Improving School Food

Lisa Belkin: By any health measure, today’s children are in crisis. Seventeen percent of American children are overweight, and increasing numbers of children are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, which, until a few years ago, was a condition seen almost only in adults. The obesity rate of adolescents has tripled … Continue reading Improving School Food

High School Rigor: Iowa AP Index and a Michigan School Board Member

The University of Iowa: Every May a large number of high school students across America take AP exams. In May 2005 over 1.2 million high school students took over 2.1 million AP exams. AP allows students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Over 3000 colleges accept AP exam scores for either college … Continue reading High School Rigor: Iowa AP Index and a Michigan School Board Member

Education Spending and Changing Revenue Sources

Sonya Hoo, Sheila Murray, Kim Rueben: Real per capita school spending increased by about 50 percent between 1972 and 2002. Spending levels fell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reflecting declines in student populations and funding that grew more slowly than inflation. However, those real declines were reversed by the mid-1980s. Although school districts … Continue reading Education Spending and Changing Revenue Sources

Milwaukee Schools Increase Low Performing School Curriculum Oversight

Alan Borsuk: Andrekopoulos said in his speech that from about 1988 through 2000, the leadership of MPS made it a priority to decentralize control of the district, allowing many schools to operate more independently and choose approaches to education. Some schools flourished as a result, but many did not, he said, and the focus was … Continue reading Milwaukee Schools Increase Low Performing School Curriculum Oversight

Making the Grade: Madison High Schools & No Child Left Behind Requirements

Susan Troller: Don’t assume that a school is bad just because it’s not making adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law. That comment came today from Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak, whose children attend or have attended East High School. East and three other Madison public high schools were cited … Continue reading Making the Grade: Madison High Schools & No Child Left Behind Requirements

More on “How States (WI is #1) Inflate Their Progress Under No Child Left Behind”

Alan Borsuk takes a look at and speaks with DPI’s Tony Evers on Kevin Carey’s report, emailed to this site on 5/20/2006 by a reader involved in these issues: In an interview, Carey said he agrees that Wisconsin generally is a high-performing state in educating students, “but I do not believe its performance is as … Continue reading More on “How States (WI is #1) Inflate Their Progress Under No Child Left Behind”

State Tightening SAGE class size compliance

State tightening class-size initiative Schools receiving funding must get formal waiver to exceed 15-1 ratio By AMY HETZNER, Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel ahetzner@journalsentinel.com Posted: May 31, 2006 In an effort to get a better handle on state money schools use to reduce class sizes, the state Department of Public Instruction plans to tighten its control over … Continue reading State Tightening SAGE class size compliance

Budget Forum Audio / Video

Rafael Gomez held a “Parent and Taxpayer Perspective on School Budgets” last evening. Participants included: Carol Carstensen, Peter Gascoyne, Don Severson, Jeff Henriques, Shari Entenmann, Jerry Eykholt and Larry Winkler. This 70 minute event is well worth watching (or listening via the audio file). Carol discussed the “three legs” of school finance and passed around … Continue reading Budget Forum Audio / Video

INCLUSIVE EDUCATION AS A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE

A letter to the editor Dear Editor: We are dismayed that two of the candidates running for the Madison School Board, Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole, would work toward reversing access for students by promoting ability-grouping and tracking. In fact, Cole called the district’s efforts to provide more heterogeneous classes that all students could access … Continue reading INCLUSIVE EDUCATION AS A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE

A Parent and Taxpayer Perspective on School Budgets

Rafael Gomez is hosting a Forum this Wednesday evening (3/29/2006) from 7 to 8:00p.m. at the McDaniels Auditorium [map and driving directions]. The topic is a A Parent and Taxpayer Perspective on School Budgets. Rafael’s guests on the panel include: Carol Carstensen, President Madison School board Peter Gascoyne, MMSD Parent Don Severson, President Active Citizens … Continue reading A Parent and Taxpayer Perspective on School Budgets

April 2004 West High School Math Teacher Letter

Susan Lochen, Madison West High School (co-signed by other West math teachers: Janice Cis, Keith Knowles, Carol Michalski, Jackie Hubbard, Daniel Boyland, Artie L. Orlik, Stephen Lang, Stephen Land, Tim Goldsworthy):

Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?

I’d forgotten (unfortunately) about this letter. School Board Seat 1 candidate Maya’s post below included a link to these words. The current school board majority has not addressed these critical questions….

Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

This is very long, and the link may require a password so I’ve posted the entire article on the continued page. TJM http://www.tcrecord.org/PrintContent.asp?ContentID=11566 Standards, Accountability, and School Reform by Linda Darling-Hammond — 2004 The standards-based reform movement has led to increased emphasis on tests, coupled with rewards and sanctions, as the basis for “accountability” systems. … Continue reading Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and UW Math Professor) Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District Gabriele Meyer … Continue reading Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

A Formula for Failure in L.A. Schools

This is from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. I was alerted to it by the Daily Howler blog http://www.dailyhowler.com/. I mention this because that site has had some great education coverage lately and will soon be launching an all-education companion blog. http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-dropout30jan30,0,3211437.story?coll=la-news-learning THE VANISHING CLASS A Formula for Failure in L.A. Schools … Continue reading A Formula for Failure in L.A. Schools

Teachers bar shift in health coverage

Madison’s teachers union said Friday it will not agree to reopen its contract with the School District to renegotiate health-care benefits, dashing hopes the district could find cheaper coverage. A joint committee of district and union representatives has been studying rising health- care costs, but both sides had to agree to reopen the 2005-07 contract … Continue reading Teachers bar shift in health coverage

Noted Educator Donna Ford is Coming to Wisconsin

Dr. Donna Ford, Vanderbilt University Professor and nationally known speaker on gifted education and multi cultural and urban education issues, will be visiting Wisconsin this March. In conjunction with the MMSD Parent Community Relations Department, Dr. Ford will be presenting a workshop for parents entitled “Promoting Achievement, Identity, and Pride in your Children” on March … Continue reading Noted Educator Donna Ford is Coming to Wisconsin

Gutknecht on “Swan Creek residents ask to join Oregon schools”

Kurt Gutknecht: Frustrated by continued uncertainty over where their children will attend school, residents of Swan Creek are asking to be transferred to the Oregon School District. The decision would reverse a 2003 decision that transferred Swan Creek to the Madison Metropolitan School District. Residents obtained signatures from 188 households on a petition asking the … Continue reading Gutknecht on “Swan Creek residents ask to join Oregon schools”

MMSD’s Enrollment & Capacity Picture: A Perspective

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is facing a significant challenge – growth. As a result of that growth – which is not evenly distributed across the district’s region – some schools are facing, or will soon be facing, overcrowding. Other schools still continue to see languishing enrollment which calls into question the appropriate future … Continue reading MMSD’s Enrollment & Capacity Picture: A Perspective

Urban League Honors Outstanding Students

Nine local high school students were inducted into the National Achievers Society at Sunday’s 22nd annual Youth Recognition Breakfast. The society was started by the National Urban League and other civic groups to promote positive attitudes about academic achievement, school participation, and a committment to exceeding expectations. The inducted students include Tyrone Cratic of East, … Continue reading Urban League Honors Outstanding Students

Swan Creek Residents Organize to Stay at Leopold

Kurt Gutknecht, writing in the Fitchburg Star: Residents of Swan Creek have launched a spirited campaign against plans to bus students from the area to Midvale/Lincoln elementary schools. A few days after Christmas, 185 households signed a letter [500K PDF] opposing the plan, which a task force had proposed to address overcrowding at several schools … Continue reading Swan Creek Residents Organize to Stay at Leopold

Speaking up about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & King Events in Madison

The Madison Times (now owned by former school board member, Ray Allen) recently asked various members of the Madison community to comment on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was honored to do so. These comments can be seen in this weeks issue. I’m also including dates and times of … Continue reading Speaking up about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & King Events in Madison

“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.
When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:
Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved
This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:

  • Grade 5 math scores – 84.2 percentile
  • Male – 55%
  • Low income – 53%
  • Minority – 42%
  • African American – 31%
  • Hispanic – 6%
  • Asian – 5%

West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!

Here is a synopsis of the English 10 situation at West HS. Currently — having failed to receive any reply from BOE Performance and Achievement Committee Chair Shwaw Vang to our request that he investigate this matter and provide an opportunity for public discussion — we are trying to get BOE President Carol Carstensen to … Continue reading West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!

Letter to Performance and Achievement Committee

The following letter was hand delivered to Shwaw Vang a week ago, and email copies were sent to the Board, Superintendent Rainwater, and Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash. There so far has been no response. A follow up email was sent yesterday to the Performance and Achievement Committee again asking that they look into why the … Continue reading Letter to Performance and Achievement Committee

Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School

Here is the full text of SLC Evaluator Bruce King’s recent report on the plan to implement a common English 10 course at West HS. Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School The 10th Grade English Course M.Bruce King, Project Evaluator 608-263-4769, mbking1@wisc.edu 2 November 2005 The development and implementation of the common … Continue reading Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School

Harlem School Uses Regionally Grown Food

Reader Barb Williams forwarded this article by Kim Severson: But perhaps no school is taking a more wide-ranging approach in a more hard-pressed area than the Promise Academy, a charter school at 125th Street and Madison Avenue where food is as important as homework. Last year, officials took control of the students’ diets, dictating a … Continue reading Harlem School Uses Regionally Grown Food

Authors Challenge Schools to Challenge Students

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 – Washington Post Two new books on how to teach students of divergent abilities seem at first to have been written on different planets. But Deborah L. Ruf’s “Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind” and a new edition of Jeannie Oakes’s “Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality” eventually reveal a … Continue reading Authors Challenge Schools to Challenge Students

Soda Marketers To Reduce School Sales

American Beverage Association: Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide: Elementary Schools with only water and 100 percent juice. Middle Schools with only nutritious and/or lower calorie beverages, such as water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks, and low-calorie juice drinks. No full-calorie soft drinks or full-calorie juice drinks with five … Continue reading Soda Marketers To Reduce School Sales

Planning for MMSD Legislative Committee for 2005-06

As chair of the MMSD School Board’s Legislative Committee for 2005-06, I post information about state and federal laws and legislative issues related to the Madison Schools on this blog under Hot Topics , Madison School Board Legislative Committee blog. In June I asked MMSD staff for the committee, Joe Quick, for his ideas on … Continue reading Planning for MMSD Legislative Committee for 2005-06

K-12 Math Curriculum: A Visit With UW Math Professor Dick Askey

UW Math Professor Dick Askey kindly took the time to visit with a group of schoolinfosystem.org writers and friends recently. Dick discussed a variety of test results, books, articles and links with respect to K-12 math curriculum. Here are a few of them: Test Results: Wisconsin is slipping relative to other states in every two … Continue reading K-12 Math Curriculum: A Visit With UW Math Professor Dick Askey

Developing Credibility

From Debroah Bush-Suflita, Communications Manager of the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Albany, New York: The most important element of an effective public information program is credibility. Indeed, credibility is the most important element in an effective educational program. You cannot lie or obscure the truth, because you will quickly lose credibility. . … Continue reading Developing Credibility

DPI Letter – Optional Class Hours are NOT Part of the Regular School Day

In his letter to a Sherman parent, Michael George, Director of Content and Learning Team wrote: “The requirements for regular instruction in 121.02(1)(L) are to be scheduled within the regular school day which is defined as “the period from the start to the close of each pupil’s daily instructional schedule.” Times of the day or … Continue reading DPI Letter – Optional Class Hours are NOT Part of the Regular School Day

Middle School Curriculum

Much afoot at Sherman Middle school. MMSD will look at developing a district-wide middle school curriculum. While that might improve the mess at Sherman, it might also mean watering down the curriculum, eg. math, throughout the district. http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/index.php?ntid=45223 “School Board President Carol Carstensen, who made it one of her priorities to examine how the district’s … Continue reading Middle School Curriculum

Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/jun05/336091.asp NOTE: THIS LINK LEADS TO A PAGE THAT INCLUDES A CHART THAT IS NOT REPRODUCED HERE From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Does state’s method inflate graduation rate? Wisconsin says 92% finish high school; report estimates 78% do By SARAH CARR scarr@journalsentinel.com Posted: June 23, 2005 A new report lambastes states across the … Continue reading Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

Post Leopold / Operating Referenda Long Range Planning Meeting: Arlene Silveira and Beth Zurbuchen Speak

Click to watch this event The Madison Board of Education’s Long Range Planning Committee met on the 6th. Arlene Silveira and Beth Zurbuchen lead along with many others spoke about the failed referenda and next steps. Results and background here. Arlene and Beth were prominent members of Madison Cares, a group that spent heavily in … Continue reading Post Leopold / Operating Referenda Long Range Planning Meeting: Arlene Silveira and Beth Zurbuchen Speak

Madison Schools Health Care Cost/Benefit Analysis

Following are remarks and attachments distributed to the MMSD Board of Education electronically and hard copy on Monday, June 6, 2005, by KJ Jakobson, who is a researcher working with Active Citizens for Education in matters related to health care benefits for school district employees.  Discussion and questions may be directed to KJ Jakobson directly … Continue reading Madison Schools Health Care Cost/Benefit Analysis

Neenah schools add staff to special ed, gifted-talented program

The following story from the April 13, Appleton Post-Crescent reports on a school district in Wisconsin that is actually adding staff to both gifted and special education. News-Record staff writer NEENAH � The equivalent of four teachers will be added to the Neenah Joint School District next year to enhance its special education, and gifted … Continue reading Neenah schools add staff to special ed, gifted-talented program

What is Wrong with this Picture?

The Madison School Board of Education and the District administration are proposing nearly $50 million worth of referenda and are begging for the support of the taxpaying public to significantly raise taxes. At the same time, Superintendent Rainwater bashes the business community for not contributing more tax dollars to fund public education. By accusing businesses … Continue reading What is Wrong with this Picture?

Axing the Arts: District (again) proposes cutting popular strings program

Jason Shephard, writing in the 3.11.2005 Isthmus: Music teachers, parents and community activists are already agitating against Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater�s call to eliminate the elementary strings program, as part of a proposed slate of budget cuts. �This creates a very disturbing environment in the community,� says Marie Breed, executive director of the Wisconsin … Continue reading Axing the Arts: District (again) proposes cutting popular strings program

3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Board Members and citizens discussed the Madison School District Administration’s proposed budget changes (reductions in the increase, cuts and program eliminations – see this post for details. The overall budget will go up, from 317M to 327.7M as it does annually.) this past Monday evening: Don Severson & Bill Keys on special election costs, spending … Continue reading 3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Budget Time: Madison School District’s Credibility

The credibility of the Madison Metropolitan School District comes into serious question with the public when Board of Education members and district staff present erroneous information through the media to the public. Recent examples include: May, 2005 Special Election Costs:1. Bill Keys, President of the Board of Education, on the TV Channel 27 early morning … Continue reading Budget Time: Madison School District’s Credibility

Expert in multicultural and gifted education to visit Madison

A support group for parents of talented and gifted (TAG) students, the Madison TAG Parents Group, is pleased to announce that Donna Ford, Ph.D., will be visiting Madison on February 8 and 9 to discuss the issues surrounding the identification and retention of gifted and talented low income and minority students. Dropout data from the … Continue reading Expert in multicultural and gifted education to visit Madison

Carstensen & Clingan to run again

An article in the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday, November 16, reports that Carol Carstensen and Bill Clingan will run for re-election to the school board. A lively debate during school board elections will help shape better policies and improve programs for Madison�s children. A lively debate, of course, requires a candidate to challenge the … Continue reading Carstensen & Clingan to run again

MMSD Administrative Costs & Staffing Levels – ACE White Paper

Don Severson: Active Citizen’s for Education White Paper [212K PDF]: MMSD has one of the highest per pupil costs of any school district in the state. MMSD administration proposed a FY 2004-05 budget with a $10 million shortfall in revenues to deliver the same services as that which was delivered in the 2003-04 budget year. … Continue reading MMSD Administrative Costs & Staffing Levels – ACE White Paper

Retention Rates & Comparative Performance – ACE White Paper

Don Severson: Active Citizens for Education’s Retention Rate White Paper: [64K PDF] The Madison Metropolitan School District has one of the highest costs per pupil of any school district in the state ($12,500, 2004-05). Madison District officials state that the high cost per student is needed in order to achieve success in many of the … Continue reading Retention Rates & Comparative Performance – ACE White Paper

ACE Fund 80 White Paper

Don Severson forwarded the most recent Active Citizens for Education White Paper on the MMSD’s Community Service Fund (Fund 80) [64K PDF]: The Community Service Fund is used as an administrative and accountingmechanism for activities such as adult education; community recreation programs, such as evening swimming pool operation and softball leagues; elderly food service programs,non-special … Continue reading ACE Fund 80 White Paper

ACE White Paper: Fund 80 & After School

Don Severson forwarded this Active Citizens for Education white paper on Fund 80 [272K PDF] and related after school changes. This site has a number of posts on the after school changes (essentially: replacing community after school partnerships with taxpayer funded MSCR programs via Fund 80. Fund 80, unlike other school expenditures is not limited … Continue reading ACE White Paper: Fund 80 & After School

Taxpayer advocates seek School Fund 80 Audit

Don Severson forwarded this message recentlyTaxpayer advocates will hold a news conference Friday, August 27th at 1:00 p.m. at the Sequoia Library, 513 South Midvale Boulevard (Midvale Plaza) to call for an audit of �Community Services Fund 80� of the Madison School District. Don Severson, president of the Active Citizens for Education (ACE), will ask … Continue reading Taxpayer advocates seek School Fund 80 Audit

Charter school meeting – July 7, Madison

“Charter Schools: A New Vision of Public Education in Wisconsin.” Date: July 7, 2004 (Wednesday morning) Time: 9:00 am to 11:30 am Site: Madison – Concourse Hotel (Capital Ballroom A – 2nd Floor) Concourse Hotel Purpose: Discuss the significance of the evolving charter schools sector as an institutional innovation within Wisconsin’s public education system. You … Continue reading Charter school meeting – July 7, Madison

Circulation of West High School Calculus Exams in 2001

Lee Sensenbrenner:

As a sophomore at Madison West High School, Danny Cullenward tookCalculus 1, a yearlong advanced math class that put the only B on theotherwise straight-A student’s transcript.
The same happened with Sam Friedman, the former captain of West’s mathteam. Friedman, who is now at the University of Chicago, got two B’s incalculus at West but went on, as a high school student, to get an A inadvanced calculus at the University of Wisconsin.Chris Moore, who is a junior at West and is already ranked among the top 30high school math students in the United States, also had trouble in his highschool course. He got a B when he took calculus as a freshman.
UW Professor Janet Mertz knows of all these cases, and cited them in aletter to administrators. She argued, as other parents have for more than ayear, that something is not right with the way calculus students at West aretested.
It’s unfair, she wrote, and it’s hurting students’ chances to get intoelite colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for whichMertz interviews student applicants.

Fuzzy Math at West High: A Capital Times Editorial:

For more than a year, a group of West High parents have beencomplaining about the way calculus students at West are tested. This week theywent public — voicing their concerns before the Madison School Board.The first complaint came from Joan Knoebel and Michael Cullenward, M.D., onbehalf of their son, now a senior at West. They decried the fact that KeithKnowles, West’s calculus teacher, reuses old tests or parts of old tests thatare available to some — but not all — students.
According to the formal complaint, “students have obtained copies fromolder siblings, prior students, through study groups, private tutors, or by awell-defined grapevine.” The school itself does not keep the tests on file.
School district administrators contend that Knowles did nothing wrong andthat there’s no evidence to conclude that having access to old tests washelpful to students.

Doug Erickson:

George Kelly, English chairman at East High School, said teachers share thesame interests as committee members — to ensure that students have access tothe tests they’ve taken and to make the playing field level for all students.But he said a districtwide policy would be cumbersome.
“There’s a larger issue here,” Kelly said. “How much micromanaging does theboard want to do in instruction and evaluation?”
West parent Joan Knoebel said Tuesday that the district continues to avoidthe real issue that her family raised, which is that a particular teacher atWest is not following the test return policy already in place at that school.Although she would like to see districtwide guidelines, she has neversuggested that the problem is widespread.
“(The district) is attacking this globally, when what you really have isone teacher who, in my opinion, is acting unethically,” she said. “They’reusing an elephant gun to shoot a starling.”

Joan Knoebel:

Common sense tells us that students with an advance copy of a test have asignificant advantage over their classmates. Assessment is meaningless underthese circumstances.This is the basis of our complaint. And this isn’t just about one teacherat West. The decisions in this case emanate throughout the Madison SchoolDistrict.
What’s the teacher’s job? To teach the principles of calculus and to fairlyevaluate whether his students learned the math. He undoubtedly knows the math,as some former students enthusiastically attest. However, because old examswere not available to all, the only thing his tests reliably measured is whoma student knows, not what a student knows.
And — this point is critical — he also couldn’t tell whether the tests heconstructed, or copied, were “good” tests. A good test is one a well-preparedstudent can complete successfully during class time. Think of it this way.Assume there were no old tests to study — all students were on a levelplaying field. The teacher gives a test. No one finishes or gets a high score.Did no one understand the material? Possibly, but many of these hardworkingstudents come to class prepared. The better explanation is that there was aproblem with the test itself; for example, it was too long or too complex tofinish within the time limit.
This mirrors the experience of students who didn’t study the old tests.Unfortunately, they were sitting alongside classmates who’d seen an advancecopy and could thus easily finish within the class period.
Ten years ago, West High enacted a test return policy. Why? Because thiscalculus teacher, among others, wouldn’t give the tests back. The policy was acompromise to give families a chance to review tests, but only underconditions that gave teachers control against copies being handed down.
This calculus teacher had a choice: offer in-school review, as is done atMemorial High, or let the tests go home under tight restrictions, including awritten promise not to copy or use them for cheating. After this policy washammered out, he elected to return his tests unconditionally yet continued tore-use his tests. The district says that was his prerogative.
What was the administration’s job here? To conduct a fair formal complaintprocess and to ensure that assessment is non-discriminatory. The “outsideinvestigator” the district appointed is a lawyer who together with her firmroutinely does other legal work for the district. Had we known of thisconflict, we wouldn’t have wasted our time. In reality, the administration andits investigator endeavored mostly to find support for the foregone conclusionthat a teacher can run his class as he wishes.
We greatly appreciate our children’s teachers, but with all due respect,autonomy does not trump the duty of this teacher, the administration and theboard to provide all students with a fair and reliable testing scheme.
The only remedy the district offers is to let students repeat the course,either at West or at UW-Madison at their own expense — $1,000 — andsubstitute the new grade. This isn’t a genuine remedy. It punishes studentsfor a problem they didn’t create. Furthermore, it is only truly available tothose who can afford UW-Madison tuition and the time.
What was the School Board’s job? To tackle public policy — in this case,non-discriminatory assessment. With one brave exception, the board ducked, andchose to protect the teacher, the administration and the union — everyoneexcept the students.
The solution is easy. If teachers are going to re-use tests or questions,safeguard them using the test return policy or make an exam file available toall. Otherwise, write genuinely fresh tests each time.
After 14 months of investigation and a 100-plus page record, it’s worsethan when we started. Now the district says that this teacher, any teacher,can re-use tests and give them back without restriction, and that it isperfectly acceptable for some but not all students to have copies to preparefrom.
For six months, we sought to resolve this matter privately and informally,without public fanfare. Confronting the dirty little secret of the calculusclass didn’t sully West’s remarkable national reputation, but openly paperingit over surely does. Simply put, this teacher didn’t do his job. Theadministration and six board members didn’t do theirs, either. “Putting kidsfirst” needs to be more than just a campaign slogan. –>
In the Madison West High calculus class, tests are the only way astudent is evaluated — not by quizzes, homework or classroom participation,just tests. The teacher admits he duplicates or tweaks old tests. He knew somebut not all students had copies, yet he wouldn’t provide samples or an examfile.
Common sense tells us that students with an advance copy of a test have asignificant advantage over their classmates. Assessment is meaningless underthese circumstances.This is the basis of our complaint. And this isn’t just about one teacherat West. The decisions in this case emanate throughout the Madison SchoolDistrict.
What’s the teacher’s job? To teach the principles of calculus and to fairlyevaluate whether his students learned the math. He undoubtedly knows the math,as some former students enthusiastically attest. However, because old examswere not available to all, the only thing his tests reliably measured is whoma student knows, not what a student knows.
And — this point is critical — he also couldn’t tell whether the tests heconstructed, or copied, were “good” tests. A good test is one a well-preparedstudent can complete successfully during class time. Think of it this way.Assume there were no old tests to study — all students were on a levelplaying field. The teacher gives a test. No one finishes or gets a high score.Did no one understand the material? Possibly, but many of these hardworkingstudents come to class prepared. The better explanation is that there was aproblem with the test itself; for example, it was too long or too complex tofinish within the time limit.
This mirrors the experience of students who didn’t study the old tests.Unfortunately, they were sitting alongside classmates who’d seen an advancecopy and could thus easily finish within the class period.
Ten years ago, West High enacted a test return policy. Why? Because thiscalculus teacher, among others, wouldn’t give the tests back. The policy was acompromise to give families a chance to review tests, but only underconditions that gave teachers control against copies being handed down.
This calculus teacher had a choice: offer in-school review, as is done atMemorial High, or let the tests go home under tight restrictions, including awritten promise not to copy or use them for cheating. After this policy washammered out, he elected to return his tests unconditionally yet continued tore-use his tests. The district says that was his prerogative.
What was the administration’s job here? To conduct a fair formal complaintprocess and to ensure that assessment is non-discriminatory. The “outsideinvestigator” the district appointed is a lawyer who together with her firmroutinely does other legal work for the district. Had we known of thisconflict, we wouldn’t have wasted our time. In reality, the administration andits investigator endeavored mostly to find support for the foregone conclusionthat a teacher can run his class as he wishes.
We greatly appreciate our children’s teachers, but with all due respect,autonomy does not trump the duty of this teacher, the administration and theboard to provide all students with a fair and reliable testing scheme.
The only remedy the district offers is to let students repeat the course,either at West or at UW-Madison at their own expense — $1,000 — andsubstitute the new grade. This isn’t a genuine remedy. It punishes studentsfor a problem they didn’t create. Furthermore, it is only truly available tothose who can afford UW-Madison tuition and the time.
What was the School Board’s job? To tackle public policy — in this case,non-discriminatory assessment. With one brave exception, the board ducked, andchose to protect the teacher, the administration and the union — everyoneexcept the students.
The solution is easy. If teachers are going to re-use tests or questions,safeguard them using the test return policy or make an exam file available toall. Otherwise, write genuinely fresh tests each time.
After 14 months of investigation and a 100-plus page record, it’s worsethan when we started. Now the district says that this teacher, any teacher,can re-use tests and give them back without restriction, and that it isperfectly acceptable for some but not all students to have copies to preparefrom.
For six months, we sought to resolve this matter privately and informally,without public fanfare. Confronting the dirty little secret of the calculusclass didn’t sully West’s remarkable national reputation, but openly paperingit over surely does. Simply put, this teacher didn’t do his job. Theadministration and six board members didn’t do theirs, either. “Putting kidsfirst” needs to be more than just a campaign slogan.

Lee Sensenbrenner: Former Students Defend Teacher:

After hearing West High graduates who had returned home for winterbreak defend their former calculus teacher, the Madison School Board decidedit would seek the advice of department heads before potentially changing anypolicies on math tests.
Noah Kaufman, a freshman at Dartmouth College, told the board Monday nightthat complaints against calculus teacher Keith Knowles — who parents sayrepeated exam material without providing universal access to the old tests –were “entirely unreasonable.””Had I memorized numbers and calculations from old exams, and passed themoff as my answers, I would have failed my class, without question,” Kaufmansaid.
“Mr. Knowles did not use the same questions on different tests. What he diddo was ask questions that involved similar applications of the concepts. Allof these concepts were explained thoroughly in the textbook, as well as by Mr.Knowles himself.
“A student could have access to the concepts and examples of applicationsby simply doing the homework and paying attention in class.”

Doug Erickson:

arents of a Madison West High School senior urged the School BoardMonday to make sure that teachers who recycle exams from year to year also tryto keep copies of the old tests from circulating among students.
Either that, or a sample test should be made available to all studentsequally, said Joan Knoebel.She said her son, Danny Cullenward, and other students were at adisadvantage during several semesters of advanced math, because the teacherrecycled tests even though he knew that some but not all students had accessto old copies. Danny said that when he privately asked for help, the teachertold him to find old tests but refused to supply them.
Said his mother: “Exams should be about what you know, not who you know.”
She said her son, a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, becamesuspicious when some students breezed through the exams while he struggled tofinish on time.

Strings Community Action

A. Introduction: There’s no need for community action if the MMSD Administration and BOE state support for the current elementary strings academic curriculum. They don’t. When the Board members don’t say yes, it means no, given their recent history with this curriculum. The MMSD Board of Education adopted and approved the elementary strings program as … Continue reading Strings Community Action