Category Archives: What Can I Do?

K – 12 tax and spending climate: ongoing property tax increases and the “lost middle class”

Jim Tankersley:

One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.

On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.

On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.

Meanwhile, Madison schools’ plan to seek additional property tax increases (2015 referendumpdf board document) to find bricks and mortar. This proposal, rather ironically, perpetuates decades long demographic gaps.

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K

Motoko Rich (NYT)
Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs.
Now a follow-up study has found a language gap as early as 18 months, heightening the policy debate.
The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.
The new findings, although based on a small sample, reinforced the earlier research showing that because professional parents speak so much more to their children, the children hear 30 million more words by age 3 than children from low-income households, early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians said. In the new study, the children of affluent households came from communities where the median income per capita was $69,000; the low-income children came from communities with a median income per capita of $23,900.
Since oral language and vocabulary are so connected to reading comprehension, the most disadvantaged children face increased challenges once they enter school and start learning to read.
“That gap just gets bigger and bigger,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocate of early education for low-income children. “That gap is very real and very hard to undo.”

Help the United Way of Dane County Boost School Attendance

Wisconsin State Journal editorial

About a third of kindergartners in Madison schools miss 10 or more days of classes. And a fifth are “chronically absent,” meaning they miss 18 or more days, which is at least 10 percent of the school year.
Attendance improves by fifth grade and into middle school, then falls when students reach high school.
That’s why the United Way of Dane County this fall plans to emphasize in new ways the need for young parents to establish strong habits for children going to school every day (barring illness).
The effort — dubbed “Here!” — will stress the correlation between good attendance and academic success. It will include promotional materials at schools, follow-up calls to parents and encouragement from community leaders such as church pastors who will include the message in their sermons.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that the (high school) graduation rate is about the same as the attendance rate,” said Deedra Atkinson, the United Way’s senior vice president of community impact and marketing.
The nonprofit, as it launches its annual fundraiser today, also is committing more attention and resources to helping high school dropouts earn diplomas and find work.
The United Way does so much good work for our community that it deserves your financial support and time. The public is welcome at today’s lunch and launch of the United Way’s annual Days of Caring. So far, the number of volunteers is up about 400 people from last year, to 3,500.
The group’s annual fundraising goal is $18.1 million, up 3 percent from last year’s total collected, said campaign chairman Doug Nelson, regional president of BMO Harris Bank.
The United Way of Dane County will host its annual Days of Caring this week, starting today with a lunch and campaign kickoff at Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The public is welcome. To donate to the nonprofit’s fundraising effort go to www.unitedwaydanecounty.org or call 608-246-4350. To volunteer, visit www.volunteeryourtime.org or call 608-246-4357. Donate your time; donate your money.
Please help if you can.

No Rich Child Left Behind

Sean F. Reardon

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.
To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.
In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.

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

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

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

Review:

Alums Help Boston Students Overcome Disadvantages with Match Corps

Brown Daily Herald

It seems like an odd jump from the flexible anti-structure that gives Brown its laid-back reputation to a school where kindergartners are called “scholars” and get demerits for slumping. But for the six Brown alums who work as tutors at Match Corps: Boston, it’s not a question of autonomy — it’s a question of equality.
Match Corps is a one-year fellowship program that brings top college graduates to tutor disadvantaged youth in the Boston area. At Match charter schools, tutors work with small groups, often one-on-one, and form close relationships with students and their families, according to the program’s website.
“Match’s mission is to help all students succeed in college and beyond by giving them the best education they can get,” said Match Corps COO Michael Larsson.
The program directs its efforts toward helping kids in city schools in an effort to overcome the stereotype that students in urban areas are unable to achieve their full potentials. If students in urban public schools are less equipped for success, it is because they are “historically extremely underserved in the education system,” said Reuben Henriques ’12, a current member of Match Corps.
Matching potential
Henriques said he is a firm believer that providing all students with “equal access to structures of power” through skills like reading and critical thinking is crucial not only for the individuals but also for society as a whole.
“A democracy needs people who can advocate for themselves and function in a healthy debate — not just rich, white students, but everyone,” he said.


More about the Match Public Charter School, the Match Corps, and the Match Teacher Residency Program here.

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.

“I Was Adam Lanza”

The Daily Beast
Recently, the Huffington Post published an article titled “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” by a woman named Liza Long. The article presents a picture of a 13-year-old boy who threatened his mother, sometimes going so far as to pull a knife on her, scream obscenities at her, and leap out of cars as they’re driving down the highway.
The rest of the world has reacted to the idea of such a child with horror and incomprehension. I sympathize with the horror. I can only wish that I shared the incomprehension. I understand, intimately, how Liza Long’s son feels. I was like him.
Like the author of that piece, Liza Long, my mother had no idea what to do about my sudden transformation (in my case, around 16) into a borderline homicidal maniac. Like her son, I used knives to try and make my threats of violence seem more real. Like her son, I would leap out of our car in the middle of the road just to get away from my mother, over the most trivial of offenses. Like her son, I screamed obscenities at my mother shortly after moments of relative peace. And worse than this poor woman’s son, whose mindset toward his peers we can only guess, I will admit that I fantasized multiple times about taking ordnance to my classmates.
By the logic which leads Liza Long to say, “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” I have to say: “I was Adam Lanza.”

This is a very honest, generous, and thought-provoking piece … and one from an important source.

Come see the new documentary about the UW-Odyssey Project

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

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

Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era

Matt Richtel, New York Times
In the 1990s, the term “digital divide” emerged to describe technology’s haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families. Those efforts have indeed shrunk the divide. But they have created an unintended side effect, one that is surprising and troubling to researchers and policy makers and that the government now wants to fix.
As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show. This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.
“I’m not antitechnology at home, but it’s not a savior,” said Laura Robell, the principal at Elmhurst Community Prep, a public middle school in East Oakland, Calif., who has long doubted the value of putting a computer in every home without proper oversight. “So often we have parents come up to us and say, ‘I have no idea how to monitor Facebook,’ ” she said.
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers. Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft.
These efforts complement a handful of private and state projects aimed at paying for digital trainers to teach everything from basic keyboard use and word processing to how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography. “Digital literacy is so important,” said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the commission, adding that bridging the digital divide now also means “giving parents and students the tools and know-how to use technology for education and job-skills training.”
F.C.C. officials and other policy makers say they still want to get computing devices into the hands of every American. That gaps remains wide — according to the commission, about 65 percent of all Americans have broadband access at home, but that figure is 40 percent in households with less than $20,000 in annual income. Half of all Hispanics and 41 percent of African-American homes lack broadband.
But “access is not a panacea,” said Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft. “Not only does it not solve problems, it mirrors and magnifies existing problems we’ve been ignoring.” Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment. “We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.
A study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families. In 1999, the difference was just 16 minutes.

Continue reading

Odyssey Project Graduation Ceremony

You are cordially invited to attend the graduation ceremony for students of the UW-Madison Odyssey Project Class of 2011-2012. Project Director Emily Auerbach and Writing Coach Marshall Cook will present certificates attesting to students’ successful completion of six introductory UW credits in English. UW-Madison Interim Chancellor David Ward will make congratulatory remarks.
From September to May, students in this rigorous humanities course have discussed great works of literature, American history, philosophy, and art history while developing skills in critical thinking and persuasive writing. The evening will include brief remarks or performances by each graduating student; recognition of supplemental teachers Jean Feraca, Gene Phillips, and Craig Werner; acknowledgment of Odyssey Project donors and supporters; and music and refreshments.
Web site: www.odyssey.wisc.edu

Madison Read Your Heart Out Day set for Feb. 10

A. David Dahmer:

Research supports parental involvement as a viable means of enhancing children’s academic success. Once again, Michelle Belnavis, a cultural relevance instructional resource teacher (K-5) for MMSD, has organized an event that brings African American community leaders, families, staff, students, and neighborhood organizations together to provide inspiration and information to schools and neighborhoods in honor of National African American Parent Involvement Day.
“We have been doing a lot of research in looking at the effect of having parents’ actively involved in their children’s education and a big part is that relationship-building,” Belnavis tells The Madison Times. “This gives an opportunity for teachers and families and parents to come together for the purpose of celebrating unity. I think a lot of times when parents come into school there’s a feeling like, ‘I don’t really belong here’ or ‘My children go to school here but I don’t really have a connection with the teacher.’

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
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

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)

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.

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
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio.

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
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
via a kind reader. It is great to see competitive races.
UPDATE 2.8.2012: A transcript is now available.

A poverty solution that starts with a hug

Nicholas Kristof
Perhaps the most widespread peril children face isn’t guns, swimming pools or speeding cars. Rather, scientists are suggesting that it may be “toxic stress” early in life, or even before birth.
This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing a landmark warning that this toxic stress can harm children for life. I’m as skeptical as anyone of headlines from new medical studies (Coffee is good for you! Coffee is bad for you!), but that’s not what this is.
Rather, this is a “policy statement” from the premier association of pediatricians, based on two decades of scientific research. This has revolutionary implications for medicine and for how we can more effectively chip away at poverty and crime.
Toxic stress might arise from parental abuse of alcohol or drugs. It could occur in a home where children are threatened and beaten. It might derive from chronic neglect — a child cries without being cuddled. Affection seems to defuse toxic stress — keep those hugs and lullabies coming! — suggesting that the stress emerges when a child senses persistent threats but no protector.
Cues of a hostile or indifferent environment flood an infant, or even a fetus, with stress hormones like cortisol in ways that can disrupt the body’s metabolism or the architecture of the brain.
The upshot is that children are sometimes permanently undermined. Even many years later, as adults, they are more likely to suffer heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other physical ailments. They are also more likely to struggle in school, have short tempers and tangle with the law.
The crucial period seems to be from conception through early childhood. After that, the brain is less pliable and has trouble being remolded.
“You can modify behavior later, but you can’t rewire disrupted brain circuits,” notes Jack P. Shonkoff, a Harvard pediatrician who has been a leader in this field. “We’re beginning to get a pretty compelling biological model of why kids who have experienced adversity have trouble learning.”
This new research addresses an uncomfortable truth: Poverty is difficult to overcome partly because of self-destructive behaviors. Children from poor homes often shine, but others may skip school, abuse narcotics, break the law, and have trouble settling down in a marriage and a job. Then their children may replicate this pattern.

Continue reading

Schools Look to Donors: Private Fund Pours Money Into Bridgeport’s System, Following National Trend

Shelly Banjo & Lisa Fleisher:

Wealthy donors have created a fund to pay the salary of a new Bridgeport school superintendent, ushering in hopes of a new era of private money for reform efforts in Connecticut’s most troubled school system.
City and school officials said the fund would be administered by the Fairfield County Community Foundation, a $150 million organization where Democratic Rep. Jim Himes and former Bridgeport mayoral hopeful Mary-Jane Foster serve as board members.

Teachers union leads effort that aims to turn around West Virginia school system

Lyndsey Layton:

The American Federation of Teachers, vilified by critics as an obstacle to school reform, is leading an unusual effort to turn around a floundering school system in a place where deprivation is layered on heartache.
The AFT, which typically represents teachers in urban settings, wants to improve education deep in the heart of Appalachia by simultaneously tackling the social and economic troubles of McDowell County.
The union has gathered about 40 partners, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco Systems, IBM, Save the Children, foundations, utility companies, housing specialists, community colleges, and state and federal governments, which have committed to a five-year plan to try to lift McDowell out of its depths.
The McDowell Initiative, to be announced Friday, comes in the middle of a national debate about what causes failing schools in impoverished communities: the educators or the environment?

So what do students think about Madison Preparatory Academy?

Pat Schneider:

No matter where the votes fall Monday when the Madison School Board decides whether to OK a charter school proposal for the controversial Madison Preparatory Academy, the idea of a buttoned-down, no-nonsense alternative to the city’s public schools already has entered the local popular culture. It is not only a beacon of hope in efforts to end a lingering race-based academic achievement gap, but also has become an emblematic stick to nudge underperforming kids into line.
As high school senior Adaeze Okoli tells it, when her little brother isn’t working up to his potential, her mom jokingly threatens to send him to Madison Prep.
That anecdote says a lot about how distinct a presence the proposed school already has become in local communities of color. It makes me wonder how kids would feel about attending a school that is boys-only or girls-only and requires uniforms, longer school days, a longer school year and greater parental involvement.
Put the kids first for a change, Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire, the architect and unflagging advocate of the school plan, chided school district administrators after they declared that his proposal would violate the district’s union contract with its teachers and provide inadequate accountability to the School Board. But for all the analysis and debate about the Madison Prep plan, I haven’t heard much from young people about how they would like to go to such a school, and how they think the strict rules would influence learning.
To sound out some students, I turned to the Simpson St

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

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

Madison School Board Member, Ed Hughes:

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

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

For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison’s public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it’s not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.
Some days, it has felt like we’re desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.
Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who’ve been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children’s education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.

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

Group aims to recall five Oakland School District board members

Katy Murphy:

In Oakland, recall is in the air.
As some citizens collect signatures to recall Mayor Jean Quan, another group named Concerned Parents and Community Coalition is trying to oust five of the seven Oakland school board directors. It’s targeting those who voted `yes’ on the proposal this fall to close elementary schools: Jody London, David Kakishiba, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Gary Yee, and Chris Dobbins.
The school board meets tonight, and members of the coalition planned to march to the district office from nearby Laney College at 4 p.m. and present the directors with intent to gather signatures for a recall. Our photographer went out there around 4:30 p.m. and found about six people, not counting reporters.
(7:15 p.m. UPDATE: More supporters have packed the board room. Board President Jody London turned off the mic after Joel Velasquez, of Concerned Parents, went over the time limit. London later called a recess as he continued to speak, with the help of supporters, in Occupy “mic-check” fashion. People then began chanting “Stop closing schools!” and “Recall!”)

APPROVE MADISON PREP NON-INSTRUMENTALITY

Don Severson, via a kind email:

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote December 19, 2011, on the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal for non-instrumentality charter school authorization. Active Citizens for Education endorses and supports the approval of the proposal.
In addition to the rationale and data cited by the Urban League of Greater Madison, and significant others throughout the Madison community, supporting the curricular, instructional, parental and behavioral strategies and rigor of the school, ACE cites the following financial and accountability support for approval of the Academy as a non-instrumentality charter school.

  • Financial: Should the Board deny approval of the proposal as a non-instrumentality the District stands to lose significant means of financial support from state aids and property tax revenue. The District is allowed $10,538.54 per student enrolled in the District the 2011-12 school year. With the possibility of Madison Prep becoming a private school if denied charter school status, the 120 boys and girls would not be enrolled in MMSD; therefore the District would not be the beneficiary of the state and local revenue. The following chart shows the cumulative affect of this reduction using current dollars:
    2012-2013 6th grade 120 students @10,538.54 = $1,264,624.80
    2013-2014 2 grades 240 students @10,538.54 = $2.529,249.60
    2014-2015 3 grades 360 students @10,538.54 = $3,793,874.40
    2015-2016 4 grades 480 students @10,538.54 = $5,058,499.20
    2016-2017 5 grades 600 students @10,538.54 = $6.323.124.00
    2017-2018 6 grades 720 students @10,538.54 = $7,587,748.80
    2018-2019 7 grades 840 students @10,538.54 = $8,852,373.60
    This lost revenue does not include increases in revenue that would be generated from improved completion/graduation rates (currently in the 50% range) of Black and Hispanic students resulting from enrollees in a charter school arrangement.

  • Accountability: The MMSD Administration and Board have been demonstrating a misunderstanding of the terms ‘accountability’ and ‘control’. The State charter school law allows for the creation of charter schools to provide learning experiences for identified student groups with innovative and results-oriented strategies, exempt from the encumbrances of many existing state and local school rules, policies and practices. Charter schools are authorized and designed to operate without the ‘controls’ which are the very smothering conditions causing many of the problems in our public schools. The resulting different charter school environment has been proven to provide improved academic and personal development growth for learners from the traditional school environment. Decreasing impediments and controls inhibiting learning increases the requirements for ‘accountability’ to achieve improved learner outcomes on the part of the charter school. Should the charter school not meet its stated and measurable goals, objectives and results then it is not accountable and therefore should be dissolved. This is the ‘control’ for which the Board of Education has the authority to hold a charter school accountable.
    Let us describe an analogy. Private for-profit business and not-for-profit organizations are established to provide a product and/or service to customers, members and the public. The accountability of the business or organization for its continued existence depends on providing a quality product/services that customers/members want or need. If, for whatever reasons, the business or organization does not provide the quality and service expected and the customer/member does not obtain the results/satisfaction expected, the very existence of the business/organization is jeopardized and may ultimately go ‘out of business’. This scenario is also absolutely true with a charter school. It appears that the significant fears for the MMSD Administration and Board of Education to overcome for the approval of the proposed non-instrumentality Madison Prep charter school are: 1) the fear of loss of ‘control’ instead of accepting responsibility for ‘accountability’, and 2) the fear that ‘some other organization’ will be successful with solutions and results for a problem not addressed by themselves.

The MMSD Board of Education is urged to approve the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy non-instrumentality charter school proposal; thereby, relieving the bondage which grips students and sentences them to a future lifetime of under-performance and lack of opportunities. Thank you.
Contact: Don Severson, President, 608 577-0851, donleader@aol.com

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

Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?

HELEN F. LADD and EDWARD B. FISKE
NO one seriously disputes the fact that students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school, on average, than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. But rather than confront this fact of life head-on, our policy makers mistakenly continue to reason that, since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control.
No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, did this by setting unrealistically high — and ultimately self-defeating — expectations for all schools. President Obama’s policies have concentrated on trying to make schools more “efficient” through means like judging teachers by their students’ test scores or encouraging competition by promoting the creation of charter schools. The proverbial story of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost comes to mind.
The Occupy movement has catalyzed rising anxiety over income inequality; we desperately need a similar reminder of the relationship between economic advantage and student performance.
The correlation has been abundantly documented, notably by the famous Coleman Report in 1966. New research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University traces the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families over the last 50 years and finds that it now far exceeds the gap between white and black students.
Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates.
International research tells the same story. Results of the 2009 reading tests conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment show that, among 15-year-olds in the United States and the 13 countries whose students outperformed ours, students with lower economic and social status had far lower test scores than their more advantaged counterparts within every country. Can anyone credibly believe that the mediocre overall performance of American students on international tests is unrelated to the fact that one-fifth of American children live in poverty?
Yet federal education policy seems blind to all this. No Child Left Behind required all schools to bring all students to high levels of achievement but took no note of the challenges that disadvantaged students face. The legislation did, to be sure, specify that subgroups — defined by income, minority status and proficiency in English — must meet the same achievement standard. But it did so only to make sure that schools did not ignore their disadvantaged students — not to help them address the challenges they carry with them into the classroom.
So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement?
Some honestly believe that schools are capable of offsetting the effects of poverty. Others want to avoid the impression that they set lower expectations for some groups of students for fear that those expectations will be self-fulfilling. In both cases, simply wanting something to be true does not make it so.
Another rationale for denial is to note that some schools, like the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools, have managed to “beat the odds.” If some schools can succeed, the argument goes, then it is reasonable to expect all schools to. But close scrutiny of charter school performance has shown that many of the success stories have been limited to particular grades or subjects and may be attributable to substantial outside financing or extraordinarily long working hours on the part of teachers. The evidence does not support the view that the few success stories can be scaled up to address the needs of large populations of disadvantaged students.
A final rationale for denying the correlation is more nefarious. As we are now seeing, requiring all schools to meet the same high standards for all students, regardless of family background, will inevitably lead either to large numbers of failing schools or to a dramatic lowering of state standards. Both serve to discredit the public education system and lend support to arguments that the system is failing and needs fundamental change, like privatization.
Given the budget crises at the national and state levels, and the strong political power of conservative groups, a significant effort to reduce poverty or deal with the closely related issue of racial segregation is not in the political cards, at least for now.

Continue reading

Why I Am Voting Yes on Madison Prep

Lucy Mathiak:

The Urban League’s proposal to create a Madison Preparatory charter school is, at its heart, a proposal about public education in our community. Although the discussions often boil down to overly simplistic assertions about whether one position or the other is supportive of or hostile toward public education, it is not that simple. What we are facing is a larger and more fundamental question about our values when it comes to the purpose of public education and who it is supposed to serve.
I am voting “yes” because I believe that strong public education for all is the foundation for a strong society. While our schools do a very good job with many students who are white and/or living above the poverty line, the same cannot be said for students of color and/or students living in poverty. The record is most dismal for African American students.
The Madison Prep proposal is born of over 40 years of advocacy for schools that engage and hold high academic expectations for African American and other students of color. That advocacy has produced minor changes in rhetoric without changes in culture, practice, or outcome. Yes, some African American students are succeeding. But for the overwhelming majority, there are two Madison public school systems. The one where the students have a great experience and go on to top colleges, and the one that graduates only 48% of African American males.
The individual stories are heartbreaking, but the numbers underscore that individual cases add up to data that is not in keeping with our self-image as a cutting edge modern community. We ALL play a role in the problem, and we ALL must be part creating a sound, systemic, solution to our failure to educate ALL of our public school students. In the meantime, the African American community cannot wait, and the Madison Prep proposal came from that urgent, dire, need.
Our track record with students and families of color is not improving and, in some cases, is going backward rather than forward as we create more plans and PR campaigns designed to dismiss concerns about academic equality as misunderstandings. To be sure, there are excellent principals, teachers, and staff who do make a difference every day; some African American students excel each year. But overall, when presented with opportunities to change and to find the academic potential in each student, the district has failed to act and has been allowed to do so by the complicit silence of board members and the community at large.
A few turning points from the past year alone:

  • The Urban League – not MMSD administration or the board – pointed out the dismal graduation rates for African American students (48% for males)
  • Less than 5% of African American students are college ready.
  • AVID/TOPs does a terrific job with underrepresented students IF they can get in. AVID/TOPs serves 134 (2.6%) of MMSD’s 4,977 African American secondary students.
  • The number of African American students entering AVID/TOPs is lower this year after MMSD administration changed the criteria for participation away from the original focus on students of color, low income, and first generation college students.
  • Of almost 300 teachers hired in 2011-12, less than 10 are African American. There are fewer African American teachers in MMSD today than there were five years ago.
  • Over 50 African Americans applied for custodian positions since January 1, 2011. 1 was hired; close to 30 custodians were hired in that time.
  • 4K – which is presented as a means to address the achievement gap – is predominantly attended by students who are not African American or low-income.
  • In June, the board approved a Parent Engagement Coordinator to help the district improve its relations with African American families. That position remains unfilled. The district has engagement coordinators working with Hmong and Latino families.

The single most serious issue this year, however, came in May when MMSD administration was informed that we are a District Identified for Improvement (DIFI) due to test scores for African American students along with students from low income families and those with learning disabilities. This puts Madison on an elite list with Madison (Milwaukee?) and Racine. The superintendent mentioned DIFI status in passing to the board, and the WI State Journal reported on the possible sanctions without using the term DIFI.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with NCLB, DIFI status is a serious matter because of the ladder of increasing sanctions that come with poor performance. In an ideal world, the district would have articulated the improvement plan required by DPI over the summer for implementation on the first day of school. Such a plan would include clear action steps, goals, and timelines to improve African American achievement. Such a plan does not exist as of mid-December 2011, and in the most recent discussion it was asserted that the improvement plan is “just paper that doesn’t mean much.” I would argue that, to the African American community, such a plan would mean a great deal if it was sincerely formulated and implemented.
At the same time, we have been able to come up with task forces and reports – with goals and timelines – that are devoted to Talented and Gifted Programing, Direct Language Instruction, Fine Arts Programing, and Mathematics Education to name a few.
Under the circumstances, it is hard to see why the African American community would believe that the outcomes will improve if they are ‘just patient’ and ‘work within the existing public school structures to make things better.’ Perhaps more accurately, I cannot look people in the face and ask them to hope that we will do a better job if they just give up on the vision of a school structure that does what the MMSD has failed to do for the African American community since the advocacy began some 40 years ago.

Also posted at the Capital Times.

Another Letter to the Madison School District’s Board of Education on Madison Prep

750K PDF – Kaleem Caire, via email

December 11, 2011
Mr. Ed Hughes
Board of Education
Madison Metropolitan School District 545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53713
Dear Mr. Hughes:
This letter is intended to respond to your December 4, 2011 blog post regarding the Madison Preparatory Academy initiative. Specifically, this letter is intended to address what you referred as “a fairly half-hearted argument [advanced by the Urban League] that the state statute authorizing school districts to enter into contracts for non-instrumentality charter schools trumps or pre-empts any language in collective bargaining agreements that restricts school districts along these lines.” Continuing on, you wrote the following:

I say the argument is half-hearted because no authority is cited in support and itjust isn’t much ofan argument. School districts aren’t required to authorize non-instrumentality charter schools, and so there is no conflict with state statutesfor a school district to, in effect, agree that it would not do so. Without that kind of a direct conflict, there is no basis for arguing that the CBA language is somehow pre-empted.

We respectfully disagree with your assessment. The intent of this letter is to provide you with the authority for this position and to more fully explain the nature of our concern regarding a contract provision that appears to be illegal in this situation and in direct conflict with public policy.
Background
As you are aware, the collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”) between MMSD and MTI Iprovides “that instructional duties where the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that such be performed by a certificated teacher, shall be performed only by ‘teachers.”‘ See Article I, Section B.3.a. In addition, “the term ‘teacher’ refers to anyone in the collective bargaining unit.” See Article I, Section B.2. You have previously suggested that “all teachers in MMSD schools– including non-instrumentality charter schools- must be members of the MTI bargaining unit.” As we indicated in our December 3, 2011 correspondence to you, under a non-instrumentality charter, the school board may not be the employer of the charter school’s staff. See§ 118.40(7)(a).
Under Wisconsin’s charter school law, the MMSD School Board (the “Board”) has the exclusive authority to determine whether a school is an instrumentality or not an instrumentality of the school district. See§ 118.40(7)(a). That decisio n is an important decision reserved to the Board alone. The effect of that decision drives whether teachers and staff must be, or cannot be, employees of the Board. The language of the CBA deprives the Board ofthe decision reserved to it under the statute and that language cannot be harmonized to give effect to both the statute and the CBA. Alternatively, the CBA language creates a situation whereby the Board may exercise its statutory authority to approve a non- instrumentality charter, but it must staff the school with school district employees, a result clearly prohibited under the statute. For reasons that will be explained below, in our view, the law trumps the CBA in either of these situations.
Analysis
Under Wisconsin law, “[a]labor contract may not violate the law.” Glendale Professional Policeman’s Ass’n v. City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d 90, 102 (Wis. 1978). City ofGlendale addressed the tension that can arise between bargained for provisions in a collective bargaining agreement and statutory language. In City of Glendale, the City argued that a provision dealing with job promotions was unenforceable because it could not be harmonized with statutory language. Specifically, the agreement in question set forth parameters for promoting employees and stated in part that openings “shall be filled by the applicant with the greatest department seniority…” City of Glendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 94. Wisconsin law provided the following:

The chiefs shall appoint subordinates subject to approval by the board. Such appointments shall be made by promotion when this can be done with advantage, otherwise from an eligible list provided by examination and approval by the board and kept on file with the clerk.

Wis. Stat.§ 62.13(4)(a).
The City contended that “the contract term governing promotions is void and unenforceable because it is contrary to sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats.” City ofGlendale, 83 Wis. 2d at 98. Ultimately, the court ruled against the City based on the following rationale:

Although sec. 62.13(4)(a), Stats., requires all subordinates to be appointed by the chief with the approval of the board, it does not, at least expressly, prohibit the chief or the board from exercising the power of promotion of a qualified person according to a set of rules for selecting one among several qualified applicants.

The factual scenario in City ofGlendale differs significantly from the present situation. In City of Glendale, the terms of the agreement did not remove the ability of the chief, with the approval of the board, to make promotions. They could still carry out their statutory duties. The agreement language simply set forth parameters that had to be followed when making promotions. Accordingly, the discretion of the chief was limited, but not eliminated. In the present scenario, the discretion of the Board to decide whether a charter school should be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality has been effectively eliminated by the CBA language.
There is nothing in the CBA that explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. This discretion clearly lies with the Board. Pursuant to state law, instrumentality charter schools are staffed by District teachers. However, non-instrumentality charter schools cannot be staffed by District teachers. See Wis. Stat.§ 118.40. Based on your recent comments, you have taken the position that the Board cannot vote for a non-instrumentality charter school because this would conflict with the work preservation clause of the CBA. Specifically, you wrote that “given the CBA complications, I don’t see how the school board can authorize a non-instrumentality Madison Prep to open its doors next fall, and I say that as one who has come to be sympathetic to the proposal.” While we appreciate your sympathy, what we would like is your support. Additionally, this position creates at least two direct conflicts with the law.
First, under Wisconsin law, “the school board of the school district in which a charter school is located shall determine whether or not the charter school is an instrumentality of the school district.” Wis. Stat. § 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added.) The Board is required to make this determination. If the Board is precluded from making this decision on December 19″‘ based on an agreement previously reached with MTI, the Board will be unable to comply with the law. Effectively, the instrumentality/non- instrumentality decision will have been made by the Board and MTI pursuant to the terms and conditions of the CBA. However, MTI has no authority to make this determination, which creates a direct conflict with the law. Furthermore, the Board will be unable to comply with its statutory obligation due to the CBA. Based on your stated concerns regarding the alleged inability to vote for a non-instrumentality charter school, it appears highly unlikely that the Board ever intentionally ceded this level ofauthority to MTI.
Second, if the Board chose to exercise its statutorily granted authority on December 19th and voted for a non-instrumentality charter school, this would not be a violation of the CBA. Nothing in the CBA explicitly prohibits the Board from voting for a non-instrumentality charter school. At that point, to the extent that MTI chose to challenge that decision, and remember that MTI would have to choose to grieve or litigate this issue, MTI would have to try to attack the law, not the decision made by the Board. Pursuant to the law, “[i] f the school board determines that the charter school is not an instrumentality of the school district, the school board may not employ any personnel for the charter school.” Wis. Stat.§ 118.40(7)(a) (emphasis added). While it has been suggested that the Board could choose to avoid the legal impasse by voting down the non-instrumentality proposal, doing so would not cure this conflict. This is particularly true if some Board members were to vote against a non-instrumentality option solely based on the CBA. In such a case, the particular Board Member’s obligation to make this decision is essentially blocked. Making a decision consistent with an illegal contract provision for the purposes of minimizing the conflict does not make the provision any less illegal. “A labor contract term whereby parties agree to violate the law is void.” WERC v. Teamsters Local No. 563, 75 Wis. 2d 602, 612 (Wis. 1977) (citation omitted).
Conclusion
In Wisconsin, “a labor contract term that violates public policy or a statute is void as a matter of law.” Board of Education v. WERC, 52 Wis. 2d 625, 635 (Wis. 1971). Wisconsin law demonstrates that there is a public policy that promotes the creation of charter schools. Within that public policy, there is an additional public policy that promotes case-by-case decision making by a school board regarding whether a charter school will be an instrumentality or a non-instrumentality. The work preservation clause in the CBA cannot be harmonized with these underlying public policies and should not stop the creation of Madison Preparatory Academy.
The Madison Prep initiative has put between a rock and a hard place. Instrumentality status lost support because of the costs associated with employing members of MTI. Yet, we are being told that non-instrumentality status will be in conflict with the CBA and therefore cannot be approved. As discussed above, the work preservation clause is irreconcilable with Wisconsin law, and would likely be found void by acourt of law.
Accordingly, I call on you, and the rest of the Board to vote for non- instrumentality status on December 19th. In the words of Langston Hughes, “a dream deferred is a dream denied.” Too many children in this district have been denied for far too long. On behalf of Madison children, families and the Boards of the Urban League and Madison Prep, I respectfully request your support.
Respectfully,
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
cc: Dan Nerad, Superintendent
Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel
MMSD Board ofEducation Members
ULGMand Madison Prep Board Members and Staff
Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Related: Who Runs the Madison Schools?
Howard Blume: New teacher contract could shut down school choice program

As schools across California bemoan increasing class sizes, the Alliance Technology and Math Science High School has boosted class size — on purpose — to an astonishing 48. The students work at computers most of the school day.
Next door in an identical building containing a different school, digital imaging — in the form of animation, short films and graphics — is used for class projects in English, math and science.
At a third school on the same Glassell Park campus, long known as Taylor Yards, high-schoolers get hands-on experience with a working solar panel.
These schools and two others coexist at the Sotomayor Learning Academies, which opened this fall under a Los Angeles school district policy called Public School Choice. The 2009 initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, has allowed groups from inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to compete for the right to run dozens of new or low-performing schools.

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

Madison Public Schools: A Dream Deferred, Opportunity Denied? Will the Madison Board of Education Hear the 40-year long cries of its Parents and Community, and Put Children and Learning before Labor and Adults?

Kaleem Caire, via email:

December 10, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues.
For the last 16 months, we have been on an arduous journey to develop a public school that would effectively address the educational needs of children who have under-performed or failed to succeed in Madison’s public schools for at least the last 40 years. If you have followed the news stories, it’s not hard to see how many mountains have been erected in our way during the process.
Some days, it has felt like we’re desperately looking at our children standing dangerously close to the edge of a cliff, some already fallen over while others dangling by their thumbs waiting to be rescued; but before we can get close enough to save them, we have to walk across one million razor blades and through thousands of rose bushes with our bare feet. As we make our way to them and get closer, the razor blades get sharper and the rose bushes grow more dense.
Fortunately, our Board members and team at the Urban League and Madison Preparatory Academy, and the scores of supporters who’ve been plowing through the fields with us for the last year believe that our children’s education, their emotional, social and personal development, and their futures are far more important than any pain we might endure.
Our proposal for Madison Prep has certainly touched a nerve in Madison. But why? When we launched our efforts on the steps of West High School on August 29, 2010, we thought Madison and its school officials would heartily embrace Madison Prep.We thought they would see the school as:
(1) a promising solution to the racial achievement gap that has persisted in our city for at least 40 years;
(2) a learning laboratory for teachers and administrators who admittedly need new strategies for addressing the growing rate of underachievement, poverty and parental disengagement in our schools, and
(3) a clear sign to communities of color and the broader Greater Madison community that it was prepared to do whatever it takes to help move children forward – children for whom failure has become too commonplace and tolerated in our capital city.
Initially, the majority of Board of Education members told us they liked the idea and at the time, had no problems with us establishing Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality – and therefore, non-union, public school. At the same time, all of them asked us for help and advice on how to eliminate the achievement gap, more effectively engage parents and stimulate parent involvement, and better serve children and families of color.
Then, over the next several months as the political climate and collective bargaining in the state changed and opponents to charter schools and Madison Prep ramped up their misinformation and personal attack campaign, the focus on Madison Prep got mired in these issues.
The concern of whether or not a single-gender school would be legal under state and federal law was raised. We answered that both with a legal briefing and by modifying our proposal to establish a common girls school now rather than two years from now.
The concern of budget was raised and how much the school would cost the school district. We answered that through a $2.5 million private gift to lower the per pupil request to the district and by modifying our budget proposal to ensure Madison Prep would be as close to cost-neutral as possible. The District Administration first said they would support the school if it didn’t cost the District more than $5 million above what it initially said it could spend; Madison Prep will only cost them $2.7 million.
Board of Education members also asked in March 2011 if we would consider establishing Madison Prep as an instrumentality of MMSD, where all of the staff would be employed by the district and be members of the teacher’s union. We decided to work towards doing this, so long as Madison Prep could retain autonomy of governance, management and budget. Significant progress was made until the last day of negotiations when MMSD’s administration informed us that they would present a counter-budget to ours in their analysis of our proposal that factored in personnel costs for an existing school versus establishing a modest budget more common to new charter schools.
We expressed our disagreement with the administration and requested that they stick with our budget for teacher salaries, which was set using MMSD’s teacher salary scale for a teacher with 7 years experience and a masters degree and bench-marked against several successful charter schools. Nevertheless, MMSD argued that they were going to use the average years of experience of teachers in the district, which is 14 years with a master’s degree. This drove up the costs significantly, taking teacher salaries from $47,000 to $80,000 per year and benefits from $13,500 to $25,000 per year per teacher. The administration’s budget plan therefore made starting Madison Prep as an instrumentality impossible.
To resolve the issue, the Urban League and Board of Madison Prep met in November to consider the options. In doing so, we consulted with every member of MMSD’s Board of Education. We also talked with parents, stakeholders and other community members as well. It was then decided that we would pursue Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality of the school district because we simply believe that our children cannot and should not have to wait.
Now, Board of Education members are saying that Madison Prep should be implemented in “a more familiar, Madison Way”, as a “private school”, and that we should not have autonomy even though state laws and MMSD’s own charter school policy expressly allow for non-instrumentality schools to exist. There are presently more than 20 such schools in Wisconsin.
What Next?
As the mountains keep growing, the goal posts keep moving, and the razor blades and rose bushes are replenished with each step we take, we are forced to ask the question: Why has this effort, which has been more inclusive, transparent and well-planned, been made so complicated? Why have the barriers been erected when our proposal is specifically focused on what Madison needs, a school designed to eliminate the achievement gap, increase parent engagement and prepare young people for college who might not otherwise get there? Why does liberal Madison, which prides itself on racial tolerance and opposition to bigotry, have such a difficult time empowering and including people of color, particularly African Americans?
As the member of a Black family that has been in Madison since 1908, I wonder aloud why there are fewer black-owned businesses in Madison today than there were 25 years ago? There are only two known black-owned businesses with 10 or more employees in Dane County. Two!
Why can I walk into 90 percent of businesses in Madison in 2011 and struggle to find Black professionals, managers and executives or look at the boards of local companies and not see anyone who looks like me?
How should we respond when Board of Education members tell us they can’t vote for Madison Prep while knowing that they have no other solutions in place to address the issues our children face? How can they say they have the answers and develop plans for our children without consulting and including us in the process? How can they have 51 black applicants for teaching positions and hire only one, and then claim that they can’t find any black people to apply for jobs? How can they say, “We need more conversations” about the education of our children when we’ve been talking for four decades?
I have to ask the question, as uncomfortable as it may be for some to hear, “Would we have to work this hard and endure so much resistance if just 48% of white children in Madison’s public schools were graduating, only 1% of white high school seniors were academically ready for college, and nearly 50% of white males between the ages of 25-29 were incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision?
Is this 2011 or 1960? Should the black community, which has been in Madison for more than 100 years, not expect more?
How will the Board of Education’s vote on December 19th help our children move forward? How will their decision impact systemic reform and seed strategies that show promise in improving on the following?
Half of Black and Latino children are not completing high school. Just 59% of Black and 61% of Latino students graduated on-time in 2008-09. One year later, in 2009-10, the graduation rate declined to 48% of Black and 56% of Latino students compared to 89% of white students. We are going backwards, not forwards. (Source: MMSD 2010, 2011)
Black and Latino children are not ready for college. According to makers of the ACT college entrance exam, just 20% of Madison’s 378 Black seniors and 37% of 191 Latino seniors in MMSD in 2009-10 completed the ACT. Only 7% of Black and 18% of Latino seniors completing test showed they had the knowledge and skills necessary to be “ready for college”. Among all MMSD seniors (those completing and not completing the test), just 1% of Black and 7% of Latino seniors were college ready
Too few Black and Latino graduates are planning to go to college. Of the 159 Latino and 288 Black students that actually graduated and received their diplomas in 2009-10, just 28% of Black and 21% of Latino students planned to attend a four-year college compared to 53% of White students. While another 25% of Black and 33% of graduates planned to attend a two-year college or vocation program (compared to 17% of White students), almost half of all of all Black and Latino graduates had no plans for continuing their education beyond high school compared to 27% of White students. (Source: DPI 2011)
Half of Black males in their formative adult years are a part of the criminal justice system. Dane County has the highest incarceration rate among young Black men in the United States: 47% between the ages of 25-29 are incarcerated, on probation or under some form of court supervision. The incarceration phenomena starts early. In 2009-10, Black youth comprised 62% of all young people held in Wisconsin’s correctional system. Of the 437 total inmates held, 89% were between the ages of 15-17. In Dane County, in which Madison is situated, 49% of 549 young people held in detention by the County in 2010 were Black males, 26% were white males, 12% were black females, 6% were white females and 6% were Latino males and the average age of young people detained was 15. Additionally, Black youth comprised 54% of all 888 young people referred to the Juvenile Court System. White students comprised 31% of all referrals and Latino comprised 6%.
More importantly, will the Board of Education demonstrate the type of courage it took our elders and ancestors to challenge and change laws and contracts that enabled Jim Crow, prohibited civil rights, fair employment and Women’s right to vote, and made it hard for some groups to escape the permanence of America’s underclass? We know this is not an easy vote, and we appreciate their struggle, but there is a difference between what is right and what is politically convenient.
Will the Board have the courage to look in the faces of Black and Latino families in the audience, who have been waiting for solutions for so long, and tell them with their vote that they must wait that much longer?
We hope our Board of Education members recognize and utilize the tremendous power they have to give our children a hand-up. We hope they hear the collective force and harmony of our pleas, engage with our pain and optimism, and do whatever it takes to ensure that the proposal we have put before them, which comes with exceptional input and widespread support, is approved on December 19, 2011.
Madison Prep is a solution we can learn from and will benefit the hundreds of young men and women who will eventually attend.
If not Madison Prep, then what? If not now, then when?
JOIN US
SCHOOL BOARD VOTE ON MADISON PREP
Monday, December 19, 2011 at 5:00pm
Madison Metropolitan School District
Doyle Administration Building Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53703
Contact: Laura DeRoche Perez, Lderoche@ulgm.org
Phone: 608-729-1230
CLICK HERE TO RSVP: TELL US YOU’LL BE THERE
Write the School Board and Tell Them to “Say ‘Yes’, to Madison Prep!”
Madison Prep 2012!
Onward!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205
www.ulgm.org
OUR RESPONSE TO MMSD’S NEW CONCERNS
Autonomy: MMSD now says they are concerned that Madison Prep will not be accountable to the public for the education it provides students and the resources it receives. Yet, they don’t specify what they mean by “accountability.” We would like to know how accountability works in MMSD and how this is producing high achievement among the children it serves. Further, we would like to know why Madison Prep is being treated differently than the 30 early childhood centers that are participating in the district’s 4 year old kindergarten program. They all operate similar to non-instrumentality schools, have their own governing boards, operate via a renewable contract, can hire their own teachers “at their discretion” and make their own policy decisions, and have little to no oversight by the MMSD Board of Education. All 30 do not employ union teachers. Accountability in the case of 4K sites is governed by “the contract.” MMSD Board members should be aware that, as with their approval of Badger Rock Middle School, the contract is supposed to be developed “after” the concept is approved on December 19. In essence, this conversation is occurring to soon, if we keep with current district practices.
Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): MMSD and Madison Teachers, Incorporated have rejected our attorney’s reading of ACT 65, which could provide a path to approval of Madison Prep without violating the CBA. Also, MTI and MMSD could approve Madison Prep per state law and decide not to pursue litigation, if they so desired. There are still avenues to pursue here and we hope MMSD’s Board of Education will consider all of them before making their final decision.

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

The Problem Solvers

Steve Kolowich:

As a fledgling voice of reform in higher education, Salman Khan is an oddity. He cannot name any higher education accrediting agencies off the top of his head. He advocates for competency-based credentialing, but has never heard of Western Governors University. He is capable of talking on the phone for a full hour without using the word “disruptive” once. Until recently, he was an analyst for a hedge fund.
Here is what Khan does know: algebra, statistics, trigonometry, calculus, computer science, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, economics, and finance — well enough, at least, to demonstrate the concepts via brief video tutorials on Khan Academy, his free learning website. What began in 2006 as an attempt to tutor his young cousin from afar has evolved into a 2,700-video library with millions of monthly visitors.
Many have lauded Khan’s natural skill as a teacher. Khan’s charmingly unpolished home recordings form the public face of the organization and provide a peg for media narratives about online learning and the YouTube-ification of the textbook in an era where the rising prices and demand for higher education has collided with the Internet’s culture of free.

The courage of Kaleem Caire

Dave Cieslewicz:

Kaleem Caire has only been back in Madison for less than two years, but he sure has grabbed our attention.
Caire didn’t waste any time after coming home from a successful private sector career on the East Coast to be the new president for the Urban League of Greater Madison, starting to shake up the local establishment more or less immediately upon arrival. He has been pushing a bold proposal to attack the long-standing issue of minority underachievement in the Madison public schools. His idea for the Madison Preparatory Academy was vetted well in Nathan Comp’s cover story for Isthmus last week.
For well over a year now, Caire has been shuttling between the district administration, Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) union leaders, school board members, parents, editorial boards and community meetings fighting for this idea.
In response to union and district administration concerns, he changed the proposal to make the school an “instrumentality” of the district, meaning it would be under school board control and be staffed by MTI member teachers. But that proposal came in at a cost for the district of $13 million over five years. Superintendent Dan Nerad, for whom I have a lot of respect, told the League that he couldn’t support anything over $5 million.

Let’s get together on Madison Prep

Dave Zweifel:

The debate over whether the Madison School Board should give the final OK to the Madison Preparatory Academy is getting a bit nasty.
And that should not be.
While the passion on the part of the advocates for the school, led by the energetic Urban League CEO Kaleem Caire, is perfectly understandable given our schools’ dismal record on minority achievement, so is the questioning from those who aren’t convinced the prep idea will solve that problem.
Now, on the eve of a vote on that final approval, is not the time to point fingers and make accusations, but to come together and reasonably find ways to overcome the obstacles and reassure those who fret about giving up duly elected officials’ oversight of the school and the impact it will have on the entire district’s union contracts if not done correctly.
The union problem is not the fault of the union, but stems from Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature’s action to dramatically change public employee collective bargaining in Wisconsin. If the union or the School Board makes concessions for Madison Prep, the collective bargaining agreement for the entire district, which is to expire in June 2013, could be negated.

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

Madison Schools’ Administration Opposes the Proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Recommendations:
We are in agreement that the achievement gaps for low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners must be eliminated. The Administration agrees that bolder steps must be taken to address these gaps. We also know that closing these gaps is not a simple task and change will not come overnight, but, the District’s commitment to doing so will not waiver. We also know that to be successful in the long run, we must employ multiple strategies both within our schools and within our community. This is why the District has held interest in many of the educational strategies included in the Madison Prep’s proposal like longer school days and a longer school year at an appropriately compensated level for staff, mentoring support, the proposed culture of the school and the International Baccalaureate Program.
While enthusiastic about these educational strategies, the Administration has also been clear throughout this conversation about its concern with a non-instrumentality model.
Autonomy is a notion inherent in all charter school proposals. Freedom and flexibility to do things differently are the very reasons charter schools exist. However, the non-instrumentality charter school model goes beyond freedom and flexibility to a level of separateness that the Administration cannot support.
In essence, Madison Prep’s current proposal calls for the exclusion of the elected Board of Education and the District’s Administration from the day-to-day operations of the school. It prevents the Board, and therefore the public, from having direct oversight of student learning conditions and teacher working conditions in a publicly-funded charter school. From our perspective, the use of public funds calls for a higher level of oversight than found in the Madison Prep proposal and for that matter in any non-instrumentality proposal.
In addition, based on the District’s analysis, there is significant legal risk in entering into a non- instrumentality charter contract under our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.
In our analysis of Madison Prep’s initial instrumentality proposal, the Administration expressed concerns over the cost of the program to the District and ultimately could not recommend funding at the level proposed. Rather, the Administration proposed a funding formula tied to the District’s per pupil revenues. We also offered to continue to work with Madison Prep to find ways to lower these costs. Without having those conversations, the current proposal reduces Madison Prep’s costs by changing from an instrumentality to a non-instrumentality model. This means that the savings are realized directly through reductions in staff compensation and benefits to levels lower than MMSD employees. The Administration has been willing to have conversations to determine how to make an instrumentality proposal work.
In summary, this administrative analysis finds concerns with Madison Prep’s non-instrumentality proposal due to the level of governance autonomy called for in the plan and due to our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers. Based on these issues, we cannot recommend to the Board that Madison Prep be approved as a non-instrumentality charter school.
We know more needs to be done as a district and a community to eliminate our achievement gaps. We must continue to identify strategies both within our schools and our larger community to eliminate achievement gaps. These discussions, with the Urban League and with our entire community, need to continue on behalf of all of our students.

Matthew DeFour:

In anticipation of the recommendation, Caire sent out an email Friday night to School Board members with a letter responding to concerns about the union contract issue.
The problem concerns a “work preservation” clause in the Madison Teachers Inc. contract that requires all teaching duties in the district be performed by union teachers.
Exceptions to the clause have been made in the past, such as having private day-care centers offer 4-year-old kindergarten, but those resulted from agreements with the union. Such an agreement would nullify the current union contract under the state’s new collective bargaining law, according to the district.
Caire said a recent law signed by Gov. Scott Walker could allow the district to amend its union contract. However, School Board member Ed Hughes, who is a lawyer, disagreed with Caire’s interpretation.
Nerad said even if the union issue can be resolved, he still objects to the school seeking autonomy from all district policies except those related to health and safety of students.
…..
Caire said Madison Prep’s specific policies could be ironed out as part of the charter contract after the School Board approves the proposal. He plans to hold a press conference Tuesday to respond to the district’s review.
“The purpose of a charter school is to free you from red tape — not to adopt the same red tape that they have,” Caire said. “We hope the board will stop looking at all of those details and start looking at why we are doing this in the first place.”

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
The fate of Madison Prep, yea or nea, will resonate locally for years. A decisive moment for our local $372M schools.

Madison Schools for Whites Equivalent to Singapore, Finland (!); Troller Bids Adieu

Susan Troller, Via email:

Madison schools aren’t failing, by any stretch of the imagination, for many students.
In fact, if you’re a white, middle-class family sending your children to public school here, your kids are likely getting an education that’s on a par with Singapore or Finland — among the best in the world.
However, if you’re black or Latino and poor, it’s an unquestionable fact that Madison schools don’t as good a job helping you with your grade-point average, high school graduation, college readiness or test scores. By all these measures, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students is awful.
These facts have informed the stern (and legitimate) criticisms leveled by Urban League President Kaleem Caire and Madison Prep backers.
But they doesn’t take into account some recent glimmers of hope that shouldn’t be discounted or overlooked. Programs like AVID/TOPS support first-generation college-bound students in Madison public schools and are showing some successes. Four-year-old kindergarten is likely to even the playing field for the district’s youngest students, giving them a leg up as they enter school. And, the data surrounding increasing numbers of kids of color participating in Advanced Placement classes is encouraging.
Stepping back from the local district and looking at education through a broader lens, it’s easy to see that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have aimed to legislate, bribe and punish their way toward an unrealistic Lake Wobegon world where all the students are above average.

Remarkable. Are there some excellent teachers in Madison? Certainly. Does Madison’s Administration seek best in the world results? A look at the math task force, seemingly on hold for years, is informative. The long one size fits all battle and the talented and gifted complaint are worth contemplating.
Could Madison be the best? Certainly. The infrastructure is present, from current spending of $14,963/student to the nearby UW-Madison, Madison College and Edgewood College backed by a supportive community.
Ideally, Madison (and Wisconsin) should have the courage to participate in global examinations (Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin’s Don’t). Taxpayers and parents would then know if Troller’s assertions are fact based.

Big expansion, big questions for Teach for America

Christine Armario:

In a distressed neighborhood north of Miami’s gleaming downtown, a group of enthusiastic but inexperienced instructors from Teach for America is trying to make progress where more veteran teachers have had difficulty: raising students’ reading and math scores.
“These are the lowest performing schools, so we need the strongest performing teachers,” said Julian Davenport, an assistant principal at Holmes Elementary, where three-fifths of the staff this year are Teach for America corps members or graduates of the program.
By 2015, with the help of a $50 million federal grant, Teach for America recruits could make up one-quarter of all new teachers in 60 of the nation’s highest need school districts. In 2010, the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education approved a contract to bring 24 Teach for America teachers into Tuscaloosa. Eight teachers began working in schools in the Central zone — the poorest and lowest-performing zone in the school system — in the 2011-12 school year. Eight more are to arrive in 2012-13 and another eight in 2013-14.

Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 15MB PDF

1. Develop or Revise a District Improvement Plan
Address the fundamental teaching and learning needs of schools in the Local Education Agency (LEA), especially the academic problems o f low-achieving students.
MMSD has been identified by the State of Wisconsin as a District Identified for Improvement, or DIFI. We entered into this status based on District WKCE assessment scores. The data indicates that sub-groups of students-African American students, English Language Learner Students with Disabilities or Economically Disadvantaged -did not score high enough on the WKCE in one or more areas of reading, math or test participation to meet state criteria.
Under No Child Left Behind, 100% of students are expected to achieve proficient or advanced on the WKCE in four areas by 2014. Student performance goals have been raised every year on a regular schedule since 2001, making targets more and more difficult to reach each year. In addition to the curriculum changes being implemented, the following assessments are also new or being implemented during the 2011-12 school year (see Attachment 1):

  1. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Grades 3-7. MAP is incorporated into the MMSD Balanced Assessment Plan as a computer adaptive benchmark assessment tool for grades 3-7. Administration of the assessment was implemented in spring, 2011.
  2. Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT): Grades 2 and 5. As proposed in the Talented and Gifted Plan approved by the Board of Education in August, 2009, the district requested approval of funds to purchase and score the Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) which was administered in February, 2011, to all second and fifth graders.
  3. The EPAS System: Explore Grades 8-9, Plan Grade 10, ACT Grade 11. The EPAS system provides a longitudinal, systematic approach to educational and career planning, assessment, instructional support, and evaluation. The system focuses on the integrated, higher-order thinking skills students develop in grades K-12 that are important for success both during and after high school. The EPAS system is linked to the College and Career Readiness standards so that the information gained about student performance can be used to inform instruction around those standards.

Attached are six documents describing programs being implemented for the 2011-12 school year to address the needs of all students.
1. Strategic Plan Document: Year Three (Attachment 2)
2. Strategic Plan Summary of Three Main Focus Areas (Attachment 3)
3. Addressing the Needs of All Learners and Closing the Achievement Gap Through K-12 Alignment (Attachment 4)
4. Scope and Sequence (Attachment 5)
5. The Ideal Graduate from MMSD (Attachment 6)
6. 4K Update to BOE- Program and Sites- (Attachment 7)

Clusty Search: District Identified for Improvement (DIFI)
Matthew DeFour:

Madison School District administrators aren’t keeping track of the best classroom instruction. Not all principals create a culture of high expectations for all students. And teachers aren’t using the same research-based methods.
Such inconsistencies across the district and within schools — stemming from Madison’s tradition of school and teacher autonomy — are hurting student achievement, according to a district analysis required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“There are problems within the entire system,” Superintendent Dan Nerad said. “We do have good practice, but we need to be more consistent and have more fidelity to our practices.”
Inconsistencies in teaching and building culture can affect low-income students, who are more likely to move from school to school, and make teacher training less effective, Nerad said.
The analysis is contained in an improvement plan the district is scheduled to discuss with the School Board on Monday and to deliver next week to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Open Enrollment Changing the Face of Wisconsin Public Schools

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, via a kind Senn Brown email:

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

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

School Board Election Shootout in Seattle

Dan Dempsey, via a kind email:

r spent slightly more than $500,000 combined on their four campaigns, which was 81% of the total amount spent by those running in 2007. These incumbent Directors are endorsed for reelection in 2011 by the Seattle Times while The Stranger, an alternative newspaper, recommends three of the challengers.

This election has parallels to dissatisfaction underlying Occupy Wall Street. Many Seattle residents see the “School Reform” pushed by the District as largely driven by those more interested in profit by corporations than student learning. Public records of where the $500,000 plus came from in 2007 indicate likely pro corporate connections.

On March 2, 2011 after giving the public only 22 hours notice, the Board bought out Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her CFO-COO Mr. Don Kennedy for $360,000. The Superintendent had Broad Academy training and pushed for School Reform along the lines advocated by the Broad Academy in her 3.5 years in Seattle.

It will be interesting to see if Madison has contested board races in 2012…

Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Business & Education Plans

Education Plan (PDF) via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Madison Preparatory Academy’s educational program has been designed to be different. The eight features of the educational program will serve as a powerful mix of strategies that allow Madison Prep to fulfill its mission: to prepare students for success at a four-year college or university by instilling Excellence, Pride, Leadership and Service. By fulfilling this mission, Madison Prep will serve as a catalyst of change and opportunity for young men and women who live in a city where only 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduate from high school. Madison Prep’s educational program will produce students who are ready for college; who think, read, and write critically; who are culturally aware and embrace differences among all people; who give back to their communities; and who know how to work hard.
One of the most unique features of Madison Prep is the single gender approach. While single gender education has a long, successful history, there are currently no schools – public or private – in Dane County that offer single gender education. While single gender education is not right for every student, the demand demonstrated thus far by families who are interested in enrolling their children in Madison Prep shows that a significant number of parents believe their children would benefit from a single gender secondary school experience.
Madison Prep will operate two schools – a boys’ school and a girls’ school – in order to meet this demand as well as ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The schools will be virtually identical in all aspects, from culture to curriculum, because the founders of Madison Prep know that both boys and girls need and will benefit from the other educational features of Madison Prep.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is one of those strategies that Madison Prep’s founders know will positively impact all the students the schools serve. IB is widely considered to be the highest quality curricular framework available. What makes IB particularly suitable for Madison Prep is that it can be designed around local learning standards (the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the Common Core State Standards) and it is inherently college preparatory. For students at Madison Prep who have special learning needs or speak English as a second language, IB is fully adaptable to their needs. Madison Prep will offer both the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP) to all its students.
Because IB is designed to be college preparatory, this curricular framework is an ideal foundation for the other aspects of Madison Prep’s college preparatory program. Madison Prep is aiming to serve a student population of which at least 65% qualify for free or reduced lunch. This means that many of the parents of Madison Prep students will not be college educated themselves and will need the school to provide considerable support as their students embark on their journey through Madison Prep and to college.
College exposure, Destination Planning, and graduation requirements that mirror admissions requirements are some of the ways in which Madison Prep will ensure students are headed to college. Furthermore, parents’ pursuit of an international education for their children is increasing rapidly around the world as they seek to foster in their children a global outlook that also expands their awareness, competence and comfort level with communicating, living, working and problem solving with and among cultures different than their own.
Harkness Teaching, the cornerstone instructional strategy for Madison Prep, will serve as an effective avenue through which students will develop the critical thinking and communication skills that IB emphasizes. Harkness Teaching, which puts teacher and students around a table rather than in theater-style classrooms, promotes student-centered learning and rigorous exchange of ideas. Disciplinary Apprenticeship, Madison Prep’s approach to literacy across the curriculum, will ensure that students have the literacy skills to glean ideas and information from a variety of texts, ideas and information that they can then bring to the Harkness Table for critical analysis.
Yet to ensure that students are on track for college readiness and learning the standards set out in the curriculum, teachers will have to take a disciplined approach to data-driven instruction. Frequent, high quality assessments – aligned to the standards when possible – will serve as the basis for instructional practices. Madison Prep teachers will consistently be analyzing new data to adjust their practice as needed.

Business Plan (PDF), via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Based on current education and social conditions, the fate of young men and women of color is uncertain.
Black and Hispanic boys are grossly over-represented among youth failing to achieve academic success, are at grave risk of dropping out of school before they reach 10th grade, are disproportionately represented among adjudicated and incarcerated youth, and are far less likely than their peers in other subgroups to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Likewise, boys in general lag behind girls in most indicators of student achievement.
Research indicates that although boys of color have high aspirations for academic and career success, their underperformance in school and lack of educational attainment undermine their career pursuits and the success they desire. This misalignment of aspirations and achievement is fueled by and perpetuates a set of social conditions wherein men of color find themselves disproportionately represented among the unemployed and incarcerated. Without meaningful, targeted, and sustainable interventions and support systems, hundreds of thousands of young men of color will never realize their true potential and the cycle of high unemployment, fatherless homes, overcrowded jails, incarcerated talent, deferred dreams, and high rates of school failure will continue.
Likewise, girls of color are failing to graduate high school on-time, underperform on standardized achievement and college entrance exams and are under-enrolled in college preparatory classes in secondary school. The situation is particularly pronounced in the Madison Metropolitan School District where Black and Hispanic girls are far less likely than Asian and White girls to take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in high school or successfully complete such courses with a grade of C or better when they do. In this regard, they mimic the course taking patterns of boys of color.
Additionally, data on ACT college entrance exam completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement tests scores provided to the Urban League of Greater Madison by the Madison Metropolitan School District show a significant gap in ACT completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement scores between students of color and their White peers.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women will be established to serve as catalysts for change and opportunity among young men and women in the Greater Madison, Wisconsin area, particularly young men and women of color. It will also serve the interests of parents who desire a nurturing, college preparatory educational experience for their child.
Both schools will be administratively separate and operated by Madison Preparatory Academy, Inc. (Madison Prep), an independent 501(c)(3) established by the Urban League of Greater Madison and members of Madison Prep’s inaugural board of directors.
The Urban League of Greater Madison, the “founder” of Madison Prep, understands that poverty, isolation, structural discrimination, limited access to schools and classrooms that provide academic rigor, lack of access to positive male and female role models in different career fields, limited exposure to academically successful and achievement-oriented peer groups, and limited exposure to opportunity and culture experiences outside their neighborhoods contribute to reasons why so many young men and women fail to achieve their full potential. At the same time, the Urban League and its supporters understand that these issues can be addressed by directly countering each issue with a positive, exciting, engaging, enriching, challenging, affirming and structured learning community designed to specifically address these issues.
Madison Prep will consist of two independent public charter schools – authorized by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education – designed to serve adolescent males and females in grades 6-12 in two separate schools. Both will be open to all students residing within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) who apply, regardless of their previous academic performance.

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

Lawsuits for School Reform?: Parent Power May Insert Itself in L.A. Unified’s Teachers’ Contract; Demand that the LAUSD Immediately Comply with the Stull Act

RiShawn Biddle:

Earlier this year, Dropout Nation argued that one way that school reformers — including school choice activists and Parent Power groups — could advance reform and expand school choice was to file lawsuits similar to school funding torts filed for the past four decades by school funding advocates. But now, it looks like Parent Power activists may be filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles on a different front: Overhauling teacher evaluations. And the Los Angeles Unified School District may be the place where the first suit is filed.
In a letter sent on behalf of some families Wednesday to L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the school board — and just before the district begins negotiations with the American Federation of Teachers’ City of Angels unit over a new contract — Barnes & Thornburg’s Kyle Kirwan demanded that the district “implement a comprehensive system” of evaluating teachers that ties “pupil progress” data to teacher evaluations. Kirwan and the group he represents are also asking for the district to begin evaluating all teachers “regardless of tenure status” and to reject any contract with the American Federation of Teachers local that allows for any veteran teacher with more than a decade on the job to go longer than two years without an evaluation if they haven’t had one in the first place.

We represent minor-students currently residing within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District (the “District” or “LAUSD”), the parents of these students, and other adults who have paid taxes for a school system that has chronically failed to comply with California law.
Our clients seek to have the District immediately meet its obligations under the Stull Act, a forty year old law that is codified at California Education Code section 44660 et seq. (the “Stull Act“).
In relevant part, the Stull Act requires that “[t]he governing board of each school district establish standards of expected pupil achievement at each grade level in each area of study.”
Cal. Educ. Code § 44662(a). The Stull Act requires further that “[t]he governing board of each school district … evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to … [t]he progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments ….” Cal. Educ. Code§ 44662(b)(l).
In the forty years since the California Legislature passed the Stull Act, the District has never evaluated its certificated personnel based upon the progress of pupils towards the standards established pursuant to Education Code section 44662(a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by the state adopted criterion referenced assessments; never reduced such evaluations to writing or added the evaluations to part of the permanent records of its certificated personnel; never reviewed with its certificated personnel the results of pupil progress as they relate to Stull Act evaluations; and never made specific recommendations on how certificated personnel with unsatisfactory ratings could improve their performance in order to achieve a higher level of pupil progress toward meeting established standards of expected pupil achievement.

Support the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act Send Letters to Congress : 5,452 Letters Sent So Far

Speak up for Geography:

Geography has long been recognized as a “core academic subject” in federal education legislation. However, unlike all the other core academic subjects, including history, civics, economics, foreign languages and the arts, there is no dedicated federal funding stream to advance geography education. As a result, our nation is facing a crisis in geographic literacy that is jeopardizing our global competitiveness, our position of diplomatic leadership, and our ability to fill and retain over 150,000 jobs in geospatial technology in the next decade.

Newspapers neglect critical information about Public Disclosure Commission issues

Laurie Rogers:

On Oct. 24, a Spokesman-Review reporter called me to talk about education. Over five years of education advocacy, this was the second phone call I’ve received from a SR reporter.
The first call came Oct. 13, after I submitted a Letter to the Editor about the formal complaint I filed Sept. 28 with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). This PDC complaint concerns Spokane Public Schools and school board candidate Deana Brower. Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner called me to ask for a copy of the complaint.
On Monday, Lawrence-Turner called again as I was driving home with my daughter and a student I’m tutoring. Before I talked with Lawrence-Turner, I confirmed that we were having a conversation that was NOT on the record. Having confirmed that, I talked with her about various education-related topics.
This is the article that showed up in the paper today: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/oct/25/caign-limit-trend-shifts-to-smaller-races
If Lawrence-Turner wonders why I asked if our conversation was off the record, all she needs to do is look at her articles. Gee, do you think The Spokesman-Review and Lawrence-Turner want Brower to win the school board election? I offered my entire blog to Lawrence-Turner, the information in it, and the links to district emails – and this is what she wrote. It looks to me like yet another slanted article with unsupported insinuations regarding school board candidate Sally Fullmer and a local community member, and with an accompanying free pass for opponent Brower.

Related: asking questions.

Navigating Public School Admissions, With a Consultant’s Help

Rebecca Vevea:

Armed with tote bags for the handouts awaiting them, thousands of Chicago parents shuffled through display tables adorned with brightly colored posters as they faced the daunting task of selecting schools for their children.
For many parents, the school fair, put on by the Neighborhood Parents Network, is their first encounter with the public school system. It is timed to coincide with the opening of the district’s admissions process, which ends in December. Many parents hope to place their children in the growing number of charter, magnet and selective-enrollment elementary schools.”If you hang out with parents of 4-year-olds, the conversation never stops,” said Christine Whitley, a Chicago Public Schools parent. “That’s all they talk about: ‘Where are you sending your child to school?’ ”
As choosing a school becomes increasingly complicated, some entrepreneurial parents, including Ms. Whitley, have started small consulting businesses aimed at helping parents navigate the admission process. But some observers have raised concerns about the potential for parents to game the system.
The district has 482 elementary schools, multiple application forms and five specialty school options in addition to the neighborhood elementary schools: gifted, classical, magnet, magnet cluster and charter. Magnet, magnet cluster and charter schools select students largely through a computerized lottery, but gifted and classical require admission tests for children at age 4 because the schools offer an accelerated curriculum.

Finger Scan Devices Coming to Washington County School Buses

Bryan Anderson:

Roll call is a thing of the past in Washington County Schools. Students now check in with finger scanning devices.
School Superintendent Sandra Cook said the old method just wasn’t cutting it.
“We got to talking about attendance in our district and how it was inconsistent,” said Cook.
The systems have been up and running for two months inside the schools, but since the majority of students ride the bus every day, district officials decided to move the devices there.
But the transition hasn’t been easy. One of the biggest challenges they’ve faced is where to put the devices on the buses. State safety codes require the isles to be kept completely clear, so one of the ideas they’ve discussed is to put a laptop on one side of the steering wheel and the finger scan system on the other.

Wow….

Three vie for two spots on San Mateo-Foster City schools board

Neil Gonzales:

Mending a frosty relationship between school and city leaders, building a new elementary campus and addressing long-term budget challenges are some of the key concerns emerging from the San Mateo-Foster City School District board election race.
The race features political newcomers Fel Anthony Amistad and Audrey Ng and incumbent Colleen Sullivan vying for two spots on the board in the Nov. 8 election. Board President Mark Hudak is not running for re-election.
During a recent editorial meeting with the Times, Amistad, Ng and Sullivan all agreed that the relationship between the district and the Foster City council needs improvement. Much of the tension has involved the district’s search in recent years for public land on which to build a proposed new school to address a student population surge.

Crunch Time for Madison Prep Charter School




Ruth Conniff:

Ed Hughes has a problem.
Like most of his fellow school board members and practically everyone else in Madison, he was bowled over by Urban League president Kaleem Caire’s vision for Madison Prep, a charter school that would aggressively tackle the school district’s entrenched minority achievement gap.
“The longer day, the instructional focus, and the ‘no excuses’ approach appealed to me,” Hughes says.
But as he looked into the details, Hughes became more and more concerned about the cost of the school and “whether there is a good match between the problem we are trying to address and the solution that’s being proposed.”
Expressing those doubts in his blog has turned the soft-spoken Hughes into a heretic.
Caire is a superstar who has galvanized the community to get behind his charter school. At school board hearings, only a handful of speakers express any reservations about the idea, while an overwhelming number speak passionately about the need to break the school-to-prison pipeline, and about Madison’s moral obligation to do something for the kids who are not being served.
Hughes listens respectfully. But, he says, “for Madison Prep to be the answer, we’d need to know that the students it was serving would otherwise fall through the cracks.”
…..
But Hughes’ big problem with the Urban League’s draft proposal, submitted to the district last February, is cost. The total cost to the school district of $27 million over five years is just too much, he says.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I don’t know if the Urban League’s plans for Madison Prep will come to fruition. If they do, I predict here and now that the school will have a higher graduation rate than the Madison school district as a whole for African-American students and probably for other groups of students as well. I also predict that all or nearly all of its graduates will apply to and be admitted to college. What is impossible to predict is what difference, if any, this will make in overall educational outcomes for Madison students.
Of course charter schools like Madison Prep will have higher graduation rates than their home school districts as a whole. Students enrolled in charter schools are privileged in one clear way over students not enrolled. Each student has a parent or other caregiver sufficiently involved in the child’s education to successfully navigate the process to get the student into the charter school. Not all students in our traditional neighborhood schools have that advantage. Other things equal, students with more involved parents/caregivers will be more likely to graduate from high school. So, one would expect that charter schools will have higher graduation rates.

School district tackles its changing demographics

Mila Koumpilova:

WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Perla Banegas arrived in Worthington a decade ago, on a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles. Her single mom had heard about a safe, quiet town in the upper Midwest and steady jobs at its meatpacking plant.
In sixth grade that year, Banegas quickly got a reputation as a painfully shy kid — and a talking-to for taking too many bathroom breaks. She wasn’t shy: She just didn’t understand a word of English in class. In bathroom stalls, she’d have a good cry and then give herself a pep talk: “You have to go back and try.”
She did. And she graduated.

1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison, by State



Download a 55K PDF version.
Conor Dougherty & Rob Barry

Despite a decade of technological advances that make it possible to work almost anywhere, many of the nation’s most educated people continue to cluster in a handful of dominant metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York and California’s Silicon Valley, according to census data released Thursday.
The upshot is that regions with the most skilled and highly paid workers continue to widen their advantages over less well-endowed locales.
“In a knowledge economy, success breeds success,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Of the largest 100 metropolitan areas, those with the highest percentage of college graduates in 2000 outpaced in education gains areas with lower percentages of college grads. For instance, the 10 cities with the highest share of their population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher saw that share jump by an average of 4.6 percentage points over the decade, while the bottom 10 saw their share grow 3.1 percentage points.

Data Source: American Community Survey.
Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Kaleem Caire draws on personal experience to support school alternatives for blacks

Dan Simmons:

“Come on Madison, we can do better than this!”
That’s Kaleem Caire. He said it not recently but in 1998 in an op-ed questioning why his hometown wasn’t paying more attention to the poor educational outcomes and high incarceration rates of black males.
“I’m asking Madison to be your best self and get this done!”
That’s also Caire, in an interview this week about his proposal for a publicly funded charter school designed to improve educational outcomes of low-income minority students.
What hasn’t changed, then to now, is Caire’s conviction that Madison’s public schools are failing minority students and his willingness to force issues that cause some distress to the city’s white liberal establishment.
What has changed is Caire’s clout. He returned to his hometown in 2010 after a decade long detour with his family to the East Coast. As president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, and public face for the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, his profile has skyrocketed. But with it has come criticism and skepticism over a plan that challenges Madison’s longstanding commitment to inclusive learning.

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

Kaleem Caire, via email:

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

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

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

School Curriculum Falls Short on Bigger Lessons

Tara Parker-Pope
Now that children are back in the classroom, are they really learning the lessons that will help them succeed?
Many child development experts worry that the answer may be no. They say the ever-growing emphasis on academic performance and test scores means many children aren’t developing life skills like self-control, motivation, focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long-term success than high grades. And it may be distorting their and their parents’ values.
“What are we really trying to do when we think about raising kids?” asked Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, an expert in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We’re trying to put in place the ingredients so the child is going to be a successful 35-year-old. It’s not really about getting an A in algebra.”
Take the question of praising a child’s academic achievement. In his new book “Letting Go With Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century” (written with Susan Fitzgerald), Dr. Ginsburg draws a crucial distinction between hard work and simply getting an A or “being smart.”
In one set of studies, children who solved math puzzles were praised for their intelligence or for their hard work. The first group actually did worse on subsequent tests, or took an easy way out, shunning difficult problems. The research suggests that praise for a good effort encourages harder work, while children who are consistently told they are smart do not know what to do when confronted with a difficult problem or reading assignment.
“When we focus on performance, when we say ‘make sure you get A’s,’ we have kids who are terrified of B’s,” Dr. Ginsburg said. “Kids who are praised for effort, those kids learn that intelligence is something that can be built.”
Academic achievement can certainly help children succeed, and for parents there can be a fine line between praising effort and praising performance. Words need to be chosen carefully: Instead of saying, “I’m so proud you got an A on your test,” a better choice is “I’m so proud of you for studying so hard.” Both replies rightly celebrate the A, but the second focuses on the effort that produced it, encouraging the child to keep trying in the future.
Praise outside of academics matters, too. Instead of asking your child how many points she scored on the basketball court, say, “Tell me about the game. Did you have fun? Did you play hard?”
Dr. Ginsburg notes that parents also need to teach their children that they do not have to be good at everything, and there is something to be learned when a child struggles or gets a poor grade despite studying hard.

Continue reading

Team Real on Drug Abuse



www.teamreal.org, via Judy Reed:

TEAM REAL is made up of students from your community that are in-the-know about drugs of abuse. The facts provided will raise awareness of the local drug trends, costs of illicit drugs, ways kids are getting high, and the use of over-the-counter and licit medications as drugs of abuse.

A larger version of this image is available here.

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

Kaleem Caire, via email

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

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

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on The Schools, Community, Curriculum & Parenting

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin Interview 8.12.2011 from Jim Zellmer.

I am thankful that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin took the time to chat yesterday.
Mobile (iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android) visitors, please use this link.
19MB mp3 version.

Why parents can’t save schools

Jay Matthews:

One of the summer scandals keeping us education wonks amused until school starts is a American Federation of Teachers gaffe in Connecticut. Union officials posted online an analysis of their lobbying against a parent trigger law in that state that revealed too much about their distaste for letting moms and dads decide who should run their schools.
Bloggers RiShawn Biddle and Alexander Russo exposed the union celebrating its gutting of a Connecticut version of California’s parent trigger law. School reform organizations and editorialists were aghast. AFT president Randi Weingarten disowned the Web post. Activists pushing for parent triggers in Texas and New York welcomed the attention.
This idea has already reached the Washington area and may someday inspire legislation here. That would be bad. Despite its worthy proponents and democratic veneer, the parent trigger is a waste of time. Let’s toss it into the trash with other once fashionable reform ideas like worksheets for slow students and brief constructed responses on state tests.

A balance of power in school governance is vital to ongoing improvements AND relevance.

School Vouchers – Panacea or Snake Oil?

Ross Meyer:

As most Coloradans know, at least those who keep up with statewide education news, the Douglas County school board recently approved — unanimously — a groundbreaking plan to help pay the tuition costs for hundreds of students so that they can attend private schools.
This plan, known colloquially as a school voucher program, enjoys ardent support from some quarters, but vigorous opposition elsewhere.
Is such a plan useful, does it seem a wise use of taxpayer provided money, and is it available to all students?
Or, as many think, should public money earmarked for education be used exclusively for public schools to benefit all students? As with so many topics dotting the American sociological landscape, the answers lie in the murky sea of the individual’s political leanings.

July 29 Wisconsin Read to Lead task force meeting

Julie Gocey, via email:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If dogs became kings And the Pope chewed gum

Sara Mead:

The so-called Save Our Schools march scheduled for this weekend is getting a fair amount of traffic on my twitter feed, so I clicked on a link that brought me to this list of “Guiding Principles” from the events organizers. And all I could think was:
….and a pony!
To put it more directly: This is not an agenda for accomplishing anything. It’s just a wish list. Half of it is a wishlist of things the organizers don’t want (performance-based pay, school closures). Half of it is a wishlist for things someone might want, without any clear theory of how to operationalize them or what that might actually look like in practice in the real world. (I, too, would like to see “Well-rounded education that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential”-but in the absence of clear prescriptions and mechanisms about how to make that a reality, well, you might as well wish for a pony, too.) The really weird thing is that a lot of the “wishlist” items aren’t even outcomes for educators or students, but process items, like “Educator and civic community leadership in drafting new ESEA legislation.” I don’t know how you’d intend to operationalize that or what the desired ends would be!

An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards”

Dan Gustafson, PhD 133K PDF, via a kind email from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

WRC recommends reading the following open letter from Madison neuropsychologist Dan Gustafson to the Governor’s Read to Lead task force. It reflects many of our concerns about the state of reading instruction in Wisconsin and the lack of an effective response from the Department of Public Instruction.
An Open Letter to the Read-To-Lead Task Force
From Dan Gustafson, PhD
State Superintendent Evers, you appointed me to the Common Core Leadership Group. You charged that the Leadership Group would guide Wisconsin’s implementation of new reading instruction standards developed by the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
It is my understanding that I was asked to join the group with the express purpose of bringing different voices to the table. If anything, my experience with the group illustrates how very far we need to go in achieving a transparent and reasoned discussion about the reading crisis in Wisconsin.
DPI Secretly Endorses Plan Created by Poor Performing CESA-7
I have grave concerns about DPI’s recent announcement that Wisconsin will follow CESA-7’s approach to implementing the Common Core reading standards. DPI is proposing this will be the state’s new model reading curriculum.
I can attest that there was absolutely no consensus reached in the Common Core group in support of CESA-7’s approach. In point of fact, at the 27th of June Common Core meeting, CESA-7 representative Claire Wick refused to respond to even general questions about her program.
I pointed out that our group, the Common Core Leadership Group, had a right to know about how CESA-7 intended to implement the Common Core Standards. She denied this was the case, citing a “non-disclosure agreement.”
The moderator of the discussion, DPI’s Emilie Amundson, concurred that Claire didn’t need to discuss the program further on the grounds that it was only a CESA-7 program. Our Common Core meeting occurred on the 27th of June. Only two weeks later, on July 14th, DPI released the following statement:
State Superintendent Evers formally adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, making Wisconsin the first state in the country to adopt these rigorous, internationally benchmarked set of expectations for what students should know and are expected to do in English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards guide both curriculum and assessment development at the state level. Significant work is now underway to determine how training will be advanced for these new standards, and DPI is currently working with CESA 7 to develop a model curriculum aligned to the new standards.
In glaring contrast to the deliberative process that went into creating the Common Core goals, Wisconsin is rushing to implement the goals without being willing to even show their program to their own panel of experts.
What Do We Know About Wisconsin/CESA-7’s Model Curriculum?
As an outsider to DPI, I was only able to locate one piece of data regarding CESA-7’s elementary school reading performance:
4TH GRADE READING SCORES, 2007-08 WKCE-CRT,
CESA-7 IS AMONG THE WORST PERFORMING DISTRICTS.
CESA-7 RANKED 10TH OF THE 12 WISCONSIN CESA’S.
What Claire did say about her philosophy and the CESA-7 program, before she decided to refuse further comment, was that she did not think significant changes were needed in reading instruction in Wisconsin, as “only three-percent” of children were struggling to read in the state. This is a strikingly low number, one that reflects an arbitrary cutoff for special education. Her view does not reflect the painful experience of the 67% of Wisconsin 4th graders who scored below proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
As people in attendance at the meeting can attest, Claire also said that her approach was “not curriculum neutral” and she was taking a “strong stand” on how to teach reading. Again, when I pressed her on what these statements meant, she would only reference oblique whole language jargon, such as a belief in the principal of release from instruction. When I later asked her about finding a balance that included more phonics instruction, she said “too much emphasis” had been given to balanced literacy. After making her brief statements to the Common Core group, she said she had already disclosed too much, and refused to provide more details about the CESA-7 program.
Disregarding Research and Enormous Gains Made by other States, Wisconsin Continues to Stridently Support Whole Language
During the remainder of the day-long meeting on the 27th, I pressed the group to decide about a mechanism to achieve an expert consensus grounded in research. I suggested ways we could move beyond the clear differences that existed among us regarding how to assess and teach reading.
The end product of the meeting, however, was just a list of aspirational goals. We were told this would likely be the last meeting of the group. There was no substantive discussion about implementation of the goals–even though this had been Superintendent Evers’ primary mandate for the group.
I can better understand now why Emilie kept steering the discussion back to aspirational goals. The backroom deal had already been made with Claire and other leaders of the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA). It would have been inconvenient to tell me the truth.
WSRA continues to unapologetically champion a remarkably strident version of whole-language reading instruction. Please take a look at the advocacy section of their website. Their model of reading instruction has been abandoned through most the United States due to lack of research support. It is still alive and well in CESA-7, however.
Our State Motto is “Forward”
After years of failing to identify and recommend model curriculum by passing it off as an issue of local control, the DPI now purports to lead. Unfortunately, Superintendent Evers, you are now leading us backward.
Making CESA-7 your model curriculum is going to cause real harm. DPI is not only rashly and secretly endorsing what appears to be a radical version of whole language, but now school districts who have adopted research validated procedures, such as the Monroe School District, will feel themselves under pressure to fall in line with your recommended curriculum.
By all appearances, CESA-7’s program is absolutely out of keeping with new Federal laws addressing Response to Intervention and Wisconsin’s own Specific Learning Disability Rule. CESA-7’s program will not earn us Race to the Top funding. Most significantly, CESA-7’s approach is going to harm children.
In medicine we would call this malpractice. There is clear and compelling data supporting one set of interventions (Monroe), and another set of intervention that are counter-indicated (CESA-7). This is not a matter of opinion, or people taking sides. This is an empirical question. If you don’t have them already, I hope you will find trusted advisors who will rise above the WSRA obfuscation and just look at the data. It is my impression that you are moving fast and receiving poor advice.
I am mystified as to why, after years of making little headway on topics related to reading, DPI is now making major decisions at a breakneck pace. Is this an effort to circumvent the Read-To-Lead Task Force by instituting new policies before the group has finished its scheduled meetings? Superintendent Evers, why haven’t you shared anything about the CESA-7 curriculum with them? Have you already made your decision, or are you prepared to show the Read-To-Lead that there is a deliberative process underway to find a true model curriculum?
There are senior leaders at DPI who recognize that the reading-related input DPI has received has been substantially unbalanced. For example, there were about five senior WSRA members present at the Common Core meetings, meaning that I was substantially outnumbered. While ultimately unsuccessful due to logistics, an 11th hour effort was made to add researchers and leadership members from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition to the Common Core group.
The Leadership Group could achieve what you asked of it, which is to thoughtfully guide implementation of the Common Core. I am still willing to work with you on this goal.
State Superintendent Evers, I assume that you asked me to be a member of the Leadership Group in good faith, and will be disappointed to learn of what actually transpired with the group. You may have the false impression that CESA-7’s approach was vetted at your Common Core Leadership Group. Lastly, and most importantly, I trust you have every desire to see beyond destructive politics and find a way to protect the welfare of the children of Wisconsin.
Sincerely,
Dan Gustafson, PhD, EdM
Neuropsychologist, Dean Clinic

View a 133K PDF or Google Docs version.
Related:
How does Wisconsin Compare: 2 Big Goals.
Wisconsin Academic Standards

Wisconsin Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement Comparison

Wisconsin Public School Advocates to Rally at the Capitol, Saturday July 30, 3:00 PM

99K PDF, via a TJ Mertz email:

As hundreds of thousands of public school supporters gather in Washington DC the weekend of July 28 to 30, 2011, Wisconsin advocates will hold a rally in support of the Save Our Schools agenda at 3:00 PM on Saturday July 30, near the State St. entrance to the Capitol.
“Public schools are under attack. There is a need for national, state, and local action in support of our schools. Wisconsin has been ground zero in this; the Save Our Schools demands from the Guiding Principles provide a great framework to build our state movement and work to expand opportunities to learn” said education activist Thomas J. Mertz.
The Save Our Schools demands are:

  • Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities

Doing more with less doesn’t work. “The time to act is now. While phony debates revolve around debt ceilings, students and teachers across the country are shortchanged. We need real reform, starting with finally fixing the school funding formula, and putting families and communities first. What child and what teacher don’t deserve an excellent school?” said rally organizer Todd Price, former Green Party Candidate for Department of Public Instruction and Professor of Teacher Education National Louis University.
The event will feature speeches from educators, students, parents and officials, as well as opportunities for school advocates from throughout Wisconsin to connect and organize around issues of importance in their communities.

For more information, visit: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/ and http://saveourschoolswisconsin.wordpress.com/
Related:

Parents Promote Disruptive Innovation

Tom Vander Ark:

Michael Horn spoke to the National Coalition Public School Options today in Washington DC. NCPSO is an extraordinary network of parents that advocate for educational options for families particularly online learning.

Horn is a coauthor of Disrupting Class and a leading advocate for online learning. He gave the roomful of discerning parents a little history of disruption.

In 1989, Clay Christensen joined the faculty of the Harvard Business School and began studying why successful organization fail. He found that the factors that had promoted success were often cause of the demise. These organizations would add sustaining innovations–think computers and cars–that made models a little better and a little more expensive every year. This cycle of product improvement leaves room for new competitors to fulfill similar needs for substantially less.

These “disruptive innovations” often replace non-consumption for under served consumers. In education non-consumption includes credit recovery, dropout recovery, and home education.

N.J. Board of Ed votes to open superintendent positions to non-educators

Jessica Calefati:

It just got easier to become superintendent of a troubled New Jersey school district.
The state Board of Education Wednesday relaxed the requirements for hiring superintendents in more than 50 districts with failing schools, opening the positions for the first time to non-educators.
Backed by the Christie administration, the new regulations take effect immediately as part of a pilot program for districts with schools that fail to meet federal standards for student achievement based on test scores.

This is a good idea.

Atlanta School Cheating

Heather Vogell, Alan Judd and Bill Rankin

State investigators have uncovered a decade of systemic cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools and conclude that Superintendent Beverly Hall knew or should have known about it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
In a report that Gov. Nathan Deal planned to release today, the investigators name nearly 180 educators, including more than three dozen principals, as participants in cheating on state curriculum tests, officials said over the weekend. The investigators obtained scores of confessions.
The findings suggest the national accolades that Hall and the school system have collected — and the much-vaunted academic progress for which she claimed credit — were based on falsehoods. Raising test scores apparently became a higher priority than conducting the district’s business in an ethical manner.

Douglas Stanglin:

Details are beginning to tumble out from a 428-page report by state investigators on alleged cheating in Atlanta Public Schools.
On Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal released only a two-page summary of the report showing organized, systemic cheating in Atlantic Public Schools by scores of educators, including 38 principals.
Deal says “there will be consequences” for educators who cheated and has forwarded the findings to three district attorneys as well as state and city education officials.

PBS NewsHour:

GWEN IFILL: Now, an exhaustive new report reveals nearly 200 educators cheated to boost student test scores in Atlanta, a problem that has surfaced in school districts across the country.
The Georgia investigation commissioned by Gov. Nathan Deal found, results were altered on state curriculum tests by district administrators, principals and teachers for as long as a decade. Educators literally erased and corrected students’ mistakes to make sure schools met state-imposed testing standards. And it found evidence of cheating in 44 of the 56 schools examined for the 2009 school year.

Kaleem Caire’s Speech on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School to the Madison Rotary Club

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Based on current educational and social conditions, the fate of boys of color is uncertain. African American and Latino boys are grossly over-represented among young men failing to achieve academic success and are at greater risk of dropping out of school. Boys in general lag behind girls on most indicators of student achievement.

  • In 2009, just 52% of African American boys and 52% of Latino boys graduated on-time from Madison Metropolitan School District compared to 81% of Asian boys and 88% of White boys.
  • In the class of 2010, just 7% of African American seniors and 18% of Latino seniors were deemed “college-ready” by ACT, makers of the standardized college entrance exam required for all Wisconsin universities.

Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (Madison Prep) is a public charter school being developed by the Urban League of Greater Madison. Madison Prep will serve as a catalyst for change and opportunity, particularly young men of color. Its mission is to prepare scholars for success at a four year college by instilling excellence, pride, leadership and service. A proposed non-instrumentality charter school located in Madison, Wisconsin and to be authorized by the Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison Prep will serve 420 students in grades 6 through 12 when it reaches full enrollment in 2017-2018.

Watch a video of the speech, here.

Parent Trigger Court Hearing – A Potential Hanging Chad Moment in the Making

Gloria Romero:

June 9: Notes from Superior Court Hearing on the Compton Parents and the Parent Trigger Petition
Location: Downtown Los Angeles
You’ve probably heard the Compton Parent Trigger story by now: over 200 parents grew tired of seeing their kids drop out and fail to learn to read at one of the chronically, lowest performing schools in California. So they banded together to use the historic new Parent Trigger Law (which I authored), only to face an all-out assault by the Compton Unified School District against their efforts to create a better future for their children.
What these parents are doing invokes the spirit of Mendez, a 1946 federal court case that challenged racial segregation in Orange County schools. In its ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in an en banc decision, held that the segregation of Mexican and Mexican American students into separate “Mexican schools” was unconstitutional. Likewise, in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education the United States Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.

Verona tutor wins teaching award

Susan Troller:

eading tutor Pam Heyde of Verona has won an “Unsung Hero” award from the International Dyslexia Association for her work helping children to read.
The local reading instructor works outside of school with children who are struggling to learn to read. She was nominated for the national award by Chris Morton, a parent whose son, Will, is one of Heyde’s success stories.
I interviewed the Morton family last year as part of an article about an effort to pass legislation requiring schools to identify struggling readers earlier in their school careers and to require teachers to learn more about the different ways children learn to read.

Sometimes, the best we can do for kids’ education is to get out of the way and let them do it themselves.

Steve Rankin, via email:

Mikko Utevsky, 17, of Madison, decided to form a student-led chamber orchestra, so he did. Their premiere was June 17 on the UW-Madison campus, and here’s what Mikko had to say to Jacob Stockinger, a classical music blogger from Madison, at the beginning of a week of intensive rehearsal: http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/classical-music-qa-high-school-conductor-mikko-utevsky-discusses-the-madison-area-youth-chamber-orchestra-which-makes-its-debut-this-friday-night-in-vivaldi-beethoven-and-borodin/
Obviously, these kids did not arrive at their musical talents without adult teaching and guidance. Many of them began in their school bands and orchestras. They continue to study with their own teachers and with adult-run orchestras such as WYSO (http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/) and school-based bands and orchestras. As school funding continues to be in jeopardy, and arts programming is first on the chopping block (the MMSD strings program has been under threat of elimination a number of times and has been cut twice since most of these students began, (http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2007/01/elementary_stri_3.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/05/speak_up_for_st.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/000241.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/05/on_wednesday_ma.php, http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2006/05/speak_up_for_st_2.php – many more citations available through SIS), the chances for a student-led ensemble such as MAYCO (Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra) to continue to thrive are also in jeopardy.

Seattle School Board Challenger Flags Incumbents’ Past Donors

Josh Feit:

School Board challenger Kate Martin, who’s running against District 2 incumbent Sherry Carr (Carr represents north central Seattle around Green Lake), has been one of the most passionate speakers at the candidate forums the past two nights. At both the 43 District on Tuesday night and at the 36th District last night, she lamented that only four of her son’s friends were graduating, while the rest, more than 40 kids, had dropped out.

And though Martin hasn’t gotten any district Democrats’ endorsements, she has prevented Carr from getting the nod. Last night, she had back up from local celebrity Cliff Mass, the recently ousted KUOW weatherman.

Wisconsin Voucher debate reveals deep divisions about public schools

Susan Troller:

As of early afternoon Wednesday the fate of voucher schools in Green Bay is uncertain. Rumors are flying that the proposal to use tax dollars to pay families to send their children to private and religious schools in that city will be pulled from the state budget.
It’s been a hot topic.
The voucher story I posted on Chalkboard last week detailed Green Bay Supt. Greg Maass’ unhappy reaction to both the proposal and the abrupt legislative process that put it in the budget. It definitely struck a nerve, and drew many comments.
Some of the most interesting reactions went well beyond the issue of vouchers and whether public money should be used to fund private schools. They expressed the heart of the debate surrounding public schools, or “government” schools as some folks call them.
Are public schools failing? Who’s to blame? What responsibilities does a civil society owe to children who are not our own? What kind of reforms do parents, and taxpayers, want to see?
Here are some excerpts that are revealing of the divide in the debate:

VHOU812 wrote: …As a consumer of the public (or private) educational institutions, I am demanding more value. If it is not provided, I will push to refuse to purchase and home school. This is not what I want. I want security knowing that I am satisfied with the investment in my children’s education. I don’t get that feeling right now from publc schools, and that is the core of the problem that public schools need to fix. I also see that private institutions, by their nature, can make changes to respond to consumer demands very quickly, and it is clear public schools either can’t, or won’t.

I’m glad Susan posted these comments. Looking at the significant growth in Wisconsin K-12 spending over the past few decades along with declining performance, particularly in reading compels us all: parents, taxpayers, students, teachers, administrators and the ed school community, to think different.
Wolfram’s words are well worth considering: “You have to ask, what’s the point of universities today?” he wonders. “Technology has usurped many of their previous roles, such as access to knowledge, and the social aspects.

OK, So Here’s Who’s Running for Seattle School Board 2011

Riya Bhattacharjee:

I have been trying to find the campaign websites for all the candidates running for Seattle School Board this year (candidate filings closed 5 p.m. Friday), and the final list looks something like this. Two things: there’s like a ton of them and only four open seats; not all of them have a website yet.

Most of the new candidates are running because they are tired of the corruption and cronyism in Seattle Public Schools. Some want to focus on closing the achievement gap and raising test scores. Others are just sick of the influence a plethora of foundations have on education these days.

At least one of the candidates is a reluctant one who says he’s running because he is tired of mediocrity in our schools and the “business as usual approach” of our school board. Another lists this thing as his campaign website. This one sued the district against its new high school math textbooks in 2009.

The incumbents say they are fed up of the same things their challengers are (of course, I mean there can only be so many problems in one district, right?).

A Year of Drama and Hard Feelings in Education

Josh Goodman

“Today marks the beginning of a very dark week at The School District of Philadelphia,” began a press release issued last Monday by the District itself. No doubt many Philadelphia school employees would agree. That day, the District issued layoff notices to 3,024 of its workers, including 1,523 of the District’s approximately 11,000 teachers.
Budget problems are nothing new for Philadelphia’s School District, which was taken over by the state of Pennsylvania a decade ago in part because of its chronic funding problems. Through all those difficulties, though, it has no modern history of teacher layoffs on this scale.
The moves were designed to close a $629 million shortfall in the School District’s $2.7 billion budget–a gap caused by the end of federal stimulus funding and the knowledge that cuts in state funding were on the way.

Utah father spends school year waving at son’s bus

Associated Press:

The world’s most embarrassing father is no more.
Over the course of the 180-day school year, Dale Price waved at the school bus carrying his 16-year-old son, Rain, while wearing something different every morning outside their American Fork home.
He started out by donning a San Diego Chargers helmet and jersey, an Anakin Skywalker helmet, and swim trunks and a snorkel mask, the Daily Herald of Provo and Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.
Among others, he later dressed up as Elvis, Batgirl, the Little Mermaid, the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, Princess Leia, Nacho Libre and Santa Claus. He wore spandex, pleather, feathers, wigs, flips flops, suits, boots, fur, Army fatigues and several dresses, including a wedding dress.
Dale Price said it took a lot of effort to keep up, but he did it to have fun and show his son he really cared about him.

Educator’s desire to help led to Haiti school, church

Amy Rabideau Silvers:

Sudie E. Tatum’s church community planned to celebrate her life Sunday.
She was diagnosed with cancer in mid-April – Pastor Johnny C. White Jr. knew but not everyone else – and the Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church began plans for the celebration weeks ago.
When she died Wednesday, her family and friends decided there was no reason to change the date.
“Now we’re going to have a home-going service for her,” said a cousin, Terri Jordan. “It was going to be Dr. Tatum Day, and now it’s really going to be Dr. Tatum Day.”
Tatum was remembered as a woman who packed plenty of life into her 92 years.

Special needs kids and options

Hasmig Tempesta:

As the mother of a special needs child and as someone who works professionally with individuals with disabilities, I support Assembly Bill 110, the Special Needs Scholarship Act. The bill would allow the small group of parents whose children’s needs cannot be met by their school district to pursue an appropriate education for their children, just as any parent would want to do.
It is a sad fact that some school districts across this state fail to provide special needs students with the education they require due to lack of funding/resources, specialized training and sometimes willingness. In these few cases, the scholarships would help move these children into a program that meets their needs and prepares them for success.
Our family lives in the Racine Unified School District. We removed our son from the district when he was 3 due to inappropriate, undocumented, unapproved and sustained restraint by teachers at his school. (In 2007, the Journal Sentinel reported on the case, with the state Department of Public Instruction echoing concerns about the school’s use of restraint. Following an investigation, the DPI determined that teachers in the district had improperly used restraint.)

Newspaper’s lawsuit seeks sick notes for Madison school teachers during protest

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District failed to follow state law when it denied the Wisconsin State Journal access to more than 1,000 sick notes submitted by teachers who didn’t show up for work in February, according to a lawsuit filed by the newspaper Thursday.
The lawsuit, filed in Dane County District Court, asks the court to force the district to release the notes under the state’s open records law, which requires government agencies to release public documents in most circumstances.
The lawsuit says the sick notes are public records because the public has a special interest in knowing how governments discipline employees, who are ultimately responsible to the public.
“We can’t know if things were dealt with appropriately if we can’t see the underlying documents on which decisions were made,” said April Rockstead Barker, the newspaper’s lawyer.
Dylan Pauly, a School District lawyer, declined comment until she had a chance to review the lawsuit.

Madison School District Final Audit Report: Gifted and Talented Standard

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

On September 20,2010, eight residents of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) filed a complaint (numerous others were listed as supporting the complaint) alleging the school district was not in compliance with the Gifted and Talented (G/T) standard, Wis. Stat. sec. 121.02(1)(t), that requires that each school board shall “provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” Based upon this complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (department) initiated an audit pursuant to Wis. Admin Code sec. PI 8.02. The purpose ofthe audit was to determine whether the school district is in compliance with Wis. Stat. sees. 121.02(1)(t) and 118.35, and Wis. Admin. Code
sec. PI 8.01(2)(t)2. The investigation focused on three core content areas: English/language arts; science; and social studies; in particular at the 9th and 1oth grade levels, per the letter of complaint.
The department informed the school district of the audit on October 13, 2010, and requested information and documentation for key components of the G/T plan. The school district provided a written response and materials on November 29, 2010 and supplemental materials on December 21 , 2010.
On January 25 and 26, 2011, a team of four department representatives conducted an on-site audit which began with a meeting that included the school board president, the district administrator, the deputy superintendent, the secondary assistant superintendent, the executive director of curriculum and assessment, the interim Talented and Gifted (TAG) administrator, an elementary TAG resource teacher, a secondary TAG resource teacher, and legal counsel. After this meeting, the team visited East, West, LaFollette, and Memorial High Schools. At each of these sites, the team conducted interviews with the building principal, school counselors, teachers, and students. At the end ofeach ofthe two days the department team met with parents.

Waiting for a School Miracle

Diane Ravitch

TEN years ago, Congress adopted the No Child Left Behind legislation, mandating that all students must be proficient in reading or mathematics by 2014 or their school would be punished.
Teachers and principals have been fired and schools that were once fixtures in their community have been closed and replaced. In time, many of the new schools will close, too, unless they avoid enrolling low-performing students, like those who don’t read English or are homeless or have profound disabilities.
Educators know that 100 percent proficiency is impossible, given the enormous variation among students and the impact of family income on academic performance. Nevertheless, some politicians believe that the right combination of incentives and punishments will produce dramatic improvement. Anyone who objects to this utopian mandate, they maintain, is just making an excuse for low expectations and bad teachers.
To prove that poverty doesn’t matter, political leaders point to schools that have achieved stunning results in only a few years despite the poverty around them. But the accounts of miracle schools demand closer scrutiny. Usually, they are the result of statistical legerdemain.

MIT Supporting High School Science Sims

EdReformer:

Stacie Bumgarner is a research scientist in the Biology Department at MIT. She leads school outreach efforts for the Office of Educational Innovation & Technology. She is working with JFY Networks to expand the use of two sophisticated science simulations to high school students in Boston:

The story behind the Milwaukee school choice study: The results are more complicated than they are sometimes portrayed.

John F. Witte and Patrick J. Wolf:

The past few weeks have seen a lively debate surrounding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Gov. Scott Walker’s various proposals to expand it. It is time for researchers to weigh in.
For the past five years, as mandated by state law, we have led a national team in a comprehensive evaluation of the choice program. Our study has applied social science research methods to carefully matched sets of students in the choice program and in Milwaukee Public Schools. Whenever possible, we have used measures that are applied consistently in the public- and private-school sectors, generating true apples-to-apples comparisons.
This is what we have learned:
Competitive pressure from the voucher program has produced modest achievement gains in MPS.
The three-year achievement gains of choice students have been comparable to those of our matched sample of MPS students. The choice students are not showing achievement benefits beyond those of the students left behind in MPS.
High school students in the choice program both graduate and enroll in four-year colleges at a higher rate than do similar students in MPS. Being in the choice program in ninth grade increases by four to seven percentage points a student’s prospects of both graduating from high school and enrolling in college. Students who remain in the choice program for their entire four years of high school graduate at a rate of 94%, compared with 75% for similar MPS students.

Wisconsin Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force 5/31/2011 Meeting

via a kind reader’s email:

Notice of Commission Meeting
Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force
Governor Scott Walker, Chair
Superintendent Tony Evers, Vice-Chair
Members: Mara Brown, Kathy Champeau, Steve Dykstra, Michele Erikson, Representative Jason Fields, Marcia Henry, Representative Steve Kestell, Rachel Lander, Senator Luther Olsen, Tony Pedriana, Linda Pils, and Mary Read.
Guests: Professors from UW colleges of education
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:00pm
Office of the Governor, Governor’s Conference Room
 115 East State Capitol 
Madison, WI 53702
Welcome and opening remarks by Governor Walker and Superintendent Evers.
Introductions from task force members and guest members representing UW colleges of education.
A discussion of teacher training and professional development including current practices and ways to improve.
Short break.
A discussion of reading interventions including current practices and ways to improve.
A discussion of future topics and future meeting dates.
Adjournment.
Governor Scott Walker
Chair
Individuals needing assistance, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, should contact the Governor’s office at (608) 266-1212, 24 hours before this meeting to make necessary arrangements.

Breakfast of Champions? Not in These Schools (Chicago)

James Warren:

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new Chicago Board of Education swings into action, it should not mark the occasion with a private dinner.
The members should have breakfast together in any of several thousand elementary school classrooms. There, they will get a glimpse of the mess they have inherited. Bring antacids and a nutritionist.
A Breakfast in the Classroom program approved by their predecessors is completing its mandatory rollout. All that can be said with certitude is that it has shortened instructional time in a system with the shortest school day and year of the nation’s 50 largest districts.

Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates

Sam Dillon, via a kind reader’s email:

A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.
They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

The Gates Foundation has funded many initiatives, including the controversial “small learning community” program.

Houghton Mifflin launches education challenge

Boston Globe:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said it has launched the HMH Global Education Challenge, which is designed to encourage “game-changing ideas” for improving student outcomes in K-12 education.
A Boston company that has a long history in the textbook business, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in a press release that entrants who submit proposals will be eligible to win from a pool of $250,000 in cash and prizes.

Madison Preparatory Academy Finance Discussion with the Madison School Board

Madison School District 60K PDF:

The review of resources moving forward to be allocated for Madison Prep need further conversation for Administration to gain further direction. At the February 28, 2011 meeting dealing with Madison Prep differing ideas were talked about by various individuals as to the best way to deal with Madison Prep. In order to better understand the direction the board would like administration to head financially with this school, an understanding of what has been done in the past is necessary.
When the finances were completed for Badger Rock, they were put together with the express direction of the majority of the Board that they should break even and not cause reductions in other areas of the district budget. This was accomplished by transferring resources from Sennett Middle School specifically as those kids were moved from Sennett to Badger Rock. This worked for Badger Rock because they defined an attendance area, and agreed that 80% or 40 kids would be from the Sennett attendance area.
For Madison Prep, the issue of transfer becomes more difficult as they will technically pull students from all of our Middle School attendance areas. The amount of funds we are able to segregate for transfer with this model are much less if we are under the same circumstances where we should have a program that breaks even or doesn’t cause reductions in other areas of the budget.

Teachers, MTI head should offer apologies

Tom Consigny:

The April 28 State Journal editorial urged punishment of sick note scammers (some teachers and doctors during the recent protests), and included a column by Chris Rickert titled “Don’t cry for teachers who choose early retirement.” Many taxpayers in Madison and Wisconsin would say “amen.”
It’s ironic and hypocritical that a national radio ad expresses support for Teacher Appreciation Week and touts teachers so soon after over 1,700 Madison teachers didn’t show up for work — 84 of them turning in fraudulent sick notes. The teachers used students as pawns at protest marches and contributed to protester damage at our Capitol.
In the minds of many property taxpayers and even some students, teachers have lost much respect and trust. This could be reversed if teachers and their arrogant union boss John Matthews would express in a public statement regret for their selfish and illegal actions.

DonorsChoose: Connecting you to the Classroom

DonorsChoose.com, via a kind reader’s email:

Here’s how it works: public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org. Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class.
Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that inspires you. Once a project reaches its funding goal, we deliver the materials to the school.
You’ll get photos of your project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you’ll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students.
At DonorsChoose.org, you can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback that is traditionally reserved for someone who gives millions. We call it citizen philanthropy.

Reality Check: Milwaukee Exceed’s Madison’s Black Not Hispanic 4 Year High School Graduation Rate: 59.5% to 48.3%

Andrew Shilcher, via email:

In response to the press release that the DPI put out today, I did some digging to see where Madison and Milwaukee stacked up. You can check out how each district breaks down for yourself by following the links at the bottom, but here are some of the highlights (if you want to call them that)
According to WINSS
The 4 year graduation rate for Black Not Hispanic students in MMSD for the 2009-2010 school year was 48.3%.
The 4 year graduation rate for Black Not Hispanic students in MPS for the 2009-2010 school year was 59.5%.
The 4 year graduation rates for Hispanic students in MMSD and MPS for the 2009-2010 school year are comparable at 56.7% in MMSD and 59% in MPS.
The statewide average 4 year graduation rate for Black Not Hispanic students for the 2009-2010 school year was 60.5%.
The statewide average 4 year graduation rate for Hispanic students for the 2009-2010 school year was 69%.
I won’t go into the difference between the 4 year rates and Legacy rates, but you can check those out at the links below too. 4 year rates place students in a cohort beginning in their first year of high school and see where things stand within that cohort 4 years later. Legacy rates are a yearly snapshot of the number of graduates for a year compared to the number of students expected to graduate high school for that given year. For a further explanation of this refer to http://dpi.wi.gov/spr/grad_q&a.html.
Here is the link to the press release:
http://dpi.wi.gov/eis/pdf/dpinr2011_43.pdf
Here is the link to MMSD WINSS statistics:
http://data.dpi.state.wi.us/Data/HSCompletionPage.aspx?GraphFile=HIGHSCHOOLCOMPLETION&S4orALL=1&SRegion=1&SCounty=47&SAthleticConf=45&SCESA=05&FULLKEY=02326903““&SN=None+Chosen&DN=Madison+Metropolitan&OrgLevel=di&Qquad=performance.aspx&Group=RaceEthnicity
Here is the link to MPS WINSS statistics:
http://data.dpi.state.wi.us/data/HSCompletionPage.aspx?GraphFile=HIGHSCHOOLCOMPLETION&S4orALL=1&SRegion=1&SCounty=47&SAthleticConf=45&SCESA=05&FULLKEY=01361903““&SN=None+Chosen&DN=Milwaukee&OrgLevel=di&Qquad=performance.aspx&Group=RaceEthnicity

Lotus founder Mitch Kapor sets his sights on fixing education

Mike Cassidy:

Mitch Kapor knows something about reaching full potential.
When the IBM PC came out in the early 1980s, it was fabulous in concept. A computer that fit on a desk! But available programs were clunky and sales were slow. Kapor went about developing Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet designed for the computer that turned the early PC into a bona fide business machine.
It’s no different with students who are potentially brilliant at science and math, but are hamstrung by poor schools that are not equipped to prepare them for the 21st century. “It is possible to take a population of students who are failing and whose schools are failing them, who are being written off as not being college material,” Kapor says, “and if they have the right support, they can all go to college and succeed.”
Kapor is a tech icon, for starting Lotus, for cofounding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for being the first chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, which supports Firefox and other open source projects. He’s a San Francisco-based venture capitalist now and he’s done well for himself.
But he has always had a wide progressive advocacy streak. Born in Brooklyn, he worked as a rock disc jockey, taught Transcendental Meditation and worked as a mental health counselor before making his name in the tech field.

Who stole the appreciation in Teacher Appreciation Week?

Katie Klein:

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I cannot think of a more appropriate way to express my deep-rooted and sincere gratitude for educators, than using this very public forum.
And to call out the jackasses who seem to neglect the word “appreciation” that educators are so deserving of. Every day.
I have the distinct honor and privilege of knowing a few upper-echelon educators within the area. I also follow a few teachers on Twitter. They are nothing short of amazing.
I’ve witnessed them instruct in front of diverse classrooms full of students, draw up lesson plans over endless cups of coffee and methodically pour their hearts and souls into each day’s activities. They are full of hope. They’re focused on injecting children’s lives with knowledge that will one day mold them into future leaders – future pillars of a community – and adults that will one day change the world. These teachers are selfless.

Idea for Discussion: Change the (Seattle School Board) Campaign

Charlie Mas

I’m thinking of making a web site called “Change the Board” in which I – and others – would advocate for the replacement of the school board majority elected in 2007. The site would have a general argument for replacing the board majority in general and would also have specific arguments for replacing each of the four individual board members.
The web site would be just one part of a whole campaign. There would be other parts than just the web site. It would include press efforts, rallies, truth-squads (to critically examine board campaign claims), online ads, and maybe even some yard signs. I’m thinking that we could promote “Change the Board” as an independent effort separate from each of the individual challenger campaigns. I’d like to try to build some momentum behind “Change the Board” that could support all challengers.
The costs on something like this could be pretty minimal.

Whose school is it anyway? Under proposal, taxpayers could pay for experimental charter schools

Susan Troller

Kaleem Caire has spent much of the last year making a passionate, personal and controversial pitch for a publicly funded male-only charter school called Madison Preparatory that would operate independently of the Madison Metropolitan School District. It aims to serve primarily minority boys in grades six through 12 and their families.
Caire, a Madison native and the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, has mustered a great deal of community support by highlighting the struggles of and grim statistics surrounding black and Hispanic young boys and men in Dane County, and through telling his own powerful story of underachievement in Madison’s public schools.
“I learned about racism and lower expectations for minority kids when I arrived the first day at Cherokee Middle School, and all the black boys and a few other minorities sat at tables in the back. I was assigned to remedial math, and even when I showed the teacher I already knew how to do those worksheets, that’s where I was stuck,” Caire says.
With its emphasis on discipline, family involvement, preppy-looking uniforms and a non-negotiable stance on being a union-free school, Caire’s proposal for the boys-only middle and high school has won hundreds of enthusiastic supporters, including a number of prominent conservatives who, surprisingly, don’t seem particularly troubled by the school’s price tag.

Some might argue that certain programs within “traditional” public schools are experimental, such as Connected Math and Small Learning Communities among others.

Teachers Bring Science to Life, Sponsored by Rayovac

Science & Technology Institute, via a kind reader’s email:

Do you know a teacher who brings learning to life? Whether you’re a student, parent, teacher or school administrator, you can nominate your K-6 teacher for a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to Science in the Rockies, Steve Spangler’s three-day hands-on science teacher training in Denver.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to call for overhaul of outdated public school system in speech Wednesday

Chris Christoff:

Michigan’s public schools need to more rigorously measure students’ academic growth, but with fewer state rules to make that happen, Gov. Rick Snyder said today.
That means more autonomy for individual schools and teachers, and a system to financially reward outstanding teachers who can mentor others.
Also, state schools superintendent Michael Flanagan called for a virtual deregulation of schools, such as eliminating minimum number of hours or days students must attend each year.
That’s a change Snyder hinted he’ll include in his special message on education Wednesday. He said the state should give teachers and schools and the state more flexibility to teach and to lift all students to higher academic standards.

Do We Really Need To Change Michigan Education? Absolutely!

Rod Meloni:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget plan, a serious and shocking change to the status quo, so stoked the flames of union passion there’s a protest just about every other day in Lansing.
This may explain why the governor spread out his controversial announcements by a month or two. At noontime Wednesday, he will drop another bomb on the state: serious and shocking education system change. Expect more protest and outrage.
Now, the governor on Monday reminded the teachers and school administrators at the 16th annual Governor’s Education Summit that he ran on a platform of reinventing Michigan. He also admitted everyone agrees with change until it affects them. He fully expects the protest express to continue muddying the Capitol lawn.

Robert Cox Announces Run for New Rochelle Board of Education

Robert Cox:

I announced on my radio show on WVOX last Friday my intention to file papers this week to run for school board in New Rochelle. Over the weekend I began obtaining the required signatures and getting the necessary paperwork in order. The papers are due Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. but I will likely file sooner than that.
Once I file, I will explain more fully how it came to be that the most vocal critic of the New Rochelle Board of Education and the current administration opted to become a candidate for one of the two open seats but for now let me say that it had been my hope to find a candidate that was not selected by “insiders” and would advance my goals of increased transparency, accountability, equity, and excellence in the New Rochelle system. After looking long and hard and talking to over a dozen prospective candidates, all of whom ultimately opted not to run, it became clear that if no one stepped forward the available board seats would filled by two candidates hand-picked by current board members with the goal of maintaining the status quo on the board. If all was well in the New Rochelle schools that might be acceptable but all is not well, as has been documented amply on Talk of the Sound over the past several years, and so more of the same is not only not acceptable but intolerable. I came to realize that I had no choice but to step forward to present New Rochelle residents with a clear alternative to more of the same.

California voters want public employees to help ease state’s financial troubles; York Citizens for Responsible Government

Shane Goldmacher:

California voters want government employees to give up some retirement benefits to help ease the state’s financial problems, favoring a cap on pensions and a later age for collecting them, according to a new poll.
Voter support for rolling back benefits available to few outside the public sector comes as Gov. Jerry Brown and Republicans in the Legislature haggle over changes to the pension system as part of state budget negotiations. Such benefits have been a flashpoint of national debate this year, and the poll shows that Californians are among those who perceive public retirement plans to be too costly.
Voters appear ready to embrace changes not just for future hires but also for current employees who have been promised the benefits under contract.
Seventy percent of respondents said they supported a cap on pensions for current and future public employees. Nearly as many, 68%, approved of raising the amount of money government workers should be required to contribute to their retirement. Increasing the age at which government employees may collect pensions was favored by 52%.

Jennfer Levitz: Tea Party Heads to School
Activists Fight Property-Tax Increases in Bid to Curb Education Spend
:


Trying to plug a $3.8 million budget gap, the York Suburban School District, in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise property taxes by 1.4%.
No way, says Nick Pandelidis, founder of the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government, a tea-party offshoot, of the plan that would boost the tax on a median-priced home of $157,685 by $44 a year to $3,225.
“No more property-tax increases!” the 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon implored as the group met recently at a local hospital’s community room. “If you don’t starve the system, you won’t make it change.”
Fresh from victories on the national stage last year, many local tea-party activist groups took their passion for limited government and less spending back to their hometowns, and to showdowns with teacher unions over pay in some cases. Now, amid school-board elections and local budgeting, they are starting to see results–and resistance.

From the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government website:

Higher Spending and Lower Scores: From 2000 to 2009, spending per student (in constant dollars) increased from $11,413 to $15,291 – a 34% increase. Meanwhile 11th grade PSSA reading proficiency remained steady at 71% while math fell from 69% to 62%. This means 29% of students are below acceptable reading levels and 38% are not proficient in math! The York Suburban experience mirrors the national trend where increased spending in the public education system has not resulted in improved student outcomes.

Seattle schools have forgotten to listen to parents: There’s always an open door for businesses and well-financed interest groups with an agenda. Parents? Well, that’s another story.

Melissa Westbrook:

It’s good that Seattle City Council members, our mayor, and the Seattle School Board are finally calling for needed reform and accountability within our district. While many in our community were stunned at the revelations about the depth of ineptitude, obliviousness, and near criminality within our school district, some parents felt a saddened sense of relief mixed with frustration. This is the part of the story that remains untold.
Parents in Seattle Public Schools have never been passive consumers but committed partners. Besides raising millions of dollars each year for our schools, they also get out the vote for our education levies and bonds. Some are watchdogs for our school district.
These “feet on the ground” parents know their schools and neighborhoods well.

Jackson, NJ Board of Education candidates debate

Amanda Oglesby:

Antonoff said the proposed budget is inflated by purchases of technology “gimmicks” such digital whiteboards and audio equipment.
“We didn’t have those,” he said. “Computer is a distraction. . . . You learn the basics first.”
Disagreeing, Acevedo said schools need modern technology to stay globally competitive.
Technology is a tool to save money, said Hughes, who opposes the proposed budget. Systems that enable Internet-based communication between parents, teachers and students save money the district would spend on ink, paper and postage, she said.

Jackson School District.