Category Archives: Uncategorized

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Opinion Journal
CROSS COUNTRY
Black Flight
The exodus to charter schools.

BY KATHERINE KERSTEN
MINNEAPOLIS–Something momentous is happening here in the home of prairie populism: black flight. African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools.
Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools. As a result, Minneapolis schools are losing both raw numbers of students and “market share.” In 1999-2000, district enrollment was about 48,000; this year, it’s about 38,600. Enrollment projections predict only 33,400 in 2008. A decline in the number of families moving into the district accounts for part of the loss, as does the relocation of some minority families to inner-ring suburbs. Nevertheless, enrollments are relatively stable in the leafy, well-to-do enclave of southwest Minneapolis and the city’s white ethnic northeast. But in 2003-04, black enrollment was down 7.8%, or 1,565 students. In 2004-05, black enrollment dropped another 6%.

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Minutes from Board Meeting to Create the Equity Task Force

Thanks for the link to the minutes of the October 31 meeting in the other thread. I found the document fascinating, and am posting it here (with the portion of the meeting devoted to expungement deleted for length reasons) for those who are following the equity task force. The discussion leading up to the charge is particularly interesting. The “continue reading” link will take you to the full minutes.

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Prevailing Wisdom on Autism Questioned

From University Communications, UW-Madison

Experts question prevalent stereotypes about autism

February 20, 2006
by Paroma Basu
As theories about autism spread like wildfire in the media and the general public, a panel of autism experts will reflect on the validity of four widely held – and potentially inaccurate – assumptions about the developmental disability.
Drawing on the latest in autism research, a psychologist, an epidemiologist, a psychiatrist and a physician will critically assess widespread stereotypes about autism during a symposium entitled “Science of Autism,” at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
“With the surge in both scientists and society turning their attention toward autism, there comes responsibility,” says Morton Gernsbacher, a Vilas Research Professor of psychology at UW-Madison and the symposium’s chair and organizer. “It behooves us as scientists to distinguish uninformed stereotypes from scientific reality and to move beyond myths and misconceptions.”

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Elite French Schools Block the Poor’s Path to Power

Craig Smith:

Nothing represents the stratification of French society more than the country’s rigid educational system, which has reinforced the segregation of disadvantaged second-generation immigrant youths by effectively locking them out of the corridors of power.
While French universities are open to all high school graduates, the grandes écoles – great schools – from which many of the country’s leaders emerge, weed out anyone who does not fit a finely honed mold. Of the 350,000 students graduating annually from French high schools, the top few grandes écoles accept only about 1,000, virtually all of whom come from a handful of elite preparatory schools.

The Prodigy Puzzle

Ann Hulbert:

It is the Davidsons’ other, related aim that calls forth a different kind of fervor. Authors (with Laura Vanderkam) of a book called “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds” (2004), they are on a mission to remedy what they are convinced is a widespread neglect of exceptionally talented children. That means challenging the American myth that they are weirdos or Wunderkinder best left to their own devices or made to march with the crowd. “By denying our most intelligent students an education appropriate to their abilities,” Jan Davidson warns a nation in the midst of a No Child Left Behind crusade, “we may also be denying civilization a giant leap forward.” Precocious children are not only avid learners eager for more than ordinary schools often provide, the Davidsons emphasize; they are also a precious – and imperiled – resource for the future. The Davidsons, joined by many other advocates of the gifted, maintain that it is these precocious children who, if handled right, will be the creative adults propelling the nation ahead in an ever more competitive world. As things stand, the argument goes, the highly gifted child is an endangered species in need of outspoken champions like the Davidsons, who are role models for the “supportive, advocating parent” they endorse.

Jan Davidson recently visited Madison. View her presentation: How to stop wasting our brightest young minds.

New Study on Inequality in School Readiness and Public Funding

New Fall 2005 study from the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty:
“Inequality in children’s school readiness and public funding” was authored by a team that includes local assistant professor of social work Katherine Magnuson. It asks:

There are still many questions about children’s preschool experiences and the rise in public preschool funding. Has the substantial expansion of public funding made inroads into the disparities in preschool enrollment? How good are the various types of programs—are some forms of preschool higher in quality than others? How effective are they in remedying disadvantage—do poor children who attend preschool programs really enter school better prepared to learn? Do any advantages of preschool expe-rience fade over time?

The full document is available online in PDF format at:
http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/focus/pdfs/foc241c.pdf

State’s learning gap still vast

Wisconsin students stayed above national averages in test results released Wednesday, but a Journal Sentinel analysis of the data shows that the gap between black and white students was among the largest in the nation. In eighth-grade reading and in fourth-grade math, the gaps were larger than in any other state in the country.
By SARAH CARR
scarr@journalsentinel.com
Oct. 19, 2005

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Jan Davidson’s low cost suggestions for improving education

When Dr. Jan Davidson spoke this week in Madison, she shared with her audience of parents, teachers, and administrators 12 low cost ideas for improving the educational opportunities of our academically advanced students.
What can schools do?
What can schools — schools that don’t have extra funds, but really care about the learning of their bright students — do?

1. Early Entrance to kindergarten — if a child is developmentally ready before the age or date specified, she can enter school early.
2. Pre-assessments are done before a unit or a course — if a student demonstrates mastery, he is able to move to a more advanced course.
3. Self-contained classes for the gifted, particularly in core curriculum subjects.
4. Multi-age, self-contained gifted classes are even more effective.
5. Subject acceleration is encouraged when a student is proficient in a particular subject.
6. Grade acceleration is encouraged when a student demonstrates proficiency in a particular grade level.
7. Opportunities for dual enrollment are available to students, e.g., taking some high school courses when a student is in middle school.
8. Advanced Placement (AP) courses and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) program are available to students.
9. Provide counselors who are trained to counsel gifted students, including advising them of talent development opportunities.
10. Work with the Talent Searches and give students credit for the credits they earn in their academic summer programs.
11. Create a school culture that values intellectual discovery and achievement, where students encourage one another to accomplish more than they would on their own.
12. Administrators and teachers who are knowledgeable about the wide range of exceptional abilities among bright students and are flexible in addressing the individual student’s learning needs.
Dr. Davidson will be posting her lecture slides online at the Genius Denied website

News Release: Madison Schools Enrollment Is 24,490

Student enrollment in the Madison Metropolitan School District for the 2005-06 school year is 24,490 according to the official enrollment count conducted on the third Friday in September, as required by state law. The number represents a decrease from last year of 220 students or eight-tenths of one percent.
This figure aligns with the district’s most recent projected student count — 24,524. The total enrollment is only 34 students (0.1%) lower than this projection.
“When you look at the long-term trend statistically, our district-wide student enrollment remains stable,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater. “Of concern now – and one of the reasons two community task forces are working on possible solutions — is under-enrollment in some of our schools and high enrollment in others.”
In comparison to last year, the number of elementary students (gr. K-5) is up 143, partially due to the largest kindergarten class since September 1996 – 1,957. There are 151 fewer middle school students (grades 6-8), and 212 fewer high school students (gr. 9-12).

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Board Subcommittee on Advertising

I picked up the message below from a local listserve.

Dear Members of the School Board:
I am asking you to recommend interested persons for the Finance and Operations Subcommittee on Advertising. Please send Barb Lahman, name(s), contact information and a brief bio. Meetings will be once a month and probably during the day. I’m asking for people who have good ideas, “think outside the box”, in business, marketing or related fields or anyone who might make a positive contribution to the committee.
Again, this committee is not going “debate” the idea or philosophy of advertising but hopefully give a wide range of options to the board. It would be very helpful if you made contact with the person that you nominate and ask them if their interested in serving. Please send possible names by Friday September 16th. Please contact me if you have questions. Thank you.
Johnny

Questions Regarding Tonight’s Equity Vote

In addition to Ruth’s blog, I would add the question of why this is being addressed in a “special” board meeting and not the regular meeting. (Sorry – it isn’t clear from the message that the district sent on Friday, and the link to the regular board agenda is not working). And, if there are documents available related to the vote, why they are not publicly available in a timely fashion.
To be honest, I missed the impact of the message that arrived Friday morning via e-mail, so thanks to Ruth for flaggin it:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2005
5:00 p.m. Human Resources Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated February 7, 2005 and March 14, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Proposed Leave of Absence Policy for Administrators
5. Proposed Leave of Absence Agreement for Administrators
6. Other Business
There is no other business.
7. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
—————————————————————————
6:00 p.m. Special Board of Education Meeting
1. Approval of Minutes dated August 29, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Equity Resource Formula
5. Board Policy 9001 – Equity
6. Proposed Equity Policy
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
—————————————————————————
7:15 p.m. Regular Board of Education Meeting
Agenda of the Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
[NOTE: this link does not work]
OR
Agenda may be picked up during business hours at the MMSD Public
Information Office, Room 100, Doyle Administration Bldg., 545 West Dayton
Street, Madison, WI 53703
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison WI 53703

Update on Future of Ridgewood Apartments

One of the issues affecting decisions on attendance boundaries for Leopold Elementary School is whether the Ridgewood Country Club Apartments, located across the street from the school, will continue to house large numbers of low income families.
The following article from The Capital Times provides an update on the ownership and future plans for the apartment complex.

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PEOPLE, cont.

Joan, since you don’t allow response comments to your posts, I am forced to post here.
I’m sorry that I misread your editorial comments about what you imagine the PEOPLE program and its students to be about, to constitute a larger set of questions about fairness and access to UW-Madison. So, to keep it short and sweet, here are my responses to what I take to be your two primary questions:
1) Do I believe that students with a 2.75 GPA can succeed at Madisson?
Yes. I have first-hand experience with our undergraduate population and the people who serve them, probably more than you. There are studens with 2.75 GPAs and lower who do very well at Madison; there are students who come in with 3.5 and higher GPAs who founder. SOURCE: student service workers and admissions staff at UW-Madison.
2) Do I believe that the admissions rules should be bent for students who complete the PEOPLE program?
Yes, IF that is what is happening. The article says that students must maintain a MINIMUM 2.75 GPA to stay in the program; there is no information on the average GPA of PEOPLE students admitted to UW-Madison. As quoted in my previous post, the article clearly says that PEOPLE graduates who are unlikely to succeed are not admitted. As such, I must believe that there is some judicious application of admissions criteria in borderline cases.
That said, the University of Wisconsin System has a responsibility to prepare all of its students for the world they will inherit. That world is increasingly multi-ethnic, and all students’ employment options are very much linked to employer perceptions of whether those students are culturally competent to succeed in businesses with diverse staff and customer bases. Simply put, the future employment options of our students rest on our ability to recruit and retain a diverse student body. This becomes a factor on the side of giving students the benefit of the doubt in borderline admissions cases, and has little to do with whether those students ultimately succeed or fail.
On a personal note, I salute you and your accomplishments. I worked my way through UW-Madison from the age of 17, ending with an MA and PhD in history, at the time ranked fifth in the United States (minoring in sociology, ranking first in the United States)against private and public insitutions. I know that the curriculum is rigorous. I came into the graduate program with 26 students;there were 3 of us left after the MA level. As a grad student I was a tutor and a TA, and you are rightfully proud of your achievements. However, that does not entitle you to make uninformed assertions about what high school students who are working hard to prepare for higher education are or are not likely to achieve if admitted.

Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/jun05/336091.asp
NOTE: THIS LINK LEADS TO A PAGE THAT INCLUDES A CHART THAT IS NOT REPRODUCED HERE
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Does state’s method inflate graduation rate?
Wisconsin says 92% finish high school; report estimates 78% do

By SARAH CARR
scarr@journalsentinel.com
Posted: June 23, 2005
A new report lambastes states across the country for using flawed, and even “irrational,” methods of calculating graduation rates that ultimately dupe the public.
The report does not criticize Wisconsin as harshly as a few other states, such as North Carolina, but it does offer an alternative method of estimating graduation rates that would put Wisconsin’s rate at 78% for the 2000-’01 school year, 14 percentage points lower than the 92% rate reported for the 2002-’03 school year.
“Every year (states) report these literally preposterous numbers,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for disadvantaged students and released the report.
The report suggests that Wisconsin and many other states measure graduation rates in a manner that gives an overly rosy, distorted picture of the number of students who are actually finishing high school in the United States.

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States Report Reading First Yielding Gains, Some Schools Getting Ousted for Quitting

Little solid evidence is available to gauge whether the federal government’s multibillion-dollar Reading First initiative is having an effect on student achievement, but many states are reporting anecdotally that they are seeing benefits for their schools.
Among those benefits are extensive professional development in practices deemed to be research-based, extra instructional resources, and ongoing support services, according to an Education Week analysis of state performance reports published June 8, 2005.

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Press Release and List of Members of DPI Task Force on High Schools

Burmaster announces High School Task Force members
MADISON�State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster released a list of the members of the State
Superintendent�s High School Task Force.
The group, co-chaired by JoAnne Brandes, executive vice president, chief administrative officer,
and general counsel for Johnson Diversey Inc., and Ryan Champeau, principal of Waukesha North High
School, will hold its next meeting May 3 at the Sheraton Madison Hotel. It will look at various local
initiatives aimed at redesigning or transforming the high school experience, enhancing student learning
and engagement, and strengthening the alignment of high school with postsecondary education and
workforce needs.
Madison Participants include:
Katie Arnesen of Madison
Parent
Steve Hartley, Director of Alternative Programs
Madison Metropolitan School District
Michael Meissen, Principal
LaFollette High School, Madison
Kendra Parks, Teacher
Memorial High School, Madison
The press release and a list of the members of the task force is on-line at: http://www.thewheelerreport.com/releases/Apr05/Apr1/0401dpihstaskforce.pdf

News Flash: John Matthews Is Willing to Delay Negotiations for Teachers’ Wages Until After the April 5 School Board Elections

Despite a written agreement between Madison Teachers Incorporated and the Board of Education that aims at settling the teachers contract for 2005-07 by June 30, union executive director John Matthews and Superintendent Art Rainwater made a jovial � and unprecedented – announcement that they would delay discussion of wages and benefits until after the April 5 school board elections.
Delaying talk about pay and benefits for teachers is a puzzling step for union leader Matthews, especially given his March 17 comments that “No matter what the settlement is, it won’t be enough to reward the teachers,” Matthews said as the MTI proposal was presented Wednesday, “These are teachers, not priests and nuns who took a vow of poverty.”

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The Crackers – a For Profit Version of NYC’s Yellow Gates

Leave it to New Yorkers to leave no sacred cows. Read on and enjoy the picture –
Gift to the City � is it Art or for the Birds? “The Crackers” is as much a public happening as it is a tasty snack, defying the domino theory. Peanut butter or cheddar cheese. They poured their hearts and souls into the project for over 26 minutes. It required three dozen crackers and spanned over nearly 23 inches along a footbridge in the park at a cost (borne exclusively by the artists) of $2.50. Is it art? You decide. The installation was completed with no permits or bureaucracy, and fed to the ducks after about a half hour. “The Crackers” is entirely for profit
View “The Crackers” and brighten your day

Lifting the School System

Lifting the School System
Published Letter in New York Times: October 21, 2004
To the Editor:
In “Improving Education” (letter, Oct. 16), the writer says we not only need money but also “new ideas” to improve public education. But public education has been flooded with new ideas in recent decades, and far too many children continue to leave school without a decent education.
Just as improvements to horses and buggies do not produce an automobile, so all the many improvements to public schools over recent years do not add up to the new kind of education system needed to educate children in today’s world.
Learning can be brought to the levels now needed only by basically changed relationships among students, teachers and families, in which each participant first holds himself accountable for quality performance and then the others for collaborating and support in nonbureaucratic ways.
Educational experience and research confirm that these relationships make some schools successful, even with students from difficult backgrounds. What subverts the system is the bureaucratic culture in public schools.
The current drive for more money and accountability is unlikely to reform our schools, only further entrench the existing dysfunctional public school system. Policy makers need to face this fundamental system change.
David S. Seeley
Staten Island, Oct. 18, 2004
The writer is a professor of education at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Details on Reading Program Rejected by Superintendent

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction hosts a Web site of information on Reading First, which Superintendent Rainwater said would have “injured” Madison students.
On the Web site DPI says, “Wisconsin is proud to assist teachers in the 65 Reading First schools in the areas of professional development in reading; implementation of the essential components of reading instruction; and the selection and/or administration of screening, diagnostic, progress monitoring, and outcome assessments.”
Does the DPI endorse injuring the students in 65 schools?
See more at the DPI Web site.
Ed Blume

Reactions to statement on new school on Leopold site

Here’s a copy of the statement I used to address the Long Range Planning Committee on October 18.
After my statement, discussions with and among the Committee clarified that the annual additional cost of operating a new school falls in the range of $300,000 to $400,000 annually, not $2.4 million as I had calculated. The cost isn’t so high, according to the discussion, because the district already spends money on teachers and supplies that would simply move into a new building. Even with an annual operating cost increase of $300,000, no one pointed to a specific plan to cover the expense and no backup should a referendum fail to allow spending above the state-imposed revenue cap.
The student representative on the Board acknowleged at West might be crowded but it wasn’t a major concern. [I’m sorry that I don’t remember his exactly words, but I think I have the meaning of what he said.] District officials said that more detailed five-year enrollment projections would be available on the MMSD Web site in November.
Carol Carstensen agreed with the suggestion for more hearings across the city.
From Board members’ comments at the meeting and in news reports, the Board appears ready to approve a referendum.
Ed Blume

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Madison Superintendent Declines $2M in Federal Funds Without Consulting the Board

On Friday, October 15, Madison School Board members received an e-mail from Superintendent Art Rainwater announcing that the district will withdraw from a federal program known as Reading First.
In subsequent interviews with local newspapers, Rainwater estimated that the decision means forgoing approximately $2M in funds for materials to help students in the primary grades learn to read. The Cap Times
Wisconsin State Journal
Whenever the district qualifies for such federal grants, the Board votes to increase the budget to reflect the new revenues. To the best of my knowledge, the superintendent has not discussed this decision with the Performance & Achievement Committee. He has certainly not included the full Board in the decision to withdraw from Reading First.
The memo follows (click on the link below to view it or click here to view a 200K PDF):

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MMSD has excess capacity

In researching the need for the MMSD to build a new elementary school on the Leopold site, I compared an MMSD analysis of elementary school capacity with current enrollment.
Existing Madison elementary schools could accomodate more than 1,600 new students. An MMSD official says only Hawthorne is over capacity.
You can see the school-by-school analysis in the table MMSD Excess Capacity 2004.
Ed Blume
ps. Feel free to post comments by clicking below.

Staffing shortage at LaFollette

The problem of insufficient staffing at LaFollette makes me wonder how Dr. Rainwater will find enough staff for a new school.
Here’s the beginning of an article from the WSJ:

“Tseoin Ayalew says her dreams of becoming a doctor are in jeopardy because a shortage of teachers at La Follette High School means she’s wasting 90 minutes a day in a study hall instead of taking an advanced physics or chemistry class.
“I want to get into a really good college, so I think it’s probably going to affect the scholarships,” the junior said Thursday. “They probably want to see I’m challenging myself in the science world.”
Jade Cramer, a La Follette freshman, says she’s scheduled to take two 90-minute study halls – half of the school day – beginning in November. She’s in one study hall right now, although she’d prefer to be taking a class.
“I’m trying to get rid of my study hall, but all of the classes are full,” Jade said.
Tseoin and Jade are among a growing number of La Follette students who find themselves diverted to study halls or other non-class activities this fall because, according to some students and teachers, there aren’t enough teachers.
The reason for the crunch: The school’s enrollment this fall climbed to 1,741, compared to last year’s count of 1,659, but staff levels remained virtually unchanged.”

The article continues at In study-hall limbo at LaFollette.
The Cap Times also has an article at Four block now a 3 block?

Ed Blume
ps If you have any comments, you can click on “comment” below to post them.

Principal Removed at East

“Madison East High School Principal Catherine Tillman has been relieved of her duties and reassigned to a central office position for the remainder of the school year.”
Like Tillman the newly named interim principal at East was transferred to an administrative position after serving a couple of reportedly unsuccessful years at West.
Is the change just going from one failed principal to another?
Read the story in the Wisconsin State.
Ed Blume