On Wisconsin’s New School Report Cards

Alan Borsuk

For the first time, there is a substantial effort to show how much progress students in a school are making from year to year. The reports also go much deeper than before into how schools are doing on closing gaps between student groups. And they measure performance by the tougher standards coming into use pretty much from coast to coast – which means that the percentage of students rated as proficient is down sharply everywhere.
There’s information that should give every school community reasons to feel challenged and, in many cases, chastened. The day after the release, the principal of one of the best schools in Milwaukee told me he took the report on his school as a wake-up call that they weren’t doing as well as they thought. That’s good.
But this is just the start of a process of building better report cards. A big limitation is the current WKCE testing system. Only so much can be done with a test that is not really state-of-the-art and that is given once a year. (I say this as this year’s round gets under way.)

Madison School District Excellence Gaps / Differentiation Range in Classrooms

Lorie Raihala, via a kind email:
At the recent WATG conference in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Dr. Scott Peters from the UW Whitewater gave a presentation on “Data-Based Curriculum for RtI Implementation (Including Gifted Ed).” Dr. Peters spends a lot of time analyzing data. One thing he has discovered is just how wide the “excellence gaps” are in Madison. Take a look at this website, where you can view the breakdown of “advanced” WKCE scores for specific MMSD schools according to race/ethnicity and economic status: WINNS. You can also change variables to compare results by subject over the past several years.
For Dr. Peters’s “Data-Based Curriculum” presentation, he gave audience members sample MAP score reports for a sixth grade classroom, along with a sheet of sample MAP questions that showed what students at the various score levels can be expected to do. The range in “Reading” scores extended from the 1st to the 90th percentile, with all points between. This range in reading levels represents the difference between, for instance, this question:
Which is a toy?
1. chair
2. shirt
3. ball
4. cookie
and this question:
Read the passage.
Our database of more than 3,000 articles of documented investigations is an easy-to-use tool for scientific research. Users may look for a general topic or narrow their search through the use of three topic code parameters…[passage continues, and then there’s a chart].
How does the chart complement the text?
1. It summarizes the text.
2. It provides detail not in the text.
3. It serves to contrast information in the text.
4. It provides transition between the two parts of the text.
Can you imagine having to stretch this far to reach students in your classroom? Dr. Peters’s concluding recommendation was for schools to use assessment data to compose classrooms that would limit the range each teacher must stretch in order to reach most students.
* The “WINNS” information is based on the oft-criticized, weak WKCE.

Comments on the Pending Wisconsin School Report Cards

The Madison School District (160K PDF)

New benchmarks for proficiency. Starting in 2012-13, the benchmark for determining proficiency on the WKCE in math and reading will increase. New cut scores are being developed based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is conducted in a sample of schools every other year in Grades 4 and 8.
This higher cut score will result in a large number of students that will no longer be identified as proficient or advanced. This will be true at the state and local level. Recent coverage in the Wisconsin State Journal indicates that using NAEP-based cut scores causes the percent of Wisconsin students identified as proficient or advanced to decline from 81.9% to 35.8% for reading and from 78.0% to 48.1% for math.
The move toward NAEP-based cut scores is in part preparation for the statewide shift to Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2014-15. Results for individual schools using this new benchmark will be released this fall.
Accountability School Report Cards. Information packets from DPI provide context and formatting examples of the report cards that each school will receive to track its performance against various criteria.
Embargoed draft versions of school report cards will be shared with districts around September 24. Report cards for individual schools for 2011-12 will be finalized and made public around October 6.
Attached is an example of a school report card for a middle school. The report cards apply to all elementary, middle and high schools. Criteria are broken out by racial/ethnic, disability, income and ELL subgroup. More detailed “technical report cards” will also be prepared for each school that will go into more detail and methodology of the calculations.
The criteria for the Accountability School Report Card follow:

Watch a Madison school board discussion, starting at about 15 minutes.

All Wisconsin high school juniors would take ACT in 2014-15 under Evers proposal

Erin Richards:

“There’s a general recognition that our current testing regime is not getting the job done and that we always knew we were going to have to do something different,” he said. “When people understand the importance of measuring growth over time instead of raw test scores and getting testing information back to teachers in a more timely manner, I think they will look more favorably on spending money on new tests.”
Still, Kestell said $7 million was a lot, and probably would not have been considered at all two years ago when the state made significant cuts to education spending.
For the next budget cycle, he said: “It could very well happen, but it’s way too early to predict anything positive.”
The DPI’s Johnson pointed to Milwaukee Public Schools as a model district that has begun ACT testing for all juniors, setting aside time for them to take the four-hour exam in school. Though testing all juniors has lowered the district’s average ACT composite score, the move has received praise for opening opportunities to more students who may not have known they were ready for college, and for providing a broader measure of student performance.

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin would pay for all public high school juniors to take the ACT college admissions test starting in two years as part of a $7 million budget initiative State Superintendent Tony Evers announced Wednesday.
The proposal also includes administering three other tests offered by ACT to measure college and career readiness in high school. The tests would replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, which is currently administered to 10th-graders to comply with federal testing requirements.
“We need to give our students and their families better resources to plan for study and work after high school,” Evers said. “It makes sense to use the ACT to fulfill state and federal testing requirements at the high school level with an exam package that provides so much more than the WKCE: college and career readiness assessments and a college admissions test score.”
Under the proposal, all public school ninth-graders would take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in spring of the 2014-15 school year. All 10th-graders would take the ACT PLAN test, and all 11th-graders would take the ACT and the WorkKeys tests.
The state would pay for students to take each test once. Those who want to take an ACT a second time to improve their score would have to pay for it themselves.
Also, by training all schools to administer the ACT, the proposal would help students in rural districts who lack access to certified ACT testing sites, Evers said.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

Outlook not set in stone for Wisconsin school of education enrollment

Arthur Thomas:

For all the changes implemented in 2011, one thing hurt enrollment at schools of education more than others, said John Gaffney, recruitment and retention coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s School of Education.
“The message of teachers being the problem hurt us the most,” Gaffney said.
The Act 10 legislation affected teachers’ pocketbooks – with union bargaining largely eliminated, higher deductions for benefits were imposed – and the political firestorm that resulted put teachers at the center of attention.
Maggie Beeber, undergraduate advising coordinator at the UW-Stevens Point education school, recounted a story where she was meeting with incoming freshmen. She asked the students if anyone had tried to discourage them from becoming teachers. Nearly every hand went up. Then she asked if more than five people had discouraged them. Most of the hands stayed up.
“It’s easy to follow the public discourse about teaching right now and conclude that everything is doomed,” said Desiree Pointer Mace, associate dean for graduate education at Alverno College.

Related:

An Interview with UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood

Todd Finkelmeyer:

It’s an unprecedented amount of change, honestly,” says Julie Underwood, the dean of UW-Madison’s highly ranked School of Education.
Consider:

  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state — including Madison’s Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools — are part of Wisconsin’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher’s success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in 2014-15.li>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she’s no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher — even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license.
“I think that’s really unfortunate,” says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.

Related:

Loss of master’s degree pay bump has impact on teachers, grad schools

Erin Richards, via a kind reader’s email:

The dropping of the master’s bump in many districts is also raising new questions about what kind of outside training is relevant to help teachers improve outcomes with their students, and what those teachers – who are already taking home less pay by contributing more to their benefits – will consider to be worth the investment.
Wauwatosa East High School government teacher Ann Herrera Ward is one educator puzzled by the turning tide on advanced degrees.
Ward earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before working in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven years, then got on the road to a teaching license through Marquette University, where she got a master’s in instructional leadership.
Entering her 20th year as a teacher, she’s finishing her dissertation for her doctorate degree: a study of how kids learn about elections and politics by discussing the matters in school and at home.

Related:

Does Milwaukee’s Voucher Program Work or Not?

http://www.wpri.org/blog/?p=2203

The Legislative Audit Bureau’s (LAB) review of the final year of the state-authorized five year longitudinal study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) is once again bringing the never-ending debate on the efficacy of school choice into the public discourse.
At issue is the LAB’s conclusion that statistically significant test score gains for MPCP pupils in the final year of the study may be in part attributed to the introduction of universal Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) testing for all MPCP pupils. There is research showing mandatory testing can create a bump in test scores. Hence, LAB states the SCDP finding on reading gains is not conclusive.
The LAB analysis is news only if you did not read the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) studies when they were released earlier this year. The SCDP states clearly: “There is some evidence that the larger achievement growth of the MPCP students that we observe is attributable to the introduction of the accountability policy.” In other words, after five years we know MPCP and MPS students experience similar gains in math scores, and statistically significant gains in reading scores that may or may not be caused by the change in testing policy.
Some perspective. Even statistically significant gains are not necessarily all that substantively significant. A slightly higher reading score is not going to make or break the future of a child. It is important to understand what the SCDP study actually set out to accomplish. It was a program evaluation designed to determine how the MPCP impacted Milwaukee students. Accordingly, over the course of the study the public learned an almost overwhelming amount about a program that was once criticized for being understudied. The public now knows:

Madison School District Student Assessment Summary

Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore:

MAP often shows substantial declines in the percent of students identified as proficient or advanced as compared to past WKCE scores. This does not reflect a change in students’ abilities, but rather reflects a change to higher standards. MMSD’s WKCE results have been consistent for years.

  • With 2011-12 being the first year that MMSD administered MAP, great caution must be exercised to avoid over-interpretation of results. One of the advantages of MAP is the ability to measure growth, and 2011-12 represent only a single data point. Plans for the immediate future include rigorous statistical analysis that will include significance tests to focus in on areas of excellence and possible concern.
  • Student proficiencies are lower as measured by MAP than Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Exam (WKCE). This is likely due to MAP being a more difficult and rigorous assessment than WKCE. MAP is also normed at the national level. MMSD has largely done well against other Wisconsin districts, but its results are not as strong when compared nationally.

Madison MAP Testing Shows They are Falling Short Too

Melissa Hammann, via a kind reader’s email:

So, the great and powerful Madison School District has started MAP testing and the results are, well, as they should have expected when viewed as a whole. White kids are above national averages and children of color are below them. MAP testing stands for Measures of Academic Progress. They are taken at the computer by each student and the questions are tailored to the individual student. They keep answering questions until they hit the wall of achievement level and the test is ended. Scores are known immediately and areas of strength and areas that need improvement are highlighted FOR EACH KID. It is supposed to be a tool for teachers to use in order to more adequately provide instruction in their classroom. This is called differentiated instruction, or DI in the education vernacular. MAP results are not really effective for national achievement comparison.
OK, I’m going out on a limb here and going to say to the critics of ECSD that we have been doing MAP testing in our district for 5 years now. My newly minted graduate was in the guinea pig group in 7th grade, so I am keyed in on this topic. We can thank Paula Landers for being ahead of the curve on implementing this tool. What seems to escape the writer of the article as well as our district is this. It’s very nice to know how one’s district stacks up as a whole against the state (WKCE) and nation (MAP, NAEP), but what exactly does this data provide in the way of improving individual student achievement? Exactly squat. In this world of inclusive learning, school districts must have tools to provide DI for all levels of learners. If you insist on teaching to some arbitrary mean that various test data indicates as the level of your class, you’ll lose the top 30 and bottom 30 percent of the curve. That’s 60 percent of the students being lost. Used properly, MAP results could be a very effective tool for the teaching arsenal to solve this problem.
Sadly, it is my experience that my kids’ teachers use it to verify what they already know about my kids, that they are above average, and use their MAP data to rationalize being satisfied with mediocre performance the rest of the year “because they are still above their peer average.” I have no data to indicate it is otherwise with other children. In fact, I have spoken to other parents with similar issues. In addition, over 35 percent of the students in the quadrant report that began the school year above their peer group in reading in our district in 10-11 did not reach the achievement goal the MAP test sets for them. It seems that the district thinks it’s OK that a child does not achieve to their potential. I am not of the same opinion.
……
Not only did my kid fail to reach his personal achievement goal set for him by the MAP test (gain less than they projected he should), but he ended 5th grade at a lower achievement level in reading than where he started. This loss of achievement happened while he got straight As all year long in language arts. I began a slow burn that has not stopped. I went to the principal, I went to the teacher and I went to the administrator in charge. “He started out so high that it was hard for him to achieve.” This is an unacceptable response. My child deserves to show some damn achievement after a year of instruction. I don’t care if he started out higher than the mediocre goals you set for the masses. This is thievery, plain and simple. That year, as I recall, the entire grade level failed to meet the 50% level, which basically says they have achieved grade level performance. Interpretation of MAP results is a bit confusing, so go with me here. Anything less than 50% for a grade level indicates they have not achieved a years worth of learning. There has been a shake up in the 5th grade teaching team, but I think it goes beyond individual teachers. If there is an endemic attitude that high achieving students are OK to ignore and an insistence on mistakenly using MAP data to compare to national averages (like the article in the Madison paper did) instead of using it for the amazing tool it could be, there will be no dang improvement in overall achievement.

Related: Madison Schools’ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment Results Released. Unfortunately, the Madison School District has not published the school by school MAP results, though the information made its way to Matthew DeFour’s Sunday article.

Madison Schools’ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment Results Released

Interim Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore (175K PDF):

The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a computer adaptive series of assessments from the North West Evaluation Association (NWEA). There are tests in reading, language usage and math.
When taking a MAP test, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers all the previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier. In an optimal test, a student answers approximately half the items correctly and half incorrectly. The final score is an estimate of the student’s achievement level. Each test takes approximately 50 minutes to complete.
MMSD has chosen to administer MAP for the following reasons:

  • It helps ensure technical infrastructure to support implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • Rapid turn-around of classroom, school and district level data.
  • Nationally normed results give a more accurate picture of MMSD’s standing.
  • MAP measures student achievement growth in content area and within strands in a content area.
  • Beginning 2012-13, MAP will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards
  • MAP is not high stakes. It is not reported to the state for accountability purposes, but rather for district and school improvement.

In 2011-12, MAP was administered for Grades 3 through 7. In 2012-13, it will be expanded to include Grade 8. The default is to provide the test to all students, but MMSD has the ability to use judgment for students with disabilities. So, not all special education students will take MAP. Also, MAP is not for ELL levels 1 or 2.

I’m glad the Madison Schools published this information, and that they are implementing a much more rigorous assessment than the oft-criticized WKCE. I look forward to seeing the District’s report on the EXPLORE assessment, as well.
Nearby Monona Grove has used the MAP assessment for a number of years. It would be interesting to see how the Districts compare.



















Matthew DeFour and TJ Mertz comment.

MMSD Alum Barbara Thompson’s Tenure in Montgomery, Alabama: IB, AP, Pre-AP, Mandarin, Programs with Higher Ed; Spends 39% per student less

The Montgomery Business Journal, via a kind reader’s email:

The Grundels’ success story is exactly what Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson [bing blekko clusty google] wants to hear. She wants all the district’s nearly 32,000 students to achieve, succeed and enjoy learning.
This fall, the district will launch its International Baccalaureate program and will offer a career technical education program along with seven Career Academies; a growing magnet program for both the arts and academics; and an Advanced Placement (AP) program that continues to expand at a tremendous pace.
“It is a unique pathway for our students having all those programs,” Thompson said. “It means that your child can come into this school district and be challenged at any level. Some of those pathways are going to lead to a four-year college; some will lead to a two-year college; some will lead you right into the world of work. It’s giving students those career pathways that really fit with their strength area.”
Now, you begin to see what all those pieces mean and what the big picture is. “The master plan is to bring our traditional schools up to the level of the magnets,” Thompson said. “That really is the ultimate goal in terms of what we are doing with our rigor and expectations. That is the end game.”
“These are all steps to get us there. I think kids need deliberate steps to get from places, which is why you have the pre-AP program offered at middle school because they can’t just jump into AP in high school.
“It’s why you have the Career Exploratory at middle school because once again you want to go into the Career Academies or career tech. We are making sure that every child takes the explorer test in eighth grade and that goes over their aptitude and skills so when they reach high school they are supposedly doing a four-year plan. That’s every student.”
And the programs that the superintendent has implemented the past few years as well as expanding existing ones, support, encourage and excite targeted groups of students – all students.
The programs on the surface may appear to be disjointed – what does a pre-K program have in common with an Overage Academy – but the common thread is making sure the students succeed.
The pre-K program was expanded from six to 23 programs and turned the closed McKee Elementary School into a pre-K center. Those programs may be cut to 21 because of funding.
That’s the youngest targeted group. Here’s what the district has done for other groups of students:

  • Increased graduation rates, although with the state’s new method of computing graduation rates – those numbers are likely to fall as will graduation rates across the state.
  • Created a sixth-grade academy to help elementary school students make the transition to middle school.
  • Created a ninth-grade academy to help middle school students make the transition to high school.
  • Created an Overage Academy to help struggling ninth-graders who are two or more years older than the usual students further advance in their schooling.
  • Created a Credit and Grade Recovery program to provide more one-on-one teacher assistance so the students will be able to graduate – and hundreds have.
  • Launched an academic magnet program at Johnnie Carr Middle School.
  • Reconfigured nearly all the middle schools for grades six through eight.
  • Instituted a school-wide dress code.
  • Placed a pre-AP program in middle schools.
  • Placed a career tech program in middle schools.
  • Will launch a Mandarin Chinese program with Auburn University Montgomery that will be at the new eastside high school (in fall 2013) as well as Carr and MacMillan International Academy.
  • Consolidated the district by closing some schools and using others in a different way.
  • Will bring at least 15 highly qualified Teach for America teachers to the district in the fall – and they usually stay for two years.
  • Has begun the process for system-wide accreditation.
  • Cut $37 million from the budget over three years and turned a $2.5 million deficit into a surplus of nearly $8 million.

“It really is a puzzle and you are trying to put it together so you create this environment where learning is really exciting for students,” Thompson said. “We are trying to meet those needs of all of our students.
“When I first came here, I gave you the three Rs: relevance, rigor and relationships. All of these programs fall under that category.”
You can imagine, a system with nearly 32,000 students has a lot of needs and you can imagine that Montgomery County’s third-largest employer – about 4,500 people – has a lot of needs. Tom Salter, senior communications officer for MPS, likes to point out that if you combine the students and employees, the school district would be the 13th-largest city in the state. “With that many folks compared to a single, private school that has a hand-picked 600 or 700 in it – it’s different, but it’s not necessarily better to be in a private school.”

“relevance, rigor and relationships” – well said.
Alabama participated in the 2011 TIMSS global exam along with Minnesota and Massachusetts. Wisconsin has never benchmarked our students via the global exams. We have been stuck with the oft-criticized WKCE.
The Montgomery, Alabama schools spent $283,633,475 for 31,470 students ($9,012.82/student) while Madison spent 39% more, or $14,858 per student. The 2011-2012 budget was roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students.

Commentary on the Wisconsin DPI’s New School Report Cards

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

A few weeks ago, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released an example of what the upcoming report cards for state schools will look like. The report cards are described as one of the package of reforms that that DPI promised to implement in order to win a waiver from the federal Department of Education from the more onerous burdens of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
One of the qualifications for an NCLB waiver is that a state must put into place an accountability system for schools. The system must take into account results for all students and subgroups of students identified in NCLB on: measures of student achievement in at least reading/language arts and mathematics; graduation rates; and school performance and progress over time. Once a state has adopted a “high-quality assessment,” the system must also take into account student growth.
In announcing the NCLB waiver, DPI claimed that it had established accountability measures that “1) are fair; 2) raise expectations; and 3) provide meaningful measures to inform differentiated recognitions, intervention, and support.”
Designing a fair and meaningful system for assessing the performance of the state’s schools is a worthy endeavor. The emphasis for me is on the “fair” requirement. I consider an assessment system to be fair if it measures how successfully a school promotes the learning of whichever students show up at its door.

Related: Notes and links on the oft-criticized WKCE and Madison’s long term reading recovery challenges.

Wisconsin’s Achievement Stagnation: 1992 – 2011



Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

“Yet when compared to gains made by students in other countries, progress within the United States is middling, not stellar (see Figure 1). While 24 countries trail the U.S. rate of improvement, another 24 countries appear to be improving at a faster rate. Nor is U.S. progress sufficiently rapid to allow it to catch up with the leaders of the industrialized world.”
“Meanwhile, students in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana were among those making the fewest average gains between 1992 and 2011. Once again, the larger political climate may have affected the progress on the ground. Unlike in the South, the reform movement has made little headway within midwestern states, at least until very recently. Many of the midwestern states had proud education histories symbolized by internationally acclaimed land-grant universities, which have become the pride of East Lansing, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Lafayette, Indiana. Satisfaction with past accomplishments may have dampened interest in the school reform agenda sweeping through southern, border, and some western states.”
Underlying study: “Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance

Related:

  • Student scores slip with new proficiency benchmarks by Erin Richards

    The results: Only 35.8% of Wisconsin’s WKCE test-takers in third through eighth and 10th grade in fall 2011 scored proficient or better in reading, and just 48.1% scored proficient or better in math.
    Compare that with March, when the state released 2011 WKCE results that showed 78% and 82% of students scored proficient or better in math and reading.
    Under the new benchmarks, just 41.9% of white students scored proficient or advanced in reading, and 55.2% met that mark in math on the latest state test. Previously, more than 87% of white students were considered proficient or better in reading, and 84.3% were considered to have scored proficient or better in math in 2011.
    As for the state’s black students – many of whom attend Milwaukee Public Schools – 13.4% are considered proficient or advanced in reading, down from 58.7% using the old grading scale.
    Rep. Steve Kestell, a Republican from Elkhart Lake who chairs the Assembly’s Education Committee, called the revised picture of student performance a “necessary and long-delayed wake-up call for Wisconsin.”
    “We’ve been trying to tell folks for some time that we’ve been looking at things through rose-colored glasses in Wisconsin,” he added. “It was a hard thing to communicate, and it was largely ignored. This is a new awakening.”
    State Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said: “We’ve known for years that our proficiency-cut scores are way below where they should be, and really, this shows that we have got to do a better job.”
    Under the past decade of No Child Left Behind, Wisconsin had been criticized for having a more lenient bar for proficiency than other states.

  • Less than half of state’s students measure proficient under new national standards by Matthew DeFour:

    Still, the new results should be a “smack in the face” for Wisconsin, said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
    “It’s going to be a wake-up call,” Gamoran said. “It’s a more honest reckoning of where Wisconsin students stand relative to other students across the nation and relative to the goals we want for all of our students.”
    The old results were based on whether students were meeting Wisconsin’s definition of being at grade-level, whereas the new results reflect more rigorous standards of what it means to be prepared for college or a career used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card.
    About 3,000 4th and 8th graders in Wisconsin take the NAEP every other year. In 2011, 32 percent of Wisconsin 4th graders scored proficient on NAEP’s reading test and 39 percent scored proficient on the math test.
    The data released Tuesday marks the first time DPI has converted results of the state test, which more than 430,000 students in grades 3-8 and 10 take in the fall, to the NAEP benchmarks.
    DPI won’t release recalculated results for individual schools and districts until the fall, when it also plans to release individual school report cards with ratings on a scale of 0 to 100.
    Kim Henderson, president of the Wisconsin Parent Teacher Association, said parents pay closer attention to state test scores than NAEP scores, so the results could “bring up a lot of good questioning.”

  • State sets new, tougher standards for student tests by the Associated Press:

    To get the waiver, Wisconsin had to develop its own accountability system in addition to teacher and principal evaluations, among other things.
    The scores will be included on new school report cards to be released in the fall. How well individual students in grades 3-8 and 10 do on reading and math tests they take in November will be released next spring.
    The new school report cards were developed in conjunction with Gov. Scott Walker, legislative leaders and others over the past year. They will include a numerical rating for individual schools from 0-100 based on student achievement, growth, graduation rates and closing of achievement gaps between different groups of students. The scores will generate an overall total that will place each school into one of five categories ranging from “Fails to Meet Expectations” to “Significantly Exceeds Expectations.”
    “This new system will empower parents, allowing them to make education related decisions based on reliable and uniform data,” Walker said in a statement.
    Sample report cards, without actual school data, are posted online to solicit feedback through Aug. 12.

  • Numerous notes and links on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.
  • wisconsin2.org



Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School

Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school recently talked with me [Transcript | mp3 audio] about his fascinating personal and professional education experience. St. Marcus is one of, if not the most successful voucher school in Milwaukee.
Henry discussed student, parent and teacher expectations, including an interesting program to educate and involve parents known as “Thankful Thursdays”. He further described their growth plans, specifically, the methods they are following to replicate the organization. In addition, I learned that St. Marcus tracks their students for 8 years after 8th grade graduation.
Finally, Henry discussed special education and their financial model, roughly $7,800/student annually of which $6,400 arrives from State of Wisconsin taxpayers in the form of a voucher. The remainder via local fundraising and church support.
He is quite bullish on the future of education in Milwaukee. I agree that in 15 to 20 years, Milwaukee’s education environment will be much, much improved. High expectations are of course critical to these improvements.
I appreciate the time Henry took to visit.
Related:

Madison School District Strategic Plan Update

Madison School District 600K PDF:.
I recently attended the third annual update to the 2009 Madison School District Strategic Plan. You can follow the process via these notes and links.
I thought it might be useful to share a few observations on our local public schools during this process:

  • General public interest in the schools continues to be the exception, rather than the norm.
  • I sense that the District is more open to discussing substantive issues such as reading, math and overall achievement during the past few years. However, it does not appear to have translated into the required tough decision making regarding non-performing programs and curriculum.
  • MTI President Kerry Motoviloff recent statement that the District administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”.
  • Full teacher Infinite Campus use remains a goal, despite spending millions of dollars, money which could have gone elsewhere given the limited implementation. Unfortunately, this is a huge missed opportunity. Complete course syllabus, assignment and gradebook information would be a powerful tool when evaluating achievement issues.
  • The implementation of “standards based report cards” further derailed the Infinite Campus spending/implementation. This is an example of spending money (and time – consider the opportunity cost) on programs that are actually in conflict.
  • The District continues to use the oft criticized and very low benchmark WKCE as their measure. This, despite starting to use the MAP exam this year. Nearby Monona Grove has been using MAP for some time.
  • Three Madison School Board members attended: Mary Burke, James Howard and Ed Hughes.
  • UW-Madison school of Education dean Julie Underwood attended and asked, to my astonishment, (paraphrased) how the District’s various diversity programs were benefiting kids (and achievement)?

The only effective way forward, in my view, is to simplify the District’s core mission to reading, english and math. This means eliminating programs and focusing on the essentials. That will be a difficult change for the organization, but I don’t see how adding programs to the current pile benefits anyone. It will cost more and do less.
Less than 24 hours after I attended the MMSD’s Strategic Plan update, I, through a variety of circumstances, visited one of Milwaukee’s highest performing private/voucher schools, a school with more than 90% low income students. The petri dish that is Milwaukee will produce a far more robust and effective set of schools over the next few decades than the present monolithic approach favored here. More about that visit, soon.

Opinions differ on Watertown’s standing in Maclver report

Jen Zettel:

Of the state’s 50 largest school districts, the Watertown Unified School District ranked 48th, ahead only of Racine and Milwaukee, according to a recent report by the MacIver Institute. However, some education researchers said the report doesn’t tell the whole story.
The report took the 50 largest school districts in Wisconsin and compared them based on factors such as performance on the Wisconsin Concepts Knowledge Examination (WKCE), ACT test scores and participation, Advanced Placement scores and participation, graduation rate, students eligible for free or reduced price lunch and students enrolled in English Language Learners programs.
The top five districts were Elmbrook, Marshfield Unified, New Berlin, Verona Area and Middleton-Cross Plains Area. The bottom five were Kaukauna Area, Superior, Watertown Unified, Racine Unified and Milwaukee.
The report ranked Watertown 41st in student achievement, 46th in student attainment and 24th in student population affect on performance, for an overall grade of D- and rank of 48.

Madison high schools don’t make U.S. News rankings

Matthew DeFour:

U.S. News and World Report this week released its list of the top high schools in the country and in each state, but Madison’s four high schools didn’t make the cut.
That’s because under the three-step formula the magazine used to rate high schools, the combined test scores of black, Hispanic and low-income students at East, La Follette, Memorial and West were too low to qualify the schools for recognition.
It’s the fourth time the magazine, known for its annual rankings of college and graduate schools, has ranked high schools and the first time since December 2009. The magazine worked with the American Institutes for Research to develop the ranking system.
The magazine reviewed reading and math test scores for nearly 22,000 high schools in the country. Of that number, only 5,267 high schools, including the four in Madison, advanced to step two of the analysis. That means math and reading test scores exceeded expectations among other high schools in the state given the level of poverty in each school.
But Madison’s schools appear to have faltered in the second step of the analysis, which compares a weighted average of math and reading scores for each school’s “disadvantaged students” — i.e. black, Hispanic and low-income students — with the same group statewide.
In 2011-12, 53.5 percent of Wisconsin’s disadvantaged students scored proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, compared with about 47 percent at each of the four Madison high schools.

The WKCE has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Background: Ouch! Madison schools are ‘weak’? and College Station’s School District
Related: www.wisconsin2.org

MTEL Arrives in Wisconsin: Teacher Licensing Content Requirement, from 1.1.2014

2011 WISCONSIN ACT 166, via a kind reader:

Section 21. 118.19 (14) of the statutes is created to read:
118.19 (14) (a) The department may not issue an initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in grades kindergarten to 5 or in special education, an initial license as a reading teacher, or an initial license as a reading specialist, unless the applicant has passed an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test administered in 2012 as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure [blekko]. The department shall set the passing cut score on the examination at a level no lower than the level recommended by the developer of the test, based on this state’s standards.
(c) Any teacher who passes the examination under par. (a) shall notify the department, which shall add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that he or she passed the examination.
and….
115.28 (7g) Evaluation of teacher preparatory programs.
(a) The department shall, in consultation with the governor’s office, the chairpersons of the committees in the assembly and senate whose subject matter is elementary and secondary education and ranking members of those committees, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, do all of the following:
1. Determine how the performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory program described in s. 115.28 (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in s. 115.28 (7) (e) 2. and located in this state will be used to evaluate the teacher preparatory and education programs. The determination under this subdivision shall, at minimum, define “recently completed” and identify measures to assess an individual’s performance, including the performance assessment made prior to making a recommendation for licensure.
2. Determine how the measures of performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory or education program identified as required under subd. 1. will be made accessible to the public.
3. Develop a system to publicly report the measures of performance identified as required under subd. 1. for each teacher preparatory and education program identified in subd. 1.
(b) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the department shall use the system developed under par. (a) 3. to annually report for each program identified in par. (a) 1. the passage rate on first attempt of students and graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1.
(c) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, each teacher preparatory and education program shall prominently display and annually update the passage rate on first attempt of recent graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1. on the program’s Web site and provide this information to persons receiving admissions materials to the program.
Section 18. 115.28 (12) (ag) of the statutes is created to read:
115.28 (12) (ag) Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, each school district using the system under par. (a) shall include in the system the following information for each teacher teaching in the school district who completed a teacher preparatory program described in sub. (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in sub. (7) (e) 2. and located in this state on or after January 1, 2012:
1. The name of the teacher preparatory program or teacher education program the teacher attended and completed.
2. The term or semester and year in which the teacher completed the program described in subd. 1.

Related:

This is a sea change for Wisconsin students, the most substantive in decades. Of course, what is entered into the statutes can be changed or eliminated. The MTEL requirement begins with licenses after 1.1.2014.

Faces of the achievement gap in Madison: The stories behind the statistics

Pat Dillon:  

In 2010, just five black and 13 Hispanic graduating seniors in the Madison Metropolitan School District were ready for college, according to data from the district and Urban League of Greater Madison. These statistics should make your heart race. If they don’t, and you’re white, you may be suffering from what anti-racism educator Tim Wise calls “the pathology of white privilege.” If you do get it and don’t take action, that is almost worse.
The issue affects all of us and fell a little harder into my lap than it does in most white middle-class families when my daughter told me last summer that I was going to have a biracial grandson. My response? “Not in this school district.”
The dismal academic record of minorities has long been apparent to me, through my own experiences and the stories of others. But many people only hear about the statistics. To help humanize these numbers I asked students and parents who are most affected to share their stories so I could tell them along with mine. The experiences are anecdotal, but the facts speak for themselves.

 Related:

In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track.  Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

 Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.

Reflections and questions on Wisconsin school test results

Alan Borsuk:

So what was new in all the data released last week summarizing results of the standardized tests, known as the WKCEs, that were taken last fall by more than 400,000 students from Kenosha to Superior?
Not much.
Some things a little better, most things the same, the state of meeting our educational needs pretty much unchanged.
But for every answer like that, I have a dozen questions (and lots of sub-questions).
Here they are:
1. Do we have the patience to pursue solid, significant improvement in how our students are doing?
The highflying schools I know of all took years to reach the heights.
Are we willing to do the steady, thoughtful work of building quality and resist the rapidly revolving carousel of education fads?
2. Do we have the impatience to pursue solid, significant improvement in how our students are doing?
At the same time we’ve got to be steady, we’ve got to be propelled by the urgency of improving.
Especially outside of Milwaukee, an awful lot of people are complacent about how Wisconsin’s kids are doing, and that complacency is often not well justified.

Related:

4.1.2012 from Omaha: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad: Narrowing gap a work in progress in Madison

Joe Dejka:

The push to raise achievement for minority and low-income students in Madison Metropolitan School District remains “a work in progress,” said Superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Work has been done on Nerad’s watch, such as drafting a new strategic plan and a multifaceted, $106 million proposal for programs aimed at shrinking test score gaps between students of different races and income levels.
As for results, Nerad and Madison school board member Ed Hughes say there hasn’t been enough progress.
“We certainly haven’t seen, overall, the kind of improvement that we would like to see in reducing the achievement gap,” Hughes said. “But we need to look at whether the steps are being put in place that would give us some hope or confidence that we will see those gaps narrowing in the future.”
Hughes thinks Madison is on the right track.

Related:

In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track. Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.
A look at the numbers:
Omaha spends substantially less per student than Madison. The Omaha 2011-2012 adopted budget will spend 468,946,264 for 46,000 students: $10,194.48/student. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $369,394,753 for 24,861 = $14,858.40/student, 31.4% more than Omaha…. Green Bay (Superintendent Nerad’s former position) spent about 10% less than Madison, per student.

Student test scores show Madison lags state in cutting achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Madison and Wisconsin are moving in opposite directions in raising achievement levels of black students, according to state test scores released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.
The percentage of black Madison students scoring proficient or better on the state reading test dropped to the lowest level in six years, while statewide black student reading scores continued to improve.
“The results affirm the work that we need to be doing and are doing to close our unacceptable gaps in achievement,” Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said.
Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.
Madison’s strongest gains were among eighth grade math scores, with the percentage of black students scoring proficient gaining 8 percentage points, Hispanic students gaining 16 percentage points and low-income students gaining 6.5 percentage points over last year.
Overall 77 percent of eighth-graders scored advanced or proficient on math, up from 76 percent last year. In all other grade levels the math scores were down in Madison from last year, whereas statewide the scores were up or the same in each grade level.

Related:

Wisconsin Schools’ Evers criticizes education reform bill

Matthew DeFour:

An education reform bill circulating this week would require kindergarten screening exams and teacher evaluations based partly on test scores, but doesn’t update the state’s system for holding schools accountable for student performance.
The omission concerned State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who for the past year has worked with Gov. Scott Walker on three bipartisan task forces addressing literacy, teacher effectiveness and school accountability. The bill includes recommendations from the first two groups, but not the third.
Specifically, the bill doesn’t propose changes that would bring charter schools and private voucher schools under the new accountability system, or update language in state law related to No Child Left Behind.
Evers said the bill misses an opportunity to deliver action on promises made by Walker, legislators and education leaders, including advocates for charter and private voucher schools.

The DPI has much to answer for after the millions spent (and years wasted) on the oft-criticized WKCE.

Raising Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Bar?

Alan Borsuk:

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

A substantial improvement in academic standards is warranted and possibly wonderful, assuming it happens and avoids being watered down. The rightly criticized WKCE was an expensive missed opportunity.
Related: www.wisconsin2.org

The Inevitability of the Use of Value-Added Measures in Teacher Evaluations

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Value added” or “VA” refers to the use of statistical techniques to measure teachers’ impacts on their students’ standardized test scores, controlling for such student characteristics as prior years’ scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, and low-income status.
Reports on a massive new study that seem to affirm the use of the technique have recently been splashed across the media and chewed over in the blogosphere. Further from the limelight, developments in Wisconsin seem to ensure that in the coming years value-added analyses will play an increasingly important role in teacher evaluations across the state. Assuming the analyses are performed and applied sensibly, this is a positive development for student learning.
The Chetty Study
Since the first article touting its findings was published on the front page of the January 6 New York Times, a new research study by three economists assessing the value-added contributions of elementary school teachers and their long-term impact on their students’ lives – referred to as the Chetty article after the lead author – has created as much of a stir as could ever be expected for a dense academic study.

Much more on value added assessment, here.
It is important to note that the Madison School District’s value added assessment initiative is based on the oft-criticized WKCE.

MTEL 90: Teacher Content Knowledge Licensing Requirements Coming To Wisconsin….

The Wisconsin adoption of teacher content knowledge requirements, on the form of MTEL 90 (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure) by 2013-2014 would (will?) be a significant step forward via the Wisconsin Read to Lead Report), assuming it is not watered down like the oft criticized (and rightfully so) WKCE
There are significant implications for :Education School preparation/curriculum with the addition of content knowledge to teacher licensing requirements. 
Much more on Read to Lead, here and a presentation on Florida’s Reading Reforms
www.wisconsin2.org

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other state leaders concerned with education should work toward a common school evaluation system.

Milwaukee Journal – Sentinel:

Wisconsin needs a new system of school accountability, but implementing effective measures will be difficult because there are so many different ideas about what it takes to make a good school.
The best schools have high standards in the basics – reading, math, science and writing. But they also excel at art, music and gym. They are places with strong leadership, inspired teachers and an organic system of training and mentoring.
To create more such schools and hold all schools accountable in a fair manner, though, requires all those with an interest in that issue to be at the table. Unfortunately, that’s not the case now.
When Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers formed a team to improve school accountability, the Wisconsin Education Association Council chose to sit this one out.
We get it: The state’s largest teachers union has plenty of reason to be upset with Walker for stripping it and other public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights – and for cutting funding to schools. But we still think the union’s refusal to take a place at the table was a mistake. The union needs to be involved in such efforts. Now, it’s on the outside looking in.

Wisconsin’s current assessment system is the oft-criticized WKCE, which has some of our nation’s lowest standards.
A Closer Look at Wisconsin’s Test Scores Reveals Troubling Trend by Christian D’Andrea.
WEAC’s Mary Bell advocates a “holistic” approach to school accountability.

Updated Madison Prep Business and Education Plan and Response to Administrative Analysis

The Urban League of Greater Madison:

Response to P4-5 of the Admin Analysis (No College Going Culture) [Page 23 of BP][Response] MMSD and the Boys & Girls Club have done an excellent job implementing the AVID/TOPS program in MMSD’s four high schools. While AVID is beginning to build a college going culture among the students it serves (students with 2.0 – 3.5 GPAs), more than 60% of African American high school students in MMSD, for example, have GPAs below a 2.0 and therefore do not qualify for AVID. At 380 students, AVID serves just 10% of all students of color enrolled in MMSD high schools.
While the Urban League believes AVID/TOPS should continue to grow to serve more students, it also believes MMSD must invest more resources in programs like Schools of Hope, MSCR, Aspira/Juventud, ACT Prep, Culturally Relevant Teaching and Commonwealth’s middle school careers program.
It must also invest in a system-wide, whole school reform agenda that addresses not only educational skill-building among students, but establishes a college going culture in all of
its schools for all students while addressing curriculum quality, instructional and school innovation, teacher effectiveness, diversity hiring and parent engagement at the same time. ULGM is ready to help MMSD accomplish these goals.
Response to P6 of the Admin Analysis (NO COLLEGE GOING CULTURE) [Page 23 of BP]
[Response] While MMSD offers advanced placement classes, very few African American and Latino students enroll in or successfully complete AP classes by the end of their senior year (see page 5 of the Madison Prep Business Plan). Nearly half of African American and Latino males don’t make it to senior year. Additionally, MMSD states that its students “opt to participate,” meaning, they have a choice of whether or not to take such classes. At Madison Prep, all students will be required to take rigorous, college preparatory courses and all Madison Prep seniors will complete all IB examinations by the end of their senior years, which are very rigorous assessments.
E. Response to questions from P7 of Admin Analysis (STUDENT PERFORMANCE MEASURES) [Page 29 of BP]
[Response] The Urban League acknowledges that WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. In the Madison Prep business plan, WKCE is not mentioned; instead, ULGM mentions “Wisconsin’s state assessment system.” It is ULGM’s understanding that by the time Madison Prep reaches the fifth and final year of its first charter school contract, Wisconsin will have implemented all of the new standards and assessments affiliated with the Common Core State Standards that it adopted last year. ULGM anticipates that these assessments will be more rigorous and will have an appropriate measurement for “proficiency” that is consistent with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and work. Additionally, Madison Prep will provide several supports to assist students below proficiency. These strategies are explained in Madison Prep’s business and education plans.
F. Response to Recommendation on P7 of Admin Analysis (STUDENT PERFORMANCE MEASURES) [Page 29 of BP]
[Response] Madison Prep will adjust its goals in its charter school contract to be commensurate with existing state and district accountability standards. However, to move a school whose student body will likely have a sizeable number of young people who are significantly behind academically to 100% proficiency in one academic year will require a miracle sent from heaven.

Related: Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric.

LAUSD won’t release teacher names with ‘value-added’ scores

Jason Song:

The Los Angeles Unified School District has declined to release to The Times the names of teachers and their scores indicating their effectiveness in raising student performance.
The nation’s second-largest school district calculated confidential “academic growth over time” ratings for about 12,000 math and English teachers last year. This fall, the district issued new ones to about 14,000 instructors that can also be viewed by their principals. The scores are based on an analysis of a student’s performance on several years of standardized tests and estimate a teacher’s role in raising or lowering student achievement.

Much more on value-added assessment, which, in Madison is based on the oft-criticized WKCE.

Madison School Board’s DIFI (District Identified for Improvement) Plan Discussion

The Madison School Board (the discussion begins at about 58 minutes) video archives (11.7.2011) is worth a watch.
Related: Madison School District Identified for Improvement (DIFI); Documentation for the Wisconsin DPI

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):

Perhaps the No Child Left Behind requirement waivers that Education Secretary Duncan has discussed remove the urgency to address these issues. Of course, the benchmark used to measure student progress is the oft-criticized WKCE “Wisconsin, Mississippi Have “Easy State K-12 Exams” – NY Times”.
Related: Comparing Wisconsin & Texas: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 – Badgers 1; Thrive’s “Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report”.

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.

Wisconsin Assembly should ice teacher discipline bill

Mary Bell:

If you want to tell if someone is a good driver, you watch them drive. If you want to tell if someone is a good teacher, watch them teach. When it comes to evaluating teachers, the further from the classroom you get, the weaker the measure is.
There’s no doubt about it – high-quality evaluation systems for teachers and principals help students and schools. Our union of educators has called for consistent evaluations for years – and even advanced our own proposal back in January. We have been one of many voices on the State Superintendent’s Educator Effectiveness Design Team, which is near to releasing a comprehensive evaluation framework.
The education community knows what works: professional development, consistent and thorough classroom observation and using results to help good educators become great.
It was troubling, then, when last week the state Senate voted to advance a bill to tie teacher discipline – even firing – to students’ Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) test scores.

Wisconsin School chief Evers says state will seek No Child Left Behind waivers

Scott Bauer:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said Friday that Wisconsin will seek waivers to avoid having to meet basic elements of the federal No Child Left Behind education law at the “first possible moment.”
Evers spoke during a conference call with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan shortly after President Barack Obama announced that he was allowing states to seek the waivers.
“This is absolutely outstanding news,” said Evers, who has long advocated for states to be given the ability to get out of meeting some parts of the law.
Obama is allowing states to scrap the hugely unpopular requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 if states can meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.

Kevin Helliker:

Education chiefs from more than 20 states gathered at the White House on Friday morning to hear President Barack Obama formally propose relaxing certain tenets of the No Child Left Behind act for states that agree to meet a new set of standards he called more flexible.
In characterizing the nearly 10-year-old act as too rigid, the president appeared to strike a chord with school administrators across the country. How much enthusiasm his solution will generate remains to be seen. It calls for evaluating teachers in a way that wouldn’t be legal in California, for example, a state that very much supports amending the No Child Left Behind Act.
“It’s problematic,” Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education, said of a condition that would require states to set specific policy on teacher evaluation, something that in California currently can be done only at the local level. To comply, he said, “we would need legislation passed.”

Much more on No Child Left Behind, here
I spoke with a local mother recently who mentioned that her child was doing great, based on the WKCE math report.

Value Added Report for the Madison School District

Full Report 1.1MB PDF

Value added is the use of statistical technique to isolate the contributions of schools to measured student knowledge from other influences such as prior student knowledge and demographics. In practice, value added focuses on the improvement of students from one year to the next on an annual state examination or other periodic assessment. The Value-Added Research Center (VARC) of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research produces value-added measures for schools in Madison using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) as an outcome. The model controls for prior-year WKCE scores, gender, ethnicity, disability, English language learner, low-income status, parent education, and full academic year enrollment to capture the effects of schools on student performance on the WKCE. This model yields measures of student growth in schools in Madison relative to each other. VARC also produces value-added measures using the entire state of Wisconsin as a data set, which yields measures of student growth in Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) relative to the rest of the state.
Some of the most notable results are:
1. Value added for the entire district of Madison relative to the rest of the state is generally positive, but it differs by subject and grade. In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, and in both math and reading, the value added of Madison Metropolitan School District was positive in more grades than it was negative, and the average value added across grades was positive in both subjects in both years. There are variations across grades and subjects, however. In grade 4, value-added is significantly positive in both years in reading and significantly negative in both years in math. In contrast, value-added in math is significantly positive–to a very substantial extent–in grade 7. Some of these variations may be the result of the extent to which instruction in those grades facilitate student learning on tested material relative to non-tested material. Overall, between November 2009 and November 2010, value-added for MMSD as a whole relative to the state was very slightly above average in math and substantially above average in reading. The section “Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model” present these results in detail.
2. The variance of value added across schools is generally smaller in Madison than in the state of Wisconsin as a whole, specifically in math. In other words, at least in terms of what is measured by value added, the extent to which schools differ from each other in Madison is smaller than the extent to which schools differ from each other elsewhere in Wisconsin. This appears to be more strongly the case in the middle school grades than in the elementary grades. Some of this result may be an artifact of schools in Madison being relatively large; when schools are large, they encompass more classrooms per grade, leading to more across-classroom variance being within-school rather than across-school. More of this result may be that while the variance across schools in Madison is entirely within one district, the variance across schools for the rest of the state is across many districts, and so differences in district policies will likely generate more variance across the entire state. The section “Results from the Wisconsin Value-Added Model” present results on the variance of value added from the statewide value-added model. This result is also evident in the charts in the “School Value-Added Charts from the MMSD Value-Added Model” section: one can see that the majority of schools’ confidence intervals cross (1) the district average, which means that we cannot reject the hypothesis that these schools’ values added are not different from the district average.
Even with a relatively small variance across schools in the district in general, several individual schools have values added that are statistically significantly greater or less than the district average. At the elementary level, both Lake View and Randall have values added in both reading and math that are significantly greater than the district average. In math, Marquette, Nuestro Mundo, Shorewood Hills, and Van Hise also have values added that are significantly greater than the district average. Values added are lower than the district average in math at Crestwood, Hawthorne, Kennedy, and Stephens, and in reading at Allis. At the middle school level, value added in reading is greater than the district average at Toki and lower than the district average at Black Hawk and Sennett. Value added in math is lower than the district average at Toki and Whitehorse.
3. Gaps in student improvement persist across subgroups of students. The value-added model measures gaps in student growth over time by race, gender, English language learner, and several other subgroups. The gaps are overall gaps, not gaps relative to the rest of the state. These gaps are especially informative because they are partial coefficients. These measure the black/white, ELL/non-ELL, or high-school/college-graduate-parent gaps, controlling for all variables available, including both demographic variables and schools attended. If one wanted to measure the combined effect of being both ELL and Hispanic relative to non-ELL and white, one would add the ELL/non-ELL gap to the Hispanic/white gap to find the combined effect. The gaps are within-school gaps, based on comparison of students in different subgroups who are in the same schools; consequently, these gaps do not include any effects of students of different subgroups sorting into different schools, and reflect within-school differences only. There does not appear to be an evident trend over time in gaps by race, low-income status, and parent education measured by the value-added model. The section “Coefficients from the MMSD Value-Added Model” present these results.
4. The gap in student improvement by English language learner, race, or low-income status usually does not differ substantively across schools; that between students with disabilities and students without disabilities sometimes does differ across schools. This can be seen in the subgroup value-added results across schools, which appear in the Appendix. There are some schools where value-added for students with disabilities differs substantively from overall value- added. Some of these differences may be due to differences in the composition of students with disabilities across schools, although the model already controls for overall differences between students with learning disabilities, students with speech disabilities, and students with all other disabilities. In contrast, value-added for black, Hispanic, ELL, or economically disadvantaged students is usually very close to overall value added.
Value added for students with disabilities is greater than the school’s overall value added in math at Falk and Whitehorse and in reading at Marquette; it is lower than the school’s overall value added in math at O’Keefe and Sennett and in reading at Allis, Schenk, and Thoreau. Value added in math for Hispanic students is lower than the school’s overall value added at Lincoln, and greater than the school’s overall value added at Nuestro Mundo. Value added in math is also higher for ELL and low-income students than it is for the school overall at Nuestro Mundo.

Much more on “value added assessment”, here.

Madison School District High School REaL Grant Updates

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Year four of the five-year REaL Grant has several key areas of focus to support our three grant goals:
Increase student achievement for all students
Strengthen student-student and student-staff relationships
Increase post-secondary outcomes for all students
Following the completion of the K-12 Literacy Evaluation during the 2010-2011 school year there is a renewed commitment and expectations to develop core practices in literacy across the content areas. Professional development around literacy has been scheduled for the 2011-2012 school year and includes: instructional resource teachers, reading interventionists, learning coordinators, literacy coaches. Data from WKCE and EXPLORE indicate the need to improve core practices in literacy.
The division of Curriculum and Assessment has structured the entire 2011-2012 school year with high school department chairperson meetings across the district. The central purpose of this important dialogue is to build consensus around a curriculum scope and sequence that is aligned to both the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the Common Core State Standards. Much progress has been made with the adoption of common course names and numbers throughout our high schools.
AVID/TOPS has increased in capacity throughout the high schools and preliminary data indicates continued significant differences in the success of our AVID/TOPS students and their comparison group counterparts. Several teachers and departments outside of our AVID/TOPS classrooms have adopted the AVID/TOPS strategies and we look forward to supporting this demand helping our schools develop consistent systems of support and shared high expectations for all students.
Several professional development opportunities over the summer were supported by the REaL grant. Examples include: Critical Friends, Adaptive Schools, AVID Institute, and Align by Design. Additionally, school leadership teams under the direction of principals, REaL grant coordinators and literacy coaches met to create the Welcome Back Conference sessions for their respective schools.
Principals and teacher leaders continue to increase their capacities as instructional leaders. This year we also have in place a coordinated plan to help assistant principals progress their roles as instructional leaders. This has been an area clearly lacking in the first three years of the grant. Principals and all assistant principals will receive the same professional development each month.
The four high schools received a significant grant from the DPI to support safe schools. These added resources and action plans will compliment the REaL grant goals of improved relationships. High schools continue to address critical student behavior issues with a greater systematic approach. Two areas identified district wide based on the success in one school are: Youth Court and Restorative Justice classes.

A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges

UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg and I had an informative conversation with two elected officials at the Capitol recently.
I am thankful for Mark’s time and the fact that both Luther Olsen and Steve Kestell along with staff members took the time to meet. I also met recently with Brett Hulsey and hope to meet with more elected officials, from both parties.
The topic du jour was education, specifically the Governor’s Read to Lead task force.
Mark kindly shared this handout:

My name is Mark Seidenberg, Hilldale Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, seidenberg@wisc.edu, http://lcnl.wisc.edu. I have studied how reading works, how children learn to read, reading disabilities, and the brain bases of reading for over 30 years. I am a co-author of a forthcoming report from the National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) on low literacy among older adolescents and adults. I’m writing a general audience book about reading research and educational practices.
We have a literacy problem: about 30% of the US (and WI) population reads at a “basic” or “below basic” level. Literacy levels are particularly low among poor and minority individuals. The identification of this problem does not rest on any single test (e.g., NAEP, WKCE, OECD). Our literacy problem arises from many causes, some of which are not easy to address by legislative fiat. However, far more could be done in several important areas.
1. How teachers are taught. In Wisconsin as in much of the US, prospective teachers are not exposed to modern research on how children develop, learn, and think. Instead, they are immersed in the views of educational theorists such as Lev Vygotsky (d. 1934) and John Dewey (d. 1952). Talented, highly motivated prospective teachers are socialized into beliefs about children that are not informed by the past 50 years of basic research in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience.
A vast amount is known about reading in particular, ranging from what your eyes do while reading to how people comprehend documents to what causes reading disabilities. However, there is a gulf between Education and Science, and so this research is largely ignored in teacher training and curriculum development.
2. How children are taught. There continue to be fruitless battles over how beginning readers should be taught, and how to insure that comprehension skills continue to develop through middle and high school. Teachers rely on outdated beliefs about how children learn, and how reading works. As a result, for many children, learning to read is harder than it should be. We lose many children because of how they are taught. This problem does NOT arise from “bad teachers”; there is a general, systematic problem related to teacher education and training in the US.
3. Identification of children at risk for reading failures. Some children are at risk for reading and school failure because of developmental conditions that interfere with learning to read. Such children can be identified at young ages (preschool, kindergarten) using relatively simple behavioral measures. They can also be helped by effective early interventions that target basic components of reading such as vocabulary and letter-sound knowledge. The 30% of the US population that cannot read adequately includes a large number of individuals whose reading/learning impairments were undiagnosed and untreated.
Recommendations: Improve teacher education. Mechanism: change the certification requirements for new teachers, as has been done in several other states. Certification exams must reflect the kinds of knowledge that teachers need, including relevant research findings from cognitive science and neuroscience. Instruction in these areas would then need to be provided by schools of education or via other channels. In-service training courses could be provided for current teachers (e.g., as on-line courses).
Children who are at risk for reading and schooling failures must be identified and supported at young ages. Although it is difficult to definitively confirm a reading/learning disability in children at young ages (e.g., 4-6) using behavioral, neuroimaging, or genetic measures, it is possible to identify children at risk, most of whom will develop reading difficulties unless intervention occurs, via screening that involves simple tests of pre-reading skills and spoken language plus other indicators. Few children just “grow out of” reading impairments; active intervention is required.

I am cautiously optimistic that we may see an improvement in Wisconsin’s K-12 curricular standards.
Related: Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th Read to Lead task force meeting and www.wisconsin2.org.

Test scores same at Milwaukee public, voucher schools, auditors say; Vouchers Spend 50% Less Per Student

Dinesh Ramde:

State auditors on Wednesday confirmed a report that found little difference in test scores between students in Milwaukee’s school voucher program and those in the city’s public schools.
Wisconsin lawmakers had asked the state Legislative Audit Bureau to evaluate a study, conducted by privately funded education researchers, that analyzed test scores from both groups of students. The study had found no significant difference, a conclusion that state auditors also reached.
The researchers studied the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a voucher program that allows low-income children in Milwaukee to attend private schools at taxpayers’ expense. The two-year budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker in June repealed the enrollment limit for voucher schools in Milwaukee and expanded vouchers to schools in suburban Milwaukee and Racine.

View the 950K PDF report, here.
Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student.

Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009

US Department of Education, via a kind Chan Stroman email:

State-level National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are an important resource for policymakers and other stakeholders responsible for making sense of and acting on state assessment results. Since 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has supported research that focuses on comparing NAEP and state proficiency standards. By showing where states’ standards lie on the NAEP scale, the mapping analyses offer several important contributions. First, they allow each state to compare the stringency of its criteria for proficiency with that of other states.
Second, mapping analyses inform a state whether the rigor of its standards, as represented by the NAEP scale equivalent of the state’s standard, changed over time. (A state’s NAEP scale equivalent is the score on the NAEP scale at which the percentage of students in a state’s NAEP sample who score at or above that value matches the percentage of students in the state who score proficient or higher on the state assessment.) Significant differences in NAEP scale equivalents might reflect changes in state assessments and standards or changes in policies or practices that occurred between the years. Finally, when key aspects of a state’s assessment or standards remain the same, these mapping analyses allow NAEP to substantiate state-reported changes in student achievement.
The following are the research questions and the key findings regarding state proficiency standards, as they are measured on the NAEP scale.

Wisconsin’s oft criticized WKCE vis a vis NAEP:
WKCE “proficient” = 2009 NAEP Below Basic for grade 4 reading (along with 34 other states) and grade 8 reading (along with 15 other states)
= 2009 NAEP Basic for grade 4 math (along with 41 other states) and grade 8 (along with 35 other states)
WKCE results showed more positive changes than NAEP results for grade 4
reading from 2007 to 2009, grade 4 math from 2007 to 2009, and grade 4 math from 2005 to 2009
NAEP results showed more positive changes than WKCE results in grade 8
reading from 2005 to 2009.
How does Wisconsin compare? Learn more, here.

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.

7.28.2011 Wisconsin School Accountability Conference, with Video

Matthew DeFour:

An effort to develop a statewide school accountability system marks a turning point in Wisconsin, education experts said last week as a public effort to design the system got under way.
When the modern school accountability movement began in the 1990s, several states such as Massachusetts, Kentucky and Florida developed their own systems for measuring how well schools helped students learn. Wisconsin created a statewide test in 1993, but deferred to local districts on what it meant for schools.
“Some states have embraced (school accountability) more than others,” said UW-Madison education professor Doug Harris. “Wisconsin hasn’t.”
Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers, who otherwise have clashed on education issues, have agreed to change that. A task force they formed began collecting information at a symposium last week organized by Walker, Evers and the La Follette School of Public Affairs and will soon meet to begin designing the system.

Susan Troller:

When it comes to developing a system for accountability for Wisconsin’s schools, including ways to measure whether students are meeting the ultimate goal of being ready for a career or college, Betebenner says, “My advice to you is to go slow … and be deliberate.”
John Johnson, director of education information for DPI, was encouraged by the standing-room-only crowd and the attendance by a number of policymakers, including key legislators, at Thursday’s meeting.
“Maybe by wading into school reform rather than diving into the deep end of the pool with Race to the Top, we’ll actually be able to swim, instead of drowning,” he says.

Watch the “Building a New School Accountability System for Wisconsin” conference, here.
Wisconsin’s academic standards have long been criticized for their lack of rigor.

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 Considering New Ways of Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

Alan Borsuk:

What does just about every fifth-grader know that stumps experts?
Who the best teachers are in that kid’s school. Who’s hard, who’s easy, who makes you work, who lets you get away with stuff, who gets you interested in things, who’s not really on top of what’s going on. In other words: how good each teacher is.
A lot of the time, the fifth-grader’s opinions are on target.
But would you want to base a teacher’s pay or career on that?
Sorry, the experts are right. It’s tough to get a fair, thorough and insightful handle on how to judge a teacher.
“If there was a magic answer for this, somebody would have thought of it a long time ago,” Bradley Carl of Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:  told a gathering of about 100 educators and policy-makers last week.

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been working on “Value Added Assessment” using the oft-criticized WKCE

Time for year-round school in Madison

Chris Rickert:

But after learning of the Madison School District’s failure to adequately boost test scores under No Child Left Behind, I had to wonder: Heat or no heat, what cause for picnicking is there in the advent of a nearly three-month long break from formal learning for brains that, in their youth, are veritable sponges for knowledge?
I’m less worried about my children, who have a standard pair of educated, middle-class parents. They probably won’t make major academic strides over the summer, but they won’t lose much ground or — worse — fill their free time picking up bad habits.
But here’s the thing about the Madison district: Increasingly, its students aren’t like my kids.
They are like the kids who live in the traditionally lower-income, higher-crime Worthington Park neighborhood. These and the kids from the tonier Schenk-Atwood neighborhood where we live share a school, but they don’t necessarily share the same social, educational and financial advantages.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here and “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”. It certainly is long past time for a new academic benchmark… Wisconsin students should participate in global examinations, such as TIMSS, among others.

Voucher schools to expand amid questions about their performance

Susan Troller:

If Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is passed with recommendations approved Thursday by the Joint Committee on Finance, there will be more students in more voucher schools in more Wisconsin communities.
But critics of school voucher programs are hoping legislators will look long and hard at actual student achievement benefits before they vote to use tax dollars to send students to private schools. They also suggest that studies that have touted benefits of voucher programs should be viewed with a careful eye, and that claims that graduation rates for voucher schools exceed 90 percent are not just overly optimistic, but misleading.
“The policy decisions we are making today should not be guided by false statistics being propagated by people with a financial interest in the continuation and expansion of vouchers nationwide,” wrote state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, in a news release Friday.
Pope-Roberts is particularly critical of statistics that school choice lobbyists and pro-voucher legislators are using that claim that 94 percent of school voucher students graduated from high school in four years.
It’s good news, she says, but it tells a very selective story about a relatively small subset of students who were studied. That graduation rate reflects only the graduation rate for students who actually remained in the voucher program for all four years: Just 318 of the 801 students who began the program stayed with it.

Related:

Per student spending differences between voucher and traditional public schools is material, particularly during tight economic times.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform; Advocating Benchmarking

Marc Tucker:

This paper is the answer to a question: What would the education policies and practices of the United States be if they were based on the policies and practices of the countries that now lead the world in student performance? It is adapted from the last two chapters of a book to be published in September 2011 by Harvard Education Press. Other chapters in that book describe the specific strategies pursued by Canada (focusing on Ontario), China (focusing on Shanghai), Finland, Japan and Singapore, all of which are far ahead of the United States. The research on these countries was performed by a team assembled by the National Center on Education and the Economy, at the request of the OECD.
A century ago, the United States was among the most eager benchmarkers in the world. We took the best ideas in steelmaking, industrial chemicals and many other fields from England and Germany and others and put them to work here on a scale that Europe could not match. At the same time, we were borrowing the best ideas in education, mainly from the Germans and the Scots. It was the period of the most rapid growth our economy had ever seen and it was the time in which we designed the education system that we still have today. It is fair to say that, in many important ways, we owe the current shape of our education system to industrial benchmarking.
But, after World War II, the United States appeared to reign supreme in both the industrial and education arenas and we evidently came to the conclusion that we had little to learn from anyone. As the years went by, one by one, country after country caught up to and then surpassed us in several industries and more or less across the board in precollege education. And still we slept.

Well worth reading. I thought about this topic – benchmarking student progress via the oft-criticized WKCE during this past week’s Madison School District Strategic Planning Update. I’ll have more on that next week.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Wisconsin Voucher program needs accountability

Tony Evers and Howard Fuller:

The children of Milwaukee deserve a quality education regardless of whether they attend Milwaukee Public Schools, a charter school or a private school through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
A key element to support quality is transparency. Clear, easy to understand and readily available information, including test score results, helps parents and the public evaluate their schools. Traditional public and charter schools throughout the state have been using publicly reported test score results and other data to drive school improvement for years. This transparency was extended to the voucher program through laws enacted in the 2009-’11 budget.
This fall, for the first time, students attending private schools through the state’s voucher program had their academic progress assessed with the same statewide tests as their public school peers. Results reported this spring showed that some public, charter and private schools in Milwaukee are doing very well, but too many are not providing the education our children need and deserve.
We believe that students in the voucher program, receiving taxpayer support to attend private Milwaukee schools, must continue to take the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination. Standardized tests, including the WKCE, do not paint an entire picture of a student, and many private schools participating in the voucher program take other quality tests. We need to put all the schools in MPS, charter and choice programs on a common report card.

Madison school officials want new standardized tests

Matthew DeFour:

Madison students are slated to get a double dose of standardized tests in the coming years as the state redesigns its annual series of exams while school districts seek better ways to measure learning.
For years, district students in grades three through eight and grade 10 have taken the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), a series of state-mandated tests that measure school accountability.
Last month, in addition to the state tests, eighth- and ninth-graders took one of three different tests the district plans to introduce in grades three through 10. Compared with the WKCE, the tests are supposed to more accurately assess whether students are learning at, above or below grade level. Teachers also will get the results more quickly.
“Right now we have a vacuum of appropriate assessment tools,” said Tim Peterson, Madison’s assistant director of curriculum and assessment. “The standards have changed, but the measurement tool that we’re required by law to use — the WKCE — is not connected.”

Related Links:

I’m glad that the District is planning alternatives to the WKCE.

Updated: Does Kiplinger’s claim of “weak” Madison schools compared to “suburban” schools hold up?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Much more on Kiplingers, College Station Schools and a Wisconsin State Journal Editorial, here. Background on the oft criticized WKCE.

If Wisconsin is so careless with some schools’ reputations . . .

Patrick McIlheran

The state, if you recall, released a snapshot of student performance in Milwaukee’s school choice program last week. Tony Evers, head of the Department of Public Instruction, used the numbers to make a political statement against school choice, which he opposes.

But the figures had issues, and now still more are emerging. One of the surprises in the figures were how poorly one particular choice school, Tamarack Waldorf, did.

It’s surprising because Tamarack is by reputation a good school, unusually deliberate in its curriculum and rigorous in the peculiar way of schools in the Waldorf movement – where, for instance, children do not just have a chapter on photosynthesis but, instead, spend a couple of weeks learning the chemistry behind it and studying the geometry of branches and doing a project on forest ecology and reading literature about trees and taking a field trip to the park, the better to appreciate art involving trees and to make some of their own. Rather than taking tests, the children produce books to demonstrate their learning.

The kind of people who send their kids to such a school are generally engaged and intellectual parents – and, generally, not favorably disposed to standardized testing.

So an unusual number of Tamarack parents opted their children out of the state’s tests, as is the right of any parent in the state. You can see the figures here: In math and reading, about 55% of choice students at Tamarack didn’t take the state tests.

The state’s figures say that 42% of Tamarack students did well – scored “proficient” or “advanced” in reading, and 24% did in math. Those aren’t good scores. But they aren’t real, either.

As Tamarack administrator Jean Kacanek wrote to parents, “The data published is not complete because the Department of Public Instruction averaged scores of ‘0’ for each MPCP student in grades 4-8 at Tamarack who did not take the test. As one might expect for a Waldorf school, with a philosophy averse to standardized testing, many parents chose to opt out of the test.”

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

UW Ed School Dean and WPRI President on the Recent School Choice Results

Julie Underwood:

The release of the results of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the standardized test that every state public school is required to give, is a rite of spring for Wisconsin schools.
Distributed every year, the WKCEs provide educators, parents and community members with information about how well schools and districts are performing, broken down by subject and grade level.
The WKCEs are used alongside other measures to determine where schools are falling short and what is working well. For parents with many different types of educational options from which to choose, the WKCEs allow them to make informed choices about their child’s school. For taxpayers, the tests provide a level of transparency and demonstrate a return on investment.
But while state law requires all public schools to give the WKCEs, not all publicly funded schools are required do to so. Since its inception 20 years ago, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has been virtually without any kind of meaningful accountability measures in place. Choice schools have not been required to have students take the WKCEs. That is, until this school year.

George Lightbourn:

We have all done it at one time or another — opened our mouth before engaging our brain.
State Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, just had one of those moments. In reacting to the news that, on average, students attending schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice program performed about the same or slightly below students in Milwaukee Public Schools, she said taxpayers are being “bamboozled” and the program is “a disservice to Milwaukee students.”
Whoa! Had she taken a moment to think before she spoke, here are a few things that should have occurred to her:
• Those private schools are performing about as well at educating Milwaukee children as the public schools — at half the cost. Public funding for each child in the choice program costs taxpayers $6,442 while each child in Milwaukee Public Schools receives taxpayer support of over $15,000. If all of the 21,000 choice students moved back into Milwaukee Public Schools, that would require a $74 million increase in local property taxes across the state, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Much more, here.

Racine Unified taking next steps on path to North Star vision

Racine Superintendent Dr. James Shaw:

The Racine Unified School District is at a crossroads. We are doing the right things and we are making progress. On April 5, the school referendum will ask for your support in furthering that progress.
Racine Unified has a powerful vision of learning for all students, the North Star. It says that ALL students will graduate career- and/or college-ready. We have a data system that tracks learning, teaching, engagement and resources to monitor our progress and increase accountability. We have early successes in sixth-grade math, in writing at every measured grade level, the growth of student cohorts on the WKCE and dramatic improvements in such excellent schools as Gifford, Red Apple and Schulte Elementary Schools.
We have reorganized school schedules to increase instructional time and collaborative planning time for teachers. We have raised the bar for all students by reducing basic classes and expanding IB curriculum and AP courses across the district. We have increased tutoring, summer school and Lighted Schoolhouse programs. We are including special education children in regular education classrooms. We are negotiating a Master Teacher and Master Principal program as the first step toward pay for performance. We have school-based payday and data teams that have developed aggressive improvement plans for each school. We have reorganized the Administrative Service Center to support as well as supervise school improvement efforts.

Tests Reveal Madison Schools Wrestle With Achievement Gaps Tests Examined Reading, Math Proficiency

Channel3000:

Madison Metropolitan School District officials are beginning to digest new statewide test score results.
The results for Madison are mixed, but district leaders said that they believe they have a lot of work to do to improve.
The tests reveal that Madison is home to some very bright students, but Superintendent Dan Nerad said that schools aren’t doing enough for students who are struggling. He said the test results are proof.
The results showed that, in general, reading levels among students increased across the board while math performance improved only slightly.
District officials said that they also continue to be a “bi-modal” district — meaning there are students who are scoring at the highest level while it also has ones who are scoring at the lowest levels in nearly every grade in math and reading.

Related:

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor. Wisconsin DPI WKCE data.

Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Racial achievement gap narrows state-wide, but remains a problem in Madison

Matthew DeFour:

Statewide the gap between the percentage of white and black students scoring proficient or advanced closed 6.8 percentage points in math and 3.9 points in reading between 2005-06 and this year. Comparing white students to Hispanics, the gap closed 5.7 points in math and 3.7 points in reading.
In Madison the gap between white and black students closed 0.4 percentage points in math and 0.6 points in reading. Among Hispanics, the gap increased half a point in math and decreased 1 point in reading.
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad was unavailable to comment Monday on the results.

The Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination (WKCE) has long been criticized for its lack of rigor.
Related: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Beating the odds: 3 high-poverty Madison schools find success in ‘catching kids up’

Susan Troller:

When it comes to the quality of Madison’s public schools, the issue is pretty much black and white.
The Madison Metropolitan School District’s reputation for providing stellar public education is as strong as it ever was for white, middle-class students. Especially for these students, the district continues to post high test scores and turn out a long list of National Merit Scholars — usually at a rate of at least six times the average for a district this size.
But the story is often different for Hispanic and black kids, and students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Madison is far from alone in having a significant performance gap. In fact, the well-documented achievement gap is in large measure responsible for the ferocious national outcry for more effective teachers and an overhaul of the public school system. Locally, frustration over the achievement gap has helped fuel a proposal from the Urban League of Greater Madison and its president and CEO, Kaleem Caire, to create a non-union public charter school targeted at minority boys in grades six through 12.
“In Madison, I can point to a long history of failure when it comes to educating African-American boys,” says Caire, who is black, a Madison native and a graduate of West High School. “We have one of the worst achievement gaps in the entire country. I’m not seeing a concrete plan to address that fact, even in a district that prides itself on innovative education.”
What often gets lost in the discussion over the failures of public education, however, is that there are some high-poverty, highly diverse schools that are beating the odds by employing innovative ways to reach students who have fallen through the cracks elsewhere.

Related: A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results.
Troller’s article referenced use of the oft criticized WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination) (WKCE Clusty search) state examinations.
Related: value added assessment (based on the WKCE).
Dave Baskerville has argued that Wisconsin needs two big goals, one of which is to “Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030”. Ongoing use of and progress measurement via the WKCE would seem to be insufficient in our global economy.
Steve Chapman on “curbing excellence”.

Wisconsin Teachers’ Union Proposed Education Reforms

Wisconsin Education Association Council:

State officers of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) today unveiled three dramatic proposals as part of their quality-improvement platform called “Moving Education Forward: Bold Reforms.” The proposals include the creation of a statewide system to evaluate educators; instituting performance pay to recognize teaching excellence; and breaking up the Milwaukee Public School District into a series of manageable-sized districts within the city.
“In our work with WEAC leaders and members we have debated and discussed many ideas related to modernizing pay systems, better evaluation models, and ways to help turn around struggling schools in Milwaukee,” said WEAC President Mary Bell. “We believe bold actions are needed in these three areas to move education forward. The time for change is now. This is a pivotal time in public education and we’re in an era of tight resources. We must have systems in place to ensure high standards for accountability – that means those working in the system must be held accountable to high standards of excellence.”
TEACHER EVALUATION: In WEAC’s proposed teacher evaluation system, new teachers would be reviewed annually for their first three years by a Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) panel made up of both teachers and administrators. The PAR panels judge performance in four areas:

  • Planning and preparing for student learning
  • Creating a quality learning environment
  • Effective teaching
  • Professional responsibility

The proposed system would utilize the expertise of the UW Value-Added Research Center (Value Added Assessment) and would include the review of various student data to inform evaluation decisions and to develop corrective strategies for struggling teachers. Teachers who do not demonstrate effectiveness to the PAR panels are exited out of the profession and offered career transition programs and services through locally negotiated agreements.
Veteran teachers would be evaluated every three years, using a combination of video and written analysis and administrator observation. Underperforming veteran teachers would be required to go through this process a second year. If they were still deemed unsatisfactory, they would be re-entered into the PAR program and could ultimately face removal.
“The union is accepting our responsibility for improving the quality of the profession, not just for protecting the due process rights of our members,” said Bell. “Our goal is to have the highest-quality teachers at the front of every classroom across the state. And we see a role for classroom teachers to contribute as peer reviewers, much like a process often used in many private sector performance evaluation models.”
“If you want to drive change in Milwaukee’s public schools, connect the educators and the community together into smaller districts within the city, and without a doubt it can happen,” said Bell. “We must put the needs of Milwaukee’s students and families ahead of what’s best for the adults in the system,” said Bell. “That includes our union – we must act differently – we must lead.”

Madison’s “value added assessment” program is based on the oft-criticized WKCE examinations.
Related: student learning has become focused instead on adult employment – Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

Q & A: Charter School Proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men

570K PDF:

APPENDIX MMM-7-21 January 31, 2011
Urban League of Greater Madison
SUMMARY
On December 6, 2010, the Urban League of Greater Madison presented an initial proposal for the establishment of Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (a non-instrumentality all-boys secondary charter school) to the Planning and Development Committee of the MMSD Board of Education. During the discussion that followed, Board members agreed to submit follow-up questions to the Urban Leagne, to which the Urban Leagne would respond before the next meeting of the Planning and Development Committee. Questions were submitted by Ed Hughes and Lucy Mathiak. Furthermore, Arlene Silveira submitted questions presented to her by several connnunity members. Below each numbered Board member question, you will find the ULGM response.
1. Ed Hughes: Do you have a response to the suggestion that your proposal may violate Wis. Stat. sec. 118.40(4)(c) other than that you also intend sometime in the future to develop and operate a school for girls? If so, what is the response?
ULGM: Please refer to our letter to MMSD Board of Education members that responded to the ACLU’s opposition to Madison Prep. The answer to your question is contained in that letter. We have attached the letter to this document for your review.
2. Ed Hughes: To the extent the information is available to you, please list the 37 or so non instrumentality charter schools currently operating in Wisconsin.
ULGM: The following list of non-instrumentality charter schools currently operating in Wisconsin was compiled from the 20 I 0-20 II Charter Schools Yearbook published by the Department of Public Instruction. You can find the complete Yearbook online at: http://dpi.wi.gov/sms/pdf/2010.llyearbook.pdf
1. Barron, North Star Academy
2. Cambridge, JEDI Virtual High School
3. City of Milwaukee, Central City Cyberschool
4. City of Milwaukee, Darrell Lynn Hines (DLH) Academy
5. City of Milwaukee, Downtown Montessori Academy
6. City of Milwaukee, King’s Academy
7. City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Academy of Science
8. Grantsburg, Insight School of Wisconsin
9. Hayward, Hayward Center for Individualized Learning
10. Hayward, Waadookodaading Charter School
11. McFarland, Wisconsin Virtual Academy
12. Milwaukee, Carmen High School of Science and Technology
13. Milwaukee, Highland Community School
14. Milwaukee, Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA)
15. Milwaukee, International Peace Academy
16. Milwaukee, La Causa Charter School
17. Milwaukee, Milwaukee Community Cyber (MC2) High School
18. Milwaukee, Next Door Charter School
19. Milwaukee, Wings Academy
20. Milwaukee, Wisconsin Career Academy
21. Nekoosa, Niikuusra Community School
22. New Lisbon, Juneau County Charter School
23. New Richmond, NR4Kids Charter School
24. Sheboygan, Lake Country Academy
25. UW-Milwaukee, Bruce Guadalupe Community School
26. UW-Milwaukee, Business & Economics Academy of Milwaukee (BEAM)
27. UW-Milwaukee, Capitol West Academy
28. UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee College Preparatory School
29. UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Renaissance Academy
30. UW-Milwaukee, School for Early Development & Achievement (SEDA)
31. UW-Milwaukee, Seeds of Health Elementary School
32. UW-Milwaukee, Tenor High School
33. UW-Milwaukee, Urban Day Charter School, Inc
34. UW-Milwaukee, Veritas High School
35. UW-Milwaukee, Woodlands School
36. UW -Milwaukee, YMCA Young Leaders Academy
37. UW-Parkside, 21st Century Preparatory School
38. Weyauwega-Fremont, Waupaca County Charter School
3. Ed Hughes: Do you have copies of any of the contracts Wisconsin non-instrumentality charter schools have entered into with their school districts? If so, please list the contracts and provide a copy of at least one of them.
ULGM: See attached contracts for Lake Country Academy in Sheboygan and the Wisconsin Virtual Academy in McFarland, which are both non-instrumentality charter schools.
4. Ed Hughes: To the extent the information is available to you, please list the amount ofper.student payment each non-instrumentality charter school in Wisconsin is contractually entitled to receive from its sponsoring school district.
ULGM: We have requested information from the DPI on the current per-student payments to each non-instrumentality charter school in Wisconsin, but we understand that DPI does not now have the information consolidated in one database. We expect that the per-student payment information will be available from DPI by January 17, and we will submit that information to the board and administration as soon as it becomes available from the DPI. The per-pupil payment to each district.authorized charter school in Wisconsin, including instrumentality and non-instrumentality charter schools, is determined through negotiations and mutual agreement between the school district, as the charter school authorizer, and the charter school developer/operator.
5. Ed Hughes: Please identify the minimum per-student payment from the school district that would be required for Madison Prep to be financially feasible from your perspective. If you don’t have a specific figure, provide your best estimate of the range in which that figure is likely to fall.
ULGM: The MMSD Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent-Business in agreement with us that more time is needed to present a projected minimum payment from the school district. DPI’s School Finance Data Warehouse indicates that MMSD reported $14,432 in revenue per student and spent $13,881 per student iu 2008-09. We are certain that we will not request more per student than what MMSD spends annually.
6. Lucy Mathiak: Do you know what Madison Prep will cost the district? And do you know where the money will come from?
ULGM: We have an idea ofwhat our school will cost but as stated in the answer to question number 5, we are working through several costs and line items with MMSD’s Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent-Business. In Wisconsin, public charter schools are funded primarily by school districts or the state legislature (non-school district authorized schools). Generally, private funding is limited to 5% of costs during the budgeting process. However we will raise significantly more in private funding during the pre-implementation and implementation years of the school than we will in out years.
7. Lucy Mathiak: How the financial commitment asked of the district compares to the financial commitment to its existing schools?
ULGM: Assuming you mean existing traditional public schools, we will require more information from MMSD’s administration to make this comparison. Given that Madison Prep will be a new school and a non-instrumentality, there will be costs that Madison Prep has that the school system does not, and vice versa. However, we are firmly committed to ensuring our school is operated within the annual per pupil cost MMSD now spends to educate students in middle and high schools.
8. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: First of all, has the funding that is indicated as part of the proposal actually been acquired or promised? The proposal indicates $100,000/ year from the Madison Community Foundation, but I can’t find any information from MCF itself about funding Madison Prep. All I can see is that they donated to the Urban League’s capital and Workforce campaigns. Will you check into this? Also, the proposal indicates $250,000/ year for 3 years from Partners for Developing Futures. Last year, despite having received 25 applications for funding from “education entrepreneurs,” this organization did not fund any of them due to the quality of the applications. How is the Madison Prep planning team able to claim this as a source of funding? Have promises been made?
ULGM: The Madison Community Foundation and Partners for Developing Futures were listed as potential revenue sources; these dollars were not committed. Our business plan followed the same approach as most business plans for start-up initiatives: listing prospective revenue sources. However, we do intend to pursue funding through these and other sources. Our private fundraising goals and needs in our five-year budget plan are reasonable.
9. Lucy Mathiak: What additional resources are needed to make the Madison Prep model work?
ULGM: Our school is designed as a demonstration school to be replicable, in whole or in part, by MMSD and other school systems. Therefore, we will not request more than the district’s own annual costs per pupil at the middle and high school levels.
10. Lucy Mathiak: What resources are in hand and what resources will you need to raise?
ULGM: We presently have $50,000 to support the planning of the school, with the offer of additional support. However, we will secure additional private and public funding once the Board of Education formally approves the DPI planning grant application/detailed proposal for Madison Prep.
11. Lucy Mathiak: Ifthere is a proposed endowment, what is the amount of the endowment in hand, the estimated annual rate of return, and the estimated income available for use?
ULGM: New charter schools generally do not budget for endowment in their first few years of operation. We intend to build an endowment at some point and have line items for this in Madison Prep’s budget, but these issues will be decided by the Board ofDirectors ofthe school, for which we will not begin recruiting until the Board of Education approves our DPI plauning grant application/detailed proposal.
12. Ed Hughes: Which parts of your proposal do you require non-instrumentality status to implement?
ULGM: Non-instrumentality status will be vital to Madison Prep’s ability to offer an extended school day, extended school year, as well as the expectations we have of teachers to serve as mentors and coaches to students. The collective bargaining contract between the Board of Education and Madison Teachers, Inc. would not allow for this added instructional time. Yet this added instructional time will be necessary in order for students to meet Madison Prep’s ambitious achievement goals. In addition, our professional development program will also require more hours of training. We also intend to implement other special activities for students and faculty that would not be allowed under MMSD and MTI’s collective bargaining agreement.
13. Ed Hughes: What will be the school’s admission policy? Please describe any preferences that the admission policy will include. To what extent will students who live outside ofthe Madison school district be considered for admission?
ULGM: Madison Prep will comply with all federal and state regulations relating to charter school admissions. In its inaugural school year (20 12-20 13), Madison Prep will be open to any 61h and 7’h grade male student residing within the boundaries of MMSD.
All interested families will complete an Enrollment Form at the Urban League’s offices, online, during community meetings and outreach activities, through local partners, or during a visit to the school (after it opens). If Madison Prep receives less than 45 enrollment forms for either grade (6 and 7) in the tirst year, all students’ who applied will be admitted. If the school receives more than 45 enrollment forms for either grade level in the first year, or enrollment forms exceed the seats available in subsequent years, Madison Prep will hold a public random lottery at a location that provides enough space for applicant students and families. The lottery will be held in accordance with DPI guidelines for random lotteries. If Madison Prep does not fill all available seats, it will continue its grassroots recruitment efforts until it reaches its enrollment goal.
14. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: We know that Madison Prep won’t accept girls. Will it except boys with Autism or Aspergers? If a boy has a learning disability, will he be allowed to attend? What ifthis learning disability makes it not possible for him to perform above grade level on a standardized test? Will he be allowed in? And can they kick him out if his test scores aren’t advanced/proficient?
ULGM: Please see our answer to question #13. To be clear, Madison Prep will accept students with special learning needs, including students who speak English as a second language. As always, IEP teams will determine on a case-by-case basis if Madison Prep is an appropriate placement for special education students. No Madison Prep student will ever be expelled for academic performance.
15. Ed Hughes: An attraction ofthe proposed school is that it could provide the kind ofiutense academic and other sorts of support that could change the trajectories of its students from failure to success. How will you ensure that your school serves primarily students who require the sort of approach the school will offer in order to be successful?
ULGM: Please see our answer to question #13 and question #16 below. We will go to great lengths to inform parents about Madison Prep as an option for their child, and to recruit students and families to our school. We will over-market our efforts in low-income communities and through media, sports clubs, community centers, churches, employers, and other vehicles that reach these students and their parents. We are also exploring the legality of our ability to set an income goal or threshold for student admissions. Nonetheless, we believe that any young man, regardless of their family background, would be well served by Madison Prep.
16. Ed Hughes: To the extent yon know them, describe what the school’s stndent recruitment and marketing strategies will be.
ULGM: Madison Prep’s marketing plan will support three priorities and goals:
1. Enrollment: Recruiting, retaining, and expanding student enrollment annually -share Madison Prep with as many parents and students as possible and establish a wait-list of at least 20 students at each grade level by June I each year (with the exception of year one).
2. Staffing: Recruiting and retaining a talented, effective, and committed faculty and staff -field qualified applicants for each position in a timeframe that enables us to hire by June 30 each year.
3. Public Image and Support: Building, maintaining, and solidifying a base of support among local leaders, financial contributors, key partners, the media, and the general public.
To ensure the public is well acquainted with the school, Madison Prep, with the support of the Urban League of Greater Madison, will make use of a variety of marketing strategies to accomplish its enrollment, staffing, fundraising, and publicity goals. Each strategy will be phased in, from pre.launch of the school through the first three years of operation. These marketing strategies are less expensive and more sustainable with the budget of a new charter school than television, radio, and popular print advertisements. They also deliver a great return on investment if executed effectively. Each strategy will enable Madison Prep, with its limited staff, to promote itself to the general public and hard-to-reach communities, build relationships, sustain communications and achieve its goals.
A. Image Management: Madison Prep’s logo and images of young men projecting the Madison Prep brand will be featured on the school’.s website, in informational and print materials, and on inexpensive paraphernalia (lapel pins, emblems, ink pens, etc). Students will be required to wear uniforms that include a red or black blazer featuring the Madison Prep emblem, a sweater, a red or black tie, white shirt, black or khaki pants, and black or brown dress shoes. They will also have a gym uniform and athletic team wear that features the Madison Prep emblem. Additionally, Madison Prep will ensure that its school grounds, educational facility, and learning spaces are clean, orderly and well-maintained at all times, and that these physical spaces reflect positive images of Madison Prep students, positive adult males, community leaders, families, and supporters. Madison Prep’s Core Values will be visible through the school as well, and its students, faculty, staff, and Board of Directors will reflect an image in school and in public that is consistent with the school’s Core Values and Leadership Dimensions.
B. Grassroots Engagement: Madison Prep’s founders, Board members, volunteers, and its key staff (once hired) will go door-to-door in target neighborhoods, and other areas within MMSD boundaries where prospective candidates can be found, to build relationships with young men, families, and local community resource persons and advocates to recruit young men to attend Madison Prep. Recruiters will be dressed in the Madison Prep uniform (either a polo shirt, sweater or suit jacket/tie, each showing the Madison emblem, and dress slacks or skirt) and will visit homes in two person teams.
Madison Prep will also partner with City Council members, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and local libraries to host community meetings year-round to promote the school in target neighborhoods and military bases. It will also promote the school to citizens in high traffic residential areas of the city, including metro stops, restaurants, community centers, community health agencies, and at public events. Madison Prep will engage the religious community as well, promoting the school to church leaders and requesting to speak before their congregations or have the church publicize the school during their announcements on Sundays and ministry activities during the week. Area businesses, hospitals, government agencies, foster care agencies, and mentorship programs will be asked to make information available to their patrons, clients, and families. Madison Prep will also seek to form partnerships with the Police Department and Court System to ensure judges, attorneys, neighborhood police officers, and family advocates know about the school and can make referrals of young men they believe will benefit from joining Madison Prep’s school community.
C. Online Presence & Partnerships: Madison Prep will launch a website and update its current Facebook and Twitter pages prior ·to the school opening to expand its public presence. The Facebook page for Madison Prep presently has more than 100 members, has been operational for less than 2 months, and has not yet been widely marketed. The page is used to raise awareness, expand support, communicate progress, announce activities and events, and promote small-donor fundraising campaigns. The website will be used to recruit students, staff, and eventually serve as an entry-point to a member only section on the Internet for faculty, students, and parents. Madison Prep will also seek to establish strategic alliance partnerships with service associations (100 Black Men, Sororities and Fraternities, Civic Clubs or Organizations, etc.), enlisting their participation in the school’s annual events. In addition, Madison Prep will establish partnerships with other public and private schools in the Madison area to recruit students, particularly elementary schools.
D. Viral Marketing: Madison Prep will use email announcements and social networking sites to share its mission, activities, employment opportunities, and successes with its base of supporters and will inspire and encourage them to share the information with their friends, colleagues, parents and young men they know who might be interested in the school. Madison Prep will add to its base of supporters through its other marketing strategies, collecting names and contact information when and where appropriate.
E. Buzz Marketing: Madison Prep will use subtle forms of marketing to recruit students and faculty, increase its donor and support base, and develop a positive public image. The school will maintain an influential board of directors and advisors, will engage notable people and organizations in the school, and will publicize these assets to the general public. The school will also prepare key messages and strategically involve its students, staff, and parents in key events and activities to market its brand -high achieving, thoughtful, forward thinking, confident and empowered young men who are being groomed for leadership and success by equally talented, passionate and committed adults. The messages, images, and quality of interactions that the broader community has with members of the greater Madison community will create a positive buzz about the school, its impact, and the success of its students.
F. School Visits & Activity Participation: Each year, from the week after Thanksgiving through the end of the school year, Madison Prep will invite prospective students and parents, funders, and members of the community to visit the school. A visit program and weekly schedule will be established to ensure that the school day and learning is not interrupted by visitors. Madison Prep will also establish an open visit policy for parents, and will create opportunities for them to leverage their ongoing involvement with the school and their young men. Through nurturing positive relationships with parents, and establishing an enviromnent where they are wanted and respected, Madison Prep will create spokespersons in the community who help grow its student body and community support. Finally, Madison Prep will host an annual community event that engages its school community with the greater Madison community in a day of fun, competitive events for families, and will serve as a resource to parents whose children do not attend Madison Prep by inviting them to participate in its Destination Planning workshops.
G. Popular Media: Madison Prep will allocate resources to market itself on Urban and News Radio during the peak student recruitment season in two phases. Phase I will take place in November 2011 and Phase 2 advertising will take place between Jannary and May 2012. To defray costs, Madison Prep will enlist the support of local and national celebrities for feature interviews, spotlights, and PSAs with Madison Prep’s Leadership to promote the school.
17. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: It looks like the Charter school is aiming for 50% of its population to be low-income. The middle school my children will go to, Sherman, is 71% low income. Blackhawk is at 62%. Wright is 83%. Sennett is 65%. Cherokee is at 63%. Toki is at 51%. Can we, in good conscious, start a new school-designed to help low income students -that has a lower percentage oflow-income students than six of our existing middle schools?
ULGM: The Urban League has set the 50% low-income target as a floor, not as a ceiling. In fact, we expect that more than 50% of Madison Prep students will qualifY for free or reduced lunch.
Furthermore, we have chosen to use the 50% figure to allow us to be conservative in our budgeting process. No matter what the level of low income students at Madison Prep -50% or higher-the student achievement goals and overall program quality will remain unchanged.
18. Ed Hughes: Have you considered limiting admission to students who have scored minimal or basic on their WKCE tests?
ULGM: No. Madison Prep will be open to any male student who wishes to attend, regardless of past academic performance.
19. Ed Hughes: Some have suggested that Madison Prep could skim offthe most academically.motivated African-American students from the District’s middle and high schools, leaving fewer role models and academic peers for the African-American boys who remain in our existing schools. What is your response to that concern?
ULGM: The notion that charter schools skim off the most motivated students is a common misconception. First, this argument is not logical. Parents/caregivers ofchildren who are academically motivated and doing well in traditional public schools have little incentive to change their students’ educational environment. Those kids will likely stay put. When a parent, teacher, social worker, or school counselor recognizes that a child isn’t doing well in the traditional school and seeks an alternative, the charter school that is sought as an alternative does not in this process gain some advantage. In fact, research suggests the opposite. A 2009 study by researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin, and Mathematic Policy Research examined charter schools from across the country to test the “skimming” theory. The researchers found no evidence of skimming. In fact, they found students who go to charter schools typically have LOWER test scores than their counterparts in traditional public schools. (Read the full paper at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/schoolchoice/conference/papers/Zimmer_COMPLETE.pdf)
20. Ed Hughes: Have you extended preliminary or informal offers of employment at Madison Prep to anyone? If so, identify to whom the preliminary or informal offers were made and for which positions.
ULGM:No.
21. Ed Hughes: What will he your strategy for recruiting teachers? What qualifications will you establish for teachers? Please describe the general range of salary and benefits you expect to offer to teachers.
ULGM: Teacher Recruitment -The overarching goal of teacher recruitment will be to hire a highly qualified, passionate, hard-working, diverse staff. The recruitment effort will include casting a wide net that allows Madison Prep to draw from the pool oflocal teachers as well as teachers statewide and nationwide who will embrace the opportunity to help build a school from the ground up. We will recruit though typical both typical means (postings on our website, WECAN, charter school association job pages) as well as through recruitment fairs outside of the state. Our hiring process will take place in early and mid spring rather than late spring and summer so that we may have a competitive edge in recruiting the teachers that are the best fit for Madison Prep. While the Head of School will be responsible for the hiring of teachers, he/she will engage a committee of teachers, community members, parents, and students in the process ofselecting teachers and other staff. In addition to a thorough interview, teacher candidates will be required to teach a sample lesson to a group of students, as well as other interview committee members. Teacher Qualifications-All teachers at Madison Prep will be licensed by the Department of Public Instruction.
General Salary Range and Benefits*-For the 2012-2013 school year, the salary for Master Teachers (of which there will be two) is currently projected to be $61,406 with a signing bonus of $2,000 and a maximum performance bonus of $2,750. The salary for general education teachers is currently projected to be $50,055 for the 2012-2013 school year, with a signing bonus of$2,000 and a maximum performance bonus of$1,750. Madison Prep intends to provide a full range of benefits to its teachers. *Salary and bonus figures are subject to change
22. Ed Hughes: MMSD already has a charter middle school with a very diverse student population -James C. Wright Middle School. If the school district chose to continue James C. Wright as an instrumentality charter school but modeled on your Madison Prep proposal, which components of your proposal do yon think could be implemented at the school and which components of your proposal could not?
ULGM: The Urban League is not in a position to determine how the fundamental elements ofthe Madison Prep proposal could or could not be implemented at James C. Wright Middle School. That determination would have to be made by the district administration and c01mnunity at Wright.
23. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: Here is the annual report from one of the Urban League charter schools that the proposal cites as a model for Madison Prep:
http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/reports/2009/annual/0471.doc This is a report from the school’s lO'” year in existence. Please note the test achievement goals and scores on page 4 and compare them with the extremely overconfident goals of the Madison Prep proposal. IfMadison Prep is serious about attaining the goal of 75% oftheir students scoring 22 or higher on the ACT or 1100 or higher on the SAT, how do they plan to achieve this and what will happen with those students who fail to meet this standard? What will happen to the teachers who don’t meet their quota ofstudent test scores above this level? Please investigate these questions in detail and within the framework of Madison Prep processes from admissions through expulsion.
ULGM: The reference to the New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts in the Madison Prep initial proposal was meant to show the precedent for the establishment of charter schools by Urban League affiliates; the New Leadership Charter School is NOT a model for Madison Prep, nor was this ever stated in the initial proposal. That said, Madison Prep IS serious about our student achievement goals related to the ACT and SAT. We plan to meet these goals through-as the proposal states-an all-male student body, the International Baccalaureate Curriculum, college preparatory educational program, Harkness Teaching, an extended school day and year,mentoring and coll1111unity support, and a prep year. Students will be carefully assessed for years leading up to these tests to ensure their preparedness. When formative assessments indicate re-teaching is needed in order to meet the goal, students will receive further individualized instruction. Madison Prep teachers will not have student test score “quotas.”
24. Lucy Mathiak: What would a timeline for the counterpart girls’ school look like?
ULGM: We would like to initiate the process for the girls’ school in the fall of 2012, with an opening aimed at 2014-2015.

I continue to believe that the fate of this initiative will be a defining moment for the Madison School District. If approved and implemented, it will, over time, affect other traditional schools within the District. If it is rejected, a neighboring District will likely step in.
Finally, I found the Urban League’s response to Ed Hughes’ question #5 interesting:

DPI’s School Finance Data Warehouse indicates that MMSD reported $14,432 in revenue per student and spent $13,881 per student iu 2008-09. We are certain that we will not request more per student than what MMSD spends annually.

Presentation of “Value Added Assessment (Outcomes)” in the Madison School District, Including Individual School & Demographic Information

Complete Report: 1.5MB PDF File

Value added is the use of statistical technique to identify the effects of schooling on measured student performance. The value added model uses what data are available about students–past test scores and student demographics in particular–to control for prior student knowledge, home and community environment, and other relevant factors to better measure the effects of schools on student achievement. In practice, value added focuses on student improvement on an assessment from one year to the next.
This report presents value-added results for Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) for the two-year period between November 2007 to November 2009, measuring student improvement on the November test administrations of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) in grades three through eight. Also presented are results for the two-year period between November 2005 to November 2007, as well as the two-year period between November 2006 to November 2008. This allows for some context from the past, presenting value added over time as a two-year moving average.
Changes to the Value Added Model
Some of the details of the value-added system have changed in 2010. The two most substantial changes are the the inclusion of differential-effects value-added results and the addition to the set of control variables of full-academic-year (FAY) attendance.
Differential Effects
In additional to overall school- and grade-level value-added measures, this year’s value-added results also include value-added measures for student subgroups within schools. The subgroups included in this year’s value-added results are students with disabilities, English language learners, black students, Hispanic students, and students who receive free or reduced-price lunches. The results measure the growth of students in these subgroups at a school. For example, if a school has a value added of +5 for students with disabilities, then students with disabilities at this school gained 5 more points on the WKCE relative to observationally similar students across MMSD.
The subgroup results are designed to measure differences across schools in the performance of students in that subgroup relative to the overall performance of students in that subgroup across MMSD. Any overall, district-wide effect of (for example) disability is controlled for in the value-added model and is not included in the subgroup results. The subgroup results reflect relative differences across schools in the growth of students in that subgroup.

Much more on “Value Added Assessment”, here.

Serious ideas from State of Education speech. Seriously.

Susan Troller:

For instance, he’s the only state elected official to actually and seriously float a proposal to repair the broken state funding system for schools. He promises the proposal for his “Funding for Our Future” will be ready to introduce to lawmakers this fall and will include details on its impact on the state’s 424 school districts.
Evers also is interested in the potential of charter schools. Let’s be open and supportive about education alternatives, he says, but mindful of what’s already working well in public schools.
And he says qualified 11th and 12th graders should be allowed to move directly on to post-secondary education or training if they wish. Dual enrollment opportunites for high school age students attending college and technical schools will require a shift in thinking that shares turf and breaks down barriers, making seamless education — pre-K through post-secondary — a reality instead of some distant dream, according to Evers.
As to Evers’ comments on teacher testing, he joins a national conversation that has been sparked, in part, by the Obama administration as well as research that shows the single universal element in improved student performance is teacher quality. We recently featured a story about concerns over teacher evaluation based on student performance and test scores, and the issue has been a potent topic elsewhere, as well.

The proof, as always, is in the pudding, or substance.
Melissa Westbrook wrote a very useful and timely article on education reform:

I think many ed reformers rightly say, “Kids can’t wait.” I agree.
There is nothing more depressing than realizing that any change that might be good will likely come AFTER your child ages out of elementary, middle or high school. Not to say that we don’t do things for the greater good or the future greater good but as a parent, you want for your child now. Of course, we are told that change needs to happen now but the reality is what it might or might not produce in results is years off. (Which matters not to Bill Gates or President Obama because their children are in private schools.)
All this leads to wonder about our teachers and what this change will mean. A reader, Lendlees, passed on a link to a story that appeared in the LA Times about their teacher ratings. (You may recall that the LA Times got the classroom test scores for every single teacher in Los Angeles and published them in ranked order.)

Susan Troller notes that Wisconsin’s oft criticized WKCE (on which Madison’s value added assessment program is based) will be replaced – by 2014:

Evers also promised that the much maligned Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, used to test student proficiency in 3rd through 6th, 8th and 10th grades, is on its way out. By 2014, there will be a much better assessment of student proficiency to take its place, Evers says, and he should know. He’s become a leading figure in the push for national core education standards, and for effective means for measuring student progress.

A Look at Madison’s Use of Value Added Assessment

Lynn Welch:

In the two years Madison has collected and shared value-added numbers, it has seen some patterns emerging in elementary school math learning. But when compared with other districts, such as Milwaukee, Kiefer says there’s much less variation in the value- added scores of schools within the Madison district.
“You don’t see the variation because we do a fairly good job at making sure all staff has the same professional development,” he says.
Proponents of the value-added approach agree the data would be more useful if the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction were to establish a statewide value-added system. DPI is instead developing an assessment system to look at school-wide trends and improve instruction for individual students.
…..
But some question whether value-added data truly benefits all students, or is geared toward closing the gap between high- and low-performing students.
“Will the MMSD use new assessments…of students’ progress to match instruction levels with demonstrated learning levels?” asks Lorie Raihala, a Madison parent who is part of a group seeking better programming for high-achieving ninth- and 10th-graders at West High School. “So far the district has not done this.”
Others are leery of adding another measurement tool. David Wasserman, a teacher at Sennett Middle School and part of a planning group pushing to open Badger Rock Middle School, a green charter (see sidebar), made national news a few years ago when he refused to administer a mandatory statewide test. He still feels that a broad, student-centered evaluation model that takes multiple assessments into account gives the best picture.
“Assessment,” he says, “shouldn’t drive learning.”

Notes and links on “Value Added Assessment“, and the oft-criticized WKCE, on which it is based, here.

Ouch! Madison schools are ‘weak’? and College Station’s School District

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial

Another national magazine says Madison is one of the nation’s best cities in which to raise a family.
That’s something to celebrate.
But Kiplinger’s, a monthly business and personal finance periodical, also raps ours city schools as “weak” in its latest edition.
That’s troubling.
“Madison city schools are weak relative to the suburban schools,” the magazine wrote in its analysis of the pros and cons of living here with children.
Really?
The magazine apparently used average test scores to reach its conclusion. By that single measure, yes, Dane County’s suburban schools tend to do better.
But the city schools have more challenges – higher concentrations of students in poverty, more students who speak little or no English when they enroll, more students with special needs.
None of those factors should be excuses. Yet they are reality.
And Madison, in some ways, is ahead of the ‘burbs. It consistently graduates some of the highest-achieving students in the state. It offers far more kinds of classes and clubs. Its diverse student population can help prepare children for an increasingly diverse world.

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes compares WKCE scores, comments on the Kiplinger and Wisconsin State Journal article and wonders if anyone would move from Madison to College Station, TX [map], which Kiplinger’s ranked above our local $15,241 2009/2010 per student public schools.
I compared Madison, WI to College Station, TX using a handy Census Bureau report.

93.8% of College Station residents over 25 are high school graduates, a bit higher than Madison’s 92.4%.
58.1% of College Station residents over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to Madison’s 48.2%

Madison does have a higher median household and per capita income along with a population about three times that of College Station.
Turning to the public school districts, readers might be interested in having a look at both websites: the College Station Independent School District and the Madison Metropolitan School District. 75% of College Station students took the ACT (average score: 22.6) while 67% of Madison students took the exam and achieved a composite score of 24.2.
College Station publishes a useful set of individual school report cards, which include state and national test results along with attendance and dropout data.
College Station’s 2009-2010 budget was $93,718.470, supporting 9,712 students = $9,649.76 per student. . They also publish an annual check register, allowing interested citizens to review expenditures.
Madison’s 2009-2010 budget was $370,287,471 for 24,295 students = $15,241 per student, 57.9% higher than College Station.
College Station’s A and M Consolidated High School offers 22 AP classes while Madison East offers 12, Memorial 25 (8 of which are provided by Florida Virtual…), LaFollette 13 and West 8.
College Station’s “student profile” notes that the District is 59.3% white, 31.4% are economically disadvantaged while 10.3% are in talented and gifted.
Texas’s 2010 National Merit Semifinalist cut score was 216 while Wisconsin’s was 207. College Station’s high school had 16 National Merit Semi-Finalists (the number might be 40 were College Station the same size as Madison and perhaps still higher with Wisconsin’s lower cut score) during the most recent year while Madison’s high schools had 57.

On State Standards, National Merit Semifinalists & Local Media

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I’m not so sure we have all that much to brag about in terms of our statewide educational standards or achievement. The Milwaukee public schools are extremely challenged, to put it mildly. The state has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. The WKCE is widely acknowledged as a poor system for statewide assessment of student progress. Just last week our state academic standards were labeled among the worst in the country in a national study.
We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

There is generally no small amount of bragging on Madison National Merit Semi-finalists. It would be interesting to compare cut scores around the country.

Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids? A Times “Value Added” analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.
Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful distance and trust educators to do what’s best.
The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book.
Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.
It’s their teachers.
With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith’s pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar’s but by the end of the year have been far behind.

Much more on “Value Added Assessment” and teacher evaluations here. Locally, Madison’s Value Added Assessment evaluations are based on the oft criticized WKCE.

‘Hard Truth’ on Education New, Higher Standards for Proficiency Alter View of Years of Perceived Gains

Barbara Martinez:

Erasing years of academic progress, state education officials on Wednesday acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of children had been misled into believing they were proficient in English and math, when in fact they were not.
The bar for what it means to be “proficient” has now been set substantially higher. For instance, last year more than 77% of New York state students in grades three through eight reached proficiency in state English exams. Under the new standards, only 53% were considered proficient this year. The difference amounts to nearly 300,000 students across the state.
“We are facing the hard truth that the gains in the past were simply not as advertised,” said Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the state Board of Regents, during a news conference announcing the new standards.
In New York City, the number of students scoring proficient in English fell to 42% this year from 69% in 2009. In math, 54% of city children scored proficient this year, down from 82%.
The huge drops across the state raised questions about how much of the academic gains touted in the past several years were an illusion.

Related: The WKCE.

A Review of State Academic Standards, and the Common Core

Sheila Byrd Carmichael, Gabrielle Martino, Kathleen Porter-Magee, W. Stephen Wilson:

he K-12 academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and math produced last month by the Common Core State Standards Initiative are clearer and more rigorous than today’s ELA standards in 37 states and today’s math standards in 39 states, according to the Fordham Institute’s newest study. In 33 of those states, the Common Core bests both ELA and math standards. Yet California, Indiana and the District of Columbia have ELA standards that are clearly superior to those of the Common Core. And nearly a dozen states have ELA or math standards in the same league as Common Core. Read on to find out more and see how your state fared.

Wisconsin’s standards (WKCE) have often been criticized. This year’s study grants the Badger State a “D” in Language Arts and an “F” in Math.

New York State’s Exams Became Easier to Pass, Education Officials Say

Jennifer Medina:

New York State education officials acknowledged on Monday that their standardized exams had become easier to pass over the last four years and said they would recalibrate the scoring for tests taken this spring, which is almost certain to mean thousands more students will fail.
While scores spiked significantly across the state at every grade level, there were no similar gains on other measurements, including national exams, they said.
“The only possible conclusion is that something strange has happened to our test,” David M. Steiner, the education commissioner, said during a Board of Regents meeting in Albany. “The word ‘proficient’ should tell you something, and right now that is not the case on our state tests.”

Wisconsin’s WKCE has been criticized for its lack of rigor, as well.

Wisconsin’s Education Superintendent on the National “Common Core” Academic Standards

Alan Borsuk:

But signing Wisconsin on to the nationwide standards campaign may trump all of those. Wisconsin’s current standards for what children should learn have been criticized in several national analyses as weak, compared with what other states have. The common core is regarded as more specific and more focused on what students really should master.
Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the generally conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, is a big backer of the new standards. “There is no doubt whatsoever in Wisconsin’s case that the state would be better off with the common core standards than what it has today,” he said in a phone interview.
But standards are one thing. Making them mean something is another. Evers said that will be a major focus for him ahead.
“How are we going to make this happen in the classrooms of Wisconsin?” he asked.
The answer hinges on making the coming state testing system a meaningful way of measuring whether students have learned what they are supposed to learn. And that means teaching them the skills and abilities in the standards.
Does that mean Wisconsin will, despite its history, end up with statewide curricula in reading and math? Probably not, if you mean something the state orders local schools to do. But probably yes in terms of making recommendations that many schools are likely to accept.
“We will have a model curriculum, no question,” Evers said. He said more school districts are looking to DPI already for answers because, with the financial crunches they are in, they don’t have the capacity to research good curriculum choices.

Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Test Scores

Trip Gabriel:

The staff of Normandy Crossing Elementary School outside Houston eagerly awaited the results of state achievement tests this spring. For the principal and assistant principal, high scores could buoy their careers at a time when success is increasingly measured by such tests. For fifth-grade math and science teachers, the rewards were more tangible: a bonus of $2,850.
But when the results came back, some seemed too good to be true. Indeed, after an investigation by the Galena Park Independent School District, the principal, assistant principal and three teachers resigned May 24 in a scandal over test tampering.
The district said the educators had distributed a detailed study guide after stealing a look at the state science test by “tubing” it — squeezing a test booklet, without breaking its paper seal, to form an open tube so that questions inside could be seen and used in the guide. The district invalidated students’ scores.
Of all the forms of academic cheating, none may be as startling as educators tampering with children’s standardized tests. But investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and elsewhere this year have pointed to cheating by educators. Experts say the phenomenon is increasing as the stakes over standardized testing ratchet higher — including, most recently, taking student progress on tests into consideration in teachers’ performance reviews.

Somewhat related: Wisconsin’s annual student test, the WKCE has often been criticized for its lack of rigor.

Several Madison schools fail to meet No Child Left Behind standards

Gena Kittner:

Six of the seven Madison schools that made the federal list of schools in need of improvement last year are on it again, including two Madison elementary schools that faced sanctions for failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards.
In addition, three out of four Madison high schools failed to make adequate yearly progress, according to state Department of Public Instruction data released Tuesday. DeForest, Middleton and Sun Prairie high schools also made the list.
Statewide, 145 schools and four districts missed one or more adequate yearly progress targets. Last year 148 schools and four districts made the list, according to DPI. This year 89 Wisconsin schools were identified for improvement, up from 79 last year.
“These reports, based off a snapshot-in-time assessment, present one view of a school’s progress and areas that need improvement,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers in a statement.

Related: the controversial WKCE annual exam.

Young Wisconsin students’ math improves; high schoolers weaken

Amy Hetzner & Erin Richards:

Wisconsin students continued to make steady gains in math proficiency in 2009-’10, boasting their best performance in five years, even as reading scores remained flat over that same time period, according to statewide test results released Wednesday.
Yet even though the overall proportion of students deemed proficient or advanced in math increased to 77.3% on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations from 72.8% in 2005-’06, the share of students considered at least proficient in 10th grade – the highest grade tested – decreased in that time.
The share of Wisconsin 10th-graders who scored proficient or advanced in math was 69.8% this school year, compared with 71.6% five years ago.
Meanwhile, reading proficiency remained almost constant, with 81.6% of students considered proficient or advanced on this year’s test vs. 81.7% in 2005-’06, when the current version of the WKCE first was implemented.

What’s News: Monona Grove might be in the vanguard of Obama’s education plans

Chris Murphy:

Monday’s story from Susan Troller about standardized tests explains how large school districts like Madison and Milwaukee are interested in what small Monona Grove is doing because its program offers much more detailed results than the standard Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) and delivers them far more quickly. But it’s also interesting to consider how Monona Grove might be in the vanguard of national changes in how students are taught and tested.
On Monday, President Barack Obama sent a blueprint to Congress for an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, the 2001 law pushed by President George W. Bush that ties federal funding to students’ standardized test results. Annual testing would still be required under Obama’s plan, but one major focus would change from meeting narrow grade-by-grade benchmarks and move toward achieving a common set of skills needed for life after high school, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Monona Grove School District (WI) uses ACT-related tests to boost academic performance

Susan Troller:

Test early, test often, and make sure the results you get are meaningful to students, teachers and parents.
Although that may sound simple, in the last three years it’s become a mantra in the Monona Grove School District that’s helping all middle and high school students increase their skills, whether they’re heading to college or a career. The program, based on using ACT-related tests, is helping to establish the suburban Dane County district as a leader in educational innovation in Wisconsin.
In fact, Monona Grove recently hosted a half-day session for administrators and board members from Milwaukee and Madison who were interested in learning more about Monona Grove’s experiences and how the school community is responding to the program. In a pilot program this spring in Madison, students in eighth grade at Sherman Middle School will take ACT’s Explore test for younger students. At Memorial, freshmen will take the Explore test.
Known primarily as a college entrance examination, ACT Inc. also provides a battery of other tests for younger students. Monona Grove is using these tests — the Explore tests for grades 8 and 9, and the Plan tests for grades 10 and 11 — to paint an annual picture of each student’s academic skills and what he or she needs to focus on to be ready to take on the challenges of post-secondary education or the work force. The tests are given midway through the first semester, and results are ready a month later.
“We’re very, very interested in what Monona Grove is doing,” says Pam Nash, assistant superintendent for secondary education for the Madison district. “We’ve heard our state is looking at ACT as a possible replacement for the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam), and the intrinsic reliability of the ACT is well known. The WKCE is so unrelated to the students. The scores come in so late, it’s not useful.

The Madison School District’s “Value Added Assessment” program uses data from the oft-criticized WKCE.

The hype of ‘value-added’ in teacher evaluation

Lisa Guisbond:

As a rookie mom, I used to be shocked when another parent expressed horror about a teacher I thought was a superstar. No more. The fact is that your kids’ results will vary with teachers, just as they do with pills, diets and exercise regimens.
Nonetheless, we all want our kids to have at least a few excellent teachers along the way, so it’s tempting to buy into hype about value-added measures (VAM) as a way to separate the excellent from the horrifying, or least the better from the worse.
It’s so tempting that VAM is likely to be part of a reauthorized No Child Left Behind. The problem is, researchers urge caution because of the same kinds of varied results featured in playground conversations.
Value-added measures use test scores to track the growth of individual students as they progress through the grades and see how much “value” a teacher has added.

The Madison School District has been using Value Added Assessment based on the oft – criticized WKCE.

Thinking about the Cost of Educating Students via the Madison School District, Virtual Schools and a Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes email to State Senator Fred Risser

Susan Troller:

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes sent me an e-mail pointing out another vexing problem with Wisconsin’s school funding system and how it penalizes the Madison district, which I’ve written about in the past. Hughes notes in his e-mail “This particular wrinkle of the state school financing system is truly nuts.”
Hughes is incensed that the IQ Academy, a virtual school operated by the Waukesha district, gets over $6000 in state aid for poaching students from the Madison district while total state aid for educating a student in a real school here at home is $3400. Waukesha makes a profit of about $500 per student at the expense of taxpayers here, Hughes says. And that’s including profits going to the national corporate IQ Academy that supplies the school’s programming.

The complete text of Ed Hughes letter to Senator Risser:

Sen. Risser:
As if we needed one, here is another reason to be outraged by our state school financing system:
This week’s issue of Isthmus carries a full page ad on page 2. It is sponsored by “IQ Academy Wisconsin,” which is described as a “tuition-free, online middle and high school program of the School District of Waukesha, WI.” The ad invites our Madison students to open-enroll in their “thriving learning community.”
What’s in it for Waukesha? A report on virtual charter schools by the State Fiscal Bureau, released this week, sheds some light on this. The Madison school district gets a little more than $2,000 in general state aid for each of our students. If you include categorical aids and everything else from the state, the amount goes up to about $3,400/student.
However, if Waukesha (or any other school district) is successful in poaching one of our students, it will qualify for an additional $6,007 in state aid. (That was actually the amount for the 2007-08 school year, that last year for which data was available for the Fiscal Bureau report.) As it was explained to me by the author of the Fiscal Bureau report, this $6,007 figure is made up of some combination of additional state aid and a transfer of property taxes paid by our district residents to Waukesha.
So the state financing system will provide nearly double the amount of aid to a virtual charter school associated with another school district to educate a Madison student than it will provide to the Madison school district to educate the same student in an actual school, with you know, bricks and mortar and a gym and cafeteria and the rest.
The report also states that the Waukesha virtual school spends about $5,500 per student. So for each additional student it enrolls, the Waukesha district makes at least a $500 profit. (It’s actually more than that, since the incremental cost of educating one additional student is less than the average cost for the district.) This does not count the profit earned by the private corporation that sells the on-line programming to Waukesha.
The legislature has created a system that sets up very strong incentives for a school district to contract with some corporate on-line operation, open up a virtual charter school, and set about trying to poach other districts’ students. Grantsburg, for example, has a virtual charter school that serves not a single resident of the Grantsburg school district. What a great policy.
By the way, Waukesha claims in its Isthmus ad that “Since 2004, IQ Academy Wisconsin students have consistently out-performed state-wide and district averages on the WKCE and ACT tests.” I didn’t check the WKCE scores, but last year 29.3% of the IQ Academy 12th graders took the ACT test and had an average composite score of 22.9. In the Madison school district, 56.6% of 12th graders took the test and the district average composite score was 24.0.
I understand that you are probably tired of hearing from local school board members complaining about the state’s school funding system. But the enormous disparity between what the state will provide to a virtual charter school for enrolling a student living in Madison, as compared to what it will provide the Madison school district to educate the same student, is so utterly wrong-headed as to be almost beyond belief.
Ed Hughes
Madison School Board

Amy Hetzner noted this post on her blog:

An interesting side note: the Madison Metropolitan School District’s current business manager, Erik Kass, was instrumental to helping to keep Waukesha’s virtual high school open and collecting a surplus when he was the business manager for that district.

I found the following comments interesting:

An interesting note is that the complainers never talked about which system more effectively taught students.
Then again, it has never really been about the students.

Madison is spending $418,415,780 to educate 24,295 students ($17,222 each).
Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget: Comments in a Vacuum? and a few comments on the recent “State of the Madison School District” presentation.
The “Great Recession” has pushed many organizations to seek more effective methods of accomplishing their goals. It would seem that virtual learning and cooperation with nearby higher education institutions would be ideal methods to provide more adult to student services at reduced cost, rather than emphasizing growing adult to adult spending.
Finally Richard Zimman’s recent Madison Rotary talk is well worth revisiting with respect to the K-12 focus on adult employment.
Fascinating.

New annual Wisconsin school testing system on hold

Amy Hetzner:

Nearly six months after the state announced it was scrapping its annual test for public school students, efforts to replace it with a new assessment are on hold and state officials now estimate it will take at least three years to make the switch.
The reason for the delay is tied to what is happening in the national education scene.
Wisconsin is among the 48 states that have signed onto the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which expects to complete work on grade-by-grade expectations for students in English and math by early spring. Once that is done, the anticipation is that the state will adopt the new standards, using them to help craft the new statewide test.
Wisconsin officials also are planning to compete for part of $350 million that the U.S. Education Department plans to award in the fall to state consortiums for test development.

The WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Exam) has been criticized for its lack of rigor. The Madison School District is using the WKCE as the basis for its value added assessment initiative.

A “Value Added” Report for the Madison School District

Kurt Kiefer:

Attached are the most recent results from our MMSD value added analysis project, and effort in which we are collaborating with the Wisconsin center for Educational Research Value Added Research Center (WCERVARC). These data include the two-year models for both the 2006-2008 and 2005-2007 school year spans.
This allows us in a single report to view value added performance for consecutive intervals of time and thereby begin to identify trends. Obviously, it is a trend pattern that will provide the greatest insights into best practices in our schools.
As it relates to results, there do seem to be some patterns emerging among elementary schools especially in regard to mathematics. As for middle schools, the variation across schools is once again – as it was last year with the first set of value added results – remarkably narrow, i.e., schools perform very similar to each other, statistically speaking.
Also included in this report are attachments that show the type of information used with our school principals and staff in their professional development sessions focused on how to interpret and use the data meaningfully. The feedback from the sessions has been very positive.

Much more on the Madison School District’s Value Added Assessment program here. The “value added assessment” data is based on Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE.






Table E1 presents value added at the school level for 28 elementary schools in Madison Metropolitan School District. Values added are presented for two overlapping time periods; the period between the November 2005 to November 2007 WKCE administrations, and the more recent period between the November 2006 and November 2008 WKCE. This presents value added as a two-year moving average to increase precision and avoid overinterpretation of trends. Value added is measured in reading and math.
VA is equal to the school’s value added. It is equal to the number ofextra points students at a school scored on the WKCE relative to observationally similar students across the district A school with a zero value added is an average school in terms of value added. Students at a school with a value added of 3 scored 3 points higher on the WKCE on average than observationally similar students at other schools.
Std. Err. is the standard error ofthe school’s value added. Because schools have only a finite number of students, value added (and any other school-level statistic) is measured with some error. Although it is impossible to ascertain the sign of measurement error, we can measure its likely magnitude by using its standard error. This makes it possible to create a plausible range for a school’s true value added. In particular, a school’s measured value added plus or minus 1.96 standard errors provides a 95 percent confidence interval for a school’s true value added.
N is the number of students used to measure value added. It covers students whose WKCE scores can be matched from one year to the next.

Monthly Update From Madison BOE President Arlene Silveira

Reading Programs: The Board received a presentation on Reading Recovery in the district. A number of questions were raised about our reading programs and how programs worked together to ensure we were meeting the needs of all of our students. Therefore, the Board requested a full evaluation of all reading programs at the elementary level … Continue reading Monthly Update From Madison BOE President Arlene Silveira

Madison School District’s Strategic Objectives Performance Measures

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad 600K PDF:

Attached are the revised performance measures we will use to help monitor progress in meeting the Strategic Objectives Action Steps. Goals for the WKCE scores remained at 100% success rate as that is the requirement in No Child Left Behind legislation. Other goal areas were reduced to 95% as the target.

Related: Madison School District’s Strategic Plan.

MMSD Reading and the Poverty Achievement Gap

“The research around early reading intervention illuminates the complex decision making required to meet individual student literacy needs. There seems to be no one right answer, no quick fix for success. While recent research brings up questions as to the cost/benefit of Reading Recovery, what other supports and options are available? One thing is certain, … Continue reading MMSD Reading and the Poverty Achievement Gap

60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use

via a kind reader’s email: Sue Abplanalp, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director, Teaching & Learning, Mary Jo Ziegler, Language Arts/Reading Coordinator, Teaching & Learning, Jennie Allen, Title I, Ellie Schneider, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader [2.6MB PDF]:

Background The Board of Education requested a thorough and neutral review of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Reading Recovery program, In response to the Board request, this packet contains a review of Reading Recovery and related research, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Reading Recovery student data analysis, and a matrix summarizing three options for improving early literacy intervention. Below please find a summary of the comprehensive research contained in the Board of Education packet. It is our intent to provide the Board of Education with the research and data analysis in order to facilitate discussion and action toward improved effectiveness of early literacy instruction in MMSD.
Reading Recovery Program Description The Reading Recovery Program is an intensive literacy intervention program based on the work of Dr. Marie Clay in New Zealand in the 1970’s, Reading Recovery is a short-term, intensive literacy intervention for the lowest performing first grade students. Reading Recovery serves two purposes, First, it accelerates the literacy learning of our most at-risk first graders, thus narrowing the achievement gap. Second, it identifies children who may need a long-term intervention, offering systematic observation and analysis to support recommendations for further action.
The Reading Recovery program consists of an approximately 20-week intervention period of one-to-one support from a highly trained Reading Recovery teacher. This Reading Recovery instruction is in addition to classroom literacy instruction delivered by the classroom teacher during the 90-minute literacy block. The program goal is to provide the lowest performing first grade students with effective reading and writing strategies allowing the child to perform within the average range of a typical first grade classroom after a successful intervention period. A successful intervention period allows the child to be “discontinued” from the Reading Recovery program and to function proficiently in regular classroom literacy instruction.
Reading Recovery Program Improvement Efforts The national Reading Recovery data reports the discontinued rate for first grade students at 60%. In 2008-09, the discontinued rate for MMSD students was 42% of the students who received Reading Recovery. The Madison Metropolitan School District has conducted extensive reviews of Reading Recovery every three to four years. In an effort to increase the discontinued rate of Reading Recovery students, MMSD worked to improve the program’s success through three phases.

Reading recovery will be discussed at Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting.
Related:

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg: Madison schools distort reading data:

    In her column, Belmore also emphasized the 80 percent of the children who are doing well, but she provided additional statistics indicating that test scores are improving at the five target schools. Thus she argued that the best thing is to stick with the current program rather than use the Reading First money.
    Belmore has provided a lesson in the selective use of statistics. It’s true that third grade reading scores improved at the schools between 1998 and 2004. However, at Hawthorne, scores have been flat (not improving) since 2000; at Glendale, flat since 2001; at Midvale/ Lincoln, flat since 2002; and at Orchard Ridge they have improved since 2002 – bringing them back to slightly higher than where they were in 2001.
    In short, these schools are not making steady upward progress, at least as measured by this test.
    Belmore’s attitude is that the current program is working at these schools and that the percentage of advanced/proficient readers will eventually reach the districtwide success level. But what happens to the children who have reading problems now? The school district seems to be writing them off.
    So why did the school district give the money back? Belmore provided a clue when she said that continuing to take part in the program would mean incrementally ceding control over how reading is taught in Madison’s schools (Capital Times, Oct 16). In other words, Reading First is a push down the slippery slope toward federal control over public education.

    also, Seidenberg on the Reading First controversy.

  • Jeff Henriques references a Seidenberg paper on the importance of phonics, published in Psychology Review.
  • Ruth Robarts letter to Isthmus on the Madison School District’s reading progress:

    Thanks to Jason Shepard for highlighting comments of UW Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg at the Dec. 13 Madison School Board meeting in his article, Not all good news on reading. Dr. Seidenberg asked important questions following the administrations presentation on the reading program. One question was whether the district should measure the effectiveness of its reading program by the percentages of third-graders scoring at proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT). He suggested that the scores may be improving because the tests arent that rigorous.
    I have reflected on his comment and decided that he is correct.
    Using success on the WRCT as our measurement of student achievement likely overstates the reading skills of our students. The WRCT—like the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) given in major subject areas in fourth, eighth and tenth grades— measures student performance against standards developed in Wisconsin. The more teaching in Wisconsin schools aims at success on the WRCT or WKCE, the more likely it is that student scores will improve. If the tests provide an accurate, objective assessment of reading skills, then rising percentages of students who score at the proficient and advanced levels would mean that more children are reaching desirable reading competence.

  • Madison teacher Barb Williams letter to Isthmus on Madison School District reading scores:

    I’m glad Jason Shepard questions MMSD’s public display of self-congratulation over third grade reading test scores. It isn’t that MMSD ought not be proud of progress made as measured by fewer African American students testing at the basic and minimal levels. But there is still a sigificant gap between white students and students of color–a fact easily lost in the headlines. Balanced Literacy, the district’s preferred approach to reading instruction, works well for most kids. Yet there are kids who would do a lot better in a program that emphasizes explicit phonics instruction, like the one offered at Lapham and in some special education classrooms. Kids (arguably too many) are referred to special education because they have not learned to read with balanced literacy and are not lucky enough to land in the extraordinarily expensive Reading Recovery program that serves a very small number of students in one-on-on instruction. (I have witnessed Reading Recovery teachers reject children from their program because they would not receive the necessary support from home.)
    Though the scripted lessons typical of most direct instruction programs are offensive to many teachers (and is one reason given that the district rejected the Reading First grant) the irony is that an elementary science program (Foss) that the district is now pushing is also scripted as is Reading Recovery and Everyday Math, all elementary curricula blessed by the district.
    I wonder if we might close the achievement gap further if teachers in the district were encouraged to use an approach to reading that emphasizes explicit and systematic phonics instruction for those kids who need it. Maybe we’d have fewer kids in special education and more children of color scoring in the proficient and advanced levels of the third grade reading test.

Madison African American Test Scores Lower than Kenosha’s and for some, lower than Beloits

Susan Troller, via a kind reader’s email:

Madison’s achievement gap — driven in large part by how well white students perform on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam — is significant compared to other urban districts in the state with high minority populations. White students here perform significantly better on the annual tests than students in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Beloit and scores for Madison’s black students are somewhat better than in Milwaukee or Racine. But black students’ scores in Madison are lower than Kenosha’s and, among younger students, lower than Beloit’s, too.
The point spread between the scores of Madison’s white and black sophomore students on the WKCE’s 2008 math test was a whopping 50 points: 80 percent of the white students taking the test scored in the advanced and proficient categories while just 30 percent of the black students scored in those categories. It’s a better performance than in Milwaukee, where just 19 percent of black students scored in the advanced and proficient categories, or Racine, where 23 percent did, but it lags behind Kenosha’s 38 percent. None of the scores are worth celebrating.
Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Education Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a nationally known expert whose work has often explored issues related to the achievement gap. He says racism, overt or inadvertent, may make school feel like a hostile environment for black students, and that it needs to be recognized as a potential factor in the achievement gap.
“It would be naive to say it doesn’t exist, and that it’s not a problem for a certain number of students,” Gamoran says. He cites disproportionate disciplinary actions and high numbers of black students referred to special education, as indicators of potential unequal treatment by race.
Green, who attended Madison’s public schools, says when black students are treated unfairly it’s a powerful disincentive to become engaged, and that contributes to the achievement gap.
“There’s plenty of unequal treatment that happens at school,” says Green who, while in high school at La Follette, wrote a weekly, award-winning column about the achievement gap for the Simpson Street Free Press that helped her land a trip to the White House and a meeting with Laura Bush.
“From the earliest grades, I saw African-American males especially get sent out of the classroom for the very same thing that gets a white student a little slap on the wrist from some teachers,” she says. “It’s definitely a problem.”
It manifests itself in students who check out, she says. “It’s easy to live only in the present, think that you’ve got better things to do than worry about school. I mean, it’s awfully easy to decide there’s nothing more important than hanging out with your friends.”
But Green advocates a doctrine of personal responsibility. She encourages fellow minority students to focus on academic ambitions, starting with good attendance in class and following through with homework. She also counsels students to take challenging courses and find a strong peer group.
“The bottom line, though, is that no one’s going to get you where you’re going except you,” she says

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

Value-Added Education in the Race to the Top

David Davenport:

Bill Clinton may have invented triangulation – the art of finding a “third way” out of a policy dilemma – but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is practicing it to make desperately needed improvements in K-12 education. Unfortunately, his promotion of value-added education through “Race to the Top” grants to states could be thrown under the bus by powerful teachers’ unions that view reforms more for how they affect pay and job security than whether they improve student learning.
The traditional view of education holds that it is more process than product. Educators design a process, hire teachers and administrators to run it, put students through it and consider it a success. The focus is on the inputs – how much can we spend, what curriculum shall we use, what class size is best – with very little on measuring outputs, whether students actually learn. The popular surveys of America’s best schools and colleges reinforce this, measuring resources and reputation, not results. As they say, Harvard University has good graduates because it admits strong applicants, not necessarily because of what happens in the educational process.
In the last decade, the federal No Child Left Behind program has ushered in a new era of testing and accountability, seeking to shift the focus to outcomes. But this more businesslike approach does not always fit a people-centered field such as education. Some students test well, and others do not. Some schools serve a disproportionately high number of students who are not well prepared. Even in good schools, a system driven by testing and accountability incentivizes teaching to the test, neglecting other important and interesting ways to engage and educate students. As a result, policymakers and educators have been ambivalent, at best, about the No Child Left Behind regime.

Value Added Assessment” is underway in Madison, though the work is based in the oft-criticized state WKCE examinations.

Are Wisconsin Students Progressing?

The Wisconsin Taxpayer [Request a Copy]:

Wisconsin spent more than $10 billion in 2008-09 to educate 861,000 public school students. At more than $11,000 per student, this represents a public investment of over $I50,000 per student over their 13-year elementary and high school career.
The success of any investment-public or private-is measured by comparing its return wilh the amount invested. With public education, measuring returns can be difficult.
In an attempt to measure student progress, Wisconsin has tested public school students using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) since thc mid-
I990s. The tests are based on Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards. Although not a perfect measure of how students (and schools) are doing, the results can provide useful information on academic progress.
MEASURING PROGRESS
The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was passed with bipartisan support in 2001, requires thai “not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001-02 school year, all students … will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievement on the State assessments.” Wisconsin uses the WKCE to test public school students in reading and math in third through eighth grades, and again in 10th grade. In fourth, eighth and 10th grades, Wisconsin tests students in language arts, science and social studies, as well as reading and math. Student test scores are rated as minimal, basic, proficient, or advanced.

A Look at the University of Wisconsin’s Value Added Research Center:

Todd Finkelmeyer:

Rob Meyer can’t help but get excited when he hears President Barack Obama talking about the need for states to start measuring whether their teachers, schools and districts are doing enough to help students succeed.
“What he’s talking about is what we are doing,” says Meyer, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Value-Added Research Center.
If states hope to secure a piece of Obama’s $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” stimulus money, they’ll have to commit to using research data to evaluate student progress and the effectiveness of teachers, schools and districts.
Crunching numbers and producing statistical models that measure these things is what Meyer and his staff of 50 educators, researchers and various stakeholders do at the Value-Added Research Center, which was founded in 2004. These so-called “value-added” models of evaluation are designed to measure the contributions teachers and schools make to student academic growth. This method not only looks at standardized test results, but also uses statistical models to take into account a range of factors that might affect scores – including a student’s race, English language ability, family income and parental education level.
“What the value-added model is designed to do is measure the effect and contribution of the educational unit on a student, whether it’s a classroom, a team of teachers, a school or a program,” says Meyer. Most other evaluation systems currently in use simply hold schools accountable for how many students at a single point in time are rated proficient on state tests.

Much more on “value added assessment” here, along with the oft-criticized WKCE test, the soft foundation of much of this local work.

Madison Teachers, staff trying the ‘Wright way’

Doug Erickson & Gayle Worland:

Founded in 1993 as Madison Middle School 2000, the school alleviated crowding in the West High School attendance area and served as a hopeful sign to the ethnically diverse South Side, which lacked a middle school. The school moved to its building at 1717 Fish Hatchery Road (Panoramic view) in 1997 and was renamed for the late Rev. James C. Wright, a prominent local black pastor and civil rights leader.
The school’s early years were marred by lax discipline, high staff turnover, the resignation of the original principal and clashes among parents and teachers over governance. Stability arrived in 1998 with Ed Holmes, whose six-year tenure as principal earned praise from many parents and students.
“I would characterize (Wright) as one of the district’s grand experiments,” said Holmes, now West High principal.
As a charter school, students choose it; no one is assigned there. Enrollment is capped at 255, and classes rarely exceed 20 students. The school’s mission stresses civic engagement, social action and multicultural pride.

Related: Wright economically disadvantaged WKCE test scores compared to other Madison middle schools. Notes and links on President Obama’s recent visit to Madison’s Wright Middle School.

Notes and Links: President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Visit Madison’s Wright Middle School (one of two Charter Schools in Madison).


Background

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will visit Madison’s Wright Middle School Wednesday, November 4, 2009, purportedly to give an education speech. The visit may also be related to the 2010 Wisconsin Governor’s race. The Democrat party currently (as of 11/1/2009) has no major announced candidate. Wednesday’s event may include a formal candidacy announcement by Milwaukee Mayor, and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. UPDATE: Alexander Russo writes that the visit is indeed about Barrett and possible legislation to give the Milwaukee Mayor control of the schools.

Possible Participants:

Wright Principal Nancy Evans will surely attend. Former Principal Ed Holmes may attend as well. Holmes, currently Principal at West High has presided over a number of controversial iniatives, including the “Small Learning Community” implementation and several curriculum reduction initiatives (more here).
I’m certain that a number of local politicians will not miss the opportunity to be seen with the President. Retiring Democrat Governor Jim Doyle, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (Falk has run for Governor and Attorney General in the past) and Madison School Superintendent Dan Nerad are likely to be part of the event. Senator Russ Feingold’s seat is on the fall, 2010 ballot so I would not be surprised to see him at Wright Middle School as well.

Madison’s Charter Intransigence

Madison, still, has only two charter schools for its 24,295 students: Wright and Nuestro Mundo.
Wright resulted from the “Madison Middle School 2000” initiative. The District website has some background on Wright’s beginnings, but, as if on queue with respect to Charter schools, most of the links are broken (for comparison, here is a link to Houston’s Charter School Page). Local biotech behemoth Promega offered free land for Madison Middle School 2000 [PDF version of the District’s Promega Partnership webpage]. Unfortunately, this was turned down by the District, which built the current South Side Madison facility several years ago (some School Board members argued that the District needed to fulfill a community promise to build a school in the present location). Promega’s kind offer was taken up by Eagle School. [2001 Draft Wright Charter 60K PDF]

Wright & Neustro Mundo Background

Wright Middle School Searches:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

Madison Middle School 2000 Searches:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

Nuestro Mundo, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was established in response to the commitment of its founders to provide educational, cultural and social opportunities for Madison’s ever-expanding Latino community.” The dual immersion school lives because the community and several School Board members overcame District Administration opposition. Former Madison School Board member Ruth Robarts commented in 2005:

The Madison Board of Education rarely rejects the recommendations of Superintendent Rainwater. I recall only two times that we have explicitly rejected his views. One was the vote to authorize Nuestro Mundo Community School as a charter school. The other was when we gave the go-ahead for a new Wexford Ridge Community Center on the campus of Memorial High School.

Here’s how things happen when the superintendent opposes the Board’s proposed action.

Nuestro Mundo:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

The local school District Administration (and Teacher’s Union) intransigence on charter schools is illustrated by the death of two recent community charter initiatives: The Studio School and a proposed Nuestro Mundo Middle School.

About the Madison Public Schools

Those interested in a quick look at the state of Madison’s public schools should review Superintendent Dan Nerad’s proposed District performance measures. This document presents a wide variety of metrics on the District’s current performance, from advanced course “participation” to the percentage of students earning a “C” in all courses and suspension rates, among others.

Education Hot Topics

Finally, I hope President Obama mentions a number of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent hot topics, including:

This wonderful opportunity for Wright’s students will, perhaps be most interesting for the ramifications it may have on the adults in attendance. Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman recent Rotary speech alluded to school district’s conflicting emphasis on “adult employment” vs education.

Wisconsin State Test Score Comparisons: Madison Middle Schools:

WKCE Madison Middle School Comparison: Wright / Cherokee / Hamilton / Jefferson / O’Keefe / Sennett / Sherman / Spring Harbor / Whitehorse

About Madison:

UPDATE: How Do Students at Wright Compare to Their Peers at Other MMSD Middle Schools?

Madison School District Strategic Plan: Nirvana by 2014/2015?

The Madison School Board recently passed the District’s Strategic Plan. Superintendent Dan Nerad has now published a draft document outlining performance measures for the plan (this is positive). The 600K PDF document is well worth reading. Mr. Nerad’s proposed performance measures rely on the oft criticized – for its lack of rigor – state exam, the WKCE. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently stated that “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum“.
A few highlights from the 600K PDF document:

Related:

Discussing these data is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, use of the WKCE does not instill much confidence, from my perspective.

via “Some States Drop Testing Bar” by John Hechinger.
Happy Halloween!

President Obama’s November 4, 2009 Madison Destination: Wright Middle School?

President Obama’s “education” speech, due to be delivered in Madison on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 may, perhaps be given at Wright Middle School. It is a (rare) charter school located in Madison. Obama and Education Secretary (and former Chicago Superintendent) have been promoting structural change within our public schools. Wright, a Charter School, was birthed via a “Madison Middle School 2000” initiative along with the desire to place a new middle school on Madison’s south side. Local biotech behemoth Promega offered land for the school in Fitchburg, which the District turned down (that land and initiative became Eagle School).
Has Wright been successful? Has it achieved the goals illuminated in the original Madison Middle School 2000 initiative?
There are any number of local issues that could be discussed around the visit, including: the District’s general opposition to charter schools, changes to the teacher contract seniority system and Wisconsin’s controversial and weak state test system (WKCE).
The Wisconsin State Journal has more.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, substantive actions arise from Obama’s visit.

DPI Superintendent as the Wisconsin Education Czar?

Amy Hetzner:

An effort has been launched in the state Capitol to give the state schools superintendent broader authority to turn around struggling schools and position Wisconsin to better compete for millions of dollars in federal education grants.
Little fanfare has accompanied potential legislative changes that would allow the superintendent of public instruction to order curriculum and personnel changes in chronically failing schools. It didn’t even make the news release for Gov. Jim Doyle’s three-city announcement on Monday of educational changes he is seeking to help Wisconsin qualify for some of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funds from the U.S. Department of Education.
State Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the idea of giving the state superintendent “super-duper powers” has attracted support from legislators and educational interest groups since it first surfaced earlier this month.
“There’s getting to be general agreement around these interventions,” he said.

Prior to any expansion of the Wisconsin DPI’s powers, I’d like to see them implement a usable and rigorous assessment system to replace the oft-criticized WKCE.
Perhaps, this is simply politics chasing new federal tax dollars….

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction statewide value added project results (Including the Madison & Milwaukee Public Schools)

Kurt Kiefer, Madison School District Chief Information Officer [150K PDF]:

Attached is a summary of the results form a recently completed research project conducted by The Value Added Research center (VARC) within the UW-Madison Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER). Dr. Rob Meyer and Dr. Mike Christian will be on hand at the September 14 Board of Education meeting to review these findings.
The study was commissioned by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Both the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) were district participants. The purpose of the study was to determine the feasibility of a statewide value added statistical model and the development of state reporting and analysis prototypes. We are pleased with the results in that this creates yet one more vehicle through which we may benchmark our district and school performance.
At the September 14, 2009 Board meeting we will also share plans for continued professional development with our principals and staff around value added during the upcoming school year.
In November we plan to return to the Board with another presentation on the 2008-09 results that are to include additional methods of reporting data developed by VARC in conjunction with MPS and the DPI. We will also share progress with the professional development efforts.

Related:

Monona Grove School District “Tentative” Goals

Peter Sobol:

The board met 7/22 to discuss district goals for the coming year. The tentative goals, which we will be discussing at Wednesday’s board meeting are currently:
1) Achieve measureable increase in student achievement in core academic areas using these assessments: DIBELS, MAP , WKCE, EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT.
2) Develop measures ot assess student achievement in Encore areas and electives.
3) Align curriculum, instruction and assessment wiht standards/skill in core academic areas as defined by DIBELS, MAP , WKCE, EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT.
4) Close the achievement gaps with attention to race, ethnicity and socio economic status, using measureable assessments provide DIBELS, MAP , WKCE, EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT and reduce disproportionality with regard to placement of minority students in special edcuation.

Monona Grove School District.

Wisconsin’s New K-12 Academic Standards

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin education officials are aiming to move into the national mainstream by setting firmer standards for what children should learn in school and finding better ways to measure achievement.
A new report from the American Diploma Project praises Wisconsin’s proposed new set of standards for high school English and math. The report is the latest of several indications that changes are being made when it comes to student expectations – and that others are noticing.
Wisconsin built a reputation in recent years for having loosely written state standards. The state was viewed as setting the bar about as low as anywhere in the country in determining if students were proficient, and taking too rosy an approach to deciding whether schools were getting adequate results.
Several national groups, some of them with conservative orientations but others harder to peg politically, criticized the state for its softness.
The report from the Diploma Project, issued last week, says that in revising its statement of what students are expected to learn in English and math, “Wisconsin has taken an important step to better prepare young people for success in post-secondary education and in their careers.”

Much more on the WKCE here.

Data-Driven Schools See Rising Scores

John Hechinger:

Last fall, high-school senior Duane Wilson started getting Ds on assignments in his Advanced Placement history, psychology and literature classes. Like a smoke detector sensing fire, a school computer sounded an alarm.
The Edline system used by the Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools emailed each poor grade to his mother as soon as teachers logged it in. Coretta Brunton, Duane’s mother, sat her son down for a stern talk. Duane hit the books and began earning Bs. He is headed to Atlanta’s Morehouse College in the fall.
If it hadn’t been for the tracking system, says the 17-year-old, “I might have failed and I wouldn’t be going to college next year.”
Montgomery County has made progress in improving the lagging academic performance of African-American and Hispanic students. See data.
Montgomery spends $47 million a year on technology like Edline. It is at the vanguard of what is known as the “data-driven” movement in U.S. education — an approach that builds on the heavy testing of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Using district-issued Palm Pilots, for instance, teachers can pull up detailed snapshots of each student’s progress on tests and other measures of proficiency.
The high-tech strategy, which uses intensified assessments and the real-time collection of test scores, grades and other data to identify problems and speed up interventions, has just received a huge boost from President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Related notes and links: Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts (WKCE) Exam, Value Added Assessments, Standards Based Report Cards and Infinite Campus.
Tools such as Edline, if used pervasively, can be very powerful. They can also save a great deal of time and money.

Statewide test for Wisconsin school children needs better grade

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Wisconsin’s statewide test given to hundreds of thousands of students each year deserves a poor grade for its own performance.
The test has some of the weakest standards in the nation.
The test takes far too long to process.
The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination also fails to compare student proficiency at the beginning of a school year with proficiency at the end of the same academic year.
All of that needs to change, as recommended last week in reports by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative study group in Hartland.

Mandated K-12 Testing in Wisconsin: A System in Need of Reform

Mark C. Schug, Ph.D., M. Scott Niederjohn, Ph.D.:

By law public schools in Wisconsin must administer a rigid, comprehensive set of tests. In the fall of every school year students are tested in reading, math, language, science and social studies. Test results from each district and each school are posted on the Internet, passed along to the federal government to comply with No Child Left Behind requirements and are made available to parents. In an era where measurable student performance is essential, it is expected that Wisconsin’s elaborate system of testing will tell us how Wisconsin students are performing. Unfortunately the testing required by Wisconsin state law is not very good.


The purpose of state standards and state-mandated testing is to increase academic achievement. Does Wisconsin’s elaborate system of testing advance this goal? From every quarter the answer is a clear no. That is the consensus of independent, third-party evaluators. Wisconsin’s massive testing program has come under fire from the U.S. Department of Education which said that Wisconsin testing failed to adequately evaluate the content laid out in the state’s own standards. Further, a joint report issued by the independent Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association performed a detailed evaluation of testing in every state and ranked Wisconsin 42nd in the nation. The Fordham Institute gave Wisconsin’s testing a grade of “D-minus.”


Perhaps even more troublesome is that many Wisconsin school districts find the testing system inadequate. Over 68% of Wisconsin school districts that responded to a survey said they purchase additional testing to do what the state testing is supposed to do. These districts are well ahead of the state in understanding the importance of timely, rigorous testing.


This report lays out the thirty-year history of testing in Wisconsin and the criticism of the current testing requirement. It is the first of two reports to be issued regarding Wisconsin’s testing program. The second report will show how a new approach to testing will not only meet the standards that parents, teachers and the public expect, but will also allow teachers and policy makers to use testing to actually increase the achievement of Wisconsin’s children.

Alan Borsuk has more:

But perhaps as early as the 2010-’11 school year, things will be different:

  • Changes are expected in the state standards for what students are supposed to learn in various grades and subjects. The primary goal of the WKCE is to measure how well students overall are doing in meeting those standards. But Mike Thompson, executive assistant to the state superintendent of public instruction, said new standards for English language arts and math should be ready by the end of this year.



    As the policy institute studies note, the existing standards have been criticized in several national studies for being among the weakest in the U.S.

  • The tests themselves will be altered in keeping with the new standards. Just how is not known, and one key component won’t be clear until perhaps sometime in 2010, the No Child Left Behind Act could be revised. What goes into the new education law will have a big impact on testing in every state.
  • The way tests are given will change. There is wide agreement that the wave of the future is to do tests online, which would greatly speed up the process of scoring tests and making the results known. The lag of five months or more now before WKCE scores are released aggravates all involved.

    The policy institute studies called for online testing, and the DPI’s Thompson agrees it is coming. Delays have largely been due to practical questions of how to give that many tests on computers in Wisconsin schools and the whole matter of dealing with the data involved.

  • Also changing will be the way performance is judged.

Now, Wisconsin and most states measure which category of proficiency each student falls into, based on their answers. Reaching the level labeled “proficient” is the central goal.

Much more on the WKCE here.

In Favor of Everyday Math; Middleton Cross Plains Math Scores Soar

Angela Bettis:

The most recent research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that American 15-year-olds are behind their International counterparts when it comes to problem solving and math literacy.


The report showed the U.S. ranks 24th out of 29 nations.


But a math program, gaining in popularity, is trying to change that.
The program is called Everyday Math.


Lori Rusch is a fourth grade teacher at Middleton’s Elm Lawn Elementary. This year she teaches an advanced math class.


On Monday, students in Rusch’s class were mastering fractions and percentages.


But her students began learning fractions and percentages in first grade.

“We’ve been incredibly successful with it,” said Middleton’s curriculum director George Marvoulis. “Our students on all of our comparative assessments like WKCE, Explorer Plan, ACT, our students score higher in math than any other subject area so we’ve been very pleased.”


According to Marvoulis, Middleton was one of the first school districts in the nation to use the Everyday Math program in 1994.


“The concept is kind of a toolbox of different tools they can use to solve a problem,” explained Marvoulis.

Related: Math Forum and Clusty Search on Everyday Math.

Wisconsin’s Latest State K-12 Test Results, and Related Criticism

Gayle Worland:

Across Wisconsin, educators like Hensgen are part of a growing chorus to reassess the way the state assesses students. Currently, teachers and districts wait five months for WKCE results, so they have little time to react to the findings and adjust their curriculum. The tests eat into a week of class time and are based on standards that, critics say, are too low to give parents and teachers a clear picture of how students measure up globally.
“It’s widely agreed that the WKCE is a really lousy test that measures lame standards,” said Phil McDade, a departing member of the Monona Grove School Board. “The bigger issue to me in Wisconsin is that there’s a sense of self-satisfaction with our school districts, that we’re doing fine, that we’re Lake Wobegon, that everybody here’s above average.”
The Department of Public Instruction commissioned a state task force on the issue last fall and is reviewing the group’s recommendations, said Michael Thompson, executive assistant to the state superintendent of schools. The state’s current testing contract lasts at least another two years.

Alan Borsuk has more.
“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”
The ACT Explore test was mentioned in Gayle Worland’s article.

Response to the Madison School District’s Math Task Force Recommendations

To: comment@madison.k12.wi.us
Cc: askey@math.wisc.edu
There are a number of points in the Summary of Administrative Response to MMSD Mathematics Task Force Recommendations which should be made. As a mathematician, let me just comment on comments on Recommendation 11. There are other comments which could be made, but I have a limited amount of time at present.
The first question I have is in the first paragraph. “One aspect of the balanced approach is represented in the four block approach to structuring mathematics lessons. The four blocks include Problem Solving, Number Work, Fluency and Maintenance and Inspecting Equations.” There is a missing comma, since it is not clear whether Maintenance goes with the previous word or the last two. However, in either case, “Inspecting Equations” is a strange phrase to use. I am not sure what it means, and when a mathematician who has read extensively in school mathematics does not understand a phrase, something is wrong. You might ask Brian Sniff, who seems to have written this report based on one comment he made at the Monday meeting, what he means by this.
In the next paragraph, there are the following statements about the math program used in MMSD. “The new edition [of Connected Math Project] includes a greater emphasis on practice problems similar to those in traditional middle and high school textbooks. The new edition still remains focused on problem-centered instruction that promotes deep conceptual understanding.” First, I dislike inflated language. It usually is an illustration of a lack of knowledge. We cannot hope for “deep conceptual understanding”, in school mathematics, and Connected Math falls far short of what we want students to learn and understand in many ways. There are many examples which could be given and a few are mentioned in a letter I sent to the chair of a committee which gave an award to two of the developers of Connected Mathematics Project. Much of my letter to Phil Daro is given below.
The final paragraph for Recommendation 11 deals with high school mathematics. When asked about the state standards, Brian Sniff remarked that they were being rewritten, but that the changes seem to be minimal. He is on the high school rewrite committee, and I hope he is incorrect about the changes since significant changes should be made. We now have a serious report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel which was asked to report on algebra. In addition to comments on what is needed to prepare students for algebra, which should have an impact on both elementary and middle school mathematics, there is a good description of what algebra in high school should contain. Some of the books used in MMSD do not have the needed algebra. In addition, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has published Curriculum Focal Points for grades PK-8 which should be used for further details in these grades. Neither of these reports was mentioned in the response you were sent.

Despite initial low test scores, Madison’s Nuestro Mundo gains fans

Samara Kalk Derby:

It’s Thursday afternoon at Madison’s Nuestro Mundo Elementary School and teacher Christina Amberson, “Maestra Cristina” to her kindergarten students, speaks in rapid-fire Spanish. If you didn’t know better, you would assume Spanish was Amberson’s native language. But her impeccable Spanish is a product of many years of studying and teaching abroad in a number of Spanish-speaking countries.



Children respond only in Spanish. The only time they speak English is when English-speaking children are sitting together at tables. If Amberson overhears, she reminds them to use their Spanish.



Amberson’s kindergartners — a nearly even mix of native Spanish speakers and native English speakers — seem more confident with their language than a typical student in a high school or college Spanish class.



Everything posted on the dual-language immersion school’s bulletin boards or blackboards is in Spanish except for a little section of photos and articles about “El Presidente Barack Obama.”

It is ironic that WKCE results are used in this way, given the Wisconsin DPI’s statement: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”. Much more on the WKCE here. The Madison School District is using WKCE data for “Value Added Assessment“.