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March 27, 2013

School Board Candidate Forum - March 28


Thursday, March 28
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Sequoya Library
4340 Tokay Boulevard

Moderator: Charles Read, former Dean of the U.W. School of Education

Sponsored by the Harvard Club of Wisconsin and Madison Magnet


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February 21, 2013

School Board primary winner Sarah Manski drops out of race

The leading vote getter in a Madison School Board primary race abruptly dropped out Thursday.

Sarah Manski said in a statement she would no longer campaign for the seat because her husband was accepted into a sociology Ph.D program in California. Manski's name will remain on the ballot.


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February 19, 2013

School Board Candidate Forum, 18 February 2013

Questions and Answers from Board Of Education Candidates

Because the School Board candidates Sarah Manski, TJ Mertz, and Ananda Mirilli are on the primary ballots for Seat 5 on February 19, 2013, the above link is a version of the candidate forum held on February 18, 2013 edited to include only the above candidates for Seat 5. The video is about one(1) hour in length.

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February 9, 2012

Connecticut Governor Malloy pushes education spending

Ben Prawdzik, via a kind reader's email:

Gov. Dannel Malloy has indicated that he plans to make good on his promise to enact education reform -- he has announced a series of legislative proposals over the past week aimed at improving and expanding schooling opportunities in Connecticut.

Malloy's proposals, if enacted by the state's General Assembly convening for its legislative session today, would affect students in levels ranging from preschool to professional job training programs. Last Thursday, Malloy proposed allocating an additional $12 million of the state budget to boost the quality and accessibility preschool education in the state. The next day, the governor announced that he will propose legislation to change the Connecticut Technical High School (CTHSS) system to tailor its curricula to the needs of the state's employers so that students will be better prepared for employment upon graduation. On Monday, Malloy put forth a legislative proposal to improve low-achieving schools and increase charter and magnate school funding.

"We made a promise to our kids that education will prepare them for college or the workforce," Malloy said in a Feb. 6 press release. "Transforming our educational system -- fixing the schools that are falling short and learning from the ones that are graduating high-achievers -- will help us develop the skilled workforce that will strengthen our state and our economy."

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February 8, 2012

Madison Prep, unions overshadow School Board races

Jack Craver:

Two seats on the eight-member board are opening up. In both races, opponents of the proposed charter school, which is being championed by the Urban League of Madison as a way to target the long-standing achievement gap between white and minority students, are pitted against supporters of the plan.

Arlene Silveira, an incumbent who voted against Madison Prep, is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, the vice president of learning for the Urban League. Similarly, in an open seat that Madison Prep supporter Lucy Mathiak is vacating, Mary Burke, a wealthy philanthropist (and former state secretary of Commerce) who pledged $2.5 million to the Madison Prep project, is running against Michael Flores, a firefighter with union backing.

John Matthews, president of Madison Teachers Inc, says his union is planning to be very active in support of Silveira and Flores. In not-so-subtle terms, he challenged Burke's ability to understand the challenges that the Madison middle class and poor face in the school system.

"She's a one percenter," he said, invoking the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement. "She's a very nice person, a very well-intentioned person but you want somebody who understands what it's like to be a parent and understands the needs of parents to be involved."

Related: 1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Heartland Tax Rebellion

The Wall Street Journal:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is starting to feel surrounded. On her state's southern border, Texas has no income tax. Now two of its other neighbors, Missouri and Kansas, are considering plans to cut and eventually abolish their income taxes. "Oklahoma doesn't want to end up an income-tax sandwich," she quips.

On Monday she announced her new tax plan, which calls for lowering the state income-tax rate to 3.5% next year from 5.25%, and an ambition to phase out the income tax over 10 years. "We're going to have the most pro-growth tax system in the region," she says.

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The GAAP in Wisconsin state finances

Steve Prestegard:

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute's George Lightbourn on the correct way to assess state finances (which is not now being done by the Walker administration, nor was it done by the Doyle, McCallum, Thompson, Earl, Dreyfus, Schreiber or Lucey administrations, and so on, and so on, and so on):
Sheila Weinberg from the Institute for Truth in Accounting coined the term, "political math." When politicians delay a payment and refer to the delay as a "savings," they're using political math. Or when no money is set aside for a bill they know is coming due, practitioners of political call the IOU a "savings." It's political math that allows state government to meet the balanced budget requirement while state accountants show it to be running a $3 billion deficit (according to the official tally released over the Christmas holiday).

Both Republicans and Democrats have used political math to make budgets balance over the years. Political math allowed my former boss Scott McCallum to balance the budget using one-time tobacco money and it was political math that green lighted Jim Doyle to "borrow" over $1 billion from the transportation fund. Thanks to political math, Governors and legislatures of all political stripe have been able to buy more government than they could really afford.

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February 7, 2012

More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad's Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Pat Schneider:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad packed the house Monday night for what he termed "a call to action" to the community to join his administration in a strategy to close the racial achievement gap that has haunted the school district for decades.

His blueprint for change, "Building our Future," weighs in at 100 pages and took an hour to outline with a Power Point presentation to an audience of about 200 at the Fitchburg Community Center. The proposal will be digested, dissected and debated in the weeks to come, including at a series of community meetings hosted by the school district.

But one thing is clear: from Nerad's point of view, the future of children of color in our city lies not only in the hands of the teachers and administrators who shape their lives at school, but also in the hands of their families, their neighbors, and members of the community who live and work all around town.

"It can't be the schools alone; it has to be the schools working with the community if we're going to have outcomes," he said.

Tepid response to Nerad's plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.

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Tepid response to Nerad's plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Nathan Comp:

Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan (mp3 audio) to close the district's more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.

The 109-page plan, titled "Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement," makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.

Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.

Others, like a "parent university," a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.

Matthew DeFour helpfully puts dollars ($105,600,000 over 5 years, about 5.6% of the roughly $1,860,000,000 that the District will spend over the same period) to the proposal. How does that compare with current programs and the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

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Ten Thoughts on the Preliminary MMSD Budget Figures for 2012-13

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

It's a little early for budget season, but Sunday's State Journal included an article by Matt DeFour that kicks off discussion of the school district's finances for 2012-13. According to the article, preliminary numbers indicate about a $12.4 million budget gap for the district.

Here are ten quick thoughts on these preliminary figures.

1. To make sense of budget gap talk, it's helpful to understand the assumptions behind the concept. Budget gaps are traditionally calculated within the context of a school district's state-imposed revenue limit authority. (For the sake of clarity, it's helpful to think of revenue limits as spending limits.). Costs are projected to go up by X millions, the school district is constrained by revenue limits to increase its spending by no more than Y millions, and the difference between X and Y is the measure of the gap that traditionally has to be bridged through painful budget cuts.

Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!)

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February 6, 2012

Evaluating the Madison Metropolitan School District's 2012 Plan to Eliminate the Racial Achievement Gap

Kaleem Caire, via email:

February 6, 2011

Greetings Community Member.

This evening, at 6pm at the Fitchburg Library, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad will present his plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap in our public schools to the Board of Education. We anticipate there will be many citizens in the audience listening in.

While we are pleased that our advocacy over the last 19 months has resulted in the District developing a plan to address the gap, we are also mindful of history. Our organization has pushed hard for our public school system to embrace change, address the gap and expand educational opportunity many times before.

In the 1960s, Madison learned that a wide gap existed between black and white students in reading, math and high school completion in Madison's public schools. In the 1970s, the Urban League of Greater Madison reported that just 60% of black students were graduating from the city's public high schools. In the 1980s, ULGM released a widely reported study that found the average GPA for a black high school student attending the city's public high schools was 1.58 on a 4.00 scale, with 61% scoring below a 2.0 GPA. It also found that a disproportionate number of black students were enrolled in remedial math and science classes, and that black students were significantly over-represented in special education and school suspensions. Then, in the 1990s, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute issued a report that stated there were two school districts in MMSD, one that poorly served black children and one that served everyone else.

Today, just 48% of black and 56% of Latino students are graduating from high school. Just 1% of black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are academically ready for college. Nearly 40% of all black boys in middle school are enrolled in special education, and more than 60% of black and 50% of Latino high school students earn below a 2.0 GPA.

Over the years, several district-wide efforts have been tried. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have either been discontinued, unevenly implemented, ineffective, lacked the support of parents/community/teachers, or failed to go far enough to address the myriad needs of students, families, teachers and schools. Madison also has a well-documented history of not heeding the advice of leaders and educators of color or educational experts, and not investing in efforts to codify and replicate successful strategies employed by its most effective educators. MMSD also has not acted fast enough to address its challenges and rarely looks beyond its borders for strategies that have proven effective elsewhere in the country.

The stakes are higher now; too high to continue on our present course of incrementalism rooted in our fear of the unknown, fear of significant change, and fear of admitting that our view of Madison being the utopic experience of the Midwest and #1 city in the U.S. doesn't apply to everyone who lives here. We no longer have the luxury of time to figure out how to address the gap. We cannot afford to lose nearly 300 black, 200 Latino and an untold number of Southeast Asian and underprivileged white students each year from our public schools. And we cannot afford to see hundreds of students leave our school system each year for public and private schools outside of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

We must embrace strategies that work. We must also behave differently than we have in the past, and can no longer afford to be afraid of addressing intersection or race and poverty, and how they are playing out in our schools, social relationships and community, and impacting the educational success of our kids.

Furthermore, we need all hands on deck. Everyone in our community must play a role in shaping the self-image, expectations and outcomes of our children - in school, in the community and at home. Some children have parents who spend more quality time with their career and coworkers than with their family. Some children have a parent or relative who struggles to raise them alone. Some have parents who are out of work, under stress and struggling to find a job to provide for their family. And unfortunately, some children have parents who make bad decisions and/or don't care about their well-being. Regardless of the situation, we cannot allow the lack of quality parenting to be the excuse why we don't reach, teach, or hold children accountable and prepare them for the future.

As we prepare to review the Superintendent's plan, we have developed a rubric that will allow for an objective review of his proposal(s). The attached rubric, which you can access by clicking here, was developed and informed by members of the staff and Board of Director of ULGM, business and community leaders, and teachers and leading experts in the field of K-12 and higher education. The tool will be used by an independent Community Review Panel, organized by the Urban League. pver the next several weeks to vet the plan. The intent of this review is to ensure MMSD has an optimal plan for ensuring that all of the children it serves succeed academically and graduate from high school prepared for college and work.

Specifically, our reasons for establishing this rubric and a Community Review Panel are four-fold:
  • Develop an objective and comprehensive understanding of the plan and its many elements;
  • Objectively review the efficacy of the plan, its goals and objectives, and desired outcomes;
  • Formally communicate thoughts, concerns and ideas for supporting and/or improving the plan; and
  • Effectively engage the Madison community in supporting and strengthening its public schools.
We have high expectations of the Superintendent's plan. We hope for a bold, transformational, aggressive and concise plan, and stand ready to assist the Superintendent and his team in any way we can. We hope you will be standing their with us, with your arms outstretched and ready to uplift or babies - the next generation.

All Hands on Deck!

Team Urban League of Greater Madison

Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
Urban League of Greater Madison 2012 Agenda

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February 5, 2012

Research about the (Achievement) Gap

Mary Battaglia kindly forwarded this email sent to the Madison School Board:

The high school graduation racial gap has been in the Madison news as though it only affects our fair city. It does not require much research, something the local media has failed to do, to see this is a national concern. According to an analysis called "Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education," nationally only 47% of black males graduated from high school in 2007. (1) It has been reported that Madison's graduation rate for black males is 50%. Obviously a pathetic rate compared to the 87% for whites, but what has not been a part of the local conversation is how Madison compares in relationship to the rest of the nation, and perhaps figure out where black males are graduating at a higher rate, and why. The Schott's report, revealed two communities with large minority populations with much better graduation outcomes than the rest of the nation, Baltimore and Fort Bend, Texas. What MMSD should be looking into is what are these cities doing, and what curricula or community effort has made them successful? One interesting part of the gap for Madison and the state of Wisconsin is the high rate of whites graduating. While Wisconsin is the worst defender in the racial gap, the states total graduation rate is one the highest in the nation.

When you read various assessments of the "reason" for the gap nationally, the theories include the lack of financial investment, lack of good teachers, and the lack of community structure. While I find these proposals reasonable, I fail to understand how in this community they are relevant. MMSD spends well over $13,000 per student, lack the overwhelming urban problems of Milwaukee and Chicago, and have many fine teachers that somehow get non-minority students educated. These excuses ring hallow as to why MMSD has such a poor rate. What does ring true is we are not educating the population as it exist today. In the last 25 years the MMSD's minority rate has increased from 20% to one closer to 48%. (2) In the last 25 years MMSD has changed from a district of less than 25% free and reduced lunch to one that is closer to 50%. (3)Madison is still teaching to the population of 25 years ago, the students have changed, but the curriculum has not.

Perhaps, MMSD could improve the graduation rate for all students, with a significant change of focus. For example, MMSD's high school's emphasize 4 year college candidates when many of the students would do better in a 2 year or technology school focus. There has been an increased coordination with MATC, but what would be beneficial is to offer a dual graduation for students, so as they graduate from MMSD, they also have a 2 year degree or a certificate from MATC. This is a system that has been successful in a high school in North Carolina. (4) A student that wants to head to college still has that opportunity and perhaps a chance to make some money to support the effort. Perhaps, another way to improve graduation outcomes would include an overhaul of the summer school program. Currently, MMSD summer school staff are paid poorly, the programs focus is mostly on students that have flunked their classes and need a recovery grade, and the programs poor reputation have lead many staff to discourage students from participating. (5) Why not invest in a comprehensive retooling of the summer program that provides a better salary for staff, and includes enrichment, regular classes, as well as recovery options. Let's find a creative summer program with smaller class sizes and build a program that is the envy of the country and one that works. If summer school is going to be provided, then make it an awesome program, not just a warehouse for failing kids. Perhaps, as most research reveals, early education is a key component to better graduation outcomes, and the district finally is getting a 4K program up and running after a decade long battle with the union.

Madison Prep was an idea, but it is a unique group of students that would select to participate in such a rigorous program, which means an already motivated student or parents with very high expectations, both factors that frequently mean a student would do well anyway. MMSD needs to look at students that may not be that motivated or academically talented and assess what works to keep them engaged. The one thing MMSD has no control over is probably the most important issue for a students outcome. Research concludes the number one predictor of a students academic success is parental expectations. (6) Our schools cannot change parental expectations, however, they can change what a student expects. MMSD students need to expect a positive future, a purpose and a reason to stay in school. Not all kids will succeed but more than half of the black male students should. Let's develop a district that gives all the students the opportunity to succeed. Public school data

This statement is based on personal experience of having many staff, from middle school up to high school, discourage my daughter who struggles in math from attending summer school. I have also spoke to many parents with the same experience.

*** Of note the data of graduation rate is debated in academic circles as the data is not always standardized. Some data includes GED and 5 year rates others include only 4 year rates.


Mary Kay Battaglia

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Parents hold keys to setting higher education expectations

Pearl Chang Esau:

Arizonans cannot afford to wait for better education. Although Arizona is one of the fastest improving states in education, at the current rate, it would take decades for our students to catch up with those in the number one state in the country, Massachusetts.

Arizona students continue to lag their national and international peers in academic performance, high school graduation rates and degree attainment. With 74 percent of Arizona fourth graders below proficient in reading and 69 percent of our eighth graders below proficient in math, the gap is only widening between the preparedness of our graduates and the skills and knowledge Arizona employers require.

Fortunately, Tucson has many examples of bright spots that show all of us the potential for Arizona education. Tucson Unified School District's University High School was recently named a 2011 Higher Performing School by the National Center for Education Achievement; Vail Unified School District is nationally recognized for its use of technology to engage students and raise student achievement; BASIS Charter School, which started in Tucson and has grown to other parts of the state, was named a top high school by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report; and the University of Arizona is ranked among the top public research universities in the nation. All of them embrace a culture of high expectations and are working to ensure all students graduate ready to compete and succeed in the 21st century global economy.

Pearl Chang Esau is President/CEO of Expect More Arizona.

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February 4, 2012

'Business as usual' isn't working for Madison schools

Nichelle Nichols:

I am running for the Madison School Board because I care about the state of our public schools and this community.

The facts are: I am employed at the Urban League of Greater Madison and spoke in support of Madison Prep as a parent and citizen. Am I running because Madison Prep was voted down? No. My focus is broader than the charter school proposal, but the Madison Prep vote was a defining moment in my decision to declare candidacy.

It became apparent to me as I sat in the auditorium that night that we can no longer afford to wait for our district to take the casual approach to the urgent matter of minority under-achievement. Our entire community is affected by the failure to do so.

Every child in this district -- from the at-risk, the middle-of-the-road student, to the most academically talented -- should have an equal opportunity to thrive in our school system. And here's the reality, Madison -- we are not delivering.

It's been hard for us to accept that we are a different community than we were 10 years ago, but we are. If we move beyond politically correct conversations about race and poverty, we'd readily realize that we cannot go about "business as usual."

The 2012 Madison School Board Contest:

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)


Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores


Listen to the recent DCCPA candidate forum via this 75MB mp3 audio file.

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My Evening With Diane Ravitch and a Couple Thousand of Her Closest Friends


On Friday night, January 20th, my friend and fellow conservative blogger Mr. Chandler of Buckhorn Road zipped down to the Sacramento Convention Center to hear a talk by noted "education historian" Diane Ravitch. I didn't realize it was sponsored by a bunch of teachers unions; I thought it was going to be an intellectual talk by someone who used to agree with me but now has switched sides. I thought I was going to get some really good information that would "challenge my assumptions" and make me think. Instead, what I got was, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, a liberal red-meat bacchanalia. As Mr. Chandler described it, we were "pilgrims in an unholy land".

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Madison Preparatory IB Charter school deserves city support

Matt Beaty:

It is easy to look at the upcoming Spring elections and focus solely on the potential recall of Gov. Scott Walker. It has become a national issue, and millions of dollars from both Wisconsin and out-of-state are being thrown into the election. But there is another important choice to make on the ballot: two candidates for Madison school board representatives.

While most school district elections are fairly boring and forgettable, this year's vote could help seal the fate of Madison Preparatory Academy. The proposed charter school is aimed at helping lower-income students gain access to college-prep courses. It is championed by Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire, but has not gained his level of enthusiasm in the rest of the city. Voters should support Mary Burke and Nichelle Nichols who have pledged support for the school.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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February 3, 2012

Reversal of the Trend: Income Inequality Now Lower than It Was under Clinton

William McBride:

Numerous academic studies have shown that income inequality in the U.S. over the 20th century exhibits a U-shape. After reaching a peak in the 1920s, it fell during the Great Depression and World War II and rebounded mainly in the 1980s and 1990s.1 The rebound has been attributed to various economic factors, such as globalization, immigration, the growth of super-star salaries, and the computer revolution. However, these factors might better be described as the normal outcomes of a growing economy, according to Adam Smith's idea that the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. The resurgence of inequality has also been attributed to tax policy, particularly the reduction of top marginal rates on personal income from 94 percent in 1945 to 28 percent in 1988.2

The first decade of the 21st century does not exhibit the same trend. Based on the most recent IRS data, from 2009, income inequality has fluctuated considerably since 2000 but is now at about the level it was in 1997. Thus, the Bush-era tax cuts (which had provisions benefitting both high- and low-income taxpayers) did not lead to increased income inequality. By contrast, inequality rose 12 percent between 1993 and 2000, following two tax rate increases on high-income earners. Thus, changes in inequality over the last two decades appear to be driven more by the business cycle than by tax policy.

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February 2, 2012

Madison Public Schools' Superintendent Nerad's request community input into his plan to eliminate the long-standing Racial Achievement Gap

via email:

Below is a letter from Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Please show up on Monday, February 6 to learn about his plan and register to participate in an input session. We need you to exercise your voice, share your view and speak to our children's needs. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
-- "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963

February 2, 2012

RE: Invitation to attend Board of Education meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012

Dear Community Leader:

As you may know, this Monday, February 6, 2012, we are poised to present to the Board of Education a significant and system-wide plan to close the achievement gaps in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Building Our Future: A Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement

We invite you to attend Monday's Board of Education workshop at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road in Fitchburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. This workshop is for presentation purposes only. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to speak. However, Monday's workshop marks the beginning of a two-month, community-wide engagement process. We invite parents, students, and residents concerned about the future of our children to join one or more of the many sessions held throughout Madison to learn about the achievement gaps in the MMSD and discuss and provide input into the plan.

I have greatly appreciated your concern, commitment, and willingness to challenge us to provide the kind of education that every child deserves and is due. Together, we must eliminate our achievement gaps.

The Board of Education workshop on Monday, February 6th is just the beginning. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming information and input sessions. To register for a session, go to:

Beginning Tuesday, February 7, go to: to read more about the Plan.

Daniel A. Nerad
Superintendent of Schools

Reprinted from a letter sent to community leaders today by Superintendent Nerad. We are sharing this to inform you and help the Madison Metropolitan School District get the word out. We have not yet seen the plan and therefore, this email should not viewed as an endorsement of it. We will reserve judgment until after the plan is released, we have had a chance to review it, and the public has responded.

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Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Michael Flores

Arlene Silveira

Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10's negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?
Both Silveira and Flores answered Yes.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio

Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.

I suspect that at least 60% of Wisconsn school districts will adopt their current teacher contracts as "handbooks". The remainder will try different approaches. Some will likely offer a very different environment for teachers.

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Stakes high for Nerad on achievement gap proposal, including his contract which currently expires June, 2013

Matthew DeFour:

lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad's upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.

The plan is billed as a blueprint for addressing an intractable, divisive issue in Madison, and it could also factor into the upcoming School Board discussion of Nerad's future in Madison.

The United Way of Dane County has made closing the achievement gap one of its primary issues for more than 15 years through the Schools of Hope tutoring program. But president Leslie Howard said the recent debate over the proposed Madison Prepatory Academy charter school has drawn more public attention to the issue than ever before.

"I don't want to say something so grandiose that everything's at stake, but in some ways it feels like that," Howard said.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Related links:

When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed...and not before

"They're all rich, white kids and they'll do just fine" -- NOT!

Acting White

Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison's Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

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Getting Ready For The Common Core

Susan B. Neuman:

States are now working intently on developing plans that will make new, common standards a reality. A recent report from Education First and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center concludes that that all but one of the 47 states adopting the Common Core State Standards is now in the implementation phase. Seven states have fully upgraded professional development, curriculum materials, and evaluation systems in preparation for the 2014-2015 school year.

Nary a word has been spoken about how to prepare teachers to implement common standards appropriately in the early childhood years. Although the emphasis on content-rich instruction in ways that builds knowledge is an important one, standards groups have virtually ignored the early years when these critical skills first begin to develop.

Young children are eager to learn about the sciences, arts, and the world around them. And, as many early childhood teachers recognize, we need to provide content-rich instruction that is both developmentally appropriate and highly engaging to support students' learning.

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Can Obama Really Lower the Cost of College?

Andrew Rotherham:

Let's cut right to the chase -- I have about the same chance of being picked up by the Boston Red Sox as a utility player as President Obama does of having his proposals to control college costs get through Congress this year. But looking at what the President proposed on Friday (in a raucous speech at the University of Michigan) through the lens of short-term Capitol Hill feasibility misses the significance of what Obama is up to. Just a few years ago, the ideas the President hinted at in last week's State of the Union and is now describing in more depth were considered fringe topics, basically the province of a few wonks and reform-minded policymakers. Talk of improving productivity in higher education bordered on blasphemy. Now the President of the United States is on board.

Obama wants to provide more data to parents and students about what colleges cost and how their students do after graduation. He also wants to change how federal aid works in order to create incentives for schools to keep costs down and keep interest on federal student loans low. Most noteworthy is his attempt to catalyze innovations at colleges and universities to improve productivity and encourage states to reform higher education through a grant competition similar to his Race to the Top program that has led many states to adopt K-12 reforms in order to win federal dollars. More specifics on the higher-ed competition will accompany the President's budget request in February.

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Media, district levy advocacy not appropriate, not leadership

Laurie Rogers

"And I tell you this: you do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it's usually called 'assault' - not 'leadership'."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, as told to Emmet John Hughes, for "Re-Viewing the Cold War: Domestic Factors and Foreign Policy in the East-West Confrontation"

Last year, someone said to me: "Laurie, I heard you're a nut job. So tell me, who are you, really?" I said: "You've heard me talk. What do you think?" The person chuckled and said: "I kind of like you. I think you care."

I do care. I have a fierce protective instinct toward the community, the country, and the children. I'm a patriot, but no politician. I'm not interested in making money or gaining political allies through District 81, the union or the media. I was trained as an old-style reporter, with an eye to supportable facts and a determination to know and report the truth. I'm not a natural extrovert, but five years of dealing with administrators and board directors have turned me into a fighter. I'm not a liar, and I'm no quitter, and I don't know how to do just the bare minimum of anything (except dusting).

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Jindal's Education Moon Shot

Wall Street Journal:

Newt Gingrich wants the U.S. to return to the moon, but as challenges go he has nothing on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's school reform plans.

Mr. Jindal wants to create America's largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime--all in one legislative session. Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly.

Louisiana is already one of 12 states (including Washington, D.C.) that offer school vouchers, but its program benefits fewer than 2,000 students in New Orleans. Governor Jindal would extend eligibility to any low-income student whose school gets a C, D or F grade from state administrators. That's almost 400,000 students--a bit more than half the statewide population--who could escape failing schools for private or virtual schools, career-based programs or institutions of higher education.

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February 1, 2012

Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison's Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Kaleem Caire, via email

In 2011 Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, reintroduced the topic of the Academic Achievement Gap that exists in theMadison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). As reported, just 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduated on time from MMSD in 2010.

Just as staggering as these statistics is the fact that until the conversation was reintroduced, a large majority of our community was not aware that the academic achievement gap even existed. Why is that? Four more important questions may be: How did we get here?What have we proposed before? Why has this problem persisted? AND - What should we do now? To answer these questions, and many more, the Urban League of Greater Madison would like to invite you to participate in a community forum moderated by Derrell Connor.


6:00 Welcome Derrell Connor

6:05 Introduction of Panel
Milele Chikasa Anana
Dr. Richard Harris
Joseph Hill
Dr. John Odom
Alfonso Studesville
6:15 History of Madison's Academic Achievement Gap

6:30 Panel

6:45 Q&A from Audience Members

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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January 30, 2012

Madison Prep's Private School Plans "in Doubt"

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy doesn't have the money to open as a private school next fall and its future is in the hands of the Madison School Board, according to a lead supporter of the charter school proposal.

Supporters still want to open Madison Prep in the fall but haven't been able to raise about $1.2 million needed to run the school because its future beyond next year remains uncertain, Madison Prep board chairman David Cagigal said last week; moreover, a key donor said her support is contingent on School Board backing.

Cagigal said the private school option was never intended to be more than an interim plan before the school opened as a public charter school. One of the most common reasons charter schools fail is lack of funding, he added.

"We can't approach these donors unless we mitigate the risk," Cagigal said. "The only way we can do that is seek a 2013 vote."

Cagigal acknowledged that if the School Board doesn't vote on opening Madison Prep as a charter school in 2013, "then we may have to wait."

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

The fate of Madison Prep was discussed at a recent school board candidate forum.

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Oakland schools denied secession bids

Katy Murphy:

Charter schools: The Oakland school board rejected the charter school petitions submitted by the faculties of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, public elementary schools in the Fruitvale area that want to secede from the school district. The district's charter schools office recommended that the board approve the request, but Superintendent Tony Smith took a different stance, pointing to the financial investment the district has made in the schools since they opened.

This section of a staff resolution seems to sum up the superintendent's position: "Whereas, the District cannot succeed at its strategic plan to create a Full Service Community School District that serves the whole child ... if after millions of dollars in investment, individual schools that have achieved because of the District's investment can separate and opt out of the District, with the consequence that the District loses its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in

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Groundswell of Approval for Moving School Board Elections to November

New Jersey Left Behind:

Yesterday there were 38 New Jersey school boards that had voted to move their elections to November. Today, just a week after passage of the new legislation, there are 56. Odds are the numbers will continue to increase as boards hold regular business meetings, debate the pros and cons, and pass the required resolution. (Coverage from NJ Spotlight and Trenton Times; here's a FAQ sheet from the DOE, which includes a sample resolution.)

Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, who sponsored the bill, said, "When we spend in the state of New Jersey anywhere from $7 to $9 million a year on school board elections, with voter turnout across the state at approximately 15 percent, I think we're doing a disservice to the residents."

This is a good idea.

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ALEC Reports on the War on Teachers

Anthony Cody:

As state after state rewrites their education laws in line with the mandates from Race to the Top and the NCLB waiver process, the teaching profession is being redefined. Teachers will now pay the price - be declared successes or failures, depending on the rise or fall of their students' test scores. Under NCLB it was schools that were declared failures. In states being granted waivers to NCLB, it is teachers who will be subjected to this ignominy. Of course we will still be required to label the bottom 5% of our schools as failures, but if the Department of Education has its way, soon every single teacher in the profession will be at risk for the label.

This revelation came to me as I read the Score Card on Education prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), authored by Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips. This is a remarkable document. It provides their report on where each of the states stands on the education "reform" that has become the hallmark of corporate philanthropies, the Obama administration and governors across the nation.

It begins with a histrionic comparison between the struggle over our schools and the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. The authors write:

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History, Not "Conspiracy": Kaleem Caire's Connections

Allen Ruff, via a kind email:

First of a series

The recent controversy over the Urban League of Greater Madison's proposal for a Madison Preparatory Academy has been framed primarily as a local story pitting contending interests within the city. The charter school's promoters, supporters and mainstream media have portrayed the ULGM's CEO and President, Kaleem Caire as the Prep's public champion and native son returned home on a mission to help "close the achievement gap," the racial disparities in Madison's schools.

But Caire's well-established national ties, spanning more than a decade, to numbers of conservative foundations, think tanks and individuals bent on privatizing public school coffers, creating for-profit schools, and destroying teachers' unions, certainly suggest that there is more to the story.

Caire has consistently dismissed any suggestion of his links to various right-wing efforts. On occasion he has admitted some distant connections but asserted his independence by saying, "They have their agenda, but we have ours." Lately, he has taken to waving off critic's references to such ties as nothing more than "guilt-by-association crap" or part of a "conspiracy" and "whisper campaign" coming from those trying to discredit the Mad Prep Academy project. However, a readily traceable history reveals some truth to the charges.

180K PDF version.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Clusty Search: Allen Ruff, Blekko, google, bing.

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January 29, 2012

Education & The State of Our Union

Matthew McKnight:

On primary and secondary education, Obama essentially advocated three directives: raise the dropout age to eighteen, continue his Race to the Top program, and loosen the standardized restrictions on teachers. Obama is right to say that the minimum requirements set by No Child Left Behind, in the ten years the law has been in effect, have done little to shrink the achievement gap, and to consider an alternative. But it's too early to know if Race to the Top is the right one. The first, sufficiently rigorous evaluation will begin in March, and will only be completed and released two years later. He's also right to say that "teachers matter," and that good ones ought to have the freedom and income to do their job well.

That education cannot be treated in a bubble is an important truth that should not be missed. And yet, while the President's diagnosis--even with its simplifications--was accurate, his prescriptions were light on details. "Challenges remain," he said, but "we know how to solve them." Do we? It was not even clear how to resolve tension between his stated desire not to confine educators to "teaching to the test" and the way the Race to the Top rewards testing, aside from handing it off to individual states. Injunctions like "more competition" miss the wide scope of the problem. Indeed, in a country where the fault lines in education align so neatly along economic, racial, and geographic divisions, there's almost an urge to accept rhetorical shows of confidence, and not look too far beyond them.

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Raising Wisconsin's Student Achievement Bar?

Alan Borsuk:

What if you suddenly found out that half of the eighth-graders in Wisconsin, all kids you thought were highly rated readers, really didn't merit being called proficient? That instead of four out of five being pretty decent in math, it was really two out of five?

You better start thinking how you'd react because it's likely that is what's coming right at us. That's how dramatic a proposal last week by the state Department of Public Instruction is.

As parents, teachers, school leaders, politicians, community leaders and taxpayers, will we be motivated to do better? Will we see the need for change? Will we rise to the occasion? Or will we settle for being discouraged and basically locked into what we've come to expect?

Here's what's going on: With Congress failing to pass a revision, originally due in 2007, of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, the U.S. Department of Education has begun issuing waivers from the enforcement program of the increasingly dysfunctional law. Wisconsin wants a waiver - it's one of the things people such as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic-oriented Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers agree on. So a task force developed a proposal. People have until Feb. 3 to react to the proposal and the application is to be submitted Feb. 21.

The plan will change a lot of important dynamics of what students and schools in Wisconsin are expected to accomplish. It calls for publicly rating all schools on a 1 to 100 point scale, with student outcomes as a key factor. Schools that score low will face orders to improve and, possibly, closing. And that goes for every school with students whose education is paid for with public dollars - in other words, private schools in the voucher programs for Milwaukee and Racine kids are included.

Overall, the waiver plan means we are at the point where Wisconsin gets serious about raising expectations for student achievement. Wisconsin is regarded as having one of the lowest bars in the U.S. for rating a student as proficient. No more, the proposal says.


Eighth-grade reading: Using the WKCE measuring stick, 86% of students were rated as "advanced" or "proficient." Using the NAEP measuring stick, it was 35% - a 51-point difference. At least as vivid: Using the WKCE measure, 47% of eighth-graders were "advanced," the top bracket. Using the NAEP measure, it was 3%. Three percent! In other words, only a handful of kids statewide would be labeled advanced under the new system, not the nearly half we're used to.

Fourth-grade reading: On the WKCE scale, 82% were proficient or advanced. On the NAEP scale, it was 33%.

Eighth-grade math: WKCE, 78% proficient. NAEP: 41%.

Fourth-grade math: WKCE: 79% proficient. NAEP: 47%.

A substantial improvement in academic standards is warranted and possibly wonderful, assuming it happens and avoids being watered down. The rightly criticized WKCE was an expensive missed opportunity.


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January 28, 2012

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter

65K PDF, via a kind email.

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January 27, 2012

Madison Teachers Candidate Endorsement(s)

To all of you with #recallwithdrawal: Time to focus on Arlene and Micheal for #MMSDBOE!! #99percent

MTI is officially endorsing Arlene Silviera for Madison School Board. Come meet her tonight! 100 WI Ave #700 5-7pm

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

via a kind reader's email

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Progessive Dane Endorses Michael Flores & Arlene Silveira (i) for Madison School Board

Progressive Dane:

Madison School District Board
Seat 1: Arlene Silveira Website / Facebook
Seat 2: Michael Flores Website / Facebook

Now we have to make sure they get elected! That takes money (some) and work (lots).

The money part is easy--come to the Progressive Dane Campaign Fund-raiser

Sunday February 12, 5-7 pm
Cardinal Bar, 418 E Wilson St
(Potluck food, Cash Bar, Family Friendly)

Meet the candidates, hear about Madison School District and Dane County issues, pick some to work on this year!

Both Madison School Board races are contested this year.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

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First Niagara's $3M to shape CT school-reform debate

Hartford Business, via a kind Doug Newman email:

First Niagara Bank has pledged $3 million to support a nonprofit group that is representing business interests in Connecticut's education reform debate.

The money will go to Hartford's Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), which is led by a group of prominent Connecticut business leaders including former Hartford Financial Services Group CEO Ramani Ayer, and Peyton Patterson, the former chief executive of NewAllinace Bank, which was acquired by First Niagara Bank last year.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform also unveiled Thursday its education agenda for the upcoming legislative session, which includes urging the state to adopt:

--Teacher and leader employment and retention policies that attract the highest quality professionals and insist upon effectiveness as defined by their ability to demonstrate improvement in student performance, not seniority, as the measure of success defined by redesigned evaluation systems.

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Has Students Come First hurt teacher unions in Idaho?

Kristin Rodine:

Idaho's controversial new school reform laws gutted teacher associations' collective bargaining powers, but local union leaders say they can still work effectively with their district administration to help shape policies.

"This (legislation) basically said to districts that if you don't want to work with teachers in these areas, you can say by law you don't have to do it anymore," Boise Education Association President Andrew Rath said. "But I think they've found that districts want to work with the teachers."

Association leaders Sam Stone of Caldwell and Luke Franklin of Meridian agreed.

"We can always talk to our district," Franklin said. "Our relationship isn't really 'us against them.'"

The Students Come First laws, unveiled by schools Superintendent Tom Luna one year ago and approved by the 2011 Legislature, limits teacher contract negotiations to the issues of pay and benefits and eliminates working conditions and other issues from master contracts.

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Let's evaluate all ways to close gap

Madison School Board Candidate Mary Burke

n recent listening sessions with Madison parents, I heard how we can improve our schools, what we can be really proud of and stories about our wonderful teachers. In these discussions and in others, people have talked about addressing the racial achievement gap and shared concerns about Madison Prep.

For the 12 years I have been involved in Madison schools, I have been championing education and addressing the racial achievement gap. An East High teacher and I co-founded the AVID/TOPS program, which I also supported financially and continue to co-chair. This program has increased the number of students graduating and going on to post-secondary education. But AVID TOPS alone is not enough. We need to do more.

When Madison Prep was discussed last fall, it was the only proposal put on the table in the last five years to significantly address the racial achievement gap. At that time the teachers union and the planners of Madison Prep were in agreement that the school would run with Madison School District employees, union teachers and under the leadership of the district (as an instrumentality). A major concern raised was that Madison Prep would pull resources needed by existing schools.

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January 26, 2012

School choice is alive and growing -- in other states

Richard Rider:

The most important domestic subject that I FAIL to adequately cover is K-12 education. It's potentially the most effective tool we have for increasing vertical mobility in our society -- and hence is currently misused as the best single method to repress disadvantaged minorities.

What the education unions and their bought-and-paid-for Democrat allies have done to inner city black and Hispanic kids would warm the cockles of any KKK Grand Dragon. The Progressives' steadfast opposition to improving education angers me every time I think about it.

Thus I include intact below an excellent op-ed on the topic from the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS. It's upbeat -- giving the growing success of the school choice movement in all its many flavors.

Sadly, California is one of the least successful states in this effort to improve education. All we hear from CA liberals is that we don't spend enough. But the growing popularity and acceptance of school choice in other states is going to make it more and more difficult for our voters to ignore this innovation.

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Education a key solution

Barbara Prindiville:

The top priority facing southeastern Wisconsin - and, indeed, the biggest challenge for the entire state - is the creation of more new jobs.

There are many good ideas for creating new jobs, and many deserve further consideration. The creation of new venture capital funds, tax breaks for industries and workforce training incentives for companies that locate in Wisconsin are all worthy of further consideration and possible action.

But the best strategy for creating new jobs is to look at what companies want when deciding where to expand a plant or locate a production facility. No doubt, they look at quality of life, housing, transportation, the overall community and other factors.

However, time and again, one of the top assets that attracts new jobs is a quality education system at all levels that produces bright, articulate and engaging future workers who accept the challenge of the new international economy and the interdependent global economic landscape. That starts at kindergarten and continues beyond high school. Gone are the days when a student could graduate from high school and move to a job that could last a lifetime.

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January 25, 2012

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio

Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.

The event was sponsored by the Dane County Council of Public Affairs.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.

UPDATE 2.8.2012: A transcript is now available.

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Pennsylvania's Property Tax Independence Act

Pennsylvania Representative Jim Cox, via a kind reader's email:

Details of the latest plan to eliminate and replace school property taxes have been finalized and the legislation will be introduced shortly in the Pennsylvania House and Senate.

House Bill 1776, The Property Tax Independence Act, looks in part to the former School Property Tax Elimination Act (SPTEA) for its basic structure. While The Property Tax Independence Act mirrors some of the provisions of the former SPTEA, the plan has been comprehensively rewritten to account for lawmakers' concerns and preferences in order to eliminate objections common to the previous legislation.

  • The Property Tax Independence Act will eliminate school property and local school nuisance taxes across the Commonwealth and will replace those taxes with funding from a single state source.
  • The Property Tax Independence Act introduces a modernized school funding method that is based on 21st century economic realities.
  • The Property Tax Independence Act will ABOLISH the school property tax as well as eliminate the local school earned income tax and nuisance taxes such as the per capita and privilege-to-work taxes imposed by school districts.
  • The Property Tax Independence Act uses in great measure our current sales tax mechanism to fund schools, restoring the original intent of the tax.
  • The sales tax provides a predictable and stable funding source that is tied to economic growth. This is in clear contrast to the school property tax which is not based on economic growth and is subject to much variation.
  • Current school spending regularly exceeds tax revenue and The Property Tax Independence Act addresses this problem head on by limiting school budget increases to the rate of inflation.
Wisconsin's property taxes have increased significantly over the years. How long will this continue?

Much more, here.

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The Dangerous Notion That Debt Doesn't Matter

Steven Rattner:

WITH little fanfare, a dangerous notion has taken hold in progressive policy circles: that the amount of money borrowed by the federal government from Americans to finance its mammoth deficits doesn't matter.

Debt doesn't matter? Really? That's the most irresponsible fiscal notion since the tax-cutting mania brought on by the advent of supply-side economics. And it's particularly problematic right now, as Congress resumes debating whether to extend the payroll-tax reduction or enact other stimulative measures.

Here's the theory, in its most extreme configuration: To the extent that the government sells its debt to Americans (as opposed to foreigners), those obligations will disappear as aging folks who buy those Treasuries die off.

Larry Summers Executive Summary of Economic Policy Work, December 2008 (PDF):
Closing the gap between what the campaign proposed and the estimates of the campaign offsets would require scaling back proposals by about $100 billion annually or adding newoffsets totaling the same. Even this, however, would leave an average deficit over the next decade that would be worse than any post-World War II decade. This would be entirely unsustainable and could cause serious economic problems in the both the short run and the long run.
via Ryan Lizza.

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Coming soon: A new Florida school grading formula

Kathleen McGrory:

The way Florida grades its public schools will soon be changing.

On Tuesday, the state Board of Education heard an extensive presentation on proposed changes to the school grading formula.

The ideas ran the gamut, from incorporating the test scores of children with disabilities, to giving extra points to students who boost their test scores into the highest range.

Of course, high school grades will have to take into account the new end-of-course exams, which are being given this year in algebra, geometry and biology. Some middle-school students will also be taking the exams -- and the grades given to middle schools need to reflect that, too.

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January 24, 2012

2012 Madison School Board Candidate Website & Contact Information

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.

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Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform

Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips:

ALEC's 17th edition of the Report Card on American Education contains a comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels (performance and gains for low-income students) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia (see full report for complete methodology). The Report Card details what education policies states currently have in place and provides a roadmap for legislators to follow to bring about educational excellence in their state.

Focusing on the reforms recently enacted in Indiana, and with a foreword by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, this Report Card on American Education examines the experiences other states can learn from the struggles and triumps in Indiana.

Authors Dr. Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips analyze student scores, looking at both performance as well as how scores have improved over recent years. Additionally, each state is graded based on its current education policies.

Wisconsin ranks 19th.

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Seattle's Pendulum Problem

Charlie Mas:

District leadership style has swung back and forth between two extremes. It needs to be stopped and held at the center.

The Seattle School Board of 2000 - 2003 contributed to the financial fiasco that toppled the Olchefske administration. It was not just their misplaced trust, but the blindness of their trust that allowed things in the district - not just the financial reporting - to spiral down. They could have found the budget problem in the numbers reported to them (Director Bass did find it), but the majority of them lacked the necessary skepticism to look for it.

In response, the voters replaced them with a more activist board. It started with Director Bass elected in 2001. The four board directors elected in 2003 formed a much more hands-on and skeptical board majority - perhaps too much. They found a District that was poorly managed. They found all kinds of problems that had grown over the years and they were blunt and public about exposing it. I won't say that they were wrong, but they were perhaps impatient. Culture doesn't change overnight. This Board was accused of micro-managing the district and they were accused of being dysfunctional.

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School reform proposals are in limbo in Missouri General Assembly

Jason Hancock:

Missouri lawmakers are facing increasing pressure to deal with a potential flood of student transfers stemming from the loss of accreditation in urban school districts like Kansas City's.

But looming over this year's legislative session is a pledge by House Speaker Steve Tilley, a Perryville Republican, that any plan to deal with school transfers to suburban districts, or adjustments to the state's school funding formula, be coupled with ideas that have doomed previous reform efforts.

Those include controversial measures such as expanding charter schools, eliminating teacher tenure, basing teacher pay on student achievement and offering tax credit vouchers to parents who want to send children to private schools.

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January 23, 2012

Wisconsin DPI seeks comments on draft NCLB waiver request; "Education for today's world requires increased rigor and higher expectations"

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, via a kind reader's email:

MADISON -- Wisconsin's request for waivers from several provisions of federal education law creates the expectation that every child will graduate ready for college and careers by setting higher standards for students, educators, and schools.

"Education for today's world requires increased rigor and higher expectations," said State Superintendent Tony Evers. "The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has shackled schools by being overly prescriptive and prohibiting creative reforms that would help more students gain the skills needed for further education and the workforce. Wisconsin's request for flexibility from NCLB is driven by the belief that increasing rigor across the standards, assessment, and accountability system will result in improved instruction and improved student outcomes."

To receive waivers, state education agencies must demonstrate how they will use flexibility from NCLB requirements to address four principles: transitioning to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; developing systems of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; evaluating and supporting teacher and principal effectiveness; and reducing duplication. The Department of Public Instruction has posted its draft waiver request online and is asking for public comment through a survey. After the two-week comment period, the agency will revise the waiver request and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education by Feb. 21.

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Governor's education policies fail Wisconsin

Sondy Pope-Roberts:

Over the course of the past year, Gov. Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature conducted an all-out assault on Wisconsin's cherished public schools.

Last summer, the governor signed a state budget that reduced funding for public education by $1.6 billion. While our public schools were forced to manage these devastating cuts, the governor increased funding to unaccountable and unproven voucher schools by $40 million and approved $2.3 billion in giveaways to large corporations and special interests.

Districts all over the state have already begun to feel the pain of these cuts through larger class sizes, staff reductions and a loss of experienced educators due to massive retirements. Nearly 97 percent of districts are seeing reductions in state aid this year. And a recent nonpartisan national report shows Wisconsin is second in the country in education cuts. However, the worst may be yet to come.

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Madison Teachers' Solidarity Newsletter

January 17, 2012 PDF

January 09, 2012 PDF. Via Madison Teachers, Inc..

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January 22, 2012

Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2011

Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Charter schools are public schools. Historically, however, the relationship between school districts and charters has been nonexistent at best, antagonistic at worst. As the charter sector continues to grow steadily, an analysis of the national landscape explores how that relationship needs to start changing--and where it already has.

This year's 6th annual edition of Hopes, Fears, & Reality provides a clear roadmap for school districts and charter schools interested in working together to improve education options. The report explains the risks and technical challenges behind charter-district collaboration and provides powerful examples of how they can be overcome.

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What Hawaii Teachers Are Saying About Agreement

Katherine Poythress:

Emails and direct messages from teachers wanting to vent about the proposed contract between their union and the state have been flowing into my inbox.

Every single one came with a request not to publish the name of the writer. "I just want you to know," they say, of the reason they're writing. The problem with knowing, though, is that you can never un-know. These teachers were sharing thoughts that give deep insight into educators' concerns as they head to the polls Thursday to vote on the new contract.

You might be shocked to learn that some of them said they would prefer abiding with the "last, best and final" offer Gov. Neil Abercrombie imposed on them last July, than take the deal struck earlier this month. They all have their reasons for thinking the way they do about the current agreement. Reasons that deserve to be aired.

So we made a deal of our own. I asked the ones who had contacted me if it would be OK to share their words with our readers -- with the understanding that I will not publish or share names, positions or any information that could betray their identities. We granted them anonymity because they said they feared retaliation and wouldn't share their thoughts otherwise.

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Is Milwaukee back on the reform radar?

Katy Venskus:

There used to be a time when Milwaukee was considered one of the most active education reform cities in the country. The City's private school choice program, the oldest and largest in the country, was our ticket to fame (or infamy, depending on who you ask) through most of the 1990's. The choice program was supposed to be a game changer to public education. It was supposed to set off a chain reaction of innovation and competition that would not only improve the lives of children, but change the way we configured our education policy for the City of Milwaukee. In short, we were going to be the hotbed of the reform movement for decades to come.

Sadly, the game changing education movement we expected didn't come to pass. There is no doubt, however, that the existence of parent choice in Milwaukee has changed the lives of thousands of kids. The movement that created and protected the choice program fostered the development of two of the City's best charter schools and promoted a small sector of independent charters authorizers and schools. Unfortunately, aside from these developments there has been little large-scale reform in Milwaukee since the mid-1990's. Instead of a catalyst, the choice program became a scapegoat for both political parties and many status quo stakeholders. The failing public school district in Milwaukee has been allowed to sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand while union interests and their status quo Democrats blamed the choice program for all the public schools considerable ills. The GOP used the choice program as the be-all-end-all urban education solution, and was happy to let thoughtful public school policy and funding fall by the way side. The independent charter school community put their heads down and tried to stay out of the political fray - they served small pockets of kids very well, but without the ability or the will to take their model to scale. As a result, Milwaukee, not only fell behind, we fell off the map entirely.

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January 21, 2012

Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!)

A chart from the January 9, 2012 edition of WISTAX's Focus. One wonders how long this can be sustained.


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January 20, 2012

How Does a School Board Enforce Policy?

Charlie Mas:

I see a lot of support among the District leadership for clear job descriptions and duties for everyone in the District - everyone, that is, except the District leadership. Each Board member will acknowledge that the Board has the duty to enforce policy yet no Board member will allow that duty to be explicitly stated in any document. It does not appear in the newly adopted Series 1000 Policies. It does not appear in the policy that describes the duties of the Board. It does not appear in the policy on governance. Now the Board is going to adopt two more elements of Board policy that should mention this duty yet fail to do so.

The board policy preamble on the Board meeting agenda this week is an ideal place for it, but instead the preamble makes reference to it only vaguely and euphemistically as "governance tools". It says that policies can be used by the superintendent to hold staff accountable but it neglects to say that they can be used by the Board to hold the superintendent accountable.

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Wisconsin Governor Walker says education bill based on task forces is nearing

Erin Richards:

Before a crowd of hundreds of school district officials and school board members in Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday that recommendations from a variety of state education task forces will soon be solidified in formal legislation.

The work of three main groups spearheaded by Walker over the past year - a reading task force, a team that's looked at how to design a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system, and a group figuring out how to rate school quality - will make up a reform package of education legislation, Walker said.

Meanwhile, some critics questioned the governor's tone of collaboration and cooperation Thursday, saying that after cutting education spending and limiting collective bargaining, he's trying to play nice now only because he's likely facing a recall election.

Even state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who has worked closely with Walker on the task forces and praised the work of those involved, made it clear he was concerned about being left out of the legislation-drafting process.

Matthew DeFour:
The proposed legislative reforms have been developed over the past year by three statewide task forces working separately on improving literacy, developing a teacher evaluation model and creating a school accountability system to replace No Child Left Behind.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who helped lead all three groups, said he wasn't involved in drafting the education legislation, but would support any actions that are the direct product of the task forces "and deliver on the intent of these collaborative groups."

"Many students' schools are already planning for more budget cuts next year on top of cuts made this year," Evers said in a statement. "Education reforms must be fully funded and not simply be more unfunded mandates that result in further cuts to educational programming for our students."

Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, ranking Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said in a statement she has concerns the work of the task forces was "being hijacked for political gain."

"It is unnerving to hear that (Evers) was not consulted during the drafting of this legislation," Pope-Roberts said. "Cutting our state's foremost education experts out of the process at this time is very shortsighted and reckless."

Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.

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One Education Spending & Reform

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Renewing his call for passage of a vouchers pilot program, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the governor drilled into his education reform proposals for government cost-savings.

"Let's face it: more money does not necessarily lead to a better education," Christie said. "Today, in Newark, we spend $23,000 per student for instruction and services. But only 23% of ninth graders who enter high school this year will receive high school diplomas in four years. Asbury Park is similar: per pupil costs, at almost $30,000 a year, are nearly 75% above the state average. But the dropout rate is almost 10 times the state average. And math S.A.T. scores lag the state average by 180 points.

"It is time to admit that the Supreme Court's grand experiment with New Jersey children is a failure," the Governor added. "63% of state aid over the years has gone to the Abbott Districts and the schools are still predominantly failing. What we've been doing isn't working for children in failing districts, it is unfair to the other 557 school districts and to our state's taxpayers, who spend more per pupil than almost any state in America."

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The Coming Higher-Ed Revolution

  Stuart Butler:

In recent decades, key sectors of the American economy have experienced huge and disruptive transformations -- shifts that have ultimately yielded beneficial changes to the way producers and customers do business together. From the deregulation that brought about the end of AT&T's "Ma Bell" system, to the way entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs forever changed the computer world once dominated by IBM, to the way the internet and bloggers have upended the business model of traditional newspapers, we have seen industries completely remade -- often in wholly unexpected ways. In hindsight, such transformations seem to have been inevitable; at the time, however, most leaders in these fields never saw the changes coming.

The higher-education industry is on the verge of such a transformative re-alignment. Many Americans agree that a four-year degree is vastly overpriced -- keeping many people out of the market -- and are increasingly questioning the value of what many colleges teach. Nevertheless, for those who seek a certain level of economic security or advancement, a four-year degree is absolutely necessary. Clearly, this is a situation primed for change. In as little as a decade, most colleges and universities could look very different from their present forms -- with the cost of a college credential plummeting even as the quality of instruction rises.

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January 19, 2012

How to solve the achievement gap in Madison?

Nathan Comp:

Just when all signs indicated that supporters of Madison Preparatory Academy were abandoning hope of joining forces with the Madison school district, they've decided to give it one more shot. They're seeking another vote on the controversial charter-school proposal in late February.

Urban League of Greater Madison CEO and president Kaleem Caire says Madison Prep will open this fall as a private entity, but hopes it will transition into the district in 2013, once the district's union contract expires.

Board members who voted against the charter school in December expressed concerns that it would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers Inc., due to a provision requiring district schools to hire union staff.

School board president James Howard, who voted for Madison Prep, says the board may not have time to address the proposal in February.

Whether the Urban League -- which proposed Madison Prep as an ambitious step toward closing the district's decades-old achievement gap -- can recapture its earlier momentum is uncertain, considering that Superintendent Dan Nerad and school board members seem particularly excited about their own plans to address the issue.

"We're going at it from so many different angles right now," says board member Beth Moss. "I can't see how we can't make some improvement."

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.


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Video: Is school choice good or bad for public education?

Ted Bauer, via a kind email:

We produced the above piece for PBS NewsHour in November of 2011; the focus was on new school choice initiatives in Indiana and the backlash they're receiving. School choice remains a major issue in education as 2012 begins, so we wanted to convene several experts for a discussion on the topic. Feel free to add your own comments below, as well.

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NY Governor Reduces State Spending .2%; Crafts Budget On Public Pension, Teacher Evaluation Reform

Zack Fink:

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed an overhaul to the state's pension system and new teacher evaluation system while presenting his $132.5 billion budget plan for the next fiscal year.

The plan reduces overall spending by .2 percent from last year.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Cuomo said his executive budget includes no new taxes, one shot revenues or gimmicks.

It also closes a budget gap of $3.5 billion.

However, while the governor plans to increase education spending by 4 percent or roughly $805 million, he also plans to make that increase contingent upon real reform and, specifically, teacher evaluations.

He's giving the state's teachers 30 days to come up with a statewide evaluation system or he will write his own into the budget for the legislature to approve.

Districts would have one year to get the new system up and running or the state would withhold the promised 4 percent increase in school aid.

Philissa Cramer has more.

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January 17, 2012

Unions adapt to new rules, even as they fight to reverse them

Ben Wieder:

It took nearly a year for Dale Kleinert to negotiate his first teachers' contract. When Kleinert started his job as schools superintendent in Moscow, Idaho, the talks were already underway. Then, discussions reached an impasse. There were disagreements over pay and health care costs, and the pace slowed further when first an outside mediator and later a fact-finder didn't render a decision. It wasn't until May of 2011 that Kleinert and his union counterparts finally reached an agreement.

Just before then, while Kleinert and the teachers were still stuck, Republican lawmakers in Boise were finishing work on plans to take away much of the leverage that Idaho teachers had long enjoyed in these kinds of negotiations. So for Kleinert's next round of talks with Moscow's teachers, which began pretty much right after the previous ones wrapped up, the rules were very different.

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Yes, vote for kids by asking the adult questions about school levies

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

In Eastern Washington, voters are being asked to approve school district levies in a Feb. 14 election. Spokane residents might have seen one or two or 10 billion signs about it strategically placed around the city. I saw a "vote yes for kids" sign at City Hall, tacked to the incoming side of the city bulletin board. I mentioned it to a woman at the counter, and she took it down.

Twice on its front page, The Spokesman-Review published pro-levy material that (to a journalist), can only be seen as full-page advertisements. First was "Anatomy of a Levy." Then there was "Faces of a Levy." Where can it go from there? Ears of a Levy? Elbows of a Levy? Butt-cheeks of a levy?

Meanwhile, the union president published a pro-levy article in the KIDS Newspaper, and the school district helpfully delivered that pro-levy article to elementary schools and students across the city.

Clearly, the district, union and newspaper want us to support the levy. Some local advocates would rather we not. Whatever you decide, please don't just stay home. If just three people vote on the levy, it will pass or fail based on the three votes. As you're bombarded with a heavy emotional campaign to "vote yes for the kids," however, here are a few things to consider.

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January 16, 2012

Wisconsin Senate to take up Open Enrollment schools bill Tuesday

Jason Stein:

The state Senate will take up a bill Tuesday to rewrite the open enrollment law governing when students can transfer out of their home district into another district.

The bill would allow students and parents more time to request a move to a district outside their own. It would require students' home districts to share details about any discipline problems with the outside district.

The bill has ping-ponged back and forth between the Senate and Assembly for the last year as the two houses have worked to agree on amendments.

The Senate action will come amid a busy day at the Capitol, with opponents to Walker expected to deliver more than 700,000 signatures seeking to force a recall election against him.

Supporters said the open enrollment bill would help students struggling in one district move into another one where they can thrive. Opponents argue the legislation could harm some school districts by siphoning off students to other districts, including virtual schools that rely on the Internet to help teach students in their own homes.

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We Should All Vote in the Same Place We Pay Our Taxes

Mike Nichols:

Six school districts in Wisconsin - Hartland-Lakeside, Phelps, Oregon, Oshkosh, Beloit and Sparta - have scheduled school referendums for either February or April.

My advice to school officials who want to prevail: encourage high turn-out among voters who cast their ballots at polling places that are actually inside the schools themselves. It, oddly enough, makes a significant difference.

You probably don't believe this. Neither did voters who were part of an extensive study of polling places in Arizona in 2000 when a ballot initiative proposed raising the state sales tax to support education spending.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study on what's known as "priming" concluded that voters in school buildings are unaware of the influence of so-called "environmental stimuli." We like to think we're smarter than that. Who wants to admit that their vote was based even in part on whether they were standing in a school hallway or a gym rather than a church or a town hall when they cast their ballot? Are we that easily manipulated?

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Schools As Collateral Damage: The Price We Pay For A Decade Of Tweed's Failed Policies

Leo Casey:

Much like the brief torrential rain which drenched New Yorkers on Thursday morning, Mayor Bloomberg's Thursday afternoon State of the City Address received a deluge of media attention. Today, the print and electronic media feature talk of his jeremiad against the UFT, of his attempted resurrection of 'market reforms' such as merit pay which have been discredited even in 'reform' circles, as study after study has shown them ineffective, and of his claims that he will introduce a new evaluation system by fiat. Tellingly, nowhere will you read an account of what the Mayor's proposed imposition of closure under the Turn-Around model would mean for the PLA schools, were he to be successful in implementing it.

Consider what is happening to just a few of the PLA schools. Note that we use here the performance data that, the DoE insists, informs their decisions on the future of schools.

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January 15, 2012

School superintendents' bonuses may be 'an issue from the public's point of view'

Matthew DeFour:

Next year, Verona superintendent Dean Gorrell is in line to collect a $50,000 longevity bonus on top of his $140,000 salary.

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell's would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

And in 2017, Monona Grove superintendent Craig Gerlach can leave the job with an extra year's salary, currently $150,000, paid into a retirement account over the following five years.

Over the past decade, such perks have been added to some Dane County superintendent contracts, even as, on average, their salary increases outpaced teacher pay hikes, according to data provided by the Department of Public Instruction.

"Any type of payout at that level is clearly going to be an issue from the public's point of view," Dale Knapp, research director at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said of the longevity payouts. "The problem becomes once these start getting into contracts, it becomes competition and then they become more prevalent."

Adding bonus language to superintendent contracts became increasingly popular in recent years as school districts faced state-imposed rules on increasing employee compensation.

Perhaps, one day soon, teachers will have similar compensation freedom, or maybe, superintendents should operate under a one size fits all approach...

I'd rather see teacher freedom of movement, and compensation.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: It's Worse Than You Think

Steve Prestegard

Regular readers know that state finances were worse than the Doyle administration admitted during its eight years of fiscal incompetence. But state finances are also worse than the Walker administration admits now.

The proof is the state's Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report, an inch-thick annual tree-killer that summarizes the differences between politicians' claims about the state's fiscal health, and the reality of the state's fiscal health.

The differences lie in correctly measuring state finances, as the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance explains:

A recent WISTAX publication mentioned that Wisconsin Medicaid spending increased 87% from 2006 to 2011!

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Charter schools on Washington legislative agenda 'worth the fight': Many say we can't wait longer for solution; others worry

Brian Rosenthal:

The proposals would allow charter schools in the state, establish a process for failing schools to be taken over by outside organizations and continue an overhaul of the way all teachers and principals are evaluated.

Charters, which are public but independent schools allowed to use unconventional techniques, would be closely monitored by a state board, lawmakers said. Only 50 would be allowed in the state - with no more than 10 new ones authorized each year. Each would be required to adopt a specific plan to serve educationally disadvantaged children.

The evaluations, which would include student test scores and classroom observations, would build on a pilot system already used in several districts in the state, lawmakers said.

Poor performance on the evaluations could lead teachers to lose their tenure, but the focus would be on improvement of teaching methods.

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Contempt, confusion, and cheers in State of the City reactions

Philissa Cramer:

Minutes after Mayor Bloomberg finished delivering his State of the City address today, reactions started flying about his aggressive slate of education proposals.

The reactions ranged from withering (in the case of UFT President Michael Mulgrew) to bewildered (Ernest Logan, principals union president) to supportive (charter school operator Eva Moskowitz and others whose organizations would benefit from the proposals).

Below, I've compiled the complete set of education-related reactions that dropped into my inbox. I'll add to the list as more reactions roll in.

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January 14, 2012

Madison Prep backers seek school board re-vote

Nathan Comp:

When asked why he didn't second Ed Hughes' motion at the Dec. 19 meeting to delay the schools' opening until 2013, Howard replied, "We had not discussed the implications of what that means. I think we have time if we're talking about 2013, to make sure we do it correctly, because we don't know what the rules of the game will be in 2013."

Superintendent Dan Nerad said, "Whether it will move forward I don't know. That depends on whether the motion gets on the floor. I don't have a read on it at this point."

Others aren't as diplomatic. "This is a waste of time and money for all involved," said TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College professor and district watchdog who is among Madison Prep's most ardent critics.

"The votes are not there and will not be there," he continued. "It distracts from the essential work of addressing the real issues of the district, including issues of achievement for students in poverty."

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Arkansas Education Board approves 4 new charter Schools

Associated Press:

Arkansas' education board has approved four new charter schools.

The board voted unanimously Monday in favor of Cross County School District's proposed charter elementary school. The board also approved applications for proposed charter schools in Lincoln, Osceola and Warren.

Department of Education spokesman Seth Blomeley says charter schools are eligible to apply for up to $600,000 in federal money to use toward startup and other one-time costs.

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January 13, 2012

Madison Prep supporters vow to keep pushing until vote is yes

Dan Simmons:

Leaders of a proposed charter school for low-income minority students said Friday that they expect to have sufficient funding and will open Madison Prep as a private academy next fall but will continue to return to the Madison School Board for approval, starting with a proposed revote in February to make the school a publicly funded charter starting in 2013.

That would be just weeks before a Madison School Board election in which two Madison Prep supporters are vying for seats.

"We will go back, and we'll go back, and we'll go back until the vote is a yes," said Laura DeRoche-Perez, director of school development at the Urban League of Greater Madison. "That is because we cannot wait."

The prospects for school board approval for the 2013 opening, at least with the current board, appear uncertain after the same board voted against the school opening in 2012 by a 5-2 margin in December. Those who opposed cited the school's plan to use non-union teachers and staff and concerns over the school's accountability to taxpayers and the district and don't appear to have wavered in their opposition.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Bloomberg Vows Tougher Steps to Help Troubled Schools

David Chen & Anna Phillips:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, directly confronting leaders of the teachers' union, proposed on Thursday a merit-pay system that would award top performers with $20,000 raises and threatened to remove as many as half of those working at New York City's most troubled schools.

Delivering his 11th and penultimate State of the City address, Mr. Bloomberg vowed to double down on his longstanding efforts to revive the city's long-struggling schools, saying, "We have to be honest with ourselves: we have only climbed halfway up the mountain, and halfway isn't good enough."

"We cannot accept failing schools," he said during an often-passionate one-hour speech at Morris High School in the Bronx. "And we cannot accept excuses for inaction or delay."

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January 12, 2012

Madison Prep and Urban League to seek new vote on Madison Prep

Kaleem Caire, via email:


For immediate release: January 12, 2012
Contact: Laura DeRoche-Perez
Director of School Development
Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53713
608-729-1230 (office)
608-556-2066 (cell)

Urban League and Madison Prep Boards to Hold Press Conference
Will announce their plans to seek a new vote on authorizing the opening of Madison Prep for 2013

WHAT: Madison Preparatory Academy and the Urban League of Greater Madison will announce their intentions to seek a February 2012 vote by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to authorize Madison Prep to open in the fall of 2013. Three MMSD Board of Education members have already shared their support of the motion.

WHEN: 3:30 pm CST, Friday, January 13
WHERE: Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Madison, WI 53713
WHO: Madison Preparatory Academy Board of Directors
Urban League of Greater Madison

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche-Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at or 608-729-1230.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Time to Ax Public Programs That Don't Yield Results (Start with Head Start)

Joel Klein, via a kind reader's email:

Barack Obama has been accused of "class warfare" because he favors closing several tax loopholes -- socialism for the wealthy -- as part of the deficit-cutting process. This is a curious charge: class warfare seems to be a one-way street in American politics. Over the past 30 years, the superwealthy have waged far more effective warfare against the poor and the middle class, via their tools in Congress, than the other way around. How else can one explain the fact that the oil companies, despite elephantine profits, are still subsidized by the federal government? How else can one explain the fact that hedge-fund managers pay lower tax rates than their file clerks? Or that farm subsidies originally meant for family farmers go to huge corporations that hardly need the help?

Actually, there is an additional explanation. Conservatives, like liberals, routinely take advantage of a structural flaw in the modern welfare state: there is no creative destruction when it comes to government programs. Both "liberal" and "conservative" subsidies linger in perpetuity, sometimes metastasizing into embarrassing giveaways. Even the best-intentioned programs are allowed to languish in waste and incompetence. Take, for example, the famed early-education program called Head Start. (See more about the Head Start reform process.)

The idea is, as Newt Gingrich might say, simple liberal social engineering. You take the million or so poorest 3- and 4-year-old children and give them a leg up on socialization and education by providing preschool for them; if it works, it saves money in the long run by producing fewer criminals and welfare recipients -- and more productive citizens. Indeed, Head Start did work well in several pilot programs carefully run by professionals in the 1960s. And so it was "taken to scale," as the wonks say, as part of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.

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Race talk fuels tension in Madison Prep debate

Pat Schneider:

That Kaleem Caire, the charismatic champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy, is frustrated by the proposal's defeat before the Madison School Board last month should surprise no one.

But the prospect that resentment over the defeat of the proposal runs so deep that it could poison the initiative's future prospects as a private school or public charter -- that's a distressing possibility whose existence is just now emerging.

The proposal for the school by the Urban League of Greater Madison has won many supporters because of the embarrassingly persistent achievement gap between whites and minorities in the Madison School District, but when Caire spoke Monday to Communities United, a community group dedicated to social justice, his passionate appeal to go beyond the district's existing model was laced with anger towards the School Board members who voted down the plan.

Much of the discussion Monday between Caire and a handful of staffers from the Urban League -- where he is president and CEO -- and those at the Communities United meeting centered around the ultra-sensitive topics of race and racism.

Even in that friendly environment (the informal, nonpartisan coalition was already on record in favor of the school), Caire's accusations against school officials were rejected as political spin by a Madison City Council member on hand and criticized as more of the "race card" by an African-American activist who has skirmished with Caire before over Madison Prep. But a Latina parent and activist greeted his words as an apt assessment of the situation in Madison schools.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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January 11, 2012

Scott Milfred talks Madison Prep, Walker recall, Iowa results on "For the Record"

Wisconsin State Journal:

Click here to watch Sunday's "For the Record" on WISC-TV (Ch. 3) with Neil Heinen. Panelists include State Journal editorial page editor Scott Milfred, Republican insider Brandon Schulz and The Progressive editor Matt Rothschild. They bantered about the recent Iowa caucus results, the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, the likely gubernatorial recall and the coming Madison School Board elections, which Milfred argues are likely to decide whether a charter school called Madison Preparatory Academy opens its doors."

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January 9, 2012

The Ignominious Ignorance Behind Bonnie Dumanis' Education Plan for San Diego

Doug Porter:

In a move that qualifies as one of the most ignorant and opportunist positions ever taken by a local politician; the Dumanis Mayoral Campaign announced its "Bold" educational initiative this past Thursday at a press conference. The details of the effort--expanding the school board, creating oversight committees and establishing a bureaucracy within the City government to oversee "liaison" efforts were widely reported in the local news media. Candidate Dumanis got lots of face time on local tv news as her plan was uncritically rolled out to the electorate.

The local press failed to notice that Carmel Valley, where the Dumanis presser was held isn't even in the San Diego Unified School District. The Mayoral candidate appeared blissfully unaware that schools in that area are part of the San Dieguito district as she prattled on about "Leadership, vision and experience are needed to put our schools on a new path because it's clear the path we are on today is the wrong one."

Asked about who she worked with in drafting her plan, Dumanis would only say that she'd consulted with an unnamed group of teachers, parents, students and others interested in reform. It's clear though, that if you look at her list of campaign contributors, the "Bold" plan is largely drawn from the wreckage of the failed San Diegans for Great Schools ballot initiative that, despite receiving over $1 million in donations from a few well heeled "philanthropists", couldn't gather enough signatures to be placed in front of the voters.

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Senator's bill would cap Cal State University presidents' salaries

Nanette Asimov:

The salaries of California State University campus presidents would be capped, and discussions about their pay would be held in public, under a bill being proposed by a state senator frustrated that CSU has been raising executive pay as well as tuition.

The proposal comes months after CSU trustees hired a campus president in San Diego for $400,000 a year - $100,000 more than his predecessor - and at the same meeting that they approved a 12 percent tuition increase.

"It is not reasonable to give $100,000 raises to executive positions, especially when simultaneously raising tuition," said state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County), author of SB755.

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In New Jersey, a year makes quite a difference

Kathleen Nugent:

Sometimes it's hard to realize progress when you're caught up in the daily grind. You tend to take for granted where you are since the focus is always on what's next. So, this post is a glance back at where we were a year ago in three priority areas in New Jersey education: tenure reform, leadership at the NJ Department of Education, and the search for Newark Public Schools' superintendent.

1) New Jersey's tenure reform debate

On December 9, 2010, Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Chairwoman of the NJ Senate Education Committee, held the state's first-ever hearing on tenure reform. Although conversations on tenure reform today are commonplace in New Jersey, there was no substantive discussion of it before Ruiz's hearing.

Witnesses at the hearing included officials from NJ Department of Education (NJDOE), Colorado state Senator Michael Johnston (sponsor of Colorado's "Great Teachers and Great Leaders" bill - aka SB 191, considered to be one of the strongest teacher evaluation and tenure reform bills in the nation), TNTP's Executive Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Weisberg, and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), among others. A few highlights from the day's testimony:

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New York Governor Cuomo picks fight with schools, gets one

Associated Press:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a fight last week with what has long been Albany's most powerful force: public schools.

In his State of the State address, he accused teachers' unions, school boards and school aid lobbyists of being more interested in adults than children.

"We need major reform," he said Wednesday. "We need to focus on student achievement. ... We've wasted enough time."

In their best Robert DeNiro, they shot back: "You talkin' to me?"

In the balance could hang whether the poorest school districts, mostly in larger cities and in rural areas, will get a larger share of state school aid. That had been the case for most of the past decade after the state's highest court found New York failed to adequately fund education for years. But not last year, in Cuomo's first budget.

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January 8, 2012

Connecticut Teacher's Union Reform Plan: Better education 'not just test scores'

Linda Conner Lambeck:

The education reform package advanced Tuesday by the state's largest teachers' union would speed up the dismissal process for poor teachers, but would not strengthen the link between job security and how well students do on state tests.

Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said student achievement has always factored into teacher evaluations.

"There are multiple indicators. It's not just about test scores," she said, adding true reform would be to streamline the dismissal process for bad teachers and do more to make sure teachers have proper training before and once they get into the classroom.

The CEA package, called A View From the Classroom, contains a number of other suggestions to provide universal preschool and all-day kindergarten and increase state funding for local education expenses.

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Schools Sue States for More Money

Nathan Koppel:

School districts and their supporters around the country have launched a wave of lawsuits asking courts to order more spending on public education, contending they face new pressures as states cut billions of dollars of funding while adding more-rigorous educational standards.

About half of the school districts in Texas have sued the state since the legislature cut more than $5 billion from school budgets last year, citing fiscal pressures. School-funding suits also are pending in California, Florida and Kansas, among other states. The suits generally claim schools lack the resources to provide the level of education required by state constitutions.

Critics of such lawsuits--and states being sued--say it is the prerogative of legislatures to decide how much states should spend on education.

In Washington state, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state legislature to come up with a plan for additional funding. Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, said in a statement she agreed with the ruling, noting that without ample funds it is "difficult for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete in today's global economy."

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January 6, 2012

The Insider View of Education Reform

Whiteboard Advisors:

Education Insider is a monthly report and webinar that provides real-time insights on federal education policy trends, debates, and issues--from the handful of decision makers that are driving the process.

Trying to follow the ins-and-outs of Federal education reform -- a morass of legislation, regulations, grants, mandates and more -- is like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle. It is often difficult to see the entire picture when all you have is a few pieces. The challenge is piecing together bits of conversations, speeches, legislation, regulations, and other expressions of policy intent to discern what is happening in the debate. This process is even more complex since other policy issues and political agendas can change the trajectory of education policy.

As with any issue, there are only a handful of insiders that will shape the debate but never before has there been an attempt to tap their collective insights and forecasts.

Organizations must anticipate and react to Federal policy and funding changes need high quality information and analysis and the complete picture that Education Insider provides.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: A Look at California

Richard Rider:

Here's a depressing but documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is breaking bad, and getting worse (twice a month, I update crucial data on this fact sheet):

REVISED: California has the 3rd worst state income tax in the nation. 9.3% tax bracket starts at $46,766 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% tax starts at $1,000,000. Governor Brown is putting on the ballot a prop to change the "millionaires' tax" to 12.3%, starting at $500,000. If approved, CA will be #1 in income tax rates.

Highest state sales tax rate in the nation. 7.25% (as of 1 July, 2011 - does not include local sales taxes). Table #15

California corporate income tax rate (8.84%) is the highest west of the Mississippi (our economic competitors) except for Alaska. Table #8 - we are 8th highest nationwide.

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January 4, 2012

Spokane Paper declines to inform voters about critical school-district election issues

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

This article is second in a series of articles regarding media coverage of public education. This article and its predecessor in the series show that Spokesman-Review coverage of the 2011 school-board election in Spokane was biased in favor of a particular candidate and a particular agenda.

On Sept. 28, I filed a Public Disclosure Commission complaint regarding election activity in 2009 and 2011 by Spokane Public Schools administrators, board directors, (new school board director) Deana Brower, and bond and levy advocacy organization Citizens for Spokane Schools (CFSS).

According to Washington State law, articulated in RCW 42.17.130, school district employees and school board directors are prohibited from using public resources to promote - directly or indirectly - elective candidates or ballot propositions such as bonds and levies. This is what RCW 42.17.130 says, in part: 

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January 3, 2012

2011 Closeout - Was Act 10 ALL Bad?


We're in duck and cover mode...purely from the title of this entry.

But, you know what, folks? Whether you are a Walker devotee or a Walker detractor, you have to admit that EVERYTHING that Act 10 did was not bad. Yes, at its heart, Act 10 was a heinous attempt to cut public employees down at the knees. That was neither right nor fair. You can argue whatever you like, but the fact remains that for these scorned public workers, benefits were improved over the years IN LIEU OF salary increases. Rightly or wrongly so, that is what it boiled down to. Publicly, governors declared victory by giving public employees only modest raises (1-2%) each year. In some years, they got nothing. Quietly, however, behind the scenes, they negotiated with the unions to pick up the tab for a greater percentage of benefits...or offered another few days of annual leave(vacation).

This didn't happen overnight, people! This process developed over the past 25-35 YEARS! We know of many examples of private sector workers who took a job with in the public sector at a substantial demotion in terms of pay. These workers made a choice to do so in exchange for enhanced job security. it right or wrong, that's what they did. It took many of these workers 10 years or more to be earning the same salary they did when they left the private sector. But it was a choice, and they were OK with their choice.

Don't tell us that the private sector is struggling. Certainly, many private businesses and employees have suffered since the economic crisis which began over 3 years ago. But many are faring much better. We are hearing of BONUSES being given this holiday season. Public employees have never and WILL never hear of such a thing. We also know many private sector employees that have good to excellent health and retirement benefits.

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January 2, 2012

And the 2011 education awards go to

Alan Borsuk:

Quite the year we had in Wisconsin education in 2011, so we have lots of awards to give out in our annual recognition ceremony. Let's get right to the big one for this year:

The "Honey, I Blew Up the Education Status Quo" Award: No surprise who is the winner. Like him or hate him (and there certainly is no middle ground), when you say Gov. Scott Walker, you've said it all. State aid cuts. Tightened school spending and taxing. Benefit cuts to teachers. An end to teacher union power as we knew it. No need to say more.

Book of the Year: In some school districts - and the number will grow quickly - it was the handbook issued by the school board, replacing contracts with teachers unions. No more having to get union approval for changing every nitpicky rule about the length of the school day or assigning teachers to lunch duty.

Tool of the Year: Well, it wasn't anything small. In the Legislature, it was more like a jackhammer, as Republicans and Democrats engaged in all-out battle. As for schools, Walker talked often about giving leaders tools to deal with their situations. This is where it will get very interesting. Will leaders act as if they are holding precision tools to be used cautiously or as if they, too, are holding jackhammers? As one state school figure said privately to me, how school boards handle their new power is likely to be a key to whether there is a resurgence of teacher unions in the state. Which leads us to:

I think Borsuk's #3 is critical. I suspect that 60ish% of school boards will continue with the present practices, under different names. The remainder will create a new environment, perhaps providing a different set of opportunities for teachers. The April, 2012 Madison School Board election may determine the extent to which "status quo" reins locally.

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January 1, 2012

The IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) Opportunity Schools Plan

The Mind Trust:

The Mind Trust's plan for transforming Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) would dramatically shrink the central administration, send about $200 million more a year to schools without raising taxes one cent, provide pre-k to all 4-year-olds, give teachers and principals more freedom, hold them accountable for student achievement gains, and provide parents with more quality school choices. It is the boldest school reform plan in the country.

Take five minutes and watch a short video of The Mind Trust's Founder and CEO David Harris outlining highlights from the plan.

Nonprofit's proposal would radically reorganize the Indianapolis Public Schools:
An Indianapolis nonprofit has unveiled an ambitious 160-page reform proposal to completely overhaul Indianapolis Public Schools.

If it came to fruition, the sweeping proposal offered by the Mind Trust would create one of the nation's most radical new organizational approaches to public education.

"If we're going to be serious about doing something transformational, we need an aggressive plan," Mind Trust CEO David Harris said. "Incremental reforms haven't worked here, and they haven't worked in other parts of the country."

The proposal features four key changes:

Report should encourage a serious discussion about district's future
Here's my Christmas wish:

It's that the new Mind Trust report that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the way Indianapolis Public Schools operates will not turn into another tired battle over turf, pride and special interests. Instead, my hope is that it will lead to a broad and much-needed communitywide discussion about the future of the state's largest, and in some ways most important, school district.

The thorough, sensible and provocative report should spark the same kind of urgent discussion and action that we're seeing over mass transit, and that we've seen for decades over sports stadiums.

Those other issues are important. The education debate is vital.

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The Most Important Graphs of 2011

Derek Thompson:

What is it about graphs and economics? In a discipline where facts are murky and certainty is elusive, graphs offer a bright light of information and a small confidence that the world can be summed up between two axes. So when the BBC asked a group of economists to name their graph of the year, we decided to do the same (so did Wonkblog!). Here, from economists on left and right, and from economic journalists from around the beat, are the graphs of the year. Click through the gallery or scroll down to find the graphs organized under categories including Europe, spending & taxing, and energy.

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December 31, 2011

Competition for 2 Madison School Board Seats

Matthew DeFour:

Nichols said though she disagreed with Silveira's vote, "This is bigger than Madison Prep."

"My motivation comes from listening to a lot of the community dialogue over the last year and hearing the voices of community members who want greater accountability, who want more diversity in the decision-making and just a call for change," Nichols said.

Silveira did not return a call for comment Friday.

Two candidates have announced plans to run for the other School Board seat up for election next spring, which is being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. They are Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, and Michael Flores, a Madison firefighter, parent and East High graduate.

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December 28, 2011

Philanthropist Mary Burke believes everybody deserves a chance to be successful

Nathan Comp:

The phone call came late one afternoon last March. Rachel Krinsky -- then the executive director for the Road Home, a nonprofit agency serving homeless families in Dane County -- was preparing to meet with the board of directors, which had recently voted to end a three-year campaign to raise money to build apartments for homeless families.

Having fallen $900,000 short of its fundraising goal, the board decided to build seven apartment units instead of the 15 it had sought, meaning eight families would remain on the street. "We had been fundraising for a long time and were out of ideas," Krinsky recalls. "Everyone was tapped out."

On the phone was Mary Burke, a wealthy 52-year-old philanthropist and former business executive, calling with unexpected news: She wanted to give the $450,000 needed to build those eight additional units. (The remaining $450,000 was an endowment goal.)

Krinsky's jaw dropped.

"I was just stunned," she says. "Mary wasn't even in our database."

Burke announced recently that she plans to run for one of two Madison School Board seats on the April, 2012 ballot.

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Q & A With Washington Governor Chris Gregoire on Teacher Evaluations


ubliCola: What do you think of Attorney General Rob McKenna's education reform agenda? [McKenna, a Republican, is running for governor.]

Gregoire: What is it? You'll have to help me on that.

PubliCola: It seems more aggressive than the one you laid out. [Gregoire announced a reform proposal last week - AP report here - that will put a pilot project of 4-tiered teacher evaluations in play statewide]. It ties teacher evaluations to student test scores, calls for charter schools, and allows the state to step in and take over failing schools. It's in sync with President Obama's education reform agenda. The proposal you came out with last week seems like a "lite" version of that to education reformers [because the evaluations aren't tied explicitly to "student academic growth"].

Gregoire: I don't really think so. I think what it is is a Washington reform. The most recent studies on charter schools come out of Stanford. And there's no guarantee of anything there. As many as there are doing OK, there are an equal number that are not. ... Why would we go down a path where there's no big success to be had? And our voters have already turned [charters] down three times.

I developed this lab school idea, which serves two purposes: One, you have our four-year university schools partner up with one of our bottom five percent schools and really run the school and get them to transition out of their low performance. And two, you really do take your schools of education and improve them dramatically, because if they're going to train teachers, what better training for them than to be inside a classroom and see what works and what doesn't work?

PubliCola: What about tying test scores to teacher evaluations?

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December 25, 2011

Quick Question: Do you agree with the Madison School Board's rejection of the Madison Prep Academy proposal?

Kevin Murphy:

Here's how five people answered this week's question posed by Capital Times freelancer Kevin Murphy. What do you think? Please join the discussion.

"I don't agree with that decision. We need something to close that achievement gap and this was something that could have closed that gap and they won't even take a chance with it. It's the best idea to come forward so far and it should have been tried."

Easter Carson

retired school district employee


"It was a good idea and I think anything new in the way of education needs to be tried. Give it a try. It was a pretty proposal with non-coed instruction, uniforms for students, minority staff. It certainly is worth a try given the track record the school district has had with minority students so far."

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December 24, 2011

We Blew It on Madison Prep

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I can't shake the feeling that something important was going on at our School Board meeting last Monday night to consider the Madison Prep charter school proposal, and that the actual School Board vote wasn't it.

The bare-bone facts are that, after about 90 public speakers, the Board voted 2-5 to reject the Madison Prep proposal. I reluctantly voted against the motion because I was unwilling to violate the terms of our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.

After the motion failed, I moved that the Board approve Madison Prep, but delay its opening until the fall of 2013. My motion failed for lack of a second. (And no, I don't have an explanation for why neither James Howard nor Lucy Mathiak, who voted in favor of the first motion, was willing to second my motion.)

Probably like most who attended Monday night's meeting, I have thought a lot about it since. People who know I voted against the proposal have come up to me and congratulated me for what they say was the right decision. I have felt like shaking them and saying, "No, you don't understand. We blew it Monday night, we blew it big time. I just hope that we only crippled Madison Prep and didn't kill it."

I appreciate that that's an odd and surprising place for me to have ended up. To echo the Talking Heads, "Well, how did I get here?" I'll try to explain.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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December 23, 2011

Madison Prep, at Bottom

Rebecca Kemble:

The most straightforward, clear and dispassionate vote taken on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal at last Monday's Madison Metropolitan School District Board meeting didn't even count. It was the advisory vote cast by the student representative, Philippo Bulgarelli.

The School Board turned down the controversial proposal on a 5-2 vote, and after nearly five hours of public testimony, all the school board members gave speeches explaining how they arrived at their decisions. In addition to being the most succinct, Bulgarelli's statement penetrated all of the intense emotions and wildly divergent interpretations of data and personal anecdotes used to argue both for and against the proposal. Bulgarelli said that the students for whom he speaks did not have enough information to make a reasonably good decision, so he voted to abstain.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Terry Moe on Teacher Unions

Jay Greene:

Rick Hanushek interviews Terry Moe about his new book, Special Interest, which is the definitive, new work on teacher unions and education.

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December 22, 2011

The five-member majority of the board blew it this week by voting down the Urban League of Greater Madison's request for an unusual charter school called Madison Prep

Wisconsin State Journal:

The school would have offered a longer school day and year, higher standards and expectations, uniforms, mandatory extracurricular activities, same-sex classrooms, more minority teachers as role models, and stepped-up pressure on parents to get involved in their children's education.

Madison Prep represented a huge opportunity -- with unprecedented community support, including millions in private donations -- to attack the stubborn achievement gap for low-income and minority students.

But a majority of the School Board rejected Madison Prep, citing excuses that include a disputed clause in its teachers union contract and a supposed lack of accountability.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Kaleem Caire should run for School Board

The Capital Times:

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire fought hard to win approval of his Madison Prep project. But the Madison School Board ultimately rejected a plan that would have steered tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into a project that board members felt lacked sufficient oversight and accountability.

The response of Caire and his fellow Madison Prep advocates was to suggest a variety of moves: the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, or perhaps a request for state intervention to allow the project to go forward without state approval.

We would suggest another approach.

Caire has succeeded in garnering a good deal of support for Madison Prep. He could capitalize on that support and make a run for the School Board.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Changing the school board would either require: patience (just two of seven seats: Lucy Mathiak, who is not running after two terms and Arlene Silveira, who apparently is seeking a third term) are up in April, 2012 or a more radical approach via the current Wisconsin method (and Oakland): recalls. Winning the two seats may not be sufficient to change the Board, given the 5-2 no vote. Perhaps the "momentum", if realized, might sway a vote or two?

Perhaps the TAG complaint illustrates another approach, via the courts and/or different government agencies.

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Whither Madison Prep...

Peter Sobol:

The proposed Madison Prep Charter School was voted down by the Madison school board on Monday. A bold proposal to address the achievement gap in Madison, Madison Prep supporters have a very good point- the status quo is not working for minority students.

There wasn't any magic to the Madison Prep proposal: longer school year, extended school days, smaller class ratios, additional support services, we know these things work, and taken together these things would likely make a significant impact on student achievement. But all these things cost significant amounts of money which is ultimately the problem. What distribution of resources is the most effective and fair?

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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December 21, 2011

Mitch Henck, Lucy Mathiak & John Roach on the Madison School District's 5-2 No Vote on Madison Prep

Mitch Henck, Lucy Mathiak & John Roach (mp3 audio): Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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After Madison Prep vote, it's time to shake things up

Joseph Vanden Plas:

There's nothing like standing in the schoolhouse door.

For me, the Madison School Board's 5-2 vote to shoot down Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school specifically designed for low-income minority students, brings to mind images of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to block the integration of the University of Alabama, or state officials blocking James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi.

If you think that's harsh, remember that those pieces of history were not only about Civil Rights and desegregation, they were about every person's right to pursue a quality education.

In the Madison Metropolitan School District, a 48% graduation rate among African American students indicates that quality has not been achieved. Not even close.

Fortunately, this is one dream that's not going to be allowed to die. Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is the driving force behind Madison Prep, and he isn't ready to wave the surrender flag.

Following the school board vote, Caire vowed to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, and he also urged supporters of Madison Prep to run for school board.

Love it, love it, love it.

At one point in the development of Madison Prep, Caire sounded optimistic that the school district was a real partner, but the majority of board members had other ideas. Caire and the Urban League did their best to address every objection critics put in their way, and now it's clear that the intent all along was to scuttle the project with a gauntlet of hurdles.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

The Madison School Board voted early Tuesday morning against a charter school geared toward low-income minority students.

Moments later, Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire announced to a crowd of emotional supporters that he planned to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Department. He also urged the supporters to run for School Board.

"We are going to challenge this school district like they've never been challenged before, I swear to God," Caire said.

The School Board voted against the plan 5-2, as expected, just after midnight. In the hours leading up to the vote, however, hundreds of Madison Preparatory Academy supporters urged them to change their minds.

More than 450 people gathered at Memorial High School for public comments, which lasted more than four hours.

It was the first School Board meeting moved to Memorial since a 2001 debate over the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.

Nathan Comp:
But the night's harshest criticism was leveled not at the proposal but at the board itself, over a perceived lack of leadership "from the superintendent on down."

"You meet every need of the unions, but keep minority student achievement a low priority," said one parent.

Others suggested the same.

"This vote is not about Madison Prep," said Jan O'Neill, a citizen who came out to speak. "It's about this community, who we are and what we stand for -- and who we stand up for."

Among the issues raised by opponents, the one that seemed to weigh heaviest on the minds of board members was the non-instrumentality issue, which would've allowed Madison Prep to hire non-union staff.

A work preservation clause in the district's collective bargaining agreement with the teacher's union requires the district to hire union staff. Board member Ed Hughes said he wanted to approve Madison Prep, but feared that approving a non-instrumentality school would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers, Inc.

"It's undeniable that Madison school district hasn't done very well by its African American students," he said. "But I think it's incumbent upon us to honor the contract."

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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December 20, 2011

Myth of Madison Prep, Part 2

TJ Mertz:

Part 1 here, (the introductory material is copied from there).

The discussion around the Madison Preparatory Academy (MPA) proposal and the related events and processes has been heated, but not always grounded in reality. Many have said that just having this conversation is a good thing. I don't agree. With myths being so prevalent and prominent, a productive conversation is nearly impossible. Since the vote is scheduled for Monday (12/19), I thought it would be good to take a closer -- fact based, but opinionated -- look at some of the myths. This is part two, although there are plenty of myths left to be examined, I've only gotten one up here. I may post more separately or in an update here on Monday.

Three things to get out of the way first.

One is that the meeting is now scheduled to be held at 6:00 Pm at the Memorial High School Auditorium and that for this meeting the sign up period to speak will be from 5:45 to 6:00 PM (only).

Second, much of the information on Madison Prep can be found on the district web page devoted to the topic. I'm not going do as many hyperlinks to sources as I usually do because much of he material is there already. Time constraints, the fact that people rarely click the links I so carefully include, and, because some of the things I'll be discussing presently are more along the lines of "what people are saying/thinking," rather than official statements, also played a role in this decision. I especially want to emphasize this last point. Some of the myths being examined come straight from "official" statements or sources, some are extensions of "official" things taken up by advocates, and some are self-generated by unaffiliated advocates.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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School Board won't back Madison Prep Academy opening in 2012

Matthew DeFour:

A majority of the Madison School Board won't support opening next fall a controversial, single-sex charter school geared toward low-income minority students.

But it's unclear whether a compromise proposal to start Madison Preparatory Academy in 2013 will gain enough votes Tuesday night when the board meets.

School Board members Beth Moss and Arlene Silveira were the latest to publicly express their opposition to the current proposal for the school.

Moss said Monday in a letter to the State Journal published on that she doesn't believe the school will help the neediest students. Silveira confirmed her opposition in an interview.

The seven-member board is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on the proposal.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Nothing will change if we do nothing -- or more of the same

Kaleem Caire:

For the last 17 months, I have followed the commentary and misinformation shared about our organization's proposal to establish Madison Preparatory Academy.

Some who have written and commented about our proposal have been very supportive; others don't think Madison Prep should exist. With less than 24 hours until the Madison School Board votes on the school, we would like to bring the public back to the central reasons why we proposed Madison Prep in August 2010.

First, hundreds of black and Latino children are failing to complete high school each year. In 2009, the Madison School District reported that 59 percent of black and 61 percent of Latino students graduated. In 2010, the percentage of graduates dropped to 48 percent for Black and 56 percent for Latino students. This not only has an adverse impact on our young people, their families and our community, it results in millions in lost revenue to the Madison district every year.

Second, in 2010, just 20 percent of the 387 black and 37 percent of the 191 Latino seniors enrolled in the district completed the ACT college entrance exam. The ACT is required for admission by all public colleges and universities in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, just 7 percent of black and 18 percent of Latino student who completed the ACT were "ready for college." This means that only 5 of 387 black and 13 of 191 Latino students were academically ready for college.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Education reform: We need transparency not ideological zeal

The Observer:

The motto of fee-paying Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen is: "Now you should use all your masterly skills" (Omni nunc arte magistra).

Michael Gove, the education secretary, is a former pupil. Since his appointment, he has given every sign that he has taken the motto to heart. In a blizzard of reforms, his skill has been to appear charming, collaborative and collegiate, while exercising a determination to do it his way, "it" in this case being the radical remodelling of the education system.

Yesterday, a glimpse of how his affability camouflages an iron resolve was again revealed when it was announced that the final results of an independent review of the national curriculum, expected in the new year, will now be delayed for 12 months. Critics say the delay is driven by the minister's desire to stamp his authority on the review process.

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December 19, 2011

Union leaders see changed landscape even if Dems prevail in 2012


Public employee union leaders Mary Bell and Marty Beil say the collective bargaining restrictions on their members enacted this year have galvanized the state's labor movement and paved the way for victory in potential recall elections in 2012.

But even if Dems are swept into the governor's office and the Senate majority, the union heads say they aren't necessarily seeking a complete return to the way things were before February.

"There has to be some changes ... has to be some tweaking there," said Beil (left), executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union. "But certainly not tweaking in the areas of the unions being able to bargain collectively for wages, hours and working conditions."

Bell, leader of the Wisconsin Education Association Council -- the state's largest teachers union -- added she's simply hoping for a collective bargaining environment that ensures the voice of workers and "whether that is the law we had or the law that we needed even then, I think, is the question."

"But the most important piece of this is that if you're going to make that kind of significant change, you do not do it without a conversation among the people that are affected," Bell told a luncheon. "That's what's been so offensive about the last year."

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois Tax Indulgences

Allysia Finley:

In 2008, lawmakers in Springfield cobbled together a $530 million rescue package for Chicago's transit system, which was on the brink of collapse because of sky-high labor and legacy costs. Just this week they pushed through $300 million of tax credits for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange and Sears to prevent the businesses from fleeing to lower-tax climes. Both Indiana and Ohio have been aggressively poaching Illinois businesses, especially since January, when lawmakers raised the state income tax to a flat 5% from 3% and the corporate tax to 9.5% from 7.3%.

The special carve-outs may stop Sears and the financial exchanges from flying the coop, but the income-tax hikes will still prove job-killers. While the jobless rate in other Midwest states has stayed relatively flat over the past year, Illinois's unemployment rate has risen to 10.1% from 9%. Most of the lost jobs are in information technology and financial services, which are some of the easiest to move.

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December 16, 2011

Madison Prep Closing Argument, Part II: Yes, but with a Delay

Madison School Board Member, Ed Hughes:

I want to support the Urban League's Madison Prep charter school proposal. It is undeniable that the Madison School District has not done well by its African-American students. We need to accept that fact and be willing to step back and give our friends at the Urban League an opportunity to show us a better way.

The issue is far more complicated than this, however. There are a number of roadblocks on the path to saying yes. I discuss these issues below. Some are more of an obstacle than others.

The biggest challenge is that a vote in favor of Madison Prep as it is currently proposed amounts to a vote to violate our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. I see no way around this. I believe in honoring the terms of our contracts with our employees. For me, this means that I have to condition my support for Madison Prep on a one-year delay in its opening.

Most other obstacles and risks can be addressed by including reasonable provisions in the charter school contract between the school district and Urban League.

One wonders what additional hurdles will appear between now and 2013, should the District follow Ed's proposal. Kaleem Caire:
For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison's public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it's not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.

Some days, it has felt like we're desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.

Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who've been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children's education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.

Monday's vote will certainly reflect the District's priorities.

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Group aims to recall five Oakland School District board members

Katy Murphy:

In Oakland, recall is in the air.

As some citizens collect signatures to recall Mayor Jean Quan, another group named Concerned Parents and Community Coalition is trying to oust five of the seven Oakland school board directors. It's targeting those who voted `yes' on the proposal this fall to close elementary schools: Jody London, David Kakishiba, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Gary Yee, and Chris Dobbins.

The school board meets tonight, and members of the coalition planned to march to the district office from nearby Laney College at 4 p.m. and present the directors with intent to gather signatures for a recall. Our photographer went out there around 4:30 p.m. and found about six people, not counting reporters.

(7:15 p.m. UPDATE: More supporters have packed the board room. Board President Jody London turned off the mic after Joel Velasquez, of Concerned Parents, went over the time limit. London later called a recess as he continued to speak, with the help of supporters, in Occupy "mic-check" fashion. People then began chanting "Stop closing schools!" and "Recall!")

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Opinion: A California tax increase in 2012? Don't bet your 1040 on it

Garry South:

It looks like the biggest traffic jam in California next year may well be the various tax increases being pushed for the November ballot.

So far, at least five big tax measures are in play. Think Long Committee for California, a group of high-powered movers and shakers funded by billionaire Nick Berggruen, has proposed a $10 billion revenue increase by expanding the sales tax to services. A teachers' union is advocating an income tax increase on those who earn more than $1 million annually to fund schools. Environmental activists are trying to generate $1.1 billion for clean energy by taxing out-of-state businesses. Another measure would tax oil and gas generation to help pay for education and state universities.

And then there's Gov. Jerry Brown's recently announced measure to temporarily increase the sales tax and bump up income tax rates for the state's top earners. Brown had hoped to have a ballot measure last June to extend a temporary increase in income, sales and vehicle license fee rates that went into effect in 2009, but was unable to coax a single Republican legislator into voting even to put such an extension on the ballot. Hence, the tax increases have all expired.

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December 15, 2011


Don Severson, via a kind email:

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote December 19, 2011, on the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal for non-instrumentality charter school authorization. Active Citizens for Education endorses and supports the approval of the proposal.

In addition to the rationale and data cited by the Urban League of Greater Madison, and significant others throughout the Madison community, supporting the curricular, instructional, parental and behavioral strategies and rigor of the school, ACE cites the following financial and accountability support for approval of the Academy as a non-instrumentality charter school.

  • Financial: Should the Board deny approval of the proposal as a non-instrumentality the District stands to lose significant means of financial support from state aids and property tax revenue. The District is allowed $10,538.54 per student enrolled in the District the 2011-12 school year. With the possibility of Madison Prep becoming a private school if denied charter school status, the 120 boys and girls would not be enrolled in MMSD; therefore the District would not be the beneficiary of the state and local revenue. The following chart shows the cumulative affect of this reduction using current dollars:
    2012-2013 6th grade 120 students @10,538.54 = $1,264,624.80
    2013-2014 2 grades 240 students @10,538.54 = $2.529,249.60
    2014-2015 3 grades 360 students @10,538.54 = $3,793,874.40
    2015-2016 4 grades 480 students @10,538.54 = $5,058,499.20
    2016-2017 5 grades 600 students @10,538.54 = $6.323.124.00
    2017-2018 6 grades 720 students @10,538.54 = $7,587,748.80
    2018-2019 7 grades 840 students @10,538.54 = $8,852,373.60
    This lost revenue does not include increases in revenue that would be generated from improved completion/graduation rates (currently in the 50% range) of Black and Hispanic students resulting from enrollees in a charter school arrangement.
  • Accountability: The MMSD Administration and Board have been demonstrating a misunderstanding of the terms 'accountability' and 'control'. The State charter school law allows for the creation of charter schools to provide learning experiences for identified student groups with innovative and results-oriented strategies, exempt from the encumbrances of many existing state and local school rules, policies and practices. Charter schools are authorized and designed to operate without the 'controls' which are the very smothering conditions causing many of the problems in our public schools. The resulting different charter school environment has been proven to provide improved academic and personal development growth for learners from the traditional school environment. Decreasing impediments and controls inhibiting learning increases the requirements for 'accountability' to achieve improved learner outcomes on the part of the charter school. Should the charter school not meet its stated and measurable goals, objectives and results then it is not accountable and therefore should be dissolved. This is the 'control' for which the Board of Education has the authority to hold a charter school accountable.

    Let us describe an analogy. Private for-profit business and not-for-profit organizations are established to provide a product and/or service to customers, members and the public. The accountability of the business or organization for its continued existence depends on providing a quality product/services that customers/members want or need. If, for whatever reasons, the business or organization does not provide the quality and service expected and the customer/member does not obtain the results/satisfaction expected, the very existence of the business/organization is jeopardized and may ultimately go 'out of business'. This scenario is also absolutely true with a charter school. It appears that the significant fears for the MMSD Administration and Board of Education to overcome for the approval of the proposed non-instrumentality Madison Prep charter school are: 1) the fear of loss of 'control' instead of accepting responsibility for 'accountability', and 2) the fear that 'some other organization' will be successful with solutions and results for a problem not addressed by themselves.

The MMSD Board of Education is urged to approve the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy non-instrumentality charter school proposal; thereby, relieving the bondage which grips students and sentences them to a future lifetime of under-performance and lack of opportunities. Thank you.

Contact: Don Severson, President, 608 577-0851,

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Madison Superintendent Nerad to unveil plan to help low-income minority students

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said Wednesday he will unveil next month a new plan for improving the achievement of low-income minority students.

The plan will summarize the district's current efforts as well as put forth new approaches, such as a longer school year and opening magnet schools, Nerad said.

Nerad discussed the plan in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board less than a week before the School Board is to vote on Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school geared toward low-income, minority students.

Nerad said he opposes the current proposal for Madison Prep primarily because it would violate the district's contract with its teachers union, but that he agrees with the charter school's supporters in that a new approach to close the achievement gap is necessary.

"I made a purposeful decision to not bring (a plan) forward over the past several months to not cloud the discussion about Madison Prep," Nerad said. "It's caused us to take a step back and say, 'We're doing a lot of things, but what else do we need to be doing?'"

Superintendent Nerad's former District; Green Bay offers three "magnet options":

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Madison Prep: Closing Argument, Part I

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here's a quote from an on-line comment of a Madison Prep opponent responding to one of the several op-ed pieces posted in the Cap Times in recent days: "There are barriers to students with special education needs, barriers to students with behavioral needs, and barriers to kids who rely on public transportation. These children are simply not the 'right fit'. It is Madison Prep's proposal to leave these kids in their neighborhood schools."

The notion seems to be that Madison Prep may not be welcoming for students from all points along the spectrum of educational needs, even though our neighborhood schools are obligated to serve everyone.

I think the self-selection process for Madison Prep should be taken into account in assessing how its students perform. But it does not trouble me that the school is not designed to meet the needs of all our students. No one need apply to attend and no student will be denied current services or programs if Madison Prep is authorized.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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December 14, 2011

You'd think this city would back Madison Prep plan

Chris Rickert:

Appearances suggest Madisonians would be sympathetic to Madison Preparatory Academy.

Here is a citizenry known for its progressivism, inclusiveness and embrace of the disenfranchised.

And here is a five-year educational experiment aimed at helping students of darker skin and lesser means who are sometimes only a couple of years removed from failing schools in Chicago and Milwaukee.

I guess appearances can be deceiving.

On Monday, the Madison School Board is likely to go along with district administrators' recommendation to vote down a five-year charter for Madison Prep, a project of the Urban League of Greater Madison that would aim to improve the performance and life prospects of students the district has so far failed to reach.

I suspect Madison Prep's future wouldn't be so dire if over the last year Madison's supposedly liberal power structure had been willing to take up its cause.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

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December 13, 2011

Why public education finances in California are in bad shape

Matthew DeBord:

The bigger question here is whether bankruptcy would actually help any of these struggling districts. Debts could be restructured and bondholders paid off, but would the districts be in any better shape? It's not even clear to me that a higher level of state oversight would make a difference. The state might just know sooner that it has to find the money for a bailout. And with revenues falling everywhere, it would probably be impossible for the state to insist that all at-risk districts bulk-up their reserve funds.
Throwing up your hands probably isn't an option, however, when it comes to public education. But obviously in close to a fifth of the state's school districts, cost structures aren't able to cope with major budget shocks, at the state or local level. And remember, the state's population is growing -- it could hit 48 million by 2020. A well-educated workforce is something that California will urgently need to remain competitive in the 21st century. But in order to have that, the state is going to need to do something to stabilize the finances of its public education system. And before with the falling axe of the trigger cuts.

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NEA and the 2012 Elections

Mike Antonuci:

1) For NEA and Affiliates, It's Already 2012. Back in May, and again in July, there was a huge stink about NEA's decision to endorse President Obama for reelection a year earlier than usual. Despite the debate over what message the endorsement sent to the members and the White House, it was procedurally necessary, because the union could not devote money and resources to the Presidential campaign until after an endorsement - and these days waiting until July of an election year is simply too little, too late.

We now have some indications of what NEA has been doing with the additional time. To begin with, the union cleverly melded its organizing in support of Obama's latest edu-jobs legislation with organizing for Obama himself in 2012. Though the bill itself has little chance of passage, it does serve the purpose of emphasizing where the President and NEA align, rather than where they differ.

The union devoted the fall to identifying potential Obama activists from among its members in 16 states, presumably those NEA considers to be battleground states. They are: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Along with this recruiting, the union's PAC has a "Educators for Obama" web site where volunteers can sign up.

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The $19 billion question: Kalamazoo economist Tim Bartik offers 10 thoughts on reforming Michigan schools

Julie Mack:

Last week, I posted an item that asked readers for their suggestions on how to reform Michigan schools. It drew a good number of comments, and I'll be posting some of them later this week.

But today I'm offering offering more food for thought, in the form of a memo written by my good friend Tim Bartik, an economist for the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and a former school board president for Kalamazoo Public Schools. Through his work as an economist and as a school board member, Bartik is one of the best-informed people around on best-practices in education and here's what he has to say:

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December 12, 2011

Why I Am Voting Yes on Madison Prep

Lucy Mathiak:

The Urban League's proposal to create a Madison Preparatory charter school is, at its heart, a proposal about public education in our community. Although the discussions often boil down to overly simplistic assertions about whether one position or the other is supportive of or hostile toward public education, it is not that simple. What we are facing is a larger and more fundamental question about our values when it comes to the purpose of public education and who it is supposed to serve.

I am voting "yes" because I believe that strong public education for all is the foundation for a strong society. While our schools do a very good job with many students who are white and/or living above the poverty line, the same cannot be said for students of color and/or students living in poverty. The record is most dismal for African American students.

The Madison Prep proposal is born of over 40 years of advocacy for schools that engage and hold high academic expectations for African American and other students of color. That advocacy has produced minor changes in rhetoric without changes in culture, practice, or outcome. Yes, some African American students are succeeding. But for the overwhelming majority, there are two Madison public school systems. The one where the students have a great experience and go on to top colleges, and the one that graduates only 48% of African American males.

The individual stories are heartbreaking, but the numbers underscore that individual cases add up to data that is not in keeping with our self-image as a cutting edge modern community. We ALL play a role in the problem, and we ALL must be part creating a sound, systemic, solution to our failure to educate ALL of our public school students. In the meantime, the African American community cannot wait, and the Madison Prep proposal came from that urgent, dire, need.
Our track record with students and families of color is not improving and, in some cases, is going backward rather than forward as we create more plans and PR campaigns designed to dismiss concerns about academic equality as misunderstandings. To be sure, there are excellent principals, teachers, and staff who do make a difference every day; some African American students excel each year. But overall, when presented with opportunities to change and to find the academic potential in each student, the district has failed to act and has been allowed to do so by the complicit silence of board members and the community at large.

A few turning points from the past year alone:

  • The Urban League - not MMSD administration or the board - pointed out the dismal graduation rates for African American students (48% for males)
  • Less than 5% of African American students are college ready.
  • AVID/TOPs does a terrific job with underrepresented students IF they can get in. AVID/TOPs serves 134 (2.6%) of MMSD's 4,977 African American secondary students.
  • The number of African American students entering AVID/TOPs is lower this year after MMSD administration changed the criteria for participation away from the original focus on students of color, low income, and first generation college students.
  • Of almost 300 teachers hired in 2011-12, less than 10 are African American. There are fewer African American teachers in MMSD today than there were five years ago.
  • Over 50 African Americans applied for custodian positions since January 1, 2011. 1 was hired; close to 30 custodians were hired in that time.
  • 4K - which is presented as a means to address the achievement gap - is predominantly attended by students who are not African American or low-income.
  • In June, the board approved a Parent Engagement Coordinator to help the district improve its relations with African American families. That position remains unfilled. The district has engagement coordinators working with Hmong and Latino families.
The single most serious issue this year, however, came in May when MMSD administration was informed that we are a District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) due to test scores for African American students along with students from low income families and those with learning disabilities. This puts Madison on an elite list with Madison (Milwaukee?) and Racine. The superintendent mentioned DIFI status in passing to the board, and the WI State Journal reported on the possible sanctions without using the term DIFI.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with NCLB, DIFI status is a serious matter because of the ladder of increasing sanctions that come with poor performance. In an ideal world, the district would have articulated the improvement plan required by DPI over the summer for implementation on the first day of school. Such a plan would include clear action steps, goals, and timelines to improve African American achievement. Such a plan does not exist as of mid-December 2011, and in the most recent discussion it was asserted that the improvement plan is "just paper that doesn't mean much." I would argue that, to the African American community, such a plan would mean a great deal if it was sincerely formulated and implemented.
At the same time, we have been able to come up with task forces and reports - with goals and timelines - that are devoted to Talented and Gifted Programing, Direct Language Instruction, Fine Arts Programing, and Mathematics Education to name a few.

Under the circumstances, it is hard to see why the African American community would believe that the outcomes will improve if they are 'just patient' and 'work within the existing public school structures to make things better.' Perhaps more accurately, I cannot look people in the face and ask them to hope that we will do a better job if they just give up on the vision of a school structure that does what the MMSD has failed to do for the African American community since the advocacy began some 40 years ago.

Also posted at the Capital Times.

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Another Letter to the Madison School District's Board of Education on Madison Prep

750K PDF - Kaleem Caire, via email

December 11, 2011

Mr. Ed Hughes
Board of Education
Madison Metropolitan School District 545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53713
Dear Mr. Hughes:

This letter is intended to respond to your December 4, 2011 blog post regarding the Madison Preparatory Academy initiative. Specifically, this letter is intended to address what you referred as "a fairly half-hearted argument [advanced by the Urban League] that the state statute authorizing school districts to enter into contracts for non-instrumentality charter schools trumps or pre-empts any language in collective bargaining agreements that restricts school districts along these lines." Continuing on, you wrote the following:

I say the argument is half-hearted because no authority is cited in support and itjust isn't much ofan argument. School districts aren't required to authorize non-instrumentality charter schools, and so there is no conflict with state statutesfor a school district to, in effect, agree that it would not do so. Without that kind of a direct conflict, there is no basis for arguing that the CBA language is somehow pre-empted.
We respectfully disagree with your assessment. The intent of this letter is to provide you with the authority for this position and to more fully explain the nature of our concern regarding a contract provision that appears to be illegal in this situation and in direct conflict with public policy.


As you are aware, the collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") between MMSD and MTI Iprovides "that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certificated teacher, shall be performed only by 'teachers."' See Article I, Section B.3.a. In addition, "the term 'teacher' refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit." See Article I, Section B.2. You have previously suggested that "all teachers in MMSD schools-- including non-instrumentality charter schools- must be members of the MTI bargaining unit." As we indicated in our December 3, 2011 correspondence to you, under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school's staff. See§ 118.40(7)(a).
Under Wisconsin's charter school law, the MMSD School Board (the "Board") has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. See§ 118.40(7)(a). That decisio n is an important decision reserved to the Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the Board. The language of the CBA deprives the Board ofthe decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the CBA. Alternatively, the CBA language creates a situation whereby the Board may exercise its statutory authority to approve a non- instrumentality charter, but it must staff the school with school district employees, a result clearly prohibited under the statute. For reasons that will be explained below, in our view, the law trumps the CBA in either of these situations.


Under Wisconsin law, "[a]labor contract may not violate the law." Glendale Professional Policeman's Ass'n v. City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d 90, 102 (Wis. 1978). City ofGlendale addressed the tension that can arise between bargained for provisions in a collective bargaining agreement and statutory language. In City of Glendale, the City argued that a provision dealing with job promotions was unenforceable because it could not be harmonized with statutory language. Specifically, the agreement in question set forth parameters for promoting employees and stated in part that openings "shall be filled by the applicant with the greatest department seniority..." City of Glendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 94. Wisconsin law provided the following:

The chiefs shall appoint subordinates subject to approval by the board. Such appointments shall be made by promotion when this can be done with advantage, otherwise from an eligible list provided by examination and approval by the board and kept on file with the clerk.
Wis. Stat.§ 62.13(4)(a).

The City contended that "the contract term governing promotions is void and unenforceable because it is contrary to sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats." City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 98. Ultimately, the court ruled against the City based on the following rationale:

Although sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats., requires all subordinates to be appointed by the chief with the approval of the board, it does not, at least expressly, prohibit the chief or the board from exercising the power of promotion of a qualified person according to a set of rules for selecting one among several qualified applicants.
The factual scenario in City ofGlendale differs significantly from the present situation. In City of Glendale, the terms of the agreement did not remove the ability of the chief, with the approval of the board, to make promotions. They could still carry out their statutory duties. The agreement language simply set forth parameters that had to be followed when making promotions. Accordingly, the discretion of the chief was limited, but not eliminated. In the present scenario, the discretion of the Board to decide whether a charter school should be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality has been effectively eliminated by the CBA language.

There is nothing in the CBA that explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. This discretion clearly lies with the Board. Pursuant to state law, instrumentality charter schools are staffed by District teachers. However, non-instrumentality charter schools cannot be staffed by District teachers. See Wis. Stat.§ 118.40. Based on your recent comments, you have taken the position that the Board cannot vote for a non-instrumentality charter school because this would conflict with the work preservation clause of the CBA. Specifically, you wrote that "given the CBA complications, I don't see how the school board can authorize a non-instrumentality Madison Prep to open its doors next fall, and I say that as one who has come to be sympathetic to the proposal." While we appreciate your sympathy, what we would like is your support. Additionally, this position creates at least two direct conflicts with the law.

First, under Wisconsin law, "the school board of the school district in which a charter school is located shall determine whether or not the charter school is an instrumentality of the school district." Wis. Stat. § 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added.) The Board is required to make this determination. If the Board is precluded from making this decision on December 19"' based on an agreement previously reached with MTI, the Board will be unable to comply with the law. Effectively, the instrumentality/non- instrumentality decision will have been made by the Board and MTI pursuant to the terms and conditions of the CBA. However, MTI has no authority to make this determination, which creates a direct conflict with the law. Furthermore, the Board will be unable to comply with its statutory obligation due to the CBA. Based on your stated concerns regarding the alleged inability to vote for a non-instrumentality charter school, it appears highly unlikely that the Board ever intentionally ceded this level ofauthority to MTI.

Second, if the Board chose to exercise its statutorily granted authority on December 19th and voted for a non-instrumentality charter school, this would not be a violation of the CBA. Nothing in the CBA explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. At that point, to the extent that MTI chose to challenge that decision, and remember that MTI would have to choose to grieve or litigate this issue, MTI would have to try to attack the law, not the decision made by the Board. Pursuant to the law, "[i] f the school board determines that the charter school is not an instrumentality of the school district, the school board may not employ any personnel for the charter school." Wis. Stat.§ 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added). While it has been suggested that the Board could choose to avoid the legal impasse by voting down the non-instrumentality proposal, doing so would not cure this conflict. This is particularly true if some Board members were to vote against a non-instrumentality option solely based on the CBA. In such a case, the particular Board Member's obligation to make this decision is essentially blocked. Making a decision consistent with an illegal contract provision for the purposes of minimizing the conflict does not make the provision any less illegal. "A labor contract term whereby parties agree to violate the law is void." WERC v. Teamsters Local No. 563, 75 Wis. 2d 602, 612 (Wis. 1977) (citation omitted).

In Wisconsin, "a labor contract term that violates public policy or a statute is void as a matter of law." Board of Education v. WERC, 52 Wis. 2d 625, 635 (Wis. 1971). Wisconsin law demonstrates that there is a public policy that promotes the creation of charter schools. Within that public policy, there is an additional public policy that promotes case-by-case decision making by a school board regarding whether a charter school will be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality. The work preservation clause in the CBA cannot be harmonized with these underlying public policies and should not stop the creation of Madison Preparatory Academy.

The Madison Prep initiative has put between a rock and a hard place. Instrumentality status lost support because of the costs associated with employing members of MTI. Yet, we are being told that non-instrumentality status will be in conflict with the CBA and therefore cannot be approved. As discussed above, the work preservation clause is irreconcilable with Wisconsin law, and would likely be found void by acourt of law.

Accordingly, I call on you, and the rest of the Board to vote for non- instrumentality status on December 19th. In the words of Langston Hughes, "a dream deferred is a dream denied." Too many children in this district have been denied for far too long. On behalf of Madison children, families and the Boards of the Urban League and Madison Prep, I respectfully request your support.


Kaleem Caire
President & CEO

cc: Dan Nerad, Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel
MMSD Board ofEducation Members
ULGMand Madison Prep Board Members and Staff
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Related: Who Runs the Madison Schools?

Howard Blume: New teacher contract could shut down school choice program

As schools across California bemoan increasing class sizes, the Alliance Technology and Math Science High School has boosted class size -- on purpose -- to an astonishing 48. The students work at computers most of the school day.

Next door in an identical building containing a different school, digital imaging -- in the form of animation, short films and graphics -- is used for class projects in English, math and science.

At a third school on the same Glassell Park campus, long known as Taylor Yards, high-schoolers get hands-on experience with a working solar panel.

These schools and two others coexist at the Sotomayor Learning Academies, which opened this fall under a Los Angeles school district policy called Public School Choice. The 2009 initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, has allowed groups from inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to compete for the right to run dozens of new or low-performing schools.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

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Wisconsin's school funding gets squeezed by Medicaid, studies show

Jason Stein:

The budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker makes some of the biggest cuts in the nation to education even as it makes one of the largest spending increases in the country in health care for the poor, two new reports show.

At the same time, Wisconsin has avoided large tax increases and ranks more toward the middle of the pack when looking at cuts to schools over the past four years and what the overall education spending in the state is.

Together, the new reports highlight a trend in Wisconsin - the priorities of holding down taxes and paying for rapidly growing Medicaid health care programs are squeezing school funding.

"You're going to see everything else in the budget under stress as long as Medicaid is growing rapidly, at least more rapidly than tax revenues," said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Walker and Republican lawmakers closed a $3 billion budget gap over two years by relying on cuts to schools and local governments rather than tax increases. Democrats decried the cuts as harmful to students and local services, but the governor said he had protected those services by allowing local governments to find savings from union employees' benefits.

A survey this month by the nonpartisan National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers showed that the budget as passed by Walker and GOP lawmakers made the fifth-largest cuts to state funding for education in the nation at $409 million, with Wisconsin topped only by the much larger states of New York, California, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Related: Wisconsin's debt in the top 10 amongst US States.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal canvasses officials on ideas to boost education

Ed Anderson:

Gov. Bobby Jindal continued his push for overhauling the state's public education system, asking a handful of lawmakers and some members of the state's chief school board for their input Friday. Jindal, who has targeted "education reform" as his chief agenda item for his second term, met with several veteran and rookie lawmakers and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members behind closed doors at the Governor's Mansion for 90 minutes to get their thoughts on potential programs and legislation.

"We are open to listening to people's ideas," Jindal told reporters after the meeting. "But we will not tolerate those who defend the status quo and (want to) keep doing what we have been doing and expect different results.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:17 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

December 11, 2011

Will The Madison School Board Madison Prep IB Charter School Vote Spill over to the 2012 Spring Elections, and More?

Matthew DeFour:

And no matter which way the Dec. 19 vote goes, there's no way to know now whether the school will be entirely effective.

"This is the most difficult decision I will ever make on the School Board," said Marj Passman, who plans to vote against the proposal. "It has the potential for polarizing our community, and that's the last thing I want to happen."

The vote comes more than a year after the charter was proposed and in the wake of a School District report outlining its opposition to Madison Prep. The school would violate the district's contract with its teachers and preclude sufficient oversight of the $17.5 million in district funds the school would receive over five years, the report said.

District opposition likely will lead the board to reject the proposal, said School Board president James Howard.

"I don't see how it can pass," said Howard. He and Lucy Mathiak are the only two board members who said they will vote to approve the school.

In interviews last week, Passman, Maya Cole and Ed Hughes said they expect to vote against the proposal. Arlene Silveira and Beth Moss declined to disclose how they plan to vote.

Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire, the lead proponent of the charter, acknowledged he doesn't have the votes. But he's engaged in a full-court press to generate public support for the proposal.

"We have a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to support our children and special interest of adults should not come before that," Caire said last week.

Two School Board seats will be on the Spring, 2012 ballot. They are currently occupied by Lucy Mathiak, who is not running again and Arlene Silveira. I suspect the outcome of this vote will drive new candidates, and perhaps, even recalls.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

The Sun Prairie School District's Debt Position: "Unpretty"


Seeing that the district is quietly working towards presenting a plan to build yet another elementary school (to the tune of $18-22M), we felt it was long overdue to take a look at our debt picture. That is what people do before planning big purchase, right????

Pick up any newspaper or magazine and it won't be long before you see what folks all over the country are doing during this 3 year (and counting) downturn in the economy. They're paying down their debt and not creating new debt. Sounds like a solid plan...right? Nope, at least not in Sun Prairie. The FTT Committee will be reviewing APL population estimates this coming Monday, and that will be the first shot fired in a battle to build an 8th elementary school. APL estimates are ALWAYS a prelude to "time to build".

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December 10, 2011

Madison Public Schools: A Dream Deferred, Opportunity Denied? Will the Madison Board of Education Hear the 40-year long cries of its Parents and Community, and Put Children and Learning before Labor and Adults?

Kaleem Caire, via email:

December 10, 2011

Dear Friends & Colleagues.

For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison's public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it's not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.

Some days, it has felt like we're desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.

Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who've been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children's education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.

Our proposal for Madison Prep has certainly touched a nerve in Madison. But why? When we launched our efforts on the steps of West High School on August 29, 2010, we thought Madison and its school officials would heartily embrace Madison Prep.We thought they would see the school as:

(1) a promising solution to the racial achievement gap that has persisted in our city for at least 40 years;

(2) a learning laboratory for teachers and administrators who admittedly need new strategies for addressing the growing rate of underachievement, poverty and parental disengagement in our schools, and

(3) a clear sign to communities of color and the broader Greater Madison community that it was prepared to do whatever it takes to help move children forward - children for whom failure has become too commonplace and tolerated in our capital city.

Initially, the majority of Board of Education members told us they liked the idea and at the time, had no problems with us establishing Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality - and therefore, non-union, public school. At the same time, all of them asked us for help and advice on how to eliminate the achievement gap, more effectively engage parents and stimulate parent involvement, and better serve children and families of color.

Then, over the next several months as the political climate and collective bargaining in the state changed and opponents to charter schools and Madison Prep ramped up their misinformation and personal attack campaign, the focus on Madison Prep got mired in these issues.

The concern of whether or not a single-gender school would be legal under state and federal law was raised. We answered that both with a legal briefing and by modifying our proposal to establish a common girls school now rather than two years from now.

The concern of budget was raised and how much the school would cost the school district. We answered that through a $2.5 million private gift to lower the per pupil request to the district and by modifying our budget proposal to ensure Madison Prep would be as close to cost-neutral as possible. The District Administration first said they would support the school if it didn't cost the District more than $5 million above what it initially said it could spend; Madison Prep will only cost them $2.7 million.

Board of Education members also asked in March 2011 if we would consider establishing Madison Prep as an instrumentality of MMSD, where all of the staff would be employed by the district and be members of the teacher's union. We decided to work towards doing this, so long as Madison Prep could retain autonomy of governance, management and budget. Significant progress was made until the last day of negotiations when MMSD's administration informed us that they would present a counter-budget to ours in their analysis of our proposal that factored in personnel costs for an existing school versus establishing a modest budget more common to new charter schools.

We expressed our disagreement with the administration and requested that they stick with our budget for teacher salaries, which was set using MMSD's teacher salary scale for a teacher with 7 years experience and a masters degree and bench-marked against several successful charter schools. Nevertheless, MMSD argued that they were going to use the average years of experience of teachers in the district, which is 14 years with a master's degree. This drove up the costs significantly, taking teacher salaries from $47,000 to $80,000 per year and benefits from $13,500 to $25,000 per year per teacher. The administration's budget plan therefore made starting Madison Prep as an instrumentality impossible.

To resolve the issue, the Urban League and Board of Madison Prep met in November to consider the options. In doing so, we consulted with every member of MMSD's Board of Education. We also talked with parents, stakeholders and other community members as well. It was then decided that we would pursue Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality of the school district because we simply believe that our children cannot and should not have to wait.

Now, Board of Education members are saying that Madison Prep should be implemented in "a more familiar, Madison Way", as a "private school", and that we should not have autonomy even though state laws and MMSD's own charter school policy expressly allow for non-instrumentality schools to exist. There are presently more than 20 such schools in Wisconsin.

What Next?

As the mountains keep growing, the goal posts keep moving, and the razor blades and rose bushes are replenished with each step we take, we are forced to ask the question: Why has this effort, which has been more inclusive, transparent and well-planned, been made so complicated? Why have the barriers been erected when our proposal is specifically focused on what Madison needs, a school designed to eliminate the achievement gap, increase parent engagement and prepare young people for college who might not otherwise get there? Why does liberal Madison, which prides itself on racial tolerance and opposition to bigotry, have such a difficult time empowering and including people of color, particularly African Americans?

As the member of a Black family that has been in Madison since 1908, I wonder aloud why there are fewer black-owned businesses in Madison today than there were 25 years ago? There are only two known black-owned businesses with 10 or more employees in Dane County. Two!

Why can I walk into 90 percent of businesses in Madison in 2011 and struggle to find Black professionals, managers and executives or look at the boards of local companies and not see anyone who looks like me?

How should we respond when Board of Education members tell us they can't vote for Madison Prep while knowing that they have no other solutions in place to address the issues our children face? How can they say they have the answers and develop plans for our children without consulting and including us in the process? How can they have 51 black applicants for teaching positions and hire only one, and then claim that they can't find any black people to apply for jobs? How can they say, "We need more conversations" about the education of our children when we've been talking for four decades?

I have to ask the question, as uncomfortable as it may be for some to hear, "Would we have to work this hard and endure so much resistance if just 48% of white children in Madison's public schools were graduating, only 1% of white high school seniors were academically ready for college, and nearly 50% of white males between the ages of 25-29 were incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision?

Is this 2011 or 1960? Should the black community, which has been in Madison for more than 100 years, not expect more?

How will the Board of Education's vote on December 19th help our children move forward? How will their decision impact systemic reform and seed strategies that show promise in improving on the following?
Half of Black and Latino children are not completing high school. Just 59% of Black and 61% of Latino students graduated on-time in 2008-09. One year later, in 2009-10, the graduation rate declined to 48% of Black and 56% of Latino students compared to 89% of white students. We are going backwards, not forwards. (Source: MMSD 2010, 2011)
Black and Latino children are not ready for college. According to makers of the ACT college entrance exam, just 20% of Madison's 378 Black seniors and 37% of 191 Latino seniors in MMSD in 2009-10 completed the ACT. Only 7% of Black and 18% of Latino seniors completing test showed they had the knowledge and skills necessary to be "ready for college". Among all MMSD seniors (those completing and not completing the test), just 1% of Black and 7% of Latino seniors were college ready
Too few Black and Latino graduates are planning to go to college. Of the 159 Latino and 288 Black students that actually graduated and received their diplomas in 2009-10, just 28% of Black and 21% of Latino students planned to attend a four-year college compared to 53% of White students. While another 25% of Black and 33% of graduates planned to attend a two-year college or vocation program (compared to 17% of White students), almost half of all of all Black and Latino graduates had no plans for continuing their education beyond high school compared to 27% of White students. (Source: DPI 2011)
Half of Black males in their formative adult years are a part of the criminal justice system. Dane County has the highest incarceration rate among young Black men in the United States: 47% between the ages of 25-29 are incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision. The incarceration phenomena starts early. In 2009-10, Black youth comprised 62% of all young people held in Wisconsin's correctional system. Of the 437 total inmates held, 89% were between the ages of 15-17. In Dane County, in which Madison is situated, 49% of 549 young people held in detention by the County in 2010 were Black males, 26% were white males, 12% were black females, 6% were white females and 6% were Latino males and the average age of young people detained was 15. Additionally, Black youth comprised 54% of all 888 young people referred to the Juvenile Court System. White students comprised 31% of all referrals and Latino comprised 6%.
More importantly, will the Board of Education demonstrate the type of courage it took our elders and ancestors to challenge and change laws and contracts that enabled Jim Crow, prohibited civil rights, fair employment and Women's right to vote, and made it hard for some groups to escape the permanence of America's underclass? We know this is not an easy vote, and we appreciate their struggle, but there is a difference between what is right and what is politically convenient.

Will the Board have the courage to look in the faces of Black and Latino families in the audience, who have been waiting for solutions for so long, and tell them with their vote that they must wait that much longer?

We hope our Board of Education members recognize and utilize the tremendous power they have to give our children a hand-up. We hope they hear the collective force and harmony of our pleas, engage with our pain and optimism, and do whatever it takes to ensure that the proposal we have put before them, which comes with exceptional input and widespread support, is approved on December 19, 2011.

Madison Prep is a solution we can learn from and will benefit the hundreds of young men and women who will eventually attend.

If not Madison Prep, then what? If not now, then when?



Monday, December 19, 2011 at 5:00pm
Madison Metropolitan School District
Doyle Administration Building Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53703
Contact: Laura DeRoche Perez,
Phone: 608-729-1230

Write the School Board and Tell Them to "Say 'Yes', to Madison Prep!"

Madison Prep 2012!


Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205


Autonomy: MMSD now says they are concerned that Madison Prep will not be accountable to the public for the education it provides students and the resources it receives. Yet, they don't specify what they mean by "accountability." We would like to know how accountability works in MMSD and how this is producing high achievement among the children it serves. Further, we would like to know why Madison Prep is being treated differently than the 30 early childhood centers that are participating in the district's 4 year old kindergarten program. They all operate similar to non-instrumentality schools, have their own governing boards, operate via a renewable contract, can hire their own teachers "at their discretion" and make their own policy decisions, and have little to no oversight by the MMSD Board of Education. All 30 do not employ union teachers. Accountability in the case of 4K sites is governed by "the contract." MMSD Board members should be aware that, as with their approval of Badger Rock Middle School, the contract is supposed to be developed "after" the concept is approved on December 19. In essence, this conversation is occurring to soon, if we keep with current district practices.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): MMSD and Madison Teachers, Incorporated have rejected our attorney's reading of ACT 65, which could provide a path to approval of Madison Prep without violating the CBA. Also, MTI and MMSD could approve Madison Prep per state law and decide not to pursue litigation, if they so desired. There are still avenues to pursue here and we hope MMSD's Board of Education will consider all of them before making their final decision.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

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December 9, 2011

MTI responds on Madison Prep

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy could easily open if it followed the same model as the district's other charter schools, Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews said in response to yesterday's Urban League press conference.

But the current proposal is "unacceptable" to Madison teachers because it would "effectively eliminate School Board oversight of the expenditure of millions of dollars in taxpayer money" and violate the district's contract with its union, Matthews said.

Matthews initially declined to comment on Madison Prep when I contacted him yesterday, but later responded in an e-mail.

In his response, Matthews criticized Madison Prep's plan to pay its teachers lower salaries and benefits than other district teachers, and not offer overtime for working longer days.

He also said the Urban League is incorrect in asserting that the current union contract can be modified without nullifying it under the state's new collective bargaining law.

Related: Some Madison Teachers & Some Community Members (*) on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Related: student learning has become focused instead on adult employment - Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

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The Federal Role in College Pricing

Persistently rising college tuitions, high spending per student, and mounting student debt burdens have re-emerged as key issues in Washington. Secretary Arne Duncan has called on college and university officials to show more urgency in keeping down their prices and spending, the House subcommittee on postsecondary education has held another hearing to wring its hands about college unaffordability, and President Obama has now summoned a select group of college presidents and higher education thought leaders to consider what can be done.

Federal efforts in the past have focused on shining a spotlight on institutions with the highest rates of tuition growth and exhorting college officials to do more to restrain their spending growth and rein in their price increases. Recent news stories indicate that these largely symbolic approaches will continue to dominate the debate as the focus seems to be on extolling the virtues of those schools or states that freeze or reduce their tuition levels, move to three-year degrees, measure learning outcomes, or find ways to use technology to lower their costs per student and hopefully their prices.

But these efforts are unlikely to yield satisfactory results, just as previous efforts have failed to slow cost and price growth or to reduce the amount students must borrow to pay for their education and related expenses. They will continue to fail unless the aim is to reshape the relationship between governments and institutions and the rules that determine how much students can and do borrow. Federal and state officials must recognize that the signals embedded in a number of policies have contributed to the past growth in costs, prices and student debt -- and then do something about it.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Household incomes shrink while number living in poverty increases, census survey shows

Dan Simmons:

In Dane County, median household income dropped an inflation-adjusted $64,410 in 1999 to $58,661 in 2010. In Madison, median income dropped about 8 percent to $50,508.

In the county, the rate of people living in poverty jumped from 9.4 percent to 12.2 percent. In Madison, the percentage of people in poverty jumped to 18.7 from 15.

For those younger than 18, the rise was more dramatic in Dane County: 7.2 percent at the turn of the last decade, 11.9 percent in 2010. For those younger than 18, 17.1 percent in Madison live in poverty, up from 11.4 percent in 1999.

In Dane County, 6.5 percent of households surveyed in 2010 reported an income less than $11,000, half of the federal poverty line for a family of four, defined as extreme poverty. In Madison, 9.8 percent met that standard. Both outpaced the statewide average of 5.6 percent.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:01 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

December 8, 2011

Most school employees vote to recertify unions under bargaining law

Steven Verberg:

School employees approved state certification for about 85 percent of the unions seeking the limited collective bargaining rights allowed under Wisconsin's controversial new law governing public employees, officials said Thursday.

Members of 208 local bargaining units for teachers and school support staff voted by telephone over the last two weeks, according to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which oversaw the elections.

In November, all six state employee unions that sought official status won recertification elections.

Elections for municipal employee unions are scheduled to take place early in 2012.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Kaleem Caire Video on Madison Prep

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

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Urban League/Madison Prep to Address Madison School District Report on Charter School

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Fails to address core issues impacting racial achievement gap and middle class flight

WHAT: The Urban League of Greater Madison and the founding Board of Madison Preparatory Academy will share their response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Administration's recommendation that the Board of Education not Support Madison Prep, and will call for immediate and wider education reforms within the Madison Metropolitan School District to address the racial achievement gap and middle-class flight and crises.

WHEN: 12:00 pm, Thursday, December 8, 2011

WHERE: Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Suite 200, Madison, WI 53713

WHO: Kaleem Caire, Urban League President & CEO Urban League of Greater Madison Board of Directors Madison Preparatory Academy Board of Directors Community Leaders and Parents

For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at or 608-729-1235.

Related: "They're all rich, white kids and they'll do just fine" -- NOT!.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 8:48 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Some Madison Teachers & Some Community Members (*) on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School

200K PDF File, via a kind reader.

Madison Teacher's Inc. Twitter feed can be found here.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

* Please see TJ Mertz's comment below. A link to the document was forwarded to me via a kind reader from Madison Teachers, Inc. Twitter Feed (a "retweet" of Karen Vieth's "tweet"). Note that I enjoyed visiting with Karen during several Madison School District strategic planning meetings.

A screenshot of the link:

The outcome of the Madison Prep "question" will surely reverberate for some time.

Finally, I suspect we'll see more teacher unions thinking different, as The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has done: Minneapolis teacher's union approved to authorize charter schools.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:49 AM | Comments (1) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Why Innovation Can't Fix America's Classrooms

Marc Tucker:

Most Atlantic readers know that, although the U.S. spends more per student on K-12 education than any other nation except Luxembourg, students in a growing number of nations outperform our own. But think about this: Among the consistent top performers are not only developed nations (Japan, Finland, Canada), but developing countries and mega-cities such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Even if we find a way to educate our future work force to the same standards as this latter group -- and we are a very long way from that now -- wages in the United States will continue to decline unless we outperform those countries enough to justify our higher wages. That is a very tall order.

You would think that, being far behind our competitors, we would be looking hard at how they are managing to outperform us. But many policymakers, business leaders, educators and advocates are not interested. Instead, they are confidently barreling down a path of American exceptionalism, insisting that America is so different from these other nations that we are better off embracing unique, unproven solutions that our foreign competitors find bizarre.

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Why School Choice Fails

Natalie Hopkinson:

IF you want to see the direction that education reform is taking the country, pay a visit to my leafy, majority-black neighborhood in Washington. While we have lived in the same house since our 11-year-old son was born, he's been assigned to three different elementary schools as one after the other has been shuttered. Now it's time for middle school, and there's been no neighborhood option available.

Meanwhile, across Rock Creek Park in a wealthy, majority-white community, there is a sparkling new neighborhood middle school, with rugby, fencing, an international baccalaureate curriculum and all the other amenities that make people pay top dollar to live there.

Such inequities are the perverse result of a "reform" process intended to bring choice and accountability to the school system. Instead, it has destroyed community-based education for working-class families, even as it has funneled resources toward a few better-off, exclusive, institutions.

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December 7, 2011

Oregon to seek powerful 'chief education officer' to revamp preschool, public schools, colleges

Betsy Hammond:

Oregon plans to recruit and hire a new "chief education officer" who will have unprecedented power over education, including control of the chancellor of higher education, the next superintendent of Oregon's public schools and the state community college commissioner.

Gov. John Kitzhaber's new overarching education board, with control over preschool through universities, unanimously endorsed the general job description for that education officer Thursday.

Kitzhaber said he hopes to have the right person in the job by April.

The chosen leader will need the vision to help Oregon streamline, improve and connect all the education programs and institutions that serve or should serve learners from birth through college, he said. He or she will also have to be an education expert, plus be able to motivate those who work in the current system to embrace change. The political challenges will be huge.

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December 6, 2011

Are Charter School Unions Worth the Bargain?

Mitch Price, via a kind Deb Britt email:

About 12 percent of all charter schools have bargaining agreements. Why do charter schools unionize? What is in these charter school contracts? Can they be considered innovative or models for union reform? And how do they compare to traditional district/union teacher contracts? Center on Reinventing Public Education legal analyst Mitch Price investigated those questions in his study of charter school collective bargaining agreements.

Price examined nine charter schools unionized either by management design or by teacher vote. For comparison, he examined traditional district contracts and analyzed data from non-unionized charter schools as well. He found that the new contracts can be crafted in ways that respect the unique missions and priorities of charter schools, provide teachers with basic protections, and maintain organizational flexibility. However, while these new contracts innovate in many ways, they could go much further given the opportunity to create contracts from scratch.

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Proposed Teacher Evaluation Law May Appear on Massachusetts' November Ballot

Dan Ring:

In another issue, Sam Castaneda Holdren, a spokesman for Stand for Children, said the organization collected about 100,000 voter signatures for a ballot question that would codify into law new educator-evaluation regulations approved in June by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new state regulations call for evaluating teachers and administrators partly by the scores of their students on the MCAS statewide tests, feedback from students and parents, by state and local observations in classrooms and other measures.

The ballot question would go beyond the state regulations in some respects, said Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children in Massachusetts. For example, the question would mandate that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approve evaluation plans developed through bargaining with unions in school districts if those local plans differ from a state model that will eventually be developed. Right now, the department could only review those local plans, not reject them, Williams said

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Still Another Madison Prep Update: After all this, Is a Non-Instrumentality Simply a Non-Starter?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

The Urban League's Madison Prep proposal continues to garner attention as we draw closer to the School Board's December 19 up-or-down vote on the proposal.

This weekend the news has been the school district administration's analysis of the Urban League's current proposal for a non-instrumentality charter school (i.e., one where the teachers and other school staff would be employees of the Urban League rather than the school district and the school would be free of most administrative oversight from the district).

The analysis recommends that the School Board reject the Madison Prep proposal, for two principal reasons.

The first is that, as a matter of policy, the administration is opposed to non-instrumentality charter schools because of the lack of day-to-day oversight of their operations. The second reason is that there does not seem to be a way the school district could enter into a contract for a non-instrumentality charter school without running afoul of our collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI).

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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December 5, 2011

Missouri Education Commissioner Outlines Options for Kansas City Schools


Citing a critical need to not underestimate the stakes at hand, Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro presented to the State Board of Education today her analysis of ways the state could assist the Kansas City Public Schools in regaining accreditation.

The State Board met in Branson on Dec. 1-2, where discussion of the Kansas City Public Schools was part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's recommendation for revamping a statewide system of support. This system would identify risk factors and target limited resources to assist unaccredited school districts and those that are at risk of becoming unaccredited. Currently, nearly one dozen schools would receive focused attention.

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Sky isn't falling on Wisconsin public schools

Wisconsin State Journal:

Here's the bottom line on public schools in Wisconsin after a big cut in state aid to K-12 education:

• The kids are mostly all right.

• The teachers are smarting from smaller paychecks.

• The full impact of the two-year, $750 million cut won't be known until next school year.

That's what a recent survey of Wisconsin school administrators suggests.

The Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators surveyed more than 80 percent of districts across the state in early fall. The results are being cited -- and exaggerated -- in a variety of ways. The Democrats and unions suggest the sky is falling. Republican Gov. Scott Walker pretends all is well.

And the political spin will only speed and sharpen if Walker faces a recall election next year as expected.

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December 4, 2011

More on How the NEA Spends $133 Million to Preserve Influence

RiShawn Biddle:

As Dropout Nation reported on Wednesday, the National Education Association reported in its recent U.S. Department of Labor filing that it spent $133 million in 2010-2011 on lobbying and contributions to groups whose agendas (in theory) dovetail with its own. And the list of organizations and players who have benefited from the union's largesse grows even larger.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, a longtime beneficiary of NEA funds, garnered $400,373 from the union during its last fiscal year. The Great Lakes Center for Education, which, like the Economic Policy Institute, always churns out studies that dovetail nicely with NEA positions, got $250,000 from the national union. (Three affiliates -- Michigan Education Association, Education Minnesota, and the Illinois Education Association -- chipped in another $30,000, according to each of their respective federal filings.) National Board for Professional Teaching Standards got $10,000 from the union last fiscal year. And the University of Colorado at Boulder also picked up $250,000 for a "sponsored project", likely something being put together by one of the NEA's longtime fellow-travelers, Kevin Welner's National Education Policy Center that is based on the university's campus.

More here.

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Madison Prep IB Charter: Making sense of the controversial charter school

Nathan Comp:

On Dec. 19, the Madison school board is scheduled to vote on whether to approve Madison Preparatory Academy, a charter school that would target at-risk minority students.

For more than 18 months, the proposal -- drawn up by the Urban League of Greater Madison as an ambitious step toward closing the district's racial achievement gap -- has polarized the community, with a broad range of critics taking aim on multiple fronts.

The proposal, at least by local standards, is a radical one, under which the Urban League would operate two largely taxpayer-funded, gender-specific secondary schools with an unprecedented level of autonomy. If approved, Madison Prep would open next fall with 120 sixth-graders and peak at 840 students in grades 6 through 12 by its seventh year.

Opponents say the Urban League's proposal combines flawed educational models, discredited science, fuzzy budgeting and unrealistic projections of student success. While some applaud certain elements of the proposal, like longer school days and academic years, they maintain that Madison Prep won't help enough students to justify the $17.5 million cost to the district over its first five years.

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December 3, 2011

How Madison Prep Can Be a Non-Instrumentality (Non-Union)?

Kaleem Caire, via email

December 2, 2011

Greetings Madison Prep.

Tomorrow afternoon, we are expecting to learn that MMSD's Administration will inform the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education that Madison Prep should not be approved. A possible reason we expect will be MMSD's concern that the current collective bargaining agreement between the District and Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) has a "work preservation clause" which the teacher's union advocated for long ago to ensure that it was the only game in town to represent public school teachers in Madison.

Below, is the cover note that I forwarded to Ed Hughes of the Board of Education and copied to a number of others, who had asked a thoughtful question about our proposal to establish Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter school, we hope, in fall 2012. Also see the letter attached to this email.
---------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------
December 2, 2011

Greetings Ed.

Attached, please find a letter that contains the answer to your question referenced in your email below. The letter contains the explanation of a path to which Madison Prep could be established as a non-instrumentality public charter school, under Wisconsin law, and in a way that would not violate the current collective bargaining agreement between MMSD and Madison Teachers Inc.

We look forward to answering any questions you or other members of the Board of Education may have.

Thank you so much and Many blessings to you and your family this holiday season.


cc: Daniel Nerad, MMSD Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, MMSD Legal Counsel
MMSD Board of Education Members
ULGM Board of Directors
Madison Prep Board of Directors
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Steve Goldberg, CUNA Mutual Foundation

PDF letter:
This letter is intended to respond to your November 78,207I email and to suggest that there is a viable option for moving forward with Urban League's proposal for the Madison Preparatory Academy ("Madison Prep") that: [i) will reduce cost; and (ii) will not sacrifice the union security provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement "Agreement" or "Contract") between the Madison Metropolitan School District ("MMSD" or "District") and Madison Teachers, Inc. ("MTI").

Your email asks for a response to a question concerning how the school district could authorize Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter without thereby violating the terms of the District's Agreement with MTI. Your email references a provision in the MTI Agreement that provides "that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certifìcated teacher, shall be performed only by'teachers."' .See Article I, Section 8.3.a. In addition you note that "the term 'teacher' refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit." See Article I, Section 8.2. You conclude your email by stating that "it appears that all teachers in MMSD schools -- including non-instrumentality charter schools - must be members of the MTI bargaining unit."

The Urban League is aware of the Agreement's language and concedes that the language, if enforceable, poses an obstacle as we look for School Board approval of the plan to open and operate a "non-instrumentality" school. Under an instrumentality charter, the employees of the charter school must be employed by the school board. Under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school's staff. See S 118.40(7)(a). Thus, the statement in your email that all teachers, including those in a non-instrumentality charter school - "must be members of the MTI bargaining unit" and, presumably, employed by the school board is not permitted under Wisconsin law.

Under Wisconsin's charter school law the School Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. .See S 118.40(7)(a). That decision is an important decision reserved to the School Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the School Board. The language of the Contract deprives the School Board of the decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the Agreement. Alternatively the Contract language creates a situation whereby the School Board may exercise its statutory authority to approve a non-instrumentality charter but it must staff the school with school district employees, a result clearly prohibited under the statute. In our view the law trumps the Contract in either of these situations.

The situation described above could likely only be resolved in a court of law. The Contract includes a "savings clause" that contemplates that where a court invalidates a provision in the Agreement, the invalid provision is deleted and the remainder of the contract remains intact. See Article VIII, Section E.

The Urban League is, however, mindful that litigation is both expensive and time consuming. Moreover it is clear that the Contract language will become a prohibited subject of bargaining in the near future when the current Agreement expires. Unfortunately, the children we seek to serve, do not have the time to wait for that day.

Our second purpose in writing is to make you aware of a possible solution to a major obstacle here. One of the major obstacles in moving forward has been the cost associated with an instrumentality school coupled with MTI's reluctance to work with the District in modifying the Contract to reduce costs associated with staffing and certain essential features of Madison Prep, like an extended school day, As we understand it MTI does not want to modify the Contract because such a modification would result in an earlier application of 2077 Wisconsin Act L0 to the District, members of the bargaining unit and to MTI itself.

We understand MTI's reluctance to do anything that would hasten the application of Act 10 in the school district, With the passage of 2011. Wisconsin Act 65, that concern is no longer an obstacle.

Act 65 allows the parties to a collective bargaining agreement to enter into a memorandum of understanding that would run for the remaining term of the collective bargaining agreement, for the purpose of reducing the cost of compensation or fringe benefits in the collective bargaining agreement,

The Act also provides that entering into such a memorandum would not be considered a "modification" of the collective bargaining agreement for the purposes of Act 10. Act 65 was published on November 23,2077 and took effect the following day. The law allows the parties to a collective bargaining agreement to enter into such a memorandum no later than 90 days after the effective date of the law.

The Urban League believes that Act 65 gives the Board and MTI the opportunity to make changes that will facilitate cost reductions, based in compensation and fringe benefits, to help Madison Prep move forward. And, the law allows the parties to do so in a way that does not adversely impact the teachers represented by MTI or the union security provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For example, the parties could agree to reduce the staffing costs for Madison Prep, The parties could also agree that a longer school day would not have to cost more. And, the parties could agree that the work preservation clause referenced in the first part of this letter does not apply where the School Board has determined a charter school willbe a non-instrumentality of the District, a move that would also most certainly reduce costs. These changes would not be forced upon any existing MTI represented teacher as teachers would apply for vacancies in the school.

We hope that the School Board will give serious consideration to the opportunity presented by Act 65. 0n behalf of the Urban League of Greater Madison and Madison Preparatory Academy, we thank you for your support of Madison Prep.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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Schools Get White House Advice on Race, Admissions

Jess Bravin:

The Obama administration issued new guidance Friday advising schools and colleges on how they can make race-based enrollment decisions to promote campus diversity, shortly before the Supreme Court is set to consider whether to re-examine a 2003 case holding that universities could sometimes use race in admissions decisions.

"Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a joint release by the Justice and Education departments.

The departments withdrew prior guidance from the Bush administration, which officials said was too vague to assist school administrators seeking to promote diverse student enrollment. The new guidance parses the Supreme Court's most recent rulings on student diversity to suggest policies the administration believes would not violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Like the former Bush administration guidance, the new documents advise schools to use race-neutral policies if possible. If those prove insufficient, however, the new guidance states that a school "may consider a student's race as a 'plus factor' (among other, nonracial considerations) to achieve its compelling interests" in diversity.

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December 1, 2011

Education elections to coincide with November general elections

Detroit Free Press:

Michigan's school board elections will be held in November of even-numbered years through legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The legislation that the Republican governor signed today will require school board and intermediate school district elections to be held at the same time as November general elections.

Supporters of the legislation say it will ensure that school board elections are held when voter turnout is highest. Supporters say it also should help consolidate elections and save money in some locations.

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November 30, 2011

Can Unions Be Saved By Making Them Weaker?

Kevin Drum:

Reihan Salam directs us to an essay about labor unions by Alan Haus, an IP and employment law attorney in San Francisco. Haus thinks that conservatives ought to be more supportive of the power of labor unions in promoting higher wages:
There is much that could be said about the economic effects of promoting higher wages. For Republicans, the disadvantages should be trumped not only by the advantages but also by a vital consideration of political philosophy: the society of limited government to which most Republicans aspire will only come about in the real world if most Americans earn enough money to save for retirements and college educations, and provide for their long-term healthcare through substantially private markets. Achieving this requires some measure of support for a high wage economy.
But Haus is a lot less enthralled with every other aspect of organized labor:

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America's Public Sector Union Dilemma

Lee Ohanian:

There is much less competition in the public sector than the private sector, and that has made all the difference.

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, there has been a growing criticism of public sector unions, reflecting taxpayer concerns about union compensation and unfunded pension liabilities. These concerns have led to proposals to change public sector union policy in very significant ways. Earlier this month, voters in Ohio defeated by a wide margin a law that would have restricted union powers, although polls showed broad support for portions of the law that would have reduced union benefits. In Wisconsin, a state with a long-standing pro-union stance, Governor Scott Walker advanced policy in February that would cut pay and substantially curtail collective bargaining rights of many public sector union workers. In Florida, State Senator John Thrasher introduced legislation that would prevent governments from collecting union dues from union worker state paychecks. And it is not just Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida that are attempting to change the landscape of public unions. Cash-strapped governments in many states are considering ways to reduce the costs associated with public unions.

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November 28, 2011

Rice makes plea for education in America

Lucy Madison:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she's concerned about the economy, the deficit, and the "jaded" nature of American politics - but she says the country's "biggest single problem" is with the public school system.

Rice, speaking to CBS' Bob Schieffer on a special Thanksgiving edition of "Face the Nation," argued that the nation's educational system is failing crucial populations, and that "it's gonna drive us into class warfare like we've never seen before."

Responding to a question about the current state of American politics, Rice argued that "we've become a bit jaded as a country."

But she said that wasn't her biggest concern with the future of America right now.

"I think we've got a deeper problem," she said. "It speaks to the way that, for instance, I and my family got ahead. I think the biggest single problem we've got is the K-12 education system."

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November 27, 2011

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California vs. the Other States Rev. 11/18/11

Richard Rider:

Here's a depressing but documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is breaking bad, and getting worse (twice a month, I update crucial data on this fact sheet):

California has the 3rd worst state income tax in the nation. 9.3% tax bracket starts at $46,766 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% tax starts at $1,000,000.

Highest state sales tax rate in the nation. 7.25% (as of 1 July - does not include local sales taxes) Table #15

California corporate income tax rate (8.84%) is the highest west of the Mississippi (our economic competitors) except for Alaska. Table #8 - we are 8th highest nationwide.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other state leaders concerned with education should work toward a common school evaluation system.

Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel:

Wisconsin needs a new system of school accountability, but implementing effective measures will be difficult because there are so many different ideas about what it takes to make a good school.

The best schools have high standards in the basics - reading, math, science and writing. But they also excel at art, music and gym. They are places with strong leadership, inspired teachers and an organic system of training and mentoring.

To create more such schools and hold all schools accountable in a fair manner, though, requires all those with an interest in that issue to be at the table. Unfortunately, that's not the case now.

When Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers formed a team to improve school accountability, the Wisconsin Education Association Council chose to sit this one out.

We get it: The state's largest teachers union has plenty of reason to be upset with Walker for stripping it and other public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights - and for cutting funding to schools. But we still think the union's refusal to take a place at the table was a mistake. The union needs to be involved in such efforts. Now, it's on the outside looking in.

Wisconsin's current assessment system is the oft-criticized WKCE, which has some of our nation's lowest standards.

A Closer Look at Wisconsin's Test Scores Reveals Troubling Trend by Christian D'Andrea.

WEAC's Mary Bell advocates a "holistic" approach to school accountability.

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California Teachers Association opposes Think Long Committee's new tax measure

Kevin Yamamura:

A sweeping tax overhaul unveiled this week by a billionaire-backed coalition of political leaders has drawn fire from the California Teachers Association, one of the most influential groups at the Capitol and on the campaign trail.

The Think Long Committee for California hopes to place initiatives on the November 2012 ballot to raise $10 billion in taxes each year, mostly by charging sales taxes on services. Half of that money would go to K-12 schools. But deep within the plan is a proposal to eliminate a constitutional requirement that California increase funding for schools in good years to compensate for prior cuts.

Education groups like CTA rely on that Proposition 98 requirement as leverage each year when negotiating school funding in the state budget.

The union's president, Dean E. Vogel, said in a statement, "The Think Long Committee Report was supposed to be a bipartisan path to rebuilding California's future, not a dangerous detour that would hurt students and the poor. Educators are alarmed by these recommendations to raise taxes on the poor, lower taxes for corporations, dismantle Proposition 98 - the state's minimum school funding law - and avoid repaying $10 billion already owed to public schools and students."

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November 26, 2011

Support grows for abolishing property tax in ND

Dan Gunderson:

Many Minnesota residents expect a bigger bill when their property tax statements arrive this month. But across the border, North Dakota residents are considering a proposal to make the state the first in the nation to abolish property taxes.

Supporters gathered more than 28,000 signatures to put that question on the ballot next June.

Backers of the measure say there's plenty of revenue to go around without property taxes. But local government officials say eliminating property tax would create chaos.

That worries officials like Terry Traynor, assistant director of the North Dakota Association of Counties.

"I'm fearful that it has a possibility of passing," Traynor said. "The proponents have a very attractive message to sell: Do you like property taxes? If you don't, vote for this and they go away."

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November 25, 2011

Scott Walker Tilts School Accountability Standards to Favor Charter and Private Schools

Rebecca Kemble:

Scott Walker is now waging his war on public education by coming up with accountability standards that favor charter and private schools. His School and District Accountability Design Team consists of thirty business and education professionals from across the state.

The Design Team is led by "Quad-Chairs" Governor Scott Walker, Senator Luther Olsen, chair of the Senate Education Committee, Representative Steve Kestell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, and Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Schools in Wisconsin. The proceedings are being facilitated by a team of high-paid consultants working with the American Institute for Research (AIR), a company that racked up $299 million in revenue for the 2009 fiscal year.

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Help Math & Science Education

Jim Young, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Dear Colleague: I am writing this letter because I sincerely fear that the future of our children and grandchildren could be in jeopardy. While there are numerous important issues facing America today, one continues to be high on my priority list, K-12 Math and Science. What scares me the most is that no one seems to care - not parents, teachers, administrators, politicians or business people - that we have FALLEN TO 25th GLOBALLY IN MATH.

It has been our strength in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and the resultant innovation that fueled the great businesses of the 20th century. Automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, space travel, telecommunications and the Internet are just a few industries that are reliant on strong Math and Science skills and have produced a significant number of good jobs. There is a very good chance that our personal good fortunes can in some way be tied to the early innovation of our grandparents.

This comparative table needs no detailed explanation. Based on 2009 statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it clearly shows how far we have fallen and how competitive the rest of the world has become

Related: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 - Badgers 1; Thrive's "Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report".

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November 24, 2011

Detroit School District Shoring Up its Finances

Matthew Dolan:

After more than two years under state control, Detroit's public school district appears to be getting its basic finances in order by privatizing services, cutting wages, restructuring debt and aggressively seeking out students to fill its classrooms.

The district's operating deficit stands at $83 million, down from $327 million at the start of the year, according to documents released by the district Monday. The progress under the district's new state-appointed emergency financial manager could offer a roadmap for the city of Detroit, which is running out of cash and may itself fall into state hands.

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Misleading the Taxpayer: the Per-Pupil Expenditure Dilemma: How Much Do We Spend Per Pupil?

The Common Sense Institute of New Jersey, a libertarian organization that opposes current levels of government spending, has just put out a new report called "Misleading the Taxpayer: the Per-Pupil Expenditure Dilemma." The author, Mark Jay Williams, compares various ways that New Jersey estimates education costs and concludes that the variability among different formulas amounts to systemic underestimation by local school districts and a veritable sleight-of-hand for taxpayers.

If you can compartmentalize the political bent there's some interesting stuff. For example, New Jersey spends 54.9% more per pupil than the national average ($16,271 vs. $10,499) . Also, the three ways residents can view per pupil costs -- the DOE's User-Friendly Budgets (the "primary tool responsible for misleading taxpayers"), costs-per-pupil in the NJ State Report Cards, and The Taxpayer's Guide to Education Spending - have a surprisingly wide range. The author writes, "[d]epending on the reporting source utilized, Asbury Park's per-pupil expenditures ranged from $22,090 to $39,149, a difference of $17,059.

Madison's recently finalized 2011-2012 budget spends about $372,000,000 for 24,861 students ($14,963/student).

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December 1 means School Board Nomination Paper Time!


It's that time again!
December 1 marks the date on which those interested in running for the Sun Prairie School Board can start circulating nomination papers. All it requires is a cakewalk 100 signatures.
We've already heard rumors of several potential candidates...possibly enough to require a primary!

The seats available this year are (at least currently occupied by) John Whalen and Terry Shimek.
Will they even run for re-election????

Whalen hasn't been looking so hot lately...with all the squirmingly unprofessional body language he's shown at the board table. Shimek is well....the King of all Flip Flops and a Teller of Tall Tales. Neither is serving the taxpayers of this community, particularly senior citizens.

Madison has two seats on the spring, 2012 ballot. They are currently occupied by Lucy Mathiak, who is not running for re-election and Arlene Silveira.

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November 23, 2011

Get Smart, Connecticut Campaign Report, via a kind Doug Newman email:

Back in January, we launched the Get Smart Connecticut campaign, calling on our state leaders to staff smart (improve the way we evaluate and retain teachers) and spend smart (fix our broken school funding system). This is our report
to you, the people who seek meaningful education reform in Connecticut, about what happened during the 2011 legislative session.

To be sure, the legislature made some modest gains on the education front. But as an advocacy movement, we hold our leaders and ourselves accountable for meaningful policy change, the kind of change that will close our state's achievement gap and improve opportunities for even our highest performing students. How did we do on our two legislative goals? Well, to put it plainly, we got bupkis. That's right--the legislature did not pass any legislation to improve Connecticut's teacher evaluation and layoff policies or to fix our broken school finance system.

We could look at that and say, wow, nothing happened, so let's just pack it up and go home. But we have no desire to call it quits. In fact, we're more motivated now than ever to push forward. Despite the fact that legislation on these two issues was not enacted, we're proud that the statewide conversation about wholesale education reform has changed dramatically during this campaign. When we consider the public dialogue around fixing the education funding system and effectively evaluating teachers, we are incredibly hopeful.

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Middleton school board president speaks out against budget cuts

Susan Troller:

Ellen Lindgren, 62, has served on the Middleton Cross Plains Area Board of Education for 17 years. She is currently the board president. Lindgren became involved with issues affecting children and schools when her oldest child -- now in his early 30s and a high school social studies teacher in California -- was in pre-school. All three of her children attended public elementary, middle and high schools in the Middleton area district.

A registered nurse who has experience on both sides of the bargaining table, she is now mostly retired. Even before Gov. Scott Walker announced unprecedented cuts in state funding for Wisconsin public schools last spring, Lindgren had been raising her voice to protest nearly two decades of state-imposed revenue caps that made it difficult, even in affluent communities like hers, to balance school budgets and keep up with inflationary costs.

Now she is speaking out even more forcefully on a number of topics, including the governor's budget, which she says is balanced on the backs of teachers, his near elimination of collective bargaining and his support for voucher schools over funding for conventional public schools.

Last week, Lindgren took questions from members of the press during a telephone conference call with Mike Tate, chair of Wisconsin's Democratic Party. Lindgren was objecting to a recent TV ad that touts the governor's record of helping school boards balance their budgets and features Karin Rajcinek, a recently elected Waukesha School Board member who praises Walker for his efforts.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.

Redistributed state tax spending for K-12 is coming back to earth after decades of growth. It would certainly be useful to debate statewide priorities, though Wisconsin is not facing another round of budget changes, like California...

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November 22, 2011

Survey finds ethnic divide among voters on DREAM Act

Larry Gordon:

Among Latinos, 79% support government financial aid for illegal immigrants who attend state universities, compared with 30% of whites. And 49% of all respondents say UC and Cal State campuses are not very affordable or are unaffordable.

Many Californians worry that they are being priced out of the state's public university systems, and they object to allowing illegal immigrants the same financial aid that U.S. citizens can receive at the campuses, a new poll has found.

Fifty-five percent of the voters questioned said they oppose a new state law known as the California DREAM Act. It will permit undocumented students who graduated from California high schools and meet other requirements to receive taxpayer aid to attend the University of California, Cal State and community colleges starting in 2013. Forty percent support it.

But there is a huge ethnic divide on the issue, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey: 79% of Latinos approve of the law, while only 30% of whites do.

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Mayor could take Indianapolis Public Schools reins

Indianapolis Star:

Although he didn't ask for it in his re-election campaign, Mayor Greg Ballard could become the boss of Indianapolis Public Schools in the coming year.

The most likely plan would include mayoral appointment of the School Board, combined with a decentralization of IPS. Schools would have an independence similar to what charter schools have, along with strict accountability to the mayor for performance.

A formal proposal along these lines will come from The Mind Trust, a local education reform organization led by David Harris, who was the city's charter school czar during Bart Peterson's administration. A shift in oversight of IPS would have to be approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Mitch Daniels. Informal talks about IPS reform took place earlier this year among Republican and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly as well as Indianapolis civic leaders.

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November 21, 2011

Education lobbying rises in Michigan amid changes

Tim Martin:

Teachers' unions and some other education-related groups in Michigan have increased their spending to lobby state officials in 2011, largely in response to sweeping changes in school policy and budget cuts adopted by the Republican-led state Legislature.

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, reported lobbying expenses of $324,197 for the first seven months of the year, according to state records. The Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers reported expenses of $119,748. That's a combined increase of about 11% compared with the same period in 2010.

The unions have opposed much of the education-related legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder so far this year. The changes include making teacher performance the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs rather than seniority, a law that gives state-appointed emergency managers for school districts and cities more power, and education funding cuts adopted as part of the budget year that began Oct. 1.

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November 20, 2011

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

Don Peck:

The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come.

HOW SHOULD WE characterize the economic period we have now entered? After nearly two brutal years, the Great Recession appears to be over, at least technically. Yet a return to normalcy seems far off. By some measures, each recession since the 1980s has retreated more slowly than the one before it. In one sense, we never fully recovered from the last one, in 2001: the share of the civilian population with a job never returned to its previous peak before this downturn began, and incomes were stagnant throughout the decade. Still, the weakness that lingered through much of the 2000s shouldn't be confused with the trauma of the past two years, a trauma that will remain heavy for quite some time.

The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work.

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November 18, 2011

Forget Wall Street. Go Occupy Your Local School District

Andrew Rotherham:

It's easy to get angry at banks and CEOs, especially as more Americans slip below the poverty line while the rich keep getting richer. But if the goal of Occupy Wall Street is improving social mobility in this country, then the movement really needs to focus as much on educational inequality as it does on income inequality. There is perhaps no better example of how the system is rigged against millions of Americans than the education our children receive.

Public schools are obviously not to blame for the mortgage crisis, over-leveraged investment banks or the other triggers of our current economic woes. But when it comes to giving Americans equal opportunity, our schools are demonstrably failing at their task. Today zip codes remain a better predictor of school quality and subsequent opportunities than smarts or hard work. When you think about it, that's a lot more offensive to our values than a lightly regulated banking system.

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November 16, 2011

No Child Left Behind waiver could cost $2 billion, report says

Howard Blume:

It would cost cash-strapped California at least $2 billion to meet the requirements for relief from the federal No Child Left Behind law, state officials said.

Although the state Board of Education made no decision at its meeting in Sacramento, the clear implication of a staff report presentation was that California should spurn an opportunity to seek a waiver from federal rules that sanction schools for low test scores. The No Child Left Behind rules are widely unpopular here and elsewhere in the country.

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MMAC Milwaukee Schools plan falls short

George Mitchell:

During the past three decades, Milwaukee no doubt has led the nation in the number of plans advanced to improve K-12 education. With another initiative announced last week, Journal Sentinel readers can be excused for feeling they've heard this story before.

New recommendations - from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce - are encouraging in one important area. MMAC and its allies have convinced innovative educators from elsewhere to open schools in Milwaukee. Two years ago, I visited a Rocketship charter school in San Jose. It's great news that impressive operation is coming here.

However, the worthwhile goal of adding high-quality charter schools stands in contrast to other aspects of the MMAC plan. Business leaders who will be asked to finance it should apply the kind of scrutiny required in the world where they operate.

The plan comes up short in two major areas. First, it relies on a dated, narrow and misleading description of the major problem. Second, it walks back from the organization's historic commitment to creating a real education marketplace.

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Congress Backslides on School Reform

Kevin Chavous:

A funny thing happened on the way to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the sweeping school-reform law better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB): The debate over reauthorization has spawned a political alliance between the tea party and the teachers unions. These strange bedfellows have teamed up to push for turning teacher-evaluation standards over to the states--in other words, to turn back the clock on educational accountability.

On the right are tea party activists who want the federal government out of everything, including establishing teacher standards. On the left are teachers unions who bridle at the notion of anyone establishing enforceable teacher standards. And in the middle is another generation of American kids who are falling further and further behind their European and Asian counterparts.

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November 15, 2011

Are Quincy Schools Adequately Funded & Supported?

Edward Husar:

Several members of the audience joined in the discussion over the public's relative support for Quincy schools. Among them was Larry Troxel, a local minister, who said the public has a desire to support education but has lost trust over the years in the School Board's handling of finances.

"I've seen previous boards buy out the contracts of two previous superintendents so they could bring in their own local person to be superintendent," Troxel said.

He also pointed to a previous board decision to build Lincoln Elementary School only to close it and sell it after a relatively short period of time.

"The boards over the last 30 years have lost the confidence of the taxpayers in this community," he said. "And just this sort of argument -- and especially saying that we don't care about education -- is dead wrong. We care. But we don't trust the board that wants to always raise taxes and spend more money, because we've seen money wasted."

Board member Steve Krause said "you can't damn the current board in front of you for past indiscretions."

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November 14, 2011

Understanding Wisconsin's Charter School Landscape

Mike Ford:

WPRI polling shows that more Wisconsinites support charter schools than oppose them (42% vs. 32%). But what exactly are charter schools?

The concept of charter schools is all the more confusing in Wisconsin because we have three types operating in the state. However, all three types do have some basic similarities.

The Wisconsin Charter Schools Association has additional basic information on Wisconsin Charters on their FAQ site worth checking out.

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November 13, 2011

Seattle School Board presses on, minus a solid contributor

The Seattle Times:

SEATTLE School Board President Steve Sundquist's re-election defeat underscores the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished.

A good board member is exiting.

The Seattle Times endorsed Sundquist, inspired by his background as a proven business leader with deep roots of volunteerism in our local schools. Sundquist was a calm and able presence during some of the district's most contentious times. He did not hesitate to move the board toward firing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her financial chief in the wake of a small-business-contracting scandal. City Hall and state legislators found him someone they could work with.

Perhaps Sundquist's defeat to retired teacher Marty McLaren was to be expected. The election was the first after a year of financial and management upheaval in the Seattle Public Schools. Indeed, a big story last week was the arrest of the former district employee facing felony theft charges connected to the scandal.

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November 11, 2011

Survey finds school districts have taken hits; Walker touts reforms

Tom Tolan:

A new survey of the majority of the state's school districts shows many of them were forced to make staff reductions and increase class sizes as a result of school aid cuts in Gov. Scott Walker's state budget, according to the state Department of Public Instruction and a school administrators association.

But the governor's office, briefed Wednesday afternoon on the survey to be announced at a Thursday news conference, says the Walker administration's reforms are working and points out that the majority of teacher layoffs have been in districts that didn't adopt the reforms - notably in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Janesville.

The survey, by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, was conducted in the early fall of the current school year, after the state Legislature passed a two-year budget that trimmed $749 million in aid to public school districts, in addition to reductions in the limits of what districts can levy in property taxes.

The survey was sent to administrators in all 424 state school districts, and 83% of the districts responded.

Wisconsin shed about 3,400 education positions this year, triple the number from last year. At least one-third of the state's districts increased elementary class sizes. And at least four in 10 districts are using one-time federal stimulus funds to balance their budgets.

But there have been no widespread reductions in course offerings, and the number of students per teacher, librarian and counselor remained about the same.

Those are the findings of a statewide survey of school superintendents about their 2011-12 budgets. Two-thirds of those responding to the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators survey anticipate next year's staff cuts will be as bad or worse than this year.

The survey didn't ask about property taxes, but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has projected an average increase of just 0.6 percent on the December tax bills, far less than the average 4.84 percent annual increase over the previous decade.

Wisconsin Governor Walker:
Today the Department of Public Instruction released the data for a survey done by the Wisconsin Association of Schools District Administrators. The administrators for 353 school districts responded, which accounts for 83% of Wisconsin school districts. The median student to teacher ratio in Wisconsin this year is 13.5 to 1. Attached is a copy of the survey questions, and the raw data responses.

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November 9, 2011

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal borrowing mounts while household debt shrinks

Dennis Cauchon:

The substitution of government debt for consumer debt helped end the recession and start a recovery, economists say, but it leaves the nation's long-term economic health in peril.

Households have reduced debt by $549 billion since 2007, mostly by cutting mortgages through defaults and paying down credit cards. During that time, the federal government has added more than $4 trillion in debt, pushing the country's total borrowing to a record $36.5 trillion, excluding the financial industry, according to the Federal Reserve.

"Government will eventually need to reduce the deficit," says Susan Lund, research director at McKinsey Global Institute, part of the business consulting firm. "But it's a very difficult balancing act to avoid withdrawing stimulus too soon while stopping before you borrow too much."

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Wisconsin Governor Walker taking schools backward

WEAC President Mary Bell:

Anyone following what's been happening in Wisconsin's public schools can see what Gov. Scott Walker's $1.6 billion budget cut and extreme policies have meant for our students and communities.

Across the state, class sizes are on the rise and students have fewer opportunities -- including in key areas such as reading, math and science.

Walker has taken an ax to our public schools, while at the same time increasing taxpayer funding of private schools. He's turned his back on the Wisconsin tradition of valuing public education. As a result, his extreme policies are hurting our students.

The governor says everything is fine, but we can see for ourselves that he's not telling the whole story. With 97 percent of local school districts receiving less state aid this year, and a promise of more cuts next year, local schools will continue to struggle.

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November 8, 2011

Spokane Public records/Public Disclosure Commission complaint

Laurie Rogers:

On Sept. 28, 2011, a PDC complaint was filed with the Public Disclosure Commission because of concerns noted in multiple public records from Spokane Public Schools. This PDC complaint is about Washington State's RCW 42.17.130.

Sept. 26 (filed Sept. 28), 2011: PDC complaint

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November 4, 2011

Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 15MB PDF

1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement Plan

Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.

MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.

Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):

  1. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Grades 3-7. MAP is incorporated into the MMSD Balanced Assessment Plan as a computer adaptive benchmark assessment tool for grades 3-7. Administration of the assessment was implemented in spring, 2011.
  2. Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT): Grades 2 and 5. As proposed in the Talented and Gifted Plan approved by the Board of Education in August, 2009, the district requested approval of funds to purchase and score the Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) which was administered in February, 2011, to all second and fifth graders.
  3. The EPAS System: Explore Grades 8-9, Plan Grade 10, ACT Grade 11. The EPAS system provides a longitudinal, systematic approach to educational and career planning, assessment, instructional support, and evaluation. The system focuses on the integrated, higher-order thinking skills students develop in grades K-12 that are important for success both during and after high school. The EPAS system is linked to the College and Career Readiness standards so that the information gained about student performance can be used to inform instruction around those standards.
Attached are six documents describing programs being implemented for the 2011-12 school year to address the needs of all students.

1. Strategic Plan Document: Year Three (Attachment 2)
2. Strategic Plan Summary of Three Main Focus Areas (Attachment 3)
3. Addressing the Needs of All Learners and Closing the Achievement Gap Through K-12 Alignment (Attachment 4)
4. Scope and Sequence (Attachment 5)
5. The Ideal Graduate from MMSD (Attachment 6)
6. 4K Update to BOE- Program and Sites- (Attachment 7)

Clusty Search: District Identified for Improvement (DIFI)

Matthew DeFour:

Madison School District administrators aren't keeping track of the best classroom instruction. Not all principals create a culture of high expectations for all students. And teachers aren't using the same research-based methods.

Such inconsistencies across the district and within schools -- stemming from Madison's tradition of school and teacher autonomy -- are hurting student achievement, according to a district analysis required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"There are problems within the entire system," Superintendent Dan Nerad said. "We do have good practice, but we need to be more consistent and have more fidelity to our practices."

Inconsistencies in teaching and building culture can affect low-income students, who are more likely to move from school to school, and make teacher training less effective, Nerad said.

The analysis is contained in an improvement plan the district is scheduled to discuss with the School Board on Monday and to deliver next week to the state Department of Public Instruction.

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Coloradans Vote Heavily Against a Tax Increase That Would Benefit Schools and Colleges

The Denver Post:

Colorado voters have rejected an attempt to raise state income and sales taxes to fund education, The Denver Post has declared.

With 61 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 103 was going down in flames across the state, with 35 percent in favor to 65 percent against.

That was also true in Denver. With 86,978 ballots counted through 8:30 p.m., the measure was failing 45.3 percent to 54.7 percent.

Even in liberal Boulder County -- home to the measure's chief supporter -- the measure was struggling. Most recent results showed it was winning there, but just by 1,804 votes.

Tim Hoover and Kurtis Lee:
Colorado voters Tuesday resoundingly defeated an attempt to raise state income and sales taxes to fund education.
With 83 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 103 was going down in flames across the state, with 36 percent in favor to 63.9 percent against.

That was also true in Denver, where the measure was failing 45.7 percent in favor to 54.3 percent against, in nearly complete returns.
Boulder, Pitkin and San Miguel counties appeared to be the only places the measure was passing -- by fewer than 400 votes in Pitkin County and by only 54 votes in San Miguel County.

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November 3, 2011

9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Guest Speaker Mark Seidenberg (Donald O. Hebb and Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, UW-Madison): Professor Seidenberg gave an excellent presentation on the science of reading and why it is important to incorporate the findings of that science in teaching. Right now there is a huge disconnect between the vast, converged body of science worldwide and instructional practice. Prospective teachers are not learning about reading science in IHE's, and relying on intuition about how to teach reading is biased and can mislead. Teaching older students to read is expensive and difficult. Up-front prevention of reading failure is important, and research shows us it is possible, even for dyslexic students. This will save money, and make the road easier for students to learn and teachers to teach. Seidenberg endorses using the Massachusetts model exam for teachers of reading (MTEL 90), which was developed with input from reading scientists. He also supports universal assessment to identify students who are at risk, and he mentioned the Minnesota Reading Corps as a model of reading tutoring that would be good to bring to Wisconsin.
Lander: Can Seidenberg provide a few examples of things on which the Task Force could reach consensus?

Seidenberg: There is a window for teaching basic reading skills that then will allow the child to move on to comprehension. The balanced literacy concept is in conflict with best practices. Classrooms in Wisconsin are too laissez-faire, and the spiraling approach to learning does not align with science.
Michael Brickman: Brickman, the Governor's aide, cut off the discussion with Professor Seidenberg, and said he would be in touch with him later.

Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.

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November 2, 2011

Chart: One Year of Prison Costs More Than One Year at Princeton

Brian Resnick:

One year at Princeton University: $37,000. One year at a New Jersey state prison: $44,000.

Prison and college "are the two most divergent paths one can take in life," Joseph Staten, an info-graphic researcher with Public Administration, says. Whereas one is a positive experience that increases lifetime earning potential, the other is a near dead end, which is why Staten found it striking that the lion's share of government funding goes toward incarceration.

The comparison between higher education spending and correction spending highlighted in the following chart is not perfect. Universities have means to fund themselves; prisons rely on the government. So it makes some sense that a disproportional amount of money flows to the correction centers. Also, take note, comparing African Americans in college and African Americans in dorms is not completely fair. For one, college implies an 18-22 age range, and incarcerated adults can be of any age. Also, it doesn't take into account African Americans who commute to school.

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October 31, 2011

School Board Election Shootout in Seattle

Dan Dempsey, via a kind email:

r spent slightly more than $500,000 combined on their four campaigns, which was 81% of the total amount spent by those running in 2007. These incumbent Directors are endorsed for reelection in 2011 by the Seattle Times while The Stranger, an alternative newspaper, recommends three of the challengers.

This election has parallels to dissatisfaction underlying Occupy Wall Street. Many Seattle residents see the "School Reform" pushed by the District as largely driven by those more interested in profit by corporations than student learning. Public records of where the $500,000 plus came from in 2007 indicate likely pro corporate connections.

On March 2, 2011 after giving the public only 22 hours notice, the Board bought out Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her CFO-COO Mr. Don Kennedy for $360,000. The Superintendent had Broad Academy training and pushed for School Reform along the lines advocated by the Broad Academy in her 3.5 years in Seattle.

It will be interesting to see if Madison has contested board races in 2012...

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October 30, 2011

Biden tells Democrats, teachers union that Republicans are getting in way of change

Scott Powers:

Vice President Joe Biden turned a dinner speech to Florida Democrats at Walt Disney World into a pep rally Friday night, blasting Republicans as obstructionists with whom he said the administration can no longer work.

Biden knocked Republicans for blocking President Obama's American Jobs Act, for "playing roulette" with the federal deficit ceiling and standing in the way of other Obama initiatives, from Wall Street reform to health care reform to the end of the Iraq occupation.

Biden said he and Obama tried for 2 1/2 years to sit down with Republicans and now he concludes, "This is not your father's Republican Party."

"It's time to stand up. I'ts time to fight back," Biden bellowed to a cheering crowd of more than 1,000 people at the Florida Democratic Party annual convention at Disney's Contemporary Resort. "We are looking for this fight."

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The Monopoly on Education

Teacher Man:

I love this scene in Goodwill Hunting because it sums up in large part how I feel about the current education system (only Matt Damon says it way cooler than I ever will).

Does it trouble anyone else that university presidents (in Canada at least, I can't vouch for the USA) make more money than the Prime Minister does? It is primarily tax dollars that pay both of their salaries (most universities in Canada operate with about 60-70% of their costs covered by the government). How about the whole notion of publishing journal articles in a specific language that only certain people can speak effectively (APA, MLA, Chicago etc)? If you do not want to lay eyes on a somewhat cynical rant about the tyranny of post-secondary education monopolies then please avert your eyes.

Cynical or Realistic?

In my masters course last week someone who was taking their first course in several years (after being in the workforce for a substantial period of time) asked me why so much emphasis was placed on getting the exact period and comma marks right when citing sources (she was not questioning the validity of citing a source, only the extremely specific emphasis put on the minutiae of it). My response shocked her a little.

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Traditional Newspaper Education Coverage in Seattle

Charlie Mas:

The Seattle Times has made their perspective clear: they support the current school board. Not only did they endorse the incumbents in the upcoming election, they have gone out of their way to claim that the Board is not to blame for the recent scandals. They write that the Board has learned from those mistakes - not that they made any mistakes - and will do better now - not they they hadn't done well enough before. The Times would have us believe that the Board isn't to blame, but that the system is to blame - nevermind that the Board controls the system.

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October 29, 2011

Support the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act Send Letters to Congress : 5,452 Letters Sent So Far

Speak up for Geography:

Geography has long been recognized as a "core academic subject" in federal education legislation. However, unlike all the other core academic subjects, including history, civics, economics, foreign languages and the arts, there is no dedicated federal funding stream to advance geography education. As a result, our nation is facing a crisis in geographic literacy that is jeopardizing our global competitiveness, our position of diplomatic leadership, and our ability to fill and retain over 150,000 jobs in geospatial technology in the next decade.

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October 28, 2011

New Wisconsin Charter School Legislation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mike Ford:

3 this week to approve the latest version of Senate Bill 22 (SB-22). The bill expands chartering authority to Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agencies, and most importantly creates an independent statewide charter school authorizing board.

The Good

I have blogged recently about the absurdity of Madison Prep having to get its education plan approved by the school board of a district that has proved incapable of effectively educating the very students Madison Prep seeks to serve. The state charter authorizing board would give startup charter schools like Madison Prep an authorizer option outside of their local school board. No longer would a resistant board be a brick wall for new charter schools.

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Denver's Moment of Reckoning is Approaching

Moira Cullen:

Is Denver going to follow in the footsteps of other reform minded urban school districts that saw momentum, change, and improvement fade away? Or will we be one of the few cities to sustain and even accelerate effective school reform?

In less than two weeks, the most hotly contested and expensive school board race in the history of Colorado will come to an end. It looks like nearly $1 million will be spent by both sides in this election by the time Election Day arrives on November 1st.

Denver has a seven-person school board with four members currently supporting the Superintendent Tom Boasberg and a broad set of reforms while the remaining three board members have relied upon Diane Ravitch to try to thwart nearly every reform initiative. Needless to say, if two of the three seats go to anti-reform candidates, Boasberg will need to look for another job and the Colorado reform community is going to have to look to some other districts for bold leadership.

Denver has been the epicenter for reform in Colorado since Michael Bennet took the helm of Denver Public Schools (DPS). Most of the reforms, which were highlighted in Colorado's Race to the Top application and elsewhere, are dependent upon Denver leading the charge.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:29 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

October 27, 2011

Why no school? Really no good reason

Chris Rickert:

I will not be working in the office Thursday. I have to care for my kids, two of whom, like lots of other Wisconsin public school students, have the day off.

Why, you ask, are classes canceled on this entirely unremarkable Thursday the week before Halloween? On a day not set aside for any national holiday, nor part of any traditionally recognized vacation season, nor beset by record-breaking snowfall or some other natural cataclysm?

Well, because historically, a couple of consecutive weekdays in October have been something of a Wisconsin public schools-recognized holiday -- the traditional time for the annual convention of the statewide teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

I know what you're saying: "Don't be ridiculous. Teachers have two and a half months in the summer to hold their convention! Why wouldn't they have it then?"

And I hear you; an October teachers convention does defy logic. Yet, that's been the case until this year, when things managed to get even more illogical.

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October 26, 2011

Wisconsin budget panel backs expanding charter school program statewide

Jason Stein:

An independent charter school program would expand to medium and large school districts around Wisconsin, under a bill passed Wednesday by Republicans on the Legislature's budget committee.

The proposal passed 12-3 on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against.

The bill would take an independent charter school program currently operating in only Milwaukee and Racine and extend it statewide to districts with more than 2,000 students. That would apply to roughly a quarter of the state's districts.

Republicans said it would help provide another options for students whose schools are failing them.

"The bill we are taking up today is truly something that is going to help the long-term prospects of Wisconsin," said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington), a co-chairman of the committee.

But Democrats said that the program would undermine local control of schools by elected officials in favor of an unelected board. They said the proposal could also prove another financial blow to regular public schools that are losing nearly $800 million in state aid over two years as part of the state budget and having tight state caps placed on their property tax levies.

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On Charter Authorizing

Alex Medler:

Charter schools provide plenty of compelling news. Often the coverage is of great schools producing amazing outcomes for kids. But too often the stories are more tragic or sordid. A school's governing board becomes mired in dysfunctional arguments; a school's students are performing badly on state tests for several years running; somebody absconds with money; or a student with disabilities is discouraged from enrolling in a school.

Facing these unfortunate circumstances, a person is likely to shout, "Somebody should do something!" The outraged observer is correct. Generally, the "somebody" that ought to act is a charter school authorizer. Strong charter school authorizers screen initial applicants to avoid future failures. They also implement practices that respect each school's autonomy while also protecting against abuses and ensuring that floundering schools close. Twenty years into the charter school movement, it appears that it will be difficult to hold all charter schools accountable unless we start to hold authorizers accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities.

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Minnesota educators tackle standards for evaluating principals

Tom Weber:

With increasing pressure over the last decade to improve student achievement, a growing body of research highlights the crucial role school principals play in creating good environments for learning.

But in Minnesota, there is no uniform method to evaluate the state's roughly 1,700 principals. That's about to change, due to a law passed this summer, and a group of educators who will develop the evaluation criteria and method.

In the state education budget that passed this summer was a requirement that every principal be evaluated starting the 2013 school year. The law also lays out what must be measured.

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Newspapers neglect critical information about Public Disclosure Commission issues

Laurie Rogers:

On Oct. 24, a Spokesman-Review reporter called me to talk about education. Over five years of education advocacy, this was the second phone call I've received from a SR reporter.

The first call came Oct. 13, after I submitted a Letter to the Editor about the formal complaint I filed Sept. 28 with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). This PDC complaint concerns Spokane Public Schools and school board candidate Deana Brower. Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner called me to ask for a copy of the complaint.

On Monday, Lawrence-Turner called again as I was driving home with my daughter and a student I'm tutoring. Before I talked with Lawrence-Turner, I confirmed that we were having a conversation that was NOT on the record. Having confirmed that, I talked with her about various education-related topics.

This is the article that showed up in the paper today:

If Lawrence-Turner wonders why I asked if our conversation was off the record, all she needs to do is look at her articles. Gee, do you think The Spokesman-Review and Lawrence-Turner want Brower to win the school board election? I offered my entire blog to Lawrence-Turner, the information in it, and the links to district emails - and this is what she wrote. It looks to me like yet another slanted article with unsupported insinuations regarding school board candidate Sally Fullmer and a local community member, and with an accompanying free pass for opponent Brower.

Related: asking questions.

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Popcorn, pro-charter school movie served at private Wisconsin Capitol screening

Susan Troller:

The movie event, including the popcorn, was sponsored by Vos, who co-chairs the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee -- and owns a popcorn company.

Co-sponsors were Education Committee Chairs Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake. Olsen is one of the lead sponsors of the charter authorizing bill, introduced in the Legislature last spring and currently before the Joint Finance Committee.

Panelists for the discussion included Gov. Scott Walker's policy director, Kimber Liedl; the president of Milwaukee-based St. Anthony School, Zeus Rodriguez; the Urban League of Greater Madison's charter school development consultant, Laura DeRoche-Perez; and a former president of Madison Teachers Inc., Mike Lipp, who is currently the athletic director at West High School.

There were also a number of panelists who were invited but did not attend, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, Madison Superintendent Daniel Nerad, state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts and a representative from WEAC, the state's largest teachers union.

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October 24, 2011

We Petition the Obama Administration to promote legislation to prevent public schools from starting earlier than 8 a.m.

Terra Snider, via a kind JH Snider email:

Considerable research confirms the relationship between school start times, sleep deprivation, and student performance, truancy, and absenteeism, as well as depression, mood swings, impulse control, tobacco and alcohol use, impaired cognitive function and decision-making, obesity, stimulant abuse, automobile accidents, and suicide. Mounting evidence about the biology of adolescent sleep, and about the impact of later start times, shows that starting school before 8 a.m. not only undermines academic achievement but endangers health and safety. Because logistical and financial issues prevent local school systems from establishing safe and educationally defensible hours, however, federal legislation mandating start times consistent with student health and educational well-being is essential.
Terra Snider:
As the parent of two former and one current Severna Park High School student, I've been living with the issue of early high school start times for years. Although the consensus of scientific opinion is that teenagers (and young adults) would be better off if school hours were better aligned with their biological clocks, the possibility of changing school hours inevitably sparks raging controversy, both here and across the country.

Changing school hours costs money, and we all know school systems don't have a lot of that on hand. It also means changing the way we do things, and most of us don't like doing that much either. On the other hand, Moses didn't come down from Mount Sinai with commandments that schools must start at 7:17 a.m. and end at 2:05 p.m.

Surely if we know students learn better, and are healthier and safer, with different hours, we should make that our number one priority. Shouldn't we?

The Severna Park High School CAC (and the now defunct countywide CAC) have been working on the issue of high school start time for years, decades even - to no avail. Many of us have become convinced that the only solution to the problem is a national mandate. That's why I created a petition on We the People on, a new platform that allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues.

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States rewrite education rules, with or without Race to the Top

Ben Wieder:

Some of the states rejected for federal "Race to the Top" education grants are proceeding to revamp their school systems anyway -- in some cases more ambitiously than states that won.

Colorado, for example, is moving forward with a new system tying teacher and principal reviews to student performance. That sort of linkage is central to the Race to the Top program. "We've had dramatic changes," says Mike Johnston, a Democratic state senator who sponsored the legislation creating the new system. Johnston says losing out on the federal grant "was more of an opportunity to lay out our plan for reform."

Colorado is one of six states -- along with Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- that achieved finalist status in the first two rounds of the U.S. Education Department's $4 billion Race to the Top competition but walked away empty-handed.

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October 23, 2011

Senate Panel Approves Bill That Rewrites Education Law

Sam Dillon:

Legislation rewriting the No Child Left Behind education law finally gained traction this week, and the Senate Democrat whose committee passed the bill said on Friday that progress became possible because lawmakers were irritated by the Obama administration's offering states waivers to the law's key provisions.

"Some of us on both sides of the aisle were upset with them coming out with the waiver package that they did, so that spurred us on," Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who heads the Senate education committee, said in an interview. "It gave us a sense of urgency."

Mr. Harkin's committee voted 15 to 7 on Thursday to approve a bill that would greatly reduce Washington's role in overseeing public schools. It was co-sponsored by Senator Michael B. Enzi, the Wyoming Republican who is the committee's ranking minority member. Mr. Harkin called it "a good compromise bill" that would have bipartisan support in the full Senate.

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October 22, 2011

2011-2012 $369,394,753 Madison Schools Budget update

2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet "Fund Equity", or the District's reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District's property tax "underlevy" (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28).

2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40.

I welcome clarifications and updates to these numbers, which are interesting. We've seen a doubling of District reserves over the past few years while spending has remained relatively flat as has enrollment.

Finally, this is worth reading in light of the District's 2011-2012 numbers: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama's Proposed Jobs Bill.

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Views on Pending Wisconsin Education Legislation, Including Open Enrollment & Charter Schools

Wisconsin Association of School Boards & The Madison School District PDF Document.

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October 21, 2011

What tea party defeat in Wake County, NC means for schools

Richard D. Kahlenberg:

School board elections in Wake County (Raleigh) North Carolina delivered an important victory for proponents of integration last week as Democrats swept four of five contested school board seats and led substantially in a fifth race headed for a runoff. Most importantly, board chairman Ron Margiotta, who had led the effort to dismantle a nationally acclaimed socioeconomic school integration plan in North Carolina's largest school district, was defeated, denying conservatives a majority on the nine-member school board.

The vote has national significance because it demonstrates that if school diversity policies are pursued through choice, rather than compulsion, they can draw strong public support.

Wake County's widely lauded school integration plan sought to give all students a chance to attend solidly middle-class public schools by limiting the proportion of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at 40% in any one school.

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Former Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Bert Grover sees clouds on school horizon

Dave Zweifel:

Bert Grover, a pistol of a state legislator from the '60s who became a prominent state educator and then was elected superintendent of Wisconsin's public schools, has been battling some health issues the past several months -- not the least of which was a severe staph infection following some knee surgery -- but he's doing quite well these days, thank you.

I called Bert (actually Herbert J. Grover, Ph.D., but he has never been much for formalities) at his Gresham home last week not only to check in, but to get his take about what's been happening to Wisconsin's public education system now that Gov. Scott Walker and his gang have taken over state government.

"Well, let's just say this. Public schools are supposed to be places that are bubbly, enthusiastic, optimistic, hopeful," the 74-year-old educator remarked. "Sad to say, Walker has removed most of that."

Related: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama's Proposed Jobs Bill

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October 20, 2011

Bidding Adieu to the Madison School Board; "Facts are an Obstacle to the Reform of America"

Lucy Mathiak, via a kind email:

Dear Friends,

I am writing to thank you for your encouragement and support in my decision to seek election to the MMSD Board of Education in late fall 2005. Your help in getting elected, your support during tough times, and your help in finding solutions to problems, have made a great difference to my service on the board.

I am writing to let you know that I will not seek re-election in 2012. I continue to believe that the Board of Education is one of the most important elected positions for our community and its schools, and encourage others to step forward to serve in this capacity. MMSD is facing significant challenges, and it is more important than ever that thoughtful citizens engage in the work that will be needed to preserve the traditional strengths of our public schools while helping those schools to change in keeping with the times and the families that they serve.

At the same time, I do not view school board service as a career, and believe that turnover in membership is healthy for the organization and for the district. I have been fortunate to have had an opportunity to serve on this board, and to work with many fine community organizations in that capacity. For that I am grateful.

Again, thank you for your interest, support, and collegiality.

Lucy J. Mathiak
716 Orton Ct.
Madison, WI 53703

Madison School Board
Seat #2

I am appreciative of Lucy's tireless and often thankless work on behalf of our students.

Every organization - public or private, deteriorates. It is often easier to spend more (raise taxes), raise fees on consumers - or a "rate base", reduce curricular quality and in general go along and get along than to seek substantive improvements. Change is hard.

Citizens who seek facts, ask difficult and uncomfortable questions are essential for strong institutions - public or private. Progress requires conflict.

Yet, very few of us are willing to step into the theatre, spend time, dig deep and raise such questions. I am thankful for those, like Lucy, who do.

Her years of activism and governance have touched numerous issues, from the lack of Superintendent oversight (related: Ruth Robarts) (that's what a board does), the District's $372M+ budget priorities and transparency to substantive questions about Math, reading and the endless battle for increased rigor in the Madison Schools.

In closing, I had an opportunity to hear Peter Schneider speak during a recent Madison visit. Schneider discussed cultural differences and similarities between America and Germany. He specifically discussed the recent financial crisis. I paraphrase: "If I do not understand a financial vehicle, I buy it". "I create a financial product that no one, including me, understands, I sell it". This is "collective ignorance".

Schneider's talk reminded me of a wonderful Madison teacher's comments some years ago: "if we are doing such a great job, why do so few people vote and/or understand civic and business issues"?

What, then, is the payoff of increased rigor and the pursuit of high standards throughout an organization? Opportunity.

I recently met a technical professional who works throughout the United States from a suburban Madison home. This person is the product of a very poor single parent household. Yet, high parental standards and rigorous academic opportunities at a somewhat rural Wisconsin high school and UW-Madison led to an advanced degree and professional opportunities.

It also led to a successful citizen and taxpayer. The alternative, as discussed in my recent conversation with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is growth in those who don't contribute, but rather increase costs on society.

Lucy will be missed.

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Harkin's No Child Left Behind Bill No Longer Mandates Teacher Evaluations

Joy Resmovits:

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) shifted a major teacher evaluation requirement out of his rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- known as No Child Left Behind -- over the weekend, shifting the dynamics of the debate over the bill's passage.

The initial sweeping education law called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted in 1965, and a 2001 reauthorization under George W. Bush took on the name, "No Child Left Behind." The law has been up for reauthorization since 2007. Harkin's rewrite, the first comprehensive reform to the legislation, came out of negotiations with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions committee that Harkin chairs.

Harkin released a draft of the bill last week that required school districts and states which receive educator development funding to create teacher evaluation systems that would take student performance into account. But changes over the weekend through a manager's amendment removed the requirement from the bill, instead shifting the teacher evaluation component to a competitive grant program called the Teacher Incentive Fund.

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October 19, 2011

Is Real Educational Reform Possible? If So, How?

Peter Gray:

From the dawn of institutionalized schooling until now there have always been reformers, who want to modify the way schooling is done. For the most part, such reformers can be scaled along what might be called a liberal-conservative, or progressive-traditionalist, continuum. At one end are those who think that children learn best when they are happy, have choices, study material that is directly meaningful to them, and, in general, are permitted some control over what and how they learn. At the other end are those who think that children learn best when they are firmly directed and guided, by authoritative teachers who know better than children what to learn and how to learn it. Over time there has been regular back-and-forth movement of the educational pendulum along this continuum. But the pendulum never moves very far. Kindhearted progressives, viewed as softheaded by the traditionalists, push one way for a while, and that doesn't work very well. And then hardnosed traditionalists, viewed as petrified fossils by the progresssives, push the other way for a while, and that doesn't work very well either.

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October 18, 2011

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama's Proposed Jobs Bill

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad publicly touted President Barack Obama's stalled jobs proposal Monday, saying it would help the School District pay for millions of dollars in needed maintenance projects.

"We either pay now, or we pay more at a much later date," Nerad said at a press conference at West High School, which is due for about $17.4 million in maintenance projects over the next five years.

A School Board committee is reviewing maintenance projects identified in a 2010 study by Durrant Engineers that said the district may need to spend as much as $83.7 million over five years on projects not already included in the budget.

The committee is expected to make recommendations early next year. Nerad said the committee hasn't decided yet whether to recommend another maintenance referendum. A 2004 referendum authorizing $20 million over five years ran out last year.

Federal tax receipts, spending and deficits, fiscal years 2007-2011, billions of dollars:
OutlaysDeficitDeficit as a % of GDP
Source: Congressional Budget Office.

The most recent Madison School District maintenance referendum spending has come under scrutiny - though I've not seen any further discussion on this topic over the past year.

Related: Wisconsin state budget is bad for kids by Thomas Beebe:

"It'll be OK," Gov. Scott Walker said last winter when he announced a budget that snatched away more than $800 million in opportunities to learn from Wisconsin public school kids. "I'm giving you the tools to make it work."

Well, the tools the governor gave local school districts are the right to force teachers to pay more toward their retirement, and the option to unilaterally require educators to kick in more for their health care. The problem is that the tools, along with any money some of them might have left over from federal jobs funds, are one-time solutions. These tools can't be used again unless school districts ask teachers to give up even more of their take-home pay.

By law, all school districts have to balance their budgets. They always have, and always will. That's not the point. The point is that the governor has hijacked the language. Educational accountability isn't about balancing the budget, it's about giving kids opportunities to grow up into good, contributing adults. That's not what Gov. Walker wants to talk about.

The red line, here, is median real household income, as gleaned from the CPS, indexed to January 2000=100. It's now at 89.4, which means that real incomes are more than 10% lower today than they were over a decade ago.

More striking still is the huge erosion in incomes over the course of the supposed "recovery" -- the most recent two years, since the Great Recession ended. From January 2000 through the end of the recession, household incomes fluctuated, but basically stayed in a band within 2 percentage points either side of the 98 level. Once it had fallen to 96 when the recession ended, it would have been reasonable to assume some mean reversion at that point -- that with the recovery it would fight its way back up towards 98 or even 100.

Instead, it fell off a cliff, and is now below 90.

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Seattle Superintendent Evaluation PRONTO

Save Seattle Schools:

At the Board meeting of Wednesday, October 19, the Board will both introduce and adopt their Superintendent Evaluation Instrument.

It is, on the whole, a better considered evaluation tool than they have used before. It has some elements that I really like. It is also missing a few things that I would like to see it include.

I encourage you to read it for yourself and reach your own opinion. Then send that opinion to the Board within the next two days because that's when they will be voting on it. So be quick about it.

Board evaluation of the Superintendent has been an issue locally, as well.

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October 16, 2011

On Wisconsin's K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

Mike Ford:

Both the Associated Press (AP) and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) today highlight the relationship between reductions in school aids across the state and the way school choice and charter programs are funded. The AP story notes "$110 million [was] taken from public schools to pay for an expansion of voucher and charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine." Unfortunately the story fails to mention that the statewide aid reductions to pay for the charter program and the aid reductions in Milwaukee and Racine to pay for choice do not translate into less funding for school districts.

Why? Neither the charter nor choice aid reductions impact revenue limits. Districts can and do make up for the reduction with property taxes. In English, this means the Milwaukee Public Schools, Racine Unified, and the majority of school districts in the state that set their education levy at the highest permitted amount do not lose actual dollars because of these programs, they simply receive them from a different source.

Susan Troller:
School spending in Wisconsin, traditionally among the nation's highest, was falling even before changes in the current state budget and may already be no more than the U.S. average.

The conservative-leaning Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reported last week that, while operational spending per pupil remained 5.5 percent above the national average in 2009, when debt and maintenance are figured in, overall spending was 1.6 percent below the U.S. average.

WISTAX estimated that, had the new state revenue limits been in place for 2009, instructional spending also would have been reduced to near the national average.

WISTAX researchers compared 2009 U.S. census data on school spending and revenues by state and also looked ahead to how recent state law and budget changes might affect Wisconsin's ranking. (A PDF of the analysis accompanies this story.)

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

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Lessons From New Orleans

The New York Times:

Before Hurricane Katrina, more than 60 percent of children in New Orleans attended a failing school. Now, only about 18 percent do.

Five years ago, less than a quarter of the children in a special district set up by the state to manage the lowest performing schools scored at or above the "basic" level on state tests. Now, nearly half do.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the progress made by New Orleans's school reform effort in the six years since Hurricane Katrina has been "stunning." And there are many reasons for optimism about a system that is overwhelmingly made up of poor and minority students -- just the sort of place where optimism is in short supply.

There are three important things to consider about the New Orleans experience: Many of the structural changes occurred because the hurricane essentially destroyed the old system, allowing the city to begin fresh. Charter schools, while a foundation of the system now, did not by themselves improve achievement. And finally, New Orleans has done the hard work of changing the school culture while embracing new instructional methods.

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October 15, 2011

Now's your chance to help revitalize public education

Chris Rickert:

But it's clear that teachers are doing their part to keep one small, if important, piece of the public education reform movement alive: making sure they have an organized voice.

Now we should do ours.

Say what you want about his approach, Walker basically gave reform-minded school districts their chance by ramming through a collective bargaining law that drastically limits what's subject to negotiation.

So, if you think the school year should be longer, if you'd like to see your district have an easier time keeping that awesome first-year teacher and ditching the underwhelming 20-year vet, if you want more money put into recruiting minority teachers and less into teachers' generous health care and pension benefits -- now's your chance.

For despite what you might have heard from union backers, teachers union priorities and students' needs are not always the same thing.

Unions exist, appropriately, to protect their members. You can quibble about whether Walker went too far in lessening their power. But a grudge against a transitory public figure shouldn't take precedence over trying something new to improve public education.

Besides, it's not as if teachers won't have a seat at the reform table.

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Hire board director who's accountable to you, not beholden to district and union

Laurie Rogers:

What a month. I've learned so much in the past 30 days, I need a new brain in which to put it. This old brain of mine feels full. And tired. Public education is a rolling stone run amok. Who can keep up?

This is why we parents and advocates tend to hedge our comments. We never know how things really are, and the minute we figure it out, they change it - without telling us. When we ask for updates, we have to drag it out of them, kicking and screaming through public records requests. And when we get the information, by golly - they change it again.

They do that because a) rolling stones can't be held accountable, and b) they get to say, "You just don't get it." And we don't. That's one reason why few parents will discuss education in any depth. They know they don't get it. Real knowledge is held over our head like a favorite toy, just out of reach. "Jump for it!" But most parents won't jump for it; we just leave. Since 2002, full-time student enrollment in District 81 dropped by about 3,000 students (net), even as operating costs grew by about $60 million.

Public records requests are an effective way of clearing up the fog. After I found out that RCW 42.17.130 prohibits using public resources (directly or indirectly) to campaign for an elective candidate or a ballot proposition (such as a bond or levy), I noticed how close the ties were between District 81 and bond/levy advocacy organization Citizens for Spokane Schools (CFSS).

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The Steve Jobs Model of Education Reform

Rupert Murdoch:

These days everyone is for education reform. The question is which approach is best. I favor the Steve Jobs model.

In 1984 Steve introduced the Mac with a Super Bowl ad. It ran only once. It ran for only one minute. And it shows a female athlete being chased by the helmeted police of some totalitarian regime.

At the climax, the woman rushes up to a large screen where Big Brother is giving a speech. Just as he announces, "We shall prevail," she hurls her hammer through the screen.

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Voucher proposal will be battleground for Pennsylvania Governor Corbett's education plan

Eric Boehm:

A plan to provide vouchers to students from low-income families and are enrolled in failing schools is at the center of a four-point education reform agenda, but the Corbett administration declined to state how much these reforms would cost taxpayers.

Calling on lawmakers to give students and their families access to the widest variety of educational options, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Tuesday a plan that would:

Offer a voucher program;

Expand the educational tax credit program;

Create a new statewide commission to oversee and evaluate charter schools;

Overhaul state's teacher evaluation process.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:50 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Iowa Governor Branstad stumps for education reform package

Mike Wiser:

Gov. Terry Branstad received a standing ovation when he took the stage in Ankeny High School's auditorium to talk education reform Wednesday night.

He left the stage about 90 minutes later, to another round of applause, although the crowd stayed their seats this time.
It was the governor's fourth community forum since he unveiled his education blueprint last week. The blueprint will form the basis of a legislative package for education reform in the state that the governor plans to send to the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.

The blueprint calls for changing the way teachers are paid and evaluated, institutes a third-grade reading test students must pass to reach the fourth and a calls for a series of the end-of-course exams high school seniors must pass to graduate, among its biggest changes.

And at least to the 120 or so that came out to the Ankeny forum, those changes are sitting well, for the most part.

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Talking education with California Gov. Brown

San Diego Union Tribune:

Gov. Jerry Brown's message accompanying his veto of legislation to overhaul California's system of measuring the performance of students and their schools was blunt, iconoclastic and witty. In disputing the conventional wisdom emphasizing the importance of testing, the governor invoked Greek mythology - mocking the "siren song" of the latest trends in education reform - and quoted Albert Einstein - "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

But his veto message raised larger questions: Is Brown rejecting the value of testing in general or just attempting to play the role of a policy provocateur?

In a phone interview this morning with a U-T editorial writer, the governor said it was "neither a rejection of testing or a spur to debate." Instead, Brown said, it was "critical reflection" on the bill by Senate President Darrell Steinberg and its addition of more vague measures of student and school performance, which he called "a fool's errand."

"I believe [in] a certain amount of testing," Brown said, calling the existing Academic Performance Index "a good metric." But he said it shouldn't crowd out "other good measures" of student performance.

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Professor who offended power elite resigns post

Teri Sforza:

Fred Smoller is gone from his post as head of Brandman University's master of public administration program.

He's not fired, as he has tenure, but the situation is a sticky one that raises thorny issues of academic freedom with critics.

"I was told city officials were upset with my involvement in the examination of city compensation, and other things I've written regarding city consolidation, which they apparently found threatening," Smoller (far left) told us. "Academics are often criticized for living in an ivory tower. I've been criticized for trying to be relevant."

That's not quite the way Brandman (an independent part of the Chapman University system) sees it.

"There is an unfortunate rumor circulating that Dr. Fred Smoller was dismissed from his position as Director of the Master's in Public Administration program at Brandman University. This is totally incorrect," said a written statement we received from Brandman spokeswoman Rita Wilds.

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October 14, 2011

Nearly all Wisconsin teachers unions without pact seek recertification

Matthew DeFour:

Almost every local teachers union in the state without a contract has filed to keep its official status, according to a State Journal analysis.

Of 156 local teachers unions in school districts that did not extend a collective bargaining agreement for this year, only 12 filed with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to hold votes later this fall.

"That's a very high number, higher than I would have anticipated," said John Witte, a UW-Madison political science professor who studies education issues in Wisconsin. "It very clearly shows that the teachers are not giving up on their unions at this point."

Another 268 local teacher unions -- 63 percent, which is more than previous estimates -- did not have to decide about recertification this year because their contracts continued through this school year. Among those with contracts are unions in 10 of the 11 largest school districts in the state.

Many of the districts continue to collect union dues from employees with contracts, though some negotiated changes to end that practice.

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October 13, 2011

Parental authority is at the heart of school choice

John Coons

We founded the American Center for School Choice because we believe a focus on parental empowerment can contribute to a broadening and coalescing of the coalition that seeks to provide the best possible education for children. Simultaneously, empowering parents creates a common good--for the child, the parent, the family, and society.

We begin with the delicate subject of authority--that of parent or of government over the mind of the young. In our culture, authority over thought (or even behavior) has never been a popular premise for argument. But no other way exists; some adult will in fact select a preferred set of skills and values and will attempt, through schooling, to convince Johnny, Susie, Jamal, or Juanita of their truth. Authority is simply a fact.

Whether one is Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or the National Education Association, we must proceed by asking which big person will decide this issue for some little person. The fact of authority is no exit, but it is instead the necessary entrance to the debate of educators and society about content, values, money, liberty, the best interest of the child, and the common good.

Clusty Search: John Coons.

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Pennsylvania Governer touts vouchers in larger education agenda

Marc Levy:

Citing Pennsylvania's high dropout rates, Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday promoted taxpayer-paid vouchers as the ticket to a better education for low-income students in the state's worst-performing school districts as he detailed a broader plan to improve and reshape public education in Pennsylvania.

Under the proposal, parents who qualify could use the vouchers -- dubbed "opportunity scholarships" by Corbett -- to send their children not only to private or religious schools, but also to better-performing public schools. His plan also calls for changing how charter schools are established and teachers are evaluated, and expanding tax credits for businesses that fund scholarships.

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NEA to Spend Up to $5 Million on Ohio Collective Bargaining Referendum

Mike Antonucci:

National Education Association's board of directors approved an allocation of up to $5 million to fund the campaign to defeat SB 5 in Ohio - the bill that severely restricts public employee collective bargaining.

The $5 million comes from the national union's Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund, which was doubled in size by vote of NEA's delegates in July. This contribution is in addition to the estimated $5 million the Ohio Education Association dedicated to the referendum campaign, funded by a $54 special assessment the state union imposed on its members.

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October 12, 2011

Three vie for two spots on San Mateo-Foster City schools board

Neil Gonzales:

Mending a frosty relationship between school and city leaders, building a new elementary campus and addressing long-term budget challenges are some of the key concerns emerging from the San Mateo-Foster City School District board election race.

The race features political newcomers Fel Anthony Amistad and Audrey Ng and incumbent Colleen Sullivan vying for two spots on the board in the Nov. 8 election. Board President Mark Hudak is not running for re-election.

During a recent editorial meeting with the Times, Amistad, Ng and Sullivan all agreed that the relationship between the district and the Foster City council needs improvement. Much of the tension has involved the district's search in recent years for public land on which to build a proposed new school to address a student population surge.

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School vouchers require open hearing

Green Bay Press Gazette:

We're glad state lawmakers are attempting to fix a potential problem created when the controversial school voucher provision was hurriedly stuck into the biennial budget passed in June.

Senate Bill 174 would prevent the state's voucher program from expanding to districts that don't already qualify. The Green Bay School District falls into that category, but could eventually meet the qualifications.

Without the legislation, districts such as Green Bay could become eligible and begin the process of offering school vouchers without a full public hearing process. That would be unfair to taxpayers, parents, students and the public at large.

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Arne and Obama Gut School Accountability

Rishawn Biddle:

As your editor expected, the waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act being pushed by President Barack Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, aren't worth the paper upon which they are written.

Under the Obama plan, states will be allowed to evade the aspirational 100 percent proficiency provision with a vague set of "ambitious but achievable goals" and an equally amorphous requirement that states must put "college and career-ready" curriculum standards in place. Many surmise the latter means implementing Common Core standards in reading and math -- something that 45 states have done so far. But Duncan has had to avoid making such a public statement means in order to avoid the full wrath of congressional Republicans and some reformers who essentially declare that doing so oversteps the Department of Education's authority. As a result, a state can probably come up with some mishmash, call it college- and career-ready, and easily get it past federal officials.

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October 11, 2011

CA Gov. Jerry Brown Hates Testing-Or Does He?

Richard Lee Colvin:

California Gov. Jerry Brown is one of the most powerful anti-student testing politicians in the country. So, when given the chance to sign into law a new system of education accountability that would place far less emphasis on test scores, what did Brown do? He vetoed it. In his veto message over the weekend he called the bill "yet another siren song of school reform" that "relies on the same quantitative and standardized paradigm at the heart of the current system."

California Senate Bill 547 would have replaced what is known as the Academic Performance Index, which dates to 1999 and is based entirely on test scores, with the Education Quality Index, which, as the name implies, incorporated a broader range of measures. Schools' graduation rates, for example, as well as new indices of college preparedness and career readiness, would have been factored in. So would the availability and participation in extracurricular and enrichment opportunities. As for test scores, they would contribute no more than 40 percent of the value of the EQI for high schools and no less than 40 percent for elementary schools.

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D.C. Drove Up Your Student Debt

Neal McCluskey and Vance Fried:

One of the major complaints of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, many of whom have taken on significant student debt, is that the cost of college is too darn high. And they're right, but not because of greedy corporate fat cats. No, the real guilty party here is federal politicians, who for decades have been fueling high profits -- and prices -- at both for-profit and nonprofit schools.

Wait. Big profits at nonprofit colleges? Yes, money has been piling up even at schools you thought had no interest in profit. And Washington, D.C., is the biggest hand feeding the beast.

Thanks to recent congressional hearings and battling over new regulations for for-profit schools, most people -- including many college-aged, profit-disdaining Wall Street squatters -- are probably at least vaguely aware that for-profit colleges are making good money.

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October 10, 2011

Accountability, transparency desperately needed for education expenditures

Laurie Rogers, via email

The British are coming! The British are coming!
The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
Public education needs more money! Public education needs more money!

One of these statements (had Paul Revere actually said it) was true. One of these statements is obviously false. And the third, well, skies don't fall, silly.

Taxpayers keep hearing how the funding for public education has been cut. We're constantly barraged with: "Money is tight." "We've cut the budget to the bone." "We're running out of options." "We've done all we can; now we have to cut programs and teachers." These claims defy explanation. They aren't true in Spokane. They aren't true in Washington State. They aren't true in most other states, and they aren't true at the federal level. Unfortunately, many people believe them.

A city council candidate insisted recently: "We can't gut education!" Last week, a Spokane reporter wrote: "Since 2002, Spokane Public Schools has cut $45 million from its budget..." In its budget forums last spring, district administrators and board directors told the public that since 2002, the district has cut $54 million from its budget. Spokane school board candidate Deana Brower has repeatedly said that the district needs more money.

Let's look at some numbers. Follow the links to the budget documents. See how the budget has grown, and see the district's tendency to budget for greater expenditures than it has in revenues.

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Brown Blasts data-based school reform

California Governor Jerry Brown (PDF):

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 547 without my signature.

This bill is yet another siren song of school reform. It renames the Academic Performance Index (API) and reduces its significance by adding three other quantitative measures.

While I applaud the author's desire to improve the API, I don't believe that this bill would make our state's accountability regime either more probing or more fair.

This bill requires a new collection of indices called the "Education Quality Index" (EQI),consisting of "multiple indicators," many of which are ill-defined and some impossible to design. These "multiple indicators" are expected to change over time, causing measurement instability and muddling the picture ofhow schools perform.

SB 547 would also add significant costs and confusion to the implementation of the newly-adopted Common Core standards which must be in place by 2014. This bill would require us to introduce a whole new system of accountability at the same time we are required to carry out extensive revisions to school curriculum, teaching materials and tests. That doesn't make sense.

Finally, while SB 547 attempts to improve the API, it relies on the same quantitative and standardized paradigm at the heart of the current system. The criticism of the API is that it has led schools to focus too narrowly on tested subjects and ignore other subjects and matters that are vital to a well-rounded education. SB 547 certainly would add more things to measure, but it is doubtful that it would actually improve our schools.

Adding more speedometers to a broken car won't tum it into a high-performance machine.

Over the last 50 years, academic "experts" have subjected California to unceasing pedagogical change and experimentation.

The current fashion is to collect endless quantitative data to populate ever-changing indicators of performance to distinguish the educational "good" from the educational "bad." Instead of recognizing that perhaps we have reached testing nirvana, editorialists and academics alike call for ever more measurement "visions and revisions."

Valerie Strauss has more.

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October 9, 2011

G.O.P. Anti-Federalism Aims at Education

Trip Gabriel:

Representative Michele Bachmann promises to "turn out the lights" at the federal Education Department. Gov. Rick Perry calls it unconstitutional. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, would allow it to live but only as a drastically shrunken agency that mainly gathers statistics.

Even Mitt Romney, who in 2008 ran for president defending No Child Left Behind, the federal law that vastly expanded Washington's role in public schools, now says, "We need to get the federal government out of education."

For a generation, there has been loose bipartisan agreement in Washington that the federal government has a necessary role to play in the nation's 13,600 school districts, primarily by using money to compel states to raise standards.

Related: A Federal Takeover of Education.

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October 8, 2011

The Big Easy's School Revolution John White, superintendent of New Orleans' public schools: 'In other cities, charter schools exist in spite of the system. Here they are the system.'

Matthew Kaminski:

At John McDonough High School in this city's Esplanade Ridge district, the new superintendent points to a broken window boarded up with plastic. Nobody thought to fix it properly. "Why? Because these are the poor kids," says John White, who arrived in New Orleans this spring. "The message is: 'We don't care.'"

John Mac is one of the worst schools in New Orleans, which makes it one of the worst in America. It scored 30 out of 200 on a statewide performance scale when 75 counts as "failing." In a school built for 800 students, 340 are enrolled. Virtually all are African-American. A couple years ago, an armed gang burst into the cafeteria and assassinated a student.

Mr. White looks in on classrooms. In one, groups of seniors chat loudly and puzzle over a basic algebra problem. In another the teacher struggles to start a conversation about a USA Today article that few students had read. A girl in the corner sits with a jacket over her head, headphones in both ears.

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Madison Prep Illustrates the Need for an Improved Charter Law

Mike Ford:

An article in today's Capital Times details the ongoing saga of Madison Urban League CEO Kaleem Caire's efforts to create an all-male charter school targeted towards African-Americans in Madison. The story highlights Wisconsin's need for an improved charter school law.

The school, Madison Prep, aims to use an extended school day, uniforms, and family engagement to get 6th - 12th graders ready for college. The need for a new approach in Madison is great, just 48.3% of African-American students graduate high school in four years. The problem is that charter schools outside of Milwaukee and Racine can only be authorized by school districts and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has not been eager to authorize Madison Prep.

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Madison Prep gets closer but big questions remain

Susan Troller:

Backers of the Madison Preparatory Academy and Madison School Board members appear to have ironed out some of the major wrinkles in the plans for the controversial new charter school aimed at improving the academic performance of minority students.

But the devil remains in the details, board members say. Bringing several issues into clearer focus and then getting agreement will be essential to move the project forward. A final vote by the School Board will take place before the end of the year.

Details to be examined include the fine print on a broad agreement announced last week between the Madison teachers union and organizers of the Urban League-sponsored charter school.

"There are still some tremendously big questions that haven't been answered about how this agreement would actually work," says Marj Passman, School Board vice president. "It's not clear to me that all the parties are on the same page on all the issues, large and small."

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October 7, 2011

Madison Prep Charter School Receives $2.5M Gift from Mary Burke

Madison Preparatory Academy, via email:

Today, Madison Preparatory Academy Board Chair, David Cagigal, announced a gift of $2.5 million presented to the public charter school from Madisonian Mary Burke.

Ms. Burke, a retired business executive whose family owns Trek Bicycles and who served as Wisconsin's Secretary of Commerce during the Doyle Administration, described the reason for her gift.

"We all know Madison can do better. I am happy to do my part to invest in our community and the future of all of our youth. Madison Prep is a powerful idea backed up by a powerful and cost-effective plan. It offers real hope to Madison students, teachers and families who want to realize their expectations and dreams."

Ms. Burke also shared, "I understand we are in tight budget times and don't want concerns about the cost of Madison Prep or the availability of public funding to supersede the real need for the School Board to support it. I am confident Madison Prep will be a great opportunity for children and want to see it happen. I hope my gift helps the School Board overcome its financial concerns."

Gloria Ladson-Billings, Vice Chair of Madison Prep's Board and the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sees Ms. Burke's gift as an investment in innovation and human potential.

"We need to search for new solutions to solve the achievement gap in our Madison schools. To do this, we must be willing to innovate. Madison can be a perfect incubator for new educational methods and approaches. Mary Burke's gift is stunning in its generosity and powerful in its potential."

Mr. Cagigal sees the gift as the start of an important trend in the region. "Mary is absolutely committed to eliminating the achievement gap and is investing her resources in multiple approaches to achieve this goal. Whether it's Madison Prep or the Boys & Girls Club's AVID/TOPS program, Mary believes that supporting such efforts will ultimately benefit our entire community in the future. She is setting a great example for others and we are very thankful to have her in our corner."

With Ms. Burke's gift, the Urban League of Greater Madison will further reduce its request for per pupil funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District from $11,471 per pupil to $9,400 in the school's first year, and $9,800 per pupil in years two through five of the school's proposed five year budget. The Madison district currently spends $13,207 per pupil to educate students in middle and high schools.

Madison Preparatory Academy plans to open two college preparatory public charter schools in the fall of 2012, one for boys and one for girls. Their mission will be the same: to prepare students for success at a four year college or university by instilling excellence, pride, leadership and service. Both academies will be tuition-free, offer an identical curriculum in a single-sex education environment, and serve as catalysts for change and opportunity, particularly for young people of color.

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, the Academies will serve 60 sixth grade boys and 60 sixth grade girls when they open next year, eventually growing to serve 820 students total.

Madison's Board of Education will vote next month on the new charter schools.

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Steve Jobs Advocates non-monolithic education

Smithsonian Oral History:

DM: But you do need a person.

SJ: You need a person. Especially with computers the way they are now. Computers are very reactive but they're not proactive; they are not agents, if you will. They are very reactive. What children need is something more proactive. They need a guide. They don't need an assistant. I think we have all the material in the world to solve this problem; it's just being deployed in other places. I've been a very strong believer in that what we need to do in education is to go to the full voucher system. I know this isn't what the interview was supposed to be about but it is what I care about a great deal.

DM: This question was meant to be at the end and we're just getting to it now.

SJ: One of the things I feel is that, right now, if you ask who are the customers of education, the customers of education are the society at large, the employers who hire people, things like that. But ultimately I think the customers are the parents. Not even the students but the parents. The problem that we have in this country is that the customers went away. The customers stopped paying attention to their schools, for the most part. What happened was that mothers started working and they didn't have time to spend at PTA meetings and watching their kids' school. Schools became much more institutionalized and parents spent less and less and less time involved in their kids' education. What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control, which is what happened in our country, is that the service level almost always goes down. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said "We don't care. We don't have to." And that's what a monopoly is. That's what IBM was in their day. And that's certainly what the public school system is. They don't have to care.

Let's go through some economics. The most expensive thing people buy in their lives is a house. The second most expensive thing is a car, usually, and an average car costs approximately twenty thousand dollars. And an average car lasts about eight years. Then you buy another one. Approximately two thousand dollars a year over an eight year period. Well, your child goes to school approximately eight years in K through 8. What does the State of California spent per pupil per year in a public school? About forty-four hundred dollars. Over twice as much as a car. It turns out that when you go to buy a car you have a lot of information available to you to make a choice and you have a lot of choices. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan. They are advertising to you like crazy. I can't get through a day without seeing five car ads. And they seem to be able to make these cars efficiently enough that they can afford to take some of my money and advertise to other people. So that everybody knows about all these cars and they keep getting better and better because there's a lot of competition.

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What's so bad about school choice? Opponents are waging a misinformation campaign

Larry Kaufmann:

Monopolists hate competition, and they'll say almost anything to prevent it. When natural gas competition was introduced in the mid-1980s, pipeline executives told regulators it would lead to gas explosions throughout Manhattan. As implausible as that tale was, it pales in comparison to the misinformation campaign waged by the public school monopoly against school choice.

The school choice movement is gathering steam because of one simple fact: Public education is one of the most unproductive and underperforming sectors in America. Since 1970, spending on public schools (per student, in inflation-adjusted terms) has more than doubled. Over the same period, students' combined math and reading scores have been flat, and the U.S. has fallen behind most other industrial nations on standardized tests.

Educational productivity can be measured as the "output" of educational achievement for each inflation-adjusted dollar spent per student, and by this measure, the productivity of American public schools has fallen by 50% since 1970. A dollar invested in public schools in the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand now yields nearly twice the educational achievement as the same dollar spent in U.S. public schools.

These results cannot be explained by the efforts made to educate the disadvantaged, or by "exit exams" that reduce the pool of high school graduates in some countries. America's public schools clearly need to be improved but, in spite of receiving a massive increase in resources, have consistently failed to do so. Given this dismal performance, the current calls for fundamental educational reform are natural, healthy and long overdue.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Nearly Half of U.S. Lives in Household Receiving Government Benefit

Sara Murray:

Families were more dependent on government programs than ever last year.

Nearly half, 48.5%, of the population lived in a household that received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010, according to Census data. Those numbers have risen since the middle of the recession when 44.4% lived households receiving benefits in the third quarter of 2008.

The share of people relying on government benefits has reached a historic high, in large part from the deep recession and meager recovery, but also because of the expansion of government programs over the years. (See a timeline on the history of government benefits programs here.)

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Duncan encourages states to ditch No Child Left Behind

Prescott Carlson:

A week after President Obama said he planned to rollback No Child Left Behind requirements, a majority of states have indicated they're on board with the plan, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is encouraging others to do the same.

In a recent appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Duncan said that he wants "to get out of the way of the states," and that teachers need "room to move and we can't keep beating down from Washington."

In a letter to state education officials, Duncan stated that he was encouraging state and local government agencies to request waivers to NCLB, which Duncan says he is able to enact through a section in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The new waivers will provide flexibility to school curriculum, provided that the governing bodies meet certain requirements.

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October 6, 2011

New Path for Teacher Ed Reform

Allie Grasgreen:

"Our shared goal is that every teacher should receive the high-quality preparation and support so that every student can have the education they deserve," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said at the report's release here on Friday at a forum sponsored by Education Sector. The current system provides no measurement of teacher effectiveness, and thus no guarantee of quality, he said. Despite federal rules requiring states to identify low-performing teacher preparation programs, in the past dozen years, more than half haven't pointed to a single one. "That would be laughable if the results weren't so tragic for our nation's children," Duncan said.

The plan also includes special aid for programs that recruit more diverse candidates who become successful teachers, to address the increasing difference between the proportion of minority students and that of minority teachers.

Measuring teacher performance has been a focus for Duncan, who last year upset many programs by suggesting that master's degrees in education should not automatically merit higher paychecks, saying that money should be redirected to teachers who either prove their ability to perform or work in high-needs areas such as low-income districts. The new federal proposal, which Duncan announced here on Friday, was widely praised for its goal of improving student outcomes. But it also prompted some skepticism from teacher education groups questioning its feasibility.

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Costs of school choice should be transparent

Chris Larson:

Dear Common Council Members, Mayor Barrett, Treasurer Whittow, and Comptroller Morics:

As members of the Milwaukee Legislative Caucus, we are writing to request that you adopt and implement the Milwaukee Public School Board's proposal to break out the tax levy associated with the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) from the tax levy for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) on all annual tax documents sent to taxpayers.

Inclusion of this information would amount to a simple act of truth in advertising and transparency in government. Milwaukee's taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much of their money is going to fund private and religious schools through the MPCP.

As you know, in 2010, state law compelled MPS to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize the private and religious schools that make up the voucher program, over which MPS has no authority or control. This amounts to 17 percent of the total MPS tax levy going to non-MPS schools.

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October 5, 2011

Arne Duncan Meetings With Rahm Emanuel, Scott Walker Don't Address Teachers Union Controversy

Joy Resmovits:

Stopping in areas notorious for volatile labor relations this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrapped up his Great Lakes bus tour in Milwaukee and Chicago on Friday with little talk of teachers union battles.

In Milwaukee, Duncan was joined by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who outraged educators by signing a budget in June that severely limited their collective bargaining rights, at a town hall event focused on connecting learning to career skills.

"All of us feel your presence today but appreciate your interest in Milwaukee and particularly the Milwaukee Public School system," Walker said in the library of Milwaukee's School of Career and Technical Education.

"You've done some things we agree with, and you've done some things that we don't agree with," Duncan said, addressing Walker. "Limiting collective bargaining rights is not the right way to go," he added, garnering applause.

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Audit of online education funds a necessity

The Coloradoan:

It all seemed like a good idea at the time: give students an option to attend school online rather than through traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions.

The concept launched in Colorado in 1995 was intended to help at-risk students who struggle in traditional settings and to provide a choice for students and parents looking to reap more from their educational experiences.

Here in Poudre School District, its online school, the Global Academy, is controlled with much the same accountability as other PSD schools, including regular audits and monitoring for achievement and standardized testing.

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October 4, 2011

Madison Preparatory Academy Hearing Statement

Don Severson, via email:

DATE: October 3, 2011
TO: MMSD Board of Education
FROM: Don Severson, President, 577-0851, RE: Madison Preparatory Academy Hearing
Notes: For public appearance

The actions of the past few days are stunning, but not necessarily surprising ULGM (Madison Prep) and MTI have made working 'arrangements' regarding employment of teachers and staff and working conditions, the details of which have yet to be made public.

Major issue: 'negotiations/arrangements' have been made between MP & MTI without MMSD BOE nor administration at the table--both observed and verified by parties not involved.

In other words, MTI is the de facto negotiator for the Board and NOT the elected BOE, nor specified as its representative
ACE has publicly stated its support of MP. We must now withhold affirmation of that support until and unless major, systemic changes occur in how the proposal process and plans (both academic and business) play out.

By design, default, benign neglect or/and collusion the BOE has abdicated the authority vested in it by law and the electorate of the District with regards to its fiduciary irresponsibility and lack of control for policy-making.

Lest you are OK with your past and current operating methods; have forgotten how you are demonstrating your operating methods; or don't care, you have been elected to be the leader and be in charge of this District, not MTI.

By whatever BOE action or in-action has thus far been demonstrated, the proposed operational direction of MP has been reduced to appearing and acting in the mirror image of the District. This is inappropriate to say the least. The entire purpose of a charter school is to be different and to get different results.

How is forcing MP to operate in essentially the same fashion as the District and at a cost of more money....any different from....operating the District's nearly 30 current alternative/innovative programs and services for 800 students, at millions of dollars, taking away from other students in the District? And, you can't even produce data to show what differences, if any, are being made with these students.

This current Board, and past Boards of Education have proven over and over again that spending more money and doing essentially the same things, don't get different results (speaking here essentially about the 'achievement gap' issue)
Continuing to speak bluntly, the Board's financial and academic philosophies, policies and actions are inconsistent, phony and discriminatory.

Let us be clear...

The process for consideration of the Madison Prep charter school proposal must

  • be open and public
  • be under the leadership of the BOE
  • be accountable to the BOE and the public
  • have ALL stakeholders at the same table at ALL times

Thank you.
PDF Version.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

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The price of a free school: Of course the idea sounds grand - but free from what? Or, more importantly, free for what?

Harry Eyres:

At this time of year there is always talk of education. The autumn term has started; some children are entering school for the first time; others are making the transition from primary to secondary; young adults are being driven, with bulging bags and cases, to halls of residence by parents who may be more traumatised than they are. And this year, at least in the UK, there is more talk than ever, because education is being "shaken up" by Michael Gove, a notably driven and idealistic, and ideological, education secretary; and also by a universities minister, David Willetts, of legendary intellectual firepower. A new class of "free schools" has been created; the whole system of university education has been rethought, or at least put on a different financial footing.

Of course the idea of free schools sounds grand - but free from what? Or, more importantly, free for what? Trying to get some perspective on what this idea of freedom might mean, I found myself looking back to two inspiring experiments in education, both of which were conducted in Madrid before the Spanish Civil War.

The more famous of the two was the Residencia de Estudiantes - the arty version of an Oxbridge college at which Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí, Falla and others spent time in the 1920s and 1930s, and which served as a seedbed for much of the burgeoning artistic creativity of that brilliant, short-lived time.

But the less well-known Institución Libre de Enseñanza, or Free Institute of Education, founded in 1876 by Francisco Giner de los Ríos, is possibly more relevant to my theme. In this case the word "free" meant very specifically free from the dead hand of state and religious control. The Spanish "Glorious Revolution" of 1868 had promised a more modern, secular, scientific model of education; but the Restoration of 1874 brought back not only the Bourbons but a repressive, state-controlled education system in which the minister dictated the choice of textbooks and curriculum, and forbade the teaching of non-Catholic religious doctrine or critical political ideas.

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Should kids' test scores be used to evaluate teachers' colleges?

Todd Finkelmeyer:

The ongoing debate over whether using student test results on standardized exams is a good way to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness just took a new twist.

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday released a report calling for new regulations designed to link federal funding for teacher-education programs to the test scores of students.

"While there are many beacons of excellence, unfortunately some of our existing teacher preparation programs are not up to the job," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says in the forward to the report. "They operate partially blindfolded, without access to data that tells them how effective their graduates are in elementary and secondary school classrooms after they leave their teacher preparation programs. Too many are not attracting top students, and too many states are not setting a high bar for entry into the profession."

The report, which outlines the Obama administration's proposals for teacher education reform, also calls for additional funds for teaching scholarships and expanding efforts to create more minority teachers. It's mainly catching the eyes of higher education officials nationally, however, for proposing ways to hold colleges, universities and programs that produce teachers accountable for those they send into the classroom.

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Why Madison Prep deserves consideration

The Capital Times:

We have historically been uncomfortable with so-called "charter" schools, which too frequently sacrifice the principle of providing all students with a well-rounded education in favor of narrower experiments.

And we have never had any taste for separate-but-equal -- or more usually separate-and-unequal -- schemes that divide students along lines of race, class and gender.

As such, we approached the Madison Preparatory Academy project with trepidation.

The proposal to create a charter school with single-sex classrooms focused on raising the academic performance of minority students has been sincerely and generally well presented by Urban League President Kaleem Caire. We respect that Caire is attempting to address serious issues, including a lingering frustration with the Madison Metropolitan School District's responses to the achievement gap that has plagued the district for many years.

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October 3, 2011

U.S. Education Secretary calls Massachusetts 'great example' for nation

Matt Murphy:

Celebrating the one-year anniversary of Massachusetts's successful pitch for $250 million from the Obama administration's Race to the Top program, Gov. Deval Patrick, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and state Education Secretary Paul Reville on Wednesday touted the efforts the state has made to improve innovation and student performance in public schools.

The anniversary comes as state education officials indicate they plan to seek a waiver from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that require 100 percent of students to be proficient in English and math by 2014. Obama announced the opportunity for states to apply to opt out of portions of NCLB last Friday.

Duncan credited Massachusetts with setting "a great example for the country," despite Reville acknowledging that under No Child Left Behind over 90 percent of Massachusetts schools have been categorized in some way as "underperforming" based on the most recent MCAS scores.

How does Wisconsin compare to Massachusetts? Find out, here.

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October 2, 2011

A federal takeover of education

George Will:

Many Americans, having grown accustomed to Caesarism, probably see magnanimity in that front-page headline. Others, however, read it as redundant evidence of how distorted American governance has become. A president "gives" states a "voice" in education policy concerning kindergarten through 12th grade? How did this quintessential state and local responsibility become tethered to presidential discretion? Here is how federal power expands, even in the guise of decentralization:

Ohio Sen. Robert Taft (1889-1953) was "Mr. Republican," revered by conservatives chafing under the domination of the GOP by Eastern money that preferred moderates such as New York Gov. Tom Dewey, the GOP's 1944 and 1948 presidential nominee. In "The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party," Michael Bowen, historian at Pennsylvania's Westminster College, recounts how Taft leavened his small-government orthodoxy with deviations, including federal aid to primary and secondary education.

In the 79th Congress (1945-47), Taft sponsored legislation to provide such education more than $8 billion over 25 years. The sum was huge (the 1947 federal budget was $34.5 billion), and the 25-year horizon said that federal intervention would not be temporary. Taft drafted his bill with help from the National Education Association (NEA), the teachers union that today is an appendage of the Democratic Party, except when the relationship is the other way around.

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California Governor Brown should give 'thumbs down' on autism-linked education bill

Patrick Johnston:

Hundreds of pieces of legislation are sitting on Governor Jerry Brown's desk awaiting his proverbial "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." Gov. Brown has already warned that many of these bills will be vetoed, saying that there will be "plenty of veto blues."

One bill that regretfully deserves a veto is Senate Bill 946 (Steinberg). It would impose a costly new mandate for private health insurance to pay for educational non-medical services for children with autism, while exempting the public health programs -- Medi-Cal and Healthy Families -- from the requirement to cover the same therapy.

The bill was jammed through the legislature at the last possible moment without sufficient time for debate or evaluation of the potential consequences of passage. While on the surface it may seem like a well-intentioned bill, it is riddled with flaws and in the end will do more harm than good.

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October 1, 2011

The Higher-Education Battle the White House Should Be Waging

Kevin Carey:

In February 2009, in his first speech to Congress, President Obama pledged that America would regain the world lead in college attainment by 2020. It was a bold declaration, one that gave hope to those who worry that the nation's historic commitment to higher learning is at risk.

Whether Obama really means it, however, remains to be seen. The administration has not yet developed a plan that would plausibly produce the millions of additional graduates needed to meet the 2020 goal.

To get there, the president must change the politics of higher-education reform. He should begin by using the bully pulpit to underscore how public and student interests often conflict with the priorities of traditional colleges and universities. The administration knows how to do this, because it's already done so--twice. In 2010 it took $87-billion in unneeded student-loan subsidies away from private banks and gave the money to taxpayers and low-income students in the form of more-generous Pell Grants. In 2011 the Department of Education installed a new system for regulating the rapidly growing for-profit higher-education sector, protecting public dollars and saving students from being suckered into borrowing too much money for low-value degrees.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Bread & Circuses, or a Look at California's Union, Pension, Budget and Political Challenges

Michael Lewis:

David Crane, the former economic adviser--at that moment rapidly receding into the distance--could itemize the result: a long list of depressing government financial statistics. The pensions of state employees ate up twice as much of the budget when Schwarzenegger left office as they had when he arrived, for instance. The officially recognized gap between what the state would owe its workers and what it had on hand to pay them was roughly $105 billion, but that, thanks to accounting gimmicks, was probably only about half the real number. "This year the state will directly spend $32 billion on employee pay and benefits, up 65 percent over the past 10 years," says Crane later. "Compare that to state spending on higher education [down 5 percent], health and human services [up just 5 percent], and parks and recreation [flat], all crowded out in large part by fast-rising employment costs." Crane is a lifelong Democrat with no particular hostility to government. But the more he looked into the details, the more shocking he found them to be. In 2010, for instance, the state spent $6 billion on fewer than 30,000 guards and other prison-system employees. A prison guard who started his career at the age of 45 could retire after five years with a pension that very nearly equaled his former salary. The head parole psychiatrist for the California prison system was the state's highest-paid public employee; in 2010 he'd made $838,706. The same fiscal year that the state spent $6 billion on prisons, it had invested just $4.7 billion in its higher education--that is, 33 campuses with 670,000 students. Over the past 30 years the state's share of the budget for the University of California has fallen from 30 percent to 11 percent, and it is about to fall a lot more. In 1980 a Cal student paid $776 a year in tuition; in 2011 he pays $13,218. Everywhere you turn, the long-term future of the state is being sacrificed.

This same set of facts, and the narrative it suggested, would throw an ordinary man into depression. He might conclude that he lived in a society that was ungovernable. After seven years of trying and mostly failing to run California, Schwarzenegger is persuasively not depressed. "You have to realize the thing was so much fun!" he says. "We had a great time! There were times of frustration. There were times of disappointment. But if you want to live rather than just exist, you want the drama." As we roll to a stop very near the place on the beach where he began his American bodybuilding career, he says, "You have to step back and say, 'I was elected under odd circumstances. And I'm going out in odd circumstances.' You can't have it both ways. You can't be a spoiled brat."

wikipedia on bread and circuses.

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September 30, 2011

Bipartisan bill would block automatic voucher school expansion in Wisconsin

Susan Troller:

Ten Wisconsin senators, from both parties, have joined forces to propose legislation that would require any further expansion of voucher schools to receive a full public debate.

The state's voucher program provides taxpayer funds for families to send their children to private schools. It has served low-income students in Milwaukee for about 20 years, but was expanded by Gov. Scott Walker in the state budget passed in June without public debate or other legislative action.

Also included was language allowing automatic expansion of the voucher program in the future to any school district in Wisconsin that meets certain financial and demographic criteria.

That mechanism isn't sitting well with some senators, including Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah. He introduced SB 174, which ensures that any further expansion of the voucher program would include full public debate and legislative action.

"Sen. Ellis is not an enthusiastic advocate nor is he an opponent of voucher programs. But he's long argued that policy issues should not be added into the budget process and this legislation addresses concerns about automatic expansion without proper debate," says Michael Boerger, an aide to Ellis.

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Madison Teachers union receives national recognition for organizing protests

Samuel Schmitt:

A Madison teachers union will receive a national award for its organizational work during last spring's protests against Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill throughout Wisconsin.

The Institute for Policy Studies, located in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday Madison Teachers Incorporated would be honored with the Letelier-Motiff Human Rights Award on Oct. 12, said ISP spokesperson Lacy MacAuleyet.

IPS annually presents two awards to honor those who the group believes to be "unsung heroes of the progressive movement." One award is presented domestically and one internationally, she said.

MTI Executive Director John Matthews said the union has never received an award of this caliber.

"This is a first," Matthews said. "[The national distinction represents] significant recognition for MTI's leadership. MTI hasn't slowed its effort in the movement."

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September 29, 2011

WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union): Who Benefits?

Why this area teacher chose the non-union option

Elijah Grajkowski:

If the teachers union is as wonderful as it claims, then it should have no problem attracting members, without the need to force teachers to join. How is this any different from any other professional organization that teachers, as professionals, may choose to join? It's a question I have been pondering since I became a public school teacher in Wisconsin.

For years, I have chosen not to be a member of the union. However, this is a choice I didn't exactly have before Gov. Scott Walker's collective-bargaining bill became law. As a compulsory union state, where teachers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the most I could hope for was a "fair share" membership, where the union refunded me a small portion of the money that was taken from my paycheck that lawyers have deemed "un-chargeable."

Every September, after lengthy, bureaucratic and unadvertised hurdles, I would file my certified letter to try to withdraw my union membership. Then, the union would proceed to drag its feet in issuing my small refund. I often wondered why this kind of burden would be put on an individual teacher like me. Shouldn't it be up to the organization to convince people and to sell its benefits to potential members afresh each year?

Why should I have to move mountains each fall to break ties with this group that I don't want to be a part of in the first place? Something seemed dreadfully wrong with that picture.

Union's efforts help all students, educators and schools

WEAC President Mary Bell:
I became a Wisconsin teacher more than 30 years ago. I entered my classroom on the first day of school with my eyes and heart wide open, dedicated to the education of children and to the promise public schools offer. I was part of our state's longstanding education tradition.

Like many beginning teachers, I soon encountered the many challenges and opportunities educators face every day in schools. About 50% of new educators leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. New teachers need mentors, suggestions, support and encouragement to help them meet the individual needs of students (all learning at different speeds and in different ways) and teach life lessons that can't be learned from textbooks.

That's where the union comes in. In many ways, much of the work the Wisconsin Education Association Council does is behind the scenes: supporting new teachers through union-led mentoring programs and offering training and skill development to help teachers with their licenses and certification. Our union helps teachers achieve National Board Certification - the highest accomplishment in the profession - and provides hands-on training for support professionals to become certified in their fields. These are efforts that benefit all Wisconsin educators, not just a few, and no single educator could accomplish them all alone.

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Scott Walker and Mitch Daniels on Public Employee Unions

Ira Stoll:

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, and the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, were both in New York City earlier this week for a Manhattan Institute conference about a "new social contract" with public employees.

Mr. Walker spoke first. He said the changes enacted in Wisconsin that had opponents sitting in and sleeping over in the state capital in protest earlier this year had saved $1.44 billion for state and local governments combined. He said school districts had used the savings to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes and to offer merit pay.

Mr. Walker said voters are looking for "not Republican leadership, not Democrat leadership, they just want leadership."

Mr. Walker contrasted his approach with that of Governor Patrick Quinn, a Democrat, of Wisconsin's neighbor Illinois, who "laid off thousands" of state workers after "massive tax increases."

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September 27, 2011

Commentary on Wisconsin School Choice Battles

Mike Ford:

A 3,000 plus word article by Bill Lueders in the Capital Times today questions the motives behind legislators that support the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Specifically targeted is Rep. Howard Marklein, a freshman legislator from Spring Green who had the gall to not only support school choice in Milwaukee but also to introduce legislation to improve the program.

Lueders quotes Rep. Sandy Pope-Roberts as asking: "What's in this for Howard Marklein?...If it isn't for the campaign funds, why is he doing this?"

Perhaps he is doing it because it benefits taxpayers in the 51st Assembly district. As Marklein points out to Lueders, an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the MPCP is a benefit to his constituents. Without the MPCP, the 15 school districts represented by Rep. Marklein would lose $1.3 million in state aid. The estimate assumes that 90% of students in the MPCP would have no choice but to return to the more expensive Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system if the MPCP was ended. The 90% figure is the number used by the official state evaluators of the MPCP and is based on evidence from choice programs around the country.

David Blaska has more.

TJ Mertz:

This is Take Two in a series. Take One, with a fuller introduction, can be found here. Briefly, the idea of the series is to counter anti-teacher and anti-teachers' union individuals and "reform" groups appropriation of the phrase "it is all about the kids" as a means to heap scorn and ridicule on public education and public education employees by investigating some of the actions of these individuals and groups in light of the question "is it all about the kids?" In each take, national developments are linked to local matters in relation to the Madison Prep charter school proposal.

Take Two: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: Public Lotteries and the Exploitation of Families and Children

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Grading the GOP Candidates on Education

Andrew Rotherham:

Given how preoccupied everyone is with the economy, education is even less of an issue in this presidential campaign than usual. Most of the Republican candidates do not even include education positions on their websites. And the two GOP heavyweights who have garnered the best reviews from education reformers on both sides of the aisle are not even in the race: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is sitting the campaign out, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out after finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll. But as President Obama gets ready to put the debate about how to reform No Child Left Behind on the front burner (he's planning a big speech at the White House for this Friday), the GOP candidates can't avoid education forever. As some start to drop hints about what their education plans might look like, here's a handicapper's guide to the leading contenders and their views -- and record -- on education.

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Schools need more than money to improve

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

Education is a key part of job creation and long-term economic growth. That's one of the reasons why the issue is so important to me and governors across the country. It's also why I'm excited to be participating in an extended national discussion about the future of education, how it will be the backbone of future innovation, and help grow our economy.

As part of an "Education Nation Summit" hosted by NBC on Monday, I will be talking with a bipartisan group of governors about education in America and its importance to economic competitiveness.

Although Democratic and Republican governors don't always agree on every issue, there is broad consensus about the need to improve education in our country to keep our workforce the best in a global economy. Almost every governor has dealt with declining revenues and difficult budget decisions, but almost every governor has ideas on how to reform and improve education that go beyond spending more money.

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September 26, 2011

K-12 America Since 1981

edweek, via a kind Richard Askey email:

This interactive timeline digs deep into the Education Week archives to tell the story of U.S. education and the changing policies, theories, and perspectives that have influenced it since 1981, the year the publication began.

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Abolish the U.S. Department of Education? Seriously?

Jennifer Wheary:

We all owe Stella Lohmann of Atlanta, Georgia thanks.  Ms. Lohmann is the substitute teacher who via video asked GOP candidates in last night's debate:

What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom?

Prior to asking the question, Ms. Lohmann offered some important context to show her credibility:

I've taught in both public and private schools, and now as a substitute teacher I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. 

Next time I visit Georgia, I would not mind shaking Ms. Lohmann's hand for posing such an interesting and illuminating, albeit extremely loaded, question.

Then I would ask whether she happens to be the same blogger and communications consultant found at wearing a "Freedom Czar" baseball hat. And how Fox happened to find her? 

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September 25, 2011

Building an Education Nation

Tom Brokaw:

Think of American education as a house of many rooms, each with a distinct function but taken as a whole, this house is shelter against the winds of change buffeting the world and threatening our future.

Any objective analysis of that shelter comes to the same conclusion: we have work to do to be sure we're secure and able to hold our own against whatever this new global climate sends our way.

That's the unsettling news. The good news? Work is under way, from the most remote school districts in rural America, to the inner city of our largest urban areas.

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September 23, 2011

1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison, by State

Download a 55K PDF version.

Conor Dougherty & Rob Barry

Despite a decade of technological advances that make it possible to work almost anywhere, many of the nation's most educated people continue to cluster in a handful of dominant metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York and California's Silicon Valley, according to census data released Thursday.

The upshot is that regions with the most skilled and highly paid workers continue to widen their advantages over less well-endowed locales.

"In a knowledge economy, success breeds success," said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Of the largest 100 metropolitan areas, those with the highest percentage of college graduates in 2000 outpaced in education gains areas with lower percentages of college grads. For instance, the 10 cities with the highest share of their population holding a bachelor's degree or higher saw that share jump by an average of 4.6 percentage points over the decade, while the bottom 10 saw their share grow 3.1 percentage points.

Data Source: American Community Survey.


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Restructuring, Reform and Reality

Nancy Connor:

In a recent eduwonk post regarding NCLB's complex and controversial school restructuring options, Andrew Rotherham wrote, "When it comes to tackling these problems, we have a serious failure of creativity, imagination, and, of course, political will. That's not this law's fault, and it's not going to be solved by any future law. Rather, it's cultural, deep rooted and demands real leadership..."

He has a point. However, the restructuring project is pretty daunting and beset with real practical constraints. Take the staffing issue. Which staff would you replace if the achievement failure is limited to the Hispanic subgroup within the school, but two-thirds of the students are Hispanic? What do you do if you are having difficulties with second-language learners, but your school has kids who speak fifteen different languages? Would you really fire all of the special education staff, even if there is no hope of hiring more?

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Say Federal Gov't Wastes Over Half of Every Dollar; Believe state and local governments waste proportionately less money

Jeffrey M. Jones:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans estimate that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every dollar it spends, a new high in a Gallup trend question first asked in 1979.

The current estimate of 51 cents wasted on the dollar is similar to what Gallup measured in 2009, but marks the first time Americans believe more than half of federal spending is wasted. The low point in the trend is 38 cents wasted on the dollar, in 1986.

Americans are less likely to believe state and local governments waste money they spend than they are to believe this about the federal government, with the state estimate at 42 cents on the dollar and the local at 38 cents.

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Plan would shake up Utah Education

Paul Rolly:

At its next general session, the Legislature will be considering a bold plan that would put a new face on public education in Utah and dramatically alter the relationships between school districts, individual schools and students.

The question being asked now: Will the plan propel individual student achievement or stunt it?

Legislation proposed by Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, would give each high school student in Utah an individual education savings account, sort of like a debit card, and that student could use that money any way he or she wanted toward earning a diploma.

The plan would be unique in the United States and, just like initiatives from the Utah Legislature on public employee pension reform and Medicaid reform, could become a model for other states, its supporters boast.

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Declining Local School District "Control"

Lyndsey Layton:

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are scheduled Friday to detail plans to waive some of the law's toughest requirements, including the goal that every student be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or else their schools could face escalating sanctions.

In exchange for relief, the administration will require a quid pro quo: States must adopt changes that could include the expansion of charter schools, linking teacher evaluation to student performance and upgrading academic standards. As many as 45 states are expected to seek waivers.

For many students, the most tangible impact could be what won't happen. They won't see half their teachers fired, their principal removed or school shut down because some students failed to test at grade level -- all potential consequences under the current law.

A Capital Times Editorial:
Wisconsin has moved to take authority away from local elected school boards and parents and to rest it with political appointees who respond to Gov. Scott Walker and out-of-state groups that are spending millions of dollars to undermine public education.

Wisconsin's best and brightest teachers -- the Teacher of the Year award winners -- have joined mass demonstrations to decry the assault by politicians and their cronies on public education.

What's Walker's response? He wants to tell the nation how to do the same.

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September 22, 2011

Proposed Madison Prep Academy needs to show proof of effectiveness of single-gender education to get grant

Matthew DeFour:

The state Department of Public Instruction is requiring backers of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy to provide scientific research supporting the effectiveness of single-gender education to receive additional funding.

The hurdle comes as university researchers are raising questions about whether such evidence exists. In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers also say single-gender education increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

Efforts to justify single-gender education as innovative school reform "is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence," according to the article by eight university professors associated with the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde.

The Urban League of Greater Madison originally proposed Madison Prep as an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities. But after a state planning grant was held up because of legal questions related to single-gender education, the Urban League announced it would open the school next year with single-gender classrooms in the same building.

I find this ironic, given the many other programs attempted within our public schools, such as English 10, small learning communities, connected math and a number of reading programs.

Related: Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education and from Susan Troller:

A newly published article by child development experts and neuroscientists blasting the trend toward single-sex education as "pseudoscience" won't help the cause of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy.

Neither will the continued opposition of the South Central Federation of Labor, which reiterated its opposition to the Urban League-sponsored proposal this week because teachers at the school would not be represented by a union. The Madison Metropolitan School District has a collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc. that runs through June of 2013, and Madison Prep's plan envisions working conditions for its staff -- a longer school day and a longer school year, for example -- that differ substantially from the contract the district has with its employees.

With a public hearing on the charter school scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, the debate surrounding Madison Prep is heating up on many fronts. The Madison School Board must take a final vote giving the charter school a go or no-go decision in November.

Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League and a passionate proponent for the separate boys and girls academies aimed at helping boost minority youth academic performance, says he is unimpressed by an article published in the prestigious journal, Science, on Sept. 23, that says there is "no empirical evidence" supporting academic improvement through single-sex education.

Are other DPI funded initiatives held to the same "standard"?

The timing of these events is certainly interesting.

14mb mp3 audio. WORT-FM conducted an interview this evening with Janet Shibley Hyde, one of the authors. Unrelated, but interesting, Hyde's interview further debunked the "learning styles" rhetoric we hear from time to time.

UPDATE: The Paper in Question: The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling:

In attempting to improve schools, it is critical to remember that not all reforms lead to meaningful gains for students. We argue that one change in particular--sex-segregated education--is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students' academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

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Christie, Cerf, and Teachers' Union: A Fragile Peace

John Mooney:

Fred Frangiosa's presence was conspicuous last week when Gov. Chris Christie visited a Bergenfield middle school to promote his plans for remaking teacher evaluation statewide.

Frangiosa is president of the Bergenfield Education Association, and it is his union's 450 teachers who will help test the new system. Bergenfield is one of 10 pilot districts for Christie's plan.

But there was Frangiosa, sitting in Christie's audience in a middle school classroom -- not a cheerleader for the plan, by any means, but not protesting it, either.
"You can't sign off on something if you don't know what it is," Frangiosa said, "and you can't oppose it either. "

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WEA Trust demands talk show host 'cease and desist'

Wisconsin Reporter:

WEA Trust doesn't like what Mark Belling has to say, and the health insurer wants the conservative talk show host to "cease and desist."

WEA Trust, which bills itself on its website as a not-for-profit insurance group for Wisconsin public school employees and their families, today sent a letter to the afternoon, drive-time, radio host at 1130 WISN in Milwaukee, demanding Belling stop making what WEA Trust describes as "defamatory public accusations.

Belling repeatedly has accused the private health insurance company of "racketeering" by transferring its revenue to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, the state teachers union, an act that would be illegal under state and federal law.

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Wisconsin Governor Walker slated for NBC News 'Education Nation' Summit

Susan Troller:

Gov. Scott Walker will be featured as part of a bipartisan slate of governors during a panel discussion of The State of Education during NBC News' 2011 "Education Nation" Summit on Monday, Sept. 26. The annual summit will continue on Sept. 27 as well.

NBC News' Brian Williams will host the discussion, which focuses on education and economic competitiveness.

In a press release sent from the governor's office Tuesday, Walker says "I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools. ... Improving education is a key to ensuring we have a talented workforce that will grow and attract jobs."

According to the release, among the topics to be discussed are some highly controversial, hot-button Wisconsin issues, including budget cuts, the role of teachers unions, teacher effectiveness, charter schools and online learning. Other issues include college and career preparation, Common Core standards, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

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America's Report Card

Column Five Media:

As we ramp up to the 2012 election, politicians are really starting to grandstand about their accomplishments, but what do the everyday people think about how their state is doing? This infographic done with 1Bog, asked hundreds of U.S. residents in all 50 states to grade their state on several different factors.

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September 21, 2011

Selling out public schools: Millions of dollars are changing face of education

Bill Lueders:

"School choice" is a broad term that refers to a wide range of alternatives, including themed charter schools that are entirely under the control of their home school districts. Forty states and the District of Columbia have those in place, according to the American Federation for Children, a national school choice advocacy group.

But it is the voucher programs, in which public funds are used to send children to private schools, that are the focus of much of the energy around the choice movement. Seven states and the District of Columbia have those, and Milwaukee's voucher program is the first and largest of its kind in the country. That makes Wisconsin a key national battleground.

"Wisconsin has a high level of value to the movement as a whole," says Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for school choice. The state, he says, is notable for "the high level of scholarship amounts that families can get."

Milwaukee's voucher program had 20,300 full-time equivalent voucher students at 102 private schools in 2010-11, compared to about 80,000 students at Milwaukee's public K-12 schools. The total cost, at $6,442 per voucher student, was $130.8 million, of which about $90 million came from the state and the rest from the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Critics see the school choice program as part of a larger strategy -- driven into high gear in Wisconsin by the fall election of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans -- to eviscerate, for ideological and religious reasons, public schools and the unions that represent teachers.

It would be interesting to compare special interest spending in support of the status quo, vs groups advocating change, as outlined in Bill Lueders' article. A few links:
  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
    How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state's largest teachers union, $1.57 million.

    That's how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected - enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.

    Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an "all in" bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.

    In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:

  • Wisconsin teachers union tops list of biggest lobbying groups for 2009-10, report shows
    The statewide teachers union led in spending on lobbying state lawmakers even before this year's fight over collective bargaining rights.

    The Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2009 and 2010, years when Democrats were in control of all of state government, a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Board showed.

    WEAC is always one of the top spending lobbyists in the Capitol and they took a central role this year fighting Gov. Scott Walker's plan curbing public employee union rights, including teachers.

    Back in 2009, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor and Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly, WEAC wasn't helping to organize massive protests but it was a regular presence in the Capitol.

  • Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million
    Spending in the summer's recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

    Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.

    The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

  • Kansas City School District Loses its Accreditation

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Kansas City, Mo., School District Loses Its Accreditation

A.G. Sulzberger:

The struggling Kansas City, Missouri School District was stripped of its accreditation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of student departures and a state takeover. The action follows weeks of tumult that included another round of turnover of top leadership.

Though not entirely unexpected, the move was a painful return to reality for the city after a period of optimism that difficult choices were finally being made to confront longstanding problems in the school district, most notably the closing of nearly half the schools in response to a huge budget deficit.

The Missouri Board of Education cited the continued failure to improve academic performance and the continued instability in district leadership as driving its decision. The district has been provisionally accredited for nearly a decade after a two-year period during which it was unaccredited.

"We've given Kansas City more time than maybe we should have to address the problems," said Chris L. Nicastro, the state education commissioner, who had recommended the move. "Over a sustained period of time, student performance has not met state standards."

Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater formerly worked for the Kansas City School District.

The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned.

Money & School Performance is well worth a read.

It is a rare organization that can reinvent itself, rather than continuing to atrophy.

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A better way for Madison Prep

Jack Craver:

If people want a charter school to be an inspiration to other youngsters in the community, here's a better way to do it. Instead of building an entirely new school, which costs a ton and isolates the kids from the rest of their peers, why not go with the school within a school model, in which a charter is operated within an existing public school?

That's the only original idea I have. Now here is my two cents on the rest of the plan.

I believe Kaleem Caire knows what he is talking about though. It's frustrating to see a debate on the crisis facing minority students as polarized between the know-nothings on the right who believe the only issues facing blacks are self-inflicted cultural ones and the lefties who refuse to accept that anything besides racism and poverty are responsible for the poor performance of black males in America.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

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Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

Jessica Vanegeren:

Spending in the summer's recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.

The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

Put in perspective, the $43.9 million spent on the recalls more than doubled the previous record for spending by candidates and groups in legislative races, which was $20.25 million for 99 Assembly seats and 16 Senate seats in the 2008 general elections, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

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Despite changes, Wisconsin charter school expansion bill faces a headwind

Susan Troller:

A controversial bill that would create an independent, statewide authorizing board for charter schools is facing a tougher path now that Republicans have a razor thin 17-16 edge in the Wisconsin Senate. The legislation is designed to expand charter school choice in Wisconsin and to allow charters to be formed even in communities where they are not approved by local school districts.

Although the bill, introduced by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, last spring, has been modified from its original form, the amended Senate Bill 22 still doesn't pass muster with the Department of Public Instruction. Perhaps more importantly, moderate Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, says he continues to have "more concerns than enthusiasm" for the legislation.

If he, or one of the Senate Democrats that opposed the earlier legislation, can't be persuaded that more independent charter schools would benefit Wisconsin students, SB 22 will be in trouble if it moves from the Joint Finance Committee to a vote in front of legislators, likely in October.

Read more:

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September 20, 2011

The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned

The Economist via a kind Mary Battaglia email

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.

Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA's latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.


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September 19, 2011

Putting Parents in Charge

Peg Tyre:

Peg Tyre is the author of "The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve."

THE school year is in full swing and, if you are the parent of a school-age child, you've probably figured out how to get your children up each weekday morning, dressed and out the door -- toast in hand -- in order to catch the school bus. Good for you.

If you've met and exchanged contact information with your child's homeroom teacher or gone the extra step and volunteered to become the class parent, give yourself a pat on the back. You're on your way to becoming an engaged parent -- the kind of adult, education researchers say, who helps children to be the best they can be in school.

Now, steady yourself. New legislation, called the parent trigger, which is being proposed in more than 20 states, including New York, is about to make your role as an engaged parent a lot more complicated.

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Infographic: Student loan defaults rise as job prospects dim

Mary Mahling, Carla Uriona and Ben Wieder:

Student loan defaults are rising fast, according to figures released this week by the U.S. Department of Education. While much of the press coverage focused on defaults by students attending for-profit schools, defaults at state colleges and universities went up, too. The bad job market is a big factor: Unemployment in 2010 was 10.1 percent for people between the age of 25 to 34, and those numbers are even higher when you remove people above the age of 30. At the same time, state budget cuts to higher education have led to big tuition hikes at many public colleges. California students graduated from public colleges with the least debt in the country in 2009, but tuition jumped 18 percent last year for in-state students in California and double-digit increases are projected for the next several years, as well.

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In California, More Cuts Are in the Cards

Vauhini Vara:

California Gov. Jerry Brown already anticipates relying on spending cuts and forgoing higher taxes to balance his state's budget next year, sobered by his deadlock with Republicans over revenue issues this year.

"There will be no taxes, as far as I know, by the legislature," he said in an interview this week.

The Democrat also said he hasn't decided whether to seek a ballot measure next year that would allow him to bypass the legislature and ask voters to boost taxes--apparently backing off earlier plans to do so. "I'm talking to groups...but we don't have a clear path forward," he said.

On Sept. 9, the last day of the legislature's eight-month session, Mr. Brown failed to pass a plan to rework state tax breaks after GOP senators balked. It was the 73-year-old's latest letdown after he unsuccessfully tried to pass a budget pairing deep cuts with the extension of some expiring tax increases. Those higher taxes would have been subject to voter approval.

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Networked schools outperform independent schools in world's largest school choice market

Anneliese Dickman:

Milwaukee's private school voucher program, now in its twelfth year, is dwarfed by the 30-year-old voucher program in Chile, where almost half of all students attend private voucher schools. The Chilean program is therefore of significant interest to school reformers and researchers looking to make voucher and charter schools a success in the US.

The most recent research, published by the Cato Institute, finds that when the Chilean public school test scores are compared with those of independent private schools and with those of private schools that are part of multi-school networks or franchises, the students in the franchised private schools perform best. (The independent, mom-and-pop private schools do about the same as the public schools.) In addition, the Chilean research indicates the more schools there are in the franchised networks, the better they outperform the others.

The researchers note that in Chile, "The private voucher school sector is essentially a cottage industry. More than 70 percent of private voucher schools are independent schools that do not belong to a franchise." The franchised schools are either owned by for-profit school management companies; affiliated with non-profit, secular organizations; or part of the Catholic or Protestant school systems.

Do these findings reflect what we know about Milwaukee's program? Its hard to say, since only one year of comparative data on student performance in voucher schools is available and it does not differentiate between the various types of private schools. However, those data do indicate considerable variability in performance across Milwaukee's voucher schools--some are producing high scoring students and some are no better than the worst public schools. It would be nice to know if all the high performing private schools had something in common besides the fact they participate in the voucher program.

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September 18, 2011

Comparing Wisconsin & Illinois Education "Reform"

Alan Borsuk:

Whoever thought before this year that Illinois would be held up as a model over Wisconsin of people - politicians, specifically - playing nicely together and making forward-thinking change?

But you hear that fairly often when it comes to education policy. It's one of the things U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in Milwaukee on Sept. 9.

He criticized the way Gov. Scott Walker and legislative Republicans kiboshed teachers union rights and said Illinois did much better by coming up with bold changes that were passed by the legislature with support from both political parties, business and civic leaders, education activists and many (but not all) union leaders.

What Illinois did is noteworthy, especially if you consider what would have seemed doable anywhere in the United States five years ago.

Beginning with steps taken in 2010, Illinois' Democratically controlled legislature is now mandating that a teacher's actual performance be a key in assignments, tenure decisions, firing decisions, and, when necessary, layoffs. How students are progressing will be central to determining a teacher's rating.

All these actions received broad support.

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September 16, 2011

Unions Lead In Wisconin Lobbying In First Half Of 2011

Wisconsin Governmant Accountability Board:

Four labor unions spent $4.2 million in the first half of 2011 lobbying state lawmakers, according to a report from the Government Accountability Board.

Overall, lobbying organizations reported spending $23.9 million, a 15 percent increase over the first six months of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

The first-half 2011 report analyzes the activities of 707 lobbying principals and 725 registered lobbyists.

"Wisconsin has a strong lobby law which requires that the public has ready access to information on the amount and sources of money used to influence legislation," said Kevin J. Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board. "The Board's Eye on Lobbying online database allows the public to keep track of lobbying activities at the Capitol without leaving home."

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September 15, 2011

R.I. union leaders says national study shows 20 percent of charter schools perform better than traditional public schools and 40 percent perform worse

James Parisi:

During a recent discussion on Channel 10's "News Conference" about efforts to expand charter schools in Rhode Island, James Parisi, field representative and lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, challenged the notion that charter schools improve student performance.

"I think one of the studies that I pay most attention to," Parisi said, "indicated, on a nationwide basis, looking at two and a half thousand charter schools around the country, maybe 20 percent do better than the community public schools, 40 percent or so do worse and the rest are not having any significant difference."

Rhode Island has 16 charter schools, including a new one opening Sept. 7, and more are expected to open soon. The state has a three-year, $9.4-million federal grant to expand existing charter schools, open additional ones and build partnerships between charter and traditional public schools.

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September 14, 2011

Charter school bill passes U.S. House

H.R. 2218: Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, a summary.

bill information.

Vote tally.

TJ Mertz emails local Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who voted for the bill.

Thanks to Chan Stroman-Roll for sending the links.

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New Jersey school accountability task force report

New Jersey, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

To be sure, the Task Force recognizes, these are not always easy lines to draw. How do we define the level of school failure that is sufficiently injurious to children that we can no longer afford to "empower" districts with the authority to be the primary decision-maker? In addition to the core duty of setting goals and enforcing a schedule of consequences for failure, are there other areas that are so central to success that a state should continue to hold them "tight" rather than devolve them to local control?

(Examples might include teacher certification and evaluation criteria, requirements that schools have systems and processes in place to enable data driven decision-making to adjust instruction and address deficiencies, or matters related to health and safety.) As the entity ultimately responsible for the fiscal health of the State and the legal distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds, should state authorities reserve a larger measure of involvement to assure that districts are responsible wards
of taxpayers' money?

These are difficult questions, which the Task Force will continue to wrestle with throughout its tenure.Whatever the answer in these more nuanced areas however, the Task Force believes that there is much that can and should be accomplished as quickly as possible with respect to the two inextricably connected elements of the Governor's charge: 1) an evaluation and redesign of the State's accountability system, and 2) reduction of "empowerment - restricting" red tape.

With respect to the first, the Task force has concluded that the State's accountability system warrants significant revision. More likely to frustrate than positively affect behavior, the system is a patchwork of essentially unconnected, sometimes contradictory, federal (No Child Left Behind) and State (QSAC, etc.)mandates.

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Arkansas Education Opinion

Roby Brock:

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) released a much-anticipated opinion about the director's position of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

The opinion was requested after GOP lawmakers questioned the legality of Gov. Mike Beebe's recommendation that former State Sen. Shane Broadway (D) be appointed by the higher education board to the post. Broadway removed himself from consideration for the position on Friday (Sept. 9) citing his wife's health and the stress of travel related to the job.

McDaniel said in his opinion, "I cannot resolve the group of questions asking me to specifically decide the case of the proposed appointment of Shane Broadway." McDaniel cited the office's long-standing policy of not addressing hypothetical situations in opinion decisions.

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September 13, 2011

New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin

Center for Equal Opportunity:

Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.

The studies are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization's website,

CEO president Roger Clegg will answer questions about the studies when they are formally released at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree hotel in Madison--525 W. Johnson St.

The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.

Adelaide Blanchard:
Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.

A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.

The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.

Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.

In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.

Todd Finkelmeyer:
Whites and Asians aren't getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That's what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is "severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions" at Wisconsin's flagship institution of higher education.

The CEO -- a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes "colorblind public policies" and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs -- reports that UW-Madison gives "African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians" in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.

According to the executive summary of the report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: "In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites."

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:
The Center for Equal Opportunity and its president and general counsel, Roger Clegg, claim to advance educational opportunity by punishing colleges and universities for attempting to level a highly unequal playing field.

The CEO's name is laughable. It is the exact opposite of what the organization does. The misnomer is a deliberate deception. It is a lie so blatant that it would be considered a joke in very poor taste were it not so outrageously fallacious.

The record of CEO's lawsuits has never been in support of equality--it has always been to preserve and protect educational opportunity for those most fortunate social classes and racial/ethnic groups. There is no no record of this organization filing a lawsuit on behalf of newly emerging and underrepresented populations in higher education--it always and only files lawsuits on behalf of the already-advantaged.

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Milwaukee Public Schools' fast-tracks proposal to make 'voucher tax' transparent

Karen Herzog:

A proposal that Milwaukee taxpayers be told on tax bills exactly how much of their money is going to private schools through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is on the fast track for school board consideration.

During a special MPS board meeting Saturday morning to discuss the district's long-range master plan for buildings, board member Larry Miller asked that his "voucher tax" transparency proposal be discussed at a school board committee meeting Tuesday, rather than wait to be introduced at the board's next regular meeting Sept. 22, and then be referred to committee for discussion at a later date.

"The urgency of this is there's a huge tax burden on the community and it's important for the community to be educated on this burden," Miller told the board Saturday morning.

The tax that MPS must levy under state law to support low-income Milwaukee students enrolled in private schools under the choice program would have ranked just behind Milwaukee Area Technical College and ahead of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District if it had been broken out, ranked, and displayed under the "Levy by Unit of Government" section of tax information sent to taxpayers in 2010, Miller said.

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Teachers union president says Mayor Emanuel 'exploded' at her

Rosalind Rossi:

The president of the Chicago Teachers Union says Mayor Rahm Emanuel "exploded" at her during a debate over a longer school day, pointing his finger in her face and cursing.

CTU President made the allegations in a Friday morning press release detailing a complaint filed by the union to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board over the ongoing battle between the union and City Hall.

"A couple of weeks ago I sat down with the mayor in his office to talk about how to roll out a longer school year and what components would go into making it a better school year for our students but he did not want to have that conversation," said Lewis. "When I explained to him that a longer school day should not be used for warehousing or babysitting our youth he exploded, used profanity, pointed his finger in my face and yelled. At that point the conversation was over -- soon thereafter we found ourselves subject to a full-scale propaganda war over a moot point."

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September 12, 2011

Value Added Report for the Madison School District

Full Report 1.1MB PDF

Value added is the use of statistical technique to isolate the contributions of schools to measured student knowledge from other influences such as prior student knowledge and demographics. In practice, value added focuses on the improvement of students from one year to the next on an annual state examination or other periodic assessment. The Value-Added Research Center (VARC) of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research produces value-added measures for schools in Madison using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) as an outcome. The model controls for prior-year WKCE scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, English language learner, low-income status, parent education, and full academic year enrollment to capture the effects of schools on student performance on the WKCE. This model yields measures of student growth in schools in Madison relative to each other. VARC also produces value-added measures using the entire state of Wisconsin as a data set, which yields measures of student growth in Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) relative to the rest of the state.

Some of the most notable results are:

1. Value added for the entire district of Madison relative to the rest of the state is generally positive, but it differs by subject and grade. In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, and in both math and reading, the value added of Madison Metropolitan School District was positive in more grades than it was negative, and the average value added across grades was positive in both subjects in both years. There are variations across grades and subjects, however. In grade 4, value-added is significantly positive in both years in reading and significantly negative in both years in math. In contrast, value-added in math is significantly positive--to a very substantial extent--in grade 7. Some of these variations may be the result of the extent to which instruction in those grades facilitate student learning on tested material relative to non-tested material. Overall, between November 2009 and November 2010, value-added for MMSD as a whole relative to the state was very slightly above average in math and substantially above average in reading. The section "Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model" present these results in detail.

2. The variance of value added across schools is generally smaller in Madison than in the state of Wisconsin as a whole, specifically in math. In other words, at least in terms of what is measured by value added, the extent to which schools differ from each other in Madison is smaller than the extent to which schools differ from each other elsewhere in Wisconsin. This appears to be more strongly the case in the middle school grades than in the elementary grades. Some of this result may be an artifact of schools in Madison being relatively large; when schools are large, they encompass more classrooms per grade, leading to more across-classroom variance being within-school rather than across-school. More of this result may be that while the variance across schools in Madison is entirely within one district, the variance across schools for the rest of the state is across many districts, and so differences in district policies will likely generate more variance across the entire state. The section "Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model" present results on the variance of value added from the statewide value-added model. This result is also evident in the charts in the "School Value-Added Charts from the MMSD Value-Added Model" section: one can see that the majority of schools' confidence intervals cross (1) the district average, which means that we cannot reject the hypothesis that these schools' values added are not different from the district average.

Even with a relatively small variance across schools in the district in general, several individual schools have values added that are statistically significantly greater or less than the district average. At the elementary level, both Lake View and Randall have values added in both reading and math that are significantly greater than the district average. In math, Marquette, Nuestro Mundo, Shorewood Hills, and Van Hise also have values added that are significantly greater than the district average. Values added are lower than the district average in math at Crestwood, Hawthorne, Kennedy, and Stephens, and in reading at Allis. At the middle school level, value added in reading is greater than the district average at Toki and lower than the district average at Black Hawk and Sennett. Value added in math is lower than the district average at Toki and Whitehorse.

3. Gaps in student improvement persist across subgroups of students. The value-added model measures gaps in student growth over time by race, gender, English language learner, and several other subgroups. The gaps are overall gaps, not gaps relative to the rest of the state. These gaps are especially informative because they are partial coefficients. These measure the black/white, ELL/non-ELL, or high-school/college-graduate-parent gaps, controlling for all variables available, including both demographic variables and schools attended. If one wanted to measure the combined effect of being both ELL and Hispanic relative to non-ELL and white, one would add the ELL/non-ELL gap to the Hispanic/white gap to find the combined effect. The gaps are within-school gaps, based on comparison of students in different subgroups who are in the same schools; consequently, these gaps do not include any effects of students of different subgroups sorting into different schools, and reflect within-school differences only. There does not appear to be an evident trend over time in gaps by race, low-income status, and parent education measured by the value-added model. The section "Coefficients from the MMSD Value-Added Model" present these results.

4. The gap in student improvement by English language learner, race, or low-income status usually does not differ substantively across schools; that between students with disabilities and students without disabilities sometimes does differ across schools. This can be seen in the subgroup value-added results across schools, which appear in the Appendix. There are some schools where value-added for students with disabilities differs substantively from overall value- added. Some of these differences may be due to differences in the composition of students with disabilities across schools, although the model already controls for overall differences between students with learning disabilities, students with speech disabilities, and students with all other disabilities. In contrast, value-added for black, Hispanic, ELL, or economically disadvantaged students is usually very close to overall value added.

Value added for students with disabilities is greater than the school's overall value added in math at Falk and Whitehorse and in reading at Marquette; it is lower than the school's overall value added in math at O'Keefe and Sennett and in reading at Allis, Schenk, and Thoreau. Value added in math for Hispanic students is lower than the school's overall value added at Lincoln, and greater than the school's overall value added at Nuestro Mundo. Value added in math is also higher for ELL and low-income students than it is for the school overall at Nuestro Mundo.

Much more on "value added assessment", here.

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Badge of Shame and Bigger Paychecks: Arne Duncan's Mixed Bag Comments for Teachers

Josh Mogerman:

Arne Duncan ended a week-long education and jobs stump speech bus tour in Chicago this week. And he had plenty to say about what is going on in his old stomping grounds at CPS. Some of what he had to say was undoubtedly music to the ears of the Chicago Teachers Union, given the weird and ugly battle brewing with the Emanuel administration (complete with a curious mix of F-bombs and hugs). Friday, he called for a doubling of teacher salaries nationally:

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September 11, 2011

Duncan energizing U.S. education scene

Alan Borsuk:

rne Duncan has the across-the-spectrum appeal to make just about everybody on the Wisconsin education scene eager to be in the room with him, and the political guts to tell Gov. Scott Walker face-to-face and in front of all those folks that he was wrong to kibosh collective bargaining in Wisconsin.

In short, he is about as interesting and significant a person as anyone in American education.

The U.S. secretary of education stopped by the Milwaukee School of Career and Technical Education (that's the new version of Custer High School) for an hour and a half Friday, enough time for several hundred people, from big shots to students, to get a dose of the highly demanding form of optimism that is a key to Duncan.

You want to get some positive re-enforcement for the things you're doing, Duncan is your guy. You want to hear how what you're doing isn't anywhere near enough, Duncan is your guy.

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September 10, 2011

Connecticut Education reform group presents proposals to state board

Caitlin Emma:

A group of business and philanthropic leaders appointed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented their education reform proposals to the state Board of Education Wednesday, pitching changes to teacher certification requirements, preparation programs and evaluations to help close Connecticut's dramatic achievement gap.

Members of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform said they considered the timing appropriate, coming as Malloy introduced his new education commissioner and reiterated that education will be a priority in next year's legislative session.

"We think next year could be the lynchpin," said Steve Simmons, vice chair of the council and CEO of Simmons/Patriot Media and Communications. "The governor has said that this first year was focused on the budget crisis and the second year was going to be education reform. I think we have a great chance here over this next nine or ten month period to really push for change."

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September 9, 2011

Madison Preparatory IB Charter School School Board Discussion Notes

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy will receive the first half of a $225,000 state planning grant after the Madison School Board determined Thursday that the revised proposal for the charter school addresses legal concerns about gender equality.

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad announced the decision following a closed School Board meeting.

Questions still remain about the cost of the proposal by the Urban League of Greater Madison, which calls for a school for 60 male and 60 female sixth-graders geared toward low-income minorities that would open next year.

"I understand the heartfelt needs for this program," Nerad said, but "there are other needs we need to address."

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes
The school district does not have a lot of spare money lying around that it can devote to Madison Prep. Speaking for myself, I am not willing to cut educational opportunities for other students in order to fund Madison Prep. If it turns out that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would impose a net cost of millions of dollars on the school district, then, for me, we'd have to be willing to raise property taxes by that same millions of dollars in order to cover the cost.

It is not at all clear that we'd be able to do this even if we wanted to. Like all school districts in the state, MMSD labors under the restrictions of the state-imposed revenue caps. The law places a limit on how much school districts can spend. The legislature determines how that limit changes from year to year. In the best of times, the increase in revenues that Wisconsin school districts have been allowed have tended to be less than their annual increases in costs. This has led to the budget-slashing exercises that the school districts endure annually.

In this environment, it is extremely difficult to see how we could justify taking on the kind of multi-million dollar obligation that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would entail. Indeed, given the projected budget numbers and revenue limits, it seems inevitable that signing on to the Madison Prep proposal would obligate the school district to millions of dollars in cuts to the services we provide to our students who would not attend Madison Prep.

A sense of the magnitude of these cuts can be gleaned by taking one year as an example. Since Madison Prep would be adding classes for seven years, let's look at year four, the 2015-16 school year, which falls smack dab in the middle.

TJ Mertz:
Last night I (TJ) was asked to leave the meeting on African American issues in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) advertised as being facilitated by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service (DOJ CRS) and hosted or convened by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) with the consent and participation of MMSD. I was told that if I did not leave, the meeting would be canceled. The reason given was that I write a blog (see here for some background on the exclusion of the media and bloggers and here for Matt DeFour's report from outside the meeting).

I gave my word that I would not write about the meeting, but that did not alter the request. I argued that as a parent and as someone who has labored for years to address inequities in public education, I had both a legitimate interest in being there and the potential to contribute to the proceedings. This was acknowledged and I was still asked to leave and told again that the meeting would not proceed if I did not leave. I asked to speak to the DOJ CRS representatives in order to confirm that this was the case and this request was repeatedly refused by Kaleem Caire of the ULGM.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
An idea hatched in Madison aims to give parents with boys in Wisconsin's second-largest city another positive option for their children. It's an idea that ought to be channeled to Milwaukee.

Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men would feature the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, longer days, a longer school year and lofty expectations for dress and behavior for boys in sixth grade through high school. And while it would accept all comers, clearly it is designed to focus on low-income boys of color. Backers hope to open a year from now.

One of the primary movers behind Madison Prep is Kaleem Caire, the head of the Urban League of Madison, who grew up in the city and attended Madison West High School in 1980s, Alan J. Borsuk explained in a column last Sunday. Caire later worked in Washington, D.C., as an education advocate before returning to Madison.

Caire saw too many young black men wash out and end up either dead or in jail, reported Borsuk, a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. And Caire now is worried, as are we, about the atrocious statistics that place young black boys so far behind their white peers.

Rebecca Kemble:
The Department of Justice official explained the shadowy, confidential nature of the Community Relations Service to the audience by describing the kinds of situations it intervenes in, mostly having to do with hate crimes and rioting. He said in no uncertain terms, "We are not here to do an investigation," and even asked for the audience members to repeat the sentence with him. He then went on to ask for people to respect the confidentiality of those raising issues, and laid out the structure of the meeting: 30 minutes for listing problems relating to the achievement gap and 45 minutes generating solutions.

I will respect the confidentiality of the content of the meeting by not repeating it. However, I will say that what was said in that room was no different that what has been said at countless other open, public meetings with the School District and in community groups on the same topic, the only difference being that there were far fewer parents in the room and few if any teachers.

It turned out that the Department of Justice secretive meeting was a convenient way to pack the house with a captive audience for yet another infomercial about Madison Prep. Kaleem Caire adjourned the one meeting and immediately convened an Urban League meeting where he gave his Madison Prep sales pitch yet again. About 1/3 of the audience left at that point.

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Colorado's Story: A key narrative in Steven Brill's Class Warfare

Moira Cullen:

While they say that all politics is local, Colorado seems to be national news, yet again. Our state is featured prominently in Steven Brill's new book, Class Warfare, which is receiving a lot of press from national news outlets.

Weaving a narrative around the passage of Senate Bill 10-191 in Colorado, Brill tells a good story, replete with heroic figures like Senator Mike Johnston. I worked closely on SB 191 from its inception to passage, I can tell you that the on the ground details of its success are even more interesting than what's depicted in Brill's account.

Please see DFER's case study on SB 191 here for a close examination of the strategy, the broad coalition, and the bipartisan champions that helped make SB 191 a reality. Without the active support of the sophisticated coalition of political leaders on both sides of the aisle, including House sponsors Rep. Christine Scanlan and Rep. Carole Murray, non-profit organizations such as Stand for Children Colorado, civil rights groups, and business leaders that worked with the media, spoke with legislators, and reached out to their communities, the bill would not have passed. For further reading, Van Schoales, a DFER-CO Advisory Committee member, has written a review of Class Warfare: available here.

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September 8, 2011

Will Madison School Board pull the plug on Madison Prep's planning grant?

Susan Troller:

The threat of possible litigation has roiled the already turbulent waters surrounding the proposal for a single-sex Urban League charter school.

Madison school officials began feeling skittish over recommending a $225,000 planning grant for the Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men after the state Department of Public Instruction raised concerns recently that the school doesn't meet state and federal requirements to provide gender-equal education.

Now, a new legal threat has emerged, this one from Madison Teachers Inc. Together, the two issues could cause the board to pull back from supporting the planning grant, possibly as early as Thursday.

First, some background: After DPI put the planning grant on hold, the Urban League of Greater Madison last week submitted a new proposal to simultaneously establish a separate campus for girls. Kaleem Caire, Urban League president and a driving force behind Madison Prep, wants to see the schools open next year, initially with 60 sixth-grade girls and 60 sixth-grade boys. The proposal calls for adding 120 additional sixth-graders in each of the four subsequent years. Because the proposal now envisions 600 students rather 480 as originally planned, it would require more funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District than originally planned.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

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Oregon Democrat Governor Kitzhaber: Outdated education system needs change

Jonathon Cooper:

Oregon's public schools are stuck in an old-fashioned way of doing business, Gov. John Kitzhaber said Tuesday, telling an audience of school teachers and administrators that improving education "requires the courage to change."

He laid out a vision of an education system that identifies at-risk children from birth, gives their parents the tools they need to help children be ready to read by kindergarten, and helps students transition through the education system without falling behind.

"The path forward in this new century requires innovation, requires the willingness to challenge assumption, requires the courage to change," Kitzhaber said at the annual back-to-school event for Springfield Public Schools employees.

As students in much of the state returned Tuesday to classrooms more crowded than last year, Kitzhaber said education is underfunded at all levels. But he said the lack of money makes it even more important to overhaul the education bureaucracy and turn "islands of excellence" into a "culture of excellence."

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September 7, 2011

Wisconsin's cuts to school aid steepest of 24 states studied

Susan Troller:

Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of reducing state aid per student this school year the most of 24 states studied by an independent, Washington-based think tank, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to a preliminary study released Sept. 1 by the nonprofit research organization, the dollar change in spending from the last fiscal year to this year dropped $635 per student under Gov. Scott Walker's budget that took effect July 1. New York was in second place, cutting state school aid $585 per student. California was third at $484.

The study only reports on the 24 states where current-year data is available. Those states educate about two-thirds of the nation's K-12 students.

In percentage terms, Wisconsin had the third sharpest state school aid cut, at 10 percent. Illinois was worst, cutting state aid 12.9 percent. Texas was second at 10.4 percent. Wisconsin now provides an average of about $9,500 per student.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Madison spends roughly $14,476 per student, according to the recent Madison Preparatory Academy charter school discussions.

Federal, State, and Local Expenditures as a Share of GDP at WWII Levels.

Much more on our K-12 tax & spending climate, here.

The "Great Recession" has certainly changed our tax base....

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September 6, 2011

State Controlled Curriculum... A question of identity

Dennis Chong:

British science fiction author and futurist Arthur Clarke once said: "It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars."

He was referring to competing human space programmes, but the quote may be seen to have some relevance to the debate over the proposed "national education" of Hong Kong school pupils.

To many the question is simply whether Beijing-style propaganda should be introduced through the public education system in what has remained largely a free city in the 14 years since the handover of sovereignty from Britain in 1997.

Conflict has erupted in the Legislative Council, in public forums and on the street, with one faction accusing the government of sacrificing personal liberty and the other saying it has sacrificed national unity by not introducing the subject earlier. A public consultation ended on Wednesday.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal, State, and Local Expenditures as a Share of GDP at WWII Levels

Matthew Mitchell:

In this week's chart, Mercatus Center Research Fellow Matthew Mitchell uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to illustrate the increase in the size of federal, state, and local expenditures as a share of GDP over the course of the past century.

The chart shows how expenditures as a share of GDP spiked during World War II but were reduced rapidly and significantly. However, spending never returned to the pre-war level and has followed a general upward trend ever since.

Today federal, state, and local expenditures as a share of GDP are back at the highs reached during World War II. This time, however, we are unlikely to see a swift decrease. Wartime expenditures on items like weaponry and salaries for conscripted soldiers were relatively easy to wind down. The bulk of current and future government spending is on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. This variety of spending is nearly impossible to reduce in the near term.

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September 4, 2011

Report: Florida's low-income tax credit students making academic gains

Jon East:

A new report on the academic performance of low-income students receiving Tax Credit Scholarships in Florida finds they are making modestly larger gains in reading and math than their counterparts in public school.

That conclusion from 2009-10 test data is encouraging for those of us who work to provide these learning options, which served 34,550 low-income students statewide last year. But the report, released today and written by respected Northwestern University researcher David Figlio, is also a reminder of the inherent complexities of judging whether these programs work.

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September 1, 2011

In education, money isn't all

Mark Fermanich:

The amount of funding available for K-12 education in Colorado has led to considerable debate. The Lobato case being heard before the state Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of our school finance system, and Proposition 103 is a ballot initiative for raising additional state revenues for public schools. If either of these efforts is successful, hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues will flow to K-12 education. But if Colorado significantly increases funding for schools, can it reasonably expect dramatically better results?

It is true that studies examining the link between school funding levels and student outcomes, typically standardized test scores, have failed to find a strong relationship. These results have led some to conclude that money does not much matter.

However, this research may be misleading. Schools have many other responsibilities than teaching reading and math. Parents and policymakers expect schools to teach many other subjects such as social studies, science and the arts. We also expect schools to help socialize children. To the extent that schools dedicate resources to these ends, an aggregate fiscal measure such as total spending per student is not an appropriate metric when coupled with a narrowly defined outcome such as math or reading test scores.

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August 31, 2011

Indiana vouchers prompt thousands to change schools

Tom Coyne:

Weeks after Indiana began the nation's broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.
It's a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.
"The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they're going to end up in private, mostly religious schools," said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Annual Income Lost/Gained due to Interstate Migration

Nick Kasprak:

Today's map comes a day late - we've been hard at work getting the data ready. We've updated our interactive State Migration Calculator with the latest IRS data, and it now includes migration in 2008-09. I've used the new data to create a map of interstate movement of income over the past decade. Florida is the big winner - migrants bought a net $70 billion dollars in annual income into the state between 1999 and 2009. New York, on the other hand, lost the most income: $45 billion.

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August 30, 2011

Grading the Education Reformers

Richard Rothstein:

If you saw Waiting for "Superman," Steven Brill's tale in Class Warfare will be familiar. The founder of Court TV offers another polemic against teacher unions and a paean to self-styled "education reformers." But even for those who follow education policy, he offers an eye-opening read that should not be missed. Where the movie evoked valiant underdogs waging an uphill battle against an ossified behemoth, Brill's briskly written book exposes what critics of the reformers have long suspected but could never before prove: just how insular, coordinated, well-connected, and well-financed the reformers are. Class Warfare reveals their single-minded efforts to suppress any evidence that might challenge their mission to undermine the esteem in which most Americans held their public schools and teachers. These crusaders now are the establishment, as arrogant as any that preceded them.

Brill's heroes make a high-profile gallery. They are public-school critics like former New York and Washington, D.C. schools chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. They also include charter school operators David Levin (KIPP) and Eva Moskowitz (Harlem Success Academies), as well as alternative teacher and principal recruiters Wendy Kopp (Teach for America) and Jon Schnur (New Leaders for New Schools). Their ranks boast billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama himself. And they don't lack for savvy, richly endowed representation. Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying, political action, and communications campaign rolled into one, has brought them all together. Lavishly supported by the newfound wealth of young Wall Street hedge fund managers answerable to no one, DFER's troops have been working overtime to radically transform American public education.

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School Choice Is Here to Stay

Richard Komer:

The 2010 elections had many obvious effects, but one of the lesser-known is that they revived the school-choice movement in a big way. Although many education writers had assumed the movement was dead, there have been far more efforts to pass school-choice programs this year than ever and, more importantly, the success rate has gone up too.

This reflects the political nature of school choice, which has in modern times been promoted primarily by Republicans. Increasingly, however, Democrats, particularly minority Democrats, have begun bucking the wishes of the national teachers unions, which oppose school choice in any form.

School choice has even broken into the national consciousness with the success of such documentaries as "The Lottery" and "Waiting for 'Superman.'" These focused on parents' efforts to get their children into charter schools, which are public schools operated independently of their local school districts--and, not coincidentally, without teacher union involvement.

From the perspective of status quo supporters, charter schools are the least threatening form of school choice, because they remain public schools, meaning they cannot charge tuition and their admissions practices typically are controlled by lottery. This year has seen dramatic increases in interest in charter schools, as an alternative to regular public schools. Even the Obama administration got into the act, by making the removal of existing caps on the number of charter schools a component of states' applications for federal "Race to the Top" funds.

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August 29, 2011

Science can lead to better (Wisconsin) readers

Marcia Henry, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Fifteen years ago, Wisconsin fourth-graders placed third in the country in state rankings of reading ability known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. By 2009, our fourth-graders' scores plunged to 30th, with a third of the students reading below basic levels. The scores of minority youth were even bleaker, with 65% of African-American and 50% of Hispanic students scoring in the below-basic range.

As a member of Gov. Scott Walker's blue ribbon reading task force, I am one of 14 people charged with reversing that drop. And, as a 50-year veteran educator, I have a partial solution. Let me spell it out for you: We need better teacher preparation.

How many of you remember your very best teachers? I remember Miss Hickey at Lincoln School and Miss Brauer at Folwell School in Rochester, Minn. They taught me to read.

I travel throughout the country consulting and providing staff development for school districts and literacy organizations. I've met thousands of dedicated teachers who tell me they are unprepared to teach struggling readers.

This situation is not the teachers' fault. Some teachers in Wisconsin had only one course in reading instruction. Most were never exposed to the latest research regarding early reading acquisition and instruction. In contrast, several states require three or four classes in courses that contain the latest in science-based reading instruction.

Related: Wisconsin's "Read to Lead" task force and "a Capitol Conversation" on reading.

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Wisconsin Teachers face new employment landscape

Erin Richards:

Jeni Callan sits near the front of the school bus, listening and taking tidy notes on a legal pad.

It's new teacher orientation day in the Hamilton School District, and the yellow bus carrying nearly 30 new hires for the 2011-'12 school year is winding through Waukesha County as the district's spokeswoman shouts out the history of each passing school.

Callan, 26, is about to start her dream job as a language arts teacher at Templeton Middle School and knows that her good fortune is partially attributable to an unusually high number of retirements in Hamilton at the end of the school year.

But the job market has not been so kind to other young educators hunting for work, especially those lacking credentials to teach in specialty fields such as special education, math or physics.

"This is maybe the most unusual hiring climate for teachers that I've ever seen," said Bill Henk, dean of Marquette University's College of Education.

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Education chief gets an F

Jack Kelly:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been a presidential candidate for barely two weeks, but already polls indicate he's even with President Barack Obama. So the administration trotted out Education Secretary Arne Duncan to knock him down a peg.

Texas schools have "really struggled" under Gov. Perry, Mr. Duncan told Bloomberg's Al Hunt Aug. 18. "Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college ... I feel really badly for the children there."

It's cheesy for a Cabinet officer to be so political. But that's not why Mr. Obama shouldn't have used the former Chicago superintendent of schools as his attack dog.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fourth- and eighth-graders in Texas score substantially better in reading and math than do their counterparts in Chicago. The high school graduation rate in Texas (73 percent) is much better than Chicago's (56 percent). Mr. Duncan's charges were recycled. "In low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in March.

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Wisconsin K-12 Spending Commentary

Sunny Schubert:

You may have read some news stories lately about how some school districts are doing quite well under Gov. Scott Walker's budget, despite a drastic decline in school aid.
Monona Grove is not one of them.

"We're not great," said MGHS Superintendent Craig Gerlach of the district's financial situation.

Districts that have prospered under the Walker budget constraints "may have been in a better situation than we were beforehand," he said.

The Walker budget is slightly more rewarding to school districts that have growing student populations, he said, "but we're more in the 'slightly declining' enrollment situation."

The district spends about $13,000 per student, Gerlach said, but will receive about $600 less per pupil this year than last.

MGSD will also lose about $1.2 million in other state money.

The budget is "relatively balanced" this year, partly because the district received $850,000 in federal job stimulus funds, but that is one-time money that won't be around next year.

MGSD did save some money because teachers are now being forced to contribute to their own health insurance and retirement funds.

Peter Sobol:
Total Wi school funding in 1998 was $7,527, not the $4,956 reported by Sunny in her recent column. Corrected for inflation that's $9899. In 2008 average spending was (correctly reported) $10,791. In real dollars that's an 8% increase, less than 1% per year, not the whopping 64% increase reported by Sunny.

So were did that 1%/year go? Not into the pockets of teachers, who have been losing ground to inflation in the last decade, and not into smaller class sizes (average class size has been creeping up in Wisconsin.) No, any employer will tell you that health care costs have been increased by more than 50% over this period - and school districts feel the same effects. The fact that cost increases are slowly squeezing the life out of our schools is another reason we need to fix the broken health care system in this country.

Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.

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August 28, 2011

Where GOP stands in war on Wisconsin Education 'triangle'

Alan Borsuk:a

The start of the school year isn't normally the time for issuing report cards. But it's been an unusual and momentous year, so as the first day of classes approaches for almost every school in the state, here's a report card on what I'll call the war against the triangle.

Last winter, before Scott Walker was sworn in as governor, a leading Republican told a group of people (according to a reliable person who was present) that there was a triangle that was blocking the path to educational improvement in Wisconsin and his party was going to take out each leg of the triangle.

What were the legs?

Teachers unions, particularly the Wisconsin Education Association Council. WEAC spent hugely on political campaigns and was pro-Democratic. It also was the largest lobbying force in the Capitol. WEAC represented the unwillingness of teachers organizations to change and the need to get rid of most collective bargaining matters.

The state Department of Public Instruction, which represented the status quo, overregulation of schools and how things couldn't change if they were in the hands of government bureaucrats.

Milwaukee Public Schools, which represented - well, which represented Milwaukee Public Schools. Or, to put it another way, a money pit where there was never any positive change.

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August 27, 2011

Colorado school tax hike gets on November ballot

Ivan Moreno:

A proposal to raise taxes by $3 billion over five years to help fund Colorado's education system will be on the November ballot, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Wednesday.

The idea from Democratic state Sen. Rollie Heath would raise the sales and use tax rate to 3 percent, up from 2.9 percent, and raise the state's individual and corporate tax rates to 5 percent, up from 4.63 percent. The increases would be in effect from 2012 to 2017.

"I think we got a real shot at getting this done," said Heath, a Boulder senator. He said he decided to ask for the tax increases because of repeated cuts to the state's education budget in recent years.

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August 24, 2011

Superintendent Comments on Wisconsin School Budgets

Susan Troller:

In his rural district, which serves 249 students, the 2011-13 state budget has been nothing to celebrate. In fact, it has accelerated a difficult process of belt-tightening that's been going on for almost 20 years due to revenue controls that have limited the amount districts can increase taxes to keep up with rising costs. The revenue controls hit some schools especially hard, especially those with declining enrollment, high-needs students or high property values. The new state budget's huge reduction in overall aid for schools -- $793 million over the biennium -- accompanied by new limits on how much money districts can raise in property taxes to offset those losses -- has, for many school districts, made a bad situation worse.

According to Quinton, Pepin parents are supportive of education, and he credits his School Board and staff for helping run "a tight financial ship." Nonetheless, many of the district's programs and services have been trimmed once again, from transportation to teaching staff, athletics to academic assistance for at-risk students. Paring back has been a way of life in Pepin for many years, Quinton says, but the newest round of losses caused by this budget cut to the bone.


Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding and K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%

Wisconsin's essential challenge is to grow the economy. We've been falling behind Minnesota for decades.

Siobhan Hughes:

The U.S. economy will have another big budget deficit in fiscal 2011 and faces at least a couple more years of sluggish growth, as the effects of the recent recession persist, government forecasters said Wednesday.

The Congressional Budget Office projected a deficit of almost $1.3 trillion for fiscal 2011. Though that will mark the third straight year of deficits above $1 trillion, the deficit forecast was a slight improvement from the almost $1.4 trillion estimated in an April analysis and reflected higher-than-anticipated revenue from individual income taxes.

The outlook for the U.S. economy also remains challenging, with growth expected to remain too slow this year and next year to make a big dent in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate will fall to 8.9% by the end of calendar 2011 and 8.5% by the end of 2012, the forecast said, as the economy grows by 2.3% this year and 2.7% next year, measured from fourth quarter to fourth quarter.

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August 22, 2011

Wisconsin DPI announces $6 million for charter school planning and dissemination grants; Proposed IB Madison Preparatory Academy Charter School Not Funded

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, via a kind reader's email:

Groups planning new charter schools and established charter schools that want to replicate their success are sharing $6 million in federal charter school grants.

Planning grants total $4.5 million and will go for planning activities in 23 charter schools that have already been approved by their local school board or authorizing authority. Five of those grants are going to districts that do not currently have charter schools. Five grants, totaling $625,000, will support the expansion of successful charter school models. Another seven grants, totaling $875,000, will help charter schools that are in the second year dissemination activities.

"Planning grant proposals in this round of funding are for a mix of innovative charter schools," said State Superintendent Tony Evers. "This is just what the charter school law promotes: local solutions to serve students and their families."

Matthew DeFour has more.

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WEAC head Mary Bell stands up to Gov. Scott Walker with sometimes controversial tactics

Roger Bybee:

Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, is quiet and thoughtful in one-on-one conversations. She's a middle-aged, cheery, bespectacled woman whose dimpled face is surrounded by a thick corona of whitish-gray hair.

But when fighting for her members, Bell forcefully projects her belief in teachers' right to respect, decent pay and union representation. At a rally with tens of thousands at the Capitol on a snowy, bitter Feb. 26, Bell expressed outrage at Gov. Scott Walker's proposals for the near-total stripping of union rights for teachers, librarians, highway workers, prison guards and other public workers across the state. Yet her anger was tempered by her humor and her belief in Wisconsinites' fundamental commitment to fairness and public education.

The rhetoric Mary Bell used that day about "Wisconsin values" was no stretch for her, because she perceives herself as a typical Wisconsinite, sharply different from the image of the insular Madison insider, as Walker likes to portray his enemies.

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Learning the Hard Way The reformers who want to save the public schools are starting to make a difference, against ferocious opposition

Joel Klein:

Like so many debates in America today, the fight over public education is as polarized as it is consequential. There appears to be a general sense of agreement that the results we are getting are woefully inadequate, especially given the demands that a high-tech, global economy will place on our future work force. Nevertheless, there's a sharp disagreement over exactly what to do.

Spending more money is of course a perennial demand. Since 1970 America has more than doubled the real dollars spent on K-12 education. We have increased the number of teachers by more than a third, created legions of nonteaching staff, and raised salaries and benefits across the board. Yet fewer than 40% of the students who graduate from high school are ready for college. At the same time, students in other countries are moving ahead of us, scoring higher--often much higher--on international tests of reading, math and science skills.

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August 21, 2011

No Common Core Standards in Waivers, but what about Assessments?

Anne Hyslop:

As Education Week has reported today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan clarified that states will not have to endorse the Common Core State Standards in order to successfully obtain a waiver from portions of No Child Left Behind. While the full details of Duncan’s all-or-nothing waiver proposal have not been released, most (including Education Sector’s Kevin Carey) speculated that states would have to demonstrate they embraced high academic content standards – i.e. Common Core – in order to be let off the hook for meeting the 100% proficiency by 2014 deadline.

While taping C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program, Duncan assured states who have not yet adopted Common Core that the Department is “happy to work with them” as long as they verify their own standards are rigorous. Duncan also noted that this process would likely involve states having their standards approved by their state’s postsecondary institutions – supposedly to certify that they are “college and career ready” standards.

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August 20, 2011

Minn. ed commissioner wants ACT to be an even higher-stakes test

Tom Weber:

The state's education commissioner says she's exploring ways to make the ACT college entrance exam even higher-stakes for Minnesota students than it already is.

Wednesday's release of ACT scores shows 72 percent of Minnesota high school graduates took the test. No state with that much participation scored higher. But 72 percent isn't enough for Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, especially considering there are waivers available so students can take the test for free.

The problem, she said, is not enough students realize how crucial the ACT is.

"There are so many tests that they're taking; they don't know which is the important test," Cassellius said. "We want to have a test that actually measures their career and college readiness."

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Sending Your Child to College? Advice from Dr. Drew

Andrew Rotherham:

With thousands of kids starting to pack for their first year at college or preparing to return after the summer break, now is a good time to talk to them about some important health and wellness issues on campus. To help parents figure out what to look for and worry about, School of Thought asked Dr. Drew Pinsky, the best-selling author and TV and radio host who has been dubbed the "surgeon general of youth culture" by the New York Times. On his college radar: prescription drugs, hook-up culture and processed food. As a practicing physician and the father of triplets, Dr. Drew isn't fielding abstract questions -- his own kids are starting university this fall.

College isn't always a bastion of healthy living. Late nights, pizza and stress can't be good for you. What should parents talk to their children about when they leave for college?

Start with the easy stuff -- safety. In the [college] age group, accidents are a major cause of morbidity, and alcohol is often involved in some fashion. Remind students that they're on their own and are not invincible.

I've been to hundreds of colleges all over the country, and almost every one has an outstanding health and mental-health service. Tell them to take advantage of the screenings, services and mental-health services that are there if they need them.

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August 19, 2011

Commentary on the Seattle School Board Races

Melissa Westbrook:

The (Seattle) Times' editorial board is nothing if not amusing. Their current editorial on the School Board races puts forth the results without much analysis (because, of course, if they said, out loud, that the incumbents all appear to be in trouble that would hurt their cause). Here's how they framed the results:
Frustration about Seattle School Board leadership weighed heavily on the minds of primary voters who, in all but one board race, were more generous with their votes for challengers than incumbents.
Yes, generous is one way to put it. Another would be that all the incumbents appear to be in trouble.

They can only say about the challengers that they raise valid concerns about the district and the current Board. Almost like, "thanks for pointing that out, now move along."

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New Jersey Superintendents Call State Agency Ineffective

Winnie Hu:

Nearly three-quarters of New Jersey school superintendents said the state Education Department did not play an important role in helping districts raise students' achievement or prepare graduates for college and careers, according to a survey the department released Monday.

Many superintendents criticized how the state set goals and evaluated districts' progress and said they did not find school report cards or state and federal data requirements useful in improving students' performance.

They also expressed dissatisfaction with the state's handling of special-education services and its guidance on curriculum and instruction. For instance, 63 percent of superintendents said they had not found the department's efforts helpful in improving math instruction, and 59 percent said the same of improving literacy.

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August 18, 2011

Cannon To Serve As Oregon Governor's Education Policy Advisor

Glenn Vaagen:

Governor John Kitzhaber announced Tuesday that Representative Ben Cannon will join his staff as Education Policy Advisor. Representative Cannon, currently a state Representative for Portland, teaches middle school Humanities.

"Ben's passion and expertise on education policy will be a great asset to my office and the state," said Kitzhaber. "He'll bring the same dedication he has shown his constituents to implementing an education improvement agenda to ensure better results for Oregon students, more resources for teachers, and a more prosperous future."

"Serving as state Representative has been the highest honor I have ever held, and this was an incredibly difficult decision for me," Cannon said. "But I am convinced that to advise the Governor on education policy represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a difference on the same issues that drew me to teaching and politics in the first place. The achievements of the Governor and the Legislature this year have created a rare window of opportunity to make important improvements to the Oregon's public education system."

Janie Har:
Oregon Rep. Ben Cannon, D-Portland, is resigning from the Legislature to become Gov. John Kitzhaber's top education adviser.

Cannon, a Democrat now in his third term in the House, will replace Nancy Golden, a temporary hire who has returned to her position as superintendent of the Springfield School District this summer.

His resignation is effective Sept. 1. He starts his new position Sept. 6

"It was a tremendously difficult decision to leave the Legislature," Cannon said by phone Tuesday, "but I have the opportunity now to continue to serve the people of Oregon and this governor on an issue that matters so much to me as a teacher, and to me as a father."

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August 17, 2011

Globally Challenged: Wisconsin Lags 12 States & Numerous Countries in Math Proficiency

Paul E Peterson, Ludger Woessmann, Eric A. Hanushek, Carlos X. Lastra-Anadon, via a Chan Stroman email:

Given recent school-related political conflicts in Wisconsin, it is of interest that only 42 percent of that state's white students are proficient in math, a rate no better than the national average.

At a time of persistent unemployment, especially among the less skilled, many wonder whether our schools are adequately preparing students for the 21st-century global economy. This is the second study of student achievement in global perspective prepared under the auspices of Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG).

In the 2010 PEPG report, "U.S. Math Performance in Global Perspective," the focus was on the percentage of U.S. public and private school students performing at the advanced level in mathematics.1 The current study continues this work by reporting the percentage of public and private school students identified as at or above the proficient level (a considerably lower standard of performance than the advanced level) in mathematics and reading for the most recent cohort for which data are available, the high-school graduating Class of 2011.

Proficiency in Mathematics
U.S. students in the Class of 2011, with a 32 percent proficiency rate in mathematics, came in 32nd among the nations that participated in PISA. Although performance levels among the countries ranked 23rd to 31st are not significantly different from that of the United States, 22 countries do significantly outperform the United States in the share of students reaching the proficient level in math.

In six countries plus Shanghai and Hong Kong, a majority of students performed at the proficient level, while in the United States less than one-third did. For example, 58 percent of Korean students and 56 percent of Finnish students were proficient. Other countries in which a majority--or near majority--of students performed at or above the proficient level included Switzerland, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands. Many other nations also had math proficiency rates well above that of the United States, including Germany (45 percent), Australia (44 percent), and France (39 percent).

Much more at

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Senate Hearing on College Readiness (Imaginary)

on the 17th of never, 2011

Senator, please allow me to express my thanks for including me in these vital hearings on the readiness of our high school graduates for college work.

It would be my sad duty to report to you that if high school football coaches no longer ask their athletes to learn to block and tackle, that would fail to prepare them for college teams. Oh--wait, Senator, that is not correct. (Shuffles papers, starts over).

It would be my sad duty to report that if our high school basketball coaches no longer taught their athletes to dribble, pass, and shoot baskets, then they too would fail at basketball in college.

Oh--my apologies, Senator, that is not my testimony--just a little bad joke. Of course our high school coaches take athletics much too seriously to allow that sort of thing to happen to our kids. In fact, The Boston Globe has more than 100 pages a year on high school athletes. No, Senator, there is no coverage for high school academic achievement.

But I am sorry to have to report that our History and English teachers at the high school level no longer ask our students to read complete nonfiction books or to write substantial research papers, and naturally, this unfits them for the nonfiction books they will be asked to read and the substantial research papers they will be asked to write at the postsecondary level, in what we might call Upper Education.

The famous and influential American educator, John Dewey, wrote in 1896 that: "The centrality of reading and writing was 'one of education's great mistakes.'" In following in his footsteps, many of our educators have pushed academic reading and writing so far to the periphery of the curriculum that, for too many of our high school students, they might just as well have fallen off the edge of the flat earth of American secondary education.

The California State College System recently reported that 47% of their Freshmen were required to take remedial reading courses. Of course they can't handle nonfiction books as they have never been assigned one in their whole high school career.

I have had the privilege of publishing 956 serious (average 6,000 words) history research papers by secondary students from all over this country and from 38 other countries, and I have formed the opinion in the process that high school students are fully capable of reading complete nonfiction books and of writing serious research papers.

But it should be no surprise that so long as our educators never assign nonfiction books or ask students for research papers, they will continue to believe that their students may be able somehow to manage Calculus, European history, Latin, Chemistry, British Literature and the like, but they must still not be able, for some unexplained reason, to read a history book or write a real term paper.

While our colleges do complain, persistently, about the poor preparation in reading and writing of the students who come to them, what do they do in setting requirements for admission?

Senator, hard as it may be to believe, all the writing that colleges ask for is a 500-word "college" essay about the life of the applicant. It is hard to conceive of a more nonacademic task than that, or one more likely to retard the assignment of serious reading and writing at the high school level.

When we celebrate athletes and ignore scholars in our high schools, and when we set such low standards for the high school diploma and for college admission, we should not be surprised that more than one million of our high school graduates need to be in remedial courses when they get to college every year, and that more than half of those will never graduate.

Yes, Senator, I believe that until we take reading and writing more seriously at the secondary level, we can continue to push more and more students into college, but more and more of them will be sadly unprepared to take advantage of that academic opportunities there, and more and more of them will drop out before they graduate from college.

Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss these problems.

"Teach by Example"
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
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978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

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Rhode Island Commissioner Gist's Budget: Consultants Cash In

Dan McGowan:

The Rhode Island Department of Education's (RIDE) consulting budget has ballooned to over $28 million for the 2012 fiscal year, nearly double what it was spending just two years ago, GoLocalProv has learned.

According to the agency, the sudden jump in consultants and vendor spending is directly related to a number of federal grants the department has received over the past several years, including the $75 million in Race To The Top funds secured last year. RIDE says the outside contractors are helping with curriculum development, data management and overseeing an inter-district transportation system for new teachers.

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August 16, 2011

WEAC issues layoff notices to 40% of staff

Erin Richards:

Layoff notices have been issued to about 40% of the Wisconsin Education Association Council workforce, a total of 42 employees who work for the state's largest teachers union, Executive Director Dan Burkhalter confirmed Monday.

Burkhalter said that the layoffs and other budget cuts at WEAC are a result of Gov. Scott Walker's "union-busting" legislation.

"Right now we're engaged in membership continuation campaigns," Burkhalter said in a statement. "We've made steady progress in signing up members and we anticipate further progress will be made as the school year resumes. Despite budget cuts and layoffs, our goal remains the same: to be a strong and viable organization that represents the voices of Wisconsin's public school employees."

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Sun Prairie's 2011-2012 Budget Pork


It's getting time to fish or cut bait. We've taken a good hard look at the proposed/draft 2011-12 SPASD budget, and we find a number of budget lines to be potentially low hanging fruit...ripe for the pickin'.

Download a PDF copy of SP-EYE Analysis of the 2011-12 SPASD Budget

Maybe we don't have it right...we can admit it when we make an error...but it places the burden of proof squarely upon the district. PROVE to the community that you absolutely need all that is budgeted, and you have our support.

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August 13, 2011

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on The Schools, Community, Curriculum & Parenting

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin Interview 8.12.2011 from Jim Zellmer.

I am thankful that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin took the time to chat yesterday.

Mobile (iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android) visitors, please use this link.

19MB mp3 version.

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Michigan has power to reimagine education, but will it?

Tom Watkins:

There are lessons that Michigan business and government must learn from the lost decade that stripped our state of pride and nearly 1 million high-paying middle-class jobs.

If we don't embrace and imagine a better future, instead falling back on "business as usual," we will be relegated to the trash heap of dinosaurian, economic history.

The revisionists among us would like us to believe Michigan's fate was pre-determined by the collapse of the domestic auto industry, capped off by a global economic meltdown in 2008.

While the perfect storm of events that hit Michigan were clearly impactful, they need not have defined us. As my dad always told me, "You have little control what happens to you in this life, you have 100 percent control over how you respond."

Michigan responded poorly.

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Obama Shows Spunk Pushing Bold Education Plan: Jonathan Alter

Jonathan Alter:

Although President Barack Obama is on the ropes, with even some Democratic allies describing him as weak and passive, this week he showed boldness and imagination in one vital area: education.

Obama backed Education Secretary Arne Duncan's announcement that he will grant waivers to states that want to be excused from the punitive provisions of No Child Left Behind , Washington's much-maligned 2002 overhaul of elementary and secondary education policy.

Republican lawmakers complain that the White House waivers run roughshod over the legislative branch -- and they're right. But gridlock demands more robust use of presidential authority and, at least in this case, we're getting it. Unless Duncan's action is challenged and reversed on constitutional grounds, No Child Left Behind will be left behind for good.

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States Fail to Raise Bar in Reading, Math Tests

Stephanie Banchero:

Eight states have raised their standards for passing elementary-school math and reading tests in recent years, but these states and most others still fall below national benchmarks, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

The data help explain the disconnect between the relatively high pass rates on many state tests and the low scores on the national exams, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In fourth-grade reading, for example, 35 states set passing bars that are below the "basic" level on the national NAEP exam. "Basic" means students have a satisfactory understanding of material, as opposed to "proficient," which means they have a solid grasp of it. Massachusetts is the only state to set its bar at "proficient"--and that was only in fourth- and eighth-grade math.

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August 12, 2011

Are school boards part of the problem or the solution?

Anne M. Byrne:

In the drama of public education, many people seem to see school boards as wearing black hats. When is the last time you heard a positive reference to school boards in our ongoing national debate? School boards are part of the problem, right?

Actually, local school boards have an essential role in education reform. More often than not, they are composed of energetic citizens who bring a passion for their communities to bear on nettlesome issues ranging from graduation rates to childhood obesity and bullying.

As a longtime school board member in New York State and chair of the student achievement committee for the National School Boards Association, I have been looking at what research says about school boards and student achievement. Does what happens in the boardroom make a difference in the classroom? The answer is yes, unequivocally.

Controlling for demographic differences, districts with high levels of student achievement have school boards that exhibit habits and characteristics that are markedly different from boards in low-achieving districts.

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Why parents can't save schools

Jay Matthews:

One of the summer scandals keeping us education wonks amused until school starts is a American Federation of Teachers gaffe in Connecticut. Union officials posted online an analysis of their lobbying against a parent trigger law in that state that revealed too much about their distaste for letting moms and dads decide who should run their schools.

Bloggers RiShawn Biddle and Alexander Russo exposed the union celebrating its gutting of a Connecticut version of California's parent trigger law. School reform organizations and editorialists were aghast. AFT president Randi Weingarten disowned the Web post. Activists pushing for parent triggers in Texas and New York welcomed the attention.

This idea has already reached the Washington area and may someday inspire legislation here. That would be bad. Despite its worthy proponents and democratic veneer, the parent trigger is a waste of time. Let's toss it into the trash with other once fashionable reform ideas like worksheets for slow students and brief constructed responses on state tests.

A balance of power in school governance is vital to ongoing improvements AND relevance.

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School Vouchers - Panacea or Snake Oil?

Ross Meyer:

As most Coloradans know, at least those who keep up with statewide education news, the Douglas County school board recently approved -- unanimously -- a groundbreaking plan to help pay the tuition costs for hundreds of students so that they can attend private schools.

This plan, known colloquially as a school voucher program, enjoys ardent support from some quarters, but vigorous opposition elsewhere.

Is such a plan useful, does it seem a wise use of taxpayer provided money, and is it available to all students?

Or, as many think, should public money earmarked for education be used exclusively for public schools to benefit all students? As with so many topics dotting the American sociological landscape, the answers lie in the murky sea of the individual's political leanings.

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Some Folks Have a (Really) Hard Time with Change

Peter Murphy:

Change is hard. So said many a politician trying to tackle problems confronting the state or nation.

The president of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), Richard Iannuzzi, is a tell-tale example of someone having real difficulty with change by showing a dark side.

Yesterday's Associated Press story on the changing landscape of public education was telling. With strengthened accountability and teacher evaluation combined with tightening resources, changes are afoot. On the one hand, Governor Andrew Cuomo is recognizing the "gravitational forces" of change and is in some ways its instigator by his focus on "improving student performance," including his push that gave more teeth to the state Regents evaluation requirements.

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August 10, 2011

Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009

US Department of Education, via a kind Chan Stroman email:

State-level National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are an important resource for policymakers and other stakeholders responsible for making sense of and acting on state assessment results. Since 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has supported research that focuses on comparing NAEP and state proficiency standards. By showing where states' standards lie on the NAEP scale, the mapping analyses offer several important contributions. First, they allow each state to compare the stringency of its criteria for proficiency with that of other states.

Second, mapping analyses inform a state whether the rigor of its standards, as represented by the NAEP scale equivalent of the state's standard, changed over time. (A state's NAEP scale equivalent is the score on the NAEP scale at which the percentage of students in a state's NAEP sample who score at or above that value matches the percentage of students in the state who score proficient or higher on the state assessment.) Significant differences in NAEP scale equivalents might reflect changes in state assessments and standards or changes in policies or practices that occurred between the years. Finally, when key aspects of a state's assessment or standards remain the same, these mapping analyses allow NAEP to substantiate state-reported changes in student achievement.

The following are the research questions and the key findings regarding state proficiency standards, as they are measured on the NAEP scale.

Wisconsin's oft criticized WKCE vis a vis NAEP:
WKCE "proficient" = 2009 NAEP Below Basic for grade 4 reading (along with 34 other states) and grade 8 reading (along with 15 other states)

= 2009 NAEP Basic for grade 4 math (along with 41 other states) and grade 8 (along with 35 other states)

WKCE results showed more positive changes than NAEP results for grade 4
reading from 2007 to 2009, grade 4 math from 2007 to 2009, and grade 4 math from 2005 to 2009

NAEP results showed more positive changes than WKCE results in grade 8
reading from 2005 to 2009.

How does Wisconsin compare? Learn more, here.

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Emanuel defends property tax increase for Chicago Public Schools

John Byrne

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today said a property tax hike for Chicago Public Schools is acceptable because district administrators have made large cuts to the school budget and investment is necessary to improve important programs like early childhood education.

In his first comments since the proposed schools tax increase was announced last week, the mayor said school officials have done more to make the schools more efficient.

"I have no tolerance for an overblown bureaucracy, and I have no tolerance for inefficiency in the city budget, in other agencies, and I'm glad (school officials) followed the cut and invest strategy," Emanuel said. "I think they've made the tough choices."

"I also expect people to respect the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers," he added. "But they also rely on the school system. As you know, I said I was going to protect the classroom. We've not only protected the classroom, we've expanded educational choices and opportunities for the parents that rely on the school system, while other school systems are cutting back."

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Memphis Consolidation Decision Leaves Board Question Unanswered

Bill Dries:

Attorneys for all of the sides in the schools consolidation court case have a Friday, Aug. 12, deadline that will set the stage for the next crucial part of the landmark court case.

What does a new countywide school board look like and when is there a transition to that school board?

Federal Judge Hardy Mays ruled Monday that the county school system controls the move toward consolidation of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools, which Mays ruled, will take place in August 2013. But he also ruled the county school board districts, which do not include the city of Memphis, are unconstitutional and have to be redrawn or changed in some way.

He gave the attorneys on all sides through Friday to suggest remedies. And his 146-page ruling left some clues about how he will judge the ideas.

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It Rhymes With 'Tool'

Liam Goldrick:

Thursday morning in Washington DC -- the only city that could host such a vacuous, inane event -- the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is hosting (the hopefully one-off) "Education Reform Idol." The event has nothing to do with recognizing states that get the best results for children or those that have achieved demonstrated results from education policies over time -- but simply those that have passed pet reforms over the past year.

It purports to determine which state is the "reformiest" (I kid you not) with the only contenders being Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin and the only judges being: (1) a representative of the pro-privatization Walton (WalMart) Family Foundation; (2) the Walton-funded, public education hater Jeanne Allen; and (3) the "Fox News honorary Juan Williams chair" provided to the out-voted Richard Lee Colvin from Education Sector.

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State budget problems keep squeezing Minn. schools

Chris Williams:

Each summer as she sets up her classroom for the fall, elementary school teacher Kate Schmidt said it seems like she spends more of her own money for school supplies, her classes get larger and she has fewer colleagues.

"I remember people telling me that if you get through your first year of teaching, you're good to go," said the 22-year teaching veteran. "Well, I work much harder now than I ever did as a first-year teacher."

Schmidt, 43, teaches fourth-grade in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district in the Twin Cities suburbs which, like most districts, is coping with state funding that has failed to keep up with inflation for nearly a decade. Then in July the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton held back another $700 million to solve the latest budget deficit.

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August 9, 2011

Glenn Grothman - Wisconsin State Senator or Walker Education Policy Puppet?


In a letter to constituents, and Wednesday on "Sly in the Morning", Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) extolled the education-saving virtues of Act 10, saying it was "...the best thing we could do for our public schools." Grothman went on to say that "Wisconsin Schools are just not that great right now," citing recent test scores as signs of an education emergency that only eliminating collective bargaining could remedy. Specifically noting that the "...most recent test scores show that black kids have the worst scores in the country..." and "...white kids scored lower than the national average." Grothman stated his belief that collective bargaining is a roadblock to student achievement that had to be removed - for the sake of the kids. According to Grothman, there are too many "bad teachers" protected by unions that are "too hard to get rid of," and that "people shouldn't need an Education degree to teach."

After speaking with Senator Grothman today two things are very clear - first, he was not very familiar with the full data from the scores, admitting that Governor Walker seemed to have "cherry picked" the scores he cited. The Senator was merely repeating the information he was given by Scott Walker, trusting its accuracy - even out of context. The other issue that was perfectly clear is that he (and the other Republicans) are behaving as puppets to Scott Walker and the Corporatics pulling HIS strings - believing every bit of misinformation being fed to them to demonize teachers and their unions. The best thing for Wisconsin and our children is for this propaganda to be exposed and debunked, so that a real debate about education can take place. For the record, this information was shared with Senator Grothman today.

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August 8, 2011

School boards pay big money to part with leaders

Associated Press:

State records show that Texas school boards have paid more than $7.7 million in severance pay over the past several years to buy out the contracts of superintendents.

The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that school trustees have offered buyouts to 71 superintendents since 2005 ( Most received six-figure checks.
The deals have become a common way for school districts to for part ways with their top school administrators. Among the largest settlements in recent years were in the Richardson and Irving school districts.

Though teachers have one- or two-year contracts, superintendents routinely have contracts of at least three years. School trustees also sometimes extend the contracts as shows of support during annual evaluations. To dismiss a superintendent and end the contract early requires a process that involves hearings, appeals and legal costs. So school boards choose to pay severance instead of paying salaries for the full length of superintendent contracts.

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Big business of school reform

Sommer Brokaw:

Critics of public school "reform" say that it looks too much like a business model with education foundations that have big wallets taking control away from local communities.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, along with his wife, Melinda Gates, founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which had an endowment of $33.5 billion as of 2009. The foundation is "driven by the passions and the interests of the Gates family," with an education goal to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.

Another notable figure is Los Angeles entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad (rhymes with road). With his wife Edythe, Broad founded The Broad Foundations, which have assets of $2.1 billion with a mission to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts.

"Priorities of some of these foundations nationally have taken precedence over parents and community members," said Pam Grundy, co-founder of Mecklenburg Acts, the local affiliate of Parents Across America. "They're trying to do a lot of things that have never been proven to work. We feel like our kids are like an experiment."

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State board to run Bridgeport schools

Stephanie Reitz:

A banker, a professor, a hospital administrator, and a pastor are among the members of a newly created board to run Bridgeport's school district and overhaul its finances and student achievement.

Acting state Education Commissioner George Coleman announced the six appointments yesterday, saying the new board will start its work immediately in place of the nine-member elected school board being swept out during the state takeover.

State education officials decided this summer that Connecticut needed to assume control of the troubled Bridgeport schools under provisions of a 2007 state law that lets it step in when students' academic performance is in dire need of improvement.

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Maximum property tax hike sought for Chicago public schools

Rosalind Rossi:

Chicago property taxes that fund schools would be raised to the maximum allowed by law for the first time in four years -- costing the average homeowner an extra $84 a year -- under a proposed Chicago Public School budget released Friday.

To fill a $712 million deficit, the first budget outlined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new school team would hike property taxes by $150.3 million, cut spending by $320.7 million, and use $241 million in reserve dollars to keep the system in the black.

Faced with rising costs and the evaporation of one-time federal dollars, the budget marks the second year in a row that CPS plans to spend more than it takes in, a pattern experts call "unsustainable.'' And, CPS officials concede, even grimmer days await three years from now, when a pension contribution waiver expires and the system's pension tab will skyrocket.

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August 7, 2011

School choice is the 'civil rights' issue of the 21st century

Ed Jones & Todd Hollenbeck:

It is often difficult to feel optimistic about the future of liberty. Those of us who value individual liberty and free markets look only at the encroachment of government in our lives. We often overlook the victories that should give us hope for the future of liberty. The school choice movement is one of the most important fights in the future of liberty, and one that we are starting to win.

It is fitting to talk about this now, because July 31 would have been Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman's 99th birthday. Over fifty years ago, Friedman jump-started the school choice movement with an article called "The Role of Government in Education." In it, he laid out a plan for school vouchers that would allow parents to have a choice in where they send their children. In a 2005 interview with Reason Magazine, Friedman said, "I want vouchers to be universal, to be available to everyone. They should contain few or no restrictions on how they can be used."

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August 6, 2011

The AFT's Real Feelings About Parent Power

Rishawn Biddle:

When the AFT offers a road map on how to shut down Parent Power efforts, it offers a nice PDF document to do it. Apparently in a fit of celebration during last month's TEACH 2011 conference, the nation's second-largest teachers union offered up a presentation on how its Connecticut affiliate managed to make the state's Parent Trigger law a little less harder for parents to use. (Dropout Nation is doing everyone a courtesy by making it available for public consumption; the orginal is still available at the AFT's Web site. At least, for now.)
Rick Green has more.

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Can Johnny Read? CA bill would eliminate standardized tests for 2nd grade students

Gloria Romero:

Remember a long time ago when educators were asking why Johnny couldn't read? Well now in California, it appears that there is a major push to delay learning how well Johnny can read in the first place.

Early assessments are essential to get kids like Johnny on track to succeed in school. These assessments provide critical data that help schools identify which kids need extra help and use best practices to help them get to grade level proficiency.

SB 740, a bill pushed by the California Teachers Association, is quickly moving through the California Legislature, which would eliminate standardized second grade testing. SB 740 eliminates a valuable early assessment mechanism for teachers and parents. Without the data from the second grade assessment, we will be less likely to know exactly which students need extra help. And we will likely have more schools that fail to close achievement gaps and allow students--especially low income and minority students--to fall further behind.

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Chicago Public Schools Pushing for Property Tax Hike

Rebecca Vevea:

For the first time since 2007, Chicago Public Schools will seek to increase the amount of money it collects from property taxes to raise an estimated $150 million over the next fiscal year-and likely add to Chicago residents' property tax bills.

School district officials said the tax increase-to the maximum allowed by state law-is needed to help reduce a $712 million deficit. The tax increase is part of the district's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that was released Friday.

Asked if Mayor Rahm Emanuel had signed off on the politically sensitive decision, school district officials said the Board of Education, not Emanuel, decides whether to raise property taxes. But while the school system does develop its budget and has taxing authority, it has been intertwined with the mayor's office since Mayor Richard M. Daley took control of public schools in 1995. The current CPS leadership and school board were hand-picked by Emanuel.

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August 5, 2011

Douglas County, CO School District Ups the Ante in Voucher War

Stephanie Simon:

In a bold bid to revamp public education, a suburban district south of Denver has begun handing out vouchers that use public money to help its largely affluent residents send their children to private and church-based schools.

The move is being challenged in state court and a judge has held hearings this week to determine if the program can go forward.

The Douglas County School District experiment is noteworthy because nearly all voucher programs nationally aim to help children who are poor, have special needs or are trapped in failing public schools. Douglas County, by contrast, is one of the most affluent in the U.S., with household income nearly double the national median, and has schools ranked among the best in Colorado.

The program is also unique in that the district explicitly promotes the move as a way for it to save money. The district is, in effect, outsourcing some students' education to the private sector for less than it would spend to teach them in public schools.

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SIGnificant Concerns

David DeSchryver:

If the U.S. Department of Education fancies itself a school reform organization, then the School Improvement Grant is one of its most important programs -- if not the most important.
-- Check out the cross-post with our good (and cynical, insightful) friends at Title I-derland. --
The purpose of SIG is to transform "persistently lowest achieving schools" into good ones and, in so doing, demonstrate that the federal government can invest our money wisely. Of course, that is no small task. If this flops, then maybe ED should reconsider its role as a reform organization. The stakes are that high.

Most readers probably know how the program works. Basically, the state identifies the bottom 5 percent of its persistently lowest achieving schools, including Title I and Title I-eligible high schools with a graduation rate of 60 percent or less. Once those schools are identified, districts can apply for SIG funds on behalf of those schools, but only if they implement one of four prescriptive school intervention models.

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August 4, 2011

Teachers Union Honesty

Wall Street Journal:

Never put on the Internet anything you wouldn't want to see in the newspaper, right? Tell that to the American Federation of Teachers, which recently posted online an internal document bragging about how it successfully undermines parental power in education.

This document concerns "parent trigger," an ambitious reform idea we've reported on several times. Invented and passed into law in California in early 2010, parent trigger empowers parents to use petition drives to force reform at failing public schools. Under California law, a 51% majority of parents can shake up a failing school's administration or invite a charter operator to take it over.

California's innovation caught on quickly--and that's where the AFT's PowerPoint presentation comes in. Prepared (off the record) for AFT activists at the union's annual convention in Washington, D.C. last month, it explains how AFT lobbying undermined an effort to bring parent trigger to Connecticut last year. Called "How Connecticut Diffused [sic] The Parent Trigger," it's an illuminating look into union cynicism and power.

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Court hears testimony in case to stop Douglas County Colorado's voucher program

Karen Auge:

A business owner and father of three told a packed courtroom today that he joined a lawsuit to stop Douglas County School District's voucher program because it will harm his daughters' schools.

"This is taking money from public schools and funding religious and private schools. This is going to cost our school district precious resources that we do not have," Kevin Leung said. "I taught my children to do what's right. It might cost me business in Douglas County and things like that, but it doesn't matter. You have to do what's right."

Leung testified during the first of what is expected to be three days of hearings on a request to temporarily stop Douglas County from implementing the voucher program until a lawsuit challenging the legality of the program is resolved.

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August 2, 2011

School, district ratings drop; Austin ISD has 8 underperforming schools, Round Rock has 2

Melissa Taboada:

The Round Rock school district, which earned the state's second-highest academic rating in 2010, this year has two schools that failed to meet state standards, securing "academically unacceptable" labels that will stick for two years.

The news comes as schools and districts across Texas see their ratings slide this year despite making academic gains. Figures released by the Texas Education Agency on Friday show that more than half of all Texas schools that had the highest rating in 2010, exemplary, fell in their ratings, and five times as many schools were deemed academically unacceptable, the lowest rating.

Locally, eight of the Austin school district's 112 rated schools missed state academic targets; last year, only one Austin school was rated academically unacceptable. Pflugerville this year has two schools rated unacceptable. Both traditional high schools in Bastrop failed to meet state standards and received the lowest rating. Hutto has two elementary schools that are rated unacceptable.

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Can't blame WEAC for not trusting Walker on school accountability

Chris Rickert:

I feel you, Wisconsin Education Association Council; I don't trust Gov. Scott Walker, either.

But so far as I know, he's not trying to kill me.

This might be the key distinction in judging WEAC's decision to skip out on a Walker-associated effort to devise an accountability system for Wisconsin schools; one would think the state's largest teachers union would want to be a part of that.

Last week, WEAC president Mary Bell seemed to indicate it all came down to trust.

"How can we trust the governor to be a credible partner on education issues when they just passed laws to make massive cuts to school funding and silence our voices in schools?" she asked.

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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Other People's Money


The problem with many school districts, including Sun Prairie, is that the district administration (no matter how vehemently they argue to the contrary) find it too easy to spend other people's money. Instead of Tim Culver spending time with the high salaried muckety mucks, we'd love to see him visit a few seniors who are dangerously close to losing their homes.

We ALL want a good, solid, quality education for the kids of Sun Prairie. And we might all enjoy eating sea bass dinners. But the simple reality is that most of us don't have the means. It is also the seniors who struggle with property tax payments that built this district from the ground up.

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August 1, 2011

July 29 Wisconsin Read to Lead task force meeting

Julie Gocey, via email:

The fourth meeting of the Governor's Read to Lead task force took place in Milwaukee on Friday, July 29. The meeting was filmed by Wisconsin Eye, but we have not seen it offered yet through their website. We will send out a notice when that occurs. As always, we encourage you to watch and draw your own conclusions.

Following is a synopsis of the meeting, which centered on reading improvement success in Florida and previously-discussed task force topics (teacher preparation, licensing, professional development, screening/intervention, early childhood). In addition, Superintendent Evers gave an update on activity within DPI. The discussion of the impact of societal factors on reading achievement was held over to the next meeting, as was further revisiting of early childhood issues.

In addition to this summary, you can access Chan Stroman's Eduphilia tweets at!/eduphilia

Opening: Governor Walker welcomed everyone and stressed the importance of this conversation on reading. Using WKCE data, which has been criticized nationally and locally for years as being derived from low standards, the Governor stated that 80% of Wisconsin students are proficient or advanced in reading, and he is seeking to serve the other 20%. The NAEP data, which figured prominently in the presentation of the guest speakers, tell a very different story. Superintendent Evers thanked the task force members and indicated that this is all about "connecting the dots" and putting all of the "puzzle pieces" together. The work of this task force will impact the work going on in other education-focused committees.

The Florida Story: Guest speakers were Patricia Levesque, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Foundation for Florida's Future, and Mary Laura Bragg, the director of Florida's statewide reading initiative, Just Read, Florida! from 2001 to 2006.

In a series of slides, Levesque compared Wisconsin, Florida, and national performance on the NAEP reading test over the past decade. Despite challenges in terms of English language learners, a huge percentage of students on free/reduced lunch, and a minority-majority demographic, Florida has moved from the scraping the bottom on the NAEP to the top group of states. Over the same time period, Wisconsin has plummeted in national ranking, and our students now score below the national average in all subgroups for which NAEP data is disaggregated. 10 points on the NAEP scale is roughly equivalent to one grade level in performance, and Florida has moved from two grade levels below Wisconsin to 1/2 grade level above. For a full discussion of Wisconsin's NAEP performance, see our website,

Levesque and Bragg also described the components of the reading initiative in Florida, which included grading all schools from A to F, an objective test-based promotion policy from third to fourth grade, required state-approved reading plans in each district, trained reading coaches in schools, research assistance from the Florida Center for Reading Research, required individual student intervention plans for struggling students, universal K-2 screening for reading problems, improved licensure testing for teachers and principals, the creation of a reading endorsement for teaching licenses, and on-line professional development available to all teachers. As noted above, achievement has gone up dramatically, the gap between demographic groups has narrowed, early intervention is much more common, and third grade retention percentages continue to fall. The middle school performance is now rising as those children who received early intervention in elementary school reach that level. Those students have not yet reached high school, and there is still work to be done there. To accomplish all this, Florida leveraged federal funds for Title 1 and 2 and IDEA, requiring that they be spent for state-approved reading purposes. The Governor also worked actively with business to create private/public partnerships supporting reading. Just Read, Florida! was able to engineer a statewide conference for principals that was funded from vendor fees. While Florida is a strong local control state, reading is controlled from the state level, eliminating the need for local curriculum directors to research and design reading plans without the resources or manpower to do so. Florida also cut off funding to university professors who refused to go along with science-based reading instruction and assessment.

Florida is now sharing its story with other states, and offering assistance in reading plan development, as well as their screening program (FAIR assessment system) and their online professional development, which cost millions to develop. Levesque invited Wisconsin to join Indiana and other states at a conference in Florida this fall.

Questions for, or challenges to, the presenters came from three task force members.

  • Rachel Lander asked about the reading coaches, and Bragg responded that they were extensively trained by the state office, beginning with Reading First money. They are in the classroom modeling for teachers and also work with principals on understanding data and becoming building reading leaders. The coaches now have an association that has acquired a presence in the state.
  • Linda Pils stated her belief that Wisconsin outperforms Florida at the middle school level, and that we have higher graduation rates than Florida. She cited opinions that third grade retention has some immediate effect, but the results are the same or better for non-retained students later, and that most retained students will not graduate from high school. She also pointed out Florida's class size reduction requirement, and suggested that the NAEP gains came from that. Levesque explained that the retention studies to which Pils was referring were from other states, where retention decisions were made subjectively by teachers, and there was no requirement for science-based individual intervention plans. The gains for retained students in Florida are greater than for matched students who are not retained, and the gains persist over time. Further, retention did not adversely affect graduation rates. In fact, graduation rates have increased, and dropout rates have declined. The University of Arkansas is planning to do a study of Florida retention. The class size reduction policy did not take effect in Florida until last year, and a Harvard study concluded that it had no effect on student reading achievement. Task force member Steve Dykstra pointed out that you cannot compare the NAEP scores from two states without considering the difference in student demographics. Wisconsin's middle school scores benefit from the fact that we have a relative abundance of white students who are not on free/reduced lunch. Our overall average student score in middle school may be higher than Florida, but when we compare similar cohorts from both states, Florida is far ahead.
  • Tony Pedriana asked what kinds of incentives have been put in place for higher education, principals, etc. to move to a science-based system of instruction. The guests noted that when schools are graded, reading performance receives double weight in the formula. They also withheld funding for university programs that were not science-based.
DPI Update: Superintendent Evers indicated that DPI is looking at action in fours areas: teacher licensure, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, the use of a screener to detect reading problems, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
  • The committee looking at licensing is trying to decide whether they should recommend an existing, off-the-shelf competency exam, or revise the exam they are currently requiring (Praxis 2). He did not indicate who is on the committee or what existing tests they were looking at. In the past, several members of the task force have recommended that Wisconsin use the Foundations of Reading test given in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • DPI is revising the WMELS to correct definitions and descriptions of phonological and phonemic awareness and phonics. The changes will align the WMELS with both the Report of the National Reading Panel and the Common Core State Standards. Per the suggestion of Eboni Howard, a guest speaker at the last meeting, they will get an outside opinion on the WMELS when they are finished. Evers did not indicate who is doing this work.
  • DPI is looking at the possibility of using PALS screening or some other tool recommended by the National RTI Center to screen students in grades K-2 or K-3. Evers previously mentioned that this committee had been meeting for 6-7 months, but he did not indicate who is on it.
  • Evers made reference to communication that was circulated this week (by Dr. Dan Gustafson and John Humphries) that expressed concern over the method in which DPI is implementing the Common Core. He stated that districts have been asking DPI for help in implementing the CC, and they want to provide districts with a number of resources. One of those is the model curriculum being developed by CESA 7. DPI is looking at it to see how it could help the state move forward, but no final decision has yet been made.
Task force member Pam Heyde, substituting for Marcia Henry, suggested that it would be better to look at what Florida is doing rather than start from ground zero looking at guidelines. Patricia Levesque confirmed that Florida was willing to assist other states, and invited Wisconsin to join a meeting of state reading commissioners in October.

Teacher Preparation: The discussion centered around what needs to change in teacher preparation programs, and how to fit this into a four-year degree.
Steve Dykstra said that Texas has looked at this issue extensively. Most schools need three courses to cover reading adequately, but it is also important to look at the texts that are used in the courses. He referenced a study by Joshi that showed most of the college texts to be inadequate.
Dawnene Hassett, UW-Madison literacy professor in charge of elementary teacher reading preparation, was invited to participate in this part of the discussion. She indicated we should talk in terms of content knowledge, not number of credits. In a couple of years, teachers will have to pass a Teacher Performance Assessment in order to graduate. This was described as a metacognitive exercise using student data. In 2012-13, UW-Madison will change its coursework, combining courses in some of the arts, and dropping some of the pedagogical, psychological offerings.
Tony Pedriana said he felt schools of education had fallen down on teaching content derived from empirical studies.
Hassett said schools teach all five "pillars" of reading, but they may not be doing it well enough. She said you cannot replicate classroom research, so you need research "plus."
Pils was impressed with the assistance the FCRR gives to classroom teachers regarding interventions that work. She also said spending levels were important.
Dykstra asked Mary Laura Bragg if she had worked with professors who thought they were in alignment with the research, but really weren't.
Bragg responded that "there's research, and then there's research." They had to educate people on the difference between "research" from vendors and empirical research, which involves issues of fidelity and validation with different groups of students.
Levesque stated that Florida increased reading requirements for elementary candidates from 3 to 6 credits, and added a 3 credit requirement for secondary candidates. Colleges were required to fit this in by eliminating non-content area pedagogy courses.
Kathy Champeau repeated a concern from earlier meetings that teacher candidates need the opportunity to practice their new knowledge in a classroom setting, or they will forget it.
Hassett hoped the Teacher Performance Assessment would help this. The TPA would probably require certain things to be included in the teacher candidate's portfolio.
Governor Walker said that the key to the effectiveness of Florida's retention policy was the intervention provided to the students. He asked what they did to make sure intervention was successful.
Levesque replied that one key was reading coaches in the classroom. Also, district reading plans, individual intervention plans, student academies, etc. all need to be approved by the state.
There was consensus that there should be a difference in reading requirements for elementary vs. secondary teachers. There was no discussion of preparation for reading teachers, reading specialists, or special education teachers.

Licensing: The discussion centered around what teacher standards need to be tested.
Dykstra suggested that the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading, written by Louisa Moats, et al, and published by the International Dyslexia Association in 2010, would be good teacher standards, and the basis for a teacher competency exam. There was no need for DPI to spend the next year discussing and inventing new teacher standards.
Champeau said that the International Reading Association also has standards.
Pedriana asked if those standards are based on research.
Dykstra suggested that the task force look at the two sets of standards side-by-side and compare them.

Professional Development: The facilitators looked for input on how professional development for practicing teachers should be targeted. Should the state target struggling teachers, schools, or districts for professional development?
Rep. Jason Fields felt all three needed to be targeted.
Heyde asked Levesque for more details on how Wisconsin could do professional development, when we often hear there is no money.
Levesque provided more detail on the state making reading a priority, building public/private partnerships, and being more creative with federal grant money (e.g., the 20% of each grant that is normally carved out by the state for administration). There should be a clear reading plan (Florida started with just two people running their initiative, and after a decade only has eight people), and all the spending should align with the plan to be effective. You cannot keep sending money down the hole. Additional manpower was provided by the provision that all state employees would get one paid hour per week to volunteer on approved reading projects in schools, and also by community service requirements for high school students.
Bragg suggested using the online Florida training modules, and perhaps combining them with modules from Louisiana.
Dykstra also suggested taking advantage of existing training, including LETRS, which was made widely available in Massachusetts. He also stressed the importance of professional development for principals, coaches, and specialists.
Bragg pointed out that many online training modules are free, or provided for a nominal charge that does not come close to what it would cost Wisconsin to develop its own professional development.
Lander said there were many Wisconsin teachers who don't need the training, and it should not be punitive.
Champeau suggested that Florida spends way more money on education that Wisconsin, based on information provided by the NAEP.
Levesque clarified that Florida actually is below the national average in cost per student. The only reason they spend more than Wisconsin is that they have more students.
Rep. Steve Kestell stated that teachers around the entire state have a need for professional development, and it is dangerous to give it only to the districts that are performing the worst.
Sarah Archibald (sitting in for Sen. Luther Olsen) said it would be good to look at the value added in districts across the state when trying to identify the greatest needs for professional development. The new statewide information system should provide us with some of this value added information, but not at a classroom teacher level.
Evers commented that the state could require new teacher Professional Development Plans to include or be focused on reading.
Pils commented that districts can have low and high performing schools, so it is not enough to look at district data.
Champeau said that administrators also need this professional development. They cannot evaluate teachers if they do not have the knowledge themselves.
Dykstra mentioned a Florida guidebook for principals with a checklist to help them. He is concerned about teachers who develop PDP's with no guidance, and spend a lot of time and money on poor training and learning. There is a need for a clearinghouse for professional development programs.

Screening/Intervention: One of the main questions here was whether the screening should be universal using the same tools across the state.
Champeau repeated a belief that there are districts who are doing well with the screening they are doing, and they should not be required to change or add something new.
Dykstra responded that we need comparable data from every school to use value added analysis, so a universal tool makes sense. He also said there was going to be a lot of opposition to this, given the statements against screening that were issued when Rep. Keith Ripp introduced legislation on this topic in the last biennium. He felt the task force has not seen any screener in enough detail to recommend a particular one at this time.
Heyde said we need a screener that screens for the right things.
Pils agreed with Dykstra and Heyde. She mentioned that DIBELS is free and doesn't take much time.
Michele Erickson asked if a task force recommendation would turn into a mandate. She asked if Florida used a universal screener.
Levesque replied that Florida initially used DIBELS statewide, and then the FCRR developed the FAIR assessments for them. The legislature in Florida mandated the policy of universal kindergarten screening that also traces students back to their pre-K programs to see which ones are doing a better job. Wisconsin could purchase the FAIR assessments from Florida.
Archilbald suggested phasing in screening if we could not afford to do it all at once.
Evers supports local control, but said there are reasons to have a universal screener for data systems, to inform college programs, and to implement professional development.
Lander asked what screening information we could get from the WKCE.
Evers responded that the WKCE doesn't start unitl third grade.
Dykstra said we need a rubric about screening, and who needs what type and how often.
Pedriana said student mobility is another reason for a universal screener.
There was consensus that early screening is important. Certainly by 4K or 5K, but even at age three if a system could be established. Possibilities mentioned were district-run screenings or pediatrician screenings.
Walker reminded the task force that it only makes sense to screen if you have the ability to intervene with something.
Mara Brown wasn't sure that a universal screener would tell her anything more about her students than she already knows.
Levesque said she could provide a screening roadmap rubric for the task force.
No one on the task force had suggestions for specific interventions. The feeling was that it is more important to have a well-trained teacher. Both Florida and Oregon started evaluating and rating interventions, but stopped because they got bogged down. Wisconsin must also be careful about evaluations by What Works Clearinghouse, which has some problems.
Pedriana asked if the task force is prepared to endorse a model of instruction based on science, where failure is not an option.
The facilitator said this discussion would have to wait for later.

Early Childhood: The task force agreed that YoungStar should include more specific literacy targets.
Rep. Kestell felt that some district are opening 4K programs primarily for added revenue, and that there is wide variability in quality. There is a need to spend more time on this and decide what 4K should look like.
Evers said we should use the Common Core and work backward to determine what needs to be done in 4K.

Wrap-Up: Further discussion of early childhood will be put over to the next meeting, as will the societal issues and accountability. A meeting site has not yet been set, but Governor Walker indicted he liked moving around the state. The Governor's aides will follow up as to locations and specific agenda. The next meeting will be Thursday, August 25. All meetings are open to the public.

Related: An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: "Leading Us Backwards" and how does Wisconsin Compare?

Much more on Wisconsin's Read to Lead Task Force, here.

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7.28.2011 Wisconsin School Accountability Conference, with Video

Matthew DeFour:

An effort to develop a statewide school accountability system marks a turning point in Wisconsin, education experts said last week as a public effort to design the system got under way.

When the modern school accountability movement began in the 1990s, several states such as Massachusetts, Kentucky and Florida developed their own systems for measuring how well schools helped students learn. Wisconsin created a statewide test in 1993, but deferred to local districts on what it meant for schools.

"Some states have embraced (school accountability) more than others," said UW-Madison education professor Doug Harris. "Wisconsin hasn't."

Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers, who otherwise have clashed on education issues, have agreed to change that. A task force they formed began collecting information at a symposium last week organized by Walker, Evers and the La Follette School of Public Affairs and will soon meet to begin designing the system.

Susan Troller:
When it comes to developing a system for accountability for Wisconsin's schools, including ways to measure whether students are meeting the ultimate goal of being ready for a career or college, Betebenner says, "My advice to you is to go slow ... and be deliberate."

John Johnson, director of education information for DPI, was encouraged by the standing-room-only crowd and the attendance by a number of policymakers, including key legislators, at Thursday's meeting.

"Maybe by wading into school reform rather than diving into the deep end of the pool with Race to the Top, we'll actually be able to swim, instead of drowning," he says.

Watch the "Building a New School Accountability System for Wisconsin" conference, here.

Wisconsin's academic standards have long been criticized for their lack of rigor.

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Leadership begins with School Board

Superintendent Mark Porter:

Leadership in any organization comes from the top. No, the superintendent is not "the top" of a school district organization. The top spot is held by the School Board, seven elected individuals who work together to implement policies and practices to meet the changing needs of students and families, all within the limited resources, financial and otherwise, that are available.

I have been fortunate during my first two years as superintendent to work with a dedicated and hard-working School Board. Being a board member requires the commitment of endless hours of time and effort, and is frequently somewhat thankless as there are very few decisions made in a large school district that will be welcomed by all. The service and support of our current board is appreciated.

Recently the School Board met in a retreat to review the best practices of high-performing boards and evaluate what changes they can implement to improve not only the functioning of the School Board, but ultimately the effectiveness and efficiency of the school district. I commend our board for this undertaking as it is a great modeling and example of the culture we are seeking to develop in the South Washington County Schools of continuous improvement and performance excellence. While the School Board generally functions very well, there is always room for improvement and this board is committed to such evaluation, assessment and improvement of their performance.

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Seize the moment for education reform in Iowa

Souix City Journal:

Add your voice to the discussion. Click here to submit a letter or mini editorial to the Journal staff.

Whatever the endeavor - be it business, athletics ... or education -nobody stays number one by staying the same.

Historically, we Iowans have prided ourselves on the quality of our schools. We have considered ourselves at or near the top in the nation.

The state's education system still gets good, passing grades, don't get us wrong, but we can and should do better in our classrooms to prepare our children for the realities and dynamics of a changing, more-global workforce. "We must," in the words of Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass, "have a world-class education system ..."

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July 31, 2011

Should School Superintendents' Salaries be Capped?

Megan Trent:

An Indiana Education Committee met for the fist time in Indianapolis Thursday to evaluate whether the state should cap school superintendent salaries and benefits.

Indiana's 2011 Interim Study Committee on Education Issues is being co-chaired by State Senator Dennis Kruse. Kruse says the committee decided superintendent compensation was an issue for local school boards, not legislators.

"School board members need the flexibility to be able to choose the best person, and they need that negotiation to be able to offer a package deal that's better than what they might be getting in another state as well as another community. Each individual school corporation has different needs and they have different budgets."

The disparities in pay from district to district are significant. There are 291 school districts in Indiana, and according the Indiana Department of Education, superintendents earn a collective $33 million each year. That's an average of more than $113,000.

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Block Scheduling in Milwaukee Schools

Alan Borsuk:

The seasons, they go 'round and 'round, and the painted ponies go up and down.

No, I'm not just having a Joni Mitchell musical flashback. The painted ponies on my mind are block scheduling and the way school systems - Milwaukee Public Schools particularly - make and unmake decisions, over and over.

Block scheduling of high schools and middle schools is an idea that seems to come around, pass by, then come around again. In fact, at the moment, it is both coming and going in the Milwaukee area.

Under a block plan, the traditional daily schedule of seven classes of 45 or 50 minutes is replaced with four classes of 80 to 90 minutes. Commonly, courses are completed in a quarter, rather than a semester, and then new classes start. Some argue that longer class periods allow different learning styles and more depth. Others argue block schedules mean more wasted time. I've seen evidence of both in classes I've observed. Research nationally doesn't reach a strong overall verdict.

Brookfield East and Brookfield Central high schools in the Elmbrook district will switch to blocks for the coming school year. And Homestead High School in Mequon is going to a relatively rare trimester program, in which the school year will be broken into three sections. As part of that, there will be fewer, but longer, classes each day.

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What is the Point of a School Board?

Laurie Rogers:

  • Is the role of a board director accountability and responsiveness to the district -- or to voters?
  • Should directors work to support the superintendent and staff? Or, should they work to hold the district accountable for fiscal responsibility and academic outcomes?
  • If the district and the voters disagree on what should happen with taxpayer money and our children, to whom should the board listen?

Your views on this will guide you as you vote. As the only elected officials in our school district, board directors should be accountable and transparent to the people. They approve expenditures of taxpayer dollars, and they oversee the education of our children. There should be very little about their work that’s closed to public view. When the district pushes something the community doesn’t want, the board should pay attention and be inclined to support the electorate.

That’s why, on July 27, I asked Spokane board directors to allow the people to vote on whether the district should spend several million tax dollars on a proposed new data system, and on the new federal vision for public education. As directors contemplate these multi-million-dollar expenditures on (unproved) products – they're also contemplating cutting people and programs that parents actually want. So, at the July 27 board meeting, I asked the directors to put the proposed expenditures on a ballot. They were silent. They looked at each other. Then, they went on with their meeting.

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Exploring Arizona School District Consolidations

Hayley Ringle:

State-mandated unification and consolidation of school districts in the past has not fared well with wary Arizona voters.

School districts have been concerned about losing local control, teachers and their identities if merged with each other.

A committee of school officials, board members and politicians are tackling the issue again, this time with the goal of offering Arizona's 227 school districts options to explore.

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July 30, 2011

As incumbent state Senate Republicans and their Democratic challengers flood TV airwaves and stuff mailboxes in the run up to the Aug. 9 recall elections, they are largely sidestepping the issue that spurred tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to sign reca


As incumbent state Senate Republicans and their Democratic challengers flood TV airwaves and stuff mailboxes in the run up to the Aug. 9 recall elections, they are largely sidestepping the issue that spurred tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to sign recall petitions this spring -- the elimination of many collective bargaining powers for most public-sector workers.

"I don't think I've seen a single ad that's directly about union representation issues," said Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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In close vote, Milwaukee Teachers Union declines additional concessions

Jay Bullock:

In a letter emailed to teachers today (which you can read here), MTEA president Bob Peterson gave the results of the survey:
The survey showed that 52.4% of the membership opposed additional concessions and 47.5% favored them. Based on the results and the many thoughtful comments, the Executive Board decided to not pursue any additional concessions.
Considering that last fall's vote, which involved far larger concessions than those considered this time around, was overwhelming in favor, I think it's clear that Milwaukee teachers feel first, that we're not opposed to giving back, but we also recognize that we have given quite a lot.

But the closeness of this week's vote suggests that there is still room for compromise in the future, if we ever get the right to bargain collectively back. Currently, you might recall, it's against the law for the union and the district to meet and mutually discuss the employment conditions of Milwaukee's teachers.

Erin Richards has more.

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Can unions reboot for the 21st century?

Marc Eisen:

One can only marvel at how masterfully Gov. Scott Walker gutted Wisconsin's public employee unions. This was deft work, surgically precise in its neutering of 50 years of collective bargaining rights.

Walker tightly limited bargainable items, made union dues voluntary, ended the lifeblood of payroll deductions for dues collection and mandated yearly certification votes for unions trying to represent public workers.

The last item is particularly devilish. To be certified, the union must receive not just a simple majority of the votes, but 51% of the entire workforce, including those who don't bother to vote at all.

Reality check: Walker himself wouldn't be governor today if he had to meet that threshold. Candidate Walker won 52.3% of the vote last November, but that was just 25.8% of the voting-age electorate. David Ahrens, a labor activist, studied the legislative numbers and found that only two of 132 lawmakers reached the 51% threshold and just one in a contested election.

For a lot of people, the Republican crackdown reeked of unfairness. This is a major reason Walker and the GOP legislative majority are nervously playing defense today: They seemed downright thuggish, to use a favorite conservative pejorative, in beating down the unions.

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Iowa's Pre-K Program Continues for 2 More Years

Mike Wiser:

Gov. Terry Branstad will not seek changes to the state's universal preschool program for at least the next two years as the state moves forward with its education reform package.

The commitment is a change from Tuesday when Branstad sidestepped several questions about the future of the state's preschool program during a news conference immediately following the Iowa Education Summit.

Pre-K education found wide support among the summit's speakers and audience members, who frequently applauded when a panelist or presenter indicated their support for such programs.

Earlier this year, Branstad pushed a proposal that would have every parent pay something - based on a sliding income scale - for their child to attend a preschool program. The plan didn't make it through the Legislature, and the governor ultimately backed off, although he indicated he issue wasn't settled.

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Best thing to happen to Wisconsin schools? Repealing of collective bargaining

Wisconsin Senator Glenn Grothman:

The repeal of much of Wisconsin's collective-bargaining law with regard to many of Wisconsin's public employees has not been adequately explained. This repeal will do more to improve the quality and lower the cost of Wisconsin government than anything else we've done. There are approximately 275,000 government employees in the state of Wisconsin. About 72,000 work for the state, 38,000 for cities and villages, 48,000 for counties, 10,500 (full time equivalent) for technical colleges, and 105,229 for schools. Only half of state employees are unionized, but almost all school employees are.

As you can see, the biggest impact will be on Wisconsin's schools. Since my office has received the most complaints from school teachers, let's look at how collective bargaining affects both the cost and quality of our schools.

Under current law, virtually all conditions of employment have to be spelled out in a collectively bargained agreement. Consequently, it is very difficult to remove underperforming school teachers. It may take years of documentation and thousands of dollars in attorney fees to fire a bad teacher. Is it right that two or three classes of second-graders must endure a bad teacher while waiting for documentation to be collected? Just as damaging is the inability to motivate or change the mediocre teacher who isn't bad enough to fire. Good superintendents are stymied when they try to improve a teacher who is doing just enough to get by.

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July 29, 2011

Controversy @ The Madison School Board over Discipline Policy: "Featuring the Administration as Sisyphus" (Now with Video!)

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

As is becoming increasingly common these days however, mine turned out to be a minority view. Other Board members took turns identifying parts of the revision that they did not like, raising some concerns that they had previously expressed and some that were new. The general tenor of the comments was that the current format of the Code was fine but that Code should be stricter and that more violations should lead to mandatory recommendations for expulsion.

About an hour into the meeting, I expressed some frustration with the proceedings (since I'm just figuring this stuff out, this video starts with eight seconds of black) :

Eventually Board members settled on deep-sixing the Work Group's proposal but adopting some (but not all) of the substantive changes reflected in the revision. For example, the aggravated theft offense was added. The change to the unintentional use of force against a staff member violation was adopted (a very good move, btw), but the change to the possession and distribution of drugs or alcohol violation was not (I think). Another change boosted the potential consequences imposed for non-physical acts of bullying or harassment.

Also on our agenda Monday night was the creation of a new Board Ad Hoc Committee on Student Discipline, Conduct and Intervention, to be chaired by Lucy Mathiak. Some Board members suggested that the revisions recommended by the Work Group and rejected by the Board might be re-considered by the members of this committee in some fashion.

I found the Board's rejection of the proposed revisions and ad hoc amending of the existing Code an unfortunate turn of events and criticized what I described as our legislating on the fly right before the vote:

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Charters Are Not Taking Over Public Education

Richard Lee Colvin:

If you monitor education topics on Twitter you will quickly get the impression that huge numbers of American public schools are being replaced with charter schools. And you will also pick up lot of antipathy toward the schools from some of the most visible promoters of this week's SOS Marches.

But the numbers show that, in most places, charter schools are insignificant.

Charters are not allowed in nine states (Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) and they make up fewer than 3 percent of all schools in 12 other states. More than 10 percent of schools are charters in only three states--Arizona, Florida, Hawaii. Charters in Washington, D.C. get a lot of attention, as they should, because they constitute 45 percent of the schools. New Orleans, where 70 percent of students attend charters, is another hot spot. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has a handy map that profiles the charter school situation in each state, going back to 1999.

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Palm Beach County School Board tentatively passes $2.3B 2011-12 budget

Marc Freeman:

The new Palm Beach County public schools budget comes with a slight property tax increase, a $500 raise for all teachers, less than 100 employee layoffs, compliance with state class-size limits, and no major school construction projects.

Following a 20-minute hearing, the School Board on Wednesday voted 5-1 to tentatively approve a $2.3 billion spending plan for the 2011-12 school year. Major changes are not anticipated before the board's final hearing and vote on Sept. 14.

"I'm not going to support it because we are giving some people raises while laying off others," said board Vice Chairwoman Debra Robinson. Board member Monroe Benaim was absent, and no one from the public commented before the vote.

The Palm Beach County School District supports 172,664 students and spends $13,320 each, based on a $2,300,000,000 budget. Locally, Madison budget plans to spend about $362,000,000 for 25,000 students; $14,480 per student..

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July 28, 2011

Educators Worry Teachers Are Not Getting Adequate Training, Evaluation

Tyler Kingkade:

Education leaders told a House committee Wednesday to focus on crafting comprehensive blueprint for teacher evaluations as Congress moves ahead in overhauling No Child Left Behind.

The four witnesses called before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce agreed educators have not come up with an ideal framework to evaluate teachers. They also expressed concern over whether teachers are being prepared for the classroom, and said the right people might not be going into education in the first place.

Witnesses questioned whether the higher education institutions were actively recruiting people who had a true interest or in being educators.

Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said half the people that graduate from an education program don't wind up getting teaching jobs.

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KUOW Interviews with Position 6 Seattle School Board Candidates

Melissa Westbrook:

Not a complete bust but not a great interview with these candidates on The Conversation this afternoon.

First, KUOW should make up its mind on the format. For District 2, the candidates were interviewed individually and for a longer period of time. (There were three of them.) For District 6, they had them all in the studio and interviewed each for a much shorter period of time but did allow them to interact. I think it would be better to have the interaction among candidates AFTER the primary and allow people more time to get to know these candidates now.

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July 27, 2011

At least $1.5M paid out secretly by Elizabeth schools, a fraction of workers' settlements

Ted Sherman:

When Luis Mario Rojas was fired from the Elizabeth Board of Education in 2006, he claimed he had been the victim of a political purge.

In a federal lawsuit, Rojas said that while district officials cited a poor work record and budget cutbacks, the real reason for his termination after nearly 20 years on the job was that he became viewed as a disloyal soldier. His sister, former board member Oneida Duran, had a falling out with those in control of the school district.

Earlier this year, board members agreed to resolve the matter. They gave Rojas $68,997 to settle his complaint. In addition, they paid out another $24,652 to settle a separate workers' compensation case. Then they put him back on the payroll -- paying him $60,064 annually until he becomes eligible for retirement in two years.

As part of the agreement, he promised never to say a word about it.

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WEAC wrong to pass on panel

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

It's hard to frame the decision by the state's largest teachers union to not participate in a unique task force to improve our schools as anything other than disappointing.

Sure, leaders of the Wisconsin Education Association Council are angry and frustrated to the extreme with Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers for requiring more financial contributions from all public sector employees - including teachers - while strictly limiting collective bargaining.

Go ahead - be angry and frustrated. But don't just withdraw from a great opportunity to improve our schools

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Chicago needs school vouchers. And Rahm needs to meditate.

John Kass:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel certainly made news over his angry, finger-wagging scolding of NBC Chicago TV reporter Mary Ann Ahern the other day.

Ahern dared ask the Rahmfather whether he'd send his kids to the public schools he controls. He reportedly became indignant, took off his microphone and ended the interview.

Later, and with great courtesy, Emanuel revisited the topic with a rival station -- which then reported the big exclusive that the mayor was sending his children to a private school.

Emanuel runs Chicago Public Schools. He's shown grit to stand publicly and admonish the teachers union to improve the product. But he decided his children will not attend the public schools.

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Reforming Iowa Education

Ben Jacobson:

The stagnation of Iowa's educational system will impact the region negatively in more than just rankings, according to the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The status quo has potential to cripple Iowans entering a globally competitive job market.

"The countries out there that out-educate us, they out-compete us," Duncan said. "The sad truth is that Iowa has started slowly slouching toward mediocrity."

The Keynote speaker of Gov. Terry Branstad's much publicized Education Summit, said that reform will be tough, possibly unpopular, but absolutely necessary to remain relevant in a "knowledge economy."

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July 26, 2011

Julie Underwood: Starving Public Schools; a look at School Spending

UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood, via a kind reader's email:

Public schools," ALEC wrote in its 1985 Education Source Book, "meet all of the needs of all of the people without pleasing anyone." A better system, the organization argued, would "foster educational freedom and quality" through various forms of privatization: vouchers, tax incentives for sending children to private schools and unregulated private charter schools. Today ALEC calls this "choice"-- and vouchers "scholarships"--but it amounts to an ideological mission to defund and redesign public schools.

The first large-scale voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, was enacted in 1990 following the rubric ALEC provided in 1985. It was championed by then-Governor Tommy Thompson, an early ALEC member, who once said he "loved" ALEC meetings, "because I always found new ideas, and then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare [they were] mine."

ALEC's most ambitious and strategic push toward privatizing education came in 2007, through a publication called School Choice and State Constitutions, which proposed a list of programs tailored to each state.


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Iowa's Education Summit

Mike Wiser:

Iowa school reform legislation doesn't need consensus as much as it needs follow-through and buy-in from the top.

Teachers need to be evaluated by their peers and paid according to how well they perform in the classroom and on the test.

Principals need more training, and school districts need to be more selective in whom they hire for a building's top job. Tenure has to be earned, not once, but several times during an educator's career.

Those were just a few of the opinions aired at the Iowa Education Summit during the first day of the two-day Iowa Education Summit that brought teachers, principals, business leaders, college professors, politicians, nonprofit representatives and the nation's top educational authority, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to Des Moines. The summit is expected to be the catalyst for a wide-reaching education reform package Gov. Terry Branstad will introduce next legislative session.

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Wisconsin Education Association Trust defends its actions as insurer

Karen Herzog and Erin Richards:

A health insurance company affiliated with the state's largest teachers union is caught in the cross-fire of Wisconsin school reform politics, the company's CEO told the Journal Sentinel editorial board Monday.

"We haven't really wanted to be the story," said Mark Moody, president and CEO of WEA Trust. "We've become the lightning rod for debate."

Moody said WEA Trust has lost about 17% of its subscribers as a number of school districts have switched insurance providers in the wake of deep state budget cuts. WEA Trust at the start of the year insured two-thirds of Wisconsin's 424 school districts, but only 35% of the state's teachers, since many of the insured districts are small, he said.

One renewal sweetener WEA Trust offered to districts - which the provider said was done in accordance with federal rules - may prompt legal action.

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Christie calls for unity in reforming education for sake of kids' futures

Rod Boshart:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told an Iowa education summit Monday that Americans need to set aside political differences that divide them and unite behind reforms that will provide the educational excellence that children need to pursue their dreams in a competitive global economy.

However, Christie did not duck controversy either by calling for an overhaul of the current tenure system for teachers, saying children should not be the victims of a failing system that does not reward excellence or enforce consequences for failure.

"You have to draw some lines in the sand, but you also have to leave some room for compromise," he told reporters after delivering a half-hour address to about 1,700 participants in a summit called by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to brainstorm on ways to rekindle the state's once-proud tradition of educational excellence that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said was "at the top of the mountain" in 1992.

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July 25, 2011

Wisconsin Public School Advocates to Rally at the Capitol, Saturday July 30, 3:00 PM

99K PDF, via a TJ Mertz email:

As hundreds of thousands of public school supporters gather in Washington DC the weekend of July 28 to 30, 2011, Wisconsin advocates will hold a rally in support of the Save Our Schools agenda at 3:00 PM on Saturday July 30, near the State St. entrance to the Capitol.

"Public schools are under attack. There is a need for national, state, and local action in support of our schools. Wisconsin has been ground zero in this; the Save Our Schools demands from the Guiding Principles provide a great framework to build our state movement and work to expand opportunities to learn" said education activist Thomas J. Mertz.

The Save Our Schools demands are:

  • Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities
Doing more with less doesn't work. "The time to act is now. While phony debates revolve around debt ceilings, students and teachers across the country are shortchanged. We need real reform, starting with finally fixing the school funding formula, and putting families and communities first. What child and what teacher don't deserve an excellent school?" said rally organizer Todd Price, former Green Party Candidate for Department of Public Instruction and Professor of Teacher Education National Louis University.

The event will feature speeches from educators, students, parents and officials, as well as opportunities for school advocates from throughout Wisconsin to connect and organize around issues of importance in their communities.

For more information, visit: and


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Iowa's task: Bet on right school reforms

As Iowa political and education leaders prepare to make sweeping changes in the state's schools, experts monitoring similar efforts across the country caution that much of what is being tried is still controversial and uncharted territory.

For example:

- A growing body of anecdotal evidence and research supports the push toward longer school days and years to benefit students' academic achievement, especially among low-income or disadvantaged children. But the cost-benefit ratio of such moves remains fiercely debated and some experiments have had mixed results.

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July 24, 2011

The upside and downside of Wisconsin Governor Walker's education vision

Alan Borsuk:

A heat dome has settled over much of American education. Is Gov. Scott Walker just going to add to the stifling atmosphere? Or is Walker right that there are cool breezes in his ideas for how to increase school quality overall?

First, the national perspective: You would think by now, the heat would have been drained from some of the debate about what works in education, especially when it comes to serving urban kids. People have been working on this for decades. Haven't we figured out answers yet?

In most ways, no. Even a lot of things that seem like answers haven't been brought successfully to wide use. Things that look good on paper (or in a political speech) have often accomplished little in reality. The profoundly troubling march to perpetuating educational failure, for the most part, continues.

As disappointment grows, the debates between "education reformers" and those who think the "reformers" are going in the wrong directions often have been contentious. If you follow the tweets and postings and such, you'll find occasional light but a lot of heated rhetoric. Add in this year's wars over the pay, benefits and unions of public employees, combined with the hyperpartisan nature of the times, and you have an atmosphere that should carry health warnings.

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Plenty of policy in new Minnesota education package

Beth Hawkins:

For a measure that was supposed to have been stripped of all policy measures, the 148-page K-12 education bill lawmakers approved early Wednesday morning, scarcely an hour after it was released, contains an awful lot of specific, prescriptive language laying out how Minnesota school districts and their staffs are to go about their business.

As expected, the hydrogen bomb at the center of it is the nonpolicy decision to balance the budget by allowing the state to withhold 40 percent of education funding for a year after it's due, and nothing even approximating a roadmap for paying it back.

And the devastation the shift will cause is where most of the educators canvassed on Wednesday would like the public's attention to stay, given that the cumulative deficit it has caused is about an eye-popping $3 billion. That's some $3,000 per pupil, or more than half the annual general fund appropriation.

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A Study Looks at Massachusetts' Suburban Busing Program

Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno:

Massachusetts' METCO program (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) enables about 3,300 students who live in Boston and Springfield to attend opportunity-rich suburban schools. Since the vast majority of the students in METCO are either African American or Latino and most suburban districts remain overwhelmingly white, METCO fulfills two goals: it creates a degree of racial and ethnic diversity and provides students who'd otherwise attend challenged school districts the opportunity to attend schools with reputations for rigor and excellence.

METCO is one of eight voluntary interdistrict school desegregation programs in the United States and the second longest-running program of its kind. This paper describes the structure and history of METCO and summarizes what is known about the academic achievement and experiences of students who participate in the program. We argue that given METCO's generally positive track record, its enduring popularity and the well-established benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in schools, educational leaders should seriously consider expanding METCO, should provide more incentives to suburban districts to participate and should conduct more rigorous, transparent analyses of the program.

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July 23, 2011

Iowa Governor Branstad hosts talk on education: "An alarming slide toward mediocrity"

Andrew Nelson:

Gov. Terry Branstad appeared in the gym at Corning Elementary this morning for an town hall meeting on education, a day after his administration released a school report card that found "an alarming slide toward mediocrity."

The purpose of the meeting was to get ideas on how to improve Iowa schools. Branstad asserts that Iowa's school performance has stagnated while other states have jumped ahead.

"We've been complacent too long," Branstad said.

Branstad told the Associated Press that education reform would be central to the next legislative session, which begins in January, and he argued that it was vital to change how teachers are paid. In addition to linking increased pay to classroom performance, Branstad said the state should consider increasing starting salaries.

Newton Daily News:
Iowa's education system may be in need of a major remodel. Students are missing the mark in math and reading competency while their counterparts in other states have made significant gains, according to a new report released today by the Iowa Department of Education.

Achievement trends show stagnant scores across the board, from disadvantaged and minority students to white, relatively affluent students. The results document Iowa's slide from a national leader in education to a national average, or sometimes below average, performer over the past 20 years.

"There are many good schools across the state, but given the global nature of the economy, we need them to be great," said Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education. "We must have a world-class education system to have a world-class workforce."


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Iowa: Schools slip to "mediocrity"

Joe Dejka:

Iowa has slid from a national leader in elementary and secondary education to an average performer over the past 20 years as other states accelerated past it, according to a state report released today.

The Iowa report card -- the first released under Republican Gov. Terry Branstad -- provides an unvarnished assessment of the state's academic performance and sounds a clarion call to improve. The report, "Rising to Greatness: An Imperative for Improving Iowa's Schools," says performance on various national and state tests show "an alarming slide toward mediocrity."

In some ways, Iowa public schools have improved over years past, but other states have surged ahead, said Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, which produced the report.

Restoring the greatness of Iowa schools will require more than "tinkering around the edges," he said.

Wisconsin has slid, as well.

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July 21, 2011

Minnesota School officials ponder funding, policy changes in budget

Tim Post:

Education officials across the state spent the day poring over the $13.6 billion dollar K-12 education budget bill that Gov. Dayton signed into law Wednesday.

The central provision of the bill is a $700 million delay in state aid payments for schools, a critical and controversial element for balancing the budget. School districts will need to figure out how to manage that funding delay -- which they've had to do before.

Think of the delay in schools' state aid payments this way:

Your boss says to balance the company budget, she needs to borrow money from your paycheck. She'll pay you 60 percent of your salary this year, and repay the other 40 percent next year.

Meanwhile your bills are still the same, so you'll likely need to borrow money to meet all your obligations. And even though you'll get all your money next year, you're on the hook for loan interest payments in the meantime.

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July 20, 2011

Bill to curb California college execs' pay raises

Nanette Asimov:

Days after California's public universities handed lucrative new pay and bonuses to three executives and a chancellor while raising student tuition, a state senator has introduced a bill to make such pay increases illegal in tough economic times.

The bill, filed Monday by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would prohibit executive pay increases at the University of California and California State University in years when the state does not raise its allocation to the schools.

This year, California slashed $650 million from each university system. In response, the UC regents and CSU trustees raised tuition last week, both for the second time in less than a year. CSU tuition is 23 percent higher than it was last fall. UC tuition is 18 percent higher.

At the same time, CSU trustees approved a $400,000 salary for Elliot Hirshman, incoming president of the San Diego campus, that is $100,000 higher than his predecessor. The campus foundation will pay for $50,000 of it.

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July 19, 2011

1998 Study Assesses the Illinois Teacher Union's Future

Mike Antonucci:

Teachers' Unions: Back to the Future. Back in 1998, the Illinois Education Association commissioned the Global Business Network to assess the union's direction for the next 10-15 years and help devise options for dealing with possible scenarios. The result, a report titled The Future of the Illinois Education Association [3.1MB PDF], is a fascinating read not just for its insights into the union's strategic thinking, but for which "predictions" it got right and wrong.

I put the scare quotes around "predictions" because GBN was explicit in stating that the possible scenarios it outlined were not predictions, but merely various possibilities for which the union should plan. As the authors put it, "After imaginatively dwelling in each scenario, participants can develop strategic options that are appropriate to managing in just that scenario."

GBN developed a matrix of four scenarios, based on the variables of strong vs. weak political environments, and strong vs. weak membership connection with the union. Each of the four contains at least some relevance to current events, although other aspects read like one of those "flying car, food pills" science fiction stories written in the 1930s about life in the 1970s.


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Anti-PowerPoint revolutionaries unite

Lucy Kellaway:

Last week I saw two women getting into a cab outside an office in central London. Both were in high heels and smart suits and were struggling with a flip chart, its pages flapping in the wind. The quaint sight of the large pad on aluminium legs filled me with longing for the days when people giving presentations wrote things down with felt pens on big sheets of paper.

I might have forgotten this scene, were it not for the fact that the very next day I was sent an invitation to join a brand new political party in Switzerland, the Anti PowerPoint party. "Finally do something!" its slogan says.

Actually I've been quietly doing something for years: I've been declining to learn how to use the ubiquitous piece of software. As a presenter, I'm a PowerPoint virgin, though as an audience member I've been gang raped by PowerPoint slides more times than I can count.

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Our Broken Escalator

Nicholas Kristof:

THE United States supports schools in Afghanistan because we know that education is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to build a country.

Alas, we've forgotten that lesson at home. All across America, school budgets are being cut, teachers laid off and education programs dismantled.

My beloved old high school in Yamhill, Ore. -- a plain brick building that was my rocket ship -- is emblematic of that trend. There were only 167 school days in the last school year here (180 was typical until the recession hit), and the staff has been reduced by 9 percent over five years.

This school was where I embraced sports, became a journalist, encountered intellectual worlds, and got in trouble. These days, the 430 students still have opportunities to get into trouble, but the rest is harder.

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Most Wisconsin school districts, for now, dodge layoffs, cuts

Erin Richards:

Milwaukee Public Schools laid off 519 employees after losing about $80 million in the state's new two-year budget - which dramatically reduces education spending statewide - but most other Wisconsin districts have avoided layoffs and massive cuts to programs.

School districts' ability under Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair legislation to obtain greater contributions from employees toward health care and retirement costs, and to work outside of collective bargaining agreements, appears to have generated the necessary savings to balance most budgets.

Some districts are even hiring new teachers for the 2011-'12 academic year.

Critics say that a good financial picture now for schools will be short-lived, and that most districts will nose-dive next year because the recently acquired savings are a one-time fix.

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States Test NCLB: Officials Frustrated With No Child Left Behind Try to Substitute Their Own Plans

Stephanie Banchero

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been at odds with state schools chief Tony Evers over budget cuts, vouchers and teachers' collective-bargaining rights. But they have found common ground in their aggravation with No Child Left Behind.

Messrs. Walker and Evers formed a joint committee this month that will write a new state policy to replace the federal law requiring schools to ensure all students are passing state math and reading exams by 2014. No Child Left Behind is "broken," they have said.

"We are not trying to get around accountability," Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a phone interview. "But instead of using the blanket approach that defines a lot of schools as failures, we will use a more strategic approach so we can replicate success and address failure."

Wisconsin and other states say No Child Left Behind unfairly penalizes schools that don't meet rigid requirements. Tired of waiting for Congress to overhaul the law, some states have taken matters into their own hands.

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July 17, 2011

Wisconsin Governor Walker instructs us on future of schools; Notes on Teacher Content Knowledge Requirements

Alan Borsuk:

Scott Walker, the governor who set the stage for a burst of educational excellence? The guy who helped teachers make their work more successful and more rewarding (at least intangibly)?

Goodness, turning those question marks into periods is going to be a project. It's hard to imagine how Walker's standing among teachers could be lower.

But Walker thinks that will be the verdict several years from now.

By winning (as of now) the epic battle to cut school spending and erase almost all collective bargaining powers for teachers, as well as other educational battles, Walker has changed the realities of life in just about every school in the state, including many private schools.

The focus through our tumultuous spring was on money, power and politics. Now the focus is shifting to ideas for changing education itself.

So what are Walker's ideas on those scores?

In a 40-minute telephone interview a few days ago, Walker talked about a range of education questions. There will be strong criticism of a lot of what he stands for. Let's deal with that in upcoming columns. For the moment, I'm going to give Walker the floor, since, so far this year, the tune he calls has been the tune that the state ends up playing. Here are some excerpts:

Much like our exploding federalism, history will certainly reveal how Walker's big changes played out versus the mostly status quo K-12 world of the past few decades. One thing is certain: the next 10 years will be different, regardless of how the present politics play out.

I found the interview comments on the teacher climate interesting. Watching events locally for some time, it seems that there is a good deal more top down curricular (more) and pedagogy (teaching methods) dogma from administrators, ed school grants/research and others.

Other states, such as Minnesota and Massachusetts have raised the bar with respect to teacher content knowledge in certain subjects.

Wisconsin teacher license information.

Related: 2 Big Goals for Wisconsin.

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July 16, 2011

School District Competition & Budgets

Bryan Setser:

A typical school district's reaction to tight budgets is to cut, cut, cut. While cutting education waste can sharpen focus, cutting into innovation leaves your district extremely vulnerable to competition. School districts are no longer just competing against the local private school; rather they are competing with education over the net and the global market place as well. Now more than ever we need contenders.

With the right trainers, district leaders or contenders can become innovation champions for kids. Here's four ways you can step into the ring and put on the gloves for the upcoming education fight with the rest of the world.

Complete an Open Education Resource Scan - What are you paying for in your district with educational technology? What outcomes have you realized? Is there an open free alternative? Can this resource be shared among multiple users for multiple purposes? Example: Are you paying for a learning management system and creating your own content? Or, are you using a free engine and wrapping it around content not just for instruction but for professional development as well.

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Unanimous Support for New Charter and Innovation Schools in Denver Public Schools

Moira Cullen:

On June 30th, the Denver Public School Board voted unanimously on nine separate proposals for new charter and innovation schools. That's right, the DPS Board that is notorious for its contentious 4-3 split on nearly every major policy (turnarounds, innovation schools and charters) voted 7-0 in favor of these promising new schools. Here's hoping that this is a sign of the Board's commitment to putting kids first with our new reform minded mayor-elect, Michael Hancock.

The new charter schools, which will be located in all quadrants of the city, include: an all-boys K-12 charter modeled after a school in New Orleans and backed by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, two additional West Denver Prep middle school campuses and a new West Denver Prep high school, a new KIPP elementary school, two new Denver School of Science and Technology campuses, a K-5 performance school being started by a current DPS principal and district educators, and a new preschool-8 charter school started by a Get Smart Schools fellow.

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'Parent trigger' rules adopted for low-performing schools

Fermin Leal:

The California Board of Education has approved a new set of regulations that will give parents more control to force changes to low-performing public schools.
The "parent trigger" rules will allow a majority of parents at low-performing schools to petition school districts for major changes that include adding intervention programs, removing the principal, replacing staff, converting the campus to a charter, or closing the school altogether.

Supporters of California's "Parent Trigger" law, applaud during testimony in support of the measure during the the state Board of Education meeting in Sacramento Wednesday. By a unanimous vote, the board approved the "trigger" law, which will allow parents to demand a turnaround at failing schools through a petition signed by a majority of parents at the school. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

"We want not just parental involvement, we want true power to help guide the education of children," former state Sen. Gloria Romero, the co-author of the legislation that led to the rules, told the Associated Press.

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July 15, 2011

School District Admits 'Big Mistake' Over 'Get Rid of (Michigan Governor) Snyder' Phone Alert

Jack Spencer:

A public school district in Michigan has used its phone alert system to point voters toward the recall effort against Gov. Rick Snyder. In early June, shortly after the Snyder recall reached the petition-gathering phase, the alert system for Lawrence Public Schools sent out the following robocall to residents of the district:
"This is a message from the Lawrence Public Schools (inaudible) alert system. This is an informational item and not directly associated with the school. Concerned parents interested in cuts to education . . . we're here to inform you that there is information about the problem. Also, be advised that there is a petition to recall Governor Snyder. If you want, stop by Chuck Moden's house right by the school June 7th/8th between 3:30 and 4:00 pm. Thank you. Goodbye."

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July 14, 2011

Grading New Mexico schools? Proceed with caution

The New Mexican:

As part of Gov. Susana Martínez's education-reform effort, she persuaded the New Mexico Legislature to pass a bill by which our public schools will be given grades.

It's an exercise in teacher/administrator accountability, and pretty clearly the public needs more accountability from those folks; our state for years has been at the bottom of national rankings in education, and toward the top when it comes to dropouts.

Education and jobs tend to be a chicken-and-egg proposition -- so, figure the governor and her choice as education secretary, Hanna Skandera, let's begin where we have the chance, and the challenge, of improving the poultry.

But the new school year and the school-grading process are fast approaching. Some superintendents question the state's readiness to apply A's, B's, C's, D's and F's -- especially considering the damage those last two letters might do.

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Oregon education reform bills aim to create more flexible, individualized public schools with proficiency grouping

Bill Graves:

In the typical Oregon public school classroom, students of the same age work at achievement levels that often vary by two or three grades, sometimes more.

That didn't make sense to Mary Folberg. When she launched Northwest Academy, a private college preparatory school for grades 6-12 in downtown Portland, she grouped students the way she did as a dance instructor at Jefferson High, by proficiency rather than age.

That's the seismic shift Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to make in the state's public school system through a package of education bills passed by the Legislature last month.

At the heart of the package is one bill pushed by Kitzhaber to create paths from pre-school through college on which students advance at their own paces. The bill creates a 15-member Oregon Education Investment Board, chaired by the governor, to control the purse strings on all levels of education from preschool through college -- about $7.4 billion or half of the state general fund.

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Iowa Teachers Advocate for Professional Development

Jessica Daley:

At an education roundtable Wednesday at the Statehouse, six teachers from around the state told Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds what Iowa teachers need to make students globally competitive.

Iowa teachers spend 180 days in the classroom. They want more time away from the students to become better teachers.

"We find the issues, but we don't have either the professional development time or collaboration time to fix it," said Philip Moss, a teacher in the North Tama district.

Spending more time learning from each other was something teachers stressed.

"It's all in how you organize the time we do have. A lot of time the master schedule is more based on the finances, not based on what's actually our goal," said Jessica Gogerty of North High School in Des Moines.

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July 13, 2011

Tough Calculus as Technical Schools Face Deep Cuts

Motoko Rich:

Despite a competitive economy in which success increasingly depends on obtaining a college degree, one in four students in this country does not even finish high school in the usual four years.

Matthew Kelly was in danger of becoming one of them.

Tests showed he had a high intellect, but Mr. Kelly regularly skipped homework and was barely passing some of his classes in his early years of high school. He was living in a motel part of the time and both his parents were out of work. His mother, a former nurse, feared that Matthew had so little interest he would drop out without graduating.

Then his guidance counselor suggested he take some courses at a nearby vocational academy for his junior year. For the first time, the sloe-eyed teenager excelled, earning A's and B's in subjects like auto repair, electronics and metals technology. "When it comes to practicality, I can do stuff really well," said Mr. Kelly, now 19.

Related Madison College (MATC) links:

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Members chipped in $23.4 million to WEAC in 2008 union dues Dues pay exorbitant union salaries; WEAC awarded just $18,850 in scholarships out of $24 million budget

Richard Moore, via a kind reader's email:

With the practice of paying forced union dues soon to become a relic of the past for many public employees, officials of the Wisconsin Education Association Council have reportedly contacted members in a bid to convince them to continue paying up through automatic bank withdrawals.

That's not surprising because the revenue stream the state's largest teachers' union is trying to protect is substantial. In fact, the organization collected more than $23.4 million in membership dues in fiscal year 2009 from its approximately 98,000 members.

The numbers are included on WEAC's IRS forms for the year. Fiscal year 2009 was the latest filing available. The state's new collective bargaining law that took effect this week will end mandatory dues payments and government collection of dues for many public employees immediately and for most of the rest when current contracts expire.

According to IRS documents, the union mustered membership dues of $23,458,810 in fiscal year 2009. National Education Association revenue totaled another $1,419,819, while all revenues totaled $25,480,973, including investment income of $367,482.

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NEA Spent More Than $19.5 Million on State Politics in 2010-11

Mike Antonucci:

If you were following the NEA news last week, you already know that the delegates approved a $10 per member increase to the national union's Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund. What you might not know is NEA just about exhausted that fund in 2010-11.

The BM/LC Fund distributes funds to NEA state affiliates to supplement their own issue spending on ballot initiatives and bills working their way through various state legislatures. NEA longer reveals which states received what amounts, but so many states received funding it hardly matters.

NEA took in about $13.3 million in dues money for the fund in 2010-11, and retained a carryover of more than $8 million from 2009-10, for a total of $21.3 million. However, the union spent or promised that entire amount, and then some, in response to the myriad of collective bargaining laws that were introduced.

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July 12, 2011

Atlanta and New Orleans schools show the

Mikhail Zinshteyn

"When high stakes are attached to tests, people often act in ways that compromise educational values. High-stakes testing incentivizes narrowing of the curriculum, gaming the system, teaching to bad tests and cheating."

That passage, taken from a July 1 letter education historian Diane Ravitch wrote to the New York Times disputing columnist David Brooks' characterization of her public policy views, can easily be superimposed onto the current national education portrait.

Ever since Congress and President George W. Bush reauthorized the Early and Secondary Education Act in 2002 to become No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools have been under the gun to up state-mandated student test scores or face financial and structural consequences. Results from those exams are notoriously inflated or teased with public relations precision, not out of the malfeasance of school administrators but as a function of what happens when students are taught to a series of exams that determine a great portion of the state's education funding.

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Testing Gone Wrong

Emily Alpert:

The Atlanta cheating scandal has put a spotlight on how schools could fudge standardized tests.

In California, schools are supposed to report any irregularities in testing and investigate them themselves. The state no longer collects data on erasures, one of the ways that investigators detected cheating in Atlanta. Nor does it do random audits during testing, according to USA Today.

Irregularities can range from teachers accidentally not following exact instructions on how to administer state tests to outright cheating. The state then decides if it needs to adjust school scores to discount some of the test results. California keeps the records of testing irregularities for just one year.

I last requested those records for all schools in San Diego County in April. Keep in mind, these are the school districts that followed the rules and reported irregularities, just like they are supposed to.

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July 11, 2011

After Christie-Sweeney dustup, New Jersey education reform's fate lies with the bosses

Tom Moran:

The Rev. Reginald Jackson watched in horror last week as the political romance between Gov. Chris Christie and state Senate President Steve Sweeney exploded in flames.

It started when the governor pruned the budget of nearly everything Democrats wanted, after refusing to talk to Sweeney. And it ended with Sweeney's obscene tirade.

All that's left now is the smoldering wreckage of a relationship that's been at the core of every major reform since Christie took office. A week after the governor called to discuss the meltdown, Sweeney still had not returned his calls.

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Can Iowa schools regain luster?

Lee Rood:

The last time Iowa was considered No. 1 overall in education, teachers faced fewer challenges in the classroom, students were more homogenous and school districts required less of them to graduate.

That was 1992.

Today, as Gov. Terry Branstad endeavors to restore the state's standing as a national education leader, teachers, policymakers and politicians fiercely disagree over what it will take to get back on top. Some dispute that Iowa's students have slid dramatically in performance at all.

What the different factions do agree on is that Iowa is experiencing rapid change in the classroom: Students are significantly poorer, more urban and more diverse than they were in 1992. Course work is more rigorous than it was in the early 1990s but, in an increasingly competitive global economy, that course work is still not believed to be enough.

Change is hard for most organizations. It is easy to live on the "fumes" of the past, until it is too late to change.

How does Wisconsin compare to the world? Learn more at

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July 10, 2011

Indiana Education chief a fan of virtual school

Alex Campbell:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett on Tuesday hailed Indiana's first statewide all-online public high school as a "revenue generator" and a model for how cash-strapped school districts can save money.

"This is in many ways a breakthrough for the state," Bennett said at a news conference Tuesday formally announcing Achieve Virtual Education Academy, which will be available to Hoosier students this fall. Wayne Township will run the accredited school, which will award regular high school diplomas.

Achieve Virtual allows for the school corporation and its teachers to be entrepreneurial while also allowing children to learn in a way that suits them, Bennett said, making it a "win-win-win opportunity."

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Wisconsin Governor Walker, education leaders seek new school evaluation system System would replace federally imposed system viewed as a failure

Alan Borsuk:

A system for providing clear, plentiful and sophisticated information for judging the quality of almost every school in Wisconsin, replacing a system that leaves a lot desired on all of those fronts - that is the goal of an eye-catching collaboration that includes Gov. Scott Walker, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, and leaders of eight statewide education organizations.

Walker and Evers said Friday that they will seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education to allow the new school accountability system to replace the decade-old, federally imposed one they labeled as broken.

They want at least a first version of the new system to be ready by spring, and to apply it to outcomes for schools in the 2011-'12 school year.

The new accountability program would include every school that accepts publicly funded students, which means that private schools taking part in the state-funded voucher program would, for the first time, be subject to the same rules as public schools for making a wealth of data available to the public. Charter schools and virtual schools would also participate.

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July 9, 2011

Oregon Governor Appoints Himself Superintendent of Schools

Allison Kimmel:

In a flurry of education bills passed last week, Oregon governor John Kitzhaber oversaw legislation to appoint an unlikely candidate for superintendent of schools: himself. Though many states have moved towards more centrally controlled education systems, Oregon became the first state to abolish the traditional office of superintendent and appoint the governor as superintendent of public instruction.

The governor will appoint a deputy superintendent to oversee the day-to-day activities in K-12 schools. The deputy must perform any duty designated by the governor and can be removed at any point following consultation with the state school board (which will also be newly appointed by the governor; this "superboard" of officials will oversee spending and policy for all grade levels).

How did this state of affairs come about? After Oregon's application for the 2010 Race to the Top Competition placed seventh to last, parents and legislators began to press for innovation and reform. Kitzhaber argues that central authority will help him push needed reforms. Kitzhaber is already on the reform track with legislation allowing universities and community colleges to sponsor charter schools and raising the cap on online charter schools. He is also earning pushback from the state's teacher's unions.

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Okla. superintendent addresses administrators

Sean Murphy:

Delivering her first State of Education address on Thursday, Oklahoma's new Republican Superintendent Janet Barresi urged public school administrators and teachers to rise to the challenge of budget cuts totaling $100 million this year to public schools.

Barresi, a dentist and charter school organizer elected in November to replace longtime Democratic Superintendent Sandy Garrett, delivered her address to about 2,500 participants at the annual administrative conference at the Cox Convention Center.

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Only hard-working Americans need apply

Theda Skocpol:

What does the Tea Party want? As the debt ceiling debate rages in Washington, that should be the central question in U.S. political discourse. After all, it is the rise of the Tea Party that revitalized the Republican Party in 2009 and gave it the muscle to deliver a "shellacking" to the Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. And it is the radicalism of the Tea Party and the freshman legislators it elected that is often blamed for the uncompromising stance of the Republicans in the current budget negotiations.

That's why "The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism," a recent study of the Tea Party by Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist, and Vanessa Williamson and John Coggin, two graduate students, is so important. An expanded version of the paper, which appeared this spring in the journal Perspectives on Politics, will be published as a book by the Oxford University Press later this year.

Ms. Skocpol is an unashamed progressive, but what is striking about her team's work is its respect for the Tea Party and its members. "Commentators have sometimes noted the irony that these same Tea Partiers who oppose 'government spending' are themselves recipients of Social Security," the paper notes. "Don't they know these are 'big government' programs?"

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July 8, 2011

Opposition brewing to stronger teacher evaluations

Tim Louis Macaluso:

A year ago, everyone from President Obama's education point man Arne Duncan to then Rochester schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard talked about the need for greater teacher accountability. Even the leaders of teachers unions were talking about the importance of holding teachers and principals accountable through more rigorous evaluations.

So much can change in 365 days.

Last week, the New York State United Teachers union sued the State Education Department over teacher evaluations. The union says that the Board of Regents overreached its authority and violated state law by approving stronger regulations for evaluations than the law required.

The regulations allow school districts to double the weight given to state tests, permitting the use of test results to count for up to 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation. The law allows student test results to count for 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation.

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Seattle teacher discusses the challenges teachers face

Laurie Rogers:

Written by an experienced elementary school teacher, Seattle

Dear Laurie Rogers:

Thanks for writing your book. One of the things that you discuss in your compelling discourse is the low standards that our colleges have had in the subject matter (as opposed to teaching theory, sociology, and psychology) for those who have a desire to become teachers in our public schools.

For the past twenty-two years, I have diligently taught 4th and 5th grade students. For the first eighteen years, I taught math according to the classical mode that you describe in your book. As the reforms took hold, and we were monitored ever more closely, I was forced into using Everyday Math according to a pacing guide set by the district. As you have rightly observed, it is a program that emphasizes coverage and not mastery.

For much of the year, I had 34 students. Of these 34 students, seven had Special Education IEPs and were to be served according to a pull-in model which never quite materialized. I did have a special ed. instructional assistant for 50 minutes a day until she was pulled to serve in a more "needy" classroom. One of my students was mentally retarded and never once scored about the first percentile on the MAP test. Another student started the year almost totally blind and had a personal assistant for two hours out of the day to teach her Braille. Two were removed from their homes by CPS and placed under foster care: one for neglect and the other for domestic violence. Three students were absent for more than 30 days each. I could go on, but I think that you get the picture.

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Balanced Budgets and Free Lunches in Kaukauna

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

The provisions of the Budget Repair Bill have gone into effect. For school districts that (unlike Madison) did not extend their collective bargaining agreement with their teachers unions, it is a brand new day.

In those districts, collective bargaining agreements are essentially gone and the districts have much wider discretion over compensation and working conditions for their teachers and other staff.

The Kaukauna School District is one that has taken advantage of the Budget Repair Bill provisions. Like nearly all school districts, Kaukauna now requires its teachers and staff to pay the employees' share of their retirement contributions, which amounts to 5.8% of their salary, and is also requiring a larger employee payment toward the cost of health insurance, up to 12.6% from 10%.

The district also took advantage of the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement to impose a number of other changes on its teachers. For example, it unilaterally extended the work day for high school teachers from 7.5 to 8 hours and increased the teaching load from five to six high school classes a day.

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MATC pay raises to be bigger than officials anticipated

Deborah Ziff:

Madison Area Technical College owes its full-time faculty and staff raises of 3.6 percent this year after the cost-of-living index soared.

The expense means the college will need to pay its employees about $1 million more than expected, straining the college's budget, which is already beleaguered by a 30 percent cut in state aid and a cap on the tax levy.

Under union contracts negotiated in late March, raises for full-time faculty and support staff are tied to cost-of-living increases, based on the Consumer Price Index.

At the time, college administrators estimated the Consumer Price Index would rise by 1.4 percent. But instead, it increased 3.6 percent over the last 12 months, according to numbers that came out June 15.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 1:46 AM | Comments (0) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

On Recovery School Districts and Stronger State Education Agencies: Lessons from Louisiana

Paul Hill, Patrick J. Murphy:

In May 2011, state education agency representatives from New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee attended a series of workshops and briefings organized by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). The sessions described the changes that have taken place in Louisiana over the past six years, including the creation of the Recovery School District (RSD) that redeveloped unproductive schools in New Orleans and elsewhere, the restructuring of the LDOE, and efforts to create a new performance-based organizational culture in state and local education agencies.

Presenters included LDOE staff, RSD administrators, academic observers, nonprofit service partners, and education stakeholders. There was a candid discussion of the LDOE's overall school improvement goals, steps taken to achieve those objectives, and in some cases missteps made in the effort to dramatically turn around a large number of schools in a relatively short time and to prompt improvements in all schools across the state.

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July 7, 2011

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tells local governments, schools to cinch belts

Joseph Spector

Facing criticism for a property-tax cap that doesn't include significant mandate relief, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said local governments and schools need to tighten their belts to deal with a cap that will limit tax increases to 2 percent a year.

Municipalities and schools have raised objections over the recently adopted property-tax cap that doesn't include the broad reforms they were seeking to state-imposed mandated services.

But Cuomo, during a ceremonial tax-cap bill signing outside Buffalo, said schools and local governments need to find ways other than raising taxes.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at 3:06 AM | Comme