Middle School Curriculum: Social Focus Yielding to Academics

Jay Matthews:

For two decades, policymakers have decreed that seventh grade should be a time when children have a chance to adjust to puberty and cliques and the other annoyances of turning 13. Lessons should be engaging and enriching, middle school advocates have said, but not put too much emphasis on mastering subject matter and passing difficult tests.
That attitude is changing, at Kenmore Middle School and in much of the rest of the country. Middle schools have “overemphasized emotional development at the expense of academic growth,” said Mike Riley, superintendent of Bellevue, Wash., schools

Plugged In, But Tuned Out: Getting Kids to Connect to the Non-Virtual World

Jeff Zaslow:

Children today have been labeled “the connected generation,” with iPods in their ears, text messages at their fingertips and laptop screens at eye level. But their technology-focused lifestyle can also leave them disconnected from the wider world, especially from their parents.
Many teens won’t give friends their home numbers, says Samantha Landau, 15, of West Hills, Calif. “They don’t want friends to talk to their parents, because they don’t want their parents to know about their lives.”

Can We Talk: Some Ideas to Follow

A reader forwarded another perspective on school-parent communication in the Madison School District:

Here are some examples of really positive communication:
Our child’s savvy, experienced 4th grade teacher sends home a ‘weekly work ticket’. The ticket summarizes test/quiz scores, unfinished work not turned in and includes a place for teacher comments. I think this format is exceptional. It is certainly a time intensive task for the teacher. During the elementary years both of our children often had to return weekly progress slips with our signature. The teacher both children had for 3rd grade sent home a weekly newsletter that was simply a joy to read. A synopsis was created of the week’s work and provocative questions were included to facilitate parent/child conversation. Example, “Tell me about the way mummies were preserved in Ancient Egypt?” The kids do have some responsibility for communication.

Continue reading Can We Talk: Some Ideas to Follow


With apologies to Jonathan Swift:
Given the concerns about obesity in children – and the high cost of gasoline, I have a suggestion to deal with both. We need to redesign our buses so there are pedals for each rider – the students can provide much of the power to move the bus and reduce our reliance on gasoline while getting good exercise.
To take this one step further – we should design exercise rooms at the high schools so that bikes and treadmills also replace other energy sources.

Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Tests: Are our kids doing as well as we think?

A recent New York Times article, “One Secret to Better Test Scores: Make State Reading Tests Easier” by Michael Winerip (10/05/05) reported that changes in k-12 achievement tests are the reason for substantially improved scores. The reporter argues that easier tests–not improved reading–account for much of the improvements claimed.
The Education Trust, a national non-profit organization, has published a study that compares student scores on state-created achievement tests with scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for each state. The most recent edition of the report covers 2003. The data support the conclusion that Wisconsin’s tests may be overstating our students’ achievement. For example, in Wisconsin 80% of students statewide scored at grade level or better (“Proficient or Advanced”) on the Grade 4 Overall Reading and English Language Arts tests. However, only 33% of the Wisconsin sample taking the NAEP test scored at this level.

Can we Talk 2

I previously wrote about the lack of information received via email, internet, etc…from the school district. Since I posted that blog the District has been “experimenting” with two software systems they deem worth evaluation by parents and staff and are asking for feedback. (please go to the www.Madison.k12.wi.us for more info)
But not all the communication problems with MMSD have to do with modern technology. Let me give some examples……..

Continue reading Can we Talk 2

Example of Board Goals

Thanks to Lawrie Kobza for her post “Superintendent’s Evaluation a Step in the Right Direction.”
She stresses the need for the board to set goals and expectations.
As an example of board-set goals and expectations, I noticed a list created by the board of education of the Forest Grove School District in Oregon. (I first saw the list when looking at the way the Forest Grove district used the concept of the $100 budget, promoted for use by the MMSD by Johnny Winston, Jr.)

Continue reading Example of Board Goals

Senate Bill 286, What a waste of time

Just wanted to let everyone know that while WI tries to figure out how to pay for schools, healthcare, balance the budget, care for the needy, etc………………
Your legislatures are spending time on SB286.
In a nutshell it says “school districts should teach abstinence” as the only way to prevent STD and pregnancy. Wow, what a waste of time and your money. I received my undergraduate degree in Secondary Health and Biology education and I can assure you that all the books, lectures, and information I received in college taught me that this was the only form of “birth control” that was 100%. While I agree a great Health or Human Growth and Development class is of utmost importance to a great school district, this legislation is the biggest waste of time and tax payers money, but the biggest laugh is there are communities that will not allow you to teach Sex Education, or Human Growth and Development as we like to call it, in their schools so where does the Senate assume this statement or lecture will occur in these ultra conservative districts?
Wisconsin Legislation could not scream any louder that it is ignorant and scared of SCIENCE. Look at the bills; ban cloning, teach abstinence only, alleviate health care providers of responsibility if there is a conflict with moral judgement, and the ever popular intellegient design in science classes. We as educated parents should be concerned with science education in this state and how new legislation could effect our children’s view and evaluation of science and theroy. Science is currently on the chopping block of the evagelical right and I am very concerned about legislation at the federal and state level concerning what our children are taught in Science class and whether that is decided by scientist and educators or whether it is decided by a religious political group.

One Secret to Better Test Scores: Make State Reading Tests Easier

Michael Winerip:

So? “The state test was easier,” she said. Ms. Rosenstein, who has been principal 13 years and began teaching in 1974, says the 2005 state English test was unusually easy and the 2004 test unusually hard. “I knew it the minute I opened the test booklets,” she said.
The first reading excerpt in the 2004 test was 451 words. It was about a family traveling west on the Oregon Trail. There were six characters to keep track of (Levi, Austin, Pa, Mr. Morrison, Miss Amelia, Mr. Ezra Zikes). The story was written in 1850’s western vernacular with phrases like “I reckon,” “cut out the oxen from the herd,” “check over the running gear” for the oxen, “set the stock to graze,” “Pa’s claim.”


Establishing Performance Goals Must Be Next
I ran for the Madison School Board because I believed the Board needed to change how it did business. The majority of voters agreed with me.
I have now been on the Board for five months, and it is fair to ask whether my election really will make a difference. Will it result in the change I called for?
I am hopeful it will.


Doyle Wants to Increase Math and Science Requirements

From NBC15.madison.com
Gov. Doyle says he wants high school students to take another year of math and science. Doyle says the move will make students better prepared for the future.
The announcement came when Gov. Jim Doyle released his Grow Wisconsin agenda last week.


Continue reading Doyle Wants to Increase Math and Science Requirements

New Elementary Attendance Compared to Last Year

You can find the attendance by elementary school for the 2004-2005 school year compared to the newly release figures for the 2005-2006 school year. The comparisons are grouped by high school attendance area. Click here.
ps My apologies for the earlier and erroneous chart. I replaced it with one that should be accurate. If it isn’t, please let me know. And always remember, take nothing at face value from me or the MMSD. Always check and double-check.

School Swaps Books for Bytes


A school in Arizona, US, has thrown out its paper-based text books and is relying solely on laptops and digital material to teach its pupils.
Empire High School is one of a band of schools which is taking computer technology out of the classroom and into students’ bags.
Calvin Baker, chief superintendent of the Vail School district, told BBC World Service programme Go Digital that it has not signalled the total demise of text books

News Release: Madison Schools Enrollment Is 24,490

Student enrollment in the Madison Metropolitan School District for the 2005-06 school year is 24,490 according to the official enrollment count conducted on the third Friday in September, as required by state law. The number represents a decrease from last year of 220 students or eight-tenths of one percent.
This figure aligns with the district’s most recent projected student count — 24,524. The total enrollment is only 34 students (0.1%) lower than this projection.
“When you look at the long-term trend statistically, our district-wide student enrollment remains stable,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater. “Of concern now – and one of the reasons two community task forces are working on possible solutions — is under-enrollment in some of our schools and high enrollment in others.”
In comparison to last year, the number of elementary students (gr. K-5) is up 143, partially due to the largest kindergarten class since September 1996 – 1,957. There are 151 fewer middle school students (grades 6-8), and 212 fewer high school students (gr. 9-12).

Continue reading News Release: Madison Schools Enrollment Is 24,490

Excess school supplies

In our dive travels, we have happened upon rural schools in remote parts of the world operating with little in the way of supplies. Dive outfits who bring folks to these areas are a great conduit for getting supplies to these isolated areas.
A nifty service project perhaps for some enterprising students would be to gather up those extra notebooks, pencils, art supplies, etc at the end of the year, things that often get tossed, and ship them, or send them along with area divers, to these poor schools. The same of course could be done for schools in this country. I mention the international connection only because I’m familiar with some of the dive operators who expressed a willlingness to do the delivery and the extreme scarcity of school resources.
I’m in the phone book!

Bucks 4 Books

This is a neat idea for helping out students displaced by the hurricanes administered by the League of Women Voters. The Wisconsin League is checking to see if MMSD is following up on the grant request piece. Read on if you’d like to contribute:
Melanie Ramey, President
LWV of Wisconsin
122 State Street, Suite. 405
Madison, WI 53703-2500
Phone: 608-256-0827
Fax: 608-256-2853
E-mail: lwvwisconsin@lwvwi.org
Dear Melanie,
Due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many students (K-12) in the Gulf States (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) have been driven from their homes and schools. The League of Women Voters of Louisiana Education fund has approved the “Bucks 4 Books” campaign to raise funds to support the displaced children from the Gulf States in their new school districts, whether those school districts are located elsewhere in their native state or in any other of the 48 contiguous states. The LWV of LA Ed Fund needs your support and help in the following tasks:
1. Helping to raise the funds to support this project by sending the attached letter to all of the League,
League allies and partners, the Parent Teacher Organizations, and everyone in your personal e-mail address book(s).
2. Help us to identify the school districts in your state that have taken in the Hurricane evacuees and
encourage the school districts to write for a grants application for financial support of those children’s education materials.
These young people have lost their homes; they do not have to lose their hope. Remember, children learn from example. When we are responsible for them, they will become the responsible future citizens, whom our country needs.
The 100% of the “Bucks for Books” funds raised will be administered in accordance to the guidelines outlined in the attached letter. Since this is a 100% flow through of funds, all solicitation for this campaign will be by e-mail and no expenses may be charged against the donations. All checks should be may payable to: LWV of Louisiana Education Fund, P. O. Box 4451, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4451
The League of Women Voters is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge with local League presents in all states. Please help us to help our children and the very generous school districts that have taken them in. Please encourage your State League, Local Leagues, Friends, Neighbors and Allies to enthusiastically embrace this very special project, “Bucks 4 Books.” We must measure up for our young people and always . . .
Share the Spirit of League,
Jean Armstrong, President
LWV of Louisiana Education Fund
LWV of Louisiana

An Embattled School Chief’s Parting Fight

Daniel de Vise:

It is perhaps the final chance for Smith to impose his vision, and his will, on a school system he set out to transform three years ago. He has built much of his reputation in Anne Arundel by importing or expanding rigorous programs such as IB, on the theory that an infusion of challenging coursework would benefit all.
Smith acknowledges that completing the trio of IB schools is “a very important piece” of his plan, and his legacy, in the county.

60 Madison Students Named National Merit Scholars

Madison Metropolitan School District:

The third most students in Madison history — 60 — have qualified as semifinalists in competition for the 2006 National Merit Scholarship Awards. Three Madison students earned National Merit Achievement semifinalist status. This is the sixth straight year that at least 56 Madison students have achieved semifinalist status, a number not reached by any of the previous classes. That’s quite remarkable because the National Merit Corporation says that about 1.3% of test-taking students become semifinalists. Based on that percentage, the Madison district should have about 10 semifinalists. Only last year and the year before did Madison have more semifinalists, 69 and 67 respectively.

High Quality Teaching make the difference

Young, Gifted and Black, by Perry, Steele and Hilliard is a little gem of a book. (Hereafter, YGB). The subtitle is “Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students”. Though specifically addressing African-American kids, the descriptions and proscriptions proposed can be applied to all – important, given the continual poor showing of U.S. students generally on international tests (OECD PISA, TIMSS).
It is the section written by Asa Hilliard, Professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University, that addresses the real “gap” and real “reform”. The following attempts to summarize his positions and arguments:
The real gap for all students, not just Black, is the gap between student performance and excellence. Where does one start to close the gap? – by relying on the experiences of teachers who do not fail to achieve excellence in all their students, regardless of background – these experiences have always been around, but few educators want to acknowledge. It is in this protected environment of excellence in education that the theories of curriculum, and excuses of deprivation, of language, of failure can be unmasked.

Continue reading High Quality Teaching make the difference

City of the Big Gaps

Luis Alberto Urrea:

But few of the hundreds, if not thousands, of poor evacuees now staring at Chicago’s formidable towers are likely to enjoy the good fortunes of A. J. Liddell. And that’s the larger story of the local economy: that in this era of outsourcing, housing bubbles and budget deficit pay-downs, the traditional Chicago gap between haves and have-nots has eroded into a chasm.

Teach for America

Tamara Lewin:

For a surprisingly large number of bright young people, Teach for America – which sends recent college graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years for the same pay and benefits as other beginning teachers at those schools – has become the next step after graduation. It is the postcollege do-good program with buzz, drawing those who want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open, building an ever-more impressive résumé and delaying long-term career decisions.
This year, Teach for America drew applications from 12 percent of Yale’s graduates, 11 percent of Dartmouth’s and 8 percent of Harvard’s and Princeton’s. The group also recruits for diversity, and this year got applications from 12 percent of the graduates of Spelman College, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta

Study Faults High-Stakes Testing

Terrence Stutz:

High-stakes testing in Texas and across the nation has had
little impact on student achievement and is disproportionately targeting
minority students – as evidenced by increased retention and dropout
rates in many states – according to a study by researchers in Texas and Arizona.
The study, which examined the impact of high-stakes testing in Texas and 24 other states, found “no convincing evidence” that the pressure
associated with those tests – such as threatened sanctions for low
scores – produced better student achievement than would otherwise have
been expected.

Via Tom Maxwell.

Continue reading Study Faults High-Stakes Testing

WestEd Book: How California’s Most Challenged High Schools are Sending More Kids to College

Jordan Horowitz’s Inside High School Reform, Making the Changes that Matter details the turnaround approaches that are preparing more students for college – disadvantaged students who wouldn’t get there otherwise.


  1. Treat teachers as the trained education professionals they are.
  2. Hold students to high expectations.
  3. Continually use school, teacher, and student data to decide what changes to make next.
  4. Start with what you want students to know and achieve, then work backwards to create tests and lesson plans.
  5. Coordinate lesson plans and tests within departments and across grades and schools.
  6. Don’t take the “easy way out” when deciding how to help underachieving kids.
  7. Create an optimistic, college-going culture and help students understand how high school work affects their future college and career choices.
  8. Develop flexible school systems to maintain reforms that work.
  9. Find partners such as local colleges, businesses, other schools, and parent groups to provide help.
  10. Stay alert for new partners, activities, and funding streams while maintaining a focus on reform.

Charter School Proposal Being Met With Resistance

WISC-TV reports:

A tug of war over students and state aid could be shaping up in Dane County. News 3’s Toni Morrissey has been looking into plans for a charter school that’s making waves in the public school community. . .
“We agree with the concept of charter schools,” said Joe Quick, legislative liaison for Madison School District. “We embrace it. But we’ve got grave reservations about setting up a charter school that there’s no oversight and accountability from locally elected officials.

Read the full story online.

MSCR High School Extramural Program Position Announcement

The Madison School District has two positions for the new High School Extramural Program at MSCR. The purpose of this position is to develop, promote and coordinate after school clubs and extramural sports at two regular high school sites and for one alternative high school. Lucy Chaffin wrote: Hi everyone, I would really like to get the word out about these two positions open at MSCR. Please pass along and post at any place you feel is appropriate.

Continue reading MSCR High School Extramural Program Position Announcement

Frontline: A Class Divided

Frontline has just made one of the most requested shows of all time available online for your viewing pleasure: A Class Divided:

A Class Divided is an encore presentation of the classic documentary on third-grade teacher Jane Elliott’s “blue eyes/brown eyes” exercise, originally conducted in the days following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. This guide is designed to help you use the film to engage students in reflection and dialogue about the historical role of racism in the United States, as well as the role of prejudice and stereotyping in students’ lives today.

Via Dewayne Hendricks video Very nicely done with transcripts, links and a teacher’s guide.

Book: Education Myths: What Special Interest Groups Want You to Believe about Our Schools, and Why It Isn’t So

Jay P. Greene:

In Education Myths, Jay P. Greene takes on the conventional wisdom and closely examines twenty myths advanced by the special interest groups dominating public education. In addition to the money myth, the class size myth, and the teacher pay myth, Greene debunks the special education myth (special ed programs burden public schools), the certification myth (certified or more experienced teachers are more effective in the classroom), the graduation myth (nearly all students graduate from high school), the draining myth (choice harms public schools), the segregation myth (private schools are more racially segregated), and a dozen more.

Watch or listen to a recent Jay Green Speech here.

Parent – Teacher – Student Relationships

Sue Shellenbarger:

The large majority of teachers, of course, are well-qualified and dedicated. Parents should weigh a child’s complaints carefully: Is the problem really a bad teacher, or a misdirected kid? “Many times the parent only gets the child’s side of the story,” says John Mitchell, deputy director of the American Federation of Teachers union.
The rumor mill can be misleading. Matt Sabella of Armonk, N.Y., was warned by other elementary-school parents that his daughter’s teacher was “so-so.” He found the opposite to be true. The teacher “helped my daughter become a whiz in math,” Mr. Sabella says. Also, if you rescue a child too quickly, you risk producing what some administrators call “teacups” — carefully crafted but fragile kids who lack resiliency, says Patrick Bassett of the National Association of Independent Schools, Washington, D.C.

Suburban Dane County School District Growth

Gena Kittner posted a useful article on the growth, both in student population and facilities of suburban Dane County School Districts.

Eleven of 16 school districts in the county have shown increased enrollment between 2001 and 2004, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.Madison is grappling with growth in more than half of its district and declines elsewhere.

Madison’s enrollment has been flat for quite some time, though the population is moving around:

Two task forces, including parent representatives from each of the district’s schools [East] [West, are working to find ways to accommodate a projected increase of more than 500 elementary school students over the next five years in the West and Memorial high school attendance areas – where several housing developments are in the works.
The groups are also wrestling with high enrollment at some elementary schools and under-enrollment at others, in the East and La Follette high school attendance areas.
Based on last year’s figures, the district projects that by 2010, it will have 192 more students than it has seats for on the district’s west side, and 989 more seats than students on its east side.

Superintendent Burmaster To Address State Gifted Conference

State Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Burmaster will address the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted (WATG) State Conference on Thursday, October 6, 2005 at the Kalahari Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, WI. Burmaster will proclaim October 9-15, 2005 as Gifted Education Week in Wisconsin. She will also announce the publication of the Gifted and Talented Resource Guide for Educators, Coordinators and Administrators in Wisconsin Public Schools, distributed to all school districts this past summer. The authors of this guide will be receiving special recognition and an award from WATG following Burmaster’s address.
For more information contact Jackie Drummer 414-762-4785. The guide can be downloaded from the WATG site

Madison Schools: New Fund 80 Based Rec Sports Program

The Madison School Board approved (6-1) additional spending using Fund 80 (property taxes not subject to state revenue caps, in other words, local taxes that can go up as fast as the District approves) to create new rec sports programs:

  • Sandy Cullen:

    Ruth Robarts, the only board member to vote against the spending increase, expressed concern that using Fund 80 to restore programs that have been cut from the portion of the district’s budget subject to revenue cap feeds “the perception that Fund 80 is a slush fund.”
    Robarts asked that a public hearing be held before the board took action, but a motion to table the measure failed.
    Board President Carol Carstensen said board members agreed to cut the number of freshmen and junior varsity teams with the understanding that MSCR would try to create a recreational sports program to provide opportunities for more students to participate in athletics.

  • Cristina Daglas:

    Three board members voiced concerns before the funding was approved. Member Ruth Robarts, the sole dissenter, tried to table the proposal until after a public hearing could be held. The table motion failed 5-2. Member Shwaw Vang said he was wary many of the district’s neediest students still would not be reached and member Lawrie Kobza said she was concerned about costs of the sports-related aspect already in MSCR’s budget.
    But despite concerns, a majority of board members felt it necessary to push the program’s development ahead. Board President Carol Carstensen said the only reason she agreed to the elimination of no-cut freshman sports months ago was because of the possibility of this extramural program.

The Achievement Gap in Elite Schools

Samuel G. Freedman
“An uneasy amalgam of pride and discontent, Caroline Mitchell sat amid the balloons and beach chairs on the front lawn of Princeton High School, watching the Class of 2004 graduate. Her pride was for the seniors’ average SAT score of 1237, third-highest in the state, and their admission to elite universities like Harvard, Yale and Duke. As president of the high school alumni association and community liaison for the school district, Ms. Mitchell deserved to bask in the tradition of public-education excellence.
Discontent, though, was what she felt about Blake, her own son. He was receiving his diploma on this June afternoon only after years of struggle – the failed English class in ninth grade, the science teacher who said he was capable only of C’s, the assignment to a remedial “basic skills” class. Even at that, Ms. Mitchell realized, Blake had fared better than several friends who were nowhere to be seen in the procession of gowns and mortarboards. They were headed instead for summer school.”

Mathews on Charter School Bias?

Jay Mathews:

But I have learned that both my newspaper and I have been, in at least one instance, treating them as if they did not exist — a bad habit shared by many across the country. Nobody likes to be ignored for no good reason, but that is what has been happening to charter schools, and it is not good for the 1 million students attending 3,500 such schools in 40 states plus the District.
In Greenville, S.C., the Sirrine scholarships of $200 to $2,000 have helped many public school graduates over the years, but Laura H. Getty of the Greenville Technical Charter High School said charter school students are not eligible. She has also noticed that the state of South Carolina does not allow charter school teachers to participate in the state retirement system unless they were in the system before they moved to a charter school.

Illinois Teacher Calls Art Rainwater’s Recent Message “Misquided”

Bruce Allardice, a public school teacher in Des Plains, ILL wrote a letter to the Capital Times in response to Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent article on the need for public education:

Dear Editor: If I was grading the Tuesday guest column of Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater titled “Free public education is cornerstone of country,” I’d give the superintendent a D. His rhetoric is nice, but the logic is horribly misguided.

Continue reading Illinois Teacher Calls Art Rainwater’s Recent Message “Misquided”

Wisconsin Virtual Schools

Sandy Cullen recently posted two very useful articles on local Virtual School activity:

  • Sun Prairie family enrolls in an Appleton Virtual School:

    Their mother spends four to five hours a day guiding her daughters through daily lesson plans, drawn primarily from curriculum developed over the past century at the Calvert School, a private “bricks-and-mortar” school in Baltimore, where tuition ranges from $14,000 to $17,000 a year for its 500 on-site students.
    Home-schoolers can buy Calvert’s curriculum and support services at prices ranging from $245 for pre-kindergarten to $760 for eighth-grade.
    But because her children are enrolled in Wisconsin Connections Academy, Leonard pays nothing. State taxpayers provide about $5,745 to the Appleton School District for each of her daughters. That’s the amount all school districts receive for students who live in another district and register through the state’s open-enrollment option.

  • 2 Virtual Schools Sued by WEAC:

    The state’s largest teachers union has filed lawsuits — one unsuccessful and another ongoing — against two of the state’s virtual charter schools, claiming they violate state laws.

Time to Discuss the 05-06 Budget Before Final Approval in October 2005

We may have thought the 2005-2006 MMSD budget was approved last spring, but, in fact, the budget for this school year will not be finalized until next month. Why? The district needs to wait to calculate the number of students for this school year, which is done on the 3rd friday of the school year. This number is used to calculate the amount of state funding the district will receive and is not ready until next month. Also, the School Board uses the final budget to vote on the property tax levy to pay the property tax portion of the budget for this school year.
There’s something else that happens between the spring and fall and that is changes in expenses/revenue. In last year’s budget, there was an increase in the budget of nearly $8 million between the spring and fall approval dates (04-05 Budget Comparison file). The district administration said they put the money where it would be needed, and the School Board did not ask any questions about changes to programs and services, staffing, etc. Most of this money is grant money, but how the money is allocated and how this affects services deserves a presentation not simply a one page summary at the department level.
I hope the School Board asks for changes in revenue/expenses since last spring, how this affects staffing and programs, administrative positions. There are two dates in late October to discuss the final budget. So the School Board can “digest” the changed budget information, if any, a presentation at one meeting with a final decision at the next meeting might make sense and provide for public discussion.

Keeping an Eye on our Federal Representatives

I’ve long been a proponent of keeping tabs on our elected representatives. Kristian Knutsen, writing at Isthmus’s Daily Page is doing a fabulous job summarizing our federal representative’s weekly voting record. Knutsen’s latest: Here’s one example (I’d love to know which lobbyist was powerful enough to cause the Senate to vote on horse inspections:

Roll Call 237 – Sep. 20
Ensign Amdt. No. 1753, As Modified; To prohibit the use of appropriated funds to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to inspect horses under certain authority or guidelines.
Feingold: Yea
Kohl: Yea

Keep reading for a look at our Federal representives priorities.

Kozol: Apartheid America

Reader Troy Dassler emails this article by Jonathan Kozol “It seems appropriate that we should all read it on the eve of a day where everyone in the district is in an in-service talking about race”:

“Segregation is not something that happens by chance, like weather conditions,” says Jonathan Kozol. “It is the work of men.” So it is not without irony that it has taken a hurricane — and the excruciating images of stranded black faces, beamed across cable airwaves — for Americans to confront the reality that vast numbers of their fellow citizens live in segregated ghettos and suffer from abject poverty. But for Kozol, who has built his career on exposing the race- and class-based injustices endemic to the United States’ educational system, the knowledge that we live in a deeply divided society has long been a foregone — if heartbreaking — conclusion.

Abigail Thernstrom says Kozol’s analysis is “worthy of a third grader“.

Harlem School Uses Regionally Grown Food

Reader Barb Williams forwarded this article by Kim Severson:

But perhaps no school is taking a more wide-ranging approach in a more hard-pressed area than the Promise Academy, a charter school at 125th Street and Madison Avenue where food is as important as homework. Last year, officials took control of the students’ diets, dictating a regimen of unprocessed, regionally grown food both at school and, as much as possible, at home.
Experts see the program as a Petri dish in which the effects of good food and exercise on students’ health and school performance can be measured and, perhaps, eventually replicated.

Defense of the Status Quo

I agree wholeheartedly with Johnny Winston’s comments that were reported in the Isthmus article on the upcoming board evaluation of the performance of Superintendent Rainwater. The article by Jason Shepard says:

Winston . . . cites Rainwater’s reluctance to take risks to solve educational problems: “If we have an issue related to student achievement, I’d like the superintendent to say, ‘You know what? It’s not working right now, and I’d like us to try something different.’ I’d like Art to lead the charge on that.” Winston would also like Rainwater to “be more critical of the organization” as a means of self-improvement.

Continue reading Defense of the Status Quo

Men in Higher Education: Missing in Action?

USA Today:

Currently, 135 women receive bachelor’s degrees for every 100 men. That gender imbalance will widen in the coming years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.
This is ominous for every parent with a male child. The decline in college attendance means many will needlessly miss out on success in life. The loss of educated workers also means the country will be less able to compete economically. The social implications — women having a hard time finding equally educated mates — are already beginning to play out.

Impact of Poverty on Families

I received this e-mail from Kaleem Caire, Executive Director of Fight for Children based in Washington D.C. Mr. Caire is a former Madison resident who although ran unsuccessfully for Madison School Board in 1998 brought up many key issues regarding Minority Student Achievement.
Kaleem Caire wrote:
A short, important slide presentation:
Enough said.

Secrets of Success: America’s system of higher education is the best in the world. That is because there is no system

The Economist via Tom Barnett:

Wooldridge says three reasons account for this: 1) the Fed plays a limited role, unlike in a France or Germany; 2) schools compete for everything, including students and teachers; and 3) our universities are anything but ivory towers, instead being quite focused on practical stuff (Great line: “Bertrand Russell once expressed astonishment at the worldly concerns he encountered at the University of Wisconsin: ‘When any farmer’s turnip go wrong, they send a professor to investigate the failure scientifically,'” So true, as anyone who’s grown up in Wisconsin farmland can attest.)
Two interesting data points: listing of top global universities features 1 from Japan, two from UK and 17 from U.S. Wisconsin, my alma mater is 18 (ahead of Michigan!) and Harvard is number 1.
Also interesting: Of the students who travel abroad, 30 percent come to America. Britain is next at 12%, then Germany, then Australia, then France and Japan. After Australia it’s all single digits.
I guess America isn’t exactly out of the source code business, at least in the most important software package known to man.

Continue reading Secrets of Success: America’s system of higher education is the best in the world. That is because there is no system

Keys Retires

School Board member Keys will retire next year
SANDY CULLEN scullen@madison.com
Bill Keys, whose time on the Madison School Board has been marked by controversies ranging from whether students should recite the Pledge of Allegiance to whether taxpayers should shell out more money to maintain what Keys believes is one of the top five school districts in the nation, will step down next year after two terms.
Full story.

Parents at Hamilton Heard that Students Cannot Perform Basic Math Calculations

Last night was parent night at the MMSD middle schools. My daughter is in 8th grade at Hamilton Middle School, so I spent the evening going to her different classes to learn about what the syllabus was for each of her five academic classes – algebra I accelerated, english, history, Spanish and science. She also takes music theater, physical education and family and consumer education.
All was going well – lots of emphasis on content and organization. Then I got to her Algebra I class, which is also her homeroom. Her teacher said he had good news and bad news. Bad news in the third week of classes? Yes. He gave all his 8th grade algebra classes a pre-test that was an assessment of basic math calculations – percentages, fractions, decimals, etc. The average score – 40%!
How could this be one parent queried the teacher. Her child had gotten As last year in math class. His answer: children are lacking facility with the basic math skills necessary to be successful in algebra. Students did not know these basic skills and could not calculate answers without using a calculator.
If you don’t know basic math facts and know them well by the time you begin algebra I, a student will stuggle to be a successful learner in algebra and more advanced math classes. You have to have the basics down. The teacher recommended the book “Algebra To Go” as a review text.

Hamilton Middle School – Two Years of Foreign Language Taught Daily, 7th Grade Algebra I Accelerated and 8th Grade Geometry, Children Select Music Option (Not a Pull out Curriculum)

Hamilton Middle School offers five academic classes per day in 7th and 8th grades. Hamilton offers its students choices in math, foreign language and music. What do other MMSD and Dane County middle schools offer children? I’d be interested in seeing posts with this information.
Hamilton MS Foreign Language:
In 7th and 8th grade, children choose either French or Spanish. Classes meet every day all year for two years.
Hamilton Middle School Math
Connected math is taught at this school. However, there are accelerated math class choices for students. Algebra 1 accelerated is offered to 8th grade students (based upon teacher recommendation, student interest). There are a number of classes of 8th grade Algebra 1 accelerated. Children completing this course in 8th grade successfully are ready for Geometry or Algebra II in 9th grade at West High School.
There is also one 7th grade class of Algebra I accelerated and one 8th grade class of geometry.
Hamilton Music
All children in grades 6, 7, 8 are required to take a music class – options offered are general music, chorus, band and orchestra. Also, in 8th grade music theater is offered. The schedule for all three years is an A/B schedule with physical education. Children have music three times one week and two times in the next week for an average of 125 minutes per week. The MMSD School Board approved music education curriculum calls for 200 minutes of music education per week (50 minutes per day).

My 7th Grader’s Lost Year at Sherman Middle School?

On Monday, August 29, Kate McWhirter, Kari Douglas, Helen Fitzgerald and I met at Sherman Middle School with Ann Yehle, Principal at Sherman, Barb Brodhagen, Learning Coordinator at Sherman, Maria Brown, Spanish Teacher at Sherman, and Pam Nash, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
Foreign Language Issues

At this meeting, where we were pressed for time, Maria spoke about the foreign language classes for 6th, 7th and 8th grade. In past years, 6th grade students received 4 1/2 weeks of French and 4 1/2 weeks of Spanish. This year they will be receiving 9 weeks of each class (A/B schedule). In seventh grade the students only receive one semester of class. This is due to the block theory that they are trying to implement at Sherman. The Foreign Language teachers prefer this type of schedule because they have more consistancy with the students for a greater amount of time. Meeting every day the pronunciation of words would improve vs. every other day with more students. Working with a student everyday helps the teacher becomes more familiar with the student. Unfortunately, for those students who have it first semester, they will receive no foreign language again until 8th grade. That year, those students will take foreign language all year, every other day. All Sherman students are required to take a foreign language.


We spent most of the time discussing foreign language so we didn’t get a chance to go into an in-depth discussion of other areas that we’re concerned with. One of course, is Algebra. More information will be available tomorrow, and I’ll update you as to what was decided. But just to keep you up to date on the situation, only 5 students “qualified” to participate in Algebra. After a letter was sent out from Superintendent Art Rainwater’s office, 48 students are now opting for the Algebra class, with one teacher. This will change asap. However, students now can choose to participate in algebra, which conflicts with Sherman Principal Ann Yehle’s plan for heterogenous classes.

Continue reading My 7th Grader’s Lost Year at Sherman Middle School?

Gangs and School Violence Forum Notes

This evening’s Gangs and School Violence Forum was quite interesting. Rafael organized an excellent panel. We’ll post a link to video and audio files when they are complete. Following are links to local articles and commentary on this event:

  • Cristina Daglas:

    Yudice said there has been a “huge development in the area of Latino gangs” in Madison specifically, and Blue noted an increase in girls in gangs.
    “We have seen a great surge in activity,” Yudice said.
    All of the panelists offered ideas to help reduce the problem in Madison’s high schools, including limiting off-campus privileges and continuing consistent enforcement against gang colors and clothing in schools.
    “It’s really easy to slip out a door,” said Madison Memorial High School Principal Bruce Dahmen. “It’s important that we have high expectations for all the children.”

  • Reader Jared Lewis emailed this:

    If you need any assistance regarding information about gangs in Madison or resources for schools to tackle the gang problem, feel free to contact me or visit my website at www.knowgangs.com.
    I am a former California police officer and a nationally recognized gang expert. I now reside in Jefferson County and continue to teach law enforcement officers, educators and social service workers about dealing with gang problems nationwide.

  • Natalie Swaby

    Students and parents listened during a Wednesday night meeting and took notes, a move in the right direction according to Officer Moore.
    “Last year they were telling me there was no gang issue in or around any of our schools, I was told that by the administration here,” he says. “So this is something that is really great for me that we are finally acknowledging that we do have gang issues.”
    There are resources for at risk youth in the Madison area, but many on the panel stressed that a unified strategic plan is needed.

    Officer Moore also strongly suggested that the High Schools eliminate their open campus policy.

  • Sandy Cullen:

    Blue and other panelists attributed the increase in gang activity to a growing number of students who feel a disconnection with their school and community, and with adults who care about them.
    “We’re getting a wake-up call that says certain parts of our community are not healthy,” Blue said.

Forum video and audio archive

Superintendent Dismisses Call for Transparent Budget

I have been trying for weeks to get a handle on how much the MMSD spends on various programs. As I’ve exchanged e-mails with Roger Price and Superintendent Rainwater, it has become clear that the MMSD cannot (or will not) provide figures on how much was budgeted for any particular program in the previous year, how much was spent in the previous year, and how much was budgeted for the current year.
Calculating and providing those three sums creates a “transparent” budget, i.e., a budget that allows the average citizen to see where the money came from and where it went.

Continue reading Superintendent Dismisses Call for Transparent Budget

Authors Challenge Schools to Challenge Students

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 – Washington Post
Two new books on how to teach students of divergent abilities seem at first to have been written on different planets.
But Deborah L. Ruf’s “Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind” and a new edition of Jeannie Oakes’s “Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality” eventually reveal a similar frustration. Both want children to be given more individual attention and more of an academic challenge than they are getting in most schools.

Continue reading Authors Challenge Schools to Challenge Students

Burmaster’s Education Priorities

WisPolitics [PDF]:

The two-day event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union will include sessions Wednesday on the future of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) at 10:30 a.m., high school redesign at 11:20a.m., and the “New 3 R’s for the UW-Madison School of Education” at 1:15 p.m. Sectionals that begin at 2:30 p.m. will include changes in special education law, open enrollment, rural schools and communities, NCLB in Wisconsin, and virtual education. Dennis Winters, vice president and director of research for NorthStar Economics Inc. of Madison, will present research on the economic impact of 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. (Media have been invited to this briefing.)

Members of West/Memorial Task Force

At large representatives representing an ethnic group who reside within the attendance areas:
Prasanna Raman
Brenda Gonzalez
Community member without children in the district:
Tim Otis
Student Liaison to the Board of Education:
Connor Gants
School & Representative
Chavez – Rich Rubasch – Jennifer Sheridan (Alternative)
Crestwood – Marisue Horton – Mary Kay Battaglia (Alt.)
Falk – Dr. Matthew Raw – Karl Woodruff (Alt.)
Huegel – Laura Lenzen (Alt.)
Muir – Ann and Brett Larget
Orchard Ridge
Stephens – Carol Quintana
Jefferson – Wilma Gurl
Spring Harbor – Don Jorgensen
Toki – Sue Mowris
Memorial – Mary/Scott Whitcomb – Mary Fahey (Alt.)
Franklin/Randall – Michael Maguire
Leopold – Rusty Shoemaker-Allen
Lincoln – Lori Mann Carey
Midvale – Jerry Eykholt – Brian Tennant (Alt.)
Shorewood – Janice Ferguson – Michelle Vassallo (Alt.)
Thoreau – Gina Hodgson – Erin Weiss (Alt.)
Van Hise – Wendy Cooper – Jim Bauman (Alt.)
Cherokee – Arlene Silveira – Marcia Bastian (Alt.)
Hamilton – Mark Kaiser – Alan Kim (Alt.)
Wright – Fern Murdoch – Sandra Willis-Smith (Alt.)
West – Michelle Reynolds
Shabazz – Paula Volpiansky – Stacy Sandler (Alt.)
Affiliated Alt

Continue reading Members of West/Memorial Task Force

Members of the East Task Force

At large representatives representing an ethnic group who reside within the attendance areas:
James Howard
Ramona Natora

Community member without children in the district:

Pat Mooney
One East High School student:
Rebecca Berkenstadt
School & Representative
Emerson – Linda Galang – Michelle Rawlings (Alternate)
Gompers – Amy Riedemann
Lake View
Lapham – Mike Wygocki – Chris Oddo (Alt.)
Lindbergh – Tonja Prodehl
Lowell – Maria Doyle
Marquette – Laura Chastain – Kimberly Neuschel (Alt.)
Mendota – Michelle Brokaw – Mike McCabe (Alt.)
Sandburg – Lisa Kind
Black Hawk – Jill Jokela
O’Keeffe – David Wallner – Josh Day (Alt.)
Sherman – Vicky Nelson – Angela Nash (Alt.)
East – Brenda Robinson
Shabazz – Kim and Richard Karlin-Kamin

Continue reading Members of the East Task Force

Wes Daily on the Gang Phenomenon

Wes Daily emailed a few comments on Gangs:

Gangs are not a new phenomenon in the United States and were originally formed as social clubs and a means of self-protection. Today, gangs have evolved into violent predators focused on obtaining money and power. According to the National Drug intelligence Center (NDIC), there are at least 21,500 gangs and more than 731,500 active gang members in the United States. NDIC defines a street gang as an ongoing group, club, organization, or association of five or more persons that has as one of its primary purposes the commission of one or more criminal offenses. Street gangs are no longer just an urban problem as they continue to seek new drug markets in suburban and rural areas. Gangs and their members can be identified by various methods including self admission, tattoos, possession of gang paraphernalia, information from other agencies, and photographs. Initiations vary from gang to gang and set to set. Most common inductions required for membership include the commission of a crime such as armed robbery, assault, rape, drive-by shootings, and murder. Other known initiations entail a “beat-in” or “jump-in,” in which the inductee must endure a severe beating by gang members, or a “sex-in” in which a female member must have sexual intercourse with multiple gang members.
The Crips originated in 1969 in Los Angeles, California from a youth gang known as the Baby Avenues, which then became known as the Avenue Cribs. In the early 1970s, the Avenue Cribs changed their name to the “Crips.” This gang was originally an African American male gang, but it now accepts Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian males and females to bolster their membership. The Crips wear blue and gray or purple and orange clothing. Members wear British Knight or Adidas sneakers. This changes in different communities throughout the nation. To the Crips, Adidas stands for “All day I destroy a slob,” and BK stands for “Blood Killer,” which are derogatory slangs towards their rivals the Bloods. NDIC estimates national membership at 30,000 to 35,000. Theses figures are based on national reporting, which is consistently low due to denial.

Rafael Gomez is leading a Forum this Wednesday (9.21.2005) @ 7:00p.m. on Gangs and School Violence at the Doyle Administration Building. Learn more.

Growing Green, High Performance Charter Schools

Senn Brown forwarded these links and information:

Eco-charter schools with environment-focused and project-based programs are springing up throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and other states. Environment and sustainability are the integrating qualities of learning in “green,” high-performance charter schools. See website links (below) to several “green” charter schools.
Earlier this summer, a group from Wisconsin and Minnesota’s green/environmental focused charter schools gathered at Beaver Creek Nature Reserve, site of the new Wildlands Charter School (see link below), for a day-long “Green” High-Performance Charter Schools Conference. The gathering provided an opportunity for charter school, higher education and state-level folks to share information on green/environmentally focused programs, practices, experiences and “green” school design principles. The group agreed to establish a steering committee to develop plans for fostering the creation of environmental-focused charter schools, sharing effective practices, networking and describing design principles for all environmentally friendly charter schools. The WCSA and Minnesota Association of Charter Schools are assisting the steering committee to coordinate the green/environmental charter schools initiative.

School-Funding Update from WAES (WI Alliance for Excellent Schools)

Referendum soundly defeated in Phillips School District
Greendale voters support $14 million tax levy
North Carolina will use lottery proceeds for schools
Slot machine revenue not best bet for public schools
What’s new in the anti-TABOR toolbox?
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.

Continue reading School-Funding Update from WAES (WI Alliance for Excellent Schools)

Parents Under Siege

Martha Foley:

What IS it about some kids? Why does ONE teenager run into trouble time after time, when his or her siblings don’t? Why do kids make bad choices, just when parents think they’re doing the best they can to love, support, and encourage them? From kindergarten to college, a new school year brings kids new challenges, renewed problems. From bullying to binge-drinking. Dr. James Garbarino is recognized as a leading authority on child development and youth violence. His books include “Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them”. And, “Parents Under Siege: Why You Are the Solution, Not the Problem in Your Chld’s Life”. He speaks to St. Lawrence University classes today, and in a public presentation in the Canton Central School auditorium tonight at 7.

A Few Task Force Names – Updated

Carol Carstensen provided updated information on the people selected by the Board of Education to serve on the attendance task forces:

Prasanna Raman (nominated by Ruth Robarts to fill a position as an Asian member of the task force)
Tim Otis (nominated by Bill Keys to fill a position as a resident with no children in the district)
Brenda Gonzalez (nominated by Juan Lopez to fill a position as an Hispanic/Latino member of the task force)
Charlie Daniel (to fill a positon as an African American member of the task force)
James Howard (nominated by Lawrie Kobza to fill a position as an African American member of the task force)
Pat Mooney (nominated by Carol Carstensen to fill a position as a resident without children in the district)
Ramon Natera (nominated by Juan Lopez to fill a position as an Hispanic/Latino member of the task force)
– A represenative of the Asian community has notyet been named

Carol Carstensen says that the district may soon release the names of the members selected by the principals and PTOs.

The Gang Scene in Madison

Doug Erickson takes a useful look around Madison’s gang scene, including the recent events in Oregon. Erickson also mentions this Wednesday’s SIS supported event, lead by Rafael Gomez on Gangs and School Violence (9.21 @ 7:00p.m.):

“It sets a watershed mark for the number of individuals involved in one event,” said Stephen Blue, who has studied local gangs since 1986 and is delinquency services manager for the Dane County Department of Human Services.
Blue is among panelists scheduled to discuss gangs and school violence Wednesday at the Doyle Administration Building of the Madison School District. The event is sponsored by www.schoolinfosystem.org, a Web site devoted to school issues.
Rafael Gomez, a district parent who helped organize the forum and will be its moderator, said the topic was chosen before the Oregon shootings.
“One of the questions we will be asking the panel is how the whole issue of gangs in our schools has changed in the last 10 years,” he said. “I think that’s a good way to frame the situation in Oregon.”

Are E-Books the Future?

Joshua Fruhlinger:

I hate to break it to you, though, but it looks like e-books in their current form aren’t going to break out of their early adopter ghetto any time soon. Certainly books stored in electronic form have flourished in a number of niche markets — reference books, in particular, are becoming more and more prevalent as electronic form rather than paper (see Resources for more on this and other wacky links). But when it comes to the books that make up the bulk of our reading lives, the vast majority of us are still reading words printed with ink on paper bound with glue and string.

I think the future, (or is it present?) of online learning is something between blogs, heymath, edhelper and wikipedia with interesting tools like RSS thrown in.

Math Curriculum: Textbook Photos

A year’s worth of Connected Math textbooks and teacher guides are on the left while the equivalent Singapore Math texts are on the right.

Friedman’s latest ,where he demonstrates how other countries are “eating our kid’s lunch in math” is well worth reading, as are these www.schoolinfosystem.org math posts. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has much more to say on K-12 math curriculum.

A few observations from a layperson who couldn’t be farther from a math expert’s perspective on this (in other words, I’m not a math expert):

  • Children must be able to read effectively to use the voluminous Connected Math curriculum,
  • The Connected Math curriculum has very extensive teacher instructions, while the Singapore curriculum is rather thin in this area. Does it follow that teachers using Singapore Math have far more freedom with respect to their instruction methods, or is the intention to make sure that teachers teach Connected Math in a scripted way?
  • The Connected Math texts require more dead trees and I assume cost more than the Singapore texts directly and indirectly (transportation, packaging and the overhead of dealing with more pieces)
  • The voluminous Connected Math texts have far more opportunities for errors, simply based on the amount of text and illustrations included in the books.
  • Madison Country Day School uses Singapore Math.

There’s quite a bit of discussion on Connected Math and Singapore Math around the internet. Maybe it’s time to follow the www.heymath.net people (from India, China and Great Britain) and virtualize this while eliminating the textbooks?

Post your comments below.

The Changing Value of Shakespeare

Tyler Cowen takes a quick look at William St. Clair’s new book: The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. This book, so interesting on many levels looks at:

During the four centuries when printed paper was the only means by which texts could be carried across time and distance, everyone engaged in politics, education, religion, and literature believed that reading helped to shape the minds, opinions, attitudes, and ultimately the actions, of readers. William St Clair investigates how the national culture can be understood through a quantitative study of the books that were actually read. Centred on the romantic period in the English-speaking world, but ranging across the whole print era, it reaches startling conclusions about the forces that determined how ideas were carried, through print, into wider society. St Clair provides an in-depth investigation of information, made available here for the first time, on prices, print runs, intellectual property, and readerships gathered from over fifty publishing and printing archives. He offers a picture of the past very different from those presented by traditional approaches. Indispensable to students, English literature, book history, and the history of ideas, the study’s conclusions and explanatory models are highly relevant to the issues we face in the age of the internet.

  • The first study of actual reading using quantification and economic analysis
  • Sheds new light on aspects of reading and its effect on the nation
  • An indispensable resource for scholars working on literature, reading, and the history of publishing and printing

IBM To Encourage Employees to be Teachers

Brian Bergstein:

International Business Machines Corp., worried the United States is losing its competitive edge, will financially back employees who want to leave the company to become math and science teachers.
The new program, being announced Friday in concert with city and state education officials, reflects tech industry fears that U.S. students are falling behind peers from Bangalore to Beijing in the sciences.
Up to 100 IBM employees will be eligible for the program in its trial phase. Eventually, Big Blue hopes many more of its tech savvy employees – and those in other companies – will follow suit.

The Governance Divide: Improving College Readiness and Success

The Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success authored by The Institute for Educational Leadership, The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, The Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research. Foreword, Executive Summary, Full Report (345K PDF):

The report also offers recommendations to help states transform ad hoc approaches into sustained action and institutionalized, long-term K-16 reforms. Every state needs to increase the percentage of students who complete high school and finish some form of postsecondary education; existing governance structures and policies cannot meet this overwhelming need. For most states, these structures and policies must be revised in significant ways.
Currently, K-12 and postsecondary education exist in separate worlds in the United States. Policies for each system of education are typically created in isolation from each other-even though, in contrast to the past, most students eventually move from one system to the other. Students in K-12 rarely know what to expect when they enter college, nor do they have a clear sense of how to prepare for that next step. Particularly now, in the 21st century, when more students must complete some postsecondary education to have an economically secure life, the need for improved transitions from high school to college is urgent. This need for some postsecondary education extends beyond individual aspirations. In this global economy, businesses and communities-and our nation as a whole-must have residents who have achieved educational success beyond high school.

Phoebe Randall has more, including comments from the Wisconsin DPI:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction acknowledges there is a problem and said the department is working to improve the situation with new programs.
“In Wisconsin, there is a tremendous amount of coordination to ensure that students are prepared for college,” DPI Communications Officer Joe Donovan said.
This coordination comes in the form of a program called PK16, which stands for pre-kindergarten through grade 16. One of the program’s goals is to focus on keeping students motivated and challenged during the transition from their senior year of high school to college.

Maryland’s Education Reform Guidelines

Daniel de Vise:

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele released his blueprint for education reform yesterday, a series of 30 recommendations that call for schools to be graded and teachers to be paid for performance.
Members of the 30-person Governor’s Commission on Quality Education in Maryland recommended efforts to promote charter schools but rejected school vouchers, a far more divisive topic

Full Report (PDF)

California Bans Junk Food in Schools


“California is facing an obesity epidemic,” Mr Schwarzenegger said. “Today we are taking some first steps in creating a healthy future for California.”
Under the new rules, pizza, burritos, pasta and sandwiches must contain no more than four grams of fat for every 100 calories, with a total of no more than 400 calories.
From 2007, students will only be allowed to buy water, milk and some fruit and sports drinks that contain a controlled amount of sweeteners.
It is thought that the move could cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollar in lost income, as they receive money from companies in return for allowing them to sell their products in schools.

Is the U.S. Losing out on Science and Math Education?

The OECD released their “Education at a Glance – 2005 Report” Daniel Drezner summarizes his take on the US Performance:

1) In science and math, the U.S. is ahead of only the really poor OECD countries — Turkey, Mexico, etc. So yes, there is reason to worry.
2) The poor performance is not because of a downward trend — in fact, if you look at chart A7.1 (“Differences in mean performance of eighth-grade students from 1995 to 2003”), you discover an interesting fact: the United States showed the greatest improvement in science and math scores of the sample — including Korea.
3) The poor performance isn’t because of a dearth of funds — table B1.1 shows that, Switzerland excepted, the United States spends the most amount of money per student in the OECD. You get a similar result if the metric is education spending as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, the OECD comments:

Lower expenditure cannot automatically be equated with a lower quality of educational services. Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and New-Zealand, which have moderate expenditure on education per student at the primary and lower secondary levels, are among the OECD countries with the highest levels of performance by 15-year-old students in mathematics.

Presentation on Gangs & School Violence

Gangs and School Violence Presentation
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:00p.m. to 8:00p.m.
Organized by volunteers from www.schoolinfosystem.org
McDaniels Auditorium
Doyle Administration Building
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703 Directions
Discussion Topics:
1) Has the gang issue changed over the past 10 years?
2) What have we learned from our initiatives?
3) What partnerships are available to keep gangs away from schools?
4) What procedures are available to individual schools to keep gangs away from schools?
Ed Holmes, Principal of Madison West High School
Mike Meissen, Principal of LaFollette High School
Robert Growney, Principal of Edgewood High School
Lt. Luis Yudice, Office of Justice Assistance
Stephen Blue, MSW Office Manager of Delinquent Services
Hector Alvarez, Centro Hispano
Bruce Dahmen, Principal – Madison Memorial High School
Lester Moore, City of Madison Police Department
For more information, please contact
Rafael Gomez: filosistema@yahoo.com
Joan Knoebel: jmknoebel@tds.com
Larry Winkler: winkllj@acm.org
This event will be recorded and published on www.schoolinfosystem.org

Family Dinner Linked to Better Grades

ABC News:

The survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize.
It found teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.
“At a time when kids are under a lot of stress for a lot of different reasons, having that regular meal time that they can count on, that their parents are there for support — that can be very helpful,” said David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Is the Cluetrain Running Over Government?

Sophos writing at IT Toolbox:

Government is still in the old broadcast mode of press conferences and press releases and talking at you rather than with you. Government only seems to have time to converse with lobby groups, mass media reporters and interests that are going to make them or their friends money. Money from the government.
The conversations are growing – mass media is at a loss to understand how to deal with or contend with the number of blogs, cross-linking of blogs and the sheer volume of people getting involved in the conversation. It is no holds barred and far more interesting than the scripted Q&A being spouted from press conferences. Mass media is so flabbergasted, that they have resorted to reading blogs on their broadcasts! How crazy is that – broadcasting elements of the conversations from the blogosphere on TV. Media is stunned. The administration is stunned. It is only going to get worse for all of them.

Board Subcommittee on Advertising

I picked up the message below from a local listserve.

Dear Members of the School Board:
I am asking you to recommend interested persons for the Finance and Operations Subcommittee on Advertising. Please send Barb Lahman, name(s), contact information and a brief bio. Meetings will be once a month and probably during the day. I’m asking for people who have good ideas, “think outside the box”, in business, marketing or related fields or anyone who might make a positive contribution to the committee.
Again, this committee is not going “debate” the idea or philosophy of advertising but hopefully give a wide range of options to the board. It would be very helpful if you made contact with the person that you nominate and ask them if their interested in serving. Please send possible names by Friday September 16th. Please contact me if you have questions. Thank you.

McDonald’s Sponsors an Elementary Phy Ed Program in 31,000 Schools


“McDonald’s Passport to Play” will launch in 31,000 schools this fall, reaching an expected 7 million children in grades three through five, the company said.
The move is part of McDonald’s (Research) so-called “Balanced Lifestyles” initiative, an aggressive effort to promote physical activity and nutrition and deflect harmful claims that its food is unhealthy and fattening.

Teaching Math

Several AFT American Educator articles on Teaching Mathematics:

  • Ron Aharoni: Helping Children Learn Mathematics

    A professional mathematician shares his insights about effective instructional practice, how children learn, the importance of a coherent, systematic curriculum—and mathematics—after taking up the challenge of teaching in an Israeli elementary school.

  • Knowing Mathematics for Teaching:

    There is general agreement that teachers’ knowledge of the mathematical content to be taught is the cornerstone of effective mathematics instruction. But the actual extent and nature of the mathematical knowledge teachers need remains a matter of controversy. A new program of research into what it means to know mathematics for teaching—and how that knowledge relates to student achievement—may help provide some answers.

Superintendent’s Message

Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater is beginning to write a series of monthly articles which he will use as his Superintendent’s Report. Listen to this month’s report by watching this 5 minute video clip. I looked around the District’s site and did not immediately see a text version of this report. UPDATE: The message was circulated via email Tuesday morning, 9/13/2005. Click the link below to read a text version:

Continue reading Superintendent’s Message

Clarification of Tonight’s Special Board Meeting Regarding the Equity Policy

I wanted to clarify (via the Board President) the reason for the equity policy meeting tonight. If you remember last winter a majority of the Board indicated it wanted to set up a task force to look at the equity policy – but did not give any further directions. Tonight’s meeting is to bringing the issue back to the Board for further discussion and to get more direction from the members about a possible composition and charge to a task force. In President’s defense, she gave her commitment to the community that the board would have a citizen group work on this issue and she’s following through.

Continue reading Clarification of Tonight’s Special Board Meeting Regarding the Equity Policy

School-funding update

Two gubernatorial candidates endorse school-funding reform
Check out the school-funding reform calendar
What’s new in the anti-TABOR toolbox?
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.

Continue reading School-funding update

Equity Policy:  Discussion Not Voting

The issue of the district’s equity policy is on the agenda for this evening’s discussion to get more direction from the Board.  The last time the Board looked at this issue it indicated the need to establish a task force but did not specify membership, charge or process.  When I described my goals as President (and during the spring campaign) I specifically said I would follow through with creating a task force to look at the equity policy.  This is on a Special Board meeting because it is being brought to the Board for discussion not action.   I am sorry that there seems to be some confusion about this.

Questions Regarding Tonight’s Equity Vote

In addition to Ruth’s blog, I would add the question of why this is being addressed in a “special” board meeting and not the regular meeting. (Sorry – it isn’t clear from the message that the district sent on Friday, and the link to the regular board agenda is not working). And, if there are documents available related to the vote, why they are not publicly available in a timely fashion.
To be honest, I missed the impact of the message that arrived Friday morning via e-mail, so thanks to Ruth for flaggin it:
5:00 p.m. Human Resources Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated February 7, 2005 and March 14, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Proposed Leave of Absence Policy for Administrators
5. Proposed Leave of Absence Agreement for Administrators
6. Other Business
There is no other business.
7. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
6:00 p.m. Special Board of Education Meeting
1. Approval of Minutes dated August 29, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Equity Resource Formula
5. Board Policy 9001 – Equity
6. Proposed Equity Policy
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
7:15 p.m. Regular Board of Education Meeting
Agenda of the Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
[NOTE: this link does not work]
Agenda may be picked up during business hours at the MMSD Public
Information Office, Room 100, Doyle Administration Bldg., 545 West Dayton
Street, Madison, WI 53703
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison WI 53703

UW Joins Regional Tuition Discount Program


Starting next fall, Wisconsin residents can apply for discount tuition at 130 colleges in six Midwestern states under a plan approved by University of Wisconsin System regents.
In exchange, residents from those states could pay reduced rates at several schools in the UW System – but not the flagship UW-Madison campus. The regents voted Friday to join the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, a coalition of regional colleges and universities.

Madison School Board Votes on Equity Policy On September 12: what’s at stake? what’s the rush?

On Monday, September 12, the Madison Board of Education will vote on proposed revisions to the district’s Equity Resource Policy. The revisions gut the current policy and replace it with an already existing formula for allocating staff to schools based on socioeconomic factors. The meeting is a Special Board meeting called by President Carol Carstensen. At the meeting administrators will recommend this change and the full Board will vote on the recommendation. Not much notice to the public, not much opportunity to hear public opinion and analysis, no analysis by any Board committee. Only very savvy people who closely watch the Board agendas will know that this vote is coming.

What’s at stake?

Continue reading Madison School Board Votes on Equity Policy On September 12: what’s at stake? what’s the rush?

Milwaukee Loses Big Under Open Enrollment

Tom Kertscher:

During the first six years of the program, the analysis found, 15 suburban districts each earned more than $1 million in extra state aid because they gained more students than they lost through open enrollment transfers.
MPS, meanwhile, lost more than $32 million.
Four other districts – Racine Unified, Waukesha, Oconomowoc and Kewaskum – each lost more than $1 million.

Durbin & Feingold: Ease NCLB Standards Due To Katrina


Washington, D.C. – In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), are calling on the administration to help schools across the nation that are taking in the thousands of students displaced by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina by increasing funding to those schools while relaxing the accountability standards mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

More money for less? More from Eduwonk.

Curated Education Information