Storm Warnings for America’s Public Schools

I came across this article from the Black Commentator written by Paul A. Moore. It is very interesting and I thought I would share it. I agree with much of it, however, some of it I don’t.
I have never been a fan of talking about “The Achievement Gap.” I even argued about this with my campaign team in 2004. I hope to write about this when I get some quality time to collect my thoughts. I personally would rather focus on “Achievement” for our students and less on the “Gap.” Enjoy.

Statewide Advocacy Effort for Gifted and Talented Education


the state Department of Public Instruction to create rules forcing Wisconsin schools to offer uniform programs for gifted and talented students.
State law already requires districts to identify students who qualify as gifted and talented and offer appropriate programming.
But Todd Palmer, a Madison attorney spearheading the parents’ effort, said Thursday schools have pulled resources away from those programs because of ongoing budget problems. The parents filed a petition for rulemaking, a rarely used option to ask the agency to create new rules.

DPI Petition:

My name is Todd Palmer and I am a parent of three students enrolled in Wisconsin public schools.  I am writing to ask for your help on a matter which should not take more than several minutes of your time. 
Specifically, I am asking you to sign a Petition requesting that DPI promulgate rules to govern public school districts in providing access to appropriate and uniform programs for pupils identified as gifted and/or talented.  This Petition was filed with DPI on November 29, 2005 under the signatures of several parents and educators.  However, this effort could use additional support from you.  This would involve a minimal effort on your part, but has the potential to greatly benefit your children and/or students. 

Continue reading Statewide Advocacy Effort for Gifted and Talented Education

Carol Carstensen on West’s Planned English 10 Single Curriculum for All

Thank you for your email. I have been following the discussion on the proposed changes to English 10 at West. I know that there have been various conversations between West High staff and parents and downtown administrators. I believe that a number of the concerns raised by parents are being given serious consideration. I really think you need to allow some time here.
I do see a broader policy issue of the question of heterogeneous grouping. Since this is really in the area of the Performance and Achievement Committee, I will talk with Shwaw Vang about having a meeting on this topic. Given the current schedule of Board meetings it looks as if January is the earliest we can have a meeting on this.
It is important to remember that the Board’s role is to set policy not to get involved in curriculum decisions. Just to remind you of some of the pitfalls of having politicians make curriculum decisions: there is the national controversy over the teaching of evolution and the example of the Dover PA board; there is also the current push to require the use of abstinence only programs; and lastly various attempts to censor what books are used in classrooms.
P.S. If you decide to forward or post this, please use the entire response.
At 08:32 AM 12/2/2005 -0600, you wrote:
Dear Carol,
I am writing to request that you put a discussion of the plans for English 10 at West HS (and the question of whether or not West’s English 9 course has been appropriately evaluated, and whether or not the results of any evaluation support the implementation of English 10) on the agenda of a BOE meeting as soon as possible.
I believe it is time for the BOE to step in and take seriously its responsibility to students by insisting that the West administration make a sound, empirically-based decision.
Many thanks,

Letters to the Editor: The Prodigy Puzzle

Letters to the NY Times Magazine regarding “The Prodigy Puzzle“:

It is easier to be a genius when you don’t have to pay the rent. We live in a world that values dependability over brilliance and where jobs that reward curiosity may not support a family. The time to explore and take bold risks is a luxury few of us, genius or not, can afford once we leave school. Measuring programs for gifted children by the success of their adult graduates overlooks the significant hurdles that lie just after graduation.
Kate Wing
San Francisco
I have found that there is often an inverse relationship between what I perceive to be a genuinely innovative thinker in my third-grade classroom and the attitude of the parents. The most intellectually curious and imaginative problem solvers have parents who are supportive of rather than ambitious for their child. And each year I am struck by how some of the most perceptive children come from families whose parents have no time to advocate for them and no “gifted” agenda to pursue.
Barbara Yost Williams
Madison, Wis.

Much more.

06 – 07 Budget Positioning: HR and Business Services Presentation to the Madison School Board

The Madison School Board heard presentations this past Monday from The District’s HR Director, Bob Nadler and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Roger Price. Both described the functions that their organizations provide to the District.

Bob Nadler’s Presentation: Video
Roger Price’s Presentation: Video

The District’s Budget increases annually ($329M this year for 24,490 students). The arguments begin over how that increase is spent. Ideally, the District’s curriculum strategy should drive the budget. Second, perhaps it would be useful to apply the same % increase to all budgets, leading to a balanced budget, within the revenue caps. Savings can be directed so that the Board can apply their strategy to the budget by elminating, reducing or growing programs. In all cases, the children should come first. It is possible to operate this way, as Loehrke notes below.
Learn more about the budget, including extensive historical data.
Steve Loehrke, President of the Weywauga-Fremont School District speaks to budget, governance and leadership issues in these two articles:

Excellent data from MMSD on Read 180

Who would believe that I’d call any MMSD data excellent?
It’s true!
But first, the critical point: I respectfully urge the board of education to approve funding in the next budget to expand Read 180 to West as part of West’s English 9 and English 10. Read 180 would help those students who cannot read well enough to succeed in those courses, as well as all other West courses.
Now the background.
After I asked and asked for data on the costs of various programs, the MMSD finally posted (without any fanfare) useful figures on the cost of Read 180, a successful program used in Wisconsin and across the nation to teach reading to adolescents.
The MMSD praised Read 180, but the superintendent said the district had no funds to expand the program.
Now we see that the computer-based Read 180 curriculum costs about $40,000 per school for hardware and software, according to the MMSD figures.
Read 180 could address the lack of any current proposal for instruction for poor readers in English 9 and 10.
With real numbers about costs, the board of education can now decide whether it’s willing to find $40,000 in the next budget to round out West’s English curriculum. Once low-skilled readers can actually read at grade level, core English might begin to make sense. But not until all the students can read at grade level.

The New White Flight?

Lita Johnson quotes Leonard Pitts:

Consider the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal study released last month. It found that, despite some improvement, American kids remain academically underwhelming. Only 31 percent of fourth-graders, for instance, were rated ”proficient” or better in reading. Just 30 percent of eighth-graders managed to hit that mark in math.
In recent years, I’ve taught writing at an elite public high school and three universities. I’ve been appalled at how often I’ve encountered students who could not put a sentence together and had no conception of grammar and punctuation. They tell me I’m a tough grader, and the funny thing is, I think of myself as a soft touch. ”I’ve always gotten A’s before,” sniffed one girl to whom I thought I was being generous in awarding a C-plus.
It occurs to me that this is the fruit of our dumbing down education in the name of ”self-esteem.” This is what we get for making the work easier instead of demanding the students work harder — and the parents be more involved.
So this new white flight is less a surprise than a fresh disappointment. And I’ve got news for those white parents:
They should be running in the opposite direction.

Charlotte’s Top’s NAEP Urban School Tests

Robert Tomsho:

A reform effort launched by Charlotte-Mecklenburg in the late 1990s focused on shifting more district funds to low-performing schools from schools that were doing better — a move that has lately created some backlash. The district also reduced class sizes in those schools and offered to pay graduate-school tuition for teachers who agreed to work in those schools for at least two years. The district also required all of its elementary schools to adhere to a strict, phonics-based reading program.
And it brought more learning-disabled students back into mainstream classrooms and paired up teachers who had been teaching them separately. Now, “you have a great combination of teachers who are very, very versed in reading and teachers who are very, very versed in additional learning strategies,” says Frances Haithcock, the district’s interim superintendent.

Debating the Future of Education Reform

Reason Magazine:

Fifty years after Milton Friedman first proposed the idea of education vouchers, school choice proposals come in all shapes and sizes. We asked a dozen experts what reforms they think are most necessary and promising to improve American education. We also asked them to identify the biggest obstacles to positive change. Here are their answers. Comments should be sent to

Via Joanne Jacobs who has more on Math Curriculum in China.

West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!

Here is a synopsis of the English 10 situation at West HS.
Currently — having failed to receive any reply from BOE Performance and Achievement Committee Chair Shwaw Vang to our request that he investigate this matter and provide an opportunity for public discussion — we are trying to get BOE President Carol Carstensen to put a discussion of the English 10 proposal (and the apparent lack of data supporting its implementation) on the agenda for a BOE meeting.  Aside from the fact that there is serious doubt that the course, as proposed, will meet the educational needs of the high and low end students, it is clear we are witnessing yet another example of school officials making radical curricular changes without empirical evidence that they will work and without open, honest and respectful dialogue with the community.
As the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!”

Continue reading West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!

They’re off and running: Three new faces seek seats on Madison’s school board

This week is the official start of the spring campaign season, and three local parents are launching bids for Madison’s board of education.
Arlene Silveira, 47, the president of Cherokee middle school’s parent-teacher organization, and Maya Cole, 42, an active member of the parent-teacher group at Franklin-Randall, are seeking the open seat being vacated by Bill Keys. Both say they’ll circulate nomination papers starting Dec. 1, the first day the law allows.
And, in the race generating the most buzz, Lucy Mathiak is seeking the seat now held by Juan Jose Lopez. The most aggressive of the three candidates, Mathiak could significantly alter the makeup of the board.
“People are disgusted and worried about our schools,” says Mathiak, 50. “People are tired of speeches. They want action, and they’re not seeing it.”
Lopez hasn’t decided whether to seek a fourth three-year term, but says he’s “leaning toward running.” He adds, “There are two things I love most. The first one is working with kids and the second is working on the school board.”
By Jason Shepard, “Talking out of school” from Isthmus, December 2,2005

Continue reading They’re off and running: Three new faces seek seats on Madison’s school board

This is Not Your Grandchild’s Madison School District

While viewing the MMSD web site I came across some data called District data profile that suprised me, and answered some of my questions concerning low income disparity. While sitting on the task force, I have been bothered by the districts solution for dealing with high numbers of low income students by rearranging school boundaries and/or paring schools, and wondered if you really solved the disparity issue or if you shifted the issue to another school or something that would have to be solved at another time.
Madison school district low income percentages per 1991 – 2005.

East High 2005 – 2010 Elementary Projections (click to view a larger version) Memorial/West 2005 – 2010 Elementary Projections (click to view a larger version)

In 13 years, 1992 to 2005, MMSD low income percentage has gone from 24.6% to 42%.

  1. Has the definition of low income changed during this time period?
  2. Has the community as a whole really changed this much in 13 years?
    As a community member that hears and believes there is no low income housing, where do these people live if 42% of our community is now low income?

  3. We have lost 1000 elementary students in the same time period and doubled our minority students. Is this a wave of low births or are we losing students?

Middle School totals

  • In 1991 there were 4776 students with a 20.3% low income.
  • In 2005 there are 5297 students with a 38.6% low income.

High School totals

  • In 1991 there were 6435 students with a 12% low income.
  • In 2005 there are 8429 students with a 28% low income.

The question about pairing two schools and whether it improves low income percentage numbers over time was also in the data.

  • Lincoln in 1991 was at 51% low income, 1997 59%, and 2005 69%.
  • Midvale in 1991 was 42% low income, and 2005 it is at 64%.

It does not seem to have improved the high percentage of low income numbers.

Wright Middle School Charter Renewal – Leopold?

I’ve attended a couple of the East / West Task Force Meetings (props to the many volunteers, administrators and board members who’ve spent countless hours on this) and believe that Wright Middle School’s facilities should be part of the discussion, given its proximity to Leopold Elementary (2.2 miles [map], while Thoreau is 2.8 miles away [map])
Carol Carstensen’s weekly message (posted below) mentions that Wright’s Charter is on the Board’s Agenda Monday Night. Perhaps this might be a useful time to consider this question? Carol’s message appears below:

Continue reading Wright Middle School Charter Renewal – Leopold?

From Private School to a Differentiated Public School

Reader Helen Hartman emailed this article: Michael Winerip:

SARAH JACOBS’ son Jed, 9, has a learning disability. He’s easily distracted and, if asked to do too many things at once, panics. At his former school, a private academy that cost $20,000 a year, his mother says Jed got into trouble daily (“kicking and even some biting”) and stopped learning. “He was reading ‘Captain Underpants’ in kindergarten and he was in third grade and still reading ‘Captain Underpants,'” she says.
So in September she switched him to a nearby public school, P.S. 75 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Jed was a new boy. His fourth grade had two full-time teachers and the class was so well-organized, Jed moved smoothly from one task to the next. When Ms. Jacobs asked how he liked it, Jed said he thought his teachers must have a disability too, because they made it so easy to understand the work.

Not much new in MMSD report on worker’s comp

Juan Lopez, chair of the Board of Education Committee on Human Resources, released a report on the MMSD’s worker’s compensation experience after a critical story on Madison’s WKOW-TV.
The new MMSD report seems only to repeat the information contained in the TV report.
Roger Price, assistant superintendent and author of the report, offered this conclusion, without directly responding to any of the issues raised in the TV station’s story:

Great steps have been taken over the last few years to improve MMSD’s worker’s compensation reporting and claims (loss) experience. This has resulted in a significant drop in our experience mod and subsequently in our premiums. We have also realized adjustments in each of the last two years as a result of a positive loss experience. However, some of these improvements will be difficult to sustain with the limited staff assigned to Risk Management.
Work is underway to create a Safety Committee that could fill part of the void left by the reduction in staff.

Primary Reading Set for Overhaul


The government has accepted a review which backs the greater use of a method called synthetic phonics.
Children are taught the sounds of letters and combinations of letters before they move onto books rather than reading simple books from the start.
Critics say the approach could stop pupils from getting a love of reading.
The review was carried out by Jim Rose, a former director of inspections at England’s schools’ inspectorate, Ofsted.

Parents Get a Bigger Say in Education – Maryland

Nick Anderson:

“The time is ripe in Maryland, and nationally, for parent involvement to be seen as the critical element that it is, not as an add-on,” Grasmick said in a recent letter to education reporters.
Grasmick said the state also would begin to consider family involvement when it gives awards to principals, teachers and schools. And she said the department would redesign its Web site, , to make it more friendly to parents.
How parents affect the educational equation is a subject of debate. Some experts say rigorous academic programs and a quality teaching force are more important.

Soft Drink Sales Down in US Schools?


the American Beverage Association sounds almost proud when it declares in a report being released Thursday that the amount of non-diet soft drinks sold in the nation’s schools dropped more than 24 percent between 2002 and 2004.
The trade group’s report is an effort to deflate threats of a lawsuit against soft drink companies, which face mounting pressure as childhood obesity concerns have led schools to remove sodas.
During the same two-year period, the amount of sports drinks sold grew nearly 70 percent, bottled water 23 percent, diet soda 22 percent and fruit juice 15 percent, according to the report, which is based on data from beverage bottling companies.
Regular soda is still the leader within schools, accounting for 45 percent of beverages sold there this year. But that’s down from 57 percent three years earlier, the industry said, citing additional numbers based on 2002-2005 data.

Paying Children for Performance

NY Post:

Under the pilot, a national testing firm will devise a series of reading and math exams to be given to students at intervals throughout the school year.
Students will earn the cash equivalent to a quarter of their total score — $20 for scoring 80 percent, for instance — and an additional monetary reward for improving their grades on subsequent tests….
Levin said details about the number of exams, what grades would be tested, funding for the initiative — which would be paid for with private donations — and how the cash will be distributed are still being hammered out….
“There are people who are worried about giving kids extra incentives for something that they should intrinsically be able to do,” Fryer said. “I understand that, but there is a huge achievement gap in this country, and we have to be proactive.”

Joy Cardin and Marcy Braun: Nutrition and Schools

Wisconsin Public Radio:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 6:00 AM
What our kids are eat at school can send the wrong message about health and nutrition. So says Joy Cardin’s guest, today after six. Guest: Marcy Braun (“brown”), nutritionist with the UW Health – Pediatric Fitness Clinic. She is a panelist at tonight’s Nutrition and Schools Forum in Madison.

UPDATE: MP3 Audio of this broadcast

Report Proposes Employee Health Insurance Savings through Switch to State Health Care Plan

According to a recent report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the Madison school district could save $2.4M per year by negotiating health insurance coverage for its teachers through the state’s employee health insurance plan, rather than continue with Group Health (HMO) and Wisconsin Physician’s Service plans.
The $100 Million Question: Breaking the Health Insurance Monopoly”.

Letter to Performance and Achievement Committee

The following letter was hand delivered to Shwaw Vang a week ago, and email copies were sent to the Board, Superintendent Rainwater, and Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash. There so far has been no response. A follow up email was sent yesterday to the Performance and Achievement Committee again asking that they look into why the English 9 curriculum has not worked in raising student achievement before allowing West High School to implement changes in the 10th grade English curriculum.
Dear Shwaw,
We are writing to you in your capacity as Chair of the BOE Performance and Achievement Committee to ask that you address a critical situation currently unfolding at West High School.

Continue reading Letter to Performance and Achievement Committee

WSJ: Texas School Finance Lesson

Wall Street Journal Review and Outlook:

The Texas Supreme Court did the expected last week and struck down the statewide property tax for funding public schools. But what was surprising and welcome was the Court’s unanimous ruling that the Texas school system, which spends nearly $10,000 per student, satisfies the funding “adequacy” requirements of the state constitution. Most remarkable of all was the court’s declaration that “more money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students.”
In one of the most notorious cases, in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1980s, a judge issued an edict requiring a $1 billion tax hike to help the failing inner-city schools. This raised expenditures to about $14,000 per student, or double the national average, but test scores continued to decline. Even the judge later admitted that he had blundered.

LA education writer Paul Ciotti wrote in 1998 about the Kansas City Experiment:

In fact, the supposedly straightforward correspondence between student achievement and money spent, which educators had been insisting on for decades, didn’t seem to exist in the KCMSD. At the peak of spending in 1991-92, Kansas City was shelling out over $11,700 per student per year.(123) For the 1996-97 school year, the district’s cost per student was $9,407, an amount larger, on a cost-of-living-adjusted basis, than any of the country’s 280 largest school districts spent.(124) Missouri’s average cost per pupil, in contrast, was about $5,132 (excluding transportation and construction), and the per pupil cost in the Kansas City parochial system was a mere $2,884.(125)
The lack of correspondence between achievement and money was hardly unique to Kansas City. Eric Hanushek, a University of Rochester economist who testified as a witness regarding the relationship between funding and achievement before Judge Clark in January 1997, looked at 400 separate studies of the effects of resources on student achievement. What he found was that a few studies showed that increased spending helped achievement; a few studies showed that increased spending hurt achievement; but most showed that funding increases had no effect one way or the other.(126)
Between 1965 and 1990, said Hanushek, real spending in this country per student in grades K-12 more than doubled (from $2,402 to $5,582 in 1992 dollars), but student achievement either didn’t change or actually fell. And that was true, Hanushek found, in spite of the fact that during the same period class size dropped from 24.1 students per teacher to 17.3, the number of teachers with master’s degrees doubled, and so did the average teacher’s number of years of experience.(127)

More on Ciotti
Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater “implemented the largest court-ordered desegregation settlement in the nation’s history in Kansas City, MoGoogle search | Clusty Search

The Colossal Campus Challenge

Jay Matthews:

As states, school systems and private groups, backed by donations from software magnate Bill Gates, put new emphasis on making high schools smaller, monster campuses such as Robinson increasingly look out of place. Yet many of the educators who run them say big is not always bad and point to an array of unusual opportunities that large schools provide students.
“The fact that our school is so large allows us to offer a wide variety of electives that we may not be able to offer otherwise,” said Shawn Ashley, principal of Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, which has 4,779 students in ninth through 12th grades. Long Beach Poly’s electives include print shop, auto shop, drafting, electronics, six kinds of art, nine science courses and many music choices.

NYT Editorial: A Victory For Education

New York Times Editorial:

A federal judge in Michigan took exactly the right action last week when he dismissed a transparent attempt by the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, to sabotage the No Child Left Behind education act. The ruling validates Congress’s right to require the states to administer tests and improve students’ performance in exchange for federal education aid. Unfortunately, it will not put an end to the ongoing campaign to undermine the law, which seeks to hold teachers and administrators more closely accountable for how their schools perform.

Thoreau Boundary Change Grassroots Work

Erin Weiss and Gina Hodgson (Thoreau PTO) engage in some impressive grassroots work:

November 28, 2005
Dear Thoreau Families, Staff, Teachers and Friends,
Now is the time for you to get involved in the MMSD redistricting process! This Thursday, December 1 at 6:30pm, a Public Forum will be held at Cherokee Middle School. This forum is being sponsored by the Board of Education in conjunction with the District’s Long Range Planning Committee and Redistricting Task Force. Please come to this forum to hear about the progress of the Redistricting Task Force, but more importantly, to share your opinions and ideas.
On the following pages is a brief description of the current Task Force ideas (as of November 28). Please bear with us if all the information presented below is not completely accurate. These ideas are changing rapidly and we are doing our best to summarize them for you with the information that is currently available. Please know that Al Parker, our Thoreau Task Force Representative, has been working hard for Thoreau school at Task Force meetings. He is a strong supporter of our school as it exists today.

Continue reading Thoreau Boundary Change Grassroots Work

Did anyone else read Michael O’Shea in Sunday’s Parade this weekend? Only one state, Illinois, has PE mandatory in K – 12 and 40% of our elementary schools throughout the nation no longer set aside time for recess. See or
Is it me or is there a reason students are heavier, and is there a reason 1/4 of students attending American schools take some form of mood altering medication?
My happy, busy 2nd grade son, who loves school and gets along well with his peers, has been the subject of well meaning teachers requesting an ADHD evaluation. Are we treating kids so they can survive an 8 hour day without activity? Is this in the best interest of our children or to accommodate the “union approved schedule”?
My son has P.E. three times a week and recess for 25 minutes in an 8 hour day 4 days a week. He is 8. I take more breaks from work than he does. We (the nation) really don’t get it. I look at the people I currently know who are successful as adults and not many of them sat still for 8 hours a day without activity, creativity, and pure frustration from adults around them nor were they medicated or prevented from physical activity due to budget cuts and testing. I can include in this list

  • my physician husband, (76 stitches by the time he was 10),
  • my cardiac surgeon brother-in-law, (who was told by teachers over and over he would never succeed because he never sat still as is his the same with his son),
  • my lawyer cousin who was always fighting those in authority (as is his son).

Not one of these adults were medicated as children but everyone of their children have been asked to be evaluated for ADHD. I don’t disapprove of meds to help a real problem and I have seen the devastation of mental illness in my own family but students that love school, and have positive relationships at school, do we do them a disservice by turning to meds first?
We should let them move first then see what happens. I don’t encourage hostile, ill behaved students but are we encouraging growth, creativity within unique students that succeed by eliminating movement? We need to let kids move so they can concentrate.
Let’s keep Madison kids moving so they can think.

Revisit and Evaluate a Strings Change

I know this topic is discussed every year but I want to re-visit the success of the administrative change to 4/5 strings based on budgetary demands versus academic demands.
The 4/5 strings was changed to once a week this year from twice a week last year. The choices the board juggled was no strings in 4/5, twice a week 5th only, or once a week 4/5 strings due to the budget cuts. While I applaud the board for trying to work with the community I would love some feedback on how the once a week 4/5 decision is working at other schools.
For my daughter, and I can only speak for her and a few of her friends, this is what we have experienced………

Continue reading Revisit and Evaluate a Strings Change

We Can Make Health Care Affordable

Wisconsin families and businesses are being priced out of health care coverage. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn things around.
Every day brings new evidence that we are in the middle of a health care crisis.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association released a poll earlier this month that showed 66 percent of Wisconsin residents are worried that health care costs will soon become unaffordable.
By Wisconsin State Senator Judy Robson (D-Beloit), a registered nurse, from, November 21, 2005.

Continue reading We Can Make Health Care Affordable

Milwaukee Schools Superintendent Review Borsuk:

But issues facing MPS, including budget constraints, school closings and a recent decision by an arbitrator on a teacher contract that was widely unpopular among teachers, have subjected Andrekopoulos to increased heat.
The issues have underscored the way the board is frequently divided into two factions, with five members consistently supporting Andrekopoulos and the other four ranging from mild support to general opposition.
On the recent high-profile votes to close Juneau High School, the board repeatedly split 5-4, including six votes of 5-4 in one meeting.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel argues that Andrekopoul should have more time:

The reasons for supporting Andrekopoulos are as clear now as they were in 2004. The superintendent may have the toughest job in Milwaukee. No one in the country, as far as we know, has been completely successful at turning around a big-city school district. But Andrekopoulos has a vision for reform and a plan to make that vision a reality. He was hired to carry out that vision – which includes a move toward smaller high schools and cutting the district’s central bureaucracy – and has had some success in moving it forward. But much more needs to be done.

School Programs Promote Wellness for Life

Karen Matthews:

In a mirror-lined dance studio, teenagers sashay through a number from the musical “Hairspray.” Next door in the weight room, teacher Shawn Scattergood demonstrates proper form on the leg press. At Northport High School on Long Island, physical education also includes yoga, step aerobics and fitness walking, as well as team sports like volleyball and basketball. There are archery targets, soccer fields and a rock-climbing wall where students inscribe their names to show how high they get.
For anyone who grew up when P.E. meant being picked last for softball, it’s a dizzying array of choices.
“What we try and do is give them a real broad offering so that they can choose things they want to do,” said Robert Christenson, the director of physical education. He said the current curriculum has been developed over the last five years.

The Golden Carrot

CBS News:

At Seven Hills Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hartman finds a cafeteria renowned for its great-tasting, healthy school lunches.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine awarded the cafeteria for overhauling the way they prepare food. Translation: they tossed out the deep fryer.
One worker was asked how the foods are fried and replied, “We don’t fry. We bake.”
And you know what that means: the food has less fat, of course, and there’s less salt and sugar, and everything’s cooked from scratch using organic meats, vegetables and whole grains.
“Some of the things we have here, I can’t even pronounce,” says one kitchen worker.

Rafael Gomez and volunteers from are hosting a Nutrition and Schools Forum Wednesday night, from 7 to 8 in the McDaniels Auditorium. Participants, topics and directions are available here.

Cars for Coursework

Toni Randolph:

Newgate is a nonprofit organization that is completely self-supporting. It costs about $900,000 a year to run the program. Newgate gets all of its revenue from the sale of cars on which the students train. They buy some of the vehicles, and the rest are donated.
Instead of a traditional classroom, the students learn in the shop doing actual repair work. The students here don’t take English and math classes, but they start with the basics of engine repair, then cleaning a car. Eventually, they start knocking out dents and dings, working their way up to more complex auto body work.
Newgate’s been around for more than 25 years. More than 400 students have been through the 15-month program. About 20 students are enrolled at any given time.

Students Ace State Tests, but Earn D’s From U.S.

Sam Dillon, New York Times writes:
“After Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math this year, state officials at a jubilant news conference called the results a “cause for celebration.” Eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above the proficiency level.”

The WKCE test taken in Fall 2005 (reported in Spring 2005) shows statewide percent performing at minimal (below basic level) in Grade 4 Reading: 4%; Grade 4 Math: 16%; Grade 8 Reading: 6%; Grade 8 Math: 11%.
The WKCE test results for test taken in Fall 2004 (reported in Spring 2005) shows MMSD percent performing at minimal level in Grade 4 Reading: 5%; Grade 4 Math: 16%; Grade 8 Reading: 3%; Grade 8 Math: 10%.
National Assessment of Educational Progress – Also known as “The Nation’s Report Card” is the only national standardized continuing assessment administered periodically by the US Dept. Of Education in reading, math, science, writing, US history, civics, geography, and the arts to random schools in each state to evaluate national performance of students ages 7, 12, 14, and 17.
The 2005 NAEP results for Grade 4 Reading: 33%; Grade 8 Reading: 23%; Grade 4 Math: 16%; Grade 8 Math: 24%.

Educators, Students, Parents and Blogs

Vauhini Vara:

As parents wring their hands about Internet predators, many teens are worried about a different kind of online intruder: the school principal.
Students are blogging about schoolyard crushes and feuds, posting gossip about classmates on social-networking sites like and, and sharing their party snapshots on public Web pages. Increasingly, their readers include school administrators, who are doling out punishments for online writings that they say cross the line.

Kevin Delaney finds that parents are also watching what their children write online:

The spying started two years ago. Karen Lippe’s daughter told her she was going to a school football game with friends. The next day, Ms. Lippe found out the truth: Her daughter, then 14 years old, had skipped out on the game with a friend, got in the car of a boy Ms. Lippe didn’t know and headed to an ice-cream shop without permission. Ms. Lippe sat her daughter down after dinner to warn her not to let it happen again.
Ms. Lippe, a marketing consultant in Irvine, Calif., didn’t divulge how she had found out. But her daughter figured it out anyway. The daughter’s friend had recounted the transgression on her Web log, or blog, which Ms. Lippe had read online.

Channel 3000 story on School Nurses

The following story aired on Channel 3/9 a few weeks ago and was recently posted on the Channel 3000 web site. This story discusses the impact of cutbacks of in-school staff, in this case school nurses, and reflects a serious issue that affects all of our schools. I urge you to read the extended story, which includes data on the number of students with serious chronic medical conditions in our schools.
When I was growing up, the school nurse was the lady in sturdy shoes and white opaque stockings who administered hearing and vision exams. We avoided her like the plague.
Today’s school nurses are a far cry from what I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. They often are the primary health care providers for students. For students with chronic diseases, trained nurses are the key link between families and schools. In many of our schools, nurses provide gently used clothing – everything from underwear to mittens – for students who come to school without proper clothing, or who need emergency replacement clothing. They serve as de facto counselors for students who visit them with health problems that may come from stress at school or at home.
School Nursing Shortage Affects Madison Students
POSTED: 12:50 pm CST November 22, 2005
UPDATED: 10:30 am CST November 23, 2005
In the Madison School District, up to 700 kids a day need medical attention. But as News 3’s Dawn Stevens reported, sometimes the person taking care of them doesn’t have official medical training.

Continue reading Channel 3000 story on School Nurses

Study Indicates Changes in Global Standing for U.S.

The nation’s 4th graders may not stack up quite so well against their peers around the globe as previously thought, but also may not post as big a drop-off in achievement when they get to high school, a new analysis of international-test comparisons concludes.
The study, conducted by the Washington-based American Institutes for Research and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Urban Institute, looked at two international-assessment comparisons, covering grades 4 and 8 and 15-year-olds. It found that, when compared only with those countries that participate in both studies for all three student groups, the United States ranked in the middle or bottom of each.
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
From Education Week, November 22, 2005

Continue reading Study Indicates Changes in Global Standing for U.S.

Jay Matthews on AP Classes

Jay Matthews:

So after more than two decades of underwhelming scholarly interest in this topic, I am delighted to report a surge of serious AP research, with four new studies in the past year and a fine piece by Andrew Mollison in the latest issue of the quarterly Education Next summing them up [see ]. One study in particular merits attention: “The Relationship Between Advanced Placement and College Graduation,” by Chrys Dougherty, Lynn Mellor and Shuling Jian of the National Center for Educational Accountability.
Almost all the new studies show that students who get a good score on an AP test in high school do better in college than those who get a bad score or don’t take AP. But I am also interested in how those students with bad scores did in college compared with students who did not take AP. Many AP teachers have shown me examples of students who did poorly on the exam but did well in college — in part, they think, because struggling with AP gave them a useful dose of thick-reading-list-and-long-final-exam trauma.

Studying the Achievement Gap: Voices from the Classroom

Audie Cornish:

From the MCAS test to the SAT, test scores have become the de-facto definition for achievement. There is evidence of girls scoring better than boys, or vice versa, or richer students outscoring poorer ones.
One longtime puzzle of the so-called achievement gap has taken center stage — that gap between different races of students. In the past, the issue has rested in the laps of parents, but recent education reforms have pushed it firmly into the arms of teachers.
In the first of a WBUR four-part series examining the achievement gap, Audie Cornish visits one school that is trying to understand the problem and make changes.


Anti-NCLB Lawsuit Fails

Joanne Jacobs:

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit seeking to block No Child Left Behind.

The NEA and school districts in three states had argued that schools should not have to comply with requirements that were not paid for by the federal government.

Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman, based in eastern Michigan, said, “Congress has appropriated significant funding” and has the power to require states to set educational standards in exchange for federal money.

The ruling came as no surprise. However, the teachers’ union says it plans to appeal.

The union got a lot of publicity for the lawsuit, Eduwonk notes. The dismissal won’t get as much ink.

Carol Carstensen’s Message to PTO Presidents

Madison Board of Education President Carol Carstensen:

Subject: Nov. 21 Update
Parent Group Presidents:
The school district has been under revenue caps since 1993 when all school district budgets were frozen and then permitted to increase only by an amount per pupil each year (this year it is $250). That amount approximates a budget increase of 2.5% (the city and county are both struggling with cuts to keep their budgets close to a 4% increase).
Board meetings on Monday, November 21:
The Board looked at a comparison of the school district policy on arresting a child at school and the Police Department’s guidelines there are some significant differences, mostly in the area of informing the parent/guardian before the child is questioned and in making sure the child fully understands his/her rights at the time of questioning. The Board took no action but did ask the administration to continue working with the Police Department to try to bring their procedures more in line with school district policy.

Continue reading Carol Carstensen’s Message to PTO Presidents

Cullen: East / West Taskforce Summary

Sandy Cullen:

task force representing schools on Madison’s East Side has voted not to recommend closing any schools as a means of addressing declining enrollments in some elementary schools.
Instead, task force members are considering several possible recommendations for using available space in underenrolled schools, including moving Madison School & Community Recreation offices and programs from the Hoyt Building at 3802 Regent St., which the district could then sell. Other options include relocating the district’s alternative programs from rented facilities on Brearly Street and reassigning some students from the West or La Follette attendance areas to the East attendance area.
Task force member David Wallner said savings of $300,000 to $500,000 gained by closing a school would be offset by costs to bus students who now walk to school and by the negative impact closings would have on students, families and neighborhoods.
A similar task force addressing crowding in elementary schools in the West and Memorial attendance area has taken building a second school at Leopold Elementary off the table in favor of considering a new school on the far West Side, where large growth from new housing developments is anticipated.

Parents Effect on Achievement

Jay Matthews:

The group surveyed 5,500 teachers and 257 principals at California public elementary schools with large numbers of low-income students. They compared the methods used at each school with the average score on the 200-to-1,000-point API scale, which is based on state test results. The four practices most closely associated with high student performance were putting greater emphasis on student achievement, tightening the curriculum to fit the state academic standards, using student assessments to identify and remove weaknesses in instruction, and assembling certified and experienced teachers and principals with the best educational equipment.
Like the California study’s authors, researchers say that regular parental contact correlates with achievement, even if it is unclear how much. “I’ve published four research reviews on this topic since 1981 . . . and I’m convinced that parent involvement is a key factor in the achievement gap and in improving low achievement,” said Anne T. Henderson, a senior consultant with the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University.

School’s anti-war assignment canceled

A letter-writing campaign by third-graders at Allis Elementary School encouraging an end to the war in Iraq was canceled because it violates School Board policy, district officials said Tuesday.
Julie Fitzpatrick, a member of the 10-teacher team that developed the project for the school’s 90 third-grade students in five classes, said the assignment was intended to demonstrate citizen action, one of the district’s standards in social studies.
By Sandy Cullen, Wisconsin State Journal, 11/23/05

Continue reading School’s anti-war assignment canceled

School Nixes Fundraisers and Raises More


Instead of asking students and parents at Middleton’s Sunset Ridge school to sell candy, magazines or wrapping paper, the school simply asked for a check.
To their surprise, they raised twice as much.
Sunset Ridge 4th graders headed to the capitol Tuesday morning for a tour then it was on to Overture Center for a symphony concert.
The PTA paid for the field trip.
But this year, instead of another product to sell, the PTA simply asked for a donation.
“A lot of time families are consumed with three or four fundraisers per year,” said PTA president Donna Brambough. “A lot of times you’re calling the same people over and over again.”
The donations worked.

11/30/2005 Nutrition and Schools Forum

Rafael Gomez and volunteers from this site are hosting a Forum on Nutrition Wednesday evening, November 30, 2005 from 7 to 8p.m. at the McDaniels Auditorium [Map]. The event will discuss the following questions:

  1. Should schools serve lunch?
  2. What kind of food would be best to serve?
  3. How do students feel about their lunch at school?
  4. If the public feels strongly about improving what is being served in their school, how could they raise the profile of this issue?

Participants include:

Local Gang Prevention Task Force

Bill Novak:

“Larger numbers of young people are joining gangs, including more girls,” Falk said, highlighting information in a new report by the Dane County Youth Prevention Task Force. “We are renewing our efforts to help keep young people from joining gangs.”
Stephen Blue, delinquency services manager and co-chair of the task force, said about 4 percent of the area’s young people, or about 1,400 kids in all, identify themselves as being members of gangs.
“The kids are disenfranchised, not getting support,” Blue said.

Rafael Gomez and volunteers from this site hosted a Gangs and School Violence Forum on September 23, 2005. Audio and Video archives are online here, along with notes from that event.

Bush Administration Grants Leeway on ‘No Child’ Rules

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 22, 2005; A01
The Bush administration has begun to ease some key rules for the controversial No Child Left Behind law, opening the door to a new way to rate schools, granting a few urban systems permission to provide federally subsidized tutoring and allowing certain states more time to meet teacher-quality requirements.
The Education Department’s actions could signal a new phase for school improvement efforts nearly four years after the law’s enactment. Taken together, these actions amount to a major response to critics who have called No Child Left Behind rigid and unworkable. They also help the administration combat efforts to amend the law in Congress.

Continue reading Bush Administration Grants Leeway on ‘No Child’ Rules

Bay View High School Leaders Take to the Streets to Stop Students Playing Hooky

Vikki Ortiz:

A few steps down the sidewalk, the students meet the gaze of assistant principal Jerome Hardt, who looms at the corner with a school security guard. Using sweeping arm motions, Hardt points the teens toward the high school building, ignoring the ones who roll their eyes.

Hardt is there to send students a stern message: Don’t even think about heading into McDonald’s or convenience stores instead of school.

Johnny Winston, Jr. Isthmus Profile

Madison School Board Vice President Johnny Winston, Jr. is profiled in the current Isthmus. I’ll link to the article if and when it is available online.

It might be useful to visit my April, 2004 elections page to take a look at a pre-election video interview with Johnny. Our public schools have no shortage of challenges. I hope that Johnny plays a major role in these transformations.
Article scans: Cover | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Releases 2005-2006 General School Aids Amounts for Districts

November 17, 2005
TO: Members Wisconsin Legislature
FROM: Bob Lang, Director
SUBJECT: 2005-06 General School Aids Amounts for All School Districts
In response to requests from a number of legislators, this office has prepared information [PDF File] on the amount of general school aids to be received by each of the 426 school districts in 2005-06. This memorandum describes the three types of aid funded from the general school aids appropriation and the reductions made to general school aid eligibility related to the Milwaukee and Racine charter school program and the Milwaukee parental choice program. The attachment
provides data on each school district’s membership, equalized value, shared costs and general school aids payment, based on the October 15, 2005, equalization aid estimate prepared by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Full document on-line here.

Which East Side Schools Examined for Closing?

According to the minutes of the November 10 meeting of the East task force:

Task Force members requested information on savings from [closing] specific schools.

Unfortunately, the minutes do not mention the “specific” schools. Can a member of the task force or someone who attended provide the names of those schools?
I also wonder whether the meetings are getting a bit contentious.

Continue reading Which East Side Schools Examined for Closing?

Look to Japan for Better Schools?

Brent Staples:

The United States will become a second-rate economic power unless it can match the educational performance of its rivals abroad and get more of its students to achieve at the highest levels in math, science and literacy. Virtually every politician, business leader and educator understands this, yet the country has no national plan for reaching the goal. To make matters worse, Americans have remained openly hostile to the idea of importing strategies from the countries that are beating the pants off us in the educational arena.
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed four years ago, was supposed to put this problem on the national agenda. Instead, the country has gotten bogged down in a squabble about a part of the law that requires annual testing in the early grades to ensure that the states are closing the achievement gap. The testing debate heated up last month when national math and reading scores showed dismal performance across the board.
Lurking behind these test scores, however, are two profoundly important and closely intertwined topics that the United States has yet to even approach: how teachers are trained and how they teach what they teach. These issues get a great deal of attention in high-performing systems abroad – especially in Japan, which stands light years ahead of us in international comparisons.

Continue reading Look to Japan for Better Schools?

Where Have All the Students Gone?

Additional Charts: Enrollment Changes, Number of Minority Students | Enrollment Changes, Low Income
MMSD Lost 174 Students While the Surrounding School Districts Increased by 1,462 Students Over Four School Years. Revenue Value of 1,462 Students – $13.16 Million Per Year*
MMSD reports that student population is declining. From the 2000-2001 school year through the 2003-2004 school year, MMSD lost 174 students. Did this happen in the areas surrounding MMSD? No. From the 2000-2001 through the 2003-2004 school year, the increase in non-MMSD public school student enrollment was 1,462 outside MMSD.
The property tax and state general fund revenue value of 174 students is $1.57 million per year in the 2003-2004 MMSD school year dollars (about $9,000 per student). For 1,462 students, the revenue value is $13.16 million per year. Put another way, the value of losing 174 students equals a loss of 26-30 teachers. A net increase of 1,462 students equals nearly 219 teachers. There are more subtleties to these calculations due to the convoluted nature of the revenue cap calculation, federal and state funds for ELL and special education, but the impact of losing students and not gaining any of the increase of students in the area is enormous.

Continue reading Where Have All the Students Gone?

The Prodigy Puzzle

Ann Hulbert:

It is the Davidsons’ other, related aim that calls forth a different kind of fervor. Authors (with Laura Vanderkam) of a book called “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds” (2004), they are on a mission to remedy what they are convinced is a widespread neglect of exceptionally talented children. That means challenging the American myth that they are weirdos or Wunderkinder best left to their own devices or made to march with the crowd. “By denying our most intelligent students an education appropriate to their abilities,” Jan Davidson warns a nation in the midst of a No Child Left Behind crusade, “we may also be denying civilization a giant leap forward.” Precocious children are not only avid learners eager for more than ordinary schools often provide, the Davidsons emphasize; they are also a precious – and imperiled – resource for the future. The Davidsons, joined by many other advocates of the gifted, maintain that it is these precocious children who, if handled right, will be the creative adults propelling the nation ahead in an ever more competitive world. As things stand, the argument goes, the highly gifted child is an endangered species in need of outspoken champions like the Davidsons, who are role models for the “supportive, advocating parent” they endorse.

Jan Davidson recently visited Madison. View her presentation: How to stop wasting our brightest young minds.

Too Much Rigor? “The New White Flight”

Suein Hwang:

By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation’s top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges.
But locally, they’re also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% — this in a town that’s half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.
Whites aren’t quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.
The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.

Governance in the LA Schools & Seniority

LA Times Editorial:

A RECENT STUDY SHOWS HOW union contracts can hamper school improvement — and provides another compelling reason why having L.A.’s mayor run the schools could help.
The study by the nonprofit New Teacher Project found that teacher contracts place seniority over what’s best for students, especially by favoring longtime teachers for desired teaching slots over newer teachers who might be better for the job. That’s true even if the more senior teacher is needed in another school.

To see The New Teacher Project’s latest report, Unintended Consequences: The Case for Reforming The Staffing Rules in Urban Teachers Union Contracts, click here.

The report shows how contractual staffing rules undermine urban schools and the educational needs of their students. To view the press release, click here.
Leading educators, researchers and policy makers have galvanized around the importance of sharing the report’s data and recommendations. To view their statements of support, click here.

Boosters & The Madison School District Budget

Sandy Cullen:

In the last five years, the La Follette High School Booster Club has paid for everything from bats to books.
They’ve raised more than $260,000 to pick up the tab for balls and jerseys, renovations of weight rooms and training rooms and even taxi fare for students who needed transportation to get eyeglasses, said Deb Slotten, president of the La Follette club.
But Slotten draws the line at paying overtime for a custodian to be at the high school so teams can practice on five days the Madison School District is closed for Thanksgiving and winter break.

And then there are costs the boosters simply don’t want to pay, such as the custodians who, administrators say, are required to be at the schools for practices during holiday breaks for contractual and safety reasons. The district’s contract with AFSCME Local 60 requires custodians – who are paid $16.54 to $25.81 an hour – to be paid double-time in addition to their holiday pay if they have to work on a district holiday, said Human Resources Director Bob Nadler.

District spending goes up annually, while enrollment has remained flat over the years. The debate is largely where the money goes. A great deal of information can be found via these links:

The Teacher in the Grey Flannel Suite

The Economist:

The second argument had to do with the rise of knowledge workers. Mr Drucker argued that the world is moving from an “economy of goods” to an economy of “knowledge”—and from a society dominated by an industrial proletariat to one dominated by brain workers. He insisted that this had profound implications for both managers and politicians. Managers had to stop treating workers like cogs in a huge inhuman machine—the idea at the heart of Frederick Taylor’s stopwatch management—and start treating them as brain workers. In turn, politicians had to realise that knowledge, and hence education, was the single most important resource for any advanced society.
Yet Mr Drucker also thought that this economy had implications for knowledge workers themselves. They had to come to terms with the fact that they were neither “bosses” nor “workers”, but something in between: entrepreneurs who had responsibility for developing their most important resource, brainpower, and who also needed to take more control of their own careers, including their pension plans.

WiFi Ruining College Classes?


theodp writes “Over at Slate, Avi Zenilman has seen the real classroom of the future firsthand: Students use class time to read the Drudge Report, send e-mail, play Legend of Zelda, or update profiles on But not to worry – replace laptops with crumpled notes, and the classroom of the future looks a lot like the classroom of the past.” From the article: “… when Cornell University researchers outfitted classrooms with wireless Internet and monitored students’ browsing habits, they concluded, ‘Longer browsing sessions during class tend to lead to lower grades, but there’s a hint that a greater number of browsing sessions during class may actually lead to higher grades.’ It seems a bit of a stretch to impute a causal relationship, but it’s certainly possible that the kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is also the kind of brain that earns A’s.”

My Open Records Complaint to DA Brian Blanchard

Following up on my 10/12/2005 Open Records request regarding closed discussions (particularly the terms) of the Madison School District’s purchase of land for a new elementary school on the far west side, I recently filed the following open records complaint with District Attorney Brian Blanchard: Background:

Continue reading My Open Records Complaint to DA Brian Blanchard

Four Milwaukee Schools to Close

Doug Hissom:

The Milwaukee School Board voted to close Frederick Douglass and Philipp elementary schools, Webster Middle School and Juneau High School, with under-enrollment the contributing cause. The vote by the board was split along its usual 5-4 ideological leanings.
Closing Juneau High School raised the most questions, since, according to criteria set out by the MPS administration, it shouldn’t have been closed. Juneau, located at 6415 W. Mount Vernon Ave., was not under its enrollment. In fact, Juneau was over the capacity listed in its charter with MPS. The school is a citywide business school and also specializes in dealing with visually impaired students.

Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?

Early in my career, I had to make a paradigm shift. Starting out, I thought my job was to tell people how to eat and I expected that they would eat as they “should”. Now I know that eating is a matter of taste and style and depends, for most people, to a lesser extent on nutrition facts. Although I’d love to be able to control what my clients eat, I have settled with the reality that I can’t even control what my dog eats! I buy Whole Foods dog food…he eats the white bread our neighbors toss on their lawn for the birds.
The point here is that your child’s eating style will be as unique as his appearance. It’s important that kids are provided with regular, fairly balanced meals and can choose what and how much to eat. It’s also important that they eat with others because meals are not just about consuming food. Once kids have meals that provide a framework for eating a variety of foods at predictable times, then the tendency to snack will lessen and cravings for processed foods will fade. Your child’s diet won’t be perfect, but he or she can still be perfectly healthy.

Continue reading Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?

Carol Carstensen’s Email Message to Parent Groups

Carol Carstensen:

Parent Group Presidents:
N.B. The Board’s discussion regarding animals in the classroom has been postponed until January.
Why does the Madison district spend more than the state average per pupil? One part of the answer is that our student enrollment differs significantly from the state average in areas which require more services (and therefore greater costs):

  • Poverty Madison’s rate is 30% greater than the state’s average
  • English Language Learners (ELL): our percentage is more than 300% greater than the state’s
    Special Education the district has a higher percentage (16.8% vs. 12.6%) of students with special education needs – and a significantly higher percentage of high needs students. Of 389 students in the state identified with costs over $30,000 Madison has 109 (nearly 30%).

Continue reading Carol Carstensen’s Email Message to Parent Groups

Educational Reform Movements

“Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms” is a book by Diane Ravitch. On September 11, 2000, the Brookings Institute invited Ravitch for a discussion and public forum. Introductory remarks by Donna Shalala, then Secretary of HHS, and William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, preceded Ravitch’s presentation, and the question/answer session that followed. Here
The basic premise of the book, an in depth study of the history, is that the reforms moved away from traditional rigorous academic standards, into social reform, causing the schools to fail for all kids, and therefore society. She also illustrates the how political labeling such as “liberal” and “conservative”, “reform” and “traditional” have played an important role in school’s failures.
Shalala’s opening remarks should be familiar to those of us who followed her tenure as UW-Madison Chancellor. She emphasizes “we are not fair or honest with American kids about how hard learning is”, citing her view that teacher should learn from coaches, who understand the role that practice, repetition, and small corrections play in achievement and reaching perfection.
Bennet’s remarks are, from my view, the typically political “liberal v conservative” tripe that he is famous for, even as the issue of political labeling in the reform movement has been a contributing factor in educational quality failures.

WKCE Test Problems

Amy Hetzner:

Missing and duplicate pages in test books, answers that were already filled in and other errors with the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations have been reported by school districts from Cudahy to Wausau as the state’s testing period nears its end.
In all, 21 school districts have reported errors in 27 tests handed out to students since Oct. 24, the start of Wisconsin’s five-week testing period for every third- through eighth-grader and high school sophomore enrolled in public school.
A spokeswoman for CTB/McGraw-Hill, which was paid $6.6 million in 2004 to oversee Wisconsin’s testing program, blamed “printer-related problems” that affected test books given to a small number of students in fourth, eighth and 10th grades.
“The main thing to know is that the integrity of the student scores will be ensured,” said Kelley Carpenter, director of public relations for CTB/McGraw-Hill.

MMSD and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County Expand Mentoring Program

The Madison Metropolitan School District and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County are expanding the SOL Mentor Program to Leopold Elementary and Cherokee Middle Schools. The SOL Mentor Program continues to serve Latino, Spanish-speaking students at Frank Allis Elementary and Sennett Middle Schools and aims to match an additional 75 students with adult volunteers in the community over the next three years.

Continue reading MMSD and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County Expand Mentoring Program

Romney Calls for More Tech Innovation

Stan Gibson:

Underlining the challenge, Romney said leaders of one technology firm in Massachusetts anticipated that 90 percent of its skilled labor would be in Asia in 10 years. He also pointed to statistics that show the United States graduating only 4,400 mathematics and science PhDs each year compared with 24,900 math and science PhDs for greater Asia.
“China and India have a population a multiple of ours. They have natural resources. There is no reason they can’t emerge as the superpower. The only way we can preserve that role for ourselves is through innovation. It’s erroneous that we do high-level work here and send low-level work abroad. When our market is no longer the largest market in the world, the idea that we’re going to be innovating and they’re going to be copying is erroneous,” Romney said.In response to the looming crisis, Romney pointed to some specific problems and proposed some remedies.
He said we must close the educational achievement gap between racial groups in the United States. “The education gap is the civil rights issue of our age.” He also said all U.S. students must raise their standing compared with students in other industrialized countries. According to one study, U. S. students rank 25th out of 41 industrial nations. “Fewer and fewer are performing at the top level,” he said.
He suggested paying teachers a $5,000 bonus for teaching Advanced Placement courses, as well as giving the top third of teachers a $5,000 bonus. He also suggested a bonus for teachers that teach in troubled school districts. Romney also favored giving secondary school students laptop computers.

Dane County United Calls for Child Care Funding

More day care funding urged for low-income kids
By Pat Schneider, the Capital Times
November 17, 2005
Every kid deserves a piece of the pie.
That was the message Wednesday, when members of Dane County United joined with the Bright and Early Coalition to put out the message that more public money is needed to support quality child care programs for low-income families.
One half of Madison children enrolled in day care are in city-accredited programs, said Vernon Blackwell, a member of Dane County United, a grass-roots social justice advocacy group.

Continue reading Dane County United Calls for Child Care Funding

History Will Be Made On Friday Night!!!

On Friday November 18th at Madison Ice Arena [map] the Madison Metro Lynx invites you to attend their game versus Superior High School at 6:30 p.m. This is the first girls ice game in the history of the Madison Metropolitan School District!
Madison Metro Lynx is a seven school cooperative effort of the MMSD with Madison Memorial serving as lead school. Skaters also attend Middleton, Waunakee and Monona Grove.
For these girls and many other younger female hockey players in Dane County, this sport will provide an additional meaningful opportunity as they progress through their high school years.
We hope to see you as the Madison Metro Lynx play in their first game in their inaugural season.

MMSD Budget Mystery #4: Body Count or 1-2-3 FTE

All right, gice and galz. I been called in. Sam Spade, that is. No more pussyfootin’ around like that little Nancy Drew kinda mystery ya been seein’. Dis is a tough one. Ain’t none of ya gonna’ figur it out. But I’m here ta make ya try.
When da Board of Education passed the MMSD buget on the first go round, that is, da balanced budget, da buget supposedly had 3781.23 FTEs (that’s full time equivalent postions, for you beginners), compared to da 04-05 school year which supposedly had 3880.86 FTEs, and compared to da “same service” budget which supposedly had 3914.86 FTEs. Ya followin’ me?
When da same said Board of Education passed da final buget, how many of dem so-called FTEs did it approve?
Ta give ya a hint, click here ta see a chart that shows some of da FTEs, but it’s got lots of blanks, and I don’t mean blanks in my .38. That’s fully loaded.
The winnin’ PI is da one can fill in da most blanks based on da MMSD buget documents.
Knock yerselfs out!

Gates Foundation Looks at Results

Joanne Jacobs:

After investing $1 billion in small high schools, the Gates Foundation has learned results are “mixed,” according to a study commissioned by the foundation. The study found progress in reading and language arts, but not in math.

Among the most disheartening findings of that analysis — and one the researchers said also applied to comparison schools in their study that do not receive Gates support — was the lack of rigor in teacher assignments and student work, especially in math.

“[W]e concluded that the quality of student work in all of the schools we studied is alarmingly low,” the evaluation says. “This is not surprising, however, because students cannot demonstrate high-quality work if they have not been given assignments that require deep understanding” and higher-order thinking skills.

Education director Tom Vander Ark said the Gates Foundation already is working on the problems cited in the study, emphasizing “districtwide measures intended to improve the quality of curriculum and instruction, as well as an emphasis on using proven school models.”

New schools had better results than existing schools that had been redesigned.

Bus Battle Brewing at LaFollette

Angela Bettis:

Students and teachers at LaFollette High School are fighting for equal bus service.
They’ll take their argument to the city council Tuesday.
Limited bus service from Lafollette on the east side to students’ homes on the south side of the city is creating problems academically.
Students say they are not able to go to the same after school activities as kids at other schools because of the ongoing transportation problem.
Andres Garcia runs an after school Latino Club, but has been having problems getting students in the door.
“Because of the bus problems, no one was actually able to stay,” he said.
Teachers have said students who need more help learning English are missing out.
“We have academics that meet after school and clubs,” said science teacher Lisa Endicott. “Some of those things we can’t get the kids home for academics is the thing that hurts the most.”

West / Memorial Forum Audio/Video Archive (11/15/2005 @ Leopold)

Watch this event (about 90 minutes) or Listen (mp3 audio)

A public forum was held to update the community on plans to address overcrowding in the West-Memorial attendance area at Leopold Elementary School Tuesday evening. Troy reports 150 people attended (in the comments, take a look at the video clip for details), rather decent, given some other events I’ve participated in – much more than my quick estimate of 40, which was wrong. [Editor: gotta love the quick feedback loop. Anyone else have a count? :)] In any event, substantive questions were discussed and raised.

A number of ideas were shared along with quite a few public comments. I’ve summarized a few below (from my notes) (there were many more – have a look at the video):

  • Why does Van Hise Elementary have such a small low income population relative to other schools?
  • What data supports the creation of “paired schools” from a student achievement perspective?
  • Why are we considering busing children all the way to Marquette / Lapham [map]?
  • (this comment was made after the official event closed) Why won’t the MMSD build a school (farther south) in Fitchburg?
  • I asked: “Why were no scenarios / ideas presented vis a vis the nearby [map] Wright Middle School Facility?”

This 3 page pdf Forum / idea summary was sent to all Thoreau parents Tuesday. UPDATE: Arlene Silveira mentions, via email, that she thought about 120 attended.

Beaverton School Board Rejects Regional Income Tax

OPB News:

A proposed regional tax to fund metro-area schools next year is dead.
The responsible party is the Beaverton school board, whose members voted unanimously last night to reject the plan. Rob Manning reports.
The vote was seven to zero. Eight to zero, if you count retired board member, Mike Leopold.
Mike Leopold: We don’t want to let our local control away, let slip away, by joining with the other school districts to initiate a regional income tax.

Grant to Increase AP Classes

Matt Pommer:

Madison will build on Project Excel, a program started last year to identify promising eighth-graders and provide assistance as they begin their high school years. Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash said the grant focuses on helping those students in the ninth grade.
Memorial High School now has a large number of advanced placement courses, and the district will focus on increasing the advanced placement courses at the other three high schools. Advanced placement courses often provide college credits, and that’s important in an era of high tuitions, Nash said.
“Advanced placement courses are wonderful opportunities for students to be challenged,” she said.
The eight rural districts, all in southwestern Wisconsin, will expand their opportunities through distance learning, aided by the University of Wisconsin and the Cooperative Educational Service Agency in Tomahawk.

Board of Education in No Rush to Explore Health Insurance Savings

Last June, the Madison Board of Education ratified the 2005-07 collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc. The agreement commits the district and the teachers union to form a task force to identify potential cost savings from changes in health insurance coverage. If the task force finds savings, the parties may renegotiate the health care provisions. The deadline for this work is February of 2006.
Months ago, both sides named their representatives to the task force. Months ago, the Board’s attorney declared that the task force meetings—–prior to possible renegotiation—–would be public meetings. Five months have passed without a public meeting of the task force. The Human Resources Committee, which has oversight of this process, has not mentioned the topic or called for a report from administration. In fact, the board has received more updates from the administraton about discussions on the future of guinea pigs in classrooms than it has on possible savings in health care costs. Now only a few months remain to collect information on this complex topic, analyze the options and, if possible, renegotiate the health insurance provisions in the two-year agreement.

Continue reading Board of Education in No Rush to Explore Health Insurance Savings

Test Prep Help for Students Who Can’t Afford Kaplan

I’m not sure if this is still the case, but at one time, MMSD offered a college entrance test prep course in an 8-week summer session. But for many reasons, needing to work among them, not all students can take advantage of this opportunity.
What if high school seniors or adult volunteers tutored their younger classmates, especially those who can’t afford the time or the money to take the Kaplan courses? How about a service project where students or adult volunteers offer a weekly review after school or (if student-run,during the lunch hour)?
In a perfect world, everyone would be taking these tests “cold”, but the reality is that a tremendous amount of coaching takes place. Practicing the test format alone is helpful.
ACT test prep for low income students
MIDDLE- and upper-class teenagers get lots of extra help in the college application process. They get personal SAT tutors and SAT prep courses, they get assistance on their résumés and college essays from writing coaches and parents. They have guidance counselors and teachers with time to help.
The poor tend not to be so lucky. They can’t afford tutors or prep courses, and often don’t have parents who’ve been to college to guide them. Their high schools are more likely to be understaffed. North High School here, which is three-quarters black, has two guidance counselors for 1,100 students.
But a nonprofit program started here five years ago, Admission Possible, aims to give 600 poor teenagers a year (average family income of $25,000) the kind of edge that wealthy students routinely enjoy.

Continue reading Test Prep Help for Students Who Can’t Afford Kaplan

Strong, Consistent Middle School Academics

As I listened to the Pam Nash’s (Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools) presentation on the Middle School Redesign to the Performance and Achievement Committee last night, I was thinking of an academic/elective middle school framework applied across the district that would be notable in its rigor and attractiveness to parents and some next steps. Personally, I consider fine arts and foreign language as core subject areas that all students need and benefit from in Grades 6-8.
Have at it and comment with your wish list/ideas, education and support for students, developing a few more options/strategies.
Possible “common” structure in middle school that next year could look like:
6th – math, social studies, language arts, science on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is A/B phys ed and music plus 4 one quarter units).
7th – math, social studies, language arts, science, foreign language on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is a/b phys ed and music plus 4 one quarter units)
8th – math, social studies, language arts, science, foreign language on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is a/b phys ed and music plus 2 half semester units

Continue reading Strong, Consistent Middle School Academics

Student Shoots Classmate with BB Gun

Angela Bettis:

A 13-year-old boy is in police custody after allegedly shooting three fellow middle school students with a BB gun.
The incident happened on a Madison Metro bus Tuesday morning. Now that student could face expulsion. Officers say a Black Hawk Middle School 7th-grader hid a BB gun pistol in his sleeve, brought it on the school bus and shot one student in the chest and two others in the leg. Police say it all happened in the 500 block of Northport Drive.

No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame

You might agree or disagree with poet Sharon Olds on the war in Iraq, but you have to be touched by her description of writing by patients with severe disabilities. Read the full open letter in The Nation.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit–and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person’s unique story and song.

Middleton Schools Seek Answers to Failed Referenda

Ann Marie Ames:

The School Board wants to know why three of four referendum questions failed last month.
Board members on Monday night reviewed draft copies of a survey they intend to send to 400 residents in the Middleton-Cross Plains district.
The survey is one way the board hopes to improve communication between the school district and the community. The district also plans to increase the amount of positive information about district events sent to residents via e-mail.

2M Student System Approved

Matt Pommer:

The $2 million for the student information system will be spread out over six budget years. Assistant Superintendent for Business Roger Price and planning and research director Kurt Kiefer said the system will pay for itself through efficiency and reduced staffing needs.
Parents would begin to see the impact of the new online system in the 2006-2007 school year, Kiefer said. He warned that training and implementation of the new computer software would take time and be “painful” for a period. The system is similar to one already being used in the Middleton-Cross Plains school district.
When it is fully operational, parents will be able to use a computer to see their child’s grades, progress reports, attendance and behavior reports. Students will be able to examine course schedules and register over the new system. Class attendance reporting will be fully computerized with the system.
Board member Ruth Robarts questioned how much parents would be able to use the system to communicate with teachers or to see course assignments. Rainwater said there are labor union contract issues related to what teachers could be required to do in those areas.

Ruth identified a critical issue in the successfull implementation of such a system.

Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School

Here is the full text of SLC Evaluator Bruce King’s recent report on the plan to implement a common English 10 course at West HS.
Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School
The 10th Grade English Course
M.Bruce King, Project Evaluator
2 November 2005
The development and implementation of the common 10th grade English course is a significant initiative for two related reasons. First, the course is central to providing instruction in the core content areas within each of the four small learning communities in grade 10, as outlined in the SLC grant proposal. And second, the course represents a major change from the elective course system for 10th graders that has been in existence at West for many years. Given the importance of this effort, we want to understand what members of the English Department thought of the work to date.

Continue reading Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School

A different student viewpoint of West High

This was forwarded to the West High listserve with the request that it be posted as part of the current discussion about changes at West High.

When I read the anonymous email from a current West freshman who is defined as “talented and gifted,” I could not help but feel that I should write about my own personal experiences. I am in the exact same position as the previous writer (a current freshman at West High, defined as “talented and gifted.”), but I have completely opposite views. My time at West so far has been quite enjoyable. While some of the core freshman classes are indeed rather simple, I do not feel that my assignments are “busy work.” While most classes may be easy, they still teach worthwhile information.

Continue reading A different student viewpoint of West High

New Wisconsin Promise Conference: Closing the Achievement Gap

The 2006 New Wisconsin Promise Conference, Closing the Achievement Gap, will be held at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison on January 11-12, 2006.
The conference will focus on strategies for educators who are looking for help in meeting the progressively higher academic expectations of No Child Left Behind.

Continue reading New Wisconsin Promise Conference: Closing the Achievement Gap

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