NCLB Causing Decline in Achievement

The New York Times on April 13 reported on a study by the Northwest Evaluation Association that shows there is a decline in the improvement of students in schools since the enactment of NCLB. To quote the article in part:
“Since No Child Left Behind, … individual growth has slowed, possibly because teachers feel compelled to spend the bulk of their time making sure students who are near proficiency make it over the hurdle.
The practice may leave teachers with less time to focus on students who are either far below or far above the proficiency mark, the researchers said, making it less likely for the whole class to move forward as rapidly as before No Child Left Behind set the agenda.”
The following link is to the actual report from the NWEA site, for your reading pleasure.
Download file

MMSD’s reply on Reading Recovery

In response to criticism of Reading Recovery here and on the Madison TAG Parents web site, MMSD Reading Recovery Coordinator, Sharon Gilpatrick, provided TAG staff with information in response to the letter about Reading Recovery and asked that it be shared with the community.
According to the Reading Recovery Council of North America the Internet letter criticizing Reading Recovery was not an “unbiased review of evidence. It represents a narrow but vocal minority opinion.” They also state that it has a number of biases and omits important findings. You can draw your own conclusions by reading their letter signed by their group of international researchers.

A Quid Pro Quo for Passing the Referenda

The District must have a budget process that allows the Board of Education and the public to review the budget, and balance the interests of the public, students and staff to accomplish the effective and efficient operation of the School District, and to ensure that its priorities are addressed.
The current timeline for budget approval does not allow the Board or the public to have reasonable and informed access to the information necessary to balance those interests, or to ensure those priorities.
Instead, current and past budget practices allow staff contracts to be accepted, budget cuts to be proposed, and additional programs to be considered, all without the ability to place these items within the budget as a whole, and therefore balance all interests.
Modifying the budget process to allow this balancing, to me, is non-negotiable.
I, for one, will not be supporting any of the referenda on the May 24 ballot, unless the budget process is fixed.
I will be voting in favor of all the referenda on May 24, if and only if the Board takes actions prior to the referenda to ensure all proposed staff contracts and other agreements are incorporated into the previously published budget and not acted separately upon by the Board; and, if and only if, all cuts to programs are proposed and presented in the context of the previously published budget, and not acted separately upon by the Board.
In order to get my vote, the 2005-2006 budget process and timelines need to be modified, even at this late date, to conform. We cannot reneg on any contracts already voted on by the Board, and we cannot review the failure to consider adminstrative renewals by the Board, and we cannot pull back the publicly proposed cuts to await the timely arrival of the budget.
But, we must be delivered an estimated 2005-2006 budget sooner than the proposed May 2nd to give the public time to review it, place the proposed cuts into its budget context, and plan for alternative budget adjustments. At the latest, the budget can be delivered to the Board and public on April 22nd, even under the current timeline, by posting the budget on the website prior to or instead of printing (we might even be able to save printing costs!).
Accepting the referenda for a changed budget process is a quid pro quo contract between the Board and the public. It is a prototypical win-win agreement. All sides to the coming debate over the referenda get everything they want. Those in favor of the referenda get the referenda passed; those who want a significantly better budget process get their interests heard.
Accepting such a challenge might even avoid the coming, and, what I perceive to be, very devisive battle among the many sides to debates.
For those who find such an agreement more of a compromise than a win-win agreement, consider it progress towards opening up the budget process � progress that could have been accomplished years ago.
The real debate has not started, but I�ve already heard some loose lips. I�ve heard it said (paraphrasing), �If you can�t afford the tax increases, take a mortgage out on your home.� And I�ve read comments that said (paraphrasing again), �If the Leopold expansion was in a white area, there would be no problem. The opposition are racists.�
Unless some agreement is accepted, I don�t see a reasoned and tempered debate occurring in the next month and a half.
Instead, we�ll be spitting at each other.

Middle School Goes out of Fashion?

Anne Marie Chaker:

. . . a growing body of evidence is showing that preteen students do better when they can remain in their familiar elementary schools for longer — with better grades and fewer disciplinary problems than their middle-school peers.
. . . An early study tracked hundreds of middle-school-age students in Milwaukee public schools, comparing those who switched to a new school in grade seven with their counterparts in a K-8 school who didn’t have to make any switch. The research found that those who switched had more negative attitudes toward school and lower grades. Girls in particular didn’t recover in middle adolescence (grades nine and 10) when it came to self-esteem and participation in extracurricular activities.

Via Eduwonk & Joanne Jacobs

MMSD Employee on Budget for 2005-06

TO: Madison School Board Members
FROM: School District Employee
RE: MMSD Budget Concerns/Questions
As a Madison taxpayer, parent, and employee of MMSD, I have a unique perspective on the workings of this school district. I also feel a great responsibility to write my concerns. The Board should address:
� How can food service/custodial/secretarial personnel be cut/surplused at the same time that more administrators are added and given substantial raises?

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Some Direct Instruction Curricula

Direct Instruction frequently enters discussions of reading in Madison’s schools.
Strictly speaking, Direct Instruction (with a capital D and a capital I) is a copyrighted program. Direct instruction (little d, little i) refers to a variety of programs that use direct systematic instruction and other principles of Direct Instruction.
Additionally, direct instruction works to teach other subjects, math, science, history, and more.
Dr. Martin Kozloff, professor at University of North Carolina-Willmington, prepared a long list of direct instruction cirricula. Click here to read a short description of each.
Ed Blume

QEO: Good or Bad?

Ken Cole:

The perennial argument that the QEO has somehow �capped� teacher salaries just doesn�t square with the numbers because most districts voluntarily settle above the 3.8 percent total package, which includes both salary and benefits. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards database shows that total-package increases averaged about 4.5 percent in 2003-04 and 4.3 percent in 2004-05.

Stan Johnson:

Prior to the law change, arbitrators intervened in stalled negotiations and brought the sides together by analyzing such data as a local school district�s ability to pay, national and regional market forces, and comparable wages and benefits in the geographic area. Arbitration was the single most important factor accounting for the period of labor peace from the late 1970s to early 1990s.

What’s the QEO? via wisopinion

Capital Times Editorial on Kobza’s Win

4.11.2005 Capital Times Editorial:

Newcomer Lawrie Kobza surprised a lot of people with her win in Tuesday’s voting for the Madison School Board, which saw her upset incumbent Bill Clingan by a comfortable 53-47 percent margin.
Her win is being read as something of a municipal Rorschach test.
Some members of the current board majority, who vigorously opposed her candidacy, fear that Kobza will be another Ruth Robarts, the dissident board member who has angered her colleagues by picking fights on budget issues and accusing other board members of being rubber stamps for Superintendent Art Rainwater.

Great to see the Capital Times engaged….
UPDATE: Karyn Saemann on No School District, no sense of place; schools in Fitchurg.

Where’s the board majority?

Jason Shepard speculated on how a majority might form on the MMSD school board when Lawrie Kobza officially takes a seat.
�Lawrie Kobza�s win . . . over Madison school board incumbent Bill Clingan by a 53% – 47% margin will almost certainly alter the board�s ideological alignment. The only question is how.
Kobza credits a surprise endorsement from The Capital Times as the tipping point of her campaign. But a last minute mailing signed by Ed Garvey and former Mayors Paul Soglin and Sue Bauman questioned whether Kobza is really a liberal.
Kobza, an attorney with a sharp mind, says her election proves voters want changes in school governance. Soon-to-be colleague Ruth Robarts is thrilled: �There�s going to be a new dialogue.�
At election�night parties, there was speculation that Kobza could side with Robarts on what would normally be 6-1 votes, and also of a coalition made up of Kobza, Robarts and moderates Shwaw Vang and Johnny Winston. But Carol Carstensen says her big win . . . shows public support of the board�s liberal majority. We�ll see.�
Isthmus, April 8, 2005

Milwaukee Schools Update

Quite a bit happening in Milwaukee, according to Alan Borsuk.

The revolving door for urban school superintendents has been a major fact of life across the country. The general rule of thumb many use is that if you make it three years in the job, you’re doing better than average.
Andrekopoulos will reach the three-year mark in August. He has said from the start that he was committed to the job for five years, and he recently said he might want to make it six.
It is still going to be heavy going for him and everyone else involved in MPS. The budget decisions are going to be tough and the politics demanding. Change, as Andrekopoulos says, is hard.
Most important, the job of raising the level of educational success of children in the city overall is complicated and slow going, at best.
But the Goldberg election may prove over time to have been an important signal that Andrekopoulos will beat the urban superintendent challenge and get the five years or more that he wants. That is likely to make this the key question for the next several years: Will the policies he stands for work?

The 65% Solution?

George Will, writing from Phoenix:

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district’s education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.
Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion. Only four states (Utah, Tennessee, New York, Maine) spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in classrooms. Fifteen states spend less than 60 percent. The worst jurisdiction — Washington, D.C., of course — spends less than 50 percent.

Joanne Jacobs has a few comments.

5 Reasons Why the Madison School Board Should Continue the Elementary Strings Program

In the May 24 referendum for the operating budget, voters will determine whether the Madison schools will have an additional $7.4 million to spend next year and for all the years thereafter. Superintendent Art Rainwater and the management team issued a cut list in March. According to Rainwater, the board should cut the programs, staff and expenses on this list if the referendum fails.
Before the referendum election, the school board can take items off of the cut list. One of the items that should come off the list is the proposed elimination of the elementary strings program, a program that costs $500,000 within a budget of more than $350 million.

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Dave Burkhalter Named WEAC Executive Director

Via Wispolitics:

Daniel Burkhalter, who has been director of government relations for the Illinois Education Association since 1993, is the new executive director of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
The WEAC Board of Directors approved the appointment of Burkhalter Friday (April 8, 2005). He succeeds Michael A. Butera, who left in November to take a position with the National Education Association. WEAC Legal Counsel Bruce Meredith has been acting executive director.

Wispolitics. Clusty search

Hacker High School

The Hacker Highschool project is the development of license-free, security and privacy awareness teaching materials and back-end support for teachers of elementary, junior high, and high school students.
Today’s kids and teens are in a world with major communication and productivity channels open to them and they don’t have the knowledge to defend themselves against the fraud, identity theft, privacy leaks and other attacks made against them just for using the Internet. This is the reason for Hacker Highschool.

Teacher Union Agreements Around the USA

Madison Teachers, Inc. is currently bargaining with the Madison School District. The current agreement can be found here (167 page PDF). I ran some google searches and found the following teacher contracts online:

I’ll continue to add to this list, along with the new MMSD/Madison Teachers Agreement when it is available. MTI’s weekly Solidarity is well worth checking out, for another view into our schools.

Arts & Education: Milwaukee Ballet, Degas & Milwaukee Art Museum

I chanced upon a rather extraordinary afternoon recently at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Museum is currently featuring a Degas sculpture exhibition, including Little Dancer. Interestingly, several ballerinas from the Milwaukee Ballet were present. Children could sketch and participate. I took a few photos and added some music. The result is this movie. Enjoy!

Connecticut’s A.G. to sue Federal Government

Air America’s Al Franken interviewed Richard Blumental, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Friday because he is fiing a law suit against the federal government. His complaint on behalf of the state of Connecticut is the federal government is illegally and unconstitutionally requiring states and communities to spend millions of dollars to administer federally mandated test. He claims it is unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate education to the local communities without financially backing the mandates. He is asking that other states join in…………

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School Administrator Sharing

Amanda Kramer:

Lake Mills Superintendent Dean Sanders will speak to the Johnson Creek School Board at the end of April about the possibility of the districts sharing a superintendent, a business manager and possibly a pupil services director.
The move might not only save money, but it could also avoid cuts to staff and services, he said. Sanders said both districts face financial challenges.
“We all have to look at ways of making our districts run, short of cutting programs and hurting kids,” Sanders said.

Madison C.A.R.E.S Presentation @ Thoreau PTO 4.12.2005

Mary Marcus forwarded this event notification: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 / 6:30 to 7:30p.m. @ Thoreau School PTO Meeting (Map & Driving Directions)

Guest Speakers Bill Keys and Arlene Silveria from Madison C.A.R.E.S. (Citizens Acting Responsibly for Every Student).

Madison CARES (Citizens Acting Responsibly for Every Student) is an organization of citizens who are concerned about the future of the public schools and have come together in support on the 3 referenda that will be on the ballot in the Madison Metropolitan School District on 5/24. At the meeting, we will provide you with information on the 3 referenda questions and how they may affect your school. We will also introduce you to our organization. There will be time for questions and answers.

Madison C.A.R.E.S. background information

Mr. Rainwater, I am looking at you. And I�m more than disappointed.

Dear Editor,
I just returned from the annual Madison Strings Festival with a warm feeling in my heart. It wasn�t the warmth of joy, however, despite the lasting echoes of 1,000 children playing music. It was the embers of rage beginning to kindle. For the fourth time, the Strings Festival was tainted by rumblings of anger, shock, and outrage at Art Rainwater�s ongoing assault on Madison values. For the fourth time, the elementary strings program in the Madison schools is targeted for demolition.

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Leopold area split on location of new school?

By trying to compare city council ward maps and the Leopold Elementary attendance map, it appears to me that Lawrie Kobza and Bill Clingan ran neck and neck in the Leopold area:

Ward 57 Ward 58 Ward 59 Total
Kobza – 32 Kobza – 16 Kobza – 129 Kobza – 177
Clingan – 36 Clingan – 14 Clingan – 138 Clingan – 188

Kobza favored construction of a new school at a different location to help relieve crowding at Leopold. Clingan favored construction of the new school at the Leopold site.
Do the results mean that the attendance area is nearly evenly split on the two options?
The comments section is open for anyone with an answer or interpretation.
Ed Blume

The Real Education Revolution?

Greg Beato:

In doing so, they overlook people like Joyce and Eric Burges, who are at the Valley Home Educators convention promoting their organization, the National Black Home Educators Resource Association. The Burgeses produce an annual symposium for African-American families in their home state of Louisiana, and Joyce Burges dreams of opening up a series of private learning centers where homeschooling parents can combine resources and offer instruction in a central location. In pursuit of this goal, Burges has reached out to local businesses and foundations, but few have responded so far. �We�re an upstart, grassroots organization,� she says, �so I�m asking businesses for anything that can help us get the word out that parental involvement in education is a viable way of ensuring that children do exceptionally well.�A lot of them say, �Yes, we sense your passion, but we can�t really do anything.��

“Fixing” No Child Left Behind

New York Times Editorial:

The United States has historically viewed public education as a local issue, so the federal government has looked the other way when the states have damaged the national interest by failing to educate large swaths of the population. That approach has left us with one of the weakest educational systems in the developed worl

Timing Of The One-Year Operating Referendum

Timing is everything. Timing is the reason that I believe a one-year operating referendum has a better chance of passage than a two or three year referendum.
Since being elected to the Madison school board last year, it has been very clear to me that many people in our community are educated in school board politics via local media. Unfortunately, television snippets, radio sound bites and newspaper articles rarely tell the entire story. However, in the March 31st Opinion section of the Wisconsin State Journal gets the story right! The article states, “Tapping property taxpayers for more money is a regrettable option, but the finger of blame does not point to the board. Rather, outdated and unproductive state school financing rules are at fault. They put school districts like Madison’s in a no-win situation. In response, the School Board, with a few exceptions, has been taking the right approach. By cutting, combining and conserving, the board has held down spending while keeping school quality high.” Thank you Wisconsin State Journal for telling readers the truth!
I support the one-year operating referendum because I believe it is the right thing to do and the right time given the other referenda on the ballot (building a new school and maintenance being the other two). I am also sympathetic to community concerns regarding higher property taxes and the uneasiness that leaves in the community’s sense of economic security. For instance, gas prices are increasing, President Bush is advocating privatizing social security and many lawmakers are still promoting the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The timing for any school board referendum will never be optimal. However, it is important to make any referenda as palatable as possible for as many people as possible. Given our circumstances, the time to do that is for one year. That time will be on Tuesday May 24th.

Let the String Teachers Stick to Music Education

“It is unreasonable that the strings program in MMSD should be the target of cuts every year, when it is demonstrated OVER AND OVER that it is a successful program musically, it helps with academic progress, and it is a boon to economically disadvantaged students. Will the School Board please allow the string teachers in the district stick to music education rather than fighting for the existence of a proven program?”
from comments – String Survey

String Survey – Comments

Take the string survey – results will be tabulated and forwarded to the school board. I’ll be posting comments from the survey on this website:
survey comment response: “Don’t cut music. I was never in a strings program, but rather played trombone. I think that my experiences in music helped shape my teenage years more than probably any other factor. I think it would be sad to see it go. 4th grade is not too young to learn music; and early start allows them to be interested in music before they are overwhelmed by too many other things.”

String Orchestra Festival Soars Despite District Administration Annual Assault

The annual string festival is a reminder of how wonderful music education is, and of how important this is for our children’s education. This annual spring event is also a reminder of how badly the existing School Board is failing our children. Lawrie Kobza, school board candidate for Seat 6, wrote, “Fourth and fifth grade strings is a well-established, much-loved, and much-supported program. There is also significant research demonstrating a high correlation between playing an instrument and achievement. Given all of these positives, the 4th & 5th grades strings program should not be considered for cuts until the district does everything possible it can to retain or if necessary restructure the program so that strings can continue to be offered in 4th and 5th grades even in times of tight finances.” This is Lawrie’s approach – not settling for the status quo, working together creatively for what we value for our kids’s education. I am voting for her on Tuesday, April 5th, because the strings festival, sports, academics would all benefit from her talents on the school board. The status quo is not working locally – the longer we stay with the status quo, the more our kids will suffer.

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Super Strings Festival

The Memorial Strings Festival was a wonderful collection of children from forth to twelve grade, every color, every size, and all abilities. As I sat proudly and watched my daughter play, along with so many parents who were sitting and standing (as there were no seats left so many showed up)I was sad. The director was sad and the two strings teachers that were given pink slips (one from Crestwood, our school) Friday were sad. Surely this program does not need to be on the chopping block. I kept thinking, with this many parents attending a festival couldn’t we do a fundraiser at the festival, sale something or just have a donation box for strings. Many parents like myself feel strings and no-cut freshman sports are placed on the block because they get the “involved parents” fired up to vote for whatever the referendum is, just to save these two programs. They are right. I will vote for the referendum to save a $500,000 program. I would not vote to save a secretary, two aides, two janitors and two middle management positions. But I will vote for it because, although I have been in charge of many fundraising events, I can’t figure out how to raise $500,000 without a major community effort.
I have an idea though. How about moving 4/5 strings out of the classroom and into the Monday afternoon slot? Run it through MSCR or After School Program and while all the other teachers do whatever it is they do Monday afternoon allow strings kids to stay Monday for an hour of strings.(At Crestwood, After School provides foreign language in this same manner) MSCR does not seem to be a part of the MMSD budget that requires cutting and parents already pay a fee ($40 for me) to have their child in strings. We could increase the fee and then raise money for scholarships so to include low income children. The only problem I see with this arrangement is;
1. transportation for low -income students (we could have one at the Allied Drive Learning center instead of the school, parents could choose) 2. could we get enough strings teachers to cover the schools at the same time slot? If the referendum fails lets not throw this program out, let’s think outside the box and find a solution.

April 5, 2005 Madison School Board Election Campaign Finance Disclosures

Pre-election School Board Candidates Campaign Finance Disclosures (City Clerk Reports):

  • Seat 7: Carol Carstensen: $ Raised: 9,906 (PAC = 100.00); Spent $4,697.94; On Hand 8,541.95
  • Seat 7: Larry Winkler: $ Raised: 3,788.25 (PAC = 0); Spent $1,788.25; On Hand 2,100.00
  • Seat 6: Bill Clingan: $ Raised: 11,305 (PAC = 2440); Spent $5183.8; On Hand 7,219.01
  • Seat 6: Lawrie Kobza: $ Raised: 11,474.01 (PAC = 575); Spent $3432.47; On Hand 6,706.94

Special Interest Spending:

  • MTI Voters (Madison Teachers PAC): $ Raised: $12,000 $ Spent 5,490.6 Cash on Hand: $28,211.23
  • Madison Teachers, Inc: Radio Ad Expenditures for Bill Clingan and Carol Carstensen: $5,514.00 (heard this ad today on 105.5
  • Progressive Dane: $ Raised: 2,205.81 $ Spent $2,114.69 Cash on Hand: 676.61 ($255 went to Bill Clingan)

The most interesting bit of data: Larry Winkler’s source of funds is…. Larry Winkler. His recent speech to the Madison Rotary is well worth reading.

Additional details and links are available here.

No Child Left Behind takes credit for Madison Schools reading success (No Joke)

A message to Madison School Board members from Superintendent Art Rainwater:
Attached is a press release from the Federal Department of Education in which they use our closing the gap in third grade reading as the example for Wisconsin of what NCLB and the Reading First grants have accomplished. The other interesting thing is the data they use to show how successful they have made us is the same data we used to show them why they should fund our Balanced Literacy program.
Download file

School Board Candidate Lawrie Kobza Says Don’t Cut Elementary Strings – Offers Suggestions

I support offering students the opportunity to take strings in 4th and 5th grade, and oppose the administration’s proposed cuts to the program.
Fourth and fifth grade strings is a well-established, much-loved, and much-supported program. There is also significant research demonstrating a high correlation between playing an instrument and achievement. Given all of these positives, the 4th & 5th grades strings program should not be considered for cuts until the district does everything possible it can to retain or if necessary restructure the program so that strings can continue to be offered in 4th and 5th grades even in times of tight finances.

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District’s Virchow-Krause Report Less Than It Seems

The District’s functional analysis report from Virchow-Krause (hereafter VK) has been touted as showing how well the District is being run. But, the report’s results are less than they seem. On page three of the report, VK gives the assumptions for the report. Quoting from the report:
As Superintendent Rainwater has noted, there are several key assumptions behind the functional
analysis. These assumptions are:
� Every single thing the District does is good for kids. Long ago the District eliminated all those
things that were peripheral.
� All District staff members – teachers, administrators, custodians and food service workers �
are good at what they do.
� The District has very talented people that work very hard and that work very smart.
� Site-based teachers and administrators currently have full time jobs � and they can’t absorb
more work. Functions cannot move from the central office to people at the site because sitebased
staff members are working as hard and as efficiently as possible.
With these assumptions in mind, the results of the functional analysis are presented in this
Clearly, given the assumptions of the report, VK could not have found anything but that the District is doing everything just perfectly.
Had these assumptions not been in place, VK might have been able to inform the District, Board and public of solutions not currently in front of us.
What is disturbing, however, is that the Board doesn’t truly read or understand the critical material before them, that the District can make those assumptions, probably with Board acquiesence, and then have the temerity to claim they are providing leadership, and doing all that they can do.

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

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

DPI News

Wisconsin DPI announced the formation of an advisory council on Charter Schools (PDF) and High Schools – via wispolitics Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, WEAC plans to spend $358K to support incumbent Libby Burmaster, more than the $313K (Burmaster = 250K, Underheim = 64K) both candidates have raised to date – via Alan Borsuk!
Mary Battaglia’s recent post asks what this government body does (Johnny Winston adds a comment).

Free Speech & Blogs Cause Flap in Tennessee

The fast growing internet writer (and free speech) world is making some waves. Bill Hobbs relates the story of the Tennessee House Speaker killing a representative’s bill because he “had the nerve” to start writing about the “goings-on” in the legislature. More here and here. Civil, respectful discourse can only benefit our society. Internet writers are simply stepping into the void created by a changing media landscape. I think Therese Berceau would be an excellent legislative blogger… “Fly in the ointment” – as a good friend mentioned 🙂

Madison Cares

Madison CARES:

is mobilizing neighbor-to-neighbor education, grassroots visibility, and volunteer energy. We’re working from community to community, and neighborhood to neighborhood. We also will communicate through Madison-area media, the World Wide Web, and printed literature.

The link above includes an introduction along with several documents. I’ll post additional links as they become available.

Kobza for School Board – Our Kids Deserve the Best

I submitted the following letter of endorsement for Lawrie Kobza to the local papers.
Dear Editor,
I am deeply concerned about the lack of commitment to school financing at the federal and state levels and I support changes in school financing. However, I am equally concerned about our local Board of Education�s tepid leadership given the current fiscal constraints.
The school board�s decisions seem to move from one crisis to another, and each spring, the board holds our community hostage to its budget cutting process. The board appears to be paddling feverishly in a canoe without steering. And the canoe continues to go in circles because there is no planned destination. Given the withdrawal of federal and state dollars for schools, the challenge rests with our local school board to begin to chart new waters.
That will only happen if there is a change in leadership on the school board. That�s why I�m supporting Lawrie Kobza candidacy for the board. Ms. Kobza is an exceptionally well-qualified candidate, who is dedicated to excellence in public education and has a proven record of leadership and creative collaboration. She has worked successfully with the community, MMSD staff and current board members on a number of school issues.
A good school board candidate needs to be a) a strong advocate for student achievement and excellent instruction, and b) a strong facilitator of meaningful dialogue between the community, educators and the administration. Only then can we develop the best policies � educational and fiscal � for Madison schools.
A group of parents and community members who are concerned about the current school board�s governance have made numerous suggestions for alternative approaches. These are posted on Many of us believe that voting the status quo in the April school board election will continue more of the same feverish paddling without any direction, while the community faces continued threats of cuts to great programs and services.
Madison will need educational referendums to fund our schools, but we need to know those dollars are spent wisely. This requires a clear vision of what excellent public education means for Madison, how we�ll get there, what the costs are and what different investment options are needed. Various new collaborative financial relationships with the community may also be necessary in some instances, such as for sports or fine arts � two areas Madison values.
Our school board members won�t know what�s possible by talking among themselves. School board members need to invite community members and parent organizations to the table, so that we can identify issues and work together to maintain our excellent public education system. The only trumpet call from the current school board is a call to referendum. One call will not work much longer. Madisonians expect more from their school board.
I know Lawrie Kobza can meet those expectations. She will be thoughtful and thorough in her approach to the issues facing Madison schools. She will navigate us through tough times. I am sure her opponent cares about public education, but Madison needs a school board member who does more than that. Lawrie Kobza not only cares about public education, she also brings independence to the board. She will provide much-needed critical analysis of programming decisions and an openness to community involvement. Madison�s lucky to have a better choice for our kids on April 5, 2005 � Lawrie Kobza.
Barb Schrank
Madison, WI

School Board Has Public’s Confidence

I encourage the expression of any and all points of view on To that end, I posted below a recent letter to the editor on public confidence in the Madison school board.
Ed Blume
The Capital Times :: EDITORIAL :: 9A
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Janet Morrow, Madison

Dear Editor: I am concerned by the “fact” that the public has lost confidence in the Madison School Board.
This is a lie. There is evidence to the contrary. The current board has engaged the public this school year more than ever. Board members have actively listened to public input and responded accordingly.
Take, for example, the possible boundary changes presented by the school district. Board members rejected the changes based on public input, altered them using ideas and suggestions from the community and directed the administration to come up with new boundary changes.
Through this process the public has steadily gained confidence in the School Board. Ignore the rumors and embrace the facts.

News and Update on Initiative to Form a PTO at East High School

Please share this information with others who may be interested in helping to
create a revitalized PTO at East.
March 30, 2005
Upcoming meetings:
Thursday, April 14
Thursday, May 12
All meetings are held at East High School and begin at 7 p.m., with time for
informal conversation from 6:30 to 7:00.

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CapTimes endorses Kobza

Editorial: Lawrie Kobza for School Board
An editorial
March 30, 2005
Voters who care about public education are blessed with two fine candidates for Seat 6 on the Madison School Board. Both incumbent Bill Clingan and challenger Lawrie Kobza have deep roots in the community, both have solid records of involvement with neighborhood schools and both line up on the progressive side of debates about equity, discipline and curriculum in the schools.
So there is not a “wrong” vote that can be cast on April 5. But there is a “right” vote, and that is for Kobza.
The School Board has been rocked by too many personality clashes, and there are growing complaints that the board majority has not done a good job of involving the community in the decision-making process. We worry about the ability of this board to go to an essentially pro-public education electorate and win support for needed school funding referendums. The last referendum barely won, yet the board has continued to operate as if the disenchantment of the voters can be dismissed – or that a slightly different spin will do the trick.
We share Kobza’s view that it will take more than that. Kobza says, “I am concerned that the public will be less supportive of referendums than they were in the past. The public has little confidence that the board and district are managing the money the district already has wisely. The board and district must do a better job of making its budget and budgeting process understandable and relevant to the public in order to regain the public’s confidence in the board’s financial management of the school district.”
If elected, Kobza would bring fresh ideas to the board, along with a smart, professional style that, we believe, would allow her achieve the reforms she seeks. We are equally certain that she could do this without getting mired down in the “personality politics” that often thwart board cooperation.
A respected environmental lawyer, Kobza has expertise is in working with local government bodies. As such, she would bring valuable professional skills to the board. But Kobza’s passion in recent years has been the Madison public schools, and she has been deeply involved in grass-roots efforts to improve them. She’s the president of the parent group at Sherman Middle School, where she and other parents played a leadership role in stabilizing a school that over three years had three principals and four assistant principals.
It is inspiring to listen to Kobza’s story of the work she and other parents did to get Sherman back on track – she served on principal interview committees, worked with the district on building improvement plans and helped school staff develop a new discipline plan. And it is notable that Kobza is not just a “my-kid’s-school” activist. She’s a member of the Northside PTO/A Coalition, where she has been a leader on equity and summer literacy initiatives, and she was recently honored by the Northside Planning Council for her work with schools.
Kobza has direct ties to parents and community activists with whom the School Board needs to make deeper connections. That would help her implement her goal of increasing citizen involvement in budget decisions – perhaps using a model developed by the Waukesha School Board.
Kobza also has a savvy understanding of the dynamics of the current board, including how its internal conflicts have created perception problems in the community. With a tough, no-nonsense approach, she thinks she can free up the debate and create a healthier, more open and engaged discourse.
We believe Kobza is right, which is why we endorse her. It is difficult for us to go against Clingan, an amiable and well-intentioned board member whom we have backed in the past. But we simply don’t see the incumbent as someone who is going to change the dynamic on the board. In order to renew confidence in the board, a change is needed, and we think Lawrie Kobza is the best agent of that change.
Editor’s note: Thursday’s editions of The Capital Times will feature endorsements for the Madison City Council.

Madison Area String Festivals – Saturday, April 2, 2005

Saturday, April 2nd is the annual Madison Area String Festivals – a much-loved, special event for all Madison public school children who play in MMSD’s string orchestras from Grades 4-12. More than 2,000 children will be performing 12 songs.
Each of the 4 area high schools will host a string performance on Saturday. Your elementary or middle school child, who is playing in a string orchestra, will be performing at the high school their school feeds into. For example, Randall Elementary feeds into West High School, so the elementary string children from Randall Elementary will be performing Saturday at that high school.
The performances last about one hour, and the schedule for the day is:
Memorial Area String Festival – 10 a.m. at Memorial High School
East Area String Festival – 12 noon at East High School
LaFollette Area String Festival – 2 p.m. at Lafollette High School
West Area String Festival – 4 p.m. at West High School
Dress rehearsals will be held Friday – performers need to check with their orchestra teacher for times.
These are wonderful performances – 600+ children playing together in each of Madison’s four area high schools; a special site to behold and wonderful music to hear!
Parents and relatives – bring your still and video cameras! This is truly a unique Madison experience.

Think about the School Board that you want, Vote on April 5

I believe that our community strongly supports high quality schools. I know that the state and federal governments do not provide sufficient funding for the programs that we want. I am willing to pay higher property taxes to make up the difference when necessary. However, before I commit to higher taxes, I must have a high level of confidence in the decisions that put the matter on the ballot. I think that you do also.
Today I ask that you think about the qualities that you want in school board members as you prepare to vote on the May referendums, especially the referendum for the operating budget.

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Referendum Coverage

Angela Bettis:

It�s official, Madison homeowners will be asked to vote on three school referenda in late May.
School Board President Bill Keys said, �This community is at a crossroads. This will determine what type of schools we want.�
But one man opposed to the referenda thinks Madison residents can keep good schools if the district is more creative.

Karyn Saemann also covers Monday Night’s Board Decisions. Sandy Cullen has more.

Extensive Madison Schools budget coverage is available here.

State DPI and Number of Employees

I have lived and followed education in 3 states. Alaska, Texas, and Wisconsin. The DPI is a first. After 4 years I have tried to understand this governmental body. There is a Leader, Ms. Burmaster and based totally on the web site anywhere from 441 to 600 employees in this agency. When I have asked what all these employees do for the education of the state no one seems to know. The many teachers I asked stated their only interaction with the DPI is to renew their license. This seems like a logical function of a state but does it take 400- 600 people? When I view the directory on the DPI web site I am amazed all these people work for the education department yet none of the people I know that work at SCHOOLS actually benefit from all these state salaried persons. Can anyone educate me on the department, I mean really what they do, before I am once again asked to vote for a leader of a governmental body I fail to understand?

In Response to Richard Chandler

I have the highest respect for Rick Chandler. He earned it as head of the state’s “budget shop” in the Department of Administration a few years ago.
I must, however, take issue with his defense of business taxes in Wisconsin.
The argumet over whether Wisconsin businesses carry their fair share of the tax burden gets admitedly muddied by the imprecise language of speakers like MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater (Wisconsin State Journal) when he talked about “taxes” without specifying which taxes.
Confusion on the part of business tax critics is no reason for Rick to mistate the argument as one about whether businesses pay their fair share of property taxes.
That’s not the argument. The true issue is whether businesses pay their fair share of the state taxes necessary to provide an adequate level of state aid for school districts.
They don’t. The record is clear, according to the business community’s own Forward Wisconsin. If you visit the Web site of this shameless corporate cheerleader, you’ll read more than one item that contradicts Chandler. For example:

Wisconsin business taxes are lower than those in 35 other states. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston that measures more than 15 taxes that can affect corporate profits.
Wisconsin ranks fourth lowest in the nation in business taxes as a percent of all state and local taxes. The state’s business-friendly attitude is reflected in positive business tax changes that have been made in every biennial legislative session since the early 1970s.

If the current “business-friendly attitude” continues in the state legisalture, we’ll soon see the decline — not only of school spending — but in student achievement.
Ed Blume

Sensenbrenner on the April 5, 2005 School Board Elections

Lee Sensenbrenner has been busy, posting several articles today on the April 5, 2005 Madison School Board Elections (Vote! – find your polling place here: Madison | Fitchburg | Maple Bluff | Shorewood | Town of Madison)

Learn more about the candidates here. This site includes interviews, links and campaign finance information. The best place to compare the candidates and their views is probably the recent Cherokee Candidate Forum. This was an excellent evening and well worth checking out.

Chandler on Business/Residential Property Taxes

Madison Resident Richard Chandler:

There seems to be an orchestrated effort under way to blame high residential property taxes on businesses. This assertion has been made recently by some legislators, a school administrator and local officials who are opposed to a property tax freeze, spending limits, and other efforts to reduce Wisconsin’s tax burden by restraining spending.
The argument goes something like this: Over the past 30 years, the share of total property taxes paid by homeowners has risen while the share paid by businesses has dropped. The claim is that this shift is the result of tax exemptions for businesses. While it may serve some political purpose to make this claim, it’s not true.
Simply put, the changes in the percentages of property taxes paid by different categories of property over the past three decades are primarily the result of changes in the economy, not tax breaks. During this period, residential property values have increased rapidly in Wisconsin — and with it the amount of property taxes they pay. What’s usually not mentioned is that the share of property taxes paid by commercial property has climbed along with the residential share as we’ve moved to a more service-oriented economy.

Chandler is the former Wisconsin secretary of revenue and state budget director.

School Board Candidates Battle over Budget

Sandy Cullen:

Madison School Board members Carol Carstensen and Bill Clingan say they have worked hard to keep years of budget cuts away from the classroom.
But Lawrence Winkler and Lawrie Kobza, who are challenging them in the April 5 election, say the incumbents and other School Board members haven’t done enough to deal with the long-term financial challenges plaguing the district.
After more than a decade of state revenue caps that limit how much money school districts can raise in taxes without going to referendum — and with three referendums slated for a special election May 24 — this year’s board race could serve as a vote of confidence for board members or a mandate for change.
Both Kobza and Winkler have made change a rallying cry. And while Clingan and Carstensen admit that there are always ways in which the board can do better, they maintain that many of their challengers’ claims are unfounded.

Voter Fact Sheet: April 5, 2005 School Board Election

Consider the following facts and issues regarding the Madison school district to help determine whether you will vote for Board of Education candidates who will continue in the same direction as indicated; or, vote for candidates who will change the direction for the future of the District.

1. There is continuous dissemination of incomplete and misinformation, any of which are misleading to the public and self-serving of the Board and administration.

2. There is a continuous �cheerleading� approach to how great things are in terms of the education in the district and how awful things are financially due the state and federal governments and the economy.

3. There is a continuous approach to the absolution of and by the majority of the Board of Education for responsibility and accountability for actions, or lack thereof, in the leadership and management of the district and its educational and fiscal stewardship.

Voter Fact Sheet 150K PDF

Stoughton Won’t Renew Superintendent’s Contract

I found the story on the Stoughton superintendent interesting because the school board conducts an evaluation twice a year. Madison’s board has failed to evaluate the MMSD superintendent for years!
Bill Clingan, chair of the MMSD’s human resources committee responsible for evaluating Superintendent Art Rainwater, admits that Lawrie Kobza, his opponent in the upcoming election, is right to highlight an oversight in the superintendent’s evaluation, according to a story in Isthmus.
The story on the Stoughton board’s action in the Wisconsin State Journal says:
“According to the board’s policy, the superintendent is evaluated twice each year, the first during an informal session in the fall. The second evaluation is a formal session before the board’s April reorganizational meeting and includes written evaluation statements from each board member.
The president of the board then writes a composite evaluation based on the written work of the board members, and it is then reviewed by the board.”

Read the full story here.
Ed Blume
ps The comment option below is open for anyone with thoughts on how the Madison school board could evaluate the superintendent.

Does Pre-Kindergarden Improve School Preparation & Performance?

David R. Francis:

Using a new rich source of data, researchers Katherine Magnuson, Christopher Ruhm, and Jane Waldfogel conclude in Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance? (NBER Working Paper No. 10452) that early education does increase reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but it also boosts children’s classroom behavioral problems and reduces their self-control. Further, for most children the positive effects of pre-kindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the negative behavioral effects continue. In the study, the authors take account of many factors affecting a child, including family background and neighborhood characteristics. These factors include race/ethnicity, age, health status at birth, height, weight, and gender, family income related to need, language spoken in the home, and so on.

Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing

I received this message from Brian Grau, a teacher from LaFollette who recently visited his hometown of Racine, who like Madison is going to referendum. Enjoy!
The Journal Times, Racine, WI, 3/24/05
Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing
By Jeff Ruggaber
Hey Racine! It’s that time again. Time to complain about money spent on schools! Who’s to blame? Let the finger pointing begin! Hey, there’s a group of teachers. Let’s blame them. They are just over paid baby sitters! I wish. I figure if I got paid $5.00 for each kid (25 per class), for 6 hours a day, for 180 days. I would make $135,000 a year! Let’s give those with a master’s $7.00 and hour per kid. That’s $189,000. Reality $39,000. Between my wife and I, last year we paid close to $7,000 just to keep our jobs (property taxes, classes to renew licenses, fee for licenses, and out of pocket expenses to supplement our classroom’s). I love paying close to $1000 of my own salary in property taxes. Healthcare. The district offered us the plan. Would you have turned it down? Should we pay more? Remember that teachers did trade salary for benefits.
Let’s point fingers at the school district. All they have done is cut spending year after year. Costs go up, spending goes down. You do the math!
Attention Racine: we have schools that were built during the Abraham Lincoln administration! Can you accurately guess from year to year how much it costs to keep these buildings running, when the ghosts of the 1800s still run through the halls! More cuts need to be made even if this does not pass. This district does not have the money to give you what this city deserves. Kids learning in run down, overcrowded buildings is a very real thing.
Next, let’s point fingers at the taxpayers. Those same people who spend $1 to $2 for a bottle of water. Those people who spend a dollar a day at the soda machine at work! Those people who don’t think twice at paying $4-$5 for one beer at Harbor Fest, Summerfest, Lambeau Field and the rest. Those people who are still driving their SUVs, pick-up trucks, Cadillac’s, and other gas guzzling cars. Those same people who pay $40-$50 a month so they can make sure their 12-year-old has a cell phone, $50 cable bills, $200 utility bills, $40 video games to baby-sit your kids, 20 cent increase for a gallon of gas this past week, the list goes on! Complain about those. Oh yeah, those things don’t go to a referendum, Why is it that when schools need more money, everyone complains? One person wants a user fee. The more kids you have, the more you pay. So I should pay more for the fire department if they put out my fire and I have 10 kids? Same concept! I’ve never used the fire department yet, can I get a refund? One lady offered the keys to her house. You got it! That will save three teachers jobs. Thanks! For those who think you don’t benefit from Unified because you have no more kids there, well then I think we need to make Unified and Non-Unified lines at every place of business. So when you go to the store, doctor, or gas station you can only go to the line where your tax money is spent.
Now the Racine Taxpayers Association gives the referendum a thumbs down. They say not enough cuts have been made. Have you been to our schools? Have you seen the plaster falling on kid’s heads? Have you seen the paint chipped so bad the wood is rotting underneath? Have you felt the below zero wind blow through the cracks in the 100 year old windows? Have you tried to teach in a classroom where the temperature varies from near 90 degrees to 60 degrees all in one day? Oh, that’s right, you think teachers should pay more for their insurance. Well if we do, then I want a raise back on my salary that I gave up for the past 10 years. The bottom line is that we have a serious problem.
So either fight for a better educational system and support it, or get out of our way. The future is now!
Without support, you can’t imagine how bad things are going to get.
Jeff Ruggaber is an art teacher at Red Apple School.

119M in Referendums – Lee Sensenbrenner

Lee Sensenbrenner on the 119M in planned May 24 referendums:

If the voters approve a referendum May 24 to prevent classroom and extracurricular cuts for three years, along with two other referendums to ensure adequate maintenance for five years and to expand Leopold Elementary School on the south side, the five-year property tax impact of the three referendums could amount to more than $119 million.
An alternate plan the board is considering, which would keep the maintenance and school construction but guarantee against educational cuts for just two years, would collect about $66 million in additional property taxes over the next five years.
All of this is done in the context of a school budget that totals $317 million for this year.

Board member & candidates comments.

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

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

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Real Community Leadership

I’ve noticed in several postings that people have criticized the Madison School Board for lack of leadership. I believe that true leadership happens in the community and then comes to the board level for action. This has been the case in many actions that have been taken place in the past, present and will undoubtedly be the case in the future. All of these actions have had or will have a profound impact on the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Fifty-one years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated formal school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Twenty-five years later, this ruling forced the Madison School District to dramatically change how it educated elementary students. In 1979, South Madison residents lead by Dr. Richard Harris filed a lawsuit with the federal Office of Civil Rights concluding that the Madison School Board had knowingly created and perpetrated racial isolation by closing schools and changing boundaries on the city’s heavily populated minority South Madison. This lead to the creation of a task force that created the current school pairings we know today.
This community leadership has also lead to new initiatives such as Nuestro Mundo Community School, the district’s dual-language charter school. This school is responding to Latino community leaders’ concerns regarding the changing demographics in the city and school district. English speaking families wanting to expose their children to Spanish and Latino culture are also enrolling their children in the school.
In addition to Nuestro Mundo, the Madison School Board is supporting the building of Wexford Ridge Community Center on the grounds of Jefferson Middle and Memorial High Schools. Wexford Ridge Neighborhood Center currently runs adult and youth programming out of a two-bedroom apartment. Again, community leaders and residents supported the proposal that initially didn’t have the support of the Superintendent or a majority of the board. I am proud to state that voting for this proposal was one of my first acts as a member of the school board.
In the near future, on April 11th the School Board’s Partnership Committee will convene a meeting to discuss a proposal from a group of parents to form a girls hockey program. This program will be a cooperative effort with girls from Memorial, West, East and LaFollette as well as schools outside of Madison being able to participate on one team. I am in favor of this program because it allows girls to participate positively in athletics and uses parent’s creativity and community resources to fund the proposal.
In conclusion, the school board is elected to lead the school district, however, it is the community that truly leads schools. It is the above stated community initiatives that lead me to believe that the real leadership comes from the community, not solely from school board members. I look forward to seeing what future initiatives come from the community, so we can work together to make them happen for the betterment of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

It’s not the Schools, It’s the Computers!

John Clare:

The less pupils use computers at school and at home, the better they do in international tests of literacy and maths, the largest study of its kind says today.
The findings raise questions over the Government’s decision, announced by Gordon Brown in the Budget last week, to spend another �1.5 billion on school computers, in addition to the �2.5 billion it has already spent.

Madison School District Issues RFP for Auditing Services

The RFP is available for inspection on-line here (PDF):
ISSUE DATE: 02/21/05
DUE DATE: 03/31/05 2:00 PM Local Time

PLEASE NOTE: The deadline for requested modifications to the RFP WAS March 8, 2005. A vendor conference WAS held “on March 14, 2005 at 9:00AM in room 209 at 545 West Dayton Street, Madison, to respond to written questions…”

Elementary Strings is Academic Music Education – Parents and Madison Citizens Need to Ask School Board Why Supt. Is Not Supporting an Academic Curriculum with Direct Postive Benefits on Student Achievement

Madison parents and citizens need to ask the School Board a) why they continue to allow the Superintendent to treat elementary strings separate from the music education curriculum, b) why there is a continued delay in getting a committee together for fine arts, c) why the delay in seeking federal funding for fine arts for disadvantaged children, d) why the Administration continues to attack the fine arts academic curriculum rather than coming forward with ideas for strengthening this curriculum in light of the academic achievement benefits?
In July 2004, U.S. Secretary of Education wrote to all Superintendents of school districts in the United States:

“…the arts are a core academic subject under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I believe the arts have a significant role in education both for their intrinsic value and for the ways in which they can enhance general academic achievement and improve students’ social and emotional development.”
“There is much flexibility for states and local school districts under the No Child Left Behind Act with respect to support for the core subjects. …Under NCLB, Title I, Part A funds also can be used by local education agencies to improve the educational achievement of disadvantaged students through the arts.”
“In keeping with NCLB’s principle of classroom practices based on research evidence, studies have shown that arts teaching and learning can increase students’ cognitive and social development. The arts can be a critical link for students in developing the crucial thinking skills and motivations they need to achieve at higher levels.”

Dave Bing Wants a Charter School in Detroit

Former Detroit Piston Star Dave Bing is trying to get a charter school off the ground in Detroit. Rochelle Riley has more:

The group is mad because Bing decided to partner with white philanthropist Bob Thompson, whose offer to build $200 million worth of charter high schools was rejected two years ago for fear it might hurt the city schools. The pair isn’t recycling Thompson’s old offer. Bing wants one school, near his company, one whose graduates could see their future down the street.
. . . Sambo? Sellout? Not black enough? Dave Bing is the definition of black for this century, always achieving and always looking for ways to help those coming up behind him.
So for those who think being black means letting the public schools die while throwing darts at those who would help, who think being black means letting the city perish before accepting help from someone white, for those who want to take Dave Bing’s membership card in the black race, then take mine, too.
Those who would rather call names than welcome solutions don’t represent my history, my present or my future. They’re segregationists who can single-handedly kill Detroit, if allowed.

Via Joanne Jacobs

Budget Hides Extras – Public Only Shown Cuts Not Budget: Current School Board Not Governing Budget Priorities

Mr. Rainwater says, “We are long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are nice but not necessary (March 2005 Budget Discussion Items Report – basically, budget cut document). Without the budget, this is a scary statement. Sadly, a budget would show this statement to be a scare tactic.
What’s scary to me is that we may indeed need a referendum, but the current board’s weak governance, lack of public discussion and review, alienation of many public groups won’t be able to make the case, because educating the entire child and excellent instruction for all are not driving the board’s priorities. That scares me.

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Lobby for Safe and Drug Free Schools

Attached is a fact sheet from Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy for the Mental Health Association in Milwaukee County. He is the head of the Wisconsin Prevention Network.
The fact sheet is to help people lobby against the elimination of Safe and Drug Free Schools funding from the Federal government.
Lucy Gibson

Recent High School Grad Runs for School Board – Portland, OR

Nick Budnick:

Although there are certain things that you get with age, there are also certain things you don’t have with age. I can walk into a high-school classroom and sit down any day and act like a high-school student. I can sit down in a meeting with the teachers union and tell them what didn’t work in our class. I can also call up some friends who go to Franklin, and Grant, and say, “What’s happening?” I can do that; these folks can’t. When they hear information, they hear it through administrators and teachers.

via joanne jacobs

Referendum Racism

I realize that many people in this community aren’t happy about the recent decision made by the Madison School Board to go to referendum for the operational budget shortfall. This will indeed raise property taxes. I am more than sympathetic to senior citizens (or others) on fixed incomes and how this decision affects them. I also empathize with those who might not agree with the direction of the district by stating additional cuts in services should be considered or discussed. While I’m agreeable with those rationales, I will NOT stand for what I believe is blatant racism by members of this community who will use the changing demographics of the school district and community as an excuse for not voting for a referendum. Listed below is a copy of an e-mail recently sent to school board members. The sender is a City of Madison bus driver who has sent e-mails to the School Board before. I have retracted the sender’s name.
dear board members;i think it is an insult for you , not all of ask for tax increases for the school budget problems.these schools are supposed to be so great in this city.they dont seem to be any better than when i went to school niece was going to east high until a black girl that was 14 years old and already had 2 kids was giving her a hard niece ended up going to another school.and just the other day, a gang of black kids were beating up a white kid at the east transfer point.also at east high.i know some people that said they have seen the black girls walk down the halls and push the white girls out of the way.i bet the public doesnt know about half the things that go on in this city.if you ask me i think you people should actually have better schools than just say you do.i thought schools were bad when i went and they were,i would hate to be a kid going to school here now.getting bullied and the school doesnt do anything about it.and you want us to pay more.i not only think that these schools suck ,this city is starting to also.
This is my response:
It is absolutely incredible to me that in 2005, there are people who perform public services in our community that are without question racist. It seems to me that you are indeed troubled with the changing demographics in the City of Madison. I want to remind you that as an employee working as a bus driver for the City of Madison, taxpayers are paying your salary as well. And, so are the thousands of Black and other racial and ethnic minority persons who probably ride the bus that you’re driving. To be frank, it must be very difficult to drive with the “white sheet” covering your eyes. Thank you for wasting the taxpayer’s time for me having to respond to your ignorance.
Johnny Winston, Jr.
School Board member, who is Black and deeply offended by your bigoted comments. And I wish we didn’t have to ask you for your money!

I am more than willing to understand those who disagree but racism has no place in our schools and in our community! I hope we can all agree on that!

Cherokee School Board Candidate Forum Video/Audio

Several westside PTO’s hosted a candidate forum Wednesday evening. The candidates discussed a wide variety of questions, including referendums, the budget process, strings, local education media coverage and differences with their opponents. Listen to the entire event (34.6MB mp3 audio file), or click on the links below to review specific questions & answers.

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No Point in Cutting MMSD Administrators, They Just Grow Back

In January of 2005 Superintendent Art Rainwater told the Madison Board of Education that two administrative positions would be eliminated for 2005-06. He would cut the positions of Risk Manager and Data Manager when the incumbents retired at the end of 2004-05.
Imagine my surprise on March 14, when the superintendent cut half of the position of Risk Manager for a second time.

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Board Scares Parents-Threatens All District Can Teach Kids for $13,000+ is Reading and Math: Yet MMSD Board Has No Budget, Keeps $2 Million for Extracurr. Sports, Increases Admin. Budget $1.5 Million in Two Years, Turned Away $10+ Million Fed. Rdg. Grant

This is not the headline of an article in The Onion. Rather, as the Astronauts on the Apollo Mission said, “Houston, we have a problem.”
After 10 years of continually reducing services to our children and community . . . long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are �nice but not necessary� (MMSD budget cut document – not budget) More than $13,000 per student and all the Distict can do is teach math and reading. This should send a huge red flag up. It is – to those who can afford to, they are moving their kids, home schooling, paying for private tutoring and other lessons, and sending their kids to private schools. Who’s losing inthis picture – underprivileged kids in education and priviledged kids by not being part of a diverse school environment. All the kids are losing – big time and the negative impact on the economics and culture of the city will follow – that’s why my parents kept me out of NYC schools and I went to high school in Connecticut. That is not what I wanted for my daughter, but I need to protect her education – she’s only got the next 5 years.
There is no budget governance and leadership by board members and by the Finance and Operations Committee, which Ms. Carstensen chairs – threatening statements are made to other board members and to the public, no questions are asked, no budget is visible and the state is to blame. I suggest board members hold up a mirror, and I suggest that other progressives in Madison who share my concerns and want an excellent public education system in Madison, vote for a positive change in leadership on April 5th and read the following:

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Madison Teachers Present Contract Proposal

Lee Sensenbrenner:

In a departure from their usual procedure, the two sides are first considering all the changes in contract language put forward by Madison Teachers Inc.
This proposal, covering such changes as whether teachers would gain free access to after-school events and intellectual property rights to the curriculums they design for the classroom, was presented Wednesday afternoon to Superintendent Art Rainwater and his staff.

It’s Not Board Attendance that’s the Issue, Mr. Clingan, It’s Committee Leadership

At Wednesday, March 17, 2005, candidates’ forum, Lawrie Kobza provided information that Mr. Clingan did not convene the Human Resouces Committee, which he chairs, to evaluate the Superintendent. As Chair of that committee he also did not follow through on a review of an administrative RFP from last spring that was developed in response to the public’s concern about administrators (source: board minutes spring 2004). No follow-up, same issue with administrators this year as last and an increase in the administrative budget from $1.5 million in two years even with 2 less FTEs – it’s about leadership and putting children’s learning first.
Mr. Clingan pointed out that he had attended more than 200+ meetings. Attendance is important, but it does not demonstrate leadership and does not lead to meaningful committee work being done effectively on behalf of children’s education and achievement.
Committee Chairs are leadership positions as is Vice President of the Board. Mr. Clingan said that the Board evaluates the Superintendent and they do so at each meeting providing him direction. You can evaluate the Superintendent at each meeting, but that is not very strategic and tends toward wasteful micromanaging.
The superintendent’s contract requires the establishment of yearly goals. This is one of the most important undertaking’s the board does. Historically, the Human Resources committee takes the lead in the Superintendent’s evaluation – Ray Allen the former chair undertook coordinating this review.
If Mr. Clingan did not want to do this as Chair of that committee he needed to advise the Board president – apprently, since there are no goals in place for the Superintendent, this was not done.
The annual establishment of goals with the superintendent, which should be in place before the start of the school year sets the direction for the rest of the district and its employees and is an important communication goal with the community about what the district will be accomplishing in the short-term towards its long-term goals. What’s so complicated about that? Why isn’t it done?

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April 9 – UW-Madison Science Program for 6-12 grade students

From University Communications:
Event to celebrate women in science
(Posted: 3/16/2005)
The Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL) on Saturday, April 9, will present “Celebrating Women of Science,” a daylong event that will feature talks by several prominent researchers, followed by hands-on science activities for teenagers and young adults.
WISL is a project of the chemistry department.
Scientists, including Laura Kiessling, Wendy Crone, Ann Kelley, Judith Burstyn and Gelsomina de Stasio, will speak on topics ranging from cancer to carbohydrates to the neural basis of eating. Chancellor John D. Wiley will make opening remarks.
Following the morning presentations, college, high-school and middle-school students can participate in any of eight hands-on science sessions. Among the activities, students can peer through a scanning electron microscope, handle live microbes or build working batteries on their own.
“Celebrating Women of Science” will take place in from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on April 9 in Room 1315, Chemistry Building, 1101 University Ave. The event is free, but registration is required by Friday, April 1, for the hands-on sessions. To obtain a registration form, visit or call (608) 263-2424.

Read My Blog: Year Old But Still Good Thoughts On The Budget

I started attending meetings several years ago and, initially, was naive enough to take Carol Carstensen at her word when she said “if you don’t like our cuts, you need to tell us where to cut.” Board members then claim that they “have no choice” and that critics “only criticize but don’t offer solutions.” This is one disingenuous ploy, since it invites people to participate but leaves the door open for the board’s typical response: we know more than you do and we don’t like your ideas. This is not listening.
I was looking through some old records the other day, and found the following message that I sent to the board over a year ago:

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Carol Carstensen Says I’m Angry and Threatens Elementary Strings: Raises Confidence and Governance Issues for Me

Carol Carstensen told me last night that I’ve been “angry” over elementary strings for the past four years. I learned many years ago never to “tell” people what they are feeling – 90% of the time you’re wrong, and in this case Ms. Carstensen is dead wrong about me.
Her comment to me came after I asked her why the board would agree to a recommendation that puts the ENTIRE elementary strings program at risk if a referendum does not pass yet the board did not ask nor would it even consider a) reducing the administrative budget (increased $1.5 million over two years even with cut of 2 positions), b) reducing any of the services to high school children for extracurricular sports ($2 million budget) – which makes sense. They are paying 20% of the cost of the program, and, so are the elementary strings children. Plus, the board has an athletics committee – not a fine arts committee. Something wrong with this picture? Yes, very much so, and it’s resulting in discrimination against underprivileged children who study instrumental music.

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Wiki’s in Schools

Chris Jablonski:

Wikis have made their way into the classroom at Lewis Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. Students working on writing projects are accessing their teacher’s wiki from their Safari bookmark toolbar on their Macs via Apple’s Rendezvous. The wiki is installed on the teacher’s iBooks and is an adaptation of Instiki, which in combination with SchoolTool, an open souce management information system, streamlines the entire process. Apart from a couple of problems,–when the laptop is asleep or is outside the school the system breaks down–it gets the thumbs up from the students who use it. It takes away the burden of navigating file servers and word processor interfaces and lets the students focus on their writing.

I like wiki’s – they seem quite useful for the classroom.

Parents Question Math Strategies in Boston

Surely, the quote of the day:

”What’s going to happen when they go into a store? Are they going to say, ‘Do you happen to have 25 Cheerios so I can break it down?’ ” said Jacqueline Azulay of Roslindale, who sees her two daughters going to great lengths to break large numbers into manageable pieces. ”I think they need to teach basic math.”

Vanessa Parks dives into the math wars with many interesting quotes.

Leopold Expansion: Ridgewood Gets New Management

Alliance Residential Management is reportedly now in charge of managing Fitchburg’s Ridgewood Apartments. Visit Alliance’s searchable apartment database here to check out the type of properties and prices they offer.
Mary Battaglia recently mentioned Fitchburg’s possible condemnation of the Ridgewood Apartments.
It seems change is in the wind at Ridgewood, with implications for the planned Leopold expansion (Learn more about the Leopold Referendum) Leopold is 0.20 miles from the Ridgewood Apartments (map).

We need a new School Board

Carol Carstensen�s recent letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal (�Carstensen replies to Robarts�) illustrates the choices before the public in this spring�s school board elections. Many of these choices revolve around the core question of whether one can support progressive ideals and challenge the board�s go along and get along status quo.
I believe that it is not only possible but necessary for progressives to question the status quo � particularly if it results in serious board consideration of balance between employee wages and benefits as part of a comprehensive search for ways to preserve our current staff levels and programs in view of current funding realities.
In her letter, Carol Carstensen erroneously reduces my suggestions to one simplistic idea and then condemns the idea as anti-teacher and ill-informed. Perhaps it is easier to attack a straw-person concept, but it doesn�t move the community or the board closer to the honest problem-solving that is required at a time when we need all of the input and ideas that we can get.

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What is Wrong with this Picture?

The Madison School Board of Education and the District administration are proposing nearly $50 million worth of referenda and are begging for the support of the taxpaying public to significantly raise taxes. At the same time, Superintendent Rainwater bashes the business community for not contributing more tax dollars to fund public education. By accusing businesses of “eating their own young” and “contributing to their own demise” he is creating a very divisive atmosphere that makes it very difficult for taxpayers to see the value in more and more spending for mediocre results.

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Carstensen Responds to Robarts 3/15/2005 WSJ

In response to Ruth Robarts’ recent letter, stripped of its satire, she is suggesting that paying Madison’s school staff less would eliminate the budget gap. Her proposal is that school staff should receive a package of 2.35 percent for salary and benefits combined. There are three major problems with her proposal:

  • This would impose a pay cut on almost all employees, with the deepest cuts affecting the lowest paid staff (educational assistants and food service workers)
  • A 2.35 percent package would save the district about $4.6 millionthere would still be a budget gap of at least $4 million.
  • State law makes such an approach impossible. The qualified economic offer law essentially requires that districts offer at least a 3.8 percent annual increase for salary and benefits combined.

Be wary of last minute proposals that sound good and promise to solve the problem without painful cuts. As a community we need to face the fact that the budget gap we face is real; it is a direct consequence of the state laws and funding decisions that affect all Wisconsin school districts.

/Carol Carstensen, Madison School Board /

Failing the Wrong Grades (cont’d) – Needs Better High School Preparation

Diane Ravich
It makes no sense to blame the high schools for their ill-prepared incoming students. To really get at the problem, we have to make changes across our educational system. The most important is to stress the importance of academic achievement. Sorry to say, we have a long history of reforms by pedagogues to de-emphasize academic achievement and to make school more “relevant,” “fun” and like “real life.” These efforts have produced whole-language instruction, where phonics, grammar and spelling are abandoned in favor of “creativity,” and fuzzy math, where students are supposed to “construct” their own solutions to math problems instead of finding the right answers.
These are the exact same points Professor Seidenburg, UW Madison, made to the MMSD School Board earlier this year. He also critized the MMSD Superintendent for turning away $10+ million over several years of Reading First federal grant money.

Wisconsin is not Alone in Budget Crisis

I did a simple search on Google: State budget and school funding. I was not surprised to find Wisconsin sharing in their education funding crisis with many other states. On the first two pages of my search I discovered California, Texas, Washington, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, and New York have news articles about their educational funding “crisis”. Each state has it’s version of revenue caps, TABOR like situations, or tax restraints that cause their current problem. Some just never raise taxes and can’t figure out how to fund a state and local program without taxes. Also interesting to note is Ohio and Illinois legislation funds their local schools at 51% while Washington state legislation is suppose to pay 80%. None of these states actually fund their schools at their promised level just as our federal government fails to fund it’s many mandates at it’s required level. I find this interesting because each time I watch the “MMSD Budget Horse and Pony Show”, as I like to refer to this annually released performance, I am told how awful the state legislation is and that Wisconsin is backwards in its funding of education. While there may be some truth to that, it is comforting to know my state is not the only awful backwards state out there. That comfort however, does not solve the problem. The reason I went on this search is I have twice, maybe more, asked the board to “think outside the box”. I decided since the board wants the public to present them with solutions and not complaints that I would find out how other states and communities are financing schools and present these ideas to them before they develop another “sequel”.
One state that caught my attention was Virgina. To solve their school funding problem they instituted a half a cent sales tax through out the entire state. This idea was suggested by a think tank organized by Gov. Doyle in Wisconsin but it was quickly run out of Madison. The plan is something to think about,as Virgina just signed their budget that added an additional 759 million dollars to the governors original budget towards public education. I will continue this search and loft new ideas at this site. We need a new way, a creative way to fund education because we are all tired of fighting for our schools and very tired of watching “sequels” with no new plots or twist.
The Virginia link:

Failing the Wrong Grades

Diane Ravitch:

While the problems of low achievement and poor high-school graduation rates are clear, however, their solutions are not. The reformist governors, for example, want to require all students to take a college-preparatory curriculum and to meet more rigorous standards for graduation. These steps will very likely increase the dropout rate, not reduce it.
To understand why, you have to consider what the high schools are dealing with. When American students arrive as freshmen, nearly 70 percent are reading below grade level. Equally large numbers are ill prepared in mathematics, science and history.
It is hardly fair to blame high schools for the poor skills of their entering students. If students start high school without the basic skills needed to read, write and solve mathematics problems, then the governors should focus on strengthening the standards of their states’ junior high schools.
And that first year of high school is often the most important one – many students who eventually drop out do so after becoming discouraged when they can’t earn the credits to advance beyond ninth grade. Ninth grade is often referred to by educators as a “parking lot.” This is because social promotion – the endemic practice of moving students up to the next grade whether they have earned it or not – comes to a crashing halt in high school.

Gifted kids have special needs, too

The March 13, 2005 issue of the Appleton Post Crescent had the following column by Jennifer Edmondson. She writes:
Before I began researching the topic of �intellectual giftedness,� I thought it was a bunch of trendy education baloney.
During the past four years, my thinking has changed radically. I have read books, called organizations for gifted kids, talked to teachers and parents of gifted kids, and I have attended seminars.
Gifted kids really do exist. More importantly, gifted kids have special needs. If those needs aren�t met, not only is that child doomed, but so is our society.

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Curated Education Information