All posts by Janet Mertz

A Very Bright Idea: What if you could get kids to complete two years of college by the time they finish high school?

Bob Herbert:

We hear a lot of talk about the importance of educational achievement and the knee-buckling costs of college. What if you could get kids to complete two years of college by the time they finish high school?
That is happening in New York City. I had breakfast a few weeks ago with Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, to talk about Bard High School Early College, a school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that gives highly motivated students the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and a two-year associate of arts degree in the four years that are usually devoted to just high school.
When these kids sail into college, they are fully prepared to handle the course loads of sophomores or juniors. Essentially, the students complete their high school education by the end of the 10th grade and spend the 11th and 12th grades mastering a rigorous two-year college curriculum.
The school, a fascinating collaboration between Bard College and the city’s Department of Education, was founded in 2001 as a way of dealing, at least in part, with the systemic failures of the education system. American kids drop out of high school at a rate of one every 26 seconds. And, as Dr. Botstein noted, completion rates at community colleges have been extremely disappointing.

Related: Credit for Non-Madison School District Courses.

For Students at Risk, Early College Proves a Draw

Tamar Lewin:

Precious Holt, a 12th grader with dangly earrings and a SpongeBob pillow, climbs on the yellow school bus and promptly falls asleep for the hour-plus ride to Sandhills Community College.
When the bus arrives, she checks in with a guidance counselor and heads off to a day of college classes, blending with older classmates until 4 p.m., when she and the other seniors from SandHoke Early College High School gather for the ride home.
There is a payoff for the long bus rides: The 48 SandHoke seniors are in a fast-track program that allows them to earn their high-school diploma and up to two years of college credit in five years — completely free.
Until recently, most programs like this were aimed at affluent, overachieving students — a way to keep them challenged and give them a head start on college work. But the goal is quite different at SandHoke, which enrolls only students whose parents do not have college degrees.
Here, and at North Carolina’s other 70 early-college schools, the goal is to keep at-risk students in school by eliminating the divide between high school and college.
“We don’t want the kids who will do well if you drop them in Timbuktu,” said Lakisha Rice, the principal. “We want the ones who need our kind of small setting.”

Once again, the MMSD and State of WI are going in the wrong direction regarding education. Much more on “Credit for non-MMSD courses.

Indiana providing teaching fellowships in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation:

The Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship seeks to attract talented, committed individuals with backgrounds in the STEM fields–science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–into teaching in high-need Indiana high schools. Learn more…
Funded through a $10 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Fellowship offers rigorous disciplinary and pedagogical preparation, extensive clinical experience, and ongoing mentoring. Eligible applicants include current undergraduates, recent college graduates, midcareer professionals, and retirees who have majored in, or had careers in, STEM fields.

When will the MMSD and the State of WI follow suit?

Gender gap in maths driven by social factors, not biological differences

Ed Yong:

History has had no shortage of outstanding female mathematicians, from Hypatia of Alexandria to Ada Lovelace, and yet no woman has ever won the Fields medal – the Nobel prize of the maths world. The fact that men outnumber women in the highest echelons of mathematics (as in science, technology and engineering) has always been controversial, particularly for the persistent notion that this disparity is down to an innate biological advantage.
AdaLovelace.jpgNow, two professors from the University of Wisconsin – Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz – have reviewed the strong evidence that at least in maths, the gender gap is down to social and cultural factors that can help or hinder women from pursuing the skills needed to master mathematics.
The duo of Janets have published a review that tackles the issue from three different angles. They considered the presence of outstanding female mathematicians. Looking beyond individuals, they found that gender differences in maths performance don’t really exist in the general population, with girls now performing as well as boys in standardised tests. Among the mathematically talented, a gender gap is more apparent but it is closing fast in many countries and non-existent in others. And tellingly, the size of the gap strongly depends on how equally the two sexes are treated.

Alternative Teacher Certification Works

UW-Madison professors Peter Hewson and Eric Knuth took up a valid cause in their May 15 guest column when they voiced concerns about having under-prepared teachers in Wisconsin classrooms.
But they’re off base in implying that alternative certification programs such as the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, proposed in SB 175, will mean more students won’t have effective teachers.
Research has shown otherwise.
A recent study in “Education Next” showed states with genuine alternative certification programs see higher test scores and more minority teachers. A Brookings Institute study from 2006 showed that teachers who have come through colleges of education are no more effective than teachers who come through an alternative certification program or no certification program at all.
In addition, ABCTE’s rigorous teacher preparation program includes nearly 200 hours of workshops on topics such as pedagogy and classroom assessment. Our exams are difficult, with only 40 percent of candidates passing on the first try. As a result, our teacher retention rate is 85 percent after three years, compared to less than 65 percent for traditional certification routes.
I understand Hewson and Knuth’s motivation for suggesting that an alternative to traditional certification may not produce great teachers. That philosophy is good for their employer, but not — as research has shown — any better for students.
/– David Saba, president, ABCTE, Washington, D.C./

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below.  I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed.  We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade.  One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers.  It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools.  The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers.  It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training.  However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.
Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher.  As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don’t believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject.  Our middle school foreign language teachers didn’t simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college.  Why aren’t we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers?  Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math?  What happens when students ask questions that aren’t answered in the teachers’ manual?  What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?
The MMSD has been waiting a long time already to have math-qualified teachers teaching mathematics in our middle schools.   Many countries around the world whose students outperform US students in mathematics only hire teachers who majored in the  subject to teach it.  Other school districts in the US are taking advantage of the current recession with high unemployment to hire and train people who know and love mathematics, but don’t yet know how to teach it to others.  For example, see
If Madison continues to wait, we will miss out on this opportunity and yet another generation of middle schoolers will be struggling to success in high school.
The MMSD has a long history of taking many, many year to resolve most issues.  For example, the issue of students receiving high school credit for non-MMSD courses has been waiting 8 years and counting!  It has taken multiple years for the District’s math task force to be formed, meet, write its report, and have its recommendations discussed.  For the sake of the District’s students, we need many more math-qualified middle school teachers NOW.  Please act ASAP, giving serious consideration to our proposal below.  Thanks.

Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Response to “Action Needed, Please Sign on…. Math Teacher Hiring in the Madison School District”

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad via email:

Dr. Mertz-
Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this critical issue in our middle schools. We will continue to follow the conversation and legislative process regarding hiring Teach for America and Math for America candidates. We have similar concerns to those laid out by UW Professors Hewson and Knuth ( In particular they stated, “Although subject-matter knowledge is essential to good teaching, the knowledge required for teaching is significantly different from that used by math and science professionals.” This may mean that this will not be a cost effective or efficient solution to a more complex problem than many believe it to be. These candidates very well may need the same professional learning opportunities that we are working with the UW to create for our current staff. The leading researchers on this topic are Ball, Bass and Hill from the University of Michigan. More information on their work can be found at ( We are committed to improving the experience our students have in our mathematics class and will strive to hire the most qualified teachers and continue to strengthen our existing staff.
Dan Nerad

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Credit for non MMSD Courses

Dear Superintendent Nerad:
I was rather surprised to learn today from the Wisconsin State Journal that:
“The district and the union also have quarreled over the role of MTI members in online learning for seven years. Under the new agreement, ANY (my emphasis) instruction of district students will be supervised by Madison teachers. The deal doesn’t change existing practice but confirms that that practice will continue.”
You are quite new to the MMSD. I am EXTREMELY disappointed that you would “cave in” to MTI regarding a long-standing quarrel it has had with the MMSD without first taking the time to get input from ALL affected parties, i.e., students and their parents as well as teachers who might not agree with Matthews on this issue. Does this agreement deal only with online learning or ALL non-MMSD courses (e.g., correspondence ones done by mail; UW and MATC courses not taken via the YOP)? Given we have been waiting 7 years to resolve this issue, there was clearly no urgent need for you to do so this rapidly and so soon after coming on board. The reality is that it is an outright LIE that the deal you just struck with MTI is not a change from the practice that existed 7 years ago when MTI first demanded a change in unofficial policy. I have copies of student transcripts that can unequivocally PROVE that some MMSD students used to be able to receive high school credit for courses they took elsewhere even when the MMSD offered a comparable course. These courses include high school biology and history courses taken via UW-Extension, high school chemistry taken via Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, and mathematics, computer science, and history courses taken at UW-Madison outside of the YOP. One of these transcripts shows credit for a course taken as recently as fall, 2005; without this particular 1/2 course credit, this student would have been lacking a course in modern US history, a requirement for a high school diploma from the State of Wisconsin.
The MMSD BOE was well aware that they had never written and approved a clear policy regarding this matter, leaving each school in the district deciding for themselves whether or not to approve for credit non-MMSD courses. They were well aware that Madison West HAD been giving many students credit in the past for non-MMSD courses. The fact is that the BOE voted in January, 2007 to “freeze” policy at whatever each school had been doing until such time as they approved an official policy. Rainwater then chose to ignore this official vote of the BOE, telling the guidance departments to stop giving students credit for such courses regardless of whether they had in the past. The fact is that the BOE was in the process of working to create a uniform policy regarding non-MMSD courses last spring. As an employee of the BOE, you should not have signed an agreement with MTI until AFTER the BOE had determined official MMSD policy on this topic. By doing so, you pre-empted the process.
There exist dozens of students per year in the MMSD whose academic needs are not adequately met to the courses currently offered by MTI teachers, including through the District’s online offerings. These include students with a wide variety of disabilities, medical problems, and other types of special needs as well as academically gifted ones. By taking appropriate online and correspondence courses and non-MMSD courses they can physically access within Madison, these students can work at their own pace or in their own way or at an accessible location that enables them to succeed. “Success for all” must include these students as well. Your deal with MTI will result in dozens of students per year dropping out of school, failing to graduate, or transferring to other schools or school districts that are more willing to better meet their “special” individual needs.
Your rush to resolve this issue sends a VERY bad message to many families in the MMSD. We were hoping you might be different from Rainwater. Unfortunately, it says to them that you don’t really care what they think. It says to them that the demands of Matthews take primarily over the needs of their children. Does the MMSD exist for Matthews or for the children of this District? As you yourself said, the MMSD is at a “tipping point”, with there currently being almost 50% “free and reduced lunch” students. Families were waiting and hoping that you might be different. As they learn that you are not based upon your actions, the exodus of middle class families from the MMSD’s public schools will only accelerate. It will be on your watch as superintendent that the MMSD irreversibly turns into yet another troubled inner city school district. I urge you to take the time to learn more about the MMSD, including getting input from all interested parties, before you act in the future.
VERY disappointingly yours,
Janet Mertz
parent of 2 Madison West graduates
Tamira Madsen has more:

“Tuesday’s agreement also will implement a measure that requires a licensed teacher from the bargaining unit supervise virtual/online classes within the district. The district and union have bickered on-and-off for nearly seven years over the virtual/online education issue. Matthews said the district was violating the collective bargaining contract with development of its virtual school learning program that offered online courses taught by teachers who are not members of MTI.
In the agreement announced Tuesday, there were no program changes made to the current virtual/online curriculum, but requirements outlined in the agreement assure that classes are supervised by district teachers.
During the 2007-08 school year, there were 10 district students and 40 students from across the state who took MMSD online courses.
Though Nerad has been on the job for less than three months, Matthews said he is pleased with his initial dealings and working relationship with the new superintendent.
“This is that foundation we need,” Matthews said. “There was a lot of trust level that was built up here and a lot of learning of each other’s personalities, style and philosophy. All those things are important.
“It’s going to be good for the entire school district if we’re able to do this kind of thing, and we’re already talking about what’s next.”

How to Fix K-12 Education

David Bessoud:

This month, I want to use this forum to publicize a report that came out last fall with solid advice for how to improve our schools. As we think about K-12 mathematics education, as we engage in the debate of what should succeed No Child Left Behind, I believe that this report provides a useful, research-based framework in which to situate that debate. And I believe that this report has implications for how we think about mathematics teaching in our colleges and universities, a topic to which I shall return in later columns.
The report in question was issued by McKinsey & Company in September, 2007, How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top [1]. Their procedure was straight-forward. They took the ten top-performing countries according to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA): Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea, and asked what practices are common among them. They tested their conclusions by comparing these practices with those in the US school systems that have seen the most dramatic increase in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or TIMSS scores or have been consistent finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education. These school systems are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, and Ohio.
None of their conclusions should be surprising. The three practices that they identified are on most people’s lists of what they would like to see. What is eye-opening is how effective these practices can be and how important it is to focus on them. In my own paraphrase, they are

  1. Recruit teachers from among the most highly literate and numerate college students.
  2. Support teachers with continual coaching, peer-mentoring, and professional development.
  3. Have clear standards for system performance, intervene quickly and effectively when problems arise, and allocate resources so that those with the greatest need get the most support.

Update on Madison BOE policy regarding students taking non-MMSD courses:

The February 25, 2008 Meeting of the Performance & Achievement Committee was devoted to developing a policy regarding students taking non-MMSD courses. The proposal Pam Nash suggested to the committee was essentially identical to the highly restrictive one she had originally proposed during the December, 2006 meeting of this committee: students would be permitted to earn a maximum of TWO ELECTIVE credits for course work and only when no comparable course is offered ANYWHERE in the District. Even Rainwater felt these rules were overly restrictive. He seemed willing (i) to increase the number of credits a student could earn, and (ii) to permit students to take a course offered elsewhere in the District if the student could not reasonably access the District’s course. Discussion of the Nash proposed policy ensued, but no specific revisions to it were made during this committee meeting. Both Maya and Johnnie (2 or the 3 members of the committee) suggested that the District needed to research the topic better, e.g., investigate what other comparable school districts in WI (e.g., Appleton which has in place a much less restrictive policy) were doing and to obtain feedback from the guidance departments of each of the 5 high schools, before the BOE should vote on approving a policy. Lawrie, chair of this committee, bypassed having a vote on whether to recommend the Nash version of the policy to the full BOE since she clearly would have lost such a vote. Instead, she simply stated that she had ALREADY placed this topic on the agenda for a special meeting of the BOE to be held March 10th, a meeting at which public appearances will NOT be permitted. Why the urgency now after we have been waiting for 6 years for the District to develop a policy in this matter? Possibly, the new Board that starts in April would approve a different policy, one that better meets the needs of students. Thus, folks, your only remaining opportunities to influence this policy to be approved by the BOE on March 10th are (i) to email and phone members of the BOE between now and March 10, telling them your opinions and why, ideally with examples of specific students, and (ii) to attend the March 10th meeting so the Board members will know you are watching how they vote.

My Suggested Changes to the Proposed MMSD Policy on Students Taking Outside Courses

February 25, 2008 draft proposal from Janet Mertz regarding the proposed MMSD Policy.
It is the policy of the Board to expand the opportunities for students to take courses outside of the District without increasing the costs to the District and without undermining the integrity of the diploma a student receives from the District. A student may receive credit for taking such outside courses. No District funds shall be utilized to pay for the costs to a student taking courses under this policy.
Taking outside courses if a student wishes to receive credit toward graduation.

  • By May 1 of the previous school year for first semester courses and by December 1 for second semester courses, the student shall submit to his/her principal or the principal’s designee the student’s request to take a course under this policy. Within 15 school days after receiving the student’s request, the principal, in consultation with the appropriate staff member(s), shall make a recommendation to the Superintendent or his/her designee as to whether the course shall be approved. Within 15 school days after receiving the principal’s recommendation, the Superintendent or his/her designee shall notify the student whether his/her request has been granted or denied.
  • A student may receive credit toward graduation. The grade will be recorded but not counted in the GPA.
  • Credits toward graduation shall be granted in the following manner:
  • No more than 4 credits per year.
  • No more than 11 credits may be applied to the total graduation requirement.
  • The student’s transcript shall include a description of the course, the institution, if any, the date the course was completed, the credit, and the grade.
  • No grades shall be included as part of a student’s grade point average (GPA).
  • All costs related to taking the course shall be the responsibility of the student and/or his/her parent/guardian.
  • Taking outside courses if a student does not wish to receive credit.
  • By May 1 of the previous school year for first semester courses and by December 1 for second semester courses, the student shall submit to his/her principal or the principal’s designee the students’ request to take a course under this policy. Within 15 days after receiving the student’s request, the principal, in consultation with the appropriate staff member(s), shall make a recommendation to the Superintendent or his/her designee as to whether the course shall be approved. Within 15 days after receiving the principal’s recommendation, the Superintendent or his/her designee shall notify whether his/her request has been granted or denied.
  • The student’s transcript shall include a description of the course, the institution, if any, the date the course was completed, and the pass/fail grade unless the student or his/her parent/guardian request that the student’s letter grade appear on the transcript in which case the student’s letter grade will appear on the transcript.
  • No grade shall be included as part of the student’s GPA.
  • All costs related to taking the course shall be the responsibility of the student and/or the student’s parent/guardian.

Madison School District Memo on Students Taking Outside Courses

MMSD Legal Services; 18 Page 758K PDF

On January 8, 2007, the Board took the following action:
lt is recommended that the Board direct the Administration to: 1) freeze new procedures or guidelines for credit towards graduation for courses taken outside the MMSD until the Administration reports to the Board about whether current MMSD policies need to be updated or changed in view of any technological changes in the law and other opportunities; 2) develop a proposal on either the implementation and communication of the policies and procedures to parents and students for consistency across the District at the levels affected; and 3) have the Administration give the Board the pros and cons of adopting a policy like the one proposed by Dr. Mertz as a draft proposal. It is further recommended that the Administration review all nine of the policies, including the proposed “Guidelines for Coursework Outside the MMSD'” for possible revision, consolidation, or propose a newly created policy.
Attached is Exhibit 1, an amended draft of the policy previously submitted to the Board in a memo from Pamela Nash dated May 4, 2007. The amendments modify the timing of a student’s appiication to take courses outside the MMSD and the response time of the District. This time frame is modeled after the Youth Options time frame.
Also attached to this Memorandum is a copy of a policy proposal previously submitted by Dr. Janet Mertz, Exhibit 2A, and the District’s analysis of that proposal,
Exhibits 2 and 2B. These documents were also submitted to the Board of Education under cover of Dr. Nash’s memo of May 4, 2007. This matter is scheduled to be heard before the Performance and Achievement Committee on February 25, 2008.

Background audio, video and documents are available here. The School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee meets today @ 5:00p.m to discuss this memorandum. [Directions & Map] Attend the meeting and send your thoughts to:

Update on Credit for non-MMSD Courses, including Youth Options Program:

Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee Meeting 11/26/2007At the November 26, 2007 meeting of the MMSD BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee [18MB mp3 audio], the District’s Attorney handed out a draft of a policy for the District’s Youth Options Program dated November 20, 2007. It is a fine working draft. However, it has been written with rules making it as difficult as possible for students to actually take advantage of this State-mandated program. Thus, I urge all families with children who may be affected by this policy now or in the future to request a copy of this document, read it over carefully, and then write within the next couple of weeks to all BOE members, the District’s Attorney, Pam Nash, and Art Rainwater with suggestions for modifications to the draft text. For example, the current draft states that students are not eligible to take a course under the YOP if a comparable course is offered ANYWHERE in the MMSD (i.e., regardless of whether the student has a reasonable method to physically access the District’s comparable course). It also restricts students to taking courses at institutions “located in this State” (i.e., precluding online courses such as ones offered for academically advanced students via Stanford’s EPGY and Northwestern’s CTD).
The Attorney’s memorandum dated November 21, 2007 to this Committee, the BOE, and the Superintendent outlined a BOE policy chapter entitled “Educational Options” that would include, as well, a policy regarding “Credit for Courses Taken Outside the MMSD”. Unfortunately, this memo stated that this latter policy as one “to be developed”. It has now been almost 6 years (!) since Art Rainwater promised us that the District would develop an official policy regarding credit for courses taken outside the MMSD. A working draft available for public comment and BOE approval has yet to appear. In the interim, the “freeze” the BOE unanimously approved, yet again, last winter has been ignored by administrators, some students are leaving the MMSD because of its absence, and chaos continues to rein because there exists no clearly written policy defining the rules by which non-MMSD courses can be taken for high school credit. Can anyone give us a timetable by which an official BOE-approved policy on this topic will finally be in place?

Important new information about credit for non-MMSD courses issue.

“In preparation for the December 11, 2006 meeting of the BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee, Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash prepared a memo dated December 5, 2006 along with 10 “exhibit” appendices for distribution to the BOE. “Exhibit 10” is a copy of the “Guidelines for Taking Coursework Outside the District” that she wrote in October, 2006, and I previously posted on SIS. In her memo she states “All the other nine procedures described herein, except this one, are governed by law or Board Policy. This process (her new Guidelines) was created by the MMSD to expand the opportunities for students to take courses outside the MMSD without increasing the costs to the MMSD and without undermining the integrity of the diploma a student receives from the MMSD. The “Guidelines for Taking Coursework Outside the MMSD” is the process and procedure currently used when, for example, a student who wants to take outside courses, but does not have any other option available to him/her. The cost for taking courses under this procedure is the responsibility of the student/parents. The procedure requires pre-approval by the principal and if the student wants credit for taking the course, he/she will receive elective credit if the District does not offer a comparable course. If the District offers a comparable course, the student will not receive credit. The student’s transcript will only include a description of the course, the institution, if any, the date the course was completed, the credit, if any, and the pass/fail grade.”
As I had stated previously on SIS I believe this is a new policy. It is definitely different from the one used in the recent past at Madison West HS in several crucial respects. It has never previously been brought before the BOE for formal approval. At the November 13, 2006 meeting of the Performance and Achievement Committee, I presented Superintendent Rainwater and members of the BOE with a copy of these “Guidelines”. Superintendent Rainwater responded by stating that these Guidelines only apply to “Independent Study” and do not represent a change in policy. I interpreted his comments to mean they are simply a restatement of Board Policy 3545 – Independent Study. However, Nash’s December 5th memo to the BOE quoted above seems to indicate that her “Guidelines” are to be interpreted as a catchall, meant to apply not just to independent study, but to ALL course work not specifically governed by State law or existing MMSD Board Policies, i.e., her exhibits 1-9. In other words, it is to apply as well to UW courses taken outside of the YOP, WCATY courses, online courses such as Stanford’s EPGY taken outside of the InSTEP Program, UW-Extension courses where the District claims to offer a comparable course (even though in a very different format), etc., i.e., a variety of different types of formal course work offered through certified, non-MMSD programs. If so, shouldn’t these “Guidelines” need formal BOE approval as a new Board Policy since, as Nash states in her memo, they are not currently covered under any existing Board Policies?

Continue reading Important new information about credit for non-MMSD courses issue.

Credit for Non-MMSD Courses: Performance & Achievement Committee Discussion

Please take note that the MMSD BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee
will be meeting at 5:45 pm on Monday, December 11th. [map]
One of their two agenda items scheduled for that meeting is “Credit for Non-MMSD Courses.”
This is a very important issue for academically gifted students who would like to be able to substitute higher-level, faster-paced, or more-readily-accessible-to-them (e.g., because of transportation problems) courses taken via WCATY, EPGY, APEX, UW, etc. for ones offered by their local middle or high school. It is an important issue for other types of alternative learners (e.g., special ed students, temporarily ill or disabled students) as well. It has taken years to get this topic placed on the BOE’s agenda. This coming Monday may well be our best opportunity to influence MMSD policy relating to this matter.
Thus, I urge ALL of you who are concerned about this issue either (i) to attend this BOE meeting prepared to give a 3-minute speech during the Public Comments period, or (ii) to send an email this week to Art Rainwater, Pam Nash, and all BOE members (via their comments email address) describing why it is important for their students to be permitted to receive credit toward fulfilling graduation requirements for qualified high school- and college-level courses taken at UW, MATC, TAG summer programs, online, or via correspondence.”

Latest on the Madison School District’s Policy Change Regarding Credit for Non-MMSD Courses

Here is the official wording of the new MMSD policy regarding students taking non-MMSD courses. 78K PDF. See my earlier post on this unpublished change:

A. Taking outside courses (other than Youth Options) if a student wishes to receive credit toward graduation.

  1. The course must be pre-approved by the principal.
  2. The course may only be an elective.
  3. A student may only receive elective credit toward graduation provided the District does not offer a comparable course, if a student receives credit it will be reflected as pass/fail.
  4. Elective credits toward graduation shall be granted in the following manner:

    No more than 1 elective credit per year. No more than 1 elective credit in the same subject. more than 2 elective credits may be applied to the total graduation requirement.

  5. The student’s transcript shall only include a description of the course, the institution, if any, the date the course was completed, the credit, if any, and the pass/fail grade.
  6. No grades will be included as part of a student’s GPA.
  7. All costs related to taking the course shall be the responsibility of the guardian of the student or student.

Continue reading Latest on the Madison School District’s Policy Change Regarding Credit for Non-MMSD Courses

Madison School District Policy Change Regarding Credit for Non-MMSD Courses

I emailed this message to the Madison School Board:

A policy change has recently been implemented in the MMSD regarding whether students can receive high school credit for courses offered by the MMSD that they take elsewhere (e.g.’s, via correspondence through UW-Extension, Stanford’s EPGY, and Northwestern’s Letterlinks programs, attendance at UW or MATC, summer programs offered through the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth and Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development).
Prior to this fall, students could receive high school credit for non-MMSD courses as long as they obtained prior written approval that the courses they planned to take were deemed worthy of high school credit. I have recently learned that this is no longer true. Rather, the only non-MMSD courses that can currently be approved for high school credit are ones in which a comparable course is not offered ANYWHERE in the District.
Why the change in policy?

Continue reading Madison School District Policy Change Regarding Credit for Non-MMSD Courses