Category Archives: Curriculum – Bilingual Education

Acting French: It’s hard to learn a new language. But it’s way harder to learn a new culture.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

spent the majority of this summer at Middlebury College, studying at l’École Française. I had never been to Vermont. I have not been many places at all. I did not have an adult passport until I was 37 years old. Sometimes I regret this. And then sometimes not. Learning to travel when you’re older allows you to be young again, to touch the childlike amazement that is so often dulled away by adult things. In the past year, I have seen more of the world than at any point before, and thus, I have been filled with that juvenile feeling more times then I can count—at a train station in Strasbourg, in an old Parisian bookstore, on a wide avenue in Lawndale. It was no different in Vermont where the green mountains loomed like giants. I would stare at these mountains out of the back window of the Davis Family Library. I would watch the clouds, which, before the rain, drooped over the mountains like lampshades, and I would wonder what, precisely, I had been doing with my life.

I was there to improve my French. My study consisted of four hours of class work and four hours of homework. I was forbidden from reading, writing, speaking, or hearing English. I watched films in French, tried to read a story in Le Monde each day, listened to RFI and a lot of Barbara and Karim Oullet. At every meal I spoke French, and over the course of the seven weeks I felt myself gradually losing touch with the broader world. This was not a wholly unpleasant feeling. In the moments I had to speak English (calling my wife, interacting with folks in town or at the book store), my mouth felt alien and my ear slightly off.

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Karen Herzog:

Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.”

Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions process, Farrow noted. She said she’s concerned about what those test results will show.

“I think we’re doing all we can, but we need help because these are our kids,” Farrow said. “If they aren’t making it, this state and this country aren’t making it. … This is an emergency. This is a tragedy happening.”

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

However, “it’s in all of our best interest to work together on this,” Cross said.

Related: Math Forum.

Madison’s math review task force. Have the results of the task force made a difference?

Washington, DC School District unveils first ranking of public charter schools

Bill Turque:

The District unveiled its first rankings of public charter schools Tuesday, part of a new rating system that offers parents a broader assessment of school progress than annual standardized test results.
The new performance evaluation shows how test scores of students have grown over the last year, relative to their academic peers across the city. Schools also are assessed against a series of leading indicators and “gateway” measurements that researchers regard as predictors of future educational success. They include third-grade DC CAS reading scores, eighth-grade math scores and 11th-grade PSAT results.

Proposed Madison Prep IB Charter School and Madison Teachers, Inc will work together on new charter school; to be staffed largely with Union Teachers

Susan Troller:

Several major impediments facing the proposed Madison Prep charter school appear closer to resolution after a series of meetings and communications Friday between Urban League CEO Kaleem Caire, district Superintendent Daniel Nerad and John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc.
The changes are just in time for a public hearing on the Urban League-backed school on Monday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Doyle Administration Building, 545 W. Dayton St.
In a major shift, the proposed charter school will now be what’s called an “instrumentality” of the Madison Metropolitan School District. That means a significant portion of the school’s staff will be covered by the contract the district has with the local teachers union, Madison Teachers Inc. The contract runs through the end of June 2013

Matthew DeFour and Gayle Worland:

On the eve of a public hearing for Madison Preparatory Academy — a proposed charter school with single-sex classrooms focused on raising the academic performance of minority students — backers of the school agreed to employ union staff, eliminating a potential hurdle to approval of the school.
A budget plan for Madison Prep, proposed by the Urban League of Greater Madison, also was released late Friday. It estimates the Madison School District would spend $19.8 million over five years on the school, or about $2,000 less per student than it spends on other secondary-school students.
In lengthy meetings Friday, Urban League officials hammered out an agreement with Madison Teachers Inc., the union that represents Madison school teachers. MTI executive director John Matthews said the union, which previously opposed creation of Madison Prep, will remain neutral on whether the school should be approved.

Fascinating. It will be interesting to see the substance of the arrangement, particularly its implications for the current MMSD schools and Madison Prep’s curriculum and operating plans. 
A friend notes that the change is “stunning” and that it will likely “cost more” and perhaps “gut” some of Madison Prep’s essential components.

An Apology from a Teacher Who, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Know Everything

Mr. Foteah:

Today, when you were supposed to be reading your book, and while I was meeting with another student, I saw you writing something furiously. You are one of the few students in the class who regularly and dutifully records your thoughts on post-its, and, when I excused myself from my conference to come see what you were doing, I expected to see just that. However, when I asked you what you were doing, you told me about your book. I listened, but continued to glance at what you were trying to hide under your arm. When I saw it, I was less than happy. You were doing last night’s homework, and I was livid.
I did not react as I should have. Taking your paper and crumpling it was inappropriate. Had I thought for a moment, instead of reacting instantly, I would have remembered that you are one of the most diligent, hard-working students in the class. I would have realized something was amiss.
I should have asked you why you didn’t do your homework, rather than make rash assumptions. But I didn’t. Instead, I tossed your paper in the trash and returned to the other student, without a word to you or even a glance back, thinking that you’d receive the message of disappointment and disdain I sought to deliver. (Maybe I didn’t want to see the horror that had surely set upon your face).
When I finished with the other student, I called you over to my desk and told you to sit. Again, I seethed, and let my emotions get the best of me. I continued to lecture you and said I was upset with two things: you didn’t do your homework, and you lied to me.

Schools use referendums to balance budgets

Gina Duwe:

When Parkview Superintendent Steve Lutzke talks to fellow superintendents, the question isn’t, “Are you going to referendum?”
The question is, “When are you going to referendum?”
Declining enrollments and increasing costs that exceed revenue limits plague the Orfordville-based Parkview School District and its neighbor to the west, Brodhead. The results are referendums in both districts April 6 asking voters for permission to exceed state revenue caps.
“They have a lot of company,” said John Ashley, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Parkview and Brodhead join 34 other districts in the state planning 48 referendums on next month’s ballot. Of those, 26 referendums are to exceed revenue caps.

Feds examine LA schools’ English learner program

Associated Press:

The U.S. Education Department is planning to examine the Los Angeles Unified School District’s low achieving English-language learning program to determine whether those students are being denied a fair education.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate whether the nation’s second-largest school district is complying with federal civil rights laws with regard to English-language learners, who comprise about a third of the district’s 688,000 pupils, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The inquiry was sparked by the low academic achievement of the district’s English learners. Only 3 percent are proficient in high-school math and English.
Problems in LAUSD’s English-language learning program were highlighted last fall in a study by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.

Foreign Languages Fall as Schools Look for Cuts

Winnie Hu:

IN Edgemont, a high-performing Westchester school district, children as young as 7 could recite colors and days of the week in Spanish, but few if any learned to really converse, read or write. So this fall, the district canceled the Spanish lessons offered twice weekly at its two elementary schools since 2003, deciding the time and resources — an estimated $175,000 a year — could be better spent on other subjects.
The software replaced three teachers.
Class consolidation in Yonkers resulted in the loss of four foreign-language teaching positions, and budget cuts have cost Arlington, N.Y., its seventh-grade German program, and Danbury, Conn., several sections of middle school French and Spanish.
And in New Jersey, the Ridgewood district is replacing its three elementary school Spanish teachers with Rosetta Stone, an interactive computer program that cost $70,000, less than half their combined salaries.
“There’s never a replacement for a teacher in the classroom,” said Debra Anderson, a Ridgewood spokeswoman. “But this was a good solution in view of the financial constraints.”

We Are All Writers Now

Anne Trubek:

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook: these outlets are supposedly cheapening language and tarnishing our time. But the fact is we are all reading and writing much more than we used to, writes Anne Trubek …
The chattering classes have become silent, tapping their views on increasingly smaller devices. And tapping they are: the screeds are everywhere, decrying the decline of smart writing, intelligent thought and proper grammar. Critics bemoan blogging as the province of the amateurism. Journalists rue the loose ethics and shoddy fact-checking of citizen journalists. Many save their most profound scorn for the newest forms of social media. Facebook and Twitter are heaped with derision for being insipid, time-sucking, sad testaments to our literary degradation. This view is often summed up with a disdainful question: “Do we really care about what you ate for lunch?”
Forget that most of the pundits lambasting Facebook and Twitter are familiar with these devices because they use them regularly. Forget that no one is being manacled to computers and forced to read stupid prose (instead of, say, reading Proust in bed). What many professional writers are overlooking in these laments is that the rise of amateur writers means more people are writing and reading. We are commenting on blog posts, forwarding links and composing status updates. We are seeking out communities based on written words.

About The Dirksen Center’s Editorial Cartoon Collection

The Dirksen Center, via email:

Editorial cartoonists loved Everett Dirksen (1896-1969)–his position of influence as Minority Leader in the Senate (1959-69), his way with words, and, of course, his distinctive appearance. Over the years, Senator Dirksen’s staff compiled a scrapbook containing more than 300 editorial cartoons. Topics covered include Vietnam, civil rights, Republican Party politics, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, reapportionment, Taft-Hartley 14(b), school prayer, Dirksen’s recording career, Senate procedures, congressional pay, presidential appointments, and Dirksen’s legacy. Naturally, cartoonists also used these topics to depict Dirksen’s relationship with President Lyndon Johnson, with his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, and with the Supreme Court. In addition, cartoonists sent Dirksen between 50 and 60 original sketches on equally diverse topics.

Parents, kids pin their hopes on one white orb in boarding school lottery

Tanika White:

The lucky ones heard their numbers called early.
Not only could those first-announced winners beam with pride about being one of the first 80 students who will attend the SEED School of Maryland, but they also did not have to agonize in their chairs any longer, watching the white lottery balls tumble in gilded cages – the numbered balls representing dreams for all and disappointment for many.
Yesterday morning, the founders of the nation’s first public boarding school, which opened 10 years ago in Washington, D.C., held the inaugural lottery to fill the slots for the Baltimore-based second location, which will open its doors in August to disadvantaged youths from all over the state.
More than 300 students applied from the city, the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, the Eastern Shore, and Western and Southern Maryland. Families traveled to the College of Notre Dame of Maryland to see if their child’s number would be called.

Character Counts, But Not by Race

Mona Charen:

The public schools, perhaps more than any other institution in American life, are afflicted with “sounds good” syndrome. Let’s teach kids about the dangers of smoking. Sounds good. Let’s improve math scores with a new curriculum called “whole math.” Sounds good. Let’s reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by teaching sex ed. Sounds good. Let’s have cooperative learning where kids help one another. And so on.
The Fairfax County, Va., schools (where my children attend) recently joined a nationwide “sounds good” trend by introducing a character education curriculum. Students were exhorted to demonstrate a number of ethical traits like (I quote from my son’s elementary school’s website) “compassion, respect, responsibility, honesty.” It would be easy to mock the program — each trait, for example, is linked to a shape (respect is a triangle, honesty is a star). The intention to help mold character is a laudable one. But this program, like so much else about the public schools in the “sounds good” era, has foundered.
The curriculum made news recently when a report ordered by the school board evaluated student conduct for “sound moral character and ethical judgment” and then grouped the results by race. Oh, dear. It seems that among third graders, 95 percent of white students received a grade of “good” or better, whereas only 86 percent of Hispanic kids did that well and only 80 percent of black and special education students were so rated.
Martina A. “Tina” Hone, an African-American member of the school board, told the Washington Post that the decision to aggregate the evaluations by race was “potentially damaging and hurtful.”

Wisconsin Bill Proposes to Grant Awards to add World Language Instruction in Grades One to Six

Lauren Rosen, via email:

Dear Colleagues,
I am writing to share that Senators Lassa, Schultz and Risser have introduced Senate Bill 466 cosponsored by Representatives Hebl, Musser, Hixson, Sheridan, Berceau, Cullen and Schneider. This bill, currently referred to the Committee on Education, proposes grant awards to school districts to add instruction in world languages other than English in grades one to six. This bill can be viewed at Please consider reviewing the bill, sharing this proposed legislation with others, and contacting your legislators to share your perspective and assess their position.
I believe this is the golden opportunity for Madison to start keeping up with creating global citzens by supporting a bill that would allow us to request funds to start elementary school language programs. If MMSD doesn’t that too is a message from the school board that they really aren’t so interested in global citizens.
I can only hope that MMSD is willing to act on behalf of the interest of its community members with children in the schools.

Oregon and Monona Grove Add Elementary Spanish

Gena Kittner:

wo Dane County school districts will be saying “hola ” to new language programs at the elementary level this fall.
In the Oregon School District, Spanish will be taught in kindergarten through fourth grades starting this fall, with fifth and sixth grades added in the fall of 2009, said Courtney Odorico, Oregon School Board member.
Teaching only Spanish is a scaled-down version of what the district originally considered — teaching a different language such as Japanese, Chinese or German — at each of its three elementary schools.
“I think parents were a little worried about not having a choice, ” Odorico said. Also, “there were very few certified teachers in Chinese and some of the other languages we were looking at in the state. ”
The School Board approved the program at a meeting Monday.
Spanish also is the language of choice for elementary students in Monona Grove, where the School Board approved the program earlier this month.
The parent response was overwhelmingly for Spanish, said Bill Breisch, curriculum director for the Monona Grove School District.

Dane County, WI AP High School Course Comparison

A quick summary of Dane County, WI High School 2007-2008 AP Course Offerings (source – AP Course Audit):

  • Abundant Life Christian School (3 Courses)
  • Cambridge (1)
  • DeForest (7)
  • Madison Country Day (International Baccalaureate – IB. However, Madison Country Day is not listed on the approved IB World website.)
  • Madison East (11)
  • Madison Edgewood (11)
  • Madison LaFollette (10)
  • Madison Memorial (17)
  • Madison West (5+1 2nd Year Calculus which “prepares students for the AP BC exam”)
  • Marshall (5)
  • McFarland (6)
  • Middleton – Cross Plains (7)
  • Monona Grove (7)
  • Mount Horeb (5)
  • Oregon (9)
  • Sauk Prairie (10)
  • Stoughton (6)
  • Sun Prairie (13)
  • Verona (10)
  • Waunakee (6)
  • Wisconsin Heights (6)

Links and course details are available here.
Related: Dual Enrollment, Small Learning Communities and Part and Full Time Wisconsin Open Enrollment.
Via a kind reader’s email.

Not to Worry: Neal Gleason Responds to Marc Eisen’s “Brave New World”

Neal Gleason in a letter to the Isthmus Editor:

I have long admired Marc Eisen’s thoughtful prose. But his recent struggle to come to grips with a mutli-ethnic world vvers from xenophobia to hysteria (“Brave New World”, 6/23/06). His “unsettling” contact with “stylish” Chinese and “turbaned Sikhs” at a summer program for gifted children precipitated first worry (are my kids prepared to compete?), And then a villain (incompetent public schools).
Although he proclaims himself “a fan” of Madison public schools, he launches a fusillade of complaints: doubting that academic excellence is high on the list of school district pirorities and lamentin tis “dubious maht and reading pedagogy.” The accuracy of these concerns is hard to assess, because he offers no evidence.
His main target is heterogeneous (mixed-ability) classes. He speculates that Madison schools, having failed to improve the skills of black and Hispanic kids, are now jeopardizing the education of academically promising kids (read: his kids) for the sake of politically correct equality. The edict from school district headquarters: “Embrace heterogeneous classrooms. Reject tracking of brighter kids. Suppress dissent in the ranks.” Whew, that is one serious rant for a fan of public schools.

Continue reading Not to Worry: Neal Gleason Responds to Marc Eisen’s “Brave New World”

Madison Schools Make Effort to Close the Achievement Gap

Sandy Cullen:

Working in conjunction with the Schools of Hope project led by the United Way of Dane County, the district has made progress in third-grade reading scores at the lowest achievement levels. But racial and income gaps persist among third-graders reading at proficient and advanced levels.
Other initiatives are taking place in the middle and high schools. There, the district has eliminated “dead-end classes” that have less rigorous expectations to eliminate the chance that students will be put on a path of lower achievement because they are perceived as not being able to succeed in higher-level classes.
In the past, high school students were able to take classes such as general or consumer math. Now, all students are required to take algebra and geometry – or two credits of integrated mathematics, combining algebra, statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry – in order to graduate.
One of the district’s more controversial efforts has been a move toward “heterogeneous” classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.
Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students who are achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But others say the needs of higher-achieving students aren’t met in such classes.
And in addition to what schools are already doing, Superintendent Art Rainwater said he would like to put learning coaches for math and reading in each of the district’s elementary schools to improve teachers’ ability to teach all students effectively.

The first part of Cullen’s series is here.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: A Look at the Educational Histories of the 29 West HS National Merit Semi-Finalists

Earlier this semester, 60 MMSD students — including 29 from West HS — were named 2006 National Merit Semifinalists. In a 10/12/05 press release, MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater said, “I am proud of the many staff members who taught and guided these students all the way from elementary school, and of this district’s overall guidance and focus that has led to these successes.”
A closer examination of the facts, however, reveals that only 12 (41%) of West High School’s 29 National Merit Semifinalists attended the Madison public schools continuously from first grade on (meaning that 59% received some portion of their K-8 schooling in either private schools or non-MMSD public schools). Here’s the raw data:

Continue reading Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: A Look at the Educational Histories of the 29 West HS National Merit Semi-Finalists

Teachers fight possible bilingual education cuts

Capital Times April 15, 2005
Full article at:
Teachers fight possible bilingual education cuts
By Lee Sensenbrenner
April 15, 2005
Bilingual teachers who are helping students in the Madison Metropolitan School District to learn English are organizing against a proposed cut to their department.
Threatened with losing eight positions if a May 24 operating budget referendum for $7.4 million is unsuccessful, the teachers said in an open letter Thursday that the cut would take away much of their ability to help mainly Spanish speaking elementary students who are struggling to keep up.
As laid out in the administration’s $7.4 million list of proposed cuts, dropping 8.4 bilingual resource teachers would save $425,880. This would take away one of two teachers in the elementary classrooms where the positions would be lost.

Latino Parents Decry Bilingual Programs

Samuel Freedman writes:

ON a sultry night in late June, when the school term was nearly over, two dozen parents gathered in a church basement in Brooklyn to talk about what a waste the year had been. Immigrants from Mexico and the Dominican Republic, raising their children in the battered neighborhood of Bushwick, they were the people bilingual education supposedly serves. Instead, one after the other, they condemned a system that consigned their children to a linguistic ghetto, cut off from the United States of integration and upward mobility.
These parents were not gadflies and chronic complainers. Patient and quiet, the women clad in faded shifts, the men shod in oil-stained work boots, they exuded the aura of people reluctant to challenge authority, perhaps because they ascribed wisdom to people with titles, or perhaps because they feared retribution.