Teachers Unions Spend Big on GOP State Lawmakers

John Tillman:

Ten Republican-led states have passed universal school choice since 2021, yet much of the South is lagging. There’s a simple explanation: Many Republican lawmakers are teachers-union allies and likely need to be defeated in primary elections for school choice to pass.

Republicans against school choice have largely couched their opposition by asserting that rural areas have few private options and need strong public schools. It’s a flawed argument, since universal school choice would create new private options and spur competition that improves public education.

Yet their opposition makes sense when you look at the books. In states that have resisted reform—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas—teachers unions or their allies have lavished cash on lawmakers who oppose choice.

Consider Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has called a fourth special legislative session to pass universal school choice. State Rep. Glenn Rogers is one of the most vocal Republican opponents of the governor’s plan, and since 2018 teachers-union political-action committees have given him at least $22,500. Rep. Steve Allison, who’s received $24,250, has voted to strip previous bills of school-choice provisions. All told, 24 Republicans in the Texas House voted against education freedom in April. Twenty-two of them are the recipients of teachers union cash, and 11 have received more than $10,000.

Event: Breakthroughs in Education and Social Mobility Research: Isabel V. Sawhill

American Institute for Resaerch, via a kind email:

For low-income and minority students, education is the key to success and upward mobility. But evidence has shown in past decades that education has not been acting as the Great Equalizer. The Breakthroughs in Education and Social Mobility Research speaker series brings to light the most promising research illuminating the educational pathways to upward mobility. The series features some of the nation’s top scholars who are uncovering innovative and insightful evidence about what inhibits and enhances mobility.

The series will contribute to a new synthesis of findings informing education and social mobility policy and practice in the coming years. This goal is aligned with the long-term mission of the Equity Project at AIR, which is to work with others to open the doors of opportunity for all children and young adults. Please join us in welcoming our first speaker, Isabel V. Sawhill.

Washington, DC District of Change Podcast

DC Public Library

On Wednesday, Sept.10, Amanda Ripley, author of “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way,” led a discussion on the state of education in the District of Columbia. Scott Cartland, former principal, Janney Elementary School, current principal, Wheatley Education Campus; Alexandra Pardo, executive director, Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School; and Andria Caruthers, principal, West Education Campus joined Ripley.

The panelists discussed if the District’s attempts to improve public education over the past few years have been successful.

More via Michael Alison Chandler.

We’re too ignorant to see why we need tests

Matthew Syed:

Is development aid effective? Do school uniforms improve discipline? Don’t guess – try it out

Doctors have been given the go-ahead to conduct a trial on victims of heart attacks. Some randomly assigned patients will get a shot of adrenaline, the treatment conventionally used in these situations. Others will get a shot of saltwater: in other words, a placebo. Doctors will then measure the outcomes to see which, if any, work better.

A speech for high school graduates

Steven Wolfram:

Last weekend I gave a speech at this year’s graduation event for the Stanford Online High School (OHS) that one of my children has been attending. Here’s the transcript:
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this celebration today—and congratulations to this year’s OHS graduates.

You know, as it happens, I myself never officially graduated from high school, and this is actually the first high school graduation I’ve ever been to.

It’s been fun over the past three years—from a suitable parental distance of course—to see my daughter’s experiences at OHS. One day I’m sure everyone will know about online high schools—but you’ll be able to say, “Yes, I was there when that way of doing such-and-such a thing was first invented—at OHS.”

NEA Aims to Revive Organizing as Membership Drops

Stephen Sawchuck:

The nation’s largest teachers’ union is attempting to revive a fundamental labor principle: organizing.

With its membership down by more than 230,000 members over the past three years, the National Education Association is imploring local affiliates to better engage current and potential members. It has launched a Center for Organizing to provide tools and training, has put millions of dollars behind local affiliates’ plans, and is pushing regional support staff to lead the charge.

Not since the 1970s, when its teachers helped win public-sector collective bargaining laws across the country, has organizing been such a priority for the 3 million-member NEA. What’s more, the union is promoting membership as an avenue to better teaching and learning conditions, rather than relying on traditional recruitment drives.

“I can stand here until you sign a membership form, but the minute I leave, you need to see the value in that engagement,” summarized Jim Testerman, the director of the NEA Center for Organizing, of the case he expects organizers to make.

The work is not without its challenges, union officials acknowledge. Among them is getting affiliates who have been locked into a “service” mentality — handling grievances and collective bargaining — to add the more active role of organizing to their “to do” list.

The DOJ and Wisconsin’s private-school choice program: a storm is brewing

CJ Szafir:

Last week, the Wisconsin Reporter reported that the United States Department of Justice is still conducting an “ongoing investigation” into whether Wisconsin’s private-school choice program discriminates against children with disabilities and, as a result, violates federal disability law.

In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the Justice Department accusing the Wisconsin school-choice program—as well as two private schools in the program—of discriminating against children with disabilities. In April 2013, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department sent a letter and legal memo to the state of Wisconsin accusing the school-choice program of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They concluded that unless Wisconsin drastically changes its choice program, the United States will take legal action.

Among its numerous demands, the Justice Department wants private choice schools to be forced to adjust their programming to accommodate all children with disabilities, so long as the accommodation does not “fundamentally alter” the school (an extremely onerous legal standard). Federal disability law, as traditionally interpreted by the U.S. Department of Education, applies a different, less exacting standard to private schools in the choice program. Private schools must only make “minor adjustments” to accommodate students with disabilities. Given that private schools do not receive the same government funding for special education as public schools and may wish to take distinctive approaches to students with behavioral problems, this is perfectly appropriate.

Via Alan Borsuk.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Illinois: Different standards for different students

Diane Rado:

Under a dramatic new approach to rating public schools, Illinois students of different backgrounds no longer will be held to the same standards — with Latinos and blacks, low-income children and other groups having lower targets than whites for passing state exams, the Tribune has found.

In reading, for example, 85 percent of white third- through eighth-grade students statewide will be expected to pass state tests by 2019, compared with about 73 percent for Latinos and 70 percent for black students, an analysis of state and federal records shows.

The concept is part of a fundamental and, according to critics, troubling shift in how public schools and students will be judged after the federal government recently allowed Illinois to abandon unpopular requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

A key NCLB measure long considered unreachable — that 100 percent of students must pass state exams — will be eliminated.

But the complex new approach of different standards for different groups is troubling to civil rights activists, who are not convinced that school districts will be held accountable for failing to educate minority students, and to some local educators, who say the lowered expectations will send a negative message to students.

“You’re potentially sending a message that it’s OK for some kids to not do as well,” said Timothy Truesdale, assistant superintendent in Cicero’s Morton High School District 201, where almost all students are Latino and low-income, and test scores have been dismal for years.

Via: Kaleem Caire.

Emancipation Day Commemoration in Eastern Mississippi School

James Fallows:

Over the months Deb Fallows has reported on a variety of impressive and innovative public schools around the country. For instance: the Sustainability Academy in Burlington, Vermont; the Grove School in Redlands California; the Shead School in Eastport, Maine; several English immersion schools in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, South Carolina; the A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School for Engineering, also in Greenville; and the Camden County High School near St. Marys, Georgia.

Recently she has spent a lot of time at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS), in Columbus, Mississippi. MSMS is a public, residential high school for students from across the state, about which Deb will be reporting in detail soon. But before the day ends, we wanted to note a moving presentation by MSMS students this evening in a historic cemetery in Columbus.

Claude Steele to speak on stereotype threat at Beloit College

Renowned social psychologist Claude Steele will visit Beloit College to give a lecture on Monday, Sept. 9. Free and open to the public, the lecture titled “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Eaton Chapel.
Steele, the I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University, will speak on the issues he presented in his 2010 book of the same name. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, the book provides an inside look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity.
During his visit to campus, Steele will also participate in a panel discussion of teaching and advising at Beloit and facilitate a discussion with students regarding social identity.
Steele, who previously served as the Provost of Columbia University, earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Ohio State University. His research focuses on the psychological experience of the individual and on the experience of threats to the self and the consequences of those threats. He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including the American Psychologist, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Review of “Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotype Affect Us” (Harvard Educational Review)
Why are students of color not graduating from college at the same rate as white students? Why might white students be reluctant to take courses with a substantial number of students of color in them? What can educators do to address these problems?
In his new book, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, social psychologist Claude Steele helps us find answers to these questions based on findings from social psychology experiments. Steele’s book sets forth an argument for understanding how contextual factors–not individual characteristics or personal beliefs motivated by prejudice or malice–help explain so-termed “racial achievement gaps” in education and ongoing societal racial and ethnic segregation.
In an accessible, page-turning account written for a general audience, Steele explains how identity contingencies–the conditions that a given social identity forces us to face and overcome in a particular setting–affect our everyday behavior and perpetuate broader societal problems. Expanding on his prior work, he focuses on a specific type of identity contingency: stereotype threat, or the fear of what people could think about us solely because of our race, gender, age, etc. An African American male walking down the street at night, for example, faces the threat of being seen as potentially violent. Steele recounts how, to deflect this stereotype threat, African American New York Times writer Brent Staples whistled Vivaldi while walking the streets of Hyde Park at night to signal to white people that he was educated and nonviolent. Another example of stereotype threat would be a white student in a class that is predominantly nonwhite facing the threat of being perceived as racist. Steele explains how such threats follow us like a “cloud.”

Read more here.

Forward Theater’s “Good People” a Timely Must-See

It asks the question “who escapes poverty and at what cost?” And reflects on the role of luck, effort, education and parental engagement.

Produced by Forward Theater Co.
Wednesday through Saturday, April 10-13, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m., Thursday and Friday, April 18-19, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 20, 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 21, 2 p.m.
Running time is two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
Playhouse, Overture Center, 201 State St.
$10-38; $15 student rush


School Board Candidate Forum – March 28

Thursday, March 28
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Sequoya Library
4340 Tokay Boulevard
Moderator: Charles Read, former Dean of the U.W. School of Education
Sponsored by the Harvard Club of Wisconsin and Madison Magnet

Come see the new documentary about the UW-Odyssey Project

The UW-Odyssey Project changes lives for adults near the poverty level. Now in its tenth year, this inspirational project has empowered more than 250 low-income adults to find their voices and get a jumpstart at earning college degrees they never thought possible. Graduates of the program have journeyed from homelessness to UW-Madison degrees, from incarceration to meaningful work in the community.

You are warmly invited to a special screening of a new documentary about the UW-Odyssey Project on Thursday, December 6, at the Sundance Cinema (Hilldale Shopping Mall). Showings will be at 5:00, 5:40 and 6:20 p.m. in theater #3. Refreshments will be served in the second floor bistro. This event is free, but donations to the Odyssey Project’s important work will be gratefully appreciated.
For more information about the UW-Odyssey Project, the new documentary, and how to vote for Emily Auerbach (Odyssey Project founder and director) for Lady Godiva Chocolate’s Inspirational Woman of the Year, go to http://www.odyssey.wisc.edu/.

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.


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

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.
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.

Let’s evaluate all ways to close gap

Madison School Board Candidate Mary Burke

n recent listening sessions with Madison parents, I heard how we can improve our schools, what we can be really proud of and stories about our wonderful teachers. In these discussions and in others, people have talked about addressing the racial achievement gap and shared concerns about Madison Prep.
For the 12 years I have been involved in Madison schools, I have been championing education and addressing the racial achievement gap. An East High teacher and I co-founded the AVID/TOPS program, which I also supported financially and continue to co-chair. This program has increased the number of students graduating and going on to post-secondary education. But AVID TOPS alone is not enough. We need to do more.
When Madison Prep was discussed last fall, it was the only proposal put on the table in the last five years to significantly address the racial achievement gap. At that time the teachers union and the planners of Madison Prep were in agreement that the school would run with Madison School District employees, union teachers and under the leadership of the district (as an instrumentality). A major concern raised was that Madison Prep would pull resources needed by existing schools.

Nothing Ever Happens

This Recording:

One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours — all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.
In spring of 1947, the English department of the University of Mississippi had William Faulkner address one class a day for a week. The teacher of each class was barred from attending the sessions. Faulkner spent the entire time answering questions from students.

IRA History Project Snags U.S. School

Devlin Barret:

A U.S. appeals court is weighing whether Boston College must turn over to criminal investigators recordings from an oral history project about Northern Ireland that could expose embarrassing secrets of the Irish Republican Army’s past.
An Irish paper in 2010 quoted Dolours Price as saying she drove Ms. McConville to her killers.
The case suggests new legal hurdles and costs for universities that gather historical records of conflicts around the world.
At the heart of the legal dispute is the unsolved, nearly 40-year-old killing of Jean McConville, a widowed mother abducted in front of her children and murdered by the IRA as a suspected spy for the British government. The IRA has admitted to the murder though the killers never were identified.

School Spotlight: Miracle on Hudson co-pilot Skiles inspires aviation students

Pamela Cotant:

Jeff Skiles, one of the cockpit crew who safely landed a disabled US Airways plane on the Hudson River three years ago, shared the exciting tale when he spoke to Edgewood High School students recently.
Skiles, who was first officer on the last leg of his first assignment in the Airbus A320 when it struck a flock of Canada geese Jan. 15, 2009, encouraged students in the Aviation I and II classes to consider a career in the field.
“It’s an exciting life,” he said. “I could have never chosen a better thing for my life.”
One of the students, Ava Janssen, 16, a junior at Verona Area High School who comes to Edgewood to learn about aviation, is looking at a career flying medical flight helicopters and found Skiles’ talk inspiring.

The Insider View of Education Reform

Whiteboard Advisors:

Education Insider is a monthly report and webinar that provides real-time insights on federal education policy trends, debates, and issues–from the handful of decision makers that are driving the process.
Trying to follow the ins-and-outs of Federal education reform — a morass of legislation, regulations, grants, mandates and more — is like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle. It is often difficult to see the entire picture when all you have is a few pieces. The challenge is piecing together bits of conversations, speeches, legislation, regulations, and other expressions of policy intent to discern what is happening in the debate. This process is even more complex since other policy issues and political agendas can change the trajectory of education policy.
As with any issue, there are only a handful of insiders that will shape the debate but never before has there been an attempt to tap their collective insights and forecasts.
Organizations must anticipate and react to Federal policy and funding changes need high quality information and analysis and the complete picture that Education Insider provides.

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?

After Madison Prep vote, it’s time to shake things up

Joseph Vanden Plas:

There’s nothing like standing in the schoolhouse door.
For me, the Madison School Board’s 5-2 vote to shoot down Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school specifically designed for low-income minority students, brings to mind images of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to block the integration of the University of Alabama, or state officials blocking James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi.
If you think that’s harsh, remember that those pieces of history were not only about Civil Rights and desegregation, they were about every person’s right to pursue a quality education.
In the Madison Metropolitan School District, a 48% graduation rate among African American students indicates that quality has not been achieved. Not even close.
Fortunately, this is one dream that’s not going to be allowed to die. Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is the driving force behind Madison Prep, and he isn’t ready to wave the surrender flag.
Following the school board vote, Caire vowed to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, and he also urged supporters of Madison Prep to run for school board.
Love it, love it, love it.
At one point in the development of Madison Prep, Caire sounded optimistic that the school district was a real partner, but the majority of board members had other ideas. Caire and the Urban League did their best to address every objection critics put in their way, and now it’s clear that the intent all along was to scuttle the project with a gauntlet of hurdles.

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

Madison Prep Closing Argument, Part II: Yes, but with a Delay

Madison School Board Member, Ed Hughes:

I want to support the Urban League’s Madison Prep charter school proposal. It is undeniable that the Madison School District has not done well by its African-American students. We need to accept that fact and be willing to step back and give our friends at the Urban League an opportunity to show us a better way.
The issue is far more complicated than this, however. There are a number of roadblocks on the path to saying yes. I discuss these issues below. Some are more of an obstacle than others.
The biggest challenge is that a vote in favor of Madison Prep as it is currently proposed amounts to a vote to violate our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. I see no way around this. I believe in honoring the terms of our contracts with our employees. For me, this means that I have to condition my support for Madison Prep on a one-year delay in its opening.
Most other obstacles and risks can be addressed by including reasonable provisions in the charter school contract between the school district and Urban League.

One wonders what additional hurdles will appear between now and 2013, should the District follow Ed’s proposal. Kaleem Caire:

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.

Monday’s vote will certainly reflect the District’s priorities.


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.

Protesters Derail Chicago School Board Meeting

Rebecca Vevea:

A Chicago Board of Education meeting came to a sudden halt Wednesday when a raucous group of protesters from the Chicago Teachers Union, Occupy Chicago and other organizations erupted into a chorus of chants denouncing board members.
It was the first board meeting since Chicago Public Schools announced a series of closings, consolidations and turnarounds that could affect 21 schools on the city’s South and West sides. While none of those actions were being voted on, the agenda included the approval of 12 new charter schools.
The protesters drowned out the voice of CPS chief executive Jean-Claude Brizard, who had just begun a presentation to board members. “You have failed…You have produced chaos…You should be fired” they chanted.
When they paused, board president David Vitale said he hoped they had “gotten it out of their system,” which set off another round of shouting.

Japanese ambassador tastes American education in visit to St. Paul’s, Baltimore

Jon Meoli:

For many students who take a foreign language, the highest authority they have to answer to is their teacher.
But for some of the 220 students who study Japanese at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Monday offered an opportunity to show their skills for an expert guest: Japan’s ambassador to the United States
Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and his wife, Yoriko, were accompanied by Takahisa Murakami, Counselor of Education for the Japanese Embassy, and Takayuki Iriya, Fujisaki’s first secretary, to sample Japanese educational offerings at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville.

Unions & the Future of Our Schools: A New York Conversation with Randi Weingarten 12/14/2011 7:30p.m. EST

The JCC in Manhattan via a kind Ted Bauer email:

Join us for an evening with one of the country’s most notable figures in public education. Labor lawyer, former President of the United Teachers Federation and current President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten discusses the challenging terrain of our public education system.

334 amsterdam ave at 76th st, new york, ny 10023 | 646.505.4444

Mary Burke to run for Madison School Board

Matthew DeFour:

Burke, who made headlines recently for pledging $2.5 million to Madison Preparatory Academy, a controversial charter school proposal, plans to run for the seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak.
Burke also served as president of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County for nine years and along with the Burke Foundation has donated about $2.6 million to the AVID/TOPS program, which has shown promising results in improving achievement among low-income, minority students.
Burke emphasized closing the district’s racial achievement gap as a motivation for her decision to run.
Several others have expressed interest in running for the seat, including Joan Eggert, a Madison schools parent and reading specialist in the McFarland School District, who issued an official announcement last week.
Others who said they are considering a run include parents Jill Jokela and Mark Stokosa. Tom Farley, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 against James Howard, said Monday he is no longer interested in running and Burke’s entry in the race makes him confident in that decision.

Spokane Public Schools is a “tale of two cities” – and I live in the other one

Laurie Rogers:

On Nov. 10, Spokane Public Schools hosted a lovely “Breakfast for Community Leaders.” The district’s goal was to assure well-connected and like-minded folks in the city that – as the district put it – it’s “better preparing all students for success after graduation.” A few students also were brought in to “share their stories about the effectiveness of that preparation and what high school is like today.”

Superintendent Nancy Stowell began the breakfast by saying she wanted to “put to rest” the “fingerpointing and blame” the district faced during the 2011 board election. Here are a few examples of how she put things to rest.

  • Stowell praised the district for higher graduation rates, saying the next challenge is college readiness. Wasn’t college readiness always the goal? Most parents think so. So, the district is letting more of the kids leave, and at some point, they’ll start getting them ready for postsecondary life? How does that work?
  • Stowell showed us how enrollment is increasing in Advanced Placement classes. Had she shown AP pass rates — we also would have seen a precipitous drop in the percentage passing, and an alarming drop in the average AP grade.

Political Protest 101: Indoctrinating fourth graders in Wisconsin

Gary Larson:

“What did you learn in school today, dear?” a mother asks her fourth grader.
“Oh, mom, it was so exciting! We learned to chant slogans and clap and sing protest songs,” says her nine-year old after a school field trip to the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.
The field trip got mixed up somehow in the on-going political protest of Governor Scott Walker’s budget reform law. You know, that hotly-contested-by-unions law curbing certain collective bargaining privileges of entitlement-minded Wisconsin public employees? Yeah, that one. It created quite a a stir in February, causing Senate Democrats to flee to Illinois on behalf of their generous gift-giving friends in, yes, those same public employee unions igniting the protests and the recall elections.
Who knew kids from Portage, Wisconsin, 40 miles north of Madison, would be thrust into the hornets’ nest of political protesters, mostly teachers, doing battle with a duly-elected governor and those mean and nasty budget-minded Republicans? Who knew? Not parents, certainly.
Instead of a lesson in state government, the kids got an impromptu lesson in raucous, union-driven, leftist power politics at the State Capitol, still strewn with placards of the February protests against budget reforms to erase a $3.5 billion shortfall. Most of the physical damage to the Capitol done by February protesters occupying it had been repaired, at a cost to taxpayers in the low millions. Despoiling public property is apparently what they do?

Live Stream of violinist Wendy Sharp tomorrow from Yale, plus a SAVE-THE-DATE for Feb 13

Lisa Bielawa, via a kind email:

Hi dear friends- So great to see so many of you at the performances of Koyaanisqatsi with the Glass Ensemble & the NY Philharmonic this past week. It was pretty great to share the stage with So Much Brass! and a great experience for us to share that incredible piece with the hometown audience.
I’m writing you because there’s a great way tomorrow Nov 6 at 4pm EST for you to hear some of my music – Live! – from anywhere in the world.
Violinist Wendy Sharp will be playing the solo Meditations from my cycle “The Lay of the Love and Death” in concert at Yale University at 4pm EST tomorrow (November 6), and I will be playing the role of reciter, reading the heartbreaking epic poem by Rilke, written in one night when he was just 22 years old. In its original form as a song cycle for baritone, with solo violin meditations, “The Lay of the Love and Death” was commissioned by the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation in 2006 and received its world premiere on the Premiere Commission Gala concert in Alice Tully Hall that same year. As always, it is a great pleasure to be sharing the program with some superb, albeit not-too-social, colleagues: some guys named Brahms, Beethoven, and Korngold. Wendy is a beautiful player with a rich and very personal tone. I am really looking forward to it!
YOU CAN SEE/HEAR IT ALL ON LIVE STREAMING VIDEO HERE, at 4pm EST, broadcast straight from Sprague Hall at my own alma mater, Yale University: http://music.yale.edu/media/index.html
And speaking of Premiere Commission…
SAVE THE DATE: On February 13, 2012, Premiere Commission and its Artistic Director/Founder/Impresario Bruce Levingston (acclaimed pianist and commissioner of much important music of our time!) will be presenting a 10th Anniversary Gala celebraton concert at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, with performances of my music by Bruce himself, the peerless string quartet Brooklyn Rider, and myself. Bruce has honored me by curating the evening around music I have written for him, for Brooklyn Rider with myself singing, and – a world premiere for piano quintet for Bruce with Brooklyn Rider entitled Rondolette (it’s still in progress, but it does have a title…). And there will be some more historically-remote colleague composers on the program too!
In an extra show of support that is characteristic of Bruce, who is a great musical citizen, he is making it possible for some of the proceeds of this important and festive gala celebration to go towards the Tempelhof Broadcast project in Berlin. Thank you Bruce! Hope many of you can come out and help us celebrate 10 years of Premiere Commission on February 13! I’ll be in touch again as the date approaches, with more details.
With warm wishes as we plunge into this cold season,

Open Enrollment Changing the Face of Wisconsin Public Schools

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, via a kind Senn Brown email:

In 2010-11, a record number of students took advantage of Wisconsin’s open enrollment program to attend school elsewhere than in their own district. The 34,498 participants was 8.1% higher than in 2010 and nearly five times higher than in 2001. Open enrollment numbers varied widely, with 13 districts experiencing net outflows of more than 10% of their student populations and 34 with net inflows of similar magnitude. These findings are detailed in SchoolFacts11, the annual reference book from the Wisconsin Tax- payers Alliance (WISTAX) that provides, for every school district in the state, a wide range of information on enrollment, finance, staffing, and test scores.
In 2010-11, 4.0% of Wisconsin’s public school students attended a district other than their own. Dover (26.2%) and South Shore (23.0%) both had net outflows (students leaving less those coming) of more than 20%. Eleven other districts (Florence, Mercer, Neosho, Palmyra-Eagle, Richfield, Stockbridge, Twin Lakes, Washington-Caldwell, Wheatland, Winter, and Wonewoc-Union Center) had net outflows of over 10%.

Related: Madison School District 2009 outbound open enrollment survey. Much more, here.
Student counts drive a District’s tax and spending authority.

Popcorn, pro-charter school movie served at private Wisconsin Capitol screening

Susan Troller:

The movie event, including the popcorn, was sponsored by Vos, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee — and owns a popcorn company.
Co-sponsors were Education Committee Chairs Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake. Olsen is one of the lead sponsors of the charter authorizing bill, introduced in the Legislature last spring and currently before the Joint Finance Committee.
Panelists for the discussion included Gov. Scott Walker’s policy director, Kimber Liedl; the president of Milwaukee-based St. Anthony School, Zeus Rodriguez; the Urban League of Greater Madison’s charter school development consultant, Laura DeRoche-Perez; and a former president of Madison Teachers Inc., Mike Lipp, who is currently the athletic director at West High School.
There were also a number of panelists who were invited but did not attend, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, Madison Superintendent Daniel Nerad, state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts and a representative from WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union.

WEAC assesses future of annual convention as school districts consider alternatives

Matthew DeFour:

Most area schools will be closed Thursday and Friday, but with the annual teachers union convention canceled districts are considering whether to do away with the mid-semester break in the future.
Many school districts had already set their calendars for this year by the time the Wisconsin Education Association Council announced in May it would cancel its fall convention.
But Sun Prairie and McFarland have decided to hold classes next year on the days previously set aside for the WEAC convention. Others, including Cambridge, Belleville and DeForest, are thinking about doing the same.
“Early indications are people would favor having regular classes on those days to reduce breaks in instruction for students,” DeForest Superintendent Jon Bales said. “It also allows for the addition of makeup snow days at the end of the year without going too far into the month of June.”

Wisconsin school districts adjust to canceled teacher convention

Matthew Bin Han Ong:

The annual state teachers union convention that has traditionally meant a two-day school holiday at the end of October is off this year, leaving public school districts with decisions about how to schedule students and teachers.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council canceled the convention, which would have been Thursday and Friday this week, after changes in state law weakened the union and its local affiliates.
Without the certainty of having input into school calendars through the negotiations process, members could not guarantee that they could all get the days off from school, said WEAC President Mary Bell, who added that the convention was “the flagship piece of professional development that we provided for members.”
Some school districts, with their calendars already set before the convention was called off, are keeping the school holiday for students but bringing teachers in for training or other activities. Others, such as Waukesha, are keeping the holiday and treating it as two unpaid days for teachers.
The Brown Deer School District scheduled classes.

10.7.2011 Draft; Proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School Business Plan

2.6MB PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

Black and Latino boys are grossly over-represented among youth failing to achieve academic success, are at grave risk of dropping out of school before they reach 10th grade, are disproportionately represented among adjudicated and incarcerated youth, and are far less likely than their peers in other subgroups to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Likewise, boys in general lag behind girls in most indicators of student achievement.
Research indicates that although boys of color have high aspirations for academic and career success, their underperformance in school and lack of educational attainment undermine their career pursuits and the success they desire. This misalignment of aspirations and achievement is fueled by and perpetuates a set of social conditions wherein men of color find themselves disproportionately represented among the unemployed and incarcerated. Without meaningful, targeted, and sustainable interventions and support systems, hundreds of thousands of young men of color will never realize their true potential and the cycle of high unemployment, fatherless homes, overcrowded jails, incarcerated talent, deferred dreams, and high rates of school failure will continue.
Likewise, girls of color are failing to graduate high school on-time, underperform on standardized achievement and college entrance exams and are under-enrolled in college preparatory classes in secondary school. The situation is particularly pronounced in the Madison Metropolitan School District where Black and Latino girls are far less likely than Asian and White girls to take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in high school or successfully complete such courses with a grade of C or better when they do. In this regard, they mimic the course taking patterns of boys of color.
Additionally, data on ACT college entrance exam completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement tests scores provided to the Urban League by the Madison Metropolitan School District show a significant gap in ACT completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement scores between students of color and their white peers.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women will be established to serve as catalysts for change and opportunity among young men and women in the Greater Madison, Wisconsin area, particularly young men and women of color. It will also serve the interests of parents who desire a nurturing, college preparatory educational experience for their child.

Los Angeles Charities and Minority Groups Tell United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD: ‘Don’t Hold Us Back’

Hillel Aron:

Today, full page ads appear in the L.A. Times, Daily News and La Opinion taken out by Don’t Hold Us Back — respected organizations calling out United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD for letting kids fail. The new supergroup includes The United Way, The Urban League, Community Coalition, Alliance for a Better Community, Families in Schools, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Communities for Teaching Excellence.
The ad’s bland wording at first seems a bit “so what?” but it’s actually written in code to UTLA leaders, who have helped the local teachers union gain a reputation as one of the most anti-reform big-city education unions in the U.S. Here’s a translation:
In one line, the ad says teachers should “be rewarded for academic excellence.”
That sounds normal, right?
But in fact, that idea has for years been vehemently opposed by UTLA. UTLA has fiercely fought efforts to reward the most effective teachers, or the teachers who take on the toughest assignments, by giving them financial sweeteners — merit pay.

Madison Prep supporters, opponents fight it out

Nathan Comp:

Kaleem Caire is feeling pretty confident that the Madison school board will approve Madison Preparatory Academy in late November. After all, he’s made substantial concessions to appease his most influential critics, and support for the charter school, which would target at-risk minority students, appears to be gaining momentum.
Still, Caire, who is CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, the nonprofit agency that would run the school, faces a dedicated opposition that remains unflinching in its wide-ranging criticism, some of it highly personal. Some opponents have called Caire an “enemy of public education.”
“The fact that people scrutinize us isn’t the issue, but it gets to the point where some of this borders on ridiculous,” he says.
Caire proposed the school last year, calling it an important first step in closing the minority achievement gap, a problem first documented by the Urban League in 1968. Supporters say that after four decades of doing little, the time has come for a more radical approach.
“Can you imagine this city if 48% of the white kids were dropping out?” asks Gloria Ladson-Billings, an education professor at UW-Madison and Madison Prep board member. “I don’t get why that kind of failure is tolerable.”

The Big Easy’s School Revolution John White, superintendent of New Orleans’ public schools: ‘In other cities, charter schools exist in spite of the system. Here they are the system.’

Matthew Kaminski:

At John McDonough High School in this city’s Esplanade Ridge district, the new superintendent points to a broken window boarded up with plastic. Nobody thought to fix it properly. “Why? Because these are the poor kids,” says John White, who arrived in New Orleans this spring. “The message is: ‘We don’t care.'”
John Mac is one of the worst schools in New Orleans, which makes it one of the worst in America. It scored 30 out of 200 on a statewide performance scale when 75 counts as “failing.” In a school built for 800 students, 340 are enrolled. Virtually all are African-American. A couple years ago, an armed gang burst into the cafeteria and assassinated a student.
Mr. White looks in on classrooms. In one, groups of seniors chat loudly and puzzle over a basic algebra problem. In another the teacher struggles to start a conversation about a USA Today article that few students had read. A girl in the corner sits with a jacket over her head, headphones in both ears.

Madison Prep Charter School Receives $2.5M Gift from Mary Burke

Madison Preparatory Academy, via email:

Today, Madison Preparatory Academy Board Chair, David Cagigal, announced a gift of $2.5 million presented to the public charter school from Madisonian Mary Burke.
Ms. Burke, a retired business executive whose family owns Trek Bicycles and who served as Wisconsin’s Secretary of Commerce during the Doyle Administration, described the reason for her gift.
“We all know Madison can do better. I am happy to do my part to invest in our community and the future of all of our youth. Madison Prep is a powerful idea backed up by a powerful and cost-effective plan. It offers real hope to Madison students, teachers and families who want to realize their expectations and dreams.”
Ms. Burke also shared, “I understand we are in tight budget times and don’t want concerns about the cost of Madison Prep or the availability of public funding to supersede the real need for the School Board to support it. I am confident Madison Prep will be a great opportunity for children and want to see it happen. I hope my gift helps the School Board overcome its financial concerns.”
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Vice Chair of Madison Prep’s Board and the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sees Ms. Burke’s gift as an investment in innovation and human potential.
“We need to search for new solutions to solve the achievement gap in our Madison schools. To do this, we must be willing to innovate. Madison can be a perfect incubator for new educational methods and approaches. Mary Burke’s gift is stunning in its generosity and powerful in its potential.”
Mr. Cagigal sees the gift as the start of an important trend in the region. “Mary is absolutely committed to eliminating the achievement gap and is investing her resources in multiple approaches to achieve this goal. Whether it’s Madison Prep or the Boys & Girls Club’s AVID/TOPS program, Mary believes that supporting such efforts will ultimately benefit our entire community in the future. She is setting a great example for others and we are very thankful to have her in our corner.”
With Ms. Burke’s gift, the Urban League of Greater Madison will further reduce its request for per pupil funding from the Madison Metropolitan School District from $11,471 per pupil to $9,400 in the school’s first year, and $9,800 per pupil in years two through five of the school’s proposed five year budget. The Madison district currently spends $13,207 per pupil to educate students in middle and high schools.
Madison Preparatory Academy plans to open two college preparatory public charter schools in the fall of 2012, one for boys and one for girls. Their mission will be the same: to prepare students for success at a four year college or university by instilling excellence, pride, leadership and service. Both academies will be tuition-free, offer an identical curriculum in a single-sex education environment, and serve as catalysts for change and opportunity, particularly for young people of color.
Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, the Academies will serve 60 sixth grade boys and 60 sixth grade girls when they open next year, eventually growing to serve 820 students total.
Madison’s Board of Education will vote next month on the new charter schools.

Public Comments on The Proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School

Matthew DeFour:

Late last week the proposal cleared a major hurdle with the announcement that the Urban League had struck a deal with MTI to employ unionized teachers, nurses and clerical staff.
AFSMCE Local 60 President Tom Coiyer asked the district to use its own unionized custodial staff rather than allow them to be contracted. And Don Severson, president of a conservative district watchdog group, withdrew his previous support because of the deal struck between the Urban League and MTI, which didn’t involve the School Board.
MTI executive director John Matthews, who attended but did not speak at the hearing, said the union would no longer oppose the proposal. However, he remains skeptical that Madison Prep would be more successful than the district’s high schools at closing the achievement gap.

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.

Madison Teachers union receives national recognition for organizing protests

Samuel Schmitt:

A Madison teachers union will receive a national award for its organizational work during last spring’s protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill throughout Wisconsin.
The Institute for Policy Studies, located in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday Madison Teachers Incorporated would be honored with the Letelier-Motiff Human Rights Award on Oct. 12, said ISP spokesperson Lacy MacAuleyet.
IPS annually presents two awards to honor those who the group believes to be “unsung heroes of the progressive movement.” One award is presented domestically and one internationally, she said.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews said the union has never received an award of this caliber.
“This is a first,” Matthews said. “[The national distinction represents] significant recognition for MTI’s leadership. MTI hasn’t slowed its effort in the movement.”

Building an Education Nation

Tom Brokaw:

Think of American education as a house of many rooms, each with a distinct function but taken as a whole, this house is shelter against the winds of change buffeting the world and threatening our future.
Any objective analysis of that shelter comes to the same conclusion: we have work to do to be sure we’re secure and able to hold our own against whatever this new global climate sends our way.
That’s the unsettling news. The good news? Work is under way, from the most remote school districts in rural America, to the inner city of our largest urban areas.

Is it “all about the kids” (and what that might mean)? — Take One (in relation to ULGM and Madison Prep)

TJ Mertz:

My training as a historian has taught me that all knowledge is tentative and that this is especially true when it comes to assigning motives to people’s actions. It has also taught me to not accept self-proclaimed motives at face value , to only state an opinion about the motives of others when there is a preponderance of evidence, and to look at actions and consequences as well as rhetoric when trying to make sense of things.
With those caveats, I think it is worthwhile to investigate the motives, actions and the consequences of the actions of Kaleem Caire and some of others associated with the Madison Prep proposal and the Urban League of Greater Madison in relation to public education.
Enemies of teachers and teacher unions have seized upon the phrase “it is all about the kids” to ridicule and attack teachers and their representatives. With union and (almost all) others, of course it isn’t “all about the kids.” Interestingly, those who blame unions for some or all of the ills of public education — like many of the proponents of Madison Prep — often offer their own versions of “it is all about the kids.” Examples include Michelle Rhee who named her group Students First (Valarie Strauss pointedly offered a column on Rhee’s organization titled “Rhee’s campaign is not about the kids.”) and the anti-Union political bribery has been done in Illinois (and elsewhere) under the banner of Stand for Children ( a must-see video here).

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

Declining Local School District “Control”

Lyndsey Layton:

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are scheduled Friday to detail plans to waive some of the law’s toughest requirements, including the goal that every student be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or else their schools could face escalating sanctions.
In exchange for relief, the administration will require a quid pro quo: States must adopt changes that could include the expansion of charter schools, linking teacher evaluation to student performance and upgrading academic standards. As many as 45 states are expected to seek waivers.
For many students, the most tangible impact could be what won’t happen. They won’t see half their teachers fired, their principal removed or school shut down because some students failed to test at grade level — all potential consequences under the current law.

A Capital Times Editorial:

Wisconsin has moved to take authority away from local elected school boards and parents and to rest it with political appointees who respond to Gov. Scott Walker and out-of-state groups that are spending millions of dollars to undermine public education.
Wisconsin’s best and brightest teachers — the Teacher of the Year award winners — have joined mass demonstrations to decry the assault by politicians and their cronies on public education.
What’s Walker’s response? He wants to tell the nation how to do the same.

Proposed Madison Prep Academy needs to show proof of effectiveness of single-gender education to get grant

Matthew DeFour:

The state Department of Public Instruction is requiring backers of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy to provide scientific research supporting the effectiveness of single-gender education to receive additional funding.
The hurdle comes as university researchers are raising questions about whether such evidence exists. In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers also say single-gender education increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.
Efforts to justify single-gender education as innovative school reform “is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence,” according to the article by eight university professors associated with the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde.
The Urban League of Greater Madison originally proposed Madison Prep as an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities. But after a state planning grant was held up because of legal questions related to single-gender education, the Urban League announced it would open the school next year with single-gender classrooms in the same building.

I find this ironic, given the many other programs attempted within our public schools, such as English 10, small learning communities, connected math and a number of reading programs.
Related: Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education and from Susan Troller:

A newly published article by child development experts and neuroscientists blasting the trend toward single-sex education as “pseudoscience” won’t help the cause of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy.
Neither will the continued opposition of the South Central Federation of Labor, which reiterated its opposition to the Urban League-sponsored proposal this week because teachers at the school would not be represented by a union. The Madison Metropolitan School District has a collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc. that runs through June of 2013, and Madison Prep’s plan envisions working conditions for its staff — a longer school day and a longer school year, for example — that differ substantially from the contract the district has with its employees.
With a public hearing on the charter school scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, the debate surrounding Madison Prep is heating up on many fronts. The Madison School Board must take a final vote giving the charter school a go or no-go decision in November.
Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League and a passionate proponent for the separate boys and girls academies aimed at helping boost minority youth academic performance, says he is unimpressed by an article published in the prestigious journal, Science, on Sept. 23, that says there is “no empirical evidence” supporting academic improvement through single-sex education.

Are other DPI funded initiatives held to the same “standard”?
The timing of these events is certainly interesting.
14mb mp3 audio. WORT-FM conducted an interview this evening with Janet Shibley Hyde, one of the authors. Unrelated, but interesting, Hyde’s interview further debunked the “learning styles” rhetoric we hear from time to time.
UPDATE: The Paper in Question: The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling:

In attempting to improve schools, it is critical to remember that not all reforms lead to meaningful gains for students. We argue that one change in particular–sex-segregated education–is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

Illinois Bombshell: Class of 2014 Median LSAT/GPA Is 163/3.70, Not 168/3.81


Following up on my prior post, Did Illinois Inflate LSAT (168), GPA (3.81) Medians to Goose U.S. News Ranking?: Illinois today dropped this bombshell:

The accurate, independently verified data for the class of 2014’s Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and grade point averages (GPA) are as follows: median LSAT, 163; median GPA, 3.70. Information originally posted on the College of Law website last month inaccurately listed the median LSAT score as 168 and the median GPA as 3.81.

Wisconsin Governor Walker slated for NBC News ‘Education Nation’ Summit

Susan Troller:

Gov. Scott Walker will be featured as part of a bipartisan slate of governors during a panel discussion of The State of Education during NBC News’ 2011 “Education Nation” Summit on Monday, Sept. 26. The annual summit will continue on Sept. 27 as well.
NBC News’ Brian Williams will host the discussion, which focuses on education and economic competitiveness.
In a press release sent from the governor’s office Tuesday, Walker says “I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools. … Improving education is a key to ensuring we have a talented workforce that will grow and attract jobs.”
According to the release, among the topics to be discussed are some highly controversial, hot-button Wisconsin issues, including budget cuts, the role of teachers unions, teacher effectiveness, charter schools and online learning. Other issues include college and career preparation, Common Core standards, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

A better way for Madison Prep

Jack Craver:

If people want a charter school to be an inspiration to other youngsters in the community, here’s a better way to do it. Instead of building an entirely new school, which costs a ton and isolates the kids from the rest of their peers, why not go with the school within a school model, in which a charter is operated within an existing public school?
That’s the only original idea I have. Now here is my two cents on the rest of the plan.
I believe Kaleem Caire knows what he is talking about though. It’s frustrating to see a debate on the crisis facing minority students as polarized between the know-nothings on the right who believe the only issues facing blacks are self-inflicted cultural ones and the lefties who refuse to accept that anything besides racism and poverty are responsible for the poor performance of black males in America.

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

Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

Jessica Vanegeren:

Spending in the summer’s recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.
The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.
Put in perspective, the $43.9 million spent on the recalls more than doubled the previous record for spending by candidates and groups in legislative races, which was $20.25 million for 99 Assembly seats and 16 Senate seats in the 2008 general elections, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Strike Hits Madrid’s High Schools

Jonathan House:

High-school teachers in the Spanish capital started a two-day strike Tuesday, disrupting the school days of hundreds of thousands of youths as opposition to sweeping austerity measures starts to harden ahead of general elections this November in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.
The Madrid protests were echoed by demonstrations across the country against spending cuts on education. Teachers in Galicia, in northwest Spain, have called a strike for later this month. The protests follow close on the heels of a series of rallies called by unions against new constitutional budget controls they say will undermine the social welfare state.
The cuts in education are part of a new round of austerity from regional governments as Spain aims to narrow its budget deficit to 6% of gross domestic product this year, from just over 9% in 2010. Most of the country’s 17 regions are now in the hands of the conservative Popular Party. Currently in the opposition at the national level, the Popular Party is widely tipped by opinion polls to win the Nov. 20 elections and oust the incumbent Socialists. If he becomes prime minister, party leader Mariano Rajoy has pledged to follow the example of austerity set by the regions, regardless of any public backlash.

Scottish teachers in strike ballot over pensions


Members of Scotland’s largest teaching union are to be balloted on strike action over proposed changes to teachers’ pensions.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is to recommend that its members vote in favour of a strike, with action set to begin in November.
Its executive committee agreed to send out ballot papers later this month.
EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith claimed teachers had already taken their fair share of pain.
The decision comes after an EIS sub-committee recommended balloting its members over UK government proposals to increase pension contributions while reducing the amount teachers will receive in retirement.

New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin

Center for Equal Opportunity:

Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.
The studies are based on data supplied by the schools themselves, some of which the university had refused to turn over until a lawsuit was filed by CEO and successfully taken all the way to the state supreme court. The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization’s website, www.ceousa.org.
CEO president Roger Clegg will answer questions about the studies when they are formally released at a press conference today at 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree hotel in Madison–525 W. Johnson St.
The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.

Adelaide Blanchard:

Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.
A crowd of more than 150 students filled the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym on Monday after an ominous message from UW Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate Damon Williams claimed a threat had been made against the diversity efforts in the campus community.
The reports were released at midnight on Tuesday from the Center for Equal Opportunity in conjunction with a press conference CEO President Roger Clegg will hold at the Double Tree Inn at 11 a.m. today. Clegg will also be at a debate on the future of Affirmative Action at the UW Law School at 7 p.m. this evening.
Williams said the timing of the events is no coincidence.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Clegg said the reports show how a heavy preference is given to blacks and Latinos over whites and Asians in the admissions process for undergraduate programs and in the law school.

Todd Finkelmeyer:

Whites and Asians aren’t getting a fair crack at being admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
That’s what two studies released late Monday night by the Center for Equal Opportunity indicate. The organization states in a press release accompanying the studies that there is “severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions” at Wisconsin’s flagship institution of higher education.
The CEO — a conservative think tank based out of Sterling, Va., that pushes “colorblind public policies” and backs the elimination or curtailment of existing racial preference and affirmative action programs — reports that UW-Madison gives “African Americans and Latinos preference over whites and Asians” in admissions. The studies, which initially were embargoed until Tuesday morning, were released late Monday on the CEO website.
According to the executive summary of the report examining undergraduate admissions at UW-Madison: “In 2007 and 2008, UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites.”

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab:

The Center for Equal Opportunity and its president and general counsel, Roger Clegg, claim to advance educational opportunity by punishing colleges and universities for attempting to level a highly unequal playing field.
The CEO’s name is laughable. It is the exact opposite of what the organization does. The misnomer is a deliberate deception. It is a lie so blatant that it would be considered a joke in very poor taste were it not so outrageously fallacious.
The record of CEO’s lawsuits has never been in support of equality–it has always been to preserve and protect educational opportunity for those most fortunate social classes and racial/ethnic groups. There is no no record of this organization filing a lawsuit on behalf of newly emerging and underrepresented populations in higher education–it always and only files lawsuits on behalf of the already-advantaged.

Kenya Teachers strike called off ‎

Lordrick Mayabi:

Learning in public schools is set to resume on Monday after striking teachers accepted on Sunday a Government offer to hire more tutors in phases.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) officially called off the four-day strike on Sunday and urged teachers to ignore the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) which has defied a call by the Government to end the industrial action.
KNUT’s Secretary General David Okuta told journalists in Nairobi that the resolution to call off the strike was reached by KNUT National Executive Council following a commitment by Government to meet most of their demands.

Madison School District High School REaL Grant Updates

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Year four of the five-year REaL Grant has several key areas of focus to support our three grant goals:
Increase student achievement for all students
Strengthen student-student and student-staff relationships
Increase post-secondary outcomes for all students
Following the completion of the K-12 Literacy Evaluation during the 2010-2011 school year there is a renewed commitment and expectations to develop core practices in literacy across the content areas. Professional development around literacy has been scheduled for the 2011-2012 school year and includes: instructional resource teachers, reading interventionists, learning coordinators, literacy coaches. Data from WKCE and EXPLORE indicate the need to improve core practices in literacy.
The division of Curriculum and Assessment has structured the entire 2011-2012 school year with high school department chairperson meetings across the district. The central purpose of this important dialogue is to build consensus around a curriculum scope and sequence that is aligned to both the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the Common Core State Standards. Much progress has been made with the adoption of common course names and numbers throughout our high schools.
AVID/TOPS has increased in capacity throughout the high schools and preliminary data indicates continued significant differences in the success of our AVID/TOPS students and their comparison group counterparts. Several teachers and departments outside of our AVID/TOPS classrooms have adopted the AVID/TOPS strategies and we look forward to supporting this demand helping our schools develop consistent systems of support and shared high expectations for all students.
Several professional development opportunities over the summer were supported by the REaL grant. Examples include: Critical Friends, Adaptive Schools, AVID Institute, and Align by Design. Additionally, school leadership teams under the direction of principals, REaL grant coordinators and literacy coaches met to create the Welcome Back Conference sessions for their respective schools.
Principals and teacher leaders continue to increase their capacities as instructional leaders. This year we also have in place a coordinated plan to help assistant principals progress their roles as instructional leaders. This has been an area clearly lacking in the first three years of the grant. Principals and all assistant principals will receive the same professional development each month.
The four high schools received a significant grant from the DPI to support safe schools. These added resources and action plans will compliment the REaL grant goals of improved relationships. High schools continue to address critical student behavior issues with a greater systematic approach. Two areas identified district wide based on the success in one school are: Youth Court and Restorative Justice classes.

Duncan energizing U.S. education scene

Alan Borsuk:

rne Duncan has the across-the-spectrum appeal to make just about everybody on the Wisconsin education scene eager to be in the room with him, and the political guts to tell Gov. Scott Walker face-to-face and in front of all those folks that he was wrong to kibosh collective bargaining in Wisconsin.
In short, he is about as interesting and significant a person as anyone in American education.
The U.S. secretary of education stopped by the Milwaukee School of Career and Technical Education (that’s the new version of Custer High School) for an hour and a half Friday, enough time for several hundred people, from big shots to students, to get a dose of the highly demanding form of optimism that is a key to Duncan.
You want to get some positive re-enforcement for the things you’re doing, Duncan is your guy. You want to hear how what you’re doing isn’t anywhere near enough, Duncan is your guy.

Connecticut Education reform group presents proposals to state board

Caitlin Emma:

A group of business and philanthropic leaders appointed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented their education reform proposals to the state Board of Education Wednesday, pitching changes to teacher certification requirements, preparation programs and evaluations to help close Connecticut’s dramatic achievement gap.
Members of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform said they considered the timing appropriate, coming as Malloy introduced his new education commissioner and reiterated that education will be a priority in next year’s legislative session.
“We think next year could be the lynchpin,” said Steve Simmons, vice chair of the council and CEO of Simmons/Patriot Media and Communications. “The governor has said that this first year was focused on the budget crisis and the second year was going to be education reform. I think we have a great chance here over this next nine or ten month period to really push for change.”

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.

Urgent – Support Need; School Board schedules abrupt hearing on Madison Prep; Revised Proposal Submitted to the Madison School District

Kaleem Caire, via email:

September 7, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
On Thursday, August 25, 2011, leadership of the Urban League of Greater Madison, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Madison Metropolitan School District met at DPI’s Madison offices to discuss how the Urban League and MMSD would address DPI’s concerns that a comparable option to Madison Prep’s charter school for boys also be available to girls at the same time the boys’ school would open in August 2012.
During that meeting, all three parties discussed ways “comparability” could be achieved. DPI suggested and the Urban League agreed that starting the girl’s campus at the same time as the boy’s campus would be the best way to achieve comparability and sufficiently comply with state law and federal Title IX regulations that address single-sex public schools.
Initially, the Urban League planned to wait 12-24 months to start the girls’ campus of Madison Prep. However, given DPI’s concerns, we saw this as the perfect opportunity and argument to serve girls right away, and subsequently adjusted our plans to include a girls’ campus of Madison Prep last week. You can review a copy of the proposal we submitted last week to DPI and MMSD that explains how we’ll adjust our plans and add the girls’ campus in 2012 by clicking here. We have also attached the document to this email here.
Today, we were excited to learn from a DPI official, Mr. Bob Soldner, that our proposal for adding the girls’ campus now satisfies DPI’s concerns that a comparable option would be available for boys and girls at the same time. Mr. Soldner also said he was awaiting a response to our plan from the Madison Metropolitan School District before releasing our $225,000 charter school planning grant, which DPI put on hold two weeks ago.
I just learned 2 hours ago from MMSD Superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, that the Board of Education decided today to hold an executive session tomorrow at 4:30pm at the Doyle Administration Building to “discuss the legal implications of Madison Prep and the potential for litigation.” Dr. Nerad said that immediately following their executive session, the Board of Education would also hold a “special public meeting” to discuss Madison Prep.
Unfortunately, the Urban League of Greater Madison and the Board members of Madison Prep will not be able to attend the public meeting on Madison Prep tomorrow as we are attending a long-scheduled fundraiser for the school at the same time tomorrow – 5:30pm. This will be the first major fundraiser for the school, and is being hosted by four prominent leaders and advocates for children in Greater Madison.
We hope that those of you who support Madison Prep and are not attending our fundraiser tomorrow night will be available to attend the public meeting of the Board of Education tomorrow to express your support for our proposal to establish Madison Preparatory Academy campuses for boys and girls. We assume a critical decision regarding our charter school grant application will be decided tomorrow. You can find the agenda for the Board of Education’s meeting by clicking here.
For more information about tomorrow’s Board of Education meeting, please contact the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education at board@madison.k12.wi.us or 608-204-0341. For more information about our updated Madison Prep proposal, please contact Ms. Laura DeRoche Perez at Lderoche@ulgm.org or 608-729-1230.
We intend to host our own public forum on Madison Prep in the near future. More details and information will be shared with you soon.
Thank you so much. It’s all about the future of our children.
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.
The Madison Urban League’s 9.2.2011 memorandum to the Madison School District 311K PDF.
Matthew DeFour:

A Madison charter school geared toward low-income, minority students would include single-gender classrooms for both boys and girls in 2012 under a revised proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy.
The new proposal from the Urban League of Greater Madison would nearly double the contribution required by the Madison School District in the fifth year — from $4.8 million in the original plan to $9.4 million — but the net cost to the district remains unclear.
The Urban League submitted the proposal to the school district and the state Department of Public Instruction on Friday, and it was made public by the district Wednesday. The revision came after DPI withheld support for a $225,000 planning grant for an all-boys charter school that the Urban League had discussed creating for more than a year. State officials said that such a school would discriminate against girls and that if they open an all-male school, they must open a similar school for girls at the same time.
The Madison School Board has scheduled two meetings for Thursday, one in closed session at 4:30 p.m. to discuss legal issues related to the new proposal and the second in open session at 5:30 p.m., Superintendent Dan Nerad said.

Madison Urban League Meeting Closed, Unless its Open

Samara Kalk Derby:

A meeting Wednesday to discuss the minority achievement gap in the Madison district will be closed to the media, even if that means kicking School Board members out, the organizer said Monday.
The Urban League of Greater Madison invited Madison School Board members to its meeting facilitated by an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, but if four board members attend, it would be considered a quorum of the school board and need to abide by the open meetings law.
Four of the seven school board members confirmed with the State Journal Monday that they plan to attend the meeting.
“We’ll have to kick one of them out,” said Urban League President Kaleem Caire, laughing. “I’m serious.”

School Days

Steve Prestegard:

Today begins school in Ripon and in most of Wisconsin. So parents breathe a sigh of relief that the kids are finally out of the house, until they realize that now they have to get their children to their various after-school activities.
This has been an unusual summer for one glaring reason, and yet it hasn’t been unusual in the day-to-day things. All three kids went to summer school. All three played baseball (T-ball in Shaena’s case). All three went to church camp, Shaena with me. (Which was not how I expected to spend her summer vacation, although those three days were far from summerlike.) All three visited their grandparents, and we got back reports that made us wonder whose children they had. We didn’t go on vacation, in part for the aforementioned glaring reason, but I’m not sure the family is up to being locked inside a van for extended periods of time anyway. More than once, in fact, I’ve wondered how everyone would have gotten to everything had there been two working parents, particularly with the occasional added complication of orthodontist and veterinarian appointments.

DOJ group to discuss Madison’s academic disparities among racial minorities

Matthew DeFour:

An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that mediates racial tension in communities is intervening in the debate over the achievement of racial minorities in the Madison School District.
The Justice Department’s Community Relations Service won’t discuss its role.
But in an email announcement this week, the Urban League of Greater Madison said DOJ this summer “raised concerns about academic achievement disparities among students of color in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to the District’s administration.”
DOJ officials will participate in a meeting Wednesday called by the Urban League to discuss minority achievement, graduation rates and expulsion rates in the Madison district, according to Urban League President Kaleem Caire.

Related: the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force 8.25.2011 Meeting Summary

Wisconsin Reading Coaltion, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

Summary of the August 25, 2011 Read to Lead Task Force Meeting
Green Bay, WI
The fifth meeting of the Read to Lead task force was held on August 25, 2011, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Governor Walker was delayed, so State Superintendent Tony Evers opened the meeting. The main topic of discussion was accountability for reading outcomes, including the strategy of mandatory grade retention. Troy Couillard from DPI also presented an overview of reading reform in Milwaukee Public Schools.
Superintendent Evers said that Wisconsin will seek a waiver from the No Child Left Behind proficiency requirements by instituting a new system of accountability. His Educator Effectiveness and Accountability Design teams are working on this, with the goal of a new accountability system being in place by late 2011.
Accountability at the educator level:
The concept of using student achievement or growth data in teacher and principal evaluations is not without controversy, but Wisconsin is including student data in its evaluation model, keeping in mind fairness and validity. The current thought is to base 50% of the educator evaluation on qualitative considerations, using the Danielson Framework http://www.danielsongroup.org (“promoting professional learning through self assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversations”), and 50% on student data, including multiple measures of performance. 10% of the student data portion of the evaluation (5% of the total evaluation) would be based on whole-school performance. This 5% would be based on a proficiency standard as opposed to a value-added measurement. The 5% is thought to be small enough that it will not affect an individual teacher adversely, but large enough to send a message that all teachers need to work together to raise achievement in a school. The task force was asked if it could endorse whole-school performance as part of teacher evaluation. The task force members seemed to have some support for that notion, especially at the principal level, but had some reservations at the level of the individual teacher.
Kathy Champeau was concerned that some schools do not have the resources to serve some children. She also felt it might not be fair to teachers, as they have no control over other teachers in the school or the principal.
Steve Dykstra said it is important to make sure any value-added system is designed to be fair.
Rachel Lander felt it would be better to use value-added data for whole-school performance rather than a proficiency standard, but supported the importance of schoolwide standards.
Rep. Steve Kestell supported the 5% requirement, and questioned what the qualitative half of the evaluation would be based on. He felt perhaps there could be some schoolwide standards to be met in that part of the evaluation, also.
Tony Evers responded that the Danielson Framework was research-based observations, and that the evaluators would need to be highly trained and consistent in their evaluations.
Tony Pedriana had questions about the type of research on which the Danielson Framework is based.
Evers said he would provide further information to the task force.
Mara Brown said she cannot control what the teacher down the hall does, and that the 5% should apply only to principals.
Linda Pils agreed with the 5%, but felt principals need to be watching and guiding new teachers. She agreed with Dykstra’s comments on measuring growth.
Sen. Luther Olsen was concerned that the 5% portion of a teacher’s evaluation may be the part that tips the balance on job retention for an individual, yet that individual has no control over whole-school performance. He understood the principle of getting everyone involved and committed to a goal, but was concerned with possible consequences.
Mandatory Retention:
The task force was asked to consider whether Wisconsin should implement a mandatory retention policy. If so, what would it look like, and if not, what can be done to make sure students are reading at grade level?
After a guest presentation and discussion, the consensus of the task force was that Wisconsin should not have mandatory retention. Reasons cited were negative effects on later achievement, graduation, self esteem, and psychological well-being. Third grade was felt to be far too late to start intervention, and there needs to be more emphasis on developing teacher expertise and focusing on the responsibility of teachers, principals, and higher education as opposed to threatening the students with retention. Retention without changing the curriculum for the student the following year is pointless.
Dr. Elaine Allensworth, a director at the Consortium on Chicago School Research, joined the task force by telephone to summarize the outcomes of a mandatory retention project in Chicago. Students more than 1 year below the cut-off level on certain tested skills were retained unless they passed the test after a summer bridge program. Students identified as at-risk were given after-school tutoring during the year. Retention was thought to have three primary mechanisms that would affect student performance: motivation for students, families, and teachers to work harder, supplemental instruction after school and during the summer, and an additional year in the grade for failing students. All students in the school could be affected by the motivation and the supplemental instruction, but only the retained students by the extra year of instruction. The study found that the threat of retention worked as a positive motivator for teachers, parents, and some older students. However, there were also negatives in terms of higher-achieving students receiving less attention, more time on test preparation, and an instructional shift to focus on tested skills. The supplemental instruction, especially the summer bridge program, was the biggest positive of the retention project. There was high participation, increased personal attention, and higher-quality instruction. Retention itself had more negative effects than positive. Academic gains were either non-existent or rapidly-disappearing. Multiple year retentions resulted in a problematic mix of ages in classrooms, students unable to finish high school by age 18, and a negative overall attitude toward school.
Dykstra said it appeared that the impetus to do things differently because of the threat of retention had some benefit, but the actual retention had either no effect or a negative effect. He wondered if there was some way to provide the motivation without retention.
Allensworth agreed that the challenge was to provide a motivation without having a threat.
Pils asked if third graders could even understand the threat of retention.
Allensworth replied that they understood if teachers helped them. She also said that some schools with low-quality instruction had no way to improve student learning even with the threat of retention.
Rep. Jason Fields asked how you could avoid teaching to the test.
Allensworth replied that teaching the skills on the test was productive, but not the excessive time that was spent on test-taking strategies. She also said the tendency to teach more narrowly could cause problems later in high school where students needed to be able to participate in broader learning.
Marcia Henry inquired about students who returned to their old rate of learning when they returned to the regular classroom after successfully completing the summer bridge.
Allensworth replied that the summer program used higher quality curriculum and teachers, there was more time provided with students, and the students were more highly motivated.
Dykstra asked if it was possible to determine how much of the summer gain was due to student motivation, and how much due to teachers or parents.
Allensworth said those factors could not be pulled apart.
Champeau questioned whether the summer bridge program taught to the test.
Allensworth replied that it taught in a good way to the skills that the test assessed.
Brown asked if intervention was provided for the first time in third grade.
Allensworth replied that some schools began providing intervention and retaining in first or second grade.
Dykstra asked if the project created a situation where a majority of the school’s resources were concentrated in third grade, leaving other grades short.
Allensworth said they didn’t look at that, though some schools appeared to put their better teachers at certain grades.
Dykstra thought it was the wrong approach to tie services and supports to a specific grade rather than a specific student.
Are some types of consequences necessary to achieve the urgency and intensity necessary for performance improvement? Should there be mandatory summer school or other motivators? The task force did not seem to arrive at a consensus on this.
Lander said schools need the resources to do early intervention, plus information on what should be done in early intervention, and this is not currently the case in Wisconsin.
Pils questioned where teachers would find the time to provide intervention. She liked the idea of after-school and summer programs as well as reading the classics to kids. Providing a model of best instruction is important for teachers who don’t have that background.
Mary Read commented on Bill Gates’ experience with spending a lot of money for minimal results, and the conclusion that money needs to go into teacher training and proven programs such as the Kipp schools or into a national core curriculum.
Dykstra noted that everyone agrees that teacher training is essential, but there is disagreement as to curriculum and training content. His experience is that teachers are generally unable to pinpoint what is going wrong with a student’s reading. We must understand how poor and widespread current teacher training is, apologize to teachers, and then fix the problem, but not at teachers’ expense.
The facilitators asked what the policy should be. Is there an alternative to using retention? Should teacher re-training be mandatory for those who need the support?
Evers said that a school-by-school response does not work. The reforms in Milwaukee may have some relevance.
Olsen suggested that there are some reading programs that have been proven successful. If a school is not successful, perhaps they should be required to choose from a list of approved instructional methods and assessment tools, show their results, and monitor program fidelity. He feels we have a great resource in successful teachers in Wisconsin and other states, and the biggest issue is agreeing on programs that work for intervention and doing it right the first time.
Kestell said some major problems are teachers with high numbers of failing students, poor teacher preparation, the quality of early childhood education, and over-funding of 4K programs without a mandate on how that money is used. There has been some poor decision-making, and the kids are not responsible for that. We must somehow hold schools, school board, and individual educators accountable.
Champeau said teachers have no control over how money is spent. This accountability must be at the school and district level. More resources need to be available to some schools depending on the needs of their student population.
Lander: We must provide the necessary resources to identified schools.
Dykstra: We must develop an excellent system of value-added data so we can determine which schools are actually doing well. Right now we have no way of knowing. High-performing schools may actually be under-performing given their student demographics; projected student growth will not be the same in high and low performing schools.
Pedriana: We have long known how to teach even the most at-risk readers with evidence-based instruction. The truth is that much of our teacher training and classroom instruction is not evidence-based. We need the collective will to identify the evidence base on which we will base our choices, and then apply it consistently across the state. The task force has not yet taken on this critical question.
Pils: In her experience, she feels Wisconsin teachers are among the best in the country. There are some gaps we need to close.
Pedriana: Saying how good we are does not help the kids who are struggling.
Pils: We need to have our best teachers in the inner city, and teachers should not need to purchase their own supplies. We have to be careful with a limited list of approved programs. This may lead to ethics violations.
Pedriana: Referring to Pils’ mention of Wisconsin’s high graduation rates in a previous meeting, what does our poor performance on the NAEP reading test say about our graduation standards?
Michael Brickman (Governor’s aide): There is evidence of problems when you do retention, and evidence of problems when you do nothing. We can’t reduce the failing readers to zero using task force recommendations, so what should we do with students who leave 3rd grade not reading anywhere near grade level? Should we have mandatory summer school?
Henry: Response to Intervention (RTI) is a perfect model for intervening early in an appropriate way. A summer bridge program is excellent if it has the right focus. We must think more realistically about the budget we will require to do this intervention.
Olsen: If we do early intervention, we should have a very small number of kids who are still behind in 3rd grade. Are we teaching the right, most efficient way? We spend a lot of money on K-12 education in Wisconsin, but we may need to set priorities in reading. There is enough money to do it. Reading should be our mission at each grade level.
Facilitator: What will be the “stick” to make people provide the best instruction?
Dykstra: Accountability needs to start at the top in the state’s education system. When the same people continue to make the same mistakes, yet there are no consequences, we need to let some people go. That is what they did in Massachusetts and Florida: start with two or three people in whom you have great confidence, and build from there.
Facilitator: Is there consensus on mandatory summer school for failing students?
Michele Erickson: Summer school is OK if the right resources are available for curriculum and teachers.
Kestell: All grades 4K – 3 are gateway grades. They are all important.
Champeau: Summer school is a good idea, but we would need to solve transportation issues.
Dykstra: We should open up the concept of summer school beyond public schools to any agency that offers quality instruction using highly qualified instructors from outside the educational establishment.
Lander: Supports Dykstra’s idea. You can’t lay summer instruction on schools that can hardly educate during the school year.
Brown: Could support summer school in addition to, but not in place of, early intervention during the school year.
Erickson: Look at the school year first when allocating resources. Summer school is a hard sell to families.
Pedriana: Agrees with Olsen that we probably have sufficient funds for the school year, but we need to spend it more wisely. We cannot expect districts to make the commitment to extra instruction if there is no accountability at the top (including institutions of higher education). We need to resolve the issue of what knowledge and content standards will be taught before we address summer school or other issues.
Milwaukee Public Schools’ tiered RTI system was presented by DPI’s Troy Couillard as an example of an accountability system. MPS chose a new core reading program for 2010-11 after submitting its research base to DPI. Teachers were provided with some in-service training, and there are some site checks for fidelity of implementation. Tier 2 interventions will begin in 2011-12, and Tier 3 interventions in 2012-13. He felt that the pace of these changes, plus development of a data accountability system, student screening with MAP and other testing, progress monitoring, and professional development, has MPS moving much faster than most districts around the county on implementing RTI. DPI embedded RTI in the district’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan. DPI is pushing interventions that are listed on the National RTI site, but teachers are allowed to submit research for things they are using to see if those tools might be used.
Pils: Kids in MPS are already struggling. Reading First would suggest that they have 120 minuets of reading a day instead of the 90 minutes provided in the MPS plan.
Couillard: Tier 2 intervention for struggling students will add onto the 90 minutes of core instruction.
Olsen: Can this system work statewide without DPI monitoring all the districts?
Couillard: Districts are trained to monitor their own programs.
Pils: Veteran schools with proven strategies could be paired with struggling schools as mentors and models.
Pedriana: We have no way of knowing what proven strategies are unless we discuss what scientific evidence says works in reading. The task force must grapple with this question.
Brickman: Read to Lead task force needs to start with larger questions and then move to finer grain; this task force may not be able to do everything.
Pedriana: Is there anything more important for this task force to do than to decide what evidence-based reading instruction is?
Brickman: Task force members may submit suggestions for issues to discuss at the final meeting in September. Tony could submit some sample language on “evidence-based instruction” as a starting point for discussion.
Henry: The worst schools should be required to at least have specific guidelines, whether it is a legislative or DPI issue. Teacher retraining (not a 1-day workshop) is a necessity. Teachers are unprepared to teach.
Olsen: Wisconsin has always been a local control state, but one of the outcomes of the task force may be that we have a method for identifying schools that are not doing well, and then intervene with a plan. The state is ultimately responsible for K-12 education. Districts should take the state blueprint or come up with their own for approval by the state.
Erickson: Can we define what will work so districts can just do it?
Evers: MPS experience shows there is a process that works, and districts can do their own monitoring.
Dykstra: Sees value in making a list of things that districts are not allowed to do in reading instruction; also value in making a list of recommended programs based on alignment with the convergence of the science of reading research. That list would not be closed, but it should not include programs based on individual, publisher-funded studies that do not align with the convergence of the science. This could be of benefit to all districts. Even those doing relatively well could be doing better. Right now there is no list, and no learning targets. The MPS plan contains the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which contain errors. DPI needs to correct that information and distribute it right now. That would be a good example of accountability at the state level.
Couillard: The new statewide data collection system will help districts monitor their own data.
Champeau: School needs change depending on demographics. The goal should be to build decision-making capacity at the local level, not dictation from outside. We should be talking more about people than programs. Have MPS teachers been doing a better job? What will they do if their program goes away? We need to work on the underlying expertise and knowledge base.
Facilitator: There appears to be agreement that the state can intervene in failing districts.
Lander: We might have some consensus as to what teachers need to know, and then go into schools to see if they know it. If not, we need to teach them.
Pedriana: What is so bad about providing a program, with training, of course? It would help people.
Facilitator: There is consensus around training of teachers.
Dykstra: Some of the distinction between training and programs is artificial. You need both.
Other things the state could require: weighting of reading in evaluation systems, grading of schools etc.
Dykstra: If giving schools grades, they should get separate grades for how they do in teaching separate content areas. In addition, everything should be reported in the best value-added system we can create, because it’s the only way to know if you’re doing a good job.
Pils: Doesn’t like grading of schools. She has a whole folder on cheating in districts that have grading of schools and high stakes tests.
Evers: Do we just want to measure what schools are doing, or do we want to use it to leverage change?
Erickson: Wisconsin has gone from 3rd to 30th on the NAEP, so of course we should be seeking change.
Walker: The idea is not to pick on failing schools, but to help them. We must be able to deploy the resources to the things that work in accordance with science and research to teach reading right.
Dykstra: We should seek small kernels of detailed information about which teachers consistently produce better results in a given type of school for a given type of student. There is a problem with reliability when using MAP data at an individual student level.
Supt. Evers talked about the new state accountability system as being a better alternative to no Child Left Behind. Governor Walker said the state is not just doing this as an alternative to NCLB, but in response to comments from business that our graduates are not well-prepared. Parents want to know what all schools are doing.
Olsen: We need a system to monitor reading in Wisconsin before we get into big trouble. Our changing population is leading us to discover challenges that other states have dealt with for years.
Kestell: The accountability design team is an excellent opportunity to discuss priorities in education; a time to set aside personal agendas and look for solutions that work.
Next Meeting/Status of Report
Michael Brickman will try to send out a draft of a report the week of August 29 with his best interpretation of task force consensus items. The final meeting will be Sept. 27, perhaps in Madison, Eau Claire, or Wausau. Some task force issues will need to be passed on to other task forces in the future.

Related: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges and Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting and www.wisconsin2.org.

Quick and Dirty Early Learning Challenge Grant Summary

Sara Mead:

Ok, I recognize that my previous post on this is pretty long, so here’s a quick and dirty about what you need to know. In order to compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant, states will have to:

  • Commit to and set targets for improving school readiness of high-need children in their state.
  • Demonstrate that they have in place a solid strategy and plans to improve early learning outcomes in the state, that they have a track record of progress on and investment in improving early childhood quality and access, and and that they have established coordination and alignment across state agencies to support early learning outcomes.
  • Have a plan to develop and implement a statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System that includes all publicly funded early childhood programs/providers in the state, and have plans to increase the percentage of early childhood programs earning top ratings in the QRIS, and of high-need children attending high-quality programs.

States will also have to address criteria related to promoting early learning and development outcomes, improving the quality of the early childhood workforce, and measuring early learning outcomes and programs–but they will have some flexibility and options in the specific activities/strategies they use/prioritize in these areas (a big change from draft criteria released earlier this summer).

Our Response to State Education Department’s Hold on Madison Prep Grant

Kaleem Caire, via email

Dear Friends & Colleagues,
In the last 48 hours, local media has been abuzz about the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s decision to put a hold on our charter school planning grant. The grant application was formally endorsed in March 2011 by the Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Last week, DPI officials contacted us to request that our team and the leadership of the Madison Metropolitan School District meet with them to discuss how we intend to address issues related to (a) the 1972 Title IX Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and (b) new federal Title IX regulations on the establishment of single sex classes, extracurricular activities and schools that took effect in 2006. This meeting has been scheduled.
DPI has publicly stated that it is not uncommon for grant awards to be delayed for various reasons. In our case, DPI wants to ensure that all parties – MMSD, DPI and the Urban League of Greater Madison – are on the same page with regard to how Madison Prep will comply with federal and state statutes relative to single sex public schools. We welcome this conversation. MMSD and the Urban League have been working together on this issue since June.
Single Sex Public Schools are Growing in the U.S.
According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, there are presently 116 single sex public schools in the United States. The number of single sex public schools continues to grow each year. For example, the Houston (Texas) Independent School District’s Board of Education recently approved an all boys and later an all girls college preparatory academy for students in grades 6 – 12. Both campuses opened this week.
There are also public charter schools such as Bluford Drew Jemison S.T.E.M Academy for boys in Baltimore, Maryland that was approved by the Board of Education of Baltimore City Public Schools without approving a similar school for girls at the same time. Bluford Drew Jameson is part of BCPS’ bold and aggressive Charter, Innovative and Transformation Schools Plan to revitalize public education in the city. BCPS’ efforts are being heralded nationally as they are seeing clear signs of turning around.
With Confidence, Precedent and Support, We Will Succeed
Given the successful growth of single sex public/charter schools across the country, along with our plans to comply with the new Title IX regulations and our publicly stated commitment to establish the 6-12 grade Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women, we are confident that the issues raised by DPI will be resolved.
With your support and that of DPI and MMSD, Madison Prep will soon provide a long overdue solution to a deeply rooted pattern of academic failure and under-performance, particularly among African American and Latino boys in our community. It will also serve as a learning laboratory that informs the programs, strategies and practices of schools and educators across Greater Madison and the State of Wisconsin.
We look forward to Madison Prep producing hundreds of confident, excited and future-focused young men who are ready for college and committed to promoting the schools values – leadership, excellence, pride and service – in their community, homes, peer groups and daily lives.
Visit the website and sign our petition below.
Madison Prep 2012: Empowering Young Men for Life!

IB interviewed Kaleem a few weeks ago.
Much more on Kaleem Caire and the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.

Sending Your Child to College? Advice from Dr. Drew

Andrew Rotherham:

With thousands of kids starting to pack for their first year at college or preparing to return after the summer break, now is a good time to talk to them about some important health and wellness issues on campus. To help parents figure out what to look for and worry about, School of Thought asked Dr. Drew Pinsky, the best-selling author and TV and radio host who has been dubbed the “surgeon general of youth culture” by the New York Times. On his college radar: prescription drugs, hook-up culture and processed food. As a practicing physician and the father of triplets, Dr. Drew isn’t fielding abstract questions — his own kids are starting university this fall.
College isn’t always a bastion of healthy living. Late nights, pizza and stress can’t be good for you. What should parents talk to their children about when they leave for college?
Start with the easy stuff — safety. In the [college] age group, accidents are a major cause of morbidity, and alcohol is often involved in some fashion. Remind students that they’re on their own and are not invincible.
I’ve been to hundreds of colleges all over the country, and almost every one has an outstanding health and mental-health service. Tell them to take advantage of the screenings, services and mental-health services that are there if they need them.

Madison teachers union files lawsuit challenging constitutionality of collective bargaining law

Ed Treleven:

Unions representing Madison teachers and Milwaukee sanitation workers sued Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday, alleging that the controversial law severely restricting the collective bargaining rights of most public workers in Wisconsin is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, brought by Madison Teachers Inc. and AFL-CIO Local 61 in Milwaukee alleges that the state legislature passed what was originally called the budget repair bill in violation of the state constitution’s provision that governs special legislative sessions.
The lawsuit also alleges that the law places severe and unfair restrictions on what unions and their members can discuss with municipalities and school districts, and imposes severe wage increase limits that don’t apply to nonunion workers.

Senate Hearing on College Readiness (Imaginary)

on the 17th of never, 2011
Senator, please allow me to express my thanks for including me in these vital hearings on the readiness of our high school graduates for college work.
It would be my sad duty to report to you that if high school football coaches no longer ask their athletes to learn to block and tackle, that would fail to prepare them for college teams. Oh–wait, Senator, that is not correct. (Shuffles papers, starts over).
It would be my sad duty to report that if our high school basketball coaches no longer taught their athletes to dribble, pass, and shoot baskets, then they too would fail at basketball in college.
Oh–my apologies, Senator, that is not my testimony–just a little bad joke. Of course our high school coaches take athletics much too seriously to allow that sort of thing to happen to our kids. In fact, The Boston Globe has more than 100 pages a year on high school athletes. No, Senator, there is no coverage for high school academic achievement.
But I am sorry to have to report that our History and English teachers at the high school level no longer ask our students to read complete nonfiction books or to write substantial research papers, and naturally, this unfits them for the nonfiction books they will be asked to read and the substantial research papers they will be asked to write at the postsecondary level, in what we might call Upper Education.
The famous and influential American educator, John Dewey, wrote in 1896 that: “The centrality of reading and writing was ‘one of education’s great mistakes.'” In following in his footsteps, many of our educators have pushed academic reading and writing so far to the periphery of the curriculum that, for too many of our high school students, they might just as well have fallen off the edge of the flat earth of American secondary education.
The California State College System recently reported that 47% of their Freshmen were required to take remedial reading courses. Of course they can’t handle nonfiction books as they have never been assigned one in their whole high school career.
I have had the privilege of publishing 956 serious (average 6,000 words) history research papers by secondary students from all over this country and from 38 other countries, and I have formed the opinion in the process that high school students are fully capable of reading complete nonfiction books and of writing serious research papers.
But it should be no surprise that so long as our educators never assign nonfiction books or ask students for research papers, they will continue to believe that their students may be able somehow to manage Calculus, European history, Latin, Chemistry, British Literature and the like, but they must still not be able, for some unexplained reason, to read a history book or write a real term paper.
While our colleges do complain, persistently, about the poor preparation in reading and writing of the students who come to them, what do they do in setting requirements for admission?
Senator, hard as it may be to believe, all the writing that colleges ask for is a 500-word “college” essay about the life of the applicant. It is hard to conceive of a more nonacademic task than that, or one more likely to retard the assignment of serious reading and writing at the high school level.
When we celebrate athletes and ignore scholars in our high schools, and when we set such low standards for the high school diploma and for college admission, we should not be surprised that more than one million of our high school graduates need to be in remedial courses when they get to college every year, and that more than half of those will never graduate.
Yes, Senator, I believe that until we take reading and writing more seriously at the secondary level, we can continue to push more and more students into college, but more and more of them will be sadly unprepared to take advantage of that academic opportunities there, and more and more of them will drop out before they graduate from college.
Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss these problems.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®

ACT Scores Decline Somewhat in Madison, Wisconsin Slightly Up, 32% of Badger Students “Ready” for College Level Courses in 4 Areas

Matthew DeFour:

The average ACT score among the Madison School District’s 2011 graduates dipped to its lowest level in 15 years, while the gap between white and minority student scores shrank for the first time in five years.
Though Madison’s average score dipped from 24.2 to 23.9, district students still outperformed the state average of 22.2 and national average of 21.1. A perfect score on the college entrance exam is 36.
Madison’s average scores in recent years have ranged from 23.5 in 1995 to 24.6 in 2007. The average score was also 23.9 in 2003.

Amy Hetzner:

With the highest percent of students taking the ACT in state history, Wisconsin’s Class of 2011 posted an average score slightly above that from the previous year’s graduates and maintained the state’s third-place ranking among states in which the test is widespread.
Seventy-one percent of the 2011 graduates from Wisconsin private and public schools took the college admissions test, averaging a 22.2 composite score on the 36-point test, according to information to be publicly released Wednesday. The nationwide average was 21.1 on the ACT Assessment, which includes tests in English, reading, mathematics and science.
State schools superintendent Tony Evers credited the results to more high school students pursuing more demanding coursework.
“The message of using high school as preparation for college and careers is taking hold with our students,” Evers said in a news release. “Nearly three-quarters of our kids said they took the rigorous classes recommended for college entry, up from just over half five years ago.”
Even so, ACT reported that only 32% of Wisconsin’s recently graduated seniors had test results that showed they were ready for college-level courses in all four areas. Results for individual subjects ranged from 39% readiness in science to 75% in English.

A few somewhat related links:

Ruth Robarts:

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.
On November 7 (2005), Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

“Penelope Trunk”: (Adrienne Roston, Adrienne Greenheart(

10. Homeschool. Your kids will be screwed if you don't.
The world will not look kindly on people who put their kids into public school. We all know that learning is best when it's customized to the child and we all know that public schools are not able to do that effectively. And the truly game-changing private schools cost $40,000 a year.

Notes and links on the recent, successful Madison Talented & Gifted parent complaint.

WEAC issues layoff notices to 40% of staff

Erin Richards:

Layoff notices have been issued to about 40% of the Wisconsin Education Association Council workforce, a total of 42 employees who work for the state’s largest teachers union, Executive Director Dan Burkhalter confirmed Monday.
Burkhalter said that the layoffs and other budget cuts at WEAC are a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s “union-busting” legislation.
“Right now we’re engaged in membership continuation campaigns,” Burkhalter said in a statement. “We’ve made steady progress in signing up members and we anticipate further progress will be made as the school year resumes. Despite budget cuts and layoffs, our goal remains the same: to be a strong and viable organization that represents the voices of Wisconsin’s public school employees.”

Sun Prairie’s 2011-2012 Budget Pork


It’s getting time to fish or cut bait. We’ve taken a good hard look at the proposed/draft 2011-12 SPASD budget, and we find a number of budget lines to be potentially low hanging fruit…ripe for the pickin’.
Download a PDF copy of SP-EYE Analysis of the 2011-12 SPASD Budget
Maybe we don’t have it right…we can admit it when we make an error…but it places the burden of proof squarely upon the district. PROVE to the community that you absolutely need all that is budgeted, and you have our support.

The ever-increasing burden of education

Ivan Lorentzen:

Even with all its flaws, I’m a proponent of public education in much the same way I remain committed to the fundamental principles of democracy despite recent events in D.C. having tested this commitment.
In terms of public education, there are countless books, articles, and research projects from numerous points of view and it’s clear one can find proponents and opponents to whatever perspective you may choose. One recent publication is noteworthy due to the clarity in writing and direct premise — “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” by Jamie Vollmer, former attorney, businessman, and harsh education critic, now an advocate and consultant to education. I’d like to quote and paraphrase from this book in the following column.
He argues schools need the trust, understanding, permission and support from their communities in order to improve the public education system and increase student success. In tracing his journey from critic to consultant, he weaves an interesting tale as he encounters “blueberries, bell curves, and smelly eighth graders,” and comes to two conclusions. First, we have a system problem, not a people problem. We need to modify the system in order to get the graduates we want. And second, we cannot touch the system without touching the culture of the surrounding town because everything that goes on inside a school is tied to local attitudes, values, traditions and beliefs. But in order to improve the system it’s vital that we first accurately understand the system that presently exists and how it came to be.
For the first time in history the security, prosperity, and health of our nation depend on our ability to unfold the full creative potential of every child — not just the easy ones, not just the top 20 percent of the class, and not just those who reflect our preferred values. The problem is that America’s public education system was never designed to do this. As Thomas Jefferson imagined it, schools should be designed to select and sort students into two groups: a small handful of thinkers and a great mass of obedient doers. Back then most everyone was a farmer, the pace of change was slow, options were few, and only a small handful of people were paid to think.

Partnership between Elgin school, salon a cut above

Emily McFarlan:

U46 schools won’t start class until next week, but already on Thursday, 5-year-old Nicky Moraetes of Elgin leaned forward in his chair at Harriet Gifford Elementary School with a look of intense concentration on his face.
Nicky will start dual-language kindergarten Wednesday, Aug. 24, at Gifford, and he’ll look good when he does. As he squeezed his eyes shut, a smock wrapped around his shoulders, a Salon Professionals Academy stylist clipped short the back of his blond hair.
The 5-year-old was one of many Gifford students and their siblings who got free haircuts during registration at the elementary school Thursday afternoon.

States Fail to Raise Bar in Reading, Math Tests

Stephanie Banchero:

Eight states have raised their standards for passing elementary-school math and reading tests in recent years, but these states and most others still fall below national benchmarks, according to a federal report released Wednesday.
The data help explain the disconnect between the relatively high pass rates on many state tests and the low scores on the national exams, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
In fourth-grade reading, for example, 35 states set passing bars that are below the “basic” level on the national NAEP exam. “Basic” means students have a satisfactory understanding of material, as opposed to “proficient,” which means they have a solid grasp of it. Massachusetts is the only state to set its bar at “proficient”–and that was only in fourth- and eighth-grade math.

Some Folks Have a (Really) Hard Time with Change

Peter Murphy:

Change is hard. So said many a politician trying to tackle problems confronting the state or nation.
The president of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), Richard Iannuzzi, is a tell-tale example of someone having real difficulty with change by showing a dark side.
Yesterday’s Associated Press story on the changing landscape of public education was telling. With strengthened accountability and teacher evaluation combined with tightening resources, changes are afoot. On the one hand, Governor Andrew Cuomo is recognizing the “gravitational forces” of change and is in some ways its instigator by his focus on “improving student performance,” including his push that gave more teeth to the state Regents evaluation requirements.

Hong Kong Teachers stand up against ‘moral lessons’; Profession’s biggest union says government’s proposed curriculum should ‘be given a fail’

Jennifer Ngo:

The city’s biggest teachers’ union has called on the government to scrap its plan to introduce mandatory moral and national education classes at schools after a survey of more than 2,000 of its members found widespread opposition to the proposal.
The pro-democracy Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which claims a membership of 80,000, or 90 per cent of all the city’s teaching professionals, says the poll found 70 per cent were against the move.
Union officials also criticised the government for carrying out consultation over the move in a “condescending” way and called for a new round of talks.
“If we have to speak in terms of grading requirements, this document [proposing the new curriculum] would be given a `fail’,” said James Hon Lin-shan, deputy director of the union’s rights and complaints department.

Hong Kong Professional Teacher’s Union website. Much more on the Moral and National Education (MNE) curriculum, here.

Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009

US Department of Education, via a kind Chan Stroman email:

State-level National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are an important resource for policymakers and other stakeholders responsible for making sense of and acting on state assessment results. Since 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has supported research that focuses on comparing NAEP and state proficiency standards. By showing where states’ standards lie on the NAEP scale, the mapping analyses offer several important contributions. First, they allow each state to compare the stringency of its criteria for proficiency with that of other states.
Second, mapping analyses inform a state whether the rigor of its standards, as represented by the NAEP scale equivalent of the state’s standard, changed over time. (A state’s NAEP scale equivalent is the score on the NAEP scale at which the percentage of students in a state’s NAEP sample who score at or above that value matches the percentage of students in the state who score proficient or higher on the state assessment.) Significant differences in NAEP scale equivalents might reflect changes in state assessments and standards or changes in policies or practices that occurred between the years. Finally, when key aspects of a state’s assessment or standards remain the same, these mapping analyses allow NAEP to substantiate state-reported changes in student achievement.
The following are the research questions and the key findings regarding state proficiency standards, as they are measured on the NAEP scale.

Wisconsin’s oft criticized WKCE vis a vis NAEP:
WKCE “proficient” = 2009 NAEP Below Basic for grade 4 reading (along with 34 other states) and grade 8 reading (along with 15 other states)
= 2009 NAEP Basic for grade 4 math (along with 41 other states) and grade 8 (along with 35 other states)
WKCE results showed more positive changes than NAEP results for grade 4
reading from 2007 to 2009, grade 4 math from 2007 to 2009, and grade 4 math from 2005 to 2009
NAEP results showed more positive changes than WKCE results in grade 8
reading from 2005 to 2009.
How does Wisconsin compare? Learn more, here.

It Rhymes With ‘Tool’

Liam Goldrick:

Thursday morning in Washington DC — the only city that could host such a vacuous, inane event — the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is hosting (the hopefully one-off) “Education Reform Idol.” The event has nothing to do with recognizing states that get the best results for children or those that have achieved demonstrated results from education policies over time — but simply those that have passed pet reforms over the past year.
It purports to determine which state is the “reformiest” (I kid you not) with the only contenders being Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin and the only judges being: (1) a representative of the pro-privatization Walton (WalMart) Family Foundation; (2) the Walton-funded, public education hater Jeanne Allen; and (3) the “Fox News honorary Juan Williams chair” provided to the out-voted Richard Lee Colvin from Education Sector.

Student testing shows districts without bargaining performed better, but posted smaller gains

Erik Schelzig:

An Associated Press analysis of student testing data shows Tennessee school systems without teachers’ collective bargaining rights performed slightly better than those with negotiated contracts, but posted weaker gains.
Thirty-eight of the state’s 135 local school districts did not engage in collective bargaining with their teachers before a new law eliminated those rights this year, according to the Tennessee Education Association.

Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy’s Website is Live

via a Kaleem Caire email:

Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (Madison Prep) is a tuition-free public charter school that will serve as a catalyst for change and opportunity, particularly young men of color. Our mission is to prepare students for success at a four year college or university by instilling excellence, pride, leadership and service.
To achieve this mission, young men will receive an education that:

Notes and links on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy and Kaleem Caire.

Who is Fibbing in Colorado Education Case?

Vincent Carroll

So which is it? Are most Colorado schools doing a good job, as officials regularly assure parents and the public, or are they failing miserably, as some of the same officials will be telling a state court over the next few weeks in a case known as Lobato vs. the State of Colorado?
Both types of assertions can’t be true. And if some aren’t, they amount to — let’s not sugarcoat it — deliberate fibs.
Consider Center School District Superintendent George Welsh as a case in point. According to the website Education News Colorado, Welsh was asked Monday in court to reconcile an awkward contradiction. On the one hand, he’d testified at length on the district’s failures. Yet he’d also sent a letter to parents in 2007 “citing the good education his own children had received.”
“Is that a statement you stand by today?” an assistant attorney general asked Welsh.
“You’ve got to put a positive spin on things to make your community feel comfortable,” Welsh said, but then, reports Education News, answered ” ‘no’ when asked again if he stood by the 2007 praise of the district’s quality.”

The AFT’s Real Feelings About Parent Power

Rishawn Biddle:

When the AFT offers a road map on how to shut down Parent Power efforts, it offers a nice PDF document to do it. Apparently in a fit of celebration during last month’s TEACH 2011 conference, the nation’s second-largest teachers union offered up a presentation on how its Connecticut affiliate managed to make the state’s Parent Trigger law a little less harder for parents to use. (Dropout Nation is doing everyone a courtesy by making it available for public consumption; the orginal is still available at the AFT’s Web site. At least, for now.)

Rick Green has more.

Union to defend teachers in cheating scandals

Greg Toppo:

The head of the USA’s second-largest teachers union on Monday said local affiliates will defend the rights of teachers caught up in cheating scandals, including the one now unfolding in Atlanta. But she said cheating “under any circumstances is unacceptable.”
Speaking to reporters during the American Federation of Teachers’ biannual training conference, Randi Weingarten said the union would “obviously” represent teachers accused of cheating “to make sure that people have some kind of fairness — and that it’s not some kind of witch hunt.”
A long-awaited report released last week by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, found teacher- or principal-led cheating in 44 of 56 Atlanta schools investigated. Investigators determined that 178 educators cheated. Of those, 82 confessed.

Madison School District Talented & Gifted Program Update

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

During the 2011-2012 school year, as MMSD implements Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) and the new district School Support Teams, the plan for delivery of Talented and Gifted Services will continue to be integrated and refined so that it accomplishes the following: 1) is both systemic and systematic in nature; 2) is collaborative; 3) is financially sustainable; 4) is fluid and responsive to student needs; S) offers appropriate opportunities for student growth and talent development; 6) addresses the comprehensive needs (academic, social and personal growth) of students; 7) is aligned with State regulations, professional standards, current research, and effective practice; and 8) provides goals and evaluation procedures to evaluate growth and suggest areas in which change is needed. This Plan for TAG Services describes the following:

Much more on the recent complaint regarding the Madison School District’s Talent & Gifted Update, here.

Smallest med school in U.S. to open with 8 students

Kevin Murphy:

A Kansas college hopes young doctors will be more willing to practice in small towns if they go to a medical school in a rural area.
The University of Kansas will have what it says is the smallest four-year medical education site in the country when eight students begin taking classes on Monday on a satellite campus in Salina, Kansas. The move is in response to a shortage of rural doctors in the United States.
“By training physicians in a nonmetropolitan area, we are showing young medical students that life can be good, and practice can be stimulating, outside of the big city,” said Dr. William Cathcart-Rake, the physician who directs the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina.

We Want to Hear from Teachers About Teacher Prep

National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report, via a kind reader’s email:

Since we launched our national review of teacher preparation programs last January, we’ve heard a lot from schools of education about what they think about our effort.
We’ve also heard what state and district superintendents along with ed
reform organizations around the country think: the public needs to know
which preparation programs are doing a good job and which are not.
But now it’s time to _[4]hear_ from those most directly affected by teacher preparation programs: teachers themselves.
We want to know how ready teachers felt on their first day of class. What do teachers value about their teacher preparation programs? What do they think aspiring teachers need to know about the programs they are considering?
Links: 4. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/teacherprepsurvey

School Voucher Programs and the Effects of a Little Healthy Competition

DAVID FIGLIO, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University NADA EISSA, Georgetown University GROVER J. WHITEHURST, Brookings Institution JANE HANNAWAY, Urban Institute:

Do voucher programs force public schools into a zero-sum game by redirecting public funds and promising students to private schools? Or do school-choice options spur healthy competition by pressuring public schools to improve? Using data from Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, David Figlio of Northwestern University argues that public schools improve their performance when faced with the prospect of losing students to nearby private schools through voucher programs, and that greater competition results in greater gains in public school students’ test scores. In other words, the competitive effects of school choice could create a system where everybody wins.

New Mexico commission considers charter school proposals

Associated Press:

The state Public Education Commission plans hearings across the state on proposals to establish 21 charter schools.
The commission will start with hearings on Aug. 8 in Las Cruces and Deming. Meetings will be held during the rest of the week in Albuquerque, Moriarty, Taos, Penasco, Espanola, Santa Fe and Gallup.

Can’t blame WEAC for not trusting Walker on school accountability

Chris Rickert:

I feel you, Wisconsin Education Association Council; I don’t trust Gov. Scott Walker, either.
But so far as I know, he’s not trying to kill me.
This might be the key distinction in judging WEAC’s decision to skip out on a Walker-associated effort to devise an accountability system for Wisconsin schools; one would think the state’s largest teachers union would want to be a part of that.
Last week, WEAC president Mary Bell seemed to indicate it all came down to trust.
“How can we trust the governor to be a credible partner on education issues when they just passed laws to make massive cuts to school funding and silence our voices in schools?” she asked.

July 29 Wisconsin Read to Lead task force meeting

Julie Gocey, via email:

The fourth meeting of the Governor’s Read to Lead task force took place in Milwaukee on Friday, July 29. The meeting was filmed by Wisconsin Eye, but we have not seen it offered yet through their website. We will send out a notice when that occurs. As always, we encourage you to watch and draw your own conclusions.
Following is a synopsis of the meeting, which centered on reading improvement success in Florida and previously-discussed task force topics (teacher preparation, licensing, professional development, screening/intervention, early childhood). In addition, Superintendent Evers gave an update on activity within DPI. The discussion of the impact of societal factors on reading achievement was held over to the next meeting, as was further revisiting of early childhood issues.

In addition to this summary, you can access Chan Stroman’s Eduphilia tweets at http://twitter.com/#!/eduphilia
Opening: Governor Walker welcomed everyone and stressed the importance of this conversation on reading. Using WKCE data, which has been criticized nationally and locally for years as being derived from low standards, the Governor stated that 80% of Wisconsin students are proficient or advanced in reading, and he is seeking to serve the other 20%. The NAEP data, which figured prominently in the presentation of the guest speakers, tell a very different story. Superintendent Evers thanked the task force members and indicated that this is all about “connecting the dots” and putting all of the “puzzle pieces” together. The work of this task force will impact the work going on in other education-focused committees.
The Florida Story: Guest speakers were Patricia Levesque, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, and Mary Laura Bragg, the director of Florida’s statewide reading initiative, Just Read, Florida! from 2001 to 2006.
In a series of slides, Levesque compared Wisconsin, Florida, and national performance on the NAEP reading test over the past decade. Despite challenges in terms of English language learners, a huge percentage of students on free/reduced lunch, and a minority-majority demographic, Florida has moved from the scraping the bottom on the NAEP to the top group of states. Over the same time period, Wisconsin has plummeted in national ranking, and our students now score below the national average in all subgroups for which NAEP data is disaggregated. 10 points on the NAEP scale is roughly equivalent to one grade level in performance, and Florida has moved from two grade levels below Wisconsin to 1/2 grade level above. For a full discussion of Wisconsin’s NAEP performance, see our website, http://www.wisconsinreadingcoalition.org.
Levesque and Bragg also described the components of the reading initiative in Florida, which included grading all schools from A to F, an objective test-based promotion policy from third to fourth grade, required state-approved reading plans in each district, trained reading coaches in schools, research assistance from the Florida Center for Reading Research, required individual student intervention plans for struggling students, universal K-2 screening for reading problems, improved licensure testing for teachers and principals, the creation of a reading endorsement for teaching licenses, and on-line professional development available to all teachers. As noted above, achievement has gone up dramatically, the gap between demographic groups has narrowed, early intervention is much more common, and third grade retention percentages continue to fall. The middle school performance is now rising as those children who received early intervention in elementary school reach that level. Those students have not yet reached high school, and there is still work to be done there. To accomplish all this, Florida leveraged federal funds for Title 1 and 2 and IDEA, requiring that they be spent for state-approved reading purposes. The Governor also worked actively with business to create private/public partnerships supporting reading. Just Read, Florida! was able to engineer a statewide conference for principals that was funded from vendor fees. While Florida is a strong local control state, reading is controlled from the state level, eliminating the need for local curriculum directors to research and design reading plans without the resources or manpower to do so. Florida also cut off funding to university professors who refused to go along with science-based reading instruction and assessment.
Florida is now sharing its story with other states, and offering assistance in reading plan development, as well as their screening program (FAIR assessment system) and their online professional development, which cost millions to develop. Levesque invited Wisconsin to join Indiana and other states at a conference in Florida this fall.
Questions for, or challenges to, the presenters came from three task force members.

  • Rachel Lander asked about the reading coaches, and Bragg responded that they were extensively trained by the state office, beginning with Reading First money. They are in the classroom modeling for teachers and also work with principals on understanding data and becoming building reading leaders. The coaches now have an association that has acquired a presence in the state.
  • Linda Pils stated her belief that Wisconsin outperforms Florida at the middle school level, and that we have higher graduation rates than Florida. She cited opinions that third grade retention has some immediate effect, but the results are the same or better for non-retained students later, and that most retained students will not graduate from high school. She also pointed out Florida’s class size reduction requirement, and suggested that the NAEP gains came from that. Levesque explained that the retention studies to which Pils was referring were from other states, where retention decisions were made subjectively by teachers, and there was no requirement for science-based individual intervention plans. The gains for retained students in Florida are greater than for matched students who are not retained, and the gains persist over time. Further, retention did not adversely affect graduation rates. In fact, graduation rates have increased, and dropout rates have declined. The University of Arkansas is planning to do a study of Florida retention. The class size reduction policy did not take effect in Florida until last year, and a Harvard study concluded that it had no effect on student reading achievement. Task force member Steve Dykstra pointed out that you cannot compare the NAEP scores from two states without considering the difference in student demographics. Wisconsin’s middle school scores benefit from the fact that we have a relative abundance of white students who are not on free/reduced lunch. Our overall average student score in middle school may be higher than Florida, but when we compare similar cohorts from both states, Florida is far ahead.
  • Tony Pedriana asked what kinds of incentives have been put in place for higher education, principals, etc. to move to a science-based system of instruction. The guests noted that when schools are graded, reading performance receives double weight in the formula. They also withheld funding for university programs that were not science-based.

DPI Update: Superintendent Evers indicated that DPI is looking at action in fours areas: teacher licensure, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, the use of a screener to detect reading problems, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

  • The committee looking at licensing is trying to decide whether they should recommend an existing, off-the-shelf competency exam, or revise the exam they are currently requiring (Praxis 2). He did not indicate who is on the committee or what existing tests they were looking at. In the past, several members of the task force have recommended that Wisconsin use the Foundations of Reading test given in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • DPI is revising the WMELS to correct definitions and descriptions of phonological and phonemic awareness and phonics. The changes will align the WMELS with both the Report of the National Reading Panel and the Common Core State Standards. Per the suggestion of Eboni Howard, a guest speaker at the last meeting, they will get an outside opinion on the WMELS when they are finished. Evers did not indicate who is doing this work.
  • DPI is looking at the possibility of using PALS screening or some other tool recommended by the National RTI Center to screen students in grades K-2 or K-3. Evers previously mentioned that this committee had been meeting for 6-7 months, but he did not indicate who is on it.
  • Evers made reference to communication that was circulated this week (by Dr. Dan Gustafson and John Humphries) that expressed concern over the method in which DPI is implementing the Common Core. He stated that districts have been asking DPI for help in implementing the CC, and they want to provide districts with a number of resources. One of those is the model curriculum being developed by CESA 7. DPI is looking at it to see how it could help the state move forward, but no final decision has yet been made.

Task force member Pam Heyde, substituting for Marcia Henry, suggested that it would be better to look at what Florida is doing rather than start from ground zero looking at guidelines. Patricia Levesque confirmed that Florida was willing to assist other states, and invited Wisconsin to join a meeting of state reading commissioners in October.
Teacher Preparation: The discussion centered around what needs to change in teacher preparation programs, and how to fit this into a four-year degree.
Steve Dykstra said that Texas has looked at this issue extensively. Most schools need three courses to cover reading adequately, but it is also important to look at the texts that are used in the courses. He referenced a study by Joshi that showed most of the college texts to be inadequate.
Dawnene Hassett, UW-Madison literacy professor in charge of elementary teacher reading preparation, was invited to participate in this part of the discussion. She indicated we should talk in terms of content knowledge, not number of credits. In a couple of years, teachers will have to pass a Teacher Performance Assessment in order to graduate. This was described as a metacognitive exercise using student data. In 2012-13, UW-Madison will change its coursework, combining courses in some of the arts, and dropping some of the pedagogical, psychological offerings.
Tony Pedriana said he felt schools of education had fallen down on teaching content derived from empirical studies.
Hassett said schools teach all five “pillars” of reading, but they may not be doing it well enough. She said you cannot replicate classroom research, so you need research “plus.”
Pils was impressed with the assistance the FCRR gives to classroom teachers regarding interventions that work. She also said spending levels were important.
Dykstra asked Mary Laura Bragg if she had worked with professors who thought they were in alignment with the research, but really weren’t.
Bragg responded that “there’s research, and then there’s research.” They had to educate people on the difference between “research” from vendors and empirical research, which involves issues of fidelity and validation with different groups of students.
Levesque stated that Florida increased reading requirements for elementary candidates from 3 to 6 credits, and added a 3 credit requirement for secondary candidates. Colleges were required to fit this in by eliminating non-content area pedagogy courses.
Kathy Champeau repeated a concern from earlier meetings that teacher candidates need the opportunity to practice their new knowledge in a classroom setting, or they will forget it.
Hassett hoped the Teacher Performance Assessment would help this. The TPA would probably require certain things to be included in the teacher candidate’s portfolio.
Governor Walker said that the key to the effectiveness of Florida’s retention policy was the intervention provided to the students. He asked what they did to make sure intervention was successful.
Levesque replied that one key was reading coaches in the classroom. Also, district reading plans, individual intervention plans, student academies, etc. all need to be approved by the state.
There was consensus that there should be a difference in reading requirements for elementary vs. secondary teachers. There was no discussion of preparation for reading teachers, reading specialists, or special education teachers.
Licensing: The discussion centered around what teacher standards need to be tested.
Dykstra suggested that the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading, written by Louisa Moats, et al, and published by the International Dyslexia Association in 2010, would be good teacher standards, and the basis for a teacher competency exam. There was no need for DPI to spend the next year discussing and inventing new teacher standards.
Champeau said that the International Reading Association also has standards.
Pedriana asked if those standards are based on research.
Dykstra suggested that the task force look at the two sets of standards side-by-side and compare them.
Professional Development: The facilitators looked for input on how professional development for practicing teachers should be targeted. Should the state target struggling teachers, schools, or districts for professional development?
Rep. Jason Fields felt all three needed to be targeted.
Heyde asked Levesque for more details on how Wisconsin could do professional development, when we often hear there is no money.
Levesque provided more detail on the state making reading a priority, building public/private partnerships, and being more creative with federal grant money (e.g., the 20% of each grant that is normally carved out by the state for administration). There should be a clear reading plan (Florida started with just two people running their initiative, and after a decade only has eight people), and all the spending should align with the plan to be effective. You cannot keep sending money down the hole. Additional manpower was provided by the provision that all state employees would get one paid hour per week to volunteer on approved reading projects in schools, and also by community service requirements for high school students.
Bragg suggested using the online Florida training modules, and perhaps combining them with modules from Louisiana.
Dykstra also suggested taking advantage of existing training, including LETRS, which was made widely available in Massachusetts. He also stressed the importance of professional development for principals, coaches, and specialists.
Bragg pointed out that many online training modules are free, or provided for a nominal charge that does not come close to what it would cost Wisconsin to develop its own professional development.
Lander said there were many Wisconsin teachers who don’t need the training, and it should not be punitive.
Champeau suggested that Florida spends way more money on education that Wisconsin, based on information provided by the NAEP.
Levesque clarified that Florida actually is below the national average in cost per student. The only reason they spend more than Wisconsin is that they have more students.
Rep. Steve Kestell stated that teachers around the entire state have a need for professional development, and it is dangerous to give it only to the districts that are performing the worst.
Sarah Archibald (sitting in for Sen. Luther Olsen) said it would be good to look at the value added in districts across the state when trying to identify the greatest needs for professional development. The new statewide information system should provide us with some of this value added information, but not at a classroom teacher level.
Evers commented that the state could require new teacher Professional Development Plans to include or be focused on reading.
Pils commented that districts can have low and high performing schools, so it is not enough to look at district data.
Champeau said that administrators also need this professional development. They cannot evaluate teachers if they do not have the knowledge themselves.
Dykstra mentioned a Florida guidebook for principals with a checklist to help them. He is concerned about teachers who develop PDP’s with no guidance, and spend a lot of time and money on poor training and learning. There is a need for a clearinghouse for professional development programs.
Screening/Intervention: One of the main questions here was whether the screening should be universal using the same tools across the state.
Champeau repeated a belief that there are districts who are doing well with the screening they are doing, and they should not be required to change or add something new.
Dykstra responded that we need comparable data from every school to use value added analysis, so a universal tool makes sense. He also said there was going to be a lot of opposition to this, given the statements against screening that were issued when Rep. Keith Ripp introduced legislation on this topic in the last biennium. He felt the task force has not seen any screener in enough detail to recommend a particular one at this time.
Heyde said we need a screener that screens for the right things.
Pils agreed with Dykstra and Heyde. She mentioned that DIBELS is free and doesn’t take much time.
Michele Erickson asked if a task force recommendation would turn into a mandate. She asked if Florida used a universal screener.
Levesque replied that Florida initially used DIBELS statewide, and then the FCRR developed the FAIR assessments for them. The legislature in Florida mandated the policy of universal kindergarten screening that also traces students back to their pre-K programs to see which ones are doing a better job. Wisconsin could purchase the FAIR assessments from Florida.
Archilbald suggested phasing in screening if we could not afford to do it all at once.
Evers supports local control, but said there are reasons to have a universal screener for data systems, to inform college programs, and to implement professional development.
Lander asked what screening information we could get from the WKCE.
Evers responded that the WKCE doesn’t start unitl third grade.
Dykstra said we need a rubric about screening, and who needs what type and how often.
Pedriana said student mobility is another reason for a universal screener.
There was consensus that early screening is important. Certainly by 4K or 5K, but even at age three if a system could be established. Possibilities mentioned were district-run screenings or pediatrician screenings.
Walker reminded the task force that it only makes sense to screen if you have the ability to intervene with something.
Mara Brown wasn’t sure that a universal screener would tell her anything more about her students than she already knows.
Levesque said she could provide a screening roadmap rubric for the task force.
No one on the task force had suggestions for specific interventions. The feeling was that it is more important to have a well-trained teacher. Both Florida and Oregon started evaluating and rating interventions, but stopped because they got bogged down. Wisconsin must also be careful about evaluations by What Works Clearinghouse, which has some problems.
Pedriana asked if the task force is prepared to endorse a model of instruction based on science, where failure is not an option.
The facilitator said this discussion would have to wait for later.
Early Childhood: The task force agreed that YoungStar should include more specific literacy targets.
Rep. Kestell felt that some district are opening 4K programs primarily for added revenue, and that there is wide variability in quality. There is a need to spend more time on this and decide what 4K should look like.
Evers said we should use the Common Core and work backward to determine what needs to be done in 4K.
Wrap-Up: Further discussion of early childhood will be put over to the next meeting, as will the societal issues and accountability. A meeting site has not yet been set, but Governor Walker indicted he liked moving around the state. The Governor’s aides will follow up as to locations and specific agenda. The next meeting will be Thursday, August 25. All meetings are open to the public.

Related: An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards” and how does Wisconsin Compare? www.wisconsin2.org.
Much more on Wisconsin’s Read to Lead Task Force, here.

7.28.2011 Wisconsin School Accountability Conference, with Video

Matthew DeFour:

An effort to develop a statewide school accountability system marks a turning point in Wisconsin, education experts said last week as a public effort to design the system got under way.
When the modern school accountability movement began in the 1990s, several states such as Massachusetts, Kentucky and Florida developed their own systems for measuring how well schools helped students learn. Wisconsin created a statewide test in 1993, but deferred to local districts on what it meant for schools.
“Some states have embraced (school accountability) more than others,” said UW-Madison education professor Doug Harris. “Wisconsin hasn’t.”
Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers, who otherwise have clashed on education issues, have agreed to change that. A task force they formed began collecting information at a symposium last week organized by Walker, Evers and the La Follette School of Public Affairs and will soon meet to begin designing the system.

Susan Troller:

When it comes to developing a system for accountability for Wisconsin’s schools, including ways to measure whether students are meeting the ultimate goal of being ready for a career or college, Betebenner says, “My advice to you is to go slow … and be deliberate.”
John Johnson, director of education information for DPI, was encouraged by the standing-room-only crowd and the attendance by a number of policymakers, including key legislators, at Thursday’s meeting.
“Maybe by wading into school reform rather than diving into the deep end of the pool with Race to the Top, we’ll actually be able to swim, instead of drowning,” he says.

Watch the “Building a New School Accountability System for Wisconsin” conference, here.
Wisconsin’s academic standards have long been criticized for their lack of rigor.

Groups Rally To ‘Save Our Schools’


Several Madison groups gathered on the Capitol square Saturday afternoon to be part of the national movement to “Save Our Schools.”
Rallies across the nation, including a march in Washington, D.C., were planned for the weekend to highlight what organizers feel is a crisis in public education.
Those who attended the rally said they want the political games to end in the nation’s capital when it comes to the debt ceiling impasse.
“I think the debt ceiling has something to do with public education,” said Todd Allan Price, an assistant professor at National-Louis University. “It’s showing where our misplaced priorities are. The debt ceiling has actually been raised many, many times before and the president could do that, but the problem is, is there’s a lot of gamesmanship going on.”

Schools, financiers in talks for failed investments

Erin Richards:

Five Wisconsin school districts that invested in $200 million worth of risky financial instruments that deflated in the economic collapse are engaged this month in settlement talks with the financial institutions they claim led them astray, according to court documents.
The legal counsel for the school districts – Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee, Whitefish Bay, Kenosha and Kimberly – and for Stifel Financial Corp. and the Royal Bank of Canada met in New York this month and asked a Milwaukee County circuit judge for time to continue those talks.
“The schools are actively engaged in the mediation process, which we are hoping will produce a settlement,” said Stephen Kravit, one of the attorneys representing the districts.
Kravit and other attorneys for the school districts and financial institutions met in court Thursday for a status hearing. The next major hearing, which is likely to discuss amendments to a cross-claim that Stifel filed against the Royal Bank of Canada last month, is scheduled for Aug. 30.

1 2 3 21