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July 31, 2013

Successful (Madison) achievement plan will cost plenty -- just maybe not in dollars

Chris Rickert:

The ill-fated charter school Madison Preparatory Academy would have cost Madison School District taxpayers about $17.5 million over five years to start addressing the district's long-standing minority and low-income achievement gaps.

The achievement gap plan introduced by former superintendent Dan Nerad shortly after Madison Prep crashed and burned would have cost about $105 million over five years. Before being adopted, it was whittled down to about $49 million.

And the so-called "strategic framework" proposed last week by new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham?


"The really exciting news is we have all the ingredients to be successful," she told this newspaper.

No doubt that could be thinking so wishful it borders on delusion or, worse, code for "we're not really all that interested in closing the gap anyway." But it could also be a harbinger of real change.

"The framework isn't meant to be compared to the achievement gap plan," district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said. It's "not about an array of new initiatives with a big price tag" but about focusing "on the day-to-day work of teaching and learning" and "what we know works."

Related: The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: "Same Service" vs. "having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district"..

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 31, 2013 12:03 AM
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I think we finally have a superintendent who sees the need to work from the bottom up, rather than roll out sexy and costly top down programs.

The three largest factors in student achievement are the students themselves, parents and teachers. The district can make small and cheap changes to make them work better together. Curriculum is also important. It is will not require much more money over what is usually spent to improve curriculum, which will take time.

There are lots of cheap changes that can be made. You can't learn if you're skipping school. Finding a way to improve attendance is important. One solution that has worked is moving required classes or classes a student dislikes to the morning and putting the fun classes to the afternoon. This strategy keeps students in school all day, and they are less likely to skip.

Too many students fall behind in middle school and in the transition to high school. Emphasizing interventions and modest cost changes seems to be most effective. Coring has helped in some areas.

Posted by: Donald Pay at July 31, 2013 8:50 PM
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