Supporting Neighborhood Schools

Seat 1 School Board Candidate Maya Cole:

Boundary changes create a larger effect on a district than the direct impact on the children and their families.

  • Neighborhood schools are vital for a community.
  • Transportation costs eat away at a budget.
  • Kids don’t get the daily benefit from a walk to school every day.

These are a few reasons that I feel strongly that we need to support and maintain all of our neighborhood schools.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that Madison has become a growing urban school district. Our community has undergone radical transformation in the past 20 years, and any plan to address the community’s educational needs must take those changes into account.
My vision is to continue the work of the long-range planning groups and expand it to form a strategic plan along the lines of the University of Wisconsin strategic planning. Long-term goals for the district, in my opinion, should be at least ten years or more.

Why You Should Choose Math in High School

Espen Andersen, Associate Professor, Norwegian School of Management and Associate Editor, Ubiquity:

[The following article was written for Aftenposten, a large Norwegian newspaper. The article encourages students to choose math as a major subject in high school – not just in preparation for higher education but because having math up to maximum high school level is important in all walks of life. Note: This translation is slightly changed to have meaning outside a Norwegian context.]
Why you should choose math in high school
A recurring problem in most rich societies is that students in general do not take enough math – despite high availability of relatively well-paid jobs in fields that demand math, such as engineering, statistics, teaching and technology. Students see math as hard, boring and irrelevant, and do not respond (at least not sufficiently) to motivational factors such as easier admission to higher education or interesting and important work.

What does it mean if NCLB wants to leave history

Ms. Cornelius:

A few of us from the high school got together with a couple of our middle school counterparts a while back. They wanted to meet with us to see how they could help align the skills and content they teach to help support their students who want to take AP level courses in high school. This was a watered down version of a concept known in AP world as “vertical teaming.”
What finally came out after we got finished talking about specific things like creating a thesis statement and analyzing documents and pictorial evidence was this: they have gotten the message from administrators that their only function in an NCLB world is to reinforce the English curriculum. They were meeting with us in a bid to justify their existence as an independent department. Of course, this situation is already in jeopardy when you have not one soul teaching a social studies class in two of the three grades in one of the middle schools who has an actual major in social studies or history.
Not. One.

Providence School forum will explore fresh approach to math

Linda Borg writing in the Providence Journal:

Michael Lauro, the district’s new math coordinator, will discuss plans for a curriculum called FASTT Math.
PROVIDENCE – Osiris Harrell, an outspoken critic of the school district’s math curriculum, has invited parents and school officials to a meeting March 22 to discuss the effectiveness of the math program.
The forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Federal Hill House, 9 Cortland St., Providence.
Michael Lauro, the district’s new math coordinator, will discuss plans for a fresh approach to math called FASTT Math. The district is considering trying it on a limited basis next year.
Harrell has met with Lauro to discuss his concerns about the current math program and to agree on how to work together, according to school spokeswoman Maria Tocco.
Harrell, in a recent interview with The Providence Journal, said he was distressed by the district’s approach to math instruction, a program called Math Investigations that teaches students how to think about problem-solving rather that drilling them in the basics. The district adopted it in 2003 at the urging of then-Supt. Diana Lam.

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Candidates agree education is at crossroads

Madison School Board candidates Juan Jose Lopez and Lucy Mathiak look at what is happening in schools here in very different ways, but on at least one issue they are in complete agreement: Public education here and throughout the Badger State is at a critical crossroads.
But the two candidates vying for School Board Seat No. 2, which Lopez has held since 1994, have quite distinct notions about the nature of the challenges facing the Madison Metropolitan School District.
By Susan Troller, The Capital Times, March 21, 2006

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When Ability Grouping Makes Good Sense

By James J. Gallagher
I am posting this article from 1992 given the recent debate on one size fits all classrooms. Professor Gallagher makes the point that the argument that homogeneous grouping hurts no one is clearly false: research consistently shows that high ability students do better when they are in classes with similarly able peers.
The recent educational literature has been filled with discussions of the effects of ability grouping, tracking, etc., and new virtues have been found in the concept of heterogeneous grouping of students. The homogeneous grouping of slow-learning children does not appear to be profitable, but the homogeneous grouping of bright students is a very different matter, and often ignored in these discussions. (See “Tracking Found To Hurt Prospects of Low Achievers,” Education Week, Sept. 16, 1992.)
The goal of heterogeneous grouping appears to be a social one, not an academic one.(emphasis added) The desirability of that goal needs to be argued on its own merits, which I believe to be considerable. The argument is clouded, however, by the insistence of the proponents that nothing is lost in academic performance by such grouping. This position is clearly false, in my judgment, as it applies to bright students. Apart from the meta-analyses which indicate substantial gains for gifted students grouped for ability, there is a small matter of common sense.

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More on Allied Drive Redevelopment

Dean Mosiman:

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is offering a vision for troubled Allied Drive as he tries to get support for buying and redeveloping a series of worn buildings in the heart of the neighborhood.
The vision includes buying nine apartment buildings on Allied Drive and redeveloping them with condos and perhaps retail space, supporting “good landlords,” and closely monitoring the fate of a row of buildings on Carling Drive – a block off Allied Drive – with the potential of another city purchase.
Neighborhood input is important and a planning process will be completed in July, Cieslewicz stressed. But “I’d like people to be clear on what it is I’d like to accomplish.”

Madison alder Brenda Konkel has more.

Expedition Education

David Herszenhorn:

After four days and nights camping in the Rockland County woods, Donnell Tribble, a baby-faced 15-year-old from Brooklyn with tight cornrow braids, learned to trust and depend on his classmates and his teacher.
Along with 13 other boys and girls from James Baldwin High School in Manhattan, he struggled through moments of misery. The students pitched tarps for shelter, shuddered and whined in the cold and rain, ate strange foods like muesli, griped about the lack of comforts, and worried about meeting a bear outside the safety of the Bronx Zoo.

What Islands of Excellence Would You Expand

Maya Cole wants to expand the district’s island of excellence if she’s elected to the school board.
What islands of excellence would you expand?
The islands might be a particular teacher, an afterschool program, an academic program, or a particular class. Just list what you’d like to expand and briefly tell how you’d expand it.
To get things started, I’d expand the championship chess at West High School by recruiting chess enthusiasts to teach chess after school at each school in the district.

New Glarus Parent Files Gifted Ed Lawsuit Against DPI, DPI Superintendent Burmaster

New Glarus parent and Madison attorney Todd Palmer has filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and DPI Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster for their failure to promulgate rules for the identification and appropriate education of Wisconsin’s 51,000 academically gifted students, as is required by Wisconsin state law. Here is the press release; a link to the lawsuit itself may be found at the end.
Todd will be joining us for the beginning portion of our Madison United for Academic Excellence meeting on Thursday, March 23, at 7:00 p.m. in Room 209 of the Doyle Administration Building. We will also be discussing the INSTEP process and the District’s new TAG education plan, currently under development. Come share your experiences and offer your input. All who care about rigorous curriculum and high educational standards are welcome.

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“The World is Complacent”


In relation to the story in today’s Times about black men which has obvious eduimplications (including the grad rate issue the article mentions) Joe Williams notes that “this problem is so much more severe than the “World Is Flat” problem that everyone seems to be talking about.”
I couldn’t agree more. One is a long-term problem, the other is staring us in the face, right now, every day. Good Brian Friel story in National Journal ($) getting at this a few weeks ago.

Erik Eckholm’s NYT article is a must read:

Focusing more closely than ever on the life patterns of young black men, the new studies, by experts at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other institutions, show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men are becoming ever more disconnected from the mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men.
Especially in the country’s inner cities, the studies show, finishing high school is the exception, legal work is scarcer than ever and prison is almost routine, with incarceration rates climbing for blacks even as urban crime rates have declined.

The Rose Report: Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading


The national curriculum in England is to be revised so children are taught to read primarily using the method known as synthetic phonics [Full Report 432K PDF]
In the most famous experiment, in Clackmannanshire, children taught using synthetic phonics were years ahead of their contemporaries by the time they moved on to secondary school.
The method is already endorsed by the Scottish Executive.
Unless you can actually decode the words on the page you will not be able, obviously, to comprehend them,” Jim Rose
Critics say it might teach children to read – but not necessarily to understand what they are reading.

Gates’ Small Learning Communities: The Wrong Investment?

Diane Ravitch:

Bill, I heard you speak a few weeks ago at Davos, when you told a large audience that education is the biggest challenge for the future. You are right about that. You pointed to the 1,500 or so small high schools that the Gates Foundation has funded as evidence of your commitment to make a difference. If you are worried about our nation’s future competitiveness, I am not so sure you made the right investment.
Small schools are not always the best answer to low achievement. Sometimes they are, sometimes not. Poor academic results can be found in large schools and in small schools. Great academic results can be found in schools of any size. Success is the result of a solid curriculum, dedicated teachers, a strong principal and students who arrive in high school with the skills and motivation to succeed.
There is another investment that you could make that would be far more effective in raising student achievement than churning out another thousand or so small high schools. As the chief executive officer of the largest software company in the world, you have a certain competitive advantage. Your company really knows how to use advanced technology to teach people almost anything.
American students are accustomed to using computers and getting instant answers. Yet, when they open their textbooks, they find wooden prose. Instead of inspiring them to dig deeper into their studies, the textbooks more often than not simply turn them off. The medium itself is a problem, especially when compared with what they are used to doing for themselves on a computer. Textbooks have never been known for their sparkling prose, but today more than ever their obsolescence is apparent when they compete with new technologies.

In Defense of Big Schools

Gotham Gazette’s Reading NYC Book Club met with author Samuel Freedman, New York Times education columnist, and Jessica Siegel, the teacher who is one of the subjects of “Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students and Their High School.”An edited transcript is below:

The problem is that you have this tail of this big grant from the Gates Foundation wagging this policy dog at the Department of Ed. Because Gates has a big priority to start small schools, the Department of Education is jumpstarting 50 a year, year after year. It’s just impossible to have quality opening up schools in that kind of frenetic way. It also means a lot of these schools get opened up with these ultra-niche academic orientations – sports careers or architecture – that I think are really preposterous for a ninth grader. I think what they tend to do is serve the interests of community organizations that are sponsors. These may be perfectly well-intended sponsoring groups, but that doesn’t mean that the high school as a whole is going to work with a curriculum that is defined that narrowly, especially when there is a good reason to put more emphasis on language, science, math and a lot of the core subjects.

Joanne Jacobs has more
, including this”

Gotham Gazette: Jonathan Kozol recently wrote an article for Gotham Gazette Segregated Schools: Shame Of The City, in which he argued that one issue that is being ignored is racial segregation. He said that until that is confronted, other reforms will not accomplish much. What is your perspective on that?
Jessica Siegel: What is the percentage of the public schools students that are children or color? Eighty-five percent? It’s not even relevant. That’s who is in the public schools. To me it’s not an issue of segregation so much as what kind of education you are going to give to the kids there.
Samuel Freedman: I completely agree with Jessica. Kozol espouses a point of view you pick up in education schools. But it is a high-minded excuse for paralysis.
. . . It’s part of educational suicide to say now, however well intentioned you are, that until you solve poverty or segregation nothing can happen in the schools. Something has to be able to happen in the schools.

Ruling Supports Virtual School

A circuit court judge ruled on Friday (3/17/06) that a virtual charter school in Wisconsin did NOT violate state law by allowing parents to assume some duties of state-certificated teachers. See the Wis. Coalition of Virtual School Families’ Press Release. Andrew Rotherham has more.
Charter Schools Strive to Expand
DPI Charter School Grant Info Meetings on March 22 & 23
Explore Websites of 30 “Green” Charter Schools
Sign up for NAPCS’ E-Newsletter (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

Wisconsin SAGE Class Size Discussion

Amy Hetzner:

If his school couldn’t exceed the SAGE ratios, Burdick K-8 School Principal Robert Schleck said his school probably would have dumped the program.
“There’s different models that are being used throughout the city,” he said, noting that in some SAGE classrooms, groups of students are pulled into the hallway or other locations during the day to maintain the teacher-to-student ratio.
Particularly in schools with fewer low-income students, which receive less SAGE funding, the state Department of Public Instruction has been willing to allow classrooms to exceed the law’s 15-student cap, although it often requires that they have extra personnel for reading and mathematics.
State DPI data show that at least 40% of SAGE schools employed half-time teachers to meet the program’s requirements in 2004-’05.

Marjorie Passman wrote:

Help me out here. I don’t quite understand your point in quoting Amy Hetzner’s article. Why not include the following web article as well: which concludes: Compared head-to-head against school vouchers, SAGE is far more effective in improving student achievement.

Wisconsin Charter School News

You’re invited to the WISCONSIN CHARTER SCHOOLS FAIR. The FAIR is a FREE public event in Appleton on April 2, Sunday afternoon (1:00 to 4:30 pm). HURRY APRIL !
Learn about the Performance of Public Charter Schools in Wisconsin from UW-Madison Professor John Witte. View 20 charter school displays and visit with students and teachers from several charter schools. The FREE FAIR will be held at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton —
The FAIR precedes the 2006 Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference, co-sponsored by the WCSA & DPI, on April 3 & 4 in Appleton.
Conference Overview (program, registration, hotel, etc.)
Schedule & 40+ Concurrent Sessions (i.e. seminars):
You can TOUR charter schools in Appleton

Milt Rosenberg: Public Schools, Choice and Reform

Retired University of Chicago Professor Milt Rosenberg recently hosted a discussion on the state of Americas public schools and make a case for school reform and school choice. Joseph Bast, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, and Herbert Walberg, research professor of education and psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago along with a number of call-in teachers participated. 87 minute mp3 audio file

“What if They Don’t Want to Be Saved?”

Ms. Cornelius“:

I was working in my room the other day during a prep period when I overheard raised voices down the hall. One of my colleagues, Mr. Spector*, was debating with a kid from his classroom. It was obvious the kid was lipping off to Mr. Spector and basically refusing to do anything but sleep in Mr. Spector’s class. When Mr. Spector insisted he remain upright, the kid took exception.
Mr. Spector is a fifty-ish second-careerist who is caring, funny, and an ultraconservative. (I forgive him and I love him anyway.) The man can squeeze a quarter so hard that snot comes out of George Washington’s nose. He tries every day to do right by his students and expects them to learn something, and that’s what matters to me.

An innovative teacher turns kids into writers

Stacy Teicher:

“Out of all my classes, this is the most exciting – she captures your attention while she’s teaching,” says senior Phillip Longo, who first encountered her in an after-school class for students who had failed English.
Loved as she is for handing out creative assignments, never “busywork,” her students also give Barile credit for insisting they put their commas in the right place.
“She helps everyone with their writing so much,” says Autumn Zandt, a senior in Barile’s advanced-placement course. “It’s been really nice to have someone focusing on [grammar] before we go away to college.”

Lopez, Silveira support one-size-fits-none classrooms

From an article in The Capital Times by Susan Troller:

Noting that he grew up poor in a segregated school district, Lopez said firmly, “I don’t like segregating kids.” He said that there are real advantages for all students in classes that reflect the real world. He also said that he believes young people benefit from teaching to, and learning from, each other.
Silveira, who has an eighth-grade daughter and has been involved with school issues as a volunteer for almost a decade, agreed with Lopez.
“I’m a proponent of the heterogeneous classroom,” she said.

Heterogeneous classrooms mix students of all skill levels. For example, English 10 at West places non-readers and college-level readers in the same classroom.
While the board still investigates the appropriateness of one-size-fits-none, it’s disappointing to have two candidates whose minds are already made up.

SAT Takers Advised to Pay for Test Reviews

Anne Marie Chaker and John Hechinger:

In the wake of grading errors that wrongly lowered the SAT scores of thousands of students, a number of guidance counselors and college test-prep services say they are urging test takers to pay extra for backup scoring services to verify results. These services, which can range from $10 to $100 on top of the $41.50 fee for the test, are available only through the College Board itself. They include sending students copies of their answer sheets that they can check themselves, or hand scoring the test, which is usually graded by machine.
Some services may not be available to all students, depending on what month they take the test. And recent test takers probably won’t be able to use them to affect the current college-application season, which is in full swing. But as reports of mistakes continue, counselors and students say their confidence in the scoring process is eroding.
“This is like ‘Election 2000’ in Florida,” says Bari Meltzer Norman, associate director of college counseling at Ben Lipson Hillel Community High School in North Miami Beach, Fla., who says she will suggest the hand-scoring service to all future test takers.

Intel Science Talent Search Winners


On March 14, 2006 Intel Corporation and Science Service awarded the top 10 college scholarship awards for the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) at a black-tie banquet in Washington, D.C.

Nicholas Michael Wage from Appleton East placed fourth, winning a $25K scholarship.

Nicholas Michael Wage, 17, of Appleton, studied generalized Paley graphs, an important class of graphs, for his Intel Science Talent Search project in mathematics. Given a prime p such that 4 divides p-1, we obtain a Paley graph by taking as vertices the integers (0, 1, …, p-1), with an edge between x and y just in case x – y is a square modulo p. These, together with similarly defined graphs and directed graphs form the class called “generalized Paley.” In the case above, when p – 1 is divisible by 4, Nick found the asymptotic limit, as p increases, for the number of complete subgraphs of a fixed size. He showed that this limit equaled that which Paul Erd”s (incorrectly) conjectured for all graphs. Nick also counted the number of three cycles for members of the larger family of generalized Paley graphs. His proofs used results from number theory, including Weil’s deep theorem on the Riemann Hypothesis for finite fields. Nick, who attends Appleton East High School, earned 800s on his critical reading and math SAT scores. His paper is published in the journal Integers. Son of Drs. Michael Wage and Kathy Vogel, he plans to study math at Harvard or the University of Wisconsin.

Wage was one of only two semifinalists (out of a group of 300 chosen throughout the U.S.) from Wisconsin. The other was Michael James Pizer from Milwaukee’s University School. Martin Weill has more. David Pescovitz has photos.

Leopold expansion means cutting seven teachers?

Correct me if I’m wrong (as if I need to even say it).
If the Board approves an addition at Leopold from the operating budget (without a referendum), won’t the Board also have to cut an additonal seven teachers from next year’s budget to cover the cost?
I hope that I’m wrong, because that divisive course, which the board majority seems poised to approve, would certainly pit Leopold and its expansion supporters against the teachers and parents of each and every school that might lose a position.
A less divisive course would be to ask voters in a referendum for funds for the expansion in the context of a complete plan for growth on the boundaries of the district.
According to the district’s figures, Leopold serves only 23 students beyond its capacity, but parents and teachers tell of severe overcrowding. Either the parents and teacher are wrong, or the district numbers are wrong. I’m going to believe the parents and teachers, forcing me to raise the question: how many other numbers are wrong in the administration’s spreadsheets.

Why the School System Prefers AP Over Honors Courses

Fairfax County Assistant Superintendent Ann Monday:

It is recommended practice for all secondary schools to offer two curriculum levels for all core subjects at each grade, with one offering providing advanced academic coursework.
In 1998, the first year of open AP enrollment for all students, both the numbers and the diversity of students increased throughout the County. In this same year, all students taking AP courses were also required to take the end-of-course AP exams. Enrollment in AP has increased consistently with 2005 having the highest AP participation yet with 13,995 students enrolled in AP courses. . . .
FCPS is committed to providing students with challenging courses offering preparation for life in a competitive society. . . . If you have questions about particular courses or guidance policies regarding dropping and adding courses, please discuss the matter with your local guidance department and school administration.

Madison School Board candidates differ on classroom mix

From an article by Susan Troller in The Capital Times:

Citing the example of her own family, Madison School Board candidate Lucy Mathiak says she does not believe that a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching is a good idea. Mathiak, who is running against incumbent Juan Jose Lopez in the upcoming April 4 spring election, was one of a quartet of candidates featured Wednesday at the Downtown Madison Rotary meeting.

Wisconsin Academic Decathlon

Tuesday afternoon, the Madison Masonic Center was the setting for the Wisconsin Academic Decathlon State Competition.  About 800-900 people were there, almost all of high school age.  It had all the youthful enthusiasm and cheer of a pep rally, except this time mental achievement was being honored, not physical.  School mascots were in attendance, and competing cheers filled the auditorium before quiztime.  
Twenty high school teams of nine students each competed in the final Super Quiz Oral Relay.  During this section of the competition (the written portion was held the day before), each member went down to sit at tables facing a screen where a multiple choice question was displayed that was read out by News 15’s John Stofflet.  Competitors then had ten seconds in which to “bubble-in” their response.  Correct responders were known immediately as they were asked to raise their hands.  Each team’s cheering section would then erupt with glee (provided a hand had been raised).
Each team member answered five questions; there were 45 questions in all.  And they were tough, all having to do with the Renaissance.  Waukesha West were declared the state champions at a dinner held at the Madison Concourse Tuesday night.  They will get to compete in the national finals in San Antonio, TX on April 27-29.  Wilmot was second and Sun Prairie third.  McFarland also made the finals.  Madison and Middleton were not amongst the 114 teams fielded this 2005-06 season.
This was the 23rd annual competition, and quite possibly the last, as the event costs about $220,000 annually, and depends on private donations for two-thirds of that amount; this year, donations fell $50,000 short.  I am writing this as thousands arrive in Madison on a snowy day to watch three days of state high school basketball competition.  As well they should; it’s a culmination of a long and exciting season for those twenty schools.  But I can think of no more exquisite demonstration of our society’s values than the hoopla at the hoops this weekend versus the media’s nigh-silent coverage of the noisy and exuberant academic decathlon.  The WSJ had a four-sentence description beneath two photos; the Capital Times had nothing at all.
On Waukesha West!  On Wisconsin!

Silveira is right choice for School Board

A letter to the editor
Dear Editor: For years I have been fairly passive about working on local campaigns, but this year the School Board election has me so alarmed that I feel I have to do more than just vote or put up a yard sign.
Anyone who has attended recent forums has seen Arlene Silveira continually giving superior answers to all questions because she is much more familiar with the issues schools face today. Arlene has gained her information through experience and study. She has put in her time supporting our schools and not attacking them.
While some think her opponent is a nice person, I have never seen any sense of depth on educational matters coming from her; in fact, most of her answers at forums are non-answers, attacks on school administrators or worse, naive and unrealistic proposals to save money.
I have not heard one positive statement about our schools made by those candidates endorsed by the people behind the “school info systems” blog.
We have one candidate who states that parents of younger children haven’t been “tainted” by our schools yet and who has called Fitchburg parents “whiners” because they didn’t get a school. A second candidate promises we can have all the programs we want if we just get rid of more administrators. Since these people have no trust in our schools and believe every bit of information given to them is flawed, how are we possibly going to get a positive dialogue going on the real, substantive issues facing our schools? Frankly, the incessant attacks on our schools are beginning to wear thin.
For honest answers to our problems I suggest going to two Web sites:
1) Read under “Hot Topics – Recently Answered Questions” and discover, among other things, that school administrators have been reduced by 28.4 percent over the last six years with four more administrators up for elimination in next year’s budget. This means that the remaining administrators are doubling, tripling and even quadrupling their responsibilities.
2) for a truly reasonable discussion of issues characterized by good judgment and sound thinking.
Personally, I don’t want angry, negative people running our schools, and so this is not an election to be neutral about. It is time for the press and our entire community to support a candidate who wants to take an already great school system and make it even better. It is Arlene Silveira’s confidence in our schools as well as her quiet dignity and intelligence that we need on our School Board.
Marjorie Passman
The Capital Times
Published: March 15, 2006

No Diploma, No More Driving

Crystal Lindell:

Illinois high school dropouts may soon find themselves without a driver’s license as well as lacking a diploma.
Under legislation moving through the state Senate, dropouts would lose their driving privileges until they re-enroll or turn 18 years old.
“I think we all recognize the issue and the problem of dropout that we have in secondary education,” Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, said. “This is an attempt to try to address that.”
The measure, which already has won approval in the House, would target anyone younger than 18 who is either a high school dropout or has 18 or more unexcused absences. Watson said dropouts are more likely to end up in jail, so such deterrents are needed.

Konkel on Madison’s Planned Allied Drive Building Purchases

Madison Alder Brenda Konkel:

No, I’m not talking about the residents who live there, I’m talking about the City of Madison. So, we’re probably going to bid at the auction for the “Hauk Properties”. (It still needs council approval.) That is likely a very responsible decision given the alternatives. I feel comfortable with that decision. Problem is, what if we end up with the properties, then what?

The City and private property owners have a pretty long history of taking a low-income area, doing wholesale evictions for any infraction, enticing people to move with relatively low “incentives”, creating housing that people who previously lived there can’t afford or rehabbing the properties, moving people around until they get too frustrated to stay and then if they are persistent, making tenants re-apply to live in their old apartments and then denying them based on strict screening criteria. Essentially, destroying the sense of community that exists and the support networks of the people who live there.

Madison School Board Candidate Take Home Test Week 7


Great questions.

West claims chess title for fourth straight year

A story in The Capital Times reports:

For the fourth consecutive year, Madison West took top honors at the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Championship last weekend at UW-Oshkosh.
West’s top-ranked A team includes Jeremy Kane (who also won Varsity Division 1, 1st Board Champion), Siarhei Biareishyk (who also won Varsity Division 1, 2nd Board Champion), Sam Bell, Gabe Lezra and Geremy Webne-Behrman.
West’s B team placed fifth overall, and includes team members Joe Swiggum, Adeyinka Lesi, Dennis Zuo, Casey Petrashek (who also won Varsity Division 1, 4th Board Champion) and Kenny Casados.
Alex Betaneli and Neal Gleason are West’s chess team coaches.
West chess teams also won three consecutive championships from 1998 through 2000.

Congratulations to the team and coaches.

The Liberal Arts in School and College

Stanley N. Katz:

The debates that dominate the discussion of the transition from high school to college today assume that the sole function of high school is to prepare graduates to succeed in college courses. If we look at secondary education from the point of view of the liberal arts, however, we can discover a fundamentally different concept of its purpose — and of the capabilities of adolescents. A liberal-arts focus shows how different American assumptions are from those of the other industrialized nations with whom we compete globally today.
Let me start with two points. First, liberal education (by which I mean an engagement with the major aspects of human knowledge and values) is not a throwaway, a bauble for rich kids in select institutions who are going to get good jobs no matter what they study. Liberal education is, or should be, at the core of training our youth to serve themselves, their country, and the world. Second, liberal education is a process laden with content that stretches over an extended period of schooling — at the very least from the third year of high school through the second year of college — and arguably over the entire eight years for those who attend the two institutions.
The question I want to raise is whether we, in the United States, assume that the majority of students aren’t ready to take on a challenging liberal-arts curriculum until they get to college. Have we implicitly taken for granted that adolescents are not capable of tackling the liberal arts? And must we assume, as I think we do, that college students need to get through studying them as quickly as possible, in order to go on to more-professional studies?

Jobs: Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Parent / Community Response

Madison Metropolitan School District:

Provide consultation and direction to schools in their efforts to develop and administer programs which result in achievement of all students. Provide consultation to schools in their efforts to integrate authentic multicultural education in all subject areas. Work with schools to promote teaching strategies that facilitate achievement of students from diverse backgrounds. Provide consultation to the Teaching and Learning Department to ensure the District is offering a comprehensive multicultural education. Provide consultation to staff on the selection, evaluation and use of multicultural resources.

MMSD jobs on the web, including summer school positions.

New Jersey School Administrator Compensation Discussion

Richard Lezin Jones:

Local school boards in New Jersey, driven by stiff competition for top-flight administrators, have given them “questionable and excessive” compensation packages that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and are often hidden from public view, according to the results of a review by state officials released Monday.
The review, by the State Commission of Investigation, examined the payrolls of dozens of school districts and found that boards of education around the state have lavished officials with cars, computers, cellphones, improper pension increases and donations to tax-deferred annuities. Superintendents and other top administrators received, on average, extra compensation that was valued at slightly more than $70,000 over their base salaries, the state found.

The New $4.5 Billion Federal School Funding Program Nobody Knows

Kevin Carey:

But lost in this debate is one of the biggest and largely untold stories of NCLB: Since the law’s passage, Congress has changed the way it distributes the Title I funds that support NCLB, targeting an additional $4.5 billion to the states with strong school funding policies and the school districts with the highest concentrations of low-income children. Congress and the President deserve credit for the shift.
The change has attracted scant attention because it involves the law’s complex funding formulas. Title I uses not one but four different formulas to distribute money to schools—Basic, Concentration, Targeted, and Incentive. Before passage of NCLB, Congress used only the Basic and Concentration formulas. Those formulas spread Title I monies too widely, resulting in districts with relatively few poor children receiving significant funding and high-poverty schools receiving too little. But as the chart below shows, since Congress passed NCLB in 2001 it has increased Title I funding significantly and distributed all of the additional monies through the Targeted and Incentive formulas—helping the nation’s highest-poverty school districts and rewarding states that make the greatest effort to fund education and distribute funding fairly to local districts.

What’s an AYP Rating? And Why it Matters


Most everyone in the political and policy world was fixated on all the “what does it mean” questions about Sunday’s NYT Mag story on Mark Warner. But there was also some chattering about the Outlook spread on No Child Left Behind in the Wash. Post. It was well done including reactions from DC-area principals, an NCLB primer by Jay Mathews, and a map of DC-area schools (pdf) not making “adequate yearly progress” or AYP.

But despite the primer, readers might have been left wondering about these adequate yearly progress targets. That’s understandable, it’s confusing, and they’re not the result of a single calculation. Instead, it’s a multi-step process with opportunities to increase or decrease the level of difficulty at each one. It goes something like this:

First, the state chooses a test to use. This can be a pre-existing test used elsewhere, a custom-designed one based on the state’s standards, or a combination of the two. Obviously, the degree of difficulty is a big issue here.

Second, the state decides what the cut score on the test will be for a student to be “proficient” as well as “basic”, “advanced”, and any other delineations of performance the state wants to have. In other words, how many questions does a student need to answer correctly? For No Child Left Behind the most important category is proficient because that is what the law’s “adequate yearly progress” ratings are based on. There are several methods for determining cut scores. What’s most important to remember about them is that they all rely on professional judgment. There is no revealed source of truth about what a fifth-grader or a high school student needs to know and be able to do. At the risk of oversimplifying too much, the three most common methods are based on using expert judgment from a panel of experts to come up with cut scores, comparing and contrasting how various groups of test takers do on the test, and scaling the questions from easy to hard and determining various delineations for performance along the scale. Again, plenty of chances to increase or reduce the level of difficulty in this process.

But, while newspapers commonly report the percentage of students passing a test, they rarely report on what the cut scores are and when and how they are set. The composition of the professionals involved also matters a lot. Is it just K-12 teachers, or outside experts for instance representatives of higher education, too? Lack of attention to this process is unfortunate because there is plenty of opportunity for mischief and a state with a difficult test and a high cut score, say 40 out of 50, is going to have different results than a state with an easier test or a low cut scores. But, cut scores of half to 2/3 of the questions correct in order to be “proficient” are not at all uncommon. All this is public information or can be obtained through a FOIA. And it’s all extremely relevant to all this.

Dick Askey commented on test scores vis a vis local, state and national results here.

High school may be added to UNC system

School of science, math would be 17th campus

The General Assembly will be asked to approve adding a 17th campus to North Carolina’s public-university system, and this time it’s a high school.
Trustees at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics voted unanimously Friday to integrate with the University of North Carolina system. The UNC board of governors also must approve the reorganization.
The School of Science and Mathematics, a 25-year-old residential high school in Durham, has been under the UNC system umbrella for years. But the UNC board of governors has had no direct supervision of the high school’s trustees.

Marketing Tools Aid Schools

Elizabeth Redden:

The increased popularity of “school choice” and charter schools has another — often overlooked — consequence: an increased emphasis on school marketing.
“Schools find themselves in a different environment today,” said Dr. Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change in Minnesota.
“It used to be pretty cut and dried who goes to what school.
“As we’ve evolved in the last decade toward more public school choice through the charter school movement, more and more families want to learn about their options.”
Delaware is one of the nation’s leaders in school choice, according to a 2005 report released by the nonprofit Rodel Foundation of Delaware.

Improving math ed — Bush right about that, But where are the teachers coming from?

Jonathan David Farley:

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush stressed the importance of improving math education. He proposed to “train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math.”
But where will these teachers come from? And will the training of teachers be sufficient to increase the number of students choosing math and science careers? And why does all this matter?
Because mathematics is the foundation of the natural sciences. It is no coincidence that Isaac Newton, the man who formulated the law of gravitational attraction that revolutionized our understanding of the universe, was also the man who popularized the calculus. And the natural sciences, however pure, are what give us airplanes, cable TV and the Internet.
In the 2003 Program for International Student Assessment, a test that measures math literacy, American 15-year-olds performed worse than their peers in 23 countries, as well as those in Hong Kong. It’s not hard to see why. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 40 percent of the nation’s middle school math teachers do not have the equivalent of an undergraduate minor in math. The average starting salary of a teacher is only $30,000, whereas the average starting salary for a recent college graduate in computer science or engineering is $50,000.

Jonathan Farley is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and a CISAC science fellow.

Virtual Public Schools a Great Option

Rose Fernandez:

I am the mother of 4 children who are excelling with Internet-based learning though a public school in Wisconsin. I am also the President of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families.
Together with our fellow parents, families and friends, we strive to educate policy makers and others on why we chose a virtual public school for our children; how those schools work; about the close, working relationship we have with our teachers and administrators; and much, much more.
Our Coalition strongly support AB 1060, a bill authored by Representative Brett Davis and Senator Luther Olsen, which has passed both houses of the Legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. While public schools do not require additional legislation in order to continue to operate, we appreciate the Legislature reaffirming its intent to keep virtual public education as an option before the parents of Wisconsin.

Some schools, including Sherman, will get fresh fruit & vegetables

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster issued the following press release:

Students will crunch on carrots or cauliflower, or whip up a fruit smoothie while learning the importance of eating fresh produce in 25 schools throughout the state, thanks to a federal grant that brings Wisconsin into the successful U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
“This grant allows us to offer more fresh produce to all students as a supplement to the school breakfast and school lunch programs,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster. “Many schools will offer the fresh fruits and vegetables at times during the day when children would otherwise be hungry, or might need an energy boost to improve their attention in the classroom. We know that hungry children can’t learn, so this program supports our efforts to boost achievement for all students and close the achievement gap.”

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Tom Beebe Discusses Wisconsin’s Public School Finance System

20 Minute Video | MP3 Audio

Tom Beebe of the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) gave a talk Friday afternoon at Edgewood College as part of their school finance class. In this talk he reviews how Wisconsin’s basic school finance structure works, and how the revenue gaps has affected school funding throughout the state. He also provides some suggestions on how and where the funds can be found to correct the situation.

There will be a longer clip posted later this week.

Vo-Tech as a Door to College

Lori Aratani:

Every day, after a morning of classes at Wheaton High School, David Gonzales, a dark-haired, slightly scruffy senior, headed to Thomas Edison High School of Technology. There he donned a tool belt and goggles and went to work as part of a team of student builders who have been constructing a…

O’Keefe Student Wins Badger Spelling Bee

Barry Adams:

When Isabel Jacobson exited last year’s state spelling bee in the fourth round, the tearful O’Keeffe Middle School student predicted she would be back for another shot at the title.
Her prophecy was right on – and then some.
The three-time Madison All-City Spelling Bee champ outdueled the La Crosse area’s three-time winner, Spring Raine Decker, in a six-minute, four-word showdown to win the 58th annual Badger Spelling Bee.
Isabel, 13, correctly spelled “picaresque” to win an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent Wisconsin in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31 and June 1.
“It feels really good,” said Isabel, who leaped from the Monona Grove High School stage to get hugs from her family when she won. “I think one of my mistakes last year was that I really geared up for the city bee and didn’t study enough for state.”

Kansas Study on School Performance & Spending

Jim Sullinger:

The way Kansas schools spend their public money may be just as important as how much they get, according to a study released Thursday.
Initiated last year by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the study by the Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services is thought to be the first to analyze and compare student performance and the way schools allocate budget dollars. It was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The study identified 17 districts that were using their dollars most effectively in achieving high levels of student performance on assessment tests.
The surprise for lawmakers was how much these 17 spent compared with less-successful districts.
“They spent less than the state average and less than districts that didn’t perform as well,” said Jason Kingston, chief analyst on the Standard & Poor’s project.
Based on the analysis, the study concluded that it would be too costly for the state to spend its way to proficiency.

The complete report can be found here [240K PDF file]. A summary is available here.

How the Masses will Innovate

Frank Moss, head of MIT’s Media Lab via a Q & A with Business Week:

You talk about education and the bottom-up effect that millions more people will play in societal advances. How do you see this unfolding?
We will undergo another revolution when we give 100 million kids a smart cell phone or a low-cost laptop, and bootstrap the way they learn outside of school. We think of games as a way to kill time, but in the future I think it will be a major vehicle for learning.
Creative expression (is another area). No longer will just a few write or create music. We will see 100 million people creating the content and art shared among them. Easy-to-use programs allow kids to compose everything form ringtones to full-fledged operas. It will change the meaning of creative art in our society.
We are already seeing early signs of it in blogs. The source of creative content is coming from the world. That revolution will go well outside of the written word to all forms of visual and performing arts.

Program Teaches Kids About Cyber Security

William Kates:

The program teaches students about data protection, computer network protocols and vulnerabilities, security, firewalls and forensics, data hiding, and infrastructure and wireless security.
Most importantly, officials said, teachers discuss ethical and legal considerations in cyber security.
“It’s a great course. It’s a littler harder than I expected,” said Catherine Gudaitis, a junior interested in theater. “But I know in the world I’m going to live in, this will be necessary information, even common knowledge.”

“Mathiak, Cole would bring Fresh Perspective”

Ed Hughes, writing in the Capital Times:

The most important qualifications for a School Board member today are a willingness and ability to grapple with the budget challenges our schools confront under the state’s ill-advised school funding laws.
School Board members will have to think boldly and creatively about how best to preserve the quality of education our students deserve under the limits the law sets. While committed to excellence, they should also be independent and tight-fisted enough to win the confidence of taxpayers.
Unfortunately, our current School Board majority has been a disappointment on budgetary issues. As the results of the last referendums show, the current board has been unable to earn the trust of the voters.

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“Support for Candidates that Care about the Majority”

David Wandel emails:

I am glad that your group, as limited and as narrow as it is, has a forum. It is a shame that your beliefs about the “majority” of the current School Board are so militant and out of focus.
One of those School Board members is Juan Jose Lopez. Here is someone that has devoted 12 years to improving the life of the children of Madison. Without delving into the depth and detail to pose only the minute narrow issues that you seek to blow out of proportion I would like to suggest that instead of postulating on what is needed you need to do something positive. Help elect the candidates that will help solve the problems instead of making current situations worse.
Change your focus of vehemence toward those at the state level that set the budget for our school system. In doing so you will address the real issues.
Mr. Lopez has apparently offended your sensibilities by representing the greatest number of children in the most appropriate way instead of focusing on the narrow group of students you seem to represent – only your own children.
In my case, I have 5 children. They range from a 15 year old fresh-person at West to a 31 year old lawyer in the Chicago area. Never, in all the years that I have represented my children in numerous school systems have I seen such an angry group. You seem like professionals. Act like them.
I personally find that our school system is the best I have come across so far. Perfect, no. Better than others – yes. Likely to help my children succeed – definitely.
Well, I’m done. On April 4 I will vote. For the candidates that care about the majority. Candidates that represent youth in the most appropriate fashion. Candidates that are interested in finding solutions not complaining and hiding in a Blog. Not your candidates but candidates for the people of Madison, not the special interests. Juan and Arlene. Real people that will fight for all our children. Put away your swords and get with it.

Given the Freedom, Tireless Reporters

Michael Winerip:

In a recent issue, Chelsea had a front page article on the growing bureaucratic demands taking up teachers’ time. The article quoted six teachers criticizing new policies being imposed by the Blair High principal and by Montgomery County officials. All six teachers were quoted on the record, with their names, a journalistic feat many grown-up reporters would have trouble matching.
“Chelsea’s relentless,” said Maureen Freeman, a journalism teacher who is adviser to the paper. “She’s relentless in a good way. It’s a positive relentlessness. For two weeks, everywhere I went, there was Chelsea interviewing some teacher in the back of a classroom.”

Maya Cole endorses healthy Homegrown Lunches

The following commitment by Maya Cole seems particularly important to post given the lively discussion on healthy food:

I enthusiastically endorse the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Food Policy Recommendations, and I will work to win adoption of the recommendations if I have the opportunity to serve on the Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).
Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch is a grassroots program whose goal is to enhance the Madison public schools’ existing meal programs by introducing fresh, nutritious, local and sustainably grown food to children, beginning in the city’s elementary schools. The program, like similar “farm-to-school” programs around the country, will provide an opportunity for children to reconnect with their natural world and will help establish a stable market for local farmers and processors.

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California Math Standards

California Department of Education (pdf):

A high-quality mathematics program is essential for all students and provides every student with the opportunity to choose among the full range of future career paths. Mathematics, when taught well, is a subject of beauty and elegance, exciting in its logic and coherence. It trains the mind to be analytic—providing the foundation for intelligent and precise thinking.
To compete successfully in the worldwide economy, today’s students must have a high degree of comprehension in mathematics. For too long schools have suffered from the notion that success in mathematics is the province of a talented few. Instead, a new expectation is needed: all students will attain California’s mathematics academic content standards, and many will be inspired to achieve far beyond the minimum standards.
The content standards identify what all students in California public schools should know and be able to do in mathematics at each grade level. The standards emphasize computational and procedural skills, conceptual understanding, and problem solving. The standards are organized by grade level and are presented in five strands up to grade seven: number sense, algebra and functions, measurement and geometry; statistics, data analysis, and probability; and mathematical reasoning. The mathematics studied in grades eight through twelve falls naturally under the discipline headings of algebra, geometry, etc.

Additional standards and frameworks are posted here.

It’s INSTEP Season

Are you concerned that your MMSD K-12 student is not being adequately challenged in one or more academic content areas? Perhaps s/he needs an INSTEP.
An INSTEP is an “Individualized Student Education Plan.” It’s like an IEP (“Individual Education Plan”), except that it’s for high performing students. (IEP’s are for students with special education needs.) For any given student, an INSTEP can be done in a single curricular area or in multiple curricular areas. Now is a good time to request an INSTEP because it will insure that no time will be lost in meeting your child’s educational needs next year.
It’s been said that the INSTEP is one of the District’s best kept secrets. Find out all there is to know at
To request an INSTEP — or to simply explore the possibility that your child may need one — all you have to do is contact the appropriate District TAG (“Talented and Gifted”) staff:
Rosy Bayuk — — 663-5230
(Emerson, Franklin, Leopold, Lincoln, Mendota, Midvale)
Kerry Berns — — 663-5230
(Elvehjem, Gompers, Hawthorne, Kennedy, Lakeview, Lindbergh)
Leah Creswell — — 663-5221
(Allis, Lowell, Nuestro Mundo, Orchard Ridge, Randall, Thoreau)
Rebecca Finnerud — — 442-2152
(Glendale, Lapham, Marquette, Sandberg, Schenk)
Bettine Lipman — — 442-2153
(Chavez, Crestwood, Falk, Huegel, Muir, Stephens, Van Hise)
Ted Widerski — — 663-5221
(all middle schools and all high schools)
Welda Simousek — — 663-5245
(District TAG Coordinator)
The TAG staff are an invaluable resource for the entire District. They are the only educational professionals in the District who are trained and experienced in both the appropriate assessment of advanced learners and in curriculum differentiation (theory and practice). They also know a lot about the social and emotional needs of academically talented children.
Uncomfortable with the word “gifted”? No need to be. No need to even use it. Just think of a performance distribution (one for each academic content area) and ask yourself if your child is in the top 15-20% of the distribution (the top 16% is one or more standard deviations above the mean). Ask yourself if they are advanced by two or more grade levels? Finally, ask yourself if you think your child is truly being challenged at school. Don’t forget to ask your child a few questions — Are they learning new material? Does the pace of learning feel about right for them? Are they regularly bored in class because they already know the material, it goes too slowly or there’s too much repetition? Etc.

Charter School Evidence from California

RAND Corporation [pdf file]:

This “Occasional Paper” from the RAND Corporation assesses the state of charter schools in California. The results show that test scores for California’s charter school students are keeping pace with comparable students in traditional district schools. Researchers found that the state’s charter schools have achieved comparable test score results with fewer public resources and have emphasized non-core subjects more than have traditional schools. In addition, they found evidence that charter schools have not created “white enclaves” or “skimmed” high-performing students from traditional district schools as some opponents had feared. RAND’s findings, coupled with the fact that charter schools typically use less public resources, leads them to the conclusion that “charter schooling is a reform initiative worth continuing in California.”

Keep Focus on Math and Science

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

The United States is falling behind China and India in producing scientists and mathematicians, raising serious questions about America’s economic future.
While the national scene is troubling, Wisconsin enjoys some bright spots.
State students consistently score above the national average on the ACT college admissions test, especially in math and science. An increasing number 69 percent of 2005 graduates took the test.
To compete in the global knowledge-based economy, Wisconsin must continue its commitment to math and science education and encourage more students to take related courses.

There’s been a great deal of discussion on these issues here.

Kalamazoo, Mich., Pegs Revitalization Plan on Tuition Plan

Neal E. Boudette:

Last year, Greg DeHaan and his partner built 189 homes in the leafy, middle-class suburbs ringing this downtrodden industrial city, but not one in Kalamazoo itself. “There was no demand,” says Mr. DeHaan, whose company, Allen Edwin Homes, is one of the largest home builders in Michigan.
By early December, however, a market had suddenly materialized, prompting the developer to pay $7 million for three separate tracts of land. Out-of-state investors began scouring the area for opportunities, too.
Mr. DeHaan and others in town trace this new interest in Kalamazoo to an unusual, anonymously funded plan. Beginning this June, college tuition will be free for any student who enters the Kalamazoo school system by the ninth grade — regardless of income or need. The program, unveiled in November by the city’s superintendent of schools and underwritten by a group of local philanthropists, is to run for at least 13 years.
Called the “Kalamazoo Promise,” the tuition plan requires only that students live in Kalamazoo or neighboring Oshtemo township, graduate from public high school and attend a public university or community college in Michigan. Students who go from kindergarten through the 12th grade get a full ride. The program will cover 65% of tuition costs for those who spend at least their four high-school years in the city’s schools, with the percentage of aid rising for those who spend more years in the system.

Interesting relationship between education, economic development and a community.

April 2004 West High School Math Teacher Letter

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

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

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

“You can learn and I’m not going to let you not learn.”

Madison School Board Seat 1 Candidate Maya Cole:

From his book, Innumeracy, Mathematical Illiteracy And Its Consequences, John Allen Paulos defines innumeracy as, “…an inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance, [it] plagues far too many otherwise knowledgeable citizens.”
Paulos goes on to state that, “[i]n an increasingly complex world full of senseless coincidence, what’s required in many situations in not more facts—we’re inundated already—but a better command of known facts, and for this a course in probability is invaluable…Probability, like logic, is not just for mathematicians anymore. It permeates our lives.”
Finally, Paulos concludes, “I’m distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems so indifferent to the innumeracy and illiteracy of so many of its citizens; with a military that spends more than one quarter of a trillion dollars each year on ever smarter weapons for ever more poorly educated soldiers; and with the media which invariably become obsessed with this hostage on an airliner, or that baby who has fallen into a well, and seems insufficiently passionate when it comes to addressing problems such as urban crime, environmental deterioration, or poverty.”
So where do we start?
Math curriculum.
That’s right, we start with math. The complicated and controversial topic of many school districts; but one that I hope, can be dicussed at every school board forum in the next few weeks.
A very lively discussion of the math curriculum in the Madison Metropolitan School District ensued recently at a forum held with University math professors, the school of Education, the general public and the MMSD administration. (You can watch the video below.)

Misleading School Budget Debate Led by Current Board Majority

In his blog titled Misleading School Budget Debate, Mr. Soglin says:
“…it is incumbent upon us to figure out where the additional revenue should come from and if we are going to cut, the consequences of those cuts.”[emphasis added]
I feel it is most definitely incumbent upon us to figure this out in order to keep Madison’s excellent public schools strong, and I feel that is NOT what the current school board majority has been doing. We do need to know, among other things:

  • a) what education the community we live in expects and values,
  • b) what that education will cost for all our children,
  • c) what revenue can we expect,
  • d) what options (referendum, other) do we need to pursue to meet the needs of our community’s schools, and
  • e) what are the consequences of cuts and alternatives to cuts.

These important discussions need to take place throughout the year in an organized, cohesive manner that engages the Board and the community. There needs to be multiple local and statewide strategies for funding – increased sales tax might be one, what are others? We have gone far too long without needed vision, guidance and important discussions from the Madison School Board majority.
Something’s not right when more time appears to be spent in board meetings discussing pets in the classroom than framing and discussing issues affecting our wonderful school district’s future viability.

Learning from Leaders

Susan Troller:

Female students at East High School learned in one morning how to be happy in love, what their rights and responsibilities are as young voters, and where to find a skilled, independent job that pays $30 to $50 an hour plus benefits.
The presentations were part of a new event at East called “Week of the Young Woman,” which began Monday and continues through Friday, featuring more than 50 female community leaders who are talking about topics that range from date violence to finance and economics, nontraditional jobs and women’s health issues. It was scheduled in early March as part of the recognition of Women’s History Month; the talks are open only to East High students.

French Math Teacher Covers Structure Of Derivatives; Banks Clamor for ‘Quants’

Carrick Mollenkamp and Charles Fleming:

As a result, banks are hiring an increasing number of recruits who understand derivatives. Inside banks, they are known as “quantitative analysts,” or “quants” for short. They are able to marry stochastic calculus — the study of the impact of random variation over time — with the realities of financial trading.
Derivatives are financial contracts, often exotic, whose values are derived from the performance of an underlying asset to which they are linked. Companies use them to help mitigate risk. For example, a company that stands to lose money on fixed-rate loans if rates rise can mitigate that risk by buying derivatives that increase in value as rates rise. Increasingly, investors are also using derivatives to make big bets on, say, the direction that interest rates will move. That carries the possibility of large returns, but also the possibility of large losses.
The 75 or so students who take Ms. El Karoui’s “Probability and Finance” course each year are avidly sought by recruiters. Three years ago, Joanna Cohen, a specialist in quant recruitment at Huxley Associates in London traveled to Paris to meet Ms. El Karoui to ensure her search firm was in the loop when students hit the job market. Today, Ms. Cohen says she carefully checks résumés with Ms. El Karoui’s name to make sure applicants aren’t overstating their interaction with the professor.

California’s Proposed $50/Parcel Tax

Friends of

Put your hand on your wallet! Check out this North County Times article. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and EdVoice are working to get a measure on the ballot called the “Classroom Learning and Accountability Act”. This measure would add a $50/parcel tax on every piece of property in California. The only parcels exempted would be those owned by the disabled or senior citizens.

The measure would create about a pot of over $500M for a variety of uses. The money would allocated as follows:

  • $225M for additional class size reduction
  • $100M for textbook purchases
  • $100M for school safety
  • $90M for school modernization
  • $20M for the CALPADS student longitudinal data system

I’m quite surprised that liberals like O’Connell would even support this regressive tax which would have a greater impact on low-income homeowners who would pay a larger portion of their income than wealthy homeowners. That seems to go against their usual “tax the wealthy” strategy. I guess he feels that $50 is such as small amount that even the low-income families would be OK with paying it. Of course, the real problem is that this $50 wouldn’t be the end of it. In the article, it even says that O’Connell plans to add another $50 every 4 years, so this tax would just keep increasing. Also, if this tactic works, rest assured that other special interests will be running to the ballot with their own $50 parcel tax measures.

It’s Elementary

Vincent P. O’Hern:

or the past few years, at least, part of our mission at Isthmus has been to cover education in Madison. Sometimes it’s a cover story, other times it’s an ongoing monitoring of the process. This week, for instance, we print excerpts from “Take-Home Test,” a feature that appears on The Daily Page, consisting of questions posed to school board candidates prior to next month’s election.
But most of our coverage has focused on the institutional operation of the school system, including the political games adults sometimes play. If you really want to know the state of public education, you have to go beyond the system and inside the school’s four walls to experience how students and staff bring Madison education to life. I had the opportunity to do just that this week under the aegis of Principal for a Day, a program of the private Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools.

New Glarus 4th Grader Wins Art Prize

Ellen Williams-Masson:

Fourth grader Jonathan Mattmann may live in a hushed world but his artistic interpretation shouts from the page in the drawing that has won him top honors in a statewide art competition for people with disabilities.
Jonathan comes from a family in which sign language is a way of life and lip reading is second nature. His father, Eric, has been deaf since early childhood and Jonathan, his sister Heather, and his mother Melisa have varying degrees of hearing loss.
Jonathan’s drawing titled “Summer Day on the Farm” was one of five winners selected from more than 100 entries in the VSA arts of Wisconsin’s 2006 Children’s Call for Art. The winning pieces are displayed in a traveling art show for five years before being retired and sold.

“For Once, Blame the Student”

Patrick Welsh:

Failure in the classroom is often tied to lack of funding, poor teachers or other ills. Here’s a thought: Maybe it’s the failed work ethic of todays kids. That’s what I’m seeing in my school. Until reformers see this reality, little will change.
Last month, as I averaged the second-quarter grades for my senior English classes at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., the same familiar pattern leapt out at me.
Kids who had emigrated from foreign countries – such as Shewit Giovanni from Ethiopia, Farah Ali from Guyana and Edgar Awumey from Ghana – often aced every test, while many of their U.S.-born classmates from upper-class homes with highly educated parents had a string of C’s and D’s.
As one would expect, the middle-class American kids usually had higher SAT verbal scores than did their immigrant classmates, many of whom had only been speaking English for a few years.
What many of the American kids I taught did not have was the motivation, self-discipline or work ethic of the foreign-born kids.

A wealthy school district asks: How much is too much?

Teacher contract up for vote this week.
Jessica T. Lee:

n Hanover, where public school teachers are already the highest paid in the state, voters this week will decide whether a proposed teachers’ contract is too generous, as some residents contend, or appropriate for the affluent school district.
People on both sides of the issue ask that voters compare the school district’s $59,236 average teacher salary to the salaries of others.
Opponents of the contract, which includes the majority of the school district’s finance committee, point out that the pay is 35 percent higher than the state average of $43,941. The finance committee has long noted a “premium” that residents pay for education, and is asking for evidence students are receiving an education proportional to that premium.
Teachers point to a different comparison: $70,877, the median household income in Hanover and Norwich, Vt., is 20 percent higher than last year’s average teacher salary. Teachers said they are asking for salaries comparable to those in the schools’ community.
“People can point to our salaries, and make claims or ask, ‘Is it really worth it?'” said Pamala Miller, president of the Hanover Education Association, the teachers’ union. “I would ask the parents in the community that question, and I guess we’ll get the answer with the vote.”
The debate comes as the Concord School Board and the local teachers’ union are struggling to reach their own three-year contract; both salaries and health insurance are n disput

Schools to share what works through charter dissemination grants

State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster has announced $1.3 million in dissemination grants to 12 charter schools in nine school districts. The grants are part of the state’s $52 million, three-year federal funding to create 100 new charter schools in Wisconsin. Four of the grants renew previous dissemination projects; eight are for new projects, some of which include partnerships with existing schools to improve student achievement.

“Charter school practices keep getting better each year of the program,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster in announcing $1.3 million in dissemination grants to 12 charter schools in nine school districts. . . .

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Ogden & Nussbaum: Cole is best pick to serve on Madison School Board

Genie Ogden and Mitch Nussbaum:

Dear Editor: We feel that Maya Cole would be an excellent addition to the School Board. She is progressive, and we feel she would represent our children’s interests better than anyone else.
She was running the “Opt-Out” campaign. This campaign helps parents opt their children out of the requirement from the “No Child Left Behind” law that makes a student’s personal records available to the military.

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Madison Schools’ Board of Education Candidate Take Home Test: Week 7


There’s no doubt that Isthmus has the juice in this campaign. The traditional daily newspapers haven’t covered any substantive issues in this race. I’d like to see some links/words that contrast my opinion on their lack of “beef” (Have they attended any forums?). Focusing on personalities is a simple, self made “pass” that avoids issues critical to our children:

  • World Class Curriculum; ineffective curriculum choices can place a lifelong tax on our children. Ironic, from a community that includes the University of Wisconsin.
  • Leadership that can pass referenda (will the current approach and personalities be successful?)
  • Transparency with respect to the District’s growing $321M+ budget. Again, will the current approach pass the necessary referenda?

Isthmus’s work represents the best of local journalism. Rather amazing, given the resources they have vs the enormous dailies. Interestingly, the Fitchburg Star has posted some useful articles as well.
The Memorandum to Local Media represented one attempt to at least look at the issues rather than simply compare and contrast personalities.

Principal for a Day – Understanding Schools

Neil Heinen:

When all is said and done, there may be no more important relationship in our system of public education than a principal and their school. The impact a principal has on students, teachers, staff, parents and learning is undeniable. And the good ones make their schools good.
Madison has many good ones. And understanding the role principals play is an important function of the “Principal for a Day” program, now in its third year as part of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools. The nearly 60 business and civic leaders who participated in this year’s event have a better understanding of both the role principals play and the current state of our schools.
Which leads us to Adopt-a-School. With the support of CUNA Mutual, businesses can now form a relationship with an individual school to help sustain and extend the excellence of our schools.

Professor Goodgrade

Louise Churchill:

This fall I gave my students grades for the first time. Of course, my students have received grades from me before, but I was always of the philosophy that those grades should be the ones they had earned.
This semester, that changed. I began giving A’s like gifts. Why? I need to get tenure.
At my midtenure review, I performed excellently in all areas but one — the computerized scores calculated from student evaluations of my teaching. Despite my solid scholarship, a wide range of academic service, great rapport with colleagues, and, most significantly, many strong written testimonials from students praising my teaching, I was warned that my computer scores needed to rise significantly in order for me to be sure of tenure at my small college.
On the written evaluations, students attest that my high standards, impressive expertise, and challenging assignments mean that they learn a great deal in my class. Many students express gratitude for that.

UW-Madison to offer 32 languages in summer 2006 offerings

Ronnie Hess:

UW-Madison, a national leader in language education, will offer 32 languages this summer in a variety of for-credit courses. The languages will be taught through full immersion programs, special summer institutes and regular course offerings.
The languages include Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, English as a Second Language, Filipino, French, German, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Khmer, Lao, Latin, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Norwegian, Persian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Standards, Accountability, and School Reform

This is very long, and the link may require a password so I’ve posted the entire article on the continued page.
Standards, Accountability, and School Reform
by Linda Darling-Hammond — 2004
The standards-based reform movement has led to increased emphasis on tests, coupled with rewards and sanctions, as the basis for “accountability” systems. These strategies have often had unintended consequences that undermine access to education for low-achieving students rather than enhancing it. This article argues that testing is information for an accountability system; it is not the system itself. More successful outcomes have been secured in states and districts, described here, that have focused on broader notions of accountability, including investments in teacher knowledge and skill, organization of schools to support teacher and student learning, and systems of assessment that drive curriculum reform and teaching improvements.

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“Students Need to Prepare Earlier”

Beverly Creamer:

Leaders of Hawai’i’s P-20 Initiative say students and families need to start thinking about getting through high school and beyond as early as the middle- school years to avoid pitfalls in the education system.
Also troubling is the amount of remediation needed by students enrolled in Hawai’i’s community colleges. According to the P-20 Initiative’s new strategic plan, 89 percent of students in Hawai’i’s two-year colleges require remediation in math, and 68 percent require remediation in English.
That’s especially troubling to national Education Trust advocate Kati Haycock.
“Having to take one brush-up course is not a big deal,” Haycock said. “But students who have to take two or three end up never completing anything in college, so it’s something you want to fix.”

Related: Hawai’i Public Schools “Leak Students”.

A 5 Year Approach to the Madison School District’s Budget Challenges; or what is the best quality of education that can be purchased for our district for $280 million a year?

Two weeks ago, Roger Price presented a 5-year forecast for the district, which included a projection that there would be a $38 million budget gap, by 2011, if the district proceeded with it’s present operations.  He emphasized the presumption that this was before changes are implemented to address the gap.  He also emphasized his discomfort with the accuracy of any forecast beyond one year.
As a consultant who has done economic modeling and forecasting for almost 20 years, I can certainly understand this discomfort.  However, I note that the district website contains a list of budget cuts enacted by the board since 1993, a list which includes over $32 million in cuts over the last 5 years.  With prices only increasing over time, and with the special concerns raised over health care and energy costs, the initial $38 million deficit projection does not seem unreasonable.  My preference would be to round it to $40 million, and to recognize that it may require six years (give or take) to achieve that gap.  But the forecast makes clear that we are talking about a very large amount, and that there is a structural budget gap.  By structural, I mean that anticipated revenue increases are expected to consistently fail to keep up with expenses, and that over time ever-more drastic cuts will be required to remain in budgetary balance.
How might the district address this ominous gap?  I think there are two basic approaches that can be taken.  One is to endeavor to cut approximately $8 million each year, to address each budget year on its own, and to effectively ignore the looming structural gap.  This approach implies keeping the same district structure as today, and essentially tearing away different pieces of it each year.  Of course, this approach continues to be more and more painful each year, as the easy cuts are long completed and now only more critical programs and services remain for the knife.
I would like to respectfully recommend a second approach.  That rather than look at the budget picture one year at a time, that you instead look at where the budget will be (approximately) five years from now.  In effect, that you determine how to cut $40 million from the budget, not $8 million.  Last month, numerous efforts were made to find $3.77 in cuts from a $100 budget.  Few were able to find that amount.  I am suggesting a group be formed to find the equivalent of $15 in cuts, and by the way, they will have five years over which to implement those cuts.  You may laugh at the prospect, but that is exactly the situation this district is facing – it indeed must find $15 or more in cuts over the next five years.
How to find $40 million?  By asking a very different question, one which has nothing to do, and everything to do, with that amount.  By asking, what is the best quality of education that can be purchased for our district for $280 million a year.  Start with a completely clean slate.  Identify your primary goals and values and priorities.  Determine how best to achieve those goals to the highest possible level, given a budget that happens to be $40 million smaller than today’s.  Consider everything – school-based budgeting, class sizes, after-school sports, everything.
When it’s all done, this group will have likely shaped an educational structure for this district that is quite different than the one you use today.  The second task of this group, therefore, would be to determine how to implement the necessary changes.  Perhaps one school is run under the new model in the first year, then additional schools, or perhaps all other schools, would be so run the following year.
I have no idea what this new structure, what this new district, will look like.  But I am sure of this:  I will be much more likely to prefer my two kids attend a district that is the outcome of a process such as this which is well-thought out and planned, than I will a district that has continued to endure the annual relentless torturing of it’s current structure.

I read these words during the public appearances segment of last night’s School Board meeting.

More on Schools Avoid Class Ranking, Vexing Collegs

Tyler Cowen comments on this recent article:

Let us say your kid is smart but has a small chance of making it into a top school. At Yana’s high school (Woodson, in Fairfax) I’ve seen folders of students with 4.0 and 1600 SAT scores who did not get into Harvard or Yale. Getting into those places has elements of a crapshoot. You are gambling, with the odds against you, and a payoff varying only at some threshold level of success (i.e., getting in is what matters; if your kid doesn’t get in, it doesn’t matter how close he came.) Those are the classical conditions where the gambler prefers to take more risk. On the upside, your chance of getting in goes up and on the downside, the longer left-hand tail doesn’t hurt you.

More-healthful school menus fatten districts’ food bills

Ofelia Madrid:

chool lunch has definitely changed from the days of mystery meat slapped onto a tray.
Some students now have their choice of chicken Caesar wraps, chocolate covered bananas and fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Schools across the Valley are making the switch to more-healthful foods on the lunch menu in anticipation of a state law banning junk food and a federal wellness mandate requiring more-healthful lunches starting July 1.
School district nutrition directors must figure out how to meet the nutrition guidelines and offer more-healthful foods, which are more expensive. Students, who are noticing and liking some of the new foods, could be asked to pay more than the average $2 for lunch.
“They’re . . . giving us healthier sides,” said Scottsdale student Jessica Charchedi. “Now we get fruit instead of fruit rollups,”
Food broker David Glutz remembers getting into the school-lunch business 20 years ago.
“The school wanted to spend 40 cents an entree. That hasn’t changed,” said Glutz, who works with most Valley school districts.

Michigan’s House Increases High School Graduation Requirements

Judy Putnam:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm last year called for the more rigorous courses in an effort to make Michigan’s workers more competitive. The state now requires only a half-credit civics course, with other requirements set by the local districts.
Rep. David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, voted for the graduation requirements even though he was leading an effort to delete Algebra II from them. A vote to drop Algebra II wasn’t taken, but Hildenbrand said he will try when the legislation comes back from the Senate.
“I’m all for rigor, and I think Algebra II is right for most kids, but not every kid,” he said after the vote. “I think it’s important that we have that local flexibility.”

School Potlucks To Be Exempt From Restaurant Rules

You laugh, but the zeal to protect ourselves from our food has gotten the better of many well-intentioned people, and was challenging the ability of school groups to host potlucks. The original of this release is on-line at:


By unanimous vote the Wisconsin State Senate has concurred in Assembly Bill454, the “Potluck Liberation Bill”. The bill, authored by State Representative Barbara Gronemus, will exempt potluck events from the public health regulation of restaurants. The bill previously passed the State Assembly by a vote of 95-0.
According to Gronemus, “Assembly Bill 454 was introduced to correct a “state of confusion” between our law books and our state administrative codes on the subject of potlucks by creating an exception to the definition of “restaurant” for a potluck event in Wisconsin and defines the term “potluck event” events that meet the following criteria:
(1) attendees provide food and beverages to be shared and consumed at the event,
(2) no compensation is provided to any person who conducts or assists in providing the event or who provides food and beverages, and no compensation is paid by any person for consumption of food or beverages, and
(3) the event is sponsored is a church; religious, fraternal, youth, or patriotic organization of service club; civic organization; parent-teacher organization; senior citizen center or organization; or adult day care center.
In final comments on Senate passage of Assembly Bill 454, Gronemus stated, “To quote a major newspaper in our state, “Potlucks are as much a Wisconsin tradition as Packers tailgate parties and Friday Fish fries and are an old-old way for communities to come ogether, share food and trade hot dish recipes” and I am proud to have authored Assembly Bill 454 to being some common sense back to the area of potlucks and keep them alive and well as a means of social interaction between people and their recipes and their communities, and I am hopeful that Governor Doyle will sign it into law”.
In addition, Gronemus renewed her intent to sponsor a State Capitol Potluck in celebration of her efforts to protect and liberate them from over zealous government regulations.

Great cities have great school districts

Art Rainwater:

The health of cities, towns and villages is interdependent with their school districts. Great cities have great school districts. For 167 years the residents of the Madison Metropolitan School District have enjoyed that reality. I am honored and proud to work here. All of our citizens have every reason to feel that pride in what they have created and supported – a great place for kids to grow and learn.

Further discussion of ability grouping postponed

The continued public discussion of “some” versus “no” ability grouping originally scheduled for tonight’s Performance and Achievement Committee meeting has been postponed. Instead, according the the District website, the agenda for tonight consists of a 2005 Summer School report and 2006 budget recommendations.
In response to a suggestion that the discussion has been postponed because U.W. Sociology Professor Adam Gamoran’s January 30 presentation to the Performance and Achievement Committee had not provided the “green light” on heterogeneous grouping that the BOE had hoped for, BOE President Carol Carstensen wrote, “I am not putting off the discussion on heterogeneous classes because of any information, pro or con, from any of the presentations so far. I have always said that this should be a complete discussion – and that the Board should not rush into any decisions. I am hoping that we can continue these discussions in May and early June.” Ms. Carstensen also reminded us that Shwaw Vang is chair of the Performance and Achievement Committee.

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Vermont Principal: “Have More Babies”

Pam Belluck:

Poultney, a town of 3,600 bordering New York, is just one example of a situation that increasingly alarms many in Vermont. This state of beautiful mountains and popular ski resorts, once a magnet for back-to-the-landers, is losing young people at a precipitous clip.
Vermont, with a population of about 620,000, now has the lowest birth rate among states. Three-quarters of its public schools have lost children since 2000.
Vermont also has the highest rate of students attending college out of their home state — 57 percent, up from 36 percent 20 years ago. Many do not move back. The total number of 20- to 34-year-olds in Vermont has shrunk by 19 percent since 1990.

Most of my UW-Madison friends have long since left Wisconsin. We’re providing some help to states like California and Colorado.

23 WI Schools Schedule April, 2006 Referenda

Amy Hetzner:

Even though previous years have seen more school districts hold referendums – 42 in April 2001 – never before have so many scheduled referendums asked for an increase in operating revenue, according to information from the state Department of Public Instruction. The DPI has monitored referendum results since 1990, and has recorded whether the referendums involve issuing bonds or exceeding the revenue caps since 1999.
Among those seeking to boost their revenue this year are the Northern Ozaukee and Richfield school districts.
“The revenue cap has been in effect since ’93,” Northern Ozaukee Superintendent William Harbron said. “It’s done what it’s supposed to do. And people right now do not have enough revenue to operate their districts.”
The rise in referendums to exceed revenue caps could be a result of declining student enrollments throughout the state, said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
According to a recent report by the taxpayers alliance, 239 of the state’s 426 school districts had fewer students in the 2004-’05 school year than they had the year before, and 51 of those districts had their enrollment decline for five consecutive years. Revenue caps tie schools’ operating income to their enrollment for the last three years.
“There’s an increase in the number of districts where the revenue cap is really starting to squeeze district finances,” Knapp said. “Their transportation, their heat, their building costs, their administrative costs, etc., those continue to go up. But because of the way enrollment plays into the revenue formula, their revenue is either stagnant or declining.”

More on The “Silent Epidemic”

Colin summarizes conversation on the Gates Foundation’s recent report on dropouts:

The study, titled The Silent Epidemic (pdf doc), funded by the Gates Foundation and conducted by Civic Enterprises, was compiled from information gathered from interviews with recent dropouts. John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises says, “the problem is solvable.” In part, it’s solvable because it’s not necessarily a case that dropouts are intellectually incapable of keeping up with classes. 90 percent of the dropouts interviewed for the study reported they were passing in all of their classes. So, what are the forces causing kids to close their eyes to the fact of getting placed behind the power curve by virtue of dropping out.

2.27.2006 Board Meeting Video Clips

Video clips of Monday’s Madison School Board Meeting are now available:

  • Discussion about the potential sale or other use of the school district’s Doyle Administration building (adjacent to the Kohl Center) (44MB)
  • Legislative Committee: Discuss the legal requirements, if any for certain district administrator contracts. (41MB)
  • East Attendance Area Task Force Report (207MB)

Posted a video of the recent Health Care Task Force Meeting (120MB)

The Road to the Digital School — Education Speakers coming to Wisconsin

Technology Leadership Institute:

Join leading edge school districts as we explore what it means to teach and learn in a 21st century instructional environment. Today, the pressure to improve achievement levels is greater than ever before. Recent research has shown that when students have greater access to technology-based learning, the greater their engagement and achievement. That is the reward of the digital school. Achievement improves faster when digital natives and digital immigrants – students and teachers – are mutually comfortable with technology and mutually engaged. This event is designed to help you rethink the digital school. Rethink what an innovative educational environment can be. And rethink how it can benefit your students.
Guest Speakers

This Brookfield event is sponsored by Apple Computer.

Primary Progress, Secondary Challeng: A State-By-State Look At Student Achievement Patterns

The Education Trust [full report: 480K pdf]:

The analysis also raises questions about the rigor of state tests and standards, putting a spotlight on the huge disparities in student performance on state tests and on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) [an issue raised recently by UW Math Professor Dick Askey]. Just 29 percent of the nation’s eighth-graders demonstrate proficiency in reading and math on federal NAEP assessments. But most states report much higher proficiency rates on their own tests. The report provides a 50-state look at student performance on both tests.
Among the report’s key findings:

  • Overall achievement gains were most consistent in the elementary grades, where math achievement increased in 29 of 32 states examined, and reading achievement increased in 27 of 31 states. Math achievement declined in one state, reading achievement in three.
  • In middle school math, 29 states improved overall achievement while one lost ground and one saw no change. The picture in middle school reading, however, is less positive. Overall reading achievement increased in only 20 of 31 states examined, while achievement declined in six states and did not change in five others.
  • High school math results increased in 20 of 23 states and decreased in only two. High school reading results increased in 17 of 24 states and decreased in five.

While important, overall trends do not tell the whole story. To ensure that all students meet grade-level standards, schools must increase achievement for all students while accelerating gains for poor and minority children who are often the furthest behind. Many states are meeting this goal in the elementary grades, but the results in middle and high school are disturbing.

Via Joanne.

The Power of No Excuses

Ruben Navarrette, Jr.:

YOU HAVE to hand it to critics of “No Child Left Behind.” In trying to preserve the status quo, they’re wrong. But at least they’re persistent. In fact, they’re persistently wrong.
Made up of teachers, administrators, school board members and anyone who turns a blind eye to the mediocrity of public schools, the critics are relentless in their attempts to discredit the education reform law.
They’ll get another chance to blast away over the next several months as a bipartisan commission holds public hearings across the country to get an earful on what works with the law, and what doesn’t. The commission will send recommendations to Congress, which is expected to renew the law in 2007.
It’s easy to see why those who prefer the status quo detest “No Child Left Behind.” Under the law, children in every racial and demographic group in every public school must improve their scores on standardized tests in math and science. No excuses. Schools that fall short of that goal can be shut down, and their students can transfer to another public school.
The critics hate requirements like that for one reason — because good tests not only tell you if kids are learning, but also if teachers and administrators are holding up their end. If the truth comes out, disgruntled parents might go from demanding accountability from schools to demanding it from the individuals who work in them.

Curated Education Information