All posts by Jim Zellmer

“What? Me Worry?

“What? Me Worry? is the attitude of education researchers, writes Douglas Reeves, CEO of the Center for Performance Assessment, on Education Gadfly. Reeves cites a study by Peggy Hsieh and Joel R. Levin, which ran in the Journal of Educational Psychology on “ed researchers’ continued retreat from accepted research methodology. In this case, randomized experiments.”

Randomized experiments, aka field trials, whereby an experimental group that receives an intervention (say, Whole Language) is compared with a control group that receives no intervention, have been standard operating procedure since rats were first run through mazes. But who needs control groups in the age of feelings-based research?

. . . Hsieh and Levin report that “The percentage of total articles in these four journals [Cognition & Instruction, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Education, American Educational Research Journal] based on randomized experiments decreased over the 21-year period in both the educational psychology journals (from 40 percent in 1983 to 34 percent in 1995 to 26 percent in 2004) and the American Educational Research Journal (from 33 percent to 17 percent to 4 percent).”

Education policy makers are eager for the latest magic bullet and reluctant to think through fundamental changes, Reeves argues.

via Joanne

Notes from Monday’s Madison School Board Meeting

Two interesting notes, among many, I’m sure from Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting:

  • Johnny Winston, Jr. introduced a motion for the Administration to look at acquiring land in Fitchburg for a new school. This motion passed 5-1, with Bill Keys voting no (and Juan Jose Lopez absent).
  • Ruth Robarts advocated curriculum changes as a means to attract more families to certain schools. She mentioned the use of Singapore Math (Note that some Madison residents are paying a chunk of money to send their children to Madison Country Day School, which uses Singapore Math).

Speaking of Math, Rafael Gomez is organizing a middle school math forum on February 22, 2006, from 7 to 8:00p.m.
Local news commentary:

  • Channel3000:

    The Madison Metropolitan School Board met for hours Monday discussing overcrowding options for the looming referendum

  • WKOW-TV:

    After nearly five hours of discussion, the Madison School Board decided to put off asking tax payers for a new school in April and says voters may have to head to the polls this fall instead.

  • Susan Troller:

    That potential option was added to the mix regarding how the Madison School District could deal with growth and overcrowding on the west side following a special School Board meeting Monday night.
    Board Vice President Johnny Winston, Jr. led a motion to ask district administrators to explore land sites and options for a possible new school in the rapidly developing areas south of the Beltline in Fitchburg, including land currently in the Verona and Oregon school districts.
    Board member Lawrie Kobza supported Winston’s motion and said she may be willing to support a new elementary school in the south Fitchburg area as part of a long-range plan for the district. Kobza does not support an addition at Leopold, saying the school already has more than 650 students, which the district has deemed its maximum acceptable capacity.

  • Sandy Cullen:

    The Madison School Board voted Monday to direct district administrators to investigate purchasing land for a future school in south Fitchburg as a long-term solution to crowding at Leopold Elementary School, while board members continue to explore a more immediate solution to the problem.

WisPolitics: Walker, Green Forum

WisPolitics hosted a recent Forum for GOP candidates for governor. Incumbent governor Jim Doyle has agreed to appear at a future forum, which I will link to when that occurs. Both GOP candidates addressed school funding, to some degree. Scott Walker said that he supported 2/3 state funding, but that it was not a “blank check”. Mark Green said that given the state’s structural deficit, he could not commit to maintain the 2/3’s state funding.

The New Reverse Class Struggle

Jay Matthews:

The idea seems odd to many. But some scholars and administrators say raising class sizes and teacher pay might improve achievement
It was 9:45 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Jane Reiser’s mathematics class in Room 18 was stuffed with sixth- and seventh-graders. There were 32 of them, way above the national class size average of 25. Every seat was filled — 17 girls, 15 boys, all races, all learning styles. A teacher’s nightmare.
And yet, despite having so many students, Reiser’s class was humming, with everybody paying attention. She held up a few stray socks to introduce a lesson on probabilities with one of those weird questions that interest 11- and 12-year-olds:

High Grades, No Skills

Joanne Jacobs:

Honor students who can’t pass California’s graduation exam should be angry, writes Ken at It Comes in Pints? They should be angry at teachers who gave them A’s they didn’t deserve.

While the hardest questions on the graduation exam require 10th grade English skills and algebra (allegedly an 8th grade skill in California), students with basic skills who guess blindly on the harder multiple-choice questions should be able to get a minimum passing grade in their first, second, third, fourth or fifth try at the test. The minimum passing grade is 60 percent for English and only 55 percent for math.

In Tracy, a girl who claims a 3.6 grade point average says she’s failed the math exam five times because teachers didn’t teach her right. She doesn’t seem to question the validity of her A’s and B’s.

My great potential is being snuffed by this test.

College Goal Sunday


The goal of college goal Sunday is to help high school students fill out this the free application for federal student aid – or the FAFSA form. Students and their parents were taken through a step-by-step process of filling out the FAFSA something organizers say is the most important step in getting high school students to attend schools of higher education.
While 48 percent of Wisconsin High School students say they plan on attending college many don’t follow through because they don’t know where to look for financial aid. There were 14 families that attended the event in madison – and organizers hope they can expand that number next year. College goal sunday held in 12 different locations around the state. Wisconsin is one of 24 states that participated in the college goal sunday event.

East High School Show Choir

Sandy Cullen:

Antonio Branch may have gotten off on the wrong foot at Madison East High School, but his tune changed once he started singing and dancing with the school’s Show Choir.
“I was with a bad crowd,” said Branch, 18, who saw many of his friends from eighth grade drop out of high school.
But Branch said the tightknit ensemble of student performers he joined last fall has helped give him the motivation to get his grades up and set his sights on attending Madison Area Technical College en route to a four-year college degree.
“They build you up, tell you you can do it,” said Branch, a senior who’s now thinking about becoming an elementary school teacher.

Borsuk on What You Need to Know on Vouchers

Alan Borsuk:

Amid a barrage of television and radio ads, stories in the newspaper almost every day and conflicting claims about Milwaukee’s controversial and precedent-setting program by which almost 15,000 low-income students attend private schools using public money, the basics of what is going on can be lost easily.
Here is a primer on the current, heated episodes in the long running battle over school choice.

Fall Referendum?


A resolution for a referendum will go before the Madison school board Monday night.
The West-Memorial Task Force has recommended an addition to Leopold and to build a new school on the far west side of the city.
The Long Range Planning Committee chairman said there’s not enough time to build a campaign for the April election, but a referendum is inevitable.
“I still believe Madison voters do not understand the need for those new schools,” said chairman Bill Keys. “The population has shifted dramatically from the East to West side in terms of raw numbers.”
Keys believes the board may push for a fall referendum.
Keys told WISC-TV he wouldn’t be around for the final decisions because he plans to retire by then.

Another Referendum?


The Madison Metropolitan School District is hoping to address issues of overcrowding and future growth. One school board memember says Monday the board will decide whether to once again bring their concerns to the public in a referendum. The issues on that potential refereundum could include a new elementary school on the Linden Park site, operating costs for the school, and an addition a the Leopold Elementary site.
Board member Ruth Robarts believes if the board moves forward with the current plan, voters will likely vote down the referendum.
“All parents want to know which schools are going to be where two, three, five years from now. That involves more than just getting the report from our task forces back and then suddenly going to referendum,” she says.
Decisions of this type usually come in two steps…first the vote of whether to hold a referendum, and then how it will be worded. But Robarts says the board has a deadline of February 17th to notify the city, and the public of their desire for a referedum.

The Ethicist: Schooling Parents

Randy Cohen:

The president of our local board of education sends her children to the public elementary schools, but when they get to high school, she moves them to private schools. Isn’t it her ethical obligation either to send her children to the schools she sets policy for and espouses as so wonderful or to step down from the board? JoAnne Manse, Rutherford, N.J.
It is not. It is the obligation of board members to strive mightily to make the public schools so good that even parents with the means to opt out choose to remain. If the public schools are not yet that good, the president may honorably send her kids elsewhere — indeed, her duty as a parent compels her to. Even where a public school is excellent, parents may seek programs it does not offer — religious instruction, for example.

The Black Star Project

What Is The Black Star Project? The Black Star Project is a Chicago-based nonprofit that works around the country to help preschoolers to collegians succeed. The group focuses on low-income black, Hispanic and American Indian students in low-achieving schools.
Problems of school districts that teach Black children and the solutions

Via School Board Seat 1 Candidate Maya Cole [podcast]

Schools Await Final Grade

Nick Anderson:

It has been eight years since Maryland told the Prince George’s County school to shape up, or else. It has been four years since the federal government raised the pressure with a law meant to force shake-ups through aid and sanctions.
Yet Charles Carroll Middle School has continued to fall short of state standards, even though the county has switched textbooks, changed principals three times and even assigned a “turnaround specialist.”

Student Newspaper Promotes Diversity in Language, School


Students at La Follette High School are making sure every student has a voice through the use of their school newspaper, WISC-TV reported.
With the first edition of La Follette Lance in 2006, the newspaper began targeting students who thought they had been forgotten.
For example, Andres Garcia enjoys the entire page of Spanish articles the Lance editors and writers produce for each issue.
Garcia is part of 10 percent of the school that is Latino.
“This is something that was actually overdue,” Garcia said. “That was something we should have had years ago.”
The newspaper staff is involved every step of the process, including getting the paper ready for mailing and distribution.

Nineteen Finance and Taxation Questions for Elected Officials

Paul Soglin:

These questions were developed in Wisconsin but are universal. Here are nineteen questions that an elected official (School Board, City Council/Town or Village Board, County Board, State Legislature) should be able to address after two budgets, or two years in office, whichever comes first.
Note: Some of the questions are premised upon faulty or erroneous assumptions, or the political view of the questioner. Other questions have no ‘correct’ answer but the answer should reflect the respondents’ views on levels of taxation and redistribution of resources through taxation.

Soglin has also begun an essay on Kids, Schools and Cities.

Tutor Program Going Unused

Susan Saulny:

The No Child Left Behind law requires consistently failing schools that serve mostly poor children to offer their students a choice if they want it: a new school or tutoring from private companies or other groups, paid for with federal money — typically more than $1,800 a child in big cities. In the past the schools would have been under no obligation to use that Title I federal poverty grant to pay for outside tutoring.
City and state education officials and tutoring company executives disagree on the reasons for the low participation and cast blame on each other. But they agree that the numbers show that states and school districts have not smoothed out the difficulties that have plagued the tutoring — known as the supplemental educational services program — from its start as a novel experiment in educational entrepreneurship: largely private tutoring paid for with federal money.
Officials give multiple reasons for the problems: that the program is allotted too little federal money, is poorly advertised to parents, has too much complicated paperwork for signing up, and that it has not fully penetrated the most difficult neighborhoods, where there are high concentrations of poor, failing students.

Revolution on Wheels: High Tax States See a Stealth Migration Out

Related to Johnny Winston, Jr.’s post below, Karen Hube notes a significant outbound migration from many high tax states [Wisconsin is ranked 5th in tax burden as a % of per capita income (11.4%)] including Minnesota to South Dakota:

NOT SURPRISINGLY, MANY STATES are feeling the drain of fleeing taxpayers. At a time of serious competition between states for jobs and tax revenues, “states with high taxes are losing their wealthiest and most successful taxpayers, as well as businesses, and they’re not creating as many jobs,” says Dan Clifton of Americans for Tax Reform.
Serious fiscal troubles started for most states after the stock market tanked in 2000. “They had been matching their spending habits with the flood of revenues that came in during the boom years of the 1990s,” Clifton says. “When that spigot got turned off, many states were incapable of moderating their spending to match the new reality.”
In 2000 states were still flush enough to cut taxes by a net $5.8 billion for fiscal year 2001. But shortly after, in a scramble to boost revenues, states started raising taxes.

Johnny’s point is important: Schools must diversify their revenue sources while using existing resources as efficiently as possible. This includes trying to use all sources, including, as Ed Blume pointed out, federal funds, such as the $2M in Reading First money. WISTAX notes that Wisconsin’s rose 10% last year. Finally, Neil Heinen notes that Wisconsin’s state budget has a “structural deficit“.
Bobbi raises a useful point regarding the construction of new schools: the existing $320M+ operating budget is spread over more facilities, which as several teachers have mentioned to me, has implications for current facilities.

For Fraught Preteen Years, A Class on Being a Friend

Michael Alison Chandler:

She surrenders her room, with its cozy couch, to the ponytailed pre-adolescents, and their dramas unfold: How could you pretend you didn’t see me in the hallway? Or: Why did you invite Celia to your slumber party and not me? There’s the inevitable “That hurt my feelings” and the occasional “I’m sorry.” On a good day, they leave the room Best Friends Forever. Again.
Many of the girls are graduates of “Chicks and Cliques,” a course Dunne designed to curb the gossiping, rumor-spreading and snubbing that’s endemic to girls. She helps them figure out how to talk through their problems, then she lets them borrow her office to use their new skills.

Teach, the Film

Davis Guggenheim’s new film (CC licensed):

As our politicians and the press argue the merits of countless school reforms, it is our teachers who enter the classroom every day and fight the real fight: educating our children, one child at a time. The First Year shows the human side of this story: the determination and commitment of five novice teachers as they struggle to survive their first year in America’s toughest schools.
George teaches recent immigrants learning English as a second language. After the school board plans to cut funding for her high school class, she rallies her students to fight city hall and wins.
Geneviève “wanted to teach the kids no one else wanted to teach.” She spends hours of extra time reaching out to a middle-school student only to lose him in the end.

Allied Drive units a step closer to city buyout

Mike Ivey:

The largest property owner on Allied Drive has fallen into receivership, further opening the door for the city of Madison to purchase nine buildings in the heart of the low-income neighborhood on the city’s southwest side.
Members of the Allied-Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood Association have generally been supportive of city purchase of the properties, although there has been some concern that if the units are converted to condos it would price many out of the neighborhood.
Duane Steinhauer, a landlord who also owns rental property in the Allied neighborhood, said he is opposed to city purchase of the property. He said Hauk’s problems began when the city failed to get behind those initial plans for a private-sector redevelopment of the properties.

Bringing Community to the City

Pallavi Gogol:

“Clearly, townships are promoting the idea of preventing sprawl, in clear contrast to the past when developers had to battle city hall for zoning changes,” says Roy Higgs, chief executive of Development Design Group, an architecture firm in Baltimore. This comes at a time when developers are under a lot of pressure to maximize use of both land and construction, costs of which have spiraled in the past decade.
Furthermore, many counties and townships find that the sprawl has stretched their own finances. “Communities want to trim their budgets for new roads and schools,” says Terry W. McEwen, president of Memphis-based Poag & McEwen, a developer currently making six master-planned communities, one with condos over retail shops.

Job: Executive Director, MMSD Teaching & Learning

Madison Metropolitan School District:

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.
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.

MMSD employment site.

Gutknecht on “Swan Creek residents ask to join Oregon schools”

Kurt Gutknecht:

Frustrated by continued uncertainty over where their children will attend school, residents of Swan Creek are asking to be transferred to the Oregon School District.
The decision would reverse a 2003 decision that transferred Swan Creek to the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Residents obtained signatures from 188 households on a petition asking the respective school boards to consider the request. Three real estate developers also endorsed the move.
If the school boards refuse the request, residents can ask that an appeals board consider the transfer.
“We know it’s an uphill battle,” said resident Renee Hammond, referring to the previous unsuccessful attempt to reverse the decision of the two school boards.
Several residents said they had been misled about schools when they purchased their homes. Some had been told that they could choose which school district they wanted to attend or that the Madison district planned to construct a school in Swan Creek or elsewhere in Fitchburg.
More upsetting to residents, however, is the uncertainty over whether their children can continue to attend Leopold Elementary School. The Madison school board is weighing plans to alleviate overcrowding at Leopold that could send children from Swan Creek to several different schools.
Organizers of the petition drive said they could easily have obtained more signatures.
Romney Ludgate said there’s no assurance that making space for additional students at Leopold would be more than a short-term solution to overcrowding and that residents might have to continually address the issue.
“Until a school is built in Fitchburg, residents of the southern part of the district in Fitchburg will continue to face extreme instability” in where Swan Creek students would attend school, Hammond said.

Continue reading Gutknecht on “Swan Creek residents ask to join Oregon schools”

School board divided again over plans to reduce overcrowding

Kurt Gutknecht, writing in the Fitchburg Star about the recent Board and public discussion of the East / West Task Forces:

There was a sense of déjà vu when the Madison Metropolitan School Board met Jan. 30 when the schism that fractured it last year – and which appeared to be a key factor in the defeat of a referendum last spring – surfaced again. Four members of the board appear solidly in support of another referendum and two members appear steadfast in their opposition, although the board hasn’t officially acted on the matter.
The possibility of a divided board has already alarmed supporters of a new addition to Leopold Elementary School, who think it will provide additional ammunition to critics.
The discussion was often heated as Ruth Robarts and Lawrie Kobza charged that the board was rushing to a referendum without an adequate long-range plan.
Their stance irritated Juan Jose Lopez, who accused them of “playing politics” with the future of schoolchildren simply because they didn’t like the outcome. “I for one will not sit here and allow you to do that,” he said.
A key disagreement involved the weight accorded the recommendations of the task forces charged with formulating long-range options.

Continue reading School board divided again over plans to reduce overcrowding

Carol Carstensen’s Weekly Update

Of the MTI-represented employees in the district, more than 50% take their health insurance with Group Health (the lowest cost of any of the HMO’s).
February 6th MEETINGS :
5 p.m. Finance & Operations Committee (Johnny Winston Jr., chair):
Report on the $100 Budget exercise in January 173 people participated in the exercise; their responses indicated that their highest priorities were: Academic Achievement and Specialized Services (special education, English as a Second Language).
Doug Pearson, in charge of buildings and grounds for the district, gave a presentation explaining that a combination of factors (drought in the Midwest, Hurricane Katrina and increased oil prices) have resulted in a huge increase in construction costs. As an example, when the district built Chavez (2000-01), construction costs were estimated at $85/sq.ft. today the estimate to build a new school is estimated to cost $162/sq.ft. These increases also affect all of the district’s maintenance projects.
6 p.m. Performance & Achievement Committee (Shwaw Vang, chair)
The Committee heard presentations about the elimination of tracking in the West High Biology course (begun in 1997) and in East High Algebra/Trig (started in 2004). In both cases the changes were the result of discussions by the teachers at the school and supported by staff from downtown. Likewise, both reported that they felt that they were serving all students more effectively and that their classes were more representative of the entire student enrollment. The Committee will continue looking at this topic.

Continue reading Carol Carstensen’s Weekly Update

NYC Schools: Administration, Teachers Union and Parents

Interesting article on the leadership dynamics of the New York City Department of Education by David Herszenhorn:

“Parents and parent organizations feel less enfranchised now than they did four years ago, and that is a dangerous trend,” Mr. Sanders said. He added, “Ultimately you cannot have a successful education system if parents and communities of parents don’t feel invested.”
Stephen Morello, Mr. Klein’s communications director, issued a statement saying parent involvement “has been an important priority from the beginning of our reform efforts.”

2006 – 2007 Kindergarden Enrollment

Madison Metropolitan School District:

Kindergarten Enrollment for the 2006-2007 school year is Monday, March 6, 2006 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at all MMSD elementary schools. To be eligible, children must be 5 years old on or before September 1, 2006.
When enrolling a child for kindergarten, parents will be required to show proof of age (birth certificate, baptismal record, medical assistance card,) proof of residency (utility bill) and an immunization record.

Find your school here.

Gangs, Schools & City Government

Paul Soglin & Mary Kay Battaglia:

When I posted Teachers Strike in Madison: Thirty Years Later January 27, 2006, Mary commented:

While failing public schools are linked to the high number of low income students attending them, you may be interested in some MMSD data. If you go to the MMSD web site and look under their data you will find that in 1991 Madison’s elementary schools had a total %low income of 24.6%. In 2005 that number almost doubled to 42.4%. Our schools are in a crisis of becoming just another urban school in trouble. That’s almost double in 14 years.
Why is it that Madison city government is so UNinvolved with the schools? It seems to me for growth and economic stability the two should have a better working relationship. The district is clueless to the growth and the city does not seemed concerned with informing the district or working to help crisis areas of the city to help both the school and neighborhood. Allied is an example where they could work together. Mary Kay Battaglia

And this week Channel 3 WISC is running a series, Experts: New Street Gangs Rising In Dane County.

Mary Kay previously wrote about this here. Lucy Mathiak followed up on that post here.

The Best and Worst of No Child Left Behind

Superintendent Art Rainwater:

One of the most significant occurrences in public education during my Superintendency has been the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) which was passed with the intention of changing and improving public education. The act is significant because it is the first time the federal government has inserted itself into determining the quality of K-12 education at the local level. NCLB captures both the best and worst of current educational thought.
The recognition of the importance in understanding our children’s learning needs through good academic assessment has been a major positive change. Educators have the best chance for success when we are using academic performance data about each individual child to inform instruction.

More on the Swan Creek Petition to Leave the Madison School District

Sandy Cullen:

The Madison School Board and the Oregon School Board both are scheduled to address the petition at their Feb. 27 meetings.
The land on which the subdivision is located was previously part of the Oregon School District. It was transferred effective July 1, 2003, to the Madison district in exchange for commercial property, said Clarence Sherrod, attorney for the Madison School District.
School boards in both districts also agreed not to allow the land to be transferred back, said Madison School Board President Carol Carstensen.
“I do not want them to leave,” Carstensen said, adding, “I certainly understand their concern over the uncertainty.”
Carstensen said some Swan Creek residents who want to remain in the Madison School District “are not happy at the timing” of the petition, which they thought would used as a “last-ditch” option.

The petition, statutes and more details can be found here.

Poll Shows Divide Among Parents & Teachers

Ben Feller:

In the poll, for example, less than half of parents say student discipline is a serious concern at school.
Teachers scoff at that. Two in three of them call children’s misbehavior a major problem.
Over 14 years of teaching, Carol-Sue Nix has watched discipline problems trickle down from the fifth grade to pre-kindergarten. A parent-teacher conference usually follows.

School Board Candidate Take Home Test, Week 3


Here’s the third round of the Take-Home Test, the weekly question and answer session Isthmus is conducting with this spring’s candidates for the Madison Board of Education.

Here are this week’s questions:

Schools Top Scores No Accident

Rosalind Rossi:

More African-American kids at Morgan Park passed their AP exams in two courses — English language/composition and European history — than at any other high school in the nation offering AP courses last year, AP officials said.
The number of Morgan Park students required to achieve that feat was 32 in English language and 26 in European history.
That may not sound like much, but those numbers translate roughly into 1-1/2 classrooms full of kids, all of them testing at college-level standards, and all of them African American — the racial group most under-represented in AP classrooms across the nation, state and city. Two sections of each course were offered last year at Morgan Park, where the student body is 93 percent African-American.

AP Program Gaining Increasing Prominence Nationwide

Tamar Lewin:

According to the second annual report from the College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement program, about 60 percent of American high schools now offer Advanced Placement courses, and the average high school offers a choice of eight such courses.

“The number of students participating in A.P. has more than doubled in 10 years, and today almost 15,000 U.S. schools offer A.P. courses,” said Gaston Caperton, the president of the board, a New York-based nonprofit organization.

The percentage of American high school students passing A.P. exams increased in all 50 states last year, the report said. In the class of 2005, 14.1 percent of students received an A.P. exam grade of 3 or higher on one or more A.P. exams, up from 13.2 percent of the class of 2004, and 10.2 percent of the class of 2000.

A.P. exams in 35 subjects are given in May, at a cost of $82 each. They are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 representing A-level college work, and 3 representing about a C+.

Barb Schrank earlier noted that East offers 8 AP courses, LaFollette 13, Memorial 16 and West 8. The District’s efforts in these areas appear to be going in different directions, with a growing effort to provide a one size fits all curriculum (West and Sherman examples) while recently receiving a grant to increase the number of AP classes. The District’s approach to Athletics has apparently not changed, though Kurt Vonnegut via his short story Harrison Bergeron, notes that 2081 might be the year for that.

Why Virtual Learning is Growing in Popularity

Lisa Hendrickson:

Virtual schools – also known as “schools without walls” and cyber-schools – are just one of the many educational options available for families today in Wisconsin. Virtual schools started appearing in the late 1990s and have quickly become a very real alternative for children who may do better – for any number of reasons – outside the traditional classroom.
As a former “bricks and mortar” schoolteacher, I am experiencing the benefits of virtual schooling firsthand in my role as a “virtual schoolteacher.” I am able to work with each of my students and a parent or other adult who serves as the child’s face-to-face “Learning Coach” to develop lesson plans that best meet their individual learning style and ability. Parents enjoy getting involved and the results have been very successful. In fact, WCA has doubled in size since its inception in 2002, dissolving the mystery of virtual learning and replacing it with well-educated young people.

New Dane County Gangs Task Force


Concerns about the growth of street gangs in the Madison area are prompting authorities to create a new task force that will target Dane County’s top gang leaders and drug dealers, WISC-TV reported.
Federal, state, and local police will play a key role in the new gang unit.
There’s a great deal being planned on many fronts right now to combat the growing gang problem, and the new gang task force is one component, WISC-TV reported.

Rafael Gomez recently hosted a Forum on Gangs & School Violence: Audio / Video.

Here’s How to Meet School Challenges

Arlene Silveira:

A Wisconsin State Journal editorial on Jan. 2 correctly described me as an active Parent-Teacher Organization parent and school issues activist. I am proud of that. But just as important is my long experience working at Promega: It has equipped me with the business and scientific acumen necessary for handling budget and policy and procedures development.
The editorial asked for ideas for meeting the district’s challenges. Here is my overview.
Dealing with another $6 million to $8 million gap in the 2006-2007 budget.
The district has cut all “the fat” over the past decade of cuts (about $45 million) and further cuts are hurting the classroom. I will trust the $100 budget process, whereby community members will tell the School Board what programs they value most.

State of the Union, Budget and Our Educational Framework

Maya Cole:

So the bottom line is that we shouldn’t expect much from the federal government. The dilemma for the Board and the community is to find out what our priorities will be for the coming years in Madison.
Although we have been looking at our school budget as a $100 budget cutting exercise, I would like to look at a program already cut by the district.
One elementary school program in particular, the Ready Set Go conferences, have come to my attention repeatedly from both teachers and parents. It was both a commitment by the district to voice the educational expectations of the district and an opportunity for a family to share with the teacher their goals for the child.

Barry Ritholtz posts a number of useful charts on the proposed 2007 federal budget. Neil Heinen notes that the state situation, with its “structural deficit” does not look much better. This, despite a 10% jump in taxes paid by Wisconsin residents in 2005, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance.

Monona Grove Board Dresses Up Referendum

Barry Adams:

The Monona Grove School Board looked Monday at more than the bottom line when it considered a spring building referendum.
Besides keeping the price tag under $30 million, it also made sure it offered something for both Cottage Grove and Monona. Under the plan, Cottage Grove would get a $23.2 million middle school for students in grades five through eight from Cottage Grove and in seventh and eighth grade from Monona.

District Officials Expected Residents to Target them for Budget Cuts

Sandy Cullen:

Hardest hit was the area of curriculum research and staff development, which was targeted for reduction by 25 groups, followed by the superintendent’s office and business services.
Superintendent Art Rainwater said that in the two groups he worked with, “People first, almost without exception, went to any form of administration.”
“We will have to take a look at this and reconcile this input to our recommendations,” Price said. “This is valuable information.”
Even more valuable were the directives administrators received on what not to touch, Price said, adding, “Teacher and pupil services were areas very much protected by the groups.”
Providing safe and secure schools ranked highest among participants’ individual priorities, followed by academic achievement, minority achievement and specialized services, such as alternative programs and talented and gifted programs.

Thinking Different: D.C. Proposes Deals with Developers for Schools and Libraries

Debbie Wilgoren:

The old schools and libraries need to be replaced. Developers are hungry for space for even more condominiums. So D.C. officials want to make a deal: The developers would build new libraries, schools and maybe even police stations, and get the privilege of putting condominiums or shops on top of or alongside them.
Proponents say developers could pay now for amenities the city wouldn’t fund for years, if ever, and developers would get scarce city space for housing — mostly high-end, but some affordable.
With the costs of fixing schools and libraries estimated at close to $2 billion, said D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, “I don’t believe we can tax our way out.”

I think we’ll see much more of this.

National Institute of Aerospace 4th Annual Educator Training Workshop

National Institute of Aerospace:

The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), in partnership with NASA Langley Research Center and the North Carolina and Virginia Space Grant Consortia, is pleased to announce our 4th Annual Educator Training Workshop. The workshop is an opportunity for middle and high school teachers and administrators to delve into the world of aerospace to provide exciting learning opportunities for their students. This activity will be an intense two weeks focused on current and past NASA research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It? How Can We Know?

Berkeley Professor of Leadership Philip E. Tetlock has written a rather interesting book:

He evaluates predictions from experts in different fields, comparing them to predictions by well-informed laity or those based on simple extrapolation from current trends. He goes on to analyze which styles of thinking are more successful in forecasting. Classifying thinking styles using Isaiah Berlin’s prototypes of the fox and the hedgehog, Tetlock contends that the fox–the thinker who knows many little things, draws from an eclectic array of traditions, and is better able to improvise in response to changing events–is more successful in predicting the future than the hedgehog, who knows one big thing, toils devotedly within one tradition, and imposes formulaic solutions on ill-defined problems. He notes a perversely inverse relationship between the best scientific indicators of good judgement and the qualities that the media most prizes in pundits–the single-minded determination required to prevail in ideological combat.
Clearly written and impeccably researched, the book fills a huge void in the literature on evaluating expert opinion. It will appeal across many academic disciplines as well as to corporations seeking to develop standards for judging expert decision-making.

Robert Heller has more. New Yorker Review Google.

The Boy Who Couldn’t Find 8 x 7

Karin Klein:

What struck me was that the reasons why Johnny can’t do algebra in L.A. today are remarkably similar to why Johnny Patrello couldn’t do algebra almost four decades ago in Yonkers, N.Y.
Johnny and I were brought together by Mrs. Elizabeth Bukanz, the algebra teacher. Mrs. Bukanz wore her sandy hair in a frizzy French twist and her glasses on a chain. But she was gentle and smiling, and she had passion — at least for what she called “the beauty of algebra.” I, too, loved its perfect logic and tidy solutions, so unlike my messy teenage life.
But Johnny was deaf to algebra’s siren song. He was flunking, and Mrs. Bukanz hoped that if I used my study halls to tutor him, he might score at least 65% on the New York State Regents exam. Passing the exam allowed even failing students to move on to high school, which started in 10th grade; otherwise, Johnny would be left behind.

Via Joanne

Students in U.S. Could Use New Formulas

Tanya Caldwell:

As the Los Angeles Times’ Monday installment of “The Vanishing Class” series described, 35% of future elementary school instructors who studied at Cal State Northridge, the largest supplier of new teachers to the Los Angeles Unified School District, got Ds or Fs in their first college-level math class last year.
Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer has cited the “cumulative failure of our ability to teach math adequately in the public school system.”
William Schmidt, a professor at Michigan State University and executive director of its Third International Math and Science Study Research Center, was asked by The Times whether other countries have as much trouble finding adequately trained math teachers as the United States.

Calculating Beyond Their Years

Daniel de Vise:

Some Washington area high school students are pushing so far ahead in math courses that Advanced Placement, the widely accepted pinnacle of pre-collegiate study, no longer goes far enough.
More than 500 students in the Montgomery and Fairfax school systems, the region’s two largest, are taking multivariable calculus, a course traditionally taken by math majors in their second year of college — at least in the old days. That means the students have a full year of college-level calculus under their belt before they leave high school.

Carol Cartsensen’s Weekly Message

Carol Carstensen:

Parent Group Presidents:BUDGET FACTOID:
The district has a grant development section (funded entirely from the grants the district gets). The grant developer averages about $3 Million a year in external funding.
January 30th Meetings:
5 p.m. Performance & Achievement Committee (Shwaw Vang, chair):
UW Professor Adam Gamoran spoke to the Committee about his research on the effects that different grouping practices (heterogeneous or by ability) had on achievement of various groups of students. He also provided information about the elements that should be in place so that teachers can successfully differentiate curriculum for the individual needs of students. There will be second meeting on this topic on Monday, Feb. 6.
6 p.m. Special Board Meeting:
The Board began discussing each of the recommendations from the two Long Range Planning Task Forces. No action was taken. The administration was asked to prepare questions for a possible referendum in April. This discussion will continue on Feb. 13.
February 6th MEETINGS : (these will be in McDaniels auditorium and televised on Channel 10)
5 p.m. Finance & Operations Committee (Johnny Winston Jr., chair): report on the $100 Budget exercise; presentation explaining the status of construction costs for repairs, remodeling and building.
6 p.m. Performance & Achievement Committee (Shwaw Vang, chair)
Further presentations on heterogeneous grouping a look at what is occurring in the district. Public Appearances will be after the presentations.
7:15 p.m Regular Board Meeting:
February 13 (televised)
5 p.m. Special Board Meeting continued discussion about the recommendations from the 2 Task Forces.
Sorry for the cold weather I was hoping for more snow though.
Carol Carstensen, President Madison School Board
“Until lions have their own historians, the hunters will always be glorified.” – African Proverb

As Children Go to School, Parents Tag Along on the Web

Katharine Goodloe:

When Brenda Peterson’s 17-year-old son, Matthew, comes home and asks for more lunch money, she’s able to log into an online system at Hartford Union High School that shows just how many cheese fries, Little Debbie snacks and cookies he’s downed lately.
Looking at that list has prompted Peterson to sit her son down and say, “Hey, you have to make better choices,” she said.
At West Bend’s Badger Middle School, teacher Jessica Gieryn e-mails about 75 parents each Monday, outlining forthcoming assignments and project due dates.
Although West Bend doesn’t expect to have a district-wide system for online grades until next year, Gieryn has been sending her informal list for four years, and the number of parents wanting the information grows steadily, she said.
Not only do the notes cut down on phone calls – most parents e-mail her instead – they also put students on alert. Some complain that parents know details of a big project the moment kids arrive home from school, or that parents have printed out study guides for them to memorize, she said.
“It definitely does change expectations,” Gieryn said.

Sun Prairie Finalizes Three High School Referenda Questions

Gena Kittner:

The first question would be if the district should build one high school, which could be expanded, for 1,400 students on the city’s east side, said board President Mary Ellen Havel- Lang.
The other two possible questions would be if the district should build a bigger gym than what’s proposed in the new high school and if the auditorium should be built so that it could be turned into a performing arts center, she said.

Sun Priarie School District site.

And, For Perfect Attendance, Johnny Gets a Car

Pam Belluck:

Attendance at Chelsea High School had hovered at a disappointing 90 percent for years, and school officials were determined to turn things around. So, last fall they decided to give students in this poverty-stung city just north of Boston a little extra motivation: students would get $25 for every quarter they had perfect attendance and another $25 if they managed perfect attendance all year.
“I was at first taken a little aback by the idea: we’re going to pay kids to come to school?” said the principal, Morton Orlov II. “But then I thought perfect attendance is not such a bad behavior to reward. We are sort of putting our money where our mouth is.”

Taking Control of Restless Energy

Susan Troller:

Students at Lowell Elementary School are learning better ways to release pent-up energy than by kicking a desk or taking a poke at a classmate.
Through an innovative series of exercises designed to link body movement to breathing to a calm and focused mind, students and teachers, as well as some entire families, are finding an alternative to the restless energy that creates conflict and disrupts classrooms.
“The 3S Smart Learning System is transforming,” said Elisabeth Phillips, a special education teacher at Lowell who has been instrumental in developing the yoga-like program at Lowell.

State of Education: Who Makes the Grade?

Kavan Peterson:

Schools spend fewer dollars per student in Utah than in any other state, but more fourth-graders there improved reading and math scores over the past decade than in more than half of the states.
Maine, for example, spends nearly twice as much on a comparable student population — $9,300 a student vs. $4,800 in Utah. But fewer Maine fourth-graders improved their math scores — and their reading scores actually declined in the past decade.
Both states ranked just above the national average on 2005 national reading and math tests, known as the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. But Utah stands out for its success in boosting the number of students to pass the tests since 1992, the first year of state-by-state NAEP testing, despite ranking dead last for spending.
State by State Test Scores and Per Pupil Spending (.xls)

UPDATE: a reader emails:

The relevant comparison to make on the data on school funding and NAEP scores is Minnesota versus Wisconsin. We have a somewhat higher level of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, over 10% higher funding per pupil and lower NAEP scores.

Reader Reed Schneider on Curriculum and School Boards

Reed Schneider emails on recent posts regarding a School Board’s role in curriculum policy:

I agree that the school board should be responsible for the district’s curriculum. In fact, it is the most important thing they are charged with. 10 or more years ago, before widespread internet availability, the non-edu-estab person on a board would have the excuse that it would be impossible for them to know which curricula works. All decisions would be deferred to the so-called experts. That excuse doesn’t work any more. Any board member can now go to and discover opinion and independent research showing programs like Reading Recovery and balanced Literacy have serious flaws. They can go to and discover that math programs recommended by the NCTM like Everyday Math fail our children.
Even if the board becomes involved, it will take board members willing to do this. Just because they become involved with curriculum will not automatically mean they will critically evaluate administrators recommendations. Far too often they simply rubber stamp what the curriculum specialist puts in front of them.
The parents and tax payers are the only ones with the power to change this. A good question at a board candidate’s forum would be: “What is your opinion of reading or math programs based on constructivist theory?” If they don’t understand the question, can’t answer, hem and haw, or embrace it, don’t vote for them. It’s really that simple.

Nutritionist campaigning against junk food

Anne Wallace Allen:

Stephanie Rose walked into the lunchroom of the Idaho Falls High School with a homemade chart and tallied what she found: Canisters of potato chips. Heaps of candy. Cellophane-wrapped cakes. High-caffeine sports drinks.
Twelve percent of the foods offered by the district a la carte program were granola or cereal bars, fruits, vegetables, or low-fat chips or pretzels. The other 88 percent included nachos, corn dogs, chips and cookies.
“For 25 cents you can buy 310 calories,” said Rose, a nurse and diabetes educator who attended Idaho Falls High in the 1980s, when she had to take a helping of beans on her plate whether she wanted them or not.
These days, the school promotes “Corn dogs: two for a dollar,” she says. “Good Lord, what are you trying to do here?”

UW Health Nutritionist Marcy Braun participated in a recent Forum on Nutrition and Schools audio / video

February Math Events

  • Hamilton Middle School [Map] is hosting a Math Night, Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 7:00p.m., evidently designed for parents of children attending that school this fall.
  • Rafael Gomez is organizing a Forum on Middle School Math Curriculum Wednesday evening, February 22, 2006 at the Doyle Administration Building (McDaniels Auditorium) [Map] from 7:00 to 8:00p.m. Participants include:

Leopold: Add on or Build New School in Fitchburg?

Sandy Cullen:

The Madison School District should purchase land now for a future school in Fitchburg, rather than build an addition on crowded Leopold Elementary School, School Board member Lawrie Kobza said.
But in the interim, that would likely mean Fitchburg students who now attend Leopold would be reassigned to Lincoln and Midvale schools, where space is now available.
The proposal differs from the recommendations of a task force that was assembled to address crowding problems in the West and Memorial high school attendance areas. The task force advised building an addition at Leopold, which has dealt with crowding for five of the last six years.
School Board President Carol Carstensen said she supports that idea, adding that members of the task force considered building a school in Fitchburg but felt an immediate solution was needed.
We are facing a real crisis at Leopold. It’s not only a space crisis,” Carstensen said, adding the Leopold community’s support for the district is also at risk.
A referendum to build a second elementary school adjacent to Leopold failed last year.

Swan Creek Petitions to Leave the MMSD

Fitchburg’s Swan Creek subdivision petitioned recently to leave the Madison School District. [Map] A reader emails that Swan Creek currently has 21 students in the MMSD. Links:

5 pages from the petition [1.1mb pdf] Wisconsin Statutes: [106K PDF]
UPDATE: A reader wondered recently what the mileage differences might be between Swan Creek and schools in the MMSD or Oregon*.

  • High Schools: Madison West 7 miles [map] or Oregon High School 7 miles [map]
  • Middle Schools: Cherokee 7.2 miles [map], Oregon’s Rome Corner’s Intermediate 7.7 miles [map] or Oregon Middle School 8.3 miles [map]
  • Elementary Schools: Leopold 3.5 miles [map], Lincoln 4 miles [map], Midvale 8.2 miles [map]. Oregon: Prairie View Elementary 6.7 miles [map] Netherwood Elementary 6.7 miles [map] Brooklyn Elementary School 13 miles [map]

* Obviously, the pickup route and traffic conditions determine the actual travel time, given similar distances.

Regular computer users perform better in key school subjects, OECD study shows

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development):

The relationship with student performance in mathematics is striking. Students who have used computers for several years mostly perform better than average. By contrast, those who don’t have access to computers or who have been using computers for only a short time tend to lag behind their class year.
According to the OECD study, students who had been using computers for less than one year (10% of the total sample) scored well below the OECD average. By contrast, students who had been using computers for more than five years (37% of the total sample) scored well above the OECD average.

Via the Economist. My view on this, fwiw, is that we need to get the curriculum right first, then apply technology where it makes sense.

New York City Eliminates Whole Milk from The Menu

David Herszenhorn:

For generations of children, a serving of whole milk, customarily in a red and white carton, has been as synonymous with school as a yellow No. 2 pencil. When President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Program into law in 1946, a half pint of milk was one of five dietary staples required by the bill.
But children today are fat, or at least too many of them are, and to cut the risks of obesity, diabetes and other health problems, New York City — the nation’s largest school district — has decided to cut whole milk from the menu.
That feat, no small one in a system that serves a half-million half pints of milk a day, is already under way, with whole milk banished from cafeterias in the Bronx and in Manhattan. To the ire of the dairy industry, which has lobbied fiercely against the change, the other boroughs are following suit and, by the end of this month, officials say, whole milk will be gone for good.

Why Education is Productive, A Parable of Men and Beasts

Tyler Cowen:

We know the paradox. Education improves earnings but most formal schooling appears to be a waste of time. Many economists claim that education is mostly a means of signaling quality.
I view education as a self-commitment to being a more productive kind of person. Education is about self-acculturation.
Men are born beasts. But education gives you a peer group, a self-image, and some skills as well. Getting an education is like becoming a Marine. Men need to be made into Marines. By choosing many years of education, you are telling yourself that you stand on one side of the social divide. The education itself drums that truth into you.

Oregon Kids Getting Heavier

Tim Fought:

Because Oregon kids are growing out faster than they are growing up, public schools must get students exercising and remove the temptation of junk food, child advocates say.
Nearly one in four Oregon children meet the definition of overweight or obese, in adult terms, according to the annual Kids Count report.
It said this is part of a national trend: More than twice as many children and three times as many adolescents are overweight today than was the case 30 years ago.
The leader of the group that issues the report, Children First for Oregon, said overweight children are part of an epidemic.

Change and the Five C’s

Seat 1 Madison School Board Candidate Maya Cole:

This election is about change. I want to see a Board that embraces change as a way to focus our limited resources on quality education for all kids.
I, for one, would like to see our Board work out of the box and get to a point where they are governing instead of bounding from issue to issue. We have an annual budget cycle. We need to look at a budget cycle of three to five years. The budget comes up every year and every year we talk about cuts to strings, cuts to janitorial services, cuts to art and physical education.
Let’s revisit a commentary by Peter Hutchinson, president of the Public Strategies Group Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota in Education Week in 1997.

I’m actively supporting Maya Cole’s Candidacy.

Students and Teachers, from K to 12 Hit the Podcasts

Jeffrey Selingo, via reader Wade Waege:

THE subjects were typical for a seventh-grade classroom: a summary of a mealworm’s metamorphosis, strategies on improving memory and making studying easier and a story about a classroom candy thief.

But the discussions last fall at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, Wis., were not taking place only for their classroom to hear. They were recorded as part of a series of podcasts the students produced and syndicated over Apple’s iTunes music store.

“Their audience has moved to the entire world,” said Jeanne Halderson, one of two seventh-grade teachers at Longfellow who supervise the podcasts. “The students find that exciting. It’s a lot more motivating to write something that the whole world can hear, rather than just something for a teacher to put a grade on.”

Podcasting – posting an audio recording online that can be heard through a computer or downloaded to a mobile device like an iPod – is following blogs and online classes as yet another interactive technology catching on as a teaching tool. Currently, iTunes lists more than 400 podcasts from kindergarten through 12th-grade classes, while Yahoo has nearly 900 education-related podcasts. Some are produced by teachers wanting to reach other educators with teaching tips, while many are created by students, like the La Crosse seventh graders with their podcast, at

Wade mentioned that Apple is holding a free seminar on February 14 in Brookfield, 2006 on Education and Podcasting.

Take Home Test, Week 2

Isthmus continues their quite useful take home test with two interesting questions for the candidates:

  1. Beyond the nucleus of academic requirements and mandated services, what programs are essential to the district’s success and should be protected from budget cuts?
  2. As a student, what was your worst experience in school? As an adult, what lessons do you draw from it?
  3. What was the last book you gave as a gift to a family member or friend?

WisPolitics Lunch (2/3/2006): Mark Green and Scott Walker is hosting a lunch for Republican Gubernatorial candidates Mark Green and Scott Walker who are facing off to run against incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle this fall.
Cost is $15 for Madison Club members and $19 for non-members. Call Loretta to RSVP at the Madison Club, 608-255-4861.
This is perhaps one of the best local opportunities to question the candidates regarding their views of K-12 public financing, the achievement gap, the QEO and our state’s economy which supports our education system. Governor Doyle created a school finance task force several years ago, but did not implement any changes to the current regime.

Lack of Math, Science Teachers Prompt US Alarm

Ledyard King:

School systems scrambling to find qualified science teachers are trying to recruit him. He’s a prized commodity in Texas, where nearly a quarter of science classes in middle and high schools are taught by teachers without proper science credentials.
“You have to want to (teach). They’re not paying teachers like the glamorous research jobs,” said Sinski, who had thought he’d follow his parents’ footsteps and become a pharmacist. But “research science doesn’t appeal to me. It’s monotonous. Teaching exposes you to different faces and new and exciting things.”

Children, Media and Sex: A Big Book of Blank Pages

Jane Brody:

In last summer’s prize-winning R-rated film “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” a barely pubescent boy is seduced into oral sex by two girls perhaps a year older, and his 6-year-old brother logs on to a pornographic chat room and solicits a grown woman with instant messages about “poop.”
Is this what your teenage children are watching? If so, what message are they getting about sexual mores, and what effect will it have on their behavior?
The journal Pediatrics addressed the topic last July in a supplemental report, “Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors.” It is an important and, sad to say, much neglected subject. The report, based on a thorough review of scientific literature, was requested by Congress and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

UW-Madison Ranks as Top Producing Peace Corps Institution

Rachel Alkon:

Since the program’s inception in 1961, UW-Madison has produced thousands of volunteers. And today, for the 20th consecutive year, UW-Madison takes the top spot, with 104 volunteers currently serving in the field.
UW-Madison also ranks as the institution with the second highest number of volunteers with advanced degrees, with 18 alumni. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor earned the number spot in this category, with 22 volunteers.

The UW’s new website has an RSS feed.

The State of High School Education in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Wisconsins

Alan Borsuk on Phil McDade’s report for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute: [250K pdf]

“The growing performance gap is largely influenced by socioeconomic factors beyond the influence of schools,” McDade said. “Property wealth, poverty and race were found to affect student performance.”
The per-student spending difference was much smaller than the difference in test scores and actually was smaller in 2003-’04 than it was seven years earlier, leading McDade to conclude that increased spending would not be a key to closing the gap.
Even though the roots of the gap are in matters such as poverty, McDade suggested that policy makers consider steps to increase academic performance of high school students, including stronger graduation requirements, tougher admissions standards to University of Wisconsin campuses and increased emphasis on sending more high school graduates to college.

According to the report, Madison High Schools (along with Verona, Middleton-Cross Plains, Wisconsin Heights, Monticello, Monona Grove and Waunakee) were in the top 10% based on 1996-1997 WKCE results in. However, they (Madison) were no longer present in the top 10% based on 2003/2004 results (Deerfield, Dodgeville, Middleton-Cross Plains, McFarland, Waunakee and Verona were in the top 10% based on the 2003/2004 data).

“Lessons From Privately Managed Schools”

Can professional business management practices improve the performance of troubled public schools? Several high-visibility projects have been undertaken to bring best management practices to the classroom, including Harvard’s Public Education Leadership Project. But in the 1990s, a different approach was begun: Riding a wave of charter school legislation, for-profit and nonprofit startups called private education management organizations, or EMOs, were created, essentially private companies brought in to manage public schools
The result? Mixed, but promising, says Steven F. Wilson, a senior fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Wilson was founder and former CEO of one of those EMOs, Advantage Schools, which at its height had 10,000 students in its programs. He writes of his experiences in a new book, Learning on the Job: When Business Takes on Public Schools, published by Harvard University Press.

The “Intelligence of 11 Year Olds has Fallen by 3 Years Worth in the Past Two Decades

The Sunday Times:

For a decade we’ve been told that our kids, just as they seem to be getting taller with each generation, are also getting brighter. Every year new waves of children get better GCSE, A-level and degree results than their predecessors. Meanwhile, in primary schools, the standards in national maths and English tests at 11 head in one direction — relentlessly upwards.
Last week came the bombshell that blew a gaping hole in this one-way escalator of achievement.
Far from getting cleverer, our 11-year-olds are, in fact, less “intelligent” than their counterparts of 30 years ago. Or so say a team who are among Britain’s most respected education researchers.
In the easiest question, children are asked to watch as water is poured up to the brim of a tall, thin container. From there the water is tipped into a small fat glass. The tall vessel is refilled. Do both beakers now hold the same amount of water? “It’s frightening how many children now get this simple question wrong,” says scientist Denise Ginsburg, Shayer’s wife and another of the research team.
Another question involves two blocks of a similar size — one of brass, the other of plasticine. Which would displace the most water when dropped into a beaker? children are asked. Two years ago fewer than a fifth came up with the right answer.

Scientific Brain Linked to Autism


He believes the genes which make some analytical may also impair their social and communication skills.
A weakness in these areas is the key characteristic of autism.
It is thought that around one child in every 100 has a form of autism – the vast majority of those affected are boys.
The number of diagnoses seems to be on the increase, but some argue this is simply because of a greater awareness of the condition.
In a paper published in the journal Archives of Disease of Childhood ($), Professor Baron-Cohen labels people such as scientists, mathematicians and engineers as ‘systemizers’.

NCES: “Status & Trends in the Education of Blacks”

National Center for Education Statistics:

Status and Trends in the Education of Blacks draws on the many statistics published by NCES in a variety of reports and synthesizes these data in one compact volume. In addition to indicators drawn from existing government reports, some indicators were developed specifically for this report. The objective of this report is to make statistical information about the educational status of Blacks easily accessible to a variety of audiences.

Bloomberg’s Partnership for Teacher Education

NYC Department of Education:

Supported by a $15 million four-year grant from the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, the Partnership will address New York City’s need for highly qualified, well-trained teachers who will immediately be able to excel in the City’s public schools.
Through an unprecedented collaboration among K-12 educators and higher education faculty in education and the arts and sciences, the Partnership plans innovations in how pre-service teachers–students who are receiving formal education but have not yet become full-time teachers–are taught and by whom; how they first learn the craft of teaching, and how they continue to develop teaching skill throughout their careers. The Partnership will demonstrate how teacher education can be responsive to the City’s most pressing needs, how learning what to teach and learning how to teach can better come together, and how beginning teachers can be ready from the start to work effectively in urban classrooms.

Five Rules for Florida School Reform

Florida Governor Jeb Bush:

This year, Florida will introduce the largest reform package since the sweeping changes we made in 1999.
These reforms include differentiated pay and performance-based pay for teachers to attract and retain talented educators in critical subject areas, encourage them to teach in economically challenged schools and reward them for improving student performance.
Our proposed reforms will bring rigor and relevance to middle schools by requiring students in grades six through eight to earn 12 credits in math, science, language, arts and social studies for promotion to high school, and requiring those who cannot read at grade level to get reading instruction.
We’re also looking to revamp high schools to better prepare students for the future and for postsecondary education by creating career academies, where students can major or minor in math and science, or fine arts, or on career and vocational skills, depending on their goals and interests. The goal is for students to graduate knowing what they want to do with their lives, so they leave school armed with college credits toward their goal or, if they choose a vocational route, with certified skills for a specific industry.

Schools of Hope Needs More Math Tutors

Sandy Cullen:

Expanding on its efforts to increase the reading skills of elementary school students, the Schools of Hope project led by the United Way of Dane County also is focusing on helping middle school students develop the math skills needed to be successful in high school, college, employment and daily life.
Since the Madison School Board adopted the goal that all students would complete algebra by the end of ninth grade and geometry by the end of 10th grade, the option of taking less rigorous classes, such as general or consumer math, has disappeared.
All high school students are now required to take algebra and geometry – or two credits of integrated mathematics, combining algebra, statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry – in order to graduate.
“These are really gate-keeping courses and skills,” said Mary Ramberg, the district’s director of teaching and learning. She added that without them, students “will have a lot of options closed.”

Rafael Gomez is organizing a Forum on Math Curriculum Wednesday evening, February 22, 2006 at McDaniels Auditorium. Look for more information soon.

School Transfer Limit Ends

Amy Hetzner:

As state politicians and interest groups argue over whether to lift the enrollment cap in Milwaukee’s voucher school program, the cap in another school choice initiative is quietly slated to expire.
Under state law, the 2006-’07 school year will be the first time in Wisconsin’s open enrollment public school choice program in which school districts will be unable to control the number of students leaving their boundaries if they exceed a certain portion of their enrollment.
The provision, which had been in effect since open enrollment began in 1998, was used by at least 10 school districts to limit potential monetary losses in the current school year, according to figures from the state Department of Public Instruction. They include districts such as Florence, which faced possible dissolution this year before voters bailed out the financially ailing school system, and Palmyra-Eagle on the outskirts of the metropolitan Milwaukee area.

New Accounting Rule Shifts Retirement Costs

Avrum Lank:

For unions representing teachers and other government employees, the fine print is making it harder to negotiate improvements in benefits such as retiree health insurance.
“It certainly made my life more complex,” said Michael McNett, director of collective bargaining for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union.
For the Port Edwards School District, which has an annual budget of $6.1 million and 90 employees, the rule will mean an additional expense of about $120,000 a year – about the cost of employing two teachers , said Superintendent Michael W. Alexander.

Interesting Madison School District Budget Notes

A reader emailed this interesting MMSD budget item. The land and buildings around East Towne Mall are not in the MMSD, according to the district’s map.

Fitchburg contributed $10,030,120 or 5% [Fitchburg City Budget PDF] to the MMSD’s $200,363,255 total Tax Levy (total MMSD 2005/2006 budget is $321+M [includes funds redistributed via other means such as income, gas and other taxes/fees from state and federal organizations]); see the 2005-2006 Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption [PDF].

The Vanishing Class: Why Does High School Fail So Many?

Mitchell Landsberg:

On a September day 4 1/2 years ago, nearly 1,100 ninth-graders — a little giddy, a little scared — arrived at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. They were fifth-generation Americans and new arrivals, straight arrows and gangbangers, scholars and class clowns.
On a radiant evening last June, 521 billowing figures in royal blue robes and yellow-tasseled mortarboards walked proudly across Birmingham’s football field, practically floating on a carpet of whoops and shouts and blaring air horns, to accept their diplomas.
It doesn’t take a valedictorian to do the math: Somewhere along the way, Birmingham High lost more than half of the students who should have graduated.
It is a crucial question, not just for Birmingham but for all American schools.
High school dropouts lead much harder lives, earn far less money and demand vastly more public assistance than their peers who graduate.

Lucy Mathiak posted MMSD dropout data, including those who showed high achievement during their elementary years.

Wanting Better Schools, Parents Seek Secession

Randal Archibold:

Ladera Heights, an unincorporated community of about 8,000 people, has for decades belonged to the school district in adjacent Inglewood, a decidedly poorer, predominantly black and Latino city whose schools have struggled academically and financially.
A group of Ladera Heights residents, many of whom have pulled their children out of Inglewood schools in favor of private ones, want their neighborhood assigned to the school district in Culver City, a more racially mixed, more affluent community than Inglewood.

Carol Carstensen’s Weekly Update

Parent Group Presidents:
The district’s contract settlement with MTI for this year and next are 3.98% and 3.97% package increases. This is below the state average (about 4.5%), below the average for large districts and below the average for Dane County districts.
Jan 23rd Meetings:
5 p.m. Special Board Meeting:
The Board discussed the status of contracts for administrators but took no action. The administration has already proposed reducing 4 administrative positions next year.
6 p.m. Long Range Planning Committee Meeting (Bill Keys, chair):
The Committee received the reports and final recommendations from the East Area and the Memorial/West Areas Task Forces. The recommendations are as follows: East Area recommendations:
Do not close schools
2. Move Affiliated Alternatives to Marquette/O’Keeffe
3. Move MSCR to Emerson
4. Change the middle school feeder pattern to move either Emerson or Hawthorne students to O’Keeffe.
5. Move the undeveloped land near the intersection of Milwaukee St. and Fair Oaks to the East Area.
6. Possible boundary changes affecting the 4 schools on the north side (Gompers, Lakeview, Lindbergh and Mendota).
Memorial/West recommendations:
1. Build an addition onto Leopold and build a new school on the far west side.

Continue reading Carol Carstensen’s Weekly Update

Sweden Pays Teachers for Performance


Sweden did: ($$):

In Sweden the fixed pay scheme for teachers was abolished in the mid-1990s as part of an agreement designed to enhance local autonomy and flexibility in the school system. The government committed itself to substantially raise teacher salaries over a five-year period, but on the condition that not all teachers received the same increase. There is accordingly no fixed upper limit and only a minimum basic salary is centrally negotiated, along with the aggregate rise in the teacher salary bill. Salaries are negotiated when a teacher is hired and teacher and employer agree on the salary to be paid upon commencement of the term of employment. Teachers’ work roles and performance are considered in the negotiation and linked to the pay. There is now much greater variety in teachers’ pay, with those in areas of shortage and with higher demonstrated performance able to negotiate more.

It may seem strange that a social democracy so willing to limit economic freedom would embrace market-oriented reform of teacher pay. But according to this, Swedish policymakers concluded that “an expansion and improved quality of social services could not be accomplished without improving the efficiency in the public sector.” And the unions agreed, “in order to improve salaries and working conditions.”

Too often in America, we are forced to choose between destroying the public sector and preserving its every bad feature. But this guy was on to something. There is, well, a third way. And it’s a little sad when Sweden is working harder to find it than we are.

Proposal Would Send All Swan Creek Students to Lincoln

Kurt Gutknecht:

The plan advanced by Jerry Eykholt, a member of the task force studying ways to deal with overcrowding at schools on in west side of the Madison school district, would move students to Lincoln Elementary School.
Eykholt drafted the proposal in response to a letter signed by 185 households in Swan Creek who opposed moving students from Leopold.
One of the proposals had recommended moving Swan Creek students to Midvale and Lincoln elementary schools. Eykholt?s proposal would move them only to Lincoln, thereby reducing the length of the bus ride, which he said would address one of the major concerns of the residents.
Previous proposals would move elementary students to Lincoln (grades 3 through 5) and Midvale (grades K through 2). His proposal would require Lincoln to offer all elementary grades.
Eykholt called Lincoln “a very nurturing environment” that provided an exceptional level of assistance to students, a consequence of the district?s efforts to serve students from low-income families.

Internet Wake-up Call for Parents

Amy Hetzner:

In the crowded media center at West High School on Thursday night, Special Agent Erik Szatkowski led parents to what he considers manna for sexual predators: an online site where adolescents post their pictures, interests and other tidbits about themselves.

On the Web site, which describes itself as “a community of online diaries and journals,” Szatkowski introduced his audience to 14-year-old Katie, who likes “The O.C.,” and 14-year-old Brooke, who posted a photo of herself on her page. He also found a 12-year-old Milwaukee boy who boasted: “I’m a b-ball player. I’m a sexy beast. I’m a ladies man.”

Seeking A’s in a Few More Zzzz’s

Maria Glod:

At 6:20, the bus pulled up, and Carly was on her way to Robinson Secondary School.
Carly, an eighth-grader who complains she’s frequently groggy during early-morning classes, said she would prefer it if school “started at 8:30 and ended at 3.”
“I wake up because of all the people” in class, she said. “But I’m still tired.”

30 Years of Clout: MTI’s John Matthews & the ’76 Teacher’s Strike

Susan Troller:

The key architect behind that transformation was the tough young executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., John Matthews, who had come to Madison eight years earlier from Montana.
Thirty years later, Matthews is still tough and, more than ever, still casts a powerful shadow across the public education landscape of Madison as a tireless and relentless advocate for teachers. With Matthews at the helm, MTI has remained a dominant force in education and labor.

Former Madison Mayor (currently with Epic Systems – Verona) Paul Soglin weighs in as well.

In Public Schools, The Name game as a Donor Lure

Tamar Lewin:

Next fall, a stunning $55 million high school will open on the edge of Fairmount Park here. For now, it is called the School of the Future, a state-of-the-art building with features like a Web design laboratory and a green roof that incorporates a storm-water management system. But it may turn out to be the school of the future in another sense, too: It is a public school being used to raise a lot of private money.