Category Archives: History – Madison Schools

America’s Math Crisis

Dick Resch

Americans could use a crash course in math.
According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are vacant for more than twice as long as other positions — largely because employers can’t find people with the math and science skills to fill them.

In fact, high school graduates with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are in greater demand than college grads without them.

Related: Math Forum Audio & Video and

Another Challenge to Teacher Tenure Status Quo

Mokoto Rich:

David Boies, the star trial lawyer who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban, is becoming chairman of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown founded in part to pursue lawsuits challenging teacher tenure.
Mr. Boies, the son of two public schoolteachers, is a lifelong liberal who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and prosecuted Microsoft in the Clinton Administration’s antitrust suit. In aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions, he is emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.
As chairman of the new group, Mr. Boies, 73, will join Ms. Brown as the public face of a legal strategy in which the group organizes parents and students to bring lawsuits against states with strong tenure and seniority protections.

Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Pat Schneider:

“It seems reasonable to attribute a good share of the improvements to the specific and focused strategies we have pursued this year,” Hughes writes. The process of improvement will become self-reinforcing, he predicts. “This bodes well for better results on the horizon.”

Not so fast, writes Madison attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick in his Systems Change Consulting blog, the results are not all they’re cracked up to be upon closer examination.

At Madison East High School, for example, the results reveal significant academic problems and huge racial disparities, but no information about school discipline issues, Spitzer-Resnick writes.

The number of East High 9th graders failing two or more courses dropped to 33 percent last school year from 38 percent the year before, the report says.

“This is still a very high rate of failure,” Spitzer-Resnick says and points out the significantly more troubling breakdown for African-American (49 percent) and special education (45 percent) 9th graders who failed two or more courses.

Spitzer-Resnick plots out other disparities in student achievement and argues that the lack of data on school discipline means there are no goals or accountability for the implementation of a new behavior plan the school district will launch next year.

Tim Slekar, education policy activist and dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College who blogs at The Chalk Face, says that the gains in the MMSD report “are so small that attributing a cause and effect relationship between the scores and the improvement plan is way too premature.”

Background links: Ed Hughes and Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Much more on Madison and nearby Districts use of the MAP assessment, including results from 2011-2012.

It would be useful to compare results over the past few years, rather than just the current school year.

Status Quo Governance: 9 months after development deal, Malcolm X Academy remains empty

Erin Richards:

Remember last fall when the Common Council and Milwaukee Public Schools approved plans to turn the vacant Malcolm X Academy into a renovated school, low-income apartments and commercial space?

Critics at the time said it was a poorly conceived rush job designed to prevent a competing private school, St. Marcus Lutheran School, from acquiring the building as an expansion site.

Supporters said the public-private partnership would help kids and put part of the sprawling Malcolm X building, covering almost five acres on the city’s north side, back on the tax rolls.

Nine months later, nothing has been done.

The developer hasn’t applied for tax credits, let alone bought the building. Both were key to the deal. The Common Council still must act on final development plans before permits for construction can be issued, city officials say.

MPS and one of the development partners say the deal is still on, but nobody will say — publicly, anyway — the cause for the hold-up. Both suggest the other is dragging its feet.

Meanwhile, Henry Tyson, the superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School, submitted a letter of interest for another nearby empty MPS building — Lee School. That was in May. Six weeks later, a Milwaukee teacher who works for the teachers union submitted a proposal to turn Lee into a charter school run by district staff.

“We continue to say what we’ve said before: that this is a shell game to keep usable buildings out of the hands of high-quality voucher and charter school operators,” Tyson said.

Wisconsin Court Upholds Law Curbing Unions’ Rights

Mark Peters & Caroline Porter:

Wisconsin’s highest court upheld a law ending most collective-bargaining rights for government employees in the state, a blow for public-sector unions that have been stymied in their efforts to reverse the controversial measure championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The law, passed in 2011, rocked the state, leading to mass protests and recall elections, while making Mr. Walker a favorite of conservatives across the country. The measure put Wisconsin at the center of a national debate over the role of public-employee unions, particularly in the wake of a recession that battered government finances.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Background links: Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein & Monica Davey.

Core Supporters: We’ve Just Been Too Darned Principled!

Neal McCluskey:

The argument for the Core – to the extent one has even been given – has mainly been a simple one of “build high standards and success will come.” See, for instance, this recent op-ed from former Tennessee Representative Harold Ford (D), or these superficial videos from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. For the most part, they simply assert that the Common Core represents high standards, and that’s what we need to vault near top place in the world educational and economic competition. This ignores the major empirical evidence I and many others have brought against the Core, and national standards generally, showing that standards – much less the Core itself – have demonstrated no such power. But Core supporters have very rarely engaged that crucial evidence, including before Washington did their bidding and coerced lightning-quick state adoption of the Core.

Of course, most of the pro-Core strategy has not been to rigorously defend the Core or nationalization generally, but to denigrate opponents. And perhaps there is some good news in that regard: some Core advocates are rebuking that strategy. This could simply be because the effort has not worked – indeed, much of the repentance in the Politico article seems to be a back-handed compliment about how principled and high-brow Core advocates have been – but if nothing else, at least dropping the cheap shots will make the debate a bit less acrimonious.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Elizabeth Green:

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

The Plot Against Merit

Dennis Saffran:

In 2004, seven-year-old Ting Shi arrived in New York from China, speaking almost no English. For two years, he shared a bedroom in a Chinatown apartment with his grandparents—a cook and a factory worker—and a young cousin, while his parents put in 12-hour days at a small Laundromat they had purchased on the Upper East Side. Ting mastered English and eventually set his sights on getting into Stuyvesant High School, the crown jewel of New York City’s eight “specialized high schools.” When he was in sixth grade, he took the subway downtown from his parents’ small apartment to the bustling high school to pick up prep books for its eighth-grade entrance exam. He prepared for the test over the next two years, working through the prep books and taking classes at one of the city’s free tutoring programs. His acceptance into Stuyvesant prompted a day of celebration at the Laundromat—an immigrant family’s dream beginning to come true. Ting, now a 17-year-old senior starting at NYU in the fall, says of his parents, who never went to college: “They came here for the next generation.”

To Fight Grade Inflation in the Humanities, Add Context

Andrew Perrin:

“You don’t understand,” the student said. “This is sociology. I took this class to increase my GPA. It wasn’t supposed to be hard!”

It was my first semester on the faculty, and the student had come to my office to complain about the grade she’d earned on the first paper for my sociology class: a B-minus. I had explained to her why the grade was appropriate, and one she could feel proud of. (UNC’s official grade system says the B range indicates “strong performance demonstrating a high level of attainment,” and that “the student has shown solid promise in the aspect of the discipline under study.”) But the student remained dissatisfied.

Alongside too many such conversations I’ve had, I’m happy to say that there have been at least as many with genuinely curious students who want to explore the material and see where it takes them. But the governing assumption—particularly in relatively humanistic fields like mine—that merely adequate performance deserves an A makes it difficult to document or reward the outstanding work of such curious young minds. That is why I became an advocate for curtailing grade inflation and grading inequality.

When A stands for average.

Education Issues & The Wisconsin Governor’s Race

Molly Beck:

As governor, Burke said she would seek to improve the high school experience for students to decrease the number of students who drop out or leave without much direction.
 “I see too much — we have either students who are not graduating or not engaged in their learning along with students who graduate but have no clear direction about their next step, and it doesn’t serve them well and it doesn’t serve the economy well,” she said.
 Walker’s campaign said the governor’s approach to education is influenced by several of his closest friends who are teachers, and “each of them give the governor a unique perspective on education.”
 The Republican Party of Wisconsin has highlighted Burke’s Madison School Board vote in June 2012 to increase property taxes by 4.95 percent. Later that year, after state aid came in higher than expected, she supported a 1.75 percent property tax increase, the maximum increase allowed under state law. She has not voted in favor of a school district budget since.

Related: The Common Core Commotion.

Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Mila Koumpilova

Six years ago, 225 students graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School. More than 70 percent went to college. Almost 40 percent got a degree.

That’s the sort of information Minnesota educators and parents have long wished they had. Now, it is readily available for the first time on a newly launched website that shows where a high school’s graduates went to college, how long they stayed on campus and how many graduated.

For state officials like Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, the information promises to highlight hidden success stories and inform policy decisions at a time of intense focus on college and career readiness. High schools can use it to assess how well they are preparing students and to spur partnerships with campuses popular with their graduates.

“This is a huge step forward in understanding how our students do when they leave us,” said Joe Munnich, the St. Paul district’s assistant director of research, evaluation and assessment. “It opens up amazing possibilities.”

Of Minnesota’s 2008 high school graduates, 69 percent went to a two- or four-year college, and 45 percent have since gotten a diploma. Eventually, the web site will also include information on how college graduates are faring on the job market.

The new data and web site are a joint effort by Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education, the Departments of Education and the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The project is funded with the same federal grant that has supported the state’s “Getting Prepared” reports, which show what portion of a high school’s graduates had to take remedial courses in college.

Until now, high schools knew which of their students graduated in a given year. Higher education institutions knew which students arrived on their campuses and which stuck around until graduation. The state project linked up that data for each student.

This data has been discussed from time to time in Madison & Wisconsin. Yet, our Wisconsin DPI – parent of the oft criticized WKCE – seems to be living in the status quo.

It appears that the Wisconsin DPI spent $48,531,028.75 during 2013 according to the Wisconsin “Open Book” site.

Here’s an example from Minnesota’s “SLEDS” System:

Dive in at the SLEDS site.

Politics, Wisconsin & the Common Core

Erin Richards & Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker’s call to drop the Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin threw a new dart at the beleaguered academic expectations this week.

But his plan to have lawmakers pass a bill in January that repeals and replaces the standards might be easier said than done, especially because the standards are voluntary for districts.

A leading Republican senator said that establishing new, state-specific standards could actually shift power away from local school boards and to the state.

Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a vocal supporter of the standards, said there’s actually nothing to “repeal” with Common Core. That’s because the standards are not codified in state law.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

And, a primer.

Madison schools’ new policy on unpaid meals: Lots of carrots, no stick

Chris Rickert:

The Madison School District has decided to stop telling children with overdrawn meal accounts that they can’t have the same meals the district gives to children of parents who are keeping up with their bills and to children who are enrolled in the free and subsidized lunch program.

Providing overdrawn children with a bare-bones cheese sandwich lunch is cheaper, but district officials decided it was also an exercise in shaming, especially when a lot of the children were probably poor but whose parents just hadn’t filled out the paperwork to get help paying for them.

“Doing it at the lunch line was very inappropriate,” said School Board member Dean Loumos.

Board president Arlene Silveira didn’t respond to requests for comment about the district’s new plans for handling overdrawn accounts. But Mike Barry, the assistant superintendent of business services, said district staff would make greater efforts to help families apply for subsidies before school starts, as well as make it easier for families to pay their meal bills.

Not under consideration are more punitive measures, Barry said, including sending bills to collection agencies or denying students access to extracurricular activities or their diplomas until meal bills are paid.

Best state in America: Massachusetts, for its educational success

Reid Wilson:

That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement.

In almost every category, the Bay State beats the national average: More than 60 percent of Massachusetts children have a parent with a post-secondary degree, 14 points higher than average, and nearly 60 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, more than 10 points above the national average.

No surprise, nearly half of Massachusetts fourth-graders are proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests, and more than 54 percent of eighth-graders get proficient scores on NAEP math tests — both the highest rates in the country.

The underlying reason is a bipartisan commitment to education reform. Massachusetts passed a major school reform package in 1993, increasing spending, particularly in poorer districts; raising assessment standards; and making licensure exams for new teachers more difficult. Several other states improved their standards around the same time. But when partisan priorities shifted in other places, Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats alike continued investing heavily in education.

Improving scores, particularly among low-income and minority students, is still a challenge, and Massachusetts has done no better in closing the achievement gap than most other states.

Wisconsin took a very small step toward Massachusetts’ content knowledge requirements by adopting MTEL-90 for elementary English teachers.

Wisconsin results are available here.

Before contract, New York teachers gave to de Blasio charity

Chris Bragg:

Less than a month before Mayor Bill de Blasio struck a major contract agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, gave $350,000 to a nonprofit run by de Blasio advisers, which lobbies on behalf of the mayor’s priorities, newly released records show.
 The AFT’s donation, on April 9, was the largest donation to the de Blasio-affiliated nonprofit, Campaign For One New York, since it was founded after the mayor was elected last November. Its timing raises questions about the ability of outside interests to advance their agendas before the city by supporting a nonprofit close to the mayor.

Related: $1.57 million for four senators – WEAC.

Year after Rocketship’s scrutinized Milwaukee launch, signs point to progress; Status Quo in Madison

Erin Richards:

What were the highlights of Rocketship’s first year here?

Strong growth. Rocketship set a goal of having 65% of its Milwaukee students meet the national average for reading and math growth over the course of the year. In fact, 72% of the school’s students, almost all of whom are low-income and Hispanic or black, learned as much as a typical American student in English and language arts. In math, 87% of Rocketship students met or exceeded that average growth target.

New style. Rocketship introduced children to spending part of the day doing reading and math exercises on the computer, using software that adapts to each child’s skill level. Sessions are overseen by an aide rather than a teacher, which is one way Rocketship keeps costs down. Most teachers also specialize by subject matter.

Parent involvement. A Rocketship hallmark is involving parents in schools, not only to help their children with homework and goal-setting, but also to advocate in the community. Kinser said almost all teachers had 90% of their parents meet the 30-hour goal of interacting with the school.

Enrollment. This year’s enrollment goal is 487 children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the school on its way to meeting it, Kinser said.

Rocketship’s challenges

The turbulent first year in Milwaukee also set Rocketship on its heels at times. Some challenges included:

Special education. About 17% of Milwaukee Rocketship children had special needs last year, which is close to the district average in Milwaukee Public Schools. Venskus said Rocketship went about $500,000 over budget to serve those students.

Teacher turnover. Rocketship, like other demanding urban charter schools with long hours and high expectations, was not a good fit for some teachers who left early in the school year. Rocketship did not renew some others. This fall there will be four new teachers at the school from Teach For America, the alternative teacher certification program from which Rocketship frequently recruits.

Political challenges. Rocketship leaders had to negotiate with lawmakers in Madison to try to clear a path for their staff with out-of-state teaching or administrator credentials to be recognized in Wisconsin.

Rocketship has a charter agreement with the Milwaukee Common Council to open up to eight schools serving 500 students each.



Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

A majority if the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Commentary on structural change.

Via Molly Beck.

Diane Ravitch: Campbell Brown Shouldn’t Worry Her Pretty Little Head About Education Policy

Jonathan Chait:

“I have trouble with this issue because it’s so totally illogical,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian. “It’s hard to understand why anyone thinks taking away teachers’ due-process rights will lead to great teachers in every classroom.”

As for Brown, Ravitch is dismissive: “She is a good media figure because of her looks, but she doesn’t seem to know or understand anything about teaching and why tenure matters … I know it sounds sexist to say that she is pretty, but that makes her telegenic, even if what she has to say is total nonsense.”

Why, yes, that does sound rather sexist. Now, Ravitch suggests here that Brown’s analysis is so transparently illogical that perhaps only her looks can account for her views. Why, Ravitch wonders, would the elimination of a job protection help attract better teachers? Let me reveal, via the power of logic, how this can work.

The basic problem is that some proportion of American teachers is terrible at their job and immune to improvement, yet removing them is a practical impossibility. (A good overview of the research on chronically ineffective teachers can be found here. Standard caveat: The author is my wife.) Under some conditions, loosening tenure laws can lead directly to more effective teachers in the classroom. For instance, when the Great Recession drove states to lay off teachers in order to balance their budgets, last-in, first-out hiring rules led them to fire teachers regardless of quality, thus removing highly effective (yet unprotected) teachers from classrooms.

Our Frederick Taylor style monolithic education model has obviously run its course.

How to Teach Reading and Writing

Letters to the New York Times Editor on The Fallacy of ‘Balanced Literacy, via a kind reader:

To the Editor:

Kudos to Alexander Nazaryan for his eloquent defense of “conventionally rigorous” teaching techniques.

The decision by the New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, to reinstate balanced literacy despite the unfavorable results of studies done during the Bloomberg administration reflects, in my opinion, a general aversion to empirical evidence within the educational establishment in favor of ideology and faddish group think.

I very much appreciate the excellent K-12 teaching I received in Brooklyn public schools during the 1940s and ’50s, when a “conventionally rigorous” approach was the norm.

My more recent experience as a volunteer tutor in Wisconsin elementary schools during the past 12 years mirrors that of Mr. Nazaryan in Brooklyn in 2005-06. Again, an approach appropriate for the Midwestern equivalent of “brownstone Brooklyn” kids was employed in classrooms where half the kids were poor or minorities or both. The results of this approach are what the local press has described as a notoriously high racial achievement gap.

Carl Silverman
Madison, WI

Much more on “balanced literacy”, here along with Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Why Middle School Should Be Abolished

David Banks:

America should do away with middle schools, which are educational wastelands. We need to cut the middle out of middle schools, either by combining them with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.

For much as half of middle schools across the country, national statistics show substantial performance gaps, especially in math and reading achievement, between middle school and high school. It’s time to admit that middle school models do not work—instead, they are places where academics stall and languish.

via Marc Eisen.

Mr Eisen wrote “My Life & Times with the Madison Public Schools” in 2007. Well worth reading.

American Teens Achieve Mediocrity In Financial Literacy, Local math & reading background

Michelle Hackman:

When it comes to financial literacy around the world, American teens are middling.

The United States may fuel the world’s largest economy and operate its most robust financial system. But compared to the financial prowess of teenagers in 17 other countries, U.S. teens come off downright mediocre.

That’s according to a new study published Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as part of its Program for International Student Assessment, conducted once every three years.

The OECD, a 34-nation organization based in Paris, surveyed 15-year-old students in 13 member nations and five other nations throughout 2012 to ascertain their level of familiarity with the financial system as they neared adulthood.

“Finance is part of everyday life for many 15-year-olds, who are already consumers of financial services, such as bank accounts,” the report said. “As they near the end of compulsory education, students will face complex and challenging financial choices, including whether to join the labor market or continue with formal education and, if so, how to finance such study.”

Unfortunately, this is unsurprising. Read two useful articles on local math difficulties and long term disastrous reading results.

The OECD report.

“Value-added measures are the Mark of the Devil”

Caitlin Emma:

Eskelsen García already has fiery words for the feds, who she holds responsible for the growing use of “value-added measures,” or VAMs, an algorithm that aims to assess teacher effectiveness by student growth on standardized tests. The idea has gained traction under the Obama administration through waivers from No Child Left Behind and the administration’s signature Race to the Top program. But studies, including some funded by the Education Department, have cast doubt on the validity of the measures.

VAMs “are the mark of the devil,” Eskelsen García said.

The algorithms do aim to account for variables such as student poverty levels. But Eskelsen García said they can’t capture the complete picture.

The year she taught 22 students in one class and the year she taught 39 students in one class — “Is that factored into a value-added model? No,” she said. “Did they factor in the year that we didn’t have enough textbooks so all four fifth-grade teachers had to share them on a cart and I couldn’t send any books home to do homework with my kids?”

“It’s beyond absurd,” she added. “And anyone who thinks they can defend that is trying to sell you something.”

Locally, Madison schools have been spending money and time on value-added assessment for years.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: America’s Public Sector Union Dilemma

Lee Ohanian:

There is much less competition in the public sector than the private sector, and that has made all the difference.

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, there has been a growing criticism of public sector unions, reflecting taxpayer concerns about union compensation and unfunded pension liabilities. These concerns have led to proposals to change public sector union policy in very significant ways. Earlier this month, voters in Ohio defeated by a wide margin a law that would have restricted union powers, although polls showed broad support for portions of the law that would have reduced union benefits. In Wisconsin, a state with a long-standing pro-union stance, Governor Scott Walker advanced policy in February that would cut pay and substantially curtail collective bargaining rights of many public sector union workers. In Florida, State Senator John Thrasher introduced legislation that would prevent governments from collecting union dues from union worker state paychecks. And it is not just Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida that are attempting to change the landscape of public unions. Cash-strapped governments in many states are considering ways to reduce the costs associated with public unions.

It is important to determine why public unionization rates are so much higher than in the private sector, and whether public union employees are excessively raising costs to taxpayers. Public sector workers may be paid significantly more than private sector workers and their pensions and job security are often higher than in the private sector. Factoring in the lower likelihood of dismissal and layoffs in the public sector, public sector compensation may be 10 percent higher than market rates.

I calculate that bringing public sector wages closer in line with private sector wages by reducing them by 5 percent can reduce state fiscal deficits considerably. For California, which is among the most fiscally strapped states in the nation, reducing state worker wages by 5 percent would reduce the state deficit by about 15 percent. Moreover, some public sector workers, such as California prison guards, are paid far in excess of competitive levels, reflecting a strong union and effective lobbying that has fostered rapid compensation growth. Other unions, such as teacher unions, do not drive up compensation nearly as much, but instead have substantial negative impact by protecting poor teachers, which in turn reduces the quality of public education and reduces human capital.

School should be year-round

Wausau Daily Herald:

More than 40 percent of Wausau School District students are attending summer school this year. That’s about the same proportion of students who took summer classes last year, and it’s considered pretty good participation for the Summer Learning program.

It should be 100 percent. A three-month summer vacation is bad for students, and it’s especially bad for at-risk students.

Story: 40 percent of Wausau district kids in summer school

The problem with a long summer break is that, when students are out on vacation for months on end, they tend to forget a lot of what they’ve learned. Research shows that they are especially likely to forget things that require memorization, such as multiplication tables or grammatical rules.

Locally, Madison appears unable to change any material aspect (the stillborn proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School) of its agrarian era K-12 organization, one that spends double the national average per student and has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Pupils on free school meals for only a year become ‘invisible underachievers’

Richard Adams:

Children who qualify for free school meals for just one year become “invisible underachievers” who receive little government support but achieve similar results to those who remain on free school meals during their entire school career.

Research from education data analysts FFT found that the group makes up around 7% of year 11 pupils, meaning that almost 40,000 students suffer similar levels of deprivation but receive fewer of the benefits, in most cases because their household income is just above the £16,000 threshold.

Those who received FSM for only one year average a D grade at GCSE – only slightly above those who are on the meals continuously, but almost a grade lower than pupils who have never received them.

Locally, Madison plans to expand its “free meal” program. Will this address Madison’s long standing disastrous reading results?

What Stiglitz Misses On Inequality: The Responsibility Of Economists

Steve Denning:

It is a not novel thought that each profession is acutely aware of the problems caused by others but is often unconscious of the problems for which it is responsible. The education system stifles learning by teaching to the test. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies prescribe medicines that cause new diseases that require new cures. Engineers create time-saving devices that end up wasting large amounts of our time. So it is not entirely a surprise that economists are also blind to problems that their profession has engendered.

Media Reality Check on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending

Molly Beck, writing for the Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison schools could see a $2.6 million increase in state aid next school year, but that’s about $5.6 million less than what district officials assumed when the School Board passed its preliminary budget last month, according to state estimates released Tuesday.

The Madison School District expected its state aid to increase from $52.2 million to $60.4 million for the 2014-15 school year, according to its preliminary budget, but the state Department of Public Instruction projects the district to receive $54.8 million. That number could change by October, when final payments will be known after districts report student enrollments, DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said.

School Board vice president James Howard said he isn’t sure what factors or assumptions the district used to project the higher level of state aid.

“That’s a very good question, and that’s one we’ll all be looking for an answer for,” said Howard. “If the preliminary budget is based on that $60 million state aid estimate, then that’s going to be an issue.”

District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said officials expected state aid would cover more of the district’s costs under Wisconsin’s complex funding formula.

Pat Schneider writing for the Capital Times:

Like most school districts in the state, Madison Metropolitan School District is likely to see a boost in state aid for next year, the Department of Public Instruction reports.

Madison is projected to receive $54.89 million in general school aid in the 2014-15 school year, up $2.69 million, or 5.1 percent, from the year before.

Total general school is set at $4.47 billion for 2014-15, a 2.1 percent increase compared to last school year, the DPI says. Actual aid payments are estimated at $4.3 billion because of statutory reductions for the Milwaukee voucher program and for independent charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine

Of the state’s 424 school districts, 53 percent will receive more general aid in 2014-15, while 47 percent of districts are expected to receive less aid.

Among those projected to receive less is Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, which is expected to receive $8.29 million in general state aid, down $1.47 million, or 15.1 percent, from the year before.

Enrollment and property values are big influences on the state general aid calculation, says Tom McCarthy, DPI communications officer. Aid increases with increased enrollment and decreases as property values rise, he said.

Perhaps Capital Newspapers might dive a bit deeper and share historic hard numbers with readers?


An Update On Redistributed Wisconsin Tax Dollars for K-12 Budgets

Molly Beck:

Whether the district will need to scale back its planned spending for the 2014-15 school year is a “good question,” Howard said. “I’m not sure what it means.”

McCarthy said Madison’s aid has only hit the $60 million mark once, during the 2008-09 school year when total state aid levels peaked at $4.7 billion. The district received $58.4 million during the 2012-13 school year, which was about $11 million more than the district projected at the time, but aid has ranged between $43.2 million and $52.2 million since the 2009-10 school year.

In the last three years, the district has ended up receiving more in state aid than DPI’s July 1 figures predicted. Last year, the district received about $2.6 million more than DPI first estimated and $4.2 million more in 2012. In 2011, the district received less than $1 million more.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2014-2015 budget, here.


Over 100,000 African-American Parents Are Now Homeschooling Their Children

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu:

We hear so much about the plight of Black children and their low test scores. We have not heard that African American children who are homeschooled are scoring at the 82% in reading and 77% in math. This is 30-40% above their counterparts being taught in school. There is a 30% racial gap in schools, but there is no racial gap in reading if taught in the home and only a 5% gap in math.

What explains the success of African American students being taught by their parents? I believe that it’s love and high expectations. I am reminded of Booker T. Washington High School. They were honored several years ago for producing the greatest turnaround as a Recovery school. The principal had the opportunity to pick and choose her staff and emphatically stated, “If you want to teach in this school you must love the students”. Researchers love promoting that the racial gap is based on income, marital status, and the educational background of the parents. Seldom, if ever, do they research the impact of love and high expectations.

Since the landmark decision, Brown vs. Topeka in 1954, there has been a 66% decline in African American teachers. Many African American students are in classrooms where they are not loved, liked, or respected. Their culture is not honored and bonding is not considered. They are given low expectations – which helps to explain how students can be promoted from one grade to another without mastery of the content.

There are so many benefits to homeschooling beyond academics. Most schools spend more than 33% of the day disciplining students. And bullying has become a significant issue. One of every 6 Black males is suspended and large numbers are given Ritalin and placed in Special Education. These problems seldom, if ever, exist in the Homeschool environment.

Another major benefit is the summer months. Research shows that there is a 3 year gap between White and Black students. Some students do not read or are involved in any academic endeavor during the summer. Those students lose 36 months or 3 years if you multiply 3 months times 12 years (grades first -12) Homeschool parents do not allow academics to be forsaken for 3 months.

Finally, in the homeschool environment, parents are allowed to teach their children

Related: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Molly Beck

There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding.

The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district.

After discussing the idea, School Board members said that the always contentious idea of changes to school boundaries would at least have to be publicly vetted as a possible solution to crowding before moving forward with a referendum. There have not been any public discussions on the matter since.

Spending and accounting problems with the last maintenance referendum (2005) lead to a discussion of an audit.

I recently met a young “Epic” husband and wife who are moving from their Madison townhouse to the Middleton/Cross Plains area. I asked them what prompted the move? “Costs and taxes per square foot are quite a bit less” as they begin planning a family. See “Where have all the students gone“.

Their attention to detail is unsurprising, particularly with so many young people supporting enormous student loans.

Madison spends double the national average per student. I hope that District seeks more efficient use of it’s $402,464,374 2014-2015 budget before raising property taxes.

Dive deeper into the charts, here.

OneCity Early Learning Centers: A New Plan for South Madison Child Development Incorporated (DRAFT)

OneCity Early Learning Centers by Kaleem Caire and Vivek Ramakrishnan (PDF), via a kind reader

In the fall of the 2013-14 school year, public school children across Wisconsin completed the state’s Knowledge and Concepts Exam, an annual test that measures their knowledge, ability and skills in reading and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and 10, and in language arts, science, social studies and writing in grades 4, 8 and 10. Just 13% of Black and 15% of Latino children who completed these assessments were reading at grade level (proficient or advanced) in elementary schools across Dane County. The numbers are even more striking than the percentages: just 207 of the 1,497 Black children and 266 of 1,688 Latino children enrolled in grades 3, 4 and 5 were reading at grade level. Despite better outcomes among White and Asian students, their rates of 51% and 48% reading at grade level are disturbing as well.

Tap for a larger version.

We need your help. We have a plan to facilitate greater educational and life success among children and their families in Dane County and hope you will join us in our efforts. That is why you are receiving this paper. We hope that when you are finished reading it, you will call or email us and say, “Yes, I’m signing up to assist you with establishing One City Early Learning Centers so that many more children in our community are ready to read, compute and succeed at grade level by the time they enter first grade, regardless of their race, ethnicity or socio- economic pedigree.”

In April 2014, after months of consideration, the Board of Directors of South Madison Child Development Incorporated (CDI), one of Dane County’s oldest and most heralded childcare providers, decided that it was time to reorganize, rebrand and re-launch its Center with a new mission, new leadership, a new educational program, and new plans for future expansion. Beginning in the fall of 2014, South Madison CDI will become One City Early Learning Centers Incorporated and will change the name of its centers located at 2012 Fisher Street on Madison’s South Side and the Dane County Job Center.

Google Sells Parent Status to Advertisers

Larry Kim:

If you’ve ever read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, you probably didn’t notice a chapter about Google tracking your parental status in AdWords. Well, this is exactly what Google is doing, as Parental Status is now a demographic subset that advertisers can explicitly target.

This feature went live within the past 12 hours or so, and Google has yet to make an official announcement. However, we’ve already seen it in action, as you can see in the following figure:

Note that many schools, including Madison, use google email and other services.

Unblinking Eyes Track Employees

Steve Lohr:

A digital Big Brother is coming to work, for better or worse.

Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace.

Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank’s call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover.

Somewhat related: TeacherMatch.

UW-Madison’s Julie Underwood says controversial teacher education rankings “don’t mean much”

Pat Schneider:

“So whether the ratings are lackluster, or horrible, or great doesn’t mean much to me,” she said.

UW-Madison School of Education programs in secondary education were deemed to be in the bottom half nationwide and were not ranked.

Underwood is not the only educator skewering the NTCQ ratings released this week that discredit Wisconsin teacher training pretty much across the board, as charted in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article.

The Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education rejected the evaluations in a statement this week, calling Washington-based NCTQ “a private political advocacy organization” with no standing to review teacher preparation programs in Wisconsin.

“However well-intentioned NCTQ’s review process may be, it does not reflect good practice in program evaluation, is not sensitive to the particular needs of this state, and represents a politically-motivated intrusion into the state’s rights and responsibilities to oversee its education system and licensing practices,” the association concluded.

Underwood was less optimistic about the intentions of the ratings.

When A stands for average: students at the UW Madison school of education received sky-high grades. How smart is that?.


Julie Underwood.

Wisconsin takes a baby step toward teacher content knowledge requirements via MTEL elementary language standards.

Year later, much has been learned about school closings Chicago Public Schools say attendance, grades didn’t suffer

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah:

Nerves were a little shakier than usual when the 2013-14 school year started in Chicago, as parents and city officials anxiously watched thousands of children heading off to classrooms in unfamiliar neighborhoods because of the district’s move to close almost 50 elementary schools.

But when classes let out Friday, most of the fears of September were unrealized. The Safe Passage program to protect kids on their way to and from those schools appears to have performed as promised. And Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Friday said there was an uptick in performance at schools designated to take in students whose buildings were closed.

Madison tried to consolidate school facilities in 2007, unsuccessfully. Bricks and mortar are largely irrelevant if one has great teachers.

Will California’s Ruling Against Teacher Tenure Change Schools?

Dana Goldstein:

On Tuesday, a California superior-court judge ruled that the state’s teacher tenure system discriminates against kids from low-income families. Based on testimony that one to three percent of California teachers are likely “grossly ineffective”—thousands of people, who mostly teach at low-income schools—he reasoned that current tenure policies “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.” The ruling, in Vergara v. California, has the potential to overturn five state laws governing how long it takes for a teacher to earn tenure; the legal maneuvers necessary to remove a tenured teacher; and which teachers are laid off first in the event of budget cuts or school closings.

Tenure has existed in K-12 public education since 1909, when “good-government” reformers borrowed the concept from Germany. The idea spread quickly from New Jersey to New York to Chicago and then across the country. During the Progressive Era, both teachers unions and school-accountability hawks embraced the policy, which prevented teaching jobs from being given out as favors by political bosses. If it was legally difficult to fire a good teacher, she couldn’t be replaced by the alderman’s unqualified sister-in-law.

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

Pat Schneider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This French tech school has no teachers, no books, no tuition — and it could change everything

Dylan Tweeney:

École 42 might be one of the most ambitious experiments in engineering education.

It has no teachers. No books. No MOOCs. No dorms, gyms, labs, or student centers. No tuition.

And yet it plans to turn out highly qualified, motivated software engineers, each of whom has gone through an intensive two- to three-year program designed to teach them everything they need to know to become outstanding programmers.

The school, housed in a former government building used to educate teachers (ironically enough), was started by Xavier Niel. The founder and majority owner of French ISP Free, Niel is a billionaire many times over. He’s not well known in the U.S., but here he is revered as one of the country’s great entrepreneurial successes in tech.

He is also irrepressibly upbeat, smiling and laughing almost nonstop for the hour that he led a tour through École 42 earlier this week. (Who wouldn’t be, with that much wealth? Yet I have met much more dour billionaires before.)

Change to our agrarian era $15k+/student public school organizations looms.

Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate Act 10 Commentary

Matthew DeFour:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much more on Wisconsin Act 10, here.

On College Debt & lack of K-12 Math Teaching

Heidi Moore:

And the contract terms on private college loans are rigid to the point of cruelty. Borrowers have almost no say and little ability to renegotiate the terms if financial trouble occurs – an inevitability. Many private lenders don’t allow students to pay down the principal of a loan, which means endless payments just to cover the high interest, without ever chipping away at the real amount. Payment options like forbearance are temporary and restricted; prepayment or consolidation are largely forbidden. The most dangerous part for such a significant debt is that there is no escape, no way to ease the burden.

Private or publicly guaranteed student loans are a sideshow. Our K-12 schools should be teaching basic math, skills that students can use to understand the implications of their choices.

Autism costs ‘£32bn per year’ in UK

Helen Briggs:

The economic cost of supporting someone with autism over a lifetime is much higher than previously thought, research suggests.

It amounts to £1.5m in the UK and $2.4m in the US for individuals with the highest needs, say UK and US experts.

Autism cost the UK more than heart disease, stroke and cancer combined, said an autism charity.

But only £6.60 per person is spent on autism research compared with £295 on cancer, according to Autistica.

The research looked at the costs to society of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in both the UK and US.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on Special Education spending (2007).

The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom

Dan Rockmore:

A colleague of mine in the department of computer science at Dartmouth recently sent an e-mail to all of us on the faculty. The subject line read: “Ban computers in the classroom?” The note that followed was one sentence long: “I finally saw the light today and propose we ban the use of laptops in class.”

While the sentiment in my colleague’s e-mail was familiar, the source was surprising: it came from someone teaching a programming class, where computers are absolutely integral to learning and teaching. Surprise turned to something approaching shock when, in successive e-mails, I saw that his opinion was shared by many others in the department.

My friend’s epiphany came after he looked up from his lectern and saw, yet again, an audience of laptop covers, the flip sides of which were engaged in online shopping or social-media obligations rather than in the working out of programming examples. In a “Network”-inspired Peter Finch moment, he quickly changed the screen of his lecture presentation to a Reddit feed and watched some soccer highlights. That got everyone’s attention.

Kenosha School Board settles lawsuit over Act 10 dispute

Erin Richards:

Kenosha schools and the teachers union were at odds over the issue of automatic dues deduction for non-union members. Supporters of the contract argued the agreement and terms within it, such as the provision for automatic dues deduction, were legal because of the Colás decision.

Kenosha Unified spokeswoman Tanya Ruder explained the School Board negotiated with the unions and signed the agreement on Nov. 12 only after receiving notice from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in October that the unions were still the certified collective bargaining representative of the teachers.

Legal rulings after that agreement resulted in WERC then informing Kenosha that the unions were not, in fact, certified collective bargaining representatives at the time, Ruder said.

That meant the union didn’t actually represent the employees in November when the collective bargaining agreements were reached, Ruder said.

Much more on Act 10 here.

Locally, Madison continues to automatically deduct union dues from teacher paychecks.

Who Profits from the Master’s Degree Pay Bump for Teachers?

Matthew Chingos:

The fact that teachers with master’s degrees are no more effective in the classroom, on average, than their colleagues without advanced degrees is one of the most consistent findings in education research. In a study published in 2011, Paul Peterson and I confirmed this finding by comparing the student achievement of the same teachers before and after they earned master’s degrees, and found no impact.[1]

This finding may be non-controversial among researchers, but it has largely been ignored by policymakers. Ninety-six percent of the 112 major U.S. school districts included in the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Teacher Contract Database pay teachers with MA degrees more than those with BA degrees, with an average difference of $3,205 in the first year of teaching, $4,176 in the fifth year, and $8,411 at the top of the salary schedule. The size of this pay bump varies widely, topping out at over $30,000 in three districts in Maryland.[2]

It is not surprising that teachers respond to these incentives by earning MA degrees. In 2011-12, nearly half of U.S. teachers held such a degree. However, it comes at a price. As higher education costs continue to rise, teachers are going deeper into debt in order to earn these degrees. The proportion of education MA students with graduate debt increased from 49 to 60 percent between 2004 and 2012, and median graduate debt levels increased (in constant dollars) from $27,455 to $35,350. Factoring in undergraduate debt pushes the 2012 figure to $50,879.

Teachers also generally receive annual years of service increases.

Dumping Everyday Math? The Future of Seattle Elementary Math Education Will Be Decided on Wednesday

But I would suggest an even more important vote will occur on Wednesday, one that will decide the future of tens or hundreds of thousands of Seattle students over the next decade: the Seattle School Board’s vote on the future elementary math curriculum.

As I have noted in previous blogs, Seattle Public Schools is now using a grossly inferior math curriculum, Everyday Math. Most school districts in the area (and around the country) have dropped it because it fails to provide basic competency in elementary-level mathematics, crippling students’ ability to learn algebra and higher mathematics later in their career. Everyday Math is a prime example of “fuzzy math,” with students spending much their their time inventing their own algorithms, writing long essays, using calculators, and doing group projects. Everyday Math is a wonderful example of the tendency to jump on the latest fad, which may sound good, but fails in the classroom.

So you would think the district would be doubly sure not to make a serious mistake again.

Last month, a committee established by the district provided their recommendation of a possible new curriculum. Their rankings were:

1. EnVision Math
2. Go Math!
3. Math in Focus (MIF), which is a U.S. version of Singapore Math.

As I explained in my last blog of the subject, their evaluation was a great disappointment. Math in Focus, based on the extraordinarily successful Singapore Math approach, was downgraded because it advanced student’s too rapidly (compared to the latest fad, the Common Core standards). Go Math! is glossy and weak. EnVision, their top choice, is glossy and full of excessive reading and writing, making it a poor choice for students who do not have strong English skills. But better than Everyday Math for sure.

Much more on Everyday Math, here.

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

Locally, Madison has also used Everyday Math.

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

MTI Website:

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

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

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

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


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

Act 10.

Mary Burke.

New Orleans Public Schools go 100% Charter

Lyndsey Layton:

The second-graders paraded to the Dumpster in the rear parking lot, where they chucked boxes of old work sheets, notebooks and other detritus into the trash, emptying their school for good.

Benjamin Banneker Elementary closed Wednesday as New Orleans’ Recovery School District permanently shuttered its last five traditional public schools this week.

With the start of the next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a milestone for New Orleans and a grand experiment in urban education for the nation.

Locally, Madison continues with its agrarian era school structure, unchallenged.

Finns beat U.S. with low-tech take on school

Caitlin Emma:

At the start of morning assembly in the state-of-the-art Viikki School here, students’ smartphones disappear. In math class, the teacher shuts off the Smartboard and begins drafting perfect circles on a chalkboard. The students — some of the highest-achieving in the world — cut up graphing paper while solving equations using their clunky plastic calculators.

Finnish students and teachers didn’t need laptops and iPads to get to the top of international education rankings, said Krista Kiuru, minister of education and science at the Finnish Parliament. And officials say they aren’t interested in using them to stay there.

Teacher content knowledge surely trumps tech gizmos and endless grant driven schemes.

25.62% of Madison’s $402,464,374 2014/2015 budget to be spent on benefits; District’s Day of Teacher Union Collective Bargaining; WPS déjà vu

The Madison School Board

Act 10 duckduckgo google wikipedia

Madison Teachers, Inc.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email::

School Board Decisions on Employee Health Insurance Contributions Could Further Reduce Wages

Under MTI’s various Collective Bargaining Agreements, the District currently pays 100% of the health insurance premiums for both single and family coverage, but retains the ability to require employees to contribute up to 10% of the monthly premium for both single and family coverage.

District management has recommended to the Board of Education that they adopt a Budget which would allow for up to a 5% increase in health insurance premiums to be paid by the District. If the Board agrees, this would require employees to pay any increase above 5%, and insurance carriers of District plans currently propose premium increases greater than 5%. The Board is currently discussing whether to require the employee to pay the increase. If the Board does, that would further decrease employees’ take-home pay. Even a 2% employee premium contribution would cost employees over $120 per year for the least expensive single coverage, and over $300 per year for the least expensive family coverage, i.e. any increase would compound the loss of purchasing power described above.

2014-2015 budget documents, to date.

Several articles on the legal controversy regarding Wisconsin “collective bargaining”:

WILL to Madison School Board: Comply With Act 10 or Face Lawsuit

Mary Burke (running for Governor) votes for labor talks with Madison teachers.

Madison School Board nearing extension of union contracts.

Madison School Board flouts the law in favor of teachers union.

Liberals look to one last chance to overturn Scott Walker’s reforms, in a judicial election.

The Madison School District’s substantial benefit spending is not a new topic.

Madison School District proposes using screening test to predict teachers’ impact on student success

Molly Beck:

The Madison School Board is considering spending $273,000 on a screening program its creators say can better predict whether prospective teachers will improve student achievement.

The proposed three-year contract with Chicago-based TeacherMatch would provide the district with a system to track and recruit applicants, ask teacher candidates a timed series of questions and assign each applicant a professional development profile to show principals or human resources staff what kind of help applicants may need once hired based on their answers, said Ron Huberman, executive chairman of TeacherMatch.

One board member is concerned that the program puts too much emphasis on the impact candidates may have on student test scores and that the public won’t be able to scrutinize how the screening program judges prospective teachers. And the leader of the local teachers union says computer-based screening tools don’t work as well as personal interviews.

U.S. Students from Educated Families Lag in International Tests

Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann:

“The big picture of U.S. performance on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation…. Fifteen-year olds in the U.S. today are average in science and reading literacy, and below average in mathematics, compared to their counterparts in [other industrialized] countries.”

U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan spoke these grim words on the bleak December day in late 2013 when the international tests in math, science, and literacy were released. No less disconcerting was the secretary’s warning that the nation’s educational problems are not limited to certain groups or specific places. The “educational challenge in America is not just about poor kids in poor neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s about many kids in many neighborhoods. The [test] results underscore that educational shortcomings in the United States are not just the problems of other people’s children.”

In making his comments, Secretary Duncan challenged those who cling to an old belief that the nation’s educational challenges are confined to its inner cities. Most affluent Americans remain optimistic about the schools in their local community. In 2011, Education Next asked a representative sample to evaluate both the nation’s schools and those in their own community. The affluent were especially dubious about the nation’s schools—only 15 percent conceded them an A or a B. Yet 54 percent gave their local schools one of the two top ratings.

Public opinion is split on how well the nation’s schools educate students of different abilities. In 2013 Education Next asked the public whether local schools did a good job of teaching talented students. Seventy-three percent said the local schools did “somewhat” or “extremely” well at the task, as compared to only 45 percent who thought that was true of their capacity to teach the less-talented.


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

Pat Schneider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Food Stamp Growth, including Wisconsin

Atif Mian & Amir Sufi:

Why exactly has there been such a sharp rise in food stamp usage? Is it general economic weakness? Failed economic policies? What do the data say?

The USDA provides state-level information on food stamp usage, so we can see exactly where food stamp program enrollment increased the most. Here is the growth in food stamp usage from 2006 to 2009, with darker red states those that had the largest increase:

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

CJ Szafir:

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

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

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

Via Alan Borsuk.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Cincinnati’s achievement gap initiatives

Kim McGuire:

When educators nationwide want to look at proven ways to turn around a struggling urban school system, this is the city they visit.

Over a decade, Cincinnati Public Schools’ graduation rate has jumped from 50 to 80 percent. And in the past five years, the reading and math proficiency of its elementary students has climbed in many schools.

Those gains have been fueled by big improvements in the performance of black students, who make up more than half of the district’s 30,000 students. In 2006, 2007 and 2010, black students’ graduation rates surpassed those of whites.

Via Molly Beck.

Cincinnati spent $602,605,253 during 2013 [PDF] for 33,000 students or $18,261/student.

Madison plans to spend $402,265,253 for 25,107 full time and 2,079 pre-k students (about 14,800/student) during the 2014-2015 school year [detailed budget package 2.5mb pdf]

Wisconsin Sen. Olsen unbowed by pressure from Common Core opponents


Olsen said he sees the Common Core standards as an improvement over Wisconsin’s old standards and points to support from the conservative Fordham Foundation and business leaders like Bill Gates, who argue the standards are needed to remain competitive in a global economy. He wants to avoid a situation similar to Indiana, which dropped Common Core only to end up adopting something similar anyway.

While he thinks that some groups are using the issue to “gin up” membership and hopes it will fade away after the 2014 elections, he also says the issue’s staying power will likely depend on how Gov. Scott Walker handles it.

“The governor put the money in the budget for the [Smarter Balanced] test, and I was asking him and his staff all along, ‘Is he going to stand strong on his position supporting this?'” Olsen said. “And all of a sudden, one day, he turned 180 degrees. ‘Well, we can do better.’ Well, I’ve been waiting to find out what ‘better’ is. I’ve been waiting to find out what ‘more rigorous’ is. I’ve been waiting to find out what’s the problem is. It’s easy to say this stuff, but there’s nothing behind it. And when you say things like this, people believe it.”

Links: Luther Olsen.

Common Core.


Why 14 Wisconsin high schools take international standardized test

Alan Borsuk:

Patricia Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District, said her district, west of Milwaukee, is generally high performing. But, Deklotz asked, if they talk a lot about getting students ready for the global economy, are they really doing it? PISA is a way to find out.

“It raises the bar from comparing ourselves to schools in Wisconsin,” she said. “This is something that can benchmark us against the world.” Deklotz said she wants the school staff to be able to use the results to analyze how improve their overall practices.

One appeal for taking part in the PISA experiment: The 14 Wisconsin schools didn’t have to pay out of their own pockets.

The Kern Family Foundation, based in Waukesha County, is one of the leading supporters of efforts aimed at improving the global competitiveness of American schoolchildren. Kern convened the invitation-only conference in Milwaukee. And as part of its support of the effort, it is picking up the tab — $8,000 per school — for the 14 schools.

“The Kern Family Foundation’s role is to support and convene organizations focused on improving the rising generation’s skills in math, science, engineering and technology to prepare them to compete in the global marketplace,” Ryan Olson, education team leader at the foundation, said in a statement.

A second somewhat-local connection to the PISA initiative: Shorewood native Jonathan Schnur has been involved in several big ideas in education. Some credit him with sparking the Race to the Top multibillion-dollar competitive education grant program of the Obama Administration. Schnur now leads an organization called America Achieves, which is spearheading the PISA effort.

Until now, Schnur said in an interview, there hasn’t been a way for schools to compare themselves to the rest of the world. Participating in PISA is a way to benefit from what’s being done in the best schools in the world.

Each participating school will get a 150-page report slicing and dicing its PISA results. That includes analysis of not only skills but also what students said in answering questions about how their schools work. Do kids listen to teachers? Do classes get down to business promptly at the start of a period? Do students have good relationships with teachers?

Schleicher told the Milwaukee meeting that PISA asked students why they think some kids don’t do well in math. American students were likely to point to lack of talent as the answer. In higher-scoring countries, students were more likely to say the student hadn’t worked hard enough. “That tells you a lot about the underlying education,” he said.

Related Much more on PISA and Wisconsin’s oft criticized WKCE, here

An Update on Credit for Non Madison School District Courses; Instructional Policy Changes

The Madison School District (PDF):

Effective July 1, 2016, increase math and science graduation requirements by 1 credit each and eliminate specific math course requirements

Remove references to the High School Graduation Test (HGST)

Add language permitting course equivalencies

Related: notes and links on Credit for non-Madison School District courses.

Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Richard Adams:

England’s GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers’ calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation.

At the urging of the education secretary, Michael Gove, Ofqual has unveiled a plan to link GCSE grades to levels achieved by pupils in China, Singapore and other countries deemed to be high-performing.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, conceded that the watchdog was responding to a written request from Gove that exams should be more demanding because international tables suggest the UK has fallen behind even as results appear to have improved.

But the idea of an international educational currency prompted concern from teaching unions, who said some countries excluded certain types of children to boost their scores in international tests.

Light years away from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s lost decades with the oft-criticized WKCE.

“we don’t believe now is the time to move individual (charter school) proposals forward” – Madison Superintendent

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (3MB PDF):

While we are busy working in the present day on the improvement of all of our schools, a key aspect of our long-term strategy must include the addition or integration of unique programs or school models that meet identified needs. However, to ensure that these options are strategic and that they enhance our focus rather than distract from it, we need to build a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy.

We need to think in depth about how options like additional district charter schools would meet the needs of our students, how they would support our vision and close opportunity gaps for all. The things we are learning now from our high school reform collaborative, which was just launched, and the review of our special education and alternative programs, which is now in progress, will be powerful information to help build that strategy over the coming school year.

Until we establish that more comprehensive long-term strategy, together with the Board and with direction and input from our educators and families, we don’t believe now is the time to move individual proposals forward. Both the district and those proposing a charter option should have the guidance of a larger strategy to ensure that any proposal would meet the needs of our students and accomplish our vision.

Related: A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. Also, the proposed (and rejected) Studio School.

Elementary Data: Madison’s Proposed $39,500,000 Maintenance & Expansion Referendum

Madison Schools’ March, 2014 Facility Plan (PDF)::

Shorewood Elementary: In conjunction with building an elevator tower, add a four-classroom addition. The additional classrooms are a relatively easy gain based on the building design.

Shorewood’s 2013-2014 Low Income Population: 33.8%; All Madison Elementary Schools: 52.1%

2012-2013 Basic & Minimal Reading Proficiency: 34.3% Madison School District: 62.5%

In conjunction with building an elevator tower, add a new cafeteria. Convert the existing cafeteria into four classrooms.

Midvale’s 2013-2014 Low Income Population: 60.9%; All Madison Elementary Schools: 52.1%

2012-2013 Basic & Minimal Reading Proficiency: 72.3% Madison School District: 62.5%

Wisconsin DPI School Report Cards: Midvale | Shorewood | Madison School District. Enrollment data.

Related: Madison’s 16% property tax increase since 2007, Median Household Income Down 7.6%, Middleton’s property taxes 16% less. Madison spends about $15k per student, double the national average.

Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes (16%)

Prior to spending more money from what is at best a flat tax base, perhaps Madison citizens might review previous maintenance referendum spending.

Current Madison Elementary School Boundaries…. & the School Board Election

Two Madison School Board candidates recently expressed opposition to boundary changes:

Flores also said when students and parents walk to their schools, it fosters family connections and relationships between families and school faculty.

“If (any) boundary changes obstruct from that, then I’m against that,” said Flores, who also said he supports asking voters for money to expand crowded schools and improve aesthetics. “If we allowed that big of a gap to happen to our own houses, our community would look dilapidated.”

Strong said the neighborhood school concept could benefit the Allied Drive area, where students — predominantly from low-income families — do not attend the same schools.

“A neighborhood school in that area is something we should look at because you do have these kids that are being bused to all these different schools,” he said.

I invite readers to review the District’s current boundaries [2.5MB PDF] vis a vis “walkability”. I continue to be astonished that the community apparently supports such a wide range of low income population across our schools.

Related: Madison’s current low income school population distribution:

Madison has long supported a wide variation in school demographics. The chart above, created from 2013-2014 Madison School District middle school demographic data, illustrates the present reality, with the largest middle school – near west side Hamilton – also featuring the smallest percentage low income population.

Build it and they may come Management schools are on a building spree. That is a risk for some

The Economist:

BUSINESS-SCHOOL students are a pampered bunch. Scholars sipping a glass of red in the posh rooftop bar of Oxford’s Saïd Business School could be forgiven for thinking they had wandered into the nearby Randolph Hotel by mistake. Stanford students can view an impressive modern-art collection housed in its own museum. Harvard Business School MBAs can book a masseuse to relieve the stress of a hard day slaving over case studies.
 Life for the next generation of business students is to get even cushier. In the past few years the leading schools have been raising vast amounts to spend on new facilities. On January 9th Yale’s School of Management formally opened its swanky new home, designed by Foster + Partners, Norman Foster’s architecture practice. The Kellogg School of Management in Illinois will soon start work on a new headquarters (see artist’s impression, above) for its MBA programme on the shores of Lake Michigan, at a cost of $200m. Stanford’s business school spent $345m on its new campus, largely thanks to the largesse of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike.

Meanwhile, Madison’s K-12 world considers another $39,500,000 on bricks and mortar despite issues with previous spending and long term disastrous reading results.

Mayor Soglin: The City Has to Help Students Who Live in Poverty

Jack Craver
The Capital Times

A number of figures stood out at the Ed Talks panel on the achievement gap that I attended last Wednesday night, part of a UW-Madison series of free conversations and presentations on educational issues. Here are two:
• 50: The percentage of children currently defined as low-income in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
• 9: The percentage of children defined as low-income when Paul Soglin was first elected mayor in 1973.
It is not just the schools’ responsibility to address the effects of such a dramatic increase in poverty, says the mayor, who participated on the panel along with School Board President James Howard and others.
“The school system has the children about 20 percent of the time,” Soglin said. “The remaining 80 percent is very critical.”
The city, he says, needs to help by providing kids with access to out-of-school programs in the evenings and during the summer. It needs to do more to fight hunger and address violence-induced trauma in children. And it needs to help parents get engaged in their kids’ education.
“We as a community, for all of the bragging about being so progressive, are way behind the rest of the nation in these areas,” he says.

Should Home-Schoolers Play for High School Teams?

Room for Debate:

Legislation to allow home-schooled students to play varsity sports at public schools passed the Republican-controlled Virginia Assembly on Wednesday. It will now go before the State Senate. Robert McDonnell, Virginia’s Republican governor, has said he supports the bill.
Alabama and Mississippi are considering similar legislation, and 25 states now allow home-schooled students to play sports at public schools with varying restrictions. Is this a move in the right direction?

Madison Prep, unions overshadow School Board races

Jack Craver:

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

Related: 1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A.

More on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Achievement Gap Presentation: $105,600,000 over 5 Years

Pat Schneider:

Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad packed the house Monday night for what he termed “a call to action” to the community to join his administration in a strategy to close the racial achievement gap that has haunted the school district for decades.
His blueprint for change, “Building our Future,” weighs in at 100 pages and took an hour to outline with a Power Point presentation to an audience of about 200 at the Fitchburg Community Center. The proposal will be digested, dissected and debated in the weeks to come, including at a series of community meetings hosted by the school district.
But one thing is clear: from Nerad’s point of view, the future of children of color in our city lies not only in the hands of the teachers and administrators who shape their lives at school, but also in the hands of their families, their neighbors, and members of the community who live and work all around town.
“It can’t be the schools alone; it has to be the schools working with the community if we’re going to have outcomes,” he said.

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

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

Nathan Comp:

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

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

Ten Thoughts on the Preliminary MMSD Budget Figures for 2012-13

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

It’s a little early for budget season, but Sunday’s State Journal included an article by Matt DeFour that kicks off discussion of the school district’s finances for 2012-13. According to the article, preliminary numbers indicate about a $12.4 million budget gap for the district.
Here are ten quick thoughts on these preliminary figures.
1. To make sense of budget gap talk, it’s helpful to understand the assumptions behind the concept. Budget gaps are traditionally calculated within the context of a school district’s state-imposed revenue limit authority. (For the sake of clarity, it’s helpful to think of revenue limits as spending limits.). Costs are projected to go up by X millions, the school district is constrained by revenue limits to increase its spending by no more than Y millions, and the difference between X and Y is the measure of the gap that traditionally has to be bridged through painful budget cuts.

Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!)

More time for open enrollment

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin’s public school open enrollment period begins Monday, and for the first time, families will have three months to decide whether and where to enroll their students outside of their home school district.
For the Madison School District, the extra time could mean more families choosing to leave for other districts or virtual schools, though Superintendent Dan Nerad said it’s too early to know what the affect will be.
“By the nature that there’s an open window, that’s likely to happen for us as well as other districts around the state,” Nerad said.
Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week extending the official open enrollment period from three weeks in February to three months. Applications must be completed by April 30.
Proponents of the change, including school choice advocates and the virtual school industry, tout open enrollment as giving parents and students more control of their educational options.

Related: Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment Applications 2010-2011 School Year; As of 3/18/2010.

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

Matthew DeFour:

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


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

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

Kaleem Caire, via email:

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

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

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

Research about the (Achievement) Gap

Mary Battaglia kindly forwarded this email sent to the Madison School Board:

The high school graduation racial gap has been in the Madison news as though it only affects our fair city. It does not require much research, something the local media has failed to do, to see this is a national concern. According to an analysis called “Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education,” nationally only 47% of black males graduated from high school in 2007. (1) It has been reported that Madison’s graduation rate for black males is 50%. Obviously a pathetic rate compared to the 87% for whites, but what has not been a part of the local conversation is how Madison compares in relationship to the rest of the nation, and perhaps figure out where black males are graduating at a higher rate, and why. The Schott’s report, revealed two communities with large minority populations with much better graduation outcomes than the rest of the nation, Baltimore and Fort Bend, Texas. What MMSD should be looking into is what are these cities doing, and what curricula or community effort has made them successful? One interesting part of the gap for Madison and the state of Wisconsin is the high rate of whites graduating. While Wisconsin is the worst defender in the racial gap, the states total graduation rate is one the highest in the nation.
When you read various assessments of the “reason” for the gap nationally, the theories include the lack of financial investment, lack of good teachers, and the lack of community structure. While I find these proposals reasonable, I fail to understand how in this community they are relevant. MMSD spends well over $13,000 per student, lack the overwhelming urban problems of Milwaukee and Chicago, and have many fine teachers that somehow get non-minority students educated. These excuses ring hallow as to why MMSD has such a poor rate. What does ring true is we are not educating the population as it exist today. In the last 25 years the MMSD’s minority rate has increased from 20% to one closer to 48%. (2) In the last 25 years MMSD has changed from a district of less than 25% free and reduced lunch to one that is closer to 50%. (3)Madison is still teaching to the population of 25 years ago, the students have changed, but the curriculum has not.
Perhaps, MMSD could improve the graduation rate for all students, with a significant change of focus. For example, MMSD’s high school’s emphasize 4 year college candidates when many of the students would do better in a 2 year or technology school focus. There has been an increased coordination with MATC, but what would be beneficial is to offer a dual graduation for students, so as they graduate from MMSD, they also have a 2 year degree or a certificate from MATC. This is a system that has been successful in a high school in North Carolina. (4) A student that wants to head to college still has that opportunity and perhaps a chance to make some money to support the effort. Perhaps, another way to improve graduation outcomes would include an overhaul of the summer school program. Currently, MMSD summer school staff are paid poorly, the programs focus is mostly on students that have flunked their classes and need a recovery grade, and the programs poor reputation have lead many staff to discourage students from participating. (5) Why not invest in a comprehensive retooling of the summer program that provides a better salary for staff, and includes enrichment, regular classes, as well as recovery options. Let’s find a creative summer program with smaller class sizes and build a program that is the envy of the country and one that works. If summer school is going to be provided, then make it an awesome program, not just a warehouse for failing kids. Perhaps, as most research reveals, early education is a key component to better graduation outcomes, and the district finally is getting a 4K program up and running after a decade long battle with the union.
Madison Prep was an idea, but it is a unique group of students that would select to participate in such a rigorous program, which means an already motivated student or parents with very high expectations, both factors that frequently mean a student would do well anyway. MMSD needs to look at students that may not be that motivated or academically talented and assess what works to keep them engaged. The one thing MMSD has no control over is probably the most important issue for a students outcome. Research concludes the number one predictor of a students academic success is parental expectations. (6) Our schools cannot change parental expectations, however, they can change what a student expects. MMSD students need to expect a positive future, a purpose and a reason to stay in school. Not all kids will succeed but more than half of the black male students should. Let’s develop a district that gives all the students the opportunity to succeed. Public school data

This statement is based on personal experience of having many staff, from middle school up to high school, discourage my daughter who struggles in math from attending summer school. I have also spoke to many parents with the same experience.
*** Of note the data of graduation rate is debated in academic circles as the data is not always standardized. Some data includes GED and 5 year rates others include only 4 year rates.
Mary Kay Battaglia

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

School expulsion law challenged as unconstitutional

Matthew DeFour:

A state law that allows school districts to deny enrollment to students expelled by other districts is unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court.
The suit was filed against the Oregon School District, which denied enrollment to a middle school student after the Janesville School District expelled him in November.
The student was expelled after serving suspensions last October for an alleged sexual assault and possession of tobacco on campus, according to the complaint. The student denied both charges, the complaint states.
Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin. said his organization disapproves of the expulsion law, which has been on the books since 1997. The state constitution guarantees a free education to all students between the ages of 4 and 20.

‘Business as usual’ isn’t working for Madison schools

Nichelle Nichols:

I am running for the Madison School Board because I care about the state of our public schools and this community.
The facts are: I am employed at the Urban League of Greater Madison and spoke in support of Madison Prep as a parent and citizen. Am I running because Madison Prep was voted down? No. My focus is broader than the charter school proposal, but the Madison Prep vote was a defining moment in my decision to declare candidacy.
It became apparent to me as I sat in the auditorium that night that we can no longer afford to wait for our district to take the casual approach to the urgent matter of minority under-achievement. Our entire community is affected by the failure to do so.
Every child in this district — from the at-risk, the middle-of-the-road student, to the most academically talented — should have an equal opportunity to thrive in our school system. And here’s the reality, Madison — we are not delivering.
It’s been hard for us to accept that we are a different community than we were 10 years ago, but we are. If we move beyond politically correct conversations about race and poverty, we’d readily realize that we cannot go about “business as usual.”

The 2012 Madison School Board Contest:

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

Listen to the recent DCCPA candidate forum via this 75MB mp3 audio file.

Madison Preparatory IB Charter school deserves city support

Matt Beaty:

It is easy to look at the upcoming Spring elections and focus solely on the potential recall of Gov. Scott Walker. It has become a national issue, and millions of dollars from both Wisconsin and out-of-state are being thrown into the election. But there is another important choice to make on the ballot: two candidates for Madison school board representatives.
While most school district elections are fairly boring and forgettable, this year’s vote could help seal the fate of Madison Preparatory Academy. The proposed charter school is aimed at helping lower-income students gain access to college-prep courses. It is championed by Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire, but has not gained his level of enthusiasm in the rest of the city. Voters should support Mary Burke and Nichelle Nichols who have pledged support for the school.

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

Harvard Targeted in U.S. Asian-American Discrimination Probe

Daniel Golden:

The U.S. Education Department is probing complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint it received in August that Harvard rejected an Asian- American candidate for the current freshman class based on race or national origin, a department spokesman said. The agency is looking into a similar August 2011 allegation against Princeton as part of a review begun in 2008 of that school’s handling of Asian-American candidates, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.
Both complaints involve the same applicant, who was among the top students in his California high school class and whose family originally came from India, according to the applicant’s father, who declined to be identified.

Steve Hsu on Transparency in college admissions:

Today we learned from Bloomberg that the U.S. Education Department is investigating complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions. It is a common belief among Asian-American families that their children are held to higher academic standards than applicants from other ethnic groups, including whites. Such practices were openly acknowledged as a result of internal investigations at universities like Berkeley and Stanford in the 1980s and 1990s. Have they now been corrected?
Statistics seem to support a claim of widespread discrimination across most of elite higher education. For example, in comprehensive statistics compiled as part of Duke University’s Campus Life and Learning project (as reported in a recent analysis by Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono and collaborators), Asian-American students averaged 1457 out of 1600 on the math and reading portion of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for blacks. There is every reason to believe that a similar pattern holds at nearly all elite universities in America, with some notable exceptions such as Caltech. In fact, Duke may be one of the mildest offenders when it comes to Asian-American admissions: with the goal of increasing its overall student quality, Duke has reportedly been more friendly recently to Asian-American applicants than traditional powers such as Harvard and Princeton.

Why Urban, Educated Parents Are Turning to DIY Education

Linda Perlstein:

They raise chickens. They grow vegetables. They knit. Now a new generation of urban parents is even teaching their own kids.
In the beginning, your kids need you–a lot. They’re attached to your hip, all the time. It might be a month. It might be five years. Then suddenly you are expected to send them off to school for seven hours a day, where they’ll have to cope with life in ways they never had to before. You no longer control what they learn, or how, or with whom.
Unless you decide, like an emerging population of parents in cities across the country, to forgo that age-old rite of passage entirely.
When Tera and Eric Schreiber’s oldest child was about to start kindergarten, the couple toured the high-achieving public elementary school a block away from their home in an affluent Seattle neighborhood near the University of Washington. It was “a great neighborhood school,” Tera says. They also applied to a private school, and Daisy was accepted. But in the end they chose a third path: no school at all.

Inflated SAT Scores Reveal ‘Elasticity of Admissions Data’

Eric Hoover:

In the Wild West of college admissions, there is no Data Sheriff.
The latest reminder arrived on Monday when Claremont McKenna College announced that a senior administrator had resigned after admitting to falsely reporting SAT statistics since 2005. In an e-mail to the campus, Pamela B. Gann, the college’s president, said an internal review found that scores for each fall’s freshman class had been “generally inflated by an average of 10-20 points each.” The apparent perpetrator was Richard C. Vos, long the college’s dean of admissions and financial aid, who has resigned from the college.
The announcement has shaken those who work on both sides of the admissions process. In the span of 24 hours, Mr. Vos, described by several colleagues as an engaging and thoughtful dean, has become a symbol of the pressures that come with top-level admissions jobs. As one mid-career dean said on Tuesday, “I just keep thinking about how much pressure an experienced and mature admissions professional must be under to do whatever he did.”

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

via email:

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

Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira
Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10’s negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?

Both Silveira and Flores answered Yes.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio
Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.
I suspect that at least 60% of Wisconsn school districts will adopt their current teacher contracts as “handbooks”. The remainder will try different approaches. Some will likely offer a very different environment for teachers.

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

Matthew DeFour:

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

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

Wisconsin Schools “Among the Best”, Financial Literacy

Tony Evers & Peter Bildsten:

Wisconsin is fortunate to have many fine K-12 schools educating our young people. The quality of this state’s educational system is among the best in the United States, and the same can be said for Wisconsin teachers.
Those accolades notwithstanding, there is one area in which Wisconsin schools should consider focusing some of their educational muscle: personal financial literacy.
More than ever before, our children — by the time they graduate from high school — need to be able to cope in the increasingly fast-paced world of financial services.
Today, many young people rarely handle cash, opting instead for the use of debit cards, credit cards and smartphones to make purchases. Those who have jobs probably never see a paycheck because most employers use direct deposit for their payrolls. And, most teens probably have never read the fine print of the contract for their mobile telecommunications devices.

Wisconsin 25th in 2011 NAEP Reading, Comparing Rhetoric Regarding Texas (10th) & Wisconsin NAEP Scores: Texas Hispanic and African-American students rank second on eighth-grade NAEP math test.
Fascinating. Tony Evers is Superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Much more at

Stanford Professors Daphne Koller & Andrew Ng Also Launching a Massive Online Learning Startup

Audrey Watters:

These are interesting times to be a Stanford professor. Or to stop being a Stanford professor, as the case may be…
Last week, news broke that Professor Sebastian Thrun would be stepping down from teaching at Stanford to launch an online learning company called Udacity. Udacity is an outgrowth of his incredibly popular Artificial Intelligence class offered through Stanford last fall.
Now it appears that two other Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng (Ng taught last term’s massive Machine Learning class) have started their own company, Coursera, one that offers a very similar service as Thrun’s.
According to the startup’s jobs page, the two are “following up on the success of these courses to scale up online education efforts to provide a high quality education to the world. Out platform delivers complete courses where students are not only watching web-based lectures, but also actively participating, doing exercises, and deeply learning the material.”

Education is undergoing a revolution (curricular deliver, opportunities for students, high and low cost delivery). Will Madison be part of it? We certainly have the resources and infrastructure. Will intransigence reign?

Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Kaleem Caire, via email

In 2011 Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, reintroduced the topic of the Academic Achievement Gap that exists in theMadison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). As reported, just 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduated on time from MMSD in 2010.
Just as staggering as these statistics is the fact that until the conversation was reintroduced, a large majority of our community was not aware that the academic achievement gap even existed. Why is that? Four more important questions may be: How did we get here?What have we proposed before? Why has this problem persisted? AND – What should we do now? To answer these questions, and many more, the Urban League of Greater Madison would like to invite you to participate in a community forum moderated by Derrell Connor.
6:00 Welcome Derrell Connor
6:05 Introduction of Panel
Milele Chikasa Anana
Dr. Richard Harris
Joseph Hill
Dr. John Odom
Alfonso Studesville
6:15 History of Madison’s Academic Achievement Gap
6:30 Panel
6:45 Q&A from Audience Members

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

Wisconsin’s “F” on Science Curriculum Standards; “Worthless”; Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Comments

Fordham Institute: The State of State Science Standards 2012:

Wisconsin’s science standards–unchanged since 1998, in spite of much earlier criticism, ours included–are simply worthless. No real content exists to evaluate.
In lieu of content, the “authors” have passed the buck by merely citing unelaborated references to the now outdated National Science Education Standards (NSES). Rather than using the NSES as building blocks for a comprehensive set of science standards, however, Wisconsin has used them as an escape hatch to avoid hard work and careful thought


Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad says the state already has plans to review its standards in all areas.
“I think we have to be cautious not to look at the current state because it is very much in flux right now,” Nerad says. “Things are going to change. it doesn’t makes sense to look backwards as it does to look forward.”

Remarkable. Much more at

Madison Prep’s Private School Plans “in Doubt”

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy doesn’t have the money to open as a private school next fall and its future is in the hands of the Madison School Board, according to a lead supporter of the charter school proposal.
Supporters still want to open Madison Prep in the fall but haven’t been able to raise about $1.2 million needed to run the school because its future beyond next year remains uncertain, Madison Prep board chairman David Cagigal said last week; moreover, a key donor said her support is contingent on School Board backing.
Cagigal said the private school option was never intended to be more than an interim plan before the school opened as a public charter school. One of the most common reasons charter schools fail is lack of funding, he added.
“We can’t approach these donors unless we mitigate the risk,” Cagigal said. “The only way we can do that is seek a 2013 vote.”
Cagigal acknowledged that if the School Board doesn’t vote on opening Madison Prep as a charter school in 2013, “then we may have to wait.”

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
The fate of Madison Prep was discussed at a recent school board candidate forum.

History, Not “Conspiracy”: Kaleem Caire’s Connections

Allen Ruff, via a kind email:

First of a series
The recent controversy over the Urban League of Greater Madison’s proposal for a Madison Preparatory Academy has been framed primarily as a local story pitting contending interests within the city. The charter school’s promoters, supporters and mainstream media have portrayed the ULGM’s CEO and President, Kaleem Caire as the Prep’s public champion and native son returned home on a mission to help “close the achievement gap,” the racial disparities in Madison’s schools.
But Caire’s well-established national ties, spanning more than a decade, to numbers of conservative foundations, think tanks and individuals bent on privatizing public school coffers, creating for-profit schools, and destroying teachers’ unions, certainly suggest that there is more to the story.
Caire has consistently dismissed any suggestion of his links to various right-wing efforts. On occasion he has admitted some distant connections but asserted his independence by saying, “They have their agenda, but we have ours.” Lately, he has taken to waving off critic’s references to such ties as nothing more than “guilt-by-association crap” or part of a “conspiracy” and “whisper campaign” coming from those trying to discredit the Mad Prep Academy project. However, a readily traceable history reveals some truth to the charges.

180K PDF version.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Clusty Search: Allen Ruff, Blekko, google, bing.

Raising Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Bar?

Alan Borsuk:

What if you suddenly found out that half of the eighth-graders in Wisconsin, all kids you thought were highly rated readers, really didn’t merit being called proficient? That instead of four out of five being pretty decent in math, it was really two out of five?
You better start thinking how you’d react because it’s likely that is what’s coming right at us. That’s how dramatic a proposal last week by the state Department of Public Instruction is.
As parents, teachers, school leaders, politicians, community leaders and taxpayers, will we be motivated to do better? Will we see the need for change? Will we rise to the occasion? Or will we settle for being discouraged and basically locked into what we’ve come to expect?
Here’s what’s going on: With Congress failing to pass a revision, originally due in 2007, of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, the U.S. Department of Education has begun issuing waivers from the enforcement program of the increasingly dysfunctional law. Wisconsin wants a waiver – it’s one of the things people such as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic-oriented Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers agree on. So a task force developed a proposal. People have until Feb. 3 to react to the proposal and the application is to be submitted Feb. 21.
The plan will change a lot of important dynamics of what students and schools in Wisconsin are expected to accomplish. It calls for publicly rating all schools on a 1 to 100 point scale, with student outcomes as a key factor. Schools that score low will face orders to improve and, possibly, closing. And that goes for every school with students whose education is paid for with public dollars – in other words, private schools in the voucher programs for Milwaukee and Racine kids are included.
Overall, the waiver plan means we are at the point where Wisconsin gets serious about raising expectations for student achievement. Wisconsin is regarded as having one of the lowest bars in the U.S. for rating a student as proficient. No more, the proposal says.
Eighth-grade reading: Using the WKCE measuring stick, 86% of students were rated as “advanced” or “proficient.” Using the NAEP measuring stick, it was 35% – a 51-point difference. At least as vivid: Using the WKCE measure, 47% of eighth-graders were “advanced,” the top bracket. Using the NAEP measure, it was 3%. Three percent! In other words, only a handful of kids statewide would be labeled advanced under the new system, not the nearly half we’re used to.
Fourth-grade reading: On the WKCE scale, 82% were proficient or advanced. On the NAEP scale, it was 33%.
Eighth-grade math: WKCE, 78% proficient. NAEP: 41%.
Fourth-grade math: WKCE: 79% proficient. NAEP: 47%.

A substantial improvement in academic standards is warranted and possibly wonderful, assuming it happens and avoids being watered down. The rightly criticized WKCE was an expensive missed opportunity.

Madison to get 1,400 iPads for schools by next fall

Matthew DeFour:

Madison teachers will soon be handing out Apples to students.
The School District for the first time plans to buy more than 600 iPads for use in the majority of schools this spring. Another 800 iPads are expected to be in classrooms by next fall, all paid for with money from a state settlement with Microsoft.
District officials are enthusiastic about the possibilities presented by tablets, from students wirelessly sharing classroom work to replacing workbooks purchased each year with online “apps.” Other districts in Dane County and around the state are already experimenting with tablets.
In Madison, the popular computing device presents a “jumping off” moment for technology in classrooms that hasn’t happened with desktop and laptop computers, said Bill Smojver, the district’s director of technical services.
“This is the most significant transition point for having digital learning at the optimal level,” Smojver said.

Matthew DeFour:

Madison isn’t the first school district in Dane County to experiment with iPads in the classroom.
Amy Nelson, a Sun Prairie School District speech therapist, uses tablets with all students from fifth graders to 4-year-olds. One program makes it easier to teach verb tenses, as she can show a boy running, rather than explain running with a motionless picture card.
“It’s definitely the up-and-coming technology and kids are really excited about it too,” Nelson said. “They’re learning something and working on skills, but to them they just think they’re playing sometimes.”
The Monona Grove School District is also using iPads to help autistic and other disabled students communicate, said Kathy Sanders, a library media and technology specialist in the Monona Grove School District.

Madison Teachers Candidate Endorsement(s)

To all of you with #recallwithdrawal: Time to focus on Arlene and Micheal for #MMSDBOE!! #99percent
MTI is officially endorsing Arlene Silviera for Madison School Board. Come meet her tonight! 100 WI Ave #700 5-7pm

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
via a kind reader’s email

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

Progressive Dane:

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

Both Madison School Board races are contested this year.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

Let’s evaluate all ways to close gap

Madison School Board Candidate Mary Burke

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

School choice is alive and growing — in other states

Richard Rider:

The most important domestic subject that I FAIL to adequately cover is K-12 education. It’s potentially the most effective tool we have for increasing vertical mobility in our society — and hence is currently misused as the best single method to repress disadvantaged minorities.

What the education unions and their bought-and-paid-for Democrat allies have done to inner city black and Hispanic kids would warm the cockles of any KKK Grand Dragon. The Progressives’ steadfast opposition to improving education angers me every time I think about it.

Thus I include intact below an excellent op-ed on the topic from the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS. It’s upbeat — giving the growing success of the school choice movement in all its many flavors.

Sadly, California is one of the least successful states in this effort to improve education. All we hear from CA liberals is that we don’t spend enough. But the growing popularity and acceptance of school choice in other states is going to make it more and more difficult for our voters to ignore this innovation.

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio

Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.
The event was sponsored by the Dane County Council of Public Affairs.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.
UPDATE 2.8.2012: A transcript is now available.

First details of proposed Wisconsin school accountability system revealed

Matthew DeFour:

The state could more aggressively intervene in the lowest-performing publicly funded schools under a proposed accountability system unveiled Monday.
The system would rate schools on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student performance and growth on state tests, closing achievement gaps and preparing students for college and careers. Ratings also would be tied to dropout rates and third-grade literacy levels.
The“>“>Department of Public Instruction released a draft application to the U.S. Education Department for a waiver from the 10-year-old federal No Child Left Behind Act, which State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said “has shackled schools by being overly prescriptive and prohibiting creative reforms.”
“Wisconsin’s request for flexibility from NCLB is driven by the belief that increasing rigor across the standards, assessment and accountability system will result in improved instruction and improved student outcomes,” Evers said

DPI’s Initial Draft Full Waiver Proposal (2.5MB PDF):

Raising Expectations, Increasing Rigor
As noted in Principle 1, DPI has significantly raised expectations for schools and the proportion of students who graduate ready for college and career, as indicated by the adoption of rigorous academic standards, higher cut scores based on NAEP as the state transitions to SBAC, increasingly rigorous and adaptive assessment systems, and increased graduation requirements. The new accountability report card and the new system of support, rewards, and recognition will reflect these new expectations. While the state has previously emphasized graduation rates (and boasted one of the highest in the nation), DPI also recognizes the state has significant achievement and graduation gaps. The accountability index prioritizes achievement and attainment using measures which emphasize not only graduation, but also the proportion of students graduating college and career ready. Additionally, the system examines achievement gaps within and across schools as a means to address the state’s existing gaps. Using a multifaceted index will help pinpoint areas of need within a school, as well as areas of strength, and help schools track their progress at meeting the needs of all student subgroups. Within the system of support, identified schools will participate in diagnostic reviews and needs assessments (Priority and Focus Schools, respectively) to identify their instructional policies, practices, and programming that have impacted student outcomes and to differentiate, and individualize reforms and interventions. While planning and implementing reforms, schools and districts will have access to increasingly expansive and timely data systems to monitor progress. Additionally, the state will require Priority and Focus Schools to implement RtI (with the support of the Wisconsin RtI Center and its resources) to ensure that all students are receiving customized, differentiated services within a least restrictive environment, including additional supports and interventions for SwDs and ELLs as needed, or extension activities and additional challenge for students exceeding benchmarks.

2012 Madison School Board Candidate Website & Contact Information

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.

Wisconsin DPI seeks comments on draft NCLB waiver request; “Education for today’s world requires increased rigor and higher expectations”

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, via a kind reader’s email:

MADISON — Wisconsin’s request for waivers from several provisions of federal education law creates the expectation that every child will graduate ready for college and careers by setting higher standards for students, educators, and schools.
“Education for today’s world requires increased rigor and higher expectations,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has shackled schools by being overly prescriptive and prohibiting creative reforms that would help more students gain the skills needed for further education and the workforce. Wisconsin’s request for flexibility from NCLB is driven by the belief that increasing rigor across the standards, assessment, and accountability system will result in improved instruction and improved student outcomes.”
To receive waivers, state education agencies must demonstrate how they will use flexibility from NCLB requirements to address four principles: transitioning to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; developing systems of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; evaluating and supporting teacher and principal effectiveness; and reducing duplication. The Department of Public Instruction has posted its draft waiver request online and is asking for public comment through a survey. After the two-week comment period, the agency will revise the waiver request and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education by Feb. 21.

Counting the costs of a digital classroom

Kai Ryssdal:

It’s not the iPhone 5, it’s not the iPad 3, but there was a big Apple product announcement today. A new version of its iBooks software geared at providing interactive student textbooks, which would be read — of course — on the iPad. The potential hurdles are many, including the fact that iPads still cost around $500.
We wanted to get away from the business case study, though, and explore what this might actually eventually mean in the classroom. So we called Katie Cohen. Until June of last year, she was a high school science teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Katie, thanks for being with us.
Katie Cohen: Thank you very much.
Ryssdal: So listen, in any ideal world, if all of your had had iPads, what would that have meant for you as a teacher?