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February 13, 2012

A View on Rhetoric & Reality on Madison Schools

"Penelope Trunk" (Adrienne GreenHeart) via a kind Brian S. Hall email:

7. We overlook key research.

When I relocated from NYC to Madison, I did tons of research. I knew everything about happiness and economic development and I knew what I was getting into even though I never stepped foot in Madison before I moved there.

But I ignored a crucial piece of research: The schools. I simply could not believe that the schools were as bad - relative to the rest of the country - as all the data showed. It's a university town, I reasoned. It's liberal. They must raise taxes a lot for schools. I couldn't believe it. But it was true. And I ended up having to leave Madison because the schools were so bad.

More on Penelope Trunk, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at February 13, 2012 3:01 AM
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When I meet parents with you children, here's what I say to them, "Do not put them in the Madison schools. If you can afford the tuition, send 'em to a private school, especially if they are children of color. If you can't afford private, move to the suburbs, all of which show more academic success than Madison schools."

Posted by: Ed Blume at February 13, 2012 9:09 PM

I could not disagree more with Ed. He is also fudging the numbers.

Madison Schools are not good enough in some ways, as many of us have experienced, and they certainly can get better for the average kid. How much this is due to having to deal with kids who are frankly uneducable?

They just cannot succeed in teaching students who do not and cannot control themselves. They just cannot succeed with students who don't give a damn. They just cannot succeed with kids who refuse to do the work. And they just cannot succeed with kids whose families who do not have the skills or ability to instill the needed practical values into their children that are required for success.

Put simply, being saints and working miracles are not within teachers' paid grade. Frankly, if a student's family and community cannot instill the necessary values, there is no way that we should expect and certainly must not demand that the teachers and staff do so.

It is one thing for kids to come into the school academically behind. For any school, having the resources to catch these kids up is both doable and rightfully to be expected.

It is quite another to expect schools to deal with more than that, and still be successful in their primary task.

I had another very frustrating tutoring day today. For the third time in 7 weeks, my tutoring charge was uncooperative in the extreme. All day today, he was being given personal adult one-on-one help with his work. He was handed off to me to help him complete a little more of the tasks.

From the teachers, I heard he was having another bad day at school, and nobody knew why. Some days he has good days, and everyone is hopeful, then these bad days happen and he takes up many school resources to deal with, many teachers, support staff, library staff, hall monitors, disciplinary staff -- and, of course, these are days wasted for him also.

My charge is not the only kid at the school who behaves like that, nor is he the only kid that staff try to reach. Teachers and staff giving 110% does not make up for kids giving nothing.

Will Madison Prep do a better job with these kids? No, of course not because these kids will not be enrolled in Madison Prep, because they do not fit the profile of the kids Madison Prep is willing take.

I've got deal for Madison Prep. You take these kids who have no control of themselves, and who don't want to learn, and don't want to work, show that you can be successful with them and their families. Leave everybody else to Madison Public schools.

Posted by: Larry Winkler at February 14, 2012 3:44 PM
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