Category Archives: Governance/Board Decision Making

The Leadership Limbo

Frederick Hess & Coby Loup:

In the era of No Child Left Behind, principals are increasingly held accountable for student performance. But are teacher labor agreements giving them enough flexibility to manage effectively? The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America’s Fifty Largest School Districts, answers this question and others.
The main findings:

  • Thirty, or more than half, of the 50 districts have labor agreements that are ambiguous. The collective bargaining agreements and the formal board policies in these districts appear to grant leaders substantial leeway to manage assertively, should they so choose.
  • Fifteen of the 50 districts are home to Restrictive or Highly Restrictive labor agreements. Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s African-American K-12 students population attend school in the 15 lowest-scoring districts-making these contracts major barriers to more equal educational opportunity.
  • The study also found that districts with high concentrations of poor and minority students tend to have more restrictive contracts than other districts-another alarming indication of inequity along racial and class lines.

Madison’s collective bargaining agreement can be found here.teachercba07-09.pdf

AP Trends: Tests Soar, Scores Slip

Scott Cech:

While more American public school students are taking Advanced Placement tests, the proportion of tests receiving what is deemed a passing score has dipped, and the mean score is down for the fourth year in a row, an Education Week analysis of newly released data from the College Board shows.
Data released here this week by the New York City-based nonprofit organization that owns the AP brand shows that a greater-than-ever proportion of students overall—more than 15 percent of the public high school class of 2007—scored at least one 3 on an AP test. The tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, the highest score.
Yet, as the number of AP exams taken in U.S. public schools has ballooned by almost 25 percent over the four years that the College Board has released its “AP Report to the Nation,” the percentage of exams that received at least a 3—the minimum score that the College Board considers predictive of success in college—has slipped from about 60 percent to 57 percent.
The mean score on the nearly 2 million AP exams taken by students in last year’s U.S. public graduating class was 2.83, down from 2.9 in 2004.
“That happens,” said Jennifer Topiel, a spokeswoman for the College Board. “Any psychometrician can tell you that as participation grows, scores go down.”
Still, Ms. Topiel said the score declines are a major concern for the organization, as are widening score gaps between some racial and ethnic groups, “particularly those among underrepresented students who are not being prepared and not having the same resources.”


Madison School Board Update on Recruiting Policy and Public Appearances

Susan Troller:

A new policy to clarify rules on recruiting Madison high school students for the military, for post-secondary education opportunities or for potential employment is under review by the Madison School Board, but is not quite ready to pass muster.
At a meeting Monday night, the board sent the recruitment policy back to the administration for additional work and chose to table a discussion about the sales of military ads on school grounds until the recruitment policy changes are complete.
Anti-war activists have argued that the ads constitute recruiting materials and are by current policy banned anywhere except in school guidance offices. In addition, some students have complained that recruiters can be overly aggressive in pursuing students.
“I think we’re pretty close to making a decision on the revised recruitment policy,” Board President Arlene Silveira said in an interview this morning, “but we wanted some additional clarification from the administration, and we wanted to make sure the changes in the rules make sense to the people in the schools who will be working with them.”
She also said the board wanted to ensure the policy was fair and consistent toward all individuals and organizations coming into the schools to recruit students, whether they are promoting military service, employment or educational opportunities.
Issues include how many visits recruiters may make to a school, and whether activities like hanging around the cafeteria during lunch to talk with students would be permitted.
Superintendent Art Rainwater said that while only about one percent of Madison students go into the military, 80 percent go on to post-secondary education. He emphasized that treatment of recruiters, no matter who they represent, must be consistent.

The Most Irritating Education Expert in America

Jay Matthews:

I am breaking the rules of book-reviewing by admitting right away that I like Chester E. “Checker” Finn Jr., whose memoir, “Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik,” just came out. For an education reporter, Finn is a godsend — the most quotable man in his field. But that also means he is funny, irreverent and often as irritating as he can be.
I think that’s good. I don’t know him well personally, other than seeing him in the supermarket occasionally. (A very picky shopper, he is murder on the produce.) We don’t always agree, particularly over a recent column of mine that criticized a report by his Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
But I love the fact that no one is spared his acidic sense of humor. That makes him a first-class writer, and “Troublemaker” may be the best of his many books. It’s $26.95, from Princeton University Press, though you can buy it for less online. The book offers one of the most enjoyable, astute and fair-minded reviews of the topsy-turvy course of our national effort to improve schools. It flavors that complex tale with the story of Checker Finn, a smart kid from Dayton, Ohio, who wisely attached himself to some of the most thoughtful political figures of his era and brought their practical approach to fixing schools to a new generation. Among them were Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served as a Democratic senator from New York from 1977 to 2001; William J. Bennett, a Reagan administration education secretary; and Lamar Alexander, an education secretary in administration of President George H. W. Bush and now a Republican senator from Tennessee.

Speaking of Report Cards: “So, Is That Like an A?”

Maura Casey:

Time was that a fifth grader’s greatest concern about gym was whether he or she would be picked last for the kickball team. Now, in schools in Hartford, that 10-year-old would-be athlete is being graded on how he or she “establishes and maintains a healthy lifestyle by avoiding risk-taking behavior.” In music class, students are being graded on how they make “connections between music and other disciplines through evaluation and analysis of compositions and performances.” That is pretty far from just trying to sing “Yankee Doodle” on key.
These examples come from a new report card, introduced last November in all of Hartford’s elementary schools. It measures 58 academic, social and behavioral skills and, including other information, can run as long as seven pages.
Not surprisingly, the language was produced by a committee. Some of the wording is clear; anyone can understand “shows courtesy and respect toward others.” But the academic measurements, which are designed to grade areas of student performance that are also measured on state standardized tests, seem more likely to confuse than illuminate.
Christopher Leone, the spokesman for the Hartford school district, said that the goal was to give parents more detailed information about the progress of their children. He says that so far the response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive. The district hasn’t surveyed the teachers, but the report card made me appreciate, as nothing else has ever done, why teachers say they are buried in paperwork.

Much more on Madison’s proposed report card changes here.

The Knowledge Connection

ED Hirsch, Jr:

Consider the eighth-grade NAEP results from Massachusetts, which are a stunning exception to the nationwide pattern of stagnation and decline. Since 1998, the state has improved significantly in the number of eighth-graders reading at the “proficient” or “advanced” levels: Massachusetts now has the largest percentage of students reading at that higher level, and it is No. 1 in average scores for the eighth grade. That is because Massachusetts decided in 1997 that students (and teachers) should learn certain explicit, substantive things about history, science and literature, and that students should be tested on such knowledge.

E.D. Hirsch Jr. is an author, most recently of “The Knowledge Deficit,” and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

Madison Middle School Report Card/Homework Assessment Proposed Changes

Michael Maguire, via email:

I’m interested in gathering more information on this topic, as outlined in a message I received from a neighbor and PTO member. I appreciate more background info, if you have it (or a suggestion of where else I can go/with whom I can speak) to find out more: [“On Wednesday, February 20, at 7 pm Dr. Pam Nash and Lisa Wactel from MMSD will present the new format for middle school report cards. The meeting is in the LMC at Hamilton Middle School [Map].
The district is changing the middle school report cards to the same as the elementary: proficient, at grade level, needs improvement (or whatever those categories are). They will eliminate the letter grades: A, B, C, etc.
Another factor in the report cards is that homework will not count toward the grade. Teachers can still assign homework, but that will not count toward your child’s assessment.”]

Michael Maguire
(608) 233-1235
I’ve heard that this model is also intended for the high schools. Related posts by Mary Kay Battaglia, “Can We Talk?

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

Lauren Rosen, via email:

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

San Diego’s New Superintendent Starts Early

Maureen Magee:

Grier called on employees to stop dwelling on the shortcomings of previous superintendents.
“I want us to move away from discussions about yesterday,” Grier said, in reference to the stream of complaints he has heard about Alan Bersin’s heavy-handed management and Carl Cohn’s multiple hires from the Long Beach school district.
“I’m not coming here to try to recreate Guilford County, N.C., West,” he said. “There’s a lot of bright, talented people here.”
Sam Wong, the district’s chief of human resources, was hopeful that Grier could get people to stop reliving the mishaps of Bersin and Cohn.
“You do have to say goodbye to the past to move forward, otherwise you never make progress,” Wong said. “I like what I’m hearing.”
Grier took issue with the district’s so-called 98 percent graduation rate. He suggested that the statistic was misleading, given that there are always thousands more freshmen than seniors.
“That is not acceptable,” he said. “I’m sorry, you don’t have a 98 percent graduation rate.”

Two Denver Public Schools Gain Freedom in Hiring

Nancy Mitchell:

enver Public Schools and its teachers union on Tuesday announced a compromise that will grant historic freedoms in hiring, staffing and scheduling for two city schools that sought to break free of union and district rules.
Bruce Randolph and Manual schools in northeast Denver will be able to post job vacancies and hire at will, among other freedoms outlined in the agreement.
“It was a very positive resolution and came rather quickly after we all sat down together to talk about it,” said Kim Ursetta, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.
Bruce Randolph Principal Kristin Waters said she was “ecstatic. It’s great for kids, for the teachers, and I think it’s good for the union.”
The news came as the principals of 18 schools in far northeast Denver put the final touches on their own autonomy proposal, which they’ll present to DPS board members Tuesday. Any agreements also must be OK’d by the union governing board.

Wisconsin’s Budget Deficit Grows to $652,000,000

Jason Stein:

The state’s projected two-year budget shortfall has doubled to a hefty $652.3 million, the Legislature’s budget office reported today.
The potential deficit, up from last month’s estimates of $300 million to $400 million, represents a much greater challenge for lawmakers and Gov. Jim Doyle as they attempt to balance the state’s books in the face of a looming national recession and falling state tax revenues.
The red splashed across the state’s books also increases the chance that officials might have to cut programs, raise taxes or raid other state funds to cover the shortfall.
The state’s January 2008 report on tax collections — which includes key sales from the holiday retail season — and the forecasts for this month point to “further weakness” in tax revenues, the report from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau found.
That means a $586.5 million projected decrease in state collections and a $34.9 million decrease in interest income and other revenue to state agencies, the report found.

2008_02_13_Revenue estimates.pdf 84KThese deficits, along with a number of other issues, make it unlikely that we’ll see meaningful new state redistributed tax dollars for the Madison School District. Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s website.
Greg Bump has more.

KIPP: McDonogh 15 School For the Creative Arts

Bob Lefsetz pays a visit (via email):

After breakfast at Mother’s, Marty, Felice and myself took a cab deep into the French Quarter to the McDonogh School, where the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was presenting the music program with a slew of instruments. That’s what the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation does, grant instruments to school music programs. It was started by Michael Kamen, who composed the music for the movie. He wanted students to have the same opportunity he had, to learn an instrument in school, to be fulfilled, to be enriched. Felice runs the Foundation.
I’d been hearing about all the great work the Foundation had been doing in New Orleans for two years. And on a site visit a couple of months back, Tricia had encountered Kelvin Harrison and his program. She believed they were worthy, they deserved the instruments. The program had started after Katrina with no instruments. Mr. Harrison had taught his students on recorders when the ordered instruments hadn’t arrived. But now he was up and running, he needed more. And that’s why we were there.
The environment in the building was completely different from my educational experience. Instead of sterility, I found vibrancy. Silhouettes graced the cafeteria, with explanations of each. One student said his creation was as big as the 24″ rims on his older brother’s car. That cracked me up. But I loved the banner on the far side of the room: “Climb the mountain to college.” There were aphorisms all over the place. Informing the students to pay attention now, to apply themselves now, to prepare, for otherwise, in the future, they’d be left out.
And after reading the display about Black History Month, learning exactly who Booker T. Washington was, we ascended the stairs to the third floor, where Mr. Harrison was warming up the band. Brass members were playing notes. I prepared myself. This was going to be awful. An endurance test. You know what it’s like being in the vicinity of someone learning an instrument. You want to support them, but the sound is grating, you can’t read, you can’t watch television, you just want the noise to stop.
After quieting everybody down, Mr. Harrison looked at the assembled multitude and said the band was going to play a couple of numbers. They were going to start with “Oye Como Va”.
Oh, I know it wasn’t a Santana original. But that’s where I heard it. Coming out of John “Muddy” Waters’ room in the dorm all of freshman year. I’ve come to love “Abraxas”. I bought it on vinyl. And have a gold CD. I’ve got all the MP3s. I love “Oye Como Va”. I was trepidatiously excited. Then the two players on keys rolled out the intro, the drummers started hitting the accents, the horn players lifted their instruments to their lips and the band started to swing!
I couldn’t believe it! Fifth graders? My high school’s band wasn’t this good. This was good enough for college! The flutes are wailing. I notice the drummer is a girl. And yes, that tiny figure behind the keyboard, she’s hitting every note. Trombone players got up and soloed. Tears started coming to my eyes. This was education! If I could play in a band like this, I’d want to come to school!
And when they finished, there was raucous applause. And then they lit into Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”. These little kids, they had soul!

Continue reading KIPP: McDonogh 15 School For the Creative Arts

4 Names for Madison’s New Far West Side Elementary School

Susan Troller:

he names of four prominent deceased local citizens have gone to the head of the class as names for Madison’s newest elementary school, slated to open next fall on the far west side. They include Jeffrey Erlanger, Paul J. Olson, Howard Temin and Ilda Thomas.
A 13-member citizen naming committee, chaired by Madison historian David Mollenhoff, will recommend the names to the Madison School Board in a report to be distributed to board members on Thursday. The group has been meeting since early January to consider more than 80 names submitted by the public for the new school.

AP Report to the Nation

College Board [1.5MB PDF]:

More than 15 percent of the public high school class of 2007 achieved at least one AP® Exam grade of 3 or higher1—the score that is predictive of college success. This achievement represents a significant and consistent improvement since the class of 2002 when less than 12 percent of public school graduates attained this goal.
Out of all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Vermont captured the largest increase in the percentage of high school graduates who scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.
In its fourth annual “AP Report to the Nation,” the College Board (the not-for-profit membership association that owns and administers the AP Program), focuses on educators’ quantifiable successes in helping a wider segment of the nation’s students gain access to and achieve success in college-level work. Of the estimated 2.8 million students who graduated from U.S. public schools in 2007, almost 426,000 (15.2 percent) earned an AP Exam grade of at least a 3 on one or more AP Exams during their high school tenure, the report documents. This is up from 14.7 percent in 2006 and 11.7 percent in 2002.
Earning a 3 or higher on an AP Exam is one of “the very best predictors of college performance,”2 with AP students earning higher college grades and graduating from college at higher rates than otherwise similar peers in control groups, according to recent reports from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley,3 the National Center for Educational Accountability,4 and the University of Texas at Austin.5,6
New York, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts and Connecticut all saw more than 20 percent of their students graduate from high school having earned an AP Exam grade of 3 or higher. AP achievements for each state’s class of 2002, class of 2006 and class of 2007 are detailed in the report. (See “The 4th Annual AP Report to the Nation,” Table 1, page 5.)
“Educators and policymakers across the nation should be commended for their sustained commitment to helping students achieve access to and success in AP courses and exams” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “More students from varied backgrounds are accomplishing their AP goals, but we can’t afford to believe equity has been achieved until the demographics of successful AP participation and performance are identical to the demographics of the overall student population.”
Though 75 percent of U.S. high school graduates enter college,7 dropout rates and the fact that about half of all college freshmen are taking at least one remedial course indicate that secondary schools must dedicate themselves to more than college admission,8 the report asserts.
“Remedial course work in college costs taxpayers an estimated $1 billion a year,”9 Caperton said. “To shrink the gap between those who enter college and those who complete a degree, we must target the divide between high school graduation standards and the skills that all students need to be prepared for the rigors of college. The critical reasoning, subject-matter expertise and study skills students must develop to succeed on the three-hour college-level AP Exams fortify high school graduates for a successful transition into their freshman year at college. This makes providing better readiness for—and access to—AP courses absolutely essential.”

Related: Dane County, WI High School AP Course Comparison. The Madison School District received a grant in 2005 to increase the number of AP classes available to students. Madison High School AP offerings, according to the College Board: East 11, Edgewood 11, LaFollette 10, Memorial 17 and West 5.
Mitchell Landsberg digs into the report here.

“Rainwater’s reign: Retiring school superintendent has made big impact”

Susan Troller on retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater:

Later this month, a new contract between Dr. Daniel Nerad and the Madison Metropolitan School District will signal the end of an era. For over a decade, Art Rainwater has been at the helm of Madison’s public schools, guiding the district during a period of rapid demographic change and increasingly painful budget cutting. Both admirers and critics believe Rainwater has had a profound impact on the district.
Retiring Madison schools superintendent Art Rainwater may have the name of a poet, but his first ambition was to be a high school football coach.
“I grew up loving football — still do — especially the intellectual challenge of the game. I was obsessed with it,” Rainwater explained in a recent interview.
In fact, during his early years as an educator, Rainwater was so consumed by his football duties for a Catholic high school in Texas he eventually switched from coaching to school administration for the sake of his family.
In some ways, Rainwater has been an unusual person to lead Madison’s school district — an assertive personality in a town notorious for talking issues to death. His management style grows out of his coaching background — he’s been willing to make unpopular decisions, takes personal responsibility for success or failure, puts a premium on loyalty and hard work and is not swayed by armchair quarterbacks.

A few related links:

Much more on Art here. Like or loath him, Art certainly poured a huge amount of his life into what is a very difficult job. I was always amazed at the early morning emails, then, later, seeing him at an evening event. Best wishes to Art as he moves on.

On Madison’s New Superintendent

Jason Shephard:

After a round of “meet and greets” with the three finalists for the job of Madison schools superintendent, insiders were divided on two favorites. Leaders who’ve pushed for greater educational reforms spoke highly of Miami’s Steve Gallon, while key institutional players favored Green Bay’s Dan Nerad.
Nerad, 56, the most battle-tested of the finalists, delivered a solid introductory speech that struck the right notes. He stressed his consensus-building record, cautioned against embracing reform for its own sake, and drew applause by blasting state revenue controls.
In contrast, Gallon seemed bolder but less experienced. He ventured into dangerous territory by saying inadequate funding shouldn’t be used as an excuse for educational failures. A 38-year-old black single father, Gallon attended the same Miami public school system where he now runs alternative programs, and many saw his potential as a visionary leader.
In the end, picking a replacement for Art Rainwater, who is retiring in June after eight years in the top job, was not hard to do. The night before school board deliberations, Gallon dropped out after finding a job on the East Coast. The Madison board unanimously made an offer to Nerad, Green Bay’s school superintendent since 2001.
Those who lobbied for Gallon behind the scenes say privately they’re over any disappointment they initially felt. And school board members say they’re excited — if not relieved — to find someone like Nerad. “It feels right. It feels good,” says board president Arlene Silveira.

Much more on Dan Nerad here

Plan for Massachusetts Education “Czar” Threatens Reforms

Charles Glenn:

Education reform is often stifled by the vested interests that resist accountability and new models like charter and pilot schools. In Massachusetts, the independence of the state Board of Education provided the continuity that allowed reform to be successfully implemented year after year.
The board was responsible for the initiatives that were the heart and soul of reform, like the MCAS exam, teacher testing, and academically rigorous curriculum frameworks. It was the board that followed a prudent course by creating rigorous charter school approval and closure processes.
Each of these reforms was the target of substantial resistance from a powerful and change-averse education establishment. Only an independent Board of Education, insulated from politics, could have made them a reality.
Despite these unparalleled successes, all we have achieved is now at risk. A proposal to eliminate the Board of Education’s independence seems to be breezing through the Legislature. The proposal would make the board just another part of Governor Patrick’s administration and thus politicize an institution that has been insulated from politics since 1837, when Horace Mann was its first leader.

Miami Expands Magnet Access

Kathleen McGrory:

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew rolled out a proposal Thursday to provide students throughout the county with greater access to specialty programs such as magnet schools, International Baccalaureate programs and K-8 Centers.
The proposed plan, dubbed the Equity & Access Plan, will create rigorous, specialized academic programs in areas that don’t yet have them, Crew said. It would run for three years, beginning in 2008, and cost about $6 million.
”When you look at the map, what you’ll essentially see is that the distribution [of programs] here has been at best, or possibly at worst, random,” Crew said. “This conversation was based largely on the need to change that map so you have more children having access to high-demand programs.”
Currently, most K-8 centers are clustered in the southern half of the county or near Aventura. Many urban neighborhoods, other than downtown Miami, do not have magnet programs nearby.
And the lone specialty school for math and science, the Maritime and Science Technology Academy, is tucked away on Key Biscayne.
Among Crew’s recommendations:

  • Develop 10 new International Baccalaureate programs, to join the 14 existing programs. Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior, Miami Carol City Senior, and Miami Beach Senior would be among the host schools.
  • Open two new mathematics and science senior high school programs. One would be a senior high school for medical technologies at the former Homestead Hospital. The other would be in northwest Miami-Dade County.
  • Develop six new magnet programs, four of which would be housed in schools in the southern part of the county.

While Crew said he is prepared to raise money to fund future projects, likely through federal and state grants, he said his initial goal was to take a strategic look at the placement of academic programs.

One of the three finalists for the Madison Superintendent position, Steve Gallon, hailed from Miami-Dade.

School boundaries get a second look

Susan Troller:

Madison parents in the Valley Ridge subdivision who objected to seeing their neighborhood split and some of their children moving to Falk Elementary may be pleased with the latest developments in planning for new west side school boundaries.
Likewise, parents who expressed concern about proposed school pairing plans that would join Falk and Stephens, or Falk and Crestwood schools, may also be breathing easier.
Those potential boundary plans might be off the table following the School Board’s long-range planning committee on Monday.
Carol Carstensen, chairwoman of the board’s planning committee, said the administration was asked this week to refine what’s become known as Plan B, which keeps more children in their current schools than previous plans. As part of Plan B, children in areas surrounding Channel 3 on the city’s western fringe may be moved to Falk Elementary, which is in a contiguous neighborhood, Carstensen said.
The boundary changes are necessary because of the need to balance student enrollments at west side elementary schools in anticipation of opening a new far west side elementary school next fall. The new school, located west of Highway M, is now under construction.
School boundary changes try to balance the use and capacity of school buildings with the distance and cost of transporting students. In addition, there is an effort to provide an economic mix of students, Carstensen said.

Background: boundary changes.

ACT required at Monona Grove

Gena Kittner:

College-bound or not, all juniors at Monona Grove High School will spend more than four hours this spring filling in tiny bubbles as part of a mandatory ACT test.
District administrators say the school will be the first in the state to administer the college preparatory test to all juniors, and will foot the $11,000 bill.
Although not a novel idea — five states require the test of all juniors — the idea of using the ACT to better judge proficiency in areas such as reading, math and science appeals to other area districts.
“All students need to have college-readiness skills in areas like reading and math no matter what they plan to do after high school, ” said Bill Breisch, curriculum director for Monona Grove School District. “Graduating with college-readiness skills is no longer just for some of our high school students. ”
By requiring the test of juniors, the district is also offering college-bound students a year to get on track if their scores show them weak in a certain area, Breisch said. That way, seniors aren ‘t blindsided when they take the ACT and find out they have to take remedial math in college, he said.

Case Studies of Higher-Performing Middle Schools


Case studies are produced as part of a larger study of middle schools conducted during the 2006-07 school year. Research teams investigated ten consistently higher-performing and six consistently average-performing middle schools based on student performance on New York State Assessments of 8th-grade English Language Arts and Mathematics.
Research teams used site-based interviews of teachers and administrators, as well as analysis of supportive documentation, to determine differences in practices between higher- and average-performing schools in the sample.

Tin-eared and Wrong-headed

TJ Mertz:

At the Board of Education meeting Monday (2/4/2008) a proposal was put forth to enact new limits on public testimony. This proposal and the way it was introduced and discussed showed some on the Board at their worst, both tin-eared and wrong-headed. These are overlapping criticisms, because with the interactions between elected officials and the public, perceptions (tin-eared) and realities (wrong-headed) are inseparable.
Before I go further a caveat is in order. I did not attend the meeting on Monday and only watched the last 45 minutes or so at home. Still, I’m pretty confident in what I have to say.

Race out as reason to deny Madison school transfers

Susan Troller:

Madison School Board members voted Monday night to halt the practice of using race as a reason to deny transfers by white students to other school districts for the current open enrollment period, which began Monday and continues through Feb. 22. [About open enrollment: Part and Full Time]
The decision was made by unanimous vote during the board’s regular meeting, following a closed-door session with district superintendent Art Rainwater and the district’s legal staff.
Last year, the portion of the district’s open enrollment policy focusing on achieving racial balance in district schools affected about 120 students whose requests for transfer were denied, Rainwater said in a short interview following the meeting.
He said he had no idea how many students might be affected during the current enrollment period.
He also said that the Madison district has been closely following state statute regarding open enrollment, although it is the only district in the state to have denied transfers based on race.
“We take the laws of the state of Wisconsin very seriously,” Rainwater said. “I guess I’d question why in the past the other districts weren’t following the law as it’s written.”

Background: Madison Schools’ Using race to deny white student transfers to be topic for the School Board by Andy Hall

Group to Monitor the Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

An impressive group of what Sister Joel Read called “good, critical friends” came together Monday to announce that it was launching an effort aimed at providing both support and pressure for Milwaukee Public Schools to meet the ambitious goals of its new strategic plan.
Representatives of the business community, labor, education institutions, community groups and the state and local political worlds took part in the session at the new downtown headquarters of Manpower International, led by Read, the retired president of Alverno College.
“You’ve got a buy-in here,” said Mayor Tom Barrett, who will be a member of the committee, known as the Accountability and Support Group. “We all know what’s at stake here – the future of the city.”
Jeff Joerres, chief executive officer of Manpower, told the group that life needs to be put into the strategic plan because the future of the economy of the city depends on education and commitment to success. There is no option about whether to make sure there is momentum in improving education, he said.
The group will meet quarterly to look at how things are going in MPS, beginning in May, Read said. She said she expected the meetings to be demanding and detailed.
“We’ll do the things that good, critical friends do,” she said.
Circuit Judge Carl Ashley, a member of the group, said this is a time of necessity and opportunity for MPS – necessity because of the importance of improving educational results, and opportunity because “there is a coordinated community response” to what is going on.

Related editorial:

A new citizens’ committee reviewing plans for improving instruction must insist that MPS reach its high goals.

Schools embracing powers for police
New law allows districts to authorize officers, set policies and obtain law enforcement training

Andy Gammill:

Half a dozen Indiana school boards are considering whether to take on the new responsibility of authorizing police officers.
The move could create a minefield of issues from issuing badges to setting policies. So far, Pike Township Schools may be the only district to use a new law that allows school boards to appoint officers.
Previously, school districts could not grant police powers, although several have long said they have “police departments” that derive authority from a local sheriff or police chief.
In districts that convert, students will see little difference. A badge or uniform may change, but few officers will change duties.
The change affects school boards, which will have greater responsibility for making police policy regarding training, firearms use, police chases and various protocols.
Any school police policy entrusted to mayors and sheriffs would rest with school boards, too.
Pike Township Schools became the first school district to launch its own police department in July. Brownsburg, Center Grove and Indianapolis Public Schools are among those considering the change.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.

“A Modest Proposal for the Schools:”
Eliminate local control

A provocative title for a must read. It addresses a number of issues, from local outsize influence on school boards to Wisconsin’s low state standards:

Congress erred big-time when NCLB assigned each state to set its own standards and devise and score its own tests … this study underscores the folly of a big modern nation, worried about its global competitiveness, nodding with approval as Wisconsin sets its eighth-grade reading passing level at the 14th percentile while South Carolina sets its at the 71st percentile.

Matt Miller via a kind reader’s email:

It wasn’t just the slate and pencil on every desk, or the absence of daily beatings. As Horace Mann sat in a Leipzig classroom in the summer of 1843, it was the entire Prussian system of schools that impressed him. Mann was six years into the work as Massachusetts secretary of education that would earn him lasting fame as the “father of public education.” He had sailed from Boston to England several weeks earlier with his new wife, combining a European honeymoon with educational fact-finding. In England, the couple had been startled by the luxury and refinement of the upper classes, which exceeded anything they had seen in America and stood in stark contrast to the poverty and ignorance of the masses. If the United States was to avoid this awful chasm and the social upheaval it seemed sure to create, he thought, education was the answer. Now he was seeing firsthand the Prussian schools that were the talk of reformers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Massachusetts, Mann’s vision of “common schools,” publicly funded and attended by all, represented an inspiring democratic advance over the state’s hodgepodge of privately funded and charity schools. But beyond using the bully pulpit, Mann had little power to make his vision a reality. Prussia, by contrast, had a system designed from the center. School attendance was compulsory. Teachers were trained at national institutes with the same care that went into training military officers. Their enthusiasm for their subjects was contagious, and their devotion to students evoked reciprocal affection and respect, making Boston’s routine resort to classroom whippings seem barbaric.
Mann also admired Prussia’s rigorous national curriculum and tests. The results spoke for themselves: illiteracy had been vanquished. To be sure, Prussian schools sought to create obedient subjects of the kaiser—hardly Mann’s aim. Yet the lessons were undeniable, and Mann returned home determined to share what he had seen. In the seventh of his legendary “Annual Reports” on education to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he touted the benefits of a national system and cautioned against the “calamities which result … from leaving this most important of all the functions of a government to chance.”
Mann’s epiphany that summer put him on the wrong side of America’s tradition of radical localism when it came to schools. And although his efforts in the years that followed made Massachusetts a model for taxpayer-funded schools and state-sponsored teacher training, the obsession with local control—not incidentally, an almost uniquely American obsession—still dominates U.S. education to this day. For much of the 150 or so years between Mann’s era and now, the system served us adequately: during that time, we extended more schooling to more people than any nation had before and rose to superpower status. But let’s look at what local control gives us today, in the “flat” world in which our students will have to compete.
The United States spends more than nearly every other nation on schools, but out of 29 developed countries in a 2003 assessment, we ranked 24th in math and in problem-solving, 18th in science, and 15th in reading. Half of all black and Latino students in the U.S. don’t graduate on time (or ever) from high school. As of 2005, about 70 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in reading. By the end of eighth grade, what passes for a math curriculum in America is two years behind that of other countries.
Dismal fact after dismal fact; by now, they are hardly news. But in the 25 years since the landmark report A Nation at Risk sounded the alarm about our educational mediocrity, America’s response has been scattershot and ineffective, orchestrated mainly by some 15,000 school districts acting alone, with help more recently from the states. It’s as if after Pearl Harbor, FDR had suggested we prepare for war through the uncoordinated efforts of thousands of small factories; they’d know what kinds of planes and tanks were needed, right?
When you look at what local control of education has wrought, the conclusion is inescapable: we must carry Mann’s insights to their logical end and nationalize our schools, to some degree. But before delving into the details of why and how, let’s back up for a moment and consider what brought us to this pass.


Madison Schools’ Using race to deny white student transfers to be topic for the School Board

Andy Hall:

As families’ application deadline looms, many are wondering whether the Madison School District will halt its practice of using race as the reason for denying some white students’ requests to transfer to other districts.
The answer could begin to emerge as early as Monday, the first day for Wisconsin families
to request open-enrollment transfers for the coming school year.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater and the district’s legal counsel will confer Monday night with the School Board. It’s possible that after the closed-door discussion, the board will take a vote in open session to stop blocking open-enrollment requests on the basis of race, School Board President Arlene Silveira said.
“This is a serious decision for our school district, ” Rainwater said.
“It is our responsibility to take a very careful look at legal issues facing our school district. ”
Last year, Madison was the only of the state’s 426 school districts to deny transfer requests because of race, rejecting 126 white students’ applications to enroll in other districts, including online schools. Many of the affected students live within the district but weren’t enrolled in public schools because they were being home-schooled or attended private schools.

Related articles:

93 Milwaukee Rufus King Students Present International Baccalaureate Papers

Alan Borsuk:

Three things to know about Mohammad Mohammad:
He’s a senior at Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School, he’s a good student, and he’s a big sports fan.
You can serve all that on a silver platter.
At least that’s what Mohammad did this week at a program honoring him and 92 fellow students for completing lengthy research papers as part of their work at the school.
The 3,000- to 4,000-word papers – “extended essays” – are required for students who want to receive the International Baccalaureate diploma. For those who complete such a paper – a process that begins in the spring of their junior years – it is a tradition to present the final product on a silver platter to the teacher who advised the student along the way, followed by the student and the teacher each commenting on what was learned.
The silver platter ceremony was held this week, and the 93 who presented their work are the largest group to complete the formidable research project in King’s nearly 30-year history as an IB school.
The topics they researched included matters from the worlds of science, history, art, religion and beyond. Daniel Gatewood, one of the advisers, said as he commented on one of his student’s papers, “I didn’t learn to write like this until graduate school.”
Mohammad said, “Every time I get one of these papers, I try to incorporate sports into it.” He chose as his topic the effects on American and Soviet psyches of the “Miracle on Ice” victory of the U.S. hockey team over the Russians at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Links: International Baccalaureate website, Milwaukee Rufus King High School and Clusty search on the school.

Boston School Superintendent Reorganizes District Administration

Marie Szaniszio:

Five months after taking over as Boston public schools superintendent, Carol R. Johnson last night proposed a shakeup in her administration to close the achievement gap among students and ensure “graduation for all.”
Under her plan, a new office will focus on closing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers, as well as the performance gaps between rich and poor, between male and female, and between English and non-English speaking students.
The superintendent also announced a reorganization of the district’s administration, including the appointment of a new chief academic officer and five academic superintendents to supervise and support school principals.

James McIntyre, currently Boston’s Chief Operating Officer, was a finalist for the Madison Superintendent position.
The article includes quite a few local comments.

Wisconsin Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off Debate

Sam Dillon:

Weekday mornings, three of Tracie Weldie’s children eat breakfast, make beds and trudge off to public school — in their case, downstairs to their basement in a suburb here, where their mother leads them through math and other lessons outlined by an Internet-based charter school.
Half a million American children take classes online, with a significant group, like the Weldies, getting all their schooling from virtual public schools. The rapid growth of these schools has provoked debates in courtrooms and legislatures over money, as the schools compete with local districts for millions in public dollars, and over issues like whether online learning is appropriate for young children.
One of the sharpest debates has concerned the Weldies’ school in Wisconsin, where last week the backers of online education persuaded state lawmakers to keep it and 11 other virtual schools open despite a court ruling against them and the opposition of the teachers union. John Watson, a consultant in Colorado who does an annual survey of education that is based on the Internet, said events in Wisconsin followed the pattern in other states where online schools have proliferated fast.
“Somebody says, ‘What’s going on, does this make sense?’ ” Mr. Watson said. “And after some inquiry most states have said, ‘Yes, we like online learning, but these are such new ways of teaching children that we’ll need to change some regulations and get some more oversight.’ ”
Two models of online schooling predominate. In Florida, Illinois and half a dozen other states, growth has been driven by a state-led, state-financed virtual school that does not give a diploma but offers courses that supplement regular work at a traditional school. Generally, these schools enroll only middle and high school students.

Brave new world for Chicago schools

Kayce Ataiyero & Carlos Sadovi:

No school district in the nation has yet managed what Chicago officials proposed last week: a sweeping, simultaneous overhaul of a cluster of failing schools.
Experts say the plan to fire the staffs of eight schools and replace them with better qualified educators is somewhat of a gamble, one that will require an almost perfect alignment of stellar principals, committed teachers and re-invigorated curriculum and programs to succeed.
But that’s no guarantee.
“No one knows if turnarounds work,” said Andrew Calkins of the Mass Insight Education and Research Institute. “We spent two years looking at turnarounds and could not find a single example of turnaround work that was successful and sustained and done on scale, not just one school.”
As Chicago parents began to digest the proposal first reported in the Tribune on Thursday, many seemed willing to roll the dice — in part, an acknowledgment that even partial success is better than what their children face now.
Fara Bell, a Morton Career Academy parent, said turning around both Orr High School and Morton, an elementary school that feeds into it, is the only way to guarantee wholesale change.

We’re Failing Our Kids

Garrison Keillor:

Reading is the key to everything. Teaching children to read is a fundamental moral obligation of the society. That 27 percent are at serious risk of crippling illiteracy is an outrageous scandal.
This is a bleak picture for an old Democrat. Face it, the schools are not run by Republican oligarchs in top hats and spats but by perfectly nice, caring, sharing people, with a smattering of yoga/raga/tofu/mojo/mantra folks like my old confreres. Nice people are failing these kids, but when they are called on it, they get very huffy. When the grand poobah Ph.D.s of education stand up and blow, they speak with great confidence about theories of teaching, and considering the test results, the bums ought to be thrown out.
There is much evidence that teaching phonics really works, especially with kids with learning disabilities, a growing constituency. But because phonics is associated with behaviorism and with conservatives, and because the Current Occupant has spoken on the subject, my fellow liberals are opposed.

Denver School Seeks Freedom From District & Union Rules

Jeremy Meyer:

Teachers at a school in northeast Denver seeking freedom from union and district rules will move forward with their autonomy plan, despite failing to get wholesale approval from their union.
Teachers and administrators at Bruce Randolph School want control over the school’s budget, teacher time, incentives and hiring decisions and to be free from union and district red tape that they say is impeding student progress.
Denver’s school board last month agreed to the Bruce Randolph autonomy proposal, but the teachers union balked Tuesday at permitting much of the school’s request — which sought waivers from 18 articles of the union contract and parts of six other articles.

Joanne has more information. Los Angeles recently set a few schools “free” as well.

Notes and Links on Madison’s New Superintendent: Daniel Nerad

Andy Hall:

“Certainly I feel excitement about this possibility, but I also want you to know that this has not been an easy process for me, ” Nerad told reporters Monday night at a Green Bay School Board meeting as he confirmed he was ending a 32-year career in the district where his two children grew up.
“My hope is that I have been able to contribute to the well-being of children in this community — first and foremost, regardless of what the role is. ”
Nerad conditionally accepted the position Monday, pending a final background check, successful contract negotiations and a visit by a delegation from the Madison School Board, President Arlene Silveira said at a news conference in Madison.

Susan Troller:

Green Bay schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad has been chosen to succeed Art Rainwater as head of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
School Board President Arlene Silveira said Monday night that Nerad, 56, was the board’s unanimous top choice. She said they offered him the job on Saturday, following board interviews with finalists last week and deliberations on Saturday morning.
Silveira said Nerad asked the board to delay announcing its choice until he was able to meet with members of the Green Bay School Board Monday at 6 p.m. Silveira made the announcement at 7 p.m. in Madison.
“This is a very, very exciting choice for the district, and for the Board,” Silveira said.
“Dr. Nerad overwhelmingly met every one of the desired superintendent characteristics that helped guide the hiring process,” she added.

Kelly McBride:

Many of Nerad’s challenges as Madison schools chief will mirror those he has faced in Green Bay, Silveira said, including changing student demographics and working within the confines of the current state funding formula.
Both the Green Bay and Madison school districts are members of the Minority Student Achievement Network, a nationwide coalition of schools dedicated to ensuring high academic achievement for students of color.
Network membership is one way Nerad and Rainwater became acquainted, Rainwater said in an interview earlier this month.
Nerad said Monday he regrets that more progress hasn’t been made in advancing the achievement of minority students during his tenure. But he believes it will happen, he said.
The next head of the Green Bay schools also will inherit the aftermath of a failed 2007 referendum for a fifth district high school and other projects.
A community-based task force charged with next steps has been working since summer, and its work will continue regardless of who’s at the helm, School Board vice president and task force member Katie Maloney said Monday.
Still, Maloney said it won’t be easy to see him go.

Audio, video, notes and links on Daniel Nerad’s recent Madison public appearance.
I wish Dan well in what will certainly be an interesting, challenging and stimulating next few years. Thanks also to the Madison School Board for making it happen.

More on Madison West Side Boundary Changes


Parents on the west side are speaking out about proposed plans that would change school boundaries for more than 100 children.
The Madison School Board drew up four possible plans that would affect students attending Falk, Stephens and Crestwood elementary schools, and all possibilities drew a lot of criticism.
The school board said their “plan A” would divide 151 students living in the Valley Ridge neighborhood between Crestwood and Falk elementary schools. That plan, released in December, garnered strong opposition, leading the board to propose three new plans.
Their “plan B” would call for Valley Ridge students to stay at Stephens Elementary and move students from other neighborhoods, including Spring Harbor and Junction Road.
Their “plan C” calls for the pairing of Stephens and Crestwood schools and “plan D” would call for Crestwood and Falk pairing up.
School board officials said if any of the schools were paired, students would attend one school from kindergarten through second grade, and then move to the other school for grades three through five.

Much more, here.

Nerad Selected As Madison School District’s New Superintendent


Green Bay school superintendent Daniel Nerad has been chosen to become the Madison school district’s next superintendent.
The Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education announced on Monday night that it unanimously selected Nerad as the new superintendent. Nerad has conditionally accepted, pending a final background check, contract negotiations and a site visit by a board delegation, according to a district news release.
Nerad is currently the superintendent of the Green Bay Area Public School District.
Nerad will replace current Superintendent Art Rainwater, who turned 65 on New Year’s Day, and is scheduled to retire on June 30. Nerad is scheduled to take over on July 1.


A Madison School District spokesman said school board members voted unanimously to select Green Bay Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad as the next superintendent of Madison’s public schools.
District spokesman Ken Syke said Nerad has conditionally accepted the position, pending a background check, contract negotiations and a site visit to Green Bay by a delegation from the school board.
The offer to Nerad was reported exclusively by, hours before the school district spokesman’s announcement.
School Board members had identified Nerad, Miami-Dade Public Schools administrator Steve Gallon, and Boston Public Schools Budget Director James McIntyre as the three finalists for the position.
Nerad, 56, is a Wisconsin native who was named state superintendent of the year in 2006.

Kelly McBride:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has chosen Green Bay school superintendent Daniel Nerad to be its next superintendent.
Madison School Board president Arlene Silveira made the announcement tonight during a 7 p.m. news conference in Madison, saying Nerad was a unanimous choice for the job.
Nerad, 56, who has almost 33 years experience with the Green Bay district, would replace retiring Madison superintendent Art Rainwater. He is expected to begin work in Madison on July 1. Rainwater retires June 30.
Nerad has been superintendent in Green Bay since 2001.

Gallon drops out of Madison superintendent race

Andy Hall, via a reader’s email:

high-ranking Miami-Dade Public Schools official says he withdrew his candidacy to become superintendent of the Madison School District, leaving just two educators from Green Bay and Boston in the running to head Wisconsin’s second-largest school district.
“My withdrawal is in no fashion any reflection on the people of Madison or the school district,” Steve Gallon III, who oversees Miami-Dade’s alternative education schools and programs, said Monday afternoon.
Gallon said he believes the School Board was notified of his decision before it began its deliberations Saturday to name its top pick to succeed Superintendent Art Rainwater, who is retiring on June 30.
Gallon, a Miami native, said “people in Wisconsin were great” last week during his visit. He said it would be “presumptuous” of him to discuss his reasons for stepping aside, and Board President Arlene Silveira “would be a better position to share” the details.
Silveira said according to the school board’s consultant Gallon took another superintendent’s job.

Related: WKOW-TV report on the MMSD’s offer to Dan Nerad.

Green Bay Superintendent Offered Madison Position


Two sources close to the process of selecting a new Madison Schools Superintendent tell 27 News the position has been offered to Green Bay School District Superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Green Bay School District spokesperson Amanda Brooker told 27 News Nerad, 56, would not comment Monday on the selection process.
Madison School Board President Arlene Silviera also declined comment.
School Board members had identified Nerad, Miami-Dade Public Schools administrator Steve Gallon, and Boston Public Schools Budget Director James McIntyre as the three finalists for the position.

Middle School Report Cards Future?

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

Texas School District Challenges State “Robin Hood” Finance System

Terrance Stutz:

Protests from this small school district nestled in the Texas Hill Country are reverberating across the state’s school finance landscape.
School board members – backed by parents and local business owners – have decided to say “no” when their payment comes due next month under the state’s “Robin Hood” school funding law.
Wimberley is one of more than 160 high-wealth school districts – including several in the Dallas area – that are required to share their property tax revenue with other districts. But residents here insist that their students will suffer if they turn the money over to the state.
“We’re not going to pay it,” said Gary Pigg, vice president of the Wimberley school board and a small-business owner. “Our teachers are some of the lowest-paid in the area. Our buildings need massive repairs. We keep running a deficit – and they still want us to give money away.
“It’s unconstitutional – and I’m ready to go to jail if I have to.”
Mr. Pigg and the rest of the Wimberley school board voted last fall to withhold the payment of an estimated $3.1 million in local property taxes – one-sixth of the district’s total revenue – that was supposed to be sent to the state under the share-the-wealth school finance law passed in 1993. The law was passed in response to a series of court orders calling for equalized funding among school districts.

Wisconsin’s school finance system takes a similar approach: High property assessement values reduce state aids. Unlike Texas, Wisconsin simply redistributes fewer state tax dollars to Districts with “high” property values, such as Madison. Texas requires Districts to send some of their property tax receipts to the state to be redistributed to other districts. School finance has many complicated aspects, one of which is a “Robin Hood” like provision. Another is “Negative Aid“: If Madison increases spending via referendums, it loses state aid. This situation is referenced in the article:

Regarding the possibility of a tax hike, Mr. York noted that an increase would require voter approval – something that is not likely to happen with residents knowing that a big chunk of their money will be taken by the state.

One of the many ironies in our school finance system is that there is an incentive to grow the tax base, or the annual assessment increases. The politicians can then point to the flat or small growth in the mill rate, rather than the growth in the total tax burden.
Finally, those who strongly advocate for changes in Wisconsin’s school finance system must be ready for unintended consequences, such as reduced funding for “rich” districts, like Madison. Madison’s spending has increased at an average rate of 5.25% over the past 20 years, while enrollment has remained essentially flat (though the student population has changed).

On Madison Boundary Changes

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

Continue reading On Madison Boundary Changes

A Look At Alexandria’s Superintendent Search

Daniela Deane:

School Board Chairman Claire M. Eberwein said that 18 people have formally applied for the job Perry left Jan. 18 and that search consultants indicate eight are highly qualified. More possible candidates have been identified from a pool of 141 people who expressed interest. The application deadline is Feb. 19.
Experts aren’t surprised that the job is drawing interest despite Perry’s abrupt exit after more than six years. They credit the attractiveness of Alexandria and the surrounding region as a place to work and live.
In May, the board voted 5 to 4 to seek a new schools chief. The way Perry was suddenly removed caused consternation among some residents. Minutes after she left, a locksmith changed the locks.
“There was widespread dismay at how the process went,” said Kitty Porterfield, a 29-year employee of Northern Virginia school systems and author of a new book, “Getting It Right: Why Good School Communication Matters.” She said, “The community is very wary now.”
Looking ahead, William Campbell, a PTA president and a member of the superintendent advisory search committee, said he wants a superintendent who did not rise through the traditional school ranks, perhaps a chief executive of a business.
Houston said some school systems have recruited such candidates recently with mixed results. “Some of them have been a disaster,” Houston said. “The jury’s still out on that model.”
Finding a superintendent these days isn’t easy, despite the hefty salary the position commands, experts say. For the Alexandria job, the board is advertising an annual salary of about $230,000 and a “comprehensive and competitive” benefits package.
“The superintendency has lost a lot of its luster,” said Jay P. Goldman, editor of the school administrator association’s magazine. “There was a time, not that long ago, when the pinnacle of one’s career would be to rise to superintendent. That day is gone.”
Goldman said many educators now view the top job in a school district as “an impossible, can’t-win position. They’re often brought in as the knight in shining armor. Expectations are unreal. Communities expect overnight success and every ill solved in a year or two.”

Endgame: Madison Superintendent Candidate Summary

Andy Hall:

The Madison School Board will meet behind closed doors this morning to begin determining which of the three finalists it’d like to hire to replace Superintendent Art Rainwater, who retires June 30.
Three men from Miami, Boston and Green Bay who share an obsession for education but offer sharply differing backgrounds visited Madison this week to compete for the job of heading Wisconsin’s second-largest school district.

Candidate details, including links, photos, audio and video:

We’ll soon see what the smoke signals from the Doyle building reveal.

Democracy works for virtual schools. Hallelujah

Jo Egelhoff:

Congratulations to virtual school students, virtual school families, forward-thinking school districts around the state**, and to all Wisconsinites dedicated to high quality education for all. As reported in several news outlets yesterday, legislators have agreed to a compromise that guarantees the survival of virtual schools in Wisconsin.
**Thank you Lee Allinger, AASD Superintendent, and your staff, for preparing testimony in support of continuation of Wisconsin Connections Academy.
Thank you and congratulations to the Coalition of Virtual School Families, who issued this press release of thanks (and relief) yesterday.
But mostly, hallelujah! for democratic process and to kids and families who made a difference. Kids and families – 1100 of whom showed up in Madison last week to plea for their cause. Wow.
And congratulations to State Rep. Brett Davis and Senator John Lehman, who were able to reach across the aisle (political pressure didn’t hurt – see above) and find a solution.

Parents Fight Plan To Shift Kids To Falk

Andy Hall:

The new elementary school being built on Madison’s Far West Side, already mired in controversy over its name, now is part of a second emotional debate: Which students should be uprooted from their current schools when school attendance boundaries are redrawn this year to accommodate the new school and recent population changes?
A well-organized group of dozens of Stephens Elementary parents is fighting the Madison School District’s proposal to move 83 students from Stephens to Falk Elementary. The students would be among 524 at seven elementary and middle schools affected by the proposal, which is known as Plan A.
Parents in the Valley Ridge neighborhood contend their children, most of whom are from middle-class backgrounds, would receive an inferior education at Falk because the school already has an extraordinarily high number of low-income and other students who need extra attention.
Fifty-three percent of Falk’s students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, compared to an average of 36 percent at elementary schools in the Memorial High School attendance area.

More here.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Dan Nerad’s Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (168mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 11MB mp3 audio file. Learn more about the other candidates: Steve Gallon and Jim McIntyre.
I spoke briefly with Dan Nerad yesterday and asked if Green Bay had gone to referendum recently. He mentioned that they asked for a fifth high school in 2007, a $75M question that failed at the ballot. The Green Bay Press Gazette posted a summary of that effort. The Press Gazette urged a no vote. Clusty Search on Green Bay School Referendum, Google, Live, Yahoo.
Related Links:

  • Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of Schools — Green Bay Area Public School District, Green Bay, Wisconsin [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search ]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:

    Dan Nerad believes it takes a village to educate a child, and after three decades of being a leader in Green Bay’s schools, he’d like to bring his skills here as the Madison district’s next superintendent.
    Nerad, 56, is superintendent of the Green Bay public school system, which has just more than 20,000 students.
    At a third and final public meet-and-greet session for the candidates for Madison school superintendent on Thursday at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Nerad spoke of his passion for helping students and his philosophies of educational leadership.
    Speaking to a crowd of about 70 community members, Nerad began his brief remarks by quoting Chief Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.”
    “I believe the ‘us’ must really be us — all of us — working to meet the needs of all children,” he said. Several times during his remarks, he emphasized that education is an investment in work force development, in the community and in the future.
    He also said that he believes it’s a moral commitment.
    Nerad talked about his efforts to create an entire district of leaders, and the importance of a healthy, collaborative culture in the schools. He said he saw diversity as “a strong, strong asset” because it allows kids to learn in an atmosphere that reflects the world they are likely to live in.

Emma Carlisle and Cora Wiese Moore provided music during the event. Both attend Blackhawk Middle School.

Wisconsin Governor Doyle on Teacher Pay

Alan Borsuk:

It was definitely not one of his spotlighted points, but Gov. Jim Doyle, in his State of the State address this week, said he wants to see the overall pay structure of teachers in Wisconsin improved and he will make proposals in that direction when the next round of the state budget process starts a year from now. From the text released by the governor’s office, here is what Doyle said:
“We need high standards for our students and our teachers, but we have a compensation system that rewards neither. The system is broken. It’s a relic from a political fight a half a generation ago. From Waukesha to Wausau, school districts, parents, and taxpayers have all had enough.

Virginia Parents Resist Math “Investigations” Curriculum

Ian Shapira:

A group of Prince William County parents is mounting a campaign to repeal a new elementary school math curriculum, using an Internet discussion group and an online petition to gather support and fuel criticism.
The group, whose members include parents from such elementary schools as Westridge, Ashland and Springwoods as well as teachers from various schools, plans to present the Prince William County School Board in February with its petition, which has about 500 names. Parents in the group, whose Web site ( lists several of their complaints, say that the Investigations curriculum is putting their children behind grade level and is too convoluted.
The group’s formation comes right after the school system presented a year-long study of the curriculum that showed 80 percent of second-graders and 70 percent of first-graders are proficient on all 10 subtests of the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test. The school system wants to continue studying the program and incorporate data from student performance on the state Standards of Learning exams.
School Board member Julie C. Lucas (Neabsco) said in an interview that she wants to examine the program inside a classroom to assess its effectiveness. She added that she has been hearing positive reviews from at least one principal in her district but that she wants to withhold making public comments until she visits schools.
The Investigations program has been undergoing a phased-in implementation since the School Board adopted its materials in 2006. In the 2006-07 academic year, kindergarten through second grade started the program; this year, third-graders began it; and next year, fourth-graders will use the material.
Investigations teaches children new ways of learning mathematics and solving problems. For instance, a student may not need to learn how to add 37 and 23 by stacking the figures on top of each other, and carrying the numbers. They may learn to add up the tens and then combine the seven and three to arrive at 60.


  • Math Forum Audio / Video
  • Madison School District’s Math Task Force
  • Clusty Search: Math Investigations
  • Teaching Math Right website:

    Why this website?
    …Because our children – ALL children – deserve a quality mathematics education in PWCS!!
    In 2006 PWCS directed mandatory implementation of the elementary school mathematics curriculum TERC – “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space” in all PWCS elementary schools. The traditional, proven, successful mathematics program was abandoned for a “discovery learning” program that has a record of failure across the country.
    Of all the VA Department of Education approved elementary math text/materials, “Investigations” least adequately supports the VA Standards of Learning. Yet it was somehow “the right choice” for PWCS children. Parents of 2nd and 3d graders are already realizing the negative impact of this program in only a year and a half’s worth of “Investigations.” Children subjected to this program end up two years behind where they should be in mathematics fluency and competency by the end of 5th grade. PWCS is committed to experimenting with our children’s future. We think our children and our tax dollars deserve better.

Madison Superintendent Candidate James McIntyre’s Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (195mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 12.3MB mp3 audio file. Watch [64MB mpeg4 download – CTRL-Click]or listen to a short, informal chat. Learn more about the other candidates: Steve Gallon and Dan Nerad
Related Links:

  • Dr. James McIntyre, Chief Operating Officer – Boston Public Schools, Boston, Massachusetts [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:

    The students in an alternative high school in East St. Louis inspired Jim McIntyre when he was their teacher and continue to inspire him today as an administrator in the Boston public school system.
    McIntyre, 40, spoke late Wednesday afternoon at Monona Terrace to a crowd of around 50 people at the second of three public meet-and-greet sessions for the final candidates vying for the job of Madison school superintendent.
    “Teaching in East St. Louis was a life-changing experience,” McIntyre explained.
    “Many of my students were children who lived under very, very difficult circumstances. When you were able to eliminate some of the distractions they faced and get them engaged in school, they were smart, talented students,” he said.
    But for some, the odds were so difficult, and their lives so daunting that hope was hard to maintain.
    “My brightest student, my best student, took his own life because he just didn’t see any future. It’s with me every day,” McIntyre said.
    McIntyre, 40, is currently the chief operating officer of the Boston public school system, which has an operating budget of about $800 million. Before becoming chief operating officer about two years ago, McIntyre was budget director of the district, which serves about 57,000 students, for 8 years.
    He says he tries to bring a student-centered focus to his job managing facilities, food service, safety, transportation and all other aspects of his job.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Steve Gallon’s Public Appearance

Watch a 28 minute question and answer session at Monona Terrace yesterday
, download the .mp4 video file (175mb, CTRL-Click this link) or listen to this 11.3MB mp3 audio file. Learn more about the other candidates: Jim McIntyre and Dan Nerad.
Related Links:

  • Dr. Steve Gallon, District Administrative Director – Miami/Dade Public Schools, Miami, Florida [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]
  • Desired Superintendent Characteristics
  • Five Candidates Named
  • Learn more about the three candidates
  • NBC15
  • Hire the best
  • Susan Troller:

    As a life-long resident of southern Florida, school superintendent candidate Steve Gallon III grimaced, then grinned, when asked about how he liked Wisconsin weather.
    Known as a motivational speaker as well as a top teacher, principal and administrator in the Miami/Dade County public school system, Gallon quickly got back on message: He sees his experiences as an educator and a leader as a good match for the school district here, especially given its rapidly changing demographics and challenges in funding.
    He said the issue of underperforming students is not so much one of ethnicity but of economics.
    “What we have to do is embrace the reality that gaps in achievement exist,” Gallon said. Much of it, he said, has to do with economic disadvantage.
    “It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room. You must acknowledge that work needs to be done before you’re going to be successful in dealing with it,” he said.
    Gallon, 39, is one of three finalists for the position of school superintendent here. He talked with community members and the media in a meet and greet session late Monday afternoon at Monona Terrace. There will be similar sessions today and Wednesday for candidates James McIntyre, chief operating officer for the Boston public schools and Daniel Nerad, superintendent of the Green Bay district.
    In responses to questions from the audience, Gallon applauded the notion of working closely with the resources of the University of Wisconsin, said he believed in the least restrictive environment for special education students and cautioned that problems facing schools in terms of funding weren’t likely to be solved easily.

Wisconsin State Tax Receipt Growth Slows from 3% to 1%

Steven Walters:

Collections of the three most important Wisconsin taxes increased less than 1% in the second half of 2007 – falling far short of the 3% assumed growth needed to cover state expenditures this year and raising fears that deep spending cuts will be necessary.
Preliminary state Department of Revenue totals show the personal and corporate income tax and the sales tax brought in $5.13 billion from July through December, an increase of only 0.8% over the same period in 2006.
Those three taxes account for $9 out of every $10 in general-fund taxes.
Every unexpected 1% drop in collections from those taxes means state government will have $120 million less a year to spend. If tax collections don’t pick up, the shortfall would quickly wipe out the projected $67 million surplus Capitol leaders had hoped for this fiscal year and force reductions across state government.
Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle said he will warn of the economic downturn in his sixth “state of the state” message Wednesday. Many states are facing economic slowdowns, and California must fix a $14.5 billion shortfall, Doyle noted.
In his speech, Doyle said, “I’m going to talk pretty directly that this is a challenge that we have ahead of us, and we have to face up to it. Unless the national economy just totally goes into the tank, this is something we can manage and get through. But it’s going to be pretty tough.”

A reduction in the rate of State tax receipt increases makes it unlikely that there will be meaningful reform in redistributed state tax dollars flowing back to local school districts.

Milwaukee School Board board objects to federal provisos

Alan Borsuk:

With millions of dollars in aid to schools at stake, the Milwaukee School Board has put the brakes on a main element of a plan to get MPS off the list of districts not measuring up under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“I dare them to take money out of kids’ classrooms,” board member Jennifer Morales said. She has led the charge to oppose two steps required under a plan the board agreed to in September for dealing with MPS’ label of District Identified for Improvement under the federal law.
Morales said she had reached the point of refusing to cooperate any further with the requirements of what she called a failed law distracting MPS from doing things that actually improve student achievement.
“Now is the moment when we just say ‘enough,’ ” she said. “If we don’t hold the line and say, ‘No way, we’re not going to play this stupid game and waste the taxpayers’ money,’ who is?”
At a meeting Thursday night, board members reluctantly approved one of the steps in the DIFI plan, but halted the other. The board voted to delay hiring required under the plan, yet a disputed reading program will begin.

Rethinking Principal Priorities of Training

Jay Matthews:

Cities across America have long hunted for tougher, better-trained principals to turn around struggling schools full of impoverished children. A major university and an influential group of educators in Texas are proposing a provocative way to meet the demand: They say urban principals of the future can skip the traditional education school credentials and learn instead about business.
The nascent movement toward an alternative path to school leadership is driven by the troubles facing schools in the District and elsewhere as would-be reformers argue that a key to raising student achievement is to overhaul personnel, from the central office down to the classroom. The change also comes amid growing debate over which of a principal’s many duties are most important. School leaders often feel like the combined mayor, police chief and schoolmaster of a town with a population of 1,000 or more.
Education schools, where most principals are trained, emphasize teaching and managing children. But organizers of a new Rice University program for “education entrepreneurs,” and some top education officials in the Washington area, say an inner-city principal cannot succeed without enough business smarts to manage adults. For example, they say, principals need to know how to recruit great employees and fire bad ones.
Rice, which has no education school, is launching a master’s of business administration program this year to prepare principals for several Houston schools.

A Discussion on School Models (Traditional, Charter and Magnet)

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater and Rafael Gomez held an interesting discussion on school models recently [Announcement].

Read the transcript
Watch the Video
or listen to the event (41mb mp3 audio)


And Then There Were 3: Finalists for the Madison Superintendent Job

Madison Board of Education:

Following a first round of interviews with the five semifinalists, the Board of Education has selected three candidates as finalists for the position of Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
In alphabetical order, the three candidates are:
Dr. Steve Gallon, District Administrative Director – Miami/Dade Public Schools, Miami, Florida [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]
Dr. James McIntyre, Chief Operating Officer – Boston Public Schools, Boston, Massachusetts [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search]
Dr. Daniel Nerad, Superintendent of Schools – Green Bay Area Public School District, Green Bay, Wisconsin [Clusty Search / Google Search / Live Search / Yahoo Search ]
The Board interviewed the candidates last evening and today.
Each of the three finalists will spend a day in Madison on January 22, 23 or 24. In addition to a second interview with the Board, the candidates will visit some schools and see parts of Madison, talk to attendees at the Community Meet and Greet, and speak with district administrators.
The community is invited to the Meet and Greets scheduled from 4:00 to 5:15 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center on January 22, 23 and 24. In the first hour, attendees will be able to briefly meet and greet the candidate as part of a receiving line. From 5:00 to 5:15 p.m. each day, the candidate will make a brief statement and might take questions. The session will end promptly at 5:15 p.m.
The schedule for visits by the finalists:
Tuesday, January 22 Steve Gallon
Wednesday, January 23 James McIntyre
Thursday, January 24 Daniel Nerad
On January 26 or 27, the Board will identify a preferred finalist. To ensure the Board’s research will be as comprehensive as possible, a Board delegation is expected to visit the finalist’s community during the week of January 28. The announcement of the appointment of the new Superintendent is scheduled for early February.


Continue reading And Then There Were 3: Finalists for the Madison Superintendent Job

Madison School Superintendent Finalists Named Later Today

Susan Troller:

And then there will be three.
Members of the Madison School Board will narrow the field of candidates for the next superintendent of the school district from five to three late today. School Board President Arlene Silveira said she expected that the three final candidates would be named sometime late this afternoon or early evening, following three candidate interviews today and two on Friday.
The five candidates are: Bart Anderson, county superintendent of the Franklin County Educational Service Center in Columbus, Ohio; Steve Gallon, district administrative director of the Miami/Dade Public Schools; James McIntyre, chief operating officer of the Boston Public Schools; Daniel Nerad, superintendent of schools, Green Bay Public Schools and Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, chief academic officer, Racine Public School District.
The Capital Times asked candidates why they would like to come to Madison and what accomplishments have given them pride in their careers. Anderson, McIntyre and Vanden Wyngaard were interviewed by phone, and Nerad responded by e-mail. Steve Gallon did not respond to several calls asking for his answers to the two questions.


Continue reading Madison School Superintendent Finalists Named Later Today

Suspending Students is Exactly the Wrong Idea

Joel McNally:

We talk so much about the value of education and the need to do something to reduce dropouts that it may surprise some people that nearly half of all the freshmen in the Milwaukee Public Schools have been ordered not to come to school.
In fact, beginning in the sixth grade, more than a third of every grade level until senior year is suspended and told to stay away from school for up to three days at a time. Many are repeatedly told not to attend school.
The good news is that Milwaukee Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, after more than five years on the job, has finally noticed the destructive practice he has been presiding over and decided to do something about it.
Andrekopoulos says Milwaukee may have the highest suspension rates in the country. He has asked outside educational experts, the Council on Great City Schools, to examine Milwaukee’s suspension policies and recommend ways to keep more kids in school.
The highest in the country. Hmmm. That sounds familiar. What else have we read recently about Milwaukee Public Schools leading the country? Oh, we remember now. MPS also had the lowest reading scores in the country.

Urban Schools Aiming Higher Than Diploma

Sara Rimer:

At Excel High School, in South Boston, teachers do not just prepare students academically for the SAT; they take them on practice walks to the building where the SAT will be given so they won’t get lost on the day of the test.
In Chattanooga, Tenn., the schools have abolished their multitrack curriculum, which pointed only a fraction of students toward college. Every student is now on a college track.
And in the Washington suburb of Prince George’s County, Md., the school district is arranging college tours for students as early as seventh grade, and adding eight core Advanced Placement classes to every high school, including some schools that had none.
Those efforts, and others across the country, reflect a growing sense of urgency among educators that the primary goal of many large high schools serving low-income and urban populations — to move students toward graduation — is no longer enough. Now, educators say, even as they struggle to lift dismal high school graduation rates, they must also prepare the students for college, or some form of post-secondary school training, with the skills to succeed.

Empowering School Principals

Rachel Gottlieb Frank:

The Hartford school district is poised to make a dramatic shift in the way school budgets are prepared to give principals control over just about everything, including the composition of their staff, the length of their school days and years, and more.
“This is a fundamental change,” Superintendent Steven Adamowski told the school board Tuesday night.
Historically, the central office has set school budgets, determined how many teachers, social workers and other employees would work in a school, hired those employees and paid for books and programs for the classrooms.
The system made it difficult to hold schools and their principals accountable for student achievement because they had so little control of their own, Adamowski said. “In the past, we said, ‘come up with school improvement plans.’ But we gave schools exactly the same amount of money and the same way of doing things.”
To make the switch this spring to the new “student-based budgeting,” Adamowski formed a committee of teachers, principals, parents and budget office employees. What they found in their study, said Ebbie Parsons III, one of the project leaders, was that under the old system of budgeting, funding was uneven and unfair throughout the district.

Racine school board wants residents’ input on superintendent search

Dani McClain:

The Racine Unified School Board wants to have a new superintendent in place by early May, and will host a series of community forums this month to gauge what district residents want in the new hire.
Five forums are scheduled for the mornings and evenings of Jan. 29 and Jan. 30, and the board is hoping that parents, students, staff and other district residents show up.

One of the 5 candidates for Madison’s Superintendent position is from Racine: Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard.

Meet and Greet the 3 Madison Superintendent Candidates

Via a Ken Syke email:

You are invited to meet and greet each of the three finalists for the Superintendent position of the Madison School District.
The Board of Education has scheduled a Community Meet and Greet for each of the finalists on January 22, 23 and 24. The sessions will be from 4:00 to 5:15 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center [Map] in rooms on Level 4.
One finalist will be present each day.
In the first hour, you will be able to briefly meet and greet the candidate as part of a receiving line. From 5:00 to 5:15 p.m. each day, the candidate will make a brief statement and might take questions. The session will end promptly at 5:15 p.m.
No RSVP is necessary.
This weekend, the Board will select the three finalists from among five semifinalists named on January 7.
The community is invited to this Meet and Greet so please forward this to anyone who might be interested in attending.
The announcement of the new Superintendent is scheduled for early February. For more information about the Superintendent selection process, see the MMSD Today article at
Thanks for your interest in and support of the Madison School District.


Racine academic chief Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, eyes two superintendent posts

Dani McClain:

Racine Unified’s academic director heads into her next round of interviews for the Madison Schools superintendent job on Friday.
Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, who joined Racine Unifed in November 2006 after a stint as an assistant superintendent in Ann Arbor, Mich., is one of five semi-finalists for the Madison job, she said Monday.
Vanden Wyngaard and Green Bay Schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad are the two Wisconsin-based educators in the running, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported last week. Schools officials from Miami, Fla. and Boston have also made it to the semi-final round. The Madison school board will next narrow the field to three candidates, Vanden Wyngaard said.
Sue Kutz, vice president of Racine Unified’s school board, said she was shocked to hear that Vanden Wyngaard was interested in the Madison job. Racine Unified is on the hunt for a replacement for interim superintendent Jackson Parker, who stepped in after Tom Hicks resigned in August.
“She has expressed to me several times that she wanted to be superintendent of Racine Unified, so I was kind of surprised,” said Kutz, who is chairing the search committee for the district’s new leader.
Vanden Wyngaard said she still plans to throw her hat in the ring for the Racine job and will meet the February 20 application deadline. She acknowledged that her interviews in Madison could be viewed as a lack of commitment to her current employer, but said she’s trying not to worry much about whatever speculations might be afloat.
“I have a mission for urban education, so I’m looking to be in a place that will help me fulfill that goal,” Vanden Wyngaard said Monday. “If the community and the board believe that my candidacy here is important and that I can lead the district toward strategic change, then it won’t matter. If I’m the person for the job in Racine, it’ll happen.”

Vanden Wyngaard is one of five candidates for the Madison Superintendent postion.

Where Have all the Students Gone? An Update

An update to Barb Schrank’s November, 2005 post:

Comments from a reader:

At $6,000 per child that’s about $16 million per year. At $9,000 per child, that’s about $23 million per year. If we kept 332, that would be $2-3 million more per year.
Also, MMSD not only lost students, which has a negative effect on what the district gets under revenue caps, we’ve increased our low-income population, which means that for every dollar the district gets, more of those dollars need to be spent on non-instructional services.
If the district does not consider the economic development implications of its decisions, we’re likely to

  • see more go to school outside MMSD, or
  • for the non-low income students who go to school here increased family dollars will be spent on private aspects of education- lessons, tutoring, etc.

Madison’s population in 2000 was 208,054 and is estimated to be 223,389, according to the census bureau. Madison’s poverty rate is estimated to be 13%, according to the Small Area Estimates Branch [Website].

District Enrollment
Per Student Spending (06/07 Budget) Administrators Total Staff ACT % Tested (05-06) ACT Comp Score
Madison 25,087 24,755 $12,422 91.5 3544.6 61.1 24.2
Verona 4222 4540 $12,113 22 603.4 69.6 23.6
Middleton-Cross Plains 5125 5640 $12,822 21 756.3 73 24.5
Waunakee 2836 3357 $11,987 14 427.6 70.7 23.3
Sun Priarie 4776 5946 $11,238 20 741.3 62.6 23
McFarland 1951 2017 $11,853 9.5 251.2 64 23.7
Monona Grove 2702 2885 $12,289 13 388 71.4 22.6
Oregon 3430 3588 $11,572 15 465.1 59.2 23.2

Data sources:

Thanks to a number of readers for the updated information.

Principals’ Life Lesson 23: Why new programs don’t work

Ms. Cornelius:

Here’s the point: administrators either respect their teachers and staff as professionals, or they don’t. Professionals are given the tools they need to succeed by their management. Time, support and responsibility are three of the most important tools managers give to those they supervise. Administrators, you are managers for your teachers and staff. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that, either, but I DO.


To the Superintendent Selection Committee of Madison Metropolitan Schools

via email (with an opportunity to sign on below):

As you make your selection for the next Superintendent of MMSD, we ask you to choose a candidate that will be able to address the needs of all students, including those of gifted and talented (GT) students. We strongly urge you to hire a candidate that is knowledgeable of and open to the special needs of gifted learners.
The following are reasons this is necessary. References for these points are attached.
Approximately 1 out of every 5 drop-outs is gifted.
Giftedness occurs in all racial and socioeconomic groups. It is short-sighted to ignore the needs of the gifted as we increase in low-income enrollment, and creates even more disparity as those who have resources have other choices.
The statistics for Madison’s gifted low-income and minority student drop-outs may be significantly higher than 1 out of 5.
GT students may learn poorly when taught at standard grade level and rate.
It may be thought that the experience of gifted in heterogeneous classrooms is that of the pleasure of excelling above everyone. However, as one GT teacher at Appleton’s gifted school observed, it is the experience of a 5th grader whose teacher inexplicably teaches 1st grade curriculum.

Continue reading To the Superintendent Selection Committee of Madison Metropolitan Schools

West Side Parents Angry About Proposed School Boundaries Charge

Some in a big Madison neighborhood are outraged over the latest plan to change West Side school boundaries to make way for a new school opening near Hawk’s Landing next fall.
Residents in the Valley Ridge neighborhood are pledging to start a petition drive and to do whatever it takes to stop the proposal.
The new, yet-to-be-named school on the far West Side has prompted officials to try to rearrange boundary lines on the West Side. But, the boundary lines are different than initially proposed and some in Valley Ridge said they are in shock.
“I feel very deceived,” said parent and homeowner Beth Todd, vice president of the Glenn Stephens PTO.
Todd, her husband and other parents said they were always told their children would not be affected by the new boundary changes in meetings with school officials before the referendum for the new school passed.
Currently, Valley Ridge children go to Stephens school as well as Jefferson Middle School. But under a new proposal, that would all drastically change, and, some contend, for no good reason.

Waukesha School Board Cuts Administrators to Save Teacher Positions

Amy Hetzner:

The School Board sacrificed administrative staff for teaching positions as part of nearly $1.3 million in program reductions approved Wednesday night for the 2008-’09 year.
The savings generated by eliminating the School District’s last staff member dedicated to implementing its gifted-and-talented program, as well as the equivalent of one-third of its department chairmen, helped keep the staff needed to preserve an eight-period day at the middle schools.
The board also voted to reduce the amount of money it distributes to building sites for discretionary spending by $200,000, or 3%, to cover some of the costs of a middle-school program that gives students one period every day for enrichment or extra help.
“None of us wants to make these cuts,” board member Kurt O’Bryan said. But he said the district paid its department chairmen more and gave them more time than did other school districts, and that administrative reductions would hurt students less than teacher layoffs.

Tennessee School Districts to Administer Teacher Incentives

Natalia Mielczarek:

State-mandated bonuses to help recruit tough-to-find teachers and reward great ones will look different from district to district in Tennessee.
Much-awaited guidelines out last month from the state Board of Education are broad — basically, they direct districts to put in place some sort of plan and launch it by the start of the 2008-09 school year.
That differs from other states experimenting with pay-for-performance. In Texas, for instance, some rewards are tied to specific student achievement on standardized tests. Those behind the Tennessee law say there’s good reason to keep it flexible enough for districts to explore options.
“The best chance for it to have a positive impact is to have those plans bubble up from the system level,” said Gary Nixon, executive director of the state Board of Education. “They’ll have to work with their teachers’ associations to come up with a plan that works for them. It’s better than it coming from the state.”
Teachers unions, which will have to approve the plans in districts where they have bargaining power, opposed the measure in the legislature last year. They said it didn’t address the underlying issue of low teacher pay and may not be fair.
Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, who serves on the state legislature’s education committee, said pay incentives have merit if they’re distributed correctly.

We need a new definition of accountability

Anthony Cody:

America’s schools have fallen into a giant trap. This trap is epic in its dimensions, because the people capable of leading us out of it have been silenced, and the initiative that could help us is being systematically squashed.
Policymakers and the public have been seduced by a simple formulation. No Child Left Behind posits that we have troubled schools because they have not been accountable. If we make teachers and schools pay a price for the failure of their students, they will bring those students up to speed.
But schools are NOT the only factor determining student success. Urban neighborhoods are plagued by poverty and violence and recent reports in The Chronicle show that as many as 30 percent of the children in these neighborhoods suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fully 40 percent of our students are English learners, but these students must take the same tests as native English speakers. Moreover, a recent study provides strong evidence that family-based factors such as the quality of day care, the home vocabulary and the amount of time spent reading and watching television at home account for two-thirds of the difference in academic success for students. Nonetheless, NCLB holds only the schools accountable.
Teachers are realizing that this is a raw deal. We can’t single-handedly solve these problems, and we can’t bring 100 percent of our students to proficiency in the next six years, no matter how “accountable” the law makes us, and no matter the punishments it metes out. But if we speak up to point out the injustice and unreasonableness of the demands on our schools, we are shouted down, accused of making excuses for ourselves and not having high expectations for our students. Thus, teachers have been silenced, our expertise squandered.

Milwaukee School’s Superintendent Looks Ahead After 5.5 Years on The Job

Alan Borsuk:

In August 2002, when he was named superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools on a 5-4 vote, William Andrekopoulos said he wanted to serve five years in the job.
It seemed an iffy proposition, given his narrow support and the fact that five superintendents before him hadn’t lasted that long.
A couple of years later, with a majority of the School Board behind him and a firm grip on the job, Andrekopoulos said he was aiming for six years, which would take him close to his 60th birthday.
Now, as the six-year mark looms, as rumors swirl that he will leave soon, and as the School Board begins the process that usually leads to a decision on a superintendent’s contract, Andrekopoulos says he wants to stay in the job for an undetermined length beyond six years.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” he said. “I feel energized.”
Reinventing high school
The extent of the change can be seen in figures included in the annual “report card” for MPS being presented to a board committee tonight. In 1998-’99, 91% of all MPS high school students were enrolled in 15 large schools and 2% in small high schools. In 2007-’08, 42% were enrolled in nine large high schools and 44% in 30 small high schools or in buildings with several schools within one building. (Other students were enrolled in alternative and “partnership” schools that are part of the MPS system.)
Andrekopoulos also has pushed in recent years to return to more centralized power in MPS, especially when it comes to low-performing schools. Those schools are now being given much more specific directions from the central office about what and how to teach.
Andrekopoulos’ salary is $171,376.80 a year, plus a variety of benefits, including payments to a retirement fund of $19,000 a year above the base benefit of MPS employees. His financial package, however, is considerably less than that of many other superintendents of large districts around the country and not much higher than those offered by many Milwaukee-area suburban districts.

Yin & Yang: Madison Superintendent Search 1999 vs 2008

Props to the Madison School Board for a process that has resulted in five interesting candidates. We’ll see how it plays out. Susan Troller on the current process:

The pool of five candidates for Madison’s top school district job includes two superintendents and high-level administrators from some of the largest and oldest school districts in America.
The candidates — four men and one woman — all have experience working in urban school districts. All have doctoral degrees, two are minorities, and three come from out of state. The out-of-staters have administrative experience in the Boston Public Schools in Massachusetts, the Miami/Dade school system in Florida and a combined district that includes schools in Columbus, Ohio.
The two candidates from Wisconsin include Green Bay’s current superintendent and the chief academic officer of the Racine Unified School District.
The semifinalists, chosen by the Hazard, Young and Attea national executive search firm, come from an original pool of 25 candidates from 11 states.
The districts where the candidates are currently working range in size from Green Bay and Racine, which have about 20,000 students, to districts like Miami/Dade, which has about 350,000 students.

Chris Murphy, writing in January, 1999:

The way is almost clear for Art Rainwater to be the nextsuperintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Rainwater was the only applicant for the permanent post at the head of theMadison schools as of 11 a.m. today. The application deadline is 4:15 School Board will meet tonight to discuss the applicants, but membershave said they will make no hiring decisions because one of their number,JoAnn Elder, is out of town. The board planned to interview the superintendentcandidates on Feb. 1 and possibly make a decision that night.
“Of course, one could make the case that we’ve been interviewing Art forthe past five years, but another few questions probably won’t bother him atall,” said School Board member Deborah Lawson. She is one of three boardmembers who have been pushing to hire Rainwater since this summer withoutconducting a nationwide search.
The board reached a compromise last month in which only employees would beeligible to apply for the job. About a dozen district employees have thecertification to be a superintendent.

1/8/2008 Madison Event on K-12 School Models

Rafael Gomez is hosting a discussion of school models (traditional, charter, magnet) with Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater.
When: 6:30p.m. Tuesday January 8, 2008.
Covenant Presbyterian Church
318 South Segoe Rd
Madison, WI 53705 [Map]
Many communities offer a growing number of K-12 educational options. Learn about Madison’s current offerings and the climate for future charter/magnet initiatives.
Question and Answer
Rafael has hosted a number of previous forums, including those that address:

Madison School Superintendent Candidates

Madison School District Press Release:

Following their meeting this evening with Superintendent search consultants from Hazard, Young and Attea & Associates, Ltd., the Board of Education has selected five applicants as semifinalists for the position of Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
In alphabetical order, the five applicants are:

The semifinalists were chosen from among 25 persons who sought the position currently held by Art Rainwater. Rainwater will retire on June 30, 2008, with the new Superintendent scheduled to begin on July 1.

Related Links:

More Leaders Need Apply

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

If there ‘s one institution in Madison that needs strong leaders to tackle huge challenges, it ‘s the city ‘s school district.
Unfortunately, only two people are seeking two open School Board seats in the coming spring election. The deadline for declaring a candidacy was Wednesday.
That means voters won ‘t have any choice in who will serve, barring any late write-in campaigns.
That ‘s a shame — one that Madison can ‘t afford to repeat.
he rigors of a campaign test potential board members and help the community choose which direction to take the district.
Competitive School Board campaigns also draw considerable and much-needed attention to huge local issues, such as the increasing number of children who show up for kindergarten unprepared, rising health insurance costs for school employees, shifting demographics, school security and tight limits on spending.

Critics on all sides of teacher pay law:

In rare move, arbitration threatened in Waukesha

Amy Hetzner:

Next week, Waukesha School District leaders plan to take an unusual step, one they contend is necessary after cutting $9.4 million worth of services over the past seven years: They will sit down with their teachers union to hash out a contract with help from a mediator.
What’s more unusual is the culprit that Waukesha Superintendent David Schmidt blames in part for the district’s financial woes: the state law intended to help school districts keep down teacher compensation costs.
“To some degree, we’d like to say we can control our labor costs,” Schmidt said. “The QEO makes that harder.”
Schmidt has company in other state school officials who contend the QEO, known more formally as the qualified economic offer law, has created fiscal problems for them. After 15 years with the law, considered one leg of the state’s so-called three-legged stool for school funding, calls for change are coming from many quarters.
At issue is what some have called the cap gap that exists between the roughly 2% increase in school revenue allowed annually under current law and the 3.8% boost in salaries and benefits practically guaranteed by the QEO, which says school boards can avoid arbitration if they offer teachers compensation increases in that amount.
“That’s probably the core issue right now within our system that’s causing some frustration from school district administrators,” said state Rep. Brett Davis (R-Oregon).
Although Waukesha school officials have not revealed the details of talks with the teachers union, indications are that their unusual move this year toward mediation and possible arbitration is to seek less than a 3.8% package increase for their teachers.
In addition to school leaders who complain the law’s conflict with revenue caps has forced staff cuts, teachers say the QEO increase has suppressed salaries. Critics contend it has helped educators keep inflated benefits.

SC ’08 school board chief practices what’s practical

Bill Robinson:

Lost in the hubbub over a home-school educator’s election to chair of the S.C. Board of Education in 2009 is the man who will precede her in the post — Al Simpson of Lancaster.
Simpson takes over the gavel as state school board chairman from John Tindal of Manning when the panel convenes for its next meeting in mid-January. State board members follow a policy of picking their future leader a year in advance.
Simpson cast a critical preliminary vote Dec. 12 that enabled Kristin Maguire of Clemson to defeat Fred “Trip” DuBard, a Florence businessman.
“We had two good candidates,” he said. “I don’t think this vote is going to cause any problems with the board.”
Maguire, he said, “has a whole year to prepare to move up. She’ll do a fine job. She’s shown me she’s dedicated to public schools.”
So is Simpson.
A product of South Carolina public schools, Simpson’s three children attend Lancaster County public schools, where he said he has seen choice work for families.

Schools’ Use of Community Levy up

Amy Hetzner:

Local school districts continued to turn to the unrestricted community service levy this school year, boosting taxes paid to the fund by 10%, almost twice the increase in their total property tax income.
For the 2007-’08 school year, the 60 public school districts in the five-county metro Milwaukee area plan to raise nearly $22.6 million through the community service levy, which has grown rapidly since the state Legislature removed it from under revenue caps seven years ago.
Statewide, school systems will receive about $66.6 million in community service funds through property tax increases this school year, according to information from the state Department of Public Instruction. That compares with just over $17 million raised by Wisconsin school districts for community service activities in 2000-’01, the first year the fund came out from under the state revenue controls.
When legislators first removed community service activities from under the strictures of revenue caps, they said they did so because school districts that run recreational departments for their communities should not be forced to cut educational services to fund outside activities.

Tax and spending growth in Madison’s Fund 80 has also been controversial.

Parents taking school concerns to Capitol

Norman Draper:

It wasn’t enough for Beverly Petrie and her fellow school activists to help the Stillwater district reap some funding in the Nov. 6 election. After they fought for the levy, they figured there was more to be done. So, they decided to set their sights on lobbying the Legislature on behalf of the district this winter.
“One of the things we heard a lot during the [levy] campaign is people believe it’s the state’s responsibility to pay for public schools,” Petrie said. “So, hearing that so often during the campaign, it’s hard for us to let it all collapse at this point.”
Thus began Stillwater schools’ legislative action committee, still without an official name or agenda.
Around the Twin Cities, parents are banding together to take the cause of their school districts to the Capitol. Often, they’re trying to help secure more funding. With the beginning of the legislative session about two months away, such groups are now holding their first meetings and formulating legislative platforms.

Boundary Plan for New West Side Elementary School

Susan Troller:

The latest plan will be presented to the public with an opportunity for comment early next year, said Sue Abplanalp, assistant superintendent for elementary schools.
Known as Plan A, it moves fewer children and brings building capacities and numbers of low-income students at all schools into closer alignment, said Kurt Kiefer, Madison schools’ director of research.

515K PDF.

Continue reading Boundary Plan for New West Side Elementary School

Madison: Missed Opportunity for 4K and High School Redesign

Marc Eisen:

The good news is that the feds refused to fund the school district’s proposal to revamp the high schools. The plan was wrongheaded in many respects, including its seeming intent to eliminate advanced classes that are overwhelmingly white and mix kids of distressingly varied achievement levels in the same classrooms.
This is a recipe for encouraging more middle-class flight to the suburbs. And, more to the point, addressing the achievement gap in high school is way too late. Turning around a hormone-surging teenager after eight years of educational frustration and failure is painfully hard.
We need to save these kids when they’re still kids. We need to pull them up to grade level well before they hit the wasteland of middle school. That’s why kindergarten for 4-year-olds is a community imperative.
As it happens, state school Supt. Elizabeth Burmaster issued a report last week announcing that 283 of Wisconsin’s 426 school districts now offer 4K. Enrollment has doubled since 2001, to almost 28,000 4-year-olds statewide.
Burmaster nailed it when she cited research showing that quality early-childhood programs prepare children “to successfully transition into school by bridging the effects of poverty, allowing children from economically disadvantaged families to gain an equal footing with their peers.”


State Nudges Tennessee Schools Back to Basics

Jaime Sarrio:

Metro Schools Director Pedro Garcia’s legacy as an idea man has hit a snag.
The school chief once enjoyed strong support for his ideas on reforming Nashville’s public education. But after Metro failed to meet No Child Left Behind requirements for four years in a row — one of the first two Tennessee districts to do so — state officials have a louder voice in how the district is run.
And its leaders are listening.
Board members want to take the state’s advice and hold off on Garcia’s new ideas until the district gets a handle on the basics. The attitude marks a significant shift in the dynamic between the board, the director and the state Department of Education.
“Some things have come back to haunt us,” said District 7 board member Edward Kindall, who represents north Nashville. “I can’t totally blame Dr. Garcia or the administration. I think in some instances, we haven’t focused on the right thing.”
Amid the innovations, many of Metro’s students have been struggling to learn math and reading. Poor reading scores among Hispanic and black students and dismal math scores across the county prompted the failing marks under No Child Left Behind.
“Clearly the administration has tried to make a lot of big splashes with their innovation, but they haven’t always given a lot of thought to what they’re doing,” said Erick Huth, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association, the teachers union.

Teachers draft reform plan

Howard Blume:

In this education nirvana, teachers would decide what to teach and when. Teachers and parents would hire and fire principals. No supervisors from downtown would tell anyone — neither teachers nor students — what to wear.
These are among the ideas a delegation of teachers and their union officers are urging L.A. schools Supt. David L. Brewer to include in the school reform plan he will present to the school board Tuesday.
If Brewer passes on the delegation’s proposals, the union can go directly to the seven-member Board of Education. Employee unions recently have had success in getting the board to overrule the superintendent on health benefits for some part-time workers and on school staffing.
At stake now is the Los Angeles Unified School District’s effort to turn around its 34 most troubled middle and high schools. The data suggests the urgency: As many as three-quarters of the students in these “high priority schools” scored well below grade level across multiple subjects on last year’s California Standards Tests.
Whatever remedy emerges is likely to become a blueprint for widespread reform efforts. Brewer and his team are working on their 11th draft; the drafts have evolved significantly since September because of resistance inside and outside the school system.

School Administration via Statistics

Winnie Hu:

Assistant school superintendents here are routinely summoned to a 10 a.m. Thursday meeting where they must answer for missing test scores, overdue building repairs and other lapses, which are presented in painful detail on PowerPoint slides. Excuses are not an option.
It is the latest evolution of Compstat, a widely copied management program pioneered by the New York Police Department in 1994. Paterson is one of a half-dozen school districts around the country that have embraced this confrontational approach, known here as SchoolStat, in an effort to improve school performance and overhaul bureaucracies long seen as bloated, wasteful and unresponsive to the public.
SchoolStat borrows the tactics of the Compstat program — regular, intense meetings in which police officials famously pick apart crime data and, just as often, their subordinates — to analyze police performance and crime trends, and to deploy resources to trouble spots. The school version taps into an ever-expanding universe of data about standardized testing and school operations to establish a system of accountability.
In Maryland, the process has been credited with reducing teacher vacancies and increasing student immunization rates in Baltimore schools. In Montgomery County, Md., it has pushed principals to come up with strategies like encouraging students to take the Preliminary SAT by offering a free pancake breakfast if they attend.

Unemployment Training (The Ideology of Non-Work Learned in Urban Schools)

Via a kind reader email: Martin Haberman:

For many urban youth in poverty moving from school to work is about as likely as having a career in the NBA.While urban schools struggle and fail at teaching basic skills they are extremely effective at teaching skills which predispose youth to fail in the world of work.The urban school environment spreads a dangerous contagion in the form of behaviors and beliefs which form an ideology.This ideology “works” for youngsters by getting them through urban middle and secondary schools.But the very ideology that helps youth slip and slide through school becomes the source of their subsequent failure.It is an ideology that is easily learned, readily implemented, rewarded by teachers and principals, and supporting by school policies.It is an ideology which schools promulgate because it is easier to accede to the students’ street values than it is to shape them into more gentle human beings.The latter requires a great deal of persistent effort not unlike a dike working against an unyielding sea.It is much easier for urban schools to lower their expectations and simply survive with youth than it is to try to change them.
The ideology of unemployment insures that those infected with it will be unable to enter or remain in the world of work without serious in-depth unlearning and retraining.Urban youth are not simply ill prepared for work but systematically and carefully trained to be quitters, failures, and the discouraged workers who no longer even seek employment.What this means is that it is counterproductive to help urban schools do better at what they now do since they are a basic cause of their graduates living out lives of hopelessness and desperation.
The dropout problem among urban youth–as catastrophic as it is–is less detrimental than this active training for unemployment.We need be more concerned for “successful” youth who graduate since it is they who have been most seriously infected.They have been exposed longest, practiced the anti-work behaviors for the longest period, and been rewarded most.In effect, the urban schools create a pool of youth much larger than the number of dropouts who we have labeled as “successful” but who have been more carefully schooled for failure.

Clusty Search on Martin Haberman. Haberman is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Update on Credit for non-MMSD Courses, including Youth Options Program:

Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee Meeting 11/26/2007At the November 26, 2007 meeting of the MMSD BOE’s Performance and Achievement Committee [18MB mp3 audio], the District’s Attorney handed out a draft of a policy for the District’s Youth Options Program dated November 20, 2007. It is a fine working draft. However, it has been written with rules making it as difficult as possible for students to actually take advantage of this State-mandated program. Thus, I urge all families with children who may be affected by this policy now or in the future to request a copy of this document, read it over carefully, and then write within the next couple of weeks to all BOE members, the District’s Attorney, Pam Nash, and Art Rainwater with suggestions for modifications to the draft text. For example, the current draft states that students are not eligible to take a course under the YOP if a comparable course is offered ANYWHERE in the MMSD (i.e., regardless of whether the student has a reasonable method to physically access the District’s comparable course). It also restricts students to taking courses at institutions “located in this State” (i.e., precluding online courses such as ones offered for academically advanced students via Stanford’s EPGY and Northwestern’s CTD).
The Attorney’s memorandum dated November 21, 2007 to this Committee, the BOE, and the Superintendent outlined a BOE policy chapter entitled “Educational Options” that would include, as well, a policy regarding “Credit for Courses Taken Outside the MMSD”. Unfortunately, this memo stated that this latter policy as one “to be developed”. It has now been almost 6 years (!) since Art Rainwater promised us that the District would develop an official policy regarding credit for courses taken outside the MMSD. A working draft available for public comment and BOE approval has yet to appear. In the interim, the “freeze” the BOE unanimously approved, yet again, last winter has been ignored by administrators, some students are leaving the MMSD because of its absence, and chaos continues to rein because there exists no clearly written policy defining the rules by which non-MMSD courses can be taken for high school credit. Can anyone give us a timetable by which an official BOE-approved policy on this topic will finally be in place?

Using Data to Improve Student Achievement

The Data Quality Campaign and the National Center for Educational Accountability (NCEA):

conducted a survey in September 2007, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about state data systems to determine the number of states that have built the infrastructure to tap into the power of longitudinal data. Similar surveys were conducted by NCEA in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. This website provides an overview of the findings of the survey in addition to a state-by-state analysis of the policy implications of each state’s data system.
The Power of Longitudinal Data
Longitudinal data matches individual student records over time, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and into post secondary education. States are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to improve student achievement. But without quality data, they are essentially flying blind. Policymakers need to act now to put in place the policies and resources to ensure that each state has a longitudinal data system and the culture and capacity to translate the information into specific action steps to improve student achievement. When states collect the most relevant data and are able to match individual student records over time, they can answer the questions that are at the core of educational effectiveness. Longitudinal data (data gathered on the same student from year to year) makes it possible to:

State specific results.

Milwaukee Public School options gain share in education marketplace

Alan Borsuk:

If your definition of “public school” is the regular public school system, you are talking about a slice of Milwaukee’s educational infrastructure in which the student population is getting smaller each year.
But if your definition means any school where public dollars pay for children’s educations, you’re talking about a bigger pie, with more ingredients – a pie unlike anything served elsewhere in the United States.
Voucher schools, charter schools, alternative schools, ways of sending kids to schools in other communities – parents, especially those with low income, continue to have a wide array of choices in Milwaukee, all of them funded by public dollars.
Thousands of parents are taking advantage of that. Enrollment statistics for this year show more than 30% of all Milwaukee kids whose educations are paid for with tax dollars attend schools outside the main roster of Milwaukee Public Schools. That appears to be the highest percentage on record.
While enrollment in MPS elementary, middle and high schools fell almost 4% to 81,681, the number of students using publicly funded vouchers to attend 122 private schools in the city rose 8% to 19,233.

Madison School District Administration Presentation on High School Redesign

The Madison School viewed a presentation from the Administration Monday evening on their proposed High School redesign. Listen via this mp3 audio file (or watch the MMSDTV Video Archive).
Susan Troller:

“Sometimes institutional history can be a weight around your neck,” Rainwater noted. “This can be an opportunity to bring in new ideas, and new blood,” he added.
Rainwater has said change is necessary because high schools today look and feel much like they have for generations but that students will live and work in a world that has changed dramatically, and which demands new skills and abilities.
He acknowledged that the path was likely to be bumpy, and noted that the plan — which has been developed thus far without public input — recognizes that there are major concerns in the community regarding changes to Madison’s school system.
Some of those concerns include worries about trying to balance resources among students of widely varying abilities, about “dumbing down” the curriculum with inclusive classrooms, the potential for the high schools to lose their unique personalities and concerns that addressing the broad ranges of culture in the district will not serve students well.


Curriculum Acceleration/Middle School Charter Meeting: November 26 at 11:30 a.m.

A group of parents will be gathering to discuss developing a public school charter (or other educational alternatives) for middle schoolers who need an advanced level and faster pace of instruction (curriculum acceleration). Our first meeting will be Monday, November 26 at 11:30 am for lunch at the Sun Print Cafe, 1 South Pinckney Street [Map], in the US Bank building. If interested, please email Bonnie at

‘No Child’ Data on Violence Skewed: Each State Defines “Dangerous School”

Nelson Hernandez:

A little-publicized provision of the No Child Left Behind Act requiring states to identify “persistently dangerous schools” is hampered by widespread underreporting of violent incidents and by major differences among the states in defining unsafe campuses, several audits say. Out of about 94,000 schools in the United States, only 46 were designated as persistently dangerous in the past school year.
Maryland had six, all in Baltimore; the District and Virginia had none.
At Anacostia Senior High School last school year, private security guards working under D.C. police recorded 61 violent offenses, including three sexual assaults and one assault with a deadly weapon. There were 21 other nonviolent cases in which students were caught bringing knives and guns to school. Anacostia is not considered a persistently dangerous school.
One high school in Los Angeles had 289 cases of battery, two assaults with a deadly weapon, a robbery and two sex offenses in one school year, according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general. It did not meet the state’s definition of a persistently dangerous school, or PDS. None of California’s roughly 9,000 schools has.
The reason, according to an audit issued by the Department of Education in August: “States fear the political, social, and economic consequences of having schools designated as PDS, and school administrators view the label as detrimental to their careers. Consequently, states set unreasonable definitions for PDS and schools have underreported violent incidents.”
Critics of the law, including lawmakers who hope the policy can be changed as part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, say the low number is a sign the legislation is not working.

Madison School District School Security Discussion

Madison School Board: Monday evening, November 12, 2007: 40MB mp3 audio file. Participants include: Superintendent Art Rainwater, East High Principal Al Harris, Cherokee Middle School Principal Karen Seno, Sennett Middle School Principal Colleen Lodholz and Pam Nash, assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
A few notes:

  • First 30 minutes: The City of Madison has agreed to fund police overtime in the schools. Johnny Winston, Jr. asked about supporting temporary “shows of force” to respond to issues that arise. Maya Cole asked what they (Administrators) do when staff choose not to get involved. East High Principal Al Harris mentioned that his staff conducts hall sweeps hourly. Sennett Principal Colleen Lodholz mentioned that they keep only one entrance open during recess.
  • 52 minutes: Al Harris discussed the importance of consistency for staff, students and parents. He has named an assistant principal to be responsible for security. East now has data for the past year for comparison purposes. Additional assistant principals are responsible for classrooms, transitions and athletics.
  • 55 minutes: Art Rainwater discussed District-wide procedures, a checklist for major incidents and that today parents are often informed before anyone else due to cell phones and text messaging.
  • Recommendations (at 60 minutes):
    • Pam Nash mentioned a strong need for increased communication. She discussed the recent West High School community forums and their new personal safety handbook. This handbook includes an outline of how West is supervised.
    • 68 to 74 minutes: A discussion of the District’s equity policy vis a vis resource allocations for special needs students.
    • 77 minutes – Steve Hartley discusses his experiences with community resources.
    • 81+ minutes: Steve Hartley mentioned the need for improved tracking and Art Rainwater discussed perceptions vs what is actually happening. He also mentioned that the District is looking at alternative programs for some of these children. Student Board Representative Joe Carlsmith mentioned that these issues are not a big part of student life. He had not yet seen the new West High safety handbook. Carol Carstensen discussed (95 minutes) that these issues are not the common day to day experiences of our students and that contacts from the public are sometimes based more on rumor and gossip than actual reality.

I’m glad the Board and Administration had this discussion.

“Wisconsin Way” Meeting Notes

The “Wisconsin Way” recently held a forum in Waukesha. The local Taxpayer’s League posted some notes [website].
A schedule of forums appears on their website (Madison is 12/6/2007). More:

Welcome to the Wisconsin Way! You’ve made the first step to helping lower Wisconsin’s property taxes, while protecting our services and maintaining Wisconsin’s quality of life.
A groundswell of public concern about the affordability of property taxes on the one hand and the need to maintain Wisconsin’s critical infrastructure on the other has prompted several statewide leadership groups to join forces in a historic search for solutions called The Wisconsin Way.
In the coming months, the original conveners of the Wisconsin Way—the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and Wood Communications Group—will host a series of public gatherings around the state in an effort to engage Wisconsin citizens in a constructive, solution-oriented conversation about what we can do to make Wisconsin taxes fairer and reduce the property tax burden without sacrificing the quality of public services that have made Wisconsin a special place to live and work.

Excuses are not an option

Alan Borsuk:

There are casual days at Milwaukee College Preparatory School when it comes to what students can wear. Polo shirts (red for almost all the students and yellow for standouts who have earned privileges) are the uniform for those days. Other days, students have to wear blazers and ties.
But there are no casual days at the school when it comes to academics, even down to the kindergartners.
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” eighth-grade math teacher Edward Richerson exhorts his students as a half dozen head toward the blackboard to solve some equations. They’re not moving fast enough for him.
A couple of them falter in their explanations. “What I’ve told you not to do is get lazy on these equations, which is what you’ve done,” Richerson says. If you’re not getting them, it’s not because you’re not smart enough, he says. “Since we are overachievers,” he begins as he tells them why they have to be as picky about the details of the answers as he is.
In a 5-year-old kindergarten class, children do an exercise in counting and understanding sequences of shapes. Four-year-olds are expected to be on the verge of reading by Christmas.
In national education circles, phrases such as “no excuses” and names such as “KIPP” have come to stand for a hard-driving approach to educating low-income urban children, and that includes longer days, strict codes of conduct, an emphasis on mastering basics and a dedication among staff members approaching zeal. The Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, operates 57 schools in cities around the country and has a record that is not perfect but is noteworthy for its success.
Milwaukee College Prep, 2449 N. 36th St., is the prime example in Milwaukee of a no-excuses school. The charter school, which is publicly funded and was chartered through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is not formally a KIPP school, although it is affiliated with the KIPP movement.

Milwaukee College Preparatory School’s website.

Waukesha Schools go to Mediation over teacher contracts: Trading Jobs for Compensation?

Pete Kennedy:

The word “mediation” usually isn’t all that menacing. But these days, and in this district, “mediation” packs plenty of punch.
A few weeks ago the Waukesha School Board announced it had taken its teachers to mediation. That means a neutral party will try to negotiate a settlement between the teachers union (the Education Association of Waukesha) and the board.
What’s most significant about the board’s action is the mediator can declare an impasse and send the proposals to an arbitrator. And that, my friend, is a big deal.
Why? First, because arbitration is the labor-relations version of high-stakes poker. It’s a winner-take-all proposition. Both sides present their proposal to a (supposedly) neutral third party, who picks the plan he or she believes fairest. There is no in-between – you win or you lose.
Arbitration also is a big deal because it’s hardly ever done, at least when state public schools are involved.
“Yes, it’s significant,” said David Schmidt, superintendent of the School District of Waukesha for the past 10 years. “It’s the first time we’ve done it since I’ve been here.”
Schmidt says he is fine with the teachers union, that the real trouble is in Madison. (The EAW is very much in agreement.) But right now, the problem has to be fixed closer to home. “What we can control locally are our expenditures,” Schmidt says.

Links and notes on Madison’s recent teacher’s contract.

Montgomery School’s New Take On Ability Grouping Yields Results

Via a reader email – Daniel de Vise:

In a notebook on her desk at Rock View Elementary School, Principal Patsy Roberson keeps tabs on every student: red for those who have failed to attain proficiency on Maryland’s statewide exam, an asterisk for students learning English and squares for black or Hispanic children whose scores place them “in the gap.”
Roberson and the Rock View faculty are having remarkable success lifting children out of that gap, the achievement gap that separates poor and minority children from other students and represents one of public education’s most intractable problems.
They have done it with an unusual approach. The Kensington school’s 497 students are grouped into classrooms according to reading and math ability for more than half of the instructional day.
The technique, called performance-based grouping, is uncommon in the region. Some educators believe it too closely resembles tracking, the outmoded practice of assigning students to inflexible academic tracks by ability.
Educators say Rock View, however, is using the same basic concept to opposite effect, and the results have been positive. While some other Montgomery County schools serving low-income populations have posted higher test scores, few have shown such improvement or consistency across socioeconomic and racial lines.

Joanne has more.