College Aid Plan Rates US High School Academic Rigor

Sam Dillon:

The measure, backed by the Bush administration and expected to pass the House when it returns next month, would provide $750 to $1,300 grants to low-income college freshmen and sophomores who have completed “a rigorous secondary school program of study” and larger amounts to juniors and seniors majoring in math, science and other critical fields.
It leaves it to the secretary of education to define rigorous, giving her a new foothold in matters of high school curriculums.
Mindful of the delicate politics at play when Washington expands its educational role into matters zealously guarded as local prerogatives, senior Department of Education officials said they would consult with governors and other groups in determining which high school programs would allow students to qualify for grants.

Administrator and Teacher Contracts – Timing and Position do Seem to Matter

Teachers sign their contracts for the next year usually in March – however, this is not a guarantee of a job for next year. Teachers can still be surplused or laid off from their jobs. The process for this is governed by their MTI contract.
Surplusing teachers effects the school budget the next school year, so there is an “immediate” effect upon the number of teachers, upon the district’s educational resources available for children’s learning and upon the budget’s bottom line. This is different for MMSD personnel on administrative contracts. Administrative contracts are in most cases two-year rolling contracts, except as stated in the Human Resources (HR) policy , so the financial effect of reducing administrative positions that are filled can take up to 18 months to be reflected in the budget. Wouldn’t this reduce the Board’s decisionmaking authority during the budget process and potentially put an additional burden of budget cuts on teachers, psychologists, social workers, custodians, etc.?
Does this mean that administrative employees on a two-year rolling contract have 18 months to retrain/to apply for an open position in MMSD or to find a new job while still keeping their current job and getting paid if their contract is not extended. WI law governs some of the policy in place, but I don’t know how much of MMSD’s policy is required by state law, and I don’t know if state law requires contracts for all administrative personnel.

Continue reading Administrator and Teacher Contracts – Timing and Position do Seem to Matter

Literacy of College Students Finds Some are Graduating with Only Basic Skills

Pew Charitable Trusts:

Twenty percent of U.S. college students completing 4-year degrees – and 30 percent of students earning 2-year degrees – have only basic quantitative literacy skills, meaning they are unable to estimate if their car has enough gasoline to get to the next gas station or calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies, according to a new national survey by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Science Standards Mediocre, Study Finds

Fordham Foundation criticizes focus on ‘discovery learning.’
More than two-thirds of states have science standards that earn a C grade or worse for their quality, in part because they overemphasize “discovery learning,” the idea that students should be encouraged to acquire knowledge through their own investigation and experimentation, a study issued last week concludes.
Too many of those standards—documents that spell out what students are expected to know—also present science in a sprawling, unorganized way that is short of facts and content, according to the report by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
By Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, December 14, 2005

Continue reading Science Standards Mediocre, Study Finds

Thank you, Carol, for posting questions about the future of the Doyle Building

Dear Carol,
You raise several intriquing questions in your recent post on the Doyle Buildin. I look forward to you putting the future use/ownership of the Doyle building on a School Board agenda so that there can be full and public discussion of the costs/benefits, advantages/disadvantages of a full range of proposals from no change to sale. Having read the various memos, I know that I would appreciate a full exploration of factual and verifiable information on what the move would mean.
A meaningful inquiry, with opportunity for respectful dialogue between an informed public – including developers, preservationists, and members of the university community – and an engaged board would go a long way toward vetting the issues related to continued ownership, use as a rental property, or sale.
I am confident that you will post the date when this will be on the board agenda to this and other sites so that we can all stay current with the discussion. Thank you so much for your interest in this intriguing question and for your interest in exploring alternative proposals and new ideas for handling district resources.
Lucy Mathiak

Non-Renewal (or Contract Extension) of MMSD Administrative Contracts is Not About the Value of Administrators’ Roles

Administrators are a vital and integral part of any responsibly operating organization, including MMSD. If I feel that way, why would I would like to see the School Board consider making decisions that would keep options for staff reductions open until later in the budget process? Given that no multi-year strategic, budget or staffing plans are in place, I would like the School Board to discuss what their options are at this time or is the only option moving to one-year contracts for a majority of administrators. I urge the Board to maintain their decision-making flexibility at this time in the annual budget process.
Two years ago, as I was learning more about MMSD’s operations, I came across the end of January date (which is based on WI law, but I don’t know the specifics or how MMSD’s Human Resources applies the policy) to notify administrators of contract extensions for one year or non-renewal (I haven’t found all the definitions). I felt then the school board’s authority to make budgetary decisions was diminished if the passing of this date meant the board was “locked” into multi-year personnel commitments for administrative employees at the start of the budget process.

Continue reading Non-Renewal (or Contract Extension) of MMSD Administrative Contracts is Not About the Value of Administrators’ Roles

Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools School-funding update

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.
Quality Counts grades are mixed for Wisconsin
Waukesha looks at cutting $3 million, 32 positions … and more
Racine looking at yet another referendum
School districts prepare for budget cuts
School-funding reform calendar

Continue reading Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools School-funding update

Budget Obfuscation

There’s been no shortage of budget discussions on this site, particularly attempts to make the process and results transparent (this year, the MMSD is offering a $100 Budget process which focuses on reductions in a budget that grows annually). These questions are not unique to Madison. Reform advocate Winslow Wheeler publishes a useful attempt to help us all understand the actual size of the Defense Department budget. I like their objectives:

The project considers both the fiscal and strategic implications of defense programs and promotes informed oversight of Pentagon activities. The Straus Military Reform Project provides analysis and fosters debate on the uses, strategy, doctrine and forces of the U.S. military and its role in the wider national security structure. It provides a forum for discussion and encourages the free expression of all views.

Locally, an open, easily understood budget process is essential to taxpayer support for public education. obfuscation.

Medicaid Spending Overtakes Education

Kevin Freking:

States now spend more on health care for the poor than they do on elementary and secondary education, a policy group said Thursday in its annual review of efforts to deal with the growing problem of the uninsured.
The states spent 21.9 percent of their revenue on Medicaid in fiscal year 2004. Elementary and second education consumed about 21.5 percent of states’ budgets. Higher education came in at a distant third, 10.5 percent.

Learn more at The report (pdf) is available here.
The previously discussed “Geezer Wars” are clearly underway. This is one of many reasons why I don’t believe we’ll see significant changes to school funding – beyond the current annual moderate increases. In Madison’s case, school spending has increased from $200M in 1994/1995 to $329M in 05/06.

Work Study School Set for 2007

Jay Matthews:

The first private high school in the area to support itself largely through wages earned by students working one day a week for local employers will open in Takoma Park in fall 2007, the Archdiocese of Washington announced yesterday.
Archdiocese officials said the new Cristo Rey school, based on a work-study model first tried in inner-city Chicago 10 years ago, will be its first new archdiocese high school in more than 55 years. It will open on the site of Our Lady of Sorrows School, a parish elementary school closing this year because of declining enrollment.

Nearly 38% of Arkansas Children Overweight

Andrew DeMillo:

Thirty-eight percent of Arkansas’ public school children are overweight or at risk of being overweight, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said in a report issued Thursday.
The finding was the same as last year’s when UAMS also studied the effects of a 2003 state law that called for mandatory and voluntary changes in the schools to address health issues among Arkansas’ children.
Health officials said Thursday they hope to see obesity numbers decline as more schools offer healthier food choices.

Learn more about this issue here and by watching the recent Nutrition and Schools Forum.

Rebuilding the American Dream Machine

The Economist:

One of the more unlikely offices to have been flooded with mail is that of the City University of New York (CUNY), a public college that lacks, among other things, a famous sports team, bucolic campuses and raucous parties (it doesn’t even have dorms), and, until recently, academic credibility.
A primary draw at CUNY is a programme for particularly clever students, launched in 2001. Some 1,100 of the 60,000 students at CUNY’s five top schools receive a rare thing in the costly world of American colleges: free education. Those accepted by CUNY’s honours programme pay no tuition fees; instead they receive a stipend of $7,500 (to help with general expenses) and a laptop computer. Applications for early admissions into next year’s programme are up 70%.
Admission has nothing to do with being an athlete, or a child of an alumnus, or having an influential sponsor, or being a member of a particularly aggrieved ethnic group—criteria that are increasingly important at America’s elite colleges. Most of the students who apply to the honours programme come from relatively poor families, many of them immigrant ones. All that CUNY demands is that these students be diligent and clever.

International Baccalaureate program considered for grades K-12

Maricella Miranda writes:
Teachers and administrators want to keep challenging students in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district [MN], but traditional college-prep courses may not be enough.
That’s why the International Baccalaureate program might be introduced into the curriculum districtwide. The program’s rigorous courses demand critical thinking and hands-on learning from students of all ages while focusing on international components for each subject. The IB program is taught in 1,597 schools in 122 countries.
There are three International Baccalaureate programs for grades K-12. They have common components, such as relating subjects and finding connections in local and international communities.
“We want to make sure we have something that gives our students an advantage. We want our students to stay in our district,” Babbitt said. Adding the programs to District 191’s curriculum would cost an estimated $100,000, district administrators said.

Rufus King, Milwaukee WI , known as the Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School is a WI urban, citywide, college preparatory high school that is strongly committed to math, science, technology, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. Well over 1000 students each year now vie for the 350 freshmen seats. Rufus King is consistently in the top 50% of schools in the U.S., and the top 3.5% of schools worldwide in the number of IB examinations given.

Tongue in Cheek Solution

I have noticed a movement about MMSD. There seems to be the following needs:
1. Make each grade/class the same across the district so that all
students have a equitable distribution of funds, resources, and knowledge. (Connected math, FOSS science, middle school curriculm, and West English)
2. Great concern from “legal” I assume that food, animals, and flammable paper present a hazard to the students and potentially invite a lawsuit. (pet proposal, upcoming food proposal to eliminate any homemade food in the school, and the fire code issue)
3. Boundary changes to solve growth and income disparity which causes financial stress on the district. (Task forces, failed referendum, spending cap)
So here’s the solution:

Continue reading Tongue in Cheek Solution

Where are the Parents?

Madison District 15 Alder (and MMSD Affiliated Alternatives Employee) Larry Palm:

Tonight I attended the Public Forum at O’Keefe Middle School to discuss a potential move of the Affiliated Alternatives into the building shared with Marquette Elementary School.

I appreciated the high level of questions asked of Steve Hartley, the District’s Director of Alternative Programs. A large majority of questions revolved around the anticipated interactions between students at what would essentially be a K-12 campus (minus the students that attend certain grades at Lapham Elementary School– which is also another option on the East Side Task Force for either the Affiliated Alternatives or the administrative offices of MSCR).

Palm also notes that it is budget time again and suggests that the District “take this year off from a referendum”.

Response to “The Gap According to Black”

I think we need to be careful about what we assume when we are talking about students of color in the schools. The children of color in our schools include a growing number of children whose parents, regardless of racial or ethnic identity, are highly educated with degrees ranging from the BA/BS levels to PhD, law, and medical degrees. Many have attended schools or come from communities with high numbers of professionals of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, or American Indian heritage. As our businesses and higher educational institutions hire more diverse professionals, we will see more children of color from middle and upper income families.
Children of color with highly educated parents historically have had trouble getting access to advanced educational opportunities regardless of their academic preparation or ability. And we are seeing a concurrent relocation to private schools, suburbs, and other cities because the parents have every bit as high expectation for their children as any other parents.
We also need to take a look at ALL children – including low income and/or children of color – when we are planning for advanced academic opportunities and placement in our schools. According to an MMSD study a few years ago, a significant portion of our high school drop outs are African American males who tested at the high end of the scale at the elementary level.

MMSD Withdrawal/Did Not Graduate Student Data
(1995 – 1999)

When the District analyzed dropout data for this five year period, they identified four student profiles. One of these groups, it could be argued, would have benefited from appropriately challenging learning opportunities, opportunities which might have kept them engaged in school and enabled them to graduate.

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%
Group 1 dropouts (expressed as the % of total dropouts for that school)

High School
East 25.9%
La Follette 23.8%
Memorial 23.4%
West 32.4%

We all – including the Madison School Board – need to ask whether we are doing enough to identify and provide opportunities for gifted and talented youth among children of color or children from low income backgrounds. Then we need to create sufficient classes and class space to allow ALL children who are capable of succeeding access to the highest level of classes possible. Creating false shortages for advanced academics helps no one, from individual students to entire schools.
Many of our schools now enroll populations that are 40% – 60% students of color. To have advanced classses with only a few – if any – students drawn from this potential talent pool, defies the statistical odds for the population. We can change this if, as a school community, we have the will to do so and the courage to talk openly about our priorities, practices, and assumptions.

Some Students Use Net To Hire Experts to Do Their School Work

Lee Gomes:

But what the computer-programming student who goes by the handle “Lover Of Nightlife” did last month, as the fall semester raced to a close, could only have happened in the age of the Internet: He went online to outsource his predicament.
“This is homework I did not have time to study for,” he said in a message on a Web site devoted to outsourcing computer projects. “I need you guys to help me.”
Attached was a take-home final exam for a computer class that Mr. Nightlife Lover wanted to pay someone else — presumably, someone from a place where people can’t afford a lot of night life to begin with — to take for him.

Math Will Rock Your World

Business Week:

Neal Goldman is a math entrepreneur. He works on Wall Street, where numbers rule. But he’s focusing his analytic tools on a different realm altogether: the world of words.
Goldman’s startup, Inform Technologies LLC, is a robotic librarian. Every day it combs through thousands of press articles and blog posts in English. It reads them and groups them with related pieces. Inform doesn’t do this work alphabetically or by keywords. It uses algorithms to analyze each article by its language and context. It then sends customized news feeds to its users, who also exist in Inform’s system as — you guessed it — math.

School Information System Blog Open to All Perspectives

In a recent comment, a person asked if you had to be unhappy with MMSD to write on the blog. Short answer – no. Jim Zellmer, who began this blog, encourages folks with all different thoughts, ideas and opinions about MMSD and education to write and/or make comments on the blog. I would like to encourage those who are interested in writing about what they think and what their ideas, hopes and dreams are for public education will contact Jim (zellmer at virtualproperties_dot_com) to learn more about becoming a SIS blogger. Diverse perspectives have the potential to enrich and deepen the discussions, which I feel will benefit our community.

“State Support for Higher Education Has No Correlation with College Quality”

Anne K. Walters writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Public colleges in states that spend a lot of money on higher education aren’t necessarily better than colleges in states that provide them with meager support, according to a report that ranks states based on an analysis of their higher-education budgets and the performance of their colleges. The report, which was prepared by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, attempts to answer the age-old question in debates over state financing of higher education: Does more money equal better quality? The report, A New Look at the Institutional Component of Higher Education Finance: A Guide for Evaluating Performance Relative to Financial Resources [by Patrick J. Kelly & Dennis P. Jones] compares state funds for higher education in each state with colleges’ performance in a variety of areas, including graduation and participation rates. The report concludes that education can succeed even when state support falls.

Wisconsin ranks #4 in “Performance relative to funding” for public research institutions.

Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

On Wednesday, January 11, representatives of Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) and the Madison school district met at the union’s headquarters for three hours. MTI Executive Director John Matthews chaired the meeting. It was the first of two meetings at which MTI and MMSD will supposedly explore the potential for savings on health insurance costs for the teachers. Those expecting a serious effort by union and district representatives to compare costs and services from a range of health insurance providers and press the companies for savings will be seriously disappointed.
There were two presentations at the meeting: one from representatives of Wisconsin Physicians Services (WPS) and one from Group Health Cooperative (GHC). Despite a promise from the board president and superintendent that the meeting would be videotaped, the district did not tape the meeting. So far only the text for the WPS presentation (with accompanying PowerPoint) is available for public review.
At the meeting on January 25, 2006—also at MTI’s headquarters at 821 Williamson Street beginning at 1 p.m.—the task force will hear presentations from representatives of Dean Care and Unity. There has been no explanation of why there will not be presentations from Physicians Plus or the State Group Health Plan. Both offer services comparable to those that teachers currently receive under the collective bargaining agreement between the parties at competitive rates.

Continue reading Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

Charter Schools And Healthful Foods

Lifelong Learning: Electronic Rights

A number of local organizations use Yahoo Groups for their inter-group communications. James McMurry notes that Yahoo is now tracking your usage per MACHINE via web beacons:

The following message was sent to me by the moderator of another group that I’m in. Everyone needs to be aware of it as Yahoo is tracking people now, even when they are not on the Yahoo site.
If you belong to ANY Yahoo Groups – be aware that Yahoo is now using “Web Beacons” to track every Yahoo Group user. It’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when you’re not connected to Yahoo.
Look at their updated privacy statement at: About half-way down the page, in the section on cookies, you will see a link that says WEB BEACONS.

Ray Everett-Church posts a counterpoint to this matter.
In my view a blog is a far more effective, and safe tool to use for group activities. We’re happy to help set one up for you. Just email zellmer at mailbag_dot_com Safe computing – think, be aware and practice it 🙂 The EFF has more on privacy and other electronic rights topics.
UPDATE: Another approach via Apple’s iTunes: ask permission.

Foreign Languages: iPod Phrase Book


Doing some traveling and want to speak the local language? Then you need Rambler – language phrase books designed for the iPod and made for the real world. Rambler is here to help make travel everything you want it to be. With over 900 words and phrases per language at your fingertips, mixing with the locals will be something you can look forward to.

Looks interesting, though I’ve not given it a try just yet.

Will the MMSD School Board Majority Appear to Let Administrators Preserve Jobs – Their Own?

A 2006 budget staffing discussion to come before the School Board tonight is about changes to administrative positions for next school year outlined in a memo to the School Board from the Superintendent. (Download memo on administrative changes for 2006-2007). The Superintendent is intending to save money through the elimination of several positions via resignations or retirements. I don’t remember seeing a dollar figure in the memo. However, I don’t feel this is an adequate administrative staffing reduction proposal at this time in the budget process.
What’s the big deal? If there are no other reductions made to the administrative budget prior to the end of this month, no additional reductions in administrative positions can be made due to requirements in the administrators’ contracts. This means that any and all other necessary reductions in staffing positions will have to come from those personnel who most likely work directly with students – teachers, SEAs, etc. I’m not proposing staffing cuts, but the School Board will be facing budget cuts this spring for next year.
To prevent this, the School Board might consider a minimum of a 20%+ reduction (vs. the proposed less than 5% reduction) in the administrative contract budget. Why? Later in the budget process, the School Board will be faced with cuts to custodians, teachers, etc. I believe the School Board could consider taking this action now to enable them to have the ability to make the best decisions on behalf of students when they have better information about what additional cuts will be proposed.
Last spring Lawrie Kobza made the following comment: “For the most part, our budget cuts are not based upon whether we are overstaffed in a particular area. I don’t feel that we cut teachers, or social workers, or custodians because we felt that we were overstaffed in those areas. We didn’t compare the District to benchmarks from other districts on custodial staffing levels to determine appropriate staffing levels for the District. We cut custodians because we had a budget that we had to meet.”

Continue reading Will the MMSD School Board Majority Appear to Let Administrators Preserve Jobs – Their Own?

Burmaster allocates $1.25 million for high-cost special education aid

Elizabeth Burmaster, State of WI Superintendent recently informed school districts that she is setting aside federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) discretionary funding to reimburse Wisconsin schools for services to children with severe disabilities.
“I am again allocating federal discretionary dollars, a total of $1.25 million, to support my Keeping the Promise: High-Cost Special Education Aid program,” Burmaster said.
“It is our long-held belief that all children are entitled to a quality education. However, some of our students have severe or multiple disabilities that require very specialized equipment and services that can cost three or more times the average expense of educating a student. This aid will help our schools pay for services for these children.”
School districts have until February 24 to make claims for costs incurred in the 2004-05 school year. Reimbursement will be made in June. As in past years, the Department of Public Instruction expects that the number and amount of eligible claims will require that reimbursement be prorated.

I wonder how much MMSD received last year – how were the reimbursed funds allocated? What decision(s) did the Board make? Did the reimbursed funds stay in the Special Education Fund or were they reallocated to other areas in the budget. As clarification, I’m not talking about the funds from DPI but the funds they are reimbursing. I also know that special education was cut last year as were other areas in the budget.

Soglin on Quality in Government

Paul Soglin:

There must be public sector leaders who are more concerned about their legacy than the next election. There must be an environment of trust so that as review is done of past failures, it is free from recrimination and blame. The purpose of the checking and reviewing must be to learn for future not to assign blame.
To find a mayor or a governor with the inclination, the time, and the values to focus on serious management issues is no easy task. In today’s environment, with Katrinas, failing bridges, poor school systems, and the prospect of terrorism at every corner, the matter is even more pressing.

Of McDonalds and K-12 Schools

From an email I received recently:
McDonald’s has competition everywhere… globally. It is exceptional when it comes to standardization of product and services – they even have Hamburger U. Yet I have been to McDonald’s in suburbia and McDonald’s in rural America and McDonald’s in poor urban areas. They are not equal. And it isn’t just a case of McDonalds.. the same is true for Burger King and any other fast food chain that has corporate inspections and standards.
For instance, the Burger King, KFC, and McDonald’s near my urban church each suffer from the same problems – they are dirtier and have poorer service than those same stores in the suburban area I live in… there is no McDonald’s Playland in the urban Cleveland or Akron McDonald’s I know but there are loads of them out in my suburban area. Competition doesn’t seem to be helping those who live in the poor urban area gain the same experience those in suburbia get… even with restaurants that possess strong standards and assessments.
I think this says something about the theory that competition would be good for our schools and would equalize the playing field for kids in urban, rural, and suburban schools. It doesn’t seem to be working for McDonald’s.
Sue Ramlo, PhD
Professor of General Technology
Department of Engineering & Science Technology
The University of Akron
Akron, OH 44325-6104

A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States

American Heart Association:

The report is that nearly one sixth of young people between the ages of 2-19 are said to be overweight. While this is alarming, it is perhaps even more important to appreciate that the 16% overweight rate represents the nationwide average. Local rates vary widely depending on gender, race, socioeconomic status, educational background, and probably more, as yet, undetermined factors.
Among Mexican Americans ages 6-19, nearly one in four boys, and one in five girls are overweight. Over one fifth of African American females ages 6-19 are overweight. Combining these figures with those at risk for being overweight, we learn that excessive weight threatens the health of between a third and a half of children in these groups. And, the situation continues to worsen.

Reader Jonathan Gramling Regarding Juan Jose Lopez’s First Fundraising Letter

Reader Jonathan Gramling emails in response to this article:

In reference to Ed Blume’s and Barb Schrank’s comments about the Juan José López fundraising letter, if the shoe fits, wear it. The difference between being critical and being negative is just partisan semanntics like the difference between insurgent and freedom fighter. It’s not the high road. It just reflects your partisan leanings and who you support in an election. So don’t be so condescending!
Jonathan Gramling

Program & staffing changes in my $100 budget exercise

$1.74 – Move all employees in Curriculum Research and Staff Development into classroom teaching and school administrative positions that will be vacated through normal attrition.
$0.40 – Replace Reading Recovery with Read 180
$0.15 – Move Associated Alternatives to Doyle. (Plenty of room with Curriculum Research & Staff Development leaving. Use UW facilities for gym. Use various large conference rooms for lunch.)
$?.?? – Move MSCR to Doyle. Mothball Hoyt subject to further review of best use or sale.
$0.043 – Eliminate one administrative position in superintendent’s office.
$0.043 – Eliminate Legislative Liaison position; rely on lobbyists of Wisconsin School Board Association.
$0.043 – Eliminate Director, Public Information.
$0.243 – Eliminate 9 positions in Gateways to Learning
$0.043 – Eliminate 1 position in research
$0.043 – Eliminate 1 position in Human Resources
Total reduction $2.791 or $7,256,600, without eliminating a single classroom teacher.

Singapore Education Minister Compares Singapore and America Schools

Newsweek International Edition columnist Fareed Zakaria interviewed Singapore Minister of Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand why he believes Singapore students score tops in math and science on international tests, but lacks leaders in business, academia, math and science in the professional world.
Shanmugaratnam’s sees driving ambition, creativity, and adventuresomeness as lacking in Singapore students — characteristics that are not measured in global testing. He says, “Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. ”
Funding and academic-private partnerships are another factor in U.S. favor, he says. Foundations are critical for funding research in the U.S. “For example, you could not imagine American advances in biomedical sciences without the Howard Hughes Foundation,” says Shanmugaratnam.
But Shanmugaratnam is not all praise for U.S. education system. “[It] as a whole has failed. Unless you are comfortably middle class or richer,” he explained, “you get an education that is truly second-rate by any standards…. In Singapore we get the poor kid who is very bright and very hungry, and that’s crucial to our success.”

More on Milwaukee Vouchers & TABOR

John Fund:

The irony is that public educators in Milwaukee believe choice has helped improve all the city’s schools. “No longer is MPS a monopoly,” says Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos. “That competitive nature has raised the bar for educators in Milwaukee to provide a good product or they know that parents will walk.” The city’s public schools have made dramatic changes that educators elsewhere can only dream of. Public schools now share many buildings with their private counterparts, which helps alleviate the shortage of classrooms. Teachers, once assigned strictly by seniority, are now often hired by school selection committees. And 95% of district operating funds now go directly to schools, instead of being parceled out by a central office. That puts power in the hands of teachers who work directly with students.

Milwaukee schools are still struggling, but progress is obvious. Students have improved their performance on 13 out of 15 standardized tests. The annual dropout rate has fallen to 10% from 16% since the choice program started. Far from draining resources from public schools, spending has gone up in real terms by 27% since choice began as taxpayers and legislators encouraged by better results pony up more money.

Rich Eggleston says that TABOR would subvert Democracy:

In Wisconsin, the ‘Taxpayers Bill of Rights’ is being billed as a tool of democracy, but it’s actually a tool to subvert the representative democracy that to reasonable people has worked pretty well. When Milwaukee-area resident Orville Seymeyer e-mailed me and suggested I “get on the TABOR bandwagon,” this is what I told him:

via wisopinion

Questions about using the Doyle Building

Since there have been different ideas about using Doyle to solve some of the district’s space/funds problems, I thought I would list the questions that occur to me as I consider next steps.
1.Locate the Affliated Alternatives (at Brearly) in Doyle:
a. How much space will AA need?
b. What will be the cost of remodeling to accommodate students?
c. What about cafeteria and gym space?
d. Where would we move the staff that must leave Doyle to make room for the students?
e. What is the cost of the move and of remodeling the new space?
2.Sell or lease Doyle
a. Where would central office staff be located?
b. What is the cost of the move?
c. What is the cost of remodeling the new space?
d. What are the out-of-pocket costs (travel, time, etc) of locating Doyle staff in more than one location?
e. What is a realistic expectation of the money generated by a long-term lease?
f. What is a realistic expectation about the amount Doyle would bring if sold?
g. If there is development potential, why haven’t there been proposals for the district/UW parking lots behind Doyle?

Lagging Freshman Reassigned Before Test

Nick Anderson:

At least 2,500 ninth-graders in Prince George’s County will abruptly move this week from a standard one-year algebra course into a two-year program, shielding the struggling students from a state graduation test this spring that officials said they were likely to fail.
The highly unusual shift comes midway through the school year in one of Washington’s largest suburban school systems and in some respects runs counter to a regional trend of pushing students to take higher-level mathematics as early as possible.

Urban League Honors Outstanding Students

Nine local high school students were inducted into the National Achievers Society at Sunday’s 22nd annual Youth Recognition Breakfast. The society was started by the National Urban League and other civic groups to promote positive attitudes about academic achievement, school participation, and a committment to exceeding expectations. The inducted students include Tyrone Cratic of East, Ricquelle Badger of Edgewood, Chukwuma Offor of La Follette, Heena Ahmed of McFarland, Latoya Allen of Memorial, April Greene of Sun Prairie, Tessia Brown of Verona, Rob Hetzel of Waunakee, and Diana Savage of West. In addition, Halil Ahmed and Shamika Kroger from Memorial and La’Basha McKinney of East were named Mann Scholars, a program that honors the legacy of Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, African-American parents whose five children graduated from Madison schools and went on to receive college degrees. Outstanding Young Person Awards were also presented to over 170 middle and high school students from around Dane county. Congratulations to these exemplary students.

Madison school puzzle at crossroads

Sandy Cullen writes:
For nearly two years, a wide range of school officials and parents have puzzled over what to do about the lopsided enrollment trends. In the next few weeks, the emotionally charged issue will come to a head as two task forces offer their ideas to the Madison School Board.
A next step might include representatives from both task forces working with the school board, because these representatives bring to the table the two very different perspectives of these task forces, which the School Board will have to meld into one plan. Both task forces have worked thoughtfully and diligently, and representatives of these task forces would bring that experience to help with next steps.
As a community, we need to make this work for all kids fairly with consideration of their education needs and the financial resources available.

“War Against Vouchers”

Andrew J. Coulson:

Unlike previous school-choice cases, Bush v. Holmes did not hinge on the use of public funds at religious schools. Instead, five of the seven presiding justices ruled that school vouchers violate the “uniformity” clause of Florida’s Constitution. Far from being an arcane and forgotten technicality, this clause was amended and reapproved by voters just eight years ago: It mandates, among other things, “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.” If only wishing could make it so.
What the new wording fails to consider is that a homogenized government bureaucracy is not necessarily compatible with efficiency and quality. By this point in American history, we should know better. After more than a century of honing its public school system, Florida has managed an on-time graduation rate of just 57%, placing it third from last nationally. Its composite SAT score is the fourth lowest among the states.

Writing Wrongs – Outsourcing Admission Essays

Bess Kargman:

College admissions officers around the country will be reading my application essays this month, essays in which I describe personal aspirations, academic goals — even, in one case, a budding passion for the sitar. What they won’t know is that I actually graduated from college more than a year ago, and that the names attached to these essays are those of my duplicitous clients.

Some Students Prefer Taking Classes Online

Justin Pope:

At some schools, online courses – originally intended for nontraditional students living far from campus – have proved surprisingly popular with on-campus students. A recent study by South Dakota’s Board of Regents found 42 percent of the students enrolled in its distance-education courses weren’t so distant: they were located on campus at the university that was hosting the online course.

Numbers vary depending on the policies of particular colleges, but other schools also have students mixing and matching online and “face-to-face” credits. Motives range from lifestyle to accommodating a job schedule to getting into high-demand courses.

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, 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.

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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.

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“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 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.

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Curated Education Information