Category Archives: Board Meeting Archives

Madison Plans 4.2% Property Tax Increase

Molly Beck:

The Madison School District property tax levy would increase by 4.2 percent under the district’s final budget proposal.

That’s up from a 2 percent increase contained in the district’s preliminary budget approved in June.

The final 2014-15 district budget, which must be adopted by the School Board by Nov. 1, also includes a slight bump in the salary increase district staff were expecting this school year.

If approved, teachers will see a 1 percent raise in their base pay for the 2014-15 school year, a slight increase from the 0.75 percent increase the preliminary district budget included when it was adopted by the School Board in June. The salary increase is in addition to increases staff receive based on their level of education, training and years spent teaching, which brings the total increase to about 2.4 percent, according to assistant superintendent for business services Michael Barry.

Madison spends more than $15k annually per student, about double the national average. Yet, the District has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

A comparable Middleton home’s property taxes are 16% less than Madison.

Election Grist: Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for too long

David Blaska:

Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror.

Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, and their elected school board.

Instead of a collaborative group of college-educated professionals eager to embrace change and challenge, Madison’s unionized public school teachers comport themselves as exploited Appalachian mine workers stuck in a 1930s time warp. For four decades, their union has been led by well-compensated executive director John A. Matthews, whom Fighting Ed Garvey once described (approvingly!) as a “throwback” to a different time.

From a June 2011 Wisconsin State Journal story:

[Then] School Board member Maya Cole criticized Matthews for harboring an “us against them” mentality at a time when the district needs more cooperation than ever to successfully educate students. “His behavior has become problematic,” Cole said.

For years, Madison’s school board has kowtowed to Matthews and MTI, which — with its dues collected by the taxpayer-financed school district — is the most powerful political force in Dane County. (The county board majority even rehearses at the union’s Willy Street offices.)

Erin Richards & Patrick Marley

Joe Zepecki, Burke’s campaign spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that he couldn’t respond officially because Burke has made clear that her campaign and her duties as a School Board member are to be kept “strictly separate.” However, on the campaign trail, Burke says she opposes Act 10’s limits on collective bargaining but supports requiring public workers to pay more for their benefits, a key aspect of the law.

John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said the contracts were negotiated legally and called the legal challenge “a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community.”

The lawsuit came a day after the national leader of the country’s largest union for public workers labeled Walker its top target this fall.

“We have a score to settle with Scott Walker,” Lee Saunders, the union official, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A spokeswoman for Saunders did not immediately return a call Wednesday.

AFSCME has seen its ranks in Wisconsin whither since Walker approved Act 10. AFSCME and other unions were instrumental in scheduling a 2012 recall election to try to oust Walker, but Walker won that election by a bigger margin than the 2010 race.

“When the union bosses say they ‘have a score to settle with Scott Walker,’ they really mean Wisconsin taxpayers because that’s who Governor Walker is protecting with his reforms,” Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marré said in a statement.

Molly Beck:

Kenosha School District over teacher contracts after the board approved a contract with its employees.

In Madison, the School District and School Board “are forcing their teachers to abide by — and taxpayers to pay for — an illegal labor contract with terms violating Act 10 based upon unlawful collective bargaining with Madison Teachers, Inc.,” a statement from WILL said.

Blaska, a former member of the Dane County Board who blogs for InBusiness, said in addition to believing the contracts are illegal, he wanted to sue MTI because of its behavior, which he called coercive and bullyish.

“I truly believe that there’s a better model out there if the school board would grab for it,” Blaska said.

MTI executive director John Matthews said it’s not surprising the suit was filed on behalf of Blaska “given his hostile attacks on MTI over the past several years.”

“WILL certainly has the right to challenge the contracts, but I see (it as) such as a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community,” said Matthews, adding that negotiating the contracts “was legal.”

In August, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Act 10 constitutional after MTI and others had challenged its legality. At the time, union and district officials said the contracts that were negotiated before the ruling was issued were solid going forward.

Under Act 10, unions are not allowed to bargain over anything but base wage raises, which are limited to the rate of inflation. Act 10 also prohibits union dues from being automatically deducted from members’ paychecks as well as “fair share” payments from employees who do not want to be union members.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said Wednesday the district has not yet received notification of the suit being filed.

“If and when we do, we’ll review with our team and the Board of Education,” she said.

School Board vice president James Howard said the board “felt we were basically in accordance with the law” when the contracts were negotiated and approved.

Molly Beck

A lawsuit targeting the Madison School District and its teachers union is baseless, Madison School Board member and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the conservative nonprofit Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on behalf of well-known blogger David Blaska alleges the school district, School Board and Madison Teachers Inc. are violating Act 10, Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law that limits collective bargaining.

The union has two contracts in effect through June 2016. Burke voted for both of them.

“I don’t think there is a lot of substance to it,” Burke said of the lawsuit. “Certainly the board, when it negotiated and approved (the contracts), it was legal then and our legal counsel says nothing has changed.”

Pat Schneider:

At any rate, Esenberg said, he doesn’t consult with Grebe, Walker or anyone else in deciding what cases to take on.

“The notion that we think Act 10 is a good idea because it frees the schools from the restraints of union contracts and gives individual employees the right to decide whether they want to support the activities of the union — that shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Esenberg said.

WILL is not likely to prevail in court, Marquette University Law School professor Paul Secunda told the Wisconsin State Journal. “They negotiated their current contract when the fate of Act 10 was still up in the air,” said Secunda, who also accused Esenberg of “trying to make political points.”

Esenberg contends the contract always was illegal.

Todd Richmond

The school board, district and union knew they could not negotiate anything more than wage increases based on inflation under the law, the lawsuit alleges. Despite the institute’s warnings, they began negotiations for a new 2014-15 contract in September 2013 and ratified it in October. What’s more, they began negotiating a deal for the 2015-16 school year this past May and ratified it in June, according to the lawsuit.

Both deals go beyond base wage changes to include working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, tenure and union dues deductions, the lawsuit said.

Taxpayers will be irreparably harmed if the contracts are allowed to stand because they’ll have to pay extra, the lawsuit went on to say. It demands that a Dane County judge invalidate the contracts and issue an injunction blocking them from being enforced.

“The Board and the School District unlawfully spent taxpayer funds in collectively bargaining the (contracts) and will spend substantial addition(al) taxpayer funds in implementing the (contracts),” the lawsuit said. “The (contracts) violate the public policy of Wisconsin.”

2009 Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Related:

“Since 1950, “us schools increased their non-teaching positions by 702%.”; ranks #2 in world on non teacher staff spending!”

Act 10

Madison’s long term reading problems, spending, Mary Burke & Doyle era teacher union friendly arbitration change.

Madison Teachers, Inc.

WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union Umbrella): 4 Senators for $1.57M.

John Matthews.

Understanding the current union battles requires a visit to the time machine and the 2002 and the Milwaukee County Pension Scandal. Recall elections, big money, self interest and the Scott Walker’s election in what had long been a Democratic party position.

The 2000-2001 deal granted a 25% pension “bonus” for hundreds of veteran county workers. Another benefit that will be discussed at trial is the controversial “backdrop,” an option to take part of a pension payment as a lump-sum upon retirement.

Testimony should reveal more clues to the mysteries of who pushed both behind the scenes.

So what does it mean to take a “backdrop?”

“Drop” refers to Deferred Retirement Option Program. Employees who stay on after they are eligible to retire can receive both a lump-sum payout and a (somewhat reduced) monthly retirement benefit. Employees, upon leaving, reach “back” to a prior date when they could have retired. They get a lump sum equal to the total of the monthly pension benefits from that date up until their actual quitting date. The concept was not new in 2001, but Milwaukee County’s plan was distinguished because it did not limit the number of years a worker could “drop back.” In fact, retirees are routinely dropping back five years or more, with some reaching back 10 or more years.

That has allowed many workers to get lump-sum payments well into six figures.

Former deputy district attorney Jon Reddin, at age 63, collected the largest to date: $976,000, on top of monthly pension checks of $6,070 each.

And, Jason Stein:

The Newsline article by longtime legal writer Stuart Taylor Jr. alleges that Chisholm may have investigated Walker and his associates because Chisholm was upset at the way in which the governor had repealed most collective bargaining for public employees such as his wife, a union steward.

The prosecutor is quoted as saying that he heard Chisholm say that “he felt that it was his personal duty to stop Walker from treating people like this.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has requested to speak with the former prosecutor through Taylor and has not yet received an answer.

In a brief interview, Chisholm denied making those comments. In a longer statement, an attorney representing Chisholm lashed out at the article.

“The suggestion that all of those measures were taken in furtherance of John Chisholm’s (or his wife’s) personal agenda is scurrilous, desperate and just plain cheap,” attorney Samuel Leib said.

Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

Erin Richards

But after Tyson made his offer, an MPS teacher who also is a teachers’ union employee submitted a plan to reopen Lee as a district-run charter school.

The School Board was said to be considering both options. It was scheduled to discuss the potential sale or lease of several empty buildings, including the Lee building, in closed session Tuesday night.

Despite enrollment declines of 1,000 or more students each year for nine years — before an increase in 2013-’14 — the School Board and district administration have been averse to selling their public property to nondistrict school operators. Voucher and nondistrict charter school operators compete with the district for students, and more students attending those schools means potentially fewer students — and less state aid money — coming to MPS.

Supporters of successful private voucher and independent charter schools believe there shouldn’t be so many roadblocks to those schools obtaining building space to expand. St. Marcus’ state achievement test scores are some of the highest in the city for schools with predominantly low-income, minority students.

St. Marcus will be paying around $80,000 a year to lease the Aurora Weier site, which will be called the St. Marcus Early Childhood Center, North Campus. Tyson said they may eventually buy the building.

Up to 250 young children could be served at the new site by next year, Tyson said.

This year, even with the new early childhood site opening, Tyson said about 200 children remain on the waiting list to get into St. Marcus.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

Commentary on Madison’s special Education and “inclusive” practices; District enrollment remains flat while the suburbs continue to grow

Pat Schneider:

That was one issue that brought together family activists who formed Madison Partners for Inclusive Education [duckduckgo search] in 2003, Pugh said.

“A parent in an elementary school on the west side could be seeing high-quality inclusive expert teaching with a team that ‘got it,’ and someone on the east side could be experiencing exactly the opposite,” Pugh said. Families and the school district are still striving to provide the best learning experience to all students with disabilities.

The key is to establish a culture throughout the district where participation in the classroom by students with disabilities is expected and valued. In addition, all teachers need to be trained to work collaboratively with special education teachers to make that happen, she said.

“It comes down to leadership,” said Pugh, who added that she is heartened by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s remarks about raising expectations for all students. “That’s where we start.”

The district had an outside consultant review its special education programs earlier this year.

“In the next several weeks, we’ll use this information, our own data and expertise in the district to develop an improvement plan, including what our immediate steps will be,” spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson said.

There has been no small amount of tension over Madison’s tactics in this matter from the one size fits all English 10 to various “high school redesign” schemes.

Yet, Madison’s student population remains stagnant while nearby districts have grown substantially.

Outbound open enrollment along with a Talented and Gifted complaint are topics worth watching.

Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate Act 10 Commentary

Matthew DeFour:

Mary Burke, who has already been endorsed by more than a dozen of the state’s largest private- and public-sector unions, said she supports making wages, hours, benefits and working conditions mandatory subjects of bargaining for public employees.

She called the annual elections, the prohibition on requiring union dues of all employees, and a ban on automatic dues collections “nothing more than heavy-handed attempts to punish labor unions” and said she would work to repeal those provisions.

She said she would have used the collective bargaining process to achieve the pension and health insurance contributions that helped balance the state budget. But she does not want to reset the law to before Act 10, when state employees could pay no more than 20 percent of health insurance premiums and could bargain with employers to cover their full pension contribution.

Burke also agreed the way contract disputes were settled for decades needed to change, but disagreed with eliminating interest arbitration. She said the factors used in the process should allow for “effective, efficient and accountable government workforce and institutions,” though she didn’t offer a specific plan for reinstating it.

The Walker campaign responded that Burke’s position on Act 10 “mirrors her willingness to concede to unions as a Madison School Board member, and is yet another example of how she would take Wisconsin backward.”
Unions weigh in
Rick Badger, executive director of AFSCME Council 40, which represents many Dane County-area municipal employees, said some of his members are unhappy Burke won’t promise to repeal the law entirely. But they like that she expressed interest in listening to different points of view, whereas Walker never responded to requests to meet after he was elected.

“She’s made it clear she’ll sit down with us,” Badger said. “After what employees went through over the past three years, it’s great to hear someone say, ‘Your concerns still matter.’ ”

Much more on Wisconsin Act 10, here.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Contract Ratification Meeting – Tuesday, June 3!

MTI Website:

This meeting is scheduled to consider ratification of Contract terms for 2015-16 for all five MTI bargaining units. This is a membership meeting. 2013-14 membership cards are required for admission.

Those who need assistance with membership issues, and those who are not members at this time and wish to join to enable participation in the meeting can be assisted by reporting to the “MTI Membership Table”.

This meeting will be conducted under MTI Bylaws and Roberts Rules of Order.

Notice of the meeting will also be on MTI’s webpage (www.madisonteachers.org), MTI Facebook, and by email to all who have provided MTI with their home email address.

Related:

Teacher Union Collective Bargaining Continues in Madison, Parent Bargaining “like any other union” in Los Angeles.

Act 10.

Mary Burke.

Madison school board’s Ed Hughes: Don’t extend Teacher Union contract without rethinking hiring process

Pat Schneider:

It’s not a good idea for the Madison School District to extend its labor contract with teachers through the 2015-2016 school year without renegotiating it, says school board member Ed Hughes.

Hughes wants Madison School District administrators — especially school principals — to have the ability to offer jobs to the best teacher candidates before they are snapped up by other districts.

One way to accomplish that would be to drop a labor contract provision giving Madison teachers the opportunity to transfer into open positions before external candidates can be offered those jobs, Hughes says.

“To take the collective bargaining agreement in its current form and just change the date without any discussion, to my mind, is creating a potential impediment to our important efforts to attract a highly qualified and diverse workforce,” Hughes said Tuesday.

Hughes said that a labor contract that includes a “last hired, first fired” provision also hampers efforts to hire teachers with experience in racially and ethnically diverse classrooms.

“Why would someone with 15 years experience in Janesville come to Madison and be the first one on the chopping block if there are layoffs?” he asked. “I’m not proposing a specific solution, but we need to address these issues in a collaborative way so we’re not handcuffing ourselves from bringing in the best teachers.”

Related: Act 10, Madison Teachers, Inc and Ed Hughes.

Emphasizing adult employment: Newark School Reform and retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

Mr Hughes wrote one of the more forthright quotes on local school matters in 2005:

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

Tea leaves: Mr. Hughes was just replaced as President of the Madison School Board. Interestingly, he ran unopposed in three (!) elections. The candor is appreciated, but were there similar comments during the past few years?

Madison Prep, unions overshadow School Board races

Jack Craver:

Two seats on the eight-member board are opening up. In both races, opponents of the proposed charter school, which is being championed by the Urban League of Madison as a way to target the long-standing achievement gap between white and minority students, are pitted against supporters of the plan.
Arlene Silveira, an incumbent who voted against Madison Prep, is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, the vice president of learning for the Urban League. Similarly, in an open seat that Madison Prep supporter Lucy Mathiak is vacating, Mary Burke, a wealthy philanthropist (and former state secretary of Commerce) who pledged $2.5 million to the Madison Prep project, is running against Michael Flores, a firefighter with union backing.
John Matthews, president of Madison Teachers Inc, says his union is planning to be very active in support of Silveira and Flores. In not-so-subtle terms, he challenged Burke’s ability to understand the challenges that the Madison middle class and poor face in the school system.
“She’s a one percenter,” he said, invoking the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “She’s a very nice person, a very well-intentioned person but you want somebody who understands what it’s like to be a parent and understands the needs of parents to be involved.”

Related: 1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A.

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

Nathan Comp:

Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan (mp3 audio) to close the district’s more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.
The 109-page plan, titled “Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement,” makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.
Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.
Others, like a “parent university,” a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

Ideally, substantive program review in necessities such as reading and math would occur prior to the addition of new spending.
Matthew DeFour helpfully puts dollars ($105,600,000 over 5 years, about 5.6% of the roughly $1,860,000,000 that the District will spend over the same period) to the proposal. How does that compare with current programs and the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

Madison Schools Superintendent Nerad unveils $12.4 million plan to close school achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Altogether, Nerad makes about 40 recommendations in six categories — instruction, college and career readiness, culturally relevant practices, school environment, family engagement and staff diversity.
“The plan is based on the view that there isn’t one thing alone the school district can do to eliminate achievement gaps,” Nerad said. “We’re attempting to be comprehensive with the proposal.”
The plan’s projected cost for next year is $12.4 million, which Nerad is recommending come from the district’s untapped property taxing authority under state-imposed limits. The amount includes adding about 67.5 positions, including behavioral support staff, reading specialists and parent liaisons.
Some recommendations wouldn’t take effect until future years. The district estimates they will cost $20.9 million in 2013-14 and $26.6 million by 2016-17. The district doesn’t have the authority to raise property taxes by that amount, though Nerad said part of the discussion in coming months will involve whether the private and nonprofit sectors can help fund the strategies.
“We’re going to have to struggle through the conversation of how to get it done,” Nerad said.

Related:

Listen to most of the speech via this 25mb .mp3 file.

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

Kaleem Caire, via email:

February 6, 2011
Greetings Community Member.
This evening, at 6pm at the Fitchburg Library, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad will present his plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap in our public schools to the Board of Education. We anticipate there will be many citizens in the audience listening in.
While we are pleased that our advocacy over the last 19 months has resulted in the District developing a plan to address the gap, we are also mindful of history. Our organization has pushed hard for our public school system to embrace change, address the gap and expand educational opportunity many times before.
In the 1960s, Madison learned that a wide gap existed between black and white students in reading, math and high school completion in Madison’s public schools. In the 1970s, the Urban League of Greater Madison reported that just 60% of black students were graduating from the city’s public high schools. In the 1980s, ULGM released a widely reported study that found the average GPA for a black high school student attending the city’s public high schools was 1.58 on a 4.00 scale, with 61% scoring below a 2.0 GPA. It also found that a disproportionate number of black students were enrolled in remedial math and science classes, and that black students were significantly over-represented in special education and school suspensions. Then, in the 1990s, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute issued a report that stated there were two school districts in MMSD, one that poorly served black children and one that served everyone else.
Today, just 48% of black and 56% of Latino students are graduating from high school. Just 1% of black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are academically ready for college. Nearly 40% of all black boys in middle school are enrolled in special education, and more than 60% of black and 50% of Latino high school students earn below a 2.0 GPA.
Over the years, several district-wide efforts have been tried. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have either been discontinued, unevenly implemented, ineffective, lacked the support of parents/community/teachers, or failed to go far enough to address the myriad needs of students, families, teachers and schools. Madison also has a well-documented history of not heeding the advice of leaders and educators of color or educational experts, and not investing in efforts to codify and replicate successful strategies employed by its most effective educators. MMSD also has not acted fast enough to address its challenges and rarely looks beyond its borders for strategies that have proven effective elsewhere in the country.
The stakes are higher now; too high to continue on our present course of incrementalism rooted in our fear of the unknown, fear of significant change, and fear of admitting that our view of Madison being the utopic experience of the Midwest and #1 city in the U.S. doesn’t apply to everyone who lives here. We no longer have the luxury of time to figure out how to address the gap. We cannot afford to lose nearly 300 black, 200 Latino and an untold number of Southeast Asian and underprivileged white students each year from our public schools. And we cannot afford to see hundreds of students leave our school system each year for public and private schools outside of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
We must embrace strategies that work. We must also behave differently than we have in the past, and can no longer afford to be afraid of addressing intersection or race and poverty, and how they are playing out in our schools, social relationships and community, and impacting the educational success of our kids.
Furthermore, we need all hands on deck. Everyone in our community must play a role in shaping the self-image, expectations and outcomes of our children – in school, in the community and at home. Some children have parents who spend more quality time with their career and coworkers than with their family. Some children have a parent or relative who struggles to raise them alone. Some have parents who are out of work, under stress and struggling to find a job to provide for their family. And unfortunately, some children have parents who make bad decisions and/or don’t care about their well-being. Regardless of the situation, we cannot allow the lack of quality parenting to be the excuse why we don’t reach, teach, or hold children accountable and prepare them for the future.
As we prepare to review the Superintendent’s plan, we have developed a rubric that will allow for an objective review of his proposal(s). The attached rubric, which you can access by clicking here, was developed and informed by members of the staff and Board of Director of ULGM, business and community leaders, and teachers and leading experts in the field of K-12 and higher education. The tool will be used by an independent Community Review Panel, organized by the Urban League. pver the next several weeks to vet the plan. The intent of this review is to ensure MMSD has an optimal plan for ensuring that all of the children it serves succeed academically and graduate from high school prepared for college and work.
Specifically, our reasons for establishing this rubric and a Community Review Panel are four-fold:

  • Develop an objective and comprehensive understanding of the plan and its many elements;
  • Objectively review the efficacy of the plan, its goals and objectives, and desired outcomes;
  • Formally communicate thoughts, concerns and ideas for supporting and/or improving the plan; and
  • Effectively engage the Madison community in supporting and strengthening its public schools.

We have high expectations of the Superintendent’s plan. We hope for a bold, transformational, aggressive and concise plan, and stand ready to assist the Superintendent and his team in any way we can. We hope you will be standing their with us, with your arms outstretched and ready to uplift or babies – the next generation.
All Hands on Deck!
Onward.
Team Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org
www.madison-prep.org
Urban League of Greater Madison 2012 Agenda

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

via email:

Below is a letter from Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Please show up on Monday, February 6 to learn about his plan and register to participate in an input session. We need you to exercise your voice, share your view and speak to our children’s needs. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
February 2, 2012
RE: Invitation to attend Board of Education meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012
Dear Community Leader:
As you may know, this Monday, February 6, 2012, we are poised to present to the Board of Education a significant and system-wide plan to close the achievement gaps in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Building Our Future: A Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement
We invite you to attend Monday’s Board of Education workshop at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Road in Fitchburg beginning at 6:00 p.m. This workshop is for presentation purposes only. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to speak. However, Monday’s workshop marks the beginning of a two-month, community-wide engagement process. We invite parents, students, and residents concerned about the future of our children to join one or more of the many sessions held throughout Madison to learn about the achievement gaps in the MMSD and discuss and provide input into the plan.
I have greatly appreciated your concern, commitment, and willingness to challenge us to provide the kind of education that every child deserves and is due. Together, we must eliminate our achievement gaps.
The Board of Education workshop on Monday, February 6th is just the beginning. Please consider participating in one of the upcoming information and input sessions. To register for a session, go to: www.mmsd.org/inputsession
Beginning Tuesday, February 7, go to: www.mmsd.org/thefuture to read more about the Plan.
Sincerely,
Daniel A. Nerad
Superintendent of Schools
Reprinted from a letter sent to community leaders today by Superintendent Nerad. We are sharing this to inform you and help the Madison Metropolitan School District get the word out. We have not yet seen the plan and therefore, this email should not viewed as an endorsement of it. We will reserve judgment until after the plan is released, we have had a chance to review it, and the public has responded.

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

Matthew DeFour:

lot is riding on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s upcoming plan for improving low-income, minority student achievement.
The plan is billed as a blueprint for addressing an intractable, divisive issue in Madison, and it could also factor into the upcoming School Board discussion of Nerad’s future in Madison.
The United Way of Dane County has made closing the achievement gap one of its primary issues for more than 15 years through the Schools of Hope tutoring program. But president Leslie Howard said the recent debate over the proposed Madison Prepatory Academy charter school has drawn more public attention to the issue than ever before.
“I don’t want to say something so grandiose that everything’s at stake, but in some ways it feels like that,” Howard said.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Related links:
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
Acting White
Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Milwaukee School Board majority chooses jobs over saving money

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The Milwaukee School Board is once again ignoring Superintendent Gregory Thornton’s request to explore privatizing a portion of the school lunch program. And that’s just another sign that the board is more concerned with saving union food service jobs than with saving money that could be better spent on educating kids.
The board and Thornton have been down this road before. In his latest proposal, Thornton asked the board to approve the establishment of a leased commissary. The board voted down the proposal, 5-4, in favor of a central kitchen run by district staff. They would not even consider the possibility of looking at other options to see if those would be more cost effective.
In a cash-strapped district, this makes absolutely no sense.
“I was just talking about privatizing a piece of it,” a frustrated Thornton said. “I was not talking about how to transport the food or service the food.”
The board appears to be against exploring any food service options that would eliminate union jobs. Currently, the food service workforce includes 48 temporary employees and more than 100 part-time employees. Administrators say they have had a hard time filling food service jobs.

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

Progressive Dane:

Madison School District Board
Seat 1: Arlene Silveira Website / Facebook
Seat 2: Michael Flores Website / Facebook
Now we have to make sure they get elected! That takes money (some) and work (lots).
The money part is easy–come to the Progressive Dane Campaign Fund-raiser
Sunday February 12, 5-7 pm
Cardinal Bar, 418 E Wilson St
(Potluck food, Cash Bar, Family Friendly)
Meet the candidates, hear about Madison School District and Dane County issues, pick some to work on this year!

Both Madison School Board races are contested this year.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

2012 Madison School Board Candidate Website & Contact Information

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.

Hold district accountable for deceit, academic failure and questionable activity
“Where ignorance is bliss, ignorance of ignorance is sublime.” – Paul Dunham

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Last week, I went to a Spokane Public Schools math presentation at Indian Trail Elementary School. It was billed as a forum in the school newsletter and on the reader board outside of the school. It was not, in any way, a forum. It was a tightly controlled 20-minute presentation that offered no data, little information, allowed for no parent input and was patronizing in tone.
At one point, parents were asked to define math to the person next to us. (The principal said he would not offer his definition.) We also were told to describe to our neighbor a math experience we’d had. These conversations ended right there, thus being pointless. We watched a video of several small children talking about the importance of math. The kids were cute, but the video was long. It was made clear to us that math is hard, parents don’t get it (see slide 7 of the presentation), “traditional math” is no longer useful, and math is intimidating to all. Printed materials reinforced the idea of parent incompetence, with students supposedly “taking the lead” and teaching their parents.
Parents were warned to stay positive about math, however, despite our supposed fear and lack of skill, and we also were told what a “balanced” program looks like – as if that’s what Spokane actually has.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

How Does a School Board Enforce Policy?

Charlie Mas:

I see a lot of support among the District leadership for clear job descriptions and duties for everyone in the District – everyone, that is, except the District leadership. Each Board member will acknowledge that the Board has the duty to enforce policy yet no Board member will allow that duty to be explicitly stated in any document. It does not appear in the newly adopted Series 1000 Policies. It does not appear in the policy that describes the duties of the Board. It does not appear in the policy on governance. Now the Board is going to adopt two more elements of Board policy that should mention this duty yet fail to do so.
The board policy preamble on the Board meeting agenda this week is an ideal place for it, but instead the preamble makes reference to it only vaguely and euphemistically as “governance tools”. It says that policies can be used by the superintendent to hold staff accountable but it neglects to say that they can be used by the Board to hold the superintendent accountable.

How to solve the achievement gap in Madison?

Nathan Comp:

Just when all signs indicated that supporters of Madison Preparatory Academy were abandoning hope of joining forces with the Madison school district, they’ve decided to give it one more shot. They’re seeking another vote on the controversial charter-school proposal in late February.
Urban League of Greater Madison CEO and president Kaleem Caire says Madison Prep will open this fall as a private entity, but hopes it will transition into the district in 2013, once the district’s union contract expires.
Board members who voted against the charter school in December expressed concerns that it would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers Inc., due to a provision requiring district schools to hire union staff.
School board president James Howard, who voted for Madison Prep, says the board may not have time to address the proposal in February.
Whether the Urban League — which proposed Madison Prep as an ambitious step toward closing the district’s decades-old achievement gap — can recapture its earlier momentum is uncertain, considering that Superintendent Dan Nerad and school board members seem particularly excited about their own plans to address the issue.
“We’re going at it from so many different angles right now,” says board member Beth Moss. “I can’t see how we can’t make some improvement.”

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

Madison Prep backers seek school board re-vote

Nathan Comp:

When asked why he didn’t second Ed Hughes’ motion at the Dec. 19 meeting to delay the schools’ opening until 2013, Howard replied, “We had not discussed the implications of what that means. I think we have time if we’re talking about 2013, to make sure we do it correctly, because we don’t know what the rules of the game will be in 2013.”
Superintendent Dan Nerad said, “Whether it will move forward I don’t know. That depends on whether the motion gets on the floor. I don’t have a read on it at this point.”
Others aren’t as diplomatic. “This is a waste of time and money for all involved,” said TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College professor and district watchdog who is among Madison Prep’s most ardent critics.
“The votes are not there and will not be there,” he continued. “It distracts from the essential work of addressing the real issues of the district, including issues of achievement for students in poverty.”

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

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

Kaleem Caire, via email:

MEDIA ADVISORY
For immediate release: January 12, 2012
Contact: Laura DeRoche-Perez
Director of School Development
Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53713
Lderoche@ulgm.org
608-729-1230 (office)
608-556-2066 (cell)
Urban League and Madison Prep Boards to Hold Press Conference
Will announce their plans to seek a new vote on authorizing the opening of Madison Prep for 2013
WHAT: Madison Preparatory Academy and the Urban League of Greater Madison will announce their intentions to seek a February 2012 vote by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to authorize Madison Prep to open in the fall of 2013. Three MMSD Board of Education members have already shared their support of the motion.
WHEN: 3:30 pm CST, Friday, January 13
WHERE: Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Madison, WI 53713
WHO: Madison Preparatory Academy Board of Directors
Urban League of Greater Madison
Others
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche-Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1230.

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

Race talk fuels tension in Madison Prep debate

Pat Schneider:

That Kaleem Caire, the charismatic champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy, is frustrated by the proposal’s defeat before the Madison School Board last month should surprise no one.
But the prospect that resentment over the defeat of the proposal runs so deep that it could poison the initiative’s future prospects as a private school or public charter — that’s a distressing possibility whose existence is just now emerging.
The proposal for the school by the Urban League of Greater Madison has won many supporters because of the embarrassingly persistent achievement gap between whites and minorities in the Madison School District, but when Caire spoke Monday to Communities United, a community group dedicated to social justice, his passionate appeal to go beyond the district’s existing model was laced with anger towards the School Board members who voted down the plan.
Much of the discussion Monday between Caire and a handful of staffers from the Urban League — where he is president and CEO — and those at the Communities United meeting centered around the ultra-sensitive topics of race and racism.
Even in that friendly environment (the informal, nonpartisan coalition was already on record in favor of the school), Caire’s accusations against school officials were rejected as political spin by a Madison City Council member on hand and criticized as more of the “race card” by an African-American activist who has skirmished with Caire before over Madison Prep. But a Latina parent and activist greeted his words as an apt assessment of the situation in Madison schools.

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

Chicago’s poor fleeing to Wisconsin for safer streets, greater welfare benefits

New York Times news service, via a kind reader:

In Madison, the influx of poor people from Chicago is testing the city’s historical liberalism. About one-quarter of the 3,300 Madison families receiving welfare are former Illinois residents.
Even Mayor Paul Soglin, who earned his liberal stripes in the anti-establishment politics of the 1960s as a Vietnam War protester, now talks of “finite limits of resources” for the poor.
“We’re like a lifeboat that holds 12 people comfortably,” Mr. Soglin said. “We’ve got about 16 in it now, and there’s a dozen more waiting in the water. Since we’re already in danger of going under, what can our community be expected to do?”
A vibrant economy in Wisconsin accounts for much of the migration among poor people, most of them looking for jobs. The state’s unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent while that in Illinois is 4.4 percent.

my correspondent notes:

Here is an interesting article from 1995.  Worth revisiting with Soglin back in office (just because he is the mayor quoted at the time), but mostly as it pertains to our discussions around Madison Prep.  What are the unique attributes and qualities that make up both our white population and our minority population?

Improved Videos of December 19 Public Appearances and Vote on Madison Prep Are Available

MMSD has now posted the videos from the December 19, 2011 meeting at which the Board of Education voted on the proposed Madison Preparatory Charter School. The first video contains the public appearances statements; the second contains the board comments, vote, etc., through the vote to adjourn.
The versions that are now posted are much improved – the video that was originally posted had issues with sound quality and ended abruptly during board statements. The new videos have terrific sound quality and contain the full meeting. (Thanks to MMSD staff for the work that went into this.)

Competition for 2 Madison School Board Seats

Matthew DeFour:

Nichols said though she disagreed with Silveira’s vote, “This is bigger than Madison Prep.”
“My motivation comes from listening to a lot of the community dialogue over the last year and hearing the voices of community members who want greater accountability, who want more diversity in the decision-making and just a call for change,” Nichols said.
Silveira did not return a call for comment Friday.
Two candidates have announced plans to run for the other School Board seat up for election next spring, which is being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. They are Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, and Michael Flores, a Madison firefighter, parent and East High graduate.

The agony of Madison Prep

Ruth Conniff:

The whole agonizing conflict over Madison Preparatory Academy did not end on Monday night, when the school board voted 5-2 against allowing the African American charter school to open next fall. Now comes the lawsuit.
But first, our community faces two immediate tasks: healing the wounds that were ripped open during the Madison Prep controversy, and getting something done about the urgent problem the charter school was developed to address — Madison’s disgraceful achievement gap for African American children.
Monday night’s six hours of emotional testimony mostly highlighted the first of those two problems. In front of the packed auditorium at Memorial High School, Urban League president and Madison Prep founder Kaleem Caire read “What happens to a dream deferred?” to the school board. Nichelle Nichols, the Urban League’s vice president of learning, read a poem that placed the blame for her own children’s spoiled futures squarely on Madison Metropolitan School District officials: “My kids are in the gap, a chasm so dark…. I ask, Mr. Superintendent, what happened to my sons…?”
The sense that Madison has mistreated children of color was a powerful theme. White business leader and former teacher Jan O’Neil pointed out the “huge amount of capital in this room,” all focused on solving the historic educational inequality for African American kids. A “no” vote, she warned the board, might be hopelessly polarizing.

We Blew It on Madison Prep

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I can’t shake the feeling that something important was going on at our School Board meeting last Monday night to consider the Madison Prep charter school proposal, and that the actual School Board vote wasn’t it.
The bare-bone facts are that, after about 90 public speakers, the Board voted 2-5 to reject the Madison Prep proposal. I reluctantly voted against the motion because I was unwilling to violate the terms of our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.
After the motion failed, I moved that the Board approve Madison Prep, but delay its opening until the fall of 2013. My motion failed for lack of a second. (And no, I don’t have an explanation for why neither James Howard nor Lucy Mathiak, who voted in favor of the first motion, was willing to second my motion.)
Probably like most who attended Monday night’s meeting, I have thought a lot about it since. People who know I voted against the proposal have come up to me and congratulated me for what they say was the right decision. I have felt like shaking them and saying, “No, you don’t understand. We blew it Monday night, we blew it big time. I just hope that we only crippled Madison Prep and didn’t kill it.”
I appreciate that that’s an odd and surprising place for me to have ended up. To echo the Talking Heads, “Well, how did I get here?” I’ll try to explain.

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

Madison Prep, at Bottom

Rebecca Kemble:

The most straightforward, clear and dispassionate vote taken on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal at last Monday’s Madison Metropolitan School District Board meeting didn’t even count. It was the advisory vote cast by the student representative, Philippo Bulgarelli.
The School Board turned down the controversial proposal on a 5-2 vote, and after nearly five hours of public testimony, all the school board members gave speeches explaining how they arrived at their decisions. In addition to being the most succinct, Bulgarelli’s statement penetrated all of the intense emotions and wildly divergent interpretations of data and personal anecdotes used to argue both for and against the proposal. Bulgarelli said that the students for whom he speaks did not have enough information to make a reasonably good decision, so he voted to abstain.

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

Rainy River District School Board concedes ‘systemic failure’

Peggy Revell:

Changes to policies and procedures over the handling of funds will ensure that nothing like the theft of more than $300,000 from Fort High should occur again, the Rainy River District School Board said following the sentencing last Thursday of former FFHS secretary Fawn Lindberg.
“Obviously, there were some shortcomings in terms of oversight, both at the school and right through the board office–and those things hopefully have now all been corrected,” noted board chair Michael Lewis.
A press release issued by the board called the theft a “systemic failure from the top down.”
While Lindberg didn’t have the authority to authorize or sign cheques, it was noted during last Thursday’s court proceedings that a practice had developed whereby blank cheques would be signed in advance by the principal and vice-principal, who did have signing authority.
From June, 2005 to October, 2007, Lindberg fed a gambling addiction by stealing $312,426.45, using some 146 cheques she had made out in her name or to “cash.”
The theft came to light in the fall of 2007 after a deficit of more than $175,000 was noticed by board administration and investigated.

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

Wisconsin State Journal:

The school would have offered a longer school day and year, higher standards and expectations, uniforms, mandatory extracurricular activities, same-sex classrooms, more minority teachers as role models, and stepped-up pressure on parents to get involved in their children’s education.
Madison Prep represented a huge opportunity — with unprecedented community support, including millions in private donations — to attack the stubborn achievement gap for low-income and minority students.
But a majority of the School Board rejected Madison Prep, citing excuses that include a disputed clause in its teachers union contract and a supposed lack of accountability.

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

Kaleem Caire should run for School Board

The Capital Times:

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire fought hard to win approval of his Madison Prep project. But the Madison School Board ultimately rejected a plan that would have steered tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into a project that board members felt lacked sufficient oversight and accountability.
The response of Caire and his fellow Madison Prep advocates was to suggest a variety of moves: the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, or perhaps a request for state intervention to allow the project to go forward without state approval.
We would suggest another approach.
Caire has succeeded in garnering a good deal of support for Madison Prep. He could capitalize on that support and make a run for the School Board.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Changing the school board would either require: patience (just two of seven seats: Lucy Mathiak, who is not running after two terms and Arlene Silveira, who apparently is seeking a third term) are up in April, 2012 or a more radical approach via the current Wisconsin method (and Oakland): recalls. Winning the two seats may not be sufficient to change the Board, given the 5-2 no vote. Perhaps the “momentum”, if realized, might sway a vote or two?
Perhaps the TAG complaint illustrates another approach, via the courts and/or different government agencies.

Madison Preparatory Academy Board Commits to Establish Madison Prep as an Independent School in Fall 2012 and address the Achievement Gap in Madison’s Public Schools

Kaleem Caire, via email

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2011
Contact: Laura DeRoche-Perez
Director of School Development
Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53713
Lderoche@ulgm.org
608-729-1230 (office)
608-556-2066 (cell)
Madison, WI – This morning, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy unanimously decided to pursue a set of actions that will assist with eliminating the racial achievement gap in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). These actions are consistent with the objectives of the Urban League of Greater Madison.
Specifically, Madison Prep’s Board has committed to partnering with the Urban League of Greater Madison to:
Work with the Madison Metropolitan School District to ensure MMSD has a bold and effective plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap that embraces innovation, best practices and community engagement as core strategies.
Evaluate legal options that will ensure MMSD affirmatively and immediately addresses the racial achievement gap.
Establish Madison Preparatory Academy as an independent school within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District in August 2012 as a model of whole school reform and a necessary education option for disadvantaged children and families.
David Cagigal, Chair of Madison Prep’s Board, shared that “Madison Prep is a necessary strategy to show how our community can eliminate the achievement gap and prepare our most vulnerable students for college. MMSD’s rejection of our proposal does not change this fact.”
Cagigal further stated that, “We look forward to engaging the Greater Madison community in addressing the racial achievement gap in Madison’s public schools and supporting the establishment of Madison Prep next fall.”
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at Lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1230.
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Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

An RTT Cookbook With One Recipe

Julie McCargar:

I am ambivalent. My state, Tennessee, is the first state that has implemented the annual teacher and principal evaluations as required by Race to the Top (RTT). In 2010, I was involved with writing Tennessee’s successful RTT application, especially the section on “great teachers and leaders.” In my state role, I celebrated the RTT requirement for annual teacher and principal evaluations based substantially on student growth as one of the most important levers to accelerate student achievement.
Now, in 2011, I am at the local level watching the fall-out. Although I still support annual teacher evaluations that include student achievement growth and regular teacher observation scores, it is clear that the initiative is off to a rocky start. And this has implications for more than just the educators and students in Tennessee. As noted in Education Week, many policymakers are concerned that the rocky implementation of Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system may hinder efforts in other states.

Madison Prep proponents raise possibility of creating private school

Matthew DeFour:

Supporters of a controversial charter school proposal geared toward low-income, minority students said Tuesday they will continue to fight to establish it next fall — including possibly as a private school.
Their comments came Tuesday after the Madison School Board voted 5-2 early that day to reject a proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy, which would offer single-sex classrooms and a college preparatory curriculum.
The board didn’t vote on an alternate proposal to approve the school but delay its opening until 2013.
David Cagigal, president of the Madison Prep board, said a private school would be expensive because the school’s target low-income population wouldn’t be able to afford tuition. Instead, the board would ask private donors to replace the roughly $9,300 per pupil it had sought from the School District.
“Maybe money is not the issue if we want to go ahead and prove our point,” Cagigal said. “I can assure you we will persist with this idea of closing the achievement gap.”

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

Shocking outcome of School Board vote: MMSD says NO to Madison Prep

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Dear Madison Prep,
First, thank you to all of you who have supported the Madison Prep effort to this point. Your volunteer hours, work on Design Teams, attendance at meetings, letters to the district and media, and many other acts of support have not gone unnoticed by the Urban League and Madison Prep.
In earlier morning hours today, the MMSD Board of Education voted 5-2 AGAINST Madison Prep. This outcome came after hours of testimony by members of the public, with Madison Prep supporters outnumbering opponents 2:1. Lucy Mathiak and James Howard voted YES for Madison Prep; Ed Hughes, Arlene Silviera, Beth Moss, Maya Cole, and Marj Passman voted NO. After the vote was taken, Ed Hughes made an amendment to the motion to establish Madison Prep in 2013 (rather than 2012) in order to avoid what some see as a conflict between Madison Prep and the teachers’ union contract. Mr. Hughes’ motion was not seconded; therefore there was no vote on establishing Madison Prep one year later.
While the Urban League and Madison Prep are shocked by last night’s outcome, both organizations are committed to ensuring that Madison Prep becomes a reality for children in Madison. We will continue to press for change and innovation in the Madison Metropolitan School District and Dane County to ensure that the racial achievement gap is eliminated and that all children receive a high quality education that adequately prepares them for their future.
We will advance a number of next steps:
1.We will pursue different avenues, both public and private, to launch Madison Prep. We are still hopeful for an opening in 2012. There will be much the community will learn from Madison Prep and our children need this option now.
2.We will continue to coordinate community support and action to ensure that the Madison Metropolitan School District is accountable for eliminating the racial achievement gap. We will consider several strategies, such as implementing a Citizen Review Board that will hold the school board and district administration accountable for good governance, planning, implementation, execution, community engagement and student achievement results. We will also consider legal avenues to ensure MMSD understands and responds to the community’s sense of urgency to address the sizable and decades-long failure rates of Black and Latino children.
3.We must also address the leadership vacuum in K-12 education in Madison. Because of this, we will ensure that parents, students and community members are informed of their rights and responsibilities, and have a better understanding of promising educational strategies to close the achievement gap. We will also work to ensure that they have opportunities to be fully engaged in planning, working and deciding what’s best for the children educated in our public schools.
4.We will continue to work in collaboration with MMSD through our existing partnerships, and hope to grow these partnerships in the future.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to ensure that children in our schools and families in our community have hope, inspiration, support and opportunity to manifest their dreams and make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Onward.
Kaleem

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

Down Goes Madison Prep

Mike Ford:

As expected, the Madison Metropolitan School Board voted 5 -2 last night against authorizing the Madison Prep charter school. Only two board members overseeing a school district with an African-American graduation rate below 50% saw fit to support a new approach
Those voting against the school did offer reasons. Board member Beth Moss told the Wisconsin State Journal she voted no because of concerns about the school’s ability to serve students needing more than one year of remedial education. Board member Ed Hughes said he could not support the school until after the Madison teachers union contract expires in 2013.
But no worries, Superintendent Dan Nerad told the Wisconsin State Journal he has a plan:

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

Urban League Plans Legal Action After Madison Prep Vote Fails

Channel3000.com:

Proponents of the Madison Preparatory Academy said they’re looking to take legal action against the Madison Metropolitan School District after the school board voted against the proposed charter school.
The Madison Board of Education put an end to the Madison Prep proposal with a 5-2 vote early Tuesday morning, and reaction was swift.
“Because (the school board members) don’t take us seriously — they will sit right up here and look in our face and not even know they’re insulting us with the things that they say,” said Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League Of Greater Madison President, shortly after the vote. “We are going to turn our attention immediately, immediately, to address this legally.”

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

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

Kaleem Caire:

For the last 17 months, I have followed the commentary and misinformation shared about our organization’s proposal to establish Madison Preparatory Academy.
Some who have written and commented about our proposal have been very supportive; others don’t think Madison Prep should exist. With less than 24 hours until the Madison School Board votes on the school, we would like to bring the public back to the central reasons why we proposed Madison Prep in August 2010.
First, hundreds of black and Latino children are failing to complete high school each year. In 2009, the Madison School District reported that 59 percent of black and 61 percent of Latino students graduated. In 2010, the percentage of graduates dropped to 48 percent for Black and 56 percent for Latino students. This not only has an adverse impact on our young people, their families and our community, it results in millions in lost revenue to the Madison district every year.
Second, in 2010, just 20 percent of the 387 black and 37 percent of the 191 Latino seniors enrolled in the district completed the ACT college entrance exam. The ACT is required for admission by all public colleges and universities in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, just 7 percent of black and 18 percent of Latino student who completed the ACT were “ready for college.” This means that only 5 of 387 black and 13 of 191 Latino students were academically ready for college.

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

So what do students think about Madison Preparatory Academy?

Pat Schneider:

No matter where the votes fall Monday when the Madison School Board decides whether to OK a charter school proposal for the controversial Madison Preparatory Academy, the idea of a buttoned-down, no-nonsense alternative to the city’s public schools already has entered the local popular culture. It is not only a beacon of hope in efforts to end a lingering race-based academic achievement gap, but also has become an emblematic stick to nudge underperforming kids into line.
As high school senior Adaeze Okoli tells it, when her little brother isn’t working up to his potential, her mom jokingly threatens to send him to Madison Prep.
That anecdote says a lot about how distinct a presence the proposed school already has become in local communities of color. It makes me wonder how kids would feel about attending a school that is boys-only or girls-only and requires uniforms, longer school days, a longer school year and greater parental involvement.
Put the kids first for a change, Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire, the architect and unflagging advocate of the school plan, chided school district administrators after they declared that his proposal would violate the district’s union contract with its teachers and provide inadequate accountability to the School Board. But for all the analysis and debate about the Madison Prep plan, I haven’t heard much from young people about how they would like to go to such a school, and how they think the strict rules would influence learning.
To sound out some students, I turned to the Simpson St

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

Don’t reject Madison Prep

Wisconsin State Journal:

Superintendent Dan Nerad acknowledged last week that existing Madison School District programs aimed at boosting minority achievement “are not having the impact we need for our kids.”
“The data is telling us we need to do different things,” Nerad added.
And the Urban League of Greater Madison’s proposal for an unusual public charter school catering to low-income blacks and Latinos “has elevated the conversation, and I appreciate that,” the superintendent said.
“I’m not raising any concerns about the programming side of it,” he told the State Journal editorial board.
It sounded like a windup to endorsing the Madison Preparatory Academy, which faces a final vote by the Madison School Board on Monday night.
Instead, Nerad is recommending the School Board reject the academy, primarily because of complicated contract language.
That shouldn’t happen.

Supporting Strategies to Eliminate the Achievement Gap in Madison Public Schools

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce:

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors met on December 15, 2011, and adopted the following resolution:
Motion: The Board of Directors encourages a comprehensive approach to eliminate the student achievement gap currently present in Madison schools.
The Board strongly endorses the advancement of the Urban League of Greater Madison’s proposed Madison Preparatory Academy. The Board also acknowledges and endorses the continued investment in successful strategies already employed by the Madison Metropolitan School District and the United Way of Dane County.
Comments:
The Chamber Board recognizes that there is no panacea or singular solution to eliminating the student racial achievement gap. Rather, a comprehensive approach should be employed utilizing multiple strategies to address this problem.
The Chamber Board acknowledges the work of community and school leaders who have worked tirelessly on this issue. In particular, the United Way of Dane County has demonstrated tremendous leadership to ensure all struggling students achieve better results. The GMCC is a partner in Schools of Hope, a collaborative community initiative aimed at reducing the achievement gap. In addition, the United Way is committing more than $2 million over the next year for programs to address this issue.

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

Union concerns must not derail Madison Prep

Tom Consigny:

One of the last remaining opportunities for a locally-elected government body to stop the increasing spread of the entitlement society and the dumbing down of education will occur Monday when the Madison School Board, together with their highly paid educational professionals, will determine the fate of Madison Prep Academy.
Based on news reports, the local teachers union and its always pushy head, John Matthews, oppose the venture. Why? Because the proposal advocates flexibility by hiring non-union teachers at a cost savings of millions!
To Matthews and MTI, your argument that “it’s all about the kids” rings hollow and empty again.
Even though I am not a member of a minority and I dislike paying more real estate taxes for unnecessary projects, this non-union driven proposal by Kaleem Caire deserves approval for the future benefit of Madison’s kids and residents.

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

Matthews has history of anti-charter views

Peter Joyce:

It’s ironic that John Matthews, executive director for Madison Teachers Inc., writes in a State Journal guest column that Madison Prep charter school could be implemented only if it was more like Nuestro Mundo.
In 2004, when Nuestro Mundo applied, Matthews didn’t support the formation of a charter school. He opposed the charter despite the fact that Nuestro Mundo wanted teachers to remain in the collective bargaining agreement as members of MTI.
If the Madison School Board had listened to Matthews back in 2004, there would not be a Nuestro Mundo charter school.
Nuestro Mundo came into existence through the work of members of the community and the efforts of three Madison School District board members, Ruth Robarts, Ray Allen and Juan Jose Lopez. In spite of the many legal and economic questions, they found a way to make Nuestro Mundo a reality.
Matthews has not assisted in the formation of charter schools. Don’t look to him for a balanced opinion — he’s anti-charter.
— Peter Joyce, Madison

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

APPROVE MADISON PREP NON-INSTRUMENTALITY

Don Severson, via a kind email:

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote December 19, 2011, on the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal for non-instrumentality charter school authorization. Active Citizens for Education endorses and supports the approval of the proposal.
In addition to the rationale and data cited by the Urban League of Greater Madison, and significant others throughout the Madison community, supporting the curricular, instructional, parental and behavioral strategies and rigor of the school, ACE cites the following financial and accountability support for approval of the Academy as a non-instrumentality charter school.

  • Financial: Should the Board deny approval of the proposal as a non-instrumentality the District stands to lose significant means of financial support from state aids and property tax revenue. The District is allowed $10,538.54 per student enrolled in the District the 2011-12 school year. With the possibility of Madison Prep becoming a private school if denied charter school status, the 120 boys and girls would not be enrolled in MMSD; therefore the District would not be the beneficiary of the state and local revenue. The following chart shows the cumulative affect of this reduction using current dollars:
    2012-2013 6th grade 120 students @10,538.54 = $1,264,624.80
    2013-2014 2 grades 240 students @10,538.54 = $2.529,249.60
    2014-2015 3 grades 360 students @10,538.54 = $3,793,874.40
    2015-2016 4 grades 480 students @10,538.54 = $5,058,499.20
    2016-2017 5 grades 600 students @10,538.54 = $6.323.124.00
    2017-2018 6 grades 720 students @10,538.54 = $7,587,748.80
    2018-2019 7 grades 840 students @10,538.54 = $8,852,373.60
    This lost revenue does not include increases in revenue that would be generated from improved completion/graduation rates (currently in the 50% range) of Black and Hispanic students resulting from enrollees in a charter school arrangement.

  • Accountability: The MMSD Administration and Board have been demonstrating a misunderstanding of the terms ‘accountability’ and ‘control’. The State charter school law allows for the creation of charter schools to provide learning experiences for identified student groups with innovative and results-oriented strategies, exempt from the encumbrances of many existing state and local school rules, policies and practices. Charter schools are authorized and designed to operate without the ‘controls’ which are the very smothering conditions causing many of the problems in our public schools. The resulting different charter school environment has been proven to provide improved academic and personal development growth for learners from the traditional school environment. Decreasing impediments and controls inhibiting learning increases the requirements for ‘accountability’ to achieve improved learner outcomes on the part of the charter school. Should the charter school not meet its stated and measurable goals, objectives and results then it is not accountable and therefore should be dissolved. This is the ‘control’ for which the Board of Education has the authority to hold a charter school accountable.
    Let us describe an analogy. Private for-profit business and not-for-profit organizations are established to provide a product and/or service to customers, members and the public. The accountability of the business or organization for its continued existence depends on providing a quality product/services that customers/members want or need. If, for whatever reasons, the business or organization does not provide the quality and service expected and the customer/member does not obtain the results/satisfaction expected, the very existence of the business/organization is jeopardized and may ultimately go ‘out of business’. This scenario is also absolutely true with a charter school. It appears that the significant fears for the MMSD Administration and Board of Education to overcome for the approval of the proposed non-instrumentality Madison Prep charter school are: 1) the fear of loss of ‘control’ instead of accepting responsibility for ‘accountability’, and 2) the fear that ‘some other organization’ will be successful with solutions and results for a problem not addressed by themselves.

The MMSD Board of Education is urged to approve the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy non-instrumentality charter school proposal; thereby, relieving the bondage which grips students and sentences them to a future lifetime of under-performance and lack of opportunities. Thank you.
Contact: Don Severson, President, 608 577-0851, donleader@aol.com

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

ACE Media Conference 12/15/2011 12:30p.m. Financial and Accountability Issues Facing MMSD Board of Education

Don Severson, via a kind email:

(Madison, WI) The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will make a decision at its regular meeting December 19th regarding the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) proposal for a non-instrumentality charter school. Active Citizens for Education (ACE) has discussed several issues related to the proposal with the Board of Education, administration and with ULGM.
The Board of Education, in its deliberations, must weigh several implications and consequences for the schools, students, parents and the taxpaying public.
In its public statement, ACE will announce its position on the
financial implications of the proposal for future MMSD budgets and the taxpayers; how the issues of “control” and “accountability” relate to the authority of the Board of Education regarding approval or non-approval of the charter school proposal; and Madison Preparatory Academy over-all proposal.
The media conference will be held
December 15, 2011 (Thursday)
12:30 PM, Conference Room
Genesis Enterprise Center (GEC)
313 West Beltline Highway (off Rimrock Road to the west)
Mr. Severson will be available for questions and comments following the media conference.

Madison Prep: Closing Argument, Part I

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here’s a quote from an on-line comment of a Madison Prep opponent responding to one of the several op-ed pieces posted in the Cap Times in recent days: “There are barriers to students with special education needs, barriers to students with behavioral needs, and barriers to kids who rely on public transportation. These children are simply not the ‘right fit’. It is Madison Prep’s proposal to leave these kids in their neighborhood schools.”
The notion seems to be that Madison Prep may not be welcoming for students from all points along the spectrum of educational needs, even though our neighborhood schools are obligated to serve everyone.
I think the self-selection process for Madison Prep should be taken into account in assessing how its students perform. But it does not trouble me that the school is not designed to meet the needs of all our students. No one need apply to attend and no student will be denied current services or programs if Madison Prep is authorized.

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

Why I Am Voting Yes on Madison Prep

Lucy Mathiak:

The Urban League’s proposal to create a Madison Preparatory charter school is, at its heart, a proposal about public education in our community. Although the discussions often boil down to overly simplistic assertions about whether one position or the other is supportive of or hostile toward public education, it is not that simple. What we are facing is a larger and more fundamental question about our values when it comes to the purpose of public education and who it is supposed to serve.
I am voting “yes” because I believe that strong public education for all is the foundation for a strong society. While our schools do a very good job with many students who are white and/or living above the poverty line, the same cannot be said for students of color and/or students living in poverty. The record is most dismal for African American students.
The Madison Prep proposal is born of over 40 years of advocacy for schools that engage and hold high academic expectations for African American and other students of color. That advocacy has produced minor changes in rhetoric without changes in culture, practice, or outcome. Yes, some African American students are succeeding. But for the overwhelming majority, there are two Madison public school systems. The one where the students have a great experience and go on to top colleges, and the one that graduates only 48% of African American males.
The individual stories are heartbreaking, but the numbers underscore that individual cases add up to data that is not in keeping with our self-image as a cutting edge modern community. We ALL play a role in the problem, and we ALL must be part creating a sound, systemic, solution to our failure to educate ALL of our public school students. In the meantime, the African American community cannot wait, and the Madison Prep proposal came from that urgent, dire, need.
Our track record with students and families of color is not improving and, in some cases, is going backward rather than forward as we create more plans and PR campaigns designed to dismiss concerns about academic equality as misunderstandings. To be sure, there are excellent principals, teachers, and staff who do make a difference every day; some African American students excel each year. But overall, when presented with opportunities to change and to find the academic potential in each student, the district has failed to act and has been allowed to do so by the complicit silence of board members and the community at large.
A few turning points from the past year alone:

  • The Urban League – not MMSD administration or the board – pointed out the dismal graduation rates for African American students (48% for males)
  • Less than 5% of African American students are college ready.
  • AVID/TOPs does a terrific job with underrepresented students IF they can get in. AVID/TOPs serves 134 (2.6%) of MMSD’s 4,977 African American secondary students.
  • The number of African American students entering AVID/TOPs is lower this year after MMSD administration changed the criteria for participation away from the original focus on students of color, low income, and first generation college students.
  • Of almost 300 teachers hired in 2011-12, less than 10 are African American. There are fewer African American teachers in MMSD today than there were five years ago.
  • Over 50 African Americans applied for custodian positions since January 1, 2011. 1 was hired; close to 30 custodians were hired in that time.
  • 4K – which is presented as a means to address the achievement gap – is predominantly attended by students who are not African American or low-income.
  • In June, the board approved a Parent Engagement Coordinator to help the district improve its relations with African American families. That position remains unfilled. The district has engagement coordinators working with Hmong and Latino families.

The single most serious issue this year, however, came in May when MMSD administration was informed that we are a District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) due to test scores for African American students along with students from low income families and those with learning disabilities. This puts Madison on an elite list with Madison (Milwaukee?) and Racine. The superintendent mentioned DIFI status in passing to the board, and the WI State Journal reported on the possible sanctions without using the term DIFI.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with NCLB, DIFI status is a serious matter because of the ladder of increasing sanctions that come with poor performance. In an ideal world, the district would have articulated the improvement plan required by DPI over the summer for implementation on the first day of school. Such a plan would include clear action steps, goals, and timelines to improve African American achievement. Such a plan does not exist as of mid-December 2011, and in the most recent discussion it was asserted that the improvement plan is “just paper that doesn’t mean much.” I would argue that, to the African American community, such a plan would mean a great deal if it was sincerely formulated and implemented.
At the same time, we have been able to come up with task forces and reports – with goals and timelines – that are devoted to Talented and Gifted Programing, Direct Language Instruction, Fine Arts Programing, and Mathematics Education to name a few.
Under the circumstances, it is hard to see why the African American community would believe that the outcomes will improve if they are ‘just patient’ and ‘work within the existing public school structures to make things better.’ Perhaps more accurately, I cannot look people in the face and ask them to hope that we will do a better job if they just give up on the vision of a school structure that does what the MMSD has failed to do for the African American community since the advocacy began some 40 years ago.

Also posted at the Capital Times.

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

750K PDF – Kaleem Caire, via email

December 11, 2011
Mr. Ed Hughes
Board of Education
Madison Metropolitan School District 545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53713
Dear Mr. Hughes:
This letter is intended to respond to your December 4, 2011 blog post regarding the Madison Preparatory Academy initiative. Specifically, this letter is intended to address what you referred as “a fairly half-hearted argument [advanced by the Urban League] that the state statute authorizing school districts to enter into contracts for non-instrumentality charter schools trumps or pre-empts any language in collective bargaining agreements that restricts school districts along these lines.” Continuing on, you wrote the following:

I say the argument is half-hearted because no authority is cited in support and itjust isn’t much ofan argument. School districts aren’t required to authorize non-instrumentality charter schools, and so there is no conflict with state statutesfor a school district to, in effect, agree that it would not do so. Without that kind of a direct conflict, there is no basis for arguing that the CBA language is somehow pre-empted.

We respectfully disagree with your assessment. The intent of this letter is to provide you with the authority for this position and to more fully explain the nature of our concern regarding a contract provision that appears to be illegal in this situation and in direct conflict with public policy.
Background
As you are aware, the collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”) between MMSD and MTI Iprovides “that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certificated teacher, shall be performed only by ‘teachers.”‘ See Article I, Section B.3.a. In addition, “the term ‘teacher’ refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit.” See Article I, Section B.2. You have previously suggested that “all teachers in MMSD schools– including non-instrumentality charter schools- must be members of the MTI bargaining unit.” As we indicated in our December 3, 2011 correspondence to you, under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school’s staff. See§ 118.40(7)(a).
Under Wisconsin’s charter school law, the MMSD School Board (the “Board”) has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. See§ 118.40(7)(a). That decisio n is an important decision reserved to the Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the Board. The language of the CBA deprives the Board ofthe decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the CBA. Alternatively, the CBA language creates a situation whereby the Board may exercise its statutory authority to approve a non- instrumentality charter, but it must staff the school with school district employees, a result clearly prohibited under the statute. For reasons that will be explained below, in our view, the law trumps the CBA in either of these situations.
Analysis
Under Wisconsin law, “[a]labor contract may not violate the law.” Glendale Professional Policeman’s Ass’n v. City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d 90, 102 (Wis. 1978). City ofGlendale addressed the tension that can arise between bargained for provisions in a collective bargaining agreement and statutory language. In City of Glendale, the City argued that a provision dealing with job promotions was unenforceable because it could not be harmonized with statutory language. Specifically, the agreement in question set forth parameters for promoting employees and stated in part that openings “shall be filled by the applicant with the greatest department seniority…” City of Glendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 94. Wisconsin law provided the following:

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

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

Although sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats., requires all subordinates to be appointed by the chief with the approval of the board, it does not, at least expressly, prohibit the chief or the board from exercising the power of promotion of a qualified person according to a set of rules for selecting one among several qualified applicants.

The factual scenario in City ofGlendale differs significantly from the present situation. In City of Glendale, the terms of the agreement did not remove the ability of the chief, with the approval of the board, to make promotions. They could still carry out their statutory duties. The agreement language simply set forth parameters that had to be followed when making promotions. Accordingly, the discretion of the chief was limited, but not eliminated. In the present scenario, the discretion of the Board to decide whether a charter school should be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality has been effectively eliminated by the CBA language.
There is nothing in the CBA that explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. This discretion clearly lies with the Board. Pursuant to state law, instrumentality charter schools are staffed by District teachers. However, non-instrumentality charter schools cannot be staffed by District teachers. See Wis. Stat.§ 118.40. Based on your recent comments, you have taken the position that the Board cannot vote for a non-instrumentality charter school because this would conflict with the work preservation clause of the CBA. Specifically, you wrote that “given the CBA complications, I don’t see how the school board can authorize a non-instrumentality Madison Prep to open its doors next fall, and I say that as one who has come to be sympathetic to the proposal.” While we appreciate your sympathy, what we would like is your support. Additionally, this position creates at least two direct conflicts with the law.
First, under Wisconsin law, “the school board of the school district in which a charter school is located shall determine whether or not the charter school is an instrumentality of the school district.” Wis. Stat. § 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added.) The Board is required to make this determination. If the Board is precluded from making this decision on December 19″‘ based on an agreement previously reached with MTI, the Board will be unable to comply with the law. Effectively, the instrumentality/non- instrumentality decision will have been made by the Board and MTI pursuant to the terms and conditions of the CBA. However, MTI has no authority to make this determination, which creates a direct conflict with the law. Furthermore, the Board will be unable to comply with its statutory obligation due to the CBA. Based on your stated concerns regarding the alleged inability to vote for a non-instrumentality charter school, it appears highly unlikely that the Board ever intentionally ceded this level ofauthority to MTI.
Second, if the Board chose to exercise its statutorily granted authority on December 19th and voted for a non-instrumentality charter school, this would not be a violation of the CBA. Nothing in the CBA explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. At that point, to the extent that MTI chose to challenge that decision, and remember that MTI would have to choose to grieve or litigate this issue, MTI would have to try to attack the law, not the decision made by the Board. Pursuant to the law, “[i] f the school board determines that the charter school is not an instrumentality of the school district, the school board may not employ any personnel for the charter school.” Wis. Stat.§ 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added). While it has been suggested that the Board could choose to avoid the legal impasse by voting down the non-instrumentality proposal, doing so would not cure this conflict. This is particularly true if some Board members were to vote against a non-instrumentality option solely based on the CBA. In such a case, the particular Board Member’s obligation to make this decision is essentially blocked. Making a decision consistent with an illegal contract provision for the purposes of minimizing the conflict does not make the provision any less illegal. “A labor contract term whereby parties agree to violate the law is void.” WERC v. Teamsters Local No. 563, 75 Wis. 2d 602, 612 (Wis. 1977) (citation omitted).
Conclusion
In Wisconsin, “a labor contract term that violates public policy or a statute is void as a matter of law.” Board of Education v. WERC, 52 Wis. 2d 625, 635 (Wis. 1971). Wisconsin law demonstrates that there is a public policy that promotes the creation of charter schools. Within that public policy, there is an additional public policy that promotes case-by-case decision making by a school board regarding whether a charter school will be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality. The work preservation clause in the CBA cannot be harmonized with these underlying public policies and should not stop the creation of Madison Preparatory Academy.
The Madison Prep initiative has put between a rock and a hard place. Instrumentality status lost support because of the costs associated with employing members of MTI. Yet, we are being told that non-instrumentality status will be in conflict with the CBA and therefore cannot be approved. As discussed above, the work preservation clause is irreconcilable with Wisconsin law, and would likely be found void by acourt of law.
Accordingly, I call on you, and the rest of the Board to vote for non- instrumentality status on December 19th. In the words of Langston Hughes, “a dream deferred is a dream denied.” Too many children in this district have been denied for far too long. On behalf of Madison children, families and the Boards of the Urban League and Madison Prep, I respectfully request your support.
Respectfully,
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
cc: Dan Nerad, Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel
MMSD Board ofEducation Members
ULGMand Madison Prep Board Members and Staff
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Related: Who Runs the Madison Schools?
Howard Blume: New teacher contract could shut down school choice program

As schools across California bemoan increasing class sizes, the Alliance Technology and Math Science High School has boosted class size — on purpose — to an astonishing 48. The students work at computers most of the school day.
Next door in an identical building containing a different school, digital imaging — in the form of animation, short films and graphics — is used for class projects in English, math and science.
At a third school on the same Glassell Park campus, long known as Taylor Yards, high-schoolers get hands-on experience with a working solar panel.
These schools and two others coexist at the Sotomayor Learning Academies, which opened this fall under a Los Angeles school district policy called Public School Choice. The 2009 initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, has allowed groups from inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to compete for the right to run dozens of new or low-performing schools.

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

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

Kaleem Caire, via email:

December 10, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues.
For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison’s public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it’s not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.
Some days, it has felt like we’re desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.
Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who’ve been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children’s education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.
Our proposal for Madison Prep has certainly touched a nerve in Madison. But why? When we launched our efforts on the steps of West High School on August 29, 2010, we thought Madison and its school officials would heartily embrace Madison Prep.We thought they would see the school as:
(1) a promising solution to the racial achievement gap that has persisted in our city for at least 40 years;
(2) a learning laboratory for teachers and administrators who admittedly need new strategies for addressing the growing rate of underachievement, poverty and parental disengagement in our schools, and
(3) a clear sign to communities of color and the broader Greater Madison community that it was prepared to do whatever it takes to help move children forward – children for whom failure has become too commonplace and tolerated in our capital city.
Initially, the majority of Board of Education members told us they liked the idea and at the time, had no problems with us establishing Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality – and therefore, non-union, public school. At the same time, all of them asked us for help and advice on how to eliminate the achievement gap, more effectively engage parents and stimulate parent involvement, and better serve children and families of color.
Then, over the next several months as the political climate and collective bargaining in the state changed and opponents to charter schools and Madison Prep ramped up their misinformation and personal attack campaign, the focus on Madison Prep got mired in these issues.
The concern of whether or not a single-gender school would be legal under state and federal law was raised. We answered that both with a legal briefing and by modifying our proposal to establish a common girls school now rather than two years from now.
The concern of budget was raised and how much the school would cost the school district. We answered that through a $2.5 million private gift to lower the per pupil request to the district and by modifying our budget proposal to ensure Madison Prep would be as close to cost-neutral as possible. The District Administration first said they would support the school if it didn’t cost the District more than $5 million above what it initially said it could spend; Madison Prep will only cost them $2.7 million.
Board of Education members also asked in March 2011 if we would consider establishing Madison Prep as an instrumentality of MMSD, where all of the staff would be employed by the district and be members of the teacher’s union. We decided to work towards doing this, so long as Madison Prep could retain autonomy of governance, management and budget. Significant progress was made until the last day of negotiations when MMSD’s administration informed us that they would present a counter-budget to ours in their analysis of our proposal that factored in personnel costs for an existing school versus establishing a modest budget more common to new charter schools.
We expressed our disagreement with the administration and requested that they stick with our budget for teacher salaries, which was set using MMSD’s teacher salary scale for a teacher with 7 years experience and a masters degree and bench-marked against several successful charter schools. Nevertheless, MMSD argued that they were going to use the average years of experience of teachers in the district, which is 14 years with a master’s degree. This drove up the costs significantly, taking teacher salaries from $47,000 to $80,000 per year and benefits from $13,500 to $25,000 per year per teacher. The administration’s budget plan therefore made starting Madison Prep as an instrumentality impossible.
To resolve the issue, the Urban League and Board of Madison Prep met in November to consider the options. In doing so, we consulted with every member of MMSD’s Board of Education. We also talked with parents, stakeholders and other community members as well. It was then decided that we would pursue Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality of the school district because we simply believe that our children cannot and should not have to wait.
Now, Board of Education members are saying that Madison Prep should be implemented in “a more familiar, Madison Way”, as a “private school”, and that we should not have autonomy even though state laws and MMSD’s own charter school policy expressly allow for non-instrumentality schools to exist. There are presently more than 20 such schools in Wisconsin.
What Next?
As the mountains keep growing, the goal posts keep moving, and the razor blades and rose bushes are replenished with each step we take, we are forced to ask the question: Why has this effort, which has been more inclusive, transparent and well-planned, been made so complicated? Why have the barriers been erected when our proposal is specifically focused on what Madison needs, a school designed to eliminate the achievement gap, increase parent engagement and prepare young people for college who might not otherwise get there? Why does liberal Madison, which prides itself on racial tolerance and opposition to bigotry, have such a difficult time empowering and including people of color, particularly African Americans?
As the member of a Black family that has been in Madison since 1908, I wonder aloud why there are fewer black-owned businesses in Madison today than there were 25 years ago? There are only two known black-owned businesses with 10 or more employees in Dane County. Two!
Why can I walk into 90 percent of businesses in Madison in 2011 and struggle to find Black professionals, managers and executives or look at the boards of local companies and not see anyone who looks like me?
How should we respond when Board of Education members tell us they can’t vote for Madison Prep while knowing that they have no other solutions in place to address the issues our children face? How can they say they have the answers and develop plans for our children without consulting and including us in the process? How can they have 51 black applicants for teaching positions and hire only one, and then claim that they can’t find any black people to apply for jobs? How can they say, “We need more conversations” about the education of our children when we’ve been talking for four decades?
I have to ask the question, as uncomfortable as it may be for some to hear, “Would we have to work this hard and endure so much resistance if just 48% of white children in Madison’s public schools were graduating, only 1% of white high school seniors were academically ready for college, and nearly 50% of white males between the ages of 25-29 were incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision?
Is this 2011 or 1960? Should the black community, which has been in Madison for more than 100 years, not expect more?
How will the Board of Education’s vote on December 19th help our children move forward? How will their decision impact systemic reform and seed strategies that show promise in improving on the following?
Half of Black and Latino children are not completing high school. Just 59% of Black and 61% of Latino students graduated on-time in 2008-09. One year later, in 2009-10, the graduation rate declined to 48% of Black and 56% of Latino students compared to 89% of white students. We are going backwards, not forwards. (Source: MMSD 2010, 2011)
Black and Latino children are not ready for college. According to makers of the ACT college entrance exam, just 20% of Madison’s 378 Black seniors and 37% of 191 Latino seniors in MMSD in 2009-10 completed the ACT. Only 7% of Black and 18% of Latino seniors completing test showed they had the knowledge and skills necessary to be “ready for college”. Among all MMSD seniors (those completing and not completing the test), just 1% of Black and 7% of Latino seniors were college ready
Too few Black and Latino graduates are planning to go to college. Of the 159 Latino and 288 Black students that actually graduated and received their diplomas in 2009-10, just 28% of Black and 21% of Latino students planned to attend a four-year college compared to 53% of White students. While another 25% of Black and 33% of graduates planned to attend a two-year college or vocation program (compared to 17% of White students), almost half of all of all Black and Latino graduates had no plans for continuing their education beyond high school compared to 27% of White students. (Source: DPI 2011)
Half of Black males in their formative adult years are a part of the criminal justice system. Dane County has the highest incarceration rate among young Black men in the United States: 47% between the ages of 25-29 are incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision. The incarceration phenomena starts early. In 2009-10, Black youth comprised 62% of all young people held in Wisconsin’s correctional system. Of the 437 total inmates held, 89% were between the ages of 15-17. In Dane County, in which Madison is situated, 49% of 549 young people held in detention by the County in 2010 were Black males, 26% were white males, 12% were black females, 6% were white females and 6% were Latino males and the average age of young people detained was 15. Additionally, Black youth comprised 54% of all 888 young people referred to the Juvenile Court System. White students comprised 31% of all referrals and Latino comprised 6%.
More importantly, will the Board of Education demonstrate the type of courage it took our elders and ancestors to challenge and change laws and contracts that enabled Jim Crow, prohibited civil rights, fair employment and Women’s right to vote, and made it hard for some groups to escape the permanence of America’s underclass? We know this is not an easy vote, and we appreciate their struggle, but there is a difference between what is right and what is politically convenient.
Will the Board have the courage to look in the faces of Black and Latino families in the audience, who have been waiting for solutions for so long, and tell them with their vote that they must wait that much longer?
We hope our Board of Education members recognize and utilize the tremendous power they have to give our children a hand-up. We hope they hear the collective force and harmony of our pleas, engage with our pain and optimism, and do whatever it takes to ensure that the proposal we have put before them, which comes with exceptional input and widespread support, is approved on December 19, 2011.
Madison Prep is a solution we can learn from and will benefit the hundreds of young men and women who will eventually attend.
If not Madison Prep, then what? If not now, then when?
JOIN US
SCHOOL BOARD VOTE ON MADISON PREP
Monday, December 19, 2011 at 5:00pm
Madison Metropolitan School District
Doyle Administration Building Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53703
Contact: Laura DeRoche Perez, Lderoche@ulgm.org
Phone: 608-729-1230
CLICK HERE TO RSVP: TELL US YOU’LL BE THERE
Write the School Board and Tell Them to “Say ‘Yes’, to Madison Prep!”
Madison Prep 2012!
Onward!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org
OUR RESPONSE TO MMSD’S NEW CONCERNS
Autonomy: MMSD now says they are concerned that Madison Prep will not be accountable to the public for the education it provides students and the resources it receives. Yet, they don’t specify what they mean by “accountability.” We would like to know how accountability works in MMSD and how this is producing high achievement among the children it serves. Further, we would like to know why Madison Prep is being treated differently than the 30 early childhood centers that are participating in the district’s 4 year old kindergarten program. They all operate similar to non-instrumentality schools, have their own governing boards, operate via a renewable contract, can hire their own teachers “at their discretion” and make their own policy decisions, and have little to no oversight by the MMSD Board of Education. All 30 do not employ union teachers. Accountability in the case of 4K sites is governed by “the contract.” MMSD Board members should be aware that, as with their approval of Badger Rock Middle School, the contract is supposed to be developed “after” the concept is approved on December 19. In essence, this conversation is occurring to soon, if we keep with current district practices.
Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): MMSD and Madison Teachers, Incorporated have rejected our attorney’s reading of ACT 65, which could provide a path to approval of Madison Prep without violating the CBA. Also, MTI and MMSD could approve Madison Prep per state law and decide not to pursue litigation, if they so desired. There are still avenues to pursue here and we hope MMSD’s Board of Education will consider all of them before making their final decision.

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

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

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Fails to address core issues impacting racial achievement gap and middle class flight
WHAT: The Urban League of Greater Madison and the founding Board of Madison Preparatory Academy will share their response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Administration’s recommendation that the Board of Education not Support Madison Prep, and will call for immediate and wider education reforms within the Madison Metropolitan School District to address the racial achievement gap and middle-class flight and crises.
WHEN: 12:00 pm, Thursday, December 8, 2011
WHERE: Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Suite 200, Madison, WI 53713
WHO: Kaleem Caire, Urban League President & CEO Urban League of Greater Madison Board of Directors Madison Preparatory Academy Board of Directors Community Leaders and Parents
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1235.

Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

Seattle Cluster (Spectrum) Grouping Discussion

Chris Cronas, Principal, Wedgwood Elementary

Prior to the Thanksgiving break, we administered a survey asking for feedback from families about their knowledge and thoughts on the changes we are making to the curriculum delivery model at Wedgwood. Thank you to the 259 families who responded to the survey. We have 449 students currently enrolled at Wedgwood, 185 of whom are siblings. If respondents only completed one survey per family, as requested, our sample is quite accurate.
Overall, families want more information about what cluster grouping is. This was expressed in a variety of ways by families of general education, spectrum and special education students. I will attempt to clarify what it is here and how Wedgwood staff is using this information to move forward.
For those who do not know, cluster grouping is a method of grouping gifted students (gifted being identified as students who score in the 98th – 99th percentile on a cognitive ability test) into clusters of 6 students in one classroom that also include high achievers and above average students. The remaining students would be clustered so that the highest achieving students and lowest achieving students are not in the same classroom. With that as a guide, Wedgwood is developing plans to move from having self-contained spectrum classrooms to integrated classrooms using an interpretation of this model. We are already doing this in 1st grade, albeit more heterogeneously than what the research we based our 1st grade model on suggests.

Charlie Mas has more:

Are you confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program? Join the club. Everyone is confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program. The president of the confusion club appears to be the school’s principal, Chris Cronas.

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

Kaleem Caire, via email

December 2, 2011
Greetings Madison Prep.
Tomorrow afternoon, we are expecting to learn that MMSD’s Administration will inform the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education that Madison Prep should not be approved. A possible reason we expect will be MMSD’s concern that the current collective bargaining agreement between the District and Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) has a “work preservation clause” which the teacher’s union advocated for long ago to ensure that it was the only game in town to represent public school teachers in Madison.
Below, is the cover note that I forwarded to Ed Hughes of the Board of Education and copied to a number of others, who had asked a thoughtful question about our proposal to establish Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter school, we hope, in fall 2012. Also see the letter attached to this email.
—————————————- ————————————————————————–
December 2, 2011
Greetings Ed.
Attached, please find a letter that contains the answer to your question referenced in your email below. The letter contains the explanation of a path to which Madison Prep could be established as a non-instrumentality public charter school, under Wisconsin law, and in a way that would not violate the current collective bargaining agreement between MMSD and Madison Teachers Inc.
We look forward to answering any questions you or other members of the Board of Education may have.
Thank you so much and Many blessings to you and your family this holiday season.
Onward.
cc: Daniel Nerad, MMSD Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, MMSD Legal Counsel
MMSD Board of Education Members
ULGM Board of Directors
Madison Prep Board of Directors
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.
Steve Goldberg, CUNA Mutual Foundation

PDF letter:

This letter is intended to respond to your November 78,207I email and to suggest that there is a viable option for moving forward with Urban League’s proposal for the Madison Preparatory Academy (“Madison Prep”) that: [i) will reduce cost; and (ii) will not sacrifice the union security provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement “Agreement” or “Contract”) between the Madison Metropolitan School District (“MMSD” or “District”) and Madison Teachers, Inc. (“MTI”).
Your email asks for a response to a question concerning how the school district could authorize Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter without thereby violating the terms of the District’s Agreement with MTI. Your email references a provision in the MTI Agreement that provides “that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certifìcated teacher, shall be performed only by’teachers.”‘ .See Article I, Section 8.3.a. In addition you note that “the term ‘teacher’ refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit.” See Article I, Section 8.2. You conclude your email by stating that “it appears that all teachers in MMSD schools — including non-instrumentality charter schools – must be members of the MTI bargaining unit.”
The Urban League is aware of the Agreement’s language and concedes that the language, if enforceable, poses an obstacle as we look for School Board approval of the plan to open and operate a “non-instrumentality” school. Under an instrumentality charter, the employees of the charter school must be employed by the school board. Under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school’s staff. See S 118.40(7)(a). Thus, the statement in your email that all teachers, including those in a non-instrumentality charter school – “must be members of the MTI bargaining unit” and, presumably, employed by the school board is not permitted under Wisconsin law.
Under Wisconsin’s charter school law the School Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. .See S 118.40(7)(a). That decision is an important decision reserved to the School Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the School Board. The language of the Contract deprives the School Board of the decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the Agreement. Alternatively the Contract language creates a situation whereby the School Board may exercise its statutory authority to approve a non-instrumentality charter but it must staff the school with school district employees, a result clearly prohibited under the statute. In our view the law trumps the Contract in either of these situations.
The situation described above could likely only be resolved in a court of law. The Contract includes a “savings clause” that contemplates that where a court invalidates a provision in the Agreement, the invalid provision is deleted and the remainder of the contract remains intact. See Article VIII, Section E.
The Urban League is, however, mindful that litigation is both expensive and time consuming. Moreover it is clear that the Contract language will become a prohibited subject of bargaining in the near future when the current Agreement expires. Unfortunately, the children we seek to serve, do not have the time to wait for that day.
Our second purpose in writing is to make you aware of a possible solution to a major obstacle here. One of the major obstacles in moving forward has been the cost associated with an instrumentality school coupled with MTI’s reluctance to work with the District in modifying the Contract to reduce costs associated with staffing and certain essential features of Madison Prep, like an extended school day, As we understand it MTI does not want to modify the Contract because such a modification would result in an earlier application of 2077 Wisconsin Act L0 to the District, members of the bargaining unit and to MTI itself.
We understand MTI’s reluctance to do anything that would hasten the application of Act 10 in the school district, With the passage of 2011. Wisconsin Act 65, that concern is no longer an obstacle.
Act 65 allows the parties to a collective bargaining agreement to enter into a memorandum of understanding that would run for the remaining term of the collective bargaining agreement, for the purpose of reducing the cost of compensation or fringe benefits in the collective bargaining agreement,
The Act also provides that entering into such a memorandum would not be considered a “modification” of the collective bargaining agreement for the purposes of Act 10. Act 65 was published on November 23,2077 and took effect the following day. The law allows the parties to a collective bargaining agreement to enter into such a memorandum no later than 90 days after the effective date of the law.
The Urban League believes that Act 65 gives the Board and MTI the opportunity to make changes that will facilitate cost reductions, based in compensation and fringe benefits, to help Madison Prep move forward. And, the law allows the parties to do so in a way that does not adversely impact the teachers represented by MTI or the union security provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
For example, the parties could agree to reduce the staffing costs for Madison Prep, The parties could also agree that a longer school day would not have to cost more. And, the parties could agree that the work preservation clause referenced in the first part of this letter does not apply where the School Board has determined a charter school willbe a non-instrumentality of the District, a move that would also most certainly reduce costs. These changes would not be forced upon any existing MTI represented teacher as teachers would apply for vacancies in the school.
We hope that the School Board will give serious consideration to the opportunity presented by Act 65. 0n behalf of the Urban League of Greater Madison and Madison Preparatory Academy, we thank you for your support of Madison Prep.

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

Updated Madison Prep Business and Education Plan and Response to Administrative Analysis

The Urban League of Greater Madison:

Response to P4-5 of the Admin Analysis (No College Going Culture) [Page 23 of BP][Response] MMSD and the Boys & Girls Club have done an excellent job implementing the AVID/TOPS program in MMSD’s four high schools. While AVID is beginning to build a college going culture among the students it serves (students with 2.0 – 3.5 GPAs), more than 60% of African American high school students in MMSD, for example, have GPAs below a 2.0 and therefore do not qualify for AVID. At 380 students, AVID serves just 10% of all students of color enrolled in MMSD high schools.
While the Urban League believes AVID/TOPS should continue to grow to serve more students, it also believes MMSD must invest more resources in programs like Schools of Hope, MSCR, Aspira/Juventud, ACT Prep, Culturally Relevant Teaching and Commonwealth’s middle school careers program.
It must also invest in a system-wide, whole school reform agenda that addresses not only educational skill-building among students, but establishes a college going culture in all of
its schools for all students while addressing curriculum quality, instructional and school innovation, teacher effectiveness, diversity hiring and parent engagement at the same time. ULGM is ready to help MMSD accomplish these goals.
Response to P6 of the Admin Analysis (NO COLLEGE GOING CULTURE) [Page 23 of BP]
[Response] While MMSD offers advanced placement classes, very few African American and Latino students enroll in or successfully complete AP classes by the end of their senior year (see page 5 of the Madison Prep Business Plan). Nearly half of African American and Latino males don’t make it to senior year. Additionally, MMSD states that its students “opt to participate,” meaning, they have a choice of whether or not to take such classes. At Madison Prep, all students will be required to take rigorous, college preparatory courses and all Madison Prep seniors will complete all IB examinations by the end of their senior years, which are very rigorous assessments.
E. Response to questions from P7 of Admin Analysis (STUDENT PERFORMANCE MEASURES) [Page 29 of BP]
[Response] The Urban League acknowledges that WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. In the Madison Prep business plan, WKCE is not mentioned; instead, ULGM mentions “Wisconsin’s state assessment system.” It is ULGM’s understanding that by the time Madison Prep reaches the fifth and final year of its first charter school contract, Wisconsin will have implemented all of the new standards and assessments affiliated with the Common Core State Standards that it adopted last year. ULGM anticipates that these assessments will be more rigorous and will have an appropriate measurement for “proficiency” that is consistent with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and work. Additionally, Madison Prep will provide several supports to assist students below proficiency. These strategies are explained in Madison Prep’s business and education plans.
F. Response to Recommendation on P7 of Admin Analysis (STUDENT PERFORMANCE MEASURES) [Page 29 of BP]
[Response] Madison Prep will adjust its goals in its charter school contract to be commensurate with existing state and district accountability standards. However, to move a school whose student body will likely have a sizeable number of young people who are significantly behind academically to 100% proficiency in one academic year will require a miracle sent from heaven.

Related: Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric.

Stepping Back on Madison Prep Governance Rhetoric

Susan Troller:

Late last week I got an email from Kaleem Caire, Urban League CEO and champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal.
Caire was unhappy with the way I had characterized the latest version of the charter school proposal.
In a blog post following the Madison Prep board’s decision late Wednesday to develop the proposed school as what’s known as a “non-instrumentality” of the school district, I described this type of school as being “free from district oversight.”
While it’s true that the entire point of establishing a non-instrumentality charter school is to give the organization maximum freedom and flexibility in the way it operates on a day-to-day basis, I agree it would be more accurate to describe it as “largely free of district oversight,” or “free of routine oversight by the School Board.”
In his message, Caire asked me, and my fellow reporter, Matt DeFour from the Wisconsin State Journal, to correct our descriptions of the proposed school, which will be approved or denied by the Madison School Board in the coming weeks.
In his message, Caire writes, “Madison Prep will be governed by MMSD’s Board of Education. In your stories today, you (or the quotes you provide) say we will not be. This continues to be a subject of public conversation and it is just not true.”

I wonder if other Madison School District programs, many spending far larger sums, receive similar substantive scrutiny compared with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school? The District’s math (related math task force) and reading programs come to mind.
Ideally, the local media might dig into curricular performance across the spectrum, over time along with related expenditures and staffing.
From a governance perspective, it is clear that other regions and states have set the bar much higher.
Related: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 – Badgers 1; Thrive’s “Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report”.
In my view, the widely used (at least around the world) IB approach is a good start for Madison Prep.

November 17, 2011 Madison, Wis. – Last night, by unanimous vote, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy announced they would request that the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education approve their proposal to establish it

The Urban League of Madison, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

November 17, 2011
Madison, Wis. – Last night, by unanimous vote, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy announced they would request that the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education approve their proposal to establish its all-boys and all-girls schools as non-instrumentality public charter schools. This means that Madison Preparatory Academy would employ all staff at both schools instead of MMSD, and that Madison Prep’s staff would not be members of the district’s collective bargaining units.
If approved, the Board of Education would retain oversight of both schools and likely require Madison Prep to submit to annual progress reviews and a five year performance review, both of which would determine if the school should be allowed to continue operating beyond its first five-year contract.
“We have worked for six months to reach agreement with MMSD’s administration and Madison Teachers Incorporated on how Madison Prep could operate as a part of the school district and its collective bargaining units while retaining the core elements of its program design and remain cost effective,” said Board Chair David Cagigal.
Cagigal further stated, “From the beginning, we were willing to change several aspects of our school design in order to find common ground with MMSD and MTI to operate Madison Prep as a school whose staff would be employed by the district. We achieved agreement on most positions being represented by local unions, including teachers, counselors, custodial staff and food service workers. However, we were not willing to compromise key elements of Madison Prep that were uniquely designed to meet the educational needs of our most at-risk students and close the achievement gap.”
During negotiations, MMSD, MTI and the Boards of Madison Prep and the Urban League were informed that Act 10, the state’s new law pertaining to collective bargaining, would prohibit MMSD and MTI from providing the flexibility and autonomy Madison Prep would need to effectively implement its model. This included, among other things:
Changing or excluding Madison Prep’s strategies for hiring, evaluating and rewarding its principals, faculty and staff for a job well done;
Excluding Madison Prep’s plans to contract with multiple providers of psychological and social work services to ensure students and their families receive culturally competent counseling and support, which is not sufficiently available through MMSD; and
Eliminating the school’s ability to offer a longer school day and year, which Madison Prep recently learned would prove to be too costly as an MMSD charter school.
On November 1, 2011, after Madison Prep’s proposal was submitted to the Board of Education, MMSD shared that operating under staffing and salary provisions listed in the district’s existing collective bargaining agreement would cost $13.1 million more in salaries and benefits over five years, as compared to the budget created by the Urban League for Madison Prep’s budget.
Cagigal shared, “The week after we submitted our business plan to the Board of Education for consideration, MMSD’s administration informed us that they were going to use district averages for salaries, wages and benefits in existing MMSD schools rather than our budget for a new start-up school to determine how much personnel would cost at both Madison Prep schools.”
Both MMSD and the Urban League used the same district salary schedule to write their budgets. However, MMSD budgets using salaries of district teachers with 14 years teaching experience and a master’s degree while the Urban League budgeted using salaries of teachers with 7 years’ experience and a master’s degree.
Gloria Ladson Billings, Vice Chair of Madison Prep’s Board and the Kellner Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison stated that, “It has been clear to all parties involved that the Urban League is committed to offering comparable and competitive salaries to its teachers but that with limited resources as a new school, it would have to set salaries and wages at a level that would likely attract educators with less teaching experience than the average MMSD teacher. At the budget level we set, we believe we can accomplish our goal of hiring effective educators and provide them a fair wage for their level of experience.”
Madison Prep is also committed to offering bonuses to its entire staff, on top of their salaries, in recognition of their effort and success, as well as the success of their students. This also was not allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement.
Summarizing the decision of Madison Prep’s Board, Reverend Richard Jones, Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church and Madison Prep Board member shared, “Our Board has thought deep and hard about additional ways to compromise around the limitations that Act 10 places on our ability to partner with our teachers’ union. However, after consulting parents, community partners and the MMSD Board of Education, we ultimately decided that our children need what Madison Prep will offer, and they need it now. A dream deferred is a dream denied, and we must put the needs of our children first and get Madison Prep going right away. That said, we remain committed to finding creative ways to partner with MMSD and the teachers’ union, including having the superintendent of MMSD, or his designee, serve on the Board of Madison Prep so innovation and learning can be shared immediately.”
Cagigal further stated that, “It is important for the public to understand that our focus from the beginning has been improving the educational and life outcomes of our most vulnerable students. Forty-eight percent high school graduation and 47 percent incarceration rates are just not acceptable; not for one more day. It is unconscionable that only 1% of Black and 7% of Latino high school seniors are ready for college. We must break from the status quo and take bold steps to close the achievement gap, and be ready and willing to share our success and key learning with MMSD and other school districts so that we can positively impact the lives of all of our children.”
The Urban League has informed MMSD’s administration and Board of Education that it will share with them an updated version of its business plan this evening. The updated plan will request non-instrumentality status for Madison Prep and address key questions posed in MMSD’s administrative analysis of the plan that was shared publicly last week.
The Board of Education is expected to vote on the Madison Prep proposal in December 2011.
Copies of the updated plan will be available on the Urban League (www.ulgm.org) and Madison Prep (www.madison-prep) websites after 9pm CST this evening.
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez at Lderoche@ulgm.org or 608.729.1230.

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

A Madison School Board vote to approve Madison Preparatory Academy has been delayed until at least December after the proposed charter school’s board decided to amend its proposal to use nonunion employees.
The Madison Prep board voted Wednesday night after an analysis by the school district found the pair of single-sex charter schools, geared toward low-income minority students, would cost $10.4 million more than previously estimated if it were to use union staff.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said the district would have to update its analysis based on the new proposal, which means a vote will not happen Nov. 28. A new time line for approval has not been established.
In announcing Wednesday’s decision, the Madison Prep board said the state’s new collective bargaining law made the school district and teachers union inflexible about how to pay for employing teachers for longer school days and a longer school year, among other issues.

Will Madison School Board go for non-union Madison Prep?

Susan Troller:

Backers of the Madison Preparatory Academy are now recommending establishing the proposed single-sex public charter school as what’s known as a “non-instrumentality” of the district.
Ultimately, that means the school’s staff would be non-union, and the Urban League-backed charter school would have an unprecedented degree of autonomy in its operations, free from district oversight.
With the recommendation, made at a meeting Wednesday, Madison Prep supporters, the school district and the local School Board wade into uncharted waters.
Because of the change, school officials will need to revise their administrative analysis of the charter school proposal in advance of a School Board vote on whether to approve the Madison Prep plan.

Related: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes provides his perspective on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.
Much more on Madison Prep, here.

Cost for union teachers could be game changer for Madison Prep deal

Nathan Comp:

A new analysis (PDF) by the Madison school district shows that the budget submitted by the Urban League of Greater Madison for a pair of sex-segregated charter schools could potentially cost the district an additional $13 million over the schools’ first five years.
The new numbers came as a shock to Urban League president Kaleem Caire, who says that Madison Prep may pull out of a tentative agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc., that would require Madison Prep to hire mostly union staff.
“It’s become clear to us that the most reasonable path to ensure the success of these kids is as a non-instrumentality,” says Caire. “Others on our board want to look at a couple of other options, so we’re looking at those before we make that final determination.”
One of those options would be to scale back the program, including the proposed longer school days and extended school year.

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

Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Critique of the District (MMSD)
Page # 23: MPA – No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population
The data on student performance and course-taking patterns among students in MMSD paint a clear picture. There is not a prevalent college going culture among Black, Hispanic and some Asian student populations enrolled in MMSD. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The majority of these students are failing to complete a rigorous curriculum that would adequately prepare them for college and 21st century jobs. Far too many are also failing to complete college requirements, such as the ACT, or failing to graduate from high school.
Page # 23: No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population –
MMSD Response
MMSD has taken many steps towards ensuring college attendance eligibility and readiness for our students of color. Efforts include:
AVID/TOPS
East High School became the first MMSD school to implement AVID in the 2007-2008 school year. Teens of Promise or TOPS became synonymous with AVID as the Boys and Girls Club committed to an active partnership to support our program. AVID/TOPS students are defined as:
“AVID targets students in the academic middle – B, C, and even D students – who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their
potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation.”
Source: http://www.avid.org/abo_whatisavid.html
The MMSD has 491 students currently enrolled in AVID/TOPS. Of that total, 380 or 77% of students are minority students (27% African-American, 30% Latino, 10% Asian, 10% Multiracial). 67% of MMSD AVID/TOPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The 2010- 2011 school year marked an important step in the District’s implementation of AVID/TOPS. East High School celebrated its first cohort of AVID/TOPS graduates. East Highs AVID/TOPS class of 2011 had a 100% graduation rate and all of the students are enrolled in a 2-year or 4- year college. East High is also in the beginning stages of planning to become a national demonstration site based on the success of their program. This distinction, determined by the AVID regional site team, would allow high schools from around the country to visit East High School and learn how to plan and implement AVID programs in their schools.
MMSD has a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) and they are conducting a controlled study of the effects of AVID/TOPS students when compared to a comparison groups of students. Early analysis of the study reveals positive gains in nearly every category studied.
AVID pilot studies are underway at two MMSD middle schools and support staff has been allocated in all eleven middle schools to begin building capacity towards a 2012-2013 AVID Middle School experience. The program design is still underway and will take form this summer when school based site teams participate in the AVID Summer Institute training.

I found this commentary on the oft criticized WKCE exams fascinating (one day, wkce results are useful, another day – this document – WKCE’s low benchmark is a problem)” (page 7):

Page # 28: MPA – Student Performance Measures:
85% of Madison Prep’s Scholars will score at proficient or advanced levels in reading, math, and science on criterion referenced achievement tests after three years of enrollment.
90% of Scholars will graduate on time.
100% of students will complete the SAT and ACT assessments before graduation with 75% achieving a composite score of 22 or higher on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT (composite verbal and math).
100% of students will complete a Destination Plan before graduation.
100% of graduates will qualify for admissions to a four-year college after graduation.
100% of graduates will enroll in postsecondary education after graduation.
Page # 28: Student Performance Measures – MMSD Response:
WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. Cut scores equated with advanced are needed due to the low benchmark of Wisconsin’s current state assessment system. What specific steps or actions will be provided for students that are far below proficiency and/or require specialized support services to meet the rigorous requirements of IB?
Recommendation:
No Child Left Behind requires 100% proficiency by 2014. Madison Prep must be held to the same accountability standards as MMSD.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
Madison School District links & notes on Madison Prep.
TJ Mertz comments, here.

Madison School Board’s DIFI (District Identified for Improvement) Plan Discussion

The Madison School Board (the discussion begins at about 58 minutes) video archives (11.7.2011) is worth a watch.
Related: Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement Plan
Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.
MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.
Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):

Perhaps the No Child Left Behind requirement waivers that Education Secretary Duncan has discussed remove the urgency to address these issues. Of course, the benchmark used to measure student progress is the oft-criticized WKCE “Wisconsin, Mississippi Have “Easy State K-12 Exams” – NY Times”.
Related: Comparing Wisconsin & Texas: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 – Badgers 1; Thrive’s “Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report”.

The National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness

Joshua Furgeson, Brian Gill,Joshua Haimson, Alexandra Killewald, Moira McCullough, Ira Nichols-Barrer, Bing-ru Teh, Natalya Verbitsky-Savitz, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Paul Hill, Robin Lake

Charter schools–public schools of choice that are operated autonomously, outside the direct control of local school districts–have become more prevalent over the past two decades. There is no consensus about whether, on average, charter schools are doing better or worse than conventional public schools at promoting the achievement of their students. Nonetheless, one research finding is clear: Effects vary widely among different charter schools. Many educators, policymakers, and funders are interested in ways to identify and replicate successful charter schools and help other public schools adopt effective charter school practices.
Charter-school management organizations (CMOs), which establish and operate multiple charter schools, represent one prominent attempt to bring high performance to scale. Many CMOs were created in order to replicate educational approaches that appeared to be effective, particularly among disadvantaged students. Attracting substantial philanthropic support, CMO schools have grown rapidly from encompassing about 6 percent of all charter schools in 2000 to about 17 percent of a much larger number of charter schools by 2009 (Miron 2010). Some of these organizations have received laudatory attention through anecdotal reports of dramatic achievement results.

Andrew Rotherham comments on the study.

Communities Rebel Against Cuomo’s Cap on Local Property Taxes; Madison’s Property Taxes Flat this year after a 9% increase in 2010

Thomas Kaplan

A much-heralded cap on property taxes championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is encountering resistance as some communities across New York chafe at what amounts to a restriction on their spending and seek to exempt themselves from the new limits.
The communities, which include affluent New York City suburbs and rural communities near the border with Canada, are declaring that they cannot restrain the growth of property taxes and still comply with a variety of state-mandated programs and provide the services residents expect. And now dozens of town and county boards are overriding, or proposing to override, the cap.
“We should be able to dictate our own financial future,” said Lee V. A. Roberts, the supervisor in the Westchester County town of Bedford, where the Town Board has already voted to grant itself a waiver from the cap.
The Legislature approved the tax cap in late June, an effort to limit the annual growth of local property taxes to 2 percent or the rate of inflation. After that measure passed, Mr. Cuomo vowed that it would “provide much-needed relief” from rising taxes, and he was so proud of the law that he signed it six times, once in his office and five times on the front lawns of houses in high-tax communities.

The Madison School Board unanimously adopted the 2011-12 district budget and tax levy on Monday, saving the average Madison homeowner $2.74 over their 2010-11 property tax bill.
The $372 million budget requires the district to levy slightly more than $245 million in taxes, down 0.03 percent, or about $62,000, from last year’s levy.
The district gets more than $40 million in state funding and more than $10 million in federal funding. The rest of the budget gap is filled by student fees, special education funding and small-class-size funding, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Erik Kass.
Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $3.5 million spending recommendations were amended into the adopted budget, but Kass said $2.5 million of that amount was reallocated money that already was built into June’s preliminary budget.

Ally Boutelle:

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad has proposed about $3.5 million in additional spending on top of the school district’s current budget for 2012.
MMSD spokesperson Ken Syke said about $2.5 million of that money will come from sources previously unaccounted for, but income taxes in the City of Madison may need to be upped to cover the remaining additions.
“$1.6 million of that [money] became available because of debt defeasance, and $937,000 of it is coming from revenue from a Medicaid time study,” he said.
In addition to the newly available $2.5 million, the district has introduced a recommendation for a total of $1,034,935 in additional funding for school maintenance programs, a statement issued by the district said.

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board is considering about $3.5 million in additional spending proposals before it sets its 2011-12 budget and property tax levy Monday night.
The new spending proposed by Superintendent Dan Nerad would come on top of the $369 million budget approved in June.
For an average Madison home valued at $239,239, the new spending would mean $28.71 more than what the board approved in June, for a December bill of $2,665.12. The school tax bill on the average home still would decline $2.74.
Nerad proposed the new spending because of additional revenue identified by the district since the board voted in June. The net result of the new spending and revenue would be a property tax levy that is about the same as the 2010-11 school year.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2011-2012 $372,000,000 budget, here.

2011-2012 $369,394,753 Madison Schools Budget update

2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet “Fund Equity“, or the District’s reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District’s property tax “underlevy” (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28).
2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40.
I welcome clarifications and updates to these numbers, which are interesting. We’ve seen a doubling of District reserves over the past few years while spending has remained relatively flat as has enrollment.
Finally, this is worth reading in light of the District’s 2011-2012 numbers: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama’s Proposed Jobs Bill.

Bidding Adieu to the Madison School Board; “Facts are an Obstacle to the Reform of America”

Lucy Mathiak, via a kind email:

Dear Friends,
I am writing to thank you for your encouragement and support in my decision to seek election to the MMSD Board of Education in late fall 2005. Your help in getting elected, your support during tough times, and your help in finding solutions to problems, have made a great difference to my service on the board.
I am writing to let you know that I will not seek re-election in 2012. I continue to believe that the Board of Education is one of the most important elected positions for our community and its schools, and encourage others to step forward to serve in this capacity. MMSD is facing significant challenges, and it is more important than ever that thoughtful citizens engage in the work that will be needed to preserve the traditional strengths of our public schools while helping those schools to change in keeping with the times and the families that they serve.
At the same time, I do not view school board service as a career, and believe that turnover in membership is healthy for the organization and for the district. I have been fortunate to have had an opportunity to serve on this board, and to work with many fine community organizations in that capacity. For that I am grateful.
Again, thank you for your interest, support, and collegiality.
Lucy J. Mathiak
716 Orton Ct.
Madison, WI 53703
Madison School Board
Seat #2

I am appreciative of Lucy’s tireless and often thankless work on behalf of our students.
Every organization – public or private, deteriorates. It is often easier to spend more (raise taxes), raise fees on consumers – or a “rate base”, reduce curricular quality and in general go along and get along than to seek substantive improvements. Change is hard.
Citizens who seek facts, ask difficult and uncomfortable questions are essential for strong institutions – public or private. Progress requires conflict.
Yet, very few of us are willing to step into the theatre, spend time, dig deep and raise such questions. I am thankful for those, like Lucy, who do.
Her years of activism and governance have touched numerous issues, from the lack of Superintendent oversight (related: Ruth Robarts) (that’s what a board does), the District’s $372M+ budget priorities and transparency to substantive questions about Math, reading and the endless battle for increased rigor in the Madison Schools.
In closing, I had an opportunity to hear Peter Schneider speak during a recent Madison visit. Schneider discussed cultural differences and similarities between America and Germany. He specifically discussed the recent financial crisis. I paraphrase: “If I do not understand a financial vehicle, I buy it”. “I create a financial product that no one, including me, understands, I sell it”. This is “collective ignorance”.
Schneider’s talk reminded me of a wonderful Madison teacher’s comments some years ago: “if we are doing such a great job, why do so few people vote and/or understand civic and business issues”?
What, then, is the payoff of increased rigor and the pursuit of high standards throughout an organization? Opportunity.
I recently met a technical professional who works throughout the United States from a suburban Madison home. This person is the product of a very poor single parent household. Yet, high parental standards and rigorous academic opportunities at a somewhat rural Wisconsin high school and UW-Madison led to an advanced degree and professional opportunities.
It also led to a successful citizen and taxpayer. The alternative, as discussed in my recent conversation with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is growth in those who don’t contribute, but rather increase costs on society.
Lucy will be missed.

Madison Preparatory Academy Hearing Statement

Don Severson, via email:

DATE: October 3, 2011
TO: MMSD Board of Education
FROM: Don Severson, President, 577-0851, donleader@aol.com RE: Madison Preparatory Academy Hearing
Notes: For public appearance
The actions of the past few days are stunning, but not necessarily surprising ULGM (Madison Prep) and MTI have made working ‘arrangements’ regarding employment of teachers and staff and working conditions, the details of which have yet to be made public.
Major issue: ‘negotiations/arrangements’ have been made between MP & MTI without MMSD BOE nor administration at the table–both observed and verified by parties not involved.
In other words, MTI is the de facto negotiator for the Board and NOT the elected BOE, nor specified as its representative
ACE has publicly stated its support of MP. We must now withhold affirmation of that support until and unless major, systemic changes occur in how the proposal process and plans (both academic and business) play out.
By design, default, benign neglect or/and collusion the BOE has abdicated the authority vested in it by law and the electorate of the District with regards to its fiduciary irresponsibility and lack of control for policy-making.
Lest you are OK with your past and current operating methods; have forgotten how you are demonstrating your operating methods; or don’t care, you have been elected to be the leader and be in charge of this District, not MTI.
By whatever BOE action or in-action has thus far been demonstrated, the proposed operational direction of MP has been reduced to appearing and acting in the mirror image of the District. This is inappropriate to say the least. The entire purpose of a charter school is to be different and to get different results.
How is forcing MP to operate in essentially the same fashion as the District and at a cost of more money….any different from….operating the District’s nearly 30 current alternative/innovative programs and services for 800 students, at millions of dollars, taking away from other students in the District? And, you can’t even produce data to show what differences, if any, are being made with these students.
This current Board, and past Boards of Education have proven over and over again that spending more money and doing essentially the same things, don’t get different results (speaking here essentially about the ‘achievement gap’ issue)
Continuing to speak bluntly, the Board’s financial and academic philosophies, policies and actions are inconsistent, phony and discriminatory.
Let us be clear…
The process for consideration of the Madison Prep charter school proposal must

  • be open and public
  • be under the leadership of the BOE
  • be accountable to the BOE and the public
  • have ALL stakeholders at the same table at ALL times

Thank you.

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

Madison Prep – 1,2,3 Yellow Light (updated)

TJ Mertz:

Big news over the weekend in the Madison Preparatory Academy saga. There has been significant and positive movement on four issues by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM). First, they have changed their request from non-instrumentality to instrumentality, increasing control by and accountability to the district. Second, they have agreed to be staffed by teachers and other educators represented by Madison Teachers Incorporated (MTI) and follow the existing contract between MTI and the Madison Metropolitan School District (the memo on these two items and more is here). ULGM has also morphed their vision from a district-wide charter to a geographic/attendance area charter. Last, their current budget projections no longer require outrageous transfers of funds from other district schools. Many issues and questions remain but these move the proposal from an obvious red light to the “proceed with caution” yellow. It is far from being a green light.
Before identifying some of the remaining questions and issues, I think it is important to point out that this movement on the part on the Urban League came because people raised issues and asked questions. Throughout the controversies there has been a tendency to present Madison Prep as initially proposed as “THE PLAN” and dismiss any questioning of that proposal as evidence that the questioners don’t care about the academic achievement of minorities and children of poverty. This has been absurd and offensive. Remember this started at $28,000 per/pupil. Well, ULGM has moved this far because people didn’t treat their proposal as if it had been brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses; if the proposal is eventually approved, MMSD and likely Madison Prep will be better because these changes have been made. As this process enters the next phases, I hope everyone keeps that in mind.

Math Curriculum: School District’s Activities Should be an Open Book

Laurie Rogers:

Since January 2007, I’ve attempted repeatedly and in myriad ways to persuade Spokane Public Schools‘ leadership to provide teachers with good math materials so that our children will gain sufficient basic math skills. It’s an effort you’d think would be welcome, respected, and relatively painless. Alas.
In 2008, after repeated failed efforts to get a conversation going with the district or with the daily newspaper, I decided to take that conversation public. Thus was born my blog, Betrayed. Shortly after that, I began writing my book, Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it. The book was published in January 2011, and shortly thereafter, I worked with two professionals to hold public forums in Spokane and talk directly with the people. The district leadership does not appear to appreciate my efforts to inform the people and try to get the children the mathematics they need.
A school district’s activities should be an open book to the community that pays for them. My blog, book and advocacy all required thorough and accurate information. Therefore, over these nearly five years of effort, I’ve had to file public records requests with the district in order to obtain pertinent information that wasn’t available in any other venue. For records other than internal district communications, my searches usually went like this:

Crunch Time for Madison Prep Charter School




Ruth Conniff:

Ed Hughes has a problem.
Like most of his fellow school board members and practically everyone else in Madison, he was bowled over by Urban League president Kaleem Caire’s vision for Madison Prep, a charter school that would aggressively tackle the school district’s entrenched minority achievement gap.
“The longer day, the instructional focus, and the ‘no excuses’ approach appealed to me,” Hughes says.
But as he looked into the details, Hughes became more and more concerned about the cost of the school and “whether there is a good match between the problem we are trying to address and the solution that’s being proposed.”
Expressing those doubts in his blog has turned the soft-spoken Hughes into a heretic.
Caire is a superstar who has galvanized the community to get behind his charter school. At school board hearings, only a handful of speakers express any reservations about the idea, while an overwhelming number speak passionately about the need to break the school-to-prison pipeline, and about Madison’s moral obligation to do something for the kids who are not being served.
Hughes listens respectfully. But, he says, “for Madison Prep to be the answer, we’d need to know that the students it was serving would otherwise fall through the cracks.”
…..
But Hughes’ big problem with the Urban League’s draft proposal, submitted to the district last February, is cost. The total cost to the school district of $27 million over five years is just too much, he says.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I don’t know if the Urban League’s plans for Madison Prep will come to fruition. If they do, I predict here and now that the school will have a higher graduation rate than the Madison school district as a whole for African-American students and probably for other groups of students as well. I also predict that all or nearly all of its graduates will apply to and be admitted to college. What is impossible to predict is what difference, if any, this will make in overall educational outcomes for Madison students.
Of course charter schools like Madison Prep will have higher graduation rates than their home school districts as a whole. Students enrolled in charter schools are privileged in one clear way over students not enrolled. Each student has a parent or other caregiver sufficiently involved in the child’s education to successfully navigate the process to get the student into the charter school. Not all students in our traditional neighborhood schools have that advantage. Other things equal, students with more involved parents/caregivers will be more likely to graduate from high school. So, one would expect that charter schools will have higher graduation rates.

Further Commentary on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School: Gender discrimination likely a red herring in charter school discussion

Chris Rickert:

The Madison School District now has another justification for killing a charter school aimed at doing what the district hasn’t: consistently educate minority students.
Last week, the state Department of Public Instruction said the first half of a planning grant for Madison Preparatory Academy would be released. Madison Prep would focus on low-income minority students and was originally just for boys but has since been revamped to include girls in separate classrooms.
But DPI had a catch: In order to get the rest of the grant, the school must provide scientific research that single-gender education is effective. If you’re going to discriminate by gender, DPI is saying, at least have a good reason for it.
I can’t help but wonder: Is this the best DPI can do?
I don’t know much more than what I’ve read in this newspaper about how Madison Prep would organize itself, what kinds of educational approaches it would use or how capable its sponsor, the Urban League of Greater Madison, would be.

TJ Mertz:

ewsletter (as of this writing PD has not taken a position on the Madison Prep proposal). I’ve only changed minimally for posting here; one thing I have added is some hyperlinks (but I did not link as thoroughly as I usually do), another is a small “For Further Reading” set of links at the end,” and of course the song. This is intended to be a broad overview and introduction to what I think are some of the most important issues concerning the decision on the Madison Preparatory Academy presented in the context of related national issues. Issues raised in this post have been and will be treated in more depth — and with hyperlinks — in other posts]

For decades free market advocates such as the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Koch brothers have a waged a multi-front campaign against the public sector and the idea of the common good. Public education has been one of the key battlegrounds. In the coming weeks the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will decide whether to approve a proposal for the Madison Prep Charter School. This proposal and the chief advocate for it – Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison – have their roots in the Bradley/Walton/Koch movement, and like much of that movement they offer false promises of educational progress in order to obscure the damage being done to every child in our public schools.

A Public Hearing on the Madison Prep proposal has been scheduled for Monday October 3, at 6:00 PM in the Doyle Building Auditorium; The Madison Prep proposal is on the agenda of the PD General Membership Meeting (Wed , 9/28 , 6:00 p.m, Hawthorne Branch Library, guests welcome).

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

Madison School Board OKs use of police dogs for drug searches

Devin Rose:

In the coming weeks, Madison police dogs will be able to sniff through the halls, bathrooms and parking lots of the city’s middle and high schools if school principals suspect there may be illegal drugs there.
The School Board voted 5-1 Monday to allow the sweeps, which school officials say will help eliminate drug use and trafficking in schools and decrease violence. Annual evaluations will be conducted to assess the program’s effectiveness.
Supporters, including Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, said it could be an effective and color-blind tool as part of a strategy to keep schools safe. The dogs would search for marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
Luis Yudice, coordinator of safety and security for the school district, said one statistic that led officials to consider these searches was the 60 percent increase in student code-of-conduct violations since 2007 occurring because of drugs.

Madison Preparatory IB Charter School School Board Discussion Notes

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy will receive the first half of a $225,000 state planning grant after the Madison School Board determined Thursday that the revised proposal for the charter school addresses legal concerns about gender equality.
Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad announced the decision following a closed School Board meeting.
Questions still remain about the cost of the proposal by the Urban League of Greater Madison, which calls for a school for 60 male and 60 female sixth-graders geared toward low-income minorities that would open next year.
“I understand the heartfelt needs for this program,” Nerad said, but “there are other needs we need to address.”

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

The school district does not have a lot of spare money lying around that it can devote to Madison Prep. Speaking for myself, I am not willing to cut educational opportunities for other students in order to fund Madison Prep. If it turns out that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would impose a net cost of millions of dollars on the school district, then, for me, we’d have to be willing to raise property taxes by that same millions of dollars in order to cover the cost.
It is not at all clear that we’d be able to do this even if we wanted to. Like all school districts in the state, MMSD labors under the restrictions of the state-imposed revenue caps. The law places a limit on how much school districts can spend. The legislature determines how that limit changes from year to year. In the best of times, the increase in revenues that Wisconsin school districts have been allowed have tended to be less than their annual increases in costs. This has led to the budget-slashing exercises that the school districts endure annually.
In this environment, it is extremely difficult to see how we could justify taking on the kind of multi-million dollar obligation that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would entail. Indeed, given the projected budget numbers and revenue limits, it seems inevitable that signing on to the Madison Prep proposal would obligate the school district to millions of dollars in cuts to the services we provide to our students who would not attend Madison Prep.
A sense of the magnitude of these cuts can be gleaned by taking one year as an example. Since Madison Prep would be adding classes for seven years, let’s look at year four, the 2015-16 school year, which falls smack dab in the middle.

TJ Mertz:

Last night I (TJ) was asked to leave the meeting on African American issues in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) advertised as being facilitated by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service (DOJ CRS) and hosted or convened by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) with the consent and participation of MMSD. I was told that if I did not leave, the meeting would be canceled. The reason given was that I write a blog (see here for some background on the exclusion of the media and bloggers and here for Matt DeFour’s report from outside the meeting).
I gave my word that I would not write about the meeting, but that did not alter the request. I argued that as a parent and as someone who has labored for years to address inequities in public education, I had both a legitimate interest in being there and the potential to contribute to the proceedings. This was acknowledged and I was still asked to leave and told again that the meeting would not proceed if I did not leave. I asked to speak to the DOJ CRS representatives in order to confirm that this was the case and this request was repeatedly refused by Kaleem Caire of the ULGM.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

An idea hatched in Madison aims to give parents with boys in Wisconsin’s second-largest city another positive option for their children. It’s an idea that ought to be channeled to Milwaukee.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men would feature the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, longer days, a longer school year and lofty expectations for dress and behavior for boys in sixth grade through high school. And while it would accept all comers, clearly it is designed to focus on low-income boys of color. Backers hope to open a year from now.
One of the primary movers behind Madison Prep is Kaleem Caire, the head of the Urban League of Madison, who grew up in the city and attended Madison West High School in 1980s, Alan J. Borsuk explained in a column last Sunday. Caire later worked in Washington, D.C., as an education advocate before returning to Madison.
Caire saw too many young black men wash out and end up either dead or in jail, reported Borsuk, a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. And Caire now is worried, as are we, about the atrocious statistics that place young black boys so far behind their white peers.

Rebecca Kemble:

The Department of Justice official explained the shadowy, confidential nature of the Community Relations Service to the audience by describing the kinds of situations it intervenes in, mostly having to do with hate crimes and rioting. He said in no uncertain terms, “We are not here to do an investigation,” and even asked for the audience members to repeat the sentence with him. He then went on to ask for people to respect the confidentiality of those raising issues, and laid out the structure of the meeting: 30 minutes for listing problems relating to the achievement gap and 45 minutes generating solutions.
I will respect the confidentiality of the content of the meeting by not repeating it. However, I will say that what was said in that room was no different that what has been said at countless other open, public meetings with the School District and in community groups on the same topic, the only difference being that there were far fewer parents in the room and few if any teachers.
It turned out that the Department of Justice secretive meeting was a convenient way to pack the house with a captive audience for yet another infomercial about Madison Prep. Kaleem Caire adjourned the one meeting and immediately convened an Urban League meeting where he gave his Madison Prep sales pitch yet again. About 1/3 of the audience left at that point.

Will Madison School Board pull the plug on Madison Prep’s planning grant?

Susan Troller:

The threat of possible litigation has roiled the already turbulent waters surrounding the proposal for a single-sex Urban League charter school.
Madison school officials began feeling skittish over recommending a $225,000 planning grant for the Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men after the state Department of Public Instruction raised concerns recently that the school doesn’t meet state and federal requirements to provide gender-equal education.
Now, a new legal threat has emerged, this one from Madison Teachers Inc. Together, the two issues could cause the board to pull back from supporting the planning grant, possibly as early as Thursday.
First, some background: After DPI put the planning grant on hold, the Urban League of Greater Madison last week submitted a new proposal to simultaneously establish a separate campus for girls. Kaleem Caire, Urban League president and a driving force behind Madison Prep, wants to see the schools open next year, initially with 60 sixth-grade girls and 60 sixth-grade boys. The proposal calls for adding 120 additional sixth-graders in each of the four subsequent years. Because the proposal now envisions 600 students rather 480 as originally planned, it would require more funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District than originally planned.

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

Memphis Consolidation Decision Leaves Board Question Unanswered

Bill Dries:

Attorneys for all of the sides in the schools consolidation court case have a Friday, Aug. 12, deadline that will set the stage for the next crucial part of the landmark court case.
What does a new countywide school board look like and when is there a transition to that school board?
Federal Judge Hardy Mays ruled Monday that the county school system controls the move toward consolidation of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools, which Mays ruled, will take place in August 2013. But he also ruled the county school board districts, which do not include the city of Memphis, are unconstitutional and have to be redrawn or changed in some way.
He gave the attorneys on all sides through Friday to suggest remedies. And his 146-page ruling left some clues about how he will judge the ideas.

Raise for Verona superintendent leaves teachers, staff feeling betrayed

Susan Troller:

Coming out of negotiations this spring, Verona School District teachers and staff felt hopeful. In the face of unprecedented cuts in state aid to public schools, they were encouraged by the words of their administrators and School Board members about the value of shared sacrifice and the importance of pulling together to ensure a quality education for the district’s students.
Then, last week, the School Board gave district Superintendent Dean Gorrell a more than 7 percent raise.
Now many Verona teachers and support staff — education aides, cooks and custodians, among others — feel betrayed, both by their School Board and their administration. They say it’s not the additional money — just under $9,500 — that Gorrell will receive on top of his $130,000 annual salary, but the principle involved.
“It’s not the dollar figure,” insists Jennifer Murphy, a high school math teacher who is president of the Verona Area Education Association, the union representing the teachers.

What is the Point of a School Board?

Laurie Rogers:

  • Is the role of a board director accountability and responsiveness to the district — or to voters?
  • Should directors work to support the superintendent and staff? Or, should they work to hold the district accountable for fiscal responsibility and academic outcomes?
  • If the district and the voters disagree on what should happen with taxpayer money and our children, to whom should the board listen?

Your views on this will guide you as you vote. As the only elected officials in our school district, board directors should be accountable and transparent to the people. They approve expenditures of taxpayer dollars, and they oversee the education of our children. There should be very little about their work that’s closed to public view. When the district pushes something the community doesn’t want, the board should pay attention and be inclined to support the electorate.

That’s why, on July 27, I asked Spokane board directors to allow the people to vote on whether the district should spend several million tax dollars on a proposed new data system, and on the new federal vision for public education. As directors contemplate these multi-million-dollar expenditures on (unproved) products – they’re also contemplating cutting people and programs that parents actually want. So, at the July 27 board meeting, I asked the directors to put the proposed expenditures on a ballot. They were silent. They looked at each other. Then, they went on with their meeting.

Exploring Arizona School District Consolidations

Hayley Ringle:

State-mandated unification and consolidation of school districts in the past has not fared well with wary Arizona voters.
School districts have been concerned about losing local control, teachers and their identities if merged with each other.
A committee of school officials, board members and politicians are tackling the issue again, this time with the goal of offering Arizona’s 227 school districts options to explore.

Controversy @ The Madison School Board over Discipline Policy: “Featuring the Administration as Sisyphus” (Now with Video!)

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

As is becoming increasingly common these days however, mine turned out to be a minority view. Other Board members took turns identifying parts of the revision that they did not like, raising some concerns that they had previously expressed and some that were new. The general tenor of the comments was that the current format of the Code was fine but that Code should be stricter and that more violations should lead to mandatory recommendations for expulsion.
About an hour into the meeting, I expressed some frustration with the proceedings (since I’m just figuring this stuff out, this video starts with eight seconds of black) :
Eventually Board members settled on deep-sixing the Work Group’s proposal but adopting some (but not all) of the substantive changes reflected in the revision. For example, the aggravated theft offense was added. The change to the unintentional use of force against a staff member violation was adopted (a very good move, btw), but the change to the possession and distribution of drugs or alcohol violation was not (I think). Another change boosted the potential consequences imposed for non-physical acts of bullying or harassment.
Also on our agenda Monday night was the creation of a new Board Ad Hoc Committee on Student Discipline, Conduct and Intervention, to be chaired by Lucy Mathiak. Some Board members suggested that the revisions recommended by the Work Group and rejected by the Board might be re-considered by the members of this committee in some fashion.
I found the Board’s rejection of the proposed revisions and ad hoc amending of the existing Code an unfortunate turn of events and criticized what I described as our legislating on the fly right before the vote:

Kentucky seeks to replace No Child Left Behind standards

Courier-Journal:

Kentucky is seeking to become the first state in the nation to use its statewide accountability system to determine whether schools are meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Gov. Steve Beshear sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday, asking for a waiver that would allow Kentucky to replace the current method for determining if schools are making adequate yearly progress under the federal law with a new measuring stick that state officials are still developing.
That would allow Kentucky more control over determining whether schools are making sufficient academic progress each year.
“I believe that federal law should set high expectations for education goals, but grant power and judgment to states and districts with regard to the means of achieving those goals,” Beshear said in a statement Monday.
There’s a lot at stake for Kentucky schools.

Seattle Schools’ Strategic Plan Update

Melissa Westbrook:

Here is the presentation from today’s Work Session on the Strategic Plan with survey results.

Highlights:

  • 5905 responses – 64% family member, 26% teacher or school staff, 1% principals, 5% community, 4% Central Office
  • By zip code – looks like a somewhat even distribution with  NE – 98115 with 528 responses, SE – 98118 with 221 responses, SW – 98136 with 118 responses, West Seattle – 98116 with 182 responses and NW – 98117 with 433 responses.  (There were more zip codes than those.)
  • page 8 has a breakdown of coaches and costs – overall it costs $6.4M for 65.6 coaches  (the salary swings are interesting)
  • Professional development in math, science and reading helping teachers and students – the big answer was …. no opinion.  And, out of the nearly 6,000 responses, only 3443 people answered this question.  Effective/somewhat effective (families-27%/teachers-51%). Ineffective/somewhat ineffective (families-22%/teachers-28%)
  • MAP test results effectiveness.  Effective/Somewhat Effective (families-41%/teachers-33%).  Somewhat effective/ineffective (families-45%/teachers50%).   Out of 6k responses, only 3682 respondents answered.
  • MAP- how many times a year should it be used?  3x- families-30%, teachers-23%, principals-40%.  Hmm, looks like principals like it more than teachers.   2x -families-29%,teachers-30%, principals, 40%.  That’s a lot closer.  And hey, they ARE reducing MAP to two times a year for 2011-2013 (winter and spring)
  • NSAP.   More efficient/somewhat more – families-42%/teachers 23%/principals 55%.   Somewhat less/less efficient – families-27%/teachers-29%/principals-31%. 

Download the Seattle Strategic Plan update, here.

DPI Report: Madison Schools Are Out of Compliance on Gifted and Talented Education

Lori Raihala:

In response, Superintendent Nerad directed West to start providing honors courses in the fall of 2010. West staff protested, however, and Nerad retracted the directive.
Community members sent another petition in July, 2010-this time signed by 188 supporters-again calling for multiple measures of identification and advanced levels of core courses for 9th and 10th graders at West. This time there was no response but silence.
In the meantime, Greater Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire told us: “The law is there for a reason. Use it.”
So, after years of trying to work with the system, we filed a formal complaint with the DPI in September, 2010. Little did we know what upheaval the next months would bring. In October, the district administration rolled out its College and Career Readiness Plan; teachers at West agitated, and students staged a sit-in. In February, our new governor issued his reform proposal; protesters massed at the Capitol, and school was called off for four days.
In the meantime, the DPI conducted its investigation. Though our complaint had targeted West for its chronic, blatant, willful violations, the DPI extended its audit to the entire Madison School District.

Much more on the Madison parents complaint to the Wisconsin DPI, here.

Update on The Madison School District’s High School Curriculum Alignment

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

In 2008, MMSD received a 5.3 million dollar grant Smaller Learning Communities Grant from the federal government. This grant is known locally as Relationships, Engagement, and Learning (REaL). Work to date has focused on developing teacher capacity, aligning curriculum, improving instructional practice all for the end goal of improving student achievement. During the 2010-11 school year, MMSD unveiled a comprehensive process plan for aligning curriculum PrK-12 with specific focus on the four high schools. The attached report serves as a status update on the MMSD High School Curriculum Alignment Process.

Madison School District Dual Language Immersion Program Evaluation

Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent:

In Winter 2011, the Center for Applied Linguistics conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the dual language immersion (DLI) programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District, including a charter school with DLI implemented K-5, three elementary schools just beginning implementation, and one middle school site with DLI in sixth grade. The goal of the evaluation was to gather sufficient information for strategic planning to adjust any program components that are in need of improvement, and to strengthen those areas of the programs that are already in alignment with best practices. This report provides feedback on student outcomes, things that are going well, and recommendations for the short-, mid-, and long-term.

Controversial DeForest, WI School Administrator Raises

sp-eye:

The pressure is off of district administrators and the school board here in Sun Prairie, because of the shocking cajones of the DeForest Board of Education and DeForest Area School District Administrators.
While we’re getting worked up –and justifiably so— about our own district administration on the cusp of getting 1.6% increases in the midst of tight times, the DeForest Administration Team —with the support of the Board of Education– awarded themselves titannic raises under the guise of “Dane County Market Equity” adjustments. The raises are retroactive to January 1, 2011. For appearances sake–you just KNOW they’ll spin this in budget documents— their salaries are being frozen for 2011-12. Geeeee whiz! With those increases, they should be frozen permanently.

Madison Teachers lobby School Board to keep planning time

Matthew DeFour:

Hundreds of teachers packed the Madison School Board meeting Monday night to protest changes in their contract next year related to planning time for elementary school teachers.
Some speakers reminded the board that elementary school planning time was a key issue in the 1976 teachers strike that closed school for two weeks. Tension among teachers is already heightened because of state initiatives to curtail collective bargaining and reduce education funding.
“Compensation has been reduced, morale is low, stress is high,” Lowell Elementary teacher Bob Arnold said. “Respect and support us by preserving our already inadequate planning time.”

On the Agenda Madison School District Board of Education, the Week of May 23, 2011

TJ Mertz:

I picked a bad week to start doing “On the Agenda” posts on the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education doings. Too much going on. Given the amount to cover, I’m going to try to keep the comments and context minimal. I should also note that I haven’t yet decided how regularly I will do these again.
The details for all of the meetings are here. Here is the rundown.

Gift Card, Anyone? The Anatomy of a Fiasco

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I am in favor of a less adversarial and more collaborative and forward-looking relationship between the school district and MTI. I think it is unfortunate that the union seems to perceive that it is in its best interests to portray the school district administration as hostile to teachers. I would like to see a world where the union views itself less in an adversarial role as a bulwark against the administration’s exploitation of teachers and more collaboratively as partners with the district in figuring out better ways to improve student learning.
From my perspective, my proposal – which, if adopted, would only have amounted to a gesture – wasn’t intended to help persuade teachers to abandon their union. Instead, I’d hope that it may convey the message that, even when the administration and School Board disagree with teachers’ positions and adopt policies that make their jobs harder, we are not the enemy. We want to work together collaboratively in pursuit of better results for our students.

Much more, here.

Madison School District Literacy Program; 2011-12 Proposed Budget Hearing Remarks

We urge the Board of Education to approve and implement the initiatives and budget proposed for the school-wide literacy program [Public Appearance Remarks]. It is deplorable that heretofore there has been no systematic plan to address the reading and writing shortcomings of the District. These shortcomings are the most fundamental causative factor contributing to the poor achievement performance of our students. The proposed design of systemic changes to the curriculum, instructional strategies, engagement of teachers, support staff, students and parents/other adults and the realignment of financial and other resources will result in measurable student growth. Board adoption of the $650,000.00 2011-12 budget considerations is an absolute necessity of the very highest priority.
Our thanks and compliments to the Board and the administration for undertaking the assessment of literacy in the District. However, the Board must take a greatly increased leadership role in demanding the vigorous evaluation and assessment all programs, services and personnel throughout the District. There must be demonstrable commitment and evidence of the systematic implementation of the strategic objective of the five-year District Strategic Plan to address the woefully inadequate and insufficient data upon which to make decisions about curriculum, instruction and performance of students and staff.
The Board must not give any support for an increase in property taxes in finalizing the 2011-12 budget. Nor, is there any justification for using any amount of “under-levy carry-over” if such authorization should be re-instated by the state. There is no evidence to support an increase in taxes. We must be able to prioritize the expenditure of revenues available within the limits established. The Board has already demonstrated it cannot effectively manage its allocations to areas of highest need to strengthen the impact on curriculum, instruction and performance affecting student learning. Until and unless the Board can demonstrate a higher and more effective level of leadership with its decisions and priorities it cannot be trusted with more money that will only get the same results.
We support an increase in allocations for maintenance and electrical infrastructure up-grades conditional upon 1) re-allocation of existing funds to these areas; 2) clear and enumerated priorities, established in advance, for maintenance projects that are specifically related to safety issues; and 3) electrical infrastructure up-grades specifically related to priorities established for improvements and expansion of technology as identified in the Technology Plan for use in student learning, instruction, business services and communications with the public.
The Board must not give approval to the proposed amendment for providing staff with year-end bonuses. This is absolutely the wrong message, for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. It cannot be justified in ‘rewarding’ those staff who wrongfully abdicated their responsibilities in the classroom to the students; by insulting those staff who did attempt to fulfill their responsibilities; as well as insulting the parents and students harmed by those detrimental actions. It would be far better to allocate the ‘savings funds’ to resources actively and directly impacting student learning. The Board must make a commitment to providing leadership toward academic improvements and to creating a working culture of mutual trust and collaboration with employees and taxpayers.
For further information contact: Don Severson, donleader@aol.com 577-0851

School board member Ed Hughes wants to give some docked pay back to Madison teachers (Proposal Withdrawn Later in the Day)

Matthew DeFour:

Hughes is making the proposal [56K PDF Ed Hughes Amendment] as an amendment to the district’s budget.
Funding would come from the $1.3 million windfall the district will get from docking the pay of 1,769 teachers who were absent without an excuse on one or more days between Feb. 16-18 and 21.
The district closed school during those four days because of the high number of staff members who called in sick to attend protests over Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed changes to public sector collective bargaining.
“Under the circumstances it seemed to me the school district shouldn’t necessarily profit from that, because the teachers agreed to make up the time in a way that took away planning time for them,” said Hughes, who is considering a run for school board president when new officers are elected Monday.
Hughes is also proposing increasing the district’s proposed property tax levy for next year by about $2 million to pay for maintenance and technology projects and any costs associated with the district’s implementation of a state-imposed talented-and-gifted education plan.
“It seems goofy that we give away $1 million and then raise property taxes [50K PDF Ed Hughes Amendment],” board member Lucy Mathiak said.

Jay Sorgi:

If a school board member in Madison gets his way, the district would used money it saved when teachers forced schools to shut down during the budget debate to award end of the year bonuses to teachers.
WTMJ partner station WIBA Radio in Madison says that teachers in Madison would receive $200 gift cards as year-end bonuses.
“Whenever we can, we need to show some kind of tangible appreciation for the extremely hard work our teachers and staff do,” said Ed Hughes, a member of the Madison school board.
“They’ve had a particularly tough year as you know, given that they kind of became political footballs in the legislature. We’re ending up slashing their take home pay by a substantial amount, pretty much because we have to.”

Additional links:

Related: 5/26/2005 MTI & The Madison School Board by Ed Hughes.

Madison schools ‘don’t want to wait’ for a crisis

Matthew DeFour:

Responding to an increase in violence, drugs and gang activity in and around schools, the Madison School District is considering a broad effort to improve building security, including the use of drug-sniffing dogs in high schools next year.
The district also is proposing to lock the main entrances of middle school buildings during the day. Other recommendations include redesigning main entrances at West and Memorial high schools and adding surveillance cameras to all elementary and middle schools, district security coordinator Luis Yudice said.
“We are not doing this because we believe we have severe problems in our schools (or) because we experienced a tragedy in our schools,” Yudice said. “We don’t want to wait until there’s a crisis. We want to get ahead of the game.”

Madison school officials want new standardized tests

Matthew DeFour:

Madison students are slated to get a double dose of standardized tests in the coming years as the state redesigns its annual series of exams while school districts seek better ways to measure learning.
For years, district students in grades three through eight and grade 10 have taken the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), a series of state-mandated tests that measure school accountability.
Last month, in addition to the state tests, eighth- and ninth-graders took one of three different tests the district plans to introduce in grades three through 10. Compared with the WKCE, the tests are supposed to more accurately assess whether students are learning at, above or below grade level. Teachers also will get the results more quickly.
“Right now we have a vacuum of appropriate assessment tools,” said Tim Peterson, Madison’s assistant director of curriculum and assessment. “The standards have changed, but the measurement tool that we’re required by law to use — the WKCE — is not connected.”

Related Links:

I’m glad that the District is planning alternatives to the WKCE.

What’s Bugging Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

In an article about teacher retirements in the State Journal a couple of weeks ago, Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews had some harsh comments about the Madison school district and school board. Referring to the Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program, or TERP, Matthews said, “The evidence of the ill will of the board of education and superintendent speaks for itself as to why we have grave concern over the benefit continuing. . . . They tore things from the MTI contract, which they and their predecessors had agreed for years were in the best interest of the district and its employees.”
In an article in Isthmus last week, Lynn Welch followed up with Matthews. Matthews comes out swinging against the school district in this article as well, asserting, “The bargaining didn’t have to [involve] so much animosity. . . . If they wanted to make revisions, all they had to do is talk with us and we could have worked through something that would be acceptable to both sides. But they didn’t bother to talk about it. You don’t buy good will this way.” While the contract includes very significant economic concessions on the part of the teachers, Matthews expressed unhappiness with the non-economic changes as well, labeling them “inhumane.”
In the Isthmus article, Matthews asserts that the changes in the collective bargaining agreement “show how Walker’s proposed legislation (still tied up in court) has already produced an imbalance of power forcing unions to make concessions they don’t want to achieve a contract deal.”
………
The collective bargaining process is useful because it provides an established framework for hammering out issues of mutual concern between the school district and its employees and for conflict resolution. However, if the collective bargaining agreement were to disappear, the school district wouldn’t immediately resort to a management equivalent of pillaging the countryside. Instead, the district would seek out alternative ways of achieving the ends currently served by the collective bargaining process, because the district, like nearly all employers, values its employees and understands the benefits of being perceived as a good place to work.
But when employers aren’t interested in running sweat-shops, organizations set up to prevent sweat-shop conditions aren’t all that necessary. It may be that John Matthews’ ramped-up rhetoric is best understood not as a protest against school district over-reaching in bargaining, since that did not happen, but as a cry against the possibility of his own impending irrelevance.

John Matthews rips MTI contract concessions to the Madison School District

Lynn Welch:

A dispute has developed between Madison teachers and the school district over changes to contracts secured during quickie negotiations in March. John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., is upset about what he calls an “unfair and unreasonable” process.
“The bargaining didn’t have to [involve] so much animosity,” says Matthews. “If they wanted to make revisions, all they had to do is talk with us and we could have worked through something that would be acceptable to both sides. But they didn’t bother to talk about it. You don’t buy good will this way.”
Elsewhere, in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Matthews referred darkly to “the ill will of the board of education and superintendent” toward his members, as shown in these contract talks.
But school board members and district administrators take a different view, saying Matthews and his staff were at the bargaining table and agreed to all changes made to the contracts during an all-night negotiation that ended March 12; MTI members ratified the deal the next day. School Board President Maya Cole suggests that Matthews now has “buyer’s remorse.”

Idea for Discussion: Change the (Seattle School Board) Campaign

Charlie Mas

I’m thinking of making a web site called “Change the Board” in which I – and others – would advocate for the replacement of the school board majority elected in 2007. The site would have a general argument for replacing the board majority in general and would also have specific arguments for replacing each of the four individual board members.
The web site would be just one part of a whole campaign. There would be other parts than just the web site. It would include press efforts, rallies, truth-squads (to critically examine board campaign claims), online ads, and maybe even some yard signs. I’m thinking that we could promote “Change the Board” as an independent effort separate from each of the individual challenger campaigns. I’d like to try to build some momentum behind “Change the Board” that could support all challengers.
The costs on something like this could be pretty minimal.

Delaware schools: Christina board rescinds vote on reform

Nichole Dobo:

It came down to one interview.
Christina School District teachers at two of the state’s lowest-achieving schools had 20 minutes to prove their worth.
Each was asked the same questions by a panel that included fellow teachers, district administrators and one state Department of Education official. Their answers were the only factors that determined whether each teacher would remain at Glasgow High School or Stubbs Elementary as part of the district’s Race to the Top reforms.
Nineteen were not asked to stay. They will get a job at another district school.

Madison Schools Found Non-Compliant on Wisconsin DPI Talented & Gifted Complaint

Madison School District 450K PDF and the DPI Preliminary Audit, via a kind reader’s email:

I. Introduction A.Title/topic-Talented and Gifted Compliance
B. Presenter/contact person -Sue Abplanalp, Jennifer Allen, Pam Nash and Dylan Pauly
Background information- On March 24,2011, MMSD received DPI’s initial findings in the matter ofthe TAG complaint. DPI found MMSD to be noncompliant on all four counts. The Board has forty-five days from the date of receipt ofthe initial findings to petition the state superintendent for a public hearing. If the Board does not request such a hearing, the findings will become final. Once the findings are final, regardless of whether a hearing is held, if there is a finding of noncompliance, the state superintendent may develop with the Board a plan for compliance. The plan must contain a time line for achievement of compliance that cannot exceed ninety days. An extension of the time period may be requested if extenuating or mitigating circumstances exist.
II. Summary of Current Information:
Current Status: Currently, DPI has made an initial finding of noncompliance against MMSD. While the Board is entitled to request a public hearing on the issue of compliance, the administration does not recommend this course of action. Consequently, at this time, the administration is working toward the development ofa response to DPI’s findings, which will focus on remedial steps to insure compliance.
Proposal: Staff are working on a response to the preliminary findings which we will present to the Board when completed. It is the administration’s hope that this response will serve as the foundation to the compliance plan that will be developed once the DPI findings are final. The response will include input from the TAG Advisory Committee, the District’s TAG professionals — our Coordinator and staff. A meeting to begin work one the proposed response is currently scheduled for April28, 2011 from 4:00 p.m.-5:00pm. Subsequent meetings will follow.

Much more on the Wisconsin DPI Parent Talented & Gifted complaint.
Watch Monday evening’s Madison School Board discussion of the DPI Talented & Gifted complaint, here (starts at 128:37). and here.

Labor’s last stand? Education reform will come at a cost

Matthew DeFour:

The new state law, held up pending a legal challenge, forbids most public worker unions from negotiating salary schedules, benefits and workplace rules with employers. It still allows bargaining over inflationary increases in “total base wages,” but generally makes it harder for unions to operate.
It also means school administrators would be able to make major changes to pay scales, school calendars and work rules without consulting teachers.
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, said that while teachers won’t necessarily obstruct changes, they are less likely to offer new ideas themselves if they are not covered by a union contract.
“Innovation takes risk,” Bell said. “Risk in an environment where your protection is gone is a much different proposition.”
Just days before Walker announced his changes to collective bargaining, WEAC had announced support for a statewide teacher evaluation system and performance-based pay. That overture, however, has been largely overshadowed by the union controversy.

Watertown (MA) School Committee rejects teachers contract

Megan McKee:

The Watertown School Committee Monday night voted down the long-negotiated teachers’ union contract in front of a standing-room only audience, citing the dire financial situation the schools face next year.
The 5-3 vote means negotiators will have to go back to the bargaining table after teachers thought they had an agreement with the School Committee that came only after 18 months of negotiations and the involvement of a mediator.
“We recommended in good faith that our members ratify the agreement…Our members trusted us and voted to ratify the agreement,” said Watertown Educators Association president Debra King at Monday’s meeting. “We expected the School Committee team would also act in good faith and ratify the agreement. But then came the disturbing turn of events that have led us to tonight.”

Massachusetts School district petitions legislature to opt out of common education standards

Jack Minor:

A Massachusetts school committee has petitioned their legislature to opt out of Federal education standards which most states have adopted in attempt to get federal funding during lean budget times.
The Tantasqua Regional School Committee, the equivalent of our local Board of Education, is working with their state legislature to allow them to opt out of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
School Committee Chairman Kathleen Neal told the Gazette committee members are concerned with the cost of implementing the program as well as the way the standards were adopted with little public input last year.
The Massachusetts Core initiative was adopted during the summer and Neal said the committee had no idea it was being discussed until after the vote was passed with almost no notice to the general public. “If you are going to change the way you do assessments you should bring the people who are invested in it to the table.” She expressed frustration at state officials lack of asking the local districts for solutions.

Seven Stumbling Blocks for Madison Prep

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

The Madison School Board’s recent consideration of the Urban League’s application for a planning grant from DPI for the Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men prompted me to dig deeper into the issues the charter school proposal raises. I have several concerns – some old and some new – that are described below.
I apologize for the length of this post. It kind of turned into a data dump of all things Madison Prep.
Here are the seven areas of concern I have today about the Madison school district agreeing to sponsor Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter school.
1. The Expense.
As I have written, it looks like the roughly $14,500 per student that Madison Prep is seeking from the school district for its first year of operations is per nearly twice the per-student funding that other independent and non-instrumentality charter schools in the state now receive.
Independent charter schools, for example, receive $7,750 per-student annually in state funding and nothing from the local school district. As far as I can tell, non-instrumentality charter schools tend to receive less than $7,750 from their sponsoring school districts.
It seems that the Madison Prep proposal seeks to pioneer a whole new approach to charter schools in this state. The Urban League is requesting a much higher than typical per-student payment from the school district in the service of an ambitious undertaking that could develop into what amounts to a shadow Madison school district that operates at least a couple of schools, one for boys and one for girls. (If the Urban League eventually operates a girl’s school of the same size as projected for Madison Prep, it would be responsible for a total of 840 students, which is a larger total enrollment than about 180 school districts in Wisconsin can claim.)
What about the argument that Madison Prep does not propose to spend any more on a per-student basis than the Madison school district already spends? There are a couple of responses. First, MMSD does not spend $14,500 per student on in-school operations – i.e., teachers, classroom support, instructional materials. The figure is more like $11,000. But this is not the appropriate comparison.

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

Caire, Nerad & Passman Wisconsin Senate Bill 22 (SB 22) Testimony Regarding Charter School Governance Changes

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire 13mb .mp3 audio file. Notes and links on the Urban League’s proposed IB Charter school: Madison Preparatory Academy. Caire spoke in favor of SB 22.
Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 5mb .mp3 audio file. Nerad spoke in opposition to SB 22.
Madison School Board Member Marj Passman 5mb .mp3 audio file. Passman spoke in opposition to SB 22.
Much more on SB 22 here.
Well worth listening to. Watch the hearing here.