Going Online Keeps Students in Line

Tom Kertscher:

At the same time, a new system for disciplining students also helped reduce the number of Badger Middle School students sent to the dean’s office because of misbehavior, said first-year principal Ted Neitzke, 34. But the use of a daily “blog” – an adaptation of e-mails shared among teachers and other staff – was perhaps more important, Neitzke said. He had used the system a year earlier on his previous job as an assistant principal in Sheboygan.

The blog, Neitzke said, is a “positive, proactive communication tool.”

The West Bend School Board received annual reports from schools on progress they are making on individual improvement plans. Badger, the larger of West Bend’s two middle schools, said reducing behavioral problems was its “greatest achievement” in the school year that just ended.

Gibson: Who Owns the Words?

William Gibson:

We seldom legislate new technologies into being. They emerge, and we plunge with them into whatever vortices of change they generate. We legislate after the fact, in a perpetual game of catch-up, as best we can, while our new technologies redefine us – as surely and perhaps as terribly as we’ve been redefined by broadcast television.

“Who owns the words?” asked a disembodied but very persistent voice throughout much of Burroughs’ work. Who does own them now? Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do. All of us.

Though not all of us know it – yet.

Gibson’s most recent book is Pattern Recognition, which is a must read. Gibson’s website.

Developing Credibility

From Debroah Bush-Suflita, Communications Manager of the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Albany, New York:

The most important element of an effective public information program is credibility. Indeed, credibility is the most important element in an effective educational program. You cannot lie or obscure the truth, because you will quickly lose credibility. . . .

Continue reading Developing Credibility

California’s Proposed School Funding Changes

Nanette Asimov:

Since California’s property tax revolt more than 25 years ago, teachers, parents and school supporters have honed their battle skills arguing with politicians in Sacramento for more education money every year.
They haven’t always gotten their way, but since 1988 they have been able to count on a minimum funding level established by Proposition 98, the voter- approved ballot measure enshrined in the state constitution that says schools would be given first priority in the budget.

Florence School District Likely to Close in One Year

In northern Wisconsin Florence County Schools Likely To Close. The local school board voted 6-1 to consider closing the schools.
Since 1998-1999 school year, Florence School District:
student population declined 15%
property tax share of school costs increased 16%
state contribution to school costs decreased 15.7%
cost to educate a child increased 23.3%
With changes like this coupled with the recent absence of meaningful discussions by the WI government on public education, more school closing/mergers are likely.
When are we going to have the discussion – what does it cost to educate a child? When will the WI government get down to seriously discussing the business of financing the public education of Wisconsin’s children and stop the unproductive rhetoric saying we’re spending more on schools than ever without having any idea of what level of investment is needed to fund public education? The state is happy to avoid the question blathering on about taxes and giving money to special projects all the while shifting the costs of education to property tax payers, an approach that won’t work much longer.
How many more school districts have to close? How many more kids have to be displaced?
School district leadership bears some of the responsibility of meaningful strategic discussions about the future of financing public education and examining different approaches. More on that topic in a later blog.
Immediate issue is a state government that is not seriously undertaking the issue of school financing but is giving tax credits to home and private schooling while avoiding important discussions about the financing of public schools, which is part of the state’s constitution. The United States is littered with examples of state governments who have avoided this responsibility – why does WI have to be one of those states?

Property Taxes Biggest Share of Income in Milwaukee and Madison Areas

Wistax:

The other part of the state where the property tax burden was high was Dane county, according to WISTAX. The city and town of Madison led the area with property taxes at 8.8% and 8.2% of income, respectively. Five suburbs surrounding Madison also made the top-50 list: McFarland and Mt. Horeb (both 7.4%); Sun Prairie (7.3%); and DeForest and Stoughton (both 7.1%).
..
In a separate part of the report, WISTAX notes that the property tax-to-income ratio is much like a political “heart monitor.” When property taxes relative to income climb above 4%, discontent begins to grow. The study cited several periods in the postwar era when property taxes were unusually high and led to a major change, either in politics or in policy-making. Most recently, this occurred in 1993-94, when property taxes completed a 14-year rise, hitting 4.8% of income. Then, a bipartisan majority in state government imposed school revenue limits and first committed the state to providing two-thirds of local schools’ revenues.

DPI Letter – Optional Class Hours are NOT Part of the Regular School Day

In his letter to a Sherman parent, Michael George, Director of Content and Learning Team wrote:
“The requirements for regular instruction in 121.02(1)(L) are to be scheduled within the regular school day which is defined as “the period from the start to the close of each pupil’s daily instructional schedule.” Times of the day or week during which student attendance is optional are not considered part of the regular school day.”
In May Sherman principal Ann Yehle sent a letter to Sherman parents telling them band, orchestra and vocal music classes would be offered in an optional 8th hour. Parents wrote to DPI for clarification of the state law regarding regarding regular school day.
There will still be an optional 8th hour class with some form of music, but the newest proposal is to offer orchestra, band and vocal music education courses as pull-out classes, pulling students from other classes who want to study band, orchestra or vocal music. I’m left to wonder why students who want to study band, orchestra or vocal music continously have to “double up” their studies – seems like they are being penalized. Why wouldn’t this put additional and, perhaps, unnecessary, pressure on these students.
The entire content of the DPI letter follows:

Continue reading DPI Letter – Optional Class Hours are NOT Part of the Regular School Day

Wisconsin Senate Passes Budget

The Wisconsin State Senate passed their version of the next two year budget early this morning. Read more here:

The bill goes back to the Assembly next week, where it must be approved before it is sent to Governor Doyle. The Senate version increases state support for K-12 public schools by 458M to 5.3billion (the Governor wanted to increase state support by 938M via borrowing and transfers).

I think Doyle, looking toward an election year in 2006, will take a Solomon approach and split the difference via his line item veto powers.

Denver’s New Superintendent

Rocky Mountain News:

Moreover, he will lead the campaign for a mill levy to fund ProComp, the pay-for-performance model that has been approved by teachers and that also has Hickenlooper’s support. Indeed, Bennet is so committed to that model that he hopes to negotiate such a provision as part of his own employment contract, a sure sign of confidence that the job is doable and the challenges are not intractable.
On Monday, Bennet said naming a chief academic officer would be among his highest priorities, and that he expects to start a national search for that person soon. That decision, perhaps more than any other he makes early in his new post, could determine whether he achieves the ambitious goal he has set for Denver: to be the best urban school district in the country.

Joanne Jacobs has some useful links behind this story, one of which is Siegfried Englemann’s piece on students “who are victims of the unshifted paradigm”.

Keep School Spending in Check

A reader forwarded this Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

You have to wonder if the members of the Madison School Board couldn’t benefit from a remedial math course.
Last week, with the School District facing the prospect of having to cut $3.1 million from its budget, the School Board voted to add $651,400 in spending.
No wonder frustrated School Board member Bill Keys felt compelled to warn: “We have a serious financial problem on our hands. I do think the community and the board is in a kind of denial.”
Keys’ words deserve the attention of taxpayers not only in Madison but also throughout a majority of school districts in Wisconsin. Any district that denies the looming threats to its budget risks paying a stiff price.
School boards face uncertain budget circumstances. Schools will benefit from an increase in state spending on education in the next state budget. But how big the increase will be remains undecided.

Wisconsin Property Tax Hikes Outpacing Wages

Wistax:

Aids to local governments increased dramatically since 1955, according to the study. Local school aids rose 10.8% per year, while shared revenues to local governments increased 4.9% annually. However, WISTAX researchers point out that there are questions about the long-term effectiveness of local aids for reducing property taxes. Economic research in Wisconsin and elsewhere finds that state and federal aids to local governments only partially offset local property taxes, as a portion of that aid funds new spending.
The study finds that some limits on local governments have been effective at relieving property taxes and some have not. During the 1970’s, the state imposed cost controls on schools and levy limits on counties and municipalities. Due to an increasing number of “loopholes,” they were deemed ineffective and eliminated in 1983. Recent revenue limits on schools have been more effective, because they do not have similar loopholes. Counties and technical colleges have limits on the tax rates they can impose. However, large increases in property values have limited their effectiveness.

Simply amazing

This season’s Concerts on the Square kicked off with an interesting medley of polka/waltz/cancans, but the best reason to have attended was the performance of a Dvorak piece by a 16-year old violinist from Janesville Parker, Saya Chang-O’Hara. Put simply, she was brilliant. Juilliard should be knocking on her door any day now. It was an honor to hear her play.
But what might be of interest to folks on this site is this: she only started playing when she was eleven, AS PART OF HER SCHOOL’S STRINGS PROGRAM.

Sherman’s Curriculum Riles Parents

Sandy Cullen’s article in the June 28, 2005 WI State Journal Sherman’s curriculum riles parents notes:

On Friday, the state Department of Public Instruction ruled that under Wisconsin law, instrumental music instruction must be available to all students in grades seven through 12 during the regular school day.
“It is unusual to pull students from one class to meet instructional time in another class,” said Michael George, director of the Content & Learning Team for the state Department of Public Instruction, who issued Friday’s ruling. “Clearly, they’re not getting the same experience as other students.”

Besides music instruction, Sherman parents are concerned that few students have the opportunity to take 8th grade algebra and that no child will have the opportunity to take a full year of foreign language prior to high school.
Yehle said middle school is a time when students should be sampling many subject areas to gauge their interests and skills, and should be introduced to what it’s like to study a foreign language, rather than develop proficiencies.

Sherman principal Ann Yehle’s comments seem at odd with a) Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards in foreign language which call for “… a strong foreign language program beginning in the elementary grades” and b) Wisconsin’s Administrative Code – Public Instruction, Chapter PI 8 Appendix 8 Instructional Guidelines which recommend 100 minutes of foreign language instruction per week beginning in Grade 5.
It’s hard to see where Sherman Middle School’s curriculum is not being dummed down for its students compared to other Madison middle schools and to school districts surrounding Madison WI.

Middle School Curriculum

Much afoot at Sherman Middle school. MMSD will look at developing a district-wide middle school curriculum. While that might improve the mess at Sherman, it might also mean watering down the curriculum, eg. math, throughout the district.
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/index.php?ntid=45223
“School Board President Carol Carstensen, who made it one of her priorities to examine how the district’s 11 middle schools are structured and to consider proposals for changes, said that questions and concerns about middle- school curriculum existed before the situation at Sherman boiled over.
“It came to a head around Sherman,” Carstensen said.
Among the concerns is whether the kind of preparation students receive for high school varies depending on which middle school they attend, she said.
In one of her first jobs as the new superintendent of secondary schools, Pam Nash will focus on designing a middle school system that is consistent across the district, Rainwater said.
“Each of our middle schools has developed in a very different way,” Rainwater said, adding, “It provides a tremendous amount of flexibility.”
Carstensen said that while a more centralized model would sacrifice some autonomy and creativity in a school’s ability to meet the needs of its specific student population, she believes that all students should have the same opportunities in certain areas, including instrumental music and advanced math classes.”

Continue reading Middle School Curriculum

Bringing Better Nutrition to School Cafeterias

Talk of the Nation:

The school cafeteria line is hardly the place to develop healthy eating habits. Forget fruits and veggies — the typical lunch usually contains fast food staples like pizza and french fries. What can — or can’t — school districts do to make lunches healthier?

audio. Chez Panisse’s Alice Water’s participated in this program (Waters has been active in Berkeley nutrition programs).

Great Decision Making

The current issue of Fortune (2nd of a 2 part 75th anniversary edition) includes some fascinating examples of leadership and decision making. Jerry Useem summarizes the article.

If surmounting your anxieties is step one, step two is letting go of your inner perfectionist because there is no such thing as a perfect decision-maker. Even if you had all the information in the world and a hangar full of supercomputers, you�d still get some wrong.
But there�s a big difference between a wrong decision and a bad decision. A wrong decision is picking Door No. 1 when the prize is actually behind Door No. 2. It�s a lousy result, but the fault lies with the method. A bad decision is launching the space shuttle Challenger when Morton Thiokol�s engineers predict a nearly 100% chance of catastrophe. The method, in this case, is no method at all.
The distinction is important, because it separates outcomes, which you can�t control, from process, which you can. Wrong decisions are an inevitable part of life. But bad decisions are unforced errors. They�re eminently avoidable—and there are proven techniques to avoid the most predictable pitfalls (see Great Escapes).

20 Decisions that made history is also quite worthwhile.

Leopold Referendum Not in Near Term

Cristina Daglas:

The Madison School Board flirted Monday night with the idea of holding another referendum to seek funding for a second school on the Leopold Elementary grounds, but then backed away from it for now.
The board’s Long Range Planning Committee met with parents from Leopold at the school and heard their pleas for another referendum. Two of the three committee members – Juan Jose Lopez and Bill Keys – favored holding another referendum but ultimately moved to table the idea when it was clear that a majority of board members were not ready to go back to the voters so soon after the defeat of a similar referendum on May 24.

Virginia Drops Non-Math Teacher Math Tests

Joanne Jacobs:

Virginia will drop a basic skills test for would-be teachers which measures high-school-level reading, writing and math performance. Instead, the state will develop its own test of college-level reading and writing skills. Only math teachers will be tested on math knowledge.

Here are “advanced math” test prep questions for Praxis I, which is being abandoned. Thirty-five years out of high school, I can do these problems in my head. It’s hard to believe there are people smart enough to teach who can’t pass a basic math test. How are they going to average students’ grades?

Grigsby on WI Sex Education

Rep Tamara Grigsby, via Wispolitics:

  • Wisconsin has the highest incidence of African-American teen births in the nation.
  • Milwaukee has the highest high school drop-out rates for African-Americans in the country, which is directly connected to the high teen birth rate in our state.
  • In 2001, Milwaukee had the second highest teen birth rate of the nation’s 50 biggest cities.
  • Wisconsin has the 14th highest chlamydia rate (17,942 cases reported) and the 21st highest rate of syphilis in the nation (5,663 cases reported).
  • Almost ½ of all new sexually transmitted infections are contracted by 15-24 year olds, despite the fact that this population only makes up 25% of the sexually active population.

Ethnomathematics

Diane Ravitch:

In a comparison of a 1973 algebra textbook and a 1998 “contemporary mathematics” textbook, Williamson Evers and Paul Clopton found a dramatic change in topics. In the 1973 book, for example, the index for the letter “F” included factors, factoring, fallacies, finite decimal, finite set, formulas, fractions and functions. In the 1998 book, the index listed families (in poverty data), fast food nutrition data, fat in fast food, feasibility study, feeding tours, ferris wheel, fish, fishing, flags, flight, floor plan, flower beds, food, football, Ford Mustang, franchises and fund-raising carnival.
……
It seems terribly old-fashioned to point out that the countries that regularly beat our students in international tests of mathematics do not use the subject to steer students into political action. They teach them instead that mathematics is a universal language that is as relevant and meaningful in Tokyo as it is in Paris, Nairobi and Chicago. The students who learn this universal language well will be the builders and shapers of technology in the 21st century. The students in American classes who fall prey to the political designs of their teachers and professors will not.

Teen Screen

Reader David Lehane emailed this article by Evelyn J. Pringle:

he scheme concocted by the pharmaceutical industry and pushed forward by the Bush administration to screen the entire nation’s public school population for mental illness and treat them with controversial drugs was already setting off alarms among parents all across the country. But in the state of Indiana, the alarm just got louder.
Tax payers had better get out their check books because school taxes are about to go up as the law suits against school boards start mounting over the TeenScreen depression survey being administered to children in the school.
The first notice of intent to sue was filed this month in Indiana by Michael and Teresa Rhoades who were outraged when they learned their daughter had been given a psychological test at school without their consent.
In December 2004, their daughter came home from school and said she had been diagnosed with an obsessive compulsive and social anxiety disorder after taking the TeenScreen survey.

Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/jun05/336091.asp
NOTE: THIS LINK LEADS TO A PAGE THAT INCLUDES A CHART THAT IS NOT REPRODUCED HERE
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Does state’s method inflate graduation rate?
Wisconsin says 92% finish high school; report estimates 78% do

By SARAH CARR
scarr@journalsentinel.com
Posted: June 23, 2005
A new report lambastes states across the country for using flawed, and even “irrational,” methods of calculating graduation rates that ultimately dupe the public.
The report does not criticize Wisconsin as harshly as a few other states, such as North Carolina, but it does offer an alternative method of estimating graduation rates that would put Wisconsin’s rate at 78% for the 2000-’01 school year, 14 percentage points lower than the 92% rate reported for the 2002-’03 school year.
“Every year (states) report these literally preposterous numbers,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for disadvantaged students and released the report.
The report suggests that Wisconsin and many other states measure graduation rates in a manner that gives an overly rosy, distorted picture of the number of students who are actually finishing high school in the United States.

Continue reading Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

What schools get SAGE next year?

What criteria does the district use to select SAGE schools?
The board has before it on Monday, June 27, a motion to drop SAGE at Lapham/Marquette (37/24% low-income) and Crestwood (23% low-income). Huegel (41%) and Sandburg (42%) will replace them. The agenda also lists all of the schools scheduled to be designated SAGE schools.
The following schools will be SAGE schools though they have a lower percentage of low income students than Lapham’s 37%: Chavez (29%), Muir (29%), Shorewood (28%), Stephens (32%).
The following schools with particularly high percentages of low-income students do not appear on the list: Glendale (67%), Lincoln (70%), Mendota (73%), Midvale (65%), and Nuestro Mundo (45%).
The MMSD Web site has a list of low-income students in all schools.

Continue reading What schools get SAGE next year?

Education Gets the Schank

Roger Schank spoke at iLaw today:

i had to retire before i could talk about this stuff!
Charles Eliot was the president of harvard 1869-1909 is the most evil man in the history of harvard — he set up the high school curriculum that is still in place TODAY.
If you ever wondered why you took algebra in high school, is because the guy in princeton was selling a textbook on algebra, so he put algebra on high school curriculum!
i’m a math major and a computer science prof, and algebra has never come up in my life, maybe it has in yours.

Roger C. Schank Backbround

Talking To Strangers

Bruce Schneier:

“Many children are taught never to talk to strangers, an extreme precaution with minimal security benefit.”
In talks, I’m even more direct. I think “don’t talk to strangers” is just about the worst possible advice you can give a child. Most people are friendly and helpful, and if a child is in distress, asking the help of a stranger is probably the best possible thing he can do.
This advice would have helped Brennan Hawkins, the 11-year-old boy who was lost in the Utah wilderness for four days.
The parents said Brennan had seen people searching for him on horse and ATV, but avoided them because of what he had been taught.
“He stayed on the trail, he avoided strangers,” Jody Hawkins said. “His biggest fear, he told me, was that someone would steal him.”
They said they hadn’t talked to Brennan and his four siblings about what they should do about strangers if they were lost. “This may have come to a faster conclusion had we discussed that,” Toby Hawkins said.
In a world where good guys are common and bad guys are rare, assuming a random person is a good guy is a smart security strategy. We need to help children develop their natural intuition about risk, and not give them overbroad rules.

Cap Times Editorial Supports Kobza on Use of $240K

The Capital Times:

Newly elected Madison School Board member Lawrie Kobza was wise to move to use $240,000 in money made available by insurance savings to revive Lincoln Elementary School’s Open Classroom Program and to restore “specials” – music, art and gym classes at the elementary schools – to their regular sizes. And the board majority was right to back her move to maintain broadly accepted standards of quality in the city’s public schools.

Capital Times Editorial: Board backs school quality

Newly elected Madison School Board member Lawrie Kobza was wise to move to use $240,000 in money made available by insurance savings to revive Lincoln Elementary School’s Open Classroom Program and to restore “specials” – music, art and gym classes at the elementary schools – to their regular sizes. And the board majority was right to back her move to maintain broadly accepted standards of quality in the city’s public schools.

Continue reading Capital Times Editorial: Board backs school quality

Taught at Home, but Seeking to Join Activities at Public Schools by James Dao, New York Times

The New York Times
June 22, 2005
STRASBURG, Pa., June 16 – Mary Mellinger began home-schooling her eldest sons, Andrew and Abram, on the family’s 80-acre dairy farm five years ago, wanting them to spend more time with their father and receive an education infused with Christian principles. Home schooling could not, however, provide one thing the boys desperately wanted – athletic competition.

Continue reading Taught at Home, but Seeking to Join Activities at Public Schools by James Dao, New York Times

Newsweek Updates Top 1000 US High Schools List

Jay Matthew has updated his list of the top 1000 US High Schools. The list, known as The Challenge Index, uses a ratio: the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at public high schools in 2004, divided by the number of graduating seniors at the schools in 2004. Newsweek says that although the list “doesn’t tell the whole story about a school, it’s one of the best measures available to compare a wide range of students’ readiness for higher-level work, which is more crucial than ever in the postindustrial age.”
Here’s a list of Wisconsin High Schools included on the Challenge Index. Verona (710) and Madison Memorial (598) were the only Dane County schools included. Milwaukee Rufus King was the top ranked Wisconsin school on the list at 215.
Tom Kertscher takes a look at a recent addition to the list, Grafton High School.

Dept of Admin June 21 Memo on per-student revenue

http://www.thewheelerreport.com/releases/June05/June22/0622doaschools.PDF
Date: June 21, 2005
To: Marc Marotta
Secretary
From: David Schmiedicke
State Budget Director
Subject: School District Revenue Limits — REVISED
We have received a number of inquiries regarding the impact of the reduction to the allowable per pupil revenue limit increase made by the Joint Committee on Finance (JCF’) in its version of the 2005-07 biennial budget bill (AB 100). As you know, Governor Doyle’s budget recommendations retained the current law allowable increase, which is last year’s allowable increase plus increase in the consumer price
index.
Under current law, the increases are estimated to be $248.48 per pupil in FY2005-06 and $252 in FY2006-07. The JCF version of the budget reduces those increases to $120 per pupil in FY06 and $100 in FY2006-07. For the biennium, this represents a reduction of an estimated $352 million in school district revenues compared to current
law.
On a percentage basis, current law and the Governor’s proposal would provide the average district with per pupil revenue increases of approximately 2.9% in each year (over the state average base revenue per pupil of $8,415 for FY05). Under the JCF version of the budget, the allowable increase would be reduced to 1.4% in FY06 and 1.2% in FY07.
The net increase in school district revenue limits after the JCF reductions to current law can also be compared with the increase in the all-funds state budget adopted by JCF. Compared with the fiscal year 2004-05 base of $24.9 billion, the JCF budget increases all funds spending over the prior year by 5.0% in fiscal year 2005-06 and 2.4% in fiscal year 2006-07. The increase to general fund spending in the JCF budget over the fiscal year 2004-05 base of $12.0 billion is 7.7% in fiscal year 2005-06 and 2.6% in fiscal year 2006-07 over the prior year.

We are Our History – Don’t Forget It

David Gelernter:

I thought she was merely endorsing the anti-war position. But my son set me straight. This student actually believed that if she had lived at the time, she might have been drafted. She didn’t understand that conscription in the United States has always applied to males only. How could she have known? Our schools teach history ideologically. They teach the message, not the truth. They teach history as if males and females have always played equal roles. They are propaganda machines.
Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who just compared the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin’s gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot — an astonishing, obscene piece of ignorance. Between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Historian Robert Conquest gives some facts. A prisoner at the Kholodnaya Gora prison had to stuff his ears with bread before sleeping on account of the shrieks of women being interrogated. At the Kolyma in Siberia, inmates labored through 12-hour days in cheap canvas shoes, on almost no food, in temperatures that could go to minus-58. At one camp, 1,300 of 3,000 inmate

More on David Gelernter.

Unprepared: Back to the Basics in College

Melissa Milios:

n high school, I was a 3.8 (grade-point average) student. It was simple for me to get by with the bare minimum. I just got lazy,” says Andrea Edwards, 19, a graduate of Inglewood High. “Now that I’m here, it’s embarrassing — there’s so much I just don’t know.”
“You kind of feel left behind — like, why is my report card lying?” adds 19-year-old Kiwanna Hines, who was in the top 10 percent of her class at Junipero Serra High in Gardena. “I have my grandma, my auntie, my mom, my cousins — all of them are depending on me to graduate college. It’s a lot of pressure.”

The story notes that 8 out of 10 first-time freshman enrolled at Dominguez Hills last fall needed remediation in English and 7 in 10 needed remediation in math. Throughout the 23-campus CSU system, only 43% of the entering freshmen were proficient in both classes. Dominguez Hills president James Lyons summed it up: “There’s a disconnect between what they’re doing in high school to earn that GPA, and what is required and expected at the university level.” Via Eduwonk and Joanne Jacobs

Put “no” voters on task force

The long range planning committee approved motions to address the East and West side “demographics and long range facility needs, including the development of a task force, a charge to the task force, task force membership, task force timeline, and task force process.”
The West side task force will presumably tackle the problem of Leopold overcrowding. The body should definitely include representatives of those of us who voted against the referendum on building a second school at Leopold. Hopefully, an inclusive group will produce a proposal that can win wide-spread support. A task force only of supporters will likely fail to gain needed public confidence.

WI State Budget Update

The Wisconsin Assembly approved a new two year state budget early this morning by a 56-40 vote. Spending increases 6.4%, while the percentage of funds generated by sales taxes goes up 9.9%. Governor Doyle proposed a 16% (!) increase in road projects to 4.4billion. Republicans added $93M to that, creating a 18% increase in road spending. State support for local school spending grows 8.6% (458M) to 5.3billion (Doyle proposed a $938M increase, “paid” for by additional state borrowing and transfers from other programs).

  • Phil Brinkman does a great job summarizing the budget. I appreciate the fact that he included total spending dollars along with the increases.
  • Stacy Forster and Patrick Marley also summarize the Assembly’s budget.
  • WisPolitics’ Budget Blog tracks the Assembly’s activities.

Referenda News: Germantown & Racine

Two interesting looks at Referenda activity:

  • Tom Kertscher finds that Germantown residents are attempting to raise funds for a High School expansion privately first:

    But supporters of the music programs realize that in Germantown – and throughout the Milwaukee area – most borrowing referendums for school building projects have failed in the past year and a half. So they are trying a new approach: Before asking for public money, they plan to raise private money to help fund additions to the high school.
    Germantown parent John Dawson, who is leading plans for a music referendum, said the message to taxpayers will be “we need your help, but we’re not looking for a handout.”

  • Alice Chang reports that Racine voters approved a $6.45M one year operating referendum (a $17.8M two year question failed this past April):

    The reprieve from financial pressure will be relatively short-lived. The district still faces a $13.4 million shortfall next year and likely will be asking voters again for a boost in funding.
    Rather than resting on the success of the spending referendum, School Board members already were looking ahead to future challenges.
    “We have an obligation to make sure we keep an eye on being fiscally responsible,” said board member Randy Bangs, who added that the passage of the referendum proposal was just one battle. “The bigger prize is a better district, which needs the support of the entire community.”
    Bangs said the board will continue to search for ways to make the district more efficient so that next year, if finances necessitate it, the district will attempt to pass a spending referendum for a minimal amount.

  • Brent Killackey has more on the Racine Referendum

Insights into Promoting Critical Thinking in Online Classes

Daithí Ó Murchú and Brent Muirhead:

At the beginning of the 21st. Century, all educators and all educational institutions, at all levels of education provision, are faced with the greatest time of possibility for change and evolution or stagnation and regression. Barker, 1978 in New York, stated that “action with vision can change the world” and the authors, based on their many years of experience working in both traditional and managed or virtual, E-Learning, lifelong-learning environments contend that the promotion of critical thinking is a key element in meaningful, responsible and soulful learning. Our ‘raison d’être’ as educators is to prepare our students for the society which does not yet exist and in doing so, provide them with opportunities to critically assess and transform their experiences into authentic learning experiences (Ó Murchú, 2005). This article explores the thought processes, realities and perceptions of the authors’ on-going experiences in on-line classes and gives their insights into promoting critical thinking in these Managed Learning Environments (MLEs).

Elementary Specials: Funding Restored for All Elementary Special Classes Except Strings? Can That Be Correct?

At the Monday June 20, 2005 MMSD School Board meeting, funding was restored for music, art and gym elementary specials for a total of about $550,000. Can it be possible that all elementary specials, except elementary strings, would be restored? I can’t believe this. Isn’t the elementary string course an elementary music special (part of the School Board approved music education curriculum). If this restoration of funds exclude the elementary string teachers, isn’t this even more demoralizing to a small group of teachers who have already seen 60% of their colleagues laid off. And, what about the nearly 2,000 children who will only learn half what they previously learned in two years – that’s okay? How can these children’s education NOT be affected if they are only learning half the curriculum?
The Administration in March and the School Board last night have made all these decisions without asking one single question about the impact of their decisions on what children will be able to learn. They did not ask one single question about what planning has taken place in music education curriculum in the past year. There hasn’t been any.
Money is not the only issue. I believe a lack of strategic planning in fine arts is an issue. I’m coming to think this about foreign language and more advanced math in middle school – challenging curriculum in general. Progressive curriculum planning in the face of draconian budget constraints is desperately needed in music education and has not taken place over the past five years that courses have been on the chopping block. Administrative staff admits they have not assessed music curriculum. Without further exploration, staff continues to think only general music is needed. Administrators do not want to pay attention to music education in my opinion, so parents, teachers and the community need to let our School Board know action is needed (comments@madison.k12.wi.us).

Continue reading Elementary Specials: Funding Restored for All Elementary Special Classes Except Strings? Can That Be Correct?

6.20.2005 School Board Meeting Summary

Sandy Cullen summarized last evening’s Madison School Board meeting where:

  • Board members approved an administrative staff hiring freeze (5-2 with Bill Keys and Juan Jose Lopez voting against it)
  • Voted to use 200K in excess district insurance funds for elementary art, music and gym class sizes at 15 students in SAGE schools. (4-3 with Bill Keys, Juan Jose Lopez and Johnny Winston, Jr. voting against it)
  • Adopted the 2005-2006 budget 5-2 with Ruth Robarts and Shwaw Vang opposed

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memo on Proposed Changes to Revenue Limits for School Districts

This June 20, 2005 document is on-line in PDF format at: http://www.thewheelerreport.com/releases/June05/June20/0620lfbschoollimits.pdf
In response to a number of legislative inquiries, this memorandum provides information on
the potential changes to revenue limits for school districts, compared to the 2004-05 base year,
under AB 100 as proposed by the Governor and the Joint Finance version of the budget.
Under the Joint Finance provisions, the per pupil adjustment would be set at $120 in 2005-06
and $100 in 2006-07 and thereafter, compared to an estimated $248 and $252, respectively, under
current law and AB 100. Under the Joint Finance provisions, the low-revenue ceiling would be
increased from the current law $7,800 in 2004-05 to $8,100 in 2005-06 and $8,400 in 2006-07,
identical to AB 100.
The attachments present information to illustrate the possible revenue limit changes under
AB 100 and the Joint Finance provisions compared to the 2004-05 base year.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on WI Budget Debate over Funding Public K-12 Schools

How far can schools stretch their dollars?
Education funding is central to budget debate in Madison

By ALAN J. BORSUK and AMY HETZNER, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
aborsuk@journalsentinel.com
Posted: June 18, 2005
Let’s say your parents base your budget for gasoline for the year on $1.75 a gallon.
The next year, Mom and Dad say, we’re increasing your allowance to cover $2 a gallon.
But gas now costs $2.30.
54987School Funding
Quotable
There has to be more of a middle ground here that I would challenge both parties to deal with. They’re not serving the state very well with this kind of polarization.
Have your folks given you an increase? Of course. A big one, if you look at the percentage.
Have they given you a decrease? Of course. There’s no way you’re going to be able to drive as far you did last year with less gasoline.
Welcome to the intense, real and genuinely important debate over state funding of education for the next two years.
Here’s a two-sentence summary of an issue likely to dominate the Capitol for the next few weeks as the state budget comes to a head:
Republican leaders are saying the increase in education funding for the next two years, approved by the Joint Finance Committee and heading toward approval by the Legislature itself, calls for $458 million more for kindergarten through 12th-grade education for the next two years, a large increase that taxpayers can afford.
Democrats and a huge chorus of superintendents, teachers and school board members around the state are protesting, saying that the increase will mean large cuts in the number of teachers and the levels of service for children because it doesn’t contain enough fuel to drive the educational system the same distance as before.

Continue reading Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on WI Budget Debate over Funding Public K-12 Schools

WI State Budget Republican K-12 Proposed Funding – Bad for Children and WI’s Economic Future

Please write/call legislatures ASAP – the legislature plans to take up the proposed budget this coming week, and the proposed budget for education is a disaster for our children’s future and our state’s economic health.
Schultz (WI State Senator, Republican Leader in the Senate):
http://www.legis.state.wi.us/senate/sen17/sen17.html
Gard (WI State Representative, Wi State Assembly Speaker):
http://www.legis.state.wi.us/assembly/asm89/asm89.html
Doyle:
http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/section.asp?linkid=59&locid=19
The Republican legislature is planning to move forward with a proposed state budget that is attempting to back off once again 2/3 state funding of schools with some fancy language. Just like that – saying we are already giving the largest increase in history to education.
Thanks for making the effort to contact GOP leaders and to ask the Gov. to hold firm (which ALL his public statements have indicated that he will, but it’s unclear what his veto opportunties will be until the statutory languagefor the budget document is available). This information was provided by:
Joe Quick
Legislative Liaison/Communication Specialist
Madison Schools
663-1902

Continue reading WI State Budget Republican K-12 Proposed Funding – Bad for Children and WI’s Economic Future

Education in Wisconsin: K through UW

Ostensibly about how short-sighted the legislative cuts are to the UW system, this guest MJS business op-ed addresses a few big issues affecting how we finance public education in general.
http://www.jsonline.com/bym/news/jun05/334962.asp
Of particular interest was this: “Working with a team of business leaders to explore strategies that would free resources to enhance educational outcomes. Do we need 16 school districts in Dane County? Could distance education better leverage UW’s teaching stars?
Finding a lower cost health care benefits solution that mirrors private sector changes to build more consumerism into health care decisions.
Working with Doyle to find a better K-12 school financing system that also recognizes the need for some degree of spending limits in our schools.
We do not want to wake up and wonder what happened to the educational system that once made Wisconsin and its businesses so great. Businesses, not to mention our children, will pay the price.”

Continue reading Education in Wisconsin: K through UW

Trends in Grade Inflation, Nationwide

Economist Mark Thoma offers some thoughts on grade inflation:

There are two episodes that account for most grade inflation. The first is from the 1960s through the early 1970s. This is usually explained by the draft rules for the Vietnam War. The second episode begins around 1990 and is harder to explain….

My study finds an interesting correlation in the data. During the time grades were increasing, budgets were also tightening inducing a substitution towards younger and less permanent faculty. I broke down grade inflation by instructor rank and found it is much higher among assistant professors, adjuncts, TAs, instructors, etc. than for associate or full professors. These are instructors who are usually hired year-to-year or need to demonstrate teaching effectiveness for the job market, so they have an incentive to inflate evaluations as much as possible, and high grades are one means of manipulating student course evaluations.

Alex Tabarrock offers some additional thoughts & background links.

TABOR in the News

Paul Caron points to two articles on TABOR:

  • America’s Next Tax Revolt – Wall Street Journal:

    A Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a long overdue addition to the architecture of state constitutions. Proposition 13 halted the aggressive encroachment of state government more than 25 years ago, but only temporarily: Even after adjusting for inflation, most state tax collections are two to three times fatter than they were then. The painful experience since is that only hard and fast constitutional limits can rein in the powerful spending interests that live off the government.

  • Tax Foundation, TABOR, The Cure for Ratchet Up:

    Another important tool in alleviating tax and spend “ratchet-up” is the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). This budget tool requires that excess revenue growth (in excess of population plus inflation) be rebated to the taxpayers. TABOR also requires voter approval for tax increases.

WI State K-12 Budget Summary

Alan J. Borsuk and Amy Hetzner:

Republican leaders are saying the increase in education funding for the next two years, approved by the Joint Finance Committee and heading toward approval by the Legislature itself, calls for $458 million more for kindergarten through 12th-grade education for the next two years, a large increase that taxpayers can afford.
Democrats and a huge chorus of superintendents, teachers and school board members around the state are protesting, saying that the increase will mean large cuts in the number of teachers and the levels of service for children because it doesn’t contain enough fuel to drive the educational system the same distance as before.
At the root of the issue is an education funding system approved by the Legislature a decade ago, when Republican Tommy G. Thompson was the governor. It created a cap on how much school districts could spend each year for general operations. In general, two-thirds of that amount was to come from the state with the rest from local property taxes.

Continue reading WI State K-12 Budget Summary

Animosity Toward Band, Orchestra and Vocal Music Curriculum Unnecessary – Alienates Parents, Community

I think what I found most disturbing about the elimination of band, orchestra and vocal music from the school day in Sherman Middle School was the exclusion (almost isolation) of music staff by other Sherman staff from the front of the room at the parent meeting in early June to present the exploratory changes being mandated including questions/issues surrounding the music curriculum at Sherman. I found the a) open irritation by some Sherman Middle School staff toward the music staff shocking, b) the lack of music curriculum assessment and planning for the changes unsettling, and c) the exclusions of parents and students in the process alarming.

Continue reading Animosity Toward Band, Orchestra and Vocal Music Curriculum Unnecessary – Alienates Parents, Community

Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out

Neal Stephenson:

Anakin wins that race by repairing his crippled racer in an ecstasy of switch-flipping that looks about as intuitive as starting up a nuclear submarine. Clearly the boy is destined to be adopted into the Jedi order, where he will develop his geek talents – not by studying calculus but by meditating a lot and learning to trust his feelings. I lap this stuff up along with millions, maybe billions, of others. Why? Because every single one of us is as dependent on science and technology – and, by extension, on the geeks who make it work – as a patient in intensive care. Yet we much prefer to think otherwise.
Scientists and technologists have the same uneasy status in our society as the Jedi in the Galactic Republic. They are scorned by the cultural left and the cultural right, and young people avoid science and math classes in hordes. The tedious particulars of keeping ourselves alive, comfortable and free are being taken offline to countries where people are happy to sweat the details, as long as we have some foreign exchange left to send their way. Nothing is more seductive than to think that we, like the Jedi, could be masters of the most advanced technologies while living simple lives: to have a geek standard of living and spend our copious leisure time vegging out.
If the “Star Wars” movies are remembered a century from now, it’ll be because they are such exact parables for this state of affairs. Young people in other countries will watch them in classrooms as an answer to the question: Whatever became of that big rich country that used to buy the stuff we make? The answer: It went the way of the old Republic.

Music Education – Learn About the Benefits Before Cutting Curriculum

If there is no money, cut arts education is the decisions administrators make – often, though, without first looking at the impact on student’s achievement (using readily available data) or without consideration of the impact on who will stay/leave a school. Couldn’t decisions made in the absence of examining data and listening to parents cost far more in lost revenue and prestige than the cost of a class?
When I read about the cuts to music education at the elementary school level, the primary reasons given are that these cuts were due to budget constraints and pull-out programs are difficult to schedule. When I read about the cuts to Sherman Middle School’s vocal and instrumental music program from the regular school day, the primary reasons given are lack of interest (decline in enrollment during the past several years coincidentally matches the current principal’s tenure) and the principal’s requirement for heterogenous classes and mandated exploratory options for Sherman’s children.
Yet, when I read the national news, research and hundreds of other documents I learn that a) music improves children’s peer relationships and academic performance in schools and b) schools with a signficant low income student body that increase their arts education see significant increases in these children’s test scores.

Continue reading Music Education – Learn About the Benefits Before Cutting Curriculum

June 17 MMSD Asks PTOs and Presumably Parents to Contact Legislators

For Legislative Fiscal Bureau policy papers and membership lists of relevant committees, go to: http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/mmsd/leg/
FROM JOE QUICK, MMSD LEGISLATIVE LIAISON
If you have already received this Update, our apologies. We are trying to inform parents about this important budget issue before the Legislature votes next week.
Dear PTO/A Leaders:
The attached information outlines changes Republican leaders made to Gov. Doyle’s budget. Please take a moment to call Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz and Assembly Speaker John Gard (contact information in news update) to express your opposition to cutting back on the allowable per pupil revenue limit increase. Gov. Doyle’s budget allows a $248 per pupil increase for next school year, the GOP plan, $120 (would require an additional $3.1 million cut to the budget BEFORE it is finalized this October); for the 06-07 school year, the Gov. allows an increase of $252 per pupil, the GOP plan $100 per pupil (would require MMSD to cut $6.9 million in 06-07).

Continue reading June 17 MMSD Asks PTOs and Presumably Parents to Contact Legislators

States Report Reading First Yielding Gains, Some Schools Getting Ousted for Quitting

Little solid evidence is available to gauge whether the federal government’s multibillion-dollar Reading First initiative is having an effect on student achievement, but many states are reporting anecdotally that they are seeing benefits for their schools.
Among those benefits are extensive professional development in practices deemed to be research-based, extra instructional resources, and ongoing support services, according to an Education Week analysis of state performance reports published June 8, 2005.

Continue reading States Report Reading First Yielding Gains, Some Schools Getting Ousted for Quitting

Milwaukee Schools Discuss School Closings

Via Wispolitics:

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) today announced the second phase of its community engagement initiative regarding the future use of its facilities. School officials will again host a series of meetings to seek and gather information from teachers, principals, community organizations and parents.
MPS must eliminate vacant space that exists because of a downward trend in enrollment, and make solid decisions regarding dwindling resources. MPS currently has 95,600 students, but it operates buildings that, combined, feature room for 122,000 students.
“We are encouraging the community to come out for the second round of meetings,” said Tyrone Dumas, Milwaukee Public Schools’ Community Engagement project leader. “We’ve heard from some teachers, administrators and parents in the first phase of this process, however, we need to touch many more in order to develop fair and accurate guidelines by which we could close some school sites.”

Gilmore: Add Elementary Strings to the Curriculum

Andrea Gilmore (This opinion piece was published in the Wisconsin State Journal):

I am lucky. I have been playing the violin since I was in the fourth grade. I was exposed to music at an early age and music has helped me gain skills that have enhanced my school career. Through music, I learned self-confidence, self-discipline, time management, cooperation and study skills.
Unfortunately, many young people may not have the opportunity I had. The elementary strings program costs only $500,000 in a budget of about $300 million. School board members recently decided to keep the elementary strings program next year in some form, while cutting approximately $500,000 overall out of the music-education programs.

Continue reading Gilmore: Add Elementary Strings to the Curriculum

Social Mobility & The Educated Class

The Economist [6.9.2005]:

The obvious way to deal with this is to use the education system to guarantee a level playing field. Improve educational opportunities for the poorest Americans, make sure that nobody is turned away from university on grounds of financial need, and you will progressively weaken the link between background and educational success. Alas, there are at least three big problems with this.
The first is that the schools the poorest Americans attend have been getting worse rather than better. This is partly a problem of resources, to be sure. But it is even more a problem of bad ideas. The American educational establishment’s weakness for airy-fairy notions about the evils of standards and competition is particularly damaging to poor children who have few educational resources of their own to fall back on. One poll of 900 professors of education, for example, found that 64% of them thought that schools should avoid competition.

Continue reading Social Mobility & The Educated Class

Dear MMSD Interim Fine Arts Coordinator –

I was asked to post the following letter from Robert Rickman, MMSD instrument teacher, to Rita Applebaum, MMSD Interim Fine Arts Coordinator:
6/15/05
Dear Ms. Applebaum,
I was recently informed that you spoke to Mark Messer, Memorial High School orchestra teacher, about the 4th and 5th grade Strings classes. I am shocked to hear that you have moved to eliminate fourth grade Strings classes based upon a conversation with him, and a hurried and undiscussed vote from Strings teachers that you solicited by e-mail the day before school was out.

Continue reading Dear MMSD Interim Fine Arts Coordinator –

Music Education in MMSD Needs Help from the Madison Community

Music education in Madison’s public schools has been on the chopping block for the past four years, beginning with the Superintendent’s proposed cut to Grade 4 strings. All the proposed cuts were made without any planning for changes, and the harshest cuts came this year, again without any planning for change among the key stakeholders and those most affected by the change – our children. This past year, in the absence of a fine arts coordinator, a team of teachers was to be put into place to oversee fine arts education – this did not happen but an interim fine arts coordinator was hired in the spring. Perhaps it’s time for the community to form a task force to collaborate on future directions and an educational framework for music education in our public schools?
This spring 60% of the elementary string staff was cut – 4 FTEs will teach nearly 2,000 children in 27 schools next year, 10% of the elementary music staff was cut and instrumental and vocal music were proposed for afterschool at Sherman Middle School.

Continue reading Music Education in MMSD Needs Help from the Madison Community

Challenge to Teacher Ed

A new worldwide chain of for-profit colleges started to go public with its plans last month for Whitney International University, which will offer a range of programs in numerous countries. At the time, Best Associates, the Dallas-based merchant bank that is creating Whitney, said it also had plans for teacher education in the United States.
Those plans are now starting to emerge — and the American College of Education, as this effort will be called, represents a new model for training teachers. In fact, organizers of the teacher education program make no effort to hide their disdain for most programs that exist today.


Story continues
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State Gives Schools Extra Leeway

Jamaal Abdul-Alim:

Despite increasingly tough standards, the number of Wisconsin schools that will be flagged this year for failing to meet federally mandated reading and math goals will be less than half what it was last year – 51 as opposed to 108 – but not because things are getting better.
Rather, it is the state’s controversial calculation method that allows schools to miss the goals by substantial percentages without having it count against them.
For the same reason, only one school district in the state will be flagged for failing to meet the federally mandated standards, whereas last year 30 school districts were listed as failing to make enough progress.
The dramatic shift is due to the use of a statistical tool known as confidence intervals.

Allied Drive Open House Tonight

Via Wispolitics

Allied Drive Open House tonight
6/14/2005
5:30 p.m.
Allied Drive Head Start Building,
2096 Red Arrow Trail. Map
Madison, WI.
FYI: the mayor will attend the 2nd annual Allied Drive open house tonight. The event starts at 5:30pm, with a short speaking program at about 6:15pm. In addition to the mayor, Art Rainwater and Kathleen Falk are also expected to attend.
The open house is an opportunity for Allied Drive residents and service providers to meet with each other and their elected officials to discuss issues important to the neighborhood and learn about available services from city, county and non-profit agencies. Food, childcare and Spanish and Hmong translation services are all offered at the event.
George Twigg
Communications Director
Office of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
(608) 266-4611

A Better Way to Teach

HOW LAPHAM ELEMENTARY ACHIEVED SUCCESS BY BUCKING THE DISTRICT’S FAVORED APPROACH
By Katherine Esposito

“At Marquette Elementary, Lapham’s 3rd through 5th grade sister school, skillful use of Direct Instruction has resulted in reading scores for Marquette third-graders that are virtually unsurpassed district-wide. Scores for black students particularly stand out.
In 1998, just 9% of Marquette black third graders were considered “advanced” readers, as measured on the third-grade state reading comprehension test; by 2003, 38% were “advanced.” District-wide, only 9% of black children scored as “advanced” in 2003.”

Read the full article here.

What’s the Future for Ads in the Madison Schools?

Johnny Winston Jr., chair of the Finance and Operations Committee of the Madison School Board, kicked off a new discussion of the possible role of business ads to raise money for our schools at the June 13 meeting of his committee. Committee member Lawrie Kobza asked the administration to bring back information about what other districts are doing beyond the advertisements in yearbooks, school newspapers and the like. Good ideas, both.
However, why stop there? Maybe there are products looking for School Board member endorsements.

Continue reading What’s the Future for Ads in the Madison Schools?

Leopold vote: Eastside, Westside, all around town

I put the vote totals on the Leopold referendum for a few wards into an
Exel file. Here’s what the numbers show:
Yes
68.2% Eastside (Tenny-Lapham neighborhood, Marquette, Lowell)
48.2% Leopold area (Wards 67,68,69, 84, 85, 86)
30.4% Northeast side (North Sherman Avenue area)
49.3% Fitchburg
Please check my figures with the official tally. I want to be certain the numbers are correct.
I’d also like to break down the vote by high school attendance area, but that will take a little time. Anyone else willing to do it?
Colin Benedict also explained the voting trends on Channel 3 on “election night.”

There is Something Seriously Wrong with Music Education in MMSD

Suzy Grindrod writes that Madison school bureaucrats’ decisions are short-sighted and are Stringing the kids along
So they make the arts unworkable in early elementary school, they gut the incredibly successful elementary strings program, they remove band and orchestra from core curriculum in middle school … and then they are going to complain that there is no diversity in the high school bands and orchestras and — CHOP.
There is something fundamentally wrong with what is happening in Wisconsin’s Capitol city — a community that just built a $200 million arts district downtown, as these short-sighted and creatively stunted bureaucrats make it unlikely that many Madison kids will end up on Overture’s stage in the future unless they have the money to buy private lessons.
Can Madison turn this disgraceful situation around before the existing cost-effective MMSD music education curriculum implodes and vanishes from public school and performance music education is only for those who can pay?

Continue reading There is Something Seriously Wrong with Music Education in MMSD

The Good, Bad & Ugly in the Budget

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial Page (this link will go away soon as the WSJ takes them down…):

State lawmakers once again faced a tough job with few easy answers when Gov. Jim Doyle handed them his state budget request four months ago.
Credit the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee for resisting a borrowing binge and for slapping Doyle’s hand when he reached for pots of money he shouldn’t touch.
The committee, led by Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R- Juneau, reversed about half of Doyle’s raid of highway dollars and stopped him from looting an account that pays for medical malpractice claims. Money for those programs comes from fees and taxes that users pay with the understanding those dollars won’t be diverted.
The committee also stopped Doyle from borrowing money based on the future collection of excise taxes. Instead, the committee paid for medical care for the poor, elderly and disabled with real dollars.
That’s the good part, along with the committee’s empathy for the beleaguered property taxpayer.
But let’s remember how the state’s finances got screwed up to begin with. State leaders patched gaping holes in past budgets using one-time money that’s now gone. They also backloaded past budgets to push higher costs – both for expensive new programs and tax cuts – into the future.

Teacher Health Insurance Costs: Why They Matter

Madison Teachers, Inc., the Madison teachers’ union, has recently ratified its collective bargaining agreement with the Madison school district for 2005-06 and 2006-07. Later this month, the Board of Education will have its chance to ratify the agreement, although the board gave preliminary assent on June 6.
On June 10, Isthmus writer Jason Shepard provided an excellent analysis of the ways that providing Wisconsin Physicians Service (WPS) to the teachers drives up the cost of each contract. The article also questions the relative quality of the WPS coverage. See “District ties to WPS prove costly”, available at many locations in Dane County.
The following graphs, based on data from MMSD, illustrate the impact of high cost WPS coverage on the cost of the two-year contract and the extent to which access to WPS coverage for roughly half of the teachers receiving health insurance through MMSD erodes wage gains.

Continue reading Teacher Health Insurance Costs: Why They Matter

Joint Finance’s State Budget Passes

Patrick Marley, Steve Walters and Stacy Forster:

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee adopted a budget early today that tightly limits property taxes, cuts the gas tax by a penny and phases out taxes on Social Security benefits.
The budget includes $458 million more for schools, less than half what Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle proposed in his version of the budget. The state is spending about $5.3 billion on schools this year.
The Republican-controlled committee passed the budget on an 11-5 vote at 6:15 a.m., after all-night deliberations. Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) joined the four Democrats on the committee in voting against the budget, which he said included too much spending and borrowing.
Republicans said schools would flourish under their spending plan, and warned Doyle not to veto their school budget or their property tax limits. If Doyle did so, schools could raise much more cash, but it would come from local property taxes instead of state income and sales taxes.

Governor Doyle referred to this as a “cut”, while, in fact, state aid to local schools will evidently continue to go up – more than twice as much as the current budget. It would be great if the politicians would be truthful… on both sides.
UPDATE: Phil Brinkman adds more details: evidently the Republicans (read this carefully) reduced the allowed increase in per pupil spending from $248 in 2005/2006 and $252 in 2006/2007 to 120 and 100. So, if I read all this correctly, spending continues to grow, just at a lower rate. The Republicans claim that the 248 and 258 increase from the current per pupil spending amounts would lead to large local property tax jumps over the next two years.
UPDATE2: More from JR Ross. Via Wispolitics. Ross points out a great example of the doubletalk: the Republicans bill cuts the gas tax by .01 BUT, the tax is indexed to inflation so it actually increases annually anyway.
UPDATE3: Here’s the Bill AB100

How Schools Cheat

Lisa Snell, writing in Reason Magazine:

But while federal and state legislators congratulate themselves for their newfound focus on school accountability, scant attention is being paid to the quality of the data they’re using. Whether the topic is violence, test scores, or dropout rates, school officials have found myriad methods to paint a prettier picture of their performance. These distortions hide the extent of schools’ failures, deceive taxpayers about what our ever-increasing education budgets are buying, and keep kids locked in failing institutions. Meanwhile, Washington—which has set national standards requiring 100 percent of school children to reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014—has been complicit in letting states avoid sanctions by fiddling with their definitions of proficiency.
The federal government is spending billions to improve student achievement while simultaneously granting states license to game the system. As a result, schools have learned to lie with statistics.

“With” is Not a Four-Letter Word

The agenda of the Finance and Operations committee meeting for Monday, June 13 contains these items:
4. Communication to the Public about the Proposed 2005-06 Budget
6. Nontraditional Communication Strategies to Speak to Community Stakeholders.
Mark Twain once remarked: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.”
For me, “communication to” and “speak to” is vastly different than “communication with” and “speak with” — like the difference between “lightening” and “lightening bug”.
I can hear the failed referenda supporters and the supporting press editorials: Just needed a little better PR.
“With” has this strong flavor of team work, working together, listening: dialog!. “To?” Well, that has been the legacy of the Administration and Board.
But, no, folks. “With” is not a four-letter word. It needs to be used, again and again, until it becomes part of the Administration’s and Board’s culture.

More on Math

A reader forwarded this article: Jay Mathews, writing in the Washington Post:

So when I found a new attack on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the nation’s leading association for math teachers, by a group of smart advocates, I saw a chance to bring some clarity to what we call the Math Wars. For several years, loosely allied groups of activist teachers and parents with math backgrounds have argued that we are teaching math all wrong. We should make sure that children know their math facts — can multiply quickly in their heads and do long division without calculators, among other things — or algebra is going to kill them, they say. They blame the NCTM, based in Reston, Va., for encouraging loose teaching that leaves students to try to discover principles themselves and relies too much on calculators.

Continue reading More on Math

Joint Finance Committee Republicans Bail on Funding Education

School-funding update
JFC budget for public schools even worse than expected
Contact your legislators about anti-public education budget
Opportunities to fight against Finance Committee’s budget
Help WAES spread the school-finance reform message
School-funding reform calendar
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.
************
JFC budget for public schools even worse than expected
Just when public school advocates thought funding problems couldn’t get any worse, the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) proved them wrong.
Early Friday, the panel adopted motions that not only reduced the Governor’s public school budget by over $300 million, but also slashed the public school revenues local school boards anticipated in their budgets for the 2005-06 school year. In addition, the committee drastically reduced Governor Jim Doyle’s categorical aid package.

Continue reading Joint Finance Committee Republicans Bail on Funding Education

Askey on Elementary Math Curriculum: “Good Intentions Are Not Enough”

UW’s Dick Askey emailed links to two of his papers on Elementary Math Curriculum:

  • Good Intentions Are Not Enough (PDF)

    While there was a need to do something to improve school mathematics education, NCTM did not face up to the most critical problem, the lack of firm content knowledge of far too many teachers. There were other lacks in their program. NCTM did not look seriously at mathematics education in other countries. Mathematicians were not involved in the development of the Standards. The NCTM authors of their Standards had the strange notion that it is possible to teach conceptual understanding without developing technical skill at the same time. Instances of all of these failures and what came from them will be given below.

  • Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics (PDF)

    Elementary school mathematics, it turns out, is not so elementary. This means that teaching it well requires much deeper mathematical knowledge than almost everyone has thought. There will be no math reform unless we provide teachers with the training, textbooks, time, and support needed to develop this knowledge.

Behind every grad

The NYTimes’ Tom Friedman has a nice piece on the importance of good teachers in our children’s education. As the mother of a graduating senior, I wish there was space here to list the terrific teachers (as well as TAG and guidance staff) both our children had while attending Franklin/Randall, Wingra, Hamilton and West. Our deepest gratitude to those who helped our kids love to learn.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/10/opinion/10friedman.html

Continue reading Behind every grad

Annexing more West side students

Why is the MMSD annexing more students on the West side when there’s such a concern about space? What attendance areas include the annexed land? I wonder too about the fiscal impact of adding more students. Will more students lead to more program cuts, so that the additions really become a fiscal drain rather than a fiscal benefit?
I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m genuinely asking why adding students is a good idea. It may be a perfectly good approach, but it just seems odd given the controversy about West side enrollment and overcrowding.
I’ve actually been wondering whether the MMSD shouldn’t give up some kids to other school districts on the West side. In particular, I wonder about the penninsula that feeds into Leopold. Or by contrast, annexing the land and kids who lie between the penninsula and Chavez and building an elementary school in that annexed territory to relieve the overcrowding at Leopold.
I’m not advocating anything, so don’t “bust my chops.” I’m just thinking out loud.

Friedman: After 50 Years, Vouchers Catching On

Milton Friedman:

Little did I know when I published an article in 1955 on “The Role of Government in Education” that it would lead to my becoming an activist for a major reform in the organization of schooling, and indeed that my wife and I would be led to establish a foundation to promote parental choice. The original article was not a reaction to a perceived deficiency in schooling. The quality of schooling in the United States then was far better than it is now, and both my wife and I were satisfied with the public schools we had attended. My interest was in the philosophy of a free society. Education was the area that I happened to write on early. I then went on to consider other areas as well. The end result was “Capitalism and Freedom,” published seven years later with the education article as one chapter.

Morin: The Price of Acting White

Richard Morin:

” Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”— Barack Obama, keynote speech, 2004 Democratic National Convention
It may be even worse than Obama imagined: It’s not just black children who face ridicule and ostracism by their peers if they do well in school. The stigmatizing effects of “acting white” appear to be felt even more by Hispanics who get top grades.

Shephard: Madison Schools WPS Insurance Proves Costly

Jason Shephard emailed a copy of his article on Madison Schools’ Healthcare costs. This article first appeared in the June 10, 2005 issue of Isthmus. The Isthmus version includes several rather useful charts & graphs that illustrate how the Madison School District’s health care costs compare with the City and County. Pick it up.

Continue reading Shephard: Madison Schools WPS Insurance Proves Costly

The Lesson

From Milwaukee Magazine:

On the day Dante Hamilton came to Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School on Milwaukee’s North Side, he was like most African-American children who enroll in urban school districts in the United States. He was already behind. . . .
Fortunately for Dante, he had what the Chinese call the luck of time and place when his mother enrolled him at Hawthorne. Today, at age 10, he is a fourth-grader who reads at a sixth-grade level.

The article continues for several pages and insightfully covers a wide range of relevant topics on schools.

“Conflict of Interest”?

Christina Daglas article in the Cap Times on 6/8/05 refers to John Matthews, head of MTI, and his position on the board of WPS the insurance company that provides policies to the Madison school teachers as not having a conflict of interest. I have no information that Mr. Matthews has done anything wrong however, I strongly dispute the fact that this is not a conflict of interest. This is the first I have heard of his position on the board of WPS. I have asked the board many times why teachers are under such an expensive health care contract when many families in the community of Madison are well served by U.W. providers under a less expensive program, mine included. I was told many times the cost savings would be small to switch to a different carrier but this newly revealed information makes me question whether that is true or not. Per the Capital Times, Mr. Matthews fails to see a conflict of interest…..he fails to see a conflict of interest. I guess I keep repeating this statement and wondering how he can not see a conflict of interest. Anyone else see a conflict of interest?

Curated Education Information