Channel 3’s For the Record recently interviewed Allen Odden (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Tim Schell (Waunakee School District) and Jennifer Thayer (Monroe School District) regarding their participation in the Wisconsin School Finance Adequacy Initiative. 77MB mp4 video file (suitable for video ipods and other devices).
Neil Heinen’s conversation with Allen, Jennifer and Tim includes some interesting comments on funding and education quality.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
Wisconsin’s state government ended the past fiscal year with a giant deficit of $2.15 billion, according to the accounting methods used by most businesses.
But the state’s books show a cozy balance of $49.2 million.
The discrepancy results from years of Wisconsin governors and legislators manipulating the accounting process to hide irresponsible budget decisions.
Those accounting tricks must stop. Wisconsin should begin to hold itself to the more business-like accounting methods used by Wall Street and by 16 other states the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, known as GAAP.
Wisconsin’s fiscal situation makes it unlikely that there will be substantial changes in state funding for K-12 schools, particularly for rich districts like Madison that spend 23% ($333,000,000 for 24,576 students) more per student than the state average. Current state law penalizes districts that increase local school spending (property taxes) via referendum via reduced state aids. This means that for every $1.00 of new local spending above state revenue growth caps, Madison taxpayers must pay $1.61.
The 2/20/2007 and 04/03/2007 school board election presents an interesting contrast between candidates who believe that the best interests of our children are served by advocating for larger state spending beyond the typical 3.5%+ annual increases in the District’s budget and those who view the likelihood of substantial state changes for rich districts, like Madison as remote and therefore advocate more efficient management of the extraordinary resources we currently have. Health care costs present a useful example of this issue: Inaction [What a Sham(e)] vs discussion and some changes (in this example, 85% of the health care cost savings went to salaries).]
Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater:
Over 20 years ago Dr. Ron Edmonds, a Harvard researcher, first reported the critical role that a school principal’s instructional leadership plays in creating successful learning opportunities for all students. That fundamental proposition has borne the test of further research and time and is now included in almost all school reform measures.
While there is general acceptance of the critical nature of instructional leadership by the school principal, the demanding nature of that role for a lone individual who bears that responsibility is not often described. The principal of a school, whether a large urban high school or a small rural elementary school, shares the responsibility for the future of every student in his/her building.
Kristian Knutsen posts the very useful Isthmus Take Home Tests, starting with Seat 3 candidates (who have a February 20, 2007 primary) Pam Cross Leone, Beth Moss and Rick Thomas. Much more on the election here.
Paul Teske, Jody Fitzpatrick, and Gabriel Kaplan [1.1MB PDF Report]:
Starting with the economist Milton Friedman, supporters of school choice have assumed that competition would lead to better schools, and that parents could do a better job of assigning children to schools than could school administrators. The debate on the first assumption is raging. The second assumption has received little attention, except from those who assert that middle-class families can make good choices but impoverished families can’t.
Barriers to parent choice can all be overcome, but it will take planning, organization, and some modest public spending.
Our new research paints a very different picture of how low-income and minority families in big cities choose schools when they get the chance. Like middle-class parents who have always had choices, low-income parents don’t look for alternatives if their children are happy and successful in school. But once they start thinking about school options, low-income families want information about schools and think hard about the choices they have. Poor parents seek to escape problems evident in their children’s current school, and have definite ideas about the differences between one child and another (our studious boy, our distractible girl) that lead them to search for an appropriate match between child and school.
But our results also identify barriers that must be overcome before low-income parents can become the types of savvy consumers that can make school choice work well for them.
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Alan Borsuk has more:
The researchers based their findings on surveys conducted about a year ago with 300 parents in Milwaukee, 300 in Washington, D.C., and 200 in Denver. Milwaukee and Washington are on the cutting edge of school choice in the United States, each with wide arrays of options for parents, including numerous charter schools and private schools that take part in publicly funded voucher programs for low-income families.
“This report’s general finding is that low-income urban parents report feeling more well informed than was anticipated,” the researchers said in the report, being released today. “They are extremely satisfied with their choices, and most do not believe that they lacked any important information when they made their choice.”
The optimistic conclusions about school choice – in the broadest sense of the term – do not include an assessment of whether parents were actually making good choices in terms of schools where academic achievement is strong or where their children specifically would thrive.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
The School Board should proceed down this path, but cautiously. As officials of the Milwaukee Public Schools have noted, private schools have long offered single-sex education. Parents who send their children to public schools deserve that choice, too. But officials should be prepared to abandon this experiment if it is shown to hurt girls, as gender separation did in the past.
The proposal is to open an all-boys school and an all-girls school in September, though that target date may not be met. There should not be a rush to do so. Getting the schools right is more important than getting them open quickly. MPS has yet to specify what grade levels the schools would encompass.
The initial impetus for proposals to separate school kids by sex was to help girls, who lagged behind boys in math and science. The theory was that girls were too reticent around boys and that the sexes had different styles of learning. In an all-female setting, girls wouldn’t be afraid to show how smart they were, and the material could be presented in a feminine style. Also, such a setting would permit girls to take leadership roles they would be too bashful to assume in a co-ed milieu.
At its November 21, 2006, meeting, the MMSD Student Senate discussed many issues of interest to this blog community (e.g., completely heterogeneous high school classes, embedded honors options, etc.). Here is the relevant section from the minutes for that meeting:
regular classes don’t have a high enough level of discussion
students who would normally be in higher level courses would dominate heterogeneous class discussions
bring students up rather than down
honors classes help students who want to excel to do so
array of advanced and regular classes in every subject
honors and AP classes are dominated by a certain type of students (concerning ethnicity, socio-economic status, neighborhood, family, etc.)
honors within regular classes — response to whether or not regular students are an integral part of the class:
Comments and Concerns:
there’s a risk of losing highly-motivated students to private schools
being in a classroom with students of similar skill levels is beneficial
teachers teach very differently to honors/advanced/AP students than they do to regular students
least experienced teachers are given to students who need the most experienced teachers (new teachers get lowest level classes)
sometimes split classes will be divided so that the honors students will be doing work in the front of the classroom while the regular students are doing lab work in the back
the problem is with the average classes
won’t help anything to cut TAG classes
mental divide among students in classes where honors and regular students are in the same classroom
more behavioral problems in regular classes (possibly more behavioral problems) à cycle teachers through so that one teacher isn’t stuck with the same type of student for an extended time
college is a factor to consider
discussion level is still high
homework is the same (higher expectation for essays; two textbooks)
teachers don’t cater to one type of student in discussions
Main problems to bring to BOE:
- higher standards for all students *
- division within classes creates too many boundaries *
- not bad to keep advanced classes in some disciplines *
- voluntary peer education *
- colleges consider accelerated course loads (factor to consider) *
There’s been a great deal of activity vis a vis Mayoral control and influence over local public schools:
Locally, Mayor Dave has been, as far as I can tell, very quiet vis a vis substantive public school issues, other than periodically meeting with MTI’s John Matthews. I’m unaware of any similar parental meetings on what is a critical issue for any community: raising our next generation with the tools necessary to contribute productively to our society (and I might add, support a growing economic/tax base). Madison has long strongly supported it’s public schools with above average taxes and spending.
Former Madison Mayor (and parent) Paul Soglin weighs in on this topic:
For over thirty years I said, “There is nothing a mayor can do that has the impact on a city that is as great as the public school system.”
The mayor needs to be a partner, a protector, an advocate for the public school system. Any mayor who lets a week go by without having some contact, involvement or support with public education is not doing the job.
Perhaps the April, 2007 Mayor’s race will include some conversations about our $333,000,000; 24,576 student K-12 system.
With the debate about high school redesign and the furor over the four-block schedule at LaFollette, I looked at DPI data for Madison’s high schools. On nearly every indicator, LaFollette ranks third behind West and Memorial, with East ranking fourth.
See the data
U.S. public schools could have as much as $77 billion more a year to improve teaching if they reduced spending on seniority pay increases, teacher’s aides, class size limits and other measures often found in teacher union contracts, a new study contends.
he provisions include salary increases based on years of experience or educational credentials; professional development days; sick and personal days; class size limits; use of teacher’s aides; and generous health and retirement benefits.
Teachers union officials sharply disputed the report’s findings. School administrators and school board representatives said that although they would like more flexibility in the use of funds, there was little evidence that cutting such provisions would raise achievement.
250K PDF Report.
Education Sector Press Release by Marguerite Roza:
State and federal accountability systems are putting immense pressure on public schools to improve the performance of low-achieving students. To respond, schools must be able to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, strengthen curricula, and take other steps to provide struggling students with the help they need.
But such efforts are expensive and, as the nation faces the cost of caring for an aging population and other challenges in the years ahead, it is unlikely that education will receive a great deal of new funding. Education leaders, as a result, will increasingly have to scrutinize their existing budgets to find ways to fund their reform initiatives. One potentially valuable source of funds for reform are common provisions in teacher contracts that obligate schools to spend large amounts of money on programs that lack a clear link to student achievement.
Andrew Rotherham has more:
New ES report by school finance guru Marguerite Roza makes the uncomfortable but important point that there is a lot of money in education now that could be repurposed to greater effect within education. WaPo here. Similar to the point made by the recent Skills Commission report. To some this could appear as picking on teachers, and it will be framed that way, but the simple fact is that education is, by it’s nature, pretty labor intensive, and most of the $500 billion spent annually is tied up in labor costs. Consequently, pace our good friend Willie Sutton, that’s one place policymakers are going to have to look for funds. In other words, we need to get serious about financing education, but also about refinancing it as well. And, we have to take on what is a four letter word in many education circles, productivity.
Education Sector has released an exceptional report by Marguerite Roza that quantifies the costs of various standard provisions in collective bargaining agreements that have little or no connection to improved student achievement or even efficient distribution of resources. Items like automatic raises for experience, university credits, and paid professional development end up totaling almost 19 percent of all education spending, without any indication that they are giving us what we’re after: better schools.
Roza suggests more flexibility is needed:
Madison West Small Learning Community Coordinator Heather Lott is giving a presentation at Monday evening’s PTSO meeting: “SLC Post-Grant Update and Discussion”. Location: Madison West High School LMC [Map] West’s implementation of Small Learning Communities has been controversial due to the move toward a one size fits all curriculum (English 9 and English 10).
Loading Clusty Cloud …
Parents with children potentially on their way to West High School should check out this Monday evening event.
Recently profiled on ABC’s 20/20, the soon-to-be published book Fame Junkies highlights anecdotes and research on the attitudes of American kids (and adults) regarding fame.
Fame Junkies chronicles journalist Jake Halpern’s journey through the underbelly of Hollywood and into the heart of the question that bedevils us all: Why are Americans so obsessed with fame and celebrities?
We live in a country where more people watch the ultimate competition for celebrityhood – American Idol – than watch the nightly news on the three major networks combined. So what are the implications of this phenomenon? In his new book, Fame Junkies, Halpern explores the impact that celebrity-obsession is having on three separate niches of Americans: aspiring celebrities, entourage insiders, and diehard fans.
Halpern begins his journey by moving into a gated community inhabited almost entirely by aspiring child actors. During his stay, he interviews dozens of kids and teenagers, who seem to have an almost religious conviction that fame is a cure-all for life’s problems. What’s truly impressive is that these anecdotes are then supported with hard evidence. As part of the extensive research that he did for this book, Halpern teamed up with several statisticians and orchestrated a survey involving three separate school systems and over 650 teenagers. Many of his findings were deeply troubling. For example – when given the option of “pressing a magic button” and becoming stronger, smarter, famous, or more beautiful – boys in the survey chose fame almost as often as they chose intelligence, and girls chose it more often. Among today’s teenagers, says Halpern, fame appears to be the greatest good.
In second part of his book, Halpern becomes an honorary member of the Association for Celebrity Personal Assistants (ACPA) where he spends a great deal of time with Annie Brentwell who has slavishly devoted every iota of her personal and professional life to celebrities like Oliver Stone, Sharon Stone, and (most recently) Dennis Hopper. In her spare time, when she is not serving Hopper, Brentwell teaches at a school that the ACPA runs to teach aspiring assistants; and, of course, Halpern tags along. This section of Fame Junkies also investigates a fascinating vein of psychological research on what type of people are most likely to “bask in reflected glory” or BIRG. For example, college students with low self-esteem are far more likely to embrace their school’s football team when it wins and dissociating themselves from that same team when it loses. Halpern goes on to consider how BIRG research applies to Hollywood.
Web-Based Education for School & Home:
edu 2.0 is an important concept and the next step in the evolution of education technology. Read more….
The Madison School Board Communication Committee’s upcoming meeting includes an interesting 2007-2009 legislative agenda for state education finance changes that would increase District annual spending (current budget is $333,000,000) at a higher than normal rate (typically in the 3.8% range):
4. 2007-09 Legislative Agenda
a. Work to create a school finance system that defines that resources are necessary to provide students with a “sound basic education.” Using Wisconsin’s Academic Standards (which is the standard of achievement set by the Legislature), coupled with proven research that lays out what is necessary to achieve those standards, will more clearly define what programs and services are required for students to attain success.
b. Support thorough legislative review of Wisconsin’s tax system; examining all taxing.
c. Provide revenue limit relief to school districts for uncontrollable costs (utilities, transportation). [ed: This shifts the risk to local property taxpayers, which has its pros and cons. The definition of “uncontrollable” would be interesting to read.]
d. Allow a local board of education to exceed the revenue limits by up to 2% of the district’s total budget without having to go to referendum. [ed: $6,660,000 above the typical 3.8% annual spending growth: $333,000,000 2006/2007 budget + 3.8% (12,654,000) + 2% (6,660,000) = $19,314,000 increase, or 5.8%]
e. Allow school districts to exceed the revenue limits for security-related expenses by up to $100 per pupil enrolled in the district. [ed: about $2,400,000]
f. Modify the school aid formula so negative tertiary school district (Madison) taxpayers aren’t penalized when the district borrows. (Madison Schools’ taxpayers have to pay $1.61 for every dollar borrowed.) [ed: This will cost other districts money]
g. Improve Medicaid reimbursement from state to school districts (current law allows the state to “skim” 40% of the federal Medicaid reimbursement dollars for school-based services).
h. Support state aid reimbursement for 4-year old kindergarten programs, similar to the reimbursement for 4-year old kindergarten in Milwaukee choice and charter schools.
i. Support increasing state aid for public school transportation costs.
j. Support allowing a declining enrollment school district to use the highest enrollment in a 5-year period for purposes of calculating its revenue limit. [ed: I wonder if the MMSD perceives itself as a growing or declining district, given the attendance projections used to support new schools over the past several years? Perhaps this item is the answer? The current state funding scheme rewards growing districts. Barb Schrank noted the enrollment changes in surrounding districts last fall.]
k. Support additional resources for mandated special education and English as a Second Language programs, currently reimbursed at 28% and 12%, respectively (when revenue limits began, the reimbursement was 45% and 33% respectively).
l. Maintain current law for disbursement of resources from the Common School Fund for public school libraries.
m. Support increase in per meal reimbursement for school breakfast programs.
There are some good ideas here, including a thorough review of Wisconsin’s tax system. Many of these items, if enabled by the state, would result in higher property taxes (Wisconsin is #1 in property taxes as a percentage of the home’s value) for those living in the Madison School District. Any of these changes would likely help address the District’s $5.9M structural deficit.
I trust that there are some additional budget scenarios in play rather than simply hoping the state will change school finance to help the Madison School District (unlikely, given several recent conversations with state political players). Madison already spends 23% more per student than the state average.
- 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?
- 2007/2008 Madison School District Budget Outlook: Half Empty or Half Full?
- Budget notes and links
- Sarah Kidd’s historical charts on District staffing, attendance and spending.
- Italian Minister of Economy & Finance Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa:
I now come to the last and conclusive theme of my argument. Controlling expenditure always has to balance technical arguments and constraints, with the legitimate and competing claims (often drawing on very different ideological Weltanschauungen) on the resources managed, directly and indirectly, through the political processes. Balancing the two elements is a difficult exercise, as I experience on a daily basis.
Political economists have blamed the difficulty on the fact that the time-horizon of a typical political cycle is shorter than the one relevant on average for the society as a whole, in turn leading the legislature to attribute a smaller weight to the long-run implications of public expenditure policies than it would be socially desirable. Empirical evidence shows that discretionary public expenditure tends to rise before the elections irrespective of the political orientation of the incumbent government, and also in spite of the weak evidence of a relation between the size of pre-election spending and the election outcomes. The politicians’ short horizons and the long lag between reforms and their beneficial effects gives rise to a pervasive tension in expenditure control.
For Faust, the lure of Mephistopheles’ services is greatly enhanced by the fact that the price – albeit a terrible one – is to be paid later. For politicians, the lure of the support obtained through public expenditure is similarly enhanced by the fact that public debt will be paid (o reneged) by next generations, often well after the end of one’s political career. As to myself, having inherited a public debt larger than GDP, and having committed myself and my government to comply with sound fiscal principles, I scarcely can afford even to contemplate the possibility of accepting Mephistopheles’ services.
Update: I recently learned that the MMSD’s Joe Quick wrote this list, which was not voted on by the Madison School Board.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
Looking for the path to effective education, leaders of the Milwaukee Public Schools have long slogged through the wilderness of school reform only to end up where they started. All used to be centralized at MPS. Then decentralization became the watchword. Now centralization is again in.
This lunging between two opposite approaches is in a way understandable. Getting big-city school systems to work is no easy task, to judge from the rarity of the accomplishment. Superintendent William Andrekopoulos is right in being dissatisfied with the slow pace of improvement and in searching for ways to step it up. And recentralization does carry the force of logic for decentralized schools that have failed to improve.
Still, as onetime MPS chief Howard Fuller reminded us when we reached him in New Orleans, where he is consulting, neither centralization nor decentralization is a magic bullet. The key ingredient for great schools are “people committed to do whatever it takes to educate our children.”
n doing so, MPS must minimize the red tape, which has clogged school operations. Another trick the system must manage is to refrain from hurting the schools that have thrived under decentralization, an example of which is Hamlin Garland Elementary School on Milwaukee’s south side. Borsuk highlighted the school in another article this week.
Madison appears to be rather centralized, with a push for standardized curriculum, generally lead by downtown Teaching and Learning staff. I often wonder how practical this actually is, given 24,000+ students and thousands of teachers and staff. Perhaps, in 2007 and going forward, the best solution is to support easy to access internet based knowledge tools for teachers where they can quickly review a variety of curriculum (including those not blessed by the central administration) with notes and links from others. This could likely be done inexpensively, given the wide variety of knowledge management tools available today.
“We’ve made more progress in the last five years than the previous 28 years,” Spellings said. “Can the law be improved? Should we build on what we’ve done and all of that sort of thing? You bet. But I don’t hear people saying: ‘You know what? We really don’t need to have education for all students.’ ”
Her remarks come as various groups begin to weigh in on the law and what they believe works and what does not. The No Child Left Behind law is scheduled to be reauthorized by Congress, but it is uncertain when lawmakers will act.
The Forum on Educational Accountability — a coalition that includes education, religious, civil rights and disability rights groups — said yesterday that the law overemphasizes standardized tests and arbitrary academic targets. The coalition also criticized penalties the law imposes on schools that fail to meet standards.
“We don’t have to throw out the whole law and make a big political battle,” said Reginald M Felton, a senior lobbyist for the National School Boards Association, a member of the coalition. “But we need to change from the punitive, ‘gotcha!’ kind of approach to actual support for progress.”
Rotherham has more on NCLB.
National Council on Teacher Quality:
the portal is the first of its kind-empowering anyone to analyze and compare the day-to-day operations of teachers and schools in a single district or all fifty. You can choose to download the full text of a teacher contract, just the salary schedule, and even the school calendar. Or perhaps you just have a single question and don’t want to wade through lengthy documents. Most likely the answer in our database, easily retrieved in three quick steps using our report generator. The database provides answers to over 300 questions, ranging from salary and benefits to how a teacher gets evaluated–with more getting added all the time.
The more this site gets used, the more powerful it will become. We invite users to contribute knowledge and ideas to our data collection, helping us keep the site current, accurate and fair. Consider this site the central depository for teacher policies. To ensure the accuracy of this database, we will be vetting all user feedback before posting any changes.
The 158 page collective bargaining agreement (7/1/2005 to 6/30/2007) between Madison Teachers, Inc. and the Madison Metropolitan School District is available here [540K pdf]. Additional links and documents can be found here.
Mike Antonuccia has more.
The American Montessori Society, based in New York, reported 7 percent membership growth in just the past year, and many of the schools are getting ready to celebrate the centennial of the Montessori beachhead.
Once considered a maverick experiment that appealed only to middle-class white families in the States, Montessori schools have become popular with some black professionals and are getting results in low-income public schools with the kind of children on which Montessori first tested her ideas.
The stubborn Italian physician and her contemporary, U.S. philosopher and psychologist John Dewey — who believed that learning should be active — are considered perhaps the most influential progressive thinkers in the modern history of education.
Madison has at least two Montessori schools, here and here.
This note comes from a listserve, and I thought that it was worthwhile to pass it on:
Internet Scout, a 12-year-old UW-Madison online research project, unveiled its new national math and science educational project, the Applied Math and Science Education Repository.
Read more: http://www.news.wisc.edu/13307.html
Susan Troller reports in the Cap Times:
When Tom Brew takes on incumbent School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. in the spring election for Seat 4, he, like Winston, will bring a lifetime of experience with Madison schools to the race.
Brew’s own children attended Huegel and Orchard Ridge schools and graduated in the late ’80s to mid-90s. A lifelong Madisonian, he attended the former Longfellow Elementary and Central High schools.
“I felt I had some different viewpoints to offer from Johnny’s,” Brew said this morning. “Basically, I think Johnny has had a go-along-to-get-along attitude.”
Direct Instruction is just curriculum that uses direct, systematic, and explicit instruction. Any one of the direct instruction curricula would improve academic performance if it were used in the MMSD.
This comes from an Education Week article in 1999:
When an independent research group evaluated the research backing up 24 popular school reform models this year, it found two surprises.
The first surprise was that only three programs could point to strong evidence that they were effective in improving student achievement. The second surprise was that Direct Instruction, a program long scorned by many educators and academics for its lock-step structure, was one of them.
Direct Instruction grew out of studies on the teaching of beginning reading that Siegfried Engelmann began at the University of Illinois in the 1960s. Thirty years later, only 150 schools across the country use on a schoolwide basis the program he developed. By comparison, Success for All, another reform model with high marks for its solid research base, is used in more than 1,100 schools.
Thousands more schools, however, use Direct Instruction’s commercially produced materials–usually in remedial classrooms, special education resource rooms, or special programs for disadvantaged students.
“We were sort of like the plague for regular education,” says Mr. Engelmann, now 67 and a professor at the University of Oregon. “Regular education would have nothing to do with us. It wasn’t until the last few years that we started to break the mold.”
A reader involved in these issues emailed this article by Andrew Rotherham:
Second, the story highlights my colleague Tom Toch’s criticism that a lot of tests states are using under NCLB are pretty basic. That’s exactly right. I’m all for better tests, but isn’t that, you know, an indictment of schools that can’t even get kids over a pretty low bar rather than an indictment of the law? In other words, excepting some fine-grained issues around special populations, NCLB can’t be wildly unrealistic in what it demands of schools and really basic at the same time, can it? The story doesn’t sift through that in detail but would be nice if some journo would.* The reality is that we don’t deliver a very powerful instructional program in a lot of schools, and that’s not the fault of NCLB.
*Related, there is a tension between high-performing students and low-performing ones in terms of where to put resources and attention. Not completely binary, and plenty of students falling behind today could be high performers in better schools. But still there and mostly talked about in code words rather than forthrightly: Are we as a nation better off really focusing on the millions of kids at the wrong end of the achievement gap even if its suboptimal for kids on the high end? And spare me the rhetoric about how you can easily do both. You can to some extent but constrained resources, carrots and sticks in policy, and time constraints all make tradeoffs a reality.
A few other readers have mentioned that this is a conversation Madison needs to have.
Jon Hilsenrath & Rafael Gerena-Morales:
Climbing out of poverty hasn’t been as easy as getting on the bus. She says her life is now drug-free and more stable, and her children are growing up in a better environment. Yet in many ways, her struggles traveled with her.
“You really need to have a focus to get out of the ghetto,” says Ms. Grayson, a New York native.
Her experience offers clues to a question society has wrestled with for years: Can a family escape poverty by getting out of the neighborhood where it takes root? It also sheds light on the government’s shifting efforts to use housing policy as a solution to poverty.
A $16 billion federal infrastructure has built up around housing vouchers designed to give poor families more choices about where to live. About two million families currently use “Section 8” vouchers that allow them to move with subsidized rent. Since 1993, the government has been demolishing urban housing projects and forcing families to resettle in other places, sometimes with vouchers.
But results show that may only partially be true. “It would have been wonderful to have discovered the magic bullet,” says Jeffrey Liebman, a Harvard economist who has studied the program.
Findings, he says, were more complicated. Among them: boys whose families moved actually fared worse than boys who stayed in bad neighborhoods. Girls, however, fared significantly better. Adults felt better, physically and mentally, than those who stayed behind, but didn’t do better financially.
From the beginning, Mary Watson Peterson had doubts about the motivations of those in charge of implementing federal education grants known as Reading First. As the Madison district’s coordinator of language arts and reading, she spent hundreds of hours working on Madison’s Reading First grant proposal.
“Right away,” she says, “I recognized a big philosophical difference” between Madison’s reading instruction and the prescriptive, commercially produced lessons advocated by Reading First officials. “The exchange of ideas with the technical adviser ran very counter to what we believe are best practices in teaching.”
The final straw was when the district was required to draft daily lesson plans to be followed by all teachers at the same time.
“We’ve got 25,000 kids who are in 25,000 different places,” says Superintendent Art Rainwater. The program’s insistence on uniformity “fundamentally violated everything we believe about teaching children.”
In October 2004, Rainwater withdrew Madison from the federal grant program, losing potentially $3.2 million even as the district was cutting personnel and programs to balance its budget. Rainwater’s decision, made without input from the school board, drew intense criticism and became an issue in last year’s board elections.
From a public policy perspective, the School Board should have discussed the $3.2M, particularly given the annual agony over very small changes in the District’s $333M+ budget.
The further concern over a one size fits all Reading First requirement (“We’ve got 25,000 kids who are in 25,000 different places,” says Superintendent Art Rainwater.) is ironic, given the push toward just that across the District (West’s English 10 [Bruce King’s English 9 report] and the recently proposed changes at East High School).
Barb Williams noted that other “blessed by the District” curriculum are as scripted as Reading First in a December, 2004 letter to Isthmus. More here via Ed Blume and here via Ruth Robarts.
It will be interesting to see what Diana Schemo has to say about Reading First.
John Taylor Gatto’s book:
I want to open up concealed aspects of modern schooling such as the deterioration it forces in the morality of parenting. You have no say at all in choosing your teachers. You know nothing about their backgrounds or families. And the state knows little more than you do. This is as radical a piece of social engineering as the human imagination can conceive. What does it mean?
One thing you do know is how unlikely it will be for any teacher to understand the personality of your particular child or anything significant about your family, culture, religion, plans, hopes, dreams. In the confusion of school affairs even teachers so disposed don’t have opportunity to know those things. How did this happen?
Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like. Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning. Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can? There isn’t any.
A story by Kayla Bunge in The Monroe Times reports:
MADISON — With a new legislative session beginning in just about a week, the issue of school funding is certain to receive more attention.
And two local legislators — 17th District Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and 27th District Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton — already have begun working.
Schultz, the former Senate majority leader, played a leading role in creating the Special Committee on Review of the State School Aid Formula.
The committee’s purpose, he said, is “to recognize the special challenges that small school districts have trying to continue to provide a quality education in rural communities where student populations are declining.”
Under the model, used by a number of school boards in the state, the board develops a set of expectations and then holds its administrators accountable to achieve those goals and report on progress.
The result is a more focused board that has more objective criteria for evaluating the performance of the school superintendent, said Sue Kutz, president of the Racine Unified School Board, which began using policy governance this year.
Monthly monitoring reports and a review of the board’s goals are used to evaluate the superintendent’s performance, she said, rather than a subjective evaluation that focuses on “the last great fiasco that happened.”
Boards are also spared the details and decision-making on issues for which they have little expertise.
“As a way of doing business, it seems to make so much more sense than the old way,” Kutz said.
Interesting. Serving on a school board is perhaps one of the most difficult public service positions “available” today. The recently revealed $6M Madison School District structural deficit (in place for 7 years) along with ongoing curriculum questions and a recent lack of oversight obligations such as reviewing the Superintendent requires a vigilant, active board.
Dear Supporters of The Studio School:
As you probably know, we met with the MMSD Board members last Wednesday and are satisfied with how the Board meeting went. Many individuals took the opportunity to speak at the meeting and each of them did a fantastic job! THE OUTCOME OF THE MEETING IS THAT WE NEED TO PREPARE A RESPONSE TO THEIR QUESTIONS and have very limited time to accomplish this since they need to have it by January 18th. So here’s our plan:
We need to put together three short-term task forces:
- “money team” to work on the budget and financing
- Determine what an accurate and detailed representation of costs and revenues would look like and fill in the numbers.
- Consider creative ways to finance the school with the implementation grant Help! We need more school finance expertise for this one.
- We still need money to file for tax exempt status ($750) Help! If we could get a/some contributions to cover this cost, we have found an attorney who will file it pro bono…
- So if we could get a sizable donation to get this school started since the district’s finances are in such a bad state, the Board would be more favorably disposed to our proposal. (This would be added to federal grant funds of $340,000.)
- “people team” to reach out to a more diverse population (Kristin Forde is going to organize this.)
Meet with or provide information to people we haven’t had an opportunity to connect with so we can share information about the school and encourage them to attend the January 22nd meeting to express support and interest in The Studio School Help! We could use some marketing expertise.
- “plan team” to develop a clearer description of the school and how it would actually work, including the technology
Develop a more detailed implementation plan and a clearer representation of how it will operate and look. Help! I can work on this but I would like some people (parents, educators, interested parties) to collaborate with me in order to figure out how to communicate it more clearly.
If you or anyone you know can help out over the next few weeks, please have them contact me. This is our last opportunity to pull it all together and make The Studio School a choice for Madison children – this means that we need to start the new year ready to get it done.
We have made it to this point because of the dedication and hard work of our core planning group and the assistance and support from people like you. We are almost there! A “final push” kickoff meeting is scheduled for January 3rd at 6:00…location to be determined. After that, we have two weeks to get it all done. So please let me know ASAP if you, or someone you know, can lend us a hand.
Thank you for your continued support. We are looking forward to celebrating and sharing our success in February after the final vote on January 29th!
WITH WARM WISHES TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES….
The Studio School, Inc.
Property taxes in Wisconsin are the nation’s highest in proportion to the value of owner-occupied homes, according to a recent national study.
hat is “nothing terribly new or earth-shaking,” said Todd A. Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance in Madison, who predicted the taxes still are too low to cause a fundamental change in state policy.
The study results are “a combination of two things,” Berry said. “We are a higher property tax state . . . (and) our median home value is lower. Put those together, and it is going to push us up.”
The Tax Foundation [Gerald Prante]:
No tax riles the American people more than property taxes, especially real estate taxes that are based on the value of their homes and land. According to a recent Tax Foundation poll, property taxes are thought to be the least “fair” of all state and local taxes.
Most likely, part of the reason for this loathing is that taxpayers are more acutely aware of what property taxes cost them than they are of income, payroll, corporate, or sales taxes. Sometimes, property taxes are paid into an escrow account without much personal attention from the taxpayer, but often property taxes involve the actual writing of a huge check to the local government.
- Property taxes highest in the Northeast, Texas, Illinois, and Wisconsin
- New York and New Jersey dominate list of high-tax counties
- About half of all property taxes go to public schools
- Property taxes rose faster than incomes from 2002 to 2004
- Housing market decline may force local governments to cut spending or raise property tax rates
Prante’s last point regarding the relationship between changes in the housing market, tax assessments and rates is an important factor to watch. Madison has experienced substantial housing growth (and therefore parcel quantity and values) over the past decade. If/when that changes, there will be some blowback with respect to assessments, millrates and the net taxes we pay.
Add the Madison School District’s recently revealed 7 year structural deficit, the subsequent need to reduce the annual school district spending increases in it’s current $333M+ budget by a larger than normal amount and we have a rather challenging school spending environment. Complete report: 409K PDF
Joan Peebles and Kelly Pochop:
In Fall 2007, the Madison Metropolitan School District will celebrate a “grand opening” of the Madison Virtual Campus which will be able to serve staff and students with opportunities to learn using online tools and methods. While the Madison Virtual Campus will provide online learning services across the entire district, students and teachers will benefit in particular.
Over the next nine months, staff from all divisions within the Teaching and Learning Department will be developing ways to deliver professional development to teachers in buildings across the district. Teachers will be able to receive training to support and improve their classroom instruction without the need for traveling to workshops across the district or planning for substitute teachers during their intermittent absences to receive instructional training.
Howard Blume and Joel Rubin:
A Superior Court judge Thursday struck down legislation that gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District, a stunning setback to his plans for assuming direct control of dozens of Los Angeles schools.
Judge Dzintra Janavs said the law, which would have taken effect Jan. 1, violated multiple provisions of the state Constitution and the Los Angeles City Charter. She ordered public officials “to refrain from enforcing or implementing” any part of Assembly Bill 1381, which codified Villaraigosa’s powers.
In a late afternoon news conference, the mayor vowed to seek an expedited appeal.
WORT-FM’s new website includes archived audio. Barbara Golden’s 12/18/2006 appearance can be heard here [mp3 audio.]
When the four block schedule began at LaFollette a few years ago, the MMSD praised its succeses:
Under the new “four block” schedule, La Follette High School students are missing school less, are better behaved and are taking tougher courses, all of which is adding up to better academic performance, an analysis of first quarter data shows. Press release, December 17, 1997.
La Follette High School students flourished during the first year of the school’s four block schedule, a year-end summary reports. Press release, September 9, 1998
More parents are supplementing lessons at home by embracing public school partnerships.
Students at the tiny, nondescript public school building in North Seattle have no playground, no formal cafeteria, no sports teams, no bells signaling the end of class.
They come and go as they please, and the nearly 250 who pass through the halls don’t even consider themselves public school students.
They’re among the more than 20,000 children statewide who are thought to opt out of public schools each year. They and their parents are drawn instead to the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling.
Meanwhile, another Wisconsin virtual high school opens.
Much more on the Madison Studio School.
“I want to know why these charter options exist in other parts of the state, but not in Madison,” said Christina Navaro. “Here in the shadow of this amazing university, why don’t we have the choices that will keep parents in the public school system?”
Becky Van Houten, director of the Preschool of the Arts, where Donahue had taught, tried to give a historical perspective on the importance of a Reggio education.
“The educators who created Reggio were reacting to the terrors of fascist regimes,” she said. “They wanted to educate students who would not simply go along with what they were told.”
Zig & Zag with the Madison Studio School Politics.
School finance policy choices at the federal, state, and district levels systematically stack the deck against students who need the most support from their schools, according to a report released today by the Education Trust.
The report, Funding Gaps 2006, builds on the Education Trust’s annual studies of funding gaps among school districts within states. For the first time the report includes data and analysis on:
- How federal Title I funds widen rather than narrow the education funding gaps that separate wealthy states from poor states; and,
- How funding choices at the school district level provide enhanced funding to schools serving higher concentrations of affluent students and white students at the expense of schools that serve low-income students and students of color.
Wisconsin’s Title 1 allocation per “poor child” is $1,577.00 [PDF Report]. One interesting piece of data: Wisconsin school district receipts from federal sources are 6.1% of total revenues. The state average is 8.9%. (Minnesota is 6% while Illinois is 8.6% and Iowa is 8.3%). The State of Wisconsin provides, on average 52.2% of district revenues (above the federal average of 47.1%). Local tax receipts are, on average 41.7% of district revenues (national average is 43.9%).
There’s been a bit of school climate discussion recently regarding safety as well as leadership changes, most recently at LaFollette. I’ve had the opportunity to observe a number of teachers and principals over the past few months and have to say that the level of professionalism and resiliency, in the face of significant challenges, have been impressive. I am thankful for their time and efforts.
Baby Frankenstein — Forbes
Jane Healy, an educational psychologist and author of Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds and What We Can Do About It doesn’t agree that video games and computers for children will give them a leg-up in the competitive world of the 21st Century. “Behind the big push to get kids onto computers is this idea that if we don’t, they won’t become functional members of the 21st century,” she says. “That’s not only false, it’s dangerous.”
In Healy’s opinion, electronic gaming at a young age can lead to shorter attention spans, a lack of internal motivation, difficulty with problem solving and a lack of creativity. She thinks kids should avoid computers entirely until the age of 7.
But while harried parents may love the videos, to suggest that it therefore means they’re good for kids is like suggesting that Coca-Cola (nyse: KO – news – people ) is a health drink because millions of customers love it.
Good learning games, on the other hand, can be simple and cheap. A game of jump rope, for example, promotes fitness, coordination and social skills, while basic board games like Hasbro’s (nyse: HAS – news – people ) Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders teach children about rules and consequences.
So, by all means, give your kids a leg up on learning when picking out their gifts this year. But consider doing so with a set of blocks, a board game or a jump rope.
Steven Elbow’s Tuesday article in The Capital Times on the proposed Madison Studio School included a rather tantalizing opening quote from organizer Nancy Donahue:
When Nancy Donahue began her effort for a charter school in Madison, she had no idea she would be wading into a world of politics.
“It’s a campaign,” said Donahue, who hopes to have her arts- and technology-oriented Studio School up and running next fall. “And before this I was very apolitical. But I’ve learned if you believe in something you do what you have to do.”
A couple of close observers of Madison’s political tea leaves emailed some additional context:
Former teacher and Progressive Dane education task force member Kristin Forde is a member of the Madison Studio School’s “core planning group”. In the past, Forde has participated in School Board candidate interviews and a Progressive Dane (PD) candidate Forum.
Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. has been and is supported by PD along with recently elected (in one of the closest local elections in memory – by 70 votes) board member Arlene Silveira.
PD reportedly requires any candidate they endorse to back all of their future candidates and initiatives. [ed: Shades of “with us or against us“. Evidently both Russ Feingold and Barack Obama have not read the memo.]
I find PD’s positions interesting. They recently strongly supported the Linden Park edge school [map] (opposed by a few locals who dislike the sprawl implications, though it handily passed in November, with 69% voting in favor). I do think Madison is behind the innovation curve with respect to online learning and possibly charters. Appleton has 12 charter schools, including an online school.
The timing and politics are a challenge, given the recently disclosed 7 year Madison School District structural deficit which will require larger than normal reductions in the 2007 / 2008 budget increases.
I have very fond memories of Madison’s Preschool of the Arts.
It will be interesting to see if the Studio School supporters endorse PD’s spring, 2007 candidates, which include Johnny Winston, Jr who is standing for re-election.
Will you have an opportunity to register SUPPORT for The STUDIO SCHOOL at today’s (5:00pm) public hearing by the Madison School Board?
With the approval of the school board, the public charter school of arts and technology would open next fall in Madison. See more about The STUDIO SCHOOL (SIS Links) here:
Please contact school board members to voice your support for creating this new educational opportunity, within the public school system, for children in Madison. Thank you.
Larry Sandler & Sarah Carr:
Milwaukee taxpayers accidentally got a $9.1 million tax break – and city and Milwaukee Public Schools officials now have a $9.1 million headache.
Because of a paperwork snafu between MPS and City Hall, the property tax bills mailed this month inadvertently left out a tax increase that the School Board approved in October.
Now fingers are being pointed, the schools are demanding that the city come up with the money, and city officials are huddling in high-level, closed-door meetings to figure out what went wrong and how it can be fixed.
City officials aren’t saying what options are under study or whether they might include a special tax assessment or borrowing money to be paid back in future years.
U.S. Department of Education – Research, Statistics and Publications
In reading studies, reports, and especially, journalists’ impressions and advocacy articles, the paper entitled Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported By Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide should be required reading.
It is a well-written 28-page summary of good research design and the problems that can and do occur and the inappropriate conclusions drawn from poorly-designed and implemented research.
It should certainly stop all of us from merely repeating opinions and articles as though they were true, even when they support our own prejudices.
I’m reminded of a quote (paraphrased), I believe from John Tukey: “You can lie with statistics, but you can’t tell the truth without statistics.”
Quoting from the Executive Summary of this report:
Purpose and Executive Summary
This Guide seeks to provide educational practitioners with user-friendly tools to distinguish practices supported by rigorous evidence from those that are not.
The field of K-12 education contains a vast array of educational interventions – such as reading and math curricula, schoolwide reform programs, after-school programs, and new educational technologies – that claim to be able to improve educational outcomes and, in many cases, to be supported by evidence. This evidence often consists of poorly-designed and/or advocacy-driven studies. State and local education officials and educators must sort through a myriad of such claims to decide which interventions merit consideration for their schools and classrooms. Many of these practitioners have seen interventions, introduced with great fanfare as being able to produce dramatic gains, come and go over the years, yielding little in the way of positive and lasting change – a perception confirmed by the flat achievement results over the past 30 years in the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and many federal K-12 grant programs, call on educational practitioners to use “scientifically-based research” to guide their decisions about which interventions to implement. As discussed below, we believe this approach can produce major advances in the effectiveness of American education. Yet many practitioners have not been given the tools to distinguish interventions supported by scientifically-rigorous evidence from those which are not. This Guide is intended to serve as a user-friendly resource that the education practitioner can use to identify and implement evidence-based interventions, so as to improve educational and life outcomes for the children they serve.
Table of Contents:
- Title Page
- Coalition Board of Advisors
- Purpose and Executive Summary
- Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported By Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide
- I. The randomized controlled trial: What it is, and why it is a critical factor in establishing “strong” evidence of an intervention’s effectiveness.
- II. How to evaluate whether an intervention is backed by “strong” evidence of effectiveness.
- III. How to evaluate whether an intervention is backed by “possible” evidence of effectiveness.
- IV. Important factors to consider when implementing an evidence-based intervention in your schools or classrooms.
- Appendix A: Where to find evidence-based interventions
- Appendix B: Checklist to use in evaluating whether an intervention is backed by rigorous evidence
The same day principal John Broome resigned, last friday, three fights broke out, leaving many students, staff and parents wondering if they are related.
Mitch weber discovered the fights ended with two students in trouble with the law and one teacher injured.
Since the school year started, we’ve reported on rising violence at La Follette – a student pulling a knife on another student, a fight in the hallway involving girls.
Today, the district denied the principal’s resignation and the fights last week are connected.
As school got out this afternoon at La Follette High School. Many students knew why we were there. Damian Clendening found out today his new principal isn’t coming back.
I have to agree with Phil M that the Administration deserves “some level of credit” for addressing this now, rather than later. Tim had some useful comments on the challenging job that is an urban high school principal.
The MMSD released the following this afternoon:
La Follette High School Principal John Broome on Friday tendered his resignation from his position. Former Madison high school principal Loren Rathert now becomes the interim principal at the school for the remainder of the 2006-07 school year.
The Madison School District will conduct a national search for a new La Follette principal to begin the 2007-08 school year.
“John Broome came to us Friday and said that the needs of the school and his skills were not a match, and in the best interests of the school he felt he should resign,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater.
“I’m appreciative to John for recognizing the situation and putting the needs of the La Follette students first.”
Rathert is a veteran school administrator who retired in June of this year. He was the principal of Madison West for three years (2001-04) and was the interim principal at Madison East from September 2004 through June 2005.
“We’re fortunate that Loren Rathert is willing to take this position,” said Rainwater. “He’s an outstanding principal and is experienced in managing a large, urban high school.”
Broome became La Follette’s principal on July 1, coming here from a high school principalship in Charleston, IL.
Brian Lee and Jared Cunningham:
By applying GIS analysis, University of Kentucky undergraduate landscape architecture students have found ways to make it safer and easier for children to walk to school. Concerns with the growing childhood obesity epidemic, increased costs in driving children to school, and fostering the perception that it is more normal to drive rather than to walk to destinations have made walking to school an issue. With ArcView 9.1 and the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension, these students identified dangerous walking and bicycling areas, proposed design safety solutions, and evaluated alternatives for improving adverse conditions.
The immediate safety, as well as the long-term health, of children walking to and from schools has become an important topic of discussion in communities. The doubling of the childhood obesity rate over the past 30 years has raised concerns about short- and long-term health costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend that children and adolescents frequently participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, preferably on a daily basis. A short recess period during school does not provide enough physical activity for a growing child. One way to increase physical activity is to incorporate it into the child’s daily school commute. However, neighborhoods have often been designed with the automobile exclusively in mind. Consequently, children walking or bicycling to school is not always a safe alternative to the car or school bus.
Superintendent Art Rainwater sent a memo to the School Board [550K PDF] outlining 10 categories that will be considered as the District prepares a balanced 2007/2008 budget in April, 2007. This budget will be more challenging due to the recently disclosed $6M structural deficit, which means that the reduction in the Distict’s revenue cap limited spending increases in its’ $333M+ budget will be larger than usual. The discussion categories include:
- Athletics/Extra Curricular
- Consolidate Schools
- Teacher/Staff Ratios
- Reduce Administrative Staffing
- Student Services
- Curriculum Development and Support
- Decrease allocations for instructional supplies/materials/equipment by up to 20%
- Eliminate/Reduce District Student Programs/Services
To avoid arbitration, the QEO mandates that districts maintain the same increasingly costly benefits for teachers, Leistikow said.
“Districts are put in a terrible box,” Leistikow said. “Repealing the QEO will give school districts more flexibility in managing their benefits cost.”
The WEAC union, a staunch and powerful Doyle supporter, would like to see both the QEO and revenue caps eliminated, President Stan Johnson said. “It’s got to be part of a total package,” he said.
Doyle, however, favors keeping the revenue limits to hold down property taxes, Leistikow said.
Odden said repealing the QEO but leaving the revenue caps in place would leave school districts in a difficult position.
“Unless there’s a major change in the school funding formula, I wouldn’t predict that the QEO would be eliminated,” Odden said.
If it happened, the effect would probably be higher salary and wage costs at the expense of other programming and items in school budgets, including possibly job cuts, Odden said.
There will be no shortage of challenges dealing with revenue cap limits to growth in the Madison School District’s $332M+ budget during the upcoming 2007/2008 process, including the recently disclosed 7 year structural deficit.
What if the solution to American students’ stagnant performance levels and the wide achievement gap between white and minority students wasn’t more money, smaller schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new education system altogether?
That’s the conclusion of a bipartisan group of scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors. They declare that America’s public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100 years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited to today’s global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet.
I think we need to think more daringly, yes, but I don’t think we tried everything or nearly hard enough to improve American schools within the current context. But I think that is sort of irrelevant today because the context has changed so much and consequently more of the same amounts to trying to make the current system work to do things we don’t want it to do anymore anyway.
Locally, dealing with the recently disclosed 7 year structural deficit in the Madison School District’s $332M+ budget will require strong leadership, open minds and the ideas contained in Peter Gascoyne’s words.
V. Dion Haynes has more.
A few weeks ago when the Madison School Board was finalizing the budget for the current academic year, Vice-President Lawrie Kobza pointed out two very serious problems. First, the district has been overstating expected revenues in recent years during the months when the board was reviewing and approving the budgets. Second, the district has been balancing the budget at the end of the year by dipping significantly into its reserves (equity fund).
In Susan Troller’s article in The Capital Times, Roger Price, the assistant superintendent for Business Services, promises a “more conservative approach” to budgeting. In part, the “more conservative approach” seems to mean that revenue estimates will not be overstated, making deeper cuts more necessary, but perhaps giving the board a way to reduce the drain on its reserves.
School Board anticipates big budget shortfall.
Susan Troller’s piece today on the larger than usual reduction in “revenue cap limited” increases (say that quickly) in the Madison School District’s $332M+ 2007/2008 budget is interesting, from my perspective, due to what is left unsaid:
School finance is a mess. However, the Madison School District’s $332M+ budget provides resources far beyond most public school systems. Throwing up our arms and blaming the state or feds, or ? will not solve anything and certainly does not put our children’s interests first. Transparency, responsibility, creativity, local control (be careful what we wish for with respect to state and federal school finance updates) and wise investments are key to maintaining the community’s remarkable financial and voluntary public education support.
The Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) meeting of 12-December-2006 offered a Question and Answer session with Madison Director of Teaching and Learning, Lisa Wachtel, and Brian Sniff, District K-12 Math Coordinator.
A list of questions was prepared and given to the speakers in advance so they could address the specific concerns of parents.
of the meeting is 130MB, and 1 hour and 30 minutes long. Click on the image at left to watch the video.
The video contains chapter headings which allow quick navigation to sections of the meeting. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download.
The topics covered during remarks and the question and answer sessions were accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation (here in PDF format), highlights of which are
- Changing demographics in the school district
- Listing of Superintendent’s Goals for comprehensive review, as set by the Board of Education
- K-5 Math Standards, Resources, and role of Teaching and Learning
- Professional development for K-5 teachers
- 5th Grade Math Assessment Pilot project for advanced students
- Middle school math, 6th to 8th grade
- Math certification of middle school math teachers, with an extended discussion of the statistic that only 5% of middle school math teachers are math certified,
comparing Wisconsin to bordering states
- WKCE tests and testing in general
- Discussion by audience of recent studies and trends in math preparation for college
Writing in this week’s Isthmus newspaper, reporter Jason Shepard frames the issue in the spring school board elections for MMSD: Will Madison voters support the new direction of “tackling fiscal, managerial and achievement-related problems” or bring back an approach that blames all problems on the state legislature and is very light on oversight and accountability regarding finances and student achievement?
Spring elections could bring new directions
National Center on Education and The Economy:
In a TIME article on How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century , Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe write that the national discussion around education will change “when the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a high-powered, bipartisan assembly of Education Secretaries, business leaders and a former Governor releases a blueprint for rethinking American education from pre-K to 12 and beyond to better prepare students to thrive in the global economy.”
Executive Summary 2.1MB PDF
Andrew Rotherham comments.
The education achievement gaps between African-American and white children in Wisconsin remain among the worst in the United States, according to an analysis released Wednesday by an influential education group.
To a degree that’s good news. That’s better than in 2004, when a similar analysis by the Journal Sentinel showed the proficiency gaps in several key measures between African-American and white children were larger in Wisconsin than in any other state.
Using more recent results of the same series of tests – the National Assessment of Educational Progress – the Education Trust found that in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math, Wisconsin was near the bottom of the list, which included the states and the District of Columbia. In eighth-grade math, Nebraska had a bigger gap. In fourth-grade reading, Wisconsin was sixth from worst in gap size and eighth from the bottom when it came to the average score of black students.
The results, said Daria Hall, a senior policy analyst for the organization and the main author of the report, “show just how far Wisconsin has to go in order to ensure that all kids, particularly poor kids and kids of color, are getting equal opportunities to meet high standards.”
Hall – herself a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools – said Wisconsin should look to states with much smaller gaps and with gaps that have been narrowed in recent years to see what it should do. She named Massachusetts and Delaware as examples.
Massachusetts has eliminated funding gaps between school districts serving high-income and low-income students, she said. But it’s not only about money, she added. The state has created rigorous education standards and accountability systems.
Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of public instruction, said the analysis showed that the scores of African-American and Latino students in Wisconsin had risen in recent years while the scores of white students stayed flat – which he called “slightly good news.”
Edtrust Wisconsin Report 500K PDF. Edtrust.org.
Cherokee Middle School’s 8th grade orchestra plays the famous Led Zeppelin tune Stairway to Heaven: [4.2MB mp3].