School reform superintendent Paul Vallas spoke at LaFollette High School at the behest of Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson. The two and a half hour presentation with question and answer periods as attended by about 100 people in the LaFollette Auditorium.
Paul Vallas has been the Superintendent of schools in Chicago (CPS), Philadelphia, New Orleans, and currently Bridgeport Connecticut. He is currently hired to improve the schools in both Chile and Haiti, and has been praised in two State of the Union addresses. His work as a superintendent has engendered both strong support and strong disagreement.
The two and a half hour meeting has been divided into five clips and I have tried to summarize comments made by Paul Vallas, the panel and the audience members who spoke.
It is taken as conventional wisdom that "there aren't any" teachers, administrators, or other people of color and that's why MMSD's staff lacks diversity. According to the document at the link below, people of color are applying. They aren't getting hired. That is happening in many cases because the applicants - even for entry level jobs - are "screened out" because they "lack the qualifications" or have other deficits. Others are referred for interviews but not hired. This is the case from custodians and educational assistants up through principals and high level administrators.
It is true that recruitment must improve for teachers, but I would argue that is about missed opportunities (e.g. job fairs in urban districts undergoing layoffs, continuing to rely on UW-Madison as the largest source of teacher candidates given the lack of diversity in the School of Education, etc.). It also is about entrenched patterns of hiring, that could be changed with high quality leadership.
The decision to post a position as a strongly HR/employment-related position and then hire someone with no experience in those areas is disturbing given the MMSD's track record and the need to make knowledgeable, skillful, and significant change. Indeed, it points to the fundamental problem in diversifying MMSD staff at any level.
Imagine a world, in which when you teach something to someone the knowledge is considered your "intellectual property". Your students are not permitted to teach the things they have learned from you to anyone else, neither for money, nor even for free.
To become a teacher, one must buy into the guild for a lot of money, inherit rights from someone who was a teacher, or teach something that hasn't been learned from anyone, i.e. something newly invented.
Being a teacher was a very powerful position. Having a monopoly to teach and usually even your own districts to educate exclusively, a teacher could charge any price. Furthermore, teachers even had the right to dictate the purpose and conditions on which the knowledge they taught was allowed to be used.
This has been a horrible year for teachers unions. The latest stunner came in Michigan, where Republicans enacted sweeping reforms last month that require performance-based evaluations of teachers, make it easier to dismiss those who are ineffective, and dramatically limit the scope of collective bargaining. Similar reforms have been adopted in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Indiana, Tennessee, Idaho and Florida.
But the unions' hegemony is not going to end soon. All of their big political losses have come at the hands of oversized Republican majorities. Eventually Democrats will regain control, and many of the recent reforms may be undone. The financial crisis will pass, too, taking pressure off states and giving Republicans less political cover.
The unions, meantime, are launching recall campaigns to remove offending Republicans, initiative campaigns to reverse legislation, court cases to have the bills annulled, and other efforts to reinstall the status quo ante--some of which are likely to succeed. As of today, they remain the pre-eminent power in American education.
Over the long haul, however, the unions are in grave trouble--for reasons that have little to do with the tribulations of this year.
The first is that they are losing their grip on the Democratic base. With many urban schools abysmally bad and staying that way, advocates for the disadvantaged are demanding real reform and aren't afraid to criticize unions for obstructing it. Moderates and liberals in the media and even in Hollywood regularly excoriate unions for putting job interests ahead of children. Then there's Race to the Top--initiated over union protests by a Democratic president who wants real reform. This ferment within the party will only grow in the future.
Wisconsin cannot continue to spend more money than it has while pushing a pile of bills into the future.WPRI Poll: Wisconsinites want Walker to compromise
For too long, Wisconsin has lurched from one budget shortfall to another.
The near-constant distraction of the state's financial mess has kept our leaders from thinking long term. It has intensified partisan squabbles. It has forced difficult cuts and limited our state's ability to invest in its future.
Gov. Scott Walker's state budget, unveiled last week, is far from perfect. But it does one big thing right: It finally tackles Wisconsin's money problems in a serious way - without the usual accounting tricks and money raids that only delay tough decisions.
Walker is largely doing in his budget proposal what he said he'd do: Fix the budget mess without raising taxes.
Wisconsinites overwhelmingly want GOP Gov. Scott Walker to compromise, a new poll says.Amy Hetzner:
The poll, commissioned by a conservative-leaning think tank, also found that state residents think Democratic President Barack Obama is doing a better overall job than Walker.
Further, Wisconsinites narrowly disapprove of Senate Democrats' decision to leave the state to block a Senate vote on Walker's budget repair bill, which contains language to strip away most public employee union bargaining rights.
The poll of 603 Wisconsinites was commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and conducted between Feb. 27 and March 1, the day of Walker's budget address, and has a margin of error of 4 percent. The survey of randomly selected adults included cell phone-users and was directed by Ken Goldstein, a UW-Madison political science professor on leave who is also the co-founder and director of the Big Ten Battleground Poll.
The poll's release comes amid talks between Walker's office and the Senate Democrats. Walker has hinted recently at compromise but said he won't compromise on the core principles of his bi
Days after Gov. Scott Walker proposed major cuts to state education funding, school officials are still trying to find out how harsh the impact might be on their own districts.New York Times Editorial on New York's Budget:
Although the governor recommended a two-year, $834 million decline in state aid for schools and an across-the-board 5.5% decrease in per-pupil revenue caps - restricting how much districts can collect from state aid and property taxes - how that plays out at the local level could still shock some communities.
They have only to think of two years ago when the Democrat-controlled Legislature dropped school aid by less than 3% and nearly one-quarter of the state's 425 school districts saw their general state aid decline by 15%. The proposed cut in school aid in Walker's budget is more than 8% in the first year.
"Whenever the state tries to do things at a macro level, with formulas and revenue caps and so forth, there are always glitches," said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
At a time when public school students are being forced into ever more crowded classrooms, and poor families will lose state medical benefits, New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees' pensions than it did just a decade ago.And, finally, photos from Tennessee.
That huge increase is largely because of Albany's outsized generosity to the state's powerful employees' unions in the early years of the last decade, made worse when the recession pushed down pension fund earnings, forcing the state to make up the difference.
Although taxpayers are on the hook for the recession's costs, most state employees pay only 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions, half the level of most state employees elsewhere. Their health insurance payments are about half those in the private sector.
In all, the salaries and benefits of state employees add up to $18.5 billion, or a fifth of New York's operating budget. Unless those costs are reined in, New York will find itself unable to provide even essential services.
What to do? Time is no longer on the side of good. I suggest that we confront the nation's fiscal difficulties as soon as possible. That means both tax hikes and spending cuts, though I prefer to concentrate on the latter. Nonetheless it is naive to think spending cuts can do the job alone, and insisting on no tax hikes drives us faster along the path of fiscal ruin. The time for the Grand Bargain is now, it will only get harder:
As an unidentified first-year law student comes to grips with the reality of his situation--a likely $150,000 in debt by the time he graduates, with no guarantee of a legal job that will make it easy for him to repay this money--he is thinking about dropping out now.
Owing only $21,000 in law school debt at this point, he tells Above the Law, he would probably be better off to call it quits now. That way, he will not only be better off financially, with far less to repay, but happier, since he won't have to work as hard.
About four out of five responders to an ATL reader survey seeking input about what the 1L should do agree that dropping out is the best option.
But his focus on finances in analyzing the situation shows exactly what the problem is, says Brian Tannebaum in a response to the ATL post on his My Law License blog:
One of the favorites to win this year's National Spelling Bee lay face down on his living room floor wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and white socks, his torso supported by a couple of big pillows. His hands seemed to be on nonstop autopilot as they folded colorful paper into origami shapes.
Across the room in a big chair sat his younger brother. Between them were stacks and stacks of oversized, homemade note cards, bound by rubber bands and arranged like a city skyline on a large footstool. They are only a fraction of some 20,000 cards in the house, each printed with a word, its origin, pronunciation and definition.
These particular stacks contained the really hard words, the ones 13-year-old Tim Ruiter hadn't mastered yet.
"Pick your head up, buddy," Tom Dunn said to Darius Nash, who had fallen asleep during the morning's reading drills. "Sabrieon, sit down, buddy," he called to a wandering boy. "Focus."
Mr. Dunn's classroom is less than three miles from his old law office, where he struggled to keep death row prisoners from the executioner's needle. This summer, after serving hundreds of death row clients for 20 grinding, stressful years, he traded the courthouse for Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
The turmoil of middle school turns many teachers away, said the school's principal, Danielle S. Battle. Students' bodies and minds are changing, and disparities in learning abilities are playing out.
"A lot of people will say, 'I'll do anything but middle school,' " she said.
But this is precisely where Mr. Dunn chose to be, having seen too many people at the end of lives gone wrong, and wanting to keep these students from ending up like his former clients. He quotes Frederick Douglass: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
City University president Way Kuo came from a science background, but has a keen interest in educational work. When he was in the United States, he spent a lot of time on educational research despite his busy school administrative duties.
Professor Kuo recently published Clarifying Some Myths of Teaching and Research (Clusty), which he jointly penned with education psychologist Mark E Troy, detailing the results of a study on 10,000 students and 400 teachers.
The study explores the relationship between research work and quality of teaching, and explodes - or confirms - certain myths within education circles, as the book title suggests.
Kuo was invited by the Hong Kong University Graduates Association to give a speech on his new book, and many interesting education- related issues were raised during the talk.
One of the questions concerned whether scholars who engage in research work perform worse in teaching, and whether class size affects teaching performance.
That is sometimes the function -- although not the intent, really, of the TEP program -- which provides academic and emotional support for students whose chaotic life circumstances can set them grades behind their classmates.
The Zavala kids are among more than 280 students identified as homeless in the school district in the first six weeks of the school year. That number is a rolling count, updated throughout the school year as the district as students become homeless.
The district is on pace to exceed last year's total, which was up sharply from the year before. The nation's growing economic crisis is a likely culprit for at least some of the increase. One longtime TEP teacher says more homeless students are coming from established Madison families, not just those who have recently arrived to the city without housing.
As a result, homeless students are now in the attendance areas of schools all over the city -- and not just those near homeless shelters and motels used to house homeless families. As a result, school officials this year are re-examining how best to use their limited resources, said Nancy Yoder, director of alternative programs. The school district now spends more than $750,000 on homeless services, but more district dollars are highly unlikely, Superintendent Dan Nerad said Thursday. District officials are preparing for a November referendum asking voters to approve increasing their spending limit by a total of $13 million over the next three years just to preserve current programs.
Hailed as a hard worker by district peers and teachers, in person, Nerad is a quiet and astute listener who weighs opinions, questions and ideas in a thoughtful manner.Notes, Links, Audio and Video of Dan Nerad. Nerad's public appearance.
It's the quiet that marks the greatest contrast with outgoing Superintendent Art Rainwater, a former football coach with a commanding physical presence. Rainwater's assertive, booming voice resonates in the Doyle Administration Building's auditorium with or without a microphone.
Asked what the biggest difference is between Rainwater and Nerad, School Board President Arlene Silveira said it "will be Dan being out in the community and being more communicative. I think he will be more available and more accessible to the community as a whole. ... I think people should feel very comfortable and confident that stepping in, he will be able to start making decisions and leading us from day one. I think that's a big deal and very positive for us."
But while Matthews laments the failures of government to improve teaching and learning, he glosses over his own pivotal role in local educational leadership. That role includes standing in the way of programs like 4-year-old kindergarten that could help the district meet its educational objectives.Clusty Search: John Matthews.
Beginning in the next few weeks, a school board made up mostly of rookies will begin to address the challenges ahead. A new superintendent starting July 1 — Daniel Nerad, formerly top dog in Green Bay — inspires hope of new solutions to nagging problems. But the third pillar of power is John Matthews. He's been around the longest and arguably knows the most.
Already, Matthews has cemented his legacy from building a strong, tough union. But now, some are wondering if Matthews will also leave behind a legacy of obstructing key educational change.
June is when many Wisconsin families celebrate high school graduations. As usual, Wisconsin ranks near the top nationally, with nearly a 90 percent high school graduation rate. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction indicates that in the 2005-2006 school year, many schools in the Capital Region graduated over 95 percent of their students. However, 260 students (14.4%) in the Madison School District dropped out of high school in that school year.
What is the cost of high school dropouts? The U.S. Census estimates that in 2005, high school graduates in Dane County earned $9,083 more than high school dropouts. The 263 Madison students who did not complete high school in 2006 will earn $94.5 million less ($363,320 less each) over a 40-year career. At the state level, estimated lost earnings over a lifetime are nearly $1.4 billion.
According to the U.S. Census, 31.6 percent of families in Wisconsin headed by a person without a high school diploma live in poverty. According to reports filed with the Department of Health and Human Services for the 2004-2005 fiscal year, 48 percent of the adults requiring Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Wisconsin did not have a high school degree.
In addition to the $94.5 million in lost earnings, studies show that adults who lack high school degrees are at an elevated risk of incarceration and needing publicly financed medical care.
2005-2006 high school dropouts total lifetime earnings loss:
Madison Metropolitan School District -- $95,553,160
Milwaukee School District -- $590,775,360
Wisconsin total -- $1,390,584,360
Source: WINSS, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2005 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Table: B2004, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, TANF, TAble 25, FY 04-05.
For more information, contact Professor Andy Lewis, Center for Community and Economic Development, U.W. Extension, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, headquartered in Madison, is seeking an Executive Director to assume the leadership role with the statewide organization.
See Responsibilities of the Executive Director, Qualifications, and Application Information
To be considered in the initial application review process, a cover letter and resume must be submitted by December 15, 2006 to:
Barbara Horton, Chair
Executive Director Search Committee
Wisconsin Charter Schools Association
PO Box 1704
Madison, WI 53701 – 1704
Provide consultation and direction to schools in their efforts to develop and administer programs which result in achievement of all students. Provide consultation to schools in their efforts to integrate authentic multicultural education in all subject areas. Work with schools to promote teaching strategies that facilitate achievement of students from diverse backgrounds. Provide consultation to the Teaching and Learning Department to ensure the District is offering a comprehensive multicultural education. Provide consultation to staff on the selection, evaluation and use of multicultural resources.MMSD jobs on the web, including summer school positions.
The Madison Metropolitan School District is seeking qualified applicants for the position of Executive Director of Teaching & Learning. The Madison Metropolitan School District is the second largest school system in Wisconsin and has a student population of 24,710 students in 31 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, 5 high schools, and several alternative programs, a total staff of over 5,900 and an operatingbudget of $319 million. The District has a 42% minority student population. The Madison Metropolitan School District has schools at elementary, middle and high school levels rated as National Schools of Excellence.MMSD employment site.
Evidence of appropriate Wisconsin certification required prior to employment. The salary range for 2005/06 is $80,050-$102,233 for 225 days employment. Salary range for 2006/07 will be determined later in the school year. All positions require experience working cross-culturally and/or commitment to work toward improving one's own cultural competence, i.e. valuing difference/diversity, recognizing personal limitations in one's skills and expertise, and having the desire to learn in these areas. Deadline for receipt of a completed application form, including responses to the required Experience Inventory, letters of reference, and grade transcripts, is Tuesday, February 28, 2006.