All posts by Mary Battaglia

Middle School Report Cards Continues

Several parents from Jefferson Middle School have been meeting with Dr. Nerad and administrators to discuss the evolution of the standards based report cards in Middle School.
After much research on my part, it is clear standard based report cards are the “new” thing and a result of NCLB. It is easily adaptable at the elementary school, but very FEW school districts have implemented these changes in the middle school and in the high school it is almost nonexistent due to the difficulty adapting them for college entrance. It seems the goal of standard based report cards from the NCLB legistation is to make sure teachers teach the standards. It is kind of backwards that way but many teachers feel it makes sure they cover all the required standards.
Our local concerns and response from district include:

  1. Infinite Campus, which was up and running last year is no longer functioning for middle school students.
    Their response: Yes there are problems and we have provided training but the staff have not taking us up on the paid training made available.
    My response: If you are going to implement a change, since when is it optional to learn a new system the district is implementing. My daughter has no grades, assignments, or anything on IC accept the final grade. When asked if this will be mandatory in the future I was told we have no idea and we can’t promise that it will be. It is clear after two meetings and several discussion with Lisa Wachtel that IC will not accommodate standards based grading. Basically elementary students will never be up. She projected 5 years and the middle school while up it is not easy to use the grade book for a program designed for 100% grading. I am only left to believe 2/3 of MMSD students will not benefit from a potentially good way for parents to stay informed about their students progress, grades, test, assignments, etc…..

  2. While some areas are better (Language Arts, Spanish, PE) evaluation includes written, oral,as well as comprehension for the languages, and for PE it includes evaluation for knowledge, skill, and effort.
    In Math my child made a 4 on Content 1, 2 on Content 2, 1 on Content 3, and a 3 on Content 4. She received a cummulitative grade of D. When I add 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 and divide by 4 it equals 2.5 which is not a D. After much research I found out each area is weighted different which is not explained on the report card. I also asked and it required much investigation to find out what each content area (1,2,3,4) was evaluating. She clearly understands one of them and has poor understanding in the one weighed higher but I had no idea what they were as they were only labelled by a number.
    Administration response: Math is a problem we are working on.

I accept with many reservations that we are doing standards based reporting for middle school students. I am angry that the district picked Infinite Campus at about the same time they were discussing going to Standards Based Report cards and did not realize 2/3 of the students will not benefit from IC. I am also upset that a pilot of the middle school report card was not conducted with staff, parents and student input. At Jefferson the staff feel under trained, overwhelmed and as though this was pushed down their throats. It says to me the staff were not consulted. When the staff person that was in charge of training the rest of the staff at Jefferson is not even using the I.C. it says a lot about the implementation of the middle school reporting. As far as standards based report cards moving to high school for MMSD, this would be very difficult. Not just due to college entrance but because MMSD high schools do not have standards to base the report cards upon.

Best and worst Public schools rating
The most interesting part of this evaluation is the continued poor rating our standards receive. Those lovely standards we are basing our new middle school report cards upon. Otherwise Wisconsin stacks up pretty well.

Middle School Report Cards Future?

I just received an e-mail from a parent stating the Middle School report cards are converting to the elementary format of 1 – 4 and they are dropping the A – F grading system. She spoke to Lisa Wachtel, Head of Teaching and Learning to confirm that this is the direction the district is headed.
DO any of you have any info on this? They claim it is on the website but other than the Standards Base System info, which is pretty general I can not locate this info. This greatly concerns me if it is true.
Related: Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards.

On Madison Boundary Changes

Dear Board,
As the opening of a new school is coming close, I was surprised to some extent that the plans were changed with such a short amount of time left before the new year.
So………..I dug up my West Side Long Term Planning Binder and reviewed all the data presented to us, as a member of that committee, and remembered the HOURS we spent debating and reviewing the pros and cons of each plan. I believe this is a very hard process and I am sad it is being altered at this late date.
I think one thing many of us felt on the Long Range Planning Committee was even with the new school and addition to Leopold we did not devise a Long Term Plan. My #1 suggestion to the board would be to revisit the plan of “making the map look better” and balancing the income levels but TO MAKE IT A LONG TERM plan and say in 6 years this is what we are going to do. (and stick to it) I think when you spring it on families that in a few months Johnny has to switch schools, we parents are too invested and comfortable with the school and protest the change. But if a 6 Year Plan was in place with some options to start at the new school, grandfather for a couple of years the protest would be great but families would have lots of time to accept the change and deal with it. It would also be a LONG TERM PLAN.

Continue reading On Madison Boundary Changes

High School Small Communities

I noticed the district is applying for a grant to the BOE in relation to the High School Small Communities. I have a couple of thoughts relating to this issue.
First of all, I applaud your effort in making our large high school more intimate. It seem in an emotional way logical that the high school would be divided into smaller communities to allow for connectiveness.
The funny thing is, as I celebrate my 25th year since I was in high school this year, I look back and see this same thing occurred back in my day. It was called clubs, athletics, and band.
High schools have been a breeding ground for fun, involvement, participation and community building. MMSD has been cutting this very foundation you are asking for a grant to “Create through artificial means” since I moved here in 2000. The non-academic athletics, the non-essential music, the unnecessary theater and arts have been cut, cut and cut some more. I understand the need for cutting and you can’t cut curriculum, but now we are going to create the “connectivity” artificially.
My son loves sports. He matriculates to others like him. He has met kids from Toki, Hamilton, Spring Harbor and even private school from sports. If you ask him where he wants to go to High School next year he will tell you Memorial to play BB or some other sport. He has a strong since of community based on his interest.
My daughter loves the arts. Drawing, acting, and especially singing. If you ask her where she wants to go to high school she will tell you Memorial because she has seen several plays there and want to participate in the drama club. She is also a pretty good swimmer and has senior role models on Memorial Swim Team.
Neither will say Memorial because the Math is great! They already have established a type of community through their interest, as we did as kids. It is so sad that NONE of the MMSD schools have a marching band, as that club can involve hundreds of students and attach them to a community of students of all ages and interest through music. Instead we are trying to create the communities randomly, via what a computer, that does not account for interest.
It is also sad we are cutting our athletics slowly but surely. This year it is the AD at the High School Level. I heard the BOE at MMSD was unwilling to raise the fees to allow these actives that provide a community for low, middle and high income students. Since many of you do not have children participating in sports let me clue you in on a few things.

Continue reading High School Small Communities

High School Redesign Notes

As Arlene has reached out to the community for suggestions about the Redesign of the high schools, let me share a couple of thoughts:

  1. It’s too late. The students that are behind in 5th grade rarely catch up. The 2/3 combinations are by far the worst academic combination for elementary students, yet we continue this practice to save money, and to save SAGE. I understand the pull out combination system is a great way to deal with cost and transient students….but does it really help? Can’t we negotiate with the Union to allow 4 year kindergarten? This is really annoying that we have to bow to the Union for the sacrifice of the lower income students.
  2. The middle school years has a great resource of teachers. My children have had teachers that felt students are undergoing hormonal warfare and felt they should teach less so as not to upset the students. As I quote a teacher my child had in a “Charlie Brown teachers voice”, “Less is more and as long as they learn a couple of concepts during the year I feel I have done my job”. This fortunately is not the normal approach my children have received. Most of the Jr. High teachers have been focused on preparing the students for Memorial. I wonder if this is the model for most of the Jr. High Schools throughout the district?
  3. The district currently has the highest number of National Merit Scholar graduates in the state, I would assume we send hundred of students to college each year and those that are from higher income families do well. I wonder if the problem is less racial gap and not more economic gap. Please follow the link to the following Newsweek article released by the North Carolina Democratic Party…. This is an article about how North Carolina kept their struggling students, drop out prone students and low income students engaged in high school by offering them an option to attend a local community college (MATC) and receive not only their HS diploma upon graduation but also an associate degree in an area of interest so that staying in school had meaning….and graduating means getting a real job. Currently all we can offer students that graduate from high school is they will have a diploma and they can essentially get the same jobs in this area with or without that diploma….with an associates degree they can make more than their teachers in computer repair, Xerox repair, IT, health associate degrees and others. Please think about raising the standards and the options for the struggling students, not lowering the standards for the top tier students. This IDEA and a proven method could benefit the entire community and raise the standard of living for lower income families. Please read this article.

To Voting Madison Citizens

I didn’t vote for the Leopold referendum last spring, and I still believe that was the correct vote. If the community had voted to build a second school on Leopold then we would not have the opportunity for the community to vote “Yes” on this referendum, which I believe is a better financial and long term solution for our growth. When I was asked to participate on the Westside Long Range Planning Task Force, I was determined to find a better solution for our district than building another school.
I approached this job with study and concentration, as did many of the Task Force participants. In my effort to not build a new school I looked at shifting students East, shifting South, moving 5th graders to middle school, and moving neighborhoods to other schools and in the end I found it was more than just filling seats. The shifts made equity uneven. One shift created a school with less than 5 % low income while others were closer to 70%. Other shifts still left some schools too full because the seats were not where the growth is coming from. Some shifts worked but only for two years. After many hours of discussion and shifting, it became clear that we could shift students if we wanted to; split neighborhoods, shift them again in two years, create schools of inequity, provide 100’s of students with a bus ride of 45 minutes or more each way, and change our classroom quality so that teachers no longer had classrooms but carts that they moved from room to room (Art and Music Teachers). When we thought about those options, none of us wanted it for our own children or grandchildren and we believed that for $30 a year, others in the community would prefer that their children and grandchildren not be handed one of these options either. There are other options, but none with the long term solutions that the current referendum provides.

Continue reading To Voting Madison Citizens

Curious Social Development

My daughter is the “Mothering Type”. You know the kind. She still loves dolls beyond her friends, and loves pets, and she took the babysitting class as soon as possible so she could be around small children. She is always the person in the class the helps and socializes with the high needs kids in her classroom too. One day while I was volunteering at her school, a very nice mom of a high need autistic child was in her class, to discuss what she needed the students in this class to know. She discussed her child’s sensitivity to sound, high stimulation, and the need for calmness. During this discussion the students in the class discovered that this student had a sibling. A student inquired about this sibling and who’s class (teacher) he/she was in….

Continue reading Curious Social Development

Summer leisure and Drop-out Students

My 13 year old son was complaining the other day about how “hard” it was he had to get up and swim at 7 a.m. for his local swim club. (7 is a little early when it’s cold but…) He then complained about umpiring a Little League game because a coach yelled at him.
As a calm and understanding parent I lost my temper, “They created summer for farm children to get up at sun rise and pick corn, cotton, etc… and all you have to do is play sports and relax. I had to haul hay and clean rental homes for my dad, you need to work more that is your problem!” Which of course, as a parent I am completely guilty of making this life too easy for my children, and I will be correcting that problem next summer…my motto now is if they are bored give them a chore…….
Which reminded me of an idea I had when I was in high school, and again when I was teaching high school, and again when I recently read an article in Newsweek
In North Carolina there are several school districts that have an agreement with their local community colleges (MATC) that allows Junior and Senior students in high school to receive credits for both a skill and high school. When these students graduate they have a degree from High School and an associates degree in whatever interest them. WOW! That was my idea 20 year ago. I noticed when I was in high school that many of my friends and myself left school at 3:00 and went to work. Some were so interested in work and the skills they learned they left school to make money and pursue a more interesting skill.
We could reduce the drop out rate if we arranged a similar association with MATC for our students not bound for college. They would be ready for a job, have a diploma, and excited about their future. If they changed their mind they still have a H.S. degree and could go to college. 16 and 17 year olds get into trouble because they are bored….and they are bored because we wait until they are 18 to treat them as participants in society. We assume they are all interested in calculus and becoming lawyers, of course that is not true. Most other industrialized countries realize this and have created “prep” schools for those that will attend college. The great part about the N.C. plan is they will have a degree and can change their direction or mind to attend college, because 16 is a young age to decide your future, but at least they would have a skill to fall back on.
I remember how busy I was the last two years of high school, not studying but doing all kinds of activities, taking college courses, working a couple of jobs, and I was not even away from home yet. We need to advance these capable students forward to an area that interests them. Utilize their endless energy. Let’s look at this model and see if this would help resolve our gap, dropout rate and problem students for MMSD. We have the community college right here and plenty of educators…..this is an issue that should be discussed.

Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards

Ms. Abplanalp and MMSD District Staff (cc’d to the Board of Education),
I read with some confusion your letter [350K PDF] sent to all elementary school parents about the lack of measurable change in students marking period as too small to report to parents on their third quarter report cards.  
Here’s my confusion.  I have complained many times about the lack of communication from MMSD to parents concerning students grades or progress.  At the elementary level the “grade issue” seems to do with the lack of any measurable assessments.  While I know testing is a bad word in the education world I find it amusing that between the end of Jan. and beginning of April,  my two elementary students failed to have any measurable change in their grades.  My 7th grader had a full report card…..with grades and everything.  I’m old at 42, but we used to have report cards come home every 6 weeks. My parents could assess my progress rather well that way, and I got lots of candy from Grandma.  I accept the quarter system as being more practical but seriously…you can’t even accomplish quarterly reports.  
I am wondering why my two elementary students were sent home early on April 4th.  My tax dollars went to pay for what?…..four grades evaluated out of 31 (not including behavior grades).  The teachers spent the time to log onto the computers to tell me about one grade in reading and 3 in math.  My daughter who is in 5th grade tells me lots of social studies and science occurred from Jan. to April but I guess none was graded.  The paper work, the early release, the time spent logging on for four grades has to rank up there with the last day of school with the amount of  waste of tax payer money (last day is one and 1/2 hour of school with bus service and all). 

Continue reading Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards

Lawmakers Try to Expel Junk Food From Schools


Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation’s schools.
Dangerous weight is on the rise in kids. This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of obese and overweight kids has climbed to 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls. Four years ago, the number was 14 percent.
Lawmakers blame high-fat, high-sugar snacks that compete with nutritious meals in schools.
“Junk food sales in schools are out of control,” Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said Thursday. “It undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease.”

Elimination at Jr. High

My Jr. High student at Jefferson has been informed that there is a good chance his Family and Consumer Education (FCE) and his Technology classes will not be at Jeffferson next year. I have heard ramblings about foreign language being reduced at Jr. High level as well.
This is where I begin to think Public Schools are going to continue to lose students. My son would never choose to take a foreign language or FCE. He is my “jock” and the wonderful cultural and diverse information he is receiving from foreign L.A. and F.C.E are the reason we keep sending our kids to a public school. If the public offerings dwindle to nothing, why would we, a middle to high income family continue to send our children to public schools? If MMSD continues eliminate the diversity and class selection, they can continue to see the decrease in high income students. Money is required to offer these classes, however, if the extra-curricula activities and interesting diverse classes are eliminated, the district will deal with less students, higher numbers of low income students, and the continual decrease of middle and high income students. Many will not see the significance of these numbers, but it is significant as costs rise to educate students that demand more social and psychological needs. The district needs to evaluate the long term effects of eliminating these programs.

Tongue in Cheek Solution

I have noticed a movement about MMSD. There seems to be the following needs:
1. Make each grade/class the same across the district so that all
students have a equitable distribution of funds, resources, and knowledge. (Connected math, FOSS science, middle school curriculm, and West English)
2. Great concern from “legal” I assume that food, animals, and flammable paper present a hazard to the students and potentially invite a lawsuit. (pet proposal, upcoming food proposal to eliminate any homemade food in the school, and the fire code issue)
3. Boundary changes to solve growth and income disparity which causes financial stress on the district. (Task forces, failed referendum, spending cap)
So here’s the solution:

Continue reading Tongue in Cheek Solution

Task Force Insight

Dear Board,
While serving as a member on the Long Range Planning Committee for the West/Memorial Task Force I came to a few insights I would like to share.
Our charge was to seek solutions for the over-crowded schools in Memorial and Leopold attendance area as well as address the low income disparity throughout the area.

  • Overcrowding in Memorial – with current data and projected growth to be over 100% capacity in 5 of the elementary schools I believe the only solution to this problem is a new school. With the purchase of the far west land the board must believe this as well. This should be the number one priority of the growth solution for MMSD. There is space at Toki/Orchard Ridge and a few seats at Muir for this attendance area and additions could be made to Falk, or an update and expansion of Orchard Ridge/Toki could be made, but otherwise there is no room without changing programmatically.
  • Leopold overcrowding is much more complicated, as you know. This huge expansive slice of Madison and the entire city of Fitchburg attendance area has somehow become one elementary school. I do not support an addition to this school for many of the same reasons I did not like two schools on the same land. It is lots of seats in one part of town and you create problems for the future. If Shorewood or Crestwood had 1000 seats we would be busing kids from Fitchburg to that school because that’s where the space is. An addition without a new school means a principal, staff and others at this school are functioning like the other 4 – 5 hundred space schools but with double the students, is that fair to the staff of that school? Would you want to be the principal of 800 – 900 students? I would rather have a school in Fitchburg or south of the Beltline off of 14 to help Leopold and the Allis attendance area that currently is sent to the other side of Monona.
    There is space at Midvale/Lincoln, Randall, Shorewood,and there is 110 seats at Hamilton, 94 seats at Wright, and 118 seats at Cherokee. And of course the strange building of Hoyt that must have ghost or something since no one wants to touch it. There is space in West. The move of Leopold to Chavez is wrong minded since it shifts the West area problem to the overcrowded Memorial area.
    The Elephant in the Room throughout the entire Task Force was Midvale/Lincoln and the perceived lack of quality at that school. There is 75 seats at Lincoln and 62 seats at Midvale this year and each time the suggestion was made to shift students from Leopold to M/L it was met with distaste, (except for two apartment buildings of 30 students) as the memo from the Swan Creek neighborhood (see attachment) was an example. That memo, while it outraged me, is a glaring example why we can’t solve Leopold overcrowding (see memo [pdf] from Midvale Parent Jerry Eykholt to the Swan Creek Parents). On the task force Leopold was sent to Chavez, Randall/Franklin, Thoreau over and under M/L, but somehow those 137 seats at M/L seemed too far away. I think the district is failing Midvale/Lincoln.

Continue reading Task Force Insight

Attendance Task Force Update

Please see and click on the Long Range Planning section and view the updated options on this site. Or view the report that will be given to the BOE Monday evening. The W/M Task Force will have another meeting on Dec 20th and tweeking of the options may occur but many of us feel we have reached the near end. (Of course anything can happen so don’t hold me to that.) Also, the East Task Force Report for the BOE is available on the LRP site.

This is Not Your Grandchild’s Madison School District

While viewing the MMSD web site I came across some data called District data profile that suprised me, and answered some of my questions concerning low income disparity. While sitting on the task force, I have been bothered by the districts solution for dealing with high numbers of low income students by rearranging school boundaries and/or paring schools, and wondered if you really solved the disparity issue or if you shifted the issue to another school or something that would have to be solved at another time.
Madison school district low income percentages per 1991 – 2005.

East High 2005 – 2010 Elementary Projections (click to view a larger version) Memorial/West 2005 – 2010 Elementary Projections (click to view a larger version)

In 13 years, 1992 to 2005, MMSD low income percentage has gone from 24.6% to 42%.

  1. Has the definition of low income changed during this time period?
  2. Has the community as a whole really changed this much in 13 years?
    As a community member that hears and believes there is no low income housing, where do these people live if 42% of our community is now low income?

  3. We have lost 1000 elementary students in the same time period and doubled our minority students. Is this a wave of low births or are we losing students?

Middle School totals

  • In 1991 there were 4776 students with a 20.3% low income.
  • In 2005 there are 5297 students with a 38.6% low income.

High School totals

  • In 1991 there were 6435 students with a 12% low income.
  • In 2005 there are 8429 students with a 28% low income.

The question about pairing two schools and whether it improves low income percentage numbers over time was also in the data.

  • Lincoln in 1991 was at 51% low income, 1997 59%, and 2005 69%.
  • Midvale in 1991 was 42% low income, and 2005 it is at 64%.

It does not seem to have improved the high percentage of low income numbers.

Did anyone else read Michael O’Shea in Sunday’s Parade this weekend? Only one state, Illinois, has PE mandatory in K – 12 and 40% of our elementary schools throughout the nation no longer set aside time for recess. See or
Is it me or is there a reason students are heavier, and is there a reason 1/4 of students attending American schools take some form of mood altering medication?
My happy, busy 2nd grade son, who loves school and gets along well with his peers, has been the subject of well meaning teachers requesting an ADHD evaluation. Are we treating kids so they can survive an 8 hour day without activity? Is this in the best interest of our children or to accommodate the “union approved schedule”?
My son has P.E. three times a week and recess for 25 minutes in an 8 hour day 4 days a week. He is 8. I take more breaks from work than he does. We (the nation) really don’t get it. I look at the people I currently know who are successful as adults and not many of them sat still for 8 hours a day without activity, creativity, and pure frustration from adults around them nor were they medicated or prevented from physical activity due to budget cuts and testing. I can include in this list

  • my physician husband, (76 stitches by the time he was 10),
  • my cardiac surgeon brother-in-law, (who was told by teachers over and over he would never succeed because he never sat still as is his the same with his son),
  • my lawyer cousin who was always fighting those in authority (as is his son).

Not one of these adults were medicated as children but everyone of their children have been asked to be evaluated for ADHD. I don’t disapprove of meds to help a real problem and I have seen the devastation of mental illness in my own family but students that love school, and have positive relationships at school, do we do them a disservice by turning to meds first?
We should let them move first then see what happens. I don’t encourage hostile, ill behaved students but are we encouraging growth, creativity within unique students that succeed by eliminating movement? We need to let kids move so they can concentrate.
Let’s keep Madison kids moving so they can think.

Revisit and Evaluate a Strings Change

I know this topic is discussed every year but I want to re-visit the success of the administrative change to 4/5 strings based on budgetary demands versus academic demands.
The 4/5 strings was changed to once a week this year from twice a week last year. The choices the board juggled was no strings in 4/5, twice a week 5th only, or once a week 4/5 strings due to the budget cuts. While I applaud the board for trying to work with the community I would love some feedback on how the once a week 4/5 decision is working at other schools.
For my daughter, and I can only speak for her and a few of her friends, this is what we have experienced………

Continue reading Revisit and Evaluate a Strings Change

Middle School Survey
Send this web site to all the middle school, future middle school parents, and concerned community members you can e-mail.
Pam Nash and the middle school committee are seeking input from parents and this is our chance to give them feedback. While I find the survey would be on the “How to Not Make a Survey” curriculum in my graduate school class on Effective Survey’s, I say congrates to the BOE and administration for allowing the community to give some feedback and input on this development. While it seems a little forced, quick and for some reason I am unclear why this issue is being discussed for middle schools that are functioning at a high level,(in other words let’s fix the problem’s where they exist, even if it means more resources, and not mess with what is working) I want all parents and those in the community interested to voice their thoughts and opinions. Please print off this survey and let the district know we want great middle schools, that reflect their community, not carbon copies of mediocre education.

Can we Talk 2

I previously wrote about the lack of information received via email, internet, etc…from the school district. Since I posted that blog the District has been “experimenting” with two software systems they deem worth evaluation by parents and staff and are asking for feedback. (please go to the for more info)
But not all the communication problems with MMSD have to do with modern technology. Let me give some examples……..

Continue reading Can we Talk 2

Senate Bill 286, What a waste of time
Just wanted to let everyone know that while WI tries to figure out how to pay for schools, healthcare, balance the budget, care for the needy, etc………………
Your legislatures are spending time on SB286.
In a nutshell it says “school districts should teach abstinence” as the only way to prevent STD and pregnancy. Wow, what a waste of time and your money. I received my undergraduate degree in Secondary Health and Biology education and I can assure you that all the books, lectures, and information I received in college taught me that this was the only form of “birth control” that was 100%. While I agree a great Health or Human Growth and Development class is of utmost importance to a great school district, this legislation is the biggest waste of time and tax payers money, but the biggest laugh is there are communities that will not allow you to teach Sex Education, or Human Growth and Development as we like to call it, in their schools so where does the Senate assume this statement or lecture will occur in these ultra conservative districts?
Wisconsin Legislation could not scream any louder that it is ignorant and scared of SCIENCE. Look at the bills; ban cloning, teach abstinence only, alleviate health care providers of responsibility if there is a conflict with moral judgement, and the ever popular intellegient design in science classes. We as educated parents should be concerned with science education in this state and how new legislation could effect our children’s view and evaluation of science and theroy. Science is currently on the chopping block of the evagelical right and I am very concerned about legislation at the federal and state level concerning what our children are taught in Science class and whether that is decided by scientist and educators or whether it is decided by a religious political group.

Can We Talk?

Can we Talk about communication?
My three busy kids participate in swimming, baseball, basketball, soccer, football, book clubs, math olympiad, etc….. you get the idea, my kids are healthy, busy kids. I see hundreds of families participating in these events, games, parties, and all of the commmunications relayed to every family right here in Madison is done on the computer, internet or better known as e-mail. If I did not have access to e-mail I would show up at incorrect times, fail to pay fees, miss important meetings, for all these activities my kids participate in and I volunteer to help. What does this have to do with MMSD education? Nothing, and I mean nothing at all because MMSD doesn’t communicate with me via computer. When I moved to Madison, the PR on the Web and lead me to believe this was the future, the end all, the best the US offered. I wish they spent more on PC’s than PR because the technology in our district is archaic.

Continue reading Can We Talk?

“Conflict of Interest”?

Christina Daglas article in the Cap Times on 6/8/05 refers to John Matthews, head of MTI, and his position on the board of WPS the insurance company that provides policies to the Madison school teachers as not having a conflict of interest. I have no information that Mr. Matthews has done anything wrong however, I strongly dispute the fact that this is not a conflict of interest. This is the first I have heard of his position on the board of WPS. I have asked the board many times why teachers are under such an expensive health care contract when many families in the community of Madison are well served by U.W. providers under a less expensive program, mine included. I was told many times the cost savings would be small to switch to a different carrier but this newly revealed information makes me question whether that is true or not. Per the Capital Times, Mr. Matthews fails to see a conflict of interest…..he fails to see a conflict of interest. I guess I keep repeating this statement and wondering how he can not see a conflict of interest. Anyone else see a conflict of interest?

Middle School Band and Orchestra

Picked up the following flyer in our PTO box this morning……
Sherman Middle School Administration has taken upon themselves to move the Orchestra and Band Programs to an “exploratory” optional class that will be offered after the school day effective next school year. MMSD is looking at this as a pilot program at Sherman with idea of implementing these changes at all middle schools in Madison.
Please help us fight this change. Our students have rights to attend these classes during the school day.
You can help by writing to the school board and MMSD administration to voice your concerns before this becomes the norm in the Madison School District.
For more information you can contact Sheryl Trumbower at 243-1005 or 279-2117.”
East High Band Parents Organization

I Care, but I think too.

If I have to hear or read another article about how I don’t CARE about Madison Schools or the kids because I think and analyze before I vote, I will scream. I voted today, thanks for the applause, and I voted No, Yes, Yes. So I guess I CARE 2/3 of the time right?
I CARE about the whole district and after careful analysis of the situation I am convinced the district needs another school, just not on the Leopold site. I feel a school located in a more general location that could accommodate students from the (higher income) west growth, (higher income)Leopold growth and perhaps be a home school for Allied Drive would be a more logical location for the whole district. Also I am concerned about the Ridgewood Apartments and the size of the proposed school if the numbers change due to that large complex.

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Community Educates MMSD

Click to view a larger aerial image
Crestwood elementary school has sat on top of a hill (aerial photo) for over 100 years. It’s geography is cartoonish as it is on the top of a hill while the playground, or as the students call it, the “battlefield” lays far below a slopping grassy hill and the street in front of the school drops below quickly to Old Middleton Road. During our Wisconsin winters with ice and snow the students rarely enjoy the playground or the “battlefield” as it is too slippery to return to class and muddy when not slippery. Therefore, the students spend most of the year playing on a tar surface blacktop that doubles as a parking lot for large events. CAPT, Crestwood Ass. Parents And Teachers, has had an ongoing discussion with the district for 10 years to resurface the blacktop, which is cracked and falling apart, and add a playset for the winter months but have been discouraged by the $50,000 to $60,000 estimate quoted to solve this problem.

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Fine Arts vs Sports strange battle

The heated discussion between fine arts and sports is not helpful nor is it valid. This district seems to have a hard to financing both as part of the districts curriculum. For parents like myself that have children that love the arts AND athletics I do not favor eliminating one or the other.
My 4th grade daughter has art, music, and strings twice a week each. She also has P.E. three times a week. At the elementary level they reduced the amount of recess the students have which is an issue for my very busy 1st grade son. The current budget proposal is asking for elementary P.E. as well as music and art to increase the number of students in each class which will eliminate positions for all.
Madison is one of the only large school districts I know of that does not have school sponsored sports at the Jr. High Level. And the current proposal would move many of the 9-12 athletics to MSCR and not under the school districts budget. Perhaps the reason parents of athletics are not at the board meetings is because the options are to restructure the system so it will survive, whereas for elementary strings they are proposing elimination. That is why I am excited to see some discussions about other options for strings if the referendum fails.

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Lemonade from Lemons

I fail to see the cup half empty on the BOE selection of Ms. Roberts to the Legislative Committee, Ms. Kobza to the Partnership Committee, and Mr. Winston to the Financial and Operations Committee. What an opportunity to shake up the way we keep the “status quo” every year in this community. I agree with Ms. Carstensen that a committee is what you make of it. This is an opportunity to make Madison go in a new direction away from depending on the union and administration to make decisions for our kids education. Consider the current law suites against NCLB, the opportunity to fund strings and athletics in a new way, a revised budget reviewing process by the BOE. Maybe these committees are currently weak, but they could be strong. These three board members tend to be thoughtful of the communities concerns and could lead the district into a new direction with innovative leadership. Let’s encourage them to be progressive and lead, not follow in their decision making and planning to educate Madison kids.

Pre Evaluation for Reading

To add to the discussion of successful/unsuccessful reading programs there is an interesting system in place in Anchorage, Alaska that has shown to be successful and seems very logical. Kindergarten students are screened thru testing in the Spring of each year with a system called the Slingerland pre-reading test. This test evaluates student’s strengths and weaknesses in the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modalities. Once strengths are identified they are placed in first grade, and some times second, based on the results. First/Second grade teachers are trained to emphasis either an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic curriculm and students with that strength are placed accordingly. Of course, some students show no strengths or weaknesses in a specific area and are placed in classrooms based on traditional means.
This is a wonderful, proactive way to target a childs natural learning style. It avoids waiting for a problem to develop before seeking this information. Slingerland was developed to work with Autistic children but has been adapted to a general classroom setting and is implemented in all the Anchorage elementary schools.

Connecticut’s A.G. to sue Federal Government

Air America’s Al Franken interviewed Richard Blumental, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Friday because he is fiing a law suit against the federal government. His complaint on behalf of the state of Connecticut is the federal government is illegally and unconstitutionally requiring states and communities to spend millions of dollars to administer federally mandated test. He claims it is unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate education to the local communities without financially backing the mandates. He is asking that other states join in…………

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Super Strings Festival

The Memorial Strings Festival was a wonderful collection of children from forth to twelve grade, every color, every size, and all abilities. As I sat proudly and watched my daughter play, along with so many parents who were sitting and standing (as there were no seats left so many showed up)I was sad. The director was sad and the two strings teachers that were given pink slips (one from Crestwood, our school) Friday were sad. Surely this program does not need to be on the chopping block. I kept thinking, with this many parents attending a festival couldn’t we do a fundraiser at the festival, sale something or just have a donation box for strings. Many parents like myself feel strings and no-cut freshman sports are placed on the block because they get the “involved parents” fired up to vote for whatever the referendum is, just to save these two programs. They are right. I will vote for the referendum to save a $500,000 program. I would not vote to save a secretary, two aides, two janitors and two middle management positions. But I will vote for it because, although I have been in charge of many fundraising events, I can’t figure out how to raise $500,000 without a major community effort.
I have an idea though. How about moving 4/5 strings out of the classroom and into the Monday afternoon slot? Run it through MSCR or After School Program and while all the other teachers do whatever it is they do Monday afternoon allow strings kids to stay Monday for an hour of strings.(At Crestwood, After School provides foreign language in this same manner) MSCR does not seem to be a part of the MMSD budget that requires cutting and parents already pay a fee ($40 for me) to have their child in strings. We could increase the fee and then raise money for scholarships so to include low income children. The only problem I see with this arrangement is;
1. transportation for low -income students (we could have one at the Allied Drive Learning center instead of the school, parents could choose) 2. could we get enough strings teachers to cover the schools at the same time slot? If the referendum fails lets not throw this program out, let’s think outside the box and find a solution.

State DPI and Number of Employees

I have lived and followed education in 3 states. Alaska, Texas, and Wisconsin. The DPI is a first. After 4 years I have tried to understand this governmental body. There is a Leader, Ms. Burmaster and based totally on the web site anywhere from 441 to 600 employees in this agency. When I have asked what all these employees do for the education of the state no one seems to know. The many teachers I asked stated their only interaction with the DPI is to renew their license. This seems like a logical function of a state but does it take 400- 600 people? When I view the directory on the DPI web site I am amazed all these people work for the education department yet none of the people I know that work at SCHOOLS actually benefit from all these state salaried persons. Can anyone educate me on the department, I mean really what they do, before I am once again asked to vote for a leader of a governmental body I fail to understand?

Wisconsin is not Alone in Budget Crisis

I did a simple search on Google: State budget and school funding. I was not surprised to find Wisconsin sharing in their education funding crisis with many other states. On the first two pages of my search I discovered California, Texas, Washington, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, and New York have news articles about their educational funding “crisis”. Each state has it’s version of revenue caps, TABOR like situations, or tax restraints that cause their current problem. Some just never raise taxes and can’t figure out how to fund a state and local program without taxes. Also interesting to note is Ohio and Illinois legislation funds their local schools at 51% while Washington state legislation is suppose to pay 80%. None of these states actually fund their schools at their promised level just as our federal government fails to fund it’s many mandates at it’s required level. I find this interesting because each time I watch the “MMSD Budget Horse and Pony Show”, as I like to refer to this annually released performance, I am told how awful the state legislation is and that Wisconsin is backwards in its funding of education. While there may be some truth to that, it is comforting to know my state is not the only awful backwards state out there. That comfort however, does not solve the problem. The reason I went on this search is I have twice, maybe more, asked the board to “think outside the box”. I decided since the board wants the public to present them with solutions and not complaints that I would find out how other states and communities are financing schools and present these ideas to them before they develop another “sequel”.
One state that caught my attention was Virgina. To solve their school funding problem they instituted a half a cent sales tax through out the entire state. This idea was suggested by a think tank organized by Gov. Doyle in Wisconsin but it was quickly run out of Madison. The plan is something to think about,as Virgina just signed their budget that added an additional 759 million dollars to the governors original budget towards public education. I will continue this search and loft new ideas at this site. We need a new way, a creative way to fund education because we are all tired of fighting for our schools and very tired of watching “sequels” with no new plots or twist.
The Virginia link:

Leopold Expansion: Fitchburg City Council Approves Possible Condemnation of Ridgewood Apartments


The Fitchburg city council unanimously approved a redevelopment resolution Tuesday night that calls for a possible condemnation of the Ridgewood Apartments, and may use tax increment financing to support improvements.

These are the apartments across the street from Leopold Elementary. The Board is basing much of its claim that the school will remain at a high capacity due to these low income apartments.
There may be several years until these apartments are full again and will the population and price of these apartments affect the population?