fold.

teacherken's diary :: ::
We started a few minutes late. I began the panel by explaining that we would not be discussing NCLB but talking about education far more broadly. I introduced our two panelists and explained the format -- that since people already knew much of what I thought about education I would not talk much until questions. Jamie Vollmer a former business executive who had come to realize that education is not like business would address us for about 20 minutes, then Tom Vilsack who as governor of Iowa had a real commitment to public education would respond for 10-12 minutes, and then we would take questions. I then mentioned that I had a diary with a list of online resources on education (which you can still see here). I then called Jamie up.

Jamie began by making a small correction. I had described him as CEO of the Great American Ice Cream Company and as he said it was not that broad - it was the Great Midwest Ice Cream Company, based in Iowa. He explained that in 1984 Dr. William Lepley, then head of the Iowa schools, invited him to sit on a business and education roundtable, which is what began his involvement with public education. As he got more an more involved he came to three basic assumptions which he said were reinforced by the other businessmen on the roundtable:

1) Public education was badly flawed and in need of change

2) the people in the system were the problem

3) the solution was to run education more like a business.

For several years he continued along this path until he received his comeuppance while presenting at an inservice. He recounted a brief version of the Blueberry story, which can be read here from Jamie's website and which I used as the basis of my diary BLUEBERRIES - our wrong national education policy, which got over 170 comments, a similar number of recommendations and stayed visible for quite some time.

Back to the panel - as a result of the experience he described Jamie began to examine education more closely. He came to realize that there were four main building blocks of preK-12 public education:

1) curriculum
2) attempting to get around our national obsession with testing
3) going after instruction
4) the school calendar.

Jamie went through each of three key assumptions with which he had started, and explained how his misbelief in each was stripped away. He also bluntly said the No Child Left Behind might be filled with good intentions but it was taking our educational system straight to Hell. He pointed out that we needed authentic assessment of real world tasks and not tests in isolation.

Jamie came to realize that our schools cannot be all things to all people. He quickly came to realize that the people in the system were not the problem. He asked us who actually held the status quo of American schools in place, and his answer was they we did, our neighbors did, because we are the ones who elect the school board members and the legislators and council members who make the policies that maintain the status quo.

He said that we were afflicted with the TTSP hormone -- "this too shall pass" - and that people resisted change. He reminded us of Pogo overlooking the swamp -- that when it comes to public schools "we have met the enemy and he is us." He pointed people at the work of organizational thinker Peter Senge (here's a google search which will give you some access to his ideas).

Jamie emphasized that we needed to change our mental model of the educational system. As it currently exists, everyone inside the system is there to sort people into two groups. He offered us some statistics to explain.

For those alive in 1967 who had graduated high school, 77% of the workforce worked in unskilled or low skilled labor, and the school system was designed to sort people between that group and the far smaller group who went on for further education and more skilled employment. And yet today on 13% of the workforce is the unskilled or low skilled labor, and by 2010 it will be down to 5%. Yet our model of schooling has not changed, for all our rhetoric about how important schooling is. Vollmer said of such people

If they believed it was a high priority they would put their money where their mouth is and fully fund education.

He went on to outline what he saw as the prerequisites for educational success:

- build understanding We need to help each other understand . he does not see why it needs to be difficult. Most of educational decision making should, he believes, be left at the local district level, with state and national guidelines, not mandates. He said that every mile the decision making is removed from the school increases the stupidity of the decision.

- rebuild trust he talked about how we have spent over 20 years since A Nation at Risk tearing support away from public schools. Given that less than 1/3 of taxpayers have children in public schools this is a problem. it has lead to a decline social capital, the elements we have seen in schools and elsewhere towards privatization.

- get permission to do things differently We need to allow experimentation of doing things differently than we currently do. In order to achieve this, we need to encourage involvement of people in the community including the business community, but first they need to be informed. We need the informed support of the entire community.

- stop badmouthing one another in public and emphasize the positive if all people here about schools is what is wrong, with constant attempts to affix blame to one another, there will be no opportunity to fix what needs to be fixed. There are good things happening in most of our schools, and we have to stop being reluctant to talk about them. This will help rebuild the trust that we will need to make the changes that will make a difference.

Jamie forcefully reminded the audience that while this might be a national problem, the solution would have to be from the bottom up. We need to reclaim and renew our schools, one community at a time. This was a message that clearly connected with an audience of netroots activists.

Jamie could have gone on for much longer, but I gently urged him to bring things to an end, and then Governor Vilsack took over. He said that there are two man challenges facing this nation, and that are the economic challenge and the issues of safety and security. To address these require smart, innovative and creative people. He said we don't need to create a nation of successful test takers, which is all the NCLB is giving us, which is one reason we need to replace it. He slightly disagreed with Vollmer when he said that he felt the principal responsibility for our current situation in public education belongs with those political leaders who have chosen to manipulate our feelings about schools for political advantage without providing the resources necessary to make our schools successful.

He told an anecdote of when he visited China and met with the principal of a school. He learned that Chinese children were learning their second foreign language in elementary school. That didn't scare him. They were beginning physics in 7th grade. That didn't upset him. But then the principal told him they were trying to teach the children how to be creative. Vilsack's first reaction was that you couldn't teach someone to be creative, and his second was that if the Chinese have figured out how to do that we are in real trouble.

My notes end at this point. I have memories of Tom talking about the resources they have put into public education in Iowa, that 97% of their communities have access to high speed internet connections. He remarked about his wife being a long-time classroom teacher and the respect that causes him to have for teachers. He knew that there was some concern that he had sign off on a bill that included tuition tax credits for elementary and secondary education, and explained that he was dealing with a Republican controlled legislature and that was part of the deal necessary to get increases in teacher pay and other important needs in education to be met.

I made few remarks during the main part of the session, but we all shared equally during the Q&A. There was a question on charters, here were questions about the loss of instructional time for subjects not tested under NCLB, it was moving fast, and there was little time for me to take notes.

Were I to summarize the session, I would say it met the goals i set for it, with guidance from Gina. We wanted the session to give the people something concrete they could take back with them. I feel that jamie Vollmer's truly inspirational presentation helped with that. I have had several people communicate in different ways that they plan to explore running for school board in order to make a difference, others who said they would be come active in PTAs or other home-school or community-school associations. The other goal Gina had was to highlight the abilities and skills of our blogging community, and raise their visibility with policy makers and politicians. I think the relationships I have developed over the months with Tom Vilsack, and the obvious mutual respect we share on the key issue of education fulfilled that part of the mandate.

Of greater importance, almost all of the feedback on the session has been positive. Here I will exclude the snarky and inaccurate article in The New Republic by Ryan Lizza - that has been discussed in great detail in the dailykos community in a variety of diaries, both by Tom Vilsack and by me. I have noted remarks in diaries posted here by others, in postings at other websites, in offline electronic messages I have received, and in the words i heard while I was still at the Riviera, and from those with whom I traveled to McCarran Airport.

I believe that American public education is at serious risk. So do Jamie and Tom. I believe that we cannot make the kinds of changes we have to make until we can develop a broad commitment to the idea of public education. Jamie talked about that, and Tom addressed some of the things he has done, and why. I believe that unless and until we organize and build connections at the grass-roots level, we will not be able to have the influence on the policy makers that is necessary if we are going to preserve and improve public education as a public good, as something that is a right for all residents of this great nation. It is my belief that the panel session on education helped move us in that direction, something that is appropriate for the netroots, because we must do it one community at a time.

I look forward to the comments of others. I know there are many attendees of that panel whom will able to contribute more than my memory and my notes can sustain -- I was at times distracted by my responsibilities as moderator and timekeeper, and at others by thoughts of what I wanted to say in response to questions or to the remarks of my co-panelists.

I look forward to any additions or corrections that others may offer. I also encourage further dialog on this topic. I will, to the best of my ability, try to monitor the diary for any comments posted, especially should the community deem this diary worthy of elevation to a higher visibility in the recommended box. As always, what happens to this diary at dailykos (it will be cross-posted elsewhere) is subject to the judgment of the community as a whole, a judgment to which I am happy to submit this posting.

UPDATE Look for the comment by Chun Yang for some good info on the Q&A for which I did not have notes, but which I can assure you is quite accurate.

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How Schools Pay a (Very High) Price for Failing to Teach Reading Properly

Brent Staples:

Imagine yourself the parent of an otherwise bright and engaging child who has reached the fourth grade without learning to read. After battling the public school bureaucracy for what seems like a lifetime, you enroll your child in a specialized private school for struggling readers. Over the next few years, you watch in grateful amazement as a child once viewed as uneducable begins to read and experiences his first successes at school.

Most parents are so relieved to find help for their children that they never look back at the public schools that failed them. But a growing number of families are no longer willing to let bygones be bygones. They have hired special education lawyers and asserted their rights under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which allows disabled children whom the public schools have failed to receive private educations at public expense.

Federal disability law offers public school systems a stark choice: The schools can properly educate learning-disabled children — or they can fork over the money to let private schools do the job.

More on Brent Staples.

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Graduate Gets Hard Lesson in Concession

Jim Stingl:

He looked out over the 100 kids in caps and gowns and wondered aloud what happened to everyone else. Their freshman class was nearly 500, school records show. Sure, some had transferred to other schools, but too many just gave up and quit.

Matt cried as he talked about classmate David Franklin. "This kid was one of the most talented, radiant and brilliant kids I ever knew, and he was shot and killed because he wore a T-shirt in the wrong part of town," he said. "Something needs to change."

Matt told me he picked Marshall because its international baccalaureate program earned him college credits. He has joined the National Guard and will attend Hawaii Pacific University to study psychology, English and theater.

Joel McNally has more.

Umstot's myspace blog and the original speech text.

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June 18, 2006

The Education of Bill & Melinda: Small High Schools and Rigor, Among Others

Jay Greene:

In fact, if you look at things like math and science and the relative ranking of the U.S., you'd say, "Wow, that's of great concern." It's a system that a lot of resources are put into. Education's a big part of the economy. And yet the outcomes you get are so drastically different, depending on how well it's done.

And so we mostly focus on high schools. That's where the U.S. goes from being pretty decent to being pretty bad relative to other developed countries. And it is an area where there hasn't been much in terms of taking successes and getting them well understood and getting them to be used broadly.

On recent studies, funded by the Gates foundation, that found that math results at schools receiving money from the foundation are lower than at traditional high schools

Melinda One of the things we have to look at is what is it about the teachers today and the curriculum today that's making math not successful in these schools? We just recently had those results. The best thing the foundation can do is really look at that and talk with our partners and say: "Do we need to change something about how we're helping teachers teach math? Do we need to help change the curriculum in the schools?"

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School Board better, newbies say

Sandy Cullen:

"It is a new direction," said Mathiak, who echoed Kobza's call for changes in the board's decision-making and budget processes in unseating 12-year board veteran Juan Jose Lopez.

Mathiak had recommended many of the areas in which administrative cuts were made. "It's a start toward taking ownership and leadership for the types of things that have to happen," she said.

Mathiak joins Kobza, who unseated incumbent Bill Clingan, and Ruth Robarts, now in her ninth year on the board, as advocates for changing what some critics negatively describe as the status quo. On several successful budget amendments, they were joined by Shwaw Vang, who is in his sixth year on the board, for a 4-3 majority.

Ruth Robarts raised a powerful point in her comments "she is concerned committees might be restricted from taking up issues not supported by a majority of board members.". I hope this is not the case. The Board majority has been criticized for not addressing some of the more challenging issues over the past few years, like health care, the Superintendent's review (something not done from 2002 to 2005!), the effectiveness of the District's curriculum strategy and a variety of budget topics, among others. Improved communication includes actually discussing substantive topics.

It will be interesting to see what topics are addressed by the Madison School board over the next 9 months (I posted some ideas on goals here). Voters will be watching as they consider the fall referendum and April, 2007 election for 3 seats (Robarts, Vang and Winston's seats).

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Some Tap Multiple Valedictorians to Cut Rivalry, Spread Honors

Marie Glod:

As high school graduates across the region accept their diplomas this month, one tradition has changed greatly. The title of valedictorian -- the coveted top slot for the brainiest student -- is no longer necessarily reserved for the single best student.

A growing number of schools, such as Robinson, bestow the title on every graduate who earns a grade-point average of 4.0 or higher. Montgomery and Howard county schools have done away with the distinction to ease competition in a system that was producing increasingly more 4.0 students. Other districts -- Prince George's and Loudoun counties, Alexandria and the District included -- have stuck with the traditional route: Pick one valedictorian and a salutatorian. (Unless a tie forces a few students to share the glory.)

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June 17, 2006

Analysis of Connected Math and Core Plus Textbooks

A reader deep into math issues emailed these two reviews of curriculum currently used within the Madison School District:

  • Connected Math (Middle School); R. James Milgram:

    The philosophy used throughout the program is that the students should entirely construct their own knowledge and that calculators are to always be available for calculation. This means that

    • standard algorithms are never introduced, not even for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions
    • precise definitions are never given
    • repetitive practice for developing skills, such as basic manipulative skills is never given. Consequently, in the seventh and eighth grade booklets on algebra, there is no development of the standard skills needed to solve linear equations, no practice with simplifying polynomials or quotients of polynomials, no discussion of things as basic as the standard exponent rules
    • throughout the booklets, topics are introduced, usually in a single problem and almost always indirectly -- topics which, in traditional texts are basic and will have an entire chapter devoted to them -- and then are dropped, never to be mentioned again. (Examples will be given throughout the detailed analysis which follows.)
    • in the booklets on probability and data analysis a huge amount of time is spent learning rather esoteric methods for representing data, such as stem and leaf plots, and very little attention is paid to topics like the use and misuse of statistics. Statistics, in and of itself, is not that important in terms of mathematical development. The main reason it is in the curriculum is to provide students with the means to understand common uses of statistics and to be able to understand when statistical arguments are being used correctly.

  • Core Plus (some high schools); R. James Milgram and Kim Mackey:
    In a recent issue of the NCTM Dialogues, Prof. R. Askey comments on a particular and remarkably inept misunderstanding in CorePlus, of some basic methods in probability Prof. R. Askey's comments on a problem with Core Plus.

    Recently, Core Plus has begun to appear in the Minnesota High Schools, with the usual results, including servere questions from parents and the withdrawal of a significant number of students from the school system. This has also prompted a number of independent analyses of the program by other professional mathematicians. Here are the comments of Larry Gray, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. A Sample List of Mathematical Errors in the Core Plus program.

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"New Role for Teacher's Union"

Andrew Rotherham:

As Jane Hannaway and I noted in Collective Bargaining In Education, this increased attention to teachers unions is a consequence of the evolution of education policymaking. Today a rough consensus around standards, accountability, and public school choice options governs education policymaking, and policymakers are now turning their attention to more complicated subsurface education-reform issues such as teacher quality and intra-district school finance. And while the teachers unions surely are not to blame for all of our educational problems, they are the most powerful players in public education policymaking at the state and local level. So it is not surprising that they are the focus of greater attention from analysts across the ideological spectrum.

The teachers unions frequently respond, "Well, what would you have us do differently if you don't just want us to go away?" It is a fair question. Critics ought to discuss the roles they see for teachers unions in an increasingly pluralistic public education system, where traditional school districts are just one provider of public education. Here are three ideas for new roles for teachers unions in such a system that offer ways they can add real value for students while moving away from today's adversarial and increasingly outdated model of bargaining.

Rotherham's article includes a link to an interview with Denver's Brad Jupp, a union leader who lead the effort to make some substantive changes in that community.

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June 16, 2006

2006 Condition of Education Statistics

National Center for Education Statistics:

This website is an integrated collection of the indicators and analyses published in The Condition of Education 2000–2006. Some indicators may have been updated since they appeared in print
Chester Finn has more:
--A huge fraction of U.S. school children now attend “schools of choice”: more than half of K-12 parents reported in 2003 that they had the “opportunity” to send their kids to a “chosen public school.” It appears that 15 percent actually sent them to a “chosen” public school (including charter schools), to which must be added the 10 to 11 percent in private schools, the 1 to 2 percent who are home schooled, and what seems to be 24 percent who moved into their current neighborhood because of the schools. Though there is some duplication in those numbers, it looks to me like a third to a half of U.S. schoolchildren’s families are exercising school choice of some sort.

--Class-size data are elusive but it’s easy to calculate the student/teacher ratio in U.S. public schools, which has been below 17 to 1 since 1998. Even allowing for special ed, AP physics, and 4th year language classes with 5 kids in them, one may fairly ask why a country with fewer than 17 kids per public-school teacher remains obsessed with class-size reduction. (When I was in fifth grade, the national ratio was about 27:1.)

--Total expenditures per pupil in U.S. public schools reached $9,630 in 2003—up 23 percent in constant dollars over the previous 7 years. At 17 kids per teacher, that translates to almost $164,000 per teacher. Why, then, are teachers not terribly well paid? Because (using the NCES categories) the U.S. spends barely half of its school dollars on “instruction.”

Joanne does as well.

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Advocating More Student Mobility Under No Child Left Behind

"Helping Children move from Bad Schools to Good Ones":

the brief summarizes the challenges related to educating students in schools with high concentrations of poverty; reviews local efforts to address these challenges; and offers a guide for specific changes to the No Child Left Behind Act that would provide the opportunity for more children to attend economically integrated middle-class public schools.
The report is available here. Author's presentation.

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A Look at Wisconsin's Open Enrollment


District size and peer test scores appear to be factors in student-family decisions on where to attend school under Wisconsin’s open enrollment program. These are two major findings of a new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public-policy research and citizen education.

Started in 1998-99, Wisconsin’s open enrollment program grew nearly 40% per year from 1999 through 2005. In 2004-05 the program had 18,215 participants, or about 2.1% of all state students.

While many factors can affect open enrollment decisions, WISTAX found the state’s smallest districts (excluding virtual school students) accounted for 46% of open enrollment participants but only 25% of all students. Less than 12% of open enrollment participants were from the largest districts, also representing a quarter of all students.

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A Parent's Words on Homeschooling

Thomas Croom:

very parent of a homeschooled child has a set of reasons why they decided to take the plunge and forever subject themselves to funny looks from strangers. I thought at first my reasons were anything but typical, but now I realize mine are the culmination of what would happen to any child not properly excised from public school at an early age.

That being said, there are some atypical aspects to my story. My “child” is actually my wife’s 15-year-old nephew who I will call Jay.

Jay is above average intelligence, having scored high, above average or very good on practice IQ tests and on PSAT’s. This may seem at first glance to merely place him the realm of above average with most kids, but he really has no foundational basis for his intelligence and testing abilities.

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June 15, 2006

SIS Forum on Education and Immigration

School Information System's Forum on Immigration and Education, May 24, 2006.

The video QT Video of the meeting is 85MB and 60 minutes long. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video contains chapter headings which allow quick navigation to each topic.

Moderator Rafael Gomez introduces Joe Nigh, Counselor at East High School; Father Mike Moon, Catholic priest, serving the parishes of Holy Redeemer and St. Joseph, and also working at the Catholic Multicultural Center; Alfonso Cepeda Capistran, educational specialist with DPI - Migrant Education, appearing as an active community member, and former President of Latinos United for Change and Advancement; and, Jose Calixto, UW student and Co-President of MECha (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), a UW-Madison student organization.

The discussion covers the following topics:

  • Demographics of Madison Latino population

  • Changing Demographics Statewide: Impact of NAFTA, decline of family farms, rise of corporate, import of labor

  • The Legal Landscape

  • Moral and Human Costs

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Study: Gifted Students Become Bully Magnets

Bullying in the gifted-student population is an overlooked problem that leaves many of these students emotionally shattered, making them more prone to extreme anxiety, dangerous depression and sometimes violence, according to a Purdue University researcher.

In what is believed to be the first major study of bullying and gifted students, researchers found that by eighth grade, more than two-thirds of gifted students had been victims. Varying definitions of bullying in other studies make comparisons difficult, although the prevalence here is similar to findings in a few other studies.

"All children are affected adversely by bullying, but gifted children differ from other children in significant ways," says Jean Sunde Peterson, an associate professor of educational studies in Purdue's College of Education.

"Many are intense, sensitive and stressed by their own and others' high expectations, and their ability, interests and behavior may make them vulnerable. Additionally, social justice issues are very important to them, and they struggle to make sense of cruelty and aggression. Perfectionists may become even more self-critical, trying to avoid mistakes that might draw attention to themselves."

Read the entire article here.

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Fair Test Examiner Now On Line

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing has been publishing the Fair Test Examiner since 1987. They have just published the first on line issue. Here is the TOC:

Current Issue: May 2006

University Testing: SAT Scoring "Debacle" Undermines Test-Maker Credibility
University Testing: Test Optional Admissions Movement
University Testing: No Pay for Performance at Testing Companies
Teacher Testing: ETS Pays $11.1 Million to Settle Teacher Test Lawsuit
K-12 Testing: California Supreme Court Halts Injunction against Grad Test
K-12 Testing: Arizona Grad Test in Place…for Now
K-12 Testing: MA Grad Test Battle Flares Up Again
K-12 Testing: Washington, Other States Allow Alternatives to Test
K-12 Testing: Forum on Educational Accountability
K-12 Testing: PEN Report Sharply Criticizes NCLB
K-12 Testing: Are Students Not Counted
K-12 Testing: NCLB Reports Cite Fundamental Flaws
K-12 Testing: Campaign for the Education of the Whole Child
K-12 Testing: Learning to Strengthen Formative Assessment Practices
K-12 Testing: Testing Industry Critique Falls Short
K-12 Testing: Cheating Reports Continue to Erupt
K-12 Testing: Errors Grow with Mounting Test Pressures

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Truth or consequences: Student postings are tricky turf

Amy Hetzner:

But elsewhere school officials aren't laughing about such antics. They have started to assert their right to discipline students for information put on the Internet, despite resistance from civil liberties groups and students.

Most of the information posted on the Web has been in connection with athletic code violations or defaming school staff. So far:

• Four students from Lombardi Middle School in Green Bay were disciplined last month for creating and contributing to pages that falsely depicted two staff members. District staff cited a policy allowing students to be suspended or expelled for threats, harassment, hate or violence directed toward school employees.

• Earlier this year, a Waukesha South High School student had to perform community service for creating a fake Web page for a staff member, Principal Mark Hansen said. Although not slanderous, the page was "goofy," he said.

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June 12th School Board Update - End of School Year

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

The Madison School Board has been (and will be) very busy. At the June 12th meeting the board voted to go to referendum on November 7th for a new elementary school on the far Westside of Madison, Leopold Addition and refinancing of existing debt. The total amount of the referendum is $23.5 million. If approved, it would represent about a $21 increase in property taxes for the next 20 years on the average $239,449 home.

The June 5th meeting was devoted to discussing the possible referendum items.

On May 31st the board passed the $333 million dollar budget for the 2006-07 school year. Amongst notable budget amendments include: 5th grade strings program two times per week (with a pilot program at one school with students having the choice of either general music or strings), community services funding for Kasjiab House and GSA for Safe Schools, elementary library pages, Connect program and a garbage truck (to end privatization of service).

pcoming Meetings: On June 19th the Board will have a “brainstorming session” to discuss issues and topics for the upcoming school year. This meeting will allow the elected board to develop priorities and a vision for the school district and allow the Administration to address those issues. It will be the goal of the board to work cooperatively, effectively and respectfully. Other general meetings will occur on July 17th and August 14th. Several committees will meet during the summer.

District Notes:
Congratulations to Madison spelling bee champion Isabel Jacobson from O’Keeffe Middle School for her impressing 14th place finish in the national spelling bee.

Lynn Winn and Karen Sieber are the new principals at Falk and Stephens Elementary Schools respectively, and Lisa Black is the new Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Parent and Community Response
A record number of 364 scholarships and awards were given by local organizations to this year’s MMSD graduates total a remarkably high $436,240.

Did You Know?
Since the inception of revenue limits in 1993, the MMSD has cut over $52 million dollars from its budgets.

Lastly, congratulations to all district staff retirees and MMSD graduates! I hope everyone has a wonderful and enjoyable summer. I’ll send periodic updates as meetings occur this summer. Thanks for reading and your support of the MMSD.

Johnny Winston, Jr.
President, Madison School Board

Want district information? Go to
Write to the entire school board at
Sign up for MMSD communications at
Watch school board meetings and other district programs on MMSD Cable Channel 10. It is must see TV!

It's important to note that while revenue limits have been in place since 1993, the MMSD's budget has gone from slightly less than $200M to $333M during that time. Enrollment has been essentially flat, around 24-25,000 students. There's a great deal of budget discussion available here in addition to a summary of district stats over the years here. MMSD statistics page.

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New Allied Boys And Girls Club Center Needs Supplies


The lists of needed supplies are long because the Allied Family Center, at 4619 Jenewein Drive, will cater to more than 700 children for the first time.

Kids will be able to learn music at the community center, but the staff said there is currently a lack of instruments.

Jessica Wahl, a staff member at the Boys and Girls Club, said the center needs more instruments, such as percussion, tambourines, claves and shakers. She said the children will probably work on singing until they can find more instruments.

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June 14, 2006

Curdled Cheese: Carey on Wisconsin's Statistical Manipulation of No Child Left Behind Standards

Kevin Carey:

Wisconsin Superintendant of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster was on the agenda to speak at the meeting, so I was looking forward to hearing her elaborate on Wisconsin's super-efficient approach to tackling the difficult, contentious issue of what do with under-performing schools and districts: pretend that virtually none of your schools and districts are under-performing.

Instead, she offered a "spirited defense" of the state's policies, insisting that "We have in no way tried to game the system." She also promised that the new list of schools missing AYP, due out this week, would be longer.

She was right, the new list is longer, upping the number of schools identified from 49 to 92. But before any congratulations are offered, it's important to keep in mind that this mostly just represents an extension of the state's general attitude/approach to public education, which is "Everything here is just fine, in fact fact better than fine, except for Milwaukee, which doesn't really count, in that Milwaukee is (A) A city, and (B) Populated with people who aren' the rest of us."

Of the 92 schools identified, the majority (58) are in Milwaukee. And the number of districts identified statewide changed from 1 out 426 to...(drum roll)...1 out 426. Still just Milwaukee.

More on Carey's analysis "of Wisconsin's manipulations".

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Making the Grade: Madison High Schools & No Child Left Behind Requirements

Susan Troller:

Don't assume that a school is bad just because it's not making adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law. That comment came today from Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak, whose children attend or have attended East High School.

East and three other Madison public high schools were cited for not making the necessary progress outlined by No Child Left Behind legislation, which requires that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. In addition to being cited for not making adequate yearly progress, East was also rapped for not having made sufficient progress for two straight years.

La Follette High School, which was on the list last year for not making progress two years in a row, was removed from that list this year. However, there were other areas this year where La Follette did not meet the required proficiency levels for some groups of students.

"I'm not saying I'm thrilled to see the results," Mathiak said. "But it's not as if all schools have equal populations of students facing huge challenges in their lives, chief among them issues of poverty."

Sandy Cullen:
Art Rainwater, superintendent of the Madison School District, said the preliminary list of schools that didn't make adequate yearly progress, which the Department of Public Instruction released Tuesday, "didn't tell us anything we didn't know."

"Sooner or later, between now and 2013, every school in America is going to be on the list," Rainwater said.

Rainwater said there are students at all schools who aren't learning at the level they should be, and that the district has been working hard to address the needs of those students.

It's a list no school wants to land on. In Wisconsin, the number of schools not meeting federal guidelines more than doubled, from 45 last year to 92 in 2005-06. The lists can be seen here. One list contains schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) for one year. Schools in need of improvement are schools who have failed to meet AYP for two or more years in a row.

Of the 92 schools were the four main Madison high schools, though Superintendent Art Rainwater cautioned against reading too much into it.

At many local schools this past school year, only one or two segments of students failed to score high enough on state tests.

In Madison, East, La Follette, West, and Memorial high schools all did not make enough yearly progress. The state department of public instruction cited low reading scores at three of those four.

Superintendent Art Rainwater said those lower scores came from special needs and low-income students. "Certainly this in a very public way points out issues, but the fact that they didn't do well on this test is secondary to the fact that we have children who are in the district who aren't successful," said Rainwater.

Staff at Memorial and LaFollette were already working on changes to those schools' Read 180 programs, including adding special education teachers.

DPI's press release.

DPI Schools Identified for Improvement website.

Much more from Sarah Carr:

The list has "broken some barriers relative to different parts of the state," Deputy State Superintendent Tony Evers said. Still, the majority of schools on the list are from urban districts such as Milwaukee, Madison and Racine.

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June 13, 2006

WIBA's Vicki McKenna & Don Severson Discuss the November Referendum

10MB MP3 Audio

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Audio / Video: Madison School Board Fall 2006 Referendum Discussion & Vote

MP3 Audio or Video
The Madison School Board discussed and voted on a a November, 2006 Referendum that features "three requests in one vote": a new far west side school, a 2nd Leopold expansion request and a refinancing plan that frees up some funds under the state revenue caps in the MMSD's $332M+ budget. Learn more about the May 2005 referenda, which included a much larger Leopold question here.
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Audio / Video: Madison School Board Schools of Hope / Reading Presentation

The Madison School Board heard a presentation on the Schools of Hope initiative Monday evening. There was a lively discussion on the results of this initiative.
MP3 Audio or Video
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Audio / Video: Madison Middle School Redesign Presentation

The Madison School Board's Performance & Achievement Committee heard an Administration presentation on the Middle School Redesign project Monday night.
MP3 Audio or Video
More on the middle school redesign.
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Fast Learners Benefit From Skipping Grades, Report Concludes

Jay Matthews:

Few educators these days want to go back to the early 19th century, when often the only opportunities for learning were one-room schoolhouses or, if you were rich, private tutors. But a report from the University of Iowa says at least those students had no age and grade rules to hold them back.

What was lost in the 20th century was "an appreciation for individual differences," scholars Nicholas Colangelo, Susan G. Assouline and Miraca U.M. Gross conclude in the report, "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students." Now, the report says, "America's school system keeps bright students in line by forcing them to learn in a lock-step manner with their classmates."

Download the report here.

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A California High School Student's Letter on Rigor

Jerry Pournelle:

This is an update on the inner workings of the California school system. Unfortunately, not much has changed from last year, but I found out more regarding the educational bureaucracy and about various administrative policies that seem to cause more harm than good.

Overall, the classes are better, in that they are less dumbed-down than they were last year. This is partly because most of my classes were AP or Honors classes, and would probably apply to schools across the country. If you know someone whose child is bored, I would recommend that they take AP or Honors classes next year. The downside is an increased homework load, but for many students (including myself), the homework is worth having three weeks after AP testing in which to relax.

Another reason for the increased rigor of the classes, at least at my school, is the number of dropouts. Many of those students who think school is a waste of time leave somewhere in their sophomore year, and by junior year, the average interest of the students has been pushed up. Interestingly, the counselors at my school lie about the number of dropouts, and I know they are lying because a) several teachers agree that the number was definitely more than 3 last year, b) I speak Spanish and have heard immigrants talking to each other about friends who have dropped, and c) the freshman class is almost a thousand each year, while the graduating class is always close to 500 students. Believe me, those kids aren’t all transferring to other schools.

Interesting reading, in light of this and Alan Borsuk's excellent deep look at Milwaukee's high schools

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Small vs. Large High School: What's the Best Fit?

Alan Borsuk continues his excellent, deep look at Milwaukee's high schools:

Some students get lost in their first weeks of high school. But in Bryan Edwards' case, Marshall High School lost him.

The school put Edwards in special education courses - even though he never had been diagnosed with a learning disability. When he went out for football, he said, school officials told him his grade point average was not high enough - even though he had not been enrolled at Marshall long enough to have any grades. And some days he would arrive at school only to be told he was suspended - even when he had done nothing wrong.

About two months into the school year, when Edwards brought home a new ID card, his mother was startled.

"I'm like, 'Bryan, this is not you - this isn't how you spell your name and we don't live at this address,' " Brigette Edwards said.

Previous articles.

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School Board OK's 23.5M November Referendum: Three Requests in One Question

Sandy Cullen:

he Madison School Board will put one $23.5 million referendum question to voters in the Nov. 7 general election.
If approved, the referendum would provide $17.7 million for a new elementary school on the Far West Side, $2.7 million for an addition at Leopold Elementary, and $3.1 million to refinance debt.

It also would free up $876,739 in the portion of next year's operating budget that is subject to state revenue limits. Board members could use that money to restore some of the spending cuts in the $332 million budget they recently approved, which eliminated the equivalent of about 86 full-time positions to help close a $6.9 million gap between what it would cost to continue the same programs and services next year and what the district can raise in taxes under revenue limits.

Susan Troller has more:
The board voted unanimously to hold the referendum in November, rather than placing in on the ballot during the fall primary in September. The later date, board members said, provides more time to organize an educational effort on why the projects are necessary.

"We'll see what happens," said board member Ruth Robarts, the lone dissenting voice on the decision to bundle all three projects together in a single question to voters in the general election. Robarts, who preferred asking the three questions separately, said she was concerned that voters who did not like one project might be likely to vote against all three.

What's the outlook for a successful referenda? I think, as I wrote on May 4, 2006 that it is still hard to say:

Televising all board meetings and a more active district website may or may not help, depending of course, on what's being written or mentioned.

Jason Shephard's seminal piece on the future of Madison's public schools will resonate for some time.

Lots of details on the May, 2005 referenda, including the failed Leopold question can be found here.

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June 12, 2006

English 11 Planned for 2009?

Reprinted from the newest West High School publication, The Scallion.

In response to the popularity of the recently proposed English 10 curriculum, school administrators have begun to plan English 11, a standardized syllabus they believe will promote "equality in the school and confidence in the student." The course is to be implemented in the 2009-2010 school year so that West High School can end the decade "with a bang!"

However, many teachers and officials disagree on which books to feature. One faction desires a challenging curriculum that would include Othello, The Picture of Dorian Grey, and the short stories of William Faulkner. Noting that this list may expose intellectual differences between students and will thus lessen the net confidence gain of the school, an opposing faction has titled their proposal "The Life Works of Dr. Seuss: from The Cat in the Hat to Green Eggs and Ham."

The growing rift between the two factions has increasingly been manifested through harsh words. One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, referred to the more classical curriculum as "pandering to the bourgeois interests of the University Heights junta." In response, the classical teachers noted that while "Dr. Seuss is a widely respected author and his rhymes are humorous and entertaining, his works are inappropriate for the High School setting."

Augmenting the current debate, the feminist movement has made clear their opposition to the Dr. Seuss curriculum. Says junior Anna James, "we don't need to place another dead white man up on a pedestal. The Dr. Seuss proposal is representative of the sexist academia placing the unqualified man over the more qualified woman." James has proposed her own curriculum of Virginia Wolff and Maya Angelou in a gesture the MENS club referred to as "reverse sexism."

In the end, it seems likely that Dr. Seuss will feature prominently in the English 11 curriculum. As Art Rainwater says, "why have intellectual standards when you can have artificially contrived equality that engenders undeserved confidence and intellectual apathy in the students?"

Many thanks to the Scallion staff responsible for this humorous and insightful piece.

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69 Years of Teaching

Margaria Fichtner:

The end of the year always is a time of celebration and parting, but these days at Lakeland Senior High school, a deep velvet finality accompanies the rituals of transition and farewell. Hazel Haley, at 89 the longest-serving public-school teacher in Florida -- and, as far as anyone knows, in the country -- is retiring after 69 years, 67 of them in this school, 54 in this book-crammed, pink classroom. A few years ago, the Florida Legislature ruled school districts could hang on to veteran teachers, but now time has run out, and Miss Haley must go. Network camera crews have dropped by to record the milestone. Miss Haley's beloved LHS Dreadnaughts may have snared the national football title this year, but there is no question as to who the school's real champ is.

''She's the teacher I'll remember all my life,'' says senior Travis Britton. From now on, everything about this place will occur within a new, peculiar context: missing Miss Haley.

''I've always said that . . . we're such a big place, there's not anything that actually stops the world,'' says Mark Thomas, the first LHS principal in decades who will have to make decisions by himself. `` . . . The nice thing is, the kids next year won't know what they missed. I think they'll get a great education. I think they'll learn a lot about British literature, . . . but Hazel is Hazel.''

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Some learn, some barely show up

Alann Borsuk continues a very deep look at Milwaukee's Public High Schools:

You see the most heart-warming and admirable things in Milwaukee's large public high schools.

Except for when you don't.

You meet great kids, kids who are going to go on to great things. They're engaged, hardworking, goal-oriented, involved in extracurricular activities. You find them in every school, even those with the weakest reputations.

Except, in many schools, they are outnumbered by kids who trudge up to school doors carrying no backpacks or book bags - how many of them actually had homework last night? - and plod through the day, sullen, unengaged, unmotivated and often unchallenged by what is going on around them. And that's not to mention the kids who aren't present at all - generally about 20% of the total high school enrollment with unexcused absences on any given day.

Borsuk's first article in this series can be read here: "What is this Diploma Worth?"

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June 11, 2006

2006 / 2007 Madison School Board & Committee Goals

The Madison School Board meets June 19, 2006 @ 5:00p.m. to discuss their 2006 / 2007 goals for our $332M+ schools. A friend wondered what goals readers have in mind.

I thought it might be useful to consider the Board's goals in light of the District's strategic plan [450K pdf]:

  1. Instructional Excellence
    Improving student achievement
    Offering challenging, diverse and contemporary curriculum and instruction.

  2. Student Support
    Assuring a safe, respectful and welcoming learning environment.

  3. Staff Effectiveness
    Recruiting, developing and retaining a highly competent workforce that reflects the diversity of our students.

  4. Home and Community Partnerships
    Strengthening community and family partnerships, and communication.

  5. Fiscal Responsibility
    Using resources efficiently and strategically.
My thoughts are below:

  1. World Class Curriculum:
    Does the MMSD use it's $332M+ budget for 24,490 students to provide the best possible curriculum to our next generation? There certainly have been some questions, particularly with respect to Math and the growing movement toward a one size fits all curriculum ala West's English 10. Instructional excellence is the District's #1 strategic priority. It would also be useful to discuss the use of online learning tools, particularly for curriculum that is in danger of being eliminated due to staffing challenges, or those that are not currently offered at all schools, such as Mandarin.

  2. Budget Transparency:
    Create a community working group that includes a variety of skills such as investment professionals (those who know how to read and explain financial statements) and forensic auditors. The goal is to create an understandable, easy to use budget model. This model should include year over year comparisons, individual school budgets and a method to evaluate spending effectiveness.

  3. Health Care Costs:
    Create and publish online a matrix comparing benefit packages, providers and costs. Chat with a number of local organizations, including Dane County, UW, MATC, AmFam, Oscar Meyer, TDS, General Casualty, City of Madison and the State regarding their approach to these questions and publish the results.

    Invite local health care firms/insurance brokerages to give an overview of their services and what the financial options are for an organization the size of MMSD. Perhaps they can provide 3 scenarios with dollars and benefits

    I would also invite someone to come in and talk about the emerging Health Savings Accounts. Self Insurance up to a point might also be discussed.

    Perhaps begin each meeting with a 10 year chart of the MMSD's health care expenditures and a discussion of what it means to teachers (total compensation, including benefit/salary tradeoffs) and taxpayers. Discuss what happens if nothing changes.

    Review Denver's recent pay for performance teacher agreement along with the accompanying tax increase used to fund it. Determine if there are aspects of this program that make sense here.

  4. Obviously, the Boards goals must be reflected in the Superintendent's goals and review, including principal oversight and review.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 7:58 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Far West Side Elementary School Referendum: Potential Boundary Changes

View the details: CP2a:
New Leopold addition. No new school far west side. Gain capacity by programmatic changes, e.g.SAGE reduction, Art and Music rooms converted to classrooms, or reduction of flexible room, at Crestwood and Chavez (increasing capacity). Early Childhood moved from Stephens and Muir to Midvale-Lincoln. Multiple boundary changes.
and CP3a:
New addition at Leopold. New school far West Side. Multiple Boundary Changes
Source .xls files: CP2a and CP3a.
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Psychopharmaceuticals: A Dose of Genius?

Joel Garreau:

Her friend's attention is laserlike, totally focused on her texts, even after an evening of study. "We were so bored," Lessing says. But the friend was still "really into it. It's annoying."

The reason for the difference: Her pal is fueled with "smart pills" that increase her concentration, focus, wakefulness and short-term memory.

As university students all over the country emerge from final exam hell this month, the number of healthy people using bootleg pharmaceuticals of this sort seems to be soaring.

Such brand-name prescription drugs "were around in high school, but they really exploded in my third and fourth years" of college, says Katie Garrett, a 2005 University of Virginia graduate.

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Weighted Student Formula : Putting Funds Where They Count in Education Reform

This is an excerpt from the conclusion of an recent paper posted on the Education Working Paper Archive by Bruce S. Cooper, Timothy R. DeRoche, William G. Ouchi, Lydia G. Segal, and Carolyn Brown. WSF stands for Weighted Student Formula, a means of budgeting that assigns money to students based on a number of factors instead budgeting by position or building. The Equity Formula in Madison is similar in some ways, but recent budget cuts have left very little money to be distributed. To read the full paper click here.


IV. Twelve Suggestions for Successful Implementation of WSF
Based on lessons learned from Edmonton, Seattle, and Houston, we have compiled the following list of “commandments” that may be useful to districts beginning to implement a WSF system. By following these guidelines, district leaders can ensure that the WSF program allocates funds equitably and provides local educators with the right kinds of incentives.

Distribute as much as possible of the operating budget via the WSF. Schools will feel the impact of budgetary discretion only when they have significant resources at their disposal.
Avoid subsidies for small schools. If small schools are to succeed, they must do so within the same per-pupil budget as larger schools.
Phase-in the financial impact of WSF over 2-3 years. Schools need time to prepare for the significant budget changes that often result from the implementation of WSF. Pilot programs may not be effective, since they can pit schools against one another.
Phase-in the use of actual teacher salaries over 5-10 years. Schools need an extended period of time to address the complex financial consequences of their hiring decisions.
Establish a public forum for making weighting decisions. Weighting decisions must be driven by the educational needs of different types of students. Principals, district administrators, parents, and teachers must all accept the weights as valid.
Base funding on a mixture of enrollment and attendance. Schools should receive a financial incentive to improve attendance rates. However, policies should not penalize schools that serve students with high rates of truancy.
Fund secondary schools at a higher base rate than elementary schools. Historically, secondary schools have required more funds per student than elementary schools, and WSF should reflect this difference.
Give schools information on expenditures as soon and as often as possible. To make responsible spending decisions, principals must have access to up-to-date financial information. Financial systems must be transparent, accurate, and up-to-date.
Make it easy for schools to purchase from outside vendors. When schools are allowed to purchase products/services from outside vendors, Central Office units must compete for business and therefore push themselves to improve services. Credit cards allow schools to make instantaneous spending decisions.
Provide appropriate support and oversight for principals and support staff. To operate in a world of budgetary discretion, new principals need management training. Each school may need one highly-trained support person to serve as the site’s business manager.
Allow parents to choose the public school that best fits their needs. Public school choice complements a WSF system by creating a financial incentive for schools to improve their educational programs, thereby attracting more students (and more dollars). Weightings ensure that schools have an incentive to recruit and serve students with special needs.
Share information on school performance with educators and parents. Decision makers must see the educational consequences of their spending decisions. Since WSF empowers schools to target programs to the local student population, local educators need accurate, up-to-date information on student achievem

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June 10, 2006

"What is This Diploma Worth?"

Alan Borsuk:

But there is a crisis for many of those who graduate, too - a crisis of educational quality and rigor that generally goes unspoken, perhaps for fear that it's not politically correct to talk about it.

If students who graduate from MPS - still the largest single body of high school students in southeastern Wisconsin and by far the most diverse - are to be successful, they need to be better prepared than they are.

The diploma gap can be seen in the scores on ACT college entrance tests. The composite score for MPS students taking the tests in 2004-'05 was 17.5, the lowest in at least the last nine school years. Statewide, the average was 22.2. At Homestead High, one of the better local schools, the average was 25.

Eric Key, a math professor at UWM who analyzed the scores of incoming students on math placement tests, looked at data on the average math scores of MPS students on the ACT and said, "These scores are basically saying they're ready to start ninth grade." It's not an official judgment - ACT doesn't say what a ninth-grader ought to score - but the point stands. ACT does say what a student ought to score to have a reasonable chance of doing well in a first level college math course - a 22. The MPS average score in math: 17.

The degree to which low rigor is a problem varies not only between MPS and other districts but within MPS, where some high schools are clearly more challenging than others.

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

June 9, 2006

Teaching Inequality

Heather G. Peske and Kati Haycock for Edtrust [PDF Report]:

Next month, for the first time, leaders in every state must deliver to the Secretary of Education their plans for ensuring that low-income and minority students in their states are not taught disproportionately by inexperienced, out-of-field, or uncertified teachers.

For many, this process will be the first step in helping the citizens of their states to understand a fundamental, but painful truth: Poor and minority children don’t underachieve in school just because they often enter behind; but, also because the schools that are supposed to serve them actually shortchange them in the one resource they most need to reach their potential – high-quality teachers. Research has shown that when it comes to the distribution of the best teachers, poor and minority students do not get their fair share.

The report also offers some key findings of soon-to-be released research in three states – Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin – and major school systems within them. Funded by The Joyce Foundation and conducted with policymakers and researchers on the ground, the research project reveals that schools in these states and districts with high percentages of low-income and minority students are more likely to have teachers who are inexperienced, have lower basic academic skills or are not highly qualified -- reflecting troublesome national teacher distribution patterns.

Edspresso has more

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Transforming High School Teaching & Learning: A District Wide Design

Judy Wurtzel, Senior Fellow, the Aspen Institute: Full report:
250K PDF

Significant improvements in student learn ing require real change at the heart of instruction: the interaction of students and teachers around the content to be learned. This paper suggests a set of design specifications for strengthening this interaction of student, teacher and content and increasing student performance across a school district.

These designs have six components. The first two focus on what the job of effective high school teaching looks like and on getting and keeping teachers who can do this job. They offer a new teacher “job description” that places accountability for results and the use and refinement of effective practices at the core of teaching and also suggest approaches for recruiting and retaining high school teachers who have the will and capacity to embrace this job description and increase student learning. The next four components describe an infrastructure for improving high school instruction that is consistent with this new job description, that provides the concrete supports needed to help new and veteran teachers know what and how to teach effectively, that enablesteachers to elicit higher performance from their students,
and that rests on a teacher-based system for continuously improving results.

These six components are:

  1. A new vision of teacher professionalism that supports instructional improvement
  2. A comprehensive strategy to attract and retain highly effective high school teachers
  3. Clear expectations for high school instructional practices
  4. Anchor standards and aligned assessments that support effective instruction
  5. Core curriculum, common lessons and tools based on the anchor standards and assessments
  6. A system to build teacher capacity

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"The Mathematics Pre-Service Teachers Need to Know"

R. James Milgram 15MB e-book pdf:

It has long been felt that the mathematical preparation of pre-service teachers throughout the country has been far too variable, and often too skimpy to support the kind of outcomes that the United States currently needs. Too few of our K - 12 graduates are able to work in technical areas or obtain college degrees in technical sub jects. This impacts society in many and increasingly harmful ways, and it is our failure in K - 8 mathematics instruction that is at the heart of the problem.

This is especially true when we compare outcomes in the United States with outcomes in countries that do a better job of teaching mathematics, countries such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Singapore, China, and Japan, to name a few.

It has also been increasingly recognized that if we are to improve our performance in K - 8 mathematics instruction, pre-service teachers should take focused, carefully designed courses directly from the mathematics departments, and not, as is often the case, just a single math methods course taught in the Education School. A focused two year sequence in the basic mathematics teachers have to know is the minimal mathematics sequence that pre-service teachers need in order to to successfully teach students in K - 8.

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June 8, 2006

MTI Demands to Bargain: Middle School Math Masters Program and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader

A reader emailed this item: Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter [pdf file]:

The District sent literature to various teachers offering credit to those who enroll in the above-referenced courses. As an enticement for the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader course, the District offers "salary, tuition, and book costs." The program will run after work hours during the school year. Regarding the Middle School Math Master’s Program, every District teacher, who teaches math in a middle school, is "expected" to take three (3) District inservice courses in math, unless they hold a math major or minor. The District is advising teachers that they must complete the three (3) courses within two (2) years. The courses are 21 hours each. The program is scheduled to run during the school day, with substitute teachers provided on the days the courses will be taught.

The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has previously ruled that an employer offering financial incentives, including meals and lodging, or release time, to employees in conjunction with course work or seminars is a mandatory subject of bargaining between the school district and the union.

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Schools That Work

Megan Boldt, Maryjo Sylwester, Meggen Lindsay and Doug Belden:

On paper, the schools appear troubled: low-income students, low state test scores. But a closer look reveals 13 are doing better than expected.

The challenges are not uncommon at schools such as Dayton's Bluff that serve mostly low-income students. But Siedschlag had faith in the teachers she said nurtured students, and she thought things would get better.

They did. A new principal arrived in 2001 and renewed the school's energy. Expectations became clear. Students respected teachers. And staffers now go out of their way to support parents.

School visits and interviews showed that the factors seen as critical to success at Dayton's Bluff also are found at many of the other schools: They have strong principals and a cohesive staff who offer students consistency and structure. They emphasize reading and writing above all else. And they focus instruction on the needs of individual students rather than trying to reach some average child.

These successful schools have focused on basics — reading, writing and math — as they educate their at-risk students. They also have shifted to small-group learning and one-on-one instruction.

"We used to teach to this mythical middle student," said literacy coach Paul Wahmanholm, who has taught at Dayton's Bluff for eight years. Now, "we got away from this one-size-fits-all approach and focused on individualized instruction."

Via Joanne.

Megan Boldt notes the importance of high expectations for all, or as a local teacher friend says: "Standards not sympathy".

So shouldn't the level of poverty be taken into account when determining how well schools teach kids?

No, say educators and researchers who contend that doing so would create two classes of U.S. schools and eviscerate the No Child Left Behind federal education law, which aims to have all students proficient in reading and math by 2014.

"Changing that would create a two-tier system of education — one with high expectations for the wealthy and a set of lower expectations for low-income students," said Diane Piché, executive director of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights.

"It's simply not fair for students born into poverty to expect less of them when we know what's possible," she said. "That's what we should focus on, rather than what's likely.

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New LA School Board Member Dives In

Joel Rubin:

Never one to be accused of being soft-spoken or timid, the newest member of the Los Angeles Board of Education wasted little time getting to work Wednesday.

At 11 a.m., Monica Garcia walked briskly into the school district's Friedman Occupational Center. Doing away quickly with pleasantries, she peppered officials with questions about campus programs and its expansion plans.

Garcia also said she would call for school leaders to be given greater autonomy from the district's behemoth central administration to make budget and instruction decisions.

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June 7, 2006

A Look at the Midvale / Lincoln Elementary Pair

Susan Troller:

The parents at Midvale Elementary School have heard it all:

It's a school no ambitious parent wants. The bus rides are long and unpleasant as children are sent far from their homes along the hazardous Beltline. After more than 20 years, the pairing of Midvale and Lincoln elementary schools, developed as part of an effort to desegregate two south side Madison schools, is a failed experiment.

"The misperceptions about our school are so frustrating, and so wrong," sighed Dave Verban, who is part of a group of Midvale-Lincoln parents that has joined forces to try to tell what they say is the real story of their school community.

The Midvale Lincoln pair was much discussed earlier this year as the Madison School Board and the Memorial/West Area Attendance Task Force contemplated options for Leopold Elementary school. One of the options discussed was changing boundaries and moving some children from Leopold to Lincoln Elementary. Some of Fitchburg's Swan Creek residents objected and petitioned to leave the Madison School District. More here. Task force insight.

Maps: Midvale | Lincoln | Distance between the two paired schools (roughly 5 miles).

UPDATE: Susan continues her article with a visit to Lincoln Elementary.

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Getting Mad About Schools

Jay Matthews:

To get such results, do teachers and parents and administrators have to be insufferable? Maybe not. Both Patterson and Winston say their favorite clients -- Feinberg and Levin -- are more mature and less irritating now. Feinberg in particular, by most accounts the more troublesome of the two, is now "quite the diplomat," Patterson said.

We have examples of some big city school systems that have made significant progress under persistent but polite pressure from above. The impressive record of Boston school superintendent Tom Payzant, retiring after 10 years, is one example. Patterson said she thinks she and Feinberg only managed to make headway in Houston for KIPP because that city had a far-sighted and intelligent school board, and an accomplished superintendent, future U.S. education secretary Rod Paige. Paige saw the value of Feinberg's efforts even when the KIPP principal waited beside Paige's car in the school district parking lot all day so that he could ambush him with a request for help in another space crisis.

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Teachers Contract: Bonuses, Relaxed Rules Proposed

V. Dion Haynes:

A proposed contract to be voted on today by the more than 4,000 members of the D.C. teachers union would enable teachers to earn bonuses tied to student performance and to opt out of some union work rules.

Although both programs would be voluntary and limited to a few schools, the proposals are a turnabout for the Washington Teachers' Union, whose leaders in the past have opposed various forms of pay-for-performance and more-demanding work schedules.

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The Challenge of Educating for the Future

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater:

This fall we will welcome over 2,000 kindergarten children to their first day of school. What an exciting and scary day for them. They will come from many cultures, they will be many colors and they will each begin their thirteen year journey with different skills, attitudes and backgrounds.

Our community must ensure, through our schools, that despite their different starting points they leave in 2019 with two important things in common. They must have the knowledge and skills to have a family supporting career and actively participate in our society. Therein lays the challenge.

Those eager five year olds will still be in the workforce 53 years from now. Who knows what skills, both academic and personal, will be needed then. There are jobs today that we never dreamed of 40 years ago and there are jobs that we thought were forever that have been lost to time. The pace of that change seems to speed up.

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Are Mathematicians Smarter Than Math Teachers?

Are Mathematicians Smarter Than Math Teachers?June 6, 2006 04:45 PM
Maybe. But math teachers know things that are (1) useful for teaching math and (2) difficult for non-teaching mathematicians to grasp, according to Deborah Loewenberg Ball, a University of Michigan researcher who spoke recently to a gathering of AFT leaders and staff.

Here's an example of a task* at which math teachers outperform mathematicians.

Three students were asked to multiply 35 by 25. The answer is 875. Each came up with the wrong answer, but for different reasons. (Click on the links to see if you can figure out the thinking behind the errors.)

Ball reports that math teachers were much better than mathematicians at identifying where students went wrong--an important fact to know to help put students back on track.

In "Knowing Mathematics for Teaching: Who Knows Mathematics Well Enough To Teach Third Grade, and How Can We Decide?" a 2005 article in American Educator, Bell and co-authors Heather C. Hill and Hyman Bass conclude that there is a body of knowledge math teachers need to be effective. They created test questions that captured this body of knowledge, tested teachers, and used the results to accurately predict which teachers' students would learn more.

Ball told AFT leaders that the finding that there is a body of knowledge teachers need to have to teach math can be extended to other subjects. As the drumbeat for "content knowledge" becomes louder and louder, this research answers the questions "Which content?" "Which knowledge?"

*Ball notes that this type of thinking, error analysis, is not only a teacher thing but an important area of mathematics

Posted by John on June 6, 2006 04:45 PM | Permalink

Understanding the source of error is very important. A math teacher needs to have extensive experience analyzing mistakes. This requires a strong, strong handle on arithmetic.

But I would be careful before dismissing the math professors. They don't teach, that is true. They don't know error analysis, and some other things math teachers need.

But when they get outraged, there is usually a reason. Such as not teaching standard algorithms at all. Avoiding fractions. Not teaching long division. Placing so much emphasis on concept that skill is overlooked (each year I get incoming freshmen from a progressive district who have a real solid understanding of what multiplication is, the variety of meanings it might have, etc, but who have difficulty with facts, eg, 7 x 8.)

Pedagogy and content are both important. Some of the education people and the 'modern' curricula privilege pedagogy over content. Back to basics folks tend to emphasize content and ignore pedagogy. Good math teachers, experienced math teachers, we know that we need to pay attention to both and defend our work from either extreme.

Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 8:12 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Racine Voters Approve Referendum

Alice Chang:

Voters on Tuesday night passed a $6.45 million one-year spending referendum. About 54% of those voting approved the request for more money, and 46% rejected it.

"I'm relieved. It doesn't give us a great pause. We still have a lot of big issues," said School Board member Randy Bangs. "The vote demonstrates we need to do a better job linking with the community and addressing core issues."

Jayne Siler, president of the Racine Taxpayers Association, said, "I thank the voters who voted 'no.' . . . I'm sorry so many people are worried about their jobs and health insurance rather than the way the district spends money."

The referendum proposal is for the same amount and duration as an expiring spending referendum, and it helps plug a projected $9 million hole in the 2006-'07 budget.

District officials on Monday revealed that $3.3 million of the gap was due to an accounting miscalculation.

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June 6, 2006

Oregon's Open Book$ Project

The Chalkboard Project / Oregon Department of Education:

When the Chalkboard Project conducted the most extensive statewide polling ever of Oregonians on education issues and priorities, 65% said they would have greater confidence in K-12 schools if they could easily find standardized budget information they could compare and contrast.

People want to know where their money is going, and they want that information in a straightforward manner that is easy to understand.

The Open Book$ Project aims to provide ordinary Oregonians with an open, simple look at where K-12 dollars really go. Audited data is supplied by the Oregon Department of Education in cooperation with Oregon's 198 school districts.

Open Book$ is funded by the Chalkboard Project, a non-partisan, non-profit initiative of Foundations For A Better Oregon. Launched in early 2004, Chalkboard exists to inspire Oregonians to do what it takes to make the state's K-12 public schools among the nation's best, while restoring a sense of involvement and ownership back to taxpayers. Chalkboard aims to help create a more informed and engaged public who understand and address the tough choices and trade-offs required to build strong schools

The Portland School District spent $443,634,000 in 2004/2005 to educate 47,674 students ($9,306/student) while the Madison school district spent $317,000,000 to educate 24,710 students (12,829/student) during that same year.

A number of our local politicians have visited Portland over the years in an effort to learn more about their urban and economic development plans.

California's Ed-Data is also worth checking out.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 9:28 PM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Another blog

Elizabeth, who posted a comment below, maintains an interesting blog on education issues at

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Schools Go Local for Better Food

The NewsHour:

While most efforts to encourage better health in schools focus on removing fat and sugar from the cafeteria and by offering a second vegetable with each meal, there are a growing number of school districts that have turned to local farms for a solution.

By using local farms, schools hope to offer their students fresher food that tastes better while financially supporting small businesses in their communities.

"Locally grown food is fresher and tastier," said Anupama Joshi of the National Farm to School Network, which helps set up the farm-supply programs.

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Appleton's schools models for health

APPLETON (AP) - Lunch hour at two local schools became the subject for a film crew as part of a federal agency's plan to show how the Appleton district is trying to promote healthy lifestyles and fight the epidemic of childhood obesity.

The media crew also filmed fitness programs at Edison Elementary School and West High School and interviewed staff members, including Superintendent Tom Scullen, for the footage due to be aired June 20 as part of a national talk show on child health and nutrition.

Chuck Heurkens' gym class was filmed on Edison's climbing wall and using new heart monitors and pedometers.

Heurkens, who will appear on the show with experts on fitness and nutrition, said the district has instituted many initiatives to improve the health of children.

In 2003, the district banned the sale of soda and junk food in schools during the school day. Other initiatives have included starting new educational programs on nutrition, offering physical education choices and adding climbing walls, ropes courses and fitness centers to school health fairs. A summer "Healthy Kids" institute was created for district staff.

"We're working to create that climate districtwide and we have a lot of people moving in the same direction," Heurkens said.

Todd May, producer with the U.S. Department of Education's office of communications and outreach, said the agency wanted to share what Appleton has done with other districts that are just getting started.

"Appleton is considered one of the pre-eminent national models of a school district trying to grapple with the problem which is an epidemic nationally and even more so in Appleton," May said.

He cited state statistics indicating more than 60 percent of Appleton adults and 40 percent of children are classified as overweight or obese.

The district's efforts make it a strong example of how to "invest in teacher training, technology and hardware, revamp physical education courses and make changes in what's available to eat so kids can make good nutritional choices," May said.

The federal government is requiring that every school district submit a wellness plan by July 1, giving policies for nutrition and health and how they plan to involve parents and the rest of the school community.

Mikki Duran, leader of Appleton's physical education and health program leader, said the efforts involve simply "recognizing that healthy vibrant kids make better learners and citizens."

West sophomores filmed during lunch said they can tell efforts are being made to try to improve nutrition and fitness options, although the district has a ways to go.

Carly Schaefer, 16, said she has learned more about staying active and eating right. "Now that we're older we care more about what we eat."

From The Capital Times, June 5, 2006

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 11:39 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Madison School Board Discussion of a New West Side Elementary School, Fitchburg TIF District, Leopold Addition & Fall Referenda

Watch the video.

Sandy Cullen has more as does Susan Troller.

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"Testing Special Students is Tricky"

Katharine Goodloe:

When Wisconsin educators wanted to measure the progress of 10,000 of the state's public school students last fall, they didn't sit them down for the standardized tests that most schoolchildren spent hours poring over.

They just asked teachers to pencil in a score.

That's because those students are among the most severely disabled in the state, or they speak just isolated words and phrases of English. So on the back of the state's thick testing booklets, teachers marked a score for each child - saying whether a child with disabilities could comprehend text, for example, or whether one struggling to learn English knew any vocabulary words used by their classmates.

If they scored high enough, some of those children could be counted toward requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law - just like those kids who spent hours digging through multiple-choice questions.

It's a little-known process, but one that faces heightened scrutiny this year as the federal government reviews the ways states assess such students. And the stakes for school districts are growing, as consequences for failing schools continue to increase under federal law.

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June 5, 2006

Rating Our Schools: Are All Wisconsin Schools – and Teachers – ‘Above Average’?

Tom Still:

A report issued last week by a Washington think tank shows Wisconsin No. 1 in yet another public education index – only this time, being first among the 50 states wasn’t the preferred spot.

In a study of how states are carrying out the federal No Child Left Behind education law, a group called Education Sector rated the states on how well they’re outsmarting the law. Wisconsin was the leading circumventer, according to the analysts, who refused to buy state numbers that indicate virtually every school district and virtually every school is meeting federal improvement standards.

“(The study) ranks Wisconsin as the most optimistic state in the nation,” reports Education Sector on its web site, “Wisconsin scores well on some educational measures, like the SAT, but lags behind in others, such as achievement gaps for minority students. But according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the state is a modern-day educational utopia where a large majority of students meet academic standards, high school graduation rates are high, every school is safe and nearly all teachers are highly qualified.”

The report goes on to note that school districts around the nation are struggling to make “Adequate Yearly Progress,” the primary standard of school and district success under No Child Left Behind. In Wisconsin, however, hitting the standard is a piece of cake. All but one of Wisconsin’s 426 school districts made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2004–05.

“How is that possible?” the Education Sector report asked. “The answer lies with the way Wisconsin has chosen to define the Adequate Yearly Progress standard.”

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Inner City School Choice

David Reinhard:

Fuller, for his part, now believes school choice is the most important civil rights issue for African Americans today. That's no small claim, considering he started as a "Black Power" advocate in the 1960s. But he didn't get there by applying a market-oriented philosophy to the problem of underperforming inner-city schools. He got there from the ground up. He witnessed firsthand the failure of earlier school reforms, with all their good intentions, bursts of civic concern and, in the end, unmet promises. "At a certain point in time," he says, "you have to say that you have to try something radically different."

Some African Americans in the Jefferson cluster are ready to try. Smith Williams is the father of five and a Black Alliance for Educational Options member here. His kids have attended both public and private schools and even been home-schooled. As Williams told The Oregonian editorial board, "We know there are desperate parents out there."

Dr. Howard Fuller is the former superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools and founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Howard Fuller Clusty Search.

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Supreme Court to Hear Education Race Case


Monday, June 5, 2006 · Last updated 8:37 a.m. PT

Supreme Court to hear schools race case


With the addition of the Supreme Court's newest member, Justice Samuel Alito Jr., top row at right, the high court sits for a new group photograph, Friday, March 3, 2006, at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. Seated in the front row, from left to right are: Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and Associate Justice David Souter. Standing, from left to right, in the top row, are: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. The Supreme Court said Monday, June 5, 2006, that it will decide the extent to which public schools can use race in deciding school assignments, setting the stage for a landmark affirmative action ruling (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide the extent to which public schools can use race in deciding school assignments, setting the stage for a landmark affirmative action ruling.

Justices will hear appeals from a Seattle parents group and a Kentucky parent, ruling for the first time on diversity plans used by a host of school districts around the country.

Race cases have been difficult for the justices. The court's announcement that it will take up the cases this fall provides the first sign of an aggressiveness by the court under new Chief Justice John Roberts.

The court rejected a similar case in December when moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was still on the bench. The outcome of this case will turn on her successor, Samuel Alito.

"Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of affirmative action," said Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary. "This is huge."

Arguments will likely take place in November. The court's announcement followed six weeks of internal deliberations over whether to hear the appeals, an unusually long time.

In one of the cases, an appeals court had upheld Seattle's system, which lets students pick among high schools and then relies on tiebreakers, including race, to decide who gets into schools that have more applicants than openings.

The lower court decision was based in part on a Supreme Court ruling three years ago, written by O'Connor, which said that colleges and universities could select students based at least in part on race.

The court also will also consider a school desegregation policy in Kentucky. That case is somewhat different, because the school district had long been under a federal court decree to end segregation in its schools. After the decree ended, the district in 2001 began using a plan that includes race guidelines.

A federal judge had said system did not require quotas, and that other factors were considered including geographic boundaries and special programs.

A mother, Crystal Meredith, claimed her son was denied entrance into the neighborhood school because he is white. The Jefferson County school district, which covers metropolitan Louisville, Ky., and has nearly 100,000 students, was ordered to desegregate its schools in 1974.

The court will also consider whether Seattle's so-called integration tiebreaker system, which has been discontinued, is tailored to meet a "compelling interest" by the school.

A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in July 2000, arguing that it was unfair for the school district to consider race, and Seattle halted the system.

Lawyers for the Seattle school district had told justices that it was not known what the district's new school board and new superintendent would do now.

Under the district's plan, the first tiebreaker was whether an applicant has a sibling already at the school. The second tiebreaker was race: which applicant would bring the high school closer to the districtwide ratio of whites to nonwhites, roughly 40 percent to 60 percent. The third tiebreaker was distance, with closer students getting preference.

Seattle has about 46,000 public-school students. The racial tiebreaker helped some whites get into predominantly minority schools, and vice versa.

The cases are Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, 05-908, and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 05-915.

Posted by Thomas J. Mertz at 11:00 AM Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

District News

Here is the link to the school district's monthly newsletter:
I thought the story about awards to staff was especially important: it is half-way down the page,

The superintendent recently received 2 awards from the UW School of Education - to quote from the newsletter:

Professor Paul V. Bredeson, UW School of Education department chair, gave MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater a Senior Faculty Fellow award in recognition of his significant contributions to the work of the department and his fostering of collaboration between the University and administrators throughout the Madison School District.

This took place at the UW Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis awards reception May 5.

Art also received the national University Council on Educational Administration's (UCEA) Excellence in Educational Leadership Award from UW School of Education Dean Julie K. Underwood.

The faculty of the UW Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis nominated Rainwater for the national recognition given to practicing school administrators who have made significant contributions to the improvement of administrator preparation.

Carol Carstensen

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Racine School Referendum

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

It might be time for residents of the Racine Unified School District to send their school officials a message that they aren't happy with the progress the district has not been making in recent years and the constant requests the district has been making for more money from taxpayers. They can do this by voting "no" on Tuesday's one-year, $6.45 million spending referendum.

There is no doubt that Racine school officials and teachers have a tough job. Running any urban school district is tough. Doing so in Wisconsin with its spending caps and high health care costs is that much tougher. But that doesn't mean that districts can keep going back to already burdened taxpayers for more money every time they run into problems. Sometimes, they need to make tough choices that could include dropping programs and closing schools if that's what's necessary.

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

Schools Trying All-Boy Classes

Katherine Goodloe:

When Matt Nord, 11, wrote a letter asking to stay in an all-boys program at his public middle school, he listed all the most important reasons: Girls talk a lot, they can get in the way on group projects, and he gets nervous helping out girls.

The sixth-grader doesn't worry about those things for two classes each day, though, because he's part of an all-boys program at Germantown's Kennedy Middle School.

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Private Tutors & Homeschooling

Susan Saulny:

In what is an elite tweak on home schooling — and a throwback to the gilded days of education by governess or tutor — growing numbers of families are choosing the ultimate in private school: hiring teachers to educate their children in their own homes.

Unlike the more familiar home-schoolers of recent years, these families are not trying to get more religion into their children's lives, or escape what some consider the tyranny of the government's hand in schools. In fact, many say they have no argument with ordinary education — it just does not fit their lifestyles.

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June 4, 2006

Wisconsin Charter School News

Wisconsin Charter School NEWS
Sheboygan Considering 6 New Charter Schools
Twelve Charter Schools in Appleton
Wisconsin Embraces Charter Schools
Proposed Charter School of Architecture & Urban Design
Wauwatosa Explores Charter School Options
New Horizons for Learning Charter School
WCSA’s Strategic Growth Plans
Charter Schools BLOG

Wisconsin River Academy
Converting to Healthy Living Charter School
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)
La Causa Charter School
Green Charter Eco-Schools (30 Websites)
Highly Qualified Teachers & Paraprofessionals in Charter Schools:  A Guide for Charter School Authorizers and Operators

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Crimes & Misdemeanors: High school security chief Wally Baranyk says most of the wrongdoing in suburban high schools goes on in the shadows. So how dark does it get?

Michael Leahy:

While much of the rule-breaking at Oakton occurs out of sight from faculty and staff members, insubordination at D.C. schools is more often on public display. "I think our biggest problem here is lack of respect by kids for teachers and adults and for other kids," says Michael Ilwain, a school resource officer at Eastern High School in Northeast Washington. "It leads to disrespect and bad behavior in classrooms, and it leads to fights, too. Almost all our problems start from there . . . But I also think that, in these times, we have some of the same things to face as other schools."

Those things include the spectacularly dire. At Oakton, as at any other 21st-century high school, Baranyk must ponder scenarios that once would have been unthinkable. He has had to devise meticulous plans for how Oakton staff members and students would respond in an emergency or a catastrophic event, including a terrorist's biological or chemical strike, or the spread of a potentially lethal virus. "Security at a school means something different now than 20 years ago . . ." he says. "You can try preparing for problems, but it's hard to know what they all will look like . . . I guess you're trying to imagine the unimaginable."

Rafel Gomez hosted a forum last fall on Gangs & School violence. Audio and video here.

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Public school students take up a tougher course

Tracy Jan:

But the experience -- eight-hour school days, tiny classes with demanding teachers, and Saturday sessions -- was more trying than any of them expected. The students, who delayed high school a year to attend Beacon, have emerged with a sense of how satisfying a tough school can be, but also of how unchallenging their public school experiences had been.

``In the beginning, I felt like it was way too much work times two," said Dennishia Bell, 14, a former honor roll student at the Umana Barnes Middle School in East Boston. ``I didn't realize that I wasn't really being challenged in school until I came to Beacon Academy. If I stuck to the Boston Public Schools, I almost feel like they were cheating me out of my education."

A group of educators and entrepreneurs, including former prep school teachers and administrators, established Beacon last summer because of the concern that too few bright, motivated urban public school students could pass the entrance exams and meet the academic standards required for competitive prep schools and the city's exam schools, said Marsha Feinberg, one of the founders. The goal was to prepare students for the academic rigors, as well as the social environment, of prep schools, often filled with children of the rich and famous.

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We Have a Few Reservations

The Economist:

FOR all the glories of its ancient civilisation, India has “a despicable history of inequity”. So says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a leading political scientist and, until this week, a member of the National Knowledge Commission, appointed by India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to advise his government. The phrase featured in Mr Mehta's eloquent letter of resignation, protesting at the government's determination to “reserve” 27% of the places in its colleges for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs)—lower castes, but not the very lowest, who already benefit. This policy, complained Mr Mehta in the letter, would ensure that India remained “entrapped in the caste paradigm.”

FOR all the glories of its ancient civilisation, India has “a despicable history of inequity”. So says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a leading political scientist and, until this week, a member of the National Knowledge Commission, appointed by India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to advise his government. The phrase featured in Mr Mehta's eloquent letter of resignation, protesting at the government's determination to “reserve” 27% of the places in its colleges for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs)—lower castes, but not the very lowest, who already benefit. This policy, complained Mr Mehta in the letter, would ensure that India remained “entrapped in the caste paradigm.”

Supporters of quotas argue that they have been successful in the southern states, where they have been used extensively. In Tamil Nadu, 69% of college places are reserved. But Mr Mehta argues that, in the north at least, the deprivations faced by the tribes and dalits are different from those suffered by the OBCs. For the latter, quotas are “condescending palliatives”.

In an unavailing effort to placate critics, the government has said that it will increase the total number of places in colleges, to ensure that no qualified student is worse off. Arithmetic dictates a 54% increase. No one knows where the necessary teachers, buildings and support services would come from.

A curious feature of the debate is the ignorance on which it is based. The Mandal commission assumed that OBCs made up 52% of the population. Yet a 1999 survey by the government's statistical organisation put the proportion at 32%, or 36% if Muslim OBCs were included. Of those enrolled in college, 23.5% were OBCs. So the under-representation of this group is not extreme. A television interviewer put these findings to Arjun Singh, the minister for human-resource development, architect of the latest reform. He could only waffle that “the OBCs form a fairly sizeable percentage of our population.”

Nor did he contradict research carried out by the elite Indian Institutes of Technology. This shows that one-half of the places they have reserved for dalits and tribal people are vacant. In those that are filled, one in four students do not complete their degrees. This indicates that the fundamental failure of Indian education is not discrimination in tertiary institutions; rather, it is the inability of primary and secondary schools to produce enough qualified students. Meanwhile, a shortage of well-qualified college graduates has become one of the biggest threats to the continued rapid growth of India's services and other industries, and hence to the booming economy.

The government's determination to extend reservations can be blamed on politics. Some close to the prime minister scent an effort by Arjun Singh to embarrass his boss, whose job he is widely reckoned to think should be his. Others see it as a concerted bid by the Congress party to win votes in India's caste-ridden largest state, Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next year. Either way, the benefits for those justifiably angry at the deprivation and discrimination they suffer in India are likely to be marginal. Mr Mehta quoted Tom Paine: “We pity the plumage, but forget the dying bird.”

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June 3, 2006

"The Next Niche: School Bus Ads"

Caroline Mayer:

BusRadio, a start-up company in Massachusetts, wants to pipe into school buses around the country a private radio network that plays music, public-service announcements, contests and, of course, ads, aimed at kids as they travel to and from school.

As BusRadio's Web site ( ) explains: "Every morning and every afternoon on their way to and from school, kids across the country will be listening to the dynamic programming of BusRadio providing advertiser's [sic] with a unique and effective way to reach the highly sought after teen and tween market."


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All students can learn from each other if given a chance

A letter to the editor
Dear Editor: I want to respond to the story about the Baraboo School Board member who talked about the uselessness of trying to teach students with "nothing upstairs."

I taught a class called Interpersonal Communications, often in conjunction with the speech classes I taught at Madison West High. The course helped students learn effective communication skills to build and maintain interpersonal relationships in their world. The class was made up of 10th- through 12th-graders, so many didn't know each other.

One semester on the first day, I divided the students, as I often did, in small groups, to learn something about each other. One group had a boy who was a "special ed" student. He started to draw wide circles and ramble a bit to himself. The other students drew back with looks at each other, and everyone was very uncomfortable.

I had not been told the student had various disabilities, but that day I went to the chair of the department and told him to find a way to keep "Robert" out of class the next day. Then I asked him to come to my class and tell the students just what Robert's disabilities were and what the goals for him were. Those goals included Robert being able to find the right bus to take him home, and maybe, someday, to have and keep a simple job. The students listened and learned.

The next day, Robert was back in class, and I asked the students to again meet in groups. Robert's group said, "Come on, Robert, you're with us!" From then on, all the students helped him, made friends with him, and all of us saw the joy in his face as he felt part of the class and advanced his communication skills as well.

The lesson for this might be, it is not what you have, it's what others find in you and themselves. I have a lot of stories like this - and it's how my young students made my teaching such a gift to each other and to me.

Mary Moen

Published: June 2, 2006
The Capital Times

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June 2, 2006

More on "How States (WI is #1) Inflate Their Progress Under No Child Left Behind"

Alan Borsuk takes a look at and speaks with DPI's Tony Evers on Kevin Carey's report, emailed to this site on 5/20/2006 by a reader involved in these issues:

In an interview, Carey said he agrees that Wisconsin generally is a high-performing state in educating students, "but I do not believe its performance is as good as it says it is." He said the way school officials have dealt with the federal law shows "a clear pattern where Wisconsin consistently refuses to challenge itself."

He compared Wisconsin with Massachusetts, which he said also has high performing students. That state was ranked 39th in the "Pangloss Index," because it has taken a much tougher line on such things as defining "highly qualified" teachers to require demonstrated knowledge in the subject area being taught. Wisconsin has generally defined such teachers by whether they have state licenses.

In a separate analysis, two researchers connected to an education magazine called Education Next analyzed the differences between the percentage of students in each state listed as proficient or better in reading and math on the state's own tests and the percentage in the same categories in the nationwide testing program called the National Assessment of Education Progress. In many states, there is a wide disparity between the two, leading some to argue that states are setting proficiency standards too low.

The two researchers, Paul E. Peterson and Frederick M. Hess, both generally described as conservatives, then gave each state a grade based on how big a difference there was between the state scores and the national scores. The two gave Wisconsin a grade of C-, based on 2005 results. That was better than the D they gave the state for results in 2003.

Sandy Cullen wrote recently " new statewide assessment used to test the knowledge of Wisconsin students forced a lowering of the curve, a Madison school official said.

The results showed little change in the percentages of students scoring at proficient and advanced levels"

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Do School Systems Aggravate Differences in Natural Ability?

Sharon Begley:

Some kids do bloom late, intellectually. Others start out fine but then, inexplicably, fall behind. But according to new studies, for the most part people's mental abilities relative to others change very little from childhood through adulthood. Relative intelligence seems as resistant to change as relative nose sizes.

One of the more striking findings comes from the longest follow-up study ever conducted in this field. On June 1, 1932, Scotland had all children born in 1921 and attending school -- 87,498 11-year-olds -- take a 75-question test on analogies, reading, arithmetic and the like. The goal was to determine the distribution of intellectual ability. In 1998, scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen tracked down 101 of those students, then 77 years old, and administered the same test.

The correlation between scores 66 years apart was a striking .73. (A correlation of 1 would mean no change in rankings; a correlation of .73 is very high.) There is "remarkable stability in individual differences in human intelligence" from childhood to old age, the scientists concluded in a 2000 paper.

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Kobza, Mathiak, Robarts and Vang Vote Yes to Support Elementary Strings: Carstensen, Silveira and Winston Vote No And Support Cutting Elementary Strings

Thank you to students, parents and community members who wrote to and spoke before the School Board in support of elementary strings. It may seem, at times, that your letters or statements fall on deaf ears, but that is not the case. Each and every letter and each and every statement of support is critical to communicating to the School Board how much the community values this course. There are Board members who listen and understand what you're saying.

Last night MMSD School Board members Lawrie Kobza, Lucy Mathiak, Ruth Robarts and Shwaw Vang voted to restore Grade 5 elementary strings classes to twice weekly. Also, these same four Board members voted in favor of a pilot elementary string course at one or more schools that would provide 4th and 5th grade students with the option to select either General Music or Elementary Strings as their music class. My thanks for their votes of support for elementary strings and a strong music education and opportunities for all our children.

Johnny Winston Jr. (Board President), Carol Carstensen and Arlene Silveira voted against this option, electing to support cutting elementary strings. These three board members did not support elementary strings and supported the Superintendent's proposal, which would cut Grade 4 elementary strings next year and would have cut Grade 5 elementary strings the following year, eliminating elementary strings for about 543 low-income children, 1610 elementary children in all, within two years.

The elementary string program, even with an additional class in Grade 5 was cut in Grade 4 and the budget was reduced about 13% on top of a 50% cut the previously year. (In comparison, the budget for extracurricular sports increased 25%.)

The board majority who voted for 2 classes per week in Grade 5 and a pilot want to learn more about what option(s), instructionally, administratively, and financially would work best in the future, so elementary string instruction remains part of music education. I appreciate their efforts.

Elementary strings is less than 0.09% of the District's $330+ million budget, taught 1610 (543 low income) Grade 4 and Grade 5 children this year, is a heterogenous, diverse course.

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June 1, 2006

Ticking Away The Minutes That Make Up The Dull Day...And Stereotypes!

Andrew Rotherham's recent post on the school day follows Mary Battaglia's recent comment on the Madison School District's short lunch and recess period.

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Notes & Links on the 2006/2007 Madison Schools Budget

Notes and links on last night's passage of the District's 332M+ 2006/2007 budget:

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Superintendent Rainwater's Reply Regarding the Math Coordinator Position

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Art Rainwater replied via email to our "Open letter about Math Coordinator position at MMSD":

On Wed, 31 May 2006, Art Rainwater wrote:

Dear Steffen and others;

Thank you for sharing your concens.

The District has always employed outstanding curriuclum leaders in our Teaching and Learning Department. Mary Ramberg has been a leader in Teaching and Learning as have Lisa Wachtel in Science and Mary Watson Peterrson in Literacy and Language Arts.

Please rest assured that I. even more than you, am committed to employing the best possible math corrdinator. The minimum requirements posted are exactly what they say. They are minimum requirements and failure to meet the requirements eliminates the person from consideration immedately without even a further paper screen. Our district has a hiring process that has served us vrey well over the years and this is only the first part of that process.

The breadth and depth of knowledge of mathematics is obviously one of two key components in determining who will be the final pick for this position. However, equally important in the decision is the breadth and depth of pedogogical knowledge. Both of these will be given equal weight and I will not employ anyone who does not have both.

Art Rainwater

My reply:
Dear Art,

Thanks for your prompt reply.

What caused all of us to write/sign this letter is that the posted job ad does precisely NOT require what we consider two MINIMUM requirements for this position, namely (and I repeat):

  1. subject knowledge equivalent to a strong bachelor's degree in mathematics, and

  2. teaching experience at the highest level in the high school curriculum.
I do hope that the school board and the district administration will RESTRICT its search to ONLY candidates meeting these two MINIMUM requirements.

Thanks for your attention!


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State Tightening SAGE class size compliance

State tightening class-size initiative
Schools receiving funding must get formal waiver to exceed 15-1 ratio

By AMY HETZNER, Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel
Posted: May 31, 2006

In an effort to get a better handle on state money schools use to reduce class sizes, the state Department of Public Instruction plans to tighten its control over schools that seek to escape from standards set by a state class-size reduction program.

The state agency has imposed a new requirement that schools seek formal waivers before exceeding a 15-to-1 student-teacher ratio guideline set by the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education program.

DPI Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers acknowledged that requiring schools to get a waiver could end some practices the DPI had not known were in effect. Yet the requirement isn't designed to limit flexibility schools have had, he said.

"Clearly, one of the things that's important about SAGE - and that research tends to support - is there have to be small class sizes," Evers said. "So if requests come in that don't do anything to reduce class sizes, the possibility of them passing (through DPI) are slim."

Previously, the DPI reached informal agreements with schools seeking to exceed the law's 15-to-1 student-teacher ratio while still collecting money from the SAGE program.

SAGE is to pay out $96 million to 495 schools in the current school year. But in some cases, the DPI didn't know how some schools were using their money until a March newspaper article outlined ways SAGE schools were exceeding the class-size standard, Evers said.

One of the schools, Dousman Elementary School in Waukesha County's Kettle Moraine School District, used its SAGE funding to pay the equivalent of a full-time reading teacher even as class size reached 25 in one second-grade room.

Evers seemed to cite that case as a practice that would not be approved by DPI in its new procedure.

"I mean, that's an extreme example, but the fact is the law is about reducing class size," he said.

Kettle Moraine Superintendent Sarah Jerome said she was trying to get information about the change from the DPI. "I don't know what they're doing, nor do I know what its impact will be," she said.

In Milwaukee Public Schools, where four schools were allowed to exceed the SAGE program's class-size limit in second and third grades this school year, finance director Michelle Nate also said she hadn't heard of DPI's change and did not know if it would affect schools' eligibility for extra funding.

Evers said the DPI has yet to formally notify districts about the change.
Unease over spending

Even though the DPI's move to require formal waivers satisfies one concern that state Rep. Kitty Rhoades outlined in a recent letter to state schools Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, the Hudson Republican said she is still uneasy about how the DPI has allowed schools to spend SAGE money.

In particular, Rhoades questioned agreements that allowed schools to receive SAGE funds if they bring in extra teachers for reading and math lessons for classes that exceed the 15-student limit.

Rhoades said she would like her questions about the program answered before the state's next budget cycle to make sure she understands how the money is being used. She said she's not threatening funding for the program, which is supposed to get a $25 million boost in the 2007-'09 budget in a deal struck by Doyle and Assembly Speaker John Gard.

"I think that SAGE, by definition, was pretty clear - 15-to-1, grades K, 1, 2 and 3," Rhoades said. "And apparently it's different than that."

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Madison School Board Unanimously Passes Budget for 2006-07

At the end of six and a half hours of discussion on May 31, the Madison School Board voted 7-0 to adopt the superintendent's proposed budget for 2006-07. The vote came after board members made amendments to the expenditures for the next school year.

School Board cuts 41 teacher spots

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O'Keefe's Isabel Jacobson Moves on to National Spelling Bee's 4th Round

Daniel O'Reilly:

adison seventh-grader Isabel Jacobson proved that her bite was louder than her bark on Wednesday at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, correctly spelling affenpinscher - a breed of small dogs of European origin - on her way to advancing to the fourth round.

The bee stopped for the day in the middle of the fourth round, with Jacobson yet to spell and 46 spellers still standing.

Competition resumes this morning at 11 CDT and will be aired live on ESPN. The final rounds will be aired tonight live on ABC from 7 to 9 CDT.

National Spelling Bee website

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