Task Force Insight

Dear Board,
While serving as a member on the Long Range Planning Committee for the West/Memorial Task Force I came to a few insights I would like to share.
Our charge was to seek solutions for the over-crowded schools in Memorial and Leopold attendance area as well as address the low income disparity throughout the area.

  • Overcrowding in Memorial – with current data and projected growth to be over 100% capacity in 5 of the elementary schools I believe the only solution to this problem is a new school. With the purchase of the far west land the board must believe this as well. This should be the number one priority of the growth solution for MMSD. There is space at Toki/Orchard Ridge and a few seats at Muir for this attendance area and additions could be made to Falk, or an update and expansion of Orchard Ridge/Toki could be made, but otherwise there is no room without changing programmatically.
  • Leopold overcrowding is much more complicated, as you know. This huge expansive slice of Madison and the entire city of Fitchburg attendance area has somehow become one elementary school. I do not support an addition to this school for many of the same reasons I did not like two schools on the same land. It is lots of seats in one part of town and you create problems for the future. If Shorewood or Crestwood had 1000 seats we would be busing kids from Fitchburg to that school because that’s where the space is. An addition without a new school means a principal, staff and others at this school are functioning like the other 4 – 5 hundred space schools but with double the students, is that fair to the staff of that school? Would you want to be the principal of 800 – 900 students? I would rather have a school in Fitchburg or south of the Beltline off of 14 to help Leopold and the Allis attendance area that currently is sent to the other side of Monona.
    There is space at Midvale/Lincoln, Randall, Shorewood,and there is 110 seats at Hamilton, 94 seats at Wright, and 118 seats at Cherokee. And of course the strange building of Hoyt that must have ghost or something since no one wants to touch it. There is space in West. The move of Leopold to Chavez is wrong minded since it shifts the West area problem to the overcrowded Memorial area.
    The Elephant in the Room throughout the entire Task Force was Midvale/Lincoln and the perceived lack of quality at that school. There is 75 seats at Lincoln and 62 seats at Midvale this year and each time the suggestion was made to shift students from Leopold to M/L it was met with distaste, (except for two apartment buildings of 30 students) as the memo from the Swan Creek neighborhood (see attachment) was an example. That memo, while it outraged me, is a glaring example why we can’t solve Leopold overcrowding (see memo [pdf] from Midvale Parent Jerry Eykholt to the Swan Creek Parents). On the task force Leopold was sent to Chavez, Randall/Franklin, Thoreau over and under M/L, but somehow those 137 seats at M/L seemed too far away. I think the district is failing Midvale/Lincoln.

Continue reading Task Force Insight

Stossel: How the Lack of School Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of A Good Education

John Stossel:

And while many people say, “We need to spend more money on our schools,” there actually isn’t a link between spending and student achievement.
Jay Greene, author of “Education Myths,” points out that “If money were the solution, the problem would already be solved … We’ve doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30 years, and yet schools aren’t better.”
He’s absolutely right. National graduation rates and achievement scores are flat, while spending on education has increased more than 100 percent since 1971. More money hasn’t helped American kids.
Ben Chavis is a former public school principal who now runs an alternative charter school in Oakland, Calif., that spends thousands of dollars less per student than the surrounding public schools. He laughs at the public schools’ complaints about money.

I’m impressed ABC devoted so much effort to education. The article includes full text and video.
Stossel also touches on Kansas City’s effort to turn around (1980’s and 1990’s) by spending more per student than any other district in the country. Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater implemented the largest court-ordered desegregation settlement in the nation’s history in Kansas City, Mo

Swan Creek Residents Organize to Stay at Leopold

Kurt Gutknecht, writing in the Fitchburg Star:

Residents of Swan Creek have launched a spirited campaign against plans to bus students from the area to Midvale/Lincoln elementary schools.
A few days after Christmas, 185 households signed a letter [500K PDF] opposing the plan, which a task force had proposed to address overcrowding at several schools in the western part of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Students from Swan Creek now attend Leopold Elementary School.
The letter was presented at the Jan. 5 meeting of the task force. Another task force is preparing plans for the east side of the district where under enrollment is a greater concern.
According to the letter, said the plan being considered meant the “subdivision is used selfishly by the Madison school district” to “plug holes in a plan that has very little merit” and contradicts an agreement the district made when it exchanged land with the Oregon School District. During the negotiations prior to the land swap, the Madison district said children from Swan Creek would attend Leopold.
The letter cited behavioral and safety issues associated with long bus rides, the negative effects on parent involvement and neighborhood cohesion, and criticized the attempt to use children from the subdivision to achieve balanced income at the schools.
Prasanna Raman, a member of the task force who presented the letter, said busing students from Swan Creek could be a case of reverse discrimination.

UPDATE: Midvale parent Jerry Eykholt sent this letter [pdf] to the Task Force and Swan Creek residents.

Continue reading Swan Creek Residents Organize to Stay at Leopold

Forum on moving alternative programs to O’Keefe

O’Keeffe and Lapham/Marquette PTGs will host a forum on the Affiliated Alternative Programs at 6:45 p.m. in the all purpose room on Wednesday, January 18. A flyer on the meeting lists the following purposes for the forum:

* Provide an opportunity for O’Keeffe, Lapham/Marquette school community members to ask questions about the proposal to place the Affiliated Alternative Program at the O’Keeffe/Marquette site AND to have an open community forum among ourselves after the Q&A
* Steve Hartley, Director of Alternative Programs, will be presenting information on the Affiliated Alternative Program and its space needs.
* Loren Rathert, Chairman for the East Area Task Force, will answer questions regarding the task force process.

The seven stupid arguments for cutting gifted education

Michael F. Shaughnessy recently interviewed Frances R. Spielhagen about Gifted Ed in the new millennium. Dr. Spielhagen has engaged in both funded and non-funded education research and policy analysis. As an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow in 1991-1992, she explored perspectives of achievement among gifted females, ages 9-26. She continues her work on acceleration policies in mathematics, working in collaboration with Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, of the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dr. Spielhagen has recently spoken out against cuts in gifted education, and has identified “seven stupid arguments” that are offered as explanations for cutting gifted education.
# 1: All children are gifted
#2: It is not fair to offer special services for gifted students.
#3: Gifted students learn on their own.
#4: Gifted programs are elitist.
#5: Gifted programs are racist.
#6: Gifted children are weird.
#7: Why bother? Gifted students pass the state tests.
You can read the entire interview at EducationNews.Org.

Speaking up about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & King Events in Madison

The Madison Times (now owned by former school board member, Ray Allen) recently asked various members of the Madison community to comment on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was honored to do so. These comments can be seen in this weeks issue. I’m also including dates and times of Dr. King events in the City. I hope you and your family are able to attend some of these events.

Continue reading Speaking up about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & King Events in Madison

20/20 Program – Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids

American students fizzle in international comparisons, placing 18th in reading, 22nd in science and 28th in math – behind countries like Poland, Australia and Korea. But why? Are American kids less intelligent? John Stossel looks at the ways the U.S. public education system cheats students out of a quality education in “Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids,” airing this Friday at 9 p.m CST on ABC.

Thursday Morning Links: School Performance

  • Milwaukee’s new School Performance Ratings:

    Andrekopoulos said those studies are showing that students in high value-added programs are decidedly more engaged in actual classroom activity than those in low value-added schools.
    In a recent presentation to the School Board, he said MPS now understands why low-performing schools are that way. “We didn’t know that two years ago,” he said.
    Milwaukee Public Schools has begun listing how individual schools are doing not only on the widely used measure of what percentage of students are proficient or btter in standardizd tests, (attainment), but also with a measure in which the average increase in student scores from year to year in each school is compared with the average for all of MPS (value added).

  • Houston to pay teacher bonuses based on student test scores.

Candidate Forum

Madison United for Academic Excellence will be hosting a Candidates Forum this coming Tuesday, January 17, 2006 to be held at 7:00 p.m. in Room 209 of the Doyle Administration Building.
Come dialogue with the candidates for the Madison School Board about curriculum, academic excellence and related issues. Voice your concerns. Share you views.
You are invited and encouraged to submit questions to the candidates before the forum. Please email them at:

Candidates for Seat 1

Candidates for Seat 2

Our you can send your questions to madison_united@yahoo.com, and we will pass them along to the candidates.
We hope that you can join us on Tuesday night.

Madison a National Leader in Special Education

“Inclusive education” is often mischaracterized as solely about educating students with disabilities in the “least restrictive environment.” Fortunately, inclusive education now means providing a supportive and quality education for all students. It is in this spirit that I want to speak to the accomplishments of our staff in making Madison one of the most inclusive, progressive urban school systems in the country.

Continue reading Madison a National Leader in Special Education

Via Email: What’s at Stake – Investing in Our Children and Our Future

Join West Madison and Middleton Neighbors: Make a Difference in Our Community
Sunday, January 22, 2006, 1:30–3:30 p.m.
Middleton Public Library, 7426 Hubbard Avenue [map]
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Are you concerned about:

  • Reductions in public support for education, health care, housing and food assistance?
  • The growing disparity between the rich and the poor?
  • The long term impact of these trends on children and the future of our society?
  • The need for positive new approaches to address our community’s needs?
  • Do you feel that you don’t have the power to change things?

Continue reading Via Email: What’s at Stake – Investing in Our Children and Our Future

West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at a PTO Meeting

Summary of a West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at the Thoreau PTO:
MMSD Chief of Staff Mary Gulbrandsen participated in a well attended Thoreau PTO meeting recently to discuss the options that the West Attendance Area Task force is currently evaluating. I thought the conversation was quite interesting and have summarized several of the points discussed below:

  • The May, 2005 referenda failed due to poor communication. What will the District due to improve that? There was some additional discussion on this topic regarding whether a referendum could pass.
  • Why don’t the developers (and therefore the homeowners in these new subdivisions) pay for the costs of a new school? Discussion followed that included much larger building permit fees, a referenda question that asked whether the homeowners in these emerging subdivisions should pay for a facility and changes in the way that we fund public education. Some also suggested that people purchased homes in these areas knowing that there was not a school nearby and therefore should not be surprised that a bus ride is required. Mary mentioned her experiences growing up an a farm where a 45 minute bus ride was no big deal. Obviously, there are different perspectives on this – I rode the bus daily for several years.
  • Can’t the District sell some of their buildings (excess schools, Hoyt, Doyle – next to the Kohl Center) to pay for this? That would be a strong statement that might support the passage of a referendum.

Continue reading West Attendance Area Task Force Discussion at a PTO Meeting

Challenging Classes Inspire Students

Edward L. Kenney:

Some students think it’s OK to be average. They know they could do better, but figure why bother?
Besides, it’s not cool to do well in school. Their friends tell them so through classroom put-downs.
Gary Gilmer, 15, a freshman at Mount Pleasant High School, found that out when he signed up for a program the school started this year called Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID. Through AVID, school officials select average students who are making C’s and D’s, but have the potential to do better, and put them in honors and college-prep classes.

“School Choice: A Moral Issue?”

Shay Riley:

I am a staunch advocate for school vouchers, and a recent controversy help reaffirm my support. Residents of Ladera Heights – an affluent, mostly black community in Los Angeles metro – have organized for a territory transfer proposal to leave Inglewood’s school district of not-as-affluent blacks and Hispanics and join Culver City’s mostly white, middle-class school district with higher student achievement (registration required). However, both suburbs oppose the plan, which the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization takes up this month. Ladera Heights should have foreseen opposition by Culver City. That was a not-so-subtle hint by white folks to upscale coloreds (median household income in Ladera Heights: $90,000+); create your own good schools. Whatis even more problematic to me was the response by Inglewood officials, one of whose school board members calls the proposal racist and argues that Ladera Heights residents merely want to raise their property values (which are already higher than that of Culver City). Ahem, Ladera Heights is 70%+ black. Yet Inglewood officials want children to remain in crap schools in order to do social engineering and undermine freedom of association. However, if there was a school voucher option then the parents of Ladera Heights (which is not large enough to form its own district) could tailor a school for its community’s children.

“My Vocation Ed Problem”

Jay Matthews:

What’s the point of high school for the majority of our kids? Even at a school as successful on paper as Cajon, most of the kids I see every day are literally having their time wasted by a curriculum that is at least 80 percent college preparatory. I know that in the last decade the concept of “school-to-work” connections, “career academies” and “smaller learning communities” has been all the rage. But the reality that I’ve seen is that most of these have been pretty ineffectual due to the counter-trend of steadily beefing up college prep curriculum requirements – to the point that virtually all high school students are required to follow a course of study that will qualify them for a four-year college, even though less than half have any mathematical hope of doing so.

Clarification of plans for 9th and 10th grade science at West HS

If you were at the West HS PTSO meeting last night (report to be posted soon for anyone who was unable to attend — the topic was an update on the SLC initiative by SLC Coordiator Heather Lott), then you know that the question of what 9th and 10th grade science will look like next year and thereafter was left somewhat unanswered. I had the following clarifying email exchange with West HS Principal Ed Holmes today:

Continue reading Clarification of plans for 9th and 10th grade science at West HS

First election mailing from Juan Lopez

I received a mailing from Juan Lopez today, and his message struck me as sharply negative toward his opponent and anyone else who makes suggestions about how to improve the district. Here are a few excerpts:

We do not lack for nay-sayers and pessimists who say that the sky is falling and dismiss our accomplishments. . . . We do not lack for special interests during this period of fiscal austerity. . . .
Already my opponents are crafting narrow, negative issues to try to focus the campaign on a few trees while ignoring the beauty of the forest. . . .
I will be vocal during the upcoming campaign in order to counter the distrotions and pessisism that may be put forward during this election. . . .

I respectfully urge Juan to take the high road throughout the rest of the campaign.
Truth in advertising: I’ll be voting for Lucy Mathiak.

The Gap According to Black

Cydny Black:

In high school now, at Madison Memorial, I see this achievement gap more clearly than ever. Where are all the minority students in my advanced placement classes? Or more specifically, where are all the black students? In my advanced classes I can count them on one hand. And of these students, most are from middle to upper class families. Their parents have degrees of some sort, and their parents have pushed education—just as my parents encouraged me.
This leads me to ask, “What happens to all the kids whose parents don’t have degrees and who aren’t pushed to learn?” It seems to me that in a lot of these cases, they get trapped in the system, just like the two boys who fought at my school. And do teachers and administrations really know how to help them? It surprises me that we are taught history, math, science, and English but we are never given answers to some of the more difficult questions. The questions that deal with our society and our lives as young people growing up.
What does all of this mean for the African American youth who are struggling? How will they advance in school, and what’s more, in society?

“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.
When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:
Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved
This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:

  • Grade 5 math scores – 84.2 percentile
  • Male – 55%
  • Low income – 53%
  • Minority – 42%
  • African American – 31%
  • Hispanic – 6%
  • Asian – 5%

Continue reading “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Help Create a Public Charter School of Arts and Technology – in Madison

Are you interested in helping to create a public charter school of arts and technology in Madison?
You’re invited to attend a planning meeting of local parents, educators and others at:
Date: January 18 ( Wednesday )
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Site: MADISON Library – Sequoya Branch
513 South Midvalle Blvd. [map]
Please help to make THE STUDIO SCHOOL a reality within the public school district.

Continue reading Help Create a Public Charter School of Arts and Technology – in Madison

MMSD $100 Community Budget Process – Information Available

Information about MMSD’s Community $100 Budget Process is now available. Community members will have the opportunity to participate in this process on one of three nights (January 24, 25, 26) at one of 11 locations (MMSD middle schools) around Madison.
Through this process, community members will have the opportunity to share their priorities for cutting the budget with the School Board. At each meeting there will be a presentation followed by community input.
The goals of this process are: 1) generate community priorities to use in the formal budget process, 2) provide opportunities for individuals to express budget priorities, 3) demonstrate difficulty in making $6-10 million in cuts, 4) improve understanding of educational implications of budget reductions and 5) develop awareness of size and complexity of operating budget.
Every MMSD resident is invited to participate, but each is limited to participating one time. Length of the sessions will be between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes.

Tuesday Morning Links

  • Urban Colleges Learn to be Good Neighbors:

    As a case study, Penn’s urban renewal effort is probably the most comprehensive — targeting every service and institution that makes a community vibrant. The university restored shuttered houses and offered faculty incentives to move into the neighborhood; invested $7 million to build a public school; brought in a much-needed 35,000-square-foot grocery store and movie theater; and offered the community resources such as hundreds of used Penn computers.
    “We said we teach our students about civic engagement. You can’t do that and not be role models for civic engagement,” said former Penn president Judith Rodin, who was a catalyst in the renewal efforts.

  • Referendum Tactic Calls on Old Friends
  • Earlier is Better, Leaders Say
  • No Child Left Behind: President Bush Visits School that Closed the Gap:

    The president invoked North Glen’s success on the fourth anniversary of the law, at a time when support for his signature education initiative has eroded.
    Despite large increases in federal aid to schools, many congressional Democrats say that overall, the law is underfunded. Some conservatives say the law undermines local authority and gives the federal government too much control over schools. Those concerns have stalled a Bush administration proposal to expand the law’s testing requirement to the nation’s high schools.
    Educational researchers say it is too soon to say whether the law has prompted lasting improvement in student achievement. “Bush is claiming greater success for the act than he can justify,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington research organization that has closely studied the law’s impact. “It is still unclear that the law will be successful in solving the problems in public education.”
    At North Glen, the percentage of black third-graders rated as proficient on the statewide test rose from 32 percent in 2003 to 94 percent in 2005, placing the campus among the top schools in Maryland for black student performance. Black students perform at least as well as whites on several academic measures at the school, whose student population is 42 percent black, 40 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic and 7 percent other ethnic groups.

  • Teens hangout at myspace
  • DC Seeks to Redirect Sales Tax to Schools:

    The chairman of the D.C. Council’s finance committee said yesterday that a proposal to modernize schools should be paid for by dedicating $100 million of city sales tax revenue every year for the next 15 years.

Memorial Students Studying Mandarin

Sandy Cullen:

Memorial High School sophomore Christopher Tate didn’t want to study the “regular” foreign languages such as Spanish or French.
“I wanted to take something new and different,” said Christopher, 15. So, like a growing number of people nationwide, he is learning Mandarin Chinese instead.
“China is poised to become the world’s other superpower,” said Natasha Pierce, who is teaching Mandarin to about 70 students at Memorial, the only Madison school where the language is offered. “We need to be culturally and linguistically competent in Chinese.”
Beginning in 2007, an Advanced Placement exam in Mandarin will be offered, providing students the added incentive of receiving college credit if they pass the test, she said.

This “choice” or elective approach is an interesting contrast to the English elective reductions underway at West.

What Are They Teaching the Teachers?

Joanne Jacobs:

Close the education schools writes George Will in Newsweek:

The surest, quickest way to add quality to primary and secondary education would be addition by subtraction: Close all the schools of education.

Will doesn’t think much of requiring would-be teachers to have the politically correct “disposition” for teaching. “The permeation of ed schools by politics is a consequence of the vacuity of their curricula, he argues, quoting Heather McDonald’s 1998 City Journal article, “Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Teach.”

Today’s teacher-education focus on “professional disposition” is just the latest permutation of what MacDonald calls the education schools’ “immutable dogma,” which she calls “Anything But Knowledge.”

The dogma has been that primary and secondary education is about “self-actualization” or “finding one’s joy” or “social adjustment” or “multicultural sensitivity” or “minority empowerment.” But is never about anything as banal as mere knowledge. It is about “constructing one’s own knowledge” and “contextualizing knowledge,” but never about knowledge of things like biology or history.

Will wants to return to teacher-centered classrooms led by math teachers who know math.

Wisconsin Scores “F” on State Science Standards (Redux)

In my Dec 12, 2005 entry, I described the 2005 Fordham Institute report giving Wisconsin an “F” on its State Science Standards. As I mentioned, then, having a quality state standard is not synonomous with quality implementation. The Fordham report also included comments by the evaluators, disparaging the pedagogical approaches taken by schools.
To make the issue of Standards vs. Implementation more concrete, here is a year 2000 report by Dr. Gerald Bracey comparing Fordham’s prior report with the NAEP and other tests.
His analysis showed that the states scoring highest in the Fordham study ranked at the low end of the scale on NAEP and the international TIMSS study, while the states that the Fordham study ranked “irresponsible” occupied 7 of the top 10 on NAEP-TIMSS.
I briefly reviewed the latest published NAEP Science report (2000) for a similar comparison. The Fordham “A” states of California, New Mexico, and South Carolina scored significantly below the National average; the “A” states of Indiana and New York scored average; and only the “A” states of Massachusetts and Vermont scored as above average. (Wisconsin was not included in the report).
So, now I ask, as I asked and suggested in a previous comment, where is the data and reliable information to make informed decisions? or even to have an informed opinion?

Board of Education Meetings and Agendas, week of January 9

This version includes the address/location of the joint insurance committee meeting on Wednesday.
Also, note that the agenda for the Board-Common Council Liaison meeting on Wed. night is of interest to the two attendance area task forces that are due to report in this month.
1:00 p.m. Madison Metropolitan School District/Madison Teachers Inc.
Joint Insurance Committee
1. Call to Order
2. Options regarding Health Insurance Benefits for Certain Madison School District Employees
3. Adjournment
Madison Teachers Inc.
Large Conference Room
821 Williamson Street
Madison, WI 53703
6:30 p.m. Special Meeting of the Madison School Board and the Memorial
and West Attendance Areas Demographics and Long Range Facility Needs Task
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
7:00 p.m. Common Council/Board of Education Liaison Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated November 16, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. New Developments/Growth in the City of Madison and Implications for
Madison Schools
5. Housing Patterns Impact on Student Enrollments in Madison Schools
6. Madison Schools with Declining Enrollments
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703

The Two Faces of Advance Placement Courses

Tamar Lewin writes in the New York Times January 8, 2006, about Advance Placement Classes – students and parents believe AP classes are important preparation for college, colleges have mixed feelings about students who take AP classes.
“We’ve been put off for quite a while about the idea of teaching to the test, which is what a lot of A.P.’s are,” says Lynn Krahling, guidance director of the Queen Anne’s School in Upper Marlboro, Md. “We’re convinced, as an educational institution, that they’re not as valuable as what we could be offering on our own.
“But,” she says, “I think we’re going to stick with A.P.’s – purely out of fear. Parents are so terrified that if we drop our A.P.’s it would really affect college admissions that I think some of them would jump ship.”

Continue reading The Two Faces of Advance Placement Courses

Florida Vouchers: Separate but Uniform

Joanne Jacobs:

Black Students Lose Again is the headline on John Tierney’s Jan. 7 New York Times column on the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to throw out vouchers for students attending low-performing schools.

Democrats once went to court to desegregate schools. But in Florida they’ve been fighting to kick black students out of integrated schools, and they’ve succeeded, thanks to the Democratic majority on the State Supreme Court.

Most voucher recipients are black students who’ve used the tuition aid to transfer from nearly all-minority schools to integrated private schools that offer a college prep education. Tierney cites Adrian Bushell, who chose a Catholic school that is 24 percent black instead of Miami Edison, a large local high school that’s 94 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic.

His experience is typical. In other places that have tried vouchers, like Milwaukee and Cleveland, studies have shown that voucher recipients tend to move to less segregated schools.

Besides helping Adrian (who’s got a 3.1 average and plans on college), the Florida program has also benefited students in public schools like Miami Edison. Because each voucher is worth less than what the public system spends per student, more money is left for each student in the public system. And studies have repeatedly shown that failing Florida schools facing voucher competition have raised their test scores more than schools not facing the voucher threat.

The court majority ruled the vouchers are unconstitutional because Florida is required to provide a “uniform” system of education.

Fail Exam? You Don’t Graduate

Nanette Asimov:

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell delivered a tough-love message Friday to nearly 50,000 high school seniors still hoping to escape a new requirement that they pass the state’s exit exam to get a diploma in June:
The answer is “no,” he said. There will be no way for this year’s students who fail the test to graduate with their classmates.
His message was a response to demands from critics of the exit exam that he find some alternative to this high-stakes test.
“I have concluded that there is no practical alternative available that would ensure that all students awarded a high school diploma have mastered the subject areas tested by the exam and needed to compete in today’s global economy,” O’Connell said.

Teachers Turning Tech Devices into Learning Tools

Ann Ryman:

High-tech gadgets have become some of the biggest nuisances at schools in recent years, especially right after winter break. But slowly, surely, instead of shunning such devices, some teachers are finding ways to use them in the classroom.
They’re part of a small but growing movement where educators strive to use the language and media of today’s tech- and Web-savvy kids to teach.
Here are three of the most popular new technologies teachers are testing in their classrooms.

Some useful ideas in this story, including teacher training. Stanford is podcasting, among othes.

Carstensen’s “attempt to answer” MMSD Budget Mystery #4: Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen

Let me attempt to answer your questions [about Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen].
First, remember that the budget is an estimate made in April/May of what will be needed in the next school year. Several determinants of the budget are not known until the fall – most importantly, the number of students.

Continue reading Carstensen’s “attempt to answer” MMSD Budget Mystery #4: Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen

Governor Supports Higher Math and Science Graduation Requirements

Preview of Doyle’s State of the State speech from The Wheeler Report, 1/6/06
MERRILL, WI — Gov. Doyle last night endorsed higher math and science requirements for high school graduation during a town hall meeting set up to preview his January 17 State of the State Message to the Legislature.
Doyle focused on education, health care and environmental proposals during the session. “I want to make sure every kid in Wisconsin gets a quality education,” he said, pointing to his vetoes in the current budget to restore twothirds funding for public schools. He said three years of science and three years of math should be required in Wisconsin high schools.

Continue reading Governor Supports Higher Math and Science Graduation Requirements

Art Rainwater’s Monthly Column: Current School Finance System Needs to Change: “Advanced Courses May

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater:

School districts across Wisconsin are preparing to begin the yearly ritual of reducing services to their students. Under the current revenue caps there really is no choice for most of us. For most districts the easy choices were made long ago. After twelve years of revenue caps there are only choices left that harm our children.
At the same time that educational research is showing us more effective ways to ensure that all children learn, inadequate school finance systems are ensuring that we do not have the resources to implement what we know.
Or, the choice this year for some may be the reduction of the advanced courses (emphasis added) that allow our state’s students to be competitive with students globally, thus limiting the availability of the highly educated work force that our state needs to be competitive.

There are many budget posts on this site, including those that discuss health care costs, reading recovery, business services, state funding, local property taxes and a different point of view on school funding. Personally, for many reasons, I don’t see the current situation, modest annual budget growth, changing much. The more we yearn for additional state and federal dollars, the more we become dependent upon the political spaghetti associated with that type of funding. Having said all that, I do agree that the current model is a mess. I just don’t see it getting any better. We simply need to spend our annual $329M in the most effective, productive way possible.
I’m glad that Art is putting his words on the web! I look forward to more such publications.

The Year in Madison Blogs, Circa 2005

Kristian Knutsen:

In Madison, locally-oriented blogging is being led by a number of group efforts focused upon education, taverns, and the overall experience of living in town, complemented by a growing host of political writers. Here’s my thoughts about the growth of blogging in Madison over 2005.
The incontestable leader among Madison blogs over 2005 was School Information System (SIS), the group blog devoted to promoting community discussion about the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, look for School Information System to increase its visibility and activity over the next year.

The Safe Room

These words were written by a middle school special education assistant (SEA) who prefers to remain anonymous:

As adults, we head off to work everyday expecting each day to be similar to the others. Nothing out of the ordinary, just, pretty much, the same old, same old. But one day a difference occurs. A pounding against a wall starts somewhere down the hallway. It gets louder and more frequent. Then, the yelling begins. At first, one considers the possibilities for such commotion and none of them are pleasant. A fight amongst workers? A disgruntled customer or client? The yelling turns to screaming and it unnerves everyone around. The explanation is that there is a problem and to keep on working, to simply ignore the disruption. It eventually stops. The next day and after that, several days a week the same incident happens. The length of the disturbance can last from 10 to 45 minutes. It is obvious that whoever is in this situation is in severe emotional distress. Still, all those working on that same floor are told to ignore it, even if it is making one physically uncomfortable to listen to these episodes.

Continue reading The Safe Room

“the Geezer Wars… have begun?”


In the December 25th Wash. Post Outlook section Stan Hinden discussed the impending retirement of the baby boomers. It’s an enormous issue in terms of the shifting demographic burden.

It also matters for schools. Yet rather than preparing, the spending trajectory of the past thirty years has created an assumption that we can just spend our way to better schools and in any event is unlikely to continue. And, for a couple of reasons especially tax structures and entitlement spending schools are particularly vulnerable if indeed there is a Geezer War.

In today’s Baltimore Sun, Eduwonk writes about some implications for schools as the burden shifts and what to start doing about it — namely addressing the dreaded P-word: Productivity.

MMSD Budget Mystery #4 (Disappearing Library Aids) Prompts Changes

After schoolinfosystem.org reported on inconsistencies in the MMSD’s library aids budgeting and possibly poor management of the funds (also called Common School Funds), the MMSD changed budget and accounting practices in October.
In a communication to MMSD School Library Media Specialists, the MMSD’s library coordinator Mark Lea wrote on October 24, 2005:
“On Wednesday, the Superintendent, Art Rainwater informed the building principals of the steps that the District needed to take to satisfy the requirements of the 2004-05 disbursement of the Common School Fund (CSF). In late April of 2005, the District received $675,055 in categorical aid to compensate us for the purchase of school materials purchased during the 2004-205 school year. In 2004-05, the District expended @$382,000 (sic) school library materials, so we were about $293,000 short of fulfilling our obligation for receipt of the categorical aid. Because we did not spend as much as we received in categorical aid, we are required to expend an additional $293,000 this year, or return the difference to DPI.”

Continue reading MMSD Budget Mystery #4 (Disappearing Library Aids) Prompts Changes

Changing City Puts Choice in New Light

Patrick McIlheran:

But what government can do, he says, is expand opportunities, most classically by education. The Milwaukee Public Schools are trying but are frequently unsuccessful. Of the children who enter its ninth grade, fewer than half make it to 12th grade. The district is trying to change, but a city that makes it onto national TV because of a mob beating needs anyone with bright ideas. And it would be particularly perverse to see those bright ideas, or the willingness of parents to take charge of children’s lives, stymied because of some separate argument about other programs the governor is demanding.

Parting Liberal Waters over No Child Left Behind

Samuel G. Freedman:

He wrote the legal brief that persuaded the Supreme Court in 1958 to order the integration of Little Rock’s public schools, and four decades later, his wavy black hair having long turned into an unruly gray cumulus, he was in court fighting to preserve a desegregation program for the St. Louis region.
In the past several years, though, Mr. Taylor has added a more controversial line to his résumé, as a public advocate for the No Child Left Behind law. From conferences of state legislators to conclaves at education schools, he has defended a statute closely associated with President Bush, parting ways with many of his lifelong allies on the left and bewildering the audiences that would otherwise venerate him.

“Are Teachers Unions Good for Urban Education?”

Shavar Jeffries:

Largely because of these rules, our urban schools better resemble bloated, civil-service bureaucracies than efficient, professional academies of learning.
The problem of union-precipitated bureaucracy is especially acute in urban schools given that union fundraising and organization greatly outstrip the political resources available to urban parents. Given this disparity in political influence, urban-district teachers unions negotiate, disproportionately, with themselves: unions on one side of the table; union-backed school board members, often elected specifically because of union support, on the other.

This is obviously a heated issue all around.

State Superintendent’s PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Citizenship

The 2006 State Superintendent’s PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Citizenship, in conjunction with the Dialogues with Democracy Conference, will be held February 2, 2006 at the Marriott West in Madison. Julie Rodriguez Chavez, granddaughter of late civil rights and farm labor leader, Cesar Chavez, will deliver the keynote presentation.

Continue reading State Superintendent’s PK-16 Institute on Service-Learning and Citizenship

We All Have a Lot to Learn

Fareed Zakaria:

This small event says a lot about global competition. Traveling around Asia for most of the past month, I have been struck by the relentless focus on education. It makes sense. Many of these countries have no natural resources, other than their people; making them smarter is the only path for development. China, as always, appears to be moving fastest.
But one thing puzzles me about these oft-made comparisons. I talked to Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand it better. He’s the minister of Education of Singapore, the country that is No. 1 in the global science and math rankings for schoolchildren. I asked the minister how to explain the fact that even though Singapore’s students do so brilliantly on these tests, when you look at these same students 10 or 20 years later, few of them are worldbeaters anymore. Singapore has few truly top-ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business executives or academics.

Greatest classroom catastrophe in 50 years

The Daily Telegraph reports on the collapse of the most accepted and widely used reading methodology in England and the United States:

The abandonment by teachers of the traditional method of teaching reading, known as phonics, precipitated the greatest educational catastrophe of the past 50 years.
Their steadfast refusal to re-introduce the method, in the face of overwhelming evidence of sharply falling reading standards, represents the greatest educational betrayal of the past 20 years, reducing the life chances of an estimated four million children.
Yesterday’s carefully worded but withering report by Jim Rose (176K PDF), a former chief inspector, accepted instantly and in its entirety by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, should finally draw a line under this shocking example of the profession’s capacity for collective pig-headedness and self-delusion.

Jim Zellmer previously posted a BBC story on the report by Rose.

Private Education in India

Alex Tabarrok:

More than four out of five Indian engineering students attend private colleges, whose potential growth seems limitless. …
Something similar is happening to the Indian school system…Since the early 1990s the percentage of 6-to-14-year-olds attending private school has jumped from less than a tenth to roughly a quarter of the total in that cohort, according to India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research. And this number may be on the low side. James Tooley of the University of Newcastle in Britain has found that in some Indian slums about two-thirds of the children attend private schools, many of which are not officially recognized and so may escape the attention of nationwide surveys.

“Charter School Confidential”

Jay Matthews:

I don’t think there is a more important story in this new year of 2006 than what happens to the country’s growing charter schools.
But no matter what happens to the federal law, we are going to continue to try to improve schools in this country, one way or another. I would prefer to spend my time looking at the most interesting and encouraging efforts to do so, and that means checking on the charter schools — independently run public schools — since they have the most freedom to innovate.

More than a Comment: Gifted Education and Equity

(What follows started out as a comment in response to the 12/27 entry and 1/3 comment on gifted education and equity, but has grown to entry status.)
Here is another relevant link — http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=538. It’s to a page on the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) website. The page is entitled “Why We Should Advocate for Gifted and Talented Students.”
I think it’s important, when speaking about these issues, to know where the education money is going. It’s really quite sobering to learn the truth and should put anyone who feels guilty about advocating for the needs of really bright, academically advanced kids at ease. Remember, the bright kids who suffer the most as a result of the lack of dollars and appropriate curriculum — the ones whose potential remains untapped and undeveloped — are the ones whose parents cannot provide for them when the schools fail to. In addition, as learning continues to be watered down, more and more students will need additional challenge beyond what they receive in the regular classroom — if they are to thrive, that is, rather than just get by. Of course, much of what we are dealing with these days is less a matter of money than it is a matter of attitude.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, gifted programming is mandated in the state of Wisconsin — http://dpi.wi.gov/cal/gifted.html. It’s just not funded (until this year, when fewer than $200,000 were included in the budget for a new gifted and talented consultant at DPI and some AP and middle school programming). Not only that, but for well over a decade there hasn’t been a g/t consultant on the staff of DPI (see last sentence — that will be changing in February). That means no one to oversee the delivery of services to the 51,000 gifted students in Wisconsin and no one to monitor districts’ compliance with the state statutes.
What about the MMSD? Well, the MMSD has been out of compliance with Wisconsin state statutes for gifted education since 1990. (Yes, 1990. That’s not a typo.) It’s “Talented and Gifted Program Plan” was written in 1991. I’m trying to get it posted on the District website.
Anyway, here is the excerpt from the NAGC website:

Continue reading More than a Comment: Gifted Education and Equity

Unsolved MMSD Budget Mystery #5: Mumbo Gumbo in the Kitchen

To cut through the fog, intrepid investigators, the so far unsolved mystery boils down to three questions:
1. Why did the MMSD Food Service budget increase by $246,599 or 3.5% this year compared to the previous year?
2. Why did the MMSD add 10 new food service workers, when the school population (and presumably the number of meals) is in decline?
3. Why did the budget document claim to reduce staffing by “by approximately 2%” when staffing actually increased by 10.9%?

Article from 12/25 Wisconsin State Journal on Successul Job Placement of Student with Disabilities

Here are links to the Wisconsin State Journal article on Dan Spooner that I mentioned in my December 29 post. This portrays just one of a number of students in MMSD who make very successful transitions into adulthood and jobs, thanks to strong cooperatiive efforts between the school district and local employers, with support from Dane County.
These are links to the main story and the sidebar:

“What You’ll Wish You’d Known”

Reader Carla Shedivy suggests that this Paul Graham essay “What You’ll Wish You’d Known” is a must read for high school freshman:

But there are other jobs you can’t learn about, because no one is doing them yet. Most of the work I’ve done in the last ten years didn’t exist when I was in high school. The world changes fast, and the rate at which it changes is itself speeding up. In such a world it’s not a good idea to have fixed plans.
And yet every May, speakers all over the country fire up the Standard Graduation Speech, the theme of which is: don’t give up on your dreams. I know what they mean, but this is a bad way to put it, because it implies you’re supposed to be bound by some plan you made early on. The computer world has a name for this: premature optimization. And it is synonymous with disaster. These speakers would do better to say simply, don’t give up.

Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget

Paying my annual property tax bill recently, I wondered what the effect of Madison’s development growth (some might call it sprawl) has had on overall spending growth and on an individual’s tax burden (note, Madison Schools include Fitchburg, Maple Bluff and Shorewood parcels). I contacted the city assessor’s office and asked how the number of parcels has changed since 1990. Here are the numbers (thanks to Hayley Hart and JoAnn Terasa):

2005: 64976 2004: 62249 2003: 60667 2002: 59090
2001: 58140 2000: 57028 1999: 56006 1998: 54264
1997: 53680 1996: 53152 1995: 52524 1994: 51271
1993: 50938 1992: 49804 1991: 49462 1990: 49069

Some believe that more money will solve the School District’s challenges.

Continue reading Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget

“Why Slave-Era Barriers to Literacy Still Matter”

Brent Staples:

Literate black people were not immune to the mob violence and intensifying racism that greeted all African-Americans after the Civil War. Nevertheless, the ability to read and write gave them a vantage point on their circumstances and protected them from swindlers who regularly stripped illiterate people of land and other assets. For these families, literacy was a form of social capital that could be passed from one generation to the next. By contrast, nonliterate families were disproportionately vulnerable to the Jim Crow policies and social exploitation that often locked them out of the American mainstream for generations on end.

More Money is Not Always the Answer: The New Space Race

Ed Bradley:

Interesting interview with Burt Rutan on his approach to space travel (low cost, efficient) vs. the traditional NASA approach (very expensive).

I found it interesting to listen to Rutan’s young engineer’s discuss the challenges and opportunities in their work. Two related articles worth reading:

The Education process is clearly at a tipping point in terms of conventional vs. new approaches. A teacher friend recently strongly suggested that we need to start from scratch (would that be a 0 based budget?).

2006-2007 MMSD Budget Comments

Jason Shepherd writing in the December 29, 2005 Isthmus:

  • Superintendent Art Rainwater: says the “most frustrating” part of his job is knowing there are ways to boost achievement with more resources, but not being able to allocate them. Instead, the district must each year try to find ways to minimize the hurt.
  • Board member Lawrie Kobza wants the board to review its strategic plan to ensure all students are being challenged with a rigorous curriculum.
  • Carol Carstensen, the current Board President says the “heterogenous” groupings, central to the West controversy (English 10, 1 curriculum for all), will be among the most important curriculum issues for 2006.
  • Ruth Robarts is closely watching an upcoming review of the district’s health insurance plans and pushing to ensure that performance goals for Rainwater include targeted gains for student achievement.
  • Johnny Winston says he’ll continue to seek additional revenue streams, including selling district land.

Read the full article here.

With respect to funding and new programs, the district spends a great deal on the controversial Reading Recovery program. The district also turned down millions in federal funds last year for the Reading First Program. Perhaps there are some opportunities to think differently with respect to curriculum and dollars in the district’s $329M+ budget, which increases annually.

Teacher Barb Williams offers her perspective on the expensive Reading Recovery program and the district’s language curriculum.

Board Candidate Maya Cole offers her thoughts on Transparency and the Budget

Top 10 Links for 2005

www.schoolinfosystem.org’s top 10 links for 2005:

  1. School Climate
  2. Governance/Board Decision Making
  3. Society and Sports
  4. Look Before you Leap: A Good Rule for Public Budget Making?
  5. Budget Financing
  6. Five Year Old Handcuffed in Tantrum
  7. Top 1000 US High Schools
  8. Update on MMSD Hiring a Fine Arts Coordinator
  9. Curriculum-Fine Arts
  10. Student Support
  11. Eugene Parks

Like the Big Ten, I cannot count. I included 11 in this top 10 list 🙂

Happy New Year!

“School Candidates Face Tough Issues”

WSJ Editorial:

Now they need to offer specific ideas for helping the district meet its many difficult challenges, such as:
The projected $6 million to $8 million gap in the 2006-2007 budget. How will the candidates keep educa tion levels high and costs low? What will be their priorities?
Shifting demographics. Many schools on the West and South sides, and some on the East Side, are crowded. Do the candidates agree with a task force’s preliminary options, including expanding Leopold and Chavez elementary schools and constructing a school on the far West Side?

More on the candidates here.

I wonder where these priorities came from?
The WSJ’s editorial is rather light on what I see as the most important issue for the Board: curriculum. The District’s curriculum strategy should drive all decisions, including budget, staffing, schedule, training and technology. It appears that I am not alone in this view as this site’s curriculum links are among the 10 most popular articles for 2005.

New York City’s Big Donors Find New Cause: Public Schools

David M. Herszenhorn writes:
In the context of the system’s regular budget of about $15 billion a year, $311 million might seem insignificant. But the tax dollars come with so many strings that the administration has viewed private money as crucial for research and development and an array of experimental programs.

“You are able to do it without saying this is money that is going to come out of the classroom,” Mr. Klein said in an interview.
So far, the mayor’s and the chancellor’s collections include more than $117 million to start new small schools; nearly $70 million to open an academy for principal training; $41 million for the nonprofit center supporting charter schools; $11.5 million to renovate libraries; $8.3 million to refurbish playgrounds; and $5.7 million to reshape troubled high schools.

New money or old, donors have been enthusiastic enough to write seven- and eight-figure checks. As a result, the school system has been the largest beneficiary in a mayoralty that has reached to the private sector, strategically and aggressively, for all sorts of support.
Donors to the schools, many of whom have been attending black-tie benefits together for years, said the mayor and the chancellor have transformed the way the school system relates to gift-givers, by improving communication and creating a sense of professionalism.
“I come from the business world; I’m used to a world where there is freedom and accountability and that never seemed to exist in the world of public education,” Mr. Reich said.
“The very notion of a dynamic entrepreneur is that they want to make something happen,” he continued, sipping from a demitasse of espresso served by an aide in chef’s whites. “They want to be part of a movement. As mayor he believes in the ideal of these public-private partnerships.”
After becoming chancellor in 2002, Mr. Klein created an Office of Strategic Partnerships and imposed on his wife’s college friend, Caroline Kennedy, to serve as its chief executive. Mr. Klein made the pitch while visiting Ms. Kennedy and her husband, Edwin A. Schlossberg, on Martha’s Vineyard.

Healthy Children, Healthy Planet

For a couple of years now, with the support of Madison Community Foundation, Sustain Dane, a local non-profit organization, has been organizing and facilitating community discussion groups. “Healthy Children, Healthy Planet” is the newest program and is just being launched.
The “Healthy Children, Healthy Planet” is a seven session program designed to create awareness, heighten motivation and support parents, families or anyone who is concerned about the lives of children, and help them understand the pressures and offer antidotes to creating healthy environments for children.

Continue reading Healthy Children, Healthy Planet

Bill Lueder’s 2005 “Cheap Shots” Awards

Bill Lueders:

Most Secretive Public Entity:
Madison Schools
This summer, the school board announced plans to meet in closed session to discuss teacher bennies, until this was deemed improper. In fall, the district suppressed a report that criticized school officials over the stun-gunning of a 14-year-old student on grounds that there was “pending litigation” — which of course means the litigants had certain access. It also cut a secret deal to buy land for a new school on the city’s southwest side, with board members refusing to delay final approval for even one week to allow for public input. What might voters do the next time the schools come seeking more money? Shhh! It’s a secret!


Two timely and useful essays:

  • Paul Graham: Good and Bad Procrastination:

    The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination, because it doesn’t feel like procrastination. You’re “getting things done.” Just the wrong things.
    Any advice about procrastination that concentrates on crossing things off your to-do list is not only incomplete, but positively misleading, if it doesn’t consider the possibility that the to-do list is itself a form of type-B procrastination. In fact, possibility is too weak a word. Nearly everyone’s is. Unless you’re working on the biggest things you could be working on, you’re type-B procrastinating, no matter how much you’re getting done.

  • Richard Hamming: You and Your Research:
    1. What are the most important problems in your field?
    2. Are you working on one of them?
    3. Why not?

AP Courses Gain Ground in High Schools (DC)

Jay Matthews:

The D.C. public school system’s college-level test participation rate increased slightly in 2005, with the largest high school, Wilson, making the greatest gain, according to The Washington Post Challenge Index survey of area schools.
The participation rate for D.C. schools, calculated as the number of college-level tests per graduating senior, went from 0.776 in 2004 to 0.820 in 2005, an increase of almost 6 percent

Raising Expectations in Watts

Lance Izumi:

One place where such heroic work is taking place is the Watts Learning Center (WLC) charter school, one of the most improved charter schools in California.
From 2000 to 2005, the WLC rose from a low test-score ranking to a level near the state’s proficiency target score of 800. The K-5 charter school was able to defy low expectations and accomplish this feat with a student population nearly all African American and low income. In an example of what the President called “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” these two factors are too often considered indicators of educational failure. WLC charter school proved defied that expectation.
Gene Fisher, founder and president of WLC, says that the school’s mission is to create a culture of learning and high expectations for students, parents, faculty and staff. He points out that, “The job of our teachers includes an emphasis on a proven curriculum while also reinforcing these high expectations – a belief that students can and will succeed.”
The school uses the structured phonics-based Open Court reading program. WLC chose Open Court before the Los Angeles Unified School District adopted the same program. Open Court emphasizes continuous review and practice of already learned material. Sandra Fisher, the school’s executive director, says that it is important that the curriculum be structured because so many students lack structure in their lives.


via Joanne

Rationing Milwaukee’s Vouchers

Alan Borsuk:

A rationing plan for enrolling students in more than 120 schools in Milwaukee’s private school voucher program will be imposed for the 2006-’07 school year, the state Department of Public Instruction said Tuesday in a letter to administrators of those schools.
Key advocates for the voucher program said if the rationing is imposed, hundreds, if not thousands, of students in voucher schools would be unable to continue in or to enroll in schools in the program, and substantial damage would be done to some of the schools.

DPI Letter [pdf]

The Graduates: What Happens After Young Disabled Adults Leave School

Jeff Zaslow:

Ms. Stautz can’t walk or talk, but she misses her old school, says her mother, Janice. Every day at High Point, she socialized with classmates and got encouragement from teachers. Now, she spends mornings in bed, “watching lights and colors on TV,” says Janice. Later, her wheelchair is pushed into the living room, where she is switched into a recliner. Ms. Stautz is on a waiting list for a county day-care program, but her family doesn’t know when or if she’ll get in.
“I try to keep her stimulated, but there’s only so much I can do,” says Janice, who recently bought Holly a puppy for company.

Disintegrating District: Los Angeles

Evan George writing in LA Alternative:

But on November 15th, Jefferson saw a new kind of disruption: a march organized by the students and parents of Small Schools Alliance, to protest what they see as indifference to the inadequate learning environment at Jefferson. More than 500 marchers converged on LAUSD headquarters with a petition of 10,000 signatures calling for the district to relinquish control of Jefferson High School and transform it into six independent charter schools to be operated by Green Dot Public Schools, a local, non-profit charter school developer, created by former Democratic party activist—and Rock the Vote founder—Steve Barr.
Green Dot, which currently operates five high schools in the Los Angeles area, has vied for control of Jefferson High School for nearly a year and a half. Charter school critics—and there are many—have long decried Romer’s own association with the Charter School Movement. As reported in this paper back in February of 2003, Romer then supported a contentious bill aimed at resurrecting the controversial Belmont Learning Center as a risky charter school program.
“I think the Left, which I’m a member of, has to pull our heads out of our xxxxx and come up with some solutions, and stop defending failed systems. Especially un-democratic, centralized bureaucracies that are not effective,” says Barr in an interview with L.A. Alternative. “We have no answers for the education issue. Our answer is to give more money to a failed centralized system?”
Here is an eduprediction: One way or another, things are going to change at Jefferson, Barr has let the genie out of the bottle and it’s not going back in. And that is his endgame anyway, improving things. Those parents want fresh ground now that they know it’s out there.
Barr has this old fashioned notion that the public schools are supposed to be a way up the economic ladder a few rungs — for the kids not the adults.

via Eduwonk

Gifted Students and Equity Discussion

Eduwonk posts a variety of responses to Susan Goodkin’s OP-ED on gifted children and No Child Left Behind:

Not surprisingly, with the entire curriculum geared to ensuring that every last child reaches grade-level proficiency, there is precious little attention paid to the many children who master the standards early in the year and are ready to move on to more challenging work. What are these children supposed to do while their teachers struggle to help the lowest-performing students? Rather than acknowledging the need to provide a more advanced curriculum for high-ability children, some schools mask the problem by dishonestly grading students as below proficiency until the final report card, regardless of their actual performance.


As a matter of pure politics, how can you expect to retain public support for a school reform regime that short-changes high-achieving students, whose parents, whether rich or poor, are likely to be more politically engaged and influential than the parents of low-performing students?

Public Not Welcome at MMSD Talks about Future Health Insurance Costs

Last August, MMSD parent KJ Jakobson asked “whether the new joint district-union task force for investigating health insurance costs be a truly collaborative effort to solve a very costly problem? Or will it instead end up being a collusion to maintain the status quo?” Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?
Her question remains an important one. If the task force of representatives of the school district and Madison Teachers , Inc. identifies future cost savings from changes in health insurance providers, the district could save million of dollars per year after 2007. Although the savings would go to higher wages for teachers during the 2005-07 collective bargaining agreement, there would be possible savings for the district budget in future years. The district now pays about $37 M per year for health insurance for its employees.
Unfortunately, the history of the task force to date suggests that Ms. Jakobson’s fears were well-grounded.

Continue reading Public Not Welcome at MMSD Talks about Future Health Insurance Costs

In Middle Class, Signs of Anxiety on School Efforts

The NYTimes examines middle-class unease with changes to curriculum and admission requirements to TAG programs:

“Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers’ union, faulted the administration for using a “Robin Hood” approach. “You have to simultaneously work to help your struggling students in particular schools and keep your middle class – you have to do both these things at the same time,” she said.
“When you do one at the expense of the other, you get the rebellion and revolt you see in District 3,” she said, referring to the Upper West Side, where some parents have complained that their children were suddenly being shut out of admission to top public school programs.
Part of the sense of grievance in the middle class comes from how much energy those parents typically pour into searching for schools and then, once their children are accepted, into working to support the schools. They organize libraries. They donate toilet paper and crayons and cash. And when there’s not enough, they raise funds for more.”

“In Middle Class, Signs of Anxiety on School Efforts”

Susan Saulny:

Some of the very changes that Chancellor Joel I. Klein has made his hallmark – uniform programs in reading and math for most schools; drilling that helped produce citywide gains last spring on standardized tests; changes in rules for admission to programs for the gifted and talented, designed to make them more equitable – have caused unease among that important constituency.
Many parents say, however, that there are extremely limited public school options in the middle school years, and some chafe at how the new rules for gifted programs in the elementary schools and for certain select schools have made competition for admission stiffer.
City officials say that judging by the number of children eligible for free lunch, the class divide in the system remains stable: About 80 percent of the children are poor, with no increase in middle class flight.
Yet Emily Glickman, a consultant who advises parents in the city on winning admission for their children to private schools, said, “The last two years the interest in private schools has exploded, as I see it with people coming to me.”

Why is the MMSD Afraid to Have a General Discussion of Their Mathematics Program?

A year ago the Jefferson PTO planned to have a mathematics night, with a discussion of their math program. I was asked if I would appear and said yes. The Madison Metropolitan School District was asked and they refused to send anyone, saying that they did not want to do this school by school. but district wide. When Mary Ramberg was asked when this would be done, she said they had no plans to do this.
Here is part of the report from 1882 from the State Superintendent about textbooks. At this time changes in textbooks had to be approved by the State Superintendent. The following should be done:

  • 3d. That regard shall be had to the merits of the books, and that if the change is sought to be made in the interests of better books, the superior merits of the books proposed to be introduced shall be stated.
  • 4th. That the change shall not be against the pronounced public opinion of the locality interested.

Why is the MMSD afraid to have a general discussion of their mathematics program?

Fairfax: Rocky End to Schools’ Growth

Maria Glod:

The proposed downsizing of Glasgow — and the anger it has sparked among parents — underscores a dramatic shift in the region’s largest school district, where the rapid student growth of the past decade appears to have come to an abrupt end.
Just four years ago, school officials predicted that there would be more than 171,000 students this year and that the number would continue rising. Now they think the district, the 12th largest nationwide, will max out next school year with 164,725 students.

Pretty Good

A poem by Charles Osgood of CBS News quoted in There Are No Shortcuts, by Rafe Equith
Pretty Good
There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class;
Who was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass–
He wasn’t terrific at reading,
He wasn’t a whizbang at math;
But for him education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.
He didn’t find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well;
And he did have some trouble with writing,
And no one had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine–
5 plus 5 needn’t always add up to be 10
A pretty good answer was 9.
The pretty good class that he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school;
And the student was not the exception,
On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good student, in fact, was
Part of a pretty good mob;
And the first time he knew that he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough–
And he soon had a sneaking suspicion,
And he soon might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state,
Which had pretty good aspirations,
And prayed for a pretty good fate.
There once as a pretty good nation,
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned much to late, if you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

West HS students speek/speak out on English 10

Here are two stories from the December 23, 2005, issue of the West HS student newspaper, The Regent Review. I reprint them here just as they appear in print (that is, with all misspellings, grammatical errors, etc.). (Note: the faculty advisor for The Regent Review is West HS English teacher Mark Nepper. Mr. Nepper has been involved in the development of English 10. Some of you may recall that Mr. Nepper joined English Department chair Keesia Hyzer in presenting the plans for English 10 at the November 7 West PTSO meeting.)
From the front page: “A new English 10 expected for next year,” by CI, a senior at West HS and co-editor of the student newspaper:

In an attempt to bridge the minority gap and continue with the smaller learning communities, Madison West High will tentativly be changing to a core English for all sophomores.
Ed Holmes, current West High principal, says he is doing his best to continue our tradition as a “School of Excellence.” To achieve this ideal excellence, Holmes recognizes that he not only has to raise the standards of the struggling students but also continue to push accelerated students to be better each day.
The goal is to have this new English ciriculum continue to push West’s excellence. The cirriculum will incorporate the current classes of FWW, IWW, With Justice for All, Writers in their Time, and Modern Literture. Now students will read and learn writing habits at the same time so that they can incorporate the new techniques that they are learning into the papers that they write.

Continue reading West HS students speek/speak out on English 10

“Urgency is Needed to Improve our Schools”

Boston Herald Editorial:

It may sound simple, but it helps illustrate the urgent need to change the state’s approach to improving failing schools.
As it stands, the state can deem a school underperforming if students fail to meet minimum standards for two or more years.
Then it’s six months to come up with an improvement plan, another two years to make changes and only then does the state even consider intervening. Meanwhile, another generation spends its most important years in schools that aren’t getting the job done.

West Moves Ahead With English 10 Restructuring

West High School has decided to move ahead with their curriculum reduction plan. The school has posted a document explaining the changes on their website. The one concession that the school has made to parents is their decision not to require students to give up time at lunch in order to earn an honors designation. Instead, there will be an embedded honors component where students will be expected to complete more complex assignments and take more challenging exams. Support for struggling students will now occur in the classroom as well.
From the document:

The staff training necessary for full implementation of the tenth grade English program will include:
• The basics of how to differentiate in the classroom. What is really meant by differentiated instruction? How is it successfully implemented at the high school level?
• Best practice strategies for supporting struggling learners in the heterogeneous classroom.

Vouchers, Charters and Public School Accountability

Eduwonk rounds up a number of interesting comments on Milwaukee’s voucher program, including this:

Update: Concerning public accountability, one reader writes:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m not defending these voucher schools, or any schools that hide from legitimate public oversight. But I’ve spent years now working on projects that required interviews with school personnel, site visits, documentation from the central office, etc., etc. And if you think that refusing to submit to outside evaluation is specifically or even primarily a problem of private/voucher schools, you’re nuts. There’s no stonewaller like the public school stonewaller. Administrative assistants are the worst. And don’t give me all that FERPA xxxx, either; they just don’t want people snooping around.
That’s a fair enough point, it’s not just a voucher school problem (though not every public school stonewalls either).

AP Class Quality Control

Georgina Gustin:

Starting in the 2007-08 school year, any high school that offers an AP class will have to prove it meets certain College Board requirements. Teachers and administrators will have to perform annual self-audits and submit materials, including syllabi, to the College Board.

Via Education Gadfly:

Prestigious universities value the letters AP (i.e., Advanced Placement) on an applicant’s transcript, maintaining that success in AP courses is the best indicator of success in college. But students looking to score points with admissions officers have begun gaming the system. Many enroll in AP courses but never sit for the accompanying AP exam. And high schools—bowing to student pressure for more AP courses—are lowering expectations so that more students can have the coveted letters on their transcripts (see here for more on AP’s expansion).

Stay out of YOUR business!

Public education is public business, that is, your business. However, the administration thinks otherwise, and I was raked over the coals a few days back for saying, “The MMSD’s line certainly tells students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers that we don’t know bleep about education, so we should sit down, shut up, and get out of the way while the administration does what it pleases.”
I further commented, “The issue is MMSD’s ‘corporate culture,’ and how it values the opinions of administrators vs. the rest of us.”
In the draft of the minutes of Performance and Achievement Committee on November 14, 2005, we get a clear restatement of the MMSD’s organizational culture:

The reason that the board and public will not be able begin thinking through the curriculum redesign is that the superintendent invoked a new form of ‘executive privilege’ at last Monday’s meeting. When I asked for information as soon as the committee makes its recommendations, the superintendent successfully argued that no one outside of administration should have access to the recommendations until he decides which recommendations he supports. According to Rainwater, public discussion of the recommendations before he makes his choices would interfere with his discussion with the experts on his staff. Apparently protecting administrative discussion is more important than opening the curriculum-choosing process to public scrutiny and input.

Continue reading Stay out of YOUR business!

School-funding update from Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES)

The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan — a proposal for school-finance reform — is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards.
Washburn joins list of districts in budget distress
Wisconsin schools serve too few breakfasts
Advocates tie education to brighter economic future
More evidence behind pre-school for disadvantaged kids
Arkansas next in line to change school-funding system
School-funding reform calendar

Continue reading School-funding update from Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES)

Report of Committee to Redesign Middle School Curriculum: Top Secret for Now

An administrative report recommending changes the middle school curriculum district-wide that was due in late December is now expected some time in January. Shwaw Vang, chair of the Performance and Achievement Committee of the MMSD school board, held a second meeting on the expected report on December 19. According to minutes of the November meeting on this topic, the December meeting would be an opportunity for Board members to provide feedback or input.
Unfortunately, the Board received no new information about the likely proposal of the committee, although the recommendations will affect most areas of the middle school curriculum, including Fine Arts, Life Skills, Mathematics, Wellness, and World Languages as well as Student Support Services. Among other things, the recommendations will result in equal minutes of instruction across subject areas.

Continue reading Report of Committee to Redesign Middle School Curriculum: Top Secret for Now

Community Invited to Suggest Budget Reductions

Residents of the Madison Metropolitan School District will be given the opportunity in 11 January sessions to make suggestions and set priorities for budget reductions necessary for the 2006-07 school year. The budget reduction exercise uses a $100 budget that reflects the proportionate share for 47 major program areas of the actual MMSD budget.
MMSD Press release, 12/22/05

Continue reading Community Invited to Suggest Budget Reductions

“Mysteries of Testing Solved”

Jay Matthews:

Bracey has been exposing statistics abuse for years. But I have never seen him put together all that he knows as well as he has in this book. It has some of the best explanations of educational numbers manipulation I have ever read, particularly issues like SAT scores, year-to-year school comparisons and argument by graph that are most likely to deceive us innocents. The book has Bracey’s deft prose and sure touch with clarifying examples. I also appreciate the fact he trimmed much of his sharp ideological edge, loved by many of his fans, but not by me. He acknowledges several times that no combatant in the bitter education policy wars has an unquestionable grasp on the truth.

Curated Education Information