Teachers share fear of questioning school boards

Arrin Newton Brunson:

A grass-roots group, Parents for Positive Change, invited the two lawyers after controversies erupted in the Logan School District earlier this year, leading to the resignation of a popular principal and the early retirement of an embattled superintendent.
Many of the complaints centered on the rights of teachers to complain without fear of retribution.
McCoy assured teachers that challenging school officials on issues of public concern is protected speech. “You do have substantial rights,” he said.
State law prohibits retaliation against teachers who speak out about practices or policies they perceive as detrimental to students, McCoy said. Punishments such as the loss of salary, prestige and job opportunities are illegal, he said.

Milwaukee Graduation Rates – Poverty & Governance

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial:

t is simply nothing short of catastrophic that so many Milwaukee youngsters are being left behind in a world in which a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma. It’s a trend that bodes ill for the region’s capacity to grow and compete.
Yes, Milwaukee again makes a list it should wish it weren’t on with a ranking that should properly make every Milwaukee Public Schools official, School Board member, teacher, parent and taxpayer intensely introspective, not to mention angry.
That’s because, whether the graduation rate is 45% – ranking it 94th among the 100 largest school districts in the country, according to the generally conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute – or 61% or 67%, what, respectively, the state and district say it is, that’s too few high schoolers graduating.
And the gap between African-American and white achievement in Wisconsin (and between boys and girls) should be topics getting more focus than they have to date. The Manhattan Institute study, released Tuesday, says Wisconsin overall enjoys an 85% graduation rate, but for African-Americans statewide, it’s 55%, the second lowest in the country.
Yes, we know all the societal factors involved in low graduation rates, mostly revolving around poverty. However, these graduation figures also point to a degree of failure in the district in dealing with these realities

Learning on Their Own Terms

Nick Anderson:

“I just really hated school, and Roosevelt brought that out of me,” the 19-year-old said one spring afternoon next to an iron handrail that doubled as a launching slope. “Being told what to do and what to learn. Having to do homework. Grades. Grade levels. Everything that this school stands against.”
Justin will graduate in June from the highly unconventional Fairhaven School with a diploma that may require explanation to a college or future boss. He took no tests in his three years at the private school, received no grades and had no course requirements. But he played electric guitar, read and wrote poetry, made friends and got the last laugh on lunch. “No more tater tots!” he said.

Cory Doctorow discusses his own experiences with a “free school” and points to a trailer for a documentary called “Voices from the New American Schoolhouse“.

Milwaukee Voucher School Accreditation

Alan Borsuk:

About 50 of 122 schools in the voucher program have no form of accreditation – no organization outside the school that is giving it a stamp of approval. Although some of the unaccredited schools should be able to get accreditation, the list includes almost all the schools that raise the most doubts among knowledgeable observers.
Some of those observers will be in positions to do something because they will be involved in accreditation, and generally, they are talking a tough game: They will be insistent that voucher schools demonstrate they meet genuine standards of quality.
The new law makes that more than idle talk. While attention focused on allowing the program to grow from less than 15,000 students to 22,500, the law also makes this clear: No accreditation, no money from the state.

Sarah Carr has more.

Families Need to Take Responsibility

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Madison’s attempt to reach a growing number of low-income, minority and immigrant students requires a return effort: The target families need to take responsibility for their own success.
That means the low-income, minority and immigrant communities should build more organizations to promote their own causes. The Madison School Board needs to hear from them when decisions are made about what programs to keep or cut. The Madison Area Family Advisory Advocacy Coalition, which speaks up for black students, is an example.

MAFAAC’s website.

Adapt to New Student Population

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

If Madison is to maintain the high quality of its public schools, the community must solve a growing problem. But first, Madison must distinguish what the problem is from what it is not.
It is not a dramatic increase in the number of minority, immigrant and low-income students requiring extra services. That is not a problem. That is a fact.
The problem is the community’s response to the stunning change in the student population. We must find ways to cost-effectively educate the new and vastly more diverse generation of Madisonians.

DC Public Schools & Charters

Kevin Carey:

Normally I leave charter school issues to my colleagues Eduwonk and Sara Mead. But this morning’s front page article in the WaPo struck me as too obvious to pass up. It details how DC Public Schools is considering a novel arrangement with KIPP, one of the city’s most successful charter schools. KIPP wants to start a new middle school, but is having a hard time finding space. Meanwhile, one the regular DCPS elementary schools is losing enrollment and thus has too much space, to the point that it’s in danger of being closed. Thus, the arrrangement: co-locate in the same building, don’t overlap grades, and coordinate curricula so students from the elementary school can stay in the building and go to the KIPP middle school if that’s what they want to do.

Sounds great, right? Not to DC school board vice president Carolyn Graham, who said:

“We want to fully embrace a working relationship with KIPP, but we don’t want to do it to the detriment of our student body and financial viability,” she said, adding that the system lost about $11 million in city funding this year after more than 3,000 students departed. “We want them to come up with a way of working with our charter school partners so that all our students would benefit.”

Hmmm. You know, that’s kind of wordy, let’s tighten that up a little:

“We want to fully embrace a working relationship with KIPP, but we don’t want to do it to the detriment of our student body and financial viability,” she said, adding that the system lost about $11 million in city funding this year after more than 3,000 students departed. “We want them to come up with a way of working with our charter school partners so that all our students I would benefit.”

There we go. Much more clear.

It’s true that more students in charter schools means less students in DCPS. But if you’re going to complain about that, you’ve got to at least make an attempt to say why that would be bad, particularly wih the test scores, parental demand, and the best judgment of the DCPS superintendant providing evidence to the country. The fact that Graham offers nothing of the kind is enormously telling

A Cry in the Streets of Brooklyn is Answered by a Prep School

Pete Thamel:

In looping printed letters, which looked like the handwriting of a young girl, Thomas wrote a one-page cry for help: “I cannot read or write. I need all you people’s help. Please do not turn your back on me.”
Thomas’s note was not that clear, however. Riddled with spelling mistakes, it had clear signs of what experts later diagnosed as dyslexia. He spelled please “peasl,” turn was “tron” and write was “witer.”
That admission by Thomas, one of the nation’s top basketball prospects, stunned faculty members at South Kent. But they soon found out that it was just the beginning of his story. He lived on the subways as a preteenager, sold drugs for a year as a teenager and could not read at age 17.

Children Before Special Interests

Matthew Ladner:

Oprah Winfrey recently used two days of her program to highlight the crisis in American public schools, focusing attention on our appalling dropout problem. The visuals were quite stunning.
In one segment, a group of inner-city Chicago students traded places with a group of suburban students to compare facilities and curriculums. In another, a valedictorian from a rural high school told of needing remedial classes in college. Perhaps most striking of all, CNN’s Andersen Cooper toured a high school near the White House that was in a shameful state of disrepair. Pieces of the ceiling had fallen on the ground, holes in the roof let rain pour into the school, restrooms were inoperable and unlit.
Oprah deserves a good deal of credit for putting a spotlight on these problems. Public schools face a dropout problem of stunning scale. Estimates from the Manhattan Institute put the nation’s dropout rate near 30 percent, with rates much higher among low-income and minority students. Many who do graduate do so without mastering high-school level material, as evidenced not only by the need for remediation among college students, but also in the stunningly poor literacy skills of the public.
National reading tests show that 38 percent of our fourth-graders score “below basic” in reading, meaning that they have failed to gain the basic literacy skills necessary to function academically. These students will drift into middle school, and literally be unable to make heads or tails of their textbooks.

via Andrew Rotherham:

Matthew Ladner, of steak dinner fame, weighs-in in the Philly Inquirer about what the Oprah hype all means. You can disagree with Ladner’s advocacy of vouchers but he nails the macro-problem here:

2 Teachers Respond: “Teach to the Test”

Jay Matthews:

To my astonishment, I am still receiving e-mails about an op-ed piece, “Let’s Teach to the Test,” I wrote two months ago. I argued that most good teachers consider No Child Left Behind and other test-driven assessments convenient benchmarks and don’t find them disabling, as many critics say they are. I said what people call teaching to the test is actually teaching to the state standards, which most of us parents think is good, so perhaps we should consider teaching to the test a good thing, if the test is valid and the teaching sound.
Most of the hundreds of e-mails that have come in have suggested, in mostly polite terms, that I have no business writing about schools. But a larger minority than I expected said I was right. Given that continued interest, I thought I would share reactions to the op-ed from two teachers whom I know well, and who are both stars in the classroom. Kenneth Bernstein, who teaches social studies at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George’s County, Md., and Mark Ingerson, who teaches social studies in the city of Salem, Va., look at this issue from different angles. In my view they should be read carefully because they both understand how best to communicate difficult material in the classroom and motivate students to learn.

6% Success Rate: From High School to the Future: A first look at Chicago Public School graduates’ college enrollment, college preparation, and graduation from four-year colleges

Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago:

Following CPS (Chicago Public Schools) graduates from 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, this report uses records from Chicago high schools and data from the National Student Clearinghouse to examine the college experiences of all CPS alumni who entered college in the year after they graduated high school.
The study paints a discouraging picture of college success for CPS graduates. Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of seniors state that they expect to graduate from a four-year college, only about 30 percent enroll in a four-year college within a year of graduating high school, and only 35 percent of those who enroll received a bachelor’s degree within six years. According to this report, CPS students’ low grades and test scores are keeping them from entering four-year colleges and more selective four-year colleges.

Complete study [14.9MB PDF]

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Madison Schools’ Proposed Balanced Budget for 2006/2007

The Madison Metropolitan School District Administration published it’s proposed $332.9M+ balanced budget for 2006/2007 in 3 parts:

  • Executive Summary [pdf]
  • Financial Summaries [pdf]
  • Department and Division Reports [pdf]

“Total spending under the proposed budget is $332,947,870, which is an increase of $11,012,181 or 3.42% over 2005-06. The increase of 2.6% under the revenue limit plus other fund increases or expenditures makes up the whole proposed budget. The property tax levy would increase $11,626,677 or 5.8% to $211,989,932.”
“The property tax levy has to increase more than spending because state and federal aids and grants are decreasing. The district is being conservative in its early estimates of these aids and grants in order to avoid overspending.”

4/5 strings is once again on the chopping block. Page 6 of the executive summary. The document refers to the “current strings program”.
Links & Notes:

West HS English 9 and 10 Again — No Child Moves Ahead

Several of us received the following email today from Ted Widerski, MMSD TAG (“Talented and Gifted”) Resource Teacher for Middle and High Schools. Ted has been working with other District and West HS staff to find a way to allow West 9th and 10th graders who are advanced in English to grade accelerate in English, whether through the INSTEP process or some other method.
Here is what he wrote:

Parents –
On Wednesday, April 12th, Welda Simousek and I met with Pamela Nash, Mary Ramberg, Mary Watson-Peterson, Ed Holmes, and Keesia Hyzer to discuss In-STEP procedures for students in English 9 and/or 10. Through this discussion, it became clear that there was no reasonable method available at this time to assess which students might not need to take English 9 or 10 because part of what is learned in English classes comes through the processes of analysis, discussion, and critical critiquing that are shared by the entire class. An alternative assessment approach was discussed: having students present a portfolio to be juried. This approach would require a great deal of groundwork, however, and would not be available yet this spring. It will be looked at as a possibility for the future.
Please keep in mind that it is the intention of West High School to offer meaningful and challenging English courses for all levels of students. It is also the usual TAG Classroom Action Summary and In-STEP approach to have students be present in a classroom for a period of time before it is possible to assess whether they are extremely beyond their classroom peers and need a different option. Welda will follow up with teachers and students in the fall to ascertain progress for students during the first semester. The use of the Classroom Action Summary and In-STEP approach (with a brainstorming of possible options) will be reviewed again at the end of semester one.
Please feel free to contact me with further questions.

Ted Widerski
Talented and Gifted Resource Teacher
Madison Metropolitan School District

I replied to Ted (copying many others, including parents, Teaching and Learning staff, Art Rainwater, Pam Nash, the BOE, and West HS staff), saying that this is a case of unequal access to appropriate educational opportunities because of how poorly West HS provides for its 9th and 10th graders who are academically advanced in English, as compared to the other three high schools.
Here is my reply:

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AP Poll: Teachers & Parents on No Child Left Behind

Ben Feller:

Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act. That’s left a huge expectations gap between the two main sets of adults in children’s lives.
An AP-AOL Learning Services Poll found nearly eight in 10 parents are confident their local schools will have students up to state standards by the 2013-14 school year target. Yet only half of teachers are confident the kids in their schools will meet that deadline.
The finding underscores a theme in the poll. Parents and teachers often disagree on daily aspects of education, from the state of discipline to the quality of high schools.
A major reason is that adults see the children differently. Parents tend to focus on their own children, while teachers work with dozens of students from different backgrounds.

Ms. Cornelius has more

Carol Carstensen’s Weekly Email

Carol Carstensen:

Parent Group Presidents:
The administration’s proposed budget for the 2006-07 school year will be made public on Friday, April 21. Board members and the media will have hard copies of the budget and an electronic version should be up on the web site shortly. The Board begins discussion and consideration of the budget on Monday April 24th at about 6:30 p.m. There are forums scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. at LaFollette and Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 at Memorial.

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2006-2007 School Budget Already Implemented: What’s the Current Fanfare About?

The Superintendent, along with the President and Vice President of the School Board, is holding a press conference to announce the 2006-2007 school budget. They’re performing as if this is the start of the public discussion of the budget for next year, which it is. While late April may be the first time the School Board and the community have seen next year’s school budget, this budget has already been implemented, beginning in early April and possibly earlier –
Was the School Board involved with any aspect of the implementation of next year’s budget? NO. On April 3rd, under the Superintendent’s direction, all schools received their staffing allocations for the next year – 85% of the district’s budget is staffing. The administration says deadlines for layoff notices and surplus notices to teachers per the union contract drive this timeline, because it takes the district two months to figure out who will need to be laid off – last year it was about 10 people who received layoff notices.
What does this reason have to do with School Board’s responsibility to see that proposed resources are being allocated according the the School Board’s goals and objectives for next year? Nothing. If the Superintendent feels he needs to give allocations to schools in early April, he then needs to present the budget earlier if he is implementing allocations with budget cuts. (I do not feel the School Board understood that the budget is implemented when allocations are given when they set the budget timeline.)
Prior to the implementation of next year’s school budget, I believe the School Board needs to know what is in the budget, what cuts (if any) are being proposed, what curriculum changes are being implemented. Also, they need to know what planning is underway in other areas of the budget for next year that is using current staff time and dollars. In order to perform their responsibilities, the School Board needs some form of an Executive Budget that lays out the framework and gives the School Board the opportunity to publicly discuss the Superintendent’s proposed changes. I would recommend strongly that the School Board consider this for next year.
When could the School Board do this? I would suggest the School Board consider doing this during the month of March prior to April 3rd if that deadline is firm. Did any budget discussions take place this year, prior to April 3rd and the April 4th school board elections. NO. Johnny Winston, Jr., who chairs the Finance and Operations Committee, held no meetings in March to discuss next year’s school budget, so this might be the time to hold those meetings, asking for the presentation of an Executive level budget with proposed changes.
There is another reason to do this – staffing confusion and uncertainty. Building principals give surplus notices, but staff has no idea what the budget is, if the School Board approved these decisions (School Board has not approved the staffing allocations).
I believe budget objectives, an executive budget (by department) and any cuts to the budget need to be packaged together and the School Board needs to publicly discuss this prior to implementation. As one principal said to me years ago, “Once the Superintendent gives us our allocations, there won’t be any changes.” That’s what I have observed over the past five years. By the time the School Board receives the budget document, next year’s budget is already in place and being implemented, and the School Board ends up talking in great detail about less than $1 million of the budget, is unable to make/direct changes.
Sure, the School Board has the authority and can make any changes the majority approves, but a) why isn’t the School Board “approving” the budget vs. the Superintendent and b) why would a School Board want to waste precious resources implementing and then reimplementing the budget?

Classroom Realities

Shari Wilson:

Finally I attended a valuable workshop on high- and low-context learners. Suddenly I could understand why certain students wanted to know about the whole semester’s work at the start of the first few classes. And why other students were happy to have information parceled out at two-week intervals. Desperate to improve retention, I rewrote my class materials again. I drafted a day-by-day course outline that provided not only important due dates, but guidelines of what we’d be doing in each class. Some were general ideas; others were specific instructions, listing handouts and work to be done.
My high-context students were thrilled. They immediately skimmed the course outline and highlighted certain dates. Armed with knowledge, they started to feel more accountable. Many spent more time on assignments, saw tutors, and turned in better work. My low-context students, of course, were not affected. They simply read what was immediately due the next day and accomplished that one piece. A few read ahead — if only to avoid scheduling problems with their busy social lives. Others only consulted the syllabus minutes before class

Madison School Board to Vote on a Proposed Charter Elementary School of Arts & Technology

The Madison Board of Education is scheduled to act on Monday evening (4/24) on a request relating to a proposed charter elementary school of arts and technology.
The Board will vote on whether or not to support a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for funds to support planning of The Studio School by a group of educators, parents and others. See info about The Studio School, including the proposed planning grant application at: http://www.madisonstudioschool.org .
The Board’s meeting, which begins at 5:00 pm, will be held in the McDaniel’s Auditorium at the district offices at 545 West Dayton Street. [map]

MD to use Data to Combat Bullying

Lori Aratani:

Maryland’s middle school students are more likely than their elementary or high school peers to be involved in incidents of bullying and other harassment, according to a recently released state report — the first such effort to track the problem.
Incidents most often took place on school campuses or buses, the report said, with the majority involving name calling or threatening remarks. About one-third of the incidents involved a physical attack.
The 21-page report to the General Assembly is an attempt by state officials to count incidents of bullying and other harassment in its 24 public school systems. Officials in Virginia have been collecting information on bullying and other harassment in public schools since 1999.

Constructivist Theory of Education

As we know, curriculae like Everyday Math, Core Math, Reading Recovery, Balanced Literacy and the Literacy Collaborative are based on the constructivist theory of education. Indeed, the Literacy Collaborative (a trademarked name for Balanced Literacy) states that its framework is based on the theories of Vygotsky, Bruner and Clay.
For an interesting exercise, do a google search with all three of these keywords “constructivist marxism vygotsky” [ask | clusty | google | msn | yahoo]
Now before the constructivists out there accuse me of labelling them as marxists, let me say I am not. I am, however, making the point that the curriculae you advocate has deep roots in marxist egalitarian theory.

Classmates Count

I was looking for more information about the combined grades at Elvejhem (my grade school was all combined grades with team teaching and it worked very well) and I found an interesting study that I don’t think has been previously noted on SIS. It is by noted Urbanist David Rusk and looks at the effects of economic segregation and integration on academic performance in Madison schools. I hope the East and West task forces were aware of this study.
The conclusion states:

“Summing Up Part V: A school’s socioeconomic context does matter far more for low-income pupils than for their middle class counterparts. The statistical analysis did show a slight decline of middle class pupils’ test scores as the percentage of low income classmates increased. The rate of decline for middle class pupils was less than half the rate of improvement for low income pupils.
However, that apparent decline in middle class pupils’ performance most probably reflected the changing composition of the “middle class” in schools with increasingly higher percentages of low income classmates. “Middle class” schools with very few low income pupils had higher percentages of children from the highest income, largely professional households. In “middle class” schools with much larger numbers of lowincome pupils, children from more modest “blue collar” households predominated.
That was most likely the primary contributing factor to the apparent slow decline in middle class test scores and not any directly adverse effect of having more low income classmates. From a larger perspective, middle class pupils’ performance levels never dropped below 70-75% achieving advanced and proficient levels under any socioeconomic circumstances in Madison-Dane County (which had no very high-poverty schools).”

Here is a link to the pdf file: Final Report

Study Suggests Link Between Achievement and Curriculum Choice in High-Poverty Elementary Schools


MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Does a school’s performance on California’s Academic Performance Index (API) relate to the use of a particular curriculum program? An analysis released today by EdSource from a large-scale survey of elementary schools serving similarly-challenged students suggests an answer.

School APIs are based on student test scores on the California Standards Tests, which measure how well students at the school are mastering grade level academic standards. According to many experts, California’s K-12 academic standards, adopted in the late 1990s, are among the most challenging in the nation.

The new analysis found that for English language arts, using the Open Court curriculum program school-wide did appear to make a difference in a school’s API score. Open Court appeared to be most effective when it was:

  • used intensively—i.e., all teachers in the school reported using Open Court daily;
  • combined with a coherent, school-wide, standards-based instructional program; and
  • combined with the frequent use of student assessment data to improve instruction.

Open Court is one of two main English language arts curriculum packages currently approved by the State Board of Education in California. The new findings are the result of an extended regression analysis of survey data collected last spring from 5,500 K-5 classroom teachers in 257 schools from 145 different districts.

Joanne Jacobs has more.

The New Push to Rate Schools Will Make Adults Perform and Help Kids Learn

Jay Greene:

Accountability is a constructive and increasingly powerful force in the education of New York City schoolchildren. It starts with report cards and runs far deeper.
Third-graders have to pass a basic skills test to be promoted to fourth grade. High school seniors cannot earn a Regents diploma without passing a series of exams. And, of course, students hoping to attend college need to take, and perform moderately well, on the SAT or ACT.
B ut while young people have been held increasingly accountable for results, adults who work in the schools have been largely shielded from such judgments. Whether students succeed or not has little or no effect on whether teachers or administrators continue to be employed or how much they are paid. Heroic educators who transform the lives of their students are not rewarded, nor are subpar educators who deprive students of future opportunities required to improve or punished.

Wisconsin Academic Decathlon Saved…

Wisconsin Academic Decathlon:

Last month, members of the non-profit Wisconsin Academic Decathlon announced that “donor fatigue” had severely weakened program donations and that the organization would deplete its reserves to make it through this year’s State Finals. Program Director Molly Ritchie revealed that the 23-year-old extra curricular scholastic program for Wisconsin high school students might very well have to shut down. Ritchie invited a major corporate sponsor, or sponsors, to come to the rescue with a $150,000 donation.
Dependent on private funding for the last eleven years-since the elimination of their Department of Public Instruction state grant in 1995, Wisconsin has maintained a solid and competitive statewide program, third largest among 40 in the nation, faring well in national competition. For the past two decades, the state champions have placed in the top 10 nationwide, in all but two appearances, and landed the national overall title with Waukesha West’s big win in 2002. However, the program’s success alone no longer generates enough donations to cover the $220,000+ annual budget (67% of funds are secured through donations, team entrance fees bring in the rest).

Peter Gascoyne kindly covered this years event, held a few weeks ago.

New York offers Housing Subsidy as a Teacher Lure

David Herszenhorn:

New York City will offer housing subsidies of up to $14,600 to entice new math, science and special education teachers to work in the city’s most challenging schools, in one of the most aggressive housing incentive programs in the nation to address a chronic shortage of qualified educators in these specialties.
To be eligible for the subsidies, teachers must have at least two years’ experience. City officials said they hoped the program, to be announced by the city Education Department today, would immediately lead to the hiring of an extra 100 teachers for September and, with other recruitment efforts, ultimately help fill as many as 600 positions now held by teachers without the proper credentials.

The New Soft Paternalism

The Economist covers a fascinating subject:

For its exponents, this is a paternalism for the times. People are jealous of their freedoms; yet they squander them. They resent outside authorities telling them how to live their lives, but they lack self-command. They have legions of entrepreneurs dedicated to serving them better, but often they fail even to understand the embarrassment of offerings that is spread before them. Some gentle guidance would not go amiss.
But if such manipulation is sometimes a necessity, should it be made a virtue? (John Stuart) Mill, for one, would have disapproved.

He who lets the world choose…his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself must…use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.

Reasoning, judgment, discrimination and self-control—all of these the soft paternalists see as burdens the state can and should lighten. Mill, by contrast, saw them as opportunities for citizens to exercise their humanity. Soft paternalism may improve people’s choices, rescuing them from their own worst tendencies, but it does nothing to improve those tendencies. The nephews of the avuncular state have no reason to grow up.

UW-Madison and MATC Finalize Transfer Agreement


A new agreement allows qualified students at Madison Area Technical College guaranteed admission to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as transfer students.
The program announced Wednesday by both schools is intended for students who begin as freshmen in MATC’s liberal arts transfer program.
Qualified students who complete 54 credits in specified areas and earn a 3.0 grade-point average will be guaranteed admission to UW-Madison when they apply as transfer students.

LA Not so Confidential

Education Sector:

Los Angeles is rightly known as a cultural bellwether because of its diverse population, thriving entertainment industry, and powerful artistic community. But the city is also a harbinger of educational change, as two recent developments suggest. Democratic Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa is seeking substantial control over the Los Angeles Unified School District, while minority parents are demanding alternatives to the city’s existing public schools, putting them at odds with the teachers’ union and the school district. The result is a debate pitting Democrats against Democrats in the city.
Who gets to control schools is of course an old debate. Historically, urban school districts have vacillated between centralized and decentralized control. Villaraigosa’s bid for more leverage over the Los Angeles school system is a reflection of the frustration of urban mayors today: They are politically accountable for school performance and whether a city offers quality public schools but have little control over actual educational decision-making.
Villaraigosa has stopped short of calling for outright control of the schools, saying he would retain an elected school board. But he is still seeking to choose the next superintendent, to have control over major budget decisions, and to launch an ambitious effort to turn around low-performing schools, so it is obvious where he would like power to be vested. This was enough to prompt the National School Boards Association at its annual meeting this month to pass a resolution strongly opposing mayoral control, a measure clearly aimed at Villaraigosa. Meanwhile, with Los Angeles Superintendent Roy Romer on his way out, the power struggle complicates the search for a replacement.

Nan Brien on Local Property Taxes

Nan Brien:

In recent weeks Madison homeowners received their 2006 assessments. Most of us saw an increase in the value of our homes. What will this mean for the next property tax bill?
Last spring Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools attempted to explain that school property taxes had actually gone down for many Madison homeowners over the previous 10 years.
Now it’s time to revisit five factors that influence the school district’s role in your property tax bill.
School District tax levy: Property taxpayers fund a little less than two-thirds of the Madison School District budget, which was $321 million in 2005-06.

Arlene Silveira: Thanks for support, now it’s on to work

A letter to the editor
Dear Editor: I want to thank my supporters and many volunteers during the spirited run for Seat 1 of the Madison School Board. I appreciate the challenging forums and discussions with the press and community members, who have shown why Madison is always considered among the top school systems in the United States.
I also thank those who voted for me in this close election a choice that was confirmed with a well-organized and competent recount.
I look forward to being sworn in on April 24 for Seat 1, and from then on, serving every child, school and family in the best way I know how. I will represent all the district and will seek information from all sources, listen carefully and make sound choices when voting on all issues.
I am eagerly anticipating being the School Board member I promised to be during the campaign: ensuring access to all, welcoming all, improving on a strong school system, and respecting taxpayer dollars in school spending.
Arlene Silveira
Madison School Board member-elect
Published: April 18, 2006
The Capital Times

Teachers Unions as Agents of Reform

Sara Reed:

Voters in Denver, Colo., in 2005 overwhelmingly approved a $25 million tax increase to fund a new, nine-year performance-based pay system for the city’s teachers. Brad Jupp taught in Denver’s public schools for 20 years, and was the lead DCTA negotiator on the team that negotiated the pilot project in 1999, and for the next 5 years he worked on the team that implemented the ProComp pilot.
ES: Why were you able to develop a pay-for-performance model in Denver when other places haven’t been?
BJ: Denver had a combination of the right opportunities and people who were willing, once they saw the opportunities, to put aside their fears of losing and work with other people to try to take advantage of those opportunities. The people included a school board president willing to say, “If the teachers accept this, we’ll figure out how to pay for it. They included the teacher building reps who said, “This is too good to refuse outright; let’s study it.” They included a local foundation that, once we negotiated the pay for performance pilot, realized we might actually be serious and offered us a million dollars to help put it in place. They included the Community Training and Assistance Center, the group that provided us with technical support and a research study of our work. They were willing to take on the enormous and risky task of measuring the impact of the pilot. And they included 16 principals in Denver who were able to see that this was going to be an opportunity for their faculties to build esprit de corps, to make a little extra money, to do some professional development around measuring results. I don’t really think there was a secret ingredient other than people being able to move past their doubts and seize an opportunity. It was a chance to create opportunities where the rewards outweighed the risks. I don’t think we do that much in public education.
But public schools have a harder time making changes, especially in the way people are paid, for a number of reasons. First, we don’t have a history of measuring results, and we don’t have a results-oriented attitude in our industry. Furthermore, we have configured the debate about teacher pay so that it’s a conflict between heavyweight policy contenders like unions and school boards. Finally, we do not have direct control over our revenue. It is easier to change a pay system when there is a rapid change in revenue that can be oriented to new outcomes. Most school finance systems provide nothing but routine cost of living adjustments. If that is all a district and union have to work with, they’re not going to have money to redistribute and make a new pay system.

Fascinating interview.

Seattle’s Teaching of Math adds up to Much Confusion

Jessica Blanchard:

Rick Burke remembers looking at his elementary-school daughter’s math homework and wondering where the math was.
Like many Seattle schools, his daughter’s school was teaching “reform” math, a style that encourages students to discover math principles and derive formulas themselves. Burke, an engineer, worried that his daughter wasn’t learning basic math skills.
“It was a lot of drawing pictures and playing games,” he said. “Her whole first-grade year was pretty much a lateral move.”
So for the past few years, Burke and his wife have been tutoring their three children after school — and this fall, they plan to switch them to North Beach Elementary, which uses a more traditional approach to math.

Sarah Natividad adds:

The biggest problem is that the teachers currently in service never learned enough math to begin with, and so can’t be expected to teach what they don’t already know. We only think our teachers know math because they know just as little math as we do. If you want to know how scarily ignorant of math our teachers are, I suggest reading Liping Ma’s Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics for a start.
I’ve written about this on my own blog, and I’m not just talking out of my butt here. I’ve taught math to these potential teachers. They lack the prerequisite skills to pass a college algebra class. You can tell who in the class is in the Elementary Education program; they’re the ones sitting in the back row, getting a D on every exam because they have to use a calculator to do three times two (and they think this is normal). So when Bob Brandt of Bellevue says “How do you know three times two equals six? Any idiot knows that,” I would counter that an exceptional idiot must be teaching his kids math. We’ve raised an entire generation of teachers who don’t even know enough about math to know that they are ignorant of it.

D-Ed Reckoning touches on math as well.

Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates

Jay Greene and Marcus Winters:

This study uses a widely respected method to calculate public high school graduation rates for the nation, for each state, and for the 100 largest school districts in the United States. We calculate graduation rates overall, by race, and by gender, using the most recent available data (the class of 2003).

Among our key findings:

  • The overall national public high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was 70 percent.
  • There is a wide disparity in the public high school graduation rates of white and minority students.
  • Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.
  • Female students graduate high school at a higher rate than male students. Nationally, 72 percent of female students graduated, compared with 65 percent of male students.
  • The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percentage points fewer white male students and 3 percentage points fewer Asian male students graduate than their respective female students. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma (a difference of 11 percentage points). Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males (a difference of 9 percentage points).
  • The state with the highest overall graduation rate was New Jersey (88 percent), followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, each with 85 percent. The state with the lowest overall graduation rate was
    South Carolina (54 percent), followed by Georgia (56 percent) and New York (58 percent).

Sarah Carr notes that some question the methods used in this analysis:

Milwaukee public high schools have one of the worst graduation rates [chart] in the country among large school districts, according to a new report that takes the unusual step of trying to make comparisons across large school districts as well as states.

Tamar Lewin also takes a look at this report:

The report, “Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates,” found that 59 percent of African-American girls, but only 48 percent of African-American boys, earned their diplomas that year. Among Hispanics, the graduation rate was 58 percent for girls, but only 49 percent for boys.
“It’s a fairly large difference, particularly when you consider that unlike differences across racial and ethnic groups, boys and girls are raised in the same households, so it’s not so easy to explain the differences by their community, or their income level,” said Jay P. Greene, an author of the report.
Mr. Greene helped set off widespread national alarm with findings several years ago that almost one in three high school students, and almost half the African-American and Hispanic students, did not complete high school. His research has been widely embraced by policy makers, though some researchers argue that his method overstates the dropout problem over all and among minorities in particular.

Can We Talk 3: 3rd Quarter Report Cards

Ms. Abplanalp and MMSD District Staff (cc’d to the Board of Education),
I read with some confusion your letter [350K PDF] sent to all elementary school parents about the lack of measurable change in students marking period as too small to report to parents on their third quarter report cards.  
Here’s my confusion.  I have complained many times about the lack of communication from MMSD to parents concerning students grades or progress.  At the elementary level the “grade issue” seems to do with the lack of any measurable assessments.  While I know testing is a bad word in the education world I find it amusing that between the end of Jan. and beginning of April,  my two elementary students failed to have any measurable change in their grades.  My 7th grader had a full report card…..with grades and everything.  I’m old at 42, but we used to have report cards come home every 6 weeks. My parents could assess my progress rather well that way, and I got lots of candy from Grandma.  I accept the quarter system as being more practical but seriously…you can’t even accomplish quarterly reports.  
I am wondering why my two elementary students were sent home early on April 4th.  My tax dollars went to pay for what?…..four grades evaluated out of 31 (not including behavior grades).  The teachers spent the time to log onto the computers to tell me about one grade in reading and 3 in math.  My daughter who is in 5th grade tells me lots of social studies and science occurred from Jan. to April but I guess none was graded.  The paper work, the early release, the time spent logging on for four grades has to rank up there with the last day of school with the amount of  waste of tax payer money (last day is one and 1/2 hour of school with bus service and all). 

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The School Transformation Plan

A Strategy to Create Small, High-Performing College-Preparatory Schools in Every Neighborhood of Los Angeles
Green Dot Public Schools, Bain & Company [180K PDF]:

Public school reform has become the #1 issue for the City of Los Angeles. While most acknowledge the poor state of the public education system, the discussion to date has largely focused on governance issues, such as mayoral control and district break-up. This whitepaper is intended to refocus the debate on a future vision for public schools in Los Angeles about which all stakeholders will be enthusiastic. Simply put, every child in Los Angeles should have the opportunity to attend a small, safe, college-preparatory public school. This whitepaper also provides a strategy for how the City of Los Angeles can take advantage of its historic opportunity to make this vision a reality. With $19 billion in bond funding, the Los Angeles Unified School District has unparalleled resources to execute a dramatic transformation.

via Eduwonk.

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Food Policy and Physical Education

To those concerned about the success of the Madison Schools,
I am writing to express my support for the positive changes proposed by the district with respect to food policy. It is exciting that the district has been proactive in including students, parents, health providers, educators, and policy makers. As a pediatrician working with childhood obesity and childhood diabetes, I believe our schools do- and can have an even more positive influence- on the health of our children. 
We are all struggling with the epidemic of childhood obesity, its costs, ramifications, and its effect on children and their families. We need to address this problem though our families, through our communities, and definitely through our schools. We continue to “leave many children behind” when it comes to healthy nutrition and physical activity. The State of California has shown that children with greater fitness levels, also have greater academic levels. Supporting an environment for achieving this is imperative for our children.
Healthy food choices should always be offered even if it means different fund raising methods in our schools including removing soda, and other unhealthy food practices.  It is time for the Board to look carefully at how they can help be part of the solution regarding this problem and the long-term health of our students. 

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Coke’s CEO on Soda in Schools

Chad Terhune:

WSJ: How well is the company responding to the obesity issue?
Mr. Isdell: We are in what I would call the bull’s-eye of public opinion with regard to calorie consumption. It’s something I inherited and something as an industry we have not been able to rebut effectively at this point in time. It’s something we are working diligently on as an industry…. We really need to widen the debate. For example, Diet Coke, a zero-calorie beverage, is actually in the obesity debate because there has been a demonization of carbonated soft drinks. But if it’s really about obesity, why would you not want people to drink a diet soft drink?
WSJ: Why should any regular sodas be sold in middle or high schools?
Mr. Isdell: It’s high schools where the current policy we have is 50% noncarbonated drinks. In the middle schools [full-calorie sodas are sold from vending machines] only after school [according to an industrywide agreement.]
I saw this interesting piece on a guy in California who came out very strongly and said, “Why am I allowed to vote and I can own a gun, but I can’t choose my own soft drink?” I think when you reach high school, you do have a level of sophistication and you can be allowed to choose what you wish…. There are some schools where some kids are making good money bootlegging soft drinks in and selling them to students…. I think that is not all bad for us. After all, every kid likes being rebellious.

MPS Plans Free Web Access

Tom Held:

Looking to give poorer students the technological muscle to scale the “digital divide,” the Milwaukee Public Schools district is turning to the promise of an emerging wireless service described as “Wi-Fi on steroids.”
Using WiMax, MPS would provide free broadband Internet service to the homes of all MPS students and staff.
The district would be one of the first public entities in the country to launch a WiMax system, using television channels that the Federal Communications Commission allocated for educational purposes. A pilot system covering roughly 5 square miles is scheduled to be operating by August 2007.

Conflicting Interests

John D. Wiley:

Having said all this, let me turn, now, to some of the reasons for the growing public cries for better accountability, and some of the problems I think we need to address in our system of self-regulation:
1. Even in the best-performing universities, there is still considerable room for improvement. To mention one high-visibility area, I think it is nothing short of scandalous that, in 2006, the average six-year graduation rate is only around 50 percent nationwide. Either we are doing a disservice to under-prepared or unqualified students by admitting them in the first place, or we are failing perfectly capable students by not giving them the advising and other help they need to graduate. Either way, we are wasting money and human capital inexcusably. Even at universities like mine, where the graduation rate is now 80 percent, if there are peer institutions doing better (and there are), then 80 percent should be considered unacceptably low.
Now, if we were pressured to increase that number quickly to 85 percent or 90 percent and threatened with severe sanctions for failing to do so, we could meet any established goal by lowering our graduation standards, or by fudging our numbers in plausibly defensible ways, or by doing any number of other things that would satisfy our self-interest but fail the public-interest test. Who’s to stop us? Well, I submit these are exactly the sorts of conflicts of interest the accrediting organizations should be expected to monitor and resolve in the public interest. The public interest is in a better-educated public, not in superficial compliance with some particular standard. The public relies on accreditors to keep their eye on the right ball. More generally, accrediting organizations are in an excellent — maybe even unique — position to identify best practices and transfer them from one colleges to another, improving our entire system of higher education.

Minority Student Achievement Network Conference on Saturday 4/22 at J.C. Wright

Via a an email from Johnny Winston, Jr.

The Madison Metropolitan School District presents its 2nd Annual Minority Student Achievement Network Conference for students of color on Saturday April 22, 2006 at 8 am to 2 pm at James C. Wright Middle School located at 1717 Fish Hatchery Road. Students and families of middle school children are invited. If you have questions, please contact Diane Crear, Special Assistant to the Superintendent at 204-1692 or Michelle Olson, Minority Services Coordinator at LaFollette High School at 204-3661.
Topic for students and parents include: Achieving in High School, Health Matters, Goal Setting, Careers in Journalism and Science; SPITE programs and “Success for your Student.” Keynote address by the performance group “Elements of Change.” Refreshments will be provided during the morning and lunch in the afternoon at no cost to the participants. There will be limited on-site registration.
Hope to see you on Saturday April 22nd at the MMSD’s 2nd Annual Minority Student Achievement Network Conference at 8 am to 2 pm at James C. Wright Middle School.
Please share this information with other interested persons or organizations. Thank you.

States Help Schools Hide Minority Scores

Frank Bass, Nicole Ziegler Dizon and Ben Feller:

States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law’s requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress.
With the federal government’s permission, schools aren’t counting the test scores of nearly 2 million students when they report progress by racial groups, an Associated Press computer analysis found.
Minorities – who historically haven’t fared as well as whites in testing – make up the vast majority of students whose scores are being excluded, AP found. And the numbers have been rising.
“I can’t believe that my child is going through testing just like the person sitting next to him or her and she’s not being counted,” said Angela Smith, a single mother. Her daughter, Shunta’ Winston, was among two dozen black students whose test scores weren’t broken out by race at her suburban Kansas City, Mo., high school.
To calculate a nationwide estimate, AP analyzed the 2003-04 enrollment figures the government collected – the latest on record – and applied the current racial category exemptions the states use.
Overall, AP found that about 1.9 million students – or about 1 in every 14 test scores – aren’t being counted under the law’s racial categories. Minorities are seven times as likely to have their scores excluded as whites, the analysis showed.
Less than 2 percent of white children’s scores aren’t being counted as a separate category. In contrast, Hispanics and blacks have roughly 10 percent of their scores excluded. More than one-third of Asian scores and nearly half of American Indian scores aren’t broken out, AP found.

Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights website.
Carrie Antifinger notes that the loophole snares 33% of Wisconsin minority students.
Andrew Rotherham:

First, a reader of some of the back and forth might end up thinking that the law requires some minimum subgroup or that the feds set the subgroup size. It doesn’t, they don’t. Here are the exact AYP regulations from the Federal Register (pdf) and here is Ed Trust’s explanatory piece. It’s left up to the states although the feds approve the state plans and consequently have approved the various sizes in effect now. Now they’re trying to figure out how to clean up (pdf) some of the mess they’ve created.

Students Receive Academic Honors

Via the Capital Times:

Three Madison students are among 800 high school seniors honored for their academic excellence by the National Achievement Scholarship Program, which recognizes talented African-American youths.
Aubrey M. Chamberlain and Adeyinka Lesi, both seniors at West High School, and Kayla M. McClendon, a senior at Memorial High School, were named Achievement Scholarship winners.
The National Achievement Program, a privately financed academic competition, is conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Competitors for the award were chosen based on their high scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, taken when the students were juniors. Finalists were judged on their academic record, recommendation by their high school principals, submission of an essay about personal interests and goals, and earning an SAT score that confirmed their PSAT performance.

The heterogeneous debate: Some say best students get short shrift

Sandy Cullen:

Some parents say the Madison School District’s spending cuts, combined with its attempts to close the achievement gap, have reduced opportunities for higher-achieving students.
Jeff Henriques, a parent of two high-achieving students, said one of the potential consequences he sees is “bright flight” – families pulling students with higher abilities out of the district and going elsewhere because their needs aren’t being met.
One of the larger examples of this conflict is surfacing in the district’s move toward creating “heterogeneous” classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.
Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But some parents of higher-achieving students are concerned their children won’t be fully challenged in such classes – at a time when the amount of resources going to talented and gifted, or TAG, programs is also diminishing.

Check out Part I and Part II of Cullen’s series.
Watch Professor Gamoran’s presentation, along with others related to the homogeneous / heterogeneous grouping debate here. Links and commentary and discussion on West’s English 10. Jason Shepherd took a look at these issues in his “Fate of the Schools” article.

Madison Schools Make Effort to Close the Achievement Gap

Sandy Cullen:

Working in conjunction with the Schools of Hope project led by the United Way of Dane County, the district has made progress in third-grade reading scores at the lowest achievement levels. But racial and income gaps persist among third-graders reading at proficient and advanced levels.
Other initiatives are taking place in the middle and high schools. There, the district has eliminated “dead-end classes” that have less rigorous expectations to eliminate the chance that students will be put on a path of lower achievement because they are perceived as not being able to succeed in higher-level classes.
In the past, high school students were able to take classes such as general or consumer math. Now, all students are required to take algebra and geometry – or two credits of integrated mathematics, combining algebra, statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry – in order to graduate.
One of the district’s more controversial efforts has been a move toward “heterogeneous” classes that include students of all achievement levels, eliminating classes that group students of similar achievement levels together.
Advocates of heterogeneous classes say students who are achieving at lower levels benefit from being in classes with their higher-achieving peers. But others say the needs of higher-achieving students aren’t met in such classes.
And in addition to what schools are already doing, Superintendent Art Rainwater said he would like to put learning coaches for math and reading in each of the district’s elementary schools to improve teachers’ ability to teach all students effectively.

The first part of Cullen’s series is here.

In Carson, Teachers Say No Thanks to Grant

Mitchell Landsberg:

The concept of Talent Development rests largely on two pillars. One is a special ninth-grade “academy” that focuses extra attention on freshmen, who are at the highest risk of dropping out. Once students make it to 10th grade, the odds are strong that they will graduate.
The other pillar involves a different way of scheduling classes. Known as the “four-by-four block schedule,” it breaks the school year into quarters, and the school day into four 90-minute classes. The idea is to make each course more intensive, collapsing a semester’s work into 10 weeks. It also gives students the opportunity to take more courses over a school year — 16, compared with 12 in a typical schedule. If a student flunks a class, there are more opportunities to make it up.
John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley adopted the four-by-four schedule in 2004, along with other aspects of the Talent Development program. Last June, 92% of its ninth-graders had enough credits to move up to 10th grade, about one-third more than the previous year.

Promises Betrayed

Five years ago we moved to Madison. A big factor in this decision was the expectation that we could rely on Madison public schools to educate our children. Our eldest went through West High School. To our delight the rigorous academic environment at West High transformed him into a better student, and he got accepted at several good public universities.
Now we are finding this promise betrayed for our younger children. Our elementary school appears to be sliding into disarray. Teachers and children are threatened, bullied, assaulted, and cursed at. Curricula are dumbed down to accommodate students who are unprepared for real school work. Cuts in special education are leaving the special needs kids adrift, and adding to the already impossible burdens of classroom teachers. To our disappointment we are forced to pull one child out of public school, simply to ensure her an orderly and safe learning environment.
Unless the School Board addresses these challenges forcefully and without obfuscation, I am afraid a historic mistake will be made. Madison schools will slip into a vicious cycle of middle class flight and steady decline. The very livability of our city might be at stake, not to mention our property values.
To me the necessary step is clear. The bottom five to ten percent of students, and especially all the aggressive kids, must be removed from regular classes. They should be concentrated in separate schools where they can receive the extra attention and intensive instruction they need, with an option to join regular classes if they are ready.

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Richard Davis Birthday Bash Audio / Video

Richard Davis’s Friday night Birthday Bash (Richard mentioned that his birthday is actually tax day, April 15) seemed an appropriate way to wrap up a beautiful Madison week, with temperatures reaching into the 70’s. The bash was held Friday night at Mills Hall and included participants from the Bass Conference Faculty.

Audio / Video:

Conference pictures are available here.

More on Richard: Wikipedia | Clusty | Google | Yahoo

The Changing Face of Madison’s Schools

Sandy Cullen:

Other school districts surrounding Madison also are seeing an increase in minority and low-income students.
In Sun Prairie and Verona, the percentage of minority students is more than five times what it was in the early 1990s, while the percentage of low-income students in Verona has more than doubled. Both districts also have seen significant growth in the number of Hispanic students who are not proficient in English.
Private schools in the Madison area also are seeing increases in their percentage of minority students. In the last seven years, minority enrollment increased 54 percent at Edgewood High School, where minorities now make up nearly 12 percent of the student body. At Madison Country Day School, in the Waunakee School District, 17 percent of its 247 students are minorities, up from 15 percent in 1997.
Between 1997 and 2004, enrollment at private schools in the Madison School District increased by 400 students, according to figures compiled by the district. Edgewood spokeswoman Kate Ripple said most Madison students who enroll in the private Catholic high school do so because of its faith component.

Madison Schools, New Population, New Challenges

Sandy Cullen:

Twenty-five years ago, less than 10 percent of the district’s students were minorities and relatively few lived in poverty. Today, there are almost as many minority students as white, and nearly 40 percent of all students are considered poor – many of them minority students. And the number of students who aren’t native English speakers has more than quadrupled.
“The school district looks a lot different from 1986 when I graduated,” said Madison School Board member Johnny Winston Jr.
The implications of this shift for the district and the city of Madison are huge, city and school officials say. Academic achievement levels of minority and low-income students continue to lag behind those of their peers. Dropout, suspension and expulsion rates also are higher for minority students.
“Generally speaking, children who grow up in poverty do not come to school with the same skills and background” that enable their wealthier peers to be successful, Superintendent Art Rainwater said. “I think there are certainly societal issues that are race-related that also affect the school environment.”
While the demographics of the district’s students have changed dramatically, the makeup of the district as a whole doesn’t match.
The overall population within the school district, which includes most of Madison along with parts of some surrounding municipalities, is predominantly white and far less likely to be poor. And most taxpayers in the district do not have school-age children, statistics show, a factor some suggest makes it harder to pass referendums to increase taxes when schools are seeking more money.
Forty-four percent of Madison public school students are minorities, while more than 80 percent of residents in the city are white, according to U.S. Census figures for 2000, the most recent year available. And since 1991, the percentage of district students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches has nearly doubled to 39 percent; in 2000, only 15 percent of Madison’s residents were below the poverty level.
Although the city’s minority and low-income population has increased since the 2000 census, it’s “nowhere near what it is in the schools,” said Dan Veroff, director of the Applied Population Laboratory in UW- Madison’s department of rural sociology.

Barb Schrank asked “Where have all the Students Gone? in November, 2005:

There’s a lot more at work in the MMSD’s flat or slightly declining enrollment than Cullen’s article discusses. These issues include:

Thoreau’s most recent PTO meeting, which included 50 parent and teacher participants, illustrates a few of the issues that I believe are driving some families to leave: growing math curriculum concerns and the recent imposition of mandatory playground grouping without any prior parent/PTO discussion.
Student losses, or the MMSD’s failure to capture local population growth directly affects the district’s ability to grow revenue (based on per student spending and annual budget increases under the state’s revenue caps).
The MMSD’s failure to address curriculum and govenance concerns will simply increase the brain flight and reduces the number of people supporting the necessary referendums. Jason Shepherd’s recent article is well worth reading for additional background.
Finally, Mary Kay Battaglia put together some of these numbers in December with her “This is not Your Grandchild’s Madison School District“.

Building Knowledge: The Case for Bringing Content into the Language Arts Block

E.D. Hirsch, Jr.:

I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas…. Soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
—J. M. Keynes
The General Theory of Employment,
Interest, and Money
Consider the following sentence, which is one that most literate Americans can understand, but most literate British people cannot, even when they have a wide vocabulary and know the conventions of the standard language:
Jones sacrificed and knocked in a run.
Typically, a literate British person would know all the words in the sentence yet wouldn’t comprehend it. (In fairness, most Americans would be equally baffled by a sentence about the sport of cricket.)

Views on California’s Proposition 82 (preschool for all 4 year olds)

Two articles on Proposition 82:

  • Dana Hull:

    It sounds like a no-brainer for advocates of early childhood education: a state ballot initiative that would offer preschool to every 4-year-old in California, free of charge to parents. What preschool wouldn’t be all for that?
    But as the June 6 election approaches, an increasingly vocal number of preschools are lining up against it.
    Some Montessori schools fear Proposition 82, dubbed the Preschool for All Act, would lead to state standards that could compromise their teaching methods and mixed-age classrooms. Faith-based preschools say they would be at a competitive disadvantage because the measure wouldn’t fund schools that offer religious instruction. Others worry a requirement that teachers earn a bachelor’s degree would drive them out of business.
    “I am going to vote no, and I am very much in favor of universal preschool,” said Bonnie Mathisen, director of Discovery Children’s House, a Montessori school in Palo Alto. “I just feel that Prop. 82 is not the right way to go about it. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, a lot of preschools will be left out.”

  • Dana Hull:

    The children, ages 3 to 6, are part of a class of 28 at Casa di Mir Montessori School in Campbell. While many schools group children by age, Montessori believes children of different ages teach, help and learn from each other.
    Tara started the year as a kindergartner at a local elementary school, where her parents were stunned to learn there was homework. She rebelled against its structure, and her parents struggled with what to do. In January, they enrolled Tara at Casa di Mir.
    “Montessori is perfect for her,” says Haleh, Tara’s mom. “They don’t ring a bell to start class; they play a flute. She wrote a four-page journal about cats.”

  • Joanne Jacobs has more

“Standardize Education”

Paul Hoss:

The Times is to be congratulated for its tough-love posture on No Child Left Behind legislation (editorial, April 9). Too many states shortchange too many students with “loophole” diplomas by lowering their standards on their way to the deadline of 2014 for all students being “proficient” in math and English. This inevitable fiasco could be avoided if the U.S. went to a national curriculum, with corresponding assessments and standards to be met by all students nationwide. Talk about equity and equal access for all.
Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — the top five performers on math exams — all benefit from this standardization of what’s expected in their schools. So could the United States.

Union Wants Early Say on School Reform

Joel Rubin:

A coalition led by the L.A. teachers group will reveal its own plan for revamping the district a day before the mayor outlines his proposal.
Intent on being a player in the ongoing scrum over the future of Los Angeles schools, the powerful teachers union and a coalition of community organizations will outline Monday their own plan to overhaul the city’s public school system.

Math Rebellion Up North: Ashland Students Favor New Algebra Course, Fewer Enroll in Core Plus

Kevin O’Brien:

An overwhelming majority of Ashland students who were given the choice between traditional math and the Core Plus curriculum decided to take algebra I courses next school year, according to a report given Monday by Ashland High School Principal Steve Gromala.
In a report to the Ashland School Board, it was noted that 83 percent of students signed up for algebra I, which was offered for the first time in several years after parents and board members demanded an alternative to the Core Plus curriculum.
A total of 170 students, including 115 incoming freshmen and 55 of next year’s sophomores, enrolled in the newly offered algebra I course for the 2006-07 school year. By comparison, 34 students enrolled in Core Plus 1.
The addition of algebra I next school year is the first step toward offering a dual-track math curriculum that will allow incoming freshmen to choose between algebra classes and Core Plus. Additional classes such as geometry, algebra II and pre-calculus will be added in future years as students advance.

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Computers May Not Boost Student Achievement

Greg Toppo:

Give a kid a laptop and it might not make any difference.
That’s the message from research presented here Monday, which suggests that spending millions of dollars to bring technology into kids’ homes and schools has decidedly mixed results.
Taxpayer-supported school computer and Internet giveaways are political gold, but studies have questioned whether they actually help student achievement. This research, presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting, confirms skeptics’ doubts.
In one study, researchers from Syracuse and Michigan State universities examined a program that gave laptop computers to middle-school students in Ohio in 2003. Preliminary findings are mixed.
“Overall, we don’t know if it is a worthwhile investment,” says Syracuse researcher Jing Lei.

We should not spend money on these things unless and until we get the basics right (Math, reading/writing and science).

Fairfax Success Masks Gaps for Black Students

Maria Glod:

Black students in Fairfax County are consistently scoring lower on state standardized tests than African American children in Richmond, Norfolk and other comparatively poor Virginia districts, surprising Fairfax educators and forcing one of the nation’s wealthiest school systems to acknowledge shortcomings that have been masked by its overall success.
Even within Fairfax schools, black elementary school students are outperformed on reading and math tests by whites and some other students, including Hispanics, poor children and immigrants learning English.

Well worth reading.

Omaha Schools Split Along Ethnic Lines


In a move decried by some as state-sponsored segregation, the legislature voted Thursday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts — one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic.
tate Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha decried the bill, saying, “We will go down in history as one of the first states in 20 years to set race relations back.”
“History will not, and should not, judge us kindly,” said state Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.
There is no intent to create segregation,” said state Sen. Ernie Chambers (Omaha), the legislature’s only black senator and a longtime critic of the school system.
He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students for integration and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.
Chambers said the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and well-qualified teachers provided others in the district. He said the black students he represents in north Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.

“Keep Option To Recount Ballots By Hand”

Paul Malischke:

Because of Madison’s close School Board election, you may be witnessing the last manual recount of election results in Wisconsin for some time to come. A bill in the Legislature, poised to become law, will outlaw manual recounts for municipalities that use machine-readable ballots.
Under current law, the board of canvassers may use automatic voting machines for recounts, but the board may also perform a manual count of the ballots.
Senate Bill 612 would change that. Buried on page 18 of this 120-page bill is a requirement that all recounts be done by machine for machine-readable ballots, unless a petition for a manual recount is approved by a circuit court. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is under consideration by a committee in the Assembly.
This bill should be changed. We need to preserve the ability to conduct a manual recount.
In September 2005, the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office summarized the flaws in the computerized voting machines now being sold. The conclusion of the GAO was that “key activities need to be completed” before we have secure and reliable electronic voting systems.
In the Madison School Board race there was a large number of undervotes (ballots that were not counted by the machine). Seven wards had an undervote of more than 20, and three more were more than 10 percent.

I observed the recount of Ward 52 this week. Interestingly, hand recounts (by two different people) confirmed Maya’s 231 votes while the same people counted Arlene’s votes and ended up with 300, twice. The machine, however, counted 301 on election night and during the recount. I agree with Malischke.
Greg Borowski and Tom Kertscher looked at another unusual election issue (from the November, 2004 election) last spring, voting gaps:

In Madison, the city counts of the number of ballots cast, but doesn’t routinely try to reconcile that figure with the number of people recorded as having voted in an election. The firm found in Madison 133,598 people were recorded as having voted but 138,204 ballots were cast, a difference of more than 4,600. The actual number of ballots cast overall was 138,452, but the city doesn’t have a figure for the number of people recorded as having voted, Deputy City Clerk Sharon Christensen said.”

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San Diego School District Overhauls Physics Curriculum

Robert Tomsho:

When San Diego’s school district began overhauling its science-education curriculum five years ago, it wanted to raise the performance of minority, low-income and immigrant students.
But parents in middle- and upper-income areas, where many students were already doing well, rebelled against the new curriculum, and a course called Active Physics in particular. They called it watered-down science, too skimpy on math.
A resistance movement took hold. Some teachers refused to use the new textbooks, which are peppered with cartoons. They gathered up phased-out texts to use on the sly. As controversy over the issue escalated, it played a part in an election in which the majority of the school board was replaced. Now, further curriculum changes are under consideration.
The skirmishes in the nation’s eighth-largest urban school district reflect a wider battle over how to make science classes accessible to a broader array of students while maintaining their rigor.
Amid mediocre U.S. scores on international science tests and predictions of future shortages of scientists and engineers, policy makers have begun requiring more science in schools. By 2011, 27 states will require high-school students to take at least three science courses to graduate. In 1992, only six had such requirements.

Parents Weigh in on Middle Schools

Aruna Jain:

Last year, Joan Blair’s daughter enrolled at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, the new creative and performing arts school in Silver Spring. She is learning high-school-level Spanish, ranks above grade level in math, and takes theater and arts courses that she loves. But her science and social studies classes, where students of different academic levels are grouped together, are not rigorous enough, Blair said.
“As a teacher, how are you going to meet the needs of all students if they are all mixed together?” Blair asked.
She was among the more than 100 parents, teachers and educators who filed into Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring on a recent Monday night to offer concerns and suggestions at a community outreach session aimed at helping the Montgomery County school system improve its middle schools. The event was the last of three such sessions that drew crowds of county residents and educators eager to participate in a middle school reform initiative launched last fall.
The initiative was partially prompted by a middle school audit released last year that showed a lag in achievement, particularly among African American and Hispanic students, students learning English, students with disabilities and those living in poverty. The independent audit found that county middle schools are not consistent in the application of curriculum standards, the quality of school improvement programs, teacher training opportunities and discipline procedures.

LA Mayor’s Public School Takeover Plans

Joel Rubin and Duke Helfand:

Villaraigosa’s advisors look at extending the academic year and selling the headquarters.
As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pursues control of the Los Angeles school system, his advisors are considering wide-ranging changes that could gut the central bureaucracy, sell the district’s headquarters, keep students in class until 5 p.m. and extend the academic year to 10 1/2 months.

A Parent’s Questions About the Elimination of Honors Courses

Jay Matthews:

Like many journalists, I love to read other people’s mail. West Potomac High School parent John Dickert kindly sent me an exchange of messages with Ann Monday, assistant superintendent for instructional services for the Fairfax County public schools. Their dialogue shows why Fairfax County educators disagree with many parents over the new policy of eliminating honors courses in 11th grade and leaving students a choice of a regular class or an Advanced Placement course in humanities subjects such as history.

Waukesha Charter Schools

Amy Hetzner:

The Waukesha School District already operates four charter schools. In addition to the two proposed schools discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, La Casa de Esperanza has expressed interest in opening a charter school as well.
Under Wisconsin law, however, charter schools outside Milwaukee and Racine have to get the approval of their local school boards before they can open.
South’s proposed charter school would build on Project Lead the Way, a leading pre-engineering curriculum among American high schools that is now in its second year at South.
In addition to continuing that four-year curriculum, the charter school could offer special math and science courses geared to support students’ engineering coursework. School planners also say they would like it to involve work experience for students, who would be provided mentors in the engineering field.

Stanford: First virtual high school for the gifted

Becky Bartindale:

Stanford University’s Education Program for Gifted Youth is taking the next logical step: launching what is believed to be the nation’s first online high school for gifted students.
The virtual high school will offer a full standard curriculum — and more — for students in 10th through 12th grades, leading to a high school diploma.
The only restrictions? Students will have to prove their intellectual prowess — and come up with the tuition of about $12,000 a year. Applications are being accepted later this month, classes will begin in the fall.
Gifted students around the world already flock to the program at Stanford, in part because many schools are unable to offer everything that advanced students need.
“The gifted are among those left behind,” said Patrick Suppes, a philosophy professor emeritus from Stanford who directs the Stanford program. “For reasons that aren’t bad policy, No Child Left Behind worries most about students who are underperforming.

Stanford’s Educational Program for Gifted Youth website.

The Internet & Higher Education: From Fad to Worse?

Terry Heaton:

He offers an extensive list of innovations in education to which he’s been exposed over the years, one of which is the internet. Each, he notes, promised to transform education.
Some of those much-heralded innovations are long forgotten. Others remain housed somewhere on the campus, but I think it is fair to say that higher education hasn’t changed all that much, that none of these ideas proved to be as transformative as their advocates predicted. Compared to their advance billing, they all turned out to be short-term enthusiasms or — more bluntly — educational fads.
So the internet is a fad that has failed to transform higher education. This, I believe, may be the most ignorant statement I’ve ever heard from an academic. The internet has already altered all education forever, because a great deal of knowledge is now accessible without memorization, contemplation, research or study. That higher education “hasn’t changed all that much” may be more a reflection of the self-serving nature of the institution than what he sees as the false promises of “fads.” Moreover, I think it’s a little early to proclaim that the internet isn’t transformative.

Why the GMCC Opposes the Taxpayers Protection Amendment

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce [pdf]

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) Board of Directors opposes the Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment and has urged legislators to vote against SJR 63 and AJR 77.
What the Wisconsin Taxpayer Protection Amendment (WTPA) proposes and what the likely outcome will be are two different things. While we believe that limiting or reducing taxes is a laudable goal, we disagree that this proposed amendment is the best way to achieve that. The GMCC’s intent is to bring balance to the discussion.
It is our position that the state constitution is not a place to implement permanent limitations that are sure to have major long term consequences. There are many unresolved questions and arguments raised by others related to WTPA which are outlined below. GMCC shares many of these questions and concerns.

via an email from Jennifer Alexander.

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San Francisco Schools: Student Funding Follows Kids

Lisa Snell:

San Francisco is one of a handful of public school districts across the nation that mimic an education market. In these districts, the money follows the children, parents have the right to choose their children’s public schools and leave underperforming schools, and school principals and communities have the right to spend their school budgets in ways that make their schools more desirable to parents.
Thanks to weighted funding, schools get more money for harder-to-educate students. Principals decide how to allocate funds.
In San Francisco the weighted student formula gives each school a foundation allocation that covers the cost of a principal’s salary and a clerk’s salary. The rest of each school’s budget is allocated on a per student basis. There is a base amount for the “average student,” with additional money assigned based on individual student characteristics: grade level, English language skills, socioeconomic status, and special education needs.
. . . The more students a school attracts, the bigger the school’s budget. So public schools in San Francisco now have an incentive to differentiate themselves from one another. Every parent can look through an online catalog of niche schools that include Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog language immersion schools, college preparatory schools, performing arts schools that collaborate with an urban ballet and symphony, schools specializing in math and technology, traditional neighborhood schools, and a year-round school based on multiple-intelligence theory. Each San Francisco public school is unique. The number of students, the school hours, the teaching style, and the program choices vary from site to site

Via Joanne Jacobs

Advanced Placement’s Growth Places it Under Scrutiny

Ms Cornelius:

Today’s New York Times has an interesting article about whether the Advanced Placement program is actually worthy of its reputation.
The Advanced Placement program, administered by the College Board, began 50 years ago as a way to give a select few high school students a jump-start on college work. But in recent decades, it has morphed into something quite different – a mass program that reaches more than a million students each year and is used almost as much to impress college admissions officers and raise a school’s reputation as to get college credit. As the admissions race has hit warp speed, Advanced Placement has taken on new importance, and government officials, educators and the College Board itself have united behind a push to broaden access to A.P. courses as a matter of equity in education.

Reorganizing the Reorganization

Diane Ravitch:

But what is obvious is that once again a major decision—one might even say a revolutionary decision—affecting the most important public institution in the city and the lives of 1.1 students has been taken without any public consultation. Once again, the leaders at Tweed met behind closed doors with their management consultants and their experts in corporate governance, along with chosen staff members, and reached decisions that will have sweeping implications for the public school system.
Something is terribly wrong with this scenario. Public agencies in a democracy are not free to make major policy changes without public consultation, public feedback, public review, and other efforts to forge a consensus. That is the way democratic governance is supposed to work. What we have now seems to be the behavior and actions of a monarchy or a privately held corporation that has no stockholders; its leaders can do whatever they wish without seeking public input or public assent.

Leopold Additions Included in 2006 MMSD Operating Budget


The Madison school board voted 4–3 Monday night to include additions to Leopold Elementary School in next year’s operating budget.
A final vote will come at a later meeting, but this essentially means that construction can start with our without a referendum.

Background on Leopold here. Johnny Winston, Jr., Juan Jose Lopez, Bill Keys and Shwaw Vang voted for the motion while Carol Carstensen, Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts voted against it, preferring, I’m told, to consider this question with the entire 2006/2007 budget, which the board has not yet seen.
Student rep Connor Gants pointed out (he also voted for it) that the motion does not really matter as it could be changed when the 2006/2007 budget is actually approved. More on the budget, here.
Channel3000 has an update here.

Irvine Co. To Donate $20M to Schools

David Haldane:

The Irvine Co. said Monday it would provide $20 million over the next 10 years to fund fine arts, music and science programs for fourth- through sixth-graders in the Irvine Unified School District.
The money will be in addition to the $25 million pledged by the Newport Beach developer to Irvine schools in 2000, officials said.
“We think it’s an important investment to acknowledge the importance of these programs in providing a comprehensive quality education in the school district,” said Michael LeBlanc, a company senior vice president.
Dean Waldfogel, the school district’s superintendent, expressed delight.”We’re very excited,” he said. “This will allow us to maintain the program at its current level.”

Schools Struggle with Requiring PE

Lucas Johnson II:

At Moore Elementary School, fourth-grader Michael Turri looks forward to 30 minutes of jump-rope at the start of the day.
“It really gets my brain going,” said the 10-year-old. “You need to do this stuff to get through life.”
That’s one of the approaches this suburban Nashville school takes to thwart a growing childhood obesity problem. Students at Moore are required to take PE every day.
Now, some state lawmakers are pointing to Moore as a model for the state in a plan to set tougher phys ed standards for all schools

LA Charters & Public School Transformation


Steve Barr is winning. Also, note the LA Times descriptor of charters, long at 22 words but not too shabby though it doesn’t get at the open admissions issue. Incidentally, per the posts below and the need to change public schools, this is the equation that ought to scare the teachers’ unions into moving on the issue: Steve Barr, strong union proponent, Teamster, along with a very big coalition of almost entirely minority parents is at odds with the teachers’ union and the school district in LA. You don’t need to be an ace political consultant to see the problem there…And if Barr doesn’t succeed, these guys (Clint Bolick, Ken Starr, and company) are more than willing to help out..

Students’ lawsuit threats kept secret

Katherine Goodloe of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reports:
Federal agency decides in Cedarburg case that releasing documents violated privacy rights.
Cedarburg – The next time a student threatens to sue a public school district, taxpayers probably won’t know anything about it.
That’s because the entire process can be kept secret unless the dispute enters a courtroom, after the U.S. Department of Education found that releasing notices of claim filed by two students in the Cedarburg School District violated federal student privacy rights. The finding directly conflicts with the state’s long-standing practice that such notices – which serve as precursors to lawsuits – are considered public documents.

Affordable Health Care: Four Wisconsin Proposals

A forum hosted by Progressive Dane and The Edgewood College Human Issues Program.
Thursday, April 6th 6:30 to 8:30 at Edgewood College’s Anderson Auditorium, in the Predolin Humanities Center.
Access to health insurance has become a national crisis, but there are bold, creative proposals to fix it. Please join us to hear four great proposals to make affordable health care widely available locally and statewide. Representatives from each plan will briefly describe their proposal, followed by ample time for audience questions and open discussion.
Co-Sponsors include: The League of Women Voters, The Democratic Party of Dane County, The South Central Federation of Labor, The Four Lakes Green Party, and The Center for Patient Partnerships at the UW-Madison.
The presenters and four major health care plan proposals are:

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Skills tests for teachers miss mark, studies find

Greg Toppo:

The skills tests that most public school teachers must pass to get a job are poor predictors of whether they’ll actually be good teachers — and in some cases may even keep good ones from entering the classroom, new research suggests.
A pair of long-term studies presented here at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association challenge longstanding policies in 48 states that require teachers to pass standardized exams to get jobs.
In one, Marc Claude-Charles Colitti of Michigan State University examined data going back to 1960 and found teachers’ scores had almost no correlation to principals’ evaluations of their classroom performance.
“How smart a teacher is doesn’t necessarily tell us that they’re a good teacher,” he says. Teachers’ SAT or ACT college entrance exam scores, or even their own scores on fifth-grade skills tests when they were children, would be as accurate at telling whether they’ll be good teachers, he says.

Lawmakers Try to Expel Junk Food From Schools


Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation’s schools.
Dangerous weight is on the rise in kids. This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of obese and overweight kids has climbed to 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls. Four years ago, the number was 14 percent.
Lawmakers blame high-fat, high-sugar snacks that compete with nutritious meals in schools.
“Junk food sales in schools are out of control,” Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said Thursday. “It undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease.”

What’s Wrong with America’s High Schools?


Shawn’s friends are not alone in their exodus. Of the 315 Shelbyville students who showed up for the first day of high school four years ago, only 215 are expected to graduate.
In today’s data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly one out of three public high school students won’t graduate, not just in Shelbyville but around the nation.
For Latinos and African-Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50 percent. Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.
There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don’t quite approach those levels. They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15 percent to 20 percent.

Priorities for upcoming budget

In the upcoming budget deliberations, I urge the board to direct as many available funds as possible to proven in-school programs which support the board’s three stated goals:

* All students complete 3rd grade able to read at grade level or beyond.
* All students complete Algebra by the end of 9th grade and Geometry by the end of 10th grade.
* All students, regardless of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic or linguistic subgroup, attend school at a 94 percent attendance rate at each grade level.

On the flip side, I urge the board to avoid cuts in proven in-school programs that support these goals.
To go a step further, I urge the board to initiate new in-school programs and expand those MMSD programs already proven to succeed.

Schools Need Our Help in Preventing Medication Errors

Valerie Ulene:

Schools are under an incredible strain to simply educate children — let alone medicate them — so it’s hardly surprising that dispensing drugs at school leads to an alarming number of errors. The surprise is that parents and doctors don’t work harder to prevent them.
The laws requiring schools to dispense drugs were designed to protect children with medical problems, such as asthma and diabetes. Such kids wouldn’t be safe at school if their medications weren’t available.
ut a large, and growing, number of children are taking a wide variety of medications, including psychoactive drugs, that frequently have little to do with safety. Instead, the drugs are often prescribed — at least in part — to improve attentiveness and concentration and to enhance academic performance.
The resulting burden for schools is enormous. About 5% of children receive medication during a typical school day. Each year, the Los Angeles Unified School District dispenses about 450,000 doses of medications.

New York City Tries More Ways to Fix Schools

David Herszenhorn:

The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, is once again rethinking the nation’s largest school system.
He has hired Chris Cerf, former president of Edison Schools, the commercial manager of public schools in 25 states. He has retained Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm that revamped the school system in St. Louis and is rebuilding the system in New Orleans. And he has enlisted Sir Michael Barber, a former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair of England who is now at McKinsey & Company in London.
They are evaluating everything from how textbooks and paper are bought, to how teacher training programs are chosen, to how students, teachers, principals and schools are judged. They are running focus groups of dozens of principals, and they are studying districts in England, Canada and California.
Their primary goal is to find ways to relax much of the very centralization put in place by the Bloomberg administration and give principals a far freer hand, provided the schools can meet goals for attendance, test scores, promotion rates and other criteria.

Teaching the Unreachable

Joanne Jacobs:

Stuart Buck recounts a conversation with a friend, a black man teaching high school English at a mostly black school in Georgia, about the challenge of teaching students who’ve made it to 10th grade without learning how to read. The friend says:

“It’s just impossible for me to spend one or two semesters and get someone caught up on 9 or 10 years of schooling. And then there are always some kids that just don’t care, and no matter what I try, they just won’t do the work. So the government is going to tell me that because of a handful of students that are unreachable, therefore I’m a bad teacher? No way.”

The teacher also talks about confronting a boy, who says, “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my dad.”

“Then I said, ‘No, I am your dad. I’m the only grown male who is willing to stand out here, before God and before anyone else who is listening, and to tell you that I love you and that I’m here for you. Now you tell me, if that’s not a dad, then what is?’

“That’s when the kid just started sobbing.”

The boy’s behavior improved. But he’s still going to flunk the class. He hasn’t done most of the work and has no chance of passing the test.

Update: On Right Wing Nation, the prof writes about trying to teach a bright, hard-working student who’d made it to college without understanding how to compute a mean or median or how to abstract an idea from an example. The professor wonders why nobody taught him math in high school.

Cole asks for recount

Maya Cole released the following to the media this afternoon:

Feeling obligated to her supporters, Maya Cole filed a petition for a recount in her election loss for a school board seat on April 4.
“As a public candidate, I feel compelled to respond to the dozens of people who asked me to seek a recount,” Cole said in a press statement.
“This election truly illustrates that every vote counts. I don’t want any voter who made an effort to go to the polls to feel as if there was any question about the accuracy of the result,” she said. “This race was just so close.”
Cole lost the contest for Madison School Board Seat 1 to Arlene Silveira by 86 votes, 17,933 to 17,847, a margin of .24 percent.
“I called Arlene to let her know about the recount. I have no hard feelings toward her. I wished her the best of luck on the board, because only a fluke would change the result,” Cole added.
Cole filed a petition for a recount on Friday afternoon with the Madison city clerk’s office.

The State Journal has more.

Virtual Schools, Real Innovation

Andrew Rotherham:

A WISCONSIN court rejected a high-profile lawsuit by the state’s largest teachers’ union last month seeking to close a public charter school that offers all its courses online on the ground that it violated state law by depending on parents rather than on certified teachers to educate children. The case is part of a national trend that goes well beyond virtual schooling: teachers’ unions are turning to the courts to fight virtually any deviation from uniformity in public schools.
Unfortunately, this stance not only hinders efforts to provide more customized schooling for needy students, it is also relegating teachers to the sidelines of the national debate about expanding choice in public education.
Virtual charter schools grab headlines, but they are actually relatively minor players. The Center for Education Reform reports that there are 147 online-only charter schools in 18 states, with 65,354 students. In other words, virtual schools make up just 4 percent of the entire public charter school sector. And a third of them can be found in just one state, Ohio.
Still, they are valuable for many students. For example, a student in a rural community with few schooling options who finds the curriculum in her school too limiting might be better served through an online program that allows her to learn at her own pace. So, too, might a ninth grader who finds unbearable the jock-and-popularity culture that still largely prevails in our high schools. And some parents may want to be more involved in their child’s education than is possible in traditional public schools but don’t have the time or resources to do fully independent home schooling.

Andy Smarick has much more on this issue:

The article’s launching point is virtual schools, but there are three basic arguments here. First, the future of public education is more diversity and greater parental choice. Many of us hope this is the case and some of us actually believe it, but for it to be written so matter-of-factly and published on the pages of the old gray lady nearly gave me the vapors.

Legality of teacher bargaining unit questioned

Sandy Cullen:

A behind-the-scenes dispute over whether Madison School Board member Lawrie Kobza should be allowed to vote on the district’s next teachers contract has led to her questioning the legality of the teachers bargaining unit.
That, in turn, has brought charges from Madison Teachers Inc. that Kobza is trying to break up the teachers bargaining unit.
The issue of whether Kobza – whose husband is employed as a high school soccer coach under the MTI teachers contract -should recuse herself from negotiating and voting on the 2007-2009 contract was raised last fall by School Board member and former MTI president Bill Keys.

Owen Robinson has more.

MMSD decides to comply with ethics policy

I sent the following letter to board president Carol Carstensen a few days ago:

In correspondence with MMSD Attorney Clarence Sherrod, I learned that the district and board have not complied with Board Policy 9000A 4, which reads:

Board members, the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, and all employees with District purchasing authority shall (1) file a Statement of Economic Interests with the Legal Counsel of the Board prior to April 30th of each year and (2) file a disclosure form with the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services or her/his designee within 30 days after entering into an employment or independent contractor agreement contemplating annual compensation of $1,000.00 or more.

When I requested copies of the Statements of Economic Interests filed in compliance with 9000A 4, Attorney Sherrod provided . . . copies. I summarized the filings by individual and year in the attached table. As you can see, very few board members or employees filed annually.
Board Policy 9000A provides the following sanctions for failure to comply:

Employees violating this policy or procedure are subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal. Board members who fail to file the required Statement of Economic Interest shall not be paid until such filing is effected.

I request that you, as Board president, direct the MMSD to comply with Board Policy 9000A 4 by April 30th, 2006, and annually thereafter, so that a formal complaint or other action will not be necessary.

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IBM Helping Employees Move into Classrooms

Natalie Gott:

After more than three decades at IBM, Larry Leise and Susan Luerich could be planning a leisurely retirement. Instead, the married couple are headed back to college, with plans to start new careers in retirement as high school science teachers.
“Seeing the proverbial light bulb come on (in a student), there is no better feeling,” said Luerich, 54. “It’s a way to give back.”
And their bosses at IBM Corp. are only too happy to help.
Luerich and Leise, 58, are among the first batch of IBM employees taking the company up on its offer to pay for the college classes needed to leave Big Blue behind for a math or science classroom, where a shortage of qualified teachers concerns a company that thrives on high-tech innovation.

Curated Education Information